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“Toward That Crooked Path”: Early Motion Pictures Said to Induce Criminal Behavior in Impressionable Viewers

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The advent of motion picture industry at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries was explosive. The American public was besotted by the astonishing and cheap new entertainment. From the earliest days, the movies provoked great excitement, both enthusiastic and alarmed. Enthusiasts saw previously unattainable opportunities to use this medium to educate and uplift, and to open a wider world to the patrons in the seats. Alarmists predicted a pernicious influence which would hasten the demise of morals and acceptable behavior, particularly among impressionable youth.

An early instance of the motion pictures inspiring criminality in a youngster was reported by the San Jose Evening News on December 12, 1905.

A “seventeen year old lad arrested at Coney Island for making counterfeit dies, became inspired with the idea to have a real counterfeiter’s den by moving pictures he saw…”

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“Toward That Crooked Path”: Early Motion Pictures Said to Induce Criminal Behavior in Impressionable Viewers

White Plague, Black Death: Public Health as a Weapon in South Africa and the USSR

Nineteenth century European Romantic writers viewed tuberculosis as a fashionable disease. The slow but inexorable progression of the “white plague” (or consumption) and the austerity of the pale, emaciated (white) bodies of those suffering from it gave rise to pathos-infused works by Keats, Verdi, Dostoyevsky, and other notable writers, painters and composers.

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In the twentieth century, with a much greater concern for communist orthodoxy than aesthetics, the Soviet government made tuberculosis inevitable for its citizens, particularly those like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn who served time in forced-labor camps. Similarly, in apartheid-era South Africa tuberculosis disproportionately afflicted disenfranchised blacks more than privileged whites. Government officials there also profited politically and financially off blacks relegated to work camps for the mentally ill.

Public health has not always been pursued in the public interest; sometimes it’s been used by elites as a tool for political repression and financial gain. Readex’s unique collection, Public Health: Global Origins of Modern Health Policy and Management, 1957-1995brings to light both the benefits and deficiencies of public health policy during the latter half of the twentieth century.

White Plague, Black Death: Public Health as a Weapon in South Africa and the USSR

“I tell what I have seen”: Treatment of the Mentally Ill in Early America

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The history of enlightened treatment of the mentally ill in the United States was significantly affected by Dr. Benjamin Rush, the famed Philadelphia physician and signer of the Declaration of Independence. In 1812 he published Medical Inquiries and Observations, upon the Diseases of the Mind in which he presented his ideas “with a hope that they may serve as a supplement to materials already collected, from which a system of principles may be formed that shall lead to general success in the treatment of the diseases of the mind.” He further wrote: “…the author believes those diseases can be brought under the dominion of medicine, only by just theories of their seats and proximate cause.” The first page of the table of contents evidences the breadth of his knowledge.

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In 1814 another of the country’s most eminent physicians, George Parkman of Boston, published his ideas for enlightened care in a volume titled Proposals for Establishing a Retreat for the Insane. Parkman concurred with Rush that mentally ill people were more likely to improve when they were domiciled in a good physical environment free from cruel treatment.

“I tell what I have seen”: Treatment of the Mentally Ill in Early America

The Mound Builders: America’s Indigenous Engineers

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There’s an entry in Readex’s Native American Indians, 1645-1819, from a book printed in Philadelphia in 1803 in which British topographical engineer Captain Thomas Hutchins described the “Kahokia tribe of Illinois Indians” as “having 50 houses and 300 inhabitants, possessing 80 Negroes.”

3. “Forty nine miles further northward of the Piorias’s village, and one mile from the Mississippi, on the southerly side of a small river,” he places the village Cahokia, so called “from the Cahokia tribe of Illinois Indians, having 50 houses and 300 inhabitants, possessing 80 Negroes.” The Kahokia tribe of Illinois Indians is small, and in his list of Indians, he places it near this village of their name.

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As shown at the northern end of Hutchins’ 1778 map, the Cahokia tribe lived a few miles east of present-day St. Louis, Missouri.

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The Mound Builders: America’s Indigenous Engineers

Seed Sown on Good Soil: Astronomy, Botany, and Medicine in Early American Books

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Perhaps you’ve explored Readex’s five Origins of Modern Science and Technology collections, which include material from the latter half of the twentieth century. For an earlier perspective on the history of science you can also delve into three new digital products:

It may appear counterintuitive to look for science content in material written for children,  or for a distinctly religious audience, or in relation to Native Americans. Consider though that religious leaders were often the most highly educated members of society during America’s formative years. For example, the evangelism of Cambridge-graduate John Eliot in no way diminished his philology in producing his Algonquian Bible in 1663.

Seed Sown on Good Soil: Astronomy, Botany, and Medicine in Early American Books

“Is it proper to call every Indian a savage?”: Early Printed Accounts of the Social Life and Customs of Native Peoples

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Published accounts of the native peoples of North America in the late 18th and early 19th centuries—as depicted in these wide-ranging early American imprints—were varied in accord with the beliefs of the narrators.

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As described in his book below, the Reverend David Jones made two visits “to some nations of Indians on the west side of the River Ohio” in the early 1770s. On his travels he found several churches had been established among the Indians. After leading worship services at them, he remarked, “It was truly pleasing to behold the worship of God here, in a land so lately overspread with heathenish darkness and universal ignorance of God.” He subsequently described “some rude Indians…who had behaved insolently...”

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“Is it proper to call every Indian a savage?”: Early Printed Accounts of the Social Life and Customs of Native Peoples

Politics and Prophylaxis: The World Health Organization, the Politics of International Public Health, and Open Source Epidemiology

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In June 1958, about eight months after the Soviet Union’s Sputnik satellite circled the globe, former Illinois governor and future United Nations ambassador Adlai Stevenson had an idea for another scientific endeavor with global implications: What if the world community could cooperate on achieving a selection of public health goals that knew no boundaries?

U.S. Senate majority leader Lyndon Johnson of Texas had Stevenson’s speech printed in the Congressional Record. Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota promoted Stevenson’s idea on the world stage culminating in its adoption by the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) in 1959.  It would subsequently be sponsored by the UN as the International Health and Medical Research Year (abbreviated as IHY), and coincide with the WHO’s Twelfth World Health Assembly in 1961.

What is IHY? It is a proposed International Health Year to be sponsored by the World Health Organization of the United Nations.

If the plan for it goes through it will be put into effect in June, 1961. During the following year all the nations of the world would contribute their skill and knowledge in an all-out war against cancer, heart disease, mental illness, old age and infants’ diseases, as well as many other human ills.

Politics and Prophylaxis: The World Health Organization, the Politics of International Public Health, and Open Source Epidemiology

Powerful New Tools for Digital Humanists: Introducing Readex Text Explorer (RTE)

For ten years or more, faculty and students have been asking Readex to “bring history to life” in new ways. “You have tremendous products,” they tell us, "and we love them. Thank you. We’d love them even more if we could do more than search, retrieve, read, then search again.”

It’s time to bring on the love.

This week Readex launched “Readex Text Explorer” (RTE), a new embedded service to help students, faculty, and researchers understand texts in amazing new ways.

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RTE is launching with three new collections:

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Each of these collections features the definitive record of its genre or subject from the very beginning (in the 1600s) through the year 1819. The texts cover an endless range of subjects: family, government, Native American relations, child-rearing, health, women’s lives, social commentary, daily life, education, religion, philosophy, politics, and hundreds more.

Powerful New Tools for Digital Humanists: Introducing Readex Text Explorer (RTE)

‘Mild as the Harmless Lamb’: Instructions on Conduct for Females

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Among several common themes in early books for children, instruction in conduct recurs frequently. Searching American Children’s Books, 1654-1819, a new Readex database, whether using Suggested Searches or employing Advanced Search, will result in many relevant texts. As for girls, the instructions on conduct sometimes coincide with the instructions for boys, but not always.

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‘Mild as the Harmless Lamb’: Instructions on Conduct for Females

“Silkeries of the Skies”: The Solar Superstorm of 1859

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Last night one of the most magnificent atmospheric exhibitions that have ever been witnessed in this latitude took place. A display of the aurora borealis of surpassing extent and beauty occupied the heavens, producing the most singular effects, and exciting the admiration and awe of the thousands that witnessed the wondrous sight.

This article, first published in the New York Evening Post, was reporting on what we know today as the solar storm of 1859. This massive storm, the largest of its kind on record, would also become known as the Carrington Event after British astronomer Richard Carrington who made some of the earliest astronomical observations of the solar flare. The flare and resulting geomagnetic storm of 1859 produced auroras seen around the world.

Headlined “Remarkable Atmospheric Phenomena—The Scenery of the Heavens,” the report continues: 

“Silkeries of the Skies”: The Solar Superstorm of 1859

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