There is a peculiar religious sect in Paris and they worship absinthe. Their shrines are the boulevard cafes; their prayer books the muddy green liquid that cages mental rats within their brains and makes monsters of men who once paid their bills and wore clean cuffs.
“Wormwood”—as described in the New Testament’s Book of Revelation—was a fallen star, heralded by an angel:
10 And the third angel sounded the trumpet: and a great star fell from heaven, burning as it were a torch: and it fell on the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters:
11 And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood: and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.
Wormwood is also the most contentious ingredient in absinthe, the verdant spirit that was the bane and muse of writers and artists such as Baudelaire, Byron, Poe, Hemingway, Picasso, Joyce, van Gogh…this is the A-list, no first names required. The drinking of absinthe has been identified historically with bohemian decadence and mental health issues which led to its prohibition early in the twentieth century in France, Switzerland and other countries including the United States.
As seen in Part 2 of this series, U.S. newspaper coverage of the Spanish Influenza ended 1918 on a relatively positive note. On New Year’ Eve the San Jose Mercury News reported:
The conditions for San Jose and adjoining territory seem to be on a direct road to improvement as far as influenza is concerned….At all the local hospitals, the conditions were reported as better, nearly all those ill were doing nicely and the percentage of new cases had dropped to a very small number.
The next day, January 1, 1919, the same paper’s headline was “Influenza epidemic Takes Turn for Worse….38 Cases Reported.” Dr. James Bullitt, San Jose’s health officer warned “last night that a great deal of precaution must be observed in homes where cases of the disease exist….that the number of pneumonia cases developing each day is on the increase…”
Support learning and research across STEM and humanities disciplines with this unique family of digital collections. Each is comprised of primary source documents from around the world, collected and translated by the Central Intelligence Agency. Researchers will find journal articles, government publications, newspapers, magazines, and transcribed television and radio broadcasts that illuminate the origins of today’s most relevant scientific fields.
During the Second Industrial Revolution, Americans were introduced to an array of life-changing products—from the automobile to the lightbulb to the telephone. But 19th-century inventors also designed products with “a post-mortem relation to the needs of mankind.”
Several of these “inventions for the tomb” were highlighted in an 1896 issue of the St. Louis Republic.
The “coffin torpedo” is the latest patented device in the line of burial appliances. It is introduced into the casket before the latter is closed, the arrangement being of such that any attempt to force the receptacle open will release a spring, strike a percussion cap and set off the bomb. This means almost sure death to the unsuspecting grave robber, whose industry the invention in question is designed to discourage.
In addition to describing devices to prevent grave robbery, the article explains the latest inventions designed to indicate the buried isn’t dead yet.
In this issue: Turn-of-the-century black intellectuals challenge a dark pseudo-science; the contentious politics of antislavery in early 20th-century newspapers; and the flash press reveals ordinary and outrageous lives of urban women.
Britt Rusert, Associate Professor, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Fugitive Science: Empiricism and Freedom in Early African American Culture (NYU Press, 2017) traces a forgotten history of black resistance to the ascendency of racial science in the nineteenth century. Beginning in the late eighteenth century, naturalists, medical doctors, comparative anatomists, and a variety of gentleman scientists became increasingly interested in the construction of human taxonomies that justified regimes of settler colonialism and enslavement in the Americas. Enslaved and indigenous people were easy targets for human experiments because of their capture and confinement within spaces like the plantation, the slave ship, and later, the reservation. > Full Story