Seamus Dunphy


About Author: 

Seamus is an Editor who joined NewsBank in 2006 and continues to be an integral member of the Readex Digital Collections team. He currently leads a team indexing the Territorial Papers, curates derivative products, and writes blogs and training material. He received his B.A. from Marlboro College and remains a student of political science and economics. His hobbies include writing, gardening, and traveling.

Posts by this Author

Support of the Union through Verse, the Pen, and the Sword: Selected Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

The inside story of a secret society, a firsthand account of a naval pursuit, and a strongly worded argument in international relations—these three items only scratch the surface of the newly digitized materials in the initial release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian SocietyAn Authentic Exposition of the “K.G.C.”, “Knights of the Golden Circle”, or A History of Secession from 1834 to 1861 (1861)
Support of the Union through Verse, the Pen, and the Sword: Selected Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

Skylarking, Horseplay and Other Hazards of the Early 20th-Century Workplace: As Seen in the U.S. Congressional Serial Set

Just as an aimless stroll can allow you to find a new perspective on a project, casually browsing Readex’s Archive of Americana can lead to serendipitous discoveries. What began as an investigation of nautical terminology, specifically the term “skylarking,” ended by shedding light on several amusing judicial opinions reprinted in the U.S. Congressional Serial Set.

Originally, skylarking described the antics of sailors who climbed about their ship’s rigging and slid down its backstays for fun. The ancient word "lac" means "to play" and because the frolicking of these deckhands started high in the masts, the term "skylacing" was born. Over time the word changed to "skylarking" and was used to refer to horseplay in general.

At first, skylarking wasn’t used pejoratively. For sailors with free time, this boisterous activity was considered a better diversion than engaging in mutinous talk. However, by the mid-19th century skylarking in the U.S. Navy became an offense punishable by the lash. The term first appears in the Serial Set in the 1849 publication, “Report of the Secretary of the Navy, with returns of punishments in the Navy.”1 The punishment for skylarking was comparable to that given for disobedience of orders, fighting, taking grog, skulking, or drunkenness: three to ten “lashes with cats.”

Skylarking, Horseplay and Other Hazards of the Early 20th-Century Workplace: As Seen in the U.S. Congressional Serial Set

I Was Chairman Mao's Cook (and other unexpected finds in a Cold War-era intelligence archive)

What do the hydrodynamics of dolphins[1], the philosophical quandary of extra-terrestrial life[2], and Soviet experiments to detect emotions[3] have in common? Need a hint? It’s the same thing that biographies of Anwar Sadat[4] and Zhu Rongji[5], who became the fifth Premier of the People’s Republic of China, and an article by Chairman Mao’s cook[6], have in common. They are all found in the Readex digital edition of Joint Publications Research Service Reports (JPRS)—an English-language archive of translations of foreign scientific, technical, and social science materials.
I Was Chairman Mao's Cook (and other unexpected finds in a Cold War-era intelligence archive)

The World’s Greatest Aviator: Daredevil Lincoln Beachey and the Dip of Death

Lincoln J. Beachey (March 3, 1887 – March 14, 1915)

In the early 20th century, aviator Lincoln Beachey and his Curtis biplane amazed and delighted crowds with the “Dip of Death” and his mastery of “looping the loop.” Or by daring to fly upside down, which on one occasion shook $300 from his pocket and led him to quip,
I am willing to take a chance of losing my life flying upside down but it’s certainly tough to be torn loose from my bank roll, too.1
A groundbreaking aviator and breathtaking stuntman, he could boast of having performed for over 20 million spectators, or about one fifth of the U.S. population at the time. Yet 100 years later his name is largely unknown.

Source: Jackson (Mich.) Citizen Press; Jan. 30, 1914. Click open full article in PDF.

The World’s Greatest Aviator: Daredevil Lincoln Beachey and the Dip of Death

Baseball in America: Its Origins and Early Days

Some things never change, or so suggested the Duluth News Tribune in 1916:

Baseball in America: Its Origins and Early Days

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