Yellow Jacobins

Our Long-Running Love Affair with Pigeons

Through crazes of pigeon-fancying, these birds have been reshaped into a dizzying variety of forms.
Aurora Borealis by Frederic Edwin Church overlaid with The Battle of Culloden by David Morier

When the English Witnessed Battles in the Sky

Some claimed the battles were so fierce they could smell the gunpowder.
The New Perfume by John William Godward, 1914

When Royals Perfumed Themselves with the Excretions of Musk Deer and Civet Cats

In the era of Louis XV, it was fashionable to drench oneself in “animal scents.”
People visiting the morgue in Paris to view the cadavers

The Paris Morgue Provided Ghoulish Entertainment

With its huge windows framing the corpses on display, the morgue bore an uncomfortable resemblance to a department store.
Tremolite asbestos from the Aure Valley, French Pyrenees

When Asbestos Was a Gift Fit for a King

File under: “don’t try this at home.”
The Visit, 1746, Pietro Longhi

Socially Sanctioned Love Triangles of Romantic-Era Italy

Eighteenth-century Italian noblewomen had one indispensable accessory: an extramarital lover.
Superbarrio

Superbarrio: The People’s Superhero

Defender of the poor tenants and evictor of the voracious landlords, a masked lucha libre wrestler rose from the ruins of Mexico City’s 1985 earthquake.

Martin Luther’s Monsters

Prodigies, or monsters, were opaque and flexible symbols that signaled that God was sending some message.
Girls' Beating the Bounds' at a fence near St Albans in Hertfordshire, 1913

“Beating the Bounds”

How did people find out where their local boundaries were before there were reliable maps?
An abbey cellarer testing his wine. Illumination from a copy of Li livres dou santé by Aldobrandino of Siena, late 13th century

When Monks Went Undercover to Steal Relics

Because relics were understood to be capable of working miracles, any relic that was stolen must have wanted to be.