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Livia Gershon

Livia Gershon is a freelance writer in Nashua, New Hampshire. Her writing has appeared in publications including Salon, Aeon Magazine and the Good Men Project. Contact her on Twitter @liviagershon.

Several images of people smiling

Why Are Americans So Cheery?

How Americans went from loving melancholy to focusing on controlling their emotions -- and destinies.
Girls in a swimming class entertain an audience of neighborhood residents at Mullanphy Pool in St. Louis, MO

When Cities Closed Pools to Avoid Integration

Many Americans lack nearby municipal pools, the lasting result of extralegal Jim Crow-era efforts to keep races segregated at all costs.
A classroom in Oak Ridge, Tennessee in 1944

Teaching Race at School

Shaken by Nazi propaganda, educators tried to teach anti-racist lessons in the 30s-40s. Their methods, however, would be considered very problematic today.
The Indian's Vespers by Asher Brown Durand, 1847

Subscription Art for the 19th-Century Set

How the American Art-Union brought fine art to the people, via a subscription service, in the 1840s.
Map of Warren County, KY

Maps Showed People Their Worlds

In the 19th century, most Americans weren't used to seeing maps of their communities. New forms of color lithography changed all that.
Orphan asylum boys picking currants

When Foster Care Meant Farm Labor

Before current foster care programs were in place, Americans depended on farmers to take care of kids in exchange for hard labor.
A variety of vintage orange plastic items

The Revolutionary Past of Plastics

When plastics were first invented, they seemed to promise a utopian future.
A woman resting her head on her work desk

Is Burnout Really a Disease?

Perhaps, instead of thinking of burnout as a disease to be dealt with at the individual level, we might collectively address it as a social problem.
Croquet Scene by Winslow Homer, 1866

The Dangerous Game of Croquet

Many 19th-century observers were disturbed by the way young people took the co-ed sport of croquet as an opportunity to flirt.
Interior of a drug store in the 1950s

Cold Warriors Tanked Big Pharma Regulation

Worried about the high price of prescription drugs, a senator proposed a bill that would have regulated Big Pharma -- back in the 1950s.
An elderly schoolma'am chastising a boy

When Teachers Stopped Beating Kids

Corporal punishment of students largely fell out of favor in the early 19th century. The preferred new system used prizes to encourage good behavior.
Suprematist Painting (with Black Trapezium and Red Square) by Kazimir Malevich

Dreaming of Spaceflight in 1920s Russia

Early in the 20th century, Cosmism was all the rage in Russia, inspiring a utopian and mystical view of interstellar travel.
The Confession by Giuseppe Moltini

An Unhealthy Obsession with Avoiding Sin

In the early 20th century, "scruples" meant a neurotic fixation on sin. It seemed to mostly affect Roman Catholics.
An illustration of Mormon leader James Strang speaking with a Mormon woman

When Adventists and Mormons Turned Sex-Positive

How the once sex-averse Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Seventh Day Adventism embraced (married, monogamous) sex as a positive ideal.
this photograph likely depicts one of the classrooms where migratory workers passing through Chicago obtained practical and academic educational experience.

The Hobo College of Hobohemia

Vagrancy laws targeted hobos at a time when there were few jobs for them. They responded by forming a union and helping to create Chicago’s Hobo College.
a Turkish harem interior

Style Tips from the Harem

When 19th-century American women visited Turkish harems, they came home with very different impressions than their male counterparts.
A social security card on a plain surface.

When Big Business Backed Social Security

Contemporary conservatives call for the U.S. government to ditch Social Security in favor of private savings. But it wasn't always this way.
A person saving a parking spot by laying down on the concrete.

When Did We Start Paying to Park Our Cars?

A Curious Reader asks: When and why did parking become monetized?
Demonstrating the administration of the polygraph, the polygrapher making notes on the readouts.

The Online Lie Detector Is No Better Than the Polygraph

People love the idea of a machine that tells us who to trust. But the historical analog of the online lie detector also didn't work.
A black and white image of a person trapped behind glass

How YouTube Is Shaping the Future of Work

Americans expect our jobs to provide us with not just money but fulfillment. For many, YouTube represents exactly that promise.
A doctor talking to a female patient

Blaming Women for Infertility in the 1940s

In the early days of fertility treatments, some doctors theorized that women’s unconscious hatred of their husbands kept them from conceiving.
Boxes of Cracker Jacks

The Invention of the Giveaway

The appeal of the free gift has always been, for the consumer, about the eternal dream of getting something for nothing.
A harmonica against a yellow background

How Harmonicas Came to America

Harmonicas were invented in Europe in the 1820s as an aid for tuning pianos, but they didn't really take off until they crossed the Atlantic.
A Jewish wine cup

When Passover Meant Raisin Wine

Why did American Jews have non-alcoholic raisin "wine" with their Passover seders in the early 19th century?
Allan Pinkerton at the camp at Antietam in September, 1862

A Horse’s-Eye View of the Civil War

Horses and mules played a major role in the American Civil War. In the end, there were about twice as many dead equines as humans.