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Matthew Wills

Matthew Wills has advanced degrees in library science and film studies and is lapsed in both fields. He has published in Poetry, Huffington Post, and Nature Conservancy Magazine, among other places, and blogs regularly about urban natural history at matthewwills.com.

Yorktown Victory Monument, Colonial National Historic Site, Yorktown, Virginia

Whitewashing American History

One of the National Park Service's first historic preservation projects, the Colonial National Monument, wrote people of color completely out of the story.
A love potion against a colorful background

What’s in a Love Potion?

Besides the infamous Number Nine, that is.
Jacob Lawrence and one of his paintings

How American Artists Have Portrayed Haiti

In the early 20th century, African American artists created work that expressed solidarity with Haiti--whether they had been there or not.
Employment of Negroes in Agriculture by Earle Richardson

Racial Violence as Impetus for the Great Migration

Historians traditionally point to economic and social conditions as the primary causes for the Great Migration, but racist hate crimes played a role as well.
Leaders of the S-1 project, consider the feasibility of the 184-inch cyclotron at Berkeley, March 29, 1940. Left to right: E.O. Lawrence, Arthur Compton, Vannever Bush, James B. Constant, Karl Compton, Alfred Loomis.

The Man Behind the USA’s Decision to Build the Bomb

FDR's "czar of research," an electrical engineer named Vannevar Bush, was working on an atomic bomb months before Pearl Harbor.
Poster shows Uncle Sam playing a fife, leading a group of children carrying gardening tools and a seed bag.

The First School Gardens

In the early 1900s, immigration and child labor laws resulted in growing numbers of schoolchildren. Gardens were seen as a way to keep them under control.
Portrait of Meriwether Lewis by Charles Willlson Peale

The Mysterious Death of Meriwether Lewis

After triumphantly leading the Lewis and Clark expedition, Meriwether Lewis was either murdered or committed suicide. Did syphilis play a role?
Two women spinning silk in the 15th century

The Silkwomen of Medieval London

A group of skilled women ran the silk-making industry in 15th century London. So why didn't they protect their workers' rights by forming a guild?
Richard E. Byrd’s First Antarctic Expedition, 1928-1930

Polar Expedition or Publicity Stunt?

Richard E. Byrd's 1928-1930 Antarctica Expedition was sponsored by mass media. Was it all about science and exploration -- or about Byrd's personal #brand?
The Signing of Peace in the Hall of Mirrors, Versailles 1919, by William Orpen

The Fable of the Fourteen Points

Woodrow Wilson's legendary support for "self-determination" is indeed just a legend.
A jury box in a courtroom in Texas.

Why Do We Still Use Juries?

The history of juries is actually quite revolutionary.
A stack of books by Virginia Woolf

Was Modernism Meant to Keep the Working Classes Out?

In the 19th century, more working class readers started partaking in contemporary fiction. Modernist literature, however, was specifically not for them.
Samuel Beckett

Samuel Beckett and the Theatre of Resistance

The dark, absurdist humor of Samuel Beckett's work was directly informed by his time in the French Resistance during World War II.
A piece of polished amber

Facts and Fancies About Amber

It's taken scientists a long time to figure out what amber is made of, and what we can learn from it.
William Faulkner and Charles De Gaulle

William Faulkner Goes to Hollywood

The curious, forgotten connection between William Faulkner and Charles de Gaulle.
Front cover of "The Boys of New York" v.11 no.561

The Periodicals That Shaped American Boyhood

19th-century "story papers" gave boys stories they liked, while also encouraging readers to contribute their own material and tell their own stories.
Two deer in the woods at night

Photography Changed Americans’ Ideas about Nature

Many of our ideas about nature, wildlife, and conservation have their roots in the birth of nature photography.
Callery Pear Trees in bloom

When a Cultivated Tree Goes Rogue

The Callery pear was meant to help prevent fire blight from destroying the commercial pear industry. Then it became invasive.
Charlotte Salomon, gouache from Life? or Theater?

The Mystery behind Charlotte Salomon’s Groundbreaking Art

Before she was killed by Nazis, Charlotte Salomon created a unique, genre-bending artwork that may have also been a confession to a murder.
Orchids in a Wardian Case

The Accidental Invention of Terrariums

Victorian London became obsessed with Ward's cases, which protected plants from the city's toxic pollution -- and piqued peoples' imaginations.
An illustration from War of the Worlds

What The War of the Worlds Had to Do with Tasmania

H.G. Wells's famous science fiction novel imagines what would happen if Martians did to Great Britain what Europeans did to Tasmania.
Richard Attenborough, William Goldman and Joe Levine, 1975

William Goldman and the Mystery of Screenwriting

Authorship of Hollywood screenplays is often a complicated matter. But William Goldman was truly a writer in Hollywood.
The Loch Ness Monster swimming in the lake

Nessiteras rhombopteryx: The Loch Ness Monster

Why the Loch Ness Monster has a scientific binomial.
Detail from an 1846 map of Nantucket

The Little-Known Nantucket-British Deal of 1814

Remembering a strange chapter of history when Nantucket allied itself with Great Britain.
Cranberries in a strainer

Seven Things You Might Not Know About Cranberries

They're red, tart, and mostly eaten at Thanksgiving. Love them or hate them, here are seven things you might not have known about the humble cranberry.