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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.

Frank Kameny

The Lavender Scare

In 1950, the U.S. State Department fired 91 employees because they were homosexual or suspected of being homosexual.
Pisco Sour Cocktail

Sour Grapes: The Pisco War

Peru and Chile both produce the grape brandy called pisco, and they both consider it their national drink.
A hand holding a jar of Nutella in front of an illustrated hazelnut plant

Everything You Wanted to Know about Hazelnuts but Were Afraid to Ask

For one thing, there are several species of hazelnuts, including a couple native to North America.
Cartoon showing police brutality against the match makers' demonstration, 1871

The Origins of the Police

Sir Robert Peel is popularly credited with the formation of the first modern municipal police force. But the Thames River Police did it first.
India 1835 2 Mohurs

The East India Company Invented Corporate Lobbying

The historian William Dalyrmple's new book, The Anarchy, indicts the East India Company for "the supreme act of corporate violence in world history."
The first Thanksgiving 1621

Thanksgiving Has Been Reinvented Many Times

From colonial times to the nineteenth century, Thanksgiving was very different from the holiday we know now.
An American and Turkish soldier in Syria

U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Turkey, pt. 2

This is not the first time the presence of American nuclear weapons in Turkey has been part of a crisis.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Little_Galleries_-_1906.jpg

Alfred Stieglitz’s Art Journal

"The best one can say of American art criticism is that its CLEVERNESS OFTEN CONCEALS ITS LACK OF PENETRATION," Alfred Stieglitz wrote.
Peregrine Falcon, 1919

The Case of the Thinning Eggshells

How the proliferation of pesticides like DDT almost undid the Peregrine falcon.
First Landing of Christopher Columbus

The Columbian Exchange Should Be Called The Columbian Extraction

Europeans were eager to absorb the starches and flavors pioneered by the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere.
An advertisement for 'Cook's Nile Service', a cruise on the Express Steamer 'MS Hatasoo' run by Thomas Cook & Son Ltd., circa 1900.

A “Cook’s Tour” of Imperialism

Thomas Cook and Son Ltd. pioneered middle class tourism during the Victorian era, when it followed the course of the British Empire.
Richard Nixon at the Great Wall of China

Why Did Nixon Burn the China Hands?

Nixon targeted Foreign Service officers who served in China in the 1940s as communist sympathizers and "fellow travelers." Then he opened trade relations.
Wild rice

Wild Rice’s Refusal to Be Domesticated

The reality of wild rice defeated the best efforts of Europeans to domesticate it.
The Flower Girl by Charles Cromwell Ingham, 1846

When Botany Was for Ladies

In nineteenth century America, young women took to studying botany—a conjoining of interest, social acceptance, and readily available schooling.
Pedestrians & Vendors On Pottinger Street, Hong Kong, 1946

Hong Kong Was Formed as a City of Refugees

The story of Hong Kong, one of the most densely populated places on Earth, can't be separated from its international situation.
The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius, 1654

The Rise and Fall of the Pet Bird

Pet birds were considered ideal role models for middle-class life.
Photograph: A Mohammadan praying towards Mecca when the Miezzin calls from a nearby mosque, with a Butane Gas reservoir in the background. circa 1950

The Jim Crow Roots of the U.S.-Saudi Arabia Relationship

Americans started pouring into Saudi Arabia in the 1940s to develop the oil fields. They brought their ideas about segregation with them.
An illustration of a person blowing a whistle

Whistleblowing: A Primer

Are whistleblowers heroes or traitors? It depends who you ask.
Illustration: A mob attacking the Quarantine Marine Hospital in New York because they believed that its use was responsible for the numerous yellow fever epidemics. Original Publication: Harper's Weekly - pub. 1858 (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Source: Getty

When New Yorkers Burned Down a Quarantine Hospital

On September 1st, 1858, a mob stormed the New York Marine Hospital in Staten Island, and set fire to the building.
Portrait of Kenelm Digby by Anthony Van Dyck

Treating Wounds With Magic

Spoiler alert: It doesn't work.
A green meadow

The Conservatism of Conservation

Ecological conservation was originally focused on keeping things the way they were, and in that spirit, was closely connected with political conservatism.
Scene in The Bahamas, 1884

The Saltwater Railroad

Throughout the 19th century, enslaved people attempted to escape from the U.S. to the Bahamas, across what became known as the "Saltwater Railroad."
Viverra bengalensis

The Strange Case of Daniel Defoe’s Civet Scheme

In the 17th century, these animals were prized for their musk. So when the not-yet-famous writer Daniel Defoe needed quick cash, he turned to civets.