“The Public Health” in 1840

A pamphlet published in 1840 advocates a four-pronged approach to public healthcare that sounds remarkably like our own.
Phrenology head from The Household Physician, 1905

Walt Whitman, America’s Phrenologist

The pseudoscience of phrenology included a notion of body as text that Whitman loved. But the craze of "bumpology" also had a darker side.
Relics from the Franklin Search Expedition

When Clairvoyants Searched for a Lost Expedition

When Captain Sir John Franklin's Arctic expedition went awry, clairvoyants claimed to be able to contact the crew members. Why did people believe them?
mesmerism

The Mystical Practice That Preceded Medical Anesthesia

For a brief period of time in the 19th century, doctors used "mesmerism" for pain-free surgery.
Telling the bees painting

“Telling the Bees”

In nineteenth-century New England, it was held to be essential to whisper to beehives of a loved one’s death.
methodist religious revival

When Science and Religion Were Connected

During the Second Great Awakening of 1830, science and religion were seen as “two aspects of the same universal truth.”
Elizabeth Jennings Graham

The Woman Who Refused to Leave a Whites-Only Streetcar

In 1854, Elizabeth Jennings rode the streetcar of her choice, in an early civil rights protest that led to desegregating public transportation in NYC.
mailboxes

The Massive Fight over Sunday Mail

Sunday mail delivery was hugely controversial in the early 19th century, inspiring one of the U.S.'s first efforts to rally public opinion around a cause.
Degas bather

When Americans Started Bathing

The first baths weren't about getting clean or relaxing. In the 1860s, experts agreed that the best kind of bath was a brief plunge in cold water.
Women gardeners

When Gardens Replaced Children

Historian Robin Veder explains that the way we associate female nurturing with gardens goes back to the way ideas about gender and work changed in the mid-nineteenth century.