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Early National Geographic Volumes

Google Books now has an amazing collection of early National Geographic volumes spanning the first several decades of the Society’s history (NGS was founded in 1888). The important part: all of them are free and can be downloaded in either pdf or epub formats.

The first ones – Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 4, and Volume 5.

Many more volumes here. I’m partial to Volume 22, because it has a short section on dinosaurs.

Throughout its history, the Society has also published additional books, maps, and other resources to help advance the educational aspect of its mission and many of those early materials are available online as well with some quick searching: this collection of pictures and a directory of national and maritime flags (as of 1917) are two examples.


Make Your Own Moccasins

From Popular Science, August 1937.


On Curling

I recently had the opportunity to try out curling for the first time, the sport where teams of players attempt to slide and position 42 pound granite stones in a certain way over ice. Going into it I had some misgivings, but it ended up being a lot of fun and there is quite a bit of strategy and skill involved. Wikipedia has a good overview of how the game is played.

A view of the rinks inside the Granite Curling Club in Seattle, the only dedicated curling club on the entire west coast.

Reading up on it later, it turns out that the game originated in medieval Scotland (and here I thought that the Canadians came up with it). From wikipedia again:

Curling is thought to have been invented in late medieval Scotland, with the first written reference to a contest using stones on ice coming from the records of Paisley Abbey, Renfrewshire, in February 1541. Two paintings (both dated 1565) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder depict Dutch peasants curling—Scotland and the Low Countries had strong trading and cultural links during this period, which is also evident in the history of golf.

Evidence that curling existed in Scotland in the early 16th century includes a curling stone inscribed with the date 1511 (uncovered along with another bearing the date 1551) when an old pond was drained at Dunblane, Scotland. Kilsyth Curling Club claims to be the first club in the world, having been formally constituted in 1716; it is still in existence today. Kilsyth also claims the oldest purpose-built curling pond in the world at Colzium, in the form of a low dam creating a shallow pool some 100 × 250 metres in size, though this is now very seldom in condition for curling because of warmer winters.

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Steve McQueen Unpublished Photos from LIFE

Via Sartorially Inclined. See more on life.com.

For context, you should also read the original article that the pictures were shot for: LIFE Issue Jul 12, 1963

In the following issue that was published that year, there were some humorous letters to the editor in regards to the article.


Ralph Lauren Interview, from 1985

Found in an old issue of New York Magazine. Ralph Lauren reminisces about his upbringing, getting his start in fashion, and Brooks Brothers.

Some quotes:

Q: And where did you get the notion of Polo as an appropriate name?
A: I’ve always liked sports and athletics, and name were not important to me. I was not a guy that would wear a designer name. I wouldn’t wear Christian Dior, Bronzini, or any names of the names of that period. So I came up with my own style, which was a sport that had an aristocratic image, and that was Polo.

Q: What about the Japanese influence on fashion? Do you think that’s real, or media hype?
A: I think it’s real. You know, fashion is – that’s why I don’t like fashion – always looking for something new, something new to sell, something new to promote. I’m for anything that’s exciting, that’s interesting, that has individuality.

Q: What do you see in the future of evolution of fashion design, the nineties, the year 2000?
A: There are new technologies every day. As the new technology evolves, the clothes change, but people are still wearing warm tweeds, they wear cashmeres, they wear flannels, they wear scarves around the neck, they wear Chanel kind of shoes… People still need comfort, they need warmth, coziness, a sense of realness.

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Shackleton’s Whisky

It was recently reported that a team sponsored by Whyte & Mackay had recovered several cases of whisky left behind by Shackleton and his crew in Antarctica (they will apparently try to recreate the particular batch found). The fascinating story led me to spend part of this last week reading Shackleton’s book on his retelling of the failed expedition.

Interestingly there is no mention of the whisky in it, and there are only a few references to other types of alcohol which only seemed to be used rarely for toasts, holidays, and cooking.

From a section where he is describing part of the cabin at Cape Royds (where the cases were found):

My room contained the bulk of our library, the chronometers, the chronometer watches, barograph, and the electric recording thermometer; there was ample room for a table and the whole made a most comfortable cabin. On the roof we stowed those of our scientific instruments which were not in use such as theodolites, spare thermometers, dip circles, &c. The gradual accumulation of weight produced a distinct sag in the roof, which sometimes seemed to threaten collapse as I sat inside, but no notice was taken and nothing happened. On the roof of the dark room we stowed all our photographic gear and our few cases of wine, which were only drawn upon on special occasions such as Mid winter Day. pg. 85

Maybe the wine above was the whisky? Earlier he also describes a situation where brandy is fed to one of the ponies named Chinaman, who had fallen in ice cold water:

Mackay started to try and get the pony Chinaman across the crack when it was only about six inches wide, but the animal suddenly took fright, reared up on his hind legs, and backing towards the edge of the floe, which had at that moment opened to a width of a few feet, fell bodily into the ice cold water. It looked as if it was all over with poor Chinaman, but Mackay hung on to the head rope, and Davis, Mawson, Michell and one of the sailors who were on the ice close by rushed to his assistance. The pony managed to get his fore feet on to the edge of the ice-floe. After great difficulty a rope sling was passed underneath him, and then by tremendous exertion he was lifted up far enough to enable him to scramble on to the ice. There he stood, wet and trembling in every limb. A few seconds later the floe closed up against the other one. It was providential that it had not done so during the time that the pony was in the water, for in that case the animal would inevitably have been squeezed to death between the two huge masses of ice. A bottle of brandy was thrown on to the ice from the ship, and half its contents were poured down Chinaman’s throat. pg. 63

Chinaman ended up being the weakest of the horses and was the first to be killed for food:

It can be imagined that the cook for the week had no easy task. His work became more difficult still when we were using ponymeat, for the meat and blood, when boiled up, made a delightful broth, while the fragments of meat sunk to the bottom of the pot. The liquor was much the better part of the dish, and no one had much relish for the little dice of tough and stringy meat, so the cook had to be very careful indeed. Poor old Chinaman was particularly tough and stringy horse. pg. 230

In those days, explorers used animals brought along as transportation and when needed, as a source of food. Shackleton describes this process in detail on pg. 168 if you’re curious.

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Vintage Levi’s Ads

From 1903 and 1893 respectively.

Yes, that second one is real.

All About Coffee and its History in Old New York

For the coffee snobs, here is a remarkable book on the subject of the drink written in 1922. Topics include its history in different regions from the time, coffee preparation and techniques, chemistry, and industry information. Despite its age, much of the knowledge is still current.

From the foreword:

Civilization in its onward march has produced only three important non-alcoholic beverages — the extract of the tea plant, the extract of the cocoa bean, and the extract of the coffee bean.

Leaves and beans — these are the vegetable sources of the world’s favorite nonalcoholic table-beverages. Of the two, the tea leaves lead in total amount consumed; the coffee beans are second; and the cocoa beans are a distant third, although advancing steadily. But in international commerce the coffee beans occupy a far more important position than either of the others, being imported into non-producing countries to twice the extent of the tea leaves. All three enjoy a world-wide consumption, although not to the same extent in every nation; but where either the coffee bean or the tea leaf has established itself in a given country, the other gets comparatively little attention, and usually has great difficulty in making any advance. The cocoa bean, on the other hand, has not risen to the position of popular favorite in any important consuming country, and so has not aroused the serious opposition of its two rivals.

Coffee is universal in its appeal. All nations do it homage. It has become recognized as a human necessity. It is no longer a luxury or an indulgence; it is a corollary of human energy and human efficiency. People love coffee because of its two-fold effect — the pleasurable sensation and the increased efficiency it produces.

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Manual of Military Training from 1917

First written in 1914 by Captain James Moss, the manual was intended as a be-all resource for the training of new cadets and soldiers. Topics include drill formation, fitness, combat with bayonets, first aid, map/compass reading, and trench warfare.

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What I Like in a Bike – and Why

Written in 1966 by Steve McQueen for Popular Science, he reviews several motorcycles out in the desert.

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