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86 posts on "Historical Echoes"

August 09, 2013

Historical Echoes: Off the Charts!

Kathleen McKiernan

The visual representation of information, knowledge, or data has been around since the time of the caveman. But it wasn’t until 1786, when William Playfair, a Scottish engineer, published The Commercial and Political Atlas, illustrating for the first time how economic data could be represented by charts. Playfair’s work preceded that of Florence Nightingale—broadly acknowledged as the founder of modern nursing—who used information graphics in the 1850s to convince Queen Victoria that reform was needed in the British military health service. Nightingale developed the Coxcomb chart—a combination of stacked pie and bar charts—to assess mortality among soldiers during the Crimean War.

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July 19, 2013

Historical Echoes: “Happy Days” and Little Green Pieces of Paper

Amy Farber

In 1965, Baby-Boomer kids may have been treated to TV footage of a high-stepping chorus line and thousands of people cheering to the background tune “Happy Days Are Here Again.” They may have noticed the tinny sound of the singing and the antiquated clothing styles of the people in the footage and, not knowing why they were looking at this, thought: Hey, this is a really great song.

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July 12, 2013

Historical Echoes: Andy Warhol and the Art of Money

Megan Cohen

Money has been a topic of keen interest throughout history. As noted in a previous post, this fascination has extended into artwork created centuries ago through modern times. One artist who expanded the concept of what people perceive as art was Andy Warhol.

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June 28, 2013

Historical Echoes: Skull Bumps and Economic Behavior

Amy Farber

Phrenology (see this amusing four-minute video), popular in the first half of the nineteenth century, was the study of skull shape and contours (believed to indicate the location of more- and less-developed areas of the brain) in order to discern individuals’ abilities and personality traits (called “faculties” in the phrenologists’ jargon). A clear map of the various skull sections and their corresponding faculties can be found in this excerpt from Samuel Wells’ version of the 1840 Fowler's Practical Phrenology: Giving a Concise Elementary View of Phrenology.

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May 31, 2013

Historical Echoes: How to Choose a Bank, Past and Present

Amy Farber

In May 1953, an article from Kiplinger’s Changing Times titled “No, All Banks Are Not Alike” advised, “You want a bank that is safe, convenient, pleasant to visit; one that offers all the regular banking services and makes reasonable charges for them; one that is well managed and competently staffed, and whose officers and tellers are friendly and willing to advise you on your major financial problems.” It also recommends considering whether the officers of the bank participate in civic affairs and whether the bank provides tours for children.

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May 24, 2013

Historical Echoes: Seeing through the Blackout of 1965 and Other Trials

Amy Farber

In November 1965, the northeastern United States experienced a thirteen-hour blackout—the biggest in history to that date. Life magazine did a spread (p. 36) with some surreal and gloomy pictures of stranded, dazed, well-dressed passengers sleeping every which way all over New York City’s Grand Central Terminal. A book was written that same year by the staff of the New York Times, When the Lights Went Out, which describes in detail how people and various agencies in New York had to cope and make emergency adjustments.

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May 17, 2013

Historical Echoes: The “Mississippi Bubble” – When One’s Back Could Be Rented Out as a Writing Desk

Amy Farber

In 1720, the very same year that England was experiencing the “South Sea Bubble” (see our post), France was experiencing a bubble as well—the “Mississippi Bubble.” France’s bubble was brought on by government debt and the advice of the head of the country’s finance ministry, John Law (Scottish mathematician, convicted murderer [a duel], gambler, and financial genius), to create paper money and a bank and to invest in his Mississippi Company. (Indeed, at the height of the trading frenzy for shares of stock in Law’s company, a hunchbacked man rented his back out as a desk in the “Street of Speculators” and earned a considerable sum.) Over a three-year period (1718-20), things went very wrong and too much money was printed (the regent’s decision, not Law’s). The text accompanying this portrait of Law describes him as an:

18th century Scotsman, credited by some historians as being “the father of inflation.” Law turned gambling IOUs into “gold counters,” then state debts into paper money, and finally sold all France down the river on the “Mississippi Bubble.”

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May 10, 2013

Historical Echoes: What Do the New York Fed and Grand Central Terminal Have in Common?

Amy Farber

These two fine old entities—the New York Fed and Grand Central Terminal—have at least three things in common: they are both about 100 years old, they both feature beautiful vaulting in some part of their structure by the same “designer” masons, and they both go very deep into the ground.

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April 19, 2013

Historical Echoes: Fedspeak as a Second Language

Amy Farber

First there was Newspeak (from George Orwell’s book 1984), which intended to bend the thinking of the masses, then there was doublespeak (derived from Newspeak, meaning a deliberate disguising or distortion of meaning, and with its very own achievement award), and then there was Fedspeak (and likely many other “-speaks”).

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April 12, 2013

Historical Echoes: The Invention of the ATM–A Case of Multiple Independent Discovery?

Amy Farber

Amazingly, something resembling a drive-through automated bank teller existed back in 1941 (twenty-six years before the invention of the true ATM, or automated teller machine). It was an ingenious curbside teller’s window, as described in this October 1941 Popular Science article, “Bank Gives Curb Service to Motorists with Novel ‘Teller-Vision’ Cage” (p. 63 for IE7 users).

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