History Magazine Dec/Jan 2010
Volume 11 Number 2
Finished: Sept. 11, 2010
This is the first time I've reviewed a magazine but I figured since I did read it cover to cover and I spent more time on it than I do some graphic novels there is really no reason not to include it in my reading counts. This is a small press magazine with virtually no advertisements, except for a handful placed by the publisher itself and 3 small others that may have been paid advertising. This is a Canadian produced magazine though they have everything set up with both US & Canadian prices and a different address for customers from each. This volume itself has no Canadian content but the "Topics we are working on" section lists a few Canadian specific. Given that, I'd say the content is North American heavy with an inclusion of world history. But now I've gone and looked at the current issue and it is strong on world history, so it looks like the magazine as a whole provides a good cross-selection from all over. I intend on buying the latest issue the next time I make it to the city. Now I'll just review the magazine articles the way I would a short story collection:
History Trivia - The opening pages contain two short articles; one on the history of scarecrows the on the history of dominoes. Both interesting. I can't say I learnt anything new about dominoes but the scarecrow one enlightened me.
Monte Carlo Systems: Myths and Promises - A 4 page article on 1890's/1900's gambler's techniques and systems for beating the table at roulette, mostly. As at the time, only 2 games were played at the famous casino, roulette and 21. Really very interesting. Some of the information is gleaned from two books both shown in the article, one written in 1903, the other in 1901.
Trapped! The Story of Floyd Collins - The cover story. A 7 page book excerpt from the book of the same name by Robert K. Murray. This was an incredibly riveting story a miner trapped alone in a tight passage far underground with his foot stuck under a rock. The excerpt starts in the middle of the rescue operations and plays out to the end of the situation. An exhilarating read. Only problem is that it filled me with the story; I have no desire to read the book now. I know what happened and how it ended. All the stuff that will come before and after this excerpt is not necessary for me to read. People who are interested in the story already, or interested in Kentucky or mining history are the ones who may be tempted to get the book and read the whole account. But this was enough for me.
On the Road Again: The Great Auto Endurance Race - a 2 page article about a race held in 1909 Florida that was to bring notice to the need for improving the state's roads by racing a pack of cars from Tampa to Jacksonville and back again. Extremely interesting. I love stories and pictures of very early automobiles.
Behind Enemy Lines: Women Who Spied - a 4 page article on women who turned into spies during the Civil War, two are Confederate spies and two are Union spies. Of course I enjoyed this one!
Walk Like a Man: The Jennie Hodgers Story - The story of veteran Union soldier Albert D.J. Cashier who turned out to actually be a woman. In 1911, the Pensions Bureau opened his case to see if he qualified for increased benefits and it was at this time the truth came out. Jennie had changed into a man to join the army and fight for her country and then continued to live a peaceful life as a man finally retiring to a home for military veterans. These stories of women pretending to be men to do things they wouldn't otherwise be allowed to do are always interesting to read. This case seems to be more of a gender issue though nothing of that nature is known.
The Mystery of the Stone of Destiny - a 2 page article on the history of a mythical and legendary relic of Scotland that was returned with pomp and circumstance in 1996 after a 700 year absence. Interesting but not really my thing.
Little Wonder Records: Artifacts of a Pivotal Decade: a 3 page article that was fascinating! About a record label that produced one-sided discs for a dime from 1914-23. The songs they produced are a record of the social history of the states during that period. Starting with Irish songs for the large Irish immigrant community and songs longing for the South for southerners who had to move north for economic reasons. Onto the annexation of Hawaii with exotic and fun Hawaiian songs to show the people's fascination with this new state. Then what we could call the first anti-war songs as people watched WWI from it's start in 1914 hoping the US would not join in until it finally did in 1917. Then came the patriotic songs. After the war came jazz and songs of change as boys who'd been to Paris no longer wanted to work on the farm and finally in 1920 with the start of Prohibition came the novelty songs and blues that bemoaned the lack of a drink. Fascinating stuff, the article even has the words to a verse of songs for examples!
A Fox Trot Through Ragtime Dance - a 4 page article on the history of Ragtime music starting with the slaves satirical cakewalk dance, to Scott Joplin to Irene and Verne Castle to James Europe's Clef Club Orchestra and Ragtime's final decline as the advent of jazz came on the scene and the Charleston replaced the Turkey Trot. Readable enough but not exactly my thing.
The Christmas Tree Ship: The Story of Captain Santa - a 3 page article, this is a tale of the sea and about a man who sailed across Lake Michigan to bring pine trees to his German community every year for Christmas and his fateful last journey. Along with the ghostly legends that remain today. Exciting bio-article, just the type to keep me hooked. Loved it.
The Collapsing Ottoman Empire and the Congress of Berlin - a 4 page article with only small illustrations about the 1878 Congress of Berlin. A political meeting that divided up Europe in some manner and stopped or avoided a war or something. As you can tell this is all over my head. I know nothing about this stuff and could care less but struggled through the article anyway to learn a few things. Like who knew Turkey had an empire? The Ottoman Empire, I've heard of, but that it belonged to the Turks? Disraeli should have called an election as soon as he returned from this meeting then he would have won another term as PM but he waited too long and lost to Gladstone. Oh, and Bismarck was a real person before it was a battleship. That is what I learned by trudging through this political article.
Hindsight - 2 pages of history related "books and products" (a DVD) that have been chosen "solely on merit". Each book has a brief summary but no opinion. One is to assume they are all recommended, I guess. I only found two I would be interested in. Stealing Lincoln's Body by Thomas J. Craughwell. It "sheds light on the inception of the plot and the 19th century underworld of crooked politicians, immigrant gangs, counterfeiters and grave-robbers" at only 250 pages it could be an intriguing read. The other is a children's book called The Boy Who Invented TV: The Story of Philo Farnsworth by Kathleen Krull. 40pg non-fiction illustrated sounds like something my son would like with his current inventor kick.
China Dolls: Toys With a History - the magazine ends with a one page article giving a very brief history on dolls with china heads, different styles, and how they were made. I'm not really into dolls but even I knew the info. presented here.