Posts

When the Man They Called ‘Hogmeat’ Made Some Super Bowl History

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On February 4, 2018, millions of people around the world will watch Super Bowl LII, even though a good many of those millions do not care about American football at all. Whether it is the hyped-up advertisements or just the desire to be at a fun party with free food and drinks, most Americans—and many fans abroad—will tune in to watch the National Football League’s championship game.

Inevitably, Chuck Howley’s name will come up during NBC’s telecast of the game, as it always does. As the big game approaches its end in the late hours of Super Bowl Sunday, modernity once again will test his relevance by asking the random trivia question: Who is Chuck Howley?

He is the only member of the losing team to win the Super Bowl’s Most Valuable Player Award.


It happened on January 17, 1971, as Super Bowl V ended with the then-Baltimore Colts defeating the Dallas Cowboys, 16-13, on a last-second field goal by placekicker Jim O’Brien. But this game was far from “super” as the two teams combined…

The Pagan, Medieval, and German Roots of Today’s Christmas Tree

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The pre-Christmas season makes us think of nicely decorated homes, ginger bread houses, family gatherings, and Christmas trees. Many people, however, do not know any of the details of the pagan origins of today’s Christmas trees. The idea of bringing trees into the house has roots going back to the pagan past of European countries. Dorothea Forstner, choir woman of the Benedictines in St. Gabriel of Berholdstein, is quoted in Pagan Christmas explaining the pagan roots of the Christmas tree. Forstner explains that “[b]y bringing branches or trees into contact with human beings, the fresh and blossoming life of nature and its fertility was transferred into them, and evil influences were warded off.” According to Forstner, the time period between December 25th and January 6th was especially important for those rituals because evil spirits were feared the most during those days. During those days, “green branches were hung, candles lit – and all these things were used as a means of defen…

Reforming the Congo Free State: Religion and Human Rights

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In 1998, journalist and popular author Adam Hochschild published King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa. The book sold well and introduced the Congo Reform Movement to a broad audience. Hochschild outlined the story of King Leopold II of Belgium and his brutal colonization of the Congo River Basin in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. over the course of Leopold reign from 1885-1908, millions of Congolese men, women, and children, were tortured, kidnapped, and massacred in pursuit of the region's precious commodities, ivory and rubber. He also introduced some of the players who discovered, protested, and sought to reform the administration of what Leopold II ironically named the Congo Free State. The reform movement involved an international organization based in Great Britain and the United States, the Congo Reform Association, that sought to alleviate the suffering of the Congolese under stifling European rule. Despite Hochsch…

Our Classes Need More Religion

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Good graduate-level survey courses discuss how history should be taught at the undergraduate level. In one such recent conversation, the topic turned to the matter of religion’s role in the first half of the undergraduate American history survey usually covering from around 1500 to either the end of the Civil War or Reconstruction. The instructor posed the question: could one construct an entire survey of this period using religion as a primary focal lens?

Even as a historian of religion, I squirmed. It sounded repellant; what student not already interested in the subject would want to sit through fifteen weeks of overtly religious history? Who would want to force a room full of uninterested students to talk about religion for three months? Only a scholar hopelessly obsessed with their own research would foist such a burden on a 100-level class.

Yet my initial revulsion abated as I thought more on the idea. I allowed myself to consider how the lens of religion might impact a student…

A Handful of Candy Corn and an Encounter with Fairies

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Fall not only brings forth crisper air and changing leaves, it also brings one of the most controversial holidays: Halloween. Many love it and many hate it, but most think of spiced apple cider, overly sweet candy corn, haunted houses, dressing up in ornate, albeit sometimes scary, costumes, parties, and all-around shenanigans when Halloween approaches in the 21st century. What most do not know is that this night mixing fun and fear actually began as a sacred, religious event, lasting from sundown on October 31st and throughout the day on November 1st.[1] The celebrations on October 31st, or what we traditionally call Halloween today, originated as the ancient Celtic fire festival celebrating the end of harvest, the beginning of the dark half of the year, the time to honor the dead, a time to thank the gods, and a time of great feasting: Samhain.[2] While there are many stories of trickery, tom-foolery, and yes even terror surrounding Samhain, at its heart it was a sacred festival ho…

The Daily Evergay, Part I

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Despite the expansion of lesbian and gay history during the past decades there are many places where the history of lesbian and gay people remains unwritten. Following nights of rioting on Christopher Street in New York City in June of 1969, gays and lesbians across the United States spoke more openly, and organized more actively, than had their counterparts in the 1950s. The Stonewall Riots, as those nights were later remembered, did not reach all corners of the United States, but they did extend to Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. By exploring sources from the long-running, daily student-newspaper The Evergreen this post and its counter-part will shed light on the history of lesbian and gay student activism at WSU. Part I examines the formation of the student organization Gay Awareness and its uneven work in uniting minority groups on campus. Part II will follow the response to the organization as seen in the The Evergreen.

As I discuss below, the early 1970s, and…

Comanches All Around

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This edition of History Spaghetti comes from Ryan Booth, a Ph.D. student in history. Here, Ryan reviews two recent works that demonstrate the significant impact of Native Americans in the history of the American Southwest. The first, Pekka Hämäläinen’s The Comanche Empire (2008), challenges us to re-consider our conceptions of Indian political, economic, and military power in the Southwest by seeing the Comanches as an imperial power. Just like the Spanish and American empires in the Southwest, between 1700 and 1850 the Comanche empire “imposed their will upon neighboring polities, harnessed the economic potential of other societies for their own use, and persuaded their rivals to adopt and accept their customs and norms” (pg.4). Hämäläinen, Rhodes Professor of American History at Oxford University, avoids the “cameo-appearance” narrative of American history, where Indians only show up for a moment before disappearing, by centering Indians in our understanding of the eighteenth- and n…