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That Time Babe Ruth Lost the World Series

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The 114th edition of Major League Baseball’s World Series starts on Tuesday, October 23, and the history of this event runs deep and wide through the American consciousness.

Even though it may not be as popular as the Super Bowl, the World Series brings with it more tradition and more emotional engagement. Rather than a one-day spectacle, the Series can take more than a week to finish, and that means it dominates our cultural consciousness for much more than a single, 60-minute football game on a Sunday afternoon in January.

The New York Yankees have been the Kings of October baseball, although they will not be a part of this year’s contest. All told, the Bronx Bombers have won 27 Major League Baseball championships and lost in the Series a whopping 13 times. Those are more losses in the World Series for New York than the next-best team has won (St. Louis Cardinals, 11).

No one defines the Yankees in the public eye more than the legendary George Herman Ruth, Jr. Even though he was a …

Hot Commodities: Salt, Cod, Paper, and Booze

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Writing histories of commodities has become incredibly popular within the historical profession. Mark Kurlansky is perhaps the best-known author of these types of histories—Salt, Cod, and Paper being three of his biggest successes. For academics, commodities are inextricably tied to studies of capitalism, trade, and transnationalism. But for pop history authors, the appeal lies in the money. These books can make their writers a pretty penny, but why?

Bruce Robbins, a professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, suggests that the general public’s interest in commodity studies lies in the exotic origins of many modern products. He writes: “It adds value to remind a European smoker, however distant from religious observance, that Mayans considered tobacco ‘to be not only a form of pleasure, but also a ritual of immense significance.’” [1]

Certainly, there are those who will score cocktail party conversation points when recounting the ancient origins of a gi…

Tastes of the Indian Ocean: Indigenous Knowledge Transfers in Colonial Singapore

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In the 1848 publication of Hugh Low’s travel book, Sarawak: Its Inhabitants and Productions, Being Notes During a Residence in that Country with His Excellency Mr. Brooke, the author recorded the growing, harvesting and production techniques of sago palms and other food by Dayak tribes in Borneo, Sarawak, and other Malay islands. Botanical collectors, such as Hugh Low, focused on sago palm production since the processed food meal was a staple in Southeast Asia and China, as well as a luxury export to Europe. Botanists focused on the minute details of processing palms to encourage European colonists to enter the trade and develop plantations in the region to displace tribal farming. By creating plantations, botanists argued that British men could organize and profit from fertile land, unlike the tribes who grew only what they needed for export. This blog post tracks this transfer of knowledge and the attempts by botanists to supplant indigenous growers with European style plantations a…

Women and Gender in the Civil Rights Movement: The Montgomery Bus Boycott

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The story of the African American civil rights movement often gets boiled down to just a few moments featuring but a few key figures, at the expense of many who worked tirelessly to enact lasting change. For instance, the Montgomery Bus Boycott responsible for the Supreme Court ruling that segregation of public transportation was unconstitutional, is often oversimplified to the effect that many of the key participants and organizers, who were women, with the exception of Rosa Parks, were left out of the celebrated story. Many mark the boycott as the emergence of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a prominent black civil rights leader. However, there is much more to the story than these two figures reveal. Moreover, even though Parks is credited for catalyzing the boycott, she has not been given enough public recognition for many of the other ways in which she was already a stalwart militant for the cause of equal civil rights. In the past few decades, however, historians have worked tire…

The Daily Evergay, Part II

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You can read Part I of this story at https://historicalspaghetti.blogspot.com/2017/10/the-daily-evergay-part-i.html.



A brief recap: Beginning in the early 1970s, lesbians and gay men at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington began to organize themselves into a conscious community. One aspect of this newfound community was the creation of student organization Gay Awareness (GA) in November of 1975. In Part II I detail debates about the organization's funding and its early activities. Click on the images in the article to read the issue in which they were printed.

Between November 1975 and July 1976, the WSU student newspaper The Daily Evergreen ran more than 45 articles discussing the activities of the newly-formed student organization Gay Awareness (GA). It was the first organization of its type on the Pullman campus. Many of these Evergreen articles debated whether student organization funds should be used to support a gay awareness organization. This blog post uses t…

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…