mcgonigle headAmerica fingerprinted German nuns during World War I? People in England used to go to prison to get married on the sly?

You betcha.

It’s all here in black and white.

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Wild, Wild West

Mortality schedules listed deaths that took place in the year before a census. According to the 1850 mortality schedule for Calaveras, California, the three top causes of death were dysentery, shot, and stabbed. (Bonus: What was the number 2 occupation after miner?  Gambler.)

calaveras inset


Keeping Track of Germans During WWI

When the United States declared war on Germany in 1917, President Wilson authorized the registration of aliens living in the United States. This included all non-naturalized German males aged 14 and older, who were classified as enemy aliens. In April 1918, Austro-Hungarian nationals and women within the age and nationality requirements were added to the list, including American-born wives of non-naturalized Germans. (The registration requirement was rescinded in December that year.)

Not even nuns were exempt.

germ reg nun pg 1


germ reg nun pg 2


Not to Be Outdone…

The U.S. took the whole enemy alien paranoia even further during WWII, when President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 of February 1942 led to the relocation of 117,000 people of Japanese ancestry to internment camps. Two-thirds of these people were American-born citizens.


japan relocate



Taxes Hit Home

Maybe the budget isn’t balanced because we’ve stopped taxing chairs.


20121129 tax chair


Or teaspoons.

20121129 tax teaspoons


WWI—The Musical

New York has collected thousand of questionnaires from its veterans to document their military service. Some questions asked about battles, service history, and wounds. Others gave vets the chance to list jokes, popular songs, and their most inspiring or saddest memory.


WWII human interest


Hung in Effigy

All we can say is, it could have been worse.


haning in effigy


In fact, for this watch thief, it almost was.


hanging watch threat



Chinese Not Welcome

In 1882 the Chinese Exclusion Act went into effect, banning the entry of Chinese laborers into the U.S. for the next 10 years and allowing the deportation of laborers who entered illegally. It was followed by others, and Chinese already in the country faced a long grilling if they wanted to leave—and be let back in when they returned.


wong yee bong


Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent

Once upon a time (in 1880 to be exact), the United States Federal Census included a supplemental schedule for “Dependent, Defective, and Delinquent Classes.” At the time, these included the insane, blind, deaf, indigent, homeless, and prisoners.


DDD insane





Butter or margarine?

It’s been a question of health, on of taste, and even of jail time for men like John L. McMonigle, who went to prison for violating the Oleomargarine Act.

Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration
Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration


Charity Case

These forms from New York poorhouses included an opinion on your habits (judged “Intemperate” in this example), your parents’ habits, and the likelihood that you would “recover” from the cause of your dependence.




Going to the prison, and we’re going to get married…

Back in 17th– and 18th-century England, prisons like the Fleet and the King’s Bench Prison became popular destinations for couples interested in quick, no-questions-asked nuptials because of the number of clerics imprisoned for debt who had nothing to lose and welcomed the income.


fleet notice



fleet marriage


No Booze for You

Long before the days of picture IDs and facial recognition software, the Watch Committee of the City of Birmingham provided licensed liquor sellers with photos and descriptions of more than 80 tippling citizens who were not to be sold liquor.


richard flemming page



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