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Listen to an Electric Fish from the 1870s!

It’s only a couple seconds long, but this is still an exciting snippet of historical audio, both audibly and conceptually.  You’ll find it at the end of this blog post, and if you’re feeling impatient, you can always scroll down and listen to it right now.  But as for what exactly it is—well, that’s going…

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The First Phonautograph in America (1859)

In 1859, a wealthy Philadelphia merchant named Charles N. Bancker bought a phonautograph for his lavish private collection of scientific apparatus.  It may have been the first phonautograph ever sold, and perhaps even the first one professionally built.  In 1871, Professor Henry Morton bought it from Bancker’s estate in turn—together with a collection of phonautograms—on…

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The Valparaiso University March (1896)

Today I’d like to share a rare piece of sheet music related to my undergraduate alma mater, Valparaiso University: the “Northern Indiana Normal School March,” composed by faculty member August Wolf and published in 1896.  The Northern Indiana Normal School (“N. I. N. S.”) was renamed Valparaiso College in 1900 and then became Valparaiso University…

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The Rhode Island Window, Forgotten Device of 1860s Photography

Nineteenth-century portrait photography was rich in creative artifices and illusions.  Some of these are familiar to today’s enthusiasts and easy to spot, but others remain obscure and unrecognized.  In this blog post, I’d like to share what I’ve been able to learn about one lesser-known device I call the Rhode Island Window (RIW). Why give…

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Film Fragments in Old Magazines (1896-1922)

Magazines of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries sometimes published illustrations of motion picture films that show a number of successive frames.  In most cases, there was no expectation that readers would try to set the images in motion, regardless of whether they had originally been captured with that purpose in mind; they were…

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The Fashionable Face: A Work in Progress

I’ve been exploring the possibilities of historical face-averaging here for some time now—that is, “averaging” groups of facial images from successive periods and then arranging them into timelines so that we can compare them side by side or, better yet, watch historical trends unfolding before our eyes as video animations.  The reason it’s been a…