Woodcuts and Wit from Marion, Ohio (1873)

Some years ago I picked up a quirky little newspaper at a Wisconsin antique store—or at least it looks something like a newspaper at first glance.  Its title is Ferguson, its motto is “Ferguson,” and its place and date of publication are given as “Ferguson, July 22, 1873.”  What I have is apparently Volume One,…

Encrypted Letters to a Hoosier Fiancée (1895)

A century and a quarter ago, a young man whose business drew him from place to place around the Midwest mailed some painstakingly enciphered letters to his fiancée (and later wife) back home in Nappanee, Indiana.  Maybe his goal really was to keep the correspondence safe from prying eyes, or maybe he just thought of…

Absolution by Telephone: A Catholic Debate (1882-86)

Can modern sound media really transmit the human voice across long distances?  The answer to this question is less straightforward than you might think, and I’ve rarely seen it addressed more earnestly and thoroughly than in a sequence of twelve essays from the 1880s debating the question of whether Catholic priests could use the telephone…