The Rest Is History

Fraud in archaeology, learning to love the Founding Fathers, and a step-by-step guide to mesmerism.

By Angela Serratore

Friday, July 31, 2015

Patients in Paris receiving Mesmer’s animal magnetism therapy. Wellcome Library.


• In 1874 a riot in New York City’s Tompkins Square Park changed the way police and citizens interacted in public spaces. “After police withdrew, the Blood or Bread Riot became, in press accounts, an overreach by the enforcers of order—but over insurgent forces of communism and revolution. It was neither.” (The Awl)

• Most fraud in archaeology comes from practitioners of the discipline—what drives them to hoax their colleagues? “Among the most devious hucksters…we see a frantic secrecy, an illicit joy known only to the mystic, the madman, and the solitary assassin—the drive to know something about the world that nobody else does.” (Aeon)

• The song “Happy Birthday” might finally make it out of copyright hell. “As it stands, it is safe to sing the tune at office gatherings, and lawyers are unlikely to halt children’s birthday parties. But Warner/Chappell, the publishing arm of the Warner Music Group and the holder of the song’s copyright, has been estimated to collect $2 million a year in licensing fees for its use in films, television shows, and other productions.” (New York Times)

• By the late nineteenth century, the hypnotic powers of Anton Mesmer had been put on the page and were accessible to anyone patient enough to learn. (Medical Heritage)

• Tarrare was an eighteenth-century glutton who could eat paper, gold, meat pies, and cats in one sitting. His peculiar and insatiable appetite got him a job as a spy in the French army. (Mental Floss

• Responding to pressure from conservative lawmakers—one of whom asserted that Advanced Placement U.S. history courses render students “ready to sign up for ISIS”—the College Board’s new standards for U.S. history will mandate a section on “American exceptionalism,” which intends to extoll the virtues of our Founding Fathers. (ThinkProgress)

• A former Google executive announced plans to build what he called the first women’s museum in England, but switched gears—the museum is now devoted to the story of Jack the Ripper. (The Standard)

• A new archaeological discovery solves the mystery of four bodies buried in the Jamestown colony’s first church. (Smithsonian)