Samuel Dickstein: Congressman, New York judge, HUAC Committee member… and Soviet spy

The infamous House Un-American Activities Committee, associated with the excesses of the Second Red Scare in the popular imagination, perhaps should have investigated one of its own members. Samuel Dickstein, a Democratic congressman from New York from 1923 to 1945, was well-known as a fierce interrogator of communists and especially fascists. His conduct during hearings was extreme even by the general standards of the Committee, … Continue reading Samuel Dickstein: Congressman, New York judge, HUAC Committee member… and Soviet spy

Worst year to be alive? Try 536 AD, not 2020

When asked which year was the worst in history to be alive, many historians are quick to mention 536 AD. It might seem surprising that these historians can pinpoint a specific year as a clear winner, considering how fraught human history is with suffering. Perhaps it is less surprising, however, when the events of 536 are described. Due to a heavy fog, many portions of … Continue reading Worst year to be alive? Try 536 AD, not 2020

Did Native Americans settle Polynesia?

Many people think so, at least to a limited extent. For many decades, the theory rested on the presence of sweet potatoes in Polynesia, a food that has its origins in the Americas. Recently, however, more concrete evidence of the interactions between Native Americans and Polynesians has emerged due to genetic testing. Polynesians in French Polynesia, for instance, carry DNA associated with Native Americans. Studies … Continue reading Did Native Americans settle Polynesia?

Chester A. Arthur: The Canadian President?

Numerous candidates for both the presidency and vice presidency have faced questions regarding their eligibility for the top job based upon the Constitutional requirements for the position, which require a president to be a “natural born citizen of the United States.” Most allegations tend to dissipate quickly, but one has stuck around for over 150 years. Chester Alan Arthur, the twenty-first President of the United … Continue reading Chester A. Arthur: The Canadian President?

The Order of the Pug: Meet Bavaria’s bizarre secret society

It is 1738, and the Catholic Church has just banned its members from partaking in freemasonry. How are freemasons in a region known for its love of secret societies to react? Against this backdrop, the Order of the Pug was formed. The Order of the Pug retained many of the conventions of masonry, but used a different name in order to skirt the Catholic Church’s … Continue reading The Order of the Pug: Meet Bavaria’s bizarre secret society

A very happy birthday to… Bugs Bunny!

On July 27th, it will have been 80 years since Bugs first appeared in movie theaters. The character’s longevity is remarkable. A 2018 YouGov poll found that Bugs Bunny was the most popular cartoon in the United States, nearly three generations after his first appearance. The origins of Bugs Bunny are complicated. A similar prototypical version of the character first appeared in the 1938 cartoon … Continue reading A very happy birthday to… Bugs Bunny!

J. Edgar Hoover: Defender of civil liberties?

Practically no one with a passing knowledge of J. Edgar Hoover would identify the late FBI director with civil liberty protection. Under his decades-long tenure, the FBI routinely violated the law and the Constitution. The Bureau has spent nearly fifty years trying to reinvigorate its reputation and disassociate itself from the dark days of Hoover. Your typical civil libertarian will probably state that, the greater … Continue reading J. Edgar Hoover: Defender of civil liberties?

President for one day: The David Atchison administration

As of July 11, 2020, there have officially been 45 U.S. presidents. Theories abound regarding the power held by figures such as Dick Cheney or Edith Wilson, but the official tally stands. Should it? The presidential line of succession is an important mechanism to ensure that, at any point in time, someone occupies the office. In 1849, the president pro tempore was third in that … Continue reading President for one day: The David Atchison administration

Welcome to Hell, Biagio da Cesena: Michelangelo’s spiteful addition to ‘The Last Judgment’

As most are aware, Michelangelo’s famous renderings on the Sistine Chapel, “The Last Judgment,” were highly controversial among Italian clergy for their depiction of nudity. Few were more aghast at Michelangelo’s sacrilege than Biagio da Cesena. The conservative Papal Master of Ceremonies expressed his distaste for Michelangelo’s work by stating that, due to the fresco depicting “all those nude figures, exposing themselves so shamefully,” it … Continue reading Welcome to Hell, Biagio da Cesena: Michelangelo’s spiteful addition to ‘The Last Judgment’

What could have been: When the Soviet Union tried to join NATO

As preposterous as the headline sounds, it is in fact true. After Stalin’s death in 1953, his successor, Khrushchev, proposed that the Soviet Union join NATO. At that point, the Warsaw Pact had not been formed and NATO was increasing its membership. Soviet leadership, of course, realized that the proposal would not be warmly received by NATO members. The main purpose of the proposal was … Continue reading What could have been: When the Soviet Union tried to join NATO