Swimsuits of Yesteryear

Humans have been swimming for milennia — even a 10,000-year-old cave painting in Egypt shows nude swimmers. Then Victorian sensitivities in the 19th century made skinny-dipping not just unfashionable, but downright immoral, and both sexes, especially women, started wearing bulky beach attire. Women wore gowns from shoulder to knees, along

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Staying cool before Air Conditioning

So summer is here — it’s hot, humid, sticky, and still. Luckily, most of us nowadays can seek refuge in some air-conditioned space, but how did people stay comfortable years ago before air conditioners were available? Throughout history until the mid-20th century, people lived without air conditioning — somehow! In

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Vintage and Antique Dolls

The Barbie Doll debuted in 1959 and, for decades since, has been the most popular doll in the world. Archaeologists digging in our landfills a thousand years in the future will be able to date the stratified findings as “AB” and “BB” — After Barbie and Before Barbie — by

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WWI Pop Hits

Pity the poor adman at the beginning of the 20th century. No TV. No radio. No color magazines and no recordings. No internet or pop-up ads. What’s an advertising executive supposed to do to sell his client’s music? Since recordings were, literally, unheard of back then, people had to make

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Connecting to the Past, One Artifact at a Time

One of the most enjoyable aspects of photographing the artifacts in the collection of the Madison Historical Society is actually handling them and examining them closely. As the staff photographer, I work carefully with delicate objects, but I do not have to heed the “Do Not Touch” signs that visitors

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Detail of pewter whale oil lamp

Lighting Madison

Thomas Edison is rightfully saluted as a creative genius who brought electric lights and other modern wonders to the world. But a look through the Madison Historical Society’s examples of early lighting devices (beyond candles) is proof that ingenuity was plentiful, long before Edison invented the incandescent light bulb. The

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