Mar 02, 2018

The Surprisingly Fascinating History of the Bowtie

What clothing item has something in common with freelance warriors, the Rat Pack, and a famous scientist from a beloved 1990's kid's show? Yep, you're staring at it: the bow tie.

Let's take a few minutes to dive into the fascinating world of this one-of-a-kind accessory.

Continue Reading


Feb 28, 2018

Looking for a Bit of Process Inspiration? Watch These Historic Pathé Craftsman Videos

If you’re committed to greatness in your craft, there’s no better way to improve than to mimic the masters. But if you need general inspiration to help you keep going in your pursuit of excellence, it’s helpful to watch any kind of expert at work.

In 2014, the newsreel archive British Pathé released 85,000 high resolution historic films to YouTube. Among these are a fantastic collection of newsreel footage from postwar factories all around Great Britain. It’s mesmerizing and, if you’re a maker, a bit humbling to watch these skilled men and women exercise their trade with such aplomb. (Not to mention, the peppy English narrators, using that classic clipped 1950’s news reporting style, are really funny.)

Thanks to the wizardry that is the Internet, there are hundreds of them available at your fingertips today.

Continue Reading


Jan 18, 2018

That Time When I Found My Grandfather's Letters from WWII

“… my landlady, by the way, doesn’t like the Germans because when some playful Nazi pilots lived in her house some months ago, they threw a hand grenade into her chicken coop, and they had to eat the winter’s supply of chickens all at once.”

This is one of my favorite lines from our family's treasure: my grandfather’s back-and-forth correspondence letters during World War II. Frank T. Waters was an editor of the military newspaper, Stars and Stripes. At several instances during the war, he sent correspondence back home to his mother, family, and friends sharing daily life overseas and fighting the biggest war of the 20th century.

Going through these letters is a truly amazing glimpse of a soldier's life during war-time Europe in the 40s. I counted 207 letters, official correspondence, orders, postcards, etc, so far. Reading these, I discover my grandfather was smart, curious, and pretty funny. Here are some of my favorite bits:

Continue Reading


Jun 09, 2017

How I Crafted a Custom Civil War Sword Display Stand for a 150-Year-Old Family Heirloom

A few weeks ago I got a text from a buddy. He had just moved and was setting up the new house. He told me "I think this time around I want to make sure my sword has a place."  By his sword, he meant his 1865 Union Artillery Saber that had been with him since the 1st grade. (Talk about high expectations when the parents give you a sword at age nine). But the issue was that he didn't have a good way to display it, and the  cheaply made, $30 online holders just didn't seem fitting. That's why he called me up, and asked if I could help. I gladly accepted the challenge, and came up with this beast. Here's how I did it.   

Continue Reading


May 18, 2017

Eat This: 5 Authentic Cowboy Recipes to Make in a Cast Iron Skillet

Cowboy StewThere is nothing like a long day of hiking or horseback riding to get you in the mood for some good, hearty eating. And so the American West's roving cattlemen and cross-country venturers created a long tradition of fantastic, simple meals meant to fill you up on the trail. So bust out that cast iron skillet and prepare yourself for some authentic cowboy eating.   

Continue Reading


Mar 20, 2017

Beer Talk: What is a Cream Ale, and Is There Actually Cream in It?

Two fun facts: 1) unlike most styles, the cream ale is original to North American, born in the US in the mid 1800s; 2) the cream is, of course, an ale, but it is inspired by German lagers and "drinks" like a lager — it's light, crisp, and goes down easy. Okay, so that's what I do know; here's what I don't: what is a cream ale? And is there actually cream in it?    

Spoiler alert: no, there isn't. Cream ales are simply light American ales that have an additional fermentable sugar sources like corn or rice to lighten the body. This makes the beer ferment faster, and therefore more economically; their overall lightness makes them easier

Continue Reading


Jan 12, 2017

This Nearly 2,000-Year-Old Piece of Advice May Help You Wake Up & Get Out of Bed in the Morning

If you're a morning person — congratulations. Seriously, we're legitimately happy for you. The ability to sleep well, feel rested, and then be ready to get going nice and early is a real gift, and you're lucky to be wired that way.

For the rest of us, mornings can be rough. Especially in the wintertime, when it's dark, and cold, and tens of thousands of years of natural selection are encouraging you to stay hibernating so you can protect your genes from freezing off. 

But, of course,

Continue Reading


Dec 14, 2016

Is this the Craziest Find at a Street Market... Ever?

I am such a sucker for antique stores, obscure markets, and garage sales. I love pouring old and odd things -- the weirder, the better. I've bought pocket-sized trinkets all over America, many of which neither I nor the store clerk was able to figure out what they were. But this one really beats them all...   

Continue Reading


Nov 08, 2016

How "Man Caves" Took Over America's Basements

How do you feel about the term, "man cave?" I have mixed feelings on it myself. One the one hand - like "girlfriend" or "foodie" - it's easy to use it colloquially since everybody has a general sense of what you mean when you say it. On the other, I haven't really worked out for myself all the connotations that come with its use, since it sometimes seems to me like it implies that one can't be a man outside of his man cave (or at least that its a necessary domicile of rejuvenation), Or that the rest of the home is then outside of his purview. Or, all spaces for men must be themselves a cave, involving sports memorabilia and beer signs. In that way, I mostly see the term "man cave" as potentially condescending. Now obviously that's a drastic oversimplification, but I've been thinking about the word recently a fair amount.

Continue Reading


Nov 02, 2016

You Want to Explore the National Archives' Huge Collection of Vintage GIFs

Oh, just imagine the possibilities...
The National Archives and Records Administration recently opened up a new wing of their department by partnering with Giphy. That's right, our government branch tasked with preserving the media that documents the American experience is now transferring its seminal work into GIFs...   

Continue Reading


Sep 26, 2016

The Surprisingly Fascinating History of the Tailgate

These days, the word "tailgate" conjures up images of cooler and pavement, jerseys and face paint, grills and foldable chairs. But, despite its current association with parking lots and sporting events, it's actually got quite a rich history. Like, older than you think. Like... 1861?   

Continue Reading


Sep 20, 2016

The Everyman’s Guide to Classic Film Noir

The term film noir (or “dark film”) was first coined in 1946 (though not used commonly for many years) by French film critic Nino Frank to describe the emerging genre of gritty films that proliferated in the American studio system during the 1940’s-50’s featuring hardboiled detectives, femme fatales, and doomed anti-heroes.   

Continue Reading


Aug 23, 2016

An Original History of the Baseball Bat

From Roy Hobbs' “Wonderboy” in The Natural to Tom Cruise’ thinking bat in A Few Good Men, baseball bats hold a special place in the American masculine consciousness. A versatile weapon on the field, the baseball bat embodies an element of the American dream wherever it goes. The lone batter, a man himself against an entire team, hoping to hit it big.   

Continue Reading


Aug 22, 2016

How to Eat, Exercise, and Live Like Walt Whitman

Guys guys guys-- did you know Walt Whitman published a fifty-thousand word serialized guide to "Manly Health & Training" that has recently been compiled by a PhD candidate? It started in 1858 in the New York Atlas but was pushed deeper and deeper into the newspaper with each issue due to lack of interest. However, it's great for both its practicality and its utter impracticality,

Continue Reading


Aug 11, 2016

Meet One of the Few Jukebox Repairmen

Meet Perry Rosen, a jukebox repairman keeping mechanical music alive in a mostly dead industry. But as we all know, there's a big difference between mostly dead, and all dead. And that makes it all the more fascinating...   

Continue Reading


Jul 22, 2016

The Surprisingly Fascinating History of the High Five

created at: 07/29/2014

So, where did the high five come from?           

Continue Reading


Jul 21, 2016

How a Dirty Old Waffle Iron Became Nike's Holy Grail

Every great breakthrough has its "Eureka!" moment, whether we're talking the discovery of gravity or the founding of the world's largest shoe empire. In the latter's case, that happened while searching for a way to create cleats meant for a urethane track (meaning no more metal spikes on the bottom of running shoes), and it involved a household wafflemaker. The infamous wafflemaker was then lost for decades... and now found.   

Continue Reading


Jul 01, 2016

How to: Build a Medieval Castle Without Using Any Modern Technology

In 1997 a team of roughly 70 historians, archaeologists, and craftsmen set out to build a 13th century style castle in a forest two hours outside of Paris using only period appropriate tools. Every stone, tile, and brick is handmade, every tree is hand-felled, and even the trebuchet-looking construction set-up was hand-crafted.   

Continue Reading


Jun 06, 2016

The Fascinating (and Delicious) History of Pho

If you ask me, the world of Vietnamese soups and broths is a world well worth spending time in. And none is better known, or more essential, to Vietnamese culture than pho, a seductive blend of aromatic broth, bright herbs, and bold chile slices to make things interesting. And though the broth is served hot, it's flavor profile makes it the kind of thing you can still enjoy in warm months, making it the ultimate year-round lunch.    

Continue Reading


Apr 13, 2016

"The 501 Jeans: Stories of an Original" Documentary

created at: 04/04/2016 The brand name Levi Strauss is so well known it's practically interchangeable with "jeans." And I'm a huge a fan of jeans in general. They're perhaps the most iconic form of American apparel. They can be classy and dressed up, or rugged and practical. And here's a one of a kind documentary from Levi tracing the brand's history, examining manufacturing techniques, and discussing the relevance of the cut on society. With gorgeous retro cinematography, it's inspirational to watch, and it's narrated by Ramblin' Jack Elliot to boot.    

Continue Reading