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The 20th Century through Magazines and Comics

Following up on our item posted on November 27, where we talked about the online repository of the very influential Popular Electronics magazine, today we take a look at three other repositories that store a large chunk of the history of science and technology…

Also comics!

Popular Science and Mechanics

One of the first covers of Popular Mechanics from March 1905.
One of the first covers of Popular Mechanics from March 1905.
Cover of Popular Science Magazine from September 1917.
Cover of Popular Science Magazine from September 1917.

Popular Science was founded in May 1872 and its staff’s aim was to “disseminate scientific knowledge to the educated layman”. For well over a century, it has covered advances in the application of electricity, medicine, and, if we are to judge by the covers in the 1930s issues, transportation, especially air travel.

As with Popular Electronics, the ads give an even better perspective of the signs of the times than the articles themselves. Buying a typewriter for $2,50 in 1917 was, apparently, a bit deal, as were gramophones. In the 30s it’s all cars, cars, cars. And in the 70s cigarettes are the most advertised products. Take away from that what you will.

Popular Mechanics started in 1905 and has featured regular sections on automotive, home, outdoors, science, and technology topics. Learn how to pimp your Ford model T, how to install your very own “air conditioning apparatus” to run in your own home, or how to build an “iceless icebox”.

Unfortunately, both magazines are only available via Google Books. They are not downloadable and the online reader that opens in your browser is not very convenient, even less so on a mobile device. Despite the above, this is a fantastic resource that will help you understand the advances in technology throughout the last century.

Digital Comic Museum

Female protagonists are not uncommon in comics in the 40s and 50s. Non-whites? Not so much.
Female protagonists are not uncommon in comics from the 40s and 50s. Non-white protagonists? Not so much.

If you’re looking for something lighter (and more accessible), try the Digital Comic Museum. It contains thousands of comics on all imaginable topics the medium has covered, from romance to westerns, and from superheroes to horror.

Don’t expect to find any of the modern day heroes from Marvel or DC, though. Although many of the legendary characters, such as Batman, Captain America, and Superman, were created in the first half of the 20th century, these characters are under a perpetual ice age of copyright. Thus, the museum collects authors, artists and characters that fell through the cracks and have been largely forgotten. Then again, this is an excellent way to discover those comics that didn’t make it to today.

Be warned though, sexism, racism and several other isms that would offend modern day readers abound within the funny pages of yesteryear.

All the comics in the Museum can be previewed online or downloaded as DRMless PDFs.

Happy reading!

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