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Old Weird America

September 12, 2019, October 24, 2019, November 14, 2019, December 12, 2019

6 – 7 p.m.

This free program is for adults. Join historian Cathy Polovina as she follows her curiosity and explores "Old Weird America," to look a bit closer at a variety of adventurous, innovative, and unusual characters throughout American history.

Program topics:

September 12, 2019: The Girl on the Red Velvet Swing: Evelyn Nesbit and the 1906 "Crime of the Century". When innocent 16-year-old  Gibson Girl model Evelyn Nesbit met 47-year-old architect Stanford White in turn-of the-century New York City, the stage was set for an explosive sex and murder scandal that brought America into the modern age of celebrity culture.

October 24, 2019: Haunting Images: Spirit Photography from the Civil War to WWI. Seeing is believing. In a 19th century America awash in civil strife, technical miracles, and outrageous frauds, the development of photography encompassed them all in the practice of capturing “ghosts” on film. Was spirit photography proof of life after death, as so many longed to believe—or the mere humbug of an opportunistic entrepreneur?                                                                                  

November 14, 2019: The Mystery Writer-Adventurer Ambrose Bierce. When author Ambrose Bierce vanished without a trace in 1913 at the age of 71, after joining up as an observer in the army of Pancho Villa in the Mexican Revolution, he sealed his place in the American consciousness. This time around, we’ll explore the life and likely death of the misanthropic satirist known as “Bitter Bierce.”

December 12, 2019: The Secret Life of Jazz Musician Billy Tipton. Billy made a modest name for himself as a jazz pianist throughout the Midwest in the 40s and 50s, living the unconventional life of a traveling entertainer.  Leaving only a few recordings and no hit songs, the musician would probably be little remembered today if not for the secret he revealed only in death.