A total of 558 articles have appeared on SeanMunger.com during 2014. In the last few articles of the year I’m going to be counting down my top 10 favorites of the year, just as I did last year. While it may smack a little bit of immodesty, I’ve done some articles this year that I’m very proud of, and if you haven’t seen them yet you might be interested. (Note: for purposes of this list, I count multiple-part articles as one).
This list is not the most popular articles. My most-popular list is still perennially crowned by the essay on Mark Hamill’s face, which came out in July 2013 and is in any event ineligible for a best-of-2014 list. This list is my top 10 favorite articles–the ones I think are my best work this year. I’ll present nos. 10 through 7 in this article, nos. 6 through 4 tonight, and my top 3 of the year will be showcased tomorrow morning. To go to the article, click the picture or the headline.
While I did fewer missing persons profiles on my site this year than in 2013, they’re still a mainstay here, and this one is the one I’m most proud of. Seventeen-year-old Jay Pringle, who vanished from either Gardena, California or Las Vegas, Nevada in April 1977, has not been featured on TV (like more well-known missing persons Leah Roberts and Bradyn Fuksa), and almost no one remembers him, which is a terrible shame. In this article, which ran on the 37th anniversary of Jay’s disappearance and which presents original research I’ve done on the case, I explain what we know about Jay’s case, why we don’t know more, and what might have happened to him.
This two-parter from November was inspired by my trip to Bergen, Norway, and the amazing things I saw there relating to its commercial, political and environmental history. For nearly 400 years Bergen was a “company town” controlled by a medieval trade guild called the Hanseatic League, who built an empire here based almost entirely on board-stiff, dried-up codfish which was Norway’s major export for centuries. I also included some photos I took in Bergen, many from the Hanseatic Museum where the Hansa’s culture is carefully preserved. This article is some of the coolest history I did on the blog this year, and Part II even includes a recipe which answers the pressing question: how the hell do you cook a stockfish?
I made two major research trips during 2014, one to the Huntington Library in California in June, the other to the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston in August and September. This article from June came out of that first research trip, during which I was going through the letters and papers of Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States, from the decade of the 1810s after he left the White House and lived in retirement at his plantation, Monticello, in Virginia. I was struck by how closely Jefferson’s fortunes were tied to environmental factors, and how he suffered acutely from the environmental disasters of that decade. I love this article because it’s a perfect meld of pop history and my academic work, and I got to showcase a side of Jefferson that few people have seen. Jefferson also popped up again later in the summer when I got to see his “Weather Book,” preserved in the MHS archives.
Based on another archival discovery–that being an 1810 book by William Jackson Hooker describing his trip through Iceland the previous year–this article from June turned out to be perhaps the single most fun history article I did in 2014. Iceland was definitely terra incognita two centuries ago, and the culinary and alcoholic tour that Hooker and his friend made through the Scandinavian island is both horrifying and tantalizing as he describes some of the bizarre things that were served to him: rancid butter, boiled salmon, tern’s eggs, and yes, “waffels,” which were a dinner delicacy rather than breakfast. Oh, and wine. Lots and lots of wine. I loved doing this article and it’s still one of the favorites I come back to again and again. Also, the header illustration is one of the best I’ve ever done.
Tonight I’ll be counting up, nos. 6, 5 and 4 on the top 10 list. Thanks for reading in 2014!