by Edward Belofsky, BGSU History major. This is one in a series of posts written by students in HIST 4800 in Spring, 2020, putting our world into historical context for the public.

Modern restroom graffiti

There are a few people who are interested and choose to study history, and then there are those who are generally not interested until they come across something particular. This should not be new information as most of us have known for a while that if something is interesting or relatable, the more likely are to connect with the topic and find it enjoyable. In my opinion the best way to make history relatable, and therefore interesting to most people, is through comedy. Comedy might be one of the most relatable things on the planet, because most everyone likes a good laugh. For instance, most people are familiar with the funny graffiti that is sometimes scribbled around in public restrooms, and how interesting it can be some time to say the least. 

To make this relatable to history one could bring up the fact that the ancient Romans were also very fond of their own graffiti. This graffiti was everywhere from city walls to public bathhouses to latrines, and could get rather funny at times. An example of this rather funny graffiti found in Pompeii and Herculaneum is “Traveler, you eat bread in Pompeii but you go to Nuceria to drink. At Nuceria, the drinking is better”, in the days before Yelp I guess they had to improvise. This is to say that history was to people at the time, intentionally funny in some regards, as our ancestors enjoyed humor just as much as we do today. With regards to the previous Roman example, you could leave someone with the graffiti anecdote and they could then move into other areas of Roman history on their own. 

 Since we’ve already established that comedy is a good way to get people interested into a subject, it would most likely not shock you to know that combining comedy with a specific area that people may be interested in, will be more effective. For example there are people that are interested in American military affairs and may know about the battles of Iwo Jima,  Fallujah and the Tet Offensive. However you want to get them interested in the 18th century. Well you could start off with the fact that the first US Marine Corps recruiting station was a bar called Tun Tavern in Philadelphia. The branch of the US military that prides itself on being the best of the services, was indeed started in a bar. This isn’t a knock on the US Marine Corps by any stretch but shows the comedic irony here. 

Tun Tavern as it looked before before burning down

 By act of continental congress in 1775, two battalions of Marines were to be raised for the upcoming war and this duty ultimately fell to Robert Mullan who was at that time the owner of Tun Tavern. By starting off with this tidbit about military history in this period, you open the door for this individual to possibly become interested in more information from the period. One can do this by offering followup questions such as:

What effect do you think this recruitment style had on the effect of the US Marine Corps at the time compared to today?

Do you think that this was done in this bar and this city on purpose, or the locations were merely convenient?