This story originally appeared in “Malofiej 24,” published by the Spanish Chapter of the Society for News Design (SNDE).
“It is a singular truth that the mere shadowy image of a building is likely to have a longer term of existence than the piled brick and mortar of a building. Should posterity know where the proud structure stood, it will be indebted for its knowledge to the woodcut.”
—attributed to Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1836, quoted in “Low Life” by Luc Sante.
It’s a simple line chart, the kind you can make using Excel in about a minute, but for its time it might as well have been from another planet.
On Saturday, Sept. 29, 1849, The New York Tribune published on its front page a line chart tracking the deaths in New York City from the cholera epidemic that summer. It used techniques that would become common decades later, but were, for the time being, at the bleeding edge of visual data journalism. And, until now, it was forgotten.