Archive for September, 2010

This week’s posts will be a couple days late

I’m sad to report that this week’s posts, which usually go up on Friday mornings, will be a couple days late. I just moved, and life is a pile of boxes right now. But the articles will be worth the wait. The topics include atheism, a poor guy who got conned out of a lot of cash, and a close look at the city budget.

I’ll try my best to get the posts up in time for your Sunday morning coffee. Stay tuned!

Update: Okay, so it’s Sunday night and I still haven’t posted. I’ve got the laptop up and running, but all the files I had prepped to post are on the tower, which is still in boxes. My new estimate is end-of-day Tuesday, which makes it more than a bit late. But I don’t expect to get behind schedule again. Thanks for bearing with me.

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Written by David

September 30th, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Posted in Blog Stuff

Street Faker King Tells Some Tricks Of The Trade

From September 25, 1910

STREET FAKER KING TELLS SOME TRICKS OF THE TRADE

STREET FAKER KING TELLS SOME TRICKS OF THE TRADE: Cunningham of Ann Street Introduces Sporting John Mack, Provider of Literature; Maggie the Fly King, and Others. (PDF)

The word “faker” here doesn’t mean a person who pretends to do something. It means a street vendor who sells meaningless trinkets. We still have them around town, hawking cheap souvenirs and toys. A man named Mr. Cunningham ran a novelty shop on Ann Street in 1910, and he hired fakers to hawk his wares:

“If a faker hasn’t got some smartness about him, he’ll be pushed out of the business quick. You see, a faker’s not like a peddler, not at all! Your peddler sells things that there’s a demand for, like shoestrings.

“Now people always needed shoestrings. They were on the market 300 years before Christ was born. [Upon reflection it rather seems as if Mr. Cunningham’s enthusiasm got the better of his judgment here.]

“But a faker hands things to the public that really aren’t wanted. He doesn’t supply a demand. He creates it. Nobody needs a little dog with a spring tail, for instance, and yet these dogs are the most popular things on the street today.”

As he spoke Mr. Cunningham held up a creation about as big as your hand, with very stiff legs and a melancholy expression.

“Pull its tail,” said Mr. Cunningham in an awed tone.

The reporter pulled. The tail, being a spring one, kept on vibrating after the pulling had stopped.

“That dog,” said Mr. Cunningham in a slow, solemn undertone, “has made a fortune for its inventor. A fortune! It’s selling like hot cakes.”

We all gazed with admiration at the dog for about five minutes, after which Mr. Cunningham heaved a sigh and reverently deposited him in his box again.

The best fakers were good showmen. One of them reckons he could have been a vaudevillian. They worked their own hours, and some of them made an excellent living.

Here’s a bit more from the article:

“Badges and buttons are the staples… But the real sport of the trade is in selling novelties. What’s a novelty? Ah, anything new that anybody thinks up.”

The angry mother-in-law is a scream. It comes in a small box and consists of two beads and two pieces of rubber. You make a fist of your hand, stick the two beads at the top, the long piece of rubber in the middle in a vertical position and the short piece of rubber at the bottom in a horizontal position. Then you tie a handkerchief about the whole and wriggle your fingers.

The result is really killingly funny. The beads are eyes, the piece of rubber in the center is a nose, the piece of rubber at the bottom is a mouth, the handkerchief is hair, and the whole effect, without using much imagination, either, is that of an awfully ugly old woman who’s making faces.

You can’t help laughing as you look at it. The little brown dog seems rather inadequate considering the burst of enthusiasm it has aroused, but the angry mother-in-law is really funny.

“To see Maggie work that mother-in-law!” exclaimed Mr. Cunningham.

“Who’s Maggie?” asked the reporter.

“What! You don’t know Maggie, the belle of the trade? Maggie, the fly king? Maggie’s as well known in Wall Street as Pierpont Morgan. He’s as clever a man as there is in New York City.”

“Yes, every one knows that Mr. Morgan is –”

“No, no. I mean Maggie. Maggie, short for Mary Ellen, nickname for Edward Joseph!”

Maggie, it appears, is a gentleman about 50 years of age, who weighs 250 pounds, hasn’t a tooth in his head, and is known from the Bronx to the Battery for his fun and cleverness. Just for the sake of curiosity, the reporter asked a policeman on Broadway, a newsboy on Fourteenth Street, a postal card man on Fifth Avenue, and a broker in Wall Street if they’d ever met Maggie. They all broke into an irrepressible grin at the sound of the name, and said of course they had.

There is a story that one day when Maggie was feeling particularly “smart and sassy,” he induced Mr. Russell Sage to buy a tin doll that turned somersaults. Maggie considers this day the high water mark of his career.

These fakers sound far more interesting than the street peddlers we have today, although we do still have some genuine characters. I’m reminded of Joe Ades, who sold his vegetable peeler in Union Square until he died last year at 76. His product was more useful than these trinkets, but he kept up the tradition of being a street salesman who was also a showman.

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Written by David

September 24th, 2010 at 9:45 am

Posted in Business

Pollard Of St.Louis, A Police Court Solomon

From September 25, 1910

POLLARD OF ST. LOUIS A POLICE COURT SOLOMON

POLLARD OF ST. LOUIS, A POLICE COURT SOLOMON: He Reforms Drunkards, Makes Homes Happy, Takes the Testimony of Animals Against Their Cruel Owners, and Has a Heart the Size of a Barn. (PDF)

Unconventional judges occasionally make the news for their courtroom antics or unusual sentences. William Jefferson Pollard was one of those kinds of Judges.

A driver had been brought before the Judge, charged with cruelty to animals in that he had been driving a galled mule. The prisoner had an expert witness in a veterinarian, who testified that the sore on the mule’s back did not pain the animal in the least.

The Judge listened attentively to the long technical opinion, and then demanded to know where the mule was. He was informed that it was harnessed to a wagon on the street in front of the court building. The Judge ordered the court be adjourned for five minutes.

He took his cane and proceeded to the street. He approached the mule, and with the end of his cane touched the sore spot on the animal’s back. The mule almost kicked the dashboard off the wagon. Once again the Judge touched the sore with his cane, and the frantic beast almost demolished the wagon with its kicking.

The Judge returned to the bench. The prisoner was called before him.

“With all due respect to the expert testimony you have had introduced in your behalf to show that the sore on the mule’s back does not pain him I will find you $50,” announced the Judge. “I asked the mule if the sore hurt him, and he said it did.”

Some criminals in Pollard’s court got off by just taking an oath not to commit another crime, or drink a drop of alcohol, for a set period of time, or risk a harsh sentence. This became known as the “Pollard Pledge Plan” and became widely adopted.

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Written by David

September 24th, 2010 at 9:30 am

Posted in True Crime

Is A Lie Ever Permissible — Some Famous Cases

From September 25, 1910

IS A LIE EVER PERMISSIBLE -- SOME FAMOUS CASES

IS A LIE EVER PERMISSIBLE — SOME FAMOUS CASES: Lord Guthrie’s Statement That It Was “Unconditionally Reprehensible” Contested by Clergy and Others — President Hadley’s Views — “Chinese” Gordon’s Attitude. (PDF)

The classic example I’ve always heard when considering if lying is ever permissible is the Nazi scenario: If a German family was keeping a Jewish person hidden in their home, and the Nazis came knocking on the door asking “Are there any Jews here?” then it would surely be okay for the German family to lie. But that scenario wouldn’t be able to play out for a few more decades after this article. So what kinds of examples did they use in 1910? Much less dramatic ones like this:

The great painter Constable… had expressed his opinion that a certain landscape artist’s pictures looked like putty. This criticism came to the man’s ears, and some time afterward, on meeting Constable, he exclaimed, “I am told that you say my pictures look like putty!”

If the Royal Academician had adhered strictly to the truth, he would have said, “Yes, and I will explain to you exactly what I meant,” and would have told him his objections to the paintings in question. But being a kind-hearted man, and unwilling to give unnecessary pain and offense, he responded, “Well, what of that? I like putty!”

It is hardly necessary to point out that Constable did not, and could not, like putty in pictures. But his excuse saved the feelings of his fellow artist.

Read the article for other equally bland examples.

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Written by David

September 24th, 2010 at 9:15 am

Posted in Life

A New Continent May Be Added Shortly To The World

From September 25, 1910

A NEW CONTINENT MAY BE ADDED SHORTLY TO THE WORLD

A NEW CONTINENT MAY BE ADDED SHORTLY TO THE WORLD: Result of Earthquake Activity in the Region of the Philippines Southeastward Toward the Middle of the Pacific Ocean. (PDF)

“Shortly” here is a relative term. But if you keep time on a massive scale, you can look forward to visiting a new continent somewhere north of Australia in the near future.

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Written by David

September 24th, 2010 at 9:00 am

Posted in Science

The Mystery Of The Marie Celeste

From September 18, 1910

THE MYSTERY OF THE MARIE CELESTE

THE MYSTERY OF THE MARIE CELESTE: A Solution Offered Nearly Forty Years After the Ship Was Found Crewless Under Full Sail. (PDF)

The Marie Celeste was a merchant ship found floating in the Atlantic Ocean in December 1872 with nobody on board. The ship was in good shape, had plenty of food and water, and the crew’s personal belongings were still on board. Nobody from the ship was ever heard from again.

The mystery has been written about in several works of both non-fiction and fiction, including a short story by Arthur Conan Doyle which you can read online. It is even the subject of a computer game you can try out in your browser.

This Sunday Magazine article gives one theory for the ship’s disappearance, but if the mystery intrigues you, check out the Wikipedia entry for a lot more information, and the website maryceleste.net.

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Written by David

September 17th, 2010 at 9:30 am

How Popular Song Factories Manufacture A Hit

From September 18, 1910

HOW POPULAR SONG FACTORIES MANUFACTURE A HIT

HOW POPULAR SONG FACTORIES MANUFACTURE A HIT: The Original Score Is Sometimes Hardly Recognizable After the Tinkering Is Completed — Luck a Big Factor in the Business (PDF)

100 years ago, music radio stations did not yet exist. But record players were around, so people could purchase music to play at home. So now the music industry had to figure out what kind of records people would buy. Is it the same kind of music they would go hear in a performance hall?

In America the popular song is of comparatively recent introduction. Its prototype was a composition with monotonous refrain and elaborate setting, which could only be rendered by a trained voice after laborious practice. It was seldom heard outside of drawing rooms, where it was sung with due ceremony and technical precision by prim young maidens in fresh white gowns and dapper swains in swallowtails. The only part of it that ever impressed the unfamiliar ear was the insistent refrain, which always ran something after this fashion: “Evangeline, where wendest thou? Where wendest thou, Evangeline — where wendest thou — where wendest thou — wendest thou — wendest thou-thou-t-h-o-u!!”

The song always left you in doubt and wonderment. You never learned where fair Evangeline wended, nor why she wended; nor, indeed, any single fact of interest or consequence regarding her.

That sort of song could never have become popular. You couldn’t expect the messenger boy and the shopgirl to take a very keen interest in Evangeline’s wendings when they led to nowhere. The masses need something more direct — something with a more human appeal. One of the chief secrets of popular song writing is to tell a simple story and to tell it completely.

At that time no attempt was made to cater to the musical tastes of the people. It was not supposed that they had any. Almost the only approach to popular ballads were a few well-worn war songs and plantation ditties. But two or three American song writers were trying to get a hearing with the kind of appeal to the people which in England, where the music halls afforded a ready avenue for reaching the masses, had been successfully made for many years.

The article goes on to describe the elements of a popular song. What should it be called? What should it be about? I found this article a delightful read. Today, of course, songwriters have the same challenges, but manufacturing a hit has become as much a technical and business endeavor as a creative one.

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Written by David

September 17th, 2010 at 9:15 am

Crusading Against The City’s “Unethical” Dentists

From September 18, 1910

CRUSADING AGAINST THE CITYS UNETHICAL DENTISTS

CRUSADING AGAINST THE CITY’S “UNETHICAL” DENTISTS: The Day of the Bargain Dental Parlor Where Patients Were Maltreated and Fleeced Is Passing. (PDF)

What’s an unethical dentist?

The unethical dentists at present may be roughly divided into three groups, the first of which may be more technically than actually unethical. Because the New York State laws require more of a general education preceding the dental studies than is demanded elsewhere, some perfectly reputable graduates of schools outside the State find themselves unable to meet the Regents’ requirements. While it is of course illegal for a man in that position to practice in this city, still some of the men under this heading are good and capable dentists even if they can’t pass in German or algebra.

Next comes the foreign offenders, a large group, working chiefly among their own countrymen and consequently not easily to be detected. In Russia, students and professionals are allowed greater freedom in their comings and goings than the ordinary mortal, so that many young men and women avail themselves of this opportunity, although they may not intend to follow the profession in after life.

The dentistry course is the easiest in this direction. Opportunity to practice, though, is rather meagre, for in the country regions of that land of distress the village blacksmith is said to be frequently the sole representative of dental science.

Should the Russian emigrate to this country, however, he immediately finds out that dentistry here is a remunerative occupation and his Russian diploma looks sufficiently impressive to those of his patients who know enough to ask for one…

But while the unlicensed and unregistered foreigners frequently do individual harm they seldom descend to anything like the wholesale bungling and swindling perpetrated by some of the large “parlors.” Under the laws a man who hasn’t the slightest knowledge of the profession can open a parlor providing he hires duly licensed assistants. Sometimes he does, and in this case the men will be either young graduates trying to save enough money to set up in business themselves, or older men, who for some reason or other have not made a success of their practice. The hours are long, many times including night work, and the pay sometimes runs as low as $20 a week, so that this sort of employment has little to offer the competent or ambitious…

Men in no wise connected with the science of dentistry start offices purely as a commercial venture, and until recently these have been veritable silver mines. Sometimes one man owns a string of them… A clear proof of the prosperity of these places has been the cheerfulness with which the old offenders have paid repeated fines of $300 or $500, only to open again in another location or under another name.

For comparison, see Wikipedia’s entry on modern street dentistry, and also read about one of the most notorious street dentists of the early 1900s, Edgar “Painless” Parker.

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Written by David

September 17th, 2010 at 9:00 am

Former Convicts Who Have Proved Successes

From September 11, 1910

FORMER CONVICTS WHO HAVE PROVED SUCCESSES

FORMER CONVICTS WHO HAVE PROVED SUCCESSES: When the World Gave them a Chance After Coming From Prison They “Made Good,” and Are Now Respected Citizens. (PDF)

This article tells the stories of several convicts who became successful after their release, including one who eventually became Chief of Police. But there are several things about this article that are odd. For one thing, there is a drawing with the caption “This Picture Taken Just After Release.” But it’s not a photo. It’s a sketch. Was the sketch done just after release? Or is the sketch based on a photo?

And then there are the kids. One photo shows two disheveled children with the caption “A Convict’s Family.” Then there is another photo of the same kids all cleaned up and smiling. The caption says, “The Former Convict’s Children After the Father Made Good.” But the kids don’t appear to have aged, and they look like they were photographed in the exact same place as their “before” photo. What kind of chicanery is this?

None of the reformed convicts are mentioned by name. Only an initial is given. So I couldn’t look any of them up to verify the Times’ reporting. Perhaps the article is accurate, and the illustrations were embellished for illustrative purposes only. Or maybe the pictures are accurate representations, and it’s just the poor reproduction of the page that makes it appear questionable. I can’t say for sure, but my gut tells me there’s something fishy going on.

1910 needed the nytpicker.

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Written by David

September 10th, 2010 at 10:00 am

Posted in Life,True Crime

Gas Tests In The Capitol

From September 11, 1910

GAS TESTS IN THE CAPITOL

GAS TESTS IN THE CAPITOL: Effect of Congressional “Hot Air” as Shown by Official Experiments (PDF)

Neither the House nor Senate chamber had fresh air circulation, so carbon monoxide was building up in various parts of the Capitol building. In order to make improvements to air flow, air quality tests needed to be done. The prospect of reporting on which parts of the Capitol had the most gas was just too delicious for the Sunday Magazine to resist. Oh, the hilarity.

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Written by David

September 10th, 2010 at 9:45 am

Posted in Politics,Science

Sad Human Drama Played Nightly In Women’s Court

From September 11, 1910

SAD HUMAN DRAMA PLAYED NIGHTLY IN WOMENS COURT

SAD HUMAN DRAMA PLAYED NIGHTLY IN WOMEN’S COURT: Worthless Bits of Wreckage and Good Stuff Battered and Spoiled Drift There — An Epitome of All That Ails Human Nature (PDF)

Women’s Night Court sounds like a late night movie on Cinemax. But this article is about the real women’s night court, and the women who came before the court over the course of one night in 1910. It’s an interesting look at some of the characters of the era, ranging from pathetic to sympathetic, including a glimpse at “the pen” described as “like a cage for animals” where all the women who were arrested are hoarded together awaiting their turn before the judge.

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Written by David

September 10th, 2010 at 9:30 am

Posted in True Crime

What It means To Inspect An Incoming Steamer

From September 11, 1910

WHAT IT MEANS TO INSPECT AN INCOMING STEAMER

WHAT IT MEANS TO INSPECT AN INCOMING STEAMER: How the Government Enforces the Tariff Law and the Measures It Takes to Prevent Smuggling. (PDF)

We all know what it’s like to go through passenger screening at an airport. We suffer through long lines and invasive screenings. Coming off a boat in 1910 wasn’t much better. Your bags were searched, and you went through several lines. This article is complete with assurances that everything being done is for the passengers’ benefit.

It sounds like delays then were actually comparable to today: “We have made a record of passing 500 passengers in fifty-five minutes. Our goal is to handle all first-class cabin passengers in thirty minutes, and while we haven’t got there yet we think it’s in sight.”

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Written by David

September 10th, 2010 at 9:15 am

Posted in Life

The Inner Workings Of Famous Scotland Yard

From September 11, 1910

THE INNER WORKINGS OF FAMOUS SCOTLAND YARD

THE INNER WORKINGS OF FAMOUS SCOTLAND YARD: How the Noted Detectives of England’s Criminal Investigation Department Do Their Work — Eccentricities of the Law Shown in the Crippen Case. (PDF)

What’s it like to work in Scotland Yard? Here are physical descriptions of offices, and tales from the inspectors working there. One thing I was surprised to learn is that under the law of the time, a search warrant could only be obtained if the object of the search was explosives, obscene prints, or stolen property. A dead body was not something you could get a warrant for. This apparently hampered the investigation of the notorious Crippen murder.

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Written by David

September 10th, 2010 at 9:00 am

Posted in Life,True Crime

“The Significance Of Labor Day” By Samuel Gompers

From September 4, 1910

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF LABOR DAY BY SAMUEL GOMPERS

“THE SIGNIFICANCE OF LABOR DAY” BY SAMUEL GOMPERS: The President of the American Federation of Labor Writes of the Meaning of National Holiday and How It Originated (PDF)

As we head into the Labor Day weekend, it seems appropriate to include this article explaining the holiday, written by AFL president Samuel Gompers.

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Written by David

September 3rd, 2010 at 10:00 am

Posted in Life,Politics

Will The Leaning Tower Fall As Did The Campanile?

From September 4, 1910

WILL THE LEANING TOWER FALL AS DID THE CAMPANILE?

WILL THE LEANING TOWER FALL AS DID THE CAMPANILE? Only the Excellence of Its Masonry, Which Makes the Walls One Mass, Has Kept the Structure From Collapsing Long Ago. (PDF)

St. Mark’s Campanile collapsed in 1902. It was rebuilt and would be reopened in 1912. In the meantime, it was natural to turn an eye towards Italy’s famous leaning tower in Pisa and consider its destiny.

In more recent history, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which leans because it was built on a soft foundation, had work done to make sure it doesn’t fall. The bells were remove to reduce weight, counterweights were added, and it was straightened very slightly. It is estimated that it will remain stable for 300 to 400 years.

It also may have some help from Pisa Pushers.

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Written by David

September 3rd, 2010 at 9:45 am

Posted in Art,Science

X Ray Moving Picture Machine Shows Brain At Work

From September 4, 1910

X-RAY MOVING PICTURE MACHINE SHOWS BRAIN AT WORK

X RAY MOVING PICTURE MACHINE SHOWS BRAIN AT WORK: Dr. Max Baff of Clark University Tells of the Remarkable Invention of a Scientist at Buenos Ayres Which May Pry Into the Soul’s Secrets. (PDF)

80 years before the invention of fMRI, which tracks blood flow in the brain to measure brain activity, this doctor describes a device for doing precisely that using x-rays. The headline suggests that it was already in use, but the article explains that it was still theoretical at the time.

He is now in correspondence with a scientist in Buenos Ayres who is constructing a device to be attached to the X ray apparatus by which the cells of the brain may be magnified at least 5,000 times. The new apparatus will consist of this magnifying instrument, of the Roentgen ray, more widely known as the X ray, and of the cinematograph. The X ray will disclose the action of the brain, the cinematograph will flash instantaneously each movement on a recording film, and the magnifying lens will give these such proportions as to make them visible to the naked eye…

“When you are thinking there is more blood in the cells of your brain than when your mind is inactive. All doctors know that the part of the body that is working is congested with blood.

“But not until the present has it been possible to study these cells at close range. Not till these new mechanical achievements has there been a way of determining what changes take place in the neurons.”

The doctor imagines that, once 500 or so test subjects have been properly studied, these tests could help determine whether or not a person is mentally fit or an imbecile. Perhaps science can even learn something about the soul. Okay, so maybe that use case is a little pseudoscience-y, but it’s still neat to see a germ of an idea that is actually used today.

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Written by David

September 3rd, 2010 at 9:30 am

Posted in Science,Technology

Rathbone Ends Long List Of Lincoln Party Tragedies

From September 4, 1910

RATHBONE ENDS LONG LIST OF LINCOLN PARTY TRAGEDIES

RATHBONE ENDS LONG LIST OF LINCOLN PARTY TRAGEDIES: All Who Were With the President When He Was Assassinated Met Death in Some Unusual or Tragic Manner (PDF)

This was new to me: the night Abraham Lincoln was shot, there was actually another couple in the private box with the Lincolns at Ford’s Theatre, and it turns out that their story is even more gruesome than the Lincons’ story. In fact, it seems that anyone who was in that box that night met bizarre or early death. On the occasion of the death of Major Henry Rathbone, the last survivor from the box, the Sunday Magazine reviewed the events of that day, and the fates of all who were there.

On April 14, 1865, there were four people seated in the box at the theatre. “The President sat in the corner nearest the audience, Mrs. Lincoln next to him; Miss Clara Harris sat near Mrs. Lincoln, and behind her young Major Rathbone.” The latter two were step-siblings who had fallen in love. “The President and Mrs. Lincoln had a warm liking for the pair, and had invited them to share the box.”

After the play began, John Wilkes Booth entered from the ante-room adjoining the box and fired his shot into the President’s head. Rathbone lunged at him, but Booth slipped away, shouted “The South is avenged!” (according to this article, but “Sic semper tyrannus!” according to most sources) and jumped over the box. An actress on stage named Laura Keene urged everyone to remain calm. Clara Harris, “from the box, called to her to bring water. She ran and got some and flew up the stairs to the box.” And now there were five people in the box: the President, his wife, the young couple in love, and Laura Keene.

Here were five people shut up together with the crime. The curse was upon them all. Not one of them — and they all had fame, wealth, happiness, and love apparently within their grasp — failed to come to a tragic or untimely end.

All the world knows that Lincoln died early the next morning, without having regained consciousness. His wife was for a long time prostrated. For several weeks she was confined to her bed. Then she bestirred herself so far as to go over the personal effects of her husband, giving mementos to his closest friends. When this duty was done she returned to Illinois to spend the rest of her days in melancholy.

Not much has been told of Mrs Lincoln’s after life — there was not much, for that matter, to tell. No wife could ever have really recovered from the shock of such a tragedy, and Mrs. Lincoln rallied even more slowly than was hoped. She never came out altogether from the cloud, and as her years increased her melancholy grew. She had a horror of meeting people, yet in her disordered brain the idea remained that there were imperative social duties that must be attented to. She would order gowns and concern herself wearily with preparations for some phantom function. Then the gowns would be sent away, unworn, and she would brood until again she felt that she must attend to her duties, and the same dreary business would begin again. Thus she ended her days, blighted from the moment that Booth stood a few feet behind her chair and took his aim.

Mrs. Lincoln lived until she was 63, but towards the end of her life she was suicidal and delusional. After one suicide attempt, her son Robert had her institutionalized. See Wikipedia for more details. But first read on for the fates of the others in the box. It gets worse.

Miss Keene was a woman of stern stuff, “as fitted,” said one who knew her “to act a part in tragedy off the stage as on.” Self control was natural to her. Alone of all the people in the theatre she had known what to do and had done it. But strong natures do not fail to suffer from such repression.

Her daughter was at school near Washington, and the next day hastened to her mother. “As I spoke to her,” says the girl, “she trembled from head to foot. She could not speak. To hearten her I said, ‘Mother, where is your old-time courage?’ But it was no use.” Laura Keene had received her death blow, too. She lived, it is true, for several years and worked hard and successfully, as she always did, but the nerve had gone. She could no longer stand the strain that she had once borne bravely and, worn out, she died at the age of forty-four, at the height of her career, another victim of Wilkes Booth. [She died of tuberculosis.]

The two lovers, Miss Harris and Major Rathbone, left the theatre and made their way through the frenzied crowd on the streets broken with grief and shock. But they had each other, they had wealth and position and all the good things of life. They never thought as they turned from the place of crime and death that over them hung a fate more awful than they had seen befall him they held the best of men…

Major Rathbone was appointed Consul in Germany and the pair lived as happily as had been prophesied. But the husband added to his devotion to his wife a great and perfectly unreasonable jealousy. As time went on he developed fits of temper, enough to make their friends class him as “peculiar.” Perhaps they added: “And it seems to grow on him,” but none were prepared for the tragedy that followed. One day the news came from Germany that Mr. Rathbone had killed his wife and committed suicide. Nobody believed it. It was some other person or name; everybody knew the devotion of the Rathbones. Then official documents came, and there was no longer any doubt. Henry Rathbone had indeed murdered his wife, but thought he was thought to be dying from his own wound he was not yet dead. The letter added that Mrs. Rathbone’s sister and the children had “escaped.”

Escaped what, asked everybody, horrified and puzzled. It was only after many delays that the full truth came to this country. Specialists had examined Rathbone, and declared that he had long been insane. It was not mere temper, but a disordered mind that his friends had noted for so many years. How long had he been insane? The experts could not say. But probably the murderer who stole into Lincoln’s box that night had brought madness to the young man, and a death unspeakably awful to the girl he loved…

Thus four persons who were bespattered by the blood Booth shed that night have found a tragic end, four persons who were not only innocent of all wrong-doing, but who had every gift a fortunate fate could bring. There remains the murderer, man gifted as few have been with beauty and charm and genius. Everybody loved Wilkes Booth. His friends could never believe that he acted on his own initiative in the matter of the conspiracy…

Booth fled the theater and made his way to a farm in Virginia, where he was eventually hunted down by the Union Army and shot on site. The soldier who killed him was named Boston Corbett. His story, too, took a tragic twist:

Not quite yet is the story of horror ended. The man who shot Booth, Boston Corbett, was popular with his fellow soldiers, deeply religious, but not, they said, without plenty of humor. He had kept up their spirits on many a hard march. He went to Kansas, was [afflicted] with homicidal mania, and died raving mad in an asylum, the last victim of the curse.

But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?

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Written by David

September 3rd, 2010 at 9:15 am

Where New York’s Population Is Growing Most Rapidly

From September 4, 1910

WHERE NEW YORKS POPULATION IS GROWING MOST RAPIDLY

WHERE NEW YORKS POPULATION IS GROWING MOST RAPIDLY: Manhattan Is Moving North, With Its Most Congested Block Above 100th Street — Upper Harlem and Washington Heights Show Biggest Percentage of Gain — Nationalities Shifting From Lower East Side (PDF)

It’s interesting to see where the city’s population was moving to and from 100 years ago. If you download the pdf, be sure to check out page two, which compares the “to-day” skyline of 1910 with the city skyline as it looked in 1816.

For a modern look at Manhattanites’ urban migration, WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show recently asked its listeners to map their own moves within the city over the past ten years. After compiling all the answers, they made the data set public and invited any data visualization graphic designers who wanted to take on the challenge of presenting the information graphically. Take a look at the submissions and see how they compare to the New York Times map above.

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Written by David

September 3rd, 2010 at 9:00 am

Posted in Development