Archive for July, 2011

People Who Still Believe In Witchcraft

From July 30, 1911

PEOPLE WHO STILL BELIEVE IN WITCHCRAFT

PEOPLE WHO STILL BELIEVE IN WITCHCRAFT: Instances of a Superstition Recalling Bygone Days in Salem. (PDF)

Burning old women at the stake as witches is a pleasantry no longer indulged in, even in Salem, but belief in witchcraft is not altogether dead. Only a few months ago a woman in Jersey City had a neighbor haled to court on the charge of pretending to possess powers of evil and threatening to use them unless paid to desist. As the complainant had suffered a streak of bad luck, in spite of paying to ward it off, her belief in her friend, whom she called a witch, was cruelly shattered.

More recently a woman living near Butler, Penn., was accused of being a witch. Mrs. Laupaule Orber was the victim of this ancient superstition. She was charged by Mrs. Julia Kroner, a farmer’s wife, with having gone to the Kroner barn and “casting a spell” over a cow so as to prevent her giving milk. Mrs. Kroner openly made the charge of witchcraft in court, but the Judge refused to consider it other than one of disorderly conduct. On this ground Mrs. Orber was found guilty and fined $5.

Sadly, there are still parts of the world where accusations of witchcraft still hold legal weight. Saudi Arabia even has an Anti-Witchcraft Unit. (Am I the only one who thinks that would make a great CSI spinoff?)

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Written by David

July 29th, 2011 at 10:00 am

Posted in Religion,True Crime

Babies Who Earn A Man’s Wage And Support Families

From July 30, 1911

BABIES WHO EARN A MAN'S WAGE AND SUPPORT FAMILIES

BABIES WHO EARN A MAN’S WAGE AND SUPPORT FAMILIES: To the Business Man and the Business Woman Is Now Added the Business Baby — They Understand Their Trade and Take an Interest in It. (PDF)

You have to admit, they are cute kids. The one on the far left is Marie Borgreve, “who takes posing seriously and, at four years, assumes the dignity of forty.” I think she looks a bit like Kiernan Shipka, who plays Sally Draper on Mad Men.

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Written by David

July 28th, 2011 at 9:30 am

When Mark Twain Nearly Changed His Literary Career

From July 30, 1911

WHEN MARK TWAIN NEARLY CHANGED HIS LITERARY CAREER

WHEN MARK TWAIN NEARLY CHANGED HIS LITERARY CAREER: A Disappointment That Incidentally Gave Him a Lifelong Yearning to Kill a Critic. (PDF)

Here’s a first person account of Mark Twain’s reaction to a bad review.

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Written by David

July 27th, 2011 at 10:00 am

Exporting An Imaginary America To Make Money

From July 30, 1911

EXPORTING AN IMAGINARY AMERICA TO MAKE MONEY

EXPORTING AN IMAGINARY AMERICA TO MAKE MONEY: Moving Picture Lovers in Foreign Cities Prefer Indian and Cowboy Films to All Others (PDF)

According to IMDB, the current record for foreign box office receipts of an American movie belongs to Avatar. But you don’t have to go too far down the list to find a cowboy movie. The tenth highest foreign box office record belongs to Toy Story 3.

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Written by David

July 27th, 2011 at 9:00 am

Posted in Entertainment

Why Does Your Grocer Trust You?

From July 30, 1911

WHY DOES YOUR GROCER TRUST YOU?

WHY DOES YOUR GROCER TRUST YOU? The Problem of Giving Credit Sometimes Hard to Solve. (PDF)

An interesting look at personal credit.

“Mr. Brown left in a hurry this morning and forgot to give me any money.”

“I haven’t the change, but I’ll drop in to-morrow and pay.”

A retail grocer of the upper west side of New York says that he and every other butcher, grocer, and small store-keeper in the fairly good residence sections of the city hears these phrases again and again. They are half glad and half sorry each time a woman leans over the counter and apologetically says one or the other of them. It means more business and a new, steady customer, it is true, but on the other hand one more account on the books and credit instead of cash.

[…]

Yet the retailer keeps on trusting.

See also J. Wellington Wimpy who will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.

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Written by David

July 26th, 2011 at 11:00 am

Posted in Business

A Stove To Cool The House Instead Of Heating It

From July 30, 1911

A STOVE TO COOL THE HOUSE INSTEAD OF HEATING IT

A STOVE TO COOL THE HOUSE INSTEAD OF HEATING IT: Alexander Graham Bell Invents an “Ice Stove” Which Makes His Rooms Cold in Summer, Just as a Coal Stove Would Make Them Hot in Winter. (PDF)

Not content to just invent the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell went on to invent other useful things, like a primitive air conditioner that blows air over blocks of ice to cool down the room. “The invention is what, for want of a better name, has been termed an ‘ice stove.'”

That’s the gist of the article, which is a pretty good read.

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Written by David

July 26th, 2011 at 9:30 am

Must The Nickel Novel Die Out? It Is In Danger Now

From July 30, 1911

MUST THE NICKEL NOVEL DIE OUT? IT IS IN DANGER NOW

MUST THE NICKEL NOVEL DIE OUT? IT IS IN DANGER NOW: It Calls for Ability to Write One, Though You Might Not Think It, and The Supply of Authors Is Decreasing — Less Than Fifteen of Them Left to Supply the Demand. (PDF)

This article is a nice appreciation of the nickel novel (also called the dime novel), which appeared to be on its way out but actually survived another 30 years or so.

Not every age produces a Shakespeare, a Dante, a Kipling, or a man destined to have his name written high in large thirty-two candle power incandescents. Every so often comes an apparent literary famine, and women who wear thick glasses and large cameo breastpins and little bearded moles arise at Friday Afternoon Literary Clubs to express wonderment about what the country’s coming to anyhow. Why is it, they inquire, that we’re not producing any more real mahstahs of literachuah?

There’s going to be equal consternation one of these days in an entirely different circle when it is learned that we’re going to stand vis a vis with a famine in another brand of literature. I refer to the five and ten cent literature known as ‘nickel libraries” and “dime novels.’ Unless there appear new men of inventive genius to give birth to an “Old Sleuth” or a “Nick Carter” adventure each week, then the people who read that sort of fiction must get their taste educated down, or up, to something else — either that or do without.

The present supply of men who can turn out a 50,000-word thriller a week isn’t going to last always. As it is there are less than fifteen men in the country who can be depended on for this type of marrow-chilling reading matter. Some of the star performers among these are men advanced in years. One or two are already in poor health. They cannot stand the nervous strain of their stupendous weekly tasks many years more. It is inevitable that they must retire from the field and permit younger men to think up exploits for “Nick Carter,” “Old Sleuth,” and the rest of the “world-famous detectives,” as the heroes are invariably referred to in the chronicles.

You can read more about Nick Carter at ThrillingDetective.com. And you can read one of his earliest adventures (from 1889) courtesy of Google Books.

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Written by David

July 25th, 2011 at 11:00 am

Keeping Track Of The Criminal By His Finger Prints

From July 30, 1911

KEEPING TRACK OF THE CRIMINAL BY HIS FINGER PRINTS

KEEPING TRACK OF THE CRIMINAL BY HIS FINGER PRINTS: The Wonderful Art, Long Used in China, Rapidly Being Adopted by the Police of This Country, with the New York Force Leading. (PDF)

I love articles like this one.

Over in Jersey City awaiting his trial is the man who marked each successful burglary by a note defying the police and jeering at their methods. He has not been proved guilty, but the police are certain he is their man. He was caught by the finger prints which never lie.

He was much too clever a burglar to do his work with bare hands. He always wore white lisle gloves, like a village undertaker. But one night in taking out a pane of glass he cut his finger, and had to take off his glove. And there on the glass was left the tell-tale finger print. The detective who was sent out from the New York office saw it with his naked eye.

He dusted a bit of chemist’s gray powder from a tube in his pocket over the glass and photographed the prints to which the powder stuck, bringing out every ridge and whorl. Back in the New York Bureau of Identification the photograph was carefully measured and classified according to these whorls and arches. And in the files, among the 60,000 finger prints was found its duplicate. The man’s photograph was in the Bertillon department next door, and he was quietly arrested.

The criminal who leaves his finger marks behind him is doomed, provided anywhere in the world he has been “finger-printed,” or if he is ever caught in another offense, no matter how trivial. In ten minutes the expert of any police department receiving his finger prints and a request for information can look him up and forward description, photograph and record. There is no possibility of mistake, for nowhere in the 60,000 records in the New York Department is there a single duplicate. The thousands in the other American cities which have adopted the system show none. Not one has been found in the fifteen years that the English detective department at Scotland Yard has used this means of tracking criminals. And for 2,000 years Chinas has been affixing a thumb print to a passport as a means of identification. No two have ever been found alike.

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Written by David

July 25th, 2011 at 10:00 am

Have You Ever Seen A Blue Rose? A Horticultural Problem

From July 30, 1911

HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A BLUE ROSE? A HORTICULTURAL PROBLEM

HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A BLUE ROSE? A HORTICULTURAL PROBLEM: Many Varieties of the Queen of Flowers Created in a Century, but Blue Roses Still Elusive. (PDF)

This article gives a nice background on the history of roses as a coveted flower, and then gets into the matter of a blue rose.

A blue rose is held to be about the hardest thing in the flower-growing world to attain…

It can’t be done by any chemical process, of course. Any one rose can easily be made blue, but there is no known way of treating the soil in which a bush grows so as to change the color of all its flowers, and even if there were such a way the progeny of the roses would revert to the ancestral type. The blue rose is to be obtained — if it ever is attained — by combining roses of different colors and using the most promising as parents for a newer and bluer race.

There has been a pale lavenderish-blue rose produced by a German grower, but it is not by any means a true blue.

Well, that problem vexed growers for another 100 years until a Japanese company proclaimed that after twenty years of research and three billion yen, they genetically engineered a blue rose. Well, I guess it’s sort of blue. To me it looks like a pale lavenderish-blue, not by any means a true blue.

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Written by David

July 25th, 2011 at 9:00 am

Posted in Nature,Science

Sure Sign Of Woman’s Emancipation In The Increased Size Of Her Shoes

From July 23, 1911

SURE SIGN OF WOMAN'S EMANCIPATION IN THE INCREASED SIZE OF HER SHOES

SURE SIGN OF WOMAN’S EMANCIPATION IN THE INCREASED SIZE OF HER SHOES: Because She Swims, Walks, Plays Golf and Tennis and Works for a Living, She Can No Longer Pose as Wasp-Waisted and Tiny-Footed. (PDF)

Shoe manufacturers don’t make small-sized shoes for women any more. They say women’s feet have grown bigger in the last fifteen or twenty years. Small feet, of course, are only comparative. A small foot for a woman twenty years ago was 2 or 2½. Now it is said that there are few if any 2 or 2½ feet of narrow width, say, AA or A.

All this was revealed at a fair that the shoe manufacturers of America held in Boston about a week ago. The leading manufacturers had exhibits there, and they had observed in turn that the demand for small-size shoes for women had been declining year by year until now it had practically passed out.

One had stopped making the small shoes for women altogether. Consulting his competitor at the fair, which is an annual event with the great manufacturers, he learned that his competitor was not making the old-time small sizes either. This led to a canvass and this astonishing fact was developed:

The average size of shoes that women wear to-day is 4 to 5, whereas the average size twenty years ago was 3 to 5. The No. 2 size in women’s shoes, not uncommon twenty years ago, and almost usual twenty years before that among fashionable ladies, had entirely disappeared.

According to a 2002 article in Slate, the average women’s shoe size had gone up to 5½ in the 1940s, a 6 in the ’60s, and a 7½ in the ’70s. In the ’80s it was 8 to 8½. The article says that “the best-selling sizes at Manolo Blahnik — the Holy Grail of the shoe-obsessed — are 7.5 to 8.”

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Written by David

July 22nd, 2011 at 10:30 am

Posted in Life,Recreation,Sports

How Uncle Sam Hunts Swindlers Who Use The Mails

From July 23, 1911

HOW UNCLE SAM HUNTS SWINDLERS WHO USE THE MAILS

HOW UNCLE SAM HUNTS SWINDLERS WHO USE THE MAILS: Intricate System of Espionage by Which the Government Protects the Gullible Public from Postal Crooks the Country Over. (PDF)

The mails? Is that proper usage, or is that like the internets?

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Written by David

July 22nd, 2011 at 9:30 am

Posted in True Crime

When Personality Is Worth More Than Experience

From July 23, 1911

WHEN PERSONALITY IS WORTH MORE THAN EXPERIENCE

WHEN PERSONALITY IS WORTH MORE THAN EXPERIENCE: Why It Is That Business Men Sometimes Pay the Highest Salaries to Those Lacking Technical Knowledge. (PDF)

The head of a big contracting firm in New York has been looking two years now for a $25,000-a-year man. The curious features of his search are that the man he wants shall have as little technical knowledge of the business as possible and no ability as a salesman. The requisites are that he shall dress well, appear well, be between thirty and forty, and get around a great deal among people of means.

“Such a man, when I find the right one, will bring me in hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of business a year,” says this contractor…

“The smartest salesmen can’t always get close to the big people. Such a man as I am looking for can often do it easily; do it in enough cases to count big. With no effort at all, just because of his acquaintance, he’ll bring them into my office at the very moment they’re wanting something. I’ll find that man sooner or later, but it’s a long search.”

It’s an interesting idea to hire a connector on staff for their social skills. Is that being done today? Or is that just called a PR agent?

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Written by David

July 21st, 2011 at 9:30 am

Posted in Business

The Last Of The Shakers — A Community Awaiting Death

From July 23, 1911

THE LAST OF THE SHAKERS -- A COMMUNITY AWAITING DEATH

THE LAST OF THE SHAKERS — A COMMUNITY AWAITING DEATH: Only Twenty-two Left at Enfield Colony — No New Recruits, and Shakers Are Dying Off Fast — With Their Passing the Famous Sect Will Come to an End. (PDF)

Shakers were an 18th Century offshoot of the Quakers. Somehow I thought there were more of them, but it turns out they really are an endangered religion. According to a PBS story from the Religion and Ethics Newsweekly program, there was still one Shaker community in September, 2010, and it had three members.

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Written by David

July 20th, 2011 at 10:00 am

Posted in Religion

“In Two Hundred Years There Will Be No Poets Nor Authors”

From July 23, 1911

IN TWO HUNDRED YEARS THERE WILL BE NO POETS OR AUTHORS

“IN TWO HUNDRED YEARS THERE WILL BE NO POETS OR AUTHORS”: Thus Predicts Victor Auburtin, and the Cause, He Claims, Is Democracy and Utilitarianism. (PDF)

It’s only been one hundred years since this prediction was made, so it’s premature to say it hasn’t come true, but so far I think Victor Auburtin is a bit off.

“I believe that art is dying, and fo this belief I shall speak in the present work. Art is dying of democracy and utilitarianism. It is dying because the soil it needs has been built over — the soil of simplicity and superstition. I believe firmly that in 200 years we shall have no more artists and no more poets. On the other hand, we shall surely have machines, duly patented, by which may be turned out sixty plaster copies of the Apollo di Belvedere in a single minute.”

These are the opening words of a highly characteristic work just published by one of that galaxy of young Germans whose names have become known throughout the civilied world through their association with the Simplicissimus — the humorous weekly which by many is regarded as the most effective enemy so far encountered by the upholders of German bureaucracy, militarism, “junkerdom,” and reaction.

The entire run of the German satirical magazine Simplicissimus can be found at simplicissimus.info.

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Written by David

July 19th, 2011 at 11:30 am

Posted in Art,Humor

Business Girls’ Noonday Diversion

From July 23, 1911

BUSINESS GIRLS' NOONDAY DIVERSION

BUSINESS GIRLS’ NOONDAY DIVERSION: A Novel Amusement That Is Gaining in Popularity Downtown. (PDF)

Have you heard about the latest craze that all the business girls are doing on their lunchbreak? That’s right, they’re Ballroom Dancing.

“Gracious, May, you don’t want any ice cream; we haven’t time.”

“Yes, we have. I’ll eat it fast. It’s only 12:30. We can get in two waltzes and a two-step easy.”

This is what you are beginning to hear in downtown New York every noontime nowadays, wherever young, bright-faced “business girls” gather. For a new delight has been prepared for that energetic, youthful person. In the very heart of things, where girls in the middle of the day crowd the sidewalks as thick as roses in a rose garden, just where the jewelry, financial, insurance, and legal districts join, where now, it seems to the bystander, there are at the luncheon hour more feminine personalities than masculine, a ballroom has been provided in her behalf. She may dance, to the music of a capital orchestra, any time from 12 to 1:30.

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Written by David

July 19th, 2011 at 10:00 am

When “Lost In New York” Was Too Well Acted

From July 23, 1911

WHEN LOST IN NEW YORK WAS TOO WELL ACTED

WHEN “LOST IN NEW YORK” WAS TOO WELL ACTED (PDF)

When I first came to New York, I never really got lost except when I emerged from the subway disoriented. I didn’t yet know the landmarks that would tell me which way I’m facing. Oh, and I also got lost the first time I tried to simply cross Central Park. I didn’t yet know that there’s only one straight path in the whole park, and it didn’t go where I needed to go.

This article is the story of one man’s story after getting lost in New York on his first day here.

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Written by David

July 18th, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Posted in Life

How New York Looks From A Downtown Roof

From July 23, 1911

HOW NEW YORK LOOKS FROM A DOWNTOWN ROOF

HOW NEW YORK LOOKS FROM A DOWNTOWN ROOF (PDF)

While it was still novel to look around from atop a tall building, here’s a description of what that was like back in 1911.

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Written by David

July 18th, 2011 at 9:30 am

Posted in Development,Life

Going Down In A Tube To Hunt For Sunken Treasure

From July 16, 1911

GOING DOWN IN A TUBE TO HUNT FOR SUNKEN TREASURE

GOING DOWN IN A TUBE TO HUNT FOR SUNKEN TREASURE: How an Ingenious Scot Will Explore the Sea Bottom Off the Virginia Coast to Find $500,000 in Silver. (PDF)

This is one of those great articles where I do a little research and find out even more interesting stuff that happened next. The article is about Charles Williamson, who invented a tube he could use to go treasure hunting on the bottom of the sea.

What I learned is that Charles’ son John took this invention a step further. He realized that if you put a big window at the bottom of the tube, you could film underwater movies. He became a pioneer in undersea filmmaking, and in 1914 released an undersea film called Thirty Leagues Under the Sea. I can’t find a copy of it online. Let me know if you have better luck finding it than I did.

The American Museum of Natural History has an illustrated biography of John Williamson on their website.

A site called The Rebreather Site has more information, including photos taken from the tube like this one:

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Written by David

July 15th, 2011 at 10:00 am

How Flynn Foiled The Sicilian Counterfeiters

From July 16, 1911

HOW FLYNN FOILED THE SICILIAN COUNTERFEITERS

HOW FLYNN FOILED THE SICILIAN COUNTERFEITERS: A Dime Novel in Real Life Is the Story of the International Conspiracy Which Came to an End Last Week With the Suicide of the Head of the Plot. (PDF)

One day last week an old Sicilian jumped off a Weehawken ferryboat and drowned himself. That is the proem. Here is the story.

[Proem. I didn’t know that word. It means prologue.]

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Written by David

July 14th, 2011 at 11:30 am

Posted in True Crime

For The Sightseer In New York: “There’s The Aquarium”

From July 16, 1911

FOR THE SIGHTSEER IN NEW YORK: THERE'S THE AQUARIUM

FOR THE SIGHTSEER IN NEW YORK: “THERE’S THE AQUARIUM”: Some Interesting Features, Human and Piscine, to Be Found at the Battery Park Establishment on a Sunday Afternoon. (PDF)

Amusing look at the personalities of people and animals that one can find at the city’s aquarium back when it was still in Battery Park.

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Written by David

July 13th, 2011 at 10:00 am

Posted in Life,Nature,Recreation