Archive for the ‘Development’ Category

Why We Still Need New Methods in Our Prisons

From October 1, 1916


Why We Still Need New Methods in Our Prisons: Adolph Lewisohn Says Reforms Have Not Gone Far Enough and Points Out Need of Improvements in Different Institutions (PDF)

The President of the National Committee on Prisons in 1916 made several suggestions for prison reform, including:

I hope that gradually the number of children placed in institutions, particularly in correctional institutions, will decrease to a minimum and that those who must be placed in institutions shall be so treated that they will be able to take care of themselves or be properly taken care of upon their discharge.

The number of person placed in jails before they are found guilty should also be reduced to a minimum, and those who have to be detained should be carefully segregated and not mixed up with habitual criminals, which often may have a bad influence upon them, especially upon young people.

Prison reform continues to this day: in August, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that they would no longer contract out to private prisons. If you haven’t read the breathtaking Mother Jones magazine expose on the private prison industry published this summer, which helped provoke public outcry leading to the Justice Department’s change, you really should (even though it’s practically the length of a small book):

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Written by Jesse

September 30th, 2016 at 10:46 pm

Posted in Development

What Is the Matter with the Modern Boy?

From September 24, 1916


What Is the Matter with the Modern Boy?: He Is Less of a Boy, But Not More of a Man, Than His Father Was — The Reason and Cure Outlined by One Who Knows Him (PDF)

In the words of the musical Bye Bye Birdie, “What’s the Matter With Kids Today?” They’ve been asking that question for ages, and in 1916 a boys’ school headmaster named Thomas S. Baker continued that storied tradition. He laid the blame for the modern boy at several primary culprits including the rise in popularity of sports and movies during the previous generation.

On movies:

What effect is the indulgence in this form of imaginative debauch going to have upon the minds of American boys?… The boy gets his sentiment and his imaginative excitement in big ladlefuls from the moving pictures. They certainly are not stimulating to his mentality, although they may have a very exciting effect upon his emotions. The unrealities which are laid before him cannot fail to give him a distorted view of life.

On sports:

I have been frequently asked what sort of things the boys of today like to read… The greatest element in their reading is the sporting pages of the newspapers. This is the boy’s favorite hunting ground. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of sports before he develops any interest in the other portions of the newspapers. If his school work demanded an examination in the biographies of athletes or the condition of contemporary athletics, he would receive a mark that would make a strong contrast to his other averages.

Alexandra Petri wrote a great humor column for the Washington Post a few years ago about how every generation thinks the subsequent generation is just the worst, going back to at least Ancient Greek times. Worth a read, if you want a laugh with a serious point:

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Written by Jesse

September 25th, 2016 at 3:41 pm

China’s Industrial Revolution Now In Progress

From August 27, 1916

China's Industrial Revolution 2

China’s Industrial Revolution Now In Progress: Chow Tsz-Chi, Former Minister of Commerce and Agriculture, Points Out the Opportunities In His Country for Americans (PDF)

If you thought China was advancing a century ago, China’s economy overtook the U.S. to become the world’s largest in 2014, according to the International Monetary Fund. To some extent that’s an unfair comparison because China has about quadruple the U.S. population, but still — the U.S. had the world’s largest economy for many decades and was once thought by many to be unbeatable.

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Written by Jesse

August 25th, 2016 at 11:23 am

Posted in Business,Development

We Have Too Many laws, Thinks Henry A. Wise

From September 24, 1911


WE HAVE TOO MANY LAWS, THINKS HENRY A. WISE: U.S. District Attorney Believes That as More Offenders Are Being Punished There is an Awakening of the Public Conscience and a Promise of Better Things for the Country. (PDF)

It’s a busy week for me, so sadly I couldn’t write any commentary or pull-quotes from this article. Anyone care to do the honors in the comments?

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Written by David

September 21st, 2011 at 10:00 am

The Modern Sherlock Holmes Is A Scientific Man

From September 24, 1911


THE MODERN SHERLOCK HOLMES IS A SCIENTIFIC MAN: Swiss Professor Tells of Professional Criminals and the Means of Detecting Them in a Book That Has the Indorsement of M. Lepine, Head of the Paris Police. (PDF)

That reminds me: the modern Sherlock Holmes is now streaming on Netflix.

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Written by David

September 20th, 2011 at 10:00 am

New Identification System Ousts Rogues’ Gallery

From September 10, 1911


NEW IDENTIFICATION SYSTEM OUSTS ROGUES’ GALLERY: Capt. Joseph A. Faurot After Studying the “Portrait Parler” Abroad Will Introduce It in New York’s Detective Department and Promises Great Results. (PDF)

This new system of identifying criminals looks at individual facial features.

“The whole system of the ‘portrait parler’ is a process of elimination,” explained Capt. Faurot. “It is on that basis we are to reorganize the Rogues’ Gallery. We will be able to divide the number of portraits to be searched on a given case by three if we know the type of nose, by two again if we know the height, by three if we know the type of ear, and so on till we have only a small, narrow group to examine.”

I imagine identifying a criminal in the portrait parler is something like playing Guess Who?

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Written by David

September 9th, 2011 at 11:00 am

The Auto-Hater Gives His Opinion — And Acts

From September 10, 1911



For maximum effect, imagine this in the voice of Andy Rooney.

“There goes another of the infernal things!” snarled the man waiting for a car as he stamped his heels against the curb.

“Notice that!” he growled, addressing nobody in particular. “See how those fenders are put on an automobile? They’re on an angle, so that all the mud they throw will just reach the sidewalk. Somebody’s figured it all out, so that a fender is on just the right angle to get as much mud as possible on a man’s trouser legs when he’s waiting on the curb for a car. When people used to drive buggies and carriages they didn’t have the fenders on at an angle. It wouldn’t have done much good anyhow, because people didn’t drive horses more than fifteen or twenty miles an hour through town, and the drivers couldn’t succeed in splashing much mud on people.

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Written by David

September 8th, 2011 at 10:00 am

The Neglected Possibilities Of City Roofs

From August 27, 1911


THE NEGLECTED POSSIBILITIES OF CITY ROOFS: Making the Best of Out-of-Door Life Is Slowly Being Learned — Comparatively Easy to Turn Roofs Into GArdens, Playgrounds and Concert Rooms. (PDF)

There have been a lot of articles about roof gardens in the New York Times over the last few years as the trend has finally caught on. But my favorite by far has to be a 2006 article about a Greenwich Village resident who built a whole front porch on his roof. Go check out the photos. Pretty nice.

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Written by David

August 26th, 2011 at 9:30 am

Uncle Sam’s Patents Reach The Million Mark

From August 20, 1911


UNCLE SAM’S PATENTS REACH THE MILLION MARK: Francis H. Holton of Ohio Granted the Coveted Patent No. 1,000,000 for a Tack-Proof Pneumatic Automobile Tire — The First Patent Issued Was Also for an Improvement to the Wheel of a Moving Vehicle. (PDF)

The public radio program This American Life did a fantastic episode a few weeks ago about how the patent system is deeply flawed, at least where software patents are concerned. The episode aired almost exactly 100 years after the millionth patent was issued.

You can read Patent #1,000,000 here.

The first patent was issued in 1790. It took 121 years to get to patent number 1,000,000. It took just 24 more years to reach patent 2,000,000. And then 26 years to reach patent 3,000,000. Patent 4,000,000 was reached just 15 years later. And patents 5,000,000 and 6,000,000 took 15 years and then 8 years to reach. Patent 7,000,000 was reached 7 years later in 2006. We’re still waiting to reach patent 8,000,000. We just reached patent 8,000,000 three days ago, as noted in the comments by Raghav.


Written by David

August 19th, 2011 at 10:00 am

How It Feels To Fly Graphically Told By An Aviator

From August 13, 1911



Previously we’ve learned how to fly a plane in 1910. Now we learn what it feels like for the pilot.

“At last the pitiless hour has arrived. Everything is ready. It is time to start. Amid the deafening roar of the motor the aeroplane snatches itself out of the hands of the men holding it back and hurtles along the ground. Then it hops and suddenly rises with a slide into the air… The irregular jolting and shaking caused by the unevenness of the ground as the aeroplane dashes to its ascent from the earth are succeeded by a soft gliding sensation which defied definition; the anxiety and anguish of the start have vanished to make room for a feeling of repose, of absolute solitude. The man has disappeared: he is now a bird!


“Everything blends together and dwindles away. Houses look like dice thrown on a billiard table; the largest cities seem like Liliputian towns, the bas-relief melts away, roads, rivers and railways appear to wind their way in a child’s model landscape toy. Only the sea and lofty mountains are spared in this wholesale diminution, and they always impose on the airman respectful admiration mixed with a very lively sentiment of fear.”

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Written by David

August 12th, 2011 at 9:00 am

Activity Of Modern Woman A Racial Problem

From August 13, 1911


ACTIVITY OF MODERN WOMAN A RACIAL PROBLEM: Dr. Max G. Schlapp, Specialist in Mental Diseases, Believes that Present Conditions Tend Toward Increase in Insanity, Divorce, Race Suicide. (PDF)

Taking the evidence as it comes to him from records of daily experience which are written into the public documents of all countries, [Dr Schlapp] finds unmistakable evidence of deterioration in the human race. This does not mean that men and women to-day are not physically and mentally as well endowed as ever they were, but that there are more abnormal men, women, and children now than at any time since the establishment of the present civilization.

There are more insane, more criminals, more divorced people, and fewer children born to each one thousand of population, and this he traces directly to modern conditions. All civilizations that have gone before have had precisely the same experience that the world is passing through now, and for precisely that reason Dr. Schlapp believes that this civilization will go the way they have gone until the point of exhaustion is reached. Then there will be a resting period, and the human family will begin to advance once more.

The energetic, enterprising woman, he says, is not at all new. The suffragist or suffragette is as old as organized government. When the Grecian Empire was at its highest stages of development its advanced women were clamoring for the right of suffrage, and so it was in Rome before its fall, and Dr. Schlapp, who calls attention to this by way of illustration, has no doubt that the same condition existed in Egypt in some form or other about the time Egypt passed into the darkness.

If I understand the argument correctly, Dr. Schlapp is saying that when a civilization reaches a point where women begin to seek more duties outside the home, it suffers in other ways: fewer children, more divorces, and more insane people. If Dr. Schlapp can show a causal relationship, then it raises more questions: is it better to have a civilization where women are relegated to the home and have no authority but there are more traditional households, or one where women have more freedom, rights, and responsibilities, but there’s a higher number of divorces and fewer kids?


Written by David

August 9th, 2011 at 10:00 am

Double-Decked Streets For Lower New York

From August 6, 1911


DOUBLE-DECKED STREETS FOR LOWER NEW YORK: Department of Public Works Has Made Plans for Elevated Sidewalks and for Tunnels to Relieve Congestion. (PDF)

I can think of a few double-decked roads in the city (such as under elevated portions of the FDR drive, and beneath elevated subway tracks in the outer boroughs) but nothing like what’s depicted in this drawing. It’s an interesting concept. Are there any major cities with double-decked sidewalks along the roads?

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Written by David

August 3rd, 2011 at 9:30 am

Posted in Development

A Talk With Miss Margaret Kelly, Director Of The U. S. Mint

From August 6, 1911


A TALK WITH MISS MARGARET KELLY, DIRECTOR OF THE U. S. MINT: Work Done by the Highest Salaried Female Official in the United States. (PDF)

This Margaret Kelly person sounds pretty impressive. Check this out:

Miss Margaret Kelly, the young woman in question, occupies the enviable position of being the highest salaried female official in the employ of the United States Government. But this fact does not so much entitle her to distinction as this: that, in her present position, she holds a place of responsibility that is second only to those of the Cabinet officers, a place that is so far above any other official position held by a woman that it may be said it is first — and there is no second.

When she got the position, one House member noted that “Miss Kelly’s appointment marks an epoch in the history of the advancement and development of woman in the business world.”

Here’s some of what she had to say about gender and business:

“There is one thing I most cordially detest… That is the distinction one constantly hears made between the work of the sexes. The expression ‘a man’s work’ or ‘a woman’s work’ is particularly obnoxious to me, as are their complements, ‘a man’s wages’ and ‘a woman’s wages.’ Now I cannot see any necessary distinction between work as a man does it and as it is done by a woman. The only distinctions or classes I recognize in work are ‘good work’ and ‘bad work.'”

She sounds like a great role model for women trying to break the glass ceiling. And yet, I can find almost no other mention of her online. No Wikipedia entry. Nothing. History is very strange sometimes.

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Written by David

August 2nd, 2011 at 9:30 am

Posted in Development,Politics

Are American Cities Going Mad Architecturally?

From August 6, 1911


ARE AMERICAN CITIES GOING MAD ARCHITECTURALLY? Ernest Flagg, Designer of the Singer Building and Other Skyscrapers, Says Our Taste is Barbaric and Archaic — Loftier Towers Predicted for the Future. (PDF)

When Ernest Flagg’s Singer Buildinger was completed in 1908, it was the tallest building in the world at 612 feet. That record lasted for one year. Here are some of his thoughts on skyscrapers from the article:

The trouble is that we have not yet applied to high buildings the same truthful, simple, and artistic treatment which ages of experience have taught us to use in monumental buildings of moderate height. But te time will come when all this will be changed, and when it does come, I predict that public buildings in the United States will be carried to such amazing heights that the tallest commercial building will be dwarfed by them.

I can’t think what the tallest government building is in the United States, but the tallest one that comes to mind is the United Nations building, which isn’t really a U.S. building since it’s technically on international territory. But at 509 feet, it’s not even that tall. Can anyone think of a taller government building?

I have no doubt that heights approximating 2,000 feet will be reached within the next twenty-five years, for I see no reason why such heights should not be practical. The enormous weights involved will be carried by columns of cast steel of almost sold sections bolted together, and not built up of the rolled structural shape which we now use.

Well, that was sort of accurate. Thanks to steel, skyscrapers got taller than ever. The Empire State Building was completed 20 years after this prediction, but at 1,454 feet it doesn’t quite approximate 2,000 feet tall. And it was actually even shorter when it opened because the antenna spire wasn’t added until 1952.

The first skyscraper to come close to 2,000 feet wasn’t actually built until very recently. It’s the Burj Khalifa which more than passed the mark, topping out at 2,717 feet. Before that, the tallest building was the Taipei 101, which only reached 1,670 feet.


Written by David

August 1st, 2011 at 9:30 am

Posted in Development

A Stove To Cool The House Instead Of Heating It

From July 30, 1911


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

Keeping Track Of The Criminal By His Finger Prints

From July 30, 1911


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

How New York Looks From A Downtown Roof

From July 23, 1911



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

New York 100 Years Ago, When The City Hall Was Built

From July 9, 1911


NEW YORK 100 YEARS AGO, WHEN THE CITY HALL WAS BUILT: They Had a Safe and Sane Fourth and a Hot Wave — Also They Had the New Theatre, and After All Life Wasn’t So Very Different in the Little Town of a Century Ago. (PDF)

Here’s a look back 100 years at a look back 100 years.

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Written by David

July 8th, 2011 at 10:45 am

Posted in Development

How Conversation Across A Continent Came About

From July 9, 1911


HOW CONVERSATION ACROSS A CONTINENT CAME ABOUT: The Men Who Made It Possible for New York to Talk to Denver — Graham Bell Has Lived to See His Invention Grow Beyond All the Bounds Believed to be Set for It When He Made It. (PDF)

The development of the long distance telephone, which began thirty years ago, is due in a most striking way to a group of brilliant scientists and inventors, each of whom contributed one or more factors essential to the success of the whole. But for the discoveries and scientific devices of these men the original invention of Prof. Alexander Graham Bell would not be the wonderfully practical means of communication that it is, and talking over continental distances would be out of the question. With but a very few exceptions, these men, who by their improvements on the Bell instrument have made the long distance telephone a reality, are alive to-day and actively engaged either in the further development of the telephone or in other scientific pursuits.

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Written by David

July 7th, 2011 at 10:03 am

Making Washington One Of World’s Beautiful Capitals

From July 2, 1911


MAKING WASHINGTON ONE OF WORLD’S BEAUTIFUL CAPITALS: L’Enfant’s Dream to Come True After a Century — With the Approval of the Plans for Three New Department Buildings, the Ten-Year-Old Plan for a Splendid Home for the Government Is Launched (PDF)

Pierre Charles L’Enfant was a French born American architect who designed the layout of Washington DC in the country’s early years. But, the article says, his “great work was hampered and thwarted for a century by the lack of appreciation for beauty in the Government.”

Ugly buildings, slums, and “even houses of ill-fame” lined the mall. In 1911, plans were approved to build some new government buildings in keeping with L’Enfant’s original vision.

Today, work is still being done to improve the mall and surrounding parks. You can see a list of ongoing projects under supervision of the National Parks Service.

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Written by David

June 27th, 2011 at 11:00 am

Posted in Development,Politics