Says He Can Stop His Heart’s Beating At Will

From December 25, 1910


SAYS HE CAN STOP HIS HEART’S BEATING AT WILL: Nordini Gives Exhibitions of Unusual Muscular Control That Astonishes Investigators. (PDF)

Nordini, the man who said he can stop his heart’s beating at will, also claimed he could hold his breath for extended periods of time, and was buried under a ton of sand to prove it. Is that more or less impressive than David Blaine doing the same stunt in a tank of water? According to the article, Nordini was able to stop his heartbeat for 20 seconds. David Blaine said that in his breath-holding stunts, he was able to slow his heartrate down to 12 beats per minute. Nordini wins.

Leave a comment

Written by David

December 24th, 2010 at 10:00 am

East Side Messenger Boy Wins Fame As A Sculptor

From December 25, 1910


EAST SIDE MESSENGER BOY WINS FAME AS A SCULPTOR: Undismayed by Poverty Joseph Davidson Fitted Himself for a Notable Career in Art – Unusual Successes Here and Abroad. (PDF)

This is the story of Jo Davidson, who was 26 at the time of this article but had already climbed out of poverty to become a successful sculptor. Davidson went on to win several prestigious honors, had various exhibits and retrospectives, and ultimately became the subject of this Wikipedia entry were you can learn more about him and see some of his work.

Leave a comment

Written by David

December 24th, 2010 at 9:45 am

Posted in Art

James Lane Allen On “The Future Christmas”

From December 25, 1910


JAMES LANE ALLEN ON “THE FUTURE CHRISTMAS”: Author of “The Bride of the Mistletoe” Traces Festival to Remote Pagan Past and Pictures Its Development Through the Ages. (PDF)

Although the headline suggests the article is all about the future, in fact novelist James Lane Allen gives a detailed history of Christmas. He focuses on the symbols we associate with the holiday — the tree, Santa, etc — and explains their Pagan origins. He then speculates that in the future, Christmas will again be celebrated as a ritual worshiping nature. He doesn’t say exactly when this will happen, so there’s still time for his prediction to come true.

James Lane Allen wrote a story that uses on the Pagan roots of Christmas as a theme. It’s called The Bride of the Mistletoe and can be read free here at Project Gutenberg

Leave a comment

Written by David

December 24th, 2010 at 9:30 am

Baltimore Tries Drastic Plan Of Race Segregation

From December 25, 1910


BALTIMORE TRIES DRASTIC PLAN OF RACE SEGREGATION: Strange Situation Which Led the Oriole City to Adopt the Most Pronounced “Jim Crow” Measure On Record (PDF)

Well, this might be the most depressing and disgusting thing I’ve come across so far in these old articles. The city of Baltimore passed an ordinance that says:

1. That no negro may take up his residence in a block within the city limits of Baltimore wherein more than half the residents are white.

2. That no white person may take up his residence in such a block wherein more than half the residents are negroes.

3. That whenever building is commenced in a new city block the builder or contractor must specify in his application for a permit for which race the proposed house or houses are intended.

It’s terrible. But what did the locals think? The Times contacted a woman in Baltimore society for her opinion. “It is a most deplorable thing,” she said, and I felt a bit of relief, until I read the rest of the sentence:

“It is a most deplorable thing,” she said, “that even the best of the well-to-do colored people should invade our residential districts. I am sure the colored race has no better friend than I and those situated as I am. From my earliest recollection my feeling for the race has been one associated with affection; my old negro ‘mammy,’ my little nurse-girl playmate, all are among my happiest recollections.

But the idea of their assuming to live next door to me is abhorrent. I am sure no good can come of it to them. They will be lonesome up here away from the rest of their kind. It is a sad thing, and I do hope there will be found some way to put a stop to it. I would hate at my time of life, after living so many years in such pleasant relations with the darkies, as all my family always have, to be compelled to change my ideas upon the subject.”

Yikes. For an opposing viewpoint, the Times found a black man with some expertise on the matter. For one thing, it was his own occupancy of a home in Baltimore that practically precipitated the whole ordeal. And for another, he happens to be one of the most successful black lawyers in Baltimore. Let’s see what he has to say:

“The class of colored people in this block which has occasioned so much excitement is a most respectable one. Three of the houses are boarding houses, in which there are no boarders but female teachers in the public schools. The fourth is occupied by a clerk in the Post Office, who has been there twenty years. As far as being peaceful and lawabiding citizens, I challenge the rest of the block to show its superiority over those four colored families. We did not move up there because we wished to force our way among the whites; association with them in a social way would be just as distasteful to us as it would be to them. We merely desired to live in more commodious and comfortable quarters. There were many vacant houses in the block when I moved in; these the colored families I have mentioned have taken.

“As for property deteriorating on account of our advent in that neighborhood, I know it cannot be so, because all of us are paying higher rentals than the white occupants who immediately preceded us, and there is no better criterion of value than the rent a property brings. I have lived now for several months with white people next door to me on either hand, and we have never had the slightest difficulty. I do not try to associate with them socially any more than they with me, and I am sure none of us have any such desire, nor will any attempt be made on my part…

“As to the ordinance in question, it is my opinion as a lawyer that it is clearly unconstitutional, unjust, and discriminating against the negro, although on its face it appears to be equally fair to white and black.”

I can feel the tension in 1910 Baltimore just reading about it.

The Supreme Court ruled racial zoning unconstitutional in 1917. So Baltimore instead turned to the use of racial covenants to keep white neighborhoods white. By the 1930s, African Americans made up 20% of Baltimore’s population, but were confined to 2% of the city’s land area.

It wasn’t until 1968, days after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, that Baltimore passed a Fair Housing Act to end racial discrimination in housing.


Written by David

December 24th, 2010 at 9:15 am

Posted in Development,Politics

When The Giant Dinosaur Walked Down Broadway

From December 25, 1910


WHEN THE GIANT DINOSAUR WALKED DOWN BROADWAY: Unexpected Discovery of the Skeleton of This Animal of Ten Million Years Ago in the Palisades Interests Scientists. (PDF)

If a fairly prosperous but somewhat bibulous and pleasure-loving New Yorker, going home on a Christmas eve or Christmas night, were to find before his door an animal which rested on the ground on limbs the size of barrels, having a body which would fill several Harlem flat rooms and spill over into the next door apartment, and a head which looked into the third story window, he would think strange thoughts about himself and probably anchor himself on the water wagon for evermore.

But that is just what he might have seen had he antedated Father Knickerbocker some ten million years and lived in the days of the dinosaurs. The immensely interesting discovery a short while ago of the skeleton of one of the earliest forms of dinosaurs in the Palisades opposite West 150th Street proves beyond a doubt the character of the earliest inhabitants of this pleasant island of Manhattan.

Indeed, all sorts of prehistoric animals roamed New York before man ever set foot here (or anywhere else, for that matter). You can see some modern computer animated recreations of Manhattan’s early animals in these video clips from the “New York” episode of the Discovery Channel program Prehistoric.

Leave a comment

Written by David

December 24th, 2010 at 9:00 am

Posted in Nature,Science

Santa Claus’s Mistake

From December 25, 1910


At first glance, this struck me as just a relic from an era when racial segregation was an intriguing idea (more on that topic will be posted Friday). But then I remembered that pretty much the same joke was used recently on The Office in an episode where Toby ends up stuck with a black doll for his daughter, when he thought he was getting a white one. So I guess it’s a timeless joke.

Back in 1970, a similar situation appeared on a very special Christmas episode of Bewitched called Sisters at Heart in which a potential client of Darren’s mistakenly thinks Darren and Tabitha have three kids — a black daughter, a white daughter, and a son whose race he doesn’t know. So when he comes over to Darren’s house with gifts for the kids, he brings a white doll for one girl, a black doll for the other, and a panda doll for the boy (being both black and white, you see).

And in 1965, an episode of the Alfred Hitchcock Hour called Where the Woodbine Twineth featured a little white orphan girl who talks to her toys, including a black doll she receives midway through the episode. The girl wasn’t the one with the problem, though; she enjoyed playing with the doll. It was her guardian Nell who had a problem with it. But I don’t know that Nell’s issue was based on race as much as it was that the little girl was really creepy.

The topic of race and dolls is actually a serious one. Earlier this year, Anderson Cooper reported on CNN that a famous experiment from the 1940s was recently revisited by a child psychiatrist named Margaret Beale Spencer:

Spencer’s test aimed to re-create the landmark Doll Test from the 1940s. Those tests, conducted by psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark, were designed to measure how segregation affected African-American children.

The Clarks asked black children to choose between a white doll and — because at the time, no brown dolls were available — a white doll painted brown. They asked black children a series of questions and found they overwhelmingly preferred white over brown. The study and its conclusions were used in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case, which led to the desegregation of American schools.

60 years later, children in both races still show a bias towards white in similar tests.

A couple weeks ago, USA Today reported on the Black Baby Doll Project, which “puts black dolls in the hands of young girls.” They hope to boost the self esteem of black girls, and they accept donated dolls. But you should be aware of some guidelines before you consider donating:

Tattoos, piercings, a ton of makeup drawn on and skimpy clothes are some of the automatic disqualifiers for the dolls. They are supposed to model average black girls and women, Cornett-Scott said. Another big requirement, and a harder one to meet, is finding dolls that have authentic black features.

She held up three examples. The first, a doll with dark brown skin and a short bob, the next with braided hair and glasses, and the last with curls and full lips.

“We don’t want dolls that look like white dolls that have been painted black,” Scott said.

Every young black girl should have a doll that looks like she does, Scott said. “We want them to think ‘this doll is beautiful, and it looks like me.”

That’s easier said than done, however. Finding dolls that meet the project’s qualifications is difficult.

“I didn’t realize how hard it is to find black baby dolls until I did this project,” Mary Baldwin freshman Melissa Anoh said.

I think Toby has one he might be willing to part with.

Leave a comment

Written by David

December 21st, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Posted in Entertainment,Life

Kinship Of All Nations Is Shown In Their Toys

From December 18, 1910


KINSHIP OF ALL NATIONS IS SHOWN IN THEIR TOYS: Games and Playthings Pretty Much the Same the World Over — Dolls of the Ancients — A Santa Claus in Japan. (PDF)

This article talks about the variations on Santa Claus that can be found in different cultures worldwide, but I was more interested in the discussion of how our toys are similar. The Brooklyn Museum’s toy expert Stewart Culin notes that throughout the world children play with pretty much the same toys.

The casual observer, when he sees a child playing shuttlecock or dominoes or similar childish games, takes it to be merely the natural expression of the inevitable childish tendency to frolic. The student of men and customs looks deeper. He sees int he games and toys of childhood the evidence of a kinship of the human race.

All over the world and from the earliest ages children have amused themselves in very much the same manner. The toys and games American children have this Christmas time are very much the same as those that amuse the children of China, Japan, and Africa. What is more, they are approximately of the same sort as those played with four thousand years ago by the brown-skinned babies over whom the Pharaohs ruled.

We acquire, as time goes on, a greater mechanical dexterity, but we never improve on the nature of the toys. They are just the same kind now as Pharaoh’s daughter gave to Moses to keep him from crying when she rescued him out of the bulrushes.

I wonder what Stewart Culin would say about video games. They are certainly a far cry from the games of thousands of years ago, but maybe he would see similarities. The Sims are just like complex dolls in virtual dollhouses. And many popular games are merely high-tech boardgames. But what about first person shooters? Or arcade games? Platform jumpers? What would he have made of them? Unfortunately, Culin died in 1929, long before the first video games, so we’ll never know.

Leave a comment

Written by David

December 17th, 2010 at 9:30 am

How Well-Known Men Give The Gentle Hint To Their Callers

From December 18, 1910



If you are dreading your company holiday party because those dweebs from accounting will chat you up all night, read this article for tips from some of history’s famous brushers-off, including Presidents Roosevelt and Taft, and J. D. Rockefeller.

Leave a comment

Written by David

December 17th, 2010 at 9:15 am

Posted in Life

A New Automobile And Aeroplane Disease

From December 18, 1910



I guess new technologies have always brought scary articles about their dangers. Airplanes and cars were still pretty new, and this article explains that moving so quickly through the air can force so much carbon dioxide into your lungs that you’ll die.

The new disease is a poisoning of the system through the lungs. It is caused by repressed breathing while moving rapidly through the air. At first it seems to be a sort of smothering. But the disease is more than that.

Air once taken into the lungs practically becomes carbonic acid gas — a deadly poison. When expelled at once, of course, no damage is done. But when men pass rapidly through the air, the pressure on the face from the fast driving prevents the expulsion of the poisoned air from the lungs. The carbonic acid gas is forced back into the body. Only a little of it can get away, because of the air pressing on the face. The gas is rebreathed and poisons the system…

[Dr S. A. Knopf says the disease] had not been recognized yet by American physicians.

“To find out about such a disease,” he said, “it would be needful to have a chauffeur drive an automobile very swiftly with his face unprotected. To experiment on a man — no, that would be too dangerous. But we could find out if we strapped a monkey to an automobile and drove the machine at sixty, or, say, seventy miles an hour.”

But don’t worry. With outrageous theories come outrageous solutions:

The remedy for the new disease suggested in England, and a preventative of similar ills is a mouthpiece to be strapped to the face with tubes extending from it on either side to the back of the head in the shape of the letter U. With the ends behind the ears and pointing backward, the wind pressure on the breath would be relieved and the poisonous carbonic acid gas could escape to the rear.

Somehow, these automobile snorkels just never caught on.

But what about automobile fumes? Should people worry about those? The doctor says no. “There is no danger from the fumes of the gasoline. They are dissipated in the air.”

One comment

Written by David

December 17th, 2010 at 9:00 am

Posted in Life,Technology

The Top Ten NY Times Sunday Magazine Articles from 1910

It’s that time of year when publications come up with their annual top ten roundups, so I figure I should contribute to the genre. Here, then, is my list of Top Ten New York Times Sunday Magazine Articles From 1910 (Not Including Articles Prior To March 20 Because I Didn’t Start This Blog Until Then).

It was very difficult to pick just ten out of the 179 articles I’ve posted since I started this blog. I tried to pick some that are funny, some that are historically important, and some that are just plain interesting. They are presented in no particular order.

1) Circus Clown A Serious Person Out Of The Ring
I love this interview with Slivers the Clown in which he laments that clowns just get no respect. It inspired me to look up whatever happened to Slivers, and that’s when I found out about his dark downward spiral. If you’re intrigued by a story of love, death, and circus clowns, give this one a read.

2) Rathbone Ends Long List Of Lincoln Party Tragedies
It never occurred to me that there were other people in the booth with the Lincolns when Abe was shot, so I was fascinated to read about the other couple that was there with them. Imagine how scarred they must have been by the experience. There you are, the guests of the President and First Lady, when all of a sudden the President is shot in the head as he sits right there next to you. This article tells what happened to that other couple, and everyone else who stepped foot in the booth that night. Without giving too much away, let me just say that their darkest days were yet to come.

3) Was Queen Elizabeth A Famous Imposter?
Bram Stoker, most famous for having written Dracula, believed that when Queen Elizabeth was a little girl, she died and was secretly replaced by a little boy named Neville and nobody ever knew. This article describes how he thinks it went down.

4) Wireless Wonder Aged 14 Amazes Senate Committee
If this kid were born 70 years later, he would have been building computers in his garage. Instead, he built radios in his garage, and imagined a day when people would use handheld devices to make wireless phone calls. A proponent of keeping the airwaves open, he testified before congress on the topic in his role as the president of the first amateur radio club in America. It’s a great story about a smart kid, and one of the first articles that inspired me to look up what ever happened to the person. Being able to look into our past to see what happened next feels a bit like looking into the future from 1910.

5) Wooed a “Marjorie Daw” For Fourteen Long Years
Today we sometimes hear stories of sad and lonely people conned out of their savings by an online lover who turns out not to be who they claimed to be. This is the story of a man who falls for the same scam by mail. He spends 14 years strung along by an imaginary girlfriend who takes him for all he’s got. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

6) How Those Amusing Freak Moving Pictures Are Made
The motion picture industry was still young, but already people were figuring out how to do special effects. This article reveals the secrets of some popular effects films.

7) No Immortality Of The Soul, Says Thomas A Edison
This article kicked off several weeks of back and forth articles on the existence of an afterlife. First, Edison reflects on a friend’s death and mentions that he believes there is no soul. The next week, people wrote in to either agree or disagree. Several more articles were published, with scientists and laymen declaring the soul’s existence or non-existence.

8) First Account Of The Conquering Of Mt. McKinley
The early 20th Century was full of exploration firsts. Both poles were reached within a few years of each other, and airplanes were allowing people to venture further and faster than ever before. But I think this exploration achievement is far more interesting than the others because it was achieved by a group of laypeople who had no climbing experience. Or was it? There were so many lies and false claims of summiting Mt. McKinley already made, that there was reason to be suspicious.

9) Night In A Fascinating Square That Never Sleeps
This is a very well written description of a full night spent in Times Square. It describes the people, the sounds, the sights, etc. If you’ve ever been in Times Square during the week hours of the night, you’ll recognize the feeling. It’s easy to read this and relate to the author.

10) Charles K. Hamilton Tells How To Run An Aeroplane
In the seven years since the Wright Brothers made their first flight, airplanes became a popular hobby for the wealthy and adventurous. Most weeks, the Magazine had at least one article about airplanes. Someone was always doing something new: either flying an airplane further, faster, or somewhere they’ve never gone before. So I chose this article to represent all the others. It’s a very readable description of exactly how to fly an airplane, complete with illustrations.

I just realized I accidentally ended up with 11 articles on my list. So this one’s a bonus:

11) A Proposed Plan For An Invariable Calendar
Maybe it’s not that big a deal that every year has a different calendar. January 1 falls on a different day of the week each year, and we’ve still managed to get by. But I can’t help imagine what it would be like if this plan had actually been adopted. What if every year, every date was always the same day of the week? Would life be any easier, or would it just be different in this minor way? At any rate, I thought this proposed calendar was kind of clever.

Leave a comment

Written by David

December 13th, 2010 at 11:30 am

Posted in Blog Stuff

Santa Claus Up-to-Date

This wasn’t actually in the Magazine Section, but it was from the same issue and I found it amusing so I thought I’d share it anyway:

Leave a comment

Written by David

December 10th, 2010 at 10:15 am

Scathing Arraignment Of Women By Mrs. John A. Logan

From December 11, 1910


SCATHING ARRAIGNMENT OF WOMEN BY MRS. JOHN A. LOGAN: Well-Known Writers Believe They Are More Responsible for the Communities’ Morals and the Nation’s Welfare than Men. (PDF)

Ladies, brace yourselves for a reality check by Mary Logan, widow of General John A. Logan. She has some real problems with how you dress, raise your kids, and generally behave. You’ll have to read the whole article for the complete lashing, but here is a representative sample:

“Even in my youth they used to talk about the ‘Girl of the Period’ with amusement. She used to wear some dreadfully exaggerated costumes — her fashions, some of them, were quite insane — but the worst of them were mild and modest by comparison with the extreme vogues of to-day. I gasp with real astonishment — I sometimes blush with shame — when I go upon the streets of a large city nowadays and observe the manner in which women garb themselves. Some of the fashions of this year of 1910 are not only hideous, but viciously indecent. Oh, yes, I mean that — indecent! The only hats this season which show real intelligence in their design are the poke bonnets of some sensible automobilists. The modish dresses are an outrage upon the modesty of womankind. Any lady who gowns herself in the extreme fashion of to-day, and has her picture taken, will, if she looks at it and stops to think, blush at the thought that later on her grandchildren may see it. If the fashions of to-day were actual signs of the times the thoughtful person would be forced to make admission that they are sorry signs of very sorry times. It has been many years since we have had a line of women’s fashions so objectionable as are those which rule the mode to-day. The women promenading upon Broadway or Fifth Avenue, in New York, or in the shopping districts of any of our other cities, form, to me, at least, a shocking spectacle — a very shocking spectacle, and a very melancholy spectacle. I may be foolishly old-fashioned — I sometimes think that plain morality and common human decency are getting nowadays to be old-fashioned — but to me the fashions of to-day seem incompatible with proper womanly modesty.”

Among the fashions Mrs. Logan finds outrageous are hobble skirts. She is right. This insanity must end. Women, consider yourselves arraigned.

Leave a comment

Written by David

December 10th, 2010 at 10:00 am

Posted in Life

Capt. Bartlett And Harry Whitney To Lead American Expedition To Seek South Pole

From December 11, 1910


CAPT. BARTLETT AND HARRY WHITNEY TO LEAD AMERICAN EXPEDITION TO SEEK SOUTH POLE: First Announcement Through The Times of American Effort to Plant the Stars and Stripes in the Furthest Antarctic by Peary’s Old Captain and the Well-Knocn Arctic Traveler — A Race Against Scott’s English Expedition. (PDF)

I’ll get to the article’s headline in a second. But for me, the real eye-opening part of this article is buried on page two:

“Are penguin nice to eat?”

“They are not,” said Harry Whitney emphatically.

“The meat is course and oily,” added Capt. Bartlett. “But anything counts down there.”

I don’t think I’ve ever wondered what penguins taste like. But apparently it’s a hot topic in certain discussion forums. All 17 species of penguin are protected from hunting, so it’s illegal for you to go kill one and find out. But the consensus among historians is in agreement with Harry Whitney and Captain Bartlett. Penguins aren’t very tasty.

Antarctic explorer Frederick Cook described the taste of penguin in the late 19th century, “If it’s possible to imagine a piece of beef, odiferous cod fish and a canvas-backed duck roasted together in a pot, with blood and cod-liver oil for sauce, the illustration would be complete.” Yum.

Back to the point of the article: Captain Bartlett and Harry Whitney set out to be the first people to reach the South Pole. Spoiler alert! They didn’t make it. The first people to reach the pole were a Norwegian party in December 1911.

Leave a comment

Written by David

December 10th, 2010 at 9:45 am

Posted in Adventure

What New York Artists Pay For A Good Model

From December 11, 1910


WHAT NEW YORK ARTISTS PAY FOR A GOOD MODEL: Rules That Obtain Among Those Who Gain a Livelihood by Posing in Schools and Studios. (PDF)

The answer: 50 cents an hour. Sure, that sounds like a lot of money to just sit still. But consider:

Have you ever tried to sit in one position for twenty-five minutes? Have you ever tried to hold your hand out before you for that length of time? If you have not, then do so at once. When you have had fiteen minutes of it think whether you would care to make a living as a model at 50 cents an hour. Twenty-five-minute periods are the standard ones in the art schools and studios, and the rest of five minutes follows. This lasts for eight hours a day. Being a model, therefore, is no easy task.

If you want to see someone hold still long enough to be sketched, there are some great places in the city where you can attend a sketching event with live models. The Society of Illustrators hosts regular Sketch Nights in their Upper East Side clubhouse with a full bar and live jazz. For a more alternative experience, try Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School, which holds events in several cities worldwide.

Leave a comment

Written by David

December 10th, 2010 at 9:30 am

Posted in Art,Life

Germany Has A Talking Dog

From December 11, 1910


GERMANY HAS A TALKING DOG: Don, the Marvelous Setter with a Vocabulary of Six Words — Scientists Stupefied. (PDF)

These days it seems that everybody has a talking dog. But do any of those dogs speak German? Don the Dog Who Is Either A Setter Or A Pointer did!

Don’s power of speech was revealed when he was 6 months old. It came to light without training or teaching of any kind upon the part of his master. The dog took up his position one day while the Ebers family was sitting at supper and began begging, in familiar dog fashion, with his eyes. “Willst du wohl was haben?” (You want something, don’t you?) asked the game keeper, expecting nothing in reply except the stereotyped, grateful, affirmative look from Don’s soulful eyes. To Herr Eber’s consternation, the dog answered, not with a look, but with unmistakably plain and intelligent speech, “Haben!” (Want.) It was the first time a spoken word have ever escaped his lips.

The article notes that “Skeptics persist in the belief that whatever the dog ‘says’ is at best only articulate growling or barking.” But that surely can’t be the case, because the Times only publishes the news that’s fit to print.

Bonus fun fact: The phrase “Scientists Stupefied” only has three Google search results at the time of this writing (excluding instances where the words appear together but are parts of separate clauses).

Leave a comment

Written by David

December 10th, 2010 at 9:15 am

Posted in Nature,Urban Legend

New York’s Fine New Library Nearly Completed

From December 11, 1910


NEW YORK’S FINE NEW LIBRARY NEARLY COMPLETED: Will Be Ready Before the Contract Time, and Needs Only the Interior Furnishings (PDF)

Because I’ve done so much research for this website in the microforms room of this building at 5th Avenue and 42nd Street, I was especially delighted to come across this article. It’s interesting to see the famous reading room totally empty of furniture.

After ten years of actual construction and an expenditure of upward of $9,000,000, New York’s new public library has been completed.

It is not to be opened for use until May of next year because the furniture has to be installed, and that cannot be done before the middle of April. But the last stroke of the builder’s hammer has already fallen. Bag and baggage, the building himself has been turned out, and at present the mechanical equipment of the structure, such as printing presses, type-setting machines, and book stacks are being installed.

But for the lack of furniture the building could be thrown open in a month.

Before the main branch of the New York Public Library was built, the entire block was occupied by the Croton Reservoir, a tall above-ground reservoir in the middle of the city. People could go for a stroll on top of the surrounding wall. The reservoir was torn down around 1900, and the library was built in its place.

In the article, a representative from the architectural firm which designed the building looks forward to today:

A century hence… the classic perfection herein attained by the artisans of the Hayden ateliers will have rendered this work, then softened with the passing of time, an antique that will be much appreciated.

He was specifically referring to a wood carving inside the building, but the same could have been said of the building itself. Unfortunately, the building has softened a bit too much with the passing of time, and has needed renovation. The interior restoration has already been finished, and the exterior renovation is currently underway. I assume it will be finished in time for the building’s centennial next year.

The main branch of the NYPL (now officially named the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building) was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965.

Leave a comment

Written by David

December 10th, 2010 at 9:00 am

Modern Woman Getting Nearer The Perfect Figure

From December 4, 1910


MODERN WOMAN GETTING NEARER THE PERFECT FIGURE: Dr. Dudley A. Sargent of Harvard Denies that She Is Getting Masculine, But She Is Getting More Sensible. (PDF)

The woman pictured on the top left is Annette Kellermann, an Austrian professional swimmer. She was so renowned for being a “perfectly proportioned woman” that she eventually wrote a book and health plan so that, as her ad says, “you CAN have a figure as perfect as mine!”

Dr. Dudley Allen Sargent, the focus of this article, agrees that she has just about the most ideal figure he has ever studied.

In all seriousness, the doctor isn’t as nutty in his assessment of the ideal figure as I imagined he would be (although his method of examining thousands of bodies in search of the ideal figure must have raised some eyebrows or snickers). His focus is on health, and his advice makes sense. He explains that corsets, which were all the rage, are unhealthy. And he encourages women to do the same kinds of exercise as men.

I couldn’t decide what to excerpt, so I encourage you give the whole article a read.

One comment

Written by David

December 3rd, 2010 at 9:45 am

Inventors Who Take No Profits From Their Work

From December 4, 1910


INVENTORS WHO TAKE NO PROFITS FROM THEIR WORK: Give the Results of their Skill and Study Without Charge for the Good of Mankind, Declining Royalties. (PDF)

Fans and practitioners of open source intellectual property and creative commons licensing can look to these inventors as their predecessors in spirit. Each of them donated their inventions to the public. In fact, if you look at the patent for Logan Waller Page’s new form of concrete, discussed in this article, you will see that it boasts on the first page “DEDICATED TO THE PUBLIC.” In the text it elaborates:

…the invention herein described and claimed may be used by the Government of the United States or any of its officers or employees… or by any person in the United States, without the payment of any royalty thereon.

So why get a patent at all? The article explains:

Patents for the public are becoming more numerous and important each year. It is only within the last few months that the Patent Office has established the official classification of “Dedicated to the Public” in its official gazette of patents, and has attempted to assemble the records of those discoveries and inventions that have been taken out for the benefit of the people of the United States.

These patents are secured to insure the free use of the patented object by the public. If such action were not taken the principle of the invention or discovery might at once be incorporated ins ome other invention and patented by another person, with the result that the benefits intended for the public would go to some private corporation.

*ahem* Speaking of open source inventions, allow me to tell you about one of my own: the Bulbdial Clock. It’s a new kind of clock original envisioned by me, developed by Evil Mad Science Labs, and now available as an open source hardware kit that makes an excellent gift for the holidays.

Leave a comment

Written by David

December 3rd, 2010 at 9:30 am

Amethyst Jones Gives An Account Of His Amours

From December 4, 1910


AMETHYST JONES GIVES AN ACCOUNT OF HIS AMOURS: A Thrilling Story of His Varied Experiences in New York. (PDF)

Amethyst Jones, as far as I can tell, is a fictional character, the invention of author Frederic Pierpont Ladd. In this odd series, which the Magazine published on a regular basis, Ladd recounted the antics in Amethyst Jones’ love life. It reads a bit like a male version of Sex and the City: 1910.

“I was 27 when I first knew Lucie De Lorme. Lucie was a French governess. The business of a governess is to teach. The French possess a particularly facile mode in teaching, as in all other fine arts. From the first moment I knew that Lucie was a superb governess. Her looks, and her manner, were all in her favor.

“We were each of us more or less alone in New York. New York is a city in which one may readily feel the pangs of loneliness. Lucie and I resided in contigous apartments. I was a bachelor and she was a bachelor belle. I shall never forget the occasion of our first meeting. She stood in helpless dismay vainly trying to open the door of her apartment. The key was so bent that it resisted all efforts to open the door.

“Lucie’s pretty blue eyes — she was of the most exquisite French blonde type — were filled with tears. She drew her lissome figure to its full height, and stamped the daintiest foot which the gods ever made, and lifted her face in appeal to me. The heart of Amethyst Jones was touched. I opened that door for her inside of one hour.”

Yeah. I won’t be publishing more of these. But if you’re interested, you can find more of Amethyst Jones’ antics in the Times here.

Leave a comment

Written by David

December 3rd, 2010 at 9:15 am

Posted in Fiction,Life

Watching The Pulse Of New York Tell Its Life Story

From December 4, 1910


WATCHING THE PULSE OF NEW YORK TELL ITS LIFE STORY: Activity in Business and Social Life Shown in the Daily Charts of the Telephone Exchanges. (PDF)

If you’ve ever seen an old-timey movie, you’ve likely seen a sequence where someone picks up the phone and connects with a telephone operator who sits at a giant switchboard and manually connects the call. That’s what this article is about. It describes exactly what’s going on when a phone call is made:

When you take your telephone receiver off its hook, that tiny light already mentioned flashes in front of the girl whom you call “Central” — one of scores, sitting in a long line at the switchboard of your local exchange.

To her question, “Number, please?” you give her, say, a number in your district. She inserts a plug, representing your wire, into a small hole, which represents that of the subscriber whom you are calling, and rings the latter up. Every telephone number in that particular district terminates in a hole, or “jack,” in front of each operator at the exchange switchboard; in other words, the number is repeated at intervals of about six feet all along the switchboard.

If anther operator along the board has already connected the number which you want with some other, the girl who answered your call is warned by a buzz as soon as she inserts the plug in the jack on her board corresponding to the busy wire. Then it is that you hear the familiar phrase, “The line is busy.”

If the subscriber with whom you wish to speak is in another district of the city, the operator who answers your call connects herself, by means of a “trunk” line, with the exchange wanted. She then gives the number you want to an operator at that exchange, who in turn inserts the plug corresponding to the trunk line communicating with your exchange into the jack corresponding to the telephone of the subscriber with whom you wish to speak.

If you call a number on a suburban toll line, the operator answering your call connects herself with a special switchboard, where there is a so-called “recording operator.” After making out a slip for the call, the recording operator then gets the suburban exchange where the person you want is located, and from there the connection with his telephone is made.

If there is a delay you will possibly make disparaging remarks to the girl at your local exchange, who has been innocent of everything to do with the call from the moment when she made connection with the recording operator.

Imagine having to connect phone calls manually. As the article describes, it’s not that bad in the wee hours before dawn, but in moments when everyone needs to place a call at once, things get crazy for the operators. And those times may not be what you think. For example, since there was no other way to get news in real time, people had to make phone calls to find out simple things like the results of a sports game. So call volume increased as games neared their conclusion. Here are a few other times when the switchboards could get crazy:

Election days, although holidays, are among the busiest for the girls in the exchanges. The general interest as to the result causes a great deal of general telephoning. Then, when people desire to know the result of the voting the girls are worked for a while to the limit of their capabilities.

But by far the severest strain that can be put on telephone operators is that caused by excited happenings on the stock market. Every second counts then for those using telephones — subscribers, their nerves stretched to snapping point, are furiously impatient and exacting.

“I have known girls at the switchboards go into hysterics at such times,” declared one of the men in authority at the Cortlandt Exchange.

At the time of this article, New York had twice as many telephones as any other city in the world, at approximately 310,000. There were 12,000 telephone employees, and around 1,250,000 phone calls made per day.

Here are some more interesting stats from the article:

Average time required for an operator to receive a call and repeat it to the called subscriber, 13.5 seconds.

Average time required for the operator to connect with and start ringing the calling subscriber, 13.5 seconds.

Average time required for subscriber to answer the telephone, 10.5 seconds.

Average time required to disconnect the lines after the conversation is completed, 3.8 seconds.

Although automated switchboards have long since replaced manual switchboards, some large buildings such as offices and hotels continued to use manual switchboards well into the second half the of 20th Century.

Leave a comment

Written by David

December 3rd, 2010 at 9:00 am

Posted in Life,Technology