Archive for March, 2010

How New York’s Census Will Be Taken

From March 27, 1910


HOW NEW YORK’S CENSUS WILL BE TAKEN: Albert Falck Tells of His Task of Taking the Census in Biggest City in America (PDF)

Oh, you census takers in 2010. You have it so easy. Back in 1910, you had to go door to door asking people to fill out 30 questions, and you earned 2½ cents for each completed census. You might make 4 or 5 dollars in a day.

But once you turned in the census forms, that’s when the cool part happened. They didn’t have computers as we know them today, but they did have machines that helped tabulate the answers. From the article:

This year the work will be greatly facilitated by a very remarkable machine. It is expected that this machine will not only reduce very greatly the amount of labor required in the classification of 20,000,000 people, but it will reduce the costs so materially that the present census will not cost more than that of ten years ago, when there were not so many people to count.

Mechanical devices have been in use in the Census Office ever since 1870, but the new machine will cause almost a revolution in the methods of work. It is built on the plan of a typewriter with 240 keys. The operator, with a schedule before him, depresses the desired keys and the holes are punched by electric power in cards in the proper places. One such machine controled by a clerk can punch holes in 3,000 cards a day. There are 300 of the machines in the Census Office at Washington, all oiled up and ready to work, and the 90,000,000 cards to be punched have been ordered.

After the cards are punched they are fed into an electric tabulating machine with a “pin box” attachment which permits the required pins to pass through the holes in the cards, establishing in this way an electric circuit and resulting in the tabulation of the items on counters which register their results in printing on spooled paper somewhat like a stock ticker. One hundred of these machines will be used. After comparisons to prove accuracy the schedules will be put away to be preserved in the vaults of the Census Bureau. These cards do not contain the names of the persons to whom they refer and therefore all personal identity is eliminated.

Check out the pdf for more details. As a bonus, the pdf also includes an irrelevant sidebar column about how awful puns are, and the best way to deal with a person who insists on using them.


Written by David

March 26th, 2010 at 9:03 am

Posted in Life,Technology

New Facts On The Increased Cost Of Living

From March 27, 1910



I think it’s interesting to see how much things cost 100 years ago compared to today. In this case, the article compares the costs of foodstuffs in New York with London, so we get yet another data point. For example, a pound of apples cost between 4 and 6 cents in London 100 years ago, but it cost a whopping 10 cents in New York.

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Written by David

March 26th, 2010 at 9:01 am

Posted in Life

The College Chorus “Girl”

From March 20, 1910

The College Chorus Girl

The College Chorus “Girl”: How a Young Athlete Is Able to Carry Off a Clever Female Impersonation (PDF)

On the surface, this seems to just be a silly article about a student who is dressing up as a woman for a play:

The first picture shows a husky young college student entering his dressing room before a Cornell Masque. This broad-shouldered, athletic young man proposes to make himself into a captivating sample of the fair sex. A glance at the last picture, in which the college student is completely transformed into a ravishing “chorine,” will show how cleverly and thoroughly the transformation has been effected.

The last paragraph identifies this person as “J. Sloat Fassett, Jr., of Cornell ’12, who plays the leading part in a musical comedy which is to begin at the Waldorf-Astoria on April 1, and in which all the character, mostly ‘ladies,’ are played by made-up students.”

But what I find most interesting of all is a bit of information that is nowhere to be found in this article. This guy’s father — at the time this article was written — was serving his third term as a Congressman in the United States House of Representatives. He did not win reelection to a fourth term.

As for J. Sloat Fassett, Jr., he went on to a career as an actor under the name Jay Fassett. He has a handful of IMDb credits and several Broadway credits. In 1947, he appeared in a play called Command Decision, which was covered by Life Magazine, including a more recent photo of Jay Fassett.

Various buildings and even a town were named after members of the Fassett family. Jay Fassett died in 1973.

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Written by David

March 19th, 2010 at 9:02 am

Posted in Politics,Theater

Moving Pictures Sound Melodrama’s Knell

From March 20, 1910


MOVING PICTURES SOUND MELODRAMA’S KNELL: Tricks of Films Explained and Method of Making Told by Those On the Inside (PDF)

Movies were still relatively new technology in 1910, but filmmakers were already figuring out how to do special effects. This article exposes some of the secrets of “film tricks,” but also talks about how the profession of acting was changing as a result of this new technology. For centuries, acting meant being on stage before a live audience. But not anymore. It reminds me of what publishers are going through now, as eReaders and digital newspapers threaten to make printed paper obsolete. New technology requires new skills, and new ways of thinking. Some actors saw film as an opportunity, while others saw it as the end of their careers.

From the article:

In every town in the United States there are moving picture shows that give excellent entertainment every night of the week, with two matinée days thrown in. The performances projected on the screen are the same as those which please audiences in the New York houses where third-rate melodrama artistes feared to tread. There are thrillers galore, with pistol shots, piano accompaniment, and all the effects to make the dumb show more real — and all for a nickel, or “one dime, ladies and gentlemen and little children! Two nickels! The tench part of a dollar! Amusing, instructing, and entertaining alike to man, woman, and child! Why pay more and see worse?”

Why, indeed? The old melodramatic companies put on a more or less crude performance with the aid of more or less crude scenic effects — such as the “op’ry house” or town hall happens to boast. The dramatic show comes to town twice or four times a year and charges up to 30 cents. The picture shows, running all the time, allow selection and leisure in attendance. The village moving picture theatregoer can choose from a trip through Switzerland or the streets of Cairo… Why pay 30 cents to see a rehash of an ancient theme by an obsolete troupe of archaic players when for 10 cents [you can see] a play by Shakespeare with all the appearances and vanishings of Banquo’s ghost, or Puck effectively wrought by the film art?

The times they were a-changing.

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Written by David

March 19th, 2010 at 9:01 am