Archive for May, 2010

Running Trains On One Rail

From May 29, 1910



Aw, it’s not for you. It’s more of a Shelbyville idea.

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Written by David

May 28th, 2010 at 9:05 am

How To Kill Germs With Violet Rays

From May 29, 1910


HOW TO KILL GERMS WITH VIOLET RAYS: Dr. Frederick G. Keyes Tells of the Important Results of Experiments With Milk Made in the Laboratory of Brown University (PDF)

This article is about removing germs from milk using ultraviolet radiation. That doesn’t sound very exciting on the face of it. Since I couldn’t decide whether or not milk germ eradication is a topic worth posting about, I did a little investigating. When I eventually found myself browsing through a 1917 book called City Milk Supply I decided that I didn’t want all my research going to waste. So here you have this fascinating post about milk, germs, and radiation.

In a nutshell, the main scientist in this article says:

“The pasteurization of milk has been followed by great improvement in conditions, but there is objection to the Pasteur treatment method, because it is claimed that the taste of the milk is changed. The effect of the ultra-violet rays on milk is different, and although it kills all the harmful germs the taste of the milk is not changed.

“So far as I have been able to determine the only noticeable change is that the milk in its new method loses its animate or ‘cowy’ odor, something that will not, in my opinion, cause people to object.”

But this other scientist says:

“It will destroy the micro-organisms without doubt. That has been positively proved. But what chemical changes would take place in the milk we have not yet entirely determined. This is to be found out only by lengthy experiments. There may be such a change brought about by the using of the violet rays that the milk would not be suitable for use. It might develop a disagreeable smell or taste, which would render it impossible to use. These are matters yet to be determined.”

And seven years later, here’s what the book City Milk Supply had to say on page 308 after further research:

When milk was exposed under conditions suitable for a satisfactory reduction of the bacteria by the ultraviolet rays there was also produced an abnormal disagreeable flavor that would render the milk unsaleable… On a commercial scale it would be difficult to control the factors which influence the bactericidal action of the rays and moreover the disagreeable flavor imparted to the milk renders the process impracticable.

So there you go.


Written by David

May 28th, 2010 at 9:04 am

Posted in Science

Peripatetic Philosophers Of This Many-Sided Town

From May 29, 1910


PERIPATETIC PHILOSOPHERS OF THIS MANY SIDED TOWN: Neighborhoods Where the Curbstone Lecturer Holds Sway and an Ancient Athenian Would Feel at Home in a Moment (PDF)

We don’t have streetcorner conversations like this in modern New York. Every now and then someone holds court on the street, but it’s usually to talk about Jesus. Blogs and Twitter seem to fill that niche today. But I like the notion that you could discuss different topics in different parts of town with whomever the local streetcorner philosopher was.

Oh, and to save you the trouble in case you didn’t know either:

per•i•pa•tet•ic |ˌperipəˈtetik| adjective.
1 traveling from place to place, esp. working or based in various places for relatively short periods : the peripatetic nature of military life.
2 ( Peripatetic) Aristotelian. [ORIGIN: with reference to Aristotle’s practice of walking to and fro while teaching.]

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Written by David

May 28th, 2010 at 9:03 am

Posted in Life

Is The Modern Woman More Beautiful Than The Girl Of Ages Ago?

From May 29, 1910



The headline doesn’t reveal that the question has been posed to just two people for this article: the French sculptor Auguste Rodin (whose sculpture The Thinker is still famous today) and the American sculptor Gutzon Borglum (whose much larger work at Mount Rushmore wouldn’t begin for another 15 years). They discuss modern, historical, and ethnic beauty from an artist’s perspective, including how a woman’s beauty changes as she gets older.

Here is part of what Rodin had to say:

“I would not say that a woman is like a landscape that the sun’s inclination changes ceaselessly; but the comparison is correct. Real youth with our models lasts scarcely more than six months. When the girl becomes a woman it is another sort of beauty, still admirable but nevertheless less pure.”

And part of Borglum’s retort:

“I do not see exactly what Rodin means,” he said, “when he talks about the beauty of the woman being less pure than that of the girl. Of course he cannot mean that a mother is any less pure than a young girl, and if he is talking about it from an aesthetic point of view the question arises, ‘What is beauty, anyway?’

“Nobody can pass on that. it is exactly as he says — in the eyes of the beholder. You see a landscape. I ask you if you like it. You say ‘Not much, it is too dull and gray.’ Then I paint it and you rave over it. The beauty was always there, but it needed my interpretation to make you see it. That is what being an artist means, seeing things that the general run of people cannot see, and interpreting for them. So it is out of the question for any of us to say that a woman is more beautiful at one time than at another. It all depends on the interpretation.”

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Written by David

May 28th, 2010 at 9:02 am

Posted in Art,Life

One Family Homes To Solve New York’s Congestion

From May 29, 1910


ONE FAMILY HOMES TO SOLVE NEW YORK’S CONGESTION: Committee Seeking to Relieve Overcrowding Lays Plans Against Estimated Population of 19,000,000 in 1950 — Individual Homes the Keynote (PDF)

The article begins with the proclamation that “a prominent engineer and statistician recently estimated that by the year 1950 New York City’s population would exceed 19,000,000!”

It goes on to explain that businesses will displace residences in Manhattan, which will see a population decrease, but Queens and Brooklyn will blow up to 6,000,000 and 7,000,000 residents respectively. “How closely these figures will come to being correct only time will show, but the indications are that the estimate will not prove wild.”

Well, let’s see what time does show.

According to historic census data, the population of New York City in 1910 when this article was written was 4,766,883. Approximately half those people lived in Manhattan.

In 1950, the population of New York City was not 19 million, but 7,891,957. So that estimate was way off. But the projection that other boroughs would gain more residents than Manhattan was correct. In 1950, Brooklyn had almost a million more residents than Manhattan. And both Queens and The Bronx were quickly catching up.

Today, both Brooklyn and Queens have higher populations than Manhattan. The Bronx is not far behind. But the city’s entire population is still nowhere near 19 million. Growth has slowed down considerably, and in 2008 there were 8,363,710 people living in New York City.


Written by David

May 28th, 2010 at 9:01 am

Posted in Development

Torpedo Airship Controlled By Wireless Is The Latest Invention

From May 22, 1910


TORPEDO AIRSHIP CONTROLLED BY WIRELESS IS THE LATEST INVENTION: Thomas R. Phillips, Who Made It, Claims to Control a Dirigible Balloon Loaded with Bombs Without Leaving His Office. (PDF)

Today the military uses Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles to remotely bomb foreign targets. This must be the UCAV’s great grandfather.

“I can,” says Mr. Phillips, “sit in an armchair in London and make my airship drop a bunch of flowers into a friend’s garden in Manchester or Paris or Berlin.”

But it is not for the dropping of flowers that he intends his invention. It is for the dropping of dynamite bombs.

[At the London Hippodrome, Phillips demonstrated with] a twenty-foot model of a Zeppelin dirigible. In itself the thing looked harmless enough… It looked like a toy balloon at the mercy of any gust of wind — purposeless, slow, and unwieldy.

And then suddenly — Cr-r-rack! Mr. Raymond Phillips had touched a lever, and the airship sprang into life. Nothing had touched it — nothing, that is, that could be seen by the eye of any human being — and yet at that touch and at the sound of the compelling “Cr-r-rack!” the airship model awoke and became a purposeful thing.

“Crack, crack!” again and again. Running his fingers from one key to another he stopped it dead, turned it about, made it rise and fall, made it turn figures of eight in the air, and finally stopped it again, motionless in the air, forty feet above the orchestra stalls.

“Now,” said he, “just imagine that row of seats is a row of houses, and that instead of a model, with paper toys in its hold, I am controlling a full-sized airship carrying a cargo of dynamite bombs. Watch!”

He pressed another key. There was a faint click from the framework of the airship, and the bottom of the box that hung amidships fell like a trapdoor, releasing not bombs, but a flight of paper birds that fluttered gracefully down on the seats beneath.

The whole article is very interesting. But for the life of me I cannot figure out what any of it has to do with that woman in the middle photo who has antennae attached to her back. It’s hard to see, but I think the caption says “A Dress Lighted by Wireless.” I have no idea.

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Written by David

May 21st, 2010 at 9:03 am

Jewelry Stores Are Magnets For Thieves

From May 22, 1910


JEWELRY STORES ARE MAGNETS FOR THIEVES: Ruses Resorted to by Various Kinds of Crooks to Steal Precious Stones and Other Valuables and Escape Arrest (PDF)

This article describes the categories of criminals who steal from jewelry stores. Employees who steal are obviously called “inside” thieves. Then you have “kleptos,” which are customers who steal for no apparent reason (kleptos are sometimes even long-time customers who certainly have the means to buy what they take). And then there are the professional thieves, the “sneaks”:

The “sneaks” generally travel in a party of three or more, enter a store as strangers to one another, and by a pre-arranged plan succeed in getting as many of the clerks as possible engaged in conversation at some point furthest away from where the diamonds and other valuable articles are located. Then the light-footed and deft-fingered member gets into action, makes connection with the wallet, tray of diamond rings, or the safe — frequently left unlocked during the day — secures the booty, and is off like a shot.

As a rule “sneaks” are well dressed — many of them them are so well groomed that they might be in a respectable line of business, and some even appear to the manner born. Therefore it behooves every jeweler to be on the qui vive.”

Read the article to learn about “pennyweighters,” and “yeggmen,” and scams like the half-eaten apple scheme (“an old one, but even now worked successfully in the smaller cities and towns”).

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Written by David

May 21st, 2010 at 9:02 am

Posted in True Crime

Circus Clown A Serious Person Out Of The Ring

From May 15, 1910


CIRCUS CLOWN A SERIOUS PERSON OUT OF THE RING: Yet People Refuse to Believe He Is Anything But a Buffoon Even in His Private Life (PDF)

The same week the Magazine published a boring article about what the Supreme Court Justices are really like out of the courtroom, it made up for it with this awesome article about what circus clowns are really like out of the ring. The highlight is this interview with a then-famous clown named Slivers:

“It’s funny,” said Slivers, his eyes resting thoughtfully on his circus feet: “it’s funny how people can’t understand that we clowns are fellow-human animals with just about the same outfit of feelings that the rest of ’em have. I suppose it’s because people have become so accustomed to seeing the clown always getting the worst end of it in the circus ring that they’ve come to think that he’s built to stand the same kind of a hand-out all along the line.

“Do you see that?” asked Slivers, pointing to a long white scar just below his right eyebrow.

“Now, you’d never guess how I picked that up. It’s a little souvenir of my last appearance in Chicago. I was just entering the ring when a young hopeful out with his dad for an afternoon’s amusement shied an old can at me. The ragged edges of the tin caught me. As I mopped the blood out of my eye I was comforted by this conversation:

“‘Say, Pa, did you see me hit that clown?’

“‘Yes, son.’

“‘It was a corking shot, wasn’t it, Pa?’

“‘It was, my son.’

“I couldn’t miss my cue to get busy in the ring. Otherwise that young hopeful’s trousers would have needed patching.”

The article is funny, quaint, and sad. But the story of Slivers the Clown was about to turn creepy and tragic.

Three years after this article (in 1913), Slivers — a.k.a. Frank Oakley — played a vaudeville show in Utica on the same bill as a pretty blonde 16 year old girl named Viola Stoll. Viola was sad one day because she lost her job, so Slivers, in his mid-40s, offered her a ticket to New York where she could get back on her feet. There they became friends and eventually she moved in with him.

At some point Viola got sick of living with an older man and ran away, taking some expensive jewelry with her that had belonged to Slivers’ deceased ex-wife (she later said she thought the jewelry was a gift). The police tracked her down, arrested her, and she was sentenced to three years in a reformatory.

Two and a half years later, Slivers happened to run into Viola’s mother in Chicago, and found out that Viola is doing much better now. So Slivers’ thoughts oddly turned to marriage. If Viola were to marry him, she would be let out of her sentence early, so why on Earth would she say no? He went to the reformatory, and told the superintendent Mrs. Moore that he wanted to marry Viola.

But, as the New York Times reported later:

Viola Stoll had come to look at things in a new light. She had had enough of the stage, she said; she wanted some quiet place to settle down. She was looking for a home, and partnership with a traveling clown didn’t appeal to her. Moreover, she had forgotten the man who had paid her railroad fare to New York when she was stranded in Utica, and remembered only the man thirty years older than herself who had taken her into an irregular household, and had finally accused her of stealing jewels that she had regarded as a gift. So she said she wouldn’t marry [him] under any circumstances; that she would serve her term, and she begged Mrs. Moore not to let the clown know of her whereabouts after she left the reformatory.

Mrs. Moore sent the message to Slivers, but before the letter arrived, Slivers the Clown had already committed suicide. Presumably, Viola’s rejection had reached him another way.

You can read the 1916 Times article about Slivers’ death here (pdf). And a much more detailed account can be found at comedy-film historian Anthony Balducci’s blog. There you can read the details that make the story even stranger, like the fact that Slivers’ comedy partner Marceline also committed suicide. I think it’s the only known clown team double suicide.


Written by David

May 14th, 2010 at 9:13 am

Being Fat Is Like Having Money In The Bank

From May 15, 1910


BEING FAT IS LIKE HAVING MONEY IN THE BANK: At Last a Physician Rises Up and Seriously Defends Surplus Flesh; Which Should Comfort Thousands (PDF)

In 1910, thin was already in for both health and fashion. But Dr. George Niles has some really practical reasons why it might be good to be fat:

Suppose a ship went down in midocean and a few of the passengers and crew got off on a raft. Suppose on one of the rafters was a man of about 40 per cent fatty matter — the kind that has not seen his shoelaces for ever and ever so long — according to Niles’s theory he would outlive the whole crew, granting of course (which the doctor does not) that the raft does not ground on a cannibal island or the crew draw lots with stacked chips…

Dr. Niles explains it thus: “Fat is like a housewife who, though not apparently earning anything, by her care and industry conserves the fruits of her husband’s labor, enabling him not only to support the domestic establishment, but also lay aside a surplus.”

Furthermore, the doctor “also asserts in so many words that to be fat is to be genial in disposition and optimistic in temperament, while to be thin is to be restless, pessimistic, uncontented and temperamentally dissatisfied with life in general.” Therefore, he adds, “grow fat and rejoice in your fatness.”

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Written by David

May 14th, 2010 at 9:10 am

Posted in Life,Nature,Science

The Subway Crush Causes Mental Strain

From May 15, 1910



This could just as easily have been written today.

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Written by David

May 14th, 2010 at 9:07 am

Posted in Life