Archive for June, 2010

How To Get Sleep On Hot Summer Nights

From June 26, 1910

HOW TO GET SLEEP ON HOT SUMMER NIGHTS

HOW TO GET SLEEP ON HOT SUMMER NIGHTS: Advice from Well Known Physicians and Specialists Which Will Make the Sizzling Season Easier to Bear (PDF)

What’s a New Yorker to do when the air conditioner breaks down? How on Earth is anyone supposed to get to sleep? Take some tips from 1910, where sleeping in the heat was the norm. Air conditioners didn’t really become common in public spaces for another ten years.

Advice from the article: eat in moderation and avoid alcohol and cigarettes before bed; try to keep a worry-free mind; avoid meat but enjoy fruits and berries. And if your bedroom is too hot, you can always try sleeping in one of the locations pictured: a rooftop, a pier, a park, or a fire escape.

One photo is labeled “an open-air bedroom.” This downtown brownstone takes that concept literally.

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Written by David

June 25th, 2010 at 9:10 am

Posted in Life,Nature

Science Measures The Energy Stored In Various Foods

From June 26, 1910

SCIENCE MEASURES THE ENERGY STORED IN VARIOUS FOODS

SCIENCE MEASURES THE ENERGY STORED IN VARIOUS FOODS: Interesting Results Given from Recent Government Experiments with the Calorimeter (PDF)

We think about calories as just a number on a food container, and it’s easy to forget that a calorie is actually a unit of energy. It’s the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree. So how did they determine how many calories were in food in 1910? The article describes a pretty outrageous experiment:

In making these experiments a man is shut in an apartment that is sealed hermetically and supplied with air, food and drink…

While the man within is reading or writing or attending to the numerous small duties connected with the care of himself, for he must weigh himself, stripped and dressed, twice a day, must note his bodily temperature and keep track of many other conditions connected with the experiment, those on the outside are busy with a long programme of work that must be done regularly every hour of the many days that some of the experiments are under headway. For instance, the thermometer in most of the experiments is read every two minutes, and the reading set down carefully.

The air is removed, measured, and recycled. The subject’s heat emission is measured during work, rest, sleep, reading, etc. All of this is used to measure… something.

At this point the article loses me, because I’m not quite sure how you go from that information to the amount of calories in food. I have an easier time understanding how tests like this could be used to measure calories burned by various activities, and indeed tests like these are used today for that very purpose. But how you go backwards to the food he ate is beyond me.

Slate.com has a pretty good writeup about how we measure calories in food today.

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Written by David

June 25th, 2010 at 9:08 am

Posted in Science

Humors Of Golf As Played At Van Cortlandt Park

From June 26, 1910

HUMORS OF GOLF AS PLAYED AT VAN CORTLANDT PARK

HUMORS OF GOLF AS PLAYED AT VAN CORTLANDT PARK: There Public Links Offer Excellent Opportunities to Study Human Nature — Growing Interest in the Game Shown by Big Increase in Army of Players (PDF)

I’m not a big fan of golf, but I absolutely love the illustrations in this article about people-watching in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. The course opened in 1895, making it the oldest public golf course in America. It’s still in operation, and was recently upgraded. You can get there by subway, so if golf is your thing check it out.

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Written by David

June 25th, 2010 at 9:04 am

Posted in Sports

A Proposed Plan For An Invariable Calendar

From June 26, 1910

A PROPOSED PLAN FOR AN INVARIABLE CALENDAR

A PROPOSED PLAN FOR AN INVARIABLE CALENDAR: Prof. L. A. Grosclaude Offers an Interesting Suggestion to Solve the Troubles of the Present Division of Days (PDF)

By 1910, most of the world had adopted the Gregorian calendar that we use today, although several major nations still had not (including China, Russia, Greece, Turkey, and others). An international meeting was held in London to consider the possibility of a new calendar. It was meant to solve the problem of not easily knowing what day of the week a particular date falls on. Several proposals were put forth:

Prof. Grosclaude proposed that the quarters should be composed of ninety-one days each, as this number is divisible by seven, each quarter being thus composed of thirteen weeks exactly. The two first months of each quarter would have each thirty days and the third one thirty-one. This gives us in all for the year 364 days.

Prof. Grosclaude, however, proposed to intercalate between Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 a day to be called New Year’s Day, and for leap years he would place another day between June 31 and July 1, which he would call “Leap Day.”

Concerning the subdivision of the year into smaller unities various views had been put forward, according to the manner in which the number 364 could be decomposed.

Some had proposed thirteen months of four weeks; others would have preferred fifty-two weeks without reference to months. Prof. Grosclaude proposed, as indicated, four quarters of thirteen weeks each, as he believed that the other suggestions would cause even more inconvenience than those of the old calendar, introducing a “complete disarray of our habits,” and in the former case would necessitate new names for the months and would bring many complications into commercial calculations.

I kind of like Grosclaude’s idea. But it’s weird to think of New Year’s Day and Leap Day as being distinct from days of the week. That is, you wouldn’t say Leap Day falls on a Monday, but rather that it comes between Sunday and Monday.

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Written by David

June 25th, 2010 at 9:02 am

Posted in Development

Famous Prima Donna Champions Woman Suffrage Cause

From June 26, 1910

FAMOUS PRIMA DONNA CHAMPIONS WOMAN SUFFRAGE CAUSE

FAMOUS PRIMA DONNA CHAMPIONS WOMAN SUFFRAGE CAUSE: Madame Lillian Nordica Talks Interestingly of the Movement, Which She Is Giving Her Enthusiastic Support (PDF)

Here we have the story of a famous opera singer, Lillian Nordica, who supports a woman’s right to vote. I found it interesting that this article tries so hard to let the reader know that men have no need to worry about too much change if women are allowed to vote. There is the explicit reassurance that the right to vote won’t make women any less feminine. This is underscored by an intermittent narrative* throughout the article describing Nordica sewing during the interview, as though to say, “See? The suffragette still does womanly things.”

Here is a representative passage:

The end of the long hem of the curtain had been reached. It was examined, laid aside, and a new piece taken up.

“We don’t want to fight husbands and brothers.” A new needle was threaded with the skill born of long experience. “Women will always continue to depend upon their husbands and brothers. There is not the slightest danger that they will become masculine and independent in any unpleasant sense.

“No, the world misunderstands us, purposely, perhaps. We want to help, not to hinder our husbands or brothers — not to fight them. We want to work with them as their equals in arms in the great battles of life.

“Certainly we can be of greater assistance to them by entering intelligently into their lives than by being excluded from them.

“It does not follow that I will exercise every right I am allowed under the law. I have selected a certain work in the world and the granting of the suffrage to women would not cause me to forsake my art, and it is the same with all women. But I don’t want to feel that under the law I am nonentity in the community.”

Meanwhile there had been a number of interruptions, for Mme. Nordica is a housekeeper in fact as well as name, and a dozen questions of detail were brought to her.

“Housekeeping is very well in its way,” said the great singer, after one of these interruptions. “I enjoy it for one. A woman’s home, we are told, is her life. I believe that it is. But the suffrage will not interfere with that, will not cause her to neglect this obvious duty. We will agree that housekeeping is very important, but why should it keep women from going beyond that? The drudgery of housekeeping does not round out the fullest possible life for her.

*I guess you could say her sewing is a running thread.

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Written by David

June 25th, 2010 at 9:00 am

Posted in Politics,Theater

Can You Tell An Ear For Music By Looking At It?

From June 19, 1910

CAN YOU TELL AN EAR FOR MUSIC BY LOOKING AT IT?

CAN YOU TELL AN EAR FOR MUSIC BY LOOKING AT IT? If Dr. J. J. Kinyoun’s Theory Is True the External Ear Dicsloses Whether You Have the Musical Gift or Not (PDF)

For a minute in 2007, the blogosphere was abuzz about a Hungarian plastic surgeon named Dr. Lajos Nagy who claimed that making your ears pointy would allow you to better appreciate music. He said this craze was huge in New York, and would soon be sweeping the globe.

On his website, he explains scientifically why pointed ears are more sensitive to sound:

One of its reasons is rather simple: pointed ears focus sounds in a better way, which, in the case of animals, is supplemented by the fact that they can orientate themselves towards the source of sounds without turning their heads, by moving only their ears.

The other reason is the own frequency of the pinnae, as being solid objects themselves, which changes together with their shape. Pointed ears resonate with sounds at the frequency of around 8 kHz, thus they amplify sharp sounds instead of the intermediate frequencies. This is the reason why, amongst other things, dogs are sensitive to ultrasonic sounds, which are imperceptible for human ears.

Although turning the pinnae still remains impossible for human beings according to its anatomic features, the advantages of pointed ears can be enjoyed once again with the help of a simple, routine operation.

Of course all of this is ridiculous, and it doesn’t take much poking around on his site to realize that it’s a big joke (see this discussion for more information).

If the hoaxter had seen this 1910 article, perhaps his fictional doctor could have marketed his craft differently. This article claims that ear shape determined not your ability to appreciate music, but to be musical yourself. As one doctor quoted in the article says:

“It is commonly thought that persons who have the musical ‘gift’ have a peculiarity of the auditory tract, which distinguishes them from ordinary folk. There seem to be an actual physical quality in the hearing of musicians whereby they differentiate tones with subtlety, and this quality is congenital…

[There is] a peculiar conformation of the external ear in musicians, first observed by Dr. J. J. Kinyoun of Washington, but never published, which is constant and readily perceptible.”

I’d go on to quote the description of the peculiar conformation, but it makes about as much sense as Dr. Nagy’s explanation for his procedure, so I’ll spare you the details. But the conclusions at the end of the article are still worth a look if you want to know how to tell if your own kids are musical by looking at their ears. And if they’re not, I suppose they can always get plastic surgery.

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Written by David

June 18th, 2010 at 9:06 am

Posted in Music,Nature,Science

Pot Shooting In Central Park

From June 19, 1910

POT SHOOTING IN CENTRAL PARK

POT SHOOTING IN CENTRAL PARK: Archer Hazzler, a Crack Rifle Shot, Has the Unique Privilege of Shooting When and Where He Will in the Great Pleasure Ground (PDF)

Wild animals occasionally make their way into Central Park. Just a few months ago, a coyote in the Park seemed to be the talk of the town. In modern times, these animals are taken down by NYPD sharpshooters with tranquilizer guns. But back in 1910, there was one man whose full time job was hunting animals in New York City’s parks. His name was Archer Hazzler. He had a license to kill.

Hazzler’s method of hunting is very simple. He keeps a small boat ready to be launched on the lakes and, rifle in hand, gently paddles along the shores. These expeditions are usually undertaken early in the mornings before the public is astir.

Early risers in the great buildings facing the Park have doubtless heard the persistent crack, crack of a rifle near by and wondered at it. Hazzler thinks nothing of coming in from such a hunting trip with a bag of fifty or more rats…

The Park sharpshooter must, of course, be extremely cautious in his hunting not to interfere with the safety of the general public. So well has he done his work that there has never been an accident, never a stray shot for all the thousands of birds and animals he has brought in.

He avoids the more frequented sections of the Park, and especially the walks or drives. For this reason very few people of the millions who constantly visit the parks have ever caught a glimpse of him.

But some day if you chance upon a wiry, alert little man wearing a rough rider hat with a faded gilt cord and carrying a polished rifle in his hand you will know that it is he.

Animal hunting is not allowed in Central Park today, but here’s a short list of things you can hunt for: bugs, mushrooms, and treasure.

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Written by David

June 18th, 2010 at 9:04 am

Posted in Adventure,Nature

No Centenarian Living, Says Dr. Woods Hutchinson

From June 19, 1910

NO CENTENARIAN LIVING, SAYS DR. WOODS HUTCHINSON

“NO CENTENARIAN LIVING,” SAYS DR. WOODS HUTCHINSON: And Probably Only Three Ever Lived to be Over 100 Years of Age He Concludes After Studying the Question of Centenarianism (PDF)

Life expectancy is longer than it’s ever been, and there were already hundreds of people claiming to be more than 100 years old in 1910. But Dr. Woods Hutchinson investigated and decided they were all wrong:

“I don’t mean that such men and women are wilful liars. I believe they are mistaken. Many of them don’t know when they were born. Many of them become almost feeble-minded and believe they are a great deal older than they are.

“Oftentimes a person who does not know his age is told at 60 that he looks to be 80, and ever afterward computes his age from that basis. If he lives to be 82 he is declared to have lived to be 102. If he lives to be 90 he is said to have lived to be 110.”

But, the article notes, if Dr. Hutchinson is right, “this means almost all of the rest of the world is wrong”:

Germany, a year or two ago, with a population of 33,600,000, claimed 78 centenarians; France, 213; England, 145; Scotland, 46; Denmark, 2; Belgium, 3; Sweden, 10; Norway, 23; Spain, 410, while the Balkan States outdid the world with a claim of one centenarian to each 100 of population.

For me, the most surprising thing in this article was the revelation that in 1910 elephants were believed to live to 300 years old. According to a recent Discovery Channel article, the median lifespan of African elephants in the wild is actually 56 years.

Dr. Hutchinson, incidentally, died in 1930 at just 68 years old.

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Written by David

June 18th, 2010 at 9:02 am

Posted in Nature,Science

A Morning Walk And Talk With Mayor Gaynor

From June 19, 1910

A MORNING WALK AND TALK WITH MAYOR GAYNOR

A MORNING WALK AND TALK WITH MAYOR GAYNOR: Every Day the City’s Chief Executive Goes from His Home to His Office Afoot — A Vigorous Advocate of Fresh Air and Exercise (PDF)

William Jay Gaynor served as mayor of New York City from 1910 – 1913, and walked to CIty Hall from his home in Park Slope every day, enjoying the view of the city as he crossed the Brooklyn Bridge and planned out his day in his head. This brings to mind the present mayor Michael Bloomberg, who famously takes the subway to work every day. Or does he?

Three years ago, the New York Times stalked Bloomberg for five weeks and discovered that while he does take the subway, he first takes a car from his Upper East Side home to a subway station a mile away, passing two subway stops in between. And he actually took the car the entire way to City Hall for all but two days per week.

I can’t help but wonder how often Mayor Gaynor took a hansom cab to the Bridge and walked the rest of the way.

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Written by David

June 18th, 2010 at 9:00 am

Posted in Politics

The Hobble Is The Latest Freak In Woman’s Fashions

From June 12, 1910

THE HOBBLE IS THE LATEST FREAK IN WOMANS FASHIONS

“THE HOBBLE” IS THE LATEST FREAK IN WOMAN’S FASHIONS: “Skirts Are So Tight Around the Ankle That Locomotion Is Seriously Impeded and Speed Is Impossible (PDF)

The headline and illustrations sum up the article pretty well, but my favorite part is the caption of the bottommost image. It reads, “These Are Not Exaggerated at All. The Skirts Really Look Like This.”

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Written by David

June 11th, 2010 at 9:16 am

Posted in Life