Archive for November, 2010

The Woman, The Banana Peel And The Damage Suits

From November 27, 1910

THE WOMAN, THE BANANA PEEL AND THE DAMAGE SUITS

THE WOMAN, THE BANANA PEEL AND THE DAMAGE SUITS: Mrs. Anna H. Sturla, Who Has Mad a High Record for Accident Cases, Will Have to Prove to the Court She Hasn’t Been Faking. (PDF)

Here we have a detailed accounting of each instance in which Anna H. Sturla reached a monetary settlement after a slip-and-fall “accident.” There were so many instances, it looks like greed got the best of her as she pulled this scam over and over until she was eventually caught.

I love how the article pits Sturla against her mighty foe, banana peels:

She was in the ladies’ cabin [of a ferryboat], she said, when a banana peel, that old bête noir of hers, again tricked her and caused her to fall on the floor.

She maintained that her mishap was due to a small paper bag, from one corner of which protruded the fatal banana peel…

The company paid her $150.

Not six months went by after that before Mrs. Sturla was once more in trouble with these arch-foes of hers, banana peels. One of these slippery gentry, according to her, was soon all ready for her on a boat of the Union Ferry Company, proceeding to the foot of Futon Street, Brooklyn. As the boat was entering the slip the miserable peel saw its chance, got under one of Mrs. Sturla’s feet, and caused her to fall to the deck.

She got $200…

Fifteen days later — March 19, 1908 — she again came to the fore with a claim for injuries in an accident. This time the culprit, she averred, was the Lehigh Valley Railroad. According to her story, she was riding one of its trains, bound for Buffalo, when she slipped on something (she gave those lurking enemies of hers, bananas, the benefit of the doubt) and fell forward. After being helped to her feet by a male passenger she saw him, she said, pick up some — banana peels!

Yes, there they were, ever vigilant, ever on the alert to trip her…

It might be assumed that by this time those grim old foes of hers, banana peels — that Yellow Peril of her life! — would have decided to rest on their laurels and persecute her no more.

Far from it!

One of them, according to her, was in her path on May 19th, 1908 — only eight days after her Fort Lee Ferry mishap — while she was shopping in the store of R. H. Macy & Co. It threw her, as usual. She was taken to the Herald Square Hotel, close by, and stayed there a couple of days. The owners of the store settled with her for $150.

Banana peels, of course, are also the scourge of many cartoon characters and vaudeville performers.
Do kids today even know that banana peels are hilarious?

I always thought banana peels were used as props to slip on in old comedy routines because they were cheap and easily obtained. But it turns out that banana peels on the sidewalk were a real problem at the turn of the last century.

Today, slip and fall insurance scams are frequently caught on video, so don’t even think about it.

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Written by David

November 26th, 2010 at 9:30 am

Posted in Humor,True Crime

A Little Island Near New York Peopled With Babies

From November 27, 1910

A LITTLE ISLAND NEAR NEW YORK PEOPLED WITH BABIES

A LITTLE ISLAND NEAR NEW YORK PEOPLED WITH BABIES: Taken from Incoming Steamers Suffering from Measles, Scarlet Fever and Other Ills, They Are Cared for on Hoffman Island Till They Get Well. (PDF)

My imagination got the best of me when I read the headline. I pictured an isolated civilization run by babies. Baby shopkeepers, baby baristas, baby firemen, and baby butlers.

But no. It turns out to be much less hilarious than that. The island in question is called Hoffman Island, a manmade piece of land located just off Staten Island. 100 years ago it was used as quarantine for sick children who came into Ellis Island as immigrants.

During World War II it was used as a marine training center, and after the war plans were considered to turn the island into a park. That never happened.

Today the buildings are long gone, and Hoffman Island is off limits in order to protect wildlife. But a few years ago a local triathlete swam the mile to the island with some friends who joined him in kayaks. He gives a full account on his blog, and links to a gallery of photos they took.

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Written by David

November 26th, 2010 at 9:15 am

Posted in Adventure,Life,Science

Mottoes That Have Guided Prominent Men To Success

From November 27, 1910

MOTTOES THAT HAVE GUIDED PROMINENT MEN TO SUCCESS

MOTTOES THAT HAVE GUIDED PROMINENT MEN TO SUCCESS: “Never Complain, Never Explain” Is President Taft’s Favorite — Rules of Life of Carnegie, Bishop Greer, W. C. Brown, and Others (PDF)

Mottoes from the article:

“The American people like to be humbugged.” – P. T. Barnum

“Don’t keep a rag-bag.” – A. T. Stewart

“Never write letters.” – Martin Van Buren

“Fair play and half the road.” – “Uncle” David Gray

“Never complain, never explain.” – William H. Taft

“If you want business, you’ve got to go after it.” – John W. Gates

“The highest product possible at the smallest cost of manufacture.” – Andrew Carnegie

“Perfect organization will accomplish all things.” – James Stillman

“Know the people, know the country, know the markets.” – W. C. Brown

“If you first find out what the people want and then give them what they want at a price they will pay, the people will do the rest.” – Frank A. Munsey

Admittedly, some of those make more sense in the context provided in the article, so if you’re wondering what the heck a rag-bag is, give it a read.

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Written by David

November 26th, 2010 at 9:00 am

Posted in Business,Life

Seeking The Explanation Of Reese’s “Mind Reading”

From November 20, 1910

SEEKING THE EXPLANATION OF REESES MIND READING

SEEKING THE EXPLANATION OF REESE’S “MIND READING”: Committee of Scientists Will Make Special Tests of His Powers — How Somewhat Similar Performances Are Done. (PDF)

Last week, the Sunday Magazine ran an article on W. Bert Reese, the amazing wizard whose powers astound scientists. There was debate even among those who should know better (*ahem* Thomas Edison) over whether Reese actually could do what he seemed to do. Harry Houdini said later that he detected Reese’s psychic tricks at a séance, and caught him “cold blooded.”

This week, the Magazine takes a stab at explaining how Reese does his mind reading trick. At the very least, they reveal how similar tricks are done, so give it a read and learn to amaze your friends.

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Written by David

November 19th, 2010 at 10:30 am

Posted in Entertainment

The Gibson Girl Analyzed By Her Originator

From November 20, 1910

THE GIBSON GIRL ANALYZED BY HER ORIGINATOR

THE GIBSON GIRL ANALYZED BY HER ORIGINATOR: Artist Whose Delineation of the Young American Woman Made Him Famous Tells How the Type Came Into Existence and What Her Mission Is. (PDF)

Charles Dana Gibson was an illustrator whose depiction of women came to represent the archetype of a beautiful American woman at the turn of the last century. She was dubbed the Gibson Girl. A Google Image Search for the term will show you several examples.

In this article, the artist reluctantly answers questions about the Gibson Girl at the insistence of the reporter, and explains that to him, the “Gibson Girl” does not really exist. Rather, there are just beautiful girls who exist as a product of evolution and the melting pot of races in America:

“Will you make a head for me?” I asked. “A Gibson Girl’s head, please!”

He tried it, but in a moment stopped work on it.

“I give up,” said he. “I never could work that way. I always am astounded, and perhaps a little envious, when I see chaps, at a dinner, for example, scratching pretty heads off on menu cards while they are talking. I can’t do it. I must work carefully and slowly and from models.”

“Then the stories of the models,” I said eagerly, “the models for the Gibson girl, are–”

He sighed wearily. “Please don’t,” he said. “The ‘Gibson Girl’ does not exist. She has been as the grains of sand in number. I imagine that folks must recognize ‘United States’ in her, and that it’s that which makes them think she’s all, or nearly all, the same. She isn’t really.”

His mind turned to [another topic, which he began to speak about for a bit.]

We dropped this line of conversation for a moment and went back to talking of the “Gibson Girl.” This was not because he wished it; it was because I forced it. A passing bell-hop saw him looking bored and glanced at me resentfully. Gibson is the sort of chap who quickly makes all creatures, even bell-hops, fall in worship.

“If there really is no ‘Gibson Girl,'” (the thing was in my head and bothered me) “how did the name originate?”

“The first time the name was used was in a story which The Century gave me to illustrate. It dealt with a certain type of girl, and in the manuscript, when it came to me, this type was called, I think, the ‘Goodrich Girl.’ I noticed that the word was written over an erasure in the manuscript wherever it occurred, but that did not impress me. Later, when — that ‘Gibson’ took the place of ‘Goodrich’ on the printed page — I saw what had been really done, I blushed. I have been blushing ever since. Let’s drop the ‘Gibson Girl.’ I don’t want to feel uncomfortable tonight.

“I haven’t really created a distinctive type,” he went on, more comfortably, having recovered from his embarrassment, “the nation made the type. What Zangwill calls the ‘Melting Pot of Races’ has resulted in a certain character; why should it not also have turned out a certain type of face? If I have done anything it has been to put on paper some fair examples of that type with very great, with minute, care. There isn’t any ‘Gibson Girl,’ but there are many thousands of American girls, and for that let us all thank God.

“They are beyond question the loveliest of all their sex. Evolution has selected the best things for preservation as the man and woman have climbed up from the monkey. In the body, as it always is in battle, it has been the fittest which has survived. Men are stronger, braver than the savages from which they sprang. Why should they not be handsomer? Why should women not be beautiful increasingly? Why should it not be the fittest in the form and features, as well as in the mind and muscle, which survives? And where should that fittest be in evidence most strikingly? In the United States, of course, where natural selection has been going on, as elsewhere, and where, much more than elsewhere, that has been a great variety to choose from. The eventual American woman will be even more beautiful than the woman of to-day. Her claims to that distinction will result from a fine combination of the best points of all those many races which have helped to make our population.

Later in the article, Gibson laments that there is no good place to exhibit illustration in New York:

“Americans are doing really big things with brush and pencil. Yes; let the eagle scream! I think they lead the world as illustrators. But–”

Indignation crept into the face of the big artist.

“Well, what is the ‘but’?”

“There is an exhibition of the really good work of American illustrators now traveling about the country. It is in Pittsburg now, and later on will be shown in most of the important cities, all the way to San Francisco. Everybody ought to go to see it; but — I was disgusted when I found that there is not a place in New York City provided for such things. The work is of a character superior to any I have ever seen exhibited in any country; but New York stands a chance of losing opportunity to look at it. Such things make me very weary. I’m trying, now, to find a place where the pictures may be shown, when they get back from San Francisco…”

Charles Dana Gibson did help set up a place in New York for illustrators to show their work, at the Society of Illustrators. He was a founding member and one of the first Presidents of the organization. Their earliest meetings were attended by Howard Pyle, Maxfield Parish, N.C. Wyeth, Charles Dana Gibson, Frederic Remington, James Montgomery Flagg, Howard Chandler Christy and guests such as Mark Twain and Andrew Carnegie.

The Society still exists and they occupy the same old carriage house they’ve been in since 1939. A sort of clubhouse for illustrators, the Society holds sketching events upstairs where they have a full bar and dining area. And they have a gallery downstairs that rotates exhibits featuring prominent and emerging illustrators.

And the Society of Illustrators has a special prominence in my life, as I got married there a few years ago, surrounded by great artwork by the artists named above and others. I suppose in a way my wife is my Gibson Girl.

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Written by David

November 19th, 2010 at 10:15 am

Posted in Art

The Secret Of Success — Intellectual Concentration

From November 20, 1910

THE SECRET OF SUCCESS -- INTELLECTUAL CONCENTRATION

THE SECRET OF SUCCESS — INTELLECTUAL CONCENTRATION: Notable Cases Where Men Won Fame and Fortune Through Absorbing Self-Communing — Edison, Keene, Pupin, Hewitt, Westinghouse and Gould as Examples (PDF)

The point of this article is that the most successful people spend periods of time in silent concentration without interruption. As described, it seems like meditation for some, or just some quiet thinking time for others. These days it’s hard to find a prolonged period of silence in which to concentrate, with so many beeping, buzzing, and ringing distractions coming from the computers in our pockets and on our desks.

It reminds me that I’ve been meaning to try out the Freedom app, available for Mac and Windows computers. It costs a few dollars to purchase, and it has one function: it disables your computer’s network ability for a predetermined set of time. With no internet, you can concentrate without distractions, and without temptation to browse around the web procrastinating. I think I’ll give it a try, and see if I too can win fame and fortune through concentration.

One comment

Written by David

November 19th, 2010 at 10:00 am

Posted in Business,Life

Sir Oliver Lodge Teaches The Soul’s Pre-Existence

From November 20, 1910

SIR OLIVER LODGE TEACHES THE SOULS PRE-EXISTENCE

SIR OLIVER LODGE TEACHES THE SOUL’S PRE-EXISTENCE: Famous Physicist Announces His Belief, Gained Through Scientific Research, in Immortality, the Gift of Prophecy, and Christ’s Incarnation. (PDF)

Why the Magazine has become infatuated with this debate in recent weeks is beyond me. It’s an interesting topic, but I’m surprised to see so many articles about it. It all started when Thomas Edison proclaimed there is no soul, and now they keep writing about some expert or other who is sure that there is or isn’t a soul. Add this one to the pile.

Sir Oliver Lodge was a scientist whose inventions aided in developing wireless technology. He was also a member of The Ghost Club, an organization in the UK that still exists and whose “prime interest is that of paranormal phenomena associated with ghosts and hauntings.” Other notable Ghost Club members include Charles Dickens, W. B. Yeats, and Peter Cushing. If you’d like to join, you can find a membership application on their website, but please note that the Ghost Club does not perform clearances or exorcisms, and the use of Ouija Boards is strictly prohibited.

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Written by David

November 19th, 2010 at 9:45 am

Posted in Debate,Religion,Science

The Busiest Man Of His Age In The World

From November 20, 1910

THE BUSIEST MAN OF HIS AGE IN THE WORLD

THE BUSIEST MAN OF HIS AGE IN THE WORLD: Roger Sherman Hoar, Massachusett’s Young Legislator, has Enough Jobs for a Dozen Men. He is an Enthusiastic Suffragist Champion and Works Hard for Interests of that Cause. (PDF)

When this article was written, 28 year old Roger Sherman Hoar was a lawyer, State Senator, student, inventor of a waterproof blanket, treasurer of his town committee, trumpeter, cartoonist, cavalryman, organizer of a news agency, secretary of the Free State League, and active suffragist.

But wait! There’s more!

In the decades after this article was written, Roger Sherman Hoar became a notable science fiction author, writing under the name Ralph Milne Farley. He wrote short stories for pulp magazines like Weird Tales and Amazing Stories, and a series called The Radio Man.

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Written by David

November 19th, 2010 at 9:30 am

Posted in Fiction,Politics

America’s Great Scientists Rapidly Decreasing

From November 20, 1910

AMERICAS GREAT SCIENTISTS RAPIDLY DECREASING

AMERICA’S GREAT SCIENTISTS RAPIDLY DECREASING: Dr. James McKeen Catell of Columbia Says There Are Fewer Men of Distinction in Scientific Lines Than There Were Seven Years Ago. (PDF)

The point of this article is that the number of scientists in the country decreased over seven years from 1903 to 1910, and appeared to be an ongoing trend. That’s sad, and I wish the country today were more science-minded. I think too little value is placed on science education these days.

But mainly I want to point out that awesome drawing representing a scientist.

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Written by David

November 19th, 2010 at 9:15 am

Posted in Education,Science

Did Life First Come To This Earth In A Meteor

From November 20, 1910

DID LIFE FIRST COME TO THIS EARTH IN A METEOR

DID LIFE FIRST COME TO THIS EARTH IN A METEOR: Arrhenius, Following Kelvin, Holds That Its Initial Germs Were Brought Here in a Fragment of an Exploded World, and That Particles of Our Globe Are Now Taking Life to Others. (PDF)

Before we go into the details of this article, take another look at the photo of the meteorite above and make sure you see the children. I missed them the first time. That meteorite is known as the Willamette Meteorite and it can still be seen in the Hayden Planetarium* at the American Museum of Natural History, where it has been since 1906.

In the article, astronomer Mary Proctor (whose articles for the Times Magazine have graced this site before) discusses panspermia, the idea that life can spread throughout the universe carried on meteors and asteroids.

The first time I heard about panspermia, my mind was blown. I hadn’t considered that life could have come here from somewhere else. But it makes sense as a possibility. And if meteors can theoretically bring life to our planet, that means we can theoretically send life to other planets. Wait a minute! What if those first crafts we sent to Mars weren’t completely sterile? What if we sent a germ, bacteria, or other microbe capable of withstanding space travel and Mars’ atmosphere? Perhaps over the next hundred million years it could evolve into something more intelligent than us!

*giggle

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Written by David

November 19th, 2010 at 9:00 am

Posted in Nature,Science