Archive for June, 2016

American Inventor Uses Egypt’s Sun for Power

From July 2, 1916

American Inventor

American Inventor Uses Egypt’s Sun for Power: Appliance Concentrates the Heat Rays and Produces Steam, Which Can Be Used to Drive Irrigation Pumps in Hot Climates (PDF)

This article details Frank Shuman’s invention that utilized solar energy to heat water and thus produce steam for energy. He used this to create the world’s first solar thermal power station in Maadi, Egypt, where the steam was enough to pump 23,000 liters of water per minute.

Solar power has come a long way. Subsequent developments by later inventors included the solar cell in 1941 and the solar panel in 1955. Today solar makes up only 0.5 percent of all U.S. energy, lagging far behind petroleum at 36.2 percent, natural gas at 29.0 percent, and coal at 16.1 percent. But after decades of near-dormancy the energy source is seeing an explosion in popularity, growing at nearly 60 percent a year as the price per installation plummets and finally becomes affordable to the average American consumer.

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

June 30th, 2016 at 8:41 pm

Posted in Science,Technology

Japan’s Powerful Place Among the Allies

From July 2, 1916

Japan's Powerful

Japan’s Powerful Place Among the Allies: Takuma Kuroda, Who Represented His Government at the Panama Exposition, Scoffs at Japanese Invasion of America (PDF)

A notable Japanese diplomat and professor named Takuma Kuroda gave an interview which included this ironic quote in light of Japan’s and Germany’s alliance during World War II about 25 years later:

“Japan owed her success in the Russian war to the German military system, not to the entity, but to the ideas of military art which she had learned in Germany. Don’t you know that we were fighting purely by book, solely in accordance with lessons learned chiefly from the Germans? It is frequently said in Japan that in the present war we would have made more profit had we been on the side of the Germans. Of course that could not be thought of.”

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

June 29th, 2016 at 8:41 pm

Co-operative Union of Europe After War

From July 2, 1916

Co-Operative Union

Co-operative Union of Europe After War: Dr. Alfred H. Fried, Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1911, Has Interesting Plan for Securing Lasting Peace (PDF)

In light of the United Kingdom voting Friday to exit the European Union, the so-called “Brexit” which sent world markets into tumult, this piece from 100 years ago this week is particularly striking.

Alfred Fried was an Austrian thinker and writer who advocated more globalism over nationalism, helping create the idea which eventually became the League of Nations in 1919 and serving as one of the primary advocates for Esperanto, the attempt at creating a worldwide universal language (a largely-failed idea that nonetheless still retains millions of advocates to this day). In this article Fried suggests something of a European-wide supra-national government akin to what the EU eventually became several decades later. Some of his arguments remain similar to what the “Remain” camp advocated in the Brexit debate:

“Seven reforms… must come before the mistaken ideas which have caused the present upheaval can be uprooted, [including] the transformation of European diplomacy [and] the elimination of the antiquated conception of sovereignty… Modern diplomats use sovereignty as a bulwark behind which they hide when there is no rational justification for their actions.”

In the midst of World War I when he proposed the concept, Fried’s “Co-Operative Union of Europe” was primarily meant to serve the purpose of preventing war. An intra-Europe war seems impossible to imagine today, even with increased tensions from UK’s departure (and the possible imminent departures of several other nations). Still, many of Fried’s arguments still hold resonance today.

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

June 28th, 2016 at 8:40 pm

Priests Block Recruiting in Quebec Province

From June 25, 1916

Quebec - cropped

Priests Block Recruiting in Quebec Province: French Canadians, Led by Their Clergy, Defy Dominion Government — Hints of Uprising Because of Bilingual Question (PDF)

The more things change, the more they stay the same. To this day, Quebec has had an active separatist movement vowing to remove itself from Canada and become independent. A 2012 poll found that 42 percent of Quebec citizens want to separate. Their “distinctive language and culture” is one of the major reasons why, and about 80 percent of the Quebec population cite French as their “mother tongue.” As the 1916 article says:

There are extremists who hint at actual physical rebellion and civil war. Not even those who are not extremists will say that such a disaster is impossible; they refer to it as extremely improbable, but add that all Quebec would welcome an opportunity to secede from the Dominion without bloodshed.

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

June 25th, 2016 at 6:13 pm

Posted in Politics,Religion

Unique Building to Join Queensboro Bridge

From June 25, 1916


Unique Building to Join Queensboro Bridge: Will Serve Both as Patients’ Entrance to Blackwell’s Island and Storage Warehouse for Many City Institutions Located There (PDF)

Blackwell Island was the name up until 1971 for what is now called Roosevelt Island in New York City. The 1916 article discussed how limited transportation was to the island, which was a problem for the island:

Transportation to Blackwell’s Island for many years past has been by means of boats from Twenty-sixth Street, Fifty-third Street, and Seventieth Street, Manhattan. This method has meant considerable inconvenience to doctors and visitors, and more especially to hospital patients who are subject to three or four transfers from ambulance to boat — and boat to ambulance.

Transportation to the island has since been improved by the tramway system built in 1976, which has carried more than 26 million passengers. This was also the spot of the iconic scene in the 2001 film Spider-Man where the title character has to choose between saving his girlfriend or trapped passengers on the tramway. (Hat tip to NYC resident David Friedman for pointing all this out.)

I couldn’t find evidence of this building ever having been built. (Readers, feel free to comment below and tell me if this is inaccurate.) According to the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, prior to 1955 the only way for vehicles or pedestrians to enter the island was through an elevator located midway through the Queensboro Bridge. That elevator — somewhat similar though not quite the same as the proposed idea in the 1916 article — was demolished in 1970.

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

June 25th, 2016 at 9:12 am

Posted in Technology

Start Closer Pan-American Intercollegiate Ties

From June 25, 1916

Pan-American - cropped

Start Closer Pan-American Intercollegiate Ties: Mackenzie College of Brazil and Union College of the United States Have an Academic Connection for Exchange of Students (PDF)

William Waddell in 1916 argued for something akin to the modern-day foreign exchange programs at colleges and universities. According to the Wall Street Journal, international students made up their largest-ever percentage of the U.S. student population last year at 4.8 percent, up from 1.5 percent in 1975. Brazil, the focus of the 1916 article, is currently the country sending the sixth-most students to the U.S. by percentage, behind China (in first place by a mile), India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Canada.

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

June 24th, 2016 at 6:01 pm

Posted in Education

Preparedness Prevented Mexican War in 1866

From June 25, 1916

Preparedness - cropped

Preparedness Prevented Mexican War in 1866: Knowing That United States Could Call Civil War Veterans, France Withdrew Army and Left Maximilian to His Fate (PDF)

A war was avoided in 1866 because it was known that the U.S. had millions of soldiers it could call upon in a moment. The U.S. Senate this week approved 85 to 13 a provision that would require women to register for the military draft, which for the country’s entire history only men have been required to do. If it passes the House later this year and gets signed by either a supportive President Obama or a supportive Hillary Clinton, could that potentially serve a similar war-preventing deterrent effect in the 21st century as it did in 1866?


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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

June 24th, 2016 at 9:11 am

Sunday Magazine has resumed after a nearly five-year hiatus!

David Friedman created this website in March 2010 and ran it until September 2011 until he had a child and couldn’t keep this up with his busy schedule anymore. I’m not David Friedman. I’m Jesse Rifkin and I have David’s permission to take over this blog for a while, posting every week with interesting articles published in the New York Times Sunday Magazine section from precisely 100 years ago to the week.

Sometimes the articles will be serious, sometimes they’ll be funny, sometimes they’ll be strange, sometimes they’ll be nostalgic, but they’ll always be fascinating and engaging. I’ll try to post only the most interesting content with some context, modern parallels, and maybe an occasional aside or two from my own life. And I’ll try to do as good a job with this website as my predecessor David did — if that’s possible.

A quick bit about me. I’m a 24-year-old journalist living in Washington, D.C., where I work as a congressional reporter for GovTrack Insider and a box office analyst for Boxoffice Media. You can read a fun Daily Beast article I published from just earlier this week in which I interviewed the country’s top Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders impersonators.

So come along with me as we crank up the time machine, push the DeLorean to 88 miles per hour, and take a trip back every week to what made the “newspaper of record” a century ago. Let’s begin… again!

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

June 24th, 2016 at 9:05 am

Posted in Blog Stuff