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John Arbuckle’s dream stayed afloat far longer than many expected. The coffee magnate and humanitarian decided, at the dawn of the twentieth century, to combat the lack of affordable lodgings in Manhattan by converting ships into floating apartment buildings for single, working-class folks. For roughly three dollars a week, hundreds of renters would get room and board and motion sickness. It wasn’t meant to make money (and did not since it never became as popular as the proprietor had hoped) but to be a gift to struggling people from a kindly man who was known as both a capitalist and a trust buster.

There were problems from the start, and the New York Times even sank the plan prematurely, but the company continued to offer “water beds” for a pittance until 1915, withdrawing its gangplank for good soon after Arbuckle’s death. Just three dozen women were residents at that point.

From an article in the July 17, 1901 Brooklyn Daily Eagle about the maiden voyage: 

“John Arbuckle will open his floating hotels, now organized under the name of the Deep Sea Hotel Company, for business to-morrow evening. This evening he will take as guests a number of his friends and a party of newspaper men on the inaugural trip of the Jacob A. Stamler. The tugboat John Herlin will leave the foot of Atlantic Avenue at 6 o’clock with the guests and take them over to the ship, which is anchored off the Statue of Liberty. The Stamler was towed over there this morning, in order to be in readiness to sail this evening.

The yachts Giana and Hermit are anchored off Thirty-ninth Street, South Brooklyn, and will be placed in commission when their services are called for.

The final preparations on the vessels are only just completed. Handsome carpets have been laid down in the saloons, smoking room and on the berth deck. Every stateroom is handsomely carpeted and fitted up. The lower deck of the Stamler is mainly occupied by bath and toilet rooms of the latest design. The awning deck has been fitted up with seats, which can be converted into comfortable beds. The main and women’s saloons are fitted with Pullman berths, and the seats can also be used as berths. These saloons are fitted with handsomely upholstered chairs, hard wood tables and lounging chairs. The smoking room is equally well equipped. The ship is remarkably cool below decks, the air being kept in constant circulation by a large fan driven by steam. The entire ship s brilliantly lighted up with electric lights furnished by a dynamo in the engine room. The engine is utilized for hoisting in the anchor, getting coal and supplies on board and it does much of handling of the sails as well.

The kitchen is splendidly equipped. There is an immense range of the latest design, a large broiler and several soup and vegetable kettles. A ten ton ice refrigerator occupies one section and a dumb waiter connects the culinary department with the pantry on the saloon deck. What is said of the Stamler applies equally, but in a smaller degree to the schooner yachts Hermit and Gitana.

Every precaution will be taken to prevent the semblance of rowdyism, as Mr. Arbuckle said to an Eagle reporter today: ‘I will have a couple of special policemen, big and strong enough to shake the toe nails of any one who attempts to cause annoyance on board, and pitch him in the blackhole of the John Herlin afterward. I sincerely hope there will be no need to call on their service, but nothing wrong will be tolerated for an instant.’

The floating hotels will open for business to-morrow evening.”


August Engelhardt, far right.

August Engelhardt wasn’t the only European thinker to run Kurtz-like into the heart of darkness, but he may have been the maddest of all. In 1902, the 25-year-old German health reformer, who believed in sun worship and a strict coconut diet, retreated from Bavarian university life to Kabakon Island in New Guinea, which he purchased from his mother country with an inheritance. Though he brought a library’s worth of books to keep him company, Engelhardt invited others from home to join him in “paradise.” Things did not go well, and it’s a marvel that Engelhardt was able to survive until 1919, though some of his acolytes weren’t nearly so “aged” when they expired.

Despite the title of this New York Times piece from the October 15, 1905 edition, as you can see in the top photo, some women eventually made their way to Engelhardt’s folly, but they were largely too bright to get caught up in Kabakon’s severe cocovorism and nudism. But the far larger error in the Times story is the fact that 1905 wasn’t nearly the end of his life or experiment; Engelhardt recovered from his serious illness and returned to Kabokon, unable to to depart from his radical lifestyle anymore than T.E. Lawrence could leave the sands, drawn again and again by some ineffable void inside.

I suppose the most generous assessment of Engelhardt came from an Australian captain after visiting the colony: “Could the world do without living examples in self-sacrifice–even if their ideals are wrong? And would we not all fall asleep, if it were not for a sprinkling of extremists?”

An excerpt from the Times article:

“August Engelhardt was at least sincere in his faith and in the observance of its tenets. For days he lived alone, eating nothing but bread fruit and cocoanuts, swimming in the sea or the still lagoon; studying in the fauna and flora of his island by day, or lying on the hot beach; by night sleeping in a hollow scooped out of the sand.

Occasionally he saw, or thought he saw, men moving in the cocoa groves, and once when he went to investigate he discovered for a certainty that he was not alone on the island. A number of lithe, naked, dark-skinned men and women ran hastily away. But the natives were few and harmless; apparently, too, they feared if they did not actually worship this great man with white skin and shaggy yellow hair who emerged glistening from the lagoon, or appeared suddenly in the cocoa groves. They kept away from him and were even more exclusive when his companions came.

It may be supposed that Engelhardt led a dreary life on Kahakua while awaiting the arrival of his disciples, but if one may judge the student’s temperament from his acts it seems more likely that this was the happiest period of his existence on the atoll. He had left the world behind him; he was free. Of the food of his choice he lacked none, and the balmy air of the Pacific, the warm sun of the tropics, and the cool spray of the ‘combers’ were his playthings. At dawn the nature feasted upon his eyes with beauty as the sun, his god, climbed over the horizon, tinted the palm crests with gold, the sea with amber and opal and crimson, and bathed the kneeling figure on the beach with a mantle that was his inspiration. By day Engelhardt’s joy was that of a dream realized. At sunset the lagoon clasped his god in a broil of molten lava; then came the night, with the great dome of stars, the breeze rustling though the cocoa fronds, and the Pacific chanting like a great organ, lulling him to sleep.


But there was an end to this, and a beginning to disillusion. The vessel which was to have brought his converts dropped anchor in the lagoon. A boat came ashore with four men in it, two of them sailors, the other two Engelhardt’s staunchest disciples. They were Max Lutzow, at one time director of the well-known Orchestra of Berlin, and Heinrich Eukens, a student of Bavaria and a native of Heligoland. The other converts, upon the departure of Engelhardt and his eloquence, had received the attention of other sects, and been convinced that Kahakua was full of cannibals, sweltering with fever miasma; in brief, that Engelhardt was leading them to death.

It was a great blow to Engelhardt, but the die had been cast. The vessel sailed away, and he, with Lutzow and Eukens, was left on the island. The two new arrivals were delighted with the appearance of Engelhardt. Weeks of life under the sun, in the salt sea, and living upon fruit, had brought him to a state of wonderful physical perfection. His skin was like copper and against it his yellow hair shone like gold. The two disciples immediately joined him in his method of living. For days theirs was an idyllic state, and they were contented. But an end came. The sudden change had been too much for the less-rugged constitution of Eukens, who contracted a cold, developed fever, and died quite suddenly. He had been given no remedies, as it was contrary to the faith of the sun worshippers.

His companions buried him in the sand. For days they wandered listlessly about the island, the spell of which had been broken. But at length they realized that such an undertaking could not be expected to succeed without suffering.

They began again, and things went well, although the gloom attending the death of Eukens never left them. Lutzow, the musician, developed the physical strength which characterized Engelhardt. For a year the two men lived comparatively happily, except for one thing, which is the one ray of humor in the whole history.

It was understood that the world of civilization–art, letters, dress, and diet–had been forgotten, but the genius of Lutzow was something which was all Lutzow and nothing of Engelhardt. Lutzow and his music could not be separated. Donizetti was his favorite, although the long hours of the idle day he did not forget passages from Wagner, Verdi, Mascagni, Bach, Liszt, Beethoven, and others. Engelhardt loved music, but he had a particular aversion to Donizetti and a positive horror of Bizet, who was associated in his mind with “Carmen,” who in turn was the bête noir of his faith.

Engelhardt tolerated the music as long as he could; then, unable to associate with a human musical, he quarreled with Lutzow. It was a bitter quarrel, for the student had hurt the musician to the quick. Eventually the two men became so estranged that Lutzow applied one night for permission to sleep away from the island on the Wesleyan mission cutter from Ulu, which was in the lagoon.

That night the cutter dragged her moorings and was carried on the tide through the narrows to the open sea. Cross-currents prevented the craft from pulling back for two days, during which Lutzow still observant of the sun-worshippers’ faith, refused to take shelter, and also refused all nourishment that was not fruit. There was no fresh fruit on board, consequently he starved. He lay upon the deck of the cutter, too, for two days and two nights, exposed to a cold, wet wind. Shorty after the cutter put back into the lagoon the musician developed a high temperature. He grew worse, lingered for a week, then died.

He was buried in the sand by Engelhardt beside the unfortunate Eukens. The Wesleyan missionaries offered to take Engelhardt back to civilization. He flew into a rage, said he owned the island, and forbade them ever to drop anchor in the lagoon of Kahakua again.

So the cutter sailed away to Ulu and Engelhardt was left alone in the Palm Temple. For nearly two years more he continued to live the ‘pure, natural life,’ but the charm had been completely broken by the death of his two disciples.

Then in 1903 came a drought which reduced the fruit crop. The little left of it was wiped out in the Spring of 1904 by a storm. Engelhardt had the alternative of casting in his lot with the natives and eating hogflesh, or sending a request for succor to Ulu or Herbertshohe. He did neither in his stubborness, and starvation and thirst did their work.

One day a canoe paddled into Herbertshohe, driven by two natives who said the white man was sick and possessed of devils; wandering about Kahakua preaching his doctrine to the trees and frightening the natives. Would the German officials please come and take him away?

Engelhardt refused all nourishment to the last, refused all medicine, and accused the missionary of interfering with his convictions. He wrought himself up to a great frenzy, fell upon the deck, and was restrained only with difficulty from flinging himself overboard and swimming back to his island. Before the beach had sunk below the horizon the man was dead. Then the launch put back.

Wrapped in a German flag, August Engelhardt, founder and last survivor of the sun worshippers, was laid to rest beside Lutzow and Eukens on the beach at Kahakua.”

Engelhardt in 1911, six years after his "death."

Engelhardt in 1911, six years after his “death.”

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"She is positive one of them is killed."

“She is positive one of them is killed.”

In the days before telegraph and Morse code let alone radio, TV and the Internet, reports about events that occurred in Europe wouldn’t reach America for several days. A newspaper in New York came up with a novel (and highly irresponsible) way to bridge the information gap: have a clairvoyant tell them what happened. An excerpt from a story in the April 19, 1860 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

“The New York Daily News has been consulting a clairvoyant on the result of  the Prize Fight which all suppose to have been fought by Heenan and Sayers on Monday, and says:

‘A clairvoyant in this city declares that one of the pugilists who yesterday fought for the championship of England has been killed. We have been unable to ascertain which; but the lady inclines to think it is the ‘larger man,’ whether as to the muscle or as to the pugilistic fame we know not. But she is positive one of them is killed. We are, therefore, all the more curious to know the result. It will affect either spiritual seeing or material hitting; which, a few days will tell. The old lady adds that the killed man is not the winner.”

Johnny Clem was a mere ten-year-old orphan in 1861 when he managed to talk his way into what was ostensibly a non-combat role for the Twenty-second Michigan Infantry during the early fire of the Civil War. But it was hard to escape the brutality of the War Between the States once attached to a division, and the lad was soon in the heat of battle. To say that he served long is an understatement: Colonel John Clem wound up being the final Civil War soldier on active duty, forced into retirement by law at age 64 in 1915. (He was originally set to step away from military life three years earlier but hung on a little longer.) It’s important to remember that there were other children just like him, and thousands and thousands of men just removed from boyhood, whose limbs and torsos wound up in piles, their daring exploits to never be recorded. From an article about his farewell to uniformed life in the August 7, 1915 New York Times:

“Clem was just a little ‘shaver’ of 10 years when President Lincoln issued his first call for volunteers. The Third Ohio Infantry was recruited in the Newark (Ohio) district. In the regiment was an officer, Captain McDougal, a friend of Johnny Clem. The future Senior Master of the Quartermaster Corps was an orphan, and there was no near relative to stop him when he sought out his friend McDougal and begged permission to accompany the Third Ohio to the front.

Clem told McDougal that he could carry a gun provided it was not too heavy, and that he could beat the drum to ‘beat the band.’ Captain McDougal, however, could not see the proposition in the same light as did his enthusiastic young friend, and told him point blank he was entirely too little and too young for such dangerous business as that of as a soldier in wartime. All this happens in May, 1861.

But Clem did not lose hope. Early in June of that year the Third Ohio started for the mobilization camp at Covington, Ky. A little boy smuggled himself into one of the baggage cars, and the following day climbed out of the car very tired, very dirty, and very hungry, in Covington. The lad was ‘Johnny’ Clem.

Also at Covington as the Twenty-second Michigan Infantry. Clem decided that he would try and get a berth in that regiment, and so he boldly sought out the tent of the Colonel and walked right in. The ‘kid’ from Newark told the Colonel that he wanted to go to the front with the regiment. The Colonel laughed and patted the boy on the back.

‘You are a game little fellow, all right,’ said the Colonel, ‘but this is no place for children like you. If you were a foot taller and some years older maybe I’d take you along, but as you are neither of these things I am afraid you will have to say back here with the home folks.

But Clem refused to be left behind, and was so persistent that the Colonel finally agreed to let him go along as sort of combination regimental mascot and emergency drummer boy.

The soldiers rigged him out in a uniform, they provided him with a drum and also with a musket, the barrel of the gun being sawed off short so as to make it possible for the little fellow to carry it.

One of the first battles in which the regiment figured was that of Shiloh, where the Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston was killed and where the fame of Ulysses S. Grant, as a soldier, may be said to have begun. In their battle Clem got into the very hottest of the fight. He came very near losing his life when a shrapnel shell exploded within a few feet of him. A fragment of the shell crashed through the drum and the shock of the explosion hurled him unconscious to the ground, where he was subsequently found and rescued by his bigger comrades.

After the battle the soldiers nicknamed Clem ‘Johnny Shiloh,’ and the name stuck to him until a greater fame came to him at the terrible battle of Chickamauga.

At Chickamauga the boy was again in the thickest of the fight. He fired right and left with his little sawed-off musket. General Thomas and General Rosecrans both heard of the heroism of the little Newark boy at Chickamauga and he was personally commended for his coolness and bravery by both of them. It was General Rosecrans who then and there made him a Sergeant, the youngest non-commissioned officer who ever served in the armies of this country.

Now comes the story of how Clem won the title of ‘drummer boy of Chickamauga.’ The brigade to which the Twenty-second Michigan was attached had been ordered to hold its position, which position happened to be a very dangerous one. The brigade fought for all it was worth but the job could not be done, and finally the order came for it to fall back to a safer position. As the brigade retreated ‘Johnny’ Clem managed to get lost. He got mixed up with a command that was almost surrounded by Confederates and the dead and dying were all about him.

The boy realized his predicament and made up his mind he would not be captured, and so he did what any healthy youngster of his years would do and started to run. He ran like a ‘scared rabbit,’ and when he stopped running he was in a little clump of woods all by himself.

Cautiously he came out of the woods and he ran full tilt into a Confederate Colonel. The Confederate officer looked at the boy with the little gun and despite the awfulness of the situation he had to laugh.

‘My, but you are a little fellow to be in this business,’ said the Confederate, ‘but war is war, and I think the best thing a mite of a chap like you can do is to drop that gun.’

Instead of dropping the gun Clem brought to to his shoulder, pointed it at the Colonel and fired. The Colonel fell badly wounded and Clem turned on his heels and ran for all he was worth. Finally he landed back with the Twenty-second Michigan and ever afterward  they called him ‘the drummer boy of Chickamauga.’

As for the Confederate Colonel he recovered after many weeks in the hospital, and after the war Colonel Clem learned about him and wrote and told him how glad he was that he had not killed him.

‘When I heard that I had not killed that Confederate officer it was the best news I ever got,’ Colonel Clem remarked years afterward.”

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“Benjamin Harrison appeared to be especially affected.”

Well, this is rather macabre. A decade prior to his Presidency, in 1878, Benjamin Harrison investigated a number of Ohio medical colleges in search of the stolen corpse of a deceased family friend, and came face to face with his own freshly fallen father. It’s likely the jaw-dropping tale is true as that state was known in those years for the brisk business conducted by so-called resurrectionists, who were often in cahoots with academics in need of cadavers. The full story from the March 13, 1910 New York Times:

“One of the strangest, and at the same time the most gruesome stories that ever reached a newspaper office was told by H.E. Krehbiel, the musical critic, the other night. Though it reached a newspaper office and has been known to a few persons in the twenty years succeeding, it was not printed when the incidents happened, because those concerned took the precaution of narrating them in confidence. Here it is, however, as Mr. Krehbiel tells it, long after those most intimately concerned are dead:

‘Many years ago I was at work one afternoon in the offices of a Cincinnati newspaper when Benjamin Harrison, afterward President of the United States, and his brother came into the office and began a long conversation with the city editor. They spoke in low tones, which did not reach beyond the desk where they were sitting.

‘After nearly half an hour had elapsed the city editor called me over to him and introduced me to the two gentlemen, both of whom seemed to be laboring under strong emotion. Benjamin Harrison appeared to be especially affected. This did not surprise me very much, as I was aware that they had only buried their father, to whom they were both devotedly attached, a few days before. The city editor instructed me to take down their story, giving me also explicitly to understand that, whereas, I was to listen to all they had to say, I was to write no more, and the paper was to print no more than they should decide.

‘Now,’ continued Mr. Krehbiel, ‘this is what Benjamin Harrison told me. A few days before the death of his father, the husband of a dear old German woman who lived near their farm also died and was duly buried. When he came from the East to attend his own father’s obsequies this old woman went to him in great distress and told him that the grave of her husband had been opened and his body stolen. Those were the days of body snatchers or ‘resurrectionists,’ before the State had made provision for subjects for medical colleges.

‘Mr Harrison went on to say that his old German friend’s distress was so intense that he and his brother had themselves undertaken a search for the body in Cincinnati. This search had occupied them two days and had just ended.

“‘We swore out a search warrant and took a constable with us,’ said Mr. Harrison. ‘One by one we have been to every medical school in the City of Cincinnati. It was a terrible ordeal for us, especially as our own grief was fresh and poignant. We kept up the search without inkling, clue or result, until we had visited every medical school in Cincinnati except one.

“‘The last one was the Ohio State Medical College. We went over there more as a formality than anything else. With search warrant and constable we were enabled there, as elsewhere, to have everything opened to us. We found nothing.

“‘Just as we were about to leave the college the constable noted a shaft such as is used in apartment houses. Down this shaft hung the ropes of a hoist. The constable went up to the ropes of a hoist and took hold of the taut rope. He turned to me sharply, saying that there was a weight on the hoist. I told him to pull it up. He did so.

“‘Attached to the rope by a hook was the body of my own father. They had known at the colleges whose the body was. They had taken this fiendishly ingenious method of moving it from floor to floor as we in our search had moved from one floor to another.’

‘This,’ said Mr. Krehbiel, ‘is the story in Benjamin Harrison’s own words just as he gave it to me.’”


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“Mr. Edison was not entirely present, but he was not entirely absent.”

Thomas Edison’s phonograph, or “talking machine,” though not an immediate commercial success, was nonetheless an amazement. “He” was received in London society for a demonstration of the remarkable machine. From an article in the August 15, 1888 New York Times:

London–Thomas A. Edison was given a very handsome reception this afternoon by Col. Gourand at his beautiful villa, Little Menlo, at Upper Norwood, in Surrey. A large number of ladies and gentlemen gathered there to meet the distinguished inventor of America. The reception included a dinner, lasting from 3 o’clock to 8 o’clock. Under the inspiring influence of popular appreciation Mr. Edison made a speech, in which he dwelt first upon his first visit to England, 18 years ago, and then devoted himself to a humorous criticism of English politics and climate. He then proceeded to amaze the company by reciting ‘Bingen on the Rhine,’ and winding up with a most extraordinary whistling spasm. Then he sang a funeral march, and without waiting for an encore gave ‘Mary had a little lamb.’ He told funny stories, and, in fact, conducted quite a variety entertainment all by himself. Mr. Edison was not entirely present, but he was not entirely absent, and the perplexity of the company over the human voice and its absent owner, 3,000 miles away, was very great.

Mrs. Alice Shaw, who has quite conquered London, whistled for the perfected phonograph, and it whistled back quite as brilliantly as she did. A large number of the guests were presented to Mr. Edison via the phonograph, each making a short speech to him suitable to the occasion. When the company was breaking up three rousing cheers were given for Edison, with a tiger and long clapping of hands. The effect, when the cheers and applause were repeated a moment later, was funny in the extreme. All the introductions, whistling solos, British cheers, &c., dryly recorded on the wax cylinders, will be taken to America by Mr. W. H. Crane of ‘The Henrietta.’ When they arrive Mr Edison will find that he has a lot of acquaintances who know him very well by voice but not by sight. The reception was an exceedingly novel one, and the new machines, with their perfect articulation, excited wonder, reaching in many cases to amazement.”

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“They said he told wonderful truths while he was asleep.”

Edgar Cayce read widely and it served him well. Unschooled beyond ninth grade but an autodidact, the Kentucky man used medical knowledge he’d gleaned from books and psychic mumbo jumbo to convince some in the medical U.S. establishment a century ago that he possessed healing powers. In fact, he made it “safe” for those with no formal medical training to treat the sick, giving birth to holistic medicine in America. In an article in the October 9, 1910 New York Times, he was a young man being taken seriously as a medical savant. The opening:

“The medical fraternity of the country is taking a lively interest in the strange power said to be possessed by Edgar Cayce of Hopkinsville, Ky., to diagnose difficult diseases while in a semi-conscious state, though he has not the slightest knowledge of medicine when not in this condition.

During a visit to California last Summer Dr. W. H. Ketchum, who was attending a meeting of the National Society of Homeopathic Physicians had occasion to mention the young man’s case and I was invited to discuss it at a banquet attended by about thirty-five of the doctors of the Greek letter fraternity given at Pasadena.

Dr. Ketchum made a speech of considerable length, giving an explanation of the strange psychic powers manifested by Cayce during the last four years during which time he has been more or less under his observation. This talk created such widespread interest among the 700 doctors present that one of the leading Boston medical men who heard his speech invited Dr. Ketchum to prepare a paper as a part of the programme of the September meeting of the American Society of Clinical Research. Dr. Ketchum sent the paper, but did not go to Boston. The paper was read by Henry E. Harpower, M.D., of Chicago, a contributor to the Journal of the American Medical Association, published in Chicago. Its presentation created a sensation, and almost before Dr. Ketchum knew that the paper had been given to the press he was deluged with letters and telegrams inquiring about the strange case. …

Dr. Ketchum wishes it distinctly understood that his presentation is purely ethical, and that he attempts no explanation of what must be classed as a mysterious mental phenomena.

Dr. Ketchum is not the only physician who has had opportunity to observe the workings of Mr. Cayce’s subconscious mind. For nearly ten years and strange power has been known to local physicians of all the recognized schools. An explanation of the case is best understood from Dr. Ketchum’s description in his paper read in Boston a few days ago, which follows:

‘About four years ago I made the acquaintance of a young man 28 years old, who had the reputation of being a ‘freak.’ They said he told wonderful truths while he was asleep. I, being interested, immediately began to investigate, and as I was ‘from Missouri,’ I had to be shown.

‘And truly, when it comes to anything psychical, every layman is a disbeliever from the start, and most of our chosen professions will not accept anything of a psychic nature, hypnotism, mesmerism, or what not, unless vouched for by some M.D. away up in the professions and one whose orthodox standing is questioned.

‘By suggestion he becomes unconscious to pain of any sort, and, strange to say, his best work is done when he is seemingly ‘dead to the world.’

‘My subject simply lies down and folds his arms, and by auto-suggestion goes to sleep. While in this sleep, which to all intents and purposes is a natural sleep, his objective mind is completely inactive and only his subjective is working.

‘I next give him the name of my subject and the exact location of the same, and in a few minutes he begins to talk as clearly and distinctly as any one. He usually goes into minute detail in diagnosing a case, and especially if it is a very serious case.

His language is usually of the best, and his psychologic terms and description of the nervous anatomy would do credit to any professor of nervous anatomy, and there is no faltering in his speech and all his statements are clear and concise. He handles the most complex ‘jaw breakers’ with as much ease as any Boston physician, which to me is quite wonderful, in view of the fact that while in his normal state he is an illiterate man, especially along the line of medicine, surgery, or pharmacy, of which he knows nothing.’”

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“His strength seemed to increase enough to allow him to enjoy the sunrise.”

Mark Twain, jester and debunker and literary giant, showed you could leave an impression, a mark, on American life and letters even if you weren’t as scarred as Emily Dickinson or Edgar Allan Poe, even if your first impulse was to go for the joke. He saw things as they were and tried to make us all see them a little differently, and in that he succeeded. No matter who comes after, he will always really be the country’s king of comedy. The opening of his obituary in the April 22, 1910 New York Times:

Danbury, Conn., April 21 — Samuel Langhorne Clemens, ‘Mark Twain,’ died at 22 minutes after 6 tonight. Beside him on the bed lay a beloved book- it was Carlyle’s French Revolution-and near the book his glasses, pushed away with a weary sigh a few hours before. Too weak to speak clearly, ‘Give me my glasses,’ he had written on a piece of paper. He had received them, put them down, and sunk into unconsciousness from which he glided almost imperceptibly into death. He was in his seventy-fifth year.

For some time, his daughter Clara and her husband, Ossip Cabrilowitsch, and the humorist’s biographer, Albert Bigelow Paine, had been by the bed waiting for the end, which Drs. Quintard and Halsey had seen to be a matter of minutes. The patient felt absolutely no pain at the end and the moment of his death was scarcely noticeable.

Death came, however, while his favorite niece, Mrs. E. E. Looms, and her husband, who is Vice President of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railway, and a nephew, Jervis Langdon, were on the way to the railroad station. They had left the house much encouraged by the fact that the sick man had recognized them, and took a train for New York ignorant of what happened later.

Hopes Aroused Yesterday

Although the end had been foreseen by the doctors and would not have been a shock at any time, the apparently strong rally of this morning had given basis for the hope that it would be postponed for several days. Mr. Clemens awoke at about 4 o’clock this morning after a few hours of the first natural sleep he has had for several days, and the nurses could see by the brightness of his eyes that his vitality had been considerably restored. He was able to raise his arms above his head and clasp them behind his neck with the first evidence of physical comfort he had given for a long time.

His strength seemed to increase enough to allow him to enjoy the sunrise, the first signs of which he could see out of the windows in the three sides of the room where he lay. The increasing sunlight seemed to bring ease to him, and by the time the family was about he was strong enough to sit up in bed and overjoyed them by recognizing all of them and speaking a few words to each. This was the first time that his mental powers had been fully his for nearly two days, with the exception of a few minutes early last evening, when he addressed a few sentences to his daughter.

Calls for His Book

For two hours he lay in bed enjoying the feeling of this return of strength. Then he made a movement asked in a faint voice for the copy of Carlyle’s French Revolution, which he has always had near him for the last year, and which he has read and re-read and brooded over.

The book was handed to him, and he lifted it up as if to read. Then a smile faintly illuminated his face when he realized that he was trying to read without his glasses. He tried to say, ‘Given me my glasses,’ but his voice failed, and the nurses bending over him could not understand. He motioned for a sheet of paper and a pencil, and wrote what he could not say.

With his glasses on he read a little and then slowly put the book down with a sigh. Soon he appeared to become drowsy and settled on his pillow. Gradually he sank and settled into a lethargy. Dr. Halsey appreciated that he could have been roused, but considered it better for him to rest. At 3 o’clock he went into complete unconsciousness.

Later Dr. Quintard, who had arrived from New York, held a consultation with Dr. Halsey, and it was decided that death was near. The family was called and gathered about the bedside watching in a silence which was long unbroken. It was the end. At twenty-two minutes past 6, with the sunlight just turning red as it stole into the window in perfect silence he breathed his last.

Died of a Broken Heart

The people of Redding, Bethel, and Danbury listened when they were told that the doctors said Mark Twain was dying of angina pectoris. But they say among themselves that he died of a broken heart. And this is a verdict not of popular sentiment alone. Albert Bigelow Paine, his biographer to be and literary executor, who has been constantly with him, said that for the last year at least Mr. Clemens had been weary of life. When Richard Watson Gilder died, he said: ‘How fortunate he is. No good fortune of that kind ever comes to me.’

The man who has stood to the public for the greatest humorist this country has produced has in private life suffered overwhelming sorrows. The loss of an only son in infancy, a daughter in her teens and one in middle life, and finally of a wife who was a constant and sympathetic companion, has preyed upon his mind. The recent loss of his daughter Jean, who was closest to him in later years when her sister was abroad studying, was the final blow. On the heels of this came the first symptoms of the disease which was surely to be fatal and one of whose accompaniments is mental depression. Mr. Paine says that all heart went out of him and his work when his daughter Jean died. He has practically written nothing since he summoned his energies to write a last chapter memorial of her for his autobiography.”


“A unique character is Seth Kinman, the grizzly bear hunter and presidential chair presenter.”

Seth Kinman was a self-made man and a self-promoter. A bushy-faced nineteenth-century California hunter who never met a bear or buck he cared for, Kinman used the skins and carcasses from his quarry to fashion unusual chairs that he presented to several American Presidents.

Kinman began bestowing these odd gifts to Presidents during the Buchanan Administration, which is the subject of the first excerpt, taken from an 1857 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. The second excerpt, an article from a 1885 New York Times that originally ran in the San Francisco Call, further examines Kinman’s life and by then what had become a longstanding chair-giving tradition that had allowed him to become friend to several Presidents.


A Curious Chair for President Buchanan,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle (May 18, 1857): “An old Western hunter, Seth Kinman, sent a chair from Humboldt, California, which arrived in New York by the George Law for President Buchanan. The chair is made entirely of the antlers of the deer, fashioned into a most comfortable arm-chair, with a high sloping back and convenient arms. A pair of antlers, with six points each, form the front legs and arms; and another pair, having five points each, form the hind legs and back. Small antlers, having two points each, join the whole together in a substantial manner. The seat is made from the dressed skins of the bucks whose antlers form the chair. They have, all told, just thirty-one points, corresponding with the number of states now in the Union. The whole chair is simply varnished, showing the original color of the antlers. The old hunter has engraved his address on the left arm point: Seth Kinman, Humboldt County, California.”


President Andrew Johnson’s chair.

Seth Kinman, The Pacific Coast Nimrod Who Gives Chairs to Presidents,New York Times, reprinted from the San Francisco Call (December 9, 1885): “A unique character is Seth Kinman, the grizzly bear hunter and presidential chair presenter, now stopping in this city. He is a tall man, 70 years old, straight as an arrow, dressed in buckskin from head to foot, with long silver hair, beard, and shaggy eyebrows, under which and his immense hat a pair of keen eyes peer sharply.

He is the Nimrod of this coast, the great elk shooter and grizzly bear hunter of California, who has presented elk horns and grizzly bear claws from animals that have fallen before his unerring rifle to four Presidents of the United States–Buchanan, Lincoln, Johnson, and Hayes–and has ‘the finest of all’ to present to President Cleveland next spring. He claims to have shot in all more than 800 grizzlies, as many as 50 elk in one month, and to have supplied the Government troops and sawmill hands in Humboldt with 240 elk in 11 months on contract at 25 cents per pound.

Resting atop the chair is Kinman’s fiddle, the neck of which is made with a skull bone from his favorite mule.

He was born in Union County, Penn., in 1815, went to Illinois in 1830, and crossed the plains to California in 1849. He tried mining on Trinity River, but followed hunting mainly for a living. In the Winter of 1856-57 he made his first elkhorn chair, and conceived the idea of presenting it to President Buchanan. Peter Donahue favored it. He went on in the Golden Age with letters to Col. Rynders in New-York, and in Washington he met Senator Gwin, Gen. Denver, and others. Dr. Wozencroft made the presentation speech, and Buchanan was highly pleased. He wrote Rynders to get Kinman the best gun he could find in New-York, which he did, together with two fine pistols. He also got an appointment to corral the Indians on the Government reservation, and when they strayed away he brought them back.

In November, 1804, he presented President Lincoln with an elkhorn chair, which greatly pleased him; Clinton Lloyd, Clerk of the House, made the presentation speech. The chair to Hayes was presented when he was Governor of Ohio, but nominee for President. The chair presented to President Johnson was made of the bones and hide of a grizzly.”


The Donner Party, best known for its eclectic menu, was also a fascination for the buried treasure it reportedly left behind. Prospectors unearthed some of the loot almost fifty years after the pioneers found themselves stranded and starving. A report from the May 17, 1891 New York Times:

Truckee, Cal–There is great excitement in Truckee over the discovery of a portion of the treasure buried by the Donner party in 1846-7. In the early days of gold excitement in the State the Donner party attempted to cross the mountains into California by an untried pass. They were snowed up in the mountains, and suffered great hardships, many dying from cold and starvation. Relief expeditions were sent out and a few survivors were rescued in this way. During their sufferings the party buried a quantity of treasure, the amount of which is estimated by some at $10,000. A search has frequently been made for this treasure, but without success.

There is authentic history of the burial of several hundred dollars by Mrs. Graves, one of the members of the party, on March 8, 1847, near the shores of Donner Lake, and it is supposed it was this money which was found on Thursday last by a miner named Reynolds, who was prospecting the hillside near the lake. He found a spot where the earth had been torn up by a falling tree, and his attention was accidentally called to some dark looking pieces of money lying on top of the ground. He picked up ten ancient looking dollars, and upon scratching slightly in the earth uncovered a large quantity of silver. He afterward searched the ground with a companion, and yesterday the men succeeded in finding nearly $200. They are still prosecuting the search and other searching parties are being organized here. From the present indications the hills on the north side of Donner Lake will be covered with treasure hunters.

Persons familiar with the incidents connected with the Donner party feel no doubt that the money just found is that buried by the party forty years ago. The coins are antiquated and all of dates prior to 1845. They are from France, Spain, Bolivia, Argentine Republic, and a number of other foreign countries, besides a very rare collection of American pieces. As relics of the Donner party the find is a very valuable one, $100 having been offered for one of the pieces.”

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“The use of animal manures to fertilize the land was considered by Alcott to be ‘disgusting in the extreme.’”

In 1843, Amos Bronson Alcott, Louisa May’s dad and a Transcendentalist and suffragist and abolitionist and animal rights activist, founded the commune known as “Fruitlands” in Massachusetts. He and a bevy of fellow non-farmers planned a small society that was to be safe alike for humans and animals–oh, and for John Palmer, a bearded man who refused to shave much to the consternation of the locals. It was to be a paradise of enlightenment and veganism in a time before that latter phrase was even coined; but much like Brook Farm, it was a crashing financial failure and a dream soon abandoned. From an article in the July 25, 1915 New York Times:

“Alcott got his idea of the new Eden while visiting a group of English mystics headed by James Pierrepoint Greaves, a pupil of Pestalozzi, who had established a school according to the Concord philosopher’s teachings in Surrey, calling the place Alcott House. It was at this school that he met Charles Lane and H.C. Wright, and seems to have been fascinated by both men. Indeed, he writes home of the latter: ‘I am already knit to him with more than human ties, and must take him with me to America …or else abide here with him.’ Both returned with Alcott, and both joined him in establishing the New Eden. …

The scheme of life that underlay Fruitlands was simple. No ‘flesh,’ as the members called meat, was to be eaten. This prohibition included every animal product, such as milk, eggs, honey, butter, cheese. Moreover, they were to raise or to exchange for what could be raised in the neighborhood, all they used in a material way. No sugar, tea or coffee, neither silk nor wool for garments, were allowed. Linen was to be their raiment, for cotton, too, was tabooed. Tunics and trousers or brown liner clothed them fitly.

Not one of their number except Palmer seems to have had any notion of how to farm. Also, as Lane explains in a letter, ‘we are impressed with the conviction that by a faithful reliance on the Spirit which actuates us, we are sure of attaining to clear revelations of daily practical duties as they are to be daily done for us,’ wherefore no plan of work was laid out, and the various philosophers would wander vaguely about the fields, when the spirit hinted, sowing and digging, in some cases going over the same plot which one had scattered with clover seed to sow it again with rye, oats or barley. Two mulberry trees planted by them were put so close to the house that they almost heaved it free of its foundation in later years, though this misfortune was one that the community itself did not have to suffer.

Fruitlands_in_1915The use of animal manures to fertilize the land was considered by Alcott to be ‘disgusting in the extreme,’ and was therefore prohibited. The idea was to plow under the growing green crops to achieve the required richness. The drawback to this being the difficulty of harvesting anything for themselves. But this did not as yet trouble them. What did trouble them was the unaccustomed toil with the spade, for they did not believe in using enslaved beasts to work for them, broke their backs and tore their hands. A compromise was achieved, and Old Palmer went off for a yoke of oxen to do the plowing. One of these proved to be a cow, and Palmer, to the horror of the rest, was seen to indulge in that creature’s yield of milk. He had, as he expressed it, ‘to be let down easy.’

There seem to have been other more spiritual concessions to this demand for an easier rule. The bread of the community was unbolted flour. In order to make it more palatable, Mr. Alcott, with something approximating humor, was accustomed to form the loaves ‘into the shapes of animals and other pleasing figures.’ Water was the sole drink, but it was invariably spoken of as their ‘beverage,’ probably with the same hope of making it appear more desirable. As for the meals, they are always spoken of as ‘chaste,’ the intercourse between the members at Fruitlands was ‘social communion,’ and sleep was a ‘report to sweet repose.’ If there is a power in words, and true sustenance, Fruitlands made the most of it.

Old Palmer’s life was one long fight to keep his beard, an appendage which Fruitlands alone, at the epoch, regarded with equanimity. In spite of the rage with which people generally regarded beards in those days, Palmer believed in them, and his life was a splendid assertion of this belief. Through all sorts of vicissitudes he hung on to that beard. Going to Boston he would be followed by hooting crowds. Men would spring out on him in his native Fitchburg from doorways, and endeavor to tear the offending thing from his face, but he could defend it, and did. Then he would be hauled to court for assault and battery, a fine imposed, on refusal to pay which Palmer would be sentenced to jail. There he remained at one time for over a year, part of it in solitary confinement. The jailers actually tried to shave him there, but the old man put up so fierce a fight that they desisted. Once the minister refused him Holy Communion, whereupon he strode to the altar and took the cup himself, asserting with flashing eyes that he ‘loved his Jesus as well as or better than any one else present.’ When at last he died he had his bearded face carved on his tombstone. where it may still be seen. When Fruitlands failed it was Palmer who bought the place, and there he carried on a queer sort of community of his own for more than twenty years.”


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“After a number of escapades in her early career here she ended up in Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum for a short term.”

The Swami Laura Horos was a Kentucky-born religious swindler of regal countenance, innumerable aliases and great talent, known as a medium who created short-lived sects aimed at separating the devout from their dollars, often selling “spiritual paintings” of little value for exorbitant fees. A serial bride, her husbands were likewise scammers or the unfortunately scammed, and she was frequently arrested in New York City and other points in America. She faced her most serious criminal trial, however, in England in 1901, when she and one of her spouses were charged with (and found guilty of) fraud and rape. Her vagabond life continued when she was released from custody in 1906. A New York Times article in the August 26, 1909 edition covers her return to the city, as she practiced her dark art under the name Ann O’Delia Dis Debar. An excerpt about her career, as it were:

“…Ann O’Delia Dis Debar has been in the papers for years. When she came to New York some thirty-eight years ago she was a handsome young woman, who claimed to be Princess Edith, Countess of Landsfelt, daughter of Ludwig I, King of Bavaria, and Lola Montez. Others say she was the daughter of a Kentucky school teacher named Salomon. 

After a number of escapades in her early career here she ended up in Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum for a short term. She married Paul Noel Massant, who died soon after; then she turned up in Baltimore. She married Gen. Joseph Dis Debar, and soon afterward was giving spiritualistic séances.

It was about 1885 that she met Luther R. Marsh in this city. He was a wealthy and distinguished lawyer, who had studied law in Daniel Webster’s office. He came entirely under her influence. She gave séances in his Madison Avenue house, which he gave to her, and then bought many paintings which she claimed had been made by spirits. His friends took up his case, had Ann O’Delia Dis Debar indicted, and made her disgorge some some of Mr. Marsh’s property. She spent some time on Blackwell’s Island in 1888. 

After her release she went to Europe, returned to Chicago, where she was known as Vera P. Ava and Ida Veed-Ya, and was sent to Joliet Penitentiary for two years. When she got out she married her third husband, William J. McGowan, who had considerable money. He died soon afterward.

In 1899, she was in New Orleans with Theodore Jackson, whose wife she professed to be. They were driven out of New Orleans and turned up in Florida next. Later they were heard of in Africa doing a religious turn under the name of Helena and Horos. In London, in 1901, her husband was charged with luring young girls into a new cult. He was sent to prison for fifteen years and Dis Debar for seven years. She was turned out on parole in August, 1906, and immediately decamped. For this Scotland Yard is looking for her.

Next she descended upon Michigan at the head of a new cult called the ‘House of Israel,’ or the ‘Flying Rollers.’ Then David Mckay became her secretary. She called herself Elinor L. Mason.

She and Mackay disappeared in 1907 after her identity became suspected and neither had been heard from since up to yesterday. It was learned that they have been working quietly in New Jersey and New York.

The Detective Bureau would like to know where Dis Debar is right now.”

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The 1970s sensation of the King Tut exhibit obviously had it roots in ancient times, but its modern story began in 1922 when Howard Carter unearthed the unimaginable trove, wonderfully preserved. Soon after the discovery, the New York Times sent a reporter to Egypt to document the find that stunned the world. The article’s opening:

“Through the courtesy of Howard Carter, the American Egyptologist, who, as director of Lord Carnarvon‘s expedition, has, after thirty-three years’ search dug up the tomb of King Tutankhamen of the eighteenth dynasty, the correspondent of The New York Times was allowed today an exclusive view of the interior of the two ante-chambers of the tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Upper Egypt. The rest of the chambers of the tomb are still sealed.

Down a steep incline we entered straight to the first chamber. In the middle of the wall to the right is a doorway evidently leading to the chamber or chambers wherein doubtless are the sarcophagus and mummy of the King, and perhaps other treasures, since the antechambers are merely a hallway with a drawing room concealed behind a tantalizing sealed door, which will not be opened before the return of Lord Carnarvon from London, which will be about the middle of February.

Against this doorway are two life-size statues of the King made of bitumenized wood–not ebony, as at first reported. They are still standing on reed mats, just as they stood in the King’s palace and exactly as laid down on the Pharaonic funerary ritual. This again is evidence that this is the tomb and not the cache of Tutankhamen, as, if it were the cache the statues would be standing anywhere and anyhow, certainly not in exact accordance with the ritual.

The feet of each statue are shod with solid gold sandals of inestimable value. Each statue is crowned with a golden crown, bearing in front the royal serpent, or uraeus. As Thebes was the shrine of the cult of the serpent this is not unusual.

Incidentally, the day the tomb was opened and the party found these golden serpents in the crowns of the two statues there was an interesting incident at Carter’s house. He brought a canary with him this year to relieve his loneliness. When the party was dining, that night there was a commotion outside on the veranda. The party rushed out and found that a serpent of similar type to that in the crowns had grabbed the canary. They killed the serpent, but the canary died, probably from fright.

The incident made an impression on the native staff, who regard it as a warning from the spirit of the departed King against further intrusion on the privacy of his tomb.

But the most notable thing about the statues is the rare beauty of the faces. They have evidently been made from plaster casts such as were made by the ancient Egyptians a thousand years before the Greeks or Romans ever thought of them. They show the King as a man of royal mien. Gazing on the beautiful, calm, kindly and strong countenance on the left-hand statue, which is undamaged, one finds it difficult to realize that such a monarch could have succumbed to the overwhelming influence among the priests as he did, to become again an adherent of the orthodox religion. The explanation is probably that he realized the futility of opposition to pressure so strong that it even forced the Queen to change her name from Ankhosenaten to Ankhosenamen.

It is certain that the King would not have agreed to his humiliation unless there was no alternative. This fact is historically most interesting as indicating that the power of the Hierarchy of Amon in the days of Tutankhamen was greater than that of Pharaoh, though these sacredotal Princes did not seize the throne from the Pharaohs until more than 300 years later.

As works of art those statues reach a plane of excellence probably higher than has been reached in any subsequent period of the world.

On the other side of the chamber is a throne incomparably magnificent and wondrously beautiful. One must note its infallible evidence of the wholly unsuspected height reached by ancient Egyptian art. The innate refinement, pure lofty estheticism and amazing skill of the craftsman constitute a startling revelation. It shows not only the imperial splendor of ancient Egypt was far more delicate and magnificent than was imagined or equaled in the world’s history, but also that the late greatest craftsmen of ancient Greece were mere hacks compared to the master who designed and adorned the throne.”

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That the early 20th-century demonstrations of the Waterland were a great success didn’t really matter; there wasn’t a market for an amphibious automobile. But that doesn’t diminish the wow factor of inventor Jules Reveillier’s insane boat-on-wheels, pictured here in a classic photograph. From a November 13, 1907 New York Times report about an outlandish test run in (and around) the Hudson:

“The amphibious French automobile took its first plunge in America yesterday afternoon at Fort Washington on the Hudson, while fifty or more automobile and motorboat experts watched its performance. After a half hour spent in diving from the beach to the river and returning, cavorting about in the quiet waters of the Hudson, and similar stunts, the car ran up the bank and across the New York Central Railroad tracks, climbed the steep hill to Riverside Drive, and rolled merrily down the Drive amid the plaudits of those who watched it. The opinion of the experts who saw it was that the demonstration was a complete success, though in its present form its commercial value is not apparent.

The demonstration was arranged by a firm of automobile dealers, and on its success was supposed to depend whether or not the firm would put the invention on the market. The invention is owned by Jules Reveillier, a French automobile enthusiast, who recently brought the boat across the Atlantic to show Americans its possibilities.

The contrivance is unusual enough in appearance to arouse interest anywhere. Its body is shaped exactly like the ordinary motorboat, except that it is a little broad of bean for high speed. It has the regulation straight prow, sharp nosed and broadening quickly to its greatest beam. The engine is set well forward in the usual covered compartment, and a cockpit, equipped with typical automobile steering wheel, is directly amidships. A seat wide enough to comfortably accommodate two persons is set behind the wheel, and is supposed to be occupied by the steersman and the engineer. Behind this seat, and almost flush with the deck, is another, wide enough for two men. The body is rounded off abruptly at the stern.

The front wheels, which respond to the steering wheel, are set forward of the engine two or three feet. The wheels are directed by a steering gear like that attached to the rudder of an ordinary boat operated by chains running from the bow, while the rear wheels are turned by chain gear.

The wheels are made of hollow steel plates and have ordinary automobile tires. They are thus available for road service, and act as air chambers to help keep the machine afloat when in the water and as a keel to prevent it from turning over. A simple mechanical contrivance shifts the power from the driving wheels to the propeller as the boat enters the water, and shifts it back again when it reaches land.

The present boat is built entirely of steel. It is equipped with a low power automobile engine. On land the engine is capable of driving the car twenty miles an hour, while in the water it attains a speed of about nine knots under ordinary conditions.

The machine is 8 or 9 feet long, with a wheel base of 54 inches.

The possibility of navigating on land was acknowledged by the party that went up the Hudson to see to see the boat tried, and it was taken at once to the waterfront yesterday. It traveled over the rough ground on the bank of the river without difficulty, and entered the water easily. As the forward wheels entered the water they floated the prow, when the hub was submerged, and the rear wheels drove the boat on while they were on land.

The driver who handled the car transferred the power to the propeller skillfully, and the momentum acquired in leaving the bank carried the contrivance well out into the stream. It answered perfectly to the rudder.

Returning, the machine mounted the bank easily. Several time these dives were repeated, and the boat each time entered and left the water successfully.”


“I am confident of success.”

Franz Reichelt was sure he was right. A tailor taken with aviation, Reichelt convinced himself in 1912 that his nouveau parachute would serve and protect. French authorities forbade his planned demonstration of the contraption with a leap from the Eiffel Tower unless a dummy was used in his stead. But Reichelt would not listen to reason: He became his own dummy. These two classic photos show him just prior to his fatal miscalculation played itself out in front of hundreds. From “Dies in Parachute From Eiffel Tower,” a New York Times article that misspells the surname of the man in decline:

Paris–Franz Reichalt, an Austrian tailor, who had been experimenting with a new form of parachute, jumped to-day from the first platform of the Eiffel Tower, 180 feet high, and fell to the ground like a stone. He was killed instantly. 

Reichalt had long been interested in aviation questions. Every spare hour he spent pursuing this hobby. He recently decided to compete for a prize offered for the best form of parachute or other device which would safeguard an aviator in the event of an accident happening to his machine.

Reichalt tried several designs for a parachute and experimented with them in the courtyard of the house he occupied. Apparently his experiments to some extent were successful. At all events for weeks past Reichalt had been petitioning the authorities to allow him to make a serious trial of as apparatus from the Eiffel Tower.

Such permissions were not easily obtained, and that which he finally got from the Prefecture stipulated that the test be made with a dummy. There was little secrecy about the fact, however, that Reichalt intended to substitute himself for the dummy in spite of 10 degrees of frost and a stiff northeaster.

Several hundred people gathered underneath the Eiffel Tower toward 8 o’clock when the experiment was to be made. Reichalt arrived with a friend carrying his parachute, which was made of khaki colored canvas, weighing about 20 pounds and had a surface of nearly 40 square yards.

Several aviation specialists were present, among them M. Hervieu, who made several experiments with the same kind of device himself, and it is significant that M. Hervieu, on examining Reichalt’s apparatus, expressed great doubt as to its practicability, advancing one or two technical arguments against it which Reichalt was quite unable to oppose.

But he was not shaken in his conviction even at the eleventh hour, for he said almost jauntily: ‘I am confident of success.’ Mr. Hervieu emphatically declared, on seeing a preliminary test from a distance that the parachute required much too long a time to open itself out. His judgement had hardly been made when it was most fully confirmed.

Reichelt clambered over the hand rail and threw himself forward, but the parachute never opened, and his descent was one of unbroken acceleration 180 feet to the ground. His body was a shapeless mass when the police picked it up and carried it with all speed in a taxicab to the nearest infirmary.

The accident caused a protest to be raised this evening against a repetition of such experiments except with the fullest approval and knowledge of specialists.“•

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Astronomer Percival Lowell did some brilliant work in analyzing our solar system, but he took a wrong turn at Mars. In this classic 1914 photo, Lowell is examining Venus, but it was the Red Planet that burned him. At his Flagstaff Observatory, he “discovered” canals in Mars’ surface, which he felt must have been man-made–or at least Martian-made. These beliefs did not raise his stock in the scientific community. The opening of “Martians Build Two Canals in Two Years,” an article by Mary Proctor, daughter of early Mars mapper Richard A. Proctor, in the August 27, 1911 New York Times:

“According to a telegram dated Aug. 17, from Flagstaff Observatory, Arizona, Dr. Percival Lowell announces the rediscovery of two new canals of Mars, which were seen for the first time at the last opposition in 1909. The canals are now very conspicuous, and attracting world-wide attention because of their startling significance. 

Measurement of their dimensions shows each of them to be a thousand miles long and some twenty miles wide. In comparison, the canon of the Colorado River would be a secondary affair. What has been the cause of these vast chasms which have suddenly opened on Mars, where the internal forces are far less than could be possibly be the case with our planet? Nothing like it has ever been seen or heard of before. To witness the coming into existence on another world of a surface feature in what we know to be no airy cloud-built fabric, but the solidest of ground, is in its character an event so far of unique occurrence.

That these vast chasms have been caused by some internal disturbance is out of the question, for shattering of the sort would certainly have left its mark in yawning, cavernous abysses–such as are on our own planet in regions where volcanic disturbances have taken place. In the case of the new canals recently observed on Mars, such widespread, shattering effects are altogether absent, and as Dr. Lowell expresses it: ‘The outcome is purely local, and of most orderly self-restraint at that. An enormous change in the planet’s features has taken place, with no concomitant disruption beyond the bounds it set. The whole thing is wonderfully clear-cut.’

That the new canals were not a mere illusion or vagary of the imagination is proven by the fact that they are again visible, but they are as great a problem now as they were when first seen in 1909. Canals a thousand miles long and twenty miles wide are simply beyond our comprehension. Even though we are aware of the fact that, owing to the mass of the planet being a little less than one-ninth of the earth’s mass, a rock which here weighs one hundred pounds would there only weigh thirty-eight pounds, engineering operations being in consequence less arduous than here, yet we can scarcely imagine the inhabitants of Mars capable of accomplishing this Herculean task within the short interval of two years.”

Lowell’s sketches of the so-called Martian canals.

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As far as domestic atrocities in America can be measured, I would think that the conduct at Fort Sumter, the Civil War military prison in Georgia, ranks with anything after slavery and the treatment of Native Americans. The open-air stockade prison (nicknamed Andersonville by inmates) held 45,000 prisoners during its 14-month existence, with nearly a third succumbing to starvation, lack of drinking water and disease. Swiss-born Confederate officer Henry Wirz commanded the camp and was known for his brutality and severity. Even though the lack of supplies and pen-type jail weren’t his fault alone, Wirz was the one executed for the crimes against humanity. The classic photograph above shows him as he’s about to have his sentence carried out. From the story of his hanging in the November 10, 1865 New York Times:

“WIRZ was executed this morning at 10:30 o’clock. Nobody who saw him die to-day will think any the less of him. He disappointed all those who expected to see him quiver at the brink of death. He met his fate, not with bravado, or defiance, but with a quiet, cheerful indifference. Smiles even played upon his countenance until the black coat shut out from his eyes the sunlight and the world forever. His physical misery, whatever it may have been, was completely hidden in his last and successful effort to die bravely and without any exhibition of trepidation or fear, so his step was steady, his demeanor calm, his tongue silent, except as he offered up his last prayer, and all his bearing evinced more of the man than at any time since his first incarceration. The crowd said he was a braver man than PAYNE, or HERROLD, or ATZEROTH. Perhaps it was the bravery of a desperate man, who knows mercy is beyond his hope. Nevertheless, he met his fate with unblanched eye, unmoving feature, and a calm, deliberate prayer for all those whom he has deemed his persecutors. He seemed to have convinced himself of his own innocence, and his last principal conversation was full of protestations that he died unjustly, and that others were just as guilty as he.

Yesterday afternoon, LOUIS SCHADE, WIRZ junior counsel, communicated to him the result of his last appeal to the President. WIRZ said he had no hope. He was ready to die. He had sought and received religious consolation, and it mattered little whether he died now or was spared to die a natural death, for die soon he must. An attache of the Swiss Consulate also called to ascertain the residence of his relatives, that they might be officially apprised of his death. WIRZ said he had been greatly wronged by the refusal of the Swiss Consul to receive money to enable him to conduct his defence.

WIRZ ate his supper as usual, and retiring, slept soundly the best part of the night. This morning he arose early and partook of a moderate breakfast. Soon after, R.B. WINDER, who was associated with WIRZ in the command at Andersonville, was allowed to visit him, and the two had a long conversation, devoted to a review of their career at the stockade, a review of the evidence, and mutual assertions that they were equally guilty, or rather, equally innocent, and that if WIRZ deserved hanging, so did WINDER. WINDER then bade WIRZ an emotional farewell at half-past eight o’clock. Mr. SCHADE was admitted for a farewell interview, during which the prisoner reiterated his thanks for his counsel’s efforts, and expressed himself as to his innocence, much as he had done before. It is due to Mr. SCHADE to say that he has been indefatigable in seeking to prolong the life of his client. He left the prison at the close of the interview, and went to the President’s, where at ten thirty-five he made his last appeal. WIRZ was hung at ten thirty-two.

After Mr. SCHADE left WIRZ, his spiritual advisers, Fathers BOYLE and WIGET entered and remained with him until he was led forth to the scaffold.

At thirty minutes past ten, his hands and legs having been pinioned by straps, the noose was adjusted by L.J. RICHARDSON, Military Detective, and the doomed man shook hands with the priests and officers. At exactly thirty-two minutes past ten, SYLVESTER BALLOU, another detective, at the signal of the Provost-Marshal, put his foot upon the fatal spring, the trap fell with a heavy noise, and the Andersonville jailor was dangling in the air. There were a few spasmodic convulsions of the chest, a slight movement of the extremities, and all was over. When it was known in the street that WIRZ was hung, the soldiers sent up a loud ringing cheer, just such as I have heard scores of times on the battle-field after a successful charge. The sufferings at Andersonville were too great to cause the soldiers to do otherwise than rejoice at such a death of such a man.

After hanging fourteen minutes the body was examined by Post-Surgeon FORD, and life pronounced to be extinct. It was then taken down, placed upon a stretcher, and carried to the hospital, where the surgeons took charge of it.

No sooner had the scaffold and the rope done its work, and become historically famous, than relic seekers began their work. Splinters from the scaffold were cut off like kindling wood, and a dozen feet of rope disappeared almost instantly. The interposition of the guard only saved the whole thing from being carried off in this manner.

The surgeons held a post-mortem, and an examination of the neck showed the vertebrae to be dislocated. His right arm, which has been the chief cause of his physical misery, was in a very bad condition, in consequence of an old wound having broken out afresh. His body also showed severe scrofulitic cruptions.

Agreeably to a request from WIRZ, Father BOYLE received the body to-day, and delivered it to an undertaker, who will inter it, to await the arrival of Mrs. WIRZ, who is expected soon. WIRZ left few or no earthly effects. The only things in his room after the execution were a few articles of clothing, some tobacco, a little whisky, a Testament, a copy of Cummings on the Apocalypse, and a cat, which was WIRZ’s pet companion. This is all there is left of him.”

Andersonville survivor, May 1965.

Andersonville survivor, May 1865.



No one has ever come up with a bigger lie than F. Scott’s Fitzgerald with this whopper: “There are no second acts in American lives.” There have always been second acts and many more after that. I mean, not if you drink yourself to death, but for anyone who waits out the bad times with good humor. 

Bat Masterson was many things in his sixty-seven years–buffalo hunter, Army scout, sheriff, gambler and boxing manager, etc.–until he was one final thing: a New York City newspaper sportswriter. He died as an ink-stained wretch at an editor’s desk, not a gunslinger in a saloon. Masterson is in his journalistic dotage in the above undated classic photo. The report of his death from the October 26, 1921 New York Times:

“William Barclay Masterson, better known as Bat Masterson, sporting writer, friend of Theodore Roosevelt and former sheriff of Dodge City, Kan., died suddenly yesterday while writing an article at his desk in the office of the The Morning Telegraph. He had been connected with the paper for more than ten years, and for the last few years had been one of its editors.

At one time Masterson was said to have been the best known man between the Mississippi and the Pacific Coast, and his exploits and his ability as a gun fighter have become part of the tradition of the Middle West of many years ago. He was the last of the old time gun fighters.

He was born in Iriquios County, Ill., in 1854, the son of a farmer who came originally from St. Lawrence County, N.Y. Little more than a boy, Bat, his rifle across his knees, left the farm and rode into the then Fort Dodge and joined a party of buffalo hunters. Then his actual career began, and probably more weird and bloodthirsty tales have been written about him than of nearly any other man. His fights, however, were in the cause of justice, and he was one of a group of gunfighters who made that part of the country unhealthy for the bad men of the period.

While in the frontier town Bat heard one day that his brother had been killed across the street. Bat headed over. What happened he thus told later on the witness stand:

‘The cowboys had been on the range for some time and were drinking. My brother was the Town Marshall. They were carrying six-shooters and he attempted to disarm one of them who was particularly mean. They shot and killed him and they attempted to kill me. I shot and killed them–one at any rate–and shot the other one.’

His second killing was a cowboy named Jim Kennedy, who had come to town seeking the life of the Mayor. Kennedy shot several times through the door of a Mayor’s house and killed a woman. Then Masterson started out to get him. And he did.

One of Masterson’s most famous exploits was the battle of Dobe Walls, when with nine companions he stood off 200 Indians in a siege of 29 days. The attacking force was composed of Arapahoes and Cheyennes. A fortunate accident–the fall of part of the dirt roof of a saloon in which the buffalo hunters were sleeping–prevented the party from being surprised by the Indians and murdered in their sleep, for the attack was not anticipated. In the gray light of a June morning, when the hunters were engaged in restoring the roof, the Indians descended upon them. The hunters abandoned the roof and took to their guns. Time after time the Indian attack was stopped and the enemy driven back to the shelter of a fringe of cottonwoods along the Canadian River.

Masterson was only 18 years old when he joined Lieutenant Baldwin’s civilian scouts under Colonel Nelson A. Miles. He participated in the battle of Red River, where the Indians were commanded by Geronimo, and in other Indian engagements. Masterson lived fifteen years in Denver. There he became interested in pugilism. He went broke backing Charlie Mitchell in his fight with James J. Corbett. He was an official in the fight between Fitzsimmons and Corbett.”


Masterson, wearing Ascot cap and vest, officiating Fitzsimmons vs. Corbett, 1897:

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“His face is intelligent and his head well shaped, but not abnormal.”

In the classic photograph above, the eventual chess grandmaster (and accountant) Samuel Reshevsky shows his prodigious skills for the game by squaring off simultaneously against 20 excellent adult players in France. The following article from the May 18, 1920 New York Times records the day’s events:

Paris–Twenty graybeards sitting in a square played chess yesterday in Paris against a very small boy 8 years old, and he beat them all. Among the graybeards were some of the best  players in France, and one at least, whose boast is that he drew with Capablanca, the Pan-American chess champion, but all their reputation availed them nothing against a frail child with a pale, thoughtful face, who moved quietly from one board to another, reducing their most skillful plans and wiles to nothingness and mating them when they least expected it. 

Samuel Rzeschewski is the name of the prodigy. He was born near Lodz, in his father, himself a well known player, showed him the moves. For the paternal dignity the lesson was unfortunate. Within a fortnight Samuel was giving his father such beatings that to equalize things he had to give him a rook and another piece.

Yesterday at the Pavillon de la Rotonde, against twenty of the best players of the Palais Royal Society, his victory was complete. Wearing a blue sailor suit, he stood alone in the square of tables and faced unperturbed his graybeard and bald antagonists. His face is intelligent and his head well shaped, but not abnormal. Only the gravity of his face showed that he was not any ordinary 8-year-old going to play ‘hunt the thimble’ with an assembly of grandfathers.

Stepping quickly from one board to another, he spent little time on his moves. He seemed to see at once the weakness of his opponents’ play. Once or twice, when one of them had moved foolishly, his brows contracted in a disapproving frown. For half a minute at most he stood in front of each board, whistling through his teeth, then moved decisively and left his opponent puzzling uselessly how to counter the attack. In the end every one of the men was soundly trounced.

From here Samuel is going to London to complete his conquest of Europe, and then his father says he must retire from public life and begin his education, which has been sadly neglected during the war.”

Samuel Reshevsky, in 1968.

Reshevsky, in 1968.

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There’s no doubt that Harriett Chalmers Adams, pictured in the Gobi Desert above and in a portrait below, was a woman ahead of her time, a bold explorer who risked life and limb in search of knowledge. But I wouldn’t say all her reconnaissance was trustworthy. During a 1918 trip through South America, she believed she encountered actual vampires, which may have been really large bats or Peruvian guys wearing capes. From the August 12, 1918 edition of the New York Times:

“Mrs. Harriett Chalmers Adams, woman explorer of South America, and the wife of Franklin Adams of the Pan-American Union, has returned to Washington from another trip to hitherto unknown parts of South America. She has now traveled more than 40,000 miles on that continent. Speaking of her experiences, she says:

‘I have gone through experiences such as, I am convinced, no white woman has had. I have circumnavigated the South American continent, covering more than 40,000 miles, and have penetrated savage wildernesses where no white woman had ever been. I have climbed mountains, walked in the extinct crater of Mount Misti, wandered in regions of mountain cold where my eyelids froze, and, descending into Amazonian wilderness, stayed in a region infested with vampires–creatures which until then I imagined to be pure myths. I have stood in the site of what is possibly the world’s oldest civilization, and have studied ruins built before the time of Babylon.’

Mrs. Adams has spent about eight years in exploration. In this work and pleasure she discovered, high in the Andes, an unknown river of peat–an important geographical discovery which sheds new light on the geologic formation of the continent. She was the first white woman to invade the interior wilderness of Peru, where she wandered about the sources of the Amazon, in company with jaguars, monstrous snakes, and other wild animals, none of which ever harmed or even attacked her, which led Mrs. Adams to the conclusion that no wild beasts are dangerous unless first attacked themselves by men. On this trip Mrs. Adams came to a region infested by vampires, which previously she had believed to be mythical, and spent a night–the most horrible, she says, of her life–among them. On this occasion her husband and Indian guides were attacked and a number of their mules killed by the blood-sucking creatures which measure three to four feet from tip to tip of their wings.”


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Though his child has long vanished from the sporting scene, Edward Payson Weston was known during his lifetime as the “Father of Modern Pedestrianism,” a pastime that rewarded those who could hoof great distances with surprising speed. I’ve blogged about the world-class walker before, when Brian Phillips of Grantland wrote a sparkling piece about the recent Weston biography, A Man in a Hurry. In this classic photograph, the legendary athlete, profiled at 70 years old, was far removed from his glory days of the 1860s-70s, but perhaps because of good health brought about from his peripatetic exploits, he was still twenty years from his death. Of course, it must be noted that his demise may have been hastened by an accident in 1927 in which he was struck by a NYC taxi, as the roads, which had become the domain of cars, had little room for a remnant of the 1800s who was so accursed by their encroachment. Weston could see the future and didn’t like it, though he was helpless, as we all are, to stop it.

In the same year that this image was taken, the native Rhode Islander wrote an article about one of his cross-country walks, a planned 100-day excursion from New York to San Francisco, for the July 16, 1909 New York Times. The article:

San Francisco, Cal.–Having completed my walk from New York City to San Francisco last night, and enjoyed a restful sleep. I walked to the Post Office Building here this morning and delivered to Postmaster Fiske of San Francisco a letter which I carried in my walk from Postmaster Morgan of New York City. I received a cordial greeting from Postmaster Fisk and his subordinates. 

A pleasant incident of my arrival at Oakland last night was the hearty welcome and congratulations extended to me by officials and employees of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company. This company did so much for me that I fail to find words to express my appreciation. 

Regarding my feelings and condition, I would say that I feel like uttering bitter words, but do not feel inclined to make excuses.

I have received hundreds of letters and telegrams congratulating me on my wonderful achievement, and each one makes me wish I deserved it. Full of vigor and strength, I am disappointed that the elements were against me, and I frankly acknowledge that had it not been for the unbounded kindness of the officers and employees of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company, I should not have dared to come further than Ogden, Utah. I practically had the right of way on the railroad, and every engineer tooted the whistle on his engine as it passed me.

I contend I walked a distance of upward of 4,000 miles in 104 days and 5 hours, and while it exceeds the distance between New York and San Francisco nearly 700 miles, and far excels any previous record, yet technically it is a failure, and I do not feel inclined to close my public career with a failure.

The expenses of this walk were upwards of $2,500. Some dozen prominent cities in the East have made offers to arrange for testimonial lectures on my return, not only to help liquidate my financial loss, but to show that my object lesson in the journey, in striving to elevate in popular esteem the exercise of walking, is appreciated. 

If in the next two weeks I shall receive assurances from a sufficient number of cities and towns between Omaha and New York that they will arrange for lectures and send such word to me in care of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company, San Francisco, then I will try to prove myself worthy of their confidence and esteem by showing how easy it is for any one to walk from San Francisco to New York by direct route within 100 secular days.

There are three very dear friends who oppose this extra walk, but when I convince them that it is my only salvation, and that it would still keep me young and healthy, I know they will fall in with my plans.

Meanwhile the only trouble I have is an awful appetite.”


This classic photograph profiles late-life Mary Baker Eddy, who was the founder of the hokum known as Christian Science, a scripture-based faith healing that believed medicine and hygiene were unnecessary. She was born in 1812 in New Hampshire, began “hearing voices” in her girlhood, and was soon known for her ability to “cure” animals and people alike. Her talent and charisma and persistence allowed her to remarkably create an international cult in an age long before mass media. Even her detractors were awed by her unlikely empire. In an otherwise lacerating 1903 critique of Mrs. Eddy, Mark Twain wrote: “She is interesting enough without an amicable agreement. In several ways she is the most interesting woman that ever lived, and the most extraordinary. The same may be said of her career, and the same may be said of its chief result. She started from nothing. Her enemies charge that she surreptitiously took from Quimby a peculiar system of healing which was mind-cure with a Biblical basis. She and her friends deny that she took anything from him. This is a matter which we can discuss by-and-by. Whether she took it or invented it, it was—materially—a sawdust mine when she got it, and she has turned it into a Klondike.”

Eddy became a shadowy figure in her later years–was she a morphine addict as rumors suggested? was she mentally unfit to care for herself?–though it didn’t diminish her hold on the public’s attention. She died on December 3, 1910. A passage about the origins of her calling from an article about her two days later in the New York Times:

“Some of her friendly biographers quote Mrs. Eddy as having said in describing the discovery of her so-called psychological sense:

When I was very little I used to hear voices. They called me. They spoke my name. ‘Mary! Mary!’ I used to go to my mother and say, ‘Mother did you call me? What do you want?’ and she would say ‘No, my child, I didn’t call you.’ Then I would go away and play but the voices would call me again distinctly.

There was a day when my cousin, whom I dearly loved. was playing with me, and she too heard the voices. She said: ‘You’re mother’s calling you, Mary,’ and when I didn’t go I could hear them again. But I knew that it wasn’t mother. My cousin didn’t know what to make of my behavior, because I was always an obedient child. ‘Why, Mary,’ she repeated, ‘what do you mean by not going?’

When she heard the voices again she went to my mother, and my cousin said:

‘Didn’t you call Mary?’ My mother asked if I heard voices and I said I did. Then she asked my cousin if she heard them, and when she said ‘Yes,’ my mother cried.

She talked with me that night and told me, when I heard them again–no matter where I was-to say: ‘What wouldst Thou, Lord? Here I am.’ That is what Samuel said, you know, when the Lord called him. She told me not to be afraid, but to surely answer.

The next day I heard voices again, but was too frightened to speak. I felt badly. Mother noticed it and asked me if I had heard the call again. When I said that I was too frightened to say what she had told me she talked with me and told me that the next time I must surely answer and not fear.

When the voice came again I was in bed. I answered as quickly as I could, as she had told me to do, and when I had spoken a curious lightness came over me. I remember it so well! It seemed to me I was being lifted off my little bed, and I put out my hands and caught the sides. From that time I never heard the voices. They ceased.”


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General Cassius Marcellus Clay of Kentucky, profiled in these classic photographs, was a wonderful and terrible man, an abolitionist from a family of slave owners who went mental in his dotage, essentially imprisoning a very reluctant 15-year-old wife when he was in his eighties. He was also a politician, an expert duelist, a Yale graduate and so much more. From a report of the death of the nonagenarian in the July 23, 1903 New York Times:

“Gen. Cassius Marcellus was famous for such a multitude of daring deeds, political feats, and personal eccentricities that it is hard to choose any one act or characteristic more distinguished than the rest. As a duelist, always victorious, he was said to have been implicated in more encounters and to have killed more men than any fighter living. As a politician he was especially famous for his anti-slavery crusades in Kentucky, having become imbued with abolition principles while he was a student at Yale, despite the fact that his father was a wealthy slave owner. As a diplomat while Minister to Russia during and after the civil war, he took a prominent part in the negotiations that resulted in the annexation of Alaska.

The act of Gen. Clay’s life that has commanded most attention in recent years was his marriage to a fifteen-year-old peasant girl after he had reached his eighty-fourth birthday. In 1887, he had married his first wife, Miss Warfield, a member of an aristocratic family of slave holders, and years afterward when he had become an ardent disciple of Tolstoi, he came to the conclusion that he ought to wed a ‘daughter of the people.’ In November, 1894, he chose Dora Richardson, the daughter of a woman who had been a domestic for some time in his mansion at White Hall, near Lexington.

When the little girl became his wife, the General proceeded to employ a governess for her. She rebelled. Then he sent her to the same district school she had attended previously. The fact that he supplied her with the most beautiful French gowns and lavished money upon her, she did not consider compensations for the teasing she got at the hands of her fellow-pupils. In two months he had to take her back home, still uneducated. 

The old warrior’s eccentricities increased during his declining years, and after his latest marriage he thought little of anything except his dream that some ancient enemy was trying to murder him and his ‘peasant wife,’ as he called her. She, in spite of his kindnesses, kept running away from White Hall, and finally he decided he must get a divorce. This he did, charging her with abandonment. She soon married a worthless young mountaineer named Brock, who was once arrested for counterfeiting. Then the General began to plot to get her back, having already given a farm and house to her and her new husband, only to hear that Brock sold the property. At last Brock died, and a few months ago dispatches from Kentucky stated that the General was trying in vain to prevail upon his ‘child wife’ to return to him. She refused persistently, never having outgrown the dislike for the luxurious life with which he surrounded her and still preferring the simple country existence to which she was born.”

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Capt. Roald Amundsen, the great Norwegian explore of polar regions, is profiled in this classic 1909 photograph. The arduous journeys that he and his rivals undertook to unravel Earth’s mysteries were large and heroic, but in a March 11, 1912 New York Times article, Amundsen discussed the smaller details of being an explorer that usually get lost in the history books. Excerpts about dog-eating and tooth-pulling:

“With regard to food, we had full rations all the way, but in that climate full rations are a very different thing to having as much as a man can eat. There seems little limit to one’s eating powers when doing a hard sledging journey. However, on the return journey we had not merely full rations, but as much as we could eat from the depots after passing 86 degrees.

‘The first dogs were eaten on the journey to the pole in 85 1/2 degrees, when twenty-four were killed. In spite of the fact that they had not always been able to obtain full meals, the dogs were fat and proved most delicious eating. It is anything but a real hardship to eat dog meat. …

‘Washing was a luxury never indulged in on the journey, nor was there any shaving, but as the beard has to be kept short to prevent ice accumulating from one’s breath, a beard-cutting machine which we had taken along proved invaluable.

‘Another article taken was a tooth extractor, and this also proved valuable, for one man had a tooth which became so bad that it was absolutely essential that it should be pulled out, and this could hardly have been done without a proper instrument.””




The Russian famine which began in 1921 claimed six million people and placed many more at the brink of starvation, willing to do anything–anything–to avoid succumbing to the privations. This classic 1921 photograph shows the starving who had turned to cannibalism to survive. From the June 9, 1922 New York Times:

London–A shocking story of despair, death and cannibalism in Russia was narrated to The Associated Press today by William Shafroth, son of former Governor Shafroth of Colorado, who arrived in London after a year’s work with the American Relief Administration in the Russian famine regions.

The desperate people, he said, are eating human beings, diseased horses, dogs, and cats. Cemeteries are being dug up and long-buried bodies snatched as food. In their hunger-madness the people are stealing bodies from morgues and hospitals to eat. Mr. Shafroth, who had charge of 20,000 Russians working for the American Relief Administration in the Samara district, is emaciated after his arduous work among the starving, dying and shelterless. But he gave ample proof that the famine sufferers did not try to seize him for cannibalistic purposes, as had been reported while he was in Russia. He said, however, that a Russian member of the A.R.A., who died of typhus, was disinterred at night and eaten by crazed inhabitants. This gave rise to the report that Mr. Shafroth had been devoured.

In some respects the young American’s narrative is unequaled even by the tragic pictures in Daniel Defoe’s journal of the plague year.

‘I know one instance,’ said Mr. Shafroth, ‘where a distracted mother of five children killed the youngest in order to appease the pangs of the rest of the flock; but the oldest boy cried bitterly when he saw his mother sever his little brother’s head and place the body into a pot. He refused to eat the flesh.”

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