Photography

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Just as talkies were announcing themselves across America, genius Russian silent film director Sergei Eisenstein was dejectedly departing Hollywood, no richer financially or creatively for his failed attempts at pleasing U.S. movie producers. An article in the May 1, 1932 Brooklyn Daily Eagle made clear his disenchantment with the business end of show business and the automaton nature of the burgeoning studio system.

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While the early twentieth-century mobster Arnold Rothstein has entered into American culture in everything from The Great Gatsby to Boardwalk Empire, he most infamously left his mark on major-league baseball. The “Brain,” as he was often called, transformed the often chaotic world of crime into a corporate-type affair, becoming the first “legitimate businessman.” One Rothstein deal saw him and other gamblers entice members of the 1919 White Sox to throw the World Series, a scandal which nearly killed the sport. And then there was the unintended consequence of the fix which occurred when Kenesaw “Mountain” Landis, a federal judge, was subsequently named baseball’s first commissioner with the imperative to clean up the game. In addition to other policies, Landis was steadfast in not allowing players of color to participate in the league, keeping the sport segregated. It’s no sure bet the game would have been integrated without Landis, but there was no way it was happening with him. The following article from the November 5, 1928 Brooklyn Daily Eagle reports on the murder of Rothstein, not shockingly a gambling-related crime.

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Famed attorney Clarence Darrow was an extremist when it came to criminality, believing in circumstance but not culpability. He saw criminals the way the writer of a naturalist novel views characters, as prisoners of nature and nurture, incapable of circumventing either. Based on the remarks he made as reported in an article in the April 4, 1931 Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Darrow would have treated all misdeeds as maladies, the perpetrators receiving treatment in hospitals rather than stretches in prison.

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A century ago, Gobi Desert dwellers didn’t desire dinosaur eggs for their historical value but for their utility, often fashioning from them jewelry or other trinkets to wear or trade. In 1923, a motorcar-powered expedition, which numbered naturalist Roy Chapman Andrews as one of its leaders, was the first to ever secure the prehistoric eggs and bring them back to America. It was a sensation, of course. Chapman, a showman at heart who was not immune to utility himself, parlayed the jaw-dropping find into international celebrity, the directorship of the American Museum of Natural History and a young trophy wife. It’s conjectured by some that he was the model for Indiana Jones, but most likely that character is a composite of numerous explorers. A couple years after his dino-egg windfall, the scientist returned to the Gobi and purchased an armful of shells from a Mongolian villager for a bar of soap (see caption of fourth photo from top). One odd thing about the October 29, 1923 Brooklyn Daily Eagle article below, which heralded Chapman’s discovery, is its surprise that dinosaurs laid eggs. It doesn’t mention what the prevailing theory had been.

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Vladimir Lenin’s corpse has had a perplexing postscript, but one particular body part, his brain, may have had the most fascinating “afterlife” of all, as the Soviet leader’s adoring people sliced it and diced it, hoping to find the source of genius that propelled the Bolshevik Revolution. In an article in the February 24, 1929 Brooklyn Daily Eagle, the paper underestimated the pieces the organ had been pulverized into, numbering it at 15,000 when it was actually more than twice that many.

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At the time of his death in 1945, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s approval ratings were not at their highest.

Il Duce was executed by a firing squad and hung upside down from the roof of an Esso gas station for bringing ruin to the nation during World War II, his corpse later lowered into a pile with 16 other dead Fascists, where it could be further brutalized by an outraged citizenry. In an article in the May 30, 1945 Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Mussolini’s astounding end was described in gory detail.

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Before he found religion in the non-profit sector, L. Ron Hubbard garnered some acclaim as a writer of pulp fiction, his first full-length work a Western. Below are the positive Brooklyn Daily Eagle review of that 1937 book; the paper’s dyspeptic 1950 take on Hubbard’s psychotherapy treatise, Dianetics; and a best-seller list from when the latter had begun to make its mark.

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From the August 1, 1937 edition:

 

From the December 10, 1950 edition:

 

From the November 26, 1950 edition:

 

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Why fight ISIS and not Assad? It’s certainly not for humanitarian reasons. Way more Syrians have been tortured and killed by the nation’s blood-soaked President than have been murdered in Syria and Iraq by the thoroughly modern, Rolex-wearing jihadists. It’s obviously for two reasons. One is strategic: While the crisis in Syria is horrifying, it’s contained within the state and doesn’t threaten other countries. The other is because of the ISIS marriage of medieval brutality (beheadings and mass executions) with modern marketing technology (Youtube, social media and video games). It’s hard to avoid the terror, and that’s the point. They’re not flying into your towers but into your head. From Christoph Reuter, Raniah Salloum and Samiha Shafy at Spiegel:

“In recent months, Islamic State has become known for its adept video production and its fighters are widely present on all manner of social media sites, including Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube, Instagram and SoundCloud. If their accounts get closed down, they just register under new names.

But the group’s marketing gurus do much more than simply repeat the same message ad infinitum on different platforms. They design each video and each message to correlate exactly to the target audience. For Western observers, they are cool, clean and coherent. For locals, they are bloody, brutal and fear-inducing.

Bringing People Together

When it works to their advantage, they exaggerate their own massacres. Sometimes they falsify the identity of their victims. The thousands of fellow Sunnis they killed in Syria were branded simply as ‘godless Shiites’ on television. They even market themselves to kids, manipulating popular video games such as Grand Theft Auto V so that Islamic State fighters and the group’s black flag make an appearance.

In short videos from the series ‘Mujatweets,’ an apparently German fighter talks about his supposedly wonderful life in the Caliphate. Such scenes, depicting the multicultural Islamic State brotherhood, are clearly meant for Muslims in the West. ‘Look here,’ the message is, ‘everyone is equal here!’ The images suggest that jihad has no borders; that it brings people together and makes them happy. Other blogs include women gushing about family life in wartime and the honor of being the widow of a martyr.

Islamic State’s propaganda offers something for every demographic — it is so professionally produced that al-Qaida looks old-fashioned by comparison. It is, as the New York Times recently dubbed it, ‘jihad 3.0.'”

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Rust never sleeps, and Walt Disney, even with all his great success and grand imagination, wasn’t immune to the quiet terrors of life any more than the rest of us. Almost two decades before he built his first safe and secure family theme park in California, the Hollywood house he’d purchased for his parents was invaded by a silent killer. Two articles follow from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

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From the November 27, 1938 edition:

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From the May 16, 1954 edition:

 

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F. Scott Fitzgerald, good novelist and great short-story writer, thought that women were beautiful when young and damned thereafter. The Jazz Age sexist aired his mind-numbingly stupid views in an article in the March 9, 1924 Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Even if he was just being glib, some flapper should have punched him in the nuts. An excerpt follows.

 

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Ray Harroun won the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911, but he wasn’t alone. The automobilist will forever be crowned the inaugural winner, but fellow driver Cyrus Patschke also handled the wheel of his car, the Marmon Wasp, for a spell, a maneuver common to drivers in early auto races who wanted to take a breather. Ralph Mulford, another entrant who drove his vehicle all by himself for the race’s duration, was actually considered the more impressive driver, and protested Harroun being named winner. The complaint, though, wasn’t directed at Harroun employing a “relief driver,” but rather the fact that Mulford received the checkered flag first, and while he was running several extra laps just to be sure that he’d completed enough tours of the track, Harroun made his way to the winner’s circle. The historic moment had left Mulford in the dust.

An article about the soon-to-be-run race in the May 28, 1911 Brooklyn Daily Eagle, which featured the comments of driver Ralph DePalma:

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In 1961, Harroun appeared on What’s My Line? fifty years year after his most famous moment:

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Even by the oft-eccentric standards of your garden-variety cyberneticist, Warren Sturgis McCulloch was something of an outlier. Known for his purported diet of cigarettes, whiskey and ice cream, the MIT genius was the proud father of 17 adopted children. More than six decades ago he was extrapolating the power of then-rudimentary machines, concerned that eventually AI might rule humankind, a topic of much concern in these increasingly automated times. The below article from the September 22, 1948 Brooklyn Daily Eagle records his clarion call about the future.

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In 1969, the year before McCulloch died, his opinions on the Singularity had changed somewhat.

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I previously posted a 1955 New York Times interview which Thomas Mann sat for near the end of his life, and below I’ve put a piece from a Brooklyn Daily Eagle article about him that ran in the April 18, 1937 edition, when he was living in America, an exile from Nazi Germany during the early days of World War II. He seemed confident about the fall of fascism. I never read before that he’d dined with FDR, though it makes sense given the writer’s Nobel stature and his social nature. The piece was written by Alvah Bessie, who a decade later was to be blacklisted and imprisoned by HUAC as a member of the “Hollywood Ten,” along with Dalton Trumbo.

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Much of Sven Hedin’s life was lived in public, but the truth about him is somewhat buried nonetheless, strange for a Swedish explorer who spent his life unearthing the hidden. His expeditions to Central Asia just before and after beginning of the twentieth century introduced the world to invaluable art and artifacts and folkways and cities that had been lost to time.

Hedin was admired for these efforts in all corners of the world, including the one occupied by Adolf Hitler. The geographer perplexingly returned the Führer’s admiration, believing in the Nazi’s nationalistic and traditionalist tendencies, which was obviously a catastrophic misjudgement. He was highly critical, however, of the Party’s anti-Semitism. These protests brought trouble. Hitler seems to have blackmailed the famed explorer into publishing pro-Nazi tracts by imperiling some of Hedin’s Jewish friends still inside Germany. But it’s difficult to believe Hedin encouraged Sweden to ally with Germany during WWII to save a few friends. He just apparently didn’t want to recognize the evil. A disease of the eye caused Hedin to become partially blind in 1940, an apt metaphor for this period of his life.

Long before his dubious politics, Hedin penned an article for Harper’s about an unusual subterranean Tibetan custom, a piece reprinted in the September 17, 1908 Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

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Even in the wake of the twin horrors of World War I and a global flu pandemic, the crimes of Nathan E. Leopold Jr. and Richard Loeb couldn’t be easily comprehended. In 1924, the gifted, wealthy sons of the best of everything Chicago society had to offer, kidnapped and murdered 14-year-old Robert Franks for the “thrill” of it all. It was nothing personal–they knew and liked the lad–they just desired to commit the “perfect crime.” Once arrested, the pair confessed to the premeditated brutality and were defended by Clarence Darrow, who kept them from the death house. Loeb was killed by a fellow prisoner, while Leopold was paroled in 1958 and subsequently moved to Puerto Rico, where he worked in medicine and education. Theories abounded at the time as to what drove their heinous act: poor parenting, improper moral education, overindulgence, an infatuation with science, manic depression, paranoia, sexual perversion, even too much Nietzsche. But it was likely a confluence of factors forever bound in a knot. The below article is from the June 1, 1924 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

 

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Norbert Wiener’s worried vision for an automated America never was realized–until maybe now, that is. In an article in the August 18, 1950 Brooklyn Daily Eagle, the cyberneticist and mathematician explained how the second Industrial Revolution might be a mixed blessing. The story:

Cambridge, Mass. — If Russia doesn’t ruin us the robots will, a noted scientist predicted today. Dr. Norbert Wiener, professor of mathematics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said Moscow and the new mechanical brains might even prove unwitting allies in driving the United States into a ‘decade or more of ruin and despair.’

Wiener is the bearded former boy prodigy who earned his doctorate of philosophy at the age of 19 and went on to develop the new science of ‘cybernetics’–the use of communication in controlling men or machines.

Will Take Over Tasks

He said the United States is on the verge of a ‘second industrial revolution’ in which robot factories operated by so-called mechanical brains will take over all the routine tasks of production from men.

‘Short of any violent political changes or another great war, I should give a rough estimate that it will take the new tools 10 or 20 years to come into their own,’ Wiener said.

But he added that the demands of a war with Russia would speed the development of robot factories and almost inevitably see the automatic man age in full swing within less than five years.’

What happen to humans when the robots take over?

May Be a Good Thing

Wiener has a word of warning about that in a new book, The Human Use of Human Beings, which will be published Monday by Houghton Mifflin Company.

If the new machines are used wisely, he said, it may in the long run ‘make this a good thing and the source of the leisure which is necessary for the cultural development of man on all sides.

But Wiener said the depression of the 1930s will look like ‘pleasant joke’ in comparison with what will happen if the nation misuses the new machines which can calculate, remember, pass judgement and even succumb to nervous breakdowns.

‘Thus the new industrial revolution is a two-edged sword,’ he said. ‘It may be used for the benefit of humanity, assuming that humanity survives long enough to enter a period in which such a benefit is possible.'”

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World War I, which started exactly a century ago, claimed 16 million lives, but there were many more casualties among the living. One of them was the brilliant baseball pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander. He emerged from battle having inhaled mustard gas and experiencing hearing loss, something akin to epilepsy and what we today would call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A drinker before the war, he became a two-fisted one after the fighting ceased, sometimes taking the mound inebriated. So great was he, it took nearly a decade for alcohol to ground his career, but once his playing days were over, he found himself unemployable in the league he loved, no one wanting to trust a temperamental alcoholic as manager or coach.

A year after being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1938, Alexander found himself an attraction in a raffish New York City dime museum, among the anomalies and curiosities, giving the same speech about his glory days a dozen times daily. The shell of his former self was all he had left to sell, and the press and public brought their cameras to capture a piece of what once was. From an article in the January 20, 1939 Brooklyn Daily Eagle about “Old Pete” in steep decline:

“Cameramen swarmed about the great pitcher as he stood there against the green background, both hands holding a baseball above his head as if starting a windup.

‘Hold it! Hold it!’ they chirped as they focused their cameras.

But the pitching immortal couldn’t ‘hold it.’ His arms came down and he almost dropped the ball. He tired that quickly. The great Grover Cleveland Alexander wasn’t weary from pitching a baseball game. He was starting a series of three weeks’ appearances at Hubert’s Dime Museum, on 42nd St., yesterday.

It’s a Different League

This series is in a world far different from the fresh air, sunshine and roaring crowds that the mighty right-hander knew in the old days. And the man is far different too. The posters outside the museum notify passers-by that the ‘Great Grover Cleveland Alexander’ is on exhibition within. But that’s not true. They’re exhibiting only what’s left of the man that was.

The tall man with the dusty brown hair, bulgy waistline, splotched complexion and somewhat bleary eyes is older and more tired now than you would expect of his 51 years. He is weary and bitter. He believes that the game of baseball didn’t do right by him. He feels that the pastime somehow should have warded off the necessity that is sending the great Alexander of Cooperstown’s Baseball Hall of Fame into Hubert’s hall of freaks and flea circuses and dancing girls. 

A year ago this month the Baseball Writers of America elected Alexander to the Cooperstown shrine where his name joined those of 13 other immortals. But on this January day the tall man in the wrinkled brown suit stands on a tawdry little stage downstairs in the smoky light and tells how he won the seventh game of the 1926 World Series. How he fanned Tony Lazzeri with the bases loaded and two out.

He gives this little talk twelve times a day, starting at noon and ending at midnight, to earn bread and shelter in this bleak twilight of his life. Between lectures he sits in a little wooden cubicle, below the stage–away from staring eyes. Into this little cubicle come reporters and former players to chat with ‘Ol’ Pete’ and to wonder.

It’s the same platform, cubicle and rigmarole that knew Jack Johnson, the Negro who was former heavyweight champion of the world. That was a year or so ago, when ‘Li’l Arthur’ was hard pressed.

First Time Here Since 1930

‘When the museum telegraphed me the offer of a job, I thought somebody was kidding me,’ Alexander said.  I hadn’t been in New York since 1930 and I thought a museum was a place where they keep skeletons and things. But, anyway, I took a chance, wired back and got the job.’

A reporter asked why it was that a man with his reputation never was offered a job in major league baseball after his pitching days were over.

‘Booze! I used to take a drink now and then when I played. Almost every player drank a bit then, and I guess they still do. But I made the mistake of taking my drinks openly. The word got around that I was a drunkard, which I never was. I believe that’s the reason I never even got a coaching job.’

When Alexander asked managers or owners for work, they told him he hadn’t kept pace with the game and they couldn’t use him because he didn’t know the ‘inside stuff.’

Old Pete laughs bitterly at this when he recalls his 19 years of education in the big time.

‘I was in the National League almost 20 years,’ he explains, ‘from 1911 through part of 1930–with the Phillies, Cubs, Cardinals and finally the Phillies again. I know the game inside and out.’

After his retirement in ’30 he managed the House of David team for three seasons. Last year he was out with a semi-pro club in Nebraska, but the going was tough because the farmers had been through a drought.

Despite his bitterness, Alexander seemed to get a thrill out of reliving the old days as he talked to the dime-a-toss listeners.

‘I guess my biggest thrill was in the 1926 World Series,’ he said. ‘I was with the Cardinals. We had won three games and the Yanks had won three. Jess Haines started the last game for us and along about the seventh inning he hurt his hand and they told me to go in. There were three on base and Lazzeri was up. I had pitched and won the sixth game the day before, but my arm felt fine. I only threw three times but I struck Tony out. He fouled my second pitch into the left-field stands. Then I threw him a hook and he missed it by about six inches. That proved to be the game and the series.

‘Yes, I could strike ‘em out in those days. But I kinda struck out myself after I stopped pitchin’.'”•

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When editors at the old Brooklyn Daily Eagle thought about the world’s technological future, they mostly imagined how robots would help them get drunk. That explains so much about that newspaper in those days.

In the October 30, 1927 edition, E.K. Titus wrote an article about Roy J. Wensley’s Televox robot, which received instructions via its built-in telephone. The Westinghouse inventor promised the mechanical man would be able to deliver to you bottles of scotch through pneumatic tubes, drive your car from your garage to your front door, spy on your children, vacuum your floors and warn you of plummeting stock prices. A couple of excerpts follow.

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“‘Peep, buzz, buzz, toot, peep!’ you say into the telephone transmitter, with your tuning forks, which translated, means:

‘It’s devilishly cold over here and I want a bottle of Scotch.’

These simple sounds which you have emitted put the mechanical man to work. It is over in the woods of your country estate somewhere, where you keep your stock for the sake of privacy. The mechanical man hears and acts. He moves a mechanical arm to the exact box where your Scotch is segregated from the rest of your drinks, lifts it into an air-pressure tube, closes the tube and in a moment your phonograph is turned on to say:

‘Here I am!’

You then open your end of the tube and there is your Scotch.

Dr. Edward E. Free, president of the New York Electrical Society, offers to install such a system for any Brooklynites provided they pay him enough money.

It Can Be Done

‘It can certainly be done,’ Dr. Free declared. ‘The mechanical man can be made fully as versatile as that. I will fix up such a system so that they can get their drinks from as far as a mile away without moving out of their apartments.

‘For $40,000 or so it would be possible to rig up an apparatus through the mechanical man that would make it possible for a person to call up his garage half a mile distant, give instructions to the mechanical man and have the car at his front doorstep in a few minutes. 

The mechanical man is an electrical fellow who can hear, take orders and do hundreds of things if he is only trained in advance. He is a radio turned inside out. Instead of receiving electrical energy and transforming it into sound, as the ordinary radio receiving apparatus does, he receives sound and transforms it into electrical energy.

Roy J. Wensley, 29-year-old engineer of the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company, is the inventor.

Has ‘Brain Box’

Wensley’s child does not look like a man, but he has a sort of head or small box in which is located a ‘brain,’ or directing apparatus, capable of performing 20 separate acts when he is ordered to do so. And what is better, he takes orders over the telephone!”

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“Delivering a motorcar from one’s garage to one’s home would be a more expensive performance.

Mr. Johnson would lift his telephone receiver and give Televox the signal for a car.

Steer Car by Radio

Televox would then electrically start an apparatus which would open the doors of the garage, start the motor and steer the car over the garage driveway to the house.

‘You have heard of cars being steered by radio, haven’t you?’ asked Dr. Free. ‘Well, once Televox was on the job the actual work of steering could be handled by radio.’

Televox, indeed, sounds like one of the ‘Fairy Tales of Science‘ that the poet, Tennyson, talks about.

When it is remembered the Televox only responds to noise in the same way that previous apparatus has responded to the pressing of buttons setting up electrical impulses, his work does not appear so much like a fairy tale.”

 

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“Pillsbury has for a long time been insane, becoming violent at times through blindfold chess playing.”

A great light of the nineteenth-century chess world who burned briefly, Harry Nelson Pillsbury was a brilliant player as well as an accomplished mnemonist capable of quickly absorbing and regurgitating seemingly endless strings of facts. Pillsbury never had the opportunity to become world champion because his mental health deteriorated, the result of syphilis which he contracted in his twenties. An article in the April 9, 1906 Brooklyn Daily Eagle assigned his decline to more genteel origins. The text:

“Harry Nelson Pillsbury, the greatest chess player since the days of Paul Morphy, is to be taken from the Battle Creek Sanitarium, where he is at present, to a sanitarium at Atlantic City, N.J. Pillsbury has for a long time been insane, becoming violent at times through blindfold chess playing. The fact became known through a letter from William Penn Shipley, of the Pennsylvania Chess Association, to a friend at the Brooklyn Chess Club.

The game of blindfold chess requires intense concentration of the mind, and, according to the physicians who have been working on Pillsbury’s case, ultimately destroys the memory cells of the brain, if carried on to excess. A player is placed in a room by himself and plays the game, entirely from memory, while his opponent moves for him at the table.

One instance of Pillsbury’s remarkable skill was shown when he payed for thirteen hours, sitting all alone in the little anteroom which leads into the main rooms of the Brooklyn Chess Club. He did not stop even to eat, and bore in mind twenty-four games during that time. Blackburn and Morphy kept no more than fifteen games in their mind at once. Physicians state that the gift to play blindfold is a gift and cannot be acquired.

While Pillsbury’s case is considered practically hopeless, every effort that can be brought to bear to bring the former champion into the knowledge of the world again will be made.”

 

 

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Guglielmo Marconi may or may not have been the very first to create the wireless, as he’s often credited, but he was certainly a passionate supporter of Benito Mussolini, who was a real Fascist, and that wasn’t the inventor’s only strange idea. The text of the announcement of Marconi’s death from the July 20, 1937 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Rome–The Marquis Guglielmo Marconi, who invented wireless when he was only 21, died suddenly at 3:45 a.m. today (10:45 p.m. Monday, E.D.T.) at the ancient palace in downtown Rome where he lived and worked.

The 63-year-old conqueror of the ether died of heart paralysis. His widow, the Countess Cristina Bezzi-Scali, was at his bedside. She had been called back from the seaside resort of Viareggio when he began to feel ill yesterday.

Their daughter, Elettra Elena, whose godmother is Queen Elena, remained at the resort and will not return to Rome until time for the state funeral. Today is her eighth birthday.

Duce Pays Respects

Premier Mussolini, whose ardent supporter Marconi had been, was notified of the death immediately. He dispatched a telegram of condolences and later went to Marconi’s home in the Via Condotti and paid his respects beside the body.”

 

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Muammar Gaddafi got exactly what he deserved, but most don’t. Case in point: Wernher von Braun, complete Nazi and celebrated American hero, who was rescued from cosmic justice at the end of WWII by an accident of geopolitics. Hitler’s rocketeer knew as much about blasting off without blowing up as anybody at just the moment when the U.S.A. and the Soviet Union both wanted to rule the air, the Space Race on the horizon. He was deemed necessary and his slate wiped clean. The text of an article by John B. McDermott in the September 6, 1951 Brooklyn Daily Eagle, which laid out von Braun’s plans for a nuclear-powered mission to Mars:

London–Wernher von Braun, German rocket expert, outlined a plan today to land 50 explorers on Mars for a 13-month visit.

His proposal was the latest scheme for interplanetary travel laid before the international Congress on Astronautics.

Von Braun, designer of the mighty V-2 rocker bomb that plastered London late in 1944, submitted a paper to the conference detailing his proposal. He is in the United States.

Fifty men could reach Mars, he suggested, by traveling on space ships and rockets. They would stop over for refuelling at artificial moons fixed in space between the earth and Mars.

Would Take 260 Days

The journey to Mars, Von Braun said, would take 260 days. Ten space ships with 70 men aboard would take off from earth and stop at the first artificial moon for supplies. They would then travel to another man-made orbit closer to Mars.

From there, he said, 50 men would be selected to land on Mars in three 300-ton rockets.

Von Braun said the trip would be possible as soon as the artificial moons were built.

L.R. Shepherd, British atomic scientist, told the gathering later suspended moons were no longer ‘a remote possibility.’

Instead of just talking or writing about them, he said, the idea ‘should now be actively pursued in laboratory tests and on the proving range.’

If given vigorous development, the gap should be bridged in 10 to 20 years, Shepherd said.

225,000 MPH Speed Seen

Professor Lyman Spitzer of Princeton University told the conference space ships could eventually travel at 225,000 miles per hour. They would be propelled, he said, by uranium or plutonium converted into electrical energy.

While a voyage of many hundred million miles in space could readily be achieved by this ship, ascent of the first few hundred miles to a circular orbit (artificial moon) would definitely require a booster of some sort,’ he said.

‘In fact, the design and construction of a large launching rocket might well be more difficult than that of a long-range space ship.'”

 

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The “Fox” in Fox News is taken from the surname of pioneering film producer William Fox, whether he would be happy with the contemporary association or not. One of Fox’s great innovations was the launching, in 1929, of the Embassy Newsreel Theatre in Manhattan, as a showcase of continuous non-fiction fare, presaging around-the-clock cable by many decades. Newsreels–or “film newspapers“–had been popular since the beginning of cinema, but until Fox they were secondary to the main attraction in the United States. He redefined them as the attraction. By 1930, the proprietor had lost control of his film company and theaters, having been knocked out by a near-fatal automobile crash and the stock-market collapse. This reversal was followed by legal problems, a commission of perjury and a prison stint. Fox died in 1952, largely forgotten by the media he helped define. The text of a brief, understated article from the November 4, 1929 Brooklyn Daily Eagle, unwittingly announcing the moment when news in America–or something resembling it–became an infinite loop:

“If you are a newsreel fan (and the chances are that you are) the revised policy at the little Embassy Theater holds out promise of many fascinating hours through the dreary winter days to come. On Saturday the Embassy was dedicated to the showing of sound news reels and nothing else, becoming the first theater to be devoted to that purpose.

Hearst Monotone and Fox Movietone news pictures will make up its programs from now on, and the newsreel fan will have the rare pleasure of watching the parade of world events uninterrupted by feature photoplays and stage advertisements. It is a marvelous idea. One wonders why it hasn’t been tried before.”

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From the January 18, 1910 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Peoria, Ill.–Leonard Bliss, better known as “Baby” Bliss, at one time supposed to be the largest man in the United States, was brought from his home in Bloomington last night, to the Peoria Hospital at South Bartonville, hopelessly insane. Bliss weighed 525 pounds when placed on the scales at the asylum. During the bicycle craze he rode wheel over the United States and Europe as a demonstrator of the make of machine. He is 37 years of age.”

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Evan Meeker, 1921.

Showing his wagon train to President Theodore Roosevelt, 1908.

Showing his wagon to President Theodore Roosevelt, 1908.

With President Calvin Coolidge,

Meeting President Calvin Coolidge, 1924.

Evan Meeker, Detroit, 1828, last photo.

Evan Meeker, Detroit, 1928, last photo.

When Ezra Meeker passed away 86 years ago, he took with him a lot of institutional memory–and the institution was America. A pioneer who traveled the Oregon trail in his youth, he spent much of his dotage trying to ensure people would remember those who endured such treacherous crossings to open up the country. The article that announced his death in the December 3, 1928 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Seattle, Wash.–Ezra Meeker, 97, one of the last of the pioneers of the covered wagon era, died here this morning of after an illness of several months.

Meeker clung tenaciously to life until the end, holding on by sheer will power after physicians and relatives had given up. He had been at the point of death in a Detroit hospital for two months before returning here eight weeks ago. He had grown gradually weaker and when his condition became alarming it was impossible to move him to a hospital.

Last Thursday the pioneer was reported to have shown great improvement and hopes were held momentarily by his doctors that he would recover and live to reach his 98th birthday this month. He was in fine spirits over the weekend and his pulse and temperature were about normal. Late yesterday there was a turn for the worse and he sank rapidly.

Meeker was bitterly disappointed because illness in Detroit had prevented him from returning here in time to register for the recent general election. It was the first time he had missed since he voted in the first territorial election in Washington in 1854.

The pioneer, who brought his bride and a seven-weeks-old child West over the old Oregon trail by ox team in 1852, had intended to begin a second automobile tour of the trail when he was forced to enter the Detroit hospital in the first serious illness of his long and eventful life.

A son, Marvin J. Meeker, and three daughters, Mrs. Carrie Osborne and Mrs. Ella Templeton of Seattle, and Mrs. Roderick McDonald of Peshastin, Wash., survive him.

Meeker was born at Huntsville, Ohio, on December 29, 1830. After a boyhood there and an apprenticeship in a printing office in Indianapolis, her married in 1851 and struck out by ox team for Iowa to homestead a farm. A severe winter there induced the young couple to join a wagon caravan for Oregon and California in 1852. Months of hardship behind them, the Meekers reached Portland, Ore., in October of that year. Trail instinct kept the Meekers on the move until they settled at Fort Steilacoom, south of the present site of Tacoma, where Meeker kept a store from 1853 to 1862. Then the Meekers moved to Puyallup, where the pioneer became interested in hop growing, later going to London, England, for four years as agent of the hop growers of the Pacific Northwest.

Meeker was the author of several books on pioneer life, although he had but four months schooling in his life.

Meeker retraced the Oregon trail with an ox team in 1906 and four years ago flew over the route in an airplane piloted by Lieut. Oakley G. Kelley.

His last years were spent in obtaining recognition of the heroism of the Oregon trail pioneers by inducing communities along the route to erect suitable markers. In 1926 President Coolidge signed an act authorizing the issuance of a special half dollar to further interest in the building of monuments along the trail. Meeker was received at the White House by both Mr. Coolidge and President Roosevelt.”

 

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We

Wernher von Braun, center, with Willy Ley, right, in 1954.

Ley with daughter Xenia at the Hayden Planetarium, 1957.

Speaking of Nazis, the top photograph offers an odd juxtaposition: That’s Wernher von Braun, a rocketeer who was a hands-on part of Hitler’s mad plan, whose horrid past was whitewashed by the U.S. government (here and here) because he could help America get a man on the moon; with Willy Ley, a German science writer and space-travel visionary who fled the Third Reich in 1935. A cosmopolitan in an age before globalization, Ley only wanted to share science across the word and encourage humans into space and onto the moon. He knew early on Nazism was madness leading to mass graves, not space stations. When Ley arrived in America after using falsified documents to escape Germany, he worked a bit on an odd rocket-related program: Ley led an effort to use missiles to deliver mail. It was a long way to go to get postcards from point A to point B, and an early attempt failed much to the chagrin of Ley, who donned a spiffy asbestos suit for the blast-off. Here’s the story of the plan’s genesis in the February 21, 1935 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

“It may be a long time before you can take a trip to the moon or to Mars in a rocket, but the time is not far off when rockets will be used to carry mail and to catapult airplanes from ships or from the ground.

This, according to Willy Ley of Berlin, who arrived today on Cunard-White Star liner Olympic for a seven-month stay in the United States, during which time he will work on the development of the rocket with G. Edward Pendray of Crestwood, N.J. Mr. Pendray is president of the American Rocket Society. 

Mr. Ley said that a friend in Austria had used rockets successfully in the delivery of mail between two towns, only two and a half miles apart, but separated by high mountains. In a very short time, he said, the rocket may supplant all other means of mail delivery.

Its use as a catapult for airplanes, he said would make it possible to equip planes with smaller engines, because airplane engines now require most of their horsepower to take off and can do without it in the air. By using rocket as a catapult, this extra horsepower would not be necessary, he pointed out.

Also on the Olympic were Dr. Walter Braun, young German physician, who has come to live with his brother, Fred Braun of 468 8th St., Brooklyn; William M.L. Fiske, recently chosen captain of the American bobsled team which is to compete in the coming Olympics, who has been in Europe on business; the Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava, who will visit friends in South Carolina. The ship was a day late due to terrific headwinds it met in the crossing.”

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In 1952, Ley being interviewed, preposterously, about flying saucers, and also about space travel:

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