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Was recently reading something about the Icarians, the French Utopian socialist sect based on the teachings of Étienne Cabet, which left small footprints on U.S. soil during the “stammering century.” The members first immigrated to America in 1848, purchasing small parcels in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, California and, very disastrously, in Texas, on which to build their communities based on “technological innovation.”

In a 2016 New Republic article by Chris Jennings about the Lone Star State debacle, he describes the tenets of the group put forth in the Cabet novel Voyage en Icarie:

In Icaria, there is no private property or money. Food, shelter, clothing, and all of life’s comforts are produced and distributed by the state. Men and women are considered equal and receive the same comprehensive public education, although women do not vote. When an Icarian family runs low on food, they place a specially designed container into a specially designed niche outside of their specially designed apartment. When they return home after a day working in collective workshops, they find their bin topped off with healthful victuals. The sources of Icarian abundance are technological innovation and the fact that everyone works for the wealth of the republic. There are no idle rich or landed aristocracy to draw off the wealth of the nation. As a result of these reforms, many old occupations have been rendered obsolete. In Icaria there are no domestic servants, cops, informants, middlemen, soldiers, gunsmiths, or bankers.

Even if the Icarians had be experienced homesteaders rather than urban ideologues, it wasn’t perhaps the most propitious moment to establish an alternative colony in America, with Mormons, for instance, on numerous occasions having their towns razed to the ground. In fact, the first permanent Icarian settlement was founded in Nauvoo, Illinois, on the literal ruins of a Mormon community.

Despite sometimes unwittingly purchasing unfortunate tracts and meeting with withering stares, the Icarians were particularly persistent, with the group often splintering, but surviving in some form, until nearly the fin de siècle era. 

From the July 30, 1853 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

From the December 11, 1946 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

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Was looking at Public Domain Review and came across the famous photo above of early nature photographer Richard Kearton carrying a taxidermy ox which had been hollowed out to allow him or his brother, Cherry, to hide inside with a camera to achieve just the right image of one bird or another. (The lens protruded through a hole in the ox’s head.)

The proto-Attenborough siblings, whose brilliant careers began in the late 19th century, were the first, in 1892, to secure a shot of a bird’s nest with eggs. Their cumbersome, inconvenient tools necessitated that they be athletes, daredevils and magicians, Houdinis not interested in breaking free but in a kind of capture.

In 1931, George Currie of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reviewed a just-published book by Cherry, The Island of Penguins, about the months he and his second wife, opera soprano Ada Forrest, spent among the strange and beautiful black-footed birds.

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Canada’s 1948 plan of sending an atomic rocket ship to the moon a dozen years later obviously never came to fruition, but if the project had proceeded in a timely manner it would have blasted off just prior to the Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963, which forbid such space exploration. In addition to investigating the sphere, the country had in mind to use the moon as a launch pad to reach other planets and a base from which to rain missiles over regions of Earth in times of war. Yikes.

A report on the proposed mission appeared in the August 29, 1948 Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Speaking of technologies that were amazing but slow to slay the market, the phonograph was initially disappointing commercially, even if Thomas Edison was something of a smash when he (remotely) demonstrated his “talking machine” in England in 1888. It was a forerunner for later jaw-dropping demos by Edwin H. Land, Douglas Engelbart and Steve Jobs. An article in the August 15 New York Times of that year reported that “Edison” awed London society.

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.•

One enterprising nineteenth-century Brooklyn undertaker, however, found a novel use for the new contraption during the funeral of young freak-show performer, Augusta “Fat Baby” Burr. An article in the August 18, 1895 Brooklyn Daily Eagle described the unconventional ceremony.

From the November 5, 1926 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

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John D. Rockefeller was America’s first billionaire, his fortune at its apex worth well over $300 billion in our terms. The son of a con man and a deeply devout mother, he was, quite appropriately, both very awful and very good, a merciless monopolist and a generous philanthropist. He donated hundreds of millions toward medical research and education, among other charities, and was known to hand out dimes–“Rockefeller dimes,” as they came to be called–to adults and children alike. The administering of those shiny ten-cent pieces–which were worth in 1928 roughly $1.40 by 2017 standards–was done both for propaganda purposes and because it amused the titan.

From the February 18, 1928 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

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From the April 18, 1928 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

There was something rotten inside Robert Louis Stevenson, as there is in all of us to varying degrees, but he had a name for it: Mr. Hyde. Not to suggest the author’s voluminous and varied output can be reduced to one novella–I’m talking about the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, of course–but it’s rare that something can written about the human mind, in this case the subconscious, that will be true as long there are people.

An article in the December 17, 1894 Brooklyn Daily Eagle announced the death of the sickly author, who’d once described himself as “a mere complication of cough and bones.” He’d actually perished two weeks earlier from a cerebral hemorrhage he experienced while living on the Samoan Islands. His last words were a question posed to his wife: “Does my face look strange?”

Those who are no position to talk are often the loudest of all. Those most in need of improvement are frequently the least likely to seek it. Projection of inner turmoil is a key component in the creation of a sick society, a hellscape for destroyers and their dictator.

Regardless of what anyone thinks of his system and methods, it’s no small irony that Sigmund Freud died against the backdrop of one of the worst explosions of repressed rage the world has ever known. The Jewish “Father of Psychoanalysis” was hectored and hounded in his dying years by Nazis, who desperately needed the very inspection of self he encouraged. Freud ultimately fled Austria in a weakened state and died in London. All four of his elderly sisters would were unable to escape Vienna ultimately be killed in concentration camps.

Three Brooklyn Daily Eagle articles below tell part of the story.

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From March 22, 1938:

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From June 4, 1938:

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From September 24, 1939.



J. Edgar Hoover, flanked in the middle photo by Walter Winchell and Joe DiMaggio, was seriously considered for the post of Major League Baseball Commissioner twice, in 1945 and 1951, a career change that would have probably been better for American governance if not for the sport.

From the February 7, 1945 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

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This sentence is torn from the headlines about Deadwood, South Dakota, during its most ornery days: “On August 2, 1876, the same day on which Wild Bill was murdered, a Mexican came galloping up Main Street, with the head of an Indian from which blood was still dripping, hanging on the horn of his saddle…they made up a purse of sixty dollars and presented it to the Mexican for his heroic deed.”

The slain man–not the beheaded one, but the other one–was, of course, “Wild Bill” Hickok, famously gunned down by Jack McCall during a saloon poker game. His widow, French-born Agnes Thatcher Lake, has been described by Wyoming historian Phil Roberts as “world renowned in the second half of the 19th century as a tightrope walker, lion tamer and equestrian.”

Two articles from 1877 follow, the first a general piece about the raffish nature of Western town, and the second specifically about the aggrieved widow, who had at that point lost two husbands to gunfire.


From the August 13, 1877 New York Times:

Deadwood is as lively as ever. It is a queer place. The man who ventured the remark that a fool and his money are soon parted must have had in his mind’s eye some such place as this. It is the sharpers’ paradise. The “tenderfoot” is here brought face to face with the ingenious bummer, the slick confidence man, the claim jumper, the land shark and the desperado, and he is a man of more than usual alertness who does not get “taken in” somehow or other before he has been 24 hours in this sinful city. There is no such place anywhere. It shows up in its worst forms the “fast and flash” American trait. A little over a year ago the site of this swarming camp was a part of the howling wilderness. To-day there are along the streets and up and down in the gulches, within a mile, over 10,000 people. Here is a city of 4,000 inhabitants, with a floating population of 2,000 more. About 1,500 houses and huts, and hundreds of tents up the hill-sides, an academy, church, two daily newspapers, four banks; 20 lawyers, physicians, dentists, artists; club-houses, theatres in full blast every night, the streets thronged with speculators, tramps, and bummers: gambling-hells open all day long, and “cappers” on every corner watching for the next “victim”–such is a hasty glance at Deadwood. It is a place in which the few prey upon the many. You cannot buy anything for less than a quarter; your living costs you double what it would at Denver or Salt Lake City. You can’t step in any direction without facing some device for getting rid of your money. They have even got a “corner” on postage stamps and you must pay from a dime to a quarter for a three-cent stamp. It is no wonder that the thousands who come here with a few dollars in their pockets soon find themselves “dead broke” and dependent upon the charity of the better class of people. It cannot be urged too strongly that poor men or men of small competence should stay away from Black Hills. It may not be out of the way for capitalists to come and look around; but let the poor man stay away. One of the business men here, seeing the condition of the hundreds who lay idle and penniless about the street, has the honesty to write to the Deadwood Times, for the benefit of “pilgrims,” in which he says that the truth ought to be told. and the “tenderfeet” be advised to stay at home. I quote from his communication:

“There are thousands of men in the Hills who would be glad to work for their bread, or enough money to pay their way back home; but there is no employment for them. The placer claims are all taken up by the first comers, and the quartz leads are not yet sufficiently developed to require many laborers. I never saw so many sick-looking men in my life as I have seen in Deadwood. They come here without a cent in their pockets, expecting to gobble up gold by the bucketful, and they soon go away without a “flea in the ear.” Now these pilgrims are not only fools in this “vain delusive world.” They come here full of greedy expectation, but in 24 hours their gorgeous air castles have blown away into bubbles.”•


From the July 6, 1877 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

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Inconvenient it is for any state when an erstwhile national hero turns into an embarrassment. In America, for instance, we have Bobby Fischer, whose mind proved a buggy machine, and earlier, Charles Lindbergh, who crashed and burned after soaring to unprecedented heights.

Norway knew its own shocking albatross in 1940 when Knut Hamsun, the Nobel Prize-winning author, embraced Adolf Hitler as a liberator, even arranging a meeting with the German madman. It’s been some years since I read Hunger, with its nameless Raskolnikovian protagonist, a down-and-out intellectual, though I feel pretty confident saying that it was better than a Canetti but not as good as a Dostoyevsky.

From the May 5, 1940 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

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From the June 5, 1888 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

From the December 13, 1936 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

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From the September 7, 1949 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

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Yawning wealth inequality breeds suspicion for haves and have-nots alike.

Many among today’s Silicon Valley super-rich and deep-pocketed folks are increasingly convinced U.S. society may collapse and are working accordingly on plans to allow them to ride out the storm. Escaping an American nightmare isn’t just for Peter Thiel anymore, as some of his peers are purchasing wooded acreage, stocking up on gold coins and learning survival skills. Prepping 2.0 is for the money makers more than the Jim Bakkers.

What could be spooking them so? We now have more guns than people, traditional institutions are under siege, wealth inequality is spiraling out of control, political polarization has reached its zenith, climate change is worsening, a seeming sociopath is in the White House and tens of millions of citizens are looking for someone, anyone, to blame. Doesn’t sound like a menu for a Sunday picnic.

In a recent New Yorker piece, Evan Osnos reported on the financial elite readying themselves for the big withdrawal. One retired financial-industry lobbyist told him: “Anyone who’s in this community knows people who are worried that America is heading toward something like the Russian Revolution.”

In 1905, when New York City had nearly a thousand millionaires, seemingly everyone wanted to part them from their money. Cranks would frequently write a jaw-dropping number on a piece of scrap paper and expectantly hand it to a bank teller, believing it was a sure thing. They were escorted from the building–and often sent to Bellevue. But in the waning days of the Gilded Age, some took things a step further, paying unannounced visits to the well-to-do in their mansions. The deep-pocketed were shaken, and precautions were taken, which included cannons, howitzers and fatal electric shocks.

From an article in the November 12, 1905 New York Times:

…The Morosini mansion at Riverdale-on-the-Hudson is equipped with very extraordinary and picturesque apparatus as a proof against burglars and other unwelcome visitors. Several small-bore cannon and sundry howitzers are planted around the house, each piece of ordinance being connected with the house by an electric wire.

Whenever occasion demands, a button may be pressed inside the mansion, and any one or all of the cannon can be fired off. In addition to this novel safeguard the grounds surrounding the mansion can be illuminated by means of electric bulbs scattered thickly among the trees and shrubbery.

Recently there was occasion one night for the police to answer a call from the Morosini mansion, two servants having become obstreperous. As the vehicle containing two officers from the King’s Bridge Station passed through the gate, the lawn for a hundred feet about suddenly burst into light. Adjacent trees glowed with a hundred dazzling flashes. Surprised, the officers came to an abrupt halt. But presently continuing on toward the house, every foot of the way was similarly illuminated, lights budding everywhere, making the grounds almost as brilliant as day. During a subsequent survey of the premises the police learned that all the windows on the ground floor were connected with heavily charged electric wires. When the family retires a switch is turned on, and any one attempting to open a window from the outside is apt to be fatally shocked.•

From the January 25, 1932 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

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From the August 11, 1932 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:


Dunninger exposing “spirit swindlers”:

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Billy Sunday had a name better suited for preacher than a baseball player, and his talents were likewise more useful in the pulpit than on the diamond.

The erstwhile Chicago White Stockings outfielder began barnstorming America as an evangelist in 1891, a time before radio when large-scale revivals (and other sports) were often presented in temporary wooden structures built especially for the event. He was a fire-and-brimstone speaker, theatrical as a vaudevillian, throwing chairs and striking baseball poses to punctuate his points. A nostalgia salesman like many in the industry, he sought to convince each new flock that things used to be better, that we had collectively been expelled from paradise, a concept I believe he stole from a book.

Sunday’s biggest issue was probably temperance, but he held opinions, some noble and others ghastly, on all manner of topics. There didn’t seem to be much consistency to his views except his deep need to express them. He loved his celebrity with a shamelessness that would have played very well in our time.

Tossing furniture and wild gesticulations didn’t translate very well, however, to the radio days, so Sunday’s summit in popularity during the nineteen-tens ended abruptly, and he continued the rest of his mortal life sermonizing to smaller and smaller crowds. He was never completely forgotten, but in an essential way he was gone, disrupted by technology.

Sunday’s death was announced in the November 7, 1935 Brooklyn Daily Eagle.


From 1929: “America needs a tidal wave of the old-time religion.”

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From the November 6, 1950 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

One of the least-true popular sayings ever is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s saw that “there are no second acts in American lives.” Unfortunately for Maxwell Bodenheim, he was the rare case where the line rang true. 

A successful Jazz Age poet and novelist whose erotically charged works positioned him as a scandalous if fashionable figure, Bodenheim became something of a pre-Beat character in later decades, before eventually slipping from Greenwich Village prominence into skid row obscurity, undone by alcoholism, mental illness and other symptoms of the human condition.

The end was even worse than the decline: In 1954, the writer and his third wife, Ruth Fagin, a sometimes prostitute, were murdered by a dishwasher in a Bowery flophouse. It was a scene only Weegee could have truly appreciated, and it’s no shock that the above photograph of Fagin’s body being loaded into an ambulance was taken by the world’s most celebrated tabloid photographer.

Bodenheim was known in his decline phase for trading poems for drinks, getting tossed from saloons where he’d once held court, and panhandling for money on the street while pretending to be blind. It’s understandable if he didn’t want to see what had become of him.

Two articles about the double murder ran in the February 8, 1954 Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

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From the July 26, 1934 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

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From the January 29, 1851 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

It’s hard to know what to make of Bob Woodward, the less talented half of the twentieth-century’s most famous American reporting duo, in the new millennium. 

Like a lot of educated boneheads, he’s been an apologist for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, trusting the deeply dishonest Bush Administrations’ claim of Weapons of Mass Destruction, despite a real paucity of evidence. In 2013, he claimed the Obama Adminsitration had “threatened” him, though this seemed to be more fanciful than fact.

In addition to these two ass-backwards moments, during his 2008 appearance on 60 Minutes to promote his book The War Within, the journalist hinted at knowing about a mysterious new weapon developed by the U.S. military, one that was able to melt buses filled with terrorists from great distances. An excerpt:

“This is very sensitive and very top secret, but there are secret operational capabilities that have been developed by the military to locate, target and kill leaders of al-Qaida in Iraq, insurgent leaders, renegade militia leaders. That is one of the true breakthroughs,” Woodward told Pelley.

“But what are we talking about here? It’s some kind of surveillance? Some kind of targeted way of taking out just the people that you’re looking for?” Pelley asked.

“I’d love to go through the details, but I’m not going to,” Woodward replied…. “If you were an al-Qaida leader … and you knew about what they were able to do, you’d get your ass outta town.”

It sounded to viewers like America had developed some sort of death ray, though it was probably something less dramatic. Who’s to say at this point with Woodward?

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In the early 1920s, an erstwhile serious British inventor named Harry Grindell-Matthews made a Tesla-ish claim, saying he’d created a death ray that had been perfected at the expense of rats. He was squirrely about demos, however, traveling to France and then America to keep one step ahead of the skeptics. For some reason, journalists of the era decided to support him against military and scientific establishments that were unconvinced by his assertions–and rightly so. 

An article in the July 20, 1924 Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported on the sensational claims.


From 1924: “The Grindell-Matthews Death Ray, in the future, may control the destiny of the world.”

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