Long before astronauts were chowing down of pilled and tubed food and Silicon Valley was taken with the idea of Soylent, Anthony Fiala, an American chemist and explorer who’d made his way to the Arctic and the Amazon, believed that beef-juice chewing gum and other odd deliveries of nutrition were the wave of the future, especially for wanderers like himself who didn’t have time to be foragers. From the July 8, 1928 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:
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Tags: Anthony Fiala
Benito Mussolini originally appeared to be a vulgar cartoon too outlandish to be feared, until it was too late, his entire country perverted into something awful before his murderous gaze.
I thought particularly of his assault on the press when Sarah Huckabee Sanders spoke on behalf of the White House in urging ESPN to fire broadcaster Jemele Hill, for calling Trump, a white supremacist, a white supremacist. It’s clear by now that while Trump can degrade the office of the President, distort ideals and do serious harm to our democracy, he has zero chance of squashing the free press. That’s true for several reasons: his gross incompetence, the traditions and independence of our media (for all its many failings) and the decentralization of news, which, oddly, also abetted his rise.
Italy of the Thirties was a different place and time, however. In 1933, Mussolini ordered all Italian newspapers to push aside current events and dedicate their front pages to articles about Julius Caesar. The message was clear, that Mussolini was a latter-day Caesar and would rule with absolute authority. The odd decree was covered in an article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in September of that year. Another piece from the same publication, this one from 1937, spoke to the moribund state of the press 15 years after the Fascist’s rise. Tragically, that’s how things went, until the madman found himself, in 1945, hanging upside down from the business end of a meat hook attached to the roof of an Esso gas station.
From the November 29, 1910 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:
Recently, the excellent Open Culture site tweeted the suicide note of George Eastman, the Kodak magnate who took his own life in 1932 with single bullet to the chest, despondent about the chronic pain of spinal stenosis and seemingly weary of a world of wealth, safaris, philanthropy and fame. The goodbye was brief:
To my friends
My work is done
It was his invention of roll film in 1884 that brought photography to the masses and soon enough made motion pictures possible. The vast sums of money that followed allowed Eastman to become one of the leading benefactors of his era, and his life was unmarked by scandal until he sent some gathered friends out of a room he was occupying in his handsome Rochester home and carried out his shocking ending. The gun’s explosion caused them to scurry back where they found the inventor, now dead or dying, and his last written words. The lead story in the March 14, 1932 Brooklyn Daily Eagle told of his demise.
Tags: George Eastman
When creating the wax faces that would make her world famous, Marie Tussaud did not work from memory. She reportedly was often aided in her work by decapitated heads.
When the Internet recently blew up over the relative pallor of the Beyoncé figure at Madame Tussauds New York, I reflected on the gruesome origins of the now-placid institution that caters to tourists in many major cities. The artist began her brilliant career in 1877, when she fashioned a likeness of Voltaire, but it was during the French Revolution when she nearly lost her life and created the work that would later allow her to gain great notoriety.
During the Reign of Terror, Tussaud was among the many targeted to literally lose their heads. Having lived in Versailles for many years while in the employ of the king and queen, she was imprisoned for being loyal to the crown and had her skull shaved in preparation for a visit to the guillotine. Freed from this terrible end by powerful friends, she utilized the wax art taught to her by her uncle to make the death mask into a political prop and, ultimately, a pop culture item. Among her grisly, lifelike creations of the executed were the sculpted crowns of her former employers King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette (third photo), which she reputedly created from their freshly severed heads which were hurriedly delivered to her studio. So the story goes, anyhow.
In the new century she moved to London with her work and established a museum that became as sensation, aided by a Punch magazine piece that dubbed it a “chamber of horrors” because she had begun creating life-size dioramas of ghastly crime and accident scenes. Her legacy continues nearly 170 years after her death, though now Tussauds artists work from photographs or have celebrities, heads still attached, pose for them.
A Brooklyn Daily Eagle article on June 22, 1912 recalled her strange life and career.
Tags: Madame Marie Tussaud
Sometime after January 2008, an entertainer became obsessed with the President of the United States, determined to prove him invalid and unworthy, to destroy the legacy of someone far grander than himself. Politics was part of the impetus, but the mania seemed to have a far deeper source. A similar scenario played out more than 140 years earlier with far more lethal results when another entertainer, John Wilkes Booth, was overcome by a determination to kidnap or kill Abraham Lincoln, even directing angry dialogue at the President when he happened to attend a play in which his future assassin performed. “He does look pretty sharp at me, doesn’t he?” the President acknowledged. The thespian was a Confederate sympathizer, but his wild rage for Lincoln was driven by something beyond the question of abolition.
In the aftermath of the 1865 balcony tragedy, Booth fled and was slain by the gun of Union soldier Boston Corbett and interred in D.C. after an autopsy and the removal of several vertebrae and the fatal bullet. The body was subsequently relocated to a warehouse at the Washington Arsenal. Four years after he met with justice, the actor’s corpse was emancipated from government oversight and was allowed to be reburied in Baltimore by his family. A Brooklyn Daily Eagle reporter happened to be visiting with President Johnson in the White House when the transfer was made, allowing him to be eyewitness to the grim process and the state of the remains, which he said retained much of the departed’s “manly beauty.” An article in an 1877 edition of the paper recalled the undertaking.
The reason Confederate statues stand in America are twofold.
Those erected in the aftermath of the Civil War were permitted, even endorsed, by Union politicians and periodicals as a means of appeasing the vanquished in a conflict that killed more Americans than any war before or since. It was, of course, bizarre reasoning, as the statuary became more than just participation trophies for traitors but also served as vestiges of slavery, states’ rights and supremacy for the conquered to cling to.
The more recent Confederate monuments in the U.S. are clearly meant to communicate white dominance. It’s questionable at best that they would have been allowed to exist at all were it not for the many similar tributes already dotting the nation. The original sin made possible the many even darker ones to follow.
Two excerpts follow.
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From “Some Thoughts on Public Memory” by Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo:
What is little discussed today is that the North and the South made a tacit bargain in the years after the Civil War to valorize Southern generals as a way to salve the sting of Southern defeat and provide a cultural and political basis for uniting the country with more than military force. That meant the abandonment of free blacks in the South after the mid-1870s. It is important to see this not only as the abandonment of the ex-slaves of the South. It is difficult, but necessary, to pull away the subsequent history to realize that it was entirely possible in the aftermath of the Civil War that the US would be condemned to perpetual warfare, insurrection and foreign intervention. But if the opposite, the United States that went on to become a global superpower, is what was gained it was gained at a terrible price and a price paid more or less solely by black citizens.
However one judges that past, knowing its full history leaves no reason or rationale for continue the valorization of Lee. He was a traitor and a traitor in a terrible cause. That is his only mark on American history. Whether he was a personally gentle man, nice to his pets or a good field general hardly matters.
Even this though leaves the full squalidness of Lee’s legacy not quite told. There is the Lee of the Civil War and then the mythic Lee of later decades. Today the battle over Lee’s legacy is mainly played out over the various statues depicting Lee which still stand across the South. The notional focus of this weekend’s tragic events in Charlottesville was a protest over plans to remove a Lee statue. But those statues don’t date to the Civil War or the years just after the Civil War. In most cases, they date to decades later.•
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A 1909 Brooklyn Daily Eagle letter to the editor from a Union veteran:
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the miscreant who publishes the Daily Stormer, the neo-Nazi website that spent the past day mocking Heather Heyer after she was tragically murdered by a white supremacist in Charlottesville, was known to smack his head on sidewalks and walls during his youth. It shows.
His site’s namesake, Der Stürmer, was published beginning in 1924 by Julius Streicher, a man so repellent that even other Nazis found him embarrassing. The newspaper was used to defame Jewish people in general and many Jews specifically, fanning the flames of intolerance into a full-blown conflagration.
In the aftermath of the war, Nazis of note were rounded up by American G.I.s. For a few dozen who were brilliant in rocketry (most notably, Wernher von Braun), they had their ugly pasts whitewashed, were relocated to Alabama to begin in earnest the nascent U.S. space program and eventually were lauded as national heroes. Upon von Braun’s death in 1977, President Jimmy Carter called him a “man of bold vision” and said that “we will continue to profit from his example.” Few things can be more maddeningly unfair.
The rest met with a more appropriate end, Streicher included. The hatemonger was an experienced painter, so he decided to try to recreate himself as an artist unfamiliar with this Third Reich thing. He ended up hanging from the business end of a noose after he was captured by Nazi hunter Henry G. Plitt, a Jewish soldier who was among the first Americans to parachute into Normandy. An article about the mission to bring Streicher to justice from the January 11, 1946 Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
From the August 6, 1951 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:
Yesterday was the 72nd anniversary of the United States dropping the “Little Boy” atom bomb on Hiroshima, and Wednesday will be the same for “Fat Man” razing Nagasaki, a horrifying turn of events that was best captured by John Hersey in a feat of journalism that might still rank as the greatest non-fiction writing ever.
Just imagine standing in Harry S. Truman’s shoes and being told a million people will die if the war continues but these newly developed bolts of Thor, which could abbreviate the fighting, would unleash destruction heretofore unknown to humankind.
At the time, so much about the weapon was a mystery to all but a few involved in its creation. The day after Hiroshima, rumors printed in newspapers suggested the bomb was the size of a golf ball or weighed 25 pounds (actual weight: 9,700 lbs.). You would think these questions and the devastation itself would be enough to occupy writers for years, but by September of the same year, some scribes were speculating about what else the Atomic Age would bring. Synthetic weather and interplanetary trade were named as potential upsides, with the latter potentially leading to fresh warfare with the inhabitants of Saturn.
An article from the September 17, 1945 Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
Apart from E.L. Doctorow, no one was able to conjure the late Harry Houdini, not even his widow.
But she certainly tried. A famed debunker of spiritualists, Houdini made a pact with his wife, Bess, that if the dead could speak to the living, he would deliver to her a special coded message from the beyond. Nobody but the two knew what the special message was. When a poorly received punch to the abdomen in 1926 made it impossible for the entertainer to escape death, his widow annually attempted to contact him through séance. No words were reportedly ever exchanged. The following are a couple of Brooklyn Daily Eagle articles about the wife’s attempts to continue the marital conversation.
From April 24, 1936:
From February 12, 1943:
When I referred to Donald Trump as a “QVC quisling” the other day, I was making reference to a famous historical traitor, one so bad he joined Benedict Arnold in having his name become the most disgraceful sort of noun. I’m speaking, of course, of Vidkun Quisling, the Norwegian fascist who served, beginning in 1940, as Hitler’s pliant Prime Minister in Oslo. During his horrible reign, Quisling spoke in favor of the Final Solution, supported the German war effort in any way he could and tried to force Norway’s families to enroll their children in a Hitler Youth type of organization. These were just a few of the crimes against his country and humanity by the man who was said by some to have had a Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
By the beginning of 1945, however, the Nazis were shit out of luck and could no longer supply Quisling with troops or support, and neither his government nor the turncoat himself would survive the year. An article about the “mini-Hitler” receiving his just desserts in an article in the October 24, 1945 Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
“For willfully betraying his country…”
Tags: Vidkun Quisling
No one has ever told a bigger lie than F. Scott’s Fitzgerald with his oft-quoted 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 67 years–buffalo hunter, Army scout, sheriff, gambler, boxing manager, etc.–until he was one final thing in his dotage: a New York City newspaper sportswriter. He died an ink-stained wretch at an editor’s desk, not a gunslinger in a saloon. 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 officiating Fitzsimmons–Corbett in 1897:
In the early years of automobiles, electric models were favored, and even steam-driven cars were predominant over models powered by fossil fuels. Things change. Ultimately, the internal-combustion engine proved more stable and became the king of the road.
Interestingly, electricity had a chance to make inroads in another area in which gases had proven to be unstable: anesthesia. In the nascent years of the practice, miscalculations with ether and chloroform led to deaths. No one wanted to go back to the brutality of surgery during consciousness, but there had to be a better way. Enter Dr. Louise G. Rabinovitch, who experimented successfully (and chillingly and unethically, often) with bringing a blissful unconsciousness to animal and human test subjects with electric shock. A better understanding of anesthesia made this jolting scheme unnecessary, but the doctor’s jaw-dropping reports of her experiments likely would have prevented her methods from becoming popular in any case. From an article about “electric sleep” in the September 27, 1908 New York Times:
PARIS–Dr. Louise G. Rabinovitch, the well-known New York psychoclacist, and Dr. V. Magnan are preparing another stop in their series of discoveries in electric sleep experiments, which have been safely conducted on rabbits and dogs, will be made soon on human beings, patients in the insane hospital in Paris.
Dr. Rabinovitch has been conducting her experiments with hopes of finding the means of doing away entirely with the usual anaesthetics–ether and chloroform–and so far has been very successful.
The City of Paris early in the Summer fitted up a laboratory for the hospital of Sainte-Anne, and there she has been working steadily. Already she has put a patient to sleep by electricity without performing an operation. She has also in several cases used electricity as a local anaesthetic on a part of the arm or leg and has performed a slight operation. Her intention now is, in which she is encouraged by the veteran Dr. Magnan, to perform a serious operation made under the influence of electric sleep. This will be the first time that this has been done anywhere in the world.
Dr. Rabinovitch has made some remarkable discoveries while she has been working in her laboratory, and finds no difficulty in instilling life into animals which have died on the operating table. The immense value of this discovery to physicians when patients die because of an anaesthetic can be seen at once.“
One dog playing about the laboratory, the doctor told me, had been dead three times. “While under the influence of electric sleep I killed her instantly with chloroform. The heart stopped beating and respiration ceased. If the animal had been left alone then it would have remained dead, but I immediately instituted artificial respiration by means of electricity, and presently the animal started to breathe of its own accord. Again, after I had killed the dog and resuscitated it, hemorrhage set in, caused by an operation, and the dog bled to death. I brought it back to life again. The animal is at present perfectly healthy.”•
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 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:
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.
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.
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:
Tags: John D. Rockefeller
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.
From March 22, 1938:
From June 4, 1938:
From September 24, 1939.