Old Print Articles

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From the November 27, 1911 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

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Dormiphone.

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Lord and Lady Tycoon.

Tycoon & Lady Tycoon.

War dividends of the technological kind snaked in many directions in mid-century America, from kitchen appliances to bowling-ball return machines to business gadgets. In the latter category, new machines reaching the market promised greater automation, the ability to listen and talk and memory augmentation. These are areas reaching a significantly more mature phase now, with Siri and such. An article in the October 24, 1950 Brooklyn Daily Eagle introduced readers to the Dormiphone, the Auto-Typist, the Robotyper and the Tycoon (and Lady Tycoon) soundscriber.

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From the October 25, 1912 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

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Before media connected us all every second, there was Robert L. Ripley.

The creator of Believe It or Not!–a comic strip in the Hearst papers, then a radio program and finally a T.V. show–traveled the globe beginning in the 1920s in search of oddities and curiosities to entertain and inform Americans, long before travel abroad was something possible for most. His items didn’t exactly go viral–everyone caught them all at once during the Newspaper Age. In Ripley’s own wry way, as a spiritual descendant of P.T. Barnum, he worked to make the world smaller, to establish a Global Village.

As an early King of All Media, he was helped aided in his amateur anthropology and archaeology by his able researcher, Norbert Pearlroth, and helped immensely by his onetime sports editor, Walter St. Denis, who suggested the three-word, exclamatory column title that remains a recognizable phrase even in the Internet Age.

Heart problems ended Ripley’s life young, as recorded in his obituary in the May 28, 1949 Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

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From the February 5, 1913 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

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Chemtrails are bullshit, of course, but in 1950s America, there was definitely something in the air.

That was especially true if you lived in desert areas in which the U.S. government was conducting A-bomb tests. Windstorms at just the wrong moment could cause havoc, blowing radioactive mist into unsuspecting nearby communities.

One such bomb, nicknamed “Harry,” was detonated in Nevada on May 19, 1953, with gusts carrying its fallout 135 miles, running headlong into 5,000 people, including those on the set of Howard Hughes’ film The Conqueror. Legend has it that a cancer cluster among cast and crew was the result, although that seems more urban legend than medical fact. Nonetheless, some citizens were outraged by the recklessness, and the bomb was rechristened “Dirty Harry” in retrospect.

A month earlier, the Atomic Energy Commission had carried out another detonation in same state. Just after the explosion, a pair of radio-controlled planes carrying mice and monkeys were flown through the radioactive cloud. The strange scene, which was conducted in the name of biomedical research, was recorded in an article in the April 6, 1953 Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

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Homer Collyer, 1939.

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Langley Collyer, 1946.

One person can lose his mind, but nothing is madder than a couple. 

Two souls can encourage each other to health and prosperity, but they can also nurture mutual insanity, creating a madhouse behind close doors, replacing bedroom mirrors with the funhouse kind. No living quarters in New York City history were likely crazier than the Fifth Avenue hoarder heaven that the reclusive brothers Homer and Langley Collyer called home sweet home. It contained, among many–many–other things, 240,000 pounds of garbage, 18,000 books, 17 grand pianos, eight live cats, three dressmaking dummies and two very damaged brothers. 

A March 22, 1947 Brooklyn Daily Eagle article about the demise of the Collyers was published after the police had found Homer’s lifeless body seated in a chair but 18 days before they realized that Langley was just ten feet away, dead and buried under some of his favorite things.

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From the July 30, 1922 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

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From the August 17, 1926 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

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From the November 4, 1841 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

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The Opening Ceremony at the 1896 Athens Olympics.

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Today is the anniversary of the opening ceremony of the first modern Olympiad, the Athens Summer Games of 1896. While Greece would not host the event again for 108 years, this iteration was paramount for establishing a grandeur, truly globalizing the Games and instituting the Marathon as a major event. Photos above show Panathenaic Stadium, as well as competitors in field events, and unheralded Greek water-carrier Spyridon Louis, who won the Marathon. The particulars of latter event had a surprisingly academic source in French proto-semanticist Michel Bréal, who based its course on the legendary trek run by messenger Phidippides after the Battle of Marathon. Sadly, no women were allowed to participate due to the chauvinism of IOC founder Pierre de Coubertin, but one female still made a mark.

The Olympics sparked interest among American athletes in what had been largely unfamiliar activities, and later that year a collection of U.S. competitors convened in New York City to prepare for future Games. The chariot race was probably not necessary. From a report published in the September 6, 1896 Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

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From the December 28, 1921 New York Times:

Pittsburgh, Pa.–The nimble Pirates, minus the tendency to crack in the heat of a National League pennant chase, and a Pitt football team that will display more agility than any trick movie star, are promised for 1922 by A. Lincoln Bowden, a Pittsburgh oil man, who has volunteered to supply both aggregations with dried monkey meat during the coming year. Glands will be included in the menu, according to the Pittsburgher, who has offered his services in the spirit of a devoted gridiron and diamond fan and says he wants Pittsburgh athletes to beat the world.

Mr. Bowden is about to depart for South America to lay in a supply of monkeys of a superior class, which he has frequently observed in Ecuador. The invigorating element of monkey meat and glands, he asserted, will give indomitable power and unlimited aggressiveness to the baseball and football men.

In proof of his assertions, he points to the case of of a Pittsburgher who was in Ecuador with him two months ago. In this case, Mr. Bowden said, although the patient was quite bald, a diet of monkey meat caused new hair to grow on his head, while all pains and aches left him and neither the heat of the jungle nor the cold of high mountain plateaus affected him in the slightest degree.•

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Speaking of law enforcement in pursuit of criminals, the relative low-speed-chase era of the Wild West experienced one of its most infamous prison breaks during its dying days when the outlaw Harry Tracy escaped the Oregon State Penitentiary in 1902, not the first time he’d slipped through bars. The desperado, who had run with Butch Cassidy and the Hole in the Wall Gang, spent nearly two twisty months dodging officers who hunted him while he engaged in a spree of shootouts, kidnappings and ambushes. Ultimately shot in the leg and cornered, he committed suicide to avoid justice at the hands of others. It was his final escape.

While he was in mid-flight, Tracy’s legend was burnished by a very long Brooklyn Daily Eagle article about his life on the lam. The opening follows.

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dogstrollerFrom the August 17, 1889 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

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With his dog Rollo, 1885.

London at 21 in the Klondike in 1897.

In the Klondike, 1897.

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At Beauty Ranch in California, 1916.

  • Jack London had a man’s face when a boy and a boy’s spirit as a man, which probably wasn’t so unusual for a son of California born in 1876. The offspring of a spiritualist and an astrologer, he was a hard-drinking, intrepid adventurer who wrote about masculinity in crude prose and was a template of sorts for Ernest Hemingway, and like most progenitors, he was easily the more authentic item.
  • London was not only a writer but also an oyster pirate, salmon fisherman, fish patrolman, seal hunter, sailor, longshoreman, gold miner, explorer, tramp, war correspondent, and, finally, an experimental farmer and rancher
  • I’ve always held a grudge against him for his racism in general, and for the viciousness he particularly aimed at the amazing black heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson.
  • Have meant many times to read Iron Heel, his 1908 dystopian novel about the rise of fascism and class warfare in America, and these days I feel especially remiss in not having done so.
  • The following article from the November 23, 1916 Brooklyn Daily Eagle announced the writer’s death at 40 from renal failure and more maladies, some self-inflicted and others that invited themselves

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charliechaplincocaineFrom the June 25, 1922 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

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Dr Tanner, as he appeared in the Second Week of his attempted Fast of Forty Days

Hunger artists of more than a century ago, immortalized by Franz Kafka, were athletes and businessmen, not saints. They starved themselves before the public for a sum. Fasting girls almost always had religious underpinnings, but their male counterparts made no bones about making money. Giovanni Succi was likely Kafka’s direct inspiration, but Dr. Henry S. Tanner’s purported forty-day fast in NYC in 1880 may have been singular in the attention it received. A report on the end of the event was published in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

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From the March 30, 1922 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

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coolidgepic3 Coolidge and Machado in Cuba

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Calvin Coolidge was President of the United States in a time of railroads and radios, the last good time (at least for many white Americans) before the worst, hard time, one we wouldn’t completely emerge from until after World War II. He also was our final Commander in Chief to visit Cuba, 88 years ago, before President Obama’s current historic trip aimed at reconnecting the cultures. Much of Coolidge’s mission was diplomatic, directed at trying to repair the two nations’ strained relations, which of course would be completely torn asunder after Fidel Castro’s successful coup two decades later. An article from the January 16, 1928 Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported on the visit.

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From the January 16, 1928 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

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From the April 26, 1925 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

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Cassius Marcellus Clay of Kentucky was a liberator, mostly.

A general who served the Union during the Civil War, he was an abolitionist from a family of slave owners who went mental in his dotage, essentially imprisoning a very reluctant 15-year-old wife when he was in his eighties. He was also a politician, an expert duelist, a Yale graduate and the U.S. Minister to Russia under President Lincoln. He was a wonderful and, eventually, terrible man.

It’s his post in St. Petersburg that reminded me of him, as he’s mentioned in a book I just read, Ian Frazier’s Travels in Siberia, which I consider to be part of an unofficial trilogy by the great reporter, along with Great Plains and On the Rez, of volumes by a tourist of sorts who lingers as long as you can without becoming a local.

From an article of the death of the nonagenarian in the July 23, 1903 New York Times:

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

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

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

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

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From the February 23, 1877 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

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In the days before telegraph and Morse code let alone radio, TV and the Internet, reports about events that occurred in Europe wouldn’t reach America for several days. A newspaper in New York came up with a novel (and highly irresponsible) way to bridge the information gap: pay a clairvoyant tell them what happened. A story in the April 19, 1860 Brooklyn Daily Eagle recalls the peculiar stunt which unsurprisingly delivered inaccurate information about one of history’s most pivotal bouts.

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From the January 14, 1883 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

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