Old Print Articles

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From the August 18, 1889 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

“‘Gloves which are sold as kid are often made of human skin,’ said Dr. Mark L. Nardyz, the Greek physician, of 716 Pine Street, yesterday. ‘The skin on the breast,’ continued the physician, ‘is soft and pliable and may be used for the making of gloves. When people buy gloves they never stop to question about the material of which they are made. The shopkeeper himself may be in ignorance, and the purchaser has no means of ascertaining whether the material is human skin or not. The fact is the tanning of human skin is extensively carried on in France and Switzerland. The product is manufactured into gloves, and these are imported into this country. Thus you see a person may be wearing part of a distant relative’s body and not know it.'”


Space-travel enthusiast and labor organizer David Lasser was one of the first Americans to champion a mission to the moon, and one of the most influential. His 1931 book, The Conquest of Space, suggested such a rocket voyage was possible, not fanciful. In Lasser’s 1996 New York Times obituary, Arthur C. Clarke said of the then-65-year-old volume: “[It was] the first book in the English language to explain that space travel wasn’t just fiction…[it was] one of the turning points in my life — and I suspect not only of mine.”

While an article about the book’s publication in the October 6, 1931 Brooklyn Daily Eagle took seriously Lasser’s vision of rocket-powered airline travel–from New York to Paris in one hour!–it gave less credence to his moonshot scenario.


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From the October 29, 1910 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Kewanee, Ill. — Believing she would die unless snakes were in her home, Mrs. Ada Packard has received from New York a boa constrictor eleven feet long to be used as a pet.

Mrs. Packard, who claims to have a gift over reptiles, always has had a fondness for serpents, and when she failed to rally from a recent surgical operation satisfactorily she became convinced she would improve if she could get a snake to fondle. A poisonous copperhead was obtained three weeks ago, and it was believed her health immediately was benefited. The snake became chilled, however, and died, after which Mrs. Packard became ill again.

Her husband objected to the coming of the serpent, but believing it was a case of life or death with his wife, he consented to the order for another. Mrs. Packard declares she noticed great improvement in her health already. She had the snake placed in a tub of warm water, as the cold weather was feared.

She says her gift has been noticeable since she was a child, when snakes crawled to her from all directions whenever she was in their vicinity at picnics in the woods.”


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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From the August 8, 1911 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

St. Louis — Philip H. Nickerson, a salesman, cut his arteries in an attempt to end his life, yesterday, because, he said, his wife was too affectionate. He was married three months ago.

‘I am fond of my wife,’ Nickerson added, ‘and I want her to be fond of me. But there is a limit to all things. She wants to sit continuously on my lap and hug and kiss me. If I stand up she stands up, too, and puts her arms about me, and when I am away she writes three letters to me daily.'”


You could make money in the fin de siècle Kansas City bone market, though you weren’t at that point in any condition to enjoy the spoils. An article from the September 28, 1902 Brooklyn Daily Eagle about the free-market cost of skulls and such.



From the December 10, 1910 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Los AngelesLatham and Mars, the aviators, are noted hunters and keen rivals. While in California they will shoot ducks from their aeroplanes.”

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From the September 29, 1860 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

“A man named George Huff was arrested by Constable Hanibel on Wednesday afternoon in Flushing on the charge of being intoxicated. He was put into a cell, and on Thursday morning his dead body was found eaten by rats, a portion of the forehead and one hand being gone. A post mortem examination was held and a verdict rendered that he came to his death by disease brought on by intoxication. The occurrence will lead to the erection of better accommodations for prisoners.”

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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:


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

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From the November 7, 1886 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Winnipeg, Man. — A plasterer named Shules, who contemplated leaving this city for the old country, recently sold his wife and five children to a man named Williams for $70. A regular legal agreement was drawn up between the two men and the property was formally transferred. The police are investigating the matter.”

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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.


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


From the March 2, 1949 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Seattle — Will K. Sugden said today his romance with his bride of 14 weeks, an amnesia victim, had progressed beyond the hand-holding stage.

‘She’s coming my way,’ he said. ‘She lets me kiss her now. She’ll love me again.’

Sugden’s bride, Hertis, 26, suffered amnesia two weeks ago. She forgot her husband and his two children by a previous marriage.”

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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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From the August 5, 1911 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Topeka, Kan. — Shaving of all cats is recommended by the State Board of Health of Kansas as a means of preventing the spread of disease.

The board charges that the cat, with its long hair, carries more germs than any other animal.

‘Shave the cats,’ said Dr. Deacon of the State Board of Health, yesterday. ‘Keep their hair short just like you would a horse’s or a dog’s. If that is too much trouble, kill them.'”


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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From the July 19, 1942 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

London — Fresh cat meat and dog meat is now sold for human consumption in the meat shops of Holland, but it first must be inspected for disease, the Dutch News Agency Aneta said today.”

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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From the March 21, 1866 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

“An auction sale of hair of young girls who have taken the veil since 1810, was recently held at a convent near Paris, when 800 pounds of hair were sold for $6,000.”

From the March 2, 1911 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Wellesley, Mass. — Preparations were made at the Wellesley College farm to-day for the Institution to begin breeding its own cats for dissection by the young women students. By so doing Wellesley becomes the first educational institution in the world to raise its own laboratory victims, and makes itself independent of the exigencies of the chase which sometimes yielded fat cats, sometimes thin ones, and frequently mangy ones. The experiment is the result of the arrest and fine imposed on a Wellesley janitor for stealing valuable felines for the college dissection tables.”

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.'”


From the October 9, 1911 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Memphis, Tenn. — William J. Walsh, a grocer, was killed here late yesterday in an altercation which followed his attempt to destroy the out-of-season straw hat worn by Jewel Bush, a blacksmith.”

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Keremeos Highway, 1951.

In 1951, the Children of Light commune of British Columbia believed the end was near, but the group lived to a ripe old age. In the aforementioned year, several dozen members of the sect boarded themselves up in a Keremeos farmhouse and awaited doomsday. It never arrived. They soon left town and eventually relocated in Arizona. Two stories follow: One from the 1951 Brooklyn Daily Eagle about the “end of the world” and a coda four decades later from the 1995 Los Angeles Times.


From the January 6, 1951 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Keremeos, B.C. — Thirty-five members on an unorthodox religious sect barricaded 11 days in a five-room farmhouse waited today for the end of the world in two more days.

The sect has been in cramped, self-imposed exile near here under the leadership of a gaunt, 60-year-old farm woman, Mrs. Agnes Carlson, since the day after Christmas.

The ‘Children of Light’ sealed themselves off from the outside world to await what they predict will be ‘doomsday’ on Jan. 8.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police, worried about sanitary conditions in the barricaded house because of overcrowding, have kept a close watch outside.

The only person known to have left the house since the group went into seclusion ‘to await the end of the world’ was a widow who walked out after the group asked her to surrender her wedding ring, police said.”


From the 1995 Los Angeles Times:

“The story of how they traveled from a Pentecostal church in tiny Keremeos, B.C., in 1951 to this isolated patch of southwestern Arizona desert, a 100-mile drive from Phoenix, is proof that they are God’s chosen, members say.

Prompted by a divine vision, a Pentecostal preacher and former businesswoman led about 40 followers out of Keremeos and on a journey throughout Canada and the United States. They preached at churches and communes about the apocalypse and the importance of repentance.

The group picked up and lost people along the way. They found a destination when the words ‘Agua Caliente’ appeared in fire-like letters in the sky to Elect Gold, the preacher.

Evidence that God was with them continued, in a donation that helped them buy the land in 1965, in a desert dotted by brush and surrounded by rocky foothills near Gila Bend.

Further proof, they say, is in the water source they found on the property, the date palm orchards and the thriving gardens of beets, carrots, cabbages and pomegranates.

The Children do nothing to recruit new members, although over the years a number of travelers have temporarily lived at the commune.

With Elect Gold said to be nearly 100 years old and bedridden by illness, Elect Star has assumed the role as leader of the sect.

They welcome occasional visitors. On a recent afternoon, three retired couples from the Midwest who drove four miles off a paved road to reach the commune were given a tour by Elect Joel, an 85-year-old former honky-tonk musician from Indiana.

Later, Elect Joel entertained the guests by playing ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’ on the living room piano. Another member of the sect handed out bowls of homemade date and banana ice cream.

‘I think the sun will stop shining before this fades out,’ Elect Philip said. ‘We may look a little worn out, but God still has work left for us to do.'”

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From the July 26, 1910 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Canton, O. — Because they wanted to be ‘bad men’ and also needed to treat their sweethearts, John Warner and Ray Metcalf, each 11 years old, committed 600 burglaries. They were arrested here yesterday and after confessing to their misdeeds led the police to a disused coal cellar where they had cached the major part of their plunder.

A diamond ring was recovered which they had sold for 20 cents, and a gold watch had been disposed of for 15 cents.

Their operations extended from East Liverpool to Lorain, and according to their confessions, borne out by police reports, in one day they entered as many as seventy-five houses.”

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From the September 19, 1911 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

San Francisco–Destitute and hungry, William Murphy entered a local grocery store last night, hoping to purloin something to eat. The proprietor was called to wait on a customer and Murphy seized the opportunity to gobble two sandwiches he found on the counter. He was seized with convulsions a few minutes later and was taken to the emergency hospital, where it was found he was suffering from arsenic poisoning. The sandwiches he had eaten had been prepared to bait a rat trap. Murphy probably will recover.”


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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