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“He said that if he could keep her warm she would just as much be his wife as before her death.”

Parting is such sweet sorrow, especially when we’re talking about the dearly departed, but one businessman in 1905 was too sad to let go when his wife died. He decided to keep her “alive” in her elaborate tomb and to keep her company. From an article in that year’s March 23 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

“Jonathan Reed, who has lived almost continuously for seven years in the tomb of his wife at Evergreen Cemetery, was found shortly after 4 o’clock today, lying on the stone floor of the tomb apparently in a dying condition. The laborer who discovered the old man did not know who he was and before he had been identified he was taken in an ambulance to the Kings County Hospital. It was reported at 8 o’clock that Mr. Reed was still alive, but in a very critical condition.

The workman who found Mr. Reed happened to pass the doorway of the tomb shortly after 1 o’clock. He noticed that the iron door stood partly open, and thinking that something was wrong entered the tomb. When he saw the old man on the floor he thought that he was dead and hastened to inform Policeman Dooley, the special patrolman assigned to the cemetery, of the fact. Dooley, without waiting to investigate, summoned Dr. Meister from the Bradford Street Hospital to attend the man. Dr. Meister reached the tomb at 1:30 o’clock. He saw at once that the man was not dead, but had suffered a severe stroke of apoplexy. The physician sent a call to the Kings County Hospital for an ambulance, which carried Mr. Reed to the hospital, before any of those who had attended him knew who he was.

When the marble workers and the other business men near the cemetery heard of the old man’s illness, they made an effort to have him sent to his home, but he had already been placed in the pauper’s ward at the hospital and it was decided to let him remain there.

Jonathan Redd, according to his own statement, is 70 years of age. He was formerly prominent in the Eastern District of Brooklyn as a business man and is believed to be wealthy. When his wife died about eight years ago, Mr. Reed had built for her in Evergreen Cemetery one of the most remarkable tombs ever constructed. It was his belief that there was no such thing as a life after death. When his wife died he told friends that the only change which had come about was that the warmth had left her body. He said that if he could keep her warm she would just as much be his wife as before her death. Acting on this theory, Mr. Reed had the tomb fitted elaborately with a dwelling room and from the time of its completion up to the present he had lived there constantly. 

For a period of several hours every day and every night Mr. Reed had been accustomed to sit by the casket of his dead wife and talk to her just as he did when she was alive. He says that she understands everything that he says and that he understands the responses which she makes. 

In spite of this remarkable eccentricity in regard to his dead wife, Mr. Reed is in other respects an unusually intelligent and interesting man. He converses on all subjects with a degree of knowledge and insight rare to a person of his age. It is only upon the subject of death that he appears to be at all deranged.”

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Chicago–Joseph Mikulec, who claims that he left Croatia, in Austria, February 5, 1906, on a 25,000 mile walk practically around the world, for a purse of $10,000 offered by an Austrian magazine if he finished the journey within five years, will be the guest of the local Croatian colony on Sunday. He will leave Sunday night for Springfield, part of his task being to visit the capital of every state in the Union. So far on the journey Mikulec has worn out forty-four pairs of shoes and is nineteen days ahead of schedule.”


Joseph Mikulec, globe trotter:


"The young inventor, with sweeping gestures of his hands, 'drew music from the ether.'"

“The young inventor, with sweeping gestures of his hands, ‘drew music from the ether.’”

The creator of an 1920s electronic instrument that seemingly stole music from the air, Leon Theremin was considered the Russian counterpart to Thomas Edison for his innovations in sound and video. He also created ingenious spying devices for the Soviet Union when he returned to his homeland–perhaps he was kidnapped by KGB agents but probably not–after a decade in the U.S. The text of a January 25, 1928 Brooklyn Daily Eagle article reporting on the Manhattan demonstration of Theremin’s namesake instrument in front of a star-studded audience:

“In the not-too-distant future there is likely to be found in thousands of homes a simple and inexpensive device whereby music lovers may by a mere waving of the hands conjure from the air entrancing melodies.

This conclusion seems possible as the result of a demonstration last night in the Hotel Plaza of the ‘Theremin Vox,’ by its inventor, Prof. Leon Theremin, a slender, rosy-cheeked young Russian, the ‘Russian Edison.’

Musical celebrities, including Rachmaninoff, Toscanini and Kreisler, sat spellbound with amazement as the young inventor, with sweeping gestures of his hands, ‘drew music from the ether.’

By these same gestures he caused the colors of a spotlight played on his face to change in keeping with musical tones, thus creating a synthesis of color and harmony.

It was frankly described as crude by both the inventor and J. Goldberg, who assisted in the demonstration. They made it clear that they were not musicians and that far better results could be achieved by one possessing musical technique.

The apparatus is not a reproducer or transmitter, like the photograph or radio, but an actual originator of music, creating sound by the principle of applying different frequencies of an alternative current–the so-called ‘heterodyne’ principle.

Its novelty consists in the method of controlling these frequencies of current by turning the knob of an ordinary condenser or by moving the hand within an electromagnetic field set up in the instrument, thus converting ‘radio howls’ into music.”

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From the April 11, 1910 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Evansville, Ind.–Scores of people in this community complained yesterday that they were unable to get enough sleep. In fact, in several instances people have slept for fifteen or twenty-four hours and still were sleepy. The attribute this inclination to sleep to Halley’s comet.”

Nikola Tesla outlived a good deal of his fame, and he didn’t even make it to 140. Perhaps the greatest “electrician” ever, the one who knew a century ago that there would be drones and mobile phones, a man who dreamed so differently that he seemingly fell to Earth, Tesla’s scientific goals grew more outsize as he aged. He even announced in 1933, at age 76, that he would live at least 64 more years because he slept only once a year, for five or six hours, supplementing this rest with an hour-long nap now and again. 

When he died in Manhattan an octogenarian, he wasn’t forgotten, but the lights had dimmed because his ambitions had grown so far beyond comprehension, and because he didn’t have a coterie of associates to burnish his reputation. His obituary in the January 3, 1943 Brooklyn Daily Eagle was relegated to page 11, despite his front-cover, above-the-fold mind. The story:

“Nikola Tesla, 86, the electrical genius who discovered the fundamental principle of modern radio, was found dead in his room at the Hotel New Yorker, Manhattan, last night.

Tesla never married. He had always lived alone, and the hotel management did not believe he had any near-relatives.

Despite his more than 700 inventions, he was not wealthy. He cared little for money, and so long as he could experiment he was happy.

Thought Radio a Nuisance

He was the first to conceive an effective method of utilizing alternating current, and in 1888 patented the induction motor, which converted electrical energy into mechanical energy more effectively and economically than by direct current. Among his other principal inventions were arc lighting, and the Tesla coil.

‘The radio, I know I’m its father, but I don’t like it,’ he once said. ‘I just don’t like it. It’s a nuisance. I never listen to it. The radio is a distraction and keeps you from concentrating. There are too many distractions in this life for quality of thought, and it’s quality of thought, not quantity, that counts.’

Evidently, he did a lot of thinking that never materialized. It was his custom on his birthday–July 10–to announce to reporters the shape of things to come.

On his 76th birthday, he announced: ‘The transmission of energy to another planet is only a matter of engineering. I have solved the problem so well I don’t regard it as doubtful.’

Told of ‘Death Beam’

When he was 78 he announced he had perfected a ‘death beam’ that would bring down a fleet of 10,000 enemy planes 250 miles from a nation’s borders and make millions of soldiers fall dead in their tracks. His beam, he said, would make war impossible.

Tesla was born at Smiljan, Croatia, when it was a part of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire.

He came to the United States in 1884, became a citizen and an associate of Thomas A. Edison. Later he established the Tesla Laboratory in New York and devoted himself to research.”


From the September 27, 1911 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Kansas City–The eyelids of Rev. Joseph Hohe, rector of the Catholic Church near Bucyrus, Kansas, which were burned off when a lamp exploded in his hands, have been replaced by new ones constructed from pieces of skin cut from the priest’s arms and grafted onto the stumps of his lids, over which he has almost complete muscular control. The operation was performed in a local hospital.”


From the July 10, 1926 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Angleton, Tex.–A ‘wild woman,’ unclad and with blonde hair reaching to her waist, who is reported to have been seen in the brushy bottomlands of Lineville Creek, in Brazoria County, was sought unsuccessfully today by a searching party of several hundred men. A pack of bloodhounds was taken to the scene by Sheriff Frank Crews.

The ‘wild woman,’ subject of ridiculed rumor for several weeks, was accepted as a reality yesterday when a man from Misema, a village in the bottoms, reported that a woman suddenly leaped from brush through which he was walking and ran into heavier undergrowth nearer the creek. Footprints made by a woman’s bare feet were found at the spot designated by the man, but rain had obliterated the remainder of her trail.”


Even in death, Tex Rickard knew how to give them a show. The “them” in this case would be the admiring public who showed up in the tens of thousands to the wake of the boxing promoter, which was held in the ring area of Madison Square Garden. He was most famous for being the honest fight promoter who wouldn’t allow fixes or mismatches, whose affiliation with Jack Dempsey helped create the first million-dollar gates and who, in 1921, brought boxing to American radio audiences for the first time, introducing sports to mass media. But Rickard’s life went far beyond organized fisticuffs. He built both MSG (the third iteration) and Boston Gardens, he was a Texas marshal, an Alaska gold prospector, a gambling hall and bar proprietor, a longtime friend of Wyatt Earp, and the founder and first owner of the NHL’s New York Rangers. The grand man was sadly felled by an appendectomy gone bad a few days after his fifty-ninth birthday.

From the January 9, 1929 Brooklyn Daily Eagle article about his final “show”:

“In the center of the great arena of Madison Square Garden, that Tex Rickard’s showmanship built, the body of the fight promoter lay in state today while the thousands who had admired him in life filed by in silence for a final view of Tex Rickard in death.

Seventy-five or more a minute they passed the bronze casket under a blanket of red and white flowers. One line to the left and one to the right. One from the 49th St. entrance and the other from 50th St. Five thousand passed and looked in the first hour, 10,000 by noon, some 30,000 before the funeral service began at 2 p.m. The Rev. Caleb Moor, pastor of the Madison Avenue Baptist Church, officiated. The burial was to follow in Woodlawn Cemetery, the Bronx.

Actresses in sable coats, longshoremen, washwomen, policemen, bankers, lawyers, children in arms, millionaires, paupers, racetrack touts, Broadway hangers-on, ministers of the Gospel…it was a strange double procession that turned out toward the 8th Ave. exit or melted away in silence among the seats there to wait for the formal services later on.

Never before had this Madison Square Garden, Rickard’s own ‘temple of sports,’ seen such a phenomenon, and no doubt will never again.

Here had been skeptical crowds, enthusiastic crowds, cheering crowds, savage crowds that snarled and called for blood. Here had been lights and gongs sounding, jazz orchestras playing, the thud of leather against human jaws, the clink of skates on the hockey ice, the whirl of six-day bicycle racers. Today dim lights pierced the shadows up there near the roof, and from the tiny windows came streaks of shadowy daylight that only added to the dark.

$15,000 Casket

The body of Rickard, in immaculate evening clothes, lay in the $15,000 bronze casket on a slightly raised platform in the very center of what had been the prize fighting ring, the rink of the hockey players. From the shoulders down nothing was visible but the roses–roses, red and white. At the casket’s head stood Sgt. Timothy Murphy, longtime friend of the promoter, at a straight and stern attention, without moving muscle as the hours dragged by. Motionless as Rickard himself.

Clustered palms formed a sort of green cathedral nave around the altar on which were the remains of the man who had risen from Texas cow puncher to a world figure. And in dimness nothing else was visible except the spot of green, the dull, motley moving files, the flowers, the somber purple and the black splotches of crepe and here and there the bright blue uniform of a Garden attendant.

And for sound, only the shuffling feet of thousands of silent mourners.

Outside the crowd grew and grew. There had been perhaps 5,000 when the doors were thrown open shortly after 10 a.m. A bit of unruliness developed then when the mounted police in an effort to line the mourners up in twos rode up on the sidewalks. Soon this quieted down. By twos and twos they formed thereafter, beginning at the side entrances and extending gradually out to 8th Ave., to 9th and to 10th. Shortly after midday some 15,000 were waiting to follow those who had already entered.

Earlier in the morning the young Mrs. Rickard had come in with Jack Dempsey and Walter Field, assistant and close friend of the dead man. They sat down beside the casket. For a brief interval there, alone with these two men in the amphitheater, Mrs. Rickard wept over her dead. There was a gigantic piece of carnations and forget-me-nots from the employees of the Garden. The New York Rangers, Rickard’s own hockey team, sent a huge wreath, and their rivals, the Americans, offered another. … Many of the big dealers in New York found themselves stripped of flowers before midnight as a steady stream of orders poured in. Smaller dealers were asked to contribute and did. And all night long, even into this morning, huge pieces of floral offerings were being carried into the cavernlike old Garden, which had suddenly become a glimmering, brilliant bed of beauty.

Draped in Beauty

The Garden entrance was draped in black. Inside there were patches of black. Inside, however, were the flowers, and all the somberness of the crepe could not take away their brilliance. They said that even the Valentino funeral, which brought thousands of floral pieces, did not approach the Rickard ceremony.”

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From the June 17, 1911 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Greeley, Col.–After lying in the tomb of an Egyptian mummy for probably more than a thousand years, ten grains of wheat sent to a Greeley farmer and planted west of here, germinated. From it eight stalks of wheat have grown and this promises a variety of wheat superior to any growing in this country.”

As if the millions upon millions of fatalities caused by World War I and the Great Pandemic of 1918 wasn’t awful enough, that concurrence of tragedies struck another blow to humanity, thinning out the applicants for American circus freak shows. But sideshow scout Nicholas Sally trudged on bravely, armed with dubious knowledge about genetics, as he looked for fresh talent in Europe. At journey’s end, he provided details of his findings to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle for an insane article in the February 20, 1921 edition. The story:

Berlin–Nicholas Sally, freak hunter for the Dreamland sideshows at Coney Island and the Ringling Circus, has discovered one family in Berlin that did not suffer for lack of food during the war. It is made up of four brothers and two sisters, all of whom are under 23 years of age and weigh nearly 50 pounds each. Sally has arranged to take one of the brothers to America, along with a dozen other freaks he has picked up in various European countries, for exhibition during the coming season.

‘They have been hard to find this season,’ he said, ‘for a great many died during the war. Human skeletons are the scarcest of all. I have combed Hungary, Austria, Poland and Germany, which head the list of so-called poverty-stricken countries, but have not found a single skeleton.’

A man with a revolving head from Austria, a little woman who has fins instead of arms and two giants from Germany, a pair of midgets from Hungary, an English dwarf and a dog-faced man from Poland are the headliners of the collection of freaks that will start for America as soon as passport difficulties are cleared up.

‘Europe is the place to come for the special sideshow attractions,’ said Sally, who believes that the intermingling of races and intermarriages within families here are partly responsible for their great abundance. They plead for a chance to go to America for a year, and possibly longer if they make good, and get passage paid both ways, but demand much higher wages than they are paid here, for they believe the United States is a land where gold flows freely. Some of the freaks will be exhibited in Philadelphia and New York until the circus and Coney Island seasons open.

E.T. Benson also is in Germany making arrangements to ship to the United States the animals and trainers John Ringling obtained from the Hagenbeck Menagerie at Hamburg a few weeks ago.”

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From the October 7, 1901 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Paterson–Mrs. Leonard Shatem pf Vreeland Avenue was called to the door a few weeks ago by a man begging. He said his name was Charles Burk and told a pitiful story. She allowed him to go into the kitchen and gave him bread and tea. He asked for work. She told him to remain over night. For weeks he did chores around the house. Mr. Shatem said that Burk was a hard-working man, and he was glad that his wife had hired him. Now Mrs. Shatem has eloped with the tramp and left a note for her husband saying it was a case of ‘love at first sight.’” 

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From the March 20, 1929 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

“Artificial fireflies the size of turkeys which will give off brilliant perpetual light without the vexation of meters, monthly bills and repairs were forecast last night in an address on ‘Living Lamps’ before the American Institute in Cooper Union by Dr. E. Newton Harvey, professor of psychology at Princeton University.

And whereas the firefly of nature only flashes, burning up the tiny amount of ‘oil’ in its lamp and then staying dark again until it has reformed its ‘oil,’ the robot firefly would be so contrived as to give a continuous glow, reforming a part of its ‘oil,’ which is technically called ‘luciferin,’ while it was burning the rest, this being an incessant process.”


“I have my manias, and I impose them.”

Italo Balbo, Mussolini’s Air Minister, created an experimental office environment that was a technocrat’s dream, humming with gizmos, even if it shared some of the fascist tendencies of his politics. There was an Automat-style lunchroom and a tubing system that delivered coffee to desks, which was wonderful provided you weren’t aging, sickly or disabled. Then you weren’t allowed to work there. An article from the February 23, 1933 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Paris–Fascist Air Minister Italo Balbo of Italy, soon to fly to America with 20 planes, has hot coffee shot up to his office through pneumatic tubes. So in fact do all the 2,000 clerks and other personnel of his ministry.

This is but one of the fantasies that the 36-year-old, prematurely bearded air minister (possible successor to Mussolini) has incorporated in the newest of Rome’s government buildings.

In spite of his youth he is probably the dean of the world’s air ministers, since he is in his sixth year of office. To Claude Blanchard whom he showed around the building, he stated that he had deep dislike for ordinary government offices.

‘I have my manias, and I impose them,’ he laughed. ‘There is not a drawer in the building.’ He explained that his first four years in politics gave him a horror of desk drawers.

Blanchard describes the ministry as a combination of ‘factory, museum, laboratory, gymnasium, restaurant, bank, university and storehouse.’

Every desk has a telephone and a pneumatic tube such as department stores use to shoot change from customer to cashier and back. The elevators are endless chain affairs which never stop; and on and off which passengers leap while they are in motion.

No Gray Hairs In Sight

There are no paralytics or rheumatics in the ministry. Blanchard said that he did not see one gray hair. 

Balbo, while visiting Chicago, 1933.

Balbo’s own office is a wide bright room, the walls of which are decorated with huge maps painted in the seventeenth century manner. While they were talking something like a steamboat whistle blew; and the minister invited the guest to lunch.

After a descent in the non-stop elevators they came out in an immense stand-up lunch room, in which everybody from the minister down to the workmen in aprons and overalls eat at once. They all pay for it, the minister and upper ranks paying 32 cents and the men in overalls seven. Forty-five minutes are allowed for lunch. Blanchard, between Balbo and a high staff officer, lined up at one of the long nickel and porcelain shelves, opened the small nickeled doors in front of him. There, kept hot by electricity, was the whole meal.

It was not a completely standardized meal. The menu had been circulated earlier in the morning and everybody had shot back his order by pneumatic tube.

In fifteen minutes the lunch was over and everybody flowed around to a colossal bar filled with glittering coffee ‘espresso’ machines. Each made his own coffee; and it was there that Balbo showed with some pride the system by which the clerks get coffee in their offices without leaving their desks. A clerk shoots an order down the tube with his desk number on it; and in a moment a sealed bottle with the coffee in it plops out of the tube.

It is a good ministry to work in. It closes at a quarter to four.”



From the May 6, 1910 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Pueblo, Colo.–Announcing that he was a ‘rip-snorting, roarin’ Texas steer,’ a man who later gave his name as John Jones at Police Headquarters, terrorized the women in a residence district yesterday afternoon, until one of them, a ranch-bred woman, accorded to the obstreperous ‘steer’ proper Western treatment by lassoing him with a clothes line and tying him to a waterplug where he was kept until the arrival of the police.”


Before computers became our “second brains,” there were stage performers paid well for displaying astonishing feats of memory. Such was the career of a Horatio Alger-esque immigrant from a century ago, Felix Berol, who allegedly retained hundreds of thousands of fascinating facts and used them to wow vaudeville crowds and teach memory retention via correspondence courses. From an article about his sudden death in the April 20, 1914 Brooklyn Daily Eagle (which doesn’t mention that Berol had willed his brain to the Philadelphia Medical Association):

“Felix Berol, ‘the man with 300,00 facts in his head,’ who was conceded to be one of the world’s greatest memory training experts, died suddenly at 2 a.m. today at his home, 609 Fairview Avenue, Ridgewood Heights.

Mr. Berol and his wife and his niece, Miss Ellie Kosch, returned from Coney Island shortly after midnight, and after a late supper he retired. Shortly before he died he called to his wife and complained of feeling ill, and suddenly collapsed in her arms.

Although heart disease is supposed to have been the cause of death, an autopsy will be performed by a coroner’s physician this afternoon to determine exactly what he died from.

The news of Mr. Berol’s death came as a shock to the members of the Central and Bedford branches of the Young Men’s Christian Association, where only a week ago he gave the first of a series of nine lectures on memory training. He was to have given the second lecture of the course at the Bedford Branch tonight, and at the Central Branch tomorrow night. Unless some former pupil who completed the course at the West Side Branch of the Y.M.C.A. undertakes the lectures, the course may be abandoned.

Mr. Berol attended the dance of the Young Women’s Christian Association at the Central Branch on Schermerhorn Street last Saturday night, and was then apparently in the best of health. He danced several times, and didn’t appear to be the least bit fatigued when he departed for his home early Sunday morning. It was his boast that he had never been sick a day in his life, and he attributed his good health to the fact that he constantly exercised his mind.

In addition to lecturing at the Y.M.C.A. branches, Mr. Berol was conducting a correspondence course through Funk & Wagnalls, the publishers, and had 2,500 pupils.

Mr. Berol was born in Berlin, Germany, on February 1, 1872. He got an education in the public schools of Berlin and came to this country when a boy. His mind was sluggish and dull, and it was with the greatest difficulty that he could remember a fact. As a result, the best kind of job the young immigrant boy could land was washing dishes in a cheap restaurant.

One night, tired and sleepy, he sauntered into Cooper Union and picked up a book at random. It was Henry George’s Progress and Poverty, and, as he turned the pages, he was for the first time in his life interested in reading.

By reading Progress and Poverty, Berol’s whole career was changed. From then on, he thirsted for knowledge, and, realizing that his mentality was exceedingly dull and that he couldn’t remember anything he read, he started to hunt up books on memory. He haunted Cooper Union, the Astor Library and other libraries in his spare time, devouring everything pertaining to memory that he could lay his hands on. After months of hard work, he mastered the principles of the subject as laid down by teachers of memories. Within seven months he was able to perform astonishing feats of remembering and branched out in vaudeville as ‘Berol, the Mental Marvel, With 5,000 Facts in His Head.’ His success was instantaneous; he was booked as a headliner and commanded big salaries, which made a fortune for him.

At a big financial sacrifice, he abandoned the stage to devote his time to educational work in the teaching of his wonderful but simple memory training system.

Berol actually had 300,000 facts in his head, any one of which he could name in an instant. He could give exact dates of births and deaths of great men, the date of every battle in the history of the world, and the population of every city and town in the United States of more than 5,000, and thousands upon thousands of statistics.”•

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From the September 26, 1911 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Kalamazoo, Mich.–While pulling a tooth yesterday, Dr. Burr Bannister, one of the oldest dentists in Kalamazoo, was perhaps fatally injured. The patient turned to one side during the  operation and tipped the chair over, pinning the doctor beneath it. One of the arms of the chair struck the dentist in the stomach, causing an internal hemorrhage.”


“‘For the first time I am writing for money; now I am frightened that some quick accident might happen.”

Isadora Duncan never did learn to drive. Out for a car ride in France with a friend and a chauffeur who promised to teach her to operate an automobile, the free-spirited dancer was done in by her free-flowing scarf, which entangled in one of the motor car’s front wheels and yanked her into the next world. It was the end of a short life that felt like a long one. An Associated Press article that appeared in the September 15, 1927 Brooklyn Daily Eagle on the morning after Duncan’s sudden death:

Nice, France (AP)–The body of Isadora Duncan, dancer, whose adventurous career terminated in an automobile tragedy here last night, was locked in her studio today. Police are guarding the door and will permit no one to enter until a Soviet consular official has signed the necessary papers allowing friends to take charge of the body.

Miss Duncan left no will, according to Mrs. Mary Desto Perks, British newspaper woman who was driving with the dancer when she met death. Mrs. Perks said that all the dancer’s friends would testify that she intended all her property go to her blind brother, Augustin. Although Miss Duncan was recently financially embarrassed, Mrs. Perks declared the royalties on her book of memoirs were expected to net many thousands of dollars. The draperies and pictures in the studio here were alone valued at $10,000.

Citizenship in Doubt

At an autopsy performed today the verdict of accidental death due to strangulation was returned.

The only identifying document found in the Nice apartment was a Soviet passport, and police in accordance with French laws notified the nearest Russian Consul, who is at Marseilles. He was asked to come to Nice by motor at once.

A search at the American consulate here failed to show whether Miss Duncan had claimed American citizenship since 1921.

Miss Duncan was killed last night as she was learning to drive her new car.

A silken scarf of red–the color of which she was fond, and which seems to have symbolized her radicalism–fluttered about the neck of the dancer as she sped along the Promenade des Angels. With her was a French chauffeur, who was going to teach her to drive, and Mrs. Perks.

Killed Instantly

“The idea of ‘interpretive’ dancing came to her.”

The end of the long scarf whipped over the side of the car, became entangled in the front wheel and jerked the dancer from her seat. The chauffeur jammed on the brakes and he and Mrs. Perks disengaged the scarf from the limp body. The drove frantically to the St. Roch Hospital, but in vain. The doctors said her neck was broken and that death must have been instantaneous.

At one time a stage idol, Miss Duncan had long devoted herself to the training of young dancers. Her affairs did not appear to prosper, and her Neuilly studio had to be sold to pay her debts.

Had Premonitions of Death

Of late she had given much of her time to writing memoirs of her career, from which she hoped great things. She seems to have had premonitions of her death as, in talking with a correspondent of the Associated Press on Tuesday, she said:

‘For the first time I am writing for money; now I am frightened that some quick accident might happen.’


From a hesitant debut as a 15-year-old girl in California, Isadora Duncan’s dancing feet carried her across two continents to wealth, a certain degree of fame and a life crowded with adventure and tragedy.

Bare Legs Stirred Protests

Born in San Francisco in May, 1878, the daughter of Charles Duncan, a dancing teacher, she received early training in the art on which she was to leave an indelible impress.

The idea of ‘interpretive’ dancing came to her and she began to devise dance figures of her own. In development of her idea she discarded customary costumes, appearing in filmy attire and with bare legs, a daring innovation in those days and one which brought many protests.

One of her first successes in New York was a dance version of ‘Omar Khayyam,’ in which she interpreted the spirit of the classic poem while the verses were recited by Justin Huntly McCarthy.

She was teaching a class of children in the Hotel Windsor, New York, when the fire broke out on March 7, 1899, which leveled the structure. She saved every one of the pupils at the risk of her life.

In the same year she decided to go to Europe and made the trip with her mother and brothers on a cattleboat, the venture being financed with the aid of friends. Europe was quick to recognize a form of art in her dramatic dancing, and she established a ‘Temple of Art’ in Paris.

King Edward VII, Gabriele d’Annunzio, Ernst Haeckel, Gordon Craig and Rodin the sculptor were listed among the admirers.

In 1904, her first financial success came when she started a school of classical dancing in Berlin, where she trained the girls who came to be known as the Duncan Dancers, forerunners of many later dancing groups of this character.

The girls performed, as their teacher did, in flowing draperies and bare feet.

Back in Paris again, in 1913, she encountered opposition from the authorities when she appeared as a nude bacchante, and in order to continue her fetes without interruption she purchased a villa at Neuilly, where she gave her brilliant parties for nearly four years.

Two Children Drowned

"There tragedy overtook her."

“There tragedy overtook her.”

There tragedy overtook her. Her two children, Beatrice, 5, and Patrick, 2–she was never married and never revealed the name of their father–were drowned when the motorcar in which they were sitting plunged into the Seine River when it was cranked while in gear.

Of radical sympathies, her fortunes were adversely affected with the outbreak of the World War, and when the Russian revolution came in 1917 she immediately announced her adhesion to the Bolshevik cause. She went to Moscow some time later on the invitation of the Soviet Government to found a new school of dancing. Difficulties arose, and the plan was abandoned.

It was in Moscow that she married Sergei Yesenin, young Russian poet, in 1921. The next year she brought him to the United States and gave a series of dances. Later in Paris she announced that she had sent the young poet back to Russia, and eventually she divorced him, describing him as ‘really too impossible.’ He committed suicide in Russia in December, 1925.”

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From the July 20, 1923 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Shreveport, La.–Mrs. Arthur Mausey complained to the District Attorney here yesterday that her husband had traded their 14-month-old son to an unidentified man for a horse and buggy and then had sold the outfit for $20. She appealed to the authorities to assist her to recover the child.”

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“CRC-102 promptly accepted the challenge.”

AI wouldn’t be able to beat the world’s best human chess player for 46 more years, but it was game on in 1951 when an engineer challenged a computer to a $1,000 series of matches. The machine was rudimentary, so the acceptance of the wager came with some suspect conditions. From the November 12, 1951 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Washington–Engineer Donald H. Jacobs, who challenged an electronic ‘brain’ to a $1,000 chess tournament, agreed today to follow the machine’s ring rules, ‘but  won’t teach the thing how to play chess.’

Jacobs, president of the Jacobs Instrument Company of nearby Bethesda, Md., said he was looking forward to matching wits with CRC-102, the ‘brain’s’ technical name.

The only hitch was that the ‘brain’s’ second–the Computer Research Corporation, Torrence, Cal.–said that Jacobs would have to reveal his ‘chess system’ in advance.

‘I’m not going to give away my system to the machine,’ Jacobs said. ‘With that knowledge, any mortal chess player, much less the ‘brain,’ could win with no trouble.’

Jacobs made his ‘gentlemen’s bet’ for the man-versus-machine struggle over 20 games of chess to prove that man still can outthink a machine–at least over a chess board.

‘Although I am a poor chess player,’ he said, ‘pure egotism makes me unwilling to concede that a computing machine can play better than I can.’

CRC-102 promptly accepted the challenge. Engineer Richard E. Sprague, a director of Computer Research, said his ‘champion’ will take on Jacobs ‘any time, any place…and will take him apart.’

Computer Research, which has just developed the first portable electronic digital computer, claims that the ‘brain’–among its other talents–is an unbeatable chess player.

Sprague laid down three ‘ring rules,’ however, before CRC-102 will meet Jacobs in combat.

1. A time limit on the match so that the human contestant doesn’t take ‘a year or so to make up his mind on a move.’

2. Permission to tell the ‘eyeless’ machine what move its human adversary has made ‘so he can make the proper countermove.’

3. Jacobs must provide CRC-102 with his chess system.”


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From the July 6, 1910 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Vincennes, Ind.–A blind horse, frightened by the explosion of a cannon, ran away yesterday, threw its driver, Wayne Bunting, out of the buggy, fatally injuring him, plunged through a window of the home of Mrs. Anna Dugger and fell on a bed, in which Mrs. Dugger and her daughter were sleeping.

Mrs. Dugger and her daughter were bruised and both were shocked into hysteria before the men of the neighborhood, alarmed by the crash and the screams of the women, could drag the frantic horse out of the house.”

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“A rumor flashed through the city’s schools that a ‘vampire with iron teeth’ had strangled and eaten two small boys.”

The boogeyman in the Queens neighborhood I grew up in was “Charlie Chop-Chop” (or “Chop-Chop Charlie“), a supposed shadowy slayer of small children whose coup de grâce involved the business end of an axe. It seemed an urban legend concocted to scare kids from being lured away by strangers, but when I was an adult I learned it was at least partly fact: A Manhattan serial murderer called “Charlie Chop-off” really did kill five African-American children in the 1970s. (He may have been Erno Soto, a mentally ill man who confessed to one of the murders but was deemed unfit for trial and institutionalized.)

I can only guess that in the aftermath of these crimes, a few facts traveled to the outer boroughs, probably melded with details of some actual local lawlessness and became larger and larger in the minds of schoolchildren, who needed no vampire comic book nor slasher film to draw the face of evil in their fertile minds. Such a thing seemed innate and viral.

Of course, that’s not to say that children won’t dip into the culture to help them create their stories. At the same time that comic books were considered a 10-cent plague in America, they were apparently causing “vampire riots” in Scottish graveyards. An article in the September 26, 1954 Brooklyn Daily Eagle recalls just such a mad scene. The story:

Glasgow–Outraged education authorities today blamed horror comics for the action of hundreds of children who swarmed through a cemetery looking for a ‘bloodthirsty vampire with iron teeth.’

The shouting mobs of children rampaged through the cemetery in suburban Hutchesontown in what police called a ‘vampire riot.’

H.K. MacKintosh, city education officer, charged that ‘horror’ comics were responsible and said they ‘have now gone beyond the bounds of license. I hope the government will take active steps in this very real problem facing us.’

Police Constable Alex Deeprose gave the account of the ‘riots’:

‘When school finished, hundreds of children massed in Hutchesontown and prepared to march on the cemetery after a rumor flashed through the city’s schools that a ‘vampire with iron teeth’ had strangled and eaten two small boys there.

‘Shouting and waving pocket knives, carrying sticks and stones, the children swarmed over the cemetery wall and began a hunt among the gravestones.’

Witnesses said they appeared to be ‘deadly serious.’

Police called by the local residents managed to disperse the shouting throng but bands of children continued to roam the streets until dusk.”

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From the November 19, 1909 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

“Prof. Wilfred E. Wheeler, first assistant in chemistry in the engineering experiment station in the University of Illinois, committed suicide on the university campus yesterday. He took his life because he could not stand the petty annoyances of married life and because he disliked his baby.”


“Within such containers…man could live as comfortably as he does at home.”

We were aware, more than seven decades ago, that the moon could be a landing pad, a rocket launcher and a nonpareil space observatory. Our failure to execute in this area is one of will, not knowledge. An article about the moon and its uses from the December 29, 1940 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Los Angeles (U.P.)–The moon, not so many centuries hence, probably will the earth’s much-prized ‘airport’ for rocket travel.

When that time comes, if it does, scientists in heavy Man-from-Mars suits probably will flock to the moon and build big telescopes of a size not dreamed of on earth.

Whenever they take off their suits, the rocket men and the scientists will have to live in big, air-tight caverns dug into the surface of the moon.

They will breathe air shipped from the earth, or manufactured chemically from the rocks on the moon.

This peek at the moon’s possibilities as sort of an ‘off-atmosphere’ base for the earth is made by the scientists at Griffith Observatory in their monthly publication. They termed their forecast something between ‘sober scientific description and fantasy.’

Proper Fuel Needed

Rocket travel, in the first place, depends upon discovery of a proper fuel, but they said this problem ‘is not as fantastic as it sounds’ and added:

‘Considering the marvels of scientific inventions during the past century, one is very much tempted to guess that shortly after the time that the human race has gained enough sense to live at peace, our scientists will provide the means of travel, and observatories upon the moon will become realities.’

When men learn to flit from earth to Venus, et cetera, the observatory suggests the moon doubtless will become an ‘intermediate base’ for big rocket ships.

The moon has slight gravity pull compared to the earth; a man could jump like a giant grasshopper, and rocket ships could take off easily. Further the moon has practically no atmosphere, hence there will not be the friction of air slowing down the rockets.

These same two qualities will send astronomer hurrying to the moon, the observatory predicts. Telescopes would be so light in weight that they could be built in sizes dwarfing the 200-incher now under construction in Pasadena, Cal. There would be none of the destruction from ‘boiling air’ as on earth. Astronomers could see much farther, and better. Further, the moon has a black night two weeks long–a paradise for astronomers.

But the lack of air on the moon will present its difficulties, as well. Earthmen going to the moon will have to have something to breathe.

‘Assuming that some day man does make direct use of the moon,’ says the observatory, ‘his protection would probably come in two forms:

‘First, by making great airtight caverns within the surface of the moon. In these caverns the air either would be carried from the earth or much more probably formed chemically from the oxides at the surface of the moon. Within such containers, which might be of very large size, man could live as comfortably as he does at home.

‘Second, outside of these it would be necessary for him to wear some sort of cumbersome suit, the reverse of that used by the diver, and to carry with him in tanks his necessary supply of oxygen.’

Fears have been expressed that earthmen would be in danger of constant bombardments of meteorites on the moon, but the observatory said there is no evidence of this. The bombardments would kick up great clouds of dust on the moon, and no such clouds have been observed through the telescopes.”

From the January 21, 1913 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Enid, Okla.–A kick on the head by a mule was worth $2,800 to John Allen, a farmer living near here. Immediately after Allen was operated on today for a fracture of the skull, which the mule’s hoof had inflicted last Saturday, he remembered where he had buried that amount of money during the financial panic of 1907.”


I still have no idea why “electronic brain” seems to have been the favored term for computers in the pre-1960s U.S. In fact “computer” was often treated like a silly word to be mocked. Well, by any name, such a machine and its memory helped American Airlines keep track of reservations six decades ago, according to an article in the July 13, 1952 Brooklyn Daily Eagle. The story:

“American Airlines is using an electronic ‘brain’ to keep accurate and up-to-the-moment information on plane seats available.

By manipulating keys on a gadget resembling a small adding machine, a ticket agent can in a matter of seconds determine space available and make or cancel reservations.

The brain housed in American’s hangar at Laguardia Field, consists of a battery of electronic tubes and a ‘memory’ in which is stored the inventory of seats. The memory consists of two magnetized drums on which more than 1,000 flights for a period of ten days is recorded.

Let’s assume that a passenger requests three seats for a flight to Chicago:

1. The agent at one of the remote ticket offices selects a destination plate from a file. This plate is notched like a house key.

2. He inserts the plate in a slot behind eight lucite push-buttons. This sets up the connection with the memory drum at LaGuardia. The eight lucite keys have printed data on flight number, departure time, etc.

3. The agent then pushes buttons designating the date and number of seats requested.

4. In less than a second the brain responds by lighting lucite lamps corresponding to those flights which have three seats available.

5. The passenger makes his choice of flight and the agent flips a key to ‘sell.’

6. A green light indicates that the brain has completed the transaction, subtracting thee seats from the inventory for that flight on the memory drum.”

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