Friday, March 7, 2014
"Mr. Watson! Come here! I need you!"
Yes, it could have been Sherlock Holmes calling out to his longtime associate, but it was not. It was actually the Scottish-born scientist Alexander Graham Bell (above) calling out to his assistant three days after he filed his patent for his new invention in the first intelligible message ever carried on it. On this date of March 7 in the year 1876, Bell received a patent for his new telephone. Eventually Bell would consider his invention to be an intrusion. But invent it he did, and as a result, the world became forever smaller.
Young Bell Has an Idea....
Bell was born on March 3, 1847 in Edinburgh Scotland. He worked in London with his father Melville, who had developed a system of writing for speaking with the deaf called "Visible Speech". In 1870, the family moved to Boston, Massachusetts, and the young Alexander acquired employment in a teacher's position at the Pemberton Ave School for the Deaf. It was during this time in Boston that Bell became fascinated with the possibility of transmitting human speech over wires, in much the same way that Morse's telegraph transmitted messages. Bell wanted to improve on Morse's idea by coming up with a "harmonic telegraph" that would transport the sound of human voices over wires just as the telegraph transmitted messages.
Developing Bell's Idea
By 1874, Bell had indeed made progress towards this concept. He had experimented with an item called the "Phonautograph" which could draw the shapes of various sound waves upon smoke glass by tracing their vibrations. Bell thought that it might be possible to make undulating electrical currents that corresponded to sound waves, and that these metal reeds tuned to different frequencies like a harp might be able to turn these undulatory currents back into sound. Bell's idea of sending sound over the wires by use of this multi-reed device attracted the backing of Patent Attorney Anthony Pollock, who arranged a visit by Bell to Smithsonian Institution Scientist Joseph Henry, who told Bell that he had the "great germ of invention " in this idea. But Bell said that he lacked the knowledge to make his idea work. "Get it!" Henry urged the young Bell (Below: Bell with telephone, circa 1876).
Bell was indeed encou- raged, and his meeting with Thomas A. Watson, an experi- enced electrical designer put him towards getting it as Henry had urged him. On 2 June 1875, Watson accidentally plucked one of the reeds and Bell, at the receiving end of the wire, heard the overtones of the reed; overtones that would be necessary for transmitting speech. That demonstrated to Bell that only one reed or armature was necessary, not multiple reeds. Eventually, Bell was able to come up with a device which he patented ; U.S. Patent number 174,465, was issued to Bell on March 7, 1876, by the U.S. Patent Office. Bell's patent covered "the method of, and apparatus for, transmitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically ... by causing electrical undulations, similar in form to the vibrations of the air accompanying the said vocal or other sound." Three days later, while working on further refinements, Bell on one end of the phone accidentally spilled some acid in his office, leading to the famous cry to Watson.
The World Shrinks!!
The new device caught on and made the world much smaller by putting people at great distances together as if they were just a few feet away. One could argue that this has not been an altogether great thing. Indeed, Mr. Bell himself came to look upon the telephone as an intrusion upon privacy, and refused to have one installed in his private study. Given the repeated interruptions of cell phone ring tones on even the most private and/or solemn gatherings to which we are repeatedly subjected nowadays, it is hard not to agree with him. Nevertheless, on January 25, 1925, Bell made the first intercontinental phone call, as reported by the New York Times:
"On October 9, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas A. Watson talked by telephone to each other over a two-mile wire stretched between Cambridge and Boston. It was the first wire conversation ever held. Yesterday afternoon [on January 25, 1915] the same two men talked by telephone to each other over a 3,400-mile wire between New York and San Francisco. Dr. Bell, the veteran inventor of the telephone, was in New York, and Mr. Watson, his former associate, was on the other side of the continent. They heard each other much more distinctly than they did in their first talk thirty-eight years ago."
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Thursday, March 6, 2014
"At the sound of the bugle they could no longer doubt that the time had come for them to conquer or die. Had they still doubted, the imprudent shouts for Santa Anna given by our columns of attack must have opened their eyes. As soon as our troops were in sight, a shower of grape and musket balls was poured upon them from the fort, the garrison of which at the sound of the bugle had rushed to their posts."
This was part of the report of Don Vincente Filisola, a General in the Mexican Army. He was describing the opening moments of the final assaulton the Alamo which took place on todays date, March 6 in 1836.
Santa Anna Moves North to Quell Rebellion in Texas
In January of 1836, an army led by the Mexican president, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna (below) concentrated south
The defenders on the walls of the compound were eventually pushed back, and the fighting became a room to room battle inside the buildings within the compound, as described by Mexican sergeant Francisco Becerra:
"The Texans fought like devils. It was short range -- muzzle to muzzle, -- hand to hand -- musket and rifle -- bayonet and Bowie knife -- all were mingled in confusion. Here a squad of Mexicans, there a Texan or two. The crash of firearms, the shouts of defiance, the cries of the dying and the wounded, made a din almost infernal. The Texians defended desperately every inch of the fort -- over-powered by numbers, they would be forced to abandon a room; they would rally in the next and defend it until further resistance became impossible."
The De la Pena Diary, and Davey Crockett
The only eyewitness accounts of March 6 available from are from the Mexican side. This is because none of the defenders survived the day. Whether or not any defenders managed to survive the battle itself remains a matter of controversy. Santa Anna had ordered that no prisoners were to be taken. Nevertheless, some accounts of the battle from Mexican soldiers have surfaced over the years which say that several of the Texans were in fact taken prisoner, and were subsequently executed on the orders of Santa Anna. Details in these accounts vary; the number ranges between two to seven men. Particular dispute centers on the fact that most of these accounts mention Davy Crockett (pictured,
"Some seven men had survived the general carnage and, under the protection of General Castrillon, they were brought before Santa Anna. Among them was one of great stature, well proportioned, with regular features, in whose face there was the imprint of adversity, but in whom one also noticed a degree of resignation and nobility that did him honor. He was the naturalist David Crockett, well known in North America for his unusual adventures..... Santa Anna answered Castrillon's intervention on Crockett's behalf with a gesture of indignation and, addressing himself to the...troops closest to him, ordered his execution. The commanders and officers were outraged at this action and did not support the order, hoping that once the fury of the moment had blown over these men would be spared; but several officers who were around the president....thrust themselves forward in order to flatter their commander, and with swords in hand, fell on these unfortunate, defenseless men just as a tiger leaps upon his prey. Though tortured before they were killed, these unfortunates died without complaining and without humiliating themselves before their torturers. I turned away horrified in in order not to witness such a barbarous scene....I confess that the very memory of it makes me tremble and that my ear can still hear the penetrating, doleful sound of the victims."
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
"Unhappy Boston! See thy sons deplore,
Thy hallowed walks besmeared with guiltless gore
While faithless F--n and his savage bands,
With murd- 'rous Rancour stretch their bloody hands,
Like firece Barbarians grinning o'er their Prey;
Approve the carnage and enjoy the day."
- Popular engraving by Paul Revere
"Facts are stubborn things, and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictums of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."
- John Adams
On today's date, March 5 in 1770 in the city of Boston, British troops opened fire on a mob which had been heckling them in that tense and angry city. Five men were killed. The poster pictured above along with the poem quoted next to it are part of the immediate reaction, as colonists were whipped into a fury over the incident. The quote which follows the poem is from the closing argument in the trial of the soldiers which came the following December in which the soldiers attorney, one John Adams got them acquitted of charges of murder.
Colonial Unrest Over British Taxes
Boston at that time had been a center of much of the unrest which had grown in Great Britain's colonies in North America. The whole issue of whether the British government had the right to tax goods imported into the colonies without the colonies input into the matter had caused a great deal of resentment amongst the colonial merchants and traders. While the matter had for the moment been more or less set aside by the expiration of the Townshend Acts, a set of taxes levied by in 1767 by the British Government, there was considerable unease throughout the colonies. And this was particularly so in the port of Boston wherein British troops were quartered and in which these troops were cordially despised.
Snowballs, Troops and "FIRE!"
On the evening of this date it was cold in Boston. There was a bright moon in the sky, and a foot of snow lay on the ground. A lone British sentry on guard in front of the Custom House on King (now State) Street was being taunted by a crowd of rowdy citizens.
The Propagandists Have a Field Day
The incident soon became grist for the mills of propagandists who were itching to stir up simmering resentments against the British rule in the colonies. Samuel Adams and others such as Paul Revere railed against what they portrayed as naked British aggression against peaceful citizens of Boston. Paul Revere published a poster, pictured above which became very popular depicting British troops coolly organized and murderously gunning down helpless civilians. The truth was that whatever the legitimacy of the colonial gripes against British rule, this was an instance of an angry mob getting out of hand and nervous troops reacting predictably. There was tremendous clammier for the troops to be tried and hung for their "brutal" actions.
But the British troops hired a Boston attorney named John Adams (pictured below at the trial) for their defense, and Adams, the future driving force behind the Declaration of Independence was a most effective advocate. Going against popular sentiment, Adams got the trials of the Captain
by David Mc Cullough, Smon & Schuster, New York, 2001
by Bruce Lancaster, American Heritage Publ., New York, 1971.
Paul Revere's Poster =
The Massacre detail =
Adams at the trial =
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
First of all, a small bit of Inaugural/Constitutional business to dispense:
It used to be that the President of the United States (POTUS) was directed by the U.S. Constitution to take office on March 4. But this was during the days when the fastest travel around was by horseback. It would take awhile for all of the election returns to be brought in from the far corners of our country to be counted. But by the 1930's with the advent not only of the telegraph as a means of communication, but also radio, there was no longer a need to wait an entire four full months for the new POTUS to be inaugurated. With the 20'th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (passed in 1933), the Inaugural date was changed to January 20, at noon. So the last POTUS to be sworn in on March 4, was Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933. FDR thus also became the first POTUS sworn in on January 20, 1937. With that in mind let us note some of the more memorable events that took place on this - the old inauguration for the POTUS. I shall add to this posting with each passing year, but let's start with one of the most amazing inaugural blow-outs of all time:
1829 = The Jackson Party Goes Wild!!
The inauguration of Andrew Jackson in 1829 marked the first time that a "common man", i.e. a man who was not from the nation's cultural or social elite class took the office. His election took place after a truly vile campaign of personal and political slurs tossed by both sides, culminating with the rumors that Jackson's wife, Rachel had been an adulteress. Rachel Jackson died just before Christmas of 1828, in part because of the strain that these charges had on her. Jackson was left grief-stricken and forever embittered against his political enemies as a result. But his inauguration party left everyone with a sour aftertaste. It was by this time a tradition to have a public reception in the White House itself following the swearing in of the POTUS, But this time the "public" got out of hand, roaming every part of the executive mansion, drinking, smashing, and looting. Here, eyewitness Margaret Bayard Smith, a Washington socialite describes the mayhem:
"But what a scene did we witness! The Majesty of the People had disappeared, and a rabble, a mob, of boys, negros [sic], women, children, scrambling fighting, romping. What a pity what a pity! No arrangements had been made no police officers placed on duty and the whole house had been inundated by the rabble mob. We came too late.
The President, after having been literally nearly pressed to death and almost suffocated and torn to pieces by the (Above: Jackson, third from right, is pressed by the crowd) people in their eagerness to shake hands with Old Hickory, had retreated through the back way or south front and had escaped to his lodgings at Gadsby's.
Cut glass and china to the amount of several thousand dollars had been broken in the struggle to get the refreshments, punch and other articles had been carried out in tubs and buckets, but had it been in hogsheads it would have been insufficient, ice-creams, and cake and lemonade, for 20,000 people, for it is said that number were there, tho' I think the number exaggerated."
Eventually, quick thinking waiters put the barrels of "Cider" out on the front lawn, and the cider being the life of the party, that is where most of the crowd went. Thus the crowd finally left the building and order was restored.
Sunday, March 2, 2014
Knox in box.
Fox in socks.
Knox on fox in socks in box.
Socks on Knox and Knox in box.
Fox in socks on box on Knox.
Chicks with bricks come.
Chicks with blocks come.
Chicks with bricks and blocks and clocks come.
Look, sir. Look, sir. Mr. Knox, sir.
Let's do tricks with bricks and blocks, sir.
Let's do tricks with chicks and clocks, sir."
Well sir, this is just one of his books... the one from which I can clearly recall reading with my mother. It is one of many truly delightful children's verses written and drawn by the phenomenal Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known to the world as Dr. Seuss who was born on today's date 110 years ago in Springfield, Massachusetts to German immigrant parents. His father, Theodor Robert Geisel ran the family brewery until it was closed by prohibition after which he ran the city parks system. It just so happens that young Theodor lives just a short distance from Mulberry Street which he would make famous in his first published work "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street!"
Ted Geisel Becomes "Dr. Seuss"
Young Theodor attended Dartmouth College in Massachusetts, and became the Editor of Dartmouth's humor magazine. But he fell afoul of the law in 1925 in an interesting way which lead to his evolution into Dr. Seuss. The night before Easter Sunday of that year, the local police chief caught Ted and some of his pals cavorting around with bootleg gin. As a result of this heinous infraction of the law, (Above: Geisel circa 1925) the Dean of the College removed Ted from his post as Editor of the humor magazine. Nevertheless, Ted found a way to continue to make contributions. He kept on drawing cartoons for the magazine under the alias of "Seuss", or "T. Seuss" which was his mother's maiden name, and his own middle name. He simply added the title of "Dr." some years later. He continued to write and draw, moving to New York in 1927. He did comic strips and also some
A Treasure Trove of Children's Tales
And since then Dr. Seuss has left us a literal treasure trove of children's tales with catching rhymes and remarkably friendly illustrations of a menagerie of characters. For example there is Horton the elephant, who says throughout "Horton Hatches the Egg", "I meant what I said/ And I said what I meant/ An elephant's faithful/ One hundred percent!" of his intention to
The Rhythms of the Ships Engines
Inspired by the rhythm of the ships engines in an ocean liner which he and his first wife took to Europe in 1936, the meter of Geisel's simple tales of honesty and good faith, as well as his simple rhymes have been helping children to master their reading skills for years now and continue to do so to this day, evolving with the story-tellers medium. He published my own favorite, "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" in 1957. This was transformed in 1966 into
A Less Than Storybook Life...
Regrettably, Ted Geisel's life was a less happy matter than his stories. His first wife, Helen suffered from a long bout with cancer, and committed suicide in 1967 owing to her anguish over an affair that Ted had with Audrey Dimond, whom he married the following year. He wound up having no children of his own with either
"Dr. Seuss" continues to be read and loved by millions of children (and "adults" like this one) all over the world.
Saturday, March 1, 2014
"Betty opened the room, closed the French window, and plugged in the electric heater. Walking towards the baby's crib, she realized that she could not hear the baby breathing. "I thought that something had happened to him," Betty would later retell, "that perhaps the clothes were over his head. In the half light I saw he wasn't there and felt all over the bed for him." Betty raced through the passageway into the master bedroom, just as Anne was exiting the bathroom. "Do you have the baby, Mrs. Lindbergh?" she asked. Bewildered, Anne said, "No." "Perhaps Colonel Lindbergh has him then," she said. "Where is Colonel Lindbergh?" Anne instinctively went into the baby's room while Betty ran downstairs, through the living room and up to the door of the library where Lindbergh was sitting at his desk. "Colonel Lindbergh," Betty said, trying to catch her breath,"have you got the baby? Please don't fool me." "The baby?" he asked. "Isn't he in his crib?" Before she could answer, he had jumped from his chair and run upstairs to the baby's room, Betty at his heels. Just from the look of the bed clothes, Lindbergh "felt sure that something was wrong." He went to the master bedroom, brushing past Anne, who asked if he had baby. "He did not answer me," she later recounted. "Someone had already told him." Charles went to his closet and loaded the rifle he kept there. He headed back toward the nursery, followed by Anne and Betty Gow. "Anne," he said, now looking right into his wife's eyes, "they have stolen our baby." "
Colonels Lindbergh, Schwarzkopf, and Bruno Richard Hauptmann
Colonel Charles Augustus Lindbergh had been a national hero since he made the first ever solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in May of 1927 in his plane, "the Spirit of St. Louis". Young, handsome, and enormously photogenic, Lindbergh captured the imagination of the public around the world. With near-saturation coverage of his life in newspapers, newsreels, and the emerging medium of radio, he became in author Berg's description, the first modern media celebrity. A ransom note found in the room that night, written in barely literate English demanded a ransom of $50,000.00. A search of the area lead by New Jersey State Police Colonel H. Norman Schwarzkopf (father of the Persian Gulf War General) turned up footprints, and the damaged ladder used by the kidnappers to reach the baby's second floor window. With media coverage following every turn of events, offers of help poured in from all over the country, including one from the jailed Al Capone. But not until April 2 did the assailants provide instructions on payment of the ransom. The payment was made, but the directions to find the baby in a boat off the Massachusetts coast turned up nothing. In early May, the baby's largely decomposed body was found not far from the Lindbergh home. He had been killed the night of the kidnapping by a blow to the head. It looked for some time as if the case would go unsolved. But in September of 1934, the appearance of a marked bill from the ransom payment led to the arrest of a German immigrant, Bruno Richard Hauptmann (pictured below).
"The Trial of the Century" Commences
The trial took place in January of 1935, with the world plugged in to the court- house in Flemington, New Jersey to listen in on what was dubbed "the Trial of the Century." The discovery of most of the remaining bills in Hauptmann's garage, as well as the wood apparently used to construct the ladder were the primary evidence against him. But many have concluded that his German origin coupled with his thick German accent, as well as enormous public sympathy for the Lindberghs left him convicted in the public eye before the trial even began. He was found guilty, and given the death penalty. He maintained his innocence until his execution in the electric chair
by A. Scott Berg, Putnam & Sons, New York, 1998.
Col. Lindbergh =