Monday, October 30, 2006

What was Nipper really looking at??? (The true story of the RCA Victor dog)

This is the original picture ...As you can see it is very different from what we know. This was painted around 1895. As you can see Nipper is looking into an Edison Bell cylinder phonograph. This is what Nipper can make your own recordings on wax cylinders. you cannot on disc records.

Francis Barraud 1855-1924 who is the creator of that picture had a great success afterwards making copies.

The original remake of the picture...removing the cylinder phonograph and placing the gramophone in its place...This painting was finished Oct 3, 1899

This is the image as we know it...This is how it was portrayed by the Victor Talking Machine Company...In later years with RCA they made the picture into a line drawing.....Still to this day Nipper is part of RCA advertising

The picture is known to almost everyone. It has been the symbol of several companies from Berliner Gramophone to RCA...But where did the idea come from and what was the story about this little dog looking into a small gramophone. The story is far different from the ones I see in the "True History" books...Lets see what they say.

Well I have found several stories about Nipper.....Most of them state that the gramophone was on top of the coffin of the owner of the machine and the dog. And a photograph was taken of the dog and gramophone on the lid of the coffin! ...Oh give me a break!

The truth is that the dog was not looking at the horn of a gramophone....The dog was looking into the horn of a cylinder phonograph!

I know you will all wonder....than why does Nipper look into the machine we always see?

It is an interesting story that can get long so I will make it short. Francis Barraud (1855-1924) was an artist who's brother had a phonograph and dog named Nipper. On the death of his brother Francis inherited both. One thing that Nipper would do was as a cylinder record was being played on the phonograph the dog would look into the horn of the phonograph. Barraud thought this would make a wonderful painting. He called his painting..."His Masters Voice"...He tried to sell it to the cylinder recording companies, but received little interest on their part.

The picture was put away for a while. Now in the meantime Nipper had died and the picture collected dust. But in 1899 Burraud took out a copywrite on the picture.

In 1899 a chance meeting with Barry Owen, the head of the Gramophone Co. in 1899 led to a change in the picture. Owen asked if the picture was for sale and if it could be altered? Barraud said that it could be as long as the he could have an instrument to paint as a subject. So Owen lent Barraud a new "improved" gramophone and suggested that Barraud paint in the new gramophone over the old phonograph....In a few months the picture was ready...In fact...on my birthday October 3rd 1899 (only the date, not the year) the picture was completed.
In early 1900 the Gramophone Company used the new picture in its advertising literature but did not use it on their records. They used the image of a recording angel.
Now Emile Berliner, the inventor of the gramophone and the disc record was in England and saw the picture. As soon as he returned to the United States he took out a copyright on the picture "His Masters Voice" But he never got to use it as he was forced out of business by the work of Frank Seaman and the Columbia Graphophone Company interests...with the masterful work of Phillip Morro.
The Next person who would make the Image of Nipper a house hold image was Berliners mechanic...Eldridge Reeves Johnson...who had all the parts and gramophones and records...but no company.
He formed the Consolidated Gramophone Company and was quickly attacked by the Graphophone interests.....Johnson lost on only one count in that case he could not use the word "gramophone" ....He never did again...As he walked out of that court room however, he was the VICTOR of it all.
Soon he and Berliner formed a partnership and on Oct 3rd 1901 (that date again...No wonder I like phonographs and sound recordings) The Victor Talking Machine Company was formed in Camden New Jersey.
Starting in 1902 Victor records always proudly showed the image of Nipper looking into the gramophone.
In 1928 the Radio Corporation of America bought the Victor Talking Machine Company and it all became RCA Victor. Of course as much as David Sarnoff hated the picture he knew that Nipper was here to stay. At one point in time it was the most well known advertising image in the world.
In the late 1960's RCA tried to modernize its image and dropped Nipper! The world went nuts...To this day RCA still holds on to the image of Nipper.

As for Francis Barraud...He had a great career making copies of that painting...He did so for nearly a quarter of a century after his first.

Nipper the famous dog that never saw what we think he saw......

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation

Francis Carpenter's monumental painting of the reading of the proclamation on January 1, 1863. Lincoln signed it after a morning of shaking hands. He was very concerned that he did not want his signature to look like he was shaking or concerned over signing it. He signed his name very firmly and without any sign that he had just shaken thousands of hands....

So what was the Emancipation Proclamation? What did it do? We always hear about it, but what do we really know about it? Why was it written? Why? why?
I am writing this at Columbia University on October 29, 2006. It is a good time to do some writing as I sit here in this hall of learning. For we are always taught to ask why something is. As to this amazing document, we rarely question anything. So this morning as I write I will look at this document in a far different way. A more realistic way. Also look at Lincoln, as a politician and strategist.

It was one of the most amazing documents ever written. It was not law, it was not passed by congress, it was a statement by Lincoln......

Lets look at what it said...It stated that all the slaves in the southern states that had succeeded were free. That slavery in the south was over.

There was only one problem...Lincoln had no control over the south. So it was a mute point.

The proclamation did not free the slaves in the border states...They remained slaves for the moment.

Lincoln did not attack slavery in the border states as he was trying to keep them in the union, and for several of them it was by a thread.
If he had actually ended slavery at that time it would have ended in a terrible disaster as the union would have lost several of the border states and it may have led to the end of the United States as it had been known.

The south was counting on several factors in the beginnings of the Civil War.
First off they were counting on the cotton trade with England.

Unfortunately for the south, India had become a part of the British Empire and there was plenty of cotton there. In the south cotton rotted on the piers.

It was felt that England would come to the aid of the south. If India was not a factor it may have. However, there was no need for the cotton from the south.

England was still not on extremely good relations with the United States.

At the time of the American Civil War it was still in living memory our battles and war with England. There were still a few survivors of the American Revolution in 1861. There were many still around from the War of 1812.

So England was still not on the warmest of relations with America. Everyone still had some hard feelings.

The south I think wanted to play on those feelings and tried very hard to make a relationship with England.
They were somewhat successful. There were a number of gunboats made in England for the south and some of their famous raiders were made there as well.
One called the "Alabama" was a highly successful raider and was made in England for the south.

It is interesting that England was carefully watching the north and even enlarged the amount of troops in Canada.

The south was prevented from making a great indent into England because of several factors. For the first part cotton which they felt would be their trump card suddenly was no longer.

Also through the amazing efforts of the American ambassador to England Charles Francis Adams.
There is often not too much credit given to Adams, but what he did in England was incredible. He was indeed the perfect man for the moment in England. His work was one of the most brilliant of any ambassador in our history and ranks right up there with his father and grandfather..John Adams and John Quincy Adams respectfully.

The final nail in the coffin was Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation...It was perhaps one of the most powerful documents ever written...Made more amazing by the fact that it really in legal terms did nothing.

In England several years before slavery was ended. Slavery was hated after that time in England. Which was one of the more problems with the south as well. Slavery was looked on with distaste.
Once Lincoln issued the document it made the Union cause a "Holy War" to free people from slavery! How could any country attack or fight against a country that is fighting to free people in bondage.

This was the genius of Lincoln!!!!!!!!!

One has to understand the situation Lincoln was in. His secretary of State William Seward was suggesting that we go to war with England and it would bring the north and south together.
Lincoln saw this as a most foolish plan as if such a conflict was to happen the south and England would most probably have fought together.

One thing Lincoln did during this terrible time was to suspend the Constitution. It ended trials as known before. He ended for the time being the writ of habeus corpus.

Few people know that such a thing has actually happened. But one has to remember this was no ordinary time. The United States was coming apart at the seems and Lincoln had to find a way to solve his problem. So he took that action and it allowed him to arrest whomever he wanted and he arrested many that he felt were a problem to the north or presented a threat to it.

One has to also understand that Lincoln was first and foremost a very clever politician. Few have ever reached such heights as he when it came to political strategy.

Before he issued the proclamation Horace Greeley the publisher from New York urged Lincoln on to make such a statement.
Lincoln wrote back to Greeley saying basically...If I can save the union and free the slaves I will do it, if I can save the union and not free the slaves I will do it.....

General Fremont issued a Emancipation decree in 1862 and Lincoln made him rescind it.

He wanted the right time to issue such a document.

After some minor union victories he felt it was time. On January 1, 1863 Lincoln signed and issued the document.

The Civil war was no longer about states rights..It had become a holy war.....

In this document Lincoln changed the entire tenor of the war. It is beyond brilliant.
It was perhaps the greatest weapon ever used by a countries leader in history..It basically neutralized England, made the war holy, demoralized the south, and gave the north what it wanted...A manifesto to end slavery.

The greatest document ever issued by a government that did so much by doing so little!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Charlie Chaplin where are you? The story of how Charlie Chaplin's body was stolen!

The unknown Chaplin at the height of his powers...This is what he looked like...We don't usually see him looking like this

Chaplin in a colorized picture as.."The little tramp"

The was a picture from Chaplin's movie "The Great Dictator"...A movie making fun of Adolph Hitler....Hitler was outraged and put Chaplin on a list of people the Third Reich needed to kill

One of the last pictures taken of Chaplin in 1977

The grave of Charlie Chaplin

This was one of the strangest cases of grave robbery ever. Charlie Chaplin breathed his last on December 25, 1977. He was buried near his home in Vevey, Swizerland. He lived in Switzerland as he had been kicked out of the United States in 1952 for his values and political views.

On March 2, 1978 his grave was robbed and his very heavy oak casket was stolen with old Charlie in it. The world was in shock.

Oona Chaplin, Charlie's widow received ransom demands from all over the world from various crazies... It was not till a ransom note with a photo of the dirty coffin was received that the true criminals showed their face.

They demanded 600,000 dollars for the return of the body. Oona Chaplin replied through her lawyers that her husband was dead and she didn't need his body or care where it was.


The ransom was now 250,000 dollars.

Soon they gave up and buried his casket in a farmers cornfield...They tried all kinds of ransoms and they even tried to imply that they would kidnap their children...

After many calls they gave up ...They were all mad cause no one wanted the body back..and they had gone through so much work to secure old Charlie for money...

They tried a few more times for less money..

But the police were monitoring their calls and watching over 200 phone booths in the area.. and they were caught and convicted. A 24 year old Pole and a older Bulgarian. They received 7 years for their dirty and not too smart work.

Charlie was found in the farmers cornfield and returned to his grave and buried in cement....It was comedy that old Charlie might have even found funny.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A totally unknown side of General and President Ulysses S. Grant 1822-1885

We all have the image of Grant, hard drinking and heavy smoking and corrupt as hell. Was he? What if I told you he was not a heavy drinker, but he was a smaller man and a lighter man...and a few drinks would wipe him out. He also suffered from Migraine headaches quite often...which give him the appearance of being drunk.

He was also honest to a fault...Never swore...Did not think it was manly to do so.

But what is really unknown about Grant are two things..He excelled at mathematics, and was quite good at painting..He had a nice artistic streak to him....

This part of Grant is never spoken rarely read it anywhere... he has been painted as to being a big drunk...not so. He was not a great President..I agree..But a better man than we have made him into.

I like this part of general Grant...He was much more gentle and softspoken than people think...He hated the sight of blood on his everything was cooked till it was near charred. But Grant the artist..... that was a new one for me....So I share that with you now and below you can see one of his paintings....

From an artist known as U.S. Grant....

  Posted by Picasa

Thank you Theodore Edison (1898-1992)


Theodore Edison told me much about his father. I learned a lot from him and sadly have forgotten a great deal. But he was my link to the past....and my connection to his father. He shared many stories with me... I will go into them in detail as this blog grows. But for now I thought it would be nice for much of the world to see one of the unknown Edison's...Theodore

He was a nice man, and very much in awe of his father as an inventor and as a person. I am glad that I was able to speak with him and learn much about his father. Theodore had a Lab in West Orange where he worked...As I recall he had something in the order of 72-75 patents. Calibron was the name of his company.
I was very young at the time and I did not ask the questions I would love to ask now....But we only have certain times to do the things we want too...But I have to say I was so lucky to have known him...Thank you Mr. Edison Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Irving Berlin's anti-war song 1915

In this age of war, murder, and mayhem..I thought it would be interesting to have the words of one of the earliest anti war songs written.. Of course there are earlier ones..But I thought the words were quite interesting...Read them and think have we changed at all???????? Or are we still the same stupid people we have always been. Fighting, killing, and showing that the song is oh so right!

Irving Berlin's Stay down here where you belong! 1915


Down below, down below, sat the devil talking to his son.
Who wanted to go... up above, up above..
It's getting too warm for me down here and though.
I want to go on earth where I can have a little fun...
The devil shook his head.... And then he answered his son....


Stay down here where you belong....
The folks who live above you don't know right from wrong.
To please their kings.. They've all gone off to war..
And not a one of them knows what they're fighting for!
Way up above.... They say that I am the devil, and I am bad..
Kings up there are bigger devils than your dad.
They're breaking the hearts of mothers...
Making butchers out of the brothers.
You'll find more hell up there. Then you will, down below!

My ghostly confession.......

In 1976 I was in a show called "1776" It ran for about 2 months. It was a hoot. I still remember it all so fondly.
In that show I played Richard Henry Lee. I did a fun song, some wild dancing with a great walking stick..marching around like a wild rooster with Franklin and Adams....and then I was off to Virginia to push for independence and was off the show for quite a while.

I was there for curtain calls and had some very good reviews....

But I had fun while the show was going on...

Next to the theater which was a reconstructed church. There were two cemeteries...and when I was free after my scenes..I would go strolling through the graveyards often lit only by moonlight.

I was in very fancy colonial dress circa 1776...Long hair, knee britches, frock shirt, fancy collar, gold vest, off gold waistcoat. I looked like I was right out the mid 18th century!

Ah how I loved to walk the grave yard at night....Cars would slow as I silently walked my way around....I wonder how many bad dreams I caused during my late night walks........I always remembered I was watched by many a car as they drove by.....I guess I caused a few good ghost stories too...

But the walk did me good and I could rehearse and study and also read the various stones which did indeed date back to the time of the revolution.... But I will always remember the cars slowing down...and I played my part not paying a bit of attention too them...continuing my slow this very large cemetery..

I wonder how many people came home and said you would never believe what I saw in the graveyard!!!!!

Happy Halloween and enjoy your local cemetery...They are more for the living than the dead....Take a walk on the wild side and look at those who walked this earth before you.....

Which reminds me of one good cemetery search story

I decided to look on Christmas eve for a gravestone in Rockaway, New Jersey.

I had remembered as a boy seeing a gravestone there, that was so profound in what it said...I remembered it from the last time I had seen it...and that was in 1972....

Now it was 2005 and 33 years can play a lot of trouble in your memory.

Then after looking for a while we found it...moved the grass away from the bottom of the stone..which was from around 1700....and it said on the bottom...

"As you are, I once was".....That said it all.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The re-sinking of the battleship USS Maine

The wreck of the Maine in 1898

The burial of her crew at Arlington National cemetery

The wreck today

The resinking of the Maine

The recovery of the wreck in 1911

The explosion of the USS Maine in 1898 from a photo sad to be of the event.

The USS Maine in Havana harbor Jan 1898


As we would like to remember her

She was the first of her kind..The first battleship, along with the USS Texas they were the beginnings of the modern all steel navy.

I think everyone knows the story of the Maine...She is most famous for blowing up in Havana Harbor on Feb. 15, 1898. Her destruction became a battle cry and led to the Spanish American War.

But once again as I like to do....I want to take you down the dark corridors of history and look at another part of the story....The part we never hear about...and that is the resinking of the Maine in 1912.

The USS Maine blew up in 1898 and it seems the questions never seem to end. Why did the ship blow up? Was it a mine? Was it a coal dust explosion? Was there a coal fire and it caused the magazine to blow up? NO ONE REALLY KNOWS. All we know was on Feb 15 1898 the battleship Maine blew up with a loss of 266 personal. The ship was a shattered wreck and hardly reconizable.

She sank in about 35-40 feet of water and mud. As soon as the explosion took place the Hearst Newspapers were going crazy with war talk and Theodore Roosevelt was absolutely hysterical with calls for war.

But first there had to be an investigation and also an inspection of the wreck. Charles Morgan was the diver who inspected the insides of the ship...His description is the stuff of horror movies.....He wrote after his dive............

"It was horrible...As I descended into the death ship the dead rose up to meet me. They floated toward me with outstretched arms, as if to welcome their shipmate. Their faces for the most part were bloated with decay or burned beyond recognition, but here and there the light of my lamp flashed upon a stony face I KNEW, which when I last saw it had smiled a merry greeting, but now returned my gaze with staring eyes and fallen jaw. The dead choked the hatchways and blocked my passage from stateroom to cabin. I had to elbow my way through them, as you do in a crowd. While I examined twisted iron and fallen timbers they brushed my helmet and touched my shoulders with rigid hands, as if they sought to tell me the tale of the disaster. I often had to push them aside to make my examinations of the interior of the wreck. I felt like a live man in command of the dead. From every part of the ship came sighs and groans. I knew it was the gurgling of the water through the shattered beams and battered sides of the of the vessel, but it made me shutter; it sounded so much like the echoes of that awful Feb. night of death. The water swayed the bodies to and fro, and kept them constantly moving with a hideous semblance of life. Turn which way I would, I was confronted by a corpse."

It was decided that an external mine or bomb had caused the disaster. That was the official position taken as we came closer to war with Spain.

In 1912 the idea of a bomb was once again pushed as the cause. To be perfectly honest NO ONE REALLY KNEW!!!!!!!! The whole front of the ship was gone! What remained was an awful mess....So many people believe it was a coal fire...or an internal problem near the magazine. WE WILL NEVER KNOW...

President William McKinley was awakened the night of the accident by being told of an emergency phone call.
He worked his way through the dark White House switching on lights as he worked his way to the only room that had a telephone and most probably wondering who the hell would call him in the middle of the night.

He was told by Secretary of War that the Maine had been blown up in Cuba and there was a tremendous loss of life.
McKinley, who was a sweet natured man, hated war. But I am sure he knew at that moment war would come. I wonder if he thought about his crazy assistant Secretary of the Navy, Theodore Roosevelt at this time and wondered what that firebrand would do.

There were thoughts of peace, the McKinley White House wanted a peaceful answer..The Yellow Press controlled by William Randolph Hearst pushed for war..
There was an exchange (to which Hearst always denied) that was he had a reporter and artist down in Cuba to cover the upcoming war. Richard Davis and Frederick Remington and they sent a telegram stating there was no trouble and all was quiet. To which Hearst said "you provide the pictures, I'll provide the war". The Yellow press every day pushed for war and he did sway the feelings of the American people.

As would be expected Roosevelt lost no time and paid no attention to his superiors and pushed for war. He worked with the Hearst papers to push for war.

He sent fleets all over. Pushed to have Dewey made an Admiral...and started calling McKinley a coward. McKinley met with his enthusiastic underling and told him to move carefully.
McKinley fought in the civil war and knew the horrors of it. Roosevelt had not the slightest idea, and in reality he never really understood it till his son died in WWI. Then Roosevelt stopped crying out for war and conquest and crawled into his shell and died......

Roosevelt started to say that McKinley had the "backbone of a Chocolate Eclair" .....Unknown to Roosevelt, McKinley had been moving along towards war. He had met with the Speaker of the House Joe Cannon and told him in no uncertain terms how much money he needed and to get it NOW!!!! So he could orchestrate the war.

The war was fought and quickly won, and Roosevelt through a awful lot of self promotion and marketing by the Hearst papers (who were working on making him President in 1904)...became a national icon along with Admiral Dewey.
After the "splendid little war" which is what John Hay called it...was over everything was forgotten and the Maine sat and rusted in place.

On August 5, 1910 Congress authorized the razing of the Maine and a complete investigation into the sinking. A cofferdam was built around the ship and slowly the water was taken out of the cofferdam. This was a slow process, but in time the carcass of the ship was completely revealed. It was a complete wreck and the magnitude of the destruction was amazingly severe. By early 1912 the wreck was being pumped out...and more remains were found. These were sent ashore.
Now the front of the ship that was so damaged was just cut off and chopped into pieces. Theses were taken out to the ocean and dumped. Then the remain part of the ship was made watertight and seaworthy.

On March 16th 1912 The hulk of what was the USS Maine was taken under tow by the tug Osceola and following the Maine was the battleship USS North Carolina which had on board the flag covered coffins of the 36 bodies recovered in the wreck. She was towed out for about 3 miles and then the seacocks were opened and the Maine sank. Slowly at first but after about 45 minutes she slipped below the waves bearing a huge American flag. In the beginning of this article you will see her as she slipped below the water on her final plunge. This time into very deep water...Never to be seen again........

Surprise!!!! In 2000 the wreck of the USS Maine was found and soon there will be some investigations again into the wreck that just won't quit.....Maybe we will learn something new in the 21st century about this wreck of the 19th.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Have you ever wondered why the Holland Tunnel going between NYC and New Jersey is called the Holland Tunnel? ....Here is the answer.

The Holland tunnel was the called the 8th wonder of the world. It has been in operation since 1927. Work started on it in 1919. I will do a few stories on the tunnel in the near future....

But to start it all off, why was it called the Holland tunnel?

For it's chief engineer Clifford Milburn Holland.

Who ran the construction of the tunnel from July 1, 1919 till his death at the Battle Creek Sanitarium on October 27, 1924.

He worked himself to death. The tunnel was his life. It was named in his honor.

It is interesting that his successor Milton H. Freeman overdid it too, and died on March 24, 1925.

Today tens of millions of people go through the tunnel and maybe 50 of them think why is it called the Holland Tunnel?

To those 50 people this is the answer :-)


Clifford M. Hudson...The man the tunnel is named for. Posted by Picasa

July 20, 1969 ..Watching the landing on the moon by Apollo 11...Then 31 years later Meeting Buzz Aldrin.

I remember it all so well. On the afternoon of July 20, 1969, man first landed on the moon. I was at my friend's house. Well I was there and my friend Jeff's family had a color TV with a Lava Lamp on top...Hey this was the 1960's!!! It was real groovy!

I watched Walter Cronkite talk as the Eagle slowly desended..Now since this was 1969 there were no cameras...No nothing on that end..So it was all animation.

We heard the voices we saw the animation and the lava lamp bubbled ...and the entire world held it's collective breath.

I recall hearing it all...I remember the remark "Tranquility base here..the Eagle has landed".....

We all jumped and cried and were dumbfounded...I am sure the entire world was.

I remember I left my friend's house and ran as fast as could home. I don't think I have ever run so fast before or since. I was full of absolute amazment and wonder.

I waited the whole evening till it around 10:30 pm...and then I saw it..The first moon walk on TV. It was such an exciting moment for the world and most people alive at that time. To see Neal Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the moon was an amazing feat. I wished at that time I could meet them. I knew that would never happen..But I was happy to have experienced it all.

Many years later in my work I had the chance to meet and record Buzz Aldrin. It was a moment when my memories and wishes as a to mingle with my life as a man.

It was really cool to meet and chat with Buzz Aldrin.

He signed this picture of us making the recording the following year.
It was interesting that Buzz Aldrin was on that first voyage to the moon..was also the first astronaut to make a wax cylinder..Recording a part of his book called the return.

It was a special moment each time 1969 and 2000.

Thank you Buzz Aldrin for memories that made a boys life exciting.... Meeting you, enjoying and fulfilling that dream of 1969.

  Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Topsy the Elephant........ She was electrocuted for her rampage. She was not electrocuted by Thomas Edison

One of the most dreadful moments in Coney Islands and Luna Parks history was the execution of Topsy the Elephant

This is a frame from the footage of film made by the Edison Company of her death

Thomas Edison The Wizard of Menlo Park...

If one goes through the internet and reads stories about Topsy the Elephant you get so many conflicting stories. You get the sense that Topsy was bad elephant and she was murdered by bad old Thomas Edison.

Now I am not going to go into the whole history here, but will touch on a few topics.

Topsy the elephant (1875-1903) was with Coney Island for a long time...She was getting older and was not the star she had once been and she was used for more labor activities than show business. There were many other animals in Luna Park.

Some drunk people tossed a lit cigarette into her mouth and burned her and she went on a rampage and it led to injuries and deaths. It was decided to kill the elephant.

What people forget in this day and age is that Luna Park was a destination in 1900. There was nothing like it in the world.

They always had publicity stunts to get attractions.

Many of us have heard of "Little Egypt" the dancing girl. She was at Coney Island. She was not at the "World's Fair of 1893"....Although it is mentioned so often as though it is fact.

In Luna Park there was "Dreamland" which was lit with thousands of light bulbs and had wonders from around the world and many places that seemed to be beyond the land of our dreams...hence the name.
There was a song that came out in the early 1900's called...."Meet me tonight in Dreamland" It was all about the park not a dream state.

As you can see it was a place to go, and always there were great spectacles happening.
When Topsy went on her rampage it was decided to destroy the animal. It was suggested that a public hanging take place, but the thought of a public electrical execution seems to have a lot more interest.

...The electric chair had been well publicized for a few years since its use was started in prisons. Yes I will say that Edison had a hand in the development of the electric chair. One of the big moments of the day was McKinley's assassin was electrocuted....There is a film of the event that was a please don't think that is the real thing. That film was seen in many theaters and it arroused much morbid interest.

Everyone associated Edison with I guess everyone just thought that he did it to Topsy

The press was notified...It was a massive public spectacle..just like everything that happened there. An electrical company was hired to wire the poor animal so she could be killed with AC current.
It was done and it was great success for the owners and it was even filmed as it was a great public spectacle.
The film crew was from the Edison Studios. They filmed all kinds of events and great moments at Luna Park and Coney Island. It was just another event.

Somehow as the years have gone by, it has become stated that Thomas Edison went over to Coney Island and killed Topsy for them...This is an out and out lie!

Yes Thomas Edison hated AC electrical power distribution...and yes Edison was indirectly testing execution methods...But that had been back in the 1880's and early 1890's......Thomas Edison was out of the electrical industry by 1894. By the late 1890's he had nothing to do at all with the industry..He even sold off all of his stock in the electrical industry. The battles between Westinghouse, Tesla and Edison were now long over.

By 1903 Edison had been out of the electrical industry for nearly 10 years! He was not at all interested in getting involved in any venture dealing with electrical power or execution. He had been publicly embarrassed by it in the 1890's.

I was shocked to find that a monument to Topsy was being built in Coney Island and it was mentioned that she had been executed by THOMAS EDISON!!!!

I did an interview for Public Radio through a student at Columbia University in 2002, who was doing a show on this subject and he said it is widely know that Edison did it. I told him that there was no truth to it at all. I know this spoils the story...I know everyone thinks Edison did it...well I am here to set the record straight. He did not.

Look at the internet and you will see all kind of things about this, some are reasonable, some are really scary. The research done by some people (if done at all)is mind numbing.

I will end this with what I saw on a website about this execution...

It stated Edison wanted to prove Westinghouse wrong so he wanted to show the world how dangerous AC transmission was and he killed Topsy the elephant. This web site also goes on to talk about Edison's device to record the voices of the dead too!

In response yes, Edison wanted to prove Westinghouse wrong 10 years the early 1890's..not 1903...And Edison did not make a machine to record the voices of the dead...It was a joke on his part. He did not believe in an afterlife...why would he care to record it??????

History really gets messed up with time....I am very sorry what happened to Topsy the elephant. But urban myths are just that usually....myths

The strange death of President Harding picture gallery..These are some pictures dealing with the story in the next posting

Gaston Means perhaps did the worst damage to Harding. In his book of lies called the "Strange death of President Harding" ...He details all the things that he said he did...sadly he was never even in the White House. Yet by the time this book came out..People were willing to believe anything.

This book sold like hotcakes

This book also was responsible for the down sizing of Hardings stature. This was written by his mistress Nan Britten who states she had a child with Harding. It goes into all kinds of sultry information about their relationship.

This book also sold well...but is harder to find today.

This is a book by a crook talking about everyone else as if they were crooks!!
What more needs to be said...He was what he was.

The strange death of Warren G. Harding (truly it was not that strange)

Many of us have heard that statement. The strange death of President Warren G. Harding.

Well the tale comes to us from a certain fellow named Gaston Means. He wrote a book by that title in 1930.

He really didn't write it, he had a ghost writer. Her name was May Dixon Thacker, who one year after the book was released announced it was a total fraud.

In this massive piece of fiction he talks of his days in the White house as a personal investigator for Mrs. Harding. He was not! He never was in the White House...nor did he know Harding or his wife.

Why did he write the book??? There was no one to argue his point. No one really wanted to come to the defense of Harding. After the dirty work of many in his inner circle...Harding was looked at as a complete disaster.

Although Harding was dead by 1923 it was not till 1931 that his tomb was dedicated. No one wanted to be associated with him or his memory.

Now there are some very unfair points here. Harding was not a bad man...But he had no one in his court...Harding had no defenders. His wife died a year after him....and there was really was no one else on his side. There were many books that came out. None perhaps as damning as Nan Britton's book called the "President's daughter". This came out in 1928 and finished off any respectability Harding had before. There is no evidence to say that the story is true either. No DNA tests...nothing. The sad point was that the dead cannot talk back.

John F. Kennedy, could you imagine his life histories if he had no defenders!

Gaston Means used Nan Britton's book as a good timeline model for his. He suggests he was casing Harding and that Harding and he had a near fist fight.
It is full of drama...Just not facts. It completed the work that Nan Britton's book started....

The sad part was that they could all say what they wanted and no one said anything back....They were afraid it might be true....After Tea Pot Dome..Hardings name was mud!

Means was convicted for several things in his life and died in Prison. Nan Britton died in 1995 at the age of 99......forgotten.

In 1932 out came the last of the books on Harding for a while called "The Inside story of the Harding tragedy" by his corrupt Attorney General Harry Daugherty.

His book was to make people understand the problem with Harding...who in Daugherty's eyes was one of the greatest...Or as he said " a modern Abraham Lincoln, who name and fame will grow with time".....

Of course in the book Daugherty comes across as pure as the driven snow.

Let's not mince words...

Daugherty WAS A CROOK! He was one of the problems with Harding!!!!! He used Harding in life and used him heavily in death.

What is true or false I cannot truly say with Nan Britton.

But with Gaston Means he was just a down and out liar of the worst kind.
In his book he says Mrs Harding killed her husband.
Cute story but not a fact.

In fact Harding suffered from severe hypertention, high blood pressure, and an enlarged heart. He had a heart attack.
One of his doctors, Dr. Boone talked about it years later saying it was a massive heart attack.

So if you get the chance read Britton's book. It is not too common, but an interesting read. It reads like a lovesick girl's diary.

The Means book is easier to find and also interesting reading...

The Daugherty book is not too common either and not anywhere as easy to read. As it spends a good deal of the time talking about how good Daugherty was!!!!!!

The sad part of it all...was that Warren G. Harding is not well known today for who he was, but what people said he was.

He was a nice guy, really not Presidental material. Who was taken advantage of by many politicians.
As Harding said himself when he was seen to look so upset...He said "I can handle my enemies all right, but it is my God damned friends that keep me walking the floors at night"...

It was in the end his friends who brought him down. Fall who created the Tea Pot Dome situation...and Daugherty who was not well known for his ethics.

Nan Britton she made a lot of money with her book...Means made money, even Daugherty made a money off of Harding.

So who was Harding? Perhaps he said it best....

"It is a good thing I am a man, otherwise I would be in a family way all the time"

He just couldn't say no to anyone. And everyone knew it.

So when you read all these books..One has to take them for what they are.
They are part of a very odd chapter in our history. one that is still packed with confusion and often lies.

Nan Brittons daughter died in 2005. As far as I have heard no one seems interested in proving once and for all if the stories and rumors are true. I would hope that science comes to Harding defence..No one else has! Now would be the time to prove it or shut up. If the tests prove it was not him...the whole story changes...Neans book is useless as is Britton's.

I know that Harding was not a great President, but I would hardly list him as last next to Grant or Carter. He did a lot of great things, and very much like Clinton he was attacked for many things....But as I said before unlike all of the others mentioned. He had no defenders....

Monday, October 09, 2006

Meeting and recording Isaac Stern ...In Gaylordsville Conn. 12/14/2000

Isaac Stern wrote this for me after we had made the recordings. We recorded on wax cylinders and it was the only type of recording that he had never made in his life. Hence the statement on all possible systems.

This is one of those photographs you wish you could take again. My eyes were closed...His health was not good and he died the next year.

This event was set up for me by Jerome Hines. I will always remember the phone conversation between them. Jerry called and said "Hello Isaac, this is Jerry Hines" and I heard on the other side through the ear piece "How the Hell are you Jerry?"

Jerry introduced me to him and I had a nice conversation with Isaac Stern. We decided that December would be a good time to make the recording. He was having heart surgery and needed a while to recover he said...

Funny, as I wrote before when I had met Peter Jennings I told him about Isaac Stern, and Peter said to me..."He's a friend of mine and you will never get him to stop talking!"

On the appointed day December 14, 2000 I first off called Jerry Hines to say hello and thanks.
Then I looked outside and it was snowing. I was wondering if we could do it. I thought that if we did not we might not get another chance. So off we went.

Finally we got into Gaylordville, Conn. in the early afternoon. It was all snow and mud outside and the Sterns had just put in new carpeting...IT WAS SNOW WHITE!

So very carefully we went into the house and brought in the recording equipment.

It took about 30 minutes to set up and warm the wax and set up the recording horn. Isaac was watching this as I worked and we had a pleasant conversation as I did.

As soon as we started talking I said to him...."As a music lover and historian, I want to thank you for saving Carnegie Hall." He replied " Thank you for mentioning that, and you are welcome."
Many people today do not know that it was through the tireless work of Isaac Stern that Carnegie Hall still survives today. In fact the main hall at Carnegie today is called Isaac Stern Hall.

We talked about him doing the Jack Benny show, and many concerts around the world that he had done. WE talked about young violinists and the current strength of classical music today.

Finally, I had the equipment ready and it was time to teach him how to make a acoustic recording.
I told him that he had two minutes...He laughed and said "I can't say hello in two minutes", and we all laughed.

He said "I am going to use the Diaphamo, as Danny Kaye taught me", and we all laughed again.
We made the recordings and chatted more and posed for pictures and He asked me questions about history and recording...

He asked "What is that stuff that flies off the cylinder when we recorded?"

I told him "that is swarf that flies around." I joked with him "may the swarf be with you", and we all laughed again.

I told him also "You have recorded on every known system in the world save for you can honestly say you have recorded on every known type and system of recording."

He said "I never thought of that ...Thank you, thank you very much, that is so wonderful."

So we listened to the recordings and then it was getting late and he was tired.

He said to me before I left.."I want to give you something"...and then he wrote this lovely little note to me. What is fun is he ended it with "hail swarf".

It would be the last recording on record he would ever make. In September of 2001 Isaac Stern left us....But the memory of our recording and friendly meeting just 10 months earlier will always be with me. Thank you Isaac Stern....HAIL SWARF!!!

The greatest intellect in the presidential office....John Quincy Adams

Here you see Adams at home. It was interesting for me to see this room and see right where this picture was taken. Adams was much more than we make him into....What was most hidden was a broad sense of humor that was rarely allowed to be seen.

This photo of Adams was taken right at the end of his life. A life that has gone through more than any of us can explain. He toured through France with Benjamin Franklin...Met Voltaire....Was in Washington's administration and would meet with people who would influence the 20th century. He was more than words can ever say.

I like this picture...He seems on the edge of smiling.....

A painting of Adams in the early 1820's

The more one studies John Quincy Adams...the more one becomes amazed by his vast and incredible intellect. We know him as a President, congressman, ambassador. But he was also author, historian, poet, mathematician, scientist, and lover of fine wines.

We never think of J.Q. Adams as a athlete...But he was an avid swimmer and would walk miles at a rapid clip. He would in his prime amaze people much younger with his physical prowess.

John Quincy Adams did have a problem with wine....He loved it

In fact 2 of John Q's brothers died of alcoholism. Alcoholism seems to be strong in the Adams family. John Adams would drink a gill of hard cider each day. John Quincy Adams would drink wine every night. In fact he was known as a rather cold person. But after he had a few drinks under his belt he was a pleasant dinner companion.

He would often spend time with Dolly Madison and Daniel Webster and play cards....Both of them were known for enjoying a drink or two too! It was in these circles that he could relax and have some fun.

It is interesting to see that many of the early founding fathers enjoyed a drink or two...more toward two I would guess.

John Q. Adams was a genius...We rarely give him such an honor...But it is very true. He was also very human...and had many of our own human frailties.

He changed this world as we know it...We owe him much...yet few know who he was. One thing I know for sure is that he was the greatest mind and intellect of any president in our history.

The more I have come to know him, the more I have come to love him.

Enrico Caruso King of the operatic tenors...some history and some stories on this remarkable man. PART 1

Enrico Caruso was known to many as the "Great Caruso" who held court at the Metropolitan Opera House in NYC for nearly 18 years. He was the first what you may call super star in the publics eye and was the first major singer in history to have not only an international career as a singer but also a recording artist. He was as beloved in South America as he was in Italy..mainly due to his remarkable recordings. He was a most talented man in many venues, he was largely uneducated, but self taught. He was was very much an artistic genius..not only was he a gifted singer, he was a wonderful artist...doing caricatures and even sculpting figures.He was also a gifted machanic. He wrote songs and acted in movies (these were pretty bad by the way) but....when it came to singing few have ever rivaled him.

He was born Errico Caruso (he later changed it to Enrico) on February 25, 1873 in Naples, Italy. He came from a large family which music was not a part of..His father was a mechanic and his mother was a dear soul who pushed her son Errico to study the voice as he has a most lovely Alto voice and would sing in churches for small fees or for free. His mother died when he was a boy and it occurred while he was singing...... His relationship with his father was not very warm..his father wanted his Errico to be a mechanic which was not what he liked. Soon he grew tired of that and tried to sing...he was not at first very successful...But with hard work he finally got his voice in reasonable shape...One of the problems he faced was he did not have a good top to his voice (his voice would often crack on high notes) So with a lot of training and practice he developed a pretty good top and started a career. He tried first in poor little operas and was one time hissed off the stage cause he got drunk on some good Italian wine..but the fellow who replaced him was hissed off cause he was just awful...and the crowd called again for the "little drunkard" In his youth Caruso was as slim as an anchovy as Francis Robinson once said.

His performed in Naples once on the operatic stage and was hissed of the stage...and he promised never to sing there again...and he never did to quote Caruso "I will never sing again in Naples, I will just come to have some nice spaghetti".

Caruso as he aged a little grew into an amazing singer and by 1900 his success was assured. In 1902 he did something that no major operatic singer had ever done on a professional basis..He made a commercial recording! In fact, he made 10. The recordings were made by the Gramophone and typewriter Company at were recorded in the Hotel Milan in a make shift studio in one of the rooms of the hotel. Interestingly the recordings were made in the room above the room in which Verdi the composer died the year before. They were, considering where they were made wonderful recordings...and have been considered by audio historians as perhaps the first truly successful recordings made for the general public. To put it in other words they were amazingly successful! The manager of the Metropolitan Opera House engaged Caruso by listening to his recording! The first time a person was ever hired that way!

Once Caruso came to America he was on the road to immortality His voice matured and darkened and he was soon the talk of the town. He was the star of every opening night at the Met from 1904 to 1920, save for 1906 when he deferred to Geraldine Farrar.

Caruso in his prime was around 5' 9" tall, and weighed in at 175-185. he was graced with very strong and powerful lungs, near perfect teeth and had a amazingly large mouth. it was said he could put a large egg in his mouth and you would not know it. One person once described him as a walking air compressor. He had a great sense of fun and the public loved all of his antics....He was a great clown!

He smoked 2 packs of Egyptian cigarettes a day, always in a holder. He had a morning ritual in which he would inhale lots of steam and cough up all the dark nicotine colored flem in his throat till it was clear. Amazingly the smoking did not seem to affect his voice at all. Perhaps the only thing smoking did was to give his voice an even darker quality..As you listen to his singing you hear a gradual darkening that becomes quite noticeable in the last years of his life.

He was married late in life at the age of 45 to Dorothy Park Benjamin and they had a daughter named Gloria in 1919 Gloria Caruso married a man named Murray and now Caruso's descendants are named Murray! He also had 2 children out of wedlock. One of them was named Enrico Caruso Jr. who lived till the later 1980's I still have his phone number written down some I called him once just to say hello and introduce myself.

Franco Corelli taked often of Caruso. He and I talked a lot about other singers and he said to me what he liked about Caruso's voice....He said "that Caruso had a beautiful sad sound to his voice.....very lovely emotion...lovely quality to his voice" By the way Corelli told me that his favorite soprano was one he never sang with....her name was Luisa Tetrazinni!!! 1871-1940.

Caruso has even been put on new CD's with a modern symphony orchestra. These recordings released by RCA in 2000, 2003, and 2004 feature a computer repaired voice of Caruso singing with the Veinna Radio Symphony Orchesta. It is interesting to hear some of the recordings. Many sound very poor, but there are a few that are really scary...It seems that Caruso was with them....The one I found best was the folk song "A Vucchella" ...It sounded like he had made the recording with the orchestra.

Enrico Caruso is as much a part of our history as he is of our present. There are few singers who can carry that role.

End of part 1

Enrico Caruso King of the operatic tenors PART 2

Caruso in life and in death in his glass coffin

The stories about Caruso are legendary...they are often are mixed with great fun. He was always the clown.

He sang at the old Met from Nov. 1903 till Dec.1920 and was a great performer not very wooden like many of the singers of the time..

He would constantly pull pranks, Nellie Melba was not known for her sense of humor and what little she had was put to the test with Caruso as a singing partner. One time while singing in La Boheme where he was to sing his aria to MiMi...the line in Italian translated was "your tiny hand is frozen" So when Caruso started to sing the piece as he reached for her hand he placed a warm Italian sausage in it! Which Melba promptly through over her shoulder... Once also during a performance of La Boheme (which seemed to be the opera he loved to terrorize) in the last act he removed 2 casters from MiMi's deathbed so as she sang and moved the bed rocked back and forth and it made it very hard for her to die.....and the audience was laughing away....He was fined $50 dollars for that by the management. In the opera as well there is a famous scene in which the Basso sells his coat to buy medicine for MiMi...the poor bass was also a victim of Caruso's ...In the scene where he sings the coat song...he sings to his lovely coat and then puts it on and walks out...well Caruso had sewn up the sleeves so the basso could not put on his coat...after a while the frustrated basso just flung the coat over his shoulder. Every one laughed at Caruso's pranks you could not help but love him. Once when a fellow basso was having vocal trouble Caruso even sang the bass aria "the coat song" He even recorded it in 1916...but would not allow its sale as he said..."It would not be fair to all the other bassos".

Caruso sang all over the world and of course his recordings were found everywhere. It was not uncommon 90 years ago and hear Caruso singing all over in homes.. Robert Merrill once told me that he had a phonograph when he was a boy bought by a rich Uncle...and Merrill's father always brought home Caruso records..He said "they were expensive, but my mother wanted me to be a singer, so I listened to Caruso and they inspired me to sing...I was supposed to be playing stick ball with the boys below but I listened to Caruso instead". I remember playing Caruso for Merrill and I remember he had tears in his eyes.

What was it like to make a record in Caruso's day? We are so spoiled by our new systems and technology. In Caruso time to make a record was an amazing ordeal.
All of Caruso's recordings were made acoustically. This meant that everything was sung into a recording microphones! You sang into a horn and the horn lead to a vibrating diaphram and on the diaphram was a cutting needle. This cut into the warm wax disc. That was the process pure and simple. There were no mixers no reverb no nothing. Today we hear singers who mix 15 takes together to create the perfect performance....that is so far from reality. Caruso's recordings were one enhancing the reverb..nothing save for remarkable talent. Caruso made hundreds of recordings and it took about an hour to make one single. Early records from that time were one sided and there was only one piece on the record. So you would pay in 1912 dollars $3.00 for a single record. There was one recording that beat out the bunch in price ....That was the Sextet from Lucia which first was recorded in 1908 and ran for a whopping $7.00!!!!!!!!!! There was an old joke when the sextet was first released.. the translation of the Italian is...What restrains me? the answer was in those days $7.00!

Caruso recorded over 400 sides of which near 300 were released....Every now and then a test pressing is found...everyone is always hoping it will be a song that no one has heard in over 86 years.....But that has rarely been the case. But there have been a few over the last 30 some odd years.

I was thinking about Jerome Hines and his Caruso stories. His voice teacher was Dr. Curci, the brother in law of Galli Curci the soprano...he was also her voice teacher. One thing about Galli Curci she could never sing an "a flat" on key..Well there are two stories and they are not complete stories as I did not write them down at the time and I sorely regret that I have a few bits and pieces. The first story took place in South America with Galli Curci, Tita Ruffo, and Caruso. They were a power house that team..but Ruffo and Caruso were always jealous of each other vocally...Just listen to their duet from Othello together AMAZING!!! you can hear the vocal fight going on between them. However in South America the battle between Ruffo and Caruso came to its apex! It occurred in the opera Lucia and it was said by Hines that Ruffo came out on stage with the voice of 20 baritones shaking the house with his great volume..and out came Caruso singing like the arch angel Gabriel! and it became a vocal slugfest!!!! each one trying to outsing the other....Dr. Curci told his sister in law stay out of this and let those two bulls fight it out...she stayed out and by the 2nd act Caruso sounded like a broken tenor and Ruffo was not far behind and Galli Curci was the star of the night. It all came to an end and Caruso said to Ruffo.."I will never sing with you again" and he never did. It is also interesting to note that Ruffo did not sing at the Metropolitan Opera House till 1922, the year after Caruso died.

The second story of Hines's was that Curci and Galli Curci came to the Met to see Caruso sing and they were put in the Directors box. That night Caruso was singing awful. He was flat and sliding into notes...and Galli Curci turned to her brother in law and said "To bad....does not look like Mr Caruso is doing too well" She was planning her career there and she was quite happy he seemed to be coming to an end vocally. Right after that Caruso saw her and sang the next aria looking right at her. He sang it like a God..... The house went nuts for minutes Caruso all the while never let Galli Curci out of his gaze. It was almost like he had heard her statement and was there to tell her although I was being lazy I can still sing better than you.. After that she was quite unnerved..and at the end of the performance she turned to her brother in law and said "I guess we have to go back stage and congratulate him. So they did, he was in his dressing room smoking a cigarette...and said to her "I sang that just for you" ooohhh that must have hurt!! She did not sing at the Met till after Caruso died as well.

One of the most interesting stories I had heard about Caruso was his often checking of the new tenors coming out. There was a great story Mrs Caruso told about her husband.....It goes They went out late to a concert of the new tenor Titto Scipa..They arrived very late and left after about 5 minutes. Mrs. Caruso said to her husband "Why did we bother going at all?" Caruso looked her and said "Because he is a tenor....but its alright." What that meant was he had nothing to fear from him
Caruso spoke very well in English, however sometimes when he sang it his Italian Rrrrr's got in the way. One such song was the Star Spangled Banner...try as he may..when he got to the "rockets red glare" it was a sunburst of Italian Rrrrrr's. One song that he really loved to sing in English was George M. Cohan's "Over There" He loved it so that he recorded it in July of 1918. He sings it with all the passion of an operatic aria. But you can really hear the joy in his voice as he sings it!. He had trouble getting the words out for over many people refer to that recording as Hover Dare!

I find it interesting that Thomas Edison did not like Caruso's voice at all! and thought his vibrato was awful. Edison basically hated Victor records anyway..using what he called his "victor ear tickle" which was a piece of cardboard that he covered his good ear with when listening to Victor records!

Caruso was a heavy smoker and in time it seems to have caught up with him, now as I mentioned before the smoking did not seem to bother the voice but it did bother his body. He started having trouble in 1919 and it seems to only go from bad to worse after that. By 1920 he was looking tired and old and he was basically looking like he was in his 60's rather than his mid 40's He started having trouble with his breathing and his much so he started to wear tight straps around him to control the pain and breath problems. He was also using a mixture of either and alcohol and gargling with is clear he was in pain. But he was not able to stop..he kept pushing himself...till in November 1920 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music he started bleeding on stage. I interviewed a woman who was at the opera that night in Brooklyn... She said "He started to cough and bleed...and he kept wiping the blood off of his face the stage was covered in towels with blood on them". He was doing this while singing by the way..finally he let out with a load cough and he got a lot of blood on a towel and the audience started to scream....and the curtain came down! He was brought backstage and his Doctor said it was only a small blood vessel that has burst in his tongue....but it was far more serious. Most people today are quite sure that Caruso had cancer...That night when he came home with his wife..she noticed 2 things first he was deathly quiet, and secondly, he was not smoking.

That night Mrs Caruso wrote in her book "Enrico Caruso his life and death" ...."Rico woke up and tried to climb out the window" You must know they were on the 30th floor!! She stopped him from jumping out the window.

He made a recovery of sorts and soon he was almost his old self again even had a special meeting with Louisa Tetrazzini at his apartment to help her with her voice problems. She had a concert to do and she was not doing well vocally. Caruso told her to come to the bathroom and there he prepared his special either and alcohol spray for her...Mrs Caruso wrote it was an image she could never forget. The massive Tetrazzini being balanced on the rim of the bath tub with Caruso holding one of her massive legs in the air and saying to her "ahhh" "ahh" and spraying her throat. while wearing his horn rimmed reading glasses...looking all the world like a doctor with a very fat and needy subject. His cure worked for her.

By December 1920 Caruso was at the zenith of his powers as an actor. Vocally he was on a slow decline..He had been asked when is the voice the best? He said "between the ages of 30-45" Now he was a very old 47 and he did not know it yet but death was waiting in the wings...He sang La Juive Christmas eve at the Met. The next morning he had a severe attack so bad that his screams were heard on the street hundreds of feet below...He was in the bathtub when it happened. His valet picked him up bodily and carried himn to a couch...the house doctor came and finally Mrs Caruso covered his face with a rag filled with either to knock him out. Doctors came and went...soon it was decided to operate. When they made the first cut into his body a very foul fluid sprayed from his chest and hit the ceiling. There were many surgeries after that...and he grew weaker and weaker. But somehow he rallied again. and he decided to go to Naples to rest and recover. He tried to be his old self but he could not...He had part of rib removed and he felt his career as a singer was over. So he brought no music with him. Once in Italy he was all over..He visited Pompeii and one day Dorothy Caruso came intothe room where they were staying and found Enrico with an old doctor with a dirty probe sticking it into Caruso's wounds. Within a day his fever was severe and his health went to ruin. They came to Naples in a rush and there Caruso died on August 2 1921. He was only 48 years old.

His funeral was a grand affair...he was given a state funeral was carried in the Kings carriage. He was buried in a glass coffin and looked at with veneration. Every year he would be redressed in the latest styles. It is interesting that the fellow who did this several times was Titta Scipa. In 1929 Mrs Caruso could not take it any more and had the coffin covered. As you have seen in the photos above..Caruso was on death as he was in life. He still thrills us 85 years after he said goodbye.

Thank you Enrico Caruso I discovered you when I was a boy and have listened to you ever since. For the last 35 years you have been my vocal idol. 500 years from now they will still be listening to Caruso...For there never has been one like him again. I am always reminded of a poster from a Caruso concert in said "posterity will envy this generation as we listen to the voice of Caruso" THEY WERE RIGHT!!!!

Clash of the Titans 1917 picture gallery

Woodrow Wilson was our wartime President during WWI. He had been insulted by Roosevelt for years. He had been called terrible names by Roosevelt. Wilson had a Scots-Irish temper, and it was brought into action by the actions of Roosevelt. It was Wilson that stopped the actions of Roosevelt.
Roosevelt forgot his saying "speak softly and carry a big stick". He forgot, he spoke loudly and got hit with a big stick! Wilson was in many ways like Roosevelt. He was the star, and no one got shared billing. Politically he gave Roosevelt the hook.

Theodore Roosevelt was a brilliant President and world leader. But in the last 10 years of his life his ego got the better of him and he became more a sad comic figure rather than the great rough rider of yore. He was not above doing nearly anything to get his way. Which included character assassination, insults, lies, and bullying. Wilson was not about to be bullied by Roosevelt. Harry S Truman once said of Roosevelt "he was more bull than moose".

William Howard Taft was royally screwed by Roosevelt. He was made a fool of by him. Taft was often seen in the White House just terribly hurt and breaking into tears over his friendship with Roosevelt and the horrid things that Roosevelt was saying about him. In 1921 he was named Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He once said to a friend .."I don't remember ever being President". Roosevelt tried to distroy him...but he failed.

Mrs. Helen Taft...Her ambition was a strong as Teddy's. She would not let him get away with anything. She was also the first First Lady to ride with her husband in the inauguration parade. She had a stroke shortly after entering the White House. She lost a good deal of her gusto. Her husband lovingly taught her again how to speak.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Clash of the Titans 1917 ..............The private battle between Roosevelt and Wilson

In 1912 there was perhaps one of the most nasty presidential elections in our history.
It was between the incumbent William Howard Taft (R), Woodrow Wilson (D) and Theodore Roosevelt (Bull Moose Independent).

The insults that were spoken were very bad and some were down right nasty! Most of them were coming from Bull Moose candidate, Theodore Roosevelt.

Teddy was mad, in 1904 he announced he would not seek re-election.....He would come to regret that statement in 1908. He didn't want to leave. After trying to find a hand picked successor, he favored Elliot Root. Root said no.

Roosevelt's Secretary of War William H. Taft was interested in becoming Chief Justice. He was a judge and was comfortable in this situation. Mrs Taft however, was very interested in making her husband President.
Taft himself really didn't care for it....But Mrs. Taft had given orders...and also his brother Charles Taft was pretty interested in getting his brother into office.

Roosevelt was not always the most stable of persons..He was highly excitable and VERY political. He was very pushy...and then he had to deal with Mrs. Taft who was just as pushy....
There was friction already between Taft and Roosevelt and of course not helped by Mrs. Taft who was really pulling of lot of William's strings. But most of all there was hardly any similarity between the ideology of Roosevelt and Taft.

Roosevelt seems to have wanted to have a standing in President to keep the chair warm till he came back. He seemed to want someone who would follow HIS policies and not their own.
What it seems to be is he wanted a babysitter for the Presidency. To look after things till he (Roosevelt) came back.
Taft did things his own way, not at all like Roosevelt. When it came to trust busting Taft did much more in 4 years than Roosevelt did in nearly eight!!!

Roosevelt went hunting in 1909 after the babysitter was in place and went hunting in Africa.
By 1910 Roosevelt was publicly not happy..By 1911 he was mad as hell...

Roosevelt always was a "DRAMA QUEEN" and he loved to be the star. For all intents and purposes he was already running for office in 1911.
I really never think he ever intended to let Taft have a second term..Four years were enough he wanted to President again and he started his smear campaign on Taft.

By the time of the Republican Convention it was a war.....The Roosevelt forces wanted Taft out....They tried to hijack the convention..It did not work...Teddy was not happy. He wanted to be king again and he was ready to fire the babysitter. But the babysitter was not going easy...After 2 years of being called everything under the sun by Roosevelt, there was no friendship left..and just to annoy Roosevelt...Taft stayed in. Saying "even a rat will fight when he is cornered"

Roosevelt left the convention..Splitting the Republican party. He became an Independent candidate under the name of the Bull Moose Party!

Enter into the scene the Democratic candidate, Woodrow Wilson. He was the current Governor of New Jersey. He had been President of Princeton University. He was author of numerous scholarly works. He was a slight man, not a man into athletics. But he had one side of him that few saw. He had a tremendous temper...and he would always hold a grudge. If you crossed him, you would always be on his hit list.

The election was as you would expect...awful, nasty, rude, rotten, and insults flew like the wind. Most of it came from Roosevelt. He wasn't happy...He was not the star..and he didn't like Wilson. Who he inferred was something less than a man.

He called Taft "stupid and fat"...He called Wilson "a trained elocutionist" and "neither a gentleman nor a real man" (That hit below the belt!)

Since Roosevelt had split the Republican party it was a no brainer that Wilson won.

The election left a lot of bad blood. Taft lost of course. He was happy to get out of the place and the office.
Roosevelt had burned all of his bridges, created a lot of anger in the Republican party, insulted Wilson, and really made quite a fool of himself.

The change of power took place on March 4, 1913. Taft got out of the area as soon as he could. Wilson was a brilliant man...Stubborn, proud, unmoving, and not happy to share the spotlight with anyone!

In 1914 Europe exploded into the same time Wilson's wife died. He was a professor of history...He had written on it all. He was not about to let the USA to get involved in any way. At least for the moment.

As the war grew in size and scope...There was more and more comments on us getting involved. In May of 1915 the Lusitania was sunk by a German sub. By this point it was too much for Roosevelt...He was looking at 1916 and wanted to get Wilson out.

The personal attacks flew from Oyster Bay.

In 1916 the Republican party passed over Roosevelt. There were too many memories of 1912. He had personally screwed himself by his actions in 1912. Charles Evans Hughes was nominated. Roosevelt called him the "bearded lady" ...Hughes did not have a great personality, he did not come off as exciting. Neither did Wilson who could be as cold as an ice bucket. The campaign was based on Wilson keeping us out of the war...On that he won.

To Roosevelt now....Wilson was fair game...and he went hunting just like he was in Africa. Roosevelt was for preparedness, getting ready for war, building up the army and navy. In this he was right, it was just how he went about it.

As he had always done it this way since the days of McKinley. He had said of President McKinley that "he had the backbone of a chocolate eclair" McKinley who had more class than Roosevelt let it pass with out comment.

Woodrow Wilson was not McKinley. As Roosevelt's insults mounted...Wilson's silent anger grew....and grew...

By 1916 Roosevelt was ready to start a new army division, called the "Roosevelt Division" He was ready to grab his glory again. He had drained every ounce out of San Juan Hill...Now it was time for great glory..His crown achievement leading a division into France...It was all drama..Roosevelt had no idea what to do. His experiences in Cuba had been terribly exaggerated. The world had changed greatly and romantic war was no longer a real thing.

He was ready to form it...All it needed was official recognition from the President. Roosevelt wrote to Secretary of War Baker..

"I have already on file in your department my application to be permitted to raise a division of infantry. If you believe there will be war and a call for volunteers,I respectfully and earnestly request that you notify me at once. I have prepared the skeleton outline of what I have desired the Division to be"

Baker's response was not what Roosevelt expected......

"No situation has arisen. Your letter will be filed for consideration should occasion arise"

Baker was basically saying FORGET IT...Roosevelt didn't get it...He was already dreaming of leading his division up another San Juan Hill in France....

Now he sent another letter to Baker

"In the event of being allowed to raise a division, I should , of course , strain every nerve to have it ready for efficient action at the earliest moment."

Baker replied

"In replay to your patriotic suggestion, I have to state the limitations of the War Department. No action in the direction suggested by you can be taken without the express sanction of Congress. No additional armies can be raised, no contracts assumed, without the specific authority of Congress. General officers for all volunteer forces are to be drawn from the regular army."

Roosevelt was not about to be told "no" by someone like Baker...Who was working under Wilson. It is amazing he is still insulting Wilson countless times and then asking for help from him! Not a brilliant strategy from someone who prided himself in his prowess of it.

Roosevelt now is getting hot under the collar....He writes Baker again...He is not too pleasant this time.

"I wish respectfully to point out that I am a retired Commander-in-Chief of the United States Army and eligible to any position of command over American troops to which I may be appointed."

He also reminded Baker of his exploits in Cuba and San Juan Hill...etc

Baker replied "The patriotic spirit of your suggestion is cordially appreciated and carefully considered."

One other note that Baker made to Roosevelt was "that war took into account many more problems than those of one individual."
(BANG right in the kisser)

Roosevelt was outraged! He was not about to be told no by anyone...He was the star.

Roosevelt decided he would go to Washington and meet Mr. Wilson.

The meeting of the Titans took place on April 9, 1917 in the White House red room.
Roosevelt was sweet and pleasant. Wilson was chatting about everything but what Roosevelt wanted. He was trying to control his anger, as he had before him the man who had been insulting him for years. Roosevelt explained what he wanted to do....Wilson listened and promised nothing.
He was not going to let Roosevelt lead a division into France...Suddenly the gentleman who wasn't a gentleman or a real man was making the Rough Rider look like a monkey. The last insult was Wilson's...

It was over for the rough rider...he just didn't know it.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The assassination of President William McKinley ....The scrapbook that was a great discovery in 1977

I was visiting a friend of mine in Boonton, New Jersey in the spring of 1977. His name was Theodore Spangenberg. I would always spend my Saturdays there...A good bunch of us would get together and talk, restore phonographs, look for cool books, and have a few beers. Ted had a shop called Player Piano Headquarters...Where he restored all kinds of old player pianos. I worked on a few of them and have promised myself I would never do it again as it was very difficult work.

I had come there on a spring day in 1977 and we were all talking about a new antique book store opening across the street. I was very curious, so I was over there in a heartbeat. There was a really neat guy named Richard who ran the place. He was very much the hippy...Long hair a beard and glasses. I was very impressed and interested in this different fellow and his girlfriend.

They both wore beads and bell bottoms as did I...Bell bottoms that is...I started to buy books from him.... But it seemed that Boonton, New Jersey was not the place to have an antique book store...

By this time we had become friendly and he told me he was going to close...But he was going to cut down on some of his inventory. It was then that he showed me the William McKinley Memorial Scrapbook. It was 18 inches by 14 inches and about 5 inches thick. It weighed around 20 pounds.
It was a commercially made scrapbook made for a certain Mr. William Whiting. It was given to him by Charles Locke. It was heavy leather and filled with just about every clipping dealing with the McKinley assassination.

He wanted $40.00 for it. That was a lot of money in those days for me...But in a few weeks I had it. When I paid it off Richard told me that it was really a unique piece. I read it from cover to cover....It amazed me how great the out pouring of grief was for McKinley, and yet no one seems to remember. So that is why this story is here. I wanted to share the book with I do not think there are many others quite like it.

The McKinley assassination was shocking in the fact that it was the 3rd Presidential assassination in only 36 years!!!! Lincoln in 1865. Garfield in 1881, and McKinley in 1901.
I will in time write more on the book. But for now, I just wanted to share a few pictures and some highlights of that awful event. With a piece of the history that makes it possible...This amazing book from late 1901. The next few stories will have many pictures and stories from this scrapbook.