Sunday, February 25, 2007

The three White Star sisters.....The shipping dream of J. Bruce Ismay..That showed such promise..and left disaster in it's wake.

RMS Titanic

RMS Olympic

RMS Britannic ...As she was to look. Note the massive lifeboat davits

Hospital ship Britannic

The ship we usually hear of so often is the Titanic. In the movie Titanic it was made to look like she was the only thing like her. That is not at all true. The Titanic was the second of a trio of Ocean going greyhounds that were designed to corner the market on luxury, comfort, and safety. Amazingly of the three ships only one ever made it to New York Harbor.

They were basically all pretty much identical. There were a few differences, but not major ones. The ship that was the most different of the three was the Britannic. Her looks were altered due to design changes resulting from the Titanic disaster. But she was quite similar to her older and slightly smaller sisters.

The idea of this trio was to have a ship always available in New York, England, and at sea..Establishing a weekly express train like service that would compete with the Cunard sisters Mauritania and Lusitania.

It was the dream of J. Bruce Ismay. Head of the White Star Line...

It sadly became a nightmare. The Olympic made it to New York in 1911...She stole the show....She was known as the "Ship beautiful"....Everyone was talking about the Olympic.

J. Bruce Ismay was on board for her "maiden voyage"...He wrote that the Olympic was dream..He also added ideas on improving the next ship, Titanic. The Titanic was to be the "perfected Olympic".

The next year the Titanic sailed...No one really cared too much...The Titanic was just another Olympic...The press coverage is sparse...The Titanic sank...Now everyone talked about her.

Also they talked about J. Bruce Ismay...Who was saved when so many died. He became a hated symbol of the whole disaster. People referred to him as J. Brute Ismay...

He was planning to retire from his position at the White Star Line...After the disaster it seems the company tries to keep a good distance from Ismay. He retires into seclusion.....

The Olympic was rebuilt and lifeboats were added. In fact it seems that many of the lifeboats added were from the Titanic.

In 1915 the redesigned and rebuilt Britannic was ready to set sail...Her name had been changed. It was to be called Gigantic. But after the Titanic disaster it did not seem to be a good idea. So a much more mainstream name was used.

All of these ships were the largest in the world when they were built. All of their names expressed their great size..Olympic, Titanic and Gigantic. Sadly the legacy of these ships is not one of safety and luxury...It was one of disaster, horror, arrogance.

The Britannic was fitting out when World War One started...She was never finished on the inside with all the luxury that the previous two ships had been. For the Britannic was slated to serve as a hospital ship for the Allies. She sailed for a year and then struck a mine and sank.

By the end of 1918, the White Star Line has only one of the 3 sisters. By this time the Olympic was a dirty, messy vessel. Having served as troop ship for 2 plus years.
She had to be totally renovated. During this time she was refitted to use oil as a fuel, rather than the dirty coal used before.

By 1921 the Olympic was a new ship practically. But was already 10 years old. She had no suitable running mates as both her sisters were rusting under the water...

She survived till 1935...Somewhat of a mismatch for all the other ships of her line. She was finally scraped by 1937....Just as J. Bruce Ismay, devastated, destroyed and dishonored died.....

Friday, February 23, 2007

One of the forgotten cartoons of Walt Disney and RKO...... "Willie, the Operatic Whale"

As a boy I remember watching this on TV..Willie, the Operatic Whale...I agree that it may not have what many cartoons today have. But for me as a kid..I enjoyed it.

This was the voice, or should I say voices of Willie. Nelson Eddy..(1901-1967)

All Willie wanted was to sing at the Metropolitan Opera House. He was a most talented whale. I must confess I am going on 40 year old memories here so there may be some discrepancies as to the story line. But what I recall was that it was Willie's wish to sing there. Now Willie also had an amazing talent..That he had many vocal chords..Therefore he was a whole sextet in himself. One whale of an entertainer..........

Nelson Eddy who was a famous singer from the 1930's and 40's was the voice of Willie. Eddy was famous for his many movies and recordings with Jennette MacDonald...Such as "Indian love call"...If that does not ring a bell..The lyric should "And I'm calling you-o-o-o-o-o-ooooo".."You will answer to-o-o-o-o-ooooooo" etc...
Dreary stuff but very popular at the time!

By the time he made the recordings for Willie his career had pretty much been reduced to nightclub acts around the country. But the cartoon was somewhat ground breaking.......From its original work to its final release in the 1950's

Make Mine Music, 1946, was a Walt Disney animated feature compilation. Eddy provided all the singing and speaking voices for the touching final segment, The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met. It was later released as a short, Willie, the Operatic Whale, by RKO in 1954.

Using a technique based on his technical experiments with his home recording equipment, Eddy was able to sing sextets with himself on the soundtrack, providing all the voices from bass to soprano.

That was quite a performance as I recall....I guess I need to listen to that cartoon again...But as this blog is about history you don't usually hear too much about...I thought it was a odd and most unique point and part of animated cartoon history. I would also state one of the most forgotten of all cartoons.

A souvenir of the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904....One of the funniest souvenirs of any world's fair..

This is one really cute piece of 1904 World's Fair memorabilia

This is such a cute little piece from the World's Fair of 1904. Of course I could not imagine such a piece for sale today..Some would perhaps see it as off color, or in poor taste. But this was a common type of humor a century ago.

As you can see in the picture the little boy is peeing on the ground ...and spelling out the phrase "Good Luck"...As his dog looks on intently.
Also on the side of the drawing it says.."Not bad for a stub pen"...To translate not bad for such a little pen...

Today I guess many would be upset at such a drawing or sales item. But I see it as pure fun. How many of us as kids try to spell out our names by peeing on the ground...I tried...My handwriting was terrible!!!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Oh...How I miss Jack Benny...I forgot how funny comedy once was..Hurrah for "youtube" I have cried myself silly with laughter...

Today I watch comedy and they try to be funny...But it just pales in comparison with some one like Jack Benny....Who I would say was perhaps the funniest comedian of the 20th century...I can think of no rival...

I feel sorry for kids today who are stuck with pretty lame comedians and think they are funny, or to be funny you have to have a mouth like a sewer.....

Jack Benny would sing, dance, be amazingly funny with out saying a word, play violin something awful (except when he had to play well and then he amazed us all)....He was comedic renaissance man...

I grew up loving Jack Benny..I followed every show he did...I watched him every time on Johnny Carson and every show and special he did..I listened carefully when it was announced that he was dying...I remember the day..I wrote it in my journal ...

December 26, 1974...."Jack Benny died today...the world is a little sadder...We will laugh again...but never as warmly or with as much love..."

Through the wonder of "youtube",I have been re introduced to Jack Benny..and have cried and laughed as I watched the old films.....Thank you Jack Benny for making my younger years so wonderful...I wish there was someone today half as funny as you were.

I do not know if younger people would see the humor in Mr. Benny.....I hope they might...It is sad that comedy has been made so pale and boring that Benny's style of humor is not followed or understood anymore...Perhaps it is to labor intensive (ie...Requires a bit of thought)...

I care not if they think it may be a tad old fashioned...I do not cry from laughter with new comedy...I cringe and feel the loss to us all. He was truly one of the greats when it came to comedy. Thank you ...

Monday, February 12, 2007

A rare book find on the streets in New York

The cover of this most amazing children's book from over a century ago..It is in very good condition....Very good for being nearly 104 years of age.

There are many illustrations by the artist Karl Moseley...Like this one which says "Grandfather's reminiscences of the Mexican war"

The first edition of this book was marked September, 1903

While walking on the street in New York..I happened on to this book. It is from 1903 and written by Joel Chandler Harris 1845-1908...It is full of many illustrations. It talks of flying through time and space to another world.

It is most interesting that the book deals with flying and the first flight by the Wright Brothers was only 2 months later. What the author writes of is something we still only dream of space and time travel...

This book is in wonderful condition and a wonderful relic of another age.

There is something wonderful about children's books from the 19th and early 20th century....

I did research on this book and was surprised to see how much money people were paying for it in auctions. So my $10.00 investment with a street vendor was quite well worth it...These things do not happen often..I can get another copy if I wish to impart with $150.00..

Monday, February 05, 2007

American Bankers Association traveler cheques ...1911-12.... To show how safe they were, they put a very safe ship on their ad!

Yes those Traveler Cheques were as safe as the Titanic!..... Whoops!

This ad which hangs in my library is one of those rare and odd ads that just came out at the wrong time.......You can bet it was not around anytime after the safest ship in the world sank on its very first voyage....Fate is a cruel thing.

As you can guess this is a rather rare advertisement......I found it years ago...and was so shocked as to what it was showing I did not believe it at first...But who knew in 1911...what 1912 was to bring.

The month of April, 1912...I am sure was not a good one for this ad agency.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Hamilton Burr duel....Let's look at what is was.

It has been over 200 years since these two men faced each other in New Jersey and make outlandish fools of each other.
Hamilton, let us not mince words ...was a nasty rotten bastard to put it mildly. Aaron Burr was a nasty bastard as well. Of the two I like Burr better, but not by much.

So these two idiots had a duel...Burr should never have given that turkey Hamilton immortality. Burr for the rest of his life suffered for it, although many people where privately happy Hamilton was gone.
Few people liked either of them. I have often wished Hamilton had killed Burr...But such is life and death.

Hamilton did his best to destroy many peoples lives...There were few as really rotten and awful as he. Burr was almost as bad as Hamilton..But he did not try to wreck as many lives. Hamilton was truly one of the greatest snakes in the grass.

Both men were brilliant, both men were great patriots, both men were great ego maniacs. Burr's actions in the American revolution were amazing...Hamilton's creation of the American money system was wonderful. But both men were truly nasty people. But as I said before Hamilton was by far the most nasty. What he did to John Adams was worthy of a firing squad...As fortune would have it he got one.

I will leave this saying Hamilton hated Burr and did his best to destroy him as he had so many other people...
Sadly he was successful..But at least Burr had some satisfaction too..Burr was the last person Hamilton could hurt...He did it posthumously.