Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Thomas Hart Benton's two volume set on 30 years in the Senate. Printed in 1854-56. These are from the library of Congressman Augustus Cutler 1827-1897

Thomas Hart Benton (1782-1858)

The spines of the book showing the offical seal of the USA in the 1850's.

The set as it looks on its side.

The face plate

The name plate of Congressman Augustus Cutler

Augustus Cutler (1827-1897) Member of the House 1875-1879

This rare set of books from 1854/1856 is a special piece of history as it was written by Thomas Hart Benton...He saw a great deal of the history from the age Monroe to Filmore. He was Andrew Jackson's Aide De Camp till there was a great deal of trouble between them resulting in Jackson being shot in the arm and shoulder. Benton fought many duels in an age where that was OK. Although he was originally from Tennessee, he moved to the Missouri territory. When Missouri became a state be was one of its first Senators.

He was a peer to Henry Clay, John Q. Adams, Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun. Benton was also present at the terrible explosion of the USS. Princeton in 1844. There were many officials killed and Benton was one of the injured, but was never ill enough to miss a day at the Senate...By the later 1840's he was having an issue with slavery.
With the election of James K.Polk, however, his power began to ebb, and his views diverged from the party's. His career took a distinct downturn with the issue of slavery. Benton, a southerner and slave owner, became increasingly uncomfortable with the topic. He was also at odds with fellow Democrats such as John C. Calhoun, who he thought put their opinions ahead of the Union to a treasonous degree. With troubled conscience, in 1849 he declared himself "against the institution of slavery," putting him against his party and popular opinion in his state.

In April 1850, during heated Senate floor debates over the proposed Compromise of 1850, Benton was nearly shot by pistol-wielding Mississippi Senator Henry S. Foote, who had taken umbrage to Benton's vitriolic sparring with Vice-President Millard Fillmore. Foote was wrestled to the floor where he was disarmed.

After this he was basically a man with out a party. He cheered his son in law John C. Fremont as he ran for President in 1856 as the first Republican candidate ...Fremont lost to James Buchanan. But the times were changing. He lived till 1858, full of years and sure that there soon would be a great change coming.

He wrote his massive autobiography and that is what you see here....It was used and read by many a politician for the next half century. As the copy you see here was from the library of Congressman Augustus Cutler (1827-1897). You can see his name plate in the book. One would guess he took much of his library with him. Specially anything dealing with political matters.

I have just touched a bit on his history. I invite you to study him more.
He died in the later 1850's from intestinal cancer. His son in law and daughter would be involved in politics for much of the rest of the 19th century. One of his descendants became well known as a painter under the name of Thomas Hart Benton.

But the man I speak of who wrote these books was one of the rarer of them all and one of the few mentioned in JFK's Profiles in Courage.
He was unique in that form and this very rare set of books is a window into his political world starting nearly 200 years ago.

Friday, July 27, 2007

John Adams view on how posterity would view American independence and the revolutionary war

John Adams had no allusions as to how he would be remembered historically. He knew that Jefferson would get the sole credit for the Declaration of Independence. He knew his work to raise funds to make the revolution possible would not be remembered. He knew all of his measures that would make the revolution possible would not be remembered. He felt that Franklin did everything in his power to over shine him. He felt few would remember it was He who nominated George Washington to be General in Chief of the Continental Army. While Adams had a great power for jealousy, he also had a great mind for humor. He was a natural comedian when the times were right.

He wrote down in a humorous fashion one day how the war for independence would be recalled.....

"Franklin did this, Franklin did that, Franklin did some other damned thing…Franklin smote the ground and out sprang George Washington, fully-grown and on his horse….Franklin then electrified him with his miraculous lightning rod and the three of them— Franklin, Washington and the horse—conducted the entire Revolution by themselves.”

That is pretty funny!

Sadly few know much of the history of the battle for independence, or the war that resulted from our declaration of that state of being.
John Adams knew in the early 19th century that the history had already been written and the hero's selected.
Most of them were busy campaigning to promote their legacy, while Adams was promoting the country and independence.
They made sure everyone knew much about them and the public followed like in a trance. Adams knew that Franklin,Jefferson, and Washington made sure that they were well known to the people.
The people knew their hero's, and Adams knew he was not one of them.

Amazingly, he is an equal to them all..As he was the spark plug that got us to do what no one else had the nerve to do...Push for independence and become a new nation. I do hope someday for a ADAMS MEMORIAL IN WASHINGTON!!! Few deserve it more!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Simpson's ..A great historical fact that is seen in the phone style of Mr. Burns

Mr Burns who always answers the phone with Hoy Hoy!

Homer Simpson with Edison who invented what we all use on the phone

Mr Burns in the Simpson's always answers the telephone with the salutation "hoy hoy" ..Which was the greeting that Alexander Graham Bell gave originally to the telephone.
Little do we know that Thomas A. Edison came up with the salutation "hello"...Which is used all over the world today. It shows how old Burns is. He learned how to use the phone from Bell!
So Homer Simpson who re-invents the six legged chair and the electric hammer...also uses along with the rest of the world Edison's other invention


....Amazing huh?

Funeral Blues..... A touching piece of poetry by W.H. Auden

W.H. Auden

Funeral Blues

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put Crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my Song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and seep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Turtle ships from Korea. Did Korea make the first ironclad fighting vessels? .....What ship was the first true and total ironclad?

A life sized model of a Korean turtle ship from the 16th century. At least an idea of what it looked like. It was developed by Admiral Yi from what is said to be an earlier design. Yet there are no contemporary records of the ships. But there seems to be enough of a historic record to say that the first(partially) iron clad ships were indeed Korean. They were used in the many wars that took place between Korea and Japan. In fact it seems that they were always at war with each other for hundreds of years!

A model of the French ship of line La Gloire of 1859...This we can say was the first Iron clad ship.

The British HMS. Warrior of 1860..This was the first British iron clad made within a year of the French. Of course the French and English, like the Japanese and Koreans seemed to have a constant sense of intent dislike for each other. So each developed ironclad ships that could be used to fight against each other. However, they never did.

The Chilean (ex Peruvian) monitor Huascar of 1866. Note how it is very different from the previous two. Below is the reason why.

A woodcut of the USS Monitor of 1862

Now we always hear of the USS. Monitor and the CSS. Virginia as the first Ironclad ships. Well that is very wrong. However, they were the first ironclad ships to duke it out in battle.
It seems that the Koreans used Iron clad ships called turtle ships to fight the Japanese. However the Japanese did not have ironclad ships to fight them. If indeed any of these ships were involved in a battle. There is little information on them.

The French have the credit of coming up with the first "ironclad" ship that was completely ironclad on its sides. The British followed suit in 1860.

Now we come to USS. Monitor. While we can give some credit to the Koreans, French, and British it was really the American ship called the USS. Monitor that was the first true and totally ironclad vessel. The decks and well as its sides were completely clad in armor.
So while the USS. Monitor was not the first, it was the most original of them all.
As all of the others used the design of sailing ships, or the hulks of them as in the case of the CSS. Virginia.
But in the USS. Monitor's design it was totally new. It was developed by John Ericsson, a Swedish inventor who brought about a total change in ship design. One that would have more profound effects than any other design!

The USS. Monitor was the first vessel to have a turret that could turn in the direction of the enemy rather than having the whole ship having to do so. It was a major innovation that is still used today. Also instead of having the high side out of the water like many of the sailing ships of yore, the Monitor had a low free board that had her very low in the water and made her a very difficult target.
She was referred to as a "cheese box on a raft". That is really perhaps the best description of her.
Perhaps the greatest complement to the Monitor was that after its development all of the ironclad ships all over the world were made to her design and style. The age of the Ironclad ship looking like a ship of line was over.

So in closing we can give each group some credit for the innovation of the ironclad. For had not the others done it, perhaps John Ericsson would have never come up with his great improvement.
In time I will go into more detail on John Ericsson. I have found some great information about him written in the 1880's and I will share some of that in a later posting.

Jussi Björling ..(1911-1960) ..Perhaps the greatest operatic tenor of the 20th century

He was a great singer..Maybe great is too weak a word for him..He was an amazingly gifted and unique singer. There have been but few like him. I can only think of two who have a chance at beating him or matching him in the history of the 20th century. In the world of operatic tenors there are 3 greats of the 20th century. Bjorling, Caruso, Corelli...Now there are many near greats Pavarotti, Domingo, and Gigli to name a few.

But as much as I love Caruso and Corelli I am amazed at the beauty, style, and quality of his singing. When he died in 1960 there was a most interesting obituary. It spent a bit of time talking about his singing style. It said and I am paraphrasing....
Bjorling never gulped, grabbed or slid to his notes like a cow on a well polished floor, Like many of his Italian contemporaries.......

He was unique and amazing. But there was a dark side of Jussi. He was a dreadful alcoholic! He was abusive and nasty when drunk, yet lovely and gentle when sober.

I recall Jerome Hines talking about Bjorling one night to me. He said......" One night me and the family went to a restaurant for dinner. The waiter was very upset. I asked him what was wrong and he said to me that last night Bjorling was at the restaurant and treated his family and everyone else so badly that I went home and broke every one of his records". In short he was a VERY nasty drunk.

Robert Merrill mentioned that Bjorling would ask him as they walked together " Come on Bob, let's just have one drink". He was lucky to have people around him who loved him. Merrill would do his best to redirect him away from the bars.

He was a god in world of song, yet he was always a victim to alcohol. I was glad to know several who knew him and all said he was a great artist. He was a great singer and perhaps the only one who gave Caruso a run for his money.
Mrs. Caruso said to him in 1951, that he was the only one worthy to take the crown from her famous husband. In fact she said that Jussi was the singer who sounded the most like her husband.

But all of his harshness to his body caught up with him. He died at the young age of 49. He had for several years a weak heart. He beat up his body such that his heart could go no more, and he died in his sleep of a heart attack in 1960.

But his was a voice that was beyond our understanding. Thanks to recorded sound we can still hear that voice.

So now he has been gone for 47 years. I was just a little boy when he died and do not recall him, but of course from the time I was a child I knew of him. How could you not!!
I remember my music teacher playing Bjorling records for me when I was a boy and thrilling to his voice. I still do.

So I invite you to listen to the voice of this great artist, and enjoy what many have for the last 70 years. It is a great experience...One you will not soon forget.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Next time you walk by the New York Public Library..You can imagine that right at that spot was the Croton Reservoir.

The Croton Reservoir was a fixture of old New York for many years. The year 1842 marked what was perhaps one of the greatest forward strides in the city's history....It was ­the general introduction of running water...That must have been an amazing event!

When the reservoir was first completed it had a spacious promenade all around the top of the walls upon which many animated groups constantly gathered. It was the 19th century and the age of the promenade. Of course that is a wonderfully descriptive word for strolling.
It was one of the highest points to be in the city There you could see Long Island and the heights of the Palisades provided a fascinating panorama. It was certainly a delightful spot...

There are many stories of how wonderful it was to walk around the reservoir at night. One could enjoy the view and see the shimmering of the water in the moonlight..(remember this is old New York)... There was not too much light around in those days. It remained a popular attraction till it was decided in the 1890's to build a massive city library right were the much of the reservoir was standing.
The money had come from Samuel Tilden, who left over two million to build a new library for New York. I am not going into the history of building the library here. You can study that in many areas. But What I wanted to express is that hardly a soul knows about the Croton reservoir.

It was one one of the great attractions of New York. I can truly say it was replaced by a tremendously more important structure. So often great things are torn down and are replaced by something less than lovely. In this case it was well done.

So every time I am walking by the Library...My mind wanders off to the 19th century and I picture the massive structure that once stood there. In fact some of it still does. Some of the reservoirs foundations were used for the library!
It was a massive structure as you can see. The area you see here of the reservoir is where the park is behind the library. Where there is now a hidden library under the grass. Yes the library continues underground beneath the park, and that is where the major bulk of their collections lie.
One of the famous lions in front
The library when it was brand new.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Adolph Hitler artist??? In fact he was a quite a good one. One can only wish he had followed that vocation rather than the political one.

One could only wish that Adolph Hitler had followed his dream and became an artist.His ambition was to become an art student but he failed twice to secure entry to the Academy of Fine Arts. He earned a precarious livelihood by painting postcards and advertisements. He also did a massive amount of larger pieces. Here you will see many of his works. Most are from this early period of his life. I have always wished that the Academy of Fine Arts had accepted him. As it led to a chain reaction that would make for horrible results. So here are 8 paintings, drawings, and pastels by Hitler. A man who was quite amazing at first glance, but soon would show such madness, that the world would in time suffer 50 million deaths from his actions.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

President John F. Kennedy's warm and lovely letter to a little boy in 1961

Think as you may of JFK, and there are more things said of him in a positive and negative way than perhaps any President of the last 50 years.
But be that as it may, Jack Kennedy had an abiding love for children. He was often seen writing little letters to children.
Once when his new born son was in the hospital he went by the room where two very sick children were and he wrote little notes to them. There was no press there, it was just his way with children. Sadly his little son Patrick would die.

With that being said I wanted to show this transcript of a letter that was written by Kennedy to the son of Professor J. K. Galbraith of Harvard.
He had selected Galbraith to the post of the American Ambassador to India. Galbraith's son Peter was none to happy to leave his home, friends and school.
Despite his own busy schedule he took the time to explain the parallel in Peter's new experience with his own background as the son of, and part of the family of an ambassador.

I find it one of the most beautiful letters ever written from the desk of a President to a little boy.

A larger picture of the letter

Monday, July 09, 2007

Howard Pyle 1853-1911...was an American illustrator and writer, primarily of books for young audiences.Here's a series of his from Harpers Jan. 1902

This is a very late cover made long after both Twain and Pyle were dead. Before we get to the Harper's pictures here are a few of his illustrations...

Howard Pyle was a most popular illustrator in the late 19th and early 20th century. His work was often in magazines and many books. He did the work for Peter Pan and King Arthur in some of the early versions of these books. It has been said that he never let historic fact influence his art. So there was a lot of things that some have had issues with. But none the less he had quite an impact on his times and several books in which he worked on are amazingly still in print. I just happened to be browsing through a Harper's book I have and found some of these really interesting pieces from Pyle in 1901. They were issued in the January 1902 Harper's magazine. Jan 1902

Samuel Morse..1791-1872...We have always known of his work with the telegraph, but he was quite an amazing artist as well.

Morse at the end of his life wearing his many medals
The Gallery of the Louvre 1832
John Adams 1816

House of Representatives 1822
Although we think of Morse mainly with the invention of the telegraph and what we call "Morse code" .....He was quite an accomplished artist who was not only successful in the United States, but in Europe as well.
By the 1830's his efforts became more involved in what would become the telegraph. He worked with Leonard Gale who was a friend of Joseph Henry who was an early supporter of Morse. His work with Alfred Vail who was there with money and ability brought the telegraph along at a good pace.
In fact Vail did a good deal of the work while Morse took all the credit. This was the later days of Morse but his work as an artist was his greatest moments of solo work.
It is hard to really give all the total credit to the telegraph to Morse, as those who worked with him did a great deal. But he was the one who had the dream mainly. So to the dreamer goes the prize!
But Morse did dabble in many different money making fields including photography. But today he best known for his work with the telegraph, but I kind of like to think of him as an artist of very good quality.
His paintings are in galleries all over the world. Perhaps one may say of his art, work and life what was said in the first official telegraph message sent in 1844 in the presence of Dolly Madison.."What hath God Wrought."....

Sunday, July 08, 2007

John Bunny...1863-1915...The first great silent film comedian

Two pictures of John Bunny...The first great comedian in the movies

I remember my grandfather talking about going to see one of Bunny's films when he was a boy. Well My grandfather was a teenager right in that special period of time when movies really took off in 1912-1915. The industry was changing rapidly and the old scenes of watching streetcars going down the street were very much of Edison's early films.
By the time we reached the beginnings of the second decade of the 20th century John Bunny was one of the most famous men in the world. In the United States and in Europe as silent pictures did not have to deal with language barriers. He was the first major star before Charlie Chaplin started his great rise to fame.
Many theaters were made with bunnies in their facade and he was the king till his death in April 1915. His movies were often called Bunnyfinches for many of his movies were made with Flora Finch.
The movie industry grew so fast after his death he became almost forgotten in a short period of time. But I always will remember finding a story about John Bunny in my grandfathers book and asking him about it. I am glad I did.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Adolph Hitler.His book Mein Kampf (My struggle) was written in 1924, yet no one read it! First complete version in the USA not printed till 1939!

This is the first complete version of Mein Kampf made in the United States. Not printed till 1939! In fact the publishers apologise for some mistakes that may exist as they rushed it along.
There were several versions of the book in a condensed scale but never was there a complete version of the book till the outbreak of hostilities. As you see in this book. This was done in 1939 and France was still....France.

No one listened to Hitler till it was too late. He gave us several warning cries...but we did not listen. We are not listening now...There are many cries going on today that are just as frightening as Hitler, maybe more so!
I would like to issue this page as a warning. That we should listen to what our enemies say. As Winston Churchill once said that if there ever was a war that was preventable, it was World War Two. Hitler was telling in the 1920's what he wanted to do.

But we all put our heads in the sand.

I have often written here that it is 1938 all over again in this world. Listen to what others are saying, and take those warnings seriously! The world of 10 years from now will be very different from today!....Stop, Look, and Listen. The world is on the verge of a great conflict. I do not see it as it was in 1939, but now the toys have changed, the rules have changed.

History teaches us to see the folly of man. If mankind is wise he will learn from the foolishness of his nature. But sadly history teaches us that we are creatures of habit and routine. Read what others write....Listen to what others say....They are not saying what they do for enjoyment...It is part of the human animal, a warning cry!