Saturday, October 27, 2007

Thomas Marshall (1854-1925) Vice President of the USA during the Wilson administration 1913-1921.. What is he famous for?

We rarely hear of this gentleman today. He was Vice President under Woodrow Wilson, who was a very powerful force. So we do not hear about Marshall much at all.
He was the Governor of Indiana. He did quite a bit. But today, to be honest, there is only one thing that he usually is remembered for. He had a rye sense of humor and at times it did show itself. Here is the moment where it truly did.

He was in a session of Congress and it was a boring slow session. Lot's of talking going on and nothing really being said. During this long session Marshall was heard to exclaim.. "What this country needs, is a good 5 cent cigar." That was it. It brought laughs and still does today. That is about all that is remembered about Thomas Marshall.
Who was in every way a great Vice President. So good, you never heard of him.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The monitor. During the civil war they were worth their weight in gold. But by the end of the war they were obsolete. Yet we kept making them!! ???

One of the old monitors from the American Civil War. Rotting at a pier in the 1870's

This was the big problem with a monitor. This is just moving rather slowly in calm waters. Can you imagine sailing at a good rate of speed or in rough water? It was a fatal flaw specially for the first monitor.

Here are a few pictures of monitors taken around 1900-1902 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York City. You can see how low they are in the water. But still at this time they were sailing. They were a massive blast from the past as we entered the 20th century.


The USS Monitor was designed by John Ericsson to be used to defend the coast and the wooden battleships that were being terrorized by the Confederate ironclad Virginia. The Virginia was built on the burnt remains of the wooden sailing ship Merrimack. The Monitor was a god send to the Union.
It was in every way an equal to the Virgina and was far more advanced. Through the war there were many monitors made. In fact there was a glut of them after the war. Many were scraped or sold to foreign governments.
But there seemed to be a hard core group who kept pushing for monitor style ships for the US navy. In the 1870's there were many designs put forward for monitors. They were finally built well into the 1880's and 90's. By then they were as obsolete as the wooden ships that they replaced in the civil war.
However Monitors were built as late as the beginnings of the 20th century!

One of the big problems with monitors was that they were very low into the water. In fact, the first monitor was called a cheese box on a raft. As it had a turret, the first ship to have such an item. The ship itself was nearly submerged in the water, which led to many difficulties. One being that the ship when even moving slowly would have water pouring over its decks and often pouring into the ship!
One must remember that as wonderful as the original monitor was it did have this problem. In fact the original monitor was not lost in battle, it was lost in stormy seas.

So through out the years that monitors were made they could not sail with other ships. As they could not sail so fast due to the fact that they would be practically submerged by doing so.
The navy had monitors in use till the time of WWI. By then the last of the monitors were scraped and every vessel built afterwards would have a higher free board.

The monitor was a great development. But sometimes we hate to let go of great developments. And we keep them till they become disasters.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

My 1972 Caddy ..It was quite a limo, it was quite a car.

When we are very young we do things that may seem a bit strange and unusual. But in 1982 I bought a 1972 Cadillac Limo. It was so amazingly huge. It was a great party car. There was only one sad point I was driving.
The car had been in the use of the Warner Lambert Company before my friend Ted Spangenberg bought it. He had it for 6 years. It was a great car.

So when I needed a car I bought Ted's Limo. I was 25 and crazy ...and it looked like fun. Now looking back on it. I am glad I got it as I had a great time in it.
It was the ultimate party car.
But this car was my one venture into monster cars. The interior was beautiful and plush. It had a glass window that would raise and lower between the front and rear seats. It could seat 9 . It had an opera window in the back that was so tiny, but it was cute. It had two stereo systems..I had many parties in it.
We even made davit on the back and hung a cardboard VW bug on it as a lifeboat. That was funny and I wish I had taken a picture of it. But cameras were not everywhere then, like they are now.
In fact I did not take this picture of my car. It was taken by a friend of mine who 2 weeks after he took this picture drowned in a pool. So thanks to David I have this picture...I think of him every time I see it.
This picture was taken in Trenton, New Jersey in 1982. We were all going to the beach for a party. Of course there were about 7 in my car.

By 1984 the car was having troubles. I could not afford the repairs. The last straw was when the entire electrical system for the windows went down. I had the windows open and it started to rain...Ironically on the radio was playing the song.."Its raining again" I could not get over the irony of that moment.

But soon I traded the car in for a 1976 Dodge Dart and was happy. The Dodge had crank windows, and a slant six engine. It was good on gas. I must confess the Caddy belched every time it drove by a gas station. But what a hell of a good 2 years I had in that car!

Monday, October 22, 2007

The first American President to face an assassins gun. There seemed no way for it to fail, yet it did. In a most unusual manner.

In January of 1835 a very old, and very tired Andrew Jackson walked out of the House of Representatives. He had just attended a memorial service for Congressman Warren Davis. Jackson was so weak and infirm that he needed to lean onto the arms of many political officials. They did not mind it and considered it to be an honor.

Jackson had been ill for years. He had trouble sitting down, and had a standing desk. He had been at one time one hell of a man. Now as he slowly walked out of the House of Representatives on that cold damp day, he was but a shell of what he had once been. But the fire was not at all out in the old warrior. He was weak but had great moments of passion and battle.
These qualities had brought him to the White House and they sometimes did show at certain moments.
This day as he walked out of the Capital, he was met by an assassin, Richard Lawrence. Lawrence was a handsome young man who was dressed in a large dark cloak. He also brandished 2 single shot pistols. He lunged in front of the President pointed one pistol at his chest and fired. The gun did not go off. It misfired! The President always the fighter raised his cane and charged the assassin. As Jackson was about on Lawrence, the assassin fired his second pistol at point blank range at the charging President. This gun too, misfired! Soon Lawrence was wrestled to the ground. He was arrested and taken to prison.

Now for the pistols? Why did each misfire? No one really knows for sure, but the odds of such a thing happening are like 125,000 to 1!! Both pistols fired when tested later. Lawrence felt that he pistols did not work because of the dampness. But due to most bizarre circumstances the President of the United States was allowed to finish out his term.

Richard Lawrence was taken to court and prosecuted by none other than Francis Scott Key..Lawrence was suffering from depression and madness...He would be in and out of insane asylums for the rest of his life, dying in 1861.

This last weekend I had the chance to fire a 1770 repro of a early pistol. Is misfired 4 times before it worked. So I can see how such a thing could indeed happen. So by chance Andrew Jackson did not make it into the history books as the first assassinated President. Thirty years later the sad deed was done to another President. Abraham Lincoln.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Ok so how tall was Napoleon? Was he really so short that it gave him a complex?

I am really getting tired of hearing how short Napoleon was. He was not short, he was of average height. He was 5 feet six inches tall. Before beginning his autopsy on the body of Napoleon, Dr. Antommarchi measured it. It came to 1.686 metres.

Now five feet six inches is not that short at all. In American history John Adams was around five feet six inches, as was his son, John Quincy. President James Madison was only five feet four inches. I think there has been many issues that have messed up our understanding of Napoleon's height.
First off the measure of Napoleon was done in French metres. Secondly, Genl. Tom Thumb, who worked with P.T. Barnum, was always dressed like Napoleon. Since Tom Thumb was very small the image began to sink into the public that Napoleon must have been very short too. Well that is not so. He was of normal height for the times.

So perhaps someone who has a Napoleon complex may have to think about it a bit. Maybe they might have a James Madison complex.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

King's view of New York 1911 and the future

New York of the future...I guess it was thought by them what New York would be in one hundred years. Just like every other prediction.It is way off the mark, but wonderfully amusing.

The tip of Manhattan Island in the eye of the artist. With a completed Woolworth Building on Broadway.

Something new in those days was a view from the sky. To see it like a bird.

Some of the large buildings in New York as of this time. The buildings seem as massive as the confidence of that era.

The area of Grant's Tomb and Columbia University.

The many maps and drawings in the early years of the the 20th century of New York were most often provided by King's Views of New York. This publication that came out it seems yearly. Would document New York as it was then. On it cover it showed what New York would be like in the future. But it was a great time of optimism and expansion in New York and this booklet shows it. So it is near a century since the publication came out. And I am glad that New York is not as they foresaw it.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Abraham Lincoln's Presidential railway car. It was to be used by the President to travel. However it was to see its main use in his funeral.

Lincoln funeral car. With an honor guard. This was the car that would take the bodies of Lincoln and his son Willie home to Springfield, Illinois

The Presidential car pulled out of its garage in January 1865. Note the Presidential seal on the side of the car.

Lincoln's funeral train ready to leave. The 9 car train would travel from Washington DC to Springfield Illinois. Lincoln's well traveled body would be on view into early May.

The Lincoln car was a Pullman that was to be used by President Lincoln as he traveled. it was ready for use in late 1864. However Lincoln did not travel much of anywhere by train in the later years. Sadly by the spring, Lincoln was no more. the victim of an assassins bullet. The car that was to be his transportation in life, soon became the vehicle to transport his remains in death. Lincoln's car was used on the funeral train and carried his and his son's body to their last resting place.

The car was later put on exhibit, and it was destroyed by fire in 1911. All that was saved of the car was a pane of glass.