Sunday, December 30, 2007

When Louis Comfort Tiffany redesigned the interior of the White House.. 1882-3.... He did it in a big way for President Chester A. Arthur ..

The great entrance screen put into the White House in 1882-3 by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Here you see office seekers posing for the camera.Here is the entrance with out the office seekers
This is a good view of that amazing piece of work by Tiffany, which sadly does not exist today.
Every room bore the unmistakable stamp of Tiffany.
Chester A. Arthur 1829-1886. He was known as elegant Arthur for his extravagant tastes and lavish parties. He was James A. Garfield's Vice President and on the death of Garfield, Arthur took over not only the office but the total redesigning of the White House.
Louis Comfort Tiffany 1848-1933...Tiffany was responsible for a totally new style of leaded colored glass that revolutionized the entire world of fashion and decoration.
The East Room, which at this time looked more like the main hall of a Hudson River Steamer.The dinning room
The other side of the screen
The libraryA little piece of pattern for the main entrance. You can see the intricate design and colors that were a part of that amazing piece of Victorian art.

In 1882 the very dapper Chester A. Arthur, President of the United States got sick of all the old stuff he saw sitting around the White House. Now to him that stuff was junk, not the priceless artifacts of unmentionable value that we today know them to be.
But it was 1882 and to the eyes of the Victorian is was passe'

...30 wagon loads of history were carted out of the White House and put on a public auction. In that batch were chairs from the administration of James Monroe. Andrew Jackson's standing desk, Lincoln's desk, clocks, tables, chairs, all went the way of the auctioneers block..

Then the very modern Arthur hired Louis Comfort Tiffany to totally redesign the interior of the White House. No room was safe from his styling. There were just a few that were not changed.

The great piece was the multi colored glass screen in the entrance to the White House. It was Tiffany's masterpiece. It was made of red, white, and blue glass in a gathering of other colors in a background. The patterns included American eagles, and a shield with stripes, stars, and the initials U.S. It was massive in every way you can imagine.

The White House would remain in this Tiffany style for but only 20 years. In 1902 another President, Theodore Roosevelt, who was not into fancy stuff and frills had the architects McKim, Mead, and White bring the house back to a more colonial style. The first thing to go was the screen.

The great glass panel by Tiffany that cost $15,000 to make was purchased for $275 by a real estate developer, and it ended its days at the Belvedere Hotel in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, which burned down in 1923. That was the end of that great piece of art.
But for 20 years the White House was Tiffany palace. After 1902 most of it went into the trash.

Richard Hildreth 1807-1865 ....... The first to write a no nonsense history of the United States..

Richard Hildreth was the first to really write a VERY detailed history of the United States and not romanticise it.

Here is the most famous batch of books he ever wrote. the History of Nations in 6 volumes. This edition was published in 1877.

A very delicate man who had chronically bad health his entire life.Originally from Massachusetts, Hildreth moved to the south in the 1840's and saw many of the horrors of slavery. His first books were on those horrors.
He wrote on the History of Banking and his masterpiece was this set of books. It was written between bouts of illness. In fact it was republished by a family member in its complete form in 1877.

I looked to see what edition Harvard had and I see that their set is the same as mine from 1877. So I am taking a guess here that it was finally republished posthumously by the family in 1877-1879 in a complete form.

The first 3 volumes were originally published by him in 1851 and the rest followed over the next few years. So I guess the entire set was difficult to get and this was created in the 1870's.

Hildreth was famous for not romanticising the history of the period in a more no nonsense form, using contemporary sources. Although it is rather dry, it is quite fascinating to read.
Today he is a historian long forgotten. But many of the histories written in the later 19th and 20th centuries used him often as a source.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A memento of the 1936 Democratic Convention for the re-election of Franklin Roosevelt.

Here is a ticket for the 1936 Democratic Presidential Convention. This was the convention in which the incumbent President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was renominated to run for re-election.

The next story that follows this one on the blog, deals with the Republican candidate who was slated to defeat Roosevelt since the Literary Digest had said so.

But this is before that all took place. But this is one of the rare tickets from that convention in Philadelphia, that are still in existence.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Polls, polls, Every day we hear about polls. Here is one you never hear about. The worst poll ever taken!!!!

Alf Landon 1887-1987. Ran for President in 1936 against Franklin D. Roosevelt.

This was one of the most highly respected magazines of the time. Known for its polls for President. They had polled every election since shortly before World War One and were always right.

How could it have happened? A great magazine that was highly regarded for its accuracy and quality announced in 1936 that Alf Landon was going to beat FDR in the race for President.
Roosevelt was not liked by many......
In fact I will always will remember a cartoon I saw from a magazine of the 1930's. It had a kid writing on a sidewalk the name Roosevelt in chalk, and a boy yelling inside to his father..."Pa, Someone just wrote a dirty word on the sidewalk"...

So in 1936 many were very upset about the New Deal, The Supreme Court, The alphabet programs, Social Security and FDR in general. So when Landon tossed his hat into the ring many thought the days of Roosevelt were numbered. That is when The Literary Digest started their polling of people around the USA.

They took polls, and more polls. In fact they had polled more people than one would imagine. They had polled nearly 2 million people!!!
They used subscribers,telephone listings and Auto registrations as a way to contact people. Most of their polling was done on the phone. They would call people and get their ideas on the two candidates.

By doing this they saw there was a massive swing towards Landon.

So it proclaimed that Landon would indeed be the next President of the United States and defeat Franklin D. Roosevelt. They had done that since 1916, and were always right.

Roosevelt won of course with a great landslide. In fact Roosevelt's electoral votes were the greatest since when James Monroe had run for President in 1820 unopposed! Landon won 2 states Maine and Vermont and received 8 electoral votes.

This let to a fun twist on an old saying that went..."As Maine goes, so goes the nation"...James Farley the head of the 1936 Democratic convention changed the saying to "As Maine goes, so goes Vermont."

How could the Literary Digest have gotten it so wrong?????

There is an easy answer, that is not so well understood today. As you recall I mentioned that most of the polling was done by telephone, and also subscribers to the magazine. Also to a lesser extent as I mentioned they used auto registration info to contact people. So you may say...So what? What was odd about that and how could they have been so wrong?

The answer is we were in the grips of a great depression, massive unemployment, banks failing, companies going out of business and the like.

Most people were not well off at that time and did not have phones, cars, or subscribed to fancy magazines.

In fact that was a major part of the population at the time. These people tended to vote Democratic, while many of the more affluent tended to vote Republican.

What the Literary Digest did was just basically poll Republicans! Therefore, in their very unfortunate and narrow view they saw Landon a winner. It was a defeat for Landon, but death to the Literary Digest. It lost all credibility and folded within 2 years.

An interesting sideline to this is that while the election of 1936 destroyed the Literary Digest and its polls, it gave a new polling group called The American Institute of Public Opinion and their Gallup poll a start.
As George Gallup correctly predicted the correct results of the race by polling only 5,000 people, and not by phone.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Morgan Robertson 1861-1915 .. In 1898 he wrote a novel about a terrible shipping disaster that in many ways came true 14 years later.

Morgan Robertson 1861-1915...

Wrote many books with a flair of upcoming technology.
He wrote a book in 1905 about submarines. In his book he described a periscope for the first time.
In 1905 there were no periscopes on any submarines, although there were experimental ones being used by Simon Lake. But at the time it was not public knowledge.
It was so unique he was asked by the Holland Submarine Company about it. He produced a model of it, in which he had said he had a patent for, and was paid $50,000 dollars for it!!!

Many of his books dealt with events of the future. Sometimes he was dead on, but more often not.
But the book in which we will deal with was most interesting.
He lived an interesting, abet short life. Dying in 1915 at 53 years of age.
It seems he died of an overdose of protiodide, which was prescribed for everything from acne to syphilis. So who knows what was going on there and with him.

A rare early copy of Robertson's Futility.

This is the book...It has the most uncanny story of any in which he wrote. For it's story sounds very,very much like another. It is a book about a disaster.

Read the first lines of the book and what it describes.......

She was the largest craft afloat and the greatest of the works of men. In her construction and maintenance were involved every science, profession, and trade known to civilization. On her bridge were officers, who, besides being the pick of the Royal Navy, had passed rigid examinations in all studies that pertained to the winds, tides, currents and geography of the sea; they were not only seamen, but scientists. The same professional standard applied to the personnel of the engine-room, and the steward's department was equal to that of a first class hotel.

Two brass bands, two orchestras, and a theatrical company entertained the passengers during waking hours; a corps of physicians attended to the temporal, and a corps of chaplains to the spiritual, welfare of all on board, while a well-drilled fire-company soothed the fears of nervous ones and added to the general entertainment by daily practice with their apparatus.

From her lofty bridge ran hidden telegraph lines to the bow, stern engine-room, crow's nest on the foremast, and to all parts of the ship where work was done, each wire terminating in a marked dial with a movable indicator, containing in its scope every order and answer required in handling the massive hulk, either at the dock or at sea--which eliminated, to a great extent, the hoarse, nerve wracking shouts of officers and sailors.

From the bridge, engine-room, and a dozen places on her deck the ninety two doors of nineteen water-tight compartments could be closed in half a minute by turning a lever. These doors would also close automatically in the presence of water, With nine compartments flooded the ship would still float, and as no known incident of the sea could possibly fill this many, the steamship Titan was considered practically unsinkable.

Unsinkable -- indestructible, she carried as few boats as would satisfy the laws. These, twenty-four in number, were securely covered and lashed down in their chocks on the upper deck, and if launched would hold five hundred people. She carried no useless, cumbersome life-rafts; but -- because the law required it -- each of the three thousand berths in the passengers', officers', and crew's quarters contained a cork jacket, while about twenty circular life-buoys were strewn along the rails.

Sound familiar????????????

The story is about the steamship TITAN. That was the largest, greatest, most fashionable, technologically advanced, practically unsinkable, Ocean Liner in the world.
Which in a voyage to New York in April, sped into an icefield, struck an ICEBERG and sank with a large loss of life! There were few life boats for this massive ship as they were not considered important. Since she was practically unsinkable, there were not many and they were not important.

The name, the size of the ship, the time of year, the loss of life, the power system, the lack of life boats, the speed in an area of ice, the system of water tight bulkheads, the rich and famous.

The whole amazing story is so like a disaster that took place just 14 years after the novel came out...I hardly need to mention its name But it was very much like Morgan Robertson's TITAN!

The Titanic! It was almost like they were following the script of Robertson's novel. Of course there are differences, but when you think of it. Just the ship's name in the novel is mind numbing.
But in April of 1912, the steamship TITAN-IC sped into an ice field, struck an iceberg, sank, with many of the rich and famous, as it did not have many lifeboats, as it was practically unsinkable!

Morgan lived to see this story come true.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The information age....I am often thinking of it as the lack of information age I am sure you are asking why???

In this day and age we have such amazing technologies at our command. We have a varied amount of inventions and conveniences that makes our lives so easy and enjoyable. The life that we lived as recently as 50 years ago is as different and foreign from today as 100 years ago.
Today we have all the devices that makes our work and communication so easy and very accessible. Now that is nice. But let's look at this in a more historic bent, or as you will, how the future will see us.
There is something that we do that none of our forbears did or had at their command. That is ....

1. The Internet
2. text messaging
3. E-mail
4. Blogs

These are 4 very important parts of our lives today. 75% of the world is using this now. I have conversations with people from all over the world via the Internet. The world has become much smaller due to these wonderful developments. But let's look at the down side to some of these wonderful developments.

When we study the history of people and their lives we go through their diaries or letters. For in these books and letters they have usually left us a very detailed account of their lives and their friends and contacts.
That was the norm since the end of the dark ages. Every great person and quite often most of the common man who could write kept a diary, and wrote letters.
Today we send text messages and emails. We have blogs like you are reading here now. But are any of these systems permanent? No they are not.

90% of our lives and world are wrapped in the electronic world. We do not make a habit of writing letters anymore, and we send text messages to each other. We rarely keep an extensive diary.
Therefore, 150 years from now what will the people of that time know of us? Of course there will be detailed histories of the time. But there will be a great void in the life's of the common man. To me that is really frightening.
For you should remember that CD's do not last, The hard drive on your computer will not last, your blog will be around for a while, but will it be around 100 years from now?
I would seriously doubt it.

So much of our lives are preserved on systems that are not permanent . Old letters and diaries have been around for centuries. But text messages and email? No they will not be here.

I found it rather interesting the other day when I found that most politicians today do not keep detailed diaries like the politicians of the past. If something is not recorded, it cannot be used again you I guess is the logic behind that.
But there is indeed a great loss by that mentality. I enjoy reading the diaries of people of the past. You can get to understand their world and time. Many people kept diaries for decades.
I remember as a boy reading my grandfathers diaries. I enjoyed them so. Sadly my grandmother threw them out.
But I have always kept diaries. I have found diaries of others from the past and studied them.
I have personally written 26 books of diaries so far. I would hope that there will be 50 or so by the time I assume room temperature.
I have talked to a number of people who do keep diaries, but they are a very small grouping.
I fear it is growing smaller as the years pass and the art of handwriting has started to vanish. Many today say why learn to write in longhand cursive. If we start to allow that art to be lost in our halls of higher learning, it is pretty much the swan song for us in many areas.
One has only to look at the Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics to see a style of writing that was allowed to die. Today we know quite a bit about that civilisation. But we knew very little till the late 18th century and could finally read it in the early 19th.

Through a moment of chance by a discovery by Napoleon's army which was in Egypt at the end of the 18th century and discovered the Rosetta Stone. This stone was made just when the art of Egyptian Hieroglyphs was being phased out. The rock had the same message on it in three different writing styles.
This was the piece that would allow a young Frenchman Jean-Fran├žois Champollion to finally decipher the text and learn the secret of the Hieroglyphs.

It was a style of writing allowed to die. One last sadness is that we do not know what the language of the Egyptians sounded like. The loss of that style of writing and many others is a cruel action in the eyes of history. Lets keep cursive writing very much alive in our lives and in schools.

So my challenge to you is to start keeping a diary and marking down events of your life, and the events of the world. It will be a priceless artifact to the future. Because few know it, or see it. But if you look at it carefully you will see the much of our time will be lost in the """"Lack of information age"""""

Don't be one of its victims.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The first recording made of the Sextet from the opera Lucia in 1908...It was unlike any record issued before.. It cost more than any other

On the back of the record it has this tag that states the record sells for $7.00

See the translation "What Restrains Me" This is the record in its first printed form. It is a 1908 pressing. To think how much this record sold for. It is beyond belief.

In 1903 when the Victor Talking Machine Company decided to do celebrity recordings. They came with quite a price. In the case of their top singers the records would have a price of $2.00 for a 10" one sided Red Seal record and $3.00 for a 12" one sided record.

(See a story on this blog on first of these records in 1903 here from November 2006)

These were amazingly expensive prices! In 1906 the company issued it first duet recording between Caruso and Scotti. It brought about a dilemma..How much do we charge for 2 singers? It was decided to charge $4.00 for 2 great singers on one 12" record.

In 1907 Nellie Melba the world famous soprano made a duet with Caruso. Now Melba's records had always sold for $5.00.

(You will see a story on her label in this blog from November 2006)

So how much can you charge with Caruso? Well they stuck with $5.00 as that was a princely sum in those days.

Later that year the Victor company recorded the Quartet from Rigoletto. Now they had a bigger problem? How much do we charge for 4 singers on the same record? They settled on the amazing price of $6.00!!!
The public looked on in amazement at these crazy prices..But what was more, the public was actually paying them!

Finally in 1908 they recorded the Sextet from Lucia. Once again the powers that be made some radical choices. Since it was a Red Seal Record and contained the voices of 6 great singers, there was no choice to ask nothing less than $7.00 for the record!!!!!!! Now in the transposing of inflation and the value of the dollar that adds up to around $379.00 for a one sided record that played for 4 minutes!

What an amazing price. Everyone said it would never sell..But it turned out to be one of the great sellers for the company. It brought everyone out to look at a record that could cost so much.

One has to recall that $7.00 was the average salary for a weeks work in 1908. So the Victor Company was selling a record that cost a weeks salary. Well the record as I mentioned sold quite well as it had an air of the snob factor.

One great joke did come out of this recording. It came from the record catalog. It seems the translation of the sextet was just too good to not use in a joke. Here is how it was listed in the Victor catalog.

96200 Lucia Sextet Chi mi frena (What Restrains Me) $7.00

What restrains me....$7.00 does!!!

It seems it did not restrain too many, but it was the first record of the sextet and it led the way for the next 10 years of outrageous prices for records by Victor. It was not till 1922 that Victor killed the one sided celebrity record. By then the Sextet was selling for 2 dollars with the Rigoletto Quartet on the other side.

Monday, December 03, 2007

In the age of the weekly salary of $7.00 to $10.00...These Victor machines were at a price that was only for the amazingly wealthy

This ad from 1910 show the two most expensive machines Victor made on a steady basis. The Victrola XII table model and the floor model the Victrola XVI. There were other machines made such as the Victrola XX, which were made on a small scale, and soon discontinued. These were the stars of 1909-1910. By 1911 the line up will have changed greatly. These were the inside horn machines, which were the special items as they were unusual. All of the machines made previous to 1906 were outside horn machines. The Victor Victrola of 1906-1908 was so expensive and different from the outside horn machines. One must remember that the outside horn machines could be had from $10.00 to $100.00, and in 1906 the Victrola with an inside horn was $200.00! It took a while for sticker shock to go away. By 1909 the Victrola was a massive hit and it was selling well, even at this amazingly high price. It was after seeing this success that the company decided to add the small Victrola XII. It was not quite the success that the Victrola XVI was. Mainly for the fact that for only $75.00 more you could have a full sized model, rather than just a little table model. Also, due to the small size of the horn of the machine, it sounded rather anemic. So successful it was not. But here we see the the first of the Victrolas. Within 5 years there would be so many models to choose from and the age of the Victrola for the common man had arrived.

The Victrola XII was only a table model, yet it was $125.00!!!! It was made of African Mahogany and all the visable metals were gold plated. Even the screws!!!! It had the smallest horn of any Victor machine, and therefore had pretty much the worst sound reproduction capability of any Victor machine ever made. Its sales showed how unpopular it was.

The Victor Victrola XVI was the top of the line for the Victor Company. It cost a hefty $200.00!!! It was well designed and was the first type of phonograph that had the horn inside the cabinet. The case was available in several different types of wood. The horn was well designed and it had remarkable sound quality. Amazingly even at the high price it sold well. In fact, it sold so well that in the 2 years the cheaper Victrola XII was made, it could not cover the amount of sales the Victrola XVI would have in a half a year!

Today it is odd for us to think that people would pay such amazingly high prices for what most today would call record players. Just for fun let's give these machines a price using a conversion for inflation.

Today's price for the machines would be $3,875 for the Victrola XII and $6,200 for the Victrola XVI. Quite a bit for a record player. But what we have to remember is that this was cutting edge technology. I guess the best comparison would be the price for a flat screen TV or plasma TV today. New technology is never cheap.