Friday, November 30, 2012
Thursday, November 29, 2012
I have talked here before about the early Berliner Gramophone records and the efforts of his assistant Eldridge R. Johnson to take over after the Berliner Gramophone Company was forced out of business. I will write more in the future about some of the early record labels that would come out in the first five years of the 20th century. But today I wanted to show you what the very first records with a label looked like.
These were the first attempt by Johnson to survive after Berliner's end. The company that Johnson first came up with was called the "Consolidated Gramophone Company". It was based in Philadelphia. Today there are precious few examples of that first type of label. But it stands as the first of it's kind.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
In 2006 I was part of a number of people filming for Warner Pictures in celebrating the 80th anniversary of talking pictures. It was all about the Warner Brothers Vitaphone talking picture called the Jazz Singer.
Each of us, after being made up and mic'ed, went to a sound stage and talked a bit about our area of expertise and how it affected talking pictures. These were all put into a film made by Warner's about when movies learned to talk.
It was released in 2007 called "The Jazz Singer" a 3 disc DVD set. I am proud to be a part of it and can always at my desire see it and hear it. It was a 80 year collection of the wonder of talking pictures. All of us spoke glowingly about attempts and the greatness of sound pictures.
Talking pictures came out officially in 1927. Although there had been many attempts, some successful, some not before that time. The Jazz Singer is the film we all generally agree was the first "official" talking picture.
But what I wish to say here is, was sound an improvement?
In many ways I can see it was not. First off, silent pictures were an art form unto themselves. It was pantomime and music together. It was a very advanced art form and for the first time there was an art that had no nationality. It was understood in India, in Germany, in Russia . Because the actors spoke in an international tongue. That was pantomime.
Remember that all of the great silents were accompanied by music. In NYC all the great silents were shown with a 100 piece orchestra. Many smaller theaters around the world used organs or lastly piano. But this was an art. You would watch the film from start to finish and never stop watching. Because it was a visual and musical experience. There was no popcorn, candy, sodas. You could not take your eyes off the screen. If you did you would miss something. The actors eyes told us so much. The silents were amazing pieces of art.
For many of you I am sure you are thinking of these early jerky films. In which the people are moving too fast and the film looks funny and jerky. That was not the style of the great silent movies starting in the early teens. Those early silent films from 1900 were primitive and the beginnings of an art form. To compare the early silents of 1900 to the amazing pieces of art in the teens and twenties, would be like comparing the Jazz Singer to Raiders of the Lost Ark. They have little in common. they are of different eras.
The filming in those great silents was as advanced as it would be 50 years later. In fact in many cases better.
Today you can go to a movie. get a soda and popcorn and candy bars etc. Cause you do not have to watch the screen so intently. Cause you hear it too. Actors today do not have to perform to the extent that those in the silents did. Today movies are very interesting. But they are not the high art of the silents. We also have to remember that many of our stars today are paled in comparison with their predecessors.
I am of the opinion that there is little in common between the silent picture and the talkie. The silent was an art form that was a world wide one. Talkies can be dubbed, but they never has the artistic quality of the original. One just needs to see a few Godzilla movies to see that.
Today the silent movies are forgotten. But they will always remain one of man's greatest artist achievements.
Losing them was a loss to art ....and the world.
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
The Spanish Reales. The first international coin. Today many are found in shipwrecks. Also they would influence the coinage system in the United States.
These coins would be shipped to Spain and used in various ways. It was a currency for Spain yes. But, it was also a currency for most of the world. These coins would be found all over Asia and to prove they were Silver the Chinese would make what are called Chop Marks on them. There are many of these coins today that have Chop Marks. It is amazing in the age of sail these coins were on just about every part of the globe.
These were the coins that would finance the American Revolution. What is more interesting is that these coins were legal tender in the United States till 1857! The American Silver Dollar was based on the 8 Reales coin. The American Quarter was based on the 2 Reales as the 4 Reales would influence the half dollar. There are other parts that are interesting, The 8 Reales was at times chopped into 4 pieces. Each would equal 2/10ths of the value They were called 2 bits. That is the slang from the 18th to early 20th century for the Quarter. So these coins were not only international, but influenced the American coinage system.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Soon after the the hanging of Wirz, it was found out that La Baume, who claimed to be a descendant of Lafayette, was a fraud. His real name was Felix Oeser, from what would become in 1871 Germany. Not only did he fabricate his identity, he also fabricated his testimony against Wirz. So while we may look at this drawing and many aspects of it may be correct, it is still suspect as to all of what it shows. For if he lied about the camp, why wouldn't he lie in his drawings? Felix Oeser vanished after his identity was found and never appears again in the annals of history. But he did leave his mark, and many still refer to him by his fake name.
This is the rock New York City is built on. It is called Schist. So New York is built on to tons of Schist. I find it a most beautiful stone. It has flakes of many minerals in it and reflects the lights of the scanner in the lower picture. Everyone knows NYC is built on rock, but what kind is another story. So here you are.
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Little books like this were very helpful when dealing with cars in the early part of the 20th century.
It was fortunate that the cars were very simple. Usually you would be the mechanic and you would try to keep your old gas buggy running. So this is a 1915 edition of this booklet and it was to many back them worth its weight in gold. Today we scarcely give a thought to our cars when taking a trip or just going for a drive. If there is problem, you get it fixed. But in 1915, you would have to be creative, see the local blacksmith, the hardware store and maybe another fellow down the street who also had one of these gas wagons as people called them then. Probably they would pour over a book like this and try to figure out what was the matter. Or maybe make a part with some metal fashioned by the local blacksmith.
If you owned a car for a few years back then there would have been many self repairs evident. You did not need to drive fast, so even some unique tire repairs worked. Remember the speed limit in those days would have been around 20 MPH if you could even do that on the dirt roads. So let your imagination go while some time and think of what it was like driving a 100 years ago where a breakdown was a common very common event. Then, go to your car of today and give it a hug.
Sunday, November 18, 2012
The memorial program for Asa Packer. Founder of Lehigh Univ.. Signed by the speaker at his memorial Prof. Henry Coffee
Asa Packer 1806 -1879. He was the founder of Lehigh University and also a major politician from the Pennsylvania area.
Henry Coppee 1821-1895. He was the first President of Lehigh University from 1866 to 1875. He was previously a famous educator at West Point and an author.
He published elementary text-books of logic (1857), of rhetoric (1859), and of English literature (1872); various manuals of drill; Grant, a Military Biography (1866); General Thomas (1893), in the Great Commanders Series; History of the Conquest of Spain by the Arab-Moors (1881); and in 1862 a translation of Marmonts Esprit des institutions militaires, besides editing the Comte de Paris's Civil War in America. (from Wikipedia)
The original memorial packet as signed by President Coppee.
Friday, November 16, 2012
Valentino's last movie "Son of the Sheik"..It opened just as he died in the late summer of 1926. Here are some original ads for it.
About 25 years ago I met an old lady who had been a great fan of Rudolph Valentino. She had started her own fan club. She had a big folder of Valentino memorabilia and even had some pictures. She was selling it all and I could not afford many of the items. Although I wish I had bought a large poster of the "Son of the Sheik". I am sure that has a very special value today. But what I was able to get from her was a large folder of newspaper clippings and a few movie items. I am sometime going to put many of the Newspaper articles up. But there are so many of them. perhaps 150 of them ..Most dealing with his funeral. This woman also had a envelope marked Valentino questions and answers. It was questions that were put in the paper and then he or a press agent would answer them. She had saved all the answers. Maybe that would be an interesting post when I get all of these papers together. As I said it is a large mass of newspapers in fragile condition. But it will be on soon For now a few of the items that talk about his last movie which opened on Aug 30, 1926
I had not known where this folder was for a long time. in fact the last time I had looked at this was in the late 1990's. So today by chance I opened a packed box I had that I had not gone through in ages and I found the large folder. I will add more of this later.
I will have added a picture of some of the papers from this folder kept lovingly by a great fan of Rudy.
These are great handouts for the movie that were given out at theaters.
This is a newspaper ad for the movie.
And as mentioned the envelope with questions and answers.
She saved Valentino notes everywhere. Even in this gasoline ad book marked in pencil Valentino notes!
Lastly that file with countless newspaper articles in it.
Saturday, November 03, 2012
The assassination of Lincoln had been talked about and written about more than almost any event in history. I am not a doctor and will not speculate that perhaps he could have lived through his wounds, in fact I will not get in to his medical care much at all as at the time for head wounds there really was nothing much anyone could do. It was a forgone conclusion from the onset that Lincoln's wounds were mortal.
How the President could have been unguarded at a public event is frightening in itself. How Everyone else was so complacent including Lincoln on his safety. How that a audience that included many military figures was not even thinking of checking on the Presidents security detail. To state right now for the few people who may not know this. There was none! The guard who was to protect access to the President was out. There was no security for the head of a nation that was still at war. I cannot fathom this?
Lincoln had not wanted to see the play that night, he had seen it before. But his ever nagging wife wanted too. Lincoln had long since learned that it was much easier to do what his wife wanted than try to change her mind.
However, as the day of April 14 progressed Mary Lincoln was feeling a bit tired and suggested that maybe they forgo the play that night. But at this point Lincoln pushed to go. I guess it was two fold in his mind as it had been advertised, and he wanted to relax a little as it would be the first night out to the theater since Lee surrendered. It seems that the fates were saying do not go. Lincoln asked countless people to go and all had other plans or just did want to go. I would guess in many cases it was not wanting to deal with Mary Lincoln. Who was known by Lincoln's secretaries as the "Hell Cat".
It is very hard to go by what Mrs Lincoln would recall about the afternoon carriage ride with her husband. She was always delusional and sometimes would come up with something right out of the air. But he announced to her that he had never been so happy. She told him not to say that, as that was what he had said before the death of their son Edward.
The war was ending and he was thinking about the end of his term and what they would do. Well he had four more years to go, so I am not too sure he was making much in the way of plans yet. But Mary Lincoln said he want to see the Holy Land, California, and as time went on several other places.
After their long springtime drive they had dinner, of which Lincoln as usual did not really notice, but ate a little to sustain life. That evening they finally got Major Rathbone and his fiance to join them for the play at Ford's Theater. Our American Cousin was playing. The play had been around for a while and had played all over with Joseph Jefferson and this was a bit of a rehashing of its previous success. However this time without Jefferson who was in Europe.
The Presidential party arrived a bit late and worked their way to the box amid a large demonstration of approval for the President. This I am sure was what he needed, to just feel the approval of those who in many cases said he should be removed from office just one year earlier. Remember Lincoln was not at all popular during the war and by 1864 there was little doubt that he would be defeated for re-election. So his political success and re-election was a surprise and now he was reaping his harvest of it.
The play had been interrupted by his arrival and it soon continued
During the play Lincoln had been observing people he knew and had dealings with. He was seen looking to and fro at people like General Burnside who was hard to miss with his massive whiskers on the sides of his face. In fact his name was reversed and we have sideburns in his honor. I am sure Lincoln was checking them all out and seeing who among the audience was friend or foe.
I will forgo all the info on John Wilkes Booth as we all know he shot Lincoln. But how easy his access was is remarkable. Even though he was an actor and well known to everyone there including Lincoln who had seen him perform. He had earlier in the day set up the stage for his final performance before the public. Booth had figured it all out. The fact that Lincoln had no security detail made it ever so more easy.
Lincoln was tired and was enjoying the play and the audiences affections for him. He was pretty close to Mary that evening as they were holding hands. I can only imagine his thoughts that night. I doubt he was thinking much about the play, I am sure he was thinking of how to end the war, deal with the slavery issue specially in the border states, how to control the radical republicans, and what to do with all of the heads of state of the Confederate States of America and move as many slaves as possible out of the country. I think his looking around the theater that night may have been part of his thinking of this and that. But we will never know.
During breaks in the play he felt cold and put on his coat. It also gave him a chance to stretch his legs he would wave at a few people here and there. In those days there really was such thing as central heating and the theater, which had been converted from a church could get drafty at times.
The box that the party had that night at Fords was a slight distance from the stage. Everyone in it needed to look to the right a little to see everything. Mary Lincoln was to his right. So save for when he was checking out the audience he was pretty much looking to the right. When Booth entered the box with gun in hand he moved slowly up to his victim, but Lincoln I think sensed something and started to turn his head to the left. This is when Booth fired. The bullet entered about an inch and a half behind the left ear. The bullet worked itself to right behind the right eye socket. So what did Lincoln see in that last instance of life as he had known it? We will never know once again. But it is a chilling thought.
Lincoln was for all intents dead instantly and would have been dead instantly if he had not been touched. Perhaps that would have saved everyone from a very long painful night in a death watch. But once again as in all of this, who knew?
The first in the box were two young doctors who after checking Lincoln out found he had no pulse or respiration. After finding no wound they felt in the back of the head and found the entry opening from the bullet. Reaching into the small hole they broke through a blood clot and Lincoln gave a moan or grunt and started to breath and his pulse returned. They knew very well as it was known in those days, nearly every head wound was mortal. The wound began to bleed. Not that blood was needed anywhere the box. The box was full of it. We often forget that after Booth shot Lincoln Major Rathbone tried to grab Booth who then stabbed Rathbone in the arm so deep it reached a bone and blood was coming out all over. This is why the tests of DNA of Lincoln are always suspect. As they could be a mix of Rathbone's or Lincoln's blood. Rathbone was so badly hurt he would pass out from lack of blood later. Lincoln was bleeding, but not at the rate Rathbone was.
Lincoln was given a little brandy of which was swallowed. But this was all done as a reaction, not as a voluntary action on his part. To put it into 21st century terminology. Lincoln's brain was starting to shut down like a computer. each program was closed and shut down. In 3 hours the brain would do a core dump and shut down and it would take the body another 6 to die off.
Lincoln was deemed too weak to be taken to the White House so he was carried across the street. It must have been a most dreadful procession. Screaming people, Moaning Rathbone near unconscious, all the while being dragged around by the hysterical first lady Mary. Mary Lincoln was never on solid ground emotionally and this brought her teetering over the edge.
He was brought into the Peterson house and brought into the back room and laid onto the bed. He was too big for the bed but there was no desire to move him again. The doctors kept watch and watched the right side of Lincoln's face start to swell and discolor from the bullet wound. Mustard Plasters were applied to his extremities and the warmth slowly left his body. The would would bleed heavily at times and at others hardly at all. in fact it stopped bleeding altogether around 5:30 in the morning.
Sheets were changed, pillows changed after they were too soaked with blood. Every time Mary Lincoln would come in she would go hysterical, understandably of course. But this was too much for the Secretary of War Edmond Stanton. Who said loudly say get that woman out of here! It was Stanton who took the reigns of control of the United States and kept some order to a very disorderly evening. he was a no nonsense person who had a cold austere personality and was perfect for the job that night. He did this for several reasons, there was effectively no President, Seward the Secretary of State had been critically wounded and perhaps for he knew someone was trying to kill the at the moment Vice President Johnson.
It is often remarked by those there that they had no idea of the physical shape of Lincoln's body, He was just 56 years old, we often think of him being older. But he was a very well muscled middle aged man who had a body of a much younger man than supposed. His face showed all the years and more, but the face seemed to take it all and not the body at all.
By 1:00 am Lincoln started twitching his hands and body some. Also groans and moans and loud snorts would come from him various times. After the twitching Lincoln's brain had shut down. there was no response in the pupils and it was just a flat dead stare,
Now all that was waited for was the entire body to follow suit. The last hours were filled with an awfully loud snore and snorting sounds as he would give heaving breaths and gasps. It was by those who heard it terribly awful to bear. It was the sounds of a body not ready to die. Soon a death rattle joined the other sounds (and there were many) coming from Lincoln's body. Everyone waited for him to die. Finally, as the sun rose to a cloudy rainy day, this finally happened at 7:22 AM.
Lincoln was dead.
Wallpaper from the collection of the Chicago Historic Society Now known as the Chicago History Museum. These pieces were scraped off the wall of the Peterson House by reporter shortly after Lincoln's death. In fact batches of this wall paper were cut off and preserved by many.
A photo of the room Lincoln died in on April 15, 1865 This picture was taken the late morning of April 15, 1865. You will notice the wall paper, the paintings, the bed, the bloody pillows, sheets and bedspread. many of these items went the ways of the 4 winds. Sadly much has been lost. The bed exists in Chicago, as does a few items from the room. But the bedspread existed for a while and then vanished in the early 20th century. An industry existed on the day of Lincoln's death of taking cotton fabric and swabbing it onto the drying blood all around to create more relics for an endless grouping of people who wanted it.
Also a few other pieces of that wall paper from that room that has been enlarged. These have become in American historical relics today. In fact they have taken on an near religious quality as Lincoln has long since been looked as human and more of Christ figure in the history of the American republic.
It is faded and losing some of its colors, but it is what it is and documented as such.
It is always interesting to touch a piece of history. In this case so much of that wall paper was scraped off the wall. The room had borders and decorative papers. It is none the less amazing to touch this stuff. Sadly a large amount of those papers have vanished and been lost. So there are just a handful of people and places that have the wall paper.
I will write more about the assassination shortly.
The Knickerbocker Hotel was built by John Jacob Astor IV who would become one of the great hotel builders in New York City and sadly be lost on the RMS Titanic in 1912. It would be were many of the great actors would hand out and where some say and some say not, where the martini was born. Here lived Enrico Caruso, George M Cohan, Ernestine Schumann Heink, and a host of other great singers and entertainers. After J.J. Astor's death things changed and by late 1919 the hotel was closed and made into an office building. Amazingly the building has survived and still is a place where you can thrill to the thought of caruso singing from the top floors for the ending of WWI. Even many of Caruso's wedding pictures were taken on the roof of the Knickerbocker. But it still exists and it was interesting for me as I roamed around in the subway station on 42nd Street and Broadway I saw this door. A door that has not been used in near a century. I wonder what is behind it? Probably just junk. But it was through this door many of the greats of entertainment and NYC society walked. I am glad it is still there although 99.9% of New Yorker's have no idea what it is for.
It has been my honor to be close to a few people at this wonderful school and I have been there countless times since 2004 on. This last Sept I was there for the last time. It was bittersweet and a bit sad. But I always do a lot of writing there in my journal and I have done several of my posts to this blog from there since 2006. It was a place I could work and study with my friends. So I wrote and did a bit of work on a last entry for my blog there . I also wrote a lot in my journal. I am on my 33 volume of my journal since it starting many years ago. I always like to have the book in the physical place that I write about so I can say the book "was there". Now it has left, most probably never to return. It is part of our lives as we journey and change. We gain wonderful things and we lose them as well. So To Don, Chang, Xian, and a few others. Fare thee well as you all journey to different parts of the country and make it a better place. Bye my friends. Hope I see you all someday soon.
Friday, November 02, 2012
Well it is all over for me, but not for many. As I write this much of New York City is plunged in darkness. For me I found myself stranded with not much to do and so I tried to be creative and find ways to entertain and enjoy myself in the dark. I had no idea how long it would last or that since there was a gas shortage no one could pick me up. So the first order of business when the Hurricane struck the winds were quite strong. I had removed much of my stained glass windows and put tape on the windows just in case there was something flying through the air. I have often said in this blog that I like candles and I often like to light my library with them. Well in this case was well supplied. I had 40 candles on hand and 10 different fixtures to put then in. The power went early and I was thinking it would be a short interruption. I set up candles all around and had matches here and there. I have a old whale oil lamp from the 19th century and decided to use that as well. It did not work too well, but for a short while I got to experience what that lamp was like in use. For entertainment I read 5 books and listened to a wide selection of early recordings on a Victrola.
Here I lit a candle opera and read by this
Just a slight glimmer of light comes from one room lit by candles
This was my rule for the next 3 days outside of cooking a lot of what was in the refrigerator so I did not need to throw everything out. Cooking by candle light is a unique experience as it is not easy to see and see where you put things. Since there was no heat or hot water I boiled it for bathing needs. It was an escape to the 19th or early 20th century. I like that era, but I was very glad to leave it too.
By the time I had reached 75 hours of this I was really starting to get tired of ordinary lighting and tried experimenting a little...I made some brighter lights of the candles by using aluminum foil ..In fact in one case I made a spot light using 3 tea candles .. Obviously I was tired and bored.. I like candles but I am not one to trust having them lit and not be monitoring the situation. So I needed some light to get around and also needed to be totally safe...so I slept with one eye open. Now that power has been returned within a few hours of this writing I will sleep now like a rock once this is done. It is nice to be back in the 21st century.
These methods add much to your lighting if you need to have candles due to a power outage.
My three candlepower spotlight with just one candle light at the time. It worked very well.
So now I will sleep and rest well knowing that there is electric once again running through the house. I remember how it happened at 2:40 this morning.....I was listening to a 1902 record of Silas Leachman singing as the lights came on...After 81 hours I let out a yelp of joy and laughed and blew out the candles.... Now it is all history.. Sandy goes into the record books and into the memories of many people like myself. My thoughts and wishes go to all who are still out of power. Good Night..or should I say Good Morning.