Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Execution of Pvt. Eddie Slovik

Eddie Slovik

Edward Donald Slovik (February 18, 1920 – January 31, 1945) was a private in the United States Army during World War II and the only American soldier to be court-martialled and executed for desertion since the American Civil War.
Although over 21,000 American soldiers were given varying sentences for desertion during World War II, including 49 death sentences, Slovik's was the only death sentence carried out.
During World War II, 1.7 million courts-martial cases were tried, representing one third of all criminal cases tried in the United States during the same period. Most of these cases were minor, as were the sentences.  Some were serious. Nevertheless, a clemency board, appointed by the Secretary of War in the summer of 1945, reviewed all general court-martial cases where the accused was still in confinement.  That Board "remitted or reduced the sentence in 85 percent of the 27,000 serious cases reviewed." The death penalty was rarely imposed, and all of those cases typically were for rapes and murders. Only one executed "had been convicted of a 'purely military offense.'"
The 28th Division was scheduled to begin an attack in the Hurtgen Forest. The coming attack was common knowledge in the unit, and casualty rates were expected to be very high, as the prolonged combat in the area had been unusually grueling. The Germans were determined to hold, and terrain and weather reduced the usual American advantages in armor and air support to almost nothing. A small minority of soldiers (less than 0.5%) indicated they preferred to be imprisoned rather than remain in combat, and the rates of desertion and other crimes had begun to rise.
Slovik was charged with desertion to avoid hazardous duty and tried by court martial on 11 November 1944. Slovik had to be tried by a court martial composed of staff officers from other U.S. Army divisions, because all combat officers from the 28th Infantry Division were fighting on the front lines. The prosecutor, Captain John Green, presented witnesses to whom Slovik had stated his intention to "run away." The defense counsel, Captain Edward Woods, announced that Slovik had elected not to testify. The nine officers of the court found Slovik guilty and sentenced him to death. The sentence was reviewed and approved by the division commander, Major General Norman Cota. General Cota’s stated attitude was. "Given the situation as I knew it in November, 1944, I thought it was my duty to this country to approve that sentence. If I hadn’t approved it—if I had let Slovik accomplish his purpose— I don’t know how I could have gone up to the line and looked a good soldier in the face."
On 9 December, Slovik wrote a letter to the Supreme Allied commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, pleading for clemency. However, desertion had become a systemic problem in France, and the surprise German offensive through the Ardennes began on 16 December with severe U.S. casualties, pocketing several battalions and straining the morale of the infantry to the greatest extent yet seen during the war.
Eisenhower confirmed the execution order on 23 December, noting that it was necessary to discourage further desertions. The sentence came as a shock to Slovik, who had expected a dishonorable discharge and a jail term (the latter of which he assumed would be commuted once the war was over), the same punishment he had seen meted out to other deserters from the division while he was confined to the stockade.

“Drove down to the woods and brought home one log today.  Some of the way the road is drifted quite badly.  The snow is plump a foot deep on the level in the woods.  Has been a very pleasant day today.”

Monday, January 30, 2012

Clark Gable

Studio publicity photo

William Clark Gable (February 1, 1901 – November 16, 1960), known as Clark Gable, was an American film actor most famous for his role as Rhett Butler in the 1939 Civil War epic film Gone with the Wind, in which he starred with Vivien Leigh. His performance earned him his third nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor; he won for It Happened One Night (1934) and was also nominated for Mutiny on the Bounty (1935). Later movies included Run Silent, Run Deep, a submarine war film, and his final film, The Misfits (1961), which paired Gable with Marilyn Monroe, also in her last screen appearance. In 1999, the American Film Institute named Gable seventh among the greatest male stars of all time.  He was nicknamed 'The King of Hollywood.'
Gable appeared opposite some of the most popular actresses of the time. Joan Crawford, who was his favorite actress to work with, was partnered with Gable in eight films, Myrna Loy worked with him seven times, and he was paired with Jean Harlow in six productions. He also starred with Lana Turner in four features, and with Norma Shearer and Ava Gardner in three each. In the mid-1930s, Gable was often named the top male movie star, and second only to the top box-office draw of all, Shirley Temple.
Gable died in Los Angeles on November 16, 1960, aged 59, from a coronary thrombosis ten days after suffering a severe heart attack. There was much speculation that Gable's physically demanding role in The Misfits contributed to his sudden death soon after filming was completed. In an interview with Louella Parsons, published soon after Gable's death, Kay Gable was quoted as saying "It wasn't the physical exertion that killed him. It was the horrible tension, the eternal waiting, waiting, waiting. He waited around forever, for everybody. He'd get so angry that he'd just go ahead and do anything to keep occupied." Monroe said that she and Kay had become close during the filming and would refer to Clark as "Our Man", while Arthur Miller, observing Gable on location, noted that "no hint of affront ever showed on his face".
Others have blamed Gable's crash diet before filming began. The 6'1" (185 cm) Gable weighed about 190 pounds (86.2 kg) at the time of Gone with the Wind, but by his late 50s, he weighed 230 pounds (104.3 kg). To get in shape for The Misfits, he dropped to 195 lbs (88 kg). In addition, Gable was in poor health from years of heavy smoking (three packs of unfiltered cigarettes a day over thirty years, as well as cigars and typically at least two bowlfuls of pipe tobacco a day) and periodically taking amphetamines to lose weight, which gave him head tremors.
Gable is interred in The Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California beside his wife, Carole Lombard.

“Shoveled snow and did chores and nearly finished the barn doors.  Snow this morning was about 12 to 14 inches deep on the level.  Wind has blown quite a good deal today but not very cold.”

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Edgar Allan Poe

1860s portrait by Oscar Halling after an 1849 daguerreotype

Edgar Allan Poe (born Edgar Poe, January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) was an American author, poet, editor and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre. He is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction.  He was the first well-known American writer to try to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career.
He was born as Edgar Poe in Boston, Massachusetts; he was orphaned young when his mother died shortly after his father abandoned the family. Poe was taken in by John and Frances Allan, of Richmond, Virginia, but they never formally adopted him. He attended the University of Virginia for one semester but left due to lack of money. After enlisting in the Army and later failing as an officer's cadet at West Point, Poe parted ways with the Allans. His publishing career began humbly, with an anonymous collection of poems, Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827), credited only to "a Bostonian".
Poe switched his focus to prose and spent the next several years working for literary journals and periodicals, becoming known for his own style of literary criticism. His work forced him to move among several cities, including Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York City. In Baltimore in 1835, he married Virginia Clemm, his 13-year-old cousin. In January 1845 Poe published his poem, "The Raven", to instant success. His wife died of tuberculosis two years after its publication. He began planning to produce his own journal, The Penn (later renamed The Stylus), though he died before it could be produced. On October 7, 1849, at age 40, Poe died in Baltimore; the cause of his death is unknown and has been variously attributed to alcohol, brain congestion, cholera, drugs, heart disease, rabies, suicide, tuberculosis, and other agents.
Poe and his works influenced literature in the United States and around the world, as well as in specialized fields, such as cosmology and cryptography. Poe and his work appear throughout popular culture in literature, music, films, and television. A number of his homes are dedicated museums today.

“Helped Lettie wash this forenoon.  Commenced snowing about noon and I worked in the barn this afternoon making a pair of big doors.  Did no get them done.  Snow is 7 or 8 inches deep tonight and still snowing.”

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Paranormal Edison

Photograph of Thomas Edison by Victor Daireaux, Paris, circa 1880s
Thomas Edison was a scientist and legendary inventor, but he also held a great interest in the paranormal.  In 1948, the Philosophical library published a book called “The Diary and Sundry Observations of Thomas Alva Edison”, which is a collection of Edison’s personal essays, letters and journal entries.  Much of the content in the book talks about his attempts to communicate with the beyond and his numerous experiments contacting the dead and the afterlife.


Friday, January 27, 2012

The National Geographic Society

A dancer of the cafes, Algeria, 1917 photograph from the National Geographic Magazine
The National Geographic Society began as a club for an elite group of academics and wealthy patrons interested in travel. On January 13, 1888, 33 explorers and scientists gathered at the Cosmos Club, a private club then located on Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., to organize "a society for the increase and diffusion of geographical knowledge." After preparing a constitution and a plan of organization, the National Geographic Society was incorporated two weeks later on January 27. Gardiner Greene Hubbard became its first president and his son-in-law, Alexander Graham Bell, eventually succeeded him in 1897 following his death. In 1899 Bell's son-in-law Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor was named the first full-time editor of National Geographic Magazine and served the organization for fifty-five years (1954), and members of the Grosvenor family have played important roles in the organization since.

“Went up to the mill this forenoon and got 800 ft matching and 40 ft surfaced lumber for siding and doors.   Lettie and I went down to Mr. Bae’s at four o’clock and spent the afternoon and evening.”

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Mad Butcher of Cleveland

The dismembered body of Florence Polillo is found in a basket and several burlap sacks in Cleveland. The 42-year-old woman was the third victim in 18 months to be found dismembered with precision. It sparked a panic in Cleveland, where the unknown murderer was dubbed the "Mad Butcher."

In June 1936, another head, and later a headless body, turned up and police were unable to identify the victim. Even when a replica mask of the victim's face was displayed at the Great Lakes Exposition, the victim remained a mystery, while the Mad Butcher continued killing.
By the summer of 1938, with the body count into double digits, the Cleveland police were desperate to find the Mad Butcher. One suspect, an actual butcher named Frank Dolezal, was interrogated for 40 straight hours until he confessed to killing Florence Polillo. However, he subsequently changed his story many times and killed himself in his cell before his guilt could be determined.
In reality, though, few authorities believed Dolezal was actually the killer—it is believed that the real suspect was relatively prominent and politically connected, and as a result the police department trumped up the case against Dolezal. All official police records of the matter have been destroyed.
The Mad Butcher's attack stopped in Cleveland after the Dolezal's suicide. The true identity of the Mad Butcher remains a mystery to this day.

“Changed a door on the south side of the horse barn to use in putting straw for the horses.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Winter Olympics

Ulrich Salchow at the 1908 Winter Olympics
The first celebration of the Winter Olympics was held in Chamonix, France, in 1924. The original sports were alpine and cross-country skiing, figure skating, ice hockey, Nordic combined, ski jumping and speed skating.
The first international multi-sport event for winter sports was the Nordic Games held in Sweden in 1901. Originally organised by General Viktor Gustaf Balck, the Nordic Games were held again in 1903 and 1905 and then every fourth year thereafter until 1926.  Balck was a charter member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and a close friend of Olympic Games founder Pierre de Coubertin. He attempted to have winter sports, specifically figure skating, added to the Olympic programme but was unsuccessful until the 1908 Summer Olympics in London, United Kingdom.  Four figure skating events were contested and at which Ulrich Salchow (10-time world champion) and Madge Syers won the individual titles.
Three years later Italian count Eugenio Brunetta d'Usseaux proposed that the IOC stage a week of winter sports included as part of the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden. The organisers opposed this idea because they desired to protect the integrity of the Nordic Games and were concerned about a lack of facilities for winter sports.  The idea was resurrected for the 1916 Games, which were to be held in Berlin, Germany. A winter sports week with speed skating, figure skating, ice hockey and Nordic skiing was planned, but the 1916 Olympics was cancelled after the outbreak of World War I.
The first Olympics after the war were held in Antwerp, Belgium and featured figure skating and ice hockey tournament. At the IOC Congress held the following year it was decided that the host nation of the 1924 Summer Olympics, France, would host a separate "International Winter Sports Week" under the patronage of the IOC. Chamonix was chosen to host this "week" (actually 11 days) of events. The Games proved to be a success when more than 250 athletes from 16 nations competed in 16 events. Athletes from Finland and Norway won 28 medals, more than the rest of the participating nations combined. In 1925 the IOC decided to create a separate Olympic Winter Games and the 1924 Games in Chamonix was retroactively designated as the first Winter Olympics.

“When up town this afternoon and settled with Geo F. Lowe for the potatoes and but one ton of Bacon of C F. Prentice and paid for same cash $17.00”

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Did WWII end in 1972?

This newspaper photograph was described as Yokoi's first haircut in 28 years; but the image is also a document of his first ordinary contact with another person and a step in the transformation from solitary soldier to the role of celebrity
After 28 years of hiding in the jungles of Guam, local farmers discover Shoichi Yokoi, a Japanese sergeant who was unaware that World War II had ended.
Guam, a 200-square-mile island in the western Pacific, became a U.S. possession in 1898 after the Spanish-American War. In 1941, the Japanese attacked and captured it, and in 1944, after three years of Japanese occupation, U.S. forces retook Guam. It was at this time that Yokoi, left behind by the retreating Japanese forces, went into hiding rather than surrender to the Americans. In the jungles of Guam, he carved survival tools and for the next three decades waited for the return of the Japanese and his next orders. After he was discovered in 1972, he was finally discharged and sent home to Japan, where he was hailed as a national hero. He subsequently married and returned to Guam for his honeymoon. His handcrafted survival tools and threadbare uniform are on display in the Guam Museum in Agana.

Visitors to Guam can take a short ropeway ride to "Yokoi's Cave", a tourist attraction / monument to Yokoi's life located on the site of the original cave at Talofofo Falls Resort Park. The original cave was destroyed in a typhoon


Monday, January 23, 2012

What's Your Beauty regimen?

Cleopatra and Julius Caesar. Painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme
Cleopatra is said to have bathed in donkey milk, and Mary Queen of Scots bathed in wine.  Novelist George Sands preferred cow’s milk (three quarts) and honey (Three Pounds).  Isabeau, queen of France in the late twelfth century, was renowned for her beauty.  To keep her looks, she used a beauty regimen that included bathing in asses’ milk and rubbing crocodile glands and the brains of boars onto her skin.

“Helped Lettie wash this forenoon.  Took 27 bu potatoes to Geo F Lowe this PM price 42c. Very pleasant day.”

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Bloody Sunday

Demonstrators march to the Winter Palace
Bloody Sunday was a massacre on January 22, 1905 in St. Petersburg, Russia, where unarmed, peaceful demonstrators marching to present a petition to Tsar Nicholas II were gunned down by the Imperial Guard while approaching the city center and the Winter Palace from several gathering points. The shooting did not occur in the Palace Square. Bloody Sunday was an event with grave consequences for the Tsarist regime, as the disregard for ordinary people shown by the massacre undermined support for the state. The events which occurred on this Sunday were assessed by historians, including Lionel Kochan in his book Russia in Revolution 1890-1918 to be one of the key events which led to the eventual Russian Revolution of 1917

“Sorted some potatoes to draw to town and drew to J.B. Walker 2270# of hay.  Pleasant day.”

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Lyman Stewart and the Frank Buck

The Frank H. Buck

In 1914 Union Iron Works of San Francisco built the Frank H. Buck alongside her sister ship, the Lyman Stewart. Upon completion, these two tankers were purchased by separate oil companies: the Buck was owned by the Associated Oil Company and the Lyman Stewart was operated by Union Oil Company.

On October 7, 1922 the S.S. Stewart collided with a freighter, the S.S. Walter, in thick fog and wrecked at Land’s End in San Francisco Bay.

Two years later on May 3, 1924, the S.S. Frank Buck ran aground at Point Pinos in Monterey Bay. Fortunately the tanker was empty when it grounded and was able to be re-floated on May 17, 1924.
Another 15 years passed with the Buck running for Associated Oil until on March 6, 1937 she collided with the President Coolidge (some accounts say S.S. Hoover), coincidentally next to her sister ship at Land’s End in the San Francisco Bay.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Where in the World is Voltaire?

Voltaire at 24, by Catherine Lusurier after Nicolas de Largillière's painting
Voltaire, author of countless satires (especially concerning the religious sector) was not well liked among people of faith.  When he died in 1778, he was denied burial in church ground until 1791, when the abbey in Champagne relented and moved his remains to the Pantheon in Paris.  But the late author did not rest in peace there either.  In 1814 a group of right-wing religious extremists broke into the Pantheon, exhumed his remains and dumped them in a garbage heap somewhere.  The heist was not discovered until fifty years later, when authorities found his sarcophagus empty.

“I went over to Charles Lawrence’s this forenoon for some stone boas plank.  John Pratt, wife, Mrs Dr. Show and Miss Fanny Pratt spent the afternoon here with us.”

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pearls Before Swine!

Twentieth Century American writers Dorothy Parker and Clare Boothe Luce never got along.  Once, when Luce encountered Parker in a doorway, she stepped aside and remarked, “Age before beauty.”  Always quick with a comeback, Parker countered, “Pearls before swine”, as she elegantly passed through.

Young Dorothy Parker
Dorothy Parker (August 22, 1893 – June 7, 1967) was an American poet, short story writer, critic and satirist, best known for her wit, wisecracks, and eye for 20th century urban foibles.
From a conflicted and unhappy childhood, Parker rose to acclaim, both for her literary output in such venues as The New Yorker and as a founding member of the Algonquin Round Table. Following the breakup of the circle, Parker traveled to Hollywood to pursue screenwriting. Her successes there, including two Academy Award nominations, were curtailed as her involvement in left-wing politics led to a place on the Hollywood blacklist.
Parker went through three marriages (two to the same man) and survived several suicide attempts but grew increasingly dependent on alcohol. Dismissive of her own talents, she deplored her reputation as a "wisecracker." Nevertheless, her literary output and reputation for her sharp wit have endured.

Clare Boothe Luce in 1932, photo by Carl Van Vechten
Clare Boothe Luce (March 10, 1903  – October 9, 1987) was an American playwright, editor, journalist, ambassador, socialite and U.S. Congresswoman, representing the state of Connecticut.

“Made a window frame for the upper west window in the hog pen.  Very fine mild day.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Fabulous Hand Painted Enamel Button

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“Took a grist to mill this morning and brought home 400# sugar bought of T. W. Ball @4.35.  Took to E. F. Brooks 100 Ft. Basswood lumber this afternoon $200.  Rain tonight.”

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Anne Bronte

A sketch of Anne made by her sister, Charlotte Brontë, circa 1834

Anne Brontë  (17 January 1820 – 28 May 1849) was a British novelist and poet, the youngest member of the Brontë literary family.
The daughter of a poor Irish clergyman in the Church of England, Anne Brontë lived most of her life with her family at the parish of Haworth on the Yorkshire moors. For a couple of years she went to a boarding school. At the age of nineteen, she left Haworth working as a governess between 1839 and 1845. After leaving her teaching position, she fulfilled her literary ambitions. She wrote a volume of poetry with her sisters (Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, 1846) and in short succession she wrote two novels. Agnes Grey, based upon her experiences as a governess, was published in 1847. Her second and last novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall appeared in 1848. Anne's life was cut short with her death of pulmonary tuberculosis when she was 29 years old.
Anne Brontë is somewhat overshadowed by her more famous sisters, Charlotte, author of four novels including Jane Eyre; and Emily, author of Wuthering Heights. Anne's two novels, written in a sharp and ironic style, are completely different from the romanticism followed by her sisters. She wrote in a realistic, rather than a romantic style. Her novels, like those of her sisters, have become classics of English literature.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Knocking on Wood!

In the Middle Ages, churchmen insisted that knocking on wood was part of their tradition of prayer, since Christ was crucified on a wooden cross.  But the tradition of knocking on wood actually started several thousands of years earlier, with a different deity.  Bot Native Americans and ancient Greeks developed the belief that oak trees were the domain of an important god.  By knocking on an oak, they were communicating with the god and asking for his forgiveness.  The Greeks passed their tradition on to the Romans and it became part of European lore.  The oak’s power was eventually transferred to all types of wood.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Fire-House Ghost!

The firehouse as it appeared in 1936
Originally built as a firehouse, a necessary building in a gold-rush town of shacks and temporary structures, the Fire-House No. 2 in Nevada City, California, is now a historical museum.  Visitors and employees alike have reported hearing footsteps in an otherwise empty room, as well as feeling sudden temperature changes, cold spots and a general “thickening” of the atmosphere.  Some witnesses claim to have seen the ghost of a Victorian woman, who searches through cabinets and a female piano player from a nearby whorehouse.  A few visitors have even sighted a group of Chinese men standing around a shrine, a testimony to the Chinese population that contributed to Nevada City’s early growth.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

How Tall Was Napoleon?

Contrary to popular belief, perpetuated by his nickname "le petit caporal," Napoleon was not especially short. After his death in 1821, the French emperor's height was recorded as 5 feet 2 inches in French feet. This corresponds to roughly 5 feet 7 inches in Imperial (British) feet, or 1.686 meters, making him slightly taller than an average Frenchman of the 19th century.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Stephen Foster

Stephen Collins Foster (July 4, 1826 – January 13, 1864), known as the "father of American music", was the pre-eminent songwriter in the United States of the 19th century. His songs — such as "Oh! Susanna", "Camptown Races", "Old Folks at Home" ("Swanee River"), "Hard Times Come Again No More", "My Old Kentucky Home", "Old Black Joe", "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair", and "Beautiful Dreamer" — remain popular over 150 years after their composition.
Foster attended private academies in Allegheny, Athens, and Towanda, Pennsylvania. He received an education in English grammar, diction, the classics, penmanship, Latin and Greek, and mathematics. In 1839, his elder brother William was serving his apprenticeship as an engineer at nearby Towanda and thought Stephen would benefit from being under his supervision. The site of the Camptown Races is 30 miles from Athens, and 15 miles from Towanda. Stephen attended Athens Academy from 1839 to 1841. He wrote his first composition, Tioga Waltz, while attending Athens Academy, and performed it during the 1839 commencement exercises; he was 14. It was not published during the composer's lifetime, but it is included in the collection of published works by Morrison Foster. In 1842, Athens Academy was destroyed in a fire.
His education included a brief period at Jefferson College in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania (now Washington & Jefferson College). His tuition was paid, but Foster had little spending money. Sources conflict on whether he left willingly or was dismissed; but, either way, he left Canonsburg to visit Pittsburgh with another student and didn't return.
During his teenage years, Foster was influenced greatly by two men. Henry Kleber (1816–1897), one of Stephen’s few formal music instructors, was a classically trained musician who emigrated from Darmstadt, Germany, to Pittsburgh and opened a music store. Dan Rice was an entertainer, a clown and blackface singer, making his living in traveling circuses. Although respectful of the more civilized parlor songs of the day, he and his friends would often sit at a piano, writing and singing minstrel songs through the night. Eventually, Foster would learn to blend the two genres to write some of his best-known work.
In 1846, Foster moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, and became a bookkeeper with his brother's steamship company. While in Cincinnati, Foster penned his first successful songs, among them "Oh! Susanna" which would prove to be the anthem of the California Gold Rush in 1848–1849. In 1849, he published Foster's Ethiopian Melodies, which included the successful song "Nelly Was a Lady", made famous by the Christy Minstrels. A plaque marks the site of Foster's residence in Cincinnati, where the Guilford School building is now located.
Then he returned to Pennsylvania and signed a contract with the Christy Minstrels. It was during this period that Foster would write most of his best-known songs: "Camptown Races" (1850), "Nelly Bly" (1850), "Old Folks at Home" (known also as "Swanee River", 1851), "My Old Kentucky Home" (1853), "Old Dog Tray" (1853), and "Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair" (1854), written for his wife Jane Denny McDowell.
Many of Foster's songs were of the blackface minstrel show tradition popular at the time. Foster sought, in his own words, to "build up taste ... among refined people by making words suitable to their taste, instead of the trashy and really offensive words which belong to some songs of that order."
Although many of his songs had Southern themes, Foster never lived in the South and visited it only once, by river-boat voyage (on his brother Dunning's steam boat, the Millinger) down the Mississippi to New Orleans, during his honeymoon in 1852.
Foster attempted to make a living as a professional songwriter and may be considered innovative in this respect, since this field did not yet exist in the modern sense. Due in part to the limited scope of music copyright and composer royalties at the time, Foster realized very little of the profits which his works generated for sheet music printers. Multiple publishers often printed their own competing editions of Foster's tunes, not paying Foster anything. For "Oh, Susanna", he received $100.
Foster moved to New York City in 1860. About a year later, his wife and daughter left him and returned to Pittsburgh. Beginning in 1862, his fortunes decreased, and as they did, so did the quality of his new songs. Early in 1863, he began working with George Cooper, whose lyrics were often humorous and designed to appeal to musical theater audiences. The Civil War created a flurry of newly written music with patriotic war themes, but this did not benefit Foster.
Stephen Foster had become impoverished while living at the North American Hotel at 30 Bowery on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York. He was reportedly confined to his bed for days by a persistent fever; Foster tried to call a chambermaid, but collapsed, falling against the washbasin next to his bed and shattering it, which gouged his head. It took three hours to get him to Bellevue Hospital. In an era before transfusions and antibiotics, he succumbed three days after his admittance, aged 37.
In his worn leather wallet, there was found a scrap of paper that simply said "Dear friends and gentle hearts" along with 38 cents in Civil War scrip and three pennies. Foster was buried in the Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh. One of his most beloved works, "Beautiful Dreamer", was published shortly after his death.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Great Blizzard of 1888

Streets in New York City as the storm hit. Many overhead wires broke and presented a hazard to city dwellers
The Great Blizzard of 1888 or Great Blizzard of '88 (March 11 – March 14, 1888) was one of the most severe blizzards in United States' recorded history. Snowfalls of 40-50 inches (102–127 cm) fell in parts of New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut, and sustained winds of over 45 miles per hour (72 km/h) produced snowdrifts in excess of 50 feet (15.2 m). Railroads were shut down and people were confined to their houses for up to a week.
The weather preceding the blizzard was unseasonably mild with heavy rains that turned to snow as temperatures dropped rapidly. The storm began in earnest shortly after midnight on March 12, and continued unabated for a full day and a half. The National Weather Service estimated this incredible Nor'easter dumped 50 inches (1.3 m) of snow in Connecticut and Massachusetts, while New Jersey and New York had 40 inches (1.0 m). Most of northern Vermont received from 20 inches (50.8 cm) to 30 inches (76.2 cm) in this storm.
Drifts were reported to average 30–40 feet (9.1–12 m), over the tops of houses from New York to New England, with reports of drifts covering 3-story houses. The highest drift (52 feet / 15.8 metres) was recorded in Gravesend, New York. Fifty-eight inches (1470 mm) of snow was reported in Saratoga Springs, New York; 48 inches (1,200 mm) in Albany, New York; 45 inches (1,100 mm) of snow in New Haven, Connecticut; and 22 inches (560 mm) of snow in New York City. The storm also produced severe winds; 80 miles per hour (129 km/h) wind gusts were reported, although the highest official report in New York City was 40 miles per hour (64 km/h), with a 54 miles per hour (87 km/h) gust reported at Block Island. New York's Central Park Observatory reported a minimum temperature of 6°F (-14.4°C), and a daytime average of 9°F (-12.8°C) on March 13, the coldest ever for March.

New Britain, Connecticut, March 13
The storm, referred to as the Great White Hurricane, paralyzed the East Coast from the Chesapeake Bay to Maine, as well as the Atlantic provinces of Canada. Telegraph infrastructure was disabled, isolating Montreal and most of the large northeastern U.S. cities from Washington, D.C. to Boston for days. Following the storm, New York began placing its telegraph and telephone infrastructure underground to prevent their destruction. From Chesapeake Bay through the New England area, over 200 ships were either grounded or wrecked, resulting in the deaths of at least 100 seamen.
In New York, neither rail nor road transport was possible anywhere for days, and drifts across the New York —New Haven rail line at Westport, Connecticut took eight days to clear; transportation gridlock as a result of the storm was partially responsible for the creation of the first underground subway system in the United States, which opened nine years later in Boston.
Fire stations were immobilized, and property loss from fire alone was estimated at $25 million. Severe flooding occurred after the storm due to melting snow, especially in the Brooklyn area, which was more susceptible to serious flooding due to its topography. Efforts were made to push the snow into the Atlantic Ocean. Over 400 people died from the storm and the ensuing cold, including 200 in New York City alone. Among them was former U.S. Senator Roscoe Conkling.
The blizzard resulted in the founding of the Christman Bird and Wildlife Sanctuary located near Delanson, Schenectady County, New York. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Chapleve Enamel Button

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus

Scale model of the Mausoleum at Miniatürk, Istanbu

The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus or Tomb of Mausolus was a tomb built between 353 and 350 BC at Halicarnassus (present Bodrum, Turkey) for Mausolus, a satrap in the Persian Empire, and Artemisia II of Caria, his wife and sister. The structure was designed by the Greek architects Satyros and Pythius of Priene.
The Mausoleum stood approximately 45 m (148 ft) in height, and each of the four sides was adorned with sculptural reliefs created by each one of four Greek sculptors — Leochares, Bryaxis, Scopas of Paros and Timotheus. The finished structure was considered to be such an aesthetic triumph that Antipater of Sidon identified it as one of his Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
The word mausoleum has now come to be used generically for any grand tomb.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Temple of Artemis

The Temple of Artemis, as imagined in this hand-coloured engraving by Martin Heemskerck (1498 - 1574), has the "old-fashioned" look of Santa Maria Novella in Florence and other Italian quattrocento churches of the previous generation
The Temple of Artemis, also known less precisely as the Temple of Diana, was a Greek temple dedicated to a goddess Greeks identified as Artemis and was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was situated at Ephesus (near the modern town of Selçuk in present-day Turkey), and was completely rebuilt three times before its eventual destruction in 401. Only foundations and sculptural fragments of the latest of the temples at the site remain.
The first sanctuary (temenos) antedated the Ionic immigration by many years, and dates to the Bronze Age. Callimachus, in his Hymn to Artemis, attributed it to the Amazons. In the 7th century the old temple was destroyed by a flood. Its reconstruction began around 550 BC, under the Cretan architect Chersiphron and his son Metagenes, at the expense of Croesus of Lydia: the project took 10 years to complete, only to be destroyed in an act of arson by a young arsonist seeking fame named Herostratus. It was later rebuilt.
Antipater of Sidon, who compiled the list of the Seven Wonders, describes the finished temple:
I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the colossus of the Sun, and the huge labour of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, "Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand".
The "Croesus" Temple was destroyed on July 21, 356 BC, probably very soon after its completion, in a vainglorious act of arson: one Herostratus set fire to the roof-beams, seeking fame at any cost, thus the term herostratic fame.
A man was found to plan the burning of the temple of Ephesian Diana so that through the destruction of this most beautiful building his name might be spread through the whole world.
The Ephesians, outraged, sentenced Herostratus to death and forbade anyone from mentioning his name, under pain of death. However, Theopompus later noted the name. The burning supposedly coincided with the birth of Alexander the Great; Plutarch remarked that Artemis was too preoccupied with Alexander's delivery to save her burning temple

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Lighthouse of Alexandria

Drawing by archaeologist Hermann Thiersch (1909)
The Lighthouse of Alexandria, also known as the Pharos of Alexandria was a tower built between 280 and 247 BC on the island of Pharos at Alexandria, Egypt. Its purpose was to guide sailors into the harbor at night time.
With a height variously estimated at somewhere in-between 393 and 450 ft (120 and 140 m), it was for many centuries among the tallest man-made structures on Earth. It was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
Pharos was a small island just off the coast of Alexandria. It was supposedly inhabited by people that would destroy any ship that was wrecked off of its coast. To deter this problem, Ptolemy II had the lighthouse built. It was linked to the mainland by a man made connection named the Heptastadion, which thus formed one side of the city's harbour. The tower erected there guided mariners at night, through its fire, as well as being a landmark by day.
The lighthouse was completed in the 3rd century BC. After Alexander the Great died of a fever at age 32, Ptolemy Soter announced himself king in 305 BC, and commissioned its construction shortly thereafter. The building was finished during his son Ptolemy Philadelphos's reign.
Strabo reported that Sostratus had a dedication inscribed in metal letters to the "Saviour Gods". Later Pliny the Elder wrote that Sostratus was the architect, which is disputed. In the second century AD the satirist Lucian wrote that Sostratus inscribed his name under plaster bearing the name of Ptolemy. This was so that when the plaster with Ptolemy's name fell off, that Sostratus's name would be visible in the stone.
The fullest description of the lighthouse comes from the Arab traveler Abou Haggag Youssef Ibn el-Andaloussi, who visited the structure in 1165 AD. His description runs:
The Pharos rises at the end of the island. The building is square, about 8.5 meters (28 ft) each side. The sea surrounds the Pharos except on the east and south sides. This platform measures, along its sides, from the tip, down to the foot of the Pharos walls, 6.5 meters (21 ft) in height. However, on the sea side, it is larger because of the construction and is steeply inclined like the side of a mountain. As the height of the platform increases towards the walls of the Pharos its width narrows until it arrives at the measurements above. ... The doorway to the Pharos is high up. A ramp about 183 meters (600 ft) long used to lead up to it. This ramp rests on a series of curved arches; my companion got beneath one of the arches and stretched out his arms but he was not able to reach the sides. There are 16 of these arches, each gradually getting higher until the doorway is reached, the last one being especially high.
Constructed from large blocks of light-colored stone, the tower was made up of three stages: a lower square section with a central core, a middle octagonal section, and, at the top, a circular section. At its apex was positioned a mirror which reflected sunlight during the day; a fire was lit at night. Extant Roman coins struck by the Alexandrian mint show that a statue of a triton was positioned on each of the building's four corners. A statue of Poseidon stood atop the tower during the Roman period. The Pharos' masonry blocks were interlocked, sealed together using molten lead, to withstand the pounding of the waves.
There are ancient claims that light from the lighthouse could be seen from up to 29 miles (47 km) away.]
After the Muslims took over all of Egypt, the top of the Pharos supposedly became a mosque, as the beacon was no longer in working order. The Pharos remained this way until its destruction in the 14th century.
The lighthouse was badly damaged in the earthquake of 956, then again in 1303 and 1323. The two earthquakes in 1303 and 1323 damaged the lighthouse to the extent that the Arab traveler Ibn Battuta reported no longer being able to enter the ruin. Even the stubby remnant disappeared in 1480, when the then-Sultan of Egypt, Qaitbay, built a mediæval fort on the former location of the building using some of the fallen stone.