A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7000 images, 3.6 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, The Paris Review, Le Figaro, MENSA, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places... 3,000+ total posts
This is a piece of Nazi propaganda showing relative population densities for France, England, and Germany in the 1930's, showing that Germany was far more 'crowded" than the other two countries, and that the necessity for conquering other countries for "living space" was justified. A poor argument believed by millions. (I should point out that the German's Germany is the only one featuring children (eight including an infant in a pram), and that the Brits are shown in a creaky/slouchy fashion.) It certainly got the point across--you didn't even have to read to understand the message.
Fresh from the fields of a near-victory in trying to find the first time concentration camps were mentioned in a U.S. comic book (the story quickly told yesterday, here), today the question is about the first mention of a computer. This is a little more tricky, since "computer" can mean a lot of things, including mechanical beings. And with an open-ended definition of the word, I think that you could trace the elements of a computer all the way back to Jonathan Swift's thinking engine/machine1, which for 1726 makes it about the earliest of such imagined inventions. (See here for a post on Swift and Lull.)
A while ago I wrote a post here on an alphabet of names of fictional computers, though none of those machines appeared in a comic book. I did check a few likely sources, including the massive comic.org site, looking for early-ish mentions of "UNIVAC" and "ENIAC" and of course "computer". Offhand there aren't many hits before 1960, with nothing at all for ENIAC and a 1955 mention of UNIVAC ( "Scarecrow, the Human UNIVAC”, appearing in Little Wise Guys, October 1955) and again in 1955 (in Daredevil Comics, #125) some five years after the UNIVAC was installed at the Department of the Census. There is a mention of a s "super-brain" in a 12pp story in September/October 1949 issue of Superman, but I have no artwork for that.
With such slim pickings any portmanteau will do in a storm, and in this case it is "Brainiac" (ENIAC+maniac?), which was an alien computer/cyborg and Superman's chief arch-enemy, finding first light in July 1958 Superman.
There are a few scattered references that I can find that comes close, but they also feel a little late to the computer part. For example, the near-UNIVAC "ULITVAC is Loose!" appears in "Challenges of the Unknown", Showcase Comics #7, March-April 1957. ( "Synopsis:Felix Hesse, a German scientist, comes pleading to the Challengers to save him from Ultivac, "a creature of my own making... but now out of control!" He explains. Interned as a war criminal, he met Floyd Barker, a bank robber. Released, they team to build a giant machine - Suddenly a giant robot hand crashes through the window and seizes Hesse. Spouting propellers, it flies off with Hesse. The Challengers have their next job, "Track down ULTIVAC!"--comics.org)
One thing is for certain, though--the first all computer-generated artwork for a comic book appeared in the series Shatter, which ran from 1985-1988, which is an altogether different sort of comic book computer "first".
I've started a list of early appearances in U.S. comic books of odd parts of the components of the computer culture, including computer crime, dating, and other bits:
“Computer crooks”, 1965: "
Challenge of the Computer-Crooks!" (The Atom) / Gardner Fox, story ; Gil Kane and Sid Greene, art. 13 p. in The Atom, no. 20 (Sept. 1965)
Computer Dating, 1975:
"Sexy Computer Dating" by Bob Mende ; art, Don Orehek. p. 24-25 in Best Cartoons from the Editors of Male & Stag, v. 6, no. 2 (Feb. 1975).
--which I guess should be accompanied by:
"I Think It's For Real This Time. He Even Told Me His Computer Password" (Windows on Work, Oct. 25, 1993) / Carol Simpsmo. -- "Romance on the Information Highway."
Rodney Dangerfield moments, 1975:
"Only the Computer Shows Me Any Respect!" (Killraven) 18 p. in Amazing Adventures, 32 (Sept. 1975)
Crazy Computers, 1974:
“The Computer that Went Bananas” in The Flinstones, / story by Horace J. Elias. -- Ottenheimer, 1974.
Computer Wars, 1980:
“CPU Wars”, created, produced, directed & finally scrawled by Chas Andres. -- Westford, MA : Chthon Press, 1980.
--All data of the above list is derived from the fantastic database created at Michigan State University, http://comics.lib.msu.edu/rri/crri/compo.htm#end Computers and Pigs, 1959
Porky Pig Sept-October 1959 #66. ("Synopsis: Porky eats a lot of fish as "brain food" before taking an intelligence test. The electronic brain gives him a score of 301, a super genius. But there's a catch..."--comics.org
My general impression thus far is that the computer in comic books before 1955 seems to be nowhere near the interest rate of computers in speculative fiction, which is interesting.
1. Swift describes the machine so: “... Every one knew how laborious the usual method is of attaining to arts and sciences; whereas, by his contrivance, the most ignorant person, at a reasonable charge, and with a little bodily labour, might write books in philosophy, poetry, politics, laws, mathematics, and theology, without the least assistance from genius or study.” He then led me to the frame, about the sides, whereof all his pupils stood in ranks. It was twenty feet square, placed in the middle of the room. The superfices was composed of several bits of wood, about the bigness of a die, but some larger than others. They were all linked together by slender wires. These bits of wood were covered, on every square, with paper pasted on them; and on these papers were written all the words of their language, in their several moods, tenses, and declensions; but without any order. The professor then desired me “to observe; for he was going to set his engine at work.” The pupils, at his command, took each of them hold of an iron handle, whereof there were forty fixed round the edges of the frame; and giving them a sudden turn, the whole disposition of the words was entirely changed. He then commanded six-and-thirty of the lads, to read the several lines softly, as they appeared upon the frame; and where they found three or four words together that might make part of a sentence, they dictated to the four remaining boys, who were scribes. This work was repeated three or four times, and at every turn, the engine was so contrived, that the words shifted into new places, as the square bits of wood moved upside down."
I wanted to write about this a little before the idea and data slipped away--the idea is formed but the supporting info is not, probably. This information came to me via the generosity of high-expert in the history of comics and comic books Robert Beerbohm (of San Francisco and Fremont, Nebraska). I was asking him about representations of concentration camps in comic books during WWII, and he instantly came up with True Comics (#37) for July 1944, which includes "a three-panel sequence showing a Nazi concentration camp"1.
According to the entry in Michigan State University's comic archives (see note below) the great photographer Therese Bonney had something to do with the images--Bonney was certainly all over Europe during the war and was on hand making photographic images of concentration camps beginning in 1939 to liberation beginning in May 1945.
The interest here is how, and perhaps why, kids were presented with enormous and complicated ideas like concentration camps. The only real way to reach children in a pop-cultural way at this time was through comic books, and so, still with a year left in the war and with perhaps millions of more people to kill, the image of the concentration camp was presented to them.
See an earlier post on the reporting of the atomic bomb in the Manzanar internment camp newspaper, here.
Mr. Beerbohm then suggested an issue of Capt Midnight #23, for August 1944 for an unusual image of that super hero responding to an escape from a Japanese "prison camp". What I'm wondering about is whether or not it was an Internment Camp (like Manzanar or Tule Lake), as the escapees are dressed in civilian clothing. I don't yet have access to the issue (and so the lack of info) though it does give one pause to think about the possibility of this being an escape on U.S. soil. (Franklin Roosevelt’s February 1942 Executive Order 9066 was designed to imprison more than 100,000 American--70,000 of whom were U.S. citizens, including children--for the duration of the war; it was the legal bombshell that gave the War Department the authority to authorize the removal of the Japanese to theoretically prevent those people from engaging in sub rosa and fifth column activities and wartime terrorists fighting for Imperial Japan.)
There was evidently little to worry about with the Internees "escaping"--the camps were remote, and more often than not there were no fences to speak of. And according to many reports at camps like Manzanar hundreds of people would slip away for a day or week or whatever to go fishing for more appetizing food, like rainbow trout, and then return.
I suspect that the escape of the Japanese in this comic book must have been from a POW camp (in spite of the civilian clothing), though it is not impossible that it is an Internment Camp, and that this was an effort to reinforce the removal orders of 100,000 people. But as I said my information is incomplete, and I'm just speculating on this presently--I'll return here once I have a copy of the book.
See this interesting article on Manzanar internees 'escaping" to go fishing and return, here: http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-manzanar24-2009apr24-story.html
1. The quote is from a description of the issue from the Michigan State University archives, which includes one of the country's greatest library collections of comic books, and headed by the very informed and generous Randall Scott.
"Photo-Fighter : Therese Bonney" 3 p. in True Comics, no.
37 (July 1944) -- SUMMARY: Photographer Therese Bonney made
"truth raids" throughout Europe in World War II. This story
has a 3-panel sequence showing a Nazi concentration camp.
Isn't it grand to be charting variations on a graph using different-sized aircraft from 1935? Sure, a line would be fine, but this is so much prettier--and of course a simple line is a line and would not display the workhouse military aircraft of the national quantity it was depicting. This appears in the Illustrated London News for September (or thereabouts) 1935--this is the magazine I think that may have been the King/Queen of graphically/representationally displayed data of the 1920s/30s/40s. The interest here of course is British-centric, comparing the air force of Great Britain to the rest of the world, but that is to be expected given the source of the images. It is also remarkable how much this graph would be changed in the next ten years...
There are also three fine inset images at bottom (about 2 x 2.5" in real life) that I've carved out and enlarged--they are all fine works in themselves.
The man with the camera was David Abelevich Kaufman (Vertov) (1896-1954), who made it along with his editor-wife Elizaveta Svilova (who worked on a number of films, mainly propaganda from the looks of it, though I would really like to see The Fall of Berlin, 1945, and also her film about Auschwitz).
The film was evidently a ground-breaker1--Roger Ebert points out one facet of the work, the average shot length, which is by far shorter here than anywhere previous works, meaning that there was more editing and selection done than normally: "In 1929, the year it [Man...] was released, films had an average shot length (ASL) of 11.2 seconds. "Man With a Movie Camera" had an ASL of 2.3 seconds. The ASL of Michael Bay's "Armageddon" was -- also 2.3 seconds...")
I've included a link to the film (below) but honestly what attracted me to it was its poster, created by the indomitable and prolific Stenberg Brothers. Not only does the poster seem to me to be a masterpiece and iconic, it also uses an unusual perspective--straight up. I've done several posts here on the perspective of looking straight down and straight across, but there have been very few opportunities to write something about looking straight up (in the antiquarian image world). But here it is, in all of its glory.
It really is a rare thing to open a book and find it full of significant contributions by numerous people occurring in situ as it were--not an intentional collection of greats, but a "serendipitous one. In this case the find occurred in one bound volume of the American Physical Society's Review of Modern Physics--a single volume containing two years of papers for 1945 and 1946. I've seen this a number of times--as with bound volumes for The Physical Review for 1932, and 1939 and 1948, for example--and it is always a pleasure to watch the great epic of those years roll out as you leaf your way through the volume.
And so it happens with volume 17 and 18 of the Reviews1, the greatest interest in this volume is no doubt the multiple blockbuster of contributors for the commemoration of Niels Bohr's birthday, in Volume 17/2, April-July 1945, pp 97-350, "In Commemoration of the Sixtieth Birthday of Niels Bohr, October Seventh, 1945”. The field is full of the major names (and Nobel Prize recipients) of physics in the 20th century. These include Bloch, Born, Chandrasekhar, Dirac, Einstein, Feynman, Gamow, Goudsmit, Heitler, Hevesy, London, Meitner, Pauli, Rabi, Van Vleck, Weisskopf, Wheeler, and others, a full-ish list of the papers is included below. (The Wheeler-Feynman paper is significant on its own and highly cited.)
This volume is available for purchase at the blog's bookstore, here.
Perhaps it would be surprising to some to hear that the leaderless leader of the United States that this pamphlet refers to is Franklin Roosevelt--I mean, I was surprised, but then again I guess the leader could've been any president, so long as the opposition was viperous enough.
The title sounds pretty familiar, and to my experience is probably applicable to just about every presidential campaign since perhaps Woodrow Wilson. This is a policy-based and argumentum ad hominem but thoroughly polite screed by Wadsworth Maximillian against Franklin Roosevelt, and was published in seems at the beginning of the 1936 campaign. There's much that Maximillian takes aim at, but a lot has to do with Roosevelt's "Brauin Trust" and in the author's mind turning over the running of the country to an not-elected group rather than the elected president. But then again there's not much that Roosevelt was doing on his own that didn't provoke some ire in this pamphlet--Roosevelt and the entire Democratic Party, which here is the party of the destruction of the U.S. constitution. (The attack actually begins with Woodrow Wilson, who was handed his victory as a result of T. Roosevelt splitting the Republican interest...)
At the end the author quotes Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, saying that there is a new Civil War, and that Roosevelt as a one-man government is on the other side of where Lincoln was in the fight to preserve the country. And so on. I know it can feel as though the political attacks that are head on the radio and read in the press sound a lot like this pamphlet--unfortunately this genre is nothing new.
I've bumped into this exam a number of times around the web--it is for an eight grade final exam for Salina, Kansas, in 1895. (That's the year that physics changed nearly completely with the discovery of the x-ray by W. Roentgen.) Perhaps it is an "average" test of competency for kids of this rank and year--that would be sort of appropriate, in a way, since the geography of Salina puts it almost at the middle of the state and almost at the center of the country. Salina wasn't organized as a town until nearly the Civil War; it grew from 900 people in 1870 to 3,000 in 1880 to 6,000 in 1890, mostly because of the cattle trade and then farming. So when this test was made, the kids taking it were probably the children of farmers or millers, working class families.
It reminds me a lot of the general physics and natural philosophy and mechanics textbooks for kids that I've seen from the 1850-1900 period--lots of very practical stuff that went into running a life, plus the theoretical bits, and applied inferential parts. I know that I can go to Ganot's Physics for 1885 and see how I can pull the stuff together that I can make an explosive with to remove a stump. Also there's the mechanics of rolling a wagon sideways along a steep embankment and what makes it possibe/dangerous to do so. And much more. A lot of that would fly out of you head in short order, but a lot wouldn't; and at least you'd have the cerebral muscle memory to know how to try to figure a problem out even if you didn't have all of the parts to do so.
And so, with the Salina test, there's a lot of material that an 8th grader (or adult) would just not know because there was no need to teach it. On the other hand, sitting down to "explain" arithmetic is a good question, and probably a necessary one, but still looks foreign to the reader in 2015. Also the question "what is punctuation?"--that's a good one.
So here's the questions. I think that they reveal more of what you'd like to know rather than what you do know..
Also I note that they used the term "U.S." history rather than "American" history, since the questions are more about the United States of America and not about the continent/s, which includes a lot more than just the U.S.
Eighth Grade Final Examination, Salina, Kansas 1895
"One must go into oneself armed to the teeth"--M. Teste, Paul Valery
“Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still." --H.D. Thoreau
Sometimes odd images just need to be surfaced for the pure sake of it. Such is the case with this glorious photo by Greg Villet1 of Delphine Binger in LIFE magazine for 24 May, 1954 . Ms. Binger ("a Manhattan spinster") actually collected the wishbones with a business utility in mind, fashioning them into objets d'os. (LIFE unfairly classified Ms. Binger in this way. In other accounts I have read of her Ms. Binger is described as a funny, fun-loving person, and Pete Hamil/Meyer Berger describe her as "generous", "bubbling" and "caring" in their 1954 Meyer Berger's New York.)
She purchased the wishbones for nothing, added a few bits of half-penny decorations, perfume, a pin, and SO! a piece of jewelry is born. She evidently was able to sell her creations for $2.10 apiece, which in 1954 translates into 25 2009 dollars; so I guess if she sold some here and there she would be able to supplement her income. Of course there's the issue of overkill on the bones: she seems to have probably two (or more) orders of magnitude more than she "needs", so there may have been something else going on there. But then again, at the point where you collect 500k of anything you will have become expert enough to have any mostly-invisible nuance convey a large field of interest to your keen appreciation--the bigger something gets, the smaller it gets, in parts.
An old friend of mine--we'll call him Mr. Tulipfields, a brilliant mathematician/physicist/compsci guy with a deep appreciation for music--started buying classical cds when cds were a relatively new phenomenon. Rare recorded material was being placed back into "print" at such a rate that he couldn't really afford the appropriate sound system to actually listen to all of his new purchases. He hurried into buying many of the cds because he thought that they would drop out-of-print again, and that he needed to act quickly. I thought that the cds would stay available basically forever—as it turned out he was right (as usual) and I was wrong (ditto). And so Mr. T amassed an enormous collection of music—in the dozens of thousands—many of which are now impossible to find.
In some ways my friend didn’t need the cd player—he already knew the music, could play it in his head.Somehow he was keeping all of this music on course in forming this fabulous collection And once he had explained his reasoning behind the whole effort, it all made perfect sense, and you’d wonder why he didn’t have 100,000 more choice cds.
On the other hand I’m not sure why Ms. Binger2 needed her extra 497,500 bones—you'd expect there to be not very much difference from bone-to-bone, but there very well may be. A centimeter here and there may make all the world of difference and interest to the practiced eye, particularly if the bones are from many species of animals. Once a collection of almost anything gets to be that big, someone somewhere is going to be interested in preserving it.
But how does one get to 500,000 wishbones? Simply put: bone by bone.
And that's what Ms. Binger did.
See also this note in Popular Science from the Popular Mechanix site ("Wishbones Made Her Dreams Come True").
1. I don't know much about Greg Villet. He took a lot of preparations for this photo, stringing 5,000 wishbones on black string on a black backdrop--that is considerable dedication to the idea of an image. I also know that he did some very significant documentary photography with Rosa Parks and the Montgomery strikes of 1955/6, which tells you maybe all you need to know about the man.
2. I can't help but wonder what happened to all of those bones on Ms. Binger's passing? (She died in 1961, and I can't find anything about the disposition of the collection. It sounds like the vast majority of the bones were kept with relatives and not in her two-bedroom apartment at 145 W. 96th St in NYC. And by the way according to Zillow a two-bedroom unit now rents at this address for $8700/month. My guess is that Ms. Binger paid maybe 100/month in 1951.
JF Ptak Science Books Post 144 (from 2008) expanded
Understanding the Mississippi River was the skeleton key to understanding pre-Civil War America. There was really nothing else quite like it—the Ohio River and the attention paid it by Collot and others was of great importance to understanding the early far Western (east of the Mississippi River) adventures of Colonial and Post-Revolutionary America, as was the Missouri to early 19th century American exploration and settlement, but the Mississippi loomed over all. Like saying that Babe Ruth was a fabulous baseball player or that Richard Feynman was a brilliant physicist is a bland statement of the obvious—the understatement hollowing and becoming more brittle the more deeply their “records” are studied showing how truly incomparable they were—the Mississippi, “The Father of Waters”, is really the Big Deal in the history of the U.S.
And in spite of the fantastic maps made of river through the 18th and 19th centuries (like these gorgeous and iconic examples by John Senex in 1721 (A map of Louisiana and of the river Mississipi [i.e. Mississippi] : this map of the Mississipi [i.e. Mississippi] is most humbly inscribed to William Law of Lanreston, esq.) or Robert Sayer (Course of the river Mississippi, from the Balise to Fort Chartres; taken on an expedition to the Illinois, in the latter end of the year 1765. By Lieut. Ross of the 34th regiment:Improved from the surveys of that river made by the French. in 1772, or even Coloney & Fairchild’s Ribbon Map of the Father of Waters (below, a whopper, measuring in at 337 cm (and which was issued on a wooden spool for the use of travelers on board steamships moving along the river), there were very few that gave you an idea of the *history* of the river.
That was achieved in spectacular flourish by Harold Fisk (in the map above) in 1944 in his Geological Investigation of the Alluvial Valley of the Lower Mississippi River (U.S. Department of the Army, Mississippi River Commission, 78p)The map showed the very ghost trails of the river over time, and trying to show where it wasn’t was the great question. He tried to reveal the history of the valley by mapping and dating all physiological features of the river and tried to reconstruct the channel changes with what were to become speculative appreciation. Nevertheless, he did make a tremendous attempt at explaining the courses of the Mississippi over time by utilizing his own excellent maps and a little generative thought. This might not be the most accurate map of the courses of the Mississippi over time, but in 1944 it was really a spectacular achievement in cartography and general thought. And the thing was just drop-dead beautiful.
And another detail, from map 15, in the vicinity of Baton Rouge:
The full text is available here from the LSU library: http://biotech.law.lsu.edu/climate/mississippi/fisk/fisk.htm
For a very quick, elegant overview see Radical Cartography which has all 15 of the maps displayed at once, along with a key chart : http://www.radicalcartography.net/index.html?fisk
Also go to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers site and click on the "Fisk oversize" link in the left-hand "documents" column: http://lmvmapping.erdc.usace.army.mil/index.htm
Lloyd's new map of the Mississippi River from Cairo to its mouth:
[Source: Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/item/99447107/]
And the great "Ribbon map of the [Fa]ther of Waters.Created / PublishedSt. Louis, Mo. : Coloney & Fairchild, 1866":
(Very zoomable version here: http://www.loc.gov/resource/g4042m.ct000797/ The initial image comes up about 4mm wide (1)--don;t be discouraged, just start clicking away at the magnifier and it will zoom right in...)