A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7000 images, 3.5 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, The Paris Review, Le Figaro, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places... 3,000+ total posts
I found this arresting map in a tiny publication called ...Sans Condition, which was published in the first half of 1943. The publication is only 12 pages long but has a number of evocative images of Germany being bombed and lines of German POWs, in general a propaganda piece for French-speaking folk (which was printed god-knows-where) produced deep in the war and at a time when the tide has about turned on the Nazi regime.
The title of this post is the title of the map, "Ils ont decide ou, quand et comment les Allies lanceront leurs attacques"--and you don't need to know French to know what it says.
And the cover, which is basically "Surrender Without Condition":
That is a provocative title, or chapter heading, but that's how it appears in a pamphlet I'm reading right now, a juicy thing that can lead to a memory palace of ideas...until you start reading the para below the head, when things get both more crystalline and fuzzy.
John Alexander Henderson, a lightning calculator and professor of math at Delaware College in New York, produced this sprightly pamphlet eponymously titled Henderson's United States Intellectual and Practical Lightning Calculator, the Unity and Decimal Method, which he published in St. Louis in 1879. (It is followed a few years later in another edition with a hundred new pages.)
What Mr. Henderson is getting at is a calculator for reducing a date to find out the day of the week a particular date falls on, from the 1st century to the 99th. On the back cover of this pamphlet he provides a tickler for this enumerating device, which is explained in another publication (Henderson's United States Unity and Decimal Method of Calculating).
And so in order to calculate the day of the week on which, say, November 26, 2014, occurs you would you the dial above as follows, but first an explanation of what is on the dial face:
This is the very striking cover design for a pamphlet written by Dr. Julius Klein (the assistant secretary of commerce) produced by the Institute of Makers of Explosives (103 Park Avenue, NYC, who of course made a large play for blowing stuff up as a positive driving force in the history of civilization. And they are right in many cases, obviously, but the images and title taken out of context are very provocative.
Dr. Klein starts off by disabusing the reader of the “bad press” of explosives: “a good many of us, I imagine, labor under a misapprehension about the explosives industry…we conceive of explosives as an instrumentality of havoc. But that conception is utterly wrong.” Utterly? The man does have a point of course, which he explains in subject headings like “Dynamite the Liberator”, “Many Unusual Uses”and “Explosives Release Raw Materials” But “utterly”? Its a real piece of heavily worked propaganda that makes the case for the economics goodnesses and misunderstood destructive values of TNT.
Between 17 February and 15 March 1913 there occurred in the huge building at Lex between 25th and 26th streets in NYC--the monumental International Exhibition of Modern Art at the armory of the Sixty-Ninth Regiment, the Fighting 69th (so called by Robert E. Lee), the "Fighting Irish", the famous Armory Show, the Armory Show. This was the first large public exhibition of modern art in America, and even though the 69th regiment had seen five wars (at least, so far as I can tell), the armory itself hadn't really seen one, until 1913, when battle lines were drawn among the Cubists and within and without the confines of the modern" part of modern art, the sensitive honor of the nature of art laid bare.
[Source: the New York Historical Society's excellent 100th anniversary celebration of the Armory Show, armory.nyhistory.org.]
The most legendary of the most public battles fought here was probably over Maestro Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase (1912), presenting itself as a shocking state of a-stairs, creating whimsical diversions even amongst the cognoscenti who found their way down every avenue for diversion and especially derision. (Check this fine site celebrating the 100th anniversary of the show, listing and displaying many of the most famous of the cartoons published taking a swing against art and Duchamp here http://armory.nyhistory.org/category/artworks/)
But my reason for stopping here with the Armory Show today is a chance find in Steven Watson's Strange Bedfellows, the First American Avant-Garde (Abbeville 1991) where on page 168 is a data box stating:
"Total Sales: $44,148 ($30,491 for works by European Artists, $13,675 for works by American artists."
...which I found extraordinary. Even using the Bureau of Labor Statistic's CPI calculator this figure gets bumped up to the buying power of somewhat more than $1,000,000 in 2014 dollars, it is still incredibly shy of anything approaching any aspect of the financials of the art world. Here was the greatest collection of artists (perhaps?) of modern times under one roof with their works offered for sale for nearly a month and only $44,000 was generated, with only a third of that going to American artists.
When you consider some of the individual successes at the show--Redon collecting $7000, Cezanne $6700, Wilhelm Lehmbuch $1600, Edward Kramer $1675--you have four artists collecting more than a third of the total sales, leaving $27,000 to be shared by the rest of the exhibitors. (This is a very impressive and long list, some of names of the blockbuster of blockbuster shows shown below, via a Wiki article on the exhibition http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armory_Show.)
And then when you consider that some 1600 pieces of art were exhibited, it leads me to the conclusion based on these bits of data that not all that much was sold at the monster show.
Now of course $44,000 was a lot of money in 1913, though it was still not very much money at all actually spent in a creative/explorative/appreciative manner. The total was about 100 times the average salary of an American worker (about 400/year). TO put things in perspective, the total sales at the show in terms of 100 times the average American yearly income would be about $5,000,000 which is still a tiny percentage of what the enormous sum could be had these pieces of art been for sale in 2014.
In short, really, the difference in the numbers is so vast that they are almost without meaning sop far as comparison goes between 1913 and today. That said, I still find it extraordinary.
By the way, Duchamp sold four pieces for a total of $972, according to Mr. Watson.
"And it was then that all these kinds of things thus established received their shapes from the Ordering One, through the action of Ideas and Numbers."[Plato, Timaeus ]
Just a quick comment here about Matila Ghyka's The Geometry of Art and Life, published by Sheed and Ward in 1946. It is a beautifully-designed book, skinny even though it is 176pp (not long not short), and well and interestingly illustrated. It addresses math and art, or math in art, finding recurrent spatial proportions there, and in music, with the maths being at the center of the creative and imaginative process. The author goes further and dips into these themes in life/biology (that's the "Geometry of Life" part), where he trods in familiar antique and old grounds of the Golden Section of logarithmic spirals, and then finds himself in a very interesting position in chapter VII's "The Transmission of Geometrical Symbols and Plans". I'm not so sure that I like the book as a complete work, but the parts make for some very good reading.
Finding the hard-to-find, the invisible, the "hidden", is an essential aspect of, well, mostly everything. Whether it is Newton separating light with a prism to find its constituents, or Hooke investigating the formerly quasi-real microscopical world to reveal worlds within worlds, or Galileo using his telescope to quash the ideas of the unaided-eye-visible night sky as an unaltering perfection of creation, or Roentgen seeing through his wife's skin, or Fraunhoefer finding the complex spectrum, or Henry Draper determining a chemical constituent of the sun, or the invention of the zero or negative numbers or subtraction, of finding Black Holes or other planets or the remnants of the Big Bang, or (Kandinsky) finding the nonrepresentational aspect of art, or Duchamp finding in an upturned urinal that art had no boundaries...the list goes on and on.
One aspect of this "finding something in nothing" business that is interesting to look at because it is so local and discernible--and recent--is in air navigation and detection. And I'll do this using a series of excellent illustrations from The Illustrated London News, all of which are from the 1927-1938 period.
The first is relatively simple, at least simple from here in the year 2014, which shows four pilots being briefed on weather conditions with a aerial chart for conditions along intercontinental routes. The placement of these symbols represented a vast improvement over the earlier systems of readying pilots for what weather lay ahead, if indeed there were any communications at all. This represents an early look at a codification of conditions and expectations for air travelers--a display of new and important data in 1927.
Next is a brilliant device for assisting pilots to land in foggy and dark conditions--actually on how to find the ground safely. In 1927 (again) a RADAR-like system was put into place on aircraft that involved receiving the signals of an ac-pulsed buried electrical cable that surrounded an airport. The receiver (seen here on the flight panel of the pilot in an open-air cockpit) would be read to reveal proximity of the airport, the pilot making wider and then closer spirals in descent until his was basically within the buried airport cables and thus able to land.
Prior to WWII RADAR1 was somewhat functional but still in development, and as we see in this set of 16 July 1938 illustrations, the key methods for finding enemy aircraft at night (in order to shoot it down of course) was an audio-visual method, using "sound-locators" to find the approaching bombers and then spotlights to illuminate and track them to their destruction.
These images represent some idea of the state of the art of being able to find things--like the ground at night or approaching enemy aircraft--in the 1927-1938 period, all of which would be drastically changed in just the next two years.
1. RADAR was coming very close to being developed in the early 1930's--and in 1935 the process of experimentation and implementation was at a peak. The development of this new technology was an international property, though perhaps no one owned it more in this period than the British, with Watson Watt giving his experimental ideas on RADAR to the Air Ministry on 12 February 1935 in a secret report titled "The Detection of Aircraft by Radio Methods". Int his years alone there was feverish work being done by Rudolf Kühnhold (Scientific Director at the 'Kriegsmarine Nachrichtenmittel-Versuchsanstalt) who in 1933-1935 established a RADAR-hunting company called Gesellschaft für Elektroakustische und Mechanische Apparate, or "GEMA"; there was also elements of the Royal Navy, Telefunken, Standard Elektrik Lorenz, Philips Company's (of Eindhoven, Netherlands) Natuurkundig Laboratorium, the Research Office of Nippon Electric Company, and even in the Soviet Union (until the key figures involved were murdered in Stalin's purges--this one distinguished from others and referred to now as The Great Purge-- of 1937), the French Compagnie Générale de Télégraphie Sans Fil (CSF), and the Italian Regio Instituto Electrotecnico e delle Comunicazioni (RIEC, Royal Institute for Electro-technics and Communications) to name a few. The United States of course had been long working on the project, at least since 1922 at the NRL, with considerable private (and federally funded) work done by RCA
. Whipping ahead into WWII a very significant "battle of the beams" began between the U.K. and Germany, especially during the Battle of Britain, involving countermeasures, espionage, propaganda and false-positives in regards to the use and development of radio-based tracking and detection--the U.K. particularly making use of this technology in a wide-spread air defense system. But it was in the United States in 1940 (and really by the U.S. Navy) that RADAR got its name (for RAdio Detection And Ranging) as well as its great impetus for development and deployment.
The history of exploration and capitalism and imperialism and conquest for much of its history is a fleshed-out skeleton based on misery and temptation and ruin. There are of course many images of he background to fortune of the beauty that hard-fought money has brought. It is interesting to look though at the scenes when the wizards draw back the curtain to history, accidentally or not, even in such inauspicious locations as this pamphlet, a minor work on the rubber industry in Sumatra.
The photograph of the decimated and routed forest is one of pride, ca. 1931-style, a mark of progress, development, industry, capital.
There were millions of acres under cultivation at this point, with (according to the figures quoted in the pamphlet) more than 320,000 workers/laborer-peasants doing the heavy lifting, the vast percentage of these being from China and Java. There is also a mention of the worker agreements that would get them to Sumatra, noted as "penal sanctions"--the practice required people to work for three or five years and if they somehow forfeited that agreement they would be imprisoned and sentenced to further labor when released. It was a vicious enterprise.
But as strong as this was it must have undoubtedly been a manifestation of an even wider form of societal control, such as worker society existed there, living under the domination of the plantation owners.
In any event the photograph on the cover was a prideful thing that today would be seen as usurious and representative of some deep tragedy. In short: nothing new.
In the history of cartography besides the construction of map-y maps there are maps that stray beyond the strict geographical diction of necessity, some of which edify the data and others which creatively explain or decorate it. There are unusual maps of hobo travel, the Garden of Eden, Hell, Heaven, moles, hair growth direction, slavery, suffering, invasion routes, time, prisons, aliens, population density, disease, education, paved roads, trolley, electric lights, sewers, fire damage, and on and on, some of which are created in a way to make the map more identifiable and to also make it, well, fun, or at least more accessible. Then there are maps whose explication or decoration or alliteration have little to do with the geographical reasons for the map existing in the first place. And this leads us to today's post.
I think it certainly possible to assemble a bestiary of maps--maps that take the qualities of an animal, or animals...I've seen a number of maps that show distributions of animals without taking their forms, and a lesser number representing a geographical area by an animal, but I do think it is possible to wrangle together not only the bestiary but also nearly an entire alphabet of animal maps. That will need a little work. For the start of it we have the following:
[Source: the Confederate Veteran, volume 11, 1903, page 184.] This needs little comment except to say that it is interesting and that it shows up in an interesting publication.
Next is a great and rare classic, I.W. Moore's 1833 map incorporating an eagle into the design of the early Republic, from the Library of Congress (here):
The full text of the book in which it appears here (At Archive.org) and the cumbersome text relating to the map (on pp 244-249) is included below in the notes section.
There are also the advertisement/comical efforts like the Porcineographic map of the U.S. of 1876:
And the Russian octopus map, John Bull and His Friends. A Serio-Comic Map of Europe By Fred W. Rose…printed in 1900, and found at the Yale University Library Digital Collections, here:
[With thanks to Mark Dylan Sieber's Les Curiosites de Cartes, whose Twitter feed started this interest.]
There are also more maps in a "series" similiar to the Leo Belgicus:
Well, this is a start, anyway, covering Elephant, Lion, Octopus, Eagle, Pig, Horse.. It may be a long haul...
THE EAGLE MAP.
On presenting to the public a map upon the con-
struction here imperfectly exhibited, if an apology
be not necessary, perhaps at least, some notice of the
origin of the idea, and some of the reflections of the
author upon it, may not be misplaced.
The first sudden impress of the form of the figure
upon his attention, was under a combination of pe-
culiar circumstances. A map of the United States
happened to hang upon the wall of his apartment,
upon which a dim lamp light was reflected. The ef-
fect of the light, in the particular position in which it
was accidentally placed, seemed, as reflected from the
various colourings of the map, to cast a shade over
the state of Maine, and to mark a kind of separation
between it and the adjoining territory. The close
connexion of this state, as, always, under a common
view, necessarily combined with the great general
ground plan of the Union, he conceives to be the
principal reason why the notion of the figure has not
before been apprehended.
On its first presentation, he was disposed to discard
the idea, as merely a sportive play of the imaginar
tion, unworthy of notice. The figure, however, once
impressed, could not be eflaced from the imagination;
but was ever afterward in view when his eye happen-
ed to glance on a map, till he was at length induced
to give the subject a share of consideration, regarding
its possible usefulness and moral bearing.
Arguments which presented in favor of construct-
ing a map embracing the plan of the figure, appeared
conclusive with relation to the youth engaged in the
THE EAGLE MAP. 245
study of the geography of our country. Those argu-
ments were founded upon an apprehension of the in-
creased facility with which lessons may be impressed
and retained upon the youthful memory, when the
aid of figure, adapted with a tolerable degree of accu-
racy to the subject of study, can be resorted to. To
this opinion it is presumed teachers in general will
readily yield their accord, without further remark
upon the questions of Why? or Wherefore?
When extending his reflections further, the recollec-
tion was of course present, that the figure of the eagle
was the figure adopted by our national councils, as our
national badge. In this point of view, the coincidence
appeared as a circumstance peculiarly striking. A fur-
ther singular and surprising coincidence presented it-
self, in the circumstance that the bird is placed in a
position perfectly correct, with respect to a corres-
pondence with the lines of latitude and longitude; no
variation from the common principles of constructing
maps being required, to place it in a natural position.
As the subject has occasionally occupied a further
extension of thought, a variety of serious moral reflec-
tions have occurred to the mind of the author, in
which he is not disposed to anticipate his intelligent
readers, who are altogether capable of reflecting for
themselves. He will, therefore, under this head, con-
tent himself with offering a supposition of a single
example, illustrative of the manner in which visible
objects, as they stand associated in the mind with
ideas of order or deformity, may possibly be more or
less productive of moral effects.
If, from a selfish, or misguided policy, the citizens
of any one state, should propose to separate their in-
terests from the interests of the Uiiion, and claim a
right to withdraw from the general connexion, the
ugly chasm which would be produced by carrying
their design into effect, would be aptly represented
by supposing a line of separation drawn round the
seceding state, and admitting its whole internal de-
clinations, and even its very name, to be blotted out
246 THE EAGLE MAP.
from the eagle map of the United States, — the signs
and notices, of all the delightful alternations of river,
mountain, hill, and plain — of cities, the seats of com-
merce and refinement — of villages, the abodes of in-
dustry and social enjoyment — of the rural residences
of friends whom we love — all shrouded, in a shade
of gloomy, impenetrable darkness — and then observ-
ing the distortion which would be thus effected, in the
beautiful figure before us. Thus, might not a moral
repugnance be strengthened, against the open or in-
sidious attempts, of artful, designing men, who might,
for some ignoble or selfish end, be disposed, by de-
ceiving their fellow citizens, to attempt a disorganiza-
tion of the republic?
In the common representations of the eagle as the
American ensign, an allusion seems to be generally
intended to a martial spirit; and it is therefore repre-
sented with an aspect of fierceness, and in an attitude
prepared for war. Here, on the contrary, having
possession of the whole country, and no enemy to
contend with, it is designed to appear as the placid
representative of national liberty, and national inde-
pendence; with an aspect of beneficent mildness, and
in an attitude of peace.
It is therefore to be conceived of, as having be-
come wearied and disgusted, with the oppressions,
perpetual discords, and tyrannizing of power over
right, prevailing from age to age in the old world,
and as having, in consequence thereof, taken its flight
across the western ocean, in search of a resting place;
where its administration of equal rights might be duly
appreciated and respected.
Having arrived at the shores of this western world,
and taken its aerial circuits with the continent under
review, it appears as though arresting its flight — its
wings raised with a graceful, natural, and easy curve,
as relinquishing their hold on the buoyant atmosphere
—and its feet extended, as in the act of gently settling
on the rocks of the Florida reef, to exercise a benign
THE EAGLE MAP. 247
presidence over a territory equal to the length and
l)readth of its own shadow.
Thus it appears as overshadowing the whole ex-
tent of the United States and territories, excepting the
state of Maine, and the home of the natives in the
distant regions of the west. The citizens of Maine,
it is presumed, will not be offended at the impossibi-
lity of comprehending their department in the Union,
within the regular form of the figure, when we assign
to it the appellation of the cap of liberty, attached to
the eagle's head.
The present small map, is supposed to be sufficient,
in its internal delineations, to serve the purposes of
illwstrating the subjects of the volume which it ac-
companies. It may also serve to impart a fair gene-
ral idea of the design of the figure. Yet it has not
the least pretension to showing a specimen of the
elegance, with which the combined circumstances of
coincidence of figure, and geographical utility, are
capable of being represented. By an enlargement of
the scale alone, the proportions of the figure would
be presented to the eye, with a general aspect greatly
It is contemplated to issue, simultaneously with
the present volume, proposals for publishing by sub-
scription^ an eagle map of the United States, upon a
large and liberal scale; to be executed by the ablest
artists in a superior style; and intended to furnish an
appropriate ornament, to decorate our halls of legis-
lation, judicature, literature, and science, with the
library of the retired gentleman, the office of the law-
yer, and the retreats of the farmer, manufacturer, and
merchant. It is conceived that the ornament would
be likely to be viewed with peculiar interest and gra-
tification, because of the circumstance of containing,
in correct proportion, a representation of our beloved
In the large map proposed, much of the common
minutia will be omitted in the engraving, in order to
show the figure with greater advantage and beauty.
All the most important items, will, however, be re-
tained, and the place of the smaller supplied by a
neatly printed and bound accompanying volume of
references; so arranged, as to render all the usual pur-
poses of a map of the United States complete. In
exchange for the omitted minutia, will be engraved,
the regions of our different mineral and vegetable pro-
ductions, with various other interesting and ornamen-
tal delineations, never heretofore presented in similar
I kept this book mainly for the cover art, though the writer--William L. Laurence--did a commendable job of looking at the Hell Bomb (the hydrogen bomb) and provided a useful chronology at the end of the book for attempts at nuclear control. Laurence was a science writer for the New York Times and was also the official historian of the Manhattan Project--he was also about the first person to write for a mass audience on the coming of what he would eventually coin "the atomic age" in a 1940 NYT article1.
The book is agile but also a very slight read with not much detail, published without a single footnote, and without a bibliography, sort of like a long newspaper article. One thing is for sure though--he was right about the "hell" part.
1. "Vast Power Source in Atomic Energy". New York Times. May 5, 1940
Here's an interesting article on the popular reception of the possibilities of atomic power if not an atomic weapon, found in the NY Times, 1938-1940: http://ansnuclearcafe.org/2013/11/26/excitement-about-u-235-as-coal-competitor-circa-1939-1940/
This is one of hose books that I couldn't possibly spend any time with, save for skimming the illustrations looking for something unusual. Generally popular books published by Certain Publishing Houses on the future of warfare tend to read like bad sci fi--having not read this one I can't address that here, though this pic found at the end of the book may offer a little insight to the rest of the book's content. The author was a tank commander of high distinction, which might explain at least his hopes for the technological breakthrough of delivering fuel to motorized units in the front line--via "giant fuel missiles". Evidently these enormous missiles (the width of a tank) and filled with fuel is somehow launched and the projectiles fall gently enough to stand precariously on their own with the top 5% of the length buried a slight bit but somehow enough to support the weight of the missile and the contents. Remarkable.