A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7500 images, 4 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, Le Figaro, MENSA, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places... 4,200+ total posts
When Worlds Collide wasn't so much about another world colliding with the Earth--it was another star, a "rogue star", that enters the solar system and heads directly towards the Earth. Luckily for a selected few, a billionaire astronomer sees the thing coming and decides to construct a spaceship to populate a friendly "planet" near Alpha Centauri. Oh well, its 1933, and perhaps anything was possible--after all, the Empire State Building (which is depicted in so many of these movie posters in a not-good way) was just finished in 1931, after two years of construction (!).
So the following are movie posters for the 1951 film version of the 1933 book--except for the first image, which is from the book.
I was looking for something else--mortality rates in Canada for a post on the value of a dead human body in 1860--when I found this book on the use of discarded goods and raw byproduct, a sort of early recycling effort. The work was by Edwin Lankester, and it is called The Uses of Animals in Relation to the Industry of Man; Being a course of lectures delivered at the South Kensington Museum (published in London by Robert Hardwicke in 1860), and the initial data that caught my attention was this:
“The more the universe approaches this limiting condition in which the entropy is a maximum, the more do the occasions of further change diminish; and supposing this condition to be at last completely attained, no further change could evermore take place, and the universe would be in a state of unchanging death.”--R. Clausius, 1868
I wonder about the appearance of the Second Law of Thermodynamics (the Entropy Law) and its influence on creative, speculative literature. Its really about the juicier two-word interpretation--Heat Death--that I wonder about, along of course with the 1st and 2nd laws, and its influence on relating the story of the end of the world, the destruction of the Earth, the depletion of the universe. One can see the possibilities of the of the ideas of the fourth dimension in the creation of modern art and their influences on people like Picasso and Duchamp, even though that influence took decades (in the case of Marey to actually "appear" in art. Where was the influence of entropy in literature?
The business of "heat death" and the Second Law is of course necessarily based upon the First Law of Thermodynamics (and the work of the beautiful Hermann von Helmholtz in 1847), and which finds an outline of a home in the early work of Sadi Carnot (in 1824, on mechanical energy loss) and more comfortable foundations in the work of James Joule (in 1843), Rudolf Clausius (in 1850) and William Thomson1 (in 1852, "On a Universal Tendency in Nature to the Dissipation of Mechanical Energy"). The Second Law belongs to Rudolf ("Santa") Clausius, whose 1850 paper in the Annalen der Physik begins the establishment of the "the most universal regulator of natural activity known to science", an idea solidified in his 1854 paper (in the same journal), where the concept of "entropy" is introduced though the name not actually used (a slightly complex history of the word, to be sure, though it makes its appearance, finally, in an 1865 paper).
Von Helmholtz famously establishes the death of the sun in a popularly-written 1854 paper (at about another 20 million years) which is a fantastic/superlative philosophical something happening there five years before the Origin of Species, establishing that at some point in the not-horribly-distant future that the sun would be extinguished, and that a sooner point the Earth would go, too. Thomson would do about the same in another popular journal in 1862, saying:
"The result would inevitably be a state of universal rest and death, if the universe were finite and left to obey existing laws. But it is impossible to conceive a limit to the extent of matter in the universe; and therefore science points rather to an endless progress, through an endless space, of action involving the transformation of potential energy into palpable motion and hence into heat, than to a single finite mechanism, running down like a clock, and stopping for ever.(Thomson, William. (1862). "On the age of the sun’s heat", Macmillan’s Mag., 5, 288-93; PL, 1, 394-68.)
It would seem very heady stuff, this scientifically-based end-of-all-life-and-everything-else thinking. But it really doesn't seem to have taken hold in any literary sense, at least not in a big way until the work of one of the most fertile popular thinkers of the second half of the 19th century. Camille Flammarion (26 February 1842—3 June 1925), an astronomer, scientific editor and sci-popularizer of vast proportions, an author of some 50 books, produced a fantastic end-of-the-universe story in his La Fin du Monde, published in 1893. Again, this is decades after the big scientific pronouncements on the subject. But afterwards, in the space of just a few years this sort of thinking, this megaland of fictional science writing would take itself away by leaps and bounds, unlike perhaps any other period in literature. (What is probably the first treatment of post-apocalypse Earth in speculative fiction--excluding religious writing and speculation--comes in 1885 with the novel After London by Richard Jeffries.) For example in 1895 there was Wells' Time Machine, Tsiollkovsky's Dream of the Earth and the Sky and the Effects of Universal Gravitation, and Lowell's pinch in the eye, Mars, not to mention Verne's Le Moteur. In 1897 there was Morris' The Well at the World's End and Well's The Island of Dr. Moreau, plus more realistic but nevertheless bombing-bastic things like Tracy's Final War. Then by 1898 there was Edison's Conquest of Mars by Serviss, and the great The War of the Worlds, again by the very busy Wells. I wonder where this spculation was in the 1860's and 1870's?
I really don't know the answer to that. Just like I don't know why the photographs of Marey--though very widely circulated--didn't seem to have an influence in artistic space for 30 or 40 years. Unless of course I'm missing a big piece of the history of speculative fiction....
"Presently the earth is only an invisible point among all the stars, because, at this distance, it is lost through its infinite smallness in the vicinity of the sun, which itself is by far only a small star. In the future, when the end of things will arrive on this earth, the event will then pass completely unperceived in the universe. The stars will continue to shine after the extinction of our sun, as they already shone before our existence. When there will no longer be on the earth a sole concern to contemplate, the constellations will reign again in the noise as they reigned before the appearance of man on this tiny globule. There are stars whose light shone some millions of years before we arrived … The luminous rays that we receive actually then departed from their bosom before the time of the appearance of man on the earth. The universe is so immense that it appears immutable, and that the duration of a planet such as that of the earth is only a chapter, less than that, a phrase, less still, only a word of the universe’s history." — Camille Flammarion, Le Fin du Monde (The End of the World)
I should point out that in addition t being an astronomer, Flammarion held some very colorful ideas about the possibilities of life on other worlds--near ones, at that. He was evidently much take with the "discoveries" of Percival Lowell, claiming that a superior Martian race had been trying to communicate with Earth "for years" but without success. See this NYT article from 1907: "Martians Probably Superior to Us; Camille Flammarion Thinks Dwellers on Mars Tried to Communicate with the Earth Ages Ago". New York Times. November 10, 1907. "Prof. Lowell's theory that intelligent beings with constructive talents of a high order exist on the planet Mars has a warm supporter in M. Camille Flammarion, the well-known French astronomer, who was seen in his observatory at Juvisy, near Paris, by a New York Times correspondent. M. Flammarion had just returned from abroad, and was in the act of reading a letter from Prof. Lowell." At about the same time Flammarionpredicted that the world would be destroyed by a mysterious seven-tailed comet, causing panics--again, from 1907: "Flammarion's Seven Tailed Comet". Nelson Evening Mail. 30 July 1907.
1. Thomson, William. (1951). “On the Dynamical Theory of Heat, with numerical results deduced from Mr Joule’s equivalent of a Thermal Unit, and M. Regnault’s Observations on Steam.” Excerpts. [§§1-14 & §§99-100], Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, March, 1851; and Philosophical Magazine IV. 1852, [from Mathematical and Physical Papers, vol. i, art. XLVIII, pp. 174] Thomson, William (1952). “On a Universal Tendency in Nature to the Dissipation of Mechanical Energy” Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh for April 19, 1852, also Philosophical Magazine, Oct. 1852.
Cigarette manufacturers--like anyone other entity in business--want their clients to consume as much product as possible. Or buy their goods as often as possible. With that in mind I'm a little surprised that the Big Five never adopted any of the ideas shown below, all helping the smoker to get at their next cigarette as quickly as possible. For example, in the event hat there were no ashtrays around, several people patented their notions for in-the-cigarette-pack ashtrays, so that no matter where a person was, they could always clicks their ash and stow their butts back in the pack. Of course, I'm sure that the Makers determined almost instantly that this concern affects perhaps an immeasurable percentage of smokers; if someone wanted (read "needed") a cig, and there was no ash tray, they can just, well, smoke their cigarette and not use an ash tray. Or go outside. OR something. Or perhaps the manufacturers recognized that they could actually sell the idea to some of their smokers, but then realized instantly that carrying around ciggie waste is not attractive and perhaps a stinking mess. Or they recognized that--like Lee Iaccoca fighting seat belts because it made cars look "unsafe"--having place to deposit cigarette waste right there with the cigarettes might send a message to the consumer that their product is messy and in the end very unattractive. Best leave the unattractive bits in a tray somewhere else. Or of course share the end product of smoking enjoyment with others by leaving it on the ground.
Then of course to remind consumers how useful the process of smoking is, there were other inventions that combined the products of this act with some other highly useful enterprise, like this cigarette lighter/pencil sharpener with what might have been a whistle attachment:
And if you found yourself needing/wanting a smoke but didn't have a free hand, there was always the following device, which allowed the consumer to smoke their stuff through a tube:
Speaking to the humility of smokers was this device that allowed the user to extinguish their smoking product automatically, no matter what the size of the burning member, reminding the user that if they wanted to actually stop, they could:
Again, another extension of the art of cigarette smoking and how useful smoking implements can be--the cigarette lighter with built-in flashlight:
Cigarette lighter with built-in extinguisher:
Pen with built-in cigarette lighter (1977):
And another example of a very complicated instrument for extinguishing a cigarette, sending a message with I-don't-know-what undertones:
These are just some of the many glorious appendages to smoking and making it easier--many more can be found at the U.S. Patent Office, like all of the examples above.
This is intended to be a short mini-post on the end of printing, and the end of bookselling, such as we know it, or knew it--this image comes from 1499 (Le Grand Danse Macabre, Lyon), and tells us that death to these occupations is nothing new. Of course when we speak of the death of the book nowadays we're discussing something different--the death of the printed format. But here in this print, which is also the first depiction of a mechanized book press, we see ironically that Death has come to claim its operators, or at least two of them. The inkman in the background, the yelling third of a departing party of two, is spared for the time being. Just as the reader is for the first time seeing this machine, they are also seeing Death in its in grim glory snatching away the machine's main operators.
The image and the functions of the people working the press are well described in the excellent history of all things books at the Bookn3rd website, here.
Here's Death coming for the bookseller--at least the man was reading at the time of the departure. This is also a very early depiction of a book store, which again as the first visual information on such a place to the reader is wrapped around the visitation of the Great Inevitable.
This series is meant to illustrate the very transitory, shadowy and basically non-existent nature of "normal".
"It is thus with regard to the disease called Sacred: it appears to me to be nowise more divine nor more sacred than other diseases, but has a natural cause like other affections. . ."--Hippocrates on epilepsy and recognizing it as just another brain disorder devoid of mysticism, about 2400 years ago.
One stop in the history of normalcy is the perception of brain disorders, which is a long and complex history--very long in the case of epilepsy, its epidemiology stretching back thousands of years before Hippocrates. It particular normalcy for the vast majority of that time was that people who exhibited the results of the disorder were cursed, or touched by the gods as holders of some possible divine inspiration, or touched by the gods as accursed and punished people, or bewitched (I wonder about the number of epileptics put to the flame during the Witch Hunt crazes), and so on. The first pharmaceutical treatments for the disorder really didn't come about until Emil Fischer and Bayer introduced phenobarbitol in 1902/04, which was able to calm the seizures of some people with epilepsy. Until that point, most treatments were generally topical, plus the quack ingestives and various sorts of incantations, spells and prayers.
In Dr. William T. Shanahan's Colonies for Epiletpics, (the original available for purchase through our blog bookstore) written in 1912, the treatment of epileptics was seculsion, warehousing them in state asylums in the countryside. Shananhan felt that the epileptic needed "its" own environment, "apart from the the defectives"--and by that he meant apart from the wide classification of people who did not fit the scheme of 1912 normalcy, like "morons, imbeciles, the insane, the sexual addict, the recurring syphlitic [and] the criminally insane...". Actually this as a good move in some cases--apart from the vocabulary--as epileptics were stored away in almshouses and prisons along with the criminal element and the hopelessly insane, and at least removed the epileptic from a different sort of horror and disgrace.
Dr. Shanahan's aim was to remove the epileptic from society because they "couldn't adjust to a life in the ordered community" and that holding a job for them was "impossible"--that plus what he saw as the need to protect society from the epileptic's "progressive mental deterioration". He felt that "the great majority should be committed[to the epileptic colonies] as are the insane", and also to remove them to these places "from a young age", to an "institution for defectives", there separated according to "sex and mental grade".
Overall, though, it was Shanahan's other aim to provide as "normal" a life for epileptics as could be arrived at, and outside of his trying to save society from them--at a time when the eugenics people were out castrating epileptics--, he was arguing that this method was the best of all possible worlds for people with this disorder. He does however seem to be totally ignorant of any medical approach to dealing with epilepsy.
By the way, there's a very curious imprint on the back cover of this pamphlet showing who printed it and where. I cannot recll ever having seen such a small thign, placed so centrally, in such an obvious place. Its obvious and present, yet tiny. Here it is, before magnification:
There appeared earlier in this blog a bit on an engraving depicting an exploding Earth, one of a series of twelve images, eleven of which were unavailable at that time--not so anymore. So an update to this post is happily made, starting with the exploding part (below), a nasty millennial vision steeped in a volcanological/geological/meteorological 18th-century primordial stew, the Earth in a sea of fire and blasted volcanoes, lightning striking from above:
[All image sources: Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek, Weimar.]
Hades, Heaven, Meru, Valhalla, Elysium, Olympus--the places at the end of the terrestrial road, the great emancipation. In some theological doctrines these places are reached collectively after the great conflict at the end of time; the end of days in the Old Testament, when the earth is devoured by holy vengeful wrath and reconstituted for godly comings –and-goings.
This engraving is one of twelve found in a fine little book, the brainchild of clergyman/semi-scientist Jodocus Frisch (1714-1787), who delivered to the (un-) waiting world his vision of how the earth and heaven will come to an end, there at the end of days. Die Welt im Feuer, Oder das Wahre Vergehen und Ende der Welt, Durch den letzten Sünd-Brand(printed in Sorau by Gottlob Heboldm in 1746) is one of very few works that depict (in illustration) the destruction of the Earth, and even though Frisch illuminates biblically-based theory, the idea of the earth exploding into bits in primordial fire and so on was extraordinary.The images were done in four colors representing the four elements:yellow, brown, green and white represented (respectively) fire, earth, water and air. In this image, we see the fire-centric earth encircled by a sphere of water, which is surrounded by a sphere of fire, which in turn is surrounded by a sphere of air, with much bad stuff happening.
Not having the book in hand I’m relying on thedescription of the Dutch bookseller Asher & Company, an old-line bookseller of very fine antiquarian works, which wrote the following descriptions of the other images in the book (and which appears for sale right now at their site):
“The second and third engravings show how the sphere of water disappeared after the torrential rains of the deluge, leaving the earth directly exposed to the sun. In the fourth and fifth engravings the earth is consumed by fire from within and without, demonstrating in what way the biblical prophecies about the destruction of heaven and earth may come to pass. Plates 6 and 7 depict the new heaven and earth that look entirely similar to plates 1 and 2, the first heaven and earth. Plates 8 and 9 show heaven and earth in their present state with precise specifications of what the biblical vocabulary names "heaven." Plate 10 shows how the sphere of water breaks the rays of the sun in such a way that they shine on all parts of our planet in equal manner, wherefore all regions have a temperate climate. However without the tempering function of the sphere of water, the air focuses the rays of the sun in the equatorial zone.”
The water of the great deluge now gone, revealing the land masses, plate 2:
This indelible image was made by an anonymous photographer for the Central News Service of New York City in 1918. The Central News Service was a photographic supply house that would send requested photos to newspapers throughout the United States for publication as illustrations for a story. They would've been sent rolled in a tube with a description of the image and with the stern warning to "Watch Your Credit Line", making sure that once the newspaper had paid for the use of the photo that it also told its readers the source of the (agency) photographic.
The image is insatiable--it demands that you look at it and look at it long and hard, as it tries to give some sort of idea of the tremendous number of shells that were shot from canons by the just British against the Germans during the First World War.. There were something like one million tons of these fired against Germany; this picture represents about .001% ( of that total). We see approximately 800 shells at two hundred pounds apiece, surrounded by a group of about 150 soldiers.
I looked very closely at this photograph. Of this single line of soldiers along the perimeter of the bomb cache, of the 150 of them, there are, it looks like, only five of them who have placed their hands on one of the bombs, and four of them are touching the fuse with just their middle finger. It is an odd picture of restraint, these soldiers paying the weapons of mass destruction the respect of room.
I think that this is an extraordinary photograph of the testament of understatement and small, small percentages--even with this photo being so enormously graphic it still gives you absolutely no idea of how much explosive material was hurled back and forth, even knowing in your mind's eye that this image represents something like FOUR ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE less than the total tonnage of bombs used. By the British.
This difference in orders of magnitude is roughly equivalent to the difference in size between an ant and a human being, or between an amoeba and an ant, or between a human and one of the pyramids, or between the earth and the sun. Basically, the shells in this photo meant nothing whatsoever to the total of shells used during the war.
The Borden Company--at one time the largest producer of dairy products in the U.S.-- published the little pamphlet (Modernization Handbook) from which these pictures below are taken. Published in 1945, this slim work was meant to entice owners of luncheonettes and pharmacy/soda shops to upgrade their businesses, so that they could sell more product, so that they could buy more supplies from Borden. Borden wasn't offering financing, just supply-side friendly advice to the folks selling their goods.
A large amount of this "modernization" had to do with swivel chairs/stools, chairs around a long lunch counter that stood to serve the maximum number of people in a small space in the minimum amount of time, all while giving the patron a maximum visual field to the other stuff for sale in the establishment.
I've got to say that there is a long simple elegance to this--sitting at a table within sight of the person cooking your meal, check-to-jowl with probably-unknown fellow diners, getting your food quickly and probably freshly and with minimum fuss. There is definitely pleasantness seeing your food prepared before you, a better type of fast food, far removed to a comparatively superior land when compared to dealing with simple human interfacers between customer and the Conglomerate Cook of the modern fast-food behemoths.
And if you were to turn around in your chair, this is what you would see:
Of course this was all about sales for Borden, and that's fine, especially when the end result of the money-making idea produces the ultra-sweet highly anticipated sound of your plate sliding arorss the linoleum countertop. Don't forget your napkin.
I've written many times1 on the technical and political end of the creation and deployment of the atomic bomb, along with some posts on the use and manipulation of language in controlling the sense impressions of nuclear war and survivability. What I have found so extraordinary about this second part is the creation of ordinariness, or mechanization, or acceptance, of the aftermath of nuclear warfare--and what we're talking about here is the "exchange" of not just a few 20 kiloton Hiroshima-type weapons, but thousands of megatons of explosives and massive amounts of radiation.
[The image above, a U.S. government position description of the job described below, is clickable to 200%.]
Yes. Well. All things being equal, such things as an Afterlife in the United States needed to be contemplated because that is what we do--we make the situation possible for end-of-the-world stuff to happen, and so we have to plan for building things up again with radioactive detritus once all of the keys get turned and buttons pushed, as it is just a natural course of that historical river. That the bomb would be built was a given; that the Soviets would develop the a bomb and delivery capacities was just a matter of time, and that they would be our sworn death-enemies was also a fait accompli. To develop a way to somehow survive a nuclear war may have been a major deterrent to not launching an attack, especially when linked with a Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) arms build up (where everyone and everything would be obliterated if there was a nuclear war, or at least so by 1965 (and probably earlier than that). All this insane stuff may have worked, and somehow we managed not to ignite the world, because (to paraphrase Frank Zappa) there would be no real estate left.
On the other hand, building all of these weapon systems and planning for attack and the post attack world could have pushed us into a final confrontation, making all of this sound "winable", "doable" somehow, that once the bombs had all exploded and nothing worked anymore, that there would be enough to pull together of our civilization to declare that we had indeed "won'".
And the only way to declare a winner was to have something to stand on besides pieces of green glass and Earth, and so plans for communications and a military, police force, fire brigades, medical care, food distribution, banking, and all the rest--the pieces of a recognizable backbone of American society--would have to be undertaken. All of this could very well accomplish the creation of an illusion in the mind of the adversary that you are capable of surviving a nuclear war, and so there would be no great gain in attacking; or it could send the message that by doing this preparation that you were preparing a first strike scenario, and so the adversary would attack while the odds were still not horribly out of balance. And on and--it all looks like a lose-lose endgame to me, which is hardly a "game" at all when all players are losers.
But still there was a need to staff the thousands of positions that went into the theoretical end of figuring out the non-weapon-end world after nuclear war, and the above "position description" is an example of that, a necessarily pro forma form, just another job in a ea of jobs. This one's job descriptions read like any other, except of course that the content was much different. Form the same, setence structure the same, vocabulary basically invariable.
This position description was for "Chief, Damage Assessment Division", was was the part of the Office of Emergency Preparedness (which operated under the auspices of the Executive Office of the President, and then under the Office of Defense Mobilization (ODM), and then under the Production Area, and then, finally, the Damage Assessment Division DMA). The job of the DMA was to identify what would happen to the essential production facilities that would keep the country going--industrial, technical, medical, biological, and so on--how they would be targeted, and how they might survive an attack. This also applied to the people who would be required to be in charge of all of this. Damage assessment.
It was also the job of this person to coordinate the estimation of damage and assessment business post-attack.
So, one "perk" of this job was that they would be expected to survive a nuclear attack, which means that the added benefits to this employment would be a special trip to a safe place to wait out the destruction of the world. I assume that this person would have a leverage like the one I wrote about in my Get-Out-of-Hell-Free Card post (pictured just here, and clickable to 250%).
The position description clearly makes distinctions between pre- and post-attack responsibilities of the Chief of the Damage Assessment Division: under "Nature of Purpose of Work", part 1, section A (1) it reads "a pre-attack capability for translating likely patterns of attacks into losses of manpower, industrial capacity, and weapon systems output'. In Section A (2) we see"a post-attack capability for assessing actual losses, for alternating alternate levels of output consistent with surviving resources and for testing feasibility of proposed new mobilization programs". Or in other words, sifting the rubble to see who and what was left and to see where they could be actually plugged into whatever scenarios had already been planned, and alter as necessary. And also on page two, part (3) "development and maintenance of capabilities for both rapid and deliberate damage assessments in event of actual attack..."
Continuing on page two, the Damage Assessment Division would create damage estimates, "disseminate ...estimates of indirect effects including effects...on government, financial and credit systems, and production..." which of course is, well, everything. Except overall assessments of total numbers of people killed, which isn't a necessary statistic for most of the stuff we're talking about here.
There was much else in this job description, which is five pages long. It is quite fascinating, seeing all of this spelled out so clearly, written on the endpages of our national book of life.
On the other hand, I'm not exactly sure what else everybody else could've done, all other things being equal.
.003% That's what I reckon this column of soldiers would represent of the total casualties of WWI.
Generally images like this are a virtual image-host for me, a bucket of ice cold water thrown onto a sizzling summer sidewalk, all sorts of ideas steaming from it. But for photographs of Doughboys1 marching, especially assembling for parade, this one struck me a little more oddly than most, giving instant pause, making me concentrate on the haze, or dust, that allowed the columns of soldiers to blend into one another and fade, losing their boundaries with their mass receding into a dull blur.
The Western Newspaper Union was selling this image for insertion in newspaper or journal stories about the war, for a small use fee. There were a few American organizations like Western Newspaper that were created to photographically cover the war, using pools of photographers who would distribute their work anonymously and which was available for common, general use for a small charge. The photographs allowed out were certainly restricted and censored, though in my stash of these of objects (numbering about a thousand) I'd say that 10% of them look pretty edgy to my eyes. Most of the action of war was not covered, but then again this aspect was still fairly technically difficult in 1918. Images of pain were almost never allowed, and certainly not pain of Allied troops. Aid stations were almost never covered as well, as were dead bodies, or at least those again of Americans or Brits or French or Canadian. The imaging of the war was certainly under a fair amount of supervision and control. (The original is available for purchase through our blog bookstore. here.)
The image shows American troops assembling for a parade through the streets of London before being deployed. The mistiness of the composition looks like a statistic to me, these men standing for those who had come before and fallen.
The U.S. lost .13% of its population to casualties (125,000 killed and 205,000 wounded) during the war--a war which by the time America got here had already been visciously fought for three years, costing dozens of millions of lives. The figures for everyone else weren't nearly so "fortunate" as the U.S.: New Zealand's 18,000/41,312 killed/wounded amounted to 1.6% of its population. The U.K. lost 2.19% (964,000/1,663,000), Italy was 3.48% (650,000/953,000 plus 650,000 civilian casualties), while France suffered a 4.29% (1.4 million/4.27 mil) blow of its total population to war. Things were worse on the other side: Germany 3.82% (2 mil/2.4 mil plus 426,000 civilian deaths, and the Ottoman Empire 12% (400,000/771,000 plus 2.1 million civilian deaths. Worst of all was the Ally Serbia, suffering a catastrophic 16% loss of its population to war, including 275,000/725,000 plus 426,000 civilian casualties. As gruesome as the numbers were, the Americans felt only a small percentage of the total sting of war--by 11 November, more than 21 million soldiers would have been wounded, with 9.7 million soldiers and 6.8 million civilians killed. It was an enormous price.
And that's what I see in the mist of what may be something like 10,000 soldiers on display n this photograph. .003% That's two of these columns every day, twice a day, for the entire 1550 or so days of the war.
1. The origin of the term "Doughboy" is unclear, or varied, or rich, but it is at least pretty oldm beginning around the time of the Mexican American War in 1846-1848--evidently when the soldiers marched through dry, tough terrain they wound up being covered by earth with the color of dough. Doughboy.
This remarkable photograph is part of an archive of World War I Underwood & Underwood News Photo Service photographs I purchased many years ago. It shows a pile of German soldiers' uniforms--thousands of them--taken from German prisoners, the clothing headed for "cleaning and repair".
[This photo, along with mnay others, is available for purchase from our blog bookstore.]
I didn't know before this that the uniforms were repaired--I can imagine the cleaning part, since the prisoners must wear something, and deep into the fifth year of the war it seems hardly the case that they would be given anything at all to wear except for what they were captured in. the cleaning part sounds logical too, especially as the cleaning was being done by the prisoners themselves (pictured here). Clean clothing makes for more sanitary conditions in mass compounds for thousands of prisoners, and lowers cost for the health maintenance for the prisoners in the short and long run. And so far as repairing goes: attached buttons make for closed coats; closed coats allow prisoners to have a better chance at staying healthy in the coming cold months. Just ask Napoleon about the cost of thread on the buttons of his army's overcoats in the march towards Moscow. (The thread that wasn't used cost very little; the cheaper thread that was used cost everything.)
And the detail:
And closer still:
And the text that was provided by the photo service company to be used along with the photo wen (or if) it was published.
The cleaning and repairing went on, the prisoners kept coming in--even for those involved, the scent of the end of the war was in the air, though I doubt that the majority felt that it was only a week away.
The news coverage of the 6 August 1945 bombing of Hiroshima was covered in spectacular (all things and time considered) detail in the 7 August issue of the daily newspaper, PM.1The entire issue of 12 pages (with no advertisement2) was dedicated to the event—I have no idea, really, how they were able to put together this amount of good tough data so very quickly, nimbly and intelligently, as the bomb was detonated at Hiroshima only the day before. [The original newspaper is available at our blog bookstore, here.]
It is odd how well the case is covered, and it is positively issued on the day after --it isn't the case that it was issued for the week of 7 August and released on 13 August, which I thought was a possibility of explaining the deep coverage. But there's no mention of Nagasaki (which would come in two days), so I am certain that the coverage was all accomplished within 24 hours of the use of the weapon. The newspaper distinguishes itself by not screaming something about the “Jap city” being wiped out (as so many other newspapers did), with its front page summarizing beyond the bomb.(“It Will End all War—Or all Men” and “It Will Revolutionize Human Life” as sub-heads; the first being accurate, while the second being nearly so.)
The editorial, “Thank God its OUR Bomb”, by Irving Brant, is a lovely piece of thoughtful interpretation in the opening moments of the nuclear age. He writes: “America must join and lead in a worldwide renunciation of this worldwide renunciation and prevention of war”,and “What will happen to industry, to society, when the power of all the coal mined in a year is compressed into an exploding fistful of atoms?” And further:“There is no escape.The split atom may shatter humanity, but not before then will it retreat into the physical void from which it came.The dust of creation is in our hands.We must master it.” Not bad stuff for having a few hours or so to think this through.
The other articles included “Bombs and Sabotage Stopped Nazi Experiment with Heavy Water”, “New Atomic Era Could Revolutionize Mankind’s Whole Manner of Life/Power Harnessed for Destruction Has Limitless Constructive Possibilities”, big two-page story “Stimson Reveals How Work on Bomb Was Organized”, “Bomb’s Death Range Believed to be 4 Miles”, “Four Scientists who Will Plan Postwar Uses of Atomic Energy”, “Harnessing of Atomic Power research Strengthens US Research”, “If a Piece of the Sun Were Placed on Earth”, “End Not Yet Truman Tells the Japanese”, and another 12 articles.
There’s another baffling article “Steel Tower Vaporized in First Test”, discussing the shot at Alamagordo—it must have been the case that there was an enormous amount of material divulged by the government in the hours after the explosion at Hiroshima .The work at Columbia is also chronicled, as is the personal life of the man in control, General Leslie Grove (and how completely in the dark his wife was, and so on).
One of the most interesting objects to me though is the small graphic on page 7 which shows what effect the Hiroshima atomic bomb would have if dropped on New York City—it was no doubt gigantically sobering to anyone who looked at it, and brought the power of the bomb and its destruction to a common, understandable point. I'm not an historian of the first newspaper coverage of the bomb, but it strikes me that this may well be the first graphic to depict the effects of an atomic bomb exploded over NYC.
In any event, the overall coverage of the event was stunning given the short amount of time to do the research, writing, and publication. Truly a great effort.
1. PM (1940-1948) was a left-wing newspaper funded by Marshall Field III, and was home to excellent reporting. See here for more details. Among the staff writers was I.F.Stone and staff photographers Margaret Bourke-White. Other contributors included Heywood Hale Broun; James Thurber; (the great) Dorothy Parker; Ernest Hemingway; Eugene Lyons; Ben Stolberg; Malcolm Cowley; Tip O'Neill;and Ben Hecht.
2. Actually, NO issue of PM had advertisements--it was entirely ad-free. (And even so it still came close to making money after 8 years.)
PM's stated mission:
PM is against people who push other people around.
PM accepts no advertising.
PM belongs to no political party.
PM is absolutely free and uncensored.
PM's sole source of income is its readers--to whom it alone is responsible.
PM us one newspaper thayt can and dares to tell the truth.
Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) was a cartoonist for PM (see here for his War cartoons) as was the great Crockett Johnson.
Nothing makes “discovery” itself than re-discovery, with the important element being “forgetting”. Some important thnigs in the history of science have been “forgotten”, or not remembered, actually, little reported–like Mendel’s work on genetics and the re-discovery of penicillin. And the flying shuttle. And so on.
This small pamphlet, New Opportunity for Indians (1933), may look like a solidified reverse misprint: “opportunity” rather than its plural, and singular “Indians” for its plural, and identifies what may be one of the most forgotten things in American history. (The pamphlet is available at our blog bookstore.)
The fact of the matter is that Native Americans had been basically forgotten during the last forty years or so, squandered away onto removed reservations with little support or money or time or effort.
In 1926 the Bookings Institution authorized a study of the condition of American Indians, with Lewis Meriam and his team responding with their report The Problem of Indian Administration in 1928. It was the first statistical and analytical survey of its kind in eighty years (though the special volume of the 1890 census Indians Taxed and Indians Not Taxed comes close, though without a particular analytical thread) and was a general indictment of the government’s treatment of the Indian.
We find most of the following in just the first dozen pages or so: --“the health of the Indians compared with that of the general population is bad.”(page 3) and that tuberculosis and trachoma were widespread, and infant mortality high.A major contribution was poor health facilities and the lack of Indian language understanding by the health care providers. --“The hospitals, sanatoria, and sanatorium schools maintained by the Service, despite a few exceptions, must generally be characterized as lacking in personnel, equipment, management, and design.”(page 9) And that “the government, through numerous on- and off-reservation health --“the most important single item affecting health is probably the food supply.” --“The income of the typical Indian family is low and the earned income extremely low.” (Page 4.) --“In justice to the Indians it should be said that many of them are living on lands from which a trained and experienced white man could scarcely wrest a reasonable living.” (Page 5. ) –“The economic basis of the primitive culture of the Indians has been largely destroyed by the encroachment of white civilization.” (Page 6.) –Little attempt has been made to formulate a broad constructive program for the service as a whole, extending over a long term of years, and having for its goal the general improvement of economic conditions.” (Page 5) --“The survey staff finds itself obligated to say frankly and unequivocally that the provisions for the care of the Indian children in boarding schools are grossly inadequate.”(Page 11)
And on and on.
Perhaps the most important outcome of the Meriam report was the abandonment of the Dawes Act of 1887, which basically broke up tribal connections and lands, segregating individual families ad incorporating them as yet another American farming family. Franklin Roosevelt’s Indian reorganization Act (1934) ended this practice and allowed for the organization of tribal government and incoporation of land trusts.
But the fact that the Indians had been discovered, and discovered to have been rendered into such poor conditions, and that there was a general consensus to alleviate those conditions and provide better and more uniform health care and food (especially food) and education and tribal independence, it did not mean that getting the money for doing such things would be accomplished.
In this slim pamphlet the outlines for helping Indians are described and failures acknowledged, though generally the planning was scant and rudimentary. The pamphlet did identify “the first essentials tr a satisfactory home life are adequate food supply, proper clothing, and a comfortable shelter”. I think stopping at the “food supply” part would’ve been enough.
There was certainly an increase in money spent on health care, but the increase wasn’t much to speak of, not really. The pamphlet states that “Indian Health Appropriations” topped out in 1911 at $40,000–or about $6/person/year. The 1933 total was $3.2 million, but that still doesn’t spread out very thickly over 295,000 people.
In any event the pamphlet was not without hope, but that hope seemed to be all it had so far as implementing its new ideas for improvements and services. In a small slug of a mention, “Crippled Services” it is noted that appropriations for the new years would be down $4 million dollars. Unfortunately there is no figure of overall appropriations, so the figure doesn’t mean that much. It did mean though to the author(s) of this pamphlet that even if there was no money there was hope. Unfortunately “hope” doesn’t buy food.
This pamphlet ends with a severe understatement: “the Indian problem is by no means solved either in education, health, making a living or providing a good home, much remains to be worked out”. Indeed.
It is essential to look at objects from alternative angles, especially in science, in order to determine the correctness, or fitness, of a finding, or opinion. Even when consolidating data or evidence regarding the confirmation of an established bit, you may very well find other strands of loose data that could help illuminate even a well established or iconic societal “given”.
That the war was not going well for the Allies in September 1940 is an understatement—and the chief allies at this point excluded the United States, happily now recovering from the Depression, and still a full 14 months away from entering the war.
What is very weird to me is that after having looked at every issue of LIFE magazine at least three times from the start to the end of World War II, that there are more advertisements using war images than there are images of the war itself. This actually continues into the spring of 1942, when LIFE got really busy, the war got really messy, and people started really dying. And frankly even the coverage of Pearl Harbor in no way lived up to what I thought the coverage of a photo-magazine like LIFE would be. This is not a scientific study. It just strikes me as odd, or propagandizing, that there should be such relatively scant, or undervalued, coverage of the fighting when sanitized images of that same fighting were being used to sell socks and shaving cream and cigarettes and such. I understand the power of hearts-and-minds campaigns, but this seemed so amateurish, boorish even, that it just didn’t approach the level of a psychological ploy to pacify an American public that had virtually no interest in attending the European Theatre.
This was not the case with the British equivalent of LIFE—the Illustrated London News. Actually, I should say that LIFE is a dumbed-down version of the ILN, which was the world’s first illustrated magazine, and which began almost 100 years before LIFE was born. The ILN covered the war like it was a war being fought in their front yards—and it was.
This was also not true of one of the principle German equivalents of these two weekly photo-imags, the Illustriete Zeitung (Leipzig). There was a lot of war coverage, though much more sanitized than even the very sanitary (pre-1943) versions of reality issued by LIFE and the ILN. The Germans by and large did not use war or military images to sell common-sue, every-day consumables; it rather concentrated on the glories of battle, real and imagined, as well as using a very grandly flatulent palette to paint the image of Adolf Hitler.
What caught my eye was a map in the 5 September 1940 issue of the Zeitung. (The cover woodcut illustration, by the way, is a sharpened point of the Roman standard bearer being used by the Fascist Mussolini government about to impale a running cat-thing that represented Somalia. The Italians attrociously bombed innocent civilians in Somalia and Ethiopia with abandon and disdain.) On page 165 is a two part map, the upper part being a velum-like overlay, showing the German bombardment of England. (“Bombenregen ueber England. England muss jetzt allein um seine insel Kaempfen…” ) The template map is in stark black and white, showing locations of “war” industries, chemical plants, rubber works, textile plants, metal industries and gas works . The overlay shows the outline of the island with 150 or so bombs, imprinted with a color code to show what sort of industry it was intended for. As you can see there was quite a cluster around London—I looked closely, and no one bomb was actually placed directly upon the outlined city of London. Suffice to say that no fool editor at the Zeitung was going to show their readers that German bombs were falling on a city.
What this map shows me, outside of the propaganda aspect for its intended readers, is that the basic bits of the bombing campaign was actually true—that there was a whole crap-load of bombing going on, and going on quite well country-wide. Certainly people in England knew this but knew it in chunks. The Battle of England was being fought at this point, and the outcome was still undetermined—even though the Brits had the “ultra” and basically knew when the attacks were coming, and where. But looking at this image of the bombing from a completely different, contemporary, and ENEMYsource hammered home the fact that England was being bombed, and bombed heavily, and that its future was in real doubt.
[This issue of the Illustriete Zeitung is is available for purchase from our blog bookstore.]