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...
I'm fairly well certain that I have never seen an image of a camera obscura being used for military purposes--until today. I found "The Camera Obscura in Torpedo Work", in the great scientific journal Nature, for 26 February 1885, pp 389-340. Here's a detail:
the full article follows. It makes sense, kind of a cyber-tool, a steampunk hologram in a way. And there it is.
If you'd like to own the original article you may purchase it via our blog bookstore.
Confectionary connections to interesting bumps in history wind their ways along many unusual paths. One such story is that of physician/scientist/collector Hans Sloane (1660-1753) and his introduction of chocolate into England (as a result of a field expedition he took to Jamaica)--his involvement with chocolate was minor compared to everything else he did in his life, but the introduction of chocolate to coffee houses in London was not. In any event it was his massive and superior collection of natural history samples, archaeological artifacts, and much else, that became the basis for the British Museum--the collections purchased from his estate for 20,000 pounds at the time of his death.
Another example of a weirder candyland adventure is that of Charles Gunther (1837-1920), who was the driving force of moving the infamous Confederate Libby Prison to Chicago in 1893 to house his own collections of Civil War memorabilia and other interesting and Mondo Bizarro things. (He claimed to have--on exhibition--the original skin of the serpent from the Garden of Eden, complete in some sort of original frame decked out in Egyptian gibberishglyphics.) Here's an ad that appeared in the Confederate Veteran's first year of publication in 1893:
I wouldn't use the term "great" here--and I'm pretty sure that the word is being misused here in 1893 as well.
The prison was actually a converted tobacco factory, the buildings of which were constructed from 1845-1852, and located in central Richmond at Main and 25th Streets. Poor Luther Libby--a Mainer--came into possessions of the buildings for his business, which was subsequently seized by the Confederate government at the beginning of the war and converted into a hospital/officer's prison before it became the symbol of mistreatment and deprivation and harshness. (Mr. Libby had nothing to do with the prison per se--he was just the last person with his name on the buildings. He outlived the prison-with-his-name-on-it by 15 years--12 years if you count the use of the building to house Confederate leadership after the end of the war.)
Gunther collected big stuff, the biggest being the prison. He purchased it and had it dismantled, shipped up to Chicago, and then reassembled (with the help and advice of the prestigious architecture/design firm of Burnham and Root) where it operated as a museum from 1889-1895. Sensing a brighter future for the property, Gunther dismantled the building selling off chunks of it as souvenirs, and built a convention center on the site, filling the need for meeting space from the burning of the Chicago Coliseum in 1897.
This post could have gone another way very easily, winding up in the Things Out of Place Department--Libby in Chicago, the Statue of Liberty in Paris, London Bridge in Arizona, a duplicate Earth in the sky above the Earth,and so on--perhaps this on another day.
I don't often see graphical displays of quantitative data utilizing quite so many images of shells, even when the image is comparing ammunition production. This striking example is found in The Illustrated London News for July 15, 1917.
[My thanks to Rebecca Onion at Slate Vault for finding and surfacing this incredible document]
"One of the most remarkable productions of Fort Delaware was the
Prison Times, a newspaper published in April, 1865, by Capt. Geo. S.
Thomas, 64th Georgia Regiment, and Lieut. A. Harris, 32d Florida. It was
written in a small but very clear handwriting by Capt. J. W. Hibbs, of the
13th Virginia Cavalry [sic], who proved himself a most expert
penman." --from Edward R. Rich, Comrades! page 120, a small but dense 167-page book printed in Easton, Maryland, and published by S.E. Whitman, in1898, containing his recollections of his experiences in the Union prison.
The Prison Times was a hand-written, four-page newspaper produced by Confederate prisoners in April 1865 in the Union prison at Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River. It was a short lived effort, the war ending just weeks after the paper appeared1. As a matter of fact the editors hoped that the newspaper effort would not have to last very much longer, longing for the end of the war and to return home:
"Trusting that the difficulties of conducting an enterprise of
this kind under the circumstances are duly appreciated by an intelligent
public, we send forth this our first number hoping that ere we can have
time to issue many numbers our prison times will be discontinued forever
and our patrons and ourselves be far away in our
loved Sunny South."
It is a remarkable document, enlisting the hope for normalcy of the 33,000 (or so) prisoners2. The newspaper made a statement of intent (and to avoid political
discussion), and displayed useful information like barracks directors
and a short piece on "our prison world". There were also interesting
short advertisements which were apparently real: folks placed their
services into play in the newspaper for engraving, jewelry (rings,
chains, gutta percha), tailoring, washing & ironing, barbers,
dental, music instructions, and shoe-making. There were also a few
short notices for debating and chess clubs, as well as a few pieces of
poetry. Overall, there was a lot of information packed into four 12x8" pages, an effort that showed that in this town-sized prison that there were definitely some forms of society and commerce taking place.
In the efficacies of categories for this blog I wonder about the placement of holes in the history of digging. Most acts of digging results in making a hole, and some digging results in holes that are far longer or wider than they are deep, as in the case of trenches, and especially in the case of trenches dug during WWI, when many thousands of miles of them were dug and filled with millions and millions of men, perhaps as many as a million of them dying right there in the trench.
Digging though is not a necessary condition for making a hole, or supporting a trench for that matter. There were many millions of shells fired during WWI, and many of the craters produced by their explosions were converted for use in conjunctions with trenches.
There is a lengthy section of the relatively short (104pp) book Notes on the Construction and Equipment of Trenches--published by the Army War College in April 1917-- dedicated to the employment of bomb craters in trench warfare. (This was 2.5 years into a war that Woodrow Wilson and most Americans south to avoid--not only to not fight, but to not necessarily take sides, to stay neutral, and it lasted about 900 very bloody days.) And as it turns out, of course, there are many ways to use a big area of scooped-out/blown-away earth in a complex geometry of narrow and interconnected diggings. The hole could be used as a hole filled with barbed wire as a front line of defense--and here we are told (reminded?) about the scope of the so-called "wiring entanglements", which should be 20 yards out from the lip of a crater which should also be 30' deep (!), the bowl of the hole lined with 3' high runs of barbed wire that should be irregularly posted . At the rear for anyone who thought of trying to make it through such a hellhole would be a machine or Lewis gun. (The wooden posts should be strong--"light posts are useless".) Great numbers of these craters would be used like star points in a complicated astrological sign of want and destruction, and this book would aid in the education of how to bring these changes about. (Of particular interest is the advisory that entanglement construction should be undertaken in 40/50-yeard chunks, and that the installation of these defensive measures at the very front of a line "should take place at night". Ineed.
This single-sheet infographic sheet was published seven months after the end of the war, in June 1919, in the Illustrated London News. "Great Britain's High Place in the Allied Roll of Honor: the Testimony of Figures" is exactly that, a very significant, visual testimony. The images speak for themselves.
In all that I have seen relating to the mammoth planning and logistical operations concerning teh invasion of Europe by the Allied Forces on 6 June 1944 I don't think I'ev ever seen such incredibly detailed relief map models such as the one below. The original image resides at the Library of Congress and its catalog information describes it on a scale of 1:5,000 and a vertical scale of 1:2,500, with the model being two sections of 120cm squared (so 120x240cm (or about 3x6 feet). THE map "shows the tide lines, slope of the beach, buildings beyond the beach, and the location of hedgehogs" and the placement of anti-aircreaft weapons. The image is very expandable.
For some reason this particular defensive utility of the binocular/rangefinder/"scherenfernohr" hadn't occurred to me before seeing this photograph (in the September 1915 issue of Himmel und Erde). Of course with the many billions of rounds of ammo that flew across open fields during the war, if it was your job to sight for artillery or what have you it would be better to do that from a trench (as this instrument was also known as a "trench periscope", as varieties of the binoculars could have vertical tubes) and behind cover, or if in the field to be able to find a defensive position for your work. I hadn't thought about standing behind a tree with the scope's optics wide enough to operate beyond the diameter of the trunk--seeing the picture made me think, "of course". On the other hand, this posture assumes that there's very little flank to that field...
I've unearthed another rare and exceptional document from the "collection" (read "heap") here, a 38-page mimeographed document that is a logical and reasonable response of the Japanese-American community in Seattle to their impending removal and impundment of via Executive Order 9066 (1942):
Report submitted to Tolan Congressional Committee on National Defense Migration Emergency Defense Council Seattle Chapter Japanese American Citizens League.
“....there must be a point beyond which there may be no abridgement of civil liberties and we feel that whatever the emergency, that persons must be judged, so long as we have a Bill of Rights, because of what they do as persons We feel that treating persons, because they are members of a race, constitutes illegal discrimination, which is forbidden by the fourteenth amendment whether we are at war or peace.”-- A. L. Wirin, Counsel for the Southern California Branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, speaking on the internment of Japanese-Americans, 1942
"We make these statements, not because we fear evacuation, but because we believe, to the bottom of our hearts, that the best interests of the United States, our nation are to be served by being permitted to stay, work, fight, and die for our country if necessary here where we belong."--Response by the Japanese American Citizens League to Internment Camps, 1942
This excruciating, heart-rending 1942 document was submitted by the Japanese American Citizens League (of Seattle, Washington) to the Tolan Congressional Committee with recommendations, proposals and requests in the event of the removal of Japanese citizens from “sensitive” areas in western America. It is an exceptional report, a well-reasoned response to the developing and calamitous American fear of Japanese fellow-citizens; a fear which was swiftly leading itself to xenophobic actions the result of which was the internment of 120,000 American citizens in non-lethal concentration camps.
I wanted to take a moment and post something from the bookselling section of this blog, something that's pretty interesting and scarce in its own right. It is a work produced at the Harvard University Department of Psychology by Henry A. Murray (1893-1988), the Worksheets on Morale. Seminar in Psychological Problems of Morale which was published in 1942 and contains a section which turns out to be the first psychological profile of Adolf Hitler--this copy was formerly in the library of the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor and incubator of the CIA.
From the looks of it, this image from an 8 April 1933 issue of the Illustrated London News is not quite a "verbal bomb" as we might think of such a thing today. The cutaway drawing (by the sensational G.H. Davies, who produced hundreds of these images for the magazine over four decades)shows an acoustic device housed in a Vickers Victoria aircraft. As described in the descriptive text to the image, Sir Philip Sassoon ("speaking in the House of Commons on the Air Estimates last month") mentioned in May 1933 an attempt to induce forces hostile to the U.K. in Northern Kurdistan by flying over rebel strongholds and threatening an air attack if no surrender was forthcoming.
Evidently a translator would address the town at 2-4,000' elevation through an audio system that amplified the voice"1,600,000 times". An address was made to the leaders of the tribesmnen to surrender their position, else an air attack would occur after three days. Even though described in the title of the image as a "verbal bomb", it isn't anything like the directed energy/sonic/acoustic/infrasonics/pulse weapon performance degraders that are currently available. What was happening here was simply (or not so) an attempt to get an enemy to relieve their position via tangible threat, sort of an acoustic leaflet bombing prior to the real thing. Of course this was backed up by actual bombing, which was still a relatively new weapon for armies--several nations which possessed this newish facility of war practiced bombing civilian/military targets alike in extra-territorial possessions. (There was a hot debate over what constituted fair use of aerial bombs beginning in earnest in the 1920's, but much of that soon devolved into debates on what constituted "civilian populations", and there the definitions were wide and sloppy.) In any event, the loudspeakers did not emit high-powered sound that would disturb/puncture eardrums or cause dizziness or problems with eyesight by making the eyeballs vibrate--they were just loud conveyers of Bad Things to Come.
This stark issue of LIFE magazine listed the names, photographs and ages of 242 American soldiers killed in Vietnam in one week in June, 1969. There were no statistics; this was a picture story of tragedy, an out-of-the-ordinary event for the popular image magaine. I did go through the numbers to get a sense of the ages of those very young-looking faces: of the 242 killed, 23% were teenagers; 73% were 21 and under, and 81% were 22 and under. As our 9 year old said when she asked me and then got her answer about what I was working with on the calculator, "that's very young to be dead".
I went through the issue and tabulated all of the ages of the dead young men. The average age of the soldiers killed during this week was 21.06.
Age 18: 17 killed. Age 19: 40 Age 20: 79 Age 21: 41. Age 22: 20. Age 23: 11. Age 24: 7. Age 25: 8. Age 26: 6. Age 27: 2. After that, from age 28 onwards, there is one dead per each age (28, 30, 31, 33, 35, 36, 37, 40, 45). These 242 deaths were .004% of all American soldiers killed during the war.
I was 13 in 1969 and wanted the war to end in a hurry.
There was no telling the average age of Vietnamese soldiers North or South, just that there were more of them dead than American soldiers. At one point in time this was the way in which the winning side in Vietnam could be judged by political types in the U.S.--the smaller piles of dead bodies indicated the winning side. 58,800 American soldiers were killed there. According to American sources, between 1 and 2 million Vietnamese soldiers and civilians were killed, North and South; Vietnamese sources say that the figure is closer to 3 million (for a country with a total population of about 38 million, or about 10%).
By August 1969, the Gallup Poll showed that 68% of Americans thought it was a mistake for the U.S. to be fighting in Vietnam (source here, though some other polls show the figure at 58%). In the year 2000, about 70% thought it was a mistake to send in the troops. I don't know about that other 30%.
Although electric lamps/searchlights have been militarily used on land and sea since the 1880's (at least), it is still unusual to see light itself displayed as a weapon in a poster. This is especially true when the light is airborne and in real, in-potential-use applications. An earlier image appears in the Illustrated London News of a giant airship illuminating a battlefield, but it is a rather futuristic view of the employment of light as a weapon, and didn't quite come about as an effective tool. (As much as the airship would illuminate of the opponent's night-time position, it also made itself extraordinarily vulnerable--lighting up your enemy's position just didn't make for a practical idea, especially when the notions of bombing and night bombing came into being.)
In this first image below, there is a strong beam emanating from an aircraft in 1917--how it is generating such light, and whether it was conceivable to have it light enough to be on the aircraft, I don't know.
Conversely, the searchlight coming from the military (battle-)ship could certainly have supported the machinery to produce any number of effort, though it seems again to be counter-productive, establishing itself as a not particularly fast-moving target to anything on the sea or above (or below) it.
On the other hand, this Swedish movie poster seems to have put the idea to good use (source, here):
Barbed wire was one of the most successful and horrifying defensive weapons of World War I. In 1915 it was made more effective yet by adding high-voltage electricity to the emplacements. In general the electrical barbed wire fence was employed as only a tiny fraction of all wire fences during the war--as the non-electrified fence was already extremely effective, very cheap to produce and very easily installed--but the possibility of finding an electrified wire somewhere along the lengthy rat's nests of miles and miles of this thing must've had some sort of very major weight in most soldiers' minds.
The following image (and details) from The Illustrated London News for 9 October 1915:
And the places where the barbed wire was made and packaged, again from The Illustrated London News for 16 October 1915.
It looks as though the wire was stretched across 3.5 foot poles, with the barbed wire added diagonally, and then rolled up in long sections for easy transport and deployment.