A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7500 images, 3.9 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, The Paris Review, Le Figaro, MENSA, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places... 4,000+ total posts
[With thanks to Andrea Pitzer for surfacing this map today, and also to Slate Vault's Rebecca Onion for the story on the map, here.] All that I've done below is post some of the detail of the Library of Congress copy of this map so that county details are clearly visible.
Lynchings by states and counties in the United States, 1900-1931 :
(data from Research Department, Tuskegee Institute) ; cleartype county
outline map of the United States, and printed by the American Map Company (NYC), ca. 1931. Source: the Library of Congress; follow for a downloadable 5 meg copy.
The revolutionary comic strip generator Winsor McCay had a great 12 months in 1904/1905. McCay may have been the Einstein of his field, and his
work I think may still be the standard bearer for high excellence and
creativity. It was in 1904 that he began his Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend, which seems to have also launched the main character for the creation of his crowning masterpiece of the medium, Little Nemo in Slumberland, which would premier in 1905. (McCay's work was appearing in two different newspapers in New York in 19041, forcing him to contractually sign his work for Rarebit as "Silas").
Nothing had really quite been seen like that before, two newspaper
strips that were filled with vision and elegance and weirdness and the
bizarre, beautiful stories illustrated on one sheet of paper, of great
imagination and a wide stretch of subversiveness. They so captivated the
readers of the time that McCay went off on illustrative lecture
circuits, found movie (in their relative infancy) versions of his work,
and performed in vaudeville venues along with Charlie Chaplin and W.C. Fields.
What is different in Rarebit from McCay's other work seems to be its new material from strip to strip--there's no recurring characters--unlike Nemo, which has storylines that continue for periods of weeks--and there is a great reliance on message than in the usually-beautiful artwork that is found in Little Nemo. Rarebit tells a social story, and is capable of satirizing political and other issues; this is almost never the case in Little Nemo.
There's also the appearance of giants in --this one, in particular, we see a New York City stomper of varying heights. The giant seems tallest when standing on the New Jersey palisades; when he gets to Daniel Burnham's Beaux-Arts Flatiron/Fuller building--which had just been completed a few years before this strip--he rises above it by about 1/4, making him about 400' tall. When he gets to the Statue of Liberty, which is about 305' from ground to the base of the torch, making the giant somewhat shorter than earlier, tough he seems his mightiest when sitting on the center span of the Brooklyn Bridge, this portrayal making him seem considerably taller than the earlier 400', as the height of the bridge from tower to river is about 276'). I'm not altogether sure of how early NYC-attacking giants come in in the literature, though there are plenty of other appearances of giants in the history of myth and literature (including the Cyclops, Eoclesia, Paul Bunyan, Fatna/Fanolt, Gargantua, Goliath, Orin, the Kraken, Rukh, Zeus, and so on, all of whom come before our Wall-Street-Wrecking giant rarebit fiend. (I wrote earlier in this blog on an Alphabet of Giants, here). There is an 11-minute movie (The Pet, 1921) by McCay featuring a city-attacking giant, which may actually be the first movie featuring a gigantic-anything distributing mayhem on a city:
Its unclear to me why a person should have nightmares from the seasoned
cheese slathered toast that it is rarebit--it seems fairly innocuous,
unless of course it is weirdly seasoned or the cheese is bad. But this
is Cartoonlandia, which means anything is possible.
1. The strip ran from September 1904 to 1911; it appeared in different papers and under different title for a few years from 1911-1913, and then once again revived under a different name in bits and spurts from 1923 to 1925.
I'm not sure that I've ever seen a list of the personal daily cost of antique drug use, though I did manage to stumble across one in a remarkable little pamphlet by Edward C. Jandy called Narcotic addiction as a Factor in Petty Larcency in Detroit (published November 1937). There's a lot packed into its 23 pages, not the least of which is a pretty sophisticated look at how to examine the costs of drug addiction to the sales economy of that city. One of the interesting historical bits that emerges from it is a list of the daily cost of the addiction of one of the target study groups--a selection of 43 local addicts with a combined 673 years of addiction (averaging an unholy 15.5 years of addiction/person).
[Full list in the Continued Reading section.]
There are immediate limitations to this info--for example there is no correlation to the number of years of addiction to the individually-reported daily drug costs--but since this data seems to be fairly rare it does at least give some idea of the strain of usage per person.
And what does it mean to spend $5/day on your heroin habit? CPI is useful, but it is better to look at what that figure means in terms of the average salary and costs of basic goods. If you were working back there in a bad spot of the Depression in 1937 the average salary was about $1,700/year, which means that if these addicts were working (and the great majority wasn't) then they would be spending about 1/3% of their annual income per day--or a little more than all of their daily salary--on their everyday habit. Spending $1,800 a year on drugs on a $1,700 salary leaves not-so-much-room for anything else but crime, and not having any income at all would mean that all of that money would have to be from criminal activities.
In another (potentially gross) way of thinking about this expense is by looking at the average salary in 1937 being about 1/30th of what the average American family income is in 2012, so the daily $5 heroin hit would be something like $150 today, which sounds about right. And if you applied that multiplier to some other standard 1937 prices1, the numbers are fairly constant from then to now--the big exception being postage stamps (which would be $1.50 for a first class stamp) and gasoline ($6/gallon), both of which would show a decline. Again, that's a very crude approximation, but it does pause.
The author then does some tricky and interesting semi-statistical work with the bottom line showing that drug addicts stole a total of about 3% of the total retail sales (of $545 million) in the U.S. That's a big number--in today's economy, which currently stands at about $33 billion in thefts (or 1.5%) that would 3% for just addicts would be an enormous number, twice the national general total which would spike drug losses at $100 billion for theft alone.
I'm thinking that these 1937 stats might be a little (or a lot) loose, but it the report still is decently argued and nicely presented though the data might be not-great--and the daily/habit numbers are a fine thing to find.
I've posted a number of times in this blog on child labor in the U.S. Today's post is a simple display of images made by the great Lewis Hine (1874-1940) that are housed at the Library of Congress (findable here) showing the state of the child worker in the first quarter of the 20th century. The children are chauffeurs, bootblacks, delivery boys, messengers, food vendors, shuttle runners (and all sorts of mill work activities), miners (coal handlers, underground mule guides, etc.) and many other jobs, including of course the most iconic and visible reminder that children were working--the newsboy. Hine's documentary evidence shows the children working in all manner of weather, at all times of day and night, in all sorts of working conditions--and of course showing how little and frail and open-to-abuse the children were.
Each of the images below is expandable and linked to the original at the Library of Congress site; shown below are two of the ten pages of images.
"There is work that profits children, and there is work that brings
profit only to employers. The object of employing children is not to
train them, but to get high profits from their work." --Lewis Hine, 1908
These broadsides are tough going. They are the work of advocates and reformers who sought to give children an even chance at growing up as children, rather than joining the hundreds of thousands of 6-12 year olds already in the workforce in America in the first decade or two of the 20th century. They were a simple and very powerful appeal to business-owners and parents to resist the temptation of child exploitation--none though so far as I can tell directly addressed the children. See my other posts on this topics here:
I was picking my way through Mr. Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia (written in 1783/4), and dipped into Query 14, "Laws". Six pages in came the Great Man's thoughts on being white and being black. He really didn't have much hope for the black person in the new United States, and in an odd way, I think, did a sort of arithmetic calibration on the black race, giving a few points here and there "for", and piling up the count "against", making an overall large negative number for the possibility of the black and white races living together. [The full text of the work us available, here.]
In very many cases in his later writing Jefferson re-evaluates this thinking, as seen in this example, writing to Benjamin Banneker in 1791 ('"No body wishes more than I do to see such proofs as you exhibit, that nature has given to our black brethren, talents equal to those of the other colors of men, and that the appearance of a want of them is owing merely to the degraded condition of their existence"), and in many others (as in the very full example1 of this 1809 letter to Henri Gregoire, shown below).
Jefferson had already written somewhat earlier in the book about blacks on page 197, where he discusses albinism in black people as part of a natural history chapter dealing with animals:
To this catalogue of our indigenous animals, I will add a short account of an anomaly of nature, taking place sometimes in the race of negroes brought from Africa, who, though black themselves, have in rare instances, white children, called Albinos...
This is not promising. This is also the first appearance in the book of the word "negro". [I wrote a short bit on the history of the fight for the capitalization of the letter "N" in "Negro" here; this was a fight that dragged itself into the first third of the 20th century.]
I am no Jefferson scholar, not by any means. Only familiar with the "basics" of Jefferson, and his design and architecture and technical aspects, and somewhat familiar with his writing on the basic morality of slave-holding, I was surprised to find what he had written about constitution of black people here in the Notes.
Perhaps I shouldn't've been so, but I was. Perhaps I wasn't as familiar with Jefferson during the time of the Revolution as I thought, seeing him as not only a man who changed the product of his time but who was also a product of them, writing in his present on the state of blacks in America that seems to have been seen as a great error in the mind of the Thomas Jefferson who would read these thoughts in the future, and refute (and perhaps repudiate) them.
I really do love these bits of unusual Americana, something from the early ages of iconic Americans that give a quick glimpse into an average day of a famous-someone way before they became who they became.
[Image from the American Heritage Auction Gallery, where the item is being auctioned, here.]
[Elsewhere in this blog I wrote about what I learned from Johnny Cash's report card (here) from just a year later, in 1949.]
Getting back to Elvis: this is a back-of-the-book-in-a-paper-pocket borrower's card from a library book borrowed by Elvis Presley in 1948. The book--written by Bessie Rowland James (b. 1895)-- was Courageous Heart, a Life of Andrew Jackson for Young Readers, and was published in 1934. I guess it was appropriate reading,as the Presley family had just (September 12) moved from Tupelo into their new small apartment at 578 Poplar Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee--Jackson being a more-or-less Native Son (though other states claim him as well).
To accompany the J.R. Cash report card is Elvis' third grade card:
As near as I can determine, this is 578 Poplar Street today:
[Source: Google Maps]
Elvis was enrolled at Christine School (formerly known as the Market Street School, and also as the Smith School) on Third Street in Memphis to complete 8th grade the next day, September 13, 1948. The school was demolished in 1948. The book evidently survived.
I just happened upon this, but since it is the British Open and all I though to publish it here. The map was composed for the Illustrated London News, 3 July 1920, by W.B. Robinson. It shows the number of links around the city of London--seems like a lot to me, and this data doesn't even include miniature golf, which was very big at this time. The Key: M = a "membership" club; L = Ladies; A = "associate", and the year underneath is the year the course was organized. The game is evidently older in Scotland, but around London golf dates to the time of James I.
I found this in the Alex Cashman's lovely site, Mathematical Fiction (here). The except is from Charles Dicken's Hard Times (1854)1, and in it we see Dickens making another in a long series of assaults on what he thought to be a disturbed social layering of dealing with the underclasses and the working poor.--and this time in the form of an entire novel. In the instance sited below (of interest right now because of its maths connection), Dickens makes a case for the"success" for the government of the fictitious city of Coketown to see a relatively small percentage of people in that city starving to death on its streets to be not a success at all. The character making the complaint is Sissy Jupe, whose fault at school came when asked the percentage of the starving/dying responded by saying it really didn't matter, because people were starving anyway, and whether it was one or a thousand dying from something as fixable as hunger meant all the same thing. She was presented with the "statistics"2 from her teacher, but to Ms. Jupe it came to her ear as "stutterings", which is what Dickens felt the numbers were. Dickens was attempting to make those people suffering in the streets less blank, less hollow, and more than a number.
1. It should be pointed out here that this is Dickens' 10th novel, the 42-year-old already having a enormous success with his writing and an even grater one in his storytelling. To this date, Dickens had already written The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (Monthly serial, April 1836 to November 1837; The Adventures of Oliver Twist (Monthly serial in Bentley's Miscellany, February 1837 to April 1839); The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (Monthly serial, April 1838 to October 1839); The Old Curiosity Shop (Weekly serial in Master Humphrey's Clock, 25 April 1840, to 6 February 1841); Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of 'Eighty (Weekly serial in Master Humphrey's Clock, 13 February 1841, to 27 November 1841); A Christmas Carol (1843);The Chimes (1844); The Cricket on the Hearth (1845); The Battle of Life (1846);The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain (1848); The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit (Monthly serial, January 1843 to July 1844); Dombey and Son (Monthly serial, October 1846 to April 1848);David Copperfield (Monthly serial, May 1849 to November 1850); and Bleak House (Monthly serial, March 1852 to September 1853). Remarkable.
2. "Statistics" as a word has been in use for a long time, finding air as early as 1787, at least so far as the sense in which it is used here. There are earlier references, but they actually refer to the "state", as in "statecraft" and government and such, and not for interpreting a collection of data.
JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post on Anti-Semitism & Propaganda
Frederick Soddy, Nobel Prize in chemistry (1921) and one of the fathers of nuclear fission, was also an economist. Well, an anti-economist of high order, an anti-economist preaching anti-economics on the order of the altruistic anti-economy, ideal anti-economist, material- and Left- and Nationalist-economics, and so on. He is the author, along with Walter Crick (who happens to be the uncle of Francis Crick of DNA fame), of a clumsily-titled pamplet-y takeoff of his major works on anti-economics, Abolish Private Money, or Drown in Debt (1939) It was published by the Nationalist Press Association (147 E 116th Street, NYC), an arm of the American Nationalist Party, and which also published such works as Are all Jews Liars? (1940), The Jew and Peril and the Catholic Church (1936, also published by the American White Guard), Why are Jews Persecuted for their Religion (1940), and other titles.
Soddy also quotes from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and did so five years after The Times ran a blistering and complete denunciation of the rabid anti-Semitic creation that seems resistant to contradictory evidence to its belief. And still he seems to have kept his belief in the document, like any other object demanding of belief and not-critical thinking, kept it alive like millions of others.
I did not know this about Soddy, and I am sorry for it. The cover illustration is disgraceful, though there is no place in the text that I have seen that is actually and outwardly anti-Semitic. The illustrations, however, are.
I really have no idea about what Soddy is talking about in his "scientific" and anti-economic theory that money and banks are the ruin of the way a country (and the world) conducts business. Its structure brings immediately to mind--probably wrongly--the brilliant/odd/goofy contribution of T.E. Lawrence to the Encyclopedia Britannica on guerrilla warfare and his attempt to make a "science" of it. But the overall flavor of the Soddy/Crick thing is not very good (and that leaving out the anti-Semitic part, which is something else, entirely)>.
The Care of the Dead, published by Eyre and Spottiswoode in London in 1916, is a quiet, spare pamphlet, on what was happening to the fallen British soldier in France and Belgium. It is a big topic--physically the little paper-wrapper work seems barely strong enough to support the implications and heaviness of its title--and I'm sure the issue would've been the most important questions in the minds of the families of the hundreds of thousands of dead British soldiers*--the pamphlet really does seem to be feather-light under the solidity of its title.
Reading though this work gave me an insight into the depth of what millions of war dead means--and an insight I think that I've never had before. The anonymous author writes about touring the battlefields of France in 1915 and 1916, driving in an automobile, "the eye of the traveler along the roads is struck by many low crosses sticking out o the ground--in the fields, in cottage gardens, in corners of farm yards and orchards, even on roadside strips of grass."
Where the ground has changed hands a good deal in the course of a war, you may see, within a few hundred yards of each other, the gabled and eaved cross of the Germans, with "Hier ruht in Gott" and a name painted in white on a dark ground, the beaded wire wreath of the French, with its "Requiescat" or "Mort pour la France: and the plain-lined cross of the English, white or brown or just the unpainted wood, "In loving memory" of officers or men..." Now I'm sure I read any number of accounts of the views of battlefields from commanders' line and soldiers' views and the like; but I don't think I've had the perspective of an officer driving around a no-longer-a-contested-battlefield in a car and being struck by the appearance of the little white crosses, well, everywhere. I have a very crisp imagined image in my head, now, with this 92-year-old war memory described from the driver's seat of a car.
"In 1873, when Morse advocated an end to all political rule, Alcott commented about Morse in his journal. 'Once, I might have accepted fully his doctrine of Individual Sovereignty, ignoring all interference from institutions conventions and creeds of all kinds, as during the Fruitlands and non-taxpaying periods of my life. It was putting this logic to its ultimate consequences, and individual issues,—abolishing the social and political order altogether. . . . It left me an outcast and a vagabond.— The sincere victim of a half-truth seen in the light of an idea at last'."--Amos Alcott, friend of Sidney H. Morse (author of the pamphlet below), from the site Alcott.net
I just could not resist this pamphlet, all dressed in white and red, catchy and playful title...I thought it would be a nice catch for my Daily Dose of Dr. Odd series, until I realized straight away that it was a serious publication. Well, the mood of the discourse was a little common and jocular, but the message certainly wasn't.
[The original is available from our blog bookstore, here.]
The author was Sidney H. Morse ("The Red-Hot Striker") and the piece was a rant against big money, monopoly/combinations and The Ruling Class. It was published in "The Radical Review", which was published by the anarchist and free-thinker Benjamin Tucker, in 1878. The executive summary for this short piece is plain--first, there should be no "executive", and second, most of all of this revolves around free Communism and the statement "it takes a great many poor men to make one rich man".
It seems that Mr. Morse (fl. 1870-1900) might have left many of his radical thinkers behind (like Mr, Alcott, above) when he went free-range and advocated no government or controlling system whatsoever, every person their own entity. I'm not sure so that most people could get away with that thinking even left to themselves in a themself universe, every person in their own Utopian-solitary-anarchy. Seems as though the expectations of whatever this was, (no expectation or all-expectation) , was just too expectant.
There is something terribly American, full of hope, and trust, and celebration in this anniversary celebration pamphlet for the city of Mound Bayou, Mississippi. (I talked to someone in town administration this morning and the "Mound Bayou" is pronounced as one, quick, word: "Moundbayou", with equal pronunciation emphasis.) The Souvenir Program for the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the town (July 11-17, 1937) is filled with town history, and advertisements, and photographs.
Isaiah T. Montgomery was one of the founders of Mound Bayou, clearing out the bottomlands in the wilderness of northwest Mississippi, the town populated by Freedmen. But here at the time of the anniversary, in 1937, with the failure of cotton prices and the Depression being at its height or depth, the majority of the people living in Mound Bayou were sharecroppers, with most property lost.
But that didn't matter too much to the people of Mound Bayou. As is stated on page 47 of the pamphlet:
"The real significance of Mound Bayou...cannot be measured by the number of acres we own, neither by the size and number of businesses we operate, the strength of our financial institutions, nor by the eminence of or native sons and daughters. But the true significance of Mound Bayou lies in the fact that we are able to demonstrate to the world that the Negro can and does live as a law abiding citizen under the authority of the "bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh". The reading continues: "We have no jail because we don't need one. Int he entire community dwell 8,000 Negroes and we have not had a capital crime in thirteen years. Petty crimes are infrequent."
The original document is available at our blog bookstore, here.
The long-spirit anarchist (and "Unterrified Jeffersonian") Benjamin R. Tucker (1854-1939) wrote "The Attitude of Anarchism toward Industrial Combination" in 1926, but we see it here printed in Detroit (by Lawrence Labadie) in 1933. It is interesting to see on the inside of this tiny pamphlet that the anarchist Tucker's work was sent to H.L. Mencken, as a gift from the printer. It wouldn't stay long in Mr. Mencken's possession, as he sent it (along with a number of other works by Tucker that I can't lay my hands on at the moment) to the Library of Congress in July 1934 (and coming into my possession as part of a purchase of "the Pamphlet Collection" 65 years later.). I'm not so sure about what Mr. Mencken would have thought of most of it, only that he didn't keep it for long, I think, despite what might seem to be his "Tory Anarchism" and general oppositionist stances. left and right, whatever they might have meant at the time.
The full text of the pamphlet is found here, and the original found for sale at our blog bookstore, here.
"There is work that profits children, and there is work that brings profit only to employers. The object of employing children is not to train them, but to get high profits from their work." --Lewis Hine, 1908
This is an appraisal of the working conditions of children in 1934--a third of the way through the century, thirty years before the 'sixties, not horribly long ago, not of a Dickensian era, not even a Sinclair-Lewis-ian one. Recent. The author, Dorothy Kenyon--1888-1972, a feminist, civil rights lawyer, judge, maverick, speaker, activist, and all around force of nature who stood strong and firm and tall while being accused of Commie blather by Joe McCarthy--made a very strong case for people to take a close look at the still-dismal conditions of child labor in the U.S.
Exposing the conditions of children, young child, hard at work in 40-75 hour a week jobs may belong to the documentarian photographer Lewis Hine (1874-1940), whose long series of images made between 1908-1917 (and working for the National Child Labor Committee) depicted the varied working conditions of some of the 2 million kids under the age of 16 working in the U.S. He made photographs, and photographs to this generation of American newspaper and magazine reader were still relatively new-ish, half-tones coming into wide use only in the 1890's, making short work of speculation.
Hine--who gives us the quote to lead this short post--was a school teacher and sociologist who was extremely aware of the plight of the children around him--well, children, and immigrants, and laborers; people without voices, or representation, poor working people. He was a pioneering photographer whose images of these classes of people were revolutionary, a tremendously important documentarian of a societal symptom that was pretty much misdiagnosed, or at least was chosen as something to not be seen. That was hard to do when you had actual photographs of the grim situation.