history


2
Jul 20

Things I read

I subscribe to Bookbub, a service that sends me emails about books I might like. You sign up, pick your genres, and they send you daily links to Kindle books onsale. I’ve gotten some decent books off the list. Certainly each of them have been worth the money I’ve paid. All of the books range from $.99 to $2.99. And aside from the algorithm sometimes wandering around, it’s been a great service. I tell all of the readers I know about it. No one seems as excited by it as I do, which is fine, but it is a mystery.

Two years ago I got an offer for a complete set of James MacGregor Burns’ three-volume masterpiece, “The American Experiment.” It won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Club award. It was 4,000 pages of reading. It was on sale for $2.99.

The modern world is weird.

I didn’t buy it, but as I type this, I regret that. I do see a lot of books come back around so if that series shows up again, I’ll jump on it. Though, honestly, that feels more like a bookshelf book than a Kindle book.

Anyway, I generally read the Kindle books at night, which makes it slow going. I stay up until I’m exhausted, then get ready for bed and then read myself to sleep. So it’s a few pages here, a few pages there. Meaning it took a while for me to finish this book.

Wrapped it up last night. Coolidge tells you a lot about the former president you didn’t know, because you don’t know a lot about Coolidge. That’s a product of the man and our educational system, I guess. But here you get a lot of his economic politics, which makes sense given the author. It’s also a complimentary book, perhaps just a tiny bit fawning, which makes sense given that Amity Shlaes is also chair of the board of trustees of the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation.

I’m sure it glosses over some of the contemporary criticism. Teapot Dome is in there, and sure, that’s Harding, but it resonated over Coolidge’s administration, but we don’t get what was surely the real heft of it. And perhaps there are other things, too. Which, hey, to a degree that’s fine. I paid $2.14 after tax and it isn’t an exhaustive biography or the most authoritative scholarship, but it’s a decent enough primer. I’d like to find out about the man as anything and there are parts of his life where you’re put in the room.

I love this part. Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Harvey Firestone — the vagabonds, they called themselves — have made the pilgrimage to Vermont to see Coolidge before the reelection in 1924. There was the need to give a gift.

Love that line. It’s so New England. Shopworn and perfect.

Coolidge, who was so often a man of few words, probably didn’t say anything like that. Maybe it’s all Shlaes, but the ethos and pathos there say so much. I should make a present-tense version of that and brand it into things I make.

I found photographs of the event. But then I found this:

Ford isn’t whispering to Edison there. The great inventor by then was nearly deaf. You learn in the book that the vagabonds were charmed by Grace Coolidge, the first lady taught at a school for the deaf, and she was helpful with clear speaking and lip reading. The Coolidges had, just a month before, buried their youngest son, at just 16-years-old. And suddenly you’re summering at home and then come these huge leaders of American innovation because campaigns never really stop, even back then.

Here’s more of that footage, if you are inclined.

Having finished Coolidge, I started this book last night.

I mentioned it in a group chat recently and became the butt of many jokes. I’m three or four chapters in and, aside for expounding a little more than necessary on fish, it’s a good read.

Fish was an important part of the Mediterranean diet — still is! And of course this was a staple in England — yep! Northern Europe — sure enough, name a country, we checked! And it’s all in this book. I don’t know if it is going to be the most exhaustive book on salt, but if it isn’t you’ll nevertheless be satisfied. The larger point is how this humble little mineral is a culture shaping, societal forming chemical compound. And so far we’ve only covered China, a bit of India and the first part of selections of Europe, bouncing back and forth across several centuries.

Its Amazon’s best seller in geology. And just look at that list and tell me you wouldn’t dazzle people at parties with the things you could learn from those books. The 19th best seller is about mines in a particular county in Nevada. Number 37? So glad you asked, “Carbonate Reservoir Characterization: An Integrated Approach.”

I’d say that’s the sort of thing you read to get some Stop Bothering Me trivia, but how much of that does one really need?


1
Jul 20

New month, old paper

Here’s video from dinner the other night, because I uploaded it and never shared it. And because we needed something colorful here.

Doesn’t hurt that it was quite tasty, either.

Anyway, not much here right now, so we go back, back, back in time. This is 105 years ago, 1915. Let us see what was going on around here.

Newspaper design was not going on, that is for sure. This is a four-page rag, and it was a slow week in a sleepy town and we’re going to get into all of the news and, this time, ignore the society pages altogether. I am inclined to think there was the editor, the typesetter and, otherwise, the old Evening World was a slim operation. There’s not a lot of unique local stuff to see. Let’s see what there is to see, though.

Do not go fast. Charley Stevens, who doesn’t pop up in a lot of search engines today, is warning you. You’re supposed to do 10 miles per hour, and no more. Ten miles to the hour, excuse me. Town squares are fascinating features. It looked exactly like this in 1915. It looked nothing like this in 1915.

This is the editor of the other paper in town. And this is a big description about an out-of-town trip. And this has to be an inside joke or something. Also, this is on the front page.

No one was in trouble. Grover Lazelle messed around got a triple-double. It was a good day.

This seems impressive. Remember, it was four years before Dwight Eisenhower’s transcontinental Army movement. His caravan covered 3,242 miles through 11 states in 62 days, an average of 52 miles per day, going from Maryland to California. Ol’ Willie Curry did the hardest part coming the other direction.

Ike lost two days in Nebraska. Curry apparently lost two tires over the whole trip.

There’s a big block of text about the fireworks you couldn’t buy anymore, and an editorial bit about the stuff you can buy. Some stories, it seems, never change. But to get SAFE AND SANE you had to be unsafe and insane, right?

Someone surely looked at the mangled hand of some kid the year or two before and said, “Y’all. This is insane.” Then there was legislation, and the marketplace kicked in to high gear. And, sure, stuff got safer, and more refined over time, thank goodness, but some of the stuff you couldn’t use anymore, by 1915, even, sounds kind of awesome? And terrifying?

Finally, this news update is brought to you by this advertisement. You figure Mr. Man, sitting there at his desk, let his eyes drift over the society mentions and saw that and thought, “You know, I haven’t had any look keeping the books all week … ” It’s easy to think he put two and two together there, but, you know.

It went on for two more paragraphs, but given what we know of the digestive habits of the time, surely this is all anyone need read. Sentanel, despite the unfortunate spelling, stayed an operating concern until at least the 1930s, but you don’t see much of it after that. I guess their job was done.

And so is mine, for now. Tomorrow … I’ll have something or other for you here. You’ll see!


23
Jun 20

We’re going (eventually) to the circus in this post

Hey hey, it’s Tuesday. (Right? Tuesday? Still a day? Still named after the Old Germanic and English god of war? Yeah? Yeah.) Tuesday! How’s your Tuesday!

I kid, of course. The days of the week are still easy to maintain. I’m solid on the month. No idea of the date, and, sometimes, I’m having brief mental lapses about the weather. Lunch seems to come later and later.

Tyr, the old god of war, wouldn’t care for that. He once ate an entire ox by himself. He was with Thor at the time. Thor ate two.

Struggling with the time of day for a PB&J, can go directly to the proper Nordic poem. That, apparently, is where I am today. Some literature professor somewhere should be very proud.

Tyr gets short shrift. Loki basically emasculated him. He lost an arm in a symbolic sacrifice and that’s one of his two most notable (and known to modern scholars) achievements. The other is his last battle, where he and the opponent both died. That’s a Tuesday.

I was looking through old newspapers for some family names, just to see what would turn up. There are a lot of simple farmers in my family, so the mentions, particularly among the branch I was searching last night, are a bit thin. But the advertisements around them are kind of interesting. Shall we?

We shall.

We’ll start in 1952. It’s page 11 of the local newspaper, one of the community sections. You’d call it the society pages, but that’s putting airs on too many people. Anyway, I was searching one of my great-grandfather’s names, and there’s a brief mention where his son has returned home for a visit from the service.

It was July, and Sherwin Williams wants you to know that wallpaper is very much in. (Was it ever out?) It’s glamour, glorious, glorious glamour, for those who care. And, to be honest, it’s that last part that led to this brief little collection. For those who care. The rest of you, stick with your wood paneling or your flat drywall or whatever clapboard, newspaper covered shanty you’re rocking at home. For those who care …

It looked like Dwight Eisenhower might earn the Republican presidential nomination. (He would.) There were some pictures from the remains of the Peary march to the North Pole. The month prior Air Force officers got there in a fraction of the time it took the navy man in 1909.

There’s an Asian grocery store at that street address now. That would have surely seemed improbably to readers of this ad, again, in 1952. We ate one block away from there last year over the holidays. It’s a small world in small towns.

This is the same paper, but in 1959. My great-grandfather, or a man who shares his name, gets mentioned he got hit by a bolt of lightning while out in his field. He was not seriously hurt. In 1959, you could have “the cable.”

My great-grandfather never had cable. His daughter, my grandmother, got it … eventually. I remember going out to manually turn the antennae in the yard to get a signal from that station, which still exists today, though operating under different call letters. Cable, in 1959. I’m sure that wasn’t like what we think of today, if anyone thought of cable anymore.

Just above the OWL TV ad there’s an all-text advertisement. It says “Obey that impulse.” It’s urging you to make a long-distance phone call. Says “It’s twice as fast to call by number.” We’re, perhaps, a lot farther away from the 1950s than we realize.

Anyway, that’s July 1959, and there’s a column on the front page set aside for late news. One item is that Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey has declared he’s running for president. (Spoiler alert: Nope.) Also, there was a steel strike on, and all of the economy, bemoans the front page, was under threat. (There was a brief mention of a steel strike in 1952, which was no nearer ending. It was called disastrous.)

There’s also a nice little front page story about a study for a proposed scenic highway. They built it. Did a lovely job. It’s beautiful, and has held that reputation since it was opened. Senator Al Gore, of Tennessee (not him, his father) is mentioned in the story. At the bottom, there’s a mention of a going transportation concern. “Progress on the ultra-modern Interstate Highway System has been good in the rural areas but slow in the large urban areas. When finished there will be 878 mies of four-lane, limited access Interstate Highways in Alabama. A total of 199 miles is now under construction … ”

Some 25 or 30 years later they got there. It’s still marvelous in all of the places that aren’t desperate for expansion.

And from that 1959 television advertisement we drop back to 1944. Still searching on the same great-grandfather’s name. Now, he died, at age 70, before I turned three. I don’t have a recollection of him, I’m sorry to say, and in my mind I can only conjure up the images of him in his old man studio portraits. So it’s pretty wild, to me, to think about him in this way, but his name shows up in a Friday edition of an April 1944 paper as having his name called by the draft board. He’ll soon be 35, but first he has to report to the courthouse. I don’t think he was enlisted.

There were two draft boards working the area. And there’s a front page brief that says victory gardens were badly needed. Also, there’s a mention of a local man who was lost after bailing out of his bomber over Germany. It’d been three weeks, so who knows, and his brother, meanwhile, had been listed as a POW in the Pacific since the fall of Bataan. Their poor family, you think, having to lose them both.

I googled them both. Both men came home and lived long lives.

Anyway, there was a fine little ad floating around all of that, and that’s what we’re here for today. Here’s the fun part of it.

The text helpfully tells you that “just a little care will save your tire,” and, “every turn of the wheel means that much added wear.”

It’s a false memory, I’m sure, but I want to say I remember that. Maybe there was a sign, or an old ghost ad, but all of this is well before my time. There are two offices listed in that 1944 advertisement. One of them is downtown in a place where this sort of building makes no sense. The other is in a town I never go to, but looking at it on the maps, I think that might be the place.

One of the owners testified before Congress about a tax that was going to hurt his, and similarly rubber re-treading businesses. You can read the entire thing in the 1956 congressional record. It was a brief presentation for what was surely a long trip. He was, in 1995, inducted into the Tire Industry Association’s Hall of Fame as someone who “brought lasting fame to the tire, rubber and transportation industries.” I bet he bragged on that to his friends.

Let’s go way back, to 1904. I’ve found a brief mention of a great-great-grandfather getting married. He was 33. His wife, my great-great-grandmother, was 23. It’s a simple one sentence mention. The two names who were “united in marriage.”

This is the top half of one of the ads in that same issue.

I was going to go with the summer rashes advertisement, but there’s just something about “The Highest Class Circus in the World,” and the words around it. Not one so original. Not one so modern. Not one so different. Not one so popular.

There’s a little rhetorical problem with the original-different construction, but that popularity claim is accurate. Apparently The Great Wallace Shows was the second biggest show in the country.

If you saw this show up in the windows of the shops around you, wouldn’t you want to go?

Oh, the wonders that must have stirred in young minds when they saw prints like that. The parents would sigh. Only if we get all the chores done. There were always chores.

I wonder if my great-great-grandparents, the newlyweds, saw the circus when it came through their town.


4
Jun 20

Fossils

Here are some crinoids I picked up last weekend. I was wondering down by the creek bed enjoying myself quite nicely and it quickly became a scavenger hunt. Right there at my feet I found three of these at a glance. Why, then, I had to wonder around a bit to discover a few more.

Old seaborne fossils. Or, around these parts, definitely freshwater fossils. You can find them most anywhere that has water, seems like. Why do I still pick them up? Why do I bring them back to the house to take pictures of them?

These are, I believe, crotalocrinites. They are the sort I’ve always found. They are extinct now, but they appeared about 300 million years before the dinosaurs.

I’ve just discovered, online, there are star-shaped fossiles called pentacrinites. I want to find some of those.

Let’s jump in the time machine, though, and move up a few hundred million years. I pulled back the break lever just a bit too soon, however, and we’ve stopped 103 years before. It’s June 4, 1917. What’s going on in the world?

Oh. That. So the summer before there was a massive sabotage in New York. And two weeks after this Congress passed the Espionage Act, something Woodrow Wilson had been on them about for several years. I can’t find any details today about this person. So we’ll just have to be satisfied with these news briefs:

The next day you had to go sign up for the draft. Married men couldn’t duck it. You’ve already seen that peaceful registrations were predicted. And we now from earlier editions of the paper that several American men, even some locals, are going off to war in some capacity or another. Just down the page there’s a brief listing another handful of names. In New York, when the draft went into play, it was anything but peaceful. So, I’m sure, people were hoping for the best.

There are two creeks on either side of us that have these names.

And while people are out surveying damage, and you’re reading in another column the news that a former local who had moved to Illinois just had his house destroyed in the storms, you get this little ad:

A.H. Beldon had been a grocer. By the teens, he was doing insurance. He made it to 80 or 81 and died in 1939, the same year as his wife. Their son flew planes for the Army in World War I, in Texas, it looks like. That guy’s son served in the Army during World War II.

Enoch Hogate had some paralysis, and then he did not. Much improved was he, a relief to all it was.

Hogate had joined the law school in 1903 and served as the dean from 1906 to 1918. He also had a turn in the state senate prior to all of that.

Polio caused paralysis. I wonder if that’s what it was. He passed away in 1924.

This was the vessel, The Success. It was not built in 1790, but rather 1840. It was not a prison ship, unless it was. Sometimes Internet searches are contradictory. Anyway, it was by now a museum ship. A good fraud well executed, from the looks of things.

She was scuttled in 1891, re-floated the next year, restored and then sailed to England. In 1912 the vessel came to the U.S. and returned to cargo service in 1917, after which it sank. It was re-floated and turned into a museum in 1918, appeared at the Chicago World Fair and fell apart. The Success was to be scrapped on Lake Erie, but it sank for a third time. Someone pulled it up again in 1945 and it promptly ran ashore. In 1946 there was a fire that consumed it. The moral to that story, I guess, is don’t make up a fake history about your ship.

Get ’em a camera!

I wonder if they’re still hiring …

The second and third pages of the four-page rag were just poorly scanned photos of the graduating high school class, which is why we jump immediately to the scolding baby.

Look, baby, nobody likes a scold.

This one had a column jump, which is why it looks weird at the top. But let’s get a load of those people. George Washington Henley had graduated from the law school here three years prior. He went into private practice and got married soon after.

The well-known home boy would serve as a state lawmaker for a decade and, later, sat on the state Supreme Court bench for two months. He was a replacement until the end of a term, but he didn’t want to stay on. He needed to get back to his own clients and he just wanted, Wikipedia says, the prestige. He died in 1965 and was eulogized by the university president. His wife survived him by a dozen years, and was living in California when she passed away.

This is why you should keep Googling names. One of the attendants of their wedding was Paul Feltus. He would become a newspaper editor, witnessed and reported on the atomic bomb tests in 1946 and served as a board member for the university. He wrote four silent film scripts, served in the artillery in World War I and was a colonel in the state guard in the 1940s.

Now, a life of 81 years can’t be distilled into a paragraph, but a paragraph like that hints at an interesting life.

Because the second and third pages were poor artifacts, and because the last page was torn right through the copy, you’re getting a second wedding announcement.

This was Melvin’s second wife. His first died young after just six months of marriage. She was ill most of that time. They had 17 years of unalloyed happiness, I hope. His second wife had a child and died in her 40s, in 1934. Fender kept on farming, retired, and passed away in 1958 at 74.

OK, “Bobby.”

I spent a lot of time looking into this ad. I’m not sure Bobby was a real person.


21
May 20

Here’s a distraction

It occurs to me that I am ready for a three-day weekend in the most desperate way. Which is odd, right? I’m going to spend it at home just like all of the days. And I’ll try to think about work less, but otherwise, status quo ante.

I suppose it is all mental, or I am.

Makes you wonder what next week will be like. Tuesday is Monday, and by this time next week we’ll be here thinking “thank goodness for a four-day week.” It’s a weird moment, is what I’m saying.

Anyway, we have that to look forward to, and brothers and sisters, I am looking forward to it.

Brothers and sisters. Huh, he said, writing this in an almost stream-of-consciousness style while also knowing where it was going. I had a news director who called everyone brother or sister. He wasn’t a particularly religious man then, moreso now it seems, so it struck me as an odd word choice. I just figured he was from where he was from, and that’s the way it was there.

He was a nice guy. Young. His first news director job, he was being handled and he didn’t need to be. After he figured out what was what in that market and who the sharks in the building were he was good at it. I only worked with him for a short time, but he was nice to work with, and gave me one lasting piece of advice: You have to look out for yourself, because no one else will.

It was that last bit of early-20s advice I really needed, I think. It was overdue, perhaps, but I took it to heart.

He’s a news director in Nashville now. He and his family are doing well, according to his Facebook feed. Always seems happy when we catch up. Brothers and sisters.

Let’s look at some old newspapers again. Let’s go back in time 111 years and look at the local paper on this date in 1909.

We save by using the ditto marks and pass along the savings to you! I love the little local ads that exist because of the university. It’s always difficult to tease out their story, though. One of the owners has two other men of different generations using the same name here. The other couple don’t leave much of a trace either. And that’s not an uncommon book store name, it turns out.

Oh, it’s one of those seasons. The Milwaukee mayor was in town. And one of the authors of the legislation.

This wasn’t outright prohibition, it was about home rule and liquor licenses and how much a saloon would have to pay and, yes, about prohibition. The Anti-Saloon league held a powerful sway.

The registrar speaks! Terrific news! Had there been an accident? Was he recovering, then? Was he coming out of mourn — oh, he was just weighing in on the debate of the hour.

He wants to leave out the moral question, indeed, he mentions it twice in here in this brief selection. I’ve edited out a few paragraphs in between because, you know academics, we do tend to go on.

This was actually Craven’s paper. He founded it in 1893 and ran it into his brother bought him out in 1906, just three years prior. He was the registrar for 41 years, until 1936.

A registrar, by the way, keeps the academic record of all the students and plans the registration process for classes. Craven did all that while he was a student. Academia was a lot different back then.

Look, I wear a suit to work. Not while fishing, though:

Kahn Clothing was Moses Kahn, and a partner, Solomon Tannenbaum. There was a big fire, but Moses was soon back to work, and became a founding member of the local fire department. He ran that store until he died, in 1920, at about 70 years of age.

Someone was in a mood when they went to look for filler:

I love that these places didn’t need an address. You just knew where The Globe was. I don’t. Or I didn’t. A few other searches tell me it was on the square. You can assume everything was there, but you shouldn’t. It’s just one square.

Elmer Bender was in the clothing trade for a long time. You can still find references to him through the mid 1920s. And soon after he joined the city council. He died in 1957.

Safe to say the newspaper was coming down on the side of the Drys. I’ve edited a bit of this to get to the real panic.

Ninety percent of the murders were somehow tied to saloons and drink! And you want that to come here!?

That’s an instructive look at fear-mongering you weren’t expecting out of this exercise.

The vote was just a few days away. I skipped ahead. The drys won the day. It seems they thought the city would vote dry, but the vote totals went against that idea. It rained and that let the farmers come in from the fields and voted dry. There was a big stir about whether many of the students who voted were eligible to vote. But across the state, it was a series of wins for the Anti-Saloon League.

I’m through here every so often.

When I first read that I thought, I should keep a look out.

You never know when a lost cufflink will turn up, but if I see it, Mr. J, I’ll let you know.