• Ye Ghost Ship

    By Gunnar Rice

    Ye Ghost Ship Ye Ghost Ship



    An hour before sunset, after a stormy June day, in the year 1648, a crowd of colonists from the very new town of New Haven stood at the shore to watch a ship sail into harbor. While many had hoped, after a year and a half most had stopped praying for the safe return of its seventy passengers—and started praying for an “account” that would, as the Reverend James Pierpont explained, “let them hear what [God] had done with their dear friends.”

    This ship, which now miraculously sailed against the wind, and which rode not on the waves but in the clouds, was, these Puritans believed, that hoped-for account. God, in his great mercy, had sent them a ghost ship that wouldn’t simply tell—but would actually show—what had happened to the vessel on which they’d staked so much.

    This story, of the legendary Phantom Ship, begins not with this haunted hull, but years earlier, with an empty harbor. Founded by “men of traffic and business” in 1639, New Haven had in its first years nonetheless suffered a series of failed trading expeditions to the West Indies. By 1646, leading merchants, “gathering together all the strength which was left ‘em,” contracted a Rhode Island builder to construct a “Great Shippe” that would carry all their tradeable goods to London. But the ship, which was either poorly or hastily built, sailed, noted one contemporary, “very walt-sided”—that is, so unevenly that it would, its captain George Lamberton often noted, likely “prove their grave.”

    The atmosphere was certainly funereal on the cold January day when the nameless ship disembarked: for three miles, as an advanced crew cleared ice, the 150-ton hulk inched through the harbor to the sound of onlookers’ “fears, as well as prayers and tears.” The Reverend John Davenport is said to have addressed the dismal company in prophetic terms: “Lord, if it be thy pleasure to bury these our friends in the bottom of the sea, they are thine, save them.” Writing with the benefit of hindsight, the chronicler William Hubbard even more fittingly described how the ship’s loss at sea affected the New Haven merchants: “with the loss of it,” Hubbard noted, “their hope of trade gave up the ghost.” On that June day, almost eighteen months later, this metaphorical ghost had, many New Haven faithful believed, returned home.

    While many written accounts of the Phantom Ship have survived, the wood engraving (see above) is the only known contemporary image. Accordingly, many of the details Pierpont, Hubbard, and later chroniclers “received from the most credible, judicious, and curious surviving observers” appear also in this undated engraving.

    “The ship approached so near they could throw a stone into her,” writes Pierpont of those observers of the Phantom Ship, whom the anonymous woodcut indeed depicts alarmingly nearby. “This was seen by many, men and women,” and even “children cryed out,” Pierpont notes, and indeed men, distinguished by their Pilgrim hats, women, by their bonnets, and children, by their small stature, all crowd into the foreground. “Her canvas and colors [were] abroad,” Pierpont notes of the ship, and her sails and flags indeed appear fully unfurled. Even the “great smoke” into which observers said the ship eventually “vanished” seems to arise, as contemporaries noted, “from the side of the ship which was [away] from the town.”

    The engraving thus captures the moment just before the Phantom Ship disappeared into the “smoke” and then the sea—in what the onlookers believed was a representation of the ship’s “tragic end.” Those looking for the full picture of this encounter might consider filling the engraving out with lines from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Phantom Ship” (1858), which delineate as only poetry can how

    ...The masts, with all their rigging,
    Fell slowly, one by one,
    And the hulk dilated and vanished,
    As a sea-mist in the sun!
  • Edward Penfield And The American Poster

    By Judith Maas

    Edward Penfield’s first poster for Harper’s in 1893 shows a man in a green coat absorbed in reading a magazine while being splashed by raindrops; the display type accompanying the figure is as matter-of-fact as can be: “Harper’s for April.” A 1922 article described this spare image as an “epoch-making event,” stating that “[u]ntil the days of Penfield America remained a complete stranger to the poster as a form of artistic expression.”[i] The solitary figure, the flat field of color, the paring away of detail, and the absence of a background were something new. Giving the viewer minimal information, the poster nevertheless tells a story: an April shower will not deter this gentleman from the pleasures of good reading. And in another departure from convention, Penfield initialed his poster, announcing himself as an artist with his own distinct style and raising the stature of the poster form itself.

    Courtesy: EdwardPenfield.com

    Posters had been used in the past in America to promote household goods, plays, circuses, minstrel shows, wild west shows, and political events.[ii] During the early nineteenth century, simple posters of one or two colors were made from woodblocks.[iii] By the 1850s and 1860s, lithographic printing companies were employing in-house artists to draw images that technicians would separate into different colors and then transfer onto lithographic stones. The finished work was precise and realistic.[iv] Rather than bear the name of the artist, the posters usually displayed the name of the lithography or printing company. Their purpose was practical: to sell the product and win business for the printer. The style and originality of the posters themselves were not of concern.[v]

    Social changes in the years after the Civil War laid the groundwork for a “golden age of illustration.”[vi] Public education, increased literacy, public libraries, and a growing demand for information and entertainment propelled the rise of the illustrated periodical, which in turn provided growing and new businesses in an industrial age with a venue for advertising their products. An expanding railway system and postal service allowed publishers to reach wider audiences, while advances in color printing and photomechanical reproduction improved the quality of illustrations and made their production more efficient and economical.[vii] And the pictures themselves—prints, cartoons, photographs—exerted their own allure, giving readers access to images of contemporary life, from city scenes to the day’s news to fashions.

    In November 1890, the Grolier Club of New York City held an exhibition of poster art, popular in France since the 1830s and 1840s. On display were works by such French masters as Jules Chéret, known for his effervescent images of music halls and cabarets, and Eugene Grasset, whose designs incorporated the flowing lines and ornamentation characteristic of Art Nouveau. Nearly overlooked on the occasion were a handful of posters by American artists—these were traditional images, almost photographic in style.[viii] “American posters show little personal impulsion; all are good,” wrote a critic for The Art Amateur. “But it is impossible to tell Matt Morgan’s work from W.J. Morgan’s, or the latter from Thomas’s and Wylie’s.”[ix]

    Edward Penfield

    Within a few years, the American poster artist would be obscure and neglected no longer, thanks to a business decision by Harper & Brothers and to the talents of Penfield, the company’s art director. Since the 1880s, magazine publishers had been employing artists to create special illustrated covers for holiday issues, while giving regular issues a standardized treatment—typically, a masthead and a listing of the issue’s contents. In early 1893, Harper & Brothers, pleased by the favorable response to a Grasset design for the 1892 Christmas issue of Harper’s magazine, decided to try an experiment: stocking bookshop windows and newsstands with a new poster each month to advertise the regular issues. Harper’s assigned Penfield the task of designing a poster for its April 1893 issue.

    Penfield’s education and travels had exposed him to several of the trends influencing the artists of the era. Born in Brooklyn in 1866, he studied at the Art Students League between 1889 and 1895, under the guidance of George de Forest Brush, who had earlier spent time in Paris working among the Impressionists and had helped to spread the new style back home in America. Penfield himself traveled to Paris in 1892. Through his interest in Impressionism, he would have become familiar with Ukiyo-e, the Japanese prints of the late seventeenth through the early nineteenth centuries and would incorporate into his own work such elements as flat colors, informal poses, and depictions of everyday scenes.[x]

    His April 1893 poster inspired other publishers, including Scribner’s, Lippincott, and the Century Company, to follow suit with their own designs. Soon American poster artists were being recognized at home and abroad. Poster exhibitions took place in New York, Boston, and San Francisco. “The advertising poster has within recent years actually soared into the regions of art,” proclaimed Publisher’s Weekly in 1894.[xi] In 1895, the works of Penfield and other Americans were featured in a Paris exhibition, and Scribner’s published a book on the modern poster.[xii] Admirers began assembling their own collections. A full-fledged “poster craze”[xiii] was underway.

    Harper’s was among the more upscale magazines of the day, appealing to educated, middle-class readers and featuring fiction, poetry, reviews, and articles on current events, art, and travel. While other magazines, such as the Century and Scribner’s, had a roster of artists design their posters, Harper’s relied exclusively on Penfield, giving him the chance to experiment with his signature style, to play variations on a theme. His posters feature well-dressed young men and women in casual poses, engaged in enjoyable pursuits—reading, bicycling, golfing, swimming, rowing. Wholly absorbed, often alone or with just one other person, Penfield’s subjects have a cool, detached quality; many look away from the viewer. Sometimes, they float in space, or else a few lines and shapes evoke a backdrop, a room, or a landscape, or a garden. Colors abound. As an animal lover, Penfield liked to show his subjects in the company of cats and dogs, adding a playful touch. The mood is placid and leisurely.

    Penfield Poster

    Meant to sell magazines, Penfield’s posters blur the line between commerce and art. In his introduction to Posters in Miniature, an 1896 compilation of images, Penfield offers his view of how a poster should function. In stressing the need for simplicity, he implicitly acknowledges its role as an advertisement—to capture viewers’ attention and make its point: “A poster should tell its story at once—a design that needs study is not a poster…. A poster has to play to the public over the variety stage, so to speak—to come on with a personality of its own and to remain but a few moments.” At the same time, he points out the care and skill it takes to achieve these effects[xiv] and notes the affinity between posters and paintings: “A poster…must have the same qualities that a good painting possesses—color, simplicity, and composition—but must be expressed in a different manner.”

    If not the same as a painting, a poster is its own form of imaginative expression, beautiful in its own way, Penfield’s statement suggests. Even as advertisements, Penfield’s posters do not cajole or manipulate. They are pleasing to the eye, quite apart from their utilitarian purpose. Their clarity and economy, sprightly colors, tranquil atmosphere, and the gracefulness of their subjects give pleasure and invite the viewer to linger.

    Indeed, during the 1890s, publishers’ posters proved far more successful as artworks valued by collectors than as advertisements—rather like clever ads whose products we don’t remember. Toward the end of the decade magazine publishers began to pursue other means of advertising.[xv] Penfield’s career continued to flourish—he illustrated books, magazines, and calendars; designed promotional materials for such commercial clients as Pierce-Arrow Automobile and the clothier Hart, Schaffner and Marx; and produced popular posters of male athletes for the Beck Engraving Company. During World War I, he turned his skills toward making posters to support the war effort. Beginning in the 1910s and on into the 1920s, Penfield taught at the Art Students League, and in the early 20s served as president of the Society of Illustrators. His work was displayed in exhibitions and publications, including a memorial exhibition by the Society of Illustrators, following his death in 1925.

    Penfield’s rain-soaked reader of 1893 helped to legitimize an art form in America; in turn, the poster craze accelerated the development of book jackets and magazine covers[xvi] and helped bring elements of modern art into everyday life. In 1881, long before Penfield began his career, a critic for The Magazine of Art lamented the lack of delight in the lives of working people and offered a prescription: “The fact is, that to reach the people, art must step out of the picture gallery, out of the museum, out of the schoolroom, out of the boudoir, and go into the streets.”[xvii] Gracing shop windows and newsstands with their designs, Penfield and his colleagues answered the call.


    [i] Harold R. Willoughby, “Edward Penfield: Father of American Poster Art,” The Poster, 13, Nov. 1, 1922, 21.

    [ii] Victor Margolin, American Poster Renaissance (New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, 1975), 17.

    [iii] Ibid., 17.

    [iv] David Gibson, Designed to Persuade: The Graphic Art of Edward Penfield (Yonkers: Hudson River Museum, 1984), 4-5; Roberta Wong, American Posters of the Nineties (Lunenberg, VT: The Stinehour Press, 1974), 7.

    [v] David W. Kiehl, “American Art Posters of the 1890s,” in American Art Posters of the 1890s in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987), 13.

    [vi] Introduction, Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 188, American Book & Magazine Illustrators to 1920 (Gale, 1998), xiii.

    [vii] Nancy Finlay, “American Posters and Publishing in the 1890s,” in Kiehl, American Art Posters of the 1890s, 45; Introduction, Dictionary of Literary Biography, xvi; Susan E. Meyer, “American Illustration: A Brief History,” URL = https://www.hcc.commnet.edu/artmuseum/illustratingct/essay.asp.

    [viii] Roberta Wong, American Posters of the Nineties, 7.

    [ix] Ibid., 7.

    [x] Gibson, Designed to Persuade, 9; Margaret A. Irwin, “Edward Penfield,” in Dictionary of Literary Biography, 243.

    [xi] Quoted in Gibson, Designed to Persuade, 4.

    [xii] Margolin, American Poster Renaissance, 20.

    [xiii] Ibid., 19.

    [xiv] See Gibson, Designed to Persuade, 11, for an account by Penfield’s son Walker of his father’s working methods.

    [xv] Finlay, “American Posters,” 46.

    [xvi] Ibid., 46; Wong, American Posters, 10.

    [xvii] Wong, American Posters, 7.




  • The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum, and Matilda Joslyn Gage

    By Candace May Paris

    The Wizard Of Oz The Wizard Of Oz

    The name of  L. Frank Baum may not carry instant recognition, but his best-known creations, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, the Cowardly Lion, and the Wizard of Oz, are American cultural icons.

    Baum created them as characters in his book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, first published in 1900. In part thanks to a musical stage version that helped publicize it, that first edition sold out quickly, with some credit also going to illustrator W. W. Denslow. Soon many children wrote Baum letters, begging him for more stories about Oz. He complied, writing a total of 13 sequels, all illustrated by John R. Neill.

    The story also spawned many descendants. The best known of these is probably still the 1939 movie with Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, and Bert Lahr. In 1974, The Wiz, a hip, urban stage musical debuted, further extending the story's appeal. More recently, Gregory Maguire's 1995 novel focusing on the witches of Oz, Wicked, became a Broadway musical in 2003.

    The Scarecrow The Scarecrow

    Before his sudden fame, Baum's life had followed an indirect path to writing success. Born in 1856 to a wealthy family in Chittenango, NY, a small Erie canal town, he grew up on his father's estate. He had wide-ranging interests: stamp collecting, poultry breeding, and especially acting, theater management, and play writing. He also briefly owned a store, was a traveling salesman, and edited one newspaper, later reporting for another. Most of these enterprises met with limited success. But in 1897, he wrote a prose version of Mother Goose, and in 1898, Father Goose, His Book, a collection of nonsense poetry, appeared. These books jumpstarted his career writing for children. By the time he died in 1919, Baum had published a number of other children's books in addition to the Oz series.

    L. Frank Baum L. Frank Baum

    He was encouraged in his writing by his strong-minded suffragist mother-in-law, Matilda Joslyn Gage. An abolitionist and supporter of better treatment for Native Americans, Gage had collaborated with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton to found the National Woman Suffrage Association. Well-educated, she wrote prolifically on a variety of subjects. Resistant at first to Baum as a suitor for her daughter Maud because of his poor career prospects as an actor, Gage soon came to appreciate him. She enjoyed his whimsical storytelling and urged him to publish his yarns. She also seems to have influenced some details in the Oz books, such as the emphasis on powerful female leaders, most of whom are kind and enlightened. And aside from the occasional outlying power-hungry antagonist, life in Oz is generally utopian, with its egalitarian respect for difference and comfort for all. Given the family's closeness, Baum probably found inspiration for some of these details in Gage's views.

    Matilda (Joslyn) Gage Matilda (Joslyn) Gage

    Yet the books wear any messages lightly. Over the years, some scholars have seen political implications in the events, characters, or even illustrations. But these adventure stories are overwhelmingly just fun. Baum's artful whimsy in bringing Oz to life means that most real life matters are transcended — and solutions to problems are often delightful: Dorothy is able to assuage her hunger during one trek by picking a boxed lunch from among many growing on a tree.

    Today, the original Oz books are not well known. But the basic characters are still popular, and Wicked's Broadway run continues. Baum's legacy is alive in central New York: Chittenango celebrates Oz year around with its yellow brick road sidewalk and annually with Oz Stravaganza, a two-day event complete with parade and costume contest. Eight miles away in Fayetteville, Matilda Joslyn Gage's home is open to the public; the Family Parlor, or Oz room, honors Baum and his imaginative achievement


    Fred Hamlin's Musical Fred Hamlin's Musical
  • “A Span, A Cry, An Ecstasy"

    By Edward Moran

    The Brooklyn Bridge The Brooklyn Bridge

    If the Brooklyn Bridge were nothing more than an engineering marvel, that would have been enough to insure its place in the pantheon of great American civic enterprises. It was more than the sum of its cables and granite, though, for it became a potent symbol of American entrepreneurial spirit, idealized by poet and preacher alike. Like Upjohn’s Trinity Church at the foot of Wall Street, the Brooklyn Bridge had been executed in soaring Gothic motifs, but to more secular ends in what was then the Gilded Age. As the spires of Trinity soared heavenward, the Bridge’s arches offered Brooklynites greater opportunities to lay up treasures on earth; they were now given easier access to the stock exchanges and counting houses of Manhattan without having to navigate the East River by ferry, an especially daunting ordeal during the winters of the so-called “Little Ice Age” of the late 1800s.

    Some forty years after Washington Roebling set down his telescope and vacated 110 Columbia Heights, a twentysomething poet rented a flat in the building -- John Dos Passos was also a resident there at the time -- and spent countless hours gazing at the bridge through his own poetic lens. His name was Hart Crane, the son of an Ohio candy maker who had recently patented ring-shaped peppermint lozenges later marketed as Life Savers. Ironic, because Crane would die several years later in a suicidal plunge from a steamer in the Gulf of Mexico. But not before imbibing the spirit of the Brooklyn Bridge from Roebling’s old perch, all while enjoying furtive trysts with sailors he often picked up in its shadows.  Crane saw the bridge not only as a fertile cruising spot, but as liturgical vessels for his soul’s half-mystical, half-carnal communion with the sublime. As he writes, rhapsodically, with echoes of William Blake and Walt Whitman:

    Hart Crane Hart Crane

    O harp and altar, of the fiery fused,

    (How could mere toil align thy choiring strings!)

    Terrific threshold of the prophet’s pledge,

    Prayer of pariah, and the lover’s cry.

    Crane was not the only poet to have been mesmerized by the Brooklyn Bridge. Marianne Moore, famously photographed under the Bridge’s arches by Richard Avedon in the 1960s, called it a “climactic ornament, a double rainbow” in her poem “Granite and Steel.” Moore’s protegée, Elizabeth Bishop, writing more whimsically, invited Moore to “please come flying” from Brooklyn over the Brooklyn Bridge “in the white mackerel sky” while  “bearing a musical inaudible abacus/a slight censorious frown, and blue ribbons.”.  Jack Kerouac added a 1950s Beat-and-Buddha sensibility to the mix with “The Brooklyn Bridge Blues as found in the Book of Dharmas”, written in hallucinatory cadences: "...John A Roebling/and Washington Roebling/built it, and it hath cables/and it does one good/to cross it everyday--/See my eerie wiseness?” Other writers of a more postmodern temperament have seen more dystopia than utopia in the bridge, but they are seldom read.

    The Bridge The Bridge

    But it is perhaps Thomas Wolfe of “Only the Dead Know Brooklyn” fame who has captured the Bridge in all its incandescence (incidentally, the Bridge was one of the first public works to be strung with Edison’s new electric lights). Wolfe’s breathless paean is immortalized in a bronze  plaque on a house he once occupied on nearby Montague Terrace: “Great God! the only bridge, the bridge of power, life and joy, the bridge that was a span, a cry, an ecstasy ... that was America.”[1]


    [1]          Goldstein, Norm. “Literary Brooklyn Heights,” August 15, 2012. Accessed May 22, 2016.

  • Elephants On The Brooklyn Bridge

    By Edward Moran

    The Great East River Suspension Bridge The Great East River Suspension Bridge

    It was an audacious project from the start. Fourteen years in the building, the Brooklyn Bridge easily catapulted itself into the ranks of the Seven Wonders of the Industrial Age. The Bridge was a triumphal mash-up of Gothic sublimity and engineering know-how; it was a fertile inspiration to preachers, poets, and painters; it was a seductive challenge to daredevils.

    The thrusting span, more than a mile long, was also a bumptious reminder of New York City’s emergence as America’s richest and most populous city, for it was the first of several iconic pieces of urban furniture that would forever define “New York” to the world, the others being   the Statue of Liberty framed by a backdrop of soaring skyscrapers. Bartholdi’s giantess would  raise her beckoning torch across the bay just three years after the Bridge was completed, and within the next score of years, a forest of high-rises would be sprouting like sequoias all over lower Manhattan, just south of where the Bridge made landfall on the island. Though these later buildings are much taller, they are surpassed by the Bridge’s majestic and cathedral-like proportions. It can be argued that the Brooklyn Bridge was the city’s first skyscraper in disguise: its arched pylons rose 276.5 feet, dwarfing most buildings in New York and Brooklyn, except for Richard Upjohn’s Trinity Church, whose spire, also Gothic, bested the Bridge by a scant four and a half feet.

    The Brooklyn Bridge The Brooklyn Bridge

    The Bridge also became a vast open-air stage for some of the rollicking excesses of nineteenth-century showmanship. In May 1884, scarcely a year after the Bridge’s opening, P. T. Barnum drove a herd of nineteen circus elephants across the span, led by his legendary Jumbo. The feat was designed to allay public fears about the Bridge’s durability -- not a week after its completion, a panicky crowd, convinced it would collapse, stampeded, leaving twelve dead -- but the stunt was also orchestrated as a shameless promotion for Barnum’s circus.[i] In the days before Jumbatrons, the Brooklyn Bridge thus served as a big screen onto which public-relations shills projected their larger-than-life fantasies. Snake-oil salesmen, too, for the way they tried to sell the Brooklyn Bridge to gullible tourists. Not to forget the daredevils who saw the Bridge as a plaything, like Steve Brodie, whose disputed leap into the East River on July 23, 1886 earned him his 130 years of fame.[ii]

    PT Barnum's Elephants PT Barnum's Elephants

    The Brooklyn Bridge also helped jump-start the consolidation of New York City as the nation’s metropole. It acted as an accelerant to the movement, mostly achieved in 1898, to unite Brooklyn, New York, Queens, Staten Island, and The Bronx into Greater New York, the city of five boroughs that we know today. Brooklyn voters agreed to this union by a scant 277 votes, a referendum dubbed the “Great Mistake” by diehards even to this day.[iii]

    In a sense, the Brooklyn Bridge was the East Coast’s exuberant answer to what was going on in the also-thriving West in post-Civil War America, when the axis of civic energy shifted from North-South conflict to East-West expansion.. On May 10, 1869, only weeks after construction had begun on the Bridge, the Atlantic and Pacific oceans were finally linked by the opening of the great transcontinental railway that had been in the making for the past three years. A decade or more before Barnum’s elephants proved the Bridge’s durability, vast herds of buffalo were yielding to the onslaught of Irish immigrants, Chinese coolies, and freed slaves who were feverishly laying track across the Great Plains. Just as the railroad now linked the vast reaches of a newly reunited nation, the Brooklyn Bridge was connecting the teeming prairies of Manahatta and Paumanok, Walt Whitman’s fanciful names for Manhattan and Long Island. As the Western frontier was closing, another was opening in New York City, which poet Marianne Moore saw as “the savage’s romance,/accreted  where we need the space for commerce.”[iv]

    Shooting Buffalo From The Train Shooting Buffalo From The Train

    The contract to build what was initially called the East River Bridge had been awarded  to master bridge-builder John Augustus Roebling, already renowned as the designer of  several important suspension bridges, including a major railroad viaduct spanning the Niagara River near the Falls. On June 28, 1869, just six weeks after the golden spike was driven to complete the railroad in far-off Utah, John Augustus Roebling was seriously injured in an accident at Fulton Ferry while he was surveying the location for his new span’s Manhattan foundations. He died a month later, and the task of completing the Bridge over the next fourteen years fell to his son, Washington Roebling, who himself would be seriously injured a year later, suffering “the bends” while helping extinguish a fire in one of its underwater caissons. For many years, he lived as a semi-invalid in a townhouse within eye-shot of the bridge, at 110 Columbia Heights, from which he monitored the construction with a telescope and communicated with his crews via his wife Emily, now hailed for her indispensable role in seeing the project to its completion at a time when the role of women in Victorian America was severely constricted.


    [i]           “Dead on the New Bridge: Fatal Crash at the Western Approach,” The New York Times, May 31, 1883. Accessed May 22, 2016.

    [ii]          “A Leap from the Bridge,” The New York Times, July 24, 1886. Accessed May 22, 2016.

    [iii]         Tierney, John. “Brooklyn Could Have Been a Contender,” The New York Times Magazine, December 28, 1997. Accessed May 22, 2016.

    [iv]         Moore, Marianne. “New York,” The Dial, December, 1921.

  • The Chicago World's Fair Invented the Best and the Worst

    Great Chicago Fire Great Chicago Fire
    By Karen Herringa

    In 1871, a fire started in the city of Chicago that burnt its buildings to cinder and ashes. After two days of the fire spreading through four miles of inner city, it naturally put itself out. It was discovered that close to one-third of the city was destroyed. Twenty years later, Chicago would play host to the World's Fair in celebration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus's journey to America. Not only was having the fair in Chicago special because it was chosen over many other American cities, but it gave Chicago a chance to show that it was becoming one of the most innovative cities in America, despite its tragic past.

    Columbian World's Fair Columbian World's Fair

    The fair had an immense effect on architecture. Over two hundred buildings were created for the fair, all crowded together in a south neighborhood on the Lake Michigan waterfront. Fourteen of the largest buildings in the main area of the fair were constructed using plaster, cement, and a fiber that was painted a bright white, which was why many, to this day, call Chicago 'The White City.' There were canals, lagoons, and a large rectangular pool in the center of the fair to represent the long voyage Columbus took to get to America.

    Machinery Hall Machinery Hall

    Unfortunately, a lot of the buildings were built to be temporary. The Palace of Fine Arts and the Worlds Congress Auxiliary Building are the only surviving places you can still visit today, although they go by different names. The former is now the Museum of Science and Industry, while the latter is the original Art Institute of Chicago building.

    Many fascinating inventions and objects were created because of the fair which are still around today. The first Ferris Wheel was created and constructed for the event, much to the enjoyment of the twenty-seven million people who attended over the six month period the fair took place. The post office produced their first ever souvenir postcards for the fair, having noticed how popular homemade postcards were becoming. Helen Keller, while attending the fair, met Frank Haven Hall, who was displaying his prototype for the first ever braille books. Spray paint was also invented by a craftsman named Francis Davis Millet, who was constructing the buildings when he discovered that he didn't have enough time to paint everything before the opening to the public.

    First Ferris Wheel First Ferris Wheel

    Unfortunately, the first American serial killer also came about during the period of the fair. H. H. Holmes constructed a large hotel (some say it looked more like a castle) for those attending the fair to stay. He often invited women traveling on their own to Chicago to stay at his “murder castle.” Because it was so large, and only he knew the secrets within, many people lost their lives to Holmes. He was arrested after, being sent to jail for a small crime, he confided in his cellmate about past doings. He was only convicted for nine murders because no bodies could be produced for the countless other lives he took.

    Forever the worlds fair will always be synonymous with H. H. Holmes, but thankfully not completely. It stands today as an iconic time in Chicago history as a forerunner of architecture, the arts, and also as an important time in Chicago's image of triumphing over tragedy.

  • Backyard Chickens, Then And Now

    By Candace May Paris

    Poultry Of The World Poultry Of The World

    To trace the roots of the current explosion in chicken keeping, you would probably want to consider the influence of Martha Stewart, who trumpeted the appeal of the blue-green eggs produced by her Araucana chickens. The Slow Food locavore movement would be another recent influence. You might even go back to the 1970's and give a nod to Stewart Brand's Whole Earth Catalogue, which promoted interest in the rural lifestyle.

    Whatever the cause, the results are impressive. Keeping chickens in a suburban back yard no longer seems eccentric but merely an adjunct to the foodie movement with its concomitant easy availability of such previously little known grocery items as kombucha, coconut oil, and kale. Some people even set up coops in cities, which may be frowned upon by neighbors and the law. But chicken owners have a point: eggs laid by chickens with access to grass and bugs are dramatically different than those of factory farmed eggs. The shells are less fragile (because of more minerals), yolks are bright orange rather than yellow, and the flavor is fuller, more egg-y.

    Champions Of The Barn Champions Of The Barn

    It hasn't been so long since that flavor was the norm. Until the second half of the twentieth century, chicken keeping was common in rural America, and not unusual in towns and cities, where plenty of people, at least in some neighborhoods, kept a few chickens for meat and eggs. In doing so, they were following a worldwide tradition of animal husbandry that developed when the first wild Asian Red junglefowl were domesticated 5,000 or so years ago. In the absence of refrigeration, keeping chickens was the best way of ensuring access to fresh eggs. American farmers kept such breeds as Brahma, Cochin, Plymouth Rock, and Rhode Island Red, all now considered Heritage Breeds by the Livestock Conservancy and threatened with extinction to varying degrees.

    Growing up on an Ohio farm in the 1880's, my grandmother was given a bantam chicken to raise. She named it Pip, and cared for it until one day it somehow impaled itself on a fence post.  She wept — but that same night, when, plucked and cooked, it was presented to her for supper, she was not so sad that she didn't enjoy the meal. More common now are people like my brother. He keeps a hobby flock of chickens, including Polish Crested, Campine, and Buff Orpington and others chosen for their beauty, hardiness, and temperament. He relishes the eggs his "girls" produce, and he loves them as pets, kissing them occasionally as he holds and strokes them and mourning their deaths when predators attack — and never cooking them for dinner.

    War Poster War Poster

    Although not everyone would recommend kissing chickens, handling them keeps them tame, and tame chickens are easier to manage. And his chickens (some breeds more than others) seem to return the affection, or at least take a noticeable interest in him beyond expectation of food. But keeping chickens isn't all cuddling and tasty eggs. The predator threat is constant. Foxes, hawks, weasels, and coyotes all appreciate easy pickings. There's a lot of work involved in keeping safe, healthy chickens that goes well beyond the picturesque tasks of collecting eggs and tossing chicken feed each morning.

    The daily toil and vigilance required is not for everyone. Old-time chicken owners would probably point out that pictures don't show the hours or the sweat expended on repairing fencing, cleaning coops, or shoveling snow from pens. Also, chickens may live 10-15 years but they don't typically produce many eggs past the age of about 2. Keeping chickens has its attractions, but a dose of realism should be taken to balance nostalgic dreams of producing your own breakfast eggs.


  • Napoleon Lajoie, The Definition Of Grace

    By Stephen C. Jordan

    Written upon the Hall of Fame plaque of Napoleon “Larry” Lajoie, it reads “the most graceful and efficient second baseman of his era.” According to all accounts of his contemporaries and others who saw him play, Lajoie was graceful both in the field and at the plate. Billy Evans, an umpire who called many games in the American League for years called Lajoie “the good-to-look-at hitter.” While standing in the batter’s box, he typically would drag his bat in the dirt alongside the dish as he prepared to face the moundsman—as though he were a Master painter preparing himself to illuminate his canvas. For decades, many considered Lajoie to be the most graceful player ever to make his way onto a baseball diamond.

    Napolean Lajoie Napolean Lajoie

    He possessed a distinctive style. Pretty much everything he did, it was with a certain artistic touch. He was agile, and smooth. He was considered a rather big man for the game during his time. He was 6’1’’ and weighed 195 lbs. Even with his sizeable frame he presented a coordinated and effortless rendition of the ultimate second baseman. In the words of the New York Press, “Lajoie glides toward the ball, [and] gathers it nonchalantly, as if picking fruit . . . .” He performed at the highest level at his position, and he was also a damn good hitter, winning a triple crown (in 1901), five batting titles and he led the league in RBIs three times. In his triple crown season, while with the A’s, Lajoie hit an astounding .426—to this day, it is still an all-time best for an American League player since 1900. Today he is seventh on the all-time list for doubles. His career spanned an impressive 21 seasons (1896 to 1916). He hung up his spikes with an amazing .338 career batting average. He was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1937.

    What followed Lajoie’s era was the introduction of a much more lively ball, which had a corked center. Lajoie’s statistics glisten in the deadball era. During his time, Lajoie faced pitchers that had additional weapons in their arsenal, such as the spitball, the emery ball and the scuffball. Baseballs stayed in play for many more innings during the deadball era as compared to future periods.

    A friend of Lajoie’s once said of him, “Old Nap Lajoie was the only man I ever observed who could chew scrap tobacco in such a way as to give a jaunty refinement to a habit vulgar and untidy in so many others.”

    Nap Lajoie Nap Lajoie

    Lajoie’s parents were from Montreal, Canada. They had relocated to the town of Woonsocket, Rhode Island. Of French lineage, his mannerisms and features caught the eyes of others. He was considered a handsome man who was tall and dark; he had strong features and the ladies were said to be quite struck by him.

    Larry served as the manager of Cleveland from 1905 to 1909. Although having a solid career win-loss percentage as a manager, .550, his managerial strategies were called into question by some critics. Lajoie had a practice of relaying signs to his outfield indicating what type of pitch was going to be thrown by his hurler. All too often his signs were intercepted by the opposition. Most notably Connie Mack always seemed to be well informed when playing Cleveland under Lajoie’s tutelage. Like many gifted ballplayers, Lajoie grew somewhat frustrated when his average players failed to live up to his playing capabilities.

    When pitchers get up in the count, they often throw some waste pitches hoping the batter will bite. Lajoie grew frustrated by such attempts. He developed a unique way of taking advantage of these pitches. He developed quite a talent for hitting a baseball one-handed. Lajoie troubled many pitchers with his one-handed swing at garbage pitches.

    Lajoie Lajoie

    In 1910, Cleveland and the New York Highlanders were locked up in a close game. Pitcher Russell Ford was throwing for the Highlanders. Ford was one the most adept hurlers at throwing the emery ball, which is when the pitcher scratches the baseball against a piece of emery paper hid in his glove. When scuffed and thrown properly the ball would sail in a peculiar fashion. Before the ballgame Ford had decided to pitch around Lajoie each time he came to the plate, so as not to get burned by the crafty hitter. Back in the deadball era, the pitchers did not throw so far to the outside when offering an intentional walk. His first time up, Lajoie quickly saw what Ford was attempting to do. Lajoie lunged outward and swung mightily with just his right hand, and lined a double to right field.

    His next trip to the plate was with one man on base. Again Ford was intending to give Larry a free pass. This time Ford threw the ball further from the plate. Lajoie would have nothing of it. Once again Lajoie stretched outward and with one hand laced the ball for another double to right field.

    The third time up, Lajoie took notice that the frustrated Ford was throwing even farther outside in an attempt to once again walk the batter. For a third consecutive time, Lajoie pounded the ball one handed and ended up at second base.

    In his final at-bat that afternoon against Ford, Lajoie would not get a hit. So determined was the pitcher to walk Lajoie, that he threw four consecutive pitches behind Lajoie’s back! Ford finally walked Lajoie, but he lost the ball game in a rather ugly fashion.

    After his major league playing days were over, at 42 Lajoie decided to manage the Toronto ball club in the International League. As player/manager Lajoie hit .380 and coached his team to the league pennant. After one more year of managing, Larry turned to more leisure activities. He spent many days playing golf and participating in country club tournaments. Later, dabbled in several things. He ran for Sheriff of Cuyahoga County in Ohio, but he failed to win the nomination. Thereafter he was named the Commissioner of the Ohio and Pennsylvania baseball league.

    Before long he was involved in a variety of business ventures. He hooked up with a rubber company for a time, he sold truck tires for a while and eventually he set up a brass manufacturing company. Once Larry reached his seventies, he relocated to Florida. At the age of 83, Lajoie died of pneumonia.

    Nap Lajoie Between Seasons Nap Lajoie Between Seasons

    Unfortunately, Larry never had the opportunity to play for a pennant winning ball club, despite going at his craft for 21 seasons. Nonetheless the Frenchman left his mark on the game, and very much deserves his place in the Hall of Fame. Many big baseball names considered Lajoie to be the best player the game had ever seen. Babe Ruth was once quoted as saying that he believed that Lajoie was the greatest natural hitter of all time. Evidently, like a deer, his swiftness and elegance were a thing to watch for all who had the pleasure.

  • Jane Addams, George Pullman, and King Lear

    By Judith Maas

    The career of Jane Addams (1860-1935) was bracketed by the founding of the Chicago social settlement, Hull House, in 1889 and her receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931. Her list of accomplishments is daunting:  she helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom; she wrote books and articles on social reform and spoke at home and abroad on behalf of her views.

    Jane Addams Jane Addams

    And throughout, she lived and worked at Hull House, located in a poor immigrant neighborhood. The settlement’s programs and services were vast: classes, an art gallery, a gymnasium, a swimming pool, a library, an employment bureau, a health clinic, a meeting place for trade union groups, a boardinghouse for working girls, and art, music, and theater clubs. Addams and her colleagues fought for garbage collection, child labor reform, consumer rights, and public education.

    Schoolchildren have dutifully learned about Jane Addams and Hull House. But her long-time stature as a textbook heroine has obscured the depth and range of her thinking and the doubts and struggles she experienced. Since the late twentieth century, scholars have begun to recognize Addams as a contributor to the American school of pragmatism, aligning her with philosophers William James and John Dewey.[i] Biographers have studied how she became Jane Addams, exploring her privileged background as the daughter of a politician and businessman, her family relationships, her agonized search for a vocation after college, and the challenges she faced in working out a role for Hull House.[ii]

    George M. Pullman George M. Pullman

    Addams believed that progress emerged through cooperation. The Pullman strike of 1894 would test her faith in that ideal, particularly when company president George Pullman rejected outright her efforts to engage him in arbitration talks. As the tensions between workers and the company escalated, and as Addams gamely “maintained avenues of intercourse with both sides,”[iii] she and Hull House came under attack from all sides; strikers wanted a stronger commitment to their cause, while the city’s affluent denounced Addams as a “traitor to her class”[iv] and ceased making donations to Hull House.

    Reflecting on the conflict in its aftermath, Addams sought guidance from a surprising source: a play written in 1605-6 and set in ancient times‒Shakespeare’s King Lear. In a speech published many years later as an essay, she drew an analogy between George Pullman, the benevolent autocrat, and King Lear, the self-regarding ruler and father, and between the striking workers and Lear’s daughter Cordelia.

    Town of Pullman Town of Pullman

    The model industrial town of Pullman, located south of Chicago and completed in 1884, was the brainchild of Pullman, whose Pullman Palace Car Company made luxury railway sleeping cars. Employees residing in the town enjoyed clean, modern housing; daily garbage collection; parks and tree-lined streets; and a library, a theater, a bank, and shops. Pullman wanted to create a setting in which “all that would promote the health, comfort, and convenience of a large working population would be conserved, and…many of the evils to which they [laborers] are ordinarily exposed [are] made impossible.”[v] He also, no doubt, expected the workers’ loyalty and productivity.

    The material benefits, however, came with a steep price, fueling worker resentment. The company controlled all aspects of town life: It owned the houses, settled disputes, ran the newspaper, prohibited alcohol, stocked the library, chose the entertainment, and planted spies. Writing in Harpers in 1885, the economist Richard Ely observed, “The power of Bismarck in Germany is utterly insignificant when compared with the power of the ruling authority of the Pullman Palace Car Company in Pullman.”[vi]

    Pullman Railroad Yard During Strike Pullman Railroad Yard During Strike

    In the wake of the 1893 depression, Pullman laid off workers and reduced wages while refusing to reduce rents. Some families faced starvation, even as the company continued to pay out shareholder dividends.[vii] Led by the American Railway Union (ARU), a cross-trades union founded by Eugene Debs, Pullman workers went out on strike in May 1894. “We struck at Pullman,” stated a worker, “because we were without hope.”[viii]

    The Civic Federation of Chicago, a group of community leaders, hoped to forge a settlement. Under its auspices, Addams sought to bring the strikers and the company representatives into arbitration. While the workers were receptive, the company’s position remained adamant: there was nothing to arbitrate. In June, the ARU voted to begin a national boycott of Pullman cars, the largest display of union strength the nation had yet seen.[ix] During July, under orders from President Grover Cleveland, armed federal troops entered the city, leading to violent confrontations, and by August, the Pullman workers were defeated.

    Pullman Strike Pullman Strike

    For Addams, these events raised difficult questions, not only about the immediate issues but also about the enduring relationship between workers and owners: What are the limits of benevolence, and why did it fail? Is there an alternative to conflict? What do bosses and workers owe one another?

    “A Modern Lear,” composed in 1895, is Addams’s attempt to draw lessons from the strike. Though she affirms her support for the workers’ goals, the essay is not a political tract. Through the characters of Lear and Cordelia, Addams seeks to distill “the deep human motives” behind the conflict. She portrays Pullman as flawed rather than evil. Like Lear, he wants to be esteemed for his largess and to conduct relationships on his own terms. Proud of his generosity, he does not recognize the needs and desires of his workers and takes their independence as a personal affront. His failure is one of vision and imagination: “He did not see the situation…. A movement [toward justice] had been going on about him and through the souls of his workingmen of which he had been unconscious.” Addams even tries to see matters from Pullman’s perspective, suggesting that in the context of his times, he was a liberal employer honestly trying to do good. But, pragmatic in her outlook, she adds, “The virtues of one generation are not sufficient for the next.” In Cordelia, Addams sees a young woman reaching toward a “fuller life,” as were the Pullman workers, but also observes a “lack of tenderness” in her treatment of her father; the workers, Addams proposes, cannot abandon the “old relationships,” but must be “inclusive of the employer” in their pursuit of justice. The employer, in turn, must move “with the people,” and “discover what people really want.”

    Pullman Railroad Cars Pullman Railroad Cars

    Addams’s even handedness won her few allies. The essay was not published until 1912, because no journal editor would accept it. Addams sometimes exasperated even her colleagues. Hull House co-founder Ellen Gates Starr said of her, “if the devil himself came riding down Halsted Street with his tail waving out behind him, [Jane Addams would say] what a beautiful curve he had in his tail.”[x] Despite the scorn that greeted her efforts to mediate the strike, Addams did not retreat into bitterness. Instead, in the spirit of Shakespeare, she used the experience as an opportunity to explore human nature. Unlike the conventional specialist or expert, she writes about people and relationships rather than numbers and categories. Her essay exemplifies what scholars view as a cornerstone of her philosophy:  sympathetic knowledge, or the idea that “good citizens actively pursue knowledge of others—not just facts but a deeper understanding—for the possibility of caring and acting on their behalf.”[xi]

    [i] See works by Maurice Hamington: The Social Philosophy of Jane Addams (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2009); “Jane Addams,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2014/entries/addams-jane/; and “Jane Addams,” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, URL = http://www.iep.utm.edu/addamsj/.
    [ii] Victoria Bissell Brown, The Education of Jane Addams (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004); Louise W. Knight, Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2005).
    [iii] Jane Addams, Twenty Years at Hull House (New York: New American Library, 1910, 1938), 158.
    [iv] Knight, Citizen, 319.
    [v] “The Pullman Era,” Chicago Historical Society, URL = https://www.chicagohs.org/history/pullman.html.
    [vi] Richard T. Ely, “Pullman: A Social Study,” Harper's Magazine 70 (February 1885): 452-466, URL = http://urbanplanning.library.cornell.edu/DOCS/pullman.htm.
    [vii] Knight, Citizen, 309.
    [viii] Quoted in Ibid., 309.
    [ix] Knight, Citizen, 316.
    [x] Quoted in Victoria Brown, “Advocate for Democracy: Jane Addams and the Pullman Strike,” in The Pullman Strike and the Crisis of the 1890s, edited by Richard Schneirov, Shelton Stromquist, and Nick Salvatore (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press), 147.
    [xi] Hamington, “Jane Addams,” Stanford Encyclopedia.
  • Great Horses Of The Silver Screen

    By Debra Balberchak

    "Action, action, action is the thing. So long as you keep your hero jumping through fiery hoops on every page you’re all right. There has to be a woman, but not much of one. A good horse is much more important. "   Writer Max Brand defined this as the formula for a successful Western.  And surely any small boy who paid his nickel to sit in a darkened theater in the 1920’s to watch Tom Mix and Tony or William S. Hart and Fritz gallop across the screen would agree that the horse was far more important than the woman. Especially a Wonder horse who was able to jump cliffs, swim raging rivers or even untie knots in binding ropes to rescue his captive master.

    Tom Mix Movie Poster Tom Mix Movie Poster

    The term “Wonder Horse” was coined to describe Tom Mix’s horse Tony, but eventually was used to describe any of a select cadre of movie horses known for performing risky or amazing stunts. Tony was the best known and most popular horse of his day, making personal appearances with Mix all around the world. He performed for royalty in Europe and visited President Harding at the White House. In Movie Monthly magazine Tom Mix reported that “Tony was patted by so many people it’s a wonder he has any hair left. “ Tony achieved such popularity that three films featured him in their title:  Just Tony (1922), Oh! You Tony (1924), and Tony Runs Wild (1926).  He was a flashy fellow with a white diamond blaze on his face and white stockings on his rear legs, well suited to Mix’s flamboyant style. He was known for his intelligence and needed to be shown a trick only once to learn it. Mix and Tony performed all their own daredevil stunts; running after trains, jumping through fire, and leaping from cliff to cliff.  As an enduring testimony to his popularity Tony was even invited to leave his hoof prints in cement in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater. Eventually age caught up to him and he could no longer safely or reliably perform stunts so he was retired to the Tom Mix Ranch. No other horse could replace him in the hearts of the public, but on screen Tony, Jr. and Tony II stepped into his horseshoes.

    But even before Tony came along, there was Fritz. Fritz was a red pinto who was owned and trained by the first real cowboy movie star, William S. Hart. Though a small horse, Fritz had stamina and guts and mastered an array of dazzling tricks that earned him his own fan base.  Hart and Fritz had a grittier more realistic style than Mix and Tony. In 1922 Hart wrote a book, Tales Told Under a White Oak Tree, detailing Fritz’s adventures. The story is narrated in the horse’s voice as if he were sharing his story with his horse buddies in the barn. He tells how with Hart on his back he walked on a narrow log crossing a canyon, jumped through a window, swam raging rivers and even survived being caught in a whirlpool.

    Tom Mix And His Horse Tom Mix And His Horse

    Fritz’s markings were so distinctive that Hart never used a stunt double for his feisty little horse, except in his last film. The script required Hart and Fritz to jump off a cliff into a 150 foot gorge. Hart felt this far too dangerous for his beloved horse so at great expense constructed a mechanical horse to take the plunge. Movie censors were aghast as the scene was realistic enough to convince them that Hart had endangered his horse. Fans who adored Fritz and regularly sent him fan mail and sugar cubes were equally concerned. Much to everyone’s relief Hart was able to explain how the illusion had been accomplished, and although the dummy horse was destroyed in the stunt and Hart injured, Fritz was unharmed. Fritz ended his days in fine style, retiring to Hart’s Horseshoe Ranch.

    William S. Hart William S. Hart

    Other Wonder horses followed, among them Rex the majestic black stallion, who was known as “King of the Wild Horses” and starred in his own movies, the first horse to do so. He had a fearsome reputation, but it may be that tales of his dangerous behavior were created by the studio for publicity.  Tarzan, silent movie star Ken Maynard’s sidekick  could dance and bow and nod his head to answer questions. He easily upstaged the human actors he performed with. And there was of course Trigger, Roy Rogers’s beloved palomino who also left his hoof prints at Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

    With their trusty steeds by their sides, movie cowboys could face and overcome any obstacles before riding off gracefully into the sunset. Each duo had a distinctive identity, ranging from daredevil glamour to homespun folksiness.  They were much loved iconic images who preserved a by-gone era and an integral part of American folklore. As the Old West faded in reality it lived on in film.

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