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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Thursday links

October 17, 1814: the London Beer Flood killed 8 people.


Inside Notre Dame: a blow-by-blow account of the restoration process.

Here, on one sheet of paper, is a map of the entire internet as of 1973.

How to hide a billion dollars.


ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include that time Columbus (using knowledge of an upcoming eclipse) tricked the Jamaicans into providing supplies, painting zebra stripes on cows to ward off biting flies, everything you wanted to know about eyebrow interpretation from the 16th century, and making a knife out of frozen human poop. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

October 17, 1814: the London Beer Flood killed 8 people

For those interested in the history of beer, the London Beer Flood (wiki) took place on October 17, 1814:

On Monday 17th October 1814, a terrible disaster claimed the lives of at least 8 people in St Giles, London. A bizarre industrial accident resulted in the release of a beer tsunami onto the streets around Tottenham Court Road.

The Horse Shoe Brewery stood at the corner of Great Russell Street and Tottenham Court Road. 

In 1810 the brewery had had a 22 foot high wooden fermentation tank installed on the premises. Holding the equivalent of over 3,500 barrels of porter ale, it was held together by massive iron rings. At around 4:30pm on 17 October 1814, storehouse clerk George Crick inspected the tank and noticed that one of the 700-pound iron hoops had slipped off the cask, but, as this occurred two or three times a year, it did not seem unusual and he thought nothing of it. Despite the tank being full and pressure from the fermentation building inside, Crick’s boss told him that no harm would ensue from the broken ring and instructed him to write a letter to another brewery employee requesting it to be fixed at a later date.
Soon after, at around 5:30pm, Crick heard a massive explosion from inside the storeroom. The tank had ruptured, releasing the hot fermenting ale with such force that the vat burst into splinters and the back wall of the brewery collapsed. The blast also set off a chain reaction, breaking off the valve of an adjoining cask and breaking open more vats, adding their contents to the flood which had now burst out onto the street.
More than 320,000 gallons of beer were released into the area. This was St Giles Rookery, a densely populated London slum of cheap housing and tenements inhabited by the poor, the destitute, prostitutes and criminals.

19th century engraving of the event
The flood reached George Street and New Street within minutes, swamping them with a tide of alcohol. The 15 foot high wave of beer and debris inundated the basements of two houses, causing them to collapse. In one of the houses, Mary Banfield and her daughter Hannah were taking tea when the flood hit; both were killed.

In the basement of the other house, an Irish wake was being held for a 2 year old boy who had died the previous day. The four mourners were all killed. The wave also took out the wall of the Tavistock Arms pub, trapping the teenage barmaid Eleanor Cooper in the rubble. In all, eight people were killed. Three brewery workers were rescued from the waist-high flood and another was pulled alive from the rubble.

All this ‘free’ beer led to hundreds of people scooping up the liquid in whatever containers they could. Some resorted to just drinking it, leading to reports of the death of a ninth victim some days later from alcoholic poisoning.

The Horseshoe Brewery at the junction of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford 
Street. (source)
‘The bursting of the brew-house walls, and the fall of heavy timber, materially contributed to aggravate the mischief, by forcing the roofs and walls of the adjoining houses.‘ The Times, 19th October 1814.

Some relatives exhibited the corpses of the victims for money. In one house, the macabre exhibition resulted in the collapse of the floor under the weight of all the visitors, plunging everyone waist-high into a beer-flooded cellar.

The stench of beer in the area persisted for months afterwards.

The brewery was taken to court over the accident but the disaster was ruled to be an Act of God, leaving no one responsible.

The repaired Horse Shoe Brewery in 1830
The flood cost the brewery around £23000 (approx. £1.25 million today). However the company were able to reclaim the excise duty paid on the beer, which saved them from bankruptcy. They were also granted ₤7,250 (₤400,000 today) as compensation for the barrels of lost beer.

This unique disaster was responsible for the gradual phasing out of wooden fermentation casks to be replaced by lined concrete vats. The Horse Shoe Brewery was demolished in 1922; the Dominion Theatre now sits partly on its site.

Here's a brief documentary:


More here, here and here.

This is, of course, reminiscient of Boston's 1919 2.3 million gallon molasses flood, which killed 21 people

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Here, on one sheet of paper, is a map of the entire internet as of 1973

A bit of internet history, via Twitter user David Newbury (@workergnome):
Going through old papers my dad gave me, I found his map of the internet as of May 1973. 
The entire internet.
Wikipedia's slightly clearer version of the same map used by @workergnome

In the very early years of the Internet, it was the secret and very small ARPANET (wiki) - it had started in the late 1960s, with just four locations (map, right). 

Arpanet's original 4 locations, via @gadgetopia
By 1973, it had expanded to a small handful of government labs, research universities, and private companies, but still so few that the entire network could be mapped on a single sheet of paper.

Recently, Newbury found the map above among his dad’s papers and posted it online. You can find Stanford, UCLA, Utah and UCSB, the original members, but by 1973, ARPANET had expanded east, to Case Western, Carnegie Mellon, Harvard, and MIT. There are government labs, like Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and the Army’s Aberdeen Ballistic Research Lab, and private research organizations like MITRE and Xerox. 

The map Newbury found was printed in a report from the NASA Ames Research Center, which also included this map, showing the geographical spread of the network:

The network, mapped. NASA
And by 1977, there was this, which claimed it was based on the “best information obtainable”. Larger version here.



No mention of Al Gore, who's actual quote on the subject was, "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet."

via Atlas Obscura

Monday, October 14, 2019

Monday links

That time Columbus tricked Jamaicans into providing supplies using knowledge of an upcoming eclipse. Related; Columbus has been cleared of importing syphilis from the Americas to Europe.

Why Are Plastic Army Men Still from World War II?

Painting 'Zebra Stripes' on Cows Wards Off Biting Flies.

Physiognomy of eyebrows: everything you wanted to know about eyebrow interpretation from the 16th century.

The Behind-the-Scenes Quest to Find Mister Rogers’s Signature Cardigans - his mother knitted them for him, and he wore those for another 10 years after his death. They were not easy to replace.

Scientists Try to Make a Knife out of Frozen Human Poop.

ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include how ancient Greeks dig a 4000-foot tunnel from both ends and met exactly in the middle (200 years before Euclid), the invention of rock, paper, scissors (and how to win), awkward Russian food art, typewriter evolution, and the ownership of the North Pole.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Physiognomy of eyebrows: lots of eyebrow interpretation information from the 16th century

phys·i·og·no·my 
1: the art of discovering temperament and character from outward appearance
2: the facial features held to show qualities of mind or character by their configuration or expression
Physiognomy (wiki) has its roots in antiquity. As early as 500 B.C., Pythagoras was accepting or rejecting students based on how gifted they looked. Aristotle wrote that large-headed people were mean, those with small faces were steadfast, broad faces reflected stupidity, and round faces signaled courage.

Physiognomy—from the ancient Greek, gnomos (character) and physis (nature), hence “the character of one’s nature”—really became popular again in 16th-century Europe, as physicians, philosophers, and scientists searched for tangible, external clues to internal temperaments.

John Varley: Sketch for ‘Treatise on Zodiacal Physiognomy’ 1828
Via the Folger: from a treatise circa 1570 devoted to physiognomy and to specific characteristics comes this analysis of eyebrow shape:

Straight brows

It is generally a good thing to hang around with people with straight eyebrows. 

The first entry describes someone with “strayghte browes”:
“he ys good and wyse trewe in harte worde and deed kepe thow in his companye,” or with modern spelling, “he is good and wise, true in heart, word, and deed. Keep thou in his company.” 
Beetle brows 

Beetle brows = goggle-eyed, shrew-like, deceivable, lime-fingered = not good.

“Byttell browes,” or beetle brows, are another story: 
“that man that ys byttell browed be ware of hyme for he ys lyke vnto the gogell yed man he ys a shrowe in in all manner of companye he ys deseuable and lyme handed be ware of hym.”
Modernized, this reads: “That man that is beetle-browed, beware of him, for he is like unto the goggle-eyed man. He is a shrew in all manner of company. He is deceivable and lime-handed. Beware of him.” Beetle-browed refers to very prominent and shaggy eyebrows; goggle-eyed refers to prominent eyes; and lime-handed refers to someone prone to pilfering.

Unibrows

Thomas Hill’s The contemplation of mankinde, 
contayning a singuler discourse after the art of phisiognomie 
(London, 1571) [STC 13482] includes a 
helpful image of a unibrow (Folger STC 13482, copy 1)
Unibrowed people are unsteadfast and want to eat all of your meat and drink.

Next we have a description of “the here betwine the browes and the nose,” or what we would think of as the unibrow. The unibrowed person has 
“the sygne of the graye yes he ys vnstedfaste and hontethe far and [comtethe?] good meates and drinkes nor he will not depart yf he maye.”
The passage connected to this illustration explains:
The Phisiognomer Cocles reporteth, that when the ouerbrowes appeare thicke of heares, and so plentifull or aboundaunt, that these (as the Philosopher writeth) doe discende to the beginning of the nose, and appear through the same whole formed togither: doe then signifie great adustion: and such hauing like ouerbrowes, are melancholicke, and of an euill nature: yea wicked persons, and sometimes theeues, rauishers of maydens, Murderers, but deceyuers allwayes: and to bee briefe, all vices, and wickednesse, are comprehended and knowne in those persons.
Red brows, hanging brows, and more

The whole leaf, including entries for red brows, brown hair (with straight brows), and a straight forehead.
Further down this same leaf, red brows indicate someone who is lime-handed and deceivable. Brown hair and straight brows, “not hangen but mesurable”—that is, not drooping but of moderate thickness—indicate someone of good of manners and true of heart, word, and deed. The reader is advised to remain in the fellowship of such men.
And the final eyebrow description: “hangen browes with yellow yes blacke here on his browes with white here;” that is, “hanging brows with yellow eyes, black hair on his brows, with white hair”:
That man is a stronge theff and shall be hanged
or elce slayne other eles he shall dye some
shamfull dethe for hathe of all planattes a signe
as saynte Austen sayethe, and godwyne the abbote
for the men that be borne in suche a tyme that
he shall have hys desceuynge but that clerkes
sayethe that over all thynges all mysdedes and
good prayers destroyethe wyked desceuynges.
Other entries refer to forehead types, head size, ear and nose features, hair color and length, and lack of hair altogether (“balled” men). 
It might be easy to laugh at the idea that eyebrows and other facial features could be indicative of one’s character, but physiognomy, in combination with astrology and humoral theory, was a popular pseudo-science in the early modern period, leading people to evaluate past actions and predict future behavior based on one’s visage. It remained popular at least into Victorian times. This is from The Physiognomist's Own Book: an introduction to physiognomy drawn from the writings of Lavater, from 1841:

"CUNNING, DECEIT, AVARICE.
In such a face we may search in vain, for a single expression of frankness; for the slightly projecting chin, when accompanied with small penetrating eyes, denotes the absence of sincerity. There is no display of benevolence in the oblique mouth ; and avarice reveals itself in the close-locked lips. Combine all these features, and they result in a cunning, deceitful, avaricious, and not merely firm, but stubborn old fellow. Such a man moves quick, and speaks slowly and circumspectly; for suspicion is the mainspring of his character."
Ask the Past has a passage from a similar work, dated 1562:
John Bulwer, Anthropometamorphosis
"The eyebrowes that be very heary declare folyshnes of maners and mischiefe... The eyebrowes whyche descende downe warde on the syde of the nose, and raysed vpward on the syde of the temples, and hangyng downeward on bothe sydes declare the man to be wythout shame enuious, folyshe insatiable, and lyke vnto hogges. The eyebrowes which descend crooked on the side of the nose declare the man to be witty in naughty thinges, and whan they be crooked on the out side of the eye, they signifie the man to be recreatife & merry... When the eyebrowes comme togyther, they shewe the man to be verye pensyfe and not very wyse." 
~Richard Roussat, Arcandam

Friday, October 4, 2019

It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Mother****ers (definitely NSFW)

From McSweeney's, originally published October 20, 2009 - they republish it each Autumn:

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get my hands on some fucking gourds and arrange them in a horn-shaped basket on my dining room table. That shit is going to look so seasonal. I’m about to head up to the attic right now to find that wicker fucker, dust it off, and jam it with an insanely ornate assortment of shellacked vegetables. When my guests come over it’s gonna be like, BLAMMO! Check out my shellacked decorative vegetables, assholes. Guess what season it is—fucking fall. There’s a nip in the air and my house is full of mutant fucking squash.

I may even throw some multi-colored leaves into the mix, all haphazard like a crisp October breeze just blew through and fucked that shit up. Then I’m going to get to work on making a beautiful fucking gourd necklace for myself. People are going to be like, “Aren’t those gourds straining your neck?” And I’m just going to thread another gourd onto my necklace without breaking their gaze and quietly reply, “It’s fall, fuckfaces. You’re either ready to reap this freaky-assed harvest or you’re not.”

via
Carving orange pumpkins sounds like a pretty fitting way to ring in the season. You know what else does? Performing an all-gourd reenactment of an episode of Diff’rent Strokes—specifically the one when Arnold and Dudley experience a disturbing brush with sexual molestation. Well, this shit just got real, didn’t it? Felonies and gourds have one very important commonality: they’re both extremely fucking real. Sorry if that’s upsetting, but I’m not doing you any favors by shielding you from this anymore.

The next thing I’m going to do is carve one of the longer gourds into a perfect replica of the Mayflower as a shout-out to our Pilgrim forefathers. Then I’m going to do lines of blow off its hull with a hooker. Why? Because it’s not summer, it’s not winter, and it’s not spring. Grab a calendar and pull your fucking heads out of your asses; it’s fall, fuckers.

McSweeney's sells this gourd season mug
Have you ever been in an Italian deli with salamis hanging from their ceiling? Well then you’re going to fucking love my house. Just look where you’re walking or you’ll get KO’d by the gauntlet of misshapen, zucchini-descendant bastards swinging from above. And when you do, you’re going to hear a very loud, very stereotypical Italian laugh coming from me. Consider yourself warned.

For now, all I plan to do is to throw on a flannel shirt, some tattered overalls, and a floppy fucking hat and stand in the middle of a cornfield for a few days. The first crow that tries to land on me is going to get his avian ass bitch-slapped all the way back to summer.

Welcome to autumn, fuckheads!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Monty Python Communist Quiz sketch

“Well done, Karl — one final question, and then that beautiful non-materialistic lounge suite will be yours…”

Monty Python's Eric Idle asks Karl Marx, Lenin, Che Guevara, and Mao Tse Tung a series of quiz show questions:

Friday, September 20, 2019

Friday links

For Firefly fans - today is Unification Day

Who Invented Rock, Paper, Scissors and What's the Best Way to Win Consistently?

Tunnel Of Samos - how did the ancient Greeks dig a 4000-foot tunnel from both ends and meet exactly in the middle in the 6th century BCE, 200 years before Euclid?

Awkward Russian Food Art.

What country owns the North Pole?


ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include Dr. Samuel Johnson's birthday, a bacon vending machine, the science of jumping from a moving train, and, from 1803, the Ottoman Empire's first map of the new United States.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Russian Food Art

Not sure how I started down this path, but apparently this is a thing, and there are lots more examples on Google:




Yum - a boiled hot dog and saurkraut birthday cake.



Wednesday links

It's the birthday of Dr. Samuel Johnson: here's a selection of his excellent insults.

82-year-old shopkeeper fought off a robber by whacking him with her walking stick.



How to Jump from a Moving Train Using Science.

Study of French postmen's testicles - the researchers taped thermometers to men’s testicles to try to work out if both are the same temperature.

ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include the anniversary of the 1814 battle of Baltimore (inspiration for the Star-Spangled Banner), code breakers of Renaissance Venice, Tater Tot history, the guy who collects the mud used to treat every single regulation major league baseball, and how ancient Romans managed to build perfectly straight roads.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Dr. Samuel Johnson was born on this date in 1709: here's a selection of his insults and Scotland-bashing quotes.

September 18 is the anniversary of the birth in 1709 of that quintessential 18th-century curmudgeon Dr. Samuel Johnson (wiki), the literary lion of Georgian London for much of his lifetime (1709-1784). A poet, critic, lexicographer, and wit, Johnson compiled the first respectable English dictionary between 1747 and 1755, following several years of writing critical articles for London magazines such as The Idler.

From The Grub Street Journal (Oct 30, 1732), this cartoon depicts the “literatory,” a sort of publishing factory driven by beasts without artistic inspiration. Such was the perception of Grub Street writers like Johnson and Savage, who did indeed scrape together a living from commissioned writing.
Born in Lichfield the son of a book dealer, Johnson studied at Oxford and ran his own private school - where the actor David Garrick was a student - before removing to London and its literary milieu in 1737. There, in 1763, he met his companion and biographer, the Scot, James Boswell (1740-1795), to whom we owe the recording of most of Johnson's voluminous observations. 

He was no fan of Scotland:

"The noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees, is the high road that leads him to England!"

I having said that England was obliged to us for gardeners, almost all their gardeners being Scotchmen; Johnson: "Why, Sir, that is because gardening is much more necessary amongst you than with us, which makes so many of your people learn it. It is all gardening with you. Things which grow wild here, must be cultivated with great care in Scotland. Pray now," throwing himself back in his chair, and laughing, "are you ever able to bring the sloe to perfection?"

He would not allow Scotland to derive any credit from Lord Mansfield; for he was educated in England. "Much may be made of a Scotchman, if he be caught young."

"There is in Scotland a diffusion of learning, a certain portion of it widely and thinly spread. A merchant has as much learning as one of their clergy."

"What enemy would invade Scotland, where there is nothing to be got?"

In “The Mitre Tavern” (1880), Samuel Johnson (far right) converses with James Boswell (center) and author Goldsmith. (source)






Asked by a Scot what Johnson thought of Scotland: "That it is a very vile country, to be sure, Sir" "Well, Sir! (replies the Scot, somewhat mortified), God made it." Johnson: "Certainly he did; but we must always remember that he made it for Scotchmen, and comparisons are odious, Mr. S------; but God made hell."

Mr. Arthur Lee mentioned some Scotch who had taken possession of a barren part of America, and wondered why they would choose it. Johnson: "Why, Sir, all barrenness is comparative. The Scotch would not know it to be barren." Boswell: "Come, come, he is flattering the English. you have now been in Scotland, Sir, and say if you did not see meat and drink enough there." Johnson:"Why yes, Sir; meat and drink enough to give the inhabitants sufficient strength to run away from home."

Johnson and Boswell in Edinburgh
"Your country consists of two things, stone and water. There is, indeed, a little earth above the stone in some places, but a very little; and the stone is always appearing. It is like a man in rags; the naked skin is still peeping out."

"A tree might be a show in Scotland as a horse in Venice. At St. Andrews Mr. Boswell found only one, and recommended it to my notice; I told him it was rough and low, or looked as if I thought so. This, said he, is nothing to another a few miles off. I was still less delighted to hear that another tree was not to be seen nearer. Nay, said a gentleman that stood by, I know but of this and that tree in the county."

[Of an inn in Scotland, SJ wrote...] "Of the provisions the negative catalogue was very copious. Here was no meat, no milk, no bread, no eggs, no wine. We did not express much satisfaction."

"He that travels in the Highlands may easily saturate his soul with intelligence, if he will acquiesce in the first account. The highlander gives to every question an answer so prompt and peremptory, that skepticism itself is dared into silence, and the mind sinks before the bold reporter in unresisting credulity; but, if a second question be ventured, it breaks the enchantment; for it is immediately discovered, that what was told so confidently was told at hazard, and that such fearlessness of assertion was either the sport of negligence, or the refuge of ignorance."

1781: Johnson (second from left), other members of "The Club".
(Written by an Irishman) The author of these memoirs will remember, that Johnson one day asked him, 'Have you observed the difference between your own country impudence and Scottish impudence?' The answer being in the negative: 'Then I will tell you,' said Johnson. 'The impudence of an Irishman is the impudence of a fly, that buzzes about you, and you put it away, but it returns again, and flutters and teazes you. The impudence of a Scotsman is the impudence of a leech, that fixes and sucks your blood.' 

Johnson also, of course, had little use for America or Americans:

"Sir, they are a race of convicts, and ought to be thankful for anything we allow them short of hanging."

"To a man of mere animal life, you can urge no argument against going to America, but that it will be some time before he will get the earth to produce. But a man of any intellectual enjoyment will not easily go and immerse himself and his posterity for ages in barbarism."

"I am willing to love all mankind, except an American"

A Blackadder clip on Johnson's Dictionary:


Here's a very well done bio of Johnson by the BBC:


A selection of his legendary insults:

Dr. Johnson in the ante-room of Lord Chesterfield. 
Of Lord Chesterfield:

"This man I thought had been a Lord among wits; but I find, he is only a wit among Lords."

And of Lord Chesterfield's Letters to His Son*:

"They teach the morals of a whore; and the manners of a dancing-master."

Of Thomas Sheridan:

"Why, Sir, Sherry is dull, naturally dull; but it must have taken him a great deal of pains to become what we now see him. Such an excess of stupidity, Sir, is not in nature."

Of the respective merits of the poets Derrick and Smart:

"Sir, there is no settling the point of precedence between a louse and a flea."

Of the criticism of one critic (Edwards) of another (Warburton):

"A fly, Sir, may sting a stately horse and make him wince; but the one is but an insect and the other is a horse still."

Of Lady Macdonald of Sleat:

"...she was as bad as negative badness could be, and stood in the way of what was good; that insipid beauty would not go a great way... and such a woman might be cut out of a cabbage, if there was a skilful artificer."

Of two disputants:

"One has ball without powder; the other powder without ball."

Of a man hired to sit with him during a convalescence:

"The fellow's an idiot; he is as awkward as a turn-spit when first put to the wheel, and as sleepy as a dormouse."

Of James Macpherson:

"He wants to make himself conspicuous. He would tumble in a hogstye, as long as you looked at him and called him to come out."

Of the new rich:

"Sir, they have lost the civility of tradesmen, without acquiring the manners of gentlemen."

Despite his legendary bile, Johnson did remark later in life,

"As I know more of mankind I expect less of them, and am ready to call a man a good man upon easier terms than I was formerly."

* My favorite quote from Lord Chesterfield's Letters to His Son (to his illegitimate son, that is; he (Chesterfield) was trying to raise him (the son) above his (the son's) lowly origins and inferior blood):
"I knew a gentleman, who was so good a manager of his time, that he would not even lose that small portion of it, which the calls of nature obliged him to pass in the necessary-house; but gradually went through all the Latin poets, in those moments. He bought, for example, a common edition of Horace, of which he tore off gradually a couple of pages, carried them with him to that necessary place, read them first, and then sent them down as a sacrifice to Cloacina*: this was so much time fairly gained; and I recommend you to follow his example.

It is better than only doing what you cannot help doing at those moments; and it will made any book, which you shall read in that manner, very present in your mind. Books of science, and of a grave sort, must be read with continuity; but there are very many, and even very useful ones, which may be read with advantage by snatches, and unconnectedly; such are all the good Latin poets, except Virgil in his "Aeneid": and such are most of the modern poets, in which you will find many pieces worth reading, that will not take up above seven or eight minutes."
Attribution for many of the quotes above can be found at the Samuel Johnson Sound Bite Page. More on Johnson here and here.

Further reading: 

The definitive source for all things Johnson is, of course Boswell's book The Life of Samuel Johnson


Parts of the text above are adapted from Ed's Quotation of the Day, only available via email - leave your email address in the comments if you'd like to be added to his list. Ed is the author of Hunters and Killers: Volume 1: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1776 to 1943 and Hunters and Killers: Volume 2: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1943.

Monday, September 16, 2019

From 1803, the Ottoman Empire's first map of the newly minted United States

Via Slate:

What did the United States look like to observers from the Ottoman Empire (wiki) in 1803? In this map, the newly independent U.S. is labeled “The Country of the English People” (“İngliz Cumhurunun Ülkesi”). The Iroquois Confederacy shows up as well, labeled the “Government of the Six Indian Nations.” Other tribes shown on the map include the Algonquin, Chippewa, Western Sioux (Siyu-yu Garbî), Eastern Sioux (Siyu-yu Şarkî), Black Pawnees (Kara Panis), and White Pawnees (Ak Panis).

Click here for a zoomable version, and/or visit the map's page in the digital collections of the Osher Map Library, University of Southern Maine. 

Click here to embiggen


Related:



More old US maps here.

Friday, September 13, 2019

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is going on strike Update 9/13

As some of you know, Ed and I have a double subscription (12 concerts total) to the BSO at Strathmore.

Update 9/13/19:

BSO musicians reject contract offer, jeopardizing season opening; no further talks scheduled

~ Baltimore Sun

BSO Musicians Say They're Not Performing At Meyerhoff Saturday, Reject Both Contract Offers

~ CBS Baltimore

Even record attendance wouldn't turn around the BSO. Other cities' orchestras show what could.

~ Baltimore Sun

Is It Now A Strike And Not A Lockout? Baltimore Symphony Musicians Reject Both Contract Offers

~ ArtsJournal
_____________________________


Press Statement 9-9-2019

Baltimore Symphony Musicians

September 9, 2019

Baltimore Symphony Management intent on cutting season despite offer of $1 million from generous donors.
At 6:59 pm this evening, BSO management issued a “take it or leave it” offer to the BSO Musicians which will be presented to the orchestra for a vote tomorrow evening. The proposal contained wage and benefit cuts of 20%. The federal mediators proposed an extension of negotiations until close of business Thursday. Management rejected the federal mediators proposal. Musicians then suggested an extension until the close of voting by the membership on this final offer. Management rejected that proposal as well.
The Baltimore Symphony Musicians negotiated in good faith throughout the summer. We organized prominent donors to assist in this process. These generous donors brought $1 million designated specifically for musician compensation to help secure a contract. We want to express appreciation from the bottom of our hearts, to these donors for their unwavering commitment. It is incredibly disheartening that BSO leadership would fail to embrace this offer of help from some of Baltimore’s leading philanthropists.
Where do we go from here? The musicians will continue the fight to preserve our 103-year old institution, which serves the City of Baltimore, the surrounding counties and the State of Maryland. We stand ready and willing to get back to the negotiating table to achieve an agreement that will enable us to continue to attract and retain the highest quality musicians to perform for our audiences.
This is a dark day in the history of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Over the past three months the musicians have each lost over $20,000 in salary, with more to come. This dispute isn’t just about money. It is also about respect, respect for the quality of the musicians on stage, respect for generations of Marylanders who have built this orchestra and for the thousands of people who have bought tickets and have donated to this venerable institution.
Contact: Co-Chairs Baltimore Symphony Musicians
Greg Mulligan (410) 979-0208 opus95gm@gmail.com
Brian Prechtl (410) 935-7322 bprechtl.1962@yahoo.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/baltimoresymphonymusicians/                                    

Friday links

September 13 - 14, 1814 is the the anniversary of the battle of Baltimore, inspiration for the Star-Spangled Banner.

The code breakers of Renaissance Venice.


September 14, 1861 was the Night of the Flaming Ballerinas.

How Did the Ancient Romans Manage to Build Perfectly Straight, Ultra Durable Roads?

Mud Maker: The Man Behind MLB's Essential Secret Sauce - the third generation of a family that collects the mud that is used to treat every single regulation major league baseball, roughly 240,000 per season.

ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include strategies for fighting multiple assailants, the accidental invention of the Slinky, glamorous 1920s beach parties, and the anniversary of the Battle of Borodino, on which War and Peace and the 1812 Overture are based.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

September 13 and 14: the anniversary of the battle of Baltimore, inspiration for the Star-Spangled Banner

Bombing of Fort McHenry by the British. Engraved by John Bower
It was a galling sight for British seamen to behold. And as the last vessel spread her canvas to the wind, the Americans hoisted a most superb and splendid ensign on their battery and fired at the same time a gun of defiance... When the squadron retreated from Baltimore, sullen discontent was displayed and malevolent aspersions cast upon our veteran chief... 

~ Midshipman Robert Barrett, RN (1799-1828) (on the British withdrawal from Baltimore, "Naval Recollections of the American War") 

Without any clash on the battlefield the young American republic had humbled the might of the British empire. The rebuff of Britain at Baltimore decisively demonstrated America's independence of its former master. And this explosion of national pride was only to be magnified by the events of the remaining months of the war.* 


Larger version of map here
September 13th and 14th mark the anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore (wiki) during the War of 1812, remembered primarily for the unsuccessful British bombardment of Fort McHenry and Francis Scott Key's penning the words of "The Star-Spangled Banner" while interned on a British warship. 

President James Madison had declared war on Great Britain in June 1812 in response to interference with American shipping and the impressment of U.S. merchant seamen during the Napoleonic wars, as well as the British stirring up the Indians of the Ohio Valley to resist American settlement. Following an abortive American invasion of southern Canada, the British sent a modest naval and marine force - newly freed up from the Spanish campaign against Napoleon - to the Chesapeake in retaliation. 

The burned White House by George Munger,
White House Historical Association
In mid-August 1814, an expeditionary force under Admirals Alexander Cochrane and George Cockburn landed on the lower Patuxent River and after routing U.S. militia at the Battle of Bladensburg on the 24th, occupied Washington that night and burned its major government buildings, including the White House and the Capitol, before withdrawing a day later. (Simultaneously, another Royal Navy flotilla maneuvered up the Potomac River to seize Alexandria and held that city for several days before retiring with significant plunder.) After returning to their ships, the British moved up the Chesapeake Bay to attack Baltimore with a naval penetration of the Patapsco River and an amphibious landing southeast of the city on 12 September. 

By then, however, the Americans had rallied their own forces, stopped the (outnumbered) British at the Battle of North Point, and fought off the Royal Navy's attempt to reduce Fort McHenry on the night of September 13th - 14th. In the face of these failures, the badly over-extended British expedition withdrew southward and departed the Chesapeake Bay to prepare for the New Orleans campaign. And as for "The Star-Spangled Banner," here's the verse we never sing:

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Here's a rather well-done shortish documentary:


The U.S. Marine Band plays the National Anthem:


* The reference here is to the American victories on Lake Champlain (8-11 September 1814) and in the Battle of New Orleans, 8 January 1815, the second of which was actually fought two weeks after the Treaty of Ghent ended the war. 

** This recent book (St. Martin's Press, New York, 2013) presents a lively and readable account of the British invasion of Washington and the attack on Baltimore during the War of 1812. It should be remembered that all of this happened while Britain was deeply preoccupied with her struggle against Napoleon. He had been exiled to Elba as recently as April 1814 but would return to France on 20 March 1815 to fight the Hundred Days Campaign, which culminated in the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June.

John Farrier at Neatorama has an excellent article on the same subject.

Parts of the text above are adapted from Ed's Quotation of the Day, only available via email - leave your email address in the comments if you'd like to be added to his list. Ed is the author of Hunters and Killers: Volume 1: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1776 to 1943 and Hunters and Killers: Volume 2: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1943.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

September 7 is the anniversary of the battle of Borodino, on which War and Peace and the 1812 Overture are based

Larger version here
September 7  is the anniversary of the battle of Borodino (wiki) on 7 September 1812, at which Napoleon's (wiki) Grande Armée grappled bitterly with massed Russian forces defending Moscow under Marshal Mikhail Kutusov (1745-1813)* during Napoleon's invasion of Russia

Kutusov suffered significant losses, and the French occupied Moscow a week later, but in a month, Napoleon's disastrous retreat toward the west had begun. As Tolstoy noted in War and Peace,
"The cudgel of the people's war was lifted with all its menacing and majestic might, and caring nothing for good taste and procedure, with dull-witted simplicity but sound judgment, it rose and fell, making no distinctions."
Napoleon's own judgment has become more famous:

"Du sublime au ridicule il n'y a qu'un pas."

(From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step.)

Here's the rousing cannon-punctuated finale of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, conducted by Leonard Bernstein:


Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) was commissioned to write that staple of summer pops concerts, the 1812 Overture (actually Ouverture Solennelle 1812, Op. 49), for an exhibition of arts and industries at Moscow in 1881. It was intended to commemorate the battle of Borodino and Napoleon's ultimate defeat.**

* N.B. Earlier, at the battle of Smolensk, Kutusov had noted, "The battle has already been decided. It is like a river that runs downhill. I can only move it slightly to the right or left. But its outcome will not be changed by me."

** During the Soviet era, Russian performances of the 1812 Overture substituted an anonymous chorale-like tune for "God Preserve the Czar," the "Russian hymn" quoted by Tchaikovsky in the original.

A brief documentary:



Related post: the anniversary of the 1815 Battle of Waterloo: history, quotes and video (including a Lego re-enactment)

Parts of the text above are based on Ed's Quotation of the Day, only available via email - leave your email address in the comments if you'd like to be added to his list. Ed is the author of Hunters and Killers: Volume 1: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1776 to 1943 and Hunters and Killers: Volume 2: Anti-Submarine Warfare from 1943.