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Saturday, October 19, 2019

From 1960, here's how to build your own fallout shelter

This video on building your own fallout shelter is from the FEMA archives, via the US National Archives YouTube channel. Per Popular Mechanics:
Released in 1960, "Walt Builds a Family Fallout Shelter," was released by the government's Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization (OCDM), working with the National Concrete Masonry Association. The plot is self-explanatory, and the dialogue is meant to convince people that their shelter could have plenty of uses. Sure, it would be handy in the case of nuclear war, but you could use the shelter as a darkroom for photographs! It could be a place for the grandkids to stay, too.
You're supposed to be able to live in this thing comfortably for at least two weeks, assuming you stock it well. The plan is to build it in the corner of a basement.

To see what materials you’ll need, this detailed Family Fallout Shelter Bulletin was released at the same time.

Friday, October 18, 2019

How to Prevent Pregnancy, c. 1260 (the weasel/scorpion method), plus other dubious medical advice

So, are the old ways always the best? I tend to think so, since I'm old, but I have my doubts about this one:

"A weasel placed on a scorpion bite helps greatly... if its heel is taken from it while it still lives and is placed on a woman, she will not get pregnant as long as it is there." 
~ Albertus Magnus, De animalibus

via the excellent blog Ask the Past, which adds: 
As if you needed another reason to keep a live weasel in your bedroom.
Not sure if it worked? Here's advice from 1684 on How To Know If You're Pregnant:
"The women are troubled with nauseating and loathing of their meat, and oftentimes covet and greedily long for things contrary to Nutriment, as Coals, Rubish, Chalk, Lime, Starch, Oat-meal, raw Flesh and Fish or the like, which desire proceeds from a former contraction of evil humours... some Women as it has been noted by divers Authors of Credit, have been so extravegant in their longings, that they have coveted Hob-Nails, Leather, Horse Flesh, Mans Flesh, and the Flesh of divers ravenous Beasts..."
~Aristoteles Master-piece (1684)
Then there's advice for caring for your newborn:
“After the woman has delivered the child, you should know how to take care of the child. Know that as soon as the child is born, it should be wrapped in crushed roses mixed with fine salt… And when one wishes to swaddle [the baby], the members should be gently couched and arranged so as to give them a good shape, and this is easy for a wise nurse; for just as wax when it is soft takes whatever form one wishes to give to it, so also the child takes the form which its nurses give to it. And for this reason, you should know that beauty and ugliness are due in large measure to nurses. And when its arms are swaddled, and the hands over the knees, and the head lightly swaddled and covered, let it sleep in the cradle.”
~Aldobrandino of Siena, Regimen for the Body (1254), tr. Faith Wallis
And this: Anoint the gums with the brains of a hare: advice from c. 1450 on soothing a teething baby:
Andrea Mantegna, The Circumcision of Jesus 
(detail, c. 1461)
"Sometimes babies have trouble with teething. In that case you should squeeze the gums with your fingers, and gently massage them, and the palate as well. And you should anoint the gums with the brains of a hare (which are very suitable for this purpose), or with fat or butter or good-quality olive oil; and you should do this twice a day. The milk of a dog is suitable, too. It is also very helpful to use hen's fat for both anointing and massaging the gums."

~Michele Savonarola, Ad mulieres ferrarienses (c. 1450)
If you like this sort of thing, I recommend the book How to Cure the Plague, and Other Curious Remedies.

Previous, semi-related posts:

Advice from c. 530: How To Use Bacon, including for medicinal purposes such as "thick bacon, placed for a long time on all wounds, be they external or internal or caused by a blow, both cleanses any putrefaction and aids healing".

How to Stop Bleeding, 1664:
“To Stench a Bleeding Wound: Lay hogs Dung, hot from the Hog, to the Bleeding Wound.”
~Samuel Strangehopes, A Book of Knowledge in Three Parts (166[4])
Dubious medical device du jour - the prostate warmer.

Advice from 1380: How to Tell if Someone Is or Is Not Dead, with bonus Monty Python.

Urine-drinking Hindu cult believes a warm cup before sunrise straight from virgin cow cures cancer, baldness.

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

Dubious medical device du jour - the prostate warmer

The offspring of a cattle prod and an electrical lamp? It definitely looks like something left over from the Spanish Inquisition. 

Invented in 1918, this device promised to stimulate the abdominal brain (I am not sure what that is, although men have long been accused of thinking with it). The device consisted of a 4.25 inch probe which was plugged into the wall and then inserted into the rectum. When plugged in, a blue light bulb lit up to tell you it was working to restore your manly vitality.

Plus, from the Museum of Erectile Dysfunction, which has several more scary things - this electrostimulation device from the 1880s may look innocuous enough, until you find out that the short cylinder goes up the rectum while the length of the longer probe is inserted in the urethra. 

One has a positive charge, one has a negative charge, and together they pack a wallop intended to jolt the genitalia back into action.

If that didn't do the trick you could always try these Radium Suppositories:

After radium was discovered in 1898 by Paul and Marie Curie, radioactive substances were used as popular quack cures for all kinds of conditions. Before anyone knew about their toxic and carcinogenic properties, people drank radioactive water for its supposed curative effects, and, as you can see, also inserted radiation in the other end.
These radium suppositories promised to restore "sexual power" to men's weakened organs. "Also splendid for piles and rectals sores."

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.