Thursday, June 30, 2011

"The A and P has good enough" and more

The Cape Cod Mystery, 1931, by Phoebe Atwood Taylor, an Asey Mayo mystery.
Beginning on page 58.

"The A and P has good enough without payin' all kinds of fancy prices."
The company was founded in 1859 as The Great American Tea Company by George Huntington Hartford and George Gilman in New York City. It was renamed "The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company" in 1869. George and John A. Hartford, the founder's sons, joined the company in the 1880s[9] and George Huntington Hartford bought George Gilman's interests out.

The company originally focused on the tea business, selling tea from a storefront on Vesey Street in lower Manhattan. They were successful in capturing a large part of the market in the northeastern cities in the U.S. They purchased tea directly from Chinese tea plantations. Their low costs enabled them to undercut most of the market and grow. By 1876 they had 67 stores.

The 20th century
In 1912, the first A&P Economy Store opened; it was a grocery store format that allowed cost-cutting and standardized layout. The new format allowed the company to grow to 1,600 stores by 1915. In 1925, A&P had 13,961 stores, with sales of $437 million. In the early 1930s, A&P was operating approximately 16,000 stores with a combined revenue of US$1 billion. In 1936 A&P opened its first supermarket in Braddock, Pennsylvania.

In 1949, an anti-trust suit was filed against A&P. The chain placed advertisements in many newspapers to defend itself against the claim that it had become a food monopoly.
Everyone knows that A&P's policy has always been to keep costs and profits at a minimum so that it can sell good food cheap[ly]. The very heart of the anti-trust lawyers' case is that A&P's methods, which they claim are illegal, have enabled the company to undersell the competition. How can anyone possibly say that you will get lower food prices by eliminating the company that has done so much to bring them down?

In the 1950s, the pressure A&P put on its suppliers led Congress to implement anti-predatory pricing laws. The threat of having to break up the A&P company because of its near-monopoly of the food industry led John Augustine Hartford and George Ludlum Hartford to give an interview to Time, which put them on the magazine's November 13, 1950 cover. Time wrote that, next to General Motors, A&P sold more goods than any other company in the world. John was quoted in Time as saying "I don't know any grocer who wants to stay small. I don't see how any businessman can limit his growth and stay healthy". Into 1958, the company was still owned and controlled by the Hartford Family; efforts to make A&P a publicly-owned corporation ensued.

In the mid-1950s, A&P was the dominant food retailer. In some areas, A&P had 75 percent of the grocery-store share; the company was operating in 39 of the then 48 states.[citation needed] Downtown stores were being replaced with 15,000-to-20,000-square foot supermarkets, a large size for that period. In many situations, a 20,000-square-foot (2,000 m2) store in a town would replace several, obsolete, 5,000-square-foot (500 m2) stores. In most locations these new stores had a colonial design with a cupola and a weathervane on the roof; A&P referred to this as its "Centennial" store design. On the West Coast, the stores had a round marina design. After the Hartford brothers passed away in the 1950s, A&P was inherited by their nephew Huntington Hartford, since neither brother had children. Huntington Hartford did not take a active role in the company; instead, John Hartford's secretary Ralph Burger, ran A&P.

[There's lots more info on this food chain at WIkipedia. What I fid interesting is that in 1930, the chain had 16,000 stores, now in 2011 it has 362 stores...while Walmart has...how many?


The license plate number was 11-C-11.
License plates have been around for longer than there have been automobiles. The City of Victoria in the Province of British Columbia, Canada was the first to introduce the vehicle licence plate in 1884 for a horse-drawn hackney carriage.[1] France was the first country to introduce the license plate, in 1893, followed by Germany in 1896.[2] The Netherlands was the first country to introduce a national licence plate, called a "driving permit", in 1898. The first licences were plates with a number, starting at 1. By August 8, 1899 the counter was at 168. When the Netherlands chose a different way to number the plates on January 15, 1906 the last issued plate was 2001.

In the U.S., where each state issues plates, New York State has required plates since 1901. At first, plates were not government issued in most jurisdictions and motorists were obliged to make their own. Massachusetts and West Virginia were the first states to issue plates, in 1903.

The earliest plates were made out of porcelain baked onto iron or ceramic with no backing, which made them fragile and impractical. Few of these earliest plates survive. Later experimental materials include cardboard, leather, plastic and during wartime shortages copper and pressed soybeans.

Earlier plates varied in size and shape from one jurisdiction to the next, such that if one moved, new holes would need to be drilled into the bumper to support the new plate. Standardization of plates came in 1957, when automobile manufacturers came to agreement with governments and international standards organizations. While peculiar local variants still exist, there are three basic standards worldwide.


"Didn't you want some tickes for the Temp'rance Union garden party?"
The Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) is the oldest continuing non-sectarian women's organization worldwide. Organized at a national convention in Cleveland, Ohio in 1874, the group spearheaded the crusade for prohibition. Members in Fredonia, New York advanced their cause by entering , singing, praying, and urging saloon keepers to stop selling alcohol.

Although the oldest woemn's organization, it is not the oldest Temperance Union. The very first termperance union, the American Temperance Union, was formed from 1826-1833. It closed in 1866.



He chose the booth farthest away from the operator and manipulated a nickel. [put a nickel in the payphone slot]
Payphones were preceded by pay stations, manned by telephone company attendants who would collect payment for calls placed. In 1889, the first public coin telephone was invented by William Gray and installed at a bank in Hartford, Connecticut. The invention quickly caught on, and by 1902, there were 81,000 payphones in the United States. By 1905, the first outdoor payphones with booths were installed. By the end of 1925, 25,000 of these booths existed in New York City alone. In 1960, the Bell System installed its one millionth telephone booth. After the divestiture of Pacific Bell (California) and AT&T in 1984, it wasn't long before independent stores selling telephones opened up. After that privately owned payphones hit the market. In 2000, there were over 2 million payphones in the United States, today that number is around 700,000, the major carriers AT&T and Verizon have both exited the business, and this market is served by independent payphone companies now.

In the United States, the coin rate for a local direct-dialed station-to-station call from a payphone has been 50¢ in most areas since mid-2001, for an unlimited number of minutes. During the 1960s and 1970s, the same call in the United States and Canada typically cost 10¢. In inflation adjusted terms, in 2006 USD, this was 68¢ in 1960, and 28¢ in 1979. While some areas only cost 5¢, smaller companies occasionally charged as high as 15¢ to 20¢. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, this price gradually changed to 20¢, and again rose to 25¢ in some areas between 1985 and 1990 (47¢-39¢, inflation adjusted terms as above). In the late 1990s, the price rose to 35¢ in many areas. However, in most areas in California, for instance, the price is very often 50 cents a call (note that pay telephones rarely, if ever, accept 50 cent pieces (half-dollars). New York City is a notable exception, where Verizon's and other companies' phones still cost 25 cents for 4 minutes, except in hotels and airports. Verizon tried raising the price to 50 cents, but lowered it to 25 cents after customers started using their competitors' phones.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Shattered Silk, 1986

This isn't really "dated death" (although there is much from 1986 that doesn't exist today, and vice versa) but I just thought this was interesting.

On page 162 of the paperback edition.
She was relieved to be able to settle for the late news. Forest fires in the Western states, drought in the Northeast, tornadoes in the midwest; breakdown of the arms talks, plane crashes, riots, and murders. But the giant pandas were making love. Thank God for the pandas.

Substitute floods for drought, and what was going on in 24 years ago is still going on today.

We don't hear much about the Giant Pandas today, though...but perhaps Kung Fu Panda 2?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

'seven-passenger touring car" and more

The Cape Cod Mystery, by Phoebe Atwood Taylor, 1931
pg. 56

"I know it was a big seven-passenger touring car...red wire wheels."

A touring car was a popular car body style in the early 20th century, being a larger alternative to the runabout and the roadster. They were open cars, often fitted with convertible tops. Most early touring cars had a tonneau at the rear giving seating for four or more. Engines on early models were either in the front, or in a mid-body position. Touring cars evolved into the modern sedan/saloon body style. They are defined as being an open car seating five or more,[1] however the term has been more loosely used in racing.

By the mid-teens in the United States, the touring car body had evolved into a variety of types, with the four door touring car, equipped with a convertible top, being the most popular body style offered.

The majority of Model T's produced by Ford between 1908 and 1927 were four and then three-door models (with drivers sliding behind the wheel from passenger seat) touring cars, accounting for 6,519,643 cars sold out of the 15,000,000 estimated Model T's built. In terms of percentage, the 5-passenger touring car model was Ford's most popular body type and accounted for 44% of all Model T's (cars, trucks and chassis) sold over the model's eighteen-plus year life span; Ford's second most popular body style during the same period was its Model T based truck.

Side curtains, when available for a particular model, could be installed to protect passengers from wind and weather by snapping or zipping them into place; otherwise, drivers and passengers braved the elements. When the top was folded down, it formed a bulky mass known as the "fan" behind the back seat: "fan covers" were made to protect the top and its wooden ribs while in the down position.

The popularity of the touring car began to wane in the early 1920s when cars with enclosed passenger compartments became more affordable, and began to consistently out-sell the open cars.


"Know that rowboat of Bill's, that Cape Cod dory he had built last year up to Wareham?"
The dory is a small, shallow-draft boat, about 5 to 7 metres/16.4 to 23.0 feet long. It is a lightweight and versatile boat with high sides, a flat bottom and sharp bows. They are easy to build because of their simple lines. For centuries, dories have been used as traditional fishing boats, both in coastal waters and in the open sea.

"You can have it for ten, though. F. O. B. our wharf."
FOB is an initialism which pertains to the shipping of goods. Depending on specific usage, it may stand for "Free On Board" or "Freight On Board". FOB specifies which party (buyer or seller) pays for which shipment and loading costs, and/or where responsibility for the goods is transferred. The last distinction is important for determining liability for goods lost or damaged in transit from the seller to the buyer.

So Asey is telling the man he's talking to that that guy will have to pick up the dory at the Porter wharf (Porter being the man Asey works for).

"That is just where the shoe pinches."
Shoeshine is from 1911. Shoelace is attested from 1640s. Shoestring is from 1610s; as figurative for "a small amount" it is recorded from 1882; as a type of necktie, from 1903. Shoebox is attested from 1860; as a type of building, from 1968. To stand in someone's shoes "see things from his or her point of view" is attested from 1767. Old shoe as a type of something worthless is attested from late 14c. Shoes tied to the fender of a newlywed couple's car preserves the old custom (mentioned from 1540s) of throwing an old shoe at or after someone to wish them luck. Perhaps the association is with dirtiness, on the "muck is luck" theory.

The earliest designs were simple affairs, often mere "foot bags" of leather to protect the feet from rocks, debris, and cold. Since shoes use more leather than sandals, their use was more common in cold climates. By the Middle Ages, turn-shoes had been developed with toggled flaps or drawstrings to tighten the leather around the foot for a better fit. As Europe gained in wealth and power, fancy shoes became status symbols. Toes became long and pointed, often to ridiculous proportions. Artisans created unique footwear for rich patrons, and new styles developed. Eventually the modern shoe, with a sewn-on sole, was devised. Since the 17th century, most leather shoes have used a sewn-on sole. This remains the standard for finer-quality dress shoes today. Until around 1800, shoes were made without differentiation for the left or right foot. Such shoes are now referred to as "straights".

Transcription of Aerial Age Weekly, September 20, 1915, pt 1

I have access to a couple of early bound volumes of Aerial Age Weekly - unfortunately starting with Volume 2, not Volume 1! However, since these magazines are in the public domain (everything in the US published prior to 1923 is) I thought I'd transcribe the issues here.

The first article in this issue (Sep 20, 1915, Vol II, no. 1) is an open letter to Henry Ford, "Henry Ford's Proposal to Substitute the Jitney Bus for the Ship of State Dcored." It makes for interesting reading (Some Americans, including the writer of this article, wanted the US to be prepared for war, Ford was prepared to spend a million dollars to stop them) but I first want to research Ford's exact statements, and present them in conjunction with this article. That's going to take a couple of days.

So we'll move on to general news paragraphs.
Twenty Martin Seaplanes for Dutch Government
Dispatches from Los Angeles announce that Glenn L. Martin has scored a new and valuable achievement in the perfection of the new model T. A. Martin seaplane.

This is an unusually efficient and dependable machine, as is evidenced by the fact that two new records have already been made with it. Lieutenant ter Poorten, of the Dutch Aviation Corps, broke the Los Angeles-San Diego non-stop round-trip record with it, making the 224 miles in three hours and 25 minutes.

Lieutenant ter Poorten and Captain Visscher also officially broke the passenger hydroaeroplane altitude record. They attained an altitude of 7,500 feet, and were up one hour thirty minutes. The record in this flight was taken by Captain Arthur Cowan, of the I.S. Army Aviation Corps.

The new machine was subjected to several severe tests, among other trials carrying a one-half ton load of merchandise.

Agents of The Netherlands who witnessed the various tests were highly pleased with the behavior of the new seaplane, and are purchasing twenty machines for early delivery.

Vincent Astor Makes Flight in His New Flyning Boat
Vincent Astor, on Thursday, made two flights at Marblehead in his new flying boat. Both flights were successful, and Mr. Astor seemed greatly pleased. Among the hundreds of spectators who witnessed his first flight was his wife, who, after congratulating her husband for his good work, took a train to Newport.

"Cliff" Webster acted as Astor's pilot. The first flight was made shortly after 9 o'clock, and another was made near noon. On the first flight, after planing about the harbor, the machine was driven to an altitude of about 500 feet.

Harry Payne Whitney's Hydro-aeroplane Passes Test
Harry Payne Whitney's 100-horsepower Burgess-Dunne hydro-aeroplane has finished its tests at Marblehead, and will be shipped to the Whitney estate at Roslyn, L.I. [Long Island] this week.

The hydro-aeroplane is in appearance almost identical with that built by the Burgess company for Vincent Astor.

Mr. Whitney plans to use the maching at his country home at Roslyn, L. I.. Mr. Clifford Webster will accompany the hydro to Long Island, and will instruct Mr. Whitney in its operation.

Dayton Wants the Factory
Orville Wright has signified his intention of giving up the manufacture aeroplanes and devoting his time to the development of the aeroplane motor. From this announcement residents of Dayton have arrived at the conclusion that Mr. Wright may sell and the business may be moved to another city, and the Greater Dayton Association has started a movement to keep the industry in that city.


More transcriptions will follow on a thrice-weekly basis.

Friday, June 24, 2011

"do it up brown" and more

The Cape Cod Mystery, 1931

"We might as well do the thing up brown while we're at it."
DO UP BROWN - 1. To swindle, victimize, trounce, or defeat (someone) thoroughly. 1824 in Partridge. He is said to be "cooked," or "done brown" and "dished." 2. To do (something) thoroughly, excellently, or perfectly. 1843 in G. W. Harris "High Times" 29: Those are places where things are done up brown! From "Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Volume 1, A-G" by J.E. Lighter, Random House, New York, 1994.

DO IT UP BROWN - "Do something well; do it to one's satisfaction. In England the phrase has had the meaning of deceive or take in. Either way, it carries the implication of doing something thoroughly and probably comes from the roasting of meat, yielding a brown color that is the result of thorough cooking. One can see the term in the making in 'Liber Cure Cocorum' " 'Lay hur (the goose) to frye and rost hyr browne.'" From the "Dictionary of Cliches" by James Rogers (Ballantine Books, New York, 1985).
http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/12/messages/668.html


"And I'll telegraph a man I used to work for out West who's the head or something of a Labor Fed'ration an' see if he knows anything about this Schonbrun bein' a labor agitator."
There is a ton of info in an article about Labor Federations at Wikipedia. I share several paragraphs, go to Wikipedia if you're curious enough to see more.

Labor Union
The first labor federation was the National Labor Union (NLU). The NLU professed that all wealth and property were the products of labor, and that a just monetary system was necessary to ease labor's distress. Working men were receiving too little, and "nonproducing capital" was receiving too much of the wealth produced.

William H. Sylvis, president of the Iron Molders International Union and, in 1868, president of the NLU, believed that unionization was important, but by itself it could not solve the problem of poverty. He declared,
The cause of all these evils is the WAGES SYSTEM. So long as we continue to work for wages... so long will we be subjected to small pay, poverty, and all of the evils of which we complain.

The federation was anti-monopolist, and advocated communitarianism — the pursuit of a more just society established on cooperative principles. The organization also favored shorter work hours, and the establishment of libraries for the express purpose of educating workers.

The 1868 NLU convention also embraced Sylvis's view that a "bank... is a licensed swindle." Sylvis was against privatizing the commons, and also appeared to favor progressive taxation. The NLU wanted congress to control interest rates, which they thought would help to address the fairness issue.

From the very first convention, certain divergent union tendencies were in conflict. The Workingmen's Union of New York City expressed opposition to a call by the officers of national unions for a "National Convention of Trades." The compromise that avoided an impasse allowed organizations such as eight-hour leagues, composed of individuals supportive of labor but not themselves workers, to send representatives.

Thus, due to suspicion of the large, national unions of skilled craftsmen by a general workmen's union, reformist political groups became a part of the National Labor Union. One of the problems with the NLU was the inability to levy an authorized annual dues assessment of twenty-five cents per member, because of "the difficulty in determining who were actually members."

Although the NLU boasted half a million members by 1869, numerous divisions hurt its effectiveness. The question of race was raised, debated, but then evaded in the NLU conventions of 1867 and 1868. By 1869, employers were using blacks as strike breakers, and white workers were sometimes replaced by cheaper black workers. It became apparent that the question of race must be settled. It was recognized that blacks had formed their labor organizations and were actively engaged in strikes, especially in the South. Certainly, black workers were capable of unionizing.

It appears that the practical impact of black workers on organizations of white workers finally resolved the question. A resolution was passed by the NLU convention to invite all Negro labor organizations to send delegates to the next convention. The NLU voted to seat all nine delegates who applied.

However, the constituent national trade unions refused to admit black workers in spite of the federation's decision. Heated opposition against admitting black workers came from the cigar makers, the typographical union, and the bricklayers.

Practical differences between white and black workers complicated the issue. In electoral politics, some NLU factions favored the Greenback-Labor Party, or the Democrats. Black workers maintained allegiance to the Republican Party, which had helped to abolish slavery.

Black workers had an interest in securing civil rights, jobs, the right to vote, land and homesteads, but little concern about currency reform. For the most part until after the 1880s, black workers remained outside the organized labor movement. In the meantime, excluded by the trade unions and finding little common cause with white workers, they developed a reputation as lower wage workers, and as strikebreakers. Black workers likewise had a less than favorable image of white workers. In Richmond, Virginia, for example, memories of slavery were fresh, and even those whites who had not owned slaves had staffed the local militia, and agitated for employment restrictions on both free blacks and slaves.

This, then, was one of the challenges. Sylvis declared of the black workers,
If we can succeed in convincing these people to make common cause with us...we will have a power...that will shake Wall Street out of its boots... Capital is no respecter of persons and it is...a sheer impossibility to degrade one class of labor without degrading all."

Exhibiting somewhat contradictory tendencies, the NLU advocated support of the Anti-Coolie Act of 1862 that was passed by the state of California, yet approved voluntary emigration of Chinese to the United States. When Chinese workers were used as strike breakers at a Massachusetts shoe factory in 1870, the NLU came under intense pressure to oppose both "coolie" labor and Chinese immigration.

After a bitter internal argument, the NLU endorsed the women's labor movement, which consisted mostly of protective organizations formed to look after women's rights on the job. At the fourth NLU congress, Susan B. Anthony's credentials were challenged and subsequently rejected on the grounds that she had used the Workingwomen's Protective Union as a strike-breaking organization. The NLU continued to seat delegates from women's organizations, but support for those organizations eroded.

Nonetheless, the NLU was one of the first labor organizations to advocate equal rights and equal pay for women, even though it remained opposed to women's suffrage. But the national trade unions that were a part of the NLU refused to support equal rights or equal pay for women, and few of them accepted women as members.

For a time a significant faction of the NLU embraced Greenbackism, which aimed to make capital cheaper and, it was hoped, would lead to producers' cooperatives and the abolition of the wage system. Divisions over the greenback issue eventually split the NLU.

Alliances with farmers became problematic because of different monetary interests.

Joseph G. Rayback, author of A History of American Labor, has written:
It is usually concluded that the National Labor Union disappeared because it turned political. The judgment is too simple. The National Labor Union was inherently weak from its origin because its membership held two conflicting philosophies which were never resolved: one was the politically conscious, humanitarian, and reform philosophy inherited from the [eighteen-] thirties and forties; the other was the "pure and simple" trade-unionist philosophy of the [eighteen-] fifties...

David Brundage explains pure and simple unionism as "the view that the labor movement should confine itself to fighting over wages and working conditions and avoid entanglements with those seeking more fundamental social change."

Rayback continues,
When reformers urged cooperation with women and Negroes in industry, trade unionists who were inclined to look upon both groups as cheap labor competition became incensed. During the postwar recession trade unionists accepted Greenbackism as a means of establishing cooperatives which would eliminate "wage slavery" and alleviate the "miserable condition of workingmen." After 1870, however, when labor began to share in business recovery, the same trade unionists found Greenbackism "highly amusing," a description which in turn angered the reformers.

By 1870, local and state workingmen's groups favoring political action were gaining strength, and the national trade unions were becoming unhappy with the direction of the NLU. The craft-based trade unions began to disafiliate.

By the time of its demise, the political and reform groups were in control. Rayback concludes,

[The National Labor Union] represented the transition between the democratic, egalitarian, politically-conscious, humanitarian, and reformist labor movement of the antebellum period, and the self-centered, wage-conscious, trade-unionist labor movement of the late nineteenth century.

In 1872 the NLU split into separate organizations — the industrial, and the political — a particularly important demarcation that would connote a contentious fault line in future labor organizations.

The trade union organizations that left the NLU had not yet developed "pure and simple unionism" as a philosophical concept. Yet the prospect of political action — particularly for goals that seemed tangential to the perceived needs of union members — caused not only the trade unions, but also the local workingmen's organizations to lose faith in the NLU. To the unions, it seemed, the NLU had lost its balance. Reform at the national level didn't seem to conflict with the quest for a higher standard of living at the local level, so long as some balance between the goals was maintained. But by 1870, it seemed apparent that the NLU was focused more upon reform and political action, than on the goal of representing working people.

But one significant cause of the tension, and the subsequent struggle for power in the NLU was the fact that a significant number of workers hadn't yet comprehended the changed nature of the industrialized system, in which corporations were not only beginning to create their own powerful combinations, they were able to rely upon their close relationship with the state to enforce their requirements upon the labor force. The workers were still thinking in terms of "the simple master-workman relationship" of a previous era. They hadn't yet developed a "mature sense of class consciousness."

Workers were unaware of the importance of establishing not only a strong labor movement, but one with sufficient resources to enable it to meet employers on an equal footing. The NLU had no integral structure of its own; its constituent organizations were autonomous, and the federation could do little more than agitate, pass resolutions, or offer advice. The federation's officers had no salaries, and in 1870, its most successful year, expenses were double receipts. Bereft of resources, focused on political action almost to the exclusion of practical gains for union members, the NLU did not succeed in launching even a single new national trade union.

Yet for its time, the NLU played an important role in labor history.

The founding of the NLU, with its pioneer fight for Negro-labor solidarity, the rights of women, independent political activity, and international solidarity, had been a great step forward despite its weaknesses and despite its defeat.

The problems that the federation confronted were not going away, and some of the ideas promoted by the NLU — accumulated wealth as unpaid labor; the inadequacy of traditional "bread and butter" unionism; the culpability of the wage system in the impoverishment of working people; the desire for a more equitable society; the importance of educating working people about the ways in which they are exploited — these ideas would resonate in other labor organizations in the decades yet to come,at times as a dominant theme, but increasingly as a cry of opposition against the mainstream.


"You might as well have all the strings you can to your bow."
A very old saying - from the Greek.
Labor UnionThe first labor federation was the National Labor Union (NLU). The NLU professed that all wealth and property were the products of labor, and that a just monetary system was necessary to ease labor's distress. Working men were receiving too little, and "nonproducing capital" was receiving too much of the wealth produced.

William H. Sylvis, president of the Iron Molders International Union and, in 1868, president of the NLU, believed that unionization was important, but by itself it could not solve the problem of poverty. He declared,

The cause of all these evils is the WAGES SYSTEM. So long as we continue to work for wages... so long will we be subjected to small pay, poverty, and all of the evils of which we complain.

The federation was anti-monopolist, and advocated communitarianism — the pursuit of a more just society established on cooperative principles. The organization also favored shorter work hours, and the establishment of libraries for the express purpose of educating workers.

The 1868 NLU convention also embraced Sylvis's view that a "bank... is a licensed swindle." Sylvis was against privatizing the commons, and also appeared to favor progressive taxation. The NLU wanted congress to control interest rates, which they thought would help to address the fairness issue.

From the very first convention, certain divergent union tendencies were in conflict. The Workingmen's Union of New York City expressed opposition to a call by the officers of national unions for a "National Convention of Trades." The compromise that avoided an impasse allowed organizations such as eight-hour leagues, composed of individuals supportive of labor but not themselves workers, to send representatives. Thus, due to suspicion of the large, national unions of skilled craftsmen by a general workmen's union, reformist political groups became a part of the National Labor Union. One of the problems with the NLU was the inability to levy an authorized annual dues assessment of twenty-five cents per member, because of "the difficulty in determining who were actually members."

Although the NLU boasted half a million members by 1869, numerous divisions hurt its effectiveness. The question of race was raised, debated, but then evaded in the NLU conventions of 1867 and 1868. By 1869, employers were using blacks as strike breakers, and white workers were sometimes replaced by cheaper black workers. It became apparent that the question of race must be settled. It was recognized that blacks had formed their labor organizations and were actively engaged in strikes, especially in the South. Certainly, black workers were capable of unionizing.

It appears that the practical impact of black workers on organizations of white workers finally resolved the question. A resolution was passed by the NLU convention to invite all Negro labor organizations to send delegates to the next convention. The NLU voted to seat all nine delegates who applied.

However, the constituent national trade unions refused to admit black workers in spite of the federation's decision. Heated opposition against admitting black workers came from the cigar makers, the typographical union, and the bricklayers.

Practical differences between white and black workers complicated the issue. In electoral politics, some NLU factions favored the Greenback-Labor Party, or the Democrats. Black workers maintained allegiance to the Republican Party, which had helped to abolish slavery.

Black workers had an interest in securing civil rights, jobs, the right to vote, land and homesteads, but little concern about currency reform. For the most part until after the 1880s, black workers remained outside the organized labor movement. In the meantime, excluded by the trade unions and finding little common cause with white workers, they developed a reputation as lower wage workers, and as strikebreakers. Black workers likewise had a less than favorable image of white workers. In Richmond, Virginia, for example, memories of slavery were fresh, and even those whites who had not owned slaves had staffed the local militia, and agitated for employment restrictions on both free blacks and slaves.

This, then, was one of the challenges. Sylvis declared of the black workers,

If we can succeed in convincing these people to make common cause with us...we will have a power...that will shake Wall Street out of its boots... Capital is no respecter of persons and it is...a sheer impossibility to degrade one class of labor without degrading all."

Exhibiting somewhat contradictory tendencies, the NLU advocated support of the Anti-Coolie Act of 1862 that was passed by the state of California, yet approved voluntary emigration of Chinese to the United States. When Chinese workers were used as strike breakers at a Massachusetts shoe factory in 1870, the NLU came under intense pressure to oppose both "coolie" labor and Chinese immigration.

After a bitter internal argument, the NLU endorsed the women's labor movement, which consisted mostly of protective organizations formed to look after women's rights on the job. At the fourth NLU congress, Susan B. Anthony's credentials were challenged and subsequently rejected on the grounds that she had used the Workingwomen's Protective Union as a strike-breaking organization.

The NLU continued to seat delegates from women's organizations, but support for those organizations eroded. Nonetheless, the NLU was one of the first labor organizations to advocate equal rights and equal pay for women, even though it remained opposed to women's suffrage. But the national trade unions that were a part of the NLU refused to support equal rights or equal pay for women, and few of them accepted women as members.

For a time a significant faction of the NLU embraced Greenbackism, which aimed to make capital cheaper and, it was hoped, would lead to producers' cooperatives and the abolition of the wage system. Divisions over the greenback issue eventually split the NLU.

Alliances with farmers became problematic because of different monetary interests.

Joseph G. Rayback, author of A History of American Labor, has written:

It is usually concluded that the National Labor Union disappeared because it turned political. The judgment is too simple. The National Labor Union was inherently weak from its origin because its membership held two conflicting philosophies which were never resolved: one was the politically conscious, humanitarian, and reform philosophy inherited from the [eighteen-] thirties and forties; the other was the "pure and simple" trade-unionist philosophy of the [eighteen-] fifties...

David Brundage explains pure and simple unionism as "the view that the labor movement should confine itself to fighting over wages and working conditions and avoid entanglements with those seeking more fundamental social change." Rayback continues,

When reformers urged cooperation with women and Negroes in industry, trade unionists who were inclined to look upon both groups as cheap labor competition became incensed. During the postwar recession trade unionists accepted Greenbackism as a means of establishing cooperatives which would eliminate "wage slavery" and alleviate the "miserable condition of workingmen." After 1870, however, when labor began to share in business recovery, the same trade unionists found Greenbackism "highly amusing," a description which in turn angered the reformers.

By 1870, local and state workingmen's groups favoring political action were gaining strength, and the national trade unions were becoming unhappy with the direction of the NLU. The craft-based trade unions began to disafiliate.

By the time of its demise, the political and reform groups were in control. Rayback concludes,

[The National Labor Union] represented the transition between the democratic, egalitarian, politically-conscious, humanitarian, and reformist labor movement of the antebellum period, and the self-centered, wage-conscious, trade-unionist labor movement of the late nineteenth century.

In 1872 the NLU split into separate organizations — the industrial, and the political — a particularly important demarcation that would connote a contentious fault line in future labor organizations.

The trade union organizations that left the NLU had not yet developed "pure and simple unionism" as a philosophical concept. Yet the prospect of political action — particularly for goals that seemed tangential to the perceived needs of union members — caused not only the trade unions, but also the local workingmen's organizations to lose faith in the NLU. To the unions, it seemed, the NLU had lost its balance. Reform at the national level didn't seem to conflict with the quest for a higher standard of living at the local level, so long as some balance between the goals was maintained.

But by 1870, it seemed apparent that the NLU was focused more upon reform and political action, than on the goal of representing working people.

But one significant cause of the tension, and the subsequent struggle for power in the NLU was the fact that a significant number of workers hadn't yet comprehended the changed nature of the industrialized system, in which corporations were not only beginning to create their own powerful combinations, they were able to rely upon their close relationship with the state to enforce their requirements upon the labor force. The workers were still thinking in terms of "the simple master-workman relationship" of a previous era. They hadn't yet developed a "mature sense of class consciousness."

Workers were unaware of the importance of establishing not only a strong labor movement, but one with sufficient resources to enable it to meet employers on an equal footing. The NLU had no integral structure of its own; its constituent organizations were autonomous, and the federation could do little more than agitate, pass resolutions, or offer advice. The federation's officers had no salaries, and in 1870, its most successful year, expenses were double receipts. Bereft of resources, focused on political action almost to the exclusion of practical gains for union members, the NLU did not succeed in launching even a single new national trade union.

Yet for its time, the NLU played an important role in labor history.

The founding of the NLU, with its pioneer fight for Negro-labor solidarity, the rights of women, independent political activity, and international solidarity, had been a great step forward despite its weaknesses and despite its defeat.

The problems that the federation confronted were not going away, and some of the ideas promoted by the NLU — accumulated wealth as unpaid labor; the inadequacy of traditional "bread and butter" unionism; the culpability of the wage system in the impoverishment of working people; the desire for a more equitable society; the importance of educating working people about the ways in which they are exploited — these ideas would resonate in other labor organizations in the decades yet to come, at times as a dominant theme, but increasingly as a cry of opposition against the mainstream.

"We might as well have all the strings we can to our bow."
An old saying, going way back to the ancient greeks.
He has). He is provided against contingencies; if one business or adventure should fail, he has another in reserve; two sweethearts; two devices, etc.


Latin: “Duabus anchoris nititur” (i.e. “He is doubly moored”), or “Duabus anchoris sis fultus.” Greek: “E.”

French: “Il a deux cordes a son arc.” Italian: “Navigar per piu venti.”

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"ten beers at a quarter each" and more

The Cape Cod Mystery by Phoebe Atwood Taylor (1931)

"I hereby put in an expense account of ten beers at a quarter each. That is not extortion as small beer comes high these days."
When this book was written, in 1931, Prohibition was still in effect. Perhaps Prohibition did not extend to "small beer" which is a beer that contains very ilttle alchohol.

Prohibition in the United States was a major reform movement sponsored by evangelical Protestant churches, especially the Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Disciples and Congregationalists from the 1840s into the 1920s. Kansas and Maine were early adopters. The Women's Christian Temperance Union, founded in 1874, and the Prohibition Party were major players until the early 20th century, when the movement was taken over by the Anti-Saloon League. By using pressure politics on legislators, the Anti-Saloon League achieved the goal of nationwide prohibition during World War I, emphasizing the need to destroy the political corruption of the saloons, the political power of the German-based brewing industry, and the need to reduce domestic violence in the home.

Prohibition was instituted with ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution on January 16, 1919, which prohibited the "...manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States..." Congress passed the "Volstead Act" on October 28, 1919, to enforce the law, but most large cities were uninterested in enforcing the legislation, leaving an understaffed federal service to go after bootleggers. Although alcohol consumption did decline, there was a dramatic rise in organized crime in the larger cities, which now had a cash crop that was in high demand.

Prohibition became increasingly unpopular during the Great Depression, as the repeal movement, led by conservative Democrats and Catholics, emphasized that repeal would generate enormous sums of much needed tax revenue, and weaken the base of organized crime. The Repeal of Prohibition in the United States was accomplished with the passage of the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution on December 5, 1933.

I gazed at the faded picture of an earnest young man in baggy clothes who was shaking one fist in the manner of a curbstone orator.
Curbstone Philosopher (1920s): anyone who appoints themselves a purveyor of knowledge and delivers that knowledge from a position on a street corner or outside a store.

"Restaurants call fried flounder filly of sole, but it's flounder."
Fillet of sole (or filly as Cape Codders pronounce it) is "lean flesh of any of several flatfish."
Sole is:
1. a European flatfish, Solea solea, used for food.
2. any other flatfish of the families Soleidae and Cynoglossidae, having a hooklike snout.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

"he twirled the dial of Bill's mailbox" and more

The Cape Cod Mystery (1931)

pg 53

"he twirled the dial of Bill's mailbox"
Although most people in the US may be familiar with post office boxes that open using a simple key, many post offices - typically in more rural areas, had Grecian-style combination locks, which used letters rather than numbers - starting in 1875 and ending in most areas by the 1980s - although some post offices may still have them.

(Note that this post office box door has been removed from its original setting and placed into a modern day box to make a bank. Note the combination has letters from A to J, and that the bottom of the door is made of glass so that people could see whether they had any mail or not before opening it.

"A special delivery stamp don't mean one thing in this place. We'd ought to got that delivered at the house last night."

Special Delivery stamps were used to expedite delivery of mail, normally at a higher cost. The exact nature of the service varied by postal service, but often included direct delivery to addressee upon arrival at the post office (instead of waiting for next regular delivery time). In many cases it would often be transported to the destination post office in a quicker manner.

Overall special delivery has been superseded by overnight mail and other express options.


"The 'red' came from from his leanings toward socialism and anarchism and all that, and Ivan came from that song that's on the other side of the Frankie and Johnnie record."
"Frankie and Johnny" (sometimes spelled "Frankie and Johnnie"; also known as "Frankie and Albert" or just "Frankie") is a traditional American popular song. It tells the story of a woman, Frankie, who finds that her man Johnny was "making love to" another woman and shoots him dead. Frankie is then arrested; in some versions of the song she is also executed.

The first published version of the music to "Frankie and Johnny" appeared in 1904, credited to and copyrighted by Hughie Cannon, the composer of "Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey"; the piece, a variant version of whose melody is sung today, was titled "He Done Me Wrong" and subtitled "Death of Bill Bailey".[5]

Another variant of the melody, with words and music credited to Frank and Bert Leighton, appeared in 1908 under the title "Bill You Done Me Wrong"; this song was republished in 1912 as "Frankie and Johnny", this time with the words that appear in modern folk variations:

Frankie and Johnny were sweethearts
They had a quarrel one day,
Johnny he vowed that he would leave her
Said he was going away,
He's never coming home, etc.
Also:

Frankie took aim with her forty-four,
Five times with a rooty-toot-toot.
The 1912 "Frankie and Johnny" by the Leighton Brothers and Ren Shields also identifies "Nellie Bly" as the new girl to whom Johnny has given his heart. What has come to be the traditional version of the melody was also published in 1912, as the chorus to the song "You're My Baby", with music is attributed to Nat. D. Ayer.

The familiar "Frankie and Johnny were lovers" lyrics first appeared (as "Frankie and Albert") in On the Trail of Negro Folksongs by Dorothy Scarborough, published in 1925; a similar version with the "Frankie and Johnny" names appeared in 1927 in Carl Sandburg's The American Songbag.

Several students of folk music have asserted that the song long predates the earliest published versions; according to Leonard Feather in his Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz it was sung at the Siege of Vicksburg (1863) during the American Civil War and Sandburg said it was widespread before 1888, while John Jacob Niles reported that it emerged before 1830. The fact, however, that the familiar version does not appear in print before 1925 is "strange indeed for such an allegedly old and well-known song," according to music historian James J. Fuld, who suggests that it "is not so ancient as some of the folk-song writers would have one believe.

Since "Frankie and Johnny" is a traditional song there is no single definitive version of the lyrics. Several versions were collected by Robert Winslow Gordon. The refrain common to most versions is: "He was her man, but he was doing her wrong."

The song on the other side must have a character called "Ivan" for I've not been able to find a song with that title. Helen Morgan might have sung this version of Frankie and Johnny to which Taylor refers.

Mysterious Days: 19 June

1863
The first team of crooks in literature is created by Sir Max Pemberton, who is born on this date in Birmingham, England. His A Gentleman's Gentleman: Being Certain Pages From The Life And Strange Adventures Of Sir Nicolas Steele, Bart. , As Related By His Valet, Hildeb features a valet (who is a rogue) employed by a gentleman (who is a rogue), anticipatiungf Raffles and Bunny by three years.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Mysterious Days: 18 June

1869
The author of the first instruction manual for crime writers, Carolyn Wells, is born in Rahway, New Jersey on this day. The Technique of the Mystery Story, published in 1913, includes her famous opinion: The detective story must seem real in the same sense that fairy tales seem real to children." Wells also writes 82 mystery novels, usually featuring the scholarly detective Fleming Stone. One book was The Clue, 1909.

1939
The Ellery Queen radio program premieres on CBS. Near the end of each drama a panel of guest celebrities try to guess the solution before Ellery gives the answer. (This is an experiment which is dropped after a few episodes.)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Mysterious Days: 17 June


1904
Ralph Bellamy is born in Chicago. He will play Ellery Queen in four films released in 1940 and 1941, beginning with Ellery Queen, Master Detective.

1917
Dean Martin is born in Steubenville, Ohio. He will go on to become an actor, singer and member of the Rat Pack. He will star as Donald Hamilton's Matt Helm in 4 campy film thrillers, including The Wrecking Crew (1969).

1953
Samuel Fuller's Cold War thriller Pickup on South Street, starring Richard Widmark, is released. Widmark plays a two-bit New York pickpocket who finds himself in possession of microfilm wanted by both the FBI and the Communists.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mysterious Days: 16 June


1911
Victor Canning is born in Plymouth, England. His book A Handful of Silver (1954) is made into the movie Masquerade (1964) and Alfred Hitchcock's final film, Family Plot (1976) is based on his The Rainbird Pattern (1972.)

1975
Edward S. Aarons, author of the "Assignment" series featuring indestructible CIA agent Sam Durrell, dies.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mysterious Days: 15 June

1905
Wendell Hertig Taylor is born. A professor of chemistry at Princeton University, he collaborates with Jacques Barzun on the classic inventory of mystery fiction, A Catalog of Crime (1971).

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mysterious Days: 14 June


1930
Charles McCarry is born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. McCarry examines the lives of two families, the Hubbards and the Christophers-both in the business of espionage and counter espionage. McCarry spends ten years working for the CIA, and his experiences are reflected in the attitude of his unusual hero, poet-spy Paul Christopher. The Last Supper (1983) moves from the 1920s to the present, using the Christopher family as a historical barometer.


John Dickson Carr modeled his Gideon Fell on Chesterton.
1936
GK Chesterton dies. His 1908 thriller The Man Who Was Thursday, combines detection, espionage, secret codes, anarchists, disguises, policemen, slapstick and theology. He is also the author of the Father Brown mysteries.

Monday, June 13, 2011

"fine and bleak" and more

The Cape Cod Mystery (1931) pg 50

Was it Shaw or Wells who said of New Englanders that they were "fine and bleak?"
George Bernard Shaw: George Bernard Shaw (26 July 1856 – 2 November 1950) was an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. Although his first profitable writing was music and literary criticism, in which capacity he wrote many highly articulate pieces of journalism, his main talent was for drama, and he wrote more than 60 plays. Nearly all his writings address prevailing social problems, but have a vein of comedy which makes their stark themes more palatable. Shaw examined education, marriage, religion, government, health care, and class privilege.

He was most angered by what he perceived as the exploitation of the working class. An ardent socialist, Shaw wrote many brochures and speeches for the Fabian Society. He became an accomplished orator in the furtherance of its causes, which included gaining equal rights for men and women, alleviating abuses of the working class, rescinding private ownership of productive land, and promoting healthy lifestyles. For a short time he was active in local politics, serving on the London County Council.

In 1898, Shaw married Charlotte Payne-Townshend, a fellow Fabian, whom he survived. They settled in Ayot St. Lawrence in a house now called Shaw's Corner. Shaw died there, aged 94, from chronic problems exacerbated by injuries he incurred by falling.

He is the only person to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize for Literature (1925) and an Oscar (1938), for his contributions to literature and for his work on the film Pygmalion (adaptation of his play of the same name), respectively. Shaw wanted to refuse his Nobel Prize outright because he had no desire for public honours, but accepted it at his wife's behest: she considered it a tribute to Ireland. He did reject the monetary award, requesting it be used to finance translation of Swedish books to English

H. G. Wells: Herbert George Wells (21 September 1866 – 13 August 1946)[1] was an English author, now best known for his work in the science fiction genre. He was also a prolific writer in many other genres, including contemporary novels, history, politics and social commentary, even writing text books. Together with Jules Verne and Hugo Gernsback, Wells has been referred to as "The Father of Science Fiction".[2]

Wells was an outspoken socialist and sympathetic to pacifist views, although he supported the First World War once it was under way, and his later works became increasingly political and didactic. His middle-period novels (1900–1920) were less science-fictional; they covered lower-middle class life (The History of Mr Polly) and the "New Woman" and the Suffragettes (Ann Veronica).


"That new proprietor of the inn has flossy notions. He puts the names of folks who stay there in the papers."
1. made of or resembling floss; downy.
2. showily stylish; excessively ornamented or fancy. (more New England and Canadian usage)


"I'm going to have a Western sandwich for a light lunch soon."
a sandwich with a western omelet for a filling. A Western omelet is: an omelet prepared with diced green peppers, onions, and ham.
And an omelet itself is from the French: 1605–15; < French omelette, earlier amelette, metathetic form of alemette, variant of alemelle literally, thin plate, variant of Old French lemelle < Latin lāmella.

Mysterious Days: 13 June


1935
Rex Burns, whose police procedurals featuring Denver cop Gabe Wager integrate theme and character with detailed knowledge of police methods, is born in San Diego.

His 1975 novel The Alvarez Journal won the Edgar for best first novel.
Denver police detective Gabriel Wager, assigned to the Organized Crime Unit, investigates a narcotics smuggling ring that operates out of a shop which imports Latin American handicrafts. The case leads Wager back into his own Hispanic past to confront acquaintances from his school days, whose path had led them outside the law.

https://www.rexburns.com/Gabe_Wager_Series.html

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mysterious Days: 12 June


1927
Henry Slesar, the writer of more than 500 short stories that usually combine suspense with a finely honed black humor, is born in Brooklyn. Slesar receives the Best First Novel Edgar for The Grey Flannel Shroud (1959).

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Mysterious Days: 11 June


1923
Former show-business insider (and agent to such stars as Ramon Navarro) turned novelist George Baxt is born in Brooklyn. Baxt writes mordantly witty mystery novels in a variety of genres. In A Queer Kind of Death (1966) he introduces Pharoah Love, a gay black cop who operates within New York's homosexual community. Other books of his have real actors in roles, for example The Dorothy Parker Murder Case, the Marlene Dietrich Murder Case, and the William Powell and Myrna Loy Murder Case

Friday, June 10, 2011

Mysterious Days: 10 June


1936
Brian Freemantle is born in Southampton, Hampshire, England. He is the creator of Charlie Muffin, beginning with Charlie M (1977) and ending with The Run Around (1989).


1945
Father Brown, based on the GK Chesterton character, premiers on the Mutual radio network as a summer series. Karl Swenson plays the title role.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Mason, Bison and Elk... and more

The Cape Cod Mystery, pg 44.

He was neither a Mason, a Bison, or an Elk.
Freemasonry is a fraternal organisation that arose from obscure origins in the late 16th to early 17th century.
What's a Fraternal organization? (There are known fraternal organizations which existed as far back as ancient Greece and Rome, and analogous institutions in the late medieval period called confraternities, which were lay organizations allied to the Catholic Church. These confraternities evolved into purely secular fraternal societies.

The development of modern fraternal orders was especially dynamic in the United States, where the freedom to associate outside governmental regulation is expressly sanctioned in law. There have been hundreds of fraternal organizations in the United States, and at the beginning of the 20th century the number of memberships equaled the number of adult males. (Due to multiple memberships, probably only 50% of adult males belonged to any organizations.)

In 1944 Arthur M. Schlesinger coined the phrase "a nation of joiners" to refer to the phenomenon. Alexis de Tocqueville also referred to the American reliance on private organization in the 1830s in Democracy in America.

There are many attributes that fraternities may or may not have, depending on their structure and purpose. Fraternities can have differing degrees of secrecy, some form of initiation or ceremony marking admission, formal codes of behavior, disciplinary procedures, very differing amounts of real property and assets).

Freemasonry now exists in various forms all over the world, with a membership estimated at around six million, including approximately 150,000 in Scotland and Ireland, over a quarter of a million under the jurisdiction of the United Grand Lodge of England and just under two million in the United States.

The fraternity is administratively organised into independent Grand Lodges or sometimes Orients, each of which governs its own jurisdiction, which consists of subordinate (or constituent) Lodges. The various Grand Lodges recognise each other, or not, based upon adherence to landmarks (a Grand Lodge will usually deem other Grand Lodges who share common landmarks to be regular, and those that do not to be "irregular" or "clandestine").

There are also appendant bodies, which are organisations related to the main branch of Freemasonry, but with their own independent administration.

Freemasonry uses the metaphors of operative stonemasons' tools and implements, against the allegorical backdrop of the building of King Solomon's Temple, to convey what has been described by both Masons and critics as "a system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.


The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks
(BPOE; also often known as the Elks Lodge or simply The Elks) is an American fraternal order and social club founded in 1868. It is one of the leading fraternal orders in the U.S., claiming nearly one million members.

The Elks had modest beginnings in 1868 as a social club (then called the "Jolly Corks") established as a private club to elude New York City laws governing the opening hours of public taverns. After the death of a member left his wife and children without income, the club took up additional service roles, rituals and a new name. Desiring to adopt "a readily identifiable creature of stature, indigenous to America", fifteen members voted 8-7 to favor the elk above the buffalo. Early members were mostly from theatrical performing troupes in New York City. It has since evolved into a major American fraternal, charitable, and service order with more than a million members, both men and women, throughout the United States. (Blacks and women are allowed, but atheists are excluded.)

As for Bisons, I'm unable to find any historical record of when the Bison Lodge was first founded. There are a few in existence today.)


In the pillory, and was lucky 'twastn't the bilboes.
The pillory was a device made of a wooden or metal framework erected on a post, with holes for securing the head and hands, formerly used for punishment by public humiliation and often further physical abuse, sometimes lethal.

The word is documented in English since 1274 (attested in Anglo-Latin from c. 1189), and stems from Old French pellori (1168; modern French pilori, see below), itself from medieval Latin pilloria, of uncertain origin, perhaps a diminutive of Latin pila "pillar, stone barrier.

Bilboes (always plural) were iron restraints placed on a person's ankles or wrists. They were used to restrain prisoners and slaves, and for public corporal punishment for men and women alike.

Bilboes consisted of a pair of "U"-shaped iron bars (shackles) with holes in the ends, through which a bolt was inserted. The bolt had a large knob on one end, and a slot in the other end into which a wedge was driven to secure the assembly. Bilboes were made in many sizes, ranging from large ones suitable for a large man's ankles, to ones small enough to fit children.

Bilboes used as public punishment combined physical discomfort with social humiliation; they were popular in England and America in the colonial and early Revolutionary periods (such as in the Boston Bay colony) until they were superseded by the use of stocks.


There was Sough Sullivan all dressed up in his reg'mentals to greet us.
Battledress, or fatigues in the general sense, is the type of uniform used as combat uniforms, as opposed to 'display' dress or formal uniform worn at parades and functions. Display uniforms were also called "regimentals."


"Everyone can't get to Corinth, but you can read the signposts."
I have been unable to find out who said this first, or even what it means. I'm assuming it has something to do with 1st Corinthians, but I'm not sure.

Mysterious Days: 9 June


1870
Charles Dickens dies, having completed only six of the twelve chapters of The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
The Mystery of Edwin Drood is the final novel by Charles Dickens. The novel was left unfinished at the time of Dickens' death, and thus how it might have ended remains unknown. The novel is named after Edwin Drood, but it mostly tells the story of his uncle, a choirmaster named John Jasper, who is in love with his pupil, Rosa Bud. Miss Bud is Drood's fiancée and has also caught the eye of the high-spirited and hot-tempered Neville Landless, who comes from Ceylon with his twin sister, Helena. Neville Landless and Drood take a dislike to one another the moment they meet. Drood later disappears under mysterious circumstances. Dickens died before he could finish the mystery.

The story is set in Cloisterham, a lightly fictionalised Rochester, and feelingly evokes the atmosphere of the town as much as its streets and buildings.

Monthly:
April 1870 -September 1870

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Mysterious Days: 8 June


1921
John Buxton Hilton is born on this day in Buxton, Derbyshire. Rural settings alive with rustic ignorance and intolerance are his trademarks. He writes under the pseudonym John Greenwood, and creates the elderly Inspector Mosley. Murder, Mr. Mosley (1983).

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Mysterious Days: 7 June


1866
E.W. Hornung, is born in Middlesborough, Yorkshire. He is the brother in law of Arthur Conan Doyle, and creates A.J. Raffles - gentleman thief - to tweak his brother in law. He is also the author of Ther Crime Doctor (1914), a collection of stories about Dr. John Dollar (no relation to Max Marcin's Crime Doctor, Robert Ordway.)

1883
The New York Detective Library, a popular series of dime novels featuring Irish sleuth James Brady and his nemesis Jesse James, releases the first publication in its fifteen year run.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Mysterious Days: 6 June

1904
Helen McCloy is born in New York City. She will be the first female president of the Mystery Writers of America.

Her psychological thrillers often focus on an innocent relative of the suspected criminal. Her series character, Dr. Basil Willing, is the first American psychiatrist-detective, and the first to use psychiatry in discovering clues.

McCloy was once married to hard-boiled writer Brett Holliday.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Death ray and more

"Or you can think it's a death ray, whatever that is, or ot could be anything at all." (pg 39)
H. Grindell Mathews, a British scientist, is the inventor of the "death ray" as reported in Middlesboro Daily News on May 30, 1924. Apparently in the 1920s the news was full of British scientists trying to perfect "death rays" - which never appeared except in science fiction comics and movies such as Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon.
http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=TNVBAAAAIBAJ&sjid=46kMAAAAIBAJ&pg=3847,1786908&dq=death-ray&hl=en
(Wikipedia has more on the story, featuring Mathews: 1923 Matthews claimed that he had invented an electric ray that would put magnetos out of action.[3] In a demonstration to some select journalist he stopped a motorcycle engine from a distance. He also claimed that with enough power he could shoot down aeroplanes, explode gunpowder, stop ships and incapacitate infantry from the distance of four miles. Newspapers obliged by publishing sensational accounts of his invention.

The War Office contacted Matthews in February 1924 to request a demonstration of his ray. Matthews did not answer to them but spoke to journalists and demonstrated the ray to a Star reporter by igniting gunpowder from a distance. He still refused to say how the ray actually worked, just insisted that it did. When the British government still refused to rush to buy his ideas, he announced that he had an offer from France.[4]

The Air Ministry was wary, partially because of previous bad experiences with would-be inventors. Matthews was invited back to London to demonstrate his ray on 26 April to the armed forces. In Matthews's laboratory they saw how his ray switched on a light bulb and cut off a motor. He failed to convince the officials, who also suspected trickery or a confidence game. When the British Admiralty requested further demonstration, Matthews refused to give it.

On May 27, 1924, the High Court in London granted an injunction to Matthew's investors that forbade him from selling the rights to the death ray. When Major Wimperis arrived at Matthews's laboratory to negotiate a new deal, Matthews had already flown to Paris. Matthews's backers appeared on the scene as well and then rushed to Croydon airport to stop him, but were too late.

Public furor attracted interest of various other would-be inventors who wanted to demonstrate their own death rays to the War Office. None of them was convincing. On 28 May Commander Kenworthy asked in the House of Commons what the government intended to do to stop Matthews from selling the ray to a foreign power. The Under Secretary for Air answered that Matthews was not willing to let them investigate the ray to their satisfaction. A government representative also stated that one ministry official had stood before the ray and survived. Newspapers continued to root for Matthews.

The government required that Matthews would use the ray to stop a petrol motorcycle engine in the conditions that would satisfy the Air Ministry. He would receive £1000 and further consideration. From France, Matthews answered that he was not willing to give any proof of that kind and that he already had eight bids to choose from. He also claimed that he had lost sight in his left eye because of his experiments. His involvement with his French backer Eugene Royer aroused further suspicions in Britain.

Sir Samuel Instone and his brother Theodore offered Matthews a huge salary if he would keep the ray in Britain and demonstrate that it actually worked. Matthews refused again - he did not want to give any proof that the ray worked as he claimed it would.

Matthews returned to London 1 June 1924 and gave an interview to the Sunday Express. He claimed that he had a deal with Royer. The press again took his side. The only demonstration Matthews was willing to give was to make a Pathé film The Death Ray to propagate his ideas to his own satisfaction. The device in the movie bore no resemblance to the one government officials had seen.[5][6]

In July 1924, Matthews left for the USA to market his invention. When he was offered $25,000 to demonstrate his beam to the Radio World Fair at Madison Square Garden, he again refused and claimed, without foundation, that he was not permitted to demonstrate it outside England. US scientists were not impressed. One Professor Woods offered to stand in front of the death ray device to demonstrate his disbelief. Regardless, when Matthews returned to Britain, he claimed that the USA had bought his ray but refused to say who had done it and for how much. Matthews moved to the USA and began to work for Warner Bros. [a movie studio)

Bill-fold
The word "wallet" has been in use since the late fourteenth century to refer to a bag or a knapsack for carrying articles. The word may derive from Proto-Germanic. The ancient Greek word kibisis, used to describe the sack carried by the god Hermes and the sack in which the mythical hero Perseus carried the decapitated head of the monster Medusa, has been typically translated as "wallet". Usage of the term "wallet" in its modern meaning of "flat case for carrying paper currency" in American English dates to 1834 but this meaning was one of many in the 19th century and early 20th century.

So what about "bill-fold." Well, the name is what the product does...a place to store dollar [bills].
knitting on an afghan

"I am completely exhausted and I make no bones about it."
From: http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/make-no-bones-about.html
This is another of those ancient phrases that we accept with our mother's milk as an idiom but which seem quite strange when we later give it some thought. When we are trying to convey that we acknowledge or have no objection to something, why bring bones into it?

It has been suggested that the bones were dice, which were previously made from bone and are still called bones in gambling circles. That explanation doesn't stand up to scrutiny - 'to make no dice about it' makes little sense. Also, in a 1542 translation of Erasmus's Paraphrase of Luke he discussed the command given to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac and wrote that 'he made no bones about it but went to offer up his son.' Erasmus wasn't noted for his visits to the gaming tables and would hardly have used betting terminology to discuss a biblical text.

The actual source of this phrase is closer to home and hearth. In 15th century England, if someone wanted to express their dissatisfaction with something, they didn't 'make bones about it', they used the original form of the phrase and 'found bones in it'. This is a reference to the unwelcome discovery of bones in soup - bones = bad, no bones = good. If you found 'no bones' in your meal you were able to swallow it without any difficulty or objection.

The earliest citation of the phrase in print comes from the Paston Letters, which include a collection of texts from 1459 relating to a dispute between Paston and the family of the Norfolk soldier Sir John Fastolf (Fastolf was, incidentally, the source of the character Sir John Falstaff in Shakespeare's Henry IV). In the Paston Letters, the context of which is that the litigants are finally accepting a verdict with no objection, Paston includes the line:

"And fond that tyme no bonys in the matere." [and found that time no bones in the matter]

'Making bones' is usually expressed in the negative. There are rare occurrences of people being described as 'making bones' about this or that, and an early example comes from Richard Simpson's The School of Shakspere, 1878:

"Elizabeth was thus making huge bones of sending some £7000 over for the general purposes of the government in Ireland."

'Make no bones about it' is now rather archaic and heard less often than before. It did return briefly during the 1980s, as an example of the 'waiter, I'll have a crocodile sandwich, and make it snappy' form of joke. 'Waiter, I'll have tomato soup and make no bones about it' linked neatly back to the phrase's culinary origin.

Mysterious Days: 5 June


1908
Georgiana Ann Randolph is born in Chicago. Under the pseudonym Craig Rice, she writes screwball comedy mysteries featuring John J. Malone. She also ghost-wrote The G-String Murders (1941) for Gypsy Rose Lee, and Crime on my Hands (1944) for George Sanders.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Mysterious Summer: 2. The Secret Adversary

Mysterious Days: 4 June


1940
The imaginative and bizarre writer George C. Chesbro is born in Washington, DC. He writes detective novels featuring Dr. Robert Feredrickson, an ex-circus performer, criminologist and dwarf, better known as Mongo.

His Beasts of Valhalla (1985) blends fantasy, computer technology, and Wagnerian and Tolien mythology with the traditional private eye style.



1949
On this day, in the comic strips, Dick Tracy finally marries Tess Truheart, after an 18-year engagement.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Mysterious Days: 3 June

1910
Paulette Goddard is born in Long Island, New York. She will co-star with Bob Hope in two classic mystery films in 1939 and 1940, the sound remake of The Cat and the Canary, and The Ghost Breakers.

1925
Tony Curtis is born on this day in The Bronx, New York. With a long movie career, he will also co-star, with Roger Moore, in the TV series, The Persuaders.

1992
Actor Robert Morley dies in England. While not typecast as an actor in mysteries, he was in quite a few mystery and crime movies - Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe (1977), Hot Millions (1968), The Alphabet Murders (As Hastings to Tony Randall's Hercule Poirot), and Law and Disorder (1958).

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mysterious Summer: 1. The Mysterious Affair at Styles


The novel is set in England during World War I at Styles Court, an Essex country manor (also the setting of Curtain, Poirot's last case). Upon her husband's death, the wealthy widow, Emily Cavendish, inherited a life estate in Styles as well as the outright inheritance of the larger part of the late Mr. Cavendish's income. Mrs. Cavendish became Mrs. Inglethorp upon her recent remarriage to a much younger man, Alfred Inglethorp. Emily's two stepsons, John and Lawrence Cavendish, as well as John's wife Mary and several other people, also live at Styles. John Cavendish is the vested remainderman of Styles; that is, the property will pass to him automatically upon his stepmother's decease, as per his late father's will. The income left to Mrs Inglethorp by her late husband would be distributed as per Mrs. Inglethorp's own will.

Mysterious Days: 2 June

1916
John Michael Evelyn is born in Worthing, Sussex. He writes under the pseudonym Michael Underwood.

His books include:
The Case Against Philip Quest (1962)
The Injudicious Judge (1987)

They feature a background of legal goings-on, courtroom drama and detective investigation. His experiences as an attorney are reflected in the legalistic back-room ambiance of his work.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Cloissome vase and more


The Cape Cod Mystery (1931)

However expert you may be...with your choice of weapons limited to a cloisonne vase of the Ming dynasty or the leg of a Louis XV escritoire.
Cloisonné is an ancient technique for decorating metalwork objects, in recent centuries using vitreous enamel, and in older periods also inlays of cut gemstones, glass, and other materials. The resulting objects can also be called cloisonné. The decoration is formed by first adding compartments (cloisons in French[1]) to the metal object by soldering or adhering silver or gold wires or thin strips placed on their edges. These remain visible in the finished piece, separating the different compartments of the enamel or inlays, which are often of several colors. Cloisonné enamel objects are worked on with enamel powder made into a paste, which then needs to be fired in a kiln.

The technique was in ancient times mostly used for jewellery and small fittings for clothes, weapons or similar small objects decorated with geometric or schematic designs, with thick cloison walls. In the Byzantine Empire techniques using thinner wires were developed to allow more pictorial images to be produced, mostly used for religious images and jewellery, and now always using enamel. By the 14th century this enamel technique had spread to China, where it was soon used for much larger vessels such as bowls and vases; the technique remains common in China to the present day, and cloisonné enamel objects using Chinese-derived styles were produced in the West from the 18th century.

Ming dynasty
The Ming Dynasty was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644, following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty. The Ming, "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history", was the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic Han Chinese. Although the Ming capital Beijing fell in 1644 to a rebellion led by Li Zicheng who established the Shun Dynasty, which was soon replaced by the Manchu-led Qing Dynasty, regimes loyal to the Ming throne (collectively called the Southern Ming) survived until 1662.


A Louis XV escritoire (writing desk)
Louis XV (15 February 1710 – 10 May 1774) ruled as King of France and of Navarre from 1 September 1715 until his death. After he succeeded to the throne at the age of five, his first cousin twice removed, Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, served as Regent of the kingdom until Louis's majority in 1723. Cardinal de Fleury was his chief minister from 1726 until his death in 1743, at which time the young king took over control of the French state. Louis XV was a member of the House of Bourbon.

Louis enjoyed a favorable reputation at the beginning of his reign and earned the epithet "le Bien-Aimé" ("the Beloved"). In time, the debauchery of his court, the return of the Austrian Netherlands (which was gained following the Battle of Fontenoy) at Aix-la-Chapelle, and the cession of New France at the conclusion of the Seven Years' War led Louis to become one of the most unpopular kings in the history of France.

The escritoire
An escritoire or secretary desk comes in various styles. One version is a small, portable writing desk with a sloping front door, hinged at the bottom edge, that can be opened downwards to provide a writing surface. It is usually larger than a lap desk. The interior may contain small drawers designed to hold the traditional ink pot, sand container, blotter and writing feathers or pens. This type of antique appeared in the 16th century in Europe and was produced in large quantities in France in the 18th century. Modern reproductions are sometimes made of this compact desk form.

He looked like a cat who had swallowed a canary
A phrase in use since at least 1910

Brutus - Bill Porter's dog
There are several Brutus's in Roman history - it was a family name. But perhaps Porter's dog was named after: Marcus Junius Brutus (early June 85 BC – late October 42 BC), often referred to simply as Brutus, was a politician of the late Roman Republic. He is best known in modern times for taking a leading role in the assassination of his best friend, Julius Caesar.

You heard how one time in town meeting he picked up a bench and threw it at that Portygee Pete Barradio who wanted to increase the taxes so as the town would tar the road that leads out to his dance hall at the Neck.
During the early part of the great century of seafaring, the Portuguese were masters at it. In New England, the inhabitants pronounced the word as Portygee rather than Portuguese.

The Neck referred to here is probably Sandy Neck, located near Wellfleet, Massachusetts.

Mysterious Days: 1 June

1829
Sir Robert Peel's Police Bill is passed, leading to the creation of an organized British police force, housed in Whitehall Palace adjoining Great Scotland Yard road. In the 1880s the headquarters is moved to a new building at the Parliament end of Whitehall, and is called New Scotland Yard. (It's moved again since then.)



1887
Clive Brook is born in London. In 1927 Brook had the lead in Josef von Sternberg's Underworld, the first gangster movie. In 1929, he will star in the first talking movie featuring Sherlock Holmes.

1959
Sax Rohmer, creator of Fu Manchu dies.



1978
The last episode of the popular LA crime sseries Baretta airs on ABC. Robert Blake stars as the streetwises, unconventional cop Tony Beretta