Waaaaah! Why Do We Have to Have a Royal Wedding?!

What's all the fuss?!

Photo: George Pimentel, WireImage

Princess Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, was everything a royal bride should be: elegant, dignified, composed, confident, demure. For a commoner, she was surprisingly regal. Some people are born into royalty. Kate was obviously born with natural royalty.

As she walked down the aisle, having won the heart of her prince, her carriage, her poise, her confident air, proud but not haughty. William’s was beautiful, too, though, much younger. She looked like a fairy princess on her wedding day. Her daughter-in-law looked like a queen (with all due respect to Queen Elizabeth, and Camilla who are next in line). She looked exquisitely beautiful in her simple, but elegant gown and slim, white veil. She was perfection. When the couple came to the door, you just knew: here was a future Queen of England.

There were a couple of fun and funny moments during the wedding. Prince Harry could be counted on to save the ceremony from too much pomp. Then there was the moment when William struggled to get the ring on Kate’s finger. Well, what doesn’t slip on easily, won’t slip off easily, either.

The howler was the balcony kiss, though. As William and Kate kissed for the first time, the crowds in front of Buckingham Palace roared their approval and the RAF sent jets and planes overhead.

Three year-old bridesmaid Grace Van Cutsems was not amused. The little scene-stealer, William’s goddaughter, clamped her hands over hear ears just as the royal couple took a second kiss.

Finally, Kate and William, instead of leaving the palace in a limousine, departed in a convertible by themselves, like any normal couple. The car was festooned with ribbons and a license plate that said “Just Wed.” It was a smart, strategic move on their part, said to be William’s idea.

Across the pond, here in America, grumpy Americans were complaining about the extravagance and the hoopla. Why should we care about a royal wedding? Indeed, the two receptions are estimated to cost approximately $600,000. The wedding cakes cost $40,000 a piece. Kate had three dresses. The ceremony dress, hand embroidered and hand laced cost $41,000.

That’s to say nothing of the security, transportation, flowers, music, and the honeymoon. Why couldn’t they just get married like everyone else? Charles and Diana had an expensive wedding, and looked what happened there. What a waste that was. The only good things their union produced are William and Harry (and some people aren’t so sure about Harry. Some people just need to get a sense of humor.).

The contrast between their wedding and that of their older son is striking in everywhere. Kate and William were a love match. Diana was 20 when she married; Kate is 29. Diana came from a broken home. The Middletons appear to be happily married. Charles was in love with a woman he wasn’t permitted to marry because his grandmother objected. Some relative in Camilla’s distant past was the mistress of the king. They wanted to marry, but Camilla told him she just couldn’t wait around anymore for him to stand up for himself – she wanted to get married and have children – and she married someone else.

Reports are Queen Mother Elizabeth ruled with an iron glove. She finally suffered the divorce when it was clear poor Diana was so desperate to get out of the marriage, she would do just about anything, even damage the royal reputation, to break free. I lost sympathy for her, though, when she continued to pursue her course of vengeance after the divorce.

Once QME passed away, and then Diana died in the accident, Queen Elizabeth finally gave Charles and Camilla permission to marry. What a mess.

That’s not likely to happen in this case. The Bishop of London instructed the couple, and the congregation, to remember Chaucer’s admonition about mastery in marriage:

“Marriage,” he said, “should transform, as husband and wife make one another their work of art. It is possible to transform as long as we do not harbour ambitions to reform our partner. There must be no coercion if the Spirit is to flow; each must give the other space and freedom. Chaucer, the London poet, sums it up in a pithy phrase:

“Whan maistrie [mastery] comth, the God of Love anon,
Beteth his wynges, and farewell, he is gon.”

That sermon alone was worth the $41,000 dress, the $40,000 cake, all the hoopla and media attention. If married couples have learned that lesson and taken it to heart, then it was worth every pound the British spent on this royal wedding.

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Published in: on April 30, 2011 at 12:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Carnival is Over (We Hope)

If Donald Trump was the carnival barker in this birth certificate circus, who was Obama? The Single-O? It was his birth certificate, it was his duty to produce a satisfactory document that actually had a signature on it and told us who his parents were and where they came from – before the election.

The whole thing was whipped up by the Liberal camp during the Democrat primaries. After he was elected, Hawaii passed a ridiculous law that stated even the subject of the birth certificate could not receive a copy of their long-form certificate.

The Birthers have changed their tune as much as the Liberals have. Originally, the complaint (from the Democrats) was that the short form certificate didn’t show his middle (I’m not certain now whether it did or not and I don’t care enough to Google it to check). Then the Birthers insisted that it was a forgery; that Obama was born in Kenya.

Having seen the certificate, which they’re still not convinced is authentic, the Birthers are trying to make the case that since his father was born in Kenya, Obama is not a natural-born citizen. Will the absurdities never end? His mother was born here and he was born here. Even though the Founding Fathers initially intended that “natural-born” meant that both parents had been born in the United States, all sorts of legal difficulties cropped up and the Supreme Court ruled that if the parents were naturalized citizens and a person was born here, that person was an American. If the parents were foreigners, but the U.S. born person came back to live here before age 25 and remained in America for at least 14 years, they then ruled, that person was a citizen.

Eventually, the Supreme Court decided if you were born here, no matter what your parents’ citizenship was, you were an American. Absurdity from the left. Absurdity from the right. But the Birthers had a problem with the fact that Obama was born in Hawaii, but then went to live in Indonesia, where he was adopted by his step-father.

He came back to live in Hawaii with his grandparents and graduated from high school and college here.

That should now be it. End of the birth certificate conspiracy. I looked closely at the long-form certificate, and it sure looked like it was typed on a manual typewriter to me. Still, there are yahoos who are howling about “layering” and that if you examine it on Adobe Illustrator, you’ll see it was a pieced together business. The hospital name is also wrong, they claim.

Have mercy. Do these people not want the Republicans to win in 2012? Don’t they realize that someone could have just as easily have scanned the long-form, broken it up in Illustrator, and then put it back together to make it look fake? Give it up, you guys. By the time you figure it all out, he’ll be out of office (God willing). If you don’t give it up, he may just win in 2012, and then we’re going to have to listen to another four more years of your whining.

Some say Obama gave in because the polls showed that Americans were beginning to doubt his citizenship, especially after Donald Trump went after him. I’m glad he did; it was a marvelous performance. But Obama would have come out with it as an October surprise, either this year or next year. The first deadline for submitting an application for a primary ballot is in October.

However, I think that before Trump pulled his ace, Americans were less interested than ever in that birth certificate. They were starting to listen to commentators like Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter others who were saying, “Knock it off. He was born here. Let it go.” Obama had to do something or he’d lose his ammunition against the Conservatives and the Tea Partiers. He’d lose his best weapon for making his opponents look foolish. Stop now and people won’t remember much about the birth certificate by this October and will have no memory of it by next October.

Trump has made the grand sacrifice. He’s such a force of nature that he simply declared himself the victor. You have to admire Trump’s guts and gusto. Many Conservatives do right now. It’s those pesky independents we have to worry about from this October till the next. The Media will make great hash of the fact that Trump was the Birther Champion and the Independents will turn their dainty little noses up at him.

However, this happened early enough before the declaration of any other candidacies so that it will be hard for the Media to hang the ignominious title of “Birther” on any other candidate. Mercifully, they’ve mostly been silent on the issue. I believe Sarah Palin has been recorded as asking whether the certificate is, but no one else.

Demanding that a president provide satisfactory proof of his citizenship is not unreasonable. Americans shouldn’t be made to feel like lunatics for expecting a candidate for the office of President of the United States to abide by the law. The reason it seems that way is because he drew the battle out for so long, hoping to hang those Tea Partiers on their petards. For my part, I only believed it in the very beginning, or should I say, became concerned and did some research to find out the truth. After that, I had absolutely no doubt of where and when he was born.

Still, there was a point at which the Birthers had to cease and desist, and that time was right about now, if not sooner. He’s produced it now – belatedly, as he knows very well – which I don’t think he would have done, otherwise, and now it’s time for the Birthers to bury the hatchet and the birth certificate issue.

Published in: on April 28, 2011 at 8:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

KSM and the 9/11 Mystery

All right, boys and girls. Apparently, you weren’t paying attention months ago when we discussed the Islamic concept of As-Sirat, the Islamic Bridge to Paradise. Not one pundit mentioned it in connection with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or any of the terrorist attacks. Not even the inestimable Andrew McCarthy.

I’m so disappointed. With gas prices soaring, the dollar plummeting, and the Royal Wedding approaching, we must rehash KSM and 9/11. You’re still trying to connect the dots, after I told you the Big Connection is As-Sirat, the bridge.

Thanks to Wikileaks, you now know something went wrong on 9/11. Two hijackers, instead of going to their assignments, took a plane to London, instead. Why? Now we’re told KSM mentioned the ancient Brooklyn Bridge caper, a fantastical plot to cut the cables on the Brooklyn Bridge with blow torches. But that’s old news. You remember the Detroit truck driver. This is almost as tiresome as the birth certificate issue.

KSM claims that he was planning post-9/11 attacks in a post-9/11 America, even though he proudly announced that on 9/11 he had planned to “land” a plane in Lower Manhattan (yeah – good luck with that), jump out, proclaim his loyalty to Islam, then set off a bomb.

Instead, he somehow escaped to Pakistan. The Feds say he was never here in the first place. But then that’s what they said about Mohammed Atta, until they learned he’d been right there in New York City, at the Twin Towers, mere weeks before 9/11.

The Brooklyn Bridge is the most iconic of New York’s hundreds of bridges. But not necessarily the most strategic. The Brooklyn Bridge was not first on Sheikh Abdel Rahman’s list of targeted infrastructure. Incidentally, as Andrew McCarthy can attest since he was the prosecuting attorney on the case, Rahman is serving a life sentence for attempting to blow up New York’s Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, the Federal Building, the United Nations, and a bridge the Feds are loth to discuss – the George Washington Bridge.

The terrorists had intended to cut or blow up the GW’s cables, too, but found they were much too strong. McCarthy, in his book, “Willful Blindness, dismisses the attempt on the GW as too far-fetched and beyond their capabilities at the time. If you didn’t think it was possible on the GW, why would you think they’d succeed on the Brooklyn Bridge? Still, one should never underestimate the determination of the Islamists, especially when it comes to bridges.

It was on account of that bridge – and the tunnels (evidence concerning the Holland Tunnel convicted Rahman) that Rahman was sent to prison. The Islamists, particularly the Egyptians (Rahman was Egyptian and spent time in jail with Al-Qaeda No. 2, Zayman Al-Zawahiri), weren’t too happy. This week, the Eyptians held a protest demanding Rahman’s release.

So let’s go over again what As-Sirat means to the Islamists. According to Islam, As-Sirat is a bridge as narrow as a pencil and sharp as sword which every person must pass on the Yawm ad-Din (Day of Resurrection) in order to enter Paradise. Below this bridge, are the fires of Hell, into which sinners fall. The faithful, who performed good deeds in life, are transported across, where they’re led to the Hauzu’l-Kausar, the Lake of Abundance.

So let’s say it a few times so we don’t forget – As-Sirat, As-Sirat, As-Sirat. The next time you see or cross a bridge, say to yourself “As-Sirat.” Visual images are said to aid memory. One thing we don’t ever want to do is forget.

So what went wrong, you might ask. Well, it’s possible only two people ever actually knew the answer to that question, and KSM wasn’t one of them. He was in the dark. That’s why he can’t tell the Feds any more than what he already has, because he doesn’t know any more. If you recall 9/11 history, KSM and Osama Bin were said to have been surprised when they saw the planes plow into the Twin Towers. Why? Wasn’t that the plan, after all?

KSM – or maybe even Bin Laden himself – may have called the whole thing off, but apparently Mohammed Atta didn’t get the memo. Or did he ignore it? Why would he have done that, the Feds might want to ask themselves? What would have dissuaded Osama Bin Laden himself, but not Mohammed Atta? Was he simply “braver” or did he know something they didn’t? If so, why didn’t he tell his boss?

You may not be able to answer the questions. But you might want to think about asking them, because asking questions is the only way you’re going to get questions answered. Or are you afraid of the answers you might get? Until you can say, “As-Sirat,” you’ll simply be repeating only what you already know, like an old-fashioned record-player whose needle is stuck in a groove.

Published in: on April 27, 2011 at 7:27 am  Leave a Comment  

Obama Misses the Message

“And the soldiers led him away into the hall, called Pretorium, and they called together the whole band. And they clothed him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about his head, and began to salute him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they smote him on the head with a read, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees, worshipped him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purpose from him, and put his own clothes on him, and led him out to crucify him.” Mark 14: 16-20
Apparently, Obama didn’t get the good news on Easter Sunday: Christ is risen. Not only did he not get the message, but he didn’t bother to put it out, either.

On Good Friday, he also neglected to put out a message – about Good Friday, that is. However, last Friday was also Earth Day (April 22) and he was all over the Earth Day message. He wasn’t about to let those deceitful Christians sack the holy day of the Earth.

Funny, because that’s exactly what the early Christians did: they transformed the pagan holiday of Ostre, a spring festival, to the celebration of Christ’s resurrection from death.

The modern English term Easter developed from the Old English word Ēastre or Ēostre which itself developed prior to 899. The name refers to Eostur-monath (Old English “Ēostre month”), a month in the Germanic calendar attested by Bede, who writes that the month is named after the goddess Ēostre of Anglo-Saxon paganism. Bede notes that Ēostur-monath was the equivalent to the month of April, yet that feasts held in her honor during Ēostur-monath had gone out of use by the time of his writing and had been replaced with the Christian custom of “Paschal season”.

Ēostre derives from Proto-Germanic *austrō, ultimately from a PIE root *aues-, “to shine” and closely related to a conjectural name of Hausos, the dawn goddess, *h2ausōs, which would account for Greek Eos, Roman Aurora and Indian Ushas.

The modern English term Easter is the direct continuation of Old English Ēastre, which is attested solely by Bede in the 8th century. Ēostre is the Northumbrian form while Ēastre is West Saxon. Bede states that the name refers to a goddess named Ēostre who was celebrated at Eosturmonath, one of the months of the Anglo-Saxon calendar. In the 19th century Hans Grimm cited Bede when he proposed the existence of an Old High German equivalent named ōstarūn, plural, “Easter” (modern German language Ostern). There is no certain parallel to Ēostre in North Germanic languages though Grimm speculates that the east wind, “a spirit of light” named Austri found in the 13th century Icelandic Prose Edda book Gylfaginning, might be related.

Using comparative linguistic evidence from continental Germanic sources, the 19th century scholar Jacob Grimm proposed the existence of a cognate form of Ēostre among the pre-Christian beliefs of the continental Germanic peoples, whose name he reconstructed as *Ostara. Since Grimm’s time, linguists have identified the goddess as a Germanic form of the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European goddess of the dawn, *Hausos and theories connecting Ēostre with records of Germanic Easter customs (including hares and eggs) have been proposed.

Modern German features the cognate term Ostern, but otherwise, Germanic languages generally use the non-native term pascha for the event.

According to reports, when White House press corps reporters asked White House spokesman Jay Carney why President Obama had not released an official statement commemorating Easter, the press secretary laughed at them and mocked their line of “important questions.”

The White House also failed to release a statement marking Good Friday. However, they did release an eight-paragraph statement heralding Earth Day. Likewise, the president’s weekend address mentioned neither Good Friday or Easter.

“Ha ha!” Carney laughed, “You know, the President went to church yesterday, it was well covered, I’m not sure if we put out a statement or not … ”

A surprised reporter noted that Easter was the holiest of Christian holidays and asked Carney, “You don’t KNOW if you put out a statement?”

Carney snickered again, bowed his head, and retorted, “I’m glad you’re asking me these important question, guys.”

Christ, we’ve been told, was born to transform the world, not Barack Hussein Obama. The early Christians transformed the Roman holiday of Saturnalia into a celebration of Christ’s birth. They transformed the German pagan holiday of Oestre into a celebration of His triumph over death and our salvation from sin. We owe Jesus Christ everything – our unspeakable remorse, our everlasting gratitude, our joy at His resurrection, and our prayer of thanks for a debt that can never truly be repaid.

What do we owe Obama, besides eternal taxes? Who will celebrate Aug. 4th?

Alas, I did not write a message on my blog on Easter, either. I, too, had done so last year. This Easter, my mother and I were watching the various Hollywood versions of the Easter story. In any case, after reading the Four Gospel accounts of Good Friday and Easter Sunday, I just felt I couldn’t improve on the Bible and Jesus’ own words. After all, you can’t improve upon perfection. Who cares about Obama’s message, anyway? I had a much better one in front of me.

“Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they say Him, they worshipped him. But some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, ‘All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.’” Matthew 28:16-20

Published in: on April 26, 2011 at 8:27 am  Leave a Comment  

Update on Emma’s Dilemma

The latest update on Emma “Hermione” Watson is that she has officially dropped out of Brown. “Rumors” and they’re only rumors -are that she’s considering a NYC school, possibly NYU or Columbia. Looks like she may have heeded my final FB post to her which basically said, “Whatever you do is your own business, but you might want to contact your spokesperson because this story is in the NY Daily News, the largest paper in NYC – and that’s a LOT of readers.”

Going to school in NYC – or London or Paris or wherever she wants to go, meaning a large city – makes a lot more sense for this young lady than being out in the middle of nowhere with a long commute to the nearest city. When you think about it, would it make much sense for a girl who had the guts to cut her hair and begin a fashion design venture let herself be bullied out of school? If she had then she might as well give up show biz altogether, because the paparazzi are no better.

Published in: on April 25, 2011 at 11:59 am  Leave a Comment  

Just a Normal Student

Actress Emma Watson – “Hermione” in the Harry Potter films – enrolled at Brown University in Rhode Island in Fall 2008, with the notion of studying liberal arts (being that Brown is a liberal, Ivy League school, she couldn’t have picked a better place to study “liberal” arts).

But after the first semester in her sophomore year, she went on leave of absence. She claimed – and it’s really not hard to believe – that she had career commitments. The Harry Potter films were finished, but the studio was probably expecting her to do promotional tours for the last two films. The last film won’t be out until July.

. She claimed – and it’s really not hard to believe – that she had career commitments. The Harry Potter films were finished, but the studio was probably expecting her to do promotional tours for the last two films. The last film won’t be out until July.

Additionally, the young lady caused a sensation by, a la Irene Castle and Mia Farrow, lopping off her long tresses, revealing a beautifully structured face. Fashion magazines and cosmetic companies went gaga. She also began a fashion design venture with an experienced fashion designer.

When she cut her hair, movie producers warned her that she’d also cut her film options and she promised them she’d grow it back. What? No one makes wigs anymore? Ah, well, that’s this young lady’s business. Long hair, short hair, her fans still love her and so does the camera.

But then rumors began to fly about troubles at Brown University. The New York Daily News followed up with a story, dated last Thursday, by an anonymous source, that she was being harassed and heckled by other students for being “too active” in class, answering all the questions (correctly), and having bodyguards. In other words, she was too smart for the slackers at Brown. At least that’s the “rumor.” According to the Daily News gossip section, Ms. Watson’s publicist did not respond to calls ‘in time for the story.’

In my world, you don’t report the story until you have all the facts. In my department, we’d have our monitors handed to us – and that’s just for internal stories. Many times, reporters have called our department at 7 in the morning, long before our public relations specialist to ask questions. Not being authorized to answer their questions, I’d tell them the specialist wasn’t in yet, that I was the company photographer.

The reporter would print the story (whatever it happened to be), stating that our spokesperson was “unavailable for comment.” After that, our department manager gave the reporters the specialists’ cell phone numbers.

I’ve checked out the young star’s Facebook page from time to time. Mostly it consists of the typical gushing love posts from admirers and posts from people she knows, mostly her own age. No place really for a 52 year-old. But I do enjoy watching the budding of her career, like a spring flower opening up.

Fortunately, there was another motherly type on the FB page and we got to chatting. She sent me the link to the Daily News’ story and we speculated on what it all meant, wondering whether she might benefit by taking the CLEP tests (saving time which the young lady admits herself she doesn’t have) and what it must be like for a young celebrity to enter a college environment like that. The other lady was surprised at the behavior of the Brown U. students; I was not. Someone broke in to tell us, essentially to mind our own business, but we figured the conversation was so far embedded into the FB we didn’t think anyone would notice, least of all Ms. Watson.

We were wrong. The next thing we knew, there she was, not exactly scolding us, but declaring that these stories about Brown were all rumors (even the fact that her BF – never mind who – was not enrolled at BU, even though both her FB page and his listed BU as his school as well).

So I apologized to her, because it really wasn’t any of our business; we were just chatting. But I also posted the links to the stories about the high school girls from Minnesota who, that very day, had joined in a suicide pact due to bullying, Tyler Clementi, and Phoebe Prince. I said that bullying was a serious issue here in the states, and that even if she could handle it, what the Brown students did was wrong (assuming, for the sake of argument, that the stories were true.).

We are America; we’re not supposed to worship royalty. And yet we do, every day, in the form of movie, TV, and sports stars. Emma Watson had an expectation of being treated as a normal student. She should have been. But that comes with the celebrity package. She just has to learn to deal with it.

The bigger problem was her classmates’ resentment of her outperforming them (assuming that, also, is true). Underperformance isn’t a malady that afflicts only urban high schools or colleges and universities lower in the academic spectrum than Brown. If this young, British woman was excelling, it doesn’t speak at all well for the intellectual capacity of even our best (or at least, wealthiest) students.

Did Watson run afoul of American adolescent culture, shaped by decades of socialist instruction that says no one must be better than anyone else? That raising your hand and answering questions – correctly – in class is considered “showing off”? Excuse me?

She told us that she expects to return to Brown, that she’s happy there, and all the rest are just rumors. Really, I can’t imagine someone ambitious and daring enough to cut off all her hair, start a fashion design venture, and answer questions on her own Facebook page, would be daunted by envious classmates. I think she was telling the truth all along – that she’s just too busy being successful to go to school right now.

When she does return, she’ll be a few more years older than her classmates. The intellectual and maturity divide will be that much more drastic and pronounced. But we expect great things from Ms. Watson. Great things – and wonderful things. Good luck to Ms. Watson!

Published in: on April 25, 2011 at 9:54 am  Leave a Comment  

America: Entitled to Greatness, Part Three

Every American is born with the native ability to achieve greatness. It’s right there in the Constitution – all men are created equal. Not all of us will. Those who do may have to work hard, while others will have the opportunity to achieve greatness with a silver sppon in their mouth. Every single one of those inventors, scientists, artists and musicians (well some of them), and entrepreneurs deserve our respect, not our envious scorn. We should not be making laws to take away the rewards they’ve earned. Who knows what life-saving device or useful machine won’t be invented because of our class envy, our desire for “equality” and “justice”?

Georgia: John Stith Pemberton

Dr. John Pemberton did not invent Coca Cola out of some ambition to be a millionaire or to see his product flashing from neon billboards. Nor did he invent to get an entire generation obliquely hooked on cocaine. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Born in Knoxville, Ga., in 1831, Pemberton was a graduate of the University of Georgia Pharmacy School. In April 1865, he was wounded in the Battle of Columbus (Ga.). Like other wounded veterans, he became addicted to morphine. Searching for a cure for his own addiction, he began experimenting with coca and coca wines, eventually creating his own version of Vin Mariani, containing kola nut and damiana, which he called Pemberton’s French Wine Coca.

In 1886, when Atlanta and Fulton County enacted temperance legislation, Pemberton produced a non-alcoholic alternative to his French Wine Coca. He relied on Atlanta druggist Willis Venable to test and help him perfect the recipe for the beverage. The test was strictly trial and error. With Venable’s assistance, Pemberton worked out a set of directions for its preparation that eventually included blending the base syrup with carbonated water, and Frank Mason Robinson came up with the name “Coca-Cola” for the alliterative sound, which was popular among other wine medicines of the time.

Although the name quite clearly refers to the two main ingredients, the controversy over its cocaine content would later prompt The Coca-Cola Company to state that the name was ‘meaningless but fanciful.” There is also some debate about whether Pemberton or Robinson hand wrote the Spencerian script on the bottles and ads. However, being a bookkeeper, Robinson also had excellent penmanship. It was he who first scripted “Coca Cola” into the flowing letters which has become the famous logo of today.

Pemberton concocted the Coca Cola formula in a three legged brass kettle in his backyard. The soft drink was first sold to the public at the soda fountain in Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta on May 8, 1886.

Hawaii – Chang Apana

Chang Apana (Ah Ping in Chinese) was the Chinese-Hawaiian star of the Honolulu Police Department. His crime-fighting exploits were so legendary that a famous character – Charlie Chan – was based upon Chang.

Novelist Earl Derr Biggers was vacationing in Hawaii in 1919. He was staying at a hotel that literally had no locks on the doors where he conceived his novel House Without a Key. In 1924, while reading Honolulu newspapers in the New York library, he read about the exploits of ‘Chang Apana’ (Apana is the Hawaiianized version of the Chinese name Ah Ping). To his earlier-conceived mystery, he added a new character, making his first appearance a quarter of the way through the book, though it was his fictional superior that actually summed up the case for the novel.

In 1925, the first Charlie Chan mystery novel, House Without a Key, was published, The character quickly became popular and Derr Biggers expanded his presence in his novels; when the author met Chang in 1928 the real detective was already being called “Charlie Chan,” and Chang enjoyed watching his fictional counterpart’s films.

Ah Ping Chang was born Dec. 26, 1871 in Waipio, Oahu, Hawaii. His family moved back to China when he was three, but Chang returned at the age of ten to live with his uncle in Waipio. As an adult, Chang was fluent in Hawaiian, and knew Hawaiian Pidgin (Creole English) and Chinese as well. He never learned to read, relying on his family to read newspapers and documents for him.

In his youth, he worked as a paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy), starting in 1891, and it was as part of this job that he first began carrying a bullwhip on a regular basis. Three years later, Chang started working for the Hawaii Humane Society, which at the time was part of the police department on the island. The Humane Society was founded by Helen Kinau Wilder, the owner of the horses that Chang had handled as a paniolo. Wilder was daughter of shipping magnate Samuel Garner Wilder.

Chang joined the Honolulu Police Department in 1898. In a force of more than two hundred men, the officers were mainly Hawaiian and the chiefs mostly white. As the only Chinese member of the force, he was assigned to patrol such Chinatown areas as “Blood Town” and “Hell’s Half Acre.” Instead of a gun, Change carried a bullwhip. In his early years as a detective, beginning in 1916, Chang worked primarily on opium-smuggling and illegal gambling cases.

Chang also helped round up people infected with leprosy and sent them to a leper colony on the island of Molokai. While performing this duty, Chang was attacked by a Japanese leper with a sickle, giving him a distinctive scar over his right eye. Another time Chang was thrown out a second story window by drug dealers only to land on his feet. Reportedly, he was able to jump from roof to roof. Another account say s that he raised the alarm on a shipment of contraband after being run over by a horse and buggy.

Due in part to his fluency in several languages, his wide network of informants and because of his shrewd and meticulous detective style, Chang was successful in solving many cases. He still holds the record for number of people arrested at one time by one officer for his arrest of 70 gamblers, who he lined up and marched back to the police station one night. Over the years, he received a number of scars to his face, fighting with criminals. He also became famous for his whip, Panama hat and cigars. He was married three times.

He met Charlie Chan actor Warner Oland when “The Black Camel” was filmed in Hawaii. After five more novels, Derr Biggers publicly acknowledged Chang as the inspiration for his character in a letter to the Honolulu Advertiser dated June 28, 1932. His widow states, though, that Chan was actually based on Derr Biggers himself, resembling him in physique and character, whereas Chang was slight in build, quick to anger, and involved in very few actual murder cases.

After 34 years of service, Apana had to retire in May 1932 as a detective when he was injured in a car accident. He briefly worked as a watchman for the Hawaiian Trust building. On Dec. 2, 1933, he was admitted into Queen’s Hospital after a month-long period of serious illness. Chang and his family had a history of diabetes. On Dec. 7, 1933, his gangrenous leg was amputated and he died the following day. Chang Apana is buried at the Manoa Chinese cemetery in Honolulu.

Idaho: Gutzon Borglum

Mount Rushmore is one of the seven wonders of America, thanks to Idaho-born sculptor Gutzon Borglum.

The son of Danish immigrants, John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum was born in 1867 in St. Charles Idaho. His father worked mainly as a woodcarver before leaving Idaho to matriculate in a homeopathic medical program in St. Louis, Mo. Upon graduating from the Missouri Medical College in 1874, Dr. Borglum, moved the family to Fremont, Neb., where he established a medical practice. Gutzon remained in Fremont until 1882 when his father enrolled him in Saint Mary’s Academy.

After a brief stint at Saint Mary’s Academy, Borglum relocated to Omaha, Neb., where he apprenticed in a machine shop and graduated from Creighton Preparatory School. He was trained in Paris at the Académie Julian, where he came to know Auguste Rodin and was influenced by Rodin’s impressionistic, light-catching surfaces. Back in the U.S., he sculpted saints and apostles for the new Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City in 1901. In 1906, the Metropolitan Museum of Art accepted his group sculpture — the first sculpture by a living American the museum had ever purchased—and made his presence further felt with some portraits. He also won the Logan Medal of the Arts.

After graduation from Harvard Technical College, his reputation surpassed that of his younger brother, Solon Borglum, already an established sculptor. A fascination with gigantic scale and themes of heroic nationalism suited his extroverted personality. His head of Abraham Lincoln, carved from a six-ton block of marble, was exhibited in Theodore Roosevelt’s White House and can be found in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C. His Mount Rushmore project, 1927–1941, was the brainchild of South Dakota state historian Doane Robinson. His first attempt with one of the faces was blown up after two years . Dynamite was also used to remove large areas of rock from under Washington’s brow. The initial pair of presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, was soon joined by Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt. When Gutzon died of complications after surgery, his son carried on his work.

Illinois: Fred L. Maytag

The Maytag Repairman is a commercial icon. But the founder of Maytag Company was hardly idle and his invention – the motorized washing machine – made him the hero of housewives all over America.

Fred Louis Maytag was born in Cook County, Ill., in 1857, the eldest of 10 children born to German immigrants Daniel William Maytag and Amelia Tarebun. Prior to immigrating to America, their name was Maitag, but the couple Americanized their name.

Fred Maytag attended North Central College in Naperville, Ill. in 1872-73. Twenty years later, Fred, his two brothers-in-law, and George W. Parsons each contributed $600, for a total of $2,400, to start a new farm implement company named Parsons Band-Cutter & Self Feeder Company. This company produced threshing machines, band-cutters, and self-feeder attachments invented by Parsons.

Fred (F.L.) Maytag eventually took sole control of the firm and renamed it the Maytag Company. As Maytag grew, he forayed into other businesses. In the 1910s, Fred left the day-to-day company operation in the hands of sons Elmer Henry Maytag and Lewis Bergman Maytag, to concentrate on other business areas including new innovations of a washing machine with a gas powered motor branded as the Multi-Motor and a washing machine with an agitator that forced the water through the clothes branded as the Gyrafoam.

These inventions proved extremely valuable. By 1927, Maytag was producing more than twice the washers of its nearest competition and had outperformed the industry with growth doubling for five consecutive years.

Even after Elmer became Maytag’s president in 1926, Fred was still active in promoting Maytag products, and ensuring worker happiness and often greeted employees by asking, “Is everybody happy?”

In 1937, Frederick Maytag died of a heart ailment at Good Samaritan Hospital, near his winter home in Beverly Hills, California. He left a $10 million estate. A special train brought mourners from the East Coast to Newton, Iowa, and an estimated 10,000 factory workers and salesmen formed a line five blocks in length to observe the funeral procession. Those who could not fit into the First Methodist Church were taken to four other churches and two halls.

Maytag was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 1995.

Indiana: Sylvanus Freelove Bowser

In America, we refer to the gas pump as, well, the gas pump. But in New Zealand and Australia, the gas pump is called “The Bowser”, after its inventory, Sylvanus Freelove Bowser.

Not much is known about Bowser’s early life, other than that he was born in Fort Wayne, Ind. Bowser Avenue in Fort Wayne is named after him. But his invention is ubiquitous.

Bowser started marketing his patented kerosene pump in 1885. The introduction of automobiles, mainly powered by gasoline, led him to develop it into the “Self-Measuring Gasoline Storage Pump,” which was launched in 1905.

Bowser’s invention operated with a manual suction pump, which dispensed the gasoline into the car through a flexible hose. The 50-gallon metal storage tank, housed in a wooden cabinet, could be set up at the curbside in front of a store.

Under the banner of his company, S. F. Bowser & Company, this activity expanded to the measurement and handling of many commercial liquids. Bowser opened branches around the world, and “bowser” became a generic term for fuel dispensers, then fuel tankers (especially on airfields), then finally for any kind of self-propelled liquid tanker with the ability to dispense direct to consumers.

One cold morning in 1885, Sylvanus Freelove Bowser, the son of a farmer, went to his well to draw water for his wife before hitting the road as a salesman for a wholesale paper company. The mist rising from the 70-foot well froze on the ropes, making the task of hauling the bucket very uncomfortable. The idea came to him of a simple pump that would produce a constant measure of liquid with each stroke of the pump handle. He built and tested the pump in his barn.

Although it turned out not to be feasible for a deep well, Bower’s self-measuring pump mechanism revolutionized the oil industry and, later, gasoline industry, by making possible easy, accurate handling of liquid fuels from storage tanks.

So, is everybody happy? Sadly, no. Too many Americans are either too lazy, frightened, or intimidated to be the next Fred Maytag, Sylvanus Bowser, or Chang Apana. They prefer to worship that other denizen of the state of Hawaii who would gladly legalize marijuana, than a genuine hero cop who made a career of fighting drug dealers and who has a bigger head than anything Gutzon Borglum could have created.

Tomorrow, we find out about the guy who invented the digital computer and the railroad mechanic who founded a famous car company (they were supposed to be in today’s post, but I forgot about Hawaii. Initially, I couldn’t find any information about genuine Hawaiians, other than politicians, native-born movie stars, and surfers), as well as a traveling salesman who wanted to share information about the best restaurants with other taveling salesman and wound founding a famous baking company. We’ll also learn about the doctor who made open-heart surgery possible, and incidentally, gave us the MASH unit, and a runaway slave who taught other slaves that the path to freedom is knowledge.

Published in: on April 20, 2011 at 7:59 pm  Comments (3)  

America: Entitled to Greatness, Part Two

Contrary to popular – and Progressive – belief, most America’s great inventors, scientists, and pioneers came from humble beginnings. They left to the posterity of future generations technological, scientific, and medical advances that improved not just America but the world, and advanced America economically, as well.

California: Charles P. Ginsburg

Technology has made such giant leaps that Charles Ginsburg’s contribution, the first practical video cassette recorder, or VCR, is already a museum piece.

Ginsburg, otherwise known as the “father of the video cassette recorder,” was born in San Francisco in 1920.

He received his bachelor’s degree from San Jose State University in 1948 and worked as a studio and transmitter engineer at a San Francisco area radio station. In 1951, he received a telephone call from Alexander M. Poniatoff, founder and president of the Ampex Corporation in Redwood City, Calif., who believed Ginsburg could help him with an important project.

At Ampex, Ginsburg got the opportunity to lead the research team that developed the first broadcast-quality videotape recorder (VTR), U.S. patent number 2,956,114. The VTR revolutionized television broadcasting. Tape recording of television signals dates to just after World War II, when audio tape recorders were used to record the very high frequency signals needed for television. These early machines were pushed to their limits, running the tape at very high speeds of up to 240 inches per second to achieve high-frequency response.

Ginsburg and his team came up with a design for a new machine that could run the tape at a much slower rate because the recording heads rotated at high speed, allowing the necessary high-frequency response. The Ampex VRX-1000 (later renamed the Mark IV) videotape recorder was introduced on March 1956. The machine sold for $50,000. With the advent of the VTR, recorded programs that could be edited replaced most live broadcasts. CBS was the first network to employ VTR technology, starting in 1956. With that, today’s multimillion dollar video business was born.

Colorado – Willard Frank Libby

Just how ancient is the VTR, the forerunner of the VCR? Well, thanks to Willard Frank Libby’s discovery of carbon dating, we could find out.

Libby was an American physical chemist, famous for his role in the 1949 development of radiocarbon dating, a process which revolutionized archaeology.

Born in Grand Valley, Colo., in 1908, he attended Analy High School in Sebastopol, Calif. The school library has a mural of Libby, and a nearby highway is named in his honor.

He received his B.S. in 1931 and Ph.D. in 1933 in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, where he became a lecturer and later assistant professor. Libby spent the 1930s building sensitive geiger counters to measure weak natural and artificial radioactivity. In 1941, he joined Berkeley’s chapter of Alpha Chi Sigma.

Awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, he spent most of 1941 at Princeton University. After the start of World War II, he worked on the Manhattan Project at Columbia University with Nobel laureate chemist Harold Urey. Libby was responsible for the gaseous diffusion separation and enrichment of the Uranium-235, which was used in the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

In 1945, he became a professor at the University of Chicago. In 1954, he was appointed to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. Professor of Chemistry at University of California, Los Angeles, in 1959, a position he held until his retirement in 1976. He taught honors freshman chemistry from 1959 to 1963 (in keeping with a University tradition that senior faculty teach this class). He was Director of the University of California statewide Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics (IGPP) for many years including the lunar landing time.

In 1966 he married Leona Woods Marshall, an original experimenter on the world’s first nuclear reactor and a UCLA professor of environmental engineering. He also started the first Environmental Engineering program at UCLA in 1972.

In 1960, Libby was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for leading the team (namely, post-doc James Arnold and graduate student Ernie Anderson, with a $5,000 grant) that developed Carbon-14 dating. He also discovered that tritium could be used for dating water, and therefore wine.

Connecticut: Charles Goodyear

The first thing you might think of when you hear the name “Charles Goodyear” is the Goodyear Blimp, and the second think you might think of is tires. But Goodyear was born in the year 1800 and died in 1860, before the Civil War, and long before anyone even remotely thought of an automobile as a means of transportation.

As a matter of fact, by the mid-1830s, the American rubber industry was going under. Rubber was unstable. In winter, it froze solid and cracked. In summer, it melted into goo. After accidentally learning about rubber’s fatal flaw, Goodyear – an inventor with no training in or knowledge of chemistry – set out to find a way to make the substance more stable.

Goodyear was born in New Haven, Conn., the oldest of six children. His father, Amasa, was quite proud of being a descendant of Stephen Goodyear, one of the founders of the colony of New Haven in 1638.

In 1814, Charles left his home and went to Philadelphia to learn the hardware business. He worked industriously until he was 21, and then, returning to Connecticut, entered into partnership in his father’s business in Naugatuck, where they manufactured not only ivory and metal buttons, but a variety of agricultural implements.

In August 1824 he married Clarissa Beecher. Two years later the family moved to Philadelphia, and there Goodyear opened a hardware store. This is where he did most of his work. His specialties were the valuable agricultural implements that his firm had been manufacturing, and after the first distrust of domestically-made goods had worn away — for all agricultural implements were imported from England at that time — he found himself heading a successful business.

This continued to increase until it seemed that he was to be a wealthy man. Between 1829 and 1830 he broke down in health, being troubled with dyspepsia. At the same time came the failure of a number of business houses that seriously embarrassed his firm. They struggled on, however, for some time, but were finally obliged to fail.

Between the years 1831 and 1832, Goodyear heard about gum elastic and read every article that appeared in the newspapers about this new material. The Roxbury Rubber Company of Boston, had been for some time experimenting with the gum, and believed it had found means for manufacturing goods from it. It had a large plant and was sending its goods all over the country. It was some of Roxbury’s goods that first attracted Goodyear’s attention. Soon after this, Goodyear visited New York, and his attention went to life preservers, and it struck him that the tube used for inflation was not very effective nor well-made. Therefore, upon returning to Philadelphia, he made some tubes and brought them back to New York and showed them to the manager of the Roxbury Rubber Company.

The manager was pleased with the ingenuity that Goodyear had shown in manufacturing the tubes. He confessed to Goodyear that the business was on the verge of ruin, and that his products had to be tested for a year before it could be determined if they were perfect or not. To their surprise, thousands of dollars worth of goods that they had determined to be of good quality were being returned, the gum having rotted, making them useless. Goodyear at once made up his mind to experiment on this gum and see if he could overcome the problems with these rubber products.

However, when he returned to Philadelphia, a creditor had him arrested and imprisoned. While there, he tried his first experiments with India rubber. The gum was inexpensive then, and by heating it and working it in his hands, he managed to incorporate in it a certain amount of magnesia which produced a beautiful white compound and appeared to take away the stickiness.

He thought he had discovered the secret, and through the kindness of friends who invested in his experiments was enabled to improve his invention in New Haven. The first thing that he made was shoes, and he used his own house for grinding, calendering and vulcanizing, with the help of his wife and children. His compound at this time consisted of India rubber, lampblack, and magnesia, the whole dissolved in turpentine and spread upon the flannel cloth which served as the lining for the shoes. It was not long, however, before he discovered that the gum, even treated this way, became sticky. His creditors, completely discouraged, decided that he would not be allowed to go further in his research.

Goodyear, however, had no mind to stop there in his experiments. Selling his furniture and placing his family in a boarding house, he went to New York and in an attic, helped by a friendly druggist, continued his experiments. His next step was to compound the rubber with magnesia and then boil it in quicklime and water. This appeared to solve the problem. At once it was noticed abroad that he had treated India rubber to lose its stickiness, and he received international acclamation. He seemed on the high road to success, until one day he noticed that a drop of weak acid, falling on the cloth, neutralized the alkali and immediately caused the rubber to become soft again. This proved to him that his process was not a successful one. He therefore continued experimenting, and after preparing his mixtures in his attic in New York, would walk three miles to a mill in Greenwich Village to try various experiments.

In the line of these, he discovered that rubber dipped in nitric acid formed a surface cure, and he made many products with this acid cure which were held in high regard, and he even received a letter of commendation from Andrew Jackson. Exposure to harsh chemicals, such as nitric acid and lead oxide, adversely affected his health, and once nearly suffocated by gas generated in his laboratory. Goodyear survived, but the resulting fever came close to taking his life.

Together with an old business partner, he built up a factory and began to make clothing, life preservers, rubber shoes, and a great variety of rubber goods. They also had a large factory with special machinery, built at Staten Island, where he moved his family and again had a home of his own. Just about this time, when everything looked bright, the panic of 1837 came and swept away the entire fortune of his associate and left Goodyear penniless.

His next move was to go to Boston, where he became acquainted with J. Haskins, of the Roxbury Rubber Company. Goodyear found him to be a good friend, who lent him money and stood by him when no one would have anything to do with the visionary inventor. A man named Mr. Chaffee also assisted him financially. About this, time it occurred to Mr. Chaffee that much of the trouble that they had experienced in working India rubber might come from the solvent that was used. He therefore invented a huge machine for doing the mixing by mechanical means. The goods that were made in this way were beautiful to look at, and it appeared, as it had before, that all difficulties were overcome.

Goodyear discovered a new method for making rubber shoes and received a patent which he sold to the Providence Company in Rhode Island. However, a method had not yet been found to process rubber so that it would withstand hot and cold temperatures and acids, and so the rubber goods were constantly growing sticky, decomposing and being returned to the manufacturers.

In 1838, Goodyear met Nathaniel Hayward in Woburn, Massachusetts, where Hayward was running a factory. Some time after this Goodyear himself moved to Woburn, all the time continuing his experiments. He was very much interested in Hayward’s sulfur experiments for drying rubber. Hayward told Goodyear that he had used sulfur in rubber manufacturing.

Some say that Goodyear tried the experiment with a similar material over an open flame, and saw that the gum elastic was charred, but on the edge of the charred areas were portions that were not charred, but were instead perfectly cured. Other sources claim that Goodyear accidentally spilled the rubber mixture on a hot stove. The key discovery was that heating natural rubber and sulfur created vulcanized rubber. This process was eventually refined to become the vulcanizing process.

The inventor himself admitted that the discovery of the vulcanizing process was not the direct result of the scientific method, but claims that it was not accidental. Rather it was the result of application and observation.

Now that Goodyear was sure that he had the key to the intricate puzzle that he had worked over for so many years, he began at once to tell his friends about it and to try to secure capital, but they had listened so many times that his efforts were futile. For a number of years he struggled and experimented and worked along in a small way. He and his family were plunged into extreme poverty. At last he went to New York and showed some of his samples to William Ryder, who, with his brother Emory, at once appreciated the value of the discovery and started manufacture. Even here, Goodyear’s bad luck seemed to follow him, for the Ryder Bros. had failed and it was impossible to continue the business.

He had, however, started a small factory in Springfield, Mass., and his brother-in-law, Mr. De Forest, who was a wealthy woolen manufacturer, took Ryder’s place. Goodyear continued working to make his invention practical. In 1844 the process was sufficiently perfected that Goodyear felt it safe to take out a patent. The factory at Springfield was run by his brothers, Nelson and Henry. In 1843, Henry started one in Naugatuck, and in 1844 introduced mechanical mixing of the mixture in place of the use of solvents.

In 1852, Goodyear went to Europe, a trip that he had long planned, and saw Thomas Hancock, then in the employ of Charles Macintosh & Company. Hancock claimed to have invented vulcanization independently, and received a British patent, initiated in 1843, but finalized in 1844. In 1855, in the last of three patent disputes with fellow British rubber pioneer, Stephen Moulton, Hancock’s patent was challenged with the claim that Hancock had copied Goodyear. Goodyear attended the trial. If Hancock lost, Goodyear stood to have his own British patent application granted, allowing him to claim royalties from both Hancock and Moulton. Both had examined Goodyear’s vulcanized rubber in 1842, but several chemists testified that it would not have been possible to determine how it was made by studying it. Hancock prevailed.

Despite his misfortune with patents, Goodyear is claimed to have said, “Life should not be estimated exclusively by the standard of dollars and cents. I am not disposed to complain that I have planted and others have gathered the fruits. A man has cause for regret only when he sows and no one reaps.”

Goodyear died July 1, 1860, while traveling to see his dying daughter. After arriving in New York, he was informed that she had already died. He collapsed and was taken to the Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York City, where he died at the age of 59. He is buried in New Haven at Grove Street Cemetery.

Forty years after his death, in 1898, another entrepreneur named Francis Seiberling, nearly 40, married, with children and also penniless decided to start a rubber business, which he named after Charles Goodyear – The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company.

Delaware – Oliver Evans

Building a steam engine turned out to be a dirty business – or at least it was built for dirty purpose – and Oliver Evans was the man to do it.

Evans was born in 1755 in Newport, Del., to a family of Welsh settlers. At the age of 14 he was apprenticed to a wheelwright. His first invention was in 1777, when he designed a machine for making card teeth for carding wool. He went into business with his brothers and produced a number of improvements in the flour milling industry. His most important invention was an automated grist mill which operated continuously through the use of bulk material handling devices including bucket elevators, conveyor belts, and Archimedean screws. Evans described this invention in The Young Mill-wright and Millers’ Guide. He patented this invention in a few states and, when the U.S. patent system was established, in the federal patent system. Evans devoted a great deal of his time to patents, patent extensions, and enforcement of his patents. In 1782, Evans built the first automatic mill on Red Clay Creek, Del.

In 1792 he moved to Philadelphia, Pa., where he produced an improved high-pressure steam engine — his second most important invention. For some years he contemplated the idea of applying steam power to wagons. He was granted a patent for a steam-carriage design in 1789, but did not produce a working example of such a machine until over a decade later. Part of his difficulties was a failure to get financial backing. After lack of support in his native land, in 1794 he sent copies of some his designs to Great Britain in an attempt to interest investors there.

Because Evans designed a refrigeration machine which ran on vapor in 1805, he is often called the inventor of the refrigerator, although he never built one. His design was modified by Jacob Perkins, who obtained the first patent for a refrigerating machine in 1834.

The device for which Oliver Evans is best-known today is his Oruktor Amphibolos, or “Amphibious Digger”, built on commission from the Philadelphia Board of Health. The Board was concerned with the problem of dredging and cleaning the city’s dockyards, and in 1805 Evans convinced them to contract with him for a steam-powered dredge.

The Oruktor Amphibolos was never a success as a dredge, and after a few years of sitting at the dock was sold for parts.

Evans wrote up proposals to mechanize road vehicles, but failed to get backing from investors, who saw the scheme as impractical. In 1812, he published a visionary description of the nation connected by a network of railroad lines with transportation by swift steam locomotives. It should be remembered that at the time the locomotive was little more than a crude curiosity, and no attempts to use it for long distance transport had yet been made

In 1811, he founded the Pittsburgh Steam Engine Company, which in addition to engines, made other heavy machinery and castings in Pittsburgh. The location of the factory in the Mississippi watershed was important in the development of high pressure steam engines for the use in riverboats.

In 1819, while in New York City, Oliver Evans was informed that his workshop in Philadelphia had burned to the ground. Evans suffered from a stroke at the news, and died soon after. He is buried in Trinity Cemetery, Broadway at 154th St., New York City.

Florida – Charles E. Merrill

What is capitalism without capitalists? If Charles Goodyear and Oliver Evans had known Charles Merrill, Goodyear might have gotten his vulcanized rubber vulcanized sooner and Evans would have realized his dream of what was, essentially, the automobile.

Charles E. Merrill, the son of physician Dr. Charles Merrill and Octavia (Wilson) Merrill, was born in 1885 in Green Cove Springs, Fla., where he spent his early childhood. In 1898, the same Goodyear Tire and Rubber came into being, the family briefly moved to Knoxville, Tenn., but within the year returned to Florida to settle in Jacksonville. After the school Merrill had been attending was damaged in the Great Fire of 1901, his parents decided to send him to the college preparatory academy operated by John B. Stetson University (yes, that John B. Stetson, of cowboy hat fame).

Merrill studied there from 1901 till 1903 and then in 1903 for the final year of high school was transferred to Worcester Academy. After two years at Amherst College, Merrill spent time at the University of Michigan Law School from 1906 to 1907. He worked at Patchogue-Plymouth Mills from 1907–09 and at George H. Burr & Co., New York City, from 1909–13. In 1914, he established Charles E. Merrill & Co. in 1914, changing the name to Merrill Lynch & Company in 1915 when his friend, Edmund C. Lynch, became his partner. He was 30.

Merrill made his money by investing. He orchestrated the 1926 merger which created the Safeway food chain, and Merrill Lynch provided investment banking services to Safeway to finance the acquisition of other chains, growing Safeway to more than 3,500 stores across the United States by 1931.

“Evil Capitalist” that he was, Merrill anticipated the Stock market crash of 1929, and divested many of his holdings before the Great Depression. Merrill merged his retail brokerage and wire operations with E.A. Pierce and Co., thereby restructuring Merrill Lynch and Co. to focus upon investment banking. Additionally, Merrill was known to have pleaded with President Calvin Coolidge (like Merrill, an Amherst alumnus) to speak out against speculation, but Coolidge did not listen to him.

In 1939, immediately preceding the boom caused by World War II, Merrill was approached by Edward A. Pierce to merge the struggling brokerage E.A. Pierce & Co. back together with Merrill Lynch. Merrill agreed to do so, but insisted that the combined firm retain the Pierce. Following a simultaneous acquisition of Philadelphia-based Cassatt & Co., the firm was reopened as Merrill Lynch, E.A. Pierce and Cassatt. Merrill was convinced that the average American who wanted to invest should be able to buy shares in the stock market, which was previously a playground for the wealthy. He instructed his employees to hold seminars at which husbands and wives could leave their children with child care providers while the parents learned how they, too, could invest.

Not only was he an “evil capitalist”, but Merrill was also a well-known philanderer and bon vivant. He was married three times and gained the nickname “Good Time Charlie Merrill”. Still, all three of Merrill’s children became wealthy from unbreakable trusts made early in childhood. In 1926, their father purchased the James L. Breese House at Southampton in Suffolk County, New York. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Merrill was the father of educator and philanthropist Charles E. Merrill Jr. (b. 1920) (author and founder of the Thomas Jefferson School, Commonwealth School, and former chairman of the board of trustees of Morehouse College); San Francisco philanthropist Doris Merrill Magowan (1914–2001); and poet James Ingram Merrill (1926–1995). Merrill’s grandson, Peter A. Magowan, was President and CEO of Safeway Inc. and also the former managing general partner of the San Francisco Giants.

Okay, so “Good-Time Charlie” Merrill was an evil capitalist and a cad. But at least he didn’t leave his children and grandchildren on welfare. His investment banking operation initially allowed average income investors to build upon their savings instead of depending upon the government. His firm allowed businesses to flourish.

Inventors need investors. Businesses need backers. Economies need entrepreneurs. What America doesn’t need is a socialist government.

Tomorrow, we’ll find out how Coke was once used for medicinal purposes, who invented the gas pump, who invented the electrical digital computer, and how a quick-tempered railroad mechanic started a famous car company.

Published in: on April 19, 2011 at 8:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

Duty Bound

This morning, I woke up early, eager for the day to begin. I was going to spend a little time with my North Jersey Regional Tea Party friends for the beginning of the Battle of Trenton. Then I was going to hop in my car and head to the Morristown Green for a little rallying fun with Morristown Tea Party friends.

Just as I was getting ready to leave, the phone rang; it was my Mom. No health emergency, thank goodness. But a water pipe had burst her in basement. My older brother is at work the whole weekend on an office move. My younger brother was struggling to bale out the basement and fix the pipe. Mom had a dental in Queens, a 45-minute ride. Would I be able to take her?

Oh no. The Tea Parties that I’d been looking forward to the whole, long, dreary week were about to make history without me. Of course, my duty, and I told I was ready to go whenever she was. I had to face it and do it: my brothers bear the brunt of chauffeuring Mom around and doing all the heavy-lifting. They’re both Mama’s Boys, so not only don’t they mind, but they insist upon it. However, it’s my duty to be available when they aren’t, which doesn’t happen often.

I don’t think God would have approved if I’d refused, or complained and made her feel guilty. Besides, I woke up this morning not feeling very well, as though I were coming down with a cold. If I’d made that long drive to Trenton and then stood out in this morning’s cold wind for Morristown, I would have deserved what happened to me for putting something above duty to family.

This is Mom, who saved me from the school bully, did without a lot of things herself when we were poor, made 999 miserable trips to Atlantic City, a place she loathed, so we’d have a roof over our heads, and nursed all when we were sick with everything from the chickenpox to the stomach flu.

Queens is a long ride from northern New Jersey. But Mom has been going to this dentist’s office since she was a young woman – some 66 years. The original dentist passed away about ten years ago; his son-in-law runs the practice now. He’s one of the most cheerful dentists you’d ever want to meet.

In any case, I most certainly missed the Morristown Tea Party. However, there is pay-off. Mom was so grateful that I drove her because my younger drives her begrudgingly, complaining all the way there and back again, and my older brother tends to pester her, whereas I drove her cheerfully and without complaint, that she doubled the amount of my birthday present next week. (Mom is very good with investments and we’re the beneficiaries of her financial savvy). It was only to be $100, which would have been more than enough. Now she’s going to give me enough to buy an Ipad.

It pays to do your duty cheerfully, I must say.

Published in: on April 16, 2011 at 5:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

Happy 3rd Anniversary, Tea Parties!

Three years ago today, Americans joined, in great numbers, the Tea Party express (small caps), a grass-roots movement that had actually begun in February of 2009. For many though, April 15th was the day it all began for them.

We’ve had some small successes and one very big one – the November 2010 elections – and we’re till ready for more. We’ve survived in spite of Media columnists, bloggers, and talking heads who’ve labeled us with every noxious name in their rulebook – racists, homophobes, idiots, haters, know-nothings, and teabaggers. They’ve done everything they can to revile us in the eyes of average Americans. Some Americans have looked beyond their television sets or computer monitors to find out who we really are; others have not.

We involved ourselves directly in the political process at every level from local politics to the federal government, taking on every issue from school vouchers to the federal budget. Some politicians have even climbed on board.

As we’ve seen, the battle isn’t easy. Party labels don’t mean anything when the expensive suit is made out of the same material and the words we hear are part of the same agenda. Political conformity is at the top of that agenda.

The Liberal Left hippies of the Sixties now hold every level of power in the government, business, labor, and even churches. Most disturbing is their generational position in education. They’re well-entrenched in our universities, where they’ve held forth since the early Thirties. The classroom is where they do the most damage, brainwashing gullible young minds with their one-world, redistribute-the-wealth, silence-the-critics agenda.

Tea Parties are learning that big things come in small packages. They’re forming small groups and educating friends and neighbors in their own communities about the dangers America is facing. They have facts in their hands, not just talking-points. Facts like the U.S. Debt Clock. They’ve educated themselves on American history, the U.S. Constitution, and current issues.

The thing about grassroots is: you can trample grass, mow it down, but it will grow right back up again. You can try to dry it up, scaring potential members, but eventually God will make it rain and the grass will grow back again, tougher than ever.

The Tea Parties know they must keep on advocating for solid, American, Constitutional values. The U.S. Constitution is our foundation and support. We must keep an eye out for those who abuse it. We must hold our candidates for office to a high standard. Those who don’t uphold the standards must be shown the door. What we tolerate will inevitably come back to haunt us.

So, Happy Anniversary, Tea Parties! Keep up the good work!

Published in: on April 15, 2011 at 7:16 am  Leave a Comment