Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Women have the right to vote

As you know, it wasn’t always true in the United States that women were “permitted” to vote.

In 1889, legislators in the Wyoming territory approved a constitution establishing the right of women to vote. Wyoming became the national pioneer in legalizing women’s suffrage in 1890 when it was admitted to the union as the 44th state. (As territories, Wyoming and a couple others allowed women to vote as early as 1869).

The Isle of Man in the Irish Sea gave women who owned property the right to vote in 1881. In 1893 New Zealand became the first country to establish national women’s suffrage.

In America, women were unable to vote in most eastern states until August 18, 1920, when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified.

So, when you’re thinking about U. S. history, keep in mind that men get all the credit—and all the blame—for the actions of the colonies and the national government for the first four hundred years or so.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

First robbery of a moving train

The Reno Brothers gang

Trains started running in the United States in the 1830s, but it wasn’t until October 6, 1866, that some bad guys named John and Simeon Reno stopped a moving train in Jackson County, Indiana, and grabbed $13,000 before making their getaway. notes that parked trains in depots or rail yards had been robbed before the Reno brothers started “the great train robbery” escapades. Grabbing the cash boxes from trains in the middle of nowhere in the American West was profitable for a while, and the robbers piled up a lot of loot.

The railroad companies reacted and put armed guards (and sometimes saddled horses in special box cars) on the trains to squelch the Reno brothers and Jesse James and Butch Cassidy and their ilk. The thrill of shooting up a moving train pretty much wore off after a few decades.

The last attempt to rob a train was carried out on November 24, 1937, by Henry Loftus and Harry Donaldson, who bungled their plan to rob passengers on the Southern Pacific Railroad’s Apache Limited out of El Paso, TX. The youthful desperadoes pulled six-shooters and grabbed some passengers’ watches, and then about 20 passengers attacked them, “punching and kicking them in a frenzy,” and finally tying them in two seats.

No one has made a movie about that robbery yet.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Ford’s assembly line, 1913 style

Henry Ford didn’t invent the assembly line—it had been used for decades in the meatpacking industry and elsewhere before he made it famous.

Ford did create a first when he converted his entire Model T Ford manufacturing process to the moving, mechanized assembly line in October 1913. Actual production time for a single car was cut from 12.5 hours to six hours in short order, and ultimately was reduced to 93 minutes. Ford’s men working on a single line could build 15 cars every day. More than 15 million were built between 1908 and 1927.

Roughly, the introduction of the assembly line boosted production efficiency by a little more than 700 percent.

Henry Ford got a lot of press (good and bad) in 1914 when he started paying his assembly workers $5 a day, about twice the going rate. He gets a lot of good press now for this “enlightened” move. (p.s. he didn’t do it because he was a nice guy, he did it to reduce staff turnover).

Of course, Ford never passed on most of the cost savings from that huge jump in productivity. I wonder if he ever dreamed for a moment about bumping his workers’ pay to $20 a day?

Another point of interest: one could argue that the advent of the assembly line finally did away with any remaining vestige of handmade craftsmanship that went into the construction of the Model T.

I wonder if the Model Ts that rolled off the line in 1927 were made to the same quality standards that were evident in the 1908 models?

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The exasperation of Tycho Brahe

O crassa ingenia.
O caecos coeli spectatores.         

Tycho Brahe (1546-1601)
Danish astronomer

Brahe made a splash when he published De nova stella in 1573, challenging the Aristotelian doctrine of a perfected, unchanging celestial sphere.

Living before the advent of practical telescopes, the gentleman-scientist was the last of the principal "naked eye" astronomers who worked without telescopes.

He was in the van of astronomer-scientists who gradually debunked the Ptolemaic concept of the cosmos as an Earth-centric (geocentric) system. Brahe proposed a cosmos with the sun and the moon orbiting the Earth, and the other planets orbiting the sun, with stars in the classical "fixed spheres."

The Copernican cosmological system was at odds with Brahe's geo-heliocentric system, and Kepler later proposed a more correct orbital system based substantially on Brahe's astoundingly detailed and (for his time) spectacularly accurate astronomical observations.

Brahe wasn't in the mainstream, and he was not shy about promoting his own system.

Hence, his less-than-tactful characterization of others with divergent views:

O crassa ingenia.
O caecos coeli spectatores.         
O, thick wits.
O, blind watchers of the sky.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The card catalog, so many drawers….

I do remember the first time I figured out how to use the sprawling card catalog in the Woodbury (NJ) Public Library, late 1950s.

Don’t remember how old I was, I guess I was in 7th or 8th grade….the light bulb went on for me, I was creating knowledge with the card catalog on my own, researching references for some homework project.

I felt empowered and I felt liberated, I was questing with my hands and with my mind, with a pencil in my mouth and a wad of index cards….

The memory is high contrast in the gallery of my hodgepodge of recollections, it feels like it was lots better than it is today, but of course it wasn’t.

I get a surge every time I Google search for something and get more interesting hits than I could ever pursue in my remaining span of years.

Verily, the card catalog is ancient history. The Online Computer Library Centerr (OCLC) announced recently that it has stopped printing hard-copy catalog cards for worldwide distribution after a run of more than 100 years. They’re not going to make ‘em like that anymore.

The card catalog wasn’t better than Google, but once upon a time I owned that baby in the Woodbury Public Library.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

You can call him Quake

About 2,885 years ago, a man was born in Mesoamerica, in what we now call Mexico. We know only two things about him: he died about 750 B. C., fighting against the Zapotec empire; his name was 1-Earthquake.

Among the tens of millions who lived in ancient times in the American hemisphere, 1-Earthquake is the earliest whose name we know.
In the Mesoamerican cultures that flourished three millennia ago, the day of birth often was an augury of the future of the newborn, and often the birth date was adopted as a name. 1-Earthquake was the Zapotec name for the 17th day of their 260-day sacred calendar.

It is apparent that the name was carved as two glyphs in the stone threshold of a temple in San  José Mogote, near the city of Oaxaca. This is the earliest known writing in North or South America that can be accurately dated: 750 B.C.

Urban site in Zapotec empire

Note the date.. At about the same time as Rome was founded (753 B. C.), when  the early Greeks were emerging from their own Dark Ages, and when much of Europe was populated by the “barbarian” Germanic and Celtic tribes, there were civilizations in the Americas like the Zapotec and the earlier Olmec, that had sophisticated cities, governments, organized religion, art, agriculture, commerce, astronomy and mathematics.

Source: Charles C. Mann, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus (New York: Vintage Books, 2006), 243.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.