Friday, September 4, 2015

Free at Last

This is one of 804 articles in my book Now and Then Again, The Way We Were and the Way We Are. The book is available from Amazon for $16.95 and also as an ebook from itunes, Kobo, and Inktera for $9.99. Also from Tolino in Germany. It's fixed format so it's better on a tablet, laptop or computer. There are more articles from the book on another blog, here.

Free at Last

In the Old Hill Burying Ground in Concord, Massachusetts is a gravestone with this epitaph:

God wills us free; man wills us slaves.
I will as God wills; God's will be done.
Here lies the body of
JOHN JACK
a native of Africa who died
March 1773 aged about 60 years
Tho' born in a land of slavery,
He was born free.
Tho' he lived in a land of liberty,
He lived a slave.
Till by his honest, tho' stolen labors,
He acquired the source of slavery,
Which gave him his freedom;
Tho' not long before
Death, the grand tyrant
Gave him his final emancipation,
And set him on a footing with kings.
Tho' a slave to vice,
He practised those virtues
Without which kings are but slaves


This is one of the most famous epitaphs in history, written by Daniel Bliss, a loyalist lawyer from Concord just before the Revolutionary War who thought it was hypocritcal for those who espoused freedom from England to deny it to their negro slaves.

John Jack first turns up in church records as "Jack, Negro." He belonged to a shoemaker, Benjamin Barron, who died in 1754. His estate passed to his widow. Listed in the inventory of the estate was:
"One Negro servant named Jack £120"
"One Negro maid named Violet, being of no value."

John Jack raised £120 from earnings as a shoemaker to buy his freedom from his master's widow. In 1761 he bought from her daughter Susanna four acres of land    and two more acres from someone else. Both deeds state he is a free man.

He worked at odd jobs for farmers and made shoes in the winter. Ailing, he sensed the end coming and made his will  in December, 1772. In it he bequeathed everything to Violet, then living with Susanna Barron. But Violet was still a slave and could not legally own land and his properties passed back whence they came, to the  Barron family. Daniel Bliss was appointed in the will as executor.

Daniel Bliss was born in Concord in 1740 and graduated from Harvard in 1760 and was admitted to the bar in 1765.

On March 20, 1775, Bliss allowed two British officers into his home in the center of Concord to recconoiter rebel activities and report back to General Gage. The presence of British spies was noted by the townspeople who threatened to kill him and his guests. Bliss was able to escape with the British officers late at night by a circuitous route.

He left his wife and children behind and  arranged for his brother Samuel, also a loyalist, to go to Concord and salvage what he could and get his family to safety. Samuel was arrested on May 12, accused of guiding the British search for military contraband in Concord on April 19th that culminated in the Battle of North Bridge at Concord and the beginning of the Revolutionary War. He produced four witnesses who testified that he was in Boston on April 19 and he was released and fled to Boston.

Both he and his Brother Daniel received commissions in the British army and setttled in New Brunswick, Canada after the war, both doing very well.

The primary source of this article is John Jack, the Slave and Daniel Bliss, the Tory, a paper presented to the Concord Antiquarian Society in 1902 by George Tolman. Tolman says that one of the British officers who spied from Bliss's house in 1775 sent the epitaph home in a letter and it was published in a London newspaper and that the epitaph was copied many times and translated into many languages.

The original gravestone was broken and lay on the ground by the grave until 1830 when Rufus Hosmer, a lawyer and son of a fiery patriot who had stood up to refute a loyalist speech by Bliss at a Concord town meeting in 1774, sponsored a faithful copy  that still stands today.

Tolman sums up eloquently:
“But for this poor slave, without ancestry, without posterity, without kindred, of a despised and alien race, a social pariah, his title to immortality is found only in his epitaph, which has made him, to his own race, the prophet of that great deliverance that was to come to them in blood and fire, a century after he had worked out his own emancipation.”
Rest in peace John Jack.

Copyright © 2015 Joseph Mirsky


Monday, August 24, 2015

Gaiety Girls

This is one of 804 articles in my book Now and Then Again, The Way We Were and the Way We AreThe book is available from Amazon for $16.95 and also as an ebook from itunesKobo, and Inktera for $9.99. Also from Tolino in Germany. It's fixed format so it's better on a tablet, laptop or computer. There are more articles from the book on another blog, here.

Gaiety Girls


“The Latest fad of women, delicate little paintings on the shoulders when in evening dress, was started by the Gaiety Girls, who now set the London styles. Two of them appeared at a supper party given by a spendthrift young earl at the Lyric club dressed in extreme decollete gowns. And on each shoulder was a delicately painted, small but gorgeous butterfly. The work was exquisitely done by a prominent water color artist.”
— This article, titled The Butterfly Fad appeared in the Carbon County Sentinel, Gebo, Montana, April 5, 1901.



Gaiety Girls were showgirls who appeared in musical comedies at the Gaiety Theatre in London. The extravagant shows were produced by George Edwardes. The eponymous A Gaiety Girl premiered  at The Prince of Wales Theatre in 1893 and led to a series of hit “Girl” shows such as The Shop Girl, My Girl, and The Circus Girl at the Gaiety.

Gaiety Girls were respectable and admired. London fashion designers costumed them and this publicized their fashions much as red carpet movie galas do today. Consider that Gaiety Girl fashions were known even in a place as remote from London as  Gebo, Montana.

Is Sex Necessary?

This is one of 804 articles in my book Now and Then Again, The Way We Were and the Way We Are.The book is available from Amazon for $16.95 and also as an ebook from itunes, Kobo, and Inktera for $9.99. Also from Tolino in Germany. It's fixed format so it's better on a tablet, laptop or computer. There are more articles from the book on another blog, here.

Is Sex Necessary?


Mr. Herbert Televox was a robot first built in 1927 by the Westinghouse Electric Company. It could pick up the phone and listen to instructions given by different notes blown on a pitch pipe and acknowledge with a series of buzzes.

Televox could wirelessly turn appliances on or off or check if the furnace was too hot in a home. Industrial uses included controlling electric loads for the power company. Three Televoxes, Adam, Cain, and Abel ("Eve being omitted because the automatic kingdom has not been divided into two factions"), were employed by the War Department in Washington to report and control reservoir levels.

The New York Times reported June 4, 1928 "Mechanical man now can also talk. Televox gets vocal cords to call up employer and tell him latest news." A few sentences were recorded on film, like a movie sound track. Now it would answer the phone with "Televox speaking" and could initiate a phone call: "this is the Televox calling for Main 5000." The rest of the conversation would then be with buzzes.

Mr. Televox made a special appearance at the American Booksellers' Association convention in 1930. When asked what his favorite book was, he replied Is Sex Necessary? a book by humorist and cartoonist James Thurber.


Copyright © 2015 Joseph Mirsky

Now and Then Again



Now and Then Again
The Way We Were and the Way We Are


I own a jewelry store in Pompton Lakes, N.J. I send newsletters to my customers 3 times a year, 56 four page 8½ x 11 newsletters since I started them in 1997. I compiled them along with many articles on topics unsuitable for the newsletters into three editions of the book of the newsletters,Ornamentally Incorrect, plus articles written just for the book. At this point I have written so many articles about just about everything, I reorganized the material into a new general interest book, Now and Then Again, with jewelry articles pared and put in one section. Included are articles too long or too edgy for the newsletters.

The articles are wide-ranging, about consumer and middle class issues, food, drink, money, economics, politics, and the lighter side of life. It is in newsletter format 300 pages with 804 articles, each with a headline-like title, as well as 70 notes at the end of the book in the same format. Some longer articles are full page. Most pages have 3-5 articles. There are 28 articles of 1-2 pages and 2 articles of 3 pages. There are 243 photos and illustrations.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

My Little Chickadee

This is one of 804 articles in my book Now and Then Again, The Way We Were and the Way We AreThe book is available from Amazon for $16.95 and also as an ebook from itunesKobo, and Inktera for $9.99. Also from Tolino in Germany. It's fixed format so it's better on a tablet, laptop or computer. There are more articles from the book on another blog, here.

My Little Chickadee

“The Defendant is charged with violation of Section 949 of the Penal Law in that on September 13th, 1928, at 11:35 P.M., at 755 Seventh Avenue, the Earl Carroll Theatre, he did carry a bird in his pocket and took the same from his pocket and permitted the bird to fly upon the stage and cause said bird to fall to the floor so as to produce torture.”
— This is from the transcript of The People Of The City Of New York vs. William C. Fields W.C. Fields. Fields pleaded not guilty to torturing the bird.

Happy Anniversary

This is one of 804 articles in my book Now and Then Again, The Way We Were and the Way We Are.The book is available from Amazon for $16.95 and also as an ebook from itunesKobo, and Inktera for $9.99. Also from Tolino in Germany. It's fixed format so it's better on a tablet, laptop or computer. There are more articles from the book on another blog, here.

Happy Anniversary!

Happy Anniversary!

Here's an anniversary you'll want to celebrate: the installation of the first parking meter 80 years ago. Park-O-Meter No. 1 was installed on the southeast corner of what was then First Street and Robinson Avenue in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on July 16, 1935.

Cars would park all day, or even for weeks, stifling downtown business and the city fathers asked Carl Magee, editor of the Oklahoma City News, to help find a solution. Magee invented the parking meter to solve the problem.
Despite opposition, stores saw an increase in business as the meters forced a turnover of cars (at a nickel an hour) and parking meters quickly spread through the city.

Wampum

This is one of 804 articles in my book Now and Then Again, The Way We Were and the Way We Are. The book is available from Amazon for $16.95 and also as an ebook from itunesKobo, and Inktera for $9.99. Also from Tolino in Germany. It's fixed format so it's better on a tablet, laptop or computer.There are more articles from the book on another blog, here.

Wampum


If you vacation in Cape Cod, you’ll see inexpensive jewelry with white and purple mother-of-pearl set in silver. It is made from the shell of the quahog clam which has white and purple colors lining the inside of the shell. It’s called wampum jewelry. Wampum sound familiar? It’s that redskin to paleface word for money in old movies.

Wampum, Indian ceremonial beads later used as money was originally woven into belts presented to commemorate important occasions and rites of passage such as engagement and marriage.

The Hiawatha belt of 6574 beads commemorates the formation of the Iroquois Confederacy, the union of 5 (later 6) tribes in New York and Canada sometime between 1450 and 1600. A wampum belt commemorates a treaty between a Catholic convert chief of the Mi’kmaq and the Vatican in 1610.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Great Diamond Hoax

This is one of 804 articles in my book Now and Then Again, The Way We Were and the Way We Are. The book is available from Amazon for $16.95 and also as an ebook from itunesKobo, and Inktera for $9.99. Also from Tolino in Germany. It's fixed format so it's better on a tablet, laptop or computer. There are more articles from the book on another blog, here.

The Great Diamond Hoax


In 1872, two Kentucky Prospectors, Philip Arnold and Jack Slack, brought a bag of uncut diamonds, rubies, and sapphires to the Bank of California in San Francisco. The bank president, William Ralston, was alerted to this bonanza.

Two San Francisco jewelers examined the stones and judged them to be natural and of excellent quality. Ralston said he would arrange financing for a mining venture if Arnold and Slack would show two of his men the site where the gems were found.

After a 36 hour train ride to the east and two days on mules, blindfolded, Ralston’s men reached the site. They returned to San Francisco with 7000 carats of rubies and 1000 carats of diamonds.

More Money Than You Could Ever Spend

This is one of 804 articles in my book Now and Then Again, The Way We Were and the Way We Are. The book is available from Amazon for $16.95. and also as an ebook from itunesKobo, and Inktera for $9.99. Also from Tolino in Germany. It's fixed format so it's better on a tablet, laptop or computer. There are more articles from the book on another blog, here.

More More Money Than You Could Ever Spend


Remember that greedy little fellow Richard Grasso? He’s the guy who was forced out as head of the New York Stock Exchange in 2003 after his buddies on the board gave him $140 million in deferred compensation on top of his $11 million a year regular paycheck. Not content, he sued to get another $48 million he was owed.

The Legend of the Crystal Skulls

This is one of 804 articles in my book Now and Then Again, The Way We Were and the Way We Are. The book is available from Amazon for $16.95 and also as an ebook from itunesKobo, and Inktera for $9.99. Also from Tolino in Germany. It's fixed format so it's better on a tablet, laptop or computer. There are more articles from the book on another blog, here.

The Legend of the Crystal Skulls


Dan Aykroyd founded Crystal Head Vodka. The liquor is quadruple distilled and triple filtered through Herkimer diamond crystals. (Sounds good, but I couldn’t find any Google chemists who said that pouring booze over quartz crystals does anything. Ditto for Double Cross vodka filtered through diamond dust)

The vodka comes in a clear bottle shaped like a skull. A 750 ml bottle sells for about $45. You may be able to buy it  cheaper though: 21,000 bottles of Crystal Head were stolen from a California warehouse in May, 2011.

A Twinkie is Forever

This is one of 804 articles in my book Now and Then Again, The Way We Were and the Way We AreThe book is available from Amazon for $16.95 and also as an ebook from itunesKobo, and Inktera for $9.99. Also from Tolino in Germany.It's fixed format so it's better on a tablet, laptop or computer. There are more articles from the book on another blog, here.

A Twinkie is Forever


Roger Bennatti, a science teacher in Blue Hill, Maine bought a two-pack of Twinkies around 1974, ate one, and put the other one above his blackboard.

In 2005 Bennatti said “It's starting to flake off just a tad. But it's sort of an off-yellow, dusty--the bottom, you know, appears to be a little, you know, perhaps moldy, but just a little bit of the bottom of it.” Mr. Bennatti retired but the twinkie lives on in a bespoke glass case provided by his successor

Shirt-Waists are for Pantywaists

This is one of 804 articles in my book Now and Then Again, The Way We Were and the Way We AreThe book is available from Amazon for $16.95 and also as an ebook from itunesKobo, and Inktera for $9.99. Also from Tolino in Germany. It's fixed format so it's better on a tablet, laptop or computer. There are more articles from the book on another blog, here.

Shirt-Waists are for Pantywaists

Do you remember reading about the horrific Triangle Shirtwaist fire in 1911? The fire in Manhattan killed 146 people, mainly young women garment workers. The fire led to better safety regulations and working conditions.

Shirtwaists were very popular then; Triangle was one of many factories making them. So what is a shirtwaist?

A shirtwaist was a woman’s blouse constructed like a shirt, with collar and buttons. It became a symbol of the modern independent woman in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It freed women from the voluminous floor-length dresses of their mothers. It was worn tucked into a skirt that sometimes showed a scandalous glimpse of ankle.

Shootout at the Circle K Ranch

This is one of 804 articles in my book Now and Then Again, The Way We Were and the Way We Are. The book is available from Amazon for $16.95 and also as an ebook from itunesKobo, and Inktera for $9.99. Also from Tolino in Germany. It's fixed format so it's better on a tablet, laptop or computer. There are more articles from the book on another blog, here.

Shootout at the Circle K Ranch

In early 1974 a shooting contest was held at the Circle K Ranch in Kaufman, Texas, 35 miles southeast of Dallas. The ranch belonged to the Hunt family, oil billionaires.  Cowboys competed to be among the dozen to ride shotgun on three 707's bound for Zurich, Switzerland loaded with 40 million ounces of silver, almost 1400 tons.

Requiem for the Middle Class

This is one of 804 articles in my book Now and Then Again, The Way We Were and the Way We AreThe book is available from Amazon for $16.95 and also as an ebook from itunesKobo, and Inktera for $9.99. Also from Tolino in Germany. It's fixed format so it's better on a tablet, laptop or computer. There are more articles from the book on another blog, here.

Requiem for the Middle Class

There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning." Warren Buffet — The New York Times, November 26, 2006.

"The World is dividing into two blocs - the Plutonomy and the rest. The U.S., UK, and Canada are the key Plutonomies - economies powered by the wealthy. Continental Europe (ex-Italy) and Japan are in the egalitarian bloc."

This is from leaked Citigroup internal memos from 2005 and 2006. Plutonomy: Buying luxury, Explaining Global Imbalances and Revisiting Plutonomy: The Rich Getting Richer see the U.S. as a plutonomy, a society in which most of the wealth goes to an ever-shrinking minority. A race to the top.

It's a Spinthariscope, Kemo Sabe

This is one of 804 articles in my book Now and Then Again, The Way We Were and the Way We AreThe book is available from Amazon for $16.95 and also as an ebook from itunesKobo, and Inktera for $9.99. Also from Tolino in Germany. It's fixed format so it's better on a tablet, laptop or computer. There are more articles from the book on another blog, here.

It's a Spinthariscope, Kemo Sabe


See genuine atoms split to smithereens inside this Kix Atomic Bomb Ring. For just 15¢ plus a Kix cereal boxtop the Lone Ranger Atomic Bomb Ring could have been yours in 1947.

The ring was advertised on the Lone Ranger radio show. It was also advertised in print, but  came to be known as the Lone Ranger Atomic Bomb Ring.The contra-diction of a 19th century cowboy selling a 20th century weapon was missed, maybe because the business end of the ring bomb looked like the Lone Ranger's silver bullet. (My wife actually had one as a kid.)