Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Here we have a fabulous ad from the Chicago Tribune, 25 Oct. 1891, featuring Laloo Laloo – the “living boy and a half” who had “2 Bodies with 1 Head” and was, thankfully for Laloo (I guess), “alive.”

Ah, Kohl & Middleton’s…the great Chicago ‘curiosity’ museum…


Additionally, just as a little note, Jack Goldie – a blackface comedian – was apparently graced with the appallingly wonderful nickname “The Dark Spasm of Joy.”

Please start calling me that.  I’ll pay you money.

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As there’s little time right now for any ‘real’ updates (thanks to end of semester workloads), here’s a quickie on some things I’ve been doing.

1.  Things are going fine with Jennifer.  For anyone who’s wondering.  Though there’s little time to do anything particularly unpredictable or new.

2.  My research paper / first chapter of work on the Atlanta Better Films Committee is nearly finished, although I have recently discovered that there are ‘collections’ (not archives?) of information on Woman’s Clubs from across the state at the Atlanta History Center.  So research over the summer might alter the final version significantly.  However, it’s received good reviews from the few who’ve read it so far.

3.  Speaking of history, Jennifer’s research on 19th century comedy unearthed something kind of cool – laughing gas as a group recreational drug.  She showed me one advertisement in which people were invited to see what happens when Indians are subjected to laughing gas…after which, anyone who wishes may also partake of the gas.  It’s really interesting.  You’ll all have to read about it in 300 years when her dissertation finally gets published.

4.  We ‘interviewed’ and ‘road tested’ two applicants for the department (we’ve had two professors decide to leave next year…which sucks).  We can only hire one, and I think I know which it will be, but I just wanted to mention that the process had taken place.  Taking up much time over the last two weeks.  Maybe I’ll say more about the two candidates later when time permits.

5.  The baseball season has started.  My Cardinals are going to suck.  Alex Gordon currently sucks.  And I still believe (though I’m apparently the only one in the country) that Daisuke Matsuzaka is going to win 24 games; Japanese imports are always best in their first year (because hitters aren’t used to them) and the Red Sox offense is going to get him a lot of wins he wouldn’t normally get.  All these prediction of 14-16 wins are absurd, and slightly orientalist.

6.  Watched an old PBS (I think) three part ‘sci-fi’ drama last night from 1966 called “The Star Wagon,” starring Dustin Hoffman.  It was much too long, and played more like a stage play than a film, but it was quite good.  Hoffman gave a largely excellent performance (as did the others), and the concept was interesting.  It was about two people who invent a time machine, but it’s not really a time machine – it only allows you to change your position on your own timeline.  So they can go back to age 20 and try to take their lives a different way.   The unprobed idea of immortality (just repeatedly living your life in different ways) was promising and could make a fabulous story of its own, but this was quite good too.  Though it was a typical ‘the grass is not actually greener’ story, the element in which people actually found it really difficult to live their lives differently (the persistence of personality) was quite clever.

7.  Webster Edgerly news: Shaftesbury College in Baltimore was not fictional.  I have discovered an advertisement for it in the “Baltimore Sun.”  So, Edgerly was teaching at and operating two different colleges of expression at the same time…  This man is so much fun.

8.  I’m tired of being busy.  I want to read crappy old sci-fi (like a book I saw yesterday, titled “Gulliver of Mars: or Lieut. Gulliver Jones”).  I want to go antiquing.  I want to spend my time doing research on the Atlanta Better Films Committee.  I want to read no more David Bordwell…

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My Historiography paper topic was greeted with rapturous applause by my teacher.  He actually has been doing research on censorship and such in the early days of film in Atlanta, and this is an area he has yet to dig into.  So he’s quite excited that I’m going to be doing some work in the area.

The endless looking through old newspapers that I’ve been doing the last couple days has been fun.

This evening I ran across another online database for 19th century papers, so I did a quick check for Edgerly material.  Apparently 1896 was quite a watershed year for Ralstonism as a thing.  That was the year in which Edgerly began trying to set up a community at Ralston Heights.  (Which is something that I already knew.)  That same year, there was a quite vicious fight in the Denver Post over the merits of the movement.  (Remember, Edgerly is publishing in Washington at this point, so articles in Denver and Chicago indicate pretty far reaching influence.)  In March, a two page tirade against Edgerly was published as the first article on the front page of the Denver Post.  Three days later a large defense of Ralstonism was published on page five (which contains the unintentionally hilarious claim that Everett Ralson started the club, not Edgerly – the author is clearly unaware of [or concealing] the fact that Ralston and Edgerly are the same person).

It makes sense that the movement would have hit critical mass around this point.  Looking at publication dates on the books, I see nothing published prior to 1888.  And it wasn’t until 1891 that the philosophical book really started to dominate.  Most of his early books are centered on the oratory and expression courses he was teaching.  It makes sense, then, that Personal Magnetism, as far as Edgerly was concerned, began as a public speaking theory.  It then began to take on the health conscious attitudes as he developed a wider theory of the body.

That’s all hypothetical of course, but that’s how things are starting to look.  (This stands somewhat in conflict with Janet Six’s claim that he started the Ralston Health Club of America in 1876, the same year that he graduated with a law degree.  But I have found no corroborating evidence for her claim.)

Interesting that his progression towards ‘holy man’ coincides very closely with his job as a teacher, his second marriage, his rapid failure as a playwright, and the death of his sisters husband (and, presumably, Edgerly’s close friend)…

Too bad the semester is taking over my research time right now.  I really feel like I’m on the cusp of a good solid understanding of the man.


More new information. Huge moments come unexpectedly when reading old newspapers…


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Any research suggestions?

For my term paper in my Historiography class, I’m kicking around the idea of expanding a single footnote in an earlier paper into a full length paper in its own right.

This is, of course, a very dangerous thing to attempt, as footnotes are generally footnotes because they don’t require anything near 30 pages to deal with.  I’m worried that a historical paper on the rather nebulous concept of the perpetuation of a misreading would seem frivolous, so I’m kicking around ways to discuss the issue from structural or philosophical perspectives as well as the simple historical fact of quoting a misquote.  Therefore, I’m trying to see if there are any discussions of the progression of historical knowledge – the circulation and perpetuation of a particular statement.  Put simply, the idea that one scholar’s assertion in a particular text can become canonical due to the marginalization or unavailability of the primary text.

Unfortunately, one of two things is occuring in my pursuit of this topic…

Either I am ridiculously terrible at finding books and articles in which scholars analyze historical methods, or there is no particular scholarship in this area…  Books on the footnote seem to be simply historical works in their own right, with no pretensions to philosophizing or discussion of the concept of historical error.  The “circulation of knowledge” is discussed more in computer research and statistical terms.  I’m finding absolutely nothing on the actual problems posed by scholarly methods and lackluster working habits…

So, does anyone have a book or article they would suggest that I look through before I abandon the topic as impossible?

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Interesting News Reports

A Greek astronomical calculator from 150 to 100 BCE has undergone computer reconstruction. It’s a beautiful little thing and, although this is certainly not news to someone who once wrote a paper on Greek astrology, it is evidence of just how accurately the Greeks had managed to work out the movements of the seven “wandering stars.”

A blind man has deja vu, which renders incorrect the theory that deja vu is caused by one eye’s information reaching the brain before the other. Science being science, focusing entirely on a physical answer, the new theory seems to be a rapid forgetfulness in the brain (judging from the end of this article). I wonder whether or not serious debate will start in the aftermath of this, as it strikes me that ‘rapid forgetfulness’ is no less absurd than brief glimpses of the future… But that’s just me, and I am prone to spiritualism…

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Some poor schmuck in Florida apparently spent $200,000 to mail their absentee ballot, by using an “Inverted Jenny” stamp (of which there are only as many as 100 in the world) on the envelope.

Inverted Jenny

All I can say is, I certainly hope your candidates won.  I’d feel pretty foolish regardless, but I’d feel even worse if I wound up getting outvoted.

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A question on the public domain.

(Right out of the gate I’d like to be sure to tell everyone not to forget to read my previous post from today.  It apparently went over quite well as a bit of fun, and it would be a shame if people missed it simply because I blogged twice today…) 

I’m trying to work out just exactly what the status is of the public domain for written works.  Not too long ago, I wound up getting two books by Webster Edgerly (he who created my obsession with pseudo scientific religions) off of eBay.  Having realized that these books are, in fact, quite old, I decided to start looking into public domain issues this evening.

The rules, as clearly as I can make out, are as follows:

A) Any text published prior to 1923 is public domain.  B) If the author has been dead for 70 years it is likely public domain.  C) Anything published between 1923 and sometime in the seventies needed a copyright renewal after 28 years or else they too slipped into the public domain.

The situation with Edgerly is unclear.

– He died in 1926, so there’s no problem with point ‘B.’

– Most, if not all, of his books were first published in around 1907 or before (the two books that I now have list ‘previous copyright dates’ of 1904/1924 and 1899/1924); so it would seem that, by terms of ‘initial copyright,’ all of his works would be in the public domain thanks to point ‘A.’

– Even if the copyright was somehow fudged in reprinting, it seems highly unlikely that these books would’ve had their copyrights renewed in the 50s or 60s.  I can only find evidence of two or three publications between 1955 and 2003.  And all of the recent publications may well be proof that his works are public domain.  (Of course, the recent publications could also be one last hurrah before public domain is established…)

This leads me to the important question.  What happens when an edition is listed as ‘revised’?  The two books which I purchased have a copyright page which reads “Copyright 1934 by the Ralson Company; copyrights prior to revision 1904 and 1924.”  Now, seeing as how the ‘revision date’ is eight years after his death, could there possibly be anything in the revision that actually counts towards copyright alteration?  Or is the revision simply a resetting of typeface and repair of typos?  Does public domain only apply to the individual printings that were before 1923, or does it apply to every printing of a work first published before 1923?

So, what I’m really asking is, does the copyright page of these books really mean that I have to wait 23 more years (barring further copyright extensions) before these are public domain, and yet if I’d purchased an earlier edition that those would be freely distributable?

That seems ridiculous to me.  (Example, if it were true that a new edition nullified public domain in this way, that would also mean that ripping a dvd of “The Last Man on Earth” would still be a breach of copyright because you’re stealing the specific encoding made by a company recently, despite the fact that the film has been public domain since its release.  In this way, public domain would be the purview solely of publishers and seemingly have nothing to do with the author or the actual intellectual property in question.)

I would really like to scan these books and put them online as pdfs, hopefully encouraging others to do the same and build up a database of these books (and other turn of the century works just like them) so that I could have access to them for research without tracking down and buying them all from antique dealers.

Am I really running the risk of a lawsuit from the estate of a man now 80 years dead who wrote crackpot nonsense 100 years ago?

I’ve used the following links, but none of them seem to mention the ‘revision’ issue:

Hirtle’s Public Domain Chart

UPenn’s article on Copyright renewal

This nice flowchart on the public domain

I’ve also looked through the Copyright renewal listings for the years 1960-1962, which would be the years of renewal for a 1934 copyright.  Neither Edgerly nor Shaftesbury appears. 

So by any stretch of logic that I can work out, these books should all be public domain regardless of the 1934 ‘revision’ date.  But I’m not entirely certain of this (since public domain law doesn’t seem to operate under the rules of logic). 

Any help would be appreciated.

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