When Grandpa Was A Boy, Were There Any Dinosaurs?

When Grandpa Was a Boy, Were There Any Dinosaurs?

A Popular History of the 20th Century

Cody’s Final Flight

1913: Residents of Farnborough who gazed overhead on the morning of 7 August will have spotted Samuel Cody’s latest flying machine trundling across the sky. In 1908 “Colonel” Cody had been the first, or one of the first, to achieve powered flight in Britain, and since then his aeroplanes had become a familiar sight above the Hampshire town. On that particular August morning, people may have noticed his biplane, and then turned away and gone on with their ordinary lives. But if they had stood and watched, they would have seen Cody’s machine suddenly buckle and break apart, fabric and wooden struts flutter down and, among the debris, in his white coat and cap, the figure of the “Colonel” tumbling towards a fatal impact with the hard earth.

Source: Garry Jenkins, ‘Colonel’ Cody and the Flying Cathedral: The Adventures of the Cowboy Who Conquered Britain’s Skies (1999), pp. 253–5

“Best For Health”

1912: Only an advertising agency, I suspect, would have the gall to extract data from an article in The Lancet entitled “The toxic factor in tobacco” and include it in an advertisement for pipe tobacco that proclaimed “CRAVEN Mixture as the best for health”.

Source: Kate Parker, What the Doctor Smokes (2007), p. 35

Canals On Mars

1911: The Suez Canal had opened 40 years earlier and construction of the Panama Canal was well advanced. But were the inhabitants of Mars building canals that were far more impressive than anything on Earth? The amateur astronomer Percival Lowell thought so. On 27 August, The New York Times ran a story on his astronomical observations and theories under the headline:
MARTIANS BUILD TWO IMMENSE CANALS IN TWO YEARS

Source: The New York Times, 27 August 1911

Why Whiteness?

W.E.B. du Bois, photographed in 1918 by Cornelius Battey

1910: The black American essayist W.E.B. du Bois exposed the absurdity of white racism with a simple piercing question: “What on earth is whiteness that one should so desire it?”

Source: W.E. Burghardt du Bois, Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil (1920), pp. 29–30

Pie In The Face

Cross-eyed actor Ben Turpin, photographed in 1921

1909: Mr. Flip featured the first cinematic use of an important item in the slapstick comedian’s arsenal: the pie in the face. The cross-eyed actor Ben Turpin spent the entire film pestering young female workers, but a waitress got her own back by rubbing a pie in her tormentor’s face.

Source: https://hubpages.com/education/
The-Cultural-Evolution-of-Pie-in-the-
Face-or-Pieing

Anthropomorphism

1908: The Times Literary Supplement review of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows doubted whether a mole would whitewash his house, a water rat sail a skiff or a toad become a rabid motorist. “As a contribution to natural history,” the reviewer observed, “the work is negligible.”

Source: The Times Literary Supplement, 22 October 1908

Pavlovian Pedantry

Ivan Pavlov depicted on a 1969 Soviet postage stamp

1906: Pardon the pedantry, but Ivan Pavlov used a buzzer, not a bell, to stimulate salivation in laboratory dogs. The popular notion that the Russian physiologist rang a bell appears to have originated from the mistranslation of a speech in The Lancet.

Source: Daniel P. Todes, Ivan Pavlov: A Russian Life in Science (2014), pp. 1, 287, 315, 492, 764, 766–7

Freudian Quip

1905: Two examples from Sigmund Freud’s The Joke and Its Relation to the Unconscious:

A physician visits a sick woman. As he’s leaving, he shakes his head and says to the woman’s husband: “I don’t like the look of your wife.”

The husband agrees: “I haven’t liked the look of her for a long time.”

Here is another joke, which Freud considered “rather coarse-grained”:

Two Jews are talking about bathing. One says to the other: “I take a bath every year, whether I need it or not.”

Source: Sigmund Freud, The Joke and Its Relation to the Unconscious (2002), pp. 30, 62

Unit Of Time

1904: On 31 March, a British military expedition advancing into southern Tibet clashed with a ragtag defence force near the village of Guru. Tibetan muskets were no match for Maxim machine guns, and amulets offered no protection against shrapnel. “A hail of bullets came down on us,” wrote one of the defenders. “The sound of firing continued for the length of time it would take six successive cups of hot tea to cool.” In that brief time, 628 Tibetans were killed and 222 wounded.

Source: Patrick French, Younghusband: The Last Great Imperial Adventurer (1994), pp. 221, 224

Chicago Conflagration

1903: One month after it opened to great fanfare, the Iroquois Theatre in Chicago was gutted by fire. A floodlight ignited drapery during an afternoon performance of Mr. Bluebeard. The fire curtain at the front of the stage was probably not fireproof, and anyway, it got stuck. Theatre staff dithered; the audience panicked; emergency doors jammed. Result: 602 members of the audience died, many of them children. Burned, trampled, suffocated.

Carl Prinzler, a hardware salesman, had a ticket for the show, but cancelled at the last minute. The one benefit to emerge from the disaster was that Prinzler and two colleagues devised a panic-release bar for emergency exit doors.

Source: Joanna Bourke, Fear: A Cultural History (2005), pp. 51–2, 58

Window Envelope

1901: Americus Callahan of Chicago filed a patent application for an “envelop” with “a section of transparent material” covering a hole cut in the front “through which the sending address upon the inclosure may be readily observed”. In other words, a window envelope.

Source: www.freepatentsonline.com/
701839.pdf

Racist Vitriol

1900: An outbreak of plague in the Chinatown district of San Francisco was seized on by Organized Labor as an excuse to print racist vitriol. “The almond-eyed Mongolian is watching for his opportunity,” the journal warned its readers, “waiting to assassinate you.”

Source: Robert Sullivan, Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants (2004), p. 156

Limited Contact

1999: Long days working at the office, evenings carousing with male colleagues, and a cultural tendency to leave childcare to women, meant that Japanese fathers spent limited time with their children. In 1999, the average was only 17 minutes per day, although this represented a substantial increase from the 1981 figure of three minutes.

Source: Men, Wage Work and Family, ed. Paula McDonald and Emma Jeanes (2012), p. 22

Knuckle Cracking

1998: Does habitually cracking your knuckles lead long-term to arthritis, or is that an old wives’ tale? Ignoring warnings from a number of old wives – “his mother, several aunts, and, later, his mother-in-law” – Donald Unger conducted an experiment, cracking the knuckles of his left hand, but not his right, at least twice a day.

After keeping up his daily routine for half a century, Unger checked both hands and found no evidence of arthritis. “There is no apparent relationship,” he concluded, “between knuckle cracking and the subsequent development of arthritis of the fingers.”

Source: Arthritis & Rheumatism, May 1998

Finicky Feeders

1997: Dung beetles are finicky feeders. Research in Kuwait by Wasmia Al-Houty and Faten Al-Musalam revealed that the beetles’ favourite is horse dung, which they prefer to the dung of sheep, camels, dogs and foxes. Al-Houty and Al-Musalam referred to earlier research from Australia that also showed a preference for the dung of horses, followed by that of sheep, cattle and kangaroos. (Not many kangaroos in Kuwait.)

Source: Journal of Arid Environments, March 1997

“Gay Bomb”

1994: Wright Laboratory in Ohio suggested an unconventional addition to America’s military arsenal: “strong aphrodisiacs, especially if the chemical also caused homosexual behavior”. Sprayed on hostile positions, the chemical was intended to arouse affection between enemy personnel rather than aggression towards their American opponents. (“Make love, not war.”) The so-called “gay bomb”, however, appears not to have progressed beyond a written proposal; it never made it on to the drawing board.

Source: www.pinknews.co.uk/2016/05/
05/us-military-considered-making-a-
bomb-to-turn-enemy-soldiers-gay/

Stamping Down Hard

1992: Singapore stamped down on chewing gum: no sales, no imports and, for anyone able to get their hands on some, no spitting it out on the streets and a complete ban from the railway system, with fines or jail terms for lawbreakers.

Source: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
history/events/57a854df-8684-456b-
893a-a303e0041891

Sneaky Tactics

1991: Did Britain’s ambassador to the European Communities really hide under a table, passing notes to Prime Minister John Major, during a leaders-only session at the Maastricht summit? “There’s an element of truth in it,” the ambassador, Sir John Kerr, later admitted. “It all became rather silly, so I went under the table.” Major’s recollection was slightly different. Kerr “crouched beside me at the table . . . trying to make himself as inconspicuous as possible”, he said, but added that the diplomat “crouched beneath the table”.

Sources: www.chu.cam.ac.uk/media/
uploads/files/Kerr.pdf; John Major, The Autobiography (1999), pp. 282–3

Violent Sport

1990: Between 1945 and 1999, 712 fatalities were recorded in the United States among professional, recreational, college and high-school players of American football. In just over half a century there was only one year, 1990, when there were no football-related deaths.

Source: Journal of Athletic Training, September 2001

Gulag And Google

1989: The recent past soon becomes history; a generation grows up that has no direct experience of the way things were. Almost half – 49 per cent – of young Romanians questioned by a survey in 2010 were uncertain whether political repression had existed in their country under communism. In neighbouring Bulgaria, a survey of 15- to 35-year-olds in 2013 found that the expression “Iron Curtain” had no specific meaning for 65.7 per cent of them, while “Gulag” meant nothing to 79.2 per cent (although 3.1 per cent thought it was an Internet search engine).

Source: Teaching the History of Communism, ed. Vasil Kadrinov (2013), pp. 11, 30–1

Up And Down

1986: The Norwegian football club SK Brann lacked in consistency. For eight years, from 1979 until 1986, Brann yo-yoed between the country’s 1st and 2nd divisions. In consecutive seasons, Brann was relegated, then promoted, then relegated, then promoted, then relegated, then promoted, then relegated, then promoted.

Source: www.brann.no/english/club-
history

Tipsy From Trondheim

1985: Norway had its first aircraft hijacking. On 21 June, Stein Arvid Huseby boarded a Braathens SAFE plane in Trondheim carrying an air pistol in his hand luggage. (Airport security obviously needed beefing up.) Midway through the flight to Oslo, he threatened a cabin attendant and warned that there were explosives in the toilets. After the plane landed in Oslo, he allowed the passengers to leave, but kept the crew hostage. Throughout the incident, Huseby consumed copious amounts of alcohol. When the plane ran out of beer, he agreed to give up his gun in exchange for more beer. As soon as he gave up the weapon, special forces rushed the plane.

Source: http://fly.historicwings.com/
2012/06/norways-first-hijacking/

Tidying Things Up

1982: South Africa’s segregated prisons were harsh institutions; Barberton prison farm, in the eastern Transvaal, was reputedly the harshest of all. While Simon Mpungose was incarcerated there, he once saw warders ironing the corpse of a black prisoner. The warders had beaten him to death and, to avoid awkward questions, they were literally ironing the dead body to try to erase the welts.

Source: Rian Malan, My Traitor’s Heart: Blood and Bad Dreams: A South African Explores the Madness in His Country, His Tribe and Himself (1991), pp. 196–7