Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Obit watch: March 7, 2016.

Monday, March 7th, 2016

I know I keep using this excuse, but it really was a busy weekend. I spent a large chunk of Saturday babysitting children, away from a computer I could use. I may write some later on about how I spent my Sunday, but not right now; also, I wanted to let the Nancy Reagan obits sit for a day.

NYTimes. LAT. WP. Lawrence.

Catching up from the weekend and for the historical record: Pat Conroy. NYT. WP. A/V Club. Charleston Post and Courier.

I’ve read very little of Conroy’s work: The Prince of Tides in particular always struck me as being chick lit. But somewhere recently (and I wish I could remember where) I read part of his followup to The Great Santini, The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son…and I was actually kind of hooked. Maybe I need to give his work a second look.

And I have to confess: I’m a sucker for crap like this. (See also this, which I picked up at Half-Price over the weekend, even though I’m a little embarrassed to admit it.)

The past is another country.

Friday, March 4th, 2016

They did things differently there.

The San Francisco Chronicle used to give out firearms as subscription premiums.

I am well pleased with the gun, as it is all that is represented to be. I did not expect to get a $100 gun for $13.50.

You could also get a Colt rifle plus a one-year subscription to the paper for $14.50. (“$15 of 1887 dollars would be worth: $362.50 in 2015.”)

Peter Hartlaub for the win:

We were like Leland Yee, but with more follow-through.

(Hattip: Jimbo.)

Notes on historical notes.

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

We’re coming up on at least two significant anniversaries this year.

One of those is the 100th birthday of John D. MacDonald on July 24th. I plan to write more about this closer to the event. In the meantime, here are a couple of links I like:

From the “National Post”: “Sunbelt Baroque: How John D. MacDonald invented a subgenre that’s no longer his own”.

(Well, of course it’s no longer his own. He died almost 30 years ago.)

Stephen King’s Sarasota Herald-Tribune essay about MacDonald. I think Big Steve and I first encountered John D. at about the same age. This may explain some things.

(I really wish the Herald-Tribune would make it easier to find these columns. It looks like this link will bring them up, along with some unrelated stuff.)

And the other significant anniversary? June 25th will mark the 110th anniversary of the murder of Stanford White by Harry Kendall Thaw. That’s something I want to write more about as well, but it needs research. I’d appreciate book recommendations, if folks have them.

(You know, you would think you could find this on the Internet, but I’ve had no luck: what was the weapon Thaw used? The only description I’ve been able to find is that it was a “pistol”.)


Obit watch: February 23, 2016.

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

NYT obit for Eric Brown, legendary British pilot.

I linked to Borepatch’s post about him yesterday, but thought I would include the NYT obit just for the historical record.

Obit watch: February 6, 2016.

Saturday, February 6th, 2016

I thought I’d do this one separately, since it didn’t fit in tone with the previous entry:

Edgar D. Mitchell, Apollo 14 astronaut and the sixth man to walk on the moon.


Obit watch: January 13, 2016.

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

William Del Monte passed away on Monday at the age of 109.

Mr. Del Monte was the last known survivor of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Obit watch: January 8, 2016.

Friday, January 8th, 2016

I’m still kind of hoping for an obituary from a more mainstream news source, but Florence King, writer and National Review columnist, has died. Tributes from Tam and Lawrence.

This was a little surprising:

I’m not going to say she was as influential on my writing as P.J.: I came to her relatively late in life. But she was a damn funny writer (even if I can’t quote some of my favorite lines here), and the world is a lesser place for her passing. Frankly, we could do a lot worse than a monarchy. Especially one run by Florence King.

Pat Harrington Jr. A/V Club.

Interesting career. He started out on “The Jack Paar Show” (or “The Steve Allen Show”, depending on which obit you read).

His film credits include “The Wheeler Dealers” (1963) and “Move Over, Darling” (1963), both starring James Garner; “The President’s Analyst” (1967), starring James Coburn; and “Easy Come, Easy Go” (1967), starring Elvis Presley.

Of course, he was most famous as Schneider on “One Day at a Time”.

Ashraf Pahlavi, sister of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.

According to an internal secret history of the C.I.A., she also played a crucial role in the British- and American-inspired military coup that overthrew Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953 and restored her brother to the throne.

Really? I wonder where the NYT got access to this “internal secret history”.

You know what the problem with fiction is?

Saturday, January 2nd, 2016

A few nights ago, I had an excellent dinner with a bunch of my friends.

Recent events resulted in the dinner conversation going off on a tangent about Quaaludes and “roofies”, which prompted me to look up Wikipedia’s entry on Quaaludes.

…the massive cache of powder and tabletted methaqualone produced under the aegis of the apartheid-era South African government’s Project Coast in a segment thereof directed by Dr Wouter Basson (whose “Brownies” are capsules of pure MDMA in doses of up to 135 mg), who at one point was held by police in Croatia carrying $40m in Vatican bearer bonds when attempting to purchase 500 kilos of methaqualone.

I wasn’t even aware there was such a thing as “Vatican bearer bonds”.

Dr. Wouter Basson is a cardiologist who somehow managed to become head of the South African government’s chemical and biological warfare projects (the “Project Coast” mentioned above).

The entire drug cache disappeared into the underground in the final days of the National Party’s tenure in office. The total methaqualone cache may have approached a metric ton.

A metric ton of Quaaludes. Jordan Belfort, call your office, please.

Fiction has to be believable. You can’t put something like a government produced cache containing a metric ton of quaaludes, or a guy walking around with $40 million in bearer bonds from the Vatican, into a novel and expect people to believe you.

110 years ago today…

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

…early in the evening on December 30, 1905, Frank Steunenberg, the former governor of Idaho, returned to his home in Caldwell after a busy day downtown. (Among other tasks, Steunenberg renewed his life insurance policy.) He opened the side gate to his home…

…and set off a massive explosion that gravely wounded him. He was carried into his home by family and neighbors, and lingered for a short period of time before succumbing to his injuries around 7:10 PM.

For days thereafter, passerby were picking “little bits” of the governor out of the debris.


A small dose of the unusual for Black Friday.

Friday, November 27th, 2015

Just in case you’re stuck at work, or have decided to stay home and avoid the rush, here’s a couple of things you might find interesting:

1) Lawrence sent me this link the other day: Showmen’s Rest: Chicago’s Clown Graveyard.

The story behind this is that Showman’s Rest is where many of the dead from the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus train disaster were buried.

The Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus train disaster? Yes: on June 22, 1918, the train carrying the members of the circus was rammed by another train whose engineer had fallen asleep. 86 members of the circus were either killed outright or burned to death in the fire that resulted.

2) A retweet from Popehat led me to look up Count Dante, who I was previously unaware of. Count Dante was “The Deadliest Man Alive!” and the founder of the Black Dragon Fighting Society; he advertised heavily in comic books during the 1960s and 1970s.

Count Dante (really John Keehan; he changed his name in 1967 to “Count Jerjer Raphael Danté, explaining the name change by stating that his parents fled Spain during the Spanish Civil War, changed their names, and obscured their noble heritage in order to effectively hide in America.“) was one of Chicago’s leading martial artists during the 1960s.

He and a buddy were arrested in 1965 for trying to blow up a competing dojo. In 1970, he and some friends went to another competing dojo to “settle a beef with a member”: in the process, one man died.

In 1971 the judge in the case dismissed all charges but not before upbraiding both sides: “You’re each as guilty as the other,” Cooley recalls him bellowing.

Count Dante may also have been involved in a 1974 robbery of $4 million. He died in May of 1975 at the age of 36.

Chicago Reader article, “The Life and Death of the Deadliest Man Alive”. The article is tied to a documentary in progress, “The Search for Count Dante”: film website here.

Historical note, suitable for use in schools.

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

40 years ago today, 29 sailors died when their freighter sank during a storm on Lake Superior.

By late in the afternoon of November 10, sustained winds of over 50 knots (93 km/h; 58 mph) were recorded by ships and observation points across eastern Lake Superior. [Arthur M.] Anderson logged sustained winds as high as 58 knots (107 km/h; 67 mph) at 4:52 p.m., while waves increased to as high as 25 feet (7.6 m) by 6:00 p.m. Anderson was also struck by 70-to-75-knot (130 to 139 km/h; 81 to 86 mph) gusts and rogue waves as high as 35 feet (11 m).

I refer, of course, to the wreck of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald.

S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald Online.

Coverage from MLive.

Mariners’ Church of Detroit.

Almost missed it…

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

…I suppose technically I did, since it is past midnight in England.

But I hope all of my loyal readers in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland had a happy Guy Fawkes Day, that all your body parts remained attached, and that you don’t have any more holes in your body than you started the day with.