Mime Misu: Film History Series

Mime Misu, “In Nacht und Eis (In Night and Ice)”, 1912, Written and Directed by Mime Misu, Film Runtime 42 Minutes, Continental-Kunstfilm, Berlin, Germany,

Remastered with English Subtitles and Score by Swiss Composer Christophe Sturzenegger

Born in January of 1888 at the county seat of Botosani in the northern part of Romania, Misu Rosescu was a pantomime artist, ballet dancer, film actor and director. He was nephew to the prominent writer Rahel Levin Varnhagen whose home became a center for the intellectual and political figures of German culture. Born into a family of musicians, artists and performers, Rosescu made his stage debut as a child performing ballet and pantomime.

Rosescu’s many talented performances were recognized and gained him free entrance into the Bucharest Art Academy. During his studies, he was assigned to the Royal National Theatre in the capital city of Bucharest. After his graduation with honors, Rosescu began a successful career appearing in theatrical performances at the provincial theaters of Romania. After his performance at the 1900 World Fair in Paris, Rosescu established his own theatrical production company and toured Berlin, Budapest, Vienna and London. 

Misu Rosescu, now using the name Mime Misu, entered into the growing film industry. In Paris, he was initially employed by Lux, a film production company located in the 14th arrondissement, and later at Pathé Frères which was becoming the world’s largest film equipment and production company. In 1912, Misu signed with Berlin’s newly established Continental=Kunstfilm which had just begun to release a mix of comedies, melodramas and documentaries. mis

Through Continental-Kunstfilm, Mime Misu wrote and directed three films in his first year. The 1912 silent film “Das Gespenst von Clyde (The Ghost of von Clyde)” was a media story of Count Arthur Hamilton who died in the British Castle of Clyde under mysterious circumstances. Misu’s 1912 “In Nacht und Eis (In Night and Ice)” was a silent adventure-disaster film depicting the recent sinking of RMC Titanic. Having achieved some success with his drama-documentary narrative style, Misu made the 1912 “Das Mirakel (The Miracle)”. Based on the thirteenth-century temptation legend of Sister Beatrice, the film later appeared under the title “Das Marienwunder: Eine alte Legende (The Miracle of Mary: An Old Legend)” due to legal rulings in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Misu made one more film in Germany, the 1913-1914 “Der Excentric Club”, for Projektions-AG Union, a Frankfurt film production company that soon moved to Berlin, the new center of the German film industry. He traveled to the United States where he made one film, the 1914 “Money God”, under his personal production company Misugraph-Film. Lacking support in the United States just as the First Great War began, Misu returned to Europe and settled with his new wife, Bertha, in Berlin’s inner-city district of Wilmersdorf. In 1915, he directed in the Netherlands his last film, a disaster film of a sinking ship entitled “Ontmaskerd (Unmasked)”; the credits list his birth name, Misu Rosecu, as director.

Mime Misu traveled to the United States every year from 1915 to 1917. He maintained office space in Berlin for his production company Misugraph-Film until 1921. There is, however, no record of any artistic activity from 1915 to 1921. In 1921, Misu apparently misrepresented himself as to his involvement with the Famous Players Film Company, a film venture owned by Paramount Pictures’ founder Adolph Zukor. This led to the publishing of their exchanged letters in Berlin’s film journal Fil-Kurier. An accomplished stage performer and director of six films, (Mime) Misu Rosescu died in Antwerp, Belgium in the summer of 1953. 

Among the films in his career, Mime Misu’s best known work is the 1912 “In Nacht und Eis’, the earliest surviving film depiction of the RMS Titanic disaster. Camera work was done by Willy Hameister, Emil Schünemann and Victor Zimmermann. Most of its footage was shot in a glasshouse studio inside the courtyard of Continental-Kunstfilm’s offices at 123 Chausseestrasse. Other footage was shot in Hamburg and, possibly, aboard the Hamburg-docked German ocean liner Kaiserin Auguste Victoria. 

At a running time of thirty-five minutes, “In Nacht und Eis” was shot in black and white with various scenes tinted to increase their impact. The film starred actors Waldemar Hecker as the telegrapher, Otto Rippert as the Captain, and Ernst Rückert as the First Officer. The Berlin Fire Department provided the flood waters necessary for the scenes of the Titanic’s sinking. “In Nacht und Eis” was considered a lost film until February of 1998. At that time, the German film archivist Horst Lange, after reading an article discussing this loss, informed the newspaper that he possessed a print of the film.

Note: The above video of “In Nacht und Eis” is from the Titanic Officers site which contains a multitude of articles on the ship’s officers and other aspects of the Titanic and its sinking. The Titanic Officers website can be found at: https://www.titanicofficers.com/articles.html

For those film buffs who are purists, there is a restored silent version, sans soundtrack, on the Internet Archive. This slightly shorter film with a runtime of thirty-four minutes is located at:  https://archive.org/details/silent-in-nacht-und-eis

Top Insert Image: Mime Misu, “Das Mirakel”, 1912, Publicity Photo on Cardstock

Bottom Insert Image: Mime Misu, “In Nacht und Eis”, 1912, (Otto Rippert and Ernst Rüchert) Film Clip Photo

Corrado Cagli: “The Battle of San Marino”

Corrado Cagli, “The battle of San Marino”, 1936, Encaustic Tempera on Hollow-Core Wood, 545 x 651 cm,  Uffizi Gallery, Florence 

Born in the city of Ancona in February of 1910, Corrado Cagli was an Italian painter of Jewish heritage. Little information on his formative years is available; however, it is known that, at the age of five, his family relocated to Rome. Cagli grew up in a largely assimilated secular family, who had come to terms with its Jewish religion as antisemitism became more aggressive in Fascist Italy. His ties to his Italian heritage were always strong; even in his later years of exile from Italy, it was important for him to maintain a tie with his birth nation. 

Corrado Cagli helped organize the Gallleria La Cometa in Rome and, along with poet Libero De Libero, created an artistic circle of musicians, writers, architects, painters and sculptors. He was involved with New York’s Museum of Modern Art’s 1949 exhibition, “20th Century Italian Art” and facilitated the 1950 opening of the Catherine Viviano Gallery in New York City. Cagli was awarded the Guggenheim Prize in 1946 and, in 1954, the Marzotto Prize, given by the Marzotto fashion company for his contributions to the cultural rebirth of Italy after the war. Corrado Cagli died in Rome in 1976.

Corrado Cagli’s “Battle of San Marino” depicts the final battle of the Second War of Independence in which the Piedmont army, directed by King Vittorio Emanuele and supported by the French troops of Napoleon III, defeated in a fierce battle the Austrian forces commanded by Emperor Franz Joseph I. The battle is considered the founding moment of the Italian Risorgimento, the period leading to unification and the formation of the new state of Italy. 

The battle scene, depicted from a bird’s eye perspective, with the hectic confusion of weapons, horses, infantry and knights crushed together amid the surrounding hillsides, clearly highlights Cagli’s relationship with traditional painting styles, with influences ranging from Paolo Uccello to Piero della Francesca. Owned by Francesco Muzzi, secretary of the Cagli Foundation, and graciously loaned to the Uffizi in 1978, it was finally donated to the Uffizi Gallery in 2003.

Note: An interview between author Raffaele Bedarida and Alessandro Cassin, Director of Centro Primo Levi, entitled “Corrado Cagli, the American Years” can be found online at Printed_Matter located at: http://primolevicenter.org/printed-matter/corrado-cagli-the-american-years/

John Warner Barber: “Death of Capt. Ferrer”

John Warner Barber, “The Death of Capt. Ferrer”, 1840, Etching, Frontpiece from the “A History of the Amistad Captives”, Unfolded 22.9 x 49.3 cm, Partially Hand-Colored, Private Collection 

Born in East Windsor, Connecticut in February of 1798, John Warner Barber was an engraver and historian whose books of local, state, and national history featured his colorful  illustrations. He learned his craft as an apprentice to East Windsor printmaker Abner Reed, who also was a bank note engraver for the United States and Canada. In 1823, Barber opened a business in New Haven, where he printed religious and historical books, illustrated with his own steel and wood engravings. 

Barber traveled throughout Connecticut, creating ink sketches of town greens, churches, hotels and harbors; he also researched local histories on his travels. From his research, Barber produced in 1836 what is considered the first popular local history book published in the United States, the “Connecticut Historical Collections, Containing a General Collection of Interesting Facts, Traditions, Biographical Sketches, Anecdotes, Etc. . .”. His pencil sketches were developed into more detailed wash drawings, which in turn were transferred directly to small blocks of boxwood on which he engraved the designs. The book sold well, seven thousand copies in the first year at a cost of what was then an average week’s pay.

In 1840, John W. Barber produced his thirty-two page “ A History of the Amistad Captives: Being a Circumstantial Account of the Capture of the Spanish Schooner Amistad, by the Africans on Board; Their Voyage, and Capture Near Long Island, New York; with Biographical Sketches of Each of the Surviving Africans, Also, an Account of the Trials , , , Compiled from Authentic Sources”. Documenting one of the most important events of its time, Barber’s  book was published the same year of the Amistad trial and its ruling by the New Haven court.

In February of 1839, Portuguese slave hunters abducted hundreds of Africans from what is now present-day Sierra Leone and transported them to Cuba, then a Spanish colony. Spanish plantation owners Pedro Montes and Jose Ruiz purchased fifty-three of the African captives as slaves, forty-nine adult males and four children. On June 28th, Montes and Ruiz with the African captives set sail from Havana on the Amistad, Spanish for ‘friendship’, for their plantations on Puerto Principe.

Several days into the journey, Sengbe Pieh, one of the Africans also known as Joseph Cinque, managed to unshackle himself and his fellow captives. Armed with knives, they seized control of the Amistad and killed the Spanish captain and the ship’s cook. In need of navigation, the Africans ordered Montes and Ruiz to return to Africa; however, the two men  changed the ship’s course in the middle of the night, sailed through the Caribbean and up the eastern coast of the United States. 

On August 26th of 1839, the U.S. Navy brig Washington found the ship anchored off the coast of Long Island to get provisions. The naval officers seized the Amistad, put the Africans back in chains, and escorted the ship to Conneticut, where they would claim salvage rights to the ship and its human cargo. Originally charged with murder and piracy, Cinque and the other Africans were imprisoned in New Haven. Though the charges were dropped, they remained in prison while the courts decided their legal status, as well as the competing property claims by the Washington’s officers, Montes and Ruiz, and the Spanish government. 

In January of 1840, a judge in U.S. District Court in Hartford ruled that the Africans were not Spanish slaves, but had been illegally captured, and should be returned to Africa. After appealing the decision to the Circuit Court, which upheld the lower court’s decision, the U.S. attorney appealed to the Supreme Court, which heard the case in ealry 1841. 

On March 9, 1841, the Supreme Court ruled seven to one to uphold the lower courts’ decisions in favor of the Africans of the Amistad. However, the court did not require the government to provide funds for the Africans’ return voyage, but did award salvage rights for the Amistad to the officers who apprehended it. In November of 1841 after abolitionists raised money for the return voyage, Cinque and the surviving thirty-four Africans of the Amistad, the others either died at sea or in prison awaiting trial, sailed from New York aboard the ship Gentleman to return to their homeland.

James Warner Barber attended the court hearings between January 7th and 13th in 1840 when Judge Andrew Johnson rule that the Africans were illegally transported to Cuba, and thus would not be returned to Montes and Ruis. On the first of April, Barber began drawing the Amistad Africans in jail and, over the next two months, would create drawings and engravings to illustrate his book. Barber drew portraits, from which he engraved silhouettes of the Africans, and added other illustrations to his book, including a map of the Mendi country, home of the Amistad Africans.

British Pathé, “RMS Titanic”: Film History Series


Artist Unknown, Titanic Moored at Dock, Gifs, British Pathé, 1912

These three colorized gifs were taken from the beginning of a film, jointly owned by British Pathé and Gaumont Newsreels, containing known footage of the RMSTitanic. Slightly different versions of this film are held by British Movietone and the National Film and Television Archive.

The three gifs depict the Titanic moored, probably on April 2nd of 1912, at the Thompson Graving Dock on Queen’s Island in Belfast, where the RMS Titanic was fitted out. In these shots, men can be seen walking beside the ship and smoke is seen issuing from the third funnel of the Titanic.

The British Pathé’s newsreel, just over six minutes in length,  covers several episodes in the story of the RMS Titanic’s final days. The captain of the RMS Titanic, Edward J. Smith, who perished when the ship sank, is shown on board the RMS Olympic, before assuming duty on the Titanic. Newsreel footage of icebergs and ice floes are shown to portray the scene of the disaster. Scenes of the rescue ship, Carpathia, nearing New York City with survivors, and scenes of the departing search and rescue vessel, Mackay Bennet, also are included in this Pathé footage.

At the forefront of cinematic journalism, British Pathé was a producer of newsreels and documentaries from 1910 to 1970 in England. The company blended information with entertainment for movie theater attendees who came to watch the news. Over the course of its sixty years, it documented everything from major armed conflicts and international political crises to the curious hobbies and eccentric lives of ordinary people.

British Pathé’s roots lie in 1896 Paris, France, when Société Pathé Frères  was founded by Charles Pathé and his brothers, who pioneered the development of the moving image. In 1908, the company invented the cinema newsreel with its introduction of the Pathé-Journal and opened a newsreel office on Wardour Street, London, in 1910. These early silent  newsreels, issued every two weeks and running about four minutes in length, were shown in local theaters; sound was introduced beginning in 1928. The Pathé newsreels captured events such as suffragette Emily Danison’s fatal injury by a racehorse at the 1913 Epsom Derby and Franz Reichelt’s fatal descent by parachute from the Eiffel Tower in February of 1912.

Considered now to be the finest newsreel archive in the world, British Pathé is a treasure trove of eighty-five thousand films unmatched in their historical and cultural significance. The company also represents the Reuters historical collection, which includes more than one hundred thirty-six thousand items from the following news agencies: Gaumont Graphic, active from 1910 to 1932; Empire News Bulletin, a film library from 1926 to 1930;  British Paramount,  a collection spanning from 1931 to 1957; and Gaumont British’s collection  from 1934 to 1959. Included in Pathés vast library of film is the collected content from the Visnews service active from 1957 until the end of 1984.

The full footage of British Pathé’s Titanic black and white newsreel can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=05o7sOAjtXE

All footage can be viewed on the British Pathé website. https://www.britishpathe.com/


A Year: Day to Day Men: 24th of November

One Facet of Life

November 24, 1639 marks the first known observation and recording of a transit of Venus.

By the 17th century, two developments allowed for the transits of planets across the face of the sun to be predicted and observed. One was the telescope of which the actual inventor is unknown; a patent for a refracting telescope was submitted in 1608 in the Netherlands by spectacle maker Hans Lippershey. Galileo heard about it, and in 1609 built his own version for observing celestial objects.

The second development was the new astronomy of Johannes Kepler, which assumed elliptical rather than circular orbits fro the planets. In 1627, Kepler published his “ Rudolphine Tables”, a star catalogue and planetary tables using some observational data collected by Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe. Two years later, Kepler published extracts from his tables concerning the transit of Mercury and of Venus for the year 1631. These occurred as predicted and were observed by several astronomers, vindicating Kepler’s approach to astronomical theory.

The first known observations and recording of the transit of Venus across the sun were made in 1639 by the English astronomers Jeremiah Horrocks and his friend and correspondent William Crabtree. These observations were made on November 24, under the Julian calendar then in use in England. This calendar was refined and gradually replaced by our Gregorian calendar initiated by Pope Gregory XIII, changing the observation date to December 4th of that year. Horrocks observed the event from the village of Much Hoole, Lancashire, and Crabtree, independently, observed the event from his home in Broughton, near Manchester.

Both men, followers of Kepler’s astronomy, were self-taught mathematical astronomers who methodically worked to correct and improve Kepler’s Tables by observation and measurement. In 1639, Horrocks was the only astronomer who realized that the transit of Venus was imminent; others became aware only upon receiving Horrocks’s report. The two men’s observations and later mathematical work were influential in establishing the size of the solar system. For their achievements, they are considered the founders fo British research astronomy.

Insert Image: Ford Madox Brown, “Crabtree Watching the Transit of Venus AD 1639”, 1883, Oil on Canvas, Manchester Town Hall, Manchester, England


A Year: Day to Day Men: 7th of November

Fervor Doubled

On November 7, 1492, the Ensisheim Meteorite strikes a wheat field in Alsace, France.

Shortly before noon on November 7, 1492, a meteorite fell in a field just outside the walled city of Ensisheim in Alsace, France. The fall of the meteorite through the Earth’s atmosphere was observed as a fireball at a distance of up to 150 kilometres from where it eventually landed. The only witness was a young boy who saw the single stone punch itself a meter deep into what is now the rich soil of the eastern French countryside. It is the oldest meteorite impact with a confirmed date on record, and has become famous for its dramatic fall from the heavens, recorded for posterity by the Italian priest Sigismondo Tizio.

In an age when comets, shooting stars, and other celestial phenomenon remained unexplained, the appearance of the meteorite was quickly attributed to divine intervention. When the citizens of Ensisheim learned of the fall, many people wanted their own souvenir of the event in the form a fragment chipped from the main mass. As the crowds descended on the stone, the Chief Magistrate took charge and stopped further destruction. The stone was set at the door of the Ensisheim church where its fame was soon magnified.

On November 26th, the “King of the Romans” King Maximilian arrived in Ensisheim to consult privately with the stone. Several days later, Maximilian declared the meteorite to be a wonder of God, and then chipped off two small pieces of the stone, one for himself and one for his friend Archduke Sigismund of Austria. King Maximilian gave the stone back to the citizens of Ensisheim stating that it should be preserved in the parish church as evidence of God’s miracles. The meteorite was fixed to the church wall with iron crampons “to prevent it from wandering at night or departing in the same violent manner it had arrived” .

Today, the Ensisheim meteorite resides on display at the sixteenth-century Musée de la Régence in Ensisheim. It is now protected in the town; but over centuries,  visitors managed to chip off about 56 kg (123 pounds) of its original 127-kg mass. The Ensisheim meteorite is classified as an ordinary chondrite, the most abundant meteorite class, constituting more than 85 percent of meteorite falls.

Sebastian Brant, satirist and author of “Das Narrenschiff”, described the meteorite and its fall in the poem “Loose Leaves Concerning the Fall of the Meteorite”. Brant created broadsheets in Latin and German with a poem about the meteorite describing it as an omen. On the reverse side of Albrecht Dürer’s 1495 painting “Saint Jerome in the Wilderness” is an image of what appears to be a meteor/meteorite. It has been suggested that this might be the Ensisheim Meteorite.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 2nd of November

He Says “Woof”

November 2, 1947 marks the first and only flight of the Hughes H-4 Hercules, known as the Spruce Goose.

In 1942, the U.S. War Department needed to transport war material and personnel to Britain. A requirement was issued for an aircraft that could cross the Atlantic with a large payload; however, because of wartime priorities, the aircraft could not be made from strategic materials such as aluminum. Henry J. Kaiser, a leading ship builder, teamed with aircraft designer Howard Hughes to create the largest aircraft ever built at that time.

The aircraft was designed to carry 150,000 pounds, 750 fully equipped troops, or two 30-ton M4 Sherman tanks. The final design was to be built mostly of wood to conserve metal, with its elevators and rudder covered with fabric. The construction of the first prototype, the HK-1, took sixteen months. Henry Kaiser, frustrated by the long delays and the restrictions on materials, decided to withdraw from the project.

Howard Hughes continued the program on his own, under a new contract limiting the production to one plane, now the H-4 Hercules. Work proceeded slowly and the H-4 was not completed until the war was over. The plane was built by the Hughes Aircraft Company using composite technology for the laminated wood construction. The finished plane was moved in three sections to Pier E in Long Beach, California, where a hanger was erected around it with a ramp to launch the H-4 into the harbor. In all, development cost for the plane was twenty-three million dollars, or more than ten times that in today dollars.

On November 2, 1947, with Howard Hughes at the controls, and a crew of seven, and fourteen invited guests, the Hercules picked up speed and lifted off. The Hercules remained airborne for 26 seconds at a height of seventy feet above the water and a speed of 135 miles per hour. At this altitude the aircraft still experienced ground effect. This brief flight proved that the now uneeded aircraft was flight worthy. The Hercules H-4 never flew again; its lifting capacity and ceiling height were never tested.

The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum has the Hughes H-1 Racer and a section of theH-4’s wing. The Aero Club of Southern California acquired the Hercules H-4 aircraft in 1980, displaying it in a very large geodesic dome in Long Beach, California. The club later arranged for the aircraft to be given to the Evergreen Aviation Museum in Oregon where it is currently on display. The 315,000 square foot aircraft hanger where the Hercules H-4 was built, located in the Playa Vista neighborhood of Los Angeles,  is on the National Register of Historical Buildings.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 26th of October

Slow Moving Water

October 26, 1825 marks the opening of the Erie Canal.

From the days of the birchbark canoe, the early trade routes of the Northeast utilized New York’s waterways. The Lake Champlain-Hudson River Route and the Lake Ontario-Oswego River-Mohawk River Route were utilized by native Americans, fur traders, missionaries and colonizers. The birchbark canoes used earlier were supplemented by longer heavier boats rowed or pulled by several men, which by 1791 was able to haul a two ton load.

In March of 1792, the Western Inland Lock and Navigation Company came into being and improved navigation on the Mohawk River. Also in that year, this company built small canals 3 feet deep with locks of 12 feet by 74 feet around the falls and rapids of the river. By 1796, Durham boats with capacities of 15-20 tons were able to navigate the route. Although business was brisk, maintenance on the wooden locks and channels depleted revenue and the operation folded a few years later.

In 1817 the Erie Canal was established under the management of a New York State Commission. Federal funds were not legislated; so this canal and all subsequent canals in New York State were built and maintained exclusively with state funds. The canal was dug from Albany to Buffalo, 4 feet deep and 40 feet wide, with stone locks 15 feet by 90 feet. The locks were the limiting factor on boat size and their efficiency of operation dictated the allowable traffic flow.

Additional canals were dug from the Hudson River to Lake Champlain, from Montezuma to Cayuga and Seneca Lakes and from Syracuse to Oswego. This canal system proved to be so successful that almost every community in the state lobbied for a link to the system, resulting in a network of canals. These lateral canals proved to be of marginal value at best:

In 1836, an enlargement program commenced on the main Erie Canal system. The canal was straightened a bit, the channel was increased in size to 7 feet by 70 feet, and the locks were enlarged to 18 feet by 110 feet. This permitted boats of much greater size on the Erie, Champlain, Cayuga-Seneca and Oswego canals, and further diminished the importance of the smaller lateral canals. Most of the lateral canals were closed by 1878 with only the Black River Canal lasting until the eventual close of the entire system in 1917.

The growth of steam power on the canal and steel boat construction eliminated the need for a waterway as protected as the old Erie Canal. A twentieth century canal of grand dimension with cast concrete structures and electronic controls was begun. This Barge Canal system, utilizing canalized rivers and lakes and enlarged sections of the original Erie Canal, opened in 1918. Several of the old routes are still utilized today.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 22nd of October

The Bibliophile

October 22, 1797 marks the first parachute descent from a balloon in Paris.

Early inventors have been designing and testing parachutes since the seventeenth century. Croatian bridge designer Faust Vrancic constructed a device based on Da Vinci’s drawings. To demonstrate it, he jumped rom a Venice tower in 1617 wearing the rigid-framed parachute. He called it the Homo Volans, describing it in his published technical book “Machinae Novae”.

The French inventor Jean Pierre Blanchard was probably the first person to use a  parachute for an emergency. Blanchard claimed in 1793 to have escaped from an exploding hot air balloon by parachute. There were no eye witnesses to the event unfortunately. He did, however, develop the first foldable parachute made from silk.

Andre-Jacques Garnerin was a student of the ballooning pioneer professor Jacques Charles, a French scientist and mathematician. Garnerin was involved with the flight of hot air balloons, working with his older brother in most of his ballooning activities. He began to experiment with early parachutes based on umbrella-shaped devices.

Garnerin became the first person recorded to jump with a parachute without a rigid frame. His frameless parachute descent occurred on October 22 in 1797 at Parc Monceau, a public park in Paris. His parachute was made of silk in an umbrella-shape with a diameter of about ten meters. The umbrella was closed before he ascended, with a pole running down its center and a rope running through a tube in the pole, which was connected to the balloon.

Garnerin rode in a basket attached to the bottom of the parachute to a height of about 1000 meters. At this height, he severed the rope to the balloon. The balloon continued upwards, while Garnerin, in his basket with parachute, fell. The basket swayed violently on its descent, and landed roughly; but Garnerin emerged uninjured. Garnerin made multiple ascents and tests with his parachute at the Parc Monceau.

Andre-Jacques Garnerin was an avid balloonist, making many ascents in a balloon before large numbers of spectators. In 1798 he was the first to ascend with a woman as a passenger. There was much concern from officials regarding the possible ill effects of ascent on a woman and the moral implications of the such close proximity of the sexes. Nevertheless, the balloon trip was successful; and both Garnerin and passenger Citoyenne Henri arrived safely at their destination in Goussaninville about thirty miles north of Paris.



A Year: Day to Day Men: 15th of October

Four Small Portraits

October 15, 1674 was the opening day of the witch trials held in Torsåker, a parish in Sweden.

The great wave of witch hysteria reached the parish of Torsåker, after the sensational trial of the alleged witch Märet Jonsdotter in central Sweden in 1668. Sweden’s Lutheran priests, at this time, were state-employed, causing them to follow the government’s instructions. These priests were ordered to use their sermons to inform their congregations of alleged crimes committed; rumors of witchcraft spread over the country. The priest of Torsåker parish, Laurnetius Christophori Hornæus, who was a man with a terrifying reputation, was ordered by a special commission of the government to perform an investigation.

The witnesses at the trial were mostly children, as the main accusations against the alleged witches was that they had abducted children on the sabbath of Satan. Hornæus had several methods to get the right testimonies from the children. He whipped them, bathed them in the ice cold water of hole in the lake’s winter ice, and put them in an oven, threatening to light the fire below and burn them. These acts were confirmed later in 1735 by Hornæus’ own wife, whose grandson added that these children, sixty years later, were still fearful of the priest, his grandfather.

On October 15, 1674, the witch trial of Torsåker began. About one hundred people of both sexes were accused by the children, making it the biggest witch trial in the country. The prisoners were kept in several different locations in the village, were given almost no food, but were allowed to receive food from their relatives. There is little existing records of the actual trial itself; however, it is known that seventy-one people were found guilty of witchcraft, sixty-five women and six men.

After the last sermon in the church of Torsåker, those found guilty were led to the place of execution, crying and protesting their innocence. Many fainted out of weakness and had to be carried to the middle of the parish, about half a mile from the parish churches, to a mountain area. There the prisoners were decapitated, shed of their clothes, and their bodies lifted on stakes. The stakes and additional wood were set on fire and the bodies burned.

Neither the commission or any local courts had the rights to conduct any execution. They were expected to report their sentences in any case to a higher court for confirmation before sentences could be carried out; the high court normally would confirm only a minority of the death sentences. In this case at Torsåker, no reporting was done and the prisoners were executed without any confirmation. No actions were taken against the commission which was defended by the town’s authorities.  In 1677, all the priests were ordered to tell their congregations that all witches had been expelled from the country forever in order to avoid further witch trials.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 6th of October

The Trail Hiker

October 6, 1914 was the birthdate of Norwegian anthropologist and explorer Thor Heyerdahl.

Thor Heyerdahl began to study biology and geography at the University of Oslo in 1933. At the university he came in contact with Bjarne Kroepelien, who had traveled around Polynesia during the first World War. While living on Tahiti, Kroepelien fell in love with and married Tuimata, one of the daughters of a Tahitian chief, Tereiieroo.

The world-wide 1918 influenza pandemic struck Tahiti, resulting in the deaths of half of Tahiti’s population, including Tuimata. Bjarne Kroepelien subsequently amassed a unique collection of books on Polynesia, which he would years later bequeathed to the University of Oslo. Heyerdahl’s access to these books, as well as Kroepelien’s friendship with Chief Tereiieroo, would have a major impact on Heyerdahl’s life and career.

Thor Heyerdahl married Liv Coucheron Torp in 1936 and visited Tahiti, both sharing a desire to escape from Western civilization. Heyerdahl’s theory that indigenous South American peoples were the first to populate Polynesia took shape after he and Liv made several interesting discoveries on Fatu Hiva and the neighboring island of Hivoa. They stayed on Fatu Hiva for a year, before deciding to return to their native Norway.

Back in Norway, Heyerdahl began writing his scholarly work entitled “American Indians in The South Pacific”, which was published in 1952. His living on Fatu Hiva had instilled in Heyerdahl  an interest in how the remote Polynesian islands of the Pacific Ocean came to be inhabited; this question had been a defining topic in Pacific Ocean research for many years.

Heyerdahl was convinced that the first humans to reach Easter Island – and other islands in the eastern part of Polynesia – came from South America. He believed that only later did people come to Polynesia from the west, and then via the northwest coast of Canada and Hawaii

According to scholars with whom Heyerdahl discussed the subject, the peoples of South America did not have seaworthy rafts or boats that could take them as far as the Polynesian islands. In order to prove that it was possible, Heyerdahl decided to build a raft and make the journey himself. On April 28,1947, he and five other men left the seaport of Callao in Peru on a balsa wood raft called the Kon-Tiki, destined for Polynesia. The raft ran aground on the Raroia atoll in Polynesia after 101 days in open waters, proving that it was indeed possible for South American peoples to have traveled to the islands of the South Pacific.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 4th of October

Resting on White Sheets

October 4, 1363 marked the end of the Battle of Lake Poyang.

The Battle of Lake Poyang was a naval conflict which took place between August 30 and October 4, 1363 between the rebel forces of Zhu Yuanzhang  and Chen Youliang, a rival local warlord, which eventually led to the fall of the Yuan Dynasty.

General Chen Youliang was a Red Turban rebel, who assassinated the existing Red Turban leader and usurped his regime, the Great Han Dynasty. On August 30, 1363, Chen’s forces conducted a major assault on the Ming Dynasty’s city of Nanchang with a hundred naval vessels. After failing to force entry into the city gates, Chen’s forces were repelled by a barrage of canon fire. Chen set up a blockade, with the hope of starving out the defenders; however, a small boat managed to slip out and reached the city of Nanjing in time to warn Zhu Yuanzhang of the Ming Dynasty.

On August 30, Zhu’s fleet, only about a third the size of Chen’s forces, engaged Chen under orders to get close to the enemy’s ships and set off gunpowder weapons, and finally attack with short range weapons. Zhu’s Ming forces succeeded in burning twenty or more enemy vessels and killing or drowning many of the troops. When Zhu’s flagship caught fire and hit a sandbar, he was forced to withdraw.

On August 31, Zhu’s  forces rammed Chen’s enemy fleet with fire ships, vessels deliberately set on fire and sailed into the enemy ships. Many more ships of Chen’s fleet were destroyed. The two fleets engaged in battle again on the 2nd of September; but the tide turned and this time Chen’s forces were forced to withdraw.

Zhu Yuanzhang decided to blockade the enemy ships and forces. This blockade lasted for a month until Zhu’s forces employed fireships again on the 4th of October. The remainder of Chen’s fleet were destroyed. During the battel, Chen Youliang was killed when an arrow struck his head.

The Battle of Lake Poyang was the last major battle of the rebellion prior to the rise of the Ming Dynasty. Chen’s forces were estimated at one hundred vessels and 650,000 men, of which all the vessels were destroyed and most of his army. Zhu’s forces were estimated at 30- 40 vessels and a force of 200,000 men, of which 1,346 died and 11,347 were wounded.

The Ming victory at this battle cemented their position to take command when the Yuan Dynasty fell, which happened five years later in 1368. Zhu Yuanzhang became the first Emperor of the Ming Dynasty under the name of Hongwu. He claimed the Mandate of Heaven and occupied the Yuan capital, Khanbaliq, now present-day Beijing.



A Year: Day to Day Men: 1st of October

Love with a Heart

October 1, 1908 marks the introduction of the Ford Model T by the Ford Motor Company.

The Ford Model T was produced by the Ford Motor Company from October 1908 until May of 1927. It is regarded as the first affordable automobile, the car that opened travel to the common middle-class American. The success of the automobile came not only because it provided inexpensive transportation on a massive scale; but it also signified innovation for the rising middle class and became a symbol of the age of modernization.

Although automobiles had been around for decades, by 1908 they were still mostly scarce, unreliable and expensive to purchase. Marketed as reliable and easily maintained, the Model T was a immediate success. Within days of its release, fifteen thousand orders had been placed. On September 27, 1908, the first production Model T left the factory at Piquette Avenue in Detroit.

The Model T was designed by Childe Harold Wills, and Hungarian engineers Joseph Galamb and Eugene Farkas. The original engine was capable of running on gasoline, kerosene, or ethanol, which eventually became an impractical fuel once Prohibition started. The ignition system was an unusual one, using a low-voltage magneto incorporated in the flywheel, as opposed to the high-voltage ones on other vehicles. This made the Model T more flexible in the quality or type of fuel used. The starter was hand-cranked; and acetylene and oil lamps provided illumination for the road.

In the first years of production from 1908 to 1913, the only colors available for the Model T were gray, green, blue, and red: Green for touring cars, town cars and coupes; Gray for only town cars; and Red only for touring cars. By 1912, all cars were painted midnight blue with black fenders. In 1914, the policy became only black cars, due to the low cost, durability, and faster drying time of black paint in that era. During the lifetime production of the Model T, over thirty types of black paint of different formulations were used on various parts of the car.

The initial cost of a Model T Runabout in 1909 was $825 with the Model T Touring costing $850, equivalent to about $23,000 today. With the innovation of the moving assembly line production at the Ford Company, the costs dropped substantially: from $440 in 1914 to $345 in 1916. By the year 1925, with almost two million cars produced that year, the cost of a Model T Runabout was $260 and the cost of the Touring Model was down to $290. Overall, a total of 14,689,525 Model T’s rolled off the assembly line during its years of production.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 4th of September

Tactile Sensations

September 4, 1886 marks the surrender of Apache Chief Geronimo, ending the last major Indian- United States government war.

Chief Goyaałé (Geronimo) was a prominent leader and medicine man from the Bedonkohe band of the Apache tribe. From 1850 to 1886 Geronimo joined with members of three other Chiricahua Apache bands, the Tchihende, the Tsokanende and the Nednhi, to carry out numerous raids as well as resistance to US and Mexican military campaigns in the northern Mexico states of Chihuahua and Sonora, and in the southwestern American territories of New Mexico and Arizona. Geronimo’s raids and related combat actions started with American settlement in Apache lands following the end of the war with Mexico in 1848.

During Geronimo’s final period of conflict from 1876 to 1886 he “surrendered” three times and accepted life on the Apache reservations in Arizona. Reservation life was confining to the free-moving Apache people, and they resented restrictions on their customary way of life. In 1886, after an intense pursuit in Northern Mexico by U.S. forces that followed Geronimo’s third 1885 reservation “breakout”, Geronimo surrendered for the last time on September 4th in 1886 to Lt. Charles Bare Gatewood, an Apache-speaking West Point graduate who had earned Geronimo’s respect a few years before.

Geronimo was later transferred to General Nelson Miles at Skeleton Canyon, just north of the Mexican/American boundary. Miles treated Geronimo as a prisoner of war and acted promptly to remove Geronimo first to Fort Bowie, then to the railroad at Bowie Station, Arizona where he and 27 other Apaches were sent off to join the rest of the Chiricahua tribe which had been previously exiled to Florida.

In his old age, Geronimo became a celebrity. He appeared at fairs, including the 1904 Saint Louis World’s Fair, where he reportedly rode a ferris wheel and sold souvenirs and photographs of himself. In President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1905 Inaugural Parade Geronimo rode horseback down Pennsylvania Avenue with five real Indian chiefs, who wore full headgear and painted faces. Held captive far longer than his surrender agreement called for, the Apache warrior made his case directly to the president requesting that the Chiricahuas at Fort Sill be relieved of their status as prisoners of war, and allowed to return to their homeland in Arizona. President Roosevelt refused, referring to the continuing animosity in Arizona for the deaths of civilians associated with Geronimo’s raids

Geronimo died at the Fort Sill hospital in 1909 of pneumonia; he was still a prisoner of war. On his deathbed, he confessed to his nephew that he regretted his decision to surrender. His last words were reported to be said to his nephew, “I should have never surrendered. I should have fought until I was the last man alive.” Geronimo is buried at Fort Sill in the Apache Indian Prisoner of War Cemetery. surrounded by the graves of relatives and other Apache prisoners of war.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 10th of August

Leaves of Green

August 10, 1628 marks the sinking of the Swedish warship Vasa.

King of Sweden Gustavus Adolphus, who was a keen artillerist, saw the potential of ships as gun platforms, and large, heavily armed ships made a more dramatic statement in the political theater of naval power. Beginning with the Vasa, he ordered a series of ships with two full gundecks, outfitted with much heavier guns. The Vasa was built simultaneously with her sister ship Applet; the only significant difference was Vasa’s three foot increase in width.

King Gustavus Adolphus ordered 72 24-pound cannons for the Vasa on the 5th of August 1626, and this was too many to fit on a single gun deck. Since the king’s order was issued less than five months after construction started, it would have come early enough for the second deck to be included in the design. The French Gallon du Guise, the ship used as a model for Vasa, according to Arendt de Groote, also had two gun decks. Laser measurements of Vasa’s structure conducted in 2007–2011 confirmed that no major changes were implemented during construction, but that the centre of gravity was too high.

On 10 August 1628, Captain Söfring Hansson ordered Vasa to depart on her maiden voyage to the naval station at Alvsnabben. The day was calm, and the only wind was a light breeze from the southwest. The ship was hauled by anchor along the eastern waterfront of the city to the southern side of the harbor, where four sails were set, and the ship made way to the east. The gun ports were open, and the guns were out to fire a salute as the ship left Stockholm.

As Vasa passed under the lee of the bluffs to the south, a gust of wind filled her sails, and she heeled suddenly to port The sheets were cast off, and the ship slowly righted itself as the gust passed. At Tegelviken, where there is a gap in the bluffs, an even stronger gust again forced the ship onto its port side, this time pushing the open lower gun ports under the surface, allowing water to rush in onto the lower gun deck. The water building up on the deck quickly exceeded the ship’s minimal ability to right itself, and water continued to pour in until it ran down into the hold; the ship quickly sank to a depth of 105 ft only 390 ft from shore.

Survivors clung to debris or the upper masts, which were still above the surface, to save themselves, and many nearby boats rushed to their aid, but despite these efforts and the short distance to land, 30 people perished with the ship, according to reports. Vasa sank in full view of a crowd of hundreds, if not thousands, of mostly ordinary Stockholmers who had come to see the great ship set sail. The crowd included foreign ambassadors, in effect spies of Gustavus Adolphus’ allies and enemies, who also witnessed the catastrophe.



A Year: Day to Day Men: 10th of April

In Cool Water

Mount Tambora’s eruptions reached a violent climax on April 10, 1815.

Mount Tambora is on the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia. It experienced several centuries of dormancy before 1815, caused by the gradual cooling of the hydrous magma in its closed magma chamber. During this cooling, crystallization of the magma occurred. resulting in an over-pressurization of the chamber and a rising of the temperature. In 1812, the volcano began to rumble and generated a dark cloud.

On the 5th of April in 1815, a very large eruption occurred, followed by thunderous detonation sounds heard in Makassar on Sulawesi 240 miles away, and as far as Ternate on the Molucca Islands 870 miles away. On the morning of April 6, volcanic ash began to fall in East Java with faint detonation sounds lasting until the 10th of April. Detonation sounds were heard on  April 10th at Sumatra, more than 1,600 miles away.

At about 7 pm on April 10th, the eruptions intensified. Three columns of flame rose up and merged. The whole mountain was turned into a flowing mass of “liquid fire”. Pumice stones of up to 8 inches in diameter started to rain down around 8 pm, followed by ash at around 9–10 pm. Pyroclastic flows cascaded down the mountain to the sea on all sides of the peninsula, wiping out the village of Tambora. Loud explosions were heard until the next evening, April 11. The ash veil spread as far as West Java and South Sulawesi.

The explosion had an estimated Volcanic Explosivity Index of 7 (on a scale of 0 to 8) making it one of the most powerful in recorded history. An estimated 10 cubic miles of pyroclastic rock were ejected, weighting about 10 billion tons. This left a caldera measuring about four miles across and 2,300 feet deep. Before the explosion, Mount Tambora’s peak elevation was about 14,100 feet, making it one of the tallest peaks in the Indonesian archipelago. After the explosion, its peak elevation had dropped to 9,354 feet, about two thirds of its previous height.

The 1855 Zollinger report puts the number of direct deaths at 10,000, probably caused by pyroclastic flows. On Sumbawa island, 38,000 people starved to death; on Lombok island about 10,000 people died from disease and hunger. However, other journal reports put the combined deaths from volcanic activity and from post-eruption famine and epidemic diseases higher at 70,000 to 100,000 people. The ash from the eruption dispersed around the world, lowering global temperatures and triggering harvest failures.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 3rd of April

The Railroad Yard

On April 3, 1882, Jesse Woodson James was shot in the back of the head at his home.

After the failed bank robbery of the First National Bank of Northfield, Minnesota, on September 7, 1876, only Jesse and Frank James remained alive and free, escaping to Missouri. Later in 1876 Jesse and Frank surfaced in the Nashville, Tennessee, area using the names Thomas Howard and B.J. Woodson, respectively. Frank seemed to settle down, but Jesse recruited a new gang, leading them on a spree of crimes. A law enforcement posse attacked and killed two of the outlaws but failed to capture the entire gang.

By 1881, with the local Tennessee authorities getting closer, Frank and Jesse James returned to Missouri. James moved his family to Saint Joseph, Missouri, in November 1881, not far from his birthplace. Frank made the decision to head east and settle in Virginia. Both intended to give up crime.

With his gang nearly annihilated, Jesse James trusted only the Ford brothers, Charley and Robert. For protection, he asked the Ford brothers to move in with him and his family. By that time, Robert Ford had already conducted secret negotiations with Missouri Governor Crittenden to bring Jesse in and secure the $5000 bounty reward from the railroad.

On April 3, 1882, after eating breakfast, the Ford brothers and Jesse went into the living room before traveling to a planned robbery. Jesse had learned from a newspaper of one of his gang members who was captured and had confessed to a murder. Jesse was suspicious that the Fords did not mention the news; but he did not confront them. Robert Ford believed that Jesse James had realized the Fords were about to betray him. When Jesse turned his back to them, Robert Ford drew his weapon, and shot the unarmed Jesse James in the back of the head.

The Fords acknowledged their role in Jesse James’ death; Robert wired the governor to claim his reward. The Ford brothers surrendered to the authorities and were dismayed to be charged with first-degree murder. In the course of a single day, the Ford brothers were indicted, pleaded guilty, were sentenced to death by hanging, and were granted a full pardon by Governor Crittenden. The governor’s quick pardon suggested he knew the brothers intended to kill James rather than capture him. The implication that the chief executive of Missouri conspired to kill a private citizen startled the public and added to Jesse James’ notoriety

Suffering from tuberculosis and a morphine addiction, Charley Ford committed suicide on May 6, 1884, in Richmond, Missouri. Bob Ford operated a tent saloon in Creede, Colorado. On June 8, 1892, Edward O’Kelley went to Creede, loaded a double-barrel shotgun, entered Ford’s saloon and said “Hello, Bob,” before shooting Ford in the throat, killing him instantly. O’Kelley was sentenced to life in prison, but his sentence was subsequently commuted because of a 7,000-signature petition in favor of his release. The Governor of Colorado pardoned him on the third of October in 1902.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 30th of March

Midnight Vignette

On March 30, 1796, German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss discovers the construction of the heptadecagon. 

Carl Friedrich Gauss, the only child of poor parents, was rare among mathematicians in that he was a calculating prodigy, who retained the ability to  do elaborate calculations in his head through most of his life. He was recommended by his teachers to the Duke of Brunswick in 1791 who enabled him financially to attend local schools and later to study mathematics at the University of Gottingen, Germany. 

Due to his pioneering work, Gauss became the era’s preeminent mathematician, first in the German-speaking world and later became regarded as one of the greatest of all time. Gauss made many contributions to the fields of number theory, geometry, probability theory, geodesy, planetary astronomy, the theory of functions and the theory of electromagnetism. 

As the number seventeen is a Fermat prime, the regular heptadecagon is a constructible polygon, that is, one that can be constructed by using a compass and an unmarked straightedge. Carl Friedrich Gauss showed this in 1796 at the age of nineteen. The significance of this lies not in the result but in the proof, which rested on the analysis of the factorization of polynomial equations. This proof represented the first progress in regular polygon construction in over two thousand years.

After Gauss’s death in 1855, the discovery of so many novel ideas among his unpublished papers extended his influence well into the remainder of the century. Acceptance of non-Euclidean geometry came with the almost simultaneous publication of Riemann’s general ideas about geometry, the Italian Eugenio Beltrami’s explicit and rigorous account of non-Euclidean geometry, and Gauss’s private notes and correspondence.


A Year: Day to Day Men: 22nd of March

The Fire Fighter

The Emerald Buddha was moved with great ceremony on March 22, 1784 to His current place in Wat Phra Kaew, Thailand.

Phra Kaeo Morakot, the Emerald Buddha, is considered the palladium of the Kingdom of Thailand; an figure of great antiquity on which the safety of Thailand is said to depend. The figure of the meditating Buddha seated in a yogic posture is made of semi-precious jade, clothed in gold and 26 inches tall in His seated position. Historical sources indicate the the figure of the Buddha surfaced in northern Thailand in the Lanna kingdom in 1434.

In 1779, the Thai General Chao Phraya Chakri put down an insurrection, captured Vientiane, the capital of Laos where the Buddha had resided for 214 years, and took the Emerald Buddha to Siam. It was installed in a shrine close to Wat Arun in Thonburi, Siam’s new capital. Chao Phraya Chakri took control of the country and founded the Chakri Dynasty of Rattanakosin Kingdom. He adopted the title ‘Rama I’ and shifted his capital across the Menam Chao Phra River to its present location in Bangkok.

There Rama I constructed the new Grand Palace including Wat Phra Kaew within its compound. Wat Phra Kaew was consecrated in 1784, and the Emerald Buddha was moved with great pomp and pageantry to its current home in the Ubosoth, the holiest prayer room, of the Wat Phra Kaew temple complex on 22 March 1784.

The Emerald Buddha is adorned with three different sets of gold seasonal costume; two were made by King Rama I, one for the summer and one for the rainy season, and a third made by King Rama III for the winter or cool season. The clothes are changed by the King of Thailand, or another member of the royal family in his stead, in a ceremony at the changing of the seasons – in the first waning of lunar months around March, August and November.

King Rama I initiated this ritual for the hot season and the rainy season, Rama III introduced the ritual for the winter season. The robes, which adorn the figure of Buddha, represent those of monks and the King, depending on the season, a clear indication of highlighting its symbolic role “as Buddha and the King”, which role is also enjoined on the Thai King who formally dresses the Emerald Buddha image. The costume change ritual is performed by the Thai king who is the highest master of ceremonies for all Buddhist rituals.