Monday, April 30, 2012

Queen's Day

The Museumplein (museum square), the Van Gogh Museum is visible at the left.

Today is Queen's Day in The Netherlands. At Queen's Day, or in Dutch: Koninginnedag (try to pronounce that) we celebrate the birthday of our queen Beatrix. Although in fact it's her mothers birthday, her own birthday is in January when it's way too cold to do things outdoor (except skating).

It seems like the whole nation dresses up in orange (one of the surnames of the queen is 'from Orange') and visits Amsterdam. Since I don't like large crowds, and I have no desire to witness the annual massive train congestion first hand, I stay at home with the cat.

next episode: Saint Helen

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Casper van Wittel - The Castel Sant'Angelo from the South

Casper van Wittel: The Castel Sant'Angelo from the South (1690s).

Casper (Jasper) Adriaenszoon van Wittel (Amersfoort 1653 – Rome 1736) is one of the most important founders of the so called vedute; the art of painting cityscapes.

p.s. this painting looks a lot like this.

next episode: Queen's Day

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Maude Fealy

Maud Fealy

Maude Fealy

next episode: Rome

Monday, April 23, 2012

Het Steen & Lange Wapper

Lange Wapper and Het Steen (photo RfA)

Het Steen ('The Stone') in Antwerp. It may look like a castle, but in fact it's one of the corners of the mediaeval inner city of Antwerp. When the banks of the river Scheldt were straightened and a large road was constructed along the river the (dilapidated) old city was torn down except for the oldest part, which was originally erected by the Vikings.

Scale model of the original mediaeval inner city of Antwerp. Nearly everything has been demolished, except the left corner (Het Steen) and the large building at the right side of the picture (the Butcher's Hall).

The statue at the entrance is the mythical giant Lange Wapper. He stands menacing over two drunken sailors who are leaning back to see him. According to local legends Lange Wapper used to live in Het Steen. He could make himself so tall that he could move from one town to another with a single giant leap. He liked to torment people, for instance he used to chase the drunk and used tricks to approach women to get their breast milk.

The present situation (Google Streetview)
next episode: Maude

Friday, April 20, 2012

US presidential election 1876 - The election of 'Rutherfraud' Hayes

While we're waiting for the 2012 presidential election let's take a look at some of the previous races to the White House. This month's resident loser is Samual Tilden. The year is 1876.

These elections were a mess. And when I say mess I mean a big big mess. Rutherford Hayes (Republican) competed against Samuel Tilden (Democratic). After the scandals and fraudulent activities associated with the administration of the incumbent Republican President Ulysses S. Grant it was clear a Democrat would be next President.

Samuel Tilden did indeed win the popular vote (51% against 48%). He also had more votes in the Electoral College (184 against 165). But there were also still twenty disputable electoral votes left over. This was the result of all kind of tricks pulled to change the results after election day. Some states claimed the Republican candidate had won while the popular vote pointed out otherwise, and vice versa.

David Davis
Justice David Davis, who was widely regarded as the most trusted independent in the nation. 

In the end a 15-member Electoral Commission was created. The Senate, the House Of Representatives and the Supreme Court each appointed 5 members. This resulted in the Commission consisting of 7 Republicans, 7 Democrats and 1 neutral member, Justice David Davis.

So the position of David Davis would be decisive. Then the Democrats in Illinois though they had clever idea. They tried to secure Davis' vote by electing him to the Senate. But to their surprise Davis resigned as a Justice in order to fill his Senate seat. He thereby lost his position in the Commission. Since all the remaining available Justices were Republican Davis was replaced by a Republican in the Commission.

For the 20 disputed votes the Commission decided (each with an 8-7 majority) to reward them to Hayes, resulting in a 185-184 victory and making him the next President. The Democratic-controlled House Of Representatives was very dismayed with the election of 'Rutherfraud' Hayes and even passed a resolution declaring that Tilden had been 'duly elected President of the United States'. Nevertheless Hayes was sworn in two days later.

Tilden responded with "I can retire to public life with the consciousness that I shall receive from posterity the credit of having been elected to the highest position in the gift of the people, without any of the cares and responsibilities of the office."

facts of interest:
  • This was the only election in which a candidate received an absolute majority of the popular vote (more than 50%) without being elected President.
  • If in South Carolina 445 voters (from the 182.683) would have voted for Tilden instead of Hayes the latter would have lost the election (source).
next episode: Lange Wapper

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hoop Dress Sisters - part III

Hoop Dress CDV
Post Civil War Era Carte De Visite

Here we have our third hoop dress lady. A sister of the previously posted ladies?

next episode: Samual Tilden

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Norma Jeane Dougherty (aka Marilyn Monroe)

Norma Jeane Dougherty at Capistrano Mission
Norma Jeane Dougherty (aka Marilyn Monroe) at Capistrano Mission (by Andre De Dienes, 1945). 

Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) spend much of her childhood in foster homes. A few days after her 16th birthday she married the neighbour’s son, James Dougherty (wedding picture), to avoid ending up in an orphanage or foster care again. She began working in a munitions factory spraying airplane parts and inspecting parachutes. In 1946, after she was discovered, she filed for divorce.

next episode: Hoop Dress Sister No. 3

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Alexandra Nikolaevna

Alexandra Nikolaevna
Grand Duchess Alexandra Nikolaevna of Russia, by Christina Robertson, 1840 (Hermitage St. Petersburg).

Alexandra 'Adini' Nikolaevna (1825–1844) was the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicolas I. She was a talented singer, for some time she was taught by the famous soprano Henriette Sontag

In 1844 she married Fritz, prince of Hesse. She fell ill with tuberculosis shortly before her wedding, and this complicated the pregnancy which soon followed. Three months before the child was due she went into labor and gave birth to her son Wilhelm on August 10, 1844. The infant died a few hours after he was born, and Alexandra, age 19, died later the same day. She was buried with her baby son in her arms in St. Petersburg.

next episode: Hoop Dress Sister No. 3

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Brigadier McPherson ("an old nonentity")

Brigadier General McPherson and officers of the 4th Division. Photo by Roger Fenton, Crimea, 1855. 

Casualties among general officers were so heavy at the Battle of Inkerman that a man like Philip McPherson, who - through seniority alone - had risen to the command of a battalion at an advanced age, was given leadership of a brigade. 

The verdict on McPherson's capabilities delivered by his Brigade Major, Maxwell Earle, pictured here reading a dispatch (McPherson is the white-bearded figure in the middle), was damning: 

'Had I but a Goldie for a Brigadier instead of an old nonentity who, were I to put his own death warrant on his desk, he would sign it!'

next episode: Alexandra Nikolaevna

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Toruń City Wall

Toruń City Wall on the banks of the Vistula river (photo René Klein)

Toruń (German: Thorn) Toruń (map) is an ancient city in on the Vistula River in Poland with over 200.000 inhabitants. The medieval old town is listed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Toruń is the birthplace of the famous astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus.

next episode: Brigadier McPherson

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Daguerreotype Camera

Daguerreotype Camera, 1839.

next episode: Thoruń

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Waterloo Veteran of the Month: Monsieur Lefebre

Monsieur Lefebre, a sergeant in the 2nd Regiment of Engineers in 1815, standing wearing a plumed shako.

Every year on May 5th, the anniversary of the death of Napoleon, the veterans went to Paris to commemorate the Napoleonic battles. In their full uniforms they gathered near the column in the center of the Place Vendôme erected by Napoleon to commemorate the Battle of Austerlitz.

next episode: Daguerreotype Camera


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