Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

Archive for January, 2014


Photochrom of Champs-Élysées, Paris, ca.1890’s


Togo the cat was a mascot of the HMS Dreadnought, ca. 1900’s


The launch of the H.M.S. Dreadnought in 1906 was quite a big deal. The new “all-big gun” design of the battleship was revolutionary for the era, not to mention her steam-turbines – never having been used on a warship of her size before.

As such, she gave her name not only to the class of ship (of which she was the only one, the Bellerophon-class immediatly following her with minor improvements to the design, mainly for torpedo protection), but to the entire style, as all those preceding her were immediately seen as obsolete.

The HMS Dreadnought sported a compliment of ten 12-inch guns – which Togo seems to use as a playground – paired into five turrets, four guns facing aft, two guns to the bow, and two each on either flank, allowing an eight gun broadside to either side.

Visible on top of the turret is one of the 12-pndr guns originally placed atop the casements. This were later abandoned when it was realized not only that the crews were left terribly exposed when manning them, but also that the vibrations of the main guns damaged their smaller compliments.

Photo part of the collection of the Imperial War Museum.

B-54 Special Atomic Demolition Munition (SADM) – The Backpack Nuke



  • Loading the Nuke Backpack:



In 1914, German soldiers burned down the university library of Louvain, as a punishment for a shooting in the city destroying over 300.000 books, 800 incunables and 1000 manuscripts


The Germans leveled almost the entire city of Leuven (Louvain in French) just to punish the Belgians for their resistance….

1950’s automated hot dog machine in Gothenburg, Sweden.

The Swedish text translates as "grilled sausage in 22 seconds".

The Swedish text translates as “grilled sausage in 22 seconds”.

A kid with an Indian headdress emerges from a coal hole, 1954

Today this kid would be labeled culturally insensitive and charged with terroristic threats.

Today this kid would be labeled culturally insensitive and charged with terroristic threats.

If you were wondering. ..

A coal hole is a hatch in the pavement (sidewalk, in US usage) above an underground coal bunker. They are sometimes found outside houses that existed during the period when coal was widely used for domestic heating from the early 19th century to the middle 20th century.


“The Burial of The Dead at The Battle of Wounded Knee, South Dakota” January 17, 1891



Thaddeus Lowe and members of the Union Army Balloon Corps with a balloon named Intrepid, Gaines’ Mill, Virginia, 1862. The man sitting at the table in front of it is operating a telegraph machine.


88-year-old Mrs. Sally Fickland, a former slave, looking at the Emancipation Proclamation in 1947.


She would have been 3 years old when Lincoln signed the proclamation in 1862.

Due to its fragile condition—it was printed on both sides of poor-quality 19th-century paper, unlike the Constitution, which is written on more durable parchment—the Emancipation Proclamation can only be displayed for 30 hours each year.


Unpacking the head of the Statue of Liberty, 1885


A Barrel Burst, ca. 1916.

The word "Rohrkrepierer" in German means as much as "barrel-croaker", deceptively funny name for something that's in essence a giant pipe bomb.

The word “Rohrkrepierer” in German means as much as “barrel-croaker”, deceptively funny name for something that’s in essence a giant pipe bomb.

The Enola Gay landing after dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, August 6, 1945

Imagine being there. Seeing the plane leave, and then come back, not really knowing what it did.

Imagine being there. Seeing the plane leave, and then come back, not really knowing what it did.


A member of the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition playing the bagpipes to an Emperor penguin (1904)

In the next frame the penguin pulled a gun and shot himself.

In the next frame the penguin pulled a gun and shot himself.

Some people say there has never been a good song with bagpipes. To them I say, it’s a long way to the top (if you wanna rock n’ roll).

Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Trans-Antarctic exploration vessel ‘Endurance’, as it sits stuck in sea ice, later to be crushed from the force and sink, 1915


Photograph taken during the autopsy of Andersonville Prison commandant Henry Wirz after his execution, 1865.

"Hmmm... it seems he was hung by the rope until dead..." "How do you know that sir?" "Because i just watched it."

“Hmmm… it seems he was hung by the rope until dead…”
“How do you know that sir?”
“Because i just watched it.”

Henry Wirz was arrested by a contingent of federal cavalry in May 1865 and taken by rail to Washington, D.C., where the federal government intended to place him on trial for conspiring to impair the lives of Union prisoners of war. A military tribunal was convened with Major General Lew Wallace presiding. The other members of the commission were Gershom MottJohn W. GearyLorenzo ThomasFrancis FessendenEdward S. Bragg, John F. Ballier, T. Allcock, and John H. Stibbs. Norton P. Chipman served as prosecutor.

The military tribunal took place between August 23 and October 18, 1865, convened in the Capitol building, dominating the front pages of newspapers across the United States. The court heard the testimony of former inmates, ex-Confederate officers, and even nearby residents of Andersonville. Among those giving testimony was Father Peter Whelan, a Catholic priest who worked with the inmates, who testified on Wirz’s behalf.

The charges against him were for ‘combining, confederating, and conspiring, together with John H. Winder, Richard B. Winder, Joseph [Isaiah H.] White, W. S. Winder, R. R. Stevenson, and others unknown, to injure the health and destroy the lives of soldiers in the military service of the United States’, and for ‘Murder, in violation of the laws and customs of war’. The 13 murders committed by Wirz personally were by revolver (specifications 1, 3, 4), by physically stamping and kicking the victim (specification 2), and by confining prisoners in stocks (specifications 5, 6), by beating a prisoner with a revolver (specification 13) and by chaining prisoners together (specification 7). All murders occurred in 1864.

Wirz was also charged with ordering guards to fire on prisoners with muskets (specification 8, 9, 10, 12), and to have dogs attack escaped prisoners (specification 11). Wirz was found guilty of all charges except the murder in specification 4.

Some of the evidence was hearsay, but there was one witness whose testimony was particularly damning. His name was Felix de la Baume, and he claimed to be a descendant of the heroic Marquis de Lafayette. He was able to name a victim killed directly by Wirz. This eyewitness was a skilled orator and his story was so compelling that he was given a written commendation signed by all the members of the commission for his part in the trial. He was also rewarded with a position in the department of the Interior while the trial was still in progress. Another witness was in Andersonville with his father. He described his father as having scurvy, and not being able to stand. Because he could not stand, Wirz repeatedly stomped and kicked him, and his father died a few days later.

In early November of 1865, the commission announced that it had found Wirz guilty of conspiracy as charged, along with 11 of 13 counts of murder. He was sentenced to death.

In a letter to U.S. President Andrew Johnson, Wirz asked for clemency, but the letter went unanswered. The night before his execution, Louis Schade (an attorney working on behalf of Wirz) was told that a high Cabinet official wished to assure Wirz that if he would implicate Jefferson Davis with the atrocities committed at Andersonville, his sentence would be commuted. Schade repeated the offer to Wirz and was told, “Mr. Schade, you know that I have always told you that I do not know anything about Jefferson Davis. He had no connection with me as to what was done at Andersonville. If I knew anything about him, I would not become a traitor against him or anybody else even to save my life.”

Wirz was hanged at 10:32 a.m. on November 10, 1865, at the Old Capitol Prison, by the US Capitol, the present-day site of the Supreme Court of the United States. His neck did not break from the fall, and the crowd of 250 spectators watched as he writhed and slowly suffocated. He was buried in the Mount Olivet Cemetery in Washington, D.C. He was survived by his wife and one daughter.

Eleven days after the execution, it was claimed that the star witness from the trial had perjured himself. He was not Felix de la Baume from France, but Felix Oeser, born in SaxonyPrussia. He was actually a deserter from the 7th New York Volunteers.

Henry Wirz was one of three men tried, convicted, and executed for war crimes during the Civil War (the other being Confederate guerrillas Robert Cobb Kennedy and Champ Ferguson). His conviction remains controversial today.Members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans annually march to a Wirz memorial, along with supporters of a congressional pardon for Wirz.

Some writers have suggested Wirz’s trial was unfair. because the South had low food rations and there was a Northern blockade of all medicines, both of which were out of Wirz’s control. Even some of his former prisoners conceded that the low support he received from Confederate government in terms of food, water, and medical supplies made the conditions at Andersonville beyond his scope of responsibility. The trial, one of the nation’s most famous early war crimes tribunals, created enduring moral and legal notions and established the precedent that certain wartime behavior is unacceptable, regardless if committed under the orders of superiors or on one’s own. In a 1980 study, the historian Morgan D. Peoples refers to Wirz as a “scapegoat“.

  • “…the arm was kept as proof that it was not injured to the degree that he professed and the vertebrae were kept to demonstrate that they did not fracture when he was hung.” (Source)


Men trying to put out fires from a bombing in Helsinki, July, 9th. 1941 in World War II


Original from SA-Kuva Finnish Wartime photograph Archive

A woman bids farewell at Paddington Station in 1942 as her child is evacuated during the Blitz.

I love pictures like this. They leave so much to the imagination i.e. What happened to her? What happened to her child? Did they meet again?

I love pictures like this. They leave so much to the imagination i.e. What happened to her? What happened to her child? Did they meet again?

January 28, 1986: The space shuttle Challenger falls to Earth.

Challenger_explosion (1)

Anyone interested in the Challenger should give Richard Feynman’s book What Do You Care What Other People Think? a read. A good half of the book focuses on his participation in the Rogers Commission.

Salome with the Head of John the Baptist, ca. 1506-07

salome-with-the-head-of-st-john-the-baptist-1507I have got a bright and shiny platter… and I am gonna get your heavy head.

“Andrea Solario painted a number of variants on the present composition, of which this is one of the most notable. Its figure style is influenced by Leonardo da Vinci as well as by Northern artists, especially Joos van Cleve and Lucas Cranach.

The subject itself, the rather gruesome one of the executioner placing the Baptist’s head in a salver for the waiting Salome, was popular among Leonardo’s followers, and many of the Milanese paintings of Salome probably derive from a lost composition by the master. These paintings depict the moment in the Gospel of Mark (6:21–28) when the young Salome, daughter of Herod’s wife Herodias, is granted her wish to have John the Baptist executed. Although this theme has been painted by numerous artists—with both full- and half-length figures—it is rare for the executioner to be so severely cropped that we see only his outstretched arm. This arm, with its clenched fist and rough drapery, is an unsettling synecdoche for the man as a whole.

Conspicuously signed in the lower right corner, the Salome is one of Solario’s finest paintings and is completely characteristic of his style. It is worked up to a high finish, with some astonishing effects: the reflections and sheen of the silver basin, the transparent bodice of Salome’s dress, the delicacy of description of the Baptist’s head, and the marbling of the parapet. Above all, Salome’s jewelry and the ornamentation of her dress are imagined and painted with the utmost precision and care.” (Source)

Salvador Dalí walking his anteater in Paris, 1969

What, did he just call up the ol' anteater store and say "Hi, I'm Salvador Dali, and I require one of your anteaters for surrealism purposes"?

What, did he just call up the ol’ anteater store and say “Hi, I’m Salvador Dali, and I require one of your anteaters for surrealism purposes”?

Secretariat comes down the stretch in the 1973 Belmont Stakes, “He’s moving like a tremendous machine.”

One of the great sports photos of all time. The enormity of what Turcotte and Secretariat accomplished that day is mind-boggling.

This is one of the greatest sports photos of all time. The enormity of what Turcotte and Secretariat accomplished that day is mind-boggling.

I’ve always thought of Secretariat as one of the most bad-ass athletes in all of sports.

  • Derby – Sets record running faster as the race goes on, record still stands
  • Preakness – Wins again by 2.5 lengths, on covers of Time, Newsweek and SI
  • Belmont – Wins by 31 lengths in 2:24 (averaging 37.5 mph), a record that still stands today.

(Relevant Link)

  • FUN FACT: The word “horse” technically means an ungelded male over age 4. It can be used interchangeably with “stallion.” A colt is an ungelded male younger than that, a gelding is gelded male of any age. Filly is a female <4 years old, mare is a female >4 years old. Foal is a baby of either gender.

Mountaineers ascending a glacier in the Ortler range, Tirol, ca. 1897

nrNoVCLLink to original source from Central Library of Zurich.


A German soldier with a DIY gas mask in 1915.



Marilyn Lovell, wife of astronaut Jim Lovell, listens to the “squawk box” at home during the Apollo 13 crisis. April 1970.