Monday, July 14

Tired of the Hot Air? Have a Double Dr. Gorrie, On the Rocks of Course!

image = mosi.org
By Art Cashin

On this day in 1850, a doctor at the "Mansion House" in Apalachicola, Florida amazed some guests whom he had invited by serving them drinks with ice. They were amazed not because it was a dry town…..it was
not....the guests were amazed because this was Apalachicola, this was Florida, this was July…..yet here was ice. How deep could his icehouse go…..how many feet of sawdust had he needed to pile up to save these few cubes of ice?

Then the doctor (Dr. John Gorrie) further amazed his guests by bringing more ice…..he brought out whole brick-like blocks of it. The guests were stunned. How had he managed to save this much ice…..in Florida…..into July! Dr. Gorrie laughed and told them he had made the ice only yesterday. "Sure!”
they said. "You made ice in July?" "Who the hell are you…..Mother Nature with a bad calendar watch?"

Dr. Gorrie must have laughed again and told them he had found a way of compressing water and then air in a way to chill things enough to produce ice. "Wow!" said the guests "Now you can open a bar!" Dr. Gorrie looked at them strangely….."Bar?…..This is a cure for malaria!"

Dr. Gorrie had noticed that malaria (a big problem in 1850) seemed to happen near wetlands (like Apalachicola) when it was warm. So he determined it must be the hot air that caused malaria. So, if you cooled the hot air down…..you should be able to stop malaria. That night Gorrie raised enough funds to install his ice-making, anti-malaria machine at the United States Marine Hospital. The main effect was that the rooms were cooler and the patients were cooler but the "yellow fever" continued. (It would be a half century later until Walter Reed would prove that the cause was mosquitoes who thrived in the hot weather…..not the weather itself.)

Although Dr. Gorrie was disappointed at what he saw as his "failure", bartenders and patrons did find a medicinal use for the ice. To celebrate…..call Clarence Birdseye and point out how one man's failure can
be another man's fortune. Forgive the frosty response.



Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

Tuesday, July 8

Don't Kidd About the Pirates

Image = Wikipedia
By Art Cashin

On this day in 1699, a formerly prominent businessman was arrested in Boston and sent to London to be tried for capital crimes. He claimed it was all a mistake but the authorities denied him counsel and shipped him off in chains.

Four years before, he had even been one of the respected businessmen in Wall Street. His house on Hanover Square was impressive. And he had even been a driving force in raising funds for Trinity Church which would stand in the graveyard at the end of Wall Street.

But his fame as a trader and a seaman brought him to the attention of the king. The king solicited his service to stamp out the piracy that plagued the sea-lanes. On the day he set out, records show that most of New York turned out to cheer him on.

After early successes, however, disgruntled former crewmen began to claim that he had thrown in with the pirates themselves, and had become the worst of the lot. And, when he dropped off part of his recaptured loot with his friends the Gardiner Family (of Gardiners Island), stories spread that he had buried treasures from the East Coast to the Caribbean. (In fact to this day some maintain that Jacob Astor may not have become wealthy in the fur trade - but by discovering a huge cache of this man's treasure in what is now
Central Park.)

Anyway, despite his protests of innocence (and lack of counsel) he was found guilty of five counts of piracy. And, in May of 1701, he was dropped through the hangman's trap door and into history. Thus one of Wall Street's earliest luminaries - Captain William Kidd became the symbol of piracy for three centuries.

To celebrate take some sweet young thing to the "Traders Lounge" and explain that the connection between Capt. Kidd and Wall Street was purely coincidental. But caution her not to comment about the eye patches of the patrons. It tends to agitate their parrots.


Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.


Wednesday, June 4

Don't Get Your Knickerbockers in a Bunch

By Art Cashin

On this day (-2) in 1851, the N.Y. Knickerbockers Baseball Club, which had only been organized as America's first ball club just 5 years earlier, decided to try yet another new innovation. Perhaps inspired by the sight of returning veterans of the Mexican War, Alexander Cartwright, the father of baseball, thought the thing that would build team spirit was a uniform.

So, he outfitted the Knickerbockers in "breeches, shirts and caps" of blue and white. That historical notation has caused an interesting but erroneous myth - that the "breeches" were short pants or "knickers" which led to the word "knickbockers" (a word closely associated with New York...except in certain 4th quarters).

The theory may be somewhat inverted. The first breeches for the team were long pants which they probably "bloused" inside their high sox (thus giving the illusion of short pants). But everybody knows the name knickerbocker became associated with New York because of Washington Irving's spoof - "A History of New York." When he published it in 1809, he used the pseudonym - "Diedrich Knickerbocker." The book was so funny (imagine someone making history funny) it became an instant hit and knickerbocker became synonymous with New York. (Irving later wrote about a guy name Rip Van Winkle, and about a Headless Horseman...but nobody read that stuff.)

History does not record where Cartwright bought the uniforms but folklore says the team's record improved dramatically.


Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

Monday, May 5

Denton True Young

By Art Cashin

On this day in 1904, a 37 year-old pitcher for the Boston Americans added yet one more star to an amazing career. He retired all 27 of the Philadelphia Phillies in a row - - thus pitching the first "perfect" game in major league history.

That would have been enough to earn him a place in baseball memory. But he had done so much more. In the prior year's "practice World Series" he had out shown a hall of fame list that included Honus Wagner and a raft of others. In his career he had won over 510 games having pitched in nearly 900. His record got him a quick selection into the first Hall of Fame induction.

His mom called him by his given name Denton True. But his teammates, the fans and the sportswriters gave him a nickname based on his high hard right-hand delivery. As one bewildered batter muttered - - it came down like a cyclone. So Denton True Young become "Cyclone Young" - - At least for a week or two.

Then he became "Cy Young" and he became a legend.

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.


Tuesday, April 15

Another Hamburger Joint? What a Kroc!

image = google images
By Art Cashin

On this day in 1955, in the city of Des Plaines, Illinois, a great American institution began. And, like most successful American institutions it made no sense on paper and was started by the illogical. It was a fast food restaurant.

It was not started by some hotshot kid but, rather, by a 55-year-old guy who previously sold blenders for making milkshakes. The year before, on one of his sales trips to California he noticed a drive-in that was doing more business than any other. He itemized its features, it was clean, service was fast, food was uniform. And the fries....they were like nobody else's.

That's when he discovered that they always left on a tiny bit of potato skin in each batch so that the flavor transferred in the frying. Knowing that you probably could not start a nationwide chain of "French Fry Joints" he asked the owners, a certain couple of brothers named McDonald, if he could possibly franchise their fast food hamburger joint.

His name was Ray Kroc and the rest is history. Luckily, he didn't have to apply to the SBA. (Yeah! Sure, Mr. Kroc, just what this country needs, another hamburger joint. How ya gonna make any money. Ain't-cha got any sense of business??)


Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

Monday, April 14

Mabel, Manley, Martin, and Capone

Image source = SF Library
By Grant Davies

No, the above title isn't the name of a law firm. Nor is it the name of an accounting firm. But today's story has to do with both accounting and the law.

On this day in 1927, a lawyer named Mabel Walker Willebrandt was preparing to argue a case with lasting implications before the Supreme Court of the United States. The case is known as United States v Sullivan.

It seems that Mabel was trying to figure out a novel way to catch a bootlegger named Manley Sullivan and prosecute him for making booze and not paying taxes on the profits. Obviously, if you want a cut of the action from someone else's illegal doings you are either a mobster collecting a street tax or the government doing the same thing. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference, but I digress. She decided to claim that Sullivan owed Uncle Sam his share and was holding out on him.

Manley's lawyers made the rational assertion before an federal appellate judge named Martin T. Manton that Manley's fifth amendment rights would be violated if he was forced to confess to crimes when filing his income taxes. They also observed that if the government took their cut as taxes they would be guilty of aiding and abetting Sullivan. Many judges agreed, and Martin Manton was one of them. That is how the whole thing ended up before the Supreme Court. Manton said it was incredulous that the government would get part of the proceeds of illegal activities.

The Supreme Court sided with Mabel. This was very bad news for a guy who wasn't even involved. A guy named Capone. You may recall that Al Capone - a fairly successful mobster from Chicago who didn't have the benefit of the IRS to collect his street taxes - was sent to Alcatraz after this precedent was set. But as it turned out, he was just one of the early convictees.

Another notable one was a guy named Martin Manton. Yep, the above named federal judge was later found guilty of taking $186,000 in bribes without including the feds in on the take. He got only seventeen months in prison. Maybe the fix was in.

Source material = One Summer by Bill Bryson

Friday, April 11

The Magic Ingredient

Image = jalopnic.com
By Art Cashin

On this day in 1916, a self-styled genius demonstrated a miracle product to a major corporate entity. The product was so deliciously fascinating that its concept lives today. Any tabloid will tell you that it's really true and that corporate America found it and suppressed it.

The product was that mysterious ingredient that you pop in a tank of water and it can run an automobile. And through all these years the "big guys" kept it hidden. Where were "60 Minutes" and "Geraldo" when we really needed them?

Well, anyway, on this day in 1916, the developer showed this particular hot-shot corporate type how you take said bucket of water, add said mysterious ingredient, pour into said gas tank and run said car. The corporate type was amazed. His name was Henry Ford and he gave the entrepreneur - one Louis Enricht a binder of a year's salary and a free Model T to work on. A few months later Ford read that Enricht had sold the rights (for several years' salary) to another guy. Trying not to be a bad sport - Ford asked for his Model T back. Enricht sent it back without the motor. Rumors said that Enricht had refused to let his new investors examine test engines either.

Scientists now believe that Enricht's magic ingredient was a form of acetone - which would make your engine run while burning it out at the same time. Enricht disappeared but the rumor of a magic pill for the gas tank has hung on through several wars and a few energy crises.


Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.
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