Friday, November 20

The Problem With the President's Popularity

President John Tyler
By Art Cashin

On this day (-2) in 1843, a President learned that messages from the public at half term can sometimes be unfriendly. His name was John Tyler. As you recall from fourth grade, Tyler - the back half of "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" - had ascended to the presidency when the front half (William H. Harrison) caught the attention of the Guinness people by dying after only thirty days in office.

Anyway, Tyler stepped in and seemed never to capture the popularity of his predecessors almost from the day he took office. Even his wife was somewhat controversial. Some thought she was a bit too pushy or up-front.

Frustrated by newly sagging polls and some Congressional election reversals, Tyler decided to take a small vacation - a little trip. He sent his son down to the railroad station to arrange a special train for the trip. The station master and his staff told the young man something like - "We don't provide special trains for politicians." Young Tyler responded by noting that the B&O had made a special train available for the corpse of the late President Harrison. The station master reportedly said - "Bring me your father in the same shape as President Harrison and we'll be glad to get him a train."

To mark how far we've come since those hostile old days go visit some affable office holders. But don’t mention anything to the folks running for President.

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.

Editor's Note: Here is another article about Tyler that I wrote in the past. You might enjoy re-visiting it.   Grant Davies

Tuesday, October 13

Everything You Thought You Knew About Chris

By Art Cashin

On this day in 1492, Christopher Columbus landed at the Bahamas, believing that he had landed in the islands off Japan. And so history is indebted to a man with a flawed theory who set out on a venture where he didn't know  where he was going, suffered sharp losses on the way and didn't know
where he was when he got there. And he did it all on borrowed money. But if Columbus had things confused, folklore has really muddled what happened.

Back in August of 1492 Columbus had set sail from the port of "Palos de Frontera" on the west coast of Spain with a squadron of three ships to seek the riches of the East.

Error #1 - Columbus headed for a new land. (Actually, he thought he was sailing to China or Japan.)

Error #2 - he was a mighty sailor. (In two earlier launches some of the ships he selected leaked so badly they had to rush back to port and were replaced.)

Anyway, as we all know, the advisors to Ferdinand and Isabella warned their collective royalness that Columbus would sail off the edge of the earth. That's error #3 - actually, they thought Columbus had underestimated the size of the globe and thus would run out of fresh water before he could reach China. Perversely, today's computers indicate the negative advisors were very accurate while Columbus was off by many thousands of miles. Luckily, the unexpected "New World" and its fresh water stood in the way.

So! You say - "So what! Mr. Smarty Pants!" Even if he was not who he seemed to be, nor was much of a sailor, landed in the wrong place and miscalculated much of the way - the great drama was that he did it - and on borrowed money at that. (Op. Cit. Queen's necklace fable.)

Well, despite what your version of Sister Herman Joseph told you that's error #4 - the Queen never hit the hock shop with the jewels. What had really delayed the trip for nine month's was greed - Columbus'. In his employment contract he demanded: 10% of whatever he found, a Knighthood, an
Admiral's title and a Viceroy's title (both to be hereditary) and 10% of the profits on all naval imports thereafter.

When F and I turned him down, he had tried for the same deal at various palaces around Europe. Finally, an advisor convinced Isabella that actuarially Columbus had a good shot of dying on this or some subsequent voyages, so the Queen signed the deal.

To celebrate make note of some valuable discovery you've recently made. Then drop a hefty employment contract on the boss's desk - but don't insist on an Admiralcy - you'll probably look greedy.

Monday, September 28

Sixth Grade History You Probably Forgot

Pompey Magnus
By Art Cashin

On this day (+2) in 48 B.C., one of ancient Rome's most brilliant generals, a certain Pompey the Great landed on the shores of Egypt.

(Mr. Cashin! Yes Sister? Please try to remember the general's name is pronounced Pom-pea; Pom-pay was the name of the city buried by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D. If you don't pay more attention, you'll never remember enough history to get out of the 6th grade, let alone enough to ever help you in business! Do you understand?? Yes Sister!!)

Anyway, flashbacks aside, Pompey landed in Egypt - kind of "on the run." As you may recall from earlier episodes (or from the 6th grade), Rome was going through a parliamentary crisis. A popular reformer named Julius Caesar was busy dividing Gaul into three parts and sending reform suggestions to Rome. The Roman Parliament (pronounced "Senate") sent a nasty note (on parchment) to said Caesar - saying he had a lot of Gaul and ordering him to come home for a spanking and to please leave his army behind. Said Caesar headed home and took the army with him (across the Rubicon don't-cha know!).

Since that was considered bad form (pronounced formus stunkus), the Roman Senate called upon a former war hero for protection. The guy picked was Pompey the Great (page 6 in your program) - victor over Spanish Rebels (76 B.C.), over a certain "Spartacus" (72 B.C.) and over that early Hitler, King Mithridates (63 B.C.).

Despite this veteran's record, said Caesar made salad out of Pompey at the Battle of Pharsalus (beating him badly with an army half the size of Pompey's). This led Pompey to flee to his last known ally, Ptolemy XIII (pronounced Friday the 13th), King of Egypt and the Nile Delta. Ptolemy XIII (age XV) was at war with his pudgy sister. So, with Ptolemy XIII needing no new enemies (i.e. said Caesar), Ptolemy had his old ally assassinated (i.e. Pompey, who was stabbed as he got off the boat).

Said Caesar sensed that such habits did not make Ptolemy XIII (age XV) a great candidate for new best friend. So, said Caesar threw in with the pudgy sister named Cleopatra.

What happened next...I forget! (Sorry Sister!!)

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.

Friday, May 22

Dropping the Hamer

By Art Cashin

On this day (+1) in 1934, a young couple laughed as they drove in the early morning daylight near Arcadia, Louisiana. They had just picked up something to eat and were munching and laughing as they sped through the brightening sunrise. As they pulled around a curve, they were met by a surprise.

The surprise was delivered by a Texas Ranger named Frank Hamer and a group of Louisiana troopers and local cops. Their method of delivery was 10 shotguns, 5 Thompson sub machine guns, and 2 Browning Automatic rifles. A bit much for some post-prom sportsters you might think.

Well it wasn't "post-prom" and the "sportsters" in the car were a couple named Bonnie and Clyde. And, fearing that there might be a video-cam van behind the fugitives….Ranger Hamer ordered his boys to open fire rather than stop, debate or beat the occupants of the car. So they proceeded to pump over 160 bullets into said car. Many apparently struck the car's occupants….Bonnie's corpse was said to have half an uneaten sandwich in its mouth.

When word that Hamer and his crew had killed the famous "Bonnie & Clyde" began to filter out, crowds from the area rushed to the scene. Of course, they were better behaved than today's ruffians. These folks simply began by tearing off the bumper, headlights and fenders of the bullet-riddled car. As the car was stripped, the souvenir seekers got more aggressive....some began to cut off locks of Bonnie's hair....finally someone tried to amputate Clyde's "trigger finger" as a trophy. That was a bit too much even for these cops and they closed off the area.

But if Bonnie and Clyde lacked of sympathy at the site of their death; they also lacked sympathy even among their supposed peers. John Dillinger, rather famous in his own right, hearing of the ambush of Bonnie and Clyde was reported to say --- "Hell, they were just kill-crazy punks and clodhoppers. They gave us decent bank robbers a bad name!"

What a shame Dillinger never lived to see what a well lobbied Congress would do to the Bailouts of 2008/2009. By them - Dillinger was a dilettante!!

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.

Saturday, May 16

Lucille and the Blues Boy

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By Grant Davies

On this day (-2) one of the most iconic figures of our time passed into history.

This story is about his love affairs. He had many, and they gave him the blues. In fact, he had a love affair with the blues. If none of this makes sense, just stick with me, I'll do my best to further confuse you.

His name was Riley B. King (nickname - The Blues Boy) and the longest affair he had was with his beloved Lucille. He fell in love with her even before she had a name. He actually named her himself. He did so right after he ran into a burning building to save her from the flames. At least that's the legend, and like much of the stuff on this site, it's probably true.

Lucille was named after a girl who, one evening in a dance hall, was the object of admiration of several suitors. So enamored of her were these two men that they took to fighting over her. Such rash behavior rarely ends well and this time was no exception. During the melee a barrel of fuel was knocked over and the resulting conflagration set the stage for Riley's courageous rescue.

He ran into the building, grabbed his guitar, and successfully retreated. Guitar? What about the girl and the combatants? Um,,I don't know. It's said that she made it out, but the two men didn't.

Anyway, he said he named the guitar Lucille to remind himself not to fight over women or run into any burning buildings. Lucille (the guitar, not the girl) became famous when he became famous. And he called every guitar he ever owned by the same name after that.

By now you have figured out that the Blues Boy's nickname was shortened to B.B. and he is known to music fans everywhere as B.B. King. Seems like he did pretty well for a guy who started out working in a cotton field in Mississippi.

Other than his love of Lucille and the blues genre, he loved performing. He averaged about 200 concerts per year well into his 70s and was performing regularly until last October when his health finally caught up to him. He also loved Frank Sinatra who he said opened the Vegas entertainment doors for black musicians. He claimed that he went to sleep every night to Sinatra's song, "The Wee Small Hours of the Morning."

To celebrate his life and music, stop down at the "Dance Hall Blues Club" and stay until the wee hours. And be sure to buy a drink for any girl named Lucille. But if she asks how you are doing, tell her that ever since B.B. died, the thrill is gone.

Much of the information for this story was gleaned from an article by Spencer Kornhaber in the Atlantic Magazine. The rest was gathered from a Wikipedia entry.  The inspiration for writing it was provided by a sometime reader of Cheeky History, Veronica Then.

Thursday, April 30

A Hedy Invention

Editors note:
On this day in history (yes, this very day) we have a story from guest writer James Hinton, a history buff who knows some cool things about various subjects. He has previously been published on "Hankering for History" as well as his own site. We are happy to publish his submission about a largely unknown aspect of the life of one of most beautiful movie stars in history. Instead of frequently hopping from bed to bed as many sex symbols do, she invented "frequency hopping." Brains and beauty, what a concept.
Grant Davies

By James Hinton

Cheeky Austrian Hedy Lamarr was a hit when MGM imported her iconic good looks and put them up on the silver screen. She starred as a seductive femme fatale alongside of actors like Clark Gable, James Stewart, and Spencer Tracy. Despite being tasked to sell war bonds, she made fourteen movies during WWII alone. What many people don’t realize is that movies aren't the only things Lamarr made during WWII.

Originally married to a fascist munitions manufacturer, the Jewish born, Catholic raised Lamarr had accompanied her husband to many meetings, learning the ins and outs of weapons manufacturing. Infuriated by German submarine attacks on passenger liners, she put her brilliant mind to work coming up with a solution.

Working alongside of composer George Antheil, Lamarr focused on inventing a means by which torpedoes could be controlled by radio. Such control had been attempted before, but always ran afoul of the same problem time and time again. Any signals controlling the torpedo could be jammed by the enemy. Lamarr’s solution was to rapidly cycle through multiple frequencies in a pattern stored aboard both the torpedo and the ship.

“Frequency hopping” was patented in August of 1942, with plenty of time for it to be adopted and put to use hunting German and Japanese ships. Unfortunately, the U.S. Navy, notoriously sensitive about the poor performance of its current torpedoes, refused to adopt the technology until the 1960s.
The technology did not languish, however. Starting with walkie-talkies, frequency hopping began to see use in radios, simultaneously securing communications against eavesdropping and against multiple conversations talking over one another using the same frequency. These techniques would eventually be adapted for computer communication, resulting in the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technologies that are key to today’s digital revolution.

Hedy Lamarr passed away in 2000 at the age of 85. She was memorialized as a world-famous actress and sex symbol. As important as her contribution was to film, it is today's cell phones and wireless networks, however, that are her strongest legacy.

Monday, April 20

What Happens When Your Balloon is Too Lowe

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By Art Cashin

On this day in 1861, in the cold pre-dawn air near Cincinnati, Thaddeus Lowe climbed into the basket of his large hot-air balloon, the Enterprise. Lowe was already famous in the aeronautic and scientific community as an expert on hot-air (ballooning that is).

But while he was an expert as an aeronaut, as a weatherman he was a schnook. About 20 minutes into the flight, he got picked up by gale force winds that ran nearly 80 mph. On this particular day, the jet stream had developed a sense of humor and swept Lowe (and balloon) all the way to South Carolina. What he thought was a military honor guard out to greet him was in fact a rebel patrol out to arrest him. (Lowe was unaware that the Civil War had started a few days earlier.)

Released when local scientists vouched for his credentials (and his eccentricity), Lowe headed north. But he was smitten by the image of spies in a balloon - peering down on rebel defenses.
He helped found and direct the "Aeronautic Corps. of the Army of the Potomac".

Assuming the wind was right, he or his associates would fly high over enemy lines in a tethered balloon and telegraph directions back down to the Union artillery. The corps made over 3000 such flights and were sometimes shot down. (Lowe was so valuable he was rescued by commandos when that happened to him.) While he survived the war intact, he is believed to have been shot at more often than anybody else in the whole war. Luckily, there were no ground to air missiles at the time.

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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