Friday, December 20

Rockefeller Christmas Tree - 1931

image = allposters.com
By Art Cashin

On this day (+3) in 1931, America was spiraling into the depths of the Depression. Thousands of banks had closed and there was a national panic that more closings might be imminent. And large corporations announced huge layoff programs, stunning many who thought they were safe. Those who had a job were grateful just to be employed.

Among those were a group of construction workers in New York City. As they stood amidst the rubble of demolished buildings in midtown Manhattan, they talked of how lucky they were that some rich guy had hired them for a new but risky development. And, since it was near Christmas, they decided to celebrate the fact that they had a job.

They got a Christmas tree from a guy in a lot on the corner who apparently had discovered that folks with apartments suitable for 18 foot trees were not too free with the green pictures of dead presidents in 1931. So the workers stood the big tree up in the rubble and decorated it with tin cans and other items on the lot.

A photographer saw it as a perfect symbol of 1931. It caught on immediately and each Christmas as the project proceeded a new tree was put up. And even after the project (Rockefeller Center) was completed, management put up a new (and much bigger) tree each year.


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, December 10

Esther was Morris but Bill wasn't Bright

image = kirstenlynnwildwest
By Art Cashin

On this day in 1869, the new Wyoming territory officially gave women the right to vote. The concept was so stunning that when Wyoming became a state twenty-one years later some folks proudly opted for the nickname - - "Equality State". In fact the state motto is "Equal Rights". And, when Congress asked each state for the single statue of its key citizen, Wyoming sent to Statuary Hall in the Capitol none other than Esther Morris, the mother of women's suffrage in the West.

Not to diminish the enlightened attitude of the frontier - - but some New York cynics think the women won by knowing what women always knew - - guys tend to overplay their hand.

Mrs. Morris (she was not yet P.C. enough to know Ms.) had convinced a candidate for the other legislature, named Bill Bright, to promise the right to vote for women. To his - - and most politicians surprise - - he got elected. He then did the manly thing - - he told his pals he had promised this woman something but it didn't matter because the Republican Gov. (Campbell) would surely veto it. When they passed the vote, the governor, fearing a petticoat backlash did the manly thing - - he refused to veto it. Thus, in Wyoming, women got the right to vote because men do what men have always done for about 50,000 years.

To celebrate stay out as late as your wife will let you, and try not to talk too macho to a meter-maid. And think about the concept of women's suffrage - - but don't think too loud - -women sense these things.


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, December 4

Duryea Wins America's First Car Race

Image = HFMGV.org
By Grant Davies

On this day, (okay, it was on Thanksgiving day, but I'm still catching up) 118 years ago, (put away those smart phone calculator apps; that's 1895) the first car race in America was held in Chicago. The race was won by Frank Duryea. He drove a gas powered automobile of his brother's design.

The race was organized by a newspaper, the Chicago Times-Herald. But the way it was organized was more akin to the way a government organizes a healthcare website. The whole thing was a mess.

On the day of the race -which was supposed to be from Chicago to Waukegan, Illinois, and back- the distance was shortened. Instead, Evanston, Illinois was selected as the midpoint in the round trip. The distance was cut roughly in half, to about fifty miles.

The reason was the weather. As it turned out, eight inches of snow were being dumped on the route by a massive blizzard and whoever was in charge figured out that if no one finished the race there would be no winner. And since the whole affair was cooked up in order to promote automobile sales, it must have seemed like a poor idea to show how unreliable the product was in such weather.

So instead of postponing the race, the geniuses just shortened it. Anyway, the predictable happened when only six of the eighty-nine contestants were able to even show up at the starting line. Everyone was required to wrap their tires in twine to aid traction. Safety first, ya know.

Almost as soon as the race started two of the cars conked out permanently. They were electric cars, which only goes to show the reliability of such vehicles hasn't changed much in 118 years. So off the rest went into the blizzard, sliding into all manner of other conveyances and dropping out one by one. It took in the neighborhood of ten hours for Duryea to cross the finish line. Which just might be about the same speed as today if you drove in rush hour on one of the "expressways."

Frank left his only surviving competitor in the dust, er, the snow. Winning by almost two hours over the only other finisher earned the Duryea brothers the grand prize of $2000, quite a tidy sum in 1895. But more importantly, they grabbed the glory and with it an astounding victory in the sales wars of the coming year. They sold more cars than anyone else in the car business in that year, thirteen.

Today they probably would have been considered "too big to fail", taken over by the government, and forced to manufacture electric cars that nobody wants to buy.

This story was based on information found at History.com. 

Monday, December 2

The Goldwyn Rule

By Art Cashin

On this day in 1940, one of the great movie moguls (and manglers of the English language) added one more whacky phrase to his murdering of the stepmother tongue. He was, of course, Samuel Goldwyn, a Polish immigrant who made some of the great movies of all time.

He was the Yogi Berra and Casey Stengel of his day, pouring out tons of phrases that caused intellectual whiplash. (My favorite, "Anyone who goes to see a psychiatrist should have his head examined.") Anyway, on this day, as his aides presented a proposal for a joint venture, Goldwyn thought for a minute than said - - "You can include me out".

If Goldwyn had survived until now, he might have become the global spokesman for the recent crisis. From bank lending officers to consumers in the holiday shopping malls, everybody seems to be saying - - include me out.


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.

We are also thankful to Mr Cashin for carrying the load recently while the editor dealt with a health issue. Semi-regular, and dreadfully written, stories from the editor will resume shortly.

Monday, November 25

Prosperity is Always Just a Few Greenbacks Away

By Art Cashin

On this day in 1876, a group of influential, yet irate, Americans met in Indianapolis. Their primary purpose was to send a message to Washington on how to get the economy moving again.

America at the time was going through a difficult and unusual period. Several months earlier, the stock market had begun to plunge violently. Soon there were layoffs and business closings and the economy was having a tough time getting back in gear. And for months now, strange things were happening, the money supply seemed not to be growing, real estate values were stagnant to slipping, and commodity prices were heading lower. (How unusual.)

So this group decided that what was needed was re-inflation (put more money in everyone's hands, you see). The method they proposed was to issue more and more money. Cynics called them "The Greenback Party." And on this day, the Greenbacks challenged Washington by running an independent for President of the United States. His name was Peter Cooper. He lost but several associate whackos were elected to Congress.

To celebrate stop by the "Printing Press Lounge." (It's down the block from the Fed.) Tell the bartender to open the tap and just keep pouring it out till you say stop. Reassure the guy next to you (while you can still talk) that now we have more enlightened people in Washington. Try not to spill your drink if he falls off the stool laughing.


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, November 6

Hammurabi, the Guy Was Great

image = thelatinlibrary.com
By Art Cashin

On (about) this day in (about) 1772 B.C. one of the great administrative minds in human history issued a new code of law. His name of course was Hammurabi the Great of Babylonia. Throughout human history lots of rulers have adopted "the Great" in their titles but on a merit basis this guy clearly deserved to be on the short list.

More than a millennium before Socrates, Caesar, and Christianity and nearly 500 years before Moses - - he issued a code of conduct that was all encompassing, yet amazingly fair and flexible. Most schoolboys (er make that school - - persons) learn that the code of Hammurabi was "an eye for an eye". It was far more complex. It tried to cover all human interactions and attempted to marry two concepts - - "the strong shall not injure the weak" and all shall have a right to prosper in line with their effort. It covered crime, property rights, divorce, military service, inheritance, loans and bankruptcy. (Remember, 4000 years ago there was an active futures market in most commodities and an early form of program trading.)

Hammurabi's code was so broad it included some items that might get him invited as a guest on Donahue; et. al. (it covered medical malpractice claims and limits on bankrupting the family of those chronically ill). Anyway it brought great peace and prosperity to the people for centuries (until some government types began to play politics).

To celebrate, stop by the Constitution Lounge and have a couple of Amendments on the rocks.

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, November 4

Old 16 and the Vanderbilt Cup

image = supercars.net 
By Grant Davies

On this day (-2) in 1902, a new offering from a fairly well-known automobile company hit the road for the first time. It was billed as the "best built car in America", and it probably was.

The company was named Locomobile and on that day they sold their first four cylinder, gas powered car, the "Model C." It put out an incredible 12 horsepower. If you were looking for enough torque to make your head snap backwards upon sudden acceleration, and the horsepower didn't deliver, the $4000 price tag surely would. (For those who have a curiosity about how much the Federal Reserve has defended the value of the currency since then, that's $120,040.66 in 2013 dollars. But I digress.)

Anyway, some rich guy in New York was loco enough and had the equivalent of a hundred and twenty grand lying around, so he popped for the Model C. The company was off to the races, literally. More on that later.

The Locomobile Company of America had been around since way back in 1899 (that's three years for you lucky kids of the 60s "new math" programs) and had been producing high quality steam powered cars for folks who just wanted to get around town and weren't in a hurry.

According to History.com, "Steam cars had to warm up (literally: the water needed to boil in order to build up steam pressure) for about a half-hour before the car could be driven, and their water tanks needed to be refilled every 20 minutes or so. They also needed three kinds of fuel: water for the boiler, kerosene to heat the water and gasoline for the pilot light." And that's not counting the acetylene that was needed for the car's "key" which was an acetylene torch to light the pilot. The cars weren't exactly racing material.

So when the company decided that the internal combustion engine was the future instead of steam, they hired a guy named Andrew Riker to design the Model C. It lived up to its billing as a well built car and by 1906 he had manufactured one that lasted well enough to win the "Vanderbilt Cup" two years later. The race was an 11-lap, 258.5-mile test, held on Long Island. It was a very big deal back then.

This car, nicknamed "Old 16," was a tad more powerful than the Model C. It had four-cylinders as well but it put out 10 times the horsepower of the Model C. It was a real speedster that looked fast before it was even running. The car is pictured above and there is a really cool video featuring Paul Newman talking about it below. For more detailed and really cool pictures check this page.

To celebrate the day, take the person riding shotgun in your car to the "Old Sixteen Cafe." When the waitress asks you how you want your coffee, just say, "In my cup." You can skip the Vanderbilt part.




Wednesday, October 16

The Day the Bartender Gave Teddy a Shot

Image = 9gag.com
By Art Cashin

On this day (-2) in 1912, former President Teddy Roosevelt was out on the stump trying to regain the highest office in the land. He was trying to unseat Taft, his handpicked successor. Since the Republicans decided to stick with the incumbent, Taft; Teddy had to form his own party - the Progressive. But the press renamed the Progressive's - The Bull Moose Party after Teddy had said he felt as fit as a bull moose.

Anyway, this day found Teddy in Milwaukee on his way to deliver a speech. Quietly, through the crowd, moved a certain John Schrank, a New York bartender. He reached between two people trying to shake the candidate's hand, and fired a bullet straight into Teddy's chest.

The force of the shot knocked Teddy back against a parked car as the crowd wrestled Schrank to the ground. His aides ran to Roosevelt and urged him to go to the hospital. He pointed out there was no blood around the bullet hole in his lapel and damn-it he had come to give a speech.

He walked to the podium and pulled his speech from his inside jacket pocket. Only then did he notice that the bullet had gone through all 100 pages of the double folded speech. What he didn't know was that the bullet had gone four inches into his chest. And the reason there had been no blood was that the speech had compacted around the wound.

But Teddy meant to give a speech and a speech he gave - for over 50 minutes. Then, as the crowd cheered, he bowed and finally agreed to go to the hospital, where he was treated for shock and extreme blood loss.

To celebrate stop by the Rough Rider Lounge and have an ice-worm cocktail or two. And toast the fact that public officials today are probably as plucky and gritty as Teddy (try to say it with a straight face).

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, October 7

In the Land of the Blind the One Eyed Man is King

Image = http://byzemperors.com/
By Art Cashin

On this day (-1) in 1014 A.D., the course of human relations and communications took yet one more step - in the wrong direction.

The war between Byzantium and Bulgaria was drawing to a close. The Byzantine Emperor (Basil II in your program) was not just ahead on points; he had won hands down in the slaughtering and pillaging categories. Just two days ago, he had overrun the forces of Bulgaria's Czar Samuel (Sam the Inept) and captured 15,000 prisoners. Now came the dilemma. Basil pondered how he could use the victory to warn Czar Sam out of further adventures and also intimidate some neighbors upon whose harbors Basil cast covetous eyes.

Some advisors suggested killing all the captives. (Too easy! Done before!!) One or two suggested releasing the captives. (The rarely used mercy ploy!) Basil rejected them all. He wanted to really send a message. And he sent a lulu.

On this day (-1), he had his men gather the 15,000 prisoners and put out both the eyes of each man. Well let me correct that. Realizing that 15,000 totally blind guys might have a tough time getting home, Basil ordered that every 100th man should lose only one eye so that he could assist in leading the others back to Bulgaria. Basil assumed that once home, these 150 "one-eyed men" would help in telling the tale of the punishment and the horrible journey back, and the totally blind would be a burden and a fearsome reminder to their nation and their Czar.

Despite bad weather, bad terrain and bad directions, many of the captives actually made it home. And their tale of terror and woe was so fierce that the story lives on for a thousand years in legend and folk saying - Did you ever hear that in the land of the blind the one eyed man is king? And if you have any doubts you could look it up....but don't look under Basil the Good or Basil the Great or...even Basil the Sauce.

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.

Thursday, October 3

Sayyids Not So

By Grant Davies

On this day (+3) in 1889, a new school opened in the town of Greeley, Colorado. (More on that town in a moment.) It was a two-year college that sought to train new teachers who were qualified to teach in the government school system. The name of the college was State Normal School but after changing names three more times it became the University of Northern Colorado.

The town of Greeley was named after the guy who inspired it, a certain Horace Greeley. You might remember him from the "Go west young man" lesson we all learned in elementary class on the days we weren't daydreaming about a Utopian life where there was no school and the girl next to us in class thought we were something other than the little dweeb we actually were.

But what most of us weren't taught was that Greeley was a Utopian himself. He helped to found several Utopias which were nothing like what would pass for a perfect place in most peoples eyes. And I'd tell you all sorts of other interesting things about Greeley, except this story is not about him. Maybe on another day.

The person who our story is mainly about was an Egyptian student named Sayyid Qtub. Practically unheard of in this country, Sayyid is known in certain circles very well, but more on that later.

The year was 1948 and the place was New York City. Qtub was traveling through that hotbed of morality on his way to (Utopian) Greeley, Colorado to attend the above named school. As one author* describes it, Qtub was a shy and quiet fellow who was traumatized by the whore houses, drug houses, gin joints, and gambling dens.

So he should have been delighted with the relative difference of the Greeley lifestyle where "Classical concerts, free public lectures, sock hops and potluck suppers were the main entertainment."*  Booze was illegal and virtue was all the rage in Greeley. But Sayyid wasn't happy there either; the place seemed like hell to him. He thought the uncovered legs and hand to hip dancing at the church socials was insanely evil.

What he had to say about American Jazz was even less complimentary. He opined that it was "created by Negroes to satisfy their primitive instincts, their love of noise, and their appetite for sexual arousal."* 

Anyway, Sayyid attended school there for only six months before returning to the Middle East where he spent most of his time railing against the depravity of the West. His legacy was in the movement he inspired, something that translates in English to "The Base."

Most of us know it better by it's Arabic translation. It's called al-Qaeda.

*the author is Andrew Carroll. The information for this piece (excepting some background on the school) and all the italicized quotations above were taken exclusively from his excellent book titled Here is Where.

Thursday, September 19

Freddy Phillipse and the Wampum Factory

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Footnotes since the Wilderness
By Art Cashin

On this day in 1666, on the island of Manhattan, one Frederick Phillipse, a noted merchant found a way to corner the market. Of course it was 126 years before the New York Stock Exchange would be founded, but markets are markets.

At the time many of the early Dutch settlers and the new English immigrants made a handy living trading goods. There was no foreign exchange markets at the time, so Fred, "the would be furrier", realized that there was a limited supply of wampum - the polished clam shell fragments and shiny beads that Indian traders valued. So he bought up a large supply of wampum and buried it in the backyard. The effect was instantaneous and Fred's wampum was suddenly worth a fortune.

Now, in case you fell asleep in sixth grade during Sister Anesthesia's course on "Modern Money Mechanics", let's review. By burying a lot of wampum, Phillipse had artificially and substantially decreased the money supply. (Yes, Virginia that is called deflation.) Thus, there were more goods (skins) around than money, so prices dropped. Old Fred could then sneak into the yard at night and unbury a little money buying lots of goods and slowly re-flating the economy. (Wow! No FOMC and no Congressional critics.)

Unfortunately, someone noticed that Fred had an uncanny ability to come up with fresh wampum whenever needed. Instead of applauding his good fortune his neighbors arrested him and put him in prison claiming they were saving him from the irate Native Americans.

To celebrate take Ben Bernanke out for a nip at "The Clam and Bead." Have a barrel of laughs but don't try to hide anything.


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: Posting to this site will continue to be sporadic and unpredictable while the editor deals with some personal issues. Please continue to stop by and perhaps enjoy some of the older posts while we wait for a more predictable posting interval to emerge. We appreciate your interest and hope you enjoy our efforts. Many thanks to Art Cashin for taking up the slack in the meantime.

Wednesday, September 4

A Yellow Rose in Texas?

Image = tamu.edu
By Art Cashin

On this day in 1858, a man in New York City was granted a copyright on a song. While there was nothing unusual about a New York man writing a song, this case was a bit different. Most folks think this guy didn't write the song (it had probably been sung for ten years or more). Secondly, it seemed to refer to a non-existent flower. The name of the song was…."The Yellow Rose of Texas" and there was no yellow rose native to Texas. That's because the song was about a girl (er...a woman) not a flower.

The song was about a beautiful young slave named Emily Morgan. She was, in the words of those times, a mixed-race with rather fair complexion, a combination which in those pre-Civil War days was called a high yellow.

When General Santa Ana set out to crush Sam Houston and the Texas rebellion, he overran the plantation of James Morgan. He noticed Emily's stunning beauty and carried the young slave off with him to be his "companion" for the campaign. Santa Ana fancied himself a great lover and set up an opulent "love tent" each evening.

When Santa Ana was preparing for what he hoped would be the decisive battle, Emily sent another slave to warn Sam Houston. Then she kept Santa Ana busy through the evening and through much of the next morning. That gave Houston enough time to launch a surprise attack and decimate the Mexican Army in less than 20 minutes. Santa Ana was so surprised he ran from his tent wearing only his underwear.

For the next decade, the Yellow Rose of Texas became celebrated in song. The folk song swept across America. And, since there was this popular song with no known author, why not copyright it. We don't know how much the opportunist made on the song, but we hope he did better than the Hill sisters of Kentucky, who copyrighted the most frequently sung song in America. We'll bet you sang it recently and never sent them a dime. (It’s called “Happy Birthday to You”.)

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, August 26

Own a Judge

Image = US History.org

By Grant Davies

No, this is not a story about the justice system in Chicago. It's the story of a remarkable young lady from a different time. Her name was Ona Judge.

It was May 24th, 1796, when the chance meeting of our subject and an acquaintance took place on a Portsmouth, New Hampshire street.  A twenty year old girl named Oney (Ona) Judge was hailed down by Elizabeth (Bets) Langdon,  just a teenager herself, who recognized her. Bets knew Oney because her father was a Senator and Oney worked for a friend of his. Oney had run away from home, Bets knew about it, and couldn't understand why. Reportedly, the conversation went like this;

"Why Oney, where in the world did you come from?"
"Run away missis."
"Run away! You had a room to yourself, and only light, nice work to do, and every indulgence..."
"Yes..I know..but I wanted to be free, missis."*

Now, I know you're thinking to yourself, "What's so interesting about this story? Kids run away from their homes all the time so they can have their freedom. Big deal!" Well...Oney wasn't running away from her parents. She was a slave running away from her master and her mistress.

And the person who owned Ona wasn't just any slave owner. The person just happened to be Martha Dandridge Custis. Anyway, that was her name before she remarried following the death of her husband, Daniel Parke Custis. Her name changed to Martha Dandridge Custis Washington when she remarried a guy named George Washington. You may have heard about him when reading some of our earlier stories. (We've written about or mentioned him in no less than a dozen previous stories.) But enough about her owners; they are well known enough.

This story is about Ona and what she did with her life after she became one of the first people to use the Underground Railroad. In her case, the railroad was actually a ship, the "Nancy" by name. She boarded it the same day she casually walked away from the President's house in Philadelphia, right in the middle of the family's supper. The soup must have been pretty tasty; they never looked up long enough to notice her leaving with her suitcase.

The ship was sailing north and she disembarked in Portsmouth where the chance encounter with the Senator's daughter took place some time later. She spent the rest of her life trying to bargain with the President for her freedom and dodging the agents he sent to retrieve her. She even offered to return if he would agree to free her in his will. Apparently he wasn't interested in negotiating with a slave, particularly one who he considered part of the family. The Washingtons were quite fond of her, having raised her since she was ten when she became Martha's attendant. It's said that Martha was heartbroken.

Oddly, she was once hidden and protected by the same Senator (John Langdon) whose daughter had accidentally spilled the beans concerning her whereabouts. Later she married a free man, had three children, became a widow, and lived most of her life in circumstances far below that which she could have had by staying with the first "First Family." Escaping into poverty and hardship from privilege and comfort says everything that can be said about the value of liberty in 1796.

I hate to point out the irony, but the populace of the country today seems to have chosen the exact opposite.

To celebrate the life of this freedom loving girl, stop down at Nancy's Underground Railroad for some supper and a drink. But don't leave right in the middle of dinner unless you want the owner to send people looking for you.

 * text taken from the excellent book Here is Where, by Andrew Carroll

Thursday, August 22

Existi Interuptus

By Art Cashin

On this day (+2) in 79 A.D.(which would be August 24th if you are an accountant), the Donaldus Trumpati and other Roman "don't-cha-knows" were hanging about, enjoying the summer rays at the 1st Century's version of Martha's Vineyard. (No, not that Martha). It was "the" summer in- place. It was on the Bay of Naples and it was called Herculaneum. A little further along "the shore" was another posh spot called Pompeii (10% discount to senior Roman citizens).

Anyway, on this particular date, those with the trendy togas looked up to see the sky darken. Like tourists for centuries, they probably thought - "Rats! (Mousus Gigantus!) Why did I pick the week of the 23rd? (XXIII)?"

Then they probably took a better look at the cloud. Instead of containing rain it contained the top 1/3 of Mount Vesuvius (Proximus Dormantus Volcanus). Shortly, the fine dust and pumice began raining back down on the posh resorts. (Seventeen centuries later measurements would indicate that it fell at a rate of over six inches per hour.) Soon, overburdened roofs collapsed and people were unable to move or breathe. The coverage was so quick and complete that when excavation began in the late 1700's, people were found at their tables or on their stoops (Porchus Stepi) covered by 19 feet of ash.

But don't let that memory cloud your day, however. If you can, sit by the pool (or even on your stoop) and sip something cool, but if your glass begins to get dusty, head offshore.


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, August 20

The Anatomy of a Murderer

Image = frogstorm.com
By Grant Davies

It was January 28, 1829 and a man was appearing before a standing room only crowd at the Edinburgh Medical College in Scotland. Quite an honor you might think. But for a man named William Burke, it wasn't the way he wanted to have these folks see him. After all, he had been hanging around all morning and wasn't looking his best.

The story all began back in November 1827. That was when Burke teamed up with his fellow Irish immigrant William Hare to figure out how to recoup the rent that was owed to Hare's wife for the room she was providing to a boarder at her lodging house.

The poor devil ran up his bill and then died of natural causes in his room. Naturally this was a financial problem for the Hares since the newly departed didn't look like he would be squaring up anytime soon. So the two men talked it over and came up with a plan. Selling the boarder's belongings didn't seem like it would cover all the overdue rent, so they decided to sell him instead.

Luckily for them, an acquaintance, Dr. Robert Knox by name, was in the market for fresh human remains. You see, Dr. Knox had been buying bodies for a while so he could dissect them and learn more about human anatomy. Cold hard cash for cold hard bodies was the only way to get such "study materials" back in the day. Hare and Burke were able to raise the money by raising the dead, so to speak. Add a little extra for the vigorish and everyone was happy. Even the dead guy didn't seem to mind. He never made a peep.

But decent business ideas like that sometimes lead to improper future development. The next guy was only really, really sick...so they decided to help him along a bit. It just got easier after that. By November of 1828 another thirteen unfortunates who didn't even feel ill had become dissection exhibits.

Finally the local authorities figured out the connection between the disappearing citizens and the way too fresh cadavers which were being used for carving practice by the good doctor and his medical students. But they had a least one more dissection to perform and they didn't have to pay anyone for the corpus delicti. Hare flipped on Burke in return for immunity. (And you thought plea bargaining was a recent phenomenon?)

Burke himself became the main attraction for the above described standing room only presentation after he was hanged in January 1829. The public was invited to witness both events. Everyone had fun except Burke. But he must not have minded too much, he never made a peep.


Information for this story was taken from the excellent book Here is Where, by Andrew Carroll.

Wednesday, August 14

Boxer Short Story

Image = Covalliscommunity pages
By Art Cashin

On this day in the year 1900, American and European forces broke through Chinese lines around the Imperial City of Peking (now Beijing). They freed hundred of terrified non-Chinese hostages and thus broke the back of the "Boxer Rebellion".

History books will tell you that the original anti-foreign rebellion in China was sanctioned by the Dowager Empress and driven by the secret "Society of the Harmonious Fists" (Boxers - get it!). While those facts are true, the real facts are more ironic.

What is not widely known is that The Boxer Rebellion may have started somewhat by accident in America. According to some reports, about a year or more earlier, a bunch of hard drinking reporters were sitting around exchanging their frustrations that the "event du jour" had failed to appear. How could they meet their deadlines?

Being good journalists, who needed the meager paycheck, they agreed to do the obvious thing - - make up a story. But it had to be a good story. And it also had to be a lulu. But these guys were pros.

So they invented a story that wealthy Americans and Europeans were planning to buy, dismantle and transport the Great Wall of China. What the hay -- it was fun -- it met the deadline -- it sold papers.

But somehow the story, short-lived in America, reached China. There, Nationals were inflamed. Word of mouth spread the story that foreigners wish to rape our heritage and national treasures. Hostility turned to aggression and then became the Boxer Rebellion.

To celebrate stop by the "Front Page" and have a few extras. And try to keep a straight face when one of the regulars tells you that reporters only report the news they don't shape it.


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.

Thursday, August 8

The Country Needs a Little Rebellion Every Once in a While

By Art Cashin

On this day (-1) 219 years ago (that would be August 7, 1794 if you happen to be saddled with a graduate degree in accounting but have no batteries for your calculator), the President of the United States was told by his aides that he had to get focused. They warned him that his popularity was slipping...that many of the people worried that he was trying to expand the government's authority and size...and that much of his problem related to three areas: taxes, exports and access to medication. Finally, they told him most of his trouble may have been stimulated by his political opponents....the Republicans.

In this case, the President was George Washington...the "Republicans" were what they called Jefferson's supporters at the time (they later changed their name to Democrats)...the tax was an excise tax engineered by Alexander Hamilton...the export question dealt with the shipments down the Ohio and Mississippi...and the medication in question was, of course, alcohol...er in this case whiskey. (Now wait...don't scoff...there was no anesthesia yet and the only other means of sterilization was fire..."Sarge, we've got to get that arrow out or Bob will die!" "Okay, pour some whiskey on this knife and give Bob a gulp for the pain.") We understand there also may be non-medicinal uses of whiskey and hope to hear of them someday.

Anyway, back to the story. At this time, from Pittsburgh, PA to Marietta, Ohio, Frontier folk were growing more corn and grain than they, or anyone, could eat. So they decided to sell it. Since there were no roads at the time, they loaded a couple of barges with corn and sent them toward New Orleans. By the time it got there, the small amount that hadn't rotted and was thus sale-able brought almost no value.

Next they tried feeding the corn to hogs and sending the resultant pork in barges to New Orleans. Given the state of refrigeration at the time, the results were about the same. In fact, the only way the barge crews raised enough money to head back north was by selling a few jugs of whiskey to the medicine hungry folks of New Orleans.

Well, at the time the settlers of this region of Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio were mostly of Scottish and Irish descent. In those politically incorrect days, Scots/Irish were assumed to be good at farming (corn/rye/an occasional buh-day-duh), pharmacology (above mentioned miracle drug) and finance (Adam Smith, etc.). Applying their finance skills, they realized a ton of corn took up a lot of space and barge-wise yielded no profit. Hogs raised on said ton of corn took up less space but still yielded no profit. But...a ton of corn or rye made several barrels of medicine which did yield a profit. And since a barge could hold 5 times more condensed corn (whiskey) than dry corn (corn), the leverage was enormous.

Then along came Hamilton's excise tax. He assumed the product was so valuable that producers could easily pass a tax increase along to consumers. (Maybe genius can be crimped by government service.) The initial reaction was so hostile that Hamilton had to develop a formula. The formula forgave small volume producers and punished high volume producers. Since the East Coast was also making money in tobacco and cotton, that left the Ohio Valley crowd to pay the bulk of the tax.

Although the Scots/Irish of the area were good at farming, pharmacology and finance; their political skills were rudimentary at best.  So they began "tarring and feathering" tax collectors. They even burned tax offices and had bonfires of tax forms. (Where are these people when we really need them?)

Sensing that he was slipping in the polls, Washington followed his aides' advice and sent the army to quell this "Whiskey Rebellion." But...Washington (and the U.S.) had no army so he had to beg for help from the militia of four states. When the "army" hit Pittsburgh, they found most of the rebels were over-medicated so to speak.

The two results of the Whiskey Rebellion were: a) the Federal Government could collect taxes; and b) we needed a standing army (to avoid begging).


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, August 7

The Back of the Bus

Image = Wikipedia
By Grant Davies

On this day (-23), - that's July 16th for you math wizards - in 1944, an African American lady was riding a bus. A white couple boarded along the way and found no seat available. The friendly bus driver offered the black lady's seat to the white people. However the black lady, who was seated in the "colored" section near the back of the bus refused to move. She explained, "this is my seat, why should I?" The rest is, as we say, history.

As to the bus driver, this was a problem he hadn't encountered before. Not knowing what else to do, and sizing up the lady's attitude (which was decidedly uncooperative), he pulled over when he reached the town and called the sheriff.

The sheriff boarded the bus and issued the lady a warrant, which she immediately tore up and threw out the window. So he made a painful decision, he grabbed her. Naturally, she did what anyone would do. She kicked him in the Brussels sprouts.

That act can get you locked up in Saluda, Virginia, and that's precisely what happened to Irene Morgan on that day.

Irene Morgan? Saluda, Virginia? Wait..we're not talking about Rosa Parks? Umm, no we are not. History had to wait eleven more years for Rosa to do the same thing (minus the kick in the sprouts) in Montgomery, Alabama.

There were others who did substantially the same thing before Irene. Exactly ninety years to the day, July 16, 1854, a black schoolteacher was assaulted by a carriage driver in Manhattan for trying to ride to church in his conveyance. But she had a good lawyer, a guy named Chester A. Arthur (who later went on to ruin his career by becoming President of the USA) who got a judge to rule that "Colored persons if sober, well behaved, and free from disease" had the same rights as other people to ride. Just in New York, though. Because as it turns out he was a state judge, not a federal judge. Oh well, ya take what ya can get sometimes.

There were others too, but smart lawyers wait for the right case to take to the Supreme Court and Rosa Parks was that case. So she went down in the history most people know.

But readers of this blog know better, or at least more. And there is a lot more to know, too. Irene's case made history by winning a judgement based on the "commerce clause" of the Constitution. That victory set the stage for many more afterward.

And in a different time she might well have become one of the great kickers in NFL history, too. After all, how many people have that kind of foot/eye coordination when being rushed by some big goons?


The inspiration, and virtually all of the information found in this story was gleaned from the excellent book, "Here is Where", by Andrew Carroll. 

Wednesday, July 31

A Little Fire


By Grant Davies


On this day...okay let's start over before we even begin.

Actually the event in our story took place on October 8th, but I just couldn't wait until then to tell you about it. I have been doing research on new stories for weeks and haven't written a darn thing lately. And since it's become so hard lately to find interesting little historical tidbits that correspond to the current date, I have decided to skip that part of the plan here at Cheeky History whenever it suits me. Big time blog editors like me can do that if they feel like it. The power is dizzying.

Anyway, on that date in 1871, there was a little fire that everyone remembers to this very day. Let's just guess the question of that era was, "Where were you when you heard about the Great Chicago Fire?" A good question too, because it was a terrible tragedy. Something like 200-300 people perished and property was destroyed on an unimaginable scale.

But it was, after all, just a little fire. The real firestorm was a tad north of there in Peshtigo, Wisconsin. Somewhere between 1200 and 2500 people were incinerated or otherwise lost their lives in the conflagration. The area destroyed was huge. While the Chicago fire was measured in blocks, the Peshtigo blaze was measured in sizes of states. As in "an area twice the size of Rhode Island." Over 1875 square miles of land were destroyed.

Some have speculated that the fires that burned all over the Midwest (Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan) that day were started by a comet, Comet Biela, to be exact. And since Mrs. O'Leary's cow wasn't seen speeding northward on Interstate 94 wearing a lantern where her cowbell should have been, it might be true. But probably not.

Most people (excluding regular readers of this blog, of course) never heard of the Peshtigo fire, maybe because the newspapers were in Chicago. But now all of you have. So you can tell all your friends that you learned about it right here on Cheeky History.

To mark the day, make a reservation at the Fireside Pub for October 8th. Order a "Flaming Rum Punch" and the hot wings, but don't let the bartender tell you the Miami Heat have anything on the Milwaukee Bucks when it comes to hot streaks.

Tuesday, July 23

The Country Has an Alien Problem

By Art Cashin

On this day (-4) in 1952, Washington D.C. was abuzz about the risk of a change of leadership. No…..Mr. History Major....it was not because Eisenhower was nominated by the Republican Convention (that event occurred eight days earlier). No…..Jeopardy Aspirant…..it was not the surprise of the Democrats nominating Adlai Stevenson over that chalk bet - Sen. Estes Kefauver (that event would not occur for eight more days).

Okay, you say! (You are rather impatient aren't you?) Who the hell were they worrying about as a replacement for President Harry S. Truman? The answer to any logical adult was....aliens. Er…..Do you mean aliens as in outer space and the supermarket tabloids? Yes, you dolt! What other kind of aliens could take over the most powerful nation in the free world?

So…..when the radar screens at National Airport showed a bunch of bogeys over the White House, things began to percolate. The radar images (about a half dozen) seemed to be cruising in a circle at about 150 miles per hour; above the President's House (actually Truman wasn't there). When air traffic control asked pilots in the area to report…..several reported very bright lights above....where else....the White House.

When one plane moved toward the area, three of the blips took off at a speed that showed up on the screen as 3000 mph....faster than any known plane. When the Air Force finally scrambled planes to the area....the remaining blips had left at the same incredible radar speed. The nation's press became alerted by the police calls and air traffic calls. The Air Force tried to pooh-pooh the sightings.

Later that week, however, there were similar sightings at a secret military facility south of Georgia. On July 25, the mysterious sightings came back to Washington. This time there was only one. An Air Force jet was scrambled but as it tried to near the object, radar screens showed the object pulling away at two times, four times and finally seven times the jet's fastest speed.

The Pentagon called a major press conference to respond. The sightings were "weather inversions" they said. "We could prove this to you but to do so would force us to reveal secret equipment which we might have used to prove this. And that secret equipment (if it existed at all), could be vital to the national security. So just trust us….we're certainly not the kind of people who'd trick you.

For gosh sakes, next thing you know you folks will think we're the type to conduct nuclear experiments on folks without telling them....come on folks….this is America in the 1950's."



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 9

If I Had a Doughnut I'd Give You the Hole

 Image= Camden Public Library
By Art Cashin

On this day in 1872, a man from Maine was given a patent (#128,783 if you must know) on a device to standardize and automate the production of a unique food product invented by another Maine man (25 years earlier). The automation allowed the product to become so successful that today well over billions of dollars worth are sold in the U.S. each year.

The man who was awarded the patent was a guy named John F. Blondel of Thomaston, ME, and he was a fine guy indeed. But the real genius was the earlier guy....a certain Hanson Crockett Gregory born in Clam Cove, Maine (no smart aleck...that's not where Jessica Fletcher lives).

Anyway...Hanson Gregory would have eventually been famous even without his discovery. He was such a good sailor; he captained a cargo ship before his 19th birthday. By age 20, that he had conducted such heroic sea rescues in violent storm-tossed seas that he was given an award by Queen Isabella of Spain. And his sea exploits continued until he died in 1921 at ago 90.

But history (or at least historians) chose to best remember Hanson Gregory not for what he did at sea but rather for what he did in the kitchen (at age 15 no less). Back in the year 1847, Hanson Gregory invented the doughnut...(Okay! Okay! Hold it down! I know what you're thinking..."I read this dope everyday and now he's trying to tell me some guy in 1847 invented doughnuts when I know that doughnuts are over 3000 years old....in fact I had a 2000 year old doughnut last Thursday.")

While you're wrong about how long doughnuts have been around (it's more like 500 years), I will concede Gregory didn't invent the doughnut...he invented the hole in the doughnut. Yup, the hole! Prior to Hanson Gregory, doughnuts were dough - nuts (often walnut sized lumps of sugar dough fried in oil...have you ever had a Zeppole for St. Joseph's Day?).

Anyway, young Hanson is sitting in the kitchen at age 15 and says to mom..."Gee the middle of the doughnut never seems to cook right!" So he cuts the doughy part out of the center with a fork. So mom says a mom thing like..."What am I supposed to do....throw the middle away all the time just because you think it's not cooked!" Then young Gregory says a smart-ass kid thing like..."No ma! You cut the middle out before
you cook it" and then he takes the fork and cuts a hole in the middle of the dough.

The rest is history.....and dollar signs.


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, July 8

Study Leave



By Grant Davies

Writing about history, even the rather whimsical variety found on this site, involves quite a bit of research. You can't write about the events of our past unless you first read about them. And even though writing takes quite a bit of time, reading takes even more. At least for me.

I have found a new source for what I hope will be a number of interesting stories. So I will spend the next several weeks reading and writing. During that time, posting here will be sporadic at best and non-existent at worse.

I know this comes as a terrible blow to you history nerds, but life is hard. It's harder if you are a crummy writer who is fresh out of material.

PS..There may be a few Art Cashin posts during this time for those of you who appreciate good writing.

Wednesday, July 3

The Battle of the Burgs



By Art Cashin

On this day in 1863, two civil war battles were reaching climactic moments. Their outcomes would change the course of the war and the history of the nation. They shared something else beside their timing and importance.

They also shared a name – or at least part of a name. They were the “burgs” – Gettysburg and Vicksburg.

Following the Confederate victory at Chancellorsville, Robert E. Lee decided to take the campaign north. He hoped to threaten Harrisburg or even Philadelphia. By placing a “northern” city at risk, he hoped the people and politicians would force Lincoln to sue for peace.

The fact that the battle took place at Gettysburg was somewhat of an accident. The two armies “bumped into” each other and the battle ensued.

The battle began on July 1st and on that day things went well for the Rebels. They routed Union forces, who fled through town. On the second day both sides were fully deployed. The Confederates mounted an assault on the left flank of the Union forces. Taking heavy casualties, the Union forces buckled but did not break.

On the third day (today), Lee determined to break the deadlock. Originally, the plan called for General Longstreet of the Confederates to attack the Union on its left flank but that plan had to be changed. Instead, they sent 12,000 men across an open field for three-quarters of a mile to attack the Union forces. Less than half those 12,000 would return. Despite the withering fire in the open field, the Rebels temporarily broke through and Union forces began to fall back. Reinforcements were quickly sent in and Rebels were beaten back.

The three day battle was over with nearly 50,000 casualties. Lee and his forces headed back to Virginia, never to come north again.

Nearly a half continent away, Confederate General John C. Pemberton was preparing to surrender the besieged city of Vicksburg and his 30,000 men to his Union opponent, Ulysses Grant. The surrender would propel Grant to take over the Union army.

Those two days, July 3rd and 4th of 1863 were devastating to the Confederate cause. Some believe that if Stonewall Jackson had not died at Chancellorsville, Lee might have been victorious. It is one of those historical “what ifs” that never happened.

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 26

Custer's Last Charge

By Art Cashin

On this day in (-1) 1876, an aging Boy Wonder tried his best tactic one time too many. Fourteen years earlier he had become the nation's youngest Brigadier General at age 23. But that was the Civil War.

Some even said he was "Grant, in a saddle." His opponents said, "The damn fool doesn't know when he's beaten, all he knows how to do is attack." In several charges he had his horse shot out from under him only to find a new mount and lead a new charge.

But when the war ended, the Union Army decided to prune its ranks, bloated with officers. He became a captain but soon rose to Lt. Colonel in the Indian campaigns. This would be a chance to recoup his former glory (and an outside shot at high political office, maybe even the presidency).

So, when the order came to move the Sioux out of some potential gold territories, he sensed his chance. And, when Crazy Horse defeated Gen. Crook at the Battle of Rosebud River on June 17th, the chance for fame loomed larger than ever. He split his force in three and moved his unit into Southeast Montana. There, a scout sighted a small Indian village. The scout had not been to an ophthalmologist in some time, unfortunately, and had clearly flunked out of "census school." The small village was almost the size of Chicago and looped all around the Little Big Horn.

Nonetheless, Lt. Col. Geo. Armstrong Custer decided not to wait for the expected reinforcements. He chose to go with his signature tactic, the frontal charge. Unfortunately, Crazy Horse had read Custer's press reports and therefore, surrounded this unit of the 7th Cavalry - forcing them to dismount and stand.

Thus the man who had been the Nation's youngest Brigadier General and all 265 of his men died at this last stand. (Ironically the only survivor was a horse belonging to an aide to Custer. What made it most ironic was the horse's name….."Comanche.")

To celebrate drop by the Little Big Horn Lounge and talk to a couple of ticket scalpers and sip some "Three Feathers" on the rocks. But bring cash - they don't like people who charge.

Editors note: For more about this event you may want to revisit an earlier offering; How Curley Kept His Hair.

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, June 24

Theoretically, It's a Conspiracy

By Grant Davies

On this day, the American people are making plans to mark a recent day when their leaders were caught red-handed in multiple lies concerning spying secrets. And since there is more than one person who agreed to lie about things, it qualifies as a conspiracy. At least that's my theory.

I'll probably be writing about that history 50 years from now. But only if I live to 113, which seemed more likely before the government took over responsibility for my healthcare. However, that's just a theory, too.

So let's take a look at what happened on this day in 1997. Back then, preparations were in the "hectic" mode for an extravagant celebration of the 50th anniversary of the uncovering of a different government cover-up.

It was only about a week before the gathering was to be held that the government decided it didn't like being uncovered, so they were making their own preparations. They decided/conspired to throw some cold water on the participants of the upcoming meeting.

Anyway, today was the day they released their newest comprehensive report (231 pages) on the subject. The paper was titled "The Roswell Report, Case Closed." Roswell of course was the nearest town to the events that inspired the whole mess. (On a per capita basis it may be one of the most well known places on the continent.) The previous report, a mere 1000 pager released in 1994, had worked so well in discrediting the conspiracy theorists they went back to the same tactic. Same results, what a shock. So what was the big conspiracy hiding? Why, nothing less than little green men! Or maybe gray men, but you get the idea.

In July, 1947, a rancher had found multiple metallic objects, indicative of some kind of serious aerial crash, scattered across parts of his land. Of course, he called in an expert to study the wreckage. The expert, the local sheriff, sensed that he was in the deep end of the science pool without any flippers and called in the US Air Force. They might not have been the best group to call, but heck, they were right there in the neighborhood and it gave the sheriff a good punting target. (Don't try mixing your metaphors at home, kids; I'm a professional writer on a closed track.)

Anyway, it didn't take that group long to declare that they had recovered what remained of a "flying disk." Later the disk became a weather balloon and the gray alien spacemen bodies that were theoretically/allegedly recovered had become test dummies from recent parachute tests. And that's how conspiracy theories get started. All you need is some mixed up stories and a little secrecy to make conspiratorial history.

But there is a bright side, an entire industry sprang up in its wake. It put the town on the map and inspired annual UFOlogist conventions. Countless TV shows, movies and books have been produced. Not to mention the millions of alien toys and memorabilia that have been sold. So it looks like in some cases government actually can stimulate business.

To celebrate the day...oh, never mind. The 50th anniversary celebration is what got this whole story started in the first place.

Friday, June 14

Stars, Stripes, and Francis Hopkinson

By Art Cashin

On this day in 1777, the Continental Congress adopted the concept of a flag with 13 stars and 13 stripes. It had been designed by Francis Hopkinson, a designer of naval pennants (who apparently was never paid by the government for his efforts).

Many decades later a grand nephew of Betsey Ross would claim that she had designed and sewn the first flag but as popular as the theory became there are no records of an order, delivery or payment.

Hopkinson's case is reinforced by records that indicate that a certain G. Washington and the Board of War thought Hopkinson's design was a naval pennant. They requested a new standard or "colors" for the Army. (P.S. Gen. G. Washington got his colors at war's end - 1783 - no records show what they looked like.)

Anyway, proving that the Founding Fathers were good at Constitutions but as bad as their current heirs at loopholes, the flag law was vague. Soon there were flags with vertical stripes and even gold stars (quite popular into the civil war). And, like today's accountants they found fudging numbers didn't hurt. The stars and stripes mentioned in the Star Spangled Banner flew over Fort McHenry with 15 stripes and 15 stars.

Not to worry though, your government would not let a problem linger - the flag was finally defined - in 1959.

To celebrate Flag Day have a couple of shots at the Old Glory Lounge. But remember to stop before you see stars and be sure not to drive after, or you may end up wearing stripes.

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.

Thursday, June 6

Churchill, Ike, and the King of England

By Art Cashin

(Author's Note: The following historical note was originally presented by an old friend on the floor who is a military history buff. We didn't have time to research it ourselves but he swears it's true and, on the floor at least, your word is still your bond...so here goes a remarkable story.)

On this day (-4 approximately) in 1944, Winston Churchill called Dwight Eisenhower. The conversation went something like this: "Ike, I want you to put me on one of the ships to observe the invasion. We've waited so long for this moment. It will be a turning point in the history of all mankind. And, I can not send so many brave boys to meet danger or death without showing them I share some risk."

Ike replied something like - "Mr. Prime Minister, I understand your feelings completely. But you are such a symbol of the Allied cause that I cannot allow you to take the risk. If something happened to you, it would be a setback to the war effort no matter what fate we met on the beach."

Churchill threatened to call FDR but Ike said he would resign before letting Churchill board the invasion fleet. Churchill then reminded Ike that he (Churchill) had once been First Lord of the Admiralty. Therefore, he said "I think I still have enough friends in the British Navy to get aboard some vessel whether you like it or not." The reply - "Perhaps, Mr. Prime Minister...but I assure you I shall do everything I can to prevent it."

Later that day, Ike took the unusual step of calling Windsor Castle. He asked to speak to George VI, the King of England. After excusing his own impertinence, Ike told the King that Churchill was being foolish and stubborn and that if anything happened to Churchill the war effort would suffer regardless of other events.

The King listened sympathetically. He agreed with every point Ike made. Then he said that after working with the Prime Minister for months, Ike must know that Churchill was clearly a very stubborn Englishman, who might well ignore an order even from his king on this matter.

Late that night the King called Churchill. "Winston, what's all this tomfoolery about you being on board the invasion fleet?" A stunned Churchill replied - "It's no tomfoolery, Your Majesty! We've worked so hard...suffered so much...historic moment in the history of mankind...brave boys at risk...etc, etc. It is no tomfoolery, Your Majesty; it is my solemn duty as Prime Minister!!"

The King paused a moment then replied - "You're right Winston! But if it is the solemn duty of the Prime Minister to be aboard, it is ten times that duty for the King to be there...what ship do you suggest we sail on, Winston?"

It probably took Churchill a second or two to realize he had been outfoxed. Then he said, "You've made your point very well Your Majesty. We'll both await the news at home."


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 5

It's as Good as Gold


By Grant Davies

On this day in 1933, the Congress of the United States passed a law, (HJR 192), that took the country off the gold standard.

Ho hum, just some legalistic, monetary, mumbo jumbo that doesn't affect the common man, you might say. In fact, it might help the common man because it's designed to stop those evil rich guys from hoarding gold. And everyone knows that's what's causing the depression.. right?

Anyway, what's the big deal? The little guy doesn't have any gold so who cares what happens to the fat cats?

The law was just the rubber stamp that FDR's puppets applied to his "executive order 6102", which had been signed just three months earlier by the king, er, President. That order was the one that made every citizen in the country a criminal if they didn't turn in their gold by May 1st of the same year.

Oh, I forgot to mention, these laws and executive orders were preceded by, yep you guessed it, a Presidential Proclamation. "Proclamation 2039" to be exact. (It does sound a bit like what a king might do, but it's not like what the Wizard of Oz did when he gave out hearts, brains, and courage. But I digress.)

What all this meant was that the government took away all your gold coins and bullion. (Silver was included too. We'll leave that for a future story.) But not to worry, these nice men were allowing you to keep grandpa's gold watch and mom's wedding band. And what's the big deal? They will pay you $20.67 per ounce for it; it's not like they are stealing it from you.

So you get the paper, the government gets the gold (and the power to make the paper worth anything, or nothing, it wants) and all is right with the world. Surely this will fix the depression, so it's worth the minor inconvenience.

Before I forget, it should be mentioned that just a short time after they took all the gold they could get their hands on, they arbitrarily raised the price of gold to $35 an ounce. It was a stroke of genius for the Federal Reserve who was able to realize a 69 percent increase in the value of what they had just stolen, er, bought. It wasn't such a good deal for the home folks though because it made the value of their currency worth 40% less.

Another way to devalue the money would be to print it like crazy, but don't worry, they would never do that. After all, ever since the Fed began defending the value of the dollar it has lost 95% of its value, and who can argue with a track record like that?

To celebrate the day, stop down at the Yellow Rock Saloon and have a shot of Goldschlager schnapps. But just because it's about 40% alcohol don't assume you broke even on the deal.

Friday, May 31

Henry Wells' Joyride

Image = eyewitness to History
By Art Cashin

On this day in 1896, a man named Henry Wells of Springfield, Mass. decided to show the folks of New York City just what a clever fellow they had the luxury to see among them. (Wells may not have realized that the streets of New York are littered with the bones of folks who proposed to show the same thing.)
Wells left his digs in his new and expensive "Duryea Motor Wagon." (You will recall that the giddy Duryea brothers had invented something called the automobile in an earlier episode.)

Anyway, Wells was powering uptown (balloon horn a' honk) at maybe an amazing 18 MPH. Suddenly in his path was a Ms. Evelyn Thomas, astride her recklessly ridden bicycle. Unfortunately, for Wells there were two Irish cops at that corner. Given a Gaelic sense of justice they determined that right was weight or maybe inversely. (If you're not a Gael perhaps that may seem confusing.)

Nonetheless, the boys figured the car was bigger than the bike and thus it was not a fair fight. So they put Wells in jail overnight and sent Ms. Thomas to Manhattan Hospital to assess her life threatening injuries (a fractured leg).

After shaking Wells loose of some excess weight in his wallet (fines, legal fees, municipal scams), the authorities released him. It is assumed he returned north and lived out his days in one of those burgs where life is played at AAA level.

To celebrate take someone for a joyride. But recall that DWI tests aren't always administered by guys who try to match their cultural heritage with your blood/proof level.


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, May 21

Marie Besnard was Relatively Toxic

By Grant Davies

On this day (-10) in 1949, authorities in Loudun, France, were leaning on their shovels after having spent a fair amount of time exhuming the body of a certain Monsieur Leon Besnard.

Poor Leon had left this earth in October, 1947, after consuming some bad soup. While examining Leon's remains, it was concluded that what made the soup bad was the amount of arsenic in it, 19.45 mg to be exact. At least that was the amount left in what was left of Leon a year and a half after he slurped the soup.

It seems that Leon was only one of many people who got fatal indigestion after being in close proximity to his wife, Marie. The number turned out to be thirteen. And when their remains had been similarly dug up, Marie Besnard found herself in the soup, too.

The local gendarmerie had been informed of the unusual string of fatally bad luck that befell almost everyone  around Marie. Well, at least those who coincidentally had some franc fran├žais that would pass to Marie in the event of their failure to exist. Naturally, they told the magistrate, who ordered the above digging and counting of arsenic milligrams to be performed. Marie was charged with thirteen homicides.

The poisonous family relationships began soon after Leon's parents inherited a ton of wealth from someone who probably died a natural death. In one of the most unfortunate relocation decisions on record, they accepted their son and daughter-in-law's invitation to move in with them.

It turned out to be a short visit instead of a long residence. Leon's father died soon thereafter, apparently from eating poisoned mushrooms. (Perhaps the kind with arsenic in them?) His mother died of "pneumonia" three months later. No word on whether her condition had poisonous residue.

Subsequently the Besnard's decided to rent space to some wealthy friends who conveniently had named Marie as their sole beneficiary, and who even more conveniently soon passed away from "pneumonia" and "aortitis"(18 mg and 30 mg)

Marie's father also died, of cerebral hemorrhage (36 mg). Marie's cousins were not lucky either. Both of them died within nine days of each other from the same stupid mistakes. The first mistake they made was naming Marie their sole heir. The second was that they ate lye for dessert by accident. (48 mg and 20 mg) Hey, it happens all the time! Lye can get in your pie pretty easily. The list goes on but I won't poison your opinion of Marie's guilt or innocence by piling on. 

So Marie was convicted and went to prison forever and everyone was satisfied. 

Umm, not so fast. Not every story has justice being done. Marie had three trials, and in the end (1961), she beat the rap. Legal "Dream Teams" of the "OJ" variety are not exclusive to America it seems. Marie herself didn't pass away until 1980 but it seems likely that she didn't die of poisoning since there was no one left to spice up her soup. So if she did it, she got away with murder. Er..thirteen murders.

To mark the date, slip on down to the "Bad Luck Bar and Grill" and have a sip of something strong. But if the bartender asks "What's your poison?" watch closely while your drink is being mixed.

Post Script
Oh, I forgot to mention, Leon wasn't Marie's first husband. His name was Auguste Antigny, her cousin, who she married in 1920. His death was from pleurisy in 1927, (60 mg). I don't remember things as well as I did before I had that soup for lunch...

Thursday, May 16

If You Need to be Tired, Don't Get Gassed so Often

Image = Turnoffyourtv.com

By Art Cashin

On this day in 1942, the U.S. Government invoked the war status to proclaim the rationing of gasoline. The public understood. With a war on (WWII in case you forgot) it was clear we needed to conserve fuel.

Well that was a nice thought. But the real reason that government decided to give out A-cards or B-cards was not gas. It was tires.

When the war began America had more than enough fuel to last two decades. But it had no rubber. So it had no tires. How do you conserve tires? Well, knowing Americans, they knew that if they banned the sale of new tires, folks would just drive the same way until the old ones wore out and then park the car permanently. (To say nothing of the potential of guys jacking up your car and stealing all four tires - - in
New York City, they can do that while you're driving.)

Anyway, the Washington wizards decided that the most effective way to save rubber was to get us to drive less. And the best way to do that was to ration gasoline.

To celebrate stop by the "Garage" but be careful not to get gassed up. And, while you are sipping your ration, try to figure what they are trying to conserve with the prices (and taxes) at the pump these days.


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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