Friday, September 28

The Life You Save Might Be Mine

By Art Cashin

On this day (+2) in 1955, a young man, who had arrived in Hollywood just two years before, decided to celebrate the completion of his third movie.  Even though two of the movies had not yet been released, he had gained notoriety of a sort and some money.  And since he loved sports car racing and since he had some bucks, he bought a brand new grey Porsche ($7,000 circa 1955).

A few days later he and a stunt man pal decided to air out this new toy (nicknamed "The Little Bastard") on the way to a sports car event, west of Bakersfield.  They may have taken the air a bit too easily since by mid-afternoon they got a speeding ticket.  But they kept going.

About two hours later with the setting sun at his back, he sped into an intersection, and into a left turning vehicle, and into American Folklore.  His name was James Dean and he was killed instantly.  The fame he achieved in "East of Eden" became idolatry and legend with the release of "Rebel Without a Cause" and "Giant".

But one other of Dean's film appearances was never released to theaters.  It was a public service announcement, it was for safe driving. In that flick, Dean looked into the camera and said that even though he raced cars he felt safer on the race track than on the highway.  At the conclusion, he advised viewers to
drive safely - "the life you save might be mine."

To mark the date, stop by the Four Barrel Inn and have some high octane and olives. If there's some sweet thing there, gaze into her eyes, try to look vulnerable and caution that sometimes just when you think you've got your act together - something gets in your way.

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, September 25

Pardon my Adultery

Image courtesy of Mormon History Guy
By Grant Davies

Presidents can get into political trouble if they make controversial pardons to people who have knowingly broken the laws. It has happened many times in the past.

But if the country elects a Mormon President (or more correctly, a President who is a Mormon), be ready for him to legally forgive all of his fellow Mormons for their crimes of adultery, illegal co-habitation, bigamy, and polygamy. It's an outrage I tell ya!

Oh, that already happened one hundred and eighteen years ago? Umm, in that case.. never-mind.

It was on this day, September 25th, 1894, that President Grover Cleveland, who turned out to be a two timer himself (in an electoral way), issued a pardon to all the Mormons who committed the above named crimes. I apologize for the confusion.

It seems these issues never get totally resolved, because now-a-days a bunch of other people are agitating to be allowed to define marriage in their own way. But that's a different story. I'll tell you all about it someday.

It was only after the Church of Latter Day Saints made it's own proclamation a few years earlier - saying that they would no longer sanction such unions - that a different President, Benjamin Harrison, pardoned those evil-doers who were repentant and promised not to commit the crimes again.  (Don't confuse Harrison with his distant relative, "Big Hoss", who works at a pawn shop that's featured on The History Channel.)

So the next year when President Cleveland issued his amnesty, he was just making it more official. He claimed that sufficient evidence had been furnished to him to show that members of the church in question had ceased and desisted from breaking the laws. So he decided that they could have their rights back. Oh yeah, they could have all their stuff back too. In the end, it's all about the stuff, isn't it?

So if you are even considering hooking up with more than one person at a time in the future, keep in mind it's still illegal. And they're still watching you.

But don't worry, all is forgiven. At least it was last time.

Friday, September 21

A Rotten Egg, Benedict Style

Image courtesy of
By Grant Davies

On this day, September 21, 1780, a meeting was held between two high ranking military men that resulted in one of them being demoted from Major General to Brigadier General. It's not a desirable happening even under normal circumstances, but when you change sides in order to get a  demotion, it doesn't do a great deal for your reputation as an up-and comer.

That's what happened when a certain Major General Arnold of  the Continental Army became Brigadier General Arnold of the British Army.

It all unfolded when Benedict Arnold, a hero to many (including a rather influential guy named George Washington), decided that the chart of his career path wasn't steep enough on the upside while the chart of his net worth was sliding off the bottom of the graph paper. And as if that wasn't bad enough, a few days later the chart of his legacy prospects looked the same as the post 1929 Dow Jones Industrial Average. His stock never recovered, but enough of the market analogies.

The meeting was of the secret variety, at least that's what it was supposed to be, but one of the participants, a certain Major John Andre of the British army, was captured on his way back from the negotiations with the minutes of the meeting still in his briefcase. It was a mistake that resulted in the shortening of his life due to the  lengthening of his neck.

For his part, Arnold had to paddle his ass down the Hudson River at a high rate of speed to avoid the same fate. He narrowly avoided capture by his former employers and was subsequently put in charge of a brigade of British soldiers and awarded a pension £360. He also got a lump sum of over £6,000 in payment for his treachery. Who says crime doesn't pay?

In the end his name became synonymous with the word "traitor," at least on this side of the pond. He didn't do too well on the other side either, because after all, even a red coat never really trusts a turn coat.

Wednesday, September 19

Even a Blind Pig

Image = The Detroit News

 By Art Cashin

On this day in 1838, American ingenuity and salesmanship intervened in yet another episode of America's recurring battles of alcohol versus abstemiousness.

(Oh! I see that look in your eye!  These are Founding Fathers you say...industrious, dedicated, inventive, reverent, patriotic.  Yes, Alice, that's true but you left out...occasionally lying drunk in the gutter.  Need I remind you that many, if not most, of the public laws dating back to before the Pilgrims landed were about the dispensing of alcohol.

Need I further remind you that America's first great piece of fiction was Rip Van Winkle...the story of a town drunk who drank himself into a 20 year coma.  Need I also remind you that George Washington...oh, never mind, you get the point and I'm making myself thirsty.)

At any rate, here it is 1838 and temperance again is on the upswing.  Just two years earlier, the Rev. Thomas Hunt began "a children's crusade" in Sunday Schools recruiting temperance pledges to "cold water societies" from over 40,000 (presumably fathers).  About the same time several Protestant denominations called for temperance pledges and got 3000 pledges in a month (mostly ministers...but at that time they were part of the target audience.  We Catholics may have missed this particular temperance wave...maybe  the Altar wine...

One final background note...these pledges were sometimes partial others were for total abstinence.  Some signers were temperance (T) partialers  or temperance (T)  totalers...get it...Tee totalers.).

Okay, if you're still awake...on this day in 1838, a man in New Bedford, Mass. found a way around the new restrictions on the serving of booze which the state legislature had recently set down. This fellow advertised that gentlemen might wish to come by his place and for a small fee get to view a rare "striped pig."  Those who came by found the fee to indeed be small (about the price of a double jigger of dark rum).  They also found that to view the pig they had go, one at a time, into a drapery enclosed chamber (or blind).  Once inside, they discovered that the celebrated striped pig was ceramic and painted. Before they could get too angry they also noticed that next to the ceramic pig was a double jigger of dark rum (actually just 3/4 full).

About now the "customer"  would realize that he had been had...but not by much...since if he drank the rum it was almost a fair trade.  And since this often occurred during hours restricted by the legislature...maybe it wasn't such a bad deal at all.  Soon lots of thirsty (er...make that curious) citizens came by to view "the striped pig in a blind."  Shortly, folks were calling all "off hours" drinking spots a "blind pig."

The nick-name was very popular in the early days of Prohibition in the 1920's until it was replaced by the admonition given to clients by the new illegal innkeepers - "You'll have to speak easy so folks won't know we're in here."

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, September 17

Manny and the Flying Circus

By Grant Davies

On this day in 1916, two Englishmen died and a legend was born. It happened during a misunderstanding that has come to be known as the "war to end all wars." (No comment needed on that.)

History has largely forgotten the unlucky Brits, a pilot named Second Lieutenant Lionel Morris and his passenger Lieutenant T. Rees, but everyone seems to remember the German pilot who shot them out of the sky on his way to aerial immortality.

Even more people remember that a delusional canine sitting atop a camel (Sopwith variety) while wearing a scarf engaged in epic dog-fights with the same German pilot. Historical payback can be a bitch, even if the dog was presumably a male.

In real life the ace was Manfred von Richthofen, better known as the Red Baron. And on this day, almost a century ago,  he made history by making his first "kill" when a short burst from his machine gun sent the above named pair to a fatal meeting with the French soil. It's claimed that he did the same thing another eighty or so times in the next few years, but that number is probably more propaganda than fact. Suffice it to say that he shot down more enemy planes than anyone else. Not bad for a guy who failed in his first try to get his licence to fly.

But Manny was a mover and he quickly learned his deadly craft. He was also a mover on the ground. He frequently relocated his squadron, along with all the tents and attending equipment from spot to spot. From the air it must have looked like a carnival going from town to town. At least that's what the enemy thought, so they dubbed the whole operation "The Flying Circus." It probably wasn't in admiration.

When he finally met his end in the spring of 1918, it wasn't quite as romantic as getting shot down by a puppy flying on top of a bullet ridden dog house. It was later determined that he was ignominiously done in by ground fire.

I don't know about you but I prefer the Snoopy story.

BTW, Manfred actually was a "Freiherr" (literally in German, "Free Lord"), a title of nobility which translates into English as "Baron." But he was no commie, the Fokker (his triplane, not Manny) he flew the last eight months of the war was painted bright red to honor the old cavalry regiment he was in before he dismounted a horse and flew into history.

Tuesday, September 11

Sept. 11th and The Sneak Attack on Washington

By Grant Davies

On this day in history, September 11, America took a bad hit in a war that would drag on for what seemed like an eternity. Washington suffered a sneak attack that no one saw coming. The sneaky SOBs who crept up on us while we were in a fog won the day and threw the country into an unimaginable turmoil.

The Washington in this story wasn't named DC, but rather was the son of a certain Augustine Washington who named him George. You may have heard of him.

On this day in 1777, his army took a beating from the Brits when they were surprised by two generals named  Cornwallis and Howe who used the heavy morning fog to sneak up on Washington near Brandywine Creek in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. The same fog kept Washington from discovering that they had split their force of 18,000 troops to attack from the right flank as well as the front. The assault didn't come until the afternoon but by then it was too late. It was a mess.

George had to order a retreat when he realized that his 11,000 man force would soon be surrounded as well as out-manned. The Americans lost over 1,100 men killed or captured to only 600 of the British. Many of the American artillery horses fell in the retreat and the cannons had to be abandoned along with any pride the Americans might have had the previous day.

Washington got away, but the Brits turned on Philly and walked in unopposed. Presumably the cheese-steak sammies were still on the tables as the congress decided to bolt without paying the check. (History does repeat.)

So the next time you're in Philadelphia, stop in at The City Tavern for some Chestnut Fritters. You can wash them down with some of Thomas Jefferson's original recipe ale. The fritters, like battlefield defeats, can sometimes be hard to swallow without some liquid courage.

Monday, September 10

The NIGHTingale of Firsts

By Art Cashin

On this day in 1850, the American tradition of celebrity hysteria was born.  And who else would you expect to be the mid-wife at the event - none other than Phineas Taylor Barnum.

The event was the New York debut of a certain Johanna Goldschmidt but perhaps you know her by the name that most ga-ga New Yorkers knew her by - Jenny Lind.  Barnum had imported the soprano from Europe - but - hold your Beatle wig folks - he thought he needed a "gimmick" to hype things.

First he picked a nick-name/image.  He called her "the Swedish Nightingale."  Then he announced that for her American tour, they would have to outfit a special railroad car for her special needs.  (First private railroad car in history.)  He then planted stories that she would occasionally appear at the window, on a balcony, or in the lobby of her hotel.  The result was an incredible 30,000 people surrounding the hotel.  (First call out of the police to protect a celebrity.)

Barnum then announced that the tickets for her appearance at Castle Clinton, on the southern most tip of Manhattan, was oversubscribed.  So, he announced, in true Barnum fashion, that he would auction off the 25¢ tickets.  On the first bid a man who was either love struck or a Barnum plant paid $225 for the 25¢ ticket.  His name was John Genin.  The crowd went wild and began bidding frantically for tickets.  (First
ticket scalping - an old NYC tradition).  When the auction was over, many of the successful bidders re-offered their tickets at a premium to those who missed the auction.  (Second ticket scalping - another tradition.)  

Having caused more than enough headlines and hysteria, on this night, Barnum escorted his star to the glittering candlelit stage of Castle Clinton and into celebrity history.

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.

The gala wedding day of our little girl is now part of history. It was terrific! The event took place in our yard. The weather was perfect, the service was cheeky, the food and servers were outstanding, and most of all our bride was gorgeous. Our family is blessed to have such a great new son join us. God is good. Thanks for all the well wishes and expressions of congratulations.  I hope you have enjoyed the posts by Art Cashin while we have been engaged in the planning and celebrating.

Thursday, September 6

He Made Him an Offer He Could Refuse

By Art Cashin

On this day (+1) in 1861, President  Abraham Lincoln made one of the most remarkable offers in American history.  The Civil War had begun and already Lincoln had begun to doubt the will and skill of his generals.  In fact, he had become so frustrated with his commanding general's apparent hesitancy that at one point he
sent one of the generals a message:  "If you are not going to use my army, do you mind if I borrow it?"

So, Lincoln racked his brain trying to think of a charismatic aggressive military man to lead his troops.  Then he thought about a guy who had made a big splash six years before, talking about his military exploits as he toured the speech circuit.  The papers had loved him.

Lincoln sent out feelers to see if this general would consider taking command of the Union Army.  Yet, although his name began with a "G" it was not Grant.  Rather it was Giuseppe Garibaldi, the Italian Freedom Fighter, who had added to his image by leading rebel armies in South America just a decade before.

According to published reports, Garibaldi sent word that he would only consider the post if Lincoln abolished slavery.  Lincoln reportedly feared that to do so would take away from the stated goal of the war which was to preserve the Union.  So the negotiations fell apart.

If things had gone otherwise, Groucho Marx might have spent a decade saying --"We don't want you to go home empty handed -- so we'll give you $50 if you can tell us "Who's buried in Garibaldi's Tomb?"

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, September 4

It's an Ill Wind That Blows No Good

By Art Cashin

On this day in 1666, a massive fire broke out in the city of London, England. It began in a bakery on Pudding Lane, which was on the East End (between London Bridge and the Tower).  The fire raged into the shop (or shoppe) next door which sold ship's goods, especially tar and turpentine.  That building not only caught fire, it exploded raining flaming tar down on the wooden buildings in the neighborhood.

At first the authorities dismissed it as a local blaze.  The wind had other ideas, however.  It whipped up in strong gusts and soon the flames were spreading across the city.  By mid-morning the next day much of the city was on fire and much of the populace had taken to boats and barges on the Thames. The king called for a team of Navy gun experts to blow up blocks of buildings to form a firebreak.  Luckily, the strategy worked and after raging three days, the fire burned itself out.

The devastation, however, was huge.  Nearly 500 acres of the city was nothing more than ashes.  An estimated 15,000 homes and nearly 100 churches were fully destroyed leaving 100,000 homeless.  Amazingly, the human death toll was set at 10.

Under the rubric of "It's an ill wind that blows no good" the disaster was, in fact, a blessing in disguise.  The year before, nearly 100,000 Londoners had died of the Plague.  A new outbreak had been feared but the fire destroyed the rat hovels where the plague-bearing fleas had prospered. After the Great Fire, the Plague virtually disappeared.  No one realized it at the time but the fire saved the city.

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.

Please enjoy some great stories by Art Cashin while I attend to some joyful family affairs. I'll be returning soon.

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