Tuesday, December 30

Art Cashin and the Fifty Year Odyssey

Art Cashin
Storyteller and Trader Extraordinaire
By Grant Davies

On this day in 1964, (that's 50 years ago for you who need a calculator, er..smart phone) a young man was promoted to partner of  P.R. Herzig & Co., and became one of the youngest people ever to have a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.

But he sure didn't "take a seat" or "remain seated" over the next 50 years. His name is Art Cashin. That's right, he's the same guy who writes many of the historical posts for this site. And boy has he ever been busy over that half century.

My own involvement in the trading floor business didn't begin until four years later, so Art was a floor member on the "big board" in the "big apple" before I was even an odd lot boy on the tiny Midwest Stock Exchange in the second city. Art still has his seat and I still have mine. But mine is a recliner in my living room and his is still a membership in one of the most important and historic financial institutions the world has ever known.

Today he is director of floor operations for UBS Financial Services and he appears daily on CNBC. But somewhat more importantly (to me) he is a contributor of wonderful stories to this lilliputian blog. I have been extremely grateful to Art and UBS for allowing me to republish those great stories over the last several years and it's my hope that in some small way this blog has exposed people to his historical musings who otherwise would have never read them.

So, congratulations Mr. Cashin on your 50th anniversary on the floor of the NYSE. And thanks for informing us while entertaining us for all that time.

As he penned in this morning's Cashin's Comments, "It has been a most interesting half century." I wholeheartedly agree! The man is an institution inside an institution.

To celebrate the day, if you happen to see him in his "seat" in some historic Wall Street watering hole, scribbling trading level numbers on the famous cocktail napkins that have informed so many traders for so long, be sure to tip your hat to a Wall Street icon and thank him for the stories you have enjoyed here.

Read more about Art here.

Thursday, December 18

Chew on This Story

image = chewing gum facts
By Art Cashin

On this day in 1869, Wm. Semple of Ohio was granted a patent on a form of chewing gum. Americans had long chewed a variation of an old Indian substance - - a combination of sap and paraffin. But like many American invention, somewhere else another guy was working on the same project. In this case the somewhere else was Staten Island.

A guy named Santa Ana, who had a somewhat brief political and military career in Mexico (see “Alamo”), was trying to start a new career in his 70's. And, where is a trendier, more intellectually challenging place than Staten Island. He was hoping to produce a substitute for rubber and had brought along some chicle (itself the sap of a Mexican plant).

He showed it to a local inventor, Tom Adams, this particular sample. But try as he could Adams couldn't make a rubber substitute. So one day while he was hanging out at a drug store (the mall had not been invented yet), Adams heard a kid complain about the paraffin gum. Adams went home, soaked some chicle in licorice and kneaded it into little pellets. The druggist sold out the new sample in six hours. Shortly, America was hooked on "Adams N.Y. Gum No. 1".

To mark the day, try not to chew out an employee. Some can be very snappy. And try not to laugh when someone tells you they always thought "Chicklets" was inspired by a poultry symbol.

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, December 8


Editors note:
I haven't written anything for this blog in quite some time so I thought I would write about the letter found below. It's a perfect fit for this site because it's great history written with tongue firmly in cheek. I decided not to write about it because I could never improve upon what the author wrote.

The source for the letter is The Freedmen's Book, by Lydia Maria Child. It is republished here under the terms of The Project Gutenberg.* Special thanks to Letters of Note blog.
Grant Davies


[Written just as he dictated it.]

Dayton, Ohio, August 7, 1865.

To my old Master, Colonel P. H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee.

Sir: I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can.

I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin's to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable.

Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here. I get twenty-five dollars a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy,—the[266] folks call her Mrs. Anderson,—and the children—Milly, Jane, and Grundy—go to school and are learning well. The teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday school, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated. Sometimes we overhear others saying, "Them colored people were slaves" down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks; but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Colonel Anderson. Many darkeys would have been proud, as I used to be, to call you master. Now if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.

As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty-two years, and Mandy twenty years. At twenty-five dollars a month for me, and two dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to eleven thousand six hundred and eighty dollars. Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and deduct what you paid for our clothing, and three doctor's visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams's Express, in care of V. Winters, Esq.,[267] Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night; but in Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up, and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve—and die, if it come to that—than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.

Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.

From your old servant,
Jourdon Anderson.

Congratulations to Dave McGovern for winning the 15 Seconds of Fame Award given to contributors of ideas for Cheeky History blog-posts. Thanks Dave! Keep 'em coming.

*This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org

Friday, October 31

Happy Samhain

Image = Lightgrid
By Art Cashin

On this day in (approx.) 823 B.C., the most inventive, charming and clever people ever to grace God's green earth came up with yet another ingenious idea.

They were, of course, the Irish (at this time A/K/A the Celts). Being bright they did not labor upon the obvious. So they let somebody else invent fire, the wheel, iron, astronomy, writing, calendars, etc. These they figured they could copy - - and boy did they. These clever folks....well.....they tended to save their strength for what was really important.

By this stratagem, even 1000 years earlier, while pagan types were grappling with such mediocrity as pyramids, irrigation and geometry, the Celts had learned to distill grain. This miracle medicinal cure (which would maintain mankind for over 3000 years) they called Usquebah. The amazed and very
indebted rest of the world mistranslated the name as "whiskey".

So for a millennia these wise and whiskey-witty folk enjoyed good health and good fellowship. Then as this particular day approached (circa 823 B.C.), gender problems arose. The women began expecting the men to hang out close to the cave as the evening came earlier each fall. If civilization were to progress, this would never do!

So the Celtic elders came up with the second great invention. They called it "Samhain" or end of summer. They explained to the women that as the season changed, ghosts, goblins and evil spirits came forth to threaten all humans. In order to protect the women and children, the men folk selflessly would have to put on old clothes, take some jugs of the magic Usquebah (possible snake bite you know) and go into the hills and light fires.

For nearly 1500 years the tradition held. Then came the good St. Patrick who was wise enough to keep the Usquebah but drove out the snakes. Conveniently, his Christian teaching did say that November 1st was the Feast of All Saints (or "All Hallows"). So it only seemed logical that if the saints were coming out, the devils would have one last fling. So, snakes or not, we would
still need those reliable old clothes, bonfires and protective booze on the eve of "All Hallows" or Hallow's Evening or Halloween.

To celebrate stop by "The Bog on the Moor" and fortify yourself against snakebite, but quit before ye begin to see the little people. For to go beyond, will surround ye with all kinds of devilment like - banshees and ghoulies and mothers-in-law.

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

Friday, October 3

The Great Imposter - No, It's Not a Politician

By Art Cashin

On this day (+1) in 1951, the Royal Canadian Navy found itself in a bizarre disciplinary proceeding. The proceedings were against a young naval surgeon who had recently become somewhat of a national hero.

It was during the toughest days of the Korean War (er...make that "Police Action"). In the choppiest of seas, the young surgeon was called upon to remove a bullet from a soldier's heart. Shortly after that, he saved a man with severe wounds and collapsed lungs. The medical work was so amazingly successful that newspapers and magazines ran special features on the young wonder surgeon.

Several folks who bought the magazines noticed the picture layout and the coincidence that the guy in the photograph had the same name as a doctor they knew...Dr. Joseph C. Cyr of Vancouver. They sent copies of the photos to Dr. Cyr. He noticed that the hero not only had his name...he had also attended the same schools, in the same years and got the same grades as Dr. Cyr of Vancouver. He called the Canadian Navy to question the coincidence.

That brings us to this day (+1) in 1951. They Navy had discovered that the guy who performed those delicate operations on a pitching vessel in primitive conditions was not Dr. Cyr. In fact, he was not a doctor at all. He was a U.S. citizen named Ferdinand Waldo De Mara. The Navy was ready to punish to the max...but De Mara's fellow officers, the crew and the men he had saved testified he was the most competent, dedicated and sincere man they had ever served with.

Perversely, the Navy inquiry also produced high praise for De Mara in the roles he had served in before he impersonated Dr. Cyr and joined the Navy. He was praised as a superior in a Trappist Monastery, a professor in three different colleges (in different subjects, no less), a jailbird (desertion from previous military service) and, perversely, later as a prison warden.

In all of the above positions and a dozen more (except jailbird), De Mara was an imposter. He had used different names and falsified various diplomas and accreditations he'd never won. His life was so remarkable and he succeeded at so many things others had trained for years to accomplish that the Press dubbed him - "The Great Imposter" and Hollywood made a movie about him.

But while they explained how he got into various positions, they never explained how in every one he was promoted time and again while being praised by co-workers, clients and superiors. For that you'll have to go to the Library and dig out De Mara's book (also called the Great Imposter). It is full of insights on human nature. The greatest of which De Mara called "the power vacuum" (an overstatement). Put simply De Mara felt that if you were put in charge of picking up cigarette butts you could soon be in management....simply because people don't want responsibility. They like power and pomp and titles and some even like making decisions...but whether in business, medicine, education or religion, folks don't want to take responsibility for their actions and decisions.

Interesting theory...but come on!!...this is America!!...this is capitalism!!....who ever heard of management ducking responsibility?

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, September 18

It's Not Such a Crappy Idea After All

By Art Cashin

On this day in 1908, yet one more American threw aside the doubts of the establishment to start his own company.

Earlier, he had sought financing from America's premier merchant banks. But his enthusiasm was such that they laughed him out of their offices.

Some historians would later guess that it was his name that did him in. Not his first name -- that was a solid sounding William. And even his waspy prospective bankers couldn't object to his last name -- Durant (solid, American). But some felt his insistence on presenting his middle name made the bankers uneasy. For some reason, he insisted on announcing himself, both in person and on his business cards as William Crapo Durant.

Put money on a guy named "Crapo" -- not on your Newport estate. So supposed savvy bankers denied his request for four million dollars. Historical defenders of the bankers claim that it was not his name, but his proposed partners that turned them off. Even if automobiles were good, why would Durant think that combining his Buick operation with Ransom Olds, Maxwell Motors, and Henry Ford could result in a viable business?

So on this day in 1908, Wm C. Durant filed in the state of N.J. to incorporate something called General Motors at a cost of $2,000. (Ford opted out thinking his new Model T was worth more.) In a few short years, Durant dogged by some bankers, had to give up his company to other bankers.

But he then bought a small company called Chevrolet and soon was running GM again. Durant as you may have guessed was not a corporate guy and eventually gambled away over 120 million bucks (equivalent to five billion today).

When he died in the late 1940's, he was telling anyone who would listen that American's next fad would be -- bowling. Some guys just die too early.

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 14

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

image = mosi.org
By Art Cashin

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 8

Don't Kidd About the Pirates

Image = Wikipedia
By Art Cashin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 4

Don't Get Your Knickerbockers in a Bunch

By Art Cashin

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 5

Denton True Young

By Art Cashin

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 15

Another Hamburger Joint? What a Kroc!

image = google images
By Art Cashin

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 14

Mabel, Manley, Martin, and Capone

Image source = SF Library
By Grant Davies

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source material = One Summer by Bill Bryson

Friday, April 11

The Magic Ingredient

Image = jalopnic.com
By Art Cashin

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 8

A Few Things About Charlie Lindbergh

Lindbergh's triumphant return
By Grant Davies

It was eighty-seven years ago this coming summer -that's 1927 for those who jot down such things - that a fellow named Charles Lindbergh beat the odds by avoiding getting lost at sea. It was no small feat since almost everyone who previously tried what he was trying had not beaten the odds.

What Charles was trying to do was cross the ocean without the benefit of a boat. Instead, he carefully made his calculations and hopped aboard a flimsy airplane named the Spirit of St Louis and took off for Paris. That he made it was remarkable.

But this story isn't about how he made it to Europe without ending up in the drink. It's mostly about how he got home again without suffering that fate after taking a safer mode of travel on a ship named the USS Memphis.

It seems that Lindbergh decided to take a walk around the ship after supper one evening. It was an ill-advised notion because the seas were higher than the passengers at the bar that night. As he reached the bow, a series of large waves washed over the deck and he was one lucky Lindbergh not to get washed away himself. Only the presence of a handy lifeline saved him from what should have been his fate on the outward leg of the round trip. He hung on for dear life for about ten minutes before things settled down long enough for him to walk calmly, though briskly, to a safer spot. He later commented, "It was an exciting experience."

For the normally stoical Charles, that was about as emotional as he ever became. It was likely in his genes to be so dispassionate. His upbringing occurred in a home where demonstrative affection was totally absent. No hugging or kissing for the Lindberghs. In fact, when Charles (never Charlie or any other affectionate nickname) went to bed each night, instead of hugging his mother, they shook hands. That kind of warmth just melts the heart.

In the end, Charles returned home as a hero to everyone. Of course, that was before the public's love affair with him ended some years later after he made his Antisemitism known. He revealed it during a well attended speech in Des Moines, Iowa in September 1941. The timing couldn't have been worse. It was just as America was about to go war against some antisemitic folks in Germany.

He went on to father thirteen children, including six with his wife Ann Morrow Lindbergh. His first born was a son who was kidnapped and murdered in one of the most sensational crimes of the time. The rest of his seven children were the result of long term affairs he carried on with three women in Europe (two of them sisters) starting in 1957 and not ending until shortly before his death in 1974.

It's not known if he ever hugged or kissed any them, nor if any of them considered him as much of a hero as the adoring throngs who greeted him when he first returned to America in 1927.

Source information for this post was taken from the excellent book "One Summer" by Bill Bryson.

Thursday, April 3

The Pony Express - A Risky Business

By Art Cashin

On this day in 1860, a group of entrepreneurs launched their dream. And what a dream it was! They were in the telecommunications business. The nation was suddenly bi-coastal. At both oceans America was thriving. And these guys knew that communications was the key to the future

So, on this day, the first Pony Express rider left St. Joseph, Mo. on his leg of the 1966 mile route to Sacramento California. The cost was $5 per 1/2 ounce (it was later cut to a buck). Ten days later the mail arrived in the Golden State (to the amazement of nearly everyone).

They promoted the service well-very well. The image of a rider fighting off storms, Indians and various animals while rushing your mail was an instant hit. It was a depiction of pioneer life like none before or after. America bought it then and bought it now. The Pony Express thrives to this day in image and movie retelling as the epitome of American survival. Even their recruiting posters smacked of the romance and risk inherent in the endeavor. One example read: "Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over 18. Must be expert riders willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred."

Unfortunately, while it sold as an image, it failed to sell as a service. While the image has lasted nearly a century and a half as a national standard the company lasted only 18 months as a business. Even though the Pony Express used tried and true methods that had been used by Ben Franklin almost 100 years before (and by Darius of Persia nearly 2,000 years before that), the situation failed. What they missed in their calculations was something called the telegraph. So in less than 18 months they were out of business.

To celebrate invite someone who doesn't look like Ben Franklin to play "Pony Express" - - It's a lot like Post Office only there's more horsing around.

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, March 12

When Spying is Suspected, Call in the FBI

By Grant Davies

On this day (-4) in 1971, eight amateur burglars broke into an office in a small town in Pennsylvania and stole a bunch of papers out of the file cabinets. Was this a case of industrial spying or sabotage? Was it a lawyer's office with evidence being stolen in some mafia related court case? Were the papers sensitive dossiers on people who didn't want their private lives surveilled?

Surely, if it was one of those things, the law enforcement professionals would be on the case immediately and quickly nab these first time perpetrators. I mean, if someone was being spied upon, or if dossiers were being kept on private citizens, wouldn't you call in the best detectives you could find? Even perhaps the FBI?

Well, as it turns out the FBI was notified as soon as the crime was discovered. In fact, they were the first on the scene. And in fact, they discovered the crime before anyone else knew about it. Those FBI agents are really sharp, you might be thinking. But for crack investigators like them, this one was easy. You see, it was their own offices that had been burgled and their own papers that were carried away. That kind of crime tends to top the "I'm really, really pissed off about this" list that the FBI keeps in those offices. So you could reasonably assume the perps were caught in a flash and the country was saved from some spy ring of foreign bad guys. Um, you would be wrong about that. In fact, they were never caught.

As it turned out, the FBI were the spies and the people they were spying on were American citizens who were also on an FBI list. It was a list of people and organizations who didn't agree with J. Edgar Hoover's political views.

The papers were turned over anonymously to newspapers and members of Congress and the whole criminal enterprise called the FBI came under the first real scrutiny in its history. Hoover died in 1972, before his involvement in the "FBI inside the FBI" could be fully understood. So the burglars weren't the only ones to escape discovery.

But don't worry, ever since these burglars exposed the government's unconstitutional spying the chance of a government agency collecting information on US citizens unlawfully is a thing of the past. They wouldn't dare do that again.

Information for this story was gathered from the book "The Burglary" by Betty Medsger. Her office was not broken into and no files were stolen.

Friday, March 7

Damocles Almost Got the Point

image = google images
By Art Cashin

On this day in 385 B.C. (according to my clay tablets), a man was granted a wish that he later wished he hadn't wished for. This all took place in a place called Syracuse…..which…..this being the B.C. days and all…..not only did not yet have a Carrier Dome; it was not even located in upstate New York. This Syracuse was a colony of the ancient Greeks and was located on the coast of Sicily.

The head guy in Syracuse at the time was a certain "Dionysius." He was the fellow who granted the above-mentioned wish. This was easy for him to do because he ruled all alone without Council or Advisors. The Greeks had a name for such a solitary ruler…..the word was "Tyrant"…..which has taken on a rather negative connotation in recent years…..or so we hear.

Anyway, Dionysius had this associate who kept telling him how lucky he was to be a Tyrant and how great the Tyrant lifestyle must be. After a few years of "Gee, Dion, what a lucky guy you are, I wish I lived like you!"…..Dionysius decided to give his pal a taste of the Tyrant lifestyle business. He put his staff at his pal's disposal. They bathed him…..oiled and scented his body (after a rubdown)…..dressed him in the finest clothes…..and seated him at the head of the table at a very lavish banquet attended by the crème de la crème of Syracuse.

The guest of honor was just getting into the fun of it when he noticed the banquet guests were talking to him but not looking at him. They kept glancing up at the ceiling high above his head. He looked up and saw that Dionysius had placed a huge, razor sharp sword above him and that the sword was hanging (and gently swaying)  from a single horsehair. When he tried to get up, Dionysius had him restrained and said, "My friend, Damocles, how do you enjoy the role of Tyrant?" The point being made, the banquet ended and the phrase "Sword of Damocles" took on a meaning that has lasted for over two thousand four hundred years. It actually has several lessons…..don't envy the other guy.....death or anger may strike at any moment….and playing the Tyrant is not really as rewarding as it may seem and may cost you friends.

To mark the day, drop by "The Razor's Edge Lounge" and tell someone how important it is to stay on the cutting edge. But don't let anyone hold anything over your head.

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, February 26

Marbury v Madison - It's Simple Once You Get Past the Complexity

William Marbury
By Art Cashin

On this day (-1) in 1803, the U.S. Supreme Court assumed immense power by announcing that it lacked power. In that single act it threw a curve-ball past a hostile President and redefined the Constitution. And this is how it happened.

When John Adams lost the Presidency to his adversary, Thomas Jefferson, Adams rushed to fill lots of political posts before the new guy got in. In that rush, the Secretary of State forgot to get all the appointments posted before Adams' term expired.

So, Jefferson said the appointments were invalid and he could appoint his own guys. One of Adams' appointees decided, in what has become an American tradition; to sue to get the job he was promised. His name was William Marbury, and he sued the incoming Secretary of State, a guy named James Madison. So, naturally when it hit the Supreme Court docket, it was called "Marbury vs. Madison" (now known as,
perhaps, the most important judicial decision in U.S. History).

The Chief Justice was a guy named John Marshall. Since he was appointed to the Court by Adams, Messrs. Jefferson and Madison figured they would not get a fair shake. So they told associates that if Marshall found for Marbury they would ignore the Court and hide all its quill pens.

So, Marshall was in a quandary. He knew that Marbury had a good case but to decide in his favor could destroy the Court. He decided to throw one of the biggest curveballs in judicial history. He wrote that Jefferson & Madison were probably wrong guys who might have put gum on folks’ seats during the Constitutional Convention. He said Marbury clearly deserved his post. EXCEPT - - - - (and this was the big one) - - - - the act under which Congress had granted to the Supreme Court the right to mediate appointment disputes (the Judiciary Act of 1789) was unconstitutional.

Thus Jefferson was presented with a decision that said - - You don't have to give Marbury the job because I don't have the power to make you give Marbury the job because I have decided the law that gave me that power was unconstitutional. (And now since I demonstrated that I have the power to interpret the Constitution that gives me more power than you or Congress now have.)

The decision forever changed American history, politics and government. Marshall is universally renowned as the most important Chief Justice in history (mainly for this decision). But the answer to one of the twelve best bar bets of all time (call our 900 number for clues) is - - - - who was Adams' dopey Secretary of State, whose error set up the whole crisis. Okay so you guessed it. Yup! The same John Marshall - - himself a last minute appointment - - to the Supreme Court.

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, January 22


Al Reach
Image = explorepahistory
By Art Cashin

On (approximately) this day (I think) in 1865, as the Civil War was winding down and as Lincoln prepared for his second inauguration, an important part of America began to change.

Newspaper editorials began to rail about something bad that had occurred in the summer of the prior year. (No, it was not the Battle of the Wilderness, or Cold Harbor or Mobile Bay.) The editors were aghast that a guy named Al Reach had left Brooklyn to earn money in Philadelphia.

Reach's problem was not interstate commerce, it was the trade he practiced. Reach was compact, wiry and fleet of foot. He was perfect for his job. Al Reach was a second baseman. (Baseball?, you say. Yes, Baseball! Virginia.)

In the summer of 1864, Al Reach left the Brooklyn Acfords (or Brooklyn Atlantics) to go to the Philadelphia Athletics. The inducement was a paycheck (the amazing sum of $25.00 per week "in season".) Irate Brooklyn fans began to push for a boycott. Baseball was a gentleman's game and money could only sully it.
Well, the controversy festered into the Hot Stove League (back when folks actually sat around hot stoves). But the outraged editorials, amid the winter chill, had an unexpected boomerang effect. In trying to be fair, they noted that other players may have been paid "off the books." (Jim Creighton of the Brooklyn Excelsiors was said to get a "piece of the gate" under the table.)

The other unexpected effect was that the simple publicizing of payment led more players to ask for payment. And so baseball turned professional. In less than 10 years, superstars were earning more than doctors. That worked well for decades. After all, free enterprise should fit America's game.

But then someone walked in and said - "I'm from the government and I'm here to help." With the purpose of keeping America's game pure, Congress gave it anti-trust protection. Management used the tool to keep some exceptionally gifted people at a compensation level that equaled indentured servitude. That lasted for decades until the advent of free agency which naturally swung the pendulum way back. After that there was no further trouble about salaries in baseball or any sports that we know of.

To mark the day, drop by the compensation committee and show them your curveball. Try not to spit any Bull Durham on the carpet. (You might skip the Dennis Rodman look.....its been done.)

To our readers:
Thanks for hanging in there with us while we finish attending to some personal issues. Hopefully, more regular posting will resume soon. And thanks to Art Cashin for pinch hitting for me during this time.
Grant Davies

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, January 7

It's No Laughing Matter

By Grant Davies

On this day (+23), in 1962, some silly schoolgirls started giggling. What made them start laughing is unclear but one thing is clear:  when they had to close the private boarding school for months on end because so many of the students were affected, it was no joke.

The events took place in Tanzania (then known as Tanganyika), when a few girls started laughing and then crying. So what's the big deal you say? Didn't the girls giggle and cry when you were in school? Well, yeah, but this was different. This was serious laughter (an oxymoron if ever there was one) and it didn't stop for most of them. There were other emotional disturbances and it seemed to be contagious.

It started with just three girls but soon the number afflicted was 75. And there were only 159 girls at the school. That's when they shut the whole place down and sent everyone home. The problem was, when the girls got back to their home towns, people there caught the affliction as well. And it spread out from there.

No one who wasn't exposed to one of the girls (or someone in close contact with them) got the illness. But most who were exposed didn't contract it. Scientists checked out every possible variable they could think of, but no cause was ever found and no one could figure out why they suddenly stopped laughing. In the end, no one died or even became seriously ill.

To mark the occasion, stop by your local comedy club and have a few chuckles, but don't fall down in gales of laughter, you might break your funny bone. And that wouldn't be humerus.

The first winner of the FIFTEEN SECONDS OF FAME AWARD for 2014 goes to Sara Aldworth who suggested this story and pointed us to the information at the Mental Floss website.

Monday, January 6

Spartacus the Commie and Adolph the Nazi

By Art Cashin

On this day (-1) in 1919, two interesting things happened in Germany. In Berlin the streets were filled with gunfire. (Wait you say, didn't the war end in 1918?) Right you are, Toynbee, but this was not the war. It was the Spartacus thing. (Wait you say, wasn't Spartacus involved with the Romans back in the B.C. days?) You must have made Sister Herman Joseph so proud you little historian you!

This was not the original Spartacus but a group of Communists who opted to call themselves the Spartacus League since the word Communist was hard to spell.

Anyway, they took to the streets and made Berlin look like Kabul without TV cameras. After two weeks of bloody fighting, the rebellion was crushed sending the leader of the Spartacus League, Karl Liebknecht, into hiding.

Meanwhile, in Munich, the news of the rebellion provided just the right amount of terror for another leader. He was a veteran of the war, having won the Iron Cross for bravery. But he felt the war had been poorly led, the peace unjustly won, and the reparations crushingly onerous.

So on this day, with the telegraphed news of the fighting in Berlin as backdrop, Herr Adolph Hitler founded the Nationalist Socialist German Workers Party. To fit it all on a slogan and a banner they nicknamed it the "Nazi" Party.

To mark the day take Mel Brooks to a musical comedy...but don't wear a cardboard belt...it's gauche.

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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