An Extraordinary Woman

She was born to privilege and a degree of wealth, at the turn of the last century – Muriel Morris, an heiress of the Swift meatpacking fortune, and by most accounts conflicted over that circumstance. Like a scattering of her peers in the debutant world, she had an interest in social justice, as it was generally understood at the time. She is reported to have read Upton Sinclair’s polemic The Jungle as a teenager and been horrified – doubly so as both sides of her family had made their fortunes in the industry which Sinclair portrayed as especially brutal and gruesome. Muriel Morris was also of an unexpectedly intellectual bent and determined enough to pursue her intellectual interests – first with studies at Oxford, England in the 1920s, and then in – of all places, Vienna, Austria, where she hoped to study psychoanalysis with Sigmund Freud. She briefly married a British artist, Julian Gardiner, by whom she had a single child, a daughter, before deciding to pursue a medical degree at the University of Vienna in 1926. She had a trust fund sufficiently generous to support herself and her small daughter.

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Juneteenth

So it appears that we are to have a new federal holiday – that day, following on the final defeat of the Confederacy that slaves in Texas were informed by the arriving Union troops that they were now free. I think it’s marvelous, noting the day when the last slaves in a Confederate state were notified by Republicans that they were no longer slaves.

With apologies to Wm. Shakespeare…

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Once Burned, Twice Wary

When I was in college, taking upper division at Cal State University Northridge (a place of no particular fame or note, other than being one of those public unis which used to provide a fair education at relatively low cost) I had a lot of time between some of my classes, and spent many hours in the stacks of the Oviatt Library. On discovering the microfiche newspaper archives, squirreled away in the basement, I undertook a project to read, or at least skim one of them – every daily issue from 1935 to 1945, on reels that covered two weeks at a time. I had already skimmed many of the bound periodicals of the weekly news magazines available – Time, Life, Newsweek and the like – because I had an interest in the period, they were available and what better way to agreeably pass the time between classes? (Both carried the comic strip Terry and the Pirates, which I found fascinating.) I wound up with the Chicago Tribune, after a trial of the Los Angeles Times, because the pages of the Times were scanned from side to side on the reels of microfiche, which made me slightly motion-sick to skim at speed, whereas the Tribune pages were scanned from top to bottom.

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June Road Trip In the Hill Country

The Daughter Unit and I, with Wee Jamie the Grandson Unit, made a road trip last Saturday – a completely enjoyable outing, even with the necessity of stopping several times to change Wee Jamie’s diapers on the hour-and a half drive to Kingsland on the Llano and Colorado Rivers. He slept for the most part, and excited the admiration of many, who noted the Overwhelming Cuteness of Wee Jamie. His eyes actually opened once or twice during these occasions.

We had an appointment for a presentation ceremony at the American Legion post in Kingsland for me to be presented with a quilt; the ladies of this organization have been working for several years on a project to present a patriotic-themed quilt to every military veteran who can be identified and nominated for one.

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The Erector Set

Here is an old post from my own blog. I thought it deserved another go.

Glenn Reynolds today has a link to Lionel Trains in the anticipation of Christmas. I had Lionel trains and eventually had HO gauge trains, as well. When I had sons old enough to play with trains, I built an elaborate train set in my garage. Then I learned that southern California is not the place for toy trains. The boys were outdoors all the time and the train set gathered dust.

Another toy that kids today will never have the chance to enjoy is the Erector Set. There is still a small source for this toy but the glory days of the Erector Set were long ago. The toy was invented by A.C. Gilbert in 1913. The story is interesting. Gilbert was a Yale Medical School graduate and had also won a gold medal, for the pole vault, in the 1908 Olympic Games. He had a new design bamboo pole that he used in his winning vault and he sold these, as well as other toys.

Like many residents of New Haven, Connecticut, he often took the train to New York City; and on one trip in 1911 he was inspired with what would be the most popular of his dozens of inventions.

Watching out the train window as some workmen positioned and riveted the steel beams of an electrical power-line tower, Gilbert decided to create a children’s construction kit: not just a toy, but an assemblage of metal beams with evenly spaced holes for bolts to pass through, screws, bolts, pulleys, gears and eventually even engines. A British toy company called Meccano Company was then selling a similar kit, but Gilbert’s Erector set was more realistic and had a number of technical advantages — most notably, steel beams that were not flat but bent lengthwise at a 90-degree angle, so that four of them nested side-to-side formed a very sturdy, square, hollow support beam.

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