History Monday #93

Going up…

A new week begins, and I could give you an elevator pitch of the event, but I’ll keep it to the usual length of a #HistoryMonday post. Now that I’m back to writing for my own personal edification instead of for academics, I don’t have to worry about too little length or citations. Anyways, let’s get to the event of focus.

Elisha Otis demonstrating the safety of his elevator

On this day in 1857, Elisha Otis installs his first safety elevator in a commercial application. Even after having demonstrated its safety four years earlier at the Worlds Fair, he was only able to achieve minimal success. Thanks to his sons’ efforts in the ensuing years, the Otis Elevator Company they founded with their father success would come shortly after.

The key to the success of Otis’s elevator was the safe descent after having lifted cargo or passengers. Hoists already existed that could move objects to higher locations, but fears of stress on safety ropes plagued many elevator users. Otis showed his elevator was safe despite the rope being cut thanks to Otis’s safety brake for elevators.

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Otis Elevator Company would change the composition of buildings. With safer means of transporting goods and people in buildings, these structures could be built more than a few stories while avoiding the arduous flights of stairs. Eventually, the structure that defines city skylines—the skyscraper owes its success to the elevator.

Beyond the original elevator being installed in the building on Broadway in New York, many more elevators were included in buildings constructed after 1857 and by 1860 the Otis Elevator Company was achieving more success than Elisha Otis could have predicted. Sadly, the greatest success was experienced by his sons, as Elisha passed away in 1860.

Elevators also created the new job of elevator operator, who were required to operate the levers guiding the ascent or descent of the car. Many of these operators were African-Americans who needed jobs post-slavery. As this profession grew, a union of the workers was organized in 1917. Eventually as elevators employed an automated system, the elevator operators were no longer needed.

Otis Elevator Company has become one of the most recognized elevator manufacturers thanks to the success of the elevator Elisha Otis invented. As the company continued to grow and install elevators in numerous buildings worldwide, the company also popularized the escalator and until 1950 had a near-exclusive claim on the term for the moving staircase. But as escalator became the default name for the moving staircase, Otis Elevator Company was unable to retain the trademark. So, escalators can be made by not just Otis but other elevator companies.

Where’s your favorite elevator you’ve ridden in?

History Monday #91

Let’s go to the art show

Another week is upon us, and that means it’s time to discuss an event in history, and today’s event is all about being framed. Now, this isn’t about people being unfairly convicted of a crime, but about works of art being celebrated and displayed. Today’s #HistoryMonday looks at of all things an art show that was the first of its kind in the United States.

On this day in 1913, the International Exhibition of Modern Art opens in the National Guard’s 69th Regiment Armory in New York City. The location of this exhibition would give it its more familiar name, the Armory Show.

Art shows in the United States were nothing new in 1913 of course, but this show featured works of modern art. Among this classification, styles like Fauvism, Cubism, and Futurism were observed by Americans for the first time. These schools had already achieved acclaim in Europe, but now had a chance for Americans to see these new works.

The exhibition was informally organized by a handful of artists in 1911. As they and other influential folks in the art world had continued discussion, they formed the Association of American Painters and Sculptors (AAPS) to promote contemporary art. After forming as the AAPS, the members began to plan the International Exhibition of Modern Art, and selected the Armory for its large space needed to display the works of art.

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Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 by Marcel Duchamp (one of the works featured at the Armory Show)

Conceptual artist Marcel Duchamp drew the most attention for his Cubist/Futurist work Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2. The work features successive images of a human figure superimposed on each other in a Cubist style. These images are similar to stop motion art like flip books and cartoons. Although the Cubist style makes the human features indistinguishable, the title gained attention. Even Pres. Teddy Roosevelt who saw the work disparaged it, comparing a Navajo rug as a better work of art than Duchamp’s. Other well-known artists featured in the show include Pablo Picasso, Mary Cassatt, Paul Cézanne, and Wassily Kandinsky just to name a few.

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Oddly enough, this was the only exhibition that the AAPS mounted. The organization did take the show to two more locations after the success in New York City. The second city to feature the show was not surprisingly the Second City—Chicago at the Art Institute of Chicago nearly a month after its opening in New York. The final location was at The Copley Society of Art in Boston, although the works by American artists were soon removed from the show as this location lacked enough space for all the works.

Many who observed the modern art were scandalized by the shift from realism that had existed in the centuries prior. The odd use of colors, subjects, and unconventional techniques caused many to question the legitimacy of the works as art. Like Pres. Roosevelt’s critique of Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, many others lampooned or criticized the newer works as folly and not worth the attention of serious artistic folks.

Not everyone was opposed to the newer art and many found elements of art in the works featured in the show. The exhibition has been recreated in other locations in the United States during the 20th Century, including one in 1966 featuring performance artists at the 69th Regiment Armory. Centennial celebrations of the show were held in a handful of locations in 2013 including the 69th Regiment Armory and the Art Institute of Chicago like the original show.

As modern art has given way to postmodernism, other art shows have featured even more unconventional and provocative works. Of course, as the envelope is pushed further each successive generation, the debate draws more attention to the shows than if presented without the debate. Admittedly, much of the modern art and postmodern art is not my cup of tea, and I probably would side with Pres. Roosevelt and others that satirize and critique the newer and unconventional art.

Do you like works of art by Picasso, Duchamp, or Cassatt?

History Monday #76

The city that never sleeps needs a nightlight

In a New York minute everything can change. Admittedly, today’s event took longer than a New York minute, however long of a measure that time is. So, start spreading the news, an important structure demonstrated that its construction brought light to inspire so many including this #HistoryMonday post.

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On this day in 1886, The Statue of Liberty is completed, and dedicated by Pres. Grover Cleveland. Originally a gift of friendship from the people of France in commemoration of the centennial anniversary of the Declaration of Independence and Franco-American relations during the American Revolution, the statue is erected in the New York Harbor just over a decade later.

The official name of the statue is “Liberty Enlightening the World,” and was conceived by French historian Edouard de Laboulaye during the American Civil War in 1865. Following this conception, French sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, designed the 151-foot statue depicting Columbia personified as a woman with an uplifted arm holding a torch. The steel supports for the structure of the statue were designed by Eugene-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc and Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, the latter famous for his design of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The exterior covering of the statue was made of copper. The tablet in Liberty’s hand is inscribed with July IV MDCCLXXVI which denotes the Fourth of July in Roman numerals.

Congress had approved a site for the statue in February 1877 Bedloe’s Island, upon a suggestion by Bartholdi. Harper’s Weekly and other enterprising individuals helped to encourage fundraising efforts to build the statue.

By May 1884, the statue was completed in France, and three months later the Americans laid the cornerstone for its pedestal in New York Harbor. Nearly a year later, the Statue of Liberty arrived with building instructions for the Americans.

As the copper sheets were attached to the statue and the last rivet of the monument was fitted on October 28, 1886, Pres. Cleveland along with numerous French and American dignitaries celebrated the accomplishment.

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Eventually the pedestal was inscribed with a sonnet “The New Colossus,” by American poet Emma Lazarus with aspirational verses for incoming émigrés in 1892. This was done thanks to nearby Ellis Island, which served as the chief entry station for immigrants to the United States, for the next 32 years. Lady Liberty as the statue has been euphemized, was one of the first sights for new immigrants to the U.S. before being processed at Ellis Island.

By the 20th Century, the copper had begun to oxidize, and the statue took on its now iconic green hue. The torch in the right arm didn’t suffer this fate as it was coated with a golden covering over the copper-plating.

Ralph Pulitzer, publisher of the New York World began a campaign in 1916 to illuminate the area and celebrate its importance in New York. Eventually in 1924, Pres. Coolidge designated the statue as a National Monument. The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island would eventually become a single entity as a National Monument. By 1956, Bedloe’s Island was renamed Liberty Island.

The statue underwent major restorations in the 1980s, the early 2000s, and even the last decade. A new standalone Statue of Liberty Museum began construction in 2016 that would offer access to many more visitors beyond those that visit the museum located in the pedestal. This new museum opened in May of this year.

Among similar notable statues, the Statue of Liberty is ranked by height somewhere around the 3rd spot depending on the list. Ahead of the Statue of Liberty are a statue dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi’s deputy Prime Minister and the Spring Temple Buddha. The Statue of Liberty is thus taller than Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Michelangelo’s David in Florence, Italy. Nicknamed the New Colossus in Emma Lazarus’s poem, the Statue of Liberty is also twice as large as the original Colossus at Rhodes. The Statue of Liberty is able to accomplish this thanks to its pedestal being nearly as tall as the statue itself. Among American statues, the Statue of Liberty is second in height, being beaten by Birth of the New World/Estatua de Colón located in Arecibo, Puerto Rico commemorating the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the New World.

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New York’s iconic skyline is easily recognizable with the inclusion of the Statue of Liberty. Even post-apocalyptic works of television and film feature pieces of the statue as a clue to the location of the characters in the work, chief among these is 1968’s Planet of the Apes. Likenesses of the statue are also included as part of political and athletic logos, including the New York Rangers, the New York Liberty, and the Libertarian Party. References and likenesses of the Statue of Liberty are often paired with Uncle Sam as the female counterpart to America personified.

Have you visited the Statue of Liberty?



History Monday #34

The Doorway to New York and America closes and new windows had to open.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The New Colossus | Emma Lazarus

This poem commemorating the Statue of Liberty contains the familiar closing stanzas most are familiar with in regard to our immigration policy.  An important site near the Statue is the subject of today’s #HistoryMonday.

Ellis island view.jpg

On this day in 1954, The immigrant processing center on Ellis Island was closed and would remain closed for three decades until renovation efforts were begun to commemorate its significance.

The immigration center was built on January 2, 1892.  Ellis Island had been designated as America’s first federal immigration center by President Benjamin Harrison two years earlier. Before 1890, each state was tasked with the responsibility of vetting and determine eligibility for legal immigrant status. Annie Moore, a 15-year-old from Ireland, became the first person to pass through the newly opened immigration center.

Contrary to popular opinion, not all immigrants who sailed into New York had to go through Ellis Island. First- and second-class passengers were evaluated on board the ships and were directed with their paperwork to customs at the piers where they disembarked. Third class passengers were transported to Ellis Island, for medical and legal inspections to ensure they didn’t have a contagious disease or some condition that would make them a burden to the government. Only two percent of all immigrants were denied entrance into the U.S. Much of the rejection was fueled by scientific beliefs of the time we know as eugenics. These beliefs and practices of promoting the healthiest population were championed by Progressives like Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger and eventually the Nazi party in Germany.

Immigration to Ellis Island peaked between 1892 and 1924 and additional buildings were constructed to handle the massive influx of immigrants. During the busiest year of operation, 1907, over 1 million people were processed at Ellis Island.

Oddly enough, much of the records provided to the Ellis Island Immigration center were not necessarily provided by the governments of the immigrants’ former homelands. The initial paperwork for the application was not official paperwork from the U.S. Bureau of Immigration, but by the steamship passenger manifests.

As America’s isolationist approach to World War I grew, immigration declined, and Ellis Island was used as a detention center for suspected enemies. Following the war, Congress passed quota laws and the Immigration Act of 1924, which sharply reduced the number of newcomers allowed into the country and also enabled immigrants to be processed at U.S. consulates abroad. After 1924, Ellis Island switched from a processing center to serving other purposes, such as a detention and deportation center for illegal immigrants, a hospital for wounded soldiers during World War II and a Coast Guard training center. In November 1954, the last detainee, a Norwegian merchant seaman, was released and Ellis Island officially closed.

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Beginning in 1984, Ellis Island underwent a $160 million renovation, the largest historic restoration project in U.S. history. In September 1990, the Ellis Island Immigration Museum opened to the public and today is visited by almost 2 million people each year. The museum was incorporated into a joint National Monument with Liberty Island by Pres. Lyndon Johnson in 1965. A year later they would be organized as a National Historic District a year later.

We’ve seen the expansion of more federal immigration processing centers since the closing of Ellis Island in 1954. Additionally, the government organizations in charge of processing the immigration claims have thankfully abandoned much of the eugenic disqualifiers and the information submitted is generally provided by foreign authorities in the applicants’ homelands.

We’ve seen Pres. Trump and other Presidents over the last few decades question our immigration process. I could understand the outrage over immigrants being processed based on passenger lists   submitted by a Central American version of Carnival® cruise lines. While we are a nation of immigrants, there will always be some sort of evaluation system for those hoping to enter our country. The process should not be onerous, but it should include at least some due diligence. Obviously there has been a shift in attitudes about how our nation handles immigration in the last few decades, many immigrants were detained on Ellis Island for evidence of criminal activity in their origin countries and others remained in the Ellis Island Hospital to quarantine them from spreading contagious diseases.

The dedication of Ellis Island as a museum is significant for celebrating the process of immigration to our country. Nearly 40 percent of Americans can trace their roots to Ellis Island even today. My father attempted to verify this when we visited Ellis Island in 2003 but wasn’t able to find the records. Likely, this is due to much of the history being anecdotal and not necessarily official. For what it’s worth, my father’s paternal roots of immigration are well researched and exist from the Colonial Era of America. My mother’s maternal roots are similar and exist before the Colonial Era as well. Sadly, her paternal roots end with her great-grandfather and nothing else has been able to be proven. Maybe Ancestry.com or 23AndMe might shed some light on the missing heritage.

Do you have proof of your ancestors being processed at Ellis Island?       

Poetry Wednesday #18

My latest poem for Poetry Wednesday entitled “I-95.”


Rolling in to Miami, home of South Beach and my Amy.                                                              Look heavenward and see rockets blasting off from just off the Space Coast, baby.               Racing down the sandy beach towards  Daytona, my woman holding me close.                    Feeling youthful as I encounter Ponce de Leon and Castillo de San Marcos.

My car rumbles past a big estate just south of Savannah.                                                            Speeding north, we’re near the Pee Dee town of Florence, South Carolina.                              We solider on through Fayetteville and glance Ft. Bragg.                                                              There’s symbols of the Confederacy in Richmond; red, white, and blue on a Rebel Flag.

Bridging the Potomac, there’s the nation’s capital.                                                                          I declare we are feeling like it’s 1776 in Philadelphia—Liberty’s Cradle.                                  Slow down or you’ll miss the zoo that is the Big Apple.                                                                Slog through New England like chowder, the Maine line of the route Canada straddles.

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© Ryan Stroud 2018

History Monday 3

OTD in 1993 a tragic foreshadowing of terrorism


It’s History Monday again. Each event we talk about can be found at http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/ along with other noteworthy events. We’re looking back on today’s date in 1993, a tragic event. This day in 1993, terrorists detonated a bomb in a parking garage of the World Trade Center. Sadly, this as we all know would not be the last attempt to destroy the WTC.


Four perpetrators were convicted a little over a year later thanks to a joint effort by FBI and local authorities. All four of the guilty parties were Islamic terrorists. The coordinator of the attack was arrested in 1995 along with the man  who drove the rental truck full of explosives that was parked in the parking garage. All the conspirators had ties to Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, a radical Islamic cleric. Along with Rahman, there are rumored ties to al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

The 1993 bombing caused six fatalities and 1000 non-fatal injuries along with over half a billion dollars’ worth of property damage. The bombing also caused massive evacuations in the area and caused smoke inhalation problems for many in the neighborhood.


So, what now? Most of us are aware of what culminated from this event some 8 years later when terrorists hijacked four airplanes and flew two into both towers at the World Trade Center, a third plane into the Pentagon, and planned to target the fourth elsewhere in Washington D.C. but were unsuccessful thanks to passengers on that plane who purposely crashed the plane in Pennsylvania. What strikes me is that those graduating high school next year will be the last class to learn about September 11 as a historical event that occurred during their lifetime. Also, not to be missed today is what information the FBI had prior to the 1993 bombing and afterward. Possibly if they had made connections to who Rahman and Osama bin Laden were in the mid to late 1980s could have prevented the 1993 bombing and September 11, 2001 attack. We are seeing what the FBI has missed in Florida, Russia, and elsewhere now. What used to be one of the widely respected law enforcement agencies has now become a punchline. I’m reminded of the West Wing and this quote by the FBI agent assigned to a White House detail, “The difference is our failures are public and our successes are private.” I hope the FBI has more private successes than public failures, but it sure doesn’t seem that way lately. I also hope that we can do better at monitoring and preventing acts of terrorism perpetrated by Radical Islamic believers. Only time can tell.