Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Spookomotive Train Ride -- Octboer 17, 2018

Halloween is coming.

Weekends in October, the California State Railroad Museum offers the Spookomotive Train Ride on the Sacramento Southern Railroad.

"Delightful, not Frightful."

Monday, October 15, 2018

Cloverfield -- October 15, 2018
Halloween is coming.

The 2008 movie Cloverfield was hard on the Statue of Liberty.

Some people feel that images of Lady Liberty are insulting to our so-called president.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Museum of Ice Cream -- October 14, 2018

Today we visited the Museum of Ice Cream, which is housed at One Grant Avenue, in the old Security Pacific building.  There were many samples of ice cream and popsicles.  The was a wading pool full of plastic sprinkles.  Despite a compressed air shower, they were difficult to get rid of.  It was fun.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Old St Louis Cemetery, New Orleans, LA -- October 13, 2018

Halloween is coming.

Saint Louis Cemetery No 1 opened in 1789. Most of the burials are above ground because of the high water table. Homer Plessy, the plaintiff in Plessy v Ferguson, is buried there.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Comic Book -- Famous Funnies -- October 11, 2018
Halloween is coming.

Famous Funnies, which ran from 1934 to 1955, was the first long-running American comic book. It mostly published reprints of newspaper comic strips.  The little guy with the big nose and glasses looks familiar, but I can't place him.  I hope someone can tell me who he is.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Pulp -- Terror Tales -- October 9, 2018
Halloween is coming.

Let's review this cover of Terror Tales:
-- Weird lettering in title.  Check.
-- Bats.  Check.
-- Hunchback/deformed creature... Check.
-- with bloody knife...  Check.
-- and eerie lantern.  Check.
-- Scantily clad woman.  Check.

This should work.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Sergt. Alvin York Feted as the War's Greatest Soldier -- October 8, 2018

Literary Digest, 11-June-1919
One hundred years ago today, on 08-October-1918, Corporal Alvin C York performed a remarkable deed.  

I don't remember what class I was in at San Francisco State, but we were talking about conscientious objectors and someone brought up Alvin C York.  One person said "How can a conscientious objector serve in the military and kill 20 people and capture hundreds?"  I said "He changed his mind."  Or, did I first say "He surrounded them"?  People back home didn't hear much about York's accomplishment until after the war.  He is probably remembered best today for the biopic Sergeant York, which starred Gary Cooper.  

This article is from the 29-March-1919 Bamberg, South Carolina Herald.

Sergt. Alvin York Feted as the War's Greatest Soldier
Killed Twenty Germans, Took 132 Prisoners and Put Thirty-six Machine Gun Nests Out of Business in Argonne

New York, May 23. -- Sergt. Alvin C. York, who received the congressional medal of honor for the highest single-handed achievement of the war. in which he killed 20 Germans, took 132 more prisoner, and put 36 enemy machine gun nests out of business in the Argonne, wound up a day of unsuccessful effort to "get into New York city's subway" by hearing himself proclaimed the "greatest soldier in history" at a dinner of the Tennessee society in his honor at the Waldorf-Astoria tonight.

From Little Village.

York, second elder in the Church of Christ and Christian Union in the little Tennessee village of Pall Mall, on the Lone Wolf river, was flanked on either side at the speaker's table by Major General George Duncan, who commanded the eighty-second (all-American) division, in which York fought, and Vice Admiral Albert Gleaves. commander of the cruiser and transport force of the navy who "sent him overseas and brought him back." Not only that but a telegram from the Secretary of War was read to him in which Mr. Baker asked that his "very sincerest regards" be personally conveyed to the "distinguished soldier."

York's toast was drunk standing, sandwiched in between one to President Wilson and another to Major General Duncan, and so many times was Sergeant York eulogized and spoken that he heard the toastmaster hesitate as he started to introduce the eighty-second division's commander as "Sergeant -- er -- that is -- Major General Duncan."

Sergeant York's Speech.

When it came York's turn to stand up and address the diners he showed his modest simplicity:

"I guess you all understand that I'm just a soldier and not a speaker," he said. "I'm just a soldier boy -- but I want to thank the society and General Duncan, and I want you all to know that what you all have done for me is highly appreciated and I never shall forget it. I thank you very much."

Round of Festivities.

Today was one round of festivities for Sergeant York. From morning until long after his "regular bed time" he was hurried about the city in taxi-cabs, touring cars and limousines. He was shunted from one place of interest and one reception to another until "eating time" at the Waldorf-Astoria gave him a breathing spell. Then he announced modestly, and with no offense intended, that all day long he had wanted to do "just one thing -- get into the subway."

"That's one place I sure do want to see," he sighed tonight.

At dinner Sergeant York was hailed as the soldier who has distinguished himself above all men in the war. in the achievement of the greatest individual deed-in history."

Artist's Opinion.

Joseph Cummings Chase, who was sent by the war department to "paint the portraits of all the generals in the army and Sergeant York," pointed to what a fine thing it is to see "General Duncan sitting beside Sergeant York," and General Duncan said he was proud to have at his side the "most distinguished soldier the world war has produced."

"Sergeant York's deeds are of the character that go down in history and make our boys patriots in time of stress," continued General Duncan. "He is not only a very unpretentious soldier, but an unassuming, modest man. His achievement was the most outstanding act of gallantry, not only that this world war has produced, but that I ever heard of. He is not only modest absolutely, but unabashed, unafraid in the presence of any gathering of the enemy."

The first words of the German major captured by York when he rounded up 132 prisoners in the Argonne forest were told by General Duncan:

"British?" asked the German major.

"American!" said Sergeant York.

"Good Lord!" exclaimed the major.

Go To ---- Yankee Replies to Huns -- The Lost Battalion -- October 8, 2018

Washington Star, 11-October-1918
100 years ago today, the Lost Battalion was rescued.  A week before, Major Charles Whittlesey led nine companies of the 77th Division forward as part of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. The Germans surrounded them.  On the sixth day, the Germans sent a blindfolded prisoner to ask them to surrender.  Major Whittlesey responded "Go to hell."  Major Whittlesey and seven others received the Medal of Honor.  

Maj. Whittlesey of "Lost" Battalion Firm on Receiving Demand to Surrender.

By the Associated Press.

WITH THE AMERICAN FORCES NORTHWEST OF VERDUN, Wednesday, October 9. -- The brightest spot in the heroic and amazing story of the now famous "lost battalion," which belonged to the 77th Division, as yet untold, was the climax to the fourth day of the troops' beleaguerment in the Argonne forest.

When the men were long foodless and almost wholly without ammunition, and when many were weak from exhaustion but not one despairing, an American who had been taken prisoner by the Germans suddenly appeared at the little camp surrounded in the valley.

The man had been sent blindfolded from the German headquarters with a typewritten note to Maj. Whittlesey, reading:

"Americans, you are surrounded on all sides. Surrender in the name of humanity. You will be well treated."
Weary Yanks Cheer Answer.

Maj. Whittlesey did not hesitate a fraction of a second.

"Go to hell!" he almost shouted. Then he read the note to those around him, and his men, notwithstanding their weariness and hunger, and in imminent danger every moment, cheered so loudly that the Germans heard them from' their observation posts.

None of the battalion could know that relief would come within twenty four hours; none felt very sure that it could come at all before it was too late, but the same spirit animating them at that moment, and every living man, wounded or well, in the battalion enthusiastically approved Maj. Whittlesey's abrupt answer when the news of it was circulated through the position.

Germans Get Behind.

A composite story gleaned from a dozen recitals that the battalion when ordered to advance last Friday pushed Its way rapidly ahead through the forest, and, in its eagerness to catch up with the retreating Germans gradually spread out and widened its ranks. This allowed the Germans to infiltrate unseen behind the Americans, and they fell directly into a cunning trap which the Germans had set for them.

The enemy had planned to catch the Americans in a hollow surrounded on all four sides by heights, the greatest of which was a steep hill directly ahead. The Americans, who were not accustomed to forest fighting, and were filled with eagerness, dashed into this hollow without stopping to think that the enemy might be awaiting them. The members of the battalion were at first checked by their own artillery barrage which had worked steadily forward. Nevertheless, it had not worked as fast as the troops themselves and the battalion proceeded half way up the hill and there they waited for the barrage to pass in front of them. Then they discovered that the Germans on both sides had jointly flanked them and had closed in upon their rear.

Sniping Machine Gun Fire.

Sheltered only in shallow and hastily constructed trenches, the men were subjected to a grilling sniping machine gun fire as well as a trench mortar bombardment every time they showed themselves. Only with the greatest difficulty and with extreme caution could they move from place to place and keep guard against surprise attacks.

The battalion had started with meager rations, expecting more to reach them later. These, of course, could no longer be transported to them. It was the greatest good fortune that they were fairly well supplied with water.

Nightly and daily, too, they sent back volunteer scouting parties, but if these reached the positions in the rear without being captured or killed they could not tell, for none ever returned.

Daily American aviators searching vainly for them flew overhead, but no outcry the men could make brought anything but a volley of shouts and laughter from the Germans in front and behind and to the right and left of them.

Nests All About Them.

The beleaguered men discovered there were German machine gun nests all around them every fifteen feet or so, and a man to show himself ever so briefly was the signal for a sweeping rain of bullets. If a man made an unusual noise trench mortars pounded the vicinity viciously.

Just for diversion, the enemy made a practice of sweeping the whole terrain -- the hillside where the improvised trenches were located and the valley in which the men crawled to get leaves and water -- regularly and then irregularly with machine guns. Snipers were constantly on watch. German 77s pounded the locality and hand grenades also were hourly in evidence. The Americans had no rockets or other signals and they were powerless to attract the attention of any one but the Germans.

Never Gave Up Hope.

As the days passed the Americans grew more and more emaciated and more and more bearded, but they never gave up hope. There was nothing but a grim determination to hold out until the last man was finished. There was not a man in the battalion, wounded or otherwise, hungry or starved, but scorned the idea of surrender. Their ammunition was depleted to a point where the few machine guns in the outfit had but one belt of cartridges apiece and the rifle ammunition was. running so short that they had received orders not to fire at anyone attacking until within such short range that his death or serious injury was almost inevitable.

Maj, Whittlesy, who is a well known New Yorker, had his entire battalion behind him to a man. Capt. Leo Stromme of San Bernardino, Cal, told the Associated Press his men jeered at the idea of surrender and the men who came out of the four days' siege are united in declaring that they never would have given up.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Famous Old Clipper Andrew Jackson -- October 7, 2018

San Francisco Call, 13-March-1897
From the 13-March-1897 San Francisco Call. William A Coulter did many maritime drawings for the newspaper. Click on the image for a larger view. 

Even though Andrew Jackson was not an extreme clipper, she tied the Flying Cloud's record with a passage from New York to San Francisco in 89 days.  

Carried Miners Here in the 50's and Is Now a Coal Hulk.
An Old Painting of the Andrew Jackson Unearthed by Sam Wheeland.
Was Famous in Her Time and Made Some Runs That Have Never Been Beaten.

The old-timers who came around the Horn in the fifties have a vivid recollection of the old clipper Andrew Jackson. Many a fast trip did she make, and the sailing vessels of to-day would be glad to equal her performances. The last time she entered the Golden Gate was on October 3, 1867. Oa that occasion she had a large passenger list and a full cargo of general merchandise aboard. Since that time she has gone down the scale, and at the present time is doing duty as a coal huik in Boston harbor.

When the Andrew Jackson was last here, the late Mr. Wheeland, of Collins and Wheeland, had a picture of her made. A few days ago his brother was overhauling his effects and discovered the drawing. It was nothing but a roll of mildewed canvas, but as soon as Captain Erskine, the well-known pilot, saw it, he at once recognized the ship. It shows the old clipper hove to, with the pilot-boat Caleb Curtis putting a pilot aboard. The pilot-boat Fannie, which was then "No. 0," is shown in the distance. The Fannie has long since been broken up, and the Caleb Curtis, after being turned into a sealer, was lost, a couple of years ago on the coast of Japan. The pilot who brought her into port is dead and buried, and all that is left as a reminder of the above scene is the old hull now doing duty as a coal barge in Boston harbor.

New York Herald, 06-December-1858

Friday, October 5, 2018

R. G. Garros, Aviator, Killed -- October 5, 2018

Heroes of Aviation By Laurence La Tourette Driggs, 1918
100 years ago today, pioneering French aviator Roland Garros was shot down and killed.  Garros learned to fly in 1909 and made many flights, including the first across the Mediterranean.  In 1914, he volunteered for the army.  He played a major role in developing a method to fire a machine gun through the arc of a propeller.  On his Morane-Saulnier Type L Scout, he mounted metal wedges on the back of the propeller to deflect any bullets that hit it. Garros had success shooting down two German airplanes.  On 18-April-1915, his airplane came down behind German lines and he was captured.  He failed to destroy his airplane, but the Germans were already working on a better method to control firing through the propeller arc.  Garros escaped from a German prison camp in 1918 and took to the air in a SPAD.  He scored two more victories before he was shot down on 05-October-1918.   He was not born in Cape Town.  

From the New York Sun, 17-October-1918.


Noted Frenchman Shot Down Over the German Lines.

Amsterdam, Oct. 16.-- Lieut. Roland G. Garros, the noted French aviator, who was posted as missing on October 7 after a flight over the German lines was shot down and killed October 4, a Berlin message announced to-day. Roland Garros was a widely known aviator before the war, taking part in many important competitions, including those at many American cities, and performing numerous notable exploits. He escaped from a German prison in February of this year and again took up his army career as a flier, winning further honors. Garros was born at Cape Town, South Africa, of French parents.

Eddie Grant Dead on Field of Honor -- October 5, 2018

New York Sun, 22-October-1918

Eddie Grant played third base for the Cleveland Naps, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Cincinnati Reds and the New York Giants.  After the 1915 season, he retired and opened a law practice.  When America entered World War One, Eddie Grant was among the first men to volunteer.  He was a captain the 77th Infantry Division.  During the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, all of his superior officers were killed so he wound up in command of the division. While leading them on a search for the Lost Battalion, he was killed 100 years ago today, on 05-October-1918.  He was the first major leaguer killed in the war.  

In 1921, The Giants put up a plaque in his memory at the Polo Grounds.  Someone stole it after the Giants played their last home game in 1957.  In 2006, the San Francisco Giants put a copy of the plaque in their current field.  


Onetime Third Baseman of Giants Falls In Attempt to Rescue "Lost Battalion."


Came to McGraw From Cincinnati in 1913 -- Commissioned at Plattsburg.

By the Associated Press

With the American Army, Northwest of Verdun, Oct. 21. -- Capt. Edward Grant, former third baseman of the New York National League club and attached to the 307th Infantry, was killed by a shell while leading a unit to the aid of the famous "lost battalion."

The battalion was surrounded for five days in the Argonne forest and Capt. Grant was killed during one of the attempts to reach it.

Edward L. Grant, former third baseman of the Giants, is the first of the many major league baseball players in the service to give his life for his country.

At the outbreak of the war Grant joined the officers' training camp at Plattsburg and was commissioned a First lieutenant. He was then detailed to Camp Upton and soon went overseas. Capt. Grant was a native of Franklin, Mass., where he wan born in 1883.

New York Sun, 22-October-1918

Thursday, October 4, 2018

TNT Blasts Cause Day of Terror; Jersey Quakes 50 miles Around -- October 4, 2018

New York Sun, 06-October-1918
On this day 100 years ago, 04-October-1918, an explosion at the TA Gillespie Shell Loading Plant turned out to be the first of a series of explosions that lasted for three days.


America's Greatest Munition Disaster Costs Probably 50 Lives, 150 Injured and $30,000,000 in Property Damage


Five Barges of TNT and Largest Magazine Escape Ignition -- Projectiles Rain on Country -- Big Exodus of Families

Recurrent explosions, at irregular intervals, through Friday night and all of yesterday, made the destruction of the T. A. Gillespie & Co. shell loading plant at Morgan, N.J. twenty-nine miles from New York, America's greatest munition disaster

Each of the "big explosions'' which, as distinguished from a peppering series of little ones, quaked the earth for fifty miles in all directions, flattening the town of South Amboy near by, breaking window glass so far away that house holders were unaware of the cause, meant that one of the thirteen units of a great shell finishing factory covering 2,300 acres or a carload of loaded shells had blown to pieces.

Last night most of the 100 frame buildings of this mushroom powder community were an utter ruin. A plant where 21,000 shells a day have been filled with the high explosive, trinitrotoluol, or TNT, was destroyed. -

Twenty-eight hour after the first detonation, that is to say at midnight, explosions still were occurring at intervals of three or four minutes, though none of them was severe. At that hour. It was discovered that there still were a number of refugees in South Amboy, and trucks were sent from Perth Amboy, manned by volunteers, to bring them out.

Estimate of Casualties.

The loss of life is estimated by Mr. Gillespie as between 25 and 50; and the number of injured at possibly 150. For an accident -- if accident it was -- of this magnitude, the human casualties are comparatively slight. From the standpoint of America's interest in the war the outstanding fact Is the source of 21,000 big gun shells a day, which were lightered from Morgan to ships and so sped on their, way to the battlefields, is suddenly cut off. But it will be restored swiftly. The War Department announced yesterday that the moment the fire still searing the ruins of the plant is put out and the debris cleared away rebuilding will begin.

So If any person thought that by touching off the Gillespie factory he could seriously impede the flow of munitions to Pershing's army, he is mistaken. And big as it was, this factory was only one of a myriad that are engaged in its kind of work.

A worse explosion than any that had occurred was feared.

In an underground magazine along the bank of Cheesequake Creek, which flows through the 2,300 acre plant at Morgan, were said to be stored 100 tons of TNT. On five barges moored In the Raritan River were between 600 and 1,000 tons of the hellish stuff. There was danger on two counts: that the fire might spread to these stores and touch them off, that shells which were flying all over that part of New Jersey might do the trick. The resulting explosion would be frightful.

Two Aviators Inspect.

It was because of this danger, as well as the explosions that were actually occurring at the plant in a sort of drumfire, that the Government allowed no civilian to get within five miles of the Gillespie wreck yesterday. However, late In the afternoon two aviators, taking their lives in their hands, braved in an airplane the wicked currents and cross-currents of superheated air that ascended from the pyre and circled above and all around it. Aa well as they could see through the smoke and fumes and flame It appeared that the underground magazine and the barges were in no Immediate danger and probably would not be exploded.

Late last night an army officer reported that the danger of another explosion was remote, provided the wind did not change. At that time the wind was blowing away from the underground magazine, where many tons of TNT are stored.

Major-Gen. C. C. Williams, Chief of Ordnance, U. 8. A.; Capt. Wilson, also of the ordnance division, and Lieut. Nufflize arrived In Perth Amboy from Washington last night and consulted officers who had been on the scene all day. All declined,, to talk at the end of their conference.

Fire Chief Severely Hurt.

Among the Injured at the Lakewood Hospital are Chief Hayes and Capt. Ainsworth of the guards who protected the Gillespie plant, and Chief Donahue of the Perth Amboy Fire Department. All were hurt while working at the scene of the explosions. Chief Donahue's wounds are serious.

After several hours of comparative silence another explosion shook New Jersey at 10 o'clock last night. A series of three more were felt, beginning at 10:45 P. M.

The property damage will probably run up to almost $30,000,000. The plant, owned by the Government, cost $12,000,000. The explosives stored for manufacture were worth $8,000,000. The village of Morgan, near the plant on Raritan Bay, was wiped out. The town of South Amboy, where most of the 2,500 Gillespie employees lived, looks to-day, like the pictures of French villages after long bombardment by both sides.

In Perth Amboy, a city of 60,000 persons five miles from the scene of the explosions, there are windowless houses and streets filled with broken trees. On all the area of land within fifteen miles of Morgan the hand of destruction was laid. In Newark, Elizabeth; New Brunswick, across Raritan Bay on Staten Island, up the Jersey shore, and even in downtown Manhattan, real estate suffered more or less.

Exodus of Families.

All this apart from the terror of the munition workers, and other families of South Amboy driven from their homes, streaming through a night illuminated by monstrous orange colored torches that cleft the sky above Morgan, tugging at their babies and chattels, beaten to earth by new and greater explosions as they toiled along, stumbling across the long bridge that spans the Raritan between South Amboy and Perth Amboy, finding shelter where the Red Cross and a hundred other agencies of relief and the people of Perth Amboy could supply it, or sleeping huddled in shawls in the public park.

Observers who have been in France said the scenes were comparable to an exodus of refugees from the war zone and the likeness was probably exact. Just as In France, the refugees are forever begging the authorities to let them go home, or where their homes were, so the exiles from the shore of Raritan Bay clung to army officers yesterday and told of chickens that had not been fed, of cows that had not been milked, and sought permission to return.

"And It would have done your heart good," an army man said, "to see the number of these poor devils from the TNT plant who( said they would go back there to work the moment the new plant was built"

Inquiries for Relatives.

Women with children who had been homeless in South Amboy all day received the new warning of danger in the afternoon hysterically, but were relieved when told that as far as could be ascertained the danger was passed. In the meantime those who had not been driven from home by fear of the explosions or marched to safety by the military forces who took possession of the district were running about inquiring for word as to their relatives, who were reported to have been working in the plant last night when the first explosion occurred.

Army officers said that they thought the dead numbered about fifty and the injured not more than a hundred. Workmen from the plant said this was a very low estimate, but could not give figures to support their own belief. The Gillespie company employed about 2,500 men and women. They worked In three shifts.

The shift on duty at 7:45 on Friday evening when the great blowup started was smaller than usual. No women were there and only about 600 men. About seventy men were in the building where the fire started.

As there was no Immediate explosion the company believes that most of them got out and that the rest of the 600 workers had time to run a safe distance before TNT began spouting. They admit that this is guesswork.

Fourteen Bodies Recovered.

Fourteen bodies are known to have been taken from the plant thus far. Major Smith, In command of the Eleventh Battalion of the United States Coast Guard, was reported last night as having not been seen by his men since 3 A. M. yesterday, but was not definitely reported missing.

The Department of Justice took charge of the investigation of the cause of the catastrophe. Its agents swarmed all around the wire fence that surrounds the Gillespie enclosure. So far as known they have not yet reached anything like a' conclusion. Nor has Mr. Gillespie or his partners.

A workman who says ho was in one of the buildings asserts that a kettle of chemical mixture which should be heated only to 90 degrees, got Up to 105 degrees, that the mixture exploded and set fire to the Interior of the building and that the flames from this ignited another building and that the first of the tremendous blasts followed.

Lull In the Explosions.

In tho following three hours the bombardment from the TNT plant was regular and terrific. At about 10 o'clock Friday night there came a lull and everybody hoped that the worst was over. But at 2 o'clock In the morning came a shock that was felt as far away as Islip, fifty miles down Long Island. A bigger one was felt at 4 in the morning, another about 10 A. M. and the heaviest of at a few minutes after noon.

Not only was TNT exploding in mass, but loaded shells were being fired by the heat and driving helter-skelter through the New Jersey atmosphere, adding to the general terror. One of these shells, according to a correspondent hurtled through a window at Ford's Corner, twelve miles from where it started.

The fire department of Perth Amboy sent all Its force to Morgan to help fight the flames, but was ordered back by army officers. It would have been folly to risk their lives near the magazines, which were going off like a string of colossal firecrackers. The firemen were told by one of the guards at the plant that the situation got out of hand because in all this treasure house of high explosives no dynamite could be found with which to raze other buildings and stop the flames.

But as the electric light went out and the darkness was not really relieved by the fire for an hour or ta after the first explosion. It Is difficult to see how the guards could have found the dynamite even If It had been there, to say nothing of the idea of blowing up buildings which, were blowing themselves up about as fast as one could want.

Other Theories Advanced.

Another Gillespie employee thought the first explosion was due to a defective valve that he said was in use to ascertain the heat and quality of the TNT. Still another spoke of an excess of steam which caused the mixture to explode before the temperature should have reached a dangerous degree. These and yarns about mysterious men and an airplane swooping over the plant early Friday evening are being looked into by the investigators.

The danger of a whopping big explosion that would shame any of its predecessors was investigated by airplane, because the hundreds of soldiers, sailors, militia, home defense men, Gillespie guards and others who were risking their lives in trying to get near the blazing acres could not get near enough.

The situation was at last relieved when an airplane was seen approaching. Aboard It were Major H. L. Armstrong and Capt. W. W. Watson. It spiraled again and again over the big enclosure, the aviators, with field-glasses to their eyes, leaning over the edge of their fuselage, peering down at the lurid pit beneath, then swooping upward and circling again to get a higher view of the spectacle.

Fly Low Over Barges.

The notion that these men were not mere sightseers took hold of the crowds that watched on the ground from a safe distance. It gradually dawned upon them that an airplane was being put to a new use. Where the loaded barges were tied in Cheesequake Creek, not far from the Raritan Bay, the flying men circled low. They scrutinized this particular spot for more than fifteen minutes, then selected a landing place without the danger zone and landed.

They then talked with army officers at the administration building of the Gillespie plant, which was far removed from the TNT loading houses and was unharmed. It was then that the army officers said the danger of the greater explosion seemed to have passed and that the terrified residents of the South Amboy district could return to what was left of their homes.

This information being flashed to Manhattan reopened the tunnels and bridges and set the traffic tides flowing again. But meanwhile the refugees who had been struggling homeward from Perth Amboy, having heard the news that New York was scared to death, and figuring that if New York was in danger they certainly must be, turned back toward Perth Amboy Instead of going home and milled in panic.0

It took some time to convince them that they were comparatively safe after all, or as nearly safe as anybody could be when war's fiercest explosive, TNT, was shattering the firmament almost in their midst.

Morgan. N. J., which Is the post office name of the Gillespie works, is in the edge of a zone that is of vast importance in the war. Directly westward are the plants of the California Loading Company and the Oliver Loading Company. Further away, but not too far to be out of danger of communicated explosion, are the plants of the Hercules Loading Company, the Parlin shell plant, one of the Du Pont plants and the plant of the Gillespie Loading Company. The United States Department of Labor recently said that 61 per cent of the shells that leave the United States are handled by the T. A. Gillespie, California and Oliver companies.

Site of the Plant.

Morgan is on the western shore of Raritan Bay. Cheesequake Creek runs through it to the bay. The town of South Amboy, whose population is about 10,000, occupies the flats just to the north of Morgan and further north, across the Raritan River, is Perth Amboy, whose normal population of 45,000 has been swollen to 60,000 by the war. Behind Morgan, above the river, rises a bluff which is the edge of a plateau that was waste land until the Government built there a shell loading plant and installed T. A. Gillespie & Co. to load shells on the basis of cost plus 10 per cent

Near the river stands the Gillespie administration building. Southward of it are about sixty rough wooden buildings in which shells were loaded. The materials were started at one end of these lines of buildings and came out at the other as loaded shells. In other parts of the enclosure of about sixteen square miles were forty other buildings, including barracks for guards. From an airplane the whole plant would resemble an army cantonment.

The building where the first blast went off, according to the best information, was known as No. 6-11. About seventy men were at work In that building. The company officers believe that most of the dead were there. No women were at work at night.

Gillespie on Scene.

President T. A. Gillespie and Vice President Yeats were in the administration building when the first shock occurred. Running forth, they saw men scampering from all the buildings across the enclosure and through the high wire fence into the darkness.

There was too much confusion and danger then to try to find out what had actually happened. Later Mr. Gillespie and the Government men were told that a few seconds before the upheaval in building 6-11 the electric lights suddenly wont out and then flashed on again, as if somebody was tampering with the wires. The men in that building were loading three inch shells.

Romaine Heuer, foreman in building 9-2, where nine inch shells were being filled, agreed that the thing started at 7:45 o'clock in building 6-11, and that the next to blow up was building 6-S, and then, after an interval, building 6-4, where eight inch shells were being loaded.

At 2 :30 A. M. a shell dropped on another unit which contained 8,000 nine inch shells. The electricity plant, or wiring was put out of business by the first explosion. The company's electricians stuck to their post.

They crawled about in the darkness trying to find an emergency switch and turn it on to to find the break in the wire that they thought may have interrupted the current. Meanwhile another brave man kept a searchlight at one end of the enclosure playing here and there over the plant, guiding toward, the wire fence the hundreds of men who were frantically endeavoring to find some way out of this place of death.

Pillars of Flame.

This was the only illumination the place had until the mounting flames from the buildings and the pillars of dazzling orange colored light from the burning powder, which blossomed into beautiful, if terrifying, sunbursts at the top, gave all the light that any one could ask for. These flame pillars were visible for miles. Col. Douglas I. McKay, ex-Police Commissioner of New York, arrived yesterday from Washington to investigate for the Ordnance Department. He was one of those who talked with Major Armstrong and Capt. Watson after their airplane observation trip. He would make no statement, but from others it was learned that the TNT laden barges were about a mile from the nearest flames and seemingly were in no danger of going up.

The early explosions devastated the village of Morgan and the later ones made a mess of South Amboy. Miles away at Rahway, N. J., the steeple of the Second' Presbyterian Church swayed under an atmospheric blow administered at 12 :06 o'clock in the afternoon and bricks showered to the street. The last major explosion came at about 4 P.M.

By that time the town of South Amboy resembled a village In France. Houses were roofless and chimneyless, doors and door frames had been blown away, shingles littered the streets. Very few of the population had stayed to witness this disruption. In the darkness, herded by military guards, they had escaped to the open country or crossed the bridge to Perth Amboy. which is about three-quarters of a mile long and seemed about fifty miles to the refugees.

Removal of Injured.

The injured were taken to a temporary hospital in Perth Amboy and later distributed among other hospitals in towns as far away as Elizabeth and New Brunswick. The plateau where stood the Gillespie plant has been known as "the battlefield" ever since a skirmish was fought there In the Revolutionary War. It was as from a battlefield that the inhabitants of the region fled and as after a battle that the wounded were succored.

Agonizing stories of huge loss of life, of fearful incidents back In the TNT inferno added, to the fright of the exiles. It was reported, for instance, that there was a trainload of TNT on a branch railroad track within the Gillespie enclosure, and that while an engineer who stuck to his throttle was trying to get the train away two carloads had exploded, killing a lot of men.

Realization that flames, creeping through the ruins and the dry grass of the plateau, might reach other shell factories and send the whole northern New Jersey world Into the air, did not tend to lessen the terror.

As a matter of fact, these other plants were in little danger, but everybody seemed intent on believing the worst that anyone could tell him. As to the underground magazine near Cheesequake Creek, It was provided with an automatic flooding system, but as no one could get near the magazine It was impossible to say whether the system had worked all right or not.

Injured Unable to Explain.

At noon thirty-eight Injured had been taken to the Perth Amboy Hospital. All were able to talk but were unable to explain the disaster. Others who were hurt were taken to the Colonia base hospital, St. Peter's In New Brunswick, the army convalescent hospital at Lakewood, the Alexian Brothers Hospital at Elizabeth, to Keyport, Newark and Staten Island.

The Central Railroad of New Jersey discontinued its regular schedule, refusing to take passengers further than Sewaren, eight miles from Morgan station. The nearest to Morgan that newspaper men could get was Perth Amboy, five miles 4way. While a Sun reporter was telephoning from Perth Amboy the old Packard House lost a door.

There were, eight bodies in the undertaking rooms of Coroner E. L. Mason at Perth Amboy last night, and it was said there were fifteen bodies at Garretson's morgue in 8outh Amboy. The only body definitely Identified up to that time was that of John Miller of Newark, an inspector at the Gillespie plant.

Mr. Gillespie said he believed the company's payroll was saved and that by checking up names to-day he probably could tell definitely who among his employees were lost. Three hundred soldiers of the Regular Army went to the outskirts of the plant last night to relieve Coast Guard men and militia who had been working twenty-four hours.

Girl Braves Peril to Help.

A girl, Mignon Brickman, living near the Gillespie enclosure, stayed up all Friday night making hot coffee for the guards and refugees under shell fire until the guards compelled her to leave.

In Perth Amboy they were also telling of the bravery of George Francisco and Richard Lamb, mechanical engineers on duty at the plant, who after the first explosion crawled through the darkness and shut off the live steam supply of the entire plant so that it might not overheat and explode TNT in buildings whence the workers had fled.

An elderly man, the last of the refugees, limped Into Perth Amboy last night. He said that South Amboy is in darkness except for the glare from the burning munitions plant. Few persons are there except soldiers, sailors and a few officers of the company.

Lack of sleep and shock made the old man slow in answering inquiries. He was oppressed by the fear that other and worse explosions were inevitable. He said unexploded shells littered the road over which he had come.

It was said last night that three large magazines containing unexploded TNT have been located. They are underground and under concrete roofs.

Takes TNT Out of Plant.

Lieut. Sayre of Company B, Fifteenth Battalion of the United States Guard, with a railroad employee who knew only enough about a locomotive to start it, ran twelve freight cars filled with TNT out of the yards of the ammunition plant yesterday to South Amboy.

Sergeant William C. Schilling of Lieut. Sayre's company went back to bed, Friday night after the explosions had stopped and it was thought that there was no more danger. The first of the big explosions that began about midnight lifted him out of bed. He dropped to the floor thoroughly awake.

Schilling was ordered to save the patients in the camp hospital. He got automobiles and took some of the patients to Keyport, where he commandeered a hotel. Afterward the patients were taken to the Government hospital at Lakewood. During the journey to Keyport the glass In all of the automobiles was broken.

Miss Hazel Yaeger of 485 Ninth avenue, a nurse who responded early yesterday to the call for relief workers, was stationed at a temporary hospital in South Amboy. She said that while twenty injured men were on operating tables an explosion broke all the windows in the building and glass sprinkled the patients.

Three Prisoners Released.

In the camp hospital were three men held as prisoners. When the other patients were taken out, these men remained. An officer ordered them released. Nobody had time to watch them. They quickly made a getaway.

The chief electrician of Unit J-11, where the first explosion occurred, was blinded. He said that 200 men were working in this unit. If this is true the number of dead exceeds present estimates.

The Rev. Father Quinn of Perth Amboy went to South Amboy, arriving there at midnight Friday. He accompanied Chief of Police Burke of Perth Amboy. Father Quinn went into the burning buildings of the munitions plant and administered the last sacrament to men dying of burns. When the peril became too great Chief Burke forced him into his automobile. Father Quinn jumped from the moving car and ran back toward the plant. Chief Burke caught him and again forced him back into the automobile.

It was said by Government officials yesterday that the Morgan plant had been particularly careful in weeding out enemy aliens from among applicants for work. A man who said he was familiar with the situation in all the munitions plants in the metropolitan district declared that hundreds of enemy aliens work in them. He admitted that he had no particular knowledge of the plant at Morgan.

Perth Amboy Is under martial law and the entire district In the control of more than 1,000 Regulars and members of the Coast Guard. No search for bodies will be made until the ruin's cool.

An inspector who was in Unit 6-11 two hours before the first explosion said that in the building were nine kettles, each containing about 2,400 pounds of amatol, a half and half mixture of TNT and ammonia nitrate. The amatol was fed from kettles on the second floor through pipes to the first floor, where 155 millimeter shells, known as "grave diggers," were filled.

Amatol exerts its force downward when exploded. The inspector believes that all the men in the building, except four, who have been accounted for, were killed. He said there were only fifty men in the building. There were about 3,000 "grave digger" shells in this structure, and BOO more In a car alongside. Carloads of shells caused the loudest detonations yesterday.

Feast of Saint Francis, 2018 -- October 4, 2018
Today is the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi.

"Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance."

Read more at:

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

"Off to Sea" Signal on the Battle-Ship Oregon -- October 3, 2018

San Francisco Call, 27-March-1898
From the 27-March-1898 San Francisco Call. Click on the image for a larger view. 

Oregon was a pre-Dreadnought battleship, built at San Francisco's Union Iron Works. When the Spanish-American War was on the brink of erupting, Oregon sailed around the Horn to the east coast in three weeks. This provided ammunition for proponents of a Panama Canal. Oregon served in the fleet that destroyed the Spanish fleet at Santiago de Cuba on 03-July-1898. In 1915 she visited the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. Starting in 1925, she was preserved at Portland, Oregon as a museum ship. When World War II broke out, she was converted to a barge.

It is the last day of the Oregon's stay in San Francisco, and the decks in the great battle-ship are crowded with hurrying, perspiring throngs of bluejackets. In a few hours she will be off to make a showing with the other Atlantic battle-ships in the Spanish question. Every one who can is at work, apparently everything is in confusion, but in reality orderly discipline prevails and all the arrangements for the long voyage which the ship is to make around the Horn for the Atlantic seaboard are being carried out with matter of fact precision. Few people have any idea of the amount of labor involved in preparing a huge battle-ship like this for sea. Theoretically a man-of-war, once commissioned is supposed to be always ready for action. But in practice there is always a great deal to be done at the last moment, especially when a voyage of such exceptional length is contemplated. And in the Oregon's case the work was complicated by the fact that the ship had just come out of drydock, where her sea-going qualities have been greatly improved by the addition of a couple of bilge keels to check the tendency to excessive rolling which the vessel formerly manifested.

Thus all the ammunition which had been discharged previously to going into drydock had to be taken on board again; no light task considering that over 408 tons of shell and powder, gun-cotton and other explosives, are stowed away far below the water line in the magazines.

Each of the monster thirteen-inch guns in the turrets fires a shell weighing over 1200 pounds. There are four of these guns, two forward and two aft; their long muzzles can be seen projecting far beyond the turrets. For every gun 100 rounds of shell has to be carried, and this means a weight of over 200 tons.

Then there are the eight-inch guns in the smaller turrets, the six-inch guns, the rapid-firing six-pounders and all the numerous machine guns which go to complete the secondary battery and which are intended to play havoc with any torpedo-boat or unarmored vessel which may come within range. These weapons all require supplies. In action they would eat up cartridges with the greatest voracity, and the result is that there are over 400 tons of ammunition of all kinds in the magazines.

On the upper deck of the central citadel, or armored battery, wherein all the fighting power of the ship is concentrated, the sailors may be seen giving the finishing touches to the six-pounder rapid-firing guns which frown over the breastwork. They are dainty, dangerous little weapons, for, though they are light enough to be handled with the utmost ease, their shell is heavy enough to pierce the skin of any vessel not protected by armor. One of these projectiles, striking the boiler or engines, is quite sufficient to disable, if not sink, a torpedo-boat.

To make sure that everything is all right a crew of four sailors is going through drill with the gun, and our photograph shows clearly the manner in which it is worked. The captain of the gun directs it by means of a projecting arm, against which he presses his shoulder, and so accurately is the weapon balanced that the slightest force will swing it from side to side, elevate or depress it, as desired. It can be aimed quite as readily as a small rifle and fired as quickly. Another man operates the breech mechanism, inserting the cartridges as they are handed up to him by a third member of the crew. All the captain of the gun has to do is to aim and pull the trigger, and, with a practiced crew, as many as twenty rounds a minute can be fired from this death-dealing little weapon.

Another reason for all the bustle on board is an important change which is being made in the armament of the crew. Sailors have rifles as well as big guns wherewith to deal damage to an enemy, but hitherto the only small arm on board the ship has been the old fashioned Lee rifle.

In view of present emergencies, the naval authorities have substituted a far more modern and effective weapon. The tug Unadilla is alongside, and a string of sailors are busy passing out the old rifles and their ammunition and taking on board the new guns. The rifle is a marvel of compact mechanism. It is light and easy to handle, and has an extremely small bore, firing a bullet about the size of a pea. But this little bullet will reach a range of 2000 yards, and will penetrate at half that distance three feet of timber. Attached to the breech of the rifle is a small magazine, in which five cartridges, held in a metal clip, can be placed at once. Just as in a Winchester, one pull on the breech lever ejects the usual cartridge and inserts a new one, so that five shots can be fired consecutively in the briefest space of time.

Sixteen hundred tons of coal are already safely stowed below in the capacious bunkers of the warship; but the task of coaling has left its traces all over the upper decks. Sailors are busy everywhere touching up the paint work and polishing the brass rails of the superstructure; the decks are still moist from the hard scrubbing which they have recently undergone, and the ship will soon be as clean and white as on the first day when she left the dockyard.

Everybody is not preparing for fighting, though. The arts of peace as well as of war are being cultivated, and the sailor with the sewing-machine is carrying on a distinctly pacific trade. A sewing-machine seems strangely out of place on board an ironclad, yet many sailors possess the little hand-machines and are very dexterous in their use. The man is making up thick blue serge frocks, which will doubtless prove useful when the vessel gets through the tropics and encounters the biting blasts of the Antarctic off Cape Horn.

Forward, under the shelter of the breastwork which rises above the deck, there is quite a little gathering of men, who, for some reason or other, have nothing to do. Many of them are on the sick list; one poor young fellow had his hand smashed through a shell dropping on it. Some have been on guard during the night, and are, therefore, relieved during the day.

But all are happy and jolly, and exulting over the prospect of a brush with Spain. They exchange rude sailor jokes one with the other, and even the man who is shaving is not allowed to perform this delicate operation in peace. "When the photographer proceeds deliberately to focus his camera upon him he is bidden to put more lather on, and he responds by sticking a great dab of the creamy white soap on the tip of his nose. Altogether, he is a most ridiculous-looking individual, and not a bit sailor-like, though I suppose shaving is just as much part of a sailor's discipline as gun drill or general quarters.

As the day wears on and it becomes known that the battle-ship is to leave for the south at daylight on the morrow the officers on the quarter-deck have a busy time stalling off intruders. Boat after boat, laden with friends, or it may be sweethearts of gallant tars, comes alongside, the occupants, in defiance of all rules and regulations, striving to obtain one last word with the men who so soon are to sail away. Sometimes a pretty face and a tearful eye melt the heart of the officer of the day, and an interview is permitted, but more often the visitors have to row back disappointed. Who knows when they may see their dear ones again?

Apart from the chances of battle, the Oregon, having once rounded the Horn, may never return to the Pacific station. The exigencies of naval service may keep her in the Atlantic, but wherever she is, we may rest satisfied that she will be serving the Union faithfully and well.

San Francisco Call, 27-March-1898

San Francisco Call, 27-March-1898

Monday, October 1, 2018

Charles Aznavour and Jerry González, RIP -- October 1, 2018

We lost two great men of music on the same day. French singer, songwriter and activist Charles Aznavour and trumpeter and band leader Jerry González are both gone. I've been hearing about Aznavour all my life, although his work rarely showed up on the radio in San Francisco. He wrote songs for Edith Piaf. He did much to help people in Armenia and to try to persuade people to remember the genocide. Jerry González worked with many great Latin musicians and led the Fort Apache band.

October, 2018 Version of the Cable Car Home Page -- October 1, 2018

I just put the October, 2018 version of my Cable Car Home Page on the server:

It includes some new items:
1. Picture of the Month: The Chicago City Railway's Wabash/Cottage Grove Avenue cable trains carry crush loads of passengers to Chicago Day at the World's Columbian Exposition on 09-October-1893. (source: The Scientific American, January 27, 1894).
2. On the Chicago page, a new article about the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, which provided lots of business for the city's cable cars.
3. On the San Francisco page: A ten and twenty year update on San Francisco's Telegraph Hill Railroad, including contemporary newspaper articles
4. On the Who page: Added an article about Gustav Sutro, who was president of the Omnibus Railroad and the Telegraph Hill Railroad.
5. On the Geary Street Park and Ocean Railway page: An 1882 ad for Baldwin Steam Motors.
6. On the Presidio and Ferries Railway page: An 1882 ad for Seaside Gardens, "Presidio -- Terminus of Union-street Cable Road."
7. Added News, Roster and Chronology items about Muni's 2018 Heritage Weekend
8. Added News and Chronology items about Powell/Mason bus substitution
9. Added News item about cable car fare collection audit.

Ten years ago this month (October, 2008):
1. Picture of the Month: After spending 30 years in San Quentin, Agglestein (Agustín) Castro sees cable cars for the first time and asks "Are those the automobiles?"
2. A new installment of Val Lupiz's column Tales From the Grip: "Rookie Bites"
3. On the San Francisco page: "Lost To The World For Thirty Years", a 1901 newspaper article about Agglestein (Agustín) Castro, who returned to San Francisco after spending 30 years in San Quentin
4. Also on the San Francisco page: Added a description of the Telegraph Hill Railroad from a travel book
5. Added a News item about a newly developed cable car simulation
6. Added News and Bibliography items about a fatal accident on Powell Street

Twenty years ago this month (October, 1998):
1. Picture of the Month: URR Valencia Street Car.
2. Add MSR photo to MSR page
3. Add article about Telegraph Hill Railroad to the SF Miscellany section
4. Add powered turntable suggestion to news & bibliography
5. Add new links to Melbourne page

125 years ago this month, on 13-October-1893, the Consolidated Electric Railway was purchased by the Los Angeles Railway

75 years ago this month, on 20-October-1893, the Court Flight, a funicular in Los Angeles, was damaged in a fire and went out of business

Coming in November, 2018: On the San Francisco page: A ten and twenty year update on San Francisco's Fillmore Hill Counterbalance, which carried passengers up and down one of the steepest hills in the city.

On my Park Trains and Tourist Trains page: the 2018 Raifair at Ardenwood Historic Farm:

The Cable Car Home Page now has a Facebook page:

Joe Thompson
The Cable Car Home Page (updated 01-October-2018)
San Francisco Bay Ferryboats (updated 31-August-2018)
Park Trains and Tourist Trains (updated 30-September-2018)
The Pneumatic Rolling-Sphere Carrier Delusion (updated spasmodically)
The Big V Riot Squad (new blog)