Thursday, April 30, 2015

A good thing in 1854

In April 1854 the Pennsylvania legislature did a good thing: it chartered the first black college in America.

Ashmun College was established in Chester County, then mostly farmlands west of Philadelphia.
In 1866 the college was renamed Lincoln University.

The college website says it was "the first institution found anywhere in the world to provide a higher education in the arts and sciences for male youth of African descent." Among its alumni are Langston Hughes ‘29 and Thurgood Marshall ‘30.

Today LU is co-ed, is actually if not substantially racially and ethnically diverse, and has about 2,000 students who are working on bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Resident tuition/room/board adds up to just over $20,000. In the current environment of soaring college costs, that’s a strikingly affordable pricetag for a college degree.

I say the Pennsylvania legislature did a good thing in 1854 because in 1854 it was a good thing to establish a college for black men. No governmental entity, and probably no private venture, would do the same thing today. Our public sensibilities and mores forbid it.

It’s too bad there isn’t a compensating public impulse to offer accessibly-priced college education to all the young men and women who aren’t white with upper-socio-economic parents.

>>>>>  UPDATE  <<<<<
Here's a current comment on college expenses from Mary Bromley at Cornerstone University:

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Hug a poet

This month is National Poetry Month. I bet you didn’t know that.

Some Americans have celebrated National Poetry Month for the past 19 years, during which the number of folks who admit they’ve “read a poem in the last year” has dropped by more than 50 percent. Just wondering now, is there a National Twitter Month?....

The national Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, conducted by the Census Bureau, reports that the only artsy experience that’s less popular than reading poetry is attending the opera.

I’ve had good experiences at the opera, but I admit I haven’t seen one for quite a long time.

I’m rather keen on reading poetry, which places me in the exotically tiny 6.7 percent of Americans who can remember reading a poem in the past 12 months.

Neither the Census Bureau nor folks in the poetry game have a solid explanation for the decline of enjoyment in reading poems.

I guess lots of folks just enjoy lots of other stuff lots more.

Along the lines of Joyce Kilmer’s “I think that I shall never see/A poem lovely as a tree…”


Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The wisdom of Jean de La Fontaine (part 2)

“Il ne faut jamais vendre la peau de l'ours
qu'on ne l'ait mis par terre.”
“Never sell the bear's skin before you have put him down.”

17th century French fabulist and poet

Sure, this sounds more manly than “Don’t count your chickens…”

Our whimsical French ami also manages to give a nod to the contingent reality that, in your headlong quest for personal gain, that other fellow, the one you want to use or abuse, may not cooperate.


Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Rosie the Riveter, R. I. P. (again)

You may be old enough to know who “Rosie the Riveter” was, but my guess is you don’t really know who she was.

More correctly, you don’t really know who they were.

On April 21, 2015, Mary Doyle Keefe, 92, died in Simsbury, CT. When she was a 19-year-old telephone operator in 1943 in Arlington, VT, she posed for Norman Rockwell’s “Rosie the Riveter” cover portrait in the Saturday Evening Post.

Rosie was a potent motivator in World War II recruitment and Liberty bond sales, and her likeness appeared on many patriotic posters and in other formats during the war. Rosie was the exemplar of American women who answered the call to “take a man’s job” in factories and industry, and fill the place of a husband, son or brother who went to a combat zone. After the war, the experience of all those Rosies led to a decades-long expansion of women’s participation in the work force.

Mary Keefe was one of several exemplary young women whose faces were used by various artists and photographers to create the Rosie personae.

Geraldine Doyle (1924-2010) was another Rosie who was working in a metal factory in Ann Arbor, MI, in early 1942 when a UPI photographer took her picture on the job. It became an inspiration for an artist who created the iconic WWII “We Can Do It” poster. Unlike Mary, Geraldine didn’t know for more than 40 years that she had been famous during the war.  A family member read a 1984 magazine article that linked her to the poster.

A salute to Mary and Geraldine and all the other Rosies!

Requiescat in pace.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

First photograph taken 189 years ago

How many pictures do you have on your cellphone?

You may be old enough to remember when most people did not carry a cell-phone-with-camera in pocket or purse or within reach, 24 hours a day.

The first photographer “snapped” his first shot in 1826 in France, according to

OK, OK, “snapped” is a euphemism for what Joseph Nicéphore Niépce called “heliography.” In 1826 he stirred some chemicals around on a pewter plate, put the plate inside a 19th century device called camera obscura that was aimed out the window of “the room where I work,” exposed the plate to light for eight hours and then washed it to reveal the image you see below.

I presume you aren’t rushing to share this on Facebook. I understand.

Here’s the way the image looks after Helmut and Alison Gernsheim, with some help from the Eastman Kodak Company, did a bit of touch-up in the 1950s.

More or less, this was M. Niépce’s rooftop view from an upper story window at his country estate.

….and here’s short list of other notable stuff that happened in 1826:

The Granite Railway commenced operations in Quincy, Massachusetts, as the first chartered railroad in America.

Samuel Morey claimed the first American patent for an internal combustion engine.

John Walked invented the “friction match” in England.

.…and just confirming, there was no Super Bowl that year, and no new reality TV shows….

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Who makes the minimum wage?

Who actually earns $7.25 an hour, that is, the federal minimum wage?

It turns out less than 1 percent of Americans are working on the books for minimum wage, or less. There’s a lower minimum for certain categories of workers like restaurant employees who earn tips.

There are about 3 million folks in the U. S. making minimum wage or less—all other workers are at higher pay scales in their companies or work in states that have set a higher minimum.

Who are these minimum wage folks? The says most of them are “disproportionately young, female, part-time, Southern restaurant workers without a high school degree.” Half of them are under 25.

States with the highest percentages of minimum wage workers are Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.

In case you’re wondering, 40 hours at minimum wage will put $290 (gross) on your pay stub—that’s about $15,000 a year before taxes.

Confession: I think the minimum wage laws are a bad idea. They distort normal calculations of economic value in the marketplace. I am inclined to support the notion that a business whose employees qualify for welfare should be required to reimburse taxpayers for those welfare payments—I don’t think it’s a stretch to argue that welfare payments enable those workers to avoid starving or skipping health checkups for their babies while accepting the low wages from the employer.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

8th grade graduation test in 1912

Graduating from the 8th grade wasn't a snap in Bullitt County, Kentucky, in 1912.

Students attended mostly one-room schools in the predominantly rural county, south of Louisville. 8th graders took the “Common Exam” in the county courthouse. Some students who earned high scores received scholarships to attend high school. Many of the farm kids in the county didn’t get schooling beyond the 8th grade.

In case your 8th grader or a student you know is grousing about final exams right about now, ask her to take a look at these sample questions from the 1912 Common Exam in Bullitt County. The full test is listed here.

In Mathematics:
“Find cost at 12 ½ cents per sq. yd. of kalsomining [whitewashing] the walls of a room 20 ft. long, 16 ft. wide and 9 ft. high, deducting 1 door 8 ft. by 4 ft. 6 in. and 2 windows 5 ft. by 3 ft. 6 in. each.”

In Geography:
“Tell what you know of the Gulf Stream.”

In Civil Government:
“Describe the manner in which the president and vice-president of the United States are elected.”

In History:
“Give the cause of the war of 1812 and name an important battle fought during that war.”

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Do the Myers-Briggs, get happy

I’ve commented previously on the discredited Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality test.

In plain terms, the mechanics of the test are simplistic and the conceptual basis for it is the musings of Carl Jung which have never been validated. Also, roughly half of the people who take the test get a distinctly different result when they take it a second time.

Why is it the most popular personality test in the world for corporations and organizations?

Well, good marketing is part of the answer. The company that owns Myers-Briggs, CPP Inc., makes about $20 million a year from test takers and the folks who administer it.

CPP takes pains on its website to say that Myers-Briggs is not a personality test. Users think otherwise. The Wikipedia page for “Myers-Briggs Type Indicator” uses the word “personality” 62 times.

It costs $15-$40 per person to do the Myers-Briggs assessment, and administrators pay $1,700 to be certified. You can imagine that the certified administrators aren’t badmouthing Myers-Briggs.

The 16 mutually exclusive Myers-Briggs types—like INTP, Introverted Thinking With Intuition—are constructed from verifiably flawed binary classifications based on 93 statements like “You tend to sympathize with other people” that require “Yes” or “No” responses. Sorry, my response to that statement is “Yes, most of the time, with some people, with others, not so much.”

Here’s a kicker: the Myers-Briggs types are described with classifiers like “thinker” and “nurturer” and “likes to think things through.” Are you getting the picture? The descriptors are phrased in positive language, there aren’t any Myers-Briggs types who lie, cheat, steal, loaf, crack gum, drink, get high, whine, annoy, abuse, threaten….in other words, Myers-Briggs doesn’t describe a lot of the people I encountered in my career.

One critic put it this way: “This isn't a test designed to accurately categorize people, but a test designed to make them feel happy after taking it.

Here’s a tip: don’t mention the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator on your resume.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

At last, been there….

I did the Boston Marathon yesterday for the first time.

Ooops, the buzzer went off on that one.

What I meant was, I watched many hundreds of the brave and slightly wacky men and women who did the Boston Marathon yesterday, my first time standing at the curb along the course route with my family.

It really is a thrill to watch those hardy folk race by. I think the typical runner is cracking along at about 10 miles an hour, the leaders are doing 13 miles an hour. After getting up close and personal for the first time, I can confirm: most marathoners are running, they’re not jogging or anything.

By one estimate more than a half million people lined the route from Hopkinton to Boston’s Boylston Street yesterday, to cheer for everybody.

I have to say that I think running a marathon is probably bad for the human body. I’m just as ready to confirm the obvious: it’s non-stop exhilaration to watch them doing the deed. Marathoners gotta be proud men and women, you betcha.

By the way, the Boston Marathon got started 119 years ago, when 18 men queued up for the race and the winner, American John McDermott, finished in 2 hours 55 minutes 10 seconds. Among other things, they had heavier shoes in those days.

The current Boston Marathon record is 2:03:02, set by Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya in 2011. The best women’s time for the Boston classic is 2:18:57, posted by Rita Jeptoo of Kenya two years ago.
Yesterday, about 30,300 dedicated runners showed up at the starting line. Truly, it’s an international crowd, with 97 countries represented.

The runners were doing some good, too—they probably raised about $40 million from race-day sponsors to support favorite charities.

One runner was cool enough to veer towards our family group and offer a high five to my young grandson, who did his part with great glee.

Non-stop exhilaration.

Yes, Virginia, there is a dinosaur....

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Top admin salaries driving college costs?

A law professor says “the real reason” college tuition is shooting skyward is that campus administrator staffing and salaries are more or less going through the roof.

Prof. Paul Campos of the University of Colorado offered some compelling facts in his New York Times opinion piece a couple weeks ago.

The U. S. Department of Education reports that administrative jobs at colleges and universities grew 60 per cent between 1993 and 2009, while tenured faculty positions increased only about one-tenth as much.

Campos also says “the recent trend toward seven-figure salaries for high-ranking university administrators” is indefensible. Indeed, it is. The tired old argument that “we need to pay high salaries to get high quality candidates” has never been proved, and is unprovable.

I think Dr. Campos stumbles when he pooh-poohs arguments that federal and state education funding have shrunk drastically, forcing community colleges and good old State U. to grab more revenue from paying students and their parents. Campos says public funding has not been substantially cut back. However, he seems to be focused on total dollars allocated, and he seems to ignore the impact of inflation and the fact that the number of students attending post-secondary institutions has swelled spectacularly. Per capita (per student) public funding for education certainly has declined.

I believe much of the criticism of “high college costs” is impotent. It seems to me that the focus of critical discussion should be on reducing the actual costs of a college education for the typical student.

We need to eliminate some student amenities (like multi-million-dollar fitness facilities) and some sports (my alma mater, a small liberal arts college, still has a golf team and an equestrian team) and some liberal arts courses (for example, cut all of them and award a degree in three years) and all further additions to the tenured faculty.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved

Friday, April 17, 2015

Grim war news

Almost 100 years ago, in April 1918, Allied and German troops stood down from the second Battle of the Somme River.

On the ground, it was a German “victory” that advanced their lines by almost 40 miles closer to Paris.

In the big picture, the Germans not only shot their “Big Bertha” shells toward the French capital, they also shot their wad. American soldiers made their first entry in World War I, joining their French and British brothers in arms during the 15-day battle. The war ended in November of that year.

We don’t remember the grisly roll call of casualties during WWI.

In this second battle of the Somme, nearly 400,000 soldiers were killed or wounded in their trenches and in no-man’s-land between the lines. About 100,000 men on both sides were taken prisoner.

That amounts to more than 33,000 casualties a day during the battle.

That’s too many dead men. Too many Gold Star mothers.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The art of T. S. Eliot

“…the hollow men…” and so on….

I respectfully think that T. S. Eliot’s poetry is a bloomin’ wasteland….

This post has been moved to my website:

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

When the regulators get it right….

In California last week, the state Public Utilities Commission meted out a huge fine for safety violations, and made sure that the transgressor’s customers won’t pay a penny of it.

The Pacific Gas & Electric Co. will fork over $1.6 billion—a record penalty—for violating state and federal pipeline safety standards and causing a 2010 natural gas explosion that killed eight people and obliterated a neighborhood in San Bruno.

PG&E said it will not appeal.

The regulators made it clear that the fine will be paid by the company and its shareholders, and no part of it will be passed on to customers in the form of rate hikes.

That’s my kind of regulatory rectitude.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Monday, April 13, 2015

A movie theater with 3,000 seats

You may have forgotten that the Mark Strand Theatre opened in New York City 101 years ago.

It was the first mega-theater to be opened in the U. S., at a time when “movies” were hitting their stride as a social and artistic success.

Silent movies, that is. The first "talkies" weren't offered to the movie-going public until the late 1920s.

The Strand was a colossus, and a beautiful one. Before sensational theaters like this one opened for business, the silent films were shown in quite modest venues, often storefront “nickelodeons” named for the first Nickelodeon that debuted in Pittsburgh in 1905. The Strand seated about 3,000 people (!), offered high-rent boxes and a luxurious second-floor balcony, with a two-story lobby for high-class socializing before and after the show.

Within two years, there were more than 21,000 “movie palaces” throughout the United States, some of which exceeded the amenities of the Strand.

Contrast the Strand’s concept and architecture with the boutique “screens” offered today in our grindingly commercial multiplex theaters.

A hundred years ago, folks got dressed up—coat and tie for gents, classy dress for ladies—to go to the movies.

And they didn’t eat popcorn and slurp Coke during the show.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 movie theater

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Dog 101

Bessie and Carley are dogs. We can learn from them.

Here’s how to think like a dog:

The sight of a leash is a signal for joy and jumping—a leash is a ticket to ride, or the certain indicator that there will be walking outdoors. Bounce off the walls, and do four-footed jumps until the human snaps your leash, the knotted red one, onto your collar.

If you stare fixedly out the car window long enough, the wooded preserve comes into view.

When you jump out of the car, the first thing to do is: start straining against the leash with such manic energy that you gasp repeatedly for breath, and don’t stop doing this until the walk is ended.

The second thing is: plant yourself, as it were, permanently, at the nearest clump of leaves on a fallen branch, sniff deeply, urinate, sniff again, repeat until the human drags you away.
Then, pull madly toward the nearest tree, inhale all its mysteries, pee, dash to the next tree.

Repeat for about 40 minutes.

If you’re a black lab, try at least once, and put your heart into it, to jump into the cedar-stained waters of the quiet river that borders the park. Try it again if you get the chance, you never know….

If you’re a Boston terrier, show your best full-toothed grimace to the big dogs you meet along the path, almost hurt yourself trying to get at them, seriously, tell them in dog-speak that if it weren’t for the g.d. leash, you’d be eating their livers right there, right in the middle of the trail.

Don’t worry about looking up, really, there’s a lot of stuff that’s really interesting no more than two feet above ground level. It’s your world.

Another thing: try to poop behind the fallen tree, under the thatch of rhodo, so the human has to grunt to reach it with his hand inside a blue bag.

Keep in mind that the next smell is always the best one, as soon as you’re finished with the one you’re working on now, you gotta get to that next one ASAP, put your weight into it, be a manly dog….

One more thought: it never hurts to try to pee one more time.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Ivan Doig (1939-2015), R.I.P.

If you’ve read anything by Ivan Doig and you’re not an Ivan Doig fan, please call me—you’ve slipped out of our universe and I’d like to help you on your return trip, I’ll just stick out my hand holding one of his books, and you can grab it….

This honest man of Montana died this week. I think he’ll be buried barefoot, because his shoes will be heading to the Smithsonian—no one is going to fill them, that’s for sure.

I came late to the Ivan Doig idiom. I think I read This House of Sky about 20 years ago, a wholly memorable event, it’s one of those “I can’t put it down” books. Doig was a master of investing people into places, and creating places I’d love to see, even if I wouldn’t be strong enough to live in them. Doig’s characters are richly human, profoundly guileless and usually intent on doing the right thing, even when that’s a really hard thing to do….

I read The Bartender’s Tale last summer, a full immersion event as always. I rooted with all my heart for 12-year-old Rusty. The bartender’s son is a magnet for life experiences, he is a perceptive if sometimes innocent observer of what life crams into his young world, he ingenuously feels the first throbs of grown-up sadness, young love, careless aspiration, and fear of life-changing events that he sometimes only clumsily understands. Rusty is the kind of character that Doig understood.

Ivan and Carol Doig

I wouldn’t dare to say that no one can write like Ivan Doig. I’ll knock down the man who says that Ivan Doig wasn’t special. I cherish my memories of reading his masterful stories, and if you’re a fan, too, you know how easily and warmly those memories come to mind.

Ivan Doig (1939-2015), requiescat in pace.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Friday, April 10, 2015

A sombre anniversary

On April 9, 1865, General Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to General Grant. Nearly all of the fighting and killing in the American Civil War was done.

I have ancestors who fought—and one who died—in the Civil War. I hope all of them, and their brothers in arms, rest in peace.

Requiescat in pace.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Voting in Ferguson, MO: update

It’s a good headline story, but look deeper and find a sour spoiler.

You remember Ferguson, MO. White cop shot unarmed black man last August. All hell broke loose. The cop, in the end, wasn’t prosecuted. Almost all-white town government and police force in a community of about 21,000, two-thirds of residents are black. Only one of six town councilmen is black.

Well, there was a big change on Tuesday. Voters put three black representatives into town council seats….probably the first time in history that happened.

That’s the good news part, of course. The mayor is white and he can cast the deciding vote if the six-member council deadlocks on any issues. We’ll see what happens.
The bad news part is this: Barely more than 29% of the folks who are old enough to vote in Ferguson turned up at the polls. That’s a big improvement over the 12% turnout in 2014. It’s a darn shame that 71% of Ferguson folks didn’t bother to go to the polls and send a message to the power structure in the town.

Too bad the folks in Ferguson didn’t set a spectacular example for every place in America where the mix of residents—whether minorities or not—is not represented in elective positions of authority and power.

Two out of three residents in Ferguson are black. Think democracy. Think about ideal expectations and a strictly mechanical system of values: it stands to reason that there should be mostly black faces in the police force and town government.

That notion doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

Painful, depressing reality in Ferguson re-affirms once again that the democratic ideal isn’t playing out in our country.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The first modern Olympics cost $50,000

OK, I made up that number. The 1896 Olympics in Athens cost 3,740,000 drachmas. I couldn’t locate a conversion table. I think the Greeks spent less than Boston is going to spend in 2024.

The games of the first modern Olympics lasted only 10 days in April, 1896, with 241 athletes (all men) representing 14 nations.

Most of the events were staged in Panathinaiko Stadium for the entertainment of about 80,000 spectators.

Men from Princeton at 1896 games
An American, James Connolly, was the first Olympic champion—he won the triple jump on the first day, and received a silver medal and an olive branch. (The gold/silver/bronze medal system was introduced in 1904 at the games in St. Louis).

Besides the traditional track and field events, the 1896 games included swimming, fencing, shooting, tennis and cycling. The beach volley ball fans had to suck it up.

A Greek athlete won the marathon, to the boundless delight of the hometown crowd.

By the way, the marathon is a modern addition to the Olympics—it was introduced at the 1896 games. The distance was 40 kilometers (24.85 miles).

The race commemorates the feat of Pheidippides, a soldier who ran from the plain of Marathon to Athens in 490 B.C. to announce a Greek victory over Persian invaders.

In 1908, at the London games, the route of the marathon race was fixed at 26 miles 385 yards, the measured distance from its start point at Windsor Castle to the finish line in the stadium.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Who’s paying for the ride?

Here’s a heads up on the very high profile woes of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) serving the greater Boston area.

You may know that MBTA broke down in a very public, teeth-grating way during the massive snowfalls that battered Boston and suburbs in the last few months. Many days there was erratic and snail-slow service, and some days there wasn’t any service. In other words, public transit it wasn’t.

You may know that the duly elected representatives of the people in Boston and the state have failed to invest something close to $10 billion in recent years to keep the “T” going with good equipment, on time. It’s a classic failure of government to take the long view and allocate current funds as needed.

You may not know that the Boston Globe has estimated that MBTA passengers are paying only about 39 percent of the system’s operating expenses. In Chicago the comparable figure is 44 percent, and in San Francisco, 76 percent.

Quite obviously, the funding, operational and public policy issues of the MBTA are complex and difficult to manage.

Quite obviously, folks who don’t ride on the trains and buses are paying the biggest share of the cost to keep the arguably medium-quality operation going.

Quite obviously, public transit serves a public good—it reduces commuter congestion, reduces harmful pollutant emissions, provides transportation for workers without cars who couldn’t get to work otherwise.

Quite obviously, it doesn’t make real good sense that almost two-thirds of the cost is borne by non-users. They’re getting taken for a ride.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Pony Express cost $290 per ounce!

Of course you’ve heard about the Pony Express riders, those guys were tough caballeros.

The Pony Express mail service—from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California—was inaugurated on April 3, 1860, just as the Civil War was starting to get hot.

Those hardy riders, including 14-year-old William Cody (he became “Buffalo Bill”), accomplished almost unbelievable feats in the saddle to keep the almost unbelievably expensive mail service in operation for about 18 months.

You may not have heard that the first transcontinental telegraph line put the Pony Express out of service more or less instantly in October 1861. Talk about disruptive technology!

The Pony Express was a good idea waiting to happen. The state of California was admitted to the Union in 1850, but it was essentially out of touch with the eastern states. Regular mail carried on boats took about a month to travel from the East Coast to the West Coast. The Butterfield Express overland stagecoach could carry mail and packages across the western plains in about three weeks at best, and sometimes the stage didn’t make it through.

The Pony Express riders could take a mail packet (about 20 pounds) from Missouri to California in 8-10 days. Unbelievable!

The riders made $25 a week (about $722 in current collars) to cover 75-100 miles per shift, jumping on a fresh mount every 10-15 miles. The Pony Express had about 80 riders on the payroll, and stabled 400-500 horses in more than 100 relay stations along the route.

Here’s another unbelievable factoid: it cost $5 in 1860 to drop a half-ounce of mail into the Pony Express packet. That’s about $145 in current dollars—a 20-pound mail packet was worth about $93,000.

Of course, there were substantial operating costs, but William Russell, William Waddell and Alexander Majors thought they were going to make a killing when they put the Pony Express into operation. However, they never nailed down the juicy government contract they hoped for, and then those pesky pre-Silicon Valley guys rolled out the telegraph….

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

Friday, April 3, 2015

Another story....

Yesterday was the 502nd anniversary of the "discovery" of Florida by a European—the Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de Leon (1474-1521). He was searching for the mythic “Fountain of Youth,” but that’s another story.

De Leon trudged through the Florida sand in 1513, nearly 21 years after Columbus didn’t “discover" America. Columbus first "discovered" an inhabited island in the Bahamas on October 12, 1492, most likely San Salvador, and, in fact, he never set foot on the North American continent during any of his four voyages.

The first European to make a North American landfall in the Age of Discovery was the Italian navigator Giovanni Caboto (c.1450-c.1499), who claimed Newfoundland in 1497 for his sponsor, Henry VII of England (by the way, he called his favorite explorer “John Cabot”).

This is a rather roundabout way of mentioning that, when the Pilgrim Fathers went ashore in Plymouth Harbor in 1620, they very definitely were not beginning the European exploration and colonization of North America….and they probably didn’t step directly onto the “Plymouth Rock,” as our American legend would have it, but that’s another story.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015