(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘American history

“If you want to change the culture, you will have to start by changing the organization”*…

 

But to change it, you have to know what that organization is…

 click here, and again on the image, for larger version

With this 1855 chart, Daniel McCallum, general superintendent of the New York and Erie Railroad, tried to define an organizational structure that would allow management of a business that was becoming unwieldy in its size. The document is generally recognized to be the first formal organizational chart.

Historian Caitlin Rosenthal, writing in the McKinsey Quarterlypoints out that the chart was a way for McCallum to get a handle on a complex system made more confusing by the new availability of data from the use of the telegraph (invented in 1844). Information about problems down the track was important to have—it could help prevent train wrecks and further delays—but the New York and Erie’s personnel didn’t have a good sense of who was in charge of managing this data and putting it into action…

Read the whole story in the ever-illuminating Rebecca Onion’s “The First Modern Organizational Chart Is a Thing of Beauty.”

* Anthropologist Mary Douglas

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As we grapple with grapple with the Great Chain of Being, we might recall that it was on this date in 1937 that General Motors formally recognized the United Auto Workers as the collective bargaining representatives of GM workers.  The decision came on the heels of a 44-day sit-down strike that had begun in December, 1936, and that had idled 48,000 employees.  Still (to Dr. Douglas’ point), old habits die hard: two month later GM guards assaulted and beat UAW leaders at the company’s Rouge River plant.

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By Hand…

 

Alastair Simms – Cooper

Photographer Steve Kenward celebrates the craftsmen and women who fashion things by hand…

Amanda Winfield – Stained Glass

Andy Doig – Neon Signs

Many more elegant photo essays at “Made Not Manufactured.”

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As we contemplate craft, we might recall that it was on this date in 1872 that Susan B. Anthony cast a ballot in the presidential election at her local polling station in Rochester, NY– an act for which she was arrested two weeks later.  The presiding judge at her trial (U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ward Hunt) refused to let her testify directly, explicitly ordered the jury to return a guilty verdict, refused to poll the jury afterwards, and read an opinion he had written before the trial even started; Ms. Anthony was convicted.  But her public defense of her action, rooted in the recently-adopted Fourteenth Amendment (“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”) generated sufficient public support to accelerate her campaign for women’s rights.  And while her sentence was a fine of $100, the U.S. government never tried to collect.

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The Big (Not So) Easy…

Lake Providence lies in East Carroll Parish in the northeast corner of Louisiana…

It’s a place where the air is so soupy-hot your shins sweat; where bugs are such a looping, whirring presence that it can feel like you’re trapped in hell’s version of a snow globe; and where the level of income inequality, as persistent as the bugs and humidity, is higher than any other parish or county in America…

Since the late 1970s, the gap between rich and poor has widened to Grand Canyon proportions — pushing America toward a two-class society. People have a harder time getting ahead now than at any time since the Great Depression.

The nation is more economically split, according to the CIA, than Iran or Nigeria.

East Carroll Parish, population 7,500 and home to Lake Providence, is worse off still…

And of course, the difference makes a difference…

This is well documented in a book called “The Spirit Level” by epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. Drawing on decades of work, the researchers found, essentially, that people who live in economically unequal places — such as Louisiana or the United States as a whole — tend to live harder lives.

Not just poor people. All people.

When the researchers plotted income inequality against an index of social problems that included infant mortality, mental health and others, they got the chart below, which shows that more unequal places tend to have more of these issues. The United States, the most unequal of the developed countries, for example, also has the world’s highest incarceration rate and a higher infant mortality rate than comparable nations. Sweden, meanwhile, has a low level of income inequality and fares much better on these social measures….

Read the whole story– it’s eminently worth reading the whole story– (with more and bigger, more-legible charts) at “The Most Unequal Place in America.”

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As we mind the gap, we might recall that it was on this date in 1930, in Atlanta, that Jessie Daniel Ames founded the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching.

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The City That Never Shuts Up…

 

For those with delicate ears, New York City in the 1930s was a 24-hour nightmare. The city rumbled, squeaked, mewed, and tooted thanks to the aural diarrhea of ice deliverers, cattle-car operators, jazz players, river dredgers, steam whistle-happy boat captains, cats, dogs, chickens, and construction workers shooting rivets into everything in sight.

The cacophony that thundered through New York in the Jazz Age has now received proper cartographic attention from Emily Thompson, a historian at Princeton who studies acoustic innovation and the historical “emergence of excessive noise,” according to her MacArthur “genius grant” bio. Back in 2002, Thompson penned a book about noise and architecture called The Soundscape of Modernity, which triggered a flood of people bugging her to work up a companion piece that you could actually, you know, hear. More than a decade later the result is here for all to savor: The Roaring ‘Twenties, an interactive map of roughly 600 peevish, outraged, and frequently hilarious noise complaints from 1926 to 1932.

Thompson delved into musty records boxes from the city’s municipal archives to create this fantastic minefield of misery and broken sleep. As to her motivation, she explains:

By offering a website dedicated to the sounds of New York City circa 1930, The Roaring ‘Twenties is following the lead of countless other individuals and organizations who have turned the web into a vast sonic archive, delivering a previously unimaginable wealth of historic sound recordings to anyone with a connection and a desire to listen in. With The Roaring ‘Twenties, I hope we not only add to that archive, but also set an example by doing so in an explicitly historically-minded way. The aim here is not just to present sonic content, but to evoke the original contexts of those sounds, to help us better understand that context as well as the sounds themselves. The goal is to recover the meaning of sound, to undertake a historicized mode of listening that tunes our modern ears to the pitch of the past. Simply clicking a “play” button will not do.

Head on over to the site and you’ll be confronted with this pigeon’s-eye view of the city. Each target represents one noise complaint, often accompanied by old news-reel footage offering the sights and sounds of those responsible for the rowdy decibels: grinning jackhammer operators, clacking elevated trains, boys racing homemade scooters, whanging blacksmiths, a particularly loud-mouthed preacher from the Salvation Army:

More of the story– and wonderful sample cases– at “Exploring the Hilarious Noise Complaints of 1930s New York.”

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As we cover our ears, we might recall that this is a resonant anniversary in the Big Apple’s sonic history:  on this date in 1904  New York City Mayor George McClellan took the controls on the inaugural run of the city’s innovative new rapid transit system: the subway.  London had the world’s first underground (opened in 1863); Boston, America’s first (1897).  But New York’s subway quickly became the largest in the U.S… and a significant contributor to the din that accompanies life in The City That Never Sleeps.

McClellan (center) at the controls

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Written by LW

October 27, 2013 at 1:01 am

“Does wisdom perhaps appear on the earth as a raven which is inspired by the smell of carrion?…”*

 

Animals have evolved a variety of defensive techniques– camouflage, tough skins, fierce looks.  But as National Geographic explains, olfactory defenses are among the most effective.  Consider the hoatzin…

Hoatzins on the Rio Napo in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Photograph by Jared Hobbs, All Canada Photos/Getty Images

Hold your nose and meet the hoatzin, a bird with a number of distinctions, not the least of which is that it smells like fresh cow manure. The animal mostly eats leaves, which it digests in its crop, a pouch some birds have high up in their alimentary canal. It’s the only bird known to digest by fermentation, like a cow. This process is what causes its odor and has earned it the nickname the “stink bird.”

Don’t knock it, though. That stink means that even people don’t want to eat the hoatzin…

More on feral fragrance at “5 Animals With Stinky Defenses.”

* Friedrich Nietzsche

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As we hold our noses, we might spare a thought for Hannah Wilkinson Slater; she died on this date in 1812. The daughter and the wife of mill owners, Ms. Slater was the first woman to be issued a patent in the United States (1793)– for a process using spinning wheels to twist fine Surinam cotton yarn, that created a No. 20 two-ply thread that was an improvement on the linen thread previously in use for sewing cloth.

A waxen Hannah, at the Slaters’ Mill Museum in Pawtucket, RI

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