(Roughly) Daily

Time Capsule…

 

Isotype, the visual language pioneered by Austrian sociologist, philosopher and curator Otto Neurath and his wife Marie in the 1930s, shaped modern infographics and visual storytelling.

America and Britain: Three Volumes in One, also known as Only an Ocean Between, is a wonderful 1946 out-of-print book by P. Sargant Florence and Lella Secor Florence from the golden age of ISOTYPE, kindly digitized by Michael Stoll, presenting a series of minimalist infographics that compare and contrast various aspects of life in Britain and the United States…

As a time-capsule of cultural change and technological progress, the infographics put present-day numbers in perspective, especially in the domains of telecommunication, media, and resource usage.

Read more at Brain Pickings; and see more of the extraordinary graphics (in the size of one’s choice) at Michael Stoll’s Flickr stream.

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As we contemplate our “cousins,” we might send judicious birthday greetings to James Delancey; he was born on this date in 1703.  A Cambridge-educated English aristocrat, Delancey migrated to the American colonies, settling in Manhattan, where he was appointed Chief Justice by Royal Governor William Cosby.

The times were tense:  Eighteenth century American colonists were demanding increased freedom and democracy; many colonial New Yorkers were individualistic entrepreneurs seeking financial success and independence, unwilling quietly to defer to what they viewed as antiquated claims of royal privilege.  Proponents of royal rule– including Delancey and Cosby– desperately sought to maintain power in the face of that growing opposition.

Peter Zenger’s New York Weekly Journal, a paper regularly critical of royal privilege, published articles in the early 1730s exposing Governor Cosby’s unjust policies, backroom financial deals, and bullying tactics.  A furious Cosby condemned the Journal, had copies of the paper publicly burned, and– to widespread public outrage– imprisoned Zenger for eight months while he awaited trial for seditious libel.

At the trial in 1735– presided over by a decidedly-hostile Delancey– Zenger’s lawyer, Andrew Hamilton (like Zenger a former indentured servant turned successful businessman), aimed his defense at the jury rather than the judge, hoping that a public fearful of royal abuses would condemn Cosby and protect Zenger.  Hamilton conceded that Zenger had published articles critical of Cosby but eloquently argued that because the articles contained truths in the form of statements of verifiable facts, they could not be libelous.  The jury’s “not guilty” verdict generated spontaneous cheers from the gallery… More importantly the verdict, which created the precedent that truth is a defense against charges of libel, laid the foundation for American press freedom.

As Founding Father Gouverneur Morris said, “The trial of Zenger in 1735 was the germ of American freedom, the morning star of that liberty which subsequently revolutionized America.”

(More on the trial, its protagonists, and its impact here.)

The burning of Zenger’s New York Weekly Journal (Bettman Archive)

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