Saturday, June 11, 2011

Today -100: June 11, 1911: Of duels, massacres, yeggmen, and answering machines


South Carolina Gov. Coleman Blease has been trying to have Atlanta lawyer Thomas Felder indicted for bribery (the governor of Georgia will later refuse to extradite Felder, saying there is no evidence against him). Felder says Blease is coming after him to cover up having taken bribes from liquor houses when he was a state senator, and has challenged Blease to either bring a libel suit against him or challenge him to a duel. Whichever. However, Blease “is forbidden by his oath of office to participate in duels” (literally??) so a W.P. Beard, who seems to be just an ordinary citizen, has offered to duel in the governor’s place.

Towards the end of the Mexican Revolution, there was a massacre of 300 or so Chinese in Torreon. The story going around is that after the rebels took the town, they looted a courtroom, taking some bottles of cognac which were actually evidence from a trial some years before for an attempted mass poisoning at a banquet. They took the bottles to a Chinese restaurant, drank them, and... you get the idea.

Your archaic vocabulary word of the day: yeggman, as in the NYT headline “Yeggmen Blow Up a Town.” Safecrackers – yeggmen – dynamited a post office safe in French Creek, West Virginia, starting a fire that burned down most of the town (which had no fire dept). The yeggmen – I really like that word – got away with about $600 in cash and stamps.

Some French guys have invented the telephone answering machine, a device to record voice messages on phonograph records. Previously, it was only possible to record voices directly, not over phone wires.

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