Friday, February 22, 2019

A Technological Appendix to Postblogging Technology, December 1948, I: An Embarrassment of Riches

I was going to move directly on to the next postblogging installment when my long weekend finally begins on Wednesday (Thursday? I'm  a bit shell-shocked on my eighth working day in a row, especially with a shift from 5am to 4pm starts in the middle. Guess when I did all my writing?), but there's something of an embarrassment of riches in this last installment, and I don't just mean the first publicity press image of a would-be business celebrity photographed in a leather jacket versus three-piece-suit formal wear. It's not quite Brando's borderline fetish outfit , but the times, they are for sure changing.

 (For no particular reason.)

Here's another way that they're changing:

This looks like it is from Paul Kennedy's Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, but I doubt that it is original there, or in Kennedy. It would look even better in a chart, particularly with the German production shooting for the stratosphere in 1938, compared with the all but stagnant British totals. It's just as well that the chart cuts off there. British steel production doubling in a decade would not fit the thesis well. Neither would a generation of stagnant American production, although Germany's climb back to Herman Goering Werke-levels of production by the mid-1950s is a bit more on the nose. It is probably time to talk about productivity and innovation in steel. 

Aside from fashion and steel, this week sees the first glimmerings of the Xerox, and a weird digression into "computers" by the Goodyear Corporation. Arguably, if you were living in 1948, the imminent fall of the Republic of China and an American recession would have been more important at the time, with side order of world(ish) war to follow, culminating, as far as bridging the years go, with the Truman Administration's failed National Emergency in steel. 

But let's go with what we've got.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Postblogging Technology, December 1948, I: Bonnie Prince Charlie

R_. C_.,
The Savoy,

Dear Father:

The Savoy! I'm so jealous! Serves the Oriental Club right for not wanting to put Ma'am up! How did she take her flight, by the way? Not like going up the Coast in a Norseman, I bet!

I'm also more than a little in awe at the way that you propose to attend the Christening and still be back in Vancouver in time for Christmas. Not that I want to discourage you, mind! I'm worked to a lather with exams and Christmas shopping and a special delivery of some as might prefer America to Formosa, and I long, long for the comfort of the old house on Roxborough, where I plan to make up for the short time I shall have to rest this holiday season by resting very, very hard indeed from the 23rd to Christmas Eve, when Reggie is expected, if he hasn't told you, as I know he sometimes doesn't.

I swear that I remind him to write his Mother. 

You asked about Christmas presents. For myself, I leave it to Ma'am, and London, in the hopes that she will have some time. At least, staying at the Savoy means that you can have your shopping sent in, I think. Still? I will be firmer about Reggie, as I've seen something that he absolutely must have, and which I cannot afford. I've slyly mentioned it in the letter, but if your eyes glaze over, it is the most wonderful leather jacket in an almost bomber style, but lighter. Impractical in a Massachusetts winter, I know, but perfect for spring. The catalogues I could find are calling it a "motorcycle" jacket, and I enclose a picture, in case you can get it in London. Otherwise, I imagine it is a mail order item. 

Once again, I find myself bursting with holiday-season gossip that I cannot find time to write down, as the letter has taken up all my time. I shall drop a post immediate, just for the pleasure of addressing the Savoy Hotel, but must now head off to show that I can, in fact, read a French novel. (But, since it is for a graduation credit, I will be proving that I can read it harder.)

Yours Sincerely,

(Christmas '48 seems to have been quite the year for novelty hits.)

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Gathering the Bones, 21: A Whole New World of Salt and Iron

On the one hand, I found it hard to organise myself to postblog about technology last week. On the other, some fairly basic questions about beaver pelts led me to things, even things technologico-historic, that need to be organised and put on the record. Some of it is intriguing and speculative; some of it is hard and fast everyday fact, not given sufficient attention; some of it is just disgusting.

I'll start with a pretty picture, of a housing development across the creek from the Mantle Site (Wendat Historic Village), which is where our photographer is standing.  

By Neufast (talk) - I (Neufast (talk)) created this work entirely by myself., CC BY-SA 3.0,

Fifty kilometers north of Toronto's downtown, in the Regional Municipality of York, on the "ecologically sensitive" Oak Ridges Moraine, roughly the height of land between Lakes Ontario and Huron (the overland route that gave rise to the city of Toronto), lies the Municipality of Whitcliffe-Stouffville, and, in it, "the Mantle Site."

Occupied between 1500 and 1530, the Mantle Site is the largest known "historic Wendat village." Gary Warrick thinks that it had a large population that represented the culmination of two centuries of endogenous population growth on the one  hand,  and wars of consolidation in the previous century, on the other. I was all set to run with that until I checked out the next linked bit of academic referencing in the Wikipedia page, a review by Peter Ramsden that tells me not to hold my horses. So I will! This ain't serious research, so there's no reason to be building castles in the air. I'll save that for salt, hair, pelts and "digestive enzymes." (Do you know where you got digestive enzymes from in a traditional economy? Come on, guess!)

For us, the most salient aspect of the Mantle Site is the discovery of a ceremoniously buried wrought iron axe with maker's marks from the Basque country. So although such material cultural evidence as we have locates the Mantle Site on an axis from the central New York Iroquoian sites where native silver from the Cobalt River valley has been found, we can derive this celebrated axe from Labrador or the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

For others, the most important issue is ethnic, as signalled by the site name. Stadacona," the village at the modern site of Montreal encountered by Jacques Cartier in 1534, is the source of the word, "Canada," and a place of disputed history. The Stadaconans were clearly Iroquian-speakers, and the Montreal area has two First Nations communities speaking Iroquian languages, the Hurons/ Wendats, and Mohawk/ Kanien'kehá:ka. Both claim to be descended from the people of Stadacona, but as this seems unlikely, and in a spirit of "can't we all just get along?" we speak instead of "St. Lawrence Iroquians." I imagine that the same game could be played with the ancestral Wendat communities of the Oak Ridge Moraine. We know they called themselves Wendats in historical times. It is not clear that they did in the pre-contact period, and given the way that the historic Iroquois integrated numerous formerly distinct Iroquian communities, Warrick's wars of consolidation would presumably have erased numerous local, now lost family, lineage and totem identities.


Sunday, February 3, 2019

Gathering the Bones, XX: Salt of the Earth

I hope everyone enjoyed my vacation week as much as I did! I went away with the notion of writing a "Gathering the Bones" installment on the Erie Canal, and came back with an eerie synchronisation to report.