Statue of Liberty

Hell Gate Bridge - June 17, 2014

The American Treasure Tour is chock full of fun and interesting stuff.  We at the blog feel there's little better than to learn about fun stuff, so we are going to honor one of our newer acquisitions: a scale model of the Hell Gate Bridge. The real bridge connects Astoria, Queens to Wards Island, Manhattan in New York City as one of three bridges to cross the East River between Queens and the Bronx.  It was also the inspiration for the design of the much larger Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia.

The model on display at the ATT sits between the two Wurlitzer 165 machines in the Toy Box. The model is substantial, around ten feet in length (give or take).  It also mimics the function of the original, with train tracks that span the 1912 structure.

QUESTION:  The Hell Gate strait was originally named Hellegat by early Dutch settlers.  What is the most likely literal translation of its original name?

a)  Deadly rapids

b)  Clear Opening

c)  High water

d)  Hell gate

ANSWER BELOW

HISTORY TODAY:  

The gift was originally intended to be received in honor of the centennial of the United States by the people of France, but there was a problem with funding.  The agreement was that the French would provide the statue, while Americans would build the platform upon which she stood.  It would be on this day in 1885 - a full nine years late - when the Statue of Liberty was placed on her pedestal in New York Harbor, creating one of the most unique and famous lighthouses the world would ever know.

Something very odd happened on this day in 1972.  Five men were arrested after breaking into offices rented by the Democratic National Committee located in Washington D.C.'s Watergate building, where they were trying to install wiretaps on behalf of some members of the Republican Party.  This would prove a bad thing for the five men, the entire country, and the presidency of Richard Nixon.

BIRTHDAYS:

There are many people whose fame does not match the importance of their accomplishments, and today we are going to celebrate the birthday of a very special woman:  Ruth Graves Wakefield. The dietitian was 27 years old when she and her husband bought the Whitman, Massachusetts Toll House Inn, a tourist lodge, in 1930.  It became a popular dining destination, in part because of Wakefield's scrumptious desserts, most notably a pastry she invented in 1938 and called the chocolate chip cookie.  She then sold her recipe, and the name Toll House, to Nestle for one dollar.  

In 1904, exactly one year after Wakefield was born, Ralph Bellamy entered the world. The actor spent over sixty years performing on stage, television and film.  Some of his more famous films include the 1937 Cary Grant classic The Awful Truth, 1960's Sunrise at Campobello in which he starred as Franklin Roosevelt, and Trading Places in 1983 with Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd. His last film performance was in 1990's Pretty Woman. 

QUOTE:  One of the best things in life - warm chocolate chip cookies.  - Anonymous

ANSWER:  b)  Clear opening.  It could also mean "bright strait."

1876 Centennial Exposition - April 9, 2014

There was a huge meeting at the American Treasure Tour offices this morning, as we brainstormed on what direction we want for the blog to take.  (Please note, we use the word "huge" with great liberty.)  And we decided to talk about an event that few people even realize happened, let alone that it was right in the backyard of what is now Oaks, Pennsylvania.  We refer, of course, to the Philadelphia 1876 Centennial Exposition.

Not only was the Exposition the first world's fair to ever happen in the United States, but it proved a massive success on virtually every level.  Its official name was the long-winded International Exhibition of Arts, Manufactures and Products of the Soil and Mine.  It lasted from May 10th to November 10th, 1876, and brought into Philadelphia's Fairmount Park approximately ten million people - the equivalent of 20% of the American public.  Over two hundred buildings were constructed for the event, most designed to serve temporarily as exhibit space for different technological innovations, as well as repositories for art.

QUESTION:

Which of the following was NOT true about the Centennial Exposition?

a)  President Ulysses S Grant presided over the opening ceremonies

b)  Doctor Pepper introduced his carbonated beverage at the Expo

c)  Admission was fifty cents at a time when the average daily salary was $1.21

d)  It cost the equivalent of over $140 million to put on the Expo

e)  Many Americans experienced bananas for the first time at the Expo.  It cost a dime

Answer Below

So, as always, we're sure you find the blog full of fascinating information - insightful, thought-provoking, maybe even a little whimsical.  But, you may be asking, today's blog is about an event that happened well over a hundred years ago.  Why are we talking about it here?  Good question!  There are a few reasons.  First and most significantly, the Exposition is the first recorded instance when a pneumatically-driven player piano was seen in the United States.  The sophisticated technology behind the mechanical musical machines was incredibly sophisticated at the time, and around one decade old.  It also sparked a new industry that would include coin-operated pianos, orchestrions, band organs, and the other wonderful pieces that would become the centerpiece of our collection at the American Treasure Tour.  But wait, there's more!

Alexander Graham Bell managed to make his way to the Exposition as a last-minute addition so that he could show off his brand-spanking-new invention, the telephone.  We've already talked about Mr. Bell a number of times on the blog, so we won't get into the details with him, but this was it.  This is where the world was introduced to the phone.  The original reaction to it wasn't all that, though.  If only they knew how dependent people would become on the technology he developed, the organizers of the event may have done the world better if they declined him entrance.

A number of innovative and important inventions were on display at the Exposition, as well as may pieces of art.  In fact, much of the art on display would eventually find its way to what would become the Philadelphia Museum of Art upon its completion in 1925.  Something else that people could visit was a large arm.  If you paid a nickel, you could climb up this arm from the inside, then walk around a torch at the top of it.  The proceeds were intended to help pay for the construction of a pedestal upon which the entire Statue of Liberty would be assembled to overlook New York Harbor.  It is difficult for modern Americans to imagine, but there was serious doubt whether enough money would ever get raised to put Lady Liberty on permanent display.  The sculpture itself was a gift of the French people on condition that Americans cover the bill for the pedestal upon which she sat.  Joseph Pulitzer eventually organized an effective donation drive to collect the money, but it still took ten more years after the Expo before she found her new home.

If anyone living in or visiting Philadelphia chooses to visit Fairmount Park today, they would find one of the largest preserved green spaces within an American city.  There are plenty of things to do - enjoy nature, exercise by running on paved and unpaved trails or playing team sports, go to a concert at the Mann Music Theater, or tour a Colonial-era mansion to name just a few.  The one place to go we recommend to anyone who has already visited the American Treasure Tour that wants to see where the mechanical musical instrument era began in this country is the Please Touch Museum.  It's located in a massive, beautiful structure called Memorial Hall, and it is one of only four buildings that remain in the park from the Centennial Exposition.  It is worth the visit regardless of whether you have kids with you, if only for the large diorama of the Expo located on the bottom floor.  Of course, you don't have to be a kid to enjoy the beautifully restored 1908 carousel!

QUOTE:

Labor disgraces no man; unfortunately, you occasionally find men who disgrace labor. - U.S. Grant

Answer:  b)  Doctor Pepper introduced his carbonated beverage at the Expo.  The Doctor Pepper present at the Expo actually set up a six-bed hospital, in case of emergency.  He would later found the Free Library of Philadelphia