Thomas Jefferson

Erector Set - June 11, 2014

One day in 1911, a professional magician named Alfred Carlton (A.C.) Gilbert rode a train from New Haven, Connecticut to New York City when he saw the construction on nearby tracks that were being upgraded with electrification.  Steel girders were being moved around and connected to one another.  He was inspired.  Two years later, he presented his Erector set at a toy fair, advertising his creation as being "Educational, Instructive, and Amusing."  

Gilbert's invention became one of the first toys to ever receive its own national advertising campaign.  Extremely popular, millions of sets have been sold over the last one hundred years, first with Gilbert running the company, then under a number of different owners. The American Treasure Tour has a number of different Erector sets on display along the tram route, in both un-assembled and completed versions.  Attached here is an image of the Erector steamboat located in the Toy Box.  Good luck finding it! 

QUESTION:  In 1949, Drs. William Sewell and William Glenn used an Erector set to construct a precursor to this modern device at the Yale School of Medicine:

a)  Artificial Heart

b)  Model of a Human Being

c)  Steamboat

d)  Defibrillator

Answer Below


Five men in the Continental Congress received appointments to a special committee on this day in 1776 to write up a document announcing the decision to sever ties with the British government.  The youngest of the five, Thomas Jefferson, was given the responsibility to do the actual writing, while John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston opted only to edit his work upon its completion.  Some contend that none of the senior members of the committee regarded writing the Declaration of Independence as a nuisance.

Today in 1920, Republicans met at the Blackstone Hotel to discuss who was going to be the candidate running for the highest office in the land.  The phrase "smoke-filled room" was coined after this discussion.  Out of it came surprise selection Warren G. Harding for what would be the first presidential election after women gained the right to vote. 


Jeanette Rankin was born today in 1880.  The Montana native has the distinction of being the first American woman to serve in the House of Representative.  In fact, she served twice - first in 1916 and again in 1940.  She had the dubious honor of voting on American entry into both World Wars.  When she did in 1941, after the Japanese attach on Pearl Harbor, she was the only member of Congress to do so.

Jerome Silberman shares this special day with Ms. Rankin.  The actor/director/screenwriter was born in 1933 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  It must be a hilarious city, because the young Silberman grew up to be a very funny man.  At 26, he changed his name to Gene Wilder, and started his career in comedy.  His first significant movie role came in 1968, with Mel Brooks' The Producers. The incredibly funny - yet offensive - film began a run for Wilder that included 1971's Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Blazing Saddles in 1972, and two years later Young Frankenstein.  He has gone on to become comic royalty.  Have a happy birthday!

QUOTE:  You take people as far as they will go, not as far as you would like them to go. - Jeanette Rankin

Answer:  a)  Artificial Heart. 

The Wurlitzer Family, Part 3 - Wednesday, February 19

Today, we continue our ongoing saga of the Wurlitzer Family, after discussing the patriarch on Monday and eldest son Howard yesterday.  Today, it is middle son Rudolph Henry's turn. Rudolph was born in 1873 in Cincinnati.  His passion, like that of his father and siblings, was in music; however, he concentrated his love on one specific instrument:  the violin.  In fact, Rudolph studied in Berlin, not too far from his ancestral home, and learned both how to play and manufacture the violin.  He established the Wurlitzer Collection of Rare Violins, which included some of the finest names in violin production during its day, the most famous being Stradivarius of which the company possessed close to half the six hundred ever produced at one time or another.

Rudolph never strayed too far from the family business, though, and took over the Wurlitzer Company as its president for five years, between 1927 and 1932, prior to serving as chairman from 1932 until 1942.


In which city did the Wurlitzer Company have offices?

a)  Cincinnati, Ohio

b)  Denver, Colorado

c)  North Tonawanda, New York

d)  Chicago, Illinois

e)  a, b and d

Answer Below


It was a bad day for former Vice President Aaron Burr in 1807.  He had already had a few bad days in his career, including the time when Alexander Hamilton destroyed his political ambitions in 1800 by behind-closed-door finagling to ensure that Thomas Jefferson would become the third President of the United States over him as the lesser of two evils (Hamilton didn't like Burr OR Jefferson, he just liked Burr a little bit less).  Another bad day happened in 1804 when his gun fired true and he killed Hamilton in a duel then charged with murder (he was the only vice president to ever be wanted for murder while he was in office, although he is not the only vice president to shoot a man while in office, thank you Mr. Cheney!).  Today, he was arrested under the orders of Jefferson and held for treason on the charge of trying to incite war between America and Spain with the intention of creating his own nation.  The penalty for treason is death, so Jefferson was playing for high stakes.  Fortunately for Burr, he would be acquitted of the charges, but his reputation was pretty much destroyed.  He left the country for a number of years but, ever the survivor, returned to New York after the heat died down and restarted his law practice.

Today is a great day for music!  Thomas Edison submitted his application for a patent on the phonograph on this day in 1878.  His original invention recorded sound and vibrations on cylinders.  It would take a few years before the technology advanced to larger flat discs, and much much longer before they would move to flash drives.  But you have to start somewhere, and we are grateful Edison took this first step!


A special little boy was born to Mr. and Mrs. Frankenheimer on this day in 1930. They named him John, and he would grow up to be a film director.  The movies he made would be considered thought provoking, exciting, and maybe even controversial.  One of his most famous/notorious films was 1962's The Manchurian Candidate, starring Angela Lansbury in one of the finest performances of her long and distinguished career.  It tells the story of a plot to assassinate a presidential candidate, but was not released upon completion, or for a number of years afterwards.  It is unclear whether this was because of contractual problems or the tragic death of John F. Kennedy made it too distasteful for the studio to distribute.  Frankenheimer also directed The Birdman of Alcatraz, Seven Days in May, and most infamously the 1996 version of The Island of Dr. Moreau.  Nobody is perfect!

Another great person the ATT blog would like to celebrate is Lou Christie!  Born today in 1943, this singer is most notable because of the three-octave range of his voice.  His biggest hit was 1966's "Lightnin' Strikes," with its pop tune and his falsetto voice.  Although the peak of his success was during the decade of the Sixties, Christie still shares his talents with the public, having done the concert circuit well into the millennium and even recording a live album in 2004, Greatest Hits From the Bottom Line.  Happy birthday, Lou, and keep on singin'!


I have gotten to a point in my life where I don't want to have dinner with someone I don't like. - John Frankenheimer

Answer:  e)  Wurlitzer became quite the behemoth in music production during its day and had offices in Cincinnati, North Tonawanda, and Chicago.

The Wurlitzer Family, Part 1 - February 17, 2014

We here at the American Treasure Tour blog are confident, as we enter the post-Valentine's Day blues, that you need a little pick-me-up.  Something different from the celebrities and record albums we have been talking about.  As you know, the Tour contains one of the world's largest collections of nickelodeons and band organs  We did extensive* polling and have decided to spend some time discussing one of the most prominent families behind the manufacture of mechanical music in the United States.  

(*No actual polls were conducted, we just wanted to make it sound good.)

Franz Rudolph Wurlitzer was born in Schoneck, Saxony, Germany on January 30th, 1831.  His family had been manufacturing quality instruments for centuries by the time of his birth - starting with his lute-making ancestor Heinrich Wurlitzer (1595 to 1656).  Franz Rudolph took a big step when, at age twenty-two, he crossed the Atlantic Ocean and settled in Cincinnati, Ohio without his family's blessing.  He set up shop there and imported Wurlitzer-produced instruments, mostly violins, and was treated like any other client of the business.  He began raising his own family, including three sons.  By 1865, his business was so successful that he built his own factory in Cincinnati to produce instruments, primarily for military bands.  Four years later, he opened a branch in Chicago and in 1890 it incorporated as the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company.  

For more on the Wurlitzer family, join us tomorrow for our next exciting installment....


Schoneck, the town in Saxony, Germany where Franz Rudolph Wurlitzer was born, is a short 2-1/2 drive (respecting the speed limit, of course) of what city, made famous for being the setting of post-World War II trials?

a)  Berlin

b)  Dresden

c)  Munich

d)  Nuremberg

e)  Frankfurt

Answer Below


The law dictates that presidential elections occur on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November  (this means no federal election will ever happen on November 1st, for some reason).  The presidential election of 1800 determined that John Adams, the incumbent, would not serve a second term, since he placed third in the election.  There was a problem, though.  In the early republic, the person with the most votes became president, and the person with the second-highest would become vice president.  The system was improved after the debacle of 1800, when Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr tied for first (although Burr was "supposed to" be the vice presidential candidate).  The vote went to the House of Representatives for resolution.  It was on this day in 1801 when Alexander Hamilton's behind-the-scenes negotiations compelled Jefferson into the presidency.  Hamilton believed Burr was the worse man for the job and convinced people to change their votes in favor of Jefferson.  Within three years, Hamilton's anti-Burr campaigns would compel the two men into a disastrous duel.  Soon after that, Jefferson accused Burr of treason against the United States, a crime punishable by death....

For decades, the Ford Model-T had the record for being the best-selling car in the United States. On this date in 1972, that changed, when numbers for the Volkswagen Beetle surpassed those of the car that put Americans behind the wheel.  The VW was affordable and practical, much like the Model-T had been in the nineteen-teens.  A poll in 1999 designated the Beetle one of the four most important cars of the 20th century, alongside the Model-T, the Mini, and the Citroen DS.


On this day in 1843, Aaron Montgomery Ward was born in Chatham, New Jersey to a large lower-middle class family. They moved to Michigan when he was nine.  Hugely ambitious, the young man did any kind of work he could find until he struck upon the notion of creating a mail order company to cut out the middle man and bring products directly from the manufacturer, through his catalog, to his customers.  It worked, and by 1880 his catalog company was in business.  (Sears' famous catalog would come around sixteen years after Ward started his.)  The catalog is considered by some to be one of the most-influential books ever printed in the United States, although the last department store chain it inspired closed its doors in 2001.


The rule of my life is to make business a pleasure, and pleasure my business. - Aaron Burr

Answer - d)  Nuremberg - The Nuremberg Trials placed suspected Nazi war criminals on trial to account for crimes executed during World War II.