A World Powered by Compressed Air

A French magazine from 1847 describes the enthusiasm of M. Antoine Andraud for compressed air. M. Andraud actually made some experiments with compressed-air vehicles in the 1840s, but he dreamed of much more. This new translation first appeared at Dr. Boli’s Random Translations.

Since steam was applied to locomotion on railroads, the attention of scientists and practical men must have turned often to the enormous consumption of combustible fuel that the exploitation of a railway necessitates. To find a new motor that does not require, or at least that reduces the use, of costly material, indispensable in many circumstances, and whose rarity cannot be long in making itself felt: such has been and still is the problem to be solved, and, the question being thus posed, it is easy to conceive the preoccupations of those who advocate the use of atmospheric air as the agent of traction. It is certain that, from the point of view of economy, industry, in the majority of cases, would benefit by making use of this force which is almost free, especially if it could be made to work better than coal, whose ever-growing consumption must soon exceed the ability of the mines to supply it. As everyone knows, moreover, that the use of steam is founded upon the expansive force of that fluid, everyone also understands that it is possible to apply atmospheric air to the same uses; the difficulty is entirely in the means of putting this dynamic power to use.

A number of attempts have been made over the past few years to gain some use from the elasticity of the gas that surrounds our globe. Among the most exalted partisans of aerodynamics we must mention M. Andraud, who has enthusiastically publicized the omnipotence of his new motor. According to him, the transportation of letters, the cultivation of land, navigation, drilling, and the defense of cities at war, should henceforth be done only with the aid of compressed air. Acoustics would more and more become the tributary of that agent, and one of the great surprises prepared for our descendants will be hearing those monstrous concerts of which M. Andraud thought he was giving us a very attractive idea by comparing them to the sublime crashes of thunder. The honorable inventor also expects to accomplish aerial navigation with his universal motor; he even dreams occasionally of perpetual motion, but this time he employs the air dilated by a little hearth, or rather, in those countries where the sun is generous to the point of insolence, by an assemblage of mirrors which he calls a solar furnace. Furthermore, M. Andraud logically proposes to use only wind-powered and hydraulic wheels to compress the air, and would regard as purely transitory the use of steam as an agent of compression. Such, in short, is his powerful conviction that he expresses himself thus: “If I turn my thought to the future, I believe that a time will come when municipal authorities will establish in the cities vast reservoirs of compressed air, where each citizen will come, with his empty container, to tap into the force that has become of the utmost utility, as we see water carriers in Paris filling their barrels from the public fountains. We must come to the point where everyone shall be able to have forces stored up, as today we have horses in the stable for tomorrow’s labor.” M. Andraud, as we see, certainly does not fail for lack of imagination; unfortunately, out of all these fine things, and many others we did not see fit to speak of, only one has really been submitted to experiment. We speak of a compressed-air locomotive; and, if we are not mistaken, it was as much as it could do to propel itself. M. Andraud is evidently a man of merit who has made a wrong turn, and who forgets too easily that, when it comes to invention, there is a world of illusions between more or less seductive hypotheses and practical applications.

Revue des deux mondes, 1847.

The Idea of a Hospital a Century Ago

The building on Fifth Avenue still stands today, though no longer in use as a hospital.

How the idea of a hospital has changed is made strikingly clear by this description of the Eye and Ear Hospital from a 1922 history of Pittsburgh.

Located on Fifth avenue, corner of Jumonville street, is the Eye and Ear Hospital, under the auspices of a board of women managers. It had its inception at a meeting held May 20, 1895, at the home of Miss Sarah H. Killikelly, who during her lifetime was well known in the literary and historical circles of the city. A charter was secured June 22, 1895, and a location was secured on Penn avenue, but a removal was made to the present building in 1905. The first board of managers consisted of thirteen women and two physicians, eye specialists, for the medical and surgical treatment of all diseases of the eye, ear, nose and throat. The patients are divided into three classes—first, for the poor who require treatment of a character that is not necessary to detain them at the hospital; second, for the poor who require detention in the hospital, to whom free beds are allotted in the wards and a nominal charge made if they are able to pay; third, for those able to pay, private rooms are furnished, therefore the hospital is in no sense a charity; it must under its charter minister without charge to all those who suffer from any disease of the eye and ear, who are unable to pay for treatment.1

We might add that it would be interesting to survey hospitals today and find out how many of them are controlled by a board of women managers. There may be a few Catholic hospitals still nominally controlled by nuns.

  1. History of Pittsburgh and Environs, vol. II, p. 284. New York and Chicago: The American Historical Society, Inc., 1922.

The Most Famous Playwright You’ve Never Heard Of

This article originally appeared in Dr. Boli’s Celebrated Magazine.

In Victorian times, stage plays were straightforward affairs. You had a virtuous maiden and a sneering villain, and the plot was some contrivance by which the sneering villain would attempt to rob the virtuous maiden of her adjective. Mortgages were always useful weapons in the arsenal of a stage villain, but the better playwrights came up with more ingeniously dastardly plots than the simple but reliable mortgage-on-the-farmhouse.

By many accounts the first American to make his living as a playwright was Bartley Campbell. He wrote for theaters in Pittsburgh, whence his plays propagated across the country. They were perfectly suited to the middlebrow tastes of the American theatergoer in the later 1800s. No one’s heroines were more virtuous, no one’s villains sneerier than Campbell’s.

His most successful play by far was The White Slave, which played every stage from big-city theaters to hick-town “opera” houses for decades. It’s set in the antebellum South, and it’s about a virtuous maiden and a sneering villain who comes up with a humdinger of a wicked plot. He convinces the heroine that she is an “octoroon”—that one of her great-grandparents was Black. Under Southern laws, that makes her Black and a slave.

This poster shows the two most famous scenes from the play:

The White Slave poster

In the first, the villain has just threatened to put our heroine to work with the common field slaves unless she consents to become his favorite. In reply, she speaks the most famous and applause-gettingest line in nineteenth-century American theater: “Rags are royal raiment when worn for virtue’s sake!” The other scene is the villain’s inevitable comeuppance, in which an authority figure reveals that our heroine is a Genuine White Woman, and thus ineligible for slavery. Notice that nineteenth-century audiences did not worry about “spoilers.” They knew how the plot would come out, but they loved to see virtue in action. They came to cheer the heroine and hiss the villain.

Bartley Campbell’s plays were enormously successful, but he went mad from the stress of trying to manage a full-time playwriting career and died in an asylum at the age of 43. Let that be a lesson to all you aspiring writers out there. He is buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh, where he rests under an obelisk—but a Catholic obelisk, depaganized as they usually are in Catholic cemeteries by the addition of a prominent cross.

Bartley Campbell monument

And if you look a little closer, you will recognize his epitaph:


Imagine our stage heroine—who has been trained from youth to trill her Rs vigorously—pronouncing that immortally alliterative line with a virtuous toss of her head. Imagine the audience jumping to their feet to cheer for her virtue, leaving the villain to shuffle his feet for five minutes before he can finally get on with his next threat. And then imagine one of those audience members years later wandering through the pleasant hills of St. Mary’s Cemetery and coming across this monument. In an instant the most thrilling stage performance of his life rises before his mind’s eye, and he hears that immortal line, and he says a prayer for the soul of Bartley Campbell.

And while we are imagining things, imagine a twenty-first-century play in which the heroine gives up everything for virtue’s sake, and the audience doesn’t laugh at her.

The pictures of the Campbell monument come to us by courtesy of Father Pitt, who in turn was directed to the monument by the noted Lawrenceville historian James Wudarczyk.

Cuba-You-Quit Way in Pittsburgh

This article appeared originally in Dr. Boli’s Celebrated Magazine.

The earliest appearance of Cuba-You-Quit Alley on a map, in 1882.

On the subject of Cuba You Quit Way, von Hindenberg asks, “What is the large building thrown diagonally across Cuba’s line of retreat?”

Dr. Boli and Father Pitt have not been able to find out. The question is complicated. The alley was on a steep hill (it ran along the border between Uptown and the Hill District), and the map shows small frame houses (yellow) and two brick houses (red) that no longer exist. In the 1910 map by the same company, the same building is shown as red, indicating that it was made of brick or stone. Possibly the change of color indicates that it was demolished or dilapidated. It appears to belong to “V. Brusco et ux.” on the 1923 map, but it is adjacent to the Booth & Flinn brickyard, and might be one of their buildings. Since there was no zoning in the neighborhood, the whole area was a cluttered mix of modest rowhouses, businesses, small factories, and institutions. The western half of Cuba You Quit Way may not have been cut through: many streets appear on these maps that are only paper streets, or pathways through the weeds. We should add that the automobile or wagon was not welcome here: Wyandotte Street (the diagonal street at lower right) is a stairway. Probably the only way to get to those little houses on Cuba You Quit Way was on foot (which is still true of a surprising number of houses in Pittsburgh). It is easier for a pedestrian than for a car to step around the projecting corners of a building.

Of course the name of the alley is the most surprising thing about it, and it tended to attract remark when it was current. During the First World War, the Pittsburgh correspondent for The Union Postal Employee took inspiration from the name to suggest some improvements in the city’s street-naming system, which still frustrates mail carriers.

Our city scheme is not simple. The “namers” of the streets appear to favor words of topographical significance, and as a result one-half of the names refer to some degree of elevation peculiar to the section in which the street happens to be. There are dozens of “Hill Top,” “Highview,” “Hillside,“ ”Hilldales,” etc., to say nothing of a few pages of “Maples,” “Elms,” and “Ferns.” One street, however, stands forth prominently as the only one of its name in the world. I refer, of course, to “Cuba-You-Quit Alley.” At the present time, with a war in progress that makes the Spanish-American War look like a backyard scrap, the only move to commemorate the event was the changing of the name of “Kaiser Wilhelm Street” to “Marne Way.” Surely the “namer” of “Cuba-You-Quit Alley” would not hesitate to accept the suggestion that we rename some of the “Maples,“ ”Elms” and “Hills,” etc., with more appropriate titles. I suggest a few, but the inventor of the name of “Cuba-You-Quit Way” will undoubtedly be able to improve on my list: “Berlin-or-Bust Alley,” “Buy-a-Bond Terrace,” “War-Savings-Stamp Street,” “Food-Will-Win-the-War,” “Don’t-Waste-It Alley,” “Over-the-Top Avenue,” or “Carry-On Boulevard.” (The Union Postal Employee, January, 1918.)

In at least one way the postal employee’s suggestion was implemented. Shortly after the Great War, a new automobile highway was opened clinging to the cliff above the Monongahela, and it was given one of the most audaciously grandiose names ever applied to an American street: “The Boulevard of the Allies.” Unlike New York’s Avenue of the Americas, the Boulevard of the Allies is so called by ordinary Pittsburghers; and furthermore Second Avenue downtown was renamed as an extension of it, so that to navigate the avenues downtown you have to learn to count in Picksburgh dialect: one, Allies, three, four, Forbes, five, Oliver, six, seven.

But did Cuba-You-Quit Way get its name from the Spanish-American War? No; it first appears on maps in 1882. The name appears to be a folk etymology: that is, a popular but incorrect explanation of the derivation of a term. The Post-Gazette told the story of Cuba-You-Quit Way a few years ago. It seems the alley was named for a Chippewa woman named Cub-bayou-quit (there was no settled spelling of her name), who married a well-to-do Pittsburgher. She married him in a Chippewa ceremony; but when, as a widow, she tried to claim property worth millions of dollars in 1874 money, the current owners claimed that Chippewa marriage did not count in Pennsylvania law. Apparently the case was such a sensation that it was in everyone’s minds for months, and some city planner attached her name to a new alley, which does not appear on an 1872 map but does on an 1882 map as “Cuba-You-Quit Alley.” The rule that there are no “alleys” in Pittsburgh was not in force until the early twentieth century; we still find some ancient street signs marking alleys that are “ways” on modern maps.

Street sign for Larkins Alley (now Larkins Way) on the back of St. Casimir’s Church, South Side.

The Post-Gazette says that the name of Cuba-You-Quit Way was changed to Cuba Way in 1926, and adds that “it no longer exists.” That is not quite correct. The eastern section of Diaz Way, a narrow and nearly but not quite abandoned alley, is the old Cuba-You-Quit Alley.

Diaz Way probably has an interesting history, too. It appears as “Davis Alley” in 1872, the earliest map on which we have been able to find it (it does not appear in 1862 or before). It is still Davis Alley in 1882, but the name has changed to Diana Alley in 1890. It still appears as Diana Alley in 1910, but as Diaz Way in 1923.

Dr. Boli often wanders into back alleys of history, but seldom so literally as he has done today.

Sound Effects for the Pictures in 1911

In larger theaters that could afford more than a piano player to accompany the pictures, the drummer would supply sound effects; or, in large metropolitan houses, there might be a separate effects man. Here Clyde Martin gives some miscellaneous advice about sound effects. His list of the effects every drummer should have on hand will be invaluable to anyone supplying sound effects for silent films today.

Working the Sound Effects

By Clyde Martin

One of the most important and useful effects that will be found in the average drummer’s collection of traps is the “baby cry” imitation, and still there are many drummers in the business that do not seem to appreciate the usefulness of this little effect when handled in the proper manner.

Some drummers are inclined to believe that every time a baby appears in one of the pictures they are supposed to get busy with the baby cry imitation. This is a sad mis- take that is made by many.

To my notion, the “baby cry” imitation should be used in very few dramatic pictures unless there is a vein of comedy mingled with the dramatic scenes. During the showing of a purely dramatic production, the use of the “baby cry” is entirely out of place, as it only has the tendency to burlesque the scene portrayed and sets the audience laughing, which spoils the theme of the story and makes the audience lose interest.

As an illustration to my argument, I will use the Kalem release of August 23rd as an example. In this picture, “Don Ramon’s Daughter,” there is an important scene that shows the mothcr and her small baby arriving at the monastery where the child is to be cared for. It is a pathetic scene, a parting of mother and child The use of a “baby cry” imitation would be entirely out of keeping with the seriousness of the scene and would be out of place, notwithstanding the fact that the child is crying all through the action of this scene On the other hand, where you have a chance to work the crying effect in a comedy picture, never let the scene get by you, as it only helps the intentions of the producer along. It is a good idea to never work the baby cry even in a comedy picture unless the audience can plainly see that the child is crying

Not long ago I had the pleasure of playing for the Essanay picture called “Summer Babies.” It was a short educational subject on the same reel with “Gossiping Yapville,” the Essanay release of August 22nd. In the closing scene of this baby picture it shows a group of babies in a very discontented mood: in fact, the majority of them were crying. On this occasion I cut out the effect for the simple reason that the drummer had but one “baby cry” imitation in his collection, and the use of one imitation would have been far from realistic, considering the fact that several babies were shown crying. In such a scene as this, five or six “baby cry” imitations should have been used in order to get the desired effect. Don’t do things half way. If you cannot put on an effect in a realistic manner, it is better to cut it out entirely.

Another picture of recent date in which the “baby cry” came in to good advantage, was the Edison release of August 9th, a seven hundred foot comedy with a crying baby as the center of attraction. If you have not as yet run this comedy, be on the lookout for it, as it is out of the ordinary and gives the effect man several opportunities to get in some good work.

The “horse hoof” imitation is another effect that is used with little discretion by many of the drummers over the country. The “horse hoof” imitation is one of the first effects that the average drummer will secure in making up his collection of traps. Most all effect men and drummers use “horse hoofs” on a marble slab, which is very good indeed when the scene shows the horses running or walking on a brick or stone pavement, but great care should be used when the horses are shown running on the grass or even a country road, which is usually the case in most Western and riding pictures. One of the best ideas I have found in use where the horses are shown running on the grass is to use the imitation on a leather cushion or a padded board, thus giving it a muffled effect.

From this, some people may be inclined to think I am trying to get the working of such effects down to a fine point, which I am undoubtedly trying to do. and you will find that I am right. The picture fans of to-day are critical and they will comment on your effects the same as they do the music. There are many people in your audience that delight in looking for the mistakes; they watch for flaws in the pictures; they watch the piano player to see if he will play ragtime through a death scene, and you should bear in mind that they are watching the work of the drummers and effect men. If they were not, the manager would have little use for you. The piano player can easily smooth over a little mistake, but the effect man never can.

In a great many of the picture theaters that I have visited I have found that they have been working the electric door-bell overtime. It seems to be the general opinion that the common electric bell will take the place of everything, from a telephone bell to the bell on an electric runabout. You wouldn’t think of using a cowbell for a cathedral chime. Why then should you use a little doorbell for a telephone bell? There is certainly as much difference.

There is hardly a program in your theater that does not call for a telephone bell and it is just as cheap in the long run to give them the real article. It is a very easy matter to pick up a junk phone from your local telephone company and the difference in the effect will soon show a marked improvement. At Louisville. Kentucky, I found a drummer that had mounted all of his different bells and gongs on a large board. Most of them were operated by batteries and he had a keyboard of push-buttons arranged in such a manner that he had no difficulty in working them. The board arrangement is very simple and inexpensive and would prove a valuable addition to any effect outfit.

I have, in the past few days, received a number of inquiries as to what effects are the most essential in making up a list for a picture theater. I will print this list and trust it will prove what the correspondents desire:

Railroad imitation, railroad bell, air brake, street car gong, fire gong, auto horn, electric doorbell, telephone bell, small table bell, small hand bell, cathedral chimes, wind whistle, canary whistle, cow bawl, steamboat whistle, locomotive whistle, rifleshot cushion, surf and steam or sand blocks, horse hoofs, slap stick, police rattle, sleigh bells, tambourine, castanets, thunder sheet, hen cackle, duck quack, rooster crow, baby cry, tom-tom, large Chinese cymbal, Chinese musette, wood block, cowbell, anvil, auto chug-chug, wind machine, crash box.

There are some of the above listed effects that you will find little use for; still, it is best to have them on hand, for you will find that, when the opportunity does come to use them, they will be greatly appreciated by the audience Then, again, you will find many traps listed above that can be made by the effect men, but it always pays to have the best so you will find that it is better to buy them from some good firm where you are getting the advantage of its years of experience.

The railroad imitation made by every manufacturer is the steam engine effect, and this same imitation can be used m pictures where dredges, steam shovels, etc., are at work, with the correct effect. When the train is shown pulling into the station the audience hears the engine, the whistle, the locomotive bell, etc., but when you go into the detail of letting them hear the whistle of the air brake, you have won a point, and a good one.

I recently found a very good detail in working a telephone bell. If the scene shows an office or a dwelling and the telephone is calling someone, it is a very good idea to keep the bell ringing until the party takes down the receiver from the hook. This is just another one of my “crank” details, but it is good. Try it the next time.

The Chinese musette that is mentioned in the list is one of the traps that you will find very little occasion to use; still it should be included in the collection. The Vitagraph Company recently released a comedy picture called “Queer Folks,” and in this picture it shows the bally-hoo of a side-show with the oriental snake charmer doing a few stunts on the platform in front of the tent. The effect of the Chinese musette in this scene alone would justify anyone in buying one of these horns. Then they come in to good advantage in Chinese or in any oriental scenic pictures. In some of the scenic pictures it is hard to supply the music let alone the sound effects. But in any of the celestial scenics a musette would make the hit of the evening.

The Moving Picture World.