Wednesday, December 9, 2015

HERALDRY | Lord Dunmore, Gov. of Virginia (Updated Aug. 11, 2017)

Arms of John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore, Governor
of the Colony of Virginia. Defeated by the rebels/patriots
in 1775. Note stars in two quarters, pierced and unpierced.
Dec. 9, 2015–This day in 1775, the Virginia and North Carolina militias defeated 200 British troops and some 800 slaves serving John Murray, fourth Earl of Dunmore and Virginia's governor.

The history of the American Revolution focuses on Yankee fighting at Lexington and Concord–not so much on Virginia.

But the most decisive battle may have been fought 240 years ago today, more than one year before the Declaration of Independence. Two reasons for the importance of the battle:
  • The Fight Was Ambiguous. The greatest number of victims in Virginia's skirmishes were slaves seeking their freedom, not free rebels. The British Crown had declared that slaves who joined the army would be emancipated. (The Crown was looking for troops in a hurry and they offered emancipation only to the slaves of rebel slaveholders.)
  • The Crown Was Quickly Defeated. The Virginia battles were one-sided. They were over quickly. They were tragic for the slaves who signed up looking for their freedom, most of whom were killed, with few losses on the rebel side. This emboldened the rebels.
The main battle in Virginia occurred at Great Bridge outside of Norfolk, a British Crown-controlled town in the colony of Virginia. Gov. Dunmore had retreated to Norfolk after the rebels drove him from the capital of Virginia, Williamsburg, in June 1775.

In November, Dunmore offered emancipation to any slave of a rebel master willing to join his forces.

  • In the short term, it worked well. His emancipation promise attracted many slaves to Gov. Dunmore's army. By November 30, Dunmore’s military ranks had swelled and he was convinced of his ability to regain control of the colony via the promise of emancipation of slaves to rebels. The Continental Army's General George Washington feared Dunmore was correct. He wrote to the Continental Congress from New England, warning that they needed to defeat Dunmore ASAP. Dunmore’s forces won overwhelmingly at Kemp’s Landing. It looked as though Dunmore’s slave troops, which he called the Ethiopian Regiment, would ensure continued British rule in Virginia. 
  • On the other hand, Dunmore's emancipation promise angered slaveholders on both sides, not just the rebel owners – the slaveholders loyal to the Crown worried about the precedent Gov. Dunmore might set. His promise of emancipation was publicized in the Carolinas and prompted at least 150 men to march north to help defeat Dunmore. Dunmore did not appreciate the number and determination of the Carolina troops and sent only a few sailors and 60 troops from Norfolk to meet them, along with many slave troops. They got within 15 feet of the disciplined and determined rebels before being shot dead. Within 30 minutes, 150 of the Crown troops were killed, with only one rebel fatality. 
With the news of the defeat of his southern force, Dunmore set about defending Great Bridge. He built a stockade, disabling the main bridge and defending the smaller ones with cannon. However, his severe underestimation of the strength of the rebel militias, who were now calling themselves the Patriots, meant that his defenses were overrun. 

Of  800 slaves who signed up in anticipation of being freed, only 300 survived the battle. They retreated for safety to the British ship (the Otter), and the majority then contracted smallpox and died from it. 


Douglas coat of arms (L)–argent azure 
in chief three stars argent, and Moray
 (Murray) coat of arms (R)–azure three 
stars argent two and one. This shield
is incorporated in the Murray shield.
This is a little-told tale, because of its ironies and ambiguous lessons:
  • The high moral ground of the American Revolution –  rebellion of colonies against an unjust King –  is clouded over with the decimation of the slaves who were seeking only what the rebels wanted, their freedom.
  • The Murray family's heroic history in Scotland was that of a leading rebel family. The Scots successfully battled the English Crown under Edward I and Edward II, and negotiated a peace under Edward III. Now the Murrays were defending the Crown against colonial rebels.
The story shows unambiguously that George Washington, being a Virginian, would have had the Murray shield of the governor of his state fresh in his mind in 1775 and 1776. Before 1775, he and Governor Dunmore very likely met on friendly terms. They may have talked about the similarity between the Washington coat of arms with its red stars (mullets in English heraldry) and the Scottish Douglas and Murray shields with their silver stars on a blue field.

This is another piece of evidence that the stars in the Stars and Stripes flag could have originated from the Murray arms, with the blue field from the cross of St. Andrew. The would have been picked up by the Washington family, which lived just south of the border with Scotland, for the coats of arms of George Washington's first knighted ancestor. He used the five-pointed stars but in red, the color of the English St. George cross.

I have corresponded with the Scottish heraldic authorities and they raised the question – why would  a sworn enemy mimic an opponent's arms? My thesis is that the Washington family adopted the Murray shield and altered the tincture from blue to red (azure to gules). Yet the United States adopted the East India Company stripes and the Continental Army initially flew stripes with the Union Jack in the canton...

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

EINSTEIN | Nov. 25–General Theory Finished

Albert Einstein
Made a timeline.
He had the nerve
To make it curve.
(Clerihew by JT Marlin.)
Nov. 25 – This date in 1915, 100 years ago, Einstein finished his general theory and submitted for publication his article, "The Field Equations of Gravitation."

It included ten equations that comprise his Theory of General Relativity. Through his equations, Einstein propounds the origins of his theory of gravity and how it interacts with "space-time."

Einstein had, ten years before, developed his theory of special relativity which said that the speed of light is a constant and a limit in our universe. [See Comment below, where this summary is contested by a man with a D.Phil. in Physics from Oxford.]

The New Yorker has a useful article that tells the "big idea" of the "space doctor"using only the "ten hundred" words in most common use in the English language ("thousand" is not one of them). Einstein's new general theory viewed space and time as interwoven – changing one produces an effect on the other. The basic idea came from his former professor, Hermann Minkowski, and he generalized it.

Speed depends on the observer's frame of reference:
  • If you are on an airplane, you don't feel yourself moving.
  • But an observer on the ground will report that the plane is moving. 
Einstein realized that if space and time are on a single continuum, then as the rate of speed goes up, the rate of time must go down and vice versa:
  • For an object moving slowly through space, time passes quickly. 
  • For an object moving quickly, time slows down. 
  • The closer an object gets to attaining the speed of light, the bigger the effect.
Since then, scientists have proved his theory by sending atomic clocks up in high-speed rockets. When they return, the clocks on the rockets are slightly behind their earthly counterparts. 

According to Einstein's general theory, matter bends the "fabric" of spacetime. If space-time is a rubber sheet stretched above the ground, and you put a heavy object like a bowling ball in the middle of the sheet, the bowling ball will pull down the center of the sheet. Any other lighter-weight balls you place on the blanket will be pulled toward the bowling ball, because the bowling ball is keeping the blanket from being flat.

That's where gravity comes from. For us on earth, the sun is the bowling ball, and the planets are other, smaller balls rolling around the sun. The planets are moving so fast in their orbits that they just keep circling the sun; their speed keeps them from falling into the sun, and gravity keeps them from flying off into space.

Einstein theorized that light curves as a result of gravity's effects on the fabric of space-time.

Willem van Stockum,
Like William of Ockam,
Did what he must –
He invented his Dust.
He said that curve ought to be provable by carefully photographing an eclipse. In 1919, astronomers went to an island off the coast of Africa to get the best possible photo of a solar eclipse. Sure enough,  they showed a deflection of the sunlight matching Einstein's prediction.

Willem J. van Stockum is the first person to write in English about the implication of Einstein's general theory for the possibility of time travel.

His 1937 article showed that Einstein's equations generate closed time-like curves, following on his dissertation for his Edinburgh Ph.D. in physics.

His "van Stockum dust" invention is viewed as an ingenious interpretation of the most difficult parts of Einstein's general theory.


I sent the above to my nephew Chris Oakley (D.Phil. Physics Oxon.) to make sure I got it as right as can be and still be talking English, with or without the ten-hundred-word limit. He has responded only to the bit about the special theory of relativity, which he says is not correctly expressed above. Here is his proposed new language for that bit:
Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity (1905): Motion can only be detected with reference to another object; when you say you are travelling at 50 mph it is 50 mph relative to the ground – relative to the surface of the Moon (for example) it would be a lot faster. The notion that the laws of physics do not depend on relative motion is called Galilean Invariance (neither word being in the 1,000-word list). Thus if you are conducting a physics experiment in a train travelling smoothly and levelly on a completely straight track at constant speed & it makes no reference to what is going on outside, you will get the same results whatever the speed of the train – if Galilean Invariance is true. Newton’s laws of motion are Galilean-invariant. The problem was that the new-fangled electromagnetism, discovered in the 19th century, which also governs the propagation of light, as embodied by Maxwell’s equations, is not Galilean-invariant. It looked as though there was a preferred reference frame where light would propagate in spherical waves much in the way that if you dip your finger in a lake from a stationary rowing boat, the ripples will radiate outwards in circles. That is the “preferred” reference frame; if the boat is moving the ripples will bunch in the direction of motion of the boat, and spread out downstream. Ripple propagation, at least as seen from the boat, is faster downstream (you add the speed of the boat), but slower upstream (you subtract the speed of the boat), and you can figure out the speed of the boat from this difference. That was the idea of the Michelson-Morley experiment c. 1900, only the boat was planet Earth, the lake they called the Lumeniferous Ether and the ripples were light waves. They found, and continue to find, nothing. All sorts of explanations for the null result were advanced, e.g., that the ether is dragged by heavy objects like the Earth, but Einstein came up with the simple but mind-warping notion that the Ether does not exist, rather space and time themselves conspire to ensure if you measure the speed of light you will always get the same result (about 186,000 miles per second) regardless of the motion of your measuring instruments. He was rightly dismissed as a lunatic… well, initially, at least. 
I am promised a subsequent bit about the general theory (1915).

Sunday, November 22, 2015

IMMIGRANTS | We All Were Once

Lady Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, 
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, 
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore...
(Emma Lazarus)
We are about to head into a holiday season in the United States that is full of reasons for compassion to displaced Syrians.

It is already difficult for a Syrian refugee to get asylum in the United States. So far 2,300 have been admitted. Egypt has admitted 135,000, says Nicholas Kristof.

The New York Times today posted a list of all the steps that the U.S. Government takes to prevent the admission of an enemy of our country.

Thanksgiving. It is worth remembering that the Mayflower Pilgrims were refugees from persecution in England. Dissenters like them could be charged with treason and executed.

St. Nicholas Day. St. Nicholas is the patron saint of children and travelers, as well as of New York City. He has, in the person of Santa Claus, been personified through the poetry of Clement Clarke Moore of Chelsea, New York City as the embodiment of empathy and generosity.

Christmas.  When pregnant Mary and Joseph came to Bethlehem, they were in a strange city. The only available place for them to sleep was a stable. That was bad enough. But Matthew 2:1-18 says Joseph was warned to emigrate with the rest of his family to Egypt to escape King Herod. They may have stayed in Egypt as refugees for as long (one commentator says) as eight years.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

WW2 | 2. Boissevain and van Hall Pre-Nazi-Era Homes

Charles Boissevain with his daughter Nella Hissink in front
 of Drafna. Notation by Anne Boissevain, Robert's second
wife, in the album she kept.
November 11, 2015 – The large clan of Boissevains and their in-laws lived and worked in beautiful homes by the Amsterdam canals and later in homes to the east and west of Amsterdam.

Suburban Boissevain homes in the 1920s and 1930s were clustered in the Amsterdam area – especially in Naarden and Haarlem.

In the summer many of them went to their beach houses in Zandvoort (recently renamed "Amsterdam Beach") on the North Sea – at the same longitude as Amsterdam.

The extended Boissevain and van Hall families would gather as a single family at celebrations such as a wedding (bruiloft), or a wedding anniversary (huwelijksverjaardag) of the family patriarch and matriarch.
Map 1. The Boissevain houses went from Zandvoort on
the coast to Haarlem and Amsterdam, then east to Naarden.

The most famous homes were Drafna in Naarden, home of Charles and Emily Boissevain; or Astra and the Kolkhuis (which I visited several times) in Hattem, homes of Jan and Hester van Hall. 

Families related closely to the Boissevains, all of them I think with more than one intermarriage among cousins, include the den Texes, van Halls, van Lenneps and van Tienhovens.

My mother's Aunt Hester Boissevain van Hall ("Tante
Hessie") lived in "Het Kolkhuis" in Hattem.
With Charles Boissevain in February 2015, I visited many places where members of the family lived or worshipped in the 20th Century, and even some homes where relatives still lived and welcomed us.

Homes are concentrated in a line from Zandvoort on the west coast to Haarlem, Amsterdam and Naarden (see Map 1).

The line continued east from Amersfoort, where Teau Boissevain de Beaufort, lived, to Hattem and Zwolle. The van Halls moved to Zwolle for health reasons, because the higher ground to the east makes it drier than areas closer to Amsterdam. The van Halls lived first in Zwolle and then at the Kolkhuis in Hattem (see Map 2).

Relatives who lived off the Zandvoort-to-Zwolle band include Nella Boissevain Hissink, who lived in the capital of Friesland, Leeuwarden.


The house at Corellistraat 6 was the home of Jan "Canada" Boissevain and Mies van Lennep Boissevain. Their two eldest children were Gijs ("Gi") and Jan Karel ("Janka") Boissevain.


Engelien de Booy lived here - I visited her at her home before she died.

Emmaplein 2, where Robert and Sonia 
lived until 1936.

In the Bentveldsweg, within 100 meters of each other, live or have lived four families with van Hall descendants:
  • Zonnehof was built for Charles's great-uncle Aat van Hall (father of Gijs and Wally van Hall), who raised ten children there between 1897 and about 1915. When I visited in 2015 it was inhabited by their daughter Hester van Hall Dufour and Raimond Dufour. 
  • De Popelhof was the home of great-aunt Han van Hall Vening Meinesz, youngest sister of Jan and Aat and Suze van Hall van Tienhoven, mother of Corrie.
  • Sparrenhof was formerly inhabited by Maurits and Elsa van Hall and after his death by his daughter Ellen van Hall Wurpel, who is secretary of the van Hall Foundation. She invited us in for a visit. 
  • Biekaer after the war was where Charles's mother, Sonia, went with her six children.  
Charles brought me first to the large house at Emmaplein 2 where his family lived until 1936, when the Nazis engaged in economic warfare and dispossessed those like his father Bob who had invested in I. G. Farben and other companies.

The family then moved to Zandvoort, by the seashore, where the war began.

We went nearby, to Beelslaan 3 in Haarlem, to pay a visit to Mary-Ann van Hall Boon, daughter of Wally van Hall, and her husband.


Hattem is near Zwolle, quite a distance from Amsterdam. Hester van Hall's Kolkhuis was here. I attended several celebrations of birthdays during our summer visits to Holland after World War II. The young visitors were roped into participating in skits for the enjoyment of older family members.


Drafna was built on an enormous farm that is an hour southeast of Amsterdam,  in Naarden, near the Naarden-Bussum train station. It was on the Zuyder Zee, but much of the land there was reclaimed. Naarden is a former coastal fortress town with buildings dating back to the 16th century. Charles and Emily moved there in 1897.

The house is legendary because so many children (eleven) grew up there and so many grandchildren (50), including my mother, went there for many visits.

Drafna, Naarden, in 1933. The 14-room two-story
 Norwegian chalet was home to Charles and Emily 
Boissevain and their 11 children.

My mother remembers the Golden Wedding Anniversary of her grandparents Charles and Emily in 1916, when she was 8 years old.

Large tents were set up to accommodate the crowds. She was struck by the importance of her grandparents and the importance of a Golden Wedding. She told me in 1982, the year of her own Golden Wedding:

Everyone sat at long tables under the tent awnings. I was given an ice cream cone with a photo of my grandparents stuck in it. I don't know whether all 50 grandchildren got this special treat. During the afternoon events, I remember the smell of hay everywhere. The afternoon ended with skits and performances, but I don't remember them and maybe they were only for grownups.
Theo(dora) Boissevain, who married Willem Sillem, in
front of the Drafna barn. My mother well remembered
the donkey, and also the gardener, Hena, in the background.
He acted as a security guard when the children were around.
My mother also told me that the grandchildren would often, on arrival at Drafna, make a bee-line to their library where many wonders could be found.
I earned a scolding from my Granny for doing so: "The first thing you do when you visit anywhere, is to present yourself to your hostess and greet her. I didn’t even know you had arrived." So in future I did as she told me. Since the drawing room was next door to the library, not too much time was wasted. But I have to confess I was not the most popular guest. Those who had not learned to read yet fared much better.
The late Engelien de Booy told me before she died that there was a dark side to Drafna. It was full of gaiety and fun partly because that is what Emily wanted to see. Emily liked to know that her children were successful. She positively disliked introspective children – like Engelien, who went on to earn her doctorate – or, even worse, children who seemed slow or stupid.

Hilda was too Dutch-looking and introspective for Emily. Emily preferred the grandchildren who looked the most Irish, like the six children of Robert with his first wife, Irishwoman Rosie Phibbs - or Teautie de Beaufort, who looked (as her mother Teau did) Irish.

But Hilda was a favorite of her grandfather Charles, because she was a writer like him, and was precociously clever at drawing. Hilda's first publisher was in fact her grandfather, in his newspaper, the Algemeen Handelsblad.

Polly Barker, Drafna's Resident English
Nurse-Governess (Mary Poppins).
Mary ("Polly") Barker, an English nurse, served the family from 1873 until her death in 1929. All of the eleven children and their 50 grandchildren were very fond of Polly, which suggests that Polly looked after all of the children, including those who did not measure up to Emily's expectations. My mother said she preferred Polly to Emily.

The 40-acre property outside was full of wonders One side of the driveway at Drafna was lined with lime trees. Elsewhere were many chestnut trees, which yielded edible chestnuts. Hilda got her taste there for marrons glacées, candied chestnuts, which reminded her of Drafna. The lawn was deep in clover. The property included a tennis court.

The farm included a pond and a stable and an array of animals beloved by the grandchildren - a donkey, a goat, a white horse (which had its own carriage to pull), fish and birds. The gardener was named Hein and Hilda remembers him forever having complaints about the young visitors like her.

As the children of Charles and Emily formed families of their own, they were sold or allowed to use pieces of the farm, so that five of the eleven Boissevain children, and their children, have lived in the area. The six exceptions were:
  • Hester and Jan van Hall, who moved to Zwolle and then Hattem to be on higher ground and therefore in a drier climate. The van Hall homes in Zwolle were called Astra and Little Astra, where my mother's family lived for a few years. Hester van Hall later moved to the Kolkhuis (Lake House) in Hattem, where the family came several times to parties, and I visited her alone in 1959. She would put on her cap and come out to see her guests with tea.
  • Nella and Theodor Hissink, moved to Leeuwarden in Friesland. This is the town that is drawn by my mother in A Day on Skates. A Dutch edition of this book is needed! It should have the name A Day on Skates in Friesland.
  • Teau and Fik de Beaufort, who moved to Amersfoort. Fik de Beaufort had a ducal title in France but preferred to live in Holland. Teau was the youngest of the 11 children of Charles and Emily and died first, tragically, in 1922.
  • The three youngest Boissevain boys - who found Holland constraining and married American women. Robert was the first to leave - he remarried (he left his wife Rosie and their six children in Holland, which was a scandal, but my mother said there were extenuating circumstances) an American woman who was the assistant to philanthropist Alva Vanderbilt Belmont; they lived on a chicken farm in upstate New York. Eugen followed Robert and married two truly great American Bohemian women - Inez Milholland and Edna St. Vincent Millay. Jan went to Java to work for Robert in 1914 and eventually married another Bohemian, an American actress, Charlotte Ives, and they lived in the Cap d'Antibes, where I visited her in July 1962 – she took me on an excursion into Cannes to visit a local car dealer so she could buy a new car.
When Charles Boissevain died in 1927, Emily at first stayed at Drafna with Polly. They lived in different parts of the house and entertained separately. After Polly's death, Emily moved to the home of Charles E. H. Boissevain, her eldest son, until her own death in 1931. Drafna was sold to a Theosophical School, was used as a rugby team center, and was broken down before World War II (some say it burned down) to be replaced by a stone house. In the 1970s it was sold to a Dutch company and as of 1982 was a retreat and training center.


On the South Boulevard in Zandvoort, Charles showed me the place where his family house De Duinhut formerly was. The houses are not there any more because they were were knocked down to make way for coastal fortifications. According to Joseph Goebbels in his Diaries, Hitler was sure that the invasion of Europe by the Allies would come via the beaches of Holland.

Along a 10-km. route (the shortest way) Bob, Marit and Son Boissevain had to go on their bike every day to their school in Overveen, the Lycée Kemmerer. By the end of the war most of the schools were closed.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

WW2 | Air Force Pilots - A Book for Children

I picked up this book, World War II Pilots, at a BookExpo BEA 14) conference and have just gotten around to reading it.

It's an "interactive" history adventure by Michael Burgan (Denis Showalter is also credited). It gives readers choices. They can decide whether they want to be a pilot or not, and where they want to assigned. Based on their choices, they skip to a certain page.

The choices help young readers appreciate that individual choices affect history and vice versa.

The reader can go back and take a different choice and see how things would have turned out.

The book has "three story paths, 36 choices and 20 endings".

This book is well done, whether or not the individual reading it has any interest in being a pilot or joining the military.

It has Barnes & Noble rating of 5 stars and a Goodreads score of nearly 4.

I am especially interested in it because it connects directly to the theme of Robert Wack's book, the 5-star Time Bomber, which is about the invasion of Normandy in June 1944 from the perspective of the pilot of a Halifax bomber, my uncle Willem van Stockum's role in World War II as a bomber pilot.

The connection between the two books is extraordinary because van Stockum engaged in pioneering mathematical analysis to investigate the scientific basis of time travel, based on Einstein's equations for general relativity.

Monday, October 26, 2015

TIME TRAVEL | 50,000 Pageviews. Thanks! Top Posts.

This blogsite just passed the 50K pageviews mark. I couldn't have done it without you. Thank you!

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WILL WOODIN BIO - FDR's 1st Treas Sec (Updated Oct...
Apr 20, 2015
In Madrid - Picasso's Acrobat on a Ball (1905) Oct 9, 2011
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Jun 2, 2013, 2 comments
Appendix B. Will Woodin's Descendants (Updated Oct...
Mar 31, 2015
"All Shooters Were Democrats" Mar 18, 2013, 2 comments
Midnight in Paris Location ID Challenge Jun 21, 2011
May 2-3 - Baldwin's 125th Anniversary Celebration May 22, 2014
1. Woodin Ancestors (Updated Oct. 24, 2015) Apr 21, 2015
Giving Alexander von Humboldt His Due (Updated Oct...
Oct 5, 2015
Woodin Meets Tagore, 1930 Oct 20, 2015
Did Norman Davis and Will Woodin Connect? Oct 16, 2015
On Elizabeth Bishop's Birthday in Brazil Feb 16, 2014
9B. Woodin as Collector of Books and Coins (Update...
Oct 23, 2015

EAST HAMPTON | Green River Cemetery Residents

"List in Formation"
Brooks, James (painter) (1906–1992) - abstract painter
Christensen, Dan (1942–2007) - artist
Coe, Fred (1914–1979) - Television producer of The Philco Television Playhouse
Davis, Stuart (painter) (1892[94?]–1964) - cubist artist
de Kooning, Elaine (1918–1989) - artist, wife of painter Willem de Kooning, who is not buried here.
Ernst, Jimmy - (1920–1984) - artist and son of Max Ernst
Franey, Pierre (1921–1996) - chef and newspaper columnist
Ferren, John (1905–1970) - painter
Geldzahler, Henry (1935–1994) - art historian, curator, NYC Commish of Cultural Affairs
Gwathmey, Charles (1938–2009) - architect
Krasner, Lee (1908–1984) - artist and wife of Jackson Pollock
Lassaw, Ibram (1913–2003) - abstract sculptor
Lieberman, William S. (1923–2005) - Museum of Modern Art curator
Liebling, A.J. (1904–1963) - newspaper columnist
Morley, Hilda (1916–1998) - Poet
O'Hara, Frank (1926–1966) - Poet
Ossorio, Alfonso A. (1916–1990) - artist (half his ashes are here)
Pakula, Alan (1928–1998) - film producer of To Kill a Mockingbird, film director of Klute
Pollock, Jackson (1912–1956) - abstract expressionist painter and husband of Lee Krasner
Rattner, Abraham (1895–1978) - painter
Reinhardt, Ad (1913–1967) - abstract painter
Rosenberg, Harold (1906–1978) - art critic
Ross, Steven J. (1927–1992) - CEO who engineered the merger of Time-Warner
Stafford, Jean (1915–1979) - Pulitzer Prize winning writer
Vanderbeek, Stan (1927–1983) - underground film maker
Wilke, Hannah (1940–1993) - painter, sculptor and photographer
Wolpe, Stefan (1902–1972) - composer

Friday, October 23, 2015

WOODIN | 9B. Collector of Books and Coins (Updated Oct. 25, 2015)

George Cruikshank, "Effects of a Lurch after Dinner." Will Woodin said: "I thought I almost had all that
he [Cruikshank] made at my house." See letter of June 11, 1931.

Will Woodin was not just a prominent collector of books and coins in his own country and in his own time. He was a world-class collector for all time.

His coin-collecting prowess is better known than his book-and-engraving-collecting skills. Let us start with the latter.

Woodin's Collection of Books and Engravings

Woodin collected drawings by Cruikshank and others. When Charlie Miner, Jr. was 5 years old, he stayed with his mother (Mary Woodin Miner) and his grandfather in a bedroom on the top floor of the apartment (and the building), where Woodin kept his collections.

Miner told me in July2015:

I looked at his hand-painted Cruikshank drawings, and the Life of Napoleon that he kept there. He found me reading the books once and told me I should stop reading these books.

Grandpa objected: “Those are not to be read. They are rare books.”

Young Charlie was puzzled: “What good are they, then?”

After filling the air with explanations about rarity,Grandpa gave up and decided the joke was on him. “Maybe you’re right, Charlie.” 

His collections gave Will Woodin great pleasure and after dinner, Charlie says, his grandfather would take them out and admire them.

An exchange of letters shows how Will Woodin operated as a collector.

Arthur Swann sent him packages of paintings alleged to be by George Cruikshank. Will Woodin writes back saying he "did not open up the packages." He then launches into a humorous onslaught of skeptical arguments for why he believes they are fakes:
Source: Courtesy of Bill Phipps, posted by permission.
  • If Cruikshank had painted the number of paintings attributed to him he "would have had to paint one every ten minutes during his entire life."
  • "I thought he did more drawings than paintings, but I am now rather doubtful."
  • "I cannot go out in the street but what someone approaches me and whispers in my ear that he has a valuable Cruikshank painting for sale."
  • "I thought I had almost all he ever made at my house, but from indications it would take the Metropolitan Museum to hold what are now on the market."
  • "I know you are going to produce evidence [...] but this is nothing. Proofs of this sort can be furnished by the wagonload."
  • Finally, "I would like to suggest to some of the artists who are turning these paintings out that they adhere a little bit to the characteristics of Cruikshank style."
Source: Courtesy of Bill Phipps, posted
by permission.
Swann, for his part, realizes that he has nothing to gain by arguing with Woodin. Selling him a Cruikshank is going to be tough slogging and better to back off and work on another collector.

Swann writes back two weeks after Woodin's first letter and tries to laugh off his rejected solicitation:
  • "[W]e have all agreed that you are a wonderful letter-writer."
  • "[You] have presented such an air-tight case that there is really nothing more to be said.
Woodin was no pushover. But we should not stop there. He was not just good at being an actor in the coin-collecting marketplace. He shows a deep understanding the weaknesses of the marketplace.

In the parlance of George Akerlof and Robert Shiller, Arthur Swann was phishing for a phool. Swann knew that Woodin was building his collection of Cruikshank art, and could be persuaded that the package of art he sent over was not only genuine but would complete his collection in important ways.

Woodin knew that he would be tempted as a collector to believe that the packages of art were genuine. He also knew that odds were against so many new paintings suddenly coming to light. He did not open the packages because he knew he was emotionally overly disposed to buy them even though cognitively he was dubious of the possibility that the art was genuine.

Woodin's understanding of the marketplace was coupled with an understanding of himself. The United States was fortunate that a person like that was on the spot in March 1933. It explains why he was the right person to be calming the markets after FDR's inauguration.

Woodin's Coin Collection

The U.S. dollar coin from the beginnings of the country went through many iterations. Initially the coin was under the control of the different states. In 1792 the U.S. Mint was established in Philadelphia. The half-dime (5 cents, what we now call the nickel) was created that year.

As the future of the U.S. money supply was debated in the early 1900s, Woodin saw the opportunity for collecting pattern coins and managed to acquire an impressive collection.

In 1913, in the same year that the Federal income tax was created and the Federal Reserve System came into being under the aegis of Congressman Carter Glass and others, Will Woodin wrote a book with Edgar Holmes Adams on United States Pattern, Trial and Experimental Pieces. Young men starting out in the coin business 100 years ago started by trying to memorize this book.

This was 20 years before Woodin was to become Treasury Secretary.

Woodin sometimes used his avocations to win new friends. Miner says that his Grandpa called on the King of Siam to sell some railway cars and was lectured beforehand on Siamese protocol, the importance of backing away facing the King, etc. But when the two of them had wrapped up their negotiations, they emerged arm in arm, the King entranced with Woodin’s knowledge of rare coins.

Although a Republican, William H. Woodin supported Franklin Roosevelt for President and was made his Treasury Secretary in 1933. In a humorous carving of a wooden coin - the only known Hirschfeld work in wood - the artist simultaneously makes a pun in the title about wood, refers to Woodin's Secretary of the Treasury post, and credits his role in ending the 1929-1933 banking crisis by issuing new money. He may also be commenting on Woodin's nickname ("Little Wooden Willy") in the Raggedy Ann Song Book, and Woodin's world-famed coin collection. "The Woodin Nickel, 1933." Published in Americana, July 1933. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress - Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Al Hirschfeld.

Judging from the recent successful sales at the Stack's Bower auction of Pogue family coins by Sotheby's, the coin market is going strong. Coins that were once part of the Woodin collection are so identified because the association adds value.

[More to come.]


Maybe you're right, Charlie Charlie Miner has told this story to me twice, in 2013 and a second time on July 30, 2015.


Adams, Edgar Holmes (1868-) and Woodin, William H.  United States Pattern, Trial, and Experimental Pieces Being A List of the Pattern, Trial and Experimental Pieces Which Have Been Issued by the United States Mint From 1792 up to the Present Time. 1913.

Akerlof, George A. and Robert J. Shiller. Phishing for Phools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception. Princeton University Press. Reviewed by Cass R. Sunstein in "Why Free Markets Make Fools of Us," The New York Review, October 22, 2015.

Woodin, William H. Estate Catalog (for auction after the death of Woodin’s widow Nan). First Editions, Original Drawings, Paintings, Caricatures, the Work of the Great English Illustrators and Authors of the XVII-XIX Centuries: Henry Alken, Thomas Rowlandson, George, Robert and Isaac Cruikshank, James Gillray, John Leech, W. H. Ainsworth, Charles Dickens, Pierce Egan and Others, Richly Extra-illustrated Books, Standard Sets, A Superb Illuminated Manuscript & Other Rarities. Auction Catalog, Parts 1, 2, 3. Title varies slightly for each book. (New York: Parke-Bernet Galleries, 1942). Copies located in Berg Collection, Room 320, New York Public Library, 42nd Street.

Woodin, William H. (1868-1934). Magnificent Collection of Rare American Coins. Catalog. To Be Sold ... at the Collectors' Club ... March 2nd, 3rd and 4th, 1911.

© John Tepper Marlin 2013-2015. For permissions or other information, contact the author at

Thursday, October 22, 2015

OBIT | Paula McGrath, R.I.P.

It's always sad when people die before their time. 

When we know the parents, the death of a child is especially tragic.

I met Paula McGrath a few times. I didn't know her well, but I do know her father and stepmother well.

The only things I can think of to do for them are to say how sorry I have been to hear about Paula's passing... to post this memory of her life... and send a check in her memory to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Foundation.

May she rest in peace.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

BRITISH NAVY | Oct. 21–Trafalgar Won, Nelson Killed, 210 Years Ago

The Death of Nelson, 1805
This day in 1805 - 210 years ago - In one of the most decisive naval battles in history, the British fleet under Admiral Lord Nelson defeats a combined French-Spanish fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar, off the coast of Spain.

But Nelson is killed by the bullet of an unknown French sniper.

Nelson consistently out-maneuvered Napoleon Bonaparte on the water. A French friend told me that one reason for Napoleon's difficulties with his navy was that the pre-Revolutionary French navy required all officers to be quatre quarts noblesse - nobility among all four grandparents. When the Revolution killed or scared off the aristocrats, the French Navy lost all its officers.

Nelson’s last (because he died in battle) and greatest victory against the French was the Battle of Trafalgar. It began after Nelson caught sight of a Franco-Spanish force of 33 ships. Nelson divided his smaller fleet of 27 ships into two lines. Nelson signaled the attack with a famous message from the flagship HMS Victory: “England expects that every man will do his duty.”

Deviating from established practice, in which ships pass in front of one another in two rows, shooting away as in a jousting match, Nelson attacked the French-Spanish line broadside, picking off the front ships one by one in a manner reminiscent of Thermopylae when a small force of Spartans held off a huge Persian army by bottling them up a narrow pass.

In five hours of fighting, the British devastated the enemy fleet, destroying 19 enemy ships. No British ships were lost, but 1,500 British seamen were killed or wounded in the heavy fighting. The battle raged at its fiercest around the Victory, and a French sniper shot Nelson in the shoulder and chest. The admiral was taken below and died about 30 minutes before the end of the battle.

Nelson’s last words, after being informed that victory was imminent, were “Now I am satisfied. Thank God I have done my duty.”

Victory at Trafalgar meant that Napoleon never invaded Britain. Nelson was hailed as a savior and was given a magnificent funeral in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. A column was erected to his memory in the newly named Trafalgar Square. I have visited the HMS Victory, which is open to the public in the port of Portsmouth, opposite the Isle of Wight.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

WOODIN | 10A. Meets Tagore, 1930

Tagore to Woodin, December 15, 1930. Used by
permission of Bill Phipps.
Will Woodin some time on or soon before December 14, 1930 hosted Rabindranath Tagore (Gurudev, May 7, 1861-August 7, 1941), the Bengali genius who reshaped Bengali literature and music and Indian art.

Tagore and his personal physician Dr. Harry Timbers had recently met with Joseph Stalin in Moscow. Tagore wrote to Woodin as follows:
My dear Mr. Woodin:
Before leaving America I wish to thank you for the joy of the evening you spent with me and for the hope which your interest has aroused that my work will not be forgotten.
I am sending Dr. Timbers, my physician, back from England soon after January 1st. I would be very grateful to you if you will extend to him your valuable cooperation in any way you can.
Very sincerely yours,
Rabindranath Tagore
Possibly Woodin was already having a recurrence of his childhood throat problems and Tagore was offering to lend him his physician to look at the problem.

Tagore was of course widely known. In 1913 he was the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature - his main work being the long poem Gitanjali ("Song Offerings").

He had made waves by denouncing the British Raj and advocating independence from Britain.

Among Bengalis he has an unequalled position, beginning a Bengali Renaissance and founding Visva-Bharati University. Tagore modernized Bengali art by rejecting classical forms and linguistic strictures and introducing new forms of prose and verse forms.

More broadly, Tagore was uniquely influential as a bridge between Indian and Western culture. A Pirali Brahmin from Kolkata (then Calcutta), Tagore wrote poetry as an eight-year-old and wrote a major poem at 16 under the name Bhanusimha ("Sun Lion"), convincing experts that the poem represented lost classics.

By 1877 he had written many short stories and dramas under his real name. His novels, stories, songs, dance-dramas, and essays were both personal and political. Besides the Gitanjali, he is best known for Gora ("Fair-Faced") and Ghare-Baire ("The Home and the World"). His compositions were chosen by three nations as national anthems: India, Bangladesh and the original anthem for Sri Lanka.

Monday, October 19, 2015

YOUNG AMERICA | Oct. 19 - British Army Surrenders to Geo. Washington

Admiral de Grasse defeats the British Navy in early 
September. General Washington opts to march 400 miles
to defeat Lord Cornwallis.
This day in 1781 was the surrender that ended the  fighting in the American Revolutionary War.

As in the winter of the march on Trenton, George Washington's troops were in tatters. Food and other supplies were scarce.

What Washington had was good intelligence. He learned that the British army under Lord Cornwallis were building a naval base on the Yorktown Peninsula in Virginia.

Washington decided impulsively to march his army from NY to Virginia to try to trap the Brits.

He feinted toward New York to tie down the Brits there, then undertook the bold and risky 400-mile march to Washington.

The mid-October siege of Yorktown lasts just a few days.
Even though Lord Cornwallis had advance word of Washington's march, he stayed put because he did not know what had been happening on the naval side. He assumed he had time to wait to be evacuated by the British navy.

In fact the British navy had been dispersed by a French fleet from the south under Admiral de Grasse and would not be coming to anyone's rescue while the French were in the York River.

So Washington, and an allied French army under General Rochambeau that came via Newport, R.I., surrounded Yorktown and bombarded the city with siege cannons brought by the French.
Washington accepts surrender of Brits.

After several days of this with no naval relief, Cornwallis sent word he would surrender. Washington told the British to march out and give up their arms, and the surrender began at 2 am today in 1781, five years after the Declaration of Independence.

Cornwallis sent his sword to Rochambeau, signalling that the British had been defeated by the French, not the Americans.

Back in London, the British Parliament at that time did not feel like paying for another army. They appealed to the United States for peace. The Treaty of Paris was signed two years later, and the Revolutionary War was won.

Friday, October 16, 2015

OBIT | Ruth Hirsch (1913-1995)

The front of the card that Ruth was given at her
retirement party. I would put a credit in here but
 I don't know who the clever artist was.
Ruth was born in 1913, destined to bring great joy to her nieces and nephews.

This joy perhaps offset the creation in the same year she was born of the two most currently unpopular institutions in the United States - the Federal Reserve System and the Internal Revenue Service.

Her 80th birthday was in 1993. She retired that year. She passed away at Lenox Hill Hospital two years later, in 1995.

This post is a testimony to her selfless life. It is also a way to share with other members of the family an album of family photos that we gave to her on her 80th birthday.

The drawing at left is by the art director of the book publishing firm for which she did proofreading. She was an excellent proofreader.

In a later day, when women's potential was not as limited, she would have been a publishing company officer.

Her 80th Birthday Party, 1993

It is good to remember the pleasure that Ruth had in her 80th birthday in 1993.

Brigid put together an album for her that she was overjoyed with. It was among the things that Ruth left behind for Herbert to sort out in 1995 and it was in his estate when he died in 2006. Most of the album will eventually be included in this post. I am just entering a few of the items now to open up a space to add more.

Here is the inside of the card that her office gave Ruth on her retirement:

Retirement card for Ruth, 1993.

The title page of the album Brigid prepared.

And now for the album.

The first page shown at left displays a younger Ruth with a blue ribbon drawn by Brigid over her head. Ruth as a young woman was quite good-looking. She had several suitors. But she also had a mother and father who needed her at home. She was the only daughter in the family. From my perspective, she was something of a prisoner - probably more typical than the freedom Americans experience when they leave home. In the moment of her emancipation, she lost the use of one of her eyes and could not use her freedom.

Each family provided a photo or two or three or four to add to the album.

Montreal, 1949. Brigid, Lis, Ruth, her mother, Hilda.
The next photo below left is of Ruth's visit to us all in Montreal when Elisabeth was about four years old - 1949.

That was about when Trusty arrived as well, in a little pail - something I will never forget. It was round the time that Mom wrote Patsy and the Pup, with Trusty as the model for the pup.

It was bad year for Hilda, because her mother died and she lost her seventh child after delivery, and her ability to have any more. Annus horribilis.

Ruth was extremely fond of her nephews and nieces and greatly enjoyedvisiting them and seeing them in New York City.

She would provide collectively expensive gifts for all of them every year.

Mom and Dad encouraged her to buy useful things like pajamas.

The Tepper Marlins (John, Alice, Jay, Caroline) and O'Neills (Shane, Sheila
Roisin, Caitrin, Liaidain and Ailise), 1980.
The next photo at right skips to 1981 when we were in Austria. Caroline is wearing a kimono - we had been in Japan and we stopped off in Austria on the way back.

Daddy used to rent vacation homes every summer and then would lure his grandchildren to spend time with them.

Caroline was about four and Jay was seven.

The other children are the four O'Neill girls.

Brigid Marlin

Not in the group photo is Brigid, who is next at left. She is the one who engineered the gift of the album and tied all the photos together with drawings. She is looking very happy.

Brigid had three sons - Benny, Christopher and Desmond.

She wrote about her eldest son in A Meaning for Danny.

Next we have several photos of the Paulsen family.

Ruth was devoted to her Paulsen niece and nephew and the three great-nieces.

More photos to come.

The Paulsens (Tom, Marbeth, Kari, Kendall, Kate)

A home-made birthday card from Hilda.

For Ruth's 80th birthday, her sister-in-law Hilda drew her a flower and wrote her a poem.

Paulsens in New York with Aunt Ruth.
Ruth, Jay, Tom
Ruth between two of her three brothers,
Herbert (L) and Maurice (R).

Ruth's Death, 1995

Two years after her 80th birthday, Ruth died in Lenox Hill hospital. I brought her a pot of flowers but the nurse in charge said I was not allowed to leave them because some other patients might be allergic. So they were held at the desk. Ruth was sitting up in a chair in the E.R. so that intravenous fluid and vital signs could be monitored. I gave her a kiss and she said "delicious".

I went out to meet Herbert, who had come to see Ruth. I asked if he wanted to visit first and he said he would have lunch at the hospital cafeteria first so as not to tire her out, since I had just been to see her. But when we got back to Ruth's room, she had died.

The next morning the hospital nurse called to say she was sorry that Ruth didn't get to see the flowers I brought her. "If we had known..."

If anyone ever knew...

I said that they should keep the flowers and give them to someone who could enjoy them.

We had a memorial service for her with a card. The four siblings died in birth order. They are all buried together in the same grave with their parents.

Ruth's picture is the one of her when she visited us in Ireland in 1951-53. She was on O'Connell Street in Dublin with Brigid.

WOODIN | 8A. Norman Davis and Will Woodin (Updated March 24, 2016)

Norman Davis (1878-1944), former Assistant
Secretary of the Treasury and President of
 the Council on Foreign Relations. Photo courtesy
 of Malcolm Smith, his great-grandson.
October 16, 2015–While visiting Bill Phipps in Bloomfield, N.J., I was asked whether Will Woodin was likely to have known Norman H. Davis (1878-1944), a U.S. Treasury official and diplomat.

The question came from Malcolm Smith, a tenant of Bill who is Davis's great-great-grandson. My answer:  Definitely.

Under President Woodrow Wilson, Davis served as Assistant Secretary of Treasury–during the period when both the Federal Reserve System and Internal Revenue Service were created (1913).

These two Washington institutions, both originally headed by the Secretary of the Treasury (the Chairman of the Fed was later made independent), are currently among the most unpopular in the USA.

Will Woodin was not appointed to the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York until the 1920s, but he would surely have come across Davis during that time.

Davis came to New York City from Bedford, Tennessee, son of distiller McClin H. Davis, who perfected the formula for Cascade Whisky, later renamed George Dickel.

Davis made millions of dollars from his financial dealings in Cuba in 1902-1917, as President of the Trust Company of Cuba. During that time he would surely have run across Will Woodin, who was selling railroad cars to Cuba.

Davis became a friend of Henry P. Davison, a partner of J.P. Morgan and Chairman of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from 1938 to 1944 . On a radio show in 1931, Woodin promoted the Red Cross and this plug is quite possibly the result of his knowing of Davis's interest in the Red Cross.

Another close friend of Davis was Richard M. Bissell, president of Hartford Fire Insurance and a member of the National Defense Commission. Woodin's hometown of Berwick, Pa. became a hive of activity during World War I as it benefited from defense contracts. Some of these contracts may have come through Woodin, although his cousin (through his mother, née Mary Dickerman) William Dickerman was in charge of defense contracting at American Car & Foundry.

Who's asking? Malcolm Smith, Davis' great-grandson,
tenant of Bill Phipps (great-grandson of Will Woodin)
in Bloomfield, N.J.
Davis was appointed financial adviser to the Secretary of Treasury on foreign loans during World War I, and would have had something to say about lending to foreign countries to enable them to buy ACF rolling stock and American Locomotive engines (Woodin was Chairman of the Board of American Locomotive).

After World War I, Davis was appointed Undersecretary of State.

According to Malcolm's father, Norman Davis was involved in the negotiations surrounding the Treaty of Versailles and gave advice that should have been heeded.

Based on his study of the German economy, Davis advised the chief negotiators for both the British and the French that a high level of punitive war reparations imposed on Germany could not be sustained and would cause serious damage to the German economy, which would bode ill for their recovery and for a stable Europe. (A close friend of Hitler is reported as saying that the resentment in Germany over Versailles, and Hitler's success in creating employment in Germany at the end of the Weimar regime, was at the heart of Hitler's appeal to Germans.)

While the ministers of these two countries agreed with his assessment, the people in both France and Germany wanted revenge and required their representatives to go for a punitive level of reparations. In retrospect, Norman Davis understood the statesmanlike strategy while both Lloyd George and Clemenceau behaved like vengeful local politicians.

The aftermath, of course, proved to follow the worst-case scenario. The German government had no choice but to print huge amounts of paper money to comply with the reparations schedule. The ensuing hyperinflation caused social chaos and paved the way for Hitler's rise to power. All of this is documented, says his great-grandson, in the Norman Davis papers in the Library of Congress.

Subsequently, Davis headed a commission of the League of Nations that negotiated the Klaipėda Convention in 1924, and was a delegate to a General Disarmament Conference in Geneva in 1931.

The clincher is that Norman Davis was promoted by some of FDR's advisers to be his first cabinet appointment, Secretary of State. FDR kept his counsel and Norman Davis did not get the job.  One reason is that Davis had a reputation as a strong internationalist and FDr was more interested in domestic policy. Raymond Moley describes the situation in great detail in his memoirs, Seven Years Later (see p. 90, for example). Later that year, in June 1933, Raymond Moley and Norman Davis were both sailing with FDR on the Amberjack II.

Davis's path surely crossed with Will Woodin's, either before 1933, in Cuba or when Woodin was on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, or in 1933 when FDR was forming his cabinet.

Starting two years after Woodin's death, from 1936 to 1944, Davis became president of the Council on Foreign Relations.