Friday, September 9, 2016

History: The Year is 1867

I've uploaded year 1867 to the TSP Wiki...

Here are some one liners...

Alaska: Going, Going... SOLD! -- An assassination attempt leads to negotiations and suddenly the USA is a heck of a lot bigger. I talk about how Seward may have stopped a nuclear war.

Wage Slaves on the Grange -- A farmer's educational society turns into a populist political organization, and then a manufacturing business, and finally an educational society.

On the Beautiful Blue Danube in 2001 -- The unofficial Austrian National Anthem becomes the theme for 2001 a Space Odyssey.

In Other News -- Das Kapital, reinforced concrete and Westinghouse air brakes.

Alaska: Going, Going... SOLD!

The pocketbooks of the American taxpayer are now 7.2 million dollars lighter (around 120 million in today's dollars). Russia has sold Alaska to the United States of America. Negotiations began and ended rather quickly after an assassination attempt on Tsar Alexander the 2nd was thwarted. President Andrew Johnson sent a delegation to Russia in friendship and to express joy that Alexander's near-death experience was not as near as the assassin had hoped. Having recently lost President Lincoln to assassination, the point was clearly made. This act of empathy has prompted the Russians to open negotiations to sell Alaska to the USA. After all, Russia isn't getting much income from the region, it cannot effectively defend it, and it doesn't want to get into a war with the USA anyway, so they are willing to let it go for a song. The main negotiator in Washington DC is Secretary of State William Seward. Seward offers $5 million and they eventually settle on 7.2 million. The treaty is signed. The Congress approves it and in less than 40 days the USA has expanded its land mass by one-fifth. (Watch your language. The kids are listening.) [1] [2] [3]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
Manifest Destiny (and Seward) had declared that the USA would conquer all the Northern continent from East to West and North to South. (We are currently a little behind on that project.) That prediction might have motivated the Russians to sell Alaska while everyone was still in a good mood. Although it was a good deal even in those days, Alaska's potential was unknown. To most people it seemed like a frozen wasteland. They called Alaska "Seward's Folly" or "Seward's Icebox" or other derisive labels. But no one had really surveyed the region for its potential resources. Then gold was found, and oil. In the 20th century, as the Cold War progressed, it became part of the Early Warning System where massive radar dishes watched for an imminent strike from Soviet Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs). It was terrifying for a 1st-grade boy to go through nuclear strike drills in school. Air raid sirens would wail and we would crawl under our desks to wait for the all clear... or something else. As the joke went: sit down, hands behind your head, bend over, and kiss you backside good-bye. Imagine how much worse that would have been if the Soviet Union was part of the North American continent. I shudder to think. (Check out the movie, Ice Station Zebra, 1968, for a clue.) It could be argued that Seward saved the USA from thermonuclear war before the nuclear bomb was ever imagined. [4]

Wage Slaves on the Grange

A clerk from the US Department of Agriculture is traveling through the South and notices that basic farming practices have fallen behind the norm. He convinces the farmers to form the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry or "The Grange" for short. (A "grange" can refer to a farm or farmer's residence. It can also refer to a granary or barn although in modern times this is considered an archaic use of the word.) The organization is founded by men and women so both genders get the vote. This is novel for the time. The Grange starts off as a fraternal society. Secret rituals mark its beginnings, but as the Grangers grow, they realize that they have economic power as they pool their resources. The railroads have been ... uh... manipulating the farmers on transportation costs, so the Grangers build silos to store grain and wait for favorable prices. They buy farm equipment at a group discount, and pool their savings like a credit union. After the Panic of 1873 the Grangers will blame their economic woes on evil bankers and corrupt politicians. (They will also contribute to their own problems through overproduction, but don't try to tell them that.) "Raise less corn and more hell," shouts "Yellin Ellen" Lease. In the 1880s she will rail against Wall Street monopolies that force Americans into wage slavery rather than the self-sufficiency of farming. (FYI, Lease really didn't say "Raise less corn and more hell,", but she thought it was "good advice" and let the catch-phrase be attributed to her.) Several populist movements will grow out of the Grangers, but ultimately, they will hit the down-slope when they attempt to manufacturer their own farm equipment. Eventually they will refocus on their educational goals and survive as an organization into the modern day. [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
Many organizations swell in popularity and then decline when they try to do too much. In their effort to do everything, they do nothing very well and lose track of their original mission. The Grangers didn't start off with a clear mission, but that wasn't a problem. While most advisors will tell you that an organization should have a well articulated mission statement, most organizations begin by feeling their way along, find their purpose later, articulate their mission and move on from there. If they can stick to the mission: a simple, clear-cut mission, the organization will flourish for generations to come. When they try to be everything to everyone, the organization loses focus as factions fight over competing priorities and limited resources.

On the Beautiful Blue Danube in 2001

Austrian composer, Johann Strauss, presents his waltz, "On the Beautiful Blue Danube," in February to lackluster reviews. The lack of enthusiasm may be due to the subtle start to the waltz. Waltz music is 1-2-3, 1-2-3, ballroom dance music. (Hint to composers... when you are composing dance music, don't confuse the people on the dance floor. It can become embarrassing.) What follows are a series of 5 exciting and (at times) rollicking themes. Strauss doesn't like this first performance, so he tweaks it up and presents it in Paris to rave reviews. Sales of his sheet music shoot through the roof. It becomes so popular that most people will consider it the unofficial Austrian National Anthem. People outside of Austria will recognize "The Blue Danube" from the soundtrack to "2001: A Space Odyssey" as Dr. Heywood Floyd takes a space plane from the Earth to the space station and later landing on the Moon on his secret mission to view the Monolith. ([Click here to jump into the middle of the waltz.]) ...or... ([Click here for a live performance]).[10] [11] [12] [13]

In Other News

  • Marx publishes "Das Kapital," Volume 1. It covers the laws of capitalism, where money comes from and how socialism grows from there. It is the epitome of 19th century economic theory. (I wish it would have stayed in the 19th century.) [1] [14]
  • The reinforced concrete process is patented. A French gardener is tired of clay pots that crumble and break, so he reinforces concrete using iron mesh. Thus, reinforced concrete construction is born. [1] [15]
  • George Westinghouse invents the railway air brake. Yes. THAT Westinghouse. Currently, train brakemen hop from car to car to manually apply the brakes. After witnessing a train wreck, Westinghouse realizes that compressed air could be used to operate the brake mechanism. The same train wreck will change standards for passenger cars, making them out of iron rather than wood and securing heavy items inside. [1] [16] [17]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1867, Wikipedia.

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