Category: History
John Malmin | Darkness Falls in Watts
The Watts Riots by John Malmin, Los Angeles Times August 13, 1965

The Watts Riots by John Malmin, Los Angeles Times August 13, 1965

From the Los Angeles Times:

Aug. 13, 1965: National Guard troops secure a stretch of 103rd Street, dubbed Charcoal Alley, in Watts to help Los Angeles authorities restore order. The riots, sparked by the arrest of a black motorist for drunk driving, lasted for six days. After the violence, 34 people, 25 of them black, were dead and more than 1,000 were injured.

Bob Hipolito, the guardsman on the left, later tells The Times, “I was at the tail end of our infantry company, and that guy [Times photographer John Malmin] came up with an entourage of officers. He snapped a picture, and it flashed. Flashes weren’t what they wanted to have for fear they’d be shot at.”

Hipolito continued: “I saw that picture years ago, and thought, ‘Gee, it looks familiar.’ And then I saw the photographer’s obituary that said where it was taken. So I asked my wife if that looks like me, and she said, ‘Yeah, that’s your posture.’ It was taken on Friday the 13th, probably at 11:30 or 12 at night.”


George Washington | One Bad Ass Motherfucker

In David McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize winning 1776, he writes of the astonishing physical prowess of our first president, something that was never mentioned to me during those sleepy afternoons in the fourth grade. At 6′ 2″ and 190 lbs (the average height of a man in this era was 5’9″), people at the time wrote of his imposing physical stature and commanding presence.

Stories were told of extraordinary feats of strength — how, for example, Washington had thrown a stone from the bed of a stream to the top of Virginia’s famous Natural Bridge, a height of 215 feet. The Philadelphia artist Charles Wilson Peale, who had been a guest at Mount Vernon in 1772, while painting Washington’s portrait, described how he and several other young men were on the lawn throwing an iron bar for sport, when Washington appeared and, without bothering to remove his coat, took a turn, throwing it ‘far, very far beyond our utmost limit.’

-David McCullough, 1776

George Washington rode up and down the column urging his men forward. Suddenly the general’s horse slipped and started to fall on a steep and icy slope. “While passing a Slanting Slippery bank,” Lieutenant Bostwick remembered, “his excellency’s horse[‘s] hind feet both slip’d from under him.” The animal began to go down. Elisha Bostwick watched in fascination as Washington locked his fingers in the animal’s mane and hauled up its heavy head by brute force. He shifted its balance backward just enough to allow the horse to regain its hind footing on the treacherous road. Bostwick wrote that the general “seiz’d his horses Mane and the Horse recovered.” It was an extraordinary feat of strength, skill and timing; and another reason why his soldiers stood in awe of this man.

-David Hakett Fischer, Washington’s Crossing

Earliest portrait of Washington, painted in 1772 by Charles Willson Peale

Earliest portrait of Washington, painted in 1772 by Charles Willson Peale, shows Washington


David McCullough | The Johnstown Flood

A locomotive whistle was a matter of some personal importance to a railroad engineer. It was tuned and worked (even “played”) according to his own particular choosing. The whistle was part of the make-up of the man; he was known for it as much as he was known for the engine he drove. And aside from its utilitarian functions, it could also be an instrument of no little amusement. Many an engineer could get a simple tune out of his whistle, and for those less musical it could be used to aggravate a cranky preacher in the middle of his Sunday sermon or to signal hello through the night to a wife or lady friend. But there was no horseplay about tying down the chord. A locomotive whistle going without letup meant one thing on the railroad. It meant there was something very wrong.

The whistle of John Hess’s engine had been going now for maybe five minutes at most. It was not on long but it was the only warning anyone was to hear and nearly everyone in East Conemaugh heard it and understood instantly what it meant.

-David McCullough, The Johnstown Flood

The aftermath of the Johnstown flood of 1889 © the Johnstown Area Heritage Association
The aftermath of the Johnstown flood of 1889 © the Johnstown Area Heritage Association

He saw the whole Mussante family sailing by on what appeared to be a barn door. Mussante was a fruit dealer on Washington Street, a small, dark Italian with a dropping mustache, who had been in Johnstown now perhaps three years. He had had a pushcart at first, then opened the little place not far from the Heiser store. Victor knew him well and his wife and two children. Now there they were speeding by with a Saratoga trunk open beside them, and every one of them busy packing things into it. And then a mass of wreckage heaved up out of the water and crushed them.

But he had no time to think more about them or anything else. He was heading for a mound of wreckage lodged between the Methodist Church and a three-story brick building on the other side of where Locust Street had been. The next thing he knew he was part of the jam. His roof had catapulted in amongst it, and there, as trees and beams shot up on one side or crashed down on the other, he went leaping back and forth, ducking and dodging, trying desperately to keep his footing, while more and more debris kept booming into the jam.

-David McCullough, The Johnstown Flood

Main Street, Johnstown, after the flood. Andrews, E. Benjamin, History of the United States

Main Street, Johnstown, after the flood. Andrews, E. Benjamin, History of the United States

Weak and shivering with cold, she lay down on the mattress, realizing for the first time that all her clothes had been torn off except for her underwear. Night was coming on and she was terribly frightened. She started praying in German, which was the only way she had been taught to pray.

A small white house went sailing by, almost running her down. She called out to the one man who was riding on top, straddling the peak of the roof and hugging the chimney with both arms. But he ignored her, or perhaps never heard her, and passed right by.

‘You terrible man,’ she shouted after him. ‘I’ll never help you.’

-David McCullough, The Johnstown Flood

"The Debris above the Pennsylvania Railroad Bridge" from "History of the Johnstown Flood", by Willis Fletcher Johnson, 1889

"The Debris above the Pennsylvania Railroad Bridge" from "History of the Johnstown Flood", by Willis Fletcher Johnson, 1889

Buy the book now.


Utagawa Kuniyoshi | Battle at Gojo Bridge

There is an amazing show of Utagawa Kuniyoshi’s woodblock prints at the Japan Society on East 47th St. Go now, as the show closes June 13th.

One of my favorites from the the collection:

 

Ushiwaka and Benkei fighting on Gojo bridge, published c.1839 by by Utagawa Kuniyoshi from the Arthur R. Miller Collection

Ushiwaka and Benkei fighting on Gojo bridge, published c.1839 by by Utagawa Kuniyoshi from the Arthur R. Miller Collection

 

The legendary warrior monk Saitō Musashibō Benkei dedicated himself to collecting 1,000 weapons for the Buddha by challenging every swordsman crossing the Gojo Bridge in Kyoto. On his thousandth duel, he fought Minamoto no Yoshitsune then only in his teens. Yoshitsune, who was called Ushiwaka in his youth, defeated Benkei, making him his vassal, and the old monk became the devoted servant of Ushiwaka.

The two became warriors of legend until Benkei’s death at the siege of Koromogawa, where he died standing on the bridge to the castle protecting Yoshitsune as the latter committed suicide inside. Benkei was so renowned and had killed so many men that day, that the soldiers dared not cross the bridge to challenge him. It was only until his body fell over that they realized that he had been dead for some time.


Washington, DC | Lincoln Memorial

Offutt talked big about Lincoln as a wrestler and Bill Clary, who ran a saloon 30 steps north of the Offutt store, bet Offutt $10 that Lincoln couldn’t throw Jack Armstrong, the Clary’s Grove champion. Sports from miles around came to a level square next to Offutt’s store to see the match; bets of money, knives, trinkets, tobacco, drinks, were put up. Armstrong, short and powerful, aimed from the first to get in close to his man and use his thick muscular strength. Lincoln held him off with long arms, wore down his strength, got him out of breath, surprised and “rattled.” They pawed and clutched in many holds and twists till Lincoln threw Armstrong and had both shoulders to the grass. Armstrong’s gang started toward Lincoln with cries and threats. Lincoln stepped to the Offutt store wall, braced himself, and told the gang he would fight, race or wrestle any who wanted to try him. Then Jack Armstrong broke through the gang, shook Lincoln’s hand, told them Lincoln was “fair,” and, “the best feller that ever broke into this settlement.”

-Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln – The Prairie Years

Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC; Leica M6 TTL .58, 35mm summicron, Agfa APX 400 © Doug Kim

Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC; Leica M6 TTL .58, 35mm summicron, Agfa APX 400 © Doug Kim


Josef Koudelka | Prague Spring

Josef Koudelka told Sean O’Hagan of the Guardian that it was a year after the Soviet invasion of Prague when he was in London traveling with a theater group, that he first saw his images published. He had come out of the hotel and some members of the group were looking at his photos in The Sunday Times, credited to the initials P.P. (Prague Photographer), a pseudonym he used out of fear of reprisal.

They showed me the magazine where it said that these pictures had been taken by an unknown photographer from Prague and smuggled out of the country. I could not tell anyone that they were my photographs. It was a very strange feeling. From that moment, I was afraid to go back to Czechoslovakia because I knew that if they wanted to find out who the unknown photographer was, they could do it.

Thus began one of the most important and prolific photographic careers in the last fifty years and a period of freedom and wandering for Koudelka who said that “for 17 years I never paid any rent.”

Koudelka turned to photography in 1967, abandoning a career in aeronautical engineering. He started shooting gypsies and theater groups, until the night of August 21st a year later when the Soviets invaded Prague. He had never documented a major event before. He took to the streets to capture this singular and historic moment. In that seven day period, Koudelka took over 5,000 photographs on the streets of Prague, getting shot at once and being pursued through crowds by soldiers. He was 30 years old.

The photos anonymously reached Magnum Photos in New York and later earned him the Robert Capa award.

The mother of my son, an Italian lady, she once told me, ‘Josef, you go though life and get all this positive energy, and all the sadness, you just throw it behind you and it drops into the bag you carry on your back. Then, when you photograph, it all comes out.’

-Josef Koudelka

You know, people say, ‘Oh, Josef, he is the eternal outsider,’ but on the contrary I try always to be an insider, both as a photographer and as a man. I am part of everything that is around me.

-Josef Koudelka

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—Invading Warsaw Pact troops in front of the radio headquarters, August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—Invading Warsaw Pact troops in front of the radio headquarters, August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—Warsaw Pact tanks invade Prague, Aug. 21, 1968.

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—Warsaw Pact tanks invade Prague, Aug. 21, 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—The invasion by Warsaw Pact troops, August 1968.

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—The invasion by Warsaw Pact troops, August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—Near the radio headquarters, Aug. 21, 1968.  © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—Near the radio headquarters, Aug. 21, 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—The invasion by Warsaw Pact troops, August 1968.  © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—The invasion by Warsaw Pact troops, August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—The invasion by Warsaw Pact troops, August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—The invasion by Warsaw Pact troops, August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—The invasion by Warsaw Pact troops, August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—The invasion by Warsaw Pact troops, August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—In front of the radio headquarters, August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—In front of the radio headquarters, August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—Warsaw Pact tanks invade Prague, August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—Warsaw Pact tanks invade Prague, August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—Near the radio headquarters, August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—Near the radio headquarters, August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—Warsaw Pact tanks invade Prague, August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—Warsaw Pact tanks invade Prague, August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—The body of a young Czech, killed for having tried to drape his flag over a Russian tank, August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—The body of a young Czech, killed for having tried to drape his flag over a Russian tank, August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—A poster in a window with a dove stabbed through the middle, August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—A poster in a window with a dove stabbed through the middle, August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—The Czechoslovakian flag, August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—The Czechoslovakian flag, August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—Near the radio headquarters, August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—Near the radio headquarters, August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—Vinohradska Avenue, August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—Vinohradska Avenue, August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia—August 1968. © Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos


Mad Men | Penn Station

This past Sunday, “Mad Men” (Season 3 Episode 2) referenced the venerable architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable when Paul Kinsey and Pete Campbell were meeting with the developers of Madison Square Garden, discussing plans to knock down Penn Station.

It quotes Ms. Huxtable’s article in the New York Times from 1963 about Penn Station, called “How to Kill a City”. The New York Times has offered the full article in PDF to download and read here.

A eulogy in October of ’63 ran in the editorial section:

Any city gets what it admires, will pay for, and, ultimately, deserves. Even when we had Penn Station, we couldn’t afford to keep it clean. We want and deserve tin-can architecture in a tinhorn culture. And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed.

– “Farewell to Penn Station,” New York Times, Oct 30, 1963

Comparing the old to the new, Vincent Scully of Yale University remarked,

One entered the city like a god. One scuttles in now like a rat.

The original Penn Station was a steel and glass shrine to transportation, an elegant Beaux-Arts temple with its 150 foot high ceilings and a waiting room modeled after the Roman Baths of Caracalla.

Now it is an underground Habitrail™, lit by yellowed fluorescents and flavored by the odors of Roy Rogers™ and Cinnabon™ stinking down the corridors. Excepting the mad scurry for Amtrak platforms after the track number has finally been revealed on the big board, it is an oppressive space completely without joy.

photographer unknown

photographer unknown

Couple in Penn Station Sharing Farewell Kiss Before He Ships Off to War During WWII by Alfred Eisenstaedt

Couple in Penn Station Sharing Farewell Kiss Before He Ships Off to War During WWII by Alfred Eisenstaedt

Life Magazine has posted an entire series by Eisenstaedt of WWII soldiers’ farewells at Penn Station here.

Penn Station, circa 1910, Detroit Publishing Company

Circa 1910, Detroit Publishing Company; click to view the full size image

photographer unknown

Berenice Abbott, printed ca. 1935

AP Photo/Matty Zimmerman

AP Photo/Matty Zimmerman

photograph by Peter Moore

Peter Moore; click to view full size

Peter Moore and his wife Barbara documented the death of Penn Station and published their work, The Destruction Of Penn Station.

photographer unknown

today

The only consolation is that Penn Station’s demolition was a large factor in the creation of the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1965.


Stonewall Jackson

Stonewall Jackson, one of the great and almost mythical military genius’ of the Civil War, was mistakenly shot by his own men on the night of May 2, 1863 at the The Battle of Chancellorsville.

Dr. McGuire, present at his deathbed, captured Jackson’s last words:

A few moments before he died he cried out in his delirium, “Order A.P. Hill to prepare for action! Pass the infantry to the front rapidly! Tell Major Hawks”—then stopped, leaving the sentence unfinished. Presently a smile of ineffable sweetness spread itself over his pale face, and he said quietly, and with an expression, as if of relief, “Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.”

stonewall_jackson

Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson


George S. Patton

Though it is worthy of complaint that Patton is too often quoted, I still enjoy his ostentatious style and absolute mastery of logistics. Here are some favorites:

“Audacity, audacity, always audacity.”

“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”

“A piece of spaghetti or a military unit can only be led from the front end.”

“All very successful commanders are prima donnas and must be so treated.”

“I don’t measure a man’s success by how high he climbs but how high he bounces when he hits bottom.”

“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”

“The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.”

“Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.”

On instructions to reconnaissance troops, “Just drive down the road, until you get blown up.”

Patton in WWI

Patton in WWI