Jeff’s Gallery: Wilhelm Voigt, the “Captain of Köpenick ”

Wilhelm Voigt, the “Captain of Köpenick ”

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Wilhelm Voigt, a perfect example that in the long run, crime pays. image from true-crime-story.de

As kids we all use to play pretend. We’d imagine ourselves as things as pirates, superheroes and cowboys. When we got older some of us continued as cosplay and LARP (live action role play) at conventions and other special events.  Lets not forget, of course, the crazy world of acting. Still, for some, the thrill of being a person you aren’t especially when it actually fools others into believing the whole thing was real! Such is the case on October 16, 1906 in the town of Köpenick , in the German Empire, just east of Berlin when a small company of soldiers invaded the town hall.

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Köpenick is now Treptow-Köpenick, borough of Berlin. image form en.wikipedia.org

Friedrich Wilhelm Voigt (I believe it is pronounced voy-get) was born on February 13, 1849 in the Kingdom of Prussia in the town of Tilsit, now Sovetsk in Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia. He was a shoemaker by trade but dabbled in burglary, theft and forgery throughout his life. He served a total of 25 years in prison; the longest sentence was for 15 years for a failed burglary. After he was released early in 1906 he became a hobo until he made it to Berlin where he lived with his sister. He tried to work legitimately but was expelled as an “undesirable” mainly just because he was an ex-convict. He officially left for Hamburg but continued to live in the city as an unregistered resident.

On October 16 of that year, Wilhelm Voigt made a costume of an army captain by buying different parts from various pawn shops and quit his job at a shoe factory. He went to a local army barracks and ordered four grenadiers and a sergeant to come with him. They also passed a shooting range and commandeered six more soldiers. Since the German Empire had such a strong militarist mind-state, the men followed him without a single question. “Captain” Voigt took his men to the town of  by Köpenick train, occupy the city hall, and to prevent all called from Berlin for one hour. He ordered the town mayor and treasurer to be arrested for “crocked bookkeeping” and confiscated over 4000 gold marks from the treasury. He told his troops to remain on guard for a half hour and went to the train station, changed back into civilian clothes and fled with the money.

However the newspapers and army soon did some investigation and found the truth of his little scheme. Wilhelm was captured and arrested ten days after the event for impersonating an officer, forgery and false arrest and was sentenced to four years in prison. Fortunately the public opinion was on his side and Kaiser Wilhelm II pardoned him on August 16 1908. It was rumored that the German Emperor found the hoax too amusing and was pleased on hearing how well the soldiers followed orders without question. After he was pardoned and made a fortune capitalizing the event.

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Wilhelm’s actual uniform and saber on display in Köpenick’s local museum. image from flickr.com

Wilhelm Voigt would tour all over Germany and the United States (he entered through Canada due to immigration authorities not granting him a visa) appearing at amusements parks, restaurants, variety shows and theaters in his army captain uniform retelling the event. He even  had a wax statue in London’s famous Madame Tussaud wax museum and wrote a book about his adventure. In 1910 he moved to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg . Here he  retired from touring and returned to shoe making.He was financially ruined due to the post WWI inflation but revived a pension from a wealthy widow. He died on January 3, 1922 and is buried among royalty in the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Luxembourg City. His grave even puts him as the Captain of Köpenick .

To think, a simple cobbler and petty crook could make a farce out of an entire world power and now rests with nobility. image from findagrave.com

Wilhelm Voigt continues to remain a folk hero in the town of Köpenick. His life and scheme has been made into a play in 1931 by the German writer Carl Zuckmayer and has also been made into a movie a number of times, usually with a bit of a catch-22 then added (no registered address-no job, no job-no registered address). The Köpenick city hall has the uniform on display and  honored with a statue at the entrance for the brilliant scoundrel and prankster who made a dummy out of the German Empire’s military lifestyle.

The Captain from Köpenick Poster

German poster for the 1956 version. I would like to see some of the these movies sometime. image form imdb.com

Jeff’s Gallery: “Lord” Timothy Dexter

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only known image of Lord Timothy Dexter, probably America’s luckiest idiot. from thevintagenews.com. Nice hat by the way

Some days we try hard to archive our goals but fail. Other days were trying hard and succeed. And sometimes we just wing it and hope Lady Luck is in a good mood and BAM! We hit the jackpot. However, as anyone who has spent a long time in Las Vegas would understand, we never know when or even if that will ever happen. After all, if we could control it, it won’t be “luck” after all. So how is it that a total bumpkin became one of the most successful businessmen in the early United States? I have no idea.

 

“Lord” Timothy Dexter was born in Malden, Massachusetts on January 22, 1748. He had very little schooling and worked as a farm laborer when he was eight years old and an apprentice leather-dresser at sixteen. In 1769, he moved to Newburyport and married a wealthy widow named Elizabeth Frothingham. He did not get along with the social elite of the time and they often gave bad business advice to discredit him and destroy his fortune.

 

Probably under the advice of others, Timothy imported items that were obviously worthless for the chosen area. He tried to sell warming pans (used to warm bed sheets in cold nights) and mittens to the West Indies but surprisingly made a profit off both as the ship captain sold off the pans as ladles for molasses and the mittens to Chinese merchants who sold then to Siberia. He also shipped coal to Newcastle upon Tyne, England, a major coal mining industry, just in time for a miners’ strike, Bibles to the non-Christian East Indies just before a religious revival erupted (one he may have helped start) and cats to the Caribbean, right before a major rat infestation broke out. He also hoarded whalebone (baleen) and ended up monopolizing the business. Whalebone was the plastic of its day used for anything from corsets to buggy whips. Say what you wish about the whaling industry today but keep in mind there was a need for material.  

A couple of classic warming pans. Fill them with hot coals, slip them under the bed and be cozy for the night. Image from invaluable.com

He became rich enough to buy a couple ships and  started a small export business of his own.  Dexter’s wealth took another surprising rise around the Revolutionary War, when he bought an enormous amount of then worthless Continental Currency. When the US won the war and he became one of the richest men in early America! Was it dumb luck or was he secretly a business genius?

 

However despite, or perhaps because, of his unexpected successes and probably also of his simple nature, high society rarely socialized with him. Instead he copied it to the point he was probably an unintended caricature of the upper class. He made friends with all kinds of local characters instead including a fortune teller and an amateur poet who Timothy had write bad poems about him.  He did all kinds of things to impersonate European nobility including giving himself the title “Lord” and bought a large lavish mansion which he overly decorated in the most tasteless fashion. It had a cupola with a golden eagle on the top, curtains that once belonged to a Queen of France, Muslim minarets, an empty mausoleum for himself (we will get to more of that later) and at least to forty statues in his garden of famous people. His collection including Adam and Eve, George Washington and other Founding Fathers, Napoleon, Louis XVI, William Pitt, “Motherly Love,” and even two of himself which had “I am the First in the East and First in the West,” and “I am the Greatest Philosopher in the Western World,”  inscribed on them. His statue collection alone probably cost more then he spent on the house. There was also his massive library he barely ever read.  Living in it was described as living in a brothel, maybe the spiritual forerunner of the Playboy Manson in a way. Expect long nights of heavy drinking, women and doing things you’re glad to not remember in the morning (but maybe secretly glad you did them!)

 

He also was said to have sent notice to Washington D.C. to make himself  king of America, or at lest Chester, New Hampshire. He was very upset to have been denied.

Unfortunately his relationship with his wife and children also started to wane. He told people that his wife died and the woman they met in the house was her ghost. His temper could be pretty nasty as well. Lord Dexter once even held a mock funeral at the mausoleum where 3,000 people showed up and served expensive alcohol. Even though his family was in on the joke, he beat his wife with a cane for not mourning enough. Another time he threatened a sculptor with his long rifle over if Thomas Jefferson was author of the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. The sculptor was right (Declaration of Independence) but was smart enough to not argue with his armed employer’s opinion anyway.  He was not much of a father apparently as his son was said to be a fat, lazy bully. Still he was said to be very charitable especially with friends and supporters.

some clips of Lord Dexter’s magnum opus. I keep imagining it sounding like I have marbles in my mouth when reading this. images from barnsandnoble.com, top-opinion.com and interstellar-superunkown.blogspot.com

When Timothy was about fifty, he wrote a book on philosophy entitled, “A Pickle for the Knowing Ones or Plain Truth in a Homespun Dress.” The book was known for having Horabl speLkin an RitEen as one sent ance wif rAndom KapiTLizaTonn. He first started handing them out for free but were in such high demand that it sold eight editions. Due to complaints of lack of punctuation he published another edition with a page with nothing but commas, periods, and other punctuation that the reader may “peper and solt as it as they plese.”

Lord Timothy Dexter died for real on October 23, 1806. Instead of his mausoleum he is buried in his family plot in the Old Hill Burying Ground of Newport. His house still stands but is still a privet residence and its famous stature garden has been destroyed storms. Rebuilding the collection would be an interesting project to increase tourism but may decrees the property value and be to expensive. Dexter’s book is still available to read online, if you can follow it.

I never studied architecture, but I do find these mansions fascinating; especially ones of the rich and overly creative. image from        ancestoryarchives.com

Jeff’s Gallery: Josiah Harlan

 

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The only known picture of the American Prince.

image from en.wikipedia.org

 

In 1888, the distinguished British author Rudyard Kipling wrote one of his greatest short stories: “The Man Who Would Be King,” about two British mercenaries who adventured into the unknown. As they push forth into then unexplored territory in Afghanistan for wealth and power, they find both but with disastrous results. The story is widely believed to be partially inspired by a daring American adventurer, Josiah Harlan, who was the first American in Afghanistan and Punjab with plans to build a kingdom of his own. He at least, lived to tell the tale long after his adventures, which is more than I can say for his fictional counterparts.

 

Josiah was born in Newlin Township, Pennsylvania in 1799 in a Quaker merchant family. He had nine siblings, one, Richard, would became a distinguished naturalist.  Josiah was described as being tall, muscular, handsome, intelligent, ambitious, brash and a little arrogant. When his mother died when he was thirteen, he devoted himself to reading. He could read Greek and Latin and could speak French. He also studied medicine, botany and ancient Greek and Roman history. He was especially interested in Alexander the Great.

 

In 1820, Josiah started his adventures working on a supercargo to India and then China and back. During his second voyage he decided to stay in India when he learned his fiancee broke off their marriage. He joined the British East India Company and served as a surgeon, although he had no formal training, in the First Anglo-Burmese War. He also served in an artillery battalion. Josiah came to greatly admire the Sepoy (Indian Natives) soldiers in the British Force. He also was at the Battle of Prome, where a force of 5,000 British and Indians defeated 13,000 in fierce hand-to-hand combat.  He was posted in Karnal near Delhi after the hostilities and became fluent in local languages but resigned shortly and made tracks to Afghanistan. At that time Afghanistan was seen as a land of mystery and adventure, with medieval, tribal chieftains battling each other for supremacy; literally brother against brother, son against father. A real land of opportunity for certain people, like daring Josiah Harlan.

 

Harlan soon came under the employment of Shah Shujah Durrani, the exiled ruler of the Durrani Empire, now mainly the countries of  Afghanistan and Pakistan, who was living in Ludhiana Punjab at the time. Josiah had heard that the former king was still incredibly wealthy and looking for help returning to power. The American was disturbed by the amount of slaves and courtiers missing parts of their body due to displeasing their master. Shujah once even had his head slave castrated for not securing a tent on a windy day. Still Harlan did succeed in getting hired by the exiled king and in 1827 raised a small force of Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh mercenaries. He even had an American flag locally made for the adventure. With Shujah’s support, Josiah crossed the Indus River and entered Afghanistan to help bring the former shan (king) back to power. Unfortunately his mercenary army was more interested in loot and plunder and soon mutinied but he escaped by disguising himself as a dervish (holy man/mystic). Despite not knowing much Arabic, his little trick worked and he made it to the capital city of Afghanistan, Kabul. There he met the man who he was hired to overthrow, Dost Mohammad Khan, founder of the Barakzai dynasty.

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Shah Shujah Durrani on the left; Dost Mohammad Khan on the right. Two rivals who employed the same man. images from royalark.net and commons.wikipedia.

Harlan however discovered he greatly admired his foe. Dost Mohammad welcomed him warmly and was treated like an honored guest. Josiah found his host to be a fair and just ruler, a polite gentleman, and a brave warrior as well as very intelligent and modest; taking the title Emir (prince) instead of Shah. The American at first believed the then common idea that western civilization was superior, but his visit to this great monarch soon changed his mind. When Dost Mohammad asked Josiah how the American government worked he told him about the separation of power between the President, Congress and the Supreme Court. The Emir responded that it was similar to the Afghans’ with him, the tribal chiefs and the clergy who also served as judges. However, despite his many noble virtues Dost Mohammad did indulge in a number of vices that Quaker raised Harlan did find repulsive. The Emir was a real “playa” as we would  say in today’s terms as he had 16 to 25 wives, depending on the source, at the time of his death and fathered more than twice as many children. He would bring prostitutes to court and a was a heavy drinker despite being Muslim. His court was described as “wild, voluptuous, licentious scene of shameless bacchanals.” Harlan eventually decided that Dost Mohammad’s position as ruler was too strong for Shah Shujah to overthrow without western influence and made tracks for Punjab.

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Maharaja Ramjit Singh and the empire he founded. It fell in 1849, only ten years after his death. map from en. wikipedia.net portrait from sikhanswers.com

Josiah soon came to the capital of Punjab, Lahore. Here he became one of a number of American and European mercenary generals for the Maharaja and founder of Sikh Empire, Ranjit Singh. However the Maharaja  was wary of Great Britain and  may have, understandably, been suspicious of the American due to him being a former member of the East Indian Trading Company and spoke English as a first language. For all he knew Josiah could have been a spy seeking a way to undermine his empire that he worked hard to create, like the other kingdoms on the subcontinent that became the “Jewel of the British Empire.” However Ranjet was also a hypochondriac and Harlan’s claims as a “professional” doctor may have helped win him over. He did make the wandering adventurer governor of the newly conquered regions of Nurpur and Jasrota in 1829 and later of the Gujrat District in 1832, with a handsome pay to go with it. Records of Josiah’s administration there are sketchy but he seemed to have at least done well as he was threatened to have his nose cut off if he failed and apparently kept his sniffer attached. His new master was apparently a combination of both his previous employers. However he had a fall out with the Maharaja and returned to Afghanistan to build an army for his old enemy turned friend Dost Mohammad in 1836.

Map of Afghanistan with Ghor highlighted

Ghor providence (modern times)

map from en.wikipedia.org

In 1838 Harlan led an expedition, with a small army of 4,000, to punish the Uzbek slave traders, and expand Dost Mohammad control. As well as that he took a war elephant to imitate his hero Alexander the Great, and like the Greek conquer he sent the elephant back as it was unsuited for snowy mountains. When he made it up the Hindu Kush mountains he held a flag raising ceremony with the American flag and a twenty six gun salute. He eventually made it past the Indian Caucasus and into Afghanistan. With his army reinforced by Hazara locals, who lived in fear of the slavers, he made short work with the siege of the Citadel of Saigham. He was then invited to stay ten days with a local Hazara ruler, Mohammad Reffee Beg Hazara of Ghor province. Josiah was impressed with the Hazara’s culture, especially the people’s gender equality and absence of slavery. Eventually Josiah and Reffee agreed to give the American and his descendants the position of “the Prince of Ghor” and Reffee Beg Hazara would be his vizier. In return, Josiah would raise and train an army to help make the Ghor stronger and more self-sufficient. But first Josiah had to take care of the slaver’s leader Mohammad Murad Beg. The warlord tried to threaten Harlan with his only cannon but eventually agreed to submit under Dost Mohammad.

 

Unfortunately when Josiah Harlan returned to Kabul, the First Anglo-Afghan War started and the British Army occupied the city. Josiah was not an admirer of the British, despite serving under them earlier, and traveled to Russia. He eventually made it home to the US where he was greeted as a hero. However his popularity soon declined when he published his autobiography, A Memoir of India and Afghanistan, where he criticized Great Britain’s imperial system. He also stated that the Russian Empire could be a great help to destroying it. He got married to a fellow Quaker, Elizabeth Baker and started a family. He also caused a minor scandal in the denomination’s community due to his adventures and the Society of Friends’ pacifist ideals.

Twice he tried to convince the American Government to invest in Afghanistan, maybe an attempt to return to his kingdom. First in camels for the military (a project that the US government would eventually try, without the American Prince’s involvement) and then in Afghan grapes. His plans came to an end when the Civil War broke out. Still it gave him one last hurrah. Always a hater of slavery, Josiah raised a volunteer cavalry regiment but was not used to dealing with the western style of command. The 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry (Harlan’s Light Raiders) ran into problems as its commanding officer was used to running things as an Indian Prince. Colonel Harlan was soon court marshaled. He won but left anyway due to poor health. The former Prince of Ghor would only know of the war’s action through his nephew still serving. His regiment would fight in a number of battles, even have a winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor, without him to lead them to glory. Josiah moved to San Francisco where he worked as an unlicensed doctor until his death in October 1871 of tuberculosis.

Josiah Harlan, first American in Afghanistan, still remains an almost unknown character in both his home country and the land he grew to love. He has, however, started to gain more notoriety. He appears in George MacDonald Fraser’s “Flashman and the Mountain of Light.” The Flashman series is known for having the main character meet a number of historical figures in his misadventures. Scott Reiniger, the star of 1978’s Dawn of the Dead is a direct descendant and even has started using the title, “Prince of Ghor,” though this has not given him any more major roles in his career. I strongly suggest reading Ben Macintyre’s biography of the same title of the story. It is also published as Josiah the Great in Macintyre’s native Briton. Nonetheless Josiah Harlan does not have a big name movie about his thrilling life. Kipling’s “The Man Who Would Be King” became an award nominated hit film in 1975, starring Sean Connery, Michael Caine, Saeed Jaffrey, and Christopher Plummer. Hollywood, get to work on it!

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Sean Connery and Michael Caine both see this movie as one of their favorites.

image from gacinema.wordpress.com

Feathered Friends: A SIDE by SIDE Community Workshop at SEEDs for Autism

At SEEDs for Autism, our ongoing series of workshops provide new opportunities to empower our participants and encourage them to GROW. These talented young adults gain confidence interacting with the community as they assist our staff during these educational and inspirational events. We hope you will join us this Saturday to explore your creativity, make new friends and be part of this life-changing experience!

Click HERE to purchase tickets and reserve your spot today!

 

 

Jeff’s Gallery: Lieutenant Colonel “Mad” Jack Churchill

Image result for mad jack churchill image from en.wikipedia.org

Jolly old England has always been a place of some tough fighting men. This one who stuck out was John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill, or just “Fighting Jack or Mad Jack,” who served honorably in WWII using a longbow and a broadsword like in the Middle Ages and survived.

Mad Jack was born in Hong Kong in 1906, but his family moved constantly from there to Surrey, England until settling down for good in 1917. His father and grandfather both served in the Ceylon Civil Service. (Ceylon is now known as Sri Lanka, just by the tip of India) Jack went to King William’s College in the Isle of Man and then to Royal Military College in Sandhurst. He graduated in 1926 and entered the army that year and served in the Burma Rebellion of 1930-32. He became a lover of motorcycles around this time and is said to ride his 1,500 miles in India, from Rangoon to Poona then to Calcutta to catch a boat back to Rangoon, on paved and unpaved roads. He also developed his strange eccentricities and disregard for certain modern military behavior at that time, like intently studying the wrong campaigns for a promotion exam or using non regulation equipment, probably due to boredom in a peacetime army. He even got in trouble for bringing an umbrella on parade. His reasoning, “because it was raining.” He was also a skilled archer and bagpiper, despite not being Scottish. He won second place in a piping competition in the annual Aldershot Military Tattoo (performance) in 1938 and represented Great Britain in 1939 World Archery Championships.

In 1936 he left the military and moved to Nairobi, Kenya and made a living as a male model and newspaper editor.

 

In 1940, World War II reared it’s ugly head and Jack was called back to action as a member of the British Expeditionary Force to France. During this time he fought with his now trademark  basket hilt Scottish broadsword and longbow. He signaled an ambush one time by shooting a German sergeant with a barbed arrow, the first British soldier to do so in 500 years. Sometimes he even played the bagpipes in combat. Some favorite songs were “March of the Cameron Men”and “ Will ye no come back again?”  Later he joined the British Commandos, and fought bravely in a number of campaigns across Europe. Once he and a corporal captured 42 enemy soldiers single handed.

 

For all his defiance of danger, it eventually caught up with him, however. In 1944 a grenade knocked him unconscious and Fighting Jack was captured by the Germans. Due to his name he was mistaken for Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s brother and taken to Berlin for interrogation and sent to infamous Sachsenhausen concentration camp! With the help of a few survivors of the famous  breakout from Stalag Luft III, Jack made a “Great Escape” of his own and attempted to make it to the Baltic Coast. They made it to the city of Rostock but were recaptured and were among those in transport to Tyrol. This notorious event during the near end of the War in Europe was an attempt to execute high profit prisoners by the SS! Luckily, soldiers from the Wehrmacht (regular German armed forces) protected the prisoners. While most of the prisoners waited for Allied forces near the Pragser Wildsee lake, Mad Jack walked 93 miles to an American encampment in Verona, Italy.

 

Later he returned to his old stomping ground and served back in Burma. However the war was soon over when the United States dropped the atomic bombs in Japan. Jack, apparently enjoying the war complained, “If it weren’t for those damned Yanks, we could have kept the war going for another ten years.” Still there was more adventure for him in the British Mandate of Palestine and he served in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. He helped cover fire in the Hadassah Medical Convoy Massacre against the Arabs and later escorted 700 doctors, students, and patients on the Hebrew University to safety.

Fighting Jack became an instructor of land-air warfare in Australia later in life and became a devotee of surfing. He also used his skills in archery and bag-piping as an extra in several movies before and after the war. He retired from service in 1959 and returned to England and took up a desk job. He remained a notable eccentric, throwing his briefcase off the train on his way home to work and startling others. The British soldier whose motto was: “Any officer who goes into action without his sword is improperly dressed,” died in 1996 in the land of his childhood, Surry. For his service he won two Distinguished Service Orders and two Military Crosses (for those not familiar with the British Honers System that what the bar on the medals is for).

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images from discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au and emedals.com

And to answer one last question, no, Mad Jack was not Winston Churchill’s brother or relative, at least not directly, though the Prime Minister did have a brother Jack who was a decorated officer in his own right.

Image result for scottish broadsword jack churchill image from hobbybunker.com

Jeff’s Gallery: Rube Goldberg

 

 

rube picture from thereformedbroker.com

 

Ok folks here’s how it goes: When you lift spoon (A) you pull string (B) makes ladle(C) fling cracker (D) over parrot (E). Parrot flies off perch (F) dropping seeds (G) into bucket  (H) weight pulls another string (I) opening lighter (J) lighting firework (K) using sickle (L) to cut yet another string (M) freeing clock pendulum with napkin on end napkin to wipe your mouth. You can also put a harmonica on the end latter and play music for the guest. This patent automatic self-wiping napkin was “invented” in 1931 by Rube Goldberg, one of America’s most talented and successful cartoonist.

 

Born in San Francisco on the Fourth of July in 1883 to Max and Hannah Goldberg, Reuben Garrett Lucius Goldberg, the second of four children, loved drawing and the newspapers business. He was a paper delivery boy in his boyhood and would copy pictures from book illustrations. He took his first drawing class at age 11. However his father was a police and fire commissioner who had high hopes for his kids and didn’t want Rube to be a starving artist for a living and sent him to the University of California, Berkeley. Rube graduated in 1904 with a degree in engineering and got a job at the San Francisco Water and Sewage Department. The pay was good for that time but Rube left after six months. He then got a job as a sports cartoonist and started to become a local celebrity. Soon he moved to New York in 1907 where he continued his career at the McClure Newspaper Syndicate in the “New York Evening Mail.”

 

Although it took a while to for him to make it big, Rube soon created over sixty different comic series, some only lasted a few years while others lasted for at least twenty. His first big hit was “Foolish Questions” in 1909 (Q:Doctor, are you listening for his heart? A:No, he swallowed a gramophone and I’m trying to find it) where fans could even send in their own questions and answers. Rube even created a card game based of strip. Other great works included good-natured  simpleton“Boob McNutt,” word wizardry and zingers with “Mike and Ike, They Look Alike” and “I’m the Guy” and daffy dame “Lala Palooza” with her lazy brother Vince Doolittle. Rube also drew political cartoons; winning a Pulitzer for his “Peace Today” strip in 1948 seen below, company advertisements; even a newspaper comic strip just for advertising Pepsi sodas, “Pepsi and Pete: the Pepsi-Cola Cops,” and for a short time created a silent cartoon series for Pathé, an early animation studio from France. The cartoons sold well but Rube Goldberg left the animation business soon because he drew everything by himself and that and his newspaper comic career was taking too much of his time. Rube also wrote and created props for “Soup to Nuts” the first appearance of the Three Stooges and wrote a number of articles and short stories for magazines.

 

Image result for rube goldberg peace today image from pinterest.com

 

Goldberg’s main claim to fame, however, were his “Inventions,” long whimsical contraptions using all kinds of junk put together for “labor saving” methods for simple problems.  Rube used a character by the name of   Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts, inspired by some of his eccentric professors back at the University of California as the “brilliant” inventer. Rube created things for hiding gravy stains on vests and cutting bread for sandwiches to ways for failed stock market investors to commit suicide and a self opening umbrella. Although not always meant to be political, Rube did make fun of bureaucrats, political debates and the government so much that around WWII he told his sons, Thomas and George to change their last name for protection. George W. Goldberg changed it to George W. George and became a famous theater and movie producer. Rube was also a founding member and first president of the National Cartoonist Society and designed it’s highest award, the Reuben.

 

Image result for the reuben award image from tomrichmond.com

 

In 1964, Rube Goldberg made a shocking move in his career, he left drawing comics. Following in the footsteps of his hero the French painter and print maker, Honoré Daumier,  Rube decided to start a career as a sculptor. Liking the idea of giving his drawing a 3-D  feel, he took just one class on sculptures and in a year he had his first show that was a sellout. Although Goldberg stopped drawing comics, he never left the world of them. He helped found the National Cartoonists Society and was its honorary president. In 1967 he used his new skills with his old and designed the Reuben, the Society’s highest award and was its first recipient. In 1970 the old artist-inventor attended a special exhibition at the National Museum of History and Technology at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. called “Do it the Hard Way,” showing his life of work and laughs. Later that year on December 7 he died.

 

Rube’s, um, “simple” machines and inventions remain a part of today’s culture in comedy and technology. In 1995 his self opening napkin, the one I showed you  above, was in the Post Office’s “American Newspaper Comics” series of stamps. His own name, Rube Goldberg is now in “Webster’s New Word Dictionary” as a complicated device with numerous task to complete simple objectives. Rube Goldberg’s have appeared in cartoon and films from “Loony Toons” and “Tom and Jerry” to “Home Alone” and even the “Saw” franchise. There have been Rube Goldberg contest at schools across the country. You most likely have worked on one yourself now that I mention it. Did you ever play the game “Mousetrap?” Yep, that a Rube Goldberg. There is even a Rube Goldberg app game created by Unity Technologies with the Heirs of Rube Goldberg where you can build inventions from the comics. You can also check out the official website for more comics and info here at https://www.rubegoldberg.com/. It may be worth mentioning a similar cartoonist in Great Britain, W. Heath Robinson, quite a contributor to crazy contraption in his own right.

 

The Art of Rube Goldberg: (A) Inventive (B) Cartoon (C) Genius, picture from comics bulletin.com

Jeff’s Odd Destinations: Valley of the Moon

Valley of the Moon

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image from yelp.org

First order of business, I have an important announcement to make. After much thought I have decided that “Jeff’s Eccentric People, Places and Things,” has to awkward a title. While I am pleased with how my work is coming out I decided to go with a different name. While “Eccentric Person of the Month,”  and “Unusual Place of the Month,” my old titles from the Seeds’ Newsletter have been suggested  I decided on “Jeff’s Odd Destinations” and “Jeff’s Gallery”

Now for a very special trip today, I take you on a very mysterious journey to a land of wonder and imagination. To Tucson Arizona’s mystic and mysterious Valley of the Moon. For over eighty years this strange land has enchanted children of all ages. Its story begins with the coming of the Mountain Gnome, George Phar Legler. Born in Evansville, Indiana somewhere between 1884 and 1887, George was a former post office clerk who was forced into an early retirement due to an automobile accident. He was also a spiritualist and believer in fairies. He moved to Arizona around 1917 and bought the 2.25 acres that soon became his life’s work. Nearby lived a clergyman whose teenage daughter was dying of tuberculosis. George created a little mountain scene with a waterfall and a bathtub lake just outside her window. She could leave her room and explore the serene landscape with her imagination. When she died George comforted her mother by telling her she had moved to the spirit world where she would live forever now. He found his life calling and expanded on the small landscape and started building the Valley in 1923.

 

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image from tucsonvalleyofthemoon.com

 

With the help of friends, family and locals George Legler constructed his “secret” fairyland and wild animal sanctuary, opening up officially in 1926 and full of homemade rock decorations, buildings and sculptures of wonder opening to the public . George lived on the property giving tours, telling stories and performing magic tricks as the Mountain Gnome. During the Valley’s original run it did not allow boys in-between the ages of 12 to 21 as visitors in because George thought that they would upset the fairies for not believing or being imaginative for the “magic” to work. The Valley was open until 1963. George would live by himself in his now abandoned fairyland until 1971, when he got an unexpected surprise visit from a group of High Schoolers. While the park never officially closed, visitors were coming less and less. The Valley was falling into disrepair due to vandals and George’s health was failing due to his age.

 

The boys apparently thought they all shared the same dream of a friendly gnome. Apparently they decided it was no dream and went on a quest to find an almost forgotten part of their childhood, climbed over the fence and rediscovered the Valley. While George at first thought they were vandals, the Mountain Gnome gave them an over two hour tour and told them that they were welcome back any time. The boys later formed the Valley of the Moon Restoration Association (VOMRA) now called the George Phar Legler Society (GPLS). The Valley of the Moon was listed on the Arizona Historic Places Register in 1975 and George was awarded the Tucson Outstanding Citizen Award a year before he died in 1982 around age 95. It is also an official National register of Historic Places under Pima County in 2011 and a Historic Landmark for the city as of 2016. The Valley is now owned mainly by the GPLS and partly by the Boy and Girl Scouts of America.

image from http://tucsonsbirthday.blogspot.com

Now, I have never been to the Valley of the Moon (yet) so I can only judge from what I have read and studied but the park contains a large number of statues and buildings made from scraps of old toys, and junk George found and put together. This includes the Wizard’s Tower, a bridge, a cave, a homemade pond and an artificial flower garden. In 2008 a number of sculptures were added from closed down mini golf course named Magic Carpet Golf now a car dealership. A house that a friend of George Legler helped build in the Valley became a storage room for props and costumes stood on the site but burned down not too long ago. Today the park is kept by members of the GPLS and volunteers. I don’t know if it is still an animal sanctum however.

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image from flicker.com

 

The Valley of the Moon is open on the first Saturday of every month for free and paid for visits are on special occasions and holidays. As well, exploring the Fairyland of the Desert shows are performed by members of the GPLS, many with the audience participating. You can find more information about the Valley of the Moon, George Legler, and helping to keep the wonder and magic alive at the website www.tucsonvalleyofthemoon.com. The Valley is at 2544 E. Allen Rd. Tucson AZ and can be contacted at 520-323-1331 and valleymoon1@yahoo.com.