Pyramid of captured German helmets in front of the NYC Grand Central Terminal, 1918.
The image is from the Smithsonian’s Grand Central Terminal Collection. I thought it was germaine, on the aniversary of the U.S. entering WWI.
19th century North African snaphaunce musket mounted with bone panels polished to look like ivory, as well as turquoise, red coral, and silver.
Nikita Khrushchev and the Great Soviet Corn Project,
In almost all Communist countries a new leader’s first political move is to institute a revolutionary new program to help further his goals for the nation. For Stalin it was a program of collectivization and modernization, while Mao’s Great Leap Forward was an attempt to rapidly industrialize China, and for Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, his bets were hedged on corn.
Ever since the 19th century the United States has been the King of Corn. The US tops corn production by far, accounting for almost 42% percent of world production. In contrast, 2nd place China only produces 17% of world production. Ever since the founding of the Soviet Union, the country had suffered chronic food shortages. Khrushchev had an ambitious plan to solve this problem, the adoption of American style corn agriculture in Russia. Khrushchev hoped not only to solve his nation’s growing food problems, but to challenge America’s crown as King Corn.
In 1955 Khrushchev visited the United States and was invited by a farmer named Roswell Garst to tour his farm. Khrushchev was impressed by the Garst enterprise, which inspired him in his corn campaign. Garst sold the Soviet Union 4,500 tons of seed corn, which would form the basis of Soviet corn agriculture. Garth warned Khruschev to only plant in southern parts of Russia, and to use plenty of fertilizer and pesticides. Khrushchev ignored Garst’s advice. In fact he went corn crazy, founding state programs to plant corn all over the USSR regardless of climate or soil. He created state programs to plant corn on virgin land, he even created programs to plant corn in Siberia. Khrushchev’s corn frenzy was so wild that corn farms were built by the state even though there were no farmers to operate them! Meanwhile Khrushchev toured the country’s agricultural communes to encourage farmers to give up wheat and barley, the traditional cereal crops of Russia for centuries, and to start planting corn.
The corn project had its problems. Although Khrushchev intended Soviet agriculture to use the techniques of the Americans, most of those techniques were not heeded. Soviet corn often fell pray to pests, disease, and land exhaustion. More importantly Soviet farmers lacked the equipment and know how when it came to harvesting corn. Despite these problems corn harvests thrived… at least at first. Corn cultivation rose from 4 million hectares in 1954, to over 37 million hectares in 1962. This abundance of growth was buoyed by several successive years where the weather was unseasonably hot for Russia. It was only a matter of time before the natural climate of Mother Russia burst Khruschev’s corn bubble.
In 1964, after the hottest year on record, Russian temperatures suddenly dropped to their regular levels. With the blink of an eye 70%-80% of all of the new corn acreage planted died from the cold. Farmers were thrown out of work and forced into bread lines for food. In a cruel irony, there was little food to be had, since the Soviet Union had invested so much into the failed corn program. Added to this problem was the fact that the nations wheat and barley crop had been devastated by the earlier hot years. What resulted was another terrible shortage of food that plagued the USSR.
Nikita Khrushchev would be ousted from power in October of 1964, in part because of his failed agricultural plans. He passed away in 1971. Today, the United States is still King Corn, and unlikely to be challenged anytime soon.
Colt Single Action Army revolver that was presented to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev from American businessman Romaine Felding.
The Colt Model 1877 Double Action Revolver,
During the mid 19th century Colt was known for its line of single action revolvers. However in Europe many companies and gunmakers such as Adams, Tranter, Lefaucheux, and Gasser had introduced popular double action designs. A double action is a system by which pulling the trigger cocks and fires the gun. This is different from a single action in which the hammer must be cocked before each shot.
In 1877 Colt introduced its first double action design. The new Model 1877 was much like the earlier Model 1873 single action army, with the exception of a smaller frame, a redesigned grip, and of course a double action mechanism. The M1877 came in three models, the “Lightning” which was chambered for .38 Long Colt, the “Thunderer”, which was chambered for .41 Colt, and the “Rainmaker” which was chambered for .32 Colt.
While popular, the double action mechanism of the Colt M1877 was delicate and prone to breakage. This gave it the nickname “the gunsmiths favorite” as they needed a lot of maintenance and repair. It was not uncommon for users to simply wear out the double action mechanism, then continue to use the revolver as a single action afterwards. Production of the Model 1877 continued until 1909, 166,849 were produced. Famous users included Billy the Kid, John Wesley Hardin, and the famous English detective Jerome Caminada.
The Bayonet -Cold Steel
The Civil War Bayonet was nothing more than a sharpened piece of steel that infantrymen were issued. They would simply stick it on the muzzle of their rifles and off they go. It’s effectiveness was more psychological then physical.
Seeing a few thousand people running at you with large knives on the end of rifles could have a pretty frighting effect. However despite this only about 1% of Civil War casualties were actually a result of a bayonet wound.
Soldiers used the bayonet more often as an everyday tool around their camp rather than a weapon. There were a few instances where the bayonet made a prominent appearance. Such as during the Battle of Gettysburg when Union General Joshua Chamberlain ordered his men to fix bayonets and then charged down little round top completely routing the confederates there. These instances though were few and far between.
The use of “cold steel” to force the enemy to retreat was very successful in numerous small unit engagements at short range in the American Civil War, as most troops would retreat when charged while reloading (which could take up to a minute with loose powder even for trained troops). Although such charges inflicted few casualties, they often decided short engagements, and tactical possession of important defensive ground features. Additionally, bayonet drill could be used to rally men temporarily discomfited by enemy fire.
The Bloody Crucible of Courage: Fighting Methods and Combat Experience of the Civil War
A fine gold inlaid Gasser revolver originating from Austria, late 19th century.
Estimated Value: €11,500 – €14,000
Byzantium jewelry completely opposes the church’s condemnation of excessive luxury.
But these pieces stand as a testament to the Byzantine affluence, social habits and technical achievements of their cosmopolitan culture.
Necklace, 4th century. Marion, Cyprus, Greece.
Bracelet, 9th - 10th century. Constantinople, Turkey. Image courtesy of the Museum of Byzantine Culture, Thessaloniki.
Unique “One of Thirty” relief engraved Winchester Model 1873 lever action rifle. Specially made for Abercrombie & Fitch by master engraver Zell Zornado.
Sold at Auction: $13,800
Astronaut Charles Duke visited the moon in 1972 as part of the Apollo 16 mission. He left behind a picture of himself, with his wife and two sons. He took a picture of it before he left. The photograph remains on the moon’s surface.