Excellent condition engraved and mother of pearl mounted Chicago Firearms Palm Protector pistol, circa 1893.
Sold at Auction; $2,250
Excellent condition engraved and mother of pearl mounted Chicago Firearms Palm Protector pistol, circa 1893.
Sold at Auction; $2,250
A marriet style 18 shot percussion pepperbox revolver crafted by Auguste Francotte of Liege, Belgium. Early to mid 19th century.
Fun History Fact,
King Farouk of Egypt (reign 28 April 1936 – 26 July 1952) was an avid motorist and car lover, owning a fleet of 100 vehicles. One of his favorite past times was to drive around Cairo while shooting out the tires of other motorists with a pistol. An ambulance followed him to pick up any casualties.
The Madness of the Zhengde Emperor,
When the Hongzhi Emperor died in 1505, it was expected that his eldest son, Zhu Houzhou would continue his legacy of peace, prosperity, and good governance. However the newly crowned Zhengde Emperor quickly became a mad despot who was drunk with power and alcohol. As his empire decayed around him, the Zhengde Emperor cared little for matters of state, spending most of his time dining on fine foods, enjoying the company of various women, and living a life of resplendent luxury at the cost of the Empire. Throughout Beijing he order built numerous “bao fang” or special palaces filled with exotic animals and of course, women. One palace he accidentally burned down while playing with gunpowder. It wasn’t long before the coffers of China were empty due to the Zhengde Emperor’s excesses.
In 1519 a noble and imperial family member named Zhu Chenhao revolted against the Empire in Jiangxi Province, kicking off a short lived rebellion called the Prince of Ning Rebellion. The Zhengde Emperor raised a mighty army which he intended to personally lead against the rebels. However, his dreams of battlefield glory and grandeur were cut short when he arrived to discover that a local administrator had already put down the rebellion with local forces. Frustrated, he ordered Zhu Chenhao and the rebels rearmed and released, so that the Zhenghe Emperor could quash the rebellion again with his army. He then ordered the leaders of the rebellion executed by slicing. Zhu Chenhao committed suicide to avoid such a fate.
Perhaps one of the Zhengde Emperor’s most odd acts was to pretend that he wasn’t an emperor at all. It was not uncommon for him to dress as a commoner and attend the various brothels of Beijing. One of his oddest behaviors was to order the construction of a massive palace, the insides of which recreated the market and residential districts of Beijing. He ordered his ministers, eunuchs, guards, and servants to pretend to be merchants and ordinary people while he strolled the streets, also dressed as a non-assuming average Joe. Those who refused to play along were punished, removed from their posts, or even executed.
In 1521 the Zhengde Emperor was out on a drunken boating excursion on the Grand Canal when he fell in and almost drowned. He contract an illness from the waters of canal and died shortly afterwards. His legacy of neglect, childish behavior, and excess would become a standard for future Ming Dynasty rulers, which ultimately led to the dynasty’s collapse in 1644.
The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits —- The Mary Toft Hoax
In 1726 a bit of odd news swept Britain, apparently in Surrey a woman named Mary Toft was giving birth to rabbits. According to Toft, one day when working in a field she was startled by a rabbit. Since then she had been continuously giving birth to still born rabbits and rabbit parts. News of such an anomaly became sensational, attracting the attention of some of the most popular and learned physicians of the day.
Under observation by a number of physicians for several weeks, it was noted that Mary Toft gave birth to nine whole baby rabbits (all of which were dead at birth) as well as various assorted bunny parts. Over time Toft’s case became even more sensational as she gave birth to parts of other animals such as cats and eels. Incredibly, a number of physicians examined her, all of whom declared the phenomenon to be genuine and natural. Many traveled hundreds of miles from other countries, and were considered to be the most learned and educated men in all of Europe.
In December of 1726, Thomas Onslow, the Earl of Onslow investigated the matter and discovered that Toft’s husband, Joshua Toft, had been purchasing rabbits for the past several months. On December 3rd he caught Joshua in the act of smuggling the rabbits into Mary’s room. Mary Toft was threatened with a painful exploratory surgery to uncover the truth of the matter, at which point she confessed to the hoax.
As it turns out, over the past several months Toft had been appearing to give birth to rabbits by inserting small rabbits and rabbit parts into her nether regions up where the sun don’t shine. While weird and disgusting, the hoax created a continent wide scandal that rocked the medical community. People all over Britain and Europe were shocked that supposedly the best physicians and scientists in the world could be so foolishly misled. Those who had been duped by the hoax saw their reputation and careers instantly ruined, among them the noted physician Dr. Nathaniel St. Adre, personal surgeon to King George I.
As for Mary Toft, the rabbit birthing woman was charged with fraud, but acquitted upon intervention of the medical community, who didn’t want the trial to continue leading to further embarrassment. Toft was later arrested and imprisoned for receiving stolen goods. She died in 1763.
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Dr. Walter Freeman and the Ice Pick Lobotomy,
During the late 19th and early 20th century many doctors began to experiment with psycho-surgery, the use of brain surgery to treat mental illness. In 1935 a Portuguese scientist named Antonio Egas Moniz introduced the lobotomy, a procedure that won him the Nobel Prize in 1948. Moniz believed that by severing the connections between the frontal lobe and grey matter of the brain, he could calm a patient’s wild emotions and stabilize personality. In the world of psycho-surgery the lobotomy was a groundbreaking procedure that revolutionized treatment of the mentally ill. Eventually the lobotomy became a cure-all for almost any mental illness or developmental disorder. 40,000 were conducted in the US, another 17,000 in the UK. Tens of thousands more were conducted in mainland Europe, the Soviet Union, Japan, and the Commonwealth Nations.
While many patients did benefit from the lobotomy, many more suffered terrible effects of the surgery. It was not uncommon for patients symptoms to worsen. Others suffered permanent brain damage, emotional and psychological instability, memory problems, and decreased cognition. About 5% of all lobotomy patients died from the procedure. One notorious case of a botched lobotomy was that of Rosemary Kennedy, sister of President John F. Kennedy.
Rosemary Kennedy had many learning disabilities during her childhood, but regardless was a very intelligent and sociable young woman. In her late teens and early 20’s she suffered from occasional wild moods swings which psychologist would now diagnose as manic depression. An embarrassment to the Kennedy family, she was coerced into undergoing a lobotomy. In 1941, at the age of 23 she underwent a lobotomy at the hands of Dr. James Watts and Dr. Walter Freeman. The results of the lobotomy caused permanent brain damage that reduced her intelligence to that of a 2 year old. She had to be hand fed, bathed, diapered due to incontinence, and institutionalized until her death in 2005.
Regardless of it’s negative consequences, physicians only focused on successful cases and continued practicing lobotomies. Originally the lobotomy was a complex procedure. Then in 1945 Dr. Walter Freeman, the same man who helped perform Rosemary Kennedy’s procedure, invented the transorbital lobotomy. Also called the “icepick” lobotomy, the procedure was very simple and crude. After administering an anesthetic, the surgeon placed an orbitoclast (essentially an icepick with depth increment markings) above the eye but below the upper margin of the eye socket. The surgeon would then tap the orbitoclast with a mallet to puncture the thin plate of the sphenoid bone located behind the eyes. The orbitoclast was then inserted 5 cm into the brain and rotated to sever the connections in the frontal cortex. The procedure was then repeated through the other eye.
The icepick lobotomy was so simple that surgeons were not even required to perform the procedure. As a result the icepick lobotomy was a common procedure in mental asylums, then terrible hell holes run by people who had little or no credentials. Dr. Freeman himself performed icepick lobotomies on an outpatient basis from his office. It even became common for parents to have their children lobotomized for minor problems such as minor depression or even misbehavior.
Eventually, health care professionals began to realize the negative effects of the lobotomy, with the procedure being recognized as dangerous pseudoscience by newer physicians. By the 1960’s lobotomy procedures began to decline in prevalence as it was replaced with new treatments such as therapy and administration of medications. By the 1970’s the lobotomy died out all together, and was banned in many countries.
Dr. James Weir and the rise of the Viragints,
Dr. James Weir Jr. was a naturalist and evolutionary scientist in the 19th century who followed the work of Charles Darwin. After studying animals and the origins of the human race, Dr. Weir quickly applied his evolutionary theories to modern society. According to Weir, civilized culture was de-evolving, breaking down and regressing ever closer to savagery and barbarism. To support his theory, he used as evidence the many workers strikes that were occurring around the turn of the century, which was common during the industrial revolution. According to his beliefs, such strikes were an example of the downfall of civilization because those of the lower class, who he considered less evolved and less intelligent, where seeking to overthrow the upper classes, those he considered more evolved and more intelligent.
Expounding further in his theories, Dr. Weir also cited the Women’s Suffrage (right to vote) movement as another example of humanity’s de-evolution. According to Weir in an essay penned in 1894, Women who were strong, independent, and self sufficient were a class of mentally disturbed and physically deformed women called “viragints”. Unlike “normal” women who knew their place in society, were subordinate to men, and lived a humble feminine lifestyle, viragints were a class of women who had de-evolved and regressed to a savage state. According to Weir, granting women the right to vote would only encourage more empowerment for women, thus regressing them further “ backward toward the state of her barbarian ancestors.”
Dr. Weir went even further writing that women’s rights, and most especially the right to vote would create whole generations of viragints, which would eventually lead to the collapse of civilization. Despite Dr. Weirs warnings, the 19th Amendment was passed in 1920, making it illegal to deny the right to vote based on gender.
Rare and unusual 30 shot revolver, most likely of French or Belgian origin, mid to late 19th century.
America’s War on Pinball,
In the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s pinball became one of the most popular games in America. However the popularity of pinball came with a downside; suspicion from older generations who did not understand the game. Conservative elements of the country saw pinball as a scourge which corrupted the youth and weakened the moral fiber of the country. Many saw pinball as nothing more than an easy form of gambling marketed towards young people. Religious elements saw pinball as a game of the devil, with satanic influence designed to lead the faithful astray. One of the most ridiculous arguments leveled against pinball was that the machines were controlled by, and a source of income for the mafia.
In response to the moral outcry against pinball, Mayor Fiorella LaGuardia led a campaign to end pinball once and for all. In his city, New York, he sponsored laws and ordinances to ban pinball. On January 21st, 1942 pinball was banned in New York City. Reminiscent of Prohibition, police raided gaming centers, arcades, and amusement parks, smashing the games with axes and tossing the remnants in a local river. Mayor LaGuardia himself did several photo ops of him participating in raids and personally destroying pinball machines. Also reminiscent of Prohibition, pinball went underground, and became controlled by the seedier elements of society such as organized crime and the mob.
Inspired by LaGuardia, other cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago likewise banned pinball. By 1950 pinball was banned in most major cities. The ban would last until the 1960’s and 70’s. The pinball ban in NYC lasted until 1976 when the law was challenged by pinball aficionado Roger Sharpe challenged the law. Today pinball is legal most everywhere. There are still exceptions. For example in 2010 Beacon, NY shut down a pinball museum due to its ban dating to the 40’s. In San Francisco owners need a special permit from the city. In Alameda and Oakland California, pinball is still illegal, though there is talk of legalization in Oakland.