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Lock, Stock, and History

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 Viragents,

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.

Belgian pinfire cavalry saber/pinfire revolver, circa 1840.

Sold at Auction: $7,945

Unusual .38 revolver carried by a security guard in Ecuador.

Unusual .38 revolver carried by a security guard in Ecuador.

Bizarre and unusual Bayle double action pistol.  Originates from France, mid to late 19th century.

Rare and unusual 30 shot revolver, most likely of French or Belgian origin, mid to late 19th century.

Engraved flintlock duckfoot pistol marked “Seglas”.  Originates from England, 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.

Exceptionally rare German STG-44 with experimental “Krummlauf” curved barrel.  

The curved barrel featured a parascope for aiming. The purpose of which was so that take crews could stick the barrel out the port of a tank and fight off infantry who got to close to the tank.  Other versions were made so that infantry could shoot around corners.

18th century urethral syringe used to treat venereal disease.  

Typically drugs used to treat VD were various mercury solutions, the most popular of which was mercury chloride.  A common saying of the time was “one night with Venus, a lifetime with mercury”.

Monsieur de Pourceaugnac —- ”The Dance of the Enema’s”
Monsieur de Pourceaugnac was a three part comedy/ballet written by Moliere in September of 1669.  It was first presented to King Louis XIV of France on October 6th, 1669.

Monsieur de Pourceaugnac —- ”The Dance of the Enema’s”

Monsieur de Pourceaugnac was a three part comedy/ballet written by Moliere in September of 1669.  It was first presented to King Louis XIV of France on October 6th, 1669.

The Madness of Tulip Mania,

In the 17th century the Dutch became among the wealthiest people in the world as Dutch merchants traded goods all over the world. A smart and enterprising Amsterdam merchant could expect profits of 400-500% if a voyage to the Far East or India succeeded. With this new influx of wealth many Dutch needed new ways to spend their new found wealth.  In the mid 16th century the tulip was introduced to Europe from the Ottoman Empire.  After several decades of study by botanists, it was found that tulips thrived best in the Netherlands.  By the 17th century tulips began to be planted all over the country.

The tulip trade thrived to the point that be the 1630’s  people were even making careers out of growing, breeding, and selling tulips.  The flower became a status symbol among well to do and wealthy Dutch as breeders created tougher and more beautiful species of flowers.  Eventually the tulip became more than just a mere flower, but a source of wealth and prestige for the Dutch upper class.

In the 1630’s the tulip became a securities instrument as investors pumped their money into tulip growing and breeding.  The profits made in the tulip business attracted more and more investors who sought to get rich quick.  Eventually the price of tulips began to skyrocket.  The mania began on November 12th of 1636.  Between Nov. 12th and February 13th, 1637, tulip prices rose 2,000%.  During that time it was recorded that one tulip transaction involved 40 bulbs being sold for 100,000 guilders.  By contrast a ton of butter cost 100 guilders and the average laborer earned around 150 guilders a year.  Left and right people were making ridiculous tulip transactions.  In one transaction 12 acres of land was traded for a single Semper Augustus bulb.  A transaction of 2,500 guilders was made for a single Viceroy bulb.  Some rare bulbs could cost as much a luxury houses.  Some people risked all of their savings to buy just one rare bulb, which was hoped to bring fortune and wealth as the price continued to rise and rise.

By the height of tulip mania, the average tulip was selling for 5,000 guilders per bulb.  By the spring of 1637, the price of tulips became so inflated that the vast majority of Dutch buyers and investors could not afford to buy a single bulb.  Tulip auctions ceased to sell their bulbs as buyers could not come up with the money to cover the inflated costs.  Overnight, demand for tulips crashed to zero.  Between February and April of 1637, tulip prices crashed to 1/20th their price at the height of the mania.  Investors lost everything as their precious bulbs became instantly worthless.  Many people had their entire wealth wiped out in what would become one the first economic bubbles in history.  Those who burrowed money to invest were doubly screwed, as they now owed thousands of guilders to creditors and lenders.  By summer of 1637, the price of tulips dropped to the point that hundreds of bulbs could be bought for a single guilder.

The Boneyman will come and get you!
In Britain during the Napoleonic Wars Napoleon Bonaparte replaced the Boogeyman as the night time terror of choice as parents warned their children, “the Boneyman will come and gobble you up”.  In France, parents warned their children that Wellington would come and get them.
An early 19th century English lullaby,
Baby, baby, naught baby,Hush! you squalling thing, I say;Peace this instant! Peace! or maybeBonaparte will pass this way.Baby, baby, he’s a giant,Black and tall as Rouen’s steeple,Sups and dines and lives reliantEvery day on naughty people.Baby, baby, if he hears youAs he gallops past the house,Limb from limb at once he’ll tear youJust as pussy tears a mouse.And he’ll beat you, beat you, beat you,And he’ll beat you all to pap:And he’ll eat you, eat you, eat you,Gobble you, gobble you, snap! snap! snap!

The Boneyman will come and get you!

In Britain during the Napoleonic Wars Napoleon Bonaparte replaced the Boogeyman as the night time terror of choice as parents warned their children, “the Boneyman will come and gobble you up”.  In France, parents warned their children that Wellington would come and get them.

An early 19th century English lullaby,

Baby, baby, naught baby,
Hush! you squalling thing, I say;
Peace this instant! Peace! or maybe
Bonaparte will pass this way.
Baby, baby, he’s a giant,
Black and tall as Rouen’s steeple,
Sups and dines and lives reliant
Every day on naughty people.
Baby, baby, if he hears you
As he gallops past the house,
Limb from limb at once he’ll tear you
Just as pussy tears a mouse.
And he’ll beat you, beat you, beat you,
And he’ll beat you all to pap:
And he’ll eat you, eat you, eat you,
Gobble you, gobble you, snap! snap! snap!

The Guns of Wham-O, Hamilton Dueling Pistol, PowerMaster Rifle, PowerMaster Pistol.

Have you ever heard of the company called Wham-O (or Wamo! as it was called in the 50’s), what is their legacy?  For starters; the frisbee, the hackey sack, the hula hoop, and the superball. However few know that in the late 1950’s Wham-O dabbled in the firearms market.  While they did make dart guns, air guns, crossbows, and cap guns they decided to create a few youth model .22 lr firearms.

First was the Wham-O Hamilton Dueling pistol, modeled after Alexander Hamilton’s famous dueling pistols.  While more toy than gun, with crude sights and a toy like appearence it was an actual single shot breachloading .22 firearm.  Only 900 were produced.

Then there was the Wham-O Powermaster Rifle. Crude and toylike it was modeled after the Thompson submachinegun.  It was a single shot .22 rifle but when fired the bolt would lock back, allowing the user to load another round without retracting the bolt.  I can’t find specific numbers but few of these were made.

Finally there was the Wham-O Powermaster Pistol.  A .22 single shot like the other firearms, this gun is more like an actual gun than the others.  It was well machined, accurate, and sported real sights.  Again I can’t find specific production figures but not many were made.

Wamo’s line of toy/guns were not very popular.  The fusion between toy and gun was not a good mix, people either wanted a toy or a gun, not a cheap crude mixture of both.  The Hamilton Pistol and PowerMaster Rifle designs would be scraped.  The PowerMaster pistol design would be sold to Daisy Air Rifle Company, who converted it into an air pistol.

Fun history Fact
In January, 1987 the televangelist and faith healer Oral Roberts announced that if he didn’t raise $8 million by that March, God would “call him home”.  
By March he had raised over $9.1 million. 

Fun history Fact

In January, 1987 the televangelist and faith healer Oral Roberts announced that if he didn’t raise $8 million by that March, God would “call him home”.  

By March he had raised over $9.1 million.