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Lock, Stock, and History

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. 

Dungeons and Dragons, The Devil’s Board Game,

The granddaddy of all role playing board games, Dungeons and Dragons is perhaps also the most popular and important RPG in gaming history.  Introduced in 1974, D&D quickly became a hit game among youngsters, teens, and college aged gamers.  By 1980 it was the most popular game board game, with an estimated 3 million players and 750,000 copies being sold annually.  

Like all things new, it wasn’t unusual for D&D to earn the suspicion of older generations.  Many people thought the D&D was a corrupting influence on American youth, blaming the game for moral decline and leading to psychological illness.  Then in 1979 the disappearance of a college student named James Dallas Egbert III fanned the flames into a roaring inferno.

Egbert was a student of Michigan State University, and a troubled teen who was being forced by his overly controlling parents into a career he did not want to pursue.  On the night August 15th, 1979 Egbert disappeared after entering a steam tunnel.  A large search was conducted but the boy was never found.  His parents blamed his disappearance on his favorite game; Dungeons and Dragons, claiming that in a fit of D&D induced mania their son had a psychological break from reality and went off on a real life D&D adventure.  The story made national headlines, and faster than the roll of a dice the evils of D&D spread across the country.  As it turned out Egbert had entered the tunnels to commit suicide, but instead ran away to become an oil worker in Louisiana.  He was discovered several months later and forced to resume his education by his parents. He committed suicide a year later.

The truth behind Egbert’s disappearance did little to stem the tide of anti-D&D sentiment, especially when the cause was taken up by the growing Christian Conservative movement.  Soon preachers and televangelists such as Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, Oral Roberts, and Jerry Falwell were railing against the board game at the pulpit.  Fundamentalist Christians accused the game of having satanic influence, encouraging occultism, black magic, and witchcraft.  Christian groups decried the game as an instrument of the devil and a propagator of evil among the nation’s youth, causing murder and suicide. 

Reaction against D&D was far from rational.  Christian Groups often successfully pressured schools and colleges into banning the game. A few successful groups even convinced local government officials to adopt ordinances forbidding the game within their boroughs or towns.  Inspired by MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), a woman named Patricia Pulling founded BADD (Bothered By Dungeons & Dragons) with the aim of banning the board game everywhere, and if that couldn’t be done, then suing the game into bankruptcy.  Other groups raised money from donors, bought as many D&D sets with it as possible, and destroyed them in large bonfires.

Dungeons & Dragons was not the only victim, but a host of other 80’s icons such as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Care Bears, Transformers, GI Joe, and many others faced similar accusations of satanic influence and evil.  In fact, the whole country was awash in a moral and religious panic over occultism and devil worship.  The subject became the focus of every talk show on TV.  The corporation Proctor & Gamble was accused of being a satanic company due to its centuries old logo, while rumors abounded that it’s president donated much of the company’s profits to The Church of Satan.  Hundreds of childcare workers were imprisoned on the charge of child abuse based on the claim that they had conducted “satanic rituals” on the children.  Many of the kids were toddlers, who were dragged into interrogation rooms and shouted at by detectives until they broke down and admitted to being the victims of weird satanic abuse. BADD head Patricia Pulling made the claim that 8% of the American population were satanists, which at the time amounted to around 20 million people.  When questioned by a reporter where she came up with that number, she claimed that 4% of teens and 4% of adults were satanists, hence 8%.  There was even a ridiculous claim parroted by the media that around 1 million people a year were murdered in occult human sacrifice rituals.  

The war on D&D and the satanic panic ended in the 1990’s when a number of scientific organizations debunked the rumors.  Among them were studies by Centers for Disease Control and the American Association of Suicidology which found that D&D had nothing to do with murder, suicide, or anti-social behavior.  Regardless the stigma is still held by a few.  In 2013, 700 Club leader Rev. Pat Robertson claimed on national TV that D&D, Harry Potter, and other “demonic games” was the source of teen suicide.