6/24 – This day in history: Cigarette Warnings Mandated

Image result for cigarette warnings mandate

The Federal Trade Commission announces that, starting in 1965, cigarette makers must include warning labels about the harmful effects of smoking.

In 1973, the Assistant Director of Research at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company wrote an internal memorandum regarding new brands of cigarettes for the youth market. He observed that, “psychologically, at eighteen, one is immortal” and theorized that “the desire to be daring is part of the motivation to start smoking.” He stated, “in this sense the label on the package is a plus.”

In 1999, Philip Morris U.S.A. purchased three brands of cigarettes from Liggett Group Inc., then removed the statement from the packages.

The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 requires color graphics with supplemental text that depicts the negative consequences of smoking to cover 50 percent of the front and rear of each pack. The nine new graphic warning labels were announced by the FDA in June 2011 and were required to appear on packaging by September 2012, though this was delayed by legal challenges.

In August 2011, five tobacco companies filed a lawsuit against the FDA in an effort to reverse the new warning mandate. Tobacco companies claimed that being required to promote government anti-smoking campaigns by placing the new warnings on packaging violates the companies’ free speech rights.

On 29 February 2012, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon ruled that the labels violate the right to free speech in the First Amendment. However, the following month the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit upheld the majority of the Tobacco Control Act of 2009, including the part requiring graphic warning labels.

In April 2013 the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal to this ruling, allowing the new labels to stand. As the original ruling against the FDA images was not actually reversed, the FDA will again need to go through the process of developing the new warning labels, and the timetable and final product remain unknown.

June 23 ~ This day in history: Texas Annexed to United States

On June 23, 1845, a joint resolution of the Congress of Texas voted in favor of annexation by the United States. The leaders of the republic first voted for annexation in 1836, soon after gaining independence from Mexico, but the U.S. Congress was unwilling to admit another state that permitted slavery. Sam Houston, commander of the Texas army during the fight for independence from Mexico and the first president of the Republic of Texas, was a strong advocate of annexation.

Sam Houston… Mathew B. Brady, [between 1844 and 1860]. Daguerreotypes. Prints & Photographs Division

In 1845, the political climate proved more favorable to the request for statehood. On December 29, 1845, Texas officially became the twenty-eighth state in the Union although the formal transfer of government did not take place until February 19, 1846. A unique provision in its agreement with the United States permitted Texas to retain title to its public lands. Further, Texas was annexed as a slave state.

Texas is divided into various regions characterized by distinct cultures and climates. East Texas includes the forested area known as the “Big Thicket” and some of the wet, coastal marsh area. The region produces cotton, rice, and sugar cane, and its economy is centered on the Gulf Coast’s petrochemical and shipping industries. The eastern part of Texas continues to be culturally tied to the Deep South. West Texas includes the Davis Mountains, the northern High Plains of the Panhandle, and some of the Hill Country. Cattle and sheep ranching continue to thrive in the legendary land of the cowboy. Near the national border, Mexican culture remains particularly influential.

Camp Wagon on a Texas Roundup. William Henry Jackson, photographer, [ca. 1900]. Detroit Publishing Company. Prints & Photographs Division

Our roundup was the hardest of all work we had to do, but the most interesting, at least it was to most of us, because we then had roping and bul-dogging to do.

Dave Hoffman.” Sheldon F. Gauthier, interviewer; Fort Worth, Texas, ca. 1936-39. American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to 1940. Manuscript Division

June 22 ~ This Day in History – Harry Houdini

Houdini, King of Handcuffs

Legendary magician and escape artist Harry Houdini married Wilhelmina Beatrice Rahner on June 22, 1894. When they met, she was performing as one of the Floral Sisters at the Sea Beach Palace, in West Brighton Beach, New York; he was a virtually unknown magician. Partners in work and life for the next thirty-two years, the Houdinis never attempted escape from the bonds of matrimony.

“Houdini: houdinize, vt. To release or extricate oneself from confinement, bonds, or the like, as by wiggling out.”

Funk and Wagnall’s New Dictionary as quoted on Houdini LetterheadThe American Variety Stage: Vaudeville and Popular Entertainment, 1870-1920.

Harry and Beatrice Houdini in Nice, France, full-length portrait, standing, facing front. 1913. The American Variety Stage: Vaudeville and Popular Entertainment, 1870-1920. Rare Book & Special Collections Division

Born in Budapest, Hungary, as Ehrich Weisz in 1874, the future Houdini emigrated with his family to Appleton, Wisconsin, when he was just a few years old. His father had been hired as the rabbi of a Jewish congregation there, but the job lasted only a few years. As the family struggled to make ends meet young Erich Weiss, as his name was now spelled, held a variety of low-skilled jobs and ran away from home at least once. Many stories, some of them fanciful, surround the early days of his performing career. In about 1890, in New York City, he adopted the name Harry Houdini as part of a Houdini Brothers magic act. The name was chosen to invoke the reputation of Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin, the father of modern magic. In his solo performances as a magician, Houdini appeared in amusement parks, sideshows, and vaudeville. He also began to augment his act with handcuff tricks.

In the early years of their marriage, with Beatrice as his assistantHoudini advertised that he had “escaped out of more handcuffs, manacles, and leg shackles than any other human being living.” By 1899, the “King of Handcuffs” had dropped magic from his act and left for a European tour, where he was acclaimed as a brilliant “escapologist.”

Houdini and the Water Torture Cell. ca. 1913. The American Variety Stage: Vaudeville and Popular Entertainment, 1870-1920. Rare Book & Special Collections Division

In 1904, Houdini returned to America triumphant. Over the next fifteen years, he perfected a series of amazing acts including extricating himself from the jail cell of presidential assassin Charles Guiteau, escaping from a water-filled milk can, and performing his world famous water torture cell routine. By the 1910s, he returned to magic and was soon embraced as a master magician as well as a brilliant escape artist. In 1918, hundreds gasped as Houdini made a 10,000-pound elephant disappear on the brightly lit stage of New York City’s Hippodrome Theater.

During the 1920s, Houdini dabbled in film, but primarily devoted himself to exposing fraudulent mediums—a campaign that resulted in a highly-publicized conflict with mystery writer and spiritualist Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Ever the performer and self-promoter, Houdini brought his anti-spiritualist crusade to the stage. With hundreds watching, he revealed the techniques mediums used to “communicate” with the dead, and he authored a book, A Magician Among the Spirits, in 1924.

Wealthy and world famous, Beatrice and Harry Houdini celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary in 1914 on board the S.S. Imperator of the Hamburg-America Line. Fellow passenger Theodore Roosevelt was so amazed by Houdini’s shipboard performance that he invited Houdini to meet his grandchildren. Five years later, the couple celebrated their silver anniversary with a formal dinner party at the Alexandria Hotel. Their marriage held strong until Houdini’s sudden death on Halloween, October 31, 1926. The “Genius of Escape” was just fifty-two years old.

The world-famous self-liberator Houdini will escape from the water torture cell, Cardiff, Wales. 1913. American Variety Stage: Vaudeville and Popular Entertainment, 1870-1920. Rare Book & Special Collections Division
Houdini at the Wintergarten, Berlin. 1903. The American Variety Stage: Vaudeville and Popular Entertainment, 1870-1920. Rare Book & Special Collections Division
Houdini, “the genius of escape,” on the Orpheum Circuit. 1923. The American Variety Stage: Vaudeville and Popular Entertainment, 1870-1920. Rare Book & Special Collections Division

6/21 – This Day In History – The Ferris Wheel Introduced 1893

Related image

  • June 21, 1893 the Ferris Wheel was introduced at the
  • World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, IL.

When George Washington Gale Ferris heard about the Chicago, Illinois World’s Columbian Exposition scheduled for 1893, he went to Chicago to try his hand at the challenge of creating a monument that would surpass the Eiffel Tower of Paris.

Ferris set about to create his namesake wheel, something he felt would “Out-Eiffel Eiffel.” Expo directors feared for the safety of people that would ride the giant wheel, but Ferris managed to push those fears aside and build his creation.

Not your run of the mill carnival ride, this mighty wheel needed investors to cough up $400,000 to have it built (a lot of money in those days!). This giant wheel was 264 feet tall (taller than any other exhibit) and had 36 cars, each with 40 revolving chairs that could hold up to 60 people.

Total capacity of the wheel at one time was 2160 passengers! About 38,000 people a day rode the Ferris Wheel, each ride lasting 20 minutes. The non-stop part of the ride was 9 minutes, with the other 11 minutes taken by loading and unloading passengers.

The wheel stood past the end of the Exposition, and was demolished in 1906 after about 2.5 million people had ridden on it. A ticket to ride the mechanical marvel cost 50 cents. Show organizers (allegedly) cheated Ferris out of his share of the profits, and he spent the next couple years in court trying to get his money.

The immense ride was dismantled and moved to Lincoln Park, Chicago after the Exposition, and then taken apart and rebuilt for the 1904 St. Louis (Missouri) World’s Fair. It was there that it was dismantled for the last time in 1906.