Automaton Chess-Player

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Automaton Chess-Player

Automaton Chess-PlayerTHIS astonishing piece of mechanism was the invention of Wolfgang de Kempelen, a Hungarian gentleman, and aulic counsellor to the royal chamber of the domains of the emperor in Hungary in [1769].

The room where it is exhibited has an inner apartment, in which appears the figure of a Turk, as large as life, dressed after the Turkish fashion, sitting behind a chest of three feet and a half in length, two feet in breadth; and two feet and a half in height, to which it is attached by the wooden seat on which it sits.  The chest is placed upon four castors, and, together with the figure, may be easily moved to any part of the room.  On the plain surface, formed by the top of the chest, in the centre, is raised an immoveable chess-board of handsome dimensions, upon which the figure has its eyes fixed; its right arm and hand being extended on the chest, and its left arm somewhat raised, as if in the attitude of holding a Turkish pipe, which originally was placed in its hands.

The exhibiter begins by wheeling the chest to the entrance of the apartment within which it stands, and in face of the spectators. He then opens certain doors contrived in the chest, two in front, and two at the back, at the same time pulling out a long shallow drawer at the bottom of the chest, made to contain the chess-men, a cushion for the arm of the figure to rest upon, and some counters.  Two lesser doors, and a green cloth screen, contrived in the body of the figure and its lower parts, are likewise opened, and the Turkish robe which covers them is raised; so that the construction both of the figure and chest internally is displayed.  In this state the automaton is moved round for the examination of the spectators; and to banish all suspicion from the most skeptical mind, that any living subject is concealed within any part of it, the exhibiter introduces a lighted candle into the body of the chest and figure, by which the interior of each is, in a great measure, rendered transparent, and the most secret corner is shown.  Here it may be observed, that the same precaution to remove suspicion is used, if requested, at the close as at the commencement of a game at chess with the automaton.

The chest is divided by a partition into two unequal chambers.  That to the right of the figure is the narrowest, and. occupies scarcely one third of the body of the chest.  It is filled with little wheels, levers, cylinders, and other machinery used in clock-work.  That to the left contains a few wheels, some small barrels with springs, and two quarters of a circle placed horizontally.  The body and lower parts of the figure contain tubes, which seem to be conductors to the machinery.  After a sufficient time, during which each spectator may satisfy his scruples and his curiosity, the exhibiter recloses the doors of the chest and figure, and the drawer at bottom, makes some arrangements in the body of the figure, winds up the works with a key inserted into a small opening on the side of the chest, places a cushion under the left arm of the figure, which now rests upon it, and invites any individual present to play a game of chess.

In playing a game the automaton makes choice of the white pieces, and always has the first move.  These are small advantages towards winning the game, which are cheerfully conceded.  It plays with the left hand, the right arm and hand being constantly extended on the chest, behind which it is seated.  This slight incongruity proceeded from absence of mind in the inventor, who did not perceive his mistake till the machinery of the automaton was too far completed to admit of the mistake being rectified.  At the commencement of a game, the automaton moves its head, as if taking a view of the board; the same motion occurs at the close of a game.  In making a move, it slowly raises its left arm from the cushion placed under it, and directs it towards the square of the piece to be moved.  Its hand and fingers open on touching the piece, which it takes up, and conveys to any proposed square.  The arm then returns with a natural motion to the cushion, upon which it usually rests.  In taking a piece the automaton makes the same motions of the arm and hand to lay hold of the piece, which it conveys from the board; and then returning to its own piece, it takes it up, and places it on the vacant square.  These motions are performed with perfect correctness; and the dexterity with which the arm acts, especially in the different operation of castling, seems to be the result of spontaneous feeling – bending of the shoulder, elbow, and knuckles, and cautiously avoiding to touch any other piece than that which is to be moved, nor ever making a false move.

Excerpt from The Cabinet of Curiosities, or Wonders of the World Displayed – 1840

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Further Reading and External Links

More on Wolfgang von Kempelen’s Chess Turk

Von Kempelen’s Chess Turk recreated

Matthew Hopkins, The Witchfinder

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Matthew Hopkins – Witchfinder

Matthew Hopkins – WitchfinderTHIS “worthy” of witchcraft flourished about the middle of the seventeenth century, when the delusions of the witching frauds were at their full height.  He assumed the title of witchfinder general, and travelling through the counties of Essex, Sussex, Norfolk, and Huntingdon, pretended to discover witches, superintending their examination by the most unheard-of tortures, and compelling forlorn and miserable creatures to admit and confess matters equally absurd and impossible; the admission of which was the forfeiture of their lives.

Sir Walter Scott describes Hopkins as follows: “He was, perhaps, a native of Manningtree, in Essex; at any rate, he resided there in the year [1644], when an epidemic outcry of witchcraft arose in that town.  Upon this occasion he had made himself busy, and affecting more zeal and knowledge than other men, learned his trade of a witchfinder, as he pretended, from experiment.  He was afterwards permitted to perform it as a legal profession, and moved from one place to another, with an assistant named Sterne, and a female.  In his defence against an accusation of fleecing the country, he declares his regular charge was twenty shillings a town, including charges of living, and journeying thither and back again with his assistants.  He also affirms, that he went nowhere unless called and invited.  His principal mode of discovery was, to strip the accused persons naked, and thrust pins into various parts of their body, to discover the witch’s mark, which was supposed to be inflicted by the devil, as a sign of his sovereignty, and at which she was also said to suckle her imps.  He also practised and stoutly defended the trial by swimming, when the suspected person was wrapped in a sheet, having the great toes and thumbs tied together, and so dragged through a pond or river.  If she sank, it was received in favour of the accused; but if the body floated, (which must have occurred ten times for once, if it was placed with care on the surface of the water,)  the accused was condemned, on the principle of King James, who, in treating of this mode or trial, lays down, that as witches have renounced their baptism, so it is just that the element through which the holy rite is enforced, should reject them; which is a figure of speech, and no argument.  

It was Hopkins’s custom to keep the poor wretches waking, in order to prevent them from having encouragement from the devil, and, doubtless, to put infirm, terrified, over-watched persons in the next state to absolute madness; and, for the same purpose, they were dragged about by their keepers, till extreme weariness, and the pain of blistered feet, might form additional inducements to confession.

Excerpt from The Cabinet of Curiosities, or Wonders of the World Displayed – 1840

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Further Reading and External Links

1968 Witchfinder General Serialization on YouTube

Matthew Hopkins Witchfinder General

 

War in the East – 15 Nov

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The Hurricane – 15th November 1854

by William Howard Russell – War Correspondent to The Times Newspaper

Wednesday – 15th November 1854

THE camp was visited by a hurricane to-day.  It commenced shortly after six o’clock a.m., and was preceded by rain and squalls from S.W. and S.S.W.  

For about an hour I had been in a listless state between waking and sleeping, listening to the pelting of the rain against the fluttering canvas of the tent, or dodging the streams of water which flowed underneath it, saturating our blankets and collecting on the mackintosh sheets in pools.  The sound of the rain, its heavy beating on the earth, had become gradually swallowed up by the noise of the rushing of the wind over the common, and by the flapping of the tents as they rocked more violently beneath its force.  Gradually the sides of the canvas, which were tucked in under big stones to secure them, began to rise and flutter, permitting the wind to enter playfully and drive before it sheets of rain right into one’s face; the pegs began to indicate painful indecision and want of firmness of purpose.  The glimpses afforded of the state of affairs outside, by the lifting of the tent walls, were little calculated to produce a spirit of resignation to the fate which threatened our frail shelter.

The ground had lost its character of solidity, and pools of mud marked the horse and cattle-tracks in front of the tents.  Mud and nothing but mud flying before the wind and drifting as though it were rain, covered the face of the earth as far as it was visible.  Meantime the storm-fiend was coming, terrible and strong as when he smote the bark of the Ancient Mariner.  At every fresh blast the pole of the tent played and bent like a salmon-rod; the canvas tugged at the ropes to pull them up, and the pegs yielded gently.  A startling crack!  I looked at my companions, who seemed determined to shut out all sound and sense by piling as much clothes as they could collect over their heads.  A roar of wind, and the pole bent till the fatal “crack” was heard again.  “Get up, Doctor!  up with you;  E—–, the tent is coming down!”  The Doctor rose from beneath his tumulus of clothes.  Now, if there was anything in which the Doctor put confidence more than another, it was his tent-pole.  There was a decided bend in the middle of it, but he used to argue, on sound anatomical, mathematical, and physical principles, that the bend was a decided improvement, and he believed that no power of AEolus could ever shake it.  He looked on the pole blandly, as he looks at all things, put his hand out, and shook it. “Why, man,” said he, reproachfully, “it’s all right that pole would stand for ever,” and then he crouched down and burrowed under his bedclothes.  Scarcely had he given the last convulsive heave of the blankets which indicates perfect comfort and satisfaction, when a harsh screaming sound, increasing in vehemence as it approached, struck us with horror.  As it passed along we heard the snapping of tent-poles and the sharp crack of timber and canvas.   On it came, “a mighty and a strong wind;”  the pole broke off short in the middle, as if it were glass, and in an instant we were pressed down and half stifled by the heavy folds of the wet canvas, which beat us about the head with the greatest fury. Half breathless and blind, I struggled for the door. Such a sight as met the eye! The whole head quarters’ camp was beaten fiat to the earth, and the unhappy occupants were rushing through the mud in all directions in chase of their effects and clothes, or holding on by the walls of the enclosure as they strove to make their way to the roofless and windowless barns and stables for shelter.

Excerpt from The War 1855 by W H Russell – Correspondent to The Times.

This volume contains the letters of The Times Correspondent from the seat of war in the East – The Crimean War – the first war with war correspondents.

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Further Reading and External Links

William Howard Russell on Wikipedia

William Howard Russell on BikWil

 

Bloods Attempt to Steal the Crown

BLOOD’S ATTEMPT TO STEAL THE CROWN FROM THE TOWER.

Regalia in the Tower of London1671 – THE daring attempt made by the ruffian Blood to steal the Crown, is one of the most extraordinary incidents that ever happened within the walls of the Tower of London.

After Sir G. Talbot had been appointed Master of the Jewel House, he assigned the profits which arose from exhibiting the regalia to an old confidential servant of his father, named Talbot Edwards, who was still keeper at the time of the concerted robbery.

About three weeks prior to his attempt, Blood, a disbanded officer of the Protectorate, went to the Tower in the habit of a parson, “with a long cloak, cassock, and canonical girdle,” accompanied by a woman whom he called his wife; his real wife being then in Lancashire.  The lady requested to see the crown, and her wish having been gratified, she feigned “a qualm upon her stomach,” and Mrs. Edwards, after giving her some spirits at her husband’s request, courteously invited her to repose herself upon a bed.  She soon recovered; and, “at their departure, they seemed very thankful for this civility.”

After an interval of a few days Blood returned, and gave Mrs. Edwards four pair of white gloves, as a present from his pretended wife.   At a subsequent visit he told her, that his wife, “could discourse of nothing but the kindness of those good people of the,Tower;”  and that  “she had long studied, and at last bethought her, of a handsome way of requital.”

“You have,” quoth he, “a pretty gentlewoman to your daughter, and I have a young nephew who has two or three hundred a year in land, and is at my disposal.  If your daughter be free, and you approve it, I will bring him here to see her, and we will endeavour to make it a match.”  This was readily assented to by old Mr. Edwards, who invited the disguised ruffian to dine with him on that day: the invitation was willingly accepted, and Blood;  “taking upon him to say grace,”  performed it with great seeming devotion, concluding his  “long-winded”  oration with a prayer for the king, queen, and royal family.

After dinner, “he went up to see the rooms, and seeing a handsome case of pistols hang there, expressed a great desire to buy them to present to a young lord who was his neighbour;”  but this was merely a pretence, by which he thought to  “disarm the house,”  and thus execute his design with less danger.   At his departure, “which was with a canonical benediction of the good company,”  he appointed a day and hour for introducing his young nephew to his future bride; and, as he wished, he said, “to bring two friends with him to see the regalia, who were to leave town early on that morning,”  the hour was fixed at about seven o’clock.

On the appointed morning, (viz. May the 9th, 1671,)  “the old man had got up ready to receive his guest, and the daughter had put herself into her best dress to entertain her gallant, when, behold, parson Blood, with three more, came to the Jewel House, all armed with rapier blades in their canes, and every one a dagger and a pair of pocket pistols.  Two of his companions entered in with him, and a third stayed at the door it seems for a watch.”

Blood told Mr. Edwards, that they would not go up stairs until his wife came, and desired him to show his friends the crown to pass the time till then.  This was complied with; but no sooner bad they entered the room where the crown was kept, and the door as usual been shut, than “they threw a cloak over the old man’s head, and clapt a gag into his mouth, which was a great plug of wood, with a small hole in the middle to take breath at;  this was tied with a waxed leather, which went round his neck.  At the same time they fastened an iron hook to his nose, that no sound might pass from him that way other.”

Thus secured they told him, “that their resolution was to have the crown, globe, and sceptre; and, if he would quietly submit to it, they would spare his life, otherwise he was to expect no mercy.”  Notwithstanding this threat, “he forced himself to make all the noise that he possibly could, to be heard above:”  they then “knocked him down with a wooden mallet, and told him, that if he would yet lie quiet, they would spare his life, but if not, upon his next attempt to discover them, they would kill him, and pointed three daggers at his breast.”  Mr. Edwards, however, by his own account, was not yet intimidated, but “strained himself to make the greater noise.”   In consequence, they gave him “nine or ten strokes more upon the head with the mallet, (for so many bruises were found upon the skull,) and stabbed him into the belly.”  This ferocious treatment occasioned the old man, “now almost eighty years of age,”  to swoon; and he lay some time in so senseless a condition that one of the miscreants said, “he is dead, I’ll warrant him.”  Edwards, who had-come a little to himself heard his words and conceiving it best to be thought so, “lay quietly.”

The rich prize was now within the villain’s grasp, and one of them, named Parrot, “put the globe orb into his breeches; Blood held the crown under his cloak,” and the third was proceeding to file the sceptre in two, in order that he might be put into a bag, “because too long to carry,” when their proceedings were interrupted by the unexpected arrival of a son of Mr. Edwards, from Flanders, who, having first spoken to the person who stood on the watch at the door, went up stairs to salute his relations.  Seizing the opportunity, the ruffians instantly “hasted away” with the crown and orb, leaving the sceptre unfiled.

The old keeper now raised himself, and freeing his mouth from the gag, cried “Treason! Murder” which being heard by his daughter, she rushed out of doors and reiterated the cry, with the addition, “the crown is stolen.”

Excerpt from The Cabinet of Curiosities, or Wonders of the World Displayed – 1840

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Etruscan Metal Work

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Etruscan Metal Work

Etruscan Metal WorkWITH a single exception – some coarse canvas discovered at Volterra – the whole of the Etruscan antiquities with which I am acquainted are made of mineral substances, whether metal, stone, pottery, or frescoes; these throw considerable light on the customs of this ancient people, for of their literature we have no remains.  Having drawn from nature a variety of objects illustrating the state of art among the Etruscans, I append some engraved sketches here, as showing what metals they were in the habit of working.  Excepting tin and gold, I have no doubt that all the metals employed in the manufacture of these articles were obtained from mines situated in Tuscany; they have, therefore, a direct bearing on this subject.

Before commencing a special description of the engravings, a few cursory remarks on Etruscan art may be acceptable.

The Egyptian forms of the earlier Etruscan alabaster gods, no less point to their intercourse with Africa than the exquisite filagree work introduced by them from Egypt into Italy, where this art seems to have been preserved up to the present time, though, to my mind, the Etruscan ear-ring I have drawn is in no way inferior in point of taste and workmanship to similar productions now made in the manufactories at Genoa.   I feel persuaded that we might become far better acquainted with the social condition of the Etruscans by a more thorough and thoughtful examination of their works of art.  A mere glance at the graceful designs and fine features observable in their statues, leads one to form a very favourable opinion of the Etruscans as compared with the Egyptians.   There is more action in their figures; a fine open brow, a handsome nose and well-chiselled mouth, and eyes which bespeak less of the sensuous and more of the intellectual, take the place of that stern fixedness of expression and the hard features so conspicuous in Egyptian types.  In Etruria, too, we never find representations of monsters half-man, half-beast such as the Egyptian sphinxes. Many other circumstantial evidences might be adduced confirmatory of this remark; thus their mode of writing.   In Egypt, mysterious and complicated hieroglyphics were employed, in which, probably, the priesthood and the members of the government were alone skilled, while the masses were entirely ignorant of any method of embodying their thoughts in a material form.  

I am well aware that some might object that this was during the infancy of knowledge and art, no better means of writing being yet known, but I would give a conclusive argument against such a theory, since the Israelites remained 430 years in Egypt, and we are acquainted with the simplicity of the characters they employed, so that the Egyptian hierarchy, or, at any rate the government, must have had great dealings with the Jews, at least during the time that they lived in the land of Goshen, and they evidently preferred keeping the lower orders in ignorance and slavery, by enshrouding all knowledge under a veil of difficulty and mystery.  In Etruria, on the other hand, we see how, by the simplicity of their alphabet, they early brought the art of writing down to the level of the people.  Finding, as we do, coins struck by numerous cities in Etruria, we learn that these possessed somewhat equal rank, incompatible with the idea that the princes who held sway were under a single despot, such as the Pharaohs.

Excerpt from The Mineral Resources of Central Italy by William Paget Jervis – 1862

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Further Reading and External Links

Etruscan Metalwork Photographs from the Chiusi Museum of Etruscan Archaeology

Discovering Etruscan and Greek Influences

Cassius M Clay – Emancipationist

 

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Cassius Marcellus Clay – Emancipationist

In 1831, Cassius M. Clay, son of General Green Clay, went to Yale College, and was there brought under the magic of Garrison, already well launched upon his dramatic Crusade.  Soon after Clay’s admission to the Junior Class, the College was stirred by the news that “Garrison was going to speak in the South Church.” “I had,” writes Clay, “never heard an abolitionist, nor the name hardly,” so complete was “the isolation of thought between the Liberals of the South and the North,” but, “I went to hear Garrison.  In plain, logical and sententious language he treated the “Divine Institution,” so as to hum like a branding-iron into the most callous hide of the slaveholder and his defenders.  I felt all the horrors of slavery; but my parents were slaveholders; all my kindred in Kentucky were slaveholders; and I regarded it as I did other evils of humanity, as the fixed law of nature or of God; Garrison dragged out the monster; and left him stabbed to the vitals, and dying at the feet of every logical and honest mind; I then resolved; that, when I had the strength, if ever, I would give slavery a death struggle.”

Such was the initiation of the man who boasted that he was the first real abolitionist of Kentucky.  The iron had entered deep into his soul, and, from that moment, the friend of slavery was to him the enemy of mankind.

After two years spent at Yale, Cassius Clay returned to Kentucky, where he entered the field of politics, and began the free expression of his views.  The impression, made by Garrison, time and experience only served to deepen, and, as the slavery cloud darkened over Kentucky, the “Lion of Whitehall,” vaunted his abolitionist theories in the faces of the slaveocracy as boldly and fearlessly as if the whole world were on his side.   He knew the danger of his course as well as any man. The terror inspired by the slave power, he said upon one occasion, is but faintly indicated by the declaration of a minister of South Carolina who said that it “were better for him, rather than denounce slavery, ‘to murder his own mother,’ and lose his soul in hell!”  This is of course the exaggerated style, characteristic of the abolitionist of the period; but no one, who knew Cassius M. Clay, will venture to deny that he had the courage of his convictions, and was a man, if one ever existed, who feared no foe.

In 1841, an act was introduced into the Kentucky Legislature, for repealing the law of 1833, which prevented the importation of slaves into Kentucky, but it failed to pass.  Cassius Clay seized this occasion for denouncing slavery and its defenders in the savage language which he knew well how to use.  To the threats of the slaveholders, he replied that neither bowie knives, pistols nor mobs could force him to change his course toward the institution, and he warned them that, although ready to sacrifice his life, if need be, in the cause, they would not find him  “a tarne victim of either force or denunciation.” 

Excerpt from Kentucky in the Nation’s History by Robert McNutt McElroy – 1909

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Further Reading and External Links

More on Cassius M Clay

Cassius M Clay on Wikipedia

Colonnata Inscription

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Colonnata Inscription

Roman Cippus found at ColonnataIn [1810], an important inscription was found buried in the valley of Colonnata, above Carrara, sculptured on a piece of white marble similar to that quarried on the very spot, and bearing the names of Decius Halerius Agrippa and Caius Sulpicius Galba, consuls in the 8th year of Tiberius, i.e: A.D. 22, being the reign in which Strabo wrote, and showing that Carrara marble was then worked. (S. Quintino, Atti della R. Accademia di Torino, [1823], p.267.)  I noticed two monumental inscriptions about a mile from Miseglia, the property of a gentleman, who had discovered them close to his house; another, of the time of Septimus Severus, was found in the neighbourhood many years ago: numerous others have, doubtless, been destroyed by the villagers, to whom fragments of statuary marble are but as road-metal.  Polvaccio quarry, four miles north-east of Carrara, is acknowledged to date from Roman times, and to be the spot whence the marble for the Pantheon was obtained.  Though originally erected by Agrippa, BC26, that superb building is still in a good state of preservation.  Roman Basso-Relievo at Fantiscritti QuarryBut the most interesting relic at Carrara is the basso-relievo, attributed to Roman times, which I visited at the quarry of Fantiscritti, representing Jupiter, Hercules, and Bacchus standing together.  It is sculptured on the vertical face of the living rock, in a very inaccessible part of the quarry, several hundred feet above the valley.  It has excited great attention from antiquaries, but the age cannot well be determined.  I append an engraving of this inscription, kindly copied for me by Prof. Pelliccia, at Carrara.

Pliny says that Mamurra, a Roman knight, and prefect of Caesar’s smiths in Gaul, incrusted his villa, on the Mons Coelium at Rome, with Lunar marble, all the columns being of the same stone, and that he was the first Roman who thus employed marble for house decoration. (Pliny; Lib. L, cap. 36, sect. 7.) 

On the very reliable authority of Repetti, who was a native of Carrara, the following objects of ancient Rome have been verified to be of Lunar or Carrara marble:

  • The doorway of the Pantheon.
  • The theatre of Gubbio.
  • The palace and arch in Via Domiziana.
  • The baths of Caracalla.
  • The bust of Cicero in the Borgia museum.
  • Apollo Belvedere, excavated at Nero’s Villa, mentioned by Pliny.

Excerpt from The Mineral Resources of Central Italy by William Paget Jervis – 1862

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Further Reading and External Links

Marble Quarries of the Colonnata Fields

Colonnata History

Coal of Bellingham Bay

 

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COAL OF BELLINGHAM BAY, W. T,

Excerpt from:  Reports of Explorations and Surveys, to Ascertain the Most Practicable and Economical Route for a Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean by Joseph Henry, Spencer Fullerton Baird – 1856

This coal is found interstratified with sandstones and shales on the shores of Bellingham bay.  Lieutenant W.P. Trowbridge, U.S.A., while superintending the construction of light-houses on that part of the coast, made a careful measurement of the strata of the section in which the beds of coal are exposed, of which the results have been published in the geological report of Mr. W.P. Blake, contained in vol. V, U.S.P.R.S. Reports.

The section exposed, when measured by Lieutenant Trowbridge, consisted of about [2,000 feet] of shales, sandstones, and coal, of which the coal presented the enormous aggregate of 110 feet.  It is possible, however, that the series is, in part, composed of repetitions of the same members, as the strata are inclined at a high angle, and are much convoluted and disturbed in all that region.  

Many of the shales are fossiliferous, and vegetable impressions are particularly abundant. T hese consist, for the most part, of the impressions of dicotyledonous leaves, and are similar in general character; and some of them specifically identical with those collected on Frazer’s river by the United States Exploring Expedition, under Capt. Charles Wilkes.  Among them are species of Platanus, Acer, Alnus, etc, as yet undescribed.  There is also a Taxus, or Taxodium, and a Juniperus.  It is probable that all the dicotyledonous species there represented are extinct.  The coniferae may not be so.  A sufficient number of well marked specimens has, however, not yet been collected to determine this question.

The flora of the coal deposits of Bellingham bay is remarkably like that of the lignite beds of the upper Missouri, the genera being nearly all represented on the Missouri, and some of the species are identical.

The lignite beds of the Missouri are undoubtedly Miocene, and it is very difficult to distinguish some of the species found in them from those of the Miocenes of Austria and of the Island of Mull.

The strata exposed on Bellingham bay, both in their lithological character and their fossils, are closely related to the sandstones and shales of the Columbia and Coose bay, and are, probably, portions of the great San Francisco group, which forms the most striking feature of the geology of the coast mountains.

The mines at Bellingham bay were among the first opened on the western coast, and have already furnished a large quantity of coal for the San Francisco market.

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Further Reading and External Links

Bellingham Coal – Historylink.org

Sir William Bellingham of the Royal Navy

Marbles

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Mineral Riches of Central Italy

Marbles

Marble Mountains CarraraITALY is pre-eminently a marble-producing country.  It is to this fact that we must, in a great measure, ascribe the splendour of her palaces and other public and private structures, in which not only the architectural ornaments, but frequently, as in the case of the cathedral at Milan, the entire edifice, is built of the finest marble.  We almost instinctively associate the names of Greece or of Italy with statuary and other white marbles.  The employment of this stone, so invaluable for ornamental work, from the ease with which it can be chiselled, dates from the remotest antiquity, for we find various works of art sculptured in it by the Greeks and the early inhabitants of Italy.  Long before the foundation of Rome, the Etruscans possessed skilful sculptors, whose productions were afterwards held in high estimation by the Romans.

At the present day, few if any quarries are worked in Greece, so that almost all the statuary and white architectural marble employed throughout Europe and America is derived from the Apuan Alps.

From the circumstance of the marbles at Carrara (Massa Carrara) being found within a few miles of the ancient port of Luna, where it was employed in making the wall of the town, we may understand how the Romans should have turned their attention to it at an early period.

In the 16th century, the excavation of statuary marble was extended to Seravezza (Lucca), a town about ten miles east of Carrara, in the same range of mountains, while only within the last thirty years the marbles above the intermediate town of Massa (Massa Carrara) have been worked.  These towns are situated at the foot of the mountains on the three little rivers, Carrione, Seravezza, and Frigido respectively.  Each of these rivers flows through a deep valley it has cut for itself in the rock, numerous torrents on either side forming so many lateral valleys, so that the mountains have ridges often as sharp as the roof of a house.  Two quarries of white marble also belong to the intermediate commune of Montignoso.  On the north side of the Apuan Alps, behind Carrara and Seravezza, are the two communes of Vagli-sotto and Fivizzano, where the marbles are equally abundant, but have not yet been worked.

Excerpt from The Mineral Resources of Central Italy by William Paget Jervis – 1862

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Further Reading and External Links

The Marble Museum of Carrara

Carrara Marble Minerals

An Audience with Archidamus

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The Second and Third Years of the Peloponnesian War – 429 BC

 An Audience with Archidamus

Greek War GalleyIn the beginning of the summer 429 B.C., a Peloponnesian army was again assembled at the isthmus, under the command of Archidamus.  But instead of invading Attica, which was perhaps thought dangerous on account of the pestilence, he gratified the wishes of the Thebans, by marching into the territory of Plataea, where he encamped, and prepared to lay it waste.  But before he had committed any acts of hostility, envoys from Plataea demanded an audience, and, being admitted, made a solemn remonstrance against his proceedings in the name of religion.  They reminded the Spartans that, after the glorious battle which secured the liberty of Greece, Pausanias in the presence of the allied army, and in the public place of Plataea, where he had just offered a sacrifice in honour of the victory, formally reinstated the Plataeans in the independent possession of their city and territory, which he placed under the protection of all the allies, with whom they had shared the common triumph, to defend them from unjust aggression.  They complained that the Spartans were now about to violate this well-earned privilege, which had been secured to Plataea by solemn oaths, at the instigation of her bitterest enemies, the Thebans.  And they adjured him, by the gods who had been invoked to witness the engagement of Pausanias, as well as by those of Sparta, and of their violated territory, to desist from his enterprise.

Archidamus in reply admitted the claim of the Plataeans, but desired them to reflect that the rights on which they insisted implied some corresponding duties; that, if the Spartans were pledged to protect their independence, they were themselves no less bound to assist the Spartans in delivering those who had once been their allies in the struggle with Persia, from the tyranny of Athens.  Yet Sparta, as she had already declared, did not wish to force them to take a part in the war which she was waging for the liberties of Greece, but would be satisfied if they would remain neutral, and would admit both parties alike to amicable intercourse, without aiding either.  The envoys returned with this answer, and, after laying it before the people, came back, instructed to reply: that it was impossible for them to accede to the proposal of Archidamus, without the consent of the Athenians, who had their wives and children in their hands; and they should have reason to fear either the resentment of their present allies, who on the retreat of the Spartans might come and deprive them of their city; or the treachery of the Thebans, who under the cover of neutrality, might find another opportunity of surprising them.  But the Spartan, without noticing the ties that bound them to Athens, met the last objection with a new offer.

“Let them commit their city, houses, and lands, to the custody of the Spartans, with an exact account of the boundaries, the number of their trees, and all other things left behind, which it was possible to number.  Let them withdraw, and live elsewhere until the end of the war.  The Spartans would then restore the deposit entrusted to them, and in the meanwhile would provide for the cultivation of the land, and pay a fair rent.”

Excerpt from The Historians’ History of the World Volume 3 by Henry Smith Williams – 1907

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Further Reading and External Links

iTunes U – FREE Video – Ancient Greek History

The Peloponnesian War on Wikipedia