Nov 092018
 

Today is the birthday (1914) of actress Hedy Lamarr, born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler. Many people my age remember his from films such as Algiers (1938), Boom Town (1940), I Take This Woman (1940), Comrade X (1940), Come Live With Me (1941), H.M. Pulham, Esq. (1941), and Samson and Delilah (1949), that were stock-in-trade TV movies back in the 1960s when a film had to be over 10 years old to be shown on television. Fewer people know that at the beginning of World War II, she and composer George Antheil developed a radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes that used spread spectrum and frequency hopping technology to defeat the threat of jamming by the Axis powers. Although the US Navy did not adopt the technology until the 1960s, the principles of their work are incorporated into Bluetooth technology and are similar to methods used in legacy versions of CDMA and Wi-Fi.

Lamarr was born in Vienna, the only child of Gertrud “Trude” Kiesler (née Lichtwitz; 1894–1977) and Emil Kiesler (1880–1935). Her father was born to a Jewish family in Lemberg (now Lviv in Ukraine) and was a successful bank director. Trude, her mother, a pianist and Budapest native, had come from an upper-class Jewish family. She had converted to Catholicism and was described as a “practicing Christian” who raised her daughter as a Christian. Lamarr helped get her mother out of Austria after it had been absorbed by the Third Reich and to the United States, where Gertrude later became a US citizen. She put “Hebrew” as her race on her petition for naturalization, which was a term often used in Europe.

Lamarr was taking acting classes in Vienna when one day, she forged a note from her mother and went to Sascha-Film and was able to get herself hired as a script girl. While there, she was able to get a role as an extra in Money on the Street (1930), and then a small speaking part in Storm in a Water Glass (1931). Producer Max Reinhardt then cast her in a play entitled The Weaker Sex, which was performed at the Theater in der Josefstadt. Reinhardt was so impressed with her that he brought her with him back to Berlin.

However, she never actually trained with Reinhardt or appeared in any of his Berlin productions. Instead, she met the Russian theatre producer Alexis Granowsky, who cast her in his film directorial debut, The Trunks of Mr. O.F. (1931), starring Walter Abel and Peter Lorre. Granowsky soon moved to Paris, but Lamarr stayed in Berlin and was given the lead role in No Money Needed (1932), a comedy directed by Carl Boese. Lamarr then starred in the film which made her internationally famous.

In early 1933, at age 18, Lamarr was given the lead in Gustav Machatý’s film, Ecstasy (Ekstase in German, Extase in Czech). She played the neglected young wife of an indifferent older man. The film became both celebrated and notorious for showing Lamarr’s face in the throes of orgasm as well as close-up and brief nude scenes, a result of her being deceived by the director and producer, who used high-power telephoto lenses. Although she was dismayed, and disillusioned about taking other roles, the film gained world recognition after winning an award in Rome. Throughout Europe, it was regarded as an artistic work. In the US it was considered overly sexual and received negative publicity, especially among women’s groups. It was banned there and in Germany.

Lamarr played a number of stage roles, including a starring one in Sissy, a play about Empress Elisabeth of Austria produced in Vienna. It won accolades from critics. Admirers sent roses to her dressing room and tried to get backstage to meet her. She sent most of them away, including a man who was more insistent, Friedrich Mandl. He became obsessed with getting to know her. Mandl was an Austrian military arms merchant and munitions manufacturer who was reputedly the third-richest man in Austria. Lamarr fell for him, but her parents, both of Jewish descent, did not approve, due to Mandl’s ties to Mussolini, and later, Hitler.

On August 10, 1933, Lamarr married Mandl. She was 18 years old and he was 33. In her autobiography Ecstasy and Me, she described Mandl as an extremely controlling husband who strongly objected to her simulated orgasm scene in Ecstasy and prevented her from pursuing her acting career. She claimed she was kept a virtual prisoner in their castle home, Schloss Schwarzenau. Mandl had close social and business ties to the Italian government, selling munitions to the country, and although like Hedy, his own father was Jewish, had ties to the Nazi regime of Germany, as well. Lamarr wrote that the dictators of both countries attended lavish parties at the Mandl home. Lamarr accompanied Mandl to business meetings, where he conferred with scientists and other professionals involved in military technology. These conferences were her introduction to the field of applied science and nurtured her latent talent in science.

Lamarr’s marriage to Mandl eventually became unbearable, and she decided to separate herself from both her husband and country. In her autobiography, she wrote that she disguised herself as her maid and fled to Paris, but by other accounts, she persuaded Mandl to let her wear all of her jewelry for a dinner party, then disappeared afterward. She writes about her marriage:

I knew very soon that I could never be an actress while I was his wife. He was the absolute monarch in his marriage.  I was like a doll. I was like a thing, some object of art which had to be guarded—and imprisoned—having no mind, no life of its own.

After arriving in London in 1937, she met Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM, who was scouting for talent in Europe. She initially turned down the offer he made her ($125 a week), but then booked herself on to the same New York bound liner as him, and managed to impress him enough to secure a $500 a week contract. Mayer persuaded her to change her name to Hedy Lamarr (to distance herself from her real identity, and “the Ecstasy lady” reputation associated with it), choosing the surname in homage to the beautiful silent film star, Barbara La Marr, on the suggestion of his wife, who admired La Marr. He brought her to Hollywood in 1938 and began promoting her as the “world’s most beautiful woman”.

Mayer loaned Lamarr to producer Walter Wanger, who was making Algiers (1938), an American version of the French film, Pépé le Moko (1937). Lamarr was cast in the lead opposite Charles Boyer. The film created a “national sensation”, says Shearer. She was billed as an unknown but well-publicized Austrian actress, which created anticipation in audiences. Mayer hoped she would become another Greta Garbo or Marlene Dietrich. According to one viewer, when her face first appeared on the screen, “everyone gasped … Lamarr’s beauty literally took one’s breath away.”

In future Hollywood films, she was invariably typecast as the archetypal glamorous seductress of exotic origin. You can follow her Hollywood career from here for yourself. Now I’ll turn to her scientific investigations, as this is a lesser known side of her. Lamarr wanted to join the National Inventors Council, but was reportedly told by NIC member Charles F. Kettering and others that she could better help the war effort by using her celebrity status to sell war bonds. She participated in a war bond-selling campaign with a sailor named Eddie Rhodes. Rhodes was in the crowd at each Lamarr appearance, and she would call him up on stage. She would briefly flirt with him before asking the audience if she should give him a kiss. The crowd would say yes, to which Hedy would reply that she would if enough people bought war bonds. After enough bonds were purchased, she would kiss Rhodes and he would head back into the audience. Then they would head off to the next war bond rally.

Although Lamarr had no formal training and was primarily self-taught, she worked in her spare time on various hobbies and inventions, which included an improved traffic stoplight and a tablet that would dissolve in water to create a carbonated drink. The beverage was unsuccessful; Lamarr herself said it tasted like Alka-Seltzer.

Among the few who knew of Lamarr’s inventiveness was aviation tycoon Howard Hughes. She suggested he change the rather square design of his aeroplanes (which she thought looked too slow) to a more streamlined shape, based on pictures of the fastest birds and fish she could find. Lamarr discussed her relationship with Hughes during an interview, saying that while they dated, he actively supported her “tinkering” hobbies. He put his team of science engineers at her disposal, saying they would do or make anything she asked for.

During World War II, Lamarr learned that radio-controlled torpedoes, an emerging technology in naval war, could easily be jammed and set off course. She thought of creating a frequency-hopping signal that could not be tracked or jammed. She contacted her friend, composer and pianist George Antheil, to help her develop a device for doing that, and he succeeded by synchronizing a miniaturized player-piano mechanism with radio signals. They drafted designs for the frequency-hopping system, which they patented. Antheil recalled:

We began talking about the war, which, in the late summer of 1940, was looking most extremely black. Hedy said that she did not feel very comfortable, sitting there in Hollywood and making lots of money when things were in such a state. She said that she knew a good deal about munitions and various secret weapons … and that she was thinking seriously of quitting MGM and going to Washington, DC, to offer her services to the newly established Inventors’ Council.

Their invention was granted a patent under US Patent 2,292,387 on August 11th, 1942 (filed using her married name Hedy Kiesler Markey). However, it was technologically difficult to implement, and at that time the U.S. Navy was not receptive to considering inventions coming from outside the military. In 1962, (at the time of the Cuban missile crisis), an updated version of their design at last appeared on Navy ships. In 1997, Lamarr and Antheil received the Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award and the Bulbie Gnass Spirit of Achievement Bronze Award, given to individuals whose creative lifetime achievements in the arts, sciences, business, or invention fields have significantly contributed to society. Lamarr was featured on the Science Channel and the Discovery Channel. In 2014, Lamarr and Antheil were posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Lamarr died in Casselberry, Florida, on January 19th, 2000, of heart disease, aged 85. Her son Anthony Loder spread her ashes in Austria’s Vienna Woods in accordance with her last wishes. Lamarr was given an honorary grave in Vienna’s Central Cemetery in 2014.

Here’s a video for making Eiernockerln, egg dumplings from Vienna that are not as well known outside Austria as Weiner Schnitzel or Sachertorte or any of a dozen Viennese recipes I have already given you, but they are quite splendid if made right.

Mar 052018
 

On this date in 1963 Arthur “Spud” Melin, co-founder of WHAM-O, received U.S. Patent Number 3,079,728 for the company’s version of the hula hoop. The hula hoop can scarcely be said to be a modern invention. There have been various records of waist hooping for exercise, dance, and recreation from numerous cultures throughout history. Before it was known and recognized as the common colorful plastic toy (sometimes with water or sand inside the actual hoop), the traditional “hula hoop” used to be made of dried willow, rattan, grapevines, or stiff grasses. Even though they have existed for thousands of years, they are often misunderstood as having been invented in the 1950s. According to Charles Panati, there was a craze of using wooden and metal hoops in 14th-century England. He reports that doctors treated patients suffering from pain and dislocated backs due to hooping − and heart failure was even attributed to it. Panati also says that the name “hula” came from the Hawaiian dance in the 18th century, due to the similar hip movements.

The Native American Hoop Dance is a form of storytelling dance incorporating anywhere from 1 to 30 hoops (sometimes more) as props. These props are used to create both static and dynamic shapes, which represent various animals, symbols, and storytelling elements. The dance is generally performed by a solo dancer with multiple hoops.

The hula hoop gained international popularity in the late 1950s, when the plastic version was successfully marketed by California’s WHAM-O toy company. In 1957, Richard Knerr and Arthur “Spud” Melin, starting with the idea of Australian bamboo “exercise hoops”, manufactured 1.06-metre (42 in) hoops with Marlex plastic. With giveaways and national marketing and retailing, a fad was started in July 1958. 25 million plastic hoops were sold in less than four months, and in two years, sales reached more than 100 million units. Carlon Products Corporation was one of the first manufacturers of the hula hoop. During the 1950s, when the hula hoop craze swept the country, Carlon was producing more than 50,000 hula hoops per day. The hoop was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong in Rochester, New York, in 1999. The hula hoop craze swept the world, dying out again in the 1980s, but not in China and Russia, where hula hooping and hoop manipulation were adopted by traditional circuses and rhythmic gymnasts.

Recently, there has been a re-emergence of hula hooping, generally referred to as either “hoopdance” or simply “hooping” to distinguish it from the children’s play form. The jam band The String Cheese Incident is widely credited with fostering a renewed interest in hooping. Band members started throwing larger adult-sized hoops into their audiences in the mid-1990s, encouraging their fans to hoop and dance, spreading the word and the fun.It wasn’t until 2003 with the launch of Hooping.org that these small bands of hoopers began to find each other online and a real community and movement began to grow. Bay Area Hoopers began in San Francisco at that time holding regular “hoop jams” with music to hoop to and the hooping group began being replicated in cities around the world. In 2006 Hoopin’ Annie had the idea to create a hooping holiday and the first World Hoop Day was held in 2007. Modern hula hooping is seen at numerous festivals and fairs in the USA, UK, Australia and Europe.

Many modern hoopers make their own hoops out of PVC piping, or polypropylene tubing (known as polypro). The polyethylene hoops, and especially the polyvinyl chloride hoops, are much larger and heavier than hoops of the 1950s. The size and the weight of the hoop affect the style of the hooper. Heavier, larger hoops are more often used for beginner dancers and easier tricks, while lighter, thinner tubing is used for quick hand tricks. These hoops may be covered in a fabric or plastic tape to create more of a visual image and distinguish between the hoop and dancer. Gaffer Tape is also used to line the inside of a hula hoop to add grip or when using a bare hula hoop it can be roughened by using sandpaper. Some use glow-in-the dark, patterned, or sparkling tape, and others are produced with clear tubing and are never filled with materials (usually hoops for children are filled with an array of materials). LED technology has also been introduced in the past few years, allowing hoops to light up at the flick of a switch or a remote control. Programmable ‘Smart Hoops’ are available which provide a range of special effects and some can even be customized through an application on a mobile device.

There are thousands of YouTube videos on hooping. I won’t waste disk space with an embedded one. This is typical: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdIqYbRxldU

Given that hula is a Hawaiian dance, a Hawaiian recipe seems suitable, and since hooping is physically challenging why not try making Hawaiian poi (mashed taro root) in the traditional way? Here’s a video for you.

May 232017
 

On this date in 1829 Cyrill Demian (1772–1849) received an official patent from the Vienna patent office for a new instrument he called an accordion. Thus, he is generally credited with the invention. A few give credit to Christian Friedrich Ludwig Buschmann (who also claims to have invented the harmonica) but there is no evidence for either claim apart from a few jottings that Buschmann himself made. His claim to have invented the harmonica is clearly false because they were on sale in Austria 3 years before he says he invented the instrument. Demian is our man.

Cyrill Demian was an Armenian from the Romanian city of Gherla (ancient Armenopolis) who moved to Vienna and worked as an organ and piano maker, with his two sons Karl and Guido, in Mariahilfer Straße No. 43 in Vienna. His new instrument was a modification of the Handäoline, comprising a small manual bellows and five keys. As noted in his own description and patent application, the instrument was what we now call a push-pull accordion, that is it produced a different note on each key depending on whether the bellows were pushed or pulled. Five keys would give a few notes more than an octave in a diatonic scale and major chords would be easy to produce.

His description is translated here from the original German:

Its appearance essentially consists of a little box with feathers of metal plates and bellows fixed to it, in such a way that it can easily be carried, and therefore traveling visitors to the country will appreciate the instrument.

It is possible to perform marches, arias, melodies, even by an amateur of music with little practice, and to play the loveliest and most pleasant chords of 3, 4, 5 etc. voices after instruction.

1st – In a box 7 to 9 inches long, 3½ inches wide and 2 inches high, feathers of metal plates are fixed, which were known for more than 200 years as Regale, Zungen, Schnarrwerk, in organs.

2nd – With bellows fixed to the above box and its 5 claves fixed below, even an amateur of music can play the loveliest and most moving chords of 3, 4 and 5 voices with very little practice.

3rd – Each claves or key of this instrument allows two different chords to be heard, as many keys are fixed to it, double as many chords can be heard, pulling the bellows a key gives one chord, while pushing the bellows gives the same key a second chord.

4th – As this instrument can be made with 4, 5 and 6 or even more claves, with chords arranged in alphabetical order, many well known arias, melodies and marches, etc. may be performed similar to the harmony of 3, 4 and 5 voices, with satisfaction of all anticipations of delicacy and vastly amazing comfort in increasing and decreasing sound volume.

5th – The instrument is of the same size as the attached illustration, with 5 claves and 10 chords, not heavier than 32 to 36 Loth [1 Loth = approx. 16 gm], only if there are more chords will it become longer and some Loths heavier, so it is easy and comfortable to carry and should be a welcome invention for travelers, country and parties visiting individuals of both sexes, especially as it can be played without the help of anybody.[1]

With the cover of the bellows, the entire instrument may be doubled, in order to play more chords or more single tones, in this case, keyboard, the bellows remain in the middle, while each hand controls in turn, either the claves or the bellows.

The above-mentioned duplication of the instrument or adding more chords, would not make anything better to anybody, or give something new, as only the parts would increase, and the instrument more expensive and heavier. The instrument costs 12 to 16 Marks the difference in price results in a more elegant or worse-looking appearance.

From humble beginnings a welter of different kinds of accordions came forth. Many more right hand (treble) keys were added, as were left hand (bass) keys. More reeds (what are called “feathers” here) made richer sounds which could be added or subtracted via stops (equivalent of organ stops), and so forth.

In the 19th century the accordion eventually supplanted the fiddle as the staple instrument for dance music in northern Europe, because of the relative ease of playing in comparison with the fiddle.  Accordion reeds are permanently tuned, so it is hard/impossible to play out of tune, and the arrangement of the keys makes production of major chords very simple. If it is tuned in C major, for example, the first 3 keys played together by pushing the bellows produce the notes C E G (the tonic major chord).

Here’s a video of John Spiers trying out a new push-pull accordion, called a melodeon in England. John is the son of a very old friend of mine, and is quite well known in the English folk scene. I played this kind of instrument for many years, but have retired and do not own one any more – otherwise I would give you a sample of my own playing.

Because Demian was Armenian I’ll choose an Armenian recipe to celebrate him even though the accordion was born in Vienna.  I’ve given plenty of Viennese recipes and precious few Armenian ones. Lamb and bulgar are classic Armenian ingredients, so here’s a lamb meatball dish that involves both. You can think of the meatballs as lamb stuffed with lamb. The influence of Indian cuisine should be obvious to those who know kofta.

Kufta

Ingredients

Stuffing

1 lb ground lamb
2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
½ cup green bell pepper, finely chopped
3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted and chopped
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp mint leaves finely chopped
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp dried basil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Outer layer

1½ lb lamb, finely ground
¾ cup fine bulgur, soaked 20 minutes in water and drained
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper

To cook

4 pints chicken stock
olive oil

Instructions

For the filling, sauté the lamb in a skillet over medium-high heat with a trace of olive oil. When thoroughly browned add the onions, green pepper and parsley and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, until the vegetables have softened. Add the spices and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook for 10 more minutes, then place in a bowl and chill thoroughly.

Chill completely.

To finish and cook, mix the outer layer ingredients together in a food processor. You want this outer layer to be light and fluffy, so mix well so that air is incorporated.

Shape the filling into balls the size of walnuts.

Shape the outer layer into round patties that are large enough to wrap around the filling. Place one ball of filling inside the outer layer, and then wrap the outer layer around the filling so that it is completely and evenly covered. Sorry, this takes practice.

Bring the stock to a simmer in a large stock pot. Add the meatballs a few at a time, cover and simmer for about 8 to 10 minutes. When they are cooked the meatballs will rise to the surface.

You can serve the kufta in some broth, or with plain boiled rice and yoghurt.

May 052017
 

On this date in 1809, Mary Dixon Kies (1752 – 1837) was granted a patent for a new technique of weaving straw with silk and thread to make hats, signed by President James Madison. Most historians say that she was the first American woman to receive a patent, however others state that Hannah Slater was the first to file for a patent as early as 1793. Slater supposedly invented a method of producing cotton sewing thread. Disentangling the puzzle is impossible at this point because the US Patent Office was consumed by fire in 1836 destroying all the relevant documents.

Mary’s father, John Dixon, was a farmer born in 1679 in Ireland. Her mother, Janet Kennedy, was John Dixon’s third wife. Mary Dixon was born in Killingly, Connecticut on March 21, 1752. She married Isaac Pike I, and in 1770 they had a son, Isaac Pike II. After his death she married John Kies (1750–1813) who died on August 18, 1813 at age 63. She then lived with her second son, Daniel Kies, in Brooklyn, New York, until her death at age 85 in 1837.

Because of the Napoleonic Wars resulting in the constant threats on US merchant ships, the United States placed an embargo in 1807 on all trade with France and Great Britain, creating a shortage of all kinds of goods imported from Europe including millinery. The straw-weaving industry filled the gap. There were over $500,000 ($9 million in today’s money) worth of straw bonnets produced in Massachusetts alone in 1810.

Mary Kies was not the first woman in the US to innovate in hat-making. In 1798, New Englander Betsy Metcalf invented a method of braiding straw. Her method became very popular, and she employed many women and girls to make her hats. The method created a new industry for girls and women because the straw bonnets could be made at home from local resources, meaning that the women and girls could do work for themselves. Betsy Metcalf can thus be credited with starting the US straw-hat industry. Under the Patent Act of 1790 she could have sought a patent, but like most women at the time, who could not legally hold property, she chose not to. Mary Kies, did apply for a patent, however it’s not clear that she profited from it. Her idea differed from Metcalf’s in that she used thread in the weaving process. First Lady, Dolly Madison, was so pleased by Kies’ innovation that she sent a personal letter applauding her.

It is claimed that Kies’ technique proved valuable in making cost-effective work bonnets, but I can’t find any solid evidence to support this claim. Rather it appears that she did not profit much from her invention and she died in 1837 dependent on her son.

I’ve mentioned Amelia Simmons’ cookbook, American Cookery before because it was the first cookbook written and published in the United States. Since it was published in Connecticut in 1798 is a fitting source for us. The whole first half of the book is taken up with a discourse on various ingredients: flesh, fish fowl, vegetables, fruits, herbs, you name it. The recipes are terse but reasonably easy to follow. This one for foot pie caught my attention because it seems so bizarre. It reminds us that in the days before refrigeration people were a bit cavalier with storing things.

Minced Pies. A Foot Pie.

Scald neets feet, and clean well, (grass fed are best) put them into a large vessel of cold water, which change daily during a week, then boil the feet till tender, and take away the bones, when cold, chop fine, to every four pound minced meat, add one pound of beef suet, and four pound apple raw, and a little salt, chop all together very fine, add one quart of wine, two pound of stoned raisins, one ounce of cinnamon, one ounce mace, and sweeten to your taste; make use of paste No. 3–bake three quarters of an hour.

Weeks after, when you have occasion to use them, carefully raise the top crust, and with a round edg’d spoon, collect the meat into a bason, which warm with additional wine and spices to the taste of your circle, while the crust is also warm’d like a hoe cake, put carefully together and serve up, by this means you can have hot pies through the winter, and enrich’d singly to your company.

I’m not thrilled with the “weeks after” bit. Is she serious? And . . . you can do this throughout the winter? I need a bit more context. What I think she is suggesting is something akin to mincemeat which will keep for months. That is because of the sugar content.

Neat’s foot is an old fashioned term for cow’s foot, which is hard to find. You can sometimes find neatsfoot oil which is used to preserve and waterproof leather shoes, similar to mink oil which I used to use on my hiking boots. Cowheel pie used to be a popular and cheap dish in Lancashire but I have not seen nor heard of it in decades. Cow’s foot, like pig’s trotter is fatty with little in the way of meat on it. Still, if you find some stew them up in a soup.

Feb 112016
 

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Today is the birthday (1800) of William Henry Fox Talbot who was a British scientist, inventor and photography pioneer who invented the salted paper and calotype processes, precursors to photographic processes of the later 19th and 20th centuries. His work in the 1840s on photomechanical reproduction led to the creation of the photoglyphic engraving process, the precursor to photogravure. He was the holder of a controversial patent which impacted the early development of commercial photography in Britain. He was also a noted photographer who contributed to the development of photography as an artistic medium. He published The Pencil of Nature (1844–46), which was illustrated with original salted paper prints from his calotype negatives, and made some important early photographs of Oxford, Paris, Reading, and York.

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The Pencil of Nature, was published in six installments between 1844 and 1846, and has good claim to be the first photographically illustrated book to be commercially published. It was written by Talbot and published by Longman, Brown, Green & Longmans in London. The book detailed Talbot’s development of the calotype process and included 24 calotype prints, each one pasted in by hand, illustrating some of the possible applications of the new technology. Since photography was still very much a novelty and many people remained unfamiliar with the concept, Talbot felt compelled to insert the following notice into his book:

The plates of the present work are impressed by the agency of Light alone, without any aid whatever from the artist’s pencil. They are the sun-pictures themselves, and not, as some persons have imagined, engravings in imitation.

The Pencil of Nature was published and sold one section at a time, without any binding (as with many books of the time, purchasers were expected to have it bound themselves once all the installments had been released). Talbot planned a large number of installments; however, the book was not a commercial success and he was forced to terminate the project after completing only six. Given the laborious method of production and expense, this is hardly surprising.

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Shortly after Louis Daguerre’s (http://www.bookofdaystales.com/daguerrotype/ ) invention of the daguerreotype was announced in early January 1839, without details, Talbot asserted priority of invention based on experiments he had begun in early 1834. At a meeting of the Royal Institution on 25 January 1839, Talbot exhibited several paper photographs he had made in 1835. Within a fortnight, he communicated the general nature of his process to the Royal Society, followed by more complete details a few weeks later. Daguerre did not publicly reveal any useful details until mid-August, although by the spring it had become clear that his process and Talbot’s were very different.

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Talbot’s early “salted paper” or “photogenic drawing” process used writing paper bathed in a weak solution of ordinary table salt (sodium chloride), dried, then brushed on one side with a strong solution of silver nitrate, which created a tenacious coating of very light-sensitive silver chloride that darkened where it was exposed to light. Whether used to create shadow image photograms by placing objects on it and setting it out in the sunlight, or to capture the dim images formed by a lens in a camera, it was a “printing out” process, meaning that the exposure had to continue until the desired degree of darkening had been produced. In the case of camera images, that could require an exposure of an hour or two if something more than a silhouette of objects against a bright sky was wanted. Earlier experimenters such as Thomas Wedgwood and Nicéphore Niépce had captured shadows and camera images with silver salts years before, but they could find no way to prevent their photographs from fatally darkening all over when exposed to daylight. Talbot devised several ways of chemically stabilizing his results, making them sufficiently insensitive to further exposure that direct sunlight could be used to print the negative image produced in the camera on to another sheet of salted paper, creating a positive.

Daguerre’s work on his process had commenced at about the same time as Talbot’s earliest work on his salted paper process. In 1839, Daguerre’s agent applied for English and Scottish patents only a matter of days before France, having granted Daguerre a pension for it, declared his invention “free to the world”. The United Kingdom and the British “Colonies and Plantations abroad” therefore became the only places where a license was legally required to make and sell daguerreotypes. This exception is now usually regarded as both an expression of old national animosities, still smoldering just 24 years after Waterloo, and a reaction to Talbot’s initial aggressive assertion of an extremely broad claim of priority of invention. Talbot never attempted to patent any part of his printed-out silver chloride “photogenic drawing” process.

In February 1841, Talbot obtained an English patent for his developed-out calotype process. At first, he sold individual patent licenses for £20 each; later, he lowered the fee for amateur use to £4. Professional photographers, however, had to pay up to £300 annually. In a business climate where many patent holders were attacked for enforcing their rights, and an academic world that viewed the patenting of new discoveries as a crass hindrance to scientific freedom and further progress, Talbot’s behavior was widely criticized. One reason Talbot later gave for vigorously enforcing his rights was that he had spent, according to his own reckoning, about £5,000 on his various photographic endeavors over the years and wanted to at least recoup his expenses.

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In 1844, Talbot helped set up an establishment in Baker Street, Reading, for mass-producing salted paper prints from his calotype negatives. The Reading Establishment, as it was known, also offered services to the public, making prints from others’ negatives, copying artwork and documents, and taking portraits at its studio. The enterprise was not a success.

Rather than explore Talbot’s inventions and personal history more I’d like to present a small gallery of his works using various processes. To my eye, many are breathtakingly beautiful, and are also priceless records of his life and times.

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William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800–1877) Group Taking Tea at Lacock Abbey, August 17, 1843 Salted paper print from paper negative; Mount: 9 15/16 in. × 13 in. (25.3 × 33 cm) Sheet: 7 3/8 × 8 15/16 in. (18.7 × 22.7 cm) Image: 5 in. × 7 1/2 in. (12.7 × 19 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Bequest of Maurice B. Sendak, 2013 (2013.159.50) http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/306333

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Given that Talbot’s studio was located in Reading, and a great many of his photographs were of Victorian Reading I thought I would give you Reading sauce as my recipe of the day. Reading sauce is virtually unknown now, but it was very popular in Victorian times. In Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days, Fogg one day had for his breakfast at the Reform Club in London “. . . a side-dish, a broiled fish with Reading sauce.” Lewis Carroll wrote:

Then, fourthly, there are epithets, That suit with any word
As well as Harvey’s Reading Sauce, With fish, or flesh, or bird.

ht16

The sauce rivaled Worcestershire sauce in Victorian times but fell out of favor in the early 20th century. However, there have been attempts recently to revive interest – especially in Reading. Here, of course, is Mrs Beeton.

READING SAUCE.

  1. INGREDIENTS.—2-1/2 pints of walnut pickle, 1-1/2 oz. of shalots, 1 quart of spring water, 3/4 pint of Indian soy, 1/2 oz. of bruised ginger, 1/2 oz. of long pepper, 1 oz. of mustard-seed, 1 anchovy, 1/2 oz. of cayenne, 1/4 oz. of dried sweet bay-leaves.

Mode.—Bruise the shalots in a mortar, and put them in a stone jar with the walnut-liquor; place it before the fire, and let it boil until reduced to 2 pints. Then, into another jar, put all the ingredients except the bay-leaves, taking care that they are well bruised, so that the flavour may be thoroughly extracted; put this also before the fire, and let it boil for 1 hour, or rather more. When the contents of both jars are sufficiently cooked, mix them together, stirring them well as you mix them, and submit them to a slow boiling for 1/2 hour; cover closely, and let them stand 24 hours in a cool place; then open the jar and add the bay-leaves; let it stand a week longer closed down, when strain through a flannel bag, and it will be ready for use. The above quantities will make 1/2 gallon.

Time.—Altogether, 3 hours.

Seasonable.—This sauce may be made at any time.