The Spirit of an Unconquered People

Friday, 15 September 1871 - Liverpool, England

Liverpool Customs House
Today I visited largest building in Liverpool. In most cities that would be a cathedral or a castle or a palace. Here in Liverpool, a city that lives by trade, it’s the Customs House.

A Customs House is where the offices are located for the folks who handle all the paperwork for the goods coming in and going out of the country. The officials also collect taxes and regulate commerce. In most cities the customs house just an office building, but here in Liverpool it looks like a Greek temple to the god of commerce.

Built between 1828 and 1839 on the site of the original old dock, the Custom House overlooks the bay, greeting foreign ships coming in. She is one of the city’s great landmarks. The University of Liverpool especially wanted me to record as much of her as I could. In seventy years she will be gone.

We have all heard of the London Blitz in World War II, but London was not the only target. Glasgow, Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, Manchester, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Southampton, and Swansea were all hit. However the Luftwaffe’s second biggest target was the Liverpool area. If the London Blitz was a strike at the heart of Britain, then the Liverpool Blitz was a kidney punch. This was her major port for supplies from America and Canada. This was also where Britain’s Atlantic fleet was headquartered.

Liverpool after the Blitz
From 1940 and 1942, the folks of Liverpool slept lightly, poised to run for air-raid shelters. Even those were not safe in a direct hit. Between August and December of 1940 alone, .the Germans attacked fifty times. Most raids were only a few planes, but some had as many as 300 bombers. The RAF valiantly tried to stop the Luftwaffe, but could only slow them down. Thousands of homes were destroyed in Liverpool and the suburb towns of Bootle, Wirral and Birkenhead. 4,000 people lost their lives.

The docks were Germany’s main target, so was only a matter of time before the Customs House would be hit. It was completely gutted and the dome destroyed. What remains of the shell was demolished six years later. To this day there is still a debate as to whether or not the Customs Building could have been repaired or if it was a lost cause. No one wanted to see it go.

Bombed Out Customs House
The Customs House will by no means the only building destroyed in the Liverpool Blitz. I have been given a list of ones that are now here in 1871. This is my chance to save their memory for the folks back home.

Despite the great blow from the Blitz, Liverpool will carry on. When Prime Minister Winston Churchill came to survey the damage, he summed it up well: "I see the damage done by the enemy attacks, but I also see ... the spirit of an unconquered people."

Scousers Carrying On
(Like that twit Hitler could slow them down)


A Very Short History of Liverpool

Monday, 11 September 1871 - Liverpool, England

future Seaman's Orphan Institute
Today I was present for the laying of the foundation stone for the Liverpool Seaman's Orphan Institution by Ralph Brocklebank. The Brocklebank family owns one of the oldest and largest shipping firms in Liverpool. Since the Seaman’s Orphan Institute’s founding in 1869, the orphans have been living in temporary quarters. Their permanent home won’t be finished until 1874.

You may wonder why the University of Liverpool wanted me to cover such a trivial event as the laying of a foundation stone for an orphange, but it is not trivial. This organization was more than overdue. The life of a sailor is a dangerous one and they have left plenty of orphans. Liverpool realized it had better do something to repay the sacrifices of these brave seaman. Without sailors and ships there would be no Liverpool. Well, maybe a tiny village with a couple of farms, but it would not be a city by any stretch of the imagination.

Liverpool was founded in 1207 with a Royal Charter from King John. Yes, that King John, villainized in all the Robin Hood movies. However King John was not the total idiot he is often portrayed as. He could see this spot would make an excellent port. Problem was it would take nearly five centuries for anyone else to see that.

map of Liverpool 1600
For a long time Liverpool was just a small fishing village. By the middle of the 16th century she had 600 souls. Then in 1648 Liverpool received it’s first cargo from America, starting a trans-Atlantic highway. By 1700 the city’s population was 7,000. She will swell to 75,000 by the end of the century, increasing more than ten fold.

map of Liverpool 1769
In the early eighteen century two things happened that would make Liverpool one of the biggest ports in the world. First she built the world’s first commercial enclosed wet dock, capable of holding 100 ships. Secondly she sent out her first slave ship. By the end of the century 40% of the world’s and 80% of Great Britain’s slave ships sailed from Liverpool. Slavery made a lot of people rich, and made a lot more people miserable. (To be fair to Liverpool, in 2007 she opened the International Slavery Museum, in the memory of all those victims, rather than pretending it never happened.)

Slavery was not the only commerce. From Liverpool products from Great Britain went over seas to the Americas. Returning ships were loaded down with products from the New World--sugar, tobacco, wheat, and most importantly, cotton. Cotton mills were opened in Liverpool but most of the cargo was shipped to Manchester. At first they went there by canal, but in 1830 Liverpool was linked to Manchester by way of the world’s very first commercial railway. Soon Britain would be crisscrossed with rail.

original Liverpool and Manchester Railway
Liverpool’s shipping industry just got bigger. Between 1824 and 1858 over 140 acres of new docks were built. Currently (1871), it’s estimated that 40% of all the shipping in the world goes through Liverpool. It is bringing sailors, merchants and workers from all over the world to this city.

During the Potato Famine, thousands of Irish migrated here--300,000 in 1847 alone. In the 1851 census, one in four people in Liverpool put down Ireland as their birthplace. In the second half of the 1800s, at least 120,000 Welsh also came. The two Celtic groups gave Liverpool it’s unique “Souser” accent.

Scandinavian Church
The name Souser comes from a Norwegian dish lapskaus. The Norwegian sailors introduced the stew to the locals and it has become a local favorite. Since the 1850s many Scandinavians have immigrated to Liverpool. By 1888 the community will be large and wealthy enough to build a huge church, the Gustaf Adolfs Kyrka.

The slave trade also gave Liverpool Britain’s first Black community. Freed slaves, runaway sailors from America and servants brought by captains, made the Black population 10,000 by 1720. They had to deal with racism, but they survived and flourished.

Liverpool has Europe’s oldest Chinatown. They have been coming in since the East India Company lost their monopoly on eastern trade. The massacre of Greeks by the Turks in 1821 will send a wave of Greek immigrants here. Italians have come here recently to escape poverty. There are some tradesmen and sailors from India. If you look hard enough you can find people from all over the world.

By 1871 all this immigration will make Liverpool’s population 493, 405. Apparently immigrants are also a great export for the city. Two-thirds of the immigrants to the United States and Canada will pass through Liverpool. (Remember my trip to Ellis Island in 1893 last year? I had to start in Liverpool.)

Dr. William Duncan
Unfortunately this rapid, unplanned growth made Liverpool Britain’s filthiest city in the first half of the century. This led to cholera, small pox, typhus and other outbreaks in the slums. Those outbreaks would spill into nicer neighborhoods. When other ports began to ban ships from Liverpool from docking, the city fathers decided to do something about it. The appointed Dr. William Duncan as the UK’s very first Medical Officer of Health in 1847. He seemed the perfect man since he had long been nagging them about the problem. And Liverpool listened. By 1871, one can already see a drastic change.

Besides having some of the worst slums, Liverpool also has some of the nicest neighborhoods in Great Britain. The only town with more millionaires is London. Most made their money in shipping.

Victorian Liverpool
There is almost nothing left of the medieval village that was Liverpool. It is a growing, modern city. All right, they are having problems with gangs of hoodlums in the slums now (that will get national attention in three years,) but Liverpool is working hard to solve her problems. She will just get better and better. Or in the words of her future poet laureates, the Beatles: “Getting so much better all the time.”

Liverpool's The Quarrymen in 1958 (future Beatles)


It's Here! (Almost)

12 October 2658 - Cambridge, UK

At last! My book on tea is finally being released this Friday. I am very excited. Think I’ll have a cup of tea to celebrate. Here is the press release:

Harvesting Tea the Victorian Way
The Rise of Tea in Victorian Great Britain and Its Social Impact
by Dr. Wendell A. Howe
University of Cambridge Press
Release date: 14 October 2658

This book is the life’s work of Dr. Wendell A. Howe, the Temporal Anthropologist for the University of Cambridge and world renowned expert on Victorian culture. For nearly fifty years, Dr. Howe has been in the past studying the tea drinking habits of our ancestors.

At the beginning of the Victorian Age, tea was a luxury for the upper classes. By the end of the era it was drunk daily by even the poorest. Tea replaced beer as the most popular beverage in Great Britain and had become an intricate part of life.

When tea replaced beer, it gave Britain a sober workforce to develop the Industrial Age. It allowed for clear-headed scientist, doctors and inventors to create the unprecedented technological advances of that age.

Tea spurred the expansion of the British Empire, as Britain tried to find new territories that could support tea plantations. She fought wars over tea. The Opium Wars came about because Great Britain had been forced into becoming a drug dealer to support her tea habit. (Not our finest hour.)

Dr. Howe reports on the Victorian Cult of Tea in excruciating detail. This all encompassing collection includes:

16,500,399 3-D holographic photos of teapots, teacups, tea kettles, tea trolleys, tea caddies, tea balls, tea cozies, tea towels, tea gowns, tea spoons, tea trays, tea chests, tea tables, tea sets, tea sieves and other tea paraphernalia, all from the Victorian Age.

Special virtual sensory application will allow you to taste and smell hundreds of teas from around the world that were available in the Victorian Age.

Over 5000 hours of virtual reality video of tea parties of the social elite, working class high teas, tea cultivation in India, songs about tea in the music halls, visits to hundreds of tea gardens, tea shops, and tea rooms from 1837 to 1901.

English Tea Party in Victorian Singapore
Highlights include: A Japanese Tea Ceremony performed by Dr. Shiro Suzuki, temporal anthropologist for the University of Tokyo; the original uncut thirty-seven hour documentary on the history of tea; and a 45 minute video on how to make the perfect cup of tea by Dr. Howe himself.

You will never look at a “cuppa” the same way again!

All this and more for only £999,995!
To be released 14 October 2658 from University of Cambridge Press
Reserve you copy now!

This book is dedicated to The United Kingdom Tea Council, Ltd.

I guarantee no photos of stuffed dead kittens having tea parties.
Victorians seemed to love those.
(These are live kittens with bibs tied on them.)


Sometimes the Best Isn't Good Enough

Saturday, 11 July 1896 - Galveston, Texas

Many have asked why no one was warned in time to flee the 1900 Hurricane that devastated Galveston. Had the U.S. Weather Bureau fallen down on the job? Were they not paying attention?

The U.S. Weather Bureau has a main outpost here on Galveston Island. I decided to visit it office. The weather service is in its infancy with new offices cropping up all the time. They government has a problem with some of them being run shoddily.

Dr. Isaac Cline
Not so with this office. It appeared very business-like with a flurry of activity. The place was full of equipment, desks and five chaps in suits. A very serious-looking man of about thirty-five with a dapper mustache greeted me and introduced himself as Dr. Isaac Cline. I told him I was a freelance journalist. I wanted to do an article on the U.S. Weather Service for the folks back in England.

“Certainly, sir, you may interview me if you do not mind constant interruptions.” As if on cue, the phone rang. He talked to the person on the other end while I sat there. When he hung up, he smiled at me. “Ah, I see you are still here. You are welcome to ask me questions, but I won’t stop working.”

I told him that was quite all right, if he didn’t mind I would follow him about, observing him, until he chased me off. I asked him how he ever got interested in weather.

Cline said there hadn't been a weather service when he was a boy. He was the oldest of eight children growing up on a farm in the Smokey Mountains. His folks weren’t rich and he knew he would have to make his own way. He left home at sixteen to attend Hiwassee College in Tennessee. He had to take odd jobs to pay for his tuition. “At first I studied to be a preacher, but decided I was too prone to tell big stories. Then I considered a degree in law, but learned I was not good at evading facts. I needed a career where I could tell big stories and tell the truth.”

General William Hazen
The US Weather Service started out as a part of the Army Signal Corp. The Chief Signal Officer General William Hazen envisioned a troop of college-trained personnel commissioned into the US Army. Hazen contacted college presidents, asking them to recommend likely candidates. J.H. Bruner asked Cline, who now had a Master’s degree but no real direction, if he would be interested. “I jumped at the chance!”

The Signal Corp was part of the Calvary, so Cline was taught horsemanship. Then he had to learn how to signal with flags, torches and heliographs. He not only had to study how to send a telegraph, but how to repair and setup one, too.

That was just the beginning. The recruits were taught everything then known about meteorology by the top experts of the day. The courses came at them so fast and furious that many could not keep up.

Weather stations were opening up faster than they could be filled. One day the recruits were all given a tough exam. The top sixteen, with the highest grades, would be sent out as assistants with high probability of advancement in the near future. Cline came out 16th highest and was sent to Little Rock, Arkansas.

“I had to take measurements and weather observations several times a day from five in the morning until eleven at night. I also had to decipher raw data telegraphed from Washington and write up bulletins for the farmers and businessmen. I also did a study on the local locust outbreak and how that might be affected by weather. Luckily for the farmers, the plague ended. Unlucky for me, because I then got bored.”

“Bored?” I asked. “I would think working eighteen hours a day would be exhausting.”

“It wasn’t hard labor. There was a lot of free time in between. I had heard stories of how some lads put that free time to shady endeavors. I wanted to do something that would be useful. The office was only three blocks from one of the best medical schools in the country. The effects of weather and climate on health and medicine had had very little research. I decided that would be a good avenue of pursuit. So I got a medical degree.”

Becoming a doctor seemed an extravagant hobby to me. “Have you been able to do much research?”

Cline then told me all about the course he taught on Medical Climatology at Texas Medical College here in Galveston. In 1893 he gave thirty lectures, the first fifteen being on the science of Meteorology since his class was medical students. The next fifteen being on how weather affects certain diseases and body functions. He was quite excited because he was preparing his lectures to be published as a textbook later this year. “When I was a boy a read Jules Verne. I decided someday I would write a book on a science subject that would help mankind.”

Checking my history files later I found out that this coming November his finished manuscript and his reference material will all be lost when his house burns down. Undaunted he will start over, just to have the second manuscript swept out to sea.

After Little Rock, Cline’s next assignment was in a tiny weather station in Concho, Texas, where he not only headed it, but was also the staff. The office was in a cottage that was also his living quarters. It was decided moving the office to the growing city of Abilene made more sense.

“That’s where I met Cora May. She is the most beautiful, brilliant and cultured woman I have ever known. She could have had any man, but she wanted me.” Cline pointed to a framed photo he had on his desk of a woman with three young girls. His serious expression softened as he picked it up. It was evident the man was madly in love with his wife.

In 1889 the Signal Corp decided to setup an office in the booming city of Galveston and make it the head of the Texas Section of the US Weather Service. In 1891 the Weather Service was switched from the Army to the Department of Agriculture, becoming the US Weather Bureau.

Cline said he liked Galveston. Besides teaching at the Texas Medical College, he also taught Sunday School and just this year got a Doctor of Philosophy degree from AddRan Male and Female College. His younger brother, Joseph, had come to join him as an assistant four years ago. He has been living with Cline and his family. He said his brother showed real promise and was a diligent worker.

A typical weather Bureau office in the 1890s
Cline then went into detail about what he and his assistants did to predict the weather. He showed me some of the instruments. He said one of their major duties is to predict storms coming into land. I asked him if he thought Galveston might be hit by a hurricane sometime in the future.

He laughed at the idea. “Galveston doesn’t get tropical cyclones. We get with high winds and rain, but no cyclones. Besides the Gulf has a long slope. Any incoming surf would be broken up and made less dangerous. Even if we did get a storm pushing a high surf or a storm tide, this water would simply flow past Galveston into the bay behind the island and into the Texas Prairie. I know a few years back there was a big discussion about whether or not to build a seawall. I wrote the editor of the Galveston News and assured him it would be a waste of money. Anyone who believes otherwise is the victim of an absurd delusion.”

I managed not to show any emotion at that statement. If I hadn’t known the future, I think his argument would have convinced me. The truth is he has never seen a hurricane or the destruction it is capable of. Few in Galveston have.

And that was the problem on 8 September 1900. According to all the reports Cline got, according to all his equipment, this squall was just a tropical storm. There would be some wind damage, but that was nothing new. By the time it became evident this was a hurricane bearing down on them, all the bridges had been washed away. So he hoisted the hurricane flags without Washington’s permission, an action that could have cost him his job.

It wasn’t the wind that destroyed Galveston, it was the storm surge. Water came rushing from the Gulf like an overflowing bathtub, flooding the entire island. Ironically the few buildings that survived were saved by the hurricane itself. Homes closer to shore were shoved inland forming their own sort of seawall for a lucky few. Even so, every building suffered some damage.

Cline will build his new home next year to survive any storm. What it won’t survive is the iron trestle that the waves will slam into it. His house, his family, and his fifty neighbors seeking refuge in his home will become part of the flotsam.

Cora May and the girls
The rushing water will nearly drown him. When he finds the surface he’ll discover his youngest daughter, then six, and save her. They will cling to debris until by a miracle he will find a makeshift raft with his brother and two other daughters on it. Joseph will have jumped out of the window of the house, but not without first grabbing his two eldest nieces, then 11 and 12. They never do find Cora May. She and her unborn child are swept out to sea to become one of the 6,000 to 12,000 fatalities.

Despite physical injury and emotional trauma, both Isaac and Joseph will show up for work on the 9th as soon as the water resides. They will finally give in to their injuries and be hospitalized. The Bureau will praise Isaac Cline for going against orders to hoist the hurricane flag which did save some lives. As a reward, Isaac Cline was sent to New Orleans to head the new regional office.

In 1903 he will get in trouble with his superiors by issuing a warning that the Mississippi River would rise 21 feet in the next few weeks. They told him it was nonsense. It rose 20.7 feet. The Bureau was livid, but Louisiana would not let them reassign him. After predicting another flood in 1912 and saving many lives, the new Bureau head told him to issue all the warnings he wanted.

Isaac M. Cline award
Cline made a study of hurricanes, accurately predicting the 1915 one that hit New Orleans, saving thousands of lives. He wrote a book in 1926 called Tropical Cyclones with all the research he had gathered. He even predicted the Great Flood of 1927 two weeks ahead of time. Dr. Isaac Cline is considered one of the great pioneers of Meteorology with 53 years of service. Starting in 1999 the US Weather Bureau will give out an annual award to employees for exceptional contributions. It is their highest honor. They will call it the Isaac M. Cline Award.

Few in Galveston blamed Isaac Cline for not warning them in time. It wasn’t like he was derelict in his duties. How many in Galveston would have taken a warning seriously if he had issued it? They might not have had Cline’s equipment, but they had eyes. At first it looked like any other tropical storm. No one remembered a hurricane hitting Galveston.

What if he had advocated a seawall before the storm? Would that have saved Galveston? Maybe not. I’m sure it would have been much lower than the 17 foot wall they built after the 1900 storm. And even that won’t be high enough to hold back Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Some call Isaac Cline a villain for having the hubris to trust science. Some call Isaac Cline a hero for doing what he could. The truth is Isaac Cline will be just another victim of the 1900 Storm. He will spend the rest of his life studying hurricanes so the Galceston tragedy would never be repeated.

And now I nurse a cup of tea, remembering that photo of Cora May. And remembering all the other lost souls yet to be.


The Galveston Giant

Tuesday, 7 July 1896 - Galveston, Texas

Today I met a chap who will become one of Galveston’s most famous sons, John Arthur Johnson., better known as Jack. Right now he is an unknown. I found him in a front yard using a gunny sack full of sand as a punching bag. He has a lot of power and speed, but he still needs to learn form. Right now he’s only eighteen.

Jack Johnson
I yelled over the fence that I was lost, and could he direct me to the train station. I think it pleased him that I called him “sir” instead of “boy.” Otherwise I think he might have ignored me. Johnson is over six foot tall and already muscular. No wonder his nickname will be “the Galveston Giant.” He’s not afraid of anyone.

He came over to the fence and gave me directions.

I introduced myself, hoping he would verify my suspicions of who he was. He introduced himself as Jack Johnson.

“Are you a boxer, sir?”

“Yes, I am. I’m a professional. Last year Bob Thompson came to town offering $25 to anyone who could last four rounds with him. I won it.” Then he frowned. “I don’t think I can get very far in Galveston. I’m thinking of going up north, maybe to Chicago. I’m going to be the heavy weight champion someday.”

“I understand America is rather racist. Will they let a colored man even try for the title?”

“George Dixon is the featherweight champion of the world right now, and he’s colored. I’m too big to be anything else but heavyweight champion.”

“Well sir, someone will have to be the first colored heavyweight champion some day.”

“Might as well be me.” Johnson hit his gloves together and grinned.

I wished him luck and went on my way. Johnson went back to slugging his punching bag.

Jack Johnson does have quite a fight ahead of him, the hardest one being outside of the ring. He will have to fight Jim Crow. It’s almost impossible to find a white boxer that will consent to fight him. He will finally find a white boxer who will agree, veteran Joe Choynski. He’ll come down to Galveston to meet Johnson in the ring.

Joe Choynski and Jack Johnson
Unfortunately boxing is illegal in Texas. After Choynski knocks out untrained Johnson, the two men will be arrested and tossed into jail together for 23 days. Probably the best thing that ever happened to Johnson. He and Choynski will talk about boxing and became good friends. Choynski will be impressed with Johnson’s talent, and became his sparring partner, teaching him everything he knows.

Johnson will rise through the heavy-weight ranks, until he is at the top by 1903. However the reigning champion, Jim Jeffries, will refuse to fight him because of his race. It won’t be until 1908, after Jeffries had retired, that Johnson got his shot--and won.

However, being heavyweight champion of the world did not ingratiate Johnson to the racists. They will complain he is too cocky, fights too aggressive and belittles of his opponents. Never mind that white boxers do the same thing at this time and are admired for it. To be honest he is only brutal to fighters who are racists.

Jack and his wife Etta
Even worse, Johnson liked white women and they really liked him. Jack Johnson was hated because he didn’t know his place. He knew his place. It was at the top.

Jack London cried for a “Great White Hope” to defeat this “uppity” fellow. One after another challenged him and were beaten. Johnson often had to hold them up after hitting them. The great Jim Jeffries agreed to come out of retirement and finally fought Johnson. He later reluctantly admitted he couldn’t have beat Johnson in his prime. Jeffries would not have retired undefeated if he had played fair and agreed to fight Johnson back in 1903.

Jim Jeffries getting knocked out by Jack Johnson
Jack Johnson will hold the title from 1908 to 1915. He will finally lose it at the age of thirty-seven to a younger man. Thirty-seven is ancient for a boxer. He will be considered one of the greatest boxers of all time. Not bad for the son of former slaves. He will inspire many. Maybe Jack Johnson should have been called “the Great Black Hope.”

film clips of Jack Johnson