The Things We Do for Money: Annie Edson Taylor’s Legendary Barrel Ride

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If you’ve ever been to Niagara Falls and ventured close enough to the Niagara River, it’s easy to see the speed and power with which it moves. It seems like a death trap if anyone were to ride the river over the falls, but tell that to Annie Edson Taylor and she’d laugh in your face if she were still alive today.

Annie Edson Taylor is not a household name, but she is the first person to go over Niagara Falls and live to talk about it. Taylor didn’t grow up living life as a daredevil or with a background you’d expect for someone who decided to go over the falls in a barrel. She was raised in a well-off family and was a teacher for most of her life. After a few personal and financial hardships, she felt her only option to live a comfortable life in retirement was to go over the falls at age 63. That’s right, six-three, sixty-three!

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1. The Personal Road That Led to the Jump

Annie Edson Taylor was born in 1838 and was one of eight children. Her father owned a flour mill in Auburn, NY and was able to provide the family with a comfortable lifestyle. Taylor’s father died when she was 12, but he left enough money for the family to continue living well. Taylor ended up going to school to become a teacher at age 18, meeting her husband, David Taylor, in the process. Life was going pretty well for Taylor early on, but then the dominos started to fall.

After Taylor’s marriage, she birthed a baby boy, but he died just days later. Then the Civil War erupted: David was called for duty. David Taylor never made it back, leaving Annie a widow. After seven years of marriage and now widowed, Taylor had a tough time making ends meet. She bounced around, from New York to Michigan, to Texas, to Mexico City and back to Michigan to find steady work.

As the years passed and retirement approached, Annie found herself with no savings to live off, so she conceived an idea for a one-shot, get-rich-quick stunt that would send her off into the sunset with a full bank account.

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2. Preparation for the Jump

As Taylor made it into her early sixties moving around the country with varying success finding work as a traveling teacher, she hadn’t been able to save enough money to stop working. She was a teacher most of her working life and even tried to open a dance studio during one of her stops in Michigan, but none of her endeavors kept enough money coming in consistently. The trend around the Falls was for people to ride the whirlpool below in a barrel, so Taylor decided to one-up the whirlpool riders with a stunt that would send her over the top of the Falls in a barrel. And to her, this seemed like a fine way to earn her retirement money — going upwards of 68 mph over a 188-foot drop into a 100-foot pool of water surrounded by rocks. What could possibly go wrong?

Taylor didn’t merely hop in the barrel and go over the falls, though. She did some testing before her jump, ultimately designing a barrel approximately 4.5 feet tall by 3 feet wide that gave her just enough room to fit inside along with some padding. A 200-pound anvil was placed at the bottom of the barrel to keep it upright. Now, all she needed was a test subject; she decided her cat would be the best option. Taylor and her team put the cat in the barrel and sent it over the falls. The barrel and cat survived, giving Taylor plenty of hope that, she too, would be fine.

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3. October 24, 1901

As people from all over flocked to Buffalo, NY for the Pan American Exposition, Taylor reasoned it was a good time to jump the falls and capture maximum attention. She decided on her 63rd birthday for the stunt date: October 24, 1901. In front of a few thousand spectators and some reporters, Annie Edson Taylor was ready to descend.

After members of her team tried to talk her out of the stunt at the last minute, Taylor was sealed in the barrel with a boat towing her down the Niagara River. The towboat cut Taylor and the barrel loose. Her next destination: the whirlpool at the bottom of Niagara Falls. At approximately 4:30 p.m., Taylor’s barrel careened over the edge. The barrel was lost in the water and mist but surfaced just about a minute later, when it came to rest against a rock on the Canadian shore.

Once the team got to the barrel and popped the top, Annie Edson Taylor emerged as the first person to survive a jump over Niagara Falls. The only injury she suffered was a cut on her head, which happened when she was getting out of the barrel. With the stunt completed, now it was time to sit back and collect the spoils.

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4. Perfect Jump, Not so Perfect Money Scheme

The only reason Taylor jumped Niagara Falls was to collect enough money to retire. However, the problem with that strategy is that she didn’t surround herself with trustworthy people. Taylor’s manager stole the barrel shortly after the jump, and it never surfaced again. Taylor intended to use the barrel as a prop for speaking engagements, but at least had a small level of fame to parlay into money. She posed for photos and gave speeches about her grand stunt, but the buzz quickly fizzled. She was poor again, trying to find new ways to make money.

Taylor never capitalized on her stunt, eventually dying penniless in 1921 at age 82. She actually didn’t have enough money to her name to pay for a proper burial, but her friends pooled some funds together and were able to bury Taylor in Niagara Falls Cemetery, where she rests in a section among other daredevils.

Annie Edson Taylor was a different breed of women, especially during the time period in which she lived. She endured losing her husband at an early age, moved around North America to explore every possible work opportunity and when most would have given up and accepted a poverty-ridden elderly decline, had the zeal to be the first person, not the first woman, to jump over Niagara Falls and live to tell the tale. Annie Edson Taylor was a badass when women weren’t so much allowed let alone encouraged to be one. Though she didn’t achieve what she ultimately set out to do, her story should empower us all never to stop battling and always think of less traditional ways of making our end goal come true.

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2,000 ft. and Climbing: The Race to Complete the Shanghai Tower

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When it comes to constructing massive skyscrapers, battles of compromise rage: between the ideal scenario and pragmatic solution, balancing deadlines and flawless execution. Building these incredible structures requires taking severe gambles that won’t pay off for years. And nowhere are all of these forces more prevalent than in the booming financial hub of the world’s third most populous city: Shanghai.

Learn how the Shanghai tower came to be with seemingly insurmountable environmental challenges, a tight timeline, and unique building obstacles, below.

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Many issues arise in a city of over 24 million people, especially when cars are involved. The Shanghai Tower project aimed to solve three problems plaguing the city: pollution, vehicle congestion, and a lack of space.

Pollution

With over one billion gallons of raw sewage hitting the waters of Shanghai every day and substantial air pollution, the city lacked clean areas for people to congregate. Thus, filtering in clean air to reduce the amount of smog for tower occupants became a key project initiative.

Vehicle Congestion

In under a decade, the number of cars in Shanghai increased five-fold, creating the 22nd most congested roadways in the world. By planning to serve as a workplace for over 30,000 people, the Shanghai Tower would help reduce the commute of thousands and significantly curb emissions.

Lack of Space

In Shanghai, every inch of real estate is precious, and very little is set aside for public parks or green space. The green areas that do exist are so small that locals call them “postage stamps.” Fearing that poor urban planning and limited access to green spaces could affect people’s mental and physical health, and with no space available for public use, building up became the only option. With this in mind, architects intended to incorporate lush gardens and open glass areas, allowing for unpolluted views.

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1. The Plan

The idea of solving three massive urban challenges through constructing one building was an ambitious goal requiring a unique plan. The architects knew they’d need a design that allowed ample light and gave the feeling of being in an outside area. Additionally, it had to be spacious enough so that people didn’t feel claustrophobic in such a tight vertical area. The building would need to accommodate residential and business clientele, along with cafeterias, spa, gyms, pools, and observation space. In other words, it needed to be immense.

Gensler, the architecture consulting firm behind the project, decided on a 121-floor building that would be divided into nine sections. A solid core one-third of a mile high would make up the main support structure. A massive glass curtain wall would encase the entire building to give occupants the feeling of being outdoors. This “second skin” of glass would provide gaps in the structure for gardens with up to 180 feet of headroom.

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2. The Challenges

The Glass Skin

Problem: While the idea of building two skins of glass on a single building was an ingenious solution, there was no precedent for this design. It’s like putting one skyscraper inside of another. The first question to be tackled: how to support this outer glass wall? Ideally, a glass wall that large would be supported structurally with steel beams. However, this would ruin the aesthetic, so large and bulky beams were out of the question. If engineers tried to make the beams slimmer and less intrusive, it wouldn’t be strong enough to support itself and would collapse under its own weight. With just one floor of the curtain wall weighing 115 tons, the engineers would have to find a different way to support it.

Solution: Instead of creating one enormous stacked structure to hold all of the glass at once, the engineers decided to hang each floor of glass from the floor above. The “ring beam structure,” would extend from the bottom of the floor above to the atrium of the current floor. This solution solved the problem for the engineers, but it posed a new problem for builders. This design would require builders to start at the top floor and work their way down, but they’d need a place to stand as they worked. Traditional scaffolding, which builds upward, was out of the question. This led builders to a brilliant solution: a moving scaffold. Later termed the “flying saucer,” the 100-ton scaffold was first hoisted to the top level of the building and then slid down to each floor below.

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Monsoon Winds

Problem: China’s monsoon season is among the worst in the world. The building needed to withstand sustained winds from 120–170 mph and pounding rain. The building would also need to be stable enough to limit sway. While engineers concede that all buildings will sway a small amount, a force as small as one percent of a person’s body weight will be noticeable and disliked by the occupants. The architects were told that any perceived sway wouldn’t be acceptable, even for people on the 90th floor.

Solution: To reduce sway, the engineers rounded the corners of the building and shifted its edges by twisting the structure as it climbed. These tweaks could cut the wind load by up to 24 percent compared to a square building since the pressure’s dispersed more effectively. While twisting limited the building’s drag, too much twisting would make it unstable. Therefore, a balance needed to be struck. Wind tunnel experts advised that a twist of 180 degrees would be both rigid and aerodynamic. However, it would be prohibitively expensive due to the increased cost of materials to support such a structure. In the end, they decided on 120 degrees as the optimum amount of twist for rigidity, structural integrity, and budget.

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The Glass

Problem: The outer glass structure was optimal in theory, but there were a lot of practical challenges. For one, it needed to be able to minimize the sun’s reflection. It also had to block excessive glare that would be blinding to occupants while allowing enough sun to pass through that it still succeeded in giving people the impression that they were in an outdoor space. On top of that, it needed to be able to withstand both the winds and the rains from the typhoon season.

Solution: The end result was a special type of advanced laminated glass. While most buildings only require one layer, the double-layered glass eliminated the need for either layer to be opaque. Additionally, the extra layer was built to reduce lateral pressure loads and save energy. In Shanghai’s varied climate in which massive temperature swings aren’t uncommon, the energy-efficient glass drastically decreases heating and cooling costs.

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3. The Build

“Topping out,” or placing the last beam atop the structure, was important both as a right of passage and to secure the building before the early August typhoon season. As far as the engineers and builders had come to this point, the project’s final stages looked to present very little in the way of major obstacles.

Then, on June 23rd, a rainstorm pounded Shanghai for several days. With the outer skin only partially finished, flooding in several portions of the building cost workers five precious days. Seven floors still sat unfinished, requiring the builders to hang 50 panels of glass per day to finish in time, all on wet, dangerous beams 2,000 ft up.

By July 17, the team had nearly finished the outer glass panels. It was time to install two 20-ton chiller units called “lungs.” These units, responsible for regulating temperature and air quality, must be installed at the top and bottom of the building. Each one is the size of an SUV and cost $500,000. Once installed, the lungs can never be removed, so ensuring they stay undamaged is critical.

While the first unit was lowered into the basement without issue, the second unit got stuck on the 82nd floor. The team couldn’t get it to budge. Moments later, the crane tried lowering the lung to loosen it. Instead, to the horror of onlookers, it began tilting backward away from the edge. With winds increasing, battering the crane and the building, the workers tried repositioning their winch to unstick it. Finally, after 30 minutes of tussling, the team succeeded in pulling the unit inside safely.

By August 3rd, all that’s left is one last 7-ton steel brace to be installed. To massive applause from the crowd, the final piece—festooned in flags and banners—lowers into place. The workers have somehow done it; they’ve beaten monsoon season.

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The Shanghai Tower is the tallest of the world’s first triple-adjacent super-tall buildings in Pudong and the tallest building in China. Today, it houses over 30,000 workers and is a daily spectacle for locals and tourists alike.

But the real marvel is the project itself: the architects who didn’t sacrifice their designs merely to meet the project’s goals; the engineers who went to great lengths to achieve the vision of the architects; and the builders, who executed on the unprecedented design and construction method to beat the monsoon season and ensure that a costly, monumental project succeeded.

The Shanghai Tower project wasn’t a product of compromise like the vast majority of large-scale building projects are destined to become. Instead, it’s a testament to how a strong vision can unify a team and yield something truly astonishing.

 

Henry Ford: Humble Roots to Idealist Capitalist

Henry Ford left behind quite the legacy with Ford Motor Company, his direct contribution to the boom of the automobile industry in the early 1900’s and the assembly line, which revolutionized production speed and efficiency.

Ford was a unique mind when it came to engineering, but his life could have gone a variety of ways and altered history completely. He could have been a farmer, a politician or possibly the creator and leader of a city in the middle of the Amazon. You read that last one correctly — automobile mogul Henry Ford could have ended up in his own city in the Amazon. But we’ll get to that a little later.

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1. Ford and the Farm Life

Starting with his grassroots, Henry Ford’s family owned farmland just outside of Detroit in Dearborn, Michigan. As a teenager, Ford helped his family make ends meet by working on the family farm but that all changed in 1876 when his mother, Mary Ford, passed away. Her death took a toll on Ford, and while his father, William Ford, wanted Henry to take over the family farm, he told his father that he had no interest in doing so. He tolerated farming because he loved his mother while she was on the farm but he hated the inefficiencies of farming.

That would not be the last song and dance between Ford and a life of farming. When Ford was 25, he came back to work on the family farm to support his new wife and family. By this time, Ford had already built a steam engine, and within the next two years, he became the Chief Engineer of the Edison Illuminating Company’s main plant. Ford was on-call all day, every day, tasked with keeping the electricity running in the city of Detroit. Ford officially closed the book on his life as a farmer, moving on to bigger and better things.

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2. Senator Ford? President Ford?

Once the Ford Motor Company and his Model T got up and going, the local support for Ford was through the roof. In 1916, Ford won the Michigan Republican Primary without even campaigning. Imagine having that kind of support from the people around you? Zero campaigning and no real intention of running for President, yet he still won the Michigan Primary. In 1924, people were starting Ford-for-President clubs across the country, rallying behind Ford again to run for the Oval Office. Just like the farm work though, Ford had no interest in being President.

The people loved him, and he was getting high praise from the top of the government hierarchy. In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson convinced Ford to run for a Democratic seat in the Senate. Ford felt that spending money on a campaign was a complete waste of money, so he ran but just like the Michigan Republican Primary two years prior, Ford didn’t spend a penny on his campaign. Ford ended up losing by only 4500 votes, which is an extremely slim margin. If we’re being honest, Ford probably preferred to lose this election anyway. His interested laid elsewhere and eventually took him into the Amazon.

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3. You Are Building Your Own City? In the Amazon Rainforest?

Ah yes, Fordlandia! Ford was a brilliant mind, and many of his ideas and inventions have revolutionized our lives. But Fordlandia, Ford’s city in the Amazon Forest was one of Ford’s off-the-wall ideas driven purely out of capitalism. In 1927, with plenty of money at his disposal and his idealistic views, Ford bought a chunk of land in the Amazon about the size of Connecticut. This land was to serve a specific purpose though; the people who lived there would harvest rubber to make tires for his automobiles.

Fordlandia, an 18-hour boat trip from the nearest city, was meant to be a utopian paradise while supplying the Ford Motor Company with rubber to make tires. Sounds like a great idea but like many things that look good on paper, this one didn’t work out. Some early revolts and riots required assistance from the Brazilian Army to subdue the violence, many rubber trees were not growing, and insects ravaged the ones that did develop.

Fordlandia never became the rubber resource that Ford had intended it to be. The city had been around for about a decade, but once World War II began, Ford’s focus turned to aid war efforts and Fordlandia started to fall by the wayside. When WWII ended, Ford’s health was diminishing, so the control of Fordlandia was given to his grandson, Henry Ford II. Ford II saw Fordlandia as an underperforming asset and quickly sold the land back to the Brazilian government for a fraction of what his grandfather originally paid for it. And just like that, Fordlandia was no more.

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If Henry Ford was alive, he’d rock VKN.

4. Interesting Ford One-Liners:

  • Built his first steam engine in 1878 when he was 15
    years old. Fif-teen.
  • Built his first gasoline engine in 1893.
  • Started in airline company during WWI but it failed
    due to poor sales.
  • Ford Motor Company was his third attempt at an
    automobile company.
  • Henry Ford Company and Detroit Automobile Company were
    his first two ventures and both failed.
  • Holds 161 unique patents in his name.

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5. Wrapping Up Ford

We all know about Henry Ford and his impact on the automobile industry, but his mind was something that we don’t see today. In a 1928 interview with the Detroit Times, Ford revealed that the source of his inspiration and his work was a mysterious force. He dedicated his brilliance to a ‘Master Mind.’ He said: “Somewhere is a Master Mind sending brainwave messages to us. There is a Great Spirit. I never did anything by my own volition. I was pushed by invisible forces within and without me.”

Master Mind or not, Henry Ford was a badass. Family pressure could have forced him into being a farmer for the rest of his life, but he decided he knew better. Society tried to pressure him into running for political office, and while he gave it a brief shot, he only put his name on the ballot. Even though Fordlandia was one of his failures, it showed Ford was an off-the-wall thinker whose capitalistic views pushed him to do anything to help his company. This was the type of guy, even with his shortcomings, who could do anything he wanted and didn’t care what anyone else thought.

 

Brilliance & Grit: Isaac Newton

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One of the most influential scientists in history, Isaac Newton was nothing short of a badass.

But while you might be familiar with the story of him getting cracked on the head with an apple and three of his laws, you might not have learned about some of his other achievements.

Besides being undeniably brilliant, Newton was a tireless worker who understood how to assemble elements of previous scientific giants that came before him.

Today we dive into Newton’s inability to half-ass anything, and the way that his grit and determination allowed him to impact the world in so many ways.

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1. He wrote a book that not only revolutionized physics and math, but changed the scientific method.

Newton’s magnum opus, “Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica” (often referred to as the “Principia”) is regarded as one of the most important scientific books ever written. Among other things, the three-book work stated Newton’s famous laws of motion and universal gravitation, laid the foundations of classical mechanics and used mathematical methods that would end up being the basis for calculus. However, Newton’s book did more than introduce world-changing laws; it created a new standard for the scientific method and changed the way future scientists would approach problems, build hypotheses and submit theories.

In “Principia,Newton said that every discrepancy between observation and theory—no matter how tiny—is telling us something important about the world. In his search to understand these discrepancies, Newton raised the bar for the scientific theory; while previous scientists generally only put one theory forward to account for an observation, Newton would lay out several and then give “them a full range of alternate possibilities, allowing the empirical world to select them.” Giving multiple theoretical possibilities versus only one was a massive improvement, building on work by Galileo and Christiaan Huygens.

Another gift to the scientific world within “Principia” would also be the most controversial. Newton’s method included withholding any thoughts on the reasoning for the phenomena he observed, giving only his dispassionate scientific calculations to explain it.

Instead of giving any personal thoughts on why gravity works the way it does, for instance, Newton said:

“I have not as yet been able to deduce from phenomena the reason for these properties of gravity, and I do not feign hypotheses. For whatever is not deduced from the phenomena must be called a hypothesis; and hypotheses, whether metaphysical or physical, or based on occult qualities, or mechanical, have no place in experimental philosophy. In this experimental philosophy, propositions are deduced from the phenomena and are made general by induction.”

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2. When the tools of the time wouldn’t suffice, Newton constructed his own

In Newton’s day, observers looking through telescopes would often see a fuzzy corona of light that made it difficult to observe celestial bodies in great detail. This distortion (chromatic aberration) was mainly due to the lenses in refracting telescopes. Newton had a theory that this distortion was caused by white light actually being composed of a spectrum of colors and that the lenses within these refracting telescopes were the cause. Wanting to prove his theory but finding himself without the necessary tools to do so, Newton decided that he’d just build his own damn telescope.

Using the ideas of Galileo and Giovanni Sagredo, Newton grounded his own lenses out of metal, polishing and perfecting the metal himself. Using this new telescope, he found that it worked without any of the distortion found on other telescopes, allowing him to view four of Jupiter’s moons as well as Venus.

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3. He got a cushy job and then took it super fucking seriously

When Newton was made Warden of the Mint in 1696 it was intended to be a quiet cushy job usually reserved for wealthy, lazy aristocrats. Newton, however, had no interest in sitting quietly.

At the time, counterfeiting in England was rampant, with around 10 percent of England’s coins being known fakes. Newton had no interest in letting these crimes go unpunished and sprang into action, immediately organizing what was then called the ‘Great Recoinage.’ This effort repossessed millions of pounds of coins and re-minted them at their correct values. The effort was so massive that it took a 500-man production line in the Tower of London over four years to complete.

But Newton was just getting started.

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Now that he’d made a serious dent in the number of fake coins on the streets, he needed to sniff out the leaders of these counterfeiting efforts and see that they were punished to the full extent of the law.

At the top of Newton’s shit list was a well-respected man named William Chaloner. Chaloner appeared to be on Newton’s side in the quest to sniff out counterfeiters, writing to the Lord’s Justices claiming to have hard evidence that men working in the mint had been selling off copies of casts. However, Newton had a hunch that Chaloner was actually the brains of the operation.

Newton presented a report to parliament detailing Chaloner’s involvement, but the case was dismissed and Chaloner again went back to pleading for a job at the mint. It was then that Newton applied his legendary energy, acquiring enough hard evidence to put Chaloner away.

Newton went undercover and quietly gathered evidence, ultimately conducting over 100 cross-examinations of witnesses, suspects and informants which led to the successful prosecution of 28 forgers, including Chaloner. Thanks to the piles of evidence and witnesses, Newton finally had Chaloner cornered with no escape. The jury only needed a few minutes to reach the verdict of guilty. A fortnight later, Chaloner was hanged.

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Newton had been one of the most active Wardens of the Mint, made huge strides in reducing the counterfeiting and helped stabilize England’s currency — all from a position that basically required him to sit, collect revenue and do nothing.

While we might not be world-class geniuses like Newton, we can apply and learn from his methods. Newton made theories based on his observations, and didn’t let the limitations of what he felt was testable affect his pursuit of his truths. Newton threw himself fully into his work, regardless of its perceived importance. By attacking each problem with this attention, he quickly grew far beyond the bounds of his peer’s expectations. Instead of just surpassing standards, Isaac Newton redefined them.

 

Eleanor Roosevelt, The First, “First Lady of the World”

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Not too long ago, women were expected to stay in the background of their men. They had fewer rights, less practical input in their own homes and zero influence in the United States. Less than 100 years ago, women couldn’t even vote. One hundred years may seem like a long time to you and me, but it’s a blink of an eye in the development of our country. Eleanor Roosevelt was one of the first women to start the progression of the modern-day woman and no matter what time period you use to judge her, she was a total badass.

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Eleanor Roosevelt was married to arguably the greatest president that this country has ever seen, but instead of lurking in the shadows of FDR while he ran the country, she used her role as the First Lady to inspire change. President Harry Truman called Eleanor Roosevelt the “First Lady of the world” because of her human rights accomplishments. Like I said before, total badass.

This is a woman who had a position of influence and used it to her advantage. She was an incredibly outspoken woman for the time period, so naturally, she ruffled some feathers whenever she spoke for an agenda that was seen as taboo. The woman behind the most powerful man in the world at the time took her title of First Lady and parlayed that influence into changing the lives of both men and women in the present and future.

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1. The First First Lady to Hold a Press Conference

Hillary Clinton ran for president after an eight-year stint as the First Lady. Michelle Obama was very active and outspoken when her husband and former President Barack Obama was in the Oval Office. These women knew how to take advantage of the resources around them and that trend started with Eleanor Roosevelt.

As the Women’s Rights Movement was in full-swing, Eleanor Roosevelt hosted the first-ever press conference by a First Lady. As a form of solidarity to her female companions, this press conference was only for women in the media. This type of open forum gave her the platform to express her agenda without any type of censorship, encouraging more women to enter the press corps while also influencing female voters. Eleanor Roosevelt gave women across the country and around the world a voice.

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2. Eleanor Roosevelt Spoke for FDR

With her husband confined to a wheelchair, Eleanor Roosevelt took every opportunity to hit the road and speak for FDR. This was a time period where women didn’t have much of a say and yet there was the First Lady speaking publicly on behalf of the President of the United States. One specific area where Eleanor Roosevelt was incredibly vocal was about how to improve the economy through FDR’s New Deal policies.

She was also a symbol of the United States while the country was at war. As FDR had trouble traveling because of his debilitating disease, it was Eleanor Roosevelt who would travel around to greet service men and women. She was a big supporter of women’s roles in the war and the women who had to enter the job force because their husbands were in Europe or Asia fighting.

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3. Civil Rights Activist

Segregation was—and still is—a problem in our country but one of the most outspoken Civil Rights activists was none other than Eleanor. The beauty behind this is that while she was a staunch advocate for women’s rights, she cared about all people who were wronged, especially due to race or socioeconomic status.

The most incredible example of her Civil Rights actions came at the Southern Conference for Human Welfare in Birmingham in 1938. When she entered the room, she immediately sat next to an African American at the conference. She was told to sit in the “Whites Only” section by one of the conference organizers, at which point she asked for a ruler. People were confused but once Eleanor Roosevelt was given a ruler, she measured the distance between the white and black seating sections. Once the distance between the two seating sections was measured, she moved her chair to sit in the exact center until the meeting was over. At a time where she could have been arrested for a protest like that, she stared segregation laws directly in the eyes without blinking.

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4. Other Interesting Tidbits About Eleanor Roosevelt

  • Amelia Earhart attended a dinner at the White House and hit it off with Eleanor Roosevelt. As the party became stagnant, the two snuck out to Earhart’s plane and took a quick ride around the skies.
  • Eleanor Roosevelt was an influential author. She wrote the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. She also produced a syndicated newspaper column that ran six days a week for 27 years. The column covered her day-to-day life as well as her political views.
  • Eleanor was actually her middle name. Her full name is Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, but she preferred her middle name to her first name. Her mother called her by the nickname “Granny” as a child because Eleanor acted in such a serious manner. Talk about foreshadowing…
  • Family ties: President Teddy Roosevelt was her uncle and her husband FDR was actually her fifth-cousin once removed.

According to Eleanor Roosevelt, the happiest day of her life was the day she made her field hockey team at her private school. She was 76-years-old when she made that statement, so the White House obviously wasn’t as fun as dominating field hockey.

 

The Perseverance and Legacy of the Golden Gate Bridge

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It’s hard to imagine anyone in the developed world and certainly the United States not immediately recognizing the international orange-colored steel spanning across the strait where the Pacific Ocean meets the San Francisco Bay, displaying sharp and bold through sunrise or sunset, midday haze or heavy fog; to think one of the most distinguished engineering projects in the world almost ended up looking like a giant hideous bumble bee.

A beacon of awe for locals and tourists around the world alike, let’s look at why the Golden Gate Bridge is simply magnificent.

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1. Natural Challenges

The idea of building a bridge at the strait of a busy bay and ocean entrance was ambitious to say the least. Many said it couldn’t be done and those who did say it could be done forecasted astronomical totals, like San Francisco City Engineer M.M. O’Shaughnessy, who estimated the bridge would cost $100 million. O’Shaughnessy, thankfully, wasn’t a stubborn prideful man, so he openly asked other engineers what the bridge could be built for, which connected him with Joseph Strauss.

There was a lot to consider, such as how to span nearly a mile gap of an extremely deep channel. There was rising tide to consider, busy ship traffic to account for, strong constantly swirling gusts of wind in the construction zone, and of course, the risk of earthquakes with the San Andreas Fault line located just 12 miles away.

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2. Construction Faced Countless Roadblocks

Despite the proposition for the bridge first being made in 1872, it began to build real momentum by the early 1920s. However, when an actual project proposal finally was made, it faced resistance from multiple angles.

A successful court ruling from the State legislature as well two favorable Federal hearings gave way for approval to be sought from the Department of War, which owned the land on both the San Francisco side and Marin side. However, they had reservations about the bridge interfering with ship traffic. The Navy was also against the bridge, fearing an event where a ship collision or damage to the bridge would block traffic to one of its biggest harbors. Then there was the business of the ferry being infringed upon. Before the Golden Gate Bridge, the only decent way to get across was by ferry, and the massive Southern Pacific Railroad owned 51 percent of the company solely responsible for doing so—the Golden Gate Ferry Company. Naturally, Southern Pacific filed a lawsuit, but interestingly enough, thousands of other lawsuits were filed against the project as well—2,300 in total! Many were from environmentalists, such as Ansel Adams, fearing the bridge would ruin the natural beauty of the strait. Even though all these folks turned out to be completely wrong, I guess we can try to understand when looking at one of Adams’ pre-Golden Gate Bridge photos in 1932.

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3. Inspired Future Engineering Safety Standards

As far as engineering projects go, particularly those in the first half of the 20th century before federal safety standards and during the Great Depression of all eras, the Golden Gate Bridge was a extraordinarily safe project. In total, only eleven men died during construction, and none during the project’s first three years. By contrast, bridge projects of that era were expected to suffer roughly one fatality per million dollars spent. The Golden Gate Bridge was roughly a $35 million project, making the eleven lives lost a breakthrough in construction safety.

A central reason for this was chief engineer Joseph Strauss’s innovative safety net, installed around all work platforms for an extremely cost-effective $130,000. The safety nets saved 19 lives during construction, with survivors bonded together in a group called the Halfway to Hell Club. In addition to installing the safety net, Strauss introduced hard hats, safety lines, glare-free goggles, required workers to use hand and face cream to protect their skin from the aggressive winds and had no tolerance for workers messing around. He even reportedly had workers go on special diets to battle dizziness. Strauss’ methods were unprecedented and met with resistance by workers, but he stifled any opposition by firing them on the spot. Even the most talented of iron workers weren’t good enough to not follow the rules, as detailed in this video below:

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Strauss’ safety standards ultimately improved workers’ morale and sped the construction process up considerably.

As far as the eleven men that perished, one was killed by a crane, and then, during a regular workday morning, a dozen men fell 200 feet to the frigid waters after a 5-ton section of scaffolding failed and forced the safety net to give way. A handful of the men miraculously survived the fall, but only two would hold on to be saved by a crab fisherman that was in the area.

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4. What the Golden Gate Bridge Is Made Of

Though the original design penned by chief engineer Joseph Strauss included a cantilever design with steel-girder sections on both ends with a suspension span in the middle, advances in metallurgy would give way to a full suspension design.

The bridge’s load-bearing ability would hang from 250 pairs of vertical suspender ropes, attached to two main cables. These cables passed to the two main towers, each filled with over 22,000 tons of concrete. The main cables are comprised of 27,572 strands of wire, the total length of the galvanized steel estimated to be 80,000 miles long. And if you’ve ever walked across the Golden Gate Bridge, you’ve surely noticed the giant rivets throughout. There are approximately 1.2 million in the bridge.

So, how many hours do you think something like this took to construct? It wasn’t too laborious; just 25-million man hours. (Gorge on more numbers that make up the Golden Gate Bridge.)

Perhaps the coolest part of the bridge though, is its ability to fluctuate depending on wind, load and temperature.

For example, as part of the bridge’s 50th anniversary in 1987, 250,000 people filled the bridge to celebrate, putting the biggest load on the bridge to-date. And as Joseph Strauss predicted long before, the bridge held, flattening in its middle span to accommodate the extreme weight

The bridge also constantly goes through a process called thermal expansion that causes it to rise and fall by as much as 16 feet depending on the climate. Essentially, it works like this: sun hits the bridge and expands the metal, causing the bridge cables to stretch and the bridge to dip. When fog and its cooler temperatures roll in, the metal cools and cables contract, making the bridge rise again.

Here’s a video below describing the bridge thermometer that the Outdoor Exploratorium built a few miles away from the bridge in the Presidio to capture the bridge’s elevation per the current weather.

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5. The Dream Team

Amazing engineering projects—especially in the 1930s—usually aren’t built with maintenance in mind, and the Golden Gate is no exception. In fact, it takes a squad of a few dozen full-time painters to constantly upkeep and prevent rust on the 10-million square feet of steel. Rather than systematically going from one end to the other, the work is a never-ending series of touch-up jobs in surreal circumstances; from getting disoriented by the undulation of the water below and touching up hard-to-reach places in the bridge’s underbelly to being distracted by the abrupt sound of navy horns below and, of course, the many jumps toward death the bridge plays host to each year.

While it’s fallen victim to hundreds of millions of selfies from people around the world, the Golden Gate Bridge’s image exceeds well beyond. It overcame several natural and legal roadblocks during the worst economic era in America’s history to help usher new standards for construction safety, grow the San Francisco Bay Area into its present-day self and become one of man’s most impressive achievements the world over.

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6. Additional Tidbits

  • Oddly enough, the Golden Gate Bridge isn’t part of the interstate system, yet it carries both U.S route 101 and California State Route 1 through it.
  • The Golden Gate Bridge was named one of the Seven Wonders of the United States in 1994 by the American Society of Civil Engineers, joining the ranks of the Panama Canal, Hoover Dam, the Interstate System, Trans-Alaska Pipeline, World Trade Center and Kennedy Space Center.
  • Excitingly, the steel sections for the two towers were fabricated in Pennsylvania and sent by boat to San Francisco through… the Panama Canal.

Upon completion of the bridge in May 1937, chief engineer and poet Joseph Strauss penned “The Mighty Task is Done” — read the poem here.

 

Madagascar’s Badass ‘Forest of Knives’ Awes From All Angles

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The world is a dynamic environment home to a trillion species. Full of beautiful landscapes pre-dating humans, impressive engineering feats that wouldn’t exist without us, and of course, the in-between. This is VK Nagrani’s Badass Places.

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Limestone sculptures sharp enough to slice through the most quality climbing gloves rise 300 feet while even the slimmest body shapes struggle to traverse the fissures deep below.

Welcome to Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park on Madagascar’s west coast, more aptly known as the “forest of knives.” Here’s why it’s truly unlike anything on our planet.

 

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1. Tsingy’s Origin and Geological Makeup

“Tsingy” refers to the karst limestone formations that make up the stone forests. Tsingy means “walking on tiptoes,” or “the place where one cannot walk” in Malagasy, and no report of a visit to the national park has come close to contradict that meaning.

Tsingy de Bemaraha owes its beauty to 200 million years of heavy tropical rainfall erosion. It’s believed that groundwater from these heavy rains entered the porous limestone to create caves and tunnels. When the roofs to these caves and tunnels eventually collapsed, the giant spires were left.

Tsingy National Park is comprised of two main formations: Little Tsingy and Great Tsingy, with both displaying karstic elevation characteristics true to their name. To the north, these formations border the Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve, which is closed to the public. To the east, a condensed group of mountains sharply gives way to the Bemaraha Cliffs, which overlook the Manambolo River valley some 1,000 meters below. On the western end, the slopes are more gradual and form a plateau.

Example of a formation of karst topography.

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2. A Biodream

Despite the unlivable image that appears at the thought of really tall razor sharp “trees,” Tsingy de Bemaraha is one of the most biodiverse regions in the entire world.

The site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1990 and contains many ecosystems through gorges, mangroves, deciduous forests, tropical rainforests, lakes, rivers, rolling hills, waterfalls, sinkholes and an extensive underground cave system. The tsingy summit, slope and base make up three separate ecosystems alone.

Eighty-five percent of the park and reserve’s species are endemic, and an astonishing 47 percent are local endemic. Nearly a dozen rare or endangered lemur species frolic about the limestone needles while a hundred different bird species soar. Tens of endemic reptiles and amphibians roam around and even one species of rodent that’s local to the reserve.

The most fascinating thing about a place like Tsingy de Bemaraha is that it’s still relatively unknown. It’s not uncommon for new species to be found on biological explorations, but the park’s difficult accessibility in many areas limits research access.

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3. A Beacon of Sustainable Tourism Amidst Massive Deforestation in Madagascar

Given the task of traveling to Tsingy de Bemaraha and the hard-to-navigate geological state, the park was only accessible to experts until the 1990s. That’s when French explorer Jean-Claude Dobrilla, who had been consulting for Madagascar’s national parks to develop tourist circuits in inaccessible, rocky sites founded the Antsika Association, which aimed to help the Malagasy people preserve and profit from their natural resources.

With the help of locals and funding from the EU, the Antsika Association made the park what it is today, adding a connected climbing system via aerial suspension bridges, steel cables, pegs and ladders. In total, 8 circuits of varying difficulty were created over a nine-year period.

Today, the Antika Association helps maintain the park, and Dobrilla himself routinely tests and repairs the climbing circuits, especially the suspended walkways and bridges that allow visitors to stand directly above the tsingy sharp points.

Since the project’s completion, the park has grown in popularity as a “true adventure” tourist destination while staying mostly undisrupted as a biodiverse region. This is remarkable, but especially in contrast to the rest of Madagascar. The country has lost 80 percent of its forests (half since just the 1950s), jeopardizing the approximately 90 percent of species endemic to the country. Thankfully, the Tsingy de Bemaraha doesn’t face quite the same risk, as the park’s overall inaccessibility (especially in the Reserve) act as a strong deterrent to endangerment activities.

The strong impact on the local economy makes Tsingy de Bemaraha’s natural awe even better, as tour guides, 4×4 drivers, restaurant and hotel workers all make their livings off the park. In a world that typically puts profit at the expense of preservation, Tsingy is a shining example of how focused eco-tourism efforts can benefit local people and still protect natural wonders.

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4. It’s Not Easy to Reach

The best things in life are never easy, and getting to Tsingy de Bemaraha definitely upholds that sentiment. Transportation options include road or chartered plane to the nearest village (and then some driving). The most accessible route, driving from Morondava, is an innocent-sounding 150 kilometer journey—except that 150 kilometers is on rough, unpaved roads that require a 4×4 vehicle and eight to 10 hours of a tough gut. One TripAdvisor reviewer stated they’d rather take a 50-hour, triple layover flight than experience the off-road trek again.

Once in the park, an entire day hiking can yield a half mile in distance. And like another favorite natural wonder of ours — the Darvaza Gas Crater, Tsingy doesn’t have gift shops and other tourist facilities—just a toilet and a ticketbooth. Smooth.

Read about more badass men, women, places, and moments in time, all part of VK Nagrani’s Badass series.

 

 

Charlie Chaplin, Virtuoso of Sorts

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Can you imagine trying to become a famous actor without your words? What about going from workhouse rags to the most recognizable face in the world? Charlie Chaplin captivated audiences worldwide over an 82-film, 75-year-career that single handedly elevated the medium for which motion pictures were judged.

Chaplin was a do-it-all artist with the most illustrative facial expressions the world had ever seen. He pioneered slapstick antics with emotional depth and created films rooted in social commentary.

He did this mostly through the everyman persona of his one true character—The Tramp. In roles spanning janitors, (ex-)convicts, factory workers, drunks, apprentice assistants and many others—Chaplin portrayed poverty through an uplifting, comedic lens — a style that would resonate with audiences for decades, even as cultural and film styles rapidly changed.

Charlie Chaplin’s legacy is ubiquitous enough for many to have seen his trademark mustache and know he was a silent film comedic actor, but let’s take a closer look at the life and work of cinema’s first true artist.

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1. Too Talented, Determined to Let Early Hardship Stop Him

Chaplin’s upbringing was anything but smooth. His parents’ relationship was unraveling around the time he was born, and they’d become estranged two years into his life. After the split, Charlie’s father was completely out of his life; no financial support or emotional relationship.

Without any assistance, Charlie’s mother supported Charlie and his half brother by making dresses at home and occasional nurse work, but they struggled to make consistent ends meet, which led Charlie to two stays at workhouses before age nine.

To make matters worse, Charlie’s mother, increasingly suffering from what was later thought to be syphilis, was committed to a mental asylum. This landed Charlie and his half brother with their father for the first time ever. Unfortunately for the two young boys, Chaplin Sr. was deep in the throes of alcoholism by that point, and as one would imagine, didn’t treat his sons very well. He would die from cirrhosis two years later at age 37.

Charlie was briefly homeless afterward, until his half-brother returned from the British Navy and took care of him. The tormented emotional cycle continued when his mother was released from the asylum after eight months, only to be institutionalized again in 1905—this time for life (though after making it big, Charlie brought her to California in 1921 to live with him). All the hardship wasn’t enough to stop a young, talented and determined Chaplin from succeeding; just a year later in 1906 he would join Fred Karno’s renowned comedy circuit, quickly becoming a standout performer.

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2. Passion Through a Vision

Chaplin wanted perfection. But instead of it hindering his artistic production, it only seemed to accelerate his output—and to several different roles in the film process: composer, director, screenwriter, producer and editor. This in large part was because of his confidence and vision; Chaplin couldn’t have achieved what he achieved without it.

For example, when Chaplin wanted to start directing films, he got his foot in the door by promising to pay Keystone Studio boss Mack Sennett $1,500 (Chaplin’s entire savings) if the films could not be released. Chaplin’s bravado resulted in him directing many of the Keystone films he appeared in (along with a $25 bonus).

Later in his directorial career, while filming 1931’s “City Lights,” Chaplin reportedly made actress Virginia Cherrill do 342 takes for one sequence. He also publicly berated Marlon Brando for keeping him waiting on set of 1967’s “A Countess in Hong Kong” to which Brando would later reference in his autobiography — describing the 77-year-old Chaplin as “probably the most sadistic man I’d ever met” and a “fearsomely cruel man.”

Chaplin may have been a fierce septuagenarian (or just in general), but that’s hardly surprising given his dedication and focus to his crafts throughout his life. Even after sound films emerged in the late ‘20s, Chaplin rebelled, stating his case in the New York Times in 1931:

“BECAUSE the silent or non-dialogue picture has been temporarily pushed aside in the hysteria attending the introduction of speech by no means indicates that it is extinct or that the motion picture screen has seen the last of it. “City Lights” is evidence of this.”

“City Lights” certainly achieved acclaim, but Chaplin couldn’t veil his own denial for long, later admitting, “although City Lights was a great triumph, I was obsessed by a depressing fear of being old-fashioned.”

Chaplin would eventually succumb to his contemporaries with his first talkie: 1940’s “The Great Dictator” — a political comedy-drama satirizing Adolf Hitler which ended up as one of Chaplin’s most commercially successful films. Today it’s preserved in the National Film Registry for its cultural and historical significance.

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3. Charlie’s Recipes

Food was a theme and interest throughout Chaplin’s career and personal life. Among many, the cafeteria scene in “Modern Times” comes to mind where he eats a ton of food without paying in a second attempt to be arrested and save the orphan girl.

Chaplin was asked to submit recipes to cookbooks throughout his life (mostly for charitable proceeds). Some of his favorites include:

  • Apple roll
  • Steak and kidney pie
  • Sour cream hot cakes
  • “The Gold Rush Shoestring Spaghetti Dinner” (spaghetti with clam sauce, filets de sole w/ grapes, asparagus salad, boiled new potatoes, creme brulee, and Parker House rolls)

Get the full recipes here.

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4. Uniquely Recognized

Being the unprecedented performer and individual he was, Chaplin garnered many triumphs throughout his career.

In 1925, he became the first actor to appear on the cover of Time Magazine, which probably would have been more exciting for him had he not released “The Gold Rush” a month earlier; a film that was a smashing success, grossing over $4.2 million (the fifth-highest-grossing silent film ever).

Chaplin was vocal in saying it was the film he wanted to be remembered by.

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Here’s the opening scene to the 1925 film:

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But that’s small potatoes compared to Chaplin’s three Oscars. While the only competitive win came for his composition work in “Limelight,” widely thought to be his last great motion picture and a project inspired by his novella entitled “Footlights” — his other two Oscars are as unique as they get.

Chaplin was recognized at the very first Academy Awards for his versatility and genius in acting, writing, directing and producing 1929’s “The Circus.”

Chaplin’s second honorary Oscar came in an even bigger way: in 1972, 20 years after being exiled from the U.S. for being labeled a communist sympathizer (a whole other article in itself) Chaplin was back on U.S. soil, receiving a 12-minute standing ovation for the “incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century.” This is still the longest standing ovation in Oscar history!

Watch his acceptance speech below:

Chaplin gave the world never-before-seen entertainment but did so through a social commentary that resonated beyond laughs. Chaplin was about the whole process; the music, the laughs, the message, the story and the shot all stood on equal ground. Chaplin — like many of the people we feature at VK Nagrani — lived his life with purpose and tenacity, something we can all use a bit more of from time to time.

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5. Other interesting tidbits

  • It was no secret that Chaplin liked younger women, but in 1943 it backfired into an ugly paternity suit. Read how Chaplin’s case helped redefine paternity laws in the U.S.
  • Chaplin received widespread criticism for not fighting in WWI as a British soldier, but played a role anyway when cutouts of his Tramp character were propped up in British trenches “so the Germans would die laughing.” His films were also projected on the ceilings of military hospitals.
  • His look was so famous and recognized that he couldn’t even win a Charlie Chaplin lookalike contest, instead placing third. Actually, just kidding.
  • His first Oscar, valued at over $1 million, was stolen from Paris offices in 2015, but it’s the memories that count, right?
  • Graverobbers excavated Chaplin’s dead body in hopes for a $600,000 ransom. Instead, they were caught, wrote apology letters to Charlie’s wife and were given minimal sentences.

 

Badass Gal: Nellie Bly

Journalism’s First Original Gonzo-Immersionist

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Best known for her record-breaking globe-trotting journey and ten undercover days spent in a madhouse, Nellie Bly, born Elizabeth Cochrane, lived with a tenaciousness most could only dream of possessing.

Her life should serve as one vivid example on how to take control of life and spend our days exactly as we’d like.

Learn more about the queen of investigative journalism and lifelong badass, Nellie Bly, below.

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1. Operated on a No-Bullshit Policy

It’s staggering the amount of people waiting for someone else to take control of their lives. For anyone struggling with personal empowerment, Bly is the poster child of motivation.

She first received attention as a teenager after writing a passionate response to the editor of the “Pittsburgh Gazette” due to a column it ran titled, “What Girls Are Good For,” which based its central thesis arguing that girls are strictly good for birthing and housekeeping. Bly’s heated prose resonated so well that the Gazette’s editor published an ad calling on the writer to identify themselves. When Bly did, she was offered an assignment with the paper.

Later at the Gazette, when she was confined to women-centric topics commonly known in journalism as “pink topics,” she didn’t bite her lip and play it professional. Instead, she quit and went to Mexico, spending half a year as a foreign correspondent reporting on the lives and customs of Mexicans. Her Mexico experiences were chronicled in a collection called “Six Months in Mexico.” Bly was only 21 years old at the time.

While in Mexico, Bly protested the imprisonment of a local Mexican journalist, ultimately landing her on the radar of Mexican officials. Under threat of arrest, Bly fled to the U.S., but didn’t stop criticizing then-dictator Porfririo Diaz about suppressing the Mexican people and controlling the press.

Bly would end up leaving the Gazette a second time after Mexico due to more soft assignments and because, as we know by now, she operated on a no-bullshit policy.

When the male senior staff at the “New York World” first learned of her around-the-world proposal, they wanted to send a man. Bly said she’d work for another paper and beat whatever man they’d send. Bly got her way with the senior staff, and a year later she stood at Hoboken Pier in New Jersey waiting to depart.

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2. An Unprecedented Investigative Journalist

Bly’s first assignment at the Dispatch was titled “The Girl Puzzle,” a piece advocating for divorce reform. It impressed the editor enough for him to offer Bly a full-time job. She got started with an investigative series covering the conditions of women working in factories.

She later found herself in Joseph Pulitzer’s “New York World” offices, ultimately taking an assignment to act insane as part of an expose into the neglect and harsh treatment at the Women’s Lunatic Asylum. Bly was reportedly so convincing in feigning insanity that a roommate of hers at a boarding house (prior to the asylum) refused to sleep in the same room as her. Bly passed the demented test with flying colors and transferred to Blackwell Island and its 1,600 women patients.

While at Blackwell, Bly experienced cruel treatment in the form of ice cold baths, minimally supplied clothing, and sparse meals. Her investigative work, aptly titled, “10 Days in a Madhouse,” led to massive system reform, including cleaner facilities, more funding, and better treatment of patients. It also paved the way for a new kind of journalism that others would (less successfully) mirror.

Eventually, she decided to follow in the fictional footsteps of Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg and go around the world in 80 days. By herself. She ended up only taking a record-breaking 72 days to do it. Afterwards, and as a bona fide celebrity drawing high acclaim for all over, Bly would continue covering social justice pieces, including the orphan market in New York, a look into zoo cruelty, and a piece on the homeless. At the end of her career, Bly covered WWI and women’s suffrage.

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3. Fashion Sense

Not much is spoke of regarding Bly’s fashion sense, but she displayed it on her jaunt around the world. Bly traveled by herself, and with her main concern being speed, didn’t bring much. In fact, Bly’s luggage would make today’s backpackers look like hoarders. Photos of her from the trip show her holding a bag only sixteen inches wide by seven inches high packed with only the essentials:

  • spare underwear
  • toiletries
  • writing instruments
  • tennis blazer
  • dressing gown
  • a cup
  • two caps
  • three veils
  • pair of slippers
  • needles and thread
  • handkerchiefs

Oh, and the most important items, one jar of cold cream and a flask.

As if these life accomplishments weren’t enough, Bly held many patents, including for a 55-gallon oil drum, stackable garbage pail, and an improved version of the milk jar. She also briefly owned a company after her late husband past away and gave her control. A woman in 1907 as president of a company was unprecedented. It’s still uncommon these days.

Though Bly would succumb to pneumonia at age 57, she lived a full life full of assertiveness and excitement. Her story should inspire anyone with passion, but particularly those who don’t know how to channel and direct it into greater life gains.

Be like Nellie Bly: don’t take no for an answer and be fucking fearless!

Keep visiting the VK Nagrani blog for more accounts of truly badass people throughout history.