Daredevils and Deviants: Martha E. Wagenfurher, “Maid of the Rapids”

I am currently reading a wonderful (though fictional) book called The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and it has piqued my interest in carnival performers and feats of daring. “Circus life” fascinates me; there is something exotic, inspiring, quixotic, and peculiar the lifestyle. Today at Anonymous Works, the blog’s author and curator-of-the-peculiar, Joey posts about Martha E. Wagenfurher, “Maid of the Rapids.” Though not a circus worker, Martha falls into a similar category of performers living on the fringe, who eschew typical means of entertainment and seek to take themselves to unknown limits.

Martha E. Wagenfuhrer hailed from Buffalo, NY. The wife of a professional wrestler, her daring streak helped her devise a plan to be the first woman to ever shoot down Niagara Falls in a barrel. She timed her stunt to be on the exact day, and the exact time, that President William McKinley was to have a very public visit at the Falls on September 6, 1901. She expected it to be a widely publicized event, with loads of press vying to make her instantaneously famous. Unfortunately, fate was not on her side. First, as she arrived at the Falls, her barrel struck the bank and was damaged, delaying her feat. By the time she was ready at around 6pm, according to the New York Times article that followed the next day, the press had fled the raging waterfall’s banks, rushing to cover the assassination of President McKinley, which occurred mere hours after his morning Niagara visit.

In the description of the 1901 cabinet card pictured above, we learn of Martha’s fate:

Martha began her journey on the afternoon of September 6th, but before her barrel could be set afloat it sustained damage when it accidentally rolled down the bank of the river. Martha refused to go ahead with her stunt until the barrel was repaired and later that day, slightly before 6 p.m. Martha was helped inside her barrel.

Unfortunately for Martha her barrel was caught in the Whirlpool Rapids for over an hour. With darkness setting in it became necessary for the Great Gorge Railway Illumination Car to be brought to the Whirlpool so its search light could illuminate the surface of the river. When it was possible to finally retrieve the barrel Martha was found unconscious inside and barely breathing. It took over ten minutes to revive the woman.

She was featured in several publications, such as Cosmopolitan magazine, yet, as with most flash-in-the-pan performers, her story is overshadowed by the events of her time.

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Vintage Basketball Photos: University of Miami Men’s and Women’s Teams

Circling around the blogs (such as Miss Moss and Lincoln Taft) are vintage photographs of the University of Miami Women’s Basketball team. A collection of most all team photographs can be found at the University of Miami’s Flickr stream. Miami had the foresight to transfer its photo archives to an online database, so that they can be shared and enjoyed by a mass audience, rather than simply tucked away in dusty old books, sitting in a library’s back room.

I think it’s an interesting and important concept for universities, museums, and other cultural institutions to put their photo archives on sharing sites such as Flickr. It is a means to preserve and retell history, as well as to inspire others to dig up otherwise unknown and unseen remnants of the past.

Plus, just look at those hair bows.

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Happy Holidays!

For those that follow our Ebay listings, you might notice that things are a little different the next two weeks. We are cutting back on the number and dollar value of the items listed in our weekly auctions that end December 19th and December 26th, in order to be able to spend some time with friends and family over the holiday season.

We are exceptionally grateful to all of our regular customers for their interest and support these past 13 years on eBay. We wish every one of you a happy and healthy holiday season!

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Walnutts FAQ’s: What Is a “CDV”?

Walnutts FAQ’s is a series of common questions… and their answers.

Q. I notice you frequently sell or post about “CDVs” on your auction page and website. What is a CDV, exactly?

A. A CDV (or more precisely a “carte-de-visite”) is small albumen print that is mounted on a standard sized 2 1/2″ by 4″ backing card. The process was patented in 1854 by a Parisian photographer, and the style gained their height of popularity in the United States during the Civil War. The were called carte-de-visite, which is French for “visiting card,” because their compact size made them perfect for “photographic calling cards” that could be presented during a social visit.

Their standardized size made them convenient for photo album makers, and they were easy to trade and collect. These types of photos also served as a way to familiarize Americans with the faces and popular images of politicians, military officers and other celebrities. They may have been presented to the public as a “souvenir” of the war or as a memorial. Around 1868, the larger cabinet card photograph became popular and by 1885, had taken over most of the carte-de-visite’s market.

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70 Years: The Day That Will Live in Infamy

from the US National Archives, via Quite Continental

The following day President Roosevelt requested (and immediately received) a Congressional declaration of war on Japan in what has become known as his Day of Infamy speech.  That same day, the Archive of American Folk Song (now the Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center), dispatched their fieldworkers to collect “man on the street” reactions to both the attack and the declaration of war.  By February 1942, fieldworkers had recorded over twelve hours of opinions from more than two hundred individuals across the country.  Touching on topics such as race relations and national pride, the interviews are a revealing look at the American state of mind in the wake of Pearl Harbor.

Today marks 70 years since the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Fellow blogger Quite Continental featured a post that links to the US National Archives’ recordings of interviews and speeches held after December 7, 1941, a true treasure trove of American history and our resolve in the face of tragedy. We honor and support veterans, past and present, and today remember those that lost their lives 70 years ago.

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