Centuries of Sound on Cambridge 105 Radio – Episode 6 (1896-1897)


James and Sean use their audio archeology skills to take you on another time travel adventure with original recordings from the distant past. This time we visit 1896 and 1897, hear the birth pangs of something not yet called ragtime, find out the true origins of ‘The Laughing Policeman’ and hear some jokes so rude that the performer was actually sent to jail.

The show is on TODAY the 2nd of February at 8pm – you can listen in on the Cambridge 105 website here – https://cambridge105.co.uk/radioplayer/ – or on radio apps, or on 105fm / digital if you are actually in Cambridge.

Update: The show is now available to be streamed here:

1897 in Art

John Collier - Lady Godiva

John Collier – Lady Godiva

Edvard Munch - The Kiss

Edvard Munch – The Kiss

Paul Gauguin – Where Do We Come From What Are We Where Are We Going

Paul Gauguin – Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?

Camille Pissarro - Boulevard Montmartre, printemps

Camille Pissarro – Boulevard Montmartre, printemps

Henri Rousseau – Boy on the Rocks

Henri Rousseau – Boy on the Rocks

Jacek Malczewski – Vicious Circle

Jacek Malczewski – Vicious Circle


L. A. Ring – In the garden door. The artist’s wife

Ramon Casas - Ramon Casas and Pere Romeu on a Tandem

Ramon Casas – Ramon Casas and Pere Romeu on a Tandem

Edmund Leighton - In Time of Peril

Edmund Leighton – In Time of Peril

Georges Lacombe - Vorhor, the Green Wave

Georges Lacombe – Vorhor, the Green Wave

Ogata Gekko - Ryu sho ten

Ogata Gekko – Ryu sho ten

Claude Monet - Morning on the Seine near Giverny

Claude Monet – Morning on the Seine near Giverny

1897 in Film


To mirror the main mix, this year we have some extra inappropriate content – irresponsible drinking, the occult, and actual sort-of porn.

The Hallucinated Alchemist

Old Man Drinking a Glass of Beer

The X-Rays

The Bewitched Inn

Making Sausages

After The Ball

Leaving Jerusalem by Railway

Naval Combat in Greece

Spanish Bullfight

La prise de Tournavos

Bram Stoker – Dracula


It’s been over twenty years since I last read ‘Dracula’ and I was a little surprised to find that my opinion about it this time was essentially the same. It’s 50% utterly wonderful, a wildly evocative mystery story with enough half-spoken to lead to a century of derivative works, none of which can quite capture its unique atmosphere. The first part of the book largely falls into this category.

But then there’s also the 50% pointless tedium, lifeless characters writing long letters about how they had a meeting and how wonderful another boring character is. Aside from possibly Van Helsing, the characters are so thinly drawn it’s sometimes breathtaking. Quincy, for example, has the defining feature of being American, and that’s pretty much it. Lucy is the worst though, surely the most insipid personality ever put on a page (and praised to the heavens for being braindead in such a delicate, ladylike way,) she only gains any character when she is killed and brought back  as a vampire, only for the others to be physically repulsed by her passion to the point of driving a stake through her heart. I’m sure there has been a great deal written about what this says about Stoker’s view of female sexuality, none of it very positive.

In spite of all of this I still loved reading it again. The best parts are absolutely worth sitting though the dull sections for, and if you’re anything like me you can also enjoy imagining what you would do with it if you were Bram Stoker’s editor.

Bram Stoker – Dracula
Bram Stoker – Dracula (free text at Project Gutenberg)
Bram Stoker – Dracula (BBC radio adaptation)
Bram Stoker – Dracula (free audiobook at Librivox)

…and here’s a clip from perhaps the most famous adaptation, the one with Bela Lugosi from 1931. Unfortunately the film gets even more bogged down in its second act than the book does, but this scene shows off both Lugosi and the superb set design.

S.A. Andrée and the 1897 North Pole Balloon Mission


People live only 500 miles from the North Pole, so why didn’t anyone reach it until 1908? Well, it turns out there are many reasons, and a number of innovative solutions to the problems, including freezing a huge ship in the ice and letting the currents pull you across the arctic over a couple of years. In that particular case most of the crew survived, but many were less lucky.

In 1897 Swedish explorer Salomon August Andrée had the truly original idea of piloting a hot air balloon across the arctic – an idea that’s so crazy that it just might be a work of genius. After every expert consulted had told him that he was an idiot he nevertheless managed to capture public excitement enough to raise the money to fund the trip. Would he manage to get his crew all the way to the North Pole and back alive?

This podcast over at Stuff You Missed In History Class goes into the details of the trip. I won’t spoil what happened, but I probably don’t need to.

Elsewhere in 1897

Boston Marathon


The first Boston Marathon, the discovery of the electron, Kyoto University, Juventus F.C., The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, The play Cyrano de Bergerac, Aspirin, The Kinetoscope, The Tremont Street Subway in Boston – the first underground metro in North America.

It began in Africa

Benin is put to the torch by the British Army’s Benin Expedition.
After months of searching, generals of Menelik II of Ethiopia capture Gaki Sherocho, the last king of Kaffa, bringing an end to that ancient kingdom.
Natal annexes Zululand.
The pan-African anthem “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika” (“God Bless Africa”) is composed as a Xhosa hymn by South African teacher Enoch Sontonga.


A Cyclone destroys Darwin, Australia.
An earthquake of magnitude of 8.0 hits Assam, killing over 1,500
A sheriff’s posse kills 19 unarmed immigrant miners in Pennsylvania.

Beyond the physical world (possibly)

Elva Zona Heaster is found dead in West Virginia – the resulting murder trial of her husband is perhaps the only capital case in United States history where spectral evidence (that is evidence revealed in a dream) helps secure a conviction.


The Klondike Gold Rush begins
The Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria
Oscar Wilde is released from prison in England and goes into exile in France.
Greece and Turkey sign a peace treaty to end the Greco-Turkish War.


Judith Anderson, Australian-born British actress (d. 1992)
Marian Anderson, American contralto (d. 1993)
Sidney Bechet, American musician (d. 1959)
Enid Blyton, British children’s writer (d. 1968)
Subhas Chandra Bose, Indian political leader, led the INA (d. 1945)
Manuel Ávila Camacho, Mexican colonel and politician, 45th President of Mexico (d. 1955)
Frank Capra, American producer, director, and writer (d. 1991)
John Cockcroft, English physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1967)
Henry Cowell, American avant-garde composer (d. 1965)
Marion Davies, American actress (d. 1961)
Eddie Eagan, American boxer and bobsledder (d. 1967)
Amelia Earhart, American aviator (d. 1937)
Anthony Eden, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (d. 1977)
Shoghi Effendi, Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith (d. 1957)
Ludwig Erhard, Chancellor of Germany (d. 1977)
William Faulkner, American writer, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1962)
Hermione Gingold, English actress (d. 1987)
Joseph Goebbels, German Nazi propagandist (d. 1945)
Edith Head, American costume designer (d. 1981)
Fletcher Henderson, American musician (d. 1952)
Sepp Herberger, German football coach (d. 1977)
Moe Howard, American comedian and actor (The Three Stooges) (d. 1975)
Irène Joliot-Curie, French physicist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (d. 1956)
Peter Llewelyn Davies, British publisher and one of the Llewelyn Davies boys (d. 1960)
Lucky Luciano, Sicilian-American Mafia boss (d. 1962)
Fredric March, American actor (d. 1975)
Elijah Muhammad, co-founder of the Nation of Islam (d. 1975)
Pola Negri, Polish-born actress (d. 1987)
Paavo Nurmi, Finnish runner (d. 1973)
Lefty O’Doul, American baseball player and restaurateur (d. 1969)
Pope Paul VI (d. 1978)
Plaek Phibunsongkhram, Thai field marshal, prime minister, and dictator (d. 1964)
Wilhelm Reich, Austrian psychotherapist (d. 1957)
Denise Robins, British romance novelist (d. 1985)
Jimmie Rodgers, American singer (d. 1933)
Gershom Scholem, German-born Israeli Jewish philosopher and historian (d. 1982)
Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky, Austrian architect and anti-Nazi activist (d. 2000)
Douglas Sirk, German-born director (d. 1987)
Charles Kingsford Smith, Australian aviator famous for his trans-Pacific flight (d. 1935)
Otto Strasser, German Nazi politician (d. 1974)
Soong Mei-ling, Chinese wife of Chiang Kai-shek (d. 2003)
George Szell, Hungarian conductor (d. 1970)
Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna of Russia (d. 1918)
Dennis Wheatley, English writer (d. 1977)
Walter Winchell, American broadcast journalist (d. 1972)
Yi Un, Korean Crown Prince (d. 1970)


Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani, Iranian teacher and writer (b. 1838)
Andrés Bonifacio, Filipino revolutionary (b. 1863)
Johannes Brahms, German composer (b. 1833)
Antonio Cánovas del Castillo, Spanish politician and historian (assassinated) (b. 1828)
Alphonse Daudet, French writer (b. 1840)
Henry Doulton, English pottery manufacturer (b. 1820)
Louisa Lane Drew, actress and theater manager (b. 1820)
Henry George, American economist (b. 1839)
Ernest Giles, Australian explorer (b. 1835)
Ion Ghica, 3-Time Prime Minister of Romania (b. 1816)
Stanislas de Guaita, French poet (b. 1861)
Edward Maitland, British writer and occultist (b. 1824)
Henri d’Orléans, Duke of Aumale (b. 1822)
Joseph S. Skerrett, American admiral (b. 1833)
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, French Roman Catholic and Discalced Carmelite nun and saint (b. 1873)
Karl Weierstrass, German mathematician (b. 1815)