Centuries of Sound on Cambridge 105 Radio – Episode 16 (1908)

Vesta Tilley

Time: 8pm GMT, Saturday 9th November 2019

Place: Cambridge 105fm

Another adventure into the history of recorded music with James Errington, this time joined by veteran BBC presenter & producer Tony Barnfield to listen to and talk about the sounds of 1908, right at the heart of the era when music hall and vaudeville dominated music on either side of the Atlantic.

Listen to the show on 105fm in Cambridge, on DAB digital nationwide, on the Cambridge 105 website here, or on any good radio apps, or, as you are too late to do any of these things, just use this mixcloud player.


1908 in Art

Gustav Klimt – The Kiss

Gustav Klimt – The Kiss

Georges Braque - Maisons à l'Estaque

Georges Braque – Maisons à l’Estaque

Pablo Picasso - Trois femmes

Pablo Picasso – Trois femmes

Egon Schiele - Still Life

Egon Schiele – Still Life

George Bellows – Steaming Streets

George Bellows – Steaming Streets

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner – Street, Dresden

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner – Street, Dresden

Ervin Plány - Breton Women

Ervin Plány – Breton Women

Kazimierz Sichulski - Ryby

Kazimierz Sichulski – Ryby

Claude Monet - San Giorgio Maggiore at Dusk

Claude Monet – San Giorgio Maggiore at Dusk

Felix Vallotton - The Rape of Europa

Felix Vallotton – The Rape of Europa

Henri Matisse - The Dessert, Harmony in Red (The Red Room)

Henri Matisse – The Dessert, Harmony in Red (The Red Room)

Piet Mondrian – Avond

Piet Mondrian – Avond

Ferdynand-Ruszczyc - Gniazdo

Ferdynand-Ruszczyc – Gniazdo

Antanas Žmuidzinavičius - All Through the Night

Antanas Žmuidzinavičius – All Through the Night

James Carroll Beckwith - Lost in Thought

James Carroll Beckwith – Lost in Thought

Pierre-Auguste Renoir – Portrait of Ambroise Vollard

Pierre-Auguste Renoir – Portrait of Ambroise Vollard

Georg Sauter - The Leeds Picture

Georg Sauter – The Leeds Picture

Henri Rousseau - The Football Players

Henri Rousseau – The Football Players

Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis - Finale

Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis – Finale

1908 in Film

The Haunted House (1908)


The Haunted House

The Thieving Hand

Magic Bricks

Trouble Of A Grass Widower

Moscow Clad In Snow

A Visit To The Seaside

Long Distance Wireless Photography

Rescued from an Eagle’s Nest

The Dog And His Various Merits

Stenka Razin

The Tempest

Dreams of Toyland

Cupid’s Pranks

Whaling Afloat And Ashore

Over The Hill To The Poorhouse

Betrayed by a Handprint

Typhoid Mary

Typhoid Mary

I first saw Mary Mallon thirty-two years ago, that is, in 1907. She was then about forty years of age and at the height of her physical and mental faculties. She was five feet six inches tall, a blond with clear blue eyes, a healthy color and a somewhat determined mouth and jaw. Mary had a good figure and might have been called athletic had she not been a little too heavy. She prided herself on her strength and endurance, and at that time and for many years thereafter never spared herself in the exercise of it.

We’re on the cusp of a breakthrough in medical science in 1908 – viruses and bacteria have been conclusively shown to be the cause of illness, vaccines are being developed, antibiotics are just around the corner – but for the bulk of humanity, little has changed since Victorian times. All these advances are as yet nothing when set against a stubborn person who is carrying an infectious disease.

Typhoid is a bacterial infection which results in a high fever, weakness, abdominal pain, constipation and headaches. In 1908 it had a mortality rate of something like 20%. Mary Mallon was a carrier of the disease, but never showed any symptoms. She worked as a cook in at least six wealthy households in New York, and was famous for a signature dish of ice cream and frozen peaches. “No better way,” said investigator George Sopor, “could be found for a cook to cleanse her hands of microbes and infect a family.” It was shown that least 51 people were infected by Mary, with three fatalities, but some have the latter figure as high as 50.

After three years of quarantine, Mallon was released after agreeing that she would “change her occupation (that of a cook), and would give assurance by affidavit that she would upon her release take such hygienic precautions as would protect those with whom she came in contact, from infection.” However, after two years working as a laundress, she changed her name to Mary Brown and returned to her former occupation, starting several other major outbreaks. Police were finally able to find and arrest her in 1915, and she spent the remainder of her life in quarantine on North Brother Island.

You can find an episode about Typhoid Mary at Stuff You Missed In History Class.

Eight things you might not know about the Ford Model T

ford model t

1. Though it is undeniably the driving force behind the adoption of automation in industry, the Model T wasn’t the first car made on a production line – that was the Oldsmobile Curved Dash, beginning in 1901.

2. Famously the Model T was available in “any color as long as it’s black” – however for the first five years it wasn’t black at all, but came in gray, green, blue, and red varieties. The uniform black paint was adopted in 1913 in order to save money on materials and production.

3. To start your Model T you had to turn a crank which could kick back and break your arm or (very occasionally) exit at missile velocity. The choke and throttle controls were mounted on the steering column, and needed to be set as soon as the engine started, so you had to run back and do this before the engine died.

4. The car had no speedometer, one gear and only one door. All models were, however built with a jack stand on the rear axle, which allowed the owner to remove the rear wheel and place a flat belt on the hub in order to power farm equipment.

5. Early models had their seats stuffed with dried moss, which undoubtedly was very comfortable, but which led to a recall when it was found to harbour hoards of tiny, biting bugs

6. The Model T was produced with fundamentally the same design for almost 20 years – and the worlds (and roads) of 1908 and 1927 were markedly different. Henry Ford was furious when any engineers suggested the blueprint be changed.

7. At $300 in 1925, it was the first car which was affordable for blue collar workers in America, and he also paid his workers a wage which far surpassed what they could get elsewhere. Before we hail him as a hero of the modern age however…

8. Henry Ford’s racism and antisemitism are surely widely known at this point – but the extent of this and its bizarre implications still beggars belief. Not only did you have to be a white male protestant to work on his factory floor, and sign a “morals contract”, but he invented and publicised square dancing purely in order to counteract the black and allegedly jewish jazz culture of the 1920s. To describe him as a crackpot doesn’t really do him justice – these are the actual words he used (in “The International Jew”, a favourite of Adolf Hitler) to describe the popular culture of the times;

“Many people have wondered whence come the waves upon waves of musical slush that invade decent homes and set the young people of this generation imitating the drivel of morons. Popular music is a Jewish monopoly. Jazz is a Jewish creation. The mush, slush, the sly suggestion, the abandoned sensuousness of sliding notes, are of Jewish origin.”

Further reading here: http://mentalfloss.com/article/61312/brief-history-ford-model-t

Two-part biographical podcast on Ford here and here.

Edwardian Rollerskating


What did the Edwardians like to do in their free time? Smoke pipes? Grow moustaches? Wear boater hats? Chain themselves to railings? Let’s add one to the list – rollerskating. Apparently the late 1900s saw a rollerskating craze sweep the UK, and at one point 500 rinks were open for public use.

A deep, but very entertaining, dive into this topic was undertaken by Sean Creighton at The National Archives – take a look at his presentation or download the audio podcast here-


Jack Johnson

jack johnson

A truism that bears continual restating; the Edwardian / “progressive” era was really, truly racist. Even the most diehard bigots these days would be unlikely to begrudge a black man his boxing career, but it took the best part of a decade of being the best boxer in the world, and two years of stalking his opponent, before Jack Johnson was able to compete for (and win) the world heavyweight title from Canadian Tommy Burns.

This was not, of course, allowed to pass unnoticed. The next two years saw a host of competitors put up against Johnson as “the great white hope” until finally superstar world champion James J Jeffries was brought out of retirement to challenge Johnson in “the fight of the century” – the film of which was distributed across the USA. The viewing of Johnson’s victory sparked race riots, which led to a nationwide ban on the distribution of fight films. Nearly a hundred years later, it would be entered into the National Film Registry.

A decent podcast about Jack Johnson can be found at Stuff You Missed in History Class – usual provisos about excessive advertising apply.