Friday, July 18, 2014

Remembering the Father of Radio: Guglielmo Marconi

Guglielmo Marconi
He is known for many of his inventions including long-distance radio transmission and the radio telegraph system, but he is best known as the “Father of Radio.” 

Italian inventor, Guglielmo Marconi was born in Bologna, Italy on April 25, 1874 to Giuseppe Marconi and his wife, Annie Jameson, the granddaughter of John Jameson, founder of whisky distiller Jameson & Sons. Marconi was privately educated and developed an avid interest in science and electricity at a young age.

A Young Marconi
In 1894, Marconi began conducting experiments using radio waves to transmit telegraph messages without wires. Although the idea was not new, the 20-year-old Marconi was able to achieve transmission ranges of over 1.5 miles: unheard of at the time.

Setting Equipment Up
In 1897, Marconi transmitted the first wireless communication over open sea from Flat Holm Island to Lavernock Point in Penarth. The distance was 3.7 miles. The message sent: “Are you ready?” Immediately, the equipment was moved to Brean Down Fort on the Somerset coast and the message sent again, covering 9.9 miles over the ocean.

Marconi at Turn of Century
Marconi began lecturing in London and soon received international attention with his first U.S. demonstration taking place in New York in the fall of 1899.

By 1901, Marconi had created Marconi House in Wexford and was attempting to transmit wireless messages between two points that were a distance of 2,200 miles apart. Critics doubted this claim and Marconi prepared a new, documented test in February 1902, which showed reception up to 1,550 miles with audio reception of up to 2,100 miles.

President Roosevelt
King Edward VII
Finally, on January 18, 1903, Marconi Station in South Wellfleet, Massachusetts sent the world’s first radio message across the Atlantic to the United Kingdom; it was a greeting from President Theodore Roosevelt to England’s King Edward VII. Marconi now knew that he could establish communication with ships at sea from both sides of the Atlantic.

In 1905, Marconi married the Honorable Beatrice O’Brien, daughter of a baron. They had three daughters and one son. The couple divorced in 1924 and Marconi married Maria Cristina Bezzi-Scali in 1927: Benito Mussolini was his best man. He and his second wife had one child, a daughter.
Noble Prize for Physics

In 1909, Marconi shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Karl Braun for his contribution to radio communications.

Jack Phillips
Harold Bride
In was spring, 1912 when two Marconi International Marine Communication Company employees, Jack Phillips, senior wireless officer, and Harold Bride, junior wireless operator were manning the radios on the ill-fated Titanic that April night when she hit an iceberg and sank.

David Sarnoff
Add caption
The RMS Carpathia kept radio contact with Marconi Company employee David Sarnoff for 72-hours as it made its way toward the U.S. with the survivors of the Titanic. Junior operator, Harold Bride was on that ship, and told Marconi how they had continued to signal for help. 

Marconi and Harold Bride Testify
Marconi gave evidence to the Court of Inquiry about the marine wireless radio’s function. Marconi was acknowledged in the final summation of the report with this statement: "Those who have been saved, have been saved through one man, Mr. Marconi...and his marvelous invention.”

Marconi and Radio Equipment
Basilica of Santa Croce
Guglielmo Marconi died on July 20, 1937 from heart failure in Rome. He was 63 years-old. A monument to Marconi is located in the Basilica of Santa Croce, Florence, but he was buried in Sasso, Italy near his hometown.

A period of radio silence was observed for the pioneer of radio communications: a fitting tribute for the Father of Radio.

~ Joy

Friday, July 11, 2014

Four Fascinating Medical Museums

Take me to a museum and I can spend hours soaking up the atmosphere. In the U.S, there are over 35,000 museums, with the world’s largest museum, the Smithsonian, home to 19 museums. Worldwide, there are an estimated 55,000 museums. Last week we took a look at museums of death; today we’ll check out some medical museums that may astound you …

1) The Mütter Museum in Philadelphia is one of the best medical history museums in the country. Founded in 1858 by Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter, the museum is home to anatomical specimens, wax models, skeletal specimens, antique medical instruments and other medical oddities. The museum is a combination of art, history, culture, science and technology all shrouded in the cloak of medical mysteries and diagnosis. The museum is open seven days a week and admission is charged.


2) Located in a corner of the former Central State Hospital (better known locally as the Indiana Insane Asylum) grounds is a small building which once housed the Pathology Building. In fact, it is the oldest surviving pathology facility in the country. Inside is the Indiana Medical History Museum where you will find a recreated doctor’s office from the early 20th century along with artifacts from the beginning periods of scientific psychiatry and modern medicine. The museum also offers free guided tours each Saturday from June through September of the Medicinal Plant Garden. Open Thursdays – Saturdays: admission is charged.

3) If bones are your thing then this is your museum! The Museum of Osteology is America’s only skeleton museum with over 300 skeletons on display. Located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, it’s 7,000 square feet of skulls and skeletons from all over the world. The idea for a bones museum began in 1972 when 7-year-old Jay Villemarette found a skull in the woods; he began collecting them. He opened Skulls Unlimited in 1990 and the current museum opened in 2010 with the largest privately held collection of osteological specimens in the world. The museum includes displays on comparative anatomy, adaption and locomotion, forensic pathology and the skeletons of various species of animals, including human. The museum is open seven days a week; admission is charged and cameras are welcome.


4) Just opened: The Morbid Anatomy Museum, in Brooklyn, New York offers a chance to “explore the intersections of death, beauty and that, which falls between the cracks.”  The museum held its grand opening to the public Saturday, June 28th! The museum’s collection of books, photos, art, taxidermy, ephemera and artifacts all relate to the history of medicine, social curiosities and death, with special exhibits like “The Art of Mourning” which takes a look at the mourning culture from the 18th century through the 20th. The museum is now open everyday except Tuesday and admission is charged.

There are hundreds of medical museums and natural history museums around the world. For a comprehensive list visit and review the Museums/Collectors; Medical Museums and Natural History Museums sections listed on the left hand side of the page.

Next week, a look back at a great inventor.

~ Joy

Friday, June 27, 2014

Deadly Fascinations: Funeral & Death-Care Museums (Part One)

I love museums: Those places where objects of historical, scientific or cultural importance are preserved and exhibited. There are over 35,000 in the U.S. with the world’s largest museum, the Smithsonian, home to 19 museums, located in Washington, D.C. Worldwide there are an estimated 55,000 museums.

Deathly Exhibits
And in that number, there are several museums that deal with death and the death-care industry. This week we’ll take a look at museums dealing directly with death; some are located, quite fittingly, in funeral homes. 

Horse-drawn Funeral Carriage
Ferguson Funeral Home
The Ferguson Funeral Home Museum will mark its 135th anniversary next year, making it the oldest business in Scottsdale, Pennsylvania. The museum is located in the funeral home and houses a 19th century horse-drawn hearse along with several examples of American Folk Art. The museum is open Monday through Friday during normal business hours.

Herr Funeral Home
Fisk Child's Casket
Another museum of death can be found at the Herr Funeral Home’s Funeral Service Memorabilia Museum in Collinsville, Illinois. The museum has a 1918 Sayers and Scoville hearse, antique burial shroud, mourning jewelry and ribbons, and a child’s Fisk casket. The casket is made of cast-iron, and was claimed to be airtight. It was designed like an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus with a viewing window at the top, making it easy to see the body inside and deterring grave robbers. For tour information, contact the funeral home.

Funeral Hearse
Redinger Funeral Home and Museum
Redinger Funeral Home in Seiling, Oklahoma has been in business for 100 years. The museum has several displays of funeral memorabilia and houses a horse-drawn hearse. Tours are offered by appointment and are usually given by Ron Redinger, the grandson of Sam Redinger who started a hardware store in town, and found himself in the funeral business …

Child's Casket
Ohio is a state that takes its death care museums seriously boasting three museums of interest. The Peoples Mortuary Museum
A Sampling of the Hearse Collection
is located in Marietta, Ohio and is part of an operating funeral home. The museum is named for Bill Peoples who owns the collection. Displays include hearses, caskets and funeral memorabilia from the early 1900s displayed tastefully in a building behind the chapel. There is no admission charged but scheduling a tour is requested.

Lafferty Funeral Home
Part of the Lafferty Carriage Collection
The William Lafferty Memorial Funeral and Carriage Collection is located in West Union, Ohio and has a nice collection of memorabilia that dates back to 1848. If it’s hearses you want to see; this is the place, which only makes sense when you consider that the Buckeye State was one of the largest producers of hearses in the country. The museum collection is dedicated to James William Lafferty, the fourth generation of the family to work in the funeral industry. Lafferty preserved artifacts that his family had used in the funeral business and purchased other items to create a sizable collection of funeral memorabilia.

Toland-Herzig Funeral Home
Funeral Ephemera
At Toland-Herzig Funeral Home in Dover, Ohio you will find the Famous Endings Museum. The museum has over 1,500 pieces of funeral ephemera (the largest known collection), which include photos, folders and documents from celebrities, presidents, sports figures and other famous people. The museum also has audio recordings from the funerals of famous people and photos of celebrity gravesides. The museum is open Monday through Friday during normal business hours with no admission charged.

Head of Henri Desire Landru
The Museum of Death is exactly what it says: a museum that focuses on death and related topics with graphic, sometime grisly actual items and footage on display. (This is best for mature audiences.)  The museum offers a 45-minute self-guided tour through a world of coffins, body bags, execution devices, and letters and artwork from murderers and serial killers; you can even view the head of Henri Desire Landru, the Bluebeard of France, who killed over 200 women in the early 20th century. The museum has themed rooms: the California Death Room focuses on famous deaths that have occurred in the state like that of the Black Dahlia and the Charles Manson murders. The museum is located in Hollywood, California and is open daily. Admission is charged.

Money Casket
Hearses on Display
The mother of all funeral museums is located in Houston Texas. The National Museum of Funeral History houses the largest collection of funeral artifacts in the country. From 19th Century Mourning Customs, to Coffins and Caskets of the Past, Historical Hearses, and the History of Embalming, the museum offers 12 historic and informative displays, and continually keeps things fresh with changing funeral industry exhibits. The museum is open seven days a week and admission is charged.

And we lament the passing of one funeral museum –

Replica of Lincoln's Coffin
Embalming Display
The Museum of Funeral Customs was located in Springfield, Illinois for several years before closing in 2009. Adjacent to Oak Ridge Cemetery, the site of President Abraham Lincoln’s Tomb, the museum had a collection of coffins, funeral carriages, and a re-crated 1920s embalming room. Sadly the museum’s trust fund was mismanaged and closure was imminent. After the museum’s closing, its contents were transferred to the Kibbe Hancock Heritage Museum in Carthage Illinois in February 2011 where a Funeral Customs exhibit is on permanent display.

Caskets on Display
There is a new museum expected to open later this year: The Simpson Funeral Museum will be located in Chatham, Virginia. Displays will include an 1876 Horse-drawn hearse and a 1941 Packard hearse, along with replicas of caskets for President John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. Other celebrity casket replicas include one for John Wayne and Elvis Presley.

National Funeral Museum in London
Vienna Funeral Museum
There are also numerous museums of death scattered around the world. A few to check out are the Vienna Funeral Museum in Vienna, Austria; the National Funeral Museum in London, England; the Museum of Piety located in Budapest, Hungary; the Museum for Sepulchral Culture in Kassel, Germany; the Museum of Hearses in Barcelona, Spain; the Dutch Funeral Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands. There are also two cemetery museums in Europe to visit, Hoernli Cemetery near Basel, Switzerland, and the Museum of Ohlsdorf Cemetery in Hamburg, Germany.

Next week, we’ll take a look at museums dealing more with the medical-side of death.

As they say at the National Museum of Funeral History, "Any day above ground is a good one."

~ Joy