Tuesday, 27 December 2016
A Biographical Sketch of A. Hyatt Verrill
This may be the best summary of the life of A. Hyatt Verrill that I have read in my 15 years of research on the author. I have added a few footnotes and hyperlinks to add some details. There are hundreds of other pages on the author in my blog and I have republished many rare stories which are available on Lulu./drf
VERRILL, Alpheus Hyatt (23 July 1871-14 Nov. 1954), author and anthropologist, was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the son of Addison Emery Verrill, a professor and curator of the Peabody Museum at Yale, and Flora Louisa Smith. He was educated at New Haven’s Hopkins Grammar School, the Yale School of Fine Arts, and in zoology and geology at the Yale Sheffield Scientific School. He married Kathryn L. McCarthy in 1892; they had one son and three daughters. Lida Ruth Shaw Kohler became his second wife in 1944; they had no children.
Able to produce accurate drawings of insects from life at age nine, Verrill illustrated the natural history section of Webster’s International Dictionary in 1896 and later did illustrations for the Clarendon Dictionary and a subsequent edition of Webster’s. He often illustrated his own works and other scientific reports. An expert photographer, he developed the autochrome process of natural color photography in 1902.
For the Yale museum, at age seventeen Verrill became perhaps the youngest collector to make a one-man expedition to obtain fauna of tropical jungles, beginning a series of explorations in the Caribbean and Central and South America. He lived in Dominica from 1903 to 1906, British Guiana from 1913 to 1917, and Panama from 1917 to 1921. In 1907 Verrill rediscovered a supposedly extinct shrew-like animal, Solenodon paradoxus, in Santo Domingo. He made his last collecting trip to Latin America in 1950.
Under the auspices of George G. Heye and his Museum of the American Indian in New York City, Verrill undertook archaeological and ethnographic fieldwork from 1916 to 1932, collecting cultural artifacts, vocabulary lists, and oil painting from life of members of the Caribs of British Guiana; the San Blas Indians and the Guaymis of Panama; the Aymara, Colla, and Sirionos of Bolivia; the Yungas of Peru; and the Panos of Chile. These oils were displayed in the Museum of the American Indian and exhibited in London at the Royal Geographical Society (c. 1926).
Verrill’s most important archaeological contribution, for which he is cited in the Handbook of Middle American Indians (1966), was his work at a ceremonial center of the previously unknown Coclé culture of Panama. Interested in representative samples rather than extensive excavations, and suspecting Verrill of stealing material that should have gone to the museum, Heye withdrew financial support, which forced Verrill to terminate excavations. Verrill went on his own to South America and got back into Heye’s favor by sending him anthropological and archaeological material from Bolivia, Chile, and Peru from 1928 to 1932.
Shortly after his return from Dominica in 1906, Verrill became the popular science editor of American Boy Magazine. His work attracted the notice of publishers, and he began writing popular adult and boy’s books and articles on ethnography, archaeology, natural history, history and geography, and mechanical and scientific subjects. His The A.B.C. of Automobile Driving (1909) was translated and used as an instructional manual for the Japanese army. In his autobiography he states that at his peak in the 1930s he was writing two books at a time and turned out seven books in one year (probably 1936), a feat that was noted in the World Almanac. His subjects covered areas such as biography, history, geography, natural history, geology, and treasure hunting. Verrill claimed to have written South and Central American Trade Conditions of Today (1914) in ten days. His 1916 book on airplanes, the first popular book on the subject, was updated and remained a standard work for years. Having produced books on aircraft and gasoline engines, he received an appointment (c. 1912) as technical advisor on gasoline engines for the Aeronautical Society. Among his other books were Motor Boats and Boat Motors (1910); The American Crusoe (1914); Harper’s Book of Gasoline Engines (1916); Radio Detectives in the Jungle (1918); The Real Story of the Pirate (1923); South and Central American Trade Conditions of Today, rev. ed. (1919); Boy Adventures in the Land of El Dorado (1921); Panama Past and Present (1922); Romantic and Historic Maine (1933); Lost Treasures (1938); Wonder Creatures of the Sea (1940); Perfumes and Spices (1940); and Shell Collector’s Handbook (1950).
Verrill’s 109 books included several on adventure and fantasy subjects. Uncle Abner’s Legacy (1915) was the first of six Verrill science-fiction novels. He wrote another novel, When the Moon Ran Wild (1931), under the name Ray Ainsbury. Between 1926 and 1935 Verrill wrote more than twenty science-fiction stories for the early pulps, utilizing his experiences in Central and South American jungles with “lost” ancient civilizations and his knowledge of the biological and physical sciences.
Verrill’s writings on pirates and lost treasures led him to be considered an expert on the subject by some. He was hired in 1929 by a syndicate interested in recovering Spanish treasure lost in 1637 on Silver Shoals, 100 miles north of the Dominican Republic. Research among the records of Sir William Phipps’s 1687 recovery of part of the treasure led Verrill to locate a wreck and bring up artifacts, including a few coins, before the season’s funds ran out. He failed later to relocate the wreck. A second syndicate hired him to head an attempt in 1937-1938 to recover treasure attributed to Jean Lafitte on the Suwannee River in western Florida. Verrill claimed that traces of gold were found on his drill but that the chest kept slipping deeper into “quicksand” and could not be recovered.
Following this excavation, Verrill built a cabin in 1940 in nearby Chiefland on the site of Anhiarka, the Indian village at which Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto had wintered on his trek to the Mississippi. Verrill established experimental gardens and a natural history museum and zoo and supplied the Philadelphia Zoo with live specimens from the area. Mounted specimens went to the Universities of Miami and Florida and to Cornell University.
Moving to Lake Worth, Florida, in 1944, Verrill gave art lessons and then opened a shell business. On a shell collecting trip to the West Indies he discovered five unknown species and the second known specimen of Murex spectrum, a carnivorous rock or dye snail. Verrill died in Chiefland, Florida.
Heye credited Verrill with having “written a new chapter of Middle American archaeology” (“Never A DullMoment,” Box 0C032, Folder 9, p. 390). Theodore Roosevelt stated in a museum talk that “my friend Verrill. . . really put the West Indies on the map.” Although considered an authority in his day, no anthropological journal noted Verrill’s passing. Ground-breaking, informative, and popular in their time, many of his anthropological works contain references to “primitive” tribes and “races,” “wooly-headed” native “rascals,” and other expressions now out of favor. Working before the development of scientific dating methods, Verrill sometimes proposed theories not accepted by professional anthropologists. The “first” American to penetrate many areas, he reported his explorations with a sense of adventure, wonder, and humanity, as in this passage from his autobiography:
“Such people [of the town of Huarachiri, Peru] were those whom Pizarro and his fellows saw, robbed, enslaved and butchered, and as I watched them I felt that somehow, by some magical means, I . . . must be watching a dance in the days of Atahualpa . . . Never will I forget the scene, the Indians in their gorgeous Incan costumes and flashing ornaments bathed in the golden light of the sinking sun, the majestic snow-capped peaks towering above, the great purple shadowed gorge below, the marvelous Incan road clinging like a slender thread to the mountain side and the yearning chorus floating to us from across the quebrada. (Box OC032, Folder 8, pp. 406-7, 409-10)”
Verrill’s papers, including archaeological and ethnological reports, artifact lists, correspondence, and his unpublished autobiography “Never a Dull Moment,” are in the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, New York City. Partly autobiographical works are Thirty Years in the Jungle (1929) and My Jungle Trails (1937). His anthropological books include Old Civilizations of the New World (1918), Strange Manners, Customs, and Beliefs (1946), America’s Ancient Civilizations (1953), and The Real Americans (1954). In 1927 he published an archaeological report, “Excavations in Coclé Province, Panama,” in Indian Notes 4, no. 10: 47-61. A critical review of his science-fiction writing by Walter Gillings is in Twentieth Century Science-Fiction Writers, ed. Curtis C. Smith (1991). Obituaries are in the New York Times, 16 Nov. 1954 and Wilson Library Bulletin 29 (Jan. 1955): 344.
J. Jefferson MacKinnon
from The Blue Book Magazine, December 1906.
Digitized by Doug Frizzle, December 2016.
This may be the earliest Science Fiction story by any Canadian author. Frank Packard (February 2, 1877 – February 17, 1942). He is best known for his Jimmy Dale mystery series.
On the Eleventh Day of August, in the year of our Lord three thousand one hundred and two, the city of Washington, capital of the World, was the scene of unusual commotion. Rumors of the rupture with Mercury were current. It was true that Earth’s minister to that planet had not been recalled, and that Mercury’s ambassador was still in Washington; but this in no way disguised the fact that relations between the two planets were strained to their breaking point.
The enormous Edifice of Deliberations, erected at a cost of one billion of dollars, teemed with bustling humanity, and emanated a sense of tremendous activity.
The House of Delegates was in continuous session. Speeches of members from the States of Russia, Germany, France, and South America were warlike in their tone, rising to a white heat of eloquence to lose some of their intensity against the milder and more prudent counsel of the honorable members from England, America, China, and Japan. Yet from all, even to the smaller States of Holland and Belgium, there was an undertone that plainly evidenced the fact that the Assembly of the World would brook no humiliation.
In the circular chamber that occupied the eastern wing of the building the Supreme Council of Earth were seated: twelve men, the clearest, shrewdest brains upon the Globe. The room was bare of decoration save that from the ceiling hung festooned the national banner, the flag of the World, blood red with a white dove in its center, adopted A.D. two thousand five hundred and thirty-two, at the confederation of Earth’s divisions into one vast nation under one government and one Head.
The Head, Mr. Sasoa, was speaking with great calmness: “Gentlemen.” He said. “Interference with the astral Mizar is unquestionably a casus belli. Ceded to us by interplanetary treaty in two thousand nine hundred and seventy, Mercury’s present action cannot be considered in any light but one of impertinent intrusion upon our sovereign rights.” The members of the cabinet bowed their heads in grave assent.
The Most Honorable Mr. Sasoa then continued: “It has never been Earth’s desire to pursue a policy of colonization: to extend her lawful boundaries of empire beyond her own immediate sphere. You are all thoroughly conversant with the conditions that brought Mizar under our government and control. For over an hundred years this dependency has been wisely and prudentially governed, and today I believe we are justified in asserting that our rule has been efficacious, not only to our own commerce, but to the welfare of the universe at large.
“Mizar’s value as a strategical base is incalculable, and realizing this, Mercury has stopped at nothing to possess himself of this astral. The trickery that has at last resulted in Mizar’s petition to Mercury to be received as his dependency, and their coincident refutation of this government’s authority is but the culmination of the despicable policy Mercury has pursued.
“Gentlemen, you are here assembled for the gravest duty that has ever fallen to the lot of an Earther. I hold in my hand an ultimatum from Mercury, received within the hour, demanding that our forces be withdrawn from Mizar ex tempore. It now becomes your solemn duty to pass upon this document. The House of Delegates is awaiting our decision, and I believe I may say without hesitation that they will ratify any determination we may arrive at.”
The Most Honorable Mr. Sasoa resumed his seat in an unbroken silence.
During half an hour no word was spoken. The document passed from member to member, whose lips, as he handed it to his neighbor, set in a hardened line of grim determination. The examination completed and the paper again in the possession of the Head, all eyes were turned upon the Minister of War.
Acknowledging the unspoken request, General William K. Parsons rose from his seat. His face was drawn and haggard from a sleepless night, his voice, though stern, wavered a little from the stress of emotion that possessed him, as he said solemnly:
“Most Honorable Head, and Gentlemen, I vote for war.”
He raised his hand to quell the outburst of enthusiasm his declaration had evoked.
“I vote for war, Gentlemen,” he repeated; “but with perhaps a truer knowledge of exact conditions than is possessed by the majority of those present. Mercury has chosen his time well. At the first glance it would appear that in event of war it would be fought out around Mizarian space. That is not so. The battleground will be our own planet Earth and the space immediately surrounding us.
“Through pretext of extended maneuvers, Mercury has assembled within instant striking distance of Mizar four hundred of the heaviest ships in his aerial navy. Opposed to which are fifty of our vessels at present awaiting orders at Mizar’s capital.
“Roughly speaking, Mercury’s navy comprises 2,000 ships against our total available force of 1,000. He will not, however, dare to send against us more than 1,500, as the balance he will require for the protection of his astral colonies and his own planet. With this superior force arrayed against us, we cannot hope to defend both Mizar and Earth.
“I said that he had chosen his time well. We must bear in mind the fact that this year Mercury makes his transit, during which he will pass not only between the sun, and ourselves but equally between Mizar and ourselves.
“While I am of course aware that Mercury is greatly inferior in size to ourselves; still we must remember that the large number of colonies belonging to him, coupled with his huge navy, make him a most formidable opponent In this respect I might liken him to your ancestors, Mr. Chamberlain,” he said, bowing gracefully to the honorable member from the State of England, “when before the confederation England was a nation.
“I have but one more word to say. Should we declare for war our ships must be immediately withdrawn from Mizar until the transit shall be accomplished. Our fleets abroad at Saturn, Mars Jupiter, Venus, Uranus and Neptune have already been aerographed rendezvous with all speed at Tokio, St. Petersburg, London, New York, and San Francisco for supplies.”
As General Parsons ceased speaking, the honorable member on his left, and after him in rotation each member of the council, rose, and in solemn tones repeated the General’s formula:
“I vote for war.”
“The decision is unanimous,” announced the Head. “It but remains to transmit the result of our deliberations to the House of Delegates.”
With a mighty shout that body passed the vote. Members standing upon their desks in a frenzy of patriotism sang the national anthem. The die was cast—the Earth at war.
The Secretary of State, in his official aerocar and attended by his suite, landed upon the residential roof of the Mercurian ambassador to acquaint him with Earth’s reply to his government’s ultimatum. That astute diplomat suavely expressed “his unspeakable regret” at the unfortunate termination of the affair; turned the business of his embassy over to the Minister from Saturn, and left the Earth with all speed. Meanwhile the Earth’s ambassador to Mercury had received his instructions to transmit to that government the World’s emphatic refusal to comply with their demands; that duty accomplished to repair at once to Washington.
At the expiration of two days, the admiral commanding the Mizarian squadron had reported at the war office in Washington. Closely following him within a few hours were the fleets from Venus and Mars. That of Jupiter might be expected in eight days, while the few detached vessels doing duty in far Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune had their return orders countermanded as their combined strength would not be of material aid, and it was feared that they might fall into the hands of the enemy; besides, as their voyage would consume from three to six weeks, it was hoped that ere then the crisis would be passed.
On the morning of the 15th, reports had reached the war office from every officer commanding squadrons that his respective detachment was ready for duty. At 10 a.m. of that day orders were issued for immediate mobilization of all fleets at Washington. At 3:30 p.m. General Parsons entered the assembly hall in the House of Delegates, where the admirals were awaiting him. They rose respectfully as he took his place upon the dais.
“Gentlemen,” he said abruptly, “you will be seated. I have called you together that you may understand the general plan of campaign. We have reason to believe that the enemy’s attack will not be made before the 24th of the month, perhaps not until the 25th. In other words, at a time immediately preceding that period when his base is in closest proximity to Earth, thus placing him in a position to utilize every available unit of strength of which he is possessed. At his transit then, we must expect the crucial stroke. Should that fail him, he must be obliged to withdraw as his base recedes. This will leave us free to turn our attention to Mizar, as we in turn shall have the advantage in respect to distance with our stellar dependency, whose position relative to ourselves does not, as you are well aware, change.
“I desire to caution you on no account to risk unnecessarily a single unit that we can ill spare. You may rest assured that in any event you will have an opportunity of measuring strength with the enemy.
“You will at once take up position and governing yourselves by atmospheric conditions, maintain an altitude that will enable you to observe the enemy’s planet to the best advantage. By cruising at the same rate of speed as the Earth’s axial velocity, but in the opposite direction, you will, making such corrections as Mercury’s movements demand, preserve a position which will of necessity intercept the enemy’s attack. You will report at frequent intervals to the war office and final orders will be issued to you when the enemy’s approach has been signaled from the observatories. To your stations, gentlemen, and may the Supreme Power guide you.”
Within the hour 883 mighty engines of destruction rose like gigantic birds, and for an instant steeped the city in a dim twilight as they hung suspended over it; then forming in parallel columns they were swallowed up in space.
Immediately following the departure of the fleet, General Parsons made a rapid inspection of Earth’s fortifications. Surrounding each city of the World at regular intervals of the sixth part of a circle were the batteries, stored with ammunition, capable of throwing their enormous missiles of deadly destructiveness with equally deadly precision a distance in the perpendicular equal to the space governed by the law of gravitation; within which range the enemy must of necessity approach to make their attack effective.
On the 20th, General Parsons reported to the council that every method of defense was in perfect condition and that the result was in the hands of a Higher Power.
On the 22nd, a tramp freighter badly battered, her two forward aeroplanes shot completely away and her hull riddled like a sieve, reported herself from Mizar after an almost miraculous escape. Her captain, in his statement to the authorities, said that the enemy had occupied the entire astral and were busily engaged in erecting new fortifications. Private authentic advices via Venus and Hecklon, on the next day confirmed the report and added that Mercury was massing his entire fleet together with an enormous number of transports, preparatory to an extended and decisive movement.
Daily the excitement had grown, tremendous in its intensity, until it reached its height; gradually giving way to a patient and calm state of fortitude to accept the future as it should unfold itself. The thought transmitters of the great journalistic syndicate, with precision and dispatch, kept every Earther informed of each minute detail leading up to the momentous crisis soon to be experienced.
So by this means the world learned that on the 23rd the observatories had reported the face of Mercury obscured for a time as if somebody had come between it and the Earth’s line of vision. This could only be construed as signifying that the Mercurian fleet was in its way. Immediately following this announcement; the admiral commanding the World’s fleet reported a decided and increasing attraction of his polarity needles towards Mercury, indicating an immense aggregation of metallic bodies in space rapidly approaching.
General Parsons received this dispatch with a grim smile. All that man could do he had done. Massed aboard 5,000 transports, distributed at the different World centers and capable of being mobilized at a few moments notice, was an army totaling ten million men. Should the enemy effect a landing they would at least experience a stubborn resistance. He ran the various details rapidly over in his mind, then in a few sharp, clear sentences he dictated his final orders to his chief of staff for transmission to the admiral commanding.
At 3 a.m. on the morning of the 25th, reports began to pour into the war office. At 4 a.m. it was established beyond question that the invading host would make contact with the Earth’s boundary of gravitation at a point directly over the city of New York. Obviously it was the enemy’s intention to make that the point of attack.
For the first time in many weary, anxious hours General Parsons permitted a smile of satisfaction to light up his countenance. To attack New York would bring the Mercurian fleet within range of all batteries bounded by Boston, Providence, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. No more auspicious move could be made for the defenders of Earth.
Messages were instantly dispatched to the transport fleets to mobilize on the Jersey shore, and there General Parsons, accompanied by his staff, at once repaired to assume personal command.
At ten minutes before five, a dispatch from the admiral commanding stated that he was within striking distance of the enemy, whose fleet consisted of close to 1,400 men-of-war, convoying an enormous number of transports.
The first gray streaks of dawn were suddenly obliterated. The chief of staff swirled from the instruments.
“The enemy is within range, sir.”
The next instant General Parsons pressed the key connecting with the district batteries. A moment later and the World trembled as if in the throes of a mighty earthquake. The batteries of twenty cities had opened fire, launching one hundred thousand tons of vast explosive full in the face of the advancing host. For two minutes Earth’s miniature volcanoes belched forth their deadly hail.
“What is the effect of the fire?” Demanded the General.
“Observers report heavy damage, sir,” replied the chief of staff, “a number of vessels sunk and many in apparent distress. The enemy is seeking refuge in a lower altitude and is already out of range of all batteries but New York’s.”
One by one the batteries had ceased firing as their range was exhausted, until only the guns from New York continued the bombardment. General Parsons from the deck of his dispatch boat swept the scene before him with his glasses. The enemy had changed their formation. Their battleships were now above to cover their transports as they landed beneath them.
Less than a mile and a half away Earth’s merchant ships, swarming with men, were drawn up on the qu vive for action, while, in a huge circle around the enemy, Earth’s men-of-war were sweeping with incredible speed, silently, grimly, waiting only the command that should launch them into a conflict of frightful carnage.
As the Mercurian transports touched the ground preparatory to disgorging their men, General Parsons swung sharply round:
“Order New York to stop firing and the fleet to attack from above,” was his quick, decisive command.
Even as he spoke, in execution of his order, there was a lull as New York’s batteries became silent, another instant, and a continuous and steadily increasing roar as the guns of ship after ship of Earth’s navy came into action.
The Mercurian admiral, seeing the damage that his transports would of necessity sustain from the battle raging over their heads, and secure in the belief that they were well able to take care of themselves until he could dispose of Earth’s navy, so heavily outnumbered by his own, fell into the trap that General Parsons had skillfully laid for him. And as if to remove any hesitancy from his mind, at that moment Earth’s fleet broke and fled incontinently. The enemy pursued them in hot haste.
The moment General Parsons had been waiting for had arrived. If the enemy’s navy outnumbered his own, their transports were numerically inferior to Earth’s, an advantage he meant to utilize to the utmost.
From where they had lain hidden in the rear, one hundred of the heaviest battleships of Earth’s navy rose like vultures, and swinging into line swept forward with irresistible ferocity upon the enemy’s troopships. The effect of the maneuver was fearful in its result. The battleships plowed through and through the densely packed transports, their heavy armor plate crushing vessel after vessel, transforming them into hideous, misshapen sepulchers. Once, twice, and again, with pitiless fury, the battleships dashed into the midst of the enemy throwing them into disastrous confusion, leaving behind them a havoc indescribable: a vessel torn in twain; an unrecognizable conglomeration of wreckage, from whose depths emanated the heart-rending shrieks of the dying, shrill out-cries of pain and terror, anguish and horror from tortured souls, and in fearful contrast the awful stillness of the mangled dead
And now General Parsons had ordered a general-advance. The breaches made in the enemy’s ship ranks were speedily filled by Earth’s advancing transport line, so that before any considerable body of the Mercurian army had effected a landing, the Earthers were locked ship to ship with their adversaries, the crews and troops engaging in a hand-to-hand melee. In front and rear, on either flank, swarmed the remainder of Earth’s transports, welding the whole into one compact mass of bloody carnage.
The strategy of the movement was apparent. In response to the urgent appeals for aid from the commander of the Mercurian army, the enemy’s fleet, now hotly engaged by the admiral commanding the Earth’s warships, made back to protect his transports. Finding it impossible to make any attack on his enemy without endangering his own army, the Mercurian admiral signaled his confrere to join him.
In response to this command the vessels not already disabled rose slowly, while Earth’s ships clung to them like barnacles, fighting desperately for a mastery that spelled their very existence.
Above the battling transports as they rose was a scene beyond the power of man to pen. Fighting with unparalleled savagery, Earth’s navy was pressing the attack with splendid brilliancy.
The huge engines of destruction rushed at each other with terrific speed, to recoil from the shock battered and stunned and helpless, to reel and turn and sink in hideous gyrations from the dizzy height, crushing themselves into unrecognizable shapes on the ground beneath.
And above the roaring and flashing of the guns, the wild, hard, pitiful cries of the dying, came the deeper toned note of nature’s protest as peal on peal of thunder shook the air. Across a sky now turned to inky blackness, great forked tongues or lightning leaped and twisted and turned, lighting up in awful splendor a ghastly hell of unutterable chaos.
With the advent of the transports, the Mercurian line of battle was thrown into disorder. General Parsons, with the advantage his superiority of numbers gave him, had cleverly maneuvered to force them into the midst of the enemy’s battleships.
The admiral commanding Earth’s fleet, now joined by the detachment that had already done such gallant service with General Parsons, swept down upon the confusion. Above, below, on either side the Earthers swarmed, picking out their antagonists to pour a withering fire upon them. Desperately the Mercurian admiral struggled to withdraw his ships and reform his line of battle. The transports blocked every move. Most of the enemy’s troopships were now in General Parsons’ hands, and in their vast numbers and stubborn disregard for life were hemming in and separating the Mercurian men-of-war from each other. As these huge fighting machines in their fury turned upon their puny antagonists to sweep them from their path, another and ever after that another transport would take the place of its disabled mate; now rising in the air above to allow themselves to fall crashing full across a warship’s deck, now ramming from below and now from either side, until here and there, succumbing to the attack, a mighty battleship, wounded, disabled, battered and stricken, heeled slowly over and pitching forward went hurling Earthwards; a testimony of the indomitable valor of General Parson’s command.
Again and again, with bewildering rapidity, General Parsons would withdraw from the attack to allow Earth’s fleet to dash into the fray. Again and again the same tactics were employed and with each onslaught the savage fury was redoubled, the slaughter multiplied a hundredfold.
All through that awful day and into the still more fearsome night the conflict waged with unabated vigor. In its trail across the American continent the storm-blown fleets scattered blood, tributes to the grim earnestness of war.
There in the drear recess of a mountain canon, or perchance upon a wide and desolate plain, a once proud ship had fallen. And as its poor frame quivered in the throes of death, so its imprisoned dead joined with it as sacrificial offerings upon the dear altar of patriotism.
Here full across a city street, or mayhap upon the roofs of houses, settling where they had plunged in headlong flight, lay queer ghostly shapes well befitting their new use as casements for the dead. Hideously twisted walls of pale phosphorescent metal that in the night-light shimmered balefully; things that once had vaunted proudly their planet’s flag.
The people huddling together in little knots and crowds, exposed to the storm that beat them pitilessly, gazed upon the scene that passed above their heads with a fear that blanched men’s faces to a ghastly white, while women sobbed and moaned in a delirium of fright. The children clinging at their knees sought comfort from the nameless dread that paralysed their very lips, and seeking comfort, found in their mothers’ faces a cause for terror beyond any they had ever known.
And, as if in mockery of the mimic show of man, the battle of the elements grew apace until the watchers drew back with shuddering, soul-sick awe before the manifestation of Almighty Heaven’s wrath, and turning from it, ran, hiding their eyes to shut out the terror that gripped their souls, and with trembling, bated breath prayed God to bring the dawn.
At last the morning broke, and with it came the beginning of the end. The enemy’s last sullen stand was all but over, their resistance almost done. Suddenly, even as the Earthers’ cheers acclaimed the hour of victory, a little dispatch boat rose high in the air, turned rapidly, and made with all speed for Washington. Upon her deck the surgeons were bending anxiously over the unconscious form of General Parsons.
Hours later the weary physicians sighed in relief. The General’s eyes opened to glance questioningly at the faces around him.
“Tell me,” he said.
They took his hands and pressed them. The surgeon-general stooping over him whispered the one word: “Victory!”
General Parsons’ countenance lighted up for an instant with a gleam of joy. Then he turned his head away. The features that had been set in inexorable determination in the battle softened with infinite sadness; the eyes that had so sternly viewed the frightful slaughter, brimmed with tears.
“At what a cost,” he murmured.
“Oh, God! At what a cost.”
Three months later in the circular chamber that occupied the eastern wing of the Edifice of Deliberations, the Council of Earth were seated. Upon the table before them was spread an official document.
The Head, Mr. Sasoa, was speaking:
“Gentlemen,” he said, “you are here assembled to pass upon the proposed treaty with Mercury as prepared by our commissioners. You are familiar with the contents. Those points insisted upon by our delegates have been ceded to us. Will you ratify this treaty? Will you vote for peace or war?”
General Parsons rose slowly to his feet.
“Most Honorable Head, and Gentlemen,” he said, quietly, “I vote for peace.”
The honorable member on his left, and after him in rotation each member of the council, rose, and in solemn tones repeated the general’s formula:
“I vote for peace.”
In the silence that followed, Mr. Sasoa drew the document toward him, then the scratching of his pen proclaimed the ratification of the “Second Treaty of Washington.”
Saturday, 10 December 2016
W. Lacy Amy
From The Busy Man’s Magazine, May 1 1910.
(An ‘Ayer Annual’ describes an Eastern publication The Weekly Underwriter v85 1911 reporting that W. Lacey Amy is working on the insurance magazine, Office and Field, of Toronto.)/drf
IF the legislators of America would grasp the significance of the irretrievable loss of $600,000 every day for the past ten years; if the public would stop to think that every tick of the clock records the vanishing of $800; if the newspapers would devote a space in their columns for a campaign against a needless waste; if insurance indemnity were not misunderstood, then America might put in her pockets a great part of the quarter of a billion dollars that goes up in smoke every year. If we would only understand that fires are not the work of Providence or chance, but of carelessness, ignorance or wilful destruction, we might devote our energies to investigations and remedies that would bring more practical results in money saved than all the lofty aims and aspirations of existing societies and associations for the advancement of mankind.
Each year for the past five years there has been in America an average of 104,543 fires reported, consuming in each week three theatres, three public halls, twelve churches, ten schools, two hospitals, two asylums, two colleges, six apartment houses, twenty-six hotels, three department stores, two jails, 140 flat houses and 1.600 homes.
For the past forty years the losses in Canada alone have amounted to more than $170,000,000. Between 1870 and 1892 the loss averaged $3,500,000 per year, and for the last six years of the century $8,000,000. But the fire waste for the year just ended reached a total of $19,234,196, or $52,696 a day, with a population of a little more than 7,000,000 people. During the month of December there were nine fires a day reported, of which 134 carried a loss exceeding $500, and 25 exceeded $10,000.
The record in Canada for the different months of 1909 was as follows :—
January ........... $1,500,000
February .......... 1,263,005
March ............ 851,690
April .............. 720,650
May .............. 3,358,276
June .............. 1,360,275
July ............... 1,390,000
August ............ 2,091,500
September .......... 1,653,000
October ........... 2,376,000
November ......... 1,200,500
December ......... 1,469,300
And yet these figures give very little idea of the actual monetary loss from the fire fiend. There must be included the cost of the maintenance of the fire departments, the waterworks chargeable to fire service, private fire equipment and insurance. For some of these there are no complete figures as far as Canada is concerned; but the United States, which is in much the same position as Canada, supplies the following for 1908:
Direct fire combustion . $220,000,000
Fire departments ...... 49,000,000
Waterworks for fire service ................ 29,000,000
Private equipment ..... 18,000,000
Insurance premiums in excess of losses paid. . 146,000,000
The capital required at five per cent, to pay this loss would be $9,240,000,000, a sum equal to the total combined capital of every business interest in America.
To this again must be added the countless millions lost in forest fires, of which Canada’s share was $25,500,000, the resulting impoverishment of the soil, and the millions represented by what is known in insurance circles as “consequential loss,” that is, loss in revenue as the result of business interruption. The forest fires of the Adirondacks alone in 1908 burned over 347,000, or 542 square miles, 38 per cent, of the timber on which was deemed to be merchantable. In the Crow’s Nest district forest fires reduced an area of 212 square miles of forest until only 33 remain, and the burnt tract is fit for nothing for years to come.
So that the yearly toll in America of the dread fire fiend is little short of the colossal sum of $600,000,000, of which $50,000,000 is lost to our own Canada.
Figures that are indeed startling!
But what is more serious, more worthy of our earnest consideration, is that more than half of the loss could easily have been prevented. The authorities agree that much more than half of the fire loss in America is attributable to arson, gross carelessness, or ignorance. In other words, Canada throws away more than ten milions of dollars without reason or recompense.
In this connection there is a fallacy that receives general acceptance by the public. It is that insurance covers fire loss, that property insured is not a loss when consumed by fire. A moment’s reflection will be sufficient to show how untenable is such an idea. Insurance merely distributes an individual loss among all the policyholders of the company. Each of us pays for his neighbor’s fire.
In the consideration of fire waste due to preventive causes, guessing is largely eliminated by a comparison with the loss rate of other countries. In Canada the per capita loss in1909 by direct fire combustion was $2.63; in America it was more than $3. When we examine European experience the possibilities of prevention are clear. In eight countries of Europe the average per capita loss is only 33 cents. Germany suffers from a 49 cent loss, France 30 cents, Austria 29, and lowest of all, Italy can show a statement of but 12 cents per head, or one-twenty-second of the Canadian waste. Only in Russia and Norway, where construction is largely of wood, does the fire loss per capita approach half that of America.
Comparing cities on the two continents: The average annual number of fires in European cities is eight for each ten thousand of population. In American cities the average is forty. Glasgow had a fire loss in 1908 of $325,000; Boston, with a smaller population, reported $3,610,000. Berlin, with a population of 3,000,000, has an annual fire loss of less than $175,000; Chicago’s loss is $5,000,000, although its population is only about two-thirds that of Berlin. With all this difference in loss there is an additional surprise in the relative costs of the fire-fighting resources. Berlin's fire department costs a trifle more than $300,000. Chicago’s more than $3,000,000. New York's fire department costs $10,000,000, its high-pressure service involves an expenditure of $3,000,000, and yet its fire loss is $10,000,000 a year. Paris expends only $60,000 on its fire protection. American cities spend $1.65 per head to go to bed feeling safe, while the average cost of fire protection in Berlin is only 26 cents, in London 19 cents, and in Milan 17 cents. In 158 American cities the cost of maintaining fire departments was $38,000,000, and yet the loss in 1908 was $48,000,000.
Compare Berlin’s loss of $175,000 for a population of 3,000,000, with Toronto's $740,931 last year for a population little over one-ninth that size, or Montreal’s $450,000, Hamilton's $99,298, Vancouver's $315,000. Calgary's $82,349. Winnipeg’s complete figures are not at hand, but they must be enormous. In fires with a loss of $10,000 or more, the destruction for the last five months of the year alone in that city amounted to the appalling total of $600,000.
Still another evil in addition to that of property waste attends the carelessness that is so largely responsible. Every year there are 2.000 lives lost in America through fires. Six people every day of the year are sacrificed on the national ash heap. In Canada last year there were two hundred deaths from fire—almost four a week—and the present year has started out with great promise of exceeding that number. It is unfortunate that, while industrial accidents are carefully attended to by our laws, there is nothing on the statute books to protect the hundreds who die in fires from some other person’s carelessness. An unprotected saw, an open elevator shaft, a defective piece of machinery are recognized grounds for damage claims. Indeed, some of the provinces have gone so far as to make the employer liable for the injuries of his employe received through his own carelessness. But there is nothing to punish the man or woman who attempts to light the kitchen fire with coal oil or even gasolene, or the parents who leave small children alone in houses where the stove, the lamp or the matches are within reach. The outcome of the increasing loss of life from carelessness that is criminal, will be that the laws will declare it just as great a misdemeanor for a man to take the lives of six of his family by starting a morning fire with gasolene (as happened near Winnipeg in November) as it would have been had he shot them all in their beds.
There were fifty-one deaths and ninety-seven injuries reported during the last two months of the year, and more fatalities failed to be recorded on account of death not being immediate. Of the deaths no fewer than 24, as well as 32 injured, were the result of unpardonable carelessness. The majority of the fatalities were children whose heartless, brainless parents considered it safe (if they considered at all) to leave small children alone. A woman near Ottawa went out to milk, leaving three children alone in the house—three deaths on the list. A Berlin woman went down town, leaving three children with the stove— three more. In one small village in Ontario a child was burned to death in December, because its parents left it alone; within three weeks another child gave up its life in the same village from the same cause. And so the list lengthens, the parents receiving sympathy for an act that should be considered criminal. With the class of people who will expose their children to such danger nothing but the law will bring recognition of the necessity of employing common sense for the protection of those dependent on them.
“Every fire is a crime,” is the slogan adopted by the National Fire Protection Association, a body of men in the United States united in a great cause. At a glance this assertion may seem extreme. But is it? Was there ever a fire that was not the result of somebody’s carelessness? With the exception of a disturbance of nature, such as at San Francisco, every fire has its origin in the thoughtlessness or wilful desire of someone; and even the San Francisco fire need not have been great had the buildings been of proper construction.
Carelessness that leads to waste is a crime.
Had Canada her $20,000 a year to expend in public works, two Dreadnaughts could be built every year, or a formidable fleet of smaller war vessels. A railway could be constructed from Toronto almost to Winnipeg at a cost of $20,000 a mile, or 1,600 miles of prairie road. She could construct 4,000 miles of the best stone or gravel roads. She could pay for the maintenance of all the sick and poor in the country. She could buy up a million acres of as good land as the west possesses. America’s fire loss money would “evangelize the world, in this generation.” What presents, such possibilities is nothing short of criminal.
Fires are said to be due to three crimes: the crime of ignorance, the crime of carelessness, and the crime of arson. And the first two can be combined under the second. And yet the criminal calmly collects his insurance without a penalty save for discovered arson, while his neighbors, whose losses, due to his carelessness, were not covered by insurance, must struggle along under the burden he places upon them with immunity. The effects of his carelessness are just as disastrous as if he had deliberately applied the match—but there is no punishment, no explanation even.
How different it is in Europe! And it is owing largely to this difference that the loss rate is so low. In France the responsibility for any loss caused by his negligence is placed upon the landlord or tenant of the building where the fire started and the results are wonderful. In Paris a fire rarely goes outside the building in which it starts. In Vienna, where the same law exists, there is not a case known where a fire is not confined to the building in which it started, and in few fires did it reach another floor—conditions due to the solid construction brought about by the law of responsibility. In Paris flimsy unsprinklered department stores with well-holes to the roof, and crowded aisles that would frighten away any American insurance company, secure a rate of 50 cents. In Belgium and Holland the laws are somewhat similar. In Germany the assured must save everything he can, and must notify the police within three days and the company within twenty-four hours. In Sweden an inquest must follow every fire. The same condition exists in Switzerland, and some cantons refuse indemnity if carelessness or neglect is proven. In Spain and Italy the assured must make affidavit to the proper officer as to the cause and circumstances of a fire and furnish the insurance company with a copy thereof.
The other reasons for the low fire waste in Europe are the restriction of high buildings, the necessity of solid, fireproof construction, the absence of litter and combustible accumulations on the streets. In London there are no buildings more than eight storeys high, and few beyond six. German cities are superbly built, from an underwriter’s standpoint, and the police supervision is excellent and wonderfully effective.
Then, how can this serious destruction of the country’s wealth be decreased?
There are three great powers in the fight for less fire waste:
1. The Government.
2. The civic authorities.
3. The individual.
Unfortunately we make the great mistake of fighting fire from the wrong end. What counts in decreasing the waste is not the extinguishing of fires, but their prevention. The comparative merits of the two systems of fire elimination are demonstrated by the difference between the fire loss in Europe and that in America. In Europe they demand that the builder and the owner conform to definite laws that exclude risk. In America we spend money in apparatus and men, and allow the public a free hand. There they start at the beginning to fight the waste; here we start at the last scene. And the results are evident. Our method of decreasing the waste is similar to the establishment of hospitals as the only means of fighting typhoid fever.
If the Governments of the different provinces would undertake only one task they would fulfill at a very small cost all that would be expected of them. Across the border twelve of the states have appointed a man, whose duty it is to investigate every fire of doubtful origin. These fire marshals have supreme authority at certain times. In case of a fire they can order the owner from the damaged building in order that a thorough, untramelled investigation can be made, with no opportunity for the owner to remove evidence. They can condemn any property as a fire-breeder, compel the cleaning up of litter, and enforce protection for life and property. They and their deputies make suggestions for building ordinances, and see that the laws are obeyed. They secure the aid of the newspapers in publishing the fire losses and common preventive measures.
The result of the appointment of such men has been beyond expectation. In Massachusetts incendiary fires have decreased fifty per cent. In Ohio in one year 72 persons were convicted of arson, and in another state as many men were punished for arson in two and a half years as had been convicted in the previous existence of the state. It has been found that few men will risk burning their own buildings if there is an official whose duty it is to follow them up. The same fear prevents the firing of an enemy’s barn. In Ohio the fire loss during the first year of the fire marshal’s department was eleven millions ; in the last five years it averaged less than seven millions, and this in spite of the fact that insurable property has doubled in value. The per capita loss in states with fire marshals averages $1.47 per head, and in states without fire marshalls $2.47. Only Manitoba has a fire marshall, and although he has been in office but a short time and has not sufficiently wide powers and assistance, the value of the office is apparent.
The civic authorities have in their hands the most ready solution of the fire problem. After all, the great preventive of fire waste is proper construction. Fireproof construction, or a style that is sufficiently fireproof to enable the fire apparatus to do effective work is at the command of the local authorities. The “fire limit” can be definitely fixed to exclude all conflagration risks. Fire walls projecting above the roof at frequent intervals are the most effective obstacles to devastation. The height of buildings should have some control of its fireproof qualities. Buildings should be carefully inspected at regular intervals, and litter and loose paper prohibited in lanes or on private property. Strict theatre laws should be made, fireworks prohibited, the use of combustibles restricted, incendiaries punished, exposed windows protected with wire glass or metal doors. The excellence of the fire-fighting system is, of course,
a most important consideration, but an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.
So important are the duties of the city authorities in this respect that in the recent Boston elections the platform of a candidate was largely the reduction of fire waste.
Did the Government and civic authorities do their duties comparatively little would depend upon individual effort. As it is, much of the prevention is in the control of the citizen. Fireproof construction is becoming popular through private effort rather than through public demand. The factory or store owner has adopted “fireproof” ideas that are doing more than anything else to save the lost millions of property. Wire glass, covered openings, fire-retarding walls and floors, sprinkler systems, the avoidance of concealed spaces, closed elevator shafts, automatic trap doors, private fire alarms, watchmen, private fire brigades, water tanks, university course in fire education, etc., are some of the individual efforts towards decreasing the fire waste.
In England there is a society called the British Fire Prevention Committee; in the United States the National Fire Protection Association performs the same work. These associations are composed of prominent men interested in the subject—fire insurance officials, large property owners, college professors, Government officials. Tests are made of every material and style of construction, as well as of every kind of fire-fighting appliances and invention. Large amounts of money are spent in experimenting on new ideas in construction, on the dangers from different gases, oils and materials, and the relative values of the various kinds of hose, fire-engines, pumps, sprinklers, etc. Pamphlets dealing with almost every subject that could be of interest in the reduction of fire loss are sent free upon request and published in the newspapers.
The fire insurance companies have a weapon at their disposal that provides them with great opportunities. As many life insurance companies refuse to insure the Christian Scientists, so fire insurance companies are refusing such risks as moving picture theatres, dangerous manufactories and localities where the moral hazard is great. The association of the companies has established high rates for properties that are unnecessarily risky, and the owners are forced by this means to provide protection and sensible improvements. The companies can govern construction, exposure, and expenditure in fire-fighting appliances, and it is to their credit that they are learning to exercise their powers. The Canadian Fire Underwriters’ Association is not a combination for high prices, but a combined effort to reduce the fire waste. Last year, in Montreal alone, about 18,000 inspections were made, 1,844 defects were discovered; and it is a proof of the efficiency of this method of dealing with the question, that all but 25 of the defects were remedied.
With all working together, with even one of the three great powers in control of the situation doing its best, Canada could be spared a great part of the twenty millions that disappear in smoke. Millions more could be saved from fire department expenditures and as it is the people make the fire rates, whatever might be said to the contrary, there is no reason why this country should not decrease its loss from the fire fiend by fully fifty per cent, in a very few years. When Canada reduces its loss to the proportion of European countries the tardiness of present Governments and civic bodies will be a matter of shame and surprise.
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- As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.