Hope for Peace in the Middle East Has Been an Elusive Goal for a Long Time

Israel in 1967 minted a gold medal commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, which called for the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.

By Jim O’Neal

The Israeli-Palestine issue was back in the news recently as Vice President Joe Biden was visiting. There were also reports that the Obama administration was on the verge of creating another “Peace Talks Structure” to facilitate transition to the next U.S administration and chalk up another legacy achievement.

When Great Britain took control of Palestine after World War I, it promised to create a Jewish state (the Balfour Declaration). However, every wave of Jewish immigration was met with violent resistance from Palestinian Arabs.

Britain reneged on its promise and after World War II, turned the issue over to the United Nations. In 1947, the U.N. partitioned Palestine into two states, one Arab and one Jewish. Shortly afterward, Palestinian fighters attacked and the Israeli “War of Independence” began.

In Egypt, President Nasser first drove the British out of the Suez Canal and then joined with Syria to “push the Israelis into the sea.” By 1967, Israel was surrounded by hostile borders and Egypt, Jordan and Syria considered the destruction of Israel “a child’s game that would take four days.” The United Nations pulled out and the Egyptian Navy blockaded the Strait of Tiran.

However, on June 5, 250 Israeli fighter jets (supplied by the French) made a surprise attack on Egyptian airfields and destroyed half of their total Air Force – 200 fighters, bombers and helicopters. They dominated the skies, pushed the Egyptian Army back and then destroyed most of the Jordanian air power.

The Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan began calling it “The Six-Day War,” echoing the Book of Genesis. God made the world in six days, and Israel asserted itself as a nation in the same time.

The big difference was that God rested on the seventh day, but the Israelis have continued on the defensive every day since, even defeating Egypt and Syria in the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the Palestinians in the 1987-93 First Intifada.

Hope for peace in this tiny place on earth has been an elusive goal for a very long time.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

‘Hollywood’ Sign Symbol of a City, Industry and Lifestyle

This 1930s photo shows American tennis champion Henry Ellsworth Vines Jr. under the original “Hollywoodland” sign. This photo went to auction in May 2013.

By Jim O’Neal

Now that the Oscar buzz has abated, the folks who work in Hollywood are back busily creating new forms of entertainment. Most probably don’t realize that the world-famous HOLLYWOOD sign was originally HOLLYWOODLAND and used to promote a large real-estate subdivision overlooking Sunset Boulevard.

It was erected near the top of Mount Lee in 1923 and each white sheet-metal letter was nearly 50 feet high and 40 feet wide and outlined with lightbulbs. It soon became associated with the movie industry and in 1932, actress Peg Entwistle committed suicide by jumping off the letter H.

Alas, 15 years after being built, maintenance on the sign was deferred and it soon fell into disrepair. Then somebody stole all 8,000 of the 20-watt lightbulbs. By 1945, the development company had donated the sign plus some land to the city park and recreation department.

When the letter H blew down four years later, many regarded the sign as an eyesore and thought it should be removed entirely. However, the parks commissioner finally decided to repair just the first nine letters and remove the last four.

Ultimately, the show-biz community raised enough money through donations to keep it viable and since 1973 the sign has been officially designated a Historic-Cultural Monument.

I’m sure there must be others, but Los Angeles always seems to be too busy to spend a lot of time on the past. Houses up to 10,000 square feet are routinely razed (too small) to make way for more appropriate 40,000-square-foot second homes. Two swimming pools, 15-car garages, tennis courts and bowling alleys are considered de rigueur.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was right … the truly rich are different.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Albert Einstein was Much More than a Scientist

This signed Albert Einstein photograph realized $17,500 at an October 2014 auction.

By Jim O’Neal

Mention the name Albert Einstein and instinctively the image of the iconic scientist with the unruly hair, pensive expression and the word “genius” spring to mind. As a theoretical physicist, his work on general relativity is a theory of gravitation that has evolved into a crucial tool in modern astrophysics and is foundational for current “black hole” research.

In popular culture, his mass-energy equivalence formula of energy equals mass multiplied by the speed of light squared (E = mc2) is generally regarded as “the world’s most famous equation.”

Then, of course, there was Einstein the mortal man.

This aspect is understandably less well known despite his empathy for mankind and the practical application of both his intellect and celebrity to help improve the world and its inhabitants. He was an avowed pacifist who considered war a “disease” and even advocated for a global democratic government that had control over the nation-states (e.g. Nazi Germany).

He viewed racism in the United States as a multi-generational problem and joined the NAACP as an activist to help cure “America’s worst disease.”

An earlier incident in 1925 even led to a series of related activities that eventually helped defeat the Germans in World War II. While reading a local German newspaper, he saw a tragic story about a couple that had died from leaking gases used in early refrigerators.

Einstein collaborated with fellow physicist Leo Szilard and they received patent #1,781,541 for an improved, safer refrigerator. Although they later sold it to Electrolux for 3,150 DM ($10,000), Einstein’s basic motive was to simply improve living standards for common people. BTW, he later invented a hearing aid for the same reason.

When Szilard immigrated to London, he ran across a book by H.G. Wells, The World Set Free, which describes an invention (unnamed) that could accelerate the process of radioactive decay, producing bombs which “continue to explode for days on end.” This inspired Szilard to develop the concept of a nuclear chain reaction in 1933 and then he patented the idea of a nuclear reactor with the famous Italian physicist Enrico Fermi. Basically, he had a patent on the first atomic bomb.

But, in 1936 Szilard sold/assigned his chain-reaction patent to the British Admiralty to ensure its secrecy from the Germans or others considered untrustworthy.

He later suspected the Germans had a clandestine nuclear weapon project and on the eve of World War II drafted a letter to FDR to alert him to the potential development “of extremely powerful bombs of a new type.” He got Einstein to endorse it and to urge the United States to begin similar research.

This inevitably led to the Manhattan Project, which preempted the Germans and saved the world in the eyes of most experts.

Although Einstein supported the development of nuclear weapons to defend the Allies, he denounced the use of nuclear weapons as an offensive force. He never renounced his resolve as a pacifist or as an agnostic.

In 1999, Time magazine named Albert Einstein their choice as “Person of the Century.”

I hope we get one for this century … soon.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

‘March Madness’ Might Apply to More Than Just College Basketball

The game net from the 1982 NCAA Basketball Championship, which swooshed from Michael Jordan’s game-winning shot for the UNC Tarheels, realized $31,070 in an August 2011 Heritage auction.

By Jim O’Neal

The first reference to the “Final Four” in an NCAA publication was in the 1975 Official Collegiate Basketball Guide. On page 5 in the review section written by Ed Chay of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Chay wrote:  “Outspoken Al McGuire of Marquette, whose team was one of the final four in Greensboro, was among several coaches who said it was good for college basketball that UCLA was finally beaten.”

The first time “Final Four” was used capitalized was in the 1978 Basketball Guide.

In 1994, Bill Clinton was the first sitting president to attend the Final Four. Clinton saw his home state Arkansas Razorbacks win the National Championship.

Sitting presidents who did not make it when teams from their home states made the Final Four include FDR (NYU 1945), Ike (Kansas 1953 and 1957), Nixon (UCLA 1968-74), and Gerald Ford (Michigan 1976).

The only player to play for two schools in the Final Four Championship game was Bob Bender in 1976 with Indiana (won) and in 1978 with Duke (lost).

I am waiting for some clever news writer to associate the current presidential primary races with the March Madness sobriquet. If not, you heard it here first.

Intelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

King Charles’ Baker Reminds Us that Small Things Can Lead to Huge Events

This “Elephant & Castle” 1/2 Crown, showing British King Charles II and minted 15 years after the Great Fire of London, realized $35,250 at a September 2014 auction.

By Jim O’Neal

Thomas Farynor, baker for England’s King Charles II, usually doused the fires in his oven before going to bed. But, on Saturday, Sept. 1, 1666, he forgot and at 2 a.m. was awakened by fire engulfing his house.

Farynor lived on Pudding Lane near Thames Street, a busy thoroughfare lined with warehouses that ran along the river wharves. It was typical of London streets … very narrow and crammed with houses made of timber.

As the flames spread and people awoke and started scrambling to escape, nearby Fish Street Hill exploded into fire as piles of straw were ignited.

Samuel Pepys climbed to the top of the Tower of London to get a better view. At 7 a.m., he described how an east wind suddenly turned into a gale and whipped the fire into a raging conflagration. The Great Fire of London was out of control.

As early as 1664, writer John Evelyn had warned of the danger of such an event due to so many open fires and furnaces in such a “wooden … and inartificial congestion of houses on either side that seemed to lean over and touch each other.” Everyone was too busy to worry about it.

There were fire engines for emergencies, but they were rudimentary and privately owned. There was no official London fire brigade. In the chaos, any pumps that did get into service were hampered by large crowds clogging the streets dragging furniture in a vain attempt to salvage valuables.

The other strategy was fire breaks, which consisted of pulling down buildings with huge iron hooks and quickly clearing the debris to create barren areas. However, the fire was moving so quickly that it blazed through the debris before it could be cleared.

Back on the Tower of London, Pepys observed “an infinite great fire headed right at London Bridge.”

London Bridge spanned the Thames River and was an extraordinary structure … lined with homes and shops separated by a passageway only a few yards wide. The fire attacked the bridge greedily, leaping from rooftop to rooftop as people frantically fled.

By Sunday evening, boats carrying people swarmed across the river where onlookers lined the shore mesmerized by the enormous blaze.

On Monday, a powerful wind drove the fire through London. Houses, churches and buildings were all consumed as the blaze continued to rage. An East India warehouse full of spices blew up and the smoke carried the smell of incense across the city.

Finally, by Wednesday, the wind subsided and 200,000 Londoners looked in astonishment at their great city, now turned to ash … 13,000 houses, 87 churches, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Royal Exchange, Customs House, all city prisons and the Great Post Office were all destroyed.

The mystic Anthony Wood said, “All astrologers did use to say Rome would have an end and the Antichrist come, 1666, but the prophecie fell on London.”

All because a baker forgot to put out his oven.

We all know what Smokey the Bear would say.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

George Washington and That Unhappy Affair at Trenton

Emanuel Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware resides in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

By Jim O’Neal

In the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, there is a famous painting of Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze that was painted circa 1850. It is one of the most famous pieces of American art and purports to depict the Dec. 25, 1776, event.

It is also infamous for a number of factual errors.

For example, it shows the crossing with a glowing horizon, when it actually happened in the middle of a dark, sleety night. The American flag is also wrong, since the Stars and Stripes did not exist at the time. Even the ice floes are wrong.

Despite these errors – and many more – it is considered memorable because it captures the determination, desperation and dignity of these men as they rowed into the fight of their lives.

The American Revolution started in early 1776 with skirmishing near Boston, followed by full-scale war. The Continental Army was pushed out of New York and into New Jersey and then Pennsylvania.

By December, half of Washington’s army had been killed, wounded or captured, which left 5,000-6,000 (including the injured).

British General William Howe planned to finish the job when the Delaware River froze and he could capture the Capitol and end the war. Instead, Washington started crossing at midnight and at 8 a.m. divided his troops and attacked in Trenton, catching the British by surprise.

Everywhere, groups of Hessians were surrounded by Continental troops with fixed bayonets and they “struck their colors” (surrendered). Of the 1,500, about 900 were captured, 400 escaped and the rest killed or wounded.

Along with the prisoners, Washington captured six artillery pieces, 1,000 muskets and seven wagonloads of powder and ammunition. These supplies were badly needed and helped against counterattacks at Princeton on Jan. 2 and 3.

Though the triumph at Trenton was followed by greater battles, it was pivotal. Later, British Secretary of State Lord George Germain said, “All our hopes were dashed by that unhappy affair at Trenton.”

Intelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Yes, There Was a Time When Smoking was Punishable by Beheading

This 1920s Old Gold advertising sign includes the company’s infamous claim — “Not a cough in a carload!”

By Jim O’Neal

“Not a cough in a carload!”

In 1927, Lorillard Tobacco Company advertised their Old Gold brand of cigarettes with this catchy phrase. Testifying under oath before Congress in 1994, Lorillard CEO Andrew Tisch was one of “The 7 Dwarfs” (Big Tobacco CEOs) who claimed they “didn’t believe that nicotine is addictive nor that cigarette smoking causes cancer.”

No one was ever indicted for perjury or having a low IQ.

In 1950, Camel advertised “Every doctor in private practice was asked. More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette!” Camel ads went on to claim “Smoke as many as you want … They never get on your nerves.”

In 1953, Liggett & Myers went one step further: “Just what the doctor ordered!”

William Thalman (who played District Attorney Hamilton Burger on TV’s Perry Mason) died of lung cancer in August 1968, but made an anti-smoking TV spot that started, “Before I die, I want to do what I can to leave a world free of cancer for my six children…” It made quite a stir when it aired posthumously. Others finally joined in despite advertising concerns.

In 1992, “The Marlboro Man” Wayne McLaren, who was dying of lung cancer, appeared at the Philip Morris annual shareholders meeting and asked the company to voluntarily limit their advertising. Chairman Mike Miles brushed him off … quickly.

McLaren died three months later at age 51.

Miles was the first non-smoker to run Philip Morris and is credited with “Marlboro Friday” in 1993, when he reduced the selling price of cigarettes 20 percent in a vain attempt to regain share from generics. The board replaced him early the next year.

However, the renamed Altria Group Inc. is now a $120 billion corporation with strong international sales and pays a dividend of 3.7 percent. They continue selling the most efficient delivery system for nicotine to hundreds of millions of throats and lungs. One of their studies in Eastern Europe asserts it is cheaper to let people die early from lung cancer than provide long-term health care.

In the 17th century, a Russian czar banned smoking and then had three-time violators beheaded. That made it hard to inhale, but people today still continue finding ways to “sneak a smoke.”

P.S. The 1999 film The Insider starring Russell Crowe and Al Pacino is well worth another viewing. It is an entertaining look at the tobacco industry and was nominated for seven Oscars.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

The Day in 1978 that Coach Woody Hayes Went Berserk

Coach Woody Hayes was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983.

By Jim O’Neal

On Dec. 29, 1978, a Clemson player intercepted a last-minute Ohio State pass and Clemson went on to defeat the Buckeyes 17-15 in the Gator Bowl.

After the interception, OSU Coach Woody Hayes goes berserk and punches the Clemson player in the throat. Hayes then charges a game official and abuses him. Accounts vary as to exactly what was said.

Up until this time, teams under Coach Hayes at Ohio State University had won 13 Big 10 league titles and five National Championships. Coach Hayes had also won the College Football “Coach of the Year” three times (the award is now called the Paul “Bear” Bryant Award).

None of this seemed to matter the day after the game. Coach Hayes was fired after 28 years of outstanding service. However, this only pertained to football. He continued to both teach at OSU and mentored students. In 1983, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Players and coaches admired his spirit of competition and remind us that in 1968, while leading arch rival Michigan 44-14, OSU scored another touchdown and went for a two-point conversion. Accused of “running up the score,” Hayes was asked … why? Hayes quickly replied “because I couldn’t go for 3!”

OSU went on to win the game 50-14.

Incidentally, the quarterback who threw the interception that got Hayes fired, Art Schlichter, was a four-year starter at Ohio State and a first-round draft in the NFL. Schlichter had a terrible gambling addiction that started early and plagued him for 30 years. He lost all of his money (and all he could borrow) and was in and out of prison for a long time.

He was the first NFL player to be suspended for gambling after Alex Karras and Paul Hornung in 1963.

We rank him No. 4 on the all-time worst draft picks, a group that is headed up by No. 1 Ryan Leaf.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Now that it’s Behind Us, Let’s Examine the Violent History of Valentine’s Day

Saturday Evening Post illustrator Edmund F. Ward (1892-1990) completed his own version of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. This oil on canvas went to auction in August 2010.

By Jim O’Neal

On Feb. 14, 1929, two uniformed policemen and two men in business suits entered a Chicago-area garage, lined up seven men against a wall and killed them. Two of the men used Thompson machine guns (“Tommy Guns”) and the deceased were members of the George “Bugs” Moran gang.

The two policemen marched the shooters out of the building and witnesses just assumed they were part of a rival gang that had been swiftly apprehended by the “heat.” In fact, all four were part of the Al Capone crew that routinely eliminated local competition.

Due to the date, the gangland killing was quickly dubbed “The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” and 87 years later, its notoriety still persists. Primarily, this is due to the numerous movies, television shows and books based on the event. My personal favorite is the 1967 film The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, starring Jason Robards, Bruce Dern, George Segal and John Agar (Shirley Temple’s troubled first husband).

Ironically, the first Valentine also died a violent death on Feb. 14 about 278 AD, during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius II, who was involved in many unpopular and bloody military campaigns. As a result, he had difficulty recruiting soldiers because of their strong attachment to wives and children.

In a questionable effort to solve this chronic issue, “Claudius the Cruel” banned all wedding engagements in Rome. Valentine (granted sainthood posthumously) defied the emperor and continued performing marriages in secret ceremonies.

When discovered, he was arrested and dragged before the Prefect of Rome, who promptly condemned him to be beaten to death with clubs and then beheaded. Legend has him leaving a note to his jailer’s daughter signed “From your Valentine.”

In truth, there are several legends associated with various Valentines through history. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, at least three different Valentines, all of them martyrs, are mentioned under the date of Feb. 14; one was a priest in Rome, the second a Bishop of Interamna (now Terni, Italy), and the third Valentine a martyr in the Roman province of Africa.

There is also uncertainty over how the martyrs’ names became connected with romance. However, we do know that Pope Gelasius decided to end pagan festivals of love and declared that Feb. 14 simply be celebrated as St. Valentine’s Day. Gradually, the practice of love letters, poems and flowers found their way back in.

In one final effort in 1969, the Catholic Church discontinued liturgical veneration of him (them?), although the name remains on a list of recognized saints. (Note: I’ve run across a dozen St. V’s and even a Pope Valentine).

An incontrovertible fact is that St. Valentine is the patron saint of beekeepers and epilepsy.

Jim O'Niel Intelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Custer’s Last Stand Marked the Beginning of the End for American Indian Warriors

This large half-plate ambrotype of George Armstrong Custer was taken circa September 1863 by William Frank Browne. It realized $83,650 at a December 2012 Heritage auction.

By Jim O’Neal

T.J. Stiles’ new book Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America is being praised for the author’s ability to cut through decades of “revisionist baggage,” change the camera’s angle and examine Custer’s life as actually lived … to better gauge the man, his times and his “larger meaning” (whatever that means).

I’m a skeptic, but since Stiles’ biography on Cornelius Vanderbilt was brilliant (winning the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award), I will probably Kindle it anyway.

What I know is that on the morning of June 25, 1876, Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and 210 members of the 7th Cavalry (including two brothers) were killed by the Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne.

Custer was born in Ohio in 1839, was lucky not to be expelled from West Point (he finished last in his class of 34 cadets) and had a decent career in the Civil War. He was probably indifferent to the issue of slavery and appears to be the type that thrived on war … like so many others of that period.

He undoubtedly loved being called “The Boy General.” With his long, blond hair, he was “the synonym of dashing gallantry and unfaltering fidelity” – at least according to The New York Times.

As a failed business speculator, the war offered him a perfect fit for his ambition and many wondered what he might do if he survived. The answer was quite simple: more war.

But this time, the Plains Indians were aggressively defending the land ceded to them by the Second Treaty of Fort Laramie.

In return for a cessation of attacks against miners and other settlers, the federal government gave the Sioux much of western South Dakota and eastern Wyoming. They also pledged to keep others away from the Sioux’s sacred Paha Sapa, or Black Hills.

However, in 1876 gold was discovered in the Black Hills and soon a hoard of 15,000 miners swarmed the territory. President Grant sent troops to push the Indians farther west and this put the Sioux on a direct collision course with Custer.

The Battle of the Little Big Horn, or “Custer’s Last Stand,” is now legendary, but the larger point is that this single event marked the beginning of the end for the thousands of Sioux warriors involved. In fact, it also included all of the Indian peoples of America.

Following the defeat, public outcry turned Custer into a martyr whose spilt blood had to be avenged. An expanded Army fiercely hounded the great Sioux leader Sitting Bull (he escaped to Canada) and his people. Most of the Sioux surrendered and ended up on reservations.

Within 15 years of Custer’s death, the battles had all faded into legend … waiting patiently to be revived by filmmakers, biographers and blog writers.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].