There May be a Ninth Planet (Not You, Pluto)

This oil on board by Chesley K. Bonestell titled Solar System realized $7,170 at a June 2007 auction.

By Jim O’Neal

“There might be a ninth planet in the solar system after all, and it is not Pluto.” — The New York Times, Jan. 21, 2016

Our solar system consists of the sun and a family of planets and other bodies trapped in orbit around it by the force of gravity.

Our sun formed 4.6 billion years ago. Vast amounts of matter were attracted by the developing star, but not all of it was absorbed. A tiny fraction of leftover material – a mere 0.14 percent of the solar system’s mass – formed a disc of gas and dust encircling the newborn star. Over millions of years, the grains of dust in this disc clumped together, growing into ever larger bodies.

Eventually, they grew to the size of planets, pulled into spheres by their own gravity.

In the inner solar system – where the sun’s heat was too intense for gases to condense – planets formed from rock and metal. In the outer solar system, gases condensed to form much larger planets.

Today, our solar system has eight planets, more than 100 moons, an unknown number of dwarf planets (e.g. Pluto) and countless millions of comets and asteroids.

The four small, inner planets are Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. Our home planet is the only place known to support life, thanks to the liquid water on its surface and its PRECISE distance from the sun that provides just the right amount of heat.

Four gigantic planets dominate the outer solar system, very different from the rocky inner planets. These strange worlds are huge globes of gas and liquid, with no solid surfaces.

Mighty Jupiter is the fifth planet from the sun and the largest in the solar system, so big that it is 2.5 times more massive than all the other planets put together (1,300 Earths could easily fit inside Jupiter’s volume).

Its strong gravitational pull greatly affects the orbits of the other bodies in the solar system.

In 1665, a great red spot was first noticed that turns out to be a giant storm (bigger than Earth) that has been raging for over 350 years. Several craft have visited Jupiter, including Galileo, which orbited from 1995-2003.

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].

 

Our White House Friends Have Proved Fascinating for Decades

This Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt photo, signed by both, realized $2,868 at a June 2008 auction.

By Jim O’Neal

In 1913, Franklin D. Roosevelt was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Eleanor hired a pretty, bright young lady, Lucy Page Mercer, to be her personal social secretary … a highly desirable position. However, in 1918, Eleanor discovered a batch of love letters between Lucy and her husband. She issued an ultimatum to Franklin that required an abrupt end to this close relationship.

At some point later, the relationship was resumed and continued for an extended period of time. Lucy Mercer was actually with FDR in Warm Springs, Ga., when he died in 1945. Eleanor was not, a fact that did not go unnoticed.

By then, rumors had been circulating about a “close relationship” between Eleanor and Associated Press reporter Lorena “Hick” Hickok. It was not a common practice for the press to dig too deeply into First Family personal affairs and most simply viewed it as innuendo and looked the other way.

That changed in 1978.

Lorena Hickok died in 1968 and had carefully kept her personal correspondence under a 10-year seal of confidentiality. However, curiously, she had also willed all her personal papers to the Franklin Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, N.Y.

There were 18 sealed boxes under close supervision. When they were finally opened, there was a stunning collection of over 3,500 letters between Hick and Eleanor that removed any vestiges of doubt about the true nature of their relationship.

What’s good for the gander is good for the goose? (The original quote was, “What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.”)

So it goes for our friends who occupy that big White House and continue to provide us with interesting reading.

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].

 

Early Explorers Sailed a Vast Emptiness That Today Plays a Big Part in Our World

Abraham Ortelius’ Maris Pacifici map, circa 1589, called the first printed map to be devoted to the Pacific Ocean, sold for $6,875 at an October 2012 auction.

By Jim O’Neal

An author I have met (twice), Simon Winchester, just published a book, Pacific, which I was eager to read … until I saw the book review last October in The Wall Street Journal by Roger Lowenstein (ugh). However, a local critic judged it “superb,” so I may yet take a look.

My primary interest is due to the major role the Pacific Ocean has played in the history to date of our world and the growth in importance as Asia begins its dominance over the West in this century.

For starters it is big … very big.

Through the use of modern technology, we now know that it occupies 63.8 million square miles, 46 percent of Earth’s surface and it’s larger than all of the land areas combined. The Pacific Ocean also has slightly more than 50 percent of the world’s water by volume.

These are facts that were not known in the 15th or 16th centuries or even imagined by the bold sailors who ventured out in search of treasure (e.g. gold, spices, etc.).

In 1519, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan set off in five leaky boats in an effort to find a western route to the Spice Islands east of India, hence the name East Indies.

What he discovered was that between the Americas and Asia was a vast emptiness, more than anyone had ever imagined, or that was even thought possible on our “little planet.”

Today, we simply call it the Pacific Ocean.

It is likely that no one suffered more than Magellan and his crew as they sailed and sailed … in growing disbelief … across the Pacific in 1521. Since no one had anticipated just how vast this “endless ocean” really was, they had totally underestimated the provisions that were required.

As a result, they devised some of the most unappetizing meals ever served, à la rat droppings mixed with wood shavings. “We ate biscuit which was no longer biscuit, but powder of biscuit swarming with worms,” and “We also ate some of the hides that covered the mainyard … and often we ate sawdust from boards.”

According to the ships’ logs, they went three months and 20 days without fresh food or water. In the end, only 18 of 260 men survived the voyage, and even Magellan was killed in a skirmish with natives in the Philippines.

Eventually, they made it home – Juan Sebastian Elcano led the expedition back to Spain – and in the process they became the first people to circle the planet.

They were also the first people to realize just how big this planet is, and the dominant role played by the Pacific Ocean.

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].

Edward Bernays’ ‘Torches of Freedom’ Stunt Still Reverberates Today

Lucky Strike recruited Carole Lombard for this 1937 magazine advertisement.

By Jim O’Neal

Donald Trump continues to baffle the political pundits who sincerely believed his presidential campaign was a “stunt” that would fizzle out once the media buzz stopped. However, he is still dominating the polls and has demonstrated what a remarkable campaigner he is. With the first primary elections only a few weeks away, we will have a chance to find out if it translates into votes.

Only time will tell, but it brings back memories of Edward L. Bernays, who many believe was the father of Public Relations, Spin, PR and other euphemisms.

He was born in 1891 in Vienna. The family came to the United States in 1892. He graduated from Cornell and then started his business … Edward L. Bernays Public Relations in New York. His clients included Procter & Gamble, General Electric, General Motors, Time, CBS and NBC.

One of his most memorable campaigns was for the American Tobacco Company, the largest in the industry. In 1929, their No. 1 seller was Lucky Strike, and it was a big hit … with men.

A major issue was that most women did not smoke. One brilliant insight was that male taboos on women smoking had convinced women that smoking was unladylike.

So Eddie concocted an elaborate event that involved recruiting a bevy of beautiful women to participate in an event called “The Torches of Freedom Parade.” On Easter Sunday 1929, right on cue, a dozen of these elegant women … lit up a cigarette and marched down 5th Avenue holding “Torches of Freedom.”

The next day, virtually every newspaper in America had a picture of them with cigarettes dangling from their mouths or in their hands. After this historic event, women started lighting up more than ever before.

Bernays had created this event as “news” and then proceeded to convince industries that news, not advertising, was the best medium to carry their message to an unsuspecting public.

Eddie Bernays had a long career that included many similar strategies. He died in 1995 at age 105.

Women have not fared so well.

Lung cancer is now the leading cause of cancer death in women and surpassed breast cancer in 1987… 28 years ago. Every five minutes in the United States, a woman is diagnosed with lung cancer and 72,000 will die in 2015.

“You’ve come a long way, baby.”

Virginia Slims brand was introduced in 1968 and marketed to young, professional women.

Addendumb (not a typo):

► Chinese men now smoke more than one-third of all the world’s cigarettes.

► One-third of all young Chinese men will die from the effects of smoking (not smog)

► By 2050, 3 million of these men will die annually.

► Only 1 percent of middle-age Chinese women smoke, but there are SHARP increases in teenage girls.

“You have a long way to go, baby.”

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].

‘Tricky Dick’ Challenged Glamour and Won

Richard Nixon’s 1950 Senatorial poster sold for $812.50 at a November 2015 auction.

By Jim O’Neal

After Richard Nixon graduated from Whitter College in California, he accepted a scholarship to the Duke University law school. He finished third in the class of 1937.

His application to the FBI was accepted, however he was never notified (one of life’s little ironies). So he decided to return to California and passed the bar exam. Then he turned his sights to politics.

In 1950, after three years in the House of Representatives, he had an opportunity to run for the U.S. Senate, and it was simply irresistible.

The Democratic candidate was Helen Gahagan Douglas, who had the distinction of being the first Democratic woman from California elected to Congress in 1944 (things DO change). After three terms, she decided that the Senate was going to be her next step, as well.

As an actress and opera singer married to actor Melvyn Douglas, she was already well connected politically in Washington, D.C. Her social life included an open love affair with a future U.S. President … Lyndon Baines Johnson.

For perspective, one has to remember that in 1950, Margaret Chase Smith from Maine was the first woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate without first being appointed to finish an unfinished term (typically after their husbands had died).

So here was this glamorous, charismatic woman pitted against a shy, introverted individual who had gained a modicum of notoriety chasing communists, most notably Alger Hiss.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given what we know now, Nixon launched a truly vicious attack campaign, even challenging her basic loyalty. He dubbed her “The Pink Lady” and it worked. He won the election with 59 percent of the vote, becoming the youngest Republican senator at age 32.

This was the campaign that earned him the well-deserved sobriquet “Tricky Dick.”

Helen Gahagan Douglas died on June 28, 1980, at age 79 from breast and lung cancer – a deadly duo that was largely untreatable in those days.

Senator Alan Cranston of California eulogized her on the floor of the Senate, comparing her to the grandest, most eloquent 20th century leaders, rivaling even Eleanor Roosevelt in stature and simple greatness.

Tricky Dick’s career came to a different end, although two recent biographies with totally different tones and content were recently published.

I suspect there will be more in the future.

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].

The Blunder Before the Genius

This inscribed photograph of Albert Einstein, taken during his first visit to America, realized $26,290 at a February 2010 Heritage auction.

By Jim O’Neal

Albert Einstein called it “the greatest blunder of my life.”

Since he was not a cosmologist, he had accepted the prevailing wisdom that the universe was both fixed and eternal. As a result, when he was formulating his general theory, he dropped into his equations something called the “cosmological constant.” It was designed to arbitrarily counter the effects of gravity.

Typically, history books tend to forgive Einstein for this lapse but in reality, it was a terrible piece of scientific work … and he knew it.

Fortunately, Vesto Slipher at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona was taking spectrographic readings of distant stars and noticed a Doppler shift. That proved, beyond any doubt, that the universe was NOT static. The stars were moving away from Earth, which implied an expansionary condition. This was simply astounding and reversed all conventional thinking about a fixed universe.

Unfortunately, Edwin Hubble took all the credit for this remarkable discovery. It is what propelled him into becoming the most outstanding astronomer of the 20th century. (Maybe more on him later since he had such an inflated view of his importance.)

Now, however, flash back to a young Einstein and we find he was a mere assistant clerk in the Swiss patent office. He had no university affiliations, no access to a lab and only a modest library at the patent office.

He had been rejected for an assistant teaching position and was passed over for promotion until “he learned more about machine technology.”

He had a lot of spare time, which he used to gaze out his window and just think.

Then in 1905, he published a series of five scientific papers, of which three, according to C.P. Snow, “were among the greatest in the history of physics.”

The first would earn Einstein a Nobel Prize. The second provided proof that atoms DID exist – a fact that had been in dispute.

The third simply changed the world.

To learn more, read “Einstein: His Life and Universe” by Walter Isaacson (2007).

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].

German Prisoners in U.S. Were Dismayed When War Ended

This illustration for a 1959 Cavalcade magazine cover realized $2,375 at an October 2012 auction.

By Jim O’Neal

“When I was captured, I weighed 128 pounds. After two years as an American POW, I weighed 185 pounds. I had gotten so fat you could no longer see my eyes.”  – German POW in WW II

And so it was for many World War II Germans who were lucky enough to be shipped from Europe to the United States. Their living conditions as prisoners were far better than as civilians in cold-water flats in Germany.

The prisoners were provided with art supplies, musical instruments, woodworking tools and writing materials. Plus, they were allowed to correspond with their families in The Fatherland.

Ah, but it was the food that made it so unique.

All prisoners were provided with the same rations as American soldiers, as required by Geneva Convention rules. General Officers received wine with their meals and everyone got special meals at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

At first, some prisoners burned their leftovers for fear that their rations might be reduced. “No need, eat all you want. There seems to be an unlimited supply. It is like a miracle!”

And then, of course, there were the cigarettes.

Everyone received two packs each day and some even got meat. Since both were being rationed to American citizens, it quickly became quite easy to bribe guards for all sorts of extra things … use your imagination.

One small irony was that some prisoners actually formally complained to the International Red Cross about the lousy American white bread and coffee. Why not?

A trickier issue was the beer. Prisoners only received a single beer coupon daily, hardly enough to get a mild buzz. Some started pooling their coupons so they could get enough for a full six-pack. (Voila! Problem solved.)

Entertainment was never an issue.

Frequent theatrical or musical performances were allowed that included guards and the Red Cross by the hundreds … at a minimum. Movies were shown three to four times a week, and if a camp didn’t have a projector, the prisoners just pooled their money and bought one.

Money was no problem since they could work on local farms and factories … just not anywhere military things were involved. There was a big labor shortage everywhere since the United States had sent millions overseas to fight in the war. So they were able to earn almost as much as a regular soldier, and their rent and food were free!

All of this started because of a housing shortage in Great Britain and they asked for help in housing captured prisoners. The Liberty ships carrying arms to Europe were returning empty, so it was easy to fill them with the surplus prisoners on the way back.

All told, 425,000 German prisoners were shipped to the United States and sent to 700-plus camps spread over 46 states.

Many of the German POWs were dismayed by the end of the war. They did not relish the prospect of being sent back to a war-torn, bombed-out homeland. Some were able to delay the return by two years.

Not all actually left. Would you?

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 Tale of Columbus’ Lost Ship Name

This pen and ink on board illustration by Henry Clarence Pitz (1895-1976) for the book Christopher Columbus was featured in a July 2013 Heritage illustration art auction.

By Jim O’Neal

Nearly every schoolchild, especially in Ohio and Puerto Rico, learns that “In 1492, Columbus sailed the Ocean blue.” Most also remember his three ships: the Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria … at least I did.

However, it turns out that the names of these ships are a little more complicated. By tradition, Spanish ships were named after saints, and then later given nicknames.

For example:

La Niña (the girl) was actually named the Santa Clara (a female saint) and was Columbus’ favorite of the three.

La Santa Maria was really a shortened version of “The Holy Mary of the Immaculate Conception.”

Lastly, we believe that Christobal Quintero owned La Pinta (the pint), but the original name was “lost at sea.”

So a more precise lineup would be the Santa Clara, Pinta and Santa Maria instead of the ones found in most of our history books.

It is also difficult to specify with any certainty the land(s) Columbus spotted or the exact sequence during his four voyages to the “New World.” He spent eight years bouncing around the Caribbean and coastal South America, convinced he was in the heart of the Orient.

He expected to find Japan and China just over the next horizon.

Curiously, he did not know that Cuba was an island and, importantly, never set foot on or even suspected there was a large land mass to the North.

Today we call it the United States.

Perhaps even worse, at least for his financial backers, was the cargo he chose to haul back to Spain. First was a lot of iron pyrite (thinking it was gold) and then “cinnamon,” which turned out to be worthless tree bark. Even the highly prized “pepper” was really just chili pepper. Not so bad if you like spicy, but much less valuable.

Despite all of this, he remains one of our best remembered explorers and history has treated him well.

Many even get a day off work each year to celebrate as a federal holiday.

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].

Here’s Why Shakespeare Might Be a Part of You

William Shakespeare’s The Poems of Shakespeare [Cosway-Style Binding], London: William Pickering, 1837, realized $2,868 at an October 2009 auction.

By Jim O’Neal

Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman on the atom from his “Six Easy Pieces” lecture series:

“If, in some cataclysm, all scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generation, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words?

“I believe it is the atomic hypothesis that all things are made of atoms – little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another.”

Personally, I would have a bit of a problem rebuilding if that was the extent of all knowledge! And, although I can use more than one sentence, the following may not add enough for you to do it either.

To begin, atoms are simply everywhere and constitute every single thing. Not only stuff like a wall or your refer, but the air in between.

They combine to make molecules and molecules combine to make elements. Chemists think of molecules rather than elements just as writers think in terms of words and not letters.

Molecules are numerous, beyond comprehension. A cubic centimeter of air (the size of a sugar cube) contains 45 billion-billion molecules. Now think about how many sugar cubes it would take to replace all the matter in the universe. Multiply that number by 45 billion, then multiply that by another billion. Well, you get the idea. And, of course, atoms are by definition more abundant than molecules.

Atoms are also very durable and have been around sooo long that every atom in your body has passed thru several stars and been a part of millions of organisms. They are so anatomically numerous and vigorously recycled at our death that it has been suggested 1 billion of my atoms (and yours) were once part of Shakespeare … and of Ghengis Kahn. An odd thought, but statistically probable (not just possible).

Atoms are also tiny … very, very tiny. It is hard to describe just how tiny, but here is a crude attempt:

A millimeter thickness is like comparing a single sheet of paper to the height of the Empire State Building. Got it?

Well, atoms are only one-ten millionth as thick as a millimeter. That is tiny.

When we die, our atoms will simply disassemble and move on to become other things like a rock, another human being, or a Doritos tortilla chip. It is somehow comforting to know that someday, I will be a Doritos chip rather than a Pringles.

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].

Physicist Richard Feynman Crucial to Challenger Answers

A NASA color lithographed print of the Space Shuttle Challenger (STS-51-L) Crew, signed, was featured in a May 2012 auction.

By Jim O’Neal

On Jan. 28, 1986, I was chairing a board meeting in New York when we learned that the NASA Space Shuttle orbiter Challenger had disintegrated 78 seconds after its launch over the Atlantic Ocean. Seventeen percent of Americans had witnessed the launch live and within an hour, 85 percent were aware of the disaster. Much of the interest was due to crew member Christa McAuliffe, a payload specialist and the first teacher headed into outer space. An O-ring failure caused a breach in the right solid rocket booster, which led to a structural failure.

Aerodynamic forces finished the job. A special Blue Ribbon Commission, appointed by President Reagan, determined that this design defect had been known for several years and repeated warnings were disregarded. What was not highlighted was that the space vehicle had never been certified to operate in low temperatures … specifically, the conditions that existed at the launch site on the day the flight was scheduled for liftoff. Enter theoretical physicist Richard Feynman, a distinguished member of the Commission and one determined to expose the truth to the American public. I can still vividly recall his now famous demonstration on live TV and elucidation of the cause of the Challenger space shuttle disaster. It included a very dramatic point where he dropped an elastic band (the O-ring) into a glass of ice water. Case closed. What opened was my mind. Next post, an example on Richard Feynman on a very small thing: an atom.

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].