Harper's Weekly 02/13/1869


HOME AND FOREIGN GOSSIP.

Intelligence continues to arrive from California
of the ravages of small-pox in various parts of the
State, particularly in San Francisco. Great anxiety
and distress prevail; especially because the disease
assumes the most malignant type, and the symptoms
are in many cases so frightful as almost to prevent
the necessary attention to the sufferer. The city au-
thorities have adopted every expedient to check the
spread of the epidemic. At first it was determined to
convey all persons afflicted, whether rich or poor, to a
pest-house, and for a time the system was carried out.
But the name of “pest-house” alarmed the communi-
ty, and the word “hospital” was substituted. A num-
ber of ladies, known as Sisters of Mercy, volunteered
their services as nurses, and measures were adopted
to place infected localities under a species of quaran-
tine. The epidemic, however, still increased, and
during the last month the deaths reported in San
Francisco were over five hundred, the population of
the city being only one hundred and thirty thousand.
This most unusual mortality is caused by small-pox.
A very startling feature of the epidemic, as described
in the San Francisco papers, is that vaccination ap-
pears to afford no reliable protection. This is by
some ascribed to imperfection in the vaccine matter
employed; and the wish is expressed that cities on
the Atlantic coast would forward vaccine matter
which could be trusted as efficacious. Others appear
to think that the disease is of too malignant and
formidable a type to be resisted by the effects of vac-
cination upon the system, although properly per-
formed; and this apprehension seems sustained by
the accounts of some of the cases. One case related
is that of a man who was frightfully pitted by the
small-pox, which he had several years ago. He was
present in the doctor's office when several persons
were being vaccinated, and, for the novelty of the
thing, the doctor vaccinated him. Strangely enough
the operation was a complete success, accompanied
by all the local and constitutional symptoms of the
genuine vaccine disease; and when he had entirely
recovered the mark left was what physicians call
“splendid.” About a month after the man was again
taken sick with the small-pox and carried to the hos-
pital. The disease assumed the confluent type and he
died in a few days.


A Sacramento paper has the following incident, in-
dicating in an amusing manner how extensively the
epidemic has enlisted the attention of the community.
The writer says: “A little friend of ours found among
Santa's offerings a wax doll. It bears the poetical
name of Maud, and is taken out every pleasant morn-
ing for its health. The other day, observing a piece
of orange merino pinned on a stick by the nursery
door, I peeped in at the children, when I was quickly
notified to leave by little Charley, who seemed to be
acting in the capacity of doctor, `for Maud was tooken
dreadful bad with the small-pox, and the yellow flag
was hung out!' Dear only knows how much nursing
and doctoring went on, but some time afterward I
heard some painful discords and failures in an attempt
at singing the Sundy-school hymn of `Sister, thou
wast mild and lovely,' after which I beheld a little
procession, in which Charley carried the dog, and Floy
the cat, dressed up in shawls, and as they slowly
would up the hill into the garden, I understood from
the mourning rags they wore, and the general crying
and distress, that it was a funeral going on, Maud
having died from the disease. I arrived at the little
grave under the geranium-bush just in time to rescue
the lovely wax doll from being buried. `She's sewed
up in a bag,' said Floy, `and we would 'a undigged
her.'”


A very bold and startling robbery was committed
lately at the National Park Bank. At about half past
eight o'clock in the morning a man entered the bank,
walked quietly back to the rear of the office, and then
suddenly but deliberately smashed the large plate-
glass window fronting the money department with a
large octagon-shaped plate of iron fully ten inches in
diameter and nearly an inch thick. The robber then
found no difficulty in reaching the piles of bank-notes
lying on the desk. He hastily seized a package con-
taining $3636 in National Bank bills of various denom-
inations, with which he darted from the building, the
large iron plate being of course abandoned in the
bank. He was pursued, arrested, and sent to prison.
Strange to say, however, although he was seen to do
the deed, he insisted that he was innocent, and desired
opportunity to prove himself so. Perhaps he might
plead insanity If so, query, would the jury acquit
him?


It is announced that several oratorios will soon be
given in this city, with Madame Parepa-Rosa as so-
prano. This lady is considered by many the finest,
or at least, one of the finest oratorio singers now liv-
ing. It is certain that the oratorios in which she has
taken part have called out a multitude of delighted
listeners.


The daily papers lately reported that an attempt
had been made by certain parties to secretly ship a
quantity of nitro-glycerine from this city to New Ha-
ven. It was conveyed across the city in boxes mark-
ed “gasoline.” Unusual care being manifested in its
transportation suspicion was aroused. The boxes
were examined, and found to contain nitro-glycerine.
If this very dangerous mixture had exploded while
passing through the streets the results must have been
terrible. The explosive power of nitro-glycerine is
variously estimated at from five to thirteen times that
of gunpowder. Suddenly heated to 360° Fahrenheit
it explodes. At a temperature of 75° Fahrenheit it is
liable to spontaneous decomposition. The facts above
mentioned having been made public the president of
the company from whom the nitro-glycerine was pur-
chased stated that it was packed and transported ac-
cording to law; that it was marked “Nitro-Glyce-
rine—Dangerous,” in large letters, but “in order to
make sure of careful handling, it seems the purchaser
marked on another end of the boxes `Gasoline,' in
pencil, that article being more dangerous than ni-
tro-glycerine.”


For some time past there has been on free exhibi-
tion at Snedecor's Art Gallery “The Yosemite Val-
ley,” a fine painting by Thomas Hill. The Yosemite
Valley is a long, rocky chasm in California, shut in by
stupendous walls of granite, over whose perpendicu-
lar precipices waterfalls tumble headlong 2600 feet.
It is from six to seven miles in length, and half a mile
to a mile in width, its trees, shrubs, and grasses re-
sembling quite closely the banks of the Connecticut
Valley, though far more luxuriant in growth. The
Merced River, a clear blue stream, meanders through
it; its banks are fringed with the ash, the oak, the
willow, and the birch; and here and there, inter-
spersed among broad, green, quiet meadows of rich
grass, there are groves of trees of immense size and
wonderful picturesqueness. In Snedecor's gallery
there are also many other fine paintings as well as
numerous chromos. Lovers of the fine arts, even if
they have no wish to purchase, may spend a leisure
hour most pleasantly in examining this collection.


Not long ago a Russian peasant entered the office of
a publisher at St. Petersburg, and asked him for em-
ployment. The publisher thought he wanted a place
to do manual labor. To his great surprise, how-
ever, he learned that the peasant, on the contrary, de-
sired employment as translator from the English,
French, German, Spanish, and Italian. He said his
name was Ivan Pronin, and he lived in the district of
Jaroslavi, where he owned a hut and a small piece of
ground. All the above-mentioned languages he had
acquired from grammars and dictionaries. An ex-
amination showed that he was able to translate the
most difficult passages in a very pure and fluent style.
The publisher engaged him immediately to translate
an English philosophical work. The most curious
feature about this learned peasant is that he works
all day in the field, and devotes only his leisure hours
in the evening to literary employment.


The frequent loss of life in this city occasioned by
the explosion of kerosene lamps has resulted in a
thorough investigation of this matter by the Board
of Health. It was ascertained that a large proportion
of the oil sold in the city was decidedly unsafe. At a
recent meeting of the Board an ordinance was adopt-
ed regulating the standard for oil offered for sale.
The substance of this ordinance is, that no kerosene
oil, or other liquid having similar qualities, shall be
kept or offered for sale as a burning fluid unless it can
meet the following tests: 1. That it shall not take fire
or burn at a temperature below 110 degrees Fahren-
heit; and 2. That it shall not evolve an explosive va-
por below 100 degrees Fahrenheit. After the Board
of Health had thus restricted the sale of kerosene oil,
supposing they had the authority to do so, the Metro-
politan Fire Department announced that by a State
law of 1866 they possessed the right to test kerosene
sold in this city, and to recover fines for violations of
the law. The Board of Health has certainly done a
good thing in waking up the Fire Department to a
sense of duty, and it is to be hoped some decisive ac-
tion on the subject will be taken immediately.


The one hundred and tenth anniversary of the birth-
day of Robert Burns, the illustrious Scotch poet, was
celebrated last week by a grand banquet at the Met-
ropolitan Hotel. It has been customary heretofore to
confine these festive dinners to gentlemen alone, but
on this occasion a number of ladies were invited, and
honored the occasion by their presence. The admis-
sion of ladies to public dinners will doubtless be dis-
approved by many, yet there can be no question but
that their presence would be welcome to a large num-
ber, and exert a wholesome, restraining influence upon
those who are tempted to indulge in any excesses.


The Portland Press informs us that at one period
the salmon were so numerous in a spring near the
foot of Lewiston Falls that after the ice had gone
from the river their backs formed a bridge on which
one might venture to walk. This is a great story;
but it is certain that now both salmon and trout have
disappeared from that spring, and only eels abound.
The noble streams of Maine have been depopulated
by neglect and improvidence, and must now be re-
stocked with fish.


A shocking occurrence is reported from Belleville,
Missouri. The only daughter of an esteemed citizen
—a lovely girl of eighteen—died and was buried. The
day after the funeral, the grief-stricken parents visited
the grave of their child; when, to their horror, they
found evidences of its having been opened. To relieve
their minds investigation was made. It was found
that the clothes and ornaments had been stripped from
the body and taken away. The corpse was in such a
disarranged condition as to require to be redressed
and reinterred. The anguish of the fond parents at
this gross indignity and outrage can not be described.
They have caused the remains of their beloved child
to be interred in the garden contiguous to their resi-
dence, where it is hoped they will be permitted to re-
pose in peace.


A novel vessel—which is named Novelty, by-the-way
—has lately been launched in Boston. This is an
iron brig, designed to carry molasses in bulk. In the
hold she has seven circular tanks, secured on an iron
platform, and braced from the sides, and these are all
connected with one another in such a manner that
they can be either united or disconnected at pleasure.
Their combined capacity is 90,000 gallons. On the
top of each there is a turret to allow for expansion,
and also over each there is a hatchway, so that they
can be examined around, above and below, at all
times. She has a powerful steam-pump by which to
discharge, and it is estimated that in six hours her
cargo can be pumped out. At the place where she
will discharge in Boston there is a tank to receive her
cargo.


In the Iowa Agricultural College two of the students
are women.


Somebody who has seen the novelty lately an-
nounced as the “Fowler Adding Machine,” says that
“this instrument, small enough to be carried in the
coat-pocket with no more inconvenience than a com-
mon note-book, and simple in its construction as a
pair of scissors, will put together sums of figures, in
quantities ranging from the limits of simple addition
to the dimensions of the national debt, more rapidly
than an average writer could set them down, and
will announce the sum total of the whole, whether it
be units or millions, before an ordinary accountant
will have got fairly started on his first column.” We
therefore suggest to the Board of Education that
arithmetic may now be omitted from the course of
study, as hereafter all sums can be footed up by ma-
chinery. “I would I were a boy again!” will then be
the song of those who in former years groaned over
the addition table. Seriously, however, the accuracy
of this machine is said to be beyond a doubt, the ra-
pidity of its action marvelous, and its simplicity re-
markable; and if this is the case, to book-keepers,
accountants, and business-men generally, it must prove
of immense value.



THE RIVER-POLICE BOAT ON THE LOOK-OUT.—[Sketched by P. Franzeny.]




Website design © 2000-2004 HarpWeek, LLC
All Content © 1998-2004 HarpWeek, LLC
Please submit questions to webmaster@harpweek.com