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The visual representation of information, knowledge, or data has been around since the time of the caveman. But it wasn’t until 1786,
Playfair, a Scottish engineer, published The Commercial and Political
Atlas, illustrating for the first time how economic data could be represented by charts. Playfair’s work preceded
that of Florence
acknowledged as the founder of modern nursing—who used information graphics
in the 1850s to convince Queen Victoria that reform was needed in the British
military health service. Nightingale developed the Coxcomb chart—a combination of stacked pie and bar charts—to assess
mortality among soldiers during the Crimean War.
In 1965, Baby-Boomer kids may have been treated to TV footage
of a high-stepping chorus line and thousands of people cheering to the background
tune “Happy Days
Are Here Again.” They may have
noticed the tinny sound of the singing and the antiquated clothing styles of
the people in the footage and, not knowing why they were looking at this,
thought: Hey, this is a really great song.
Money has been a topic of keen interest throughout
history. As noted in a previous
post, this fascination has extended into artwork created
centuries ago through modern times. One artist who expanded the concept of what
people perceive as art was Andy Warhol.
(see this amusing four-minute video), popular in the
first half of the nineteenth century, was the study of skull shape and contours
(believed to indicate the location of more- and less-developed areas of the
brain) in order to discern individuals’ abilities and personality traits
(called “faculties” in the phrenologists’ jargon). A clear
map of the various skull sections and their corresponding faculties can be
found in this excerpt from Samuel Wells’ version of the 1840
Fowler's Practical Phrenology: Giving a Concise Elementary View of Phrenology.
In May 1953, an article from Kiplinger’s Changing Times titled “No, All
Banks Are Not Alike” advised, “You want a bank that is safe,
convenient, pleasant to visit; one that offers all the regular banking services
and makes reasonable charges for them; one that is well managed and competently
staffed, and whose officers and tellers are friendly and willing to advise you
on your major financial problems.” It also recommends considering whether the officers of the bank participate in civic affairs and whether the bank provides tours for children.
In November 1965, the northeastern United States experienced
a thirteen-hour blackout—the biggest in history to that date. Life magazine did a
spread (p. 36) with some surreal and gloomy pictures of stranded, dazed, well-dressed
passengers sleeping every which way all over New York City’s Grand Central
Terminal. A book was written that same year by the staff of the New York Times, When the Lights Went Out, which describes in detail how people and various
agencies in New York had to cope and make emergency adjustments.
In 1720, the very same year that England was experiencing
the “South Sea Bubble” (see our post),
France was experiencing a bubble as well—the “Mississippi Bubble.” France’s
bubble was brought on by government debt and the advice of the head of the
country’s finance ministry, John
Law (Scottish mathematician, convicted murderer [a duel], gambler, and financial
genius), to create paper money and a bank and to invest in his Mississippi
Company. (Indeed, at the height of the trading frenzy for shares of stock in
Law’s company, a hunchbacked man rented his back out as a desk in the “Street of Speculators”
and earned a considerable sum.) Over a three-year period (1718-20), things went
very wrong and too much money was printed (the regent’s decision, not Law’s). The
text accompanying this portrait of Law describes
him as an:
18th century Scotsman, credited by
some historians as being “the father of inflation.” Law turned gambling IOUs
into “gold counters,” then state debts into paper money, and finally sold all
France down the river on the “Mississippi Bubble.”
These two fine old entities—the New York Fed and Grand
Central Terminal—have at least three things in common: they are both about
100 years old, they both feature beautiful vaulting in some part of their
structure by the same “designer” masons, and they both go very deep into the
First there was Newspeak (from
George Orwell’s book 1984), which
intended to bend the thinking of the masses, then there was doublespeak (derived
from Newspeak, meaning a deliberate disguising or distortion of meaning, and
with its very own achievement award), and
then there was Fedspeak (and likely many other “-speaks”).
Amazingly, something resembling a drive-through automated
bank teller existed back in 1941 (twenty-six years before the invention of the
true ATM, or automated teller machine). It was an ingenious curbside teller’s
window, as described in this October 1941 Popular
Science article, “Bank
Gives Curb Service to Motorists with Novel ‘Teller-Vision’ Cage” (p. 63 for
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