How much total weight does it take to play a song on the piano?

Pianist Moissaye Boguslawski (popularly known as 'Bogie') calculated in 1927 that "in the four minutes it took him to play Rubenstein's 'Staccato Etude' he exerted force of 14,700 pounds." Apparently he then used this bit of esoterica to impress the ladies.

The wikipedia entry on Boguslawski notes, "Boguslawski was known for skillfully attracting media attention. A 1936 piece in TIME magazine said of him, 'When straight news about himself is scarce, 'Bogie' is likely to come forth with such a project as his proposal to promote world peace through voice culture, since animosity arises when unpleasant tones are heard.'"

Muncie Evening Press - Aug 11, 1927

Ithaca Journal - Nov 23, 1926

Posted By: Alex - Wed Nov 27, 2019 - Comments (1)
Category: Music, 1920s

Dog-Collar Engagement Rings

An unusual fad, as reported by the San Francisco Examiner, June 19, 1927:

Only the other day there came from Denver the startling news that the young women of this western city were wearing dog collars for engagement rings in lieu of the conventional band of gold, silver or diamond-set platinum. To further emphasize the departure from tradition, the girls wore this romantic token around their legs, as shown in the photograph of Miss Fay Rowe, of Denver, on this page. Thus the engagement ring-dog-collar became a garter as well as a symbol of betrothal, combining utility with romance...

The custom was started by a young woman in one of the college sororities and it spread rapidly. It was generally believed to be something entirely new in the way of betrothal tokens, but had the young woman been a careful student in her history class she would have known that the fad she started was an old one long before the Christian era was born. Jeweled anklets have been discovered in the cinerary urns of the ancient Greeks, with inscriptions which indicate they were tokens of engagement. Bracelets were also common in all ages as tokens of betrothal...

The principal objection to the dog-collar engagement token around the leg seems to be, "What's the use of wearing an engagement ring without anybody seeing it?" To which the answer is, "Nowadays a ring worn about the leg can easily be seen with the skirts of women growing shorter and shorter."

I can think of a few more objections a bride-to-be might have, other than that the dog collar wouldn't be visible.

Posted By: Alex - Tue Nov 26, 2019 - Comments (6)
Category: 1920s, Weddings, Love & Romance

Dangers of the Charleston


Posted By: Paul - Sun Nov 24, 2019 - Comments (1)
Category: 1920s, Dance, Pain, Self-inflicted and Otherwise

A woman dressed only in her hair

Now arises Mrs. Lydia McPherson of Los Angeles, California… Her friends claim that if Lady Godiva had possessed hair like Mrs. McPherson, she would have been more than adequately attired in her famous ride through the streets of Coventry. Mrs. McPherson surpasses Mother Eve, by wearing, as her picture shows, only nature’s covering, whereas the world’s first lady had to borrow from the fig tree. The tresses of Mrs. McPherson measure seven feet two inches from root to tip, and are of a find, bright red color.
San Francisco Examiner - Jun 26, 1927

(left) In her birthday suit; (right) fully clothed

Below: Looking a bit like that girl from The Ring movie.

St. Louis Post Dispatch - Apr 24, 1927

The Ring girl, for comparison:

Some more images of Lydia McPherson and her long hair:

(left) at the 1933 Chicago Odditorium, where she was advertised as having "the longest red hair in the world" (via; (right) undated photo (via sisterwolf).

Posted By: Alex - Fri Nov 15, 2019 - Comments (0)
Category: 1920s, Hair and Hairstyling

Pabst-Ett Cheese

The ad copy claimed that it wasn't cheese. Instead, it was "more than cheese." So what exactly was this stuff?

San Francisco Examiner - Aug 7, 1927

Pabst-ett is not cheese — but more than cheese. It is made by the Pabst process which conserves the nutritive value of whole milk — the milk sugar, milk proteins, and body-building milk mineral elements lost in cheese making.
It is as digestible as milk; more nourishing than milk; the cheese-product young children, elderly persons, even invalids may enjoy. A valuable regulative food for the system — rich in vitamins — health-building.

The Vintage Recipe Blog explains that it was a "a processed whey cheese similar to Velveeta but more spreadable." The Pabst Brewing Company created it in the 1920s as a way to find an alternative line of business during Prohibition. When Prohibition ended, they sold the rights to Kraft, who discontinued the product a few years later.

Posted By: Alex - Wed Nov 06, 2019 - Comments (3)
Category: Food, 1920s

Symphony with Airplane Propellers

American composer George Antheil scored his Ballet Mécanique (or Ballet for Machines) for sixteen player pianos, two conventionally played pianos, four brass drums, three xylophones, a tam-tam, seven electric bells, a siren, and three airplane propellers. Here's what happened during its first U.S. performance in 1927, according to Nicholas Tawa in The Great American Symphony:

Regrettably, when Ballet Mécanique was put on in Carnegie Hall, New York, in 1927, the airplane propellers created such a powerful blast that they blew the first-row attendees out of their seats. The concert was a complete and ignominious failure, musically and in composer-audience relations. Hardly anyone believed any sort of "music" had been heard. Both the general audience and the American avant-garde rose up against Antheil. Press coverage was widespread. Mockery mingled with condemnation...

He was labeled a charlatan and was forced to retreat to Europe. All the while, the New York fiasco haunted him like a nightmare. His reputation remained in ruins.

Baltimore Sun - Apr 17, 1927

While the inclusion of the airplane propellers provided a dramatic flourish, apparently it was the attempt to synchronize the player pianos that was the real technical challenge, and impossible with 1920's technology. In a 1999 Wired article, Paul Lehrman describes an effort to perform Ballet Mécanique with the help of computer technology.

While over at, one can find a description of a more recent project to perform Antheil's symphomy with full-scale propellers... because apparently previous performances, for safety reasons, never used full-sized propellers.

Thanks to Virtual in Carnate for alerting us to the existence of Antheil's propeller symphony.

Posted By: Alex - Mon Nov 04, 2019 - Comments (3)
Category: Music, 1920s

William Greenwood, the Modern Noah

William Greenwood was a local character in Olympia, Washington. In the 1920s, he decided that a great flood was coming soon, so he built himself an ark. The press dubbed him the modern Noah.

The exact date that he thought the flood would arrive changed frequently. First it was 1928, then 1932, then 1938, etc.

Eventually the city decided that his ark was a fire hazard, so in June 1942 they had the fire department burn it down. But Greenwood built another, smaller one. He lived on until 1958, dying at the age of 91. More info: Olympia History

San Bernardino County Sun - June 20, 1942

Mason City Globe-Gazette - Feb 13, 1948

Posted By: Alex - Sat Oct 26, 2019 - Comments (4)
Category: Armageddon and Apocalypses, Eccentrics, Crackpots, 1920s

Flapper Dictionary

As defined by Wikipedia, "Flappers were a generation of young Western women in the 1920s who wore skirts, bobbed their hair, listened to jazz, and flaunted their disdain for what was then considered acceptable behavior. Flappers were seen as brash for wearing excessive makeup, drinking, smoking cigarettes, driving automobiles, treating sex in a casual manner, and otherwise flouting social and sexual norms."

A "Flapper Dictionary" appeared in various newspapers and magazines in 1922. Selections below. Even more flapper terms can be found at Book Flaps and Click Americana.

New Castle Herald - Apr 1922

Posted By: Alex - Tue Oct 08, 2019 - Comments (4)
Category: Languages, Slang, Subcultures, 1920s

L’Orange Variee Perfume

From 1925. It came in small bottles designed to look like segments of an orange. Not many bottles of this stuff survive. When intact sets do come up at auction, they can easily fetch over $1000.

More info: Box Vox

Posted By: Alex - Mon Jul 22, 2019 - Comments (0)
Category: 1920s, Perfume and Cologne and Other Scents

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Alex Boese
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction, science-themed books such as Elephants on Acid and Psychedelic Apes.

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