Woody Hockaday (1884-1947) made significant contributions to American history, but he's almost entirely forgotten today. According to the Kansas State Historical Society, he was "the first person to recognize the need for highway marking in the United States." So, on his own initiative, beginning in 1915, he started posting mileage markers on highways. Eventually "Hockaday signs" appeared on 60,000 miles of roads from Washington DC to Los Angeles.
But around 1935 he decided he needed to do something different with his life. So he started calling himself "Big Chief Pow Wow" and launched a "feathers instead of bullets" campaign. Dressed in red shorts, a feather war bonnet, sneakers, a painted sunflower on his chest, and carrying a huge bag of feathers, he would pop up at political rallies and pelt politicians with feathers (or sometimes live chickens). He explained that "to attract attention to peace a man must use sensational methods."
In 1940, he combined a Santa Claus costume with his headdress and showed up in Rockefeller Plaza with a wagonload of 600 chickens. He screamed at the crowd, "I'm Santa Claus from Santa Fe. Peace! The whole world will have peace. Here, my friend, have a chicken."
Soon after that he was committed to an insane asylum. He died in 1947.
This is just one of the many strange inventions that Fuller imagined would improve society. Dymaxion, which is an abbreviation of dynamic maximum tension, was the name he attached to many of his inventions.
"Handies" was one of those bizarre fads that periodically sweep the country. It reached the high point of its popularity in the summer of 1936. After that, its descent was steep and fast. No one could figure out where the fad came from. From Time magazine:
To play "Handies" a person attempts by manual manipulation to portray a familiar phrase, title, personage or situation. The more extravagantly far-fetched the conception, the better the "Handy." Observers are not expected to be able to identify the improvisation but to be ready to return an even more fantastic one.
So it was like a static version of charades. The image shows the Handy for "Indian riding in a V8." It's the only image of a Handy I could find. Not hard to see why the fad died out.
Besides having a great porn-movie title, this film starring Edward G. Robinson is just all over the map. Part comedy, part high-society drama, part courtroom drama, part gangster film, it features the loony premise of a medical doctor who becomes a crook for research purposes. Toss in Claire Trevor's weird lisp, and it's a surefire WU candidate!
This would be a useful addition in ALL driver's ed courses, especially if the driver was given no warning. From Popular Science, Aug 1935:
So that the driver of a radio car will know what to do if someone darts across a street in front of his speeding machine, instructors of a police school at Hendon, England have devised an ingenious training method. The student is required to drive along a test course, and at some unannounced point a concealed catapult hurls a stuffed dummy in front of the car. Observers rate the driver on his ability to stop or swerve in time to avoid hitting the pedestrian. The catapult is operated by a spring, and a jerk on a rope releases its trigger. All drivers of London's police cars receive this training.
Everyone knows we're in the midst of a new Great Depression. But isn't it a little spooky that so many things from the 1930's are repeating themselves? Such as: a nation, mired in bad economic times, is distracted by a case of multiple births.
How would you like to look in your rear-view mirror and see this thing coming up behind you fast? Since America can't seem to get its act together to build high-speed trains, maybe we could have high-speed buses instead. From Popular Science, October 1930:
85-Mile-An-Hour Bus Streamlined
Porthole-shaped windows will give passengers a view of the roadside they are scudding past at eighty-five miles an hour, in a remarkable bus just completed at Paris, France. This juggernaut of the road seats 100 passengers, besides its two drivers. Every part is streamlined for speed, even to the curved emergency door in the rear. The machine is designed for express cross-country travel.
During the 1930s animators Alexander Alexeieff and wife Claire Parker invented a push-screen frame, basically a board with thousands of pins embedded into it. The pins were pushed into the board at various heights, using specially shaped tools, and lighted from different angles to create shadow pictures that could be filmed one frame at a time. I saw their version of Night on Bald Mountain, which preceded Disney's, back in the 1980s at film historian Cecile Starr's home (she owned a 16mm copy) and I remember being very impressed. But this unique method was too labor intensive (even by film animation standards), and for most of their later work the Alexeieffs used object animation.
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Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction books such as Elephants on Acid.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.
Chuck is the purveyor of News of the Weird, the syndicated column which for decades has set the gold-standard for reporting on oddities and the bizarre.
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