Image: Sydney Town Hall circa 1900 (Powerhouse Museum/Flickr)
While researching a column I wrote recently for BBC Future about fighting the skyscraper fires of tomorrow I came across a fascinating anti-skyscraper law from 1912 that would have a lasting impact on Australia’s largest city.
Fearing that fighting fires was nearly impossible in tall buildings, Sydney passed the Height of Buildings Act of 1912, limiting new buildings to just 150 feet tall. As a result Sydney spent almost half a century growing predominantly outward rather than skyward.
A July, 1901 fire in an 8-story department store building left five people dead—prompting concern among the residents of Sydney, where modern architecture was quickly sprouting toward the heavens.
Firefighters were helpless to reach a young man who clung desperately out of a window in the building 120 feet up.
Sadly, firefighters could do nothing to help save the poor man who was well out of reach from their tallest 80 foot ladders. He jumped to his death in front of a lunchtime crowd of horrified onlookers.
Sydney’s skyscraper debate would rage for a decade, coming to a head in 1911 when a record 6,503 new private buildings (many of them taller than ever before) were built in Sydney.
The city’s tallest building was completed the very next year in 1912. That building was called the Culwulla Chambers and rose to just 14 stories (165 feet). But it sparked a serious debate about the future of the city and the safety of its inhabitants.
How could the people of Sydney be kept safe when skyscrapers inevitably faces the threat of fire and no one had the technical capacity to put it out?
As Alex Roberts and Pat O’Malley note in their 2011 research paper, “Skyscrapers, Fire and the City: Building Regulation in Late 19th and Early 20th Century Sydney,” politicians in 1912 were concerned as much with safety and international reputation as they were with aesthetics when they passed the Height of Buildings Act in 1912.
Aside from limiting the construction of new buildings to just 150 feet tall, the Act also states that any building built above 100 feet must show that “adequate provision has been made in respect of such building for protection against fire.” The Act wasn’t amended until 1957.
Today, Sydney is a beautiful modern city with a stunning skyline. But one wonders what the city would look like had vertical growth continued unabated, or the 1912 law had remained in effect after 1957.
Photo: Sydney Skyline nowadays from Wikimedia Commons.
[Prison hulk loading], Samuel Atkins, 1787–1808, watercolour. Rex Nan Kivell Collection, National Library of Australia: an5601463
In the 21st century we are accustomed to thinking of imprisonment as one of the more obvious forms of punishment for convicted criminals.
This was not so in the past.
The industrial revolution, social change and war caused great changes in the lives of British people in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Extreme poverty was a fact of life for many, and desperate people resorted to crimes such as theft, robbery and forgery in order to survive.
If caught and convicted, they faced a harsh and complicated criminal code.
Imprisonment was only one of a range of sentences that judges could inflict and, with no national prison system and few purpose-built prisons, it was often not their first choice.
Instead, most criminal offences were punishable by death, public humiliation in the form of branding, whipping, hair cutting, the stocks or the pillory, the imposition of a fine, or transportation overseas.
British authorities had used the transportation of criminals overseas as a form of punishment since the early 17th century, particularly to provide labour in the American colonies.
The American War of Independence (1775–1783) put an end to this human export.
Convicts sentenced to transportation were sent instead to hulks, old or unseaworthy ships, generally ex-naval vessels, moored in rivers and harbours close enough to land for the inmates to be taken ashore to work.
Although originally introduced as a temporary measure the hulks quickly became a cost-efficient, essential and integral part of the British prison system.
Prison-ship in Portsmouth Harbour, convicts going aboard, Edward William Cooke, 1828, hand-coloured etching. Rex Nan Kivell Collection, National Library of Australia: an9058453
Once tried and sentenced convicts were sent to a receiving hulk for four to six days, where they were washed, inspected and issued with clothing, blankets, mess mugs and plates.
They were then sent to a convict hulk, assigned to a mess and allocated to a work gang.
From 1776 to 1802 all English hulks were operated by private individuals such as the shipowners Duncan Campbell and James Bradley, under contract to the British government.
These included the Justitia, Censor, Ceres and Stanislaus on the River Thames at Woolwich, the Chatham and Dunkirk at Plymouth, the Lion at Gosport and La Fortunee at Langstone Harbour near Portsmouth.
Some pretty big and powerful companies have been and still are involved in the bicycle industry.
CCM, a Canadian based conglomerate, was one of them.
CCM is the acronym for Canadian Cycle and Motor Company. The company began supplying bicycles prior to 1900. Though I am not sure if CCM still makes or sells motors, they did at one time, around 1910.
The CCM motorcycle was to be a short lived venture for the company, and production was brought to a halt in 1912. Bicycle production, however, remained strong, flourishing even in today’s market place.
The CCM bicycles offered covered an absolutely full gambit of what could be offered. From balloon tired Motorbike of the fifties, to luxury lighter weight cruisers, of the sixties and seventies, finishing up with top of the line, Italian bread, racing bicycles, just about anything could be had.
However, it was the utilitarian, run of the mill, mass marketed CCM that won the publics pocket books.
The top Italian bread dog, died a dog’s death within a few years of being a puppy. The balloon tires were gone by the end of the fifties, the luxury roadsters by the sixties, both being replaced by the lighter, multi geared roadsters that were surfacing at the time.
And, hot on the heels of the three speed internally geared roadster, came the Ten Speed, which sold in huge numbers shortly after being introduced into the market place.
However, all was not well when the multi gear market, and lighter bicycle market, fell under the CCM microscope.
I would suggest that anybody who has queries on CCM Bicycles that they direct them to the Forum Section of the CCM Vintage Website:
The Mexican Revolution began on 20 November, 1910, and raged well into the 1920s.
It was an attempt by revolutionaries to overthrow the ruler and dictator Porfirio Diaz Mori and implement a constitution, which would aim to ensure fairer life for the farming classes.
The conflict was bloody, with around 900,000 people losing their lives. Such vast death and destruction meant that both sides were more than willing to involve women and children in combat
One army of 5,369 revolutionaries inspected by United States officials included 1,256 women and 554 children.
Whilst the children mostly foraged and cooked, the women were usually armed and fought alongside the men. Despite facing constant inequality and sexism, women were still willing to play a major role in Mori’s eventual downfall.
Those female soldiers that the revolutionary side brought into action were called soldaderas.
Perhaps the most famous of all the soldaderas was Margarita Neri, who not only fought in the war, but also acted as a commander.
A Dutch-Maya from Quintana Roo, from 1910, she commanded a force of over 1000 which swept through Tabasco and Chiapas, looting, burning and killing.
Neri was so effective in her slaughter of anti-revolutionary troops that the Governor of Guerrero hid in a crate and fled the town upon hearing of her approach.
Whether Margarita fought for the revolution directly, under Francisco Madero’s command, or whether her unit worked independently remains unclear.
However, what is clear as day is that she and her soldiers were a serious threat to the Government, with Neri vowing to decapitate Diaz herself.
A brief history of London’s Tower Menagerie, 1812.
It was New Year’s Eve 1764, and John Wesley—founding father of Methodism, horseback proselytizer, teetotaler—stood before the structure now known as the Tower of London, accompanied by a flautist, who was, in turn, accompanied by his flute.
Wesley had traveled to this sprawling complex in the hope of testing a hypothesis. Could music soothe the most savage of beasts? If it did, Wesley might clear up a burning theological ambiguity—the question of whether nonhuman animals had souls.
With his contracted companion in tow, he marched through the tower, determined to find some big cats and to smother them with song. Zoos, as we know them today, did not exist in Wesley’s lifetime—the zoological garden is a distinctly modern phenomenon.
Even the London Zoo, one of the oldest “scientific” outdoor sites for animal rehoming, opened six decades after his tower trip.
If Wesley wished to glean the spirituality of lions firsthand, the infamous citadel, all arched cages and grilles, was his best bet in England.
(Spoiler: the reaction to a live flute performance was mostly lukewarm—only one out of five lions stirred and stood up on all fours—not quite what our preacher had been hankering for.)
AMSCOL, the Adelaide Milk Supply Co Operative Limited. Remember the factory in Carrington Street in the city? Amscol was set up by Adelaide’s dairy farmers in the 1920s to process daily milk supplies. And of course Amscol made other treats, too, like the ice cream brick, Amscol Dandies, Twin Chocs, Berry Bars and Hi Tops.
The Chinese King Tang of Shang is thought to have had over ninety “ice men” who mixed flour, camphor, and buffalo milk with ice. They had pots they filled with a syrupy mixture, which they then packed into a mixture of snow and salt.
Emperor Nero Claudius Caesar of Rome was said to have sent people up to the mountains to collect snow and ice which would then be flavoured with juice and fruit—kind of like a first century snow cone.
One of the earliest forerunners of modern ice cream was a recipe brought back to Italy from China by Marco Polo. The recipe was very like what we would call sherbet. From there, it is thought that Catherine de Medici brought the dessert to France when she married King Henry II in 1533. In the 1600s, King Charles I of England was said to have enjoyed “cream ice” so much that he paid his chef to keep the recipe a secret from the public, believing it to be solely a royal treat.
However, these two stories appeared for the first time in the 19 century, many years after they were said to have taken place, so may or may not be true.
One of the first places to serve ice cream to the general public in Europe was Café Procope in France, which started serving it in the late 17th century.
The first mention of ice cream in America appeared in 1744, when a Scottish colonist visited the house of Maryland Governor Thomas Bladen wrote about the delicious strawberry ice cream he had while dining there.
The first advertisement for ice cream in America appeared in 1777 in the New York Gazette, in which Philip Lenzi said ice cream was “available almost every day” at his shop.
However, the “origin” story that his wife Martha once left sweet cream on the back porch one evening and returned in the morning to find ice cream is definitely not true.
Thomas Jefferson created his own recipe for vanilla ice cream, and President Madison’s wife served strawberry ice cream at her husband’s second inaugural banquet.
Ice cream at this time was made using the “pot freezer” method, which involved placing a bowl of cream in a bucket of ice and salt (note: not mixing the ice and salt with the cream as many believe).
The St. Louis World Fair popularized the ice cream cone. World War II further popularized the dessert as the treat was great for troop morale and became somewhat of a symbol of America at the time (so much so that Italy’s Mussolini banned ice cream to avoid the association).
This war time ice cream resulted in the biggest producer of ice cream in America in 1943 being the United States Armed Forces.