AUGUST   2020


Friday, March 04, 2016


"I can always tell which is the front end of a horse, but beyond that, my art is not above the ordinary."
Mark Twain
I retain a few doubts about Hans. I agree that he was clever, but how clever was he, really? Hans willingly cooperated with the man who proved he was as dumb as a horse. That was not very smart. And if Hans could actually preform basic math, why don't we see more horses working in banks? Sure, Hans might have been an equine genius, even capable of reading human minds, but what are the odds the only genius human- mind-reading horse would be bought by a retired gym teacher who just happened to be anxious to prove that horses could memorize the multiplication tables? Perhaps I should rein myself in here, and start at the beginning.
"Horses do think. Not very deeply, perhaps, but enough to get you into a lot of trouble."
Patricia Jacobson and Marcia Hayes - "A Horse Around the House"
Right out of the gate, Hans just looked smart (above). He was handsome, sleek, athletic and big, almost a thousand pounds and five and a half feet high at the shoulders. His breed had been founded by Count Orlov who crossed Russian mares with Arabian stallions, to produce spirited trotters. And then Count Rostophin threw in three oriental stallions to breed gentle, empathetic riding horses. So popular was the breed that by 1866 nearly half of all horses on Russian stud farms were Orlovs. And by the end of the 19th century, they were even being sold in Europe.
"Small children are convinced that ponies deserve to see the inside of the house."
Maya Patel
The popularity of the Orlov is explained by the web site, ( ; “Possessed of amazing intelligence, they learn quickly and remember easily with few repetitions. There is often an uncanny understanding of what is wanted and needed of them....They can become extremely sensitive to the moods and emotions of their riders/owners, even reflecting them in self-carriage. Under saddle this makes for a partner of such willingness and awareness that traditional (dressage) exercises become poetry.”
"Horses are uncomfortable in the middle and dangerous at both ends."
Ian Fleming - Sunday Times of London, October 9, 1966
Which brings us to Wilhelm von Osten (above), a retired, grouchy, grumpy Berlin prep school mathematics teacher who believed that animal intelligence was sorely underrated. Beginning in the 1880's he attempted to teach simple math to a cat. The feline did not care scratch for his efforts, so von Osten switched his subject to a bear. The Ursula proved a bear market for von Osten's educational techniques. So in 1888 he bought a pony, whom he named Hans. Von Osten was giddy when, after a few weeks effort, he wrote the number three on a blackboard and Hans tapped his right hoof three times. It seemed clear, to him at least, that he had harnessed the genius in the young stallion.
"It's always been and always will be the same in the world: The horse does the work and the coachman is tipped"
Old proverb
Von Osten now had the bit between his teeth. He asked Hans for the sum of three plus two, and the black beauty tapped his hoof five times. Eventually Hans was even figuring square roots and working with fractions. Hans even read a calendar, answering “, "If the eighth day of the month comes on a Tuesday, what is the date of the following Friday?” - something I would have trouble with. But there was more. Asked to identify a member of the crowd , Hans was able to tap out a name, using a complicated code chart, even though no one had told the horse the human's name. But after years of giving such public demonstrations before enthusiastic crowds, von Osten grew frustrated by official indifference. So, in the summer of 1902, he advertised for sale his “beautiful, gentle 7 year old stallion”, in a military newspaper. In fact Hans was not seven, and he was not really for sale, but the ad did mention, “He distinguishes ten colors, reads, knows the four arithmetic operations, etc.” That elicited the sought after response from cavalry officers, who stampeded to von Osten's house. They came prepared to mock but left impressed. Because of this growing support by such a respected segment of German society, within two years even the Minister for Education was singing Han's (and of course, von Osten's) praises.
“You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him participate in synchronized diving.”
Cuthbert Soup - “Another Whole 'Nother Story”
The mockery poured upon the Minister for those statements finally achieved Von Osten's goal. A panel of 13 “experts” was herded together; a veterinarian, a circus manager, a Cavalry officer, the Director of the Berlin Zoo, some school teachers and the psychologist Carl Stumpf, The panel ran Hans through his paces, and when faced with Han's 89.9% accuracy, came to the unanimous conclusion there were no tricks involved. That declaration even made the New York Times chuckle (“Berlin’s Wonderful Horse. He Can Do Almost Everything but Talk.”) The German government was now facing a night-mare of public humiliation. So before declaring himself mentally un-stable, Stumpf decided to go one step further. He asked his assistant, Oskar Pfungst, to put Hans through his paces.
I'd rather have a goddamn horse. A horse is at least human, for God's sake.
J.D. Salinger - “The Catcher in the Rye”
Pfungst designed experiments for Dr. Stumpf, and he now laid down four restrictions to begin a series of tests for Hans, to be conducted in the courtyard of the Psychological Institute of the University of Berlin. First Pfungst cut von Osten right out the herd. Then he put blinders on Hans, so he could only see the human asking the question. And then he varied whether the questioner knew the answer or not. The key turned out to this last bit. When the human was ignorant of the correct answer, Han's winning percentage dropped to just 6%. So Hans was only as smart as the human asking the question. That lead to testing the questioner. By closely watching the humans and not the horse, Pfungst found they were subtly and unconsciously tensing their muscles as Han's approached the correct answer, and showed a similar relaxation immediately afterward. Pfungst's theory was that Hans was watching for the same muscle clues he expected when a human was riding on his back. In his December 1904 report – "Clever Hans (the horse of Mr. von Osten) A Contribution To Experimental Animal And Human Psychology" - Plungst revealed, he could now “call forth at will all the various reactions of the horse by making the proper kind of voluntary movements, without asking the relevant question.” .
"Horse sense is the thing a horse has, which keeps it from betting on people."
W.C. Fields
But for me, von Osten's mane arguments were finally reduced to horse d'oeuvres when Pfungst used von Osten's techniques to train his own dog, Nora, to duplicate all of Hans' feats. Of course, having hitched his reputation to his halter-ego Hans, Von Osten bridled at the suggestion he was not a genius horse – Hans, that is. So he bolted for the exit - von Osten did, that is. He told a newspaper “one can hardly see in these experiments more than a kind of scholarly jest....” He retreated to his families' estate in Prussia. And there the bitter old man died, on July 3, 1909. He was buried at the Church of Zion (Zionskirchhof) back in Berlin
"If the world was truly a rational place, men would ride sidesaddle."
Rita Mae Brown
Hans, still as clever as ever, was adopted by Karl Krall, a wealthy jeweler in the west German town of Elberfeld. Krall was determined to prove Hans a genius, and the stallion continued to spend hours each day, now with two stall mates,  standing through interminable instruction and testing sessions. The horse genius was last heard of in 1916 when he was drafted, and probably died pulling wagons in World War One. Meanwhile, the "Clever Hans (in German “Kluge Hans”) Effect", still plagues researchers by producing false positive results by search, drug and bomb sniffing dogs, dolphins and primates used in language research and even human sufferers of autism. And I suspect it also occurs in contestants on American Idol.
"There are only two emotions that belong in the saddle; one is a sense of humor and the other is patience."
John Lyons
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Wednesday, March 02, 2016


I am not surprised at the behavior of Mary Ann Connolly , aka Pearly Poll, aka Mogg. That Wednesday morning, 15 August, 1888, the 50 year old alcoholic had been brought two miles from the environs of Whitechapel to the rear of the Wellington Barracks (above) to look at soldiers. And there she was an unwelcome stranger in a strange land. As the The Daily Telegraph pointed out, “The majority of the inhabitants of....Central London know as much about (Whitechapel) they do the Hindu Kush...” And the reverse was equally true.
Poll's carriage had rolled past St. James Park, an unimagined space to those surviving in the cramped brick and filthy cobblestone canyons of the East End. She had passed within yards of Buckingham Palace (above), the stone personification of authority, which had always brought disapproval and punishment to her.
Poll also knew another East End woman had come with the police detectives. They had kept the women separate, as if in her poverty Pearly Poll were not still enough of a women to sense men reacting to another woman's presence. The “manly” Poll felt judged, and the waves of disapproval radiating from the ranks of soldiers forced to line up for her inspection, did not improve her mood. So, in the words of Detective Walter Dew, seemingly at random Poll quickly picked out two soldiers “in a fit of Pique”. Both men proved to have iron clad alibis, and the entire expedition to the center of the British Empire by one of its lowliest members had been a waste of time.
The other East End woman brought out by the detectives was Jane Gillbank, of 23 Catherine Wheel Alley, Aldgate. She was at the Wellington Barracks not because the police doubted Pearly Poll – although Detective Inspector Reid mistrusted Poll's alcohol fogged mind - but because she had come to the Montague Street Morgue with her young daughter, to identify the victim. After viewing the body of the woman murdered on the George Yard stairwell, Mrs. Gillbank identified her as an old friend, Mrs. Withers, whom Jane had seen drinking with soldiers late on the Bank Holiday evening. But Mrs. Gillbank could not identify any soldiers in the parade, either.
So the Whitechapel police retreated from the skirmish at the Wellington Barracks, having inflicted no casualties on the Royal Guards, but at the cost of half their witnesses. Shortly thereafter Mrs. Withers re-appeared, fully alive and except for additional damage to her liver, perfectly healthy. The Whitechapel police could be forgiven if they were not overjoyed at Mrs. Withers resurrection, because it did little to confirm their victim's identity.
While there was still Pearly Poll's contention that the dead woman was named Emma Turner, there was yet another witness, one who struck Inspector Reid as more believable because she was not a friend of the victim, but an enemy.  Mrs Ann Morris, of 23 Lisbon Street, Miles End, had come to the Montague Street morgue in response to newspaper articles about the murder, and identified the dead woman as Martha Tabrem.
The widow Morris had once been Martha Tabrem's sister-in-law. But they had fallen out 13 years earlier when Martha blamed Ann for the breakup of her marriage to Henry Tabram.  Martha had then repeatedly harassed the widow, threatening Ann and demanding money from her. Police reports of verbal and physical assaults provided a preamble to Martha Tabrem breaking out all the windows in Ann's rented room. That offense had earned Martha a 7 day sentence at hard labor. Mrs. Morris's story thus offered a possible addition witness who might confirm the identify of the victim – Henry Samuel Tabram.
On Tuesday, 14 August,  the 45 year old Samuel Tabram had come to the Montague Mortuary independently, so it seems Martha's death was not a complete surprise to those who had loved her. Samuel had married Martha White on Christmas day, 1869. They had two sons, born in 1871 and '72, but in 1875 Martha's alcoholic deliriums, her disappearing for days on benders,  had driven Samuel to move out. When she had him arrested for abandonment, a judge ordered Samuel to pay her 12 shillings a week in child support. But after three years, with the money going to gin, Samuel reduced the payments to just 2 shillings. Martha had him arrested again, and the alimony payments were reinstated. But when Samuel found out Martha was living with another man, he cut off her payments entirely.
The new man proved to be 29 year old carpenter Henry Turner, and he now also identified the body as Martha Tabram, aka Martha Turner. Sammuel and Martha never divorced. Henry and Martha never married, but had been living together “off and on” since 1876.  Earlier in 1888, Henry had lost his job, and in July the carpenter had also reached the end of his patience with Martha's drinking. He told the coroner, "If I gave her money she generally spent it on drink. In fact it was always drink. When she took to drink, ...  I usually left her to her own resources, and I can't answer to her conduct then."  Henry last saw Martha on 4 August, on Leadenhall Street (above), when she accosted him and demanded money. He gave her a pound and a few pennies, but expected it just to go for more gin. Thus the police at last knew the name of their victim.
Ann Morris' story also confirmed at least part of Pearly Poll's version of the victim's last night on earth. At about 11:00 p.m., on the Bank Holiday, Monday, 6 August, 1888, Mrs. Morris had spotted Martha Tabram on Whitechapel Road, entering the White Swan pub. She took notice because she still had a restraining order out against Tabram. Their previous encounters convinced her to avoid the woman, and Mrs. Morris had quickly left the neighborhood. By Dr. Killeen's estimate, 4 ½ hours later Martha Tabram was dead, murdered by person or person's unknown.
Even in 1888 it was standard police thinking that the more violent the attack, the closer the victim and killer must be. In other words, passion diminishes with distance.  So the individual who slashed the throat of Martha Tabram 10 times, stabbed her in the chest 18 times, and left a three inch gash across her lower abdomen, had not merely disliked the woman. This had been no argument over money, or even an insult over the inability to perform sexually. The attacker passionately hated Martha, and had attacked her in frenzy. 
The two men with the most reason to hate Martha, Samuel Tabram and Henry Turner, both had firm alibis for the the night of 6/7 August. And both men had left her.  There was no passion left between them. 
And while it was evident to Inspector Reid that Ann Morris feared Martha enough to strike out in a frenzy, Martha was far larger than Mrs. Morris. And there were witnesses to Ann's activities during the hours when Martha had been murdered. But the violence of the attack, the passion that drove it, so bothered Reid and his superiors, that they could not let the matter rest.
Deputy Coroner George Collier called the jury back at 2:00 pm, 23 August, 1888, in the Working Lads Institute, on Whitechapel Road.  Inspector Reid now had evidence he wanted put on the record. 
Technically still married, Samuel Tabram made the formal identification of the body as that off his ex-wife Martha White Tabram. William Turner testified about the circumstances of his common law marriage to Martha, and their breakup in April. He could swear to her having been alive on Saturday 4 August, when she was then living at 19 George Street, Spitafields. Then Mary Bousfeld, aka Mary Luckherst, testified that Martha had been paying her rent for a bed at 4 Star Place. Martha had been earning money hawking matches on the street until six weeks before her death, when she had left, owing three weeks rent. Then Ann Morris testified to seeing Martha outside the White Swan Pub about 11:00 p.m. on 6 August.
The final witness was Pearly Poll, aka Moog, aka Mary Ann Connolly, who retold her story of meeting up with Martha, pub hopping for two hours, and last seeing Martha headed into George Yard with a soldier just before midnight, 7 August, 1888. “After a brief summing-up by the deputy coroner, the jury duly returned a verdict of "murder by some person or persons unknown." Detective Inspector Edmund Reid ended his report to his boss, Superintendent Thomas Arnold in the usual way. “Careful enquiries are still being made with a view to obtaining information respecting the case.”

It was standard bureaucratic language, which sounded important but actually meant nothing. Inspector Reid was tying up his paper work for the time being, because he was leaving on Monday for two weeks vacation to the coast of Kent. But while he was gone the case would be shaken by  two earthquakes. First the leadership of the the Metropolitan police force would suffer a serious blow, and second, the killer of Martha Tabram would strike again. And the murderer would show that he, at least, had learned from his first victim.
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Sunday, February 28, 2016

THE FIRST DAY Chapter Five

I think the smartest thing Daniel Tyler did that June – and he did a lot of very smart things the last 2 weeks of that month - was to not assert his authority on arriving in Martinsburg, Virginia. He was a Brigadier General and under orders to take command of the town 30 miles north of Winchester. But when he stepped off the train from Harpers Ferry at 8:00 that Sunday morning, 14 June, 1863, the 62 year old Tyler found Colonel B.F. Smith just leading the 1,200 man Martinsburg garrison out to face a rebel threat. Rather than create confusion on the eve of battle, Tyler sized up Smith in a glance, judged him competent, wished him good luck, offered to supply advice if asked, and concentrated on loading the last train out of town.
An hour later a rider appeared in front of the Federal lines with a note from sourful rebel Brigadier General Albert “Grumble” Jenkins (above), addressed to the “Commanding Officer U.S. Forces near Martinsburg”. The note demanded the immediate surrender of the town or threatened its destruction. The post script added: “An immediate reply is necessary.” Technically, the Federal Commander was Tyler. But the Mexican War veteran never hinted, then or later, that he should have answered. Colonel Smith did - after delaying for an hour to buy time. He told Jenkins, “ You may commence shelling as soon as you choose.”
It was now closing in on 11:00 a.m., and the old man who had spent a sleepless night on an express train out of Baltimore, still found the energy to supervise the loading of ammunition and food, and dispatching it to safety, while at the same time laying out a line of retreat for Smith and his soldiers. It is a testament to Tyler's cool competence that he marched into Harper's Ferry (above)  the next morning, Monday, 15 June at the head of all Colonel Smith's men. Tyler's reward for this display of cool professionalism was to be saddled with defending a place the legendary “Stonewall” Jackson himself considered indefensible.
Since 1761, when Robert Harper began operating his ferry where the Potomac River cut through the quartzite crests of the once towering Appalachian mountains, its junction with the Shenandoah River had been a magnet for power hungry people. Between 1801 when it opened, and 1861, when retreating federals burned most of it, the “U.S. Musket Factory” at Harpers Ferry built half a million weapons. But even after the factorty's destruction and looting in 1861, the site lost very little of its strategic importance. If you wanted to enter the fertile Shenandoah Valley from the north, you had to start at Harpers Ferry. And the fastest way to get there was on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.
By the start of the Civil War the B & O ran 380 miles of iron rails, beginning in Baltimore and running first to Fredrick, Maryland, where it touched the north shore of the Potomac River. Turning west for 12 miles the railroad squezzed around the base of the 300 foot tall Maryland Heights, before crossing to the southern shore at Harpers Ferry. 
The line then wound west through 11 tunnels and over 113 bridges to Piedmont and Grafton, Virginia before reaching the Ohio River at Wheeling. Branch lines drew in the produce from the rich farms of the Shenandoah Valley, and coal from the mines of western Virginia and Pennsylvania – 1/3 of the railroad's profits in 1861 came from transporting coal to northern factories. And even though northern military commanders were slow to realize the advantages of the B&O for moving troops, their political master were always sensitive to threats to corporate property.
However, the Rebels occupying Harpers Ferry found Federal artillery glowering down from Maryland Heights (above), which forced them to evacuate the town within months of its capture. But they captured it again during Lee's 1862 invasion of Maryland. They returned it after the failure at Antietam, but many assumed the rebels would be back this year, 1863. And after General Milroy's disastrous stand at Winchester, the new commander of Harper's Ferry, General Taylor, lacked the manpower to even be certain of holding the Heights.
Daniel Tyler (above) knew Harpers Ferry well. After graduating from West Point in 1819, the Connecticut native had specialized in ordinance, and in 1832 he was made "Superintendent of the Inspectors of Contract Arms." The next year he rejected every musket offered by private industry. His integrity so angered the industrialists that the following year, when Tyler was recommended for promotion to Chief of Ordinance, President Andrew Jackson appointed a business friendly southerner instead. In his letter of resignation, Tyler complained, “I have lost all ambition to be connected with the service where... the fact that a man was not born in the South was a bar to promotion."
But Daniel Tyler's brains and patriotism were never in doubt. As a civil engineer, he got rich saving 3 failing railroads from bankruptcy, the last being the Macon and Western, which paid 8% dividends under his direction. In 1849, when asked to explain why he unexpectedly resigned, he told the board of directors, “Gentlemen...You are educating your young men to hate the Union and despise the North, and the result will be a conflict within ten years, and in that event I mean to be with my family north of Mason and Dixon Line.” And he was, growing richer over the decade serving on 4 more northern railroads before the outbreak of war in December of 1860.
General Tyler (above) served with distinction at Bull Run, but a year of service outside Cornith, Mississippi, under the indecisive and untrustworthy General Henry Halleck broke his health and spirit. But the old man came back in the spring of 1863, and was dispatched to rescue the disaster Shenandoah Valley. At 7:00 p.m. on the Monday he took command at Harpers Ferry, Tyler telegraphed that the remnants of General Milroy's mismanagement had arrived. “I am sending everybody over to Maryland Heights... Our effective force not over 4,000 men.”
The cool head at Harpers Ferry soon showed it value. At midday, Tuesday, 16 June, Tyler told his boss in Balitimore, Major General Robert Shenck, “...rebel cavalry this side of Halltown (3 miles to the south west), (are) endeavoring to flank our pickets.” But by 9:40 that night he could reassure his superior, “We have not been attacked at Harpers Ferry. We have been threatened from the direction of Charlestown (6 miles to the southwest), but no rebel columns have advanced nearer...” Then, at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, 17 June, General Tyler was forced to telegraph his boss, “I am requested by Major General Hooker to (send) our infantry...(to) Noland and Haulings Fords. This is out of my command. Will you attend to it?”
It was a simple matter of chain of command. Brigadier General Daniel Tyler in Harper's Ferry, reported to Major General Robert Shenck (above) who commanded the VIII Corps headquartered 70 miles away in Baltimore. Tyler's orders came from Baltimore. Tyler's logistics – his supplies and reinforcements - came from Baltimore. 
And from Baltimore, Major General Shenck reported to General-of-the-Army Henry Halleck (above) in Washington, D.C..
Major General "Fighting Joe" Hooker (above) commanded the Army of the Potomac, which usually operated south of Washington, D.C.  But as the mercurial Hooker followed the Army of Northern Virginia north of the Potomac river, he was a lot closer to Harpers Ferry than Shenck was in Baltimore. And the increasingly panicky Hooker seemed determined not to understand he had no authority to issue orders to General Tyler.  Nor did the commander of 80,000 Federal infantry, artillery and cavalry seem willing to understand why Tyler's 4,000 men could not simply abandon Maryland Heights, to provide information to benefit Hooker. Fighting Joe's  inability to order about Tyler's paltry command became an obsession, to the point that the Major General went a little nuts – never a good thing in a field commander.
I am tempted here to remind you of what General Omar Bradly said – so I will. “Amateurs study strategy. Professionals study logistics.”
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