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Mar 14 1903


The Montreal Herald, Saturday, March 14, 1903

Speed of Motors

C.M.H., Westmount - 1. Are there any regulations in force in European countries regulating the speed of motor carriages or automobiles? 2. What country holds the championship at present for speed competitions of automobiles?

Ans. 1 and 2--The cup given as the championship prize of the world for motor contests is at present held by an Englishman. In England the speed of the automobiles is limited by law to twelve miles an hour. Throughout the rest of Europe and in America greater speed is allowed. It has recently been pointed out that this twelve mile an hour maximum speed limit now in force in England is unnecessarily slow for a country road, where when little traffic is passing a twenty-five mile speed would be safe; while on the other hand the regulation speed would be dangerously fast for crowded city streets. The present law would also render it impossible to hold the contest for the championship in England. It has been suggested that a more effective regulation would be to affix heavy penalties for accidents caused by fast or reckless driving, leaving the rate of speed to the discretion of the driver. It is stated that when adequate and skilled service is employed that an automobile may not only be stopped with greater certainty than a fast horse but with much more celerity.

Sight Without Eyes

The British scientists appear to be inclined to discredit absolutely Prof. Stein's claim to have invented a mechanical contrivance which when fixed on the head of a person transmits sight sensations direct to the brain, or in plain English makes it possible to see without eyes. The unscientific public has become too well accustomed to the miracle of modern science to be more than mildly surprised at the announcement even of such an astounding achievement as this, but is not, of course, in position to pass an opinion upon its possibility.

This skepticism of the sage, however, whether it is well founded or not, recalls a similar discouragement which met Mr. Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, before the value of his discovery became generally recognized. The incident has not heretofore, I think, found its way into print.

After long years of patient experimenting at his home in Brantford, Ont., Mr. Bell considered that he had sufficiently perfected the mechanism of his instrument to warrant his attempting to put it on the market. After numerous unsuccessful efforts to get Canadian capitalists interested in his invention, he finally secured the support of that distinguished statesman, Mr. Geo Brown. At the time that it was brought to his attention, however, Mr. Brown, was about to visit England. He, therefore, decided before definitely committing himself to the enterprise, to get the opinion of some of the leading men of science in Great Britain. The result of his consultations were cabled to his Brother in Toronto as follows: "British scientists say telephone can never be anything but a scientific toy. Drop all negotiations." Mr. Bell was in despair. Ultimately, however, with the assistance of his fiancée's father, a wealthy Boston gentleman, the telephone was financed, and most of those eminent scientists probably lived to recognize themselves as false prophets.

The Power of the Joke

Caroline Ticknor - Writing in the Atlantic, speaks thus of the power of the joke:

"Men who fear nothing else shrink from a joke upon themselves. Soldiers who do not flinch before opposing guns dread to be made ridiculous. Woe to the national hero who makes one trifling mistake, which may subject him to clever caricature! His meritorious career is henceforth shadowed by one colored illustration. A comic paper will tip the scales of justice, snatch the victor's prize from his extended palm and rob the orator of choicest laurels. A brilliant satire will mar the fortunes of the greatest statesman; a laugh will turn the tide of a political convention.

Indeed, the joke is fast becoming mightier than the pen. The orator has learned its value, and even the clergyman resorts to it when he desires to stir the flagging interest of his flock. It furnishes sufficient excuse for the impertinence of children, and in its name the daily papers deride the highest national dignitaries."

The topic is a suggestive one. It has long been recognized that into a single cartoon is often compressed an argument which could not be set forth half as effectively in several columns of reading. And the concise completeness of what might be called a world cartoon makes it equally effective. One typical example comes to my mind at the present moment. That witty Irish preacher, Rev. Wm. Patterson, speaking recently in Montreal on "fishers of men" said in the course of his remarks, "When you want to catch fish you don't sit down and have some old lad read a paper on The origin of fishhooks." Could a dozen paragraphs have expressed more emphatically or clearly the speaker's opinion of the value of antiquarian research to practical religion?

A Clever Swindle

One of the cleverest swindles that I have heard of for a long time was recently perpetrated on a St. Petersburg jeweller. Two richly-dressed women drove up to the establishment in a fine turn-out, with coachman and footman in liveries, and entered the shop. One woman selected a quantity of jewellery worth $40,000, while the other, who appeared to be her paid companion, looked on. The former gave the name of one of the best-known bankers in the city, who she said was her husband, and suggested that she should take the jewellery to him for his approval, and leave her companion in the shop. This was agreed to, and the lady drove off in her carriage with the valuables. Three-quarters of an hour later men entered the shop and informed the jeweller that the supposed banker's wife was a swindler, and that they were detectives. They immediately arrested the companion as an accomplice, and hurried her off, ostensibly to the police station. When the jeweller went to the police office he found that the whole affair was a neatly-planned robbery, and that nothing whatever was known there of the alleged detectives.



(The editor of this column invites readers of The Herald to contribute questions of a literary, scientific or miscellaneous nature, which will be answered as space may permit. The contributor's name and address should be given, but only initials or a nom de plum will be used for publication.)

Burial or Cremation

J.F.T., Cornwall, Ont - 1. State the opinion of some eminent authority on the two ways of disposing of dead bodies. 2. Into what elements are dead bodies resolved?

Answer-1 and 2. Right Hon. Sir Lyon Playfair, F.R.S., speaking on this subject of the disposal of the dead, says:

"Whether decay or fire destroys corpses matters not to the dead, but it matters exceedingly to the living. We are bound so to dispose of the dead that they shall not injure the living during the process of resolution of the body. Burial when properly performed is as innocuous a form of disposing of the dead as burning. If the coffin be of a perishable nature, if the soil be dry and porous, if the graves be not too crowded, they are resolved into air and into ashes as certainly in three years as they are in a furnace in the course of an hour, and in both cases without injury to the living."

But, he says, that in cemeteries where the ground is moist twenty years are sometimes not sufficient for the change. It is now know with certainty that dead matter of all organized beings passes into air for the most part, and but a small part into ashes, which remain in the soil. The changed products of the dead, which pass into carbonic acid, water and ammonia, are the food of plants, which, under action of the sun, mould them into new forms of organic life. The animal when dead becomes a plant, and the plant in turn helps to form a new animal. This process may be retarded, but cannot be defeated finally.

Thus the bodies of the Egyptians preserved for centuries as mummies are gradually dissolving into thin air in museums. The all-surrounding air absorbs the waste of the living and the products of the dead. The materials of our living bodies have come chiefly from the air, and to the air must they return. Animals, which feed on flesh, convert it into aerial ingredients in about twenty-four hours, just as the crematory produces the same gases in one hour. But a small portion of the dead body is absorbed by the living one, and retained, and even this goes back to the air in time.

The Parsees bury their dead in the Towers of Silence, allowing vultures to devour the body, which in half an hour is reduced to a skeleton. The bodies of the vultures become temporary tombs but in twenty-four hours the constituents of the dead body have passed through them into the air.

On religious grounds some object to cremation. Yet they would not deny that martyrs burned at the stake or devoured by wild beasts were as certain of a resurrection as those Christians who died in their beds and were buried. Socrates, when asked by his friends whether he should prefer to have his body burned or buried replied that his friends might adopt either mode; only he wished them to remember that they were not burning or burying Socrates, he having the strongest faith in immortality.

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The development of this website was directed by Mary Anderson, Ph.D. and Janelle Baldwin, M.A.
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