Thursday, August 25, 2016

Screenwriter Talbot Jennings: From Mutiny on the Bounty to the The Sons of Katie Elder [otd 8/25]

Talbot Jennings, ca 1935
Screenwriter Talbot Lanham Jennings was born August 25, 1894 in Shoshone, Idaho. The family moved first to Caldwell and then Nampa. He graduated from Nampa High School and started at the University of Idaho (UI). However, he left to join the Army, where he fought in five major World War I battles as part of the field artillery.

After the war Jennings married, worked a couple years, and then returned to the University. In 1924, he graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in English. He went on to earn an M.A. from Harvard and then studied at the Yale School of Drama.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.
In 1934, Jennings moved to Hollywood and almost immediately landed a plum assignment: to help salvage the screenplay for the grand MGM epic, The Mutiny on the Bounty. Talbot worked with two experienced writers and the three shared the Oscar nomination for the resulting script. The 1935 film, starring Clark Gable and Charles Laughton, won the Best Picture Oscar. That version is still – despite its historical inaccuracies – generally considered the best dramatic treatment of the story.

Talbot received another big job the next year: the film adaption of Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. John Gallagher, who wrote the Jennings obituary for Variety magazine, asserted that the result was “certainly the best adaptation of Shakespeare in Hollywood history.” The film garnered four Oscar nominations, although the screenplay was not so honored.

The writer next created the screenplay for Pearl S. Buck’s classic novel, The Good Earth. Jennings missed another Oscar nomination, but the film received five nominations altogether, winning for Best Actress and Best Cinematography. From 1936 to about 1940, Jennings worked for both Paramount and MGM, writing scripts for a number of big-name productions, with major stars: John Barrymore, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Henry Fonda, Dorothy Lamour, George Raft, Spencer Tracy, and others.

After that, he worked as a freelance writer, and his skills remained in demand in Hollywood for twenty years. Stars and co-stars in the productions he wrote for read like a who’s who of Hollywood stardom: Lee J. Cobb, Ava Gardner, Stewart Granger, Jack Hawkins, Susan Hayward, Janet Leigh, Virginia Mayo, Joel McCrea, George Montgomery, Agnes Moorehead, Maureen O’Hara, Tyone Power, Basil Rathbone, Michael Rennie, Robert Ryan, Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Taylor, Orson Welles, and on and on.

In 1946, he wrote the screenplay for the lush romantic drama, Anna and the King of Siam, starring Irene Dunne and Rex Harrison. Jennings received his second Oscar nomination for the scrip; the film garnered five nominations in all, winning two.
Paramount Pictures.

In 1959-1961, Talbot wrote four scripts for television episodes. He closed his career in 1965 with the story for the John Wayne movie, Sons of Katie Elder. Besides Wayne, he added Dean Martin, George Kennedy, and Dennis Hopper to his list of stars.

The Internet Movie Database lists 24 films or TV productions for which he wrote, plus five where he is shown as “uncredited.” He generally specialized in historical and western themes, for which his scripts were considered “more realistic than most.”

In 1960, Talbot also wrote a script for a film to commemorate the Idaho Territorial Centennial of 1963. It’s not clear if such a film was ever produced, however.

Jennings passed away in May, 1985.
References: Richard J. Beck, Famous Idahoans, Williams Printing, (© Richard J. Beck, 1989).
John A. Gallagher, “Obituary: Talbot Jennings,” Variety, New York (June 12, 1985).
“Talbot Jennings,” Internet Movie Database.
“Talbot Jennings Script Collection, 1926-1960,” Manuscript Group 186, University of Idaho archives (1960).

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Educator, Cultural Promoter, and Purple Heart Winner Sofia (Demos) Adamson [otd 8/24]

Youthful Sofia Adamson.
Educator and philanthropist Sofia (Demos) Adamson was born August 24, 1916 in Pocatello, Idaho. Her parents were Greek immigrants. The family later moved to Los Angeles, where Sofia’s mother reportedly “became the first Greek actress to perform in a Hollywood motion picture.”

After high school graduation, Sofia attended  the University of California at Los Angeles. She graduated from UCLA in 1937, with a B.A. in education. According to family tradition, she met her future husband on Saint Sofia’s Day, September 17, in 1938. She married George Athos Adamson the following year.

As it happened, George was then a professor at the Adamson School of Industrial Chemistry, located in Manilla, the Philippines. He was also Dean of the school’s College of Engineering. George’s cousin had founded the institution in 1932. Soon, they expanded the curriculum, and the school was granted university status – as Adamson University – in 1941.

After Sofia married George, the couple returned to the Philippines. She is credited with founding the school’s College of Education. In 1941, war clouds loom in the Far East – Japanese troops were heavily engaged in China and had occupied parts of Indochina. Sofia was recruited as a clerk-typist in General Douglas MacArthur headquarters (thereby freeing up a soldier to fight).  Her main job was to type up the General’s orders, including a mimeograph stencil master, for distribution to the units he commanded.

When the Japanese occupied the Philippines, Sofia was not interred with the other Americans because she was married to George, a Greek. When Allied troops liberated Manila, friendly fire inflicted wounds that would require years of successive surgeries to alleviate. (Over fifty years later, she received a Purple Heart in recognition of her former service.)

After the war, Sofia and George moved to Pasadena, California. There George conducted a very successful engineering business, while Sofia began a lifetime of enthusiastic and effective volunteer work. That included much service for Greek Orthodox churches in the Los Angeles area, as well as the International Christian Scholarship Foundation.

Pacific Asian Museum. Museum photo.
Sofia worked hard to promote the arts, being co-founder of the Pacific Asian Museum in Pasadena. She also founded, in 1971, the Philippine Arts Council at the Museum. She contributed time and money to numerous civic betterment programs in Pasadena and around Los Angeles.

Her autobiography, Gods, Angels, Pearls & Roses, was published in the U. S., Greece, and the Philippines. It “remains a steady seller in the [Pacific Asian] Museum Store.”

She received awards too numerous to list in full: a Gold Award for Excellence in Community Service from UCLA, an honorary Doctorate of Education from Adamson University, a Gold Crown Lifetime Achievement Award from the Pasadena Arts Council, a Boy Scouts Distinguished Citizen Award, and more.

George’s death in 2003 did not lessen Sofia’s commitment to philanthropy and volunteerism. Recalling her involvement with the Pacific Asian Museum, her obituary noted, “She remained a Founding Trustee for life and made her last contribution in person just 5 days before she passed away.”

Sofia died in May 2007.
References: About Adamson University, History and News, Adamson University, Manilla, The Philippines (2010).
Sofia Adamson, Gods, Angels, Pearls & Roses, American International Publishing, El Monte, California (1985).
“In Memoriam: Sofia Adamson,” Museum News Archive, Pacific Asian Museum, Pasadena, California (Summer 2007).
“Obituary: Sofia Adamson,” Pasadena Star-News, Pasadena, California (May 22, 2007).

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Traveler Joel Palmer Tackles Notorious Three Island Crossing [otd 8/23]

Joel Palmer. Oregon Historical Society.
On August 23, 1845, the small wagon train led by pioneer Joel Palmer approached the notorious Three Island Crossing, near today’s Glenns Ferry, Idaho. In his Journal, Palmer wrote, “The difficulties attending the crossing of this stream had been represented as being almost insurmountable; but upon examination we found it an exaggeration.”

Palmer was born in Canada to American Quaker parents. During the War of 1812, the family moved to New York state. Joel later formally became a U. S. citizen. In 1836, he moved to Indiana, where he served two terms in the legislature.

Somewhat skeptical about glowing descriptions of Oregon, he decided to make a scouting trip to verify, he said, “by personal observation, whether its advantages were sufficient to warrant me in the effort to make it my future home.”

Palmer kept very good notes along the way. After providing a description of many features around the Soda Springs, he said, “Companies wishing to remain for a length of time at the springs, would pursue a proper course in driving their cattle over the river, as good grazing can thereby be had.”

Much of Palmer’s text concerned the nature of the trail itself. The “sandy plain” east of the Fort Hall bottomland proved to be “very heavy traveling.” Beyond the Fort, they crossed a succession of creeks, some of which were dry, or nearly so. Commenting on the country around Goose Creek, he said “The road we traveled was very dusty, and portions of it quite stony.”

Palmer took a careful and systematic approach to fording the Snake River at Three Island Crossing. He described in great detail the track to follow to minimize the force of the current and safely negotiate potholes in the river bottom. “We commenced crossing at eleven o'clock, A.M., and at one o'clock, P. M., we effected the passage of the stream, and were so fortunate as to land our goods free from all damage.”

Six days later, Palmer wrote, “We traveled … to Bois river, a stream of forty or fifty yards in width, and abounding in salmon; its banks are lined with Balm of Gilead timber. The bottoms here are two or three miles wide, and covered with grass.”

The “Balm of Gilead” poplar was probably more familiar to Palmer than the very similar black, or “cottonwood,” poplar that actually grows along the Boise river.

The travelers reached The Dalles about five weeks after the Crossing. While the party skirted the south flank of Mount Hood, Palmer made the first recorded climb of that mountain. Palmer traveled extensively through the settled areas and found them to his liking.
Rev. Henry Spalding.
National Park Service.

He even made his way to Reverend Spalding’s mission at Lapwai [blog, November 29]. There, he and some companions traded for Nez Perc├ęs horses. Palmer wrote, “They have made considerable advances in cultivating the soil, and have large droves of horses, and many of them are raising large herds of cattle.”

Palmer and a party of other men returned east in the spring of 1846. His Journal, published the following year, proved to be a very popular Trail guidebook.

After seeing to the publication, Palmer returned to Oregon, this time with his wife and family. He later played a significant role in the development of the state of Oregon, serving in both houses of its legislature. He died in 1881.
References: [Brit]
Joel Palmer, Journal of Travels over the Rocky Mountains, 1845-1846, reprinted, Reuben Gold Thwaites (ed)., in Early Western Travels, Vol.  XXX, Arthur H. Clark Company, Cleveland (1906).
“Joel Palmer (1810-1881),” Oregon Biographies, Oregon History Project, Oregon Historical Society (2002)
“Notable Oregonians: Joel Palmer – Pioneer/Writer,” Oregon Blue Book, State of Oregon (2009).

Monday, August 22, 2016

Freighter, Stockman, and Legislator William Allison [otd 8/22]

W. B. Allison. H.T. French photo.
Salubria stockman and Idaho legislator William B. Allison was born August 22, 1845 in Glasgow, Ohio, about 60 miles south of Akron. The family moved twice before coming to Idaho: to Illinois in 1854, and Iowa the following year.

In 1863, the Allison’s settled in the Boise Valley, where William’s father Alexander took up a homestead. He apparently also filed a homestead through one of his sons because the Illustrated History said his farm encompassed 320 acres. That same year, William B. found work as a freighter, helping to drive a wagon train from Omaha to Salt Lake City. For the next five years, he freighted in Idaho, and three more times drove trains into the Rockies from the Omaha supply depots.

In 1868, William claimed a homestead in the Salubria Valley. In November of that year, he also got married. The following year, Alexander moved the rest of the Allison family to a spot about a mile north of where the son had settled. For over twenty years, William and his growing family lived in a log home while raising top-grade Hereford cattle, Berkshire hogs, blooded horses, and sturdy mules. Then, in 1891, he replaced the old structure with a larger, more modern dwelling.

The core of his acreage would soon become a part of the village of Salubria. However, after the railroad reached the Salubria Valley in 1899-1900, Cambridge Station quickly grew into a town.

By the end of the century, William owned over five hundred acres of excellent farm and ranch land. His farmland furnished produce for local consumption, and he also raised grain to improve the diet of his stock. His holdings would eventually expand to over eight hundred acres.

He took a strong interest in politics and in 1879 was persuaded to serve a term in the Territorial legislature. While there, he introduced the bill that split Washington County from Ada County. (Weiser became the new county seat.) He did not again venture into elective office until 1893, when he served a term in the State House of Representatives. Three years after that, he was elected Assessor for Washington County.

For years Allison was a staunch Republican. However, like many farm-country people he took up the Silver Republican cause in 1896. The Idaho Statesman reported (August 16, 1896) on the county-level convention, which selected Allison as a delegate to the state Republican convention. The article said, “The convention, by a vote of 20 to 2, passed a resolution indorsing [sic] the course of the state Republican party in supporting the cause of silver regardless of party lines. … The delegates selected are all strong silver men.”

He returned to his first adherence when the Silver Republican party folded.
Cambridge Station. Cambridge Commercial Club.

Salubria was still considered a viable town when Allison passed away in 1914. However, by then Cambridge had drawn much of the important business away. In fact, the only Salubria Valley newspaper had moved to Cambridge right after the Station opened.

Allison had been very active with the Masons, so his funeral service was held in the Cambridge Masonic Hall. The railroad ran a special train from the main junction at Weiser so Lodge members could attend the funeral. The service was declared to be “the largest ever seen in Cambridge.”
References: [Blue], [French], [Illust-State]
“W. B. Allison Passes Away,” The Midvale Reporter (October 8, 1914).

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Dr. Edward E. Maxey and Research on Spotted Fever [otd 8/21]

Dr. Maxey. H. T. French photo.
Prominent Boise physician Edward E. Maxey, M.D, was born August 21, 1867, in Irvington, Illinois, about sixty miles east of St. Louis, Missouri. His father, also a physician, served in the Civil War and then moved the family to Caldwell in 1887.

In 1891, Edward graduated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Chicago, and followed up with post-graduate work.

After his studies, he returned to Caldwell to open a practice. While there, he acted as a Resident Surgeon for the Oregon Short Line Railroad. He also served as Coroner for the city of Caldwell. When the legislature split Canyon County off from Ada County in 1892, Maxey was appointed as the first county Coroner. He then ran for and was elected to the position.

Dr. Maxey moved to Boise in 1902, but was apparently associated with the Canyon County Coroner’s position for several years after that. He wrote and signed the post mortem report for Albert K. Steunenberg [blog, Sept 11] after Albert's death in 1907. The following year, he went overseas to Vienna, Berlin, and London to further his medical education. He returned to Boise early in 1910 and opened a practice as an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist.

Dr. Maxey was a Charter Member of the Idaho State Medical Society, serving several terms as its Secretary and a term as President in 1901. He was also a member of the American Medical Association, several organizations related to his specialty, and acted as Surgeon General for the Idaho National Guard. During World War I, he served as a major in the U. S. Army. Then in his fifties, Dr. Maxey supervised a base hospital in Wyoming (Idaho Statesman, Boise, April 22, 1919).

Along with his general and then specialist practice, Dr. Maxey took an active interest in medical research. He was one of several physicians in the Boise Valley who began the systematic study of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever [blog, March 30]. Collectively, these Idaho doctors gave the first clinical description of the disease, and provided some idea of how it spreads – the “vectors.”

In the summer of 1899, Maxey presented a paper on the disease at a medical conference in Oregon. A few months later, the manuscript of that presentation became the first paper about the disease to be published in a medical journal.
Maxey’s Spotted Fever Map. Reproduced in Hammersten.

Nine years later, he presented a paper at a Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Symposium sponsored by the Idaho Medical Association. During the intervening years, research had suggested ticks as a primary vector for the infection. Maxey collected a considerable body of data from all across Idaho. He found that around 92 percent of the reported cases affected people who lived “an outdoor life.” In 1913, Maxie wrote a chapter on the disease for a well-known medical reference book.

Dr. Maxey moved his practice to Aberdeen, Washington, on Grays Harbor, in 1925. He had a heart attack and died in his office there, in August 1934 (The Oregonian, Portland, September 2, 1934).
References: [French], [Illust-State]
James F. Hammarsten, “The Contributions of Idaho Physicians to Knowledge of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever,” Transactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association, Vol. 94 (1983).
Ed. E. Maxey and (unreadable), Post Mortem Findings at Examination of A. K. Steunenberg, hand-written report, Caldwell, Idaho (March 18, 1907).
Marshall W. Wood, “Spotted fever as reported from Idaho,” Report of the Surgeon General, U. S. Army, 1896, Government Printing Office (1896).

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Wildfire -- "The Big Burn" -- Ravages North Idaho [otd 8/20]

On August 20, 1910, serious forest fires in and around Northern Idaho “blew up” into arguably the worst wildfire in U. S. history. More than anything else, weather conspired to set the stage for this catastrophe, starting as winter rolled into spring. April brought record temperatures to the Bitterroot Range along the Idaho-Montana border.

May … June … July … barely any rainfall and unprecedented heat turned the great forests into gigantic tinderboxes. By early August, scores of fires burned in the Coeur d’Alene National Forest and across the border in western Montana. Lacking manpower, despite the recruitment of thousands of new firefighters, the Forest Service asked for, and received, help from the Army.
High winds leveled some trees before they could burn.
Library of Congress.

Depending upon your definition of what constitutes a separate fire, the area still had two to three thousand blazes burning by August 17-19. Yet, after weeks of brutal effort, officials felt they were finally turning the corner.

All that changed on the 20th when an eruption of hurricane-force winds roared in from the west. Within minutes after the blast hit, sparks turned into flames, thickets of smoldering brush became boiling infernos, and burning trees virtually exploded. Crown fires roared up hillsides and over ridges in seconds, it seemed.

Within no more than hours, all those separate fires in northern Idaho and western Montana became one monstrous conflagration – “the Big Burn.” Walls of flame engulfed vast expanses of forest that had hardly been touched before.

Firefighters armed only with hand tools – shovels, axes, hoes, crosscut saws, and perhaps a few buckets – could do little to affect their own fate. Fickle wind shifts killed blocks of men by the dozen, by the score, or horrifically alone. Sometimes men desperately fighting the inevitable won: a providential blast turned the flames aside and spared them. Men threw themselves into the streams; better to drown than be burned alive.

Where there was no fire, ash and black smoke created a surreal landscape and darkened the sky. Reportedly, smoke blocked the sun a hundred miles into Canada, in Denver, and even as far east as New York state.
Wildfire devastation in Wallace. Library of Congress.
Finally, after perhaps 36 hours of aptly-named Hell, the wind relented and light rain began to fall. Residents of Wallace could hardly believe their luck; relief came in time to save all but a third of their town. A number of other villages weren’t so fortunate.

By most accounts, 85 people died in the flames: seven “civilians” and 78 firefighters. No one even tried to count the toll levied on the animals living in the forest. Some three million acres of forest burned. Thousands upon thousands of tree that escaped the flames died from the intense heat and loss of foliage. Loggers salvaged perhaps ten percent as lumber, the rest was slowly cleared and burned.

A full discussion of the aftermath of the Big Burn is beyond the scope of this article. However, to this day, experts are still debating how to best manage fires in our national forests.
References: John Galvin, “The Big Burn: Idaho and Montana, August 1910,” Popular Mechanics (July 30, 2007).
Javi Zubizarreta, “August 20: The Day the Fires Burned,” Outdoor Idaho, Idaho Public Television (2010).

Friday, August 19, 2016

Philo Farnsworth, Inventor of the First Practical Television Recorder [otd 8/19]

Inventor and television pioneer Philo T. Farnsworth was born August 19, 1906 in Beaver County, Utah. The family moved to a farm near Rigby, Idaho during World War I. There, Philo set off on the path that would earn him the designation as “the father of television.”

Farnsworth accomplished much in his lifetime, despite seemingly endless fights in patent court. The whole story is beyond the scope of this article (but is readily available). Here, I will focus on a few interesting points.

A stack of popular science magazines in the attic of their new home helped Philo learn more about electricity and electro-mechanical devices. Primitive “tele-vision” – distant transmission/viewing of images – was one of the fascinating topics of the day.
Farnsworth, right,
with his former high school teacher.
Philo T. Farnsworth Archives.

By the time he entered Rigby High School, Philo had already exhibited a firm grasp of practical physics, especially electrical phenomena. As the story goes, he devised a better way to record images for transmission while plowing a field in regular back-and-forth rows (lines). However, the complete account involves rather more than that simple idea.

His science teacher at Rigby High School, Justin Tolman, soon recognized the young man’s aptitude and encouraged his pursuit of knowledge. It was he who first learned of Philo’s new approach.

Back then, typical television “cameras” employed a mechanically rotating array of mirrors to focus snippets of an image onto a photocell, which converts photons (light) into flowing electrons … electricity. Without going into all the physics, the electrical response shows how bright the light is. The electrical signal is then transmitted through some distance to a display system. Since Philo’s innovation involved the recorder, not the display, we’ll simply take the viewer as a given.

Mechanical cameras are bulky and require a high degree of precision in their manufacture. In operation, they tend to be noisy, and dust, wear, or mechanical malfunctions hopelessly cripple the synchronization between recorder and display.
Farnsworth’s conceptual sketch. Philo T. Farnsworth Archives.

Farnsworth’s accomplishment was to devise a way to electronically record the picture. His innovation combined several crucial features. Instead of directing snippets of light onto a small photocell, the camera captured the entire picture on a plate coated with photosensitive material. He placed this photosensor inside a vacuum-sealed cylinder, so the electrons generated flew off (were emitted) into empty space.

Philo's device then focused the electrons emitted from a small region – we now call it a pixel – onto an electrode that measured the electrical signal. A simple controller selected pixels one after another to form a line of dots crossing the photosensor horizontally. As in the plowed-field analogy, a series of parallel dot-lines growing from top to bottom covered the entire screen.

Because the device operated electromagnetically – no moving parts at all – the entire picture could be recorded many times each second … and “electronic” television was born.

Ideas similar to Farnsworth’s design had been considered by others, but he was the one who put all the pieces together, and made it work. He passed away in March 1971. Today, the city of Rigby bills itself as the “birthplace of television,” and sponsors the Farnsworth TV & Pioneer Museum.
References: [Brit]
Richard J. Beck, Famous Idahoans, Williams Printing, (© Richard J. Beck, 1989).
Donald G. Godfrey, Philo T. Farnsworth: the Father of Television, University of Utah Press (2001).