08 April, 2018

The 1889 Tintypes: Noah Ezekiel and Ruthie Ezekiel

Tintype of Noah Ezekiel and Ruthie Ezekiel. 1889.
Courtesy of the Deakin Archives, Mifflin University.

Our online exhibition returns to the Deakin Archives as we present our next photograph from 1889. In doing so, we introduce two very important and significant individuals from the histories here chronicled.  Our fourth featured tintype showcases Noah Ezekiel and his sister Ruthie Ezekiel.

Noah and Ruthie were born into slavery in Union County, South Carolina; Noah in 1855 and Ruthie in 1857.  They and their older brother Zed were orphaned in early 1865 as General William T. Sherman was marching his Union army through the Carolinas.  The trio fled their plantation in early February of that year and found themselves in nearby Columbia just as the city surrendered to Sherman.  During the subsequent, infamous and still controversial burning of Columbia, Noah and Ruthie became separated from Zed and fearfully assumed he had perished in the mayhem and destruction.  The pair were rescued by Union soldier Captain William Carr of the 10th Illinois Infantry and taken under his care.  They accompanied him to Chicago where he was mustered out in July of that year.

Noah and Ruthie remained in Chicago and survived largely on their own for the next eight years, adopting their late father's name Ezekiel as their surname.  Notable is that the two possessed remarkable intellects that even slavery, racism and discrimination could not suppress. Earlier in their lives they taught themselves to read with a stolen Bible, and later each became especially adept at learning skills in mathematics, mechanics and engineering.

During the summer of 1873, while working as a stagehand at Chicago's McVicker's Theatre, Noah met Magnus Maddock and his daughter Falynne.  Maddock, known famously as the European stage magician the Grande Hyperion, was performing at the theater. Noah and Ruthie immediately took to respectfully deconstructing the Maddocks' carefully and artfully created illusions, and then subsequently suggesting enhancements and designs of their own.  Taking no offense, father and daughter disregarded social conventions and invited the siblings into their repertoire where they stayed for the remainder of the Grande Hyperion's American tour.  In October, Noah and Ruthie accompanied the Maddocks back to London where they also fell under the tutelage of Berkley Vanderzee and Geoffrey Hawkins.

The exhibited tintype features older and certainly more seasoned depictions of Noah and Ruthie Ezekiel.  The photo was taken by Robert Deakin as members of the Society of the Mechanical Sun were preparing to confront Enoch Cyncad in his underground stronghold.  Behind the siblings is what appears to be a Hawkins Steam Coach. This tintype is the first and perhaps only photographic record of the vehicle.

12 March, 2018

The 1889 Tintypes: Timothy Deakin and Falynne Hyperion

Tintype of Timothy Deakin and Falynne Hyperion Deakin. 1889.
Courtesy of the Deakin Archives, Mifflin University.

We have long been remiss in noting that two members of our historical cast of characters enjoyed a relationship that extended well beyond their mutual involvement and membership in the Society of the Mechanical Sun.  Timothy Deakin and Falynne Hyperion were married on 31 August, 1885.  We formally acknowledge this matrimonial status as we present our latest exhibit relating to the series of 1889 tintypes discovered within the Deakin Archive.  Our third featured tintype showcases the then Mr. and Mrs. Deakin in what is most certainly a rather non-traditional portrait of a Victorian-era married couple.

As with the other 1889 tintypes, the photograph was taken by Robert Deakin as members of the Society of the Mechanical Sun were preparing to confront Enoch Cyncad in his underground stronghold.  Timothy Deakin is brandishing an æther-modified flintlock, one of twelve produced in the late 1870s by Hyperion in collaboration with Geoffrey Hawkins and Berkley Vanderzee.

10 March, 2018

The 1889 Tintypes: Berkley Vanderzee

Tintype of Berkley Vanderzee. 1889.
Courtesy of the Deakin Archives, Mifflin University.

Scientist and inventor Berkley Vanderzee is the subject of our second exhibition relating to the 1889 tintypes discovered as a part of the Deakin Archives.  This tintype is especially significant in that it confirms that Vanderzee did in fact lose his right arm and ultimately replaced it with a rather sophisticated æther-powered mechanical prosthesis.

"Based on numerous written accounts, we knew that Vanderzee lost his right arm in an accident that occurred in his automaton laboratory during the summer of 1885," notes Archer Bowens, Documents Archivist for the Victorian Mechanical Museum. "We had encountered some written references to experiments with æther-based replacement arms, but the tintype is the first visual confirmation of his use of an actual mechanical device."

As with the other 1889 tintypes, the photograph was taken by Robert Deakin as members of the Society of the Mechanical Sun were preparing to confront Enoch Cyncad in his underground stronghold.  The image shows Vanderzee standing near two combat modified IA Æther Collectors.  The intelligent automations were originally created by Vanderzee in the early 1880s for the purpose of extracting æther from remote and inaccessible deposits in caverns and catacombs deep beneath London. They appear to have been retrofitted with æther-powered particle beam cannons.

06 March, 2018

The 1889 Tintypes: Geoffrey Hawkins

Tintype of Geoffrey Hawkins. 1889.
Courtesy of the Deakin Archives, Mifflin University.

After a number of recent 20th century explorations, we return to the 19th century to showcase items from the Deakin Archive.  Archive curator Matthew Alexander has provided us with a series of photographic tintypes that date to the summer of 1889. The images prominently feature members of the Society of the Mechanical Sun as they prepare to confront Enoch Cyncad in his underground stronghold.

A tintype was an early photographic process by which an image was produced by creating a direct positive on a thin sheet of metal coated with a dark lacquer.  The metal sheet then provided support for the resulting emulsion.  Tintypes were widely used during the 1860s and 1870s and remained in use well into the early 20th century.  The format became especially popular due to its portability and ease of use in settings beyond a normal indoor studio.

The 1889 tintypes discovered in the Deakin Archive were likely created by Robert Deakin.  Our first featured image in the series presents Geoffrey Hawkins as he navigates an underground tunnel.  He is clad in a kind of improvised battle outfit and carrying a rifle-type weapon.  Devon Gillroy, Firearms Curator for the Victorian Mechanical Museum, clarifies, "Hawkins is armed with a æther-modified blunderbuss which could blow a hole in the side of a brick building.  In the underground setting, he likely used it for demolition in addition to assault and defense."

07 February, 2018

Item 110: Tomorrow Comics #1

The eccentricities of a retired newspaper reporter, and the potential dangers those eccentricities presented, are showcased in Collection Item 110.  The item designation encompasses a copy of issue #1 of Tomorrow Comics, published in May of 1939, and a typewritten letter found tucked within the comic's pages. The comic book was enclosed in an envelope addressed to G. Thomas at 3975 Main Street in Munhall, Pennsylvania and bearing a Los Angeles postmark of 28 August, 1939.

The retired newspaper reporter in question is Adler Fanshaw, whose association with the Society of the Mechanical Sun and the Hawkins Strongbox histories spans parts of both the 19th and 20th centuries.  Fanshaw gained admission to the secret organization in late 1882, shortly after he assisted Timothy Deakin rescue Deakin's younger brother Jack from criminal underlings working for Dr. Enoch Cyncad. Fanshaw moved to America in 1921 and in his retirement wrote pulp fiction for various publications.  As noted in a recent exhibit here, his Rocket City series of stories was adapted into three successful movie serials in the early 1940s.  With the Strongbox discovery of Tomorrow Comics #1, it is revealed that Fanshaw was also writing scripts for comic books as well.

Archer Bowens, Documents Archivist for the Victorian Mechanical Museum, was instrumental in discovering and deciphering the contents of the Fanshaw Envelope (Collection Item 111) which revealed evidence of Fanshaw's superficially disguised, Mechanical Sun inspired storytelling.  Bowens notes, "We were aware of Adler's short fiction, most notably what was published in Starling Stories.  But it never came to our attention that he was doing comic book work as well."  He adds, "Even though the comic book credits never include his first name, the Sparky Elektro story in Tomorrow Comics #1 leaves no doubt that the comic book Fanshaw and Alder Fanshaw are one in the same."

Tomorrow Comics was published by Lake City Periodicals, a small magazine company based in Chicago.  Issue #1 featured the debut of Sparky Elektro, a superhero who could "harness the raw power of electricity itself." The untitled story is credited to Fanshaw and Brooks and is highly derivative of names and places relating to the 1939 New York World's Fair.  The name Sparky Elektro is a direct lift from Elektro the robot, the premiere attraction at the fair's Westinghouse pavilion.  The story itself takes place at the fair and the fictional Robot Exhibition Building is based on the design of the actual Westinghouse pavilion.
Fanshaw's indirect but obvious allusions to the Society of the Mechanical Sun are reflected in the characters of "evil scientist Dr. Sin-Cad" and "scientist and businessman Bernard Zeevander," derived from real life counterparts Enoch Cyncad and Berkley Vanderzee.  The story focuses on Sin-Cad's attempt to steal Zeevander's World's Fair robots and then unlock the secret of the mysterious energy source that powers them.  It is a reference to Berkley Vanderzee's  æther-powered intelligent automata and Enoch Cyncad's  numerous attempts to appropriate them.
"Adler struggled with an obvious paradox for most of his life," observes Bowens. "How does one reconcile being a dedicated journalist, always striving for truth and transparency, and at the same time commit to the secrecy of a covert society of scientists whose discoveries and inventions were newsworthy beyond measure? Later in his life he could contain it no longer and it emerged in the form of pulp fiction and comic book adventures."
Fanshaw likely considered these fictionalizations benign and harmless, but the material most definitely alarmed other Society members, as indicated by the typewritten letter found tucked inside the comic book:
   Please pardon the impersonal nature of the typewritten missive but my arthritis has been paining me beyond measure these last few weeks.
   Why am I forwarding to you a child's comic? I can only relate to you my shock when little George was reading aloud from its stories. I hear him cite the names Sin Cad and Zeevander. Upon examining the comic more closely, it appears that the story is a veiled reference to events we have strived to obscure for the past half century. We have long been worried about Adler's sometimes dangerous eccentricities, and this most certainly validates those concerns. He did not even bother to conceal his own name in the publication.
   We have warned him repeatedly in recent years about tangible threats. We know that the Germans are actively searching for Society secrets and this has the potential to compromise the safety of our family and friends. But he continues to ignore all attempts at contact or correspondence. A personal visit, perhaps?
   Share with me your thoughts,
The letter is significant and reveletory in many ways.  It appears to confirm that Geoffrey Hawkins was indeed the same G. Thomas who received the 1939 World's Fair Postcard (Item 107) and that Hawkins was very much alive and well almost three decades after his mysterious disappearance in 1911.  The address in Munhall, Pennsylvania is just a few miles from the location where the Hawkins Strongbox was discovered in 2003.  The Los Angeles postmark and signature "T." would indicate that the letter and comic book were sent to Hawkins by Timothy Deakin.  Deakin was living with his son Everett in southern California at the time.  Bowens notes, "The reference to the Germans seeking Society secrets is a notable and intriguing avenue of research we will need to explore further." 

The tangible threats that Deakin references eventually caught up to Fanshaw shortly before his death in 1953, as documented by the aforementioned Collection Item 111: The Adler Fanshaw Envelope.  Whether Cameron Starkweather specifically followed these same comic book breadcrumbs to Fanshaw is as yet to be determined.

02 January, 2018

Curator's Notes: Ted Hawkins in Hollywoodland

Hollywoodland Magazine.  September 1940.

Stepping away from the Strongbox for a moment, we are today presenting additional material and information that relates to the recent exhibit of the Collection Item 317: The Rocket City Lobby Card 1942.  In that post, we introduced visitors to Ted Hawkins, grandson of Geoffrey Hawkins.  Fortunately, we do not have to rely on the contents of a secure strongbox to provide further details and ephemera about this most interesting gentleman.

Ted Hawkins began his film career as a stuntman at Republic Pictures in the mid-1930s.  In 1939, family friend Magnus Deakin offered Hawkins similar work at the fledgling Hyperion-Zephyr Productions. In early 1940, Hawkins landed the leading role of Captain Zephrim Cutlass in the chapter serial The Pirates of Blood Cove and was quickly on a path to stardom.  Later that year he completed two western films, The Timberjack Kid and Riders of the Desert Sun, and then starred in the fifteen episode serial Zephyr Squadron to the Rescue.  His dashing good looks and friendly nature made him a darling of the Hollywood press, despite his poverty row studio pedigree. In September of 1940, he was featured on the cover of Hollywoodland magazine.
Publicity Photo of Ted Hawkins. 1940.

Hawkins is best known for portraying Preston Powers in the three Rocket City chapter serials produced from 1942 to 1945. In the late 1940s, he starred in a series of well regarded crime dramas that are now considered minor classics of the film noir genre. He made his last film in 1953 and then quietly retired to live near family and friends in western Pennsylvania.