...NEWCASTLE UNITED’S OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPHER INVENTED THE CAR WINDSCREEN WIPER AND ORGANISED THE FUNERAL OF THE ‘RED BARON’.
Gladstone Adams was born on the 16th May, 1880 in a terraced house on St Ann’s Row in Ouseburn, Newcastle Upon Tyne. The life that Adams would go on to lead might, if one was so inclined, make for an appraisal of the accomplishments of one’s own life. Such was the variety of industry and achievement of Gladstone Adams that any comparison would inevitably fall in favor of his life over one’s own. Consequently, this short blog post is written to highlight, rather than explore, a couple of interesting vignettes in the life of Newcastle’s Gladstone Adams.
Photograph taken by Gladstone Adams in his capacity as Newcastle United's official photographer
After an apprenticeship with professional photographer William Auty, Adams decided to open his own studio in Whitley Bay in 1904. He began to document local life with his camera - from the launch of RMS Mauretania into the River Tyne in 1907, to the lives of everyday Geordies. His talents led to him being appointed the official photographer of Newcastle United Football Club. In 1908 Adams drove down to London in his 1904 Darracq to cover Newcastle United’s FA Cup final against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Crystal Palace Park. Newcastle lost 3-1 that day and a dejected Gladstone Adams had to drive back home in his open-top Darracq car. To make matters more miserable, it began to snow. After several stops and attempts to clean his windscreen, he hit upon an idea: a contraption that would wipe the windscreen while driving. Thus, upon his return to Newcastle (albeit three years later) Adams filed a patent that detailed, what is recognisable as, a windscreen wiper. Unfortunately for Gladstone Adams, his version of the wiper was never manufactured - that distinction went to American inventor Mary Anderson. Nonetheless, the original prototype for his wiper is on display in Newcastle’s Discovery Museum.
The prototype of Adam's windscreen wiper being held by John Clayson of the Discovery Museum in Newcastle Upon Tyne
When the First World War erupted in Europe, Adams became a reconnaissance photographer for the Royal Flying Corps. On the 21st April, 1918 the 25 year old Manfred von Richthofen - the Red Baron - was shot down over Morlancourt Ridge near the Somme. One of the first on the scene was Gladstone Adams. Once identified as Richthofen, Adams was asked to photograph the body in order that these photographs be used as propaganda across Germany; the death of Germany’s greatest soldier would, it was hoped, shatter morale. Despite this, the Australian Imperial Force - from which the bullet that killed the Red Baron appeared to have been fired - gave the felled flying ace a celebrated funeral. Gladstone Adams helped to organise this funeral and can clearly be seen directing the pall bearers in footage from the time.
The destroyed plane of Manfred von Richthofen - the Red Baron
The body of the Red Baron was photographed by Gladstone Adams
Although there is little written about Gladstone Adams, his life was rich and full of incredible achievements - only three of which are briefly touched upon here. Perhaps, as a Geordie of historical importance, it might be time to devote some greater energies in the direction of this man.
Dr. Elliott L. Watson
...many words we use in english originate from the arabic language.
There are well over 300 million native Arabic speakers in the world and Arabic is an official language in over 20 countries. However, it may come as a surprise to learn that some of the words which we use in the English language today originate from the Arabic. A study of the etymology of many words with mathematical meanings and connotations will reveal that their root is in Arabic, even though they are now used in English. Here are ten words - they all begin with the letter 'A'. In some cases, they were adopted into English from intermediary languages, having already been borrowed from Arabic. So, let's take a look!
Did any come as a surprise? There are many, many more, such as Jumper, Giraffe and Candy, to name but a few. The history and evolution of languages is a complex, yet entirely fascinating one. Etymology really is something to get excited about!
...How to avoid execution for any crime in the Middle Ages
The system of justice in the Middle Ages was rather complicated. If you committed a crime there were an array of ways in which justice could be dealt to you. If your crime was minor (a trespass as it was then known), such as not paying rent or petty theft, you would find yourself in a local manorial court run by the local lord. For more serious crimes such as murder, serious theft and burglary of goods over 12 pence(!) you were more likely to face the King’s justice, which could be rather severe; all of these crimes were capital offences if committed by any over the age of 10, and those found guilty would be hanged.
There was one sure-fire way to avoid this fate however; alongside this manorial and royal systems of justice ran the Church courts. If you were a member of the clergy, you escaped the King’s justice and would be tried by your fellow churchmen. Here punishments tended to focus more on penance. Though standing in the village square in nothing but your smallclothes sounds far from pleasant, it certainly sounds preferable to hanging.
Surely this was only open to real members of the clergy though?
Wrong. ANYONE could claim benefit of the clergy. The ‘proof’ if one can call it that was merely the ability to read a passage in latin. Still think that sounds tough as you had to learn latin? Wrong again. There was a set passage, which became known as the ‘neck verse’ that was used to test this. Hence, even if you could not speak latin, you could learn psalm 51 (below) by heart and then simply recount it when the bible was placed in front of you to test whether you were indeed clergy.
Miserere mei, Deus, secundum magnam misericordiam tuam;
et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum, dele iniquitatem meam.
Amplius lava me ab iniquitate mea, et a peccato meo munda me.
Quoniam iniquitatem meam ego cognosco, et peccatum meum contra me est semper.
So there you have it, the simple route to avoid execution even if you commit murder in the Middle Ages. I hope you never need it.
...the english language includes many words from the languages of the indian subcontinent?
British links with the Indian subcontinent go back a long, long way. The East India Company (EIC) was founded in 1600, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. By 1763, victory in the Seven Years’ War meant that the enduring colonial power in the region until the twentieth century would be Britain, rather than France or Spain. In 1858, following the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the Crown took possession of India from the EIC. The subsequent ‘British Raj’ lasted until 1947 when India gained independence from the British Empire.
To be sure, the English language has evolved over time, often as a result of British interactions with people from other geographical locations and cultures. Anyone who has studied Shakespeare or studied the Norman Conquest will no doubt be aware of that! Given the extensive history of the British in India, it is perhaps unsurprising to learn that many words used in the English language are actually of Indian origin. Here are just a few of them. Some might well surprise you ...
Punch (as in the drink)
It is clear, therefore, that history has made its mark on the English language.
...That pigeons helped win wwii.
While back in the UK over the most recent holidays my family and I were in the vicinity of Bletchley Park and so, as an indulgence to me, we decided to pay a visit. On visiting I was expecting to learn some nuggets about the mechanics of ciphers, codebreaking or the mechanics of the early calculating machine, the bombe. However, that my takeaway memory was provided courtesy of the Royal Pigeon Racing Association was something of a surprise.
Attaching small messages to a bird in the form of a scroll and then allowing the bird to fly home has been a method of sending messages for a long time. Records of this date back to the Romans and possibly the Persians, but this practice has disappeared more recently than you might think.
Pigeon post was very widespread in WWI and the stories of some of the more famous birds like the wooden-legged Cher Ami, are relatively well known. As a History teacher I have included them in lessons on WWI. Students are very often to hear of the scale of animals’ involvement in WWI with horses being the ‘backbone’ of transportation through much of the war; indeed the war saw the death of some 8 million horses!
After WWI however, surely the widespread adoption of radio, telephone lines and technology made such ‘old-school’ methods as homing pigeons redundant? Not so, as I discovered to my surprise. During WWII, a conflict which saw such incredibly advanced technology as the atomic bomb, pilotless V2 rockets and radar, pigeons still played a mainstream role. Something of the order of 250,000 birds were used by the UK alone. Each and every RAF bomber took one with them on missions! Nor was this a solely British phenomenon, with virtually every nation and theatre of war seeing their widespread use.
One could argue that this shows we should not discount analogue solutions so readily and, as I did, assume technology renders them otiose. However, it also serves to remind me that you never know what you will find as you get out and explore the History on your doorstep.
To discover more about the role of pigeons in war visit https://www.rpra.org/pigeon-history/
...your ancestors could choose death by crushing instead of entering a plea in court! but why would they?
If your English ancestors stood trial for a crime in a court of law prior to 1772, the potential punishments - if convicted - could be extremely severe. For instance, when the Gunpowder Plotters were convicted of ‘high treason’ against King James I, they were hung, drawn and quartered. The potential punishments for those convicted of a crime during the Tudor and Stuart era could include - but were not limited to - being beheaded, death by hanging and being put in the stocks, depending on the severity of the crime committed.
If prosecuted in a court of law for a capital offence (e.g: murder or treason) during the reign of King George III or a monarch preceding him, your English ancestors would have been faced with a simple choice. To plead ‘guilty’ or ‘innocent’ of the stated crime. Right? Actually, it’s wrong!
The choice of plea facing the accused at the start of the trial was not actually a simple binary between ‘innocent’ on the one hand and ‘guilty’ on the other. There was a THIRD option! This is where things get slightly complex. We can safely assume that a plea of ‘guilty’ in a trial for a capital offence would have meant almost certain conviction, death and the subsequent forfeiture of all land and property owed to the Crown. A plea of ‘innocent’ would have either resulted in the previous outcome or, if one was lucky, an acquittal (although this was unlikely in treason cases as these were often a fait accompli).
The third option would have appealed to those with significant estates and wealth. To avoid the seizure of all property and estates by the Crown, the accused could refuse to enter a plea. This could result in what was known as peine forte et dure. In English, this meant ‘hard and forceful punishment’. This involved the defendant being subjected to crushing by increasingly heavier rocks; the idea being to elicit a plea from the defendant, which would then result in the trial being resumed. However, if the accused perished during the ‘crushing’ process, they would technically die as an ‘innocent’ person. Therefore, the ‘next of kin’ could inherit the wealth of the deceased, rather than it being seized for the Crown. So, until 1772, the wealthier the defendant in a capital offence, the more incentive they had to refuse to enter a plea. The past was indeed a strange place.
Patrick O'Shaughnessy (@historychappy)
Every Briton who has studied the Tudors would be able to tell you that the first Tudor King, Henry VII, became King because he killed Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth. Thus far they would be correct, but if they were to say this ended the Wars of the Roses they would be wrong on a number of counts.
Firstly, and perhaps most simply, the Battle of Bosworth was not the last battle in the struggle between York and Lancaster. Even after Henry had married Elizabeth of York in 1486, thereby supposedly uniting the two Houses, he had to fight to hold his throne. In 1487, with Henry having been on the throne for two years, a sizable Yorkist army of 8,000 was mustered, sailed from Ireland to Lancaster and thence marched into the Midlands. This army was gathered in support of the claim of Lambert Simnel (or Edward of Warwick if we believe the “pretender’s” claims). Simnel’s forces were comprehensively beaten at the Battle of Stoke, but clearly Bosworth was not the conclusive end to the conflict between the two Houses which is in our popular imagination.
Moreover, even the Battle of Stoke cannot be considered the end of the struggle. This is not just because there were further pretenders to the throne, such as Perkin Warbeck, championing the Yorkist cause, but rather because the Wars of the Roses never happened.
In Henry VI Part 1, he has nobles pluck a flower as a badge of their allegiance:
Let him that is a true-born gentleman
And stands upon the honour of his birth,
If he suppose that I have pleaded truth,
From off this brier pluck a white rose with me.
Let him that is no coward nor no flatterer,
But dare maintain the party of the truth,
Pluck a red rose from off this thorn with me.
I love no colours, and without all colour
Of base insinuating flattery
I pluck this white rose with Plantagenet.
I pluck this red rose with young Somerset
And say withal I think he held the right.
However, the white and red roses were not universal symbols of Lancaster and York in the mid fifteenth century. Instead, the white rose was only one of many symbols associated with York; with the yellow sun being more common and Richard I fighting under a white boar. For Lancaster there is even less evidence of the red rose being a defining symbol. Instead, the Lancastrians tended to fight under royal coats of arms, with only the household servants using the red rose for demarcation. Henry VII seemingly adopted the red rose out of symbolic convenience when he married Elizabeth of York. Thus allowing him to create a visual symbol of the union of the Houses in the Tudor Rose.
By using the term the Wars of the Roses, we then are unwittingly utilising and propagating Henry VII’s propaganda. He would be very happy to hear us use it, even if those who lived through the Wars themselves would be rather perplexed.
…THAT KING HENRY VIII DID NOT HAVE SIX WIVES.
Ok, hopefully that got your attention.
It is mostly the case that the study of History requires a degree of contextual empathy that is often lacking in the manner by which the subject is taught - particularly when that subject is a supposedly ‘well known’ one. As in the case of King Henry VIII. Too often we are guilty of examining the subject from our ‘future’ vantage point and looking backwards in time, examining it, if you will, at a ‘contextual distance’ and not from the contingent perspective of the time occupied by the subject. It is often easier to merely repeat the basic historical tropes - Henry VIII had six wives - than it is to evaluate their authenticity. Putting it in a simpler form, if you were king Henry VIII, in the 16th Century, how would you have replied to the following question, presuming that it had been put to you at the end of your reign: “How many wives did you have, sire?”. The authentic reply would most likely have been, “I have had three wives”.
Without exploring the semantics embedded within the language of marriage too deeply, the key difference (as I see it) between the History we can often be taught in school versus the contemporary experiences as they were lived at the time, is distilled perfectly, microcosmically-speaking, in the difference between two words: annulment and divorce. Only one of these are we routinely taught when exploring Henry and his ‘wives’: divorce.
A divorce is the legal dissolution of a valid marriage - an acknowledgement that there used to be a marriage, and always will have been one in the eyes of the law and therefore of history; an annulment, is a legal recognition that a marriage was never valid in the first place and thus never actually existed - both legally and historically. Of course, the language of annulment is very clearly designed to create a legal and historical ‘resetting of the clock back to zero’, so that whatever follows, maritally-speaking, will always take precedence over what has gone before. Which, technically, is nothing.
Cardinal Wolsey laboured unsuccessfully to get Henry an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Thomas Cromwell was able to get the annulment, but ultimately fell foul of Henry's executioner.
Both Thomas Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell expended great energies navigating the legal language of their king’s ‘marriages’. And with particular reason. The semantic and legal tenor of the word 'annulment' was incredibly helpful for King Henry because he needed to void any claim of Mary (the child he shared with Catherine of Aragon) and Elizabeth (the child he shared with Anne Boleyn) to the Tudor throne. He needed a male heir - which was provided to him by Jane Seymour the moment she gave birth to Edward.
And so, if Henry had been asked in the year of his death how many wives he had had, he almost certainly would have replied (particularly having irreparably altered the legal and religious landscape of England by his marital maneuverings) that his first wife was Jane Seymour, his second was Catherine Howard, and the third and final was Catherine Parr. He would, no doubt, claim that he had never actually been married to either Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn or Anne of Cleves. Legally, and thus historically, speaking, he never was.
By saying that Henry had six wives instead of three, while simultaneously using the historically redundant noun ‘divorce’ in our teaching of the subject, we may be guilty of historical laziness at best, or historical disingenuity at worst.
Dr. Elliott L. Watson
On 4 July 1776, the Thirteen Colonies of British North America withdrew their allegiance to King George III in the Declaration of Independence. The fighting that ensued between the British and the American Patriots was bitter, costly and was considered to be a ‘civil war’ by the British. Hence, no British Army regiment was ever awarded battle honours for their role in the conflict. The American Revolutionary War rumbled on until 25 November 1783, when the final remnants of the British Army were evacuated from Manhattan, New York.
However, while the Declaration of Independence accuses the British King of establishing an “...absolute Tyranny over these States”, you may be surprised to learn that six of the original thirteen colonies of British North America took their names from British monarchs.
Therefore, in a sense, the connection between America and its former monarchy lives on (in name only), some 243 years after independence.
Patrick O'Shaughnessy (@historychappy)
...the black death was actually a good thing
If you know anything about the Black Death, it is most likely that it was a horrible disease that killed huge numbers of people right across Europe a long time ago. This is certainly true, but did you know that (so long as you escaped the illness) it actually hugely improved life for most people in Britain?
In the year 1348 a terrible condition began to strike people in England and rampaged through the nation for the next four years. A contemporary description by Giovanni Boccaccio gives us a graphic view of the horrors of the disease which
“began both in men and women with certain swellings in the groin or under the armpit. They grew to the size of a small apple or an egg, more or less, and were vulgarly called tumours. In a short space of time these tumours spread from the two parts named all over the body. Soon after this the symptoms changed and black or purple spots appeared on the arms or thighs or any other part of the body, sometimes a few large ones, sometimes many little ones. These spots were a certain sign of death, just as the original tumour had been and still remained”
To catch the disease was clearly extremely painful and unpleasant, but also fatal in most cases. Estimates of the casualty rate in England range from one third of the population to roughly half. On a national level it was a disaster. This was perhaps most obvious for those who caught the disease. However, with such a high mortality rate everybody would have close family and friends struck down and been affected in the most harrowing way.
Yet, the survivors of the disease actually found their lives materially improved in the second half of the fourteenth century. With such a high proportion of the population removed, and therefore the available pool of labour shrunk radically, peasants, as the majority of the population were, found themselves in demand. Statistical data is inevitably patchy, but the laws passed by the government in the wake of the Black Death reveal the increased value in peasants’ labour.
The Ordinance of Labourers, a law of 1349, stated that when hiring workers
“no man pay, or promise to pay, any servant any more wages, liveries, meed, or salary than was wont, as afore” (before the plague)
As well as attempting to freeze wages the Ordinance also placed a price freeze on staple foodstuffs such as meat, fish and bread as well as the price that could be charged by skilled craftsmen such as smiths.
Fortunately for the labourers of England, evidence suggests this law was unsuccessful. It was followed up by another legal attempt to restrain prices in 1351 called the Statute of Labourers, but neither of these seem to have had a large impact; as many economists will tell you, market forces can be hard to control. In his seminal work Making a Living in the Middle Ages, Chris Dyer states that “the rise in wages was at first modest, and striking improvement often came in the last quarter of the fourteenth century”.
So there it is. If you were an agricultural labourer, as most Englishmen were, and you survived the Black Death, you could gain a little more coin for your hard labours and perhaps find it a little easier to put food on the table for yourself and your family.
News from Patrick (@historychappy), Elliott (@thelibrarian6) & Conal (@prohistoricman)