ERWIN A. “NIMROD” ROBERTSON


 The only grievance of his being was that he couldn’t drink his hot tea with them! The story of these "wild teeth" spread and led to the telling of a tall tale of Robertson killing a bear, making the teeth, and eating the bear with its own teeth! Catalog Number UA73-009-0001


The only grievance of Robertson’s was that he couldn’t drink his hot tea with them in! The story of these “wild teeth” spread and led to the telling of a tall tale of Robertson killing a bear, making the teeth, and eating the bear with its own teeth!

Turns out, they belonged to Erwin A. “Nimrod” Robertson, an early Alaskan pioneer from Maine who settled along the Yukon near Eagle in 1898.  His reason to venture to the Klondike Gold Rush was to raise $1,000.00 to build his aluminum flying machine and start a flying business.  He used his homemade teeth, forged from an aluminum pot lid set with a mix of carved sheep, caribou, and bear teeth, for about 25 years.

Over the forty years he spent in the Eagle area, he had many occupations including placer mining, dentist, jeweler, as well as serving on the Eagle Common Council, Chief of Police, marshal, magistrate, and attorney.  Because of his inventive genius, he was an all around tinkerer, making inventions and fixing things for people.  “Nimrod”, an endearing nickname given to him, was quite the resourceful genius and the teeth were just one of his many inventions.

He made hunting blades from large wood files that were tempered by a secret processes.  It was said that these knives would trim the corrugation off a silver dollar as easily as an orange peel with a paring knife.  He was well known for his gold puzzle rings and would give it away to anyone who could take it apart and put it together again within a specified time.

This is the motor to "Nimrod's Bird Machine". “To lift, or rise, and propel itself through the air by up and down strokes of its wings as a bird. Power for moving wings to be supplied by specially designated gas engine or by specially adapted commercial gasoline engine” (According to Robertson's own description of his invention) Catalog Number UA79-004-0001

Catalog Number UA79-004-0001
“To lift, or rise, and propel itself through the air by up and down strokes of its wings as a bird. Power for moving wings to be supplied by specially designated gas engine or by specially adapted commercial gasoline engine” (Robertson’s own description of his invention)

In our collections we also have an aluminum motor that he fabricated to go along with an early airplane he engineered called “Nimrod’s Bird Machine” that he had patented in 1892 or 1894.

Another of his creations is a famous and impressively accurate 60”x 80” relief map of the Eagle area, which he constructed from newspaper, magazines, hematite and moose blood.  The map was sent to Seattle in 1909 for the Alaska-Yukon Exposition and again in 1962 for the World’s Fair.  Today it’s on display at the Eagle Historical Society & Museums.

At 81 years old, in 1940, he decided to make a prospecting trip to his placer mines at Seventy-mile, Alaska.  The weather that November quickly turned on him. Realizing he was short of provisions and would unlikely make it home, he pulled up his parka hood and lay to rest, under dripping water.  Later, his body took a week to chip out of the ice and he was buried at the Eagle Cemetery.

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Col. John T. Wilder

John T Wilder.jpg  wiki

Col. Wilder was the commander of the "Lightning Brigade" during the ACW.  He went to great lengths to equip his elite soldiers with the most modern firearms which effected the whole history of firearm manufacturing.  He first tried the Henry Rifle but despite holding a LOT of bullets the early rim-fire .44 ammunition was rumored to be so weak that at rifled musket range it would bounce off the Confederate wool uniforms.  Next he tried the Spencer Repeating Rifle with its more robust .56-56 rim-fire round despite the US Army's attempts to prevent these repeating rifles being issued.  His brigade became extremely effective foreshadowing future wars. 

After the ACW he ran iron foundries in Tennessee and was elected mayor of Chattanooga. 

Fearless French Mary

Born Marie Brose in France, Marie Tepe had emigrated in her youth. She followed her tailor husband into the war. Image courtesy of USAMHI.

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Lesser Known Civil War Celebrities – Fearless French Mary (Marie Tepe)

One of the most versatile fighters of the Civil War was likely someone you never heard of, nor was she born in America. Our next Civil War celebrity to be celebrated in our series is one of the few women who fought in the Battle of Gettysburg, and she bravely supported the Union army even though it was prohibited for women to enlist in either army. Join us in remembering “Fearless French Mary” in our second “Lesser Known Civil War Celebrities” spotlight.

Marie Brose was born in Brest, France in 1834 and immigrated to the United States in the 1840’s. She married a local Philadelphia tailor named Bernhard Tepe, who joined the Union army when the Civil War broke out. Being the strong-minded woman that she was, she ignored her husband’s request to stay at home and oversee the shop, and instead followed her husband as he joined the 27th Pennsylvania Volunteers.

Acting as a vivandiere, a French word that describes women who accompany their spouse’s regiments in action, Marie administered aid to troops, cooked, did laundry, provided water, and sold provisions including whiskey in combat areas within range of Confederate fire.

John Moses Browning

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Simply the most successful gun designer of many of the world's most successful and long lasting firearms. 

Ned Kelly

A bush ranger, bare knuckle fighter, criminal, subject of movies, and most famous for his bullet proof armor.

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      Nathan B. Stubblefield  (1860 - 1928)


      There seems to be a good deal of conflicting information about this man from the State of Kentucky.  But we do know that he publicly demonstrated a working wireless telephone on January 1, 1902.  A former neighbor stated, in 1935, that he was part of a test of the invention as early as 1892.  Stubblefield entered into a partnership to commercialize his invention, but withdrew when (and here's one of the places where things get hazy) he concluded that his business partners were more interested in perpetrating stock fraud than delivering a working product.

      Stubblefield used both ground conduction, and magnetic inductance for different versions of his telephones.  They appeared to use ordinary telephone sets connected to additional apparatus.  His induction based "telephone capable of mobile use" was granted U.S. patent # 887,357.

      He also invented an "Earth Battery", which he claimed drew additional power from the ground compared to an ordinary battery.  As far as I can tell, this battery works by the conventional principle of dissimilar metals separated by an electrolyte, like many other batteries did, and still do.  This design was granted U.S. Patent # 600,457.

      Stubblefield is generally credited with some eccentric behaviors, including being extremely secretive about his inventions.

      Even his cause of death is disputed.  Many claim that he starved to death, but other information points to a heart ailment.

Cpt. Sir Richard Francis Burton

Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton KCMG FRGS; 19 March 1821 – 20 October 1890) was an English explorer, geographer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer, and diplomat. He was famed for his travels and explorations in Asia, Africa and the Americas, as well as his extraordinary knowledge of languages and cultures. According to one count, he spoke 29 European, Asian and African languages.

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Madame Ching Shih

Ching Shih

madame Ching Shih was one of the most feared pirates of all time was this menace of the China Sea. Born in humble beginnings as Shi Xiang Gu, she was working as a prostitute when pirates captured her. In 1801, she married the notorious Chinese pirate Zheng Yi (a.k.a. Cheng I), who came from a long line of fearsome thieves. Yi's Red Flag Fleet was immense, made up of 300 ships and somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 men. But all this was at risk of falling apart when he died on November 16th, 1807.

Gu became known as Ching Shih, which meant widow of Zheng. She was quick to seek the backing of her in-laws in her bid for leadership of the Red Flag Fleet. To help her maintain the day-to-day concerns of a sprawling pirate army, Ching Shih enlisted the help of Chang Pao, a fisherman's son who had been adopted by Yi. They proved a great team, and by 1810 the Red Fleet is said to have grown to 1800 sailing vessels and 80,000 crew members. To manage so many, Ching Shih essentially set up her own government to establish laws and even taxes. Yet she was no soft touch. Breaking her laws lead to decapitation. She was revered and feared as far away as Great Britain.

In 1810, Ching Shih and her fleet considered getting out of the piracy business when amnesty was offered. However, to get it a pirate must bend the knee before government officials. This was considered a sign of shameful surrender, but Ching Shih found a clever way to compromise. With Pao and 17 women and children in tow, she marched into the office of official Zhang Bai Ling, and asked that he marry her and her first mate. He did, and the newlyweds knelt to thank him. Ching Shih retired with her dignity and all her ill-gotten loot, which some have suggested makes her the most successful pirate of all time. She lived to the age of 69.

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Elijah "the Real" McCoy

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Holder of 57 patents mostly having to do with self-lubricating steam engines allowing them to run faster and father between maintenance.  Parts of his patents are still incorporated in manufactured internal combustion engines. 

RR workers preferred his inventions so much over previous technology that they insisted on only "the real McCoy." 

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Robert Fortune

When the East Indies Co. wanted to break the Chinese monopoly on tea they needed a plant hunter, a gardener, a thief, a spy. The man Britain needed was Robert Fortune. Fortune was the agent sent to sneak out of China the plants and secrets of tea production and start the Indian tea industry. 

He was attacked by pirates, he was attacked by bandits, he encountered all kinds of disease and storms, and he also goes in Chinese disguise, dressed up as if he were a wealthy Chinese merchant.  His memoir captured the imagination of Victorian society.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Fortune

I am just seeing a blank too.

      Isambard Kingdom Brunel.  (1806 - 1859)

      It's hard to believe there isn't an entry about him here yet.  The man scored #2 in a poll to select the "100 Greatest Britons".  Winston Churchill was #1.  (Although others elected to the list are modern pop culture icons, and one is even a fictional character, King Arthur.  Queen Victoria only made #18.)

      He was an architect, civil engineer, designer of bridges and tunnels that are still in use today, creator of The Great Western Railway, with its superior broad gauge (7' - 1/4") track width, and designed the steamships Great Western, Great Britain, and Great Eastern, all of which were revolutionary in their day.

      He cheated death several times during his life, but it still got him at a relatively young age.

      I feel that there should be an entire TV series devoted to his accomplishments, and maybe even a steampunk fictionalized account of his life, where he has cracking good adventures!  Heh.

      There's no way I can even begin to present more detailed information about him in this context, since there's just so much to say.

      His personal motto was "Go Forward!"  And in the CR&A universe, I have credited him with "Brunel's Theorem", which states "When in doubt, make it bigger!"  His broad gauge, and the Great Eastern are some of the inspirations for this.

      Read about him.  I doubt you'll be disappointed.

     Wilhelm Reich , an unlikely candidate.  He was born in 1897, in what is now part of the Ukraine, but was then part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and is probably best known for his contributions to what is now regarded by some, like me, as the pseudo science of Freudian psychoanalysis.  But he went far beyond this area, delving into the fringes of biology, weather modification, and the foundations of life itself!

      First, let me explain why I think Reich qualifies as someone who can be seen as a steampunk type of scientist.  Despite doing all of his work in the 20th century, his approach was decidedly more in keeping with the conventions of the 19th century.  He did experiments, made observations, and formulated broad, sweeping theories based mainly on his intuition, rather than work within the boundaries that were then established.

      He claimed to have discovered what he called "bions", a sort of middle ground between life, and non-life, from which living cells could develop.  (Most people then, and now, believe that his cultures were simply contaminated with pre-existing bacteria, which seems very likely to me, but Reich dismissed this notion.)

      He came to the United States in 1939, and began to promote his most amazing, or ridiculous, depending on one's point of view, concept.  That of Orgone Energy.  Orgone energy is similar to chi, or perhaps the Star Wars concept of "The Force", in that it is created by, and exists in all living things, permeates the universe, and can effect the well being of all life.  If you were to ask Reich the age old question of "Why is the sky blue?"  he would say because the sky is full of orgone energy, and orgone energy is blue!  He once met with Albert Einstein, and demonstrated a way to observe orgone energy.  Einstein was intrigued at first, but suddenly changed his attitude, and dismissed orgone energy as metaphysical claptrap.  Why he did so remains unclear to this day.

      Reich's experiments with orgone energy led to the development of "orgone accumulators".  These were basically boxes in which a person would sit, and be bombarded with concentrated orgone radiation.  Persons who used them claimed they delivered beneficial results.  One of his customers thought it was complete nonsense, but liked the fact that his wife would sit in it for two or three hours a day, so he could get some peace and quiet!

      Reich also attempted to determine how ionizing radiation would affect orgone energy.  The result was was a wholly detrimental result which he called DOR; Deadly Orgone Radiation!  Supposedly, dark clouds of DOR hovered over his compound, and were making people sick!  In order to disperse them, he developed a device he called a "Cloud Buster".  This was a number of metal cylinders, aimed at the clouds, tied together at the bottom with a metal cable, which was then "grounded" in a body of water.  Reich claimed it was totally effective!  He also claimed it could be used on any types of clouds to disperse them, or aimed at a clear sky to form clouds, and make rain!

      I have seen a documentary which shows a man hired as a "rainmaker" who uses a modified cloudbuster to end a drought.  He failed.  But it did rain in a neighboring county, which is completely in keeping with Reich's descriptions of how the device can work.

      Reich was sent to prison for selling orgone accumulators by the Food and Drug Administration, and died there in 1957, of heart failure.  His will stipulated that all his records, and other papers be sealed away for 50 years after his death.  They are available now, but I haven't found any books written that include this information at this time.  I have read three books about him, which form the basis for this article.

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