A Look Back at 1905

German born mathematical atomic physicist Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955).  (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

German born mathematical atomic physicist Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955). (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

If a vote were taken by the sages of science on the most momentous and significant year in the history of scientific theory 1905 would have to rate either at or near the top. 1905 has been dubbed “The Miracle Year” by the great minds of science for in 1905 an obscure student and patent clerk in Switzerland named Albert Einstein wrote four remarkable papers one of which was called “The Theory of Special Relativity”.


According to the Smithsonian:

“Over four months, March through June 1905, Albert Einstein produced four papers that revolutionized science. One explained how to measure the size of molecules in a liquid, a second posited how to determine their movement, and a third described how light comes in packets called photons—the foundation of quantum physics and the idea that eventually won him the Nobel Prize. A fourth paper introduced special relativity, leading physicists to reconsider notions of space and time that had sufficed since the dawn of civilization. Then, a few months later, almost as an afterthought, Einstein pointed out in a fifth paper that matter and energy can be interchangeable at the atomic level specifically, that E=mc2, the scientific basis of nuclear energy and the most famous mathematical equation in history.”

Einstein was 26 years old at the time and had only recently submitted his doctoral thesis to the University of Zurich yet his papers challenged the ideas and theories of both Galileo and Newton and changed science and how we understand the world. Unfortunately science is a double edged sword and, though Einstein’s work led to many dramatic and life changing advances in science, his theories were also successfully applied to produce the atomic bomb. In later life he came to regret his genius and said:

“If I had foreseen Hiroshima and Nagasaki in would have torn up my formula in 1905.”

NickelodeonEntrance first movie theatre pittsburg

The first movie theatre was opened by Harry Davis in Pittsburgh in 1905. Called the Nickelodeon it was an immediate success: From a Pittsburgh history site:

“In June of 1905 Davis and his partner John Harris opened the first stand alone movie theatre in Pittsburgh. It was the first theatre in the county dedicated to showing movies.  Davis’s brother-in-law partner came up with the ideas of showing all of the one reel movies that they had in storage at the Avenue Theatre.  Davis provided an entry storefront that he owned on Smithfield Street.  The theatre was set up with 96 chairs and a screen.  Admission was 5 cents.  They gave it the name “Nickelodeon” as a combination of the nickel admission and the Greek term for theater “odeon”.  For 5 cents movie goers watch 15 minute of short movies accompanied by live piano music.  The shows ran continuously from 8 am to midnight.  On opening day 500 people attended.  On the second day 1,500 attended with lines stretching around the block. The silent movies were a hit with the non-English speaking Pittsburgh immigrants.  With a year there were hundreds of small nickelodeon theatres around the country.  The Nickelodeon on Smithfield stayed open for five years before it was replaced by the larger movie palaces.”

Ironically the “movie palaces” are now being replaced by smaller and smaller venues as Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and the like shrink the crowds going to the movies. We are moving rapidly backwards to 96 seats and a projector.bloody_sunday_russia_1905Tsar Nicholas the Second of Russia was not an enlightened ruler and was unable to understand how quickly the world was changing in 1905.  As a result his reign was marked by continual crises and revolts of peasants and urban workers. Those of 1905 marked the beginning of the end for Tsarist rule in Russia.  Above workers march on the Winter Palace of the Tsar in St Petersburg in 1905 under the watchful eye of Russia soldiers with bayonets fixed. Soon after the photo was taken the soldiers fired on the crowd killing and wounding hundreds on a day known in Russian history as “Bloody Sunday”. As a result of the slaughter the revolutionaries gained even more adherents. Nicholas was faring just as badly overseas in 1905. His war with Japan over territories in the east was going badly and Nicholas unwisely decided to send the Russia fleet halfway around the world to Japan to teach the upstart and, to his European mind, racially and militarily inferior Japanese a lesson they would not soon forget. The fleet had just arrived in the waters off Japan when it encountered the Japanese navy under Admiral Togo Heihachiro. In two days the Russina Fleet was effectively destroyed by the Japanese at the Battle of Tsushima Straits. Russia lost 11 battleships, 4 cruisers and 6 destroyers to Japanese losses of 3 torpedo boats.Russia was forced to sue for peace.

1905 also marked the debut of the silent movies in Calais, the first being shown in the summer of 1905 at the Opera House on Main Street- the former JD Thomas office building and, if rumors are correct, soon to be a brew pub.Family_Nicholas_II_of_Russia_ca._1914Through brutal repression the Tsar survived until 1917 when he was overthrown and he and his entire family subsequently executed by the Bolsheviks.cullinan diamond

The Cullinan diamond was discovered in 1905 at the Premier Mine in Cullinan South Africa by a miner named Thomas Powell. It is the largest diamond ever discovered at 3106 carats, worth 400 million dollars in today’s market. Amazingly it was determined after examination to be only a portion of a much larger diamond but the other portion was never found. From a report on the fate of the diamond after reaching England:

“The rough diamond was cut into several polished gems. The largest cut gem is named Cullinan I or the Great Star of Africa, and at 530.4 carats (106.08 g) is the largest polished white diamond in the world. It was the largest polished diamond of any color until the 1985 discovery of the Golden Jubilee Diamond, 545.67 carats (109.134 g), also from the Premier Mine. Cullinan I is now mounted in the head of the Sceptre with the Cross. The second-largest gem from the Cullinan stone, Cullinan II or the Second Star of Africa, at 317.4 carats (63.48 g), is the fourth-largest polished diamond in the world. Both gems are in the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.”

There was a problem getting it back to England safely: From Wikipedia

“In 1905, due to the immense value of the Cullinan, the authorities in charge of the transportation were posed with a huge potential security problem. Detectives from London were placed on a steamboat that was rumoured to carry the stone, where a parcel was ceremoniously placed in the Captain’s safe and guarded throughout the entire journey. However, this was a diversionary tactic. The stone on that ship was a fake, meant to attract those who would be interested in stealing it. The actual diamond was sent to England in a plain box via parcel post, albeit registered.”

In other news of 1905 the Audubon Society was formed, at Daytona Beach a car finally reached the speed of 100 MPH and Rotary was organized. In sports Ty Cobb doubled in his first game and the Cleveland Indians committed a record which stands today- 7 errors in one inning. In odd news James Blackstone bowled a game of 299 and 1/2. In the last frame he knocked down all the pins but one  but the tenth pin split in two, one half remained standing.Woodland Sprague falls 1905

The biggest news in the St Croix Valley in 1905 was the construction of the Woodland Mill in Baileyville. Built almost entirely by Italian immigrants, the work began in 1905 with construction of the dam at the Falls. This did not please everyone. One of the few residents who lived near the dam site at the time  was nostalgic about the Falls and remarked “ The famous waterfall know for many years as Sprague’s Falls was left to rumble and splash into the sunlight until 1905 when the St Croix Paper Company called a halt and the once beautiful cataract that had been admired for many years has passed on” This is not to imply there was opposition to the project, everyone was excited about the prospect of the “largest paper mill in Eastern Maine” rising from the wilderness. The mill itself soon followed as can be seen from the photo above.  Sprague's Falls Woodland Ad

The transformation of the area around the mill and the mill itself was the source of much curiosity and wonder by the locals in the StCroix Valley. For 30 cents from Calais, 20 cents from Baring the Washington Country Railroad would take you to Sprague’s Falls for the day to view site of the construction. There were few amenities at Sprague’s Falls in those early days such as toilets or restaurants and although travelers had to come prepared to rough it for the day we’re sure the trains were filled by the time they left Baring. Note the trains were going to Sprague’s Falls, not Woodland. In late 1905 the postal authorities announced that mail going to Sprague’s Falls should be addressed to “Woodlands”, later shortened to ‘Woodland”.Baring Street 1905, looking toward MaguerrewockThe automobile was just making its debut in Calais in 1905 but it wouldn’t become a practical mode of transportation for many years. The primary reason was the roads- they were simply awful. In truth the photo of Baring Street from the corner of Main Street in Milltown looking toward what is now the traffic circle of the new bridge looks pretty good. It had just been built by the State and would not have stayed in this relatively pristine condition very long. Even if it had it would have taken a traveler only as far a Maguerrewock where the road was almost always washed out and bridge unsafe.THE AIRLINE ROAD 1905 looking west Breakneck Hill

This photo shows the Airline in Alexander at Breakneck Hill in 1905. It more accurately represent the roads in 1905, narrow, rutted with trees and bushes encroaching on the roadway- more like a camp road of today. The Airline was improved over the years but not fully paved until 1962.

l2b Waiting for the train at Ayers Junction 1905 Boardman

In this 1905 photo from Emma Boardman of Calais is boarding the train at Ayers Junction Charlotte with two friends on her way to Boston. Calais was only directly  connected with the rest of Maine by rail in 1899 but Calais folks took full advantage of the opportunity, once offered, to travel.Ayers Junction, Calais stations

Ayers Junction was a major station in those days as the lines from Calais and Eastport met at Ayers and then proceeded to Machias, Ellsworth and Bangor..

In other local news of 1905 the Advertiser reports from Robbinston that on July 7th  “ The arrival of the herring in the bay has transformed this sleepy little village into a hullabaloo of noise and reaction. The streets which were deserted at night are now crowded with smiling girls and youthful idols singing merry songs and with their utter joyousness making the calm air ring with their merry peals of laughter. Intermixed are also those who not finding the desired nutriment on “Uncle Sam’s” soil cross over the bay and return with some of the liquid of “John Bull’s territory. It was surely a port of excitement.” The Advertiser could have said this in fewer words by simply saying the entire town was celebrating the arrival of the herring by drinking enormous quantities of illegal booze smuggled across the bay from St Andrews.

The Advertiser also reports that the Canadians of 1905 were easily as welcoming of those less fortunate as they are today. A Mr. Lynch arrived in St Stephen with 11 orphans from Boston. After addressing a church congregation on behalf of the children all 11 were taken in by local families.

Life on the sea remained dangerous- the schooner Lizzie Carr out of Calais went ashore at Rye Beach New York and was wrecked. One crewman was lost and several saved but seriously injured.

William Perry, 50 years of age, a resident of the Poor House, committed suicide by hanging himself. He had attempted to cut his throat a few days prior. By most accounts the poorhouse was a terrible place. It was located just down the road from Knight’s Corner near what was once the Beckett Warehouse. The property, which was the old Knight Farm, was owned by the City but a married couple was usually hired to live in the house and supervise the inmates. The inmates, for that is what they were called, were expected to work on the farm and the couple were given a budget to care for them. The less they spent on their charges care and the more they could make selling the farms produce, the more they profited. Abuse on all levels was common, hence the threat often made to prodigal children of that day “You’re going to put us in the poorhouse!”

Finally we find an article in the Advertiser that druggists were now required to list on their bottles the amount of alcohol and drugs contained in their concoctions. In those days druggists prepared and mixed the medicine on the spot and the “medicine” commonly contained enough alcohol and opiates to cure anything, at least until the drug induced high wore off when the customer would naturally need more or be sick. Addiction was common in the United States in 1905 fueled as it is today by the over prescription of drugs.

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