Wednesday, April 22, 2015


     The Newseum in Washington, D.C. displays photos of rocks, circa 4,000 B.C., portraying people talking in Tassela, Algeria—is an elder relating a legend to young people about the past? A visit to Uluru, Australia, offers cave drawings of plants and animals drawn long before our time on earth by Indigenous Australians.
     The Lascaux Caves in southwestern France are famous for Paleolithic cave paintings thought to be 17,300 years old. 

     A tour of Sydney, Australia’s Opera House, where a Possum Drawing is exhibited, attracts the attention of local attendees and visitors avid to learn the history of this fascinating country.
      Pompeii’s mosaics and frescos, and portraits illustrate the history of the residents, work by poets like Menander and panels depicting scenes from the Iliad. I can picture our ancestors, sitting around campfires, exchanging news of food, shelter and survival and telling tales—non-fiction and fiction—of conquests, their vision of the future and how they came to live on earth—then painting, drawing and carving their stories on a canvas of rock.

     Text and coins proves that Julius Caesar used words to great advantage. He wrote a history of his military feats in 59 B.C. and minted coins to commemorate his victories. A daily news-sheet—Acta Diurna—was published and posted in places accessible to the public.
     Drums, bells, horns and gongs once carried messages to villages in Asia and Africa. Councils answered the call when the beat of drums meant danger or death. Bronze bells called the Chinese to worship, meet, plant and harvest in 600 B.C.—by 740 A.D., their descendants invented printing by pressing carved, inked blocks of wood onto paper.
     Stained glass windows in Cathedrals such as Chartres tell biblical stories that instruct uneducated parishioners who could not read the written word. Four panels originally made in 1145 survived the fire of 1195 and are displayed along with others were created between 1205 and 1240. The windows tell stories of The Virgin and Child, the Old and New Testament and the Lives of Saints.
Photo by Eusebius
     Koreans produced bronze type for molds in 1403, while in Cuzco Valley, Peru, Inca messengers recorded and tallied new conquests, birth, and death and crop yields on knotted, multi-colored cords called quipas. The quipas were then carried to local officials.  This was the century Johann Gutenberg invented movable type and type metal. Little changed for 400 years but with the development of the linotype—a typesetting machine—printing was revolutionized. Low priced publication of books and newspapers was now possible leading Thomas Edison to call the machine, “The eighth wonder of the world.”
     In 1609, printed weekly newspapers made their appearance around the globe—the first regularly printed American paper was the Boston Newsletter, printed in 1704. James Gordon Bennett published the first penny papers in 1833. Featured were lurid crime stories, human interest and diverting pieces of gossip—most far fetched—just like today’s tabloids. The front page of an 1835 edition of the New York Sun reads, “Exclusive! Creatures with Wings … on the Moon.” Science fiction and fantasy?
     A copy of The Charleston Mercury, dated December 20, 1860, announced the start of the Civil War; reporters followed the troops into battle providing the public with eyewitness news. Matthew Brady hired a team of photographers who covered nearly every battle of the Civil War. 
     Pulitzer and Hearst competed with their coverage of the Spanish-American War in 1898. The focus back then—railroads, civil rights, suffrage and immigration are still in the news today. Newspapers went unchallenged until 1920 when the public was introduced to newsreels, newsmagazines and radio. The Federal Radio Commission issued the first television station license W3XK to Charles Jenkins in 1928 and by 1948 cable television was introduced in Pennsylvania bringing television to rural areas and challenging motion pictures. An e-reader was first introduced around 1998 but didn’t take off until 2009 when new models for e-books began to be marketed and produced. In the 1930s, elevator music was easily available streaming media. Today we can hear stories and novels via audio books, stream via screen capture over the internet and yet love the feel of paper when we pick up a hard cover book. So many ways to hear tales, stories, fables, legends, fiction and fact.

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