Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Mount Auburn Cemetery Redux: More Dead Entrepreneurs

I returned to the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Watertown/Cambridge last weekend, my second visit this year.  (See here for the June 2014 post, I See Dead Entrepreneurs.)  I don't generally spend this much time hanging around cemeteries, but Mount Auburn is a very special place, and one full of folks worth meeting--nearly 100,000 at last count.  The leaves also happened to be turning and--while I sound like a old, doty leaf-peeper writing that--Mount Auburn is a world class arboretum.  And sometimes it is fun to indulge my inner National Geographic photographer.

In my last visit I was collecting entrepreneurs, and I was interested this time in adding to that list.  But it's worth saying that Mount Auburn itself is also one of the most interesting social innovations of the 19th century: go visit King's Chapel graveyard in Boston and then head out to Mount Auburn.  It's hard to be more innovative than changing the way people think about death and remember their loved ones.

Below is King's Chapel on a summer day in 2009.


I won't press the point, but there might be a half dozen people per family grave (dust to dust was taken literally), all confined to a rapidly growing urban environment dependent on clean aquifers and wells.

By way of contrast, see Mount Auburn below.  It was made for strolling, for unfurling an oriental rug and laying out a picnic in your large family plot on a Saturday afternoon.  The day we were there last weekend the 170 acres were filled with visitors.



A group of us took a tour called "Not So Rich or Famous," an introduction to a number of folks who had interesting, full, sometimes very difficult lives--but who have been mostly lost to history.  Thanks to some hardworking folks at Mount Auburn, however, their stories are starting to be told.

Monday, November 3, 2014

When Fortune Accidentally Lands in Your Mailbox

I am fully capable of playing Mickey the Dunce on most any occasion, but multitasking is my forte.

A few weeks ago I tried to purchase a 1954 Saturday Evening Post on eBay.  Unfortunately, I was also answering email, booking a trip, and trying to figure out why the cat was tormenting me.  Needless to say, last week I received a Fortune magazine from 1952.  Brilliant.  Wrong magazine, wrong year.

And now that I think of it, I haven't seen the cat for a while, either.

There is a silver lining to my tale of woe, however: this particular edition of Fortune magazine turned out to be absolutely fascinating.

I wasn't alive in April 1952, but it wasn't exactly the Dark Ages, either.  We now know the American Baby Boom was in full swing, life expectancy in the US was almost 69 years, Bill Clinton and George Bush were both well out of diapers, I Love Lucy (in one memorable evening) attracted 10 million viewers, and a killer fog descended on London resulting in the first use of the term "smog."  That all feels pretty modern.

Though--and I write this with some surprise--there's nothing quite like a big, fat, colorful magazine from 1952 to remind us just how far we've really come.  David Lowenthal said famously that the past is a foreign country; with that in mind, let me take you for a quick tour of America in 1952.


First of all, where did Fortune get this picture--a 1933 Christmas Tree Shop?  Was this really the best example of the average American consumer in 1952?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Entrepreneurs, Predators, Robber Barons and Martians

I had reason the other day to re-read Malcolm Gladwell's "The Sure Thing: How Entrepreneurs Really Succeed" in the January 18, 2010 New Yorker (here).  I admire Gladwell but also have come to distrust him just a little, since his MO is to take academic papers and dumb-them-down for a general audience.  Sometimes he puts an odd twist on a topic--I assume--to create greater appeal for the masses.  It can be a twist that doesn't always seem to square with a more careful reading of the original research.

This bit of discomfit led me back to the source for his article, Michel Villette and Catherine Vuillermot's book From Predators to Icons: Exposing the Myth of the Business Hero.  Villette is a sociologist at AgroParisTech and Vuillermot a business historian at L'Universite de France Comte.  Written in 2005, the book was translated into English in 2009, presumably when Gladwell bumped into it and wrote his review.  The authors conclude that the captains of industry--and they study 32 of the richest men in the world--made their fortune neither by taking risk nor innovating, but by taking advantage of (often low-risk) market weaknesses and vulnerabilities. (In fact, the original French title was Portrait of the Businessman as Predator.)  The authors conclude that a successful businessman does whatever it takes competitively to dominate a market and then "once his fortune is made and he invests some of his profits in foundations that reflect the social values of his time, he is forgiven for everything, even if his early career was punctuated by numerous predatory acts."  Think Carnegie and libraries, Stanford and education, Gates and vaccines.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Lessons of History: A Few Takeaways

History has had its share of prolific authors, sometimes astoundingly so.  Sir Herbert Butterfield (1900-1979), the Cambridge professor and philosopher of history, published 22 books on history, the history of history, and the histories of science, religion and international relations.  Fellow knight Sir Arthur Bryant's (1899-1985) vast output included eight "lesser" books and a regular column for the Illustrated London News while he completed his three-book opus on Samuel Pepys; this was followed by 19 books between 1931 and 1944 and 13 more from 1950 to 1975.  In this country, Allan Nevins (1890-1971) authored over 50 books including a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Grover Cleveland and an eight-volume series on the Civil War.  Men like Sir Winston Churchill, George Bancroft and Theodore Roosevelt turned out copious amounts of superb historical writing in between running countries and saving Western Civilization.  There are many other historians who are awe-inspiring in both their literary volume and its quality.

Few, however, equal the breadth and prodigious output of Will (1885-1981) and Ariel (1898-1981) Durant.  Their 11-volume Story of Civilization was researched, written and published over a period of forty years and is still the most successful historiographical series ever. (For those of you seeking a writing project, the last completed volume was The Age of Napoleon.  The Durants left behind notes for The Age of Darwin and an outline for The Age of Einstein which would bring the series up to 1945.  That would leave only The Age of Aquarius and, perhaps, The End of the Civilization As We Know It and we'd be fully caught up to 2050.)

Fortunately, Will and Ariel also left behind The Lessons of History, a 167-page summary of their magisterial series.  Lessons, which distills decades of thought and thousand of pages to their essence, can be read in an evening or two.  

Below, I've highlighted a few of the Durants' conclusions that resonated with me--though some challenging and not what we necessarily want to hear--and help to explain what we see everyday as our own history unfolds in real time.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Ground Zero of the American Industrial Revolution: Slater Mill


Last year, the Committee on the Theft of American Intellectual Property released a report that estimated annual theft of American IP at about $300 billion, an amount comparable to the current level of U.S. exports to Asia.  This unintended foreign subsidy was termed the "greatest transfer of wealth in history."

While it's perhaps only small comfort, history suggests that Americans themselves are some of the best in the world at corporate espionage and theft, and have been since the American Revolution.  (Wouldn't it be interesting to net out the purloined IP we gather in each year, just to see what our "balance of theft" looks like?)  Among the very first beneficiaries of stolen technology, and still one of the most important in American history, was the Slater Mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

Slater Mill is a kind of "ground zero" for the American edition of the Industrial Revolution, the first place where English factory technology--the latest system for mechanized textile production--was firmly planted in the New World.  Financed by William Almy and his father-in-law, Moses Brown--and just up the road a piece from the Brown family's namesake university--Slater Mill was the first successful cotton factory in the United States.

This is the Blackstone River, which has several names as it flows from Worcester to Providence.  The yellow structure to the left is Slater Mill with the Pawtucket Falls in the foreground.  The Art Deco building (dating from 1933) in the center of the picture is the Pawtucket City Hall.  I managed a 90-minute visit to the Mill site a couple of weekends ago.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Do You Want to Be An Entrepreneur? (A Helpful Flowchart)

In the October 2014 Harvard Business Review, Walter Frick asks an interesting question:  Why do we lionize the tech industry's past and mock its present?  For example, Frick notes Walter Isaacson's new book, The Innovators, which looks at the computing giants who "set the world afire."  He also mentions Michael Malone's new work, The Intel Trinity, which extols the work done by men like Robert Noyce.  He then compares these examples with HBO's Silicon Valley where "characters care more about ideas they can code in a weekend than they do about truly world-changing innovation."

Perhaps that's the answer. Modern tech, at least the most visible kind based on apps like MonkeyParking and Yo, and the ease with which clueless individuals can get bankrolled and suddenly become "entrepreneurs," really might be mockable.  "A few decades from now we may look back on this era," Frick writes, "as one in which the tech world, notably Silicon Valley, mostly just spun its wheels, producing many more trivial or even laughable ventures than truly disruptive technologies."

The analogy I like to use for SV's current iteration is that if the semiconductor phase was like John Adams, and the software phase like John Quincy Adams, then what's going on now is like Gomez Addams.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Monday Ngram #1: The Third Wave


"Beneath the clatter and jangle of seemingly senseless events there lies a startling and potentially hopeful pattern. . .The Third Wave is for those who think the human story, far from ending, has only just begun." (Alvin Toffler, The Third Wave, 1980)

"I tried to discover, in the rumor of forests and waves, words that other men could not hear, and I pricked up my ears to listen to the revelation of their harmony."  (Gustave Flaubert, November)

"The mysteries come forward in waves."  (Susan Casey, The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Life Lessons From the NFL

In the good old days, we watched football on Sundays.

Today, we follow The Sport of Modern Man from games on Sunday, Monday and Thursday to hi-jinks and escapades all week long.  The season ends with the Super Bowl in January and begins with the first arrest for unlawful possession of a firearm in February.  Baseball has the Hot Stove League, but football has 1,700 or so young men who, thanks to large doses of human growth hormone, money and entitlement, participate in a virtual laboratory of civilization all year long as the league lurches from guns and drugs to dog fighting and domestic violence.  For those of you too afraid to finish Lord of the Flies, you can now see the final chapters play out each morning on ESPN.

Fortunately for all of us, there are important lessons to be learned, and lessons that may yet enhance civilization.  It seems like only yesterday that a defensive back for the Oakland Raiders lined up a defenseless receiver and broke his cervical vertebrae with a vicious and entirely gratuitous blow, causing a gifted athlete to become a quadriplegic.  It was all part of a meaningless preseason game.  The NFL's defense: It was a legal hit.  The receiver's autobiography: Happy To Be Alive.  The defensive back's autobiography: Final Confessions of NFL Assassin Jack Tatum.  And Jack Tatum never apologized, saying that if you want to play football, you're going to get injured.  The NFL eventually outlawed this especially vicious kind of hit of a defenseless player, just as the law doesn't allow a sucker punch at a bar.  But, like Bogie and Bergman, we'll always have Oakland.

Pre-Lesson: If you want to play, expect to get injured.  A simple enough life lesson.  But there's more.  Suppose for brevity's sake we simply stick to the last decade or so?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Oh Say Can You See: A Brief Riff on American Vision

It's right and proper that the first line of America's national anthem would involve the simple question: Oh say can you see?

Americans are, after all, the people of sight.

When the country fought its Civil War, everyone knew men were dying horrifically.  But not until 1862 when photographer Matthew Brady shocked the nation with his New York studio exhibit "The Dead of Antietam" did many understand what that really meant.  Seeing made it real.

Vietnam became America's first "living-room war," delivering images of violence and suffering--as well as Walter Cronkite's pivotal 1968 "Report From Vietnam" in which he expressed the view that the war was unwinnable.  Television images had a powerful impact on the course of that war.

In simpler, everyday ways we rely on sight above all else.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Business History, Shaken Not Stirred

There's a digital billboard that makes the rounds on LinkedIn every six months or so featuring wisdom from Henry Ford that looks something like this:



This quote goes right to the heart of Henry Ford's genius: He led the American consumer into the 20th century.  If it weren't for Ford, Americans would still be bumping along on dirt roads in horse-and-buggies.  It's the kind of disruptive innovation modern entrepreneurs dream about bringing to market.  This particular quote usually elicits 20 or so "Likes" and a couple of attaboys from appreciative LinkedIn members.

The problem with the quote, of course, is that Henry never said it.  (For a good discussion, see here.) One reason he likely never said it is that he would have known it to be wrong: Karl Benz was mass-producing automobiles by 1888 and many other Europeans and Americans had joined in by 1900--well before Ford began production--all with the idea of replacing horse-drawn transportation.  The automobile consumer existed well before Henry Ford, even if he and she could not yet afford one of the new contraptions.

Monday, September 1, 2014

When the Two Richest Americans (Ever) Met


"When Commodore Vanderbilt began the world he had nothing, and there were no steamboats or railroads."

So begins one of the seminal pieces of business journalism, Henry Demarest Lloyd's Story of a Great Monopoly, published by "The Atlantic" in 1881.  "When he died," Demarest continued, "railroads had become the greatest force in modern industry, and Vanderbilt was the richest man in Europe or America, and the largest owner of railroads in the world.  He used the finest business brain of his day and the franchise of the state to build up a kingdom within the republic."

In 2007 the New York Times published a graphic showing the thirty or so wealthiest Americans, their accumulated riches measured as a percentage of the economy.  On the Times list, Vanderbilt is shown as the second richest American ever, topped only by one John D. Rockefeller.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Stuff I've Been Reading - July/Aug 2014

The Roxbury Russet, the oldest apple cultivar in the US
This blog is now seven years and more than 400 articles old.  I suspect I've written about 550 posts in all and removed 150 of them over time, with another 150 silly or otherwise embarrassing posts still to be pruned.  My pace has slowed to about one article a week in the last few years as I've been writing more intensively for other venues, including research and drafts for My Alleged Book (MAB).  With those trends, a back-of-the-envelope says at this time next year I'll have written 50 more articles and have a hundred less posted.  I'm proud to say that kind of trajectory puts me in league with government spending and technology start-ups.

In the course of my reading for fun and profit this last month I've stumbled upon more than a few articles and books of interest.  For instance, I've been hot on the trail of John Chapman (aka Johnny Appleseed) for MAB and stumbled upon Michael Pollan's The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of World (2001).  I used to feel badly when I discovered a great, topical book a decade or more after its publication, but I understand better now the impossibility of just trying to keep up.  Botany is divided into four chapters--apples, tulips, pot and potatoes--and my particular interest was in the first, where Pollan traces the path of Chapman through the Midwest.  I grew up with two apple trees in our backyard and probably have had apples in our home refrigerator every day of my life, but this I did not know: apple seeds have an extreme case of botanical variability, or heterozygosity.  That means you can be virtually certain that if you plant the seed of, say, a Gala apple, you will get almost any variety of apple except a Gala.  Each seed has the genetic material of all the apple varieties ever grown, and then some.  If you want a Gala apple you have to graft.  The other thing I learned from Pollan is that the Roxbury Russet is the oldest apple cultivar grown in the United States.  So, liking all things historical and many things apple--and to my knowledge never having eaten one--that goes on my fall bucket list.  

Friday, July 25, 2014

Fortune 50 and Genealogy Collide: Carrier and Otis Cousins

The video below was just one of the happy "unintended consequences" from all the research the Carrier team did in 2011 to produce Weathermakers to the World.  The book focuses on Willis Carrier, the company he built, and the rise of modern air conditioning.  But the research spanned far and wide, including time spent investigating Carrier's family roots via New England (including his Salem "witch" ancestor).

In the course of that research, one of the attentive leaders at UTC spotted the fact that Willis Carrier's maternal great-grandmother was an "Otis."  With that tidbit, we turned to the professionals at NEHGS.  The rest, as they say, was history.

It's fun to see two of my favorite organizations, one dedicated to mining the past (but with a great, forward-looking strategic planning process) and the other focused on the future (but dedicated to preserving its history), collide in such a fascinating way.

In fact, it's the theme of this blog: A little business.  A little history.  A little business history.


The full press release is here.





Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Picture Tour of the Saugus Iron Works

Dozens of these b&w signs were placed along
Massachusetts roads in 1930.  Many have since
disappeared, though some remain.  There's a
great photo collection here and a book about the
project here.  This one is preserved in the
museum of the Saugus Iron Works.
Last November when I visited the Lowell Mills I noted how special it was for someone interested in the history of technology to live in New England, the epicenter of the American Industrial Revolution.  In fact, I probably haven't taken advantage of location the way I should; in particular, I still need to head west to the Springfield Armory, south to the Slater Mill Museum and the American Clock and Watch Museum, the north to the American Precision Museum, just to name a few.  But last weekend I was able to sneak over to the Saugus Iron Works, a full 18 minutes (not including the 25 years I've lived here) from home to spend a couple of hours visiting the first successful, integrated iron works in the New World.

From 1646 to 1668, "Hammersmith" (as it was called) produced cast and wrought iron products for the American colonies in a state-of-the-art facility along the Saugus River.  When the company disbanded, the site was abandoned and eventually buried by time and the river.

Hammersmith was rescued in 1946 by a grass-roots organization called the First Iron Works Association.  With funding from the American Iron and Steel Institute, the Association hired archaeologist Roland Robbins (also known as the man who found Thoreau's cabin at Walden and who excavated Shadwell, the birthplace of Thomas Jefferson) to investigate and reconstruct the site.   His work is fascinating; this 15 minute video, worthy of dimming the lights and a bowl of popcorn, shows Robbins in action.  You'll be able to compare what he accomplished (at the end of the video) with what's happened to the site since then in the pictures below.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Barnyard of Entrepreneurs 9: Where's Our Vision?

The hens were all gathered in the coop for the evening.  Rooster was checking ESPN scores on his smartphone.

Brown Hen leaned over.  "Rooster, do you have a Vision for the barnyard?"  She scratched.  "Every management Svengali says you need to have a Vision for your organization."

Rooster looked up.  "Well, Hen," he started.  "I guess my vision is to make sure the marinated corn feed crumble arrives three times a day."  And then he thought, "And that Black Rat and his friends don't eat it all before we do."

Brown Hen sighed.  "That's your Vision?"  She sighed again.  "A Vision is supposed to provide guidance and inspiration.  It's supposed to create an attractive future destination, one we're all marching toward.  Together."

Rooster leaned into his smartphone.  The Sox were up by 1 run in the ninth with two down.  Man on third.

"Crumble three times a day," clucked Speckled Hen.  "Sounds like a formal summary of aims and values."  She scratched the dirt.  "That's a Mission Statement, if you ask me."

Rooster looked up, thinking to himself, "Is there still a lefty they can bring in from the bullpen?"

"You're both wrong."  Red Hen rose from her nest.  "What we've got here is a Purpose Statement.  Three good meals a day--that's my purpose."  Then she chuckled.  "Vision Statements are just so 20th century.  They went out with the hula-hoop."

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Barnyard of Entrepreneurs 8: Just Like Magic

Rooster glanced across the barnyard.  Brown Hen was jumping up and down, a huge cloud of dust all around her.  She didn't look happy.

"Are you ok?" Rooster asked, trying to avoid the dust as he strutted over.

"Does it look like I'm ok?" Hen answered.  She stomped the ground as hard as she could.  Rooster saw the problem.  Hen was stomping on her smartphone.

"What's wrong with your phone, Hen?" Rooster asked.

"What's right with my phone?" she shot back.  "For the first month it worked perfectly, just like magic."

Speckled Hen happened to be wandering by and overheard the conversation.  "Arthur C. Clarke said any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."  She beamed, feeling very wise.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Why I'd Get Fired at Dunkin Donuts

Here in New England, and increasingly in other parts of the country, there's a Dunkin Donuts on every corner.  For many people a stop at Dunkin is a morning ritual.  Work at Dunkin has also become a ritual for many high school and college students, who get their first exposure to the Great American Consumer from the business side of a Dunkin counter.

Recently, I had a chance to chat with some of these young folk.  I was surprised and sometimes appalled by what they see of the Thirsty and Famished who walk through their door.  God Bless America.  I am thoroughly convinced that I would last about two shifts at a "Dunks" before my supervisor would politely ask me to go home.

And don't come back.

Here's some of what I heard, and how the "kids" would like to respond.  You'll note I've added a few embellishments of my own--the really grouchy stuff--just for cathartic purposes.

1. Spare us your guilt.  Nobody cares why you're having a donut.  Really. We don't care if it's the first time you've broken your diet in two weeks.  We don't care if you "never eat junk food."  Please, just order your donut and move along.  There's a customer right behind you who never eats donuts, either, waiting to order.

2. When you place your order, please stop talking on the phone and texting.  Speak directly to us.  Give us 10 seconds of engagement so we can get things right.  Stop being a complete and total techo-boob.  Here's the truth: If you were so important that you couldn't stop conducting business for ten seconds to order, you'd have an assistant getting your coffee.  You're not that important.  Trust us.

3. And, techo-boob, please say "thank you" when you snatch the bag from our hands.  Most customers do, so when you don't it really sticks out.  It's so incredibly rude.

4. Enough already with the "cream cheese scam."  There's a dozen ways you try this, but here's the basics: You order a bagel with butter.  After you've paid and just as we're handing you the bag you ask "Can I have some cream cheese with that?"  You know cream cheese costs about a buck and we know you're trying to get it for free.  It is the feeblest, slimiest scam going.  If our supervisor is there we have to charge you.  If not, we might give it to you, but not because the scam worked.  Not because we like you.  Because we're really busy and it's the fastest way to get a low-life out of our sight.  For a buck?  Save your pennies and order the cream cheese next time, like a real person.  Preferably somewhere else.

5. This is not a life and death experience.  Really.  Once we ran out of lemons.  That's not good, we know, but ordering lemons is way beyond our pay grade.  Most people were nice about it.  One woman, however, announced at the top of her lungs: "That sucks.  You might as well have run out of coffee!"  We smiled and said how sorry we were.

Here's what we would have liked to say: Really?  Running out of lemons is like running out of coffee?  That bad?  Maybe as bad as we're all dead from the Ebola virus?!  Here's an idea for you, Dragon Lady: There's a Stop and Shop right around the corner.  Go get your own flippin lemon. And while you're there, see if they have "a life" for sale.  Cause you need one.

6. Finally, never, ever, ever order "a donut, a coffee, and a smile."  It's not funny.  It's not cute.  It's obnoxious.  We're generally pretty happy, and happy to smile.  But not on demand.  So here's the deal: Get back into your car, look in the rear view mirror, and smile.  Happy now?  And, pal, there's no charge for that.

I know with this kind of lousy attitude I'd only last a shift or two at Dunkin.  But--here's a scary thought--how long do you think I'd last as a barista at Starbucks, where the truly self-absorbed, massively entitled, triple-venti-soy-no-foam-latte-at-120-degrees Americans drink?  The ones wearing Google Glass?

An hour?  And I'd take the under on that.

Culture to Die For

One hundred years ago today Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo.  Nobody much cared for the arrogant Archduke, whose funeral was small and poorly attended.  Assassination was a gruesome if regular part of political life in the Balkans: Empress Elizabeth had been stabbed to death in 1898, the governor of Galicia shot in 1908, the governor of Croatia killed in 1912, and the vicar-general of Transylvania also assassinated in 1914.  Americans themselves had suffered the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901.  British magazine Punch published a cartoon with one anarchist asking another, “What time is it by your bomb?” 
Hungry for territory, the old, rotted Hapsburg Empire fiddled for a month and then declared war on Serbia.  Five days later Germany made its declaration of war on France.  The guns of August had erupted. 
We still scratch our heads over the start of WWI: A very small number of very small men, disconnected from their people and out to prove their machismo by territorial expansion, plunged the world into catastrophe.  The aggressors believed they could win a swift war but, as George Orwell wrote, the only way to have a swift war in the 20th century was to lose it.
Culture in Battle
One acknowledged chestnut from WWI is that the technology of firepower had outstripped communications and mobility.  Wireless was available but undependable, railroads inadequate, and countless broken-down automobiles were abandoned on the sides of dreadful roads.  Generals were left wielding million-man armies by dispatching riders on horseback.  By the end of 1914, this mismatch of fierce 20th-century firepower with Dark Age communications and mobility resulted in a return to that most basic of all technologies, the shovel, and the rise of trench warfare.
The other powerful lesson learned in the first year of WWI is that new ways of killing demanded that the very culture of battle needed to change, swiftly and radically. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

I See Dead Entrepreneurs: A Visit to the Mount Auburn Cemetery

O
I had the opportunity this past weekend to visit the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge/ Watertown, about a mile and a half outside Harvard Square.  Authorized on this day in 1831 by the Massachusetts legislature, Mount Auburn was America's first landscaped cemetery and the first large-scale green space open to the public in North America.  For nearly two centuries, visitors from all over the world have come to experience one of the finest examples of what is known today as America's rural cemetery movement.

Other famous rural cemeteries include Mount Hope Cemetery in Bangor (Maine), Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore, Albany Rural Cemetery in Menands (New York), Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit and Holly-Wood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.

Mount Auburn Cemetery covers 175 acres, 98,000 burials, 60,000 monuments, and 9,400 trees and shrubs representing over 1,250 taxa--part living memorial (with 600 burials a year), part history and part renowned arboretum and botanical garden.  "Rather than depicting the horror of death," Mount Auburn's literature says, the cemetery's "picturesque landscape. . .was designed to provide solace and comfort to the bereaved and public alike."

The horror of death (and source of an unhealthy local water supply) could be found aplenty in the typical 17th/18th-century urban churchyard cemetery, full of carved skulls and graves dug nearly on top of one another.  Here are a few pictures I took in 2009 on a pass-through the King's Chapel Burying Ground on Tremont Street in Boston--precisely the ghoulish congestion Mount Auburn hoped to improve upon.




By comparison, this is what Mount Auburn looked like in its opening decades.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Barnyard of Entrepreneurs 7: Hit With the Rich Stick

Big Pig was tweeting again, and it had the entire barnyard talking.

Nobody doubted that Big Pig Ventures was a success.  It sprayed start-up money in every direction like a giant pinwheel.

And nobody doubted Big Pig was famous, especially among the impressionable pullets.  He had recently backed the Duck's ethanol plant, which was the talk of the barnyard.

But on Twitter, Big Pig seemed to have an opinion about everything.

"RATS SHOULD HAVE UNFETTERED ACCESS TO FERMENTED CORN FEED CRUMBLE" Pig had tweeted that morning.  Brown Hen was incensed.  "What does Pig know about fermented corn feed crumble?" she demanded of Rooster.  "Or rats?"

"He did fund the ethanol plant," Rooster responded, trying to soothe her.  "That uses corn."

"And I stepped in my water dish this morning," Hen answered.  "I'm not tweeting about synchronized swimming, am I?"

Red Hen strutted over.  "But Big Pig has a degree in Computer Science.  And he is really rich," she said.  "Really rich people who can write software are really smart about everything."

"Until Twitter," Speckled Hen added, "we just didn't know it!"