An Interview with Margaret Guroff on How Bicycles Built Our Highways

ImageMargaret Guroff is the author of The Mechanical Horse: How the Bicycle Reshaped American Life (2016), from which her essay “How Bikes Built Our Highways” is adapted.

Ramona Whittaker: How did you become interested in bicycles and their impact on America’s highways?

Margaret Guroff: I saw a brief mention in a history book about how cyclists were instrumental in getting U.S. roads paved in the 1890s. Until then, I hadn’t really been aware of bikes as existing before cars, and when I started to look into the role of the bicycle in American culture, I found its influence all over—not only in the Good Roads Movement, but in the auto industry, the invention of the airplane, the development of consumer culture. The bicycle also influenced the way women dressed and it empowered women during 1890s when they were getting together to advocate for the vote.

RW: The mode of transportation became a game changer?

MG: Exactly. On bicycles, young women could get around without chaperones — which had been frowned upon before — and they could get where they were going under their own steam. Bicycling also helped people understand that exercise was good for you — something many Americans didn’t believe before the bicycle. They thought that if you did something that made your heart rate rise, you would damage your heart. A lot of people really didn’t know that if you exercise, it makes you feel stronger. And many doctors thought that you were born with a certain amount of energy. When you spent it, that was it. Doctors were very likely — particularly as adults got older — to say, “You just have to sit down, just chill.”

RW: Was that true especially for women?

MG: Yes. Proper women wore corsets to help them carry all their clothing — which could add up to 25 pounds of skirts, dresses, and stuff. A corset helped distribute this weight up and down their torsos. But all that weight and the constriction of a corset made it likely that if they stood up or moved too fast, they would faint. This created an illusion that women were weak and shouldn’t exert themselves.

RW: How did the bicycle change women’s fashion, and how did the public react?

MG: Dress reforms were actually proposed in the middle of the 19th century. Women’s rights advocates Amelia Bloomer, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton all decided to wear Turkish-style flowing pants that were weren’t constraining or heavy but were still very modest. They thought it was a much healthier way for women to dress, and they were trying to set a trend. They eventually had to give it up, because they were being harassed. Critics called the outfit a “bloomer costume.” They’d yell at these women and even throw things at them. So, bloomers didn’t catch on in the 1850s. But when the bicycle became popular at the end of the 19th century, women realized they couldn’t ride in their long, flowing skirts, and some of them started wearing the bloomers that had been advocated 40 years earlier. These women also were mocked. It’s not like it was normal for women to wear pants in 1890. A story on the front page of a tabloid called the National Police Gazette in 1893 carried the headline “She Wore Trousers” as if it was shocking that a woman would do this in public. The difference was that even though women wearing bloomers in the 1890s were getting the same kind of harassment as Amelia Bloomer did in the 1850s, they had a new motivation. They were willing to put up with mockery to be able to ride bicycles. Within just a few years, there were so many women riding bicycles that it became much more acceptable to wear pants or shorter skirts to do so.

RW: Did bicycles offer women a new form of independence and sense of freedom?

ImageMG: Yes, it’s amazing. In 1896, Susan B. Anthony said, “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.” She saw clearly that the bicycle was motivating non-activists to take political action. They thought they were just having fun, but really were turning the culture upside down.

RW: What was one of the most surprising things you learned about the bicycle in your research?

MG: One of the coolest things I learned was about the Wright brothers. Everyone knows they were bicycle mechanics, but it always seemed to me a coincidence that bicycle mechanics invented the airplane. What I discovered by reading the work of historians like Tom Crouch, who wrote a great biography of the Wright brothers called The Bishops Boys, was that the bicycle gave the Wrights a crucial insight into how to keep an airplane aloft. Many inventors who were working on airplanes were trying to throw something in the air that would know how to go straight on its own. The Wright brothers went at it a different way. They realized that you don’t have to create a machine that knows on its own to go straight, because the pilots can be the brains of the machine. When you’re riding a bike, your body becomes one with the machine, and your sense of balance, and the unconscious corrections you make as you ride, are what balance the machine. The Wrights were able to take that same concept and put it in the air.

RW: Can you tell us more about the history of biking in America versus that of biking in Europe? Did bicycling affect other countries the same way it affected ours?

MG: Though a lot of developments were parallel, there were some interesting divergences. The main one came at the end of the 19th century. There had been a big 1890s bike boom in Europe as well as the U.S., but when that fad ended in the U.S., bike use really dropped off a cliff here. People without horses still rode them get to work or make deliveries, but they became absolutely unfashionable. Nobody rode them for fun. And this is years before the automobile became affordable for anyone other than the super rich. In order to keep the market for American bicycles going, bicycle manufacturers started targeting the youth market. They ended up making bicycles a childhood necessity, but they also made bikes seem like they were only for kids. As soon as you turned 16, you wouldn’t be caught dead on one, and no adult would ride one. That was very much an American phenomenon; it didn’t happen anywhere else as far as I’m aware, and it didn’t really start to turn around until the 1960s. There was a huge bike boom here in the 1970s, and by the 1980s, the United States started exporting styles, like the rugged mountain bike with straight handlebars that you could ride off-road. That was invented in the United States and caught on overseas.

RW: Would you say that biking in the U.S. today is as common as it is in Europe?

MG: It’s not, but in American cities, it can feel like it’s going in that direction. There are many more bike lanes than there were 10 years ago. There are many more people on bikes, including middle-aged people and young parents toting kids around. Where it’s safe to ride and people live near places they need to go, there is a mini-boom, though nationally, bike ridership is going down. Outside of the prosperous parts of cities, many people don’t live near their work, church, or shops, so bicycling is not practical for them. And in many parts of the country, roads are designed to allow cars to go as fast as possible, which makes them too dangerous for cyclists. And it’s no longer the case that every American kid has a bike, because a lot of kids don’t have a safe place to ride or don’t live close enough to the places they’d want to ride to.

RW: Are many people concerned about climate change biking to and from work?

MG: Riding your bike more is certainly one way you can reduce your carbon footprint. But it has to be practical for people. You have to get to work, you have to haul groceries, you have to get your kids to school. If you live in a place where it’s not possible to do those things on a bike or on foot or with public transit, you’re going to have to drive. Cities have a vested interest in making it easier for people to bicycle because bikes don’t pollute the air, they don’t cause wear and tear on the roads, they don’t create the same parking demands.

RW: Bikes are very popular on college campuses.

MG: Colleges are typically places where everything is closer together, so they’re easy to get around by bike. And most students who live on campus don’t have little kids that they need to provide transportation for, or jobs many miles away that they have to commute to. So bikes work well in that environment.

RW: If bicycles became a more popular form of transportation, where would they have the most impact? What would be the effect of more bicycles on the road?

ImageMG: That’s hard to say, because there are changes coming to traffic that could make the roads much safer for bikes and pedestrians, or much less safe. We know that we’re going to have autonomous cars soon. But how are they going to behave? Will they be well programmed and well-regulated to make traffic calmer and more logical, and make it safer for bikes? Or will they be out there like bumper cars, clipping anything that gets in their way? If the roads do become safer for bikes, you’ll see more of them — studies show that the safer it is to ride, the more people ride.

RW: What are the most bike-friendly cities in the U.S.?

MG: Brooklyn is one of the centers of biking in the country. Also Portland, Oregon, is huge for biking. Seattle is really good for biking. I work in D.C., which has one of the highest bike-commuting rates in the country. We have laws that are very helpful, such a leading pedestrian indicator law that gives pedestrians and bikes a few extra seconds to cross the street, so that they clear the intersection before traffic starts moving. It makes everybody safer and makes traffic move better. Chicago is supposed to be great and also Minneapolis, which is amazing to me because it’s so cold up there. But you can bike all winter long, you just have to have the right gear.

One really exciting thing that’s happening all over the country is the rise of bike-share systems. You use your credit card to check out a bike, go where you’re going, and check it back in. That’s an amenity that can make biking accessible to people who can’t necessarily use a bike as their main form of transportation. In New York, for example, if you live in one of the outer boroughs, you can take the subway into Manhattan for work, but then use a bikeshare bike to go across town for lunch or something. Bikeshares are turning American cities into places where you can bike on a whim, where you might not have wanted to or been able to before.

RW: Do you ride your bike to work, and what kind of bicycle do you own?

MG: Yes, I ride a green 1999 Jamis Aurora touring bike. I love it. I ride an hour to work — it’s about half an hour on a woodsy rails-to-trails path — and then across town through traffic. By the time I get to my desk, I feel like a hero.


Read Margaret Guroff’s essay, “How Bikes Built Our Highways,” which appears in the January/February 2016 issue of The Saturday Evening Post.

The Saturday Evening Podcast No. 1: The Rise of Women in Politics 

Boy petting a horse
September 9, 1915

Regardless of who wins, the 2016 presidential election has broken new ground in American history. For the first time ever, a major political party nominated a woman, Hillary Rodham Clinton, as its presidential candidate. Seeing a woman’s name on the ballot has been a long time coming, and in this podcast, Jeff Nilsson and Andy Hollandbeck talk about just how long it’s been and how we finally got here.

In this podcast, Jeff interviews Nancy L. Cohen, author of Breakthrough: The Making of America’s First Woman President. You’ll also hear the words of President William Howard Taft; Susan B. Anthony II, grandniece of the famed feminist and suffragist; Margaret Chase Smith, who in 1964 campaigned for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination; Shirley Chisholm, who campaigned for the presidency in 1972; and current U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee.

Listen to the podcast on SoundCloud.

The following supplementary materials can help you dig into the information we talk about in the podcast.

The World Bank website allows you to sort and visualize (as well as download) the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s data on the “proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments” in a number of ways.

From the Fourth Estate, this “Female Voices in Media” infographic shows a surprising gender gap in who was quoted in stories about women’s issues during the 2012 election.

Gender Infographic
Courtesy of: 4th Estate Project

Profile of Margaret Chase Smith
Margaret Chase Smith

Margaret Chase Smith was the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress. She represented Maine in the House of Representatives from 1940 to 1949 and in the Senate from 1949 to 1973. In 1964, she ran against Barry Goldwater for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. Goldwater won but was defeated in a landslide by democrat Lyndon B. Johnson in the general election. One wonders what the electoral count would have looked like if Smith had been the party’s candidate.

Shirley Chisholm
Shirley Chisholm

New York’s Shirley Chisholm was the first African-American woman elected to Congress, serving in the House of Representatives from 1969 to 1983. In 1972, she became the first African American to run for the presidential nomination in a major political party. The Democratic Party instead chose George McGovern, who was soundly defeat in the general election by Richard Nixon. In 2015, Chisholm was posthumously award the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In 1948, the grandniece of Susan B. Anthony looked back at what women had accomplished politically since women’s suffrage had passed, She was not impressed. She wrote “We Women Throw Our Votes Away” for the post that year.

Google’s NGram viewer shows that the phrase “gender role” was practically nonexistence before 1956. Throughout the ’60s, the phrase become much more common in print.

This decidedly unfeminist ad appeared in the Post in the middle of Clare Boothe Luce’s feminist article, “Woman: A Technological Castaway,” on January 1, 1974. “When I think of old-fashioned views of gender roles, I think 1940s and ’50s, not 1974.”

Breakthrough cover
By Nancy L. Cohen

Nancy L. Cohen’s book, Breakthrough: The Making of America’s First Woman President, draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with women governors, Senators, experts, operatives, and a diverse array of voters to explore why women’s leadership matters and how the history of women’s rights activism culminated in the nomination of Hillary Rodham Clinton for president of the United States.

Sound files heard in the podcast:

If you enjoyed this podcast, you might also like:

Susan B. Anthony, Illegal Voter

Against Her Self-Interest: An Anti-Suffragist Admits Her Mistake

Hoops, Bloomers, and Common Sense

Susan B. Anthony, Illegal Voter

Voter fraud — at least the potential of it — has been getting a lot of media coverage during this 2016 election. Illegal voting is nothing new, but 144 years ago, it had completely different ramifications. Back then, the media was focused on an incident that took place in Rochester, New York, on election day, November 5, 1872.

The Post reported on the incident in its November 11 issue:

November 11, 1872—There is a great deal of conflicting practice as to the admission and denial of the claim of women to vote. Thus far their efforts toward exercising the elective franchise in [Philadelphia] have been fruitless. The attempt made by a number of ladies in Washington, a year or two ago, to have their names placed on the voting list, also failed. Just prior to the recent election, a number of other ladies tried it in Brooklyn without success. … In the face of all these failures and adverse decisions, it is announced from Rochester, New York, that 16 ladies, headed by Miss Susan B. Anthony, did actually vote on Tuesday last in that city.

But, unfortunately for the “cause,” not more than one woman in a hundred cares anything about voting.

On November 18, authorities arrested Anthony along with 14 other women who had cast ballots in Rochester. The women were released pending the outcome of Anthony’s trial, which was scheduled to take place six months later.

The Post’s editors at the time didn’t take the case — or the cause of women’s suffrage — seriously. Shortly after Anthony’s arraignment, the Post ran this item:

April 5, 1873—The indictment against Miss Susan B. Anthony, for voting, charges that “She was a person of the female sex, contrary to the laws of the United States, in such cases made and provided.” This may have a tendency to discourage persons being born females, contrary to the laws of the United States. Persons of the female sex should always read the Constitution before being born, and then such mistakes would not occur.

This was relatively lighthearted teasing. Usually the Post covered the topic of women’s rights in general, and of Susan B. Anthony in particular, with a tone of ridicule. For example:

March 30, 1872—An obscure Alabama paper wants to know if Susan B. Anthony is the wife of Mark Anthony. No — happily for Mark.


August 12, 1876—This cruel report is current: It is rumored that Susan B. Anthony will now try the stage, as Desdemona, with Dr. Mary Walker as Othello.

 [Dr. Mary Walker was the first female U.S. Army surgeon and, as of 2016, the only woman to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.]


November 19, 1881—Susan B. Anthony wants the name of the Pullman cars changed to either Pull-man-and-woman or Pull-irrespective-of-sex cars.

Worried that a trial would give publicity to the women’s rights advocates, the district attorney had the case moved to a federal court. Not only would Anthony be prevented from testifying in a federal court, but the trial would be held without a jury.

On the third day of the trial, the judge asked Anthony if she had anything to say. She did, and she began to defend her actions and denounce the trial, despite the judge repeatedly ordering her to sit down and be quiet.

When the judge handed down his decision shortly afterward, the Post reported:

July 12, 1873—Susan B. Anthony has been convicted at Canandaigua, New York, for illegal voting and fined $100 and costs. She is determined to appeal, which she has a right to do, but will have her labor and the payment of heavy costs for her pains. The inspectors of the election poll, who received her vote, were fined $25 each and costs.

Anthony refused to pay the fine. Ordinarily, the court would have ordered her jailed in response. But such a move would have allowed Anthony to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, giving her even greater publicity. So the court simply failed to pursue the matter.

In the late 1800s, the Post was written primarily for a female audience. Yet the editors assumed, as revealed in the first excerpt above, that women by and large cared nothing for voting. American women would have little to complain of, the editors believed, if people like Susan B. Anthony didn’t stir them up:

February 26, 1870—[Anthony] has waged war in behalf of her unhappy sisters against the conjugal tyranny of which she, a celibate, had never felt the yoke. … Miss Anthony attacked an abuse from which she had never suffered — and from which, so long as it shall take two to make a bargain, she can never suffer — and awakened the attention of the wives of America to wrongs which they knew not, until she told them, that they endured.

It is curious to see the difference in how The Saturday Evening Post and Country Gentleman — both eventually purchased by Cyrus Curtis — presented Susan B. Anthony. You might expect the editors of Country Gentleman, written for farmers and their wives, would have little sympathy for Anthony, but their coverage was more thoughtful and sympathetic:

Susan B. Anthony
Susan B. Anthony
Library of Congress

September 17, 1891—The longer I live and the more I observe, the more I am impressed by the wonderful accomplishments of women during the past 25 years, and by the still greater possibilities for progress that the future promises. I can easily remember the time when the only avenues of employment open to a woman were sewing, teaching, or drudging in her sister’s family until some man should offer to marry her — not because he cared for her society, but because of her ability to drudge. Now, women are to be found in almost every vocation of life, and wherever they have been employed, they have proved apt, industrious, and trustworthy.

I am not one of those women who clamor for the right of suffrage, although I see no reason why an intelligent woman who has property should not have as much voice in political affairs as an ignorant man who has no possessions to protect, but for the comfort of those of my sex who do desire the right to vote, I want to give my opinion. As woman is becoming so great a power in every avenue of life, I firmly believe that the time is not far distant when she will not only be allowed to vote but will be earnestly solicited to cast her ballot.

I am proud of my sex.

Take up our magazines today and compare them with those of 25 years ago. Notice their phenomenal excellence of growth and notice also the increase in the number of female contributors. Is there any significance in these two facts?

Woman is advancing so rapidly in intelligence and cultivation that it will soon be an unheard of event for her to sign a paper without having read it, or to make any of those blunders in business transactions that are now so frequently attributed to her. There never was a time when woman was so well fitted to become the companion of husband and children as the present; and the future has in store greater possibilities in that direction.

“The hand that rocks the cradle” has ruled the world in the past and will rule it yet more potently in the future.

Featured image: Susan B. Anthony (Library of Congress)

The Slow Emergence of the Women’s Vote

Trixie Friganza between other suffragettes on top of steps, New York (Image courtesy of The Library of Congress)
Trixie Friganza between other suffragettes on top of steps, New York
(Image courtesy of The Library of Congress)

The year was 1920 and U.S. politicians were worried.

Women had set aside their differences in income, education, and background to win the right to vote. They’d applied pressure to legislators and built support among the American public. Now, having achieved suffrage with the 19th Amendment, there was no telling what they might do next.

Some men feared women would take over the country’s political system. If women voted together, as a bloc, it would outweigh the male vote that was divided mainly between the Republican and Democratic parties.

To prevent women voters from creating a political party of their own, Republicans and Democrats began recruiting women. They also supported legislation on what we’d call “women’s issues.”

For example, Congress passed the Sheppard-Towner Act of 1921 to help reduce maternal and newborn deaths. At the time, one in five infants died in their first year, and childbirth was the second leading cause of death for women. The new law provided federal funds to help states establish maternal and child health centers.

The bill was originally introduced by Jeanette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress, but in 1921 it was voted down by 39 members, including the only woman holding a seat in Congress in 1921, Alice Mary Robertson.

It soon became apparent there would be no women’s bloc. Having won the right to vote, the women’s coalition broke apart. In subsequent elections, women’s voting patterns were nearly indistinguishable from men’s.

Realizing they didn’t need to pass targeted laws to obtain women’s votes, politicians ended the funding for the Sheppard-Towner Act in 1929.

In the following decades, women seemed to make little progress toward the equality suffragettes thought the vote would bring them.

Read the entire article "We Women Throw Our Votes Away" by Susan B. Anthony II from the pages of the July 17, 1948 issue of the Post.
Read the entire article “We Women Throw Our Votes Away” by Susan B. Anthony II from the pages of the July 17, 1948 issue of the Post.

In 1948, the grandniece of Susan B. Anthony looked back at what women had accomplished politically since women’s suffrage passed and was not impressed. As she concluded in her Post article, “We Women Throw Our Votes Away.”

“Women have frittered away our massive power at the polls,” Susan B. Anthony II wrote. “If we voted together on any issue … we probably could name the next president of the United States. … Our economic, political, and social position is only slightly better now than it was in 1920, when we got the all-powerful vote. The right to vote, in fact, is the only unqualified victory we have gained in a century.”

Because they wouldn’t cast a united vote for their rights, Anthony wrote, America’s women were barely represented in the government and in the workplace.

Much has happened since Anthony’s Post article. While women still don’t enjoy full, legal equality, there have been significant changes.

There are several explanations for these changes. One would be a gradual shift in thinking about gender roles. For instance, many Americans began to rethink their ideas about women’s capabilities after seeing them take over men’s jobs during two world wars.

Another change was a shift in women’s voting. Beginning in 1952, Gallup polls noticed a 10 percent difference between men’s and women’s voting patterns in the presidential election.

Politicians realized they could no longer count on gathering women’s votes with the same appeal that worked for male voters. At least the presidential candidates would need to address women’s concerns.

The gender gap narrowed to 4 percent in 1992, but rose to 11 percent when Bill Clinton ran for re-election. By the 2012 election of President Obama, it had grown to 20 percent.

Today, women are not only becoming more independent in politics, they are also voting in greater numbers than men. But they are still a long way from flexing enough political muscle to obtain legal equality. American society can be highly resistant to change. Keep in mind that all the progress noted above took place over more than 60 years. And while the gender gap in pay continues to shrink, the change is coming at glacial speed. If it continues to narrow at today’s rate, it will take over 120 years before women earn equal pay for equal jobs.

News of the Week: Anchors Away

Bob Simon: 1941-2015

When the week started we thought the big media news would be what is happening with Brian Williams, but then word came Wednesday night that veteran CBS reporter and 60 Minutes correspondent Bob Simon had died in a car accident in Manhattan. Simon was in a Lincoln Town Car going home from work when it rear-ended a car that was stopped at a stoplight. Police are still investigating the accident.

In his almost 50-year career, Simon won 27 Emmy Awards and several Peabody Awards and covered almost every story imaginable. Beginning as a reporter for CBS in 1967, he covered college campuses and political conventions. As a foreign correspondent, he covered the Vietnam War and political unrest in places like Northern Ireland, Somalia, and Haiti. He became CBS’s chief Middle East correspondent in the late ’80s and during the Gulf War he was captured and tortured by Iraqi forces. He was held prisoner for 40 days. Simon was 73 and is survived by his wife, Francoise; daughter, Tanya, who is a producer at 60 Minutes and often worked with him on stories; and grandson, Jack.

Brian Williams Benched For Six Months

Brian Williams (Shutterstock)
Brian Williams

Though the investigation is still ongoing, NBC has decided to suspend NBC Nightly News anchor and managing editor Brian Williams for six months without pay for not being completely truthful about a 2003 incident in Iraq. Williams said that the chopper he was riding in was hit by enemy fire. But as we all now know it wasn’t Williams’ chopper that got hit. A different chopper was hit and went down, then Williams’ chopper arrived on the scene 30 to 60 minutes later. Call it a lie, call it “misremembering”; either way, Lester Holt is going to be his replacement until the summer.

What makes this a not-so-cut-and-dried decision is that Williams actually did tell the truth about the incident the first handful of times he talked about it on air. Add in that he’s a well-liked guy and gets good ratings and those are probably the reasons why NBC seems to be saying that he’ll be back at the anchor desk.

But the damage might be too much for Williams and NBC to fix.

I wonder if we’ll see a plot twist in six months, a scenario where Williams isn’t “fired” but supposedly leaves on his own to do another show on another network. And I don’t mean The Daily Show. Sure, Williams would be great on it (he’s an extremely funny guy) but I don’t think he wants to give up his real news career just yet, and it would seem like he was trivializing all of the serious work he did for years and almost admitting he wasn’t a “real” news person and that’s why he’s now doing a fake-news show.

Jon Stewart Leaving The Daily Show

Jon Stewart (s_bukley / Shutterstock)
Jon Stewart
(s_bukley / Shutterstock)

The day after the Williams news we learned that Jon Stewart will be leaving his show too, after more than 16 years. After he took over for original host Craig Kilborn, Stewart made the show into must-see TV for young viewers, pundits, and media people in general. Actually anyone who liked to see the media and politicians skewered on a nightly basis. No word yet on who will replace him when he leaves, which will be later this year. Comedy Central has been losing a lot of people lately (John Oliver to HBO, then Stephen Colbert to CBS, and now Stewart) but they also have a deep bench. Or maybe they’ll be pick someone completely out of left field, like CBS did when they hired James Corden for The Late Late Show.

I was a Kilborn fan. Maybe we can start a letter-writing campaign for Comedy Central to bring him back for a whole new generation, along with Five Questions and maybe even Yambo too. Bring back Yambo!

The Monopoly Game Controversy

(Ken Wolter / Shutterstock)
(Ken Wolter / Shutterstock)

So what’s the true story about the origins of the classic board game Monopoly? Supposedly it will soon celebrate its 80th anniversary because for years we’ve been told it was invented during the Depression by a man named Charles Darrow. The story says he created it as something for his family to play during hard times. But according to a new book, that might not be the case. In The Monopolists, Mary Pilon says that the game was actually based on another game created by a feminist activist named Lizze Magie, who was a fan of anti-monopoly economist Henry George and wanted to honor him in some way. Hers was called The Landlord Game and she patented it in 1903. It grew in popularity throughout the 1920s and 30s.

So how did Darrow come into the picture? Read the synopsis of Pilon’s book at The Daily Beast and find out for yourself. Or better yet buy the book. I can picture it as a movie actually. Pilon’s book, not the game itself, which is already a movie that plans to start filming this summer. Originally it was going to be a satire of the financial and real estate world directed by Ridley Scott but now it’s going for more of a Goonies feel.

RIP, RadioShack

(Ken Wolter / Shutterstock)
(Ken Wolter / Shutterstock)

I guess I’m one of the reasons why RadioShack has been in trouble that past several years. Sorry! I can’t remember the last time I went into one. It must have been over a decade ago. I think I needed some sort of special connector or something. But I never really had a reason to go into one. I wouldn’t buy a phone or a computer there, and they’re not the only place that sells batteries.

The 95-year-old chain has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will be closing between 1,600 and 2,500 stores. They’re also going to team up with Sprint for the remaining locations, which will sell Sprint products and services but still be co-branded with RadioShack in some way (Sprint/RadioShack? SprintShack?). The Harvard Business Review has a piece on why the two companies are joining forces. Or as the clever title puts it, “shacking up.”

Please Be Careful What You Say Around Your TV


All this talk about privacy issues on social media sites and a new “credit card information being hacked” story on the news every week has made us forget another form of danger: our televisions! Seems that some Samsung smart TVs (every piece of tech is now called “smart” if they do things we don’t want them to do) not only have a feature where you can control the TVs by using your voice, the sets are actually recording what goes on in the room and can send the info to third parties (but don’t worry – they have your best interest at heart). Luckily there’s a way to turn it off, but shouldn’t it be off in the first place and then we can turn it on if we choose to do so? I think we all know why it’s not set up that way.

This is all rather horrifying to me. I have this nightmarish vision of a future world where our appliances tell us how to run our lives. Our TVs will say, “You don’t really want to watch another episode of The Bachelor, do you ?” and my toaster will chastise me for putting too much butter on my bread.

If that wasn’t enough, Samsung TVs are also inserting Pepsi ads into movies and TV shows as you watch them. All that stuff we read about in science fiction like The Minority Report is actually coming true.

RIP, Lizabeth Scott

Just last week I was watching the 1947 Humphrey Bogart noir Dead Reckoning and couldn’t believe that his co-star Lizabeth Scott was still alive. But Scott passed away on January 31 in Los Angeles at the age of 92. Her death was just announced this week.

She was one of the great femme fatales of film noir in the ’40s and ’50s. Besides Dead Reckoning, she appeared in The Strange Loves of Martha Ivers, Dark City, Pitfall, Too Late For Tears, and I Walk Alone. She also appeared in the Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis comedy Scared Stiff and in several TV shows before retiring in the early ’60s.

Friday the 13th


If you’re the superstitious sort you’re probably FREAKING OUT today because it’s Friday the 13th. Don’t walk under ladders! Don’t get near a black cat! Don’t eat cheddar cheese while wearing denim! OK, I made up that last one but it seems to make as much sense as the others. I’m not sure if people agree on how fear of the day got started, but Wikipedia has a fairly detailed explanation.

It’s funny how now we can’t think of Friday the 13th without also thinking of the horror film franchise.

Valentine’s Day

Check out these classic Post Valentine's Day Covers!
Check out these classic Post Valentine’s Day Covers!

Tomorrow is the big day! For women, that is. The big day for men is probably Super Bowl Sunday or the day a new video game is released or a day we don’t have to shave (did I get all of the male clichés in there?). But if you’re the type of couple that celebrates on the 14th, here are some great ideas for Valentine’s Day dinner from Food Network and several more from Food & Wine.

Either that or just get some pizza delivered. You know your significant other better than I do. But definitely put the video games away for the night (and check out some classic Valentine’s Day covers from the Post.

Upcoming Anniversaries

Susan B. Anthony’s Birthday (February 15, 1820)

Here’s everything you need to know about Anthony at the official site for the Susan B. Anthony Museum & House.

Thomas Jefferson Elected President (February 17, 1801)

Read what Jefferson and other great American thinkers had to say about free speech.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Published (February 18, 1885)

Read The Saturday Evening Post Archive Director Jeff Nilsson’s piece about the next Mark Twain (and Twain’s connection to the Post).

Pluto Discovered (February 18, 1930)

Is Pluto a planet or not? Here’s the official NASA viewpoint.

Astronaut John Glenn Becomes First American to Orbit the Earth (February 20, 1962)

What was life like in 1962?