LSD: A Trip Down Memory Lane

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LSD25 Manufactured by Sandoz Laboratories - Basel, Switzerland

LSD25 Manufactured by Sandoz Laboratories – Basel, Switzerland

Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life.  ~~Steve Jobs

In 1956 this unnamed American housewife took LSD at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Los Angeles. This woman’s husband was an employee at the hospital and referred her to this study, which was reportedly done for a television program on mental health issues.

When Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman first synthesized LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) at the Sandoz laboratories in Basel, Switzerland on November 16, 1938, he felt that the compound wasn’t useful for the project at hand. He set it aside in the slush-pile. Five years later, April 16, 1943, Hoffman felt compelled to take another look at his abandoned discovery. John Beresford writes:

Hofmann is not sure – the chemist in the old Sandoz lab had what he called a “Vorgefühl.” The usual English word for this is “presentiment,” but the German word suggests something stronger than the laid-back “presentiment.” Something was telling Hofmann to retrace his steps and perform a new synthesis of the discarded molecule, LSD-25. It had to be that molecule and not one of the others consigned to the “useless” pile…

Hofmann does not remember what he was doing when the “presentiment” came over him. He won’t say if it came in a dream, or if he was in a state of unusual lucidity. One is free to speculate that the “instruction” to re-synthesize LSD came from a spiritual power which intervenes in the affairs of man to restore order when the danger of disorder has become too great. The reckless act of science in Chicago in December, 1942 (the first successful nuclear chain reaction – ed.) was remedied in Basel four months later, with Albert Hofmann chosen as the instrument to perform the cure.

 Before LSD, After LSD -  Albert Hofmann, the Swiss chemist (1906-2008)

Before LSD, After LSD – Albert Hofmann, the Swiss chemist (1906-2008)

Whatever the case, while re-synthesizing the LSD, Hofmann accidentally absorbed a small amount of the drug through his fingertips and discovered its powerful effects.

…affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After about two hours this condition faded away.

Three days later (April 19) Hofmann decided to intentionally take an experimental dose in order to delve deeper into the true effects of LSD. He (wrongly) determined that ingesting 0.25 milligrams (250 micrograms) would be a threshold dose – in actuality a threshold dose is 20 micrograms. Needless to say, Hoffman went a pretty massive trip. Within an hour he began to experience sudden and intense changes to his perception. He asked his lab assistant to accompany him home and, as it was wartime and cars were not an option, the two set out for their destination on bicycles.

At first Hofmann experienced extreme hallucinations and feelings of anxiety and paranoia. But then:

…little by little I could begin to enjoy the unprecedented colors and plays of shapes that persisted behind my closed eyes. Kaleidoscopic, fantastic images surged in on me, alternating, variegated, opening and then closing themselves in circles and spirals, exploding in colored fountains, rearranging and hybridizing themselves in constant flux …

April 19 wold become what is known as Bicycle Day in psychedelic communities and celebrated as the day of discovery for LSD.

LSD blotter paper depicting Albert Hoffman on Bicycle Day

LSD blotter paper depicting Albert Hoffman on Bicycle Day

After sharing this information with colleagues, as well as the experience, LSD-25 became the focus for all kinds of mind-centered experiments. Was it useful as a tool in psychiatry? Could the CIA use it as a pharmaceutical in Mind Control (MK-ULTRA)? Could LSD be used to treat alcoholism and/or autism?

In 1955 a former OSS operative and then Federal Bureau of Narcotics agent named George Hunter White teamed up with the CIA to run what was known as Operation Midnight Climax – a brothel was set up on Chestnut street in the San Francisco Bay area and unsuspecting Johns behavior was observed after they were secretly dosed. Several significant operational techniques were developed in this theater, including extensive research into sexual blackmail, surveillance technology, and the possible use of mind-altering drugs in field operations. This operation was carried out for a decade, 1955-1965. Many suspect that this is how LSD became introduced to civilians on the street and became a catalyst for the psychedelic anti-war culture of the 1960s.

Psychedelic Eye

A whole lot more could be written about the 1960s LSD experience such as the colorful characters, the gurus, the communities, etc., but that’s beyond the scope of this post. Covered here was a short trip down memory lane to the beginnings of a drug that appeared at the dawn of the nuclear age – a time when splitting an atom could blow the world away, and sipping down a molecule could blow the mind away. LSD became illegal in California on October 6, 1966. Other U.S. states and the rest of the world followed with the ban. Like the atom bomb, LSD has faded from social consciousness, but also like the atom bomb, LSD still lurks in the background. Time will tell if another moment will come when they explode back to the front of public awareness.

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When Darling Gertie The Dinosaur Ushered In The Character Cartoon Age

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Gertie the Dinosaur is a 1914 American animated short film by Winsor McCay. Although not the first animated film, as is sometimes thought, it was the first cartoon to feature a character with an appealing personality. The appearance of a true character distinguished it from earlier animated “trick films”, such as those of Blackton and Cohl, and makes it the predecessor to later popular cartoons such as those by Walt Disney. The film was also the first to be created using keyframe animation. The film has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry, and was named #6 of The 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time in a 1994 survey of animators and cartoon historians by Jerry Beck.

The Public Domain Review

Could This Be The Holy Grail Of Sci-fi Animation Film Posters? – ‘A Trip To The Moon’ 1914

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A Trip To Mars Movie Poster - Lubin 1914

A Trip To Mars Movie Poster – Lubin Manufacturing Company, 1914

This poster would be an eye-catcher even without knowing anything about it. The illustration and graphic design just pop – it’s curious and fun, not unlike a lot of circus posters of the time that were designed to project those very elements. Unfortunately the artist is unknown – to collectors the poster is not. This might well be the Holy Grail of animated film posters. Invaluable, the world’s largest online auction marketplace, has listed this A Trip To Mars poster to go on auction on January 25, 2015, 11:00 AM EST. The auction house hosting the sale, Poster Auctions International, Inc., list the estimated price of this gem as $225,000 – $275,000.

This is their description:

Siegmund Lubin, a Polish Jew who came to this country in the 1870s, founded The Lubin Manufacturing Company, one of the earliest film production firms (later becoming The Betzwood Film Co.), in Philadelphia, and by 1912 was head of America’s first movie empire. He was known as “The King of the Movies,” becoming America’s first cinema mogul.

In 1902, Georges Méliès created A Trip to the Moon based on Jules Verne’s classic novel. It was the first movie to achieve worldwide fame. Lubin and other iconic contemporaries such as Thomas Edison were cited for rampantly pirating the film. Méliès sent his brother to the United States to stop it, establishing many of the copyright laws that still stand today. However, Lubin decided that he wasn’t going to be stopped, figuring out an innovative way to avoid paying royalties to Méliès: he created one of the earliest fully animated films ever produced, an American version of A Trip to the Moon, in 1914.

Animated films were extraordinarily unusual for the time. This production opened to the public six months prior to the release of WIndsor (sic) McCay’s Gertie the Dinosaur, which is often (incorrectly) cited as the beginning of movie animation. This, in fact, is the earliest film poster to ever surface representing a significant title in animation. And this is the only known specimen of it.

The design of this poster is noteworthy for its futuristic boldness and graphic clarity. There is no known surviving poster for the Méliès original film (and most probably none were produced). This is the only representation of the famous title, and one of the earliest science fiction artifacts ever discovered. Lubin went all out in this poster. He sensed that the sheer novelty of this animated film (crude and short as it was) would be worth a special marketing effort, therefore this spectacular poster. The A.B.C. company, which handled all of Lubin’s posters, gets design credit. It is doubtful that Vincent Whitman, the animator of the cartoon, had anything to do with the poster. The famed Otis plant in Cleveland (Otis Litho Co., Cleveland, OH – ed.) handled the stone lithographic work with precision.

So there you have it – a truly one-of-a-kind piece of American film history. It will be interesting to see if this rarity sells and by how much. The starting bid is $220,000. Imagine how great it would be to have an extra quarter-of-a-million dollars to spend on a fantastic little item like this.

Not Just Any Toy Robot – The DUX Astroman Robot

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The DUX Astroman

The DUX Astroman Robot – manufactured in West Germany and first introduced c. 1959. The artwork on the original box is considered one of the big pluses for this prized collectable. (Photo via Alphadrome Robot and Space Toy Database)

In the 1950s (and beyond), Japan toy manufacturers had the reputation as the best – in creativity, design, and quality. To this day some of the most wanted post-WWII vintage toys were manufactured in Japan – particularly the tin-litho windups, including robots, i.e. The Alps Television Spaceman and The Radicon Robot.

Still, there are some non-Japanese vintage toy robots that collectors prize – one of them is the DUX Astroman Robot made in West Germany.

The battery operated remote controlled Astroman Robot, complete with red antenna and padded hands.

The battery operated remote controlled Astroman Robot, complete with red antenna and padded hands.

Designed by Lothar Stanetzki of Bonn, Germany and originally seen in German catalogs in 1959. The original patent, which was filed in January of 1960 and granted in April 1964, defined the specific distinction of this robot:

…a serious drawback of many presently utilized toys of this general character is that all movements which the toys are capable of performing must occur in a predetermined sequence i.e. that the player cannot change the sequence of movements as he wishes…An important object of [this] invention is to provide an improved automaton which is…constructed in such a way…that the movements which it is adapted to perform are independent of each other and may be initiated either simultaneously or in any desired sequence which dependents only upon the user’s choice.

The final result was a 12″, battery operated remote controlled robot named Astroman – it became a best seller. Astroman has a translucent green body with a light up chest, a forward walking motion, bends at the waist, and opens and closes his arms to pick up objects. He also has a glow-in-the dark head, a clear plastic helmet, red antenna, and headphones.

DUX-Astroman 150 Catalog Listing - 1960

A marvel of toy construction immediately appealing for father and son. – DUX-Astroman 150 Catalog Listing, 1960 (Photo via Blechroboter at Alphadrome)


DUX Astroman Pickup PicPlastic robots in the 1950s and early sixties were very rare. DUX Astroman Robot is considered the first of its kind. It’s for this reason that the robot can be quite expensive – not only for its historical value, but also because of the wear and bowing that is known to happen with plastic toys. The red antenna is fragile and is often missing and the pads on the hands can often be worn down or missing altogether. The clear plastic helmet can be discolored after years of being exposed to the elements. A reproduction replacement for the antenna can cost anywhere from $35.00-$60.00 in some places. A reproduction of the helmet can cost as much as $90.00, and a reproduction head/mask can sell for $35.00-$60.00 – most aren’t even glow-in-the-dark. To find an original DUX Astroman Robot in mint condition with all working parts accompanied with the original box, standing display, cargo boxes, and instructions is very rare. Collectors have been known to pay anywhere from $1,100.00 to $1,800.00 for the complete set-up like the one shown below.

Complete DUX Astroman SetSo, if you’re a person who visits garage and lawn sales looking for that amazing find, and you see a DUX Astroman Robot set that’s selling for an amazing price, even if you’re not a fan of vintage toy robots, buy it. Consider it a worthwhile investment.

(Photos via ToyTent except where noted)

A Trip Into Space With Ace Brave!

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Into Space With Ace Brave - Pop-Up book cover illustration by Ron Turner. 1953

Into Space With Ace Brave – Pop-Up book cover illustration by Ron Turner, 1953

Control deck of space ship 'Asteroid'

Control deck of space ship Asteroid

This is the command deck of space ship ‘Asteroid‘ – and YOU are the captain, seated in the center there in front of your impressive array of instruments. I am speaking to you over your personal contact tele-viewer, and you can see my ship ‘The Starider‘ on your forward tele-view. We are midway between Earth and the Moon and we are bound for Mars where we are to meet the deep-space ship, ‘The Aspirant.’

On our journey I’ll share some adventures I’ve had and some things we’ve met, but first let’s review some of the equipment we use in space. Let’s go!

An important piece of equipment we use in space - The Space Suit

An important piece of equipment we use in space – The Space Suit

The Weapons Of Space

The Weapons Of Space

A. The Hydramatic Mark 4 Flame Gun which uses a light hydro-ammonal compound – its lethal range in space is 2000 yards.

B. The Atomatic which fires .20-caliber atomic bullets – the burst from these atomic guns produce spectacular results.

C. The Radiumatic which works on the controlled-fission principle produces a concentrated radiation beam. The Radiumatic is proportionality more effective than weapons A and B and can be converted into an ideal weapon for ground use.

Peril in the Venusian jungle - A rescue operation results in the disintegration of a Terrathon and a safe return of fellow traveler, Professor Devonport.

Peril in the Venusian jungle – A rescue operation results in the disintegration of a Terrathon and a safe return of fellow traveler, Professor Devonport.

Life On Mercury

Life On Mercury

Humans and the Mercurians have become firm friends since the first meeting nine years ago. The Mercurians are referred to as ‘The Iron Men‘ as the outer skin of these strange chaps is a thick tissue with a metallic base, protection against the intense heat.

The canopy and cape worn by the Mercurian on the right are used by them when Mercury makes its nearest approach to the sun, when even they need some extra protection.

Venus

Venus

The Venusians are an advanced lot. As the ship descended to the planet it was frozen into immobility. A grating metallic voice came over the intercom, ‘Hello men of Earth. Follow me and no harm will come to you. Do as I command!’

Guided to the domed city of Metharon, a meeting was arranged with the elected overlord of Venus, The Imperator. The Imperator disclosed that the Venusians knew all about Earth, had in fact visited in the past, and now monitored Earth’s broadcasts. ‘Go Back to Earth,’ he said, ‘and tell them that whenever they come in peace we shall welcome them but, at the first sign of hostility they will be destroyed, utterly!’

Since then, the Venusians have been treated with the respect they merit.

Crash Landing - Accidents happen. This particular emergency landing occurred on Mars. The rescue team that rushed to the crash site came from the take-off point bringing with them a pressurized hospital tank that saved a life.

Crash Landing – Accidents happen. This particular emergency landing occurred on Mars. The rescue team that rushed to the crash site came from the take-off point bringing with them a pressurized hospital tank that saved a life.

Mars is inhabited by these formidable creatures. They communicate telepathically. The first meeting with them was tense but they are now good friends. They refer to their planet as Alkmenos.

Mission Accomplished

And there is The Aspirant. She’s surrounded by space-suited men and two transport ships are bringing in last-minute supplies. The Aspirant will be the ship used for ‘Operation Deep Space’ – an exploration of the outer planets – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.

Much of the credit for the design of The Aspirant should go to the Venusians and Martians. They provided important component designs that helped make the ship into what it is.

Now that the supplies from The Asteroid have been loaded into The Aspirant it’s time to return to Earth. In twenty-four hours The Aspirant will blast off into deep space. One day we’ll be back to tell you — what lies beyond!

SPACE PATROL

SPACE PATROL

Passing the moon on the return to Earth a sinister shape is seen streaking toward the ship – a space pirate! A message is radioed to the moon-based Space Patrol. Furious activity and almost at once, the ships are blasting off the launching ramps. The Asteroid holds the pirates off long enough – here come the Space Patrol!

The End...?

The End…?

Images via The Ron Turner Collection