Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wednesday Search Challenge (4/23/14): What's the date of this globe?

THIS is a busier week than usual.  

I'm teaching five classes this week, including a new class on how to search for, find, and use historical primary source materials.  That was great fun, and I'll write about it soon.  I promise.  

So it was with great happiness that SRS Regular Reader Jon (the Unknown) wrote in with a superb Search Challenge for this week.  

Jon writes:  

"My 9 year-old granddaughter wanted a globe for her birthday. I had one kicking around for years that was old when I was given it. Naturally, I wanted to know when it was made. 
It seems globe makers are notorious for not dating the things, so that users will always think they have the latest and greatest." 

Jon sent in some photos of the globe to see if we could figure it out.  

Today's question is straightforward (but perhaps not so simple).  It's a great challenge, though. 


     1.  What year was this globe made?  


You'd think that the globe's legend would tell you, but no.  However...  All the information you need is right here.  It's just a matter of figuring out how to use the information in the pictures to determine when could have been produced.  

Can you tell us?  

When you figure it out, be sure to tell us HOW you figured it.  We're all interested in learning from your research process!  What was the line of reasoning you used to determine the date here.  

Search on!  (And a big tip o' the hat to Jon!) 









Friday, April 18, 2014

Answer: What was the major news story?

As mentioned, this wasn't an especially easy or simple Challenge. Here are the questions, and my solution.  

1.  What was the biggest news story of something that happened in a particular part of Andhra Pradesh during the past 100 years?   (As measured by coverage in the international English language press. For people who want to use other languages, you should find the same result, but I don't know how to solve this in anything but English.)  
2.  In that same year, what was the biggest audio technology story? 
3.  Again, in that same year, what was the biggest story (same basis as before) about events going on in Germany?  

Let's break this first question down.

What and Where is Andhra Pradesh?

If you do the obvious search, you'll quickly learn that Andhra Pradesh (AP) was formed in 1956 by the annexation of the country of Hyderabad with the Indian Union.  AP is now composed of the regions of the small enclave of Yanam, along with the smaller coastal regions of Coastal Andhra, Telangana and Rayalaseema. The city of Hyderabad (formerly the capital of Hyderabad, the country) is now the capital of AP.



So finding the "biggest news story" that happened in a particular part of AP means checking news stories in AP since 1956 AND checking news stories about Hyderabad, Coastal Andhra, Telangana, and Rayalaseema as well.

Now... How can we check for "biggest news story" about a particular topic over the past 100 years?

It's pretty clear that (a) we need an archive of news stories, and (b) we need some way to count the frequency of news stories on a topic over a given time period.

Think about it this way:  What would be the ideal tool to answer a question like this?  When I thought about it, I realized that what I'd like is some way to create a histogram of the "number of news stories over the past century on a given topic."  Make sense?  How are we going to find that?

I remembered that once upon a time, Google News had this capability, but it's long gone.  There are various APIs to let one write code to access archival content (such as the NYTimes Article Search API, but that archive only goes back to 1981).

There are a number of newspaper archives out there, and the first one I checked, Newspapers.com, just happened to show a histogram feature to indicate the number of hits on a topic over the past century. This is exactly what we need to answer this question. 

Here, I've done the obvious query about AP.  And it's easy to see that Andhra Pradesh didn't register at all before it was founded in 1956.  Notice that the UI shows the number of hits in red above the histogram.  






By doing several queries : 

  [ Andhra Pradesh ] 
  [ Hyderabad ] 
  [ Telangana ] 
  [ Rayalaseema ] 

etc.) it didn't take me more than a minute to discover that the major event in the region of AP was the annexation of the state of Hyderabad by India.  That event, called "Operation Polo" (September, 1948) was the takeover of the princely state of Hyderabad and its incorporation into the union. By clicking through to the news articles, it was clear that this was generating a LOT of news coverage, as you can see by searching just for Hyderabad, and zooming in on 1948.  



As an event on the world stage, it was fairly major, causing a great deal of news coverage at the time.  (It was, after all, the overthrow of one of the world's last principalities, and merged 18 million people into India. During the fighting, roughly 30,000 people were killed.)



Now we have the answer:  The biggest news story in the AP region was the annexation of Hyderabad into India with at least 18,746 stories  Even the creation of Andhra Pradesh state in 1956 itself didn't generate quite as many news stories (at least 1000 fewer).  

Next question?  Now that we know the year (1948), the next two questions are relatively simple.  We could do more searching in the newspaper archive.  BUT.. a simpler search: 

     [ major news stories 1948 ] 

will bring up a large number of "What Happened in the Year 1948?" sites.  Scanning through several of them, you'll quickly discover that they agree: the 33&1/3rd LP (long-play) record format was announced in 1948 by Columbia Records.  Reading through some of that content revealed that this was a major advance over the previous formats (78 rpm records) with a much longer play time (20 minutes / side) and an improved signal/noise ratio.  

Doing the same kind of search for Germany in the "Top Stories of 1948" shows that, from the English language perspective, the Berlin Blockade and the subsequent Berlin Airlift to provide essentials to the city during the blockade by the Soviet Union.  Airplanes and crews from the United States Air Force, British Royal Air Force, Royal Canadian Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force, Royal New Zealand Air Force, and the South African Air Force flew over 200,000 flights in one year, delivering up to 4700 tons of necessities each day to the beleaguered city.   This story dominated headlines and coverage for much of the year.  


Search Lessons:  In this case, the hard part was figuring out HOW to measure "biggest news coverage."  In my case, I wasn't sure how to do this, but I started with what I already knew--to wit, that there were news archives.  By doing a bit of exploring there, I found that at least one of them (Newspapers.com) offered exactly the tool I needed--the histogram of hits by year.  Lesson:  Even when you don't think you know how to solve the problem, at least go visit the content--you never know what will turn up.  

Also remember that there are LOTS of people with deep interests in history out there on the web.  Although the quality of web content sometimes varies quite a bit, they DO provide useful aggregations of information... including "top stories" by year.  When in doubt, consider searching for those aggregations and visit several of them, looking for agreement (repetitions) about what were the top stories in any given time period.  

Finally, remember that many things change name over time. The state of AP didn't even exist before 1956.  So checking for news on the state of AP really meant checking for several previously existing regions (with totally different names) that were there before.  This continues in more recent time: You won't find any news stories about the country of Eritrea before 1993.  (There are stories about the region, but not the country.  You've got to be careful...)   

Search on! 



Thursday, April 17, 2014

Closing in.... Searching for a tool



Quick comment on yesterday's challenge... 


As several readers have pointed out, the question really boils down to "how can I figure out what news stories were popular over the past 100 years?"  


Here's a hint:  Can you find a tool or dataset or some mechanism that will let you see that kind of overall popularity?  


Find that, and you'll have the answer quickly.  


Search on... for the right tool!




(Second hint in tiny font:  Not all tools are hidden inside the tent of Google.)  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wednesday Search Challenge (4/16/14): What was the major news story?

A while back I visited the state of Andhra Pradesh in India...  

It's fairly large, with a population of 84M people, making it the 5th largest state of India. In other words, it's 2.2 times larger than the population of California in just more than half of California's area.  Andhra Pradesh, like California, is the "rice bowl of India," providing a large fraction of southeast Asia's rice supply.  

It's been important historically, and given its size (the population of this one Indian state is roughly the same as the entire US population of all states west of Kansas), you'd think we'd know more about it.  

My visit made me start to wonder--what HAS happened, historically, in this region?  Sure, there's been a lot of history, but how would I find out more about what role Andhra Pradesh has played in world news?  

Since we know that the best way to learn something is to link it to other things that are related to it, I have three questions that are all news stories from the same year... the question is to figure out which year.  (Side comment:  This is probably the best way to learn the flow of history--don't remember dates, remember how things fit together in the tapestry of time.)  


1.  What was the biggest news story of something that happened in a particular part of Andhra Pradesh during the past 100 years?   (As measured by coverage in the international English language press. For people who want to use other languages, you should find the same result, but I don't know how to solve this in anything but English.)  
2.  In that same year, what was the biggest audio technology story? 
3.  Again, in that same year, what was the biggest story (same basis as before) about events going on in Germany?  

This isn't necessarily the simplest challenge.  (First question:  How do you measure "coverage in the English language press?)  But I think you'll find it interesting, and I assure you, you'll learn interesting things along the way. 

Be sure to tell us HOW you found the answer.  (What methods did you use?  What resources did you find that were helpful?) 

Search on! 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New: Coordinates on demand

Here's a quick search tip that might save you a bit of hassle from time to time.  Just search for (replace  GEOFEATURE with a name of a site, monument, city, etc.): 

     [   GEOFEATURE coordinates ] 

and you'll get back the Lat/Long for the location of interest.  Here are a few examples. 

Enjoy. 









(I noticed it also did a spell correction on my search term "harbor.")  

Search on! 


Friday, April 11, 2014

Answer: What kind of bird is that?

Credit:  Bill Walker. Link to his site.

Let's dive right into the question.  These birds are visiting... but help me out with understanding what these fine birds are!  

1.  What kind of birds are these?  (Common name and Latin names, please.  No fair using Search-By-Image this time!)  
2.  In his masterwork on the illustrations of American birds, the great artist and ornithologist John James Audubon gave this bird a common name that is no longer used.  What is the common name that he used for this bird? 
3.  Speaking of that book--I'd really like to see an actual copy of the masterwork.  Where's the closest copy to me (in California)?  (For extra credit:  Is there a copy I could actually touch and turn the pages with my own (gloved) hands?) 


What kind of birds?  The classic way to answer this question is with a bird identification key or some kind of bird identification book.  I have the classic Roger Tory Peterson ("Field Guide to Western Birds")  Amazon link. Google Books link.  

The way guide books work is to work your way down a decision tree by answering questions and turning to the next entry in the tree.  "Is it passerine bird?" -- but the Peterson method is to first jump into a category of bird ("Owls & Nightjars"  or "Hummingbirds" or "Shrikes and Vireos") and then answer a few questions, but mostly looking at the color images.  Of course, you need to be able to tell your Tanagers apart from your Towhees, so it assumes a bit of learning up front.  

If we don't know anything about this bird to begin with, how would you start?  Would you recognize that the appropriate chapter is labeled "Waxwings, Phainopepla, and Starlings"?  Probably not.  

Luckily, as most people figured out a simple search for: 

     [ bird crest tan yellow ] 

gives a pretty decent set of hits on the first page, quickly learning that this is a Cedar Waxwing, or Bombycilla cedrorum.  (At least for me in California.  If you're in another part of the world, you might have to add in a georeference such as "California" or "North America" to get similar results.)  



The thing about bird identification (or plant, or insect, or most biologicals) is that you have to check the details carefully.  

This is where the Peterson guide is useful (see the section on Waxwings in either of the above links).  It includes helpful tips to discriminate between similar birds.  In this case, the Bohemian Waxwing is the bird that's most like the Cedar Waxwing.  Peterson's book points out that the Cedar Waxwing has yellow on the belly, while the Bohemian does not.  The Cedar has yellow band at the tip of the tail, while the Bohemian does not.  

In addition to Bill Walker's site, David Leahey has a nice collection of Cedar Waxwings, all of the photos taken from my immediate location.  (Hat tip to Rosemary for the link.)  



Common name of this bird used by Audubon?  The question itself suggests that there might be more than one name.  That's true for many animals and plants.  Not only are their local variations, but the common names change over time.  It's ALSO worth noting that the scientists will change the names as well.

In this case, I was curious what Audubon drew for this particular bird, so my initial search was: 

     [ Audubon cedar waxwing drawing ] 

and I looked in Images to see what he might have written as a description of the bird along side the drawing.  

It didn't take me long to find a few images (relatively small, it must be said) of the original Audubon drawings.  On those drawings he identifies the bird as a "Cedar Bird" with the scientific name of Bombycilla carolinensis. (Compare this with the Latin binomial name given above! You'll find it's different.)  

When you're doing your searches, note such differences, because older work might well have THOSE terms used instead. 

Here I've done the two searches side-by-side.  Notice how different the results are.  The Bombycilla carolinensis results are all much older, and refer to books that are no longer current.  (But still beautiful.)  




Where's the closest copy?  Whenever you're looking for a book (or music manuscript, or film, or ... any kind of library-like object), the WorldCat system run by OCLC is your friend.  

     [ WorldCat ] 

will find you the entry.  

Now, what's the book we're looking for?  

A query for Audubon will quickly lead you to the Wikipedia entry (and many others) that will all concur:  Audubon's master work was his giant ("elephant folio") edition of his collected drawings, "Birds of America."  

Having looked up OCLC's WorldCat search service, I simply entered: 



I can then enter my Zip code (94304 - Palo Alto, right next door to the Googleplex)


Of course, you want to click through the entry to make sure it's an original copy (remember that I wasn't looking for facsimiles, but the original publication).  

As several people pointed out in the comments, this is a fabulously expensive book.  I can watch an archivist turn the pages (e.g., as the Drexel Academy of Sciences daily (3:15PM) page-turn event)  


Fun facts picked up along the way:  As Regular Reader Hans (and others) pointed out, Cedar Waxwings are notorious for gorging themselves on berries, and then either getting too drunk (on the fermented berries) to fly, OR basically choking themselves to death via gluttony.  

When I was reading some of the writing of Audubon about Cedar Waxwings I was surprised to learn that they are "so tender and juicy as to be sought by every epicure for the table." 

I wouldn't have thought of that. 

He wrote that he knew of instances of a basket full of these little birds had been forwarded to New Orleans by a hunter as a Christmas present. They never arrived. "I afterwards discovered that the steward of the steamer, in which they were shipped, made pies of them for the benefit of the passengers." 

I also learned that Audubon was born as Jean-Jacques Audubon in Les Cayes in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti).  He moved to France at young age. 

Although we think of Audubon as a very American character, he almost certainly spoke with a strong French accent.  (Although I haven't been able to confirm that with a contemporary letter account.)  


Search Lessons:  While there are often many ways to learn the identity of a bird, the simplest way is often the best.... but with careful checking to make sure the details line up.  

Note that birds (plants, animals, people, countries) often change their names over time.  Audubon's "Cedar Bird" quickly changed to "Cedar Waxwing" when was grouped with other waxwings in North America.  

As always, it's good to use multiple sources to validate your identification.  Turning to well-known sources (e.g., the Peterson guides) is a great way to also pick up the identification tricks you need to be good at this.  

Finally, remember that sometimes specialist external resources (OCLC's WorldCat index across thousands of libraries) can help you find exactly the object you need.  Google doesn't have this information, but this is precisely what WorldCat does best.  

Search on! 


And many thanks to Bill Walker for the use of his marvelous picture of the Cedar Waxwings.  


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wednesday Search Challenge (4/9/14): What kind of bird is that?

It's spring in Palo Alto, finally, after a long delayed arrival of the rains.  The start of the year has started late, so everything is a bit delayed.  The flowers are slow in arriving, and look to be a bit shorter and a bit fewer this year. 

But just recently one of my favorite springtime events took place to set everything aright. 

I stepped outside and heard a very high pitched, slight, piping sound coming from a large number of birds.  I have a large bush that's full of berries, and in the bush I saw lots of movement.  A flock of my favorite birds had returned to have a breakfast en masse.  They seem to sweep through twice a year, once in spring, and once in the fall, as they migrate from place to place, always pausing where there's food.  

I tried taking a picture, but my lens wasn't long enough and they're pretty fast.  Luckily, my good friend (and superb photographer) Bill Walker was able to take this wonderful photo. 

Credit:  Bill Walker. Link to his site.

These truly are my favorite birds, although some farmers might think otherwise.  There's something about their sleek appearance and very social behavior that make them seem especially interesting.  

Although I know what kind of bird this is, I thought on the occasion of their annual migration, they would make for an curious Search Challenge.  

Obviously, you could just do an image search and find this picture on Bill's site, and then you'd have the answer.  But let's see if we can solve this WITHOUT search-by-image.  (There's method in my madness--suppose I'd taken the photo and not posted it onto the net, in that case, search-by-image often doesn't work.  We need to develop this "regular search" skill for birds as well.)  

1.  What kind of birds are these?  (Common name and Latin names, please.  No fair using Search-By-Image this time!)  
2.  In his masterwork on the illustrations of American birds, the great artist and ornithologist John James Audubon gave this bird a common name that is no longer used.  What is the common name that he used for this bird? 
3.  Speaking of that book--I'd really like to see an actual copy of the masterwork.  Where's the closest copy to me (in California)?  (For extra credit:  Is there a copy I could actually touch and turn the pages with my own (gloved) hands?) 

Let us know how you found the answers.  I'll tell you what I know on Friday. 

Search on! 


Friday, April 4, 2014

Answer: What's the connection?



Thanks to everyone who solved this Challenge.  It wasn't that hard, but it's good to mix things up every so often.  I promise that next week will be a bit more... challenging!    

The challenge for this week was to make some sense out of a scribbled note I found in my stuff: 


1.  What's the connection between "sea fencibles" and the US National Anthem? 

To start with, I didn't know what "sea fencibles" were (are?), so I did the obvious search: 

     [sea fencibles] 

which led to the obvious Wikipedia page about the Sea Fencibles.  

There I learned that the "Fencibles" began with in the United Kingdom as an "organized sea defence by local fisherman to prevent invasion." That is, a kind of locals irregular coast guard.  The idea was carried over to the US and became a more-or-less official unit of the military. 


There I also learned that during the War of 1812 there were sea fencibles set up in Baltimore. "At Baltimore, two companies were raised under the command of Captains Matthew S. Bunbury and William H. Addison." They were attached to the War Department. 

As Jon, the Unknown, pointed out: The word “fencibles” were defined as corps raised for limited service, exercised in the use of musketry and sea-board defense fixed fortifications and the maneuvering of gunboats. Though seamen in general they were under the U.S. War Department and issued muskets and accoutrements. However, they (except for the officers who wore the standard U.S. Infantry uniform) wore no standard uniform, only the clothing of their trade.

This reminded me of when I wrote the note: Clearly I was in Baltimore, and the last time I was there I visited Fort McHenry.  That's a big clue. At this point, I understood the connection.  

But I really liked Ramón's search path: 

     [USA Sea Fencibles around(3) USA National Anthem] 

in Web Search and in Google Books.

In this query, Ramón is using the AROUND operator to look for "fencibles" within 3 words of "USA National Anthem" -- a good idea.  There are many hits here, all of which point out the same thing.  

As pointed out in the post, MARYLAND IN THE WAR OF 1812   "On September 13-14, 1814, in the third year of the War of 1812, this 34 year old Virginia born artillery officer ordered an American flag raised over the ramparts of Fort McHenry in Baltimore harbor following a 25-hour British naval bombardment. The flag itself inspired a Maryland lawyer to write a song that would become the U.S. national anthem on March 3, 1931."


The British attacked the Baltimore port which was defended by Fort McHenry.  At the fort, as part of the local defenses, were the Sea Fencibles.  During the attack, Francis Scott Key wrote a poem beginning with “Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light.."

And then, ...in 1931, Congress made the "Star-SpangledBanner" the national anthem of the United States. 

An excellent history of the flag, the battle, and the song can all be found at the Smithsonian Institution's web site.  Since they actually HAVE the flag (and getting history right is their job), I trust their version of the story.  


Regular Readers might remember that we visited the National Anthem topic before when we discussed the connection between the phrase, “The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine” and the development of the US practice of  "defense by reason of insanity."  You never know what you'll learn in SearchResearch!  

Here, in all its verses, is the entire anthem.  As an elementary schoolchild, I had to learn the first and last verses.  I wonder how many people know all FOUR verses.  

The Star-Spangled Banner

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream,
’Tis the star-spangled banner - O long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto - “In God is our trust,” 
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.


Nice job, everyone.  

Search on! 


 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Wednesday search challenge (4/2/14): What's the connection?


I'm actually on holiday this week (as opposed to my regular travels for work), so I'm going to post a real question that I found buried in my notes from last year.  

Apparently I read something about US history and wrote myself a cryptic note that I present to you as today's challenge: 

1.  What's the connection between "sea fencibles" and the US National Anthem? 

I must have run across this idea ("sea fencibles") somewhere and noted some connection to the anthem. But that's a funny note:  Can you help me figure out what the connection is? 

As usual, please let us know HOW you solved the challenge.  

(And, since I'm traveling around a bit, I'm not sure if I'll answer by Friday, although I know the SearchResearcher Crew will do a great job and probably solve it without me by then.  I'll post on Friday if I can, otherwise, I'll be home on the weekend and write it up then.) 

Search on! 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Answer: What's the story with George's cane?

I asked a couple of questions about this mysterious statue that I'd seen somewhere, but forgotten where.  




The challenges: 


1.  Where is this statue of George Washington located?  A lat/long, street address, or building name would be enough.
2.  What happened to his cane?  Why haven't they fixed it?  
3.  What's the statue that's directly in front of George?  That is, what's behind the photographer?  

Answers:   Where?  The statue is in front of the South Carolina State House in Columbia, SC.  The street address is: 1200 Gervais St., Columbia, SC 29201.  Lat/long:  34.001157, -81.033462 

How:  This wasn't that hard--an ordinary search-by-image doesn't give you much.  But when you add in the context term south, then it 
works.  There are two hits in the top row.  



Clicking on those images quickly tells you where it is.  A Streetview check shows that yes, indeed, George is at the State House.  


Streetview of 1200 Gervais.  You can zoom in to verify that this really is the same statue.  

Of course, as Oodle pointed out, just a  simple Google search for 

    [  George Washington statue broken cane ] 

leads to web pages that tell us where the statue is located.  When 


What about the statue in front of George?  Once you're there, just pulling out the zoom reveals the other statue, the one in front of George.  



I thought at this point I'd just check the Map for this location and find the statue name (just as we did a while back with the search for the wreck of the Garden City ferry).  But it didn't work!  The statue isn't labeled on the map!  

Time to switch to Plan B.  I had to think for a second:  What other services provide location-based information (especially about things like statues and other cultural items)?  

Two services sprang to mind.  Wikimapia.org and WayMarking.com -- both are great sources of additional crowd-sourced geographical information.  

Just to check, I went to Wikimapia.org and dropped in the Lat/Long from above.  Sure enough, clicking on the location of the statue-in-front-of-George revealed that this is the "South Carolina Memorial to the Confederate Dead."  

Wikimapia view of the South Carolina State House, showing the statue we seek.

I also wanted to check the WayMarking site, dropped in the Lat/Long with the search term "statue," and found (just as Hans showed) the same result.

Waymarking view of the monument. Note the different view on the same data.

Notice the differences in the data that's shown at the two sites.  They're nicely complementary, and give me a good sense that the monument really is the "South Carolina Civil War Soldiers Monument."  The Waymarking site actually has photos of the inscriptions--very nice for search-researchers! 

What happened to the cane? 

As you can see from the comments, the straightforward search quickly leads to two very different ideas about the broken cane.  

Theory 1:  Cane broken during a move.  The evidence for this comes from http://scstatehouse.gov/studentpage/explore/map/confederate_soldier.html -- look at the URL carefully.  This is a studentpage.  If you go to the page http://scstatehouse.gov/studentpage/ you'll see that this is a page created for (maybe by?) students who have visited the state house.  (Note that there are no citations and very few details.  Broken during a move? This leaves me feeling suspicious.) 

Theory 2:  Cane broken by Sherman's troops when they occupied the city during the Civil War.  This theory is given some credibility by the plaque on the base of the statue. 



How can we get some earlier, highly credible information about the broken cane?  First, starting with the inscription on the statue ("fait Par Houdon francais 1788 W. J. Hubard's Foundry, Richmond, Virginia, 1858") This tells us that it was installed on the State House grounds in 1858 (per Wikipedia article on the statue).  This date suggests that we might be able to find a newspaper article about Sherman's attack in 1885, and whether or not the statue was affected.  My query (after a few iterations) became: 

     [ South Carolina state house George Washington newspaper -NAACP ] 

Why the -NAACP?  Turns out there was a controversy about building a screen around the statue that was done by the NAACP for a meeting on the steps of the State House.  This use of minus eliminates the annoyingly invasive results.  

The first result was exactly what I needed--a report in the South Carolina Newspaper Project about the State House.  In that report, there's a section from the local newspaper, the Columbia Phoenix, on April 11, 1865 commenting that "When in possession the barbarians tried, in a petty manner to deface and defile as much as they could . . . They seem to have found considerable sport in their practice, with brick-bats, or fragments of rocks, as sharp-shooters; and making the fine bronze statue of Washington their mark, . . . a part of his cane has been carried away among their 'spolia opima.'" (As Jon, the Unknown, tells us, the spolia opima are rich spoils taken from the vanquished. And "brickbatted" means to hit the statue with bricks.)  Remember that the capture of Columbia was just 3 months earlier, so I'm tempted to believe the newspaper report as an accurate rendering.  

Considering the state of the State House at the time, this story seems completely plausible. 


Image from Wikimedia.  The view north from the Columbia SC State House, March 1865.
The Washington statue is near here.

And, why haven't they fixed it?  The sources seem to agree--as a continuing reminder of Sherman's troops excesses during the war.  

Search lessons:  There are several here... 

1.  There are many paths to the solution.  To figure out what the statue was, several of us used the Search-By-Image method, then followed a link or two.  But a simple search also works well. What this tells me is that when a particular method doesn't work, be sure to just move on and try another path.


2.  Not all features are on the map!  I really thought that there would be a labeled Maps feature for the statue, so I was surprised when it wasn't.  That discovery led me to... 

3.  Remember other resources on the web.  I went to Waymarking and WikiMapia and both two slightly different sets of resources, both of which were excellent. 

4.  Cross-check your answer.  As we saw, there are (at least) two different stories behind the broken cane. One of the results was a bit thin (even though it was from an ostensibly credible source).  The other had references (and images!) from original source documents of the time and was consistent with other things we knew about the situation.  



Interesting challenge!  

Keep your curiosity up, even in the face of cannonball attacks! 

Search on.