Silversmith William Grant (1800-1836) writes to his mother in February 1829 about his excitement for the Boston Lyceum and the new education movement that just then was beginning to flower in America. Though business is “dull and money scarce,” Grant nevertheless employs his time profitably through his association with a lyceum. Because his mother may not be familiar with the term, he explains that lyceums are “societies of men for mutual instruction and are carried on by debates, discussions, lectures, and illustrations of all the useful branches of practical education. Lyceums are formed and forming in various parts of the country in Vermont & New Hampshire and in this state. I was at a meeting at the Representative Hall a few evenings since and heard several members of the legislature speak in relation to Lyceums, their general effects on the community at large, &c., and giving an account of the formation, operation and effects of such societies with which they had been personally acquainted. I am fully of the opinion that if they were formed generally in the country towns they would be the most beneficial towards diffusing and obtaining a thorough education of any system or method now known. A gentleman by the name of Holbrook who is now in Boston claims to be the first in the project of Lyceums, and should he succeed according to his expectations in establishing them will undoubtedly be rewarded by a large share of fame.”
The Lyceum movement flourished in America during the mid-19th century. In fact, Josiah Holbrook is credited with starting the first American lyceum in 1826, the “Millbury Branch No. 1 of the American Lyceum” as it was known. It was Holbrook’s intention to begin a national lyceum organization, but as other educators jumped in, the movement spread faster than any one organization could keep up. Until the Civil War, lyceums were primarily institutions for self-improvement; after the war they increasingly became venues for entertainment. Today, adult education in general, and the fast-emerging MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) in particular, might be understood as descendants of the lyceum movement.
Evidently William Grant was a clock and watchmaker by trade. In the years immediately preceding his death he was a partner with Nathaniel Kimball in the firm of William Grant & Co. in Boston.
Seems like a good deal both for the Graham family and for Jeff Bezos, the most successful bookseller in history.
$250 million is a lot better than what the New York Times got for its sale of the Boston Globe. The Times paid $1.1 billion for the Globe 20 years ago and sold it last weekend for $70 million. (The shape of that deal is all-too-familiar for many booksellers.) On the other hand, Bezos has now become the owner of the newspaper of record in American politics, not only giving him a hand in shaping the destiny of the newspaper business, but also giving him an instrument to influence discourse on the domestic policy front. The Post may be a “trophy” acquisition for Bezos, but he’s not the type who’ll see it as something to place over the mantlepiece. Interesting too that it was a personal acquisition, not by Amazon, though he follows both Warren Buffet and Boston’s John Henry in their recent newspaper purchases. (Would the value of the Globe have been adjusted if it was known that Bezos was buying WaPo?) If nothing else, it indicates that some investors see these businesses as undervalued.
With an estimated fortune of nearly $25 billion, Jeff Bezos is one of the wealthiest people in the world (19th on Forbes’ list). Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer, one of the largest producers of consumer electronics (Kindle), a leading provider and distributor of digital content and cloud computing services, an aggressive buyer of digital media and e-commerce companies, and particularly adept at integrating and bundling all these activities and products. They also lead the pack in revolutionizing the concept of affiliate marketing, in which partners are rewarded for referring customers to Amazon-owned sites in return for a share in revenue if a sale results. Today Amazon more or less owns e-commerce, it’s one of the titans of digital content, and it’s growing an enormous media support network. Increasingly, Amazon produces its own content — publishing writers and recently getting into the film business (Amazon Studios). Can remaking a news organization into its own vision of content provider be far behind?
Content and commerce are becoming ever more integrated; the goal would be seamless delivery. To an extent not probed even by product placement in film, content becomes not a form, but the primary form of advertising and selling. That’s the business model in a nutshell. Add the Washington Post into the mix.
Though he’s mostly kept a low political profile, Jeff Bezos is said to have a libertarian bent. For instance, he supported the 2012 same-sex marriage referendum in his home state of Washington. He contributed to the defeat of a “millionaires tax” measure there as well. His firm, Amazon, long-resisted any move to apply state sales taxes to internet-based transactions, though the company now seems to reluctantly support some kind of national internet sales tax. In the process, Amazon has become a formidable lobbyist at both the Federal and state levels.
In a world where content and commerce grow indistinguishable, how does that affect the content of what we call “the news?” One certain trend, already in place, is that digital delivery will generate personally-tailored news to fit one’s profile of interests and inclinations, gathered from all the cookies in your electronic device of choice. (Here again Amazon took the lead early.) One result may be an even sharper curve towards the Balkanization of how Americans view and understand our “shared” world. But the more significant thing for me is that to an extent few would have imagined even a decade ago, it will become difficult to be part of the economic or cultural life in the US without obtaining any number of your goods (including information) and services from Amazon, Google, Apple and/or their affiliates. Going forward, it seems the speed, depth, and breadth of consolidation under these tech superpowers is likely to grow.
I remarked above that the acquisition of the Washington Post by Jeff Bezos would give him an instrument nationally and in D.C. to influence policy debate. While that’s true, in the longer run it may be beside the point. Because who needs politics when you’re King of the Hill?
"Vampire Cemetery" Unearthed in Poland
Seventeen graves found, likely dating from the 15th & 16th centuries, in which the heads were decapitated and placed between the knees or hands of the dead.
German media Spiegel Online has the story with pics.
Deer Trail considers hunting licenses for drones
The town of Deer Trail, Colorado is considering hunting licences for federal drones. Deer Trail is a small town in the plains of Colorado east of Denver, and claim they are the home to the worlds first rodeo (though that’s open for interpretation). They’ve decided they don’t want drones, and offer a bounty for licensed hunters who bag a federal drone. The mayor of the town shows the proper technique for hunting them…
[via metafilter] [picture credit by Amanda Kost, 7NEWS]