Today in New Orleans History

December 14

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The Sky Projector Comes to Town
- We're Glad it Wasn't the Death Ray -
December 14, 1935


TodayInNewOrleansHistory/1935December24SkyProjectorNOTnewOrleans.jpgOn December 14, 1935 at 5:30 p.m., a $60,000 Sky Projector ("the only apparatus of its kind in the world" according to local publications) shot images of Santa Claus at the North Pole as well as Christmas text greetings (called "Sky Grams") onto the clouds from the front of the D.H. Holmes building on Canal Street.  Its 400,000,000 candle-power beam was brought to the city courtesy of Holmes in conjunction with their Christmas adverstising campaign.  The demonstration would continue nightly from 5:30 to !0:00 until Christmas Day.  If the clouds failed to show, the Sky Projector would cast its beam on nearby buildings. Made from a powerful arc lamp, focusing lens and a plane mirror the Sky Projector would project an image high into the sky without the need for a screen to project the image onto.

After the run at Holmes, the National Sky Projector Company of New York planned to move the Sky Projector to other neighborhoods around the city. Charles Margolis of the Sky Projector Company of New York and Chicago predicted that motion pictures on clouds would be a reality "within a short time" using a similar apparatus.

Some claim that the "Bat Signal" was based on the Sky Projector's brief bout with fame. And one begs to wonder if motion picture drive-ins weren't a spin-off of the invention. Photo from

The Sky Projector was the brainchild of Englishman Harry Grindell Matthews, who has also been credited with inventing the world's first mobile phone, automatic guidance of planes (auto pilot), submarine detection, aerial defense systems, a "Death Ray", and more.

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MV Bright Field was a bulk cargo ship which allided with the Riverwalk Marketplace shopping complex in New Orleans, Louisiana, on the afternoon of Saturday, December 14, 1996, after losing engine power. The vessel was fully loaded with grain at the time of the incident. The United States Coast Guard investigated the incident and published its findings on December 8, 1997, citing the cause of the engine failure as a poorly maintained oil filter. A secondary but contributory cause was determined as a main-engine automation system which produced warnings and alarms that were not consistently relayed to the ship's Master. The National Transportation Safety Board published its final report on January 13, 1998, which concurred with the Coast Guard's determinations and appear to charge the ship's operating company with the responsibility for the casualty.  The incident resulted in no deaths, but 66 persons were injured. Physical damage to the Bright Field was calculated at $1,857,952. Damage to the Riverwalk, including the pier, condominium properties, shops and hotel, totaled an estimated $15 million.  From wikipedia.

The New Orleans Saints end their 14 game losing streak on December 14, 1980 by defeating the New York Jets 21-20.

Ray Abrams, academic, author. Born, Convent, La., December 8, 1889; daughter of Nettie Levy and Sam Abrams. Education: completed grade school, high school, and normal school, 1894-1907; Tulane University, B. A., 1917; M. A., 1926; took summer courses in commercial education at the University of California and Columbia Univer-sity. Never married. Entered the New Orleans public school system 1907; taught at McDonogh, Dimitry, Laurel, and Rogers schools; appointed principal of Gentilly School, 1914; transferred to Samuel J. Peters Primary School, 1915; planned and helped organize Peter's Commercial High, the first high school with an all commerce curricu-lum; in 1924, became the city's first woman principal of the all-boy, all-male faculty high school; found jobs for 80 percent of her students before they graduated from the school which began with 90 and grew to 1200 students. Received a citation from President Franklin D. Roosevelt for serving as his representative, in 1935, to an educa-tional conference in Switzerland and as a United States delegate to the international convention on commercial education in Czechoslovakia. Became principal of Maybin School for Veterans, a post-graduate school of com-merce, in 1936; conceived and inaugurated the Import-Export Institute at Maybin. Wrote Business Behavior, a textbook (1937); also wrote articles on commerce education; spent forty-one years in the New Orleans school sys-tem. Member: an officer in the National Council of Commercial Education, the National Commercial Teachers Federation, and the Southern Business Educational Association; held honorary memberships in Delta Pi Epsilon and Pi Omega Pi. Died, New Orleans, February 2, 1949; interred Chevra Mikveh Israel Cemetery. The Ray Abrams School was dedicated to her memory, December 14, 1958. J.B.C. Sources: Robert Meyers, Jr., Names Over New Orleans Public Schools (1975); New Orleans Times-Picayune, obituary, February 3, 1949.  From

Photo -- The city's annual Christmas parade for children took place on December 14, 1941,  a week after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Eleven floats, high school bands and groups of marching children, led by Santa Claus, paraded up and down Canal street. The Times-Picayune wrote, "War might be raging throughout the world with its hate and discord, but as far as the school children of New Orleans were concerned the Christmas season, with its message of peace and good will, Sunday started in earnest."

George Willard Reed Bayley, engineer, surveyor, politician. Born, New York, ca. 1812. Service as engineer: assistant state engineer, 1849-1861; chief engineer, New Orleans, Opelousas and Great Western Railroad, 1855-1857, 1866-1869; division engineer, New Orleans, Mobile and Chatanooga Railroad, 1870-1873; chief engineer, Louisiana Levee Company, 1875-1876; first assistant and resident engineer, jetties project at the mouth of Mississippi River, 1875. Service as surveyor: surveyed Red River to determine feasibility of navigation above Natchitoches, 1849; surveyed boundary between Pointe Coupée, West Baton Rouge, and Iberville parishes, 1849; surveyed route for New Orleans, Opelousas, and Great Western Railroad between Algiers and Brashear City, 1852-1853; official surveyor for City of New Orleans, 1864-1865. Professional activities: appointed by Louisiana Levee Company as its representative to the national Levee Commission of Engineers, 1874; addressed the American Society of Civil Engineers on subject of levees, 1875; named one of seven Louisiana delegates to Interstate Levee Convention, 1875. Service, public health: longtime advocate of sanitation improvements in New Orleans; member of Louisiana State Board of Health, 1874-1876. Active in Democratic party: state representative from Tenth District of New Orleans, 1875-1876. Organizational: Member, New Orleans Mechanics' Society, 1866-1867; charter member, New Orleans Chamber of Commerce, 1875; charter member, New Orleans Pacific Railroad Company, 1875; member, board of directors, New Orleans, Opelousas and Great Western Railroad, 1864. Died, New Orleans, December 14, 1876. C.A.B. Sources: Walter Prichard, ed., "A Forgotten Louisiana Engineer: G. W. R. Bayley and His 'History of the Railroads in Louisiana'," Louisiana Historical Quarterly, XXX (1947); C. W. S. Hartley, "Sir Charles Hartley and the Mouths of the Mississippi," Louisiana History, XXIV (1983). From

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Abreviations used on this site: NOPL (New Orleans Public Library), LOC (Library of Congress), LDL (Lousiana Digital Library), HNOC (Historic New Orleans Collection), WIKI (Wikipedia).

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