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Lost States: Montezuma

We're thrilled to welcome a special guest blogger, the author of Lost States: True Stories of Texlahoma, Transylvania, and Other States That Never Made It. He'll be sharing tales from his book with us this week. Put your hands together for Mike Trinklein!

Montezuma: A Two-for-One Sale. And an Ill-Advised Handshake.

Today Phoenix is the fifth-largest city in the United States—but at the beginning of the twentieth century, it had just 5,000 residents. This tiny population illustrated an ongoing problem for both the Arizona and New Mexico territories—neither one had enough people to be admitted as states.

As a result, several proposals were floated to bring the two territories into the Union together as just one state. The 1903 plan proposed that this superstate be named "Montezuma."

Democrats in Congress voted in favor of the idea, but they couldn't quite muster enough Republican support.

This wasn't the first time the Aztec emperor's name was appropriated. Back in 1887, leaders in New Mexico had proposed switching their territory's name to Montezuma—figuring it would make statehood more palatable to Americans who weren't too fond of any implied association with "old" Mexico. The ploy wasn't successful. They also tried the name "Lincoln" and that didn't work, either.

But you've got to admit that any name is better than "New Mexico"—which has to be the worst state name in America. I don't mean any disrespect to Mexico. The problem is that the name is confusing to stupid people. There is clear evidence of this on every New Mexico license plate. The government felt compelled to put "USA" after the state's name, because too many morons thought New Mexico was in, well, Mexico.

Speaking of stupidity, I have to mention the sorry tale of Stephen Elkins—the New Mexico Territory delegate to the United States Congress back in 1875. That year, population issues didn't seem to matter to Congress—and the Senate and House were both in favor of New Mexico statehood. But just before the final vote, Elkins entered the House floor and conspicuously shook hands with congressman Julius Burrows of Michigan.

That was a huge mistake.

Burrows had been extremely critical of southern racial policies—infuriating congressmen from states like Georgia and Alabama. So when the southern delegation saw Burrows fraternizing with Elkins, they immediately switched their votes. It was just enough to kill the statehood bill. One ill-advised handshake meant New Mexico would have to wait 37 more years to join the Union.

You can pick up Mike's book on Amazon. And if you can't wait for tomorrow's excerpt, check out the Lost States blog.

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Stradivarius Violins Get Their Distinctive Sound By Mimicking the Human Voice
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Italian violinist Francesco Geminiani once wrote that a violin's tone should "rival the most perfect human voice." Nearly three centuries later, scientists have confirmed that some of the world's oldest violins do in fact mimic aspects of the human singing voice, a finding which scientists believe proves "the characteristic brilliance of Stradivari violins."

Using speech analysis software, scientists in Taiwan compared the sound produced by 15 antique instruments with recordings of 16 male and female vocalists singing English vowel sounds, The Guardian reports. They discovered that violins made by Andrea Amati and Antonio Stradivari, the pioneers of the instrument, produce similar "formant features" as the singers. The resonance frequencies were similar between Amati violins and bass and baritone singers, while the higher-frequency tones produced by Stradivari instruments were comparable to tenors and contraltos.

Andrea Amati, born in 1505, was the first known violin maker. His design was improved over 100 years later by Antonio Stradivari, whose instruments now sell for several million dollars. "Some Stradivari violins clearly possess female singing qualities, which may contribute to their perceived sweetness and brilliance," Hwan-Ching Tai, an author of the study, told The Guardian.

Their findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. A 2013 study by Dr. Joseph Nagyvary, a professor emeritus at Texas A&M University, also pointed to a link between the sounds produced by 250-year-old violins and those of a female soprano singer.

According to Vox, a blind test revealed that professional violinists couldn't reliably tell the difference between old violins like "Strads" and modern ones, with most even expressing a preference for the newer instruments. However, the value of these antique instruments can be chalked up to their rarity and history, and many violinists still swear by their exceptional quality.

[h/t The Guardian]

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