Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘Ottawa Citizen’

Jack Canuck

Posted by Admin on May 26, 2015

When you hear tell of Jack Canuck, it’s important to realize that he’s not a real person but rather the Canadian counterpart to America’s Uncle Sam.  Yes, Jack Canuck means a Canadian.  Of course, that’s not to mean that there aren’t some Jack Canucks who were named Jack Canuck at birth because there are, but for the most part, Jack Canuck refers to a Canadian.

In the Rome News-Tribune edition of July 22, 1969 the question as to the whereabouts of Jack Canuck was put to readers.   The short news bite was quick to point out that Uncle Sam had been around long enough to be part of American folklore with his top hat, long coat-tail coat and old codger appearance, and to personify America to the rest of the world.  But it wondered where Jack Canuck had gotten to over the years.

Meanwhile, what has become of Canada’s Jack Canuck?  While Uncle Sam can be crafty looking (particularly in Pravda) and England’s John Bull too fat, Canuck used to be beyond reproach as a trim, youthful, vigorous ranger of the wide, open spaces.

Nearly twenty years earlier, the Ottawa Citizen reprinted a brief article from the Edmonton Journal on December 27, 1952 entitled, “Jack Canuck With Wings.”  It reported that the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) bigwigs and the company manufacturing the new all-Canadian CF-100 jet fighter planes were against having them referred to as Canucks.

Hostility to the name is hard to understand.  For nearly a century, Canuck has been the commonest unofficial designation of Canadians.  How it attained that position is obscure.  Most dictionaries suggest that is was originally an Indian word, applied to French-Canadians and later extended to the whole Canadian people.  However that may be, Canadians are familiarly known as Canucks throughout the English-speaking world, and “Jack Canuck” has become the symbol of Canada, as John Bull is of Britain or Uncle Sam of the United States.

In the August 11, 1945 edition of the Toronto Daily Star, Prime Minister King spoke of the “world-shaking and world-changing events” that had happened the previous week that underscored the urgency for reconstruction after World War II.  The article was titled, “Jack Canuck And Uncle Sam To Wage Peace Side By Side.”

Twenty years before the Toronto Daily Star article, the Carp Review newspaper published an article by Beatrice Plumb on June 11, 1925.  It was all about the Dominion Day celebration coming up on July 1, and was aptly titled, “A Dominion Day Jamboree.”  With regards to sending out invitations, the following was suggested by Beatrice Plumb.

Your invitations may be written on white note paper with a small Union Jack or picture of Jack Canuck stuck to the outside page.  On the left-hand inside page of your invitation write a patriotic verse.  On the opposite page write the necessary directions, such as place, time and special events of picnic.

In the next paragraph, Beatrice Plumb continued with this wonderful suggestion.

Coax some dependable man to dress up like Jack Canuck and be master of ceremonies.  Now you are read to plan the program.

Now back in 1915, there was a magazine published titled, “Jack Canuck” and was considered a daring magazine in its time.  It carried articles that reflected on how everyday people saw things and spoke about them, and was said to prod Canadian politicians mercilessly.  The magazine is also said to have been responsible for shaping and framing voters’ ideas with regards to the members of parliament and what they were up to once elected.

The idiom was used in cartoons as well.  Jack Canuck was in a cartoon published by the Toronto World newspaper on January 26, 1916 where he said, “It’s up to us, boys, honest Canadian khaki now — or the Hun’s dirty livery later.”

January 1916
And Jack Canuck was in a cartoon published in the Daily Mail And Empire newspaper on January 13, 1898 where Jack Canuck asks Sir Wilfrid Laurier, “Wouldn’t it be a good idea for us to refine our own metal?” to which Sir Wilfrid responds, “A good thing for Canada, no doubt, but think how discourteous it would be to our neighbours.”

January 1898
Just because Jack Canuck was used in cartoons and in newspaper articles, should that mean that the term was understood by most people to mean Canadians?  On March 29, 1899 Sir Wilfrid Laurier is said to have stated this in Parliament in the House of Commons.

It’s hard to think that for twenty years I vowed to woo dear Uncle Sam, and then after clothing him in sealskins from our seas, and sprinkling his hair with gold dust from our mines, he should calmly take my clothes and show me empty-handed out.  How shall I present myself at home to Jack Canuck?  I guess I’ll have to tell Jack to thank God I did not lose my hide.

Nearly a generation earlier, in 1877, author Ella Farman — later known as Ella Farman Pratt — wrote and published, “Good-For-Nothing Polly.” Ella Farman (1 November 1837 – 22 May 1907) was an American author who wrote juvenile literature, and was the editor of “Wide Awake” and “Our Little Men And Women” magazines.

When it came to “Good-For-Nothing Polly” the assumption by many is that this is a story about a girl or woman, the fact of the matter is, the main character was known as Polly Witter away from home and at home was known as Willy Potter.  He was from a family of four, and his sister’s name was Pollie.  The term Canuck was used in this book to describe Canadians.

“You get out,” said another of the young Canadians.  “Thet ar’d be jest the capital to start a newspaper. Ye ain’t wantin’ to hire a first-rate reporter now?”

Willy didn’t get mad at the chaffing.

“Never you mind what I’m going to do with the money.  If you’ve got the stamps you can get that knife mighty cheap.  You Canucks don’t see just such a knife as that every day.  That knife cost the old gentleman two dollars — it needn’t cost a fellow here more’n fifty cents.  That purse goes for fifty cents too. Why, the silk cost more’n that.  And them fish-hooks is five cents.”

Since Canada became a country in 1867, one wonders if the term Canuck was used before Confederation.  The answer to that question is yes, as it appeared in Volume 33 of “Harper’s New Monthly Magazine” published in 1866.

The following comes from very near the Canada line, and was perhaps as fearful to the subject of the story as the great Fenian scare was to the Canucks.

In the book “Acadia, or, A Month With The Blue Noses” written by American humorist Frederic Swartwout Cozzens (5 March 1818 – 23 December 1869) who had previously published “Sparrowgrass Papers.”  This books was published in 1859, the term is used in the story with the expectation that readers will know what is meant by its use.

The mail coach was soon at the door of our inn, and after taking leave of my fellow-traveller with the big hat, I engaged a seat on the stage-box beside Jeangros, a French Canadian, or Canuck — one of the best whips on the line.

Interestingly enough, Cozzens use of the word in 1859 to describe a French-Canadian is in keeping with the claim made by the Edmonton Journal nearly a hundred years later in their December 27, 1952 article.

It should be noted that the first official use of Canada when referring to the country that is now known as Canada was in 1791 when it was known as Upper Canada and Lower Canada.  In 1841, Upper and Lower Canada became known as the Province of Canada.

As a side note, in 1535 Jacques Cartier mistook the Huron-Iroquois word kanata (which means settlement) to mean that was the name for the country as a whole.  Maps in 1547 referred to everything north of the St. Lawrence River as Canada.  As explorers and fur traders expanded their territories to the west and south of what already considered to be Canada, much of the American Midwest as far south as present day Louisiana was known as Canada.

All that cool historical information aside, the first reference Idiomation was able to find for Canuck was in Frederic Swartwout Cozzens’s book published in 1859 and the first reference to Jack Canuck was in 1899.  Somewhere between 1859 and 1899, Jack Canuck was understood to mean everyday Canadians.  Idiomation therefore pegs Jack Canuck to sometime after Confederation in 1867.

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Sin Bin

Posted by Admin on October 30, 2013

With hockey season in full swing, certain sports idioms are being heard more and more often including sin bin. But the expression sin bin isn’t just a hockey term. In fact, it’s used in a number of sports. What exactly is a sin bin? A sin bin is a penalty box where players sit to serve the time of a given penalty. In Britain more recently, it also refers to a special unit on a separate site from a school that disruptive schoolchildren attend until they can be reintegrated into their normal classes.

On March 28, 2011 the South Wales Echo out of Cardiff published a sports story entitled, “Crusaders Run Into Dixon In Fine Form.” As brief as the story was, it still managed to use sin bin as a verb no fewer than three times. In this sentence:

The Welsh team trailed 22-0 at half-time after paying dear for having three players sin-binned in the first half.

In this sentence:

The first half was marred by an 18th-minute brawl that saw Crusaders duo Vince Mellars and Witt and Castleford’s Youngquest sin-binned.

And finally, in this sentence:

Crusaders were then reduced to 12 again in the 34th minute when full-back Schifcofske was sin-binned for throwing a spare ball onto the pitch in an apparent attempt to slow down play when the Tigers were in possession.

That’s a lot of sin-binning!

When Brian Mossop reported on a game in the Rugby League in his story “Ugly Side Of League Goes In Pairs” for the Sydney Morning Herald of June 29, 1982 he built excitement for readers by starting the article with this:

Two players were sent off, two were taken to hospital, two did time in the sin bin, and two biting incidents were reported as Rugby Leagues showed some of its uglier side in matches yesterday.

Shortly after that, he wrote:

At Endeavour Field referee Kevin Roberts ordered two props, Cronulla-Sutherland’s Dane Sorensen and South Sydney’s Gary Hambly, to the sin bin for 10 minutes after a second-half brawl.

Canadians have always loved their hockey and on January 4, 1964 the Ottawa Citizen shared sports news in a story entitled, “Penalties Galore, Even For Teams Not On The Ice.” The story dealt with a number of games, but when it came to reported on the hockey games in the Ontario Hockey League, readers were shocked to learn that the Morrisburg versus Lancaster game resulted in a league record total of 92 minutes in a game that ended 4 to 2. The last two sentences read:

Bob Tilley, picked up by Morrisburg from the folded Brockville team, was sentenced to a total of 21 minutes in the sin bin for various offences. Between penalties, Morrisburg made it tough on Lancaster goalie Don Grant, who stopped a total of 50 shots while playing an outstanding game.

A generation before that on March 31, 1939 the Windsor Daily Star reported on another hockey game in a story entitled, “Die-Hard Wings Tie It Up: Rangers Stick.” This game wasn’t just any hockey game. It was a battle between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the prize was the 1939 Stanley Cup! With almost 12,000 fans at the Detroit Olympia to cheer on both teams, all of the goals and eight of the penalties were packed into the first period, along with ninety percent of the action according to the reporter. Midway through the story, readers learned the following:

It was while the Wings rearguard was in the sin-bin that the Leafs got their only goal of the game to balance accounts. It was a typical Toronto power play that netted the counter. Four abreast, the visitors swept into Detroit territory.

Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published reference to sin bin. Because it was used in 1939 with the expectation that the idiom would be understood, the term pre-dates 1939. That being said, the first modern hockey game was played on March 3, 1875. As the game evolved, so did the nature of penalties although Idiomation was unable to find an exact date when the penalty box was first used.

That being said, it would not be unreasonable to tag the use of the idiom sin bin to 1930, and if any of our readers has a date for when the first penalty box came to be in hockey, please share the link to that information with others by way of the comments below.

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Once In A Blue Moon

Posted by Admin on June 7, 2013

You’ve undoubtedly heard the expression once in a blue moon used … well … once in a blue moon.    And you’ve probably guessed by now that it means that the event in question is one that seldom, if ever, happens. In fact, the event in question never or almost never happens when someone responds with once in a blue moon. To even ask is considered somewhat absurd given that the event probably won’t happen at all.

Some will tell you that a blue moon is the second full moon that happens in a month but if the expression refers to something that rarely happens, then for the last few years, the world has experienced more than its fair share of blue moons since 1999.

The fact of the matter is that, historically speaking, 12 full moons were expected from one winter solstice to the next winter solstice, people expected that each quarter of a year would have 3 full moons. However, occasionally a fourth full moon occurred in a quarter and when that happened, the third of four full moons was referred to as the blue moon. And how often would this happen? Once every three years ergo a long time always passed between blue moons.

But as history would have it, author and amateur astronomer James Hugh Pruett (1886 – 1955) wrote an article for “Sky And Telescope” in March 1946, wherein he wrote that the second full moon in a month was known as the blue moon. He was wrong, of course, but as with many mistakes that go to print, the concept stuck.

Back on February 11, 1965 the St. Petersburg Evening Independent newspaper published an article by Bob Chick on the subject of one particular high school basketball star. This teen was what people referred to as a show stopper and a great athlete, and Bob Chick served example after example of just how good this teen was on the courts. He ended the article with this bit:

Hollins Coach Roy King provided a pretty good summary of Lanier’s talents. “He was tremendous. A don’t know of anything he couldn’t do with a basketball. They come along like Lanier once in a blue moon.”

Back in 1934, Richard Rodgers and Lorenzo Hart wrote the very popular song “Blue Moon” which has resurfaced often over the years (the most memorable versions was recorded by the Marcels in 1961).

Interestingly enough, during the 1920s there were a spate of blue moon parties held during the spring and summer months. The decorations were in varying shades of blue and all of them were related to the moon or the man-in-the-moon. In fact, the Ottawa Citizen newspaper edition of June 29, 1929 published a feature by Leatrice Gregory aptly entitled:

Blue Moon Party Offers Picturesque Possibilities

In P.G. (Pelham Grenville) Wodehouse’s anthology “The Man Upstairs and Other Stories” published in 1914, there’s a story entitled, “Rough-Hew Them How We Will.” In this short story, the following passage is found:

There was an artist who dined at intervals at Bredin’s Parisian Cafe, and, as the artistic temperament was too impatient to be suited by Jeanne’s leisurely methods, it had fallen to Paul to wait upon him. It was to this expert that Paul, emboldened by the geniality of the artist’s manner, went for information. How did monsieur sell his pictures? Monsieur said he didn’t, except once in a blue moon. But when he did? Oh, he took the thing to the dealers. Paul thanked him. A friend of him, he explained, had painted a picture and wished to sell it.

Going back a little further, E. Cobham Brewster wrote in his “Dictionary Of Phrase And Fable” on the subject of blue moons.  The tome includes this commentary:

On Dec. 10, 1883, we had a blue moon. The winter was unusually mild. In 1927, during a total eclipse of the sun, many observers at Belfast, Ireland, fancied that the moon took on a decidedly blue tinge. Moons of unusual colors, such as green and blue, have been seen after certain violent volcanic explosions  and also occasionally through smoke-laden fogs, but inasmuch as once in a blue moon originally meant never, it is not likely that it was suggested by such lunar phenomena. The United Stated Weather Bureau has been unable to find anything in meteorological literature that would throw light on the origin of the phrase.

Interestingly enough, Edmund Yates published a book in 1869 entitled “Wrecked In Port.” In his book, which was touted as an autobiographical account of a shipwreck survivor, he wrote:

These gentry, who would have sat interested for that indefinite period known as ”a blue moon,” had the talk been of markets, and prices, and ” quotations,” at length thought it time to vary the intellectual repast, and one of them suggested that somebody should sing a song.

But the expression has persisted over a number of generations. In fact in William Roy and Jerome Barlow’s “Rede Me And Be Not Wroth” published in 1528, the concept of the blue moon (which is quite absurd based on this passage) is mentioned on page 114 as follows:

Agaynft god they are fo ftobbourne
That fcripture they toffe and tourne
After their owne ymaginacion.
Yf they say the moon is blewe
We must beleve that it is true
Admyttinge their interpretacion.

So while the concept of a blue moon meaning rarely or never or being an absurd concept of ever actually happening dates back at least to the early 1500s for William Roy and Jerome Barlow to include it in a book published in 1528.

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Sign Of The Times

Posted by Admin on May 1, 2013

When you hear people refer to a sign of the times, for the most part, what they’re referring to is something that is thought of as symptomatic of present attitudes.  Knowing this to be true, it’s a fact that a sign of the times is just as likely to be positive as it is to be negative.

Just a few years ago, on November 27, 2005 the Ottawa Citizen reported that the original “Hollywoodsign that sat high above Los Angeles had been listed on eBay with a reserve price of $300,000 US, it seemed almost unbelievable. The sign had originally read “Hollywoodland” back in 1923 when it was built, and until it was replaced in 1978, it watched as the U.S. film capital came of age. The story was aptly entitled:

Sign Of The Times: Hollywood History Up For Auction On eBay

Back on October 4, 1943 the Glasgow Herald the topic of one story was the post-war air transport limits that were being discussed. The concept of “free air” was felt to be sufficiently broad to meet all reasonable requirements of all the Allies for years to come, and came with President Roosevelt’s promise of planned development of world air routes. The news story, entitled “Freedom Of The Air” read in part:

There need be no time wasted now on speculation about American intention. The statement which Mr. Roosevelt made on Friday was not by any means the last word from the United States, yet it is a sign of the times. Experience has begun to put restrictions on American enterprise, and post-war projects are being trimmed to fit the framework of a new world order. And it is not at all ironical that the new trend in America thought has been quickened by Mr. Wendell Willkie, no less than the President.

The New York Times reported on the political climate in Washington State in a story entitled, “Washington Wants Cleveland And The Principle He Stands For” in the April 9, 1892 edition. The story began with this eye-opening bit of factual information blended with opinion:

The State of Washington went Republican in the last Congressional election and in the State election preceding, but there are many indications that the Democrats may win next November. One sign of the times is that the Democrats have carried every municipal election held during the past six months.

Stepping back a few more decades, the National Era newspaper carried a Letter to the Editor that was dated February 10, 1853. Although there was no name included, the Letter to the Editor was two newspaper columns long and was exhaustive in its presentation of the history and that history’s impact on the world at large. It lead off with this statement:

The failure of Count Orloff’s insidious mission is the best sign of the times. Opthalmia could not avoid seeing through the dust he tried to throw, and the unanimous rejection of his overtures must produce a very grave effect upon the statesmen of St. Petersburgh, and middle classes of the empire.

The expression has been used repeatedly over the centuries, and in tracing back its origins, the first published version Idiomation found was in the Bible in Matthew 16:3 where the following is found:

And in the morning, it will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?

The expression sign of the times doesn’t seem to be going the way of the dinosaur any time soon, and that may just be another sign of the times.

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Duck Soup

Posted by Admin on August 23, 2011

When someone mentions that a task or assignment is duck soup, what they’re telling you is that it can be very easily accomplished.  The expression gained popularity due in large part to the 1933 Marx Brothers movie “Duck Soup” but the Marx Brothers aren’t the ones who coined the expression.

On January 26, 1962 the Ottawa Citizen newspaper published a story entitled, “Oil Blaze Duck Soup To Texan Fire-Killer.”  The story reported on how Red Adair, a Texan,  nonchalantly put out an oil well fire and immediately flew back to Texas to take on another oil well fire.  The story reported the following:

With the help of others he doused the flames with chemicals Thursday, then filled the well with a special mud to stop the oil from flowing.

“It was duck soup compared to some of the fires I’ve fought,” said Adair.  How much the Sun Oil Company of Calgary, which brought in the well recently, will pay him has not been announced.  But an official said the company had already spent $100,000 before he arrived — the fire broke out last Friday — and any fee charged would be worth it. 

On December 24, 1943 the Ellensburg Daily Record in Washington state published a news story entitled, “Rocket Planes Duck Soup To Yankee Fighters.”  It was the height of World War II and the article began with this:

German planes mounting the new rocket guns are “duck soup” for American fighter planes, says Wellwood Beall, vice-president in charge of engineering at Boeing Aircraft Company.  Beall, just back from watching Fortresses perform over Europe, reported bombers have taken some “terrific punishment” from rockets but that he could find no cases of a direct hit.

“Ships carrying rocket guns are slow, inaccurate and duck soup for American fighter planes,” he said. “Our boys line up to see who’ll shoot them down.”

The Milwaukee Journal published an article on August 8, 1931 about Burleigh Grimes of Owen, Wisconsin who was an aging but effective spitballer playing with the St. Louis Cardinals at the time.  The article was entitled, “Grove! Pooh!   He’ll Be Duck Soup Says Grimes.”  Burleigh Grimes was quoted in the story as saying:

“Sure, there’s one way we can lose,” Burleigh explained.  “If we don’t hit, we can’t win.  If we don’t make runs, we can’t win.  But let us make a few runs and we’ll knock ’em over in a hurry.  Grove!  Pooh! says he’s got ’em scared to death in that league.  Who’s he got to beat? We bet im last year, didn’t we?  And he’ll be duck soup for us this October.  And now about Earnshaw?  I guess he’ll have another streak like he had last year? I guess not.”

On August 12, 1918 the Toronto World newspaper printed a news story by Ida L. Webster.  This reporter wrote about two baseball games played on the same afternoon between Toronto and Buffalo. The news story was entitled:

Leading Leaflets Took Two Games: Bisons Proved To Be Duck Soup For Howley’s Wild Men On Saturday.

According to “The Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang” the expression “duck soup” first appeared in a newspaper cartoon in 1902 drawn by T.A. Dorgan.  The cartoon shows a man in a Police Court juggling a bottle, pitcher, plate and salt shaker and the caption underneath read: Duck Soup.

However, Idiomation was able to find an even earlier printed reference in the Chicago Daily Tribune of July 23, 1897 on page 10 in a story containing 1,792 words.  In other words, it was a sizeable news story!  A business interviewed for the story stated:

I am out of the business and so this fight is duck soup for me.

We kept researching and came across the expression in the Detroit Free Press on October 24, 1893 on page 8 in an article entitled, “Salting Western Mines: How Eastern Strangers Are Taken In By Sharpers.”  The article was 2,295 words in length and dealt with the subject of con men who made their schemes work.  The article stated that a salted mine was so called because the con man easily fooled “eastern tenderfoots” headed west to grow rich overnight with his con game.  The story underscored the fact that suckers made for fine food for mining sharks.  The story included these two sentences:

The McDonalds were “duck soup.” They were quietly moved over to Alder Gulch by a syndicate of sharpers who needed more money to develop properties.

Since the expression duck soup was used in such a prominent newspaper in 1893, it can be assumed that the general population of the day understood the meaning of duck soup.  This places the expression in the vocabulary of the day. That the expression appears in quotation marks, however, implies that it may have been a relatively new expression at the time.  It can therefore be assumed that the expression dates back to sometime in the mid to late 1880s.

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Pan (Visual)

Posted by Admin on February 23, 2011

The term “panning” in visual terms means to swing from one object to another in a scene.  In still photography, panning is used to suggest fast motion, and bring out the subject from other elements in the frame.  In moving pictures or video technology, the use of a camera to scan a subject horizontally is called panning.

On March 2, 1963 the Ottawa Citizen provided camera tips to their readership in an article written by Irving Desfor entitled, “Tricks in Fast Shooting.”  The article stated in part:

In order to get sharp pictures of people in fast action, it is generally true that you must shoot at a high shutter speed.  But in photography, as in other things, rules are made to be broken … <snip> … Secondly, there’s the trick of shooting while panning the camera, that is, of following the moving subject in a smooth, steady arc.  Fortunately for camera fans, a great many actions reach a high point or peak, stop, then accelerate again at high speed.

On January 21, 1923, the New York Times published an article entitled “Screen Without A Double” that discussed the life of a motion picture actor.

No one would contend that the motion picture actor’s lot is always a happy one.  He has to take chances sometimes — or his double does — and he, or his double, really performs some of the hazardous stunts you see on the screen.  But this does not alter the fact that many of the movie’s best thrills are faked … <snip> … Out on the end of a wing with one hand on the pan crank, the other on the camera crank, and with a rope which, tied around his ankle. Pan up to the top wing strut. You may have seen what was the kick, but you are mistaken. Have you ever seen a seaplane execute a landing at a seventy-mile-an-hour clip?

Back on March 16, 1913 the New York Times — in an article entitled “Plans For The Travel Show: Panoramic Views of Vacation Spots Arranged at Grand Central Palace” — had this to say about photographs to be displayed at the travel show:

All the inviting vacation spots on this continent will be shown in panoramic views at the Grand Central Palace when the Travel and Vacation Show opens there on Thursday, and all those who do not intend to spend their allotted two, three, four, five, or six weeks in a tour of Manhattan’s roof gardens are summoned to see what the rest of America has to offer.

A Toledo Bee article dated May 31, 1900 reporting on art souvenirs of the Paris Fair available for purchase at the newspaper’s office, had this to say about the souvenirs:

The Bee has completed arrangements for the publication of “The Art Souvenir of the Paris Exposition and its Famous Paintings,” consisting of a magnificent collection of photographic views of the most noteworthy features of the International Exposition of 1900 … <snip> … These superb views will embrace a panoramic presentation of the international fair, and are intended to take the place of a trip to the Paris exposition, its beautiful buildings, rare paintings, interesting objects of art, wonderful exhibits and choicest treasures.

The term panning in this sense of the word is derived from panorama, which was originally coined in 1787 by Robert Barker for the 18th century machine that unrolled or unfolded a long horizontal painting to give the impression the scene was passing by.

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