THIS IS A 1905 CABINET CARD PHOTOGRAPH showing a poster on a wall. But this is no ordinary poster. It’s a broadside of a religious “doomsday scenario” that was to occur sometime in 1906. The language of this poster is the weird stuff of science fiction. I have searched extensively for the religious cult or individual “false prophet” who may have announced this tragic world ending. I found that Albert Einstein developed several important papers of his atomic theory of relativity in 1906, and of course, the San Francisco earthquake occurred that year. But my search for word and phrases like: “atomic particles; 1906; doomsday” and other words having to do with “end of world” or “doomsday 1906” yielded nothing definitive that I could tie to this rather pusillanimous event.
In case the words of this poster are too small to read, I will translate for you below. It’s great. I love how this photograph combines aspects of so many cultural elements: religious prophecy, doomsday cultists, vernacular photography and broadside printing. At the very least, it is a very early printed use of the word “atomic.” It appears that the first use of the word “atom” came from the ancient Greek philosopher Demokritos around 500 B.C.
Here we go:
——OF ATOMIC INSIGNIFICANCE——
Mewling Infants of 1906
Tremble with Palpitating Terror for the Dire, Demoniac Deviltries and Hellish Holocaust
is about to Render your Pusillanimous Impotency into a Mass of
Crushed and Mangled Corpses
Burrow Deep and Avoid Destruction
The lake is cold, the lake is wet,
And slippery is the shore.
Mendota dines on freshmen, yet
Its maw still yawns for more.
Ye puny younglings shun the light,
Nor seek with us to strive,
Else ye shall know the dreaded might,
Of haughty 1905.
The greedy vultures hover o’er the shore
Their talons dripping FILTH and GORE
When your blood-soaked souls have crossed the styx
You’ll need no tickets, 1906
BEWARE — The Day of Doom Approaches
——— 1905 ———
Let’s all go out today and try, at least once, to use the word “mewling” or “pusillanimous.” I will.