Goaheadison’s Real Latest

identifier 2014058 GOAHEADISON

In 1973 or ‘74, I was a technical assistant at a late-night presentation at London’s New Victoria Theatre. Usually employed to project films or work the ‘limes’ (follow-spot) for the London Festival Ballet season, my role in this particular show was minimal – but it was certainly an extraordinary experience. A Mohammed Ali boxing match was being transmitted live from the USA, to an Eidophor video projector – a huge, ugly beast that required four men to carry it, strung onto scaffolding poles. The machine was set up in the back stalls, roped off within touching distance of the audience, and the signal came through from the Post Office Tower (as it was then) – to an outside van? – and by cable to the projector. At least that’s how I remember it as I glimpsed the preparations while scurrying about with polystyrene cups of coffee for those who were actually doing the work.

After warming up for an hour the projector gave a ‘raster’ on the screen, and then an amazingly clear black-and-white picture of the ring appeared. Our audience of perhaps 2,000 fight fans jostled into their seats, and the pugilistic punishment began. The technology was all working well, but there was no Plan B. The video technician standing next to the machine said to me as the fight hotted up and our own beered-up crowd became at least as excited as the natives, “You realize, if the projector lamp goes pop or the signal’s lost, we won’t get out of here alive?” I have no interest in boxing and I remember nothing of the bout – perhaps frozen in sheer terror at the potential result of a technical failure – but from the dates it must have been either Joe Bugner (February 14, 1973) or Bob Foster (November 21, 1972) who lost to Ali that night. I was reminded of that episode when I found this item, twenty years later.

Original cartoon artwork signed by James Francis Sullivan (1852-1936) , in period mount.

Professor Goaheadison’s Real Latest

The idea of television and other forms of seeing-at-a-distance flourished in the late 19th century. In 1889 Thomas Edison encouraged reporters to believe that he had already achieved some experimental results with ‘… an invention which will enable a man in Wall-street not only to telephone to a friend near Central Park, say, but to actually see that friend while speaking to him.’1 This invention failed to appear but the popular press and satirists soon latched onto the idea. In July 1889 two relevant cartoons appeared in the satirical magazine Fun, a rival to Punch.

In ‘Professor Goaheadison’s Latest’ (3 July 1889) a gentleman wishes to consult his doctor, Sir Settemup Pilliboy in Harley Street. Not happy about the prospect of a journey to London, he is told of Professor Goaheadison’s Far-Sight Machine: “by means of which a person in Nyork can actually see another person in Shicaago, or Borston, or even ‘Frisco’”. The writer uses the concept to make political comment about contemporary concerns. The text has an accompanying drawing of a videophone / webcam, sketched by James Sullivan, best-known for his cartoons featuring the working man.

A subsequent issue of Fun (17 July 1889) has a three-panel cartoon strip by Sullivan: ‘Goaheadison’s Real Latest’, featuring the Far-Touch Machine, and the original artwork is being offered here. 2

The artist imagines a form of trans-Atlantic cable virtual-reality boxing. No need for one of the fighters to cross to another continent – he could fight from home. A Far-Touch machine is seen as a logical follow-up to Edison’s proposed Far-Sight machine; the latter we are told is being used by the boxers to keep sight of each other as they trade punches.

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‘EH? Goaheadison’s Far-Sight Machine? Bless your soul; that’s quite an antiquity now. Quite eclipsed by the Far-Touch machine!

Haven’t read the account of that mill between Dan Dotter of Doncaster and the McFlattener, the Boston Bumper? Oh, yes – all carried out by cable; one end of it at Doncaster, and the other at Boston.

Dan faced the machine at the Doncaster end in good form at 11.32. Some very pretty play. Dan dodged a cleverly-tried jaw-compresser from Mac’s right, and got the electric current onto the ropes in the fifth round.

Then the machine planted several on Dan’s ribs; & Dan came up groggy for the 17th round; but supplied the cable with a neat lifter under the ritht ear at 12.13 1/4.

On the call for the 24th round Mac forgot to come up; & Dan got the belt.

It was a pretty sight throughout; the American cham-pion being distinctly visible through a Far-Sight machine.’

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At the end, a passing gentleman is sent sprawling by the full thrust of a stray punch.

During the affair an amusing incident occurred.
As Mac was ushering in a superior lightning
locater with his left, a heedless visitor happened
to pass in front of the transmitter.
Curable in six weeks, with reserve.

The published version had typeset text. The version offered here is the original cartoon artwork hand drawn in ink, with manuscript ink captions on the card mount. The cartoon is in three pieces, mounted at the back with brown paper tape, into the three beveled apertures. Sullivan’s signature is meticulously lettered on the lower piece. The card mount includes another version of Sullivan’s signature. I believe that the manuscript captions and signature on the mount were also most likely both written by Sullivan at about the time of the creation of this piece, but of course it’s impossible to be certain.

In very good condition. Mild foxing and yellowing to the original cartoon. Tanning to the edges of the mount. Mount size: 372 x 527mm. A digital printout of the published version will be provided with the original.

Price: £320.00 plus postage. Contact: s-herbert@easynet.co.uk

With thanks to Dr. Nicholas Hiley for information about Sullivan.

1. Levant Herald, 1 September 1889.
2. This artwork, ‘Goaheadison’s Real Latest’, has been reproduced in two modern publications: the academic journal Early Popular Visual Culture, Vol. 9, Issue 1, 2011; and: A History of Early Television, Volume 1 (Routledge 2004), edited by Stephen Herbert.

‘Goaheadison’s Real Latest’, Fun, 17 July 1889, p. 24.

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Back of one panel

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