Get Off the Earth

An image depicting a statistical graph reveals that the percentage of adults in the U.S. who are obese has increased dramatically in recent years. In 2008, the rate was approximately 33.7%. By 2018, this had risen to over 40%.

This indicates a significant rise in the number of obese individuals in the country.

Trouble brewed for the Republican Party in 1896, with its presidential candidate, William McKinley, facing an uphill battle against a superior William Jennings Bryan, a renowned orator.

As Bryan made his way throughout the nation on a series of whistle-stop speeches spanning nearly 18,000 miles, McKinley remained at his Canton, Ohio, home to be with his ailing wife Ida, who suffered from epilepsy and depression.

This necessity sparked the McKinley campaign to make the first widespread use of campaign buttons and memorabilia. For the Republican giveaways, they sought out Sam Loyd, the best of the best.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle declared that Mr. Loyd had an exceptionally inventive mind, always coming up with unique ideas. At the time, puzzles were a major aspect of advertising and Loyd was a top creator of these.

His greatest achievement, the “Get Off the Earth Puzzle Mystery,” was even officially utilized in the McKinley campaign.

Loyd remembered the creation of the puzzle happened in peculiar circumstances. Percy Williams, an entertainer who had switched to real estate, offered $250 for the most effective way to promote Bergen Beach, located close to Canarsie in Brooklyn.

Loyd stated, “I decided to give it a shot,” and went on to work out the Chinaman Puzzle within a few days.

The puzzle was composed of a circular disk connected to a flat rectangle through a pivot. This disk depicted a globe with Chinese warriors, each wearing pigtails and brandishing swords. A button within a slot prevented the disk from spinning beyond a certain point.

When the disk was in its original position, there were thirteen warriors. However, upon spinning the disk to its other position, only twelve warriors remained.

The caption of the puzzle posed the question: How could a man, or even a mechanical representation of a man, suddenly vanish? It then suggested that the puzzler should “study their faces, postures, swords and pig-tails” in order to identify the missing warrior and understand where he had gone.

The situation was not straightforward–quite the contrary. Hatred towards Chinese immigrants was commonplace in the US.

The Workingman’s Party, founded by Irish-born Denis Kearney, campaigned for the Chinese to leave in order to protect the interests of white Americans.

Consequently, the title and concept of Loyd’s puzzle was a reminder of the slogan of the Workingman’s Party, “The Chinese Must Go.”

The only political statement printed on the puzzles that McKinley’s supporters gave out was from McKinley, who spoke on the issue of unrestricted silver coinage. Most people didn’t pay attention to the political message, however.

Loyd’s puzzles became a huge success all over the US; it is hard to imagine this type of phenomenon occurring in our present day, with all the technology and media fragmentation.

It is said that over 10 million copies of the “Get Off the Earth” puzzle were given out, and Loyd even offered bicycles as rewards for the best attempts at solving.

He claimed that “scientists have tried to solve it without success,” and even the Mayor of New York, William Strong, declared he would “solve the puzzle or break something.”

Loyd declined to give any exclusive rights to any licensee. A&P markets gave out copies of the puzzle to customers who purchased groceries, while newspapers utilized it to increase readership.

Loyd created a large-scale version, powered by clockwork, to be used as a window display. An ad in the Chicago Tribune stated, “The Disappearing Chinaman provides amusement and entertainment to everyone, and has not been revealed yet.

The large automated reproduction is the greatest window attraction ever invented, and draws a throng of people from early morning until late at night.”

It was Loyd’s puzzle that played a role in aiding President McKinley’s election. After the success of “Get Off the Earth,” there was a massive amount of counterfeit versions.

In spite of the patent Loyd had obtained in 1896, it was not enough to deter those who attempted to replicate the puzzle.

He had asked cartoonist Anthony Fiala of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle to do the final design, which was so intricate that it was almost impossible for others to deviate from it.

It is clear, then, that due to the critical nature of the artwork, Fiala should also be acknowledged with credit for the puzzle, despite his unsuccessful expedition to the North Pole in 1903-’05.

The following year, a similar puzzle was released by Loyd, referred to as “The Lost ‘Jap.'”, which likely derived from the American adoration of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado. This new puzzle had men and Japanese lanterns scattered about, and when the globe was in one position, there were eight men and nine lanterns.

When the globe was rotated, the configuration switched to nine men and eight lanterns.

Metropolitan Life Insurance offered a giveaway called “The Lost ‘Jap'”. A $100 prize in gold was up for grabs to the person who could provide the best explanation, but one had to be a current policyholder to be eligible.

Printed on the back of the giveaway was a message about the uncertainty of life, followed by a peculiar life-insurance pitch: “We observe a Japanese family unit shattering without any prior warning as to which one of them will be gone.

All we can do is hope that the one who was lost had an insurance policy at the time of the miniature quake. The lesson is clear…”

In 1909, Loyd’s final work on the topic was completed. It was technically the most advanced, and arguably the most objectionable.

The “Teddy and the Lion” puzzle depicts Theodore Roosevelt with a rifle, standing among seven lions and seven African men with spears, in the most derogatory manner possible.

This was inspired by the ex-president’s journey to Africa in the pursuit of specimens for the Smithsonian. When the cardboard circle is rotated, one of the men disappears and an eighth lion appears.

The puzzles created by Loyd that are still well-known today, such as “Get Off the Earth”, have nearly been forgotten. It is complicated to replicate the puzzles due to their ethnic caricatures.

When Scientific American ran the illustration of “Teddy and the Lion” in the 1950s, it was heavily redrawn. The black men were changed into boys, and any signs of ethnicity were almost completely removed.

On January 31, 1841, Samuel Loyd was born in Philadelphia, the youngest of nine children, and was said to be related to a Colonial governor of Pennsylvania.

His mother was related to the painter John Singer Sargent, leading to Loyd being compared to Sargent in his Times obituary as the “Sargent of problem composition” for his wit and dry humor.

Sam’s father, a successful real estate agent, moved the family to New York when Sam was three.

Intending to pursue a career in civil engineering, Sam was instead captivated by chess and devoted the next decade to the game.

Martin Gardner, a Scientific American columnist, noted that Loyd was not successful in tournaments but had an exceptional talent for composing chess problems.

The money was in Loyd’s chess puzzles, which he wrote for Chess Monthly and other magazines.

His style was to present the problems with exaggerated stories. One of his most renowned puzzles was supposedly set during the 1713 siege of the Turks, when Charles XII of Sweden was playing chess with one of his advisors.

Charles announced a checkmate in three moves, but then a bullet destroyed his white knight. Charles determined he did not need the knight, since he could still achieve a mate in four moves. Another shot took out a white pawn, and Charles said a mate in five was still possible.

Loyd diversified his work to include mathematical puzzles, rebuses, word games, and riddles (“What word is that to which, if you add a syllable, will make it shorter? Short.”).

These were featured in puzzle columns authored by Loyd for newspapers, his own Sam Loyd’s Puzzle Magazine and even publications such as the Woman’s Home Companion.

He offered rewards for difficult puzzles and received thousands of letters daily. These were then sold to early direct mailers for their addresses.

(“That isn’t a bad addition to one’s income,” Loyd remarked.) From around 1870, Loyd used a lot of his time creating advertising puzzles, games, and memorabilia that he could print on his own lithographic press and sell in large quantities. He was also adept at advertising himself.

Jerry Slocum, a retired aerospace engineer, puzzle historian, and owner of a 30,000-piece private puzzle museum in his Beverly Hills home, was not hesitant to reveal to me that “Loyd had a dark side”; most of what he said was not accurate.

Despite being a highly esteemed figure in the puzzle world, Loyd was also known for being an exaggerator and self-promoter, having claimed to have invented Parcheesi and the sliding-block puzzle with fifteen numbered tiles.

Nonetheless, these statements were not founded; Parcheesi is actually an ancient Indian game, and records of the sliding-block puzzle from the 1870s do not make any reference to Loyd.

The fabrications of Loyd extended beyond embellishing his resume. In 1903, he wrote a history of the Chinese puzzle game tangram, that consists of seven geometric tiles which can create a multitude of different designs.

According to Loyd, he relied on the research of Professor Challenor and a set of books that were supposedly four-thousand-years-old. One of them is said to have been “printed in gold leaf upon parchment” and “found in Pekin by an English soldier who sold it for 300 pounds to a collector of Chinese antiquities.” His British counterpart and competitor Henry Dudeney also included Loyd’s version of the tangram history in his writings.

This caused James Murray, the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary (from The Professor and the Madman fame) to become curious, so he contacted Chinese scholars.

However, they had never heard of Loyd’s Professor Challenor or the four-thousand-year-old books. Dudeney reported these findings in his puzzle column, but without directly accusing Loyd of lying.

Walter Richard Eaton, a journalist, noted that Loyd’s office in downtown Manhattan was dark, despite a single window that had not been cleaned in an unspecified amount of time.

He observed two desks, a typewriter, and a printing press, with countless shelves full of paper, photographs, periodicals, and stereotype plates.

The floor was cluttered with these items, having accumulated so much that they resembled snowdrifts that reached up to the height of one’s chest.

Described as a tall and quiet individual, the elder Sam Loyd was a master of many talents, such as wood engraving, mimicry, and the quick cutting of silhouettes.

He and his namesake son, who was also called Sam Loyd, had an informal ventriloquism act in which the son accurately mimicked his father’s voice.

This was a premonition of what was to come as, after the elder Loyd’s death in his Brooklyn home in 1911, the younger Sam Loyd dropped the “Junior” and assumed his father’s professional identity.

Martin Gardner noted that the son, who passed away in 1934, “did not possess the father’s inventiveness,” going on to say that his books were merely “hastily assembled compilations of his father’s work.”

Loyd was not particularly vocal about his masterpiece, “Get Off the Earth,” despite his tendency for self-promotion.

This puzzle, which Gardner and Slocum have recognized as the pinnacle of Loyd’s inventions and potentially the most complex mechanical puzzle ever created, may have been inspired by the “Magical Egg Puzzle” copyrighted by R. March & Co. in 1880.

The Magical Egg card was cut into four rectangles and the pieces were rearranged to achieve the effect. It took Loyd’s brilliance to recognize that the same effect could be accomplished with human figures in a circular format, which was his genuine innovation.

The response to Loyd’s “Get Off the Earth” puzzle was overwhelming with thousands of entries. Many of the submissions included detailed numbering of figures and named a specific individual as the one who had disappeared.

There was even a poetic rendition and some comments on Chinese immigration.

On January 3, 1897, the chosen solutions to the puzzle were published in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, including an explanation by Loyd himself, a lengthy diatribe that did not give away too much.

Martin Gardner provided the most succinct explanation of the vanish effect available. With regards to “Teddy and the Lion” he said: “It is impossible to determine which lion has gone or which hunter has been added when the parts are rearranged.

All the lions and hunters disappear when the parts are rearranged – to make a new set of eight lions, each one a 1⁄8 the size of the original, and six hunters, each one a 1⁄6 larger than before.”

If the concept is still not understood, the diagram on the page before this one should provide a clearer explanation than words.

Four rectangles occupy ( a ). If the dotted line is cut and the top portion is slid to the right, then ( b ) is created. After this, the three rectangles that remain are proportionately bigger than the original ones.

It is a straightforward process to cut rectangles apart; with the exception of the case mentioned in William Hooper’s Rational Recreations (1774).

Hooper explained how it was possible to divide nine British banknotes and then assemble the pieces into ten smaller bills. As more notes were used, the decrease in size became less noticeable.

To this day, the serial number on U.S. money is printed in two places (upper left and lower right) in order to counteract this kind of mischief.

The puzzles of Loyd’s diverge from the traditional diagonal rectangles to cartoon men arranged in a swirl formation. This configuration allows the circular dial to be divided in varying amounts for each man. The artist is tasked with creating the figures in a manner that can be smoothly augmented or reduced. Rotating the puzzle to the “missing man” setting joins the partial figures with a larger section on the outside. As the patent states, “each man has taken in a bit of the missing one, however, it is so evenly diffused that it is barely recognizable.”

According to W. H. Fitch, the winner of the contest, there are no completely formed individuals, just fragments. This sentiment is illustrated in “Get Off the Earth”, containing 24 pieces that can be used to make twelve or thirteen figures.

Loyd and Fiala make this plain concept perplexing through various artistic techniques, some of which were outlined in Loyd’s explanation.

For instance, the legs of two dueling figures overlap, masking the fact that neither of them has a full leg. Additionally, the low-grade color printing ofte works to their advantage.

The sleeve of one fighter’s red shirt appears to be an abbreviated arm and part of another figure’s face.

Even though the half-face is colored red, the eye overlooks it, attributing it to the haphazard printing. It is said that great artists can make the most of a medium’s restrictions. By this standard, Loyd and Fiala are experts of the misregistered lithograph.

Loyd argued that the less accurate, distorted portrayals of the Other were a requirement for his design.

He pointed out that their size changing was less detectable when exaggerated, unclear proportions were used. Loyd was aware of the role of the “grotesque” images of Asians and Africans which were all around then and how they served as a cover.

The Metropolitan Life puzzle had an extra spiral added for the Japanese lanterns, going in the opposite direction; for every man destroyed, one light would be added.

In this particular conundrum, Loyd utilized the concept of ambiguity and overlap with the addition of the “Teddy and the Lion” lions on the second spiral.

The aftermath of Loyd’s invention has been a troubled one, with numerous efforts to create politically correct re-imaginings of the game (like leprechauns, devils, pirates, and ninja warriors).

McDonald’s once gave away a variation featuring vanishing hamburgers, while Siegfried and Roy’s website had one with white tigers. There is even a soft-porn version featuring nude blond women.

Most of the modern versions, however, have reverted to the less challenging rectangular format, and the artwork is often rushed and careless. Sadly, no iteration since Loyd’s original has made an impact in the world of pop culture.

Borges noted that Kafka had created his own predecessors. Heraclitus’s assertion that you cannot step into the same river twice illustrates the same concept as Loyd’s disappearing puzzles. The question “Which man has vanished?” and “Where did he go?” are false trails.

Gertrude Stein’s words sum up the answer: “There ain’t no answer. There ain’t gonna be any answer. There never has been an answer. That’s the answer.” Despite knowing this, people still continue to search for the answer.

The use of digital technologies is becoming increasingly prominent in the modern world.

More and more, we are seeing a rise in activities that involve the utilization of digital means. From communication to entertainment, and even to shopping, digital media is playing a larger and larger role in our lives. Consequently, these advancements are having a profound impact on the way we interact with one another as well as our environment.

The prevalence of digital technologies is becoming more and more palpable in the current era.

Activities of all kinds are being conducted through digital means, ranging from communicating with one another to leisure activities and even making purchases.

In fact, digital media is having a profound effect on the way we interact with our environment and with one another.

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