Sunday, October 5, 2008

Andrew Chase Cunningham Biography in Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers



* Memoir prepared by P. T. Chambers, M. Am. Soc. C. E. .

Andrew Chase Cunningham, the son of Thomas and Celeste (Chase) Cunningham, was born at Mohawk, N. Y., on February 15th, 1858. He was appointed to the United States Naval Academy from the Twenty-first District of New York State, on June 9th, 1874, and was graduated from that institution as a Midshipman on June 10th, 1879. He served on the TJ. S. S. Shenandoah and the TJ. S. S. Saratoga, and on February 1st, 1883, he resigned from the service, meanwhile having been promoted to the rank of Ensign. Mr. Cunningham had decided by this time that a career in the Navy was not what he desired, and, having determined to become a Civil Engineer, he entered Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, at Troy, N. Y., from which he was graduated in 1885 with the degree of Civil Engineer.

From October, 1885, to April, 1886, Mr. Cunningham occupied the position of Topographer on preliminary and location surveys of the Lincoln Branch of the Missouri-Pacific Railway, and from May, 1886, to September, 1887, he served as Draftsman with the Massillon Bridge Company, Massillon, Ohio. From September, 1887, to November,1890, he was in charge of the inspection of iron and steel in Pittsburgh, Pa., and vicinity. This work consisted in the acceptance or rejection of material for such structures as the high bridge across the Mississippi River, at St. Paul, Minn., the Ohio Connection Bridgeacross the river below Pittsburgh, the New York Elevated Railway, numerous large buildings in Chicago, 111., and bridges on the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway, the Pennsylvania System, the Louisville and Nashville, and other railroads.

From November, 1890, to May, 1892, Mr. Cunningham was Chief Inspector for Carnegie, Phipps and Company, of Pittsburgh, Pa., now the Carnegie Steel Company. In this position he had charge of the testing and inspection of steel materials, together with special investigation and special supervision of material for several structures, such as the Memphis Bridge, the Sixth Street Bridge across the Allegheny River at Pittsburgh, and others.

In May, 1892, Mr. Cunningham associated himself with Charles F. Stowell, M. Am. Soc. C. E., at Albany, N. Y., under the firm name of Stowell and Cunningham, the principal engineering business of the company being in connection with the design, inspection, and testing of steel bridges and steel materials. This work included materials and bridges for the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, and the Central Vermont Railroad, as well as materials for the Cities of Albany, N. Y., Waterbury, Conn., for the State Engineer of New York, and the U. S. Treasury Department. In 1898, while he was a member of this firm, the Spanish War broke out, and, as a former officer of the Navy, he obeyed his country's call, volunteering for such duty as he might be assigned to by the Navy Department. At that time the Navy was by no means as large as it is now, and had almost no auxiliary ships for the purpose of furnishing supplies to the fleet. Mr.Cunningham, therefore, found himself an Ensign, on May 14th, 1898, aboard the Collier Abarenda, a ship purchased for that use. While this ship was moored to the wharf at the New York Navy Yard, the late L. L. Buck, M. Am. Soc. C. E., visited the Navy Yard for consultation work, in connection with one of the dry docks then under repair. Some one had informed him that Mr. Cunningham was serving as an Ensign aboard the collier, and Mr. Buck expressed the determination to visit him before he left the yard, adding at the same time that he considered Mr. Cunningham one of the foremost steel experts of the country, and that it seemed to him a waste of valuable services to have placed him as an Ensign aboard a supply ship. Mr. Cunningham's nature was such that he would never have sought to be transferred from this position, but Mr. Buck felt strongly on the subject, and made it hia business to inform the Navy Department of his views, the consequence being that on May 2Jst, 1&98, Mr. Cunningham was transferred to the Bureau of Ordnance, and was immediately assigned to the Washington Navy Yard, which is the Naval gun factory. Mr. Buck and Rear- Admiral Mordocai T. Endicott, U. S. N. (Retired), Past-President. Am. Soc. C. E., were classmates at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and it was not long before Admiral Endicott, then Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks, learned that an accomplished Civil Engineer was available for naval duty, and, consequently, Mr. Cunningham was transferred to the Bureau of Yards and Docks on June 27th, 1S98.The Civil Engineer Corps of the Navy was then rapidly expanding and in need of officers, and Mr. Cunningham served first on a board to examine candidates for the position of Civil Engineer in the Navy; before the successful candidates were appointed, however, he himself, on September 29th, 1898, was given a permanent commission. On October 5th of that year, he reported to the Bureau of Yards and Docks, where he served until November 6th, 1901, being then detached and ordered to the Naval Station, New Orleans, La. This was a new station just bring established, and Mr. Cunningham was the first Civil Engineer officer, thus being given the opportunity to lay out the engineering works from the start. On April 3d, 1903, he was detached from the New Orleans Station and ordered to the Naval Academy, where he served until June 9th, 1905, and from there he was again ordered to the Bureau of Yards and Docks. On March 17th, 1906, he was commissioned with the rank of Lieutenant in the Corps of Civil Engineers.

Mr. Cunningham continued to serve in the Bureau of Yards and Docks as Principal Assistant to Admiral Endicott until April 6th, 1907, when he was ordered to the Navy Yard, Norfolk, Va., as Senior Civil Engineer Officer, and on November 18th, 1909, he was commissioned with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. On February 20th, 1910, he was detached from the Norfolk Navy Yard, and ordered to the Navy Department, Washington. D. C., as Inspector of Public Works for the entire Navy. This duty required great tact and diplomacy, and it was on this account that Mr. Cunningham was selected for the work, which necessitated his maintaining headquarters in Washington, and visiting the various Navy Yards, keeping the Department informed as to the status of the various public works, and co-ordinating the ideas of the Yards with those of the Department.

On July 10th, 1913, Mr. Cunningham left headquarters at Washington to assume the duties of Public Works Officer of the Navy Yard, Portsmouth, N. H. Shortly afterward he had a severe nervous breakdown, and on November 17th, 1913, was ordered to sick leave, and did not return to actual duty until June 16th, 1914. He never fully recovered from this illness, although he performed lighter duties practically up to the time of his death, his principal assignments after this being at the Naval Training Station, Great Lakes, HI., and the Naval Training Station, Point Isabel, Tex., at both of which places he erected large steel towers for radio-telegraphy.

While on duty in the Bureau of Yards and Docks of the Navy Department, and previous to his detail as Civil Engineer Officer at New Orleans, Mr. Cunningham had supervised the construction of the 16 000-ton steel floating dock for the New Orleans Station. He became much interested in docks of this type, and, at a later date,

obtained letters patent on a floating dock of his own invention. He was, indeed, of an inventive turn of mind and secured patents on several of his ideas, one of the best known in the Navy being that for a coal-tar paint.

Mr. Cunningham was affectionately known as "Andy" by his friends and associates, and was universally liked. His genial nature, combined with his diplomatic spirit, caused him to be much in demand on boards of officers for the adjustment of disputes or for changes in contracts.

While at the Naval Academy, he was the champion fencer of his time, and he maintained his interest in this sport up to the time of his severe illness. While in Washington he was a member of the Washington Fencers Club, and when he was at the Navy Yards he stirred the younger men to a revival of the fencing game. He was looked on by the entire Navy as an authority on this subject, and was also consulted by the Army at one time, in connection with the modification of the Army saber. As a fencer, he was also interested in singlestick, and was the author of a book entitled "The Cane as a Weapon." Fencing was a considerable feature of his recreation; he was also very fond of writing, and contributed various articles to the press, among them being several on naval matters published by the Naval Institute.

Mr. Cunningham was married, at Middleville, N". Y., on June 18th. 1879, to Miss Jessie E. Thomas. He is survived by his widow and two sons: John Howard Cunningham of Grand-Mere, Canada, and George Thomas Cunningham, of Washington, D. C. Mr. Cunningham was elected an Associate Member of the American Society of Civil engineers on September 2d, 1891, and a Member on October 3d, 1894.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

"Study From The Comfort of Your Home!"

In the introduction to CAAW, the reader will come across the following:

" In these pages will be formulated a system of defense and attack with the cane which is simple, effective and easily understood, which may be acquired without the necessity of an instructor. A full comprehension of the system alone will be of use, and such practice as can be given to it will greatly increase its value."

That "without the necessity of an instructor" clause was the inspiration for the title of this post, which pops up in the marketing of instructional materials in diverse fields from time to time. Perhaps "Cane for Dummies" might be more current, whatever the case, the idea is that one can learn something , or teach themselves a subject, without recourse to a teacher, instructor or expert. Many approach such claims with healthy skepticism, which is well founded, as most of the time the things being studied are hard enough to learn with the benefit of an instructor.

Then from S&B:

"A military system of fencing should be simple, effective, and quickly and easily learned. Its transmission should be possible without a fencing master, and its principles so simple and correct that even one not greatly skilled can teach others to become skillful."

I don't need a fencing master?
More from S&B: "This system is based on what may be called a natural or instinctive method, and the expansions which would most naturally follow from experience and observation. "

Experience and observation, you mean learn through experience and observation?


From this general description of the proposed system the following manual and explanations will be readily comprehended and mastered by even those who have given no great attention to swordsmanship. "

I don't need to be an expert before I can work on my own?

But what if I start doing something that isn't "in the sytem"?:

The fact should be recognized from the start that the work is of an individual nature and that the perfection of the individual is the object desired. Correct understanding and execution should be the aim rather than entire uniformity and the reduction of the matter to a mere form of drill."

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Approaching the "Style" of CAAW III

After the section on parries, there follows a series of sections on the following topics: return attacks, counter parries, feints, passing the cane and footwork. Each of these sections covers its topic in isolation; there is no discussion of how the topic at hand is integrated with any of the other previously covered topics. Additionally, these sections are relatively abstract as they tend not to discuss a topic in a specific application to a defined situation, but generally, without a context. Essentially ACC lays out the principles, fundamentals or underlying concept of each of the topics covered, without yet presenting the “canon” techniques of his system.

Following the section on footwork, a series of sections are presented, the titles of which suggest that perhaps some concrete technical material is to be revealed: ‘Attack and Defense’, ’Defense to Front’, ‘Defense to Right’, ‘Defense to Left’, ‘Defense to Rear’, ‘Defense in Two or More Directions’. However these sections, far from presenting any specific curricula, discuss the tactical considerations of the three guards (Left, Right and Double), in the directions named in the section titles. Having reviewed the vast majority of the text, there are still no specific lessons, or concrete response sequences to deal with defined attacks.

In fact, there are but two sections left in the text: ‘Special Cases’ and ‘Exercises’. ‘Special Cases’ describes responses to specific situations that ACC felt require detailed consideration: ‘Off Guard, Front or Rear Grapple’, ‘Guard Against a Dog’, and ‘Guard With the Hat’. With each of these special cases ACC comes closest to the “If this happens, respond as follows”, recipe-like approach of a great majority of self-defense texts. In the ‘Exercises’ section ACC finally presents a number (36 or 37) of specific action sequences, which ACC describes as “but a few of the combinations that can be made” , however he does so without context, or much in the way of description of the specific application of the sequences.

It is this final section (‘Exercises’) where it becomes clear that ACC is following the basic structure of a Mathematics or Physics text, where concepts, principles and fundamentals are presented for the student, followed by “problems” or “exercises”, for the student to put into practice the material previously presented to create “solutions”. If we look at the introductory paragraph for this section, there is support for this premise from ACC: “their practice (the exercise) will give a fuller understanding and appreciation of the system.” Consider alsoA reasonable amount of practice will make self-defense with the cane an instinctive matter, should it be needed. “ Taken together with the statement in the beginning of the text that a teacher is “not required,” to acquire defensive skills, we see that ACC expects the student to formulate “solutions” by a study of the principles presented in the text.

It would seem that, analogous to the old parable from western spiritual traditions, ACC is teaching the reader how to “fish”, or think for himself, in order to come up with specific defensive solutions, instead of giving away a few “fish”, specific technical sequences.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Approaching the "Style" of CAAW II

Following the systematic nomenclature for striking and the analysis of target selection for strikes, CAAW moves to the topic of parries. The presentation of the basic parries by ACC, which have been discussed in previous posts, is a perfect example of the formulaic or conceptual approach. Without re-quoting ACC (relevant post here), suffice to say that unlike the classical approach common to most sword-based cane systems, with a specific and unique guard or ward for every strike, ACC simply proposes two motions which that may adapted to work against strikes to “the entire person.” It is up to the reader to work-out the “solution” (parry) to specific “problems” (attacks) using the principles presented in the text. As ACC writes in the introduction to CAAW:

“In these pages will be formulated a system of defense and attack with the cane which is simple, effective and easily understood, which may be acquired without the necessity of an instructor (underline added).”

Learning from training and study, without the necessity of an instructor or “master” is a sentiment which ACC expresses in S&B as well. For Example:

“A military system of fencing should be simple, effective, and quickly and easily learned. Its transmission should be possible without a fencing master, and its principles so simple and correct that even one not greatly skilled can teach others to become skillful.”

ACC clearly anticipated that many who were reading his works would be engaged in self-study, which was clearly acceptable in his thinking. In fact the possibility that such self-study may lead to individual differences in style was anticipated and encouraged by ACC. From S&B we have:

“The fact should be recognized from the start that the work is of an individual nature and that the perfection of the individual is the object desired. Correct understanding and execution should be the aim rather than entire uniformity and the reduction of the matter to a mere form of drill.”

Clearly the idea of a distinct “style” is not of a concern to ACC, as long as the underlying principles and (presumably) mechanics are sound, stylistic concerns can be ignored. This viewpoint (by ACC) is consistent with the idea that the style of CAAW is similar to a mathematics text. An approach which teaches principles and concepts to arrive at solutions for individual “problems”, as opposed to presenting individual solutions to every possible problem.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Approaching the "Style" of CAAW I

Cunningham’s education in the Naval Academy surely included coursework in mathematics, such as geometry and trigonometry, required for navigation of ships in the age before computers. It is beyond question that his civil engineering education was also heavily focused on mathematics, including geometry and trigonometry. As an engineer ACC would be used to formulaic expressions (equations) as a means of describing physical events, as well relying on abstract principles to understand seemingly unrelated phenomena, Newton’s Laws for example.

It is the position of this author that ACCs’ presentation of his system of defense with the cane is expressed in the formulaic and principled style similar to that of an introductory math, physics, or engineering text. This proposed approach differs from the common, “recipe” approach of many modern and early texts on self-defense, where the content is presented in the format of “when the assailant does X, you do Y.” In this proposed “formulaic” approach, material is presented generally or abstractly with little or no reference to specific application or situations. Underlying rules and principles are described which can then be applied to specific concrete examples, much the way a physicist can apply the concept of friction to diverse physical phenomenon.

ACC’s topical presentation and writing style regarding methods of attacking exemplifies this formulaic or principled approach. Just sampling the topic headings of the relevant portion of CAAW is illustrative of this style (outlining format added by author):

1. Kind and Direction of Blows

a. Jabs

b. Thrusts

c. Upper Cuts

d. Right Cuts, Left Cuts, Down Cuts

e. Diagonal Cuts

f. Circular Cuts

g. Back-handed Cuts

2. Character of Cuts

a. Snap Cuts

b. Half-arm Cuts

c. Full-arm Cuts

d. Swinging Cuts

e. Cuts in general

3. Points of Attack

ACC characterizes strikes abstractly, by direction, mechanical aspects of delivery, and then finally are targets (applications) discussed. It would appear that ACC is creating a classification scheme, or nomenclature, for cane or stick strikes, which is quite capable of being applied generally. If this was unintentional on the part of ACC, it still works well as a very comprehensive system of description for single-handed cane or stick strikes. For example, the “cinco tero” or “X” system common in many Phillipino systems can be described as a collection of diagonal cuts and a center jab or thrust. The “+” variation of the cinco tero is a collection of strikes comprised of left and right cuts, a downward cut, an uppercut and a center jab or thrust. (Authors note: having made the effort to apply “Cunningham nomenclature” to many cane, and stick, systems and I have found it a rather straightforward exercise).

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Parries of AC Cunningham’s “The Cane as a Weapon” (Part IV)

In this section I intend to post some specific interpretations (based on my understanding) of Cunningham's parries to a representative sample of attacks (cut left, cut right, center thrust/jab, circular down blow).
Additionally I would highlight the conical nature of these parries.

There might be a clip of a continuous parrying training drill forthcoming.

Presumably these examples will go a long way to demonstrate that Cunningham's conical approach to parries in S&B is similar if not identical to his parrying system in CAAW, and does indeed provide cover for the entire person.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Parries of AC Cunningham’s “The Cane as a Weapon” (Part III)

An earlier work by Cunningham, "Sabre and Bayonet" (S&B), first published in the Proceedings of the US Naval Institute in 1906, has a great deal of insight to offer for understanding the parrying system of CAAW. The title of this earlier work is self-explanatory- it's a manual for training soldiers in the use of the sabre and bayonet for military combat. Presumably in creating his cane system Cunningham drew on his background in military swordsmanship, as expressed in S&B. As few would disagree that the cane system presented in CAAW has its roots in western sword methods, it should not be controversial to propose that Cunningham drew on his own approach to sword use in design of his cane system.

In S&B Cunningham presents a theoretical/conceptual basis for his approach to parrying with the saber:

“The defense is made by the partial development of a variable cone, or cones, the base being away from the body. In other systems the defense is made by the development of planes or warped surfaces after more or less intricate and unnatural motions.

No originality is claimed for this cone of defense, simply due and just recognition. The experts of all systems will resort to the cone of defense when hard pressed and their own system fails to be effective.

When a line or surface of attack is developed and is brought to intersection with a cone of defense before landing, the defense is effective and may be repeated or the attack reversed. The cones of defense are developed away from the body.”

While no mention of these “cones of defense” is made in CAAW, it can be demonstrated that the circular, upward parries in CAAW can indeed be recognized as traversing around a conical shape with the base away from the body. Looking at the juxtaposed photos of Cunningham presented earlier, “illustrating” parry right, a simple conical shape can be sketched between the starting and ending positions (which in the side-on view of the photos appears as a triangle), indicating that the parry does indeed describe a partial cone (shaded yellow).

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Parries of AC Cunningham’s “The Cane as a Weapon” (Part II)

The description of the one-handed cane parries presented in CAAW is a typical example of Cunningham's rather terse style belying the value of what he is trying to communicate. In the section titled "Parries," Cunningham concisely writes: From the position of right guard with the point of cane down, two circular parries upward, one to the left, and one to the right may be made to cover the entire person.” He adds to this description that the parries are to be delivered in “the nature of a blow," i.e., not passively presented but to hit into attacking weapon, or weapon-bearing limb. There are no detailed technical or photo sequences describing the application of these parries to individual attacks in order to "cover the entire person," so the reader may be left wondering how to apply what Cunningham presents.

There are some hints to be found in CAAW. Two of the original photos from the book can be juxtaposed to get some sense of “Parry Right:”

While this “series” provides some visual representation of Cunningham's parries, it still leaves much to be desired in terms of specific applications. There is also the brief suggestion of an actual "technique" by Cunningham in the section titled "Defense to the Front:" "The position of right guard invites a down cut at the head; this can be thrown off with a left parry...." Those with a background in the Fillipino martial arts (FMA) might suspect that this technique resembles the “Sweep Block” common to many FMA styles, and nothing in CAAW would contradict this speculation. Neither is there a more detailed description of specific applications or a conceptual framework provided in CAAW to confirm this speculation.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Parries of AC Cunningham’s “The Cane as a Weapon”


Five years before the United States entered World War I, AC Cunningham, a Civil engineer for the US Navy and a former Naval Officer, wrote a short book on self-defense, titled “The Cane as a Weapon” (CAAW). Concisely written, the book details a system of personal protection with a cane against single-unarmed, armed, and multiple assailants. Tactics are even included for handling specific situations, such as being attacked by a dog, or improvising “off-hand” protection against a knife attack.

As a publication, CAAW was not particularly impressive; it was only 25 pages in length and contained only 12 pictures. The pictures themselves weren’t all that illustrative either, as they were composed of the model (the author himself) alone, without the benefit of an agent indicating how the pose worked “in action.” The system of defense presented in this book, however, is impressive both for its simplicity and versatility.

The minimal nature of the book can be somewhat of an impediment to understanding the content Cunningham presents. The writing is concise to the extreme, and many of his ideas are presented tersely, without elaborate explanation or detailed description, and, as mentioned above, without any supporting photos or graphics. Many who encounter the book tend to dismiss it outright, or “skim” the work and think it “very simple.”