Apocalypso Media LLC was formed in 2015 as an eBook publisher and arts collective.
We are committed to publishing the catalogue of the noted historian James Trager, books by his son, Oliver Trager, and the works of other authors in our circle on a variety of subjects.
Jim’s New York Times obituary:
James Trager, Brought Facts to the Masses, Dies at 86
By Douglas Martin
In 1898, as history students learn, the battleship Maine blew up in Havana’s harbor, but that was also the year the Bayer Company offered a new opiate cough medicine called Heroin, and the year the Kellogg brothers introduced cornflakes, which were so unpopular at first they grew stale on grocers’ shelves.
Thank James Trager for making these historical nuggets readily available to the reading public. They’re part of his 1,206-page book “The People’s Chronology: A Year-by-Year Record of Human Events from Prehistory to the Present,” published in 1979. For each year he discussed, he divided events into categories like literature, crime and everyday life.
The women’s book pointed out that in 1920, not only did women get the right to vote in the United States; they also, for the first time, were hired as bus conductors in Tokyo. The food book noted that 1633 was important as the year the physician James Hart’s volume “Klinike” was published, alerting the world to the risks of sugar.
The New York compilation began in 1524 with Giovanni da Verrazano sailing into what became New York Harbor and continued to the closing in 2002 of Ratner’s, on Delancey Street, “after 97 years of serving blintzes, kasha, latkes and matzo brei.”
Obscure, intriguing facts seemed irresistible to Mr. Trager, who died on Wednesday in Manhattan at 86. He had a number of ailments that culminated in pneumonia in his last days, his son Oliver said.
Mr. Trager aspired to more than simple lists. He wrote that knowledge grows incrementally, that one advance leads to another, and that the impact of an event is often not recognized until many years later.
Little attention was paid in 1930, for example, when a young Aristotle Onassis bought six freighters for a knockdown price of $20,000 each, seeding what would become a shipping empire. When the teddy bear and brassiere were both introduced to the United States in 1902 — by Mr. Trager’s dating — no one could have forseen what lay in store.
The Trager reference books sold solidly and found homes in libraries and newsrooms. Robert Kirsch, writing in The Los Angeles Times, said he plowed through the “People’s” encyclopedia to the end. Cindy Adams, the New York Post columnist, called the New York book “as smart and know-it-all as New York itself.” (A revised edition of “The People’s Chronology” came out in 1993.)
Mr. Trager had honed his skill at ferreting out historical details in two earlier books, both on food. In “The Enriched, Fortified, Concentrated, Country-Fresh, Lip-Smacking, Finger-Licking International, Unexpurgated FOODBOOK,” published in 1970, he wrote that it was Genghis Khan who introduced sauerkraut to Europe (an assertion repeated in other reference books).
Two years later “The Big, Fertile, Rumbling, Cast-Iron, Growling, Aching, Unbuttoned Bellybook” addressed nutrition issues with some skepticism, questioning, for example, the health advantages of organic food, which he dismissed as a fad of the rich.
James Garfield Trager was born on May 27, 1925, in White Plains and grew up in Scarsdale, N.Y. He attended Harvard, where he was an editor on The Crimson, majored in history and graduated in 1946. He worked in marketing research, then advertising. He wrote ads for Canadian Club whisky that centered on adventurous trips — shark-fishing, say — that screamed out for a libation afterward.
For his chronologies, Mr. Trager bought an early-generation computer in 1975 — paying $10,000 — to organize his material. Microsoft later purchased the rights to “The People’s Chronology” and offered it on a CD as part of a reference-book package.
He wrote 10 books, including “Letters From Sachiko: A Japanese Woman’s View of Life in the Land of the Economic Miracle” (1982), which was critically praised for its portrayal of contemporary Japanese life. The book was partly inspired by the experience of Mr. Trager’s second wife, Chie Nishio, herself Japanese.
Mr. Trager’s first marriage, to Olivia A. Hirsch, ended in divorce in 1967. In addition to his son Oliver, he is survived by his wife; his daughter, Amanda Trager; another son, James; and three grandchildren.
For all his attention to dates in “The People’s Chronology,” Mr. Trager could not, of course, tell readers when everything started. He did report, however, what others have established as the year of creation: the Eastern Orthodox Church, 5508 B.C.; the early Syrian Christians, 5490 B.C.; the 17th-century theologian James Ussher, 4004 B.C.; the Hebrew calendar, 3760 B.C., and the Mayan calendar, 3641 B.C.
But the book’s starting point takes the reader back even further, to 3 million B.C., when, Mr. Trager wrote, drawing on fossil evidence, an upright, tool-using human ancestor was around and about.
Photo: Chie Nishio