Category Archives: Historical Events & Figures

P.T. Barnum: Marketing genius, showman and founder of “The Greatest Show on Earth”

Phineas Taylor Barnum, 1810-1891

Phineas Taylor Barnum, 1810-1891

Fun Facts about P.T. Barnum

  • John O'Neill, of the Bethel Land Trust, stands near Ivy Island in Bethel, which was once owned by PT Barnum

    John O'Neill, of the Bethel Land Trust, stands near Ivy Island in Bethel, which was once owned by PT Barnum

    Phineas Taylor Barnum was born in Bethel, Connecticut in 1810.

  • Speaking of his youth, P. T. Barnum said, “I was always ready to concoct fun, or lay plans for moneymaking, but hard work was decidedly not in my line.” Indeed, he succeeded in making a great deal of money by working hard at having fun.
  • When he was born, his grandfather deeded him a parcel of land known as lvy Island. The growing boy was constantly reminded of his property. When he was 10 years old, he went to visit his estate and discovered it to be “a worthless piece of barren land.”
  • When Phineas was 15, his father died, leaving his widow and five children penniless. Phineas immediately became clerk in a country store, where he learned the fine art of Yankee trading. During the next 10 years he was a shop owner, director of lotteries, and newspaper publisher.
  • When he was 19 he eloped with a local seamstress, Charity Hallett (who would remain his wife for 44 years and give him four daughters).
  • At 22, as publisher of the Herald of Freedom, he was jailed for libelously accusing a deacon of usury; upon his release 60 days later, Barnum was met by a band and “a coach drawn by six horses” for a parade back to town.
  • Barnum's Advertisement for Joice Heth

    Barnum's Advertisement for Joice Heth

    He made his first sensation in 1835 when he met Joice Heth, a slave who claimed she was 161 years old (she was about 80) and had been the nurse of George Washington.

  • Seeing Joice Heth’s possibilities as a human curiosity, Barnum purchased the right to exhibit her, along with the documents validating her age, and set her upon her couch in Niblo’s Garden in New York City. She was extremely popular, but when interest began to flag, a newspaper item appeared suggesting that Joice was not human at all but an “automaton” made of whalebone, indian rubber, and springs.
  • Shortly after the article was published, the exhibition hall was full once more, for Barnum always knew how to use the news as well as the advertising sections of newspapers. Finally, upon her death in 1836, when an autopsy proved that Joice had been no more than 80 years old, Barnum was as surprised and indignant as anyone else. He had learned, however, that “the public appears disposed to be amused even when they are conscious of being deceived.”
  • For the next four years Barnum was an itinerant showman in the West and South. By 1840 he was back in New York, poor, weary of travel, and without prospects.
  • The American Museum, New York City

    The American Museum, New York City

    When he heard that the struggling Scudder’s American Museum (with its collection of curiosities) was for sale, Barnum determined to buy it. “With what?” asked a friend. “Brass, ” Barnum replied, “for silver and gold I have none.” He mortgaged himself to the building’s owner, proposing for collateral good references, a determination to succeed, and a “valuable and sentimental” piece of property known as Ivy Island.

  • In 1842 he opened the American Museum in New York City and immediately became famous for his extravagant advertising and his exhibits of freaks.
  • By the end of 1842 the museum was his, and a year later he was out of debt.
  • Barnum’s American Museum was to become the most famous showplace of the century. Here, in constantly changing and elaborately advertised parade, the public could see educated dogs and fleas, automatons, jugglers, ventriloquists, living statuary, albinos, obese men, bearded women, a great variety of singing and dancing acts, models of Paris and Jerusalem, dioramas of the Creation and the Deluge, glassblowing, knitting machines, African Americans performing a war dance, conjoined twins, flower and bird shows, whales, mermaids, virtuous melodramas such as The Drunkard, a menagerie of rare animals, and an aquarium—”all for twenty-five cents, children half price.”
  • The "Feejee Mermaid"

    The "Feejee Mermaid"

    His Great Model of Niagara Falls with Real Water was actually 18 inches high; the Feejee Mermaid was really a monkey’s head and torso fused to a fish’s tail; the Woolly Horse of the Frozen Rockies had in truth been foaled in Indiana.

  • Only half in jest did Barnum seek to buy Shakespeare’s birthplace, hire the Zulu leader who had recently ambushed a British force, and tow an iceberg into New York harbor. Altogether, the museum showed over 600, 000 exhibits during its existence.
  • Among his great attractions were the aforementioned Feejee Mermaid, “General Tom Thumb,” who was viewed by over 20 million people, and the original Siamese Twins, Chang and Eng.
  • Barnum with General Tom Thumb

    Barnum with General Tom Thumb

    General Tom Thumb was Barnum’s greatest attraction. Charles S. Stratton, a native of Bridgeport, Conn., was 25 inches tall and weighed 15 pounds when he entered Barnum’s employ in 1842. When he died in 1883, at the age of 45, he had made millions of dollars and delighted international audiences.

  • In the first of Barnum’s many European junkets the General entertained Queen Victoria, King Louis Philippe, and other royalty with his songs, dances, and impersonations in miniature. Of the 82 million tickets Barnum sold during his lifetime for various attractions, Tom Thumb sold over 20 million.
  • In 1850, Barnum managed the American tour of the Swedish singer Jenny Lind and, with his talent for publicity, made it a huge financial success for her and for himself.
  • "Swedish Nightingale", Jennie Lind

    "Swedish Nightingale", Jennie Lind

    The immensely profitable tour of this gracious “Swedish Nightingale” was prepared with ingenious public relations but conducted with dignity and generosity by Barnum. Its success initiated the vogue of European concert artists visiting the United States.

  • In 1855 he retired from show business; he served as mayor of Bridgeport, Conn., and in the Connecticut legislature.
  • In 1857 his famous house, Iranistan, fashioned after George IV’s Pavilion at Brighton, burned to the ground.
  • The original museum burned in 1865, and new museums burned in 1868 and again in 1872.
  • P.T. BarnumThe showman’s greatest financial catastrophe had nothing to do with show business. For years he had cherished the dream of building a city out of the farmland of East Bridgeport—a benevolent endeavor, he thought. In order to attract business, he signed some notes guaranteeing the debts of the Jerome Clock Company. As a result, he lost all he owned. Thus, in 1855, at the age of 46, the great Barnum was bankrupt.
  • "The Art of Money Getting"

    "The Art of Money Getting"

    He worked his way back from bankruptcy, however, in part from successful lectures on “The Art of Money Getting, ” and by 1860 he was free of debt once more.

  • Throughout his life Barnum was a political liberal, serving in the Connecticut Legislature in the late 1860s, where he diligently fought the railroad interests, and as mayor of Bridgeport in 1875-1876.
  • A year after the death of his first wife, Charity, in 1873, Barnum married Nancy Fish, an English woman 40 years his junior.
  • In April 1874 Barnum opened his Roman Hippodrome in New York; this was to grow into the great circus. While he did not invent the circus, an ancient form of entertainment, he made it a three-ring extravaganza the likes of which had never been seen before.
  • In 1881 he merged with his most successful competitor, James A. Bailey, and under the name Barnum and Bailey the circus continued for a generation after Barnum’s death.
  • Advertisement for Jumbo

    Advertisement for Jumbo

    In what was described as “Barnum’s last great coup” he purchased Jumbo, the 61⁄2-ton African elephant (and largest elephant kept in captivity), from the London Zoo despite the furious protests of English elephant fanciers, including Queen Victoria.

  • Violent objections by the English only made Jumbo and the circus that much more appealing.
  • In 1882 the circus opened its season in Madison Square Garden, where it was to become an American institution; and everywhere the “big top” traveled, a “Barnum Day” was declared. Circling the arena in an open carriage as leader of the parade always brought roars of approval (and great satisfaction) to the aging genius.
  • In 1887, the great circus in its winter quarters, with most of its menagerie, was lost to fire, yet it somehow managed to continue on.
  • By 1891 Barnum’s body began to fail, though not his spirit. His child’s delight in the joke, the curious, and the splendid had set an entire nation to wondering and laughing and buying.
  • A few weeks before his death, Barnum gave permission to the Evening Sun to print his obituary, so that he might have a chance to read it. On April 7 he asked about the box office receipts for the day; a few hours later, he was dead.
  • His autobiography was published in 1855 and went through many editions.
  • He also wrote Humbugs of the World (1865), Struggles and Triumphs (1869), and Money Getting (1883).

 

Special thanks to education.yahoo.com and www.encyclopedia.com

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Entertainment, Historical Events & Figures

Friday the 13th: “a day so infamous”

Friday the 13th

Fun Facts/Legends About Friday the 13th

Superstition surrounds Friday the 13thThere are several theories about why Friday the 13th has its reputation:

  • The number 13 suffers from its position after 12, according to numerologists who consider the latter to be a complete number — 12 months in a year, 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles of Jesus, 12 days of Christmas and 12 eggs in a dozen.
  • It may date back to Biblical times. Some say Friday’s bad reputation goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. It was on a Friday, supposedly, that Eve tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit. Adam bit of the fruit and they were both ejected from Paradise.
  • Tradition also holds that the Great Flood began on a Friday; God tongue-tied the builders of the Tower of Babel on a Friday; the Temple of Solomon was destroyed on a Friday; the 13th guest at the Last Supper betrayed Jesus
  • To the ancient Egyptians, life was a quest for spiritual ascension which unfolded in stages — twelve in this life and a thirteenth beyond, thought to be the eternal afterlife. The number 13 therefore symbolized death, not in terms of dust and decay but as a glorious and desirable transformation. Though Egyptian civilization perished, the symbolism conferred on the number 13 by its priesthood survived, we may speculate, only to be corrupted by subsequent cultures who came to associate 13 with a fear of death instead of a reverence for the afterlife.
  • Pythagoras

    Pythagoras

    “You can trace it all the way from the followers of Pythagoras, whose maxim to describe the universe was ‘all is number,'” says Mario Livio, an astrophysicist and author of “The Equation That Couldn’t Be Solved” (Simon & Schuster, 2005). Thinkers who studied under the famous Greek mathematician combined numbers in different ways to explain everything around them, Livio said.

  • The Crucifixion of Jesus is said to have place on a Friday
  • The number 13 may have been purposely vilified by the founders of patriarchal religions in the early days of western civilization because it represented femininity. Thirteen had been revered in prehistoric  goddess-worshiping cultures, we are told, because it corresponded to the number of lunar (menstrual) cycles in a year (13 x 28 = 364 days). The “Earth Mother of Laussel,” for example — a 27,000-year-old carving found near the Lascaux caves in France often cited as an icon of matriarchal spirituality — depicts a female figure holding a crescent-shaped horn bearing 13 notches. As the solar calendar triumphed over the lunar with the rise of male-dominated civilization, it is surmised, so did the “perfect” number 12 over the “imperfect” number 13, thereafter considered anathema.
  • In pagan Rome, Friday was execution day (later Hangman’s Day in Britain), but in other pre-Christian cultures it was the sabbath, a day of worship, so those who indulged in secular or self-interested activities on that day could not expect to receive blessings from the gods — which may explain the lingering taboo on embarking on journeys or starting important projects on Fridays.
  • Loki, Norse god of evil and trickery

    Loki, Norse god of evil and trickery

    An old Norse tale tells of twelve gods invited to a banquet at Valhalla. Loki, the Evil One, god of mischief, had been left off the guest list but crashed the party, bringing the total number of attendees to 13. True to character, Loki raised hell by inciting Hod, the blind god of winter, to attack Balder the Good, who was a favorite of the gods. Hod took a spear of mistletoe offered by Loki and obediently hurled it at Balder, killing him instantly. All Valhalla grieved. And although one might take the moral of this story to be “Beware of uninvited guests bearing mistletoe,” the Norse themselves apparently concluded that 13 people at a dinner party is just plain bad luck.

  • By the Middle Ages, both Friday and 13 were considered bearers of bad fortune.
  • Katharine Kurtz in Tales of the Knights Templar (Warner Books, 1995) wrote:
Knights Templar

Knights Templar

On October 13, 1307, a day so infamous that Friday the 13th would become a synonym for ill fortune, officers of King Philip IV of France carried out mass arrests in a well-coordinated dawn raid that left several thousand Templars — knights, sergeants, priests, and serving brethren — in chains, charged with heresy, blasphemy, various obscenities, and homosexual practices. None of these charges was ever proven, even in France — and the Order was found innocent elsewhere — but in the seven years following the arrests, hundreds of Templars suffered excruciating tortures intended to force “confessions,” and more than a hundred died under torture or were executed by burning at the stake.

  • In 13: The Story of the World’s Most Popular Superstition (Avalon, 2004), author Nathaniel Lachenmeyer argues that the commingling of “unlucky Friday” and “unlucky 13” took place in the pages of a specific literary work, a novel published in 1907 titled — what else? — Friday, the Thirteenth. The book, all but forgotten now, concerned dirty dealings in the stock market and sold quite well in its day. Both the titular phrase and the phobic premise behind it — namely that superstitious people regard Friday the 13th as a supremely unlucky day — were instantly adopted and popularized by the press.

Some other items to ponder…

  • ThirteenA study conducted in the UK regarding Friday the 13th and health yielded some interesting results. Incredibly, they found that in the region sampled, while consistently fewer people chose to drive their cars on Friday the 13th, the number of hospital admissions due to vehicular accidents was significantly higher than on “normal” Fridays. Their conclusion:

“Friday 13th is unlucky for some. The risk of hospital admission as a result of a transport accident may be increased by as much as 52 percent. Staying at home is recommended.”

  • The British Navy is said to have built a ship named Friday the 13th, or the HMS Friday, which on its maiden voyage left dock on a Friday the 13th, and was never heard from again.
  • The HMS Friday story seems to be a legend, however. The Royal Navy Museum states on its web site that this story, which has been told before, is a hoax. “There has never been a Royal Navy ship named HMS Friday – or after any other day of the week for that matter,” the museum states.
  • Apollo 13 crew

    Apollo 13 crew

    The ill-fated Apollo 13 launched at 13:13 CST on Apr. 11, 1970. The sum of the date’s digits (4-11-70) is 13 (as in 4+1+1+7+0 = 13). And the explosion that crippled the spacecraft occurred on April 13 (not a Friday). The crew did make it back to Earth safely, however.

  • Many hospitals have no room 13, while some tall buildings skip the 13th floor.
  • Fear of Friday the 13th — one of the most popular myths in science — is called paraskavedekatriaphobia as well as friggatriskaidekaphobia. Triskaidekaphobia is fear of the number 13.
  • Quarterback Dan Marino wore No. 13 throughout his career with the Miami Dolphins. Despite being a superb quarterback (some call him one of the best ever), he got to the Super Bowl just once, in 1985, and was trounced 38-16 by the San Francisco 49ers and Joe Montana (who wore No. 16 and won all four Super Bowls he played in).
  • Butch Cassidy

    Butch Cassidy

    Butch Cassidy, notorious American train and bank robber, was born on Friday, April 13, 1866.

  • Fidel Castro was born on Friday, Aug. 13, 1926.
  • President Franklin D. Roosevelt would not travel on the 13th day of any month and would never host 13 guests at a meal. Napoleon and Herbert Hoover were also triskaidekaphobic, with an abnormal fear of the number 13.
  • Superstitious diners in Paris can hire a quatorzieme, or professional 14th guest.
  • Mark Twain once was the 13th guest at a dinner party. A friend warned him not to go. “It was bad luck,” Twain later told the friend. “They only had food for 12.”
  • Woodrow Wilson considered 13 his lucky number, though his experience didn’t support such faith. He arrived in Normandy, France on Friday, Dec. 13, 1918, for peace talks, only to return with a treaty he couldn’t get Congress to sign. (The ship’s crew wanted to dock the next day due to superstitions.) He toured the United States to rally support for the treaty, and while traveling, suffered a near-fatal stroke.
  • Eagle seal on the back of a dollar bill

    Eagle seal on the back of a dollar bill

    The seals on the back of a dollar bill include 13 steps on the pyramid, 13 stars above the eagle’s head, 13 war arrows in the eagle’s claw and 13 leaves on the olive branch. So far there’s been no evidence tying these long-ago design decisions to the present economic situation.

 

Special thanks to livescience.com and urbanlegends.about.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Historical Events & Figures

Wind Cave National Park: A most unusual cave and wildlife preserve

Wind Cave Entrance

Wind Cave Entrance

Fun Facts About Wind Cave National Park

Wind Cave National Park is located in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Tom and Jesse Bingham are credited with the discovery of Wind Cave in 1881.

Exploration has revealed 87 miles of passageways to date, which makes Wind Cave the fifth largest cave system in the United States, and eighth in the world.

The Cave gets its name from the wind that blows through, which during March-August of 1985 was measured to be >75 mph (120 kph) is highest recorded measurement at Walk-In Entrance before revolving door was installed. The highest recorded measurement at the Natural Entance was 25 mph (40 kph). North Room 0.28-1.75 mph (.5-2.8 kph).

An average of 1,000,000 ft³ (28317 m³) of air from the cave is exchanged with the surface each hour.

The Park features the most boxwork of any known cave and the most complex 3D rectilinear maze cave (network maze).

The Park also features one of the most diverse mineralogical and speleothem assemblages and one of the largest barometric wind caves in the United States.

Boxwork - a rare rock formation, or "speleothem"

Boxwork - a rare rock formation, or "speleothem"

Other natural features of the Cave are helictite bushes, quartz rinds, logomites, hydromagnesite ballons, dogtooth and nailhead spar, quartz, christmas trees, button popcorn, sawtooth flowstone, gypsum luster, flowers, starbursts, and hair conulites.

Wind Cave is over 300 million years old, making it one of the oldest in the world. Besides extreme age, other features make Wind Cave unique. The cave is large and extremely complex, the 81 miles of known cave (1998) fit under one square mile of land. The boxwork is rare and found in few other caves. Wind Cave has undergone many geological changes and the processes continue.

The Cave’s boundaries are within a 1.1 by 1.3 mile rectangle (370.4 ha) on the surface.

The park was heavily exploited during it’s early days. Many features were removed, names carved on walls, and a lot of trash and outside debris was brought in.

On Jan 3, 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the bill creating Wind Cave National Park. It was the seventh national park and the first one created to protect a cave. The parklands at that time were small and there were no bison, elk, or pronghorn. They came later as the park boundaries expanded.

In 1912, the American Bison Society was looking for a place to reestablish a bison herd. Because of the excellent prairie habitat around the park, a national game preserve was established bordering Wind Cave. It was managed by the U.S. Biological Survey. In 1913 and 1914, the animals began to arrive. Fourteen bison came from the New York Zoological Society, twenty-one elk arrived from Wyoming and thirteen pronghorn came from Alberta, Canada.

In July of 1935, the game preserve became part of Wind Cave National Park. During the early years of the preserve, the animals were kept in small enclosures. Eventually, it was realized that they needed more space. The bison and elk needed additional forage and the pronghorn needed room to escape from predators. With the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), fences within the park were removed. And in 1946, 16,341 additional acres were added, enlarging the park to 28,059 acres.

Aside from the Cave, the park is a nature preserve for bison and other fauna

Aside from the Cave, the park is a nature preserve for bison and other fauna

Serious exploration of the caves did not begin until 1956, and during 1963 to 1965 major additions to the known territory of Wind Cave were made.

In the 1970’s and 80’s, managers continued to focus on caring for the wildlife and rangeland by building an understanding of how the natural systems should function. The reintroduction of fire as a natural means to improve the range and to limit the expansion of the forest onto the prairie was researched. An active fire program was started, with the first prescribed fire occurring in 1972.

Exploration is still on going today (and the ranks of which cave is largest changes frequently).

Wind Cave National Park is open year round with visitation the highest in June, July and August and lowest in December, January and February.

The length of the surveyed cave is 135 miles (217.26 kilometers).

The deepest point surveyed are the underground lakes, which are 654 feet (199.3 m) below the highest point in the cave.

On the banks of Wind Cave's underground lake

On the banks of Wind Cave's underground lake

Not only does Wind Cave National Park protect the 87 miles of passageways below it, but is home to a host of Black Hills features including mountains, ponderosa forest, prairies, and the most miles of established, maintained, hiking trails of all of the National Park facilities located in South Dakota.

Wind Cave National Park by default is also an excellent jumping off point to see other Black Hills attractions like Custer State Park, Mt. Rushmore National Memorial, Jewel Cave National Monument, and the Crazy Horse Memorial.

Calcite Rafts, a thin layer of calcite stone, floats on the top of the lakes.  The unusual stone formation will sink when the surface tension of the water is broken.  These formations have been found in dry parts of the cave, adding to the evidence that the water levels in the Black Hills have rose and receded over the millennium, creating the numerous caves we can see today.

Wind Cave National Park also offers a wider variety of tours and programs for visitors than it’s smaller sibling to the west, Jewel Cave National Monument.

 

Special thanks to wind.cave.national-park.comoutdoorplaces.com and nps.gov

Leave a comment

Filed under Historical Events & Figures, Nature, Science, Travel

Christmas Lights: Illuminating the Cold Winter Night Since 1880

Fun Facts About Christmas Lights

  • The General Electric Christmas lighting outfit, the first set offered for sale to the public. Circa 1903-1904.

    The General Electric Christmas lighting outfit, the first set offered for sale to the public. Circa 1903-1904.

    The inventors of electric Christmas lights are Thomas Edison and Edward Johnson

  • Before electric Christmas lights, families would use candles to light up their Christmas trees. This practice was often dangerous and led to many home fires.
  • Edward H. Johnson put the very first string of electric Christmas tree lights together in 1882. Johnson, Edison’s friend and partner in the Edison’s Illumination Company, hand-wired 80 red, white and blue light bulbs and wound them around his Christmas tree. Not only was the tree illuminated with electricity, it also revolved.
  • During the Christmas season of 1880, strands of lights were strung around the outside of Edison’s Menlo Park Laboratory. Railroad passengers traveling by got their first look at an electrical light display.
  • General Electric was the first company to offer pre-wired Christmas light strings. Prior to this, lights had to be hand wired on the tree. GE was unable to patent their string (or festoon), and suddenly the market was open to anyone who wanted to manufacture the strings.
  • Modern Christmas light decorating to the extreme

    Modern Christmas light decorating to the extreme

    In 1895, U.S. President Grover Cleveland proudly sponsored the first electrically lit Christmas tree in the White House.

  • In 1901, The first commercially produced Christmas tree lamps were manufactured in strings of nine sockets by the Edison General Electric Co. of Harrison, New Jersey.
  • It was a common but incorrect belief in the early days of electric Christmas lighting that Christmas light bulbs would burn longer in an upright position. Early decorators spent a lot of time making sure that the lamps were positioned upright on the tree.
  • Many of the earliest figural light bulbs representing fruit, flowers and holiday figures were blown in molds that were also used to make small glass ornaments. These figural lights were painted by toy makers.
  • Many of the earliest Christmas lights burned so hot that they were about as dangerous as the candles they were advertised to replace.
  • Ink Blotter advertising General Electric's new pre-wired sets of Christmas lights. The artwork is a direct copy of General Electric's cover art for their 1904 booklet advertising their first set of Christmas lights.

    Ink Blotter advertising General Electric's new pre-wired sets of Christmas lights. The artwork is a direct copy of General Electric's cover art for their 1904 booklet advertising their first set of Christmas lights.

    Early in their history, Christmas lights were so expensive that they were more commonly rented than sold. An electrically lighted tree was a status symbol in the early 1900s.

  • Until 1903, when General Electric began to offer pre-assembled kits of Christmas lights, stringed lights were reserved for the wealthy and electrically savvy.
  • The wiring of electric lights was very expensive and required the hiring of the services of a wireman, our modern-day electrician. According to some, to light an average Christmas tree with electric lights before 1903 would have cost $2000.00 in today’s dollars.
  • Early NOMA Christmas light outfit

    Early NOMA Christmas light outfit

    Albert Sadacca saw a future in selling electric Christmas lights. The Sadacca family owned a novelty lighting company and in 1917 Albert, a teenager at the time, suggested that its store offer brightly colored strands of Christmas lights to the public.

  • Christmas lights were first advertised in the Ladies Home Journal.
  • True outdoor Christmas lights were not introduced to the public until 1927-1928, almost 45 years after the first electric tree lights were demonstrated. There were sets offered for sale as safe to use outside before 1927, but they were small, dangerous and extremely impractical for the average family.
  • By the 1920’s Albert Sadacca and his brothers organized the National Outfit Manufacturers Association (NOMA), a trade association. NOMA soon became NOMA Electric Co., with its members cornering the Christmas light market until the 1960’s.
  • President Coolidge at the lighting of the first National Christmas Tree on December 24, 1923.

    President Coolidge at the lighting of the first National Christmas Tree on December 24, 1923.

    On Christmas Eve 1923, President Calvin Coolidge began the country’s celebration of Christmas by lighting the National Christmas Tree with 3,000 electric lights on the Ellipse located south of the White House.

  • Montgomery Wards inadvertently gave the American public two well known Christmas treasures: the bubble light and Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer. The original story of Rudolph, a bit different than the one we know today, first appeared in a children’s giveaway booklet in 1939. The character became a runaway hit. Also, Carl Otis, the inventor of the bubble light, worked as an accountant for the company. Wards did not sponsor Carl’s invention, and he eventually sold it to NOMA. It became the biggest selling Christmas light in history up to that time.
  • Electrically lit trees did not become “universal” in the United States until after World War II.
  • NOMA Bubble lights

    NOMA Bubble lights

    Largest Cut Christmas Tree was a 221 foot Douglas fir at Northgate Shopping Center, Seattle, Washington, USA, in December 1950. (Guiness Book of World Records)

  • It is interesting to note that while Christmas is a uniquely Christian holiday, most of the major Christmas lighting companies were owned and operated by people of the Jewish faith.

Special thanks to tackylighttour.com, loc.gov and oldchristmastreelights.com

4 Comments

Filed under Entertainment, Historical Events & Figures, Science

Valley Forge: Washington’s Frost-bitten Army Encampment During the American Revolution

General George Washington at Valley Forge

General George Washington at Valley Forge

Facts About Valley Forge

 

“To see men without clothes to cover their nakedness, without blankets to lie upon, without shoes … without a house or hut to cover them until those could be built, and submitting without a murmur, is a proof of patience and obedience which, in my opinion, can scarcely be paralleled.”
-George Washington at Valley Forge,
April 21, 1778

 

  • General Washington's headquarters

    General Washington's headquarters

    g the winter of of 1777-1778 the prospect of more fighting during the war for Independence, was not possible because of the weather, and the poor condition of Washington’s troops. They had fought their last battle of 1777 at White Marsh, and he had decided to rest his troops at a relatively safe and secure position at Valley Forge.

  • Named for an iron forge on Valley Creek, the area was close enough to the British to keep their raiding and foraging parties out of the interior of Pennsylvania, yet far enough away to halt the threat of British surprise attacks.
  • The poorly fed, ill-equipped army, weary from long marches, struggled into Valley Forge, and the winds blew cold, as the 12,000 Continentals prepared for winter’s fury.
  • The first properly constructed hut appeared in three days. Within six weeks, more than a thousand huts were finished to provide shelter for the rag-tag army. But everything thing else, food, clothing, shoes, and medicines were left wanting.
  • Because of the harsh conditions, and lack of supplies, it is hardly remembered that over 2000 men died, without a shot being fired.
  • Disease at Valley Forge was rampant. Sanitary conditions in the 18th Century were very poor. Small pox, typhoid or typhus (known as putrid fever), pneumonia, and dysentery were some.
  • Valley Forge Arrival

    Valley Forge Arrival

    Most of the troops were inoculated for small pox at Valley Forge, but these men were usually on an inactive status because they were quarantined.

  • It is a little known fact, that more Americans died during this winter, than at the battles of Brandywine and Germantown combined.
  • It is also a little known fact, that over 5000 Americans of African descent served in Washington’s army. African American men were active members on the battlefield, a mixture of freed and enslaved men who took up arms.
  • After the war had ended, a resolution passed by Congress in 1779 decreed that any enslaved man serving with the Continental Army, upon the termination of their service, would be a freed man. And while a majority of men of African descent were freed, a large portion of them were not.
  • Also not widely known is the fact that a great number of Native Americans from the Oneida Indian Nation in particular had a crucial impact during the Valley Forge encampment.
  • Washington’s troops were the most racially integrated of any American army fielded, up until Vietnam.
  • So severe were conditions at times that Washington despaired that the army might have to be disbanded, and every man let go to forage for himself. But with the help of men like General Christopher Ludwig, Friedich Von Steuben, Henry Knox, and a host of Camp followers that consisted of the families, wives, children, mothers, and sisters of the soldiers, who were continually trying to help and raise the morale of Washington’s men, the army survived.
  • Huts for the soldiers

    Huts for the soldiers

    On June 19 1778, after training all winter and their ordeal finally over, they left Valley Forge to pursue the British, and continue the war for Independence.

  • One of Valley Forge’s first tourist attractions was the historic house now called Washington’s Headquarters, dedicated in 1879 by the Centennial and Memorial Association of Valley Forge.
  • One of the earliest people to come as a tourist (and write about the experience) was John Fanning Watson who visited in 1828.
  • The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania established its first state park at Valley Forge in 1893.
  • Valley Forge became a National Park in 1976, for the Bicentennial.

 

Special thanks to authorsden.com and ushistory.org

 

1 Comment

Filed under Historical Events & Figures

Ice Cream Cones: One of the World’s Favorite Confections since 1904

Fun Facts About Ice Cream Cones

  • The Zalabia (waffle-like funnel cake)

    The Zalabia (waffle-like funnel cake)

    The ice cream cone was invented by Ernest Hamwi, a waffle vendor of Syrian decent, who sold Persian pastries called Zalabia (paper-thin waffles).

  • At the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri, Hamwi’s zalabia cart was located nearby an ice cream vendor who had run out of dishes.
  • Hamwi came to the vendor’s rescue by wrapping the zalabia around the ice cream in the familiar conical fashion we see today.
  • Fortunately, for Hamwi, there were roughly 150 vendors at the World’s Fair and soon people would come to the fair to try the “World’s Far Cornucopia”, later known as the Ice Cream Cone.
  • Italo Marchiony patented an invention much like the ice cream cone in 1903.
  • The Modern-day Waffle Cone

    The Modern-day Waffle Cone

    The difference between Marchiony’s cone and Hamwi’s cone is that the former is made of pastry, and the latter is made of waffle, and is what we think of as an ice cream cone today

  • It takes 12 lbs. of milk to make just one gallon of ice cream.
  • The U.S. enjoys an average of 48 pints of ice cream per person, per year, more than any other country.
  • It takes an average of 50 licks to polish off a single-scoop ice cream cone.
  • The biggest ice cream sundae in history was made in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, in 1988, and weighed in at over 24 tons.
  • In 2003, Portland, Oregon bought more ice cream per person than any other U.S. city.

 

Special thanks to icecream.com and summercore.com

2 Comments

Filed under Entertainment, Food, Historical Events & Figures

Pablo Picasso: Influential Artist of the 20th Century and Co-Creator of Cubism

Pablo Picasso, 1881-1973

Pablo Picasso, 1881-1973

Fun Facts About Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso in his studioBorn on October 25 1881 in Málaga Spain, Spanish expatriate painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and stage designer, Pablo Picasso was without question one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century. Together with Georges Braque, he also created Cubism.

  • Picasso’s full name has 23 words. Picasso was baptized Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Martyr Patricio Clito Ruíz y Picasso. He was named after various saints and relatives. The “Picasso” is actually from his mother, Maria Picasso y Lopez. His father is named Jose Ruiz Blasco.
  • When he was born, the midwife thought he was stillborn. Picasso had such a difficult birth and was such a weak baby that when he was born, the midwife thought that he was stillborn so she left him on a table to attend his mother. It was his uncle, a doctor named Don Salvador, that saved him: ‘Doctors at that time,’ he told Antonina Vallentin, ‘used to smoke big cigars, and my uncle was no exception. When he saw me lying there he blew smoke into my face. To this I immediately reacted with a grimace and a bellow of fury’”
  • Picasso’s father was also a painter, as well an art professor. This would influence Picasso as he grew up.
  • In 1895, when Picasso was a teenager, his seven-year-old sister died from diphtheria. It was a traumatic event that would also influence his later work.
  • The family moved to Barcelona after the death of Pablo’s sister.
  • In Barcelona, Pablo’s father worked at the School of Fine Arts. He persuaded the officials there to let young Pablo (then only 13 years old) to take an entrance exam. To their surprise, he did very well on the exam and was soon admitted into the school.
  • Pablo Picasso was later sent by his father to study at the Royal Academy of San Fernando (in Madrid, Spain).
  • Picasso was a rebel even in his school days. He wore long dresses and long hair, going against current fashions.
  • "The Old Guitarist" from Picasso's Blue Period

    "The Old Guitarist" from Picasso's Blue Period

    Picasso was an excellent art student, but he resisted other studies and was often disruptive. He was thrown into detention often, but he didn’t mind because he was allowed a sketchpad, which he delighted in using.

  • Pablo had his first exhibit at age 13, when he showed his paintings in the back room of an umbrella store.
  • At 16, Picasso was sent to the Royal Academy of Madrid, where students drew from plaster casts and copied works of the old masters. Picasso’s father soon became angry with his son’s rebellious behavior, long hair, and strange clothes. He believed that Pablo was wasting his talent and scolded him: “why don’t you cut your hair and paint sensibly?” In 1900, Picasso left for Paris—then the center of the art world. He lived in a cold, rundown building painting constantly, sometimes surviving for days on only a piece of bread.
  • While living in Paris (1900) Pablo had lots of financial problems and he burned many of his paintings to stay warm.
  • His Blue Period lasted from around 1900 – 1904. This period was named for both the colors he favored and the subject matter of his paintings, which often depicted people with sad expressions.
  • His aptly named Rose Period took place between 1905 and 1906, during which the artist used many pink tones and often created circus scenes.
  • While in Paris, Pablo Picasso had a propensity for entertaining and had among his friends people such as Andre Breton and Gertrude Stein.
  • When the Mona Lisa disappeared from the Louvre in 1911, a friend of Picasso’s was arrested first. The friend pointed the finger at Picasso. Both men were questioned, and both men were found innocent.
  • "Girl Before a Mirror" in an example of Picasso's Rose Period
    “Girl Before a Mirror” in an example of Picasso’s Rose Period

    Picasso also had an active love life and usually had several mistresses along with a wife or a primary partner.

  • In fact, he liked women who were much, much younger than he was. Picasso had many lovers and three wives. Most of the women he was involved with were significantly younger than he was. His second wife was 52 years younger.
  • His real work and career as a painter is said to have begun around 1894 with a painting called ‘The First Communion’ which showed his sister Lola, and the more famous painting by Pablo Picasso called ‘Portrait of Aunt Pepa’.
  • No artist has ever been as famous in his own lifetime
  • Picasso painted his own variations of other artists work
  • He had no appreciation for women artists.

 

Special thanks to artmarketingsecrets.com, www.life123.com and www.21facts.com

1 Comment

Filed under Art, Entertainment, Historical Events & Figures

The Turkey: Holiday Delicacy and One-time Proposed Symbol of the United States

A Broad Breasted Bronze tom (male turkey)

A Broad Breasted Bronze tom (male turkey)

Fun Facts About the Turkey

 

  • Wild turkeys in their natural habitat

    Wild turkeys in their natural habitat

    Turkeys originated in North and Central America.

  • Usually the turkeys are found in hardwood forests with grassy areas but they are capable of adapting themselves to different habitats.
  • Turkeys spend the night in trees.
  • You can easily see a turkey on a warm clear day or during light rain.
  • Turkeys fly to the ground at first light and feed until mid-morning. Feeding resumes in mid-afternoon.
  • Turkeys start gobbling before sunrise and generally continue through most of the morning.
  • The field of vision of wild turkey is so good that it is about 270 degrees.
  • The wild turkey has excellent hearing.
  • A turkey can run up to 20 mph

    A turkey can run up to 20 mph

    A spooked turkey can run at speed up to 20 miles per hour.

  • A wild turkey can run at speed of up to 25 miles per hour.
  • A wild turkey can fly for short distances at up to 55 miles per hour.
  • Domesticated turkeys or the farm-raised turkeys cannot fly.
  • Turkeys were one of the first birds to be domesticated in the America.
  • The male turkeys are called ‘tom’, the female turkeys are called ‘hen’ and the baby turkeys are called ‘poult’.
  • The male turkeys gobble whereas female turkeys make a clicking noise.
  • The male turkeys gobble to attract the female turkeys for mating. The gobble is a seasonal call made during the spring and fall.
  • A mature turkey generally has around 3,500 feathers. The Apache Indians considered the turkey timid and wouldn’t eat it or use its feathers on their arrows.
  • Roast turkey is typically consumed in America during Thanksgiving and/or Christmas

    Roast turkey is typically consumed in America during Thanksgiving and/or Christmas

    According to an estimate, during the Thanksgiving holiday more than 45 million turkeys are cooked and around 525 million pounds of turkey is eaten.

  • About ninety-five percent of American families eat turkey on the Thanksgiving Day whereas fifty percent eat turkey on Christmas holiday.
  • Almost fifty percent of Americans eat turkey at least once every 2 weeks.
  • According to the National Turkey Federation about twenty-four percent of Americans purchase fresh turkeys for Thanksgiving and seventy percent purchase frozen turkeys.
  • North Carolina is the number one producer of turkeys. It produces around 61 million turkeys per year. Minnesota and Arkansas are second and third number producers of turkey.
  • The part of the turkey that is used in a good luck ritual is known as the ‘wishbone’.
  • The red fleshy growth from the base of the beak that hangs down over the beak is called ‘snood’. It is very long on male turkeys.

 

Special thanks to www.thanksgivingnovember.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Food, Historical Events & Figures, Nature

Edgar Allan Poe: Father of the Modern Mystery Story and Tales of Dark Suspense

Edgar Allan Poe, 1809 - 1849

Edgar Allan Poe, 1809 - 1849

Fun Facts About Edgar Allan Poe

  • Poe was born in Boston, MA
  • His father David Poe was bred as a lawyer, but deeply offended his family by marrying an actress of English birth, Mrs. Elizabeth Hopkins, neé Arnold, and by himself going on the stage. In 1811 he and his wife died, leaving three children — William, Edgar, and a daughter Rosalie — wholly destitute.
  • Edgar was adopted by John Allan, a tobacco merchant of Scottish extraction, seemingly at the request of his wife, who was childless.
  • Poe attended the University of Virginia at Charlottesville in 1826…until he had to drop out due to lack of money. It seems that Poe had a gambling problem, and his foster father got tired of bailing him out.
  • Broke, Poe lied about his age and joined the army. He served two years…and then got himself dismissed by court martial.
  • His life immediately after he left West Point is very obscure, but in 1833 he was living at Baltimore with his paternal aunt, Mrs. Clemm, who was throughout life his protector, and, in so far as extreme poverty permitted, his support.
  • In 1827 Poe had published his first volume of poetry, Tamerlane and other Poems, at Boston. He did not publish under his name, but as “A Bostonian.” In 1831 he published a volume of Poems under his name at New York.
  • In 1833 he won a prize of $100 offered for the best story by the Baltimore Saturday Visitor. He would have won the prize for the best poem if the judges had not thought it wrong to give both rewards to one competitor.
  • The story, MS. found in a Bottle, is one of the most mediocre of his tales, but his success gave him an introduction to editors and publishers, who were attracted by his striking personal appearance and his fine manners, and were also touched by his manifest poverty.
  • His famous poem “The Raven” was published first in 1845, and soon became extraordinarily popular; but Poe only got $10 or $15 for it (the exact amount is often debated.)
  • Poe’s short stories featuring C. Auguste Dupin shaped the modern mystery story so much that Arthur Conan Doyle compared Sherlock Holmes to Dupin, and the Mystery Writers of America give an award named the Edgar—after Poe, of course.
  • Among his masterpieces are the short stories The Pit and the PendulumThe Murders in the Rue MorgueThe Masque of the Red DeathThe Fall of the House of Usher, and The Gold Bug.
  • In 1835 he married his cousin, Virginia Clemm, a beautiful girl of fourteen years of age. A false statement as to her age was made at the time of the marriage. She died after a long decline in 1847.
  • Poe made two attempts to marry women of fortune — Mrs. Whitman and Mrs. Shelton. The first of these engagements was broken off. The second was terminated by his death.
  • Poe died of tuberculosis on October 7th, 1849 in Baltimore, MD
  • Poe’s bizarre life didn’t stop just because he died in 1849. He was buried in an unmarked grave, and when gossip finally led to a stone being ordered, it was destroyed in a train accident.
  • Ever since 1949, someone has left a bottle of cognac and some roses on Poe’s grave. Who is leaving these things? And why?
  • Edgar Allen Poe is one of the featured images on the cover of the 1967 Beatles’ album Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. 

 

Special thanks to enotes.com and nndb.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Historical Events & Figures, Literature