Archive for the ‘History’ Category


July 8, 2018

Happy Sunday!  Kidnapping, i.e., “the unlawful carrying away (asportation) and confinement of a person against his or her will,” has been around for quite some time.  But did you know that the very first “recorded” kidnapping occurred on this date in 1524, in a letter from Giovanni da Verrazano to Francis I (then King of France)?  The letter claims that Verrazano’s crew

“tooke a [Native Amercan] childe . . .  [an] olde woman to being into France, and going about to take . . . [a] young woman which was very beautiful and of tall stature, they could not possibly, for the great out cries that she made, bring her to the sea; and especially having great woods to pass through adn being farre from teh ship, we purposed to leave her behinde, beareing away the childe only.”

Giovanni da Verrazzano was the first European explorer (Italian)  to sail into New York Harbor and is credited with charting the Atlantic coast of North America between the Carolinas and Newfoundland. The Verrazano–Narrows Bridge in New York was named after him.

All Hail, the Bookseller!

June 7, 2018

Bookselling has been around for centuries and represents “the retail and distribution end of the publishing process” (Wikipedia).  But did you know that the first “organization of booksellers” wasn’t established until this date in 1801?  Yep, it was the American Company of Booksellers (in New York City).  Their mission: “to improve quality, to avoid interference, to discontinue importations, to favor a literary fair, to recommend correspondence, and to promote the general interest.”  Mathew Carey (from Philadelphia, PA) was the first president of this organization.  Interestingly enough, the very first “book fair” occurred less than a year after the formation of this organization (June 1, 1802) and was held in the Coffee House on Beaver Street (New York City) to display the offerings of various publishers and bookseller.  This first event was attended by forty-six booksellers and was so successful that a similar event was held the following year in Philadelphia.  Moving forward, it became an annual event that alternated between New York and Philadelphia.

Source: Famous First Facts by Joseph Nathan Kane, Steven Anzovin, and Janet Podell, p. 336.

Architectural History!

May 27, 2018

Did you know that on this date in 1930, the Chrysler Building opened to the public and was, at the time, the tallest man-made structure in the world?  It would only hold this distinction until May 1st of the following year when it was surpassed by the Empire State Building which remained the tallest building in the world until 1970 when it was surpassed by the north tower of the World Trade Center.  It remains the tallest “brick” building in the world.  Here are some other fun facts about the Chrysler Building . . .

  • address: 405 Lexington Avenue, Manhattan, New York,  NY 10174
  • 1,046 feet tall (antenna spire)
  • 77 floors
  • Art Deco architectural style
  • 1,196,958 sq ft of area
  • 32 elevators
  •  391,881 rivets
  • 29,961 tons of steel
  • 3,826,000 bricks
  • 3,862 windows
  • the lobby contains the world’s very first digital clock
  • construction averaged four floors per week (quick!)
  • no one was killed during the construction
  • architect: William Van Alen
  • Chrysler refused to pay Van Alen (initially). Van Alen had to sue Chrysler to get paid (and did), but Van Alen’s reputation was tarnished by the incident.
  • designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976
  • designated a New York City Landmark in 1978

The 3rd of May . . .!

May 3, 2018

The Third of May 1808

“The Third of May 1808,” was a painting commissioned by the provisional government of Spain to commemorate the Spanish resistance to Napoleon’s armies during the occupation of 1808 in the Peninsular War.  It was painted by Francisco Goya in 1814 along with a companion piece, “The Second of May 1808” (aka “The Charge of the Mamelukes“).  Both paintings are currently in the public domain and are displayed in Madrid’s Museo del Prado.


Eugene Delacroix!

April 26, 2018

Eugene_delacroixBorn on this date in 1798, Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix became the leader of the French Romantic School.  Delacroix was also a talented lithographer who had illustrated many of the works of William Shakespeare, Walter Scott, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.  Delacroix’s most famous painting, Liberty Leading the People, is based upon the 1830 revolution against Charles X.   Delacroix was influenced by Theodore Gericault, Francisco Goya, Michelangelo, Peter Paul Rubens, and Diego Velazquez, and maintained friendships with Theophile Gautier, Dante Alighieri, Lord Byron, William Shakespeare, and Adolphe Thiers.  Delacroix, in turn, had an influence on the following artists: Paul Cézanne, Gustav Courbet, Odilon Redon, Édouard Manet, and Pablo Picasso.  Some pretty fine company to associate with if you ask me.

Unheeded Warnings!

April 14, 2018

Despite receiving numerous warning of sea ice, it wasn’t until her lookouts actually saw the ice that the danger was realized and by then it was too late to take evasive action.  The Titanic struck the iceberg at approximately 10:40 PM and began sinking on this date in 1912.  A tragic event indeed.   When they made the movie “Titanic,” I’m sure the Hollywood took more than their share of liberties with the story (for entertainment value, of course), but the theme song, “My Heart Will Go On,” by Celine Dion continues to stir my emotions.

Fun Fact Friday, Number Seventy-One!

April 13, 2018

The category for today’s trivial imponderable is “American history.”  Do you know . . . what was Billy the Kid’s real name?

William H. Bonney was actually an alias that Billy the Kid was using when he was sentenced to die.  His real name was probably William Henry McCarty, Jr.  His mother preferred to call him Henry because she did not want him known as a junior.

Source: Sorry, Wrong Answer: Trivia Questions That Even Know-It-Alls Get Wrong, by Dr. Rod L. Evans.

The Pony Express!

April 9, 2018

The Pony Express, utilizing horse and rider teams in relay fashion, was an early mail-delivery system between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California (more than 2,000 miles).  But did you know . . .

  • they were more than twice as fast as their competitors?
  • they were a financial failure and only remained in business for nineteen months?
  • there was a weight limit on the riders?
  • the riders were required to take a loyalty oath?
  • the mail was carried in a specially designed saddlebag?
  • the cost kept ordinary people from using the Pony Express?
  • one rider completed a 380-mile run in less than two days?
  • the riders didn’t have the deadliest job?
  • Buffalo Bill Cody was not a Pony Express rider?
  • the transcontinental telegraph is what put the Pony Express out of business?


“You May Fire When You Are Ready, Gridley . . . !”

March 3, 2018
GeoDeweyThese are the words spoken by Commodore George Dewey on May 1st of 1898, in the Battle of Manila Bay (in the Philippines) during the Spanish-American War to Captain Charles Vernon Gridley.  But were you aware that it wasn’t until March 3, 1899, that George Dewey became the very first person in the United States to hold the distinguishing rank of “Admiral of the Navy.”
“You may fire when you are ready, Gridley.”  ―George Dewey
Source/Notes:  To Charles Vernon Gridley – the captain of his ship – on 1 May 1898 – As quoted in: Washington Post, 3 October 1899.
Photo source:  By Admiral George Dewey, scanned from photogravure from 1899 book in Infrogmation own collection, and uploaded by Infrogmation to en:Wikipedia on 13 November 2002. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Fun Fact Friday, Number Fifty-Seven!

January 5, 2018

The category for today’s trivial imponderable is “world history.”  Do you know what object killed most British sailors in eighteenth-century sea battles?

Contrary to popular belief (or what you might consider as logical), most sailors were NOT killed by cannon balls.  Rather, they were killed by the flying wood splinters that were caused by the cannon balls.

Source: Sorry, Wrong Answer: Trivia Questions That Even Know-It-Alls Get Wrong, by Dr. Rod L. Evans.