October 31, 2011

October 31: Harry Houdini Died, 1926

After a lifetime of hair-raising escapes, a moment of inattention in his dressing room cost Harry Houdini his life.

Read article here.

Pictured: Harry Houdini with his beloved mother and devoted wife. Picture from the Library of Congress archives.

October 30, 2011

October 30: Charles Atlas Born, 1892

Charles Atlas really had been the 97 pound weakling who got sand kicked in his face. Then he saw a lion at the zoo....

Read article here.

Pictured: 1953 ad for the Charles Atlas course. Posted by AtomicSteve on Wikimedia Commons under the GNU Free Documentation License.

October 29, 2011

October 29: James Boswell Born, 1740

He's best known as the celebrated biographer of Samuel Johnson, but James Boswell was a man with a few quirks.

Read article here.

Pictured: 1785 portrait of Boswell by Sir Joshua Reynolds.

October 28, 2011

October 28: Auguste Escoffier Born, 1846

He was called the "Chef of Kings and King of Chefs."

And he changed the way we think about food forever.

Read article here.

Pictured: Photograph of Auguste Escoffier in 1914, from The Gourmet's Guide to London, by Nathaniel Newnham-Davis.

October 27, 2011

October 27: Niccolo Paganini Born, 1782

He was tall and long-fingered, with curling hair and burning eyes. People said he had sold his soul to the devil for his talent.

Read article here.

Pictured: 19th century painting of Paganini, of the Italian School.

October 26, 2011

October 26: Washington Receives Breeding Stock, 1785

Did you know George Washington was the first American to breed mules?

Read article here.

Pictured: photograph of mule by Sogospelman, published on Wikimedia Commons under the  GNU Free Documentation License.

October 25, 2011

October 25: The Charge of the Light Brigade, 1854

An ambiguous order, and unfailing adherence to orders led to a catastrophe. Clearly, "someone had blundered."

Read article here.

Pictured: The Charge of the Light Brigade, 1894 painting by Richard Caton Woodville.

October 24, 2011

October 24: Annie Edson Taylor Goes Over Niagara Falls in a Barrel

She was a 63 year old retired teacher from Bay City, Michigan. But she told the reporters she was only 43.

Read article here.

Pictured: Annie and her barrel.

October 23, 2011

October 23: Nicolas Appert Born, 1752

He was called the Father of Modern Canning.

He'd always been interested in food, but the prize money didn't hurt, either.

Read article here.

Pictured: Sketch of Appert from 19th century book.

October 22, 2011

October 22: First Modern Parachute Jump

The first time he'd tried, he hadn't even been able to get the balloon off the ground. Would be be successful on his second attempt?

Read article here.

Pictured: 19th century illustration of Andre-Jacques Garnerin's parachute trial.

October 21, 2011

October 21: John Paul Getty III Loses an Ear, 1973

His family thought it was a fake kidnapping. After all, he'd joked about faking out to get money out of his grandfather so often.

Read article here.

October 20, 2011

October 20: Calico Jack Captured, 1720

He was a mediocre pirate at best, but he achieved fame in his own way, by having two female pirates on his crew.

Read article here.

Pictured: 18th century woodcut of Calico Jack Rackham.

October 19, 2011

October 19: First Antibiotic to Fight Tuberculosis Discovered, 1943

TB has been around almost as long as we have. It's been a tough disease to treat, and we're far from done.

Read article here.

Pictured: 1920's postcard from the Buffalo Tuberculosis Association. The dangers of contagion were well known.

October 18, 2011

October 18: Salomon Andree Born,

Salomon Andree thought he could fly a balloon over the geographic North Pole. He was wrong.

Read article here.

Pictured: Site of the crash of the balloon, taken by expedition member Nils Strindberg.

October 17, 2011

October 17: London Beer Flood, 1814

The Parish of St. Giles was one of the worst slums in London. When a giant beer vat broke open on October 17, 1814, sending a tsunami of beer crashing through the streets, the residents just didn't have a chance.

Read article here.

Pictured: Logo from Meux and Company Brewery, now in public domain.  

October 16, 2011

October 16: The Captain of Kopenick Caper, 1906

Wilhelm Voigt couldn't seem to hold onto a job. But he wasn't letting a little thing like that hold him back...

Read article here.

Pictured: 2006 German postage stamp honoring the Captain of Kopenick.

October 15, 2011

October 15: Death of Mata Hari, 1917

Was she really a double agent? History isn't so clear on the subject.

Read article here.

Pictured: postcard view of Mata Hari from 1906. Lucien Watery, photographer.

October 14, 2011

October 14: Eugene Fodor Born, 1905

You're probably familiar with the Fodor line of travel guides. But did you know that Eugene Fodor spied for the OSS and the CIA?

Read article here.

October 13, 2011

October 13: Molly Pitcher Born, 1754

Molly Pitcher's real name was Mary Ludwig Hays, and performed heroically during the Battle of Monmouth.

Read article here.

Pictured: This illustration was published by Currier and Ives  somewhere between 1856 and 1907.

October 12, 2011

October 12: Pledge of Allegiance First Recited in Public Schools, 1892

When first written, the Pledge of Allegiance was simply:

"I pledge allegiance to the flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Read article here.

Pictured: Japanese-American children salute the flag in April, 1942. Within a few weeks they had all been placed in internment camps.

October 11, 2011

October 11: Parson Weems Born, 1759

Parson Weems is chiefly notable for his biography of George Washington. He had no problem with combining factual information with stories that "should have been true."

Read article here.

Pictured: The Apotheosis of Washington, fresco by Constantino Brumidi in the Capitol Rotunda, Washington D.C. Photograph by Mick Stephenson, published on Wikimedia Commons under the GNU Free Documentation License.

October 10, 2011

October 10: Tuxedo Introduced to America, 1886

The dinner jacket was designed for the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII), as a comfortable garment for less formal dinners. But it took those young sports from Tuxedo Park to make it truly fashionable.

Read article here.

Pictured: Late 19th century lithograph of a man in a tuxedo jacket. Note that he's also wearing a vest -- the cummerbund came later.

October 9, 2011

October 9: Leif Ericson Day

He was just looking for a little more arable land....

Read article here.

Pictured: 1893 painting by Christian Krohg, Leiv Eiriksson Discovering America.

October 8, 2011

October 8: Pierogi Day

Did you know that Detroit is one of the most pierogi-eating cities in the United States?

Read article here.

Photograph by Anna Moderska.

October 7, 2011

October 7: Thomas J. Wise Born, 1859

Thomas J. Wise was a lover of books and a respected expert in the field of book collecting.

Unfortunately, he used his expertise to concoct some excellent forgeries.

Read article here.

Pictured: Wise in about 1920.

October 6, 2011

October 6: Moulin Rouge Opens in Montmartre, 1898

The most famous nightclub in Paris opened on this date in 1898.

Read article here.

Pictured: Toulouse-Lautrec's painting of can-can dancer Jane Avril.

October 5, 2011

October 5: First Bond Film Released, 1961

The first James Bond movie was Dr. No, released October 5, 1962.

Critical reception was tepid, but when JFK said he was an Ian Fleming fan, it was a whole new ballgame.

Read article here.

Pictured: Walther PPK, Bond's gun of choice. Illustration by Nanoxyde, released under the GNU Free Documentation License on Wikimedia Commons.

October 4, 2011

October 4: Work on Mount Rushmore Begins, 1927

It was a daring project, but the sculptor had previous experience, and South Dakota really needed a tourist trade.

Read article here.

Pictured: National Parks Service photograph of Mount Rushmore.

October 3, 2011

October 3: Edgar Allan Poe Discovered Delirious, 1849

He was disheveled and delirious. He had been missing for five days. And the clothes he was wearing were not his own.

Read article here.

Pictured: Portrait of Edgar Allan Poe in 1848. 1904 photograph by C. T. Tatman, taken from an 1848 daguerreotype by W. S. Hartshorn, that has been missing since 1860.

October 2, 2011

October 2: Woodrow Wilson Suffers Stroke, 1919

Woodrow Wilson suffered a debilitating stroke on October 2, 1919.

After that, who really held the power of the Presidency?

Read article here.

Pictured: 1920 photograph of the President and his wife. Edith had to hold the paper steady for him. Photo by Harris and Ewing, from the Library of Congress.

October 1, 2011

October 1: Death of E. B. White, 1985

E. B. White's Stuart Little is one of the classics of children's literature. It took a lot of effort to get it into the library, however.

Read article here.

Pictured: Senior picture of E. B. White, furnished by Cornell University, and published on Wikimedia Commons.