March 18, 2015

It Happened on March 18th

First Practical Electric Razor Marketed, 1931
The first electric razor was a 2-handed affair.
Some say it was the dysentery. Some say it was the weather in Alaska, or the broken ankle he got there. Some say that Colonel Jacob Schick just hated the messiness of a wet shave. 

Whatever the reason, he decided to do something about it, and he invented the "dry shaver", or what we call the electric razor. His first model was somewhat impractical, and didn't sell very well when he introduced it in 1929. It was a two-handed model, comprised of a heavy motor with a flexible cable attached to the shaving head. But when he introduced the one-handed shaver, things really took off. 

The original Schick shaver sold for $25, or about $350 in today's money. It seems like a lot for a shaver, but it found its market. When compared to a lifetime of buying razor blades and shaving cream it didn't seem so steep after all, and the prices went down as sales climbed. Only about 3,000 sold the first year, but by 1937 a million and a half had been sold. When competitors like Remington, Phillips, and Gillette got into the act, prices went down still further. 

Schick eventually became a millionaire, and invested his money in four holding companies in the Bahamas. The Joint Congressional Committee on Tax Evasion and Avoidance was looking into the situation when Schick fortuitously moved to Canada and became a Canadian citizen, ostensibly for health reasons.
This wasn't Schick's only invention, by the way. He also invented the Magazine Repeating Razor (sounds scary, doesn't it?), a razor with blades that were sold in clips and could be injected into the razor without touching them. His other inventions included a boat suitable for shallow water, and an improved pencil sharpener. 

Oh, and if you're wondering about the dysentery, it was a result of his assignment in the Philippines with the 14th U.S. Infantry. The broken ankle he got in Alaska, hunting for gold. 

Mary Tudor's Birthday, 1496
Mary Tudor and 2nd Hubby, Charles Brandon. It was a love match.
This is the Mary Tudor who was Henry VIII's sister, not the one who was his daughter and later became Queen. 

Like many royal women of her time, Mary is remembered chiefly for her marriages. Her first marriage was to King Louis XII of France. Louis was 52, and had been married twice before, but had not produced any heirs. It was hoped that the 18-year-old Mary would be more successful. 

It appears that the couple tried their best, because Louis died within three months of the wedding. Rumor had it that the new bride had worn him out. 

Mary's second husband was to Charles Brandon, the first Duke of Suffolk. Brandon had been sent to France to retrieve Mary after her French husband's death, and the two wed secretly shortly thereafter. This was technically treason for both of them, since Mary was of the royal family, and was not allowed to marry without the King's consent. Henry was angry when he found out about it, but eventually forgave them, as both Mary and Brandon were great favorites of his. 

If this is all starting to sound familiar, it may be that you're a fan of the television series The Tudors. In that version, Mary's name has been changed to Margaret, and she is married to a fictional Portuguese king. (And please, don't get me started on the inaccuracies of that program.) The real-life Henry did, in fact, have another sister named Margaret. The real-life Margaret was married to James IV of Scotland, and was the grandmother of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the great-grandmother of James I of England. 

William C. Durant Died, 1947
William C. Durant
His name might not be as familiar to you as Henry Ford, but William Durant is a giant in the history of the automobile. 

To begin with, Durant wasn't much of a fan of the new invention. He thought cars were noisy, smelly, and dangerous. He began changing his mind however, when they began gaining popularity, and before long he purchased a rather unsuccessful and debt-ridden company named Buick. 

Buick had sold a total of 37 cars when Durant entered it in the New York Auto Show. Durant came back from the show with 1108 orders. 

Durant's dream was to provide cars for a wide range of tastes and incomes, and he began to acquire various other companies, including Cadillac. In 1908, he formed General Motors by merging thirteen car companies and ten parts and accessories firms. 

Durant's financial life was a series of ups and downs. He acquired companies, acquired debt, lost control of his enterprises to the banks, began new companies and started over again. He seemed to be at the top of his game in the 1920's, and he became a major player in the stock market. When Black Friday occurred in 1929, Durant, along with the Rockefellers and other major players, tried to save the stock market by investing heavily. He lost everything. 

Durant spent his final years living on a small pension supplied by General Motors, and managing a bowling alley. 

(Durant is also is credited with inventing the system of automobile dealerships. Just so you'll know who to than when you're negotiating your next new car purchase.) 

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Art Theft, 1900
The Storm on the Sea of Galilee
It's said to have been the largest art heist in US history. On this date in 1900, 13 works of art were stolen by two thieves who came into the museum dressed as police officers. They told the two night security guards that they were investigating a disturbance, and then tied them up and took a leisurely 81 minutes to remove the art work. 

Among the works stolen were Rembrandt's The Storm on the Sea of Gailee (Rembrandt's only known seascape), Vermeer's The Concert (one of only 34 known Vermeers), Manet's Chez Tortoni, four drawings by Degas, and another, smaller Rembrandt. Also taken was a 3,000 Chinese beaker, and a filial that had been on a Napoleonic flag. The Storm of Galilee had been cut from its frame with what appeared to be box cutters. 

The Concert
The crime is still unsolved, and empty frames hang in the museum as a statement of optimism that the works will someday be returned. The museum is offering a $5 million reward for information leading to the restoration of the most valuable items. 

Chez Tortoni
Ironically, the thieves can no longer be prosecuted, as the statute of limitations for art theft in Massachusetts has long expired. Anyone holding the artwork could still be prosecuted for possession of stolen property however, although the U.S. Attorney is Boston has been said to be willing to offer immunity for the return of the items.

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