March 21, 2015

It Happened on March 21st

Forrest Mars Birthday, 1904
Forrest Mars, Sr. was the founder of the Mars Company. If we didn't have anything else to thank him for, it's enough that he invented M & M's. He got the idea during the Spanish Civil War, when he saw soldiers eating chocolate candies with a hard chocolate shell. By 1941 he had patented a process to make similar candies, and he opened a factory in New Jersey. His partner was Bruce Murrie, the son of the then-president of Hershey's Chocolate, although Murrie had only 20% ownership of the company. The "M & M" stood for Mars and Murrie. 

During World War II, M & M's were manufactured exclusively for the military, and were packaged in a cardboard tube. They came in five colors: red, yellow, brown, green, and violet. 

Over the years a number of changes were made. Mars bought out Murrie in 1948, and began selling the candies in a black cellophane bag. In 1950, Mars started printing the signature "m" on each candy. In 1954, Peanut M & M's were created. And, of course, the colors changed over the years. 

Those of you who are old enough to remember (I certainly am) will recall 1976: the year they stopped making red M & M's. This was done in response to concern over Red Dye #2, which was suspected of being a carcinogen. Actually, M & M's didn't even contain Red Dye #2, but the change was made to reassure a worried public. Today, red M & M's are colored with Alura Red AC in the United States. In Europe, however, use of that dye is discouraged for children due to hyperactivity concerns. European M & M's contain Cochineal, a dye which has raised some concerns in the United States because it can cause severe allergic reactions and even anaphylactic shock in some individuals. 

Forrest Mars died in 1999 at the age of 95. He was ranked by Forbes magazine as the 30th richest American. His two sons were the 29th and 31st richest. 

Henry Morton Stanley Sets Out to Find Dr. Livingston, 1871
Henry Stanley
One thing you can say about Henry Stanley: he sure led an adventurous life. 

Stanley was the illegitimate child of a 19-year-old girl and an alcoholic father. His birth mother's name was Perry, but he took the name of his father, Rowland. He was raised by his grandfather until he was five, but when the man died Stanley was shuffled off to a workhouse for the poor. 

At the age of 18, he set off to make a new life in America. He took the last name of a wealthy trader, Henry Hope Stanley, although it is not clear that the two ever met each other. 

Stanley served in the Civil War, and had the distinction of having deserted from both sides. He started out with the Confederate Army, but was captured at the Battle of Shiloh. He deserted and joined the Union Army, and then deserted from that to join the Navy. He deserted from the Navy as well. 

Stanley found his true calling in journalism, or at least in talking newspapers into financing expensive expeditions for him. In 1869 he was sent by the New York Herald to find Stanley Livingston, a Scottish missionary explorer who had not been heard from for about six years. 

He started out on his trek to find Livingston by swinging by Egypt to report on the opening of the Suez Canal, and then making stops in Palestine, Turkey, and India. When he finally arrived on the African coast, he was dressed in white flannels and riding a thoroughbred stallion. The horse soon died, natives deserted (taking supplies with them), and the expedition was pursued by warring natives and cannibals. 

Dr. Livingstone, I presume?
After 236 days and 700 miles of this, Stanley finally reached Livingston. They did a little exploring together, but Livingston was ill and died in 1873. 

Discovering Livingston made Stanley somewhat of a hero, but other actions of his were not regarded in so favorable a light. He did further African exploration in his lifetime, primarily in the hire of King Leopold II of Belgium, who used his explorations as a basis for establishing claims over large areas of Africa. 

Stanley had a reputation for extreme cruelty and brutish behavior toward the natives, especially those who were employed in his party. The expedition, which included a large number of baggage carriers, is also considered responsible for the spread of trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) throughout central Africa. 

Finally, one of the most shocking stories of Stanley's expeditions was concerned, not with Stanley himself, but with one of the members of his party, James Jameson of the Jameson Whiskey family. Jameson was said to have purchased an 11-year-old girl and then given her as a gift to a tribe of cannibals to see how she would be prepared and eaten. He recorded details of the event in his notebook. Stanley didn't find out about this until after Jameson had died of fever, and was horrified by the event.

Still, Stanley's reputation must not have been too tarnished: he served as a member of Parliament from 1895 to 1900, and was knighted in 1899. He died in 1904 and is buried in St. Michael's Church, Pirbright, Surrey, England.

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