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Archive for the ‘Edutainment’ Category

Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● The human nose has about six million scent receptors. A dog’s nose has about 300 million.

● In 1962, Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors set the record for the most points scored by a player in a professional basketball game: 100 points against the New York Knicks.

In 1983, the Detroit Pistons defeated the Denver Nuggets 186-184 in triple overtime. The combined score of 370 points is the most points scored in a single pro game.

● If you drove your car straight up at 60 mph, you would reach “outer space” in about one hour.

● The water of Lake Hillier, a salt water lake on an island off the west coast of Australia, is the color of bubble gum. The cause is a red dye created when algae in the water combine with the salt. Other than the pink color, the water is normal and harmless.

● Gravity varies with mass, so a person weighing 200 pounds on Earth would weigh 505 pounds on Jupiter and 13 pounds on Pluto.

● John Quincy Adams, who was President from 1825 to 1829, kept a daily journal from age 12 until his death at 80. It revealed that during his term as President, he arose each morning between four and five AM, walked two miles around the city, and, when the weather was nice, went skinny-dipping in the Potomac River.

● In the mid-1960s, the CIA launched Project Acoustic Kitty, a plan to implant tiny microphones and transmitters in cats and train them to eavesdrop on the Soviets. After a few years, the agency decided the project was impractical and canceled it. The implants worked fine, but no one could train the cats.

● In the late 1880s, Gustave Eiffel proposed building the Eiffel Tower in Barcelona, Spain, and was told to get lost. He then approached Paris, and the city agreed to let him erect the tower for the 1889 World’s Fair.

The tower was not popular with Parisians, who considered it just plain ugly. One critic called it a “metal asparagus.” After the exposition, it was scheduled to be dismantled and sold for scrap, but it was spared because the French army found it useful as a communications tower.

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Silent Cal

John Calvin Coolidge, Jr. (1872-1933) served as President from 1923 to 1929. He was born in Vermont on July 4, 1872, the only President born on Independence Day.

Like most politicians, Coolidge was a lawyer who got elected to local office, then proceeded to work his way up. In his case, Coolidge went from mayor to state senator to lieutenant governor to governor to vice president to president.

Scholars do not rank Coolidge very high in terms of accomplishments, but he was considered honest and fair-minded. He was a small-government conservative and an advocate of racial equality, a rare combination of beliefs even then.

In 1923, President Warren Harding died of a heart attack. Vice President Coolidge succeeded him and was elected to a full term in 1924.

But as the 1928 election approached, Coolidge announced that he would not seek a second full term. He said the office “takes a heavy toll on those who occupy it and those who are dear to them.” He and his wife Grace returned to Vermont, where he wrote his memoirs and was fond of cruising the Connecticut River in his motorboat.

Coolidge was an effective public speaker, but a quiet person by nature and rather a loner. By contrast, his wife Grace was vivacious and congenial. Soon, Coolidge was given the nickname “Silent Cal.”

In one supposed incident, which Coolidge said never happened, a man seated next to him at dinner said, “I made a bet today that I could get more than two words out of you.”

“You lose,” Coolidge replied.

Most historians say Coolidge embraced the Silent Cal nickname and his image of stoicism because he believed presidents should be serious and reserved. Others note that he was genuinely withdrawn and became more so when his son died in 1924.

The Coolidges were animal lovers, and at any given time, the White House was home to several pets. In all, they had nine dogs, four cats, and seven birds.

In addition, foreign countries regularly gave them exotic animals as gifts — a black bear, a wallaby, a miniature antelope, and a raccoon. All were given homes at the National Zoo.

One Easter, they were given a group of 13 white Pekin ducklings, which Mrs. Coolidge tried to raise in a White House bathtub. The ducklings soon grew too large for the space, however, so they were sent to live at the zoo.

The President was a cat person, and his favorite feline was Tige — short for Tiger — an orange tabby brought to Washington from the family farm in Vermont. Coolidge often strolled the White House with Tige draped around his neck.

One night in March 1924, Tige slipped out of the White House and disappeared. The next morning, an alarmed Coolidge ordered the staff to search the building and grounds. No luck. Apparently, Tiger had ventured beyond the gates and into the city.

Coolidge had the DC police issue a bulletin to all officers to be on the lookout for the cat. He also sent a Secret Service agent to a local radio station, where an appeal was broadcast, asking the public for information about the missing cat.

Hundreds of people subsequently called the White House, some with tips, some offering to give Coolidge another cat.

Among those who heard the radio broadcast was Edward Bryant, an employee at the Main Navy Building on Constitution Avenue. Arriving at work, he found an orange tabby cat sleeping in a hallway.

As suggested in the radio broadcast, Bryant called out, “Here, Tige!” and the cat ran to him. Bryant hailed a cab and returned Tige to the White House.

After the incident, Coolidge had a collar made for Tige engraved with the message, “My name is Tiger. I live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”

In 1928, Coolidge was succeeded as President by his Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover. Coolidge did not have a high opinion of his successor. Once, Coolidge said privately of Hoover, “For six years, that man has given me unsolicited advice, all of it bad.”

Officer Benjamin Fink, a guard at the Main Navy Building, and Tige.

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More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● The national parliament of Iceland is the oldest governing assembly in the world. It dates back to 930 AD, when Viking chieftains gathered in an open field to discuss mutual issues. The field was the site of Icelandic government meetings until 1798, when it was moved to Reykjavik and, finally, indoors.

● In 2007, actor Nicolas Cage won an auction for a dinosaur skull, bidding against, among others, Leonardo DiCaprio. Cage paid $276,000 for the skull. A few years later, evidence surfaced that the skull had been stolen from Mongolia, and Cage had to return it. He didn’t get his $276,000 back.

● The letter e is used three times and pronounced three different ways in the word Mercedes.

● In 2005, remains were found in South Dakota of an extra-large cousin of the Velociraptor popularized by the Jurassic Park films. The new cousin, Dakotaraptor, was about 18 feet long and weighed 500 or so pounds. The largest known cousin so far is Utahraptor at about 23 feet long and 600 pounds.

FYI, Velociraptors actually were about the size of a turkey. Spielberg knew that, but he really liked the name Velociraptor.

● Martin Luther King, Jr. was born Michael King, Jr. When he was five, his father changed both of their names to honor Martin Luther, the German theologian who started the Protestant Church in the days of Columbus.

● In 1920, the “American Professional Football Association” was established in Canton, Ohio. Five of the 16 original teams were based in Cleveland. In 1922, the group changed its name to the “National Football League.”

● Pistachio nuts are especially dry and high in fat content — so much so that when the nuts are transported, the temperature, humidity, and air pressure must be carefully controlled to prevent them from over-heating and exploding.

● The Clowns’ Gallery-Museum, a display of clown costumes, memorabilia, and reference material, was founded in 1959 in the basement of Holy Trinity Church in London. Due to the growth of the collection, the museum opened a second location in Somerset in 2007.

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Eugene Bullard

I didn’t learn about Eugene Bullard in school. You probably didn’t, either.

Eugene James “Jacques” Bullard (1895-1961) was the first African-American combat pilot and the only black pilot who fought in World War I. He flew for the French, not the US, and his story is remarkable.

Bullard was born in Columbus, Georgia, the son of a Haitian father and a Creek mother. He had an especially troubled childhood. He ran away from home regularly, only to endure beatings by his father when he was caught. In 1906, at age 11, he ran away for good and made his way to Atlanta.

There, he fell in with a band of gypsies and tended their horses as they traveled the South. In 1912, at age 17, he stowed away on a German freighter bound for Aberdeen, Scotland. He went to London, where he worked as a boxer and a slapstick performer in a black entertainment troupe.

Bullard first visited Paris in 1913 for a boxing match. He was captivated by the city and resolved to make Paris his home. He wrote years later, “It seemed to me that French democracy influenced the minds of both black and white Americans there and helped us all act like brothers.”

Bullard was 19 when World War I began. He joined the French Foreign Legion and served as a machinegunner in a regiment that fought in the Battle of Verdun, the longest battle of the war. He was seriously wounded twice and was awarded two medals for bravery, including the Croix de Guerre.

His wounds prevented him from further infantry duty, so he applied for, he was accepted into, the French flying service, the Aéronautique Militaire. He attended flight school, got his wings in 1917, and quickly earned a reputation for his courage and skill. He flew 25-plus combat missions, usually with his pet rhesus monkey Jimmy on his shoulder.

The Germans called Bullard “The Black Swallow of Death.” He had two confirmed kills and earned 15 medals.

When the US entered the war, he and other Americans in the Aéronautique Militaire, applied to transfer to the US military. Most were accepted, but Bullard was not because the US did not allow blacks to serve as pilots or aircraft mechanics.

Specifically, US policy was that black soldiers were not intelligent enough to understand aircraft mechanics or to pilot an aircraft. Seriously.

Moreover, under US pressure, the French removed Bullard from aviation duty.

When the war ended and Bullard was discharged from military service, he became part owner of a Paris nightclub, Le Grand Duc. The club became a popular hangout for the rich and famous, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Pablo Picasso, the Prince of Wales, and Ernest Hemingway.

Soon, he opened a second club, and in 1923, he married Marcelle Straumann, the daughter of a French countess. They had a son, who died in childhood, and two daughters. The Bullards were divorced in 1931.

When the Germans occupied Paris in 1940, Bullard quietly joined the French resistance as a spy. By then, he was fluent in German and was able to eavesdrop on unsuspecting German officers, with whom his nightclubs were popular, and who had no idea Bullard spoke German.

Later in 1940, possibly because his ties to the resistance became known, Bullard fled Paris with his two daughters. On the way to Spain, he joined a group of French soldiers defending Orléans and suffered a severe spinal wound. He and his daughters returned to the US, where he recuperated in a New York hospital.

In France, Bullard had been a national hero; in America, he was just another black man. Using a financial grant from the French government, he bought a small apartment in Harlem. Both of his daughters married, and Bullard lived alone.

He never fully recovered from his back injury, and his mobility was restricted. He supported himself by serving as an occasional French interpreter for Louis Armstrong, working as a security guard, and selling perfume. His final job was as an elevator operator at Rockefeller Center.

In 1960, while in New York, French President Charles de Gaulle visited Bullard, named him a Knight of the French Legion of Honor, and called him a “true French hero.” Bullard’s achievements were never recognized by the US.

He died in Harlem of stomach cancer in 1961. He was buried in the French War Veterans’ section of Flushing Cemetery in Queens and was given full military honors by the Federation of French War Officers.

In 1994, the US Air Force finally gave Bullard official recognition of sorts by giving him a posthumous commission as a second lieutenant.

Why did the US pressure the French government to ground Eugene Bullard, and why did the US government fail to recognize and honor his achievements?

Racism. What else?


Bullard’s French military decorations from WWI and WWII, as displayed in his Harlem apartment.

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More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● James Madison, the fourth U.S. President, was 5’ 4” tall and weighed just shy of 100 pounds.

● In American English, the letter sequence “ough” can be pronounced eight different ways — namely, as in the words rough, cough, drought, dough, thought, through, thorough, and (even though this is not a common spelling) hiccough.

● The salivary glands in your mouth produce about three pints of saliva per day. The fluid serves as a lubricant and also contains enzymes that aid the process of digestion.

● Tigers have white spots on the backs of their ears that may have evolved to mimic eyes. One theory is that the spots protect the animal from being attacked from behind; tigers are said to be vulnerable when they lower their heads to get a drink of water. That seems like a stretch to me, but what do I know?

● As a teenager, actor Christopher Walken (real name Ronald Walken) worked in a circus as an assistant lion tamer. He also trained at a Washington, DC dance studio and earned money dancing in local night clubs.

● All the letters of the alphabet have one-syllable names except W.

● In the early 1950s, before he began his music career, Johnny Cash wrote several short stories that were not published in his lifetime. One was “The Holografik Danser,” a science fiction story about life after a nuclear attack in which holographic entertainment is beamed into homes. His daughter Rosanne included the story in an anthology in 2001.

● Basketball was invented in 1891 by James Naismith, a physical education teacher at the YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts. Naismith wanted to create a vigorous indoor sport to keep his students fit during the winter months. Initially, the game was played with a soccer ball, and the hoops were peach baskets.

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Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● The first ATM went into service on September 2, 1969, at a branch of Chemical Bank in Rockville Center, New York.

● Most animals have only one heart, but there are exceptions. Squid and octopuses have three hearts, and hagfish have four. In their cases, the extra hearts are smaller and serve as auxiliary pumps. Earthworms have five hearts of equal size that evolved to deal with the worms’ length.

● In Latin, the word onion means “large pearl.”

● In 1989, rock star Billy Idol checked into a hotel in Thailand and threw a party that continued for three weeks. When he and his friends refused to leave, the Thai army was called in. Idol was shot with a tranquilizer dart and carried out unconscious on a stretcher. Damages totaled $150,000.

● When President Herbert Hoover and his wife Lou wanted to keep a conversation private, they conversed in Mandarin Chinese. President Calvin Coolidge and his wife Grace, a former teacher at a school for the deaf, maintained their privacy by using sign language.

● By long tradition, horse races in England are run clockwise. In 1788, in defiance of the Brits, the American colonies began conducting their races counter-clockwise. Today in the US, horse and auto races still move counter-clockwise; in England and Germany, still clockwise.

● The full name of actor Richard Gere is Richard Tiffany Gere; his mom was Doris Ann Tiffany.

● Among the mammals, only the platypus and the spiny anteater lay eggs instead of giving live birth. Both are native to Australia, New Guinea, and Tasmania.

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Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● A New Year tradition in Colombia is to wear yellow underwear to ensure a year of happiness. Another is to walk around the block carrying a suitcase, in hopes you will travel a lot.

● The longest golf hole in the world is the third hole at Gunsan Country Club in Gunsan, South Korea. The hole is 1,100 yards long (about .6 miles) and par 7.

● The body of an average adult human has a water content of about 60 percent. Jellyfish are about 95 percent water.

● The desert scenes from five of the first six Star Wars movies were filmed in Tunisia. Most notably, scenes from Luke Skywalker’s home planet Tatooine were shot there. Several of the abandoned film sets have become tourist attractions.

● On September 2, 1666, a fire began in a small London bakery. Firefighters tried to create firebreaks to stop the spread, but high winds fanned the blaze into a firestorm that was unstoppable. By the next day, the Great Fire of London had burned 80 percent of the city.

● Light from the sun reaches the earth in an average of eight minutes, 20 seconds. The time varies according to the distance at the moment, of course.

● Only about 25 percent of babies are born on the due date predicted by the doctor.

● Koalas have fingerprints almost identical to humans, chimps, and gorillas, even though most other marsupials (kangaroos, wombats) have no fingerprints at all.

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Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● In thickness, the earth’s atmosphere is roughly proportional to the skin of an apple.

● The 1985 movie “Back to the Future” was turned down by several Hollywood studios before Universal bought the rights. Disney rejected it specifically because of the scene in which Marty kisses his mother.

● More Samoans live in Los Angeles than in American Samoa.

● In Italian, the word fettuccine means “little ribbons.” Linguini means “little tongues.” Vermicelli means “little worms.” Rotini means “little wheels.” Spaghetti means “strings.” And penne means “pens” (for their resemblance to ink pens).

● Inside the word therein are nine other words, all in proper order without rearranging the letters: the, there, he, in, rein, her, here, ere, and herein. Numerous other words are lurking inside therein if you rearrange the letters — e.g., tree, tin, hit, nit.

● Ketchup originated in China in the 1600s as a condiment made of pickled fish and assorted spices — but no tomatoes. When ketchup reached England in the 1700s, the primary ingredients were mushrooms, shallots, and assorted spices — but still no tomatoes.

A tomato-based version of ketchup finally appeared in the early 1800s. For a time, it was pitched in the U.S. as a cure for rheumatism, jaundice, indigestion. scurvy, and more. It was even sold in pill form. The claims grew steadily more ridiculous until the 1850s, when the medicinal ketchup market collapsed, and ketchup settled down to being solely a condiment again.

● Queen Elizabeth II is said to be an excellent mimic, and she sometimes entertains the family by doing impressions of politicians she has met over the years.

● The world’s smallest known bird is the bee hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae), a native of Cuba. On average, males are 2.2 inches long and weigh .07 ounces. Females are slightly larger and heavier.

● When President Harry Truman was born, his parents couldn’t decide whether his middle name should be Solomon, to honor one grandfather, or Shipp, to honor the other. They finally went with a middle name of just “S” to honor both.

● Psychiatrists and psychologists recognize three levels of mental retardation: severe, moderate, and mild. The severely retarded (called idiots until the 1960s) have IQs between 0 and 25. The moderately retarded (formerly called imbeciles) have IQs between 26 and 50. The mildly retarded (formerly morons) have IQs between 51 and 79. If you score an 80, you’re good to go.

● In 24 hours, a single bacterium in a Petri dish can multiply to one billion.

● Vanilla was first cultivated in Central America in the 1400s. Growing the pods is labor-intensive and costly (only saffron is a more expensive spice), so 95 percent of commercial vanilla is artificially made from the chemical lignin. The world’s leading producer of real vanilla is the island nation of Madagascar.

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In 1880, the renowned French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) was commissioned to create a pair of mighty bronze doors to serve as the entrance to a proposed Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris. The museum’s backers wanted the doors to be majestic and dramatic, inasmuch as grandiloquence was in vogue at the time.

Rodin was certainly the right guy in that department, and he delivered. For the project, he chose the theme The Gates of Hell, based on Dante’s epic poem The Inferno. Here is one of Rodin’s early small-scale models.

The centerpiece of the scene, as you see, is a seated nude male, envisioned by Rodin as Dante pondering his poem. The figure was to be centered on the lintel above the doors.

Unfortunately, the project eventually fizzled. The museum was never built, and the doors were temporarily forgotten, although they were highly regarded and were cast some years after Rodin’s death.

But Rodin was a resourceful dude, and he cast and sold many of the figures in the scene individually, most notably the seated male figure that became known as The Thinker.

Initially, Rodin called the figure The Poet, meaning Dante Alighieri. But workers in Rodin’s foundry began referring to the figure as The Thinker. They said the pose reminded them of Michelangelo’s statue at the tomb of Lorenzo de Medici — a work known as Il Pensieroso, which in Italian means the pensive or thoughtful one.

This is Michelangelo’s Il Pensieroso:

To look at the statue, you would think Lorenzo (1492-1519) was quite a grand fellow. He was, indeed, a member of the illustrious Medici family, and his grandfather was known as Lorenzo the Magnificent.

But young Lorenzo was just a ne’er-do-well who died at age 26, “worn out by disease and excess.”

Still, Lorenzo was a Medici, and the family ruled Italy at the time, and they were patrons of Michelangelo, Botticelli, and other luminaries of the artistic world. Lorenzo was a loser, but to the family, his tomb deserved a proper marble statue.

Michelangelo was given the project, and he portrayed Lorenzo as a mighty warrior in battle gear reflecting on unspecified weighty matters. Europeans were big on pondering in those days.

But back to Rodin and The Thinker. Rodin knew that he had hit the jackpot with The Poet/The Thinker. Over the years, he produced a succession of castings in various sizes, some of bronze and some of painted plaster. He preferred the figure to be oversized and elevated, so the viewer looked up at it.

Also, the name The Thinker soon became so popular that Rodin finally adopted it.

Art experts say The Thinker expresses the mental effort and anguish of creativity. Rodin agreed.

“What makes my Thinker think,” he wrote, “is that he thinks not only with his brain, with his knitted brow, his distended nostrils and compressed lips, but with every muscle of his arms, back, and legs, with his clenched fist and gripping toes.”

I’ll buy that.

Ten versions of The Thinker were cast in Rodin’s lifetime. Today, 28 large bronze castings are located in museums and public places around the world.

The figure below, cast in 1906, is located in front of the Rodin Museum in Paris. The wording Le Penseur on the base is French for “the thinker.”

Now, in order to write this post, I did the usual Googling to get the details right. But I already knew the general story. Specifically, I schooled myself on the subject in 1960 when I graduated from high school, and my uncle Allan sent me a pair of Thinker bookends.

These days, the bookends are in use in a bookcase dedicated to my outdoorsy and travel books.

As you can observe, Allan’s bookends bear only a superficial resemblance to Rodin’s original. The manufacturer got the pose right, more or less, but the style is totally different, and the craftsmanship is… lacking.

Maybe it’s the hair, but the figure looks like John F. Kennedy, if Kennedy had been Asian.

Anyway, it was obvious back in 1960 that the bookends were of the El Cheapo variety. I remember digging up a photo of Rodin’s Thinker and being surprised at how bad the bookends really were.

I also ended up digging a bit into the backstory. I had to go to the library to do it, mind you, since this happened in olden times — Before Google.

In case you are wondering, I did appreciate Allan’s thoughtfulness, and I harbored no ill thoughts regarding the El Cheapo angle. As evidence of that, consider that the bookends have been in use in my home for 60 years and counting.

They do their job, and they make me smile. Thanks, Allan.

———

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Tomato Literacy

My mom once observed that a bad tomato is better than no tomato at all. Mom’s love of tomatoes in any form, but especially fresh tomatoes, was epic.

I like a nice, juicy tomato, too, but I don’t eat the things regularly. Most store-bought tomatoes are awful, and growing my own is too much trouble. Unlike Mom, I believe no tomato at all is better than a bad tomato.

The tomato is an oddity. It’s a berry of the plant Solanum lycopsicum, botanically classified as a fruit, but used as a vegetable.

In case your tomato literacy is lacking, allow me to do some enlightening.

Tomatoes are among the 2,700 species of the nightshade family of flowering plants. Nightshades range from vines to shrubs to trees to ornamentals to a number of food crops — among the latter being tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and peppers.

All nightshades contain alkaloid compounds in varying amounts, manifesting in the form of poisons, stimulants, psychotropic drugs, and medicines. Fortunately, all nightshade food crops contain only trace amounts of alkaloids and are harmless.

That fact, however, did not prevent many Europeans and Americans in olden times from coming to the erroneous conclusion that tomatoes are poisonous. A few hundred years ago, most people believed eating a tomato meant certain death.

Tomatoes originated in Central and South America among the Incas and Aztecs, and Spain introduced tomatoes to Europe in the 1500s. By the time they became known in England, the myth of the poison tomato already had taken hold.

One reason was an influential book by English botanist John Gerard (1545-1612). In the book, Gerard made the scholarly declaration that, yes, eating a tomato will kill you instantly.

As you probably know, science wasn’t very scientific back then — largely a mixture of guesswork, mysticism, and sometimes a dash of religion. But folks at the time didn’t know that. Thus, when the great scientist Gerard said eating a tomato would kill you, most people believed it.

Eventually, of course, the truth came out. The myth was exposed, and slowly, tomatoes were welcomed into society.

A story is told that in 1820, a distinguished citizen of Salem, New Jersey, Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson, played an important role in changing America’s mind about tomatoes.

The story is unsubstantiated, as well as suspiciously apocryphal, but it makes the point with great panache.

The following account is from “The Story of Robert Gibbon Johnson and the Tomato” as preserved by the Salem County Historical Society.

———

Col. Johnson announced that he would eat a tomato, also called the wolf peach, Jerusalem apple or love apple, on the steps of the county courthouse at noon. That morning, in 1820, about 2,000 people were jammed into the town square. The spectators began to hoot and jeer.

Then, 15 minutes later, Col. Johnson emerged from his mansion and headed up Market Street towards the Courthouse. The crowd cheered. The fireman’s band struck up a lively tune.

He was a very impressive-looking man as he walked along the street. He was dressed in his usual black suit with white ruffles, black shoes and gloves, tricorn hat, and cane.

At the Courthouse steps he spoke to the crowd about the history of the tomato. He picked a choice one from a basket on the steps and held it up so that it glistened in the sun.

“To help dispel the tall tales, the fantastic fables that you have been hearing and to prove to you that it is not poisonous I am going to eat one right now.”

There was not a sound as the Col. dramatically brought the tomato to his lips and took a bite.

A woman in the crowd screamed and fainted but no one paid her any attention; they were all watching Col. Johnson as he took one bite after another.

He raised both his arms, and again bit into one and then the other. The crowd cheered and the firemen’s band blared a song.

“He’s done it!” they shouted. “He’s still alive!”

———

Prior to the event, Johnson’s doctor predicted that “the foolish colonel will foam and froth at the mouth and double over with appendicitis from all the oxalic acid.”

Most of the onlookers, it was said, fully expected Colonel Johnson to drop dead on the spot. Wagers, in fact, were placed on the exact moment of his demise.

And, although the reports are unconfirmed, there was talk that Colonel Johnson himself collected handsomely on a series of side bets.

Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson (1771-1850), soldier, statesman, judge, horticulturalist, historian, and gentleman farmer.

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