Jul 1, 2019

July 1: All Day I Dream About Shoes That Aren't Associated With Nazis

 On July 1st, 1924, siblings Adolf and Rudolph Dassler opened the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory (Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik) in Herzogenaurach, Germany. Adolf, known as Adi, began designing training shoes in his mother's washroom after serving in WWI. His father was a shoe cobbler and supported his son's efforts, his brother Rudolph soon joined and the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory was created. Adi made history in 1936 at the Summer Olympics in Berlin by sponsoring American Athlete Jesse Owens, making it the first ever sports sponsorship for a male African American athlete.

    In the 1930s with the rise of the Nazi Party, both brothers felt pressure to join the National Socialist Party. Adi served one year in the German Defense Force (Wehrmacht) before successfully distancing himself from the Nazi Party. This caused friction between the brothers, with Rudolph being an ardent supporter of the National Socialist party.

   In 1945 Rudolf was captured by American troops for being a suspected member of the SS, reportedly on information supplied by Adi. In 1948 with tensions between the brothers coming to a boil, Rudolph left the company and started a competing shoe company across town called Puma. Adi renamed the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory 'Adidas' putting together the first few letters of his first and last name (ADI+DAS-sler).

Born on this Day:
1945 – Debbie Harry, American singer and frontman for the band Blondie. Known as a punk and New Wave band, Blondie also has the distinction of being the first group to hit no.1 on the U.S. charts with a rap song. 

Jun 12, 2019

June 12th: Space, The final Frontier (For Consumer Marketing)

On June 12, 2008,  high-powered radars at the EISCAT European space station in the Arctic Circle  pulsed a message out over a six-hour period to the constellation Ursa Major, just about 80 light years away from Earth.

Although broadcasting messages into deep space is nothing new, we inadvertently broadcast television and radio signals into space daily; and in 1977 NASA sent two golden records into space with greetings and recorded messages from Earth, the broadcast on June 8th was something new; A recorded  advertisement for Doritos chips specifically for alien life.

The 30 second ad was created and directed by 25-year-old Matt Bowron of the United Kingdom, as part of the Doritos Broadcast Project, which invited the UK public to create a 30 second video involving Doritos and 'Life On Earth'.

Peter Charles, Head of the Doritos Broadcast Project said of the transmission "We are constantly looking to push the boundaries of advertising and this will go further than any brand has gone before... We also shouldn't be too surprised if the first aliens start arriving on planet Earth immediately demanding a bag of Doritos."

Apr 1, 2019

April 1st: When The Sequel That Doesn't Exist Is As Popular As The Prequel That Does

On April 1st, 2018, music news website 37FLOOD leaked a track by hip hop producer MC HIJACK purportedly from the soundtrack of a forthcoming sequel to the cult film Donnie Darko, labeled When The Night Gets Too Darko, grabbing attention from both the music and film world, instantly joining the ranks of popular sequels that don't actually exist such as Good Will Hunting II: Hunting Season, and Ferris Bueller 2: Another Day Off, as well as popular albums that don't exist either such as Dr. Dre's Detox, and Outkast's The Hard Way.

Editor's Note: Every April 1st we spotlight a historical April Fool's joke. Past April 1st stories include a Wikipedia article about Gen. George Washington's instant coffee invention, and an illusionist's discovery of the corpse of a fairy in England

Mar 18, 2019

March 18: Conspiracy In The NYC (A Prince Is Killed And An Irish Slave Starts A Witch Hunt)

On March 18 in 1741 a fire broke out at New York governor George Clarke's home. This was the first of 13 fires set during the trial of John Hughson, a poor white tavern owner, and two black slaves, Caesar and Prince. The Tavern Hughson owned was a hangout for black and white slaves, as well as  poor whites and free blacks (at the time this was not at all uncommon, as the lower classes intermingled and even had children together). Hughson was accused of receiving stolen liquor from Caesar and Prince.

The elite were nervous about the different lower classes socializing together and worried of an uprising of poor whites and blacks working together, so the constables watched the tavern constantly, in an effort to catch illegal activity so it could be shut down. As the trial went on more fires spread across Manhattan and panic arose over a fear of the underclasses revolting. Hughson, Prince, and Caesar were executed, their bodies left in public to rot. A 16-year-old Irish slave, Mary Burton, was arrested for theft and facing a similar fate instead testified about a supposedly growing conspiracy of poor whites and blacks to burn down the city, kill the white men and take the white women for themselves, and hopefully remove the governor and replace him for a king of their choice; solidifying the fears of the government.

A witch hunt ensued in which those arrested named others in the conspiracy in hopes of leniency, leading to 160 blacks and 21 whites being arrested. As the panic continued Mary Burton and others began naming rich elite as conspirators as well causing the public to realize little if any of the conspiracy had truth to it. By then 17 blacks and 4 whites had been hanged, 13 blacks were burned slowly at stake, and 70 blacks and 7 whites were banished from New York.
Also, Mary Burton received a reward of ₤100 from the city, which she used to buy her freedom.

Editor's Note: In understanding this story it should be noted that slavery in early America looked somewhat differently then it did by 1865. Early slaves in America came in many forms including white europeans (mostly Irish, Scottish, or German), American Indians, and Africans. A common form of slavery for these groups was also called 'indentured servitude', but make no mistake that this form was any better. These slaves could 'work off' their debt and eventually become free but many were subjected to physical and sexual abuse, starvation, and as it was not illegal to kill a slave, many were simply worked to death before their indebted time was up. 
That said, in the 1700s it was not uncommon for slaves of any color to spend their personal time in public, carrying weapons, conducting side work for extra money, and fraternizing with free people. 
It was only after riots and rebellions of white and black slaves working together (demanding a better life) that measures were made to cause racial tensions and soon enough 'chattel' slavery became the norm.   

Feb 22, 2019

February 22: Rise of Red Bird And Native American Rights

On February  22nd in 1876 native American writer, activist, educator, and musician Zitkala-Sa (Red Bird) was born on the Yankton Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

At a young age Quaker missionaries came to the Yankton Reservation and took several children to the White's Manual Labor Institute, a boarding school in Wabash, Indiana including Zitkala-Sa.
After graduation she attended Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana before becoming a teacher herself. Though she valued education she felt isolated in a white/european culture, and felt her identity was stripped away by the Quaker missionaries. She was further dismayed when returning to Yankton Reservation to find many of native Sioux traditions had fallen away and the reservation conforming to the dominant white culture.

Zitkala-Sa began archiving Native American customs and legends and was first published in 1900 when she published legends collected from Native American culture, as well as autobiographical narratives. She also wrote columns for the New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly, as well as writing the first Native American Opera.

in 1926 she and her husband founded the National Council of American Indians, dedicated to the cause of uniting the tribes throughout the U.S. in the cause of gaining full citizenship rights and served as it's president until her death in 1938.

Photo: Zitkala-Sa (1901) Public Domain photograph by Joseph Keiley

Jan 12, 2019

January 12 - From Slave To Lawman: The Story Of Bass Reeves

   On January 12, 1910, one of the most prolific and successful  U.S. Marshals, Bass Reeves, died at the age of 71 in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Reeves served as a U.S. Marshal for more than 30 years and arrested over 3,000 wanted men, and was respected for his superior marksmanship and tracking  capabilities, despite being born (in 1838, exact date unknown) a slave in Crawford County, Arkansas.

   He was owned by Arkansas state legislator William Steele Reeves and was the servant for Williams' son, George R. Reeves. George was a Colonel in the Confederate army during the Civil War. It was during the war that Bass "parted ways" with his owner after he beat up George during a dispute over a card game. George went on to become Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives until his death in 1882 from rabies. Bass hid out until 1865 when slavery was abolished. During that time he lived with Cherokee, Seminole, and Creek Indians, learning their culture and languages. Bass Reeves then moved to Arkansas to be a farmer with wife Nellie Jennie and their eleven children.

   Reeves and his family farmed until 1875, when famed federal judge Isaac Parker directed U.S. Marshal James F. Fagan to hire 200 deputy U.S. Marshals. Fagan sought out and recruited Bass Reeves (for Reeves' knowledge of Indian Territory and Indian languages) making Reeves the first black deputy west of the Mississippi River.

    For over thirty years as a U.S. Marshal, Reeves captured over 3,000 felons, and killed fourteen outlaws in self defense, amazingly he was never wounded despite having his hat and belt shot off on separate occasions. After 32 years as a Marshal, Reeves retired at 68, and became an officer of the Muskogee, Oklahoma police department until his death on this date in 1910.

Image: Bass Reeves (public domain photo)

Oct 7, 2018

October 7 - Kelly Girl: Birth of the Temp Worker

On this date in 1946 William Russell Kelly founded 'Russell Kelly Office Service' in Troy, Michigan, as the first temporary staffing agency that provided temporary secretarial services for clients onsite.
The Kelly Service was founded shortly after World War II, a time when women  joined the workforce in large numbers. Soon the term 'Kelly Girl' entered the lexicon referring to temp workers in general, regardless of gender.  Adelaide Hess Moran has the distinction of being the world's first Kelly Girl.
 In 1957 the 'Russell Kelly Office Service' officially changed its name to 'Kelly Girl Service' but changed it's name again in 1966 'Kelly Services Inc' in order to reflect an expanding range of services including office services, accounting, engineering, information technology, law, science, marketing, creative services, light industrial, education, and health care. Kelly operates in 41 countries and territories and employs more than 500,000 individuals annually.

Sep 15, 2018

September 15: Muhammad Ali Becomes The Greatest (3 Times Over) And A Misfit Is Born

On September 15, 1978, Boxing legend and civil rights activist Muhammad Ali beat Leon Spinks in a rematch to become the first boxer to win the world heavyweight title three times. Ali outpointed Spinks in front of a crowd of 65,000 at the Superdome in New Orleans.
It was Ali's last professional win.

Doyle (with Devilock hair) playing with The Misfits.
April 4, 1983 at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C.
Born on this day:
1964 - Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein, guitarist for the Horror Punk band The Misfits. Doyle's older brother, Jerry Only, was the band's bassist and when guitarist Bobby Steele failed to show up for practice, Only and lead singer Glenn Danzig quickly taught Doyle how to play guitar. He joined the Misfits in October 1980 at the age of 16. The Misfits played their first show at the famed CBGB club in New York in 1977, and are recognized as early developers of the horror punk genre; blending punk rock with camp horror themes and imagery. They are also recognized as the originators of the Devilock hairstyle.

Sep 11, 2018

September 11: 9/11 Flag Lost and Found After Circling the Globe

On September 11, 2001, the World Trade Centers in New York City fell after two commercial airliners hit them in what is now called the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks.
Hours after the twin towers fell 3 NYC firemen (George Johnson, Billy Eisengrein and Dan McWilliams) took an American flag off of a yacht docked in a Lower Manhattan harbor and raised it amongst the rubble in the area now known as Ground Zero. The moment was captured in a photograph by newspaper photographer Thomas E. Franklin and published on front pages and magazine covers around the world. The photo has been compared to Joe Rosenthal’s 1945 picture of six U.S. troops raising an American flag atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima. The 9/11 flag disappeared hours after the photo was taken and an alternate flag was signed by the governor of New York George Pataki, and two New York City mayors, Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg and was put on display at various times around the world. After comparisons of the displayed flag to the flag in the famous photograph reveled it to be a fake, a documentary about the flag's disappearance was made.

   In 2014 a man who identified himself only as 'Brian' walked into a fire station in Everett, Washington (nearly 3,000 miles away from New York) saying he saw the documentary and wanted to  hand over a flag he thought to be the famous missing flag. The man, still only known as Brian, said he was a Marine veteran who had been deployed to the Middle East and was told a widow of a 9/11 victim gave the flag to a worker at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who in turn gave the flag to him.

    A forensic materials scientist for the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab conducted tests and determined that Brian's mystery flag was the flag from the famous photo. It is now on display at the National September 11 Memorial Museum, and a second documentary has been made about the flag's recovery.

Aug 29, 2018

8/29: Forget About Friday The 13th, It's August 29th That Is Truly Nefarious

While Friday the 13th holds a dark aire of mystery, and is generally seen as unlucky, there is little evidence to prove it as such. Most scholars believe the 'Friday The13th' superstition is related to the Holy Bible, as 13 people (12 Apostles and Jesus), met on Thursday, the 13th day of the month for the Last Supper, and Jesus was crucified on Friday the 14th (Good Friday), thus blending the number 13 and the day of Friday.  But it is August 29th that has been the date of numerous eerie, nefarious, and tragic events.

In the United States, many ominous events occurred on this date, including Shays' Rebellion (1786), which was an armed uprising of Massachusetts farmers in response to high debt and tax burdens, and in 1758 the First American Indian Reservation is established. While, on this day in 1957, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, it was also the date of the longest Filibuster in US history, by Strom Thurmond (against Civil Rights). Also in the U.S., in 1922, The first radio advertisement is broadcast on WEAF-AM in New York City beginning the long tradition of impatient listeners flipping through the radio dial in an effort to evade obnoxious ads.

 On August 29th, in 2005, hurricane Katrina hit the U.S. Gulf Coast, in which at least 1,245 people died and over a billion dollars in damage was created. Also in the United States, it was the date of a record number of arrests during a US political convention (Republican National Convention in New York City with over 1800 arrests) in 2004.

But it is quite possible that August 29th holds the most bitter association in Russia, as it was the date of not only their first Atom Bomb test (in 1949), but also the day of their first hydrogen bomb test (in 1953). It also happens to be the day in1991 that the Communist Party in the Soviet Union collapsed.

Some positive events also occurred on August 29th including the abolishment of slavery in the United Kingdom (1833), the motorcycle was invented on this day in 1885, the first 3-way call took place in 1877 (although for countless teenage girls this began a cruel tradition of entrapment), in 1885 the world's first Heavy Weight Boxing match took place (again, the positive or negative nature of this is debatable), Chop Suey was invented in NYC in 1896, and in1883 The world's first electric stove cooked dinner was made (also debatable). In science fiction, August 29th, 1997,  is the day the machines destroy the Earth in the Terminator film franchise.

As for births of curious and bizarre individuals on August 29th, Diamanda Galás,  the American avant-garde soprano and  pianist was born on this day in 1955, whose music has been described as "the most unnerving vocal terror." Anton Newcombe, founder of the band The Brian Jonestown Massacre, and whose abusive and hostile stage presence have become as well known as his music, was born on this day in in 1967. It could also be noted that his father committed suicide on August 29th in 2005, a year after the documentary film 'Dig!' was released showing a behind the scenes look into into Anton's tortured and drug addicted world. In a 2014 interview with The Guardian,  Anton's response to his father's suicide was "fuck him."
GG Allin, born Jesus Christ Allin, whose stage antics of defecting on himself as well has eating and slinging it onto audience members,  was born on this day in 1956.

Events of note occurring on AUGUST 29TH :

-2005 hurricane Katrina hits the U.S. Gulf Coast
 -2004 Record number of arrests during a US political convention (RNC in NYC/ over 1800)
 -1997 the Machines destroy the Earth in Terminator
-1991 the Soviet Union collapses
 - 1982 Ingrid Bergman dies
-1970 Black Panthers kill a policeman in Philadelphia.
-1966 The Beatles play their last show, finally.
- 1967 Jimmy Reed dies
-1967 Anton Newcombe is born
- 1965 Gemini 5 returns to earth
- 1958 Michael Jackson is born
-1957 Congress passes the Civil Rights Act
 -1957 Strom Thurmond ends longest Filibuster in US history (against Civil Rights)
-1956 GG Allin is born
-1955 Diamanda Galas is born
-1953 Soviet Union explodes it's first hydrogen bomb -
1949 soviet Union sets off it's first Atom Bomb.
1945 British "liberate" Hong Kong from Japan
-1944 Paris is liberated by Allied Forces
 -1938 Elliot Gould is born
-1936 Peter Jennings is born 1929
- the first around the world Zeppelin flight is completed
-1924 Dinah Washington is born
 -1922 The first radio advertisement is broadcast on WEAF-AM in New York City.
 -1920 Charlie Parker is Born
-1896 Chop Suey is invented in NYC
 -1885 birth of the motorcycle
-1885 world's first Heavy Weight Boxing match
- 1883 The world's first electric stove cooked dinner is made.
 -1877 Brigham Young dies
-1877 first 3 way phone call is made
-1842  Treaty of Nanking signing ends the First Opium War.
-1833 the United Kingdom abolishes slavery.
-1831 electromagnetic induction is discovered
 -1825 birth of Brazil
-1786 Shays' Rebellion, an armed uprising of Massachusetts farmers, begins in response to high debt and tax burdens.
-1758 the First American Indian Reservation is established.
 -3150 BC the Egyptian New Year

Photo Credit: August 29th is the date Louisville Kentucky threw the world's largest annual Zombie festival, 2005-2015, with an average of 35,000 attendees. Photo by Marty Pearl.

Editor's Note: The editor of this publication was present at the 2004 RNC protest in NYC, and August 29th is also his birthday.

Aug 15, 2018

August 15: When Listening For Aliens, It Helps To Have A Big Ear

On August 15th, 1977, a strong narrowband radio signal from space was recorded at the Ohio State University's Big Ear radio telescope, in the United States. A few days later astronomer Jerry R. Ehman, assigned to a SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) project, discovered the anomaly while reviewing a computer printout and was so impressed that he circled the reading on the printout and wrote the comment Wow! on the side.

What made the anomaly interesting to Ehman is that it appeared to be an artificial radio signal, not a natural signal that would be found in space, such as one emitted from a pulsar or quasar.
Also, The Big Ear telescope used a 50 channel radio receiver. A natural signal would have bled into several channels, but the 'Wow!' signal was only heard on one frequency, with no other noise on any of the other channels; this signal was narrow and focused, as would be expected from an artificial source.

This signal had all the ear marks of an artificial signal sent from another civilization but has not been detected since, despite several attempts by Ehman and others.  The possibility of the signal coming from a natural origin has not been completely discounted, but to date the Wow! signal is considered the best candidate for an alien radio transmission ever received.

Jul 11, 2018

July 11: The Social Readaptation of El Chapo (And Sean Penn's Fall From Grace)

On July 11, 2015, infamous Mexican drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán escaped from prison for the second time. On this occasion El Chapo seemingly disappeared from his cell in The Federal Social Readaptation Center No. 1 "Altiplano", an assumed to be impenetrable prison with walls as much as 1 meter thick.

   El Chapo had escaped through a tunnel leading from the shower in his cell to a house one mile away.  The tunnel was dug 33 feet underground, complete with ladders, electricity, lighting, air ducts, and a motorcycle outfitted to run on a railway system that ran the length of the tunnel.

   El Chapo's freedom was short lived, as he was recaptured in early January of 2016 in a scenario that could only have been dreamt up in Hollywood; Mexican movie star Kate del Castillo wrote an open letter to El Chapo asking him to traffic love instead of drugs, which led El Chapo to contact her.

Shortly after his escape from Altipano El Chapo met with Kate Del Castillo and American Actor Sean Penn in his mountain hideout to discuss a possible film about El Chapo's life, as well as for an interview by Penn of El Chapo for Rolling Stone Magazine.  Penn's cell phone was tracked by American military forces who in turn directed Mexican authorities to the location.

El Chapo was returned to Altiplano Prison. Penn denies Helping authorities track down El Chapo, or any knowledge of being tracked by his cell phone.

Jun 30, 2018

June 30th: When you can't blame aliens or asteroids...

On June  30th, 1908, at 7:17 a.m.  80 million trees were instantly knocked over near the Podkamennaya Tunguska  River in central Siberia, in what is now known as the Tunguska Event.

Siberian natives and Russian settlers observed a column of bluish light, nearly as bright as the Sun, moving across the sky. Within minutes witnesses heard a sound that seemed similar to artillery fire move from the east to the north. The sound was accompanied by a shock wave that knocked people off their feet and broke windows hundreds of kilometers away. Amazingly no casualties were reported.

It is estimated that the Tunguska explosion knocked down 80 million trees over an area of 2,150 square kilometers, and that the shock wave from the blast would have measured 5.0 on the Richter magnitude scale. Some scientists believe this resulted from the air burst of a meteor or a comet even though no crater has ever been found.

Others believe that the Tunguska Event was caused by Nikola Tesla, who had been working on his 'World Wireless' system, a system that would use the atmosphere as electrical conductors allowing for the transmission of electric energy without wires on a global scale. In the few years leading up to the Tunguska Event Tesla built an 187 foot tall power transmitting tower station in in Shoreham, New York, that he believed could wirelessly send power across the Atlantic into Europe. The project was never completed.

Nikola Tesla's Wardenclyffe Power Plant facility in Shoreham, New York

May 13, 2018

May 13: A Horse Is A Horse, Unless She Is Your Superior officer

On May 13th, 1968, a 20 year Marine old staff sergeant, Sergeant Reckless, died after getting tangled in some barbed wire at Camp Pendleton. This staff sergeant was a celebrated war hero that received many accommodations including two Purple Hearts, a Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, a Presidential Unit Citation, and bronze star for her service during the Korean War.

She was only 5 years old when she was wounded twice, during the Battle of Vegas in 1953, for which she was awarded 2 purple hearts and was given the battlefield rank of corporal. Shortly after the war she was promoted to sergeant. Not only was she respected amongst her unit for her fearless bravery, she was also known for her good humored shenanigans around camp. Often sharing beers with her fellow troops she was known for her ferocious appetite, her favorite being coca cola,  she was liable to eat just about anything including a horse blanket and $30 in poker chips.  She was not the first female officer in the marines, but gained world wide recognition for her bravery during wartime service, and is noted as the first horse to participate in an amphibious landing.

 On November 10 (the birthday of the Marine Corps), 1954, Sergeant Reckless entered the U.S. at a port in San Francisco, but the Department of Agriculture insisted she be tested for STDs before entering, to the outrage of the Marines who served with her, knowing her as an upstanding officer.

Reckless retired from active service with full military honors at Camp Pendleton on November 10, 1960, and lived there until her death in 1968. She had four foals, including Fearless, Dauntless, and Chesty.

Apr 20, 2018

April 20th: The Birth of Boston's Favorite Song

On April 20th, 2013, singer Neil Diamond surprised the crowd at a Red Sox game at Fenway Park in Boston when he walked out to the field during the 8th inning and sang his platinum single Sweet Caroline.

The song has special meaning for the Red Sox, as it is played in the middle of the 8th inning at all Boston Red Sox home games, and has since 2002.

Originally played at a Sox game in 1997 for no reason besides that a Fenway employee in charge of music, Amy Toby, liked the tune, it became a good luck charm for the team and played during the 8th inning at any game that the Sox were in the lead.

In 2002 Charles Steinberg, then the executive vice president of public affairs, made the call to play the song at every game.

5 days after the Boston Marathon bombing that killed 3 and injured 264 others on April 15th, 2013, Diamond surprised the Red Sox by singing the song live at the game, and donating all future royalties from sales of the song to the One Fund Boston charity to help the people most affected by the bombings, causing sales to skyrocket 600%.

Apr 1, 2018

April 1: When Finding A Corpse Brings Good Fortune

On April 1st, 2007, 31 year old Dan Baines was walking his dog in Derbyshire, England, when he and his dog came across the remains of an animal with human features. The dog had uncovered the remains and swallowed the legs and pelvis before Baines could retrieve the body from the dog's mouth. The entire corpse fit into Baines' hand (with the skull being about the size of a quarter) but had the features that resembled that of a human adult.

90 years prior, 2 girls in England claimed to have seen and photographed fairies in Cottingley, only about 75 miles north of Derbyshire, causing many to believe Baines' dog had discovered (and partially eaten) the skeleton of a fairy. X-rays showed the bones of the skeleton to be hollow much like the bones of a bird.

Baines sold the remains for £300 to the National Museum in Bradford England where it is now on display.

Editor's Note: Dan Baines is an illusion designer for magicians from London, England, and first posted images on his website showing the remains of a dead fairy on April 1st, 2007. He now hosts workshops teaching the techniques he used to create his models of dead fairies. 

Dec 8, 2017

December 8: When it comes to sexy, look no further than the toilet

On December 8th, 1857, in New York City, Joseph Gayetty introduced the first commercially marketed toilet paper. Each Manila hemp sheet was watermarked with his name and contained an aloe lubricant. Members of the public could purchase 1,000 sheets for one dollar at his shop at 41 Ann Street, in New York (in 2017 the average price for 1,000 sheets of Quilted Northern was just about $3).
Some called him a hack,  but his product was a top seller for several decades until the invention of splinter-free toilet paper by the Northern Tissue Company  in 1935.

Toilet paper had been around for at least 1,500 years, invented by the Chinese circa 589 AD.
By the early 14th century, it was recorded that in modern-day Zhejiang province alone there was an annual manufacturing of toilet paper amounting in ten million packages of 1,000 to 10,000 sheets of toilet paper each, and were even individually perfumed.

In 2005, Renova, a Portuguese paper company founded in 1818, introduced the first ever black toilet paper to world wide success, opening the door to a new market of 'sex appeal toilet paper'; Renova now carries a wide variety of colored toilet paper and is known as “the sexiest toilet paper on earth.”

Oct 1, 2017

October Spotlight: History Of Zombies

On October 1st, 1968, George A. Romero's Night Of The Living Dead hit the  silver screen. In terms of zombie culture George A. Romero (1940-2017) is the father of the modern Zombie; the zombie that comes to mind when we think of Flesh eating rotten corpses mindlessly roaming the streets to devour human victims.

 Before 1968 when Romero's Night Of the Living Dead was released the idea of zombies were derived from Haitian folklore of people being dosed with a poison that renders them mindless and completely at the mercy of others, as depicted in the 1932 film 'White Zombie' staring Béla Lugosi.

The poison is made from a Datura flower that is quite beautiful, but strips it's victims of reality, those who survive have described the processes as horrifying.

 Further reading on this can be found in the book The Serpent and the Rainbow, written by Harvard Scientist Wade Davis. But Romero's zombies had no puppet masters, just hordes of living dead that can only be killed by piercing the brain. A fun fact being that Romero didn't set out to make a new 'zombie' creature; in Night Of The Living Dead they are called 'Ghouls' and Romero mentioned later that zombies hadn't entered into the equation at the time, stating "I never thought of my guys as zombies when I made the first film...To me, zombies were still those boys in the Caribbean doing the wetwork for Lugosi." This may account for the running theme in his films to never use the "Z" word.

 Romero would spend nearly half a century cultivating this species of zombie; especially memorable for the "Dead Series" beginning in 1968 with Night of the Living Dead and ending in 2009 with Survivial of the Dead. But Romero also ventured into other other types of zombies; most notably the 1973 film The Crazies. in this is a form of Zombie created by a biological agent that effects people and turns them into blood thirsty killers. The difference between this and Romero's 'traditional' zombie is that the infected still retain brain function, so they can think up the brutal ways to kill loved ones and neighbors while evading law enforcement and pretending to not be infected.

 Romero's reanimated flesh eating corpse has truly become the archetype zombie, emulated shamelessly in popular culture from hit American television shows like The Walking Dead, blockbuster films such as Will Smith's I Am Legend, to annual 'zombie walks' carried out around the world, and has inspired zombie variations such as the 'fast zombie' made famous in the 2002 British film 28 Days Later and the 'brain eaters' from the Return of the Living Dead film series.

 Aside from the prospect of thrilling entertainment, zombies have also been cultural vehicles that helped shape modern society. It is true that Romero's flesh eating zombie was the lasting influence of 1968's Night of the Living Dead; but at the time of its release it received recognition for something else entirely. Romero was praised for casting a black man (Duane Jones as Ben) in the role of the Hero, and the film is noted for being the first film with a black protagonist in a movie that was not about race relations. In 1999 the film was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry, and deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

 But zombie culture has influenced society in other ways as well. Many milatary and government organizations have used zombie outbreak scenarios as a way to plan for large scale viral outbreaks and systemic losses of law and order. The United States Department of Defense Strategic Command has a contingency plan for a zombie outbreak called CONOP 888 also known as Counter-Zombie Dominance. The Center for Disease Control has also discovered that a great way to engage new audiences with preparedness messages is to disseminate health and safety information using zombie outbreaks as way to keep the message fun and entertaining.

 For well over a century the Western world has been intrigued by zombies, first as it roots in African, Caribbean, and South American folklore, through the Imagination of science fiction writers like Mary Shelly and H.P. Lovecraft, to the many variations on the silver screen. Zombies have been depicted in countless ways, as slave victims and brutal assailants, to heroes and lovers. In Romero's 2005 Land of the Dead the protagonist, Big Daddy, is himself a zombie, who is desperately trying to save his fellow ghouls from being slaughtered. In the 1999 Japanese film Wild Zero we find a separated zombie couple desperately searching for one another.

In whatever form or media, it is a fair bet that zombies will continue to occupy a place in popular culture, in an ever expanding plethora of circumstances and viewpoints.

Sep 11, 2017

September 11: All The Drama Of High School

Torrence High School, in Torrence California, first opened it's doors on September 11th, 1917, in Los Angeles County California, and is one of the oldest high schools in continuous use in California.

Torrence High School was used as the location of "West Beverly Hills High School" in the hit 1990s television show Beverly Hills 90210, as well as "Sunnydale High School" in the cult favorite Buffy The Vampire Slayer television series, before it was epically destroyed in Season 3 in a battle on graduation day between Buffy and her friends (known as the Scooby Gang) and the mayor of Sunnydale.
Sunnydale High Class of '99 Graduation 

Jul 24, 2017

July 24: Son of the Boston Strangler dies; Declared a brilliant artist

On July 24th, 1989, Mark Morrisroe died at the age of 30 in a hospital in Jersey City due to complications of AIDS.

Morrisroe was born in Malden, Massachusetts in 1959, his mother was a drug addict and a tenant of Albert DeSalvo, also known as "the Boston Strangler", and it was believed that DeSalvo was Morrisroe's father.

At 15 Morrisroe left home and became a prostitute under the name Mark Dirt and began chronicling the queer punk and male hustler scenes in Boston and New York.
At 17 he was shot by a John which left a bullet lodged in his back for the rest of his life.

Morrisroe attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, in Boston, where he graduated from the Museum School with honors. His friends included artists Nan Goldin, David Armstrong, and Tabboo!, with whom he founded the drag duo "Clam Twins" at the Pyramid Club in NYC's East Village.

After his death in 1989 his work became highly regarded. His work, which includes over 2,000 photographs, continue to be shown in galleries and museums all over the world.

Jul 10, 2017

July 10: From Feces to Fortune - The birth of Cat Litter

On July 10th, 1920, Ed Lowe was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

In 1947, while living in Cassopolis, Michigan, Lowe's neighbor asked him for some sand to use in her cat's litter box. Lowe gave her some clay called Fuller's Earth (capable of absorbing their weight in water) and to her delight it worked better than sand.
That same year Lowe began packaging it in 5 lb bags and called it "Kitty Litter." At first he gave it away to local pet stores until demand set in, afterwards it sold for 69 cents.
He founded Tidy Cat cat box filler in 1964, and by the time of his death,  in 1995, his company was worth half a billion dollars.

Jun 16, 2017

June 16: Psycho Births A Cigarette That Never Existed

On June 16th, 1960, Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho hit the silver screen. Shot for under $1 million dollars, the film was a box office success bringing in over $50 million in sales.

It is also the debut of Morley Cigarettes, a fictional brand of tobacco cigarettes (and sometimes candy cigarettes) that has remained a popular nonexistent product of film and television.

The brand's first television appearance was on April 5th, 1961, on an episode of Naked City when a pack of Morley's was left at a murder scene.

On December 19th, 1961, in the episode 'Sally Is A Girl' of the Dick Van Dyke Show, Morley Candy Cigarettes makes it's debut when Richie, the TV son of Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore, receives a pack of Morley Chocolate Cigarettes.

For over a half century Morley brand cigarettes has remained as a popular fictional brand cigarette appearing in everything from The Twilight Zone, Seinfeld, and even the sitcom Friends.

Morley was the brand of choice for The Smoking Man on The X-Files as well as Spike from Buffy The vampire Slayer.

The fictional brand continues to be the cigarette of choice for Television and film, making appearances on The Walking Dead and the 2015 Robert De Niro film Heist, amongst others.

May 31, 2017

May 31: The 24 Hours That Destroyed Tulsa

On this day, May 31 (and continuing to June 1) in 1921, One of the largest American race riots took place in Tulsa, Oklahoma that destroyed an entire neighborhood, leaving 300 black residents dead and thousands of white residents arrested. The attack, carried out on the ground and by air, destroyed more than 35 blocks of the district, then the wealthiest black community in the nation. More than 800 people were admitted to hospitals and more than 6,000 residents were arrested and detained, some for as many as eight days.

O n May 30th, Memorial Day, a 19 year old black shoeshiner that worked on Main street named 'Diamond' Dick Rowland entered an elevator of the Drexel Building (319 South Main Street), apparently to use the only 'colored' restroom in the building which was on the top floor. According to witnesses some sort of confrontation ensued  between Rowland and the 17-year-old white elevator operator Sarah Page. Page screamed and Rowland ran off; witnesses called the police believing she had been sexually assaulted (although a recent investigation suggests the two merely had a 'Lover's Quarrel').

Rowland was arrested but a routine investigation by the Tulsa police department concluded an actual 'assault' did not take place. Page did not want to press charges, and many of the city's attorneys (who frequented Rowland's shine shop) spoke highly of him and doubted the rumors circulating of an assault. None the less newspapers in Tulsa ran stories such as 'Nab Negro For Attacking Girl' and 'To Lynch Negro Tonight.'

Crowds of up to 1,000 white residents gathered at the courthouse demanding that Rowland be handed over to them. The previous year an 18 year old white man was removed from the courthouse and lynched for shooting a cab driver. The sheriff was fired for handing over a suspect to the lynch mob, and the new sheriff, Willard M. McCullough, was not about to let the same thing happen again, and had moved Rowland to a safer location on the top floor. McCullough also positioned six of his riflemen on the roof of the courthouse, disabled the building's elevator, and had his remaining men barricade themselves at the top of the stairs with orders to shoot any intruders on sight.

News of the lynch mob reached the black neighborhood of Greenwood and armed black men rushed to the courthouse to aide in Rowland's safety. The group of white residents doubled to 2,000 armed residents (there were even reports of white residents attempting to rob the armory of its weaponry) and soon an all-out war erupted between the two groups. Snipers on both sides took out mobsters on the streets, and more than 20 airplanes where spotted dropping bombs onto the black neighborhood of Greenwood. The resulting fire raged destroying the entire neighborhood but not a single alarm was sounded at any fire station. Reports of 2 dozen caskets filled with weapons and ammunition were delivered to white churches, white mobs attacked white households that employed black servants, and  reinforcements for both sides came in by train.

On Wednesday July 1st, the Oklahoma National Guard arrived with 109 troops to stop the riots. Reports suggest that martial law was enacted at 11:49 am and amazingly by noon the National Guard had the town under control.

Reports varied, but estimates of up to 6,000 people on each side of the race riot were arrested and up to 300 residents on either side were killed. The black neighborhood of Greenwood was destroyed including 191 businesses, a school, several churches and the hospital. 1,500 houses were destroyed.
 Sheriff McCullough, in keeping his word, kept Rowland safe through the entire race war. All charges were dropped and the Sheriff secretly transported Rowland safely out of town. Rowland settled in Kansas City and never set foot in Tulsa again.

Photo: Greenwood Avenue in Tulsa after one day of the race war. (public domain).

May 14, 2017

May 14th: Fast Food Fantasy = What Mom Really Wants for Mother's Day

The fast food giant, KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken), headquartered in Louisville Kentucky, reports that Mother's Day is the busiest day of the year, with sales jumping 40% on average.

In 2016 the company served approximately 370,000 families on Mother's Day, selling about 6.5 million pieces of chicken (about 1.5 million pounds), 815,000 servings of mashed potatoes and gravy, and 470,000 servings of cole slaw.
This may account for KFC's release of a free romance novel, called 'Tender Wings of Desire' just before Mother's Day 2017, with founder Harland Sanders as the love interest.

"The only thing better than being swept away by the deliciousness of our Extra Crispy Chicken is being swept away by Harland Sanders himself," KFC's U.S. director of advertising George Felix said in a press release,  "So this Mother's Day, the bucket of chicken I get for my wife will come with a side of steamy romance novella." Patrons to KFC restaurants in New Zealand can pick up chicken flavored chocolates on Mother's Day as well.

KFC is no stranger to absurd marketing stunts;  in December of 2016 KFC sent 125 copies of a free limited pressing 12" record to U.S. record stores to hide for a scavenger hunt in a Guerrilla-Marketing stunt before rolling out their 'Nashville Hot Chicken' line. The album featured Fred Armisen as Harland Sanders singing about how wearing the same suit everyday drove him insane.

Actor Rob Lowe as Colonel Sanders the Cosmonaut enjoying a KFC sandwich

May 12, 2017

May 12: When The Disease Is Love, Why Take the Cure?

On May 12, 1821, Florence Nightingale was born into a rich upper-class British family in Florence, Italy, the city in which she was named after. Just about every privilege afforded a woman of that time  was at her disposal, and yet she dedicated her life to care taking of the sick and educating nurses.
At 16 Nightingale had several experiences that she was sure were calls from God prompting her to devote her life to the service of others. Nightingale wrote of one such encounter "God called me in the morning and asked me would I do good for him alone without reputation."  As a prodigious writer, much of her studies and accounts in nursing were recorded, as well has her studies of Mysticism. Much of her published work is on Nursing education and statistical studies, in which she was a pioneer, but her work on mysticism was also published (albeit after her death).

Her work in the Crimean war was well recorded by the media at the time and her fame helped open  the Nightingale Training School at St. Thomas' Hospital on 9 July 1860 (Now called the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery, the school is part of King's College London). The first trained Nightingale nurses began work on 16 May 1865 at the Liverpool Workhouse Infirmary.

Nightingale died on August 13th, 1910, at the age of 90, leaving behind a large body of work on Nursing education. Although she never married, her memory lives on as the name for a syndrome when a caretaker falls in love with a patient (or visa versa). There is no evidence that Nightingale ever suffered from this syndrome, but more than a half century after her death the term Florence Nightingale Syndrome entered the western pop culture lexicon, having been mentioned by actor Albert Finney in a 1982 interview in People Magazine.

In medical jargon the Florence Nightingale Syndrome is often referred to as the Florence Nightingale effect as a way to distinguish that the term was born in general society, and not recognized as a proper medical term; in which 'Transference' is preferable, as it was coined by Sigmund  Freud.

The term 'Florence Nightingale Effect' was used correctly by the character Doc Brown in the 1985 blockbuster hit Back To The Future, stating "It happens in hospitals when nurses fall in love with their patients." while explaining explaining to Marty why his mother fell in love with him when she took care of him after he traveled back in time to 1955 and was hit by a car driven by his grandfather.

Apr 6, 2017

April 6: Three Nations Get Together And Have A Baby (Mexico, U.S.A, And Jordan)

On April 6, 2016, Ibrahim Hassan was born in Mexico,  aided by a team of American Scientists, to three biological parents from Jordan, making Ibrahim the first known person in history to have DNA from 3 individual donors.

Apr 1, 2017

April 1: George Washington's victory at Valley Forge (thanks to instant coffee)

Painting by G. C. Louis of General George Washington
snorting instant coffee mixed with tobacco snuff
On April 1st, 1778, General George Washington lead his troops into victorious battle in Valley Forge, PA, against the British in the Revolutionary War. This was a major turning point for the Continental Army, whom, until this point were feared to loose due to the dismal living conditions Washington's troops had been subjected to.

Over a six month period, the deaths in the Valley Forge camp numbered in the thousands, the majority being from disease, compounded by lack of food and proper clothing, poor shelter, and the extreme cold. By contrast, the British were comfortably quartered in Philadelphia and paid for their supplies in sterling. Washington, on the other hand, had difficulty procuring supplies from the few farmers in the area who would not accept rapidly depreciating American paper currency. As conditions worsened, Washington was faced with the task of maintaining morale and discouraging desertion, which had become common by February.

Washington had repeatedly petitioned the Continental Congress for badly needed provisions but with no success. He expressed the urgency of the situation, exclaiming, "Something must be done. Important alterations must be made!"

Finally, on January 24, 1778, remembering an old family recipe of dehydrating brewed coffee for easy transport, Washington began making instant coffee at the camp for the troops to carry in their snuff tins on the front lines, in which they mixed with water or snorted with tobacco snuff.

By late March a revitalized army emerged from Valley Forge in good order, thanks in part by General Washington's instant coffee, ready to take on the red coats. The British evacuated Philadelphia for New York on April 1st, 1778.

After the War Washington marketed and sold his instant coffee as Washington's Prepared Coffee; by the time of his death on March 4th, 1799, he was the richest man in the United States.

Editor's Note: On April 1st, 2007, Wikipedia published an article about George Washington's Instant Coffee invention in which the information about George Washington the president (1732-1799) and George Washington the inventor (1871-1946) had been merged.

Mar 21, 2017

March 21: The Short Beautiful Life of Candy

On March 21st, 1974, the actress Candy Darling died of cancer in New York City at the age of 29.

Darling was born James Lawrence Slattery, in 1944, in Queens and raised by her mother, Theresa Phelan, in Long Island. Known as 'Jimmy' during the day, Darling would escape as 'Candy' at nights to nite clubs in Manhattan before moving to Manhattan to live as Candy Darling full time.

Despite dying at a young age, Darling had an accomplished acting career on stage and in film that included roles in Klute with Jane Fonda, Glamour, Glory and Gold opposite Robert De Niro, Women In Revolt directed by Andy Warhol, and the Tennessee Williams' play Small Craft Warnings, at the invitation of Williams himself.

At Darling's funeral her birth name was never mentioned by the minister or by eulogizers and was heavily attended. Her brother Warren also attended but was  shaken at the sight of Darling as a woman and unaware of her acting accomplishments. Darling's mother later recalled,  "I knew that I couldn't stop Jimmy. Candy was just too beautiful and talented."

Photo: "Candy Darling on her Deathbed" by Peter Hujar

Mar 17, 2017

March 17: A Girl Named Frank

On March 17th, 1908 Frances 'Frank' Hook died at age 60 or 61. Her exact birthdate is unknown, except that it was sometime in 1847 in Illinois. When she was three years old both of her parents died, leaving her older brother to raise her. At the time the Civil War began Hook and her brother were living in Chicago, Illinois when her brother decided to enlist the Union Army. Frances, only 14, and not wanting to be parted, enlisted as well, disguised as a man and claimed to be 22.

The brother and sister served with the blue coats for 3 years, Frances reenlisting under various versions of a male personality named Frank every time she was discovered as a female disguised as a man.  After her brother was killed she was taken prisoner by the Confederate army and her true identity was discovered. The grey coats were so impressed by her courage that Confederate President Jefferson Davis offered to make her a lieutenant if she joined his army. In true Yankee form, Hook declared she'd rather be a private in the Union Army than a lieutenant for the Rebels. The press found out about the bravery of a young female soldier and interviewed her.  Her heroics were written about in periodicals but the Union Army refused to reinstate her. She promised reporters she would head home, but with no home to return to, many speculated that she again reenlisted under a new name. 

Later in life she married and had a child, Maggie, who wrote to the War Department after her mother's death seeking confirmation of her mother's military service. The letter was forwarded to the Adjutant General's Office, who was able to confirm Hook's service in the Union Army. 

Photo: Frances 'Frank' Hook (Public Domain)

Mar 9, 2017

March 9: A Grandmother Predicts The Future And A Nursing Home Rock Band Is Declared 'Better Than The Beatles'

On March 9th, 1969, The Shaggs, an all girl rock group of sisters Helen, Betty, and Dot Wiggin, recorded the album Philosophy Of The World at the insistence of their father Austin Wiggin. The significance of this recording would not become apparent for many years as The Shaggs spent their entire musical career (1968-1973) playing in either the Town Hall or the local nursing home in their home town of Fremont, New Hampshire. The three sisters never even considered playing music, but their father Austin took them out of school and spent his life savings so they could learn how to play music and be in a band, convinced their stardom was fate assured.

    As it happened, Austin's mother (the three sisters grandmother) had predicted (when he was still a child) 3 events in his future: That he would marry a strawberry blonde girl, that she (the Grandmother) would die before his strawberry blonde wife would give birth to 2 sons, and that his daughters would be in a popular rock group.  Austin married a strawberry blonde girl, his mother died and his wife gave birth to two sons, making all her other predictions correct, so Austin pulled his girls out of school and spent his savings believing the last prediction would come true as well.

   The girls had no inclination to learn to play music before, much less be in a rock group, but Austin wouldn't take no for an answer, having them practice for hours at a time. After the girls wrote several songs Austin drove them to Massachusetts and paid for a studio to record them "while they were still hot." He then paid a local record label, Third World records, to print up 1,000 copies, which they did. In a bizarre twist, the owner of the label stole 900 of the 1,000 copies and vanished. With only 10% of the records ordered to work with Austin shipped the rest to local radio stations, which were almost completely ignored as the girls music was barely structured and didn't resemble standard pop music (some might say any music) at all, and sounded to most as "nonsensical" gibberish.

   After playing for a few more years, at the nursing home and Town Hall, The Shaggs disbanded when Austin, the driving force behind the band, died.

A decade after the release of their album famed musician Frank Zappa was a guest on the popular Dr. Demento radio show in Los Angeles and played some tracks from one of the 100 known copies of Philosophy Of The World, and declared The Shaggs "Better than the Beatles" and by doing so bringing the third prediction to fruition.
    In 1980 Philosophy Of The World  was reissued by Rounder Records. In 1983 a previously unreleased 2nd album, titled The Shaggs' Own Thing, was also released and Rolling Stone magazine declared The Shaggs the "Comeback of the Year." Since then The Shaggs have been the lauded by many famed musicians and the focus of documentaries and tribute albums. Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain ranked "Philosophy of the World" as No. 5 on his 50 best albums list.
   Austin Wiggin did not live to see his mother's final prediction come true.

Mar 8, 2017

March 8: Goodbye To Bill The Butcher And Hello To Big Money Politics

On March 8th in 1855 Bill "The Butcher" Poole died in New York after being shot 12 days prior at a bar on Broadway in Manhattan.

Poole, a butcher, was the leader of the Bowery Boys Gang, made up exclusively of native born volunteer firemen. He was also a leader in the Know Nothing political organization, a movement of native born Americans who felt immigrants (mostly Irish) were gaining too much political and social power; Mostly due to the power of Tammany Hall, an organization that helped push Irish immigrants into local political seats of power.

   Bill the Butcher's archenemy was Irish immigrant John "Old Smoke" Morrissey, leader of the Irish gang Dead Rabbits, and an integral member of Tammany Hall.

The two gangs, The Bowery Boys  and The Dead Rabbits, being on opposite sides politically were mortal enemies and fought over 200 gang battles in under 10 years, and the rival between Poole and Morrissey was well documented in newspapers at the time.

   On February 24th 1855 at Stanwix Hall two members of the Dead Rabbits, Lew Baker and Jim Turner, shot Poole as he stood at the bar. He was taken to his home on Christopher St and died on March 8th.

Morrissey went on to become a Democratic State Senator and U.S. Congressman and died a millionaire.

   Bill the Butcher's last words were "Good-bye boys; I die a true American." and was the inspiration for Daniel Day-Lewis' character in Martin Scorsese's film Gangs of New York (2002).

Photo: Bill The Butcher wearing the Bowery Boys uniform of stovepipe hat, red shirt, and dark trousers tucked into boots. (public domain photo).

Mar 5, 2017

March 5: When looking for American heroes, look no further than America's First Hero Crispus Attucks

On March 5th, 1770, a man named Crispus Attucks was shot and killed by British soldiers in Boston Massachusetts, becoming the first person killed in the Boston massacre, as well as the first American casualty in the American Revolutionary War.

On the day of the Boston massacre, a boy was berated by British soldiers when he claimed that one soldier had not paid his barber bill. A group of colonists led by Attucks were outraged by the treatment of the boy and approached the Old State House armed with clubs and confronted the soldiers. Some threw snowballs at the soldiers, others threw debris. Some claimed Attucks struck a soldier with his club, others claimed Attucks had only been leaning against his club. Either way the soldiers opened fire and Attucks was shot twice in the chest becoming the first casualty of the American Revolution.

Along side his distinction as the first casualty of the Revolution,  he is also recognized as the first black, and first American Indian hero of the Revolution.
Verifiable evidence shows that Attucks was of both African and Wampanoag descent. Historians believe that his father was an African-born slave and his mother a Native American from the Natick tribe of the Wampanoag People. The two married and Attucks was born in Framingham, Massachusetts around 1723.

Attucks spent his life as a sailor, spending most of his time abroad, and only being in Boston in 1770 briefly, as he had just returned from a voyage to the Bahamas and planned on boarding a ship for North Carolina.

 Of the eyewitness testimony about the Boston Massacre, none referred to Attucks as "black" or as "Negro"; as it appears that Bostonians viewed persons of mixed ethnicity as a class of their own. What is known is that Attucks was instantly recognized a hero; His body was carried to Faneuil Hall, where it lay in state until March 8, when he and the 4 other victims were buried together in the same grave site in Boston's Granary Burying Ground.

Of the British soldiers who carried out the massacre, John Adams successfully defended the accused against a charge of murder, Adams calling Attucks and the others "Irish teagues and outlandish Jack Tarrs" which was not necessarily a derogatory term for Irish immigrants (teagues) and sailors (Jack Tarrs) but was enough to save the soldiers necks from the noose.

Jan 15, 2017

January 15: The Day Molasses Attacked Boston

On January 15, 1919, in Boston, Massachusetts, a large storage tank 50 feet tall and 90 feet in diameter burst, and a 25 ft tall wave (40 feet at its peak) of more than 2 million gallons of molasses rushed through the streets at 35 miles per hour killing 21 people and injuring 150 (as well as killing several horses). The force of the molasses bent train tresses and leveled buildings in its wake.
Families of the victims filed a successful class-action lawsuit against the United States Industrial Alcohol Company which had to pay a $600,000 settlement (approximately $7,000 to each family who suffered a fatal loss).

Aftermath of the Great Molasses Flood. Public Domain Photo.

Jan 4, 2017

January 4: Topsy the Elephant is Executed for Amusement (But No One Was Amused)

On January 4th, in 1903, Topsy the Elephant was executed at Luna Park in Coney Island New York, by a combination of poison, electrocution, and strangulation.

After an incident involving Topsy's handler William "Whitey" Alt with police officers for public intoxication, Alt rode Topsy into the police station in an angry rage. The Station was severely damaged and officers lives were put at risk so Alt was arrested. As Topsy was following her handler's instruction and not in a rage herself, she was returned to the park. But left with no handler, the owners of Topsy tried to sell her but couldn't find anyone to even take her for free. They decided to execute her at the end of the year and sell tickets for the public spectacle. Gallows were built and covered in advertisements. The event was eventually made private due to do protests by The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) but was filmed by the Edison Manufacturing Movie Company and released in coin-operated kinetoscopes under the title 'Electrocuting an Elephant'. The film proved to be one of the company's least popular releases.

A renewed interest in Topsy more than 100 years later is due in part by the animated Television show Bob's Burgers, which had an episode (Season 3, Episode 16) entitled 'Topsy' and featured a song with the line "they'll be saying 'ahh Topsy' at my autopsy". For the Centennial of Topsy's Execution  the Coney Island USA museum unveiled a memorial sculpture created by New Orleans artist Lee Deigaard as well as a screening of the Edison film 'Executing an Elephant.'

Editor's Note: It is interesting to note the similarities of Topsy's execution to that of Mary the Elephant's execution in Erwin Tennessee 13 years later. Both were scheduled as public spectacles; although Topsy's was made private due to public outrage, Mary's drew a crowd of over 2,500. But while Mary's was due to her trampling her handler to death, Topsy's was merely for profit and entertainment.  But both were later reviled, and both had centennial celebrations. It is also a coincidence that both elephant handlers had nicknames relating to color (Whitey and Red). Read more about Mary's execution here

Photo Credit: Public Domain photo of Topsy's Execution

Jan 1, 2017

January Spotlight - Black Mariah: From Vehicle to Villain

 In 1973, the female villain Black Mariah first appeared in the January issue of Luke Cage Hero For Hire by Marvel Comics. Black Mariah was an early enemy of Luke Cage (sometimes known as Power man) in the Blaxploitation comic book genre. Black Mariah, a large black woman, is also known as Mariah Dillard and is the leader of a NYC gang called the Rat Pack. In Marvel universe variations Mariah is also depicted as an elected councilperson in New York's Harlem neighborhood. But Black Mariah's character is inspired by a real life woman who, as it turns out, was not a villain but more of a hero.

     The term Black Mariah dates back to England in the 1800s as colloquial term for a police transport vehicle. In the U.S. the common term is Paddy Wagon, which also dates back to the 1800s as a racist term for the Irish; suggesting Police Transport Vehicles are filled with unruly Irish lawbreakers. But in England the prevailing term was Black Mariah, and although it is also referencing a racial type, refers to a single person: Mariah Lee. Lee, also sometimes spelled Maria Lee, affectionately called Black Mariah, was a large and fearsome black female boarding house keeper who was known to strike fear in drunken sailors and riff raff alike. Respected by the police, they would often call on her for help when they were unable to control a difficult situation involving more than one lawbreaker. Soon, 'calling for Black Mariah' signaled the need for a transport vehicle able to handle several occupants.

      The first police transport vehicles were cages affixed to horse carriages, and by the 1900s were motor vehicles equipped with stronger built prison cells on the rear.  The Oxford English Dictionary lists the first printed reference to a Black Mariah vehicle in 1847. The term is still used in England today (as well as the use of 'Paddy Wagon' in the U.S.) to describe a police transport vehicle, and sometimes the term 'Mother's Heart' is also used, as their is always room for one more.

Dec 24, 2016

December 24: From Killer Mob Boss To Champion Of Civil Liberties

Stephanie 'Queenie' St. Clair
    On December 24th, 1886, Stephanie "Queenie" St. Clair, the 'Madame of Harlem' mob boss, was born on the french Caribbean island of  Martinique. St. Clair was born poor and of French and African descent. She did not know her father and her mother died when she was a teenager. After being repeatedly raped working as a maid St. Clair immigrated to France. Finding no better luck there she immigrated to New York at 23, using the long voyage to teach herself english.
       New York City proved to be no better for her, she met a man named Duke who tried to pimp her out. She plucked out his eye with a fork and once again decided to move on. That night she took a bus out of New York but members of the KKK pulled her from the bus and rapped her (as well as killing other passengers).
    Deciding not to run this time she returned to Harlem determined. With the help of a boyfriend, Ed, she began selling drugs, quickly carving out a substantial market for herself. Within a matter of months she amassed a small fortune and decided to leave Ed and work solely for herself. He tried to strangle her and in the ensuing scuffle Ed laid dead and St. Clair became her own boss.
     In a short amount of time St. Clair created a highly successful gambling ring and numbers racket, employing dirty cops and men from around the neighborhood to now work for her, including Bumpy Johnson, who became her chief enforcer. Due to her success other crime families tried to move in on her turf, including Bronx-based mob boss Dutch Schultz. St. Clair wouldn't back down from Schultz's intimidation and a gang war ensued. Other crime families were worried the extra attention would be bad for business so Bumpy negotiated a deal with the Italian crime family giving them word that they could take over Schultz's business (as long as a percentage was given to him) once Schultz was killed. They killed Schultz.
   By this time Bumpy was running most of the business and St. Clair met a man, Sufi Abdul Hamid, known as "Black Hitler" for his militant activism as well as being the leader of an Islamic Buddhist cult. St. Clair retired and married Hamid. St. Clair became highly involved in social activism, often placing ads in the local papers informing black residents of their rights, making aware of discrimination, police brutality, illegal search raids, and other issues facing the black community as well as publicly outing abusive cops. This made her a target, but in Harlem she was highly admired. She employed members of the community, became a vocal member of local activist movements, and started a policy banking group for black residents who were turned away from white owned investment firms.
       In the late 1930s St. Clair began having an affair with a fortune teller named Fu Futtam.  Futtam and St. Clair's husband Hamid hatched a plan to use her money for their own ventures but ended when the affair came to light. In the aftermath Hamid laid dead of a bullet wound, details vary as to the identity of the shooter, but after waging a personal war against the NYC police department St. Clair spent 10 years in a New York State Prison for his murder.
     After Saint-Clair was released from prison she continued her community work in civil liberties as well as writing columns in the local newspaper about discrimination and other issues facing the black community. Bumpy Johnson came to live with her and they spent their elder years writing poetry together.

Editor's Note: Posted for Spooky; Merry Xmas my girl. 

Dec 8, 2016

December 8: Birth of Modern Wrestling & History of the Luchador Mask

The Masked Marvel
On December 8th, 1915, a wrestling promoter at the International Wrestling Tournament at the Manhattan Opera House in New York stopped the match demanding that his wrestler was wrongly left off of the fight card, calling attention to a man nonchalantly sitting in the audience wearing a mask. The man's name was The Masked Marvel, who rushed the mat and entered the fight. The whole ordeal was a planned set up, birthing the modern era of American Wrestling. The audience was instantly hooked, and an article from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on December 27th of that year called The Masked Marvel "the life-saver of the International wrestling show."
   Within weeks of the Masked Marvel's mysterious entrance speculations were made and newspapers rushed to find the identity of the masked man, and ultimately outed as wrestler Mort Henderson (which also may be an alias).

The first appearance of a wrestler wearing a mask, called a Luchador Mask (or Máscara), was french wrestler Theobaud Bauer (as The Masked Wrestler) who debuted the mask at the 1865 World's Fair in the Portuguese city of Porto. Bauer introduced the wrestling mask to the United States in the early 1870s. Although masked entertainers where not uncommon, including exotic dancer La Belle Dazle (also known as Bho la Dazlo) who wore a red domino mask, Bauer was the first wrestler to do so.
The Luchador mask is particularly popular in Mexico, where it was first introduced by Mexican Salvador Lutteroth in 1934, who witnessed professional wrestling in Texas along with American Masked wrestler "Cyclone" McKey and began promoting matches (as well as McKey) in Mexico under his organization Empresa Mexicana de Lucha Libre (Mexican Wrestling Enterprise).

Mort Henderson