Apr
06
2012
3

What Victorian trades and professions had the weirdest names?

Velocipede, Victorian fashion, zebra clothAnyone who’s looked in a 19th century street directory while researching their family history will have seen job descriptions and business names that are frankly puzzling. A twister? A japanner? What kind of work did these people do? What were those manufacturers making? Recently I was asked to help figure out the facts behind this [&hel[more...]

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Apr
26
2011
2

Why do so many people believe conspiracy theories?

Guinea pigs launch a <div style=Men never landed on the moon — the pictures and TV footage we have of the first moonwalk were actually produced in a California warehouse. The destruction of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, wasn’t a terror plot — it was a nefarious deed carried out by rogue elements in the President George [&hel[more...]

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Dec
07
2010
3

What is the origin of holiday trees?

holiday treeFirst you might notice the wording of the question asking about ‘holiday’ trees rather than Christmas trees but I am not being anti-Christmas about it. The concept of a decorated tree to celebrate the shortest days of winter is a universal phenomenon and not just a “copy of Christmas” as many in the West want [&hel[more...]

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Nov
24
2010
0

What is Christmas vs Xmas?

chi-rhoWell folks, it is the Christmas Season again and the annual argument about the spelling of the holiday, Christmas vs Xmas is well underway. I actually support the more widespread use of Xmas over Christmas as it is more traditional and has the weight of history behind it. The annual argument often goes along the [&hel[more...]

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Nov
11
2010
0

Where Can I Find Free Obituaries?

funeral free obituariesThere’s nothing quite like a good obituary. In a concise and usually heartfelt manner, you get a wonderful overview of the highlights and accomplishments of a person’s life, their important relationships, information on schools and careers, and perhaps just a hint of some of the darker aspects of their time here on Earth. There isn’t [&hel[more...]

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Nov
03
2010
6

What is a glass harmonica?

glass harmonicaWhat would you think of a musical instrument variously accused of causing nervous disorders, domestic squabbles, premature deliveries, ‘fatal disorders’, and convulsions in animals? The musical instrument was even banned from a German town by orders of the police for ruining the health of people and disturbing public order (a child died during a concert).  [&hel[more...]

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Oct
21
2010
0

Who are the Mandan Indians?

mandan indiansThe Mandans are Native Americans historically living next the Missouri River and two of its tributaries which are the Heart and Knife Rivers located in present-day North and South Dakota.  Unlike other Plains Indians, they established permanent villages and farms growing corn, beans, squash and tobacco.  Though like other Plains Indians, they did participate in [&hel[more...]

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Oct
20
2010
0

What is Rock Art?

rock artArchaeologically, “rock art” is a term applied to any human made marking on a ‘natural’ stone surface.  Relief carvings on a temple wall, for example, cannot be included regardless of how primitive they seem as the stone surface has been ‘prepared’ to receive the sculpture and is no longer ‘natural.’ Rock art is divided into [&hel[more...]

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Jun
09
2010
0

What was the Mosman Debating Society?

mosman-debating-societyThe Mosman Debating Society of Sydney, Australia flourished from its inception in 1917 until some time after 1985. Before 1957 (when television commenced in Australia) the Mosman Debating Society was a premier venue for the formation of public opinion and the dissemination of ideas, and its debates were regularly covered by the press. Originally only [&hel[more...]

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May
19
2010
0

What is Aquitaine famous for?

eleanor-of-aquitaineAquitaine is the most south-westerly region of France, with the Atlantic Ocean to its west, and Spain to its south. Aquitaine is famous for its history, with evidence of prehistoric human settlement such as the painted cave of Lascaux within Aquitaine’s Périgueux area (which is sometimes known as the cradle of mankind). The Romans ruled [&hel[more...]

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May
19
2010
1

What was the smallest independent principality in Germany after the Congress of Vienna?

homburg-castle-in-1770The principality of Hessen-Homburg could have been the scene for a real life 19th century operetta, if there had been more romantic adventures in the castle. Yes, it had a very nice little castle, one nice enough for Kaiser Wilhelm II to use later as summer residence; and it had a casino before Monte Carlo [&hel[more...]

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May
08
2010
0

What is Krak des Chevaliers, Syria?

Krak des ChevaliersKrak des Chevaliers is a Crusader fortress in Syria and one of the premier preserved medieval military castles in the world.  It is located  west of the city of Homs and close to the border of Lebanon.   It is administratively part of the Homs Governorate but is an excellent day-trip if headquartering in Hama or [&hel[more...]

Apr
27
2010
1

Where can I sleep in a castle or a lighthouse?

martello tower aldeburghHave you ever wanted to sleep in a castle, or perhaps a tower, or a folly? Or what about a grand mansion, a tower, or a lighthouse? Or a simple cottage far from the madding crowd? There are now plenty of opportunities to have such an experience. Many historic buildings have been adapted to take [&hel[more...]

Mar
12
2010
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Why were the crown princes of France called “Dauphin”, literally, a dolphin?

dolphin-dauphinBetween 1350 and 1791 there were 28 Dauphin de France, the title of the heir apparent to the French throne, similar to the title Prince of Wales in England. But why should he be the “dolphin” of France? Strictly, the correct title was Dauphin de Viennois, the dolphin of Vienne, a town in Département Isère. [&hel[more...]

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Jan
31
2010
0

What was the Peshtigo Fire?

Peshtigo 1871 - courtesy libraryimages.net - CC-BYOn October 8, 1871 the worst recorded fire in American history swept through Northeastern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. It destroyed millions of dollars worth of property and took between 1,200 and 2,400 lives. It happened on the same day as the more famous Great Chicago, Illinois fire but is much less widely known.  On that [&hel[more...]

Jan
14
2010
0

How did a wildflower change the course of American history?

White Snakeroot Flower - courtesy homeredwardprice - CC-BYThis deadly bloom is one of the most common wildflowers in the late summer in U.S. Midwestern woods and is seldom noticed, since it is somewhat weedy. It is a notorious killer, and at one time ravaged whole communities with its poison. Small pioneer settlements were visited by a terrible affliction, which came to be [&hel[more...]

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Jan
06
2010
0

Is the Pyramid of Kufu (the Great Pyramid of today) really one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World?

Khafre domminates the horizon - courtesy Dale Gillard - CC-BYIs the Pyramid of Kufu (the Great Pyramid of today) really one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World? Actually, no. It was the Pyramid of Khafre, the second largest pyramid at Giza which was the Great Pyramid of the Seven Wonders, even though smaller in both height and volume than the Great Pyramid [&hel[more...]

Jan
06
2010
0

What is a brief history of the Winter Olympics?

Squaw Valley - courtesy Rick McCharles - CC-BYWhen the modern Olympic Movement began, in 1894, the newly-formed International Olympic Committee (IOC) considered ice skating as a possible sport for the first modern Olympic Games, in 1896.  Needless to say, that didn’t happen but figure skating was on the program for the 1908 Olympic Games in London.  In 1911, it was suggested that [&hel[more...]

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Dec
14
2009
0

When will Hadrian’s Wall be lit from end to end?

Signal Station on Hadrian’s Wall (photo by Darren Copley CC-BYHadrian’s Wall, the famous wall built by the Roman emperor Hadrian in the north of England as a border marker and customs post, is to be lit up by a line of flaming beacons along its entire 84 mile length from the coast of eastern England across to the western coast. The event is planned [&hel[more...]

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Dec
14
2009
0

What is the history of scissors?

Scissors - courtesy dboy - CC-BYScissors are small cutting implements which are familiar for a lifetime and too frequently overlooked in the march of human progress. We know the history of the garden hoe and plow, both simple cutting surfaces. But scissors are a little more complex, yet little is available of their history. Do they date back one century, [&hel[more...]

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