Random History

Tames’ head is full of random historical facts, and this is where she shares them. New facts are continually added, so check back regularly to see what strange, wonderful, or just plain interesting things Tames has dug up.

Under Constantine in the fourth century, those Christians and Jews who intermarried faced the death penalty, which was usually burning at the stake.

posted 06/15/2017

In ancient Rome, consent to the marriage had to be shown by both the bride and groom. One way to show consent was for the future bride and groom to appear in public holding hands.

posted 06/01/2017

Britain alone lost over 300,000 horses in World War One, which hastened the mechanization of the country.

posted 05/15/2017

How a woman managed her fan could determine her social class. “Women are armed with fans, as men are with swords,” wrote the Spectator correspondent in 1711.

posted 05/01/2017

Vikings bathed at least once a week, which is much more frequently than other Europeans of their day.

posted 04/15/2017

In the 17th century, wealthy people had different wigs for different activities, such as a periwig for riding and a full-bottom wig for entertaining important people. Of course, one always wore his best wig to church.

posted 04/01/2017

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt allowed only female journalists at her press conferences to ensure that newspapers would have to hire women.

posted 03/15/2017

In 1914, Vaudeville was the one field in which women commanded a higher wage than men. A female headliner could earn as much as three thousand dollars a week or more. Even a newcomer, however, could earn one hundred dollars a week. This was an amazing amount of money considering that women’s work in other fields paid significantly less. In 1917, for example, a teacher might earn fifty dollars a month or just under seven hundred dollars a year.

posted 03/01/2017

During the Renaissance, handkerchiefs measured 12 to 15 in. A smaller variety of 4 to 5 inches were usually given as presents by women to men as love tokens.

posted 02/15/2017

The ancient Egyptians kissed, not by touching lips, but by touching noses.

posted 02/01/2017

The plague of 1563 was so severe that the city authorities of London started to compile bills of mortality, recording the numbers of people who died in each parish. This marked the beginning of official health statistics.

posted 01/15/2017

Edwardian butlers were advised that Champagne should be cooled in the following manner: Lay the bottle down in a basin and cover with a handful of broken-up ice. Sprinkle it with a little salt and cover it with a piece of damp flannel. Always begin chilling at least two hours before you intend to serve.

posted 01/01/2017

During a Gemini mission in 1965, some 115 years after it was written in a pub in Medford MA, Jingle Bells became the first song ever broadcast to earth from space.

posted 12/15/2016

“Crinoline fires” killed 3,000 women between the late 1850s and late 1860s in England. Women would lose sense of the circumference of their skirts, which caused them to step too close to a fire grate. The flames would be fanned by the oxygen circulating under their skirts and caused them to catch fire.

posted 12/01/2016

Wild rice is the only native North American grain. It is native to the lake regions of the upper Midwest and is not really a rice. It is more closely related to wheat, even though it is grown in the water. Wild rice was originally used by the settlers for the stuffing of wild game and as a substitute for regular rice.

posted 11/15/2016

The Navajo Code Talkers of WWII weren’t the first time American forces employed Native American language in war. The Choctaw language was used by American forces in WWI, because Germany intercepted allied messages with ease. The original members came from the Oklahoma National Guard.  Pictured here are Solomon Louis, Mitchell Bobb, Ben Carterby, Robert Taylor, Jeff Nelson, Pete Maytubby, James Edwards, and Calvin Wilson.

posted 11/01/2016

In Elizabethan England they did not burn people for witchcraft; that sort of thing went on only in Scotland and continental Europe. In England witchcraft was not regarded as a religion or a heresy: in theory you could be a good Christian and a witch. Witches at this time did not congregate as a body, nor did they celebrate the Sabbath together. That all came later, in the next century. Nor were witches yet presumed to make a contract with the devil; that, too, was a later development. There was even a time in Elizabeth’s reign when, technically speaking, witchcraft was not against the law. In 1542, Henry VIII made witchcraft a hanging offense, but that was repealed on the King’s death in 1547; thereafter there was no anti-witchcraft law until the Witchcraft Act of 1563. This was far more lenient than Henry VIII’s legislation. It did not sanction the execution of all practitioners of the dark arts, nor did it condemn witches to death for the lesser magical arts of finding lost things, destroying cattle and goods, or causing a man to fall in love. The 1563 act made it a felony only to invoke evil spirits for any purpose whatsoever; and to cause the death of someone by witchcraft.

posted 10/15/2016

William the Conqueror, the Norman king who invaded England on October 14, 1066 and fundamentally changed the course of British history, was descended from Viking raiders. His ancestors received the French duchy of Normandy in the early 10th century in exchange for promising to stop pillaging France.

posted 10/01/2016

At the end of the 19th century, educators began to promote physical activity as necessary for a young woman’s health. Schools began to build gymnasiums. The general philosophy of physical education was different for women than for men. Men played to win. Women exercised for their health.

posted 09/15/2016

During the Renaissance, part of a teacher’s education was to be taught how to flog a student.

posted 09/01/2016

The Frisbie Pie Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut, sold pies. Local college students used the empty tins (embossed with the words “Frisbie’s Pies”) to play catch. In 1948, Walter Morrison and Warren Franscioni found a way to capitalize on this free toy by creating a plastic version called the Flyin’ Saucer and later renamed it the Pluto Platter Flying Saucer. (This was after the alleged UFO sightings in Roswell, New Mexico.) When the founders of Wham-O bought rights to the toy and renamed it Frisbee, sales truly went out of this world.

posted 08/15/2016

Frying was the most common way to prepare tomatoes before it was discovered in the early 19th century that tomatoes were good for sauces, soups, salads, and “ketchups.”

posted 08/01/2016

In 1903 only 18 cities had public playgrounds.

posted 07/15/2016

The ancient Romans built 52,000 miles of roads.

posted 07/01/2016

In the 18th century, a husband would not be responsible for debts contracted by his wife before her marriage if she married barefoot, wearing only a smock or petticoat, thus proving to all she brought him nothing. This applied especially when the woman was a widow and inherited debts from her late husband.

posted 06/15/2016

Most marriages in ancient Rome took place in June, in honor of Juno, the goddess of marriage.

posted 06/01/2016

Brittan lost 2/3 of its male population in World War One, and the number was even higher in Germany and France.

posted 05/15/2016

Victorian etiquette books stated that when a lady crosses the street she should raise her dress a little above the ankle, holding together the folds of her gown and drawing them toward the right. Raising the dress with both hands exposes too much ankle, and is considered most vulgar.

posted 05/01/2016

The ancient Chinese were the first to color their fingernails.

posted 04/15/2016

The first hair dryers were created by a woman who moved the hose attachment from the front of a vacuum cleaner to the back, so that air would blow out instead of in.

posted 04/01/2016

In ancient Egypt, many taverns, called houses of beer, were run by women.

posted 03/15/2016

During the Elizabethan era, those clocks that do have faces normally have only one hand, which pointed to the hour; if one needed to count minutes, one would use an hourglass, not a clock.

posted 03/01/2016

Frozen fish fingers, called fish sticks in America, first went on sale in Britain in 1955. They were originally going to be called “frozen cod pieces”

posted 02/01/2016

Josephine Holloway was one of the first African American Girl Scout troop leaders. It was her perseverance and determination that led to the lobbying for the Girl Scouts to include African American girls in their organization.

posted 02/01/2016

In the Middle Ages, Londoners frequented the bathhouses at Southwark, where they were attended by Flemish women in steaming hot tubs. The men among them were normally treated to more than a wash and a rubdown, so when syphilis arrived in England in 1500, it spread rapidly through the bathing community. In short, people who bathed fell ill. So Henry VIII shut down all the bathhouses in Southwark.

posted 01/15/2016

In 1908 the first Times Square Ball was dropped from the flagpole atop One Times Square. It was made of wood and iron, weighed 700 pounds, and was lit by a hundred 25-watt bulbs.

posted 01/01/2016

Until electricity, ballerinas routinely perished when the muslin of their tutus caught fire from the gas lamps used to light the stage; the deaths were referred to at the time as the “holocaust of ballet girls.” (The remedy, flame-retardant fabrics, was seen by many as too ugly to wear.)

posted 12/15/2015

Victorian etiquette books stated that dresses with a low neckline should only be worn to dinners by candlelight.

posted 12/01/2015

Turkeys were first introduced to England in the 1520s and were rare specimens until the reign of Elizabeth I, when their value as a roasting bird was widely recognized and their popularity suddenly increased.

posted 11/15/2015

Louisa May Alcott was the first woman to register to vote in Concord after Massachusetts passed its state suffrage law.

posted 11/01/2015

As the Netherlands’ largest trading company in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Dutch East India Company (VOC) was also the world’s first company to issue stock.

posted 10/15/2015

Brewing was the only profession in Mesopotamia that was protected by a female deity.

posted 10/01/2015

By 1920 nearly 50% of all American college students were women, but they could not receive a degree from a man’s college even if they completed all the classes and exams. It was not until 1923 that women could receive a college degree.

posted 09/15/2015

In the 18th century, LeGros created the academie de coiffure, the first regular school of hairdressing, and students who completed courses there, women as well as men, were rewarded with medals said to have the value of diplomas.

posted 09/01/2015

In the Jazz clubs of the 1920s, married men who danced with flappers were called Tango pirates.

posted 08/15/2015

In ancient times mustard seeds symbolized fiery potential. In 330 BC, Darius, king of Persia, challenged Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia to battle. Darius presented Alexander with a sack of countless sesame seeds, each seed representing a Persian soldier. Alexander’s response was a much-smaller sack of mustard seed. His soldiers, though fewer in number, were too hot to tangle with.

posted 08/01/2015

In July 1643, Charles I issued a proclamation concerning licentiousness. “Let no woman presume to counterfeit her sex by wearing man’s apparel under pain of the severest punishment which law and our displeasure shall inflict.” It was not effective.

posted 07/15/2015

In Elizabethan theaters they rolled cannonballs around the gallery roof to make stage thunder.

posted 07/01/2015

By the 17th century, ribbons on a wedding dress were no longer called “favors” but “true love knots.” This is where we get the term tying the knot.

posted 06/15/2015

The word husband comes from Hus (house) and Bunda (owner). Under feudal law, serfs could not own a home. For their military service, yeomen were given a house and a few acres of land. By the 13th century, scheming mothers wanted their daughters to marry a house owner—husband. Later, the word came to mean any man joined in marriage whether he owned a house or not.

posted 06/01/2015

The trend for feathered hats was at its height in popularity from about 1890 to 1920. In the early 1900s, however, the fashion soon reached a point of excess, and the Audubon Society, protesting the slaughter of birds for their feathers, called for an end to the trade of wild birds. Around the same time, Queen Mary of England publicaly denounced the use of feathers in millinery

posted 05/15/2015

In 1931, seventeen-year-old Jackie Mitchell, one of the first female pitchers in professional baseball, struck out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

posted 05/01/2015

The ancient Egyptians used melted beeswax to style their wigs.

posted 04/15/2015

The soundtrack for West Side Story, by Leonard Bernstein and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, spent 54 weeks at Number One in the Billboard chart (that’s 17 weeks longer than Michael Jackson’s Thriller).

posted 04/01/2015

In the 19th century amateur accomplishment in art were considered an advantageous social refinement for a girl. However, professional studies in life-drawing classes were feared to compromise a woman’s virtue by inflaming her passions and making her unfit as a wife and mother. It was even considered improper for women artists to draw undraped statuary in mixed company.

posted 03/15/2015

Viking women could inherit property, request a divorce, and reclaim their dowries if their marriages ended.

posted 03/01/2015

The Aztecs had something like chili powder, but the modern mixture was invented in the U.S., in the 1860s by an immigrant Englishman trying to create a substitute for curry powder.

posted 02/15/2015

In Elizabethan England eating meat during Lent carried a three-month prison sentence.

posted 02/01/2015

Yellow fever so devastated Philadelphia in 1793 that it lost its primacy as the main city of the young Union.

posted 01/15/2015

The Chinese were the first to import cloves, and no one could approach the Chinese emperor without first chewing cloves to clear his breath.

posted 01/01/2015

During the 18th century, the aristocracy lit their homes with chandeliers holding dozens of candles. This created a major fire hazard, as the wigs of the time, particularly for women, could reach anywhere from two to five feet in height.

posted 12/15/2014

19th century etiquette stated that a gentleman never offered a lady his arm during the daytime. However, in the evening it was appropriate for her to take his arm.

posted 12/01/2014

Gaius Marius, Roman general and seven times consul, created a pension for veterans in the form of an allotment of land to be given to legionaries at the time of their demobilization. He thus gave every legionary a prize to look forward to at the end of his service.

posted 11/15/2014

Only women who were over 30 and a householder got the right to vote in Britain in 1919, which meant women over 30 still living at home—and most unmarried women lived at home—or women in domestic service did not get the right to vote because they were not householders.

posted 11/01/2014

During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, when one entered the eating hall, someone would be standing there with a bowl of bread and a bowl of salt. Each diner ripped off a piece of bread, dipped it in the salt and ate it to turn away any bad spirits that might have followed them from the church graveyard.

posted 10/15/2014

In Chicago in 1893, the crime rate was so high that there was one arrest for every 11 residents, and there were eight times more murders than in Paris.

posted 10/01/2014

At the beginning of the 20th century, two out of every ten adults couldn’t read or write, and only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.

posted 09/15/2014

In ancient Greece, students wore sprigs of rosemary in their hair while they studied, because they believed rosemary stimulated cerebral circulation, thereby improving concentration and memory.

posted 09/01/2014

Before 1914 France’s air corps was larger than all the other air forces in the world put together. They had three-dozen planes, while Germany, Britain, Italy, Russia, Japan, and Austria had four planes each in their fleets. The United States only had two planes.

posted 08/15/2014

In Persia, high-heeled shoes were worn as a form of riding footwear, especially among the cavalry. When the soldier stood up in his stirrups, the heel helped him to secure his stance so that he could shoot his bow and arrow more effectively.

posted 08/01/2014

On July 5, 1946, French designer Louis Reard unveiled a daring two-piece swimsuit at a popular swimming pool in Paris. Parisian showgirl Micheline Bernardini modeled the new fashion, which Reard dubbed “bikini,” inspired by a news-making U.S. atomic test that took place off the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean earlier that week.

posted 07/15/2014

Ginger was the 1st Oriental spice to be transplanted in the New World, and ginger cookies had become so much a part of American food that by the time of the American Revolution, they formed part of the Continental Army’s rations.

posted 07/01/2014

Contrary to popular belief Victorian brides did not have to wear white. They could wear off white, ecru, dove grey, fawn silk, light blue, and light pink.

posted 06/15/2014

At an ancient Greek wedding feast the bride appeared covered in a veil from her head to her feet, while the groom had a choice to go nude or to wear a short chiton.

posted 06/01/2014

From the late 18th century to the early 20th century breadcrumbs were used to clean satin ballroom dancing slippers

posted 05/15/2014

The Battle of the Somme, which lasted from July until November, 1916, still remains one of the deadliest battles ever seen: almost half a million British soldiers were killed in this offensive—more even than throughout the course of the Second World War.

posted 05/01/2014

The first James Bond novel, Casino Royal, came out in 1953. It contained more descriptions of food than of killing people. For the British reading public still on food ration coupons, this was a great fantasy escape.

posted 04/15/2014

For much of history a bed was, for most homeowners, the most valuable thing they owned. During Shakespeare’s day, a decent canopied bed cost £5, half the annual salary of a typical schoolmaster.

posted 04/01/2014

Marriage at the turn of the 20th century was the power base from which a woman could take charge of her own life. Otherwise, she’d be trapped in her father’s home even though she could not claim a single brick of it.

posted 03/15/2014

Ancient Egyptian female brewers of beer were held in high esteem.

posted 03/01/2014

Victorian love letters did not end with ‘love,’ but more frequently simply with ‘ever your friend.’

posted 02/15/2014

One of the gods in the Viking pantheon was Ullr—the god of skiing.

posted 02/01/2014

Up until the mid-1800s, marshmallow candy was used medicinally. Doctors extracted juice from the roots of the marsh-mallow plant and cooked it with egg whites and sugar, then whipped it into a foamy meringue. This hardened, and the resulting candy soothed children’s sore throats. Eventually, advanced manufacturing processes replaced the root juice with gelatin, which eliminated any healing properties.

posted 01/15/2014

The First World War saw the first consistently safe blood transfusions.

posted 01/01/2014

In 1667, Paris became the first city in the world to light its streets, using wax candles in glass lamps. It was followed by Lille in the same year and Amsterdam two years later, where a much more efficient oil-powered lamp was developed. London didn’t join their ranks until 1684, but by the end of the century, more than 50 of Europe’s major towns and cities were lit at night.

posted 12/15/2013

In the early 20th century, coal was cheap, about 1 pound a ton, so burning a hundredweight of coal a day was quite the norm, and there were almost no regulations regarding pollution, either.

posted 12/01/2013

During the reign of James II of England, wigs became so large that it gave rise to the term “bigwig” for a wealthy or important person.

posted 11/15/2013

Ancient Roman political candidates powdered their togas with white chalk dust to make them appear more “pure.”

posted 11/01/2013

If a woman wanted to show off her legs in the early 19th century, she could appear at a transvestite ball, which were made popular in Russia by the Tsarina Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great. She personally organized a number of these balls at her winter palace in St. Petersburg. The gentlemen were required to wear false breasts, but the ladies were not required to wear false calves.

posted 10/15/2013

Nail polish as we know it came on the market in the 1920s. The development of automotive paint is accredited with providing the technology to create nail lacquer.

posted 10/01/2013

Until the mid-15th century, handwriting remained a specialized vocation mostly reserved for the church and the aristocratic classes.

posted 09/15/2013

In Five Points, New York’s immigrant area, only 9 out of 600 children attended school in 1870. Most immigrant children worked 18-hour days in a factory.

posted 09/01/2013

In 1419, 100 years before Magellan reached the Philippines, the Chinese mariner Zheng He led his famous “Treasure Fleet” to the Philippines and engaged in trade with the locals. This merchant fleet comprised thousands of crewmen sailing massive ships known as junks, some of which were so big they even carried enough topsoil to create floating farms.

posted 08/15/2013

In early 1950s Britain, less than 10% of households owned a car. By the end of the decade, 1 in 3 households had one.

posted 08/01/2013

The term “milkshake” was first used in print in 1885, and referred to an alcoholic whiskey drink that has been described as a “sturdy, healthful eggnog type of drink, with eggs, whiskey, etc., served as a tonic as well as a treat.”

posted 07/15/2013

One of the few physical requirements for joining the Continental army was that men had to have two teeth that met, so they could tear open the cartridge paper that was used to load a musket.

posted 07/01/2013

During the Middle Ages, the nobility had to have their overlord’s consent to marry, if they didn’t get permission they could be accused of “disloyal to the crown,” which meant execution.

posted 06/15/2013

In ancient Egypt, religion played no part marriage. Marriage was a purely civil affair.

posted 06/01/2013

Wallpaper was originally made from old rags. The maximum size of each sheet was only two feet or so, which meant that paper had to be joined with great skill and care. It wasn’t until 1802 that a machine was invented that could create continuous lengths of paper.

posted 05/15/2013

Thomas Chippendale was the first commoner for whom a furniture style was named; before him, the names faithfully recalled monarchies: Tudor, Elizabethan, Louis XIV, Queen Anne.

posted 05/01/2013

General Mills introduced Cheerios in 1941.

posted 04/15/2013

The image of servants in black uniforms in frilly caps, starched aprons, and the like actually reflects a fairly short-lived reality. Servants’ uniforms didn’t become routine until the rise of cotton imports in the 1850s. Before then, the quality of clothes worn by the upper classes was so instantly and visibly superior to that of working classes, that it wasn’t necessary to distinguish servants with uniforms.

posted 04/01/2013

During the mid 18th century, women’s wigs reached such heights that women traveling in a sedan chair or coach were forced to squat on the floor.

posted 03/15/2013

In ancient Rome, women were considered citizens. They could own property, businesses, and had control over their own monies, but they could not run for political office, vote, or represent themselves in a court of law.

posted 03/01/2013

The most popular car in 1950s Britain was the Morris Minor. It could do 0-50 in 30 seconds

posted 02/15/2013

Before the First World War, the tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower.

posted 02/01/2013

Smallpox was so-called to distinguish it from the great pox, or syphilis.

posted 01/15/2013

During the Middle Ages, it was thought that bathing opened the epidermal pores and encouraged deathly vapors to invade the body, thus causing the spread of plague. They thought the best way to combat the plague was to cover the pores with dirt, so for the next 600 years, most people didn’t wash or even get wet.

posted 01/01/2013

Kerosene, replacing whale oil as a luminant, proved “explosive as gunpowder.” In 1880, 39% of all New York fires were caused by defective lamps

posted 12/15/2012

A good candle provides barely a hundredth of the illumination of a single 100-watt lightbulb.

posted 12/01/2012

The term “middle class” was first coined in 1745. It first appeared in a book on the Irish wool trade.

posted 11/15/2012

Massachusetts passed a law in 1842 that stated, “Children under the age of 12 could not work more than a 10-hour day.”

posted 11/01/2012

Wigs were taken off as a matter of course before fisticuffs: hence the expression “keep your hair on.”

posted 10/15/2012

When the nobility of the Renaissance sat down to eat they was one plate and one cup for every two people, and even though they were provide with a two pronged fork, spoon, and knife, most elected to eat with their fingers.

posted 10/01/2012

At the beginning of the 20th century, Las Vegas, Nevada, had a population of 30.

posted 09/15/2012

During the Middle Ages anyone caught adulterating saffron was burned at the stake.

posted 09/01/2012

By the 19th century, it was routine to take beds apart at least once a year and paint them with disinfectant or varnish to get rid of bed bugs. Manufacturers often advertised how quickly their beds could be dismantled for this annual maintenance.

posted 08/15/2012

During the Renaissance, most people slept on the rushes strewn on the floor of the great hall. You knew you were the guest of honor if they left the table set up, so you could sleep above the rest of the vermin.

posted 08/01/2012

In ancient Greece the main prize for the winner of the Olympic Games was that he was fed for the rest of his life!

posted 07/15/2012

The breathalyzer made its first appearance in Britain in 1967.

posted 07/01/2012

Due to the physical aspects of marriage, the Medieval church felt it
unsuitable to exchange the wedding vows inside the sacred building, thus
marriages took place at the church porch.

posted 06/15/2012

There had to be at least 10 witnesses to the ancient Roman marriage
ceremony to make it legal.

posted 06/01/2012

In pre-Medieval times sheep were not shorn. The hair was plucked from
their bodies.

posted 05/15/2012

Saffron, cinnamon, and coriander were major components in ancient Greek
medicine.

posted 05/01/2012

The light inside a modern refrigerator gives off more illumination than was
enjoyed by most households in the 18th century.

posted 04/15/2012

During the Middle Ages, one lb. of pepper could pay an English laborer for
2 weeks of work, bribe an official, or secure a bride. It was a very good
dowry.

posted 04/01/2012

19th century corsets reduced a woman’s waist by four inches and exerted
anywhere from 25-80 pounds of pressure per square inch on her body.

posted 03/15/2012

Ancient Egyptian women were fortunate, because they were regarded as
totally equal to men as far as the law was concerned. They could own
property, borrow money, sign contracts, initiate divorce, and appear in court
as witnesses.

posted 03/01/2012

In Europe, before the mid-19th century, blue dye was extracted by boiling the
leaves of a plant in the mustard family called woad.

posted 02/15/2012

Kellogg introduced Rice Krispies in 1928.

posted 02/01/2012

In London in 1652, the first coffeehouse opened in a shed in St. Michael
Cornhill courtyard.

posted 01/15/2012

More people (3% of the world’s population) died in the 1918 influenza
pandemic than in both world wars combined.

posted 01/01/2012

During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance a salt cellar, which was a big
bowl of salt, was placed in the center of the table. If one was of the nobility,
one sat above the salt, and if one was of lower class, one sat below the salt.

posted 12/15/2011

At the end of the 19th century, the population of tramps in America
numbered 50,000, which was larger than Wellington’s army at Waterloo.

posted 12/01/2011

Gingerbread was first made on the ancient Greek island of Rhodes and was
spread throughout Europe by Roman soldiers.

posted 11/15/2011

Elbridge Gerry (1744-1814) was a delegate to the Continental Congress, a
signer of the Declaration of Independence, and a lifelong supporter of John
Adams. While Gerry was governor in 1812, he instituted the Republican
redistricting of Massachusetts to rearrange the state, so as to have more
Republican senators. This gave rise to the term “gerrymandering.”

posted 11/01/2011

During the 19th century, 50% of England’s population was “in domestic
service.”

posted 10/15/2011

The ancient Celts used the bagpipes as an instrument of war. It was very
effective in scaring their enemies off the battlefield.

posted 10/01/2011

On September 25, 1660, Samuel Pepys recorded in his diary the first
mention in English of anyone drinking a cup of tea.

posted 09/15/2011

To accommodate the place setting for a formal Victorian dinner, one needed
three feet of table space per guest.

posted 09/01/2011

Vodka wasn’t drunk much outside of Russia until the 1950s, when it caught
on as a mixer for cocktails.

posted 08/15/2011

The ancient Greeks invented the frying pan and so gave the world the first
fried foods.

posted 08/01/2011

The introduction of window screens in the 1880s was said to be the “most
humane contribution the 19th century made to the preservation of sanity and
good temper.”

posted 07/15/2011

Italians were the first Europeans to use Chinese black powder to
manufacture fireworks.

posted 07/01/2011

A dowry was provided by the bride’s father to compensate the future husband for the upkeep of his daughter.  Eventually this became the bride’s inheritance and was paid to the groom or his family.  It was usually returned if the groom was not satisfied with the bride.

posted 06/15/2011

A bride price is the money paid to the father by the groom to compensate for the loss of work his daughter does for the family.  This money was usually paid before the contract could be concluded.

posted 06/15/2011

In the 18th century, makeup was worn by both men and women.  That is why one embraced at a gathering, meaning having your neck kissed as a greeting.  Kissing of the lips was reckoned rude until the seduction was further along, and kissing cheeks wasn’t the mode, as it may rub off the paint.

posted 05/15/2011

In ancient Rome marriages did not take place in the month of May because that was the month they honored their dead.

posted 05/01/2011

During the Middle Ages monks were given 7 lashes for singing out of tune.

posted 04/15/2011

In England the Elizabethan nobility drank over forty million gallons of wine per year.

posted 04/01/2011

Clothing for a mid-Victorian woman weighed 200 pounds (the corset alone weighed 25 pounds).  This is why there were never any women survivors when the ship went down.

posted 03/15/2011

In 1840 the Coal Act was passed forbidding women to be used as pit ponies in the mines.

posted 03/01/2011

Katherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife, brought the Spanish fashion of eating salads with the main meal to England.

posted 02/15/2011

British Victorian nursemaids, who were often young girls, were so starved for affection that they often succumbed to “the scarlet fever,” a euphemism for falling for and being taken advantage of by a British soldier, whose uniform consisted of a scarlet-colored coat.

posted 02/01/2011

One tablespoon of paprika equals four lemons’ worth of vitamin C.

posted 01/15/2011

1,000,000 Chinese peasants died to build the Great Wall of China.

posted 01/01/2011

During the 1770’s wigs in Europe reached great heights—as much as 5 feet.  Constructed on a wire frame, flour was mixed with water for paste and was used to set the wigs in the current style.  The wigs contained built-in mouse traps for vermin control.

posted 12/15/2010

A single place setting for a Victorian formal dinner consisted of 33 pieces of silverware, 10 glasses, a salt cellar, a knife rest, a charger plate, a bread plate, a butter pat, a name card and holder, a printed menu and holder, a bone plate, and a nut cup.  All other china would be brought out with each course.

posted 12/01/2010

During the Middle Ages you could buy 7 oxen with 1 pound of nutmeg.

posted 11/15/2010

The favorite drinking game in ancient Greece was kottabos, which involved suspending a bronze disc horizontally halfway up a tall stand and placing a small metal target above it.  The idea was to drink a cup of wine, then use one of the handles of the cup to fling the dregs at the target.  If the target was hit, it dropped onto the bronze disc and made a bell-like noise.  If the target was missed, the dregs were flung all over the room

posted 11/01/2010

The ancient Celtic holiday of Samhain was held at the end of October and known as All Hallow’s E’en, hence we get the word Halloween.  The Celts believed that the veil between the worlds was very thin on that day.  To honor the dead they would leave offerings of food to nourish the spirits on their journey between worlds, so that they wouldn’t be stuck in this one.  This is why we offer candy to trick or treaters, so they won’t do property damage.

posted 10/15/2010

During the Elizabethan era the lower classes shifted their drinking habits from beer to ale.

posted 10/01/2010

The saffron crocus only blooms for 2 weeks in September when the stamen, which is also known as filaments or threads, is harvested

posted 09/15/2010

Roman soldiers were paid partly in salt, giving rise to the saying, “He’s not worth his salt.”

posted 09/01/2010

The British laid 5,000 miles of rails in less then twenty years, a fact that led to British railway workers being paid three times the wages of other railway workers.

posted 08/15/2010

The natives of the Caribbean Islands use allspice along with salt to preserve meat.  They call this preserved meat “boucan.”  Pirates who plied the waters of the Caribbean ate a lot of this preserved meat, hence they came to be called “boucaneers.”

posted 08/01/2010

The ancient Greeks invented the hibatchi, thus holding the first barbecue.

posted 07/15/2010

The first firecrackers are attributed to a Chinese monk named Li Tian, who in the 10th century put gunpowder into a hollowed piece of bamboo to drive away evil spirits from the city of Liu Yang.  This city became one of the world’s biggest producers of fireworks.

posted 07/01/2010