Last issue I related how there was a reign of terrorism in America in 1919 and 1920 that seemed to parallel events in the United States that took place in the 1990's; A "mad" letter bomber, and explosion of a federal building in Oklahoma City. In that article I related that the "mad" bomber turned out to be the U.S. Attorney General Mitchell Palmer. My source was from the book that's not in my american history book by Thomas Ayres. Several subscribers emailed me to state that the "mad" bomber was NOT Palmer. Most sent documentation to prove their point. Subscriber Chip sent me a PDF file of a newspaper article that gave further details of this event that established that Palmer was NOT the bomber.
Germ Warfare

When was germ warfare, the releasing of bacteria to cause harm or even death to victims, first utilized in a war? Vietnam war? Korean War? World War II? World War I? Spanish American war? I am not sure if this was the first use of germ warfare, but there was a germ warfare plot that was carried out by the Confederates near the end of the American Civil War.

The cause of yellow fever, now known as malaria, was unknown at the time, but it was believed it could be transmitted through contact with infected persons or their personal possessions. Dr. Luke Pryor Blackburn, a leading American authority on yellow fever who had won wide acclaim for his successful efforts in epidemic control, served as a Confederate agent in Canada during the war. When yellow fever broke out in Bermuda in April 1864, Blackburn went there and volunteered his services. He stayed until the disease abated in late October and received praise from the British authorities for his work.

Allegedly, Dr. Blackburn packed a number of trunks with infected clothing from diseased victims and shipped the trunks to Union-controlled New Bern, North Carolina. Coincidently, an epidemic broke out there at the same time that killed more than 2,000 from yellow fever. To the participants of the plot, this proved that the sending of infected clothes would work to disable Union forces. More trunks were filled with infected clothes and were sent to Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, and Norfolk to be sold as secondhand clothes. One trunk was also sent to Mary Todd Lincoln, President Abraham Lincoln's wife, in an effort to kill her.

The first news of this plot was revealed during the Lincoln assassination conspirators trial. Newspapers editorialized that the plot was an "outrage against humanity" and called Blackburn a "monster" and an "inhuman wretch." He was arrested in Canada, but was acquitted by a Canadian court in October 1865 because of lack of evidence. No further action was taken against Blackburn. Not until years later did scientists learn that yellow fever could be transmitted only by a type of mosquito.

While the history books claim that Blackburn hatched and carried out the plot, the scheme is inconsistent with Blackburn's humanitarian services before and after the war. He resumed his practice in Kentucky after the war, and was elected governor. His gravestone is inscribed "the Good Samaritan." While the yellow fever plot was carried out, history may never know if Dr. Blackburn was actually involved in the plot or not.


In the early 1980's I was visiting with an editor for a major New York City newspaper. Somehow, the topic of the most embarrassing moment came up. The editor related that shortly after the newspaper converted to utilizing computers to layout their daily newspaper, he was scheduled to give some sixth-graders a tour of the facility. He was proud to show the students the new computers used to layout each page of the newspaper. He clicked a button and there before the students was the entire front page of that day's newspaper displayed on a computer screen.

Next, the editor told me how excited he was to show the students how many tasks the computer could complete in a matter of seconds. He related to me that he told the students "Watch. I issue the command for the computer to replace the letter 'e' with the letter 't' on the entire front page." Seconds later the change was completed. When a student asked him to "change it back," the editor replied, "OK, I just issue the command to change all of the letter 't' to the letter 'e'... Uhh...!" He ordered one of his staff to make the corrections manually and continued with the tour. That same edition still carried a few typographical errors on the front page relating to the "e" and "t" problem after going to press.

October Brain Teaser

What is it that the buyer seldom, if ever, uses and the user seldom, if ever, sees it?

Answer: A coffin

November Brain Teaser

If the only sister of your mother's only brother has an only child, what would be your relationship to that child?

Answer: Next issue.

PS: If you make any money by winning bets on these brain teasers, a little commission would be nice :-)

Calling All Inventors!

The History Channel and Invent Now have announced they have joined forces in search of the nation's next great invention. They offer a contest for new inventors that will provide the training and tools necessary to become America’s next great inventor. The winner will receive a $25,000 grant. The winner, as well as four semi-finalists will have their invention featured during the History Channel's Modern Marvels "Invention Week" special that airs May 22-26, 2006. Twenty-five semi-finalists will have their invention ideas featured at a national exposition and be invited to attend a one-day invention seminar to help further develop their ideas. For more details, go to:
Worth Watching

There is a new reality series on television that is radically different than any other reality series past or present. The series airs on the NBC television network and is called "Three Wishes." It is telecast on Friday's at 9 PM Eastern time. At the beginning of each episode, the series crew sets up a tent in a small town center square. From there, people come in one at a time and make their wish known to the panel. (Only the wishes that are granted are shown.)

In one case, a man with cancer that had less than six months to live is thrown a major reunion party and many of his past friends were flown in for the event. The mortgage on his house was paid off and his three children, as well as his wife, were given collage scholarships - tuition AND books.

Another wish was made by a Little League coach whose team had not won any games yet. His wish was for his team members to receive specialized coaching. The team was taken to the Houston Astro Dome and coached by members of the Texas Rangers MLB team. In the final game of the season, while they still did not win, they only lost by one run.

A Quiz For Subscribers

I have prepared a short test for subscribers. While no prizes are offered, I'm confident you will have fun taking it. Download the test, print it out, then take the test. See how well you follow directions.

TEACHER'S NOTE: Even though the test is copyrighted, you may make as many copies of the test as you want so you can give your students the test without paying any royalties. Just keep the copyright notice intact.

SUBSCRIBER'S NOTE: Feel free to make copies of the test and have your spouse, children, friends, etc. take the test. Just leave the copyright notice intact.

October Contest

QUESTION: Only one American has been twice elected Vice-President of the United States AND twice elected the President of the United States. Who was he?

ANSWER: Richard Nixon.

Sixty people entered the contest. Thirty-two were disqualifed due to an incorrect subject heading, incorrect answer, or did not indicate which ONE prize they wanted if they won. Four people submitted their entry after the deadline. This left twenty-four people still eligible to win. From these twenty-four people, six were selected as winners. Four of the prizes went unclaimed as no one selected one of those four prizes to win.

It never ceases to amaze me how many people don't even read the contest rules before they enter. I am still receiving lots of contest entries with "Alternate question answer," "Re: October Newsletter." "Answer to question," etc. as subject headlings. Some people are submitting the answer to the current issues's brain teaser rather than the alternate question in their entry. There always seems to be a few whose entry was not selected to win asking why they didn't win when their subject heading and answer was correct. (Winners are selected at random from correct entries. Not everyone with the correct subject heading and correct answer wins.) There was one entry to the October contest that sent ONE email answering the brain teaser question, alternate question AND an essay of why they wanted to win. Another answered the alternate question and selected to win the grand prize. PLEASE READ THE RULES BEFORE ENTERING! If you don't follow the rules, you won't win.

The October contest winners were:
  • Michael Neft - Pennsylvania
  • Gloria Kennedy Fleck - Rhode Island
  • Jerry Torres - California
  • Patricia Dufour - Illinois
  • Tom Rowley - California
  • Margie Maxfield - Texas

This Issue's Question

To enter the Grand Prize Contest, send by email an essay of not more than 75 words relating why you want to win it. One grand prize will be awarded. DO NOT answer the alternate question in this email.

To enter the Alternate Contest, answer the question below and indicate which ONE prize you want if you win. (Only one of each is available.)

Alternate Contest Question: Who was the first American president of the United States to wear a beard while president? (Hint: Of the next nine elected presidents, only one was clean shaven.)

Contest Rules

  • Contest entry deadline is Thursday, November 17, 2005. Later entries will be disqualified. Winners will be notified by email within 24 hours after the contest deadline. Winners' names and states will be published in the next issue of the newsletter.

  • Subscribers may enter both contests, but can only win one prize.

  • To enter either contest, email your essay or answer to

  • If entering for the Grand Prize, enter "Contest Entry Grand Prize" for the subject heading. Include ONLY your essay and NOT the answer to the alternate contest question. (Only one grand prize is available.)

  • If entering for any of the alternate contest prizes, enter "Contest Entry" for the subject heading and answer the Alternate Contest Question.

  • If entering both contests, send separate emails.

  • Entries with prize desires such as "any prize is OK," "any of the historic newspapers" etc. will be disqualified. You MUST select ONE prize.

  • From subscribers entering the Grand Prize contest and submitting an essay of NOT MORE THAN 75 words in length, correct subject heading, and submission received by the deadline, will be considered for winning. All other Grand Prize entries will be disqualified.

  • From subscribers entering the alternate contest, submitting the correct answer, correct subject heading, submission received by the deadline, as well as advising which ONE alternate contest prize they want to win, NINE will be selected to win ONE of the alternate contest prizes below.

  • Subscribers to this newsletter that won a prize in my trivia contests in the last 90 days are ineligible to win.

Grand Prize
(One winner will be selected)

American Civil War Archive
Archive consists of the following:
  • Original New York Times newspaper dated July 11, 1862 with front page coverage of Lincoln's visit to the James River as well as coverage of the Battle of Mechanicsville that includes a list of those who died in the battle.

  • Set of reproduction Confederate coinage

  • Set of reproduction Confederate currency

Alternate Contest Prizes
(Only one of each offered)

The Jackie Robinson Story (1950)
Starring Jackie Robinson as himself

Little House on the Prairie
There's No Place Like Home - 2 hour movie

VHS Video
John Glenn An American Legend
Over one hour documentary

VHS Video
TV Land Trivia Game
Where the stars ask the questions

Original Historic Newspapers

Original New England Galaxy historic newspaper from 1826

Original New-York Observer historic newspaper from 1836

Original The Union (Washington, DC) historic newspaper from 1847

Original The Daily Express historic newspaper dated September 29, 1865

Original The Public Ledger historic newspaper from 1895
That's it for this issue.

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