HistoryBuff.com August 2011 Newsletter
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The Funny Side of Newspapers

As a newspaper collector, I have come across lots of newspapers with funny headlines or content. Here are a few of my favorites:

In a 1768 American newspaper, the back page had a small ad offering a reward. In that era the were many indentured servants that ran away from their "owners." (An indentured servant was a person that willingly agreed to work for a craftsman with only room and board for payment. It was this method that they could learn a trade to support themselves after the contract expired.) I started reading the ad and it related that a man's wife had run off with a salesman. The ad went on to give a description of his wife and of the salesman; weight, height, color of hair, etc. Then at the bottom it offered the following reward: "5 pence reward for information leading to her whereabouts, or a 5 pound reward if you keep her." (Remember, we were still on British currency then.)

Another favorite of mine appeared on the front page of a rural newspaper from the late 1960s. The top half of the front page was a headline "40 Chickens Stolen From Local Farmer" as well an article giving details. What made this front page funny was what was on the lower half of the page. The headline was: "Scout Troop to Host Chicken Dinner."

Sometimes I have to wonder if the editor chose the correct words for their headlines:

Grandmother of eight makes hole in one
Deaf mute gets new hearing in killing
Police begin campaign to run down jaywalkers
House passes gas tax onto senate
Stiff opposition expected to casketless funeral plan
Two convicts evade noose, jury hung
William Kelly was fed secretary
Milk drinkers are turning to powder
Safety experts say school bus passengers should be belted
Iraqi head seeks arms
Queen Mary having bottom scraped
NJ judge to rule on nude beach
Squad helps dog bite victim
Dealers will hear car talk at noon
Enraged cow injures farmer with ax
Lawmen from Mexico barbecue guests
Miners refuse to work after death
Two Soviet ships collide - one dies
Two sisters reunite after eighteen years at checkout counter
Nicaragua sets goal to wipe out literacy
Drunk drivers paid $1,000 in 1984
Autos killing 110 a day, let's resolve to do better
If strike isn't settled quickly it may last a while
War dims hope for peace
Smokers are productive, but death cuts efficiency
Cold wave linked to temperatures
Child's death ruins couple's holiday
Man is fatally slain
Something went wrong in jet crash, experts say
Death causes loneliness, feeling of isolation


A Unique Disaster in American History

Disasters such as, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornados, volcano eruptions, snow blizzards, ice storms, large fires, and many others are quite common. There is one disaster that took place in Boston in 1919 that is very likely the only one of its kind.

In 1919, a 58-foot-high, 90 feet wide cast iron tank loomed over Boston's North End. The tank held 2.2 million gallons of molasses and burst, sending a tsunami of the sticky liquid down Commercial Street at 35 miles-per-hour, destroying houses, commercial buildings and a part of the elevated railroad. Chunks of metal flew everywhere, piercing into people and buildings for hundreds of feet around.

The burst tank sent out a blast of air that pushed people away. But seconds later a counterblast rushed in to fill the vacuum and pulled them back in. However, most of the damage was caused by the molasses itself. It splashed onto city streets in all directions, speeding faster than a man could run.

Envision a disaster scene with smashed buildings, overturned vehicles, drowned and crushed victims, and terrified survivors running away covered in molasses. Like the modern-day disasters with which we are unfortunately familiar, there was chaos, terror, buildings in ruins, victims to be dug out, trapped survivors to be rescued, rescue workers among the victims, and anguished families rushing to relief centers to find their relatives. It was like any horrible disaster scene, with the addition that everything was covered in smelly, sticky brown molasses. The molasses smashed freight cars, plowed over homes and warehouses and drowned both people and animals. A three story house was seen soaring through the air as well as a huge chunk of the shattered vat that landed in a park 200 feet away.

Rescuers were bogged down in the stuff and were scarcely able to move as the molasses sucked the boots right off their feet. The dark brown sticky stuff filled cellars for blocks around and it took months for it to be pumped out. Salt water had to be sprayed on cobblestone streets, homes, and other buildings because fresh water would not remove the stuff. For months afterwards, wherever people walked, their shoes stuck to the goop. Some people claimed that on a hot day one could still smell molasses even after thirty years.

Imagine, if you will, a genealogist finding a death certificate for a relative that died in Boston in 1919, and the cause of death was "Asphyxiation by molasses." Wouldnít that throw them for a loop?

Toy Car Saves 6 Soldier's Lives

Although past issues of this newsletter related little-known incidents in American history, hereís an incident that happened last week. I think youíll agree it is quite remarkable.

Staff Sgt. Christopher Fessenden is stationed in Afghanistan. His brother sent him a remote controlled truck with a video camera mounted on top to help ease the tension. A small monitor is mounted to his rifle. Little did anyone know that this little innocent toy would become the key to saving lives.

Fessenden loaned the remote control truck to a group of fellow soldiers, who used it to check the road ahead of them on a patrol. It got tangled in a trip wire connected to what Fessenden guesses could have been 500 lbs. of explosives. The bomb went off. The six soldiers controlling the truck from their Hummer were unhurt. Fessenden said the little truck has successfully found four IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) since he received it.

This toy vehicle with a wireless camera mounted on it has a price tag of $500. I think that most people would find it worth the price since it saves multiple lives on each mission.

Second Mini-Documentary Now on YouTube.

I have completed and uploaded to YouTube the second mini-documentary in my series of twelve untold tales in American history. This one centers on Teddy Roosevelt. Did you know that Teddy Roosevelt saved the game of football? Without his intervention, football would likely have died and not played today! Also, Roosevelt gave a speech that saved his life. If he had no given that speech, how too would have died. You may view it at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SB4iHEXoIDY


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July Contest

CONTEST ONE QUESTION: In the few years preceding the American Revolution, the city of Boston was a powder keg just waiting to explode. In March of 1770, some British troops responded to a snowball attack by local young men by firing back, killing five colonists. What was the name given to this historical event?

ANSWER: Boston Massacre

CONTEST TWO QUESTION: Christopher Columbus' voyage to the Americas in 1492 opened up a new era in world history. What country sponsored his expedition?

ANSWER: This answer actually has two different answers. Most history books state that Spain sponsored Columbus. In reality, it was the Crown of Castile. I accepted either answer correct.

Ninety-four people entered the contests. Five entries were disqualified due to an incorrect subject heading. Another thirty people failed to select a prize if they won so were disqualified. Two people sent their entry after the dealine. All prizes were awarded.

The July Contest Winners Were:
  • Marc Slutsky - Florida
  • Mike Genovese - New York
  • Bob Hartje - Indiana
  • Raymond S. Shelton - New Mexico
  • Linda Evans - Wisconsin
  • Carl G. DalBon - Connecticut

This Issue's Questions:

To enter Contest One, answer the question:

Four governors of New York went on to be elected president of the United States. Which ones?

To enter Contest Two, answer the question: Of the fifty United States, only one does not have a National Park. Which one?

Contest Rules

  • Contest entry deadline is Wednesday, August 17, 2011. Later entries will be disqualified. Winners will be notified by email within 72 hours after the contest deadline. Winners' names and states will be published in the next issue of the HistoryBuff.com newsletter.

  • To enter Contest One or Contest Two, email your answer to curator at historyreference.org

  • To enter Contest One, use "Contest One Entry" for the emailed contest entry subject heading and answer the Contest One question. Any other subject heading will be disqualified.

  • To enter Contest Two, use "Contest Two Entry" for the emailed contest entry subject heading and answer the Contest Two question. Any other subject heading will be disqualified.

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

  • If entering both contests, entries must be sent in separate emails.

  • If answering the Contest One question, select your prize from the Contest One prize list.

  • If answering the Contest Two question, select your prize from the Contest Two prize list.

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

  • Subscribers to this newsletter that won a prize in my trivia contests in the last 90 days are ineligible to win.
August Contest One Prize List
(Select ONE of the two prizes below if entering Contest One)

Collection of 20 Western movies

John Wayne, Alan Ladd, Chuck Connors,
James Cann, Jack Palance and more

WWII Souvenir Satin Pillow Cover

Camp Adair, Oregon

August Contest Two Prize List

(Select ONE of the prizes below if entering Contest Two)

New-York Weekly Tribune historic newspaper from 1851

The Independant (New York) historic newspaper from 1861

National Daily Republican historic newspaper from 1871

Original Coldwater Republican (Michigan) historic newspaper from 1877
That's it for this issue.

Rick Brown

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