January 2007

The Day George Washington Got Hoodwinked

The first recorded circus in America was produced by John Ricketts and appeared in Philadelphia on April 3, 1793. This first circus was not held inside a tent. Rather, it was held in a small building known by locals as the “Circus Building.” In fact, this is where the term “circus” originated from. The first circus consisted of some show horses that did tricks, tight rope dancers, and a clown. George Washington saw this same circus twice. Once on April 22, 1793, and the other on January 24, 1797. Shortly after seeing the circus the second time, John Ricketts expressed desire that he wanted to purchase George Washington’s horse named Jack. At first, Washington declined, but when Ricketts upped the amount to $150, Washington gladly accepted the offer. (This the average farmer earned $25 a year if they were lucky in this era.) Since his horse was old and getting weaker, no doubt Washington thought he was quite a horse trader. Imagine Washington’s surprise when he read an ad in the New York Gazette dated April 29, 1797 that stated “The celebrated horse Jack, who was in the American War with George Washington and presented to Mr. Ricketts, will make his first appearance in the circus this evening.”

In selling the horse to Ricketts, George Washington was under the impression that Ricketts would try to teach Jack to do some tricks for his show. It wasn’t until he read the ad that he realized that he had been hoodwinked. Due to this sole purchase, Ricketts’ circus flourished and Ricketts made thousands of dollars from people paying their pennies and nickels to see “the horse that won the war." P. T. Barnum would be proud!

Some Clarifications

This Newsletter and SPAM

Several subscribers sent me emails relating that there was a simple solution to subscribers not receiving their newsletter due to being rejected as SPAM - just add help@historybuff.com to their white list, acceptable to receive email from list, or buddies list. Others suggested that all subscribers needed to do was to look in their SPAM box for the newsletter. Unfortunately, these are not the answer to the problem. The solution is much more complicated.

The first attempts to help control SPAM email was a software program that the individuals (or Service Providers) purchased to act as a SPAM filter. Points are added for each of the following:

  • If the email is in HTML format

  • If the email contains any attachments or images

  • If any of the following words are contained within the email

    • Contest, Winner, Bid, Make money, prize, as well as scores of other key words
If there are enough points, the email automatically goes to the SPAM box in the email program that is being used. This format of SPAM filtering has been used for several years but has quickly become outdated. However, it is still used by some.

The next stage in attempts to control SPAM was for a company to compile a blacklist of Web addresses known to be SPAMMERS. All emails sent from Web addresses on the blacklists are automatically rejected as SPAM. The problem with this format is that SPAMMERS rarely use their own Web address to send their emails. Often they forge other Web addresses as being sent from. HistoryBuff.com was on several of these blacklists due to these forgers.

SPAM is so far out of control now that at least one source claims that 92.6% of all emails being sent are SPAM. (To read the entire article go to http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/6198113.stm) SPAM is not only a problem for individuals, but more so for Service Providers. With so much email coming through their hardware at one time (remember up to 92.6% of emails are SPAM) it often crashes. The latest attempt to control SPAM that some Service Providers utilize is a program that automatically detects ALL email sent out in bulk - for example the same email message sent to thousands of PeoplePC subscribers at the same time - are automatically not delivered. The subscriber never sees it.

In my attempt to go around this automatic rejection of all bulk emails, I have taken two steps:

1) I am no longer sending the newsletter in the body of the email. Instead, a Web URL to read the current issue online will be sent to subscribers when it is ready. The last issue was purposely not sent in HTML format. Thus, the URL was not a hotlink - receivers had to do a copy and past of the URL. With each newsletter I normally receive 300-400 bounce backs that were returned because they were rejected as SPAM. The last issue I only had 4 SPAM bounce backs. This issue I made the URL a hotlink to test and see if I still have very few SPAM bounce backs. If I receive several hundred SPAM bounce backs for this issue I will have to not use HTML to make the URL a hotlink in future notifications.

2) I paid someone to add a subroutine to my bulk emailing program. With this new addition, say for example, if there are 200 subscribers from AOL, the new routine only sends 20 or so at a time and spaced out. Hopefully, this will let more of my newsletters actually be received.

The Monthly Contests and Winners

Some subscribers sent me an email noting that since three prizes went unclaimed in the last contest, and they had the correct answer, why they didn’t win? Here is the process that is used to determine winners:

As contest entries come in, they are sorted/moved to specific mail folders. If they had the incorrect subject heading, incorrect answer, or did not specify the one prize they wanted if they won, these are moved to a folder named “Errors.” Each prize is also made a folder. If all is correct, each entry is moved to the folder with the prize they wanted if they won. After the contest deadline, I open each folder and select one as a winner. In some cases, I select the first entry as the winner. For another prize I select the last one to enter. Yet others I select a winner from the middle of the entries. Which format I use to select a winner is entirely random for each folder.

The reason I require that entrants select one prize to win is so that, if they won, they would receive a prize they actually wanted. What good would it be to select a winner and then decide to send them a DVD for the prize when it may be they don’t have a DVD player or just don’t like the movie on it? Or award them a computer game if they don’t play them? This is why I require that entries must have a prize selected by them if they win. If a prize goes unclaimed it is because no one selected it for the prize if they won. (Sometimes I even receive emails wanting to know that since they had the correct answer, why they didn’t win!)

The breakdown of all entries for the December newsletter contest is as follows: One-hundred-forty-one subscribers entered the alternate prize contest. Two of the prizes received seventy-six entries combined. There were thrity-one entries with errors and did not qualify to win. Seventeen selected one of the prizes offered. Two of the prizes received eight requests. One prize only one person asked for so he was an automatic winner of that prize.

Prize selection by entrants can be fickle. For example, one prize offered a few issues back did not receive any entries that wanted it at the time. In the December issue eight people selected it if they won.

I have also been asked if subscribers outside the United States are eligible to win. Yes, as long as the prize is not too heavy due to the extra shipping costs that would be involved. A book, for example, costs me about $20 to mail to Europe. A newspaper or DVD costs under $5 to ship.

Beta Testers Wanted
Over the summer I shot twenty-four panoramas of various historical sites related to Abraham Lincoln in Kentucky, Tennesee, Indiana, and Illinois. Sixteen of these will be available on HistoryBuff.com in the next few months. Before final formatting of all the panoramas and uploading to the server, I would like to test one of them for compatibility for a number of people. All panoramas will require a plug-in and, if your computer you are using is less than 3 years old, it should already have these plug-ins already installed. If you would like to participate in the testing, send me an email at help@historybuff.com with "Beta Tester" as the subject. Thanks in advance.
December Brain Teaser

There is one in a minute and two in a moment, but only one in a million years. What is it?

Answer: The letter "M."

This issues' brainteaser: Your aged grandmother tells you she was born on February 29, 1900. How old is she as of the date you are doing this puzzle?

Answer next issue. (No prizes offered for correct answer.)

New Book of Interest to History Buffs
Days of Valor

An Inside Account of the Bloodiest Six Months of the Vietnam War
By RobertL. Tonsetic
In the book, the reader enters a nonstop maeistrom of combat action, leaving he or she nearly breathless by the end. The human courage and carnage described in these pages resonates through the centuries, from Borodino to the Bulge, but the focus here is on the Vietnam War, and the unique unit formed to take part at its height. The 199th Light Infantry Brigade was created from three U. S. infantry battallions of long lineage, as a fast reaction force for the U. S. to place in Indochina.

Days of Valor covers the height of the Vietnam War, from the nervous period just before Tet, through the defeat of that offensive, to the highly underwritten yet equally bloody NVA counteroffensive launched in May 1968.

The book ends with a brief note about the 199th LIB being deactivated in spring 1970, furling its colors after suffering 753 dead and some 5,000 wounded. The brigade had only been a temporary creation, designed for one purpose. Though its heroism is now a matter of history, it should remain a source of pride for all Americans. This fascinating book will help remind us.

The book can be ordered online from Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com

January Contest

GRAND PRIZE QUESTION: There were six men credited with helping raise the flag on Iwo Jima in World War II. What were their names?


1) John Bradley
2) Ira Hayes
3) Franklin Sousley
4) Michael Strank
5) Harlon Block
6) Rene Gagnon

ALTERNATE PRIZE QUESTION: What woman, due to her actions during the American Civil War, became known as the "angel of mercy" and founded the American Red Cross?

ALTERNATE PRIZE ANSWER: Clara Barton - Although Florence Nightingale was also referred to as being an "angel of mercy," it was Clara Barton that founded the Red Cross.

Ninety-three people entered the contests. Twenty-eight people either had the incorrect subject heading or the wrong answer to the question. Only one prize went uclaimed.
The January contest winners were:
  • Mike Fleming - Flordia
  • Karen Duld - Pennsylvania
  • Maria Yarber - Texas
  • J.R. Bouma - The Netherlands
  • Bruce Wheeler - Ohio
  • Grace Wolfe - Idaho

This Issue's Question

To enter the Grand Prize Contest, answer the question: Who was the first child born in America of English parents?

To enter the Alternate Contest, answer the question: There are only two United States presidents that are buried in Arlington National Cemetery; Name both.

Contest Rules

  • Contest entry deadline is Thursday, February 15, 2007. 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 HistoryBuff.com newsletter.

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

  • To enter either contest, email your answer to help@historybuff.com.

  • If entering for the Grand Prize, enter "Contest Entry Grand Prize" for the subject heading.

  • If entering for alternate prize contest, enter "Contest Entry" for the subject heading.

  • Alternate contest entries with prize desires such as "any prize is OK," "any of the historic newspapers" etc. will be disqualified. You MUST select ONE prize. The Grand Prize is considered as only one prize.

  • If entering both contests, send separate emails.

  • 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, SIX will be selected to win ONE of the alternate contest prizes below.

  • From subscribers entering the Grand Prize contest, one will be selected to win the prize from those submitting the correct subject heading, correct answer, and by the deadline.

  • 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)


    Days of Valor
    An Inside Account of the Bloodiest Six Months of the Vietnam War
    By RobertL. Tonsetic

Alternate Contest Prizes
Alternate Contest Prizes (Only one of each offered)

Wonder Toons Volume 3 (1960's)
Popeye, Deputy Dawg, Casper & More

The Jackie Robinson Story
Jackie Robinson plays himself!

Original Historic Newspapers

Original New-York Spectator historic newspaper from 1832

Original New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette historic newspaper from 1868

Original New York Herald historic newspaper from 1870

Original Salem Gazette historic newspaper from 1879
That's it for this issue.

Rick Brown

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