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The Siege That Gave Birth to the Croissant

Many people think that the croissant derived from the French. It didn't. Rather, it came about in a strange way and actually originated in Austria. The popular pastry dates back to 1683. Its origin begins with the Ottoman Turks attacking the city of Vienna. They surrounded the city for months and its residents feared that any day the Ottoman Turks would finally break into their city.

At some point the Ottoman Turks began digging a tunnel under the wall surrounding the city. They did their tunneling at night when most of the residents were asleep. This way they could catch the residents off guard. However, not everyone slept at night. The bakers did their craft during the night so that their pastries could be enjoyed fresh the first thing in the morning. The bakers heard strange clanking noises several nights in a row and reported this to the city officials. With this advance warning, the soldiers were ready for the Ottoman Turks. The Turks were met by hundreds of Vienna soldiers at the tunnel exit and were captured without a fight.

Bakers, in observance of the final freedom of the city, instead of shaping their pastry round like a muffin or biscuit, rolled it in to a crescent shape like the image on the Ottoman Turk flag. They did it as a memorial to remind people of how they outfoxed the enemy. It became a staple, and bakers continued to make their pasty in that shape. They named it Kipfel, which was German for crescent.

Let's hear it for the baking profession!

Simply Amazing

Most Christians are at least familiar with the hymn Amazing Grace. It is a staple among Christian hymns. How it came about to be written is quite a fascinating story.

In the 1740's John Newton was a captain of his own slave ship. He made his living by buying and selling slaves. On May 10, 1748, a bad storm began that tossed and turned his ship like a cork in wavy water. Up to this point Newton had not been a religious man. After several days of the storm, Newton finally began praying for his life. For several minutes he continued asking God to spare his life. All of a sudden, the skies cleared and the storm disappeared. He promised to devote the rest of his life to God.

Newton got out of the slave trafficking business and became a minister. He often gave lectures about the evils of slavery and became an avowed abolitionist. Within a few years he tried his hand at writing a hymn. The song told of his amazing reformation while at sea. The hymn was named Amazing Grace. Go back and read the lyrics of the song again. Look closer. You will see that it is the story of his ordeal at sea that changed his life - and eventually millions of others.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
An Old Geezer Rambles About His Travels

I just got back from a 2,514 mile vacation. I toured primarily Tennessee, Kentucky, and southern Indiana historical sites relating to Abraham Lincoln. I shot nearly 1,000 photos from my digital camera and almost 2 hours of video. This may sound like a lot of photos but most of them were for panoramas of the historical sites. To do one panorama it takes either 96 or 120 photos, depending on circumstances, to effectively produce a 360 degree panorama. I shot panoramas of the Andrew Johnson homestead, Andrew Johnson Memorial and grave site. the Lincoln Birthplace memorial, the Thomas Lincoln farm in Hodgenville, Kentucky, the boyhood home of Lincoln at Knob Creek, Kentucky, plus video of the interior of Andrew Johnson's home and 4 different caves in southern Indiana. (OK, the caves have nothing to do with Lincoln. Thanks to subscriber Roger Pollard for the heads up about the Marengo Cave.) Over the next several weeks I will be editing the images to produce the panoramas and videos and place the results on HistoryBuff.com. Through this newsletter I will keep you updated on the progress.

On this trip I encountered a curious situation. While at the visitor center for the Andrew Johnson Homestead in Greeneville, Tennessee, I noticed what appeared to be a married couple, each on a separate motorcycle, and likely in their seventies. The wife walked into the visitor center and asked the park ranger if she had a brochure for the homestead that she could have. The park ranger handed her a brochure then asked the woman if she would like to tour the homestead. The woman replied no because she and her husband had made a bet with someone that they could visit fifty historical sites in at least 25 states in 30 days. Thus, they didn’t have the time to take the tour. The brochure was their proof that they had actually been there. The couple then left on their motorcycles off to who knows where? More power to the couple to take such a venture, but not “bother” to actually see any of the sites while they were there? To me, it would be the same thing if someone were driving down the Los Angeles freeway, took the Anaheim exit, then drove into the Disneyland parking lot, turned around and went back to claim they had been to Disneyland. Strange, very strange.

This was my first true vacation in 26 years. The last one was in the summer of 1980. At the hospital where I worked at the time, I had 6 weeks paid vacation coming and took them all at once. Luckily, the last paycheck before going on vacation also included the entire vacation pay. Thus, I had the money to travel. (This was before direct deposits, ATM/MAC or debit cards.) I spent the entire 6 weeks touring out west with four kids ranging in age from 9 to 15 years old. I set several personal records on the trip.

1) I left for vacation at midnight directly after getting off work on a Friday. (I worked the afternoon shift then.) We arrived in Salt Lake City Sunday morning - 34 hours to go 1,600 miles and I was the only driver! Also, this was when the speed limit was only 55 MPH. (Even now I prefer to make a long haul to start and end the vacation. Then in between shorter hops of only a couple hundred miles each.)

2) Upon arriving in Salt Lake City, we checked into a motel and I slept for nearly 12 hours. Monday morning we headed for the Uinta mountains outside of Salt Lake City to camp. Even though it was the end of June, due to the high elevation, it was only 14 degrees and there was some snow on the ground. We decided that we wouldn’t stay and camp there in a tent due to the cold weather. We left the mountains at about 9 PM and I drove all night and we arrived in Las Vegas 12 hours later. The temperature there was 114 degrees. Thus in 12 hours we experienced a temperature change of 100 degrees! We all came down sick with colds as a result.

3) On this same vacation, on my return trip it took me just 50 hours to drive from Los Angeles to Lansing, Michigan, a distance of 2,300 miles - Again I was the only driver.*

* I am unable to make those kind of long drives now. Back then I had more pep and resistance - and less sense.

Announcing New HistoryBuff.com Contest

Treasure Chest

Each issue will contain a new clue to what the answer is. The answer can be either a person, place, or thing that relates to American history. The first with the correct answer will win the Treasure Chest prize. (See below.)

Contest Rules

1) To enter the Treasure Chest contest, send an email to help@historybuff.com with your answer to the contest.

2) The email with your Treasure Chest contest entry should contain "Treasure Chest Contest" as the subject line.

3) Only one guess per subscriber for each newsletter issue.

4) Failure to follow the above three rules will result in the entry being disqualified for that issue.

5) The contest ends when the first subscriber with the correct answer is submitted. Thus, the contest could remain active for several issues.

Treasure Chest Prize

Multi-format Player

  • Includes Wireless Remote Control
  • Component, S-Video, & Composite Outputs
  • Stereo Audio and Coaxal Digital Audio Ports

    DVD Movies

  • Ten different classic movies on DVD

    $20 Credit For HistoryBuffAuction

  • Bid on what you want from the auction - Up to $20*
  • To see examples visit http://www.historybuffauction.com/auction.cgi

    * In the event that the winner is under 18 years of age, the credit will be issued to the parent or guardian for bidding purposes.


    1) I was born/made in England.

    June Brain Teaser

    A woman shoots her husband. Then she holds him under water for over 5 minutes. Finally, she hangs him. But 5 minutes later they both go out together and enjoy a wonderful dinner. How can this be?

    Answer: The woman was shooting photos of her husband, placed the prints in developing solution, then hung the prints to dry.

    July Brain Teaser

    You have observed that if you throw a tennis ball against a wall, it will stop and return to you. Simple. But how would you throw the same ball so it would completely stop, reverse itself and return to you even though it has hit nothing and is connected to nothing?

    Answer: Next issue. (No prizes offered for correct answer.)

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

    June Contest

    GRAND PRIZE QUESTION: Only one President of the United States WAS NOT inaugurated on the day set by law. He was inaugurated the next day instead. Which president was it and why was the inauguration delayed?

    GRAND PRIZE ANSWER: When I wrote this question I had Zachary Taylor in mind. However, I have since learned that three other presidents had the same situation: Ronald Reagan, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Thus I considered all 4 of these presidents as correct.

    ALTERNATE PRIZE QUESTION: In what year was the first United States census taken?

    ANSWER: 1790.

    Sixty-eight people entered the contests. Forty-two people either had the incorrect subject heading or the wrong answer to the question. One prize went unclaimed.
    The June contest winners were:
    • Christopher Bosch - Maryland
    • David Doshier - Texas
    • Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld - Connecticut
    • Lindsay Wood - California
    • Richard S. Weiss - Rhode Island
    • Mary McLain - South Carolina
    • Gerald Oehler - Minnestoa
    • Susan Maynor - North Carolina

    This Issue's Question

    To enter the Grand Prize Contest, answer the question: There has only been one person that served as President of the United States AND Supreme Court Justice. Who was he?

    To enter the Alternate Contest, answer the question: From what country did the United States purchase what would become the state of Alaska?

    Contest Rules

    • Contest entry deadline is Monday, July 17, 2006. 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 both 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.

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

    • From subcribers 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)

    • DVD with entire first season of the USA network's science fiction series.
    • T-Shirt with 4400 logo on the front. Size XL.
    Alternate Contest Prizes
    Alternate Contest Prizes (Only one of each offered)

    The Jackie Robinson Story DVD
    Jackie Robinson plays himself

    Classic Country
    Music CD: 30 songs by:

  • Kenny Rogers
  • Willie Nelson
  • Lynn Anderson
  • Freddy Fender
  • TG Sheppard
  • Donna Fargo
  • Johnny Paycheck
  • Patsy Cline
  • Plus Others!

  • History Channel/A&E
    Tote Bag - Canvas

    CD ROM Game
    Axis & Allies
    The Ultimate WWII Strategy Game
    Original Historic Newspapers

    Original Boston Recorder historic newspaper from 1830

    Original New Hamshire Patriot & State Gazette historic newspaper from 1853

    Original The Daily Express historic newspaper from September 1865

    Original The News and Courier historic newspaper from 1889
    That's it for this issue.

    Rick Brown

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