HistoryBuff.com June 2008 Newsletter
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War is Hell - Or Sometimes Good!

Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman is credited with the quote "War is Hell." While there are many downsides to any war, in some cases the technology invented to aid in winning the war was ultimately used after the war for non-military purposes by the public to improve life.

One such example is "night writing." French Captain Charles Barbier, in the early 1800s, tried to develop a method military officers could use to read messages and orders in the dark while in battle. Lighting a torch, or even a match, to have enough light to read the message could very well alert the enemy to their whereabouts. Barbier developed a method of reading in the dark he called "night writing." The system consisted of a series of 12 raised dots, each arranged in a different pattern for various sounds in the language.

To test the system out, he found a 13-year-old blind boy and taught him how the system worked. The boy struggled to learn the system but ultimately failed. It was just too complicated to learn. Barbier gave up on further development of his "night writing" system. The boy, however, did not give up. Rather, he spent 2 years refining the system and ultimately cut the number of dots down to only 6, and instead of each grouping standing for various sounds in the language, he made each series represent one letter of the alphabet. His "new" system spread widely - and is still in use today. The boys name? Louis Braille.

Another example of technology originally developed for military purposes and later used for a non-military purpose centers on World War II. The United States had more military personnel in this war than any other in its entire history. Letters sent by military personnel to their family and friends, as well as letters to them, was creating quite a problem due to the high volume of mail. Even an entire fleet of airplanes loaded with nothing but mail could not keep up with the sheer volume. A letter would take weeks, if not months, to be received.

A big meeting was called that not only included military personnel, but also experts in various fields of industry. They were presented with the problem and asked to help solve it. The experts went back home and busily engaged into trying to solve the problem - and they did solve it! First, special cameras were developed to enable high quality photos to be taken - high enough quality to read the text on a hand written page from the negative.

Letter sent to and from military personnel and their families had to purchase special stationery called V Mail, to write their letters on. Next, a central receiving station was employed to receive ALL letters sent to military personnel overseas. Central stations were also placed in several countries in Europe. Mail being sent to or from military personnel was then photographed. One reel of negatives - think of the roll of film being a movie containing several thousand frames - could hold over 3,000 letters. One reel of film weighed less than 2 pounds and occupied less than one-half cubic foot. The same stack of original letters weighed over 150 pounds and occupied 4 cubic feet of space. On the other end, each letter was then developed on a small sheet of photographic paper, which in turn was then delivered to the recipient. This system was called "V Mail" - "V" for victory. After the war, this technology was used for other purposes. Today we call it microfilm.

More HistoryBuff.com Panoramas Now Ready For Viewing

I was laid off my job in mid-April, so I have lots of time on my hands. I have finally managed to almost get caught up on my panoramas. In addition to last month's additions, there are also now online panoramas of James Garfields home exterior and interior in Mentor, Ohio, Garfield's tomb exterior and interior in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Thomas Edision birthplace home exterior and interior in Milan, Ohio. Next will be the Abraham Lincoln home in Springfield, Illinois. That one should be online by the next issue.

To be among the first to view the new panoramas, go to:



May Contest

CONTEST ONE QUESTION: Who was the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence?

ANSWER: Charles Carroll

CONTEST TWO QUESTION: Which United States President was the first to officially proclaim the observance of Thanksgiving?

ANSWER: George Washington.

Seventy-five people entered. Only six had the incorrect subject heading, and twenty-two did not select a prize they wanted if they won. One prize went unclaimed.
The May Contest Winners Were:
  • John W. Carpender - Iowa
  • Ignacio Camargo - California
  • Paul R. Girard - New Hampshire
  • Adam J. Carozza - Florida
  • Lois Valentin - Massachusetts
  • Michael A. DeLia - New Jersey
  • Kenneth Laws - United Kingdom

This Issue's Questions:

To enter Contest One, answer the question: Who was the first United States president who was not born in either Virginia or Massachusetts?

To enter Contest Two, answer the question: The White House burned down in what year?


Contest Rules

  • Contest entry deadline is Tuesday, June 17, 2008. 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.

  • 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. Any other subject heading will be disqualified.

  • To enter Contest Two, use "Contest Two Entry" for the emailed contest entry subject heading. 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.

  • You MUST select ONE prize from the list.

  • 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, EIGHT 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.
June Contest One Prize Selection
(Only one of each offered)

Hitler's Alpine Retreat
By James Wilson

Adolf Hitler became 'completely captivated' by Berchtesgaden and the Obersalzberg when he first visited the area in 1923. In time he bought Haus Wachenfeld and made the area his second seat of government. This meant major construction of the Berghof barracks, administrative buildings, airstrips and the famous 'Eagle's Nest'. During the war massive tunnels were dug. Most was destroyed by allied bombing in April 1945.

This original book tells the story of the area and how it was transformed by Hitler and his henchmen (Goering, Goebbels and Borman) in words and, most significantly, contemporary postcards and photographs.

This book may be ordered from Amazon.com.

For a complete listing of this publisher's titles, please visit www.casematepublishing.com


Main Battle Tank T-80
By Mikhail Baryatinskiy

Developed from the late 1970s, the T-80 represents the final phase of Soviet tank development in the era before the break-up of the Soviet Union and the emergence of the Russian Federation and the other new states created as the Soviet Union gradually imploded. Amongst the most technologically advanced of all amour to have emerged from the old Soviet Union, the T-80 and its later variants, such as the T-90 'Black Eagle', remain central to the Russian army's armored units as well as the armies of several of the ex-Soviet states, such as the Ukraine.

This book may be ordered from Amazon.com.

For a complete listing of this publisher's titles, please visit www.casematepublishing.com


June Contest Two Prize Selection
(Only one of each offered)

DVD Movie

Africa Screams (1949)

Abbott & Costello


Johnny Cash Double Feature

Five Minutes to Live (1961)
With Ron Howard (BEFORE the Andy Griffith show)
Pride of Jesse Hallum (1981)

Original Historic Newspapers

Original Manchester American & Messenger (New Hampshire) historic newspaper from 1853

New York Tribune historic newspaper from 1860

Original New Hampshire Patriot historic newspaper from 1868

Original Coldwater Republican (Michigan) historic newspaper from 1876
That's it for this issue.

Rick Brown

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