March 2007

Short Quips

The song Bad Moon Rising, written by John Fogerty and made popular by Credence Clearwater Revival - CCR - was written shortly after Richard Nixon was elected president. Fogerty wrote the song to protest Nixon being elected and a forecast for the future as a result.

The song Pretty Woman, written by William Dees and Roy Orbison, was originally written as a slow, crooner, song. It was more likely that someone like Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, or Tony Bennett would have recorded it. The authors could not find anyone to record the song. One night, while driving down the highway, it started to rain, so Orbison turned his windshield wipers on. (This was in the days where windshield wipers only had two speeds - off and on.) As he was singing the words of Pretty Woman to himself, he somehow managed to sing it at the pace of the wipers. Zing! A hit song is born! The next time you are driving your vehicle down the road, and the song Pretty Woman comes on the radio, turn the windshield wipers on. You will find the pace of the song matches the rhythm of the wipers.

Not all inventions were produced by adults. In some cases, it was a child. One such example is an 11-year-old boy named Frank Epperson invented the Popsicle. He accidentally left his favorite fruit drink with a stirrer in it outside on the porch overnight. When he awoke, the drink was frozen and he found a new delicious treat. He went on to patent his idea and is the creator of the Popsicle, Fudgsicle, Creamsicle and Dreamsicle!

Or, how about Chester Greenwood? In 1858 at the age of 15, he was ice skating and kept getting irritated at how cold his ears got. He tried wrapping his head in a scarf but that probed to be too bulky and itchy. He went home and fashioned 2 ear shaped loops from wire and asked his grandmother to sew some fur on the loops. These became the first ear muffs which he patented and ended up making a fortune on his invention by supplying the US soldiers with ear muffs during World War I.

Abraham Lincoln's personal carriage was used in a classic movie from 1939. It wasn't Gone with the Wind, but rather the Wizard of Oz! Remember the scene where Dorothy, the scarecrow, tin man and the cowardly lion were riding around the Emerald City in a carriage? That carriage once belonged to Abraham Lincoln. the carriage is now in the Judy Garland Home and Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

Perhaps one of today's most widely used innovations started out as an accident. In 1953, Carl Swanson had a problem - a 270-ton problem. That's how much leftover turkey Carl, owner of Swanson's - a food processing company - had to use before it spoiled. He thought fast and came up with a revolutionary idea. Soon Swanson's introduced the first frozen "TV dinner" in an aluminum tray: turkey, corn-bread stuffing and gravy, sweet potatoes, and peas. At the time, most people still didn't own freezers, so the meals were bought and eaten on the same day. By 1954, more than 25 million TV Dinners had been sold. Swanson soon developed other TV Dinners and had an entire line of them. In 1986, Swanson's aluminum "TV Dinner" tray was inducted into the Smithsonian Institute, solidifying the TV Dinner's role in American history.

Shrapnel was invented by Lieutenant Henry Shrapnel in 1784. It contained 200-300 heavy metal bullets. When it exploded over the target - usually infantry - it scattered the flesh-fragmenting bullets at high velocity. Shrapnel shells were usually fired by field guns, with ranges of up to 10,000 yards. Shrapnel was deadly if one was caught out in the open or if it exploded over a trench. Prior to the canon ball being filled with bullets, it only did damage in a limited perimeter. Shrapnel greatly increased the range of damage. What this good or bad?

Who would have guessed that the idea for M&M'SŪ Plain Chocolate Candies was hatched against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War? Legend has it that, while on a trip to Spain, Forrest Mars Sr. encountered soldiers who were eating pellets of chocolate encased in a hard sugary coating. This prevented it from melting. Inspired by this idea, Mr. Mars went back to his kitchen and invented the recipe for M&M'SŪ Plain Chocolate Candies. M&M'SŪ Chocolate Candies were first sold in 1941, and soon became a favorite of the American GIs serving in World War II. Packaged in cardboard tubes, they were sold to the military as a convenient snack that traveled well in any climate. By the late 1940s, they were widely available to the public, who gave them an excellent reception. In 1948, their packaging changed from a tube form to the characteristic brown pouch we know today.

 
February Brain Teaser

A man left home one day and made three left turns and met a man with a mask on. What was the first man's profession?

Answer: A baseball or softball player.

This issues' brainteaser: What is so fragile that when you say its name you break it?

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

 
My Favorite Newspaper Ads
Many years ago, while reading a Boston Gazette from the 1760's I came across an unusual ad on the back page. The single column headline in large letters was the word REWARD. Thinking it was just another runaway slave or indentured servant, I almost didn't read it. I'm glad I did!

The ad went on to advise that his wife had runaway with a traveling salesman. Then followed a description of his wife and the salesman. Near the bottom of the ad, the word REWARD appeared again. The reward offered was 5 pence for information leading to her whereabouts and a 5 pound reward if the salesman kept her!


In the 1980's I was reading an area rural newspaper. The headline at the top on the front page was: "Forty Chickens Stolen From Farm." Down on the bottom right of the front page was an ad with the headline: "Help Support the Boy Scouts - Come to Our Chicken Dinner Friday Night."

 
Advance Peek at HistoryBuff.com Panoramas

I've always enjoyed a challenge, but little did I know when I started the project of producing panoramas for my Web site that it would become one of my most challenging ventures yet. It took nearly a year to get the panoramas I shot online. Prior to this venture, the only cameras I had ever used were the Kodak Instamatic and a Polaroid. Now, all of a sudden I had to deal with aperture settings, f-stops, reticular and macro lenses, manual focusing, white balance, angles, convergences, ISO settings, and a host of other factors that to go into producing a quality photo.

A personal problem I have with most panoramas on the Web is their lack of educational value. That is, the visitor may pan around the image, but what else is offered? For example, when panning around the image of Lincoln's tomb, one can see the surrounding area, but what about the history of the tomb itself? For a few of the panoramas I have added a still shot of how the site appeared when it was new in the 1800's and another to show how it looks today. In addition, I have added audio commentary relating the history of what they are seeing. This was in an effort to simulate the experience of actually being there and the tour guide is relating information about the historic site.

I now have 14 different panoramas of historic sites related to Abraham Lincoln online. Subscribers are able to preview the panoramas before they are "opened-to-the-world." Preview them at: http://www.historybuff.com/panos. I have created a low-resolution version for those utilizing a dial-up connection, and a high-resolution for those with a high-speed connection, such as DSL and Broadband. Let me know what you think.

A side note: There is a great variance in quality (sharpness) between panoramas. Now that I am more skilled in taking photos for panoramas, I plan on going back to these sites and doing a re-shoot. Eight more panoramas that I shot previously did not come out sharp enough and will not be placed online until I re-shoot them.


February Contest


GRAND PRIZE QUESTION: Who was the first child born in America of English parents?

GRAND PRIZE ANSWER: Virginia Dare

ALTERNATE PRIZE QUESTION: There are only two United States presidents that are buried in Arlington National Cemetery; Name both.

ALTERNATE PRIZE ANSWER: John Fitzgerald Kennedy and William Howard Taft.


Seventy-five people entered the contests. Thirty-two people either had the incorrect subject heading or the wrong answer to the question. All prizes were claimed.
The February contest winners were:
  • Tracy Ajello - Connecticut
  • Ben Sausser - New Jersey
  • Rebekah Shearer - New York
  • Sandra Goodwin - Massachussetts
  • Bol Milton - Alabama
  • Leigh Demrow - Wisconsin
  • Jeanne McCarthy - Massachusetts


This Issue's Question

To enter the Grand Prize Contest, answer the question: Which famous person laid the cornerstone when the White House was being built?

To enter the Alternate Contest, answer the question: From what country did the United States purchase North and South Dakota from?

Contest Rules

  • Contest entry deadline is Thursday, March 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)


    3-DVD Set

    Stories of the Century
    Early TV Series About The Old West
    Episodes include:
    Billy the Kid, Dalton Gang, Frank & Jesse James,
    Doc Holliday, Black Bart and MORE
    Over 15 hours of Old West Entertainment!

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

VHS
Documentary About John Glenn


DVD
History of Space Travel
A Documentary by the History Channel

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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