HistoryBuff.com October 2008 Newsletter
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Constantino Brumidi Who?

I doubt there is anyone on Earth that hasn’t heard of Michelangelo and his fresco painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. (Fresco is the art of adding color to plaster and using the colored plaster to “paint” a picture.) In America there was another artist highly skilled in the art of doing frescoes but for the most part his name remains unknown by almost everyone. He did his fresco in 1865. However, his work, to this day is viewed by literally millions every year. The work is The Apotheosis of Washington and is on the ceiling of the Capitol rotunda in Washington, DC.

Constantino Brumidi was a native of Italy. He fled Rome in the early 1850’s when he was in this fifties to escape political persecution. He immigrated to America. Several year later while touring the Capitol Building in Washington, DC. he noted how blank and dull the ceiling of the Capitol Building was. Being a masterful artist in Italy with a good reputation, he lobbied the American government to commission him to “paint” a fresco on the ceiling of this building. After submitting sketches of his concept to fill the ceiling he was commissioned to do the work.

Scaffolds were erected that were 180 feet high. Brumidi lay on his back to mix the plaster with colors and apply it to the ceiling. His face was just inches away from the ceiling. He often worked day and night since the art of fresco painting is so demanding; Chemical changes in the plaster add beauty and permanence to the work but also require the artist to work for extended periods with a break. Those areas not completed before the plaster dries must be scraped off and redone.

For eleven months Brumidi labored on the work even though his shoulders and arms ached. When his completed work was unveiled to the public it was met with tremendous enthusiasm. Despite receiving many offers for him to do frescos for other people, he turned them all down. He told everyone that his main goal was to continue doing additional frescos within the Capitol Building if the government would commission him to do so. They did! His next project was to create a fresco upon the blank eight foot section surrounding the dome that circled the rotunda. He envisioned a series of vignettes depicting scenes from American history. He completed six of the vignettes before he died in 1877.

How to Discourage Unwanted Guests at Suppertime

My mother often repeated the following anecdote to me and anyone else that would listen.

It was the 1930s, the height of the American depression, and a new family moved in a few doors down. Unfortunately, they had the bad habit of continually dropping in around suppertime. To be gracious, my grandfather would offer to feed them also. They not only took him up on his offer, but literally piled their plates high with food leaving little for the family. Shortly after supper, they would literally eat and run.

One night, as usual, during suppertime, there was a knock on the front door. Before opening the door, my grandfather told the rest of the family that at the end of the meal to just go along with what he says. Sure enough it was the pesky neighbors. Supper went on as usual. Near the end of the meal, but before the pesky neighbors left, my grandfather announced that it was time to wash the dishes. He called Rex, the family dog, over to him. He then held his plate down for Rex to lick. The neighbors had a very strange look on their faces. Then my grandfather asked one of the neighbors for their plate and again held it down for Rex to lick. Lastly, my grandfather stated that this is how they washed their dishes. The pesky neighbors never dropped in again at suppertime. I wonder why?

John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address

If one were to poll Americans, and perhaps even people from other countries, and asked for a quote made by John F. Kennedy, likely most would cite "Ask not what your country can do for you - Ask what you can do for your country." In reality, JFK was not the originator of this quote.

The original author was Khalil Gibran who was born in Lebanon, but immigrated to America in 1891 when he was only 8 years old. Gibran gave a speech to the people of Syria and Lebanon in the early 1900s and "Ask not what your country can do for you - Ask what you can do for your country" was in his speech. He went on to write numerous essays and poems. His works were originally written in Arabic and were translated into over one-hundred languages. Many of his works became highly influential in the American popular culture in the 1960s.

The Three Sides of a Coin

When a disagreement occurs, it is often said to be the two sides of a coin - opposites of each other. However, there is a third side to a coin - the rim or edge. Often, neither side is totally correct. Rather, the truth lies in the middle.

September Contest

CONTEST ONE QUESTION: Which president was the first to be inaugurated in Washington, DC?

ANSWER:Thomas Jefferson

CONTEST TWO QUESTION: Which president weighed more than 300 pounds?

ANSWER: William Howard Taft

One-hundred-five people entered. Twenty-two people had errors in their entry: Not selecting a prize; Selecting a prize from the Contest One entry, but answered the Contest Two question; or incorrect subject heading. All prizes were claimed.
The September Contest Winners Were:
  • Ed Hamilton - Illinois
  • Linda Kikel - New York
  • Susan Alles - New Mexico
  • Patti Roberts - Utah
  • S Benson - Virginia
  • Hal Thurow Texas
  • Sandra Hoffman - New Jersey
  • Thomas Jones - California

This Issue's Questions:

To enter Contest One, answer the question: In what year did Congress pass a law that the Secret Service would protect former presidents and their wives for life after leaving office?

To enter Contest Two, answer the question: What year was the minimum wage officially established in America?


Contest Rules

  • Contest entry deadline is Friday, October 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 and answer the contest question one. 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.

  • Each entry MUST select ONE prize from the appropriate prize 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.
October Contest One Prize Selection
(Only one of each offered)

The Public Schools Battalion
in the Great War
By Steve Hurst

Founded in August 1914 with the principle that recruiting would be restricted to public school 'old boys', the volunteers gathered at Hurst Park racecourse in a spirit of youthful enthusiasm. A more somber mood soon set in. Despite many of the original volunteers leaving to take commissions in other regiments the battalion, now officially the 7th Middlesex, remained an elite until its disbandment in 1917.

The author, shocked by this discovery, has spent ten years researching the history of the Battalion and the events of that fateful day as they affected it. The result is a fascinating and moving record of a very uniquely British battalion.

The book can be ordered from Amazon.com. For information on all books published by Casemate Publishing visit their Web site.


Gettysburg Double Feature

Gettysburg (1993)
Staring: Richard Anderson, Royce D. Applegate
Includes Hours of Special Features

Gods and Generals (2003)
Staring: Jeff Daniels & Robert Duvall
Includes Hours of Special Features


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

DVD Movie

The Painted Hills (2004)

Staring Lassie

DVD Classic TV

Episodes of the Classic 1960s TV Series

Mr. Ed
Pilot Episode that never aired
(Entirely different actors than the series)

Original Historic Newspapers

The Atlas (Boston) historic newspaper from 1837

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

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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