Posts tagged ‘history’

Halloween Secrets

By Chad Upton | Editor

Trick or treating can be traced back to European “guising” traditions where children would travel from home to home, reciting songs, jokes or poems. They didn’t say “trick or treat” back then, it was “please help the guisers” — a reference to the groups who performed plays to ward off evil spirits during Samhain, the Celtic celebration we now know as Halloween.

The children were often given fruit, nuts, sweets or even money. Trick or treating started to take hold in North America during the middle of the 19th century, although it was put on hold for sugar rationing during World War II.

The Celts believed spirits of the dead would walk the earth on Halloween. Costumes were worn to help blend in with and hide from the real spirits who were thought to be walking among them.

The traditional colors of halloween, Black and orange, have meaning too. Black is the typical color of death in many cultures and orange symbolizes strength in Celtic legend, which was important for weathering a harsh winter. They burned large bonfires, believing this would bring the heat of the sun back after winter. Animal bones were often thrown into the fires and some believe these “bone fires” spawned the term bonfire.

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Photo: José Luis Murillo (cc)


October 29, 2012 at 2:00 am 2 comments

Carrots Do Not Improve Eyesight

By Chad Upton | Editor

Like many kids, I didn’t like vegetables — especially carrots and broccoli. Adults frequently told me that carrots would improve my eyesight, so that seemed like a good reason to try liking them.

There was one person who didn’t tell me this, he actually told me the opposite. My grand father overheard somebody tell me that carrots would improve my eyesight and he let me in on a little secret — it was all a big lie. Carrots do not improve your eyesight.

Sure, carrots and many other foods do contain beta-carotene, which metabolizes into Vitamin A and everyone agrees that is essential for maintaining eye health, but it does not improve it. If you are not consuming enough vitamin A, any number of sources could help restore your vitamin A supply. Carrots themselves are not unique or magical in this way. In fact, carrots have less beta-carotene per 200 calorie serving than red peppers, kale and lettuce.

If lettuce, kale and red pepper have more beta-carotene than carrots, why do carrots get all the eyesight credit?


October 17, 2011 at 2:00 am 15 comments

The First IBM ThinkPad Was a Paper Notebook

By Chad Upton | Editor

IBM’s first notebook computer went on sale in 1992. The name ThinkPad was borrowed from a notebook they already made — a paper notebook.

In the 1920s, IBM’s corporate slogan was “THINK!”

For inspiration, employees and customers were given paper notebooks with the word “THINK” embossed in the cover.

While on a coffee break, IBM researcher Denny Wainwright was inspired by the notepad and came up with the name for their notebook computer line, “ThinkPad.” In fact, the idea for the notebook computer was first conceptualized on the paper inside one of the brown leatherette notepads.

In 2005, IBM sold the ThinkPad brand for approximately $1.75 billion. While they’re not known for style, both IBM and Lenovo manufactured ThinkPads are renown for high quality and reliability.

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Photo: Chris Metcalf

Sources: Lenovo, ACL, Wikipedia (ThinkPad, Lenovo)

June 23, 2011 at 2:00 pm 11 comments

Eight US Presidents Were Born British

By Chad Upton | Editor

The United States declared its independence from the Kindgom of Great Britian on July 4, 1776. Eight of the first nine Presidents were born before the United States even existed.

They were born in British America, the area that would later make up parts of the United States and Canada. Therefore, these men were technically British subjects at birth.

Name Birthday Birthplace
George Washington 2/22/1732 Westmoreland, Virginia
John Adams 10/30/1735 Quincy, Massachusetts
Thomas Jefferson 4/13/1743 Shadwell, Virginia
James Madison 3/16/1751 Port Conway, Virginia
James Monroe 4/28/1758 Westmoreland, Virginia
John Quincy Adams 7/11/1767 Quincy, Massachusetts
Andrew Jackson 3/15/1767 Waxhaws Area (NC/SC)
William Henry Harrison 2/9/1773 Charles City County, Virginia

*Some of the birthplaces mentioned above were not known by these same names at the time of their birth.

These were all consecutive presidents, except for Harrison. He succeeded Martin Van Buren, who was born in 1782, making him American by birth.

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Photo: Cliff (cc)

Sources: Wikipedia (USA, US Presidents)

January 28, 2011 at 2:00 am 7 comments

Where the Phrase “Face the Music” Came From

By Kaye Nemec

Have you ever heard someone say, “Well, you better face the music?” Face the music? What does that mean – where did that phrase come from?

The phrase “face the music” has a military history. When disgraced or dishonored soldiers were being relieved of their duties and stripped of their rank their final march was accompanied by drums – it is commonly referred to as “drumming out.”

During the Civil War some officers had their heads shaved before drumming out. Although their fellow officers were not permitted to touch them as they passed by, several cases were reported in which the discharged soldier was later found dead.

Some historical references claim that soldiers were forced to sit on their horse backwards as they were marched passed their comrades so they could see and hear the drums – therefore facing the music.

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Sources: Big Site of Amazing Facts, Wikipedia

Photo: Duane Matsen (cc)

January 26, 2011 at 2:00 am 4 comments

The Word “Nerd” Was First Written by Dr. Seuss

By Kaye Nemec

Although many of us know Dr. Seuss as a children’s author, it was his 15 year career in advertising that really made him famous.

He started working as a freelance writer and illustrator when his talents caught the eye of the ad industry. His first big hit came when he coined the popular catchphrase, “Quick, Henry, the Flit!” Today, it would be comparable to, “There’s an app for that.”

Realizing he had a gift for both illustrating and writing, Seuss wrote his first children’s book, And to Think That I Saw it On Mulberry Street. After submitting it to 27 publishers and receiving 27 rejections, Mulberry Street was finally published with the help of a friend at Vanguard Publishing.

It was a huge hit among teachers and librarians so Houghton Mifflin and Random House asked Seuss to write a children’s book using new-reader vocabulary. They gave him 400 words but told him to cut the list in half. Nine months later, the result was the widely popular, The Cat in the Hat (1957). It uses 223 of the words on the original list and 13 words that are not. Of the 236 words used, 221 are monosyllabic. In three years, about 1 million copies of The Cat in the Hat were sold.

After the success of The Cat in the Hat, Seuss’ editor, Bennett Cerf, bet him that he could not write a children’s book using only 50 different words – 186 fewer words than he used for The Cat in the Hat. In 1960 Seuss won the bet when he published Green Eggs and Ham, a story of only 50 words, 49 of which have only one syllable. It has since become one of the best-selling children’s books of all time.

Dr. Seuss wrote and illustrated several children’s books, most of which have unique histories or quirky facts associated with them. The first time the word ‘nerd’ was used in print was in If I Ran to the Zoo. That wasn’t his first new word, ‘Grinch’ became mainstream after Seuss used it in How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

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Photos: Joe (cc), davemc500hats (cc)

Sources:, Wikipedia – Green Eggs & Ham, Wikipedia – The Cat in the Hat, Barnes & Noble

January 19, 2011 at 2:00 am 4 comments

Magazine Mastheads Have a Nautical History

By Kaye Nemec

At the beginning of most magazines and newspapers, somewhere near the editorial page, you’ll find the masthead — the page of a publication that lists who is responsible for the magazine “behind the scenes.”  Everyone from editors and writers to advertising staff and designers are listed on the masthead. It may also include history of the publication, advertising rates, subscription and circulation information, contact names and numbers. So, why does this source of information have a clearly nautical name?

The term masthead did indeed derive from a nautical origin. Specifically, it came from a tradition within the shipping industry where brass plates were commonly displayed on the main mast of ships to showcase the owner of the ship, information about the ship and/or the location of its home port.

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Photo: hans s (cc)

Sources: WiseGeek, Wikipedia

January 12, 2011 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

Why It Is Called a Swan Song

By Kaye Nemec

If you’ve been watching NBC’s The Sing Off, you’re probably familiar with the term “swan song.” At the end of each episode, the group that gets voted off leaves the stage as they perform what host Nick Lachey refers to as their swan song.

A swan song is used in reference to any final theatrical or dramatic performance. It can also be said that a political candidate is singing his/her swan song during their final political campaign or final term of office.

The term “swan song” comes from the belief that Mute Swans (Cygnus olor) were completely silent until the last few moments of their life, when they would sing a beautiful song. Although this is an ancient myth and was proven to be false, as far back as 77A.D., the legend has lived on and the term swan song has become mainstream.

Although Mute Swans do have a straight trachea that prevents them from making loud noises and, although they are usually pretty quiet, they are not mute. They make hissing, whistling, snorting and soft bark-like noises.

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Photo: Christian Roberts (cc)

Sources: University of Michigan, Wikipedia

January 5, 2011 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

The History of Halloween

By Kaye Nemec

Although Halloween has religious roots in Celtic, Roman and Catholic celebrations, it became a more secular holiday in the 19th century.

Two thousand years ago, Celts celebrated New Years on November 1st in the festival of Samhain. Due to the changing climate, that date symbolized the end of summer and the beginning of the cold, dark winter.  They associated winter with death and believed that New Year’s Eve, was the night when ghosts of the dead would return to Earth. They believed the presence of the dead allowed priests to better predict the future and their prophecies were taken very seriously.  In order to support the priests, the Celts would celebrate Samhain by wearing costumes and building bonfires where they made sacrifices by burning crops and animals.

By 43 A.D., the Romans had taken most of the Celtic land and combined some of their traditions with the Celtic festival of Samhain. Romans celebrated Feralia, an event to commemorate the passing of the dead, at the end of October. They also celebrated the Roman goddess of the trees, Pomona, around this time. Pomona’s symbol was an apple and it is believed this celebration is where “bobbing for apples” originated.

Eventually Christian beliefs began making their way through Celtic land and Pope Boniface IV declared November 1st All Saints’ Day, which was also known as All-hallows (All-hallows Eve began to replace the festival of Samhain).  About 200 years later, the Catholic Church named November 2nd All Souls’ Day which was a day to honor the dead. All Souls’ Day and Samhain had similar celebrations – costumes and bonfires. Collectively, All-hallows Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day were referred to as Hallowmas.

When Europeans immigrated to America, they brought their Hallowmas traditions; in the late 1800’s the traditions of ghosts and honoring the dead become more family-friendly events like trick-or-treating and neighborhood parties.  Hallowmas became Halloween and grew into the child oriented, secular holiday that we are familiar with today.

The “Halloween Capital of the World” is Anoka, Minnesota — a small city near the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul.

In 1920 Anoka hosted the first documented Halloween celebration and parade in the United States. The Halloween celebration was planned as an alternative to the pranks that had become common around Halloween. Prior to the organized Halloween celebration, troublemakers would let cows out of their enclosures, tip over outhouses and soap windows. City officials wanted to end the pranks and start a more positive Halloween tradition.

An official Halloween committee was formed and began planning a big event. When the time came, a parade made its way down Main Street and treats like popcorn, candy and peanuts were handed out. In true Hallowmas fashion, the night concluded with a huge bonfire. Seventeen years later, Anoka city officials convinced the United States Congress to grant them the official title, “Halloween Capital of the World.”

Since 1920, Anoka has hosted a huge Halloween celebration every year, except for 1942 and 1943, when it was canceled due to World War II. The city continues the tradition with their annual Halloween celebration. Just like the first year, a Halloween committee is formed, although now it is known as the Anoka Halloween Board of Directors.

This year’s event includes three parades, a pumpkin carving contest, a costume contest, BINGO, house decorating and of course, a bonfire.

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Pictures: Eric Martin (cc), Steve Chasmar (cc)

Sources:, Anoka Halloween Capital of the World

October 20, 2010 at 1:00 am 2 comments

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