Happy Easter to all those that celebrate it, and all those just here for the food! Since today is a holiday, I figured a short post about some fun historical Easter facts would be more than appropriate. So keep scrolling to find some interesting Easter facts to share around the dinner table.
Humans have apparently been decorating eggs since we discovered that eggs were good to eat. The oldest decorated eggs are thought to have been made almost 60 thousand years ago. Eggs feature heavily in ancient mythologies as well! The tradition of painting eggs for Easter comes from the Ukrainian Eastern Orthodox, where elaborately decorated eggs are highly traditional.
Peeps have been around longer than you think! Originally hand-crafted by a small specialty store in Pennslyvania, Peeps took 27 hours to make… each. They were less marshmallow and more meringue. They also had tiny wings! The candy company Just Born took over the company in 1953 and overhauled how Peeps were made. Automating the process and making them of true marshmallow cut the time down from 27 hours… to 6 minutes. Unfortunately, it also cut the wings off, leading to the wingless chicks we eat today!
The early Christians tended to borrow from the Pagans that they were trying to convert. It was thought that tying in the Pagan holidays to Christian holidays would help convert the pagans to Christianity. Easter is one of the holidays that can easily be traced back to its’ pagan roots. Eostre was the Germanic goddess of the dawn, and possibly fertility. The original holiday was linked to the spring equinox, although it is celebrated the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox. This is why Easter moves so much- it’s following an ancient pagan calendar! Happy Easter, and Happy Eostre!
The first chocolate bunny was made in 1890. Robert L. Strohecker wanted to draw in more business to his shop in Reading PA for the Easter Season. So of course he commissioned a giant chocolate bunny to display. He’s now considered the father of chocolate Easter bunnies. Easter bunnies for baskets were available in Germany in 1890, and in 1925 the Rodda Candy Company (The same that originally made the meringue Peeps!) offered chocolate bunnies in a catalog.
Pretzels were once considered to be a highly religious food. The dough was supposedly shaped like arms folded in prayer. The three holes were for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Pretzels are linked to the fast before easter and were hidden, and hunted for, just like the eggs. Since they don’t contain eggs, they were an acceptable food to eat during Lent.
I hope you enjoyed this short list of fun Easter Facts! Happy Easter!
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Submarines. When most people think of submarines in combat, they think of World War I or World War II. And to be fair, World War I was the first time that submarines were widely accepted in combat. That wasn’t the first time they were used in combat, however. People have been dreaming of submarines for a long time. What better way to surprise your naval enemies than to sneak up underneath them?
Enter the Turtle:
The Turtle submarine is a one-person submarine designed to allow the driver to attach bombs to the bottom of boats. It was used briefly during the American Revolutionary War, in 1776. It wasn’t until 1900 that submarines became accepted in combat, with the formation of the US Navy Submarine Force. 125 years after the first combat submarine was used. So what was the Turtle, and why was the idea abandoned for such a long time?
The Turtle Submarine’s Beginnings
David Bushnell designed the Turtle over several years while he studied at Yale. Between 1771-1775, he worked on the design. He also made prototypes of underwater explosives that would make his submarine a feasible weapon. His final design met all the requirements for a modern submarine: it could submerge completely, move independently underwater, had enough air to support the operator, and could carry out an attack against another vessel.
His designs, of course, went nowhere at first. It wasn’t until Johnathan Trumbull, the governor of Connecticut, wrote to George Washington in 1775, that Bushnell finally received the funding he needed to bring his designs to life.
Isaac Doolittle was an inventor near Yale, and ended up helping Bushnell to design and invent a good number of the brass pieces that made the Turtle work, including the oars, the hatch, and the detonator for the mine.
The Turtle was a small vessel, measuring only seven and a half feet wide, and six feet tall. Designed for a single person, it was meant to attack a nearby ship. It was not designed for any sort of long-term underwater mission. The operator of the Turtle would only have a half hour of air before having to resurface. A mine was attached to the back, filled with gunpowder. This gunpowder was Bushnell’s design as well, and could be detonated even underwater. The Turtle was to be used to sneak up on a ship, attach the mine with its’ time delayed detonator to the ship in secret, and get away again without being spotted.
It got its name from its resemblance to two tortoise shells pressed together. Dr. Benjamin Gale describes the Turtle Submarine best in a letter to Sileas Deane in November 1775:
Excerpt from Dr. Gale’s letter to Sileas Deane- November 1775
“The person who navigates it enters at the top. It has a brass top or cover, which receives the person’s head as he sits on a seat, and is fastened on the inside by screws. In this brass head is fixed eight glasses, viz. two before, two on each side, one behind, and one to look out upwards. In the same brass head are fixed two brass tubes, to admit fresh air when requisite, and a ventilator at the side to free the machine from the air rendered unfit for respiration. On the inside is fixed a Barometer, by which he can tell the depth he is underwater; a Compass, by which he knows the course he steers. In the barometer and on the needles of the compass is fixed fox-fire, i.e. wood that gives light in the dark.
His ballast consists of about 900 wt. of lead which he carried at the bottom and on the outside of the machine, part of which is so fixed as he can let run down to the Bottom, and serves as an anchor, by which he can ride ad libitum. He has a sounding lead fixed at the bow, by which he can take the depth of water under him; and to bring the machine into a perfect equilibrium with the water, he can admit so much water as is necessary, and has a forcing pump by which he can free the machine at pleasure, and can rise above water, and again immerge, as occasion requires.”
The Turtle Submarines’ First Mission
Once the Turtle had been built and tested, three men were chosen to train with it in the Connecticut River in secret. It was ultimately decided that Sergeant Ezra Lee would operate the Turtle on its’ first mission.
With the British controlling New York Harbor in 1776, the Turtle was directed to attack the HMS Eagle. On September 6, 1776, Lee entered the water with only 20 minutes of air, rather than the expected 30. It was night, and the dark combined with the currents made it difficult to keep the submarine on a steady course toward the ship. Lee had to surface several times over the 2-hour journey to the Eagle. He refreshed his air supplies and checked his course during his time above water.
Operating the Turtle wasn’t easy. It was not truly designed to move easily within the water. It was moved via a front propeller, which the operator had to manually spin. The interior was, of course, nearly pitch black. Any flame that could illuminate the inside would have eaten up the air within. Eventually, Lee was able to surface just behind the Eagle. Despite his best efforts, he couldn’t get the mine to attach to the ship. He was spotted by guards on Governer’s island and ended up releasing the mine to float downriver. The mine did work and produced quite the explosion. But it was nowhere near the Eagle.
The Turtle was used in two more attempted attacks, but few records remain about these attacks. Unfortunately, the Turtle Submarine was sunk when its transport ship was destroyed on October 9th, 1776. It was salvaged from the depths, but never repaired. Three unsuccessful attacks and a high repair bill meant that the original Turtle was never restored.
Submarines were used during both the war of 1812 and the American Civil War. The Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley was the first to sink a ship in battle, the Housatonic, on February 17, 1864. The H.L. Hunley never returned to port after the successful sinking of the battleship. By the early 1900’s, submarines were beginning to be more developed and built by various Navies. In WWI, the US Navy had 72 submarines in active service.
The Turtle Submarine may not have been effective, but it was an important first step toward submersible craft. It showed the feasibility of underwater craft, and while it never succeeded in an attack, formed the basis for future submarines. It was the first submarine to use water and lead as a ballast for rising and sinking, and the first to use screw propellers.
Bushnell was constrained by the materials available to him, but his genius was recognized in letters from George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. The US Navy also recognized his accomplishments by naming two submarine tenders after him, once in 1915, and another in 1945.
If you want to see a replica of the Turtle, you can visit one at the Connecticut River Museum in Essex. Another replica can be found in Washinton DC, in the lobby of the International Spy Museum.
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A chicken wearing glasses. It almost sounds like a new meme, but this particular image goes back to 1903 and Andrew Jackson Jr., who was likely not related to the much more well-known President Andrew Jackson. Mr. Jackson, of Munich Tennessee, was the first to file a patent for chicken glasses, and his basic design was used for well over 70 years in farms across the world. But why in the world did chickens need glasses?
Chickens need glasses?
As it turns out yes, but not for the same reason as we humans need glasses. Glasses for chickens are more like safety glasses than vision correction glasses. Chickens, as it turns out, can be incredibly violent toward one another, especially in crowded conditions. They can become cannibalistic, especially when stressed. Once one chicken pecks at another and blood is drawn, it can cause a frenzy. The eyes are a particularly vulnerable spot, so in 1903 Andrew Jackson Jr filed patent 730,918 for “Eye Protector for Chickens”. These were, in essence, little protective glasses for chickens. Here’s an image from the patent filing:
These were basic glasses that simply covered the eyes and prevented pecks from damaging or ruining the chicken’s eyes. They were amazingly popular and were sold at chicken feed stores and in the Sears Roebuck catalog, proving that at one point, you could buy just about anything from a catalog. Other versions of these began to pop up, with some held on by straps, instead of a wire frame. Others used small hooks into the nostrils of the chicken, and several inhumane varieties were held on by a pin that had to piece the bone between the nostrils.
Tinted glasses also became popular. It was found that rose-colored lenses would help block out any blood spilled. If the chickens couldn’t see the blood, they couldn’t go into a frenzy. Some firms created lenses that would hang over the eyes until a chicken lowered their head. Once the checked dropped its head, the lenses swung out of the way. Then they could see the ground with no color tinting. If they raised their head, the lenses dropped, and the rose-colored glasses would help them ignore any blood.
Chicken glasses, Chicken Spectacles, Anti-Pix, or any other of the many names these were called, were sold until the late 1970s. Blinders were also a popular choice, invented in 1935. Rather than protecting the eye and preventing the chicken from seeing blood, these blinders stopped the chicken from seeing directly in front of them. This stops them from being able to look straight ahead to peck at another chicken. It also helps prevent feather picking and egg eating!
While chicken glasses fell out of favor, chicken blinders remain popular to this day. They are available not only in farm stores, but also Amazon. The glasses themselves actually became quite the collector’s item! They can be sold for over $100. Not bad for a pair of chicken specs.
Benjamin Franklin was a man of many inventions. He invented the bifocal glasses, his famous wood-burning stove, is credited with the creation of the modern library and fire department, and many others. Most of his inventions were useful and welcomed by the public. All but one.
The Glass Armonica
The Glass Armonica is a unique instrument. A number of glass bowls are mounted horizontally on an iron rod, separated by cork plugs. The musician plays the instrument by wetting his fingers, then using foot pedals to make the bowls rotate on the rod. They would then lightly touch the rims of the bowls to produce the notes.
Have you ever run your fingers over the rim of a glass of water? If so, you’ve heard the pleasing hum that it can make. The level of water in the glass will change the note produced. The Glass Armonica works the same way. In the picture below, you can see that the bowls are all different sizes- this allows them to produce different notes. When Ben Franklin first invented the Glass Armonica in 1761 it was wildly successful. By the mid-1800’s, it had almost completely vanished. So what happened?
Birth of the Glass Armonica
Ben Franklin didn’t come up with his new instrument in a vacuum. The “signing glass” artist Edward Delaval in Cambridge delighted and inspired him into creating the instrument.
Robert Pockrich, an Irish musician, invented the original “music glasses” in 1741. Pockrish would run his fingers over glasses filled with varying levels of water, covering popular songs at the time. He toured Ireland and England. The “angelic organ”, as he called it, was a popular act. Other musicians adopted the glasses and they spread across Europe.
Ben Franklin was often in Europe in the 1700s, acting as a delegate for the newly formed United States. In 1761, twenty years after the singing glasses made their debut, Franklin attended a performance by Edward Delaval in Cambridge. He fell in love with the tones of the glasses, believing them to be sweeter than any other instrument.
In London, Franklin worked with a glassblower to design the instrument. By 1762, they had completed it. There were 37 individual bowls, each marked with a color that corresponded with a note. It didn’t need to be tuned and was relatively easy to play. Ten notes could be played at once, allowing for amazing creativity with chords. This made it popular, and although it was considered a feminine instrument, composers such as Mozart and Beethoven wrote pieces using the Glass Armonica.
Producers of the instrument made about 5,000 of them before rumors, scandal, and controversy halted production.
Despite the Glass Armonica’s explosive popularity, scandal quickly began to taint its reputation. Firstly, the instrument has an otherworldly tone to it. Beautiful though it is, it can create an unsettled feeling in those listening to it. In the 19th century people were highly superstitous, and these unsettled feeling would not have been ignored. Rumor had it that the instrument could be used to summon the spirits of the dead and damned. Magic could be performed through it, and players could cause their listeners to later commit suicide.
Secondly, reports started to circulate that the players of the Glass Armonica were falling ill. They would shake, faint, have panic attacks, depression, and muscle cramps. Lead was the main material used to color the bowls, and it was suspected that this may have caused the illnesses. Muscians who played the Glass Armonica may have been prone to lead poisoning, especially since lead was so prevalent in the 19th century. In 1808, Marianne Kirchgessner, a noted player of the Glass Armonica died. Rumor and gossip named the instrument as the cause of her death. Its unearthly tones and lead paint killed her, went the whispers. Understandably, people began to shy away from learning to play it.
Finally, tragedy struck during a concert. A young boy died during a concert where the Glass Armonica was played. Several of the surrounding towns immediately banned the Glass Armonica from being played. With the death of the child, the popularity of the Glass Armonica died as well. Compsitions written for the instrument were rewritten for the flute or piccolo. Few people were brave enough to learn how to play the instrument, and fewer still were brave enough to listen to it.
Ben Franklin never believed any of the unsubstantiated rumors about his instrument. He played until his death. Like with many of his inventions, Franklin made no money from the instrument. He filed no patent, and allowed anyone to produce a Glass Armonica if they wished.
From the 1820’s until the 1980’s, Franklin’s Glass Armonica was mostly forgotten. It was used in Star Trek as a part of Spock’s Theme, as well as in the movies The Minus Man and The Faculty. Some bands, such as the Korn, also used the Glass Armonica in some of their songs.
While it will likely never reach the height of popularity, the Glass Armonica is slowly beginning to be used again. If you are brave enough, listen to composer William Zeitler explain and play it in the video below:
I have a truly ridiculous amount of history books on my shelf that I haven’t managed to get around to reading yet. To be fair, I also have a ridiculous amount of books. I’m told this is a common affliction and that I don’t need to worry about it being serious. However, I want to get that “not read yet” shelf down to a more manageable size. So I’m setting myself a goal- one book a month. Each month I’ll read one of my unread books and write up a review here about said book. Should be easy enough, right? Any links to the books are affiliate links, and I’ll receive a small payment for any books you purchase through the links.
Atoms and Ashes: A Global History of Nuclear Disasters.
June’s book was Atoms and Ashes: A Global History of Nuclear Disasters by Serhii Plokhy. As it says right in the title, Serhii Plokhy takes a close look at six of the world’s largest nuclear disasters. Plokhy is an extraordinary author. He’s well established as a historian. Currently, he is a professor of Ukrainian history at Harvard, where he also serves as director of the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute. This isn’t his first time looking at nuclear disasters either. He’s written at least two other manuscripts about nuclear history. Plokhy is one of the gifted historians who can not only research, but write his findings in such a way that the public reads and enjoys his writing. I know I thoroughly enjoyed Atoms and Ashes, and I’m certainly going to purchase more of Plokhy’s works.
Plokhy separates his books by diaster. There are six that are examined. They are The Castle Bravo disaster, Kyshtym, Windscale, Three Mile Island, Chornobyl, and Fukushima. Personally, I was amazed at the depth of research Plokhy was able to pack into each section. Plokhy was able to maintain this level of research even for the Soviet-era disasters. This is despite the Soviet penchant for secrecy regarding the nuclear programs.
Plokhy does a deep dive into the history of each disaster. Not just the actual event, but the history of the area, facility, personnel, etc. He touches on political, societal, cultural, and historical influences that may have contributed to the events. This does make for a long read, but Plokhy is able to tie it all together in a way that’s easy to understand and digest. He doesn’t shy away from the human element, either. In some cases, he shows exactly what the people on the scene were seeing, hearing and feeling. With the Three Mile Island section, the confusion and terror felt by those in the surrounding area were made extremely clear. In the last section, on the Fukushima disaster, you could tangibly feel the helplessness and frustration of the Prime Minister and his team, as well as the utter terror and resolve of those at the plant.
I’ve noticed a bit of a trend in some scientific history manuscripts where the authors shy away a bit from the science. Plokhy happily avoids this. It’s easy to tell that he has a solid grasp of nuclear mechanics. Thankfully, he also realizes that most people do not have a good grasp of nuclear mechanics. He weaves the science into the history, explaining as he goes along what went wrong and why. He compares reactor types, fuel and coolant considerations, and much more. I’ve never had a great understanding of physics and chemistry, but Plohky manages to make it easy enough that the non-science types will realize not just what happened, but how dangerous it could have been.
In the Prologue, Plokhy goes over the various measurements used to measure radiation. The one thing I would change is the measure systems Plokhy uses. He uses the measurement systems used at the time of each event, rather than standardizing the units across the book. I kept having to flip back to the Prologue to check the measurements.
Nuclear power is fundamentally a political issue. There are those who are for nuclear power as a green solution to climate change. There are those that are against nuclear power because of the danger. Plokhy tries, and mainly succeeds in keeping his opinions and current politics to the prologue and closing. He does seem to be against nuclear power, and after reading about the various problems and events, I’m inclined to agree.
The one common thread in every disaster is the human element. In many of the disasters, the systems worked exactly as designed- but due to human error or misunderstanding, the reactions went critical. Its these human errors that are the most terrifying part of the book. The best systems in the world were unable to prevent some of the worst disasters possible. Undertraining, greed, corners cut due to budgets, and incompetent operators are perhaps the true horror Plokhy points out. Radiation is a common fear, as is the possible explosive power of a plant in the middle of a meltdown. But the human element that can never be completely erased from any scenario, is the actual terror hiding behind each of the disasters.
If it isn’t clear from the abundant praise above, I highly recommend this book. I would not recommend this book for those who are sensitive to disaster scenarios or have a phobia of radiation/nuclear. This was an intense but enjoyable read. Not really beach book material, but perhaps a long weekend read.
Want a copy? Check out the book on Amazon! Link below not showing up? Click here!
Mansfield Bars are an incredible, yet simple safety device added to tractor-trailers. I can guarantee you’ve seen them. If you’ve seen a tractor-trailer, then you’ve seen one of the most important safety innovations made to trailers. So, what is a Mansfield Bar, and what exactly makes them historical?
What is a Mansfield Bar?
Simply put, a Mansfield bar is a large metal bar added to the back of a trailer. They’re also called underride bars or underride guards. Many have red and white paint, although I have seen them without the paint as well. While these look like a handy way to climb up into the trailer, they are actually an incredibly important safety feature.
These bars help stop cars from sliding under the trailer during a crash. If a car rear-ends a trailer without these, there is a high chance the car will be crushed under the trailer. The car will sustain much more damage. And as the bottom of the trailers are right at head height, there’s a much higher chance of dying.
The Mansfield bar catches the car before it can go under the trailer, preventing the cabin of the car from being crushed by the bottom of the trailer. In an era where rear-end accidents are on the rise due to distracted driving, these bars have likely saved hundreds of lives.
Why are they called Mansfield bars?
Before 1967, you may not have seen underride protection. Previously in 1953, the federal government mandated the use of underride guards. However, this legislation had no rules about the strength of the guards, how they were to be attached, or how much kinetic energy they had to absorb.
That began to change on June 29th, 1967. Jayne Mansfield, an up and coming actress, was quickly becoming the darling of Hollywood. She woul never get the chance to be remembered for her acting skills.
Mansfield, her lawyer, driver, and children were driving in New Orleans. It was late and dark. A semi had slowed down on US 90 in reaction to a cloud of mosquito fog. The driver didn’t see the semi, slamming the Buick into the rear of the truck. The Buick slid under the trailer, crushing the cabin. Jayne Mansfield, her lawyer, and her driver were all killed. Her children survived the crash through luck. They had been laying down, asleep, in the rear. As they were not sitting up, they were not crushed. The children were injured and rushed to the hospital. Two of her four dogs were killed as well.
The crash was described as “horrific” by witnesses. The actress was described as “decapitated” but this was refuted by later reports. In actuality, she suffered a shearing injury to her head, causing more of a partial decapitation.
Her death was a shock to the nation. She was being groomed as a counter to Marilyn Monroe. Her grisly death did help spur on greater safety regulations for tractor-trailers. Not long after her death were the underride guards mandated by the government. But that’s not quite the end of the story.
The Story Continues
Despite the mandate for underride guards, many of the Mansfield bars were largely worthless. They were apt to crumble when hit. This made them not nearly as effective as they should have been. They were also not that effective when part of the rear is involved. In 1998, additional rules were put in place. These involved how strong the bars must be and standardized the measurements of the guards.
In 2021, a bill was put before Congress to require side underride guards. This is the third time such a bill was written to mandate the side under guards. The bill is still working its way toward being passed.
As someone who spends thousands of miles on the road each year, additional safety measures are very welcome. With any luck, we won’t need to wait for a celebrity to be killed before new measures are put in place.
Throughout history, there have been some inventions that are just plain horrifying. Some of these made it to production and were actually sold and used. Others, thankfully, never really saw the light of day. The “Birthing Spinner” is one that never went into production, and I’m sure that every woman will thank god for that.
Blonsky’s work is based far more on physics than on actual biology. The premise is this: A woman in labor may not have enough muscle to actually give birth to the child. So to help support the mother and push the baby out of her, Blonsky turns to centrifugal force. A mother in labor is strapped to a large rotating table and a mesh net strapped to her waist. Her head would be near the center of the table. As the machine spins, the centrifugal force would place additional force on the baby in the birth canal, forcing the child out faster and with less strain on the mother. No personnel were allowed near the table while it was spinning. So the net, having been strapped in place, was supposed to catch the baby.
Once born and in the net, the weight of the baby would trigger a bell and activate a lever to stop the motion of the table.
Thank God the Birthing Spinner Never was Used
This is horrifying on several layers. A woman, in labor, is supposed to be strapped down onto a table to be spun around until the baby pops out. She’s basically on her own on the table. Remember that no personnel are allowed near while the table is spinning. So there is no doctor or midwife monitoring the mother or child. Then the baby pops out, into a bag, a bell rings, and the table stops. The doctor can raise or lower the table for the “optimum angle” of birth. Personally, I’d be terrified of ever giving birth if that’s how it’s supposed to go.
At the end of the patent, Blonsky mentions that “the supplementary forces supplied by the patient are zero either because she is too weak to render any assistance at all, or has lost consciousness.”
There is one good thing about this invention. A pillow is provided for the expectant mother.
Strangely enough, George and Charlotte Blonsky never had any children. I wonder why?
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Freshly popped and buttered popcorn is practically synonymous with movies. When you think of going to the movies, one of the first things that pops into your head is popcorn. If you’re like me, you may consider going to the movies just to get that authentic movie theatre popcorn. While the marriage of popcorn and the movies is somewhat recent, popcorn is much older than you would think! Popcorn has a long history. People have been enjoying popcorn for well over a thousand years.
The First Popcorn
Popcorn is definitely an American invention. While corn is a staple of many diets now, it was completely unknown outside of the America’s before Columbus accidentally discovered the western continents. Europeans didn’t have corn until well after trade was established with the Native Americans. Corn, and by extension popcorn, had a history with Native Americans that goes back thousands of years.
The oldest ears of popcorn are over 6,000 years old! Archeologists believe that some of the first uses of wild corn was popping. Researchers in Peru found corn cobs stuffed with flowery popped kernels in 2012. Previously researchers thought popped corn was bout 4,000 years old. This was based on small cobs found in Western Mexico.
Popcorn was an important part of the Native American diet. Aztecs used popcorn in important rituals. They also dressed statues of the gods with jewelry adorned with popcorn.
Other people in the Americas relied on popcorn. Researchers throughout Central and South America have found evidence of popcorn consumption. Even within North America, tribes from current day Mexico as far north as the Iroquois near the Great Lakes enjoyed popped corn! French explorers had their first taste of popcorn when they traded with the Iroquois to get through the harsh winters. Colonists to the New World quickly became dependent on corn, and by extension popcorn.
Popcorn was originally not quite as tasty as it is today. It was smaller and had a more “parchment” like feel and taste. As different types of corn developed, new varieties were made to improve popcorn. Households would pop their own corn over a flame- no popcorn machines had been invented yet. That would change in 1885. Charles Cretors created the first commercial popcorn machine. It was on wheels and used a gas burner. He took the cart out onto the streets of Chicago, popping and selling corn to passers. His popcorn was an instant hit.
People quickly started to purchase the carts as well as the popcorn. They started setting up outside movie theatres, at fairs, and anywhere people would gather. Movie theatres originally refused to sell popcorn. Popcorn wasn’t sold inside the theatres at first. People considered popcorn too messy. That mindset didn’t last too long. Movie theatres that sold popcorn saw far more business. During the Great Depression, it was one of the few snacks that was still affordable.
Sugar became heavily rationed during World War II. Candy was off the table for many Americans as prices skyrocketed. Despite this, popcorn was still affordable. It didn’t use any sugar and popcorn consumption tripled during the war.
Popcorn was immensely popular during the war, but by 1950 people were staying home to watch their brand new TVs. With the advent of television, movie theatres began to lose customers. As they lost customers, so did popcorn begin to lose popularity.
Thankfully, popcorn wasn’t about to be left to the history books. Percy Spencer discovered how to generate microwaves in the 1940’s and began to work on microwave ovens soon after. By the 1980’s, microwave ovens had taken off in popularity. The popcorn industry quickly adapted. 1981 saw the first microwavable popcorn. Refrigeration was required as it had actual better. Other versions came frozen instead. By 1984 a shelf-stable version was created. Americans bought $250 million worth of popcorn by 1986.
Orville Redenbacher created the popcorn we’re familiar with today. An agricultural scientist by trade, his popcorn expanded twice as much as any on the market.
Today, people are more inventive with their popcorn. Many different seasonings and additives are available so you can mimic whatever flavor you’d like with your popcorn. Personally, I’m a fan of the regular old-school movie theatre butter popcorn.
What’s your favorite popcorn flavor? Have any ideas for our next article? Let us know in the comments!
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Every year, the US Patent and Trademark Office issues thousands of patents. In fact, just last year they issued patent 11 million. Patents are an incredibly important part of the economy. They prevent anyone else from making, distributing, or selling an invention without permission for a set period of time. Inventors and innovators race to be the first to file a patent for new inventions. Patents are far older than most people think. The first patent recognized is from 1421. The government in Florence issued it for a new style barge. Patents are important enough that the Founding Fathers of the United States included patents in the Constitution. The Patent Office was created in 1790, and US Patent Number 1 was issued.
The First US Patent
The first US Patent was issued in 1790, not long after the US Patent and Trademark Office was created. George Washington signed the patent on July 31, 1790. A copy of the patent is below.
The First US Patent was issued to Samuel Hopkins. He created a new recipe for potash. Potash is a mix of minerals and chemicals used in fertilizer. It’s pretty interesting that the first patent granted in the United States was for fertilizer. It highlights that the US was mainly agrarian when the country was first founded. Farmers are still using potash in their fertilizer to this day.
1790 had only 3 patents issued. The second patent, applied for by Joseph Sampson, was for a new way to manufacture candles. The last, applied for by Oliver Evans, was for an automated flour mill.
Despite how few patents were issued that first year, Americans are an inventive people and applications for patents quickly piled up. The young government placed all the records in temporary storage. A new records building was in the process of being built in 1836 to handle the mass of paperwork. The temporary storage caught on fire, destroying nearly all the records in one fell swoop.
The Second US Patent Number 1
With the original warehouse of documents gone, the US Patent and Trademark Office started a numbering system. The Office designated all patents before this point as X patents. You can see the X-number listed in the top right corner of the image above. So the US Patent and Trademark Office issued the “Second” first US Patent to John Ruggles. This is “US Patent Number 1”. Ruggles designed traction wheels for locomotives. The Office granted the patent to him on July 13, 1836. His wheels helped the train to keep traction in bad weather, rather than slipping on the rails.
Thankfully, recordkeeping is much more secure and there is little chance of Ruggles losing his US Patent Number 1 designation.
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Decorating Easter eggs is an extremely popular Easter tradition. Every year, millions of families will dye, paint, or otherwise decorate eggs for Easter. Some families who don’t decorate eggs themselves will purchase pre-painted eggs, brightly colored plastics eggs, or help their kids hunt for eggs if the weather is nice enough. Little do most people know, that decorating eggs is a tradition that goes back to the very beginnings of human history.
Early Decorated Eggs
The oldest decorated eggs go all the way back to 55 to 65 thousand years ago. These eggs were found in South Africa. Archeologists believe that hunter-gatherers used ostrich eggs to carry water, as some tribes still do today. The ancient tribes marked the eggs with lines. Some eggs found had a cross-hatch pattern, others had wavy lines. Amazingly, some eggs show different colors than the normal ostrich’s white/yellow, so they may have painted the eggs as well! During the Bronze and Iron Ages, ostrich eggs were found as far away from Africa as Spain.
Most ancient cultures seem to have placed a special significance on eggs and, at times, decorating them. Ancient Egyptians believed in a great “cosmic egg.” Chinese and Indian myths both have creator beings born from eggs. Finnish mythology also has the world being created from fragments of an egg laid by a goldeneye. Other mythologies have restoration or creation myths involving eggs. So it can be easy to see how eggs are linked to Easter and the rebirth of Jesus.
Decorated eggs were also found in other regions of the world. Persians and Zoroastrians used decorated and painted eggs for Nowruz. Nowruz is the New Year in some parts of the world and is celebrated at the Spring Equinox. People in Eurasia still follow this tradition.
Painted Eggs and Easter
Painting eggs for Easter started with the Eastern Orthodox. Most egg decorating began well before Christianity. So it’s not surprising that those who already decorated the eggs around the time of Easter began incorporating them into their Easter celebrations. Ukrainian egg decoration, called pysanky, is very elaborate. These eggs are often given as gifts for health and fertility.
The earliest record linking the painted eggs directly with Easter comes from the Middle Ages when England’s King Edward I ordered 450 eggs to be colored and given out to other royals. Eggs tended to be cheap and the practice caught on.
Easter egg hunts became popular in Germany in the 1600’s and spread across Europe. By the Victorian era, early fake eggs were being used.
Chocolate eggs started in the late 1800’s and the Industrial Revolution helped make mass-producing the candy possible. Now millions of chocolate eggs are distributed each year.
Egg Color Meanings
As eggs already symbolized life and rebirth, they fit in quite well with the story of Jesus’ resurrection. Certain colors quickly took on special meanings
Red was for the blood of Christ, Mary’s tears staining the eggs red, and the eggs next to Jesus’ tomb turning red.
White was for purity. Sometimes this is for the purity of the Virgin Mary. Other times it is for the lilies that grew in Easter lilies.
Black is for mourning and grief. This mainly relates to the crucifixion and death of Jesus.
Violet stands for royalty, as well as penance and sadness. This is to remind people of Jesus’ suffering.
Green is the color of life. For Easter, it means eternal life. Green also stands for spring and renewal.
Yellow tends to stand for happiness. It’s the color of joy. It’s also the color of sunshine. Gold stands for victory. Gold symbolizes the victory of life over death.
How Do You Decorate Easter Eggs?
There are many ways to decorate easter eggs. Some follow ancient traditions of blowing out eggs and using wax. Some hand-paint their eggs. Others go to the store and buy a kit. And others still use stickers.
There’s really no right or wrong way to decorate eggs- this tradition has been evolving for 60 thousand years! How do you and your family decorate eggs? Let us know in the comments below.