Peeps- A 70-Year History

Peeps turn 70 this year, and to celebrate these little magic marshmallow treats, we’re going to take a look back at the history of these fun fluffy snacks!

Just Beginnings

The history of Peeps begins with Sam Born, an immigrant to the United States from France. He was born in Russia as Samuel Bernstein in 1891 and moved to Paris with his parents when they left Russia. He worked in a candy store in Paris, and learned the candy trade. In 1910, he moved to Philadelphia, listing his occupation as “Candy Maker”.

Sam immediately began to take the candy industry by storm. In 1916, he was awarded the Key to San Francisco after inventing the “Born Sucker Machine”, which was a stick-inserting machine for lollipops. US Patent 1195437. Also in 1916, he opened up several candy stores in New York City. But in 1923 he opened his own candy confectionery. He named it “Just Born”. It was a play on his name and the fact that his candy was so fresh it was like it was “just born!”. In 1929 he opened another shop called “Montclair Chocolate” at 110 Myrtle Ave in New York City.

Where the Peeps Come in

As his candy companies began to take off, Sam Born started to purchase other candy companies. He was joined by his two brothers-in-law and in 1926 they bought Norma Chocolate Works. They moved to Bethlehem, PA in 1932 and continued to purchase other companies and brands. Maillard, Kreem Made Fudge, Rodda, and Marlon were just a few of the brands they bought.

But in 1953 they purchased the Rodda Candy Company. They were small specialty handmade candy makers. Their line of marshmallow chicks had small wings and were handmade by about 80 women. They were more of a meringue than a marshmallow and had to air dry. In total, a single Peep took almost 27 hours to make! After acquiring the company, Sam Born automated the process and changed the formula to the marshmallow we know and love. Automating the process cut the time down to only 6 minutes per Peep, and had the side effect of cutting off the wings. The modern Peep had been born!

Peep Varients

Not long after Born automated the process, his company, Just Born, began to experiment. In the ’60s, they began to put out seasonally themed Peeps. The ’80s saw the popular Bunny Peep be born, and by the ’90s, new colors and shapes were common.

New flavors of Peeps became popular in the early 2000s, with vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate Peeps.

It was in the early 2000s that they became popular outside of just candy. Lip balm, pillows, costumes, and even a TV franchise centered around Peeps were all created. Recipes for Peep s’mores, cakes, and even sushi began to take the internet by storm each year around Easter.

Peeps Today

Peeps continue to be one of the most popular Easter candies, with new flavors still being announced. In 2021, Just Born announced a new limited-edition cola flavor.

Whether you enjoy them fresh and gooey, stale and crunchy, or baked into cakes, Peeps are one of the staples of Easter. And while the world record for Peeps eaten is 255 in five minutes, perhaps we should eat just a few fewer than that on Easter Day.

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30,000-Year-Old Indigenous Art Destroyed by Vandals

In Southern Australia, trespassers forcibly entered the Koonalda Cave, and destroyed irreplaceable sacred images. According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the vandals dug under the gate. They etched the phrase “Don’t look now, but this is a death cave” into the soft limestone walls, destroying the indigenous art beneath.

It’s believed that this may be a planned act of vandalism. The cave is several hours from most populated areas. The site is also dark and complex.

In doing so, they destroyed some of the oldest rock art in Australia, desecrating a site sacred to the Mirning People. The Koonalda Cave is sacred to the Mirning People, where only male elders are permitted to enter. The cave is where they go to connect to their ancestors.

An example of ave art from the Manda Guéli Cave in Chad
David Stanley from Nanaimo, Canada, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Common

The Mirning People have been requesting additional security at the Koonalda cave for some time, as people have been visiting the cave without contacting the tribal elders for permission. Unfortunately, their requests have not been acted on by the Australian government.

As the damage was done in the soft limestone, it is impossible to restore. The indigenous art destroyed cannot be fixed. The vandals have not been caught but could face a $10,000 ($6,700) fine and up to six months in prison.

Unfortunately, indigenous art is being destroyed in other places as well, and not only by humans. Climate change is destroying sacred sites throughout Australia.

Australia is not the only country struggling with preservation. A US man was charged with destroying a Latinow rock carving in South Dakota. In Africa, groups are attempting to protect rock art from not only vandalism but war.

Some groups are treating ancient rock art to last longer, while other groups are focusing on protecting the sites. Other groups are taking the art most at risk and attempting to move it to museums. With any luck, these groups will succeed and the remaining art will not be lost forever.

To learn more about the damage at the Koonalda Cave, you can visit Hyperallergic’s article.

Final Call- Last Public Payphone Removed in NYC

It’s the end of an era. On Monday, May 23, the last public payphone was removed from its home in Times Square. The removal was in the works for quite a while now. In 2015, New York City began removing public payphone booths. They’re being replaced with LinkNYC kiosks, which offer free public Wi-Fi, charging ports, 911 buttons, and screens with maps and other services. Just like the old payphones, they help generate revenue for the city. So far, over 6,000 payphones have been removed, with the one in Times Square being the last standard public payphone.

John-Paul Joseph Henry jiphenry, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

No more will Superman be able to bound into a payphone booth to quickly change outfits, at least in New York. However, the city is keeping four full length “Superman” booths in the Upper West Side, so perhaps Superman doesn’t need to worry too much. Payphones aren’t completely gone from the city. Those that are on private property or privately operated may still be standing. Rumor has it that some of the phones in the subway stations still work as well.

Where is the Last Public Payphone Going?

Thankfully this is not the final end for this pre-digital relic. The Museum of the City of New York has opened an exhibit called “Analog City.” While I haven’t had a chance to check it out, this exhibit looks to be chock full of nostalgia. The payphone that was removed on Monday will be finding new life as a part of this exhibit. The exhibit looks at the city before the digital era, specifically between 1870 and 1970. It opened this past Friday, and is already quite popular. You can read the museum’s description of the exhibition here

What about Other Payphones?

Payphones across the US have been disappearing for decades. In 1999, there were over 2 million payphones scattered across the US. As of 2018, a bare 100,000 were estimated to still exist. Payphones as a whole have had a short life. The first payphone, created by William Gray and George Long, was installed in Connecticut in 1889. By 1902 there were over 80,000 payphones. 1995 saw the peak of the payphone business, with an estimated 2.6 million across the nation. Just a short 6 years later, companies began leaving the payphone business and payphones began to fall out of use.

Even famous payphones weren’t immune. The Mojave Phone Booth, made famous by Godfrey Daniels, was destroyed in 2000. (But if you still want the magic of the Mojave Phone Booth, you can still call the number.)

Amazingly enough, you can still purchase a payphone if you would want one!, based in Houston TX, is still providing payphones. There are pushes to save and conserve public payphones, and some states, like Indiana, will let you request a payphone be installed if there is a “Compelling Public Need”.

Perhaps all is not yet lost for the remaining 100,000 payphones in the US, although time is nearly up for those in NYC

Archeology News- Zeus Temple Found in Egypt

On April 25th, The Tourism and Antiquities Ministry in Egypt announced the discovery of a temple in the Sinai Peninsula. Archeologists believe the temple is dedicated to Zeus Kasios. Archeologists found the temple in the Tell el-Farma archaeological site in northwestern Sinai.

A map showing the Sinai peninsula where the Zeus temple was found
A Map showing the Sinai Peninsula, where the Zeus Temple was found .

History of the Site

The Tell el-Farma site was occupied from about the late Pharaonic period, which ended in 332 BC, until the much more recent Christian and Islamic periods. Excavations at the site have been ongoing since 1900. French Egyptologist Jean Clédat had originally found the Greek writing that showed that a temple may have been present. He was unable to locate or unearth the temple.

Now that archeologists have excavated the temple, they believe that a great earthquake destroyed the gates to the temple. These gates are where archeologists were finally able to enter the temple. Large granite slabs show where worshippers might have climbed to the temple.

Worshippers used the site for a long while. There’s evidence that Emperor Hadrian renovated the temple at one point.

Archeologists believe that the temple allowed worshippers in Egypt to worship Zeus Kasios. Zeus Kasios is a specific version of Zeus that was worshipped only in this area. There are no references to Zeus Kasios found in Greece. In fact, it’s likely that this version wasn’t worshipped until the Ptolemaic period in Egypt. For a great overview of Zeus Kasios, check out the paper written by Alexandra Diez de Olivera on this topic. If you’re having problems with the link, try here:

The cult was well known long before the temple was found. Finding the temple is a significant achievement. It is likely the center of the cult of Zeus Kaisos. The earthquake that destroyed the gates of the temple may have also flooded the region.

Finding the temple is a great achievement by the team at Tell el-Farma, and I look forward to seeing more of this great temple.

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Want to learn more about ancient traditions? Check out our article on Egg Painting!

The Neanderthal Flute

Every parent dreads the day that their child comes home with a recorder. No, not the one that sits in your pocket and waits for someone to say “Okay Google.” I mean the little recorder/ children’s flute. The one that looks something like this:

A children’s recorder

They’re a good choice for a first instrument. Easy to learn, simple to use for small fingers. Children never seem to learn to play as quickly as parents seem to run out of patience for the squeaky high-pitched noises their child will somehow convince the recorder to make.

What parents may not know is that this recorder is probably the oldest instrument. The Neanderthal flute, a simple flute with four holes, is estimated to be about 60,000 years old. Scientists found it in the Divje Babe cave in Slovenia. Neanderthals made the flute from the bone of a cave bear. The flute is 20,000 years older than any previously found instruments. It’s also the only known instrument made by Neanderthals. Stone tools were used to make it and were found near the flute along with other cave bear bones. Ivan Turk discovered the flute and tools in 1995.

The next known musical instruments appear to be flutes found in Germany near the Danube river. Estimates put these flutes around 42,000 to 43,000 years old. They were made from mammoth ivory and bird bones. These two flutes are the oldest known instruments made by Homo Sapiens.

The Neanderthal Flute is kept on display at the National Museum of Slovenia.

So next time your child brings home a recorder and decides to serenade the family at Christmas dinner with what might have been “Silent Night”, just remember that they’re following in some of humanity’s oldest footsteps. We just can’t believe it took thousands of years to develop earplugs.

A History of Carousels, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Carousels are often a family favorite at parks, carnivals, and amusement parks. They’re fantastically decorated, have options for riders of all ages, and play inviting music. There are various animals to be ridden or carriages to ride in. Everyone from the youngest in the family to the oldest can enjoy a turn around the carousel. The carousel is probably the oldest amusement ride!

There is evidence that the idea of a gently spinning ride goes back to the 6th century in the Byzantine Empire. Specifically Istanbul. Riders would be placed in small baskets attached to a central pole. The pole would be spun and the riders would twirl around the pole. Not bad at all for 500AD!

The merry-go-round as we think of it today actually has its roots in war. Well, training for war, in any case. Have you ever noticed that most carousels have horses as the main animal? There’s a good reason for this. Knights used to have games that involved riding in a circle on their horses to better prepare them for war! In the 12th century, knights from both Asia and Europe would have jousting competitions. The goal, at first, was to knock off their opponent’s hat. Turkish and Arabian warriors would toss fragile glass balls filled with perfume. If someone missed a toss, they would be covered in the perfume and all would know that they had missed a throw. These games were designed to improve their abilities on horseback and make them more effective in war. These games were called “carosella” in Spanish.

Peter Trimming / Jousting at Hever Castle, Kent (9),Kent(9)

Starting in the 17th century, knights had to spear their lance through a small ring. To practice this, knights had a contraption with “legless horses.” It gave them the chance to practice when the field, or their horse, were unavailable. It was not only the knights that could use these. Children and commoners were also able to practice riding on top of the “legless horses.” A children’s version of the training carousel was also made in the 17th century. It wasn’t a huge leap from there to go from a training device to entertainment.

Carousels for Entertainment

The first carousels designed for entertainment were lightweight and portable. They traveled to various fairs and gatherings. At this point, merry-go-rounds were mostly wooden platforms with swing-like seats hung from chains, although the mounted horses were added soon after. Mules were enough to move the platform, although some were hand-powered instead. The first merry-go-round in the US was in Salem and was installed in 1799. It was known as the “wooden horse circus ride.” What a mouthful! European and American carousels began to differ. Those in the US were more ornately decorated and larger than their European counterparts. Horses were no longer the only animals depicted but were joined by unicorns, tigers, elephants and other animals.

19th Century Carousels

Carousels began to really take off in the 19th century. Pole mounted mounts were put into place. These replaced the original chain-mounted animals. John Merlin was the first to play music while the carousel was moving. In 1803 his London carousel was immensely popular. Amazingly, carousels were animal or man-powered until 1861. Thomas Bradshaw was the first to create a carousel powered by steam. His carousel was patented in 1863 and made operating them much easier.

In 1870 Federick Savage began designing new carousels that changed out the animals for other seats. Some had boats, others bicycles. His designs were popular and could be found around the world. He also invented a new mechanism to move the horses. Previously the animals sat on springs that would make the animals move as the rider shifted. Savage designed the mechanism at the top of the pole that made the animals shift up and down as the carousel moved.

20th Century

Unfortunately, the 20th century was not kind to carousels. During the Great Depression, many carousels were destroyed, abandoned, or left to fall into disrepair. Of an estimated 4,000 carousels, less than 200 survived. People simply did not have the money to keep them going.

Carousels did not disappear entirely but struggled back to life. Today merry-go-rounds are made of plastic and fiberglass but are no less beautiful than the original wooden merry-go-rounds. Most are now powered by an electric motor and the music played by speaker rather than pipe organ. The absolute wonder and joy of the those who ride them hasn’t changed a bit.

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The Good Old Mechanical Pencil!

Students, artists, and engineers alike are all very familiar with the mechanical pencil. Preferred by many, the mechanical pencil is reusable, refillable, and always sharp. The little mechanical pencils that students love to fidget with are a surprisingly old invention! The idea of an “always sharp” pencil has been an attractive one for centuries and produced many variations of the much-beloved plastic pencils of today.

The first person to “invent” the mechanical pencil was the man who first invented the pencil itself. Conrad Gesner improved on the original stick of lead by devising a holder. The holder supported the lead, and the lead could be adjusted downwards and sharpened. This was not a true mechanical pencil as we would think of it today- it is not always sharp and needs to be manually adjusted. Still, Gesner’s holder was an innovation that paved the way for standard and mechanical pencils alike. Previously, people would simply hold the stick of lead.

A stick of lead with Futhark Runes etched into it.
mararie, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The next time a mechanical pencil pops up in history in is 1791. The HMS Pandora, a Porcupine class frigate of the English navy, was sunk near the Great Barrier Reef. Onboard was a mechanical pencil! This was not discovered until 1977 when the ship was finally located. This is still not quite a “mechanical pencil” as we would think of it today.

The 1800s were when the mechanical pencil began to take off. In 1822 the first patent for a mechanical pencil that had a replaceable lead and a method to push the lead forward was filed in Britain. Sampson Mordan and John Hawkins had filed the patent, but only Sampson manufactured the pencils. He called the pencils the “ever-pointed” pencils. His company, S. Mordan and Co, manufactured the pencils from 1837 until World War II.

Mordan’s patent drawings for his mechanical pencil

In 1833, James Bogardus patented a similar pencil in the United States. His “forever pointed” pencils were encased in a metal tube, but there is little evidence it went into mass-production.

Well over 150 patents were filed in the 1800’s for many variations of the mechanical pencil. 1877 had the first spring loaded system. This is the system mainly used today, with a “push button” design that moves the lead forward with the simple click of a button. John Hoffmann designed the spring loaded system and incorporated it into the Eagle Automatic company. These pencils, while very close to today’s style of pencil, had far too much “give” to the lead, making them hard to use. 1895 introduced a twist feed system which was not as popular as the push-button design.

An ad for an Eagle Pencil Company Mikado pencil
The Eagle Pencil Company made various pencils- the mechanical pencil was only a small part of what they offered!

 The event that really propelled the pencil into wide usage was the patent filed by Tokuji Hayakawa in 1915. He changed the casing to a nickel casing and improved on the feeding process of the lead. It took a few years, but a large order from a trading firm helped to popularize the “Ever-Ready Sharp Pencil.”

An interesting pen/mechanical pencil combo!

The mechanical pencil did go through several improvements since 1915. Most are now constructed mainly of plastic, and the sizes of the leads range anywhere between .2 to .9. Many include an attached eraser. However, traditional mechanical pencils used by engineers are often still made of metal and do not include the attached eraser.

Want to know more? Check out these sources!

The USS North Carolina

The USS North Carolina was among the most decorated ships during WWII. She was awarded more battle stars than any other battleship during WWII. She was one of the few ships still capable of battle after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

North Carolina and her sister ship Washington were launched on June 13th, 1940, and commissioned about a year later, on April 9th, 1941. She was the only battleship in the assault on Guadalcanal in August 1942. She was struck by a torpedo hit from the Japanese submarine I-19. The shot filled five men and injured 20, but the ship was able to stay in formation despite two flooded compartments. Overall, North Carolina participated in 9 shore bombardments and shot down 24 Japanese aircraft. It’s said that during one battle, the Battle of Eastern Soloman, the fire coming from North Carolina was so intense she appeared to be on literal fire.

I recently was able to visit North Carolina. She was placed out of commission in 1947, and finally stricken from the Navy list on June 1st in 1960. By 1961, she was dedicated as a war memorial in Wilmington North Carolina. She is a public memorial with a dedicated group that continually works to maintain and restore her. Below are some of the many photos I took. Unfortunately, some parts of the ship were under restoration when I visited, and it was rather crowded. The photos below have been edited to remove most people and improve clarity. You can click on the first photo to enlarge it, and browse the gallery. They are in no particular order.

Pep the Prison Dog

In 1924 a black Scotch retriever received terrible news: he was sentenced to life in prison. Pep, a friendly male dog said to be good-natured, was being sent to Eastern State Penitentiary in Pennsylvania for the alleged crime of killing the governors wife’s cat. He was brought to the prison, had his mugshot taken and a prisoner number issued to him, and taken to meet the other inmates.

Life behind bars, taken by John McGuire, found on Flickr.

Pep, aka Prisoner C2559, wasn’t assigned a cell, but rather slept in the cell of his choice each night. He reported every morning for rollcall and supposedly took his work assignments with no complaints. He stayed in the prison from August 31, 1924, until his death.

The truth behind the tale

Pep was absolutely a real dog who lived in the prison in 1924. However, he was never sentenced to life in prison and according to Mrs. Pinchot, the governor’s wife, had never killed any cat, let alone hers.

Pep was sent to the Eastern State Penitentiary primarily as a morale boost. In the years up to 1924, the prison had issues with security, overcrowding, and general morale. Some improvements were made, such as new watchtowers and a new communal prisoner cafeteria. However, the Governor of Pennsylvania, Gifford Pinchot, had recently heard about an odd improvement to a prison in Maine, and had decided to emulate it. He would send in a dog to improve the morale of the prisoners. The mugshot and prisoner number were a joke, as was the entry listing Pep’s crime as “murder.” The joke proved to be in poor taste, and stayed international protests.

Pep stayed at the prison for roughly (2) years before being retired to the farm branch of the prison, SCI Graterford. He remained there until his death.

Want to know more? Check out: Eastern State’s article about animals in prison