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Showing posts from June, 2018

Annette Kellermann: A Swimsuit for Swimming

Innovative ladies’ beach fashion from 1864.  These flannel costumes were not ideal for swimming. For a long time it’s been common to stroll by the beach and relax, even for Europeans and Americans.  Actually swimming in the water is more of a recent development. There were “beach costumes” that one would wear while strolling on the sand, but to actually go into the water?  Well, a man might, but certainly not a lady! Toward the end of the 19th century, that started to change. On hot days, actually getting into the water sounded nice, and more and more people wanted to do it. The problem, of course, was that swimming was difficult in the flowing, billowy clothing that was considered acceptable for beachwear. Men were starting to swim more, and women were starting to feel bold enough to try it, too. The era’s standards of modesty wouldn’t let a lady wear just anything, of course, but she needed something more appropriate for the water. By 1900, women were wearing costum

The Cherry Sisters

Handbill for a Cherry Sisters show.  The sisters didn't think it was comedy.  They were nearly alone in this view. When you perform for friends and neighbors, they’re likely going to clap, no matter what the quality is.  Your parents will always clap, your grandparents will always hug you and say, “Good job!”, the nice people up the street will always say, at worst, “Well, that was… interesting.”  But if you really want to know how good you are, take your act on the road. In the 1890s, in the small town of Marion, Iowa, there was an act that was politely received by the neighbors, which instilled in the performers the confidence to seek out larger, unfamiliar audiences.  The act was reviewed by the local paper, the Marion Leader, on January 20, 1893, warmly summarizing, “It will be many a day before those who attended will forget the enjoyable time spent.”  Bolstered by the warm appreciation of their small community, the five Cherry Sisters sought larger audiences outsid

The Midnight Terrors: Baseball's Original Thugs

The St. Bonaventure College baseball team in the 1890s.  How can you play the game without a splendid uniform? Probably the nastiest team in the history of baseball—or in any sport, ever—were the Midnight Terrors.  The Midnight Terrors started out in the 1890s not as athletes but as a teenage street gang, operating out of Manhattan’s First Ward—what’s now known as Battery Park and the Financial District.  Their ages ranged from 11 to 19, and they gave themselves that name because they did their best work at night.  When forming baseball teams got popular, they got the idea to form their own team.  They weren’t allowed to form a team unless they had their own uniforms, which was a problem.  Uniforms cost money, and no one was willing to sponsor them.  Their solution was to start the Midnight Terrors’ Uniform Fund, which was supported entirely by a rash of armed robberies.  They picked pockets, snatched purses, robbed people at gunpoint and knifepoint, and even robbed business

Maya the Bee: Prussian Military Origins

“Hail, Emperor, those who are about to die salute you!”—De Vita Cæsarum “That which is not good for the beehive cannot be good for the bees.”—Marcus Aurelius “His labor is a chant, His idleness a tune; Oh, for a bee’s experience Of clovers and of noon!”     —Emily Dickinson, The Bee In 1912, Austrian children’s writer Waldemar Bonsels wrote what would be a classic book that would endure for over a century.  It was a short book titled Die Biene Maja, or in English, Maya the Bee.  Maya has been translated out of German and into many languages since, and has been adapted to a feature film twice (in 1924 and again in 2014), and twice to television, as well (first in a 1975 Japanese production, a second Japanese production in 1979, and then in a 2012 French production).  The 1975 cartoon was introduced to the United States in 1990 by the American-Israeli television production company Saban, using an all-Canadian cast of voice actors to dub the show.  (An earlier dubbed version

Genesis 23: Abraham suffers his wife's death and the Hittites' puns

Sarah's burial cave.  (The gate was added later.) Sarah died at 127 years of age, and it was hard on Abraham.    After mourning a while, he realized that, like a lot of people, he hadn’t given much thought to estate planning.   He asked the Hittites if they could help him out, and one among them said, “Sure, we can provide your wife’s lot.”   Abraham glowered at the one-liner. “Aren’t you the card?” he said saltily. “Oh, sorry… too soon?” Ignoring the matter, Abraham went on with his request.   “I like your cemetery, but really, what I had in mind was more of a cave, specifically the cave owned by Ephron, son of Zohar.   Any chance you guys could help me persuade him to give me that cave?” It turned out Ehron was there among the Hittites when Abraham asked, and he was only too happy to do it.   “Look, Abraham, the land and the cave retail at around 400 shekels, but you can have it gratis.   Go ahead and salt your wife away in there; I don’t mind.” Abr