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Kensington Palace: A Home for Princesses & Royal Duchesses

When Victoria became queen in 1837, she immediately moved to Buckingham Palace and demoted Kensington Palace to a residence for members of her extended family and various retainers. THE DUCHESS OF TECK Mary Adelaide was George III’s granddaughter. Prohibited by royal protocol from marrying anyone who wasn’t also a royal, she was a spinster of

Kensington Palace: The First Occupants

For more years than I’m going to mention, I’ve stayed in the Kensington area of London when I travel for my urban fix and British Library research. If you’re familiar with London’s layout, you’ll quickly point out that the library is on the other side of the city. Thankfully, it’s a quick trip on The

The Flag at Ft. McHenry & the Star-Spangled Banner

On Sept. 14, 1814 Francis Scott Key jotted down the poem that became the American National Anthem. The United States was engaged in its second war against Great Britain, and events weren’t going well. The war, which some call the Second American Revolution, was about trade and citizenship — two issues that are still controversial.

Uncle Sam: Symbol of America

Uncle Sam with his stove pipe hat, white hair, lanky body, and red and white striped pants remains a visual symbol of the United States. He first appeared during the War of 1812, and received his nickname on Sept. 7, 1813. At the time, he was overshadowed by a figure we no longer think about:

Summer Reads: 3 Thrillers for Summer Afternoons

Summer is a nice time to get away from my usual reading topics and look for something off my beaten track. And one of the side tracks I most enjoy is a “thriller” that is more mystery than violence; more story than hard-boiled detective. Which brings me to John Grisham, prolific writer of 29 novels

Fanny Farmer & Modern Cooking

On August 23, 1902 Fanny Farmer opened her School of Cookery and continued her revolution in American cookery. In order to appreciate her efforts, it’s useful to start with a recipe comparison for Bird’s Nest Pudding. The original 1833 recipe is from The American Frugal Housewife by Lydia Maria Child. Bird’s Nest Pudding If you

Pay Phones, Phone Booths & Superman

Phone booths are so 20th century, but when coin-operated telephones appeared in 1889, they represented a technological breakthrough as amazing as a modern smart phone. At the time, telephones weren’t uncommon, but there were no public venues. It was possible to find an agent operating a telephone pay station. For a fee, the customer could

We All Scream for Ice Cream*

Ice cream and its cousins can be had all year round, but during these Dog Days of Summer when the temperature climbs, frozen deserts are especially welcome. Considering reliable freezers are a 20th century invention, it’s surprising how long frozen desserts have been around. In China during the Tang Dynasty, ice men produced a concoction

Summer Reads: Prominent Women Lost in Shadow

This installment of Summer Reads is a bit on the serious side, because early in the summer I’m still picking through my history reading pile. The first book is historical fiction; the second, narrative non-fiction that is partly biography, and partly a great deal of information on Elizabethan building techniques. Taken in chronological order, let’s

Cultural Japan: Matsue Castle & the Village of Shirakawa-go

Matsue Castle is one of 12 original castles in Japan. I, of course, had to visit it. The castle is, more accurately, the castle keep, a structure built for fighting rather than luxurious living. That took place in a palace, now long gone. Like castles everywhere, Matsue Castle is built at a high elevation. The