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Articles Categorized History

Christmas Star 2020

Solstice, the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, happens on December 21. In addition to being the longest night, December 21, 2020 is also the date of the Great Conjunction when Jupiter and Saturn will be so closely aligned that, providing the night is clear, you can go outside and see a

Christmas Cards: From Convenient Greeting to Annual Burden

I grew up in a different America, one that had one black plastic rotary phone per household and one black & white family television powered by tubes. Yes, it was that long ago. Christmas trees were “live” with scraggly branches and decorated with strands of tinsel that had to be correctly placed, usually by a

The First Thanksgiving Feast

Over the years, historians have shared stories about the multi-cultural harvest event that took place in Plymouth in 1621. The usual version is that when the Pilgrims arrived on Cape Cod, the Wampanoag People showed them how to plant corn, and that when the harvest came in, everyone celebrated. If you don’t look too closely,

West v. West:The Salem Scandal of 1806, Part I

In 1761 Elias Hasket Derby, age 22,  married Elizabeth Crowninshield, age 26. When they married, Elias’ father built them a brick house on Salem’s waterfront. Elizabeth’s father provided household items, including furniture, linen, brass kettles, and looking glasses. Elias acquired a new beaver hat to mark the occasion.  The couple were well-suited. The Derby family

Hunting Unicorns

Unicorns are elusive creatures, though I’m not sure they can be called shy.  In the Middle Ages, about the time unicorns became officially magical, people thought the creatures symbolized purity. This is probably why the standard color for unicorns is white. On the other hand, unicorns were said to be vain creatures who happily spent

Unicorn Tales

Sometimes fanciful thoughts relax our minds by reminding us of whimsical, carefree times. And what could be more whimsical than riding a unicorn? If the unicorn is white, with a multi-colored tale, it is clearly a fantasy. But unicorns of other descriptions were once thought to be real. The unicorn, a mythical, magical beast sporting

The Earl of Northumbria, His Illegitimate Son, & The Smithsonian Institution

On August 10, 1846 President James K. Polk, a man little remembered today, signed The Smithsonian Institution Act to create what we generally generally think of as our national museum. But Polk’s action was neither the beginning nor the ending of the story I’m about to tell.  The story begins in 1688 with the birth

“By the Beautiful Sea”

Before people started going to the beach, there was Sea Bathing for health, of course. In 1753 Dr. Richard Russell published The Use of Sea Water, a treatise recommending sea water as a cure for various diseases. The salty water was recommended as an immersive cure and a healing tonic. Russell’s book remained in print

ICE COLD LEMONADE ON A HOT SUMMER DAY

Last month’s blog on Iced Tea got me thinking about other thirst quenching drinks for hot summer days, and Lemonade is every bit as common as Iced Tea as a summer beverage. Lemons and sugarcane, two prime ingredients for lemonade, are native to India where people mix a beverage called Nimbu Pani. The ingredients include

From Happy Faces to Emoji

Who remembers the original “smiley” or “happy” face? Before anyone thought of emojis, Harvey Ross Ball, a graphic designer, was asked to make an icon that could lift employee morale. Within 10 minutes Ball came up with a yellow circle, two black dots for eyes, and an arc for a mouth. Ball was paid $45