It’s a Fool’s Day on the 1st of April

By | Apr 1, 2017

April Fools’ Day, which is sometimes called All Fools’ Day, is one of the most lighthearted days of the year. While its origins are uncertain some see it as a celebration related to the turn of the seasons, while others believe it comes from the adoption of a new year.  Many cultures celebrated the beginning of the year on or around the spring equinox.

One theory deals with the switch in 1752 from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar.  Among the changes was that the year would begin on January 1st.  Under the Julian calendar the first day of the year was April 1st.  Various jokes were played upon those who clung to the old calendar system.

One possible origin of April Fools’ Day was provided by Joseph Boskin, a professor of history at Boston University. He explained that the practice began during the reign of Constantine, when a group of court jesters and fools told the Roman emperor that they could do a better job of running the empire. Constantine, amused, allowed a jester named Kugel to be king for one day. Kugel passed an edict calling for absurdity on that day, with the custom becoming an annual event.

It also is seen as occurring because of turning of the season, winter to spring leads itself to lighthearted celebrations.  Many different cultures have had days or weeks of foolishness around the beginning of spring.

Practices include sending someone on a “fool’s errand,” looking for things that don’t exist; playing pranks; and trying to get people to believe ridiculous things.

One superstition says that the pranking period shall end at 12 noon on April 1st. Any jokes after that time will call bad luck to those who breaks the rule.

Eiffel Tower – A French Eyesore

By | Mar 31, 2017

On March 31, 1889 the Eiffel Tower was inaugurated. It opened a little over a month later on May 6th. The tower is named for its designer, engineer Gustave Eiffel.

It took two years to built the tower and was used as the entry arch for the 1889 World’s Fair that marked the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. In 1889 the structure was the world’s tallest tower. It remained the tallest until 1930 when New York City’s Chrysler Building was completed.

On the sides of the tower under the first balcony 72 names are engraved. Gustave Eiffel had these names of French scientists, engineers and other notable people engraved in recognition. For most of the 20th century these names were covered with paint and were reestablished in 1986.

The official tower Web site lists 243,376,000 visitors to the tower as of December 31, 2008.

The Eiffel Tower was originally only suppose to stand for 20 years. One of the requirements of its design was that it could easily be disassembled in 1909 when it was to be turned over to the City of Paris. However with the advent of modern wireless communications it remained standing.

Today the tower is considered a piece of structural art and a valuable asset of Paris. This was not always so and during the last part of the 19th century many considered it an eyesore and were waiting for the 20 years to expire.

Pabst Blue Ribbon

By | Mar 28, 2017

Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer is a beer that many drink, but where did the name come from? The Pabst part of the name comes from the German immigrant Frederick Pabst who was born on March 28, 1836. Pabst was working as a lake Michigan steamer captain when he met Phillip Best who was running a small brewery in Milwaukee. Pabst married Best’s daughter as well as joining in a business partnership which began in 1862.

By 1873 Frederick Pabst had greatly expanded the business. He turned it into a public company, became its President with the company’s name being changed to the Pabst Brewing Company.

So where did the blue ribbon come from? It looks to have been a marketing gimmick. By 1882 the beer had won awards with one of its greatest awards coming from the Paris World’s Fair. The company was bottling beers in unattractive glass bottles and Pabst decided to tie a blue ribbon around the bottle’s neck.

From there people was asking for the beer “with the blue ribbons”. Blue ribbons were used until 1916.

Pabst Brewing has been an early adopter in many changes in beer over the years. They were one of the first to bottle their beer. The first, in 1906, to use caps on their bottles instead of corks. And in 1935 they were the second, Krueger Beer was first, to put their beer in cans. They even placed opening instructions on the can side.

Frederick Pabst died on the first day of the new year of 1905.

Maryland Day

By | Mar 25, 2017

Maryland formally recognizes March 25th, as the day of its founding. It was on that day in 1634 that the first settlers sent by Cæcilius Calvert, 2nd Lord Baltimore established the first settlement in land chartered to the Calvert’s.

When those first settlers arrived there were already pockets of settlers on lands that would become Maryland. In August of 1631 William Claiborne, a resident of the Virginia colony of Jamestown, founded a settlement near the southern end of the the largest island of the Chesapeake Bay. The trading post bore his name and was established with the purpose of trading with Native Americans. He named the island Kent Island after his birthplace of Kent, England.

Mathias de Sousa listed in records as a Mulatto was of probable African and Portuguese descent. He was one of nine indentured servants at that settlement. His indenture service ended in 1638 and he became a full free member of the colony becoming a mariner and fur trader. As a freeman he was allowed to participate and vote in the colonial assembly.

Most people know that the Mason/Dixon line is the border between Maryland and Pennsylvania. It is also the the border between Maryland and Delaware. In the mid 1760’s when Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon performed the survey to resolve the border dispute between the two Colonies, Delaware was still considered to be part of Pennsylvania.

Maryland has two official sports. Jousting became the official sport in 1962. In 2004 lacrosse became the official team sport in Maryland. Lacrosse is a native North American sport with its origins coming from a game played by native tribes.

The Smith Island Cake was designated as Maryland’s official dessert in 2008. The Smith Island Cake is a multi-layered (8-15) cake with icing between each thin layer. The most common flavor is yellow cake with chocolate icing, but there are many variations.

He Wanted Liberty

By | Mar 23, 2017

The Virginia’s House of Burgesses was meeting in Saint John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia on March 23, 1775 when Patrick Henry addressed the assembled. Virginia was still undecided on whether they would join their Northern neighbors in Massachusetts in fighting the British.

At the end of his speech he had convinced Virginia to send troops to New England. It was this speech that he is credited with saying, “Give me Liberty, or Give me Death”.

Did he actually utter these words? It wasn’t until 1816, seventeen years after Patrick Henry’s death, that Henry’s biographer William Wirt first published the text for that speech. With no notes available Wirt had corresponded with men who had heard the speech and others who were acquainted with people who were there at the time to recreate it.

According to Wirt the crowd convinced, jumped up and shouted “To Arms! To Arms!”

Patrick Henry may have been one of the key Virginia’s in favor of removing the colonies from the rule of George III, who he called at times a Tyrant, a fool, a puppet & tool to the Ministry, but when it came time to adopt the Constitution he led a movement in Virginia to vote against its ratification. He felt it gave the federal government too much power. Once the Constitution was adopted he was instrumental in forcing the adoption of the Bill of Rights to amend the new Constitution.

George Washington did offer Henry the post of Secretary of State in 1795 to replace Edmund Randolph. Henry was still opposed to the views of Washington and declined the post. With the radicalism of the French Revolution Henry’s views changed. He feared that the same could happen in America and began supporting the Federalist policies of Washington and Adams.

So Glad that Spring has Sprung

By | Mar 20, 2017

Spring 2017 officially arrives at March 20, 6:29 A.M. EDT.

The beach at Ocean City, Maryland will be one of the first places on the Delmarva Peninsula where the sunrise on the first day of spring will rise at 7:01:57 am. The Sun will set at 7:13:00 pm giving the area just over 12 hours of day light. Only a few days earlier on March 16th the day was just a minute over 12 hours and the night nearly equaled the day. The closest it’s been that way in 2017.

Some things that are termed spring may have begun before this date and others afterward. Baseball Spring training usually begins in the last couple weeks in February. College Spring Breaks are almost always in March, but some are before the Spring Equinox and others are after. Easter can be on either side of Spring. This year it’s on April 5th.

On the Delmarva Peninsula the Osprey, which migrated south for the winter, returns just shortly before the first day of Spring. Often around St Patrick’s Day. The Canada Goose which arrives on the Peninsula in the winter have already migrated North.

Spring is the time for rebirth and farmers will begin sowing their crops and spring flowers beginning to push themselves out of the ground.

The old saying is that March comes in like a Lion and leaves like a Lamb. It’s around the Spring Equinox that the transition from Lion to lamb begins. Although in many places in the US March was more pleasant than on the Spring Equinox.

Wishing everyone a very “Happy Spring”.

Edward Everett Horton

By | Mar 18, 2017

March 18 is the anniversary of the birth of Edward Everett Horton. It’s possible that you don’t know who he is, but nearly everyone over the age of 50 will be familiar with his voice. He was the narrator of the Fracture Fairy Tales from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.

Horton was born in 1886 and died 84 years later on September 29, 1970. He had a long entertainment career beginning on the Vaudeville stage in 1906 then on Broadway, motion pictures, radio and television.

Even though he is perhaps best remembered for his narration of Fracture Fairy Tales, he is also considered a master of the supporting role, appearing in many films of the 1930’s. His film career began in silent pictures with his last role in the film Cold Turkey, released after his death. He also appeared as Medicine Man Roaring Chicken in the 60’s TV series F-Troop.

Horton developed his own variation of the double-take for his supporting roles. He would smile and nod in agreement when encountering a possible embarrassing situation and once he realized what was happening his face turned into a sober, trouble mask.

Edward Everett Hale, author of The Man Without a Country was Horton’s grandfather and he was named after him. Horton used his full name as his stage name through the encouragement of his father, who said there may be others using the name Edward Horton, but no one else else would be using Edward Everett Horton.

After his death the city of Los Angeles named a street in the district where he lived Edward Everett Horton Lane in his honor.

First Law of the Land

By | Mar 1, 2017

As was discovered once the War for Independence was over the first Law of the United States, the Articles of Confederation, lacked the teeth for a good central government. It was however the first Law of the Land for the United States and on November 15, 1777 the Second Continental Congress approved them.

The Articles couldn’t go into effect until all 13 of the colonies agreed. The last State to ratify the document was Maryland on March 1, 1781. This was more than three years after Congress had passed the Articles and six months before the Battle of Yorktown.

The Articles served as the “Law of Land” from March 1, 1781, until March 4, 1789 when a newly adopted Constitution went into effect. What is know known as the Constitutional Convention began it was with the thoughts to amend the Articles, although it was decided quickly that they would work to throw out the Articles of Confederation and start anew.

Only two men signed the three major documents of the United States, the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation and the US Constitution. These were Roger Sherman of Connecticut and Robert Morris of Pennsylvania. In addition to these John Dickinson of Delaware and Daniel Carroll of Maryland signed both the Articles of Confederation and the US Constitution.

The Articles called for a President of the United States in Congress Assembled. There were 16 Presidents of the United States in Congress Assembled with 8 of these after March 1, 1781. That’s why some consider John Hansen, the first President of the United States in Congress Assembled as the nations first President. But these Presidents were not a chief executive but the leader of Congress.

Copy of the Articles of Confederation can be read at

The Original Dixieland Jass Band

By | Feb 26, 2017

Have you been wondering who released the first Dixieland Jazz record? You don’t have to look any farther. The answer to that would be the Original Dixieland Jass Band. They recorded the song Livery Stable Blues and Dixie Jass Band One Step on February 26, 1917 for the Victor Talking Machine Company.

The Original Dixieland Jazz Band, they changed the spelling of Jass to Jazz later in 1917, billed themselves as the “Creators of Jazz”. They were a group of white musicians who copied African-American southern music. The billing as the “Creators of Jazz” was more of a marketing slogan than anything else.

This first record was first marketed as a novelty. It did give many people their first taste of jazz and soon became a hit. It went on to sell over a million copies.

Nick La Rocca, who played trumpet, lead the band with Larry Shields on clarinet; Eddie Edwards on trombone; Tony Sbarbaro on drums and Henry Ragas on the piano.

The Band would record many more songs in an on and off career that would last until after World War II. The songs they recorded up until 1920 were in a variety of styles including traditional square dance. Their specialty was frantic group improvisation.

In 2006 the band was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for their 1917 recording of the Darktown Strutter’s Ball.

Silent Comedy Queen

By | Feb 23, 2017

Mabel Normand

Mabel Normand was born on November 9, 1892, in New Brighton, Staten Island, New York. Her parents were Mary Drury Normand and Claude G. Normand. There are accounts that give her birth as November 10, with the year given usually being 1894 or 1895. Of their children, only four survived childbirth: Ralph, Claude, Jr., Gladys, and Mabel; and of these, Ralph died in his teens of tuberculosis.

She worked as a bit player at D.W. Griffith’s American Mutoscope and Biograph film company in New York. In the winter of 1911-1912, Griffith took the main Biograph company, including Mabel, to California. Having met Mack Sennett in New York, when he relocated to California and started Keystone Film Company, she joined him.

Normand is regarded as “The Queen of Comedy” and the “Female Chaplin”. She was an actress and comedienne unique to movie history because of the role she played in the earliest development of American film comedy. It is said that she was the first to throw a cream pie into the face of Fatty Arbuckle on film creating a classic comedy routine. She worked in a series of films called the “Fatty and Mabel” comedies.

In 1916 she left Keystone to form her own company; Mabel Normand Feature Film Company. The company was short lived and only produced one film, Mickey, which sat undistributed for a year. She signed in 1918 with Goldwyn Films.

1921-1923 would be disaster years for Normand. In 1921 her good friend Fatty Arbuckle was tried for rape and murder. Then on February 1, 1922 shortly after leaving the home of director William Desmond Taylor, he was murdered. Mabel was the last, other than the murderer, to see him alive and was closely scrutinized by police and the media. In 1923 she was involved in another scandal when her chauffeur Joe Kelly shot and wounded Courtland Dines, one of her many friends.

Towards the end of the 1920’s Normand’s health declined. After an extended stay in a sanitarium she died from tuberculosis in Monrovia, California at age 38 on February 23, 1930.

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