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Showing posts from July, 2014

Bite Your Tongue!- The Allan Pinkerton Death Story

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     If you have ever watched much on the Civil War or on the Wild West, you have probably heard the term "Pinkerton". Back in the 19th century there really was no real nation wide law enforcement agency. There were U.S. Marshals, but they were not organized as a true federal agency until the 1960's. U.S. Marshals in the 18th and 19th century were often ordinary lawmen in territories as well as those who would escort prisoners of the court. The FBI was not started until 1908. This left no nation wide federal law enforcement agency for much of the nation's existence. One man, Allan Pinkerton saw the need for such a well organized agency and created a lucrative business as detectives and security for hire in 1850.      The Pinkerton Detective Agency soon found itself feared and respected. Pinkerton agents were employed by private citizens as well as governments at the local and federal level. They apprehended wanted men as bounty hunters, provided personal security fo

Epic Non-Rap Battles of History- Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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     Some of you who are fond "you-tubers" will have likely seen the channel called "Epic Rap Battles of History" which can be viewed here . However this is not something that cool and there is no rapping involved. I am for all intents and purposes a stereotypical white fella...no skills. However, this is an interesting story about an unusual friendship that went unusually awry. You see there was a time when the words most famous illusionist Harry Houdini, and arguably one of the top authors of the day Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were good friends. Good friends that eventually became bitter enemies.      First of all I should explain how the two men...who operated in separate continents for all intents and purposes came to be friends. Well it  is simple...they were both intensely interested in the spiritualist movement that had gripped upper society in America and Europe in the last half of the 19th and early part of the 20th century. Prominent men such as naturalist S

21 Grams... The Strange Experiment of Duncan MacDougall.

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     In the late 19th and early 20th century the paradigm of the natural sciences, especially in regards to humans, underwent a massive shift. The Darwinian theory of evolution first proposed in Charles Darwin's Origin of Species was later applied to mankind in his other seminal work The Descent of Man in 1871. The idea that humanity was not something divinely made and apart from the rest of creation caused a massive debate in the scientific and medical community. Many scientists, still vehement believing that humanity was indeed special, tried to prove that humankind was indeed something apart from the animal kingdom. The co-discoverer of evolution by natural selection, Alfred Russell Wallace was among them, and the spiritualist movement of the late 19th and early 20th century attracted many to the pursuit of proving there was a divine spark to the human being. In America especially many people sought to prove that this spark, the human soul, could be quantified and measured. On

Glenn Curtiss- Portrait of an American Badass

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     Most people out there have never heard of Glenn Curtiss. Unless you are really into vintage engineering you would rarely run across that name. He was a man of immense talent and a truly unique American, even for his time. In the early years of the 20th century he was an engineer that became famous and severely comptetitve in the two completely different areas of motorcycles and aviation. In fact he was a constant thorn in the side of the Wright Brothers and the heads of the largest American motorcycle firms at the time such as Indian Motorcycle and Harley-Davidson. He was not only a man who designed machines, but he raced them.      Curtiss was only 23 years old when he developed an interest in the new technology of motorcycles in 1901. At that time there was no Harley-Davidson (1903) and Indian Motorcycle had just started producing motorcycles instead of bikes. Other famous brands like Norton(1898) were making bikes. Indian was the one dominated the field in terms of speed. In

Please sir, may I have S'more-The Naughty History of the Graham Cracker

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     It is summer here in the good old United States of America. It is a time when many of us take to the woods and go camping. One of the more traditional foods we prepare is that delicious s'more, a delightful combination of toasted marshmallow and chocolate between two graham crackers. But the next time you chase a roasted weenie with a s'more by the fire, you may think of that cracker a little differently.     The graham cracker is named after it's creator, the Reverend Sylvester Graham. Graham was Presbyterian minister in the the 1820's to 1850's. He was particularly interested in using diet as a means of altering behavior. A staunch Christian,  he was concerned with vice and finding ways of preventing it by means other than preaching. Two of his favorite vices to tackle were alcoholism and sexuality. He is one of the first supporters of a vegetarian diet. Science being what it was at the time...in fact the word "science" did not even enter the lexi

Medieval Torture Was A Real Pain In The Butt (Not Really Workplace Appropriate)

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     So if there is one thing I have noticed in studying the history of western civilization it is that there seems to be a real fixation on peoples' fundaments/rear ends. I am not sure why that is, but here are some of the greatest pains in the butt in the history of western torture. Figging/Rhaphanidosis  Ginger(top) and Horseradish roots Not sure what sadist in Ancient Greece thought of this, but around the 5th century B.C. it became a common punishment to use Ginger or Radishes as a tool of punishment in Athens. This was often used to punish those found guilty of adultery. The punishment was simple because it used something cheap and plentiful. A finger of ginger or horseradish would be peeled and inserted into the rectum of the person being punished. The resulting burning sensation would slowly build up to a rather painful level, all without causing any permanent damage. When the inserted radish/ginger root lost it potency a little more could be peeled off and

The Doctor That Got a Bit Choked Up- The Tale of Suleiman The Magnificent's Physcian.

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     Succession has always been a bit of a problem historically in any royal family. However, in no other nation since Roman times had there been such brutality amongst family as in the Ottoman Empire. This is the tale of the death of Suleiman the Magnificent, one of the greatest rulers of the Ottoman Turks, and the fate of his poor doctor that tried in desperation to save his life on a Hungarian battlefield in 1566.      The Ottoman Empire in 1566 was at its apex as a political, military, and economic power in Europe and the Middle East. And the competition as to who would succeed as the next sultan was indeed fierce. Suleiman had eight legitimate children from his wives. In the Turkish tradition, the man who would ascend to the throne would often have his siblings killed to prevent any sibling rivalry. Indeed Suleiman's second wife one started a rumor that his eldest son(from his first wife) was plotting to overthrow Suleiman. The Sultan quickly summoned his son to his tent whe

To Boldly Broadcast Where No Man Has Broadcast Before

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     1901 was the dawn of new century. The last 35 years of the 19th century had seen incredible advancement in infrastructure and technology. Man had made huge strides in applied sciences as well as experimental. It was in this bright and promising era of positivism that Nikola Tesla made a huge impact. In that year(1901) he shocked the world by stating he believed that he had received messages from outer space while conducting experiments at his Colorado Springs laboratory a few years before. He asserted in an article published in Colliers Weekly as well as many newspaper interviews that these sources came from no " Earthly or Solar Origin ". He concluded that the only candidate was the red planet. This was the era of "Mars Fever". Since the discovery of "canals" in 1877 by Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli many scientists of the age had looked to the heavens and detailed what appeared to them to be an extensive system of canals for transport o