Category: american history

Duct tape was initially used during World War II for a very specific military purpose: keeping ammunition boxes sealed. It quickly became clear that it was useful for many other things, as well. And its incredibly adhesive qualities as well as inherent waterproofing led to soldiers calling it “duck tape,” referring to a duck’s wicking feathers.

After the war, former American soldiers who went to work in construction spread the word about the amazing new tape. It ended up being used for all sorts of HVAC applications, but mostly for holding ductwork together, so “duck tape” became “duct tape.“

Art is the stored honey of the human soul, gathered on wings of misery and travail.

During a 1968 visit with the Pope, William D. Borders, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Orlando, Florida, observed that arguably he was now bishop of the moon. According to the 1917 Code of Canon Law, which was in force at the time, any newly discovered territory fell under the jurisdiction of the diocese from which the discovering expedition had left.

And Bishop Borders’ diocese included Brevard County. Which is the home of Cape Canaveral, where the Apollo missions to the moon took off.

Want to know an interesting thing about one of America’s founding fathers, Paul Revere, who was a silversmith and engraver? We still have some of his work. Actually, quite a lot of his work. Here is a silver pitcher he made between 1800 and 1805.

Courtesy of the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields.

Most people think the pizzas they know and love – four cheese, pepperoni – were invented in Italy. But they were actually developed by Italian immigrants in the United
States, and then exported back to Italy. Syracuse University
anthropologist Agehananda Bharati calls this the “pizza effect.” Here are some other examples of when
elements of a nation’s culture  developed elsewhere and were then reimported:

  • Mexico City’s Day of the Dead parade was invented for the James Bond film Spectre and then adopted by the city.
  • American blues music influenced English musicians in the 1960s, who then exported blues-rock to the United States.
  • Adapted from India’s chicken tikka, chicken tikka masala became one
    of the most popular dishes in Britain before being re-exported to India.
  • Yoga became popular in India after its adoption in the West.
  • Salsa music originated largely among Cuban and Puerto Rican
    immigrants to New York in the 1920s and then spread throughout the
  • Teppanyaki, the Japanese style of cooking on an iron griddle, grew to prominence in America in “Japanese steakhouses.”

The St. Petersburg–Tampa Airboat Line, which was founded in 1913, is considered the world’s first commercial airline to offer scheduled flights. The airline offered regular flights from St. Petersburg, Florida to Tampa, Florida. It used a two-seat airboat called the Lark of Duluth which flew just 1.5 meters (5 feet) above the water. It was a glorified commuter’s ferry.

The St. Petersburg–Tampa Airboat Line was a success because it made the 29-kilometer (18 mi) flight in just 23 minutes. At the time, steamships covered that distance in two hours, trains in 4–12 hours, and cars in 20 hours. Passengers paid $5 (or about $129 in today’s money) to save 1.5 hours in travel. The airboat service, unfortunately, lasted just a year before closing.

Thanks to a small stick with two cactus needles on its end, we know that Native Americans in the southwest USA were tattooing each other as early as 2,000 years ago. Which is much, much earlier than previously believed. The artifact in question is made of a sumac twig handle, two small prickly pear cactus spines, and yucca-leaf trips to hold the spines on the handle.

If you look closely you can see that the tips of the needles are stained with a black pigment. Analyses show the pigment matches the proper depth to pierce and stain the epidermis. This was not a first, fumbling attempt but a workable tool, one that was used before it was eventually thrown away.

The artifact comes from a midden heap at the Turkey Pen site near Bear Ears National Monument, which was occupied by the Ancestral Puebloan civilization from roughly 50 BCE to 200 CE. It is the first evidence that the Ancestral Puebloan peoples practiced tattooing.

Elsewhere in the world, the rise of tattooing is associated with agriculture and increases in population. Ancestral Puebloans were undergoing just such a population increase when the tool was made. Archaeologists on the project speculated, therefore, that community members’ tattoos may have strengthened a sense of social identity, as the world quickly changed around them.

A little dramatization of how one high school track team walk-on changed the high jump forever.

Inspired by the 1870 diamond rush in South Africa, the Kentucky-born cousins Philip Arnold and John Slack came up with a plot to “find” a diamond mine in the United States. They settled on the frontier territory of Colorado. So later in 1870s, Philip and John tried to deposit a bag of uncut diamonds at a San Francisco bank. But upon questioning, they quickly left.

The director of the bank, William Ralston, heard about this. And he got exactly the idea the cousins wanted him to get: Ralston decided to buy the “diamond mine” that must have produced those uncut diamonds. To help convince Ralston, the cousins salted (placed diamonds inside) a Colorado mine, then pretended to dig the diamonds up.

Convinced by their trickery, Ralston founded the New York Mining and Commercial Company and invested $600,000 in the cousins. This company was comprised of prominent individuals such as the founder of Tiffany & Co., a former commander of the Union Army, and a US Representative. In total, New York Mining Commercial Company ended up selling stock totaling $10 million. And diamond fever spread, too. Convinced that the American West must have many other major deposits of diamonds, at least 25 other diamond exploration companies formed in the subsequent months.

In 1872, things fell apart. A new-to-the-scene geologist Clarence King began to investigate, first finding the secret mine, then going through its deposits. King noticed that the seemingly random layout of diamonds and rubies was too neat to be natural. Plus, the jewels were only found in areas where the ground had previously been dug. No diamonds or rubies were found in untouched parts of the mine. Those two factors, put together, were enough to convince King that he had uncovered a hoax.

Apparently the cousins could not buy King off, because on November 26, 1872, The San Francisco Chronicle published a letter from King, explaining his findings. King became the first director of the United States Geological Survey thanks to his part in uncovering the hoax, so things turned out well for him.

But Ralston was only able to return $80,000 to each investor in the company, and the cousins disappeared with the $600,000 down payment the company had paid for the mine. Arnold lived out the few remaining years of his life in luxury in Kentucky before dying of pneumonia in 1878. Slack apparently squandered his share of the money, for he was last reported working as a coffin maker in New Mexico.