Tag Archives: Etymology

7 Untrue Historical “Facts”

The Mayflower Brought Over The First English Colonists and Six Other Untrue Historical Facts

The first English settlement in 1607 by George Popham, Fort George. (photo from the archive Simancas Spain – courtesy Maine’s First Ship)

On the internet you can absorb a lot of “facts” that are completely inaccurate. A skeptical reader should ask where is the information coming from? What is the source?

Unfortunately many mistaken or untrue beliefs, facts and quotations were originally put down in printed books. Sometimes there was shoddy research involved, other times hearsay was used as evidence and other times outright fabrications were entered as fact. Over time, some false facts have been repeated to the point where they become sources of truth.

That is why if you take the time you can discover some entertaining books out there that delve into history and provide context to factual events. These are books written not to provide revisionist history, but corrected history based upon thorough research end evidence.

Tom Burnham’s The Dictionary of Misinformation (1975) Thomas Y. Crowell Company is just such a book.

Burnham researched hundreds of stories, quotations and facts to compile a “dictionary” of reference, rumination and pure delight based upon “misinformation, misbelief, misconstruction and misquotation.”

Here are seven untrue historical facts that we found interesting:

Henry Ford created introduced the assembly line in automobile factories
In 1902, Ransom E. Olds of the Olds Motor Vehicle Company produced 2,500 cars using an assembly line method. Wooden platforms on casters passed between lines of workmen who added parts until the car was completed. The previous year Olds built just over 400 cars.

Henry Ford improved upon the idea using a conveyor belt system, which brought various parts to the production line. Ford’s innovation cut the time to produce a Model T down from a day and a half to 93 minutes.

The First English colonists ventured to New England in 1620 aboard the Mayflower- 
In 1607, under the leadership of George Popham, 120 persons established a colony at what is now the mouth of the Kennebec River in Maine. The colonists built a fort, houses, a stockade, and a storehouse.

Harsh circumstances abounded: an alliance with local Indians soon fell apart.  An Indian attack on the colonists caused thirteen deaths.  The site of the small settlement was exposed to brutal winter winds and a particularly severe early winter set in, resulting in food supplies giving out.

The colony’s sponsor in England passed away, and George Popham died on February 5, 1608. When a supply ship finally arrived the following June, the remaining colonists abandoned the settlement and returned to England.

Revolutionary patriot Nathan Hale’s dying words were:  “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” –
School teacher Nathan Hale was hung by the British in New York City for being a spy on September 22, 1776. American General William Hull claimed to have heard about Hale’s last words from a British soldier who witnessed the hanging. Hull’s daughter immortalized Hale’s words in 1848 when she published her father’s memoirs.

But an eyewitness account from British officer Frederick Mackensie, is what we might call on the spot reporting. Mackensie wrote the following in his diary:

“He (Hale) behaved with great composure and resolution, saying he thought it the duty of every good Officer to obey any orders given him by his Commander-in-Chief; and desired the Spectators to be at all times prepared to meet death in whatever shape it might appear.” Continue reading

New York City Apartment Building Names In 1904 – Part 3

New York City Apartment House Names In 1904 (O-Y)

A survivor – The Vondel 171 East 83rd Street

We conclude our list of the named apartment buildings in New York city in 1904 with letters O-Y, there were no named apartment buildings beginning with a Z

The most popular name was the Washington, with eight buildings spread out across the city.

Walking across 23rd Street the other day I noticed an abundance of vacant lots and new construction.This is the trend all over the city. Old smaller (and sometimes large) buildings get demolished and glass-mirrored “luxury ” apartments take their place.

As we pointed in the first of these articles, almost none of the named buildings in 1904 are extant today (either by name or location).

If humanity does not destroy itself, how many of the buildings that are here in New York City today, be around 113 years from now?

This list is only comprised of apartment buildings in Manhattan and the Bronx.

Apartment – Hotels are denoted by an asterisk.

Oakdale, 36 W. 25th st.

Oakhurst, 2139 Seventh ave.

Oakland, 152 W. 49th st.

Oakley, 212 W. 14th st.

Ohio, 200 W. 79th St.

Olga, 44 W. 120th St.

Olympia, 501 W. 125th st. Continue reading

New York City Apartment Building Names In 1904 – Part 2

New York City Apartment House Names In 1904 (G-N)

Graham Court Apartments Seventh Ave 116th – 117th St

We continue our list of New York City apartment building names and their addresses in 1904 with part two, building names from G to N.

Researching a building at random, I came across this interesting aside. The fully occupied Marlborough Arms, a seven story apartment building at 57 West 10th Street was offered for sale at auction in 1895.

The sale price was $89,407.

The building stands today, though the name Marlborough Arms is nowhere to be seen. The current managing agent lists the building as being built in 1915, but they are wrong. According to real estate records, the same 19th century Marlborough Arms apartment building was sold in 1919 to A.A. Hageman.

This list is only comprised of apartment buildings in Manhattan and the Bronx.

Apartment – Hotels are denoted by an asterisk.


Gainsboro, 2 W. 120th st.

Gainsborough, 112 Riverside ave.

Galathea, 51 W. 106th st.

Galena, 101 W. 89th st.

Ganoga, 35 E. 27th st.

Garden, 164 St. Nicholas ave.

Garfield, 338 W. 56th st.

Garrick, 101 W. 126th st.

Gedrin, 525 W. 123d st.

Genesta, 448 W. 57th st.

Genevieve, 51 E. 12 2d st. Continue reading

New York City Apartment Building Names In 1904

A Good Name Is Hard To Find – New York City Apartment House Names In 1904 (A-F)

Demolition and new construction: the old landmarks vanish, new ones takes their place. It’s a practice that has been celebrated and lamented in New York City for more than 200 years..

As New York City accelerates its destruction of past places, it is important to note what was previously there.

The naming of apartment buildings in New York City goes as far back as 1870 when the Stuyvesant Flats, the first modern apartment building in the city was constructed.

Of course many people are familiar with The Dakota, The Beresford and The Osborne: grand apartment buildings with high prices and famous residents.

But in the 19th century, hundreds of relatively nondescript apartment buildings were given names too.

Real estate developers generally did not trademark the names they gave to their building. Therefore you will find multiple Augusta’s, Berkshire’s and Cambridge’s and other not so unique building names.

So why compile this list? If you are reading an old news story, doing genealogical research or are just curious for the exact address of a named apartment building from turn-of the-century New York City here it is. We thought this list would be helpful.

On the handful of addresses I checked on, the building was gone or the name had been removed from the facade. I would estimate fewer than half of these apartment buildings remain standing today and of those that do remain, less than one in ten retain their original name.

Because of the number of buildings involved in this list we will be breaking this up into three separate stories.

This list is only comprised of apartment buildings in Manhattan and the Bronx. It is also almost certainly not a complete inventory, because there were many tenement buildings on the Lower East Side and elsewhere that were given names, but do not show up on these lists.

Apartment – Hotels are denoted by an asterisk.

Below is A – F

Abelard 1887 Seventh ave

Aberdeen 249 W 107th st

Abington 44 E 79th st

Acacia 142 W 103d st

Acadia 1889 Seventh ave

Ackerly 241 W 101st St

Acropolis 519 W 123d st

Adela 228 W 25th st Continue reading

What The Dickens! 7 Popular Sayings & How They Originated

You May Think The Saying “What The Dickens” Is Related To Novelist Charles Dickens (It’s Not.)

7 Famous Phrases And How They Came About.

Charles (Not “what the”) Dickens

Almost everyone uses slang or colloquial speech without ever thinking how did the words in the phrase come together?

Monumental arguments have ensued over simple sayings and many times there is no correct answer, merely an educated supposition.

The Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins Volume II by William and Mary Morris (1967) Harper & Row, contains what the authors believe to be the origins of hundreds of sayings. Here are seven of them. The words in italics are from the Morris’s book.

the real McCoy

The real McCoy” is heard a lot in those gangster films of the 30s and 40s. A saying that is still used today, the real McCoy has controversial origins.

The Real McCoy? Charles “Kid” McCoy

Continue reading

Did Newspaper Writers Really Used To Say “Stop The Press?”

Stop The Press and Other Movie Cliches

Skyline by Gene FowlerReading Gene Fowler’s highly entertaining memoir Skyline a reporter’s reminiscences of the 20’s  (Viking) 1961, I came across Fowler’s description on how newspaper writers talked shop or in this case didn’t.

Apparently those old films which featured newspapers as their settings did not capture the true vernacular of the field or their subjects according to Fowler.

In one passage, Fowler relates the following story when he was assigned to Oyster Bay, New York to cover President Theodore Roosevelt’s death in 1919. Fowler had just finished relaying his story via telegraph.

“Sign me off,” I said to the telegraph operator. So far as I know, none of us (reporters) ever used the supposedly classic term “thirty” at the end of our stories. That, and several other words and phrases which occur in motion picture scripts, was not part of our supposed lingo. For example, I never heard one Park Row man describe another as a “star reporter.” And if one of us even telephoned in with the legendary cry of “Stop the press!” he would have been turned over at once to Dr. Menas Gregory of Bellevue, or else fired.

Fowler’s memoir is a paean to 1920s New York with the central narrative focusing on the great newspaper writers and editors, now mostly forgotten. Continue reading

Charles Lindbergh Was Not The First Flier To Cross The Atlantic – And Other Unusual Things You Didn’t Know

Lindbergh Didn’t Cross The Atlantic First

7 Strange and Unusual Historical Facts You Probably Didn’t Know

When I was a kid I remember reading a copy of Ripley’s Believe It or Not and coming across the “fact” that Charles Lindbergh was “merely the 67th person” to fly across the Atlantic.

Albert C Read's seaplane that crossed the Atlantic in 1919

Albert C Read’s seaplane that crossed the Atlantic in 1919

Technically Ripley was correct. The first person to cross the Atlantic was Lieutenant Commander Albert C. Read. On May 16-27, 1919 Read flew in a seaplane, the NC-4, from Newfoundland to the Azores and on to Lisbon Portugal. it was not a non-stop flight like Lindbergh was to accomplish eight years later, but even so I never learned that in school.

Lindbergh was not even the first to make a non-stop flight across the Atlantic. Captain John Alcock and Arthur W. Brown flew non-stop in a British biplane from Newfoundland to Ireland in a little over 16 hours on June 14, 1919.

So with that nugget of history, here are six more unusual facts that you probably didn’t know.

Why We Shake Hands With Our Right Hands
The custom of shaking hands has come down to us from the time when almost everyone carried a sword or knife. In those days when one met a stranger, it was customary as a matter of friendly intention, to hold out the right hand to show it did not hold a sword or knife.

It Was Predicted Skyscrapers Would Not Be Economically Practical Over Time
In 1939 It was estimated by the National Association of Real Estate Boards that “it is unlikely that the period of economic usefulness of a skyscraper can be much longer than forty years.”

In The Early 20th Century There Was A Proposal To Go To A 13 Month Calendar
Moses B. Cotsworth’s idea was to replace the 12 month Gregorian calendar,with a 13 month calendar. Cotsworth’s calendar would apply uniformity to the number of days in each month – thirteen months each comprising 28 days. Continue reading

The Greatest Horse Of All-Time Did Not Win The Kentucky Derby

Man o’ War Winner of 20 of His 21 Races

Man o' War at age 22 in 1939 at Faraway Farm near Lexington, KY. photo: AP

Man o’ War at age 22 in 1939 at Faraway Farm near Lexington, KY. photo: Associated Press

Churchill Downs is packed awaiting the 75th running of the Kentucky Derby. Here the fans watch the running of the 2nd race, in a prelude to the big race. May 7, 1949 photo: Associated Press

Churchill Downs is packed awaiting the 75th running of the Kentucky Derby. Here the fans watch the running of the 2nd race, in a prelude to the big race. May 7, 1949 photo: Associated Press

The Kentucky Derby, which will be run this weekend is the first leg of the triple crown of American horse racing. When a horse wins the Kentucky Derby, the inevitable talk begins: can the winning horse go on to take the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes? To win all three races is considered the measure of a great horse.

But Man o’ War (1917 – 1947) possibly the greatest horse of all-time never won the 1920 Kentucky Derby because Continue reading

Lifebuoy Soap Body Odor Ad 1933

My Dear, You Smell of B.O.

Lifebuoy Soap Ad - Schenectady Gazette March 13, 1933

Lifebuoy Soap Ad – Schenectady Gazette March 13, 1933 (click to enlarge)

“What a kill-joy B.O. is!” says this 1933 Lifebuoy comic strip ad.

“Perhaps its your fault,” says Auntie to Mrs. B.O.

Nothing like being direct.

The Lifebuoy ad warns that B.O. make life miserable for its victims. I like that  it is whispered in parenthesis in case you don’t know that B.O. stands for body odor.

And to add a dramatic flair, B.O. “threatens their jobs, social positions – even their homes!”

Fortunately of course there is a Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #47

Before The Flatiron Building

The Intersection of 23rd Street Where 5th Avenue and Broadway Meet – 1900

23rd Street 5th Avenue Broadway site of Flatiron Building circa 1900This view of 23rd Street at the intersection of Fifth Ave and Broadway was taken around 1900. The ornate street lamp and multitude of signs and advertising make this a great street level photograph. There is also something very interesting that I have rarely seen in any late 19th century photo of New York and that is another photographer taking a picture at the same time that this one was taken. He is directly to the left of the street lamp and the tripod is clearly visible while his head is under the covers to line up his shot.

From the approximate direction his camera is pointing, it looks like he is shooting straight up Broadway toward the Worth monument. I’d like to imagine that behind the camera is Joseph or Percy Byron of the famous New York Byron Company.

The famous Fuller Building, better known as the Flatiron went up in 1902 Continue reading