Tag Archives: Unusual

This Man Was The Last Living Veteran of The Civil War (Or So He Claimed)

Confederate Civil War Veteran Walter Williams in 1954 At Age 111

Austin, TEX – March 28, – Sports Race Fans: 111-year-old confederate veteran Walter Williams and his wife, sprightly 84-year-old Ella Mae, were paraded past the stands today at the National Sports Car Races at Bergstrom Air Force base. He flew here from his home in East Texas but Mrs. Williams decided she would come by auto. Williams was made honorary commander for the day (AP Wirephoto) 1954

111-years-old?

When Walter Williams died on December 19, 1959 at the reported age of 117, he was the last surviving veteran of the American Civil War (1861-1865).

Now if you have doubts that Walter Williams was really 117-years-old when he died, you are not alone. Scripps-Howard reporter Lowell Bridwell had his doubts and investigated Williams’ claim.

in September of 1959, Bridwell reported he could not find a shred of evidence corroborating Williams’ service or his age.  On the contrary, Bridwell found evidence that Williams was younger than he said. Bridwell discovered there were no records at the National Archives showing that Williams had served in the Confederate Army. But In Williams home state of Mississippi, their war archives listed a Walter Washington Williams as serving in the army a a private.

Walter Williams said he had used several different middle initials when he was younger.

Williams claimed that he was born in 1842. The 1860 U.S. census shows that Williams was age 5 in 1860 meaning he was born in November 1854.

If Williams had joined the army at the end of the war in 1864-1865 he would have been nine-years-old. Continue reading

New York Hot Dogs In 1858

Before the Invention of the Frankfurter, Two New Yorker’s Come Up With Their Own Version of the Hot Dog

In 1906 the Pure Food and Drugs Act was passed by Congress prohibiting interstate commerce in adulterated and misbranded food and drugs. Living in 19th century New York you never knew where your meat might be coming from. Food, especially meat, was often processed in unsanitary conditions. Of course then, as even now, you might not even know what type of food you are actually eating.

This appetizing tidbit is from the January 22, 1858 New York Times: Continue reading

From A 200-Year-Old Book On Dreams And Their Meanings: “Finding Treasure Is A Bad Omen” and Other Dream Interpretations That Are Peculiar

A Sample Of 20 Dreams And What They Mean From A 200-Year-Old Book

“If You Dream Of Cain, The First Born Son of Man, I Would Advise The Dreamer To Travel Into Another Part of The Country, And Form New Connections” – The Complete Dream Book 1817

For thousands of years, humans have tried to understand and derive meaning from dreams.

Oneirology, the interpretation of dreams is still popular today.

Early in the 19th century a do-it-yourself book was published to enlighten the general public on what their dreams meant. The 1817 version of The New and Complete Fortune Teller Being A Treatise on the Art of Foretelling Future Events by Dreams, Moles, Cards, &c. &c. &c. Carefully done from the Arabic Manuscripts of Ibraham Ali Mohamed Hafez published by Richard Scott in New York contains about 100 pages of dream interpretations, many of them bizarre.

What is the worst dream you can have according to the book? This one stood out:

“Altar – To dream you are at the altar and receiving the holy sacrament, is a very unfavourable omen and denotes many heavy and severe afflictions, and that you will be very unsuccessful in your pursuits, and have much trouble in overcoming your difficulties. If you are in love, your sweetheart will die before you marry, or else be removed very far from you forever — if you are in business, heavy losses will attend you, and you will with great difficulty keep from going to prison — you will lose many friends by death— sickness will come upon you and your family, and your children will be undutiful and turn out bad.”

That sounds pretty bad!

Many of the interpretations are strange. What would seem to be good dreams or about innocuous items will lead to bad outcomes for you or your family and friends. Yet nightmarish dreams involving things like beheading and the hangman’s gallows are good omens. Go figure.

While you might laugh at some of these outlandish dream interpretations, are they really any sillier than modern beliefs in fortunetelling, tarot card reading, astrology or any pseudoscience that can predict the future?

How many of the following things have you dreamed about?

Let’s have a look at some of these dream interpretations from 1817: (editor’s note – we have retained the original spelling and punctuation as it is in the book.)

“Squirrels – To dream of a squirrel, shews that  enemies are endeavoring to slander your reputation ; to the lover it shews your sweetheart is of a bad temper and much given to drinking ; if you have a lawsuit, it will surely be decided against you; if you are in trade, sharpers will endeavour to defraud you, and you will quarrel with your principal creditor.”

“Death – To dream you see this grim looking bundle of bones denotes happiness and long life- — that you will either be speedily married yourself, or else assist at a wedding. To dream that you are dead also denotes a speedy marriage and that you will be successful in all your undertakings– -to those who are married it foretels young children, and that they will be dutiful, and give you great comfort. To dream you see another person dead, denotes ill usage from friends- -if you are in love, your sweetheart will prove false- -if you are in a trade, sharpers will take you in— if you are a farmer, you will lose money by horses, and be waylaid as you return from market.”

“Cats. – To dream of these domestic animals, is indicative of much trouble and vexation; it denotes to the lover, that your sweetheart is trecherous; if you keep servants, they are unfaithful and will rob you. To dream you kill a cat, denotes that you will discover a thief, and prosecute him to conviction ; expect also to lose your own liberty through the insincerity of some pretended friend.”

“Nakedness – To dream you see a naked woman is very lucky, it foretells that some unexpected
honors await you ; that you will become very rich, and be successful in most of your undertakings:  To dream you see a naked man is indicative of trouble and attack by thieves, loss of goods and reputation. For a maid to dream she sees a naked man, shews that she will quickly fall in love and be married, and that. she will have many male children, who will be great cowards.”

“Coal Pit -To dream you are in a coal pit, foretels that you will shortly lead a widow to the hymeneal altar; to a maid it denotes a speedy marriage with her sweetheart, who will become rich and rise to honors in the state; to the trader, it indicates that he will shortly be tricked out of a quantity of goods.”

Treasure – To dream you find a treasure in the earth is very ominous; it shews that you will be
betrayed by some one whom you make your become friend ; that your sweetheart is unfaithful. and grossly deceives you ; if you should not be able to carry it away, then it denotes that you will have some very heavy loss; that if you have a lawsuit it will go against you by the treachery of your attorney ; and that you will be waylaid by robbers who will ill treat you.”

“Cain – To dream of the first born son of man, who was Adam’s eldest son, is a very unfavorable
omen; it denotes much grief through the misconduct of children, and that you will be in danger
of losing; your liberty , if you are in love it foretells that your sweetheart is deceiving you; that if
you marry the present one you will never be happy; and that sour children will be undutiful, and lead you to many troubles and difficulties. After such a dream, i would advise the dreamer to travel into another part of the country, and form new connections.”

“Lice – To dream that you are lousy, and that you are killing a great many of them, is a very
good omen ; it denotes great riches to the dreamer after many severe misfortunes and much sickness ; they also portend deliverance from enemies, and that you will overcome much slander and malice; that in love you will succeed and be very happy, after a long and tedious courtship.” 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

A Schlitz Beer Ad You Won’t Believe

When There Was Absolutely No Truth In Advertising

Why Drink Water, When You Can Drink Schlitz?

Schlitz Beer Puck Magazine 1904“Doctors Say Drink More Schlitz”

Which doctors? Doctor Al K. Holic?

Today would the Federal Trade Commission have a problem with this Schlitz beer ad? Probably, but this ad is from a 1904 Puck Magazine. And the creation of the FTC to oversee truth in advertising was another 10 years off.

That’s what I love about 1904. You could say almost any ridiculous thing in print and get away with it.  Continue reading

In South Korea People Believe Electric Fans Cause Death

Many South Koreans Believe That Household Electric Fans Cause Death By Asphyxiation and Hypothermia

ge electric fanYou may have heard of people losing fingers by sticking their hands into spinning fan blades, but have you ever heard of an electric fan sucking all the air out of a room and killing you through asphyxiation?

Of course not, unless you were brought up in South Korea.

You see, in the 1970’s to conserve electricity use, the South Korean government spread a rumor that electric fans could cause death by hypothermia or asphyxiation.

Well that would certainly cut down on your fan use!

As illogical and unscientific as this situation sounds, many people in South Korea believe it to be true.

Below is an excerpt from May 24 New York Times about the situation: Continue reading

He Never Hires Blondes or Women Under Thirty

A Businessman Gives His 6 Rules For Hiring Women In This 1920 Article.

women office workersThis sidebar article from the August 1920 American Magazine describes some rather unscientific and capricious decision making when it comes to hiring decisions.

The businessman who penned the article never factors into his six rules for hiring women any relevant facts such as previous work experience or skills.

According to the anonymous author, older, plainly dressed, short brunettes with non-drooping mouths, make better employees. It is amazing the author did not need to consult an astrological chart or crystal ball to finalize his decisions.

There are probably still some hiring managers who today use at least one of these criteria for their hiring decisions without admitting it to anyone.

Why I Never Hire Women Under Thirty

The Experiences of a Business Executive

My Six Rules For Hiring Women

1 I never hire any woman under thirty years of age. Business for men is not “a part of life,” it is life. In our company we want women who will regard it the same way.

2 I choose short compact women rather than tall ones. Generally speaking, short or middle-sized people, men and women both, have more vitality than big people. Many say I am wrong about this. Continue reading

Incredible, Strange Silly Laws

It’s No April Fools’, These 12 Incredible, Strange Silly Laws Are Real

There Ought To Be a Law dustjacketAmericans are under the impression that there are too many laws. Maybe so. There are many laws that seem unjust, unnecessary and in some cases foolish.

Compared to the past however, there are fewer silly laws on the books. Look back at American history and you might be surprised how many strange laws there once were.

William Seagle’s There Ought To Be A Law (Macauley), 1933, scoured state law books and compiled a couple of hundred laws in effect in 1933, many of them bizarre, others just confounding or silly.

Seagle writes that archaic laws remained on the books due to the passage of time and with no enforcement, legislators forgot that these laws were still statutes. Occasionally laws would be reexamined and states would rid themselves of the stranger ones. The following laws were repealed in the early part of the 20th century:

In Florida: “An Act to Prevent the Indiscriminate Digging of Holes in the Woods”

In South Carolina: A law that made it criminal to draw a check for less than one dollar.

In Massachusetts: A law prohibiting  the showing  of any movie lasting longer than twenty minutes.

Some laws that Seagle found strange, don’t sound so strange today.

For instance this law in Wisconsin doesn’t seem out of place with all the revisionist history happening now: A law forbids the use in the public schools of any history textbook “which falsifies the facts regarding the war of independence, or the war of 1812, or which defames our nation’s founders, or which misrepresents the ideals and causes for which they struggled and sacrificed.”

Seagle questions the intelligence of politicians and lawmakers. What event transpired that brought some legislator to write each one of these bills to enact the law?

How many of these laws are still in effect today? I would imagine most of them have been repealed. But you never know.

1 – Delaware: It is a misdemeanor to “pretend to exercise the art of witchcraft.”

2 – North Dakota: A law regulating carnivals expressly prohibits the dancing of the “hoochie -koochie.”

3 – Massachusetts, Michigan and Minnesota: It is a criminal offense to dance to the music of The Star Spangled Banner. Continue reading

The Most Unbelievable Ad You Ever Saw

This Unbelievable Ad Appeared in 1920

Get Rich Quick fake Ad American magazine 1920GLORIOUS OPPORTUNITY TO GET RICH QUICK
Invest in
THE CALIFORNIA RANCHING COMPANY
Now being organized to start a cat ranch in California.

We are starting a cat ranch in California with 100,000 cats. Each cat will average twelve kittens a year. The cat skins will sell for 30 cents each. One hundred men can skin 5,000 cats a day. We figure a daily net profit of over $10,000.

NOW WHAT SHALL WE FEED THE CATS?
We will start a rat ranch next door with 1,000,000 rats.  The rats will breed twelve times faster than the cats. So, we’ll have four rats to feed each day to each cat. Now what shall we feed the rats? We will feed the rats the carcasses of the cats after they have been skinned.

NOW GET THIS
We feed the rats to the cats, and the cats to the rats, and get the cat
skins for nothing. Shares are selling at 5 cents each, but the price will go up soon.

INVEST WHILE OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS AT YOUR DOOR
CALIFORNIA RANCHING COMPANY

So what’s the story here? This can’t be a real enterprise can it? The following story appeared in The American Magazine in 1920 explaining the ad.

The Savings & Trust Co. of Cleveland wanted to warn people about bad investments. Continue reading

Early 20th Century Solution For The Disabled and Unfit – Kill Them.

In The First Two Decades Of The 20th Century, Some People Believed The Best Way To Deal  With The Lame, Degenerate, and the Developmentally Disabled Was To Kill Them – Preferably Soon After They Were Born

Eugenic Beliefs of a College President; a Doctor; Politicians and a Supreme Court Justice

atos disabled posterEugenics can mean many things, but in its most simple form the main purpose is control, selection and “improvement” of human population.

Its not the sort of idea that curries favor today, especially after Nazi Germany put the concept into practice eliminating undesirables; Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, the retarded, the infirm, lame and many other “unfit” groups in their quest for racial purity.

From 1979 until 2015 China’s government practiced a form of eugenics with their one child policy that was meant to control population. Today population control remains a touchy subject. Who gets to decide who should or shouldn’t reproduce?

For the first few decades of the 20th century eugenics or Spartansim was a popular and controversial science or as some have called it, a pseudoscience. If there are people today who would like to see the revival of a eugenics movement, few will say so publicly.

In this fascinating article published 102 years ago The Commonwealth a weekly socialist newspaper based in Everett, WA, an attack was published on the rise of Spartanism and used the words of its proponents to point out the dangers of the Spartan / eugenics movement. The article has been edited here for brevity while maintaining the overall tone of the story.

Highlights from The Commonwealth Thursday January 8, 1914 (Everett WA): Continue reading