Far-Out Friday: Death By Pimple

I ran across this intriguing subject while researching an early Surname Saturday article about the Pimple surname.  I found several references to so-called “death by pimple” and researched further.  Clearly, the problem was due to lack of an effective way to treat infection prior to the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. That’s not to say doctors didn’t try to treat infections.  There were advertisements galore during the nineteenth century hailing various “miracle cures” for all sorts of maladies, pimples included.  The first instance found in a search of “pimple” at Newspapers.com yielded an article about a suspect in the disappearance of a surgeon who “hath been set upon by some ill people.” This article is no longer available at this site.  The former Digging History blog is now a monthly digital (PDF) publication, available by single issue ($2.99) purchase or by subscription at the Digging History Magazine site.  To see what the magazine is all about you can preview issues at our YouTube Channel.  Subscriptions are affordable, safe and easy to purchase and the best deal for getting your “history fix” every...

Far-Out Friday: Gravesite Dowsing: Science, Wizardry, Witchcraft or Just Plain Hooey?

October is the spookiest month of the year, so a story about gravesite dowsing seemed in order for Halloween Eve-Eve, I guess you could call it.  The article title pretty much encompasses the range of opinion regarding the subject, although I have to say a brief survey I conducted most decidedly leaned toward the “just plain hooey” side. Since, personally, I don’t really have an opinion (yet) one way or the  other,  I  hope  nonetheless  you’ll  find  the  article objective, informative, balanced — and hopefully interesting!  And oh, please do tell me what you think — science, wizardry, witchcraft or just plain hooey? This article is no longer available at this site.  The former Digging History blog is now a monthly digital (PDF) publication, available by single issue ($2.99) purchase or by subscription at the Digging History Magazine site.  To see what the magazine is all about you can preview issues at our YouTube Channel.  Subscriptions are affordable, safe and easy to purchase and the best deal for getting your “history fix” every...

Far-Out Friday: The Crash at Crush

   In September of 1896 there was a whole lot of crushing going on in the world.   Captain General Valeriano Weyler, a Spaniard, had been appointed the governor of Cuba.  He was determined to “crush Cuba” by separating the rebellious insurgents from the civilian population.  William Jennings Bryan was the Democratic candidate for president that year and everywhere Bryan went that month, he was met with a crush of crowds clamoring to hear him speak.  On the other hand, Republicans were determined to crush “Bryanism”.  The race would be a fierce one – William McKinley was being crushed by crowds wherever he went as well. The biggest crush, however, was a pre-planned event — the so-called “Crash at Crush”. The spectacle would take place on September 15 north of Waco, Texas in McLennan County in the “temporary town” of Crush, Texas – named for event instigator William George Crush, a general passenger agent employed by the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (M.K.&T., also known as the “Katy”). Crush had conceived of the event in 1895 and presented it to his employer. Although it sounds like a cock-eyed kind of idea, his bosses readily agreed to what amounted to a huge publicity stunt – an intentional head-on train crash. Train crashes weren’t infrequent occurrences in the late nineteenth century either – often resulting in loss of life. So, why would the railroad’s executives approve of such an event – was it to make money? One might assume so. However, Crush convinced his bosses the event should be free except for a special advertised fare which he believed would bring thousands of people to...

Far-Out Friday: Robert Wadlow, Gentle Giant

On February 22, 1918, with war raging across the seas in Europe, Harold and Addie Wadlow of Alton, Illinois welcomed their firstborn child into the world – Robert Pershing Wadlow.  He was a little over eighteen inches long and weighed eight pounds and six ounces – a perfectly normal size and weight for a baby.  Little did his parents know, however, what the future held for their firstborn child as six months later his height had almost doubled, his weight nearly quadrupled. His height and weight steadily increased – by the third grade Robert, towering over all his classmates, was taller than his teacher. Despite his size, however, he spent what would be considered a normal childhood – playing with friends, running a lemonade stand and joining the Boy Scouts. The Bloomer Shoe Factory made a special pair of size seventeen shoes for eight year-old Robert. When exactly the rest of the world outside his family and friends in Alton began to learn about the boy who would later be called Alton’s “Gentle Giant” is unclear. One woman interviewed for a documentary about his life said she had never heard of him until one day she was outside and noticed a “man” riding along in a red wagon. Robert’s family had just moved across the street. Around Alton and neighboring areas, attention was drawn to him perhaps as early as 1927 when one newspaper called him “A Man at Eight” – he was taller than his father by then: At the age of ten he was wearing size fifteen shoes. Five square feet of leather – a lot of...

War-Time Baby Names

Seventy-one years ago the world was on edge as the Allies prepared to storm the beaches of Normandy.  Americans waited anxiously to hear word and many towns and cities across the country made plans to sound sirens when word came the invasion had begun.  California’s war council, however, decided to forego the sirens because, according to Governor Earl Warren, it would “be bad to celebrate until we’ve won something.”1 Woodall Rodgers, Mayor of Dallas, Texas received a letter from the National Noise Abatement Council criticizing plans to sound sirens across the nation because it would create “unnecessary and needless noise.”  Rodgers ignored the criticism and emphasized the city of Dallas would herald the nation’s push into western Europe. This article was featured in the April 2018 issue of Digging History Magazine.  Preview the issue here or purchase...

Far-Out Friday: Ocular Explosions

In June of 1932 a column appeared in newspapers across the country, entitled “Questions and Answers from Washington”.  Apparently it was a chance for everyday citizens to ask a burning question which was answered by someone in Washington, D.C.  The questions ranged from “How is Italian salami made?” to “Can fleas be trained?” – and everything in between. One question posed was “Can a glass eye explode?”.  The answer: “A glass or porcelain eye might explode due to some chemical change in the material used, but the recorded occurrences are extremely rare.” Very few who knew Minner were aware he even had a glass eye after losing his left eye in a building accident twenty years before the freakish accident in 1911. The man who was receiving a building permit was shocked to see Minner remove his hand from the eye and see him bleeding profusely. Minner was in shock as well and fainted. Dr. Eugene M. Kistler had no idea what caused the glass eye to explode, nor could the original optician. Minner remained in shock but was expected to recover unless tiny splinters of glass had been blown back into his brain. Allentown doctors and scientists were truly baffled as to what caused the exploding glass eye. That wasn’t the first time nor the last an exploding glass eye made headlines. According to a column by Dr. Van Dellen,1 glass eyes were first produced in the sixteenth century, although some believe the practice dates back to the fifth century B.C. when Egyptians crafted ocular prostheses called Ectblepharons. These were made from painted clay or enameled metal, attached...