Facts, Fallacies and Facetiousness: Re-Re-Writing History

When I hear about how so-called “progressives” in the education field are working (or should say have been working, for years) to rewrite history, I get a little p-o’d – make that a LOT p-o’d!  That was one reason why I started this blog last October. My first tag-line was “Re-re-writing history one blog post at a time.”  After awhile I decided to change the tag-line to “A little history every day to keep tyranny away.” I don’t get “political” in my writings – and that is purposeful.  My goal is to find interesting and unique events in history and present the facts like they happened, both good and bad — although, admittedly, sometimes I have gotten the facts wrong myself, but feel free to correct me so we can all learn! I’m a firm believer in the words of Edmund Burke: “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it” – which I think goes right along with another famous quote of his: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Today’s article will be short – just the announcement of a new category which I suppose might actually be considered a “sub-category” of another Friday theme I’ve written a few articles about:  Facts, Fallacies and Facetiousness.  I hope to write the first article for the new category next Friday. I’m always happy to hear suggestions from readers – if you have a piece of history you would like me to feature, leave a comment and I’ll put it in the “queue”.  I’m also happy to take requests for...

FFF (Facts, Fallacies and Fascetiousness) Friday: Frozen TV Dinners

I was looking around for a Thanksgiving food-related piece of history and came across several articles about the invention of frozen TV dinners.  One part of the story has been around for years: In 1953 someone at Swanson Foods overestimated the number of turkeys needed for Thanksgiving.  What Swanson was left with was 260 tons of frozen bird sitting in refrigerated rail cars — and then the rail cars had to be run from Nebraska to the east coast and back to generate refrigeration.  A salesperson, Gerry Thomas, came up with an idea to emulate the airline practice of serving pre-prepared food in a tray and presented it to the company. The Los Angeles Times investigated the story in 2003 and was able to get Thomas to admit that the story about the trains running back and forth between Nebraska and the east coast was only meant to be a “metaphor”. According to a Library of Congress-related website, Betty Cronin, a bacteriologist working for Swanson at the time says it was the Swanson Brothers who came up with the concept.  Ms. Cronin worked on the project to roll-out the new product, making sure all items in the tray would cook in the same amount of time (synchronization).  She also developed the fried chicken batter. Swanson Foods first mass-produced frozen Thanksgiving dinners in 1954, consisting of turkey, cornbread dressing and gravy, peas and sweet potatoes (with a pat of butter on top of the peas and potatoes).  The dinners were assembled, packaged and sold for 98 cents – and a big success.  Some ten million dinners were sold the first...

The World’s Longest Graveyard

In 1803, the United States acquired a vast amount of land from France – the Louisiana Purchase.  President Thomas Jefferson wasted no time, commissioning a group known as the Lewis and Clark Expedition to explore that land and beyond.  Captain Meriwether Lewis and Second Lieutenant William Clark set out from St. Charles, Missouri, following the Missouri River all the way to its headwaters.  They then descended the mountains and made their way to what is now Oregon.  The expedition’s objectives were largely fulfilled – to map out and explore the newly acquired territory, to observe the plant and animal life and establish a relationship with the Indians. After Lewis and Clark’s expedition, the fur trade opened up.  John Jacob Astor was a wealthy businessman who commissioned his own expedition in 1810.  From 1810 until 1840 the fur trade was a lucrative business.  But by 1840 the demand for fur decreased and emigration west would soon begin in earnest.  In the 1830s, missionaries began to make their way to Oregon Territory.   Most notably, Narcissus Whitman, who accompanied her husband Marcus on the trek west, was the first American woman to cross the Rocky Mountains. The Great Migration The first major influx of settlers to head west on the Oregon Trail occurred in the 1840s.  The year 1843 is referred to as “The Great Migration”.  In the years between 1843 and 1869, before the completion of the transcontinental railroad system, more than half a million people traveled the 2,000+ mile trek to Oregon and California.  Some were looking for land to farm and make a new home in Oregon, while some...

The Legend of My Third Cousin, Thrice Removed

I have memories of being told that my Grandma Young’s family had at one point changed the spelling of their last name.  You see, for years they had been known as “Earp”, and according to family legend, the “a” was dropped and became “Erp” to distinguish and distance themselves from their infamous relative, Wyatt Earp.  I don’t know if that was true or not, but my grandmother’s maiden name was Erp and I share common ancestors with Wyatt Earp.  According to my mother’s calculations, Wyatt is my third cousin, three times removed. Tomorrow is the 132nd anniversary of the shootout at the O.K. Corral (actually in a narrow lot on Fremont Street) in Tombstone, Arizona.  On October 26, 1881 at approximately 3:00 p.m., probably the most famous gunfight of the American West began … and less than thirty seconds and about thirty bullets later… it was over.  Laying dead were three men:  Billy Clanton and brothers Frank and Tom McLaury.  Two others had fled, Ike Clanton and Billy Claiborne.  The lawmen involved were Town Marshal Virgil Earp, Assistant Town Marshal Morgan Earp, aided by Wyatt Earp and John Henry “Doc” Holliday. First of all, let’s address the misconceptions about the town itself.  Because of the legendary shootout in October of 1881, it has been assumed that Tombstone was a violent and dangerous place.  However, nothing could be further from the truth.  According to historian Don Taylor: It was extremely sophisticated and massively wealthy. Thirty-seven million dollars in 1880s dollars of silver was mined here; that’s $8.25 billion today. They had everything. They had fresh seafood every day. They would...

Facts, Fallacies and Facetiousness (FFF Friday) — Why Don’t We Celebrate “Cabot” Instead of “Columbus” Day?

Columbus really didn’t discover what we Americans call America.  He landed in the Bahamas and later what was called Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic).  On his return voyages he went further south to Central and South America.  So why do we claim that Columbus discovered America? In May of 1497, another Italian, Giovanni Caboto (or John Cabot) left Bristol, England headed west to find Asia.  He, like Columbus before him, had been commissioned by a country that was not his birth country (England in this case). After 50 days of sailing, on June 24, Cabot landed somewhere on the east coast of North America.  Some believe it was Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, or some believe it could have even been Maine.  Going on shore, the group claimed that land for England and soon after sailed back to England to report their findings and collect their reward. John Cabot actually landed on the east coast of North America …. he “discovered” it.  So why don’t we celebrate “Cabot Day” or “Caboto Day” in June every year.  That’s a good question. Apparently, the whole idea, or “myth” if you will, of Columbus as the discoverer of America began to percolate in the 18th century after the Revolutionary War.  America, of course, had been at war with England in their struggle for freedom.  One author suggested that the reason for the hero worship of Columbus was because Cabot had discovered America in England’s name, thus paving the way for immigration across the ocean.  They perhaps didn’t want any credit given to anything done in the name of England,...

FFF (Facts, Fallacies and Facetiousness) Friday – George Washington’s Teeth

I think this post will cover all the “F’s” for this Friday!  We’ve all heard the stories of George Washington .. he chopped down a cherry tree, he couldn’t tell a lie, he threw a silver dollar across the Potomac (I have to admit, I’d never heard that one) and he had wooden teeth. Today, let’s talk teeth.  According to the Mount Vernon web site, George Washington never had wooden teeth.  He did have dentures, but they were not wooden (bone, hippopotamus ivory, human teeth, brass screws, lead, and gold metal wire — but not wood).   Some have suggested that perhaps people assumed his dentures were wooden because they had become stained and took on the appearance of wood. Actually, Washington was plagued with dental problems most of his life.  From the Mount Vernon web site, here is a picture of the only remaining full set in existence (lovely, aren’t they?): By reading the Mount Vernon web site page “Ten Facts About Washington’s Teeth” (http://www.mountvernon.org/georgewashington/teeth), I found quite a bit of information I didn’t know. Apparently George Washington wanted to keep his dental issue a secret.  In 1781 he was mortified to learn that the British had somehow intercepted a personal letter he wrote requesting some dental paraphernalia.  His dentist lived in Philadelphia and the letter stated that he wouldn’t likely be in Philadelphia any time soon, so he wanted the tools sent to New York instead. Sir Henry Clinton saw the letter and was convinced that the other letter in the packet (military correspondence) must be genuine.   Because of Washington’s statement in the personal letter of not being...