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. NOTE: Digging History is now a monthly digital (PDF) magazine.  This article will be included in a future edition of Digging History Magazine. Check out the latest issue here:  www.digginghistorymag.com or try a subscription...

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. NOTE: Digging History is now a monthly digital (PDF) magazine.  This article will be included in a future edition of Digging History Magazine. Check out the latest issue here:  www.digginghistorymag.com or try a subscription...

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. NOTE: Digging History is now a monthly digital (PDF) magazine.  This article will be included in a future edition of Digging History Magazine. Check out the latest issue here:  www.digginghistorymag.com or try a subscription...

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). NOTE: Digging History is now a monthly digital (PDF) magazine.  This article will be included in a future edition of Digging History Magazine. Check out the latest issue here:  www.digginghistorymag.com or try a subscription...

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?): NOTE: Digging History is now a monthly digital (PDF) magazine.  This article will be included in a future edition of Digging History Magazine. Check out the latest issue here:  www.digginghistorymag.com or try a subscription...