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From The Absent Superpower by Peter Zeihan:
"Geography in large measure determines national destiny: Countries with flat tracks of land -- think Poland or Russia -- find building infrastructure easier and so become rich faster, but also find themselves on the receiving end of invasions. This necessitates substantial standing armies, but the very act of attempting to gain a bit of security automatically triggers angst and paranoia in the neighbors. Countries with navigable rivers -- France and Argentina being premier examples -- start the game with some 'infrastructure' already baked in. Such ease of internal transport not only makes these countries socially unified, wealthy, and cosmopolitan, but also more than a touch self-important. They show a distressing habit of becoming overimpressed with themselves -- and so tend to overreach.
Island nations enjoy security -- think the United Kingdom and Japan -- in part because of the physical separation from rivals, but also because they have no choice but to develop navies that help them keep others away from their shores. Armed with such tools, they find themselves actively meddling in the affairs of countries not just within arm's reach, but half a world away.
In contrast, mountain countries -- Kyrgyzstan and Bolivia, to pick a pair -- are so capital-poor they find even securing the basics difficult, making them largely subject to the whims of their less-mountainous neighbors.
The Netherlands benefits from a huge portion of European trade because it controls the mouth of the Rhine, so it will seek to unite the Continent economically to maximize its economic gain while bringing in an external security guarantor to minimize threats to its independence."
Four hundred years ago, in 1619, Dutch traders brought African slaves taken from a Spanish ship to Jamestown, Virginia.
The first documentation of Canada on a map was by Italian map makers in the 1560s. French explorer Jacques Cartier was the first to use the term "Canada" following his voyage up the St. Lawrence River. The word is thought to mean "village" in Iroquois.
It is assumed that Columbus used an ancient map to navigate his journey across the Atlantic Ocean. Claudius Ptolemy was a Greco-Egyptian mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet during Roman times. He lived in the city of Alexandria in the Roman province of Egypt, wrote in Greek, and held Roman citizenship. He wrote three important papers which influenced later Islamic and European science. These were on astronomy & mathematics, astrology, and geography. Ptolemy's maps were finally printed, in 1486, thanks to the invention of Gutenberg's printing press.
Hiawatha was a pre-colonial Native American leader and co-founder of the Iroquois Confederacy. Depending on the version of the narrative, he was a leader of the Onondaga and the Mohawk, or both. According to some versions, he was born an Onondaga, but adopted into the Mohawk. Hiawatha was a follower of the Great Peacemaker (Deganawida), a Huron prophet and spiritual leader who proposed the unification of the Iroquois peoples, who shared common ancestry and similar languages. The Great Peacemaker was a compelling spiritual presence, but was impeded in evangelizing his prophecy by foreign affiliation and a severe speech impediment. Hiawatha, a skilled and charismatic orator, along with a clan mother named Jigonhsasee, was instrumental in persuading the Senecas, Cayugas, Onondagas, Oneidas and Mohawks to accept the Great Peacemaker's vision and band together to become the Five Nations of the Iroquois confederacy. The Tuscarora nation joined the Confederacy in 1722 to become the Sixth Nation. This was the first democracy in the western world.
Research has revealed that pre-humans living 75,000 years ago customized tools and created decorative patterns. There is evidence that women wore necklaces made of shells.
Ancient rock etchings discovered at a dry lake bed in Nevada are the oldest ever found in North America, dating back at least 10,000 years and maybe as much as 14,800. They resemble 7,600-year-old petroglyphs found previously in Oregon. While many later etchings show spears and antelope, the Nevada glyphs feature abstract geometrical designs. We initially thought people 12,000 or 10,000 years ago were primitive, but their artistic expressions and technological expertise associated with these paints a much different picture, said a Nevada museum curator who co-wrote a paper on the findings.
Stonehenge, the prehistoric site that has seemingly stood in isolation for thousands of years, is actually surrounded by a previously unknown complex of ancient monuments, buildings, and burial mounds, some of which predate Stonehenge by millennia. Though long buried and forgotten, these structures were discovered during a four-year project to map the landscape surrounding Stonehenge. Using a combination of modern technologies, including magnetometers, ground-penetrati ng radar, and GPS, researchers mapped nearly 3,000 acres to a depth of about 10 feet.
Buddha is not a personal name. It is an honorific title that means "awakened one." Buddha's real name was Siddhartha Gautama.
Because it was possible for people to count on their fingers to 12 using one hand only, with the thumb pointing to each finger bone on the four fingers in turn, a traditional counting system developed which is still in use in many regions of Asia. This explains the occurrence of numeral systems based on 12 and 60 besides those based on 10, 20 and 5. In this system, the one (usually right) hand counts repeatedly to 12, displaying the number of iterations on the other (usually left), until five dozens, i. e. the 60, are full.
CT scans of mummies reveal that heart disease was surprisingly frequent in ancient Egypt, suggesting that heart disease is caused by factors other than modern habits, such as smoking, fast food, and inactivity.
Fibonacci, an Italian mathematician, spread the HinduArabic numeral system in Europe, primarily through the publication in 1202 of his Liber Abaci (Book of Calculation), and for a number sequence named the Fibonacci numbers after him, which he did not discover but used as an example in his book. He recognized that arithmetic with HinduArabic numerals is simpler and more efficient than with Roman numerals.
According to both the Hebrew Bible and the Qur'an, Abraham is the forefather of many tribes, including the Ishmaelites, Israelites, Midianites and Edomites. Abraham was a descendant of Noah's son, Shem. Christians and Jews believe that Jesus is a descendant of Abraham, while Muslims believe that Muhammad was a descendant, through Ishmael.
Birthstones arose from the Breastplate of Aaron: a ceremonial religious garment set with twelve gemstones that represented the twelve tribes of Israel and also corresponded with the twelve signs of the zodiac and the twelve months of the year. Because ancient people did not always classify gemstones by mineral species, no one is sure which gemstones were set in the breastplate and why. Because of this, different cultures around the world have developed different birthstone lists. The custom of wearing birthstones probably first became popular in Poland in the fifteenth or sixteenth century. Birthstones originally may have been worn each month by everyone, since the powers of the gemstone were heightened during its month. Reference: http://tinyurl.com/bunn5e6
During the reign of Charles II, the revered king's governance of England was marred, in the 1660s, by consecutive catastrophes that devastated London: a plague epidemic and a citywide fire. Understandably desperate to reverse his kingdoms fortunes, Charles issued a decree to the caretakers at the Tower of London, ordering them to keep six ravens on the premises at all times. If any were to depart, he warned, the kingdom would fall. No historical evidence supports this tale, but it makes for a good yarn, which is why Christopher Skaife, the British military veteran who supervises the ravens today, is prone to recounting it to some of the millions of visitors his workplace attracts annually. Besides, the fictional decree is still being heeded: six ravens, at minimum, continue to live there permanently.
In 1848, inequality between the rich and the impoverished working classes culminated in an unprecedented epidemic of riots across Europe, including in Italy, Switzerland, Prussia, Austria, Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, Romania, and France. In Paris, as almost everywhere else, the protesters were defeated, but their actions helped lead to greatly expanded rights over the next several decades.
Before unification in 1861, under King Victor Emmanuel, Italy had seven city-states: Lombardy, Sardinia, Parma, Venetia, Tuscany, the Papal Estates (which included Rome), and the Two Sicilys which included the southern part of the "boot," including Naples. The fact that these were all governed independently, and were of in competition with each other, meant a lack of unified records, making it very difficult for genealogists to trace Italian heritage.
The first city to reach a population of 1 million people was Rome, Italy, in 133 B.C. There is a city called Rome on every continent.
According to traditional belief, Rome was founded by brothers Romulus and Remus on April 21, 753 BC. However, archaeologist Patrizia Fortini has discovered that a wall from an infrastructure used to channel water from under the Capitoline Hill could be dated back 100 years before Romulus and Remus. After finding ceramic pieces near the wall, archaeologists used the shards to "fix the wall chronologically between the 9th century and the beginning of the 8th century," said Fortini.
On August 24, 79AD, after centuries of dormancy, Mount Vesuvius erupted in southern Italy, devastating the prosperous Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum and killing thousands. The cities, buried under a thick layer of volcanic material and mud, were never rebuilt and largely forgotten in the course of history. In the 18th century, Pompeii and Herculaneum were rediscovered and excavated, providing an unprecedented archaeological record of the everyday life of an ancient civilization, startlingly preserved in sudden death.
The Colosseum began under the rule of the Emperor Vespasian around 7072 AD, funded by the spoils taken from the Jewish Temple after the Siege of Jerusalem. The site chosen was a flat area on the floor of a low valley between the Caelian, Esquiline and Palatine Hills, through which a canalised stream ran. By the 2nd century BC the area was densely inhabited. It was devastated by the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64, following which Nero seized much of the area to add to his personal domain. He built the grandiose Domus Aurea on the site, in front of which he created an artificial lake surrounded by pavilions, gardens and porticoes.
Underneath Naples is a series of caves and structures created by centuries of mining. It's part of an underground geothermal zone.
Naples has 448 historical churches, making it one of the most Catholic cities in the world.
In 1943, when Nazis began rounding up men in Naples, the women drove the Nazis out of town, killing all in their path. It was one of the most astounding mass citizens' revolt against German occupation.
Romans discovered that mixing lead with wine not only helped preserve wine, but also gave it a sweet taste. It's now thought that chronic lead poisoning was one of the causes of the decline of Rome.
Roman coins were used to publicize the emperor, his achievements, and his family in a world with no mass media.
In ancient Rome, an infant was placed at the fathers feet shortly after birth. If the father took the child into his arms, it showed he accepted responsibility for its upbringing. If the baby was not accepted, it was be abandoned and left to die.
Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (born 37 CE) became emperor of Rome by murdering his mother and step-brother. His respectful treatment of the Senate made him a popular emperor in the east, but his reign was marred by unemployment and a major revolt in Britain. After a fire ravaged Rome in 64 CE, he persecuted the Christians as scapegoats. With his reign in decline, Nero went on a murderous rampage, was condemned by the Senate, and chose suicide over execution.
Ancient Roman spies used urine as invisible ink to write secrets between the lines of their official documents, hence the saying: read between the lines. The messages appeared only when heated.
At its height in A.D. 117, the Roman Empire stretched from Portugal in the West to Syria in the east, and from Britain in the North to the North African deserts across the Mediterranean. It covered 2.3 million miles (two-thirds the size of the U.S.) and had a population of 120 million people. During the Middle Ages, Rome had perhaps no more than 13,000 residents.
It was common for the Romans to drive on the left side of the road, and historians believe that practice began because when you were on a horse, if you were right handed and you met some unsavory company on the road, you could draw your weapon, typically attached to your left side, with your right hand, while controlling the reigns with your left hand. If you happened to meet a friend on the road, you could more easily offer your right hand in greeting.
The switch came in the 18th century with teamsters in the United States, who would drive large wagons with a team of horses. Many of those old, large American wagons did not include a seat on the wagon for the driver. Rather, the driver would typically sit on the rear left most horse, when the driver was right handed. This allowed them to easily drive a whole team of horses with a lash in their right hand.
This then forced the issue of having oncoming traffic on your left as the drivers would want to make sure any part of their team or wagon didnt collide with oncoming traffic. When sitting on the rear left most horse, this was much easier to do when using a keep-right rule of the road. Just as important, if you wanted to pass a wagon in front of you, or at least see further down the road when you are sitting on the left side, it is much easier done if you are using the keep-right rule; this would give you much greater visibility of oncoming traffic when sitting on the left of your wagon. Gradually, this system spread so that by the late 18th century, the first laws in the United States were passed, starting in 1792 in Pennsylvania, where the rule of the road was now officially a keep-right rule. This quickly spread throughout the United States and Canada.
England never adopted this method primarily because massive wagons, common in the United States, didnt work well on narrow streets which were common in London and other English cities. England was also never conquered by Napoleon or later Germany. Thus, they kept the classical keep-left rule of the road that had endured for hundreds of years before.
During Biblical times, shoes were seen as a badge of authority because they lifted a person off the ground, differentiating them from barefoot slaves and serfs. They were used to seal a bargain and fathers would give his son-in-law a pair as a wedding gift.
There are an estimated 12 million Romani better known as Gypsies living worldwide. Most of them (8-10 million) live in Europe, making them the continents largest ethnic minority group. Although recent genetic analysis of European Gypsy groups confirmed that their ancestors left India in a single emigration wave some 1,500 or so years ago. So, the legend that the Gypsies hailed from Egypt is false. But that may be the origin of the name Gypsy, from the Middle English gypcian, which was short for Egipcien)
China is often considered the longest continuous civilization, with some historians marking 6000 B.C. as the dawn of Chinese civilization. It also has the worlds longest continuously used written language. China is the fourth largest country in the world (after Russia, Canada, and the U.S., but despite its size, all of China is in one time zone. One in every five people in the world is Chinese.
Historians speculate that as the Chinese population grew, people had to conserve cooking fuel by chopping food into small pieces so that it could cook faster. These bite-sized foods eliminated the need for knives and, hence, chopsticks were invented.
More than 200 stone structures were built at Macha Picchu in the Andes Mountains of Peru, before the Incas had iron, the wheel, or any written language.
In the 1800s, the "nation-state" as we now know it was born. Prior to that time, city-states prevailed, or in larger territories, kings ruled over regional clusters whose people had diverse languages and cultures. The borders of these kingdoms shifted often and were poorly defined. With the change, the nation became "deified," and an imperative arose to create a uniformity in language and culture and to drive out diversity. It was technology that enabled the change:
Industrialization eventually gave birth to the nation-state. Agrarian empires had lacked the technology to impose a uniform culture, but during the nineteenth century, Europe was reconfigured into clearly defined states ruled by a central government. Industrialized society required standardized literacy, a shared language, and a unified control of human resources. Even if they spoke a different language from the ruler, subjects now belonged to an integrated 'nation,' an 'imaginary community' of people who were encouraged to feel a deep connection with persons they knew nothing about.
Many prominent families in the northest U.S. earned their fortunes through the opium trade. These include the e Delanos (relatives of FDR), Cabots (who endowed Harvard), Russells (Yale's famous Skull and Bones society) Abiel Low (Low Library at Columbia), John Green (Princeton) John Murray Forbes (Bell Telephone Company) and Thomas Perkins (first commercial railroad and the Boston Athenaeum.
Annual flu viruses (not including flu pandemics) infect up to 20% of Americans, put 200,000 in the hospital with flu-related complications, and kill about 36,000 people.
Severe drought and dust storms exacerbated the Great Depression because it dried out farmlands and forced families to leave their farms. On May 9, 1934, a dust storm carried an estimated 350 million tons of dirt 2,000 miles eastward and dumped four million tons of prairie dirt in Chicago. The drought and dust killed tens of thousands of animals.
In 1215, English noblemen forced King John to sign the Magna Carta, which helped usher in government with a separation of powers, creating conditions in which centralized authority could not totally control fiscal, political, religious or intellectual life.
The first phase of the Industrial revolution began around 1750 with the shift from human and animal labor to machine-based production. This change was brought about by the use of water power and later steam engines in the textile mills of Great Britain. The Derwent Valley in England, which is in the Derbyshire area of the east midlands, was the site of the first examples of water power to produce cotton, a more practical fiber for clothing than wool and less expensive than silk. The Cromford Mill was the first water-powered spinning mill, developed by Richard Arkwright in 1771. Samual Slater then brought the technology to the U.S., and was dubbed the father of the American industrial revolution.
The second phase dates from the 1820s, when there was a shift to fossil fuelsprimarily coal. By the middle of the nineteenth century, another cluster emerged from the integration of coal, iron, steel, and railroads. Edwin L. Drake drilled the first commercially successful well in Titusville, Pennsylvania, in 1859. Electricity then made the assembly line and mass production possible. When Henry Ford adapted technology used in Chicagos meatpacking houses to produce cars, he set in motion changes whose effects are still being felt. The incandescent light bulb (1881) transformed private and public space. The telegraph (ca.1840) and telephone (1876) enabled the communication and transmission of information across greater distances at faster rates of speed than ever before.
Finally, electronic tabulating machines, invented by Herman Hollerith in 1889, made it possible to collect and manage data in new ways. He created the first automatic card-feed mechanism and key-punch system with which an operator using a keyboard could process as many as three hundred cards an hour. Under the direction of Thomas J. Watson, Holleriths company merged with three others in 1911 to form Computing Tabulating recording Company. In 1924, the company was renamed International Business Machines Corporation (IBM).
As fewer people created their own goods after the Industrial Revolution, expert knowledge of handiwork skills and materials became obsolete. Leftovers and scraps that were once considered valuable and reusable became trash. The first organized incineration of trash began in England in 1874.
In the late 1600s, wealthy British landholders passed legislation to encourage the consumption of liquor, all in an attempt to increase the value of their grain. The consumption of spirits in Britain increased almost fifteen-fold from 572,000 gallons in 1684 to 8,000,000 gallons in 1743, bringing an epidemic of intoxication and crime known as the London Gin Craze.
The first census was carried out by the French, in New France (later Quebec), when Jean Talon, who was in charge of the colony, traveled on horseback to count every individual. This took place in 1666, and he counted 3,215, but didn't include any of the native population.
On April 6, 1896, the Olympic Games, a long-lost tradition of ancient Greece, were reborn in Athens 1,500 years after being banned by Roman Emperor Theodosius I. At the opening of the Athens Games, King Georgios I of Greece and a crowd of 60,000 spectators welcomed athletes from 13 nations to the international competition.
Slaves made up between 40% and 80% of ancient Greeces population. Slaves were captives from wars, abandoned children, or children of slaves.
American patriot Paul Revere was a member of the Sons of Liberty and a participant in the Boston Tea Party, but he is chiefly remembered for his late-night horseback ride to warn the Massachusetts colonists that British soldiers were setting forth on the mission that, as it turned out, began the American Revolution in 1775. Two others also rode out with the news, but it is Revere who is celebrated as the midnight rider, despite having been captured before reaching his final destination.
When it was time to build the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., a contest was held to select the architect. The winner was William Thorton, a doctor and amateur architect, who received $500 and a city lot as his prize.
On September 18, 1793, President George Washington laid the Capitol cornerstone at Washington, DC, in a Masonic ceremony. That event was the first and last recorded occasion at which the stone with its engraved silver plate was seen. In 1958, during the extension of the east front of the Capitol, an unsuccessful effort was made to find it. Originally called the Presidents Palace, the official residence of the president of the United States was designed by Irish-American architect James Hoban with guidance from President George Washington, whose term ended before he was able to move in. Some slaves took part in the construction, which lasted eight years. Today, the White House is the oldest public building in Washington.
The first official presidential election in the United States took place in 1789 with George Washington becoming the first president. However, only 10 of the 13 states participated in the election, as New York had chosen no electors, and North Carolina and Rhode Island had not yet ratified the Constitution.
Four U.S. presidential candidates won the popular vote but lost the presidency: Andrew Jackson won the popular vote but lost the election to John Quincy Adams (1824); Samuel J. Tilden won the popular vote but lost the election to Rutherford B. Hayes (1876); Grover Cleveland won the popular vote but lost the election to Benjamin Harrison (1888); Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the election to George W. Bush (2000).
James Garfield, the only President of the United States who was a clergyman, was also the first ambidextrous president. It was said that one could ask him a question in English and he could simultaneously write the answer in Latin with one hand, and Ancient Greek with the other. He was also the first president to talk on a telephone.
Andrew Johnson was the only tailor ever to be president.
William Henry Harrison was the only U.S. president never to sign a bill into law. He died before having the opportunity.
Grover Cleveland was the only president in history to hold the job of a hangman. He was once the sheriff of Erie County, New York, and twice had to spring the trap at a hanging.
Abraham Lincoln was the only U.S. president who was also a licensed bartender. He was co-owner of Berry and Lincoln, a saloon in Springfield, Illinois. A few weeks before Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the US, 11-year-old Grace Bedell sent him a letter urging him to grow a beard to win over voters. Bedell claimed that "all the ladies like whiskers" and would urge their husbands to vote for a bearded Lincoln. Days later, Lincoln drafted a noncommittal response in which he wondered whether such a change in appearance would be well received. Within months, he was sporting his now-iconic beard.
The S in Harry S Truman doesn't have a period after it because it doesnt stand for anything; Truman had no middle name.
Ronald Reagan was the only U.S President known to have been divorced.
Martin Van Buren was the only U.S. President whose first language wasn't English. He grew up speaking Dutch.
Dwight D. Eisenhower introduced several religious traditions, including the first National Prayer Breakfast. He also urged that the words "under God" be added to the pledge of allegiance, and it was during his second term that the words "In God We Trust" were added to paper currency:
The first woman to run for U.S. president was Victoria Woodhull, who campaigned for the office in 1872 under the National Womans Suffrage Association. While women would not be granted the right to vote by a constitutional amendment for nearly 50 years, there were no laws prohibiting a woman from running for the chief executive position. Before 1920, it was illegal for women in the United States to vote. When womens rights advocate Susan B. Anthony tried to vote in the 1872 election, she was arrested and fined $100. In 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, giving women in the U.S. the vote. In many other Western nations, women's suffrage also came at the end of World War I, with some important late adopters such as France in 1944 and Switzerland in 1971.
The first female governor of a U.S. state was Wyoming governor , elected in 1924. Wyoming was also the first state to give women the right to vote, enacting womens suffrage in 1869.
One of Californias most famous Stagecoach Drivers, Charley Darkey Parkhurst (1812-1879) was discovered at his death to be a woman. Charley died of mouth cancer from too many cigars, chewing tobacco and whiskey. Doctors preparing her for her funeral, discovered that she had borne a child. Parkhurst grew up in an orphanage in the east where she learned to handle horses. She fell in love with a runaway slave and had his child. The destruction of her family drove her to California, dressed as a man, to track the killer. She became a renowned stagecoach driver for Wells Fargo killed a famous outlaw, and lived with a housekeeper who, unaware of her true gender, fell in love with her. Charley was the first known woman to vote in America in 1868 (as a man).
Rebecca Latimer Felton became the first female US senator in 1922. Georgia Governor Thomas Hardwick had unsuccessfully fought the 19th Amendment, which allowed women to voteand to vote against him in retaliation when he ran for US Senate. Before the election, he tried to appease female voters by naming Felton, an 87-year-old suffragist and white supremacist, to be Georgias interim senator for the shortest term in historyone day. Felton thus became the first woman, one of the last former slave-owners, and the oldest freshman to serve.
In 1893, New Zealand became the first nation to extend the right to vote to all adult women. The women in South Australia achieved the same right in 1894 but became the first to obtain the right to stand for Parliament. The first European country to introduce women's suffrage was the Grand Duchy of Finlandthen a part of the Russian Empire with autonomous powerswhich also produced the world's first female members of parliament as a result of the 1907 parliamentary elections. Norway folloed in 1913.
Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, received her law degree from Stanford. where she served on the Stanford Law Review with its presiding editor in chief, future Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist. After graduation more than 40 law firms refused to interview her for a position as an attorney because she was a woman. She eventually found employment as a deputy county attorney in San Mateo, California, after she offered to work for no salary and without an office, sharing space with a secretary.
In 1897, Adelaide Hunter founded the Federation of Women's Institutes of Canada. This early feminist also helped found the National Council of Women, the Victorian Order of Nurses and the YWCA in Canada.
In 1893, the first mosque in the United States was built.
The first mental asylum in the U.S opened in 1773 in Williamsburg, Virginia.
In the 1800s, Irish immigrants to the U.S. were considered to be closer to Africans than to the English, and Italian newcomers were called guineas, an epithet reserved for African Americans.
The concept of zero, the calculation of the earth's circumference and of Pi all came from India. Pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, cashews, ginger, and cotton were all exported from India to the western world. So were peacocks, which were sent to Rome to serve as pets of the wealthy, in exhange for gold, silver, copper, antimony, and wine. Books and remedies were written in poetry to make them easier to remember.
In 1625, the Dutch West India Company decided to build a fort on the southern tip of Manhattan Island, in close proximity to the fur-rich forests bordering the Hudson River. Named Fort Amsterdam, it became the capital of New Netherland and was incorporated as the city of New Amsterdam a few decades later. In 1664, it was captured by the British and renamed New York.
The first agreement to form a stock exchange in New York was made in 1792 by 24 brokers standing under a buttonwood tree on Wall Street. The New York Stock Exchange was formally founded 25 years later. The exchange provided capital for the industrialization of the US in the 19th century and is today the worlds largest securities market.
Cornelius Vanderbilt (born in 1794) was the patriarch of the famous Vanderbilt family. As a youth, he ferried freight and passengers in New York Harbor. As an adult, he gained control of most of the ferry lines around New York City and quickly expanded up and down the coast. He had similar success in the railroad business and died with an estate worth more than $100 million, the largest personal fortune accumulated in the US to that date.
He built Grand Central Station, the largest train station in the world by number of platforms. They are on two levels, both below ground, with 41 tracks on the upper level and 26 on the lower, though the total number of tracks along platforms and in rail yards exceeds 100. The terminal covers an area of 48 acres. Its construction created a mini-city within New York, including the Commodore Hotel and various office buildings. It spurred construction throughout the neighborhood in the 1920s including the Chrysler Building.
In 1911, The New York Public Library, at the time the largest marble structure ever built in the United States, was dedicated by President Taft in New York City after 16 years of construction.
Rockefeller Center is a complex of 19 commercial buildings covering 22 acres between 48th and 51st streets. Built by the Rockefeller family, it is located in the center of Midtown Manhattan, spanning the area between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue. It is the largest private building project ever undertaken in modern times. Radio City Music Hall at 50th Street and Avenue of the Americas was completed in December, 1932. At the time it was promoted as the largest and most opulent theater in the world.
William Waldorf Astor was American's richest man in 1893. A successful attorney, he'd inherited from his wealthy family and invested in a hotel he called The Waldorf. Later he merged with the Astoria Hotel next door, to become the Waldorf Astoria.
When former New York governor Samuel J. Tilden died in 1886, he left $2.4 million in his will for the creation of a grand public library. At that time, there were two other important libraries in New York City, the Astor and the Lenox, but they were struggling. With Tilden's gift, they were merged in 1895. The new library's cornerstone was laid in 1902 at the old Croton Reservoir on Fifth Avenue, and it finally opened to the public in 1911.
Frederick Law Olmsted, landscape architect, designed Central Park, Boston's Emerald Necklace, Mont Royal in Montreal, and many other significant parks in North America, including Midway Plaisance for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition and the landscape surrounding the United States Capitol building.
He was responsible for the oldest coordinated system of public parks and parkways in the U.S., and the played a major role in organizing and providing medical services to the Union Army in the Civil War.
The youngest soldier in the Civil War was a 9-year-old boy from Mississippi. The oldest was an 80-year-old from Iowa. More than 10,000 soldiers serving in the Union Army were under 18 years old.
On July 19, 1799, during Napoleon Bonapartes Egyptian campaign, a French soldier discovered a black basalt slab inscribed with ancient writing near the town of Rosetta, about 35 miles north of Alexandria. The irregularly shaped stone contained fragments of passages written in three different scripts: Greek, Egyptian hieroglyphics and Egyptian demotic. The ancient Greek on the Rosetta Stone told archaeologists that it was inscribed by priests honoring the king of Egypt, Ptolemy V, in the second century B.C. More startlingly, the Greek passage announced that the three scripts were all of identical meaning. The artifact thus held the key to solving the riddle of hieroglyphics, a written language that had been dead for nearly 2,000 years.
In 1830 The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad began the first passenger service in the United States.
The world's first underground was the London Underground in 1863. It has 275 stations and 253 miles of track.
In England, the British nobility depended on how well soldiers and their commanders achieved the King's goals. He would award titles and land to those who won battles. British Heirarchy descends from the King to Dukes, then Earls, and then Barons.
Yellowstone was established as the world's first National Park on March 1, 1872. It is larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined and resides in three different states - Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. You can cross the Continental Divide more than once while traveling through Yellowstone. It has the largest concentration of free-roaming wildlife in the lower 48 states. There are approximately 10,000 geothermal features within the park. Yellowstone sits on an ancient supervoclano. It erupted around 2 million years ago, 1.3 million years ago, and 640,000 years ago. If it follows the same pattern, another eruption is due any time now.
The largest National Park in the U.S. is Adirondack Park. It covers six million acres across upstate New York. It is bigger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon combined.
The presidential faces on Mount Rushmore, which sits on the side of a South Dakota mountain, are as high as a five-story building, about 60 feet from chin to top of the head. The pupils of eyes are 4 feet across and the mouths are 18 feet wide. The carving took 14 years, from 1927-1941 and the total cost was about $990,000. A total 450,000 tons of stone was removed. Its designer, sculptor Gutzon Borglumwho had previously worked on a Confederate memorial on Georgias Stone Mountaindied before Rushmore was completed, and his unfinished Hall of Records behind the heads is off-limits to the public.
The Fort Peck Dam is the highest of six major dams along the Missouri River, located in northeast Montana. It is the largest hydraulically filled dam in the United States, and creates Fort Peck Lake, the fifth largest man-made lake in the U.S.
General George Armstrong Custer graduated at the bottom of his West point class in 1861.
Amedeo Giannini, son of Italian immigrants to the US, started the Bank of America in a converted saloon in San Francisco 1904. Giannini changed the name to Bank of America in 1928 and remained chairman until 1963.
The first general credit cards were made from paper and had a limit of $300. The inventor of the first bank-issued credit card was John Briggs, a banker from the Flatbush National Bank of New York. Introduced in 1946, the card was called Charge-It. The catch was that a user had to have an account at Briggs bank and purchases could be made only locally. Technically, it was actually a charge card, because the bill had to be paid in full at the end of each month.
In the early to mid 1900s, oil companies and department stores began issuing their own propriety cards, but cards could only be used at that particular store. While modern cards are used mainly for convenience, these early cards were meant to develop store loyalty and to improve customer service. The drawback was that people needed to bring dozens of different cards for a day of shopping.
In the 1950s, Diners Club Card became the first company to offer a credit card that could be used in more than one store. Although the credit card was accepted at just 14 restaurants in New York and was issued to just 200 people, within in a year of its introduction, more than 20,000 people were using it.
VISA stands for Visa International Service Association. MasterCard and VISA are a network of banks and financial institutions. American Express is its own company. Discover Card is a subsidiary of Morgan Stanley.
Initially, American Express was a freight shipper as a competitor to the U.S. Postal Service in New York during the 1850s. It specialized in delivering money orders and travelers checks (which they invented in 1891). Two of their founders, Wells and Fargo, later moved to California.
Credit card numbers follow the Luhn algorithm, which is a checksum test on a number. To see how this works, start from the right and double each second digit (1111 becomes 2121), and then add them all together. You should end with a number evenly divisible by 10. If it doesnt, the credit card is not a valid card.
The reason credit cards expire is because the magnetic strip gets a lot of abuse and needs to be replaced. A magnetic strip is good for only about 3-4 years of swiping.
The world's first nuclear reactor was built in a squash court beneath a Chicago football stadium on December 2, 1942. While it only generated enough power to light a flashlight, it proved that nuclear power was feasible.
The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago was opened in 1893, as part of the Columbian Exposition (the World's Fair that transformed Chicago's downtown). In 1933, they changed their name officially to the Museum of Science and Industry, and built a working coal mine. In 1954, the obtained a submarine, and in 1994, a 727 jet plane.
The World's Fair in St. Louis in 1904 contained the world's largest organ, which has 10,159 pipes. After the fair, the organ was dismantled and loaded onto 13 railroad cars for shipment to its new home. It was reassembled at Wanamaker's Department Store in Philadelphia, where it still retains its title as the largest pipe organ in the world.
The Palace Of Electricity at the Fair covered seven acres, and Thomas Edison, himself, was brought to the fair to oversee the proper setup of the electrical exhibits. The wireless was among the demonstrations, along with the telephone, and a special electric broiler that could broil on both sides at the same time. Half a million electric light bulbs and sweeping search lights of changing hues illuminated the fair buildings.
The first city in Canada to be lit completely by electricity was Ottawa. At the time, the Mayor, Henry Newell Bate, was the president of the Ottawa Electric Company.
In 1873 The North West Mounted Police force was founded.
In 2014, Hazel McAllion stepped down, at the age of 93, as Mayor of the 6th largest city in Canada. She has held that position since 1978.
In 1829, James Smithson, a British scientist, died in Italy, leaving behind a will with a peculiar footnote. In the event that his only nephew died without any heirs, Smithson decreed that the whole of his estate would go to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge. Smithsons curious bequest to a country that he had never visited aroused significant attention on both sides of the Atlantic. On August 10, 1846, after a decade of debate, President James K. Polk signed the Smithsonian Institution Act into law.
At the turn of the last century, Ward McAllister compiled a list of New York City's Four Hundred, the elite aristocrats who ran corporations and social life. The number was supposedly how many people could fit into Mrs. William Astor's ballroom.
Using Xs at the end of a letter for kisses started in the Middle Ages when people couldn't write and used crosses as signatures.
Kissing at the conclusion of a wedding ceremony can be traced to ancient Roman tradition where a kiss was used to sign contract.
Francis Scott Key was a young lawyer who wrote the poem, The Star Spangled Banner, after being inspired by watching the Americans fight off the British attack of Baltimore during the War of 1812. The poem became the words to the national anthem.
Roman emperor Vespasian placed a tax on urine in the 1st century A.D. Urine at that time was collected and used as a source of ammonia for tanning hides and laundering garments. In 1691, England taxed the number of windows on a house. Consequently, houses began to be built with very few windows or people would close up existing windows. When people began to suffer health problems from lack of windows/air, the tax was finally repealed in 1851. Russian Emperor Peter the Great placed a tax on beards in 1705. He hoped that the tax would encourage men to have a clean-shaven look that was popular in Western Europe.
One of the contributing factors to the French Revolution was a salt tax called the gabelle. It was one of the most hated and unequal taxes.
A 1784 satire written by Benjamin Franklin proposed taxing shutters, rationing candles, and waking the public by ringing church bells and firing cannons at sunrise. But he didn't actually suggest Daylight Savings Time. That didn't come until William Willett conceived DST in 1905, and it wasn't widely accepted until 1916.
The seven U.S. without a state income tax are Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming.
Sante Fe, New Mexico, is the oldest state capital city in the U.S.
Former U.S. President James Garfield could write with both hands at the same time, and in two different languages!
Jimmy Carter was the first U.S. president born in a hospital.
An only child has never been elected as President of the United States.
Only one U.S President is known to have been divorced: Ronald Reagan.
The first president to ride in a car was Theodore Roosevelt in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1902. He was probably the first president to own a car, and was the first president to fly in any type of aircraft. He was Theodore Roosevelt who was a passenger in a Wright biplane in 1910. The first president to fly in a modern airplane was Franklin Roosevelt in 1943 from Miami, Florida, to French Morocco.
While speaking at the 1901 Minnesota State Fair, US Vice President Theodore Roosevelt used the proverb, Speak softly and carry a big stick. Four days later, President McKinley was shot, and, after McKinley died on the 14th, Roosevelt became president. The statement he made in Minnesota became forever associated with his foreign policy of backing up negotiations with implicit military might, and political cartoons often portrayed him toting the proverbial stick.
Hewlett-Packard, Revlon and La-Z-Boy all established their businesses during the Great Depression.
In 1905 a scientific paper by a 26-year-old Swiss patent clerk named Albert Einstein outlined the special theory of relativity special because it deals only with the behaviour of objects in constant motion relative to each other. A little more than a decade later, in 1916, Einstein would present his general relativity theory, which was an even grander accomplishment, one that revolutionized our view of the physical world, explaining acceleration, deceleration and gravity in terms never previously imagined. The general theory has proved to be an uncannily accurate means of predicting and understanding the operations of the universe on a large scale, the realm of planets, stars and galaxies. Einsteins brainchild also marked a sort of beginning: a century of extraordinary scientific breakthroughs, revealing a vast and far-flung empire of stars, galaxies, black holes and tantalizing mystery that no one could have imagined 100 years ago.
Albert Einstein was offered the presidency of Israel in 1952, but he declined.
Stacy Schiff's biography of Cleopatra reveals that women in ancient Egypt were able to buy land, become mathematicians, doctors and poets, unlike the rest of the ancient world. They had many legal opportunities unavailable to women anywhere else for the next 2000 years.
Florida did not become part of the United States until Spain surrendered it in a treaty in 1819. It didn't actually became a state until 1845.
Damascus, Syria, was flourishing a couple of thousand years before Rome was founded in 753 BC, making it the oldest continuously inhabited city in existence.
In 1907, the first taxis in the U.S. arrived in New York City.
The first coast to coast telephone was established in 1914.
New Haven, Connecticut, was the first planned city in the U.S., and Yale University was the first planned campus. Yale was also the first college to have a mascot, published the first college daily newspaper, and appointed America's first professor of paleontology.
On May 10, 1869, the presidents of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads meet in Promontory, Utah, and drive a ceremonial last spike into a rail line that connects their railroads. This made transcontinental railroad travel possible for the first time in U.S. history.
1765, in an effort to raise funds to pay off debts and defend the vast new American territories won from the French in the Seven Years War (1756-1763), the British government passed the Stamp Act. This levied a direct tax on all materials printed for commercial and legal use in the colonies, from newspapers and pamphlets to playing cards and dice. These stamps on playing cards are a remnant of that tax.
In the middle of the 18th century, Chippendale had a thriving cabinet and furniture-making business, produced the first catalog of his designs. At the same time, wallpaper became an affordable way to decorate the walls of the middle class, who couldn't afford expensive tapestries, and the Sheffield silver company began to produce a less expensive version of silver: a thin layer of silver fused over a copper base. This "silver-plated" flatware and serving pieces remained popular through the beginning of the 20th century.
General Gen. George Armstrong Custer graduated at the bottom of his West point class in 1861.
President James Garfield could write Latin with one hand and Greek with the other hand simultaneously.
The first president to be born outside the original 13 States was Lincoln. He was also the tallest U.S. President, at 6' 4 And Lincoln is the only U.S. President to ever receive a patent.
In 1885, the Statue of Liberty, a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States, arrived in New York Citys harbor. Originally known as Liberty Enlightening the World, the statue was proposed by French historian Edouard Laboulaye to commemorate the Franco-American alliance during the American Revolution. Designed by French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, the statue is 151 feet tall.
But the statue was originally conceived as a Muslim peasant woman and was to have stood at the approach to the Suez Canal, a lantern in her upraised hand serving as both lighthouse and a symbol of progress. Bartholdi was unable to sell the idea to the khedive of Egypt, Ishmail Pasha. Bartholdi remained determined to erect a colossus on the scale of the one in ancient Rhodes. He sailed to America with drawings of the Muslim woman transformed to the personification of Liberty. At first, Bartholdi considered the tip of Manhattan and Central Park as possible sites. He was on a ferry to Staten Island when he decided that Bedloes Island would be just the spot.
Gustave Eiffel was a civil engineer and architect who had earlier replaced the man who began working on the Statue of Liberty. He created a new support system for the statue that would rely on a skeletal structure instead of weight to support the copper skin. Eiffel and his team built the statue from the ground up and then dismantled it for its journey to New York Harbor, where it was dedicated on October 28, 1886.
The Eiffel Tower was the centrepiece of the 1889 Exposition. France wanted a symbol to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the Revolution, as well as its recovery from the defeat in 1870-71 at the hands of Otto von Bismarck.
At the turn of the last century, Ward McAllister compiled a list of New York City's Four Hundred, the elite aristocrats who ran corporations and social life. The number was supposedly how many people could fit into Mrs. William Astor's ballroom.
The U.S. Constitution embodies the fundamental principles upon which the American republic is conducted. It was drawn up at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and signed in 1787, and it was ratified by the required number of states the following year. It superseded the Articles of Confederation in force since 1781 and established the system of federal government that began to function in 1789. It includes seven articles and a preamble.
The American Civil War provided rural doctors with training in hospital organization, safer surgical techniques, improved anesthesia, embalming techniques, and an organized ambulance corps. It also resulted in 15,000 miles of new telegraph lines, mass production of canned food, can openers, home-delivered mail, and a national paper currency.
Kites were used in the American Civil War to deliver letters and newspapers.
The American Red Cross (ARC) is part of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. It provides disaster relief and emergency assistance in the US and is the countrys largest supplier of banked blood. American humanitarian Clara Barton established the ARC after working with the International Red Cross in 1881, during a visit to Europe.
Urine was used to make gunpowder during the Civil War. The southern army even put ads in the newspapers asking Southern ladies to save their urine and that wagons with barrels would be sent around to gather up the lotion.
Kites were used in the Civil War to deliver letters and newspapers.
Soldiers do not march in step when going across bridges because they could set up vibration which could be sufficient to knock the bridge down.
The military salute is a motion that evolved from medieval times, when knights in armor raised their visors to reveal their identity. Also, shaking hands in greeting, came from ancient times when strangers shook hands to show that they were unarmed.
The stock market crash of 1929 was one of the main causes of the Great Depression. Black Thursday, Black Monday, and Black Tuesday are all correct terms to describe the Crash because the initial crash occurred over several days, with Tuesday being the most devastating. On October 29, 1929, the market lost $14 billion, making the loss for that week an astounding $30 billion. This was ten times more than the annual federal budget and far more than the U.S. had spent in WWI. Thirty billion dollars would be equivalent to $377,587,032,770.41 today. After the initial crash, there was a wave of suicides in the New Yorks financial district. It is said that the clerks of one hotel even started asking new guests if they needed a room for sleeping or jumping.
The Dow Jones market peaked at 381 on September 3, 1929, and bottomed out at 42 in 1932, which is an amazing 89% decline. It did not reach 381 again until 23 years later in 1955 (that doesnt include inflation losses). Causes of the Great Depression are widely debated but typically include a weak banking system, overproduction, bursting credit bubble, the fact that farmers and industrial workers had not shared in the prosperity of the 1920s, and a government-held laissez faire policy.
Herbert Hoover (1874-1964), a Republican, was president when the Great Depression began. People who lost their homes often lived in what were called Hoovervilles, or shanty towns, and Hoover Stew was food dished out in soup kitchens, Hoover Blankets (newspapers that served as blankets), Hoover Hogs (jack rabbits used as food), and Hoover Wagons (broken cars that were pulled by mules).
Chicago gangster Al Capone (1899-1947), in one of his sporadic attempts at public relations, opened a soup kitchen during the Great Depression. For millions, soup kitchens provided the only food they would see all day.
The first observance of Labor Day was likely on Sept. 5, 1882, when some 10,000 workers assembled in New York City for a parade. That celebration inspired similar events across the country, and by 1894 more than half the states were observing a workingmens holiday on one day or another. Later that year, with Congress passing legislation and President Grover Cleveland signing the bill on June 29, the first Monday in September was designated Labor Day.
During World War I, the Germans released about 68,000 tons of gas, and the British and French released 51,000 tons. In total, 1,200,000 soldiers on both sides were gassed, of which 91,198 died horrible deaths.
The Treaty of Versailles stated that Germany had started WWI. It took many key territories from Germany and vastly reduced its army. A 1921 Reparations Committee decided that Germany should pay $33 billion in compensation to the Allies for the damage it caused. The Treaty left Germany humiliated and impoverished, which left the world vulnerable to another world war.
The greatest single loss of life in the history of the British army occurred during the Battle of Somme, when the British suffered 60,000 casualties in one day. More British men were killed in that one WWI battle than the U.S. lost from all of its armed forces and the National Guard combined.
The word influenza comes from the Italian influentia because people used to believe that the influence of the planets, stars, and moon caused the flufor only such universal influence could explain such sudden and widespread sickness. The English adopted the word influenza in the mid-eighteenth century, while the French called it la grippe from gripper, meaning to grasp or hook. There is also a similar-sounding phrase in Arabic, anf-al-anza, which means nose of the goat, used because goats were thought to be carriers of the disease. The single deadliest flu pandemic in history was the Spanish flu pandemic during 1918-1919. Occurring in the three waves of increasing lethality, the Spanish flu killed more people in 24 weeks than AIDS did in 24 years. It also killed more people in one year than smallpox or the Black Plague did in 50 years. The Spanish flu killed more Americans in one year than the combined total who died in battle during WWI, WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
Some historians blame President Woodrow Wilsons lingering case of the Spanish flu as the reason he unexpectedly caved into stringent French demands for the harsh peace terms that decimated Germany which, in turn, led to the rise of Adolf Hitler and WWII.
Historians say that Hitlers dictatorship reflects unforeseen levels of state repression and violence, unparalleled manipulation of the media to control and mobilize the masses, acute dangers of über-nationalism, the destructive power of ideologies of racial superiority and racism, and a perverted use of modern technology and social engineering. Hitlers regime is particularly chilling because it reveals how a modern, advanced, cultured society can rapidly sink into barbarity and genocide. In short, Hitlers dictatorship reveals what we are capable of.
The term National Socialistor Nazi, for shortwas added to the name of the German Workers Party the year after it was founded. On the day it was renamed, swiftly-rising new member Adolf Hitler outlined the partys official platform before 2,000 people, its largest audience yet. During the Great Depression, millions of jobless voters joined the party, and in 1932 it became the largest bloc in the Reichstag. But in the 1928 elections, less than 3% of Germans voted for the Nazi party. By 1938, Hitler was Time magazines man of the year.
In early 1942, Nazi officials held a conference at Lake Wannsee in Berlin to discuss what final solution would be used to eliminate the Jewish population of Europe. On paper, the plan called for gathering Jews into camps for deportation to work details in the East. The official record of the meeting does not mention killing but notes that the evacuation was to happen as soon as possible.
Henry Ford was a rabid anti-Semite. Other fascist tycoons who supported the Nazi cause included Ingvar Kamprad, founded of IKEA, and Thomas J. Watson, whose company, IBM, collaborated with the Nazi regime.
The first KKK was formed in 1865 by a group of six friends from Pulaski, Tennessee. Initially they saw themselves as pranksters, but soon realized that they could use their antics to spread fear among the newly freed slaves and exercise their growing power to reassert white control. Primary targets blacks, Jews, Catholics
WWII casualties totaled between 50 and 70 million people. More than 80% of this total came from four countries: Russia, China, Germany, and Poland. More than half of these casualties were civilians, most of whom were women and children.
Between 1933 and 1945, more than 11 million men, women, and children were murdered in the Holocaust. Approximately six million of these were Jews. Over 1.1 million of them were children. Young children were particularly targeted by the Nazis to be murdered during the Holocaust. They posed a unique threat because if they lived, they would grow up to parent a new generation of Jews. An estimated 1/3 of all Jewish people alive at that time were murdered in the Holocaust.
Dr. Josef Mengele, the Angel of Death, was an SS officer and doctor in the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz. He supervised the selection of arriving transports of prisoners, determining who would be killed immediately and who would be a forced laborer. He also selected inmates to be test subjects in horrific experiments. He used about 3,000 twins, mostly Romany and Jewish children, for his painful genetic experiments. Only about 200 survived.
Eighty percent of Soviet males born in 1923 didnt survive World War II.
Winston Churchill was the son of Lord Randolph Churchill, and grandson of the Duke of Marlborough. His mother was Jennie Jerome, daughter of Leonard Jerome, "The King of Wall Street". He held interests in several railroad companies and was often a partner in the deals of Cornelius Vanderbilt. He was a patron of the arts, and founded the Academy of Music, one of New York City's earliest opera houses.
Churchill delivered his celebrated Finest Hour speech after it became clear that Frances surrender to Germany was imminent and that this would bring the Nazi enemy to Englands doorstep. Churchill had been prime minister for just over a month when he delivered the 36-minute speech before the House of Commons.
Charles Ponzi, born in 1882, was the most famous con man in history. By promising impossibly high returns on a get rich quick scheme, Ponzi attracted enough new investors to use their money to pay off old investors, which made his outfit appear successful and solvent. It was not. After a series of trials, he was deported from the US.
Many strange laws are still on the
books in the U.S. For example:
It is illegal for chickens to cross the road in Quitman, Georgia.
In Mohave County, Arizona, if anyone is caught stealing soap, he must wash himself with it until the soap is gone.
In Tennessee, it is illegal for children to play games on Sunday without a license.
It is illegal in California to lick toads.