Scroll down for Christmas Facts

For Canadian Trivia, see books by The Trivia Guys, Mark Kearney & Randy Ray

In 1665, the University of Cambridge temporarily closed due to the Bubonic plague. Isaac Newton had to work from home, where he used that time to develop calculus and the theory of gravity. 

December 2019 had 5 Saturdays, 5 Sundays, and 5 Mondays. So did August, 2020. 

Apple is worth $3 trillion – more than Walmart, Disney, Netflix, Nike, Exxon Mobil, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, AT&T, Goldman Sachs, Boeing, IBM and Ford combined.

Stephen Hawking was born on the 300th anniversary of the death of Galileo, and died on Einstein's birthday. 

Einstein was born prematurely, as were Isaac Newton, Mark Twain, Johannes Kepler, and Sir Winston Churchill. Churchill was born in a ladies' room during a dance.

As the 74th session of the UN General Assembly opens on September 17, 2020, it should be noted that Virginia Gildersleeve, first Dean of Barnard College, was the only American woman delegate to the conference to establish the United Nations.  (Bobbi is a proud alumna of Barnard, Class of 1956).

Switzerland has no capital city due to how the country was originally formed. Prior to establishing itself as a nation, Switzerland was made up of separate cantons (subdivisions) from different parts of the current-day borders where different languages were spoken. The cantons first agreed to make alliances with one another.

Pioneering scientist and double-Nobel prize winner Marie Curie has been voted the woman with the most significant impact on world history. BBC History magazine created a list of '100 women who changed the world' as selected by 10 experts. Civil rights activist Rosa Parks came in second place, followed by suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, Ada Lovelace and Rosalind Franklin. Lovelace was a British mathematician who is widely regarded as the first to recognise the full potential of a 'computing machine' and the first computer programmer. British chemist Franklin was an X-ray crystallographer who made contributions to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA.

After reading the book written by his cousin, Charles Darwin, Francis Galton began pondering whether humankind could be improved by selective breeding. Among many inventions, he coined the word eugenics  and the phrase nature versus nurture.

The Bronx High School of Science in New York has produced eight Nobel Laureates.  Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is also a graduate. Dark Matter is gravity with no basis to attract it and no light. Tyson explains this and many other fascinating subjects in his new book, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.

On Jan. 13, 1888, a group of 33 men met at the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C., to discuss a way to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge across the world. A century and a quarter later, after landmark shipwreck discoveries, stunning images from countless cultures and expeditions from the top of Mount Everest to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the National Geographic Society has expanded beyond those original founding members, but the organization’s goal of spreading geographic knowledge around the globe has remained the same. National Geographic celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2013.

The two highest IQ scores in recorded history belong to women, and women earn more than 60% of all college degrees in the United States.

In Greek mythology, the first god to be born after Chaos (the first element to exist) was a woman named Gaia, or Mother Earth. Gaia then birthed Uranus, (the Sky) the Mountains, and Pontus (the Sea) without a man.

Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, is a India's biggest and brightest national holiday and celebrates the triumph of good over evil. It is celebrated in the fall in the northern hemisphere, spring in the southern hemisphere, and lasts five days.

The Indonesia 9.0 earthquake in 2004 released more energy than all the earthquakes on the planet in the last 25 years combined. A segment of seafloor the size of the state of California moved upward and seaward by more than 30 feet, displacing huge amounts of water.

Japan’s 9.0 earthquake in 2011 not only moved the island closer to the United States, it also shifted the planet’s axis by 6.5 inches.

The earthquake that struck south-central Alaska on March 27, 1964, was of magnitude 9.2, making it still the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in North America, and the second-most powerful in the world after a 1960 earthquake in Chile. The ground shook violently over a huge area for about four and a half minutes. More than 125 people died, Anchorage was heavily damaged, and much of the young state’s infrastructure was destroyed.

An enormous ravine, the longest in the world and comparable in depth to the Grand Canyon, has been discovered underneath Greenland’s thick ice sheet.

A reservoir of water three times the volume of all the oceans has been discovered deep beneath the Earth’s surface. The finding could help explain where Earth’s seas came from. The water is hidden inside a blue rock called ringwoodite that lies 700 kilometres underground in the mantle, the layer of hot rock between Earth’s surface and its core. The huge size of the reservoir throws new light on the origin of Earth’s water. Some geologists think water arrived in comets as they struck the planet, but the new discovery supports an alternative idea that the oceans gradually oozed out of the interior of the early Earth. “It’s good evidence the Earth’s water came from within,” says Steven Jacobsen of Northwestern University.  The hidden water could also act as a buffer for the oceans on the surface, explaining why they have stayed the same size for millions of years.

The myth of the lost city of Atlantis sinking beneath the waves may be based on the Greek island of Santorini, of which portions collapsed into the sea after a large volcanic eruption during the Bronze Age.

Tiny stone tools show humans hunted in the rainforest 45,000 years ago.

On average, the water in the ocean is 3.5% salt. But if all the salt in the ocean was removed and poured onto the continents of Earth, it would cover them to a depth of 500 feet.

Utah's Great Salt Lake is about four times saltier than any of the world's oceans. If a person boiled 1 quart of water from the saltiest part of the lake, a half cup of salt would remain. It is so salty because as the ancient Lake Bonneville dried up, salt and other minerals were left behind. Because the shrinking lake had no stream out to sea, the salt deposits became concentrated in the lake.

The moon moves about two inches away from the Earth each year.

The oldest known map of the moon, about 5,000 years old, was found carved into a rock in a prehistoric tomb at Knowth, County Meath, in Ireland. Before this was discovered, the oldest known lunar map was by Leonardo da Vinci, which was created around 1505.

A full moon is about five times brighter than a half-moon.

There are three kinds of moon rocks: basalt (dark), anorthosite (light), and breccia (a mixture of several rocks). These types of rocks are also found on Earth.

Earth is the only planet not named after a pagan god. 

Everything  weighs  one  percent less at  the equator.

The Earth gets 100 tons heavier every  day due to falling space dust.

The University of Alaska spans four time zones.

A comet's tail always points away from the sun.

Antarctica is the only continent with no permanent inhabitants. About 98% of the surface is covered by ice.  Although there are no permanent human residents, from 1,000 to 5,000 people reside throughout the year at the research stations scattered across the continent.

The Great Continental Divide splits the waters that flow into the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico from the waters that flow into the Pacific Ocean. This continental divide begins in Alaska, travels through parts of Canada, follows the Rocky Mountains where it splits most of the United States, travels into Mexico along the Sierra Madre Occidentals, and into Northern South America and the Andes Mountains. This is probably the most noticeable continental divide because it follows mountain ranges almost the entire way down.

The oldest mountains in the Americas are the Laurentians and the Appalachians, which are actually part of the same geologic formation. But the oldest mountains in the world are the  Barberton Greenstone Belt in South Africa is the oldest mountain range on Earth, estimated at 3.6 billion years old. Scientists believe it's possible to deduce the entire geological history of the Earth by examining these uprising mountains in this ancient sea floor area.

The  American Cordillera, which is a near-continuous chain of mountains which extend north all the way through North America and into South America, includes the Andes which cross seven countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.

Due to the equatorial bulge of our planet, the peak of Ecuador’s Mt Chimborazo is actually the furthest point from the earth’s surface to its core. At 6,263m. The Caribbean islands of Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire are actually peaks of an extensive submerged continuation of the Andes in the north. The Andes contain  the highest navigable lake on the planet, and the largest salt flats, which sit at a height of 3,600m. There are 600 different species of mammals, an equal number of reptile species, 400 species of fish, over 1,700 types of birds, more than 1,000 amphibians living in the Andes. The largest gold mine in the world is Peru’s Yanacocha, and both Chile and Peru combine to produce almost half of the world’s mined copper.

Due to earth's gravity it is impossible for mountains to be higher than 15,000  meters.

According to a new study published in Science, 30 to 50 percent of water on Earth is “primordial water,” meaning its molecules were created more than 4.5 billion years ago. That makes them older than Earth, the solar system, and even the sun. Scientists contend that the chemical signature of the primordial water could only have formed before the birth of planets, moons, comets, and asteroids. The scientists still aren’t sure how the water arrived here, but some experts believe it came from ice in comets and asteroids that collided with a once-dry Earth.

Each year, Americans throw out enough pop cans and plastic bottles to reach to the moon and back twenty times. They empty 2.5 million plastic water bottles an hour. Each one takes 500 years to decompose.

The Persian Gulf holds 60% of the world’s oil reserves.

Glass takes one million years to decompose, which means it never wears out and can be recycled an infinite amount of times! The Romans made great advances in understanding how to use flux, to the point where they were able to manufacture glass in relatively large quantities and export it all over the empire. They figured out that adding manganese oxide helped clarify the glass, which led to a new invention: semitransparent windows. And they refined tech­niques of glass blowing that produced the most delicate wine­glasses the world had yet seen.

Gold is the only metal that doesn't rust, even if it's buried in the ground for thousands of years. 

Gold is so rare that the world pours more steel in an hour than it has poured gold since the beginning of recorded history.

Seventy-five percent of all gold in circulation has been extracted since 1910.

A York University study revealed that U.S. pharmaceutical companies spend twice as much on advertising as they do on research.

Hippocrates (460–377 BC) is commonly called the "Father of Medicine," thought to be one of the first physicians to treat disease as being a result of natural rather than supernatural causes. He also founded the Hippocratic School, a medical school that focused on the healing power of nature as well as the importance of physical observation and the act of prognosis. The Hippocratic Oath is still the standard in medicine. It's often expressed in the pithy "Do no harm."

In ancient Greece through the medieval ages and part of the 19th century, the number four had magical significance, derived from the four seasons; the four earthly elements of air, fire, earth, and water; and the four humors of the body, which were thought to be sanguine (blood), choleric (yellow bile), melancholic (black bile), and phlegmatic (phlegm). Medicine centered around keeping the four humors in balance, which was thought to be necessary to keep one healthy.

Vatican City is the only nation in the world that can lock its own gates at night. It has its own phone company, radio, T.V. stations, money, and stamps. It even has its army, the historic Swiss Guard.

Zero is the only number that cannot be represented by Roman numerals.

The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator, historian Timothy Winegard exposes this insect as not merely an itchy pest, but a force of nature that has dictated the outcome of significant events throughout human history. From ancient Athens to World War II, Winegard highlights key moments when mosquito-borne diseases caused militaries to crumble, great leaders to fall ill, and populations to be left vulnerable to invasion. In addition to addressing the mosquito’s pivotal role in battle, Winegard reveals some uglier effects of its diseases, such as how malarial resistance contributed to the rise of the African slave trade, and the concept of biological warfare.

Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world today. There are an estimated 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, which is about 1/5 of the world’s population. Due to birth and conversion rates, Islam is considered to be the fastest-growing religion in the world today.

Islam is an Arabic word that means “peace,” “security,” and “surrender.” Muslim means “one who peacefully surrenders to God.” Anyone from any race could be Muslim; in other words, “Muslim” does not refer to a particular race.

The Islamic Golden Age, which is traditionally dated as being the 8th–13th centuries, was marked by the ascension of the Abbasid Caliphate. The Abbasids were influenced by the Quran’s injunction that “the ink of the scholar is more holy than the blood of the martyr.” During this time, the Arab world became an intellectual center for science, astronomy, chemistry, physics, mathematics, philosophy, medicine, and education.

The Muslims created a House of Wisdom (Bait-ul-Hikmat), which was active during the 9th –13th centuries, where both Muslim and non-Muslim scholars sought to translate the world’s knowledge into Arabic. Many classic works of antiquity that might have otherwise been lost were preserved in Arabic and Persian and later translated into Turkish, Hebrew, and Latin. Here, scholars synthesized and significantly advanced knowledge gained from the Roman, Chinese, Persian, Egyptian, Greek, Byzantine, and Phoenician civilizations.

Muslim scholars Ibn Rushd and Ibn Sina were primarily responsible for saving the works of Aristotle, whose ideas would later dominate both the Christian and Muslim worlds.

Inventions that emerged from the Islamic world include the discovery of citric acid (Jabir ibn Hayyan), arabesque architecture, the minaret, the bridge mill, the vertical-axle windmill, teaching hospitals, marching bands, early torpedoes, the guitar, the lute, algebra, the pinhole camera, the laws of refraction, coffee, and more.

The ancient Sumerians, who flourished thousands of years ago between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in what today is southern Iraq, built a civilization that in some ways was the ancient equivalent of Silicon Valley. In what the Greeks later called Mesopotamia, Sumerians invented new technologies and perfected the large-scale use of existing ones. In the process, they transformed how humans cultivated food, built dwellings, communicated and kept track of information and time.

They had few trees, almost no stone or metal which forced them to make ingenious use of materials such as clay—the plastic of the ancient world. They used it to make everything from bricks to pottery to tablets for writing.

Other ancient people made pottery by hand, but the Sumerians were the first to develop the turning wheel, a device which allowed them to mass-produce it.

They developed a system of pictographs, drawings of various objects, combined to express ideas and actions. The pictographs evolved into symbols that stood for words and sounds.

Scribes used sharpened reeds to scratch the symbols into wet clay, which dried to form tablets. The system of writing became known as cuneiform, which was borrowed by subsequent civilizations and used across the Middle East for 2,000 years.

The Sumerians figured out how to collect and channel the overflow of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers—and the rich silt that it contained—and then use it to water and fertilize their farm fields. They designed complex systems of canals, with dams constructed of reeds, palm trunks and mud whose gates could be opened or closed to regulate the flow of water.

They also invented the plow, and turned their temples into factories to make textiles, mass-produced bricks and were some of the earliest people to use copper to make useful items, ranging from spearheads to chisels and razors, using furnaces heated by reeds where they controlled the temperature with a bellows that could be worked with their hands or feet.

Primitive people counted using simple methods, such as putting notches on bones, but it was the Sumerians who developed a formal numbering system based on units of 60. At first, they used reeds to keep track of the units, but eventually, with the development of cuneiform, they used vertical marks on the clay tablets. Their system helped lay the groundwork for the mathematical calculations of civilizations that followed.

Fatal heroin overdoses in America have almost tripled in three years. More than 8,250 people a year now die from heroin. At the same time, roughly double that number are dying from prescription opioid painkillers, which are molecularly similar. Heroin has become the fallback dope when an addict can’t afford, or find, pills. Total overdose deaths, most often from pills and heroin, now surpass traffic fatalities.

More Americans have died from guns in the United States since 1968 than on battlefields of all the wars in American history.

Mary Harris Jones, born in 1830, lost her children and husband (an ironworker) in a yellow-fever epidemic in Memphis, Tenn.; four years later she lost all her possessions in the great Chicago fire. She turned for assistance to the Knights of Labor, which led to her becoming a highly visible figure in the U.S. labour movement, known as Mother Jones. She traveled across the country, organizing for the United Mine Workers and supporting strikes wherever they were being held. At 93 she was still working among striking coal miners in West Virginia. She actively supported legislation to prohibit child labour. She was a founder of the Social Democratic Party (1898) and the Industrial Workers of the World (1905). She died at the age of 100, and has been memorialized in Mother Jones magazine.

Blind and deaf from the age of two, Helen Keller was placed in the care of Anne Sullivan, who acted as her teacher and companion for 49 years. Under Sullivan’s tutelage, Keller made rapid progress, eventually graduating from Radcliffe College with honors. She later became a world-famous lecturer and advocate for people with disabilities. The Miracle Worker is a play based on Keller’s autobiography.

All the famous philosophers we've all heard about were professionals in other fields. Descartes was a mathematician; Spinoza ground lenses for optical equipment; John Locke was a doctor; and David Hume was a famous historian.

Echolocation is the ability to "see" by hearing, a sort of human sonar. Some blind people respond to sound waves, just as bats do. 

The tallest man in history was Robert Pershing Wadlow, who was 8 feet 11.1 inches (2.72 m) tall and 485 pounds at the time of his death.  By the age of 4 years old, he was already 5 ft 4 inches tall (1.63m).  At the age of 13, he became the tallest boy scout in history at 7 ft 4 inches (2.24m). Wadlow had not yet stopped growing at the time of his death at the age of 22.  He died in 1940 of an infection caused from blisters on his ankle that he didn’t notice at first due to not being able to feel much of anything in his feet and lower legs.

Your tongue is the only muscle in your body that is attached at only one end.

Babies are born without kneecaps. They don't appear until the child reaches 2 to 6 years of age.

The tooth is the only part of the human body that cannot heal itself.

It's possible for the human body to survive without a surprisingly large fraction of its internal organs. Someone can live with a stomach, spleen, 75% of their liver, 80% of their intestines, one kidney, one lung, and almost every organ from the pelvic and groin area, and still live.

The little finger contributes over 50% of the hand’s strength.

In 1804, Joseph Jacquard patented a loom which could weave fabrics in a variety of patterns. He's remembered today not just for jacquard designs, but also because the punch cards he invented were the first use of the binary system, where a switch is either on or off. That idea was later used by Samuel Morse for his telegraph code, and eventually by Turing when he created the first computer.

             In today’s world, the most widely used numeral system is decimal (base 10), a system that probably originated because it made it easy for humans to count using their fingers. The civilizations that first divided the day into smaller parts, however, used different numeral systems, specifically duodecimal (base 12) and sexagesimal (base 60).
             The Babylonians made astronomical calculations in the sexagesimal (base 60) system they inherited from the Sumerians, who developed it around 2000 B.C. Although it is unknown why 60 was chosen, it is notably convenient for expressing fractions, since 60 is the smallest number divisible by the first six counting numbers as well as by 10, 12, 15, 20 and 30.
            Although it is no longer used for general computation, the sexagesimal system is still used to measure angles, geographic coordinates and time. In fact, both the circular face of a clock and the sphere of a globe owe their divisions to a 4,000-year-old numeric system of the Babylonians.

Hours of fixed length became commonplace only after mechanical clocks first appeared in Europe during the 14th century.  Read the entire Scientific American article at:

The Elements of a Home reveals the fascinating stories behind more than 60 everyday household objects and furnishings.  These include:
Early pillows, some dating as far back as the Third Dynasty (around 2707-2369 B.C.E.) look a bit like child-sized stools with a curved piece resting upon a pillar. These stands supported the neck, not the head, perhaps to safeguard  elaborate hairdos.

Indoor Plumbing Arrived in the U.S. in the 1840s.

As increasing numbers of men and women migrated to the cities and worked in factories and mines for wages paid by the hour, timekeeping became more important for employers and employees alike. In 1890 a machine was invented in America that stamped employees' cards with the time they entered the factory and the time they left. 'Clocking on' and 'clocking off' soon became widespread. To avoid being fined for late arrival, workers needed watches. World production of pocket watches, around 400,000 a year in the early nineteenth century, rose to more than 2.5 million a year by 1875. By the turn of the century, the German historian Karl Lamprecht (1856-1915) was claiming that between them the 52 million inhabitants of Germany owned no fewer than 12 million pocket watches.

Big Ben refers to the clock, not the tower. It chimes in the key of E major.

In 1946, there were only seventy-four independent countries. Today, there are over two hundred, many of which are very small. Yet the concentration of wealth among larger countries has only increased, with the U.S., China, and Japan together accounting for forty-three percent of total world GDP. In fact, if you were to consider the European Union a single entity, just those four together constitute almost sixty-five percent of world GDP.

In Japanese, the name “Japan” is Nihon or Nippon, which means “Land of the Rising Sun.” It was once believed that Japan was the first country to see the sun rise in the East in the morning.
•  Japan has the third longest life expectancy in the world with men living to 81 years old and women living to almost 88 years old. The Japanese live on average four years longer than Americans.
•  Japan consists of over 6,800 islands.
•  Home to 33 million people, the Tokyo-Yokohama metropolitan area is the largest populated metropolitan region in the world.

From 1886 to 1924, over 14 million immigrants entered through New York harbor into the United States. About 40% of Americans can trace at least one ancestor to Ellis Island.

John D. Rockefeller was the second son of a traveling salesman and con-artist who left the family after being accused of rape. His mother was a devout evangelical Christian, and his life was shaped by both sets of values. John Jr. dropped out of high school and at age 19 invested in a Philadelphia oil refining company situated beside a railroad. By age 25, he owned the largest refinery in the world. In 1879 he formed Standard Oil, and despite losing an anti-trust case, became the world's first billionnaire and a reknowed philanthropist.

In 1904, The New York Times moved its headquarters to what is now known as Times Square. That December, it held a New Year’s Eve celebration that proved to be quite popular. A few years later, the newspaper created an illuminated time ball—then a well-known dockside device by which sailors set their ships’ clocks—that would fall at midnight. The annual ball-drop outlived both the newspaper’s address on the square and the use of time balls in general.

The first roller coaster in the U.S. was opened on Coney Island in New York in 1884.

The first ferris wheel was opened at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893,

The richest 400 Americans’ net worth increased 13 percent in 2012 to $1.7 trillion. The average net worth of the group was also up to a record $4.2 billion. The world’s richest people have seen their share of the globe’s total wealth increase from 42.5% at the height of the 2008 financial crisis to 50.1% in 2017.

The 2008 U.S. financial bailout ($4.62 trillian) cost more than the Marshall Plan, Louisiana Purchase, Race to the Moon, S&L bailout, Korean War, New Deal, Iraq War, Vietnam War, and NASA’s lifetime budget-combined.

There are 293 ways to make change for a dollar.

The largest denomination ever circulated as legal tender was the $10,000 bill. Before widespread access to banking systems and credit, it was used for big purchases like property. But it also became a target for counterfeiters and criminal enterprises hoping to keep large, illicit purchases anonymous. The Treasury and the Federal Reserve discontinued the note in 1969.

There are Seven Elements. The Western ones are: : earth, air, water, fire. The Chinese add metal and  wood, and India includes space. The actual basic elements of life are: oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur.

After the dinosaurs, the earth settled down into a 24/hour day, the continents broke apart, and many “folded” mountain ranges formed. “Younger mountains include Himalayas, Andes and Rockies. The oldest rock formations are the continental shields, core areas of continents, such as the Canadian shield, Brazilian highlands, India's Deccan plateau, much of Australia's north-west and much of Africa. The Urals and the Appalachians are among the oldest. 

The Himalayas were formed around 50 million years ago when the Indian landmass, which was a long way south of where it is today, shifted north and collided with Asia and forced a huge belt of mountains up into the air.

The Rockies form the Continental Divide, separating rivers draining to the Atlantic and Arctic oceans from those draining to the Pacific.

The Appalachians extend from  the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador to the Hudson River, include the White Mountains in New Hampshire, the Green Mountains in Vermont, and The Berkshires in Massachusetts and Connecticut. The middle section includes the Taconic Mountains in New York, the Catskills of southeastern New York, the Poconos in Pennsylvania. The Adirondacks, which are actually a southern extension of the Laurentians in Quebec, are often considered part of the Appalachians.  The Appalachian region is generally considered the geographical dividing line between the eastern seaboard of the United States and the Midwest. The Eastern Continental Divide follows the Appalachian Mountains from Pennsylvania to Georgia. The Appalachian Trail goes through 14 states: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia.

The University of Alaska spans four time  zones. 

Rubber bands last longer when refrigerated.

Glass  takes one million years to decompose, which means it never wears out and can  be recycled an infinite amount of times.

Gold is the only metal  that doesn't rust, even if it's buried in the ground for thousands of years.   The world’s largest stockpile of gold can be found five stories underground inside the vault of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. It holds 25% of the world’s gold reserve (540,000 gold bars). While it contains more gold than Fort Knox, most of it belongs to foreign governments.

Cattle, sheep, camels, and other livestock were the first form of money. In parts of Africa, cows were used as money until the mid-1900s. Each head of cattle was called a caput, which is Latin for “head.” So, a person with a lot of cattle had lots of caput or “capital,” a word still used today to describe money.

Throughout history, people have used many forms of money, such as soap, cocoa beans, elephant tail hairs, entire elephants, grain, animal skins, fishhooks, feathers, tea tobacco, bird claws, and bear teeth.

The Romans made their coins in the temple of Juno Moneta, the goddess of marriage and women. From the name Moneta, we get our words “mint” and “money.” The word “money” now refers to anything that can be used to pay for goods and services or to pay a debt. The Romans were the first to stamp the image of a living person on a coin. After winning in war, Julius Caesar featured his portrait on a coin in 44 B.C.

The word “bankrupt” is from the Italian banca rotta, literally “broken bench.” In the years of early banking, people who exchanged, stored, and lent money did their business in the public marketplace at a bench. If the man at the bench, or the “banker,” ran out of money or was unfair, his bench would be broken.

When the Venetian merchant Marco Polo got to China, in the latter part of the thirteenth century, he saw many wonders—gunpowder and coal and eyeglasses and porcelain. One of the things that astonished him most, however, was a new invention, implemented by Kublai Khan, a grandson of the great conqueror Genghis. It was paper money, introduced by Kublai in 1260. Polo could hardly believe his eyes when he saw what the Khan was doing.

During the Middle Ages, knights did not want to carry cash around because of robbers. Instead, knights wore special rings. When a knight stayed at an inn, for example, he would stamp the bill with his ring. The innkeeper later took the stamped bill to the knight’s castle to be paid.

The modern system for dealing with this problem arose in England during the reign of King William, the Protestant Dutch royal who had been imported to the throne of England in 1689, to replace the unacceptably Catholic King James II. William was a competent ruler, but he had serious baggage—a long-running dispute with King Louis XIV of France. Before long, England and France were involved in a new phase of this dispute, which now seems part of a centuries-long conflict between the two countries, but at the time was variously called the Nine-Years’ War or King William’s War. This war presented the usual problem: how could the nations afford it?

King William’s administration came up with a novel answer: borrow a huge sum of money, and use taxes to pay back the interest over time. In 1694, the English government borrowed 1.2 million pounds at a rate of eight per cent, paid for by taxes on ships’ cargoes, beer, and spirits. In return, the lenders were allowed to incorporate themselves as a new company, the Bank of England. The bank had the right to take in deposits of gold from the public and—a second big innovation—to print “Bank notes” as receipts for the deposits. These new deposits were then lent to the King. The banknotes, being guaranteed by the deposits, were as good as gold money, and rapidly became a generally accepted new currency.

Abraham Lincoln was the first American to be pictured on an American coin in 1909. The designer Victor David Brenner put his initial VDB at the base of the portrait on Lincoln’s arm.

The bird pictured on the American silver dollar was a real eagle named Peter. From 1830 to 1836, people who worked at the United States Mint adopted him to use as model for the drawings. When he died after getting his wing injured in the coining press, they stuffed him. He is still on display in the lobby of the mint.

When the United States began issuing paper money in 1861 to pay for the Civil War, the notes were not trusted by Americans and were derided as "greenbacks" or "shinplasters." Only when the new federal income tax was instituted, and it became clear that greenbacks could be used to pay taxes, did their reputation and value improve.

Tipping originated in feudal Europe and was imported back to the United States by American travelers eager to seem sophisticated. The practice spread throughout the country after the Civil War as U.S. employers, largely in the hospitality sector, looked for ways to avoid paying formerly enslaved workers. One of the most notorious examples comes from the Pullman Company, which hired newly freed African American men as porters. Rather than paying them a real wage, Pullman provided the black porters with just a meager pittance, forcing them to rely on tips from their white clientele for most of their pay.

The first matchbook featuring advertising was created by Pabst to advertise their beer.

Nine out of  every 10 living things live in the ocean. 

70% of the world lives within 40 miles of the ocean, which means that climate change will greatly affected 70% of us as sea levels rise.

Scientists have explored only 1% of the ocean depths. They believe millions of new kinds of animals and fish are down there, waiting to be discovered.

The crew of Apollo 13 set an amazing record that still stands to date. They traveled farther from Earth than any other humans in history when they were approximately 248,655 miles from Earth at 1:12 a.m. on April 15, 1970. At the time, they were also about 158 miles above the lunar surface on the far side of the Moon.

The U.S. Weather Service defines a blizzard as a storm with winds of more than 51 km (32 miles) per hour and enough snow to limit visibility to 150 meters (500 feet) or less.

Snowflakes begin when rising air, moisture and cold temperatures combine in clouds high above the earth. First, a water droplet freezes into ice crystal, and if the temperature is near 5 degrees Fahrenheit and plenty of moisture is present, the crystal grows six branches with arms. It then grows heavier as moisture condenses onto it. Crystals falling into warm air begin to melt, and since water can act like glue, it holds the crystals together in large flakes.

You can only see a rainbow when the Sun is shining behind you and it is raining in front of you. Rainbows form when sunlight shines through millions of raindrops. Sunlight is a mixture of colors. When it passes through a raindrop, it is refracted (bent), and the light splits and spreads out into seven colors. All rainbows are part of a circle, but you can usually see only part of it, because the Earth is in the way. If you are lucky, you may see a complete circle rainbow from an aircraft.

In 2011,  July had 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays, and 5 Sundays. This happens  once every 823 years.

There were three Friday the 13ths in 2012, 13 weeks apart. Friday the 13th has many origins. According to Wikipedia, in numerology, the number twelve is considered the number of completeness, as reflected in the twelve months of the year, twelve hours of the clock, twelve tribes of Israel, twelve Apostles of Jesus, twelve gods of Olympus, etc., whereas the number thirteen was considered irregular, transgressing this completeness. There is also a superstition, thought by some to derive from the Last Supper or a Norse myth, that having thirteen people seated at a table will result in the death of one of the diners. And Friday has been considered an unlucky day at least since the 14th century's The Canterbury Tales. Black Friday has been associated with stock market crashes and other disasters since the 1800s. It has also been suggested that Friday has been considered an unlucky day because, according to Christian scripture and tradition, Jesus was crucified on a Friday.

There's more: Jesus was the 13th person at the Last Supper, and Eve gave Adam the apple on a Friday. The launch of Apollo 13 took place at 13.13 hours, and had to be aborted on April 13, 1970 (but that was a Monday, not a Friday).

Pi is represented by the Greek letter p, and it is the most important numerical constant in mathematics. You can compute the area of a circle of radius r, using pr2. The perimeter of this circle has length 2pr. Without pi there is no theory of motion and no understanding of geometry. For instance, the volume of a sphere of radius r is 4/3pr3 and that of a cylinder of height h is pr2h. Pi occurs in important fields of applied mathematics as well as  throughout engineering, science and medicine.

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. Einstein’s 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.

Walter Breuning, the world’s oldest man, died on April 14, 2011, at the age of 114. Breuning lived in Minnesota at the beginning of the century, in a house with no electricity or running water. At 16, he left home and went to work for the Great Northern Railway in Melrose as a clerk. He moved to Great Falls, Montana, when his boss received a promotion, and stayed there for the rest century. Breuning retired from his job as a railroad clerk after 50 years, in 1963, and went on to work at a local chapter of the Shriners until he was 99. At the Rainbow Senior Living retirement home in Great Falls, where he lived since 1980, he visited the doctor just twice a year and the only medication he took was aspirin. He attributed his good health to eating only two meals a day. Everybody says your mind is the most important thing about your body, Breuning told the Associated Press in October, 2010. Your mind and your body. You keep both busy, and by God you’ll be here a long time.

There are more than 100,000 Americans over the age of 100.

The average life expectancy at birth for a Canadian is 81.16 years, the eighth highest in the world. The United States ranks 46th, at 78.14 years.

The greatest verified age for any living organism is from a Great Basin Bristlecone Pine tree in Nevada called Prometheus that was measured by a ring count to be about 4,900 years old when it was cut down in 1964.

Scientists grew trees in a sealed biosphere and couldn't work out why they fell over before they matured. They eventually figured out while they provided the perfect growing environment it was lacking wind which provides the stress to ensure the trees grew strong enough to support themselves.

The oldest surviving carpet is the celebrated Pazyryk carpet, which is over 2,000 years old. It was found in the 1940s in a Scythian tomb in southern Siberia.

Silkworms are caterpillars of (usually) the Bombyx mori moth. During its 3 to 8 day pupating period, the silkworm secretes fibroin, a sticky liquid protein, and two continuous threads harden when they come into contact with the air. While constructing its cocoon, the silkworm will twist in a figure-8 motion about 300,000 times and produce around 1 kilometer of filament. About 2500 caterpillars die to make a single pound of raw silk.

Google has found more than 30,000,000,000,000 unique URLs. The search index is more than 100,000,000 GB. and has taken more than 1,000 person-years to develop. There are 5,000,000 miles of roads photographed in Street View.

YouTube serves over 450,000 years of video every month--almost as long as humans have existed.

Benjamin Franklin was the youngest of 10 sons. His sister, Jane, was the youngest of seven daughters. Their father was a Boston candle-maker. The law in Massachusetts at the time required teaching boys to write; the mandate for girls ended at reading. Benny went to school for just two years; Jenny never went at all.  Their lives tell an 18th-century tale of two Americas. Against poverty and ignorance, Franklin became successful and wealthy; his sister did not.

Every member of President Teddy Roosevelt’s family owned a pair of stilts, including the first lady.

In 1902 a cartoon appeared showing President Teddy Roosevelt refusing to kill a captured bear. It caught the eye of Morris and Rose Michtom, Russian Jewish immigrants who ran a penny goods store in Brooklyn, New York. Rose sewed a bear out of plush velvet and displayed it in their shop as “Teddy’s bear,” according to Smithsonian Magazine. The couple had such success with the teddy bear that they founded the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company.

Prior to the 12th Amendment of the Constitution in 1804, the presidential candidate who received the second highest number of electoral votes was named the vice-president. The amendment mandated that electors vote for the offices of president and vice-president separately.

The U.S. Pledge of Allegiance was written by a socialist Baptist minister named Francis Bellamy in 1892. It was published in a popular children’s magazine of the time called The Youth’s Companion as part of the 400th anniversary celebration of Christopher Columbus arriving in the New World. The Pledge was then used in public schools starting on October 12, 1892, when the World Columbian Exposition opened in Chicago, Illinois.

13% of Americans actually believe that some parts of the moon are made of cheese.

The average American spends hundreds of dollars each year on lottery tickets. Because they often spend only $10 or $20 at a time, they don't realize how it adds up. If they put that money into a savings account, compound interest would increase that investment to thousands of dollars in just 10 years.

After investigating winners' prizes for 20 popular reality shows, The Daily Beast has learned that most give out far less than they promise—because of payments dragged out over time, fine print, or taxes. In the end, sometimes they give nothing at all. 

The Miss America Pageant, now an American institution, began in 1921 as an attempt by Atlantic City businessmen to keep tourists in town after Labor Day.

Ever wonder why boys are dressed in blue and girls in pink? Researchers say that in Anglo-Saxon Britain, in the 5th and 6th centuries, boy babies were more prized than girls. The belief spread that evil spirits would visit the cradle and harm or carry off a boy child. Blue, a power color representing the sky, would scare away an evil spirit. Later, in Germany, a widespread legend held that girl babies sprang from a pink rose and it became customary to dress baby girls in pink. That custom merged with the British one of dressing boys in blue.

But in some cultures, girls were dressed in blue and boys in pink. However,  before stable dyes were developed, babies were all dressed in white dresses, and both boys and girls wore dresses. White was easy to bleach and changing diapers is much easier in dresses than pants. Further, with children growing rapidly, dresses were a bit more practical in terms of not needing to get the sizing as precise.

New research indicates that we learn a great deal while still in the womb, from the lilt of our native language to our soon-to-be-favorite foods.

Infant girls have 80% better hearing for the human voice than boys. The retinas of boys are more sensitive to movement, but less than girls are to color.

The inner ear is the only sense organ to develop fully before birth. It reaches its adult size by the middle of pregnancy.

Human babies are the only primates who smile at their parents.

Eight percent of men are born color blind, but less than 1% of women have limited ability to see a full range of colors. The gene for blue eyes is recessive. Most people had brown eyes until about 10,000 years ago when a single genetic mutation from the Black Sea switched the eyes from brown to blue. Approximately 8% of the world’s population now has blue eyes. Only 2% of the population have green eyes.

Black is the most common hair color in the world. Red, which only exists in about 1 percent of the world’s population, is the rarest. Blonde hair comes in a close second, with only 2 percent of the population. Just one in twenty white adults whose origins are in northern Europe have naturally blonde hair.

The gene that causes red hair initially had the benefit of increasing the body’s ability to make vitamin D,  which was important for people living farther away from the equator.

The highest concentration of redheads is in Scotland (13%) followed by Ireland (10%). Worldwide, only 2% of people have red hair. People with red hair are likely more sensitive to pain. This is because the gene mutation (MC1R) that causes red hair is on the same gene linked to pain receptors. It also means redheads usually need more anesthesia for dental and medical procedures. Redheads are more likely to be left handed. Both characteristics come from recessive genes, which like to come in pairs. Redheads most commonly have brown eyes.

The human nose can remember 50,000 different scents.

Up until 7 months old, a baby can breathe and swallow at the same time. The grasp of a newborn baby is so strong that its whole body can hang in midair, with its bent fingers supporting its weight.

3% of all pregnant women will give birth to twins. This rate is an increase of nearly 60% since the early 1980s. However, the odds rise for older mother. 17% of pregnant women over 45 will give birth to twins.

The human nose can distinguish at least one trillion different odors, millions more than previously estimated.  For decades, scientists accepted that humans could detect only 10,000 scents, putting the sense of smell well below the capabilities of sight and hearing. “Our analysis shows that the human capacity for discriminating smells is much larger than anyone anticipated," said study co-author Leslie Vosshall, head of Rockefeller University’s Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Behavior.

The combination of collagen and minerals makes bone one of the strongest and most flexible natural materials on earth. One cubic inch of bone can withstand loads of up to 20,000 pounds, over four times the strength of concrete.

A normal, relaxed blinking rate is 6–8 blinks per minute, and the eyes are closed for about 1/10th of a second. People under pressure (such as when they are lying) are likely to dramatically increase their blinking rate.

A woman has a wider-ranging peripheral vision, which allows her to check out a man’s body from head to toe without getting caught. A male’s peripheral vision is poorer, which is why a man will move his gaze up and down a woman’s body in a very obvious way. Men do not “oogle” more than women­their tunnel vision means they just get caught more easily.

There are six universal facial expressions: 1) anger, 2) disgust, 3) fear, 4) happiness, 5) sadness, and 6) surprise. Recently, some scientists have argued that looks of contempt and embarrassment are also universal expressions.

The word "kiss" is from the Old English cyssan from the Germanic kuss, which is probably based on the sound kissing can make. Lips are 100 times more sensitive than the tips of the fingers. Not even genitals have as much sensitivity as lips. Approximately two-thirds of people tip their head to the right when they kiss. Some scholars speculate this preference starts in the womb. The Four Vedic Sanskrit texts (1500 B.C.) contain the first mention of a kiss in writing. The Romans created three categories of kissing: (1) Osculum, a kiss on the cheek, (2) Basium, a kiss on the lips, and (3) Savolium, a deep kiss. Scientists speculate that that kissing evolved from prospective mates sniffing each others’ pheromones for biological compatibility. Scholars are unsure if kissing is a learned or instinctual behavior. In some cultures in Africa and Asia, kissing does not seem to be practiced.

Young girls in the U.S. and the U.K. once believed they could tell what type of man they would marry by the type of bird they saw first on Valentine’s Day. If they saw a blackbird, they would marry a clergyman, a robin indicated a sailor, and a goldfinch indicated a rich man. A sparrow meant they would marry a farmer, a blue bird indicated a happy man, and a crossbill meant an argumentative man. If they saw a dove, they would marry a good man, but seeing a woodpecker meant they would not marry at all.

Valentine’s Day was first introduced to Japan in 1936. However, because of a translation error made by a chocolate company, only women buy Valentine chocolates for their spouses, boyfriends, or friends. In fact, it is the only day of the year many single women will reveal their crush on a man by giving him chocolate. The men don’t return the favor until White Day, a type of “answer day” to Valentine’s Day, which is on March 14.

Six billion steps of DNA are contained in a single cell. This DNA can be stretched six feet, but it is coiled up in the cell’s nucleus, which measures only 1/2500 of an inch in diameter.

The custom of family (surnames) names did not really arise until the 11th century in Europe. Prior to the 11th century a surname, if used at all, represented the name of a primitive clan or tribe.

A third of the world’s population lives on less than $2 per day.

Seventy to 73% of child sexual abusers report experiencing sexual abuse in their own childhood.

The human brain consists of approximately 100 billion neurons (which is as many cells as there are stars in the Milky Way). Each neuron has somewhere between 1,000 and 10,000 synapses, equaling about 1 quadrillion synapses. If all the neurons in the human brain were lined up, they would stretch 600 miles. As a comparison, an octopus has 300,000 neurons, a honeybee has 950,000, and a jellyfish has no brain at all.

The memory-recording processes of the brain seems to switch off during sleep. In so-called non-dreamers, this memory shutdown is more complete than it is for the rest. Dreams may be forgotten because they are incoherent or because they contain repressed material that the conscious mind does not wish to remember.

Bill Bryson has saidL "Memory storage is idiosyncratic and strangely disjointed. The mind breaks each memory into its component parts -- names, faces, locations, contexts, how a thing feels to the touch, even whether it is living or dead-and sends the parts to different places, then calls them back and reassembles them when the whole is needed again. A single fleeting thought or recollection can fire up a million or more neurons scattered across the brain. Moreover, these fragments of memory move around over time, migrating from one part of the cortex to another, for reasons entirely unknown. It's no wonder we get details muddled."

During sleep, the production of nervous system cells that generate myelin, a substance that insulates the nerves and permits the rapid transmission of nerve impulses, doubles in mice. This suggests that sleep may serve certain reparative and growth functions in the brain.

Brains in love and brains in lust are not identical. Erotic photos activate the hypothalamus (which controls hunger and thirst) and the amygada (arousal) areas of the brain. Love activates areas of the brain with a high concentration of receptors for dopamine (associated with euphoria, craving, and addiction) and its relative, norepinephrine.

Paul Allen, co-founded of Microsoft, has a personal yacht which holds two luxury submarines and a helicopter.

Thomas John Watson, Sr. started as a clerk at the National Cash Register Co. Eventually, Watson became president of the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Co., which made scales, time clocks, and tabulators that sorted information using punched cards. Watson renamed the company International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) in 1924 and became its chairman in 1949, widening IBM’s line to include computers.

Larry Tesler, a pioneer of personal computing, is credited with creating the cut, copy and paste as well as the search and replace functions. Tesler left Xerox for Apple in 1980, where he rose to the position of vice president and chief scientist. While there he helped to design the Macintosh computer, QuickTime and the Lisa computer, one of the first personal computers to use a graphical user interface. It was the Lisa that popularized the now-familiar copy, paste and undo shortcuts. (That's C to copy, V to paste and Z to undo).

Texas Instruments announced the first commercial transistor radio  in 1954. Transistors are the basis of much modern electronic technology.

Reluctant to leave school to devote time to their new search engine, Larry Page and Sergey Brin attempted to sell for $1 million to AltaVista. Fortunately for them, Alta Vista passed.

American Express began as a freight-forwarding company. The current CEO points out how it has adapted to the times, and how important it is to take the offensive, instead of defending your company against competitors. He also stressed that it's important to move quickly and form useful partnerships.

               UPS was started by two teenagers with one bicycle and $100 borrowed from a friend. The American Messenger Company was initially run in a hotel basement in Seattle, Washington. At that time, most people didn’t own phones, so sending telegrams was a frequent thing.  These had to be hand delivered.  In the beginning, the company primarily delivered these telegrams, but eventually expanded into transporting pretty much anything that could be transported on a bicycle or on foot.  Casey and Ryan manned the phone while Casey’s brother George and a handful of other teenagers went out making deliveries.
              Fast-forward a few years and Casey and Ryan had merged their company with rival Merchant’s Parcel Delivery taking the latter’s name.  In the process, they acquired a few motorcycles and delivery cars with their first car being a Ford Model T.   At this time, more and more people had telephones so Casey and Ryan switched to working with retail stores to deliver customers purchases to their homes.
              By the time Casey retired from UPS in 1962, the company had grown to operating in 31 U.S. states with annual revenue around $550 million and about 22,000 workers.

Henry Ford never went to high school. When he first started his car company, the Dodge brothers were shareholders. After Ford bought out all his investors, the Dodge brothers began to supply parts and assemblies for Detroit's growing auto industry. Dodge began making its own complete vehicles in 1915. The brand was sold to Chrysler Corporation in 1928.

Harvey Firestone started his own company in 1890, making rubber tires for carriages. In 1900 he soon saw the huge potential for marketing tires for automobiles and then founded the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, a pioneer in the mass production of tires.

Ferruccio Lamborghini was a successful Italian tractor manufacturer and sports car enthusiast who founded a luxury car company in 1963, allegedly after a spat with Enzo Ferrari. Lamborghini was dissatisfied with the clutch in one of his Ferraris and voiced this to Enzo Ferrari, who dismissed the complaints as those of a mere tractor maker. Infuriated, Lamborghini decided to retaliate by creating his own superior sports car.

Horsepower equals the amount of energy required to move 550 pounds one foot in one second.

Prior to 1921, car owners purchased gas by the gallon from blacksmiths or hardware stores. But in 1921 the first drive-through gas station was opened in the U.S.

The dollar sign ($) was originally Spanish and was supposedly an ancient Phoenician sign indicating strength and sovereignty.  The U.S. government modified the original symbol to incorporate the letters of U.S. by superimposing the S on top of the U.

Abraham Lincoln faces to the right on a penny while all the other presidents face to the left on U.S. coins. The Lincoln penny is the only U.S. coin still in circulation after 100 years.

The dominant form of currency in the original 13 colonies was that of Spain, with its dollar or peso (equal to 8 reales, thus it was known as “pieces of eight”), and smaller denominations the medio peso (equal to 4 reales) and peseta (equal to 2 reales). This method of dividing the dollar into eight pieces had a lasting impact on American currency, since, like the medio peso, the United States has a half-dollar, and like the peseta, there is that favorite of parking meters and laundry mats, the quarter-dollar.

As part of the transition, the unit of account, at least colloquially, changed from real to “bit” in the U.S., and, thus, the quarter dollar, or quarter as we call it today, which was equal to two reales, came to be known as “two bits.”

In 1866, the U.S. replaced the small "half dime" with a new coin, the nickel. 

Canada has just abolished the penny, but its British cousins are long since gone:  A farthing was worth a quarter of a penny; then there was the half penny, the threepenny bit,  and the sixpence.

Copper is extremely useful because it's soft enough to mold easily, doesn't rust, and can be combined with tin to make bronze. The addition of tin makes copper harder, but too much tin can cause bronze to crack. 

The "heads" picture on a U.S. penny weighs just a fraction more than the "tails" side, so if you're making a bet on a penny toss, your odds are better if you call for "tails" because the "heads" side is more likely to end up on the bottom.

The U.S. is close to $10 trillion in debt. Most of this is owed to countries like China and India.

Tuition and fees increased 439 percent from 1982 to 2007, while median family income rose 147 percent.

To produce an ounce of gold requires 38 man hours, 1400 gallons of water, enough electricity to run a large house for ten days, as well as chemicals such as cyanide, acids, lead, borax, and lime. In order to extract South Africa's yearly output of 500 tons of gold, nearly 70 million tons of earth are raised and milled.

Seventy-five percent of all gold in circulation has been extracted since 1910. Due to its high value, most gold discovered throughout history is still in circulation. However, it is thought that 80% of the world’s gold is still in the ground.

Gold is the only metal  that doesn't rust, even if it's buried in the ground for thousands of  years.

Roman coins were used to publicize the emperor, his achievements, and his family in a world with no mass media.

The modern word “China” most likely derives from the name of the Qin (pronounced “chin”) dynasty. First Emperor Qin Shi Huang (260-210 B.C.) of the Qin dynasty first unified China in 221 B.C., beginning an Imperial period which would last until A.D. 1912.

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 world’s longest continuously used written language.

China is the fourth largest country in the world (after Russia, Canada, and the U.S.). It has an area of 3,719,275 square miles (slightly smaller than the U.S.) and its borders with other countries total more than 117,445 miles. Approximately 5,000 islands lie off the Chinese coast.

Canada has the longest coastline of any country in the world at 151,600 miles.

One in every five people in the world is Chinese. China’s population is estimated to reach a whopping 1,338,612,968 by July 2009. China’s population is four times that of the United States.

Fortune cookies are not a traditional Chinese custom. They were invented in 1920 by a worker in the Key Heong Noodle Factory in San Francisco.

China invented ice cream, and Marco Polo is rumored to have taken the recipe (along with the recipe for noodles) back with him to Europe.

China is also known as the “Flowery Kingdom” and many of the fruits and flowers (such as the orange and orchid) that originated there are now grown all over the world.

Toilet paper was invented in China in the late 1300s. It was for emperors only.

The Chinese invented paper, the compass, gunpowder, and printing.

The Chinese invented kites (“paper birds” or “Aeolian harps”) about 3,000 years ago. They were used to frighten the enemies in battle, and Marco Polo (1254-1324) noted that kites were also used to predict the success of a voyage. It was considered bad luck to purposely let a kite go.

Cricket fighting is a popular amusement in China. Many Chinese children keep crickets as pets.

By the fourth century B.C., the Chinese were drilling for natural gas and using it as a heat source, preceding Western natural gas drilling by about 2,300 years.

German is the official language of five countries: Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg, and Lichtenstein. The name of the country comes from the Latin Germania, the Roman name for the lands north of the Alps, where the Barbarian tribes lived. The French, Spanish, and Turkish call it Allemagne, Alemania, and Almanya, respectively, after the Alemanni tribe. Italians call the country Germania, but the German language in Italian is called Tedesco.

The term “carpet” derives from the Latin carpere, “to pluck,” probably because carpets were made from unraveled “plucked” fabric. “Carpet” has the same Latin root as carpe diem, literally “pluck/seize the day.”
The oldest surviving carpet is the celebrated Pazyryk carpet, which is over 2,000 years old. It was found in the 1940s in a Scythian tomb in southern Siberia.

The London Underground was the first public transit system of its kind in the world. The Thames tunnel was the first to have been constructed successfully underneath a navigable river. It used Thomas Cochrane and Marc Isambard Brunel's newly invented tunnelling shield technology.

In 1931 Harry Beck, a 29-year-old unemployed engineering draughtsman, produced his first sketch of the Diagram which would become the well-loved map of the London Underground.

As baby boomers enter their 60s and 70s, demand for surgery to replace ankles with artificial joints is expected to grow. Just imagine the increase for younger women in the next few years, as they wobble on five and six-inch stilettos.

The average life expectancy at birth for a Canadian is 81.16 years, the eighth highest in the world. The United States ranks 46th, at 78.14 years.

New research indicates that you can enhance cognitive functioning by stepping backwards. There seems to be a link between the backwards movement and a vigilant state of mind.

Continuous Partial Attention is a term coined by former Apple employee, Linda Stone, to describe the state of always being on high alert for the next cellphone call, text or tweet, and continually checking e-mail - a form of addiction, inability to be alone and unstimulated. Timothy Ferris, author of The Four-Hour Workweek, talks about "attention management" to allow us to concentrate on important tasks (and important people).

Although vision might largely seem effortless to us, in reality we actively choose what we look at, making about two to four eye movements every second for some 150,000 motions daily, said Karen Adolph, also a developmental psychologist at N.Y.U. Vision is not passive. We actively coordinate our eye movements with the motions of our hands and bodies.

Conservative people in the Middle East only look directly into the eyes of a social equal of the same sex.

In some Native American tribes, if a man left his wife without a serious reason, he was not allowed to remain a member of the tribe. Many tribes did not allow a man to separate from his wife if they had children together. The Aztecs were never permitted to divorce.

Pinky fingers do not have muscles in them. They have bones, arteries, and veins, but no muscles. The muscles that move your pinkies are located in your hands and forearms.

The Dutch are the tallest people in Europe.

In 1776, The first fraternity in America, Phi Beta Kappa, was organized at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.

1881, In Washington, D.C., humanitarians Clara Barton and Adolphus Solomons found the American National Red Cross, an organization established to provide humanitarian aid to victims of wars and natural disasters in congruence with the International Red Cross.

There have been four major global flu pandemics since 1900. The most recent pandemic is the current swine flu (officially named “Novel H1N1 Influenza A”). The last global pandemic was the Hong Kong flu (1968-1969) which killed approximately one million people. The Asian flu pandemic (1957-1958) originated in China and is estimated to have killed between one and four million people. The Spanish flu pandemic (1918-1919) killed between 50-100 million people worldwide.  It was the single deadliest flu pandemic in history. Occurring in 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.

Mary Putnam was the first woman ever to graduate from medical school.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded in 1909.

In 1964, Martin Luther King, Jr., at the age of 35, was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize 

The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States. Completed in 1883, it connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn by spanning the East River. With a main span of 1,595.5 feet (486.3 m), it was the longest suspension bridge in the world from its opening until 1903, and the first steel-wire suspension bridge. Designer John Augustus Roebling, a German immigrant, designed a bridge and truss system that was six times as strong as he thought it needed to be. Because of this, the Brooklyn Bridge is still standing when many of the bridges built around the same time have vanished into history and been replaced. The construction of the Brooklyn Bridge is detailed in the 1978 book The Great Bridge by David McCullough and Brooklyn Bridge, the first PBS documentary film ever made by Ken Burns.

Among the greatest constructions of the 20th century are the Hoover Dam, the highest dam every built, the Golden Gate Bridge, the CN Tower in Toronto, and the Empire State Building. Boston's Big Dig includes the widest cable bridge in the world, which spans the Charles River.

Construction on The Empire State Building began in 1930, eventually employing 3,400 workers, using 10 million bricks, 57,000 tons of steel, 473 miles of electrical wire and 200,000 cubic feet of Indiana limestone. The $41 million building opened on May 1, 1931, with Gov.Franklin D. Roosevelt and former Gov.Alfred E. Smith, president of the Empire State Company, addressing more than 2,000 guests.

The Hong Kong Airport was created by flattening an island and expanding it by dredging, adding roads, bridges  and tunnels to attach it to the mainland. It includes the world's largest road/rail suspension bridge.

The Basilica of the Sacré Cœur was built on Montmartre from 1876 to 1912. The famous church on the hill in north Paris, was built over tunnels where gypsum had been mined. That gypsum would become "plaster of Paris."

Great Slave Lake is the deepest lake in North America.

Golf balls were originally made of wood, but in the early 17th century the feather ball was introduced. It was a slow and expensive process to manufacture these balls, which consisted of boiled feathers compressed into a hole left in a stitched leather cover. The invention of the cheaper gutta-percha ball about 1848 helped to make the game more popular. Regulation balls have a maximum weight of 1.62 ounces (45.93 grams) and a minimum diameter of 1.68 inches (4.27 centimeters).

In 1994, Levant Richardson added ball-bearing wheels to roller skates, allowing them to glide smoothly and to be used indoors. Roller rinks soon became popular, and roller derbies became a competitive sport. Eventually, inline skates were developed for use outdoors.

A pitcher by the name of A.G. Spalding claims that it was New Haven first baseman Charles C. Waite who, in an 1875 game against Boston, first had the audacity (i.e. common sense) to take the field with a glove. Maybe “audacity” isn’t quite the right word. Though there were no rules against gloves, Waite tried to preserve his masculinity by wearing a tan, flesh-colored work glove, hoping no one would notice. People noticed. And Waite was ridiculed mercilessly by fans and players alike. Nonetheless, he persevered. Spalding thought Waite might be on to something, so the year after Waite’s debut, Spalding and his brothers started a sports equipment company and one of their first products, alongside the first official baseball, was a baseball glove.

Basketball was invented in 1891 by Canadian James Naismith.  He introduced it at the first YMCA, which was established in Boston in 1851, modeled after the London Y.

American Football grew out of English sports such as rugby and soccer and became popular on American college campuses in the late 1800s. In 1876, a coach named Walter Camp helped produce the first rules of American football. Among important changes were the introduction of line scrimmages and down-and-distance rules. The American Professional Football Association was formed in 1920; two years later it changed its name to the National Football League (NFL).

Bobbi has a special connection to Babe Ruth, as she won the Babe Ruth Sportsmanship Award when she graduated from Hamden High School. She never played any sports, it was for her actions and attitude toward other students. So we were interested to hear that Babe Ruth’s original contract with the Yankees (who lured him from the Boston Red Sox) is up for sale for $1.45 million. According to the contract, Ruth earned $8,666.66 per month, or $52,000 per season, from 1922 to 1924, but had to put down a $30 deposit each year for “two complete uniforms, exclusive of shoes.”

Speaking of athletes, a scrawny kid, Angelo Siciliano, developed a set of exercises to work muscles against each other and in 1922 was dubbed “The World’s Most Perfectly Developed Man.” As Charles Atlas, he launched a highly successful mail-order bodybuilding course, advertising his “dynamic tension” system with the now-iconic image of the “97-pound weakling” who loses his girl to a bully at the beach.

Rope-a-dope is boxing strategy that involves taking repeated hits until the opponent is exhausted, and then unleashing punches to take him down.

The lead pencil contains no lead. It's actually a rod of graphite encased in wood, which first came into use in the 16th century. However, it was not until the 19th century that the eraser was added, an innovation that earned Hymen Lipman a patent in 1858. In 1862, he sold his patent to Joseph Reckendorfer for $100,000.

All the swans in England are property of the Queen.

The furname Fitzroy means "son of a king," and was often used for boys born out of wedlock to a king's mistress.

The poplar tree is an emblem of liberty and democracy in France. The word poplar comes from the Latin word for people: populus. 

The pigments in leaves (carotenoids) which are responsible for the fall colors are actually present in the leaves all during the growing season of spring and summer. The colors are eclipsed by the green chlorophyll. Toward the end of summer, chlorophyll production stops and the colors of the carotenoids (yellow, orange, red, purple, etc.) become visible. Different trees turn different colors, e.g. sugar maple and sumac turn flame red and orange; popular, birch, tulip trees, and willows turn yellow.

Surfing was invented thousands of years ago by the Polynesians who first settled Hawaii. Their boards weighed more than 150 pounds and measured up to twenty feet.

Everyone is a minority in Hawaii – there are no racial majorities. Caucasians constitute about 33% of the population, Japanese about 33%, Filipino-Americans about 16%, and Chinese-Americans about 5%. Most of the population has mixed ethnicities.

The first product to have a bar code was Wrigley’s gum.

Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team his sophomore year. He now  makes more money from Nike annually than all of the Nike factory workers in Malaysia combined.

All major league baseball umpires must wear black underwear while on the job.

Babe Ruth compiled an outstanding pitching record between 1914 and 1919, but because pitchers do not play in every game, he was shifted to the outfield so that his powerful hitting could be used consistently. In 1919, he was sold from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees, and his batting feats and public personality helped salvage baseball’s popularity, which had been damaged by the Black Sox scandal.

The world's highest official temperature is 136 degrees recorded at El Azizia, Libya, on September 13, 1922.

The world's largest cut diamond is an unnamed Fancy Black, containing small red diamond crystals. It weighs 555.55 carats and was polished into 55 facets over several years and completed in June 2004. The repetitive use of the number five is culturally significant in the Islamic world, and was inspired by Ran Gorenstein (Belgium), who also commissioned this creation.

The biggest diamond ever found  was the size of a football. Extracted from the Cullinan mine in South Africa, it was eventually presented to King Edward VII in 1907 on his birthday and is now part of the crown jewels of the British monarchy.

Amethyst is one of the oldest recorded gemstones. How it obtained its rare color is the subject of speculation, thought by some researchers as the replacement of some silicon ions by iron. Nearly all yellow quartz is actually heat-treated amethyst. True yellow quartz is citrine or topaz, which show more of the yellow that comes from iron. Amethyst rates high as a gemstone because of its beauty and  durability. Significant deposits exist in Brazel, Sri Lanka, and the Ural Mts, as well as Thunder Bay, Ontario (the largest amethyst mine in North America).  

The concept of zero, the calculation of the earth's circumference and of Pi all came from India. 

                        Zero is the only  number that cannot be represented by Roman numerals. 

Michigan was the first state to plow its roads and the first to adopt a yellow dividing line.

Woodward Avenue in Detroit,  Michigan, carries the designation M-1, so named because it was the first paved road anywhere.

The Eisenhower interstate system requires that one mile in every five must be straight, to be used as air strips in times of war or other emergencies.

The first shopping mall was built in 1956, outside Minneapolis. It depended on the interstate highway system to allow people to shop outside city centers.

The lowest point on earth is called Challenger Deep, located at the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean – nearly 36,000 feet (about 6.8 miles) below sea level.

In 1943, a Mexican farmer named Dionisio Pulido witnessed the birth of a volcano in his cornfield about 329 kilometers west of Mexico City. It started as a slight depression in his field and soon became a fissure that emitted smoke and hissing noises. During the next nine years, the volcano Paricutin had grown to an elevation of 2,272 meters and its voluminous lava flows had destroyed several towns.

The biggest single volcano on Earth is in the Pacific Ocean, roughly halfway between Hawaii and Japan. Dubbed ‘Tamu Massif,’ the humongous volcano erupted almost 150 million years ago. It was formed about 145 million years ago, at a “triple junction” where three tectonic plates were ripping themselves apart. Geologists have debated whether the enormous volcano was formed from a mantle plume, like the one that formed Hawaii, or from the mid-ocean ridge eruptions like those that built the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, or perhaps a combination of the two. None of the models readily explain how so much lava poured out of a single vent.

The first passenger elevator was installed in 1857, enabling buildings to rise above 4-6 stories.  

The first traffic signals were established by the railroads in Cleveland during World War I. They were just red and green. In the early 1920s, in Detroit, they started using the three colors we use today.  The use of these particular colors for the similar meanings goes back further. Red, the color of blood, has been a danger signal since early times; even Roman legions used a red banner for Mars, the god of war. The other colors have changed over time. Originally red meant “stop”, green “caution” and white “go”. The white signal was easily confused with normal light, so it as changed. The railroads decided to drop white and make green “go” and yellow “caution”, the latter presumably because it was readily visible and offered the most striking contrast to the other two colors.

The world’s oldest running vehicle, the De Dion-Bouton et Trepardoux Dos-a-Dos Steam Runabout, has sold at a U.S. auction for $4.6 million. The car, built in France in 1884, has had only four owners in the past 127 years, can still be driven. It has a top speed of 38 miles per hour.

Louis Chevrolet, born in Switzerland, was an auto mechanic who emigrated to the US in 1900 to race cars. In 1905, he drove a mile in a record 52.8 seconds. In 1911, he founded the Chevrolet Motor Company with support from General Motors founder William C. Durant and designed its first car. He sold his interest in 1915 but continued making racecars. His cars won the Indy 500 in 1920 and 1921. He later formed an aircraft company with his brother, but the venture failed.

The Volkswagen was created in Germany in 1934, by Ferdinand Porsche and Adolf Hitler. 

The first president to ride in a car was Theodore Roosevelt in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1902. The first president to fly in an airplane was Franklin Roosevelt in 1943 from Miami, Florida, to French Morocco. The first president to fly an aircraft was Theodore Roosevelt who was a passenger in a Wright biplane in 1910. The first president to hold an airplane pilot’s license was Dwight Eisenhower.

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. 

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.

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.

Archytas of Tarentum (428 BC – 350 BC), a friend of Plato, is believed to have invented the screw around 400 BC, while Archimedes (287 BC – 212 BC) was one of the first to realize the screw’s ability to fix things together, as well as to lift water. The Romans developed hand-cut screws and made them with bronze and silver.

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. 

Istanbul, Turkey, is the only city in the world located on two continents. 

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.

Flags are thought to be the invention of China or India. The first “national” flags in Europe didn’t appear until the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

            Canada has the world's longest coastline of 202,080 kilometres (125,567 miles).
                         Canada also has more lakes than the rest of the world combined. 
                                       Halifax has one of the world's largest harbors.

Lake Superior is actually not a lake at all, but an inland sea.  All of the four other Great Lakes, plus three more the size of Lake Erie, would fit inside of Lake Superior. It contains 10% of the world's fresh surface water, enough to submerge all of North and South America in 1 foot of water.  Isle Royale is a massive island surrounded by Lake Superior. Within this island are several smaller lakes, essentially a lake on a lake.

The Goderich Mine is the largest salt mine in the world. Part of it runs underneath Lake Huron, more than 500 meters underground.

The  Amazon rainforest produces  more than 20% the world's oxygen  supply. It is home to one third of the planet’s land species, illustrating Earth’s ability to sustain itself within a concentrated area. The Amazon River is so immense that superlatives fall short of doing it justice. More than 4,500 miles long, the Amazon discharges one-fifth of all the freshwater that flows into the earth's oceans, about sixty times the amount contributed by the Nile, its closest rival in size. Snaking across an entire continent in a languid west-to-east flow, the immense river drainage is fed by some five hundred tributaries, a number of which themselves, were they located anywhere else in the world, would be the largest river on their continent. In places the Amazon sprawls a remarkable fifty miles wide; it can vary in depth with floodwaters or tides by as much as fifty feet; and, near its terminus at the Atlantic, it contains an island the size of Switzerland.

Siberia contains more than 25% of the world's forests. 

The United States produces half of its electricity from coal. China uses coal to generate more than three-fourths of its electricity. Australia, Poland, and South Africa produce an even greater percentage. Overall, coal makes up 2/5 of the world’s electricity generation.

Think the Grand Canyon in Arizona is the deepest valley in the world?  It's about 1737 meters deep - a little over a mile. But it's not the deepest. Cotahuasi Canyon in southwestern Peru is approximately 3354 meters - over twice the depth of the Grand Canyon.

Native American Indians have a signature strand of DNA known as Halpogroup X. The only other large population on earth with this genetic marker is Europeans.

Researchers now believe that humans began to stand upright very gradually, by first straightening the back while squatting to gather food or skin animals, and later by extending the legs.

A new study released by the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal Wednesday proposes that Neanderthals became extinct because of their large eyes. The research concludes that this feature cost them high-level processing as they dedicated a larger amount of time to seeing in the dark. While they were busy being big-eyed, Homo sapiens were able to sneak in and create “warmer clothes and develop larger social networks” that were crucial to survival in the Ice Age.

Solar power dates back to the 7th century B.C. when magnifying glass was used to concentrate sun’s rays to make fire and to burn ants. As early as 212 BC, the Greek scientist, Archimedes, used the reflective properties of bronze shields to focus sunlight and to set fire to wooden ships from the Roman Empire which were besieging Syracuse. In the middle of the 20th century, Architect Frank Bridgers designed the world’s first commercial office building using solar water heating and passive design.

Lisa Randall, Professor of Physics at Harvard, says we can only see 4% of the matter in the universe. The other 96% is dark matter.  And we can only recognize 40% of the energy in the universe. The other 60% is unknown.

Oxygen is the most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, waters, and atmosphere — 49.5% of the total mass of these compounds. Silicon is the second most abundant chemical element on Earth, making up about 87% of the materials in the Earth’s crust. Hydrogen makes up about 75% of the mass of the universe. It is estimated that more than 90% of all atoms in the universe are hydrogen atoms. Most of the rest are helium atoms.

Among the world's tallest trees are the redwoods along the California coast, which reach up 38 stories.  Their trunks reach typical diameters of 3 to 6 m (10 to 20 feet) or more, measured above the swollen bases. The redwood tree takes 400 to 500 years to reach maturity, and some trees are known to be more than 1,500 years old. The thickest trees are giant sequoias, the largest of which is wider than three lanes of traffic. 

Angel Falls in Venezuela is the highest waterfall in the world. The falls are 3230 feet in height with an uninterrupted drop of 2647 feet. Angel Falls are located on a tributary of the Rio Caroni.

The lowest point on earth is called Challenger Deep, located at the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean – nearly 36,000 feet (about 6.8 miles) below sea level.

The most expensive hotels, in order of cost per night, are located in Capri, Abu Dhabi, Geneva, Moscow, Venice, Cannes, NYC, Dubrovnik, Dubai, and Paris.

Dubbed “the largest hotel in the world” the Grand Union Hotel in Saratoga Springs, NY, could accommodate 2000 guests by the 1860s. The town also boasted the first heated swimming pool in the U.S. 

As a boy, Conrad Nicholson Hilton helped his father turn the family’s home into an inn for traveling salesmen. After serving in World War I, he began to buy hotels in Texas and soon graduated to such grand establishments as Chicago’s Palmer House and the Waldorf-Astoria of New York. By the late 1940s, Hilton’s company had expanded overseas, and at the time of his death in 1979, Hilton controlled the world’s largest hotel company.

Dr. Ruth was once a sniper for the Israeli army.

NY Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize winning author,  Thomas L. Friedman, comments on the auto industry:   Over the years, Detroit bosses kept repeating: We have to make the cars people want. That's why they're in trouble. Their job is to make the cars people don't know they want but will buy like crazy when they see them. I would have been happy with my Sony Walkman had Apple not invented the iPod. Now I can't live without my iPod. I didn't know I wanted it, but Apple did.

Friedman also says that the most important rule of business in today's environment is:  Whatever can be done, will be done. The only question is:  will it be done BY you or TO you.

In a similar vein, Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, author of The Opposable Mind, says that  successful business leaders are able to reconcile apparently irreconcilable options. An example is Izzy Sharpe, founder of the Four Seasons chain, who decided that rather than choosing between the services offered by a large hotel and the personal attention offered by a small hotel, it was possible to combine these in one operation.

After two years of high school, John D. Rockefeller—the man destined to become, by some estimates, the richest person in history—got a job as a bookkeeper. A few years later, he formed a food handling firm that prospered in the American Civil War. In 1863, he entered the brand new oil business, and within 15 years, his company dominated the American petroleum industry. A noted philanthropist, he donated $550 million during his lifetime.

When Macon F. Brock Jr. and his partners pitched their idea to open a chain of dollar stores to developers at a shopping mall convention in the mid-1980s, they got a cold reception. “It’s bound to be junk, and we don’t want a junk store cluttering up our shiny new mall,” he was told, according to his autobiography, One Buck at a Time (written with Earl Swiftand). But over time the stores turned into Dollar Tree, the retailing juggernaut with more than 14,000 outlets in the United States and Canada.

Helena Rubinstein was the only one of a group of early female entrepreneurs to keep her own name. Elizabeth Arden was born Florence Nightingale Graham, Lena Himmelstein Bryant Malsin founded Lane Bryant, and Henrietta Kanengeiser became Hattie Carnegie. Rubinstein developed the first waterproof mascara, and then the first mascara wand (before that time, mascara came in a cake and was applied with a tiny brush). She sold the U.S. arm of her company to Lehman Brothers in 1928, in time to miss the 1929 crash, then bought back the nearly worthless stock for less than $1 million and eventually turned the shares into millions of dollars.

If you're discouraged by the current economic situation, take heart. Hewlett-Packard, Revlon and La-Z-Boy all established their businesses during the Great Depression.

The Depression wiped out a lot of dynastic wealth. FDR raised the top rate of income tax and set minimum wages in many industries and encouraged the growth of trade unions. After WWII, the gov't spent heavily on infrastructure (such as interstate highways) which boosted GDP. But Marg. Thatcher and Reagan led a conservative counter-revolution that slashed tax rates on the rich, decimated unions, and restrained gov't spending. By 2012, the top 1% of households took 22.5%  of total income,  the highest figure since 1928. Today, at Fortune 500 companies, the pay ratio between executives and workers is more than 200 to 1.

Coco Chanel started the trend for suntans in 1923 when she accidentally got a sunburn while on a cruise.

The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. began in 1920, and had a 43-year run as the largest retailer in the world, transforming the retail industry in ways that made Walmart possible. Led for decades by the brothers George L. Hartford and John A. Hartford, paternalistic bosses known throughout the company as Mr. George and Mr. John, A&P mastered vertical integration: the company manufactured items like bread, coffee and milk for itself, thus eliminating reliance on the wholesalers, brokers and other middlemen who played major roles in the country’s inefficient, archaic system of moving food from producer to consumer. Their high-volume, low-price strategy led the way for supermarket chains and big box stores.

As print media is increasingly in peril, and the massive Tribune conglomerate is facing bankruptcy, it's interesting to note that a little more than a century ago, Chicago boasted 11 daily English-language newspapers. The fierce competition among them, immortalized in the 1928 play "The Front Page," even turned bloody at times, and that drive to outdo one another led to 35 Pulitzer Prizes, journalism's highest honor. Today, only two major dailies remain in this city of 3 million, and both are in serious trouble from declining circulation, plummeting ad revenue and a new kind of competition that threatens to make newsprint itself obsolete.

In his book, 32 Ways to be Champion in Business, Magic Johnson defines the difference between leading and managing. Leaders allow others to learn by success. This requires the leader not to monopolize all the opportunities, delegating key ones to staff. 

Kaizen is a Japanese concept that business improves very slowly, bit by bit. Prof. Robert Maurer's book, The Kaizen Way, explains that even tiny steps in the right direction can eventually reach the highest goal.

Paula Poundstone once observed that Canada is like an attic.  Everyone ignores it until someone pops their head up there and says, Gee, look at all the neat stuff up here.

In Samuel Johnson's The Vanity of Human Wishes, written in 1749, a comment on war is still pertinent 300 years later:
            How nations sink, by darling schemes oppressed,
            When vengeance listens to the fool's request.

Canadian author Margaret Atwood reminds us that the word “mortgage” comes from two French words, which mean death and pledge.

Exxon Mobil Corp., the world's largest publicly traded oil company, earned $14.83 billion in the third quarter of 2008. 

How much is a billion? 
        Two billion hours ago, human life appeared on the planet.
        A billion minutes ago, Christianity emerged.
        A billion seconds ago, the Beatles changed music.

The universe is 13.7 billion years old.

A perfect number is a number whose divisors add up to itself such as 28: 1+2+4+7+14=28

2,520 can be divided by 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 without having a fractional leftover.

In Dante's Inferno the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in time of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.

Former U.S. President James Garfield could write with both hands at the same time, and in two different languages!

Franklin D. Roosevelt served longest as U.S. President, in office for 12 years, 39 days (1933-1945). The shortest term in office was 32 days by William Henry Harrison (March 4-April 4, 1841).

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.

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.    

A human brain comprises only 2% of the body, yet it uses 20% of the oxygen and blood.

Math is located in the parietal lobes of the brain, and new research indicates that a sense of numbers preceeds any other learning, like the ability to recognize shapes and time.

Your   tongue is the only muscle in your body that is  attached at only one end. 

Every 24 hours, the body's blood travels about 12,000 miles, a trip that's almost half of the Earth's circumference at the equator (around 24,800 miles).

Human blood contains metal atoms including iron, chromium, manganese, zinc, lead, and copper. Blood also contains small amounts of gold, about 0.2 milligrams.

Every time you sneeze, some of your brain cells die. Bad new for those of us with allergies!

Your tongue is the only  muscle in your body that is attached at only one end. 

Cocaine hydrochloride, the purified chemical from the leaves of the coca plant, was the main active ingredient in several tonics and elixirs produced for a variety of illnesses in the early 1900s. One product, Tucker’s Asthma Specific, contained 420 milligrams of cocaine per ounce of the medicine.

Unlike the other chromosomes, which can repair one another because they come in pairs, one from each parent, the Y has no evident backup system. Nature has prevented it from recombining with its partner, the X, except at its very tips, lest its male-determining gene should sneak into the X and cause genetic chaos.

Blue eye color originated near the Black Sea, from a genetic mutation affecting gene OCA2 that turns off the production of melanin in the iris.

Florence Nightingale spent only three years as a nurse. Prior to the 1900s, male nurses were far more common than female nurses in nearly every country in the world. In current times, men now make up only 5.4% of registered nurses in the U.S. and only 13% of new nursing students in the now-female-dominated field.

China has 200 million students. Most of them are learning English.

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.

The tradition of a white wedding is commonly credited to Queen Victoria's choice to wear a white wedding dress at her wedding to Prince Albert in 1840.

The military salute came from knights in armor who raised their visors to identify themselves when they rode past their king. 

Conservative people in the Middle East only look directly into the eyes of a social equal of the same sex. It's a cultural difference that can make Westerners feel someone from the Middle East can't be trusted, as Westerners are used to looking directly at anyone they meet.

When Ruth Handler realized that there were no adult-bodied dolls on the toy market, she suggested to her husband, with whom she co-founded the Mattel toy company, that Mattel begin producing one. In 1959, Barbie made her debut. She was based on a German doll called Bild Lilli and was marketed as a “Teen-age Fashion Model.” According to estimates, more than a billion Barbie dolls have been sold worldwide, and many have become collector’s items.

If Barbie were life-size, her measurements would be 39-23-33. She would stand seven feet, two inches tall.

A single chocolate chip provides enough energy to a human being to walk 150 feet.

On the Monumental Axis in Brazil, the worlds widest road, 160 cars can drive side by side.

1,525,000,000 miles of telephone wire criss-crosses the U.S.

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 first skyscraper in the U.S. was the Home Insurance Building,  built in 1884 with 10 storeys.

Chicago's Shedd Aquarium is the largest indoor aquarium in the world.

Psychiatrists were the first groups of doctors to form professional associations and publish medical journals.

China is the largest country with only one time zone, followed by India. Living in a country with a common time would be comparable to the United States having Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago and New York all in the same time zone.

The Hubble Telescope has provided evidence that there are over 175 billion galaxies in the observable universe.

        An Aeon  (eon)  =  1  billion  years;  used  by  astronomers  to estimate the age of the galaxies, stars, or the universe.
       A Fortnight = an easy way  to say 14 nights or  two weeks; common in Great Britain.
       A Moon = 29.5 days or the time between two new moons; used by the early farmers of the Tigris-Euphrates Valley and probably by our American Indians.
       A Generation = 25 years  for man, 4  for horses, 2 minutes for bacteria; used by biologists who study life cycles.
      A Nanosecond  =  one-billionth  of  a  second  or  the  time  it takes a beam of  light  to  travel 30 centimeters; used by scientists studying tiny atomic particles.

An Olympic-sized swimming pool must be 50 metres long, 25 metres wide and divided into 8 lanes.

The coldest national capital cities in the world are Astana (Kazakstan) and Ulan Bator (Mongolia). Ottawa (Canada) ranks somewhere below these.

New Jersey has a spoon museum with over 5,400 spoons from almost all the states.

The sun is just one of millions of stars in the Milky Way galaxy, and our galaxy is just one of the millions scattered throughout the universe. The Milky Way is about 100,000 light-years across and about 1,000 light-years deep, meaning that a beam of light would take about 100,000 years to shine from one end to the other.

The pupil of the eye dilates as much as 45% when a person looks at something pleasing.

Bone mass doubles between birth and age two, doubles again by age 10, and doubles yet again during puberty. It continues to increase until about age 30, when the maximum or peak bone mass is attained. After that, more bone tissue is lost than is replaced during bone remodeling, resulting in a 5-10% loss of bone mass per decade of life.

A Greek poet named Archilochus defined two types of thinkers: foxes and hedgehogs.
The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing. Foxes look at the world as individual pieces, while hedgehogs tend to see the whole. Foxes break every problem down into separate components, while hedgehogs look for universal ideas.

It is claimed that the Greek scholar, Palamedes, invented the “set-up” joke, numbers, the alphabet, lighthouses, dice, and the practice of eating meals at regular intervals.

The life expectancy for ancient Greek women was 36, and the average for males was 45. Of the children born, only half survived infancy.

 Islam is the name of the religion. A person who practices Islam is known as a Muslim. The adjective “Islamic” usually refers to objects and places, not people. The term “Mohammedanism” is an outdated term for the faith and is usually considered insulting.    Inventions that emerged from the Islamic world include the discovery of citric acid, the vertical-axle windmill, teaching hospitals, marching bands, early torpedoes, the guitar, the lute, early attempts at gliding, algebra, the pinhole camera, the laws of refraction, coffee, and more. Muslim scholar Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen), born in A.D 965, formulated the scientific method and has been referred to as “the world’s first true scientist.” He is also often regarded as the first theoretical physicist. Additionally, he developed what is called celestial mechanics, which lead to the eventual work of Europeans such as Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton. The Islamic world produced the first skilled, specially trained pharmacists, who made their own medicines and worked closely with physicians.

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. 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 originally painted orange. Greek temples were painted bright colors which bleached in the sun over the years.

Colors influence our moods. Blue is an appetite suppressant, while light green is calming, and red not only stimulates the appetite but also is attractive to men. Bubblegum pink diminishes anger and aggression.

Apple cider vinegar is more effective than ice when dealing with wounds. Vinegar can reduce swelling, inflammation and bruising in a third of the time that ice will take.

Corn dextrin, a common thickener used in junk food, is also the glue on envelopes and postage stamps.

In a game of chess, the number of possible ways of playing the first four moves per side is 318,979,564,000.

William James Sidis was an American child prodigy who could read The New York Times by the time he was 18 months old. By age eight, he had taught himself eight languages and had invented one of his own. It is said that in his adult years he could speak more than 40 languages and learn a new one in a single day. In 1909, he became the youngest person ever to enroll at Harvard College and began lecturing on higher mathematics the following year.

Most people have more than 1,460 dreams every year. Animals also dream, although it's hard to tell what these contain. Simon II (Tiki), however, was a rescued feral kitten, and often had dreams that disturbed his sleep sufficiently to cause him to twitch as if he was trying to escape from something frightening. Terzo's naps, on the other hand, are always tranquil.

Most of us dream every 90 minutes, and the longest dreams (30-45 minutes) occur in the morning.

Coca-Cola used "Good to the last drop" as its slogan in 1908. This famous line was later adopted by Maxwell House Coffee. 

During American Prohibition, whisky-peddlars roamed the streets selling swigs from flasks in their boot-tops . They came to be known a  “bootleggers.”

The 3 most valuable brand names on earth: Marlboro, Coca-Cola, and Budweiser, in that order.

There are several families where descendants still own the family business: : Beretta, Italy (since 1526), the oldest arms manufacturer in the world; de Kuyper, the Netherlands (since 1695), distillers of gin, schnapps and liqueurs; Hoshi, Japan (since 717), innkeepers—the Ryokan with 100 rooms that can accommodate 450 guests.

Nicotine is named after Jean Nicot, the French ambassador to Portugal who brought tobacco and smoking to the French court in the mid-sixteenth century as a medicine.

Coupons were introduced in 1894 when Asa Candler bought the Coca-Cola formula for $2,300 and gave people coupons that he had written out to receive a free glass of Coke. In 1888 Candler had paper tickets printed, which were mailed to potential customers and placed in magazines. The company gave soda fountains free syrup to cover the costs of the free drinks. It is estimated that between 1894 and 1913 one in nine Americans had received a free Coca-Cola.

1894 was also the year the first women's pages in newspapers were created, to court female consumers.

The tradition of a white wedding is commonly credited to Queen Victoria's choice to wear a white lace wedding dress when she married Prince Albert in 1840.

The contemporary engagement ring dates back to Charles Lewis Tiffany, who created the solitaire in a raised setting that showed off all facets of the diamond. It was introduced in 1886.

Coupons first saw widespread use in the United States in 1909 when C. W. Post conceived the idea to help sell breakfast cereals. 

David McConnell started the California Perfume Company (CPC) in 1886. Today the company is known as Avon, which he named after his favorite playwright, William Shakespeare, who was from Stratford on Avon. 

Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, says "Three components make an entrepreneur: the person, the idea, and the resources to make it happen."

Walt Disney named Mickey Mouse after Mickey Rooney, whose mother he dated for some time.

The Planters Peanut Company mascot, Mr. Peanut, was created during a contest for schoolchildren in 1916.

 Peanut oil is used for cooking in submarines because it doesn't smoke unless it's heated above 450F.

Swiss biologists determined that stupid flies live longer than smart flies because intelligence wears out flies' brains. Canadian researchers claim that straining to recall information which seems to be “on the tip of my tongue” makes us learn mistaken guesses instead of the correct answers we may (or may not) eventually remember.  (source: Harper's)

Warren Buffett, John Kerry, Ted Turner, Tom Brokaw, New Yorker Editor (and Pulitzer Prize-winner) David Remnick, Art Garfunkel, Jann Wenner, Meredith Vieira, Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, Sun Microsystems co-founder Scott McNealy and Memorial Sloan-Kettering President Harold Varmus were all rejected by Harvard.

Marketing guru Denny Hatch has a private archive of 60,000+ stories in 268 major categories on his computer.

About New York:
           The term "The Big Apple" was coined by touring jazz musicians of the 1930's who used the slang  expression "apple" for any town or city (Therefore, to play New York City is to play the big time)
           New York City was briefly the U.S. capital from 1789 to 1790.
           There are more Irish in New York City than in Dublin, Ireland; there are more Italians in New York City than in Rome, Italy; there are more Jews in New York City than in  Tel Aviv.
           The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City is the largest gothic cathedral in the world. |
           On Oct. 27, 1904, the first rapid transit subway, the IRT, opened in New York City. In March 1895, Boston and New York City began an epic and highly competitive race to become the first American city with a working subway system.
           Columbia University owns more land in New York City than anyone else except the Catholic Church.
           40% of New Yorkers were born outside the U.S.
           The budget for restaurant critics at The New York Times is $150,000.
           The Carousel in Central Park is one of America’s largest merry-go-rounds, complete with calliope music. It's open seven days a week year round, and charges just $1.50 a ride.
           Manhattan is laid out in a grid with avenues running north/south and streets running east/west. That makes it one of the easiest cities to get around. Broadway cuts diagonally across six north-south streets, and those cuts have made room for public spaces (Union Square, Madison Square, Herald Square, Times Square, Columbus Circle, etc,).

Scrabble was invented in 1931 and was originally called Criss Cross. For 17 years toy makers snubbed this game, saying it was too intellectual, so the inventor Alfred Botts decided to manufacture and sell it himself. It is the world's second best selling game.

More than 200 million copies of Monopoly have been sold since it was first introduced in 1935. But it was created much earlier. Elizabeth ­Magie was an ­unmarried stenographer whose passions included politics and inventing. In 1904 she received a patent for the Landlord’s Game, a board contest she designed to cultivate her progressive, proto-feminist values, and as a rebuke to the slumlords and other monopolists of the Gilded Age. Her game featured spaces for railroads and rental properties on each side of a square board, with water and electricity companies and a corner labeled “Go to Jail.” Players earned wages, paid taxes; the winner was the one who best foiled landlords’ attempts to send her to the poorhouse. Magie helped form a company to market it, but it never really took off. The game appealed mostly to socialists and Quakers, many of whom made their own sets; other players renamed properties and added things like Chance and Community Chest cards. Even less auspiciously for Magie, many people began referring to it as “monopoly” and giving it as gifts. Then in 1932, Charles Darrow received one with spaces named for streets in Atlantic City. In November 1935, eight months after Darrow and Parker Brothers made their deal, the company persuaded Magie to sell them the Landlord’s Game patent for $500. The contract provided no residuals, but she hoped the famous game company would turn her “beautiful brainchild” into a popular way of disparaging greedy ­monopolists. The company had other ideas. Pilon has found long-lost documents revealing that it wanted ­Magie’s patent only to help “seal its hold on” Monopoly. It marketed the Landlord’s Game lackadaisically at best, and made sure Magie’s name had as little connection as possible to its lucrative blockbuster. Many of the iconic illustrations, probably including Mr. Monopoly and the ­whistle-blowing cop, were drawn as a favor to Darrow by his friend Franklin Alexander, a cartoonist who had studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, but his contributions, too, were overlooked.

If a statue in the park of a person on a horse has both front legs in the air, the person died in battle. If the horse has one front leg in the air the person died as a result of wounds received in battle. If the horse has all four legs on the ground, the person died of natural causes.

Each king in a deck of playing cards represents a great king: 
Spades - King David
Hearts - Charlemagne
Clubs -Alexander the Great
Diamonds - Julius Caesar

Different colored roses have different meanings. Red means love, yellow means friendship, and pink means friendship or sweetheart. Red carnations mean admiration, white carnations mean pure love, red chrysanthemums mean love, forget-me-nots mean true love, primrose means young love, and larkspur means an open heart.

The military salute came from knights in armor who raised their visors to identify themselves when they rode past their king. 

Hurricane names are chosen from a list selected by the World Meteorological Organization. There are six separate lists for Atlantic hurricanes, with one list used each year. Each list is repeated every 7th year. However, officials retire names of hurricanes that have caused a great deal of damage or death. Retired names include Andrew, Camille, Bob, Dean, Dennis, Felix, Fran, Gustav, Hugo, Igor, Ike, Irene, Jeanne, Katrina, Noel, Paloma, Rita, Stan, Thomas and Wilma. Sandy will be retired this year.

The Haida natives believe you are not judged by what you have, but by what you give away.

In 1894, Lord Kelvin predicted that radio had no future; he also predicted that heavier-than-air flying machines were impossible.

In 1928, Amelia Earhart was a struggling social worker in Boston. Meanwhile, a New York publisher was on the hunt for the “right sort of girl” to take a daring, history-making flight. Keith O’Brien chronicles the search and the flight in his new book, Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History.

If the population of China walked past you, 8 abreast, the line would never end because of the rate of reproduction.

The cruise liner, QE 2, moves only six inches for each gallon of diesel that it burns.

Sailors began to wear a gold earring because of a superstition that it would improve their eyesight.

The average person will spend two weeks over their lifetime waiting for the traffic light to change.

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.

Slaves under the last emperors of China wore pigtails so they could be identified quickly.

Michaelangelo's last name was Buonarroti.

Italy is approximately 116,400 square miles, which is slightly larger than Arizona.

The average age of the world's greatest civilization has been two hundred years. 
These nations have progressed through this sequence: 
          from bondage to spiritual faith 
          from spiritual faith to great courage
          from courage to liberty
          from liberty to abundance
          from abundance to selfishness
          from selfishness to complacency
          from complacency to apathy
          from apathy to dependence
          from dependence back into bondage.

What happened to those nine black students who walked bravely through an angry mob in Little Rock to enter Central High School? 
        Eight went on to college, seven graduated, three got masters' degrees, one a Ph.D.  
        Today they are:  an editor of a computer magazine, a social worker, a farmer, an assistant dean at UCLA, a talk show host, an accountant, an economics teacher, a real estate broker, and a V.P. at Shearson, Lehman. 
I wonder if the whites in that mob did half as well.  (Charles Peters)

If our world was a village of 1000 people, there would be:
        329 Christians, 174 Muslims, 131 Hindus, 61 Buddhists, 52 animists, 3 Jews

                34 members of other religions, 216 without any religion at all

In this village:
       60 persons would have half the income
       500 would be hungry
       600 would live in shantytowns (or be homeless)
       700 would be illiterate    (from The Prairie Rambler)

SOME ODD FACTS (that most people get wrong)

The Hundred Years War lasted 116 years.

             Panama hats are made in Ecuador.

                           Russians celebrate the October Revolution in November.

                                            A camel's hair brush is made from squirrel fur.

The Canary Islands in the Pacific are named after dogs, not birds.

            The purple finch isn't purple; it's red.

                         Chinese gooseberries come from New Zealand.

                                           The "black box" in a commercial airplane isn't black, it's orange.


Saturnalia originated as a farmer's festival to mark the end of the autumn planting season in honour of Saturn (satus means sowing). Numerous archaeological sites from the Roman coastal province of Constantine, now in Algeria, demonstrate that the cult of Saturn survived there until the early third century AD.

Saturnalia grew in duration and moved to progressively later dates under the Roman period. During the reign of the Emperor Augustus (63 BC-AD 14), it was a two-day affair starting on December 17th. By the time Lucian described the festivities, it was a seven-day event. Changes to the Roman calendar moved the climax of Saturnalia to December 25th, around the time of the date of the winter solstice.

Alabama was the first state in the United States to officially recognize Christmas in 1836.

Christmas wasn’t declared an official holiday in the United States until June 26, 1870.

Oklahoma was the last U.S. state to declare Christmas a legal holiday, in 1907.

Franklin Pierce was the first U.S. President to have a Christmas tree in the White House.

Hallmark introduced the first Christmas card in 1915.

Jingle Bells was composed in 1857 by James Pierpont.

Santa's reindeer are: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. Most of Santa’s reindeer have male-sounding names but since male reindeer shed their antlers around Christmas, the reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh are likely not male, but female or castrati.

In Poland, spiders or spider webs are common Christmas trees decorations because according to legend, a spider wove a blanket for Baby Jesus. In fact, Polish people consider spiders to be symbols of goodness and prosperity at Christmas.

Ancient peoples, such as the Druids, considered mistletoe sacred because it remains green and bears fruit during the winter when all other plants appear to die. Druids would cut the plant with golden sickles and never let it touch the ground. They thought it had the power to cure infertility and nervous diseases and to ward off evil.

The traditional three colors of Christmas are green, red, and gold. Green has long been a symbol of life and rebirth; red symbolizes the blood of Christ, and gold represents light as well as wealth and royalty.

In The Twelve Days of Christmas the “true love” does not refer to a romantic couple, but the Catholic Church’s code for God. The person who receives the gifts represents someone who has accepted that code. For example, the “partridge in a pear tree” represents Christ. The “two turtledoves” represent the Old and New Testaments. The twelve days of Christmas span December 25 to January 6. The earliest version of the poem-turned-song is thought to have been published in Mirth With-out Mischief, a children’s book from 1780, with the modern version credited to English composer Frederic Austin who set the poem to music.

         There's an interesting story behind Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
         In 1939, Montgomery Ward decided to create their own coloring book to give away to shoppers during the holiday season. Instead of purchasing these. Robert L. May, a copywriter for Montgomery Ward in Chicago, was good at writing limericks and children’s stories, so was chosen to write a Christmas story to be used for this promotional coloring book.
         May was very small as a child and was often picked on, so decided to make it an Ugly Duckling type tale, which he wrote in the same verse as Twas the Night Before Christmas.  While he was writing, he tested various versions of the story out on his four year old daughter, Barbara, until he and she were both happy with the results, at which point he presented it to his boss.
         In the first year after its creation, around 2.4 million copies of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer were given away.  By 1946, over six million copies of the story had been distributed by Montgomery Ward, which was particularly impressive considering it wasn’t printed through most of WWII.
         After the war, demand for the story skyrocketed, receiving its biggest boost when May’s brother in law, radio producer Johnny Marks, created a modified musical version of the story.  The first version of this song was sung by Harry Brannon in 1948, but was made nationally popular by Gene Autry’s 1949 version,  selling 2.5 million copies of that version in 1949 alone and has sold to date around 25 million copies.
         Despite the fact that May created the story of Rudolph and it was wildly popular, he did not at first receive any royalties from it because he had created it as an assignment for Montgomery Ward; thus, they held the copyright. But in 1947, Montgomery Ward decided to give the copyright to May with no strings attached.  At the time, May was deeply in debt due to medical bills from his wife’s terminal illness.  Once the copyright was his, May quickly was able to pay off his debts and within a few years was able to quit working at Montgomery Ward, though just under a decade later he did go back and work for them again until retiring in 1971.

          The modern figure of Santa Claus is derived from the Dutch figure of Sinterklaas, which, in turn, was part of its basis in hagiographical tales concerning the historical figure of Christian bishop and gift giver Saint Nicholas.
          The portly, bearded Santa, with the wide black belt and boots became popular in the United States and Canada in the 19th century due to the significant influence of Clement Clarke Moore's 1823 poem A Visit From St. Nicholas and of caricaturist and political cartoonist Thomas Nast.

In  1890, James Edgar of Brockton, Massachusetts, had a Santa suit made for him and dressed as the jolly fellow at his dry goods store. The gimmick caught on and a year later Santas could be found in many stores. While many point to Edgar as the original store Santa, Macy’s in New York claims it has been hosting Santa since 1862.

Until the late 19th century, Christmas ornaments were traditionally handmade using wood, paper or other easily accessible materials. It wasn’t until the 1880s when the German glass industry began producing hand-blown glass ornaments, which were subsequently imported to the United States. By the mid-1920s, Czechoslovakia and Japan had begun to encroach on Germany’s hold on the glass ornament market.

1880, Thomas Edison strung electric Christmas lights around his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey. Two years later, Edison’s lieutenant, Edward Hibber Johnson, put electric lights on a Christmas tree in a Manhattan townhouse. Those lights were red, white and blue and as “large as an English walnut.”

In 1923, Calvin Cooledge lit the first national Christmas tree with electric lights.

The New Year's Eve ball was first dropped from One Times Square in 1907.

Animal crackers are cookies that were imported to the U.S. from England in the 1800s. P.T. Barnum had boxes designed with a circus theme and a string handle so they could be hung on a Christmas tree.

Candy canes date from 1670. The red and white peppermint sticks arrived stateside in 1847, when a German-Swedish immigrant in Wooster, Ohio placed them on a tree. By the 1950s, an automated candy cane-making machine was invented, cementing their mass appeal.

Fruitcake began in ancient Rome, with pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, and raisins mixed into barley mash. In the Middle Ages, honey, spices, and preserved fruits were added. Starting in the 16th century, sugar from the American Colonies (and the discovery that high concentrations of sugar could preserve fruits) created an excess of candied fruit, thus making fruitcakes more affordable and popular.

The poinsettia plant was introduced to the United States in 1825 by Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first United States Minister to Mexico,the plant into the United States.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas was composed by Meredith Wilson. Since he had visited Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, it's believed that he used that setting for the song. Yarmouth has a "Grand Hotel" as well as other landmarks mentioned in the song.

Bob Hope began entertaining servicemen and women at U.S. military bases in 1941, starting at March Field near Riverside, and in 1948 started his annual Christmas shows at American bases overseas. It was a tradition that spanned 50 years and often brought him close to the fighting.

Radio City Music Hall hosts its annual Christmas show on the Grand Stage. The Music Hall seats 6000, and there are 36 Rockettes in the dance troupe featured in the show. The troupe originated in 1925, first known as the Missouri Rockets, and officially became the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes in 1934.


Become a Fan of 
Terzo's MEWSical Society