Government History SOI Blog

Lincoln’s head on Calhoun’s Body

Calhoun and Lincoln
Library of Congress images

Seems photo retouching is nothing new and goes back to the earliest days of photography.

After Lincoln’s assassination, there was a dearth of “heroic-style” pictures of the president. So one portrait painter got creative. On a print of the late president, Thomas Hicks superimposed Lincoln’s head onto the body of John C. Calhoun—the virulent racist and slavery proponent who did not exactly see eye-to-eye with the 16th president.

“The Great Lengths Taken to Make Abraham Lincoln Look Good in Portraits,” by Michael Waters

Great article on this subject:

Where I first heard this info:

Everyday Things Food History SOI Blog

Pepperoni is not from Italy

pepperoni pizza

According to Planet Money, pepperoni was actually developed in America.

Basically, pepperoni first starts to emerge in the early 20th century around the nineteen-teens, 1920s. And it was essentially Italian American immigrants who were trying to replicate the sausage that they had in Calabria and Apulia, which was known for its distinctive red color, with what they could get on the Lower East Side of New York. So it is this distinctly American thing. And the funny thing that Anthony told me is that now we actually export pepperoni back to Italy. So it is something that has become an American thing that is now going to Italy.


One reason pepperoni is popular as a pizza topping: it’s long shelf life.


History Podcasts Science SOI Blog

Honeybees are not native to North America

Photo by skeeze on Pixabay
bee skep
Bee skep

Honeybees were brought to America by the early European settlers. At that time, they use skeps, upside down woven bowls to maintain the bee hives.

In the mid 1800s a Presbyterian minister named Lorenzo Langstroth, discovered that the bees built their honeycombs by precise measurements, and incorporated this into the wood frame beehive that is still in use today.

99percent Invisible podcast on Beeing

Architecture Everyday Things Government History SOI Blog

Air for Sale

I visited New York City for the first time this year. And yes, there are a lot of tall buildings, but if real estate is so precious, why are there not tall buildings on every block? Well, it seems you have to buy the air to put them in too. Planet Money explains:

Everyday Things History Industry SOI Blog

LA was once covered in oil derricks

Surprisingly, Los Angeles, CA’s skyline was covered in oil derricks in the early days of the 20th Century. Another interesting fact: California accounted for a quarter of the world’s oil production in 1930. The full article at 99PI shows how some of these are still in plain sight today, only camouflaged.
Los Angeles Oil Derricks

Books Government History Podcasts SOI Blog

The Nazi Saboteurs in America

Several years ago I came across this amazing story on the This American Life program about a bungled Nazi plot of sabotage only six months after Pearl Harbor. When this program first aired, it drew comparisons to present day efforts to try Islamic terrorists in military tribunals. The legal precedent they were siting was the case of these Nazi saboteurs. It’s a great story and well worth a listen. It shows how legal justice is a very complicated thing and is often manipulated to fulfill agendas.
Recently another podcast, Retropod, brought this story up again. A mysterious stone memorial was found in 2006 in Washington, D.C. on government property, a memorial to these Nazi spies.

This American Life story

Retropod story

Michael Dobbs’s excellent book, Saboteurs: The Nazi Raid on America

CSPAN Book TV interview with Michael Dobbs

Everyday Things History Technology

Inventor of the Keurig Coffee Maker Sold His Interest for only $50k

John Sylvan invented the single serve Keurig coffee maker in early 1990s. Before the end of the decade, he sold out to investors for a mere $50,000. The company now has annual revenues in the billions of dollars.

Interestingly, the original concept and first machines were intended for offices where employees could create a fresh cup of coffee instead of relying on a full pot coffee maker which often got stale. When they finally developed a less expensive home version, sales really took off.

Government History Science SOI Blog Technology

Did cloud seeding make a hurricane hit the US in 1947?

One little tidbit of info in the latest 99% Invisible podcast episode was about the military’s attempt to weaken a hurricane.

Project Cirrus

Project Cirrus was the first attempt to modify a hurricane. It was a collaboration of the General Electric Corporation, the US Army Signal Corps, the Office of Naval Research, and the US Air Force. After several preparations, and initial skepticism by government scientists,[6] the first attempt to modify a hurricane began on October 13, 1947 on a hurricane that was heading west to east and out to sea.

An airplane flew along the rainbands of the hurricane, and dropped nearly 180 pounds (82 kilograms) of crushed dry ice into the clouds. The crew reported “Pronounced modification of the cloud deck seeded”. It is not known if that was due to the seeding. Next, the hurricane changed direction and made landfall near Savannah, Georgia. The public blamed the seeding, and Irving Langmuir claimed that the reversal had been caused by human intervention.[6] Cirrus was canceled, and lawsuits were threatened. Only the fact that a system in 1906 had taken a similar path, as well as evidence showing that the storm had already begun to turn when seeding began, ended the litigation. This disaster set back the cause of seeding hurricanes for eleven years.

At first the seeding was officially denied and it took years before the government admitted it. According to the Sept. 12, 1965 edition of the Fort Lauderdale News and Sun-Sentinel, in 1947 a hurricane “went whacky” and “Twelve years later it was admitted the storm had in fact been seeded.”

Read more here,
Wikipedia page on Project Stormfury

From 99pi
“In 1947, Irving Langmuir’s research team at GE tried to break up a hurricane by dumping a lot of dry ice into it to see if it would collapse. But instead the hurricane changed trajectory, became stronger, and hit the Georgia coast. ”

99% Invisible “Making It Rain”

History SOI Blog Technology

Vintage Computer Stories

Just discovered a great Youtube channel about vintage computers, tech and video games. Lazy Gamer Reviews helps us remember what it was like back in the early days of personal computing. He brings back those fond memories of my childhood, when we thought 8k was a lot of RAM!

Here’s an explanation of why early computers had a physical lock on them.

And what that Turbo button was really for.

Entertainment History Podcasts Science SOI Blog Sports Technology

Billiard Balls were made of Ivory up until the 1950s

According to this excellent 99% Invisible podcast, billiard balls were made of ivory tusk up until they found a suitable replacement in the 1950s. Think it’s easy to make a billiard ball, check out this video of the process.

Polygoon – Hoe biljartballen worden gemaakt from KNBB – Biljart TV on Vimeo.