Posts filed under “History”


Hugh Henry Brackenridge, the founder of literary culture in Pittsburgh, describes a somewhat eccentric interpretation of the prophecy of Ezekiel by the preacher, pamphleteer, legislator, and Whiskey Insurrectionist Herman Husband.

I had visited him, in the year 1780, at his residence, in the glades of the Allegheny mountain, on my way from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. He had then just finished a commentary on a part of the prophet Ezekiel: it was the vision of the temple; the walls, the gates, the sea of glass, &c. Logger-head divines, heretofore, had interpreted it of the New Jerusalem; but he conceived it to apply to the western country; and the walls were the mountains, the gates, the gaps in them, by which the roads came, and the sea of glass, the lake on the west of us. I had no hesitation in saying, that the commentary was analogous to the vision. He was pleased; and said, I was the only person, except his wife, that he ever got to believe it. Thought I, your church is composed, like many others, of the ignorant and the dissembling.

This comes from Brackenridge’s history of the Whiskey Rebellion, a new and accurate edition of which is now in preparation.


On this day in 1767, Mason and Dixon completed their survey, finally settling the question of whether there was such a place as “Maryland.”


Here is a picture of the clipper ship Tornado as she might have appeared after a whirlwind struck her a thousand miles west of Cape Horn. She was on her way from San Francisco to New York in 1852 when the weather began to turn sour. “The whirlwind struck her at 2 A. M., Sept. 11th, 33 days out, and when nearly half way to New York. The shock was instantaneous. The bowsprit was broken off close to the knight-heads, and the whole of it carried inboard on the port side. The foremast instantly followed it, close to the deck, being lifted from between the mainstays so that the heel of it grazed the house, and went over the side, tearing away the main and monkey rails.”

The whole mess had to be cut adrift, and the mainmast was damaged as well; but Captain Mumford managed to jury-rig the ship and make it all the way to New York without putting in to any port for repairs, which he apparently did not trust Latin Americans to do properly. The insurance companies responsible for the ship presented him with a beautiful silver service, the showpiece of which was a solid silver salver with the picture above engraved on it, so that every time he used it he might be reminded of the worst night of his life.

There are two heroes in this story. The first is Captain Mumford, who brought the clipper safely to her destination. The second is Maturin Ballou, the editor of Gleason’s Pictorial, who managed to tell the whole story without once expressing any amusement at the fact that a clipper named Tornado was hit by a whirlwind, or even mentioning that coincidence at all.


By Eusebius, as told to the LibreOffice spelling checker.

And a single house of prayer, as though divinely enlarged, sufficed to contain at once Sicilians, Physicians, and Bathsheba; Pontoons, too, Pamphlet, and Cappuccino supplied the most distinguished members, as well as Anthracite, Hawaiians, and Epithets.


Third Series.

Nero. It is notorious that Nero fiddled while Rome burned. It is less well known today, but in his own time caused almost equal scandal, that he strummed the ukulele during the revolt of Boadicea, tooted the ocarina during the plague of 63 a.d., and played the bongos when the Jewish War broke out.


Dear Dr. Boli: I was looking at a site on the Web and noticing that it claimed to be “carbon neutral.” What does that mean? —Sincerely, Jennifer Granholm.

Dear Madam: In the early days of the Web, all sorts of annoying attention-grabbing decorations were fashionable on primitive HTML pages meant to be displayed in Netscape or Internet Explorer. There was blinking text, there was bold italic underlined big, there were patterned backgrounds that made the text illegible; but most annoying of all were the animated effects, both background and foreground. Of the animated effects, the very most annoying of all was the popular “carbonated” effect that made a pattern of rising bubbles all over the screen. A “carbon-neutral” site is one whose owner has signed a pledge promising that it will never happen again.


On this day in 1893 was patented the manufactured food known today as “shredded wheat,” which its inventor—whose name was Henry Perky—described as “whole wheat mattresses.” Today shredded wheat is available in variations with many different frostings and fillings; but in honor of the grand vision of inventor Henry Perky, the original mattress flavor is retained in all of them.


More interesting.

Our correspondent “Big Brother” writes: Perhaps I could take this opportunity to ask a question which I have been wondering for the last few weeks…as a Pennsylvania man, where does the good Dr. Boli stand on the Wawa vs. Sheetz controversy?

Dear Sir: Dr. Boli believes that, as controversies go, it is lacking in color. Think of the controversies, for example, that led to the expulsion of one artist after another from the Surrealists, or the mighty kerfuffle that ensued when one of the members of De Stijl discovered the diagonal. Those were colorful controversies—incompre­hensible, but colorful. Con­sider the contro­versy between Newton and Leibniz over who had taken the last blueberry yogurt from the re­frigerator. Or it may have been about the inven­tion of calculus. Either way, it was a contro­versy worth giving some atten­tion, because the characters were colorful and distinct, whereas Dr. Boli has never learned to tell one con­venience store from another. Consider Luther and Erasmus and their compre­hensive catalogues of the various shades of excrement as they apply to the theo­logical reasoning of one’s opponent. Consider St. Nicholas of Myra slapping Arius in a solemn council of the whole Church. Consider the legal case of Helen Kane vs. Betty Boop.

At any rate, there is only a relatively small area where there can be controversy. Wawa does not penetrate as far as Pittsburgh, and Sheetz does not reach Philadelphia with its octopus tentacles. When Dr. Boli does travel through the small section of Pennsylvania where the two overlap, it is usually by private railroad car, and if stops are necessary to replenish the supplies, the staff have instructions to buy only from certain Deitsh farmers with whom we are personally acquainted.


On June 14, 1956, Quigby Grissom, a young Beat poet, was howling into the void when something in the void howled back. He was never able to describe or explain what he had heard, but he never wrote a line of poetry again and spent the rest of his life as a mattress salesman.