Posts filed under “History”


In the year 1922, James Windbreaker Klunck, then just beginning to establish his reputation as a futurologist, wrote down a list of predictions of the state of the world a century in the future. He deposited his list in a time capsule at his local F. W. Woolworth five-and-dime store, on the grounds that it was the one institution in the neighborhood that he could confidently assert would still be flourishing in the next century. The owner of the discount tattoo parlor now occupying the building has carefully preserved the box, and opened it yesterday to great fanfare. These were Dr. Klunck’s predictions for the world of 2022:

Governors, representatives, judges, etc., will be chosen by competitive examination, and the science of psychology will be so well understood that a list of five questions will be sufficient to select the President of the United States.

The various inferior disk systems will be abandoned once their impracticality becomes clear, and all sound recordings in 2022 will be issued on reliable and durable cylinders.

Pocket watches will run for more than 72 hours at one winding.

The science of eugenics will be so confidently understood, and so universally practiced, that all men will be named Alvin and all women will be named Alvina, and they will live to the age of 138.

Paper shortages will be a thing of the past, as books and newspapers will be printed on thin sheets of cheap and abundant mercury.

Education will no longer take up twelve or more years of a child’s life; instead, knowledge will be distributed in pill form, with the dosage regulated by careful psychological supervision.

Musical taste will be improved by the new educational methods, and jazz and ragtime will give way to the most artistic fugues.

Selective breeding and injections of certain vitamins will produce cats that come when you call them.

The design problems of inkwells will at last be solved, rendering them completely spillproof.

Prohibition of alcohol having succeeded in eliminating drunkenness, reformers will turn their attention to the lemonade menace.

No respectable business or government agency will invest in any projection or scheme without first soliciting the advice of a professional futurologist.


On this day in 1536, Henry VIII’s marriage to Wife II, Ann Boleyn, was annulled. Two days later she was beheaded, having been convicted of treasonously spelling her name “Bullen” like a common washerwoman.


On this day in 1838, John Wilkes Booth, the famous actor, was born. His assassination of President Lincoln in 1865 was widely considered the worst thing an actor had ever done until the advent of Nicholas Cage.


I am King Warpalarpa of Tuwanuwa, the father of nations, the blessed of Tarhunna, and my name is not funny at all.

And my father King Tappalappa of Tuwanuwa reigned before me, and he was gathered to his fathers, and I sat on the throne of my fathers and I said, I am King Warpalarpa of Tuwanuwa. And my brother was named Wopolopo, and behold, he said that my name was funny. And I slew him and his retainers, and I held the throne of my fathers.

And there came to me the ministers of my father, and they said, Rule wisely and well, for you must know that you have a funny name. And I slew them, and I held the throne of my fathers.

And there came to me the priests of Tarhunna, and they said, Behold, we are not as your father’s ministers; we will not laugh at your funny name. And I slew them, for that they had said my name was funny, though they had not laughed, and I held the throne of my fathers.

And there came to me the chief men of Tuwanuwa, and they said, O father of nations, blessed of Tarhunna, behold, we are your servants. And I saw that they were stifling giggles, though they had not spoken my name. And I slew them, and my name is not funny at all, and I held the throne of my fathers.

And I heard distant laughter in Tuwanuwa, and I knew that the people had called my name funny. And I burned the city with fire and leveled it with things that flatten, and the people perished, and behold, they knew that my name is not funny at all. And there was none left, yea not one, and no one said that my name was funny, and I held the throne of my fathers.

And I lifted this stone with my own hands and set it for a memorial, that the world may know my deeds. And I, King Warpalarpa of Tuwanuwa, the father of nations, the blessed of Tarhunna, have inscribed these words with my own hand, and my name is not funny at all.


On this day in 1992, the Twenty-Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution came into force after completing the usual 202½-year ratification process. When great legal minds speak of acting “with all deliberate speed,” this is the sort of thing they mean.


On this day in 1908, Harvard University voted to create what became the Harvard Business School. Future historians, in searching for a date to mark the beginning of the long slide toward the new Dark Ages, will fix on April 8, 1908, the way current historians fix on Alaric’s sack of Rome as the beginning of the slide into the previous Dark Ages.

Also, if you search for “Sack of Rome” in Wikipedia, you find that sacking Rome is a very popular sport.


On this day in 1949, Newfoundland became part of Canada. It had previously been a colony, and then an independent country, and then an oligarchic despotism, having botched independence so badly that it begged the British government to take back control of the country. “Politics in Newfoundland have never been such as to inspire wholehearted confidence in the ability of the people to govern themselves wisely,” said the bracingly frank report of the Newfoundland Royal Commission, “but there is general agreement that a process of deterioration, which has now reached almost unbelievable extremes, may be said to have set in about a quarter of a century ago.”

Only two independent nations have managed to be repossessed by the British crown, the other being Rhodesia. In both cases, the governments of those countries willingly handed over the keys to the Crown’s representatives. In the case of Rhodesia, the surrender was provoked by a long and wearying war between the governing minority and the vast majority of citizens of the country. But Newfoundland may claim the distinction of being the one country on earth whose government recognized its own incompetence, and the need to place control in the hands of outside experts. Paradoxically, that makes it one of the most competent governments in history.


On this day in 1836, Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, and the rest of the small Texian defense force were killed, ending the battle of the… of the… the battle of the… Well, we can’t seem to remember right now, but it will come back to us in a moment.