At the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius officially declared February 14th St. Valentine’s Day. It was not until much later, however, that the day became definitively associated with love. The history of Valentine’s Day has many variations. What did the original St. Valentine do, according to one legend, to be put to death by Emperor Claudius II?
BONUS: Can you name the “Mother of the Valentine”?
Answer: One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.
Other stories suggest an imprisoned Valentine sent the first “valentine” greeting from prison after he fell in love with a young girl–possibly his jailor’s daughter. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today.
BONUS: Americans began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland, known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” began selling the first mass-produced valentines in America. Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year.
Which Roman deity is the month of January named after and why?
BONUS: Which month was the first month of the year before 450BC?
Answer: Janus. In ancient Rome, Janus was the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past. It is conventionally thought that the month of January is named for Janus.
The year first began in March, but in 450 BC, the beginning of the year was moved to January 1. The months of January and February weren’t even added until 700 BC. Earlier versions of the Roman calendar divided the year into 10 months and left 61 days unaccounted for in the winter.
July is National Hot Dog Month, and according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, Americans will be consuming over seven billion of the famous little red tubes of "meat" this summer, with 155 million just on Independence Day.
What cartoonist is allegedly coined the term "hot dog" and why?
Answer: Tad Dorgan, A New York Journal sports cartoonist, allegedly coined the term in 1901. Vendors at the NY Polo Grounds were shouting “They’re red hot! Get your dachshund sausages while they’re red hot!” Dorgon then drew a cartoon of a barking dachshund nestled warmly in a roll; not sure how to spell “dachshund”, he just wrote “hot dog”.
However, historians have been unable to find this cartoon, so the legend can’t be proven. References to dachshund sausages and ultimately hot dogs can be traced to German immigrants in the 1800s, who brought not only the sausage with them in the late 1800s, but also dachshund dogs. The name hot dog may have begun as a joke about the Germans' canines themselves.
April’s birthstone is diamond. The ancient Romans believed that Cupid’s arrows were tipped with diamonds which may be how they first came to be associated with love. Although the first known diamond engagement ring wasn’t until 1477 when Archduke Maximilian of Austria gave Mary of Burgundy a gold ring featuring an M spelled out in diamonds. What was the largest diamond ever discovered?
Answer: The largest diamond ever discovered was called the Cullinan diamond, and weighed in at an amazing 3106 carats, or 1.33 pounds. Perhaps even more amazing, scientists have discovered a star that is essentially a diamond of ten billion trillion trillion carats. They named the star Lucy after the Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”
Winner: Mary Beach
St Patrick’s Day is coming fast! If your celebration includes corn beef and cabbage, you probably live in the US, since this is almost unheard of in Ireland where your meal would likely be lamb with potatoes and a soup . Lesser known for March 17th is that this song hit the billboard top 200 in 1973 and didn’t leave for 14 years. What is this record breaking song?
Answer: March 17, 1973 Pink Floyd’s, Dark Side of the Moon, hit the charts at #95 and didn’t leave the top 200 for 736 weeks.
Winner: Sheryl Tevebaugh
Louis Pasteur is probably best known for his food preparing process, pasteurization. However, he also made medical history on July 6, 1885 when a young boy was brought by his mother to the Paris hospital in which Pasteur practiced. She was so concerned her son would not survive his ailment that she was willing to risk an untested, newly developed vaccine. Given an almost certainty of death for the boy, the doctor agreed. What virus were they concerned about?
Answer: Pasteur had developed a vaccine for Rabies. Only 10 people have been known to survive the virus once symptoms are present. Prior to the injection given to Joseph Meister it had only been tested on dogs.
On December 1, 1990, England connected to mainland Europe as engineers broke through the last rock layer in the tunnel being dug under the English Channel. The dirt removed during the project added 90 acres to England’s size. The Chunnel is recognized as one of the “Seven Wonders of the Modern World,” took six years to complete and cost £4.65 billion (80% more than budgeted). In its first full year of operation, 7.3 million people travel the 23.5 miles under the seabed. How many people traveled in the record-breaking year of 2014?
Answer: In 2014 a record 21 million passengers were transported between Britain and France using the tunnel - up from 7.3 million in 1995, its first full year in operation.
King Tut was virtually unknown until archaeologist Howard Carter entered the inner chamber of his tomb on November 26, 1922. The intact room provided countless treasures over the following 17 years as it was excavated. The most famous was probably his sarcophagus of 3 coffins, the inner one gold. Tutankhamen became a sensation not only for the knowledge and treasures gained, but for the rumors of the “mummy’s curse.” Decades later Tut became popular again when some of the collection toured the country. Which Saturday Night Live actor sang about the legendary boy king?
Answer: The King Tut craze reached such a fever pitch that comedian Steve Martin mocked it on SNL in his 1978 song “King Tut.” Watch the video here.
Winner: Pete Ward
“Tokyo Rose”, was born Iva Toguri in LA to Japanese-American parents. She graduated in 1941 from UCLA with plans to be a doctor. As a graduation present she was sent to visit her aunt in Japan and became stuck there after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. In time, she took a job at an English speaking newspaper that led to her hosting a radio program the Japanese government intended to be used to demoralize American soldiers. Although she refused to disperse this propaganda, she was still convicted of treason and on October 6, 1949 sentenced to 10 years in prison. She was later pardoned by what president?
Answer: In 1976, President Gerald Ford wrote an executive pardon for Iva Toguri. She died on September 26, 2006, as an undisputed American citizen.
Seeing the president on television is the norm for most of us. In fact, with elections a short month away, many of us are seeing too much of the candidates. The first presidential telecast address from the White House took place in October. What year and which president made this historic presentation?
Answer: On October 5, 1947, President Harry Truman (1884-1972) makes the first-ever televised presidential address from the White House, asking Americans to cut back on their use of grain in order to help starving Europeans. He asked farmers and distillers to reduce grain use and requested that the public voluntarily forgo meat on Tuesdays, eggs and poultry on Thursdays and save a slice of bread each day. The food program was short-lived, as ultimately the Marshall Plan succeeded in helping to spur economic revitalization and growth in Europe.
Native American Day is celebrated the 4th Friday of September. In honor of our Indigenous Americans, how many tribes are there in the United States?
Answer: There are 562 federally recognized Indian tribes, bands, nations, pueblos, rancherias, communities and Native villages in the United States. Approximately 229 of these are located in Alaska; the rest are located in 33 other states. Tribes are ethnically, culturally and linguistically diverse.
Santa's eight reindeer were originally named in the 1823 poem, now known as "T’was the Night Before Christmas". (Rudolph wasn’t added to the lore until 1939.) What two reindeer are named after weather phenomenon?
Bonus: What was the original title of the poem?
Answer: Donner and Blitzen. The original names were "Dunder and Blixem", which means "thunder and lightning" in Dutch. An 1844 reprint changed them to the German "Blitzen" and "Donner", with the same translation.
“Twas the Night Before Christmas” was originally known as “A Visit from St. Nicholas”. It was first published anonymously in a New York newspaper, The Troy Sentinel. While the poem was later attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, there is some support for a Dutch migrant Henry Livingston.
Winner: Jonathan Obrecht
One of the best things about fall in Colorado is the vibrant yellow of the aspen trees. Several factors contribute to the change, but what is the main reason the leaves change color?
Answer: Temperature, soil moisture, and other factors influence how the leaves change, but the primary agent is sunlight, or the lack thereof. As the days grow shorter, there is not enough sunlight to produce chlorophyll. In the absence of this green pigment, the yellow and orange become visible. Red and purple pigments result from the sugars that are trapped in the leaves by the “abscission layer”, which is formed when the tree enters the energy-saving dormant state that allows it to survive the winter.
Summer is almost here; the season of ice cream! The first ice cream cone was patented in NY in 1903 by an Italian immigrant. A similar creation was independently introduced by a Syrian immigrant at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904. What were their names?
Answer: Italo Marchiony and Ernest Hamwi. Marchiony was an ice cream salesman who filed for the patent of a machine which made ice cream containers, or cones as we know them today. Hamwi had his waffle booth was next to an ice cream vendor who ran short of dishes; he rolled a waffle to contain the ice cream.
Winner: Jonathan Obrecht
On May 22, 1849 a patent was granted for a process that allowed boats to be lifted over shoals without unloading them. As exciting as this invention would be for the steamboat captain that saved hours of work, the more interesting part is that it was a patent granted to one of our presidents. Who is the only United States president to have a patent for his invention?
Answer: Abraham Lincoln was granted patent number 6469. This was while he was serving as a Congressman representing Illinois.
Winner: Matt & Kris Parker
June 14 is celebrated in the U.S. as Flag Day. In 1777 a resolution was introduced before Congress mandating a United States flag, stating, "...that the flag of the thirteen United States shall be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white on a blue field, representing a new constellation." Who brought this resolution?
Answer: John Adams introduced before Congress the resolution mandating a United States flag on June 14, 1777.
Winner: Kim Moore
Nellie Bly, born May 5, 1864, was challenged to do an expose on the mentally ill institutionalized in New York. Her undercover journalism brought light to the conditions faced by patients and encouraged change. It also pioneered a form of “stunt reporting.” At the peak of Nellie’s fame, she attempted a trip aimed at beating the fictional Phileas Fogg from Around the World in Eighty Days. How long did her trip take her?
Answer: Perhaps the peak of Nellie Bly's fame came when she took a whirlwind trip around the world in 1889 to beat Phileas Fogg, the fictional hero of Jules Verne's "Around the World in Eighty Days." Traveling by ship, train and burro, she returned back to New York in 72 days, 6 hours and 11 minutes as a celebrity, cheered by crowds of men as well as women.
Winner: Patti Vine
April 3, 1860 saw the launch of the Pony Express. The company promised, and delivered, an astounding 1840 mile journey from St Joseph, MO to San Francisco, CA in a mere 10 days. Generally, this route was expected to take 24 days or more. Riders road for 75-100 miles at a time, changing horses every 10-15 miles. What was the cost for sending a one ounce letter?
Answer: A one ounce letter delivered by the Pony Express was originally $5, the equivalent of hundreds of dollars today. This cost was far beyond the everyday person and even after it was reduced to $1 an ounce was more than most could afford.
Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879. His theory of relativity led to new ways of thinking about time, space, matter and energy. He received a Nobel Prize in 1921 and emigrated to the U.S. in 1933 where he was an outspoken critic of Nazi Germany. Believing the Nazis might develop an atomic bomb, he warned President Roosevelt and urged the development of the U.S. Atomic bomb. He also had a passion for classical music. What instrument did he play?
Answer: Einstein learned to play the violin as a child, a skill that stayed with him into his later years.
Are you still writing 2016 on your checks? Feeling like time is going by too quickly? How would you like to have 10 days taken from you? On February 24, 2582, it was announced that following October 4, would be October 15. Who made this proclamation?
Answer: Pope Gregory XIII corrected mistakes on the Julian calendar by dropping 10 days and directing that the day after October 4, 1582 would be October 15th. The Gregorian, or New Style calendar, was then adopted by Catholic countries, followed gradually by Protestant and other nations.
Early British American colonies tended to hug the Atlantic Ocean, but as the population of the colonies grew, westward migration began. In search of inexpensive land and opportunity, American pioneers moved westward by the thousands. Pioneers traveling west across hundreds and thousands of miles needed supplies, guides and protection to help them make the often treacherous journey. Wagon trains were formed to allow groups to reduce the dangers associated with the long journey west. The first wagon train arrived in California on November 4th of what year?
Answer: The first wagon train arrived in California on November 4, 1841. They started their journey in Independence, Missouri on May 1, 1841.
The weather is colder, decorations are up all around us, and holiday music is playing in all the stores. What Christmas song was originally written as a Thanksgiving song?
Answer: The most popular Christmas song in America, Jingle Bells has not always been associated with Christmas. Written in the 1850's by James Lord Pierpont, an uncle of the famously wealthy financier John Pierpont Morgan, it pays homage to the youthful fun of the then popular winter sleigh races.
The first Thanksgiving, which included 50 Pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag Indians, was held in the autumn of 1621, but Thanksgiving didn't become a national holiday until over 200 years later. Although Lincoln made it official in 1863, who is the “mother of Thanksgiving” and what is her other claim to fame?
Answer: Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879), a New Hampshire writer/editor, is also known for writing the classic song “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” She convinced President Lincoln to make Thanksgiving a national holiday, after 17 years of campaigning and letter-writing. She had grown up regularly celebrating an annual Thanksgiving holiday and often wrote articles about it and lobbied officials to pass legislation creating a fixed, national day of thanks—a unifying measure for the country before, during, and after the Civil War.
Winner: Eileen Steeg
Halloween originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts; the practice of decorating “jack-o’-lanterns” comes from an Irish folktale.
What was the main character’s name (not just “Jack”) in the story, and what items were carved before pumpkins were available?
Answer: The story is about a man named Stingy Jack, who carved a turnip into a lantern. In Ireland, Scotland, and England, people made their own versions by carving scary faces into turnips, potatoes, or beets, and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits.
According to the story, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn’t want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did so, Jack put the coin in his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form. Jack eventually freed him, under the condition that the Devil would not claim his soul.
As the legend goes, when Jack died, God would not allow him into heaven, and the Devil would not allow Jack into hell. Instead, he sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with it ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as “Jack of the Lantern,” and then, simply “Jack O’Lantern.”
Winner: Kim Moore
August is named after Augustus Caesar, founder and the first emperor of the Roman Empire. He was born with a different name (in 63 B.C.), but the Senate awarded him with the name Augustus, meaning “Revered One", in 27 B. C. What might the month have been called instead, had they not changed his name?
Bonus: In the early Roman calendar, August was originally 30 days in length. Why did it become 31 days?
Answer: Augustus was born “Gaius Octavius”, but also went by “Octavian”. The sixth month of the Roman calendar, Sextillis, was renamed August in his honor, but could have been some variation of Octavius, had his name not been changed. Coincidentally, the 8th month on the Roman calendar was already called October.
BONUS: The Roman Senate decided that since Julius Caesar's month, July, had 31 days, Augustus's month should equal it. To do so, they took a day from February, shortening it from 29 to 28 days.
May is named after the ancient Roman goddess Maia, who is associated with spring, new life and fertility. She was believed to cause flowers to bloom by the goodness of her pure, gentle heart. Which fire god was her male companion?
Answer: Vulcan, the ancient Roman god of fire and volcanoes, often depicted as a blacksmith. His worshippers sacrificed a pregnant sow to Maia on the first day of May, a customary offering to the earth goddess.
Winner: No Responses
Over the course of the holidays I love to re-watch some of the old cartoons that remind me of my childhood. The Peanuts is one of my favorites! One of the lesser known characters is a girl that likes to remind others of her “naturally curly hair.” What is her name?
Winner: Kim Moore
Immigration is a hot topic right now, and January 1 is an important day is history for American immigration. On this day in 1892 Ellis Island officially opened. Ellis Island was the entry point for approximately 12 million people entering the United States. About 40% of all Americans can trace at least one ancestor back to this island. How many people were processed through Ellis Island on its busiest day?
Answer: On April 17, 1907, Ellis Island officials processed 11,747 immigrants.
London’s police force was established in September of 1829. They wore blue tails and top hats, a uniform chosen to easily differentiate them from the red coat of soldiers. This uniform was required to be worn both on and off duty to alleviate the public’s concern of spying. Each constable was also given a wooden baton, pair of handcuffs and a rattle to raise an alarm. Today we know these men and women as Bobbies. How did they get that nickname?
Answer: The London police force was established by Sir Robert Peel, Home Secretary in Lord Liverpool’s Tory Cabinet. They were originally called Peelers, but later became more commonly known as Bobbies. Both nicknames were references to Sir Robert Peel.
Winner: Jonathan Obrecht
You may know that on August 9, 1836 Jesse Owens won four gold medals at the Summer Olympics in Berlin, but did you know that he was a sickly child? In addition to bouts with pneumonia he developed large boils on his chest and legs. Unable to afford a doctor to treat them, his mother used a sterilized kitchen knife to remove them while Jesse’s father held him down. Owens suffered a great loss of blood but survived. Jesse isn’t even his real name! What is this famous runner’s correct first name?
Answer: Born James Cleveland Owens, the track star was called “J.C.” by his family. On his first day at Bolton Elementary School after moving to Cleveland at age 9, the teacher misheard his Alabama drawl and thought he said his name was “Jesse” instead of “J.C.” Owens was too shy to correct his new teacher in front of his new classmates, and he was called “Jesse” for the rest of his life.
Winner: Ryan Lerman
August 3, 1492, Christopher Columbus started his first voyage across the Atlantic. If he hadn’t, Colorado wouldn’t have become the 38th state on August 1, 1876! August 3rd is also National Watermelon Day. Thomas Edison invented what item on August 12, 1877?
Answer: Thomas Edison invented the phonograph on August 12, 1877.
Americans began observing the Fourth of July as early as 1777, when the first-ever major celebration in Philadelphia included a parade, a thirteen-shot cannon salute, and fireworks. When did Independence Day become an official holiday?
Answer: Congress didn’t officially make Fourth of July a holiday until 1870, when it was part of a bill passed to recognize major state holidays at a federal level—like Independence Day, Christmas and New Year’s Day. The Fourth did not become a paid legal holiday until 1938, as part of a bill that granted holiday leave to employees of the federal government.
What cartoon character made his film debut on June 9, 1934? Bonus if you know this character’s middle name.
Answer: Donald Fauntleroy Duck made his first film appearance on this day in "The Wise Little Hen", a cartoon by Walt Disney.
In May 1964, the FBI concluded its investigation to determine if this song’s lyrics violated laws against the interstate transportation of obscene material.
Answer: Louie, Louie by the Kingmen was part of an investigation by the FBI to determine if it’s lyrics violated laws against interstate transportation of obscene material. The FBI could not determine if the song was obscene.