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Sunday, 29 December 2013

Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) was actually Scottish, born on November 25, 1835 in a Dunfermline weavers cottage. Carnegie came over to the US as a boy, where he got a job as a steel factory worker.

In 1892, the Carnegie Steel Company was created in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The company grew and, after Carnegie sold it in 1901, later merged with US Steel, a corporate giant that is still active today.

Carnegie as he appears in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Andrew Carnegie was at one point so wealthy, his fortune represented 0.6% of the entire US GDP.

Carnegie published a famous essay, The Gospel of Wealth, in 1889, which appeared in the North American Review and in Britain in the Pall Mall Gazette. In it he set out his belief that a successful businessman should devote the first part of his life to accumulating wealth and the second to distributing it as, “a man who dies rich, dies disgraced”. By bettering the life of his less fortunate fellowman whilst on earth he will be rewarded when he dies at the gates of paradise.

Carnegie fulfilled this ideal with astounding generosity, giving much of his fortune to schools, libraries and universities before his death at 83. In particular he funded the establishment of a number of public libraries throughout the United States as he believed this would give people the opportunity to better themselves.

He gave away $288 million ($4.22 billion today) to American charities alone.

Though Carnegie believed philanthropy was a moral imperative, personally he was a religious sceptic and an evolutionist. The philanthropist believed that society was progressing beyond the need for wars towards a time of universal peace, spiritual idealism and prosperity for all.

Carnegie Hall in New York City opened in 1891 with Tchaikovsky as guest conductor.

Andrew Carnegie exchanged gag Christmas gifts with fellow billionaire entrepreneur John D. Rockefeller, Rockefeller once sent Carnegie a cardboard vest to make fun of his poor childhood. In return Carnegie sent a fine whiskey to Rockefeller, a devout baptist who had given up drinking.

Despite being of the richest Americans ever, Carnegie never carried any cash. He was once put off a London train because he did not have the fare.


According to a Christian legend, carnations first appeared on Earth as Jesus carried the Cross. The Virgin Mary shed tears at Jesus' plight, and carnations sprang up from where her tears fell. Thus the pink carnation became the symbol of a mother's undying love.

It was a rule of Cadburys in Victorian times that women had to leave work when they got married, and wedding gifts of a Bible and a carnation were given to women who left the company to tie the knot.

The Irish writer Oscar Wilde famously wore a green carnation. The green carnation thence became a symbol of homosexuality in the early 20th century, especially through the book The Green Carnation and Noël Coward's song, "We All Wear a Green Carnation" in his operetta, Bitter Sweet.

U.S. President William McKinley always kept a lucky red carnation in his lapel. In 1901, minutes after giving the flower away, he was shot.

In 1907, Anna Jarvis chose a carnation as the emblem of Mother's Day because it was her mother's favourite flower. This tradition is now observed in the United States and Canada on the second Sunday in May. Ann Jarvis chose the white carnation because she wanted to represent the purity of a mother's love.

In the last scene of the movie Magical Mystery Tour, where the four Beatles dance in tuxedos. Paul McCartney wore a black carnation while the others wore red, fueling rumors that Paul was dead.

Sources Wikipedia, Songfacts


Carmen is an opéra comique by the French composer Georges Bizet about a passionate but self-destructive gypsy girl and her dramatic murder at the hands of her pathologically jealous soldier lover.

Bizet based his work on Prosper Mérimée's short novel, Carmen, which had appeared in October 1845.

Despite its popularity today, Bizet's work bombed at its 1875 première at the Opéra Comique of Paris on March 3, 1875 as the audience found the risqué plot, with its robbers, gypsies and cigarette-girls, too hot to handle. The critics denounced it a failure, accusing it as being "immoral" and "superficial." "What is really wrong with this Carmen is that there's not a good tune in it," splattered one reporter. By the end of its first run of 48 performances, the theatre was giving tickets away in order to stimulate attendance.

A lithograph of act 1 in the premiere performance, by Pierre-Auguste Lamy, 1875

Bizet was devastated and died of a heart attack three months later aged just 37. Five months after the composer's death, it was produced in Vienna, to critical and popular success, which began its path to worldwide popularity. Since the 1880s it has been one of the world's most performed operas and a staple of the operatic repertoire. Tragically, Bizet never knew of the opera's eventual success.

Carmen has been the subject of several popular-music adaptations over the years. Many of you will be familiar with Carmen Jones, a 1943 Broadway musical adaptation with book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II.

Source Songfacts


In 1156, the Carmelite order, the popular name for members of the Order of Our Lady, was founded as a community of hermits in Palestine by the French hermit, Berthold.

The Latin patriarch of Jerusalem wrote the rule for the Carmelites. The rule is severe, prescribing poverty, abstinence from meat, and solitude.

The 16th century mystic and Carmelite order reformer, St Teresa of Avila,taught that “almonds are good for girls who do not eat meat.”

A Carmelite monk, Père Sebastian Jean Truchet, invented the ear trumpet. His pioneering model was basically a long horn with a large pointed opening at one end.

The Carmelites are known as White Friars because of the white overmantle they wear (over a brown habit).

Source Hutchinson Encyclopedia © RM 2013. Helicon Publishing is division of RM.


A Dane, J.C. Jacobsen, came to realize that the production of lager, which had always been done in small breweries, would be more profitable if it was properly industrialised, using steam brewing. He used this new modern brewing method to produce a lager, Carlsberg, which he named in 1847 after his son Carl.

In 1883 Carlsberg's Emil Hansen developed a method for propagating pure yeast, which he hoped would revolutionise the brewing industry. The yeast was named “Saccharomyces Carlsbergensis” and the Dane rather than patenting it, gave it freely to the world.

Christian X, who was the King of Denmark between 1912 and 1947 was the first person to regularly drink lager with curry. The king had grown fond of Veeraswamy, an Indian restaurant in London. His favourite Danish lager, Carlsberg, was not at at the time available in England so he had some shipped over in a barrel, thus enabling King Christian to have his preferred drink with his favorite meal.

After winning the Nobel prize in 1922 , Danish scientist Niels Bohr was given a house with unlimited free beer on tap by Carlsberg brewery.

Carlsberg Special Brew was created specifically for Winston Churchill as Denmark’s thank-you for Britain’s help during World War II.

Researchers in Denmark found that beer tastes best when drunk to the accompaniment of a certain musical tone. The optimal frequency is different for each beer, they reported. The correct harmonious tone for Carlsberg Lager, for example, is 510-520 cycles per second.

 In 1968, Malawi became the only country outside of Denmark to have a factory for brewing Carlsberg beer. 

William Carey

In 1792 a Baptist pastor, William Carey (1761-1834), co-founded the Baptist Missionary Society at a house in Lower Street Kettering.

Carey had for many years had an interest in worldwide mission and his avocation of the sending of missionaries to convert the heathen was unusual in an age when much of the church believed that missions had died with the apostles. His interest in mission once led him to make an inventory naming every place in the world and its religion. From that he calculated there were 731 million people in the world, of which 421 million were pagans.

Carey and his family together with another minister, John Thomas, were chosen in 1793 as the first Baptist missionaries to India.

Carey achieved much in India, he founded mission schools, conceived the idea for a college to train native church leaders and campaigned against widow burning, infanticide and assisted suicide. In addition he developed a vast library system, printed the first Indian language newspaper, and introduced the idea of saving banks.

A gifted linguist, Carey translated the entire Bible into the major Indian languages and from 1801-30 he was the Professor of Oriental languages at Fort William College, Calcutta.

Carey is considered to be a pioneer of the modern missionary movement and laid the foundation for many succeeding missionaries in India. A legacy of his trailblazing work, is that by the end of the nineteenth century there were over half a million native Indian Protestants.

Mariah Carey

Mariah's mother, Patricia (Hickey), is a former mezzo-soprano New York City opera singer and a freelance vocal coach. Mariah's father, Alfred Roy Carey, was an aeronautical engineer.

She got her first name from the Paint Your Wagon song "They Call the Wind Maria" (spelled 'Maria' without the H, but pronounced 'Mariah'). The tune from the popular Lerner & Loewe musical was a favorite of her mother.

Mariah's heritage is multiracial. Her mother is Irish-American and her father is African-American and Venezuelan.

Mariah Carey’s high school nickname was "Mirage" because she cut class so often for studio work and back up singing gigs.

Carey sings in a five octave range and she masters the whistle register. She made the  Guinness Book of World Records in 2003 for the highest note hit by a human, after she hit the G7# note during a live performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Carey is the first recording artist in history to have her first five singles hit the #1 spot on the Hot 100. They are:  "Vision of Love" (1990), "Love Takes Time" (1990), "Someday" (1991), "I Don't Wanna Cry" (1991) and "Emotions" (1991).

Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together" was the best-selling song of the 2000s in the US.

She is the only female artist (and second artist or group ever) to have 18 #1 songs on the US Billboard Hot 100 charts. Only The Beatles have more with 20.

"All I Want for Christmas Is You" earns Mariah Carey about $500,000 in royalties each Christmas.

Mariah’s wedding to Tommy Mottola in 1993 was modelled after the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Even the tiara she wore, a family heirloom, was redesigned to look like Princess Diana's. Her wedding dress was an ivory-silk duchess satin gown designed by Vera Wang, with a 8.25 m train and matching satin pumps. The whole affair cost almost $0.5 million, not including the 1893 sixpence Mariah put in one of her shoes for luck.

English farmer Angus Wielkopolski discovered that goats produce more milk listening to Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You" tune than any other song. They found that the goats produced up to half a pint more when Carey's famous Christmas track was played.

Mariah has owned several Jack Russell terriers. A sampling of names: Jack, Jack Junior (JJ), Cha-Cha and Squeak. Over the years, the singer has taken her pets surfing in Puerto Rico, running on beaches from California to Florida and on trips all over the world to wherever she is performing.

In 2008, she earned $1 million to perform just four songs at a private show for the son of Muammar al-Gaddafi, the notorious Libyan dictator who died in 2011 (Carey later apologized, saying she was "naive and unaware of who I was booked to perform for").

Carey revealed in an interview with E! News her strict eating regieme. "It’s really hard. My diet, you would hate it," she said. "All you eat is Norwegian salmon and capers every day. That’s it."

Mariah Carey will only be photographed from her right side. Wen she was 19 and doing her first-ever photo shoot at her record label, a lady on set pointed to her right side and told her, "This is your good side, only let people photograph you from your good side, ever." After looking at the finished editorial, Carey decided the woman was right and has followed her advice ever since.

Mariah Carey announced in April 2018 that she has been suffering from bipolar II since 2001.

Sources IMDB, Artistfacts


The cardigan was originally made to be a military jacket made of knitted wool.

The Earl of Cardigan popularised cardigans. He wore them to keep warm during the Crimea War.

Sunday, 22 December 2013


A town of fewer than 2,000 people in 1801, Cardiff's population multiplied into the hundreds of thousands in the 19th century.

Britain’s first mosque was recorded in 1860, at 2 Glynn Rhondda Street in Cardiff.

Completed in 1886, Cardiff’s Coal Exchange was once where the price of the world's coal was determined. The world's first £1,000,000 business deal was made at the Coal Exchange during a transaction in 1901. 2500 tonnes of coal were transported to France.

Cardiff City defeated Arsenal in the 1927 FA Cup Final, the only time the competition has been won by a team not based in England.

Cardiff was proclaimed as the capital of Wales on December 20, 1955.  Caernarfon had also vied for this title. Although the city hosted the Commonwealth Games in 1958, Cardiff only became a centre of national administration with the establishment of the Welsh Office in 1964.

Crown Buildings are the Welsh Government's main offices in Cardiff

The 299 licensed premises in Cardiff’s central square mile represent the highest concentration of pubs and clubs in the UK, according to South Wales Police.

Cardiff is the wettest British city with 115 cm of rain a year.

Carbonated Water

The chemist and church minister, Joseph Priestley developed carbonated water using sulfur acid and chalk. Priestley created this soda water after watching the formation of gases during fermentation when he lived next door to a brewery. The beer mattered little to him, but the fumes diffused by the ferment grain aroused his curiosity. He found that this gas could be dissolved in water to produce a fizzy drink that tasted pleasant.

In 1772 he demonstrated to the College of Physicians in London. It was suggested for use on James Cook’s second voyage of exploration in order to make pleasant tasting drinking water for his men.

A Swedish chemistry professor Torbern Bergman succeeded the same time in making carbonated water. He had been looking for a cheaper alternative to drink than spring water when ill.

In America carbonated beverages became more popular in the 1830s as a result of an apparatus John Mathews had invented. His device for charging water with carbon dioxide gas facilitated the growth  of the American soda industry especially in the New York area where he was based.

Carbonated water, with nothing else in it, can dissolve limestone, talc, and many other low-hardness minerals.

Carbonated water is the main ingredient in soda pop.

Carbon Dioxide

Carbon Dioxide is a colorless, odorless gas, slightly soluble in water, and denser than air.

When carbon dioxide was discovered in the 1630s it was originally called 'wild spirit.'

The Lake Nyos disaster occurred on August 21, 1986, when a limnic eruption at Lake Nyos, in northwestern Cameroon, erupted a massive cloud of carbon dioxide (CO2), which descended onto nearby villages, and killed 1,700 people and 3500 livestock through asphyxiation.

Lake Nyos as it appeared eight days after the eruption

Carbon dioxide is produced by living things during the processes of respiration and the decomposition of organic matter, and it is used up during photosynthesis.

Measurements of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere exceed 400 parts per million, the highest level since the Pliocene epoch.

31 billion tons of carbon dioxide are released into Earth's atmosphere every day.

An estimated 30–40% of the carbon dioxide released by humans into the atmosphere dissolves into oceans, rivers and lakes, increasing ocean acidity.

Each tree can absorb 4.8 pounds of carbon dioxide —in a year, an acre of trees absorbs equal the amount of CO2 produced by driving a car 26,000 miles.

An acre of corn is as beneficial to the environment as an acre of forest trees. Both have large leaf areas that absorb lots of carbon dioxide and release oxygen during the entire summer period.

A Diet Coke and Mentos eruption is a reaction between the carbonated beverage Diet Coke and Mentos mints that causes the liquid to spray out of its container. The mints cause nucleation that releases dissolved carbon dioxide so fast it pushes the liquid up and out of the bottle, in what has been described as an eruption or geyser.

Source Hutchinson Encyclopedia © RM 2013.


Carbon is the second most abundant element in the human body.

The radioactive isotope carbon-14 is used as a tracer in biological research and in radiocarbon dating.

Analysis of interstellar dust has led to the discovery of discrete carbon molecules, each containing 60 carbon atoms. The C60 molecules, which can also be synthesized, were named buckminsterfullerenes because of their structural similarity to the geodesic domes designed by US architect and engineer Richard Buckminster Fuller.

Diamonds and coal are both made from carbon.

Diamond is the only gemstone composed of just one chemical element, carbon. Although crystal-clear, it is black when reduced to dust.

A team of researchers at North Carolina State University have created a third form (or phase) of solid carbon, called Q-carbon, that glows when exposed to low levels of energy and is harder than diamond. The resulting Q-carbon is unique among solid carbons in that it is ferromagnetic, which means that like iron, cobalt, and nickel, it retains its magnetism even after a magnetic field has been removed.

The lead in pencils is made of the same thing as diamonds. Both are pure carbon just formed under different pressures and temperatures.

There's enough carbon in your body to produce 1,000 pencils.

Carbon Chauvinism is the name given by critics to the assumption that if life exists elsewhere in the universe then it will be carbon-based.

Peatlands cover less than 3% of the land surface of Earth, but are thought to contain twice as much carbon as all the world's forests.

Source Hutchinson Encyclopedia © RM 2013. Helicon Publishing is division of RM.,


The world's first leisure trailer was built by the Bristol Carriage Company in 1880 for Dr. William Gordon Stables, a popular author of teenage adventure fiction, who ordered a "gentleman's caravan". It was an 18-foot design, based upon their Bible Wagons, which Gordon-Stables named Wanderer. He travelled around the British countryside in it and later wrote a book documenting his travels in 1885 called The Gentleman Gypsy.

In 1897 Prince Oldenburg of Russia became the first person to hitch a caravan to a vehicle when he attached a two-wheel trailer to a steam tractor. He used it as his base on the tour of the Caucasus and travelled at speeds up to 15 MPH.

The jazz musician Django Reinhardt (below) was born on January 23, 1910, in a Gypsy caravan in Liberchies, Belgium. He was forced to give up the violin after a caravan fire in 1928 mutilated his left hand.

A Mercedes Benz S600 driven by South African motoring journalist Eugene Herbert reached a record-breaking speed of 139 mph towing a standard caravan at Hoedspruit Air Force Base, South Africa, on October 24, 2003.

The fastest speed a caravan has ever been towed was 142 mph (228 kmph), by Jason Sands in California’s Mojave Desert in August 2012. The only change to the standard caravan was tires with a racing tread.


Caramel is a confectionery product made by heating a variety of sugars. It can be used as a flavoring in puddings and desserts, as a filling in bonbons, or as a topping for ice cream and custard.

The process of caramelization consists of heating sugar slowly to around 170 °C (340 °F). As the sugar heats, the molecules break down and re-form into compounds with a characteristic color and flavor.

The Arabs invented caramel, which they used as a depilatory (hair removal) for women in a harem.

Mr. Milton Hershey, the owner of a candy company became fascinated with German chocolate-making machinery on exhibit at the 1893 Chicago International Exposition. He bought the equipment for his Lancaster, Philadelphia plant and soon began producing his own chocolate coatings for caramels. The following year the Hershey Chocolate Company was created as a subsidiary of his Lancaster caramel business.

In modern recipes and in commercial production of caramel, glucose (from corn syrup or wheat) or invert sugar is added to prevent crystallization, making up 10%–50% of the sugars by mass.

The difference between caramel and butterscotch is butterscotch contains brown sugar instead of white. Toffee is butterscotch cooked longer.

Source Wikipedia


Caracas was founded by the Spaniard, Diego de Losada, in 1567 as Santiago de León de Caracas, and was sacked by the English in 1595.

In 1777, Caracas became the capital of the Captaincy General of Venezuela.

Sketch of Caracas in 1812

The city was destroyed by earthquakes in 1755 and 1812.  During the fourth day of celebrating its 400th anniversary on July 29, 1967, Caracas was shaken by an earthquake, leaving approximately 500 dead.

The revolutionary leader Simón Bolívar was born in Caracas in 1783, and is buried in the Panteón Nacional here. Bolívar's home was destroyed by an earthquake, but has been reconstructed as a museum.

Venezuela's most venerated building, the National Pantheon of Venezuela,  is on the northern edge of the old town. Formerly a church, the building was given its new purpose as the final resting place for eminent Venezuelans by Antonio Guzmán Blanco in 1874.

Caracas is considered the most dangerous city in the world with a death every 21 minutes. The city’s murder rate is 119 homicides per 100,000 people (by comparison, it is 4.7 per 100,000 in the U.S., the most murderous Western developed nation.

Hutchinson Encyclopedia © RM 2013. Helicon Publishing is division of RM.



The Benz Patent-Motorwagen (or motorcar) was officially unveiled by Karl Benz on July 3, 1886. It is widely regarded as the world's first automobile; that is, a vehicle designed to be propelled by an internal combustion engine. The original cost of the vehicle was $1,000.

The first recorded theft of a motor car occurred in Paris on June 1, 1896, when a Peugeot belonging to Baron de Zuylen was stolen by his mechanic.

In 1900, 40% of American automobiles were powered by steam and 38% by electricity.

The first pedestrian killed by a car in the UK was Bridget Driscoll, 44, of Croydon in 1896. Curiously, her almost namesake, Bridget O’Driscoll was a Titanic survivor in 1912.

Theodore Roosevelt became the first President of the United States to make a public ride in an automobile when on August 22, 1902 he kicked off a tour of New England with a car ride through Connecticut.

In 1914, it was estimated that nine out of every ten cars in the world were Fords.

When Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated on June 28, 1914, he was driving in a Gräf & Stift Bois de Boulogne Double Phaeton luxury limousine, which had been purchased by Count Franz von Harrach on December 15, 1910. Harrach's car was fitted with a four-cylinder engine delivering 32 PS.

The 1910 Gräf & Stift Bois de Boulogne phaeton automobile in which Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated.

The 1922 Essex was the first popularly priced car available with a closed body. The two-door, six-cylinder sedan was called the Essex Coach and sold for $945.

In 1925 there were 24,564,574 cars in the world of which 21,094, 980 could be found in the US.

The 1939 World's Fair in New York featured driverless vehicle technology, and experts were sure it would be a reality by the 1960s.

The Toyota Corolla was first introduced in 1966, and has a model name that comes from the Latin word for “small crown.” It is now the most common automobile in the world.


The longest car ever made was a 100 foot-long Cadillac with 26 wheels, a swimming pool, a Jacuzzi, a helipad and a hinged section in the middle to enable it to turn corners.

The highest speed officially reached by a standard production car is 269 mph — by the $1.9 million Bugatti Veyron Super Sport. It takes 2.5 seconds to go from 0-60 mph. The Super Sport is recognized by Guinness World Records as the fastest street-legal production car in the world.

At top speed, the Bugatti Veyron will empty its 26 gallon tank in 12 minutes.

The most expensive 21st century car ever sold at auction is a one-of-a-kind Ferrari LaFerrari that went for $7 million.


The average number of cars stolen per day in Mexico City this year is 124.

In Johannesburg, the average car will be involved in an accident once every four years.

Cars release about 333 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually — 20 per cent of the world’s total.

More pollution is emitted from the average home compared to the average car.

The average North American car contains 300 pounds of plastics.

In an average lifetime, people spend four years traveling in cars and six months waiting for red light to turn green.

Red is the most popular car color in the US.

Most American car horns beep in the key of F.

The least ticketed car in the US is the Dodge Viper.

It’s against the law to slam your car door in Switzerland.

Cars with a number plate ending with 1 or 2 are not allowed on the roads on a Monday in the Philippines. Other numbers are similarly banned on other weekdays.

95% of a car's lifetime is spent parked—they are typically in motion for 1.02 hours per day.


Cappuccino originated in post-World War II Italy Achilles Gaggia perfected his high pressure machine for making the espresso coffee mixed or topped with steamed milk or cream. It had a piston that created a high pressure extraction to produce a thick milky foam.

The name Cappuccino comes from the resemblance of its color to the robes of the Roman monks of the Capuchin order, which is light/darkish brown with a white hood.

The first use of cappuccino in English was recorded in 1948 in a work about San Francisco. 

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Truman Capote

Truman Capote (1924 - 1984) was an American author, many of whose short stories, novels, plays and non-fiction are recognized literary classics.

He was born in Louisiana and his early works, including The Glass Harp, are about the South. He then moved to New York, where he wrote scripts for plays and films plus further novels including his 1958 novella Breakfast at Tiffany‘s. In the early 1960s, Capote's career flagged until In Cold Blood (1965), his journalistic work about the murder of a Kansas farm family in their home, made Capote a celebrity.

Truman Capote is believed to be the inspiration for the character "Dil" in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird (1962).

One of most famous parties of the 20th century, Truman Capote’s Black & White Ball was held at the Plaza Hotel in New York City on November 28, 1966. The masquerade ball was held in honor of The Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham and cost Capote a total of $16,000. The Black and White Ball was credited with starting an immediate upsurge in masquerade and costume parties.

Capote was 5 feet 3 inches tall and openly homosexual. His distinctive, high-pitched voice and odd vocal mannerisms were bought to life in Philip Seymour Hoffman's Oscar-winning portrayal of him in the 2005 movie, Capote.

Truman Capote, 1980

In 1972 Capote was commissioned by Rolling Stone to cover the Rolling Stones’ tour of North America. And though he set out on the tour and began taking copious notes, he quickly fell out with Mick Jagger and refused to write the article.

Truman Capote had a cameo role in the movie Annie Hall. Woody Allen’s character says of a man he sees: "Oh. There’s the winner of the Truman Capote lookalike Contest."

Truman Capote died at the Bel Air, Los Angeles, home of his old friend Joanne Carson on August 25, 1984. She was the former wife of late-night TV host Johnny Carson, on whose program Capote had been a frequent guest. According to the coroner's report, the cause of death was "liver disease complicated by phlebitis and multiple drug intoxication."

Capote posthumously appeared on the sleeve of The Smiths’ 1985 single, "The Boy with the Thorn in His Side." English fashion and portrait photographer Cecil Beaton took the picture in 1949.

Capote was name-checked along with a number of other famous people in the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ 1991 track, Mellowship Slinky In B Major .

Al Capone

Alphonse Gabriel Capone was born in the borough of Brooklyn in New York on January 17, 1899. He was the fourth of nine children born to Gabriele and Teresina (Teresa) Capone. Alphonse's father was a barber and his mother stayed home with the children.

Al Capone with his mother
He joined his first gang, the South Brooklyn Rippers in his mid teens. Capone was then initiated into a more prestigious gang, the Forty Thieves Juniors, at the age of 17.

As a teenager, Capone honed his shooting skills by firing at beer bottles in the cellar of a New York club.

Al Capone married Mary ("Mae") Coughlin on December 30, 1918 at St. Mary Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Church, Brooklyn, New York. They tied the knot three weeks after their son (Albert Francis Capone, a.k.a. "Sonny") was born. Sonny was to remain Capone's only child.

James Capone, Al Capone's older brother, was a federal prohibition agent.

Al Capone was estimated to have earned $105 million in 1927 alone from alcohol, vice and gambling; the equivalent today to $1.4 billion per year. It was the highest income of anyone in the U.S.

Al Capone got the nickname “Scarface,” due to severe cuts he’d received during a fight with one Frank Gallucio as a young man. Gallucio slashed his face for making rude comments to his sister.

Capone hated the nickname "Scarface" and preferred the names "Big Fellow" and "Snorky," which were given to him by other criminals.

Al Capone's business card said he was a used furniture dealer.

James Capone, Al Capone's older brother, was a federal prohibition agent.

Capone was known for sending flowers to rival gang member’s funerals; one funeral he spent over $5000 on flowers.

Al Capone’s favourite food was Nathan’s Coney Island hot dogs.

Al Capone's personal car was fitted with machine guns in the rear, armor plating, bulletproof fuel tank and a smokescreen-emitting exhaust. 

On February 14, 1929 Al Capone ordered his bloody 'St. Valentine's Day Massacre'. He wanted to kill rival bootlegger Bugs Moran, leader of the former O'Bannion gang. Capone's men dressed as police officers raided their warehouse and shot dead seven men - but Moran was not one of them.

National Museum of Crime and Punishment - Saint Valentine's Day Massacre brick. By David from Washington, DC - 

The St. Valentine's Day Massacre stirred a media storm centered on Capone and his illegal Prohibition-era activities and motivated federal authorities to redouble their efforts to find evidence incriminating enough to take him off the streets.

Al Capone was convicted on October 17, 1931 on five counts of income tax evasion. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison and fined $80,000. It was the only charge that could be sustained against him.

Al Capone. Mugshot information from Science and Society Picture Gallery

After being transferred to Alcatraz in 1934, Capone lobbied the warden to allow him and his prisoners musical instruments. Upon permission being granted, Capone learned how to play the banjo and formed a prison band, The Rock Islanders, which included George ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly on the drums.

Capone served eight years in prison. After surviving a brutal assault by a fellow inmate, he was released early in 1939 for good behavior.

After Capone was released from prison, he was referred to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for the treatment of paresis (caused by late-stage syphilis). Hopkins refused to admit him based solely on his reputation, but Union Memorial Hospital took him in. He was one of the the first sufferer to be treated with antibiotics.

Al Capone spent the last years of his life at his mansion in Palm Island, Florida. Four days after suffering a stroke Al Capone died on January 25, 1947 in his home, surrounded by his family.

Within an hour of Al Capone’s death, Windham Thildrick, known throughout Florida as the mortician all the millionaires go to, drove his Cadillac up the drive to receive orders from the one-time King of the Underworld's ’s three brothers for the finest funeral Miami Beach ever saw.

He wаs buried аt Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois.

Well into the 1960s, The Guinness Book of World Records listed Capone as holding the record for the highest personal income.

In 2000 his toenail clippers were sold for £5,000 at an auction in San Francisco.

Capital Punishment

The term “Draconian” derives from Draco, the first legislator of Athens. Draco's laws, written in blood, prescribed death for even trivial crimes.

In ancient Rome, the punishment for killing one's father consisted of being drowned in a sack along with a dog, a rooster, and a snake.

The first person recorded to be hanged, drawn, and quartered in England was pirate William Marise in 1241.

Public executions in British history world rife with snobbishness. Nobles were beheaded and the working classes hung. Henry VIII's second wife, Anne Boleyn, actually rehearsed her own execution the night before.

Louis XV of France survived an assassination attempt by Robert-François Damiens in 1757, who later became the last person to be executed in the country by drawing and quartering.

Nobody has been burned at the stake in Britain since 1789.

The first country to ban capital punishment (apart from China for a brief spell in the eighth century) was Tuscany. Tuscany had not put anyone to death since 1769, and on November 30, 1786 Peter Leopold Joseph of Habsburg-Lorraine, Grand Duke of Tuscany, promulgated a penal reform that abolished capital punishment. This code remained in act until Tuscany became part of the unified Italy in 1860. November 30th is now commemorated by 300 cities around the world as Cities for Life Day.

In 1688, there were 50 crimes for which the death penalty could be imposed in England. By 1810 this number had grown to 222. By 1861 the number of capital crimes had been reduced to four: murder, treason (including arson in Royal Naval dockyards), mutiny and piracy.

English counterfeiter Catherine Murphy was the last woman in England to be officially burned at the stake. Catherine and her husband, Hugh Murphy, were convicted for coining at the Old Bailey in London and sentenced to death. She and her husband were executed on the morning of March 18, 1789 at Newgate prison along with seven other men who had been convicted of various offences.

Britain's last state-ordered decapitation occurred in 1820. It was meted out to five of the Cato Street conspirators for treason, after they were found guilty of plotting to assassinate Prime Minister Lord Liverpool and his Cabinet. They were to be hanged, drawn and quartered — but the sentence was lessened to hanging and beheading. After the bodies had hung for half an hour, they were lowered one at a time and an a man with a knife decapitated them against an angled block.

The last public hanging in Britain was in 1868.

The largest mass-hanging in U.S. history took place in Mankato, Minnesota, when 38 Native Americans were executed.

The first person in the world to be executed by the electric chair was Buffalo native William Kemmler, in 1890.

The execution of William Kemmler, August 6, 1890. Illustration from the French newspaper, Le Petit Parisien

The first state execution in the United States by gas chamber took place in Nevada on February 8, 1924. A member of the Hip Sing Tong criminal society from San Francisco, California, Gee Jon was sentenced to death for the murder of an elderly member from another gang in Nevada. An unsuccessful attempt to pump poison gas directly into Gee's cell at Nevada State Prison in Carson City led to the development of the first makeshift gas chamber to carry out Gee's death sentence.

Mug shot of Gee Jon.By Source, Fair use,

The Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965 replaced the penalty of death with a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment. It was given Royal Assent, formally abolishing the death penalty in the United Kingdom on November 8, 1965.

The 1965 Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act overlooked four other capital offences: high treason, "piracy with violence" (piracy with intent to kill or cause grievous bodily harm), arson in royal dockyards and espionage, as well as other capital offences under military law. The death penalty was not finally abolished in the United Kingdom until 1998. However the last executions in the United Kingdom were in 1964, for murder.

Ronald Ryan, the last person to be executed in Australia, was hanged in Pentridge Prison, Melbourne in 1967.

Convicted murderer Billy Bailey was the last person to be hanged in the USA. He was executed by the state of Delaware on January 25, 1996 .The gallows in Delaware was later dismantled in 2003, because in that year none of its death row inmates remained eligible to choose hanging over lethal injection.

As of June 2016, 68 different crimes—more than half being non-violent offenses like tax evasion—are punishable by death in China.

Japanese Death Row inmates are not told their date of execution. They wake up each day wondering if it might be their last.

Source The Guardian, Daily Express

Capital (Geography)

During the American Revolution, the Pennsylvania city of Lancaster was the capital of the United States for one day, on September 27, 1777, after the Continental Congress fled Philadelphia, which had been captured by the British. The revolutionary government then moved still farther away to York, Pennsylvania.

Lancaster streetscape. By Scanlan - Wikipedia Commons

The District of Columbia was established as the capital of the United States after signature of the Residence Act on July 16, 1790.

On September 9, 1791, the city of Washington DC was officially named after George Washington, the country’s first president.

Across all the European countries fighting in World War II, only three national capitals were never occupied: Moscow, London and Helsinki.

Just 0.21% of the U.S. total population live in its capital city, the lowest percentage in the world.

Beijing, Seoul, and Tokyo all mean "capital" in their country's respective languages.

Kyoto, which was the Japanese capital before Tokyo, means "old capital."

La Paz, Bolivia (see below) is the highest capital city in the world.

The average temperature of Mongolia's capital Ulaanbaatar is -1.7C (29.7F) making it the world’s coldest capital city.

Pierre, the capital of South Dakota, is the only state capital name that shares no letters with the name of its state.

The capital of Vermont, Montpelier, is the only state capital in the United States that does not have a McDonalds.

Salt Lake City is the only U.S. state capital with three words in its name.

Juneau, Alaska encompasses 3,255 square miles, making it the most expansive U.S. capital. However, only about 33,000 residents live there.

Nauru is the only state in the world that has no official capital.

South Africa is the only country with three official capitals: Pretoria, Cape Town, and Bloemfontein.

Trinidad and Tobago is the only country whose capital city is named after another country: Port of Spain.


Cape Town

Dutch sailor Jan van Riebeeck established a resupply camp for the Dutch East India Company on April 6, 1652, which eventually became the South African city of Cape Town.

Arrival of Jan van Riebeeck in Table Bay by Charles Bell

Jan van Riebeeck also established the gardens at Kirstenbosch in order to provide fresh vegetables and fruit for Dutch East India Company ships.

The Dutch controlled the settlement (with the help of a French garrison) from 1781 to 1795, when it was bought by the British during the Napoleonic War for $6 million. It reverted to Dutch control from 1803 to 1806, when on January 10th it was once again occupied by British troops.

In 1814 Cape Town became the capital of the British Cape Colony.

From 1904 to 1961 Cape Town was the legislative capital of the Union of South Africa, and subsequently of the Republic of South Africa.

Cecil Rhodes' retirement home is in Muizenburg, Cape Town , Groote Schuur, was the South African Prime Minister's official residence from 1910 to 1984.

Christiaan Barnard performed the first successful human heart transplant at Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town in 1967.

Cape Town's population in 2005 was 3,103,000. It is the second-most populated city in South Africa, after Johannesburg.

Table Mountain, Cape Town's iconic landmark is referred to as Hoerikwaggo meaning "Mountain of the Sea" by the Khoikhoi.

More people have died climbing Table Mountain in Cape Town, than have been killed by Everest. Poor planning, dehydration and even losing concentration while taking selfies are to blame.

Table Mountain is the only mountain in the world to have a constellation (“Mensa”) named after it.

Source Hutchinson Encyclopedia © RM 2013. Helicon Publishing is division of RM.

Cape Cod

Cape Cod is a cape jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean in the easternmost portion of the state of Massachusetts.

English lawyer and explorer Bartholomew Gosnold was the first European to see Cape Cod on May 15, 1602. He said, “We took great store of codfish … and named it Cape Cod.”

Cape Cod
Gosnold also discovered Martha's Vineyard and named it after his deceased daughter, Martha.

Whilst sailing across the ocean on their ship, The Mayflower, the 78 men and 24 women occupied themselves by playing darts. Because of bad weather and they were running out of beer and were forced to land at Cape Cod, far away from the territory granted to them.

In 1816 a Cape Cod,farmer, Henry Hall, noticed that cranberries were larger and juicier where a layer of sand from the dunes blew over the vines. He used this sand layering technique for his cranberries and became their first cultivator.

Cranberry picking in 1906

The longest U.S. highway is route 6 which starts in Cape Cod and ends in Bishop, California.


The Roman charioteers wore skull-protecting caps, which were made of bronze and were identical both in shape and purpose with the modern cloth cap.

Graduates wear a cap and gown because, in the 12th and 13th centuries, universities were founded by religious orders that wore such garb.

The distinctive flat-topped caps worn by the fish porters at Billingsgate market in London, are said to be modelled on those worn by the English archers at the Battle of Agincourt.

Queen Elizabeth I sanctioned a law in 1571 obliging everybody over the age of seven except the rich to wear a "cap of wool knit" on Sundays and holidays. This was to help out the ailing wool trade. Non cap wearers were fined 3s 4d for each day of neglect. It was repealed in 1597 as unworkable.

The first baseball caps were made of straw.

In 1888 the Spalding sports goods company was advertising 10 different baseball cap styles ranging from 12 cents for cheap muslin to $2 for the highest quality flannel.

In 1901 the Detroit Tigers became the first baseball club to have a logo on their caps, in their case an orange running tiger.

Sherlock Holmes is famously depicted wearing a deerstalker cap, even though Arthur Conan Doyle's stories never described him wearing one.

The Snapback hat has been around since the mid-1950s when it became the headwear of choice for baseball players; it's called a "snapback" because the back of the hat can be adjusted with different settings of the snaps. In the early 1990s, hip-hoppers like Ice Cube Tupac Shakur and Dr Dre started wearing snapbacks popularizing them through their album covers and music videos and movies. Today, any fashionable rapper wouldn't be seen without one in their wardrobe.

Source The 'Snapback' entry was originally written for


The Indus Gorge, which goes through the Himalaya mountain range in northern Pakistan is the deepest canyon in the world.

The Grand Canyon is about 1800 metres deep. That’s more than twice the height of the world’s largest skyscraper (the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, built in 2010).

In August 2013, the discovery of Greenland's Grand Canyon was reported. Located under an ice sheet, based on the analysis of date from Operation IceBridge, it is believed to be the longest canyon in the world.

The deepest river gorge in North America is Idaho's Hells Canyon. At a depth of 7,900 feet, it is even deeper than the Grand Canyon.

Venus has many craters and canyons on its surface. The troughs on the planet are part of a system of canyons that is more than 6 400 km long.

Source Wikipedia

Cnut the Great

Cnut the Great or Canute (c. 985 or 995 – 1035) was the son of sea-king Sweyn Forkbeard, also reputed to be a member of the Jomsburg Vikings, a military outfit of mercenary warriors with a fortress based in today's Poland. There is still some dispute among historians over the existence of the Jomsvikings.

Canute's mother was Gunhild of Poland. Her own mother had been abducted from a religious house and married to the first Duke of Poland, Prince Mieszko I, who christianized Poland. Canute's father remained pagan all his life.

As a youth he accompanied his father on his invasion of England. Canute was left in charge of his fleet at Gainsborough, Lincolnshire.

Cnut invaded England in 1015 with 200 longboats and an army of 20,000 men and battled with Edmund Ironside. Over the next few months, Canute conquered most of England, and Edmund joined King Æthelred to defend London, but Æthelred died in April 1016, making Edmund King. It

Canute was offered the English throne in 1016 after defeating Edmund Ironside at Ashingdon in Essex. He was crowned King of England on January 6, 1017.

Medieval impression depicting Edmund Ironside (left) and Cnut (right)

Canute travelled round the country with his staff of secretaries, scribes and legal advisors. He was the first king to do.

In 1018, Camute succeeded his brother, Harold, as King of Denmark. He was known by the Danes as King Cnut,  Canute continued to reside in England even after he inherited the crown of Denmark

Canute landed in Norway unopposed in 1028 to claim the throne, and when the Norwegian King Olaf tried to claim it back, he was defeated and killed at the 1030 Battle of Stiklestad.  (Today King Harald V of Norway is 70th in line to the English throne.)

In 1031 he turned the tide against his enemies by conquering Scotland and forcing King Malcolm to recognise his overlordship. Amongst those who did homage to Canute was a certain Maelboethe later immortalised by Shakespeare as Macbeth.

According to a 13th century Icelandic saga, Canute was “exceptionally tall and strong, and the handsomest of men, all except for his nose”.

King Canute Canute the Great illustrated in an Initial of a medieval manuscript

Ælfgifu of Northampton, the daughter of an ealdorman (chief officer) of southern Northumbria, was Canute's  “handfast” wife, a medieval term roughly equivalent to fiancée.

He had two sons by Ælfgifu of Northampton. They were Harold Harefoot (who was only interested in hunting and succeeded him to the English throne) and Alfivason Sweyn of Norway (who became king of Norway)

Canute repudiated Queen Ælfgifu, and married in 1017 the beautiful Norman, Emma, the widow of a previous King, Ethelred the Unready. He hoped this would improve his relationship with her brother, the Duke of Normandy and promote his claim to the English throne. She was older than him but had retained her beauty.

He had two sons by Emma, Hardicanute, who succeeded him to the Danish throne and Cunutsson, plus one daughter, Gunhilda.

Canute tidied over the difficulty of fixing Denmark's border with Germany by marrying his daughter, Gunhild to the son of the Holy Roman Emperor.

The story about Canute rebuking his courtiers who assured him he was so great that he could even rule the waves may or may not be true. A chronicle, Henry of Huntingdon, recounted the tale 100 years later. Canute decided to put the thing to a practical test and had a chair placed on the waters edge before the incoming tide. He challenged the sea to soak his feet. The sea accepted the challenge and proceeded to dampen the royal tootsies. Thus the King proclaimed "Behold how feeble is the power of Kings of men for the waves will not hear my voice. Honour the Lord only, and serve him, for to him all things give obedience."

When the incoming tide proved the futility of human commands, Canute never wore his crown again but hung it upon the statue of the crucified Christ.

Bought up as a pagan who worshipped Woden, Canute became a first generation Christian whose conception of the monarch as a trust from God resulted in an authoritarian manner.

Baptised before 1013, Canute gave rich gifts to monasteries, founded  abbeys, made laws for the payment of tithes to churches and the observance of the Sabbath.

The very last Danegeld ever to be paid, a sum of £82,500, was paid to Canute in 1018. He felt secure enough to send the invasion fleet back to Denmark with a payment of £72,000 that same year.

Canute was said to have ordered an earl killed after a disagreement about a chess game. By one account, the king made an illegal move that angered Earl Ulf, who knocked over the board and stormed off, after which the king sent someone to kill him.                      

Canute was the first English king to issue passports when he issued documents to pilgrims on their pilgrimage to Rome. The purpose of this was to secure their safe passage through the many countries they had to traverse before reaching their destination.

Canute died at Shaftesbury on November 12, 1035 and buried in Winchester Cathedral where some remains are in chests above the choir. The norseman's choice of Winchester as a final resting place confirmed his sense of identity with the country whose monarchy he had replaced.  His body was immersed in alcohol, inserted with herbs and wrapped in waxed sheets. His bones were scattered after the English Civil War. 

Canterbury Tales

Geoffrey Chaucer, who was a Knight of the shire for Kent and a representative to Parliament, started work on his Canterbury Tales in 1386.

In ten fragments, 17,000 lines long, Canterbury Tales was a collection of tales, written in English prose and verse told by different pilgrims (including Chaucer himself). They met at Tabard Inn, Southwark then told their stories on their way to Thomas Becket's tomb in Canterbury.

Opening prologue of The Wife of Bath's Tale from the Ellesmere Manuscript.

April 17, 1387 is thought to be the date of the start of the pilgrimage to Canterbury recounted in the work.

Geoffrey Chaucer recited the Canterbury Tales for the first time at the court of Richard II on April 17, 1397.

Geoffrey Chaucer died in 1400 having failed to complete his 14 year old project.  By the time of his death twenty-four tales had been told.  Chaucer had intended 31 pilgrims would tell two tales each on their way to Canterbury and another two on their way back.

Chaucer referred to a cat flap in the Millers Tale.

The first book known to have been printed by William Caxton at his Westminster press was an edition of The Canterbury Tales. Caxton produced it in 1476.

The word "canter" was entered into the English language from the pace of the horses heading for Canterbury in Chaucer’s book, called the "Canterbury gallop."


Canterbury was the site of the Roman town Durovernum Cantiacorum. Situated on Watling Street, the Roman road between Dover and London, it was an important fortress and military station.

 In 597AD a missionary called Augustine was sent by Pope Gregory to Britain to convert the natives to Christianity  On arriving in Kent, a residence was assigned to Augustine and his 40 monks by King Aethelbert at Canterbury where they devoted themselves to monastic exercises and preaching. Canterbury was then known as "Cant-wara-byru"

The oldest still existing school in the UK, King’s School, Canterbury, was founded in 600AD.

Augustine was consecrated the first Archbishop of Canterbury in 601AD.

Archbishop Becket was murdered by four of the king’s knights at Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. When the cathedral was destroyed by fire four years later, it was seen as divine displeasure at the assassination.

Around 700 miraculous cures were recorded at Thomas Becket's shrine, in the decade after his assassination. It was an important centre of pilgrimage until the Reformation.

Matthew ‘Nosey’ Parker (1504-1575), was the original ‘Nosey’ Parker. He was the Archbishop of Canterbury between 1559 and 1575 in which capacity he devoted much of his time to historical research to discover the roots of the new English church. This involved the archbishop asking many questions of people who had been around during the English church’s break with Rome and his relentless questioning combined with his rather long nose caused his critics to dub him “Nosey Parker.”

The Canterbury and Whitstable Railway, which opened in 1830 was the first steam hauled passenger railway to issue season tickets and include a tunnel.

The first public library in the UK was founded at Canterbury in 1847.

During the Second World War, 10,445 bombs dropped during 135 separate raids destroyed 731 homes and 296 other buildings in the city. The most devastating raid was on June 1, 1942 during the Baedeker Blitz when much of the eastern part of Canterbury was destroyed by fire.

Canterbury Cathedral is opened and closed each day with the ringing of a 17th-century bell.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Canoeing (Sport)

Canoes have been in use for thousands of years, primarily as a means of transportation.

Canoeing, a water sport practised in canoes, was developed by British barrister John Macgregor (1825-92) in 1865.

The sport was introduced into the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936. 


The word 'canoe' comes from the Carib kenu (dugout), via the Spanish canoa.

The 10,000 year old Pesse canoe, the world's oldest known boat, was found in a Dutch peat bog. It was carved from a pine log, possibly using antlers as tools.

Columbus’ description of the native Indians’ canoes. “In these isles there are a great many canoes, something like rowing boats, of all sizes, and most of them are larger than an eighteen-oared galley. They are not so broad, as they are made of a single plank, but a galley could not keep up with them in rowing, because they go with incredible speed, and with these they row about among all these islands, which are innumerable, and carry on their commerce. I have seen some of these canoes with seventy and eighty men in them, and each had an oar.”

From 1935 to 1986 the Canadian silver dollar depicted a voyageur and an aboriginal paddling a canoe with the Northern Lights in the background.

At the age of 18, Kevin Costner built his own canoe and paddled his way down the rivers that Lewis & Clark followed to the Pacific.

Canoe traditions or stories are important to the identity of Māori (the indigenous peoples of New Zealand). They describe the arrival in New Zealand of Māori ancestors from a place most often called Hawaiki. They also refer to the construction of canoes, voyaging at sea, landing, inland and coastal exploration.


No one knows where artillery is first used, but The Heilongjiang hand cannon or hand-gun is a bronze hand cannon manufactured no later than 1288 and the world's oldest surviving firearm. The Heilongjiang hand cannon was excavated during the 1970s in Banlachengzi, a village in the province of Heilongjiang in Manchuria.

The Heilongjiang hand cannon. Wikipedia Commons

The earliest surviving illustration of artillery is a drawing of a crude form of cannon in a manuscript dated 1327 (now in the library of Christ Church, Oxford).

The 4th Earl of Salisbury became the first Englishman to use cannons in battle in 1428. He later became the first Englishman to be killed by a cannon.

One of the most remarkable of early cannon was a proud possession of Mehmed, the Turkish conqueror of Constantinople. Before his final attack in 1453 he terrified the inhabitants by trundling close to their city a massive 19-ton bombard of cast iron. It required 16 oxen and 200 men to manoeuvre it into its firing position. Once there, it settled down to a slow but devastating bombardment of vast stones weighing as much as 600 pounds. The rate of fire was seven stones a day.

The Medici rulers of Florence fled in 1494 after Charles VIII of France invaded Italy with 60,000 men and modern innovative artillery made of bronze.

In 1625 Ordnance factories in Sweden begin producing light but powerful field artillery, which was easy to move on the battlefield.

The cannon that shot Nelson’s arm is thought to have been one known as ‘Tiger’.

A ship’s cannon balls used to be stacked on a brass structure called a ‘monkey’ – the brass would contract in cold weather and the cannon balls would fall off. From this comes the phrase 'Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey’.

Sailors used Edam as a makeshift cannonball in a battle between the Uruguayan and Argentinian navies in 1841. One of the cheesy missiles killed two men.

There is one double barrel cannon in existence. It was forged in the spring of 1862 in Athens, Georgia, according to the design of John Gilleland. He was a 53-year-old private in the Mitchel Thunderbolts, a homeguard unit for men too old for active duty. The weapon was intended to fire simultaneously from side-by-side barrels two balls linked by a chain, intended to scythe down enemy soldiers like standing wheat.

Big Bertha was the name of a type of super-heavy siege artillery developed by the armaments manufacturer Krupp in Germany on the eve of World War I. When firing the huge cannons during the war, its German operators had to move 300 yards away and fire it electrically. They were still so close they required cotton wadding in their eyes, nose and ears, and fired it with their mouth open to prevent the gun from blowing out their ear drums.

Big Bertha in action

Jim Bristoe, an American, invented a 30-foot-long, 2-ton pumpkin cannon that can fire pumpkins up to five miles.

Sources Daily MailHistory World