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Sunday, 26 January 2014


Castanets were developed from the ancient Roman crotalum, which consisted of two rounded hollows of ebony.

They are held in the palm and drummed together by the fingers to produce a rhythmic accompaniment to dance.

Castanets are traditionally made of hardwood although fibreglass is becoming increasingly popular.

In Andalusia they are usually referred to as palillos (little sticks) instead, and this is the name by which they are known in such Spanish dances as the flamenco.

Castanets are also referred to as clackers in the United States.

Orchestral castanets or ‘clappers’, mounted on a handle, were employed by silent-film effects musicians to imitate the sound of a galloping horse, hence the phrase ‘to run like the clappers.’

Source Hutchinson Encyclopedia © RM 2011. Helicon Publishing 

Butch Cassidy

Robert "Butch Cassidy" Parker (1866-1966) was born on Friday April 13, 1866 in Beaver, Utah. He was the first of 13 children born to Maximillian Parker and Ann Campbell Gillies. His British parents had moved to Utah after converting to Mormonism.

Charles Dickens’s father went into business with Butch Cassidy’s great-grandfather

Parker left home during his early teens, and while working at a dairy farm, looked up to, and was mentored by Mike Cassidy an alias name for John Tolliver (J T ) McClammy, a cattle rustler at the time. During a brief stint as a butcher in Rock Springs, Wyoming, he acquired the nickname "Butch", to which he soon appended the surname Cassidy in honor of his old friend and mentor.

His first major crime was on June 24, 1889, when Cassidy, Warner and two of the McCarty Brothers robbed the San Miguel Valley Bank in Telluride, Colorado in which they stole approximately $21,000.

The white building at right housed the San Miguel Valley Bank. By JERRYE AND ROY KLOTZ MD - 

In 1894 Cassidy was arrested at Lander, Wyoming, for stealing horses and possibly for running a protection racket among the local ranchers there. Imprisoned in the Wyoming State Prison in Laramie, Wyoming, he served 18 months of a two-year sentence and was released in January 1896.

Upon his release Cassidy hooked up with other rustlers and thieves, eventually forming a gang known as The Wild Bunch, which included such well known desperadoes as The Sundance Kid and Harvey Logan. The gang began robbing banks, payrolls and trains all over Colorado and Utah.

Butch Cassidy poses in the Wild Bunch group photo, Fort Worth, Texas, 1901

During a train robbery in 1899 on a Wyoming bridge, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid got into a long argument with the conductor and forgot about the explosives they’d planted. The bridge blew up.

The Wild Bunch became so proficient at it that the Pinkerton Detective Agency was hired to run them down, and in addition a $4000 bounty (a huge sum at the time) was placed on their heads.

The Wild Bunch committed its last robbery,  a Great Northern train at Wagner, Montana on July 3, 1901.

The pressures of being pursued, notably by the Pinkerton Detective Agency, forced Cassidy to flee with the Sundance Kid, and the latter's girlfriend, Etta Place. The trio fled first to Argentina and then to Bolivia, where Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were probably killed in a shoot-out on November 7, 1908.

Source Wikipedia


In 1958, following four years of development, RCA Victor introduced the stereo, quarter-inch, reversible, reel-to-reel RCA tape cartridge. It offered few pre-recorded tapes and despite multiple versions, the tape cartridge failed.

The cassette, essentially a miniature reel-to-reel mechanism in an enclosure, was developed by Philips and introduced in Europe on August 30, 1963 at the Berlin Radio Show.

The world's first cassette player was made available by Philip in the US. in November 1964. By 1966 over 250,000 recorders had been sold in the US alone.

One of the first (portable) cassette recorders from Philips, the Typ EL 3302 (1968). By mib18 at German Wikipedia 

The cassette's popularity grew further as a result of portable pocket recorders and high-fidelity ("hi-fi") players, such as Sony's Walkman (1979). By  the early 1980s the sales of music cassettes exceeded those of standard phonograph records.

In Western Europe and North America, the market for cassettes declined sharply after its peak in the late 1980s. In 1989 Britons bought 83 million music cassette tapes, but 20 years later, after the invention of the CD and the iPod, that had declined to just 8,443.

The last car to have a cassette deck come as standard was the Lexus SC430 in 2010.

In 2011, the revised Oxford English Dictionary announced it would be removing the word "cassette tape" from its Concise version, causing some media backlash. The term was removed to help make room for more than 400 new words being added to the dictionary.

Source Wikipedia 


The word “casserole”, originally French,was first used in the early eighteenth century to describe a dish or pot made from a material such as aluminium, cast iron, earthenware or glass in which food is both served and cooked.

The idea of casserole cooking as a one-dish meal became increasingly popular in America in the 1950s  as housewives learnt to create dishes by mixing together the readily available canned meats and fish, vegetables and soups. Tuna-noodle casserole was a particular favourite.

Return of The Jedi character Jabba the Huts's slithery noises when he moves were made by sound designer Ben Burtt running his hands through a cheese casserole.

Source Food For Thought by Ed Pearce


The first legal casino opened in Baden-Baden Germany in 1765.

Craps, a casino game of American origin, was adapted from the English dice game Hazard by Bernard de Marigny in New Orleans in 1813.

Insomniac billionaire Howard Hughes once bought a casino for the sole purpose of moving its trademark neon silver slipper. Visible from Hughes' bedroom, it had apparently kept him awake at night.

Britain’s first legal casino of modern times opened at the Metropole in Brighton in 1962.

The Montreux Casino in Switzerland was set ablaze by someone wielding a flare gun during a Frank Zappa concert on December 4, 1971; Deep Purple was in the audience for the show and the incident inspired their song "Smoke on the Water".

The first legal casino outside of Nevada was opened in Atlantic City on May 26, 1978. Resorts Casino Hotel opened its doors at 10:00am, however initial gaming laws in New Jersey only allowed casinos to operate for 18 hours during the week and 20 hours during the weekends.

In 2010, a casino in Nevada was fined $250,000 for allowing a baccarat player to dance on a card table while the game was being played.

According to Gaming Law, casinos have to stock enough cash to cover all the chips on the 'floor'.

There are no clocks or windows in any casino.

The Stratosphere Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas is 1149 feet tall, making it the tallest building west of the Mississippi River.

Casino operator Caesars World began as a hot dog stand in Miami Beach.

If the croupier points to his ear in a casino at the gaming table you know someone is on a winning streak. It's a signal for help from other casino staff.


Cashews are not nuts (according to botanical definition, they are a mixture of seeds and legumes). They are a close relative of mangos, pistachios, poison ivy and poison oak.

Originally native to northeastern Brazil, the cashew tree is now widely grown in tropical regions. Vietnam is the world's leading exporter, followed by Nigeria and India.

Most cashew trees start bearing fruit in the third or fourth year, and are likely to reach their mature yield by the seventh year if conditions are favorable.

The largest cashew tree in the world was planted by a fisherman in Brazil. It covers an area of around 8,400 square metres (2.0 acres) and is the size of 70 normally sized cashew trees.  It financially supports upwards of 1500 people.

The tree gets its size from two genetic issues, which allow branches to grow outwards instead of upwards, taking new roots when touching the ground.

Cashews are always sold without their shells because the shell contains an oil that can cause a rash similar to poison ivy.

Cashews are hard to harvest because their shells are poisonous to the touch.

The shell of the cashew nut yields derivatives that can be used in many applications from lubricants to paints.


Cash Register

James J. Ritty, owner of a tavern in Dayton, Ohio, patented the cash register on November 4, 1879, as he’d grown tired of his staff stealing his money.

The first registers were entirely mechanical, without receipts. The employee was required to ring up every transaction on the register, and when the total key was pushed, the drawer opened and a bell would ring, alerting the manager to a sale taking place.

Old National Cash Register at Mexico City's Museo de la Secretaría de Hacienda y Crédito Público

John H. Patterson of the National Cash Register Company improved the cash register by adding a paper roll to record sales transactions, thereby creating the receipt.

Cashback at the till was introduced in the UK in 1990.

Cash register receipts are coated with obesogens, chemicals that (when touched) can make you fat.

Cash Machine (or ATM)

A mechanical cash dispenser was developed and built by Luther George Simjian and installed in 1939 in New York City by the City Bank of New York. It was removed after six months due to the lack of customer acceptance.

Simjian suggested his invention's failure was because its only users were “prostitutes and gamblers who didn't want to deal with tellers face to face.”

The Americans created the bankograph, a wall-mounted machine allowing customers to pay bills without seeing a teller in 1960, but it didn't pump out cash.

A Scot, John Shepherd-Barron, invented the ATM. Managing director of a security printing firm, De La Rue Instruments, he was lying in the bath when the idea of a cash dispenser occurred to him.

Barclays Bank were impressed with Shepherd-Barron’s idea and the first DACS (De La Rue Automatic Cash System)  was fitted outside the bank's branch in Enfield, north London on June 27, 1967.

Fixed amounts of money were released when customers inserted rectangular tokens into the machine. Ironically given the ATM was designed to be more convenient than banks, customers first had to buy the tokens from their bank.

The first person to use the DACS cash-dispensing machine was Reg Varney, star of British sitcom On the Buses.

Why a four-digit pin mumber? John Shepherd-Barron originally came up with six-figure number, but decided to consult with his wife Caroline. As his wife could only remember four digits, it became the most commonly used length in many places.

In 1967, a bankers' conference was held in Miami with 2,000 members in attendance. Shepherd-Barron was invited to talk at the conference. As a result, six ATMs were installed at the First Pennsylvania Bank in Philadelphia, the first ever ATMs in America.

By 2004 there were 49,000 cash machines in the UK dispensing almost £150 billion a year.

The ATMs in the Vatican City are the only ones in the world to offer Latin as a language display option.

The world’s highest ATM counter Nathu-La is operated by Union Bank of India and is situated at 14, 300 ft in Kupup in the Himalayas. Primarily meant for the army personnel along the Sino-India border, the cash machine also provides services to tourists.

Antarctica's McMurdo Station, which is where the scientists conduct their research, is the site of a Wells Fargo ATM, one of two such machines operated on the continent. Only one of the ATMs works at a time. The reason for this is so if the working one breaks down, the other can be cannibalized for parts. A repairman also stops by every two years to perform routine maintenance.

Some Japanese cash machines heat banknotes to 200c for a split second to sanitise them before dispensing them.

The sound of cash being dispensed at an ATM is fake - it is produced by a speaker to give you the satisfaction of knowing your money is coming.

There is one ATM for every 3,000 people in the world.

Sources Sunday Times, Daily Mail  

Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash was born on February 26, 1932 in Kingsland, Arkansas, one of seven children born to Ray Cash and Carrie Cloveree (née Rivers).

Johnny Cash was originally born J.R. Cash. The J.R. didn’t stand for anything because his parents couldn't think of a name. He took on the first name John when he joined the Air Force because the military wouldn't accept a name with just initials.  In 1955, after signing with Sun Records, he started going by Johnny Cash.

Cash's mother bought him his first guitar for his 10th birthday in 1942.

Johnny Cash took only three voice lessons in his childhood before his teacher, enthralled with Cash's unique singing style, advised him to stop taking lessons and to never deviate from his natural voice.

During his time serving in the Air Force, Cash was employed as a code breaker based in Germany, intercepting Morse Code transmissions from Russia.

Johnny Cash first met his wife June Carter Cash backstage at the Grand Ole Opry in 1956 while she was singing backup for Elvis Presley.

Publicity photo for Sun Records

They were married on March 1, 1968, just one week after Cash proposed while they were performing together in London, Ontario. Merle Kilgore, who co-wrote Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” served as the best man for the nuptials.

Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash in 1969

In the late 1950s, Cash and his band bought 500 baby chickens while on tour and released them, 100 at a time, on each of the five floors of a hotel they were staying at in Omaha, Nebraska.

Johnny Cash played the first of his jailhouse shows when he performed at San Quentin prison in San Rafael, California on January 1, 1960. Among those in the captive audience was Merle Haggard, who was serving time for burglary.

In October 1965, Cash was arrested upon returning from Mexico when US Customs agents searched his luggage and found hundreds of illegal pills. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined $1,000.

Johnny Cash performed in Folsom State Prison on January 13, 1968. By this time Cash had been performing at prisons for several years, after having his own run-ins with the law, mostly due to drugs. The recording of the concert went on to sell more than three million copies.

He sold over six-and-a-half million records in 1969, This was more than any other artist at that time had sold in one year.

Cash starred in the 1974 "Swan Song" episode of Columbo as Tommy Brown, a homicidal country singer evading the clutches of the homicide detective.

On May 8, 1976, Johnny Cash received an honorary degree, a Doctorate of Humane Letters, from National University in San Diego, Californa. San Diego’s mayor at the time, Mayor Frank Curran, also declared the day National Johnny Cash Day. The Man in Black had previously received a Doctor of Humanities degree in 1971 from Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina.

In his song "Man in Black" Cash explained that he wore predominately black clothing to honor and remind others of the suffering of the world's poor and oppressed.

Johnny Cash had long since kicked his drug habit, when, in a bizarre series of events in the early 1980s, he was attacked by a male Ostrich he had been keeping on his farm after he had threatened the huge bird. He was put onto pain killers to survive the critical injuries and quickly became an addict again. He checked himself into the Betty Ford Clinic, successfully quit pain killers, and made friends with Ozzy Osbourne while at the Clinic.

In 1985, Cash published Man In White, a novel about the life of Saint Paul the Apostle.

Cash was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on January 15, 1992. The Man in Black was also inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame during his lifetime.

Johnny Cash guest stared in The Simpsons voicing a fox that Homer hallucinated after eating a spicy pepper.

Cash made his last ever live performance on July 5, 2003, when he appeared at the Carter Ranch.

Johnny Cash died on September 12, 2003 at Baptist Hospital in Nashville of complications from diabetes.

Cash's original grave (top) and the Cash/Carter memorial

Barry Gibb from The Bee Gees bought the Tennessee house Cash lived in from 1968 until his death. In 2007, while the home was being renovated for Gibb, it caught fire and burned to the ground.

In 2005, Johnny Cash's life was chronicled in the Oscar-winning film Walk the Line.

Here is a Songfacts entry detailing songs inspired by Johnny Cash.

Source Artistfacts


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

President Kennedy never carried cash, borrowing from friends and often failing to pay them back.

According to Gaming Law, casinos have to stock enough cash to cover all the chips on the 'floor'.

About 10% of U.S. households pay their bills in cash.

The Federal Reserve printed up an extra $50 billion in small bills just in case people started hoarding money prior to the year 2000. Since nowhere near that much cash was needed, and there was a long-term storage problem, most of that money was recycled.

Giacomo Casanova

The Italian Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798)  in his prime achieved the reputation as the world’s greatest lover. He used half lemon rinds as a cervical cap and the acidic juice as a potent spremicide.

A gourmet, the reputation of oysters and truffles as aphrodisiacs are largely down to Casanova. He recommended eating 50 oysters for breakfast.

Between his amorous adventures Casanova would often make a detour to taste fine food such as Leipzig’s skewered larks. He once invented a special vinegar to season hard-boiled eggs.

Casanova traveled with a custom-made portable bath made for two.

In 1757 Casonova introduced the lottery to France, convincing Louis XV it would raise funds for a military academy. After taking a percentage of the profit for himself, the invention made him a millionaire.

In 1760 Casanova arrived in London and set himself up in a house at Pall Mall. He hired a black servant who could speak Italian and installed an enigmatic woman called Pauline in the house.

In 1784, the  tired and dejected 59-year-old Casanova accepted the offer of Count Josef Karl Emmanuel Von Waldstein to work as a librarian at the Count's castle in Dux, where Casanova lived out the rest of his days.

According to his friend, the Prince de Ligne, Casanova's last words were: "I have lived as a philosopher, and die as a Christian."

Source Food For Thought by Ed Pearce

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Enrico Caruso

Enrico Caruso was born in Naples, Italy on February 25, 1873. He was the 18th of 21 children, only three of whom lived beyond infancy.

The family was poor. As a boy, Caruso worked in a machine shop and ironworks. Determined to be a singer, he sang in churches and on street corners to earn money for lessons. When he was called into the army, a high officer was so impressed by Caruso's powerful yet melodic voice that he released him to continue studying.

 In 1894 Caruso made his formal debut in Naples in an unsuccessful opera, L'Amico Francesco.

National acclaim came in 1898 when Caruso created the role of Loris in Umberto Giordano's Fedora.

Caruso became one of the first great singers to make phonograph records, when in 1902 he was engaged by the Gramophone & Typewriter Company to record ten arias in a Milan hotel room, for a fee of £100. These 10 discs swiftly became best-sellers and his fame spread across Europe and America.

Caruso's 1904 recording of "Vesti la giubba" from Leoncavallo's opera Pagliacci was the first sound recording to sell a million copies. This was at a time when it was cheaper to buy tickets to see the tenor live.

In November 1906, Caruso was charged with an indecent act allegedly committed in the monkey house of New York's Central Park Zoo. The police accused him of pinching the bottom of a married woman. Caruso claimed a monkey did the bottom-pinching. He was found guilty as charged, however, and fined 10 dollars, although suspicions linger that he may have been entrapped by the victim and the arresting officer. The leaders of New York's opera-going high society were outraged initially by the incident, which received widespread newspaper coverage, but they soon forgot about it and continued to attend Caruso's Met performances.

Enrico Caruso, c. 1907

Caruso appeared in nearly every country of Europe and North and South America. He sang chiefly in French and Italian, but he also learned seven other languages.

The most famous of nearly 70 roles that Caruso sang were the clown in Leoncavallo's Pagliacci and Rodolfo in Puccini's La Boheme.

Caruso participated in the first public radio broadcast to be transmitted in the USA when he was heard live from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House in 1910.

Caruso practiced in the bath, while accompanied by a pianist in a nearby room. He took two baths a day.

Caruso and Roy Orbison were the only 20th century tenors capable of hitting e over high c.

He was talented at drawing caricatures and published many of them.

Caruso signing his autograph; he was obliging with fans

Caruso had four sons with the Italian soprano Ada Giochetti, of whom two lived.

Towards the end of the First World War, Italian tenor Enrico Caruso met and wooed a New York socialite, Dorothy Benjamin (1893–1955). In spite of the disapproval of Dorothy's patent lawyer father, the couple wed on August 18, 1918. They had one daughter, Gloria Caruso (1919–1999).

Caruso was a heavy smoker of strong Egyptian cigarettes. This habit, combined with a lack of exercise and the punishing schedule of performances that Caruso willingly undertook season after season at the Met, may have contributed to the persistent ill-health which afflicted the last 12 months of his life.

Caruso died in Naples on August 2, 1921 of pleurisy. Following the loss of her husband, Dorothy wrote two biographies on Caruso, published in 1928 and 1945.

Sources Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia © 1998 The Learning Company, Inc, Wikipedia 

Edmund Cartwright

Edmund Cartwright (1743-1823)  was born in Marnham in Nottinghamshire  and was educated at Wakefield grammar school and Oxford University. In 1779 he became the rector of the parish of Goadby Marwood in Leicestershire.

He was the brother of Major John Cartwright, a political reformer and radical, and George Cartwright, explorer of Labrador.

During a visit to Cromford in 1784 Cartwright saw Richard Arkwright's cotton-spinning mills. These fascinated him, and he decided to construct a similar machine for weaving. The next year he created  a  rude contrivance, which with further improvements became the power-driven loom which was soon to replace its hand-operated forerunner.

In 1789 Cartwright patented a wool-combing machine. It lowered manufacturing costs, but he made little money from any of his inventions.

In 1790 Robert Grimshaw, of Gorton Manchester, erected a weaving factory at Knott Mill which he was to fill with 500 of Cartwright's power looms, but with only 30 in place, the factory was burnt down probably as an act of arson inspired by the fears of hand loom weavers.

Cartwright also pioneered an engine run on alcohol and notable improvements in rope-making and agricultural implements.

Fifty Lancashire firms sent a special memorandum to the then Prime Minister which resulted in Cartwright being awarded, in 1809, a grant of £10,000. He used the money to purchase a farm in Kent.

Sources Europress Family Encyclopedia 1999, Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia © 1998 The Learning Company, Inc, Wikipedia


In the late 17th century the word ‘cartoon’ was applied to any drawing on stout paper or card.

Benjamin Franklin was America's first political cartoonist. His "Join Or Die" was the first American newspaper cartoon. A drawing of a snake divided into eight parts, it was published in the Pennsylvania Gazette on May 9, 1754.  Its intention was to encourage the former colonies to unite against British rule,

Britain’s first newspaper cartoon was printed in Bell’s Weekly Messenger on January 8, 1832. It depicted the House of Lords shocked by the Reform Bill’s plan to create 50 new peers.

In 1843, the magazine Punch became the first to apply the word 'cartoon' to humorous drawings.

The first color cartoon in an American newspaper is thought to have been an April 2, 1893, George Turner cartoon in the New York Recorder.
"The Possibilities of the Broadway Cable Car" (1893), one of the first color cartoons in American newspapers

When Pennsylvania legislators pushed a bill banning caricatures of politicians as animals, cartoonist Walt McDougall (1858 – 1938) drew them as a tree, a beer mug, and assorted vegetables.

The teddy bear’s history began when President Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt, went on a hunt and refused to shoot an injured black bear. The story became the topic of a political cartoon by Clifford Berryman in The Washington Post on November 16, 1902. The cartoon of the event prompted a sweet shop owner, Morris Michtom, to put a couple of stuffed toys in his window, calling them ‘Teddy’s bears’. The toys were an immediate success and Michtom founded the Ideal Novelty and Toy Co.

The 1902 political cartoon in The Washington Post that spawned the teddy bear name.
The phrase 'Back to the drawing board,' meaning to start again on a new plan after the failure of an earlier one, originated as the caption to a cartoon produced by Peter Arno for the New Yorker magazine on March 1, 1941. It showed various military men and ground crew racing towards a crashed plane, and a designer, with a roll of plans under his arm, walking away saying: "Well, back to the old drawing board."


Carthage was founded in 814 BC by Phoenician emigrants from Tyre, led by Princess Dido.

After the capture of Tyre by the Babylonians in the 6th century BC, Carthage became the natural leader of the Phoenician colonies in North Africa and Spain.

The Roman senator Cato the Elder (234 BC – 149 BC), took the threat of Carthage so seriously that he would end all of his speeches, no matter the subject, with the phrase, "And, further, I think that Carthage should be destroyed." On the contrary, his opponent Scipio Nasica, would end his speeches with "Moreover Carthage must be spared."

The population of Carthage before its destruction by the Romans in 146 BC is said to have numbered over 700,000.

The Romans refounded Carthage, which became the empire's fourth most important city and the second most important city in the Latin West.

The refounded Carthage became a centre of early Christianity. In 397 AD at the Council at Carthage, the biblical canon for the western Church was confirmed.

It remained one of the most important Roman cities until the Muslim conquest when it was destroyed a second time in 698.

Carthage was little more than an agricultural village for nine hundred years until the middle of the 20th century; since then it has grown rapidly as an upscale coastal suburb. In January 2013 it had an estimated population of 21,276.

Sources Wikipedia, Hutchinson Encyclopedia © RM 2014. Helicon Publishing is division of RM.  

Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter  was born on October 1, 1924, at the Wise Sanatorium in Plains, Georgia. He was the first President born in a hospital.

Carter was denied being selected high school class valedictorian because he skived off  to watch a movie.

Jimmy Carter married the former Eleanor Rosalynn Smith married on July 7, 1946,  in Plains. The marriage canceled Rosalynn's plans to attend Georgia State College for Women, where she planned to study interior design.

The couple had four children: John William "Jack" (born 1947), James Earl "Chip" III (born 1950), Donnel Jeffrey "Jeff" (born 1952), and Amy Lynn (born 1967).

He served in the navy as a physicist until 1953, when Carter took over the family peanut business.

Jimmy Carter has flat feet. Rumor has it he rolled his arches over a Coke bottle everyday until they were curved enough to pass the physical for the United States Naval Academy.

He suffered radioactive urine for six months after stopping a nuclear meltdown in 1952 while working with the US atomic submarine program

Jimmy Carter entered politics in 1962 as a Georgia state senator, and in 1970 was elected governor.

Jimmy Carter was considered such a long shot candidate that when he told his mother, Lillian, his plans to run for President, she asked him “President of what?”

While campaigning for US President, Jimmy Carter told The National Association of Record Merchandisers that he listened to Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead, and Led Zeppelin while Governor of Georgia.

Jimmy Carter beat Gerald Ford on November 2, 1976 to become America’s first president from the Deep South since 1848. Carter won the popular vote by 50.1 percent to 48.0 percent for Ford, and received 297 electoral votes to Ford's 240.

He was the 39th president of the USA 1977–81.

On his second day in office, Carter pardoned all Vietnam War draft-dodgers.

President Jimmy Carter gave his so-called malaise speech on July 15, 1979, where he characterized the greatest threat to the country as "this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation." He never actually used the word 'malaise.'

President Carter is believed to have once sent a jacket to his dry cleaner with the launch codes for America’s nuclear weapons left in one of the pockets.

Over the course of his presidency, Carter viewed more than 400 movies, both at the White House and Camp David.

Official portrait of President Jimmy Carter from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery's Hall of Presidents, painted by artist Robert Templeton. Wikipedia Commons

Jimmy Carter is a speed reader (2000 wpm).

Both Thomas Jefferson and Jimmy Carter, U.S. presidents, were peanut farmers at one time.

Only three Presidents graduated from the military academies: Grant, Eisenhower (West Point) and Carter (Annapolis).

From a young age, Carter showed a deep commitment to Christianity. A longtime Sunday school teacher, he is a deacon at the Maranatha Baptist Church in his hometown of Plains. Carter also served for a time as a door-to-door missionary. He read his Bible daily while in office,  prayed several times a day, and professed that Jesus Christ was the driving force in his life.

In 2000, Carter severed his membership with the Southern Baptist Convention, saying the group's doctrines did not align with his Christian belief

Jimmy Carter has had the longest retirement of any former US President. He eclipsed Herbert Hoover's record of 31 years 7 months 16 days on September 8, 2012.

Sources, Hutchinson Encyclopedia © RM 2014. Helicon Publishing is division of RM


Carrots with yellow flesh and a purple exterior were first cultivated in Afghanistan, its native land 4,000 years ago . They were also cultivated in the Mediterranean area, but weren’t considered to be an important food there. Instead they were grown for their leaves which have a pleasant fragrance.

To make butter more attractive in color, carrot juice was used by people in the Middle Ages.

The word ‘carrot’ first appeared in English around 1538 in a book of herbs. Before that a carrot was called a ‘tank’ (from 1400) or ‘clapwype (1425).

Carrots were originally purple, white, red or yellow. The Dutch bred orange carrots in the 16th century in honor of their Royal House of Orange. Orange carrots were considered a symbol of prestige.

Orange carrots first became popular in England during Queen Elizabeth I's reign.

Britain created the myth that carrots improve eyesight to distract the Nazis from a new technology, Radar, they had developed for night raids. When the newspapers asked how pilots were shooting down Nazi planes in the dark, the RAF simply responded that all the carrots the pilots had been eating improved their vision.

Baby carrots (aka baby cut carrots) are actually just the cores of carrots not fit for store shelves, and were only invented in 1986 by a California farmer named Mike Yurosek.

Before the invention of the baby carrot, each American ate 6 lbs of carrot a year, now they eat 11 lbs.

European leaders in Brussels ruled on November 7, 1990 that carrots are a fruit — because they can be made into jam.

The type of carrot Bugs Bunny usually eats is a species called Danvers.

Mel Blanc, who voiced Bugs Bunny was allergic to carrots. He had a spittoon installed in his studio so he could spit out carrots when he had to bite on them.

Carrots aren't actually that good for rabbits, since they are high in sugar, and they don't form a natural part of their diet.

11% of all pet rabbits have tooth decay due to their owners feeding them too many carrots.

If you laid all the carrots grown in Great Britain in one year end to end, they would reach to the moon and back two and a half times.

The world's biggest carrot producer is China, which in 2011 accounted for more than 45 per cent of the global output.

The world's longest carrot measured 19 feet 1.96 inches and was grown by Joe Atherton of the UK in 2007.

Weighing in at a whopping 10.17 kg (22.44 lb) the world's heaviest carrot was grown by giant veg gardener Christopher Qualley of Otsego, Minnesota, USA in October 2017.

The part of the carrot that we eat is called the taproot.

Carrot on a plate. By Bi-frie Wikipedia Commons

A raw carrot is still alive when you eat it.

Carrot juice is ten times more radioactive than beer.

Source Food For Thought by Ed Pearce, Daily Express 

Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll was born on January 27, 1832 in the little parsonage of Daresbury in Cheshire. His authoritarian clergyman father Dr Charles Dodgson and his uneducated mother, Frances whom Charles adored were first cousins and unusually religious.

He was the oldest boy but already the third child of their four-and-a-half year old marriage. Eight more were to follow and,all of them—seven girls and four boys— survived into adulthood.

Carroll's real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. His pseudonym was a play on his name, Lewis being the anglicised form of Ludovicus, which was the Latin for Lutwidge, and Carroll being an anglicised version of Carolus, the Latin for Charles.

Young Charles grew out of infancy into a bright, articulate boy. In the early years he was educated at home. His "reading lists" preserved in the family testify to a precocious intellect: at the age of seven the child was reading The Pilgrim's Progress.

When Charles was 11 his father was given the living of Croft-on-Tees in north Yorkshire, and the whole family moved to the spacious Rectory. This remained their home for the next 25 years.

As a youngster, Charles wrote plays and a comic opera to amuse his siblings. He made a troupe of marionettes and a stage with the aid of his family and a village carpenter and manipulated the strings. He also did conjuring in a brown wig and long white robe.

He made pets of snails and toads. He found it easier to make friends with animals than other boys and girls.

Young Charles tried to promote modern warfare among earthworms by giving them small pieces of clay pipe for weapons.

In school holidays between 1845-50, Charles  edited a number of magazines for his own amusement including The Rectory Umbrella, which he illustrated as well as wrote.

As a teenager he was fascinated by trains and loved travelling on them during holidays.

At the age of 12 Charles went to Mr Tate's school at Richmond. Dr Tate wrote to Dr Dodgson that Charles has "a very uncommon share of genius". He also gained reputation as "a boy who knew how to use his fists in a righteous cause".

Two years later he entered Rugby where he was bullied mercilessly because of his stammer. Dodgson wrote some years after leaving the place: “I cannot say ... that any earthly considerations would induce me to go through my three years again ... I can honestly say that if I could have been ... secure from annoyance at night, the hardships of the daily life would have been comparative trifles to bear.”

Charles gained good marks in classical languages and maths.  "I have not had a more promising boy his age since I came to Rugby" observed R.B. Mayor, the Maths master.

Charles left Rugby at the end of 1850 and, after an interval which remains unexplained, went on in January 1851 to Oxford: to his father's old college, Christ Church.

Charles had only been at Oxford two days when he received a summons home. His mother had died of "inflammation of the brain"—perhaps meningitis or a stroke—at the age of forty-seven.

The following year Charles received a first in Honour Moderations, and shortly after he was nominated to a Studentship (the Christ Church equivalent of a fellowship), by his father's old friend Canon Edward Pusey.

The young adult Charles Dodgson was about six foot tall, slender and handsome in a soft-focused dreamy sort of way, with curling brown hair and blue eyes.

Charles Dodgson in 1856
In 1855, Dodgson's clear brilliance as a mathematician won him the Christ Church Mathematical Lectureship at Oxford University, which he continued to hold for the next 26 years. The income was good, but the work bored him and his stammer hampered him. A dull tutor, students often requested transfers to other lecturers.

Dodgson was never married. Shy and suffering from a stammer, he found children easier to talk to than adults. He was priggish as well and habitually turned away from ladies when helping them over stiles so as not to catch sight of their ankles.

In the interim between his early published writing and the success of Alice, Dodgson began to move in the Pre-Raphaelite social circle. He first met John Ruskin in 1857 and became friendly with him. Dodgson developed a close relationship with Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his family, and also knew William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais among other artists.

Dodgson also knew the fairy-tale author George MacDonald well - it was the enthusiastic reception of Alice by the young MacDonald daughters that convinced him to submit the work for publication.

Dodgson was a good friend of Lord Tennyson; he stayed several times at his Isle of Wight home.

He did a great deal of entertaining and kept a track of menus in his diary so that his guests would not have the same dishes too frequently.

In 1856, Dodgson took up the new art form of photography. He soon excelled at the art, and as his fame with the camera grew mothers flocked to have their daughters immortalized. Once he had a studio of his own, Dodgson made portraits of notable sitters such as including the actress Ellen Terry and the poets Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Dodgson abruptly ceased to photograph in 1880. Over 24 years he had completely mastered the medium, set up his own studio at the top of Tom Quad, and created around 3,000 images. Less than 1000 have survived time and deliberate destruction. He spent several hours each day creating a diary detailing the circumstances surrounding the making of each photograph, but this register was later destroyed.
Lewis Carroll (1863). Photograph by Oscar G. Rejlander.

Dodgson wrote books on mathematics such as the formula of Plane Trigonometry and An Elementary Treatise on Determinants.

His perfectionism drove his publishers potty with his wish for every typed line to be exactly in line.

In 1856, a new Dean, Henry Liddell, arrived at Christ Church, bringing with him a young wife and children, all of whom would figure largely in Dodgson's life over the following years. He became close friends with the mother and the children, particularly the three sisters Ina, Alice and Edith. It seems there became something of a tradition of his taking the girls out on the river for picnics at Godstow or Nuneham.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland grew out of story told by Dodgson in July 1862 to amuse the three Liddell sisters. Afterwards he wrote down the story for the nine year old Alice. Originally written as Alice's Adventures Underground  in 1864, a year later he added Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatters Tea Party and others and changed its name to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Alice in Wonderland sold only 48 copies when first published on November 26, 1865. By 1900 nearly 200,000 copies had been sold. The original manuscript can now be found in Philadelphia Free Library. Only 21 copies survive of the original manuscript, which was withdrawn because of printing errors.

Original cover of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

The Mad Hatter was probably inspired by Theophilius Carter, an Oxford furniture dealer who was somewhat potty and was well known for the top hat he wore. He was known as the "mad hatter."

There is no such thing as a Cheshire Cat. The county of Cheshire used to make cheese that came moulded in the shape of a Cheshire cat.

Queen Victoria was so charmed with Alice in Wonderland that she requested something else by the same author be brought for her perusal. She was not amused when instead she received a copy of Lewis Carroll's Syllabus of Plane Algebraical Geometry.

In 1872 Lewis Carroll published Through the Looking Glass, his follow up to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

The Alice Band, a wide hair band of coloured ribbon is named after the band worn by Alice in Tenniel's illustrations of Through the Looking Glass.

Dodgson was regarded as a witty dandy in Victorian circles. He scattered many in jokes in his Alice books and his nonsense poetry was incredibly zany for the Victorian age.

Dodgson immortalised croquet in Alice in Wonderland when he depicted the Red Queen wacking rolled up hedgehogs using a flamingo for a mallet.

Lewis Carroll's nonsense poem "Jabberwocky" about the killing of an animal called "the Jabberwock" was included in Through the Looking-Glass. "Jabberwocky" is considered one of the greatest nonsense poems written in English, and has contributed such nonsense words and neologisms as galumphing and chortle to the English lexicon.

Dodgson had a negative attitude towards interviewers and never consented to being interviewed.

He was good at chess and billiards but apart from that not particularly sporty. Dodgson declared that his one attempted ball in cricket would have been a wide if it had ever reached the batsman.

Dodgson devised rules for a form of billiards played on a circular table.

Dodgson was a genius at inventing mazes, ciphers, riddles, magic tricks etc. Whenever he travelled he carried with him a black bag containing various toys and games for his young female friends.

His works are peppered with number 42. No one knows why.

Dodgson was fascinated by mirrors. He used them for conjuring tricks and used to write on them with invisible ink so that when the sun shone the writing was projected on the wall.

Dodgson wanted to go into church and was ordained as a deacon but his shyness and stammer prevented him pursuing a career. He also feared he would have to give up his visits to theatres and art galleries.

Dodgson had a tremendous reverence for sacred subjects and would leave a theatre if a joke on such matters was made in a play.

Alice in Wonderland was one of the first children's books not written for a moral purpose.

Dodgson refused to have his own photo taken on the Sabbath.

He would lie awake all night devising mental puzzles to keep erotic thoughts at bay.

Dodgson wrote 98,721 letters in the last 37 years of his life.

Dodgson showed some interest in the Jack the Ripper case; however, this is hardly unusual, given the profound publicity surrounding the crimes. A passage in his diary dated August 26, 1891, reports that he spoke that day with an acquaintance of his about his "very ingenious theory about 'Jack the Ripper'". No other information about this theory has been found.

At the unusually late age of seventeen, Dodgson suffered a severe attack of whooping cough which left him with poor hearing in his right ear and was probably responsible for his chronically weak chest in later life.

At Oxford Dodgson was diagnosed as an epileptic, then a considerable social stigma to bear.

The only overt defect he carried into adulthood was what he referred to as his "hesitation"—a stammer he had acquired in early childhood and which was to plague him throughout his entire life.

Dodgson lived most of his adult life at Christ Church College, Oxford. In the mid 1860s he settled in a 12 room turreted apartment on the north west corner of Tom Quad where he remained for the rest of his life.

His book royalties allowed Dodgson to stay at the same house at 7 Lushington Road in Eastbourne, East Sussex every summer for about 20 years. He also visited Whitby in Yorkshire 12 times between 1854-71 usually staying in a house in East Terrace.

The Walrus and the Carpenter and most of Jabberwocky was written on Whitburn Sands, Sunderland.

Lewis Carroll wrote standing up.

In 1867 Dodgson went on a trip to Russia with Dr Henry Liddon - his only major excursion. As the journey progressed Liddon became increasingly irritated with his companion’s taste for the absurd and curious & his indifference to catching trains on time.

Towards the end of his life Dodgson began to have "a very peculiar yet not very uncommon, optical delusion which took the form of "seeing moving fortifications."

A posthumous portrait of Lewis Carroll by Hubert von Herkomer, based on photographs

Dodgson died on January 14, 1898 of pneumonia following Chesthunts, Guildford, the residence of his sisters.

The funeral of Lewis Carroll was held at St Mary's Church in Guildford and he is buried in Guildford's Mount Cemetery.

Alice Hargreaves (Liddell) died in 1934 and is buried at St Michael’s Church, Lyndhurst, Hants.

Simon & Garfunkel first met in a 6th grade production of Alice in Wonderland.

Apart with The Bible and Shakespeare, Alice In Wonderland is the most quoted book in the Western World.

Here's a list of songs inspired by Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

Sources: Guinness Book of WordsPenguin Book of Interviews, Faber Book of AnecdotesWikipedia, Encarta.

Sunday, 5 January 2014


The first carriage with suspension of its body by chains and ropes was developed in Europe sometime in the 13th century, for royalty and the aristocracy. It took its form primarily from the earlier two-wheeled chariots common to ancient Rome.

After the English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell set up the Fellowship of Master Hackney Carriages — the official name still used for ‘black cabs’ — in 1654 in one of his first Acts of Parliament. The name is from hacquenée, the French term for a general-purpose horse. It literally means ‘ambling nag’.

Dalmatians were once used by aristocracy as a coach dog to trot beside carriages and protect them from highwaymen.

An 18 ton funeral carriage carried Wellington's body to St Pauls pulled by 12 dray horses. It was so ornate and heavy that it cracked the streets of London along the route

Queen Victoria always pulled her carriage curtains when she passed through rougher areas to avoid the distressing sight of a working class tenement.

The word "dashboard" originated as a barrier of wood or leather fixed at the front of a horse-drawn carriage or sleigh to protect the driver from mud or other debris "dashed up" (thrown up) by the horses' hooves.

The first motor insurance policies were issued in Britain in 1896 but they excluded damage caused by horses frightened by the new “horseless carriages”.

During the early 20th century, horses were creating so much pollution with their poop that cars were seen as the "green" alternative.

The Rolls Royce Silver Ghost was a must-have for Edwardian Lords and Viscounts. Its luxury heralded the end of the horse and carriage as the aristocracy's preferred mode of transport.

Source Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia © 1998 The Learning Company, Inc.

Jim Carrey

James Eugene Carrey was born on January 17, 1962, in Ontario, Canada to Percy (an accountant and aspiring jazz saxophonist) and Kathleen.

He is of French-Canadian ancestry on his father's side, and has French, Irish, and Scottish ancestry on his mother's side. His family's surname was originally "Carré".

As a child, Jim Carrey used to wear his tap shoes to bed just in case his parents needed cheering up in the middle of the night.

At age 15, Jim Carrey quit school and became a janitor to support his family. They were living out of a van and he and his family all worked as janitors at a factory to make a living.

Carrey performed his first stand-up routine with disastrous results in a yellow suit and tails, which were made by his mother.

Jim Carrey's first film was a musical comedy called Earth Girls Are Easy.

Jim Carrey auditioned twice for Saturday Night Live and was never offered a role.

Studio execs balked when Carrey asked for $400,000 for Dumb and Dumber. Then Ace Ventura: Pet Detective came out and the studio had to pay Carrey $7 million to do the movie.

Jim Carrey was supposed to be Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers franchise but he had to back out due to scheduling conflicts.

The makeup process for the 2000 movie The Grinch was so grueling, Jim Carrey had to meet with an expert who trained CIA operatives to deal with torture

He has one child with his first wife, Melissa Carrey, whom he divorced in 1995. Carrey married actress Lauren Holly in 1996, but they split less than a year later.


The technique of weaving carpets is thought to have originated in Persia in ancient times, and spread to Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Anatolia, where characteristic forms developed as folk art and in court workshops.

Excavation of royal graves, dating from the 5th to the 3rd century BC, at Pazyryk, in the Altai Mountains of Southern Siberia, have uncovered the oldest known examples of knotting. The finds include a superb carpet with a woollen pile, knotted with the Ghiordes, or Turkish, knot (Hermitage). The carpet, probably of Persian origin, measures 6  61/2 feet (1.8  2.0 metres). The central field has a checkerboard design with a floral star pattern in each square. Of the two wide borders, the inner one shows a frieze of elk, the outer one a frieze of horsemen.

Cleopatra, once wrapped herself up in a carpet as a gift for Julius Caesar. When he unrolled it, he found the beautiful Egyptian queen.

In Western Europe the replacement of carpets and matting for rushes in the first half of the seventeenth century meant that there were fewer fleas in middle class homes, which thus diminished the chance of the richer classes catching the flea-borne plague. Good carpets were by now being made in England or imported from Turkey and Persia.

English carpet maker Thomas Whitty devised his specialized method of creating luxury carpets in 1755. Impressed by a Turkish carpet he saw at Cheapside Market in London, he spent months working on one of similar quality. They are known worldwide as Axminsters after the Devon town where he had his business.

When the fifth President of the United States, James Monroe (1753-1831), disembarked from a riverboat in Georgetown, South Carolina and his welcoming party greeted him with a red carpet. This was one of the earliest reported instances of a ceremonial red carpet.

Melville Bissell had a china shop in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and was allergic to the dusty straw scattered on the floor after unpacking china from crates. So, he invented the first carpet sweeper in 1876 to clean up the mess and protect his sinuses..

In 1901 the British engineer Hubert Booth patented an electrically powered machine, which he demonstrated extracting dust from carpets by suction; he called it a 'vacuum cleaner'. The machine was mounted on a horse-drawn wagon, and equipped with a long tube for access into buildings.

Percy Shaw, the inventor of the cat’s eye, lived in a house without any carpets. He thought that carpets harbor unpleasant smells.

The length of the red carpet at the Dolby Theatre where the Academy Awards are held is about 500 feet. The width is thirty-three feet.

98% of British homes have carpeted floors. In Italy, only 2% do.

Sources Encyclopedia Britannica, Europress Encyclopedia 


Closely related to the goldfish, carp are native to Asia and eastern Europe.

The first treatise on carp culture was written by Fan Li, an ancient Chinese advisor in the state of Yue in the Spring and Autumn Period. It gave useful advice on the construction, harvesting and economic management of fishponds.

Monks brought them to western Europe from the 13th century as food. Carp ponds in the Middle Ages kept monasteries, courts and manors supplied with fresh food.

Monks fattened the caro up to feast on and they were a delicacy in Tudor England.

Anglers see carp as the cleverest freshwater fish. In The Compleat Angler (1653), Izaak Walton calls it a ‘river-fox’ and a ‘very subtle fish.’

In 1983 Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi blew up Richard Branson's prize carp. Iommi was at the Virgin head honcho's recording studios and launched fireworks into his private lake and accidentally destroyed some of his fish. Iommi described Branson as 'not happy at all' about it.

Demand for carp has declined in time, partly due to the appearance of more desirable table fish such as trout and salmon through intensive farming, and environmental constraints. However, in Germany and Austria carp is still part of Christmas Eve dinner.

Although the carp was not brought to the United States until 1876, it is now established in nearly all parts of the country.

In 2016 the Australian government released a strain of herpes into its waterways to kill an invasive European carp species.

Common carp can grow up to 5ft long.

Carp feed on water plants, crustaceans, insects and smaller fish.

They are often considered an invasive species because they can decimate other fish populations.

Carp have teeth at the back of the throat, which they use to crush and grind food.

One female can lay up to one million eggs in a single spawning. But many eggs and young fish perish because of disease or predators.

The biggest carp ever caught in the world was a 222lb giant Siamese landed by British angler Tim Webb in August 2014 in Thailand.

The rapper Eminem requests on his rider a wooden pond to keep his beloved koi carp in wherever he goes on tour.

Carp are amongst the longest-lived fish species, with wild specimens over 60 years old being recorded.

Source Daily Mail


The earliest known record of a carousel device is a Byzantine etching from 500 AD which portrays riders swinging in baskets tied to a center pole.

The first fairground merry-go-round is referred to in records of an event in Philippolis, Turkey in 1620. 

In the early nineteenth century some advertisements claimed that riding the carousel was good for the circulation of blood.

Merry-go-rounds usually turn clockwise. Carousels usually turn counter-clockwise.


In medieval times the word “carol” had a purely secular meaning. It originally referred to an open air dance, especially a ring-dance accompanied by singing, which later evolved into a merry song with a tune suggestive of dancing. They were often linked to pagan festivals or harvest time as well as Christmas.

Early Christmas carols included the 11th century "sys willekommen heirre kerst," the oldest surviving German Christmas carol.

A strong contender for the oldest Christmas carol that people still sing regularly today is The French version of "The Friendly Beasts" which goes back to the 12th century. The song was written about the animals surrounding Christ at the nativity.

In the thirteenth century St. Francis of Assisi and his fellow Franciscans understood the appeal of catchy carol tunes especially when compared to their rather more stern religious chants, so they borrowed them writing brand new Christian words to fit popular melodies bringing folk songs into churches along with the people who sang them. Among the Christian tunes they sang were some of the earliest Christmas carols around a nativity scene.

The earliest extant English Christmas carol, "A child is boren amonges man" can be found in a set of sermon notes written by a Franciscan friar in the early fourteenth century.

Prior to the fifteenth century the Church felt that Christmas should be celebrated in a solemn way and discouraged the singing of Christmas carols. However when the Church began to relax its attitude, there was a great increase in the writing of Christmas carols and they began to be sung in church. Most referred to the Virgin Mary, the Christ child, or the saints whose feasts follow Christmas. In Britain the earliest printed edition of a “sett of carols” was published by Wynkyn de Worde in 1521.

Joy to the World was written by Isaac Watts in 1719. The scripture-based words are from Psalm 98, in particular verse 4: "Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music." It was not written as a Christmas song—the original theme was the second coming of Jesus our Lord and King.

The 19th century revival of interest in the Middle Ages and in folk music led to carols being collected and published. A great many pastiche carols were also written in the same Victorian burst of enthusiasm, but they have mainly been discarded by now in favor of the traditional ones.

"Silent Night" was first performed on Christmas Eve 1818 at St Nicholas parish church in Oberndorf, a village in the Austrian Empire on the Salzach river in present-day Austria  The words were written by a young priest, Father Joseph Mohr, and the melody was composed by Franz Xaver Gruber, schoolmaster and organist in the nearby village of Arnsdor.

Disaster hit the church at St. Nicholas in Oberndorf, Austria when the church organ broke down just before the Christmas of 1818. The curate, 26-year-old Josef Mohr, realized it couldn't be repaired in time to provide music on Christmas Eve. He recounted his troubles to his friend, a headmaster and amateur composer named Franz Gruber, while giving him as a present a poem he had written two years earlier. Gruber was so taken by the rhythm of the poem that he set it to music, and on Christmas Eve there was music after all. Mohr played his guitar while the pair sung the song. It was the first public performance of "Stille Nacht" or "Silent Night".

Autograph (c. 1860) of the carol by Franz Gruber

In the mid 1850s the Americans were only beginning to celebrate the Christmas traditions of their English forebearers. The influence of works such as A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens were beginning to enthuse the American nation. "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear" was possibly the first Christmas song to be composed in the United States, which today is considered a standard. Within 20 years other classic carols celebrating Christmas such as "We Three Kings of Orient Are," "Jingle Bells" and "O Little Town Of Bethlehem" had been written in the United States.

"Away in a Manger" was first published in an 1885 Lutheran Sunday School book, by James R. Murray (1841-1905) but the author of the first two stanzas and the music's composer is unknown. The third stanza  was added in 1904 by Dr. John McFarland of New York City. Because Murray published it with the subtitle "Luther's Cradle Hymn (Composed by Martin Luther for his children and still sung by German mothers to their little ones)" it created the misconception that the lyrics of Away in a Manger were actually written by Martin Luther himself.

Jonny Mark the writer of well-known Christmas classics such as "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree" and "A Holly Jolly Christmas" didn’t celebrate Christmas because he was Jewish.

Source History World, The Big Issue and information previously written for Songfacts

Wednesday, 1 January 2014


Carnival is a festive season which occurs immediately before Lent. It is traditionally held in areas with a large Catholic and to a lesser extent, Eastern Orthodox makeup.

The word ‘carnival’ originally meant ‘a farewell to meat’ referring to the Christian tradition of giving up meat during Lent.

Dominican friar and preacher Girolamo Savonarola at the 1497 carnival of Florence organised a “bonfire of the vanities” at the carnival celebration before Lent, in which Florentine luxury goods, works of art, pornographic books and gambling equipment were publicly burnt.