Search This Blog

Friday, 27 February 2015

Saint Francis of Assisi


Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) was one of seven children born to cloth merchant Pietro Bernadone and his wife Pica de Bourlemont, about whom little is known except that she was a noblewoman originally from Provence.

Pietro returned from a business trip to France in 1182  to find out his wife had given birth to a son. Pietro was cross because she'd had his new son baptized Giovanni after John the Baptist. The last thing Pietro wanted his son to be a man of business, not a man of God. So he renamed his son Francesco (or Francis),  the equivalent of calling him Frenchman, in celebration of the country whose cloth fairs had made his family rich.

The house where Francis of Assisi lived when young

As a youth, Francis loved all things French - the songs, the romance of France, and especially the free adventurous French troubadours who wandered through Europe.

The young Francis  was known for drinking and enjoying the company of his many friends, who were usually the sons of nobles. The streets of the romantic town of Assisi echoed to the merry singing and jovial lifestyle of Francis and his companions.

Francis has had no theological training and little formal education apart from some elementary instruction from the priests of St Giorgio in Assisi who taught him to read and write Latin.


In 1201, Francis joined an Assisi military expedition against Perugia and was taken captive. He spent a year as a prisoner of war in a Perugian fortress.

A fever after his return as well as his experience as a prisoner caused Francis to contemplate his hedonistic lifestyle.  Francis changed so much that his friends feared his illness had turned his brain.

From early in his life, Francis displayed signs of disillusionment toward the world that surrounded him. In one instance he was selling cloth and velvet in the marketplace on behalf of his father when a beggar came to him and asked for alms. Francis not only gave him his father's money but his own as well. When he got home, his father scolded him in rage.

In 1205 Francis enlisted in another military expedition to Apicia. He had there a dream, where God appeared to him and said, "Francis I want you to fight my campaigns instead ". He returned home and gave up his playboy lifestyle and determined, despite all the ridicule, to follow the new course that God has planned for him.

Two years later Francis had another dream where Christ called him to repair his church. Francis took him literally and, in the middle of winter, he sold some of his father's cloth to purchase stones for the local damaged church of San Damiano. His father unsurprisingly demanded the money back. Francis renounced his father and his patrimony, laying aside even the garments he had received from him in front of the public. He embraced the life of a penitent, during which he restored several ruined chapels in the countryside around Assisi.

Eventually Francis realized Christ had been talking about the world wide church and not just his local one. From then on he aspired to reform the world by preaching.


On February 24, 1209 Francis heard a sermon based on Matthew 10:9 that changed his life forever. The gospel passage recounts Christ telling his followers they should go forth and proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven was upon them, that they should take no money with them, nor even a walking stick or shoes for the road. Francis was inspired to devote himself to a life of poverty.

Francis started wearing a coarse grey cloth habit with a pointed hood, under tunic drawers and a waistcoat. Clad in a rough garment, barefoot, and, after the Gospel precept, without staff or scrip, he began to preach repentance.

Francis of Assisi attracted many followers captivated by his happy demeanor. "It is not fitting", he taught "when one is in God's service to have a gloomy face or a chilling look."

Francis called his associates Friars minor (Lesser brothers). These Friars went about preaching and teaching in the local language, not Latin, healing the sick and worshipping God. They sung songs of praise and prayer as they walked around on their travels.

Francis and his eleven followers walked barefoot to Rome to ask Pope Innocent III for official recognition as an order. The pope was dubious, but after a dream in which he saw the church was bursting apart and a poor man, whom he identified as Francis appearing to hold it together, he granted their wish.

The Pope approving the statutes of the Order of the Franciscans, by Giotto, 1295–1300. By PHGCOM. Wikipedia Commons

According to tradition, the official founding date of the Franciscan Order was April 16, 1210.

They adopted  rules based on Jesus' instructions to his disciples. Francis and his followers spent their days working, begging or preaching, the evenings sleeping and at midnight they rose to pray.

Good humored Francis and his fellow Friars were known as God's Jesters as their joy was so contagious. As Francis was hoeing his garden he was asked "what would you do, if you were suddenly to learn that you were to die at sunset today?" Francis replied  "I would finish hoeing my garden."

In 1211 the 17 year old Chiara Scifi, a heiress of Assisi, heard Francis preach the Lenten Sermon in San Rufino and was so struck by what he said that she began to meet with the Saint to discuss her vocation. As a result she and Francis formed the Poor Clares, an order for women.

In his later years, sickened by the increasing businesslike organisation of his order,  Francis retired to a hermitage of Mount Alvernina, to live in secluded prayer.

Francis liked to use drama as a teaching tool. For instance he enacted the nativity story in a stable with live animals, thus originating the nativity play.

In 1219, during the Fifth Crusade Francis went to Egypt accompanied by another friar to ask for peace. The pair were brought to Muhammad Al-Kamil, the Sultan of Egypt, whom they attempted to convert. Though unsuccessful,  the sultan did ask Francis to pray that God would show him the true law and faith and  is treatment at the hands of an assumed enemy of the faith caused the leader of the Franciscans to rewrite the rules of his order to assert the possibility of living at peace with Muslims.

He attempted to convert the Sultan of Egypt,and though unsuccessful,  the sultan did ask Francis to pray that God would show him the true law and faith and he respected him for rising against the patriotic feelings
of the day.


Francis went in for jovial singing, he especially loved jolly French songs and music played on the fiddle. He possessed no musical instrument so he accompanied himself by sawing one stick with another.

Francis wrote  Canticle For The Sun which he and his fellow Friars would sing as they walked around preaching. The song praised God for:

"Brother Sun, Sister Water and Mother Earth".
All Praise be Yours, My Lord, Through all that you have made
And first my Lord Brother Sun
Who brings the day; and light you gave to us through Him."

Francis felt that nature, all God's creations, were part of his brotherhood. The sparrow was as much his brother as the Pope. He considered all nature as the mirror of God.

Many stories have been told of Francis'  ability to charm wild animals It was said that he would talk to the animals and they would talk back. In fact most of these stories originate from a book, The Little Flowers Of Saint Francis, which was written a century after his death.

It was often reported that wild animals—rabbits, birds, even a wolf—became tame before Francis of Assisi. He especially cared for animals that were associated with Christ. If he saw a lamb being led off to slaughter, he would try to rescue it by pleading or trading for it.

Legend of St. Francis, Sermon to the Birds, upper Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi

Despite his refusal to kill any animals Francis was not a vegetarian. He was particularly partial to pig’s knuckles and chicken legs and marzipan.

Occasionally Francis enjoyed a fancy pastry and on his deathbed asked a dear friend, Lady Jacob to bring him some almond cakes.

Francis observed literally Jesus' command to "take no thought for the morrow." He would not allow the cook of his Order even to soak vegetables overnight for cooking the next day.


Rather unattractive. Francis was dark with a slight build, short head, prominent ears and spindly legs. As a young man he was gaily attired.

Oldest known portrait in existence of the saint, dating back to St. Francis' retreat to Subiaco (1223–1224): 

After his conversion Francis looked like a bare foot beggar, with his unkempt beard.

In his old age Francis' body was bent over by a lifetime of prayer and fasting.

Before his conversion Francis, spent his money on magnificent clothing. When, in the middle of winter, Francis sold some of his father's cloth to purchase stones for a church building, his father demanded the money back. In front of the Bishop's palace  the eager young Christian not only returned his fathers money but his own clothes declaring  "naked I will go to the Lord". One of the Bishop's farm hands gave the frozen Francis his own tunic.

From then on Francis clad himself in a coarse grey cloth habit with a pointed hood, under tunic drawers and a waistcoat. His sackcloth robe was tied at the waist by a plain cord with three knots representing the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. When the Franciscans first appeared in England in 1224 they were called Greyfriars.

Francis listed personal filthiness among the insignia of piety in line with the early teachings of the Christian Church.


On September 29, 1220, Francis handed over the governance of the Order to Brother Peter Catani at the Porziuncola.

After a period of ecstatic prayer during a 40 day fast on Mount Alverno, in the Apennines, Francis saw in 1224, a radiant fiery angel with six wings carrying a crucified man. He went into a trance and stigmata appeared. It was as if long pointed nails were in his hands and feet and a spear wound  in his side. The stigmata was attested to by two Popes , Gregory 1X and Alexander 1V.

Francis had to keep his feet bandaged because of the stigmata, and and because he couldn't walk on them he had to use a donkey.

Francis considered his stigmata part of the Imitation of Christ Cigoli, 1699

By 1226, Francis was a very sick man, in great pain from gastric ulcers, often feverish from malaria and growing blind from an eye condition he had contracted in the East. For the latter he underwent the somewhat unpleasant treatment of burning the problem in his eye away with hot irons.

Francis nicknamed his illnesses his sisters, and he apologized to "Brother Ass the body" for having improperly encumbered him with his penances.

When Francis of Assisi realized he was dying he was happy. He sent a farewell letter to Chiara and asked for his favorite marzipan and some music.

Francis died on the evening of October 3, 1226 at the Church of St Mary of the Angels in Portinuncula Assisi singing Psalm 142, "Voce mea ad Dominum".

After Francis of Assisi died, the head of his order, Brother Elias, feared Saracens would steal his body. So he hid Francis' coffin beneath the main altar in the Basilica of Saint Francis.The plan worked, his exact burial place remained unknown until it was re-discovered in 1818.

On July 16, 1228, Francis was pronounced a saint by Pope Gregory IX.

Saint Francis' feast day is observed on October 4th. It has become customary for Catholic and Anglican churches to hold ceremonies blessing animals on his feast day.

Beginning on October 3rd, the town of Assisi lights oil lamps using consecrated oil in remembrance of the saint.

Gary Holloway, who founded the Martin Van Buren fan club as Van Buren was the only American President without one, had a penchant for dressing up like Francis. His reasoning was that the habit is "comfortable, fun to wear and people offer me a seat on the bus."

Sources,, Food For Thought by Ed Pearce

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Francis II of France

Francis was born January 19, 1544 at the Château de Fontainebleau, France. He was born eleven years after the wedding of his parents' Henry II of France and Catherine de' Medici.

Having failed to produce any children in the first decade of her marriage, Catherine de' Medici wenr on to bear four siblings for Francis., Elizabeth of Valois, Charles IX of France, Henry III of France and Margaret of Valois.

Francis II of France

When the Dauphin Francis was three, his father Henry II, agreed to unite France and Scotland by marrying him to the Scottish Queen, Mary Queen Of Scots. She was two years older than him.

With her marriage agreement in place, Mary was sent to France in 1548, at the age of five, to be brought up for the next ten years at the French court.

The 14-year-old Francis married Mary Queen of Scots at Notre Dame in Paris on April 24, 1558.

Francis ascended the throne of France at the age of fifteen after the accidental death of his father, Henry II, on July 10, 1559.

The king and his spouse Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots (painted around 1558).

The fragile Francis II suffered from reoccurring headaches and dizzy spells. In addition he had a face swollen with boils and a constantly runny nose.

In France Jean Nicot used tobacco to cure Francis II of headaches, so it acquired the name nicotine.

The health of the king deteriorated in November 1560. After returning from a cold November days hunting he complained of a pain in his heart. After only 17 months on the throne, Francis II died on December 5, 1560 in Orléans, Loiret.

Francis I of France

Francis I of France (1494-1547) was born in Cognac, France on September 12, 1494. He was the only son of Charles, Count of Angoulême, and Louise of Savoy and a great-great-grandson of King Charles V.

King Charles VIII died childless in 1498, and was succeeded by Louis XII, who had no male heir. The four-year-old Francis became the heir presumptive to the throne of France and was vested with the title of Duke of Valois.

Francis I painted in 1515

In 1505, Louis XII, having fallen ill, ordered that his daughter Claude and Francis be married immediately. The marriage took place on May 18, 1514.

Louis died the beginning of the next year and Francis inherited the throne. He was crowned King of France in the Cathedral of Reims on January 25, 1515.

Queen Claude of France, Duchess of Brittany

Claude spent almost all her marriage in an endless round of annual pregnancies. Francis had many mistresses, but was usually relatively discreet.

They had seven children, two died before turning eight, another two died at the ages of eighteen to twenty-three. The remaining three were: Henry, King of France, Madeline, Queen of Scotland and Margaret, Duchess of Berry.

Claude died on July 20, 1524 at the Château de Blois, aged twenty-four. The exact cause of her death was disputed among sources and historians. Francis remarried several years after Claude's death, to Eleanor of Austria, the sister of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.

By the time Francis ascended the throne, the Renaissance had arrived in France, and the new French king became an enthusiastic patron of the arts. He employed Leonardo Da Vinci as the "First Painter, Architect & Mechanic of the King."

After Leonardo da Vinci's death in 1519, King Francis, hung the Mona Lisa in his bathroom.

Francis/ well educated sister, Marguerite de Navarre, (1492-1549) helped him make the French court one of the main centers of intellectual life in Europe. A fervent Christian as well as an educated woman, Margaret took an interest in the teachings of Luther and Calvin and followed their ideas.

A great lover of poultry and veal, with the arrival of the Florentine cooks schooled in the subtleties of Renaissance cooking, Francis revived the days of opulent eating and drinking.

When Francis met King Henry VIII of England at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520,  his clothing was bedecked with some 13,600 gold buttons.

After Francis accidentally burned his hair with a torch, his male subjects started wearing their hair short and trimming their beards and mustaches.

On February 24, 1525 Francis suffered a devastating defeat at the Battle of Pavia during the Italian Wars. The French king was captured by the forces of Charles V and imprisoned in Madrid.

Battle of Pavia 1525

In the Treaty of Madrid, Francis was forced to make major concessions to the Holy Roman Emperor before he was freed on March 17, 1526.

It was during Francis' reign that Martin Luther's preaching and writing led to the formation of the Protestant movement, which spread through much of Europe, including France. Francis was relatively tolerant of the new movement. However The French Parliament took  advantage of Francis’ absence in Madrid to pass such anti-Lutheran laws as banning translations of the Bible into French.

Francis' attitude toward Protestantism changed for the worse following the "Affair of the Placards", on the night of October 17, 1534, in which notices appeared on the streets of Paris and other major cities denouncing the Catholic mass. They even posted one on the door of the king's bedchamber in Amboise. Francis came to view the movement as a plot against him and began to persecute its followers. Protestants were jailed and executed and in some areas whole villages were destroyed.

Placard contre la messe,

During his imprisonment in Madrid, Francis wrote in a letter to his mother, "Of all things, nothing remains to me but honor and life, which is safe." This line has come down in history famously as "All is lost save honor."

Francis was also renowned as a man of letters and the king worked diligently at improving the royal library In 1537, he decreed that his library be given a copy of every book to be sold in France.

Mummy-based panaceas were once popular as quack medicine. Francis I took a daily dose of ancient Egyptian mummy to build strength—like a multivitamin made of corpse.

Francis suffered from intestinal problems in his last years. A Jewish doctor from Constantinople treated him with yogurt, which at the time was little known in western Europe.

Francis I died on March 31, 1547 at the Château de Rambouillet. There were rumors that his cause of death was syphilis.

Francis is buried in the Saint Denis Basilica, along with his first wife, Claude, Duchess of Brittany. He was succeeded by his son, Henry II.

Sources Wikipedia, Food For Thought by Ed Pearce

Saturday, 21 February 2015


The name "France" comes from the Latin Francia, which means "country of the Franks."

France and Great Britain were joined by land until about 10,000 years ago when the English Channel was formed.

Ninth-century Kings of France include Charles the Bald, Charles the Fat and Charles the Simple.

For a long time during the Middle Ages, the kings only controlled Paris and the surrounding area, as much of the rest of France was in the hands of barons or English. During the Hundred Years War, the English controlled Paris from 1420 to 1437.

In 1558 Francis, Duke of Guise, retook Calais, England's last continental possession, for France.

The English nickname ‘Frogs’ for the French was originally applied to the Dutch during the 17th century Anglo-Dutch Wars.

France became the first country to adopt the metric system as its system for weights and measures on December 10, 1799.

The flag of France is a vertical tricolour of blue, white, and red. The tricolour design by Jacques-Louis David was first adopted on  February 15, 1794. The royal white flag was used during the Bourbon restoration from 1815 to 1830; the tricolour was brought back after the July Revolution and has been used ever since 1830.The Tricolour has become one of the most influential flags in history, with its three-color scheme being copied by many other nation.

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, France possessed the second-largest colonial empire in the world.

France is the EU’s largest country in area and the second largest (after Germany) in population.

France is the most visited country in the world. Around 82,000 foreign tourists visit France each year, more than the entire population.

The Louvre in Paris is the world’s most visited art museum.

There are 40,000 chateaux in France.

France has won the most Nobel Prizes for Literature - 16 to date. The UK comes next with 12.

The French are the world’s biggest consumers of mood-altering drugs - around 25% have taken anti-depressants or tranquillisers.

The average person in France sleeps 8.83 hours per day, the most in the developed world.

France is the leading agricultural producer and exporter in Europe. It is the only European country to be completely self-sufficient in basic food production.

France is a secular country and the constitution guarantees freedom of religion. The population is about 51% Roman Catholic, and 31% of people are agnostics or atheists.

Sources Daily Mail, Daily Express


Rarely kept as a pet, the Foxhound is a pack dog kept as a fox hunter.

The English Foxhound originated in England in 13th century when fox hunting was the fashion.
It was bred from many old Hound breeds, including, Bulldogs, Greyhounds, Stag hounds, and Terriers.

The foxhound has the longest documented history of any breed, with Hound pack records dating back to the late 1700s.

A foxhound called Old Drum is said to have been the inspiration for the phrase "Man's Best Friend" which arose from an 1870 court case regarding him.

Virginia designated the American foxhound as the official state dog in 1966.

Foxe's Book of Martyrs

In 1563 John Foxe, the Protestant preacher and writer, published The Actes and Monuments of These Latter and Perillous Dayes, which became known as The Book of Martyrs. It was a rather gory account of the lives of Protestant martyrs and their forerunners and such was its scope it was the largest publishing project undertaken in England to that time.

Foxe substantially expanded The Book of Martyrs between 1563 and 1570 with several editions. For a 1583 printing Foxe added a "Discourse of the Bloody Massacre In France [St. Bartholomew's. Day, 1572]" and other short pieces.

After Foxe's death in 1587, The Book of Martyrs continued to be published and in 1610 brought the work "up to the time of King James." Later editions included the 1588 Spanish invasion  and the Gunpowder Plot.. The editor for the 1641 edition brought it to "the time of Charles, now King."

Sir Francis Drake took a copy of Foxe's Book of Martyrs with him on his voyages.

Source Wikipedia

Fox Terrier

There are two main breeds of Fox Terrier, Smooth and Wire, both of which originated in England. In addition, there are several descendant breeds which have been developed in a variety of countries.

The Wire and Smooth Fox Terriers share similar characteristics, the main differences being in the coat and markings.

There is a figure of Caesar, King Edward VII's  favorite dog, a Wire Fox Terrier at his tomb at Windsor Castle. He wasn't the favorite of visiting ambassadors mainly because he used to mistake their legs for lampposts. The faithful Caesar led the funeral coterage when the king died.

Igloo, a Wire Fox Terrier travelled everywhere with the explorer Admiral Byrd in the 1920s, including flying over both the North and South Poles. 

Fox Hunting

Fox hunting originated in the United Kingdom in the 16th century  It  became a favourite country pursuit, providing a fine spectacle with the red or scarlet coats of the huntsmen.

The steeplechase horse race originated from a bet in an eighteenth century hunt club. After a bad day fox hunting, one man suggested a race to a steeple in a straight line. To stay on the line, the racers had to overcome obstacles.

In mid 19th century England fox lovers sabotaged the hunt by dragging pungent red herrings (salted and smoked red to preserve them), along the route away from the fox. The hounds become confused, following the scent of the herring rather than the fox, hence the phrase “red herring” meaning to follow the wrong clue.

Despite being of great weight, the English writer Anthony Trollope had a passion for fox hunting. Two or three times a week he went hunting on a cart horse leaving destruction everywhere.

Oscar Wilde never took up hunting, he said of fox hunting that it was "The English country gentleman galloping after a fox- the unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable."

Hunting with dogs is now banned in the United Kingdom, though hunting without dogs is still permitted.

Source Red Herrings and White Elephants: The Origins Of The Phrases We Use Every Day by Albert Jack 

George Fox

In 1643 the 19-year-old son of an English Puritan weaver, George Fox (1624-1691) heard an “inner voice” telling him to become a travelling preacher.  Fox begun travelling from village to village speaking against formalized religion, arguing for a Spirit-filled Christianity where all believers have an equal status and proclaiming his “inner light” doctrine that God is present within everyone.

Fox objected to political and religious authority and opposed war, (he interpreted the command in Matthew 5 v 39 “Do not resist one who is evil”, literally). He proclaimed that all human actions should be directed by inner contemplation and a social conscience.

By 1648, Fox had gathered a following of people attracted by his pacifist views, but the authorities turned against those followers of his who refused to take up arms and imprisoned them.

Fox, himself, was jailed at Derby on a trumped-up charge of blasphemy in 1650. When he was sentenced, the preacher warned the Judge, Gervasse Bennet, to “tremble at the word of the Lord”. Bennet responds by contemptuously calling Fox and his followers, “Quakers”.

In 1652 George Fox felt God lead him to walk up Pendle Hill, in the north of England. At the top he had a vision of many souls being coming to Christ From Pendle Hill, Fox travelled north to Sedbergh, and there he preached on the nearby Firbank Hill where he convinced many to accept his teachings of the “inner light”. Encouraged he began preaching in the open air to thousands and gradually collected a group of young male and female Quaker evangelists who spread out preaching Fox’s message.

The movement continued to grow despite much persecution in Britain and America and by Fox's death on January 13, 1691 there were around fifty thousand Quakers. 


Fox tossing was a popular 17th-century sport; the fox was fired into the air using a sling.

A wild fox wandered into the United States Supreme Court building in 2002 and eluded capture for more than a day

Foxes are found on all continents (except Antarctica), mostly living in forest, shrubland, and desert regions.

They were not native to Australia, but red foxes were introduced there in the early 19th century for sport, and have since become widespread through much of the country.

In the wild, the typical lifespan of a fox is one to three years, although individuals may live up to ten years.

The gray fox is one of only two canine species known to climb trees; the other is the raccoon dog.

Foxes are the only type of dog capable of retracting their claws like cats do.

Foxes use the Earth’s magnetic field to hunt.

The Arctic fox lives in some of the most frigid extremes on Earth but does not start to shiver until the temperature drops to −70 °C (−94 °F). The fur of the Arctic fox provides the best insulation of any mammal.

Arctic fox Wikipedia

Ravens are known to make calls which lead foxes to dead animals. The foxes break carcasses apart, so the birds can feast.

Foxes have 28 different types of calls.

They can hear a watch tick from 40 yards away.

A group of foxes could be called an ‘earth’, a ‘lead’ a 'skulk' or a ‘leash’

A female fox is called a "vixen" while a male fox is called a "tod" or a "dog fox."

The flying fox is not a fox – it is a bat.

Stephen Foster

Stephen Foster was born in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania., on July 4, 1826 of well-to-do parents. He was of Scotch-Irish ancestry.

By the time Foster was 15-years-old, he had already composed a waltz for four flutes. He entered Jefferson College in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, but his only interest was music and he left college after only a month.

His family objected to a musical career, and in 1846 Foster went to Cincinnati to be a bookkeeper for his brother's steamship company.

Foster's first great musical success was "Oh! Susanna" which was first performed in the Eagle Ice Cream Saloon in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on September 11, 1847. It became an anthem of the California Gold Rush.

Original sheet music

In the late 1840s Foster returned home to concentrate on being a songwriter. He signed a contract with the Christy Minstrels and it was during this period that Foster would write most of his best-known songs such as "Camptown Races" (1850), "Swanee River" ((1851) and "My Old Kentucky Home" (1853).

Foster was the first man to be paid a royalty on sheet music sales and the first American to make a career of writing songs.

Foster married Jane Denny MacDowell on July 22, 1850 in Trinity Episcopal Church, Pittsburgh. He wrote “Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair" for her four years later. They had one daughter, Marion, but their marriage was troubled and the couple separated.

Never very astute financially, in 1857 Foster sold all rights to future songs to his publishers for $1,900. Profits went largely to the publishers and performers.

In 1860 Foster  moved to New York City, but separated from his wife, his fortunes decreased . Impoverished, he died in Bellevue Hospital, New York City on January 13, 1864 of alcoholism and a fall from his bed  Soon afterwards, Foster's renamed publishing company, William A. Pond Co., published the last song he wrote a few days before his death, "Beautiful Dreamer."

During his lifetime Foster earned only $15,091.08 in royalties from his sheet music. He died with 38 cents in his pocket.

Foster is known as the "father of American music." He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.

Foster commemorative stamp in the Famous American Composers series, 1940

“My Old Kentucky Home" is the official state song of Kentucky and "Swanee River" is the official state song of Florida.

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

Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster was born in Los Angeles on November 19, 1962 as the youngest of four children of Evelyn Ella "Brandy" (née Almond) and Lucius Fisher Foster III.

Jodie Foster at the César awards ceremony. By Georges Biard, Wikipedia

Her father, a decorated U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel turned real estate broker, came from a wealthy background and left his wife before Foster was born.

Jodie was a gifted child, and was reading by the time she was three-years-old and began her career as a child model at the same age.

Jodie Foster learned to speak fluent French when she attended a French-language prep school in Los Angeles. She spoke her own lines in the 1977 film Moi, fleur bleue and has been known to dub herself in the French versions of her movies.

Her big sister, Connie, acted as her body double in sexually suggestive scenes in the movie Taxi Driver, in which a 12-year-old Jodie Foster played a child prostitute.

Jodie Foster starred in five feature films in total in 1976 (including Taxi Driver, Bugsy Malone and Freaky Friday), winning two Baftas, an Oscar nomination, and countless other awards.

Jodie Foster graduated in 1980 as the class valedictorian from the private academy Lycée Français in Los Angeles.

Trying to impress Jodie Foster, obsessed fan John Hinckley, Jr. shot and wounded President Ronald Reagan and three others outside the Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C in 1981.

Jodie Foster enjoys kickboxing, yoga, karate, aerobics, and weightlifting and collects fancy kitchenware and black and white photos.

Foster is openly lesbian and is married to actress Alexandra Hedison.


The word "fossil" is derived from the Latin word "fossilis" literally meaning "obtained by digging."

Scientists announced in 2016 that the Isua Greenstone Belt, Greenland, contains the world's oldest fossils that formed approximately 3.7 billion years ago.

In 2017, scientists announced the discovery of microfossils within rocks dated between 3.77 and 4.28 billion years old from Northern Quebec, Canada, making them the oldest fossils of life on Earth.

The extinct reptile Nyasasaurus is described as the possible oldest known dinosaur from 243-million-year old fossils discovered in Tanzania.

On April 4, 1796 the French zoologist Georges Cuvier delivered his first paleontological lecture at École Centrale du Pantheon of the National Museum of Natural History on living and fossil remains of elephants and related species, founding the science of Paleontology.

Cuvier with a fish fossil. By Wikipedia Commons

Thomas Jefferson studied and classified fossils at a time when the investigations of these objects was in it's infancy.

On November 21, 1953, the Piltdown Man skull, one of the most highly regarded fossils, was revealed to be a hoax.

The first fossil in space was a Maiasaura dinosaur fossil taken on a space shuttle mission in 1985.

The ginkgo tree is considered a living fossil because the only species relative we know of is from fossil records.

Formula One

The first World Championship for motor racing drivers under the jurisdiction of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) was contested in 1950.

The first race was the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on May 13. 1950. It was won by Italian driver Giuseppe Farina, driving an Alfa Romeo. Farina would go on to become the first FIA World Champion after winning the 1950 Italian Grand Prix on September 3, 1950.

Giuseppe Farina

It was at the wheel of the Brabham BT3 that Jack Brabham became the first driver ever in 1966 to score Formula One World Championship points in a race car of his own manufacture. It remains the only such achievement using a car bearing the driver's own name.

The use of seat belts in F1 wasn't mandatory until 1976.

Fifty drivers have suffered fatal accidents while driving Formula One cars since the creation of the Formula One World Championship in 1950. Thirty-two of the drivers died during World Championship Grand Prix race weekends, seven during test sessions and eleven during non-championship Formula One events.

Only two Formula One Champions have died while racing or practicing in Formula One, Jochen Rindt in 1970, and Ayrton Senna in 1994. Rindt is the only driver to win the championship posthumously.

When 23-year-old Sebastian Vettel won the Drivers' Championship after winning the final race of the season on November 14, 2010, he became the youngest Formula One champion ever.

At 120 miles per hour, a Formula One car generates so much downforce that it could drive upside down on the roof of a tunnel.

When Max Verstappen made his Formula One debut, aged 17 years, 166 days, at the 2015 Australian Grand Prix, he became the the youngest World Championship Grand Prix driver. With the rules now preventing any driver under 18 to be given a super licence, Verstappen's record will probably never be surpassed.

Max Verstappen By Foto: Stefan Brending, Lizenz:  Wikipedia Commons
Max Verstappen became the youngest driver to win a Formula One race by winning the Spanish Grand Prix on May 15, 2016 aged 18 years and 228 days.

Formula 1 cars don't have airbags because, with a five-point harness and a HANS device, the driver's head will never hit the front of a car.


Forging money was punishable by death in the UK from 1697 till 1832, when the sentence was reduced to transportation.

Henry Fauntleroy was the last man hanged in Britain for forgery in 1824. He stole £20,000 in fake cheques from a bank his father founded.

The astronaut Neil Armstrong refused all requests for autographs since 1994, after he found that his signed items were selling for large amounts of money and that many forgeries were in circulation.



The word forest comes from the Latin foris meaning “out of doors”.

By Donar Reiskoffer, Wikipedia Commons

William the Conqueror cleared 225 Saxon villages during his reign to create the New Forest in southern England, which became a royal hunting area.

William the Conqueror's son, William Rufus, succeeded his father to the throne in 1087. Thirteen years later he was killed in a hunting accident in the New Forest. There is a legend that claims the king died because locals had placed a curse on him for stealing their land.

The destruction under Genghis Khan may have scrubbed as much as 700 million tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere by allowing forests to regrow on previously populated and cultivated land.

Louis XIV's minister of finance had the huge Forest of Troncais created in 1670 to provide the future French Navy with a supply of oak masts. When the forest reached maturity 250 years later, the navy was busy switching to steam ships.

During his presidency, Theodore Roosevelt established 150 National Forests.

On September 24, 1950 forest fires blacked out the sun over portions of Canada and New England. A blue moon was seen as far away as Europe.

The average distance between patches of forest in the U.S. increased by nearly 1,690 feet—or 14%—between 1992 and 2001.

The International Day of Forests, March 21, was established by resolution of the United Nations General Assembly on November 28, 2012. Each year, various events celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests, and trees outside forests, for the benefit of current and future generations.


Over two million square miles of the Amazon basin is virgin rain forest, containing 30% of all known plant and animal species.

The Amazon rain forest is considered by many to be the world’s largest, containing one-fifth of the world’s freshwater reserves and producing one-third of the earth’s oxygen.

The Taiga region in the far north, covering much of Canada, Alaska, Scandinavia and Russia, is considered by some to be the world’s largest forest.

Around one third of all the trees on earth are conifers in the Taiga.

A forest the size of Wales is needed to supply the paper used in the UK every year.

Due to the deforestation of the forests in North China, over one million tons of sands blows into Beijing from the Gobi desert. It sometimes causes the sky to turn yellow.

New Hampshire is the most tree-covered of the lower 48 American states. 89 percent of it is covered in forest.

Malaysia has the world's oldest rainforests. The forests of Sabah are the home of trees towering over one hundred metres high.

20% of the world's forests are found in Russia.

Officials in Siak, Indonesia are using trained elephants outfitted with water pumps and hoses to help control forest fires.

Lightning is the cause of most forest fires.

Forest fires move faster uphill than downhill.

You can remove all the birds and still have a forest, but if you remove all the fungi, the forest will die.

Foreign Legion

The French Foreign Legion was created by King Louis Phillipe in 1831 to keep potential dissidents busy fighting for France rather than against it. Because enlistment historically required no official identification, many criminals joined under assumed names to hide their unsavory backgrounds.

Soldiers of the French Foreign Legion can immediately apply for French citizenship if wounded during battle.

A new recruit to the French Foreign Legion is paid £1,018 a month net. Food and lodging is included.

While the normal marching cadence is 116 paces per minute, the French Foreign Legion soldiers come on at a measured 88.

Ford Motor Company

Henry Ford completed the Ford Quadricycle, his first gasoline-powered automobile in 1896.

Ford Motor Company was founded at Detroit on June 16, 1903, with Henry Ford appointing himself chief engineer.

The Ford Motor Company sold its first car on July 15, 1903 to a Chicago dentist named Pfennig. An $850 two-cylinder Model A automobile with a tonneau (or backseat), the car was delivered to Dr. Pfenning just over a week later.

A Miss Rosetta Couzens bought one share in the Ford company in its very early days for $100. That investment bought her a profit of $355,000.

The first production of the Ford Model T automobile was built at the Piquette Plant in Detroit, Michigan on September 27, 1908. It had the steering wheel on the left, which every other company soon copied. The entire engine and transmission were enclosed; the four cylinders were cast in a solid block; the suspension used two semi-elliptic springs.

Piquette Avenue Plant as it appeared during its occupancy by Ford with a Model N in the foreground

The Model T was very simple to drive, and easy and cheap to repair. It was so cheap at $825 in 1908 ($21,650 today) (the price fell every year) that by the 1920s, a majority of American drivers had learned to drive on the Model T.

Ford introduced methods for large-scale manufacturing of cars and large-scale management of an industrial workforce using elaborately engineered manufacturing sequences typified by moving assembly lines, which first operated on December 1, 1913; by 1914 these methods were known around the world as Fordism.

Ford Motor Company proudly announced on January 5, 1914 that it would pay a "living wage" of at least US$5 for a day's labor and a (shortened) eight-hour work day.

In 1914, the production line for Model T Ford cars took only 93 minutes to assemble a car.

Ford assembly line, 1913. The magneto assembly line was the first

In the early 1920s half the cars in the world were Model T's.

Henry Ford produced the model T only in black because the black paint available at the time was the fastest to dry.

Henry Ford's initial offer for the Model T was "any color you like as long as it is black." In 1925 he recanted and offered a choice of colors.

On September 25, 1926, the Ford Motor Company instituted a five-day, 40-hour work week for its automotive factory employees. They were one of the first companies in America to adopt this. The policy was extended to Ford’s office workers the following August.

Henry Ford had a "Sociological Department" that would show up at employees' homes unannounced to make sure it was clean and the kids were going to school.

The last Ford Model T rolled off the assembly line on May 31, 1927 after a production run of 15,007,003 vehicles.

1925 Ford "New Model" T Tudor Sedan

Ford introduced the Model A on December 2, 1927, the first car with safety glass in the windshield.

The Ford River Rouge Complex is a 1,100-acre automobile factory complex located in Dearborn, Michigan, along the Rouge River. Construction began in 1917, and when it was completed in 1928 it had become the largest integrated factory in the world.

The 25,000,000th Ford car drove off the assembly line, on January 18, 1937.

The Ford Popular, Britain's first £100 car was introduced in 1939.

In the period from 1937 to 1941, Ford was the only major car manufacturer in the Detroit area that had not recognized any labor union as the collective bargaining representative of employees. At hearings before the National Labor Relations Board Henry Ford was found guilty of repeated violations of the National Labor Relations Act. The findings against him were upheld on appeal to the federal courts.

Henry Ford patented a plastic automobile on January 13, 1942. It was 30% lighter than a regular car.

The Ford Thunderbird began life in February 1953 in direct response to Chevrolet's new sports car, the Corvette. Production of the Thunderbird began the following year with the car beginning sales as a 1955 model on October 22, 1954.

The Ford company went public in 1956 but the Ford family, through special Class B shares, still retain 40 percent voting rights

After turning down 18,000 names, the Ford Motor Company decided to name their new car the "Edsel," in 1956 after Henry Ford's only son.

The Ford Motor Company produced its 50 millionth automobile on March 16, 1958, averaging almost a million cars a year since the company's founding. The 50 millionth was the popular 1958 model of the Ford Thunderbird.

1958 Ford Thunderbird

With the Edsel, The Ford Motor Company had expected to make significant inroads into the market share of both General Motors and Chrysler. However, the Edsel never gained popularity with contemporary American car buyers and sold poorly. On November 19, 1969  Ford announced the discontinuation of the unpopular Edsel.

A 1958 Edsel Corsair, registered in Bottrop, Germany photo by Michael Kistinger
Robert McNamara was named president of Ford Motor Co on November 9, 1960, the first non-Ford to serve in that post. A month later, he resigned to join the administration of newly elected John F. Kennedy.

Robert McNamara

The first Ford Mustang rolled off the show room floor on April 15, 1964. Two days later it was introduced to the public at the New York World's Fair.

When a Mustang appeared in the James Bond film Goldfinger in September 1964, it was the first time the car had been used in a movie.

1965 Ford Mustang photographed in Alexandria, Virginia, USA

The 1965 Mustang was the automaker's most successful launch since the Model A.

Ford Motor Company celebrated the production of its one millionth Mustang, a white convertible, on March 2, 1966.

Ford unveiled the sports saloon, the Capri in 1969.

The very last Ford Thunderbird ever made emerged from a Ford factory in Wixom, Michigan on July 1, 1970.

In 1971 Ford launched a ‘Pinto’ range. The car struggled to sell in Brazil as the word is slang for male genitals.

Both David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser in the cop show;Starsky & Hutch (1975-79) drove Fords. Hutch had a Galaxie 500 – but it was Starsky’s ‘Striped Tomato’ that had its own fanbase. It was so popular that it played a key role in the 2004 movie.

The Ford Model T was named the most influential car of the 20th century in the 1999 Car of the Century competition, ahead of the BMC Mini, Citroën DS, and Volkswagen Type 1,

The Ford GT broke the crushing machine used in the “roof crush” safety test because it’s so strong.

Sources Encarta Encyclopedia, Wikipedia

Friday, 20 February 2015

Henry Ford


Henry Ford was born on July 30, 1863 on a prosperous farm in Greenfield Township, Michigan. His mother, Mary, died when Henry was 13. His father, William, was an Irish immigrant who came across from county Cork during the potato famine.

As a child, Henry was passionate about mechanics, preferring to tinker in his father's shop over doing farm chores.

For eight years Henry attended a one-roomed school in the winter and helped on the family farm in the summer. At his local school only an exceptional mechanical ability was apparent.

Henry's father gave him a pocket watch when he was 13. He made a screw driver out of a knitting needle  and within a year or two, Henry was dismantling and reassembling the timepieces of friends and neighbors dozens of times, gaining the reputation of a watch repairman.

As he grew older, Henry became more and more fascinated by engines and one day he noticed a tractor parked by the side of the road. He studied the mechanism and asked the driver how fast the engine could run. The reply of 200 turns a minute gave Henry the inspiration for the motor car business.


In 1879, at the age of 16 Ford left home to find work in machine shops. He got a job as an apprentice machinist in Detroit, first with James F. Flower & Bros., and later with the Detroit Dry Dock Co.

Ford earned $2.50 from his first machinist job in Detroit. As his board and lodging was $2.50 a week, he he had to work for four hours every evening for a watchmaker for $2.00 a week to pay his way.

After three years, Ford returned to the family farm, where he worked part-time for the Westinghouse Engine Company becoming adept at operating their portable steam engine, In spare moments he tinkered in a little machine shop that he had set up.

At the age of 21 Ford's father gave him a 40 acre plot in an attempt to get him away from machinery (he expected him to eventually take over the family farm.). Even there Ford set up a sawmill and sold lumber. Eventually he built a small "farm locomotive," a tractor that used an old mowing machine for its chassis and a homemade steam engine for power.

Henry Ford in 1888
In 1891, Ford became an engineer with the Edison Illuminating Company. Two years later, he was promoted to chief engineer at the main Detroit Edison Company plant with responsibility for maintaining electric service in the city 24 hours a day.

When Ford explained his idea of a gasoline powered car to Thomas Edison, Edison encouraged Ford that he "had it". Ford claimed later that "No man up to then had given me any encouragement".

Because he was on call at all times, Ford had no regular hours and could experiment to his heart's content. After experimenting in his spare time he built his first self-propelled vehicle. A small one-cylinder gasoline model, which was capable of 25mph., he named it the Ford Quadricycle. He gave it a successful test run on June 4, 1896.

The Quadricycle had four wire wheels that looked like heavy bicycle wheels, was steered with a tiller like a boat, and had only two forward speeds with no reverse.

When Ford's Quadricycle was initially ready to be driven out of his workshop he had overlooked it was too wide to get it out of his doorway. So Ford smashed a hole through the wall with an axe.

Once Ford had maneuvered his Quadcycle out of his workshop he drove it round the streets of Dearborn and Detroit. Fascinated crowds gathered wherever he drove and terrified horses galloped away in panic.

Ford resigned from the Edison Company and founded the Detroit Automobile Company on August 5, 1899. However, the automobiles produced were of a lower quality and higher price than Ford had hoped for. Ultimately, the company was not successful and was dissolved in January 1901

He founded Ford Motor company at Detroit on June 16, 1903, appointing himself chief engineer. Three years later, Ford was appointed President.

The Ford Motor Company was incorporated with a mere $28,000 in cash put up by ordinary citizens. This was because Ford had, in his previous dealings with backers, antagonized the wealthiest men in Detroit.

Ford Motor Company produced the first Model T in 1908. It seated two people and cost at the time a cheap $850. He announced the birth of the Model T  thus "I will build a motor car for the great multitude."

Its introduction revolutionized transportation and American industry and the Model T .(nicknamed the Tin Lizzie) remained in production until 1927 with the car's price falling from $850 to $290.

In 1913 Ford pioneered the moving conveyor belt assembly line to make the Model T.

Ford assembly line, 1913

Ford was an early promoter of aviation, building the Dearborn Inn as the first airport hotel. (The airfield was across the street and is now the site of a Ford Motor Company test track.)

Ford heavily sponsored the Stout Metal Airplane Company, which developed the Ford Tri-Motor, an early airliner.

Ford invented the charcoal briquette with the help of Thomas Edison in 1920. The motor mogul created the briquette from the wood scraps and sawdust from his car factory. E.G. Kingsford bought the invention and put the charcoal briquette into commercial production.

Henry Ford patented a plastic automobile on January 13, 1942 known as the Soybean Car. It was 30% lighter than a regular motor vehicle.

When Ford retired in 1945 Ford Motor Co was worth over $1billion.

Henry Ford on the cover of Time magazine, January 14, 1935

He was the second US billionaire after John D Rockefeller.

Ford never threw away a letter or bill. It took his lawyers two years to sort out the five million documents he'd left after his death.


Ford married Clara Bryant in 1888 and initially supported himself by farming and running a sawmill. Clara had grown up on a farm not far from Ford's.

Clara drove an electric car and refused to drive the Ford Model T.

He named his only child Edsel after schoolboy friend Edsel Ruddiman. Edsel was president of Ford Motor Company from 1919 to his death of stomach cancer in 1943.

Ford  had an interest in American folk music, especially square dancing, and frequently sponsored square dance events.


A Protestant, Ford once proclaimed “I shall live again” when he announced he had been a convert to reincarnation at the age of 26.

Ford visited Europe in 1915-16 in attempt to end World War 1.  He proclaimed "we are going to try to get the boys out of the trenches before Christmas." Three weeks later Ford was back in the USA. "I didn't get much peace" he said " but I learned that Russia is going to be a great market for tractors."

President Woodrow Wilson asked Ford to run as a Democrat for the United States Senate from Michigan in 1918. Although the nation was at war, Ford ran as a peace candidate and a strong supporter of the proposed League of Nations. He was defeated in a close election by the Republican candidate, Truman Newberry, a former United States Secretary of the Navy.

A Chicago Tribune editorial called Ford an "ignorant idealist" because of his opposition to US. involvement in World War I. Ford took out a libel action  and while the jury found for the motor mogul, it awarded him only six cents.

In 1919 Ford became the publisher of the Dearborn Independent, a weekly journal, which at first published anti-Semitic material. After considerable public protest, Ford directed that publication of such articles be discontinued and that a public apology be made to the Jewish people.

His anti Semitic views prevented Ford from pursuing a possible nomination for the American presidency.

Ford was praised in Hitler's Mein Kampf and the future fuhrer kept a life-size portrait of the motor mogul next to his desk.

Henry Ford in 1919

Henry Ford was a proponent of hiring the handicapped. In 1919, more than 20% of his workforce had some form of disability.

Ford habitually washed his hair in water containing rusty razor blades as he believed that rusty water is a hair restorer.


In order to attract backers Ford built a racing car and entered it against the top racing driver of 1901, Alexander Winton. At the Gross Pointe Blue Ribbon track in Detroit Ford won by over one mile.

On January 12, 1904 Henry Ford set a land-speed record of 91.37 mph on the frozen surface of Michigan’s Lake St. Clair in his 70 Hp Arrow. As news of his record spread around the US, Ford's new car company garnered a much needed boost in sales.

Henry Ford standing next to driver Barney Oldfield with his car in 1902

Henry Ford was one of the early backers of the Indianapolis 500.


An advocate of a healthy diet, Ford campaigned for synthetic milk as he believed cows are too unhygienic.

Ford maintained that eating sugar was tantamount to committing suicide as its sharp crystals cut a person's stomach to shreds.

When he heard that the botanist George Washington Carver ate weed sandwiches every day, Ford decided to do the same.

A teetotaller, Ford declared "Nobody can drink alcohol and smoke without injuring their brains. It is easy for me. I don't like alcohol."

Ford was convinced that the soya bean could be converted into products with commercial value. He once appeared at a convention attempting to promote soya beans by dressing himself with a suit and tie, entirely produced from soya beans.


Ford's Fair Lane 1,300-acre estate in Dearborn, Michigan was named after an area in County Cork in Ireland where his adoptive grandfather, Patrick Ahern, was born.

Ford pent his winters at his holiday home at Daytona, on South West Florida next door to his friend and ex employer, Thomas Edison

In the early 1930s Henry Ford visited Stow-On-The Wold in the Cotswold area of England where he saw an old forge and a farm cottage. He proceeded to buy them and hired a local builder, Cox Howman, to take them down and rebuild them in the US. Each stone was marked, boxed and shipped to Dearborn, Michigan, where they were re-erected.

Ford created Greenfield Village at Dearborn, Michigan, a historic village in which the handicraft arts of the past are represented in their national settings.


Ford died on April 7, 1947 of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age 83 at his Dearborn estate.

All Ford plants and dealers were closed on the day of his funeral three days later. Funeral services were held in Detroit's Cathedral Church of St. Paul and he was buried in the city's Ford Cemetery.

Ford grave, Ford Cemetery. By Dwight Burdette -  Wikiprdia commons

Ford left a personal estate of around $600,000,000 at his death. Most of it was left to the Ford Foundation, a non profit organisation, set up by Ford and his son "for scientific, educational, and charitable purposes, all for the public welfare." It subsequently became the richest private foundation in the world.

Ford was named Businessman of the Century in a 1999 poll organised by America's Fortune magazine.

Sources  Daily Mail , Encyclopedia Britannica, Encarta, Faber Book of Anecdotes, Food For Thought by Ed Pearce