In 1956, a US Navy R4D Skytrain transport plane named “Que Sera Sera” touched down at the South Pole as part of an international scientific study. It was the first aircraft to land at the pole, and the first people to visit there in 44 years.
The R4D Skytrain “Que Sera Sera”, on display in Pensacola
Continue reading Icons of Aviation: The “Que Sera Sera”
In 2012, the Kodak film company, which had once been one of the largest corporations in the country with a 90% market share, filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company had, ironically, been driven almost to extinction by a product that Kodak itself had invented.
The United States is one of the few remaining industrialized nations that still executes criminals. And the ritual of the Last Meal says a lot about American culture.
The kayak is one of the most versatile type of boats ever built. Originally designed for the freezing ice-filled waters of the Arctic north, the kayak today is used by vacationers from Michigan to Florida, and has been adopted by special military forces all around the world. Here is the history of the kayak.
Kayak frame, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
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Everyone knows that stage actor and Southern sympathizer John Wilkes Booth shot and killed President Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theater on April 14, 1865. Less well-known, however, is the rest of the plot: Booth’s co-conspirators also planned to assassinate Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William Seward at the same time. There is also debate among some historians about the extent of Confederate Government involvement in the assassination, and even whether the plot included Lincoln’s own Secretary of War.
In 1956, at the height of the Cold War, an Air National Guard B-25 bomber made an emergency water landing into the Monongahela River, in the middle of Pittsburgh, in broad daylight, and sank. But the next day, when the Air Force tried to recover the sunken plane, it was completely gone, and hasn’t been found since. What happened to the “Ghost Bomber”? Conspiracy theories abound….
In the closing years of the 18th century, the United States found itself in an undeclared conflict with the newly-established French Republic. The “Quasi War” brought General George Washington out of retirement, led to draconian laws that stifled political opposition, and provoked a political fight over the wartime powers of the President that still has not been resolved today.
A French privateer is captured by US Marines during the Quasi War. photo from Wiki Commons
Continue reading The Quasi War: When the US Fought France (Sort Of)
For over 60 years, Ellis Island in New York was the primary point of entry for immigrants to the United States. At least 12 million new US citizens landed on Ellis Island, and it has been estimated that around 40 percent of all current Americans have at least one ancestor who passed through its halls.
The Registration Room at Ellis Island today
Continue reading The Story of Ellis Island
The most famous of all literary police detectives, Sherlock Holmes, was a logical and scientific man who insisted on evidence and proof. But the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was none of these things: he was a gullible and naive old man who embraced spiritualism, seances, and ghosts, and who foolishly got himself caught up in a hoax that involved, of all things, photographs of “fairies” taken by two young girls in England.
In December 1943, the Nazis launched an air raid against the Allied naval installation at the port of Bari, in Italy. The raid destroyed nearly all the Allied ships in the port, and became known as “The Little Pearl Harbor”. But the real disaster at Bari came when almost 70 Allied seamen were killed by poison gas mustard bombs–from their own side.
It is one of the most popular toys ever produced, selling well over a quarter-billion copies. Virtually every American alive has played with one at some time or another. It is the Frisbee, and this is its story.
The US patent drawing for the Frisbee.
Continue reading History of the Frisbee
In 1848, all of Europe faced a series of rebellions and revolutions. In what some referred to as “The Springtime of the People”, pro-democracy and pro-reform demonstrations broke out in every capitol of Europe. The “Year of Revolution” toppled regimes, altered the political history of Europe, and inspired a German economist named Karl Marx to write a pamphlet entitled “The Communist Manifesto”.
Forgotten mysteries, oddities and unknown stories from history, nature and science.