Jack of All Trades

During the Edo Period in Japan (1600−1868), firefighters primarily worked as steeplejacks -- people who climb tall structures such as apartment buildings or and steeples in order to carry out repairs. This meant that firefighters got paid when they put out fires, but they also got paid when fires damaged tall buildings and repairs were needed. The result? Multiple known cases of firefighters setting fires to create business for themselves. It was enough of a problem that the shogunate to issue warning ordinances and executed some offending firefighters.

Master of the Land Mask

This is an "Apuema Kanak" mask from New Caledonia. It was worn by a high-status chief. Circa 1700s - 1800s.


"Only three people have ever really understood the Schleswig-Holstein business—the Prince Consort, who is dead—a German professor, who has gone mad—and I, who have forgotten all about it."

Lord John Palmerston. The Schleswig-Holstein Question was a complex set of diplomatic and other issues arising in the 1800s over the relationships of two duchies, Schleswig (Danish: Sønderjylland/Slesvig) and Holstein (Danish: Holsten), their relationships to the Danish crown, their relationships to the German Confederation, and their relationships to each other. The two duchies have a long history of connections to Scandinavia and the European mainland. At various points both have belonged to Denmark, to Germany, or been independent states. Schleswig is currently divided between Denmark and Germany, and Holstein is entirely in Germany.

The "vajra” is a type of multi-pronged, double-ended scepter, like the example above, and it is one of the most common implements of Tibetan Buddhist ritual. The worn details here attest to its frequent usage. The vajra symbolizes destructibility and clarity. Two qualities of any enlightened mind according to Tibetan Buddhism. Vajras were often paired with bells, and together, the two ritual objects represent complete enlightenment.

Correcting A Historical Myth

The statement "To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize" is often falsely attributed to Voltaire, the French philosopher during the Enlightenment in the 1700s. The statement is actually much, much younger. It comes from an essay by a racist, neo-Nazi, Holocaust denier, and white separatist American named Kevin Strom which was first published in 1993.

The jigsaw puzzle was invented in 1766 by Briton Johns Spilsbury. He wanted an educational tool to help teach geography, and the first jigsaw puzzles were cut up maps.

Samurai Children Were At-Risk For Lead Poisoning

A modern scientific study which analyzed 70 remains from a samurai cemetary showed that many samurai children had higher amounts of lead than the women, who in turn had higher amounts than the men. Sadly the young were the worst affected: those under 3 had the highest levels among children. The lead levels were high enough to be causing intellectual and developmental difficulties. In the worst cases, the lead levels were 150 times that which causes problems in modern children.

The study traced the lead poisoning to the lead-based white makeup popular among the children's mothers during the Edo Period. Since such makeup was only worn by kabuki actors, geisha, and samurai women, it is likely poorer children were spared.

The longest-reigning emperor of China, the Kangxi Emperor (1661 – 1722), was also the last to maintain traditional Manchurian army regulations. These decreed that a commander who returned from a battle alone (with all his men dead) would be put to death. The same for an ordinary foot soldier. The rule was intended to motivate bravery. Trying to save oneself would just end in an execution, so soldiers knew their whole unit needed to defeat the enemy to win.

An Iron Lacquered Samurai Mask

The majority of masks were half-length (mempo), covering the nose and the face below the eyes. Full masks (somen) were rarer. The majority date from the peaceful Edo period. With no practical usage for mempo and somen, armorers like the Myōchin clan became known for crafting ever more varied masks as a demonstration of their creativity and their famous metalworking skills. Inscribed by Myōchin Muneakira, Edo period, circa 1713.

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    HISTORICAL NON-FICTION

    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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