Washington County, in the state of Vermont, was once named Jefferson County after the former US president Thomas Jefferson. But it renamed itself in 1814 to Washington County. The name change came about because Federalists took control of the Vermont Legislature from the Jeffersonians. Vermont had suffered under Jefferson because they were forbidden from trading with their northern neighbor, Canada, thanks to Jefferson's 1807 Embargo Act.

Genetics Find Contact Between Polynesians and Native Americans 1200 Years Ago

A genetic study provides evidence of contact between ancient Polynesians and indigenous South Americans around 1200 CE. The study compared DNA from more than 800 people from Polynesian islands and South America's Pacific Coast. The analyses found that some people from Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and nearby surrounding islands have Native American ancestry, which comes from individuals of the pre-Columbian Zenu culture. The pre-Columbian Zenu lived around 1200 CE in what is today Colombia. The geneticists suggest that Polynesians journeyed to South America, bringing back Zenu individuals to the Marquesas and starting families with them. Alternatively, South Americans may have traveled to eastern Polynesia and encountered (and intermarried with) Polynesians who in turn traveled further east.

A Motorized Pram, Circa 1922

Notice the English nanny's smile and the child's doll. And the shockingly short skirt for a lady! Skirt lengths had been to the ankles until 1920, so this nanny's look was quite of-the-moment.

Early House Cat Remains Found in Kazakhstan

An almost-complete cat skeleton discovered at a medieval village site in southern Kazakhstan has been analyzed, and the researchers concluded it was likely kept as a pet. The village was located along the Silk Road and was home to Oghuz, who were Turkic pastoralists. There were multiple indicators suggesting the Oghuz had kept this cat as a pet. The cat had healed through several broken bones suggesting it was cared for by others while recovering. Also, because it lost all its teeth, it was likely unable to feed itself without human help. In addition, the cat's remains were found because they were buried -- unlike other animal bones at the site which were discarded. Analyses of the chemical composition of the cat's bones show the cat ate a higher-protein diet than dogs whose remains have been found at the site, and other cats that lived during the same time period. Keeping a pet cat was thought to be unusual for the Oghuz. This particular pet cat's presence suggests cultural exchanges facilitated by the Silk Road which passed by the village.

The 1940 Olympics were scheduled to be held in Tokyo, Japan. But they never were, due to the outbreak of World War II. Which means the 2020 Olympics are the second time that Tokyo has been the planned host for Olympics that did not happen.

What's In A Name

The Canary Islands were named after dogs, not after canaries. In Latin "dogs" is "canariae." There are three possible explanations for why the islands were named after dogs in ancient times. The first explanation, according to ancient Rome's Pliny the Elder, was because the islands were home to "vast multitudes of dogs of very large size." The second explanation is that the island's native inhabitants revered and worshiped dogs. The third explanation is the least interesting; it simply says that the original people of the largest island in the Canary Islands called themselves a word similar to "canari." When the islands were discovered by outsiders, their word for themselves got transmuted and used to name the whole island group. What is absolutely certain is that canaries (the birds) were named after the Canary Islands where they were first identified as a unique species.

The First and Last Man Executed for the Crime of Slave Trading

Only one person was ever executed in the United States for slave trading across borders, despite the fact that it was illegal from 1810 through the American Civil War. The Maine resident Nathaniel Gordon was captaining a slave ship from the Congo River to the United Stats in 1860 when it was seized at sea by a naval cruiser. The crime was automatically a federal case. After two trials in New York, Gordon was convicted and sentenced to hang on February 7, 1862. The only way out was a presidential pardon.


Abraham Lincoln had not yet been in office a full year, but he was widely known for his sense of mercy, and his frequent use of the presidential pardon. He also received thousands of letters asking for Gordon to be pardoned, and a visit to the White House by Gordon's wife and widowed mother. Lincoln held fast, however: there could be no pardon for a man who made his living selling other human beings into slavery.


“I think,” the president wrote, “I would personally prefer to let this man live in confinement and let him meditate on his deeds, yet in the name of justice and the majesty of law, there ought to be one case, at least one specific instance, of a professional slave-trader, a Northern white man, given the exact penalty of death because of the incalculable number of deaths he and his kind inflicted upon black men amid the horror of the sea-voyage from Africa.” Lincoln did give him a two-week reprieve because the president thought the condemned man had been misled into thinking he would be pardoned, and so had not properly made his peace with God and his upcoming death. The two weeks passed by, then Gordon was executed on February 21st, 1862.

The Triumph and the Tragedy of the Soyuz 11

In June of 1971, the crew of the Soyuz 11 became the first humans to spend time on an orbiting space station. But on its return to Earth, a Soviet recovery team opened the capsule, and found the crew dead inside. Somewhere in its extraterrestrial journey a ventilation valve malfunctioned and killed everyone on board. Which makes the three men the only known humans to have died in space.

The Crusaders Taught Building Techniques

When Saladin took over Egypt in the 1170s, he decided to build a new palace for his new dynasty in the hills of Cairo. A bit surprisingly many of the skilled workers who created his palace were captive crusaders. The Europeans utilized techniques unknown to the Middle East at the time, which is rather helpful in determining who built the palace.

Crusader architecture was stronger and lasted longer. It also enabled building larger buildings. Over time, Muslims in the Middle East learned these new (to them) techniques, often by studying castles built by crusaders across the eastern Mediterranean seaboard.

Belgian inventor Adolphe Sax made a number of instruments, including the popular saxhorn and the short-lived saxotromba, before creating his best-known work in 1846: the saxophone.

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    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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