A Very Victorian Fear

Hans Christian Anderson, the children’s author, had a typical fear for the Victorian era. He was very afraid of being buried alive. To make sure no one mistook his sleeping body for a dead body, Anderson slept with a note on his bedside table that read “I only appear to be dead.” History does not record if anyone ever read the note.

Hockey Fun Fact

Hockey used to have seven men playing for each team, instead of the six we have today. The septet included a goalie, two defensemen, three forwards, and a "rover" who switched from defense to offense as needed. This did not last long, though. The six-man rule was instituted in the 1911-12 season.

The Creation of Rotterdam

What would become the important port city of Rotterdam has been inhabited since at least the Roman period. It was part of the frontier province Germania Inferior, and there is evidence of wooden locks, trenches, and ditches built by the Romans to control water levels. After the Romans withdrew in the second half of the 200s CE, the population steeply declined. Partially because sea levels rose, making much of the region uninhabitable.

It was not until 900 CE that pioneering farmers returned to the riverbanks of the Rotte River, or "Muddy Water" River. Archaeologists have found the remains of six farmsteads, dating from 950 to 1050 CE. Life in Rotta Village was difficult: flooding was always a threat, and attempts to drain the peat they farmed on just caused the ground level to sink when drained, making flooding even worse. Unable to make a living, Rotta Village was abandoned around 1050.

It was thanks to a local noble looking to protect his nearby lands that Rotterdam ever came to be. In the year 1270, the Count of Holland, Floris V, ordered the construction of a single sea wall to protect the region from floods. The resulting dike was 1,300 feet long, 23 feet wide, and nearly five feet high. It was constructed across the Rotte River, not far from the now-abandoned Rotta Village.

A town sprang up after the dike was built. Because it was close to the North Sea and the River Rotte, the area was between two trade systems: the Baltic Region which included Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, and the north Atlantic coastal area, which included France, England, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Because the new dike blocked direct passage to the Rotte River, traders had to unload their goods and reload them on the other side, or temporarily store them in Rotterdam. This made Rotterdam an important port and market for staple goods, such as beer and textiles, which people had to buy no matter the difficulty in getting it across the dike. It also developed a fishing industry, selling its herring along the trade systems it linked. And the rest, as they say, is history!

The Queen of the Pacific

Sandra Ávila Beltrán was one of the few women to ever become a cartel queen. She grew up in a cartel, her father close to the top of one, but she wanted no part of the lifestyle. She left for college. She majored in communications. Sandra was out. Until age 21 -- when a jealous boyfriend with connections to a cartel kidnapped her. Though the details of how he did it and how long he held her are vague, that one event changed the course of Sandra's life.

I cannot do her justice in a short post, so I highly recommend reading a full article about Sandra's story. But if you don't want to, or don't have time, here's the quicknotes version. Sandra Ávila Beltrán joined a cartel at age 21 and quickly rose through the ranks. As a woman, she was highly unusual in that world, and acquired the nickname "Queen of the Pacific." She became an important link between various pieces of the drug trade that passed through Mexico and the Caribbean. Sandra became very rich. So rich that when she was eventually caught, convicted, and sent to prison, she brought three maids with her and welcomed visitors in high heels and designer clothes. Since her release in 2015, Sandra has been fighting in court for the return of the dozens of cars, homes, and jewels she’d amassed as “The Queen of the Pacific.”

Toothpaste Has Always Been Minty -- Literally Since It Was Invented

Ancient Egyptians invented toothpaste! Though a modern person likely would not recognize it. Ancient Egyptian toothpaste was made of rock salt, pepper, mint, and dried iris flowers.

A Royal First

Mary, Queen of Scots went into public a few days after her husband’s murder to play golf. Many people were upset -- she was playing a game and her husband had just been murdered! So they wrote about it, in their diaries and to each other. Making Mary, Queen of Scots the first recorded woman to golf in Scotland. And since they invented it, that makes her the first recorded woman to play golf anywhere, I would think.

Future United States President Ulysses S. Grant was born Hiram Ulysses Grant. He changed his name at West Point to avoid having his military uniforms marked with initials "H.U.G."

Rutherford B. Hayes

A forgotten president. But not forgotten everywhere -- Hayes is a hero in an unlikely place...Where?

Birds of a Feather Learn Together

In the early 1900s in the United Kingdom, blue tits and robins had easy access to cream from the open milk bottles left on humans’ doorsteps. After World War I, the British began to seal the bottle tops with aluminum foil. By the 1950s the entire blue tit population of the United Kingdom had learned pierce the foil to reach the cream. But the robins had not. What was going on?

The difference lay in cultural transmission: a blue tit can learn a new behavior by observing another bird performing it. Robins generally can’t do this — while an individual robin might learn to pierce the foil, it has no way to pass on this discovery to other robins. In addition, young blue tits are reared in flocks in which they can observe one another easily, and learn from one another. Robins are territorial and have fewer such opportunities.

Unfortunately for both, the milkman is now extinct.

Spanish conquerors brought bullfighting to Mexico. Second only to Spain, Mexico now has the most bullfighting rings in the world. Mexico City's Plaza de Toros México -- which literally translates as "Plaza of the Bulls" -- is the largest bullring in the world.

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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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