The first film with Leo the Lion roaring in MGM's logo was "He Who Gets Slapped" in 1924. That makes Leo almost 100 years old!

The First Female War Correspondent

Margaret Full was a well-educated native of Massachusetts in the early 1800s. Born in 1810, she joined the New York Tribune as its literary critic in her early 30s and quickly amassed a following. She became something of a celebrity in her native New England, and was popular enough that she became the first woman allowed access to the library at Harvard College! (Which says more about Harvard than about Full, unfortunately.) She argued for equal access to education for women, prison reform, and the abolition of slavery.  Her views ended up in a book, "Woman in the Nineteenth Century" in 1845.

One year later, the New York Times sent Fuller to Europe as its first female correspondent, for her to cover the democratic revolution in Italy led by Giuseppe Mazzini. There, she fell in love with revolutionary Giovanni Ossoli, giving birth to their child -- scandalously without marrying Ossoli. The three were en route back to America in 1850 when their ship foundered off Fire Island, New York, drowning all three. Her friend, writer Henry David Thoreau, searched the beach for Fuller's personal effects but none were ever found.

Where are Witches?

A belief in witches -- and consequently witch-hunts -- have been found in every single inhabited continent of the world, and most of the peoples who have lived on it. But belief in witches is not entirely universal: the largest witch-free area is Siberia, covering about a third of the northern hemisphere, and the ancient Egyptians were notable for their lack of belief of witchcraft and embracing magic, instead of fearing magic.

The Bixby Letter's Complicated History

The Bixby letter is a brief, consoling message sent by President Abraham Lincoln in November 1864 to Lydia Parker Bixby, a widow living in Boston, Massachusetts, who was thought to have lost five sons in the Union Army during the American Civil War. That might sound familiar - this letter was the inspiration for the movie Saving Private Ryan. Except the letter might be a forgery.

Here's a few more facts about the Bixby Letter. Lydia Bixby, the grieving Boston widow, was likely a Confederate sympathizer. At least two of her five sons survived the war, and it is possible that a third survived as well. By deserting to the Confederate Army. Finally, the letter itself is suspicious, and may have been written by Lincoln's private secretary John Hay.

Remember the Alamo!

The real name of the mission where the famous battle happened during the Mexican-American War is San Antonio de Valero. But it has always been known by its nickname, Alamo. Where did that come from? Well, there are two competing theories.

Did you know that “alamo” is the Spanish word for “cottonwood”? One theory says that when the Spanish missionaries came to the spot in central Texas where they would locate the mission, they were struck by the lushness of the land and a grove of cottonwood trees growing nearby along the San Antonio River.

The second, competing theory, says the name came not from trees, but from a Spanish battalion of soldiers who were stationed at the mission after it was abandoned by missionaries. The battalion was named the Second Flying Company of San Carlos de Parras. No “alamo” in there. But the soldiers were originally from a small town called San Jose y Santiago del Alamo, in Coahuila, Mexico. Eventually that very long name got shortened, to La Compañía del Alamo, or just El Alamo.

Neither theory has been proven absolutely. Which do you prefer?

Perhaps no photograph so well illustrated the the assassination of President JFK as this one: John F. Kennedy Jr. saluting as his father’s casket passes. Most of you probably recognize it. The photograph was the most reproduced image of the funeral. It does have a small mystery around it: who took this famous shot has been debated for years.

Dreadlocks: A Brief Explanation

Dreadlocks are a Rastafarian hairstyle, in which hair is allowed to grow without combing or cutting. Now it is more widespread, common among many who do not practice the Rastafarian religion, but originally the hairstyle was specifically to show religious commitment. The name comes from the Nazirites in the Bible. They were men who took a special vow to God: "All the days of his vow of separation, no razor shall touch his head. Until the time is completed for which he separates himself to the Lord, he shall be holy. He shall let the locks of hair of his head grow long" (Numbers 6:5). The hairstyle's name is a big allusion to the hairstyle's purpose: it was to show that their possessor "dreaded" or feared or was in awe of God. The word itself, "dreadlocks" was first used in 1960.

A Media Milestone

On November 1st, 1896, the National Geographic magazine published its first picture of an African woman with bare breasts. The photo is of a Zulu bride and groom in Witwatersrand, South Africa. The photograph set a precedent: National Geographic would portray indigenous peoples as they were, not changed to suit western sensibilities. It was a huge deal at the time. The photograph was very shocking to American readers. And no, I'm not showing it, you're going to have to find the photograph for yourself.

La Llorona

In English, her name means "the Weeping Woman." She is a legendary figure in Mexico, who wanders for eternity, seeking her lost children. To hear her cries brings misfortune. According to legend, La Llorona was once a living woman, whose husband on day left her for a younger woman. In her grief and anger, La Llorona drowned her children, to hurt their unfaithful father. When she realized what she had done, she drowned herself too. According to some versions, La Llorona will kidnap wandering children who even vaguely resemble her dead children. Crying and apologizing, she will then drown the children, so they can take the place of her own. La Llorona is understandably a popular threat to keep Mexican children from wandering.

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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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