Edo-Period Scientists Studied Mythological Creatures

These are three pictures of "real-life" kappas! You may know them as child-sized imps which lure people, particularly children, into watery areas to drown. They are perhaps the most famous legendary creatures from Japan (or Harry Potter). In the 1700s and 1800s, kappas were treated as scientific discoveries in Japan. Multiple were captured. When one turned up, they were brought to local scientists for identification and recording.   The kappa on the left, sketched by Ito Chobei, was captured during the Meiwa period (1764 to 1772) in Edo, somewhere in present-day Tokyo's Edogawa ward. When the creature was shown to Ota Chogen, a noted herbalist of the time, he identified it as a kappa, based on a sketch of another captured kappa he had handy. According to the text in the book, the Meiwa period kappa measured 60 cm (2 ft) tall and had slippery skin like that of a catfish. The middle picture above shows a type of kappa with no shell. It doesn't appear to be based on a captured kappa. The picture on the right shows a kappa that was caught in a net in Mito, Japan in 1801. This kappa had a prominent chest, a crooked back and three anuses.


"Our goal is to guard the world against bland food."

Tabasco Sauce, which has been produced since 1868! That's right, if you picture the Wild West cowboys and Gilded-Age industrial barons, you should also be picturing hot sauce slathered on their food.

The First Color Photograph Is Older Than You'd Expect

The first true color photograph was made in 1861! James Clerk Maxwell wanted to take a photograph of a tartan ribbon. He was really into being Scottish, I guess. The celebrated scientists took a picture of the tartan ribbon three times, each time with a different color filter over the glass lens of his camera. The three images were developed then projected onto a screen together, aligned one on top of the other, to produce a single colored image.

There was no way to actually print the photograph until years later. But hey, Maxwell made the history books, and that's what matters, right?

Kinsan Ginsan

The title is the affectionate nickname, given to identical Japanese twins from Nagoya. They were the oldest-living recorded twins in the world. Narita Kin and Kanie Gin were born on August 1st, 1892. Their names, in Japanese, meant "Gold" and "Silver." After being featured in a newspaper article in 1991, when they were about to turn 100, Kinsan Ginsan became celebrities in Japan. Healthy and active, despite their age, the twins were viewed as “an ideal form of living in your sunset years.” Narita Kin died in 2000, at the age of 107, and Kanie Gin died in 2001, at the age of 108.

The World's Oldest Photograph

It was long thought that the world's oldest photograph was taken in 1826 by Joseph Nicephore Nipce, a French inventor with the nickname "The Father of Photography." His first photograph is a blurry eight-hour exposure of a building in the French city of Le Gras. But in 2002, and even earlier photograph turned up. Who took it? Why, Nipce in 1825.     The oldest photograph in the world is a photograph of an engraving! A picture of a picture. The Flemish engraving, from the 1600s, shows a man leading a horse.

The Mysterious Disappearance Of Aaron Burr’s Daughter

After the famous duel, and his less-famous treason trial, Aaron Burr fled to Europe. Thanks in part to lobbying by his only child, Theodosia Burr Alston, he was allowed to return to New York City in 1812. Twenty-nine-year-old Theodosia set off from South Carolina to join her father in the big city. But when her ship arrived, she was nowhere to be found. Thus begins a mystery that has not been solved to this day...

Did A Stolen Convict Ship Visit Japan During Its Closed-Country Period?

In 1829, a group of convicts seized the English brig Cyprus off of Tasmania, and sailed her to the Chinese city of Canton. After his capture, the convicts' leader William Swallow claimed the ship visited Japan on their way to China. No one believed him because Japan was famously isolationist at the time.     But last year an amateur historian discovered Japanese records of a visiting “barbarian” ship in 1830 that flew a British flag. Curious local samurai visited the barbarian ship. Luckily for history, they wrote about what they saw, and even made some watercolors. According to one of the samurai, the barbarians had “long pointed noses” and asked in sign language for water and firewood. One young barbarian put tobacco in “a suspicious looking object, sucked and then breathed out smoke.” These men “exchanged words amongst themselves like birds twittering,” and the ship’s dog “did not look like food. It looked like a pet.” Another samurai listed the gifts the crew offered, including an object that sounds like a boomerang -- strengthening the idea that the ship with the British flag had been at Tasmania or Australia.     The Japanese refused to allow the mutineers to stay. They eventually scuttled the Cyprus near Canton, and worked their way back to England. Unfortunately for the adventurous convicts, they were arrested in England for piracy. They had stolen a ship, and they were convicts before that -- and British law at the time was notoriously harsh. Swallow died in prison, and the rest became the last men hanged for piracy in Britain.

The Abandoned City of Mud and Mystics

The ruined city of Arg-e-Bam is made entirely of mud bricks, clay, straw and the trunks of palm trees. The Iranian city was originally founded during the Sassanian period (224-637 CE) and while some of the surviving structures date from before the 1100s, most of what remains was built during the Safavid period (1502-1722).     Bam prospered because of pilgrims visiting its Zoroastrian fire temple, which had been built early in the Sassanian period, and because Bam was a trading hub along the Silk Road. It was later the site of Jame Mosque, built during the Saffarian period (866-903 CE). Next to the mosque is the tomb of Mirza Naiim, a mystic and astronomer.     The city was largely abandoned since a series of invasions in the early 1800s. In 1953, work began to intensively restore Arg-e-Bam. Restoration work continued until December 26, 2003, when a massive earthquake hit the area -- an estimated 6.6 on the Richter Scale. Almost everything in Bam was destroyed. After that, restoration was given up, and today Arg-e-Bam is at the mercy of the elements.     click through the image gallery to see photographs of what Arg-e-Bam looks like today

A Who's Who of Maori Mythology

Quick guide: goddesses/female deities are italicized, gods/male deities are not italicized. And a lot of these gods' wives are left off.   Thanks, wikipedia, for this family tree of Maori deities!

Emperor Pedro II of Brazil's Daughters Know What (and Who) They Wanted

In 1864 Dom Pedro’s daughters, Dona Isabel and Dona Leopoldina, were married. Dom Pedro had two suitors arranged. Gaston, count d’Eu for Leopoldina, and his cousin Ludwig August, duke of Saxe for Isabel. The two men arrived in Brazil in early September, and set about wooing their prospective brides.

When the sisters got to know them, they exchanged suitors! Leopoldina married Ludwig August on October 15th, 1864, and Isabel married Gaston on December 15th.

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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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