The Bank of England's Embarrassing Sewer Problem

In 1836, a sewer worker in London made an unusual discovery. He found an old drain which ran directly under -- and opened into -- the vault of the Bank of England. The directors, after receiving several anonymous letters, the author of which claimed to have access to their gold, were finally persuaded to gather one night in the vault. When the agreed-upon time came, they heard a noise from beneath the floor. Suddenly, a man popped up through the floor boards!

The directors were completely shocked (and probably rather embarrassed about those letters they had ignored). They quickly confirmed that no gold was missing from the vault. So as a reward for not stealing, when he could have, the man was rewarded with a gift of £800. That is about £80,000 in today’s money!

Mary Beatrice Kenner Davidson invented the sanitary pad. Specifically, a sanitary belt with a moisture-proof napkin pocket, which made it much less likely that menstrual blood could leak. Unfortunately her invention was introduced to market thirty years after she invented it, because the company which first showed interest in the sanitary pad lost interest after realizing the inventor was African-American. In 1957, Davidson was finally able to save up enough money to get her first patent independently. Pads had been sold since the 1920s. But Davidson's version revolutionized the product by making it much, much more absorbent.

Mark Twain (Humorously) Helped Would-Be Burglars

In 1908 two burglars stole a set of silverware from the sideboard in Mark Twain’s house. In response, he posted the above message on his front door.

Tour de France Participants Having A Smoke Break

In the 1920s cyclists would smoke cigarettes while riding, especially before steep climbs, to open up their lungs. Hey, the doctors at the time said it might work!

The Most Hilarious Tax Loophole Ever?

In Argentina at the turn of the 20th century, there was a heavy tax on bachelors. It was intended to promote marriage, and the population growth that usually accompanies marriages. So the law was not unfairly punishing men who, well, were not that desirable and could not find a mate, there was an exemption for bachelors who could prove they had proposed but been rejected.

Clever Argentine women turned that into a lucrative business. "Professional lady rejectors" would sell men a package: the man would propose, then the lady would reject them, then both would swear in a court of law that a proposal had been made and rejected. Thus men could remain unmarried and get out of the tax. A newspaper article added that it is a lucrative business for women, but is confined "by the nature of things, to maidens and widows."


"Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total; of all those acts will be written the history of this generation."

Robert Kennedy, American politician (1925 - 1968)

At its most extreme, the Bullet Bra looked truly ridiculous. The style celebrated separated, pointy busts and was popular in the 1940s and 1950s.

Due to developments during the Scottish Enlightenment in the 1700s, Scotland was one of the first European countries to implement a municipal water treatment plant -- in 1804! Treatment there consisted of con-centric sand and gravel filters,and distribution was by horsecart.

Cahokia Was Not Abandoned Before Europeans’ Expansion

New analyses of human poop at Cahokia suggest reports of its abandonment before European contact have been greatly exaggerated. The once-mighty city -- largest north of the Aztecs -- did become depopulated around the mid-1300s. But by 1500 it was already resurging. And by 1650 it may have been larger than it was before its depopulation. That’s pretty remarkable. Despite massive pandemics caused by new European diseases, and at a time when other native populations in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean were in serious decline from violence and foreign diseases spread by European colonists, Cahokia not only survived but thrived.

The new story, based on the new analyses, is that the Mississippian culture did decline in the 1300s but it later repopulated and grew. Meaning that Europeans moving westward in the 1700s were not taking over “empty land” as has long been thought.

Africans Carry Neanderthal Genes, Too

A new study indicates that modern Africans inherited DNA from migrating Neanderthals. Geneticists conducted a statistical analysis of DNA gathered from 2,504 modern Africans, Europeans, and East Asians, and compared it with records of DNA extracted from Neanderthal remains in Siberia and southeastern Europe. They concluded that modern Africans, on average, indirectly inherited as much as 0.5 percent of their genome from Neanderthals. It is thought that the genes came to Africa via a human population that left the continent between 100,000 and 150,000 years ago, interbred with Neanderthals outside of Africa, and then returned.

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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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