Friday, July 27

Not Necessary, Just Convenient

By Art Cashin

On this day (-3) in 1904, during the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri (you remember..."Meet me in St. Louis, Louis!"), the first ice cream cone was made. 

Commercial folklore claims that this occurred when an ice cream stand ran out of cups in which to put their scoops.  According to the same folklore, they asked a vendor in the stand next to them if he had any cups or plates.  His stand sold thin Syrian Sugar Waffles and he suggested putting the ice cream scoops in rolled up waffles - and thus the ice cream cone was said to be born. 

Another source, however, says there was a more romantic beginning. There was an ice cream stand, and in the hot weather sales were good.  But among the things they sold were ice cream sandwiches.  The guy who sold the ice cream was a young fellow named Charles E. Menches.  

He had arranged for his girl to stop by the stand and then they would tour the fair. When she got there, he offered her a  bunch of wild flowers and an ice cream sandwich (ain't love grand).  Despite trying to be cute, she murmured the flower stems were prickly (what do women want) so Chuck took the top off her ice cream sandwich, rolled it onto a cone and slide the ice cream into it.  Then he took the bottom of the sandwich and rolled it into a cone to put the flowers in.  

Bystanders paid little attention to the mobile cookie vase for flowers but were impressed that Amy could now eat the ice cream with one hand and it didn't ooze out on four (4) sides.  Soon they asked for the rolled up sandwich like the young lady had.  

Thus, convenience can also be the mother of invention. 

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

Friday, July 20

Sporadic Posting

The editor of this site will be taking a short research sabbatical. Hopefully we can find lots of interesting new stories to share with you on our return to regular publication.

Other topics of research will be:
  • The relative differences in various types and brands of beer and ale.
  • How many golf balls need to be struck on the practice range in order to produce lower scores.
  • How many fish can swim by in absolute safety while a fisherman sitting in the boat just above them  drinks himself seriously stupid.
  • What makes a normal restaurant into a "Supper Club" when it does business anywhere north of Madison, Wisconsin. 
In the mean time, please enjoy the usual terrific posts by Art Cashin which unfortunately will only be published as intermittent internet access allows. Or use the archives on the sidebar to catch up on stories you may have missed.

We'll be back soon, so please don't lose interest. If you sign up to receive updates by email or in a reader you'll be sure to know when publication returns to a more regular schedule.

Thanks for supporting Cheeky History!  

Thursday, July 19

What's in a Name?

Image courtesy of
The Modern Historian
By Grant Davies

On this day (-2) in 1917, two cousins were locked in a family feud of epic proportions. So angry were they at each other that they had involved millions of their countrymen in the drama. And putting aside the millions of deaths that were occurring because of it, one of them got so mad at the other that he (gasp) changed the family name to disassociate himself from the other.

The two guys were George and Wilhelm. The former a King of England and the latter a Kaiser (the Germanic version of Caesar) of Prussia. Prussia has come to be known as Germany and the conflict has come to be known as WWI.

I spent a bunch of time reading about what caused the whole conflagration in elementary school, and quite a bit more since then, but the cause is anything but elementary to me. I have concluded that a bunch of inbred imbeciles in silly hats got pissed about some stupid thing or another and made a whole lot of their countrymen bomb, shoot, poison, and otherwise kill each other over it.

But enough about the small indignities, this story is about the terrible result. Namely, a whole group of British royalty were forced to change the names on their credit cards - from the ones they had since Queen Victoria married Prince Albert - to Windsor, which is the name of a town near London. Just for the record, their previous name had been "The House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha." I'm sure there is a good reason why they picked that town and name, but let's face it, it's boring so let's just move along. 

George (the fifth, if anyone's counting) was looking for a way to keep the yokels stirred up because interest in killing one another was waning as the corpses stacked up in the trenches. So he appealed to their hatred of all things German and showed his patriotism by chucking the family names of all his relatives and giving them goofy titles in compensation. Everyone fell for it and it's been the "House of Windsor" ever since. 

Later they named a men's necktie knot after it and it's the one I use to this very day. These are the kinds of things that happen when your family tree has mostly leaves and very few branches.

The inspiration for this post, and much of the information in it, came from the excellent history blog "The Modern Historian", written by Kevin Grieves.

Wednesday, July 18

Make Your Point, But Don't Kill Yourself Doing It

Image = Famous

By Art Cashin

On this day in 1871, a celebrated former U.S. Congressman ended his life.  Now, I know how sensitive you are.  How much you care for America's civil servants - particularly America's Congressmen.  So, I know that you are sore in your heart to hear that a person who has dedicated himself to political life should find his existence shortened.  (A few of you Neanderthals may be wondering - why should I wonder how one of those tax sucking junketeers died - thank God ye are a small callous minority.)

Anyway, this guy was a bit more celebrated than your average Congressman who kills himself.  This guy, Clement Laird Vallandigham, was a former Congressman from Ohio (okay - no jokes).  He had led an anti-war coalition of Northern Congressmen called "the Copperheads".  They almost kept the North out of the Civil War.  He was so obsessed by his anti-war ideals that even after the war began he allowed himself to be elected "Commander - Knights of the Golden Circle", a very pro-Confederate group. That got him court-martialed as a public servant and banished to the Confederacy. That trial and banishment made him the inspiration of the classic novel "The Man Without a Country." 

But, as the war wound down, Vallandigham made his way back to Ohio.  Here, he began again to assert his brilliance for the law and those things legal.  And, by this date in 1871, he was a much sought-after defense attorney. On this day, he was preparing the defense of Thomas McGehan accused of murder. 

Vallandigham planned to demonstrate that  the victim had accidently shot himself while pulling his own gun.  Being thorough he was rehearsing, but failed to note that an aide had brought a backup gun.  Vallandigham picked up the wrong gun and demonstrated how the trigger might have been pulled.  The gun went off.  The courtroom genius shouted - "My God, I've shot myself!!"  Within hours he was dead. 

To celebrate stop by the Copperhead Inn for a couple of shooters.  But be careful what you pick up.  Mistakes can be fatal even to non-Congressmen. 

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

Wednesday, July 11

All This Political Infighting is Murder

Image = Wikipedia
By Art Cashin

On this day in 1804, two men who had been a critical part of the founding of the U.S. met to settle an old argument.  

Those who knew the two men knew that the conflict was inevitable.  Yet on paper they were more likely to have been comrades than combatants.  In fact, during the Revolutionary War, one of them had ridden through rain and darkness, penetrating British lines to save his entrapped and brilliant comrade.

Yet after the country was founded, these two clever, powerful men found themselves constant competitors.  The competition probably reached its high point in the presidential election of 1800.  The vote resulted in a tie.  Both contenders, Jefferson and Aaron Burr were founders of the same political party.  So the power to choose who would be president rested with the founder of the opposition Federalist Party - one Alexander Hamilton.  He would pick the next president. 

Hamilton had lectured and written about the dangers of the populist attitudes of his former cabinet adversary, Jefferson.  But he feared more the political savvy of Aaron Burr, a man more his ideological equal. So he threw the election to Jefferson, assuming that Jefferson's "folly" as president would later leave the game open to Hamilton. Thus, the brilliant Burr decided to seek revenge on the genius Hamilton (with both assuming that the Renaissance man, Jefferson would shoot himself in the political foot shortly). 

After almost four years of nearly constant bickering Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel on the banks of the Hudson River in Weehawken, N.J.  Hamilton's seconds failed to account for the midsummer reflection of the morning sun off the river.  So, badly positioned and blinded by sunlight, Hamilton was mortally wounded by the man who once saved his life by riding through the rain. 

The U.S. banking system and New Jersey real estate values have never fully recovered. To celebrate go over to a pub in Lincoln Harbor (that's in Weehawken, if you failed geography) for a couple of shots. 

More interesting facts about this duel can be found in our earlier article, Republicrats. 

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

Tuesday, July 10

If Only Franz Had a Garmin

Image = GCS
By Art Cashin

On this day (-12) in 1914, a wrong turn changed the course of history.  Of course, things were different then, at that time, there was nationalism afoot in Europe.  

The big flash-point of nationalism was in what we used to call Yugoslavia. Part of Serbia had been annexed by Bosnia (if you slept through sixth grade, that was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire - but save those old geography books it looks like it may be coming back). 

Anyway, the crown prince, Franz Ferdinand, thought it would be good to have a member of the Royal Family show up in the region.  So with his wife, Sophie, he drove with his staff to a place called Sarajevo, the local Gotham. The townsfolk turned out in force.  There was bunting, bands, beer and assassins, (a total of six of them).  The party pulled onto Appel Quay, a wide road along the river, heading for the celebration in the main square. 

Suddenly one of the assassins hurled a short-fuse bomb into the open touring car.  The Archduke (as he was known to his friends) mumbled something like, "this is stupid."  Then he picked up the bomb and flung it over his shoulder. It exploded in the street and injured several bystanders.  Four other assassins took this as a bad omen, ditched their guns and headed for the Brauhaus.  

The Archduke halted, checked on the victims and proceeded to the ceremony.  (For you trivia buffs, the touring car was a "Graf und Sift"....which became jinxed and went out of production.) During the speeches, he got antsy but the Mayor reassured him, "It is over!  Surely we have only one murderer in Sarajevo."  

Nevertheless, the police decided to change the plan and send them back the way they came instead of parading down Franz Josef Strasse (the main drag). However, the security guys forgot to tell the guy in the lead car.  He turned onto Franz Josef Strasse and the Archduke's car followed him.  Irate police halted the parade and ordered the Archduke's car to back up into the intersection. More amazed than the police was a nineteen year-old guy named Gavrilo Princip (the sixth assassin) who had been standing in the sun on F.J. Strasse just in case the first five guys missed. 

As the cops tried to unravel the gridlock, they let Princip through.  He promptly shot the Archduke and Sophie. Within 48 hours, World War I was on the way. 

But relax; there is a New World Order today.  Never again would disputes between ethic groups draw the rest of the world into a conflict....right?.....right?

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

Monday, July 9

A Skagway Soap Opera

Drawing by John Bruce
Image = Soapy Smith's Soap Box
By Grant Davies

On this day, minus one, (that's yesterday for those of you who copied off of my math test in fourth grade) in 1898, a gunfight broke out in the gold rush town of Skagway, Alaska.

There were two participants and both ended up dead. It took one of them twelve days to get that way, but the other one made an immediate exit, so I guess the one who suffers longest, wins.

Anyway, the first to die - aka the loser - was a guy named Jefferson R. Smith, known to his friends as "Soapy."  The winner was Frank Reid, a concerned citizen of Skagway who was organizing a vigilante group known as the "Committee of 101" to rid the town of Soapy and his thuggish minions, aka "The Committee of 303." Smith seems to have picked the name of his group using a little "message math."

It seems the Soapy group was fond of making a living by duping the local gullibles (known in modern day America as "voters") out of their gold dust. After a while, and more than a pinch of gold dust, it became tiresome for the gullible but civic minded citizenry, who decided enough was enough, and got together for a meeting to decide how to start the rinse cycle on the soapy problem.

As an aside, Jefferson got his nickname from one of his first schemes. It was a rather unsophisticated con game where he sold bars of soap wrapped in blue tissue paper to the rubes in various towns in the southwest  for $5 each with the promise that some of them had a $100 bill inside them. Of course, one of the first in the crowd would inevitably find the C-note and shriek with joy while the line to buy the rest formed up apace. It's not known how much Soapy's employees earned for the Oscar worthy performances that followed their good fortune, but it's safe to assume it was more than they were making before. Today, such schemes are strictly forbidden by law. Except for the one run by the government, called "Mega Millions."

But back to the deadly affair in Skagway. (I love that name. It sounds like the name of a street where sailors  might look for a whorehouse.)

Soapy decided to confront the gathering head first so he could control his own fate. He was used to controlling things. Some say other con men like "Boss" Tweed or Richard J. Daley had nothing on him.  So he showed up uninvited at the meeting, rifle in tow, and confronted Reid and the boys. 

The rest is history, and so was Soapy Smith. It just goes to show that even dim-wits get tired of being duped sooner or later.

Monday, July 2

President Garfield's Health-Care Experience

By Art Cashin

On this day in 1881, a government worker was hurrying through the Washington railway station hoping to catch a train that would take him to a July 4th holiday with his family on the Jersey shore.  Halfway through the waiting room he was struck by 2 bullets. 

His name was James Garfield and he happened to be President of the U.S.  (Some feel he may have been one of the most brilliant men ever elected to that office.  He could write Greek with his left hand and simultaneously write Latin with his right while holding a normal conversation.) 

The man who fired the shots this Saturday morning was a disappointed office-seeker named Charles Guiteau.  He had hoped to become consul-general in Paris.  Guiteau was probably board certifiable.  He claimed to speak to God and was a member of the radical "free love" movement.  He said he wrote the speech that had elected Garfield - yet no one, not even Guiteau had ever delivered the speech. Garfield, who had hoped to reform the spoils system, interviewed Guiteau shortly after the inauguration in 1881.  Sensing that this was a guy who heard voices without a Walkman, Garfield sent him to the State Dept.  No dopes at the time, the State Dept. sent him back to the White House.  For the next 2 months these two arms of government played appointment ping-pong with Guiteau.  This lasted 2 months until Guiteau received a heavenly message to "kill Garfield." 

Thus, Garfield found himself shot in the shoulder and the lower-back (median right).  Guiteau was arrested leaving the Potomac and Baltimore R.R. Station.  He was trying to get into a cab which he had arranged to take him to the authorities (and keep him from the irate mobs - there were actually only 4 elderly women, a bootblack, a fruit stand operator and, of course, the Secretary of and of course the Secretary of War - Robert Todd Lincoln - who has the unique record of having been present at every Presidential Assassination in American history except JFK.)  (P.S. He’s buried next to JFK at Arlington.) 

Garfield believed he was doomed and told the doctors "thank you!  But I am dead."  He may have been the President but they knew he was no doctor.  So for the next 2 months, doctors alternated one kind of surgery to find the bullet (unsuccessful) with another kind of surgery to calm infections caused by the former surgery.  After weeks of such care they managed to give him toxic blood poisoning and a temperature of 109.4. Not wanting to tie up the skills of these  important physicians any further Garfield reverted to his original estimate and "died." 

To mark the occasion explain to "she who must be obeyed" that it is not drinking the "see-throughs" that makes one sick - it's all that poking about for the olives. 

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

Sunday, July 1

A Banner Day for Death

Image by Stu Mortimer
By Grant Davies

On this day in history an unusually large number of people killed each other for a variety of reasons. Here are just a few of the more well known events.

We can be certain there were a lot more that were never recorded or were rapidly forgotten.

  • 1690: The Battle of the Boyne.
  • 1862: The Battle of Malvern Hill
  • 1863 : The Battle of Gettysburg begins.
  • 1898 : The Battle of San Juan Hill.
  • 1916 : Battle of the Somme begins.
  • 1942 : The Battle of El Alamein begins
  • 1966 : Bombing of North Vietnam continues.

War is sometimes necessary, but the causes of it are always stupid. So if you are tempted to go to war with someone today, just say to yourself, "Nah, this is stupid" and go drink a cold beer.
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