Wednesday, July 31

A Little Fire

By Grant Davies

On this day...okay let's start over before we even begin.

Actually the event in our story took place on October 8th, but I just couldn't wait until then to tell you about it. I have been doing research on new stories for weeks and haven't written a darn thing lately. And since it's become so hard lately to find interesting little historical tidbits that correspond to the current date, I have decided to skip that part of the plan here at Cheeky History whenever it suits me. Big time blog editors like me can do that if they feel like it. The power is dizzying.

Anyway, on that date in 1871, there was a little fire that everyone remembers to this very day. Let's just guess the question of that era was, "Where were you when you heard about the Great Chicago Fire?" A good question too, because it was a terrible tragedy. Something like 200-300 people perished and property was destroyed on an unimaginable scale.

But it was, after all, just a little fire. The real firestorm was a tad north of there in Peshtigo, Wisconsin. Somewhere between 1200 and 2500 people were incinerated or otherwise lost their lives in the conflagration. The area destroyed was huge. While the Chicago fire was measured in blocks, the Peshtigo blaze was measured in sizes of states. As in "an area twice the size of Rhode Island." Over 1875 square miles of land were destroyed.

Some have speculated that the fires that burned all over the Midwest (Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan) that day were started by a comet, Comet Biela, to be exact. And since Mrs. O'Leary's cow wasn't seen speeding northward on Interstate 94 wearing a lantern where her cowbell should have been, it might be true. But probably not.

Most people (excluding regular readers of this blog, of course) never heard of the Peshtigo fire, maybe because the newspapers were in Chicago. But now all of you have. So you can tell all your friends that you learned about it right here on Cheeky History.

To mark the day, make a reservation at the Fireside Pub for October 8th. Order a "Flaming Rum Punch" and the hot wings, but don't let the bartender tell you the Miami Heat have anything on the Milwaukee Bucks when it comes to hot streaks.

Tuesday, July 23

The Country Has an Alien Problem

By Art Cashin

On this day (-4) in 1952, Washington D.C. was abuzz about the risk of a change of leadership. No…..Mr. History was not because Eisenhower was nominated by the Republican Convention (that event occurred eight days earlier). No…..Jeopardy Aspirant… was not the surprise of the Democrats nominating Adlai Stevenson over that chalk bet - Sen. Estes Kefauver (that event would not occur for eight more days).

Okay, you say! (You are rather impatient aren't you?) Who the hell were they worrying about as a replacement for President Harry S. Truman? The answer to any logical adult was....aliens. Er…..Do you mean aliens as in outer space and the supermarket tabloids? Yes, you dolt! What other kind of aliens could take over the most powerful nation in the free world?

So…..when the radar screens at National Airport showed a bunch of bogeys over the White House, things began to percolate. The radar images (about a half dozen) seemed to be cruising in a circle at about 150 miles per hour; above the President's House (actually Truman wasn't there). When air traffic control asked pilots in the area to report…..several reported very bright lights above....where else....the White House.

When one plane moved toward the area, three of the blips took off at a speed that showed up on the screen as 3000 mph....faster than any known plane. When the Air Force finally scrambled planes to the area....the remaining blips had left at the same incredible radar speed. The nation's press became alerted by the police calls and air traffic calls. The Air Force tried to pooh-pooh the sightings.

Later that week, however, there were similar sightings at a secret military facility south of Georgia. On July 25, the mysterious sightings came back to Washington. This time there was only one. An Air Force jet was scrambled but as it tried to near the object, radar screens showed the object pulling away at two times, four times and finally seven times the jet's fastest speed.

The Pentagon called a major press conference to respond. The sightings were "weather inversions" they said. "We could prove this to you but to do so would force us to reveal secret equipment which we might have used to prove this. And that secret equipment (if it existed at all), could be vital to the national security. So just trust us….we're certainly not the kind of people who'd trick you.

For gosh sakes, next thing you know you folks will think we're the type to conduct nuclear experiments on folks without telling them....come on folks….this is America in the 1950's."

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 9

If I Had a Doughnut I'd Give You the Hole

 Image= Camden Public Library
By Art Cashin

On this day in 1872, a man from Maine was given a patent (#128,783 if you must know) on a device to standardize and automate the production of a unique food product invented by another Maine man (25 years earlier). The automation allowed the product to become so successful that today well over billions of dollars worth are sold in the U.S. each year.

The man who was awarded the patent was a guy named John F. Blondel of Thomaston, ME, and he was a fine guy indeed. But the real genius was the earlier guy....a certain Hanson Crockett Gregory born in Clam Cove, Maine (no smart aleck...that's not where Jessica Fletcher lives).

Anyway...Hanson Gregory would have eventually been famous even without his discovery. He was such a good sailor; he captained a cargo ship before his 19th birthday. By age 20, that he had conducted such heroic sea rescues in violent storm-tossed seas that he was given an award by Queen Isabella of Spain. And his sea exploits continued until he died in 1921 at ago 90.

But history (or at least historians) chose to best remember Hanson Gregory not for what he did at sea but rather for what he did in the kitchen (at age 15 no less). Back in the year 1847, Hanson Gregory invented the doughnut...(Okay! Okay! Hold it down! I know what you're thinking..."I read this dope everyday and now he's trying to tell me some guy in 1847 invented doughnuts when I know that doughnuts are over 3000 years fact I had a 2000 year old doughnut last Thursday.")

While you're wrong about how long doughnuts have been around (it's more like 500 years), I will concede Gregory didn't invent the doughnut...he invented the hole in the doughnut. Yup, the hole! Prior to Hanson Gregory, doughnuts were dough - nuts (often walnut sized lumps of sugar dough fried in oil...have you ever had a Zeppole for St. Joseph's Day?).

Anyway, young Hanson is sitting in the kitchen at age 15 and says to mom..."Gee the middle of the doughnut never seems to cook right!" So he cuts the doughy part out of the center with a fork. So mom says a mom thing like..."What am I supposed to do....throw the middle away all the time just because you think it's not cooked!" Then young Gregory says a smart-ass kid thing like..."No ma! You cut the middle out before
you cook it" and then he takes the fork and cuts a hole in the middle of the dough.

The rest is history.....and dollar signs.

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 8

Study Leave

By Grant Davies

Writing about history, even the rather whimsical variety found on this site, involves quite a bit of research. You can't write about the events of our past unless you first read about them. And even though writing takes quite a bit of time, reading takes even more. At least for me.

I have found a new source for what I hope will be a number of interesting stories. So I will spend the next several weeks reading and writing. During that time, posting here will be sporadic at best and non-existent at worse.

I know this comes as a terrible blow to you history nerds, but life is hard. It's harder if you are a crummy writer who is fresh out of material.

PS..There may be a few Art Cashin posts during this time for those of you who appreciate good writing.

Wednesday, July 3

The Battle of the Burgs

By Art Cashin

On this day in 1863, two civil war battles were reaching climactic moments. Their outcomes would change the course of the war and the history of the nation. They shared something else beside their timing and importance.

They also shared a name – or at least part of a name. They were the “burgs” – Gettysburg and Vicksburg.

Following the Confederate victory at Chancellorsville, Robert E. Lee decided to take the campaign north. He hoped to threaten Harrisburg or even Philadelphia. By placing a “northern” city at risk, he hoped the people and politicians would force Lincoln to sue for peace.

The fact that the battle took place at Gettysburg was somewhat of an accident. The two armies “bumped into” each other and the battle ensued.

The battle began on July 1st and on that day things went well for the Rebels. They routed Union forces, who fled through town. On the second day both sides were fully deployed. The Confederates mounted an assault on the left flank of the Union forces. Taking heavy casualties, the Union forces buckled but did not break.

On the third day (today), Lee determined to break the deadlock. Originally, the plan called for General Longstreet of the Confederates to attack the Union on its left flank but that plan had to be changed. Instead, they sent 12,000 men across an open field for three-quarters of a mile to attack the Union forces. Less than half those 12,000 would return. Despite the withering fire in the open field, the Rebels temporarily broke through and Union forces began to fall back. Reinforcements were quickly sent in and Rebels were beaten back.

The three day battle was over with nearly 50,000 casualties. Lee and his forces headed back to Virginia, never to come north again.

Nearly a half continent away, Confederate General John C. Pemberton was preparing to surrender the besieged city of Vicksburg and his 30,000 men to his Union opponent, Ulysses Grant. The surrender would propel Grant to take over the Union army.

Those two days, July 3rd and 4th of 1863 were devastating to the Confederate cause. Some believe that if Stonewall Jackson had not died at Chancellorsville, Lee might have been victorious. It is one of those historical “what ifs” that never happened.

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.
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