Category History

King C. Gillette

The doctor, concerned about my grandfather’s heart, ordered him to leave the room when the Friday Night Fights came on the television. Following the doctor’s instructions to the letter, Grandpa Braun left the room, stood in the hall and watched from the doorway, shadow boxing and puffing. I was in the room, on the sofa, […]

For a More Perfect Union

I am past weary with those who venerate the U.S. Constitution without reading it. Written and adopted in 1787, the document was intended, among other things, to form a more perfect union, establish justice, promote the general welfare and secure for us “the blessings of liberty.” But tucked into the fine print was Article I, […]

The Gdańsk Post Office, 1939

On September 1, 1939, the morning the German army invaded Poland, the postal workers at the Polish post office in Gdańsk delivered more than mail. There was a lot of history behind the 1939 invasion of Poland, and specifically the invasion of Gdańsk. The borders of Poland had been redrawn many times since its birth […]

Sharia Law

The other day when Republicans in the North Carolina House of Representatives slipped anti-abortion provisions into legislation forbidding Sharia law, I asked myself, “In the first place, why are these people so upset about Sharia law?” So I did a little digging, and the reasons became clear: Under Sharia law, charity is obligatory, as is […]

Maud Allan

I can’t help but think that Maud Allan would have been better off with a few cast changes in the play that was her life. Born Beulah Maude Durrant in Toronto in 1873, she spent her childhood in San Francisco before traveling to Germany at age 22 to study piano. While she was away, her […]

On a Painting that Might Be R.G. Shaw II

The following story is repeated, with the photo above, many times on the Internet: “Artist R.G. Harper Pennington in one of his paintings depicted a nude Robert Gould Shaw II as the character ‘Little Billee’ from the bohemian novel Trilby by George du Maurier. This painting hung in the bedroom of Henry Symes Lehr, the […]

Pig Sticking

I was reading about polo in India and the role played by the British military in bringing polo from India to England, and thence to the United States, when I came across another British sport in India that involved a spear rather than a mallet, and an enraged boar rather than a ball. Pig sticking […]