I haven’t done a roundup of historical facts lately…figured today is a good day for that…lots of things happened on February 17th!
1. On February 17, 1691, Thomas Neale was granted a 21-year British patent for North American postal service (it was February 18th that the phrase, “The check is in the mail,” was first uttered…not really!). In 1694, Thomas married England’s richest widow. Sadly, Thomas died in 1699, heavily in debt, despite the fact that his franchise only cost 80 cents a year. It seems he was a bit of a gambling addict…another one of his accomplishments was developing a pair of dice to prevent cheating at gaming.
2. On February 17, 1795, it is said that Thomas Seddal harvested an 8.3 kilogram (about 18 lb., 5 oz.) potato from his garden in Chester, England. The largest potato known in modern times was grown last year by amateur gardener, Peter Glazebrook, in Northampton, and weighed 8 lb., 4 oz. Imagine how much butter you would need for this monster:
3. On February 17, 1818, Baron Karl von Drais de Sauerbrun patented the “draisine”, an early bicycle. I hope Anna doesn’t see this…she’ll probably want me to buy her one! Karl is also credited with inventing the earliest typewriter with a keyboard in 1821. Like poor Thomas Neale, Karl also died penniless, in 1851.
4. On February 17, 1867, William Cadbury, English chocolate manufacturer, was born. He was the third generation of Cadburys in the business (joining in 1887), but made some important changes. William established pension funds for the employees in the early years of the 20th century. Under his leadership, Cadbury stopped buying cocoa from Sao Thome and Principe Islands after slavery was discovered to be in practice there (he also convinced his competitors, Fry and Rowntree, to boycott Portuguese cocoa from West Africa). In 1905, William commissioned French designer Georges Auriol to design the first proper company logo, a cocoa tree. The Cadbury script logo introduced in 1921 is William’s signature. Cadbury Easter Creme Eggs are amazing…
5. On February 17, 1876, sardines were first canned by Julius Wolff in Eastport, Maine. Until 1871, Americans had imported their sardines from France and Spain, but the Franco-Prussian War ended that practice. Julius was the owner of a New York brokerage firm which had been bringing in the European sardines. He established the first sardine factory, Eagle Preserve Fish Company, on Passamaquoddy Bay. Over the next 125 years, some 400 sardine factories operated along Maine’s coast. In 2008, Ronnie Peabody opened the Maine Coast Sardine History Museum in Jonesport, Maine. There’s even a Sardine Society…
6. On February 17, 1924, Austro-Hungarian swimmer Johnny Weissmuller set a record for the 100-yard freestyle (52.4 seconds). It was but one of the 67 world records he would set during his impressive swimming career. Movie buffs will recognize Johnny as the actor who played the role of Tarzan in a dozen movies, and “delivered” the famous Tarzan yell (which was actually a recording of three vocalists spliced together: a soprano, an alto, and a hog-caller). After Tarzan, Johnny went on to play Jungle Jim in more than a dozen movies and a TV series. Johnny was married five times, and fathered three children: his son, Johnny Jr., followed him into acting, but wasn’t nearly as successful. Johnny died January 20, 1984. At his request, a recording of the Tarzan yell was played three times as his coffin was being lowered into the ground.
7. On February 17, 1933, Blondie married Dagwood Bumstead in the comic strip, Blondie. I bet there aren’t a lot of people that know that the bride’s maiden name was Boopadoop! Or that Dagwood went on a 28-day hunger strike to convince his well-to-do parents to let him go ahead with the wedding!
8. On February 17, 1969, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash recorded an album together, which was never released. They cut more than a dozen tracks, including renditions of “It’s All Right, Mama” and Cash’s “I Walk The Line.” However, only a version of Dylan’s “Girl From The North Country,” was eventually released. It would become the first track of Dylan’s “Nashville Skyline,” which came out in April of 1969. I found this bootleg album online:
I hope you’ve enjoyed this walk down Memory Lane…