New York socialite Samuel Ward McAllister created the term in 1892, when he planned a party to be held in Mrs. William Astor’s ballroom. Since the ballroom held only 400 people, McAllister limited the invitations to those he decided were the inner elite of New York society.
Priapus, a Greek god of animal and plant fertility, was known for his enormous phallus. He was usually described as the son of Dionysus and Aphrodite, though sometimes his mother was said to have been a local nymph. To sophisticated city-dwellers, Priapus often became the subject of racy humor, but rural people adopted him as […]
As of 1990, the magazine empire Time Warner was about twice as big, with $1.855 billion in magazine revenue to Hearst’s $993 million.
Al Capone’s business cards said he was a second-hand furniture dealer in Chicago.
Stewart became an Air Force colonel, Gable an Air Force major during World War II.
A polecat is not a cat at all. Polecat is the common name for various weasel-like animals of the family Mustelidae, which also includes weasels, minks, and otters. Varieties of this creature include: the European polecat; the mashed, or steppe, polecat of Asia; the marbled polecat of Eurasia; and the zorilla, or African polecat. In […]
Nouvelle Vague was the French New Wave of filmmakers who changed the face of French film in the late 1950s. The group included: Claude Chabrol, Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Eric Rohmer, and Jacques Rivette. They pioneered a freer, more personal cinematic style that rebelled against standard industry practices. Truffaut’s 400 Blows (1959) and Godard’s Breathless […]
Author Marguerite Duras was born in Indochina, in 1914. The French writer is the author of the novel The Lover (1984) and the screenplay Hiroshima, Mon Amour (1960).
“Radar” O’Reilly’s real name in the 1970 film and 1972-83 CBS TV series “M*A*S*H*” was Walter. Gary Burghoff played the character in both TV and film.
The movie actor Humphrey Bogart (1899-1957) was a veteran of World War I. While serving in the Navy, Bogart was wounded in the shelling of the ship Leviathan. The injury resulted in the scarred and partially paralyzed upper lip that gave him his trademark lisp and tight-set mouth.
The prop budget for “Captain Video” (Du-Mont, 1949-55) was twenty-five dollars per week, which covered items like Video Decoder Rings and Astra-Viewers.
Only one black woman, itinerant preacher and abolitionist Sojourner Truth, attended the first National Woman’s Rights Convention. The convention was held in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1850.
In the movie Babette’s Feast (1987), the spread included, among other things, fresh terrapin soup, quail in vol-au-vents, blinis, caviar, and baba au rhum.
The first state to secede from the Union was South Carolina, which seceded on December 20, 1860, in response to the November election of Abraham Lincoln as president.
The Tet Offensive was a general attack in January 1968 by North Vietnamese forces against South Vietnamese cities. Militarily, North Vietnam lost since they suffered heavy losses and failed to hold any city. But strategically North Vietnam delivered a severe blow to the U.S. by showing that the war was far from over and undermining […]
Connecticut. Which state is known as the Blue Hen State? Delaware. Which state is known as the Gopher State? Minnesota. Which state is known as the Beaver State? Oregon.
The four Lennon Sisters were Diane, Peggy, Kathy, and Janet. They were regulars on “The Lawrence Welk Show” (ABC, 1955-71) from 1955 to 1968.
The name of the dinosaur bone lost by David Huxley was an intercostal clavicle.
On “The New Adventures of Charlie Chan,” a syndicated TV program in the 1956-57 season, the sleuth was played by J. Carroll Naish, an Irishman from New York.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky translated Eugenie Grandet (1833) into Russian. Dostoyevsky’s 1844 translation was his first publication.
On October 1, 1946, in Nuremberg, 12 of the original 24 defendants were condemned to death by hanging. They were: Hermann Goring, Joachim Ribbentrop, Field Marshal General Wilhelm Keitel, Ernest Kaltenbrunner, Dr. Albert Rosenberg, Hans Frank, Wilhelm Frick, Julius Streicher, Fritz Sauckel, Colonel General Alfred Jodl, and Arthur Seyss-Inquart. Martin Bormann, who succeeded Rudolf Hess […]
Mrs. McGillicuddy, Lucy Ricardo’s (Lucille Ball’s) mother, was played by Kathryn Card on “I Love Lucy” (CBS, 1951-57). Charles Winninger played Fred Mertz’s (William Frawley’s) father in 1954.
The Motion Picture Production Code, devised by the Motion Picture Association of America. It was nicknamed the Hays Code for the MPAA’s first director, Will H. Hays, and was adopted in 1930. The lengthy document, which was written to forestall government censorship of movies, was not dissolved by the MPAA until 1968.
The sun sets in the east in the closing moments of the movie The Green Berets (1968).
Famed for its Italian flavors, the Ragti line of products was founded in Rochester, New York, in 1937 by two Italian immigrants, Giovanni and Assunta Contisano. Ragii became the first nationally distributed brand of pasta sauce in the U.S. in 1989, after it was acquired by Chesebrough-Pond’s.
The renowned American painter Winslow Homer (1836-1910) worked for Harper’s Weekly during the Civil War. One of his first important paintings, Prisoners from the Front in 1866, drew on this experience.
Dorothy Parker collaborated on several screenplays, including A Star Is Born (1937), The Little Foxes (1941), Saboteur (1942), and The Fan (1949).
Ramon Novarro played Judah Ben-Hur in the 1926 version of Ben-Hur, with Francis X. Bushman as his friend-turned-enemy Messala. Fred Niblo directed. Charlton Heston and Stephen Boyd, respectively, took the roles in the 1959 remake. William Wyler directed.
The New Year’s Day football game was first played between the University of Michigan and Stanford University in Pasadena, California, in 1902. Michigan won 49-0.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, 58,135 Americans were killed and 153,303 wounded. It is estimated that 1.3 million Vietnamese lost their lives.
The abacus was probably invented by the Babylonians. It was refined and used by the Romans, Chinese, Arabs, Europeans, and Asians as late as the seventeenth century. It is still used, in various forms, in the Middle East and Japan.
The Japanese novel The Tale of Genji was written by court lady Murasaki Shikibu around 1000. It was first translated into English by Arthur Waley in 1925-33. It is widely thought of as the world’s first novel. This Japanese novel was written by court lady Murasaki Shikibu around 1000. It was first translated
Instituted in 1897 and celebrated on June 14, Flag Day marks the day in 1777 that the Continental Congress adopted the “Stars and Stripes” as the American flag.
Albany-born Daniel Quinn, the protagonist of Quinn’s Book, is the grandfather of Danny Quinn of Ironweed (1983). Ironweed is part of the Albany Cycle, which also includes Legs (1975), Billy Phelan’s Greatest Game (1978), and Very Old Bones (1992).
The game on December 25, 1971, between the Miami Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs lasted 82 minutes and 40 seconds. It went into a second period of sudden death before Garo Yepremian kicked a field goal and won the game for the Dolphins, 27-24.
Fred Astaire. Frederick Austerlitz Bing Crosby. Harry Lillis Crosby Marlene Dietrich. Maria Magdalene von Losch W. C. Fields. William Claude Dukenfield Greta Garbo. Greta Gustafsson Judy Garland. Frances Gumm Cary Grant. Archibald Alexander Leach Boris Karloff William Henry Pratt John Wayne. Marion Michael Morrison
One reason spilling salt is considered bad luck is because salt was once valuable and difficult to obtain. According to an old Norwegian superstition, a person is doomed to shed as many tears as it takes to dissolve the spilled salt. Another reason is the belief that spilled salt refers to the devil. In the […]
In the 1896 decision that established the grounds for “separate but equal” public facilities, Homer Plessy was an octoroon (mixed race) who was arrested in Louisiana when he sat in a “white” car on a train. John H. Ferguson was the New Orleans criminal court judge who convicted him.
About 100,000 hairs are on a human head. Human hairs grow about 0.01 inch every day.
David Huddleston played Santa Claus in the movie Santa Claus (1985).
Ten Americans have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature: Sinclair Lewis (1930); Eugene O’Neill (1936); Pearl S. Buck (1938); William Faulkner (1949); Ernest Hemingway (1954); John Steinbeck (1962); Saul Bellow (1976); Isaac Bashevis Singer, a naturalized citizen (1978); Czeslaw Milosz, a naturalized citizen (1980); and Joseph Brodsky, a naturalized citizen (1987).
Asia, by far is the most populous continent. Its population in 1989, including the Soviet Union’s, was estimated at 3.35 billion. The next most populous continent, Africa, had only 646 million people. Antarctica, the least populous continent, is virtually uninhabited.
In the 1961-62 season, the “Top Cat” series was on Wednesday nights from 8:30 to 9:00 P.M., on ABC.
The Native American senator, Ben Nighthorse Campbell, whose term began in 1993, represents Colorado. He is a member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe of Montana.
In 1819, Spain ceded Florida to the U.S. for $5 million. In addition, Spain gave up its claim to the Oregon Territory while the U.S. recognized that Texas belonged to Spain. Within three decades, in 1845, the U.S. had annexed Texas too.
Pennsylvania, founded by William Penn, a Quaker, in 1682 was one of the 13 Colonies was founded by pacifists. Members of the Society of Friends, or Quaker movement, rejected formal sacraments and clergy, trusted in the inspiration of an “inner light,” and forbade violence and war. Penn hoped Pennsylvania’s government would embody Quaker principles, practicing […]
The first woman in space was Valentina V. Tereshkova of the USSR. She made 48 orbits of the earth in a three-day mission in Vostok 6, June 16 to 19, 1963.
By the time of his death in 323 B.C., Alexander III, king of Macedonia, had conquered Persia, Syria, Phoenicia, Egypt, Bactria, Bukhara, and the Punjab. His armies marched as far as India. He was thirty-three when he died.
Warren G. Harding was the first president to ride in an automobile to his inauguration, on March 4, 1921.
The freshwater and cypress swamp called Okefenokee Swamp, best known as the locale of Walt Kelly’s comic strip “Pogo,” begins near Waycross, Georgia, and extends into Florida. Its name is a variation of the Indian term “Owaquaphenoga,” or “trembling earth.”
Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill were seventh cousins, once removed.
The play, Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw ends with Eliza Doolittle asserting her humanity and rejecting Henry Higgins. But the 1938 movie ending, approved by Shaw, brought the pair together. The musical version, My Fair Lady (1956), also had a happy ending.
The source of the title of Thomas Wolfe’s novel Look Homeward, Angel (1929) was John Milton’s poem “Lycidas” (1637). Milton asks his dead friend, now an angel, to look back compassionately on his still-living friends: Look homeward, Angel, now, and melt with ruth: And, 0 ye dolphins, waft the hapless youth.
Jack Dempsey was punched through the ropes by a first-round right from Luis Firpo on September 4, 1923, at the Polo Grounds in New York City. The punch did not end the fight: Dempsey came back to win by a knockout in the second round.
The Boston Red Sox beat the Pittsburgh Pirates five games to three in what was then a best-of-nine series, October 1 to 13, 1903. This was the first win of the World Series in baseball.
Much of the credit for the visual style of the TV series “Miami Vice”goes to art director Jeffrey Howard, who won an Emmy for his efforts in 1985.
The most destructive air attack of World War II was not the atomic bombing of Hiroshima but the firebombing of Tokyo by 279 Superfortress bombers on March 9-10, 1945. Over 1,650 tons of incendiary bombs were dropped on the city, raising a massive firestorm and killing from 80,000 to 120,000 people. The bombing represented a […]
It depends on whom you ask. Some editors will still change “to boldly go where no man has gone before” to “to go boldly . . .” But other pundits now consider the taboo against split infinitives all but passé. The taboo was introduced by eighteenth and nineteenth-century grammarians for unknown reasons.
The first American Express Travelers’ Cheque was issued in 1891. Then as now, Travelers’ Cheques were designed to allow travelers to carry funds safely. American Express levied a surcharge on buyers of the cheques and paid banks a commission for each sale.
The first and middle names of the twentieth-century English critic I.A. Richards are Ivor Armstrong.