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World War I—in Color

January 11, 2019 in History

By Martin Stezano

Digitally colorized photographs from a century ago help bring “The Great War” to life.

26 Photos of Dogs Being Heroes in WWI

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How a Murderer from Italy Remade Himself as an American Renaissance Man

January 11, 2019 in History

By Greg Daugherty

In retrospect, it seems odd that Henry Woodhouse got away with as much as he did for more than half a century. After all, it wasn’t every day that a paroled murderer with no discernible education became a darling of America’s burgeoning aviation elite—heralded as a renowned expert and author in an extensive Who’s Who in America biography. Nor does it compute that after being unmasked in that milieu, the same man would go undetected for decades as one of the boldest, most successful serial forgers of American history artifacts.

But Henry Woodhouse did. And as the world would eventually learn, if he was an expert at anything, it was self-invention. Much like his fictional contemporary Jay Gatsby, Woodhouse lived a rags-to-riches success story, complete with a made-up name and a murky criminal past. But unlike F. Scott Fitzgerald’s character, Woodhouse didn’t just reinvent himself once. He did it repeatedly.

Also unlike the ill-fated Gatsby, he would mostly get away with it.

READ MORE: 6 Little-Known Pioneers of Aviation

Newspapers eagerly quote the sham expert

In 1918, as American fighter aces and their German foes battled in the skies over Europe, Woodhouse published what appeared to be the definitive book on aerial warfare. His Textbook of Military Aeronautics was a sequel of sorts to his Textbook of Naval Aeronautics, released the year before. In 1920 he’d follow up with a Textbook of Aerial Laws.

Already a well-known authority in the world of aviation, Woodhouse was a leader in the respected Aero Club of America and managing editor of its publication, Flying. Since 1910, he had written for many popular magazines and become a go-to source for newspaper reporters. The New York Times alone cited him in some 80 articles.

Pages from Henry Woodhouse’s Textbook of Military Aeronautics, 1918.

When the Lusitania was sunk by a German torpedo in 1915, Woodhouse told reporters the tragedy could have been averted had the ship carried two seaplanes to scout ahead for submarines. In 1918 he proposed that the U.S. come to the rescue of its beleaguered allies by flying a “swarm” of 1,000 warplanes across the Atlantic to Europe—more than a year before British aviators John Alcock and Arthur Brown would make the first successful nonstop Atlantic crossing. In 1919 he predicted the world would soon see “a trans-Atlantic line of giant flying boats” for ferrying commercial passengers.

That same …read more

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Why Priceless Lapis Lazuli Was Found in a Medieval Nun's Mouth

January 10, 2019 in History

By Sarah Pruitt


Lapis lazuli pigment entrapped in the dental calculus on the lower jaw a medieval woman.

Scientists just made a major discovery about the role of female artists and scribes in the Middle Ages—all based on some 1,000-year-old dental plaque.

The plaque in question belonged to a middle-aged woman buried in a small women’s monastery in Dalheim, Germany around A.D. 1100. Archaeologist Anita Radini, of the University of York, in England was examining the woman’s dental tartar when she noticed flecks of a brilliant blue substance.

Though Radini and her co-author on the new study, Christina Warinner at the University of Zürich, were both experts in studying ancient tartar, neither of them had seen anything like this before. After enlisting the help of fellow archaeologists, physicists and historians, they were finally able to identify it as ultramarine, a rare pigment made from the semi-precious mineral known as lapis lazuli.

During the German woman’s lifetime, ultramarine was so rare that it would have been worth its weight, or more, in gold. For centuries, lapis lazuli could be found only in a single region of northern Afghanistan, and the pigment painstakingly derived from its stones was among the most revered shades used by artists in Renaissance Europe, who often chose it to color the Virgin Mary’s robes. Michelangelo ordered large quantities of ultramarine for his work on the Sistine Chapel, but reportedly couldn’t afford enough to finish his painting The Entombment.

Due to its high value, ultramarine was used only on the most valuable of medieval manuscripts—richly decorated texts created in monasteries for the use of religious leaders and the nobility. Though many medieval scribes and painters didn’t sign their work, it’s long been assumed that women played a limited role in producing such highly valued documents.

“Picture someone copying a medieval book—if you picture anything, you’re going to picture a monk, not a nun,” Alison Beach, a historian at Ohio State University who worked on the study, told the New York Times.

But through their analysis of the pigment found in the German nun’s tartar, Radini, Warinner, Beach and their colleagues upended this assumption, arguing that the woman most likely worked as a painter and scribe, probably a highly skilled one. The most likely scenario, they concluded, is that she got ultramarine in her mouth by using her tongue to shape the end of her brush.

The pigment was …read more

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Why Ronald Reagan Had a Record Eight Shutdowns

January 10, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

Most government shutdowns happen over hot button issues where the Democratic and Republican parties strongly disagree—abortion in the 1970s, Medicaid and Medicare in the ‘90s; and Obamacare, DACA and a “border wall” in the 21s century. Similarly, the record eight shutdowns that happened during Ronald Reagan’s presidency highlighted some of the biggest political battles of the 1980s, from funding for people on welfare to the Iran-Contra affair.

1. The fight over domestic vs. defense spending: November 20 to 23, 1981

The first shutdown where a large portion of the government actually stopped functioning came in 1981, when Reagan furloughed 241,000 of the government’s 2.1 million employees without pay.

This shutdown concerned what’s known as “Reaganomics.” Reagan had campaigned on a platform of cutting domestic spending without hurting Cold War defense funding, and that’s exactly what this shutdown was over. On one side, Reagan wanted to cut domestic spending by several billion dollars; and on the other, the Democrat-controlled House wanted more defense cuts and higher wages for members of Congress and senior civil servants.

In the end, Congress and Reagan worked out a temporary bill to give them more time to work out a long-term spending plan. This was technically the seventh government shutdown over a spending bill disagreement, but the first to impact federal workers on a large scale.

Tammy Wynette singing to President Ronald Reagan during a barbecue for members of Congress on the South Lawn in 1982.

2. Democrats decide not to ‘stand by their man’: September 30 to October 2, 1982

Reagan’s first 1982 shutdown didn’t happen over a major political issue, but the reason behind it is very 1980s. The reason Reagan and Congress didn’t reach a budget agreement on September 30 was because they all had social functions they needed to get to.

Democrats in Congress had scheduled $1,000-a-plate fundraising dinner far in advance for that night, and Reagan had also invited all of Congress to a White House BBQ on the same evening. This did cause some tensions between Congressional Democrats and Reagan; the Democrats were angry he’d scheduled his party on the same night as theirs, and were worried that they’d lose guests to the president’s BBQ.

One of the featured guests at the White House BBQ was the country singer Tammy Wynette, who sang her hit “Stand By Your Man.” In his remarks that night, the …read more

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The Spies Who Launched America’s Industrial Revolution

January 10, 2019 in History

By Christopher Klein

From water-powered textile mills, to mechanical looms, much of the machinery that powered America’s early industrial success was “borrowed” from Europe.

Long before the United States began accusing other countries of stealing ideas, the U.S. government encouraged intellectual piracy to catch up with England’s technological advances. According to historian Doron Ben-Atar, in his book, Trade Secrets, “the United States emerged as the world’s industrial leader by illicitly appropriating mechanical and scientific innovations from Europe.”

Among those sniffing out innovations across the Atlantic was Harvard graduate and Boston merchant, Francis Cabot Lowell. As the War of 1812 raged on, Lowell set sail from Great Britain in possession of the enemy’s most precious commercial secret. He carried with him pirated plans for Edmund Cartwright’s power loom, which had made Great Britain the world’s leading industrial power.

Halfway across the Atlantic, a British frigate intercepted Lowell’s ship. Although the British double-searched his luggage and detained him for days, Lowell knew they would never find any evidence of espionage for he had hidden the plans in the one place they would never find them—inside his photographic mind. Unable to find any sign of spy craft, the British allowed Lowell to return to Boston, where he used Cartwright’s design to help propel the Industrial Revolution in the United States.

Dr. Edmund Cartwright shown next to the Power Loom, which was inspired by machinery he saw in England.

Founding Fathers Encouraged Intellectual Piracy

Lowell was hardly the first American to pilfer British intellectual property. The Founding Fathers not only tolerated intellectual piracy, they actively encouraged it. Many agreed with Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, who believed that the development of a strong manufacturing base was vital to the survival of the largely agrarian country. Months before taking the oath of office as the first president in 1789, George Washington wrote to Thomas Jefferson that “the introduction of the late improved machines to abridge labor, must be of almost infinite consequence to America.”

The fledgling country, however, lacked a domestic textile manufacturing industry and lagged far behind Great Britain. The quickest way to close the technological gap between the United States and its former motherland was not to develop designs from scratch—but to steal them.

In his 1791 “Report on Manufactures,” Hamilton advocated rewarding those bringing “improvements and secrets of extraordinary value” into the country. Among those who took great interest …read more

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Who Was the Real St. Valentine? The Many Myths Behind the Inspiration for Valentine's Day

January 9, 2019 in History

By Livia Gershon

There were multiple St. Valentines (including decapitated ones), but it was a medieval poet who first linked the name to the romantic tradition.

On February 14, when we share chocolates, special dinners, or doily cards with our loved ones, we do it in the name of Saint Valentine. But who was this saint of romance?

Search the internet, and you can find plenty of stories about him—or them. One Saint Valentine was supposedly a Roman priest who performed secret weddings against the wishes of the authorities in the third century. Imprisoned in the home of a noble, he healed his captor’s blind daughter, causing the whole household to convert to Christianity and sealing his fate. Before being tortured and decapitated on February 14, he sent the girl a note signed “Your Valentine.”

Some accounts say another saint named Valentine during the same period was the Bishop of Terni, also credited with secret weddings and martyrdom via beheading on February 14.

Unfortunately for anyone hoping for a tidy, romantic backstory to the holiday, scholars who have studied its origins say there’s very little basis for these accounts. In fact, Valentine’s Day only became associated with love in the late Middle Ages, thanks to the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer.

“The two stories that everybody talks about, the bishop and the priest, they’re so similar that it makes me suspicious,” says Bruce Forbes, a professor of religious studies at Morningside College in Iowa.

Saint Valentine, who according to some sources is actually two distinct historical characters who were said to have healed a child while imprisoned and executed by decapitation.

Multiple Martyred Saint Valentines

Valentine was a popular name in ancient Rome, and there are at least 50 stories of different saints by that name. But Forbes said the earliest surviving accounts of the two February 14 Valentines, written starting in the 500s, have a whole lot in common. Both were said to have healed a child while imprisoned, leading to a household-wide religious conversion, and they were executed on the same day of the year and buried along the same highway.

The historical evidence is so sketchy that it’s not clear whether the story started with one saint who then became two or if biographers of one man borrowed details from the other—or if either ever existed at all.

READ MORE: 6 Facts About St. Valentine

Perhaps more disappointing for the …read more

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Seen a UFO? In the ‘50s, You Could Report It In This Easy Questionnaire

January 9, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

Say you’re out walking in the desert and see a flash of light in the sky that you can’t identify. If this happened between 1952 and 1969, you could report that light to Project Blue Book, the U.S. Air Force’s project to investigate unidentified flying objects—aka, UFOs.

Project Blue Book was the longest-running official government inquiry into UFOs. Based at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, the project investigated thousands of incidents. An official questionnaire asked UFO sighters to describe exactly what they saw and when they saw it. A section of the questionnaire instructed:

“Draw a picture that will show the shape of the object or objects. Label and include in your sketch any details of the object that you saw such as wings, protrusions, etc., and especially exhaust trails or vapor trails. Place an arrow beside the drawing to show the direction the object was moving.”

View the 3 images of this gallery on the original article

One of the most famous sightings reported to Project Blue Book was the 1964 Lonnie Zamora incident just south of Socorro, New Mexico. Zamora was a policeman who, while on patrol, saw an egg-shaped craft fly over his car and land. He drove over to it and spied two figures outside of the craft, who then entered it and took off again. Of the more than 12,000 UFO sightings between 1947 and 1969 that the Air Force investigated, the Zamora incident remains one of the 701 unexplained sightings.

The Air Force’s investigation of UFOs started in 1948 with Project Sign. The year before, a businessman named Kenneth Arnold had claimed that, while flying a plane near Mount Rainier in Washington state, he’d spied nine crescent-shaped objects speeding along “like saucers skipping on water.” Newspaper accounts that mixed up his words helped popularize the term “flying saucer.”

After the Mount Rainier incident, UFO sightings increased, and the Air Force decided to study them. The country was in the early stages of the Cold War, and some officials suspected that these mysterious objects were secret Soviet Union aircrafts that posed a threat to the U.S.

The Air Force’s first UFO investigation, Project Sign, was succeeded in 1949 by Project Grudge, which shut down at the end of that year after concluding that UFO sightings were the result of hysteria, hoaxes, mental illness or the misidentification of known objects. …read more

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One of the Hillside Stranglers Sentenced to Life

January 9, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

Angelo Buono, one of the Hillside Stranglers, is sentenced to life in prison for his role in the rape, torture, and murder of 10 young women in Los Angeles. Buono’s cousin and partner in crime, Kenneth Bianchi, testified against Buono to escape the death penalty.

Buono, a successful auto upholsterer, and Bianchi began their serial crime spree in 1977 when Bianchi moved from New York to live with his cousin. They started talking about how the prostitutes that Buono often brought home would hardly be missed by anyone if they disappeared. Idle speculation quickly led to action and the pair raped and strangled their first victim, Yolanda Washington, on October 17.

Within a month Buono and Bianchi had attacked three other women and developed a trademark method of operation. They picked up the women in their van, drove them back to Buono’s house where they were sexually assaulted in all manners, tortured, and strangled to death. The duo then thoroughly cleaned the bodies before taking and posing them in lascivious positions on hillsides in the Los Angeles area, often near police stations. Thus, they earned the nickname the “Hillside Strangler.” The press assumed that it was the work of one man.

Following the death of the 10th victim in February 1978, the murders suddenly stopped. Buono and Bianchi were no longer getting along, even with their common hobby. Bianchi moved to Washington and applied for a job at the Bellingham Police Department. He didn’t get the job, but became a security guard instead. However, he couldn’t keep his murderous impulses in check and killed two college students. A witness who had seen the two girls with Bianchi came forward and the case was solved.

Bianchi, who hadseen the moviesSybil and The Three Faces of Eve many times, suddenly claimed to have multiple personalities. He blamed the murders on “Steve,” one of his alternate personalities. Psychiatrists examining Bianchi quickly dismissed his ruse and Bianchi then confessed to the Hillside Strangler murders, testifying against Buono to avoid the death penalty in Washington.

During his trial, Buono fiercely insisted on his innocence, pointing to the fact that there was no physical evidence tying him to the crimes. Buono’s house was so clean that investigators couldn’t even find Buono’s own fingerprints in the home. But after more than 400 witnesses testified, Buono was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Angelo …read more

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Columbus mistakes manatees for mermaids

January 9, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

On this day in 1493, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, sailing near the Dominican Republic, sees three “mermaids”–in reality manatees–and describes them as “not half as beautiful as they are painted.” Six months earlier, Columbus (1451-1506) set off from Spain across the Atlantic Ocean with the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, hoping to find a western trade route to Asia. Instead, his voyage, the first of four he would make, led him to the Americas, or “New World.”

Mermaids, mythical half-female, half-fish creatures, have existed in seafaring cultures at least since the time of the ancient Greeks. Typically depicted as having a woman’s head and torso, a fishtail instead of legs and holding a mirror and comb, mermaids live in the ocean and, according to some legends, can take on a human shape and marry mortal men. Mermaids are closely linked to sirens, another folkloric figure, part-woman, part-bird, who live on islands and sing seductive songs to lure sailors to their deaths.

Mermaid sightings by sailors, when they weren’t made up, were most likely manatees, dugongs or Steller’s sea cows (which became extinct by the 1760s due to over-hunting). Manatees are slow-moving aquatic mammals with human-like eyes, bulbous faces and paddle-like tails. It is likely that manatees evolved from an ancestor they share with the elephant. The three species of manatee (West Indian, West African and Amazonian) and one species of dugong belong to the Sirenia order. As adults, they’re typically 10 to 12 feet long and weigh 800 to 1,200 pounds. They’re plant-eaters, have a slow metabolism and can only survive in warm water.

Manatees live an average of 50 to 60 years in the wild and have no natural predators. However, they are an endangered species. In the U.S., the majority of manatees are found in Florida, where scores of them die or are injured each year due to collisions with boat.

…read more

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Valentine’s Day Quotes

January 9, 2019 in History

By History.com Editors

From Shakespeare to Aristotle to Dr. Seuss, see how writers through history have expressed the power of love.

Love is among the greatest muses, inspiring the world’s most famous romantics, from Shakespeare, who wrote 154 sonnets dealing with love, time, beauty and mortality, to Chilean poet and diplomat Pablo Neruda. The work of these authors, poets and playwrights speaks to the enduring power of love across the ages of human history.

Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.Aristotle

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.– Lao Tzu

My bounty is as boundless as the sea, My love as deep; the more I give to thee, The more I have, for both are infinite.William Shakespeare

If I had a flower for every time I thought of you … I could walk through my garden forever.Alfred Tennyson

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Young love is a flame; very pretty, often very hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. The love of the older and disciplined heart is as coals, deep-burning, unquenchable.Henry Ward Beecher

Age does not protect you from love. But love, to some extent, protects you from age.– Anais Nin

Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward in the same direction.Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Love has no desire but to fulfill itself. But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires; To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To know the pain of too much tenderness. To be wounded by your own understanding of love; And to bleed willingly and joyfully.Kahlil Gibran

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.Helen Keller

Love consists of this: two solitudes that meet, protect and greet each other.— Rainer Maria Rilke

Love does not dominate; it cultivates.Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.Zora Neale Hurston

Love is life. All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love. Everything is, everything exists, only because I love.Leo Tolstoy

Love is like quicksilver in the hand. Leave the fingers open and it stays. …read more

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