a piece of history

The Serbs were true heroes.

After about a week, the Germans gave up on finding the spies and the OSS team felt they could make their way back down to the mountain to a lower elevation. As they made their way down, some of the local people told them of American airmen who were hiding from the Germans and awaiting rescue. These were not the same airmen being aided by Mihailovich in a different part of the country, but rather a smaller group of only a dozen. Their original mission compromised and all their equipment lost, Jibilian and the other agents decided it would be better if they accomplished something before they simply tried to escape from Yugoslavia. So they gathered as much information as they could from the sympathetic locals and determined where the airmen were. If they could, their plan was to go find the airmen and somehow get them out with them.

Serbia and the Serbs in World War II

Gregory Freeman’s novel about the airmen who were given refuge by the Serbs is astonishing.  Equally unbelievable is how the OSS operated and the rescue mission of these airmen.  God bless the Serbs and thank God for the leadership of Draza Mihailovich – God rest his soul.


the stocking truth

Stockings which are also known as hosiery, or hose, and popularly as “Nylons”,  are coverings for legs and feet. Early references to hosiery go back to the ancient Greeks. Workmen and slaves wore hosiery in ancient times, and Roman woman wore a short sock (called a soccus) in their homes. Silk or cotton socks were also worn in Japan and China for centuries.

Socks evolved into stockings in 12th century Europe. Breeches worn by men became close fitting, reaching from the waist to the foot like modern tights. Women wore  stockings held up at the knee by garters. After 1545 knitted stockings came into fashion, their seams were often ornamented by elaborate silk patterns, or “clocks”. This term is still in use today as “fancy feet” the  decorative seam treatments that were popular during the late 40’s and early 50’s.

Source:  Stocking Story

who could have imagined . . . ?

The book reader of the future April 1935 issue of Everyday Science

hubby in the kitchen!

A German immigrant named Frederick William Rueckheim invented Cracker Jack. Rueckheim came to Chicago in 1872 to help clean up after the famous Chicago fire. He also worked selling popcorn from a cart. Together with brother Louis, Rueckheim experimented and came up with a delightful popcorn candy, which the brothers decided to mass market. Cracker Jack was first mass-produced and sold at the first Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.

The treat was a mixture of popcorn, molasses, and peanuts and the initial name was “Candied Popcorn and Peanuts.” Legend has it that the name “Cracker Jack” came from a customer who upon trying the treat exclaimed “That really a cracker – Jack!”  and the name stuck. However, “crackerjack” was also a slang expression at that time that meant “something very pleasing or excellent” and that is more likely to have been the origin of the name. By 1896, the company devised a way to keep the popcorn kernels separate, the mixture had been difficult to handle because it tended to stick together in chunks. The wax-sealed, moisture-proof box was introduced in 1899. Immortalized in 1908 in the lyrics of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” Cracker Jack added surprises in each package in 1912.

– source – About.com – Inventors

Cracker Jack!!

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House of Wits

No record remains of the scene at the school or the panic at the James home on Pearl Street when thirteen-year-old Henry arrived home with his burned and blistered leg.  Henry’s mother, Catharine Barber James, had given birth to seven of her eight children by 1824 and had dealt with manifold accidents and illnesses.  As a retiring, quiet woman, who had had to play a muted part as the third wife of a moody, preoccupied man, Catharine had been forced to practice patience.  But she was in for gory scenes and long-lasting turmoil with her son’s injury.  Henry’s leg was so badly charred that soon it “had to be amputated,” one family friend remembered, just below the knee.  In spite of William James’s position, the job turned out to be “ill-done.”  Such surgery, performed without anesthetic, put Henry through unimaginable horrors, and Henry would spend most of the next two years, from the ages of thirteen to fifteen, confined to his bed.  To help him cope with the pain, his father and his doctors plied him with whiskey and other strong spirits–exacerbating his drinking problem.  Then, at the age of sixteen, Henry suffered another setback.  Alarming black specks of disease broke out on his damaged leg, where the skin had never completely healed or even grown over the exposed bone.  The leg had to be amputated again, this time above the knee–a grisly operation that took place, in May 1828, with only more liquor standing between Henry and the pain.

House of Wits An Intimate Portrait of the James Family, Paul Fisher

The James Family

Do not mind anything that anyone tells you about anyone else. Judge everyone and everything for yourself.

–          Henry James


early book clubs

In the chapter NORTH AMERICA 1770-1816:

Women in Bess and Marianne’s circle ensured an adequate provision of the latest “good reads” by forming book clubs.  “You know how books travel in this country (much to the detriment of their covers), but it is an excellent idea,” Rosalie Calvert, a Belgian heiress married to a Maryland planter, explained to her brother on December 10, 1808.  “The expense of a complete library would be too great, so everyone purchases several new volumes each year, and they are loaned around and their merits discussed.”  There was one novel these Maryland women wanted to read:  “Have you read Corrine, by Madame Staël-Holstein, an extremely interesting new romance?” Rosalie asked, while Bess recommended it to her grandfather as “a wonderful book.”  One of the books Eliza Anderson passed around her Baltimore friends was A Vindication of the Rights of Women which continued to be widely read in America, though only brave women applauded its ideas in public.

Sisters of Fortune by Jehanne Wake

Convention of Former Slaves – Washington, D. C. – 1916

How do you arrange your books??

Robert K. Massie in his novel Catherine the Great writes that Ivan Rimsky-Korsakov, a favorite of Empress Catherine, decided “that [his mansion] needed a library to proclaim his new status.  He had shelves built and then called on the capital’s leading bookseller.  What books were wanted, he was asked.  ‘You understand that better than I,’ said the new bibliophile.  ‘Big books at the bottom, then smaller books, and so on up to the top.’  The bookseller unloaded many rows of unsold German Bible commentaries bound in fine leather. “


the Empress

page 302

In 1762, the Russian population of roughly twenty million consisted of hierarchal layers: the sovereign, the nobility, the church, merchants and townspeople, and, at the base, up to ten million peasants.  some of the peasants were partially free; a few completely; most not at all.  Serfs were peasants in permanent bondage to land owned by the crown, the state, the church, private owners–almost all in the nobility–[or to a variety of industrial and mining enterprises.  According to a census taken between 1762 and 1764, the crown owned five hundred thousand serfs who worked on land owned by the ruler and his or her family.  Two million eight hundred thousand serfs were classified as state peasants, owned by the state and living on land or in villages belonging to the state but allowed to meet their obligations by paying money or labor dues to the state.    One million had been the property of the Orthodox Church; these were the serfs Catherine had taken from the church and transferred to the state.  The largest number of Russian serfs–five and a half million, or 56 percent of the total–belonged to members of the nobility.  All Russian noblemen were entitled by law to own serfs.  A handful of these nobles were extraordinarily rich (a few owned thousands of serfs), but the vast majority were small squires owning land that required fewer than a hundred–sometimes fewer than twenty–workers to farm.  Finally, there was a fourth category of unfree labor, the industrial serfs, working in the mines and foundries of the Urals.  They did not belong to the owners or the managers of these enterprises; they were the property of the mines or foundries.

page 303:

Sales of talented serfs often took place in cities where their skills were extolled by advertisements in the Moscow News or the St. Petersburg Gazette:

For sale, a barber and also four bedposts and other pieces of furniture.  For sale, two banqueting cloths and likewise two young girls trained in service and one peasant woman.  For sale: a girl of sixteen, of good behavior, and a ceremonial carriage, hardly used.  For sale: a girl of sixteen trained in lace-making, able to sew linen, iron, and starch and dress her mistress in addition to have a pretty face and being well formed.

the crown

The Great Imperial Crown of Catherine the Great

The Great Imperial Crown of Catherine the Great, was based on the medieval Byzantine crown, consisting of two half spheres representing  the eastern and western halves of the of the Roman Empire, connected by an arch of oak leaves and acorns, symbolizing the temporal power of the monarchy. The two half spheres in this case represents the two continents spanned by Imperial Russia. The crown is surmounted by the 398.72-carat Catherine the Great’s Ruby (Spinel), which in turn is surmounted by a jeweled cross. The cross symbolizes three things: the faith of the sovereign, the God-given power of the monarchy and the supremacy of the divine order over earthly power.

The crown was quite heavy weighing approximately 5 pounds. The crown is adorned with 4,936 diamonds arranged in floral and leaf patterns on the entire surface of the two hemispheres and the connecting arch. Two rows of large white pearls, border the edges of the mitre.

Is is said that Catherine was so impressed by the design of the new Imperial Crown, that she did not mind its slightly higher weight. She told the jeweler that she would manage to wear the load throughout the four to five hour coronation ceremony. But it turned out that she bore the load of the crown throughout her long reign that lasted 34 years from 1762 to 1796.

source – The Great Ruby

the papacy

It seems more likely than not that St. Peter did in fact come to Rome and was martyred there, probably somewhere on the Vatican Hill.  There his remains may have been buried, the site being marked with greater or lesser accuracy by the shrine that grew up in the later second century; unfortunately, there are still too many question marks for any confident deductions to be made.  What Peter most certainly did not do was found the Roman Church.  He seems to have been in the city for only a very short time before his martyrdom, and he could not possibly have been a diocesan bishop as we understand the term and as the pope is Bishop of Rome today.  The obvious reason for his subsequent elevation is that when, in the course of the second century, the Church of Rome acquired an effective primacy over its fellow churches–largely owing to the prestige of the imperial capital–it sought justification for its position; and there, lying ready to hand, was Matthew 16:18.  It looked no further.

. . . Yet, from the very start, there can be little doubt that he was the generally acknowledged leader of Christ’s disciples. . . . Finally, he was the first of the disciples–if we are to believe St. Paul–to whom the resurrected Christ first appeared.

built for a queen

“In 1632, the mausoleum was built for the queen by the inconsolable Shah Jehan. There is no trace of Hindu influence. Artisans were brought from Baghdad, Constantinople, and other centers of the Muslim faith. It took twenty-two years and twenty-two thousand laborers and craftsmen from India, Asia, and Europe to build the white marble Taj. The building is set in a Persian landscaped garden on the banks of the Yamuna River. The Taj Mahal is exquisitely proportioned, with minarets and a central dome mirrored in a reflecting pool. It features perforated marble grilles, semiprecious stones (including jasper, lapis lazuli, and bloodstone) inlaid in marble, as well as arabesques and chevrons. There is hardly a break between the stones. One flower an inch square can have sixty different inlays. The Taj Mahal reflects the varying moods of night and day: brilliant and dazzling at noon, warm and glowing at dusk, and ethereal in the moonlight. The main entrance was once guarded with heavy silver gates. The stone carving is of alabaster lace, beautiful and sublime with delicate detail.”

India: An Illustrated History (Illustrated Histories (Hippocrene) by Prem Kishore by Hippocrene Books (Delancey Place)

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