A Long Wait

In 1912, workmen digging a tunnel for New York’s new subway discovered a carpeted room decorated with oil paintings, chandeliers, and a grandfather clock.

According to Tracy Fitzpatrick in Art and the Subway, it was the waiting room for an early prototype subway built in 1870 — a block-long tunnel in which a single car was pushed by a giant fan. Funding had failed, and the project had been forgotten.

A Blindfold Bullseye

In 1908, German novelist Ferdinand H. Grautoff published Banzai!, a curiously prescient account of a war between Japan and the United States. Japan deals a surprise defeat to unprepared American troops, who rally to repulse them:

Our splendid regiments could not be checked, so eager were they to push forward, and they succeeded in storming one of the enemy’s positions after the other along the mountainside. At last the enemy began to retreat, and the thunder of the cannon was again and again drowned in the frenzied cheers. General MacArthur was continually receiving at his headquarters reports of fresh victories in the front and on both wings.

Note the name of the American commander. Grautoff gives no clue to his inspiration, but in an introduction he writes, “All the incidents we had observed on the dusty highway of History, and passed by with indifference, had been sure signs of the coming catastrophe.”

A Generous Commission


Shortly before Nelson left England for the last time, he found himself sitting next to Benjamin West at an honorary dinner. The admiral complimented the painter on his Death of Wolfe and asked why he had produced no more pictures like it.

“Because, my lord,” West said, “there are no more subjects.” He said he feared that Nelson’s fearless courage might produce another such scene, and “if it should, I shall certainly avail myself of it.”

“Will you, Mr. West?” Nelson said. “Then I hope I shall die in the next battle.”

He got his wish — West found himself painting The Death of Nelson the following year.


In memory ov
John Smith, who met
wierlent death neer this spot
18 hundred and 40 too. He was shot
by his own pistill;
It was not one of the new kind,
but a old fashioned
brass barrel, and of such is the
Kingdom of heaven.

— Headboard, Sparta Diggings, Calif., cited in Walter Henry Howe, Here Lies, 1900

“A Fat Woman Questions Her Thin Friend”

A girl to B stylish must C zippers close,
D vote E qual F fort keeping buttons in rows.
G, I tried many diets, but H ievement was poor
I was J ded, o K , when I came to her door.
I said, “L egant lady, M bodying graces,
How did you N O ble (reduce) hippy places?
Please don’t be P vish, but answer on Q—
R special S sences T eeming in U?”
“No,” she said, V ehement, “No more W!
X ercise and good eating—that is Y I am trim:
And I’m Z ro doubtful you too can be slim!”

— Lyn Coffin



In Britain this wouldn’t be redundant — in British English an avenue is a row of trees.

Unfortunately, that’s not so in Toronto, where Avenue Road is a major thoroughfare.

Local journalist Robert Fulford called it “an identity crisis with pavement.”

Timeless Reason

In an 1849 letter to his sister, Lewis Carroll asks which is more accurate, a clock that is right once a year or one that has stopped altogether. The stopped clock is more accurate, he says–because it’s correct twice a day.

You might go on to ask, ‘How am I to know when eight o’clock does come? My clock will not tell me.’ Be patient, reader: you know that when eight o’clock comes your clock is right; very good; then your rule is this: keep your eye fixed on your clock, and the very moment it is right it will be eight o’clock.

“‘But–‘ you say. There, that’ll do, reader; the more you argue the farther you get from the point, so it will be as well to stop.”