Bitewings of Song

Connecticut dentist Solyman Brown was pretty passionate about his calling — in 1833 he published “Dentologia, a Poem on the Diseases of the Teeth”:

… her lips disclosed to view,
Those ruined arches, veiled in ebon hue,
Where love had thought to feast the ravished sight
On orient gems reflecting snowy light,
Hope, disappointed, silently retired,
Disgust triumphant came, and love expired! …

Whene’er along the ivory disks, are seen,
The filthy footsteps of the dark gangrene;
When caries come, with stealthy pace to throw
Corrosive ink spots on those banks of snow–
Brook no delay, ye trembling, suffering fair,
But fly for refuge to the dentist’s care.

An appendix listed 300 qualified dental practitioners. Portions of the five-canto poem were published in the American Journal of Dental Science, and one reviewer praised “a mind highly cultivated and richly imbued with poetic fancy.” Brown, who co-founded the American Society of Dental Surgeons in 1840, even found time to write a sequel, “Dental Hygeia — A Poem.”


Feats of Canadian strongman Louis Cyr (1863-1912), “the strongest man who ever lived”:

  • In 1881 he lifted a horse weighing at least 1500 pounds.
  • In 1886 he lifted a 218-pound barbell with one hand and raised 2,371 pounds on his back.
  • In 1895 he raised a platform that held 18 men.
  • In 1889 he shouldered a 433-pound barrel of cement with one arm and lifted 552.5 pounds clear of the floor with a single finger.
  • In 1891 he resisted the pull of four draft horses even as grooms drove them apart with whips.

Where did he get these gifts? “The mother of Louis Cyr … could easily shoulder a barrel of flour and carry it up two or three flights of stairs.” (Josephine Beiderhase, American Gymnasia and Athletic Record, 1906)

See also Jack Lalanne.

“Hanged by a Ghost”

An old volume of the Quarterly Review mentions a crime discovered in a most extraordinary way in Australia in the year 1830, of which a public record is preserved, and which figures with full details in the journals of that period. The confidential steward of a wealthy settler near Sydney stated that his master had suddenly been called to England on important business, and that during his absence the whole of his immense property would be in his exclusive care. Some weeks after an acquaintance of the absentee settler riding through his grounds was astonished to perceive him sitting upon a stile. He strode forward to speak, when the figure turned from him with a look of intense sorrow and walked to the edge of a pond, where it mysteriously disappeared. On the morrow he brought a number of men to the water to drag it, and the body of the man supposed to be on his way to England was brought up. The steward was arrested, brought to trial, and, frightened at the story of his master’s ghost, confessed the crime, stating that he did the murder at the very stile on which his master’s ghost had appeared. He was duly executed.

The World of Wonders, 1883

Crocker Land

In 1906, standing on a headland in northern Canada, Robert Peary spied a landmass about 130 miles away in the Arctic Ocean, at about 83°N 100°W.

An expedition eight years later found no sign of it. Peary’s landmass was never seen again.

Waste Not, Want Not

The following resolutions were passed by the Board of Councilmen in Canton, Mississippi:–

  1. Resolved, by this Council, that we build a new Jail.
  2. Resolved, that the new Jail be built out of the materials of the old Jail.
  3. Resolved, that the old Jail be used until the new Jail is finished.

— Charles Carroll Bombaugh, Gleanings for the Curious from the Harvest-fields of Literature, 1875

Off With Their Heads!

Show this bold Prussian that praises slaughter, slaughter brings rout. Teach this slaughter-lover his fall nears.

Grim, no? But remove the first letter of each word and the mood changes:

How his old Russian hat raises laughter — laughter rings out! Each, his laughter over, is all ears.

“Language,” wrote Flaubert, “is a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, while all the time we long to move the stars to pity.”

“The Anatomie Vivante”"claude+seurat"&as_brr=1&ei=T9uFSdmUMJ6cMuPNiK0F

There was a ‘living skeleton’ brought to England in 1825 by the name of Claude Seurat. He was born in 1798 and was in his twenty-seventh year. He usually ate in the course of a day a penny roll and drank a small quantity of wine. His skeleton was plainly visible, over which the skin was stretched tightly. The distance from the chest to the spine was less than 3 inches, and internally this distance was less. The pulsations of the heart were plainly visible. He was in good health and slept well. His voice was very weak and shrill. The circumference of this man’s biceps was only 4 inches.

— George Gould and Walter Pyle, Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine, 1896