As the Mayflower was crossing the Atlantic in 1620, passenger John Howland was swept overboard during a storm. He managed to sieze a trailing halyard and was pulled back to safety. His descendants in the New World have included:

  • Franklin Roosevelt
  • George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • Joseph Smith and Brigham Young
  • Humphrey Bogart
  • Benjamin Spock
  • Sarah Palin
  • Chevy Chase
  • Christopher Lloyd
  • Alec Baldwin

If Howland had lost his life in that storm, none of these people would have existed.

Carried Away

“We request that every hen lay 130 to 140 eggs a year. The increase cannot be achieved by the bastard hens (non-Aryan) which now populate German farmyards. Slaughter these undesirables and replace them.” — Nazi Party news agency, April 3, 1937

“Quite a number of people … describe the German classical author, Shakespeare, as belonging to English literature, because — quite accidentally born at Stratford-on-Avon — he was forced by the authorities of that country to write in English.” — New York National Socialist organ Deutscher Weckruf und Beobachter, quoted in The American Mercury, July 1940

“The rabbit, it is certain, is no German animal, if only for its painful timidity. It is an immigrant who enjoys a guest’s privilege. As for the lion, one sees in him indisputably German fundamental characteristics. Thus one could call him a German abroad.” — Gen. Erich Ludendorff in Am Quell Deutscher Kraft

“Proper breathing is a means of acquiring heroic national mentality. The art of breathing was formerly characteristic of true Aryanism and known to all Aryan leaders.” — Weltpolitische Rundschau, Berlin



Ambassador Richard Washburn Child once dined with Calvin Coolidge at the White House.

After dinner, the president said he had something to show him. He led Child to one of the smaller rooms in the mansion, opened the door, and turned on the light.

“On the opposite wall hung a portrait of himself,” Child later recalled. “I thought it so very bad I could think of nothing to say.”

For a long moment the two men stood on the threshold. Then Coolidge snapped off the light and closed the door.

“So do I,” he said.

“The Siege of Belgrade”


An Austrian army, awfully arrayed,
Boldly by battery beseiged Belgrade;
Cossack commanders cannonading come,
Dealing destruction’s devastating doom;
Every endeavour engineers essay
For fame, for fortune, forming furious fray;
Gaunt gunners grapple, giving gashes good;
Heaves high his head heroic hardihood;
Ibraham, Islam, Ismail, imps in ill,
Jostle John, Jarovlitz, Joe, Jack, Jill,
Kick kindling Kutosoff, kings’ kinsmen kill;
Labor low levels loftiest, longest lines;
Men marched ‘mid moles, ‘mid mounds, ‘mid murd’rous mines.
Now nightfall’s near, now needful nature nods,
Opposed, opposing, overcoming odds.
Poor peasants, partly purchased, partly pressed,
Quite quaking, Quarter! quarter! quickly quest.
Reason returns, recalls redundant rage,
Saves sinking soldiers, softens seigniors sage.
Truce, Turkey, truce! Truce, treach’rous Tartar train!
Unwise, unjust, unmerciful Ukraine!
Vanish, vile vengeance! Vanish, victory vain!
Wisdom wails war — wails warring words. What were
Xerxes, Xantippe, Ximenes, Xavier?
Yet Yassey’s youth, ye yield your youthful yest,
Zealously, zanies, zealously, zeal’s zest.

— William T. Dobson, Literary Frivolities, Fancies, Follies and Frolics, 1880

Turning the Corner


Excerpts from the Harvard Economic Society’s Weekly Letter, 1929-1930:

  • Nov. 16, 1929: “[A] severe depression like that of 1920-21 is outside the range of probability.”
  • Jan. 18, 1930: “With the underlying conditions sound, we believe that the recession in general business will be checked shortly and that improvement will set in during the spring months.”
  • May 17, 1930: “General prices are now at bottom and will shortly improve.”
  • Aug. 30, 1930: “Since our monetary and credit structure is not only sound but unusually strong … there is every prospect that the recovery which we have been expecting will not be long delayed.”
  • Sept. 20, 1930: “[R]ecovery will soon be evident.”
  • Nov. 15, 1930: “[T]he outlook is for the end of the decline in business during the early part of 1931, and steady … revival for the remainder of the year.”

In 1931, strapped by the depression, the Letter ceased publication.



From Clark Kinnaird’s Encyclopedia of Puzzles and Pastimes, 1946:

Though a great American, Wendell Willkie nevertheless lacked one of the four necessary requirements for becoming President of the United States. One must be at least 35, a native-born American, and a resident of the U.S.A. for at least 14 years. Name the fourth requirement which Willkie also lacked?

Click for Answer

Going Ashore

In February 1820, Connecticut sealer John Davis sailed south past Hoseason Island in the Southern Ocean and spied a peninsula there. He wrote in his log:

Commences with open Cloudy Weather and Light winds a standing for a Large Body of Land in that Direction SE at 10 A.M. close in with it our Boat and Sent her on Shore to look for Seal at 11 A.M. the Boat returned but found no sign of Seal at noon our Latitude was 64°01’ South. Stood up a Large Bay, the Land high and covered intirely with snow. … I think this Southern Land to be a Continent.

He is believed to be the first man to set foot on Antarctica.

Pith and Vinegar


At a Houston Baptist convention on the campaign trail, Adlai Stevenson was told, “Governor Stevenson, we want to make it clear you are here as a courtesy, because Dr. Norman Vincent Peale has instructed us to vote for your opponent.”

Stevenson said, “Speaking as a Christian, I find the Apostle Paul appealing and the Apostle Peale appalling.”

“The Goddess in the Car”


Dorothy Levitt started as a secretary at the Napier Car Company, but when the publicity-minded boss offered her a chance to race for him, she revealed a soul of pure fire:

  • In 1903 she became the first woman driver to win an automobile race.
  • Also in 1903 she also won Britain’s first international powerboat race, at a cool 19.53 mph.
  • In 1905 she drove from London to Liverpool and back, establishing a women’s distance record (205 miles in 11 hours).
  • In 1906 she broke the ladies’ land speed record, becoming “the fastest girl on earth” at 90.88 mph.
  • In 1909 she started flight training in France.

The “chauffeuse” also wrote a newspaper column and in 1909 published The Woman in the Car, “a guide for women motorists” with “simple and understandable instructions and hints” (including “If you are driving alone a dog is great company” and “It might be advisable to carry a small revolver.”)

Unfortunately, the Western Field reported in 1904, “She is also famous as being the first motorist to obtain substantial damages, amounting to thirty-five pounds sterling, or $175, from the owner of a horse-drawn vehicle which collided with her car.” But she made her own repairs.



In 1954, at his wife’s urging, vice president Richard Nixon wrote on a slip of paper:

“I promise to Patricia Ryan Nixon that I will not again seek public office.”

He dated the note, folded it, and put it in his wallet.

Six years later he ran for president.