Filed: ABC Wednesday

O is for Harry Oakes

Whenever I write about the misdeeds of others, I generally focus on the villain of the piece but this week is different as I take a look at the victim – the foully murdered Sir Harry Oakes.

Oakes was born in Maine in America in 1874, one of five children of a successful lawyer. He studied medicine at Syracuse University but left before graduating to join the many thousands of hopeful prospectors in the Klondike Gold Rush to Alaska. Read more ›››

N is for Félix Nadar

Félix Nadar was one of the most fascinating characters of the 19th century – bohemian, showman, caricaturist and proponent of powered flight though he was, he is best known as the world’s first great portrait photographer.

Nadar was born Gaspard-Félix Tournachon in Paris in 1820, the son of a printer and bookseller. The young Nadar was studying medicine when his father died and he was forced to give up his studies and seek work as a caricaturist and journalist for several newspapers. Read more ›››

This week’s ABC Wednesday subject is Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’ Magie, the woman responsible for countless family squabbles by creating the game that became known as Monopoly.

Magie was born in Macomb, Illinois, in 1866, the daughter of newspaper publisher and abolitionist James Magie who accompanied Lincoln when he travelled around the state in the late 1850s. Read more ›››

L is for John Law

A figure from way back for this week’s ABC Wednesday offering – financier, adventurer, duellist and gambler John Law who single-handedly bankrupted France in the 18th century.

Law was born in Edinburgh in 1671, the son of a Scottish moneylender. He joined the family business at the age of fourteen and studied banking until his father died in 1688 when he took himself off to London to live the life of ‘Dandy’. Read more ›››

K is for Fred Karno

Fred Karno’s name has entered the English language to describe any situation that is a comically chaotic, but as a music hall impresario he discovered the likes of Charlie Chaplain and Stan Laurel and is credited with inventing the custard-pie-in-the-face gag.

Karno was born Frederick John Westcott in Exeter in 1866 but his family moved to Nottingham soon afterwards which is where he grew up. Read more ›››

J is for Hubert Julian

Nicknamed the Black Eagle, the flamboyant Hubert Fauntleroy Julian was one of the early pioneers of aviation and parachuting and promoter of black civil rights.

Julian was born in 1897 in Port of Spain, Trinidad, the son of an affluent cocoa plantation manager. He emigrated to Canada in 1914 where he claimed to have learned to pilot an aeroplane and served as a Lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Read more ›››

I is for George Ives

The term ‘old soldier’ would suit no-one better than George Ives who, when he died in 1993 at the age of 111, was the last surviving veteran of the Boer Wars.

Ives was born in Brighton in 1881 although the family moved to Bristol to work for the Tidmarsh family. As a boy, Ives trained to be a jockey but then worked in his father’s workshop. Read more ›››

We tend to think of abstract art as a relatively recent phenomenon, something sprung from the psychedelia of the 1960s and yet one woman was a hundred years ahead of her time, the spiritualist artist Georgiana Houghton.

Houghton was born in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, in 1814, the seventh of twelve children of the merchant George Houghton and the family variously lived in London and Madeira, as well as the Canary Islands. Read more ›››

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