Filed: ABC Wednesday

H is for Matthew Henson

Matthew Henson was the first African-American arctic explorer and the first person to reach the Geographic North Pole.

He was born Matthew Alexander Henson in Maryland in 1866, the son of two freeborn black sharecroppers. His mother died when he was young and his father a few years later and aged eleven Henson left home. Read more ›››

Thomas Blake Glover was one of the first western businessmen to establish links with Japan and is remembered as the ‘Scottish Samurai’ responsible for bringing what was an isolated nation into the modern industrial and commercial world.

Glover was born in Fraserburgh, Scotland, in 1838, the son of a coastguard officer and, on leaving school, he joined the trading company, Jardine Matheson and first visited Japan in 1857. Read more ›››

F is for Guido Franch

Like the secret of immortality or turning lead into gold, there are arcane legends as old as time, but none stranger than the magical petrol pill promoted by Guido Franch.

Franch was born in Livingston, Illinois, in 1910 and left school at the age of twelve to become a coal miner. He might have remained a blue collar worker except that in the 1950s he ‘discovered’ how to turn water into gasoline. Read more ›››

E is for Chris Evans

No, not that Chris Evans or even the actor, but Chris Evans the Canadian-born outlaw, train robber, serial escaper and gunslinger at the Gunfight at Stone Corral.

Evans was born in 1847 near Ottawa in Canada but settled in the town of Visalia in the San Joaquin Valley of California as a typical farmer and was considered a hard-working and honest man. Read more ›››

D is for Jimmy Durham

When the BBC included a black actor as a Victorian soldier in the Empress of Mars episode last year, he protested that there were no black soldiers in Victoria’s army but when he researched further he found there was at least one – James Durham.

The story of how Durham’s came to join the army is a remarkable one. Born in Sudan around 1884, he was abandoned, found and adopted by the men of the Durham Light Infantry in 1885. Read more ›››

This week’s ABC Wednesday subject is the aristocrat, friend of royalty and cad and card cheat Sir William Alexander Gordon (sic) Gordon-Cumming.

Cumming was born in Morayshire, Scotland, in 1848, the son of the 3rd Baronet, the title he inherited at the age of eighteen as well as becoming chief of the Clan Cumming. Read more ›››

William Brodie was ostensibly a respectable member of Edinburgh society in the 18th century but he also led a secret life as a thief and was the inspiration for one of the most famous works of fiction.

Brodie was born in 1741 and became a respected cabinet-maker and became the deacon (or president) of the Incorporation of Wrights, the trade association that controlled cabinetmaking. Read more ›››

A is for Mary Anning

I begin this latest round of ABC Wednesday with Mary Anning, a very ordinary woman who made the most extraordinary contribution to science and our understanding of prehistoric life.

Anning was born in 1799 in Lyme Regis on the south coast of England. She was the daughter of a carpenter who supplemented his income by mining the fossils that can be found in the nearby limestone cliffs and selling them to tourists. Read more ›››

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