Filed: ABC Wednesday

William Patrick Hitler

Hitler was a trending name in the 1930s (Adolf was Time Magazine Man of the Year in 1939) but it had become #hated by the early 1940s and unsurprisingly those with a family connection became less proud of their surname.

One such was William Patrick Hitler (aka Willy), a nephew of Adolf, who was living in America when that country entered World War II… Read more ›››

Sir Francis Galton

Francis Galton was a flawed Victorian genius responsible for the introduction of forensic fingerprinting, the weather map, the originator of the nurture versus nature debate and of both sane and silly inventions.

He was born in 1822 and was a cousin of Charles Darwin. The two families were very close with the Darwins being the scientists while the Galtons were Quaker bankers. Both had produced members of the Royal Society and helped found the influential Lunar Society. Read more ›››

Arthur Furguson

This week’s figure from the past is Arthur Furguson who is either one of the foremost fraudsters and flimflammers in history or the figment of someone’s febrile fantasies.

Born in Scotland in 1883, Furguson was an actor and like many in his profession, he was natural born salesman a talent he was to put to good use later in his life… Read more ›››

E is for John Elwes

John Elwes was an English eccentric who was noted for his extravagant generosity on the one hand and his extreme miserliness on the other that made him the model for one of the best known characters of fiction.

He was born John Meggott in 1714, the son of a successful and wealthy brewer Robert Meggott and Amy Elwes whose surname he would eventually adopt. Read more ›››

Frederick William Densham

Frederick William Densham was an eccentric vicar who for decades preached to an empty church, apart from a congregation of cardboard cut-outs, and was the inspiration for a character in a literary classic. Although one of these facts is a myth.

In 1931 the Reverend Densham was appointed vicar of St Bartholomew, the parish church of Warleggan, the remotest hamlet in Cornwall on the edge of Bodmin Moor… Read more ›››

Carlo Collodi was the Italian children’s story writer whose best remembered creation is Pinocchio, the puppet who became a boy, although his end was originally rather more gruesome than the familiar Disney version.

Collodi was born Carlo Lorenzini in Florence in 1826, the son of a cook and a maid who worked for the wealthy Ginori family in Collodi, the name he took and now known as one of the best small towns in Italy. Read more ›››

Early Lawnmower

Apologies for the poor quality of this portrait, but it was the only one I could find that purports to be of Edwin Beard Budding whose claim to fame is that he created the notion of respectable suburbia, or at least the exterior ideal of the well-manicured lawn.

Born in Stroud, Gloucestershire, in 1795, Beard Budding was the inventor who in 1830 set about solving the problem of achieving an evenly mown lawn that didn’t involve either a flock of sheep or a man skilled enough to use a scythe without amputating his own leg. Read more ›››

Bust of Artusi

Long before the likes of Heston Blumenthal brought scientific method into the kitchen and Jamie Oliver churned out his endless cookery books there was Pellegrino Artusi leading the way with his book ‘La Scienza in Cucina e l’arte di Mangiare Bene’ in 1891.

Artusi was born in 1820 in Forlimpopoli in what is now the Molise region of Italy, the son of a wealthy pharmacist. He was named Pellegrino in honour of Saint Pellegrino Laziosi of Forlì. Read more ›››

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