The French Revolution resulted in many ridiculous ideas, but perhaps the most risible was the French Republican Calendar devised by Gilbert Romme.
The thinking behind the new calendar was twofold. First that it should remove all religious references and second that time itself should embrace decimalisation. The result was a largely unworkable system. Read more ›››
Acting is fraught with back-biting and bitchiness, but in the 18th century the profession was downright murderous, as illustrated by the life of actor and comedian, James Quin.
Quin was the son of a barrister and though he was born in London in 1693, his Irish parents took him back to Ireland where he spent his early years and attended Trinity College, Dublin, at least for a short time. Read more ›››
The gates of history turns on small hinges, at least if you believe that great events have their roots in trivial incidents. So did a punch on the nose lead to the massacre of a generation in World War One?
The year is 1878 and a nineteen-year-old Prince Wilhelm was misbehaving himself by throwing stones at beach huts on Rapparee Beach in Ilfracombe, Devon. Read more ›››
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 ›››
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 ›››
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 ›››
Fred Karno’s name has entered the English language to describe any situation that is 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 ›››