I usually know at least the basic details of the lives of my ABC Wednesday subjects – when and where they were born, their family life etc – but in the case of James Julian I know nothing at all except that he was the inventor of a most bizarre means of execution, the Julian Gallows.
In the late 19th century, America was obsessed with finding a ‘humane’ means of execution and so it was that in 1892 Julian invented his gallows. Read more ›››
Perhaps the earliest black star of popular entertainment was Ken ‘Snakehips’ Johnson whose career was ended prematurely in tragic circumstances.
He was born Kenrick Reginald Huymans Johnson in 1914 in Britsh Guiana, his father a prominent doctor in the community. He was educated locally until he was fifteen when he was sent to the Sir William Borlase Grammar School in England. Read more ›››
The idea that the earth is flat has persisted over time, even though the concept of a spherical world has been around since the time of Pythagoras, Aristotle, Euclid and Ptolemy.
It is living proof that for some people, it is easier to believe the unbelievable against all evidence to the contrary, as the 1893 map of a ‘square and stationary earth’ handsomely illustrates. Read more ›››
A couple of rounds of ABC Wednesday ago, I wrote about John Elwes, notable eccentric and miser from Oxfordshire, but parsimony seems to have been a local trait because he was followed by Morgan Jones, the miser of Blewbury.
Jones was the vicar of Blewbury for 43 years from 1781 to 1824 and in that time he developed a reputation for inventive miserliness to rival Elwes... Read more ›››
In the latter years of the 19th century, the whaling ship 'Star of the East' was operating around the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic when a whale was spotted.
The boats were launched and the whale harpooned, but its thrashing in the water capsized one of the boats and two men were lost, one of them a man called James Bartley... Read more ›››
Jiang Qing was just one of the eight names borne during her lifetime of the woman you might know better as Madame Mao, poster girl of the Chinese cultural revolution and one of the infamous Gang of Four.
Born Li-Jinhai in 1914 in the Shandong province of eastern China, Jiang Qing endured a childhood of poverty and neglect. Her mother was a concubine with little time for her daughter, while her father was an abusive alcoholic. Read more ›››
William Jobling was a miner in the town of Jarrow in the north east of England who in 1832 became the last man to be gibbeted in the United Kingdom.
It was a miserable death - to be hung by the neck until dead and then to have your body left to swing in the breeze in a metal cage as a warning to others. And Jobling had not even been the chief culprit of the crime he was convicted for... Read more ›››
Although I love my gadgets, one of the most popular that I've avoided so far is the Kindle. My problem with it is that although one might store a library within its circuits, you don't have the reassuring presence of much-loved titles looking down on you from the bookshelf as a reminder to be re-read.
One such book of mine is the collection of three works by the Victorian/Edwardian humorist, Jerome K Jerome... Read more ›››