Jasper Maskelyne came from a long line of stage magicians. Born in 1902, he was the son of Nevil Maskelyne and the grandson of John Nevil Maskelyne, perhaps the preeminent magician of the Victorian age and inventor of the pay toilet – but that, as they say, is another story.
While Jasper Maskelyne followed in their footsteps with a successful stage career his greatest contribution to history was as the War Magician of WWII. Read more ›››
One of the things that any boy had to budget his pocket money for in the 1950s was his weekly threepence for a copy of the Eagle comic, the vehicle for Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future. Little did we know that Dan had started life as a vicar.
The Eagle was the brainchild of the Anglican priest and former RAF pilot, Marcus Morris. In 1949 he had written a newspaper article condemning the import of horror comics from America. Read more ›››
Those ever so smart comedians are quick to poke fun at famous Belgians, or rather the lack of them – conveniently overlooking the likes of Eddie Merckx, Audrey Hepburn, René Magritte, Hergé and Rubens.
But my own personal favourite Belgian is the inventor, horologist, father of the roller skate and genius in the art of the clockwork automata Jean Joseph Merlin. Read more ›››
This week’s subject is William Chester Minor, the man who made the greatest contribution of quotations for the Oxford English Dictionary from his cell in Broadmoor Lunatic Asylum where he was serving a life sentence for murder.
Minor was born in Ceylon in 1834, the son of missionaries from New England. At the age of fourteen, he returned to America and later studied at Yale Medical School, graduating in 1863. 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 ›››
The French military has an undeserved reputation for its lack of martial ardour, from the infamous ‘French military victories’ Google Bomb to the ‘cheese-eating surrender monkeys’ epithet from The Simpsons that has entered the language.
This is a slur on the many brave French servicemen and women who gave their lives in the cause of freedom and one of those was René Mouchotte who became a hero of the Battle of Britain. Read more ›››
You may not have heard of Audrey Munson, but if you live in or have visited New York, she is all around you as the most familiar person you’ve never seen.
Munson was born in Rochester, New York, in 1891, but moved to Rhode island in 1897 after her mother and father divorced. However, they returned to New York so Munson could pursue an acting career. Read more ›››
In the 19th century there was a tropical Eden in Central America called Poyais, a land rich in culture and natural resources crying out for settlement.
The problem was, it didn’t exist. It was the invention of Gregor MacGregor, the soldier, adventurer and revolutionary who ranks alongside the likes of Bernie Madoff as one of history’s most audacious fraudsters. Read more ›››