The Mother of Modern Thanksgiving

Planning to fill up on turkey, mashed potatoes and—of course!—the all-important pumpkin pie tonight? Be sure to save one of your Thanksgiving “thank yous” for Sarah Josepha Hale. Hers isn’t a familiar name, but perhaps it ought to be—it’s because of her that Thanksgiving is now a regularly celebrated holiday, and a scrumptious one to boot.

Thank her for Thanksgiving

Making Thanksgiving a consistently celebrated holiday was just one of her many accomplishments. With her influential standing as editor of the quintessential magazine guide Godey’s Ladies Book, she was able to make a lot of positive change, both in her community and across the nation. And all the while she wrote dozens of books and poems, including the classic, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” 

Sarah Hale

The many accomplishments of Sarah Josepha Hale

Lincoln is often credited (rightly) for issuing the proclamation that officially made Thanksgiving an annual federal holiday, but it was Sarah Hale’s relentless, decades-long campaign full of letters and appeals that pushed the idea from thought into reality.

Cherchez la Femme

Hale also published recipes, spreading the Thanksgiving spirit through one of the most compelling of subjects: food. It is because of her recipes that traditional Thanksgiving dishes like turkey, potatoes, and pumpkin pie are holiday staples today.

Hale's influence

Happy Thanksgiving!

Find more on Sarah Hale and Thanksgiving history with a search on

The Ice Aircraft Carrier That Almost Was

Once upon a time, in the midst of World War II, an innovative scientist named Geoffrey Pyke had an idea. It was born out of difficulties arising from what was called the “mid-Atlantic gap,” a wide stretch of ocean traveled by vulnerable UK-bound ships who were too far from the shore for the short range aircraft to protect. They needed an aircraft carrier made from something that was large, could float, and wouldn’t use up the valuable supply of metal.

Something like…ice?

Gigantic Ice Aircraft Carrier

It wasn’t just any ice, however. Pyke found that if you added wood pulp to your ordinary frozen water, it created a stronger, less melty version of the ice we all know and love. It was dubbed pykrete—a clever mix of Pyke’s name and “concrete”—and then this happened:
Ice that didn't melt
And then this happened:
The Habakkuk

But alas, the Habakkuk itself never happened. The idea wasn’t a bad one—it probably would have worked. But in the months it took to build a smaller scale prototype–which held up very well to testing, it should be said—the need for a mid-Atlantic gap ice aircraft melted away and the project was abandoned.

Find more on this intriguing bit of history with a search on

The Knitting Spies of War

When it comes to subterfuge, success can often be found by hiding in plain sight. Take, for example, the lady spies who, over the years, communicated secret information through their knitting. They turned knitting patterns into codes, overheard conversations as their needles clicked, dropped stitches intentionally to conceal messages in scarves and hats. It was clever and perfectly concealed by the stereotype that women’s hobbies—especially those of older women—were silly and harmless.

In Molly “Old Mom” Rinker’s case, she found she was able to hide quite comfortably in the role of “old woman knitting” while she spied on British forces during the Revolutionary War.

Old Mom Rinker uses knitting to her advantage

Enough daring ladies took advantage of this method, especially during WWI, that by the time WWII came around, specific precautions were taken to keep knitted codes from slipping through unnoticed (among other things):

Knitting Spies

Find more clippings on these topics and more with a search on

Happy Monday!

The weekend is over and the workweek is back at it again. Not a big fan of Mondays? You’re not alone. Here’s a little 1995 article from the Wausau Daily Herald all about the Monday blues and surviving the workweek:

Monday Morning Blues

“Just kind of hope for the best. Don’t expect too much.” – Jim Beem.

Happy Monday!

Find more like this with a search on

The Strange Death of Harry Houdini

On October 24, 1926, the famed magician Harry Houdini finished a show, walked off the stage, and collapsed.

Collapses after Stunt, Temperature at 104 Degrees

Details of Houdini's Collapse

The above-mentioned “delay in applying for medical attention” was a span of several days. The exact reasons for his unexpected death haven’t been confirmed, exactly, but it is pretty likely a result of being punched in the stomach after a lecture on October 22nd. Houdini was chatting with some students in his dressing room when one student decided to test his claim that he could withstand any blow to the stomach.

Damage to the Appendix Happened Days Earlier

The student’s blow came without warning, and Houdini, with no time to prepare, found himself with a ruptured appendix as a result. But it was his insistence that the show must go on, as they say, that did him in. He survived for a week after the operation for his appendicitis, but eventually died that Halloween at the age of 52.

But before he died, he is said to have made a promise with his wife. If there was a way to contact her from the Beyond, he would find it. And thus, the annual Halloween Houdini seances began.

Houdini's Post-Death Plan

Annual Houdini Seance

Seances not successful

After ten years of attempting to receive a message from her husband, Bess Houdini finally gave up the effort. She died in 1943. She is pictured below next to a small collection of her husbands things a few days before the October 1936 seance, the final attempt she would make.

Bess Houdini and her husband's

Find more on Houdini’s life, death, and attempts to reach him beyond the grave with a search on

On This Day: Completion of the Famous Gateway Arch

On this day in 1965, the 630 foot tall curve of St. Louis’ Gateway Arch was completed.

Ready to Complete

On Topping Out Day

32 Years of Planning & 3 Years of Construction

The Arch

Interesting, related tidbit of history: it seems that while in town for the arch’s monumental completion, Aline Saarinen—wife of the architect who designed the building—was robbed.

Robbed while in town for the arch

Eero Saarinen, sadly, died in 1961, two years before construction of the arch began.

Find more on the arch and its history, meaning, and construction with a search on

Guggenheim Museum Opens

On this day in 1959, the doors of the strange, spiraling Guggenheim Museum open to the public.


Guggenheim design by Frank Lloyd Wright

Guggenheim Description

The Guggenheim displayed (and continues to display) a large and expanding collection of contemporary art. It has since become one of the most visited of New York City’s many attractions. Have you had a chance to go?

Find more about the opening of the Guggenheim with a search on


The first week of October has come and gone, and with it fades the final days of this year’s Oktoberfest celebrations. Celebrated annually in Munich, Bavaria, Germany since 1810, Oktoberfest has since spread to various cities across the world for obvious reasons. A two week-long party (or longer) complete with music, festivities, traditional foods, and beer? That’s a recipe for a good time wherever you are.


So how did it all start?
Oktoberfest origins

Yep—you’ve got to admire a wedding reception that’s so good it’s re-celebrated every year.

Oktoberfest, 2006

Oktoberfest, 1970

Oktoberfest 1969

Happy October!

Find more holiday and festival history with a search on