On our humble little podcast, we seek to illuminate the darker corners of knowledge and open the door to history. If you want to open an actual door to the past, you’ll have to do it without a doorknob. The patent for the a knob that turns to move a latch inside the door wasn’t filed until 1878. Stay on the lookout for movie set in the civil war and see if the doors have latches or anachronistic knobs. My name’s Moxie and this is your brain on facts.
Most of us know what to do if they are rendering aid to someone who can’t breathe or whose heart has stopped. Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, the kiss of life, known as cardiopulmonary resuscitation when you combine it with chest compressions is such an ingrained concept in today’s society that it seems hard to imagine that it was created the same year Elvis released Heartbreak Hotel. Similar methods for life preservation had been around since at least the 18th century. Techniques might include laying a drowning victim on a sideways barrel and rolling them back and forth, which is also where we get the expression “have you over a barrel.” It was only 1956 when Peter Safar and James Elam refined the existing methods to what you know today. The following year the book “ABC of Resuscitation” was released, in which Safar described the “Airway, Breathing and Circulation” mode. Safar was also instrumental in educating the public about CPR, teaming up with a Norwegian toymaker to develop the resuscitation training mannequin so familiar in modern first aid training. The classic female CPR dummy is named Resuci-Anne. Her face is based on the death mask of an unidentified woman who drowned in the Seine in Paris in the 1880’s. One wonders, if they’d had CPR back then….
The same year that saw Mel Brook’s double-victory with the releases of Blazing Saddle AND Young Frankenstein was also the year when the first choking victim received the Heimlich maneuver. In 1974, Dr. Henry Heimlich was a successful thoracic surgeon and one of the first doctors to perform an operation to fix a damaged esophagus. Heimlich wanted to do more though. Looking for a simple method that would save the lives of people who were choking, he and his team started experimenting on beagles. He realized that when he pushed upward on the dog’s diaphragm, compressing its lungs, a tube in the dog’s throat became dislodged, allowing it to breathe normally again.
Because he knew a peer-reviewed study in an established medical journal would take too long to get published, Heimlich got creative and crowd-sourced his research. He wrote an article for the journal Emergency Medicine called “Pop Goes The Café Coronary,” — “cafe coronary” being the nickname doctors and emergency responders had for choking death — explaining how to do his method and asking people to try it if they encountered anyone choking on food. The Chicago Daily News then ran an article on it and word quickly spread. Heimlich championed his technique, marketing it and himself like a brand. He became a celebrity doctor, appearing on the most popular TV shows and selling posters and t-shirts. He spent years trying to discredit slaps on the back, publicly denouncing them as “death blows.” Studies partially funded by Heimlich, surprise surprise, back up his claimed and by the mid-80’s, the Surgeon General and Red Cross got on board.
Then, Heimlich apparently got greedy. He began to argue that the Heimlich maneuver should also be used on drowning victims and people suffering asthma attacks. It doesn’t work for that. The medical community also criticized Heimlich for his malariotherapy studies, in which he infected AIDS patients with malaria, hoping that the increased body temperatures caused by the disease would jump-start the immune system. Eventually, Dr. Heimlich’s questionable actions led the American Red Cross to make a big change to its first-aid protocols in 2006 — it changed name “Heimlich maneuver” to “abdominal thrusts” and it changed its protocols to the following: Administer 5 blows to the back by hitting the palm of your hand against the area between the shoulder blades. If that doesn’t work, perform 5 abdominal thrusts. Repeated if needed. If the victim falls unconscious, start performing chest compressions with rescue breaths and have someone call 911.
It would be a few more years before a seemingly obvious fact would find a broad audience in medicine. Prior to the Second World War, surgery was practically a death sentence for infants, in no small part due to complications from anesthesia, which can cause cardiac arrest and brain damage. Their tiny bodies couldn’t withstand the drugs. Discouraged, surgeons started to wonder if anesthesia for infants was even necessary. In the early 40’s, clinical psychologist Myrtle McGraw began to study the reactions of newborn infants to various stimuli, including pinpricks. Her experiments showed that babies did not have a specific response to pinpricks in most situations. McGraw assumed that the response they saw in infants was startle rather than pain and published a paper stating babies don’t perceive pain the way that adults do. Her research was integrated into medical textbooks and became standard thinking. Over the next three decades, it was common to perform surgery on newborns and babies using no anesthetics or pain relief, just a neuromuscular block to temporarily paralyze the patient.
But pinpricks aren’t surgery. In 1985, a premature baby died after surgery to tie off a dangerous blood vessel near his heart. His family learned afterwards that the procedure had been performed without palliative drugs, only a muscle relaxant. They took this information to the press, who ran with the story, alerting the public to what had been happening for decades. In 1987, the year of the Black Monday stock market crash, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared that it was no longer ethical to perform surgery on preterm babies without anesthetics. However, despite that, many procedures are performed on newborns without the benefit of analgesics. That’s largely because of an enduring misconception in the medical community that newborns don’t feel pain like adults.
Hopefully, change is on the horizon. A pioneering study at Oxford University used fMRI to scan the brains of 10 healthy newborns, between one to six days old, and 10 healthy adults, ages 23 to 36. The researchers poked subjects’ feet with a special instrument. The team found that 18 out of the 20 brain regions activated in adults were also activated in babies, including brain regions that tell us where a given stimulus is on the body and those that tell us a stimulus is unpleasant. The brains of the newborns exhibited the same response to a weak stimulus as the adults did to a stimulus four times as strong, suggesting that babies might be more sensitive to pain that adults.
From basic care of babies to basic rights for women. American women got the vote in 1920, but their sistren in Switzerland had to wait a little longer. For more than a century, Swiss men repeatedly voted down women’s suffrage in one of the oldest democracies in the world, where public balloting began in 1291. Swiss women have only been allowed to vote since 1971, the same year Disney World opened. This was the same year the US lowered the voting age to 18, to match the minimum age for being drafted into military service. In one Swiss canton, Appenzell Ausserrhoden, wouldn’t give its women local voting rights until 1989. In neighboring Appenzell Innerrhoden, the federal government had to impose the change in 1991 and then only after four local women filed a legal complaint.
The path to voting rights in Australia began in 1850 with the right to vote for all adult male British subjects, which actually included Aboriginal men. Women’s suffrage came in 1894. But voting rights for Aboriginal people were cut back in the first half of the 20th century after the ‘White Australia’ policy specifically excluded “any aboriginal native of Australia, Asia, Africa, or the islands of the Pacific, except New Zealand.” In 1949, Parliament granted the right to vote to Aboriginal people who had completed military service, but in a step back, in 1957, the government declared most Aboriginals were wards of the state and thus not allowed to vote. In 1962, the government finally gave the right to vote to all Aboriginal people. But, it was a illegal to encourage Aboriginal people to vote, likely because of the racist misconception that they might be easier to manipulate.
Portuguese women didn’t get the vote until 1976 and they had to have a revolution to get it. It was 2011 before Saudi Arabian women were permitted to vote. As of this recording, the only country without female suffrage is Vatican City, but the only thing you vote on is the next pope, only cardinals vote, and only men can be cardinals, so…
Vatican City itself is younger than even I’d expected, having been created by the Lateran treaty in 1929. Lots of countries are less-old than you’d think. The modern concept of countries is just that, modern.
In addition to the Holy Roman Empire, the other ancient empire tha springs to mind is the Ottoman Empire. Why is the Ottoman empire on a list of surprisingly-recent things? Because the Ottoman empire didn’t cease until the year Judy Garland was born, 1922. For six centuries, the Ottomans, named after the Osman dynasty in Turkey, ruled over three continents and seven seas: in Eastern Europe, from Vienna to Crimea, all around the Black Sea and the Caucasus; in Mesopotamia; in Arabia, from Cairo to Aden; in the Mediterranean, from Greece to Alexandria.
During the last century of its existence of its existence, the Ottoman empire’s provinces became autonomous, losing Greece and Serbia within a year, with others following soon after. By 1885 the territories in Europe were reduced to Macedonia, Albania, and Thrace, and they lost the larger of those two in the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913. The Ottomans also lost control of North Africa: Algiers was taken by France in 1830 and Tunisia in 1881. Britain occupied Egypt in 1882 and Italy annexed Libya in 1912. But in the Asian provinces the Ottomans held on.
The collapse and extinction of the Ottoman empire was a consequence of World War I. The government made the mistake of entering the war on the side of the Central Powers, and the defeat of Germany meant the end for the Ottomans. The Ottomans fought well during the first two years of the war although they suffered defeats at the hands of Russia in eastern Asia Minor. The Ottomans were forced to sign the Treaty of Sèvres (1920), by which they lost not only the Arab provinces but also a partitioning of Anatolia. On November 1, 1922 the Ottoman dynasty was abolished and the empire came to an end. A year later, in its place stood the Republic of Turkey.
This puts the sorrow of Chicago Cubs fans into perspective. The Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908, back when there were still teams such as the Brooklyn Superbas and the Boston Doves, 14 years before the fall of the Ottoman empire.
REVIEW CaliCat03 – Moxie is an incredible host and has such a great voice for podcast! I’m going to be 100% honest and tell you I never really enjoyed history class in school. However, this podcast sprinkles in history in a very appealing and interesting way…sooo, you’ve grabbed my attention, Moxie! Keep up the great work! We only have one review left to read after this, so if you’ve been meaning to leave your opinion, there’s no time like the present. You can leave it on Apple Podcast or through our Facebook pag – url For everyone who responded on our Facebook and Twitter with their guesses of when the crossword puzzle was created, the answer is 1913. It was created by a 19 year old British emigree Arthur Wynn. Those crosswords had become all the rage, with the first crossword book published in 1924, the word “crossword” wasn’t added to the dictionary until 1933.
Time is timeless, right? The idea of all of us agreeing to what time it is, is not so timeless. For centuries, checking the time meant checking the sun. Even after mechanical clocks became common, those clocks were still set to solar time, which meant that your clock would still be different from the clock of your friend a few towns away. This was fine because there was no real-time communication or any reason to need times to be consistent. Trains changed all that. With every town keeping its own sweet time, the people in charge of the rail lines didn’t just need to concern themselves with the local time; they also had to worry about what time it was at the terminus, plus every junction along the way. The main station in Philadelphia used to have six clocks up showing six different times. On Dec. 1, 1847, the British used Greenwich Mean Time to institute time zones to keep their trains running on schedule. It still took another 33 years before standardized time zones were made the law in Great Britain and three more years before zones based on GMT became the law in the U.S. By 1929, most other countries around the world had also adopted the hourly time zone system. Some countries don’t, though. China, despite being about 3,250 miles (5,250 km) wide, is a single timezone, not the three it logically should be.
With life expectancies getting longer, we have more and more family members of past US presidents remaining. Including grandchildren of John Tyler. Not great-great-grandchildren, grandchildren of our 10th president. Born in 1790, John Tyler took office in 1841 after William Henry Harrison died. Unless you went to the eponymous community college here in Richmond (that I dropped out of twice), you probably don’t know much else about him. How is it possible for there to be living grandchildren of the 10th president during the tenure of the 45th? The men of the Tyler family have a habit of having kids very late in life. Lyon Gardiner Tyler, one of President Tyler’s 15 kids, was born in 1853. He fathered Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. in 1924, and Harrison Ruffin Tyler in 1928. As of this recording, both are alive.
Until February 7, 2013, the state of Mississippi had never submitted the required documentation to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment, meaning it never officially had abolished slavery. The amendment was adopted in December 1865 after the necessary three-fourths of the then 36 states voted in favor of ratification. Mississippi, however, was a holdout; at the time state lawmakers were upset that they had not been compensated for the value of freed slaves.
The western Saharan country of Mauritania became the last country to abolish slavery, in 1981. It wouldn’t be criminalised until 2007. Officials repeatedly denied it existed, but activists and former slaves spoke of a centuries-old practice, a relic of the trans-Saharan slave trade when Arabic-speaking Moors raided African villages, flourishing in remote outposts of this vast desert country. A rigid caste system that favours “noble-borns”, and zealous efforts to brand the country an Arab republic, concentrates power and wealth among overwhelmingly lighter-skinned Moors, leaving slave-descended darker-skinned Moors and black Africans on the edges of society. Up to 800,000 people in a nation of 3.5 million remain chattels, most of them from the Haratin ethnic group. Some Haratin are born into slavery, and their masters are able to sell them or buy them as gifts. They mostly have no rights, receive little education or pay, and may not inherit property or give testimony in court. There’s also been reports of government collusion with Arab Berbers into intimidating slaves who break free from their masters.
Originally created in 1789 as a more humane form of execution, the guillotine is as iconically French as having quiche and une Orangina at a sidewalk cafe. Not croissants, though, those are Austrian, but you knew that from the episode Phe-nom-nom-nom. (You don’t have to go back and listen to it, though. The audio is pretty rough on those early episodes.) Beheadings were a popular spectacle. People turns out in droves to see them, souvenirs could be bought, tiny fully-functional “toy” guillotines were sold to children, and the executioners became national celebrities. Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin wasn’t thrilled when the general public referring to the device with his name and his family later petitioned the government to have it officially changed. While it saw brisk business during the French Revolution, its career wasn’t limited to the eighteenth century. Germany used the guillotine as the state method of execution in the 20’s and 40’s, dispatching over 16,000 people in about ten years. The guillotine didn’t retire then, either. Convicted murderer Hamida Djandoubi became the last person to meet his end by the “National Razor” after he was executed by the guillotine, in 1977. That’s the same year the world was introduced to Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in Star Wars: a New Hope. The same year Apple was founded and silent film star Charlie Chaplin died. The machine’s 189-year career only officially came to an end in September 1981, about the time the MS-DOS programming language was created, when France abolished capital punishment for good.
Before the electric chair, the gas chamber, or lethal injection, the firing squad was a prevalent method of execution. It’s been in use in both the military and civilian penal process since the invention of firearms, and it feels a bit antiquated. You picture a captured spy in the US-Mexican War or a soldier in the French Foreign Legion tied to a post in Algiers. That’s what it surprised this reporter that not only was the most recent state execution by firing squad during the second Obama administration, there are applications for more. On June 18, 2010, convicted murderer Ronnie Lee Gardner became the third man to die by firing squad since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. The process is basically how you envision it, but in modern firing squads, one of the five shooters will have a blank round. This allows those who volunteer for the detail to tell themselves that they may not have fired the lethal round. Recent concerns about the predictability of lethal injection and even shortages of the drugs are forcing states to review their options. In March 2015, Utah Governor Gary Herbert signs legislation making the firing squad an authorized method of death if the drugs required for lethal injection are unavailable, though the Georgia Supreme Court denied a petition for a firing squad because the state has no protocol for it.
Firing squads went the way of hanging in favor of what were deemed more humane methods. Hanging, for example, requires a surprising amount of skill on the part of the executioner. You have to account for the person’s weight when setting the length of the rope and it’s essential to have the knot in the right place to break the neck, otherwise the person has a long strangling ahead of them. There were other ways hanging could go wrong. Eva Dugan was the first woman to be executed by the state of Arizona. Something went splendidly wrong when the hangman misjudged the drop and her head came right off. The last hanging in the United States was 1896. Oops, sorry, I meant 1996. 1996, the year that gave us Bill Clinton’s second term as president, hit singles from the Gin Blossoms and Toni Braxton, and Dolly the cloned sheep. Murderer Billy Bailey chose hanging over lethal injection, declaring he wouldn’t be put to sleep like a dog. Delaware dismantled their gallows afterwards, but other state do still offer hanging as an option, so there’s no telling how long Bailey will hold the title of last.
Bread is one of the world’s oldest prepared foods. There’s evidence humans were whipping up a crude form of the stuff some 30,000 years ago. Sliced bread, however, has been around for less than a century. The first automatically sliced commercial loaves were produced on July 6, 1928, in Chillicothe, Missouri, using a machine invented by Otto Rohwedder, an Iowa-born, Missouri-based jeweler. Rohwedder’s quest to make sliced bread a reality was not without its challenges. A 1917 fire destroyed his prototype and blueprints, and he also faced skepticism from bakers, who thought factory-sliced loaves would quickly go stale or fall apart. Nevertheless, in 1928, Rohwedder’s rebuilt “power-driven, multi-bladed” bread slicer was put into service at his friend Frank Bench’s Chillicothe Baking Company. Pure tangent here, but why are there so many Chillicothe’s? I’ve already been to Chillicothe Ohio and Texas. Is there a Chillicothe in your state? Pop over to our social media.
Sliced bread didn’t take long to become a hit around the United States, even as some bakers contended it was just a fad, and by 1930 it could be found in most towns across the country. The factory-produced loaves were designed to be softer than those prepared at home because the bread-buying public had come to equate “squeezable softness” with freshness. The timing therefore was right for an automatic slicing machine because these softer, “modern loaves had become almost impossible to slice neatly at home.” To put this timing in perspective, beloved actress Betty White was already six years old when sliced bread became a thing. Bonus fact: Betty White’s full name is Betty Marion White. Her parents wanted to call her Betty, but didn’t want to risk people calling her any other short form of Elizabeth, which they didn’t like, so they cut out the middleman and named her Betty.
Going to the local market for milk, bread, and eggs meant giving your list to the attendant behind the counter and waiting for him to gather your order, like in an old west general store, all the way until 1916. That’s when store owner Clarence Saunders created “Piggly Wiggly,” the first self-service grocery store. For the first time, customers had to, and got to, pick out their own groceries. This new set-up had all kinds of advantages. The store could lower prices because grocery shopping wasn’t as labor-intensive in terms of staffing. It could also accommodate more customers at one time, since they weren’t waiting on a clerk to free up.
Things were a little arduous for the customer for about two decades, though. They had to carry their selections around in crates or baskets. If you’ve ever shopped at Aldi without a quarter, you understand how heavy that gets. (Psst, ask the cashier for a quarter; they’re supposed to give you one.) Then Sylvan Goldman rolled out the “folding basket carriers” at his Humpty Dumpty supermarket chain in Oklahoma in 1937. Goldman’s original design was brilliantly simple. It involved placing a basket on the seat of a folding chair, and wheels on the legs, though it took a few iterations to get to the shiny, maneuverable carts we know and love today. In 1940, the pioneering grocer patented an improved version of his original design comprised of two baskets (one on the top and one on the bottom) and a folding frame.
The first UPC marked item ever scanned at a retail checkout was at the Marsh supermarket in Troy, Ohio at 8:01 a.m. on June 26, 1974, and was a 10-pack (50 sticks) of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum. The inventor of the universal product code, George Lauer, tested designs such as a bullseye and something that looked like a sunset, before settling on the square we know today. He received no royalties for this invention and his employer, IBM, did not patent it, so it has been free for anyone and everyone to use. Bonus fact: barcode scanners read the white lines, not the black lines. What’s why they may be hard to read if something is obstructing the edge of the UPC.
And that’s where we run out of ideas, at least for today. I’ll leave you with one more thing that’s much more modern than you’d think – teenagers. People aged 13-19 have been around forever, but the concept of a defined period in which people experienced the ravages of hormones, mood swings and acne is a 20th century development. The word “teenager” didn’t appear in print until 1940 and even then it was used to describe the younger siblings of men who had gone to fight during the Second World War. Thanks for spending part of your day with me.