History A’la Carte August 2017


It can’t possibly be a surprise that I read tons of history articles each week. I just can’t help myself–I’ve got to share some of the fascinating things I’ve come across. Here are a few of my recent favorites: 


Horse Heredity in the Dark Ages

The early medieval warhorse had two jobs. The first was to charge into battle with a fully armed and armored warrior on his back. The second was to beget foals as strong and brave as he was.

An Elegant Block-Printed Cotton Gown, c1805

There are several features that make this dress unusual. First is the fabric itself, a block-printed cotton that was intended to mimic lapis, reflecting the era’s interest in nature as inspiration for design. The fabric was printed with a curved hem border design (called “to form” or “a disposition”) to be incorporated into the garment’s finished design when made up.  Also of interest is the fact that the dress has a pair of matching long sleeves or mitts to offer extra options to the wearer.

Saint Christopher: A Tough Guy Protecting Medieval Travelers

Travel in medieval times was often slow, unpleasant, and dangerous. At any time, someone could break a wheel, a person or animal could get sick, a storm could arrive suddenly, or brigands or demons could attack. You needed all the protection you could get and who better than Saint Christopher, a giant of a man so tough that only God was a worthy master?

Strange Discoveries: Greek Fire

In the ninth century Emperor Leo of Constantinople wrote of Greek fire, “Such a weapon is fire prepared for siphons from which it is hurled with thunderous noise and smoke, burning down ships at which we direct it….” We know of Greek fire today because of its terrifying reputation among those who experienced the power of this incendiary weapon. The term developed during after the first Crusade in the twelfth century. The Byzantine Empire called the dangerous combustible substance ‘liquid fire’ or ‘sea fire’ because of the first usage in naval battles, where it burned on all surfaces, even water.

And so to bed – 18th Century night attire

As well as being essential items of clothing to help people stay warm on those cold winter nights and to cover their modesty, people clothed only in their night apparel provided the caricaturists of the day with a plentiful supply of material,

Edward Curtis’ Photographs of Kwakwaka’wakw Ceremonial Dress and Masks (ca. 1914)

The Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw (or Kwakiutl) are an indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest Coast, covering the territory of British Columbia on northern Vancouver Island and the adjoining mainland, and on islands around Johnstone Strait and Queen Charlotte Strait. United by the common language of Kwak’wala, the broad group can be divided into 13 nations, each with its own clan structure and distinct histories. According to Kwakwaka’wakw folklore their ancestors (‘na’mima) came to a given spot — by way of land, sea, or underground — in the form of ancestral animals that upon arrival shed their animal appearance and became human.

Napoleon’s first love captured in a ring

Napoleon conceived an attachment for Mademoiselle du Colombier, who, on her part, was not insensible to his merits. It was the first love of both; and it was that kind of love which might be expected to arise at their age and with their education.


A particular secret for a styptic water that quickly stops bleeding wounds and torn guts.” The descriptive title continues by suggesting that you can “try it on a rooster by piercing its head with a sharp needle, and the rooster will heal in fifteen minutes.”

Was Napoleon good at billiards?

The first recorded reference to a billiard table is found in a late 15th century inventory of the possessions of King Louis XI of France. By the Napoleonic era, billiards was popular among all classes of people in France.

The prank that tore apart the family of William the Conqueror

It is not surprising to hear of brothers playing pranks on each other. However, when your father is King of England, the ramifications could lead to more trouble than anyone would realize.


So, what was your favorite tidbit today?


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    • J. W. Garrett on August 22, 2017 at 7:35 am
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    I loved the articles. If I had to choose one… I suppose my romantic heart would have to pick the one about Napoleon and the ring. Wow, who knew? I really enjoyed this. Thank you for sharing.

    • Teresa Broderick on August 22, 2017 at 11:01 am
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    I really enjoyed the one about the dress and the fabric and the horses. Two totally different things I know but I’m a curious person!

    • Linda Root on August 22, 2017 at 11:21 am
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    I especially liked the cotton gown.

    • Mary Van Everbroeck on August 23, 2017 at 9:35 am
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    Hi Maria. I liked them all, especially the one about Saint Christopher.

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