Archive for October, 2014

A Great Moment in Retail History

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

On October 28, 1858, Rowland Hussey Macy opened his first store on the corner of Sixth Avenue and 17th Street in New York City and pulled in a whopping $11.06 on their first day.

After that they did a little better, no small thanks to Margaret Getchell, who began her career at R.H. Macy & Co. as a cashier and ended up a partner.

Getchell was Macy’s first manager – a pioneer in an age when women were denied career advancement (let alone equal pay). Her merchandising, marketing, and management genius boosted sales, which reached more than $1m within three years of her promotion to store Superintendant.

Though she married a Macy’s buyer named La Forge and bore six (!) children, Margaret Getchell La Forge remained involved with the store; eventually she sold her share for more than $1.7 million in today’s dollars.

Tragically, Margaret Getchell La Forge died at age 38, but not before she – and Macy – paved the way for women executives.

Three cheers for Margaret Getchell La Forge!


Not My Type (Too Fast for Me)

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

You’d think that once we had the typewriter, we’d be satisfied with our ability to write so much faster than we could by hand.


Ever since we could type, we’ve been trying to figure out how to type even faster.

In 1872, Lillian Sholes of Kenosha, Wisconsin presumably held the world typing speed record. (Her father was one of the inventors of the first typewriter for practical use, and she was one of the few people with access to the prototype and subsequent commercially-produced models.) Even so, Lillian admitted that her fingers didn’t fly over the keyboard so much as poke, as she favored the “good old seek-and-find system.”

After that, typists – competitive and otherwise – only picked up speed.

On October 21, 1918, Margaret Owen set the world’s record, but her 170wpm now looks like child’s play.

In 1946, Stella Pajunas used an electric typewriter to type 216wpm in one minute.

Using a Dvorak Simplified Keyboard, Barbara Blackburn typed 150wpm for 50 minutes.

Though inventors have built various keyboards to add speed (e.g. Dvorak and Colemak), the good old QWERTY still reigns supreme.


Sholes_typewriter By George Iles [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


But who even types anymore?

This year Marcel Fernandes Filho broke the Guinness record for texting.


Punch, Pooh, Protected

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

On October 14, 1926, A.A. Milne published Winnie-the-Pooh!

However, although he’s now remembered as a children’s writer, Milne also wrote non-fiction, adult literature, and plays.

From 1906-1914, Milne was a staff writer for Punchthe humor and satire magazine of the time – and afterward he took up playwriting.

In 1929, Milne wrote a stage adaptation of the children’s book The Wind in the Willows (his play was called Toad of Toad Hall), so you might think he could look forward to someone adapting his work someday.

Alas, this won’t happen soon.

As with his producer, fellow playwright, and friend, Sir James “J. M.” “Peter Pan” Barrie, Milne’s works have been licensed and bought and otherwise legally sewn up by Disney, so no one else can dramatize the works.

Unless Disney finds a way to extend its exclusive rights (have faith they will!), the copyright to Winnie-the-Pooh won’t expire until 2026 – 100 years after Pooh’s publication.

A_a_milne See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Bet A.A. would have something hilarious to say about that.


Arbitrary Isthmus of the Day

Friday, October 10th, 2014

The Isthmus of Ierapetra.


Beer Tax. Beer Tax? DID SOMEONE SAY “BEER TAX”???!!!

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Three hundred years ago, the city of Alkmaar in the Netherlands levied a tax on beer and on Oct 7, 1714 the citizens responded as anyone would — or, rather, as anyone would who had a serious case of kenophobia (you know – fear of the empty space in your glass).

The beer-drinkers pitched themselves a full-scale riot.

And those beer rioters of Alkmaar must have been some strong specimens, no doubt thanks to the combination of bone-fortifying silicon (in the beer) and bone-fortifying calcium (in the diet of “the Cheese Capital of the Netherlands”).

Never mind that they probably also suffered from elevated cholesterol and a bit of a beer belly — these were not people to be trifled with!

It’s one thing to like beer, but to be willing to fight for it? Why, that’s downright inspiring. Either that, or else it’s a sign that it’s time to take the pledge.

we'll have a barrel of fight

Lest you think the Dutch were up in arms only about their Potent Potables (as “Jeopardy!” would categorize beer), you should know that 36 years later they rioted against a meat tax.