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      • Thomas Edison's cigars
        Edison himself has played many a practical joke
        upon his employees, and in the early phonograph days
        he enjoyed many a laugh on them with the aid of his
        "talking machine." Sometimes, however, the joke
        was on him, as was instanced by the "fake cigar"

      • Theological argument
        Charles V, King of Spain, at the suggestion of Hernado Cortez, entertained the idea of digging a canal to connect the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. In 1567, Philip II, the successor of Charles V, sent a party of engineers to survey the Nicaraguan route, but the report was unfavorable to the succe

      • The legend of sir Isaac Newton and the Apple (Newton's law)

        One day in autumn Sir Isaac was lying on the grass under an apple tree and thinking, thinking, thinking. Suddenly an apple that had grown ripe on its branch fell to the ground by his side

        "What made that apple fall?" he asked himself.
      • Isaac Newton and his dog
        While Newton was attending divine service in a winter
        morning, he had left in his study a favourite little
        dog called Diamond. Upon returning from chapel
        he found that it had overturned a lighted taper on
        his desk, which set fire to several papers on which
        he had recorded th

      • Lord Byron's gift
        Byron once gave his publisher, John Murray, a splendidly bound Bible, and the recipient was proud of it until he happened to discover that his friend donor had altered the last verse of the 18th chapter of St. John (Now Barrabas was a robber) so as to read: "Now Barrabas was a publisher."<

      • Descartes refuted
        In 1649, René Descartes, a famous French philosopher and the author of the "Cogito ergo sum" principle, accepted the invitation of Queeen Christina of Sweden, who was deeply interested in philosophy, and traveled to Stockholm. As he explained to her majesty the basics of his mechanistic ph

      • Pyrrhic victory
        Pyrrhus, after his victory ofer the Romans, near the river Siris, said to those sent to congratulate him, "One more such victory and Pyrrhus is undone."

        From Dictionary of Phrase and Fable: Giving the Derivation, Source, Or Origin of Common Phrases, Allusions and Words that have

      • Chester Harding and Daniel Boone

      • Queen Alexandra and the dying King Edward VII
        King Edward VII of Great Britain was quite a playboy in his day, and his wife, Queen Alexandra had often ignored his infidelities and wild escapades. As he lay on his deathbed, his faithful wife was grief stricken until one reassuring thought occurred to her. She turned to Lord Esher and remarked, &

      • President Coolidge was a dictator?
        While on a private tour of the home of poet Emily Dickinson in Amherst, MA, President Coolidge made a keen observation. When shown a prized, handwritten collection of her most famous poems, he studied them and remarked, "Wrote with a pen, eh? I dictate."

      • President George Washington on the proposed size of the army
        An incident is related as having occurred while he
        was in the Convention for forming the Constitution,
        which was probably suggested by his experience during
        the war. A member proposed to introduce a clause
        into the constitution, limiting a standing army to five
        thousand men.

      • George Washington at the fireplace
        As he (George Washington) sat at table after dinner the fire
        behind him was too large and hot; he complained and said he must remove; a gentleman observed that it behooved a general to stand fire; Washington said, it did not look well for a general to receive fire from behind.

      • Napoleon's Secretary
        In order to encourage his secretaty, Bourrienne,
        under the arduous labour that he continually imposed upon
        him, Bonaparte would sometimes say, " Bourrienne! we shall
        go down to posterity together!" The vanity of this hope was
        shown in the answer — "Can you tell me

      • Cato and statues
        Cato, on observing that statues were being
        set up in honour of many, remarked, "I would
        rather people would ask, why is there not a statue
        to Cato, than why there is."

        From Greek Wit: A Collection of Smart Sayings and Anecdotes by Frederick Apthorp Paley

      • Caesar and the pilot
        Once he had taken ship in disguise to cross the Adriatic Sea, and the helmsman, terrified by the adverse wind, dared not pursue his course. But Caesar said to him, " Fear not, my friend! You carry Caesar and his fortunes!"

        From the Bible for Leaners

      • Caesar's wife must be above suspicion!
        Bona Dea (Lat. "the Good Goddess "), in Roman myth, a divinity also known as Fauna or Fatua and described as the sister, daughter or wife of Faunus. Her worship was exclusively confined to women in somuch that men were not even allowed to know her name. Being the goddess of fertility her r

      • Lincoln and a Soldier's Request for Furlough
        President Lincoln received the following pertinent letter
        from an indignant private, which speaks for itself: "Dear
        President I have been in the service eighteen months, and
        1 have never received a cent. I desire a furlough for
        fifteen days, in order to return home and remov

      • Death of Archimedes
        When Syracuse was taken, Archimedes was describing mathematical figures upon the earth, and when one of the enemy came upon him, sword in hand, and asked his name, he was so engrossed with the desire of preserving the figures entire, that he answered only by an earnest request to the soldier to keep

      • Roman Wit
        A Roman knight coming to Adrian to request a favour of him, received a denial: the knight was old, and had a very gray beard, but a few days after, having covered his beard black, like a young man, he came to the emperor again about the same business. The emperor, perceiving the fraud, said to him,

      • Amusing story of a ring
        A correspondent to 'Notes and Queries ' (vol. i. series 3,
        p. 36), relates the following curious anecdote : ' A gentleman,
        who was in the habit of frequenting a favourite spot for the
        sake of a view that interested him, used to lounge on a rail,
        and one day in a fi

      • Richard Wagner and Dumas
        Of the score of greatest composers, perhaps none was
        more eccentric than that founder of the modern German
        operatic school, Richard Wagner. The caller who was
        unaware of one of his peculiarities might suffer a mild
        shock ; for on entering the room where his visitor was

      • Irish composer's marriage
        The Irish composer, Field, married from a somewhat
        peculiar reason, if we may believe his version of it.
        While yet this originator of the style of music called the "
        nocturne " was single, he numbered among his pupils
        one attractive young lady from whom he found it exce

      • Queen Elizabeth's ring
        Queen Elizabeth ... drawing from her finger the coronation ring, showed it to the Commons, and told them that when she received that ring she had solemnly bound herself in marriage to the realm, and it would be quite sufficient for the memorial of her name, and for her glory, if, when she died, an i

      • King Philip II and Titian's famous painting
        When Titian's famous painting of the Last
        Supper arrived at the Escurial, the king, Philip
        II., proposed to cut the canvas to the size of the
        pannel in the refectory, where it was designed
        to hang. El Mudo (Philip's "deaf and dumb" painter),
        who was pres

      • Hanging Judge
        Counsellor Grady, on a late trial in Ireland, said, he recollected to have heard of a relentless Judge; he was known by the name of the Hanging Judge, and was never seen to shed a tear but once, and that was during the representation of The Beggar's Opera, when Macheath got a reprieve! It was t

      • Plato's wit
        Plato, living in the Academy at Athens, which
        the physicians considered unhealthy, was advised
        to remove to the Lyceum. "I would not have
        removed even to the top of Mount Athos," he
        replied, "for the sake of a longer life."
        (Aelian, Var. Hist. ix. 10.)
      • Sir Walter Scott
        Sir Walter Scott, when a boy, gave very slight indications of genius, nor did he shine in his early career as a scholar. In Latin, he did not advance far until his tenth year, when Dr. Pater- son succeeded to the school at Musselburgh, where young Scott then was. Dr. Blair, on a visit to Musselburgh

      • Locke on the Understanding
        Mr. Locke having been introduced by Lord Shaftesbury to the Duke of Buckingham and Lord Halifax, these three noblemen, instead of conversing with that philosopher on literary subjects, as might naturally have been expected, in a very short time sat down to cards. Mr. Locke, after looking on for some

      • Generosity of King Edward III
        When Calais was besieged by Edward III. in 1347, John de Vienne, the governor, turned out of the town every individual who did not possess a sufficient supply of provisions for several months. Men, women, and children, to the amount of seventeen hundred persons, advanced in mournful procession to th

      • The Oxford Dragon
        Jacob Bobart the younger, and son of a German
        horticulturist of the same name, who superintended
        the Physic Garden in Oxford, in the
        seventeenth century, once played an ingenious
        hoax on the learned of that university. He
        found a large dead rat in the garden, and transformed

      • Henry VIII and a sundial maker
        It was in the year 1517 that Nicholas Kratzer, or Kratcher, a Bavarian, was admitted at the age of thirty to the new college of Corpus Christi at Oxford, founded by Bishop Fox. His name is on the list of lecturers appointed by Cardinal Wolsey, and he lectured on astronomy and mathematics. Tunstall,

      • Coronation of George I
        Nothing of special interest marks the Coronation of George I., except that, as he was unable to speak English, and scarcely anyone round him could speak German, recourse had to be had to Latin. As all the various ceremonies had to be laboriously explained to him in this language, the Coronation was

      • "King Arthur" Merry-making at sea
        This is another gameused at sea,
        when near the line, or in a hot latitude.
        It is performed as follows.

        A man, who is to represent King Arthur,
        ridiculously dressed, having a large wig
        made out of oakum, or of some old
        swabs, is seated on the side, or over a
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  • 2007