Crash Course: More Little Known History


Once a Beatle

June 1964 : Jimmie Nicol sits alone in the Melbourne airport, waiting for the plane that will take him back to obscurity.

When Ringo was ill with tonsillitis, Jimmie substituted on drums for 8 concerts & lived a superstar’s life for 10 days.

The Beatles would greatly boost his career but instead found that the spotlight moved away from him once Starr returned to the group. His subsequent lack of commercial success led him into bankruptcy in 1965.


Buchenwald Concentration Camp

General Patton was so incensed by what he saw when his forces reached the Buchenwald Concentration Camp, that he ordered that a thousand civilians be collected and made to see what their leaders had done. The MPs were so enraged that they brought back 2,000.


Sir Henry Morgan, Pirate

In 1671, the pirate Henry Morgan attacked Panama’s Fort San Lorenzo, which is now in ruins.

Sir Henry Morgan (1635-1688) was a Welsh privateer who fought for the English against the Spanish in the Caribbean in the 1660’s and 1670’s. He is remembered as the greatest of the privateers, amassing huge fleets, attacking prominent targets and being the worst enemy of the Spanish since Sir Francis Drake.

Although he made numerous raids all along the Spanish Main, his three most famous exploits were the 1668 sack of Portobello, the 1669 raid on Maracaibo and the 1671 attack on Panama. He was knighted by King Charles II of England and died a rich man on Jamaica.

Pollock Twins

The Pollock Twins

In 1957, 11 year-old Joanna and 6 year-old Jacqueline Pollock were tragically killed in a car accident in Northumberland, England. They were sisters. A year later, their mother gave birth to twins Jennifer and Gillian.

The younger twin, Jennifer, had birth marks on her body in exactly the same place as Jacqueline had them. The twins then started requesting toys belonging to the deceased girls which they had no prior knowledge of. The twins even asked to go to a park they have never been to before (but their deceased sisters have).

A well-respected psychologist at the time, one Dr. Ian Stevenson, studied the case in-depth and concluded it was likely the twins were reincarnations of their departed sisters.


Shugborough inscription

Looking at the 18th-century Shepherd’s Monument in Staffordshire, England, you might take it as nothing more than a sculpted re-creation of Nicolas Poussin’s famous painting, “Arcadian Shepherds.” Look closer, though, and you’ll notice a curious sequence of letters: DOUOSVAVVM — a code that has eluded decipherment for over 250 years.

Though the identity of the code carver remains a mystery, some have speculated that the code could be a clue left behind by the Knights Templar about the whereabouts of the Holy Grail.

Many of the world’s greatest minds have tried to crack the code and failed, including Charles Dickens and Charles Darwin.


The Lost City of Heracleion

It was only a mythical legend. Appearing in a few rare inscriptions and ancient texts, the city of Thonis-Heracleion was not something anyone expected to find, and no one was looking for it.

So it was something of a shock when French archaeologist Franck Goddio, looking for 18th-century French warships, saw a colossal face emerge from the watery shadows. Goddio had stumbled upon Thonis-Heracleion completely submerged 6.5 kilometres off Alexandria’s coastline. Among the underwater ruins were 64 ships, 700 anchors, a treasure trove of gold coins, statues standing at 16 feet, and most notably the remains of a massive temple to the god Amun-Gereb, and the tiny sarcophagi for the animals that were brought there as offerings.

The ruins and artifacts made from granite and diorite are remarkably preserved, and give a glimpse into what was, 2300 years ago, one of the great port cities of the world. The harbor of Thonis-Heracleion (the Egyptian and Greek names of the city) controlled all the trade into Egypt.


Live Long and Prosper

Two hands, with middle and ring fingers separated, are the symbol of a Jewish blessing — this signifies a Kohen, a descendant of Aaron, such as this headstone in Worms, Germany.

On the Web: 13 Days as a Beatle

Shepherd’s Monument Mystery Solved?

Heracleion on Wikipedia



Crash Course: Little Known History – The Female Pitcher Who Struck Out Ruth and Gehrig

Atta Girl! Home run kings Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig stare in the amazement at the lightning-fast pitches of Jackie Mitchell in 1931

Atta Girl!
Home run kings Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig stare in the amazement at the lightning-fast pitches of Jackie Mitchell in 1931

Seventeen-year-old Jackie Mitchell, one of the first female pitchers in professional baseball, strikes out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in 1931.

Virne Beatrice “Jackie” Mitchell Gilbert (August 29, 1913 – January 7, 1987) was one of the first female pitchers in professional baseball history. Pitching for the Chattanooga Lookouts Class AA minor league baseball team in an exhibition game against the New York Yankees, she struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in succession.

The New York Yankees and the Chattanooga Lookouts were scheduled to play an exhibition game in Chattanooga, Tennessee on April 1, 1931. Due to rain the game was postponed until the next day.

Seventeen-year-old Jackie Mitchell, brought in to pitch in the first inning after the starting pitcher had given up a double and a single, faced Babe Ruth. After taking a ball, Ruth swung and missed at the next two pitches. Mitchell’s fourth pitch to Ruth was a called third strike. Babe Ruth glared and verbally abused the umpire before being led away by his teammates to sit to wait for another batting turn. The crowd roared for Jackie. Babe Ruth was quoted in a Chattanooga newspaper as having said:

“I don’t know what’s going to happen if they begin to let women in baseball. Of course, they will never make good. Why? Because they are too delicate. It would kill them to play ball every day.”

Next up was the Iron Horse Lou Gehrig, who swung through the first three pitches to strike out. Jackie Mitchell became famous for striking out two of the greatest baseball players in history.

A few days after Mitchell struck out Ruth and Gehrig, baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis voided her contract and declared women unfit to play baseball as the game was “too strenuous.”


Crash Course: Little Known History – Rin Tin Tin


1930: Hollywood star ‘Rin Tin Tin on NBC Radio.

The amazing story of the German Shepherd named Rin Tin Tin.

Corporal Lee Duncan rescued Rin Tin Tin when he was a puppy from a bombed out German kennel near the end of World War I in 1918 and took the dog home to California. When a producer spotted the dog jumping over 10 feet at a dog show, Rin Tin Tin went on to became a massive star, making 26 pictures for Warner Brothers before his death in 1932. At the peak of his career he received some 10,000 fan letters a week.

Rin Tin Tin's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Hollywood, California.

Rin Tin Tin’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Hollywood, California.

Rin Tin Tin died just before he was to start a new movie. His body rests at Cimetiere des Chiens, the renowned pet cemetery in the Parisian suburb of Asnieres-sur-Seine.  The tombstone of its most famous resident, the original Rin Tin Tin.

Rin Tin Tin died just before he was to start a new movie. His body rests at Cimetiere des Chiens, the renowned pet cemetery in the Parisian suburb of Asnieres-sur-Seine. The tombstone of its most famous resident, the original Rin Tin Tin.

Rin Tin Tin also received the most votes for Best Actor at the first Academy Awards, but the Academy decided giving the trophy to a dog wouldn’t set the right tone for the show.

On the Web: 

Rin Tin Tin: The WOOF Heard ‘Round the World

The History of the RIN TIN TIN Line Dogs

The Legend of Rin Tin Tin


Crash Course: Little Known History – “Nuns With Guns”

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition. The Vatican Women’s Rifle Team – making a habit out of lock ‘n’ load.

If there are singing nuns, it would appear that there were also “shooting nuns” who formed the Vatican Women’s Rifle Team. However, the “nuns with guns” were reportedly disbanded in February 1938 perhaps because Pope Pius XI didn’t think the existence of the rifle team would advance the pious image of the Catholic Church.

In any case, one of the nuns known as Sister Juliette (extreme right in the photo) must have chucked her habit for military togs because she reportedly joined the French resistance in 1942 and distinguished herself as a sharpshooter.

According to some reports, the sister was good with covert operations and was responsible for the assassination of several Nazi officials. The French government was said to have awarded her the Médaille Militaire in 1946, after which she tried her hand in politics. She didn’t have a lot of luck however, and so re-entered the convent sometime in 1949.


Crash Course: More Little Known History

Baby needs a new pair of boots

Baby needs a new pair of boots. No one puts Baby in a corner.

Baby the Persian cat receives a medal of honor for service in 1947

In 1947, a blind woman in Los Angeles owned a cat named Baby and there was something very special about that cat. Carolyn Swanson was featured in a 1947 LIFE magazine issue because of her special pet: she owned a seeing eye cat. Her Persian kitty named Baby was so loyal to her, he led her everywhere she wanted to go. He helped her leave the house, safely cross streets and go about her daily life. He may be the first (and only) seeing eye cat to ever exist.

It would seem Amelia Earhart always set out to make a difference.

It would seem Amelia Earhart always set out to make a difference.

At 20, Amelia Earhart was training to be a nurse.

After visiting her sister in 1917 at a college preparatory school in Canada, Amelia decided to train as a nurses aid in Toronto and served as a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse at Spadina Military Hospital. until the Armistice in November 1918.

Amelia : “There for the first time I realized what the World War meant. Instead of new uniforms and brass bands, I saw only the result of four years’ desperate struggle; men without arms and legs, men who were paralyzed and men who were blind…”

Laura Dewey Bridgman inspired the parent of Helen Keller.

Laura Dewey Bridgman inspired the parents of Helen Keller.

Half a century before famed Helen Keller, there was the “Original Helen Keller.”

Laura Dewey Bridgman, became the first deaf and blind person to learn a language. Her story inspired Helen Keller’s parents to have Helen be educated.

At the age of two(1831), Laura suffered a severe illness which left her deprived of both sight and hearing and thus her speech. Under Dr. Howe’s care, however, she made remarkable progress in learning the manual alphabet and became the first blind-deaf-mute to be successfully educated in USA

A man named "Fink" old this stuff. What could possibly go wrong?

A man named “Fink” sold this stuff. What could possibly go wrong?

Munching on arsenic wafers will make you boo-ti-ful

Say the word arsenic and most people think “deadly poison.”  Arsenic was the poison of choice for murderers up through the latter part of the nineteenth century, and it is still used for homicides up to the present time.  It may, therefore, seem surprising that arsenic was also used extensively as a medicine for centuries, and was even consumed by many people as a health tonic or for cosmetic purposes.

Sold at Sears in 1902: Reports of “clear and blooming complexions” and full rounded figures of young women led to widespread use of arsenic as a cosmetic in many countries.  The arsenic was taken in various forms.  Women often drank Fowler’s solution or used it as a cosmetic wash.  Many new products were introduced on to the market.  For example, Sulphide of Arsenicum was advertised as a skin remedy and “the sure way to a better complexion.”  Dr. Simms’ Arsenic Complexion Wafers and Dr. Campbell’s Arsenic Complexion Wafers were popular, as were arsenical soaps.  In general, however, these arsenical wafers and soaps contained very little arsenic, which was undoubtedly a good thing.


Crash Course: Little Known History – “American Gothic” Models


American Gothic is a painting by Grant Wood in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. Wood’s inspiration came from what is now known as the American Gothic House, and his decision to paint the house along with “the kind of people I fancied should live in that house.” The painting shows a farmer standing beside his spinster daughter.

"American Gothic" - 1930 Oil on Beaver Board  780 mm (30.71 in) x 653 mm (25.71 in).

“American Gothic” – 1930
Oil on Beaver Board
780 mm (30.71 in) x 653 mm (25.71 in).

The American Gothic House, also known as the Dibble House, is a house in Eldon, Iowa, designed in the Gothic Revival style with a distinctive upper window. The home is located at 300 American Gothic St. Eldon, Iowa, is 504 sq ft located on .92 acres. It was built 1881–1882.

The American Gothic House, also known as the Dibble House, is a house in Eldon, Iowa, designed in the Gothic Revival style with a distinctive upper window.
The home is located at 300 American Gothic St. Eldon, Iowa, is 504 sq ft located on
.92 acres. It was built 1881–1882.

Wood recruited his sister Nan (1899–1990) to model the woman, dressing her in a colonial print apron mimicking 19th-century Americana. The man is modeled on Wood’s dentist, Dr. Byron McKeeby (1867–1950) from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.


Crash Course: Little Known History – The Boy Who Was Kissed to Death

George Spencer Millet courtesy of New York Times.

George Spencer Millet courtesy of New York Times.

The unfortunate young man in question was George Spencer Millet, who worked in the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company’s Department of Applications in New York’s Madison Square.

Though he had only been there a few months, George Millet had already made an impression on his co-workers. “He seemed to those accustomed to the usual run of office boys as perfect,” read the New York Times article. “His manners were good and his fair hair and fair complexion made him the pet of all the girl stenographers.”

George Spencer Millet in 1904.

On February 15, 1909, Millet’s 15th birthday, these “girl stenographers” promised that when the workday ended, they would kiss him once for every year of his age. At 4:30pm, they made good on their vow and descended on Millet to deliver the expected smooches. Millet tried to wriggle away, and in the ensuing rumpus was heard to exclaim, “I’m stabbed!”

According to the NY Times, 23-year-old Gertrude Robbins, one of the kiss-happy stenographers, rushed to his aid, but fainted at the sight of blood streaming from a wound in his chest. An ambulance was summoned and Millet transported to New York Hospital, but he died from his injuries on the way there.

Arrested on the charge of homicide, Robbins told police what had happened. Right before the office kissfest, Millet had been holding an ink eraser — not a rubber blob, but a six-inch-long metal tool that resembled a knife. When the stenographers surrounded him, Millet’s eraser was in his pocket. During the fracas, he fell forward, and the sharp point of the eraser drove into his heart.


When it became clear that Millet’s death was a terrible accident, the charge against Robbins was dropped. Millet was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. His gravestone reads: “Lost life by stab in falling on ink eraser, evading six young women trying to give him birthday kisses in office Metropolitan Life Building.”

On the Web: George Spencer Millet (1894 – 1909) – Find A Grave Memorial


Crash Course: Little Known History – Stolen Childhood

The policy of child migration has publicly acknowledged the hurt that was caused.

Ten-year-old twins Brian Thomas Sullivan (left) and Kevin James Sullivan from Islington, London, carry their luggage to the boat train at Liverpool Street station bound for Auckland, New Zealand, under the Child Migrant programme. The policy of child migration has publicly acknowledged the hurt that was caused.

The philanthropists who sent Britain’s “orphans” thousands of miles overseas to farms in Australia and Canada believed they were performing a charitable deed; it became appalling child abuse.

Between the 1920s and the 1960s as many as 150,000 young children were dispatched to institutions and foster homes abroad so that they might begin happier lives in the under-populated Commonwealth.

Charities including Barnardo’s, the Catholic church and local authorities helped organize the emigration of youngsters aged between three and 14. So the children could make a clean start, they were usually told their parents had died.

In reality, many were children of single mothers who had been forced to give them up for adoption in an era when their solitary status constituted a grave social stigma.

The fresh beginning the children were promised degenerated into years of servitude and hard labour on remote farms and at state orphanages. They were often subjected to physical and sexual abuse, separated from their siblings and taunted for being “the sons of whores”.

The official Child Migrants Programme, which ended 40 years ago, ruined the lives of the most vulnerable. It has taken decades for the harm and emotional damage to be acknowledged.

Gordon Brown’s apology, coming several months after the Australian prime minister, Kevin Rudd, performed a similar act of public atonement, is intended to help the process of healing for survivors.

Last November Rudd, speaking to a gathering of 1,000 victims known as the “Forgotten Australians” in Canberra, declared: “We are sorry. Sorry that as children you were taken from your families and placed in institutions where so often you were abused.

“Sorry for the physical suffering, the emotional starvation and the cold absence of love, of tenderness, of care. Sorry for the tragedy – the absolute tragedy – of childhoods lost.”

It was “an ugly story” and a “great evil” had been done, Rudd admitted. He hoped the national apology would become “a turning point in our nation’s story”.

Marcelle O’Brien was four when she was sent to Australia. Now aged 65, she was born in Worthing, west Sussex, and had lived with a loving foster family since she was 13 months old.

Nonetheless she was transported to Pinjarra, western Australia, where she was placed at Fairbridge farm school, about 50 miles from Perth. “I was neglected and abused in a harsh institution when I had the option of love and a family life with my foster mother in England,” O’Brien said. “I lost my whole childhood and with it my sense of hope and joy.”

At Fairbridge, life was cruel and brutal, she said. Children had no shoes or coats and were physically, mentally and sexually abused. “The best way to warm our feet was to tread in a fresh cow pat.” Girls carried out domestic chores while boys did farm work.

They were not allowed to mix and siblings were banned from speaking, she said. When she turned 16, O’Brien was forced into domestic service looking after a baby and was very lonely.

The story of the British child migrants sent to Australia has been described as a history of lies.

The story of the British child migrants sent to Australia has been described as a history of lies.

O’Brien, now a great-grandmother, was finally reunited with her mother Kitty eight years ago with the help of the Child Migrants Trust (CMT). “I just held her in my arms, and perhaps a little of the hurt began to melt away. My mother was then quite frail and I didn’t have her for very long, but now I have an identity and that can never be taken from me again.”

Another of those sent overseas was Tony Costa, 68, from Islington, London. He is still haunted by experiences at Bindoon Boys Town, a Christian Brothers institution near Perth. “I still wake during the night in a cold sweat, in a state of night terror featuring the monsters of my childhood – though it was never any kind of childhood,” he said.

“I vividly recall crying myself to sleep, pleading with God to save me from the torment of my life every day. Desperately trying to understand what crime I had committed to warrant such a heinous punishment as to be incarcerated at Bindoon.”

His mother had given him to nuns to look after. He grew up believing he was an orphan. By the time the CMT was able to retrieve his papers from the church, his mother had died.

Costa, who went on become mayor of the western Australian town of Subiaco, said: “At Bindoon … there were endless tasks: mixing cement, making bricks, carting them up the ramp without any safety measures, no shoes so whenever you dropped a brick it would land on your bare feet.

“It was severe child labor, exploitation of the worst kind, all being done to ‘the glory of God’ which was little comfort for starved and beaten young boys. The brothers acted like overseers on a chain gang, shouting and whipping us if we fell behind.”

John Hennessey, 72, of Campbelltown, 40 miles southwest of Sydney, struggles to make himself understood through a stutter — a never-healing scar from a thrashing he received from an Australian orphanage headmaster 60 years ago. Hennessey was only 6 when he was shipped from a British orphanage to an institute for boys in the country town of Bindoon in Western Australia state.

At 12, he was stripped naked and nearly beaten to death by the headmaster for eating grapes he had taken from a vineyard without permission because he was hungry.

“What terrified me most was that in my mind I thought: ‘That’s my father; what’s he doing?’ — I had nobody else and he was the one I’d looked up to,” Hennessey said. “Before that I didn’t have a stutter. I’ve sought medical advice since and they’ve said: ‘John, you’re going to take that to the grave with you.'”

Ian Thwaites from the Child Migrant Trust said it was “still very difficult to accept the full extent of what happened”. The issue of compensation was up to the child migrants themselves to consider, he added.

The chief executive of Barnardo’s, Martin Narey, told BBC radio: “If individuals in Australia think we can help and do anything to put right the hurt or distress that has been caused, I urge them to contact me personally.”

On the Web:

Child Migration History – Child Migrants Trust

Child migration program – Barnardos Australia

Brothers separated for 43 years by cruel child migranT PROGRAMME

The children Britain did not want

Ordeal of Australia’s child migrants


Crash Course: Little Known History – Marilyn Monroe


Little-known history that somehow got missed by the history books.

Pictured: July 1942,  A rare picture of 16 year old (Norma Jeane Mortenson) Marilyn Monroe along with husband James Dougherty, West Virginia

In 1943, during World War II, Dougherty enlisted in the Merchant Marine. He was initially stationed on Santa Catalina Island off California’s coast, and Monroe lived with him there in the town of Avalon for several months before he was shipped out to the Pacific. Frightened that he might not come back alive, Monroe begged him to try and get her pregnant before he left. Dougherty disagreed, feeling that she was too young to have a baby

While Dougherty served in the Merchant Marine, his wife began working in the Radioplane Munitions Factory, mainly spraying airplane parts with fire retardant and inspecting parachutes. The factory was owned by movie star Reginald Denney. During that time, David Conover of the U.S. Army Air Forces’ First Motion Picture Unit noticed her and snapped a series of photographs, none of which appeared in Yank magazine

In September 1946, Monroe filed for divorce. Dougherty, served with divorce papers while aboard a ship on the Yangtze river in China, reported that he tried to persuade his wife against the divorce upon his return, but she refused.


Crash Course: Unknown History

A new feature comes to Crash Course every Thursday.  It will deal with little known history that somehow got missed by the history books.

Being Jewish: A Lesson in Repetitive History

It is said there is rarely an original thought, a new idea under the sun. The irony is the thought originally came from somewhere to spark an ideology, a practice, a behavior.


1290 AD : Some 680 Jews detained in the Tower of London, with more than 300 subsequently executed, on suspicion of coin clipping. All Jews were eventually expelled from Britain. Coins were once made of real silver or gold. People sometimes clipped tiny bits off the edges, effectively making the coins worth less than their weight. This is why modern coins now have a marked edge around the sides. Coin clipping also made for a tidy almost untraceable profit, these small clippings could be smelted into gold or silver nuggets and be easily tradable among merchants.

On November 17, 1278, all the Jews of England were subjected to arrest and search of their homes on suspicion of coin clipping and counterfeiting. Eventually, some 680 were imprisoned in the Tower of London, where it is believed that more than 300 were actually executed in 1279. At the time, the Jewish population of England is believed to have been some 3,100.

During the 11th century, Jews from Italy, Spain, and Russia migrated over to England. They built a large place of worship, known as “the great Synagogue” just a little way down from the Tower of London. The Synagogue was used for worship, as well as file claims against Christian debtors and charging how to settle their debts. When corruption was found within Jewish money lenders, they were put under scrutinized investigation.

England implemented a badge rule for new Jewish settlers. Jews past the age of 7 had to wear a badge that signified their heritage.