Category Archives: History

That Surprisingly Recent Time in British History When Husbands Sold Their Wives at Market

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The following is an article from Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Let’s say you’re an 18th-century British peasant, and you and your wife just aren’t getting along anymore. What do you do? Divorce her? Too expensive. Kill her? Too risky. Oh, well, looks like you’ll have to auction her off. Welcome to the wacky world of wife selling! HARDY HAR-HAR Hands […]

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The Plot Against President Franklin D. Roosevelt

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The following is an article from Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Conspiracy theories can be amusing to read because they’re usually so bizarre and far-reaching that they couldn’t possibly be true. What’s even more fun is a conspiracy that’s not a theory at all. Here’s one that actually happened. ALL THE RAGE IN EUROPE In the 1930s, many Western countries suffered […]

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How the Practice of Putting Candles on Cakes for Birthdays Started

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Heily O. asks: How did the tradition of having cakes with candles on them for birthdays start? For most of human history, ordinary people’s birthdays weren’t cause for much celebration. In fact, in the ancient world if you weren’t among the elite, odds are your birthday would have mostly just been noted for things like astrological purposes, rather than throwing […]

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“Every Man His Own Stylo” – That Time MI6 Agents Used Semen as Invisible Ink

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The British Secret Intelligence Service, better known to the world as MI6 (Military Intelligence, Section 6), is, rather oddly for a supposedly secretive agency, one of the better known intelligence services in the world. While the work MI6 does today is top-secret, thanks to the wonders of the Freedom of Information Act, we’re able to peer into the mysterious agency’s […]

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How the Freedom of Information Act Came About

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The following is an article from Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader The Freedom of Information Act was passed in 1966—and it was the very first law in American history that gave regular citizens the legal footing to compel the government to release internal documents. Before that—not for you! Getting it passed was a long, tough battle. (And it’s still going on.) […]

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The Bare-Breasted “Petticoat” Duel

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A time-honored method of settling disputes, trial by combat became an institution in Europe during the Middle Ages. Although it fell out of fashion for many, beginning with the Enlightenment, it remained a popular means for European nobility to settle matters of honor well into the 19th century. While most duels were fought by men, occasionally a ladies’ disagreement would […]

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The High-Flying Origin of Hot Air Balloons

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It isn’t often that a duck, rooster and sheep get this much attention. In September 1783, King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette (see: The Truth About Marie Antoinette’s Cake)- along with 130,000 curious French citizens – stood in the Palace of Versailles’ courtyard to witness a demonstration of a modern marvel. After months of tests, two well-to-do paper […]

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Why Does the United States Use the Electoral College Instead of a Simple Vote Count When Deciding the Next President?

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Mike C. asks: Why don’t we use the popular vote to pick the president? On December 13, 2000,  Vice President Al Gore conceded the presidential election to Governor Bush. A day earlier, a lengthy and expensive manual vote recount process in Florida was stopped by the United States Supreme Court despite Bush leading by only 537 votes. With Bush winning […]

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The Duel That Wasn’t

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It was a beautiful spring day on the banks of the Potomac River in 1826 when Secretary of State Henry Clay and Senator John Randolph of Roanoke counted paces, cocked their guns and prepared to fire at one another. The two notable American politicians were engaged in an illegal duel that, by nearly all accounts, should have never happened. Shots […]

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