Today in History
March 13, 1781 – Uranus was discovered by William Herschel.
On this day in history in 1781, composer, astronomer, and general man-about-town William Herschel discovered the 7th planet in our solar system, Uranus. Now, we’re all adults here and far too mature to laugh over the word “Uranus,” right? Oh, no, wait. I mean the exact opposite of that.
So in honor of 6th grade humor everywhere, here are 13 things you didn’t know about Uranus (which isn’t surprising, really, since it’s pretty dark up there and you’d need special equipment to get a close look, amirite?)
- The interior of Uranus is mostly made of ice and rocks.
- Uranus has a blue-green color due to the presence of methane.
- With careful observation, Uranus is visible to the naked eye.
- Uranus has several small rings around it made up of dark particles and ranging in color from red to blue-grey.
- In 2006, a dark spot was observed on Uranus.
- Uranus is sideways, with a slight bulge in the center.
- If someone were to spend a year on Uranus, it would last 84 times longer than a year on Earth.
- Uranus is surrounded by numerous moons.
- It is very cold on Uranus, with temperatures as low as -371.2°F.
- Uranus is 14.5 times more massive than the Earth.
- French astronomer Pierre Lemonnier observed Uranus multiple times in the mid-18th century.
- Uranus is known as a gas giant.
- In 1986, Uranus was explored by NASA’s Voyager 2 interplanetary probe.
March 6, 1912: The first Oreo Cookie is sold.
On this day in history in 1912, the first Oreo cookie (then known as the Oreo Biscuit) was sold to S.C. Thuesen, a Hoboken grocer. In the 101 years since, Oreos have become one of the most popular cookies in the world with over half a trillion sold. Not that we’re here at Superficial Gallery to shill for Nabisco – Acadia has already made everyone think twice about eating Oreos, and I’m really more of a Peppermint Joe Joe’s gal myself. However, you can’t deny that the Oreo has become one iconic cookie. So in honor of more than a century of twisting and licking, here are 13 facts you didn’t know about the Oreo.
- The Oreo was launched as an imitator of the Hydrox cookie, which had been introduced in 1908. Hydrox were discontinued in 2003. Oreos remain the best selling cookie in the United States.
- Oreo C. Collins is a tuxedo cat who received a diploma from Jefferson High School Online in 2009 in a sting designed to bust online diploma mills.
- Oreos were originally available in vanilla and lemon-filled flavors, and were sold in bulk for 25 cents per pound.
- 20.5 million Oreo cookies are eaten in the U.S. each day.
- Wafer cookies are commonly “docked” or stamped with a pattern to ensure even texture. Cookie conspiracy theorists link the Oreo’s design to secret societies from the German military to Freemasons and the Knights Templar.
- Ninth Avenue between 15th and 16th street in Chelsea is known as “Oreo Way” in honor of Nabisco’s one-time New York City factory at that location, which produced the first Oreo cookies.
- More than 500 billion Oreos have been sold since their 1912 introduction.
- To promote sales in the Asian market, 300 Chinese “brand ambassadors” were hired to hand out free cookies and spread the Oreo gospel on cookie-themed bicycles. The Oreo is now the best selling cookie in China.
- Besides the original vanilla cream filling, other filling flavors have included green tea, dulce de leche, blueberry ice cream, banana, creamsicle, rainbow sherbert, orange-mango, gingerbread, and coconut.
- Annual Oreo revenue topped $1 billion world-wide in 2007.
- William Turnier, unconfirmed designer of the Oreo cookie pattern, also contributed to the design of Nutter Butters, Ritz crackers, and Milk-Bones.
- Oreo is in the top 20 most popular names for cats. It is #90 for dogs.
- The lard in the original Oreo recipe was replaced with oil in the 1990′s. With pork fat no longer an ingredient, Oreos were certified kosher in 1998.
February 26, 1920: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari Premiers
Kids, you might not know this, but I run a little Halloween horror site when I’m not filling in here at the glamorous basement offices of Superficial Gallery. So when I started
throwing something together arduously researching for today’s post and saw that The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, known as the first horror film in history, premiered on this day in 1920, I knew I would have to make you all suffer through it write about it for this week’s column.
Although tame by today’s standards, this turn of the century German Expressionist silent film tells the bizarre tale of Dr. Caligari, a creepy carnival performer with a near-mute sidekick, the prescient sleepwaker Cesare. Add in a string of brutal murders, a sinister asylum, dark, distorted visuals, and an eerie twist at the end, and you have all the elements of the modern horror story. Got an hour to spare? Make some popcorn, turn the lights low and watch the full film right below.
After a bitter fight with the Catholic Church and conservative factions of the legislature, on February 20, 1985, Ireland approved the sale of non-medical contraceptives such as condoms. With this landmark reversal of Ireland’s previous strict ban on all forms of birth control (except leaving the lights on), anyone over the age of 18 could suddenly walk into a pharmacy and buy a pack of condoms for “a friend.” In salute to the increased availability of this small but mighty device on this day in history, here are 19 facts you didn’t know about the condom.
- Condom use was recorded before the 15th century in Asia. Materials such as oiled silk paper, lamb intestines, tortoise shell, and animal horn were used.
- A standard condom has a diameter of 2 inches and length of 7.4 inches.
- The first rubber condom was produced in 1855 and resembled a bicycle tube in thickness.
- In the 1930′s, the FDA began regulating condom quality in the US.
- In 2004, nearly 2,000,000,000 condoms were purchased by the Indian government for distribution.
- Legendary 18th century lothario Giacomo Casanova used condoms to avoid impregnating his many mistresses.
- In the early 20th century, condoms were typically made by dipping or wrapping penis-shaped molds in rubber.
- Condom advertisements were banned from US national television from the late 1950′s to 1979.
- Latex condoms can be stretched to over 800% of their normal size before breaking.
- Worldwide condom sales doubled in the 1920s.
- Early condom factories were tremendous fire hazards due to the high use of gasoline and benzene to manufacture rubber condoms.
- In the decade before the introduction of the pill, 42% of Americans used condoms for birth control.
- The tensile strength of a condom is over 30 MPa. Human skin has an ultimate tensile strength of 20 MPa.
- In 16th century Italy, linen condoms soaked in chemicals and tied on with a ribbon were recommended for protection from syphilis.
- Sigmund Freud was vocal on his opposition to birth control in general and condoms in particular, siting both high failure rate and reduction of sexual pleasure.
- Japan has the highest rate of condom use in the world.
- Condoms were heavily promoted to soldiers during WWII using outlandish propaganda posters and films.
- Durex brand condoms were first manufactured in 1932 by the London Rubber Company.
- During WWII, the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS) used condoms as inconspicuous espionage tools, relying on their ubiquitousness and water-tight character to store items such as acid for self-destructing film canisters, explosive compounds, and corrosive fuel additives.
Kids, it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow and I’m sure some of you are running around in a Lifetime Movie Network frenzy of trying to plan the evening. Personally, I’d rather tongue-clean a pigeon coop than get dragged out to dinner tomorrow night, but hey – whatever floats your particular boat. In the spirit of giving, I’m going to break with Today in History protocol and skip ahead to February 14th to give you some date night conversational fodder with these 9 things you didn’t know about Valentine’s Day.
- Pope Gelasius declared February 14 to be Saint Valentine’s Day in 498 A.D. There are at least three different historical martyrs named Valentine, including one beaten with clubs and stoned, then finally beheaded when all else failed to kill him. St. Valentine’s Day was stricken from the church’s official calendar in 1969.
- Hallmark produced its first valentine card in 1913.
- The 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre permanently shifted the balance of power to Al Capone in Prohibition-era gangland Chicago.
- Some identify the genesis of Valentine’s Day with the ancient Lupercalia, a fertility festival with pre-Roman roots that included a celebration of Lupa, the she-wolf who suckled the infant Romulus and Remus, legendary twins who went on to found Rome.
- Although Hamlet is the only Shakespearean play in which Valentine’s Day is mentioned, the city of Verona, literary home of Romeo and Juliet, is inundated with letters to Juliet every Valentine’s Day.
- The Captain and Tennille were married on Valentine’s Day. So were Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee.
- Valentine’s Day has been associated with romantic love since the Middle Ages, with lovers commonly offering gifts of flowers and sweets by the 15th century.
- In classical mythology, Cupid (Eros) is the son of Aphrodite and god of desire, erotic love, and affection. Aphrodite had another, lesser-known son with her husband Hermes, who was transformed into half man and half woman in Greek legend. This son, Hermaphroditus, is the basis for the modern term “hermaphrodite.”
- On February 14, 1876, Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham Bell both filed patents on the telephone, enabling over a century of long-distance relationships and arguments over who should be the first one to hang up (hint: it’s you).
January 23, 1989 – Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí dies.
On this day in history, legendary Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí died, leaving behind a legacy of painting, sculptures, photography, and general wackiness, setting the bar for weirdos around the world. Best known for his dreamy paintings that decorate dorm rooms everywhere, Dalí also made headlines in his day for all manner of attention-grabbing public antics and eccentricities. George Orwell wrote, ”One ought to be able to hold in one’s head simultaneously the two facts that Dalí is a good draughtsman and a disgusting human being.” In honor of the death of the 20th century’s leading oddball, here’s 12 things you didn’t know about Salvador Dalí.
1. Appeared on The Tonight Show with a leather rhinoceros and refused to sit on anything else.
2. Born nine months after the death of his brother (also named Salvador) and was told from childhood that he was his brother’s reincarnation.
3. Frequently traveled with his pet ocelot Babou.
4. Accused of starting an unrest at his art academy and was expelled in 1926.
5. Attended a masquerade party with his wife dressed as the Lindbergh baby and his kidnapper.
6. Received an exorcism in 1947.
7. Upon getting kicked out of his Surrealist group, remarked ”I myself am surrealism.”
8. Rumored to have a phobia of female genitalia as a young man.
9. Delivered a lecture wearing a deep-sea diving suit and helmet, carrying a billiard cue, and leading a pair of Russian wolfhounds.
10. Designed the logo for Chupa Chups lollipops in 1969.
11. Used a glass floor to study foreshortening, creating dreamlike perspectives in his paintings.
12. Avoided paying tabs by drawing on his checks, assuming proprietors would find more value in keeping the checks as art than cashing them.