Where does Veal come from and How do cattle farmers make Veal?

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a vealer is “an immature bovine animal not over three months of age: the same animal after three months, and after having subsisted for a period of time on feeds other than milk, is classified as a calf.” Veal meat, then, comes from a younger animal than … Read more

How do members of Congress make themselves sound articulate in the Congressional Record?

Whenever the U.S. house of representatives and the U.S. Senate are in session, their public proceedings are published in the daily Congressional Record. The Record was first published in 1873, and it continues to be the official account of congressional debate. Each house of the legislature maintains a staff of court reporters, who transcribe the … Read more

How do Television Networks know TV viewers don’t cheat during the Nielsen ratings?

Nielsen media research, the company responsible for compiling information on America’s television viewing habits, employs a device called the Nielsen People Meter to get its figures. The electronic meter, which is about the size and shape of a small cigar box, is attached to each of a sample family’s television sets, and whenever a set … Read more

How do lawyers research members of a jury before deciding whether to challenge them?

Jury selection isn’t just based on instinctive hunches. As the stakes of cases have increased, lawyers on both sides of a case are carefully weighing each potential juror and trying to eliminate those who may have predispositions against their client. It is a tricky task requiring rapid psychological analysis by lawyers, assistance from jury consultants, … Read more

How do store and bank employees detect counterfeit bills just by looking at them?

Although the average person might be slipped a counterfeit bill and accept it unawares, someone trained in detection can nearly always spot it instantly and effortlessly. Why? Because the government has made it all but impossible to precisely copy the real stuff. The distinctive markings of legitimate money are printed by steel engraved plates on … Read more

How did the Greeks know the size of the earth over 1,700 years before anyone sailed around it?

In the third century B.C., Eratosthenes needed no more than a gnomon, or shadow stick, to measure the whole earth, and his answer missed our contemporary, sophisticated measurements by only 5 percent. On the summer solstice, Eratosthenes stood at Alexandria with his gnomon. When the sun reached its zenith over Syene, a city 5,000 stades, … Read more

How and why did the people of France kill Marie Antoinette?

On October 16, 1793, Marie Antoinette, former Queen of France and Navarre, mounted an open tumbrel led by cart horses, her hands bound behind her. With a constitutional priest beside her, she was driven through the chill autumn morning from the Conciergerie, where she had been held prisoner, over the Pont au Change, toward the … Read more

Where did cigarettes come from and Who invented the first cigarettes?

cigarette card from 1904

The Aztecs smoked tobacco through a hollow reed or cane tube, and elsewhere in Central and South America the indigenous population rolled shredded tobacco in corn husks and other vegetable materials. The conquistadores who witnessed this returned to Spain with something resembling our present day cigar. Wealthy Spaniards smoked these cigars and often tossed the … Read more

How did Lavinia Dickinson find the poems of Emily Dickinson?

Emily Dickinson was born in 1830 in the quiet, respectable town of Amherst, Massachusetts, and died there 56 years later, her genius as yet unrecognized, her manuscripts, like her life, safely hidden from the world. As daughter of the treasurer of Amherst College, Emily might have taken part in society but chose not to, turning … Read more

How did Eliot Ness and the Feds put Al Capone in jail?

When Al Capone’s armor plated Cadillac with its bulletproof glass and tail gunner’s movable back window cruised along the streets of Chicago, people spilled into the streets hoping to catch a glimpse of Scarface. Inside, the king of the underworld reclined on silk cushions and puffed on a fat cigar, while his bodyguard, armed with … Read more

Where did maps come from and Who made the first accurate map of the world?

Attempts to map the earth began thousands of years before the birth of Christ. The first known maps were made by the Babylonians and the Egyptians, who transcribed information gathered from direct measurement of the ground. Babylonian ground plans, made for the purpose of taxing property, were inscribed on tablets of baked clay and date … Read more

How did Superman fly across the sky in the movies?

When Superman speeds across the heavens to save Lois Lane or fearlessly dives and swoops around the skyscrapers of Gotham or over the San Andreas Fault, kids really believe he’s flying and many of the rest of us come close to believing, too. That’s because the moviemakers put a lot of effort into not only … Read more

When did Heinrich Schliemann discover Ancient Troy and How was Troy discovered?

Heinrich Schliemann, a self-made millionaire with a lifelong belief in the historical accuracy of the Greek classics, discovered ancient Troy, the site of the battles fought in Homer’s Iliad. Born in 1822 in Mecklenburg, Germany, Schliemann was introduced to the Iliad and the Odyssey by his father, a Protestant minister. As a boy Heinrich would … Read more

How did Scotch Tape get its name and Where did it originate?

In 1925, when Detroit was alive and well with a burgeoning auto industry, some car manufacturers were producing two-tone models. Flashy, yes, but a nightmare to paint. So the car makers turned to the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company 3M for a sturdy tape they could run along a seam while painting to keep clean … Read more

Where did the Parachute come from and When was the first parachute invented?

Although the principle and construction of the parachute might seem pretty elementary in these days of advanced aerodynamic technology, early experiments with the devices were feats of considerable daring, usually performed before breathless crowds at country fairs. Louis Sebastien Lenormand of France was the first to demonstrate his rustic canopy parachute in action when, in … Read more

How did Harpo Marx learn to play the harp?

When the five Marx brothers and their parents, grandparents, and miscellaneous relatives lived crammed together in a tenement on East 93rd Street in New York, it was Minnie, the boys’ mother, who was always plotting and scheming to get them onto the stage. A legend in show business, she had the energy and inspiration to … Read more

Where did the Great Wall of China come from and How did slaves build the Great Wall of China?

The largest man-made construction on earth, and, it is often said, the only one visible from the moon, the Great Wall of China began as many different walls linking already existing fortifications and watchtowers. During the period of the Warring Kingdoms (c. 500-221 B.C.), myriad principalities were subsumed under huge kingdoms, which inevitably fought and … Read more

How did Beethoven compose music when he was deaf?

Beethoven noted the first signs of deafness as early as 1801, when he was only 28, with numerous piano and chamber works behind him but only one symphony yet created. “Let me tell you,” wrote the young composer to Karl Friedrich Amenda, “that my most prized possession, my hearing, has greatly deteriorated.” He commented parenthetically, … Read more

Where did neckties come from and How did men decide to wear neckties?

In this century convention appears to have the upper hand with men’s clothes. The standard, acceptable uniform is dutifully worn by legions of businessmen pouring into offices five days a week, despite the buttoned collar that grows smaller with passing hours, despite the choking necktie cramping one’s style. For some, fumbling with a necktie at … Read more

How did factory workers unionize the Ford Motor Company and When?

No one was more vigorously opposed to unions than Henry Ford. As waves of strikes disrupted factories across the country in the late 1930s, as General Motors and Chrysler made concessions, Ford stood firm, convinced to the bitter end that unions were controlled by “predatory money interests in New York.” The recalcitrant tycoon, by then … Read more

Where do Hot Dogs come from and How did the hot dog get its name?

Although “wiener” and “frank” and “hot dog” are interchanged quite freely today, old-time sausage makers insist that originally Vienna’s wiener and Frankfurt’s frankfurter were two distinct breeds, the latter being more coarsely ground and highly seasoned. To confuse matters even more, the hot dog’s antecedent is called a wiener Wurst in Frankfurt and a Frankfurter … Read more

How did Lauren Bacall meet Humphrey Bogart and When?

While moviegoers across the country flocked to the films of Humphrey Bogart to swoon over his aloof machismo or be dazzled by his daring, teenaged Betty Bacal stood in the shadows of the streets of Brooklyn, as yet unknown. Hanging out in front of Sardi’s, she sold a theatrical sheet, Actor’s Cues, and brazenly introduced … Read more

How did atomic physicists split the atom and When?

In the early days of atomic physics, the overriding concern was the search for knowledge, pure and simple, unencumbered by the controversial moral and political ramifications that since 1945 have surrounded the atomic bomb. In the forefront of the drive to reveal the secrets of the atom was one of the greatest physicists of all … Read more

Where do Stradivarius Violins come from and How did Stradivari make his violins?

The violins of Antonio Stradivari are renowned throughout the world for their perfect proportions, vigorous and bright tonality, responsiveness, and remarkable flexibility in the hands of different musicians playing continually new music throughout the ages. The gifted instrument maker, who lived in the town of Cremona in northern Italy, did not, however, spring out of … Read more

How did scientists determine the age of the earth?

For many years James Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh, was the authority on the age of the earth. Calculating from the genealogy of patriarchs in the Old Testament, the Irish prelate pronounced in 1648 that the world was created in 4004 B.C. So convinced was he and nearly everyone else of the divine origin of the … Read more

How did Mae West’s secret husband like married life?

Marrying the notorious blonde with the gargantuan ego was probably the worst move Frank Wallace of Long Island ever made. Mae West was decidedly unfit for monogamy. Wallace, on the other hand, was blinded by her skirt-swishing dance numbers and her imagination in the sack. He didn’t realize why she agreed to marry, and even … Read more

How and When did Dylan Thomas die?

At about 3:30 A.M. on November 4, 1953, Dylan Thomas staggered from the White Horse Tavern to his hotel room in the Chelsea section of New York and announced to his girl friend, Liz Reitell, “I’ve had eighteen straight whiskeys. I think that’s the record.” That, at any rate, became the legend. Today students, writers, … Read more

How did assassins kill Leon Trotsky in 1940 and Why?

The first attack came on May 24, 1940. Leon Trotsky, the powerful revolutionary and political strategist, Lenin’s comrade and appointed successor, had been living in exile for 11 years. Though his health was failing, he continued to work feverishly from behind the high walls of his villa in Coyoacan, Mexico, writing and plotting worldwide revolution. … Read more

What is the story of El Dorado about and Where did El Dorado come from?

Nestled in the mountains surrounding Bogota, Colombia, lies a rather unspectacular lake called Guatavita. But a very strange ritual was once performed here, one that caused Spaniards and Englishmen alike to forsake the comforts of home, battle alligators and jaguars and cannibals, suffer scurvy and starvation, and lose their way in the torrid jungles, all … Read more

How did Howard Hughes find his women?

With the demise of his first marriage in the early 1920s, Hughes abandoned himself to 30 years of rampant promiscuity—bizarre and often underhanded. Enamored of Hollywood, he was equally smitten by its leading ladies. Marian Marsh, Jean Harlow, Ava Gardner, Lana Turner, Ida Lupino, and Carole Lombard were all associated with the tall and mysterious … Read more

Who invented coffee and How did people learn how to make coffee?

According to Arab legend, a lone shepherd named Kaldi was roaming the hills with his herd of goats sometime around A.D. 850. One day he found his usually quiet herd behaving very strangely: old and young alike frolicked and cavorted, scampered up and down the rocky slopes bleating excitedly. The bewildered shepherd hid and watched … Read more

How did Napoleon Bonaparte escape from the island of Elba in 1815?

Napoleon Bonaparte abdicated on April 6, 1814, and the Allies attempted to determine his fate, according to the Treaty of Fontainebleau, signed six days later. The Emperor (who might still call himself that) was to assume sovereignty not over an empire but over the little island of Elba, lying between Corsica and the western coast … Read more

How did the crew on the Titanic discover that the Titanic was sinking?

On April 10, 1912, the magnificent Titanic, called unsinkable, steamed slowly away from Southampton on her maiden voyage with her cargo of aristocrats, her lavish dining rooms, suites, and cafés. She picked up passengers at Queenstown, then turned her bow westward toward New York, with 1,316 passengers and 891 crew members. Nearly 900 feet long, … Read more

How did France set the price of the Louisiana Purchase?

“Quickly” is the answer to this question, before Napoleon could change his mind. In the early 19th century, New Orleans was already a vital port, strategically located at the mouth of the long Mississippi. Early settlers in the West shipped nearly a third of their produce in flatboats along its tributaries and down the river … Read more

How did archaeologists excavate Delphi in Greece and When?

Hovering over the steep Pleistus Valley and shielded by rugged Mount Parnassus is the ancient sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi. Here at the crossroads of several trade routes, men of the mercantile world would meet and exchange wares. Others would come to seek the wisdom of the fabled oracle, the frenzied prophetess through whom Apollo … Read more

How did astronomers discover the planet Neptune and When?

It was not the searching eye of an astronomer but the enormously complex calculations of mathematicians that made Neptune known to the world. If skeptical at first, people were dazzled when the new planet was finally seen and the computations thus confirmed. This was the first planet to be discovered mathematically, and the method seemed … Read more

Why did Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon draw the Mason-Dixon line a century before the Civil War?

Since the 19th century, the Mason-Dixon line has represented the demarcation between North and South, the front where opinions clashed on the incendiary issue of slavery. In Civil War days, the line ran along the Maryland-Pennsylvania border and westward along the Ohio River to the Mississippi. But Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon actually had no … Read more

How did the whooping crane learn to reproduce in captivity?

The fight to save the endangered whooping crane began as early as the 1930s. Since then the struggle has acquired a certain mystique, exemplifying the recent awareness that man cannot live at the expense of other creatures. The United States government and the National Audubon Society initiated studies and programs to aid the majestic cranes, … Read more

Where did the mile come from and Who decided the length of a mile?

The statutory mile (as opposed to the slightly longer nautical mile) has an unlikely and seemingly arbitrary length of 5,280 feet. The measurement derives from ancient Rome. As walking was then the primary mode of transportation, the Romans measured a distance in paces-2 steps to the pace, a pace spanning about 5 feet, thus milia … Read more

How did the ancient Egyptians build the Great Pyramid at Giza?

No one throughout the ages has enjoyed so sublime a tomb as that of King Khufu, builder of the magnificent Great Pyramid of Giza. The son and successor of King Snefru and Queen Hetepheres, Khufu reigned for 23 years, a period marked by economic stability and artistic progress. The able and energetic King erected several … Read more

Why did Willie Sutton decide to rob banks and How did he do it?

“That’s where the money was,” quipped Willie. At dawn on March 9, 1950, the most notorious criminal in the country, number one on the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list, Willie Sutton, was getting ready for work. In his refuge on Staten Island, the Actor stood before the mirror staining his skin a dark olive, thickening his … Read more

How did the McDonald’s drive-in restaurant in San Bernardino become an international chain?

Obviously, somebody wanted to get rich. And that somebody was not the McDonald brothers, who lived a quiet, comfortable life in southern California, content with their pretty white house and its pleasant view. A man of a different ilk proved the dynamo behind the scenes, the relentlessly driving entrepreneur who would see those now familiar … Read more

How did Friedrich Miescher discover DNA and When?

DNA is virtually synonymous with James Watson and Francis Crick in popular belief, largely because their contribution to its study was momentous and relatively recent. But Watson and Crick were not the discoverers of the miraculous substance that embodies the secret code of genetic characteristics. These two, who fathomed the complex structure of DNA, were … Read more

How did Steven Spielberg build the Mother Ship in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind?

During the summer of 1977 many Americans walked the streets with a distracted look in their eyes and glanced frequently, apprehensively, at the sky. That was the summer aliens hovered overhead in a chandelier spaceship, sounding a sacred chord for mystified mortals. More spectacular than an oil refinery seen from the air at night (that … Read more

How did Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal get reviewed when it was published in 1857?

Charles Baudelaire’s mother had reservations about Les Fleurs du Mal. Theophile Gautier warned the poet of its “scabrous nature.” M. Bourdin, writing for Le Figaro (a newspaper largely reflecting government views), was scandalized: There are times when one doubts Monsieur Baudelaire’s sanity; there are those when there is no longer any doubt; most of the … Read more

How did Robert E. Peary reach the North Pole and When?

Admiral Robert E. Peary’s ship, the Roosevelt, steamed north through the ice-packed waters of Smith Sound in 1908, her wooden hull specially fortified to meet the harsh barriers of ice, her primary means of propulsion a 1,000-horsepower engine rather than the sails of previous arctic exploration ships. Peary’s methods differed in another fundamental way: years … Read more

How did New York City build Central Park and When was Central Park built?

When in 1857 Frederick Law Olmsted became superintendent of the area that would become Central Park, he described it as “a pestilential spot, where rank vegetation and miasmatic odors taint every breath of air.” The land was a chaotic mix of swamp and brambles, squatters’ shacks and open sewers. Some 300 hovels dotted the unpromising … Read more

How did the lollipop get its name?

Apparently George Smith, who first made a candy on a stick for a Connecticut candy manufacturer in the early 1900s, had other moneymaking interests: Lolly Pop was one of the finest racehorses of the time.

How did Humphrey Bogart cure a hangover?

Humphrey Bogart cured a hangover by getting drunk again. And to make sure he had some company he formed his own drinking club, the Holmby Hills Rat Pack, with his wife Lauren Bacall as den mother, Frank Sinatra as secretary. Members were by and large Hollywood Democrats with an inclination for the bottle. Regulars included … Read more

How did social elite of New York City pick the Four Hundred?

If one had stood at the corner of New York’s 34th Street and 5th Avenue at eight o’clock on a given night in the 1870s, one might have seen a string of stately carriages arrive at Number 350 on 34th. There the creme de la crème of New York Society would descend in a glitter … Read more

How did ballet dancers start dancing on their toes and When?

The strange custom of dancing on the very tips of one’s toes is not as old as ballet itself. Only after the dance was several hundred years old did this stylized position, which many now consider the essence of ballet, catch on, and one Italian girl at the Paris Opera was largely responsible. The classic … Read more

Where did the Baader Meinhof gang come from and how did the police catch them?

In 1972 Germany’s “Bonnie and Clyde” were declared Public Enemies Number One. In the two years since its formation, the Red Army Faction, popularly called the Baader-Meinhof gang, had stunned, divided, and terrified the country. Over 100 police had been hospitalized and 1 killed, while judges’ chambers were gutted and American installations fire-bombed. A new … Read more

How did scientists develop the Salk vaccine for polio in the 1950s?

An Egyptian stele from about 1500 B.C. portrays a young man with a withered leg, symptomatic of poliomyelitis. The Procession of the Cripples by Hieronymus Bosch also captures the cruel effects of the disease. In the late 19th century and first half of the 20th, what had been isolated instances erupted, unpredictably, into devastating epidemics. … Read more