April 23, 2014

Wednesday Open Line

America’s first — and oldest — school is celebrating its 369th birthday today. The Boston Latin School started in 1635 with a handful of students meeting in the headmaster’s home. Admission was by reading aloud a few verses from the Bible. Stressing a classical education and the development of independent thought, the school has long […]

Tuesday Open Line

One of world’s most important medicines — insulin — became available for general use this month in 1923, saving the lives of millions of people suffering from diabetes. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas and is critical in the processing of carbohydrates in the human body. It was first isolated the year before […]

Monday Open Line

Immigration and assimilation are matters of much current debate, but in 1980, those issues came floating in on the tide. It was on this date that what’s known as the Mariel boatlift began. When Cuban ruler Fidel Castro announced that any citizens wishing to leave the police state could, the voluntary exiles made their way […]

Friday / Weekend Open Line

For urban dwellers, the difficulty — or at least the expense — of doing their laundry began to ease on this date in 1934 when the first public, self-operated laundry in the U.S. opened its doors in Fort Worth, Texas. The first name was “Washateria,” eventually replaced with the now familiar “Laundromat.” Early facilities were […]

Thursday Open Line

April is a significant month for the American printed word. In 1800, the Library of Congress was founded, and earlier this week, in 1828, Noah Webster published the first dictionary of American English. This is also the fifth day of National Library Week, celebrating libraries, those who staff them and the billions of materials they […]

Wednesday Open Line

Children have worked throughout history, especially on family farms and in trades. But their employment in industrialized settings raised many popular objections. On this date in 1836, Massachusetts became the first state to prohibit children under 15 from working in factories. Massachusetts acted again six years later, limiting children’s work to 10 hours per day. […]

Tuesday Open Line

To borrow from some recent advertising slogans, although many Americans couldn’t imagine leaving home without them, and they’re everywhere they want to be, there was a time when credit cards were rare; issued only by individual merchants. But that proprietary limitation ended on this date in 1952, when the Franklin National Bank in New York […]

Monday Open Line

The distribution of political representation under the Constitution was authorized on this date in 1792. Based on the results of the 1790 Census, the House of Representatives was to be apportioned according to population, coming as near to equal populations in the districts as could be determined. That first census counted a resident population of […]

Friday / Weekend Open Lines

This week in 1955, a small hamburger restaurant opened in Des Plaines, Illinois-the first of what would become one of the world’s best-recognized brand names — McDonald’s. The franchise shop belonged Ray Kroc, whose main interest at the time was selling the machines that mixed milkshakes. The name came from two McDonald brothers who operated […]

Thursday Open Line

The need to pay a $15 debt sparked one of the most useful of inventions, patented on this date in 1849. Walter Hunt, a mechanic in New York, owed the debt. While he thought about how to raise the money, he fiddled with a small piece of wire. Finally, he bent the wire with a […]

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