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As long as you have electricity, you can't beat a Blickensderfer : Reflections : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
As long as you have electricity, you can't beat a Blickensderfer
by Roger Matile


As part of this newspaper's annual, belated, April Fool's Day celebration, I thought I'd round up some facts from the huge mound of junk mail accumulated while hoping that check from Publisher's Clearing House arrives at the front door.

Alas, no check this week, which is the bad news. The good news is that a bunch of interesting items were gleaned from the junk mail that did make it into the mailbox across the road from the Matile manse.

With little further ado, here are a few things a columnist might never have found out if he hadn't opened all his mail each and every day (that the mail carrier showed up out front):

The first successful electric typewriter was the Blickensderfer Electric in 1902. Unfortunately, few offices had electricity in 1902, so it wasn't very successful. We used to use a Blickensdorfer at the newspaper office, and I was able before I retired to remove the keyboard, which I now use with my Mac. In fact I'm typing this column on it right now, and except for an occasional stuck key, you'd never know it was made in 190222222222.

John Quincy Adams became president of the United States in 1824 even though he got 50,000 fewer votes than his chief rival for the post, Andrew Jackson. Adams won in the Electoral College and thus became the first of four presidents to lose the popular vote but win the Electoral College, and thus all the marbles. The other three are Samuel J. Tilden, who won the popular vote but lost the election to Rutherford B. Hayes (1876); Grover Cleveland, who won the popular vote but lost the election to Benjamin Harrison (1888); and Al Gore who won the popular vote but lost the election to George W. Bush (2000). Oddly enough, all four winner losers were Democrats. Funny how that stuff works, isn't it?

Stone Mountain, near Atlanta, Ga., is the world's largest granite rock. It is 825 feet high and has a volume of seven billion cubic feet. I think I heard our neighbor hit it with their mower last summer.

It's believed that goldenrod growing near a house means the residents will have unexpected good fortune. By the way, the old wives' tale that goldenrod causes hay fever is just that. The real culprit is ragweed. So enjoy your good fortune.

F.W. Woolworth opened his first store in Utica, N.Y. in 1879, based on the principle of selling "nothing over five cents." The public in New York, however, did not take to his idea. After moving to Pennsylvania and finding a lot of cheap Dutchmen, though, Woolworth made a killing. Are you old enough to remember when Woolworth's and Kresge's (ancestor of Kmart) were called dime stores?

It has been estimated that about 2.5 billion copies of the Bible have been sold in the world since 1816, which works out to about one Bible for each born again rock and roll singer, movie star and politician.

Robinson Cruso was based on the real-life exploits of Alexander Selkirk, who lived alone on a desert island for more than four years after being shipwrecked. Looking forward to the coming months of non-stop political campaigning, I wish I could join him.

The Empire State Building in New York City is 102 stories high, can hold 80,000 people, and has seven miles of elevator shafts. And not one person in that place wears a seed corn hat.

Kin Mongut, the real-life model for the Siamese king in "The King and I," had 9,000 wives and concubines-for reasons best known to himself.

A decillion is a thousand nonillions, or a unit with 33 zeroes in the United States and France. In Great Britain and Germany, that same term is used for a unit with 60 zeros. Put a one in front of it and you'll have the average cost of sending someone to college for four years.

The famous lover Casanova spent the last 13 years of his life as a librarian. Who said librarians never have fun?

Famous actress Sarah Bernhardt often slept in a rosewood coffin lined with letters. What, you got a problem with that?

Some people say a knife or nail in your pocket will keep the elves from lifting you up at night. I know that's true, because I have carried a pocket knife (my new one even has a thumb drive in it; love those Swiss Army inventors) my entire life, and elves have never lifted me up at night. So far.

Maine is the only state in the union that borders on only one other state: New Hampshire.

The average person takes in about 16,000 gallons of water during his lifetime.

Millard Fillmore's wife, Abigail, found no books in the White House after he took office as the 13th President. She set aside a room for a library and got an appropriation of $250 from Congress to buy books. Apparently, either our early Presidents weren't much for reading, or President Polk stole all the books before President Harrison arrived and Millard took over after Harrison died.

In 1873, the town fathers in Lexington, Ky. ordered an end to horse racing in the streets. The killjoys said the races were frightening the pedestrians.

Natural twins are born less frequently in the eastern part of the world than in the western.

The original name for basketball was "indoor rugby." After watching some college games this past winter, I can see how it got that name.

Some cicadas, an insect species sometimes incorrectly identified as locusts, live underground for 17 years and then emerge for only a few weeks before dying. Sort of like some political candidates I could name.

Winters on the planet Uranus are 21 years long. It's getting to be that's how long our summers are.

Finally, he Doctrine of Signatures was an ancient belief that plants, by the shape or form of their parts, indicated their medicinal uses.

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