After seven years, I am ending work on my blog. It began in Saint John, New Brunswick, when I spent a St. Patrick's Day stone-cold sober and I needed something to do. I had been working at the public library, going through old mid-nineteenth century newspapers for a project. I thought of all the odd stories that were fun and could be used as a launching point for real historical discussions. Thus, the blog began.

I thought I would do it for a year. I knew I could only do it if I took a minimalist approach. There would be no long posts and no references or bibliography. Just a newspaper story and, if necessary, a short contextual note. It has been seven years and almost 1800 posts. A half a million people use my blog.

An "unfortunate tramp" caught a ride on a circus train that included a "herd of elephants." The man began to feed one of the elephants some grass and, following upon this success, turned his attention to another elephant. However, the first elephant "either through hunger or jealousy" was upset and seized the man by his arm and broke it. The man was freed but, fearing that he was in trouble and "evidently under the influence of liquor," he disappeared before medical care could be provided.

Spiritualism took many forms. There were the famous Fox Sisters of New York and the famous "Rochester Rappings" that helped to forge the spiritualist moment of the mid-19th century. Well-known author Arthur Conan Doyle, a member of the British Society for Psychical Research from the 1890s, began to give public lectures on spiritualism beginning in 1917. And, following his death in 1930, Lady Conan Doyle organized seances to contact him. No word yet from the other side, as far as I know.

In 1890, Samuel McCowan went to prison for the minor crime of being a "vagrant." McCowan was also reportedly a "bully" and he had the temerity to complain to the prison cook that his Christmas meal was "unpalatable." The cook to offence and the two men began to fight. McCowan was stabbed with a butcher knife and died.

I have an interest in the prohibition of drugs, especially marijuana and cocaine at the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I routinely show "Reefer Madness" and the lesser known films "Cocaine Fiend" and "Sex Fiend" in my classes. While there is no question that concern over drugs reached a fevered pitch in America and Canada in these years, there is also the human cost of drug use which exacts an unfortunate toll on some individuals.

In 1990, the first IIHF Women's World Hockey Championship was held in Ottawa, Canada. Team Canada won gold that year and the American team captured the silver. Indeed, these are the only teams to ever win gold or silver at the women's hockey championship. The story below is about the American team, which was created after 300 women answered an open tryout call for the national team.

Community mailboxes are a contentious topic in Canada. In December 2013, Canada post announced that it would terminate door-to-door delivery in urban areas. Through 2014, home mail delivery was indeed suspended in many areas (including some in my area, although I did not have mail delivery to my house). Communities resisted the change, as did the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), one of the most interesting unions in Canada (see, for example, My Union, My Life by Jean-Claude Parrot).

A man in Springfield, Missouri, chained himself to his sofa for three weeks in an effort to quit smoking. He celebrated by having dinner with friends and then running a few kilometres.

Earnest Bratton, also known as Dr. Buzzard, was "born with magical powers and perfected them with the help of ghostly visions." But with a couple of coins, some black cat oil and an incantation over a grave, plus $1200 in cash, he could he can put a hex on your boss and take care of your problems.

A couple of mail clerks met a 42-inch black snake that "crawled out of a mail bag and showed fight." The snake was in a six-inch square box that was addressed to a "Miss Smith".
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