Thursday 31 January 2013

Rescuing the Bible Page by Page

Ravi Zacharias tells the story of preaching to G.I.s in Vietnam in 1971 where he befriended a Christian interpreter named Hien.  After the war, Hien was placed in a Communist re-education camp where, day after day, he was beaten and told that there was no God.  Finally, Hien had had enough:  he decided that if he did not see a sign proving God's existence before the sun set, he would no longer believe in Him.

That very same day, Hien was assigned latrine duty, the filthiest and most degrading job in the camp.  He cleaned the sinks and toilets, barely able to stand the stench that permeated the washroom.  Lastly, he emptied the garbage cans, which were full of paper covered in excrement.  In the last can, a piece of paper caught his eye.  On it were typewritten words in English.  He craved English and decided to clean the paper off and save it to read later.  Once the other inmates were asleep that night, Hien took the damp piece of paper out of his pocket.  On it were these words:

"Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:38)

Wednesday 30 January 2013

Nuts for Nutella!

My nephew Aaron is nuts for Nutella:  he puts it on everything.  Regardless of what is being served, Aaron still has to have his Nutella sandwich.  I decided to Google Nutella and see what I found.

Years ago, in the foothills of Italy, a bakery owner named Pietro Ferrero decided to mix hazelnuts, which are prevalent in his native region of Piedmont, with cocoa.  Chocolate was in short supply during the Second World War and Signor Ferrero thought this was a good alternative.  The original paste, called "pasta gianduja" was made into a loaf which mothers would carve, put it on bread, and serve it to their children.  However, many bambini just threw out the bread and ate the "pasta gianduja".

In 1951, Signor Ferrero decided to make "supercrema gianduja", which was creamier and spreadable, forcing children to eat both the chocolate spread and the bread.  This cream proved to be a big hit.  Italian food stores would offer "smearings" where children were given a sample for free.  Parents were happy as a kilo of the cream was a sixth the price of a kilo of chocolate.

In 1964, the "supercrema gianduja" was renamed Nutella and was sold throughout Europe.  In 1983, it was imported to the United States.  In 2006, Ferrero Rocher, the new name of the company, opened a plant right here in Brantford, Ontario, which handles not only the Canadian but the North American production of Nutella.  Now the chocolate spread is sold in 75 countries worldwide.

Tuesday 29 January 2013


As I was driving my son Thomas to his friend's house today, the rain pelted down, forming lakes on the stubbled cornfields.  Clouds encircled us:  it looked like a scene from a painting.  When I got home I googled "Famous Paintings with Clouds".  It turns out that paintings with clouds, called "cloudscapes" are an artform unto themselves.  Here are cloudscapes painted by famous artists.

1.  "Weymouth Bay", John Constable, 1816

2.  "Sunset over the Ice Above Lake Ontario", Frederic Church, 1883

3.  "Sunrise in the Sierras", Albert Bierstadt, 1872

4.  Landscape Under a Stormy Sky, Vincent Van Gogh, 1888

5.  Ram's Head, Georgia O'Keefe, 1935

6.  Romantic Landscape with Ruined Tower, Thomas Cole, 1832-1836.

7.  River View in the Winter, Art van der Neer, 1854

8.  Clouds, Lake Superior, Lawren Harris, 1923

9.  View of the Lagoon near Venice, Richard Parks Bonington, 1827.

10.  The Thames at Charing Cross, Claude Monet, 1900

Monday 28 January 2013

Constable on Bicycle Chases Motorist

In 2005, almost two million speeding tickets were issued by police in England and Wales.  Motorists were pulled over by bobbies in "panda" cars or on BMW motorcycles and given a 60 pound penalty.  The British government collected 115.2 million pounds that year thanks to these offences.

Photo of London bobby courtesy

When was the first speeding ticket issued in Britain?  On this day in 1896, a constable was patrolling on his bicycle when a Benz automobile whizzed by at 8 miles per hour, four times the legal limit.  A chase ensued along London's cobblestone streets.  In the neighbourhood of Paddock Wood, the constable stopped the speeder.  His name was Mr. Walter Arnold from East Peckham.  He was fined one shilling by the Tonbridge magistrates.


Karl Benz in his auto circa 1894 courtesy

Sunday 27 January 2013

Jacqueline's Skating Session

Today I took Jacqueline and her friend Joanna skating at the St. George Arena.  Jacqueline has been skating with her school every year since Grade 1.  Last week she went with her Grade 4 class.  However, other than that, she has rarely been on the ice.  So, I decided this was the winter she would learn how.  I investigated signing her up for basic skating lessons, but we missed the deadline.  So, I am going to take her to the public skate every week for at least two months.

I helped Jacqueline lace her white skates while Joanna laced her own.  This week, when Jacqueline stepped out on the ice, she was hugging the wall like she usually does.  However, within about 15 minutes she was holding herself up, gliding with her right foot and propelling herself forward with her right.  Joanna waited patiently and helped her up when she fell (which wasn't very often).  Within half an hour, Joanna was leading Jacqueline out on to the middle of the ice; Jacqueline made it across the rink without falling.  As she passed by the window, she gave me a big smile, proud of herself that she was actually skating.  In one short hour, Jacqueline had come a long way.  I look forward to next week!

Image courtesy 

Saturday 26 January 2013

Cooking with my Slow Cooker

My mother-in-law and father-in-law gave me money for Christmas.  I wanted to buy something big with my money but at the same time practical.  So I went shopping at Walmart and picked out a 6-quart slow cooker.  My daughter Jacqueline went online immediately and downloaded a recipe for me from Canadian Living for "Hearty Beef Stew".  I bought all of the ingredients at the store, including sweet potatoes, and set to work.  Eight hours later, I had my stew.  It was delicious!  The following week I made Chicken Stew.  This time however, I substituted the broth for water and although it was good, it didn't measure up to the beef stew.  The third week I shopped at Zehrs and purchased pork tenderloin from the butcher.  I dumped it in the slow cooker with a can of rootbeer and turned the machine on high.  Four hours later, I added a bottle of barbecue sauce and voila!  The pork separated easily with a fork.  It was mouthwatering!  The fourth week I made the beef stew again since it was such a success the first week.  Now I am looking forward to more recipes in the slowcooker.  What a great Christmas present!

Friday 25 January 2013

101 Dalmatians

In 1956, a woman named Dodie Smith wrote a story that was published in the Ladies Home Journal as "The Great Dog Robbery".  The world would know it as "101 Dalmatians" which premiered on this day in 1961.

The story is set in 1952 and based on a songwriter named Roger and his wife who live in a bachelor flat in London, England.  They have no children but they do have 15 puppies whose parents are Pongo and Perdita.  A villain named Cruella deVil spots the dalmatians and decides she wants to make furs out of them. She kidnaps the puppies and later adds dozens more to her collection.  Roger puts Scotland Yard on the case but they get nowhere.  The "Twilight Bark" or canine gossip line, however, proves very useful.  A sheep dog, a tabby cat and a grey horse discover the kidnapped puppies at Cruella's abandonned and dilapidated estate.  The puppies race back to London as they're chased by the villainous Ms. DeVil.  She crashes en route and the puppies make it back safely to the city.  Pongo and Perdita decide to adopt all 101 dalmatians.  

Back at Roger's apartment, he and his wife are celebrating Christmas.  He has just had his first big hit and the couple decides to use his money to buy a large house in the country where they can raise the precious pups.

Walt Disney read Dodie Smith's story and liked it so much that he decided to bring it to the big screen.  He handed the project over to the Nine Old Men, the animators that would work night and day to make sure that each frame was completed.  The work was time-consuming and methodical:  each pup had 32 spots.  The animators treated the spots as constellations.  Walt was concerned about keeping to the film's budget.  However, his old friend Ub Iwerks developped something called xerography, limiting the number of cartoonists needed on the project and ensuring that it did not go over budget.

One Hundred and One Dalmatians was well received at the theatre.  It won 5 Oscars and grossed over 6 million dollars, the 10th highest grossing film of 1961.

Thursday 24 January 2013

Emancipation Proclamation

"Not often unto mortal is it given --
Whate'er his worldy rank or state may be --
The power, sustained by principle and truth,
To set, as Lincoln did, a people free.
He was ordained to do this Christlike deed,
To snap the bonds of slavery apart.
To break the chains which held the negro down,
And draw the iron from his bleeding heart.
This Proclamation, stamped with his strong will,
This write of Freedom, sealed by his firm hand,
This last, great act, Emancipation\s prayer,
Freeing all bonds men living in the land,
will cause Humanity throughout the world,
To bless and honor Abrham Lincoln's name.
And more than marble fane or statue could,
will crown his memory with enduring fame."

Poem from Frank Wells to President Abraham Lincoln celebrating the Emancipation Proclamation, signed January 1, 1863.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

L'Arc de Triomphe

1.  Charles Ribart planned to build a structure shaped like a giant elephant, complete with furniture which tucked away and a truck for drainage, to be located on the future site of the Arc de Triomphe.  However, the French government denied him a permit.

2.  Commissioned by Napoleon after the French Army's victory at Austerlitz, the Arc de Triomphe has the names of major victories during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars inscribed in its walls as well as over 500 generals.

Photo courtesy 

3.  Napoleon never did see the arch, passing away 15 years before its 1836 completion.  However, his body did pass under the arch on its way to its final resting place in 1840.

4.  Standing 164 feet high and 148 feet wide, the Arc de Triomphe was the biggest arch in the world until 1982 when North Koreans built one slightly taller.

5.  A few weeks after World War I ended, Charles Godefroy flew his fighter plane through the arch in honour of France's fallen airmen.

Photo courtesy

6.  The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was established under the Arc de Triomphe on November 10, 1920. President and Jacqueline Kennedy visited the tomb in 1961.  Jackie was so impressed that she had an eternal frame erected over her husband's gravesite when he died in 1963.

7.  During the Battle of Verdun, a sword carried by the symbolic French warrior at the Arc de Triomphe was snapped off.  Some considered this to be a bad omen.  In the end, nine French villages were destroyed and a quarter of a million people died.

8.  Two failed assassination attempts were made at the Arc de Triomphe, one involving Charles DeGaulle and one involving Jacques Chirac (2002).

9.  While the Arc de Triomphe represents victory, it has seen two defeats, one when Prussian troops marched under it after the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, and one when Nazi troops first occupied Paris in 1940.

Photo courtesy

10.  The Arc de Triomphe had not been cleaned since the mid-1960's and was looking rather dirty.  Another cleaning was scheduled for 2011.

Tuesday 22 January 2013

How Mark Twain Got His Pen Name

While the world knows Mark Twain for his book Tom Sawyer, it was another story that made him famous.  And while the world knows the author as Mark Twain, he was christened under another name.

Born in 1835 in Florida, Missouri, Samuel Clemens was one of seven children.  Growing up in the pre-Civil War era, his family owned a slave named Jenny who was an excellent story teller.  Soon the family moved to Hannibal where little Samuel's father taught him about rough Western justice.  Sadly, his father died when he was only 12 years old.  

After his father's death, Samuel left school and apprenticed as a typesetter at a printing shop to help support the family.  It was there that he had access to countless books which he read voraciously.  As a young adult, Samuel moved to Philadelphia where he worked as a journalist.  He saved money to fulfill his childhood dream of taking a boat down the Amazon River in South America.  

He bought a ticket to a steamboat and sailed down the Mississippi from St. Louis to New Orleans.  On that trip, he fell in love with the river, declaring that he wanted to learn how to pilot a steamboat.  He promptly forgot about his plan to travel to South America.  Samuel was hired to work on a steamboat and it was there that he got his inspiration for his pen name.  If a boat's bottom was two fathoms (12 feet) from the riverbed, the leadsman would shout:  "By the maaark, twain!"  The river trade came to a virtual standstill during the Civil War and he was forced to find work elsewhere. 

Samuel travelled to Carson City, Nevada where he was hired as a reporter to cover the legislature.  Searching for an exciting pen name, he remembered his days on the Mississippi and chose Mark Twain.  It was also in Nevada that the journalist met humorist Artemus Ward, who encouraged him to write stories, not just newspaper articles.  

Months after the Civil War ended, Mark Twain sent a story to the New York Saturday Press and it was published as "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calavaras County".  Well received by the public, Mr. Twain went on to use it as the anchor to an anthology of stories he published in 1867.  Two years later, he came out with another book called Innocents Abroad.  

In the meantime, the author married Olivia Langdon and they had four children.  Twain continued his writing, drawing heavily on his experiences as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River.  Tom Sawyer was published in 1876 and Huckleberry Finn in 1885.  In total he would publish 28 books.  His time in the printing shop was well spent:  an avid reader became an avid writer.  As he once explained:  "A person who won't read has no advantage over one who can't read."  

Monday 21 January 2013

Armoured Train Hid President's Paralysis

Two hundred feet below Grand Central Station sits a neglected, rusting railcar that was unknown to the public until the 1980's.  It was used by President Roosevelt when he visited New York City to slip into the Waldorf Astoria without being seen, keeping his paralysis a secret from the world.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (anglicized from the Dutch Van Rosevelt) was born in Hyde Park, New York in 1882.  The only son of fifth cousins, he enjoyed a privileged childhood.  He attended Harvard and then law school.  He married his fifth cousin, Eleanor, in 1905 and they went on to have six children.  In 1910, Franklin was elected to the U.S. Senate.

While vacationing in Campobello Island, New Brunswick in 1921, Franklin was stricken with polio, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.  However, he was not willing to give up his political ambitions and therefore kept his paralysis a secret.

In 1929, Senator Roosevelt was elected governor of New York.  Later that year, the New York Stock Exchange plummeted followed by the Great Depression.  With a quarter of the nation unemployed, and with 2 million Americans homeless, Governor Roosevelt knew the public did not want to hear about his problems.    He continued to keep his paralysis under raps.  With the use of leg braces and hip irons, he was able to swivel his hips and "walk" short distances.

In 1932, Roosevelt was elected President of the United States.  Around the same time, the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel was built in New York City.  Under Grand Central Station, a platform was put in place and an armoured train car was built for distinguished guests to the hotel.  President Roosevelt became the chief occupant of that car.  Each time he visited the Big Apple, he would arrive in the armoured car, which held his personal vehicle, exit the train in his car directly into the hotel elevator, and then ride it into the hotel garage.  His aides would carry him up to his suite, the public none the wiser.

Despite his paralysis, Franklin Delano Roosevelt would lead the country, first through the Great Depression and then through the Second World War.  He would broadcast a fireside chat on the radio three or four times a year, reassuring Americans hit hard by the economic downturn.  He would participate in Lend Lease, helping the Allies early in the war.  He would deliver his famous speech after Pearl Harbor was bombed.  And he would pray with Americans on D-Day as the Allied soldiers launched their attack on Normandy's beaches.

Although Roosevelt had every reason to use his disability as an excuse, he never did.  He saw himself as quite capable.  And he wanted the world to see him that way too.  Back in the 1930's and 1940's when that armoured train steamed into Grand Central Station, little did New Yorkers know that it held a hero.

Sunday 20 January 2013

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner at the White House?

Jacqueline Kennedy loved the arts.  With a degree in French literature and a background in journalism, it was the First Lady's dream to invite as many artists, musicians and writers to the White House as possible.  The parade of artists started with her husband's inauguration in January of 1961 when on a frosty Washington day American poet Robert Frost recited "The Gift Outright".

Early in her husband's presidency, Mrs. Kennedy arranged to have a stage built in the East Room of the White House for musical and theatrical performances.  Among others, the Metropolitan Opera, Jerome Robbins  Ballet and American Shakespeare Festival all performed there.  The First Lady also arranged a series of state dinners with famous guests from the world of arts and literature.  Cellist Pablo Casals performed at the White House in November of 1961.

But the "piece de resistance" was the dinner Jacqueline organized for May of 1962 where the guest of honour was French novelist Andre Malraux.  She had met the Frenchman when she had visited Paris and invited him to the United States.  Fearing the Monsieur Malraux might be bored in Washington, she invited dozens of artists, musicians, playwrights and poets to the affair.  Wearing a "shocking strapless pink gown", Mrs. Kennedy schmoozed with her guests who included:  musician Leonard Bernstein, playwrights Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller, painters Andrew Wyeth and Franz Kline, poet Archibald MacLeish and novelists Saul Bellow and Robert Penn Warren.  After dinner the guests retired to the East Room stage where they were entertained by violinist Isaac Stern.  The highlight of the evening took place when Andre Malraux, seated beside the First Lady at dinner, whispered:  "How would you like me to bring the Mona Lisa to Washington?".

The Mona Lisa might be the most famous guest of all to visit the White House, a rare event which took place in December of 1962.  A radiant Jacqueline Kennedy stood in front of the famous painting, knowing that she  had performed the ultimate cultural coup.


Saturday 19 January 2013

Silver Bullet Sets Speed Record

Howard Hughes photo courtesy

It had been ten years since Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic in his plane, mist in his face, and arrived at a Paris airport to a cheering crowd.  Now it was millionaire Howard Hughes' turn.  What was his challenge?  To fly 2500 miles across the North American continent in under nine hours.

Born in Texas in 1905, Howard Hughes Jr. grew up to be a successful entrepreneur and film maker.  It was during the making of one film, "Hell's Angels" in 1930 that Howard took flying lessons and earned his pilot's licence.  He fell in love with flying and soon was challenging himself to fly further and faster.

Under a canopy of darkness on January 19, 1937, the millionaire got into his blue and gray monoplane at a Burbank, California airport.  Equipped with a gyro compass, a Sperry artificial horizon and blind flying instruments, Howard's goal was to fly across the continent in under 9 hours (his previous record was set a year earlier).  The 1100 horsepower engine turned over, the propeller whirred and the silver bullet lurched down the runway prepared for takeoff.

Howard reached high altitudes (up to 14000 feet) on the first stage of his trip, using an oxygen mask over the Sierras.  However, he struggled with fitting the mask and applying the right amount of oxygen.  Feeling faint he almost thought he would have to abort the flight when he finally fixed the problem.  Without a radio transmitter, the pilot was not able to make contact with anyone on the ground and could only approximate his surroundings.  He did manage to spot Winslow, Arizona through the clouds.  The second point he identified was the Mississippi River which he estimated to have crossed just north of St. Louis, Missouri.

Tragedy almost struck when Howard ran out of oxygen in Indiana, but he persevered.  He continued to fly his monoplane eastward, averaging 322 miles per hour, right on schedule.  Through the clouds, he identified an airport just outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and pointed his nose down, started his long glide into New Jersey.  After 2500 miles and 7 hours, 28 minutes and 25 seconds, Hughes landed at a Newark airport, easily breaking his previous record.

Although he would not be greeted by the crowds that Lindbergh had in Paris, he was recognized for his feat. He would go down in history as a pioneer aviator.

Howard Hughes in front of his monoplane after transcontinental flight courtesy

Friday 18 January 2013

Scandinavian Skating Sensation

Photo courtesy

With her ruffled skirt, white boots and cloche hat, she glided across the ice.  The first to implement dance choreography, Sonja Henie won 3 Olympic championships, 6 European championships and 10 World championships.  She is the most decorated female figure skater in history.

At six years old, Sonja's Dad gave her a pair of skates for Christmas.  She strapped them on and never looked back.  Already known as an athlete in tennis, swimming and skiing. Sonja worn her first children's figure skating championship at 8 years of age.  She rose to the podium again at 10, this time as Norway's champion.  She would practise 7 hours a day, 7 days a week under trainers in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and England.  Formally trained in ballet as a child, she incorporated her dance skills into her routine.

At 12 Sonja competed in her first Olympics.  In 1927 she won her first of 10 successive World Figure Skating Championships.  The following year she competed again at the Olympics, this time coming home with a gold medal around her neck.  In 1932 she repeated the feat.  Then in 1936 the Norwegian anthem played a third time as the dimple cheeked skater stood atop the podium.  Photographers snapped a picture of her shaking Adolf Hitler's hand, a photograph that she would display in her home during the Second World War, much to others' dismay.

Officially retiring from skating competition,   She declared that she "wanted to do with skates what Fred Astaire did with dancing" on the silver screen.  Her wish came true with the release of "One in a Million: in 1936 followed by several other skating pictures.  Her movies grossed 25 million dollars.

Sonja went on to star in several ice shows, including the Hollywood Ice Revues at Madison Square Garden.  She had high standards and would only allow one person to sharpen her skates, a man named Eddie Pec.  Once in Chicago she phoned Eddie in New York requesting he come to the windy city to sharpen her skates.  He obliged, hopping the next train, arriving in the city and sharpening her skates with his hand stone, only to return to New York immediately.

Sonja's demanding personality did not serve her well in marriage:  she married three times.  The fact that she travelled so frequently would not have lent itself well to settling down either.

She passed away in October of 1969 from leukemia.

Photo courtesy

Thursday 17 January 2013

London Snow

When men were all asleep the snow came flying,
In large white flakes falling on the city brown,
Stealthily and perpetually settling and loosely lying,
    Hushing the latest traffic of the drowsy town;
Deadening, muffling, stifling its murmurs failing;
Lazily and incessantly floating down and down:
    Silently sifting and veiling road, roof and railing;
Hiding difference, making unevenness even,
Into angles and crevices softly drifting and sailing.
    All night it fell, and when full inches seven
It lay in the depth of its uncompacted lightness,
The clouds blew off from a high and frosty heaven;
    And all woke earlier for the unaccustomed brightness
Of the winter dawning, the strange unheavenly glare:
The eye marvelled — marvelled at the dazzling whiteness;
    The ear hearkened to the stillness of the solemn air;
No sound of wheel rumbling nor of foot falling,
And the busy morning cries came thin and spare.
    Then boys I heard, as they went to school, calling,
They gathered up the crystal manna to freeze
Their tongues with tasting, their hands with snowballing;
    Or rioted in a drift, plunging up to the knees;
Or peering up from under the white-mossed wonder,
‘O look at the trees!’ they cried, ‘O look at the trees!’
    With lessened load a few carts creak and blunder,
Following along the white deserted way,
A country company long dispersed asunder:
    When now already the sun, in pale display
Standing by Paul’s high dome, spread forth below
His sparkling beams, and awoke the stir of the day.
    For now doors open, and war is waged with the snow;
And trains of sombre men, past tale of number,
Tread long brown paths, as toward their toil they go:
    But even for them awhile no cares encumber
Their minds diverted; the daily word is unspoken,
The daily thoughts of labour and sorrow slumber
At the sight of the beauty that greets them, for the charm they have broken.

Robert Bridges

Wednesday 16 January 2013

The History of Hats: Part II

My Grandma used to wear a brown fur hat in the winter to match her fur coat while in summertime she wore a floppy hat to the beach.  My Mom used to wear a rain hat to keep her hairdo neat and dry.  Other than a tuque, I can never remember wearing a hat.  Here is a brief history of women's hats.

Back in Milan, Italy in the 1500's, people who made hats were called Millaners, which eventually became milliners.  In the mid 1800's, Italian and Swiss straw, along with paper, cardboard, grass and horsehair were all used to make hats.

An early hat was called a bonnet, popular in pioneer times.

In the 1880's boater hats were popular among women.  They were shaped like the men's boater hats with a ribbon, but the ribbon hung down the back in a bow.  Anne of Green Gables wore one.

 In 1900, big hats were all the rage, complete with flowers, feathers, ribbons and tulle.

In the 1920's, the cloche appeared, popularized by movie star Wilma Banky.

In the 1930's, European immigrants brought hats to New York City where you could find the latest fashions at Sac's 5th Ave and Bergdorf Goodman.

By the 1940's, cartwheel hats were all the rage.

In the 1950's, Americans could buy a pancake hat.

Pillbox hats, which had been around for centuries, made a comeback in the early 1960's thanks to the elegance of First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy.

Princess Diana helped hats make a comeback in the 1980's.

Women used to wear hats for modesty, for fashion, to protect their hairdo or their skin, and at church.  However, with the decline of churchgoers and with the decline in formal dress, hats have all but disappeared.

Tuesday 15 January 2013

The History of Hats: Part I

I have grown up in a culture largely devoid of hats.  And yet my grandparents' generation sported hats on a regular basis.  I remember my Grandad had a Russian hat for winter and a fedora for summer.  In the course of history, hats have been worn to show one's social status, to protect one's head, to make a fashion statement or to show one belongs to a particular club or organization.  Here is a brief history of men's hats.

Hats have been around for centuries.  For instance, the sugar loaf was a hat worn by Puritans back in Medieval Times.

Napoleon popularized the bicorne, or two-cornered chapeau, in the early 1800's.  Military officers had worn hats to show their rank.

George Washington, during the American Revolution, wore a tricorne, or three cornered hat.

Abraham Lincoln popularized the tophat, often worn by statesmen, in the mid-1800's.

The bowler hat was worn by the middle class and even by cowboys in the Wild West.  Likely the most famous person to wear a bowler was Charlie Chaplin.

In 1865 Stetson first produced the cowboy hat, a convenient head covering for horseback riders since it protected them from the sun and the rain (it was waterproof).

The sombrero was the Mexican version of the cowboy hat, with even wider brims.

The gatsby was worn by newsboys as they peddled their papers in the late 1800's and early 1900's.

The boater, a straw hat with a ribbon around it, was worn by barbershop quartet members in the 19th century.


The panama hat, or soft straw hat, was worn in warm climates.  Theodore Roosevelt, who held the office of the President when the Panama Canal was built, sports one below.

The porkpie, originally worn by American Civil War soldiers in the 1860's, enjoyed a resurgence in the 1930's among jazz musicians.

The beret became popular in the mid 20th century in the Basque region of Europe, especially among Beatniks, artisans and revolutionaries (like Che Guevera).

The fedora became popular in the 1930's, sported by gangsters like Al Capone.

So what happened to hats?  I read a blog written by a guy whose father used to own a hat shop.  He claimed that in the United States, the dividing line was 1961 when President John F. Kennedy was inaugurated, and he didn't wear a hat.  Every president previous to JFK did sport a hat.  However, the blogger's father claimed that the dividing line was the previous president, Dwight D. Eisenhower who built roads all over America.  People moved to the suburbs and started driving to work rather than commuting by train, bus or streetcar.  Whereas public transportation offered riders about 3 feet of headroom, cars offered them about six inches.  The hat had to go!  Bloggers seem to agree that hats largely disappeared from American culture in the 1960's.