weird and wacky holidays happening in April

April 10 is International Safety Pin Day

Today is International Safety Pin Day. On April 10, 1849, Walter Hunt received a patent for his invention of the safety pin.

international safety pin day

Walter Hunt (July 29, 1796 – June 8, 1859) was born in Martinsburg, NY, and earned a degree in masonry.

He worked as a farmer in Lowville, NY, and designed more efficient machinery for local mills that were struggling financially and in danger of having to lay off employees.

His received his first patent, for a flax spinner, in 1826. He moved to New York City soon after to work as a mechanic.

He was a prolific inventor but received little recognition or money. He sold his patents to pay debts.

According to legend, Hunt invented the safety pin because he owed a friend $15.00.  If so, his friend must have been very patient. The process of applying for and receiving a patent doesn’t happen overnight.

Hunt’s “dress pin” was designed to spring open and had a clasp covering the point to prevent the injuries that straight pins caused. For this reason, it became known as the safety pin.

Some accounts state that Hunt sought out a businessman named Richardson, who paid Hunt $100.00, with the stipulation that Hunt would apply for the patent and then turn it over to him. Others insist he sold the patent for $400.00 to a company called W.R. Grace.

No matter the origin story, it’s certain that the safety pin made someone millions of dollars and that someone was not Walter Hunt.

Hunt invented many other things, including a fountain pen, knife sharpener, ice boat, nail-making machine, repeating rifle, paper shirt collar and foot-operated streetcar bell. One design he didn’t patent was his sewing machine. Despite years of effort, he was unable to prove the invention was his.

Hunt continued to invent until his death of pneumonia at the age of 62. Although he never became wealthy, he was well-respected in his time. The New York Tribune’s obituary read:

For more than forty years, he has been known as an experiment in the arts. Whether in mechanical movements, chemistry, electricity or metallic compositions, he was always at home: and, probably in all, he has tried more experiments than any other inventor.

Have a happy International Safety Pin Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

 

April 9 is Jenkins’ Ear Day

Today is Jenkins’ Ear Day, also known as Jenkins’s Ear Day. It commemorates an event that took place on April 9, 1731, and remains one of the strangest rationalizations for war in human history.

jenkins' ear dayIt’s difficult to find any time in the early 18th century when England and Spain weren’t at odds or war. At various points, diplomats were given the miserable task of trying to impose order. The Treaty of Utrecht of 1713 was one such attempt, signed as the War of Spanish Succession begun in 1700 wound down.

The agreement awarded England an exclusive 30-year contract to supply an unlimited number of slaves to the Spanish colonies. Although it allowed only 500 tons of goods per year, many traders, now able to weigh anchor for “legitimate” business purposes, used the opportunity to smuggle goods into and out of the Spanish colonies.

Skirmishes over trade and ongoing disputes about the contested land between the British colony of Georgia and Spanish-ruled Florida culminated in one of many Anglo-Spanish wars. Most historians agree it ran from 1727 to 1729; some say it began in 1726. With the level of hostility between the two nations, it was hard to tell when the war started.

In 1729, the Treaty of Seville was signed. One of its provisos gave the Spanish the right to board and search English vessels and to seize any contraband they found. It’s not surprising that mutual distrust and enmity resulted in the detainment and delay of many ships, regardless of suspicious activity. Captains began to report harrowing tales of abuse and theft of legal cargo.

One such incident occurred on April 9, 1731, when the crew of a Spanish sloop from Havana, Cuba, boarded the British ship Rebecca and claimed to have found contraband. Not much is known about Captain Robert Jenkins. In some accounts, he is described as a master mariner; in others, he is called a notorious smuggler.

Jenkins may or may not have been lashed to his ship’s mast and tortured by Spanish captain Juan de Leon Fandino. Someone drew his cutlass and sliced off Jenkins’ left ear. According to Jenkins’ account, the blade was not entirely successful in removing the ear. Another Spanish sailor then grabbed it, tore it off and handed it to Jenkins, who was told to present it to his king with the message that Fandino would do the same to him.

We can’t be sure of the details as we don’t know if anyone on the Rebecca spoke Spanish or Fandino’s crew, English. We assume it would have been hard for Jenkins to hear, what with only having the one ear and that most likely being filled with the sounds of his own screaming.

In any case, his traumatic auriculectomy didn’t garner much concern in Parliament, possibly because it was in no hurry to start a fresh war. Perhaps it wasn’t considered too upsetting because the cropping of ears (and noses) was a common punishment dating back to the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi in 1754 BC.

One case worth mentioning took place in 1538 when Englishman Thomas Barrie was pilloried in the Newbury town square. To intensify his humiliation, his ears were nailed to the pillory on either side of the head hole. At the end of the day, he was released by having his ears cut off. He later died of shock.

What was Barrie’s crime? He spread rumors that Henry VIII had died. This displeased the king, who was very much alive and not amused. Barrie was the proto-Twitter troll. Imagine if this punishment were still in use today. There would be a lot of people cupping their hands to their heads, saying, “What? What?”

Back to our story. In 1738, politicians sought to gain support for a new war. Victory was expected to provide new business opportunities in Spanish America in part by forcing Spain to honor (and renew) the slave trade treaty which would expire in a few years. They needed to drum up outrage to generate nationalistic fervor.

Jenkins was called to testify before the House of Commons. Apparently, he was still attached to his ear, although it was no longer attached to his body. Afterward, some stories claimed he took it from his pocket where it was wrapped in cotton wool. Others insisted he had pickled and stored it in a jar, which he held aloft so that every member of the august assemblage might be afforded an unimpeded view.

A flaw in this version of events is that parliamentary records, normally exhaustive, show only that he was called to appear on two separate occasions. Surely a man brandishing an ear would have been noticed. Even without the visual aid, his visit would almost certainly have been documented, especially when it was to be used for political purposes.

It’s more likely that he was at sea. He was a ship’s captain, after all. If he returned after the war began in 1739, he wouldn’t have been amazed, as some histories suggest, to find the conflict was named after his ear. It didn’t become known as the War of Jenkins’s Ear until Thomas Carlyle coined the term in 1858, 110 years after it concluded.

Have a happy Jenkins’ Ear Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

 

April 8 is Dog Farting Awareness Day

Have you ever let slip a silent-but-deadly gas bomb and blamed it on the dog just as your guests see him through the window, playing in the yard? Worse yet, have you ever done it only to have your friends remind you that you don’t own a dog?

Hey, we’ve all been there. It’s safe to say that anyone who’s experienced the noxious fumes a dog emits is aware of their existence. We can only assume that the creator of Dog Farting Awareness Day wanted to harness the power of canine flatus for the good of mankind.
dog farting awareness day

With that in mind, we want to lay some truth on you. No one is going to believe the dog did it, even when the dog did it. Friends will ask the usual questions: Did a squirrel get trapped and die in your crawlspace?  Are you on a cabbage diet? Do you have some saline so I can flush my burning eyes? If I cook you dinner, how many food groups will I have to omit so you won’t fumigate my apartment? And hey, I can’t afford an exterminator—could you come over and fumigate my apartment?

Your pooch only needs to scarf one box of cereal and release a fog that gags the cable guy for you to figure out he has a wheat allergy. Should you buy it again and keep it on a shelf out of his reach? Maybe he’s trying to tell you something. Could gluten be responsible for your last three failed relationships?

We’re going to take a stand here. Farts are funny. Shocking, we know, but please don’t write us to complain. We donate all our hate mail to charity. Excessive farting—only you can say how much is too much—could be a sign of malabsorption syndrome in animals and humans. So stay vigilant. And never fart in an elevator; only sociopaths do that.

Have a happy Dog Farting Awareness Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

 

April 7 is National Beer Day

Today is National Beer Day but it doesn’t celebrate the end of federal Prohibition, which took place on December 5, 1933. (If you just read our post about New Beer’s Eve, stick around; we’ve got new stuff!)

national beer dayNational Beer Day commemorates a step in that direction. Under the Volstead Act, so-called “near beer” was allowed to have up to .5% alcohol because it couldn’t cause intoxication. Any higher percentage was considered liquor and forbidden.

The Cullen-Harrison Act, named for the Congressmen who sponsored it, revised that legal threshold upward to 3.2%. President Franklin D. Roosevelt then made the decision to sell it the responsibility of state legislators. There was much rejoicing in the land.

It took a bit longer to draft the 21st amendment to the Constitution, which repealed the 18th amendment. It remains the only amendment in U.S. history that nullifies an earlier one. Some residents of Kansas, Utah, Minnesota, Colorado and Oklahoma might wish that Roosevelt had aimed higher. Stores in those states must still abide by the 3.2% limit.

Whether you choose to imbibe or stay sober as a judge, we hope you have a 100% happy National Beer Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays