Between 1798 and the Civil War, the U.S. Navy lost two-thirds as many officers to dueling as it did to more than 60 years of combat at sea. In the 18th and early 19th Centuries, personal honor could have a very real impact on a man’s life, especially for a naval officer. Most naval officers aspired to use glory and prize money to join the upper classes, but no one would give command of a ship to a cowardly or dishonorable officer. That’s why an insult in the wardroom could quickly turn into a deadly duel – if you were considered meek, your chances of promotion and prosperity could disappear.
One of the major objectives of the French Revolution was to switch all measures of time from base 12 to base 10, including a ten day week. Ironically, the experiment lasted 12 years.
Laundry was for 50 years often mailed. Until the 1960s, many US college students mailed dirty clothes home for moms to wash and mail back (often including food), using reusable boxes and USPS parcel post. Modern washing machines that made washing clothes locally easier ended laundry mail.
In the 1830s Americans drank an average of 7.1 gallons of pure alcohol per year. Early Americans took a healthful dram for breakfast, whiskey was a typical lunchtime tipple, ale accompanied supper and the day ended with a nightcap.
The world’s oldest known complaint letter was written to a Sumerian copper merchant named Ea-Nasir almost 4000 years ago on a clay tablet: “You put ingots which were not good before my messenger and said: ‘If you want to take them, take them; if you do not want to take them, go away!'”
There were homeless shelters where you could sleep for 4 pennies in a coffin, hence the name Four Penny Coffin. For 1 penny you could sit on a bench all night but weren’t allowed to fall asleep. For 2 pennies you could sit on a bench and lean on a rope and catch some sleep.
1816 was called “The Year Without a Summer” after the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia. Crop failure forced Joseph Smith to leave Vermont, and his journeys resulted in “The Book of Mormon,” the dreary rain in Switzerland drove Mary Shelley to stay indoors, where she wrote “Frankenstein.”
19th century England (and later the US) had ‘Ugly Clubs’ where people that had less desirable facial traits met up to drink, sing, and satirize their own looks.
Humans used crop rotation 8,000 years ago. As far back as 6000 BC, farmers alternated planting crops each year. They did not understand the chemistry, but knew that doing so kept the soil healthy for good harvests.
The world’s first traffic signal was short lived. Installed in London in 1868, it exploded less than a month later, injuring its policeman operator.