Today is National Hippo Day

Today is National Hippo Day

Did you know that Hippo loosely translates to “River Horse” in ancient Greek? National Hippo Day celebrates the third largest mammal on Earth. Go ahead and waddle in a mud bath, get angry with some tourists, or just yawn a lot whilst opening your mouth really-really widely ….

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Today in History: Bombing of Dresden in 1945

Today in History: Bombing of Dresden in 1945

73 years ago today, a series of Allied firebombing raids begins against the German city of Dresden, reducing the “Florence of the Elbe” to rubble and flames, and killing as many as 135,000 people. It was the single most destructive bombing of the war—including Hiroshima and Nagasaki—and all the more horrendous because little, if anything, was accomplished strategically, since the Germans were already on the verge of surrender.

Among the conclusions reached at the February 1945 Yalta Conference of the Allied powers was the resolution that the Allies would engage in concerted strategic bombing raids against German cities known for war-production and manufacturing, in an effort to bring the Nazi war machine to a crashing halt. The tragic irony of the raid on Dresden, a medieval city renowned for its rich artistic and architectural treasures, is that during the war it had never been a site of war-production or major industry. Both Allies and Germans alike have argued over the real purpose of the firebombing; the ostensible “official” rationale was that Dresden was a major communications center and bombing it would hamper the German ability to convey messages to its army, which was battling Soviet forces at the time. But the extent of the destruction was, for many, disproportionate to the stated strategic goal—many believe that the attack was simply an attempt to punish the Germans and weaken their morale.

More than 3,400 tons of explosives were dropped on the city by 800 American and British aircraft. The firestorm created by the two days of bombing set the city burning for many more days, littering the streets with charred corpses, including many children. Eight square miles of the city was ruined, and the total body count was between 35,000 and 135,000 (an approximation is all that was possible given that the city was filled with many refugees from farther east). The hospitals that were left standing could not handle the numbers of injured and burned, and mass burials became necessary. Source: www.history.com.

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Today in History: Fountain Pen patented 134 years ago

Today in History: Fountain Pen patented 134 years ago

On 12 February 1884, New York insurance salesman Lewis Waterman patented a groundbreaking invention, the fountain pen. Waterman’s instrument was a winner: it did not require constant dipping into the ink well and almost eliminated any ink spills. Writing instruments that contained their own ink supply already existed in the early 18th century. Today’s oldest surviving fountain pen was designed by the Frenchman M. Bion and dates back to 1702. The first American patent for a pen was awarded in 1809 to P. Williamson, a Baltimore shoemaker. After 1850, there was a steady stream of new fountain pen patents and pens in productions. But while early fountain pens were plagued by ink leaks and other failures that left them impractical to use and difficult to sell, it was Waterman’s patent that promoted the fountain pen to a widely popular writing instrument.

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Today in History: Carl Benz gets patent for gasoline car in 1886

Today in History: Carl Benz gets patent for gasoline car in 1886

132 years ago today, German engineer Carl Friedrich Benz received the first patent for a gasoline-powered vehicle. Benz had begun to work on the two-stroke (or two-cycle) engine in 1878. Benz & Co. formed in 1883 and its first motor car rode through the streets of Mannheim, Germany in July of 1886.

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Today in History: 1st Official Basketball Game in 1892

Today in History: 1st Official Basketball Game in 1892

On January 20, 1892, the first official game of basketball was played at a YMCA gymnasium in Albany, New York. The game was created a month earlier by Dr. James Naismith in Springfield, Massachusetts. Naismith wrote the sport’s original 13 rules to create a game that could be played in YMCA gyms during the cold winter months. Initially, teams were made up of nine players attempting to toss a soccer ball into peach baskets secured to the balconies at the ends of a gymnasium. When a basket was made, the game was paused while a man with a ladder had to retrieve the ball. Following the first public matches in 1892, popularity of the new game spread quickly. The first intercollegiate match was played in 1895 and the first professional league was founded in 1898. Nets did not replace the sport’s original peach baskets until 1905.

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Today in History: Last German VW Beetle produced in 1978

Today in History: Last German VW Beetle produced in 1978

40 years ago today marked the end of the German production of the Beetle: On January 19, 1978 the last model of the legendary car rolled off the assembly lines at the Volkswagen plant in Emden, Germany. Here is a link to a short blog about the VW Beetle: http://wp.me/p6cafs-N

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Today is Polar Bear Swim Day

Today is Polar Bear Swim Day

Since 1920, a group of hardy swimmers has celebrated New Year’s Day by plunging into the frigid waters of Vancouver’s English Bay. As crazy as it sounds, the custom has spread to the United States, where chapters of the American Polar Bear Club have established themselves in a number of states known for their cold winter weather. In Sheboygan, Wisconsin, more than 300 daring swimmers—many of them in costume—brave the ice floes of Lake Michigan to take their New Year’s Day swim. About 3,000 to 4,000 spectators stay bundled up on the beach and watch. The Sheboygan event has gradually expanded into a day-long festival, with a brat-fry, a costume contest, and live entertainment. (Source: thefreedictionary.com)

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