The World’s First Human Cannonball Zazel or Rossa Matilda Richter

The world’s first human cannonball Zazel was born Rossa Matilda Richter in 1863.* From an early age she was performing aerial stunts, and when she turned fourteen, she made a name for herself. It happened on 2 April 1877, when Richter, using the stage name Zazel, was fired out of cannon at an amusement place in Westminster, London, called the Royal Aquarium.

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French Masquerade Ball Costumes in the 1700 and 1800s

There are many descriptions of what people wore in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in France. Some of these descriptions were printed in books about acceptable masquerade ball costumes that could be worn to dances and parties. Descriptions also sometimes included actual fashions worn by peasants, gentlemen, ladies, merveilleuses, incroyables, and nobility. Here are some of those descriptions: Continue reading

Napoleon’s Coronation

Because there were so many attempts on Napoleon’s life, it was decided there needed to be an institution that would survive him, and, thus, the idea of a monarchy was re-born and Napoleon was proclaimed “Emperor of the French” by his hand-picked Senate, known as the Sénat conservator. The hereditary title was given him on 18 May 1804, and, in addition, a referendum was presented to French citizens to elevate Napoleon to Emperor and confirm the change. The results of the referendum were nearly unanimous because when announced of the 7 million called to participate, less than half abstained, over 3.5 million voters favored the change, and a mere 2,569 voted against it. Continue reading

Thanksgiving, Thanks-living, and the Jacobite Rising

A sermon was preached on 9 October 1746 by Pastor William Wood to the congregation of Protestant-dissenters in Darlington after the Jacobite Rising. Wood stated that his sermon was to “cultivate Loyalty and Social Affection, on the large and solid Basis of Christian Catholicism, Universal Charity and Benevolence, to which the popish Practice of Persecution for Conscience-Sake is diametrically opposite.”[1] Continue reading

Napoleon Bonaparte’s Youngest Brother Jerome Bonaparte

Jerome Bonaparte was Napoleon’s youngest sibling. He was born on the island of Corsica on 15 November 1784 and was barely three months old when his father died. Napoleon soon became responsible for his education, something that Jerome was unwilling to apply himself to as everything other than his studies was of more interest to him.

Early nineteenth century portrait of Jerome Bonaparte. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In 1800, Jerome joined the navy at the age of fifteen, and as a relative to the First Consul, he was promoted rapidly. He was commanding a brig of his own and was a lieutenant de vaisseau by the end of 1802, and, by 1806, an admiral. However, it was not always smoothing sailing for the young man because some escapades on shore at Brest resulted in a rebuke from his older brother Napoleon: Continue reading

Jack the Ripper’s Canonical Victims

Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly are considered Jack the Ripper’s canonical victims, so-called because their murders had the same pattern with the same modus operandi, and these five women are considered to be his officially accepted victims. The murders also happened in a relatively short period in 1888, between 31 August and 9 November.

Jack the Ripper, also known as the Whitechapel Murderer or Leather Apron, became known for operating in the slum areas in and around London’s Whitechapel district. Attacks attributed to him typically involved female prostitutes who lived and worked in the area and whose throats were cut prior to him committing some sort of abdominal mutilation. In fact, because of the mutilations and removal of internal organs, it was initially suspected the killer had some sort of anatomical or surgical knowledge.

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When Napoleon Courted Désirée Clary

When Napoleon courted Désirée Clary (born Eugénie Bernardine Désirée Clary), he was about twenty-five. He met her while stationed in Marseille after his strategy proved successful at the Siege of Toulon in 1793. Désirée was the daughter a wealthy Marseille silk manufacturer and merchant named François Clary, who had four children by his first wife, and Désirée and eight other children by his second wife, Françoise Rose Somis (addressed as Eugénie). Continue reading

One Visitor’s Tale of Madame Tussaud’s 1883 Exhibition

Heavy rain showers induced one Londoner who had been reading William Black’s Macleod of Dare to ponder about a better way to spend his time. When he looked out his window and saw wet streets and large splashing raindrops, instead of staying inside or following Black’s advice to enjoy an art pilgrimage to the National Gallery or South Kensington Museum, he decided to do something entirely different. Something that he had never done before. Continue reading