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Blind Tom Wiggins: The African-American Piano Prodigy

By Geri Walton | September 13, 2019

Blind Tom, as he was called, was an African American musical piano prodigy born on 24 May 1849 on a plantation owed by Wiley Edward Jones in Harris County, Georgia, to Charity and Domingo “Mingo” Wiggins. From birth Thomas Wiggins was blind* and in 1850, when he was three, he was sold with his enslaved…

Eliza de Feuillide: Jane Austen’s Cousin and Sister-in-Law

By Geri Walton | September 9, 2019

Eliza de Feuillide was born on 22 December 1761 in Calcutta, India, and christened Elizabeth Hancock, but affectionately called “Betsy.” She was the daughter of Tysoe Saul Hancock and Philadelphia Austen, sister to George Austen, Jane Austen’s father. However, even before Eliza was born controversy surrounded her.

Edward Maynard: Dentist and Firearms Inventor

By Geri Walton | September 6, 2019

Edward Maynard was a dentist but became famous for his firearm designs and inventions. He was born in Madison, New York, to Colonel Moses Maynard and Chloe Butler on 26 April 1813. His surname comes from Old French derived from the Germanic or Teutonic name Maganhard or Meginard with Magin meaning “strength” and hard meaning…

Queen Victoria’s Visit to France in 1843

By Geri Walton | September 2, 2019

Queen Victoria’s visit to see the King of the French at the Château d’Eu in Normandy on 2 September 1843 made headline news. She was the first British monarch to visit a French monarch since Henry VIII of England visited Francis I of France on the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520. Queen…

Elizabeth Farren: The Actress Who Became Lady Derby

By Geri Walton | August 30, 2019

Elizabeth Farren was born on 6 July 1762 to George Farren (a surgeon and apothecary) and his Liverpool wife, Margaret Wright. Farren’s father reportedly began acting around 1755 and was associated with a theatre company around 1763. He was also a hard drinking man, which resulted in his early demise and caused Wright to take…

Jane Austen’s Disabled Brother George Austen

By Geri Walton | August 26, 2019

Jane Austen’s disabled brother George Austen was born on 26 August 1766 at Deane, to George and Cassandra Leigh Austen. George Jr. was their second oldest son and was named for his father. He was baptized immediately after his birth but not christened until Monday, 29 September. His godparents were a Mrs. Cockell of whom…

Black Hole of Calcutta: A 1756 Tragedy

By Geri Walton | August 23, 2019

The Black Hole of Calcutta was a small prison in Fort William, India, and became the site of a tragedy where many British prisoners died on the evening of 20 June 1756. The story began when the Bengal Nawab, Siraj ud-Daulah, succeeded his maternal grandfather as Nawab of Bengal in April 1756 at the age…

George Victor Townley and His Murder of Elizabeth Goodwin

By Geri Walton | August 19, 2019

George Victor Townley murdered 22-year-old Elizabeth (Betsy or Bessie) Goodwin on 21 August 1863. It was a passion-filled murder where he stabbed her several times because she broke off their engagement. It was also one more story in a long line of horrid stories and would have been a perfect tableau for Madame Tussaud‘s Chamber…

Jane Austen and Bath: Her Time There

By Geri Walton | August 16, 2019

Jane Austen and Bath have long been associated with one another partly because it was her home from 1801 to 1806. It was also about 116 miles west of London, and unrivalled as the head of English water places. At the time the Austen family moved there it was a thriving and vibrant spa town…

Biddy Mason: Californian Real Estate Entrepreneur and Philanthropist

By Geri Walton | August 12, 2019

Biddy Mason was born the same year that Madame Récamier’s friendship with François-René de Chateaubriand became intimate. But unlike Madame Récamier, Bridget, as she was named at birth, was not a French socialite. In fact, she was an African-American born into slavery on 15 August 1818. Exactly where she was born is unknown but various…