10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Old West

10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Old West

1. Failed bandit Elmer McCurdy’s corpse had a more interesting life than the man did.

In 1911, Elmer McCurdy mistakenly robbed a passenger train he thought contained thousands of dollars. The disappointed outlaw made off with just $46 and was shot by lawmen shortly thereafter. McCurdy’s unclaimed corpse was then embalmed with an arsenic preparation, sold by the undertaker to a traveling carnival and exhibited as a sideshow curiosity. For about 60 years, McCurdy’s body was bought and sold by various haunted houses and wax museums for use as a prop or attraction. His corpse finally wound up in a Long Beach, California, amusement park funhouse. During filming there in 1976 for the television show “The Six Million Dollar Man,” the prop’s finger (or arm, depending on the account) broke off, revealing human tissue. Subsequent testing by the Los Angeles coroner’s office revealed the prop was actually McCurdy. He was buried at the famous Boot Hill cemetery in Dodge City, Kansas, 66 years after his death.

2. Feral camels once roamed the plains of Texas.

One of the wackier ideas in American history, the U.S. Camel Corps was established in 1856 at Camp Verde, Texas. Reasoning that the arid southwest was a lot like the deserts of Egypt, the Army imported 66 camels from the Middle East. Despite the animals’ more objectionable qualities—they spat, regurgitated and defied orders—the experiment was generally deemed a success. As the Civil War broke out, exploration of the frontier was curtailed and Confederates captured Camp Verde. After the war, most of the camels were sold (some to Ringling Brothers’ circus) and others escaped into the wild. The last reported sighting of a feral camel came out of Texas in 1941. Presumably, no lingering descendants of the Camel Corps’ members remain alive today.

3. Thanks to a Winchester rifle, we know Billy the Kid wasn’t left-handed.

A famous tintype photograph of Billy the Kid shows him with a gun belt on his left side. For years, the portrait fueled assumptions that the outlaw, born William Bonney, was left-handed. However, most tintype cameras produced a negative image that appeared positive once it was developed, meaning the end result was the reverse of reality. There’s another reason we know the picture was a mirror image and that Billy the Kid was thus a righty: he poses with his Winchester Model 1873 lever-action rifle. The weapon appears to feature a loading gate on the left side, but Winchester only made 1873s that load on the right.

4. The California Gold Rush of 1849 wasn’t America’s first gold rush. It wasn’t even the second.

When young Conrad Reed found a large yellow rock in his father’s field in Cabarrus County, North Carolina, in 1799, he had no idea what it was. Neither did his father, John Reed. The family reportedly used it as a doorstop for several years, until a visiting jeweler recognized it as a 17-pound gold nugget. The rush was on. Eventually, Congress built the Charlotte Mint to cope with the sheer volume of gold dug up in North Carolina. In 1828 gold was discovered in Georgia, leading to the nation’s second gold rush. Finally, in 1848, James Marshall struck it rich at Sutter’s Mill in California, and thousands of Forty-Niners moved west to seek their fortunes.

5. The famed gunfight at the O.K. Corral wasn’t much of a shootout and didn’t take place at the O.K. Corral.

One of the most famous gunfights in history—the shootout between the three Earp brothers (Morgan, Virgil and Wyatt), Doc Holliday, Billy Claireborne, the two Clanton brothers (Billy and Ike) and the two McLaury brothers (Frank and Tom)—didn’t amount to much. Despite the involvement of eight people, the gunfight only lasted about 30 seconds. Furthermore, the shootout didn’t take place within the O.K. Corral at all. Instead, all the shooting occurred near the current intersection of Third Street and Fremont Street in Tombstone, Arizona, which is behind the corral itself. Bloodshed made up for the brevity, though: three of the lawmen were injured and three of the cowboys killed.

6. The Long Branch Saloon of “Gunsmoke” fame really did exist in Dodge City—and still does. Sort of.

Anyone who watched the television show “Gunsmoke” growing up is well acquainted with Miss Kitty’s Long Branch Saloon of Dodge City, Kansas. What viewers may not have realized is that the Long Branch really did exist. No one knows exactly what year it was established, but the original saloon burned down in the great Front Street fire of 1885. The saloon was later resurrected and now serves as a tourist attraction featuring a reproduction bar with live entertainment. According to the Boot Hill Museum, the original Long Branch Saloon served milk, tea, lemonade, sarsaparilla, alcohol and beer. Marshal Matt Dillon and Festus sporting milk mustaches? Now there’s a storyline.

7. One pivotal Civil War battle was fought in an unlikely place: New Mexico.

In a bold move designed to fill rebel coffers with Cripple Creek gold, Confederate General Henry Hopkins Sibley invaded New Mexico Territory from the south in early 1862, believing he could march right up the Rio Grande and take Colorado. Unbeknownst to Sibley, however, the First Regiment of Volunteers in Colorado caught wind of the scheme and marched 400 miles south in just 13 days to join the Yankees at Fort Union, near Santa Fe. Instead of a cakewalk, Sibley’s forces wound up fighting what many historians call the “Gettysburg of the West.” After just two days of skirmishing, Union troops—probably relying on local ranchers as guides—outflanked the Confederates and burned their supply train. After that, it was a long, slow march back to Texas for the rebels, who never returned.

8. Forget Jamestown. The oldest settlement in the United States is Acoma Pueblo.

It’s no revelation that Native American settlements predate European ones, but it may surprise some people that Acoma Pueblo, west of Albuquerque, New Mexico, has been continuously occupied since the 12th century. The Acoma still inhabit their “Sky City,” a settlement of about 4,800 people that sits atop a 365-foot high mesa. Traditionally hunters and traders, the Acoma people now make their income from a cultural center and casino complex. Coincidentally, the oldest state capital in the United States is Santa Fe, which recently celebrated its 400th anniversary.

9. The first film cowboy wasn’t a cowboy at all.

Widely credited with inventing the Western film genre, Broncho Billy Anderson, star of 1903’s “The Great Train Robbery,” was born Maxwell Henry Aronson in 1880, the son of a traveling Arkansas salesman. As soon as Aronson was old enough, he hightailed it to New York City, where he produced or acted in literally hundreds of films. Cast somewhat by chance in “The Great Train Robbery,” Aronson decided to capitalize on its success by creating the Broncho Billy persona. Aronson ended up writing and starring in dozens of short Western films, becoming the first cowboy matinee idol.

10. Jesse James was larger than life—so much that his body required two graves.

Few outlaws were as notorious during their own lifetimes as Jesse James. Though he lived a quiet existence in Kearney, Missouri, after his bank robbing days were over, old friends—and enemies—never forgot him. After Jesse was murdered, he was buried in the front yard of his farm to thwart grave robbers. As the years passed and his enemies died off, he was reinterred in a Kearney cemetery by his family. So who’s that lying in the Jesse James grave in Granbury, Texas? A man named J. Frank Dalton who came forward around 1948, at age 101, claiming he was the “real” Jesse James. A court even allowed him to legally adopt the bandit’s name. No one knows why Dalton made this claim or if he ever had any link to Jesse James. Regardless, mitochondrial DNA showed decades later that James is indeed buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Kearney—but his legend also lives on in Granbury.


26 Things You Didn’t Know About the Old West

If you reside in the Midwest, you’re going to experience tornadoes. Americans often display a wonderful capability to memorize information. California was established as a non-slave state and played little part in the war itself due to the geographical distance from the key campaigns.

A lot of people in the USA believed it was the nation’s destiny to expand westward all of the way to the Pacific Ocean. The state gave these companies special legal privileges since they provided a service which could benefit a wide sector of the population. Others came from different nations and hoped to develop new lives in the usa. History asks fundamental questions regarding the disposition of change as time passes. Moreover, the chemicals used to find the gold, silver, and other minerals from the ore polluted many streams making it hard for life to return in some pieces of the mountains.

Some simply hoped to obtain all types of farmland. The land can barely keep that numerous cows and sheep and a few of the ranches went out of business. At the start of the nineteenth century a massive portion of the present territory of the United States of america that lies west of the Mississippi River was unexplored.

If you stay across forested regions in the West, you’re likely to experience wildfires. If you become hungry while in the region, have a look at the Kimbell Art Museum that’s only a brief distance away features a lot of artwork and is really one of a kind place to eat, which locals love. Every place on the planet has some organic phenomenon that isn’t friendly to humans. The thought of Manifest Destiny held that Americans were superior to the majority of other individuals in a range of means. There’s very little doubt people have caused a reasonable number of environmental chaos in the Americas over the previous several hundred decades. The conclusion was almost half of burning we have observed over the previous several decades can result from climate change as a result of anthropogenic sources. As a consequence of the gold rush, California’s population grew dramatically in a brief time.

1 striking part of houses in the united states is the flimsy quality of even the priciest ones. Cultural differences between both coasts are trumped by the main shared traitthe drive to be successful. There was, though, a lot of variation across different forest places.

The site comes with a great amount of memorabilia from the battle also. It features a warning that it has released only a small smattering of documents from the many thousands I extracted. Overall, it is visited by more than 200,000 visitors every year.


Mel Brooks: 10 things you never knew about ‘Blazing Saddles’

Mel Brooks’ outrageous western send-up “Blazing Saddles’’ was truly groundbreaking — and wind-breaking, during the famous campfire bean-eating scene — when it hit theaters 40 years ago. Though it almost didn’t.

Here are some secrets that Brooks has revealed in a new interview included in a 40th anniversary Blu-ray edition out Tuesday, May 6, as well as at recent appearances at the Turner Classic Film Festival:

Mel Brooks spills the secrets you never knew about his classic comedy “Blazing Saddles.” WireImage

1. James Earl Jones was originally going to play the sheriff, Black Bart (the role that went to Cleavon Little), in a version to be directed by actor Alan Arkin.

“When that project fell apart, Warner Bros. asked me to look at Andrew Bergman’s script. I thought it was a good opportunity to spoof all the Westerns I saw as a kid in Williamsburg and to comment about racism.”

2. Brooks quit when Warner Bros. refused to cast his first choice for Black Bart, co-writer and gonzo comedian Richard Pryor.

“The studio said he couldn’t be insured after a drug arrest. Richard [inset] urged me to return and audition other actors. He thought Cleavon Little was a better choice than him — ‘He’s a stage-trained actor, charming, handsome and strong, plus this guy is coal-black, way darker than me. He’s going to scare the s–t out of that town.’ ”

3. When shooting began, character actor Gig Young (below) was playing the Waco Kid.

“He was great in ‘They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?,’ and he was a recovering alcoholic. Unfortunately, he wasn’t really recovering and he vomited something green all over the jailhouse set the first day. So I had to send for Gene Wilder to replace him.”

4. Madeline Kahn balked at showing Brooks her legs before playing chanteuse Lili Von Shtupp.

“She said, ‘So it’s THAT kind of an audition?’ I explained that I was a happily married man and that I needed someone who could straddle a chair with her legs like Marlene Dietrich in ‘Destry Rides Again.’ So she lifted her skirt and said, ‘No touching.’ ”

5. Pryor urged Brooks not to hold back on using the N-word.

“When I thought it was getting to be too much, Richard said, ‘No, we are writing a story of racial prejudice. That’s the word, the only word. It’s profound, it’s real, and the more we use it from the rednecks, the more the victory of the black sheriff will resonate.’ ”

6. After a sneak preview, Warner Bros. chairman Ted Ashley dictated a memo to Brooks ordering him to eliminate all uses of the N-word and those flatulence sound effects, among many other things.

“When he left, I crumpled up all of my notes and threw the wad into a wastebasket . . . I didn’t cut a sentence or a word or even an expression on anybody’s face.”

7. Brooks assumed people would get the film’s many cultural references.

“I always thought the audience was as smart as the filmmakers. When Black Bart is trying to rally the townspeople, he’s basically doing the Agincourt speech from Shakespeare’s ‘Henry V’ with an interpolated lyric from Cole Porter’s ‘You Do Something to Me.’ ”

Madeline Kahn in “Blazing Saddles.” Everett Collection

8. Frankie Laine, who sings the Brooks-written title song, didn’t realize “Blazing Saddles’’ was a comedy.

“He had performed title songs for many 1950s Westerns [and] sent me a letter saying this was a better tribute to the West than any of them. I didn’t have the heart to tell him it was all a spoof.”

9. Warner Bros. almost didn’t release the film at all.

“When we screened it for executives, there were few laughs. The head of distribution . . . [they] said, ‘It’s simply too vulgar for the American people. Let’s dump it and take a loss.’ But [studio president John] Calley insisted they open it in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago as a test. It became the studio’s top moneymaker that summer.”

10. Brooks thinks “Blazing Saddles’’ is funnier than “Some Like It Hot.’’

“Billy Wilder’s film is extremely funny, but scene for scene, there are more laughs in my movie. It’s not right for me to say so, but I really think this could be the funniest motion picture ever made.”


10 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Wisconsin

1. Wisconsin is modest about its lakes.
Minnesota’s official motto may be the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”, but Wisconsin is not one to brag. The lake count comes in somewhere over 15,000, but the Wisconsin DNR modestly publishes a listing of 16,692 lakes.

2. Madison wasn’t always the Capitol of Wisconsin.
Belmont was the original. The capitol was established in 1836, when Wisconsin was not yet a state but a territory. You can still visit the Council House and a lodging house for then legislators at this historic site just west of Belmont Mound State Park.

3. The oldest city in Wisconsin isn’t Madison or even Milwaukee.
It’s actually Green Bay. Its roots go all the way back to French explorer Jean Nicolet who started a small trading post in 1634. There’s a lot more history to be told of “Titletown” than that of the Packers, but most Wisconsinites’ favorite fact about Green Bay is still the 13 world championships.

4. The Swiss Cheese Capitol of the World isn’t located in Switzerland, it’s right here in Wisconsin.
Monroe is known for their cheese. Visit Monroe in September of every even numbered year for Green County Cheese Days.

5. Wisconsin is the “Land of Bratwurst”
Most Wisconsinite’s know that the “World’s Largest Brat Fest” is located in Madison every Memorial Day weekend. But, not nearly as many know that Sheboygan is also known as the “Bratwurst Capitol of the World.”

6. Wisconsin shaped modern music.
The electric guitar was first brought to market by George Beauchamp and Adolph Rickenbacker. Their configuration, a lap steel guitar fitted with crude coil windings that sent a signal to an amplifier, wasn’t quite the instrument we enjoy today.

What we now refer to as the solid-body electric guitar was brought into popularity in-part part by Wisconsin’s very own Les Paul. Les was aptly nicknamed the Wizard of Waukesha due to his innovations and inventions in guitar playing and recording styles. His legacy lives on with the modern interpretations of the Gibson Les Paul. Other companies have followed suit with replicas of Les Paul’s paying homage to his signature design. You can visit the Waukesha County Museum to take-in the Les Paul Experience. Enjoy a collection of Les’ personal guitars, equipment, awards and much more on display at this permanent exhibit.

7. The Statue Atop the State Capitol is not “Forward.”
Often mistaken as the “Forward statue”, the sculpture at the highest point of the Wisconsin’s State Capitol building is officially named “Wisconsin” but has also been nicknamed the “Golden Lady” (it’s actually clad in gilded bronze). The statue is a nod to the Greek goddess, Athena. The figure’s outstretch right arm is said to symbolize the state motto, “Forward”. This is probably where the misnomer comes in.

The Forward statue in question is actually located at ground level at the west entrance of the Capitol. (Bonus point if you can tell us what’s perched atop the “Golden Lady’s” helmet in the comments below!)

8. Wisconsin is a contributor to cinema history.
The creator of what many consider the greatest movie ever made, Citizen Kane, did not hail from Hollywood. He was an export of Wisconsin. Orson Welles was born in Kenosha and went on to become an accomplished writer, producer and director. His works have appeared on Broadway, in legendary films and in the production of an infamous radio broadcast.

9. Wisconsin is vertically challenged…sorta.
The highest natural point in Wisconsin isn’t a mountain – it’s actually a hill. Timm’s Hill is recorded at 1,951 feet. Due to Wisconsin’s mostly glaciated terrain, there aren’t a lot of craggy peaks. In exchange for leveling our landscape, glaciation has left us some of the most beautiful rolling hills, valleys, prairies and fertile farm fields. Timm’s Hill is located on Highway 13 near Ogema and the admission is free for all to visit.

10. Wisconsin leads the nation.
Known for her dairy production, Wisconsin actually leads the nation in exports of cranberries, whey, ginseng root and sweet corn.

How many of these facts about Wisconsin did you know? Feel free to share any other little known facts in the comments below!

Jeff Finup is a writer, motorcycle enthusiast and lover of all things Wisconsin. When he’s not roaming the countryside, you can find him cheering on his favorite Wisconsin sports teams or hanging out at his Northwood’s cabin. You can follow him on twitter: @ChallengeAway


10 things you (probably) didn’t know about the Anglo-Saxons

The Anglo-Saxon period lasted from the early fifth century AD to 1066 – after the Romans and before the Normans. But how much do you know about the Anglo-Saxons? Who were they, where did they come from, and where did they settle? Here, author Martin Wall brings you the facts…

This competition is now closed

Published: April 26, 2020 at 3:30 am

The Roman period in Britain is often said to end in the year 410 when the Roman emperor Honorius supposedly told the Britons to look to their own defences because Rome itself was beleaguered by barbarian attacks. Certainly around that time, Roman rule in Britain faltered, leaving a power vacuum that was filled by incomers arriving from northern Germany and southern Scandinavia. Today, we know these immigrants as the Anglo-Saxons, and they ruled England for much of the next 600 years.

They did, however, have to wrestle with the Vikings to retain control of their lands during that period, and were forced to concede power along the way to a number of Danish kings – including, most notably, Canute (aka Cnut), who ruled an empire in England, Denmark and Norway. The Anglo-Saxon era ended with William of Normandy’s triumph at the battle of Hastings in 1066, which ushered in a new era of Norman rule.

Here, Martin Wall brings you 10 facts about the Anglo-Saxons…

Where did the Anglo-Saxons come from?

The people we call Anglo-Saxons were actually immigrants from northern Germany and southern Scandinavia. Bede, a monk from Northumbria writing some centuries later, says that they were from some of the most powerful and warlike tribes in Germany.

Bede names three of these tribes: the Angles, Saxons and Jutes. There were probably many other peoples who set out for Britain in the early fifth century, however. Batavians, Franks and Frisians are known to have made the sea crossing to the stricken province of ‘Britannia’.

The collapse of the Roman empire was one of the greatest catastrophes in history. Britain, or ‘Britannia’, had never been entirely subdued by the Romans. In the far north – what they called Caledonia (modern Scotland) – there were tribes who defied the Romans, especially the Picts. The Romans built a great barrier, Hadrian’s Wall, to keep them out of the civilised and prosperous part of Britain.

As soon as Roman power began to wane, these defences were degraded, and in AD 367 the Picts smashed through them. Gildas, a British historian, says that Saxon war-bands were hired to defend Britain when the Roman army had left. So the Anglo-Saxons were invited immigrants, according to this theory, a bit like the immigrants from the former colonies of the British empire in the period after 1945.

The Anglo-Saxons murdered their hosts at a conference

Britain was under sustained attack from the Picts in the north and the Irish in the west. The British appointed a ‘head man’, Vortigern, whose name may actually be a title meaning just that – to act as a kind of national dictator.

It is possible that Vortigern was the son-in-law of Magnus Maximus, a usurper emperor who had operated from Britain before the Romans left. Vortigern’s recruitment of the Saxons ended in disaster for Britain. At a conference between the nobles of the Britons and Anglo-Saxons, [likely in AD 472, although some sources say AD 463] the latter suddenly produced concealed knives and stabbed their opposite numbers from Britain in the back.

Vortigern was deliberately spared in this ‘treachery of the long-knives’, but was forced to cede large parts of south-eastern Britain to them. Vortigern was now a powerless puppet of the Saxons.

The Britons rallied under a mysterious leader

The Angles, Saxons, Jutes and other incomers burst out of their enclave in the south-east in the mid-fifth century and set all southern Britain ablaze. Gildas, our closest witness, says that in this emergency a new British leader emerged, called Ambrosius Aurelianus in the late 440s and early 450s.

It has been postulated that Ambrosius was from the rich villa economy around Gloucestershire, but we simply do not know for sure. Amesbury in Wiltshire is named after him and may have been his campaign headquarters.

A great battle took place, supposedly sometime around AD 500, at a place called Mons Badonicus or Mount Badon, probably somewhere in the south-west of modern England. The Saxons were resoundingly defeated by the Britons, but frustratingly we don’t know much more than that. A later Welsh source says that the victor was ‘Arthur’ but it was written down hundreds of years after the event, when it may have become contaminated by later folk-myths of such a person.

Gildas does not mention Arthur, and this seems strange, but there are many theories about this seeming anomaly. One is that Gildas did refer to him in a sort of acrostic code, which reveals him to be a chieftain from Gwent called Cuneglas. Gildas called Cuneglas ‘the bear’, and Arthur means ‘bear’. Nevertheless, for the time being the Anglo-Saxon advance had been checked by someone, possibly Arthur.

Where did the Anglo-Saxons settle?

‘England’ as a country did not come into existence for hundreds of years after the Anglo-Saxons arrived. Instead, seven major Anglo-Saxon kingdoms were carved out of the conquered areas: Northumbria, East Anglia, Essex, Sussex, Kent, Wessex and Mercia. All these nations were fiercely independent, and although they shared similar languages, pagan religions, and socio-economic and cultural ties, they were absolutely loyal to their own kings and very competitive, especially in their favourite pastime – war.

At first they were pre-occupied fighting the Britons (or ‘Welsh’, as they called them), but as soon as they had consolidated their power-centres they immediately commenced armed conflict with each other.

Woden, one of their chief gods, was especially associated with war, and this military fanaticism was the chief diversion of the kings and nobles. Indeed, tales of the deeds of warriors, or their boasts of what heroics they would perform in battle, was the main form of entertainment, and obsessed the entire community – much like football today.

Who was in charge?

The ‘heptarchy’, or seven kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxons, all aspired to dominate the others. One reason for this was that the dominant king could exact tribute (a sort of tax, but paid in gold and silver bullion), gemstones, cattle, horses or elite weapons. A money economy did not yet exist.

Eventually a leader from Mercia in the English Midlands became the most feared of all these warrior-kings: Penda, who ruled from AD 626 until 655. He personally killed many of his rivals in battle, and as one of the last pagan Anglo-Saxon kings he offered up the body of one of them, King Oswald of Northumbria, to Woden. Penda ransacked many of the other Anglo-Saxon realms, amassing vast and exquisite treasures as tribute and the discarded war-gear of fallen warriors on the battlefields.

This is just the sort of elite military kit that comprises the Staffordshire Hoard, discovered in 2009. Although a definite connection is elusive, the hoard typifies the warlike atmosphere of the mid-seventh century, and the unique importance in Anglo-Saxon society of male warrior elites.

Which religion did Anglo-Saxons follow?

The Britons were Christians, but were now cut off from Rome, but the Anglo-Saxons remained pagan. In AD 597 St Augustine had been sent to Kent by Pope Gregory the Great to convert the Anglo-Saxons. It was a tall order for his tiny mission, but gradually the seven kingdoms did convert, and became exemplary Christians – so much so that they converted their old tribal homelands in Germany.

One reason why they converted was because the church said that the Christian God would deliver them victory in battles. When this failed to materialise, some Anglo-Saxon kings became apostate, and a different approach was required. The man chosen for the task was an elderly Greek named Theodore of Tarsus, but he was not the pope’s first choice. Instead he had offered the job to a younger man, Hadrian ‘the African’, a Berber refugee from north Africa, but Hadrian objected that he was too young.

The truth was that people in the civilised south of Europe dreaded the idea of going to England, which was considered barbaric and had a terrible reputation. The pope decided to send both men, to keep each other company on the long journey. After more than a year (and many adventures) they arrived, and set to work to reform the English church.

Theodore lived to be 88, a grand old age for those days, and Hadrian, the young man who had fled from his home in north Africa, outlived him, and continued to devote himself to his task until his death in AD 710.

Everything you need to know about the Anglo-Saxons

Alfred the Great had a crippling disability

When we look up at the statue of King Alfred of Wessex in Winchester, we are confronted by an image of our national ‘superhero’: the valiant defender of a Christian realm against the heathen Viking marauders. There is no doubt that Alfred fully deserves this accolade as ‘England’s darling’, but there was another side to him that is less well known.

Alfred never expected to be king – he had three older brothers – but when he was four years old on a visit to Rome the pope seemed to have granted him special favour when his father presented him to the pontiff. As he grew up, Alfred was constantly troubled by illness, including irritating and painful piles – a real problem in an age where a prince was constantly in the saddle. Asser, the Welshman who became his biographer, relates that Alfred suffered from another painful, draining malady that is not specified. Some people believe it was Crohn’s Disease, others that it may have been a sexually transmitted disease, or even severe depression.

The truth is we don’t know exactly what Alfred’s mystery ailment was. Whatever it was, it is incredible to think that Alfred’s extraordinary achievements were accomplished in the face of a daily struggle with debilitating and chronic illness.

An Anglo-Saxon king was finally buried in 1984

In July 975 the eldest son of King Edgar, Edward, was crowned king. Edgar had been England’s most powerful king yet (by now the country was unified), and had enjoyed a comparatively peaceful reign. Edward, however, was only 15 and was hot-tempered and ungovernable. He had powerful rivals, including his half-brother Aethelred’s mother, Elfrida (or ‘Aelfthryth’). She wanted her own son to be king – at any cost.

One day in 978, Edward decided to pay Elfrida and Aethelred a visit in their residence at Corfe in Dorset. It was too good an opportunity to miss: Elfrida allegedly awaited him at the threshold to the hall with grooms to tend the horses, and proffered him a goblet of mulled wine (or ‘mead’), as was traditional. As Edward stooped to accept this, the grooms grabbed his bridle and stabbed him repeatedly in the stomach.

Edward managed to ride away but bled to death, and was hastily buried by the conspirators. It was foul regicide, the gravest of crimes, and Aethelred, even though he may not have been involved in the plot, was implicated in the minds of the common people, who attributed his subsequent disastrous reign to this, in their eyes, monstrous deed.

Edward’s body was exhumed and reburied at Shaftesbury Abbey in AD 979. During the dissolution of the monasteries the grave was lost, but in 1931 it was rediscovered. Edward’s bones were kept in a bank vault until 1984, when at last he was laid to rest.

England was ‘ethnically cleansed’

One of the most notorious of Aethelred’s misdeeds was a shameful act of mass-murder. Aethelred is known as ‘the Unready’, but this is actually a pun on his forename. Aethelred means ‘noble counsel’, but people started to call him ‘unraed’ which means ‘no counsel’. He was constantly vacillating, frequently cowardly, and always seemed to pick the worst men possible to advise him.

One of these men, Eadric ‘Streona’ (‘the Aquisitor’), became a notorious English traitor who was to seal England’s downfall. It is a recurring theme in history that powerful men in trouble look for others to take the blame. Aethelred was convinced that the woes of the English kingdom were all the fault of the Danes, who had settled in the country for many generations and who were by now respectable Christian citizens.

On 13 November 1002, secret orders went out from the king to slaughter all Danes, and massacres occurred all over southern England. The north of England was so heavily settled by the Danes that it is probable that it escaped the brutal plot.

One of the Danes killed in this wicked pogrom was the sister of Sweyn Forkbeard, the mighty king of Denmark. From that time on the Danish armies were resolved to conquer England and eliminate Ethelred. Eadric Streona defected to the Danes and fought alongside them in the war of succession that followed Ethelred’s death. This was the beginning of the end for Anglo-Saxon England.

Everything you need to know about the Vikings

Neither William of Normandy or Harold Godwinson were rightful English kings

We all know something about the 1066 battle of Hastings, but the man who probably should have been king is almost forgotten to history.

Edward ‘the Confessor’, the saintly English king, had died childless in 1066, leaving the English ruling council of leading nobles and spiritual leaders (the Witan) with a big problem. They knew that Edward’s cousin Duke William of Normandy had a powerful claim to the throne, which he would certainly back with armed force.

William was a ruthless and skilled soldier, but the young man who had the best claim to the English throne, Edgar the ‘Aetheling’ (meaning ‘of noble or royal’ status), was only 14 and had no experience of fighting or commanding an army. Edgar was the grandson of Edmund Ironside, a famous English hero, but this would not be enough in these dangerous times.

So Edgar was passed over, and Harold Godwinson, the most famous English soldier of the day, was chosen instead, even though he was not, strictly speaking, ‘royal’. He had gained essential military experience fighting in Wales, however. At first, it seemed as if the Witan had made a sound choice: Harold raised a powerful army and fleet and stood guard in the south all summer long, but then a new threat came in the north.

A huge Viking army landed and destroyed an English army outside York. Harold skilfully marched his army all the way from the south to Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire in a mere five days. He annihilated the Vikings, but a few days later William’s Normans landed in the south. Harold lost no time in marching his army all the way back to meet them in battle, at a ridge of high ground just outside… Hastings.

Martin Wall is the author of The Anglo-Saxon Age: The Birth of England (Amberley Publishing, 2015). In his new book, Martin challenges our notions of the Anglo-Saxon period as barbaric and backward, to reveal a civilisation he argues is as complex, sophisticated and diverse as our own.

This article was first published by History Extra in 2015


4. A governor, Nobel prize winner from same family

In 1891 John Price Buchanan became the first — and only — Tennessee governor from Rutherford County. As a teen, he enlisted in the Confederate Army and served until the Civil War ended. A farmer, J.P. Buchanan later became president of the Farmers' Alliance of Tennessee, which nominated him for the governor’s office.

He served one term and lost his bid for re-election in 1893. An elementary school on Manchester Highway is named in his honor.

His grandson, James M. Buchanan, won the 1986 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. His Nobel medallion is at Middle Tennessee State University as a perpetual loan from his family. He also received the Bronze Star for service in the U.S. Navy in World War II.

The family lived in the Gum community southeast of Murfreesboro.

Sculptor Tracy Sugg, left, of Wartrace and MTSU alumna Liz Bradley of Pearland, Texas, unveil the bronze bust of the late James M. Buchanan, an MTSU alumnus and university's first Nobel Prize recipient Sept. 18, 2015. (Photo: Middle Tennessee State Universit)


10 Things You Didn't Know About the Panama Canal

You may think you know all about the Panama Canal thanks to middle school social studies. Most people know that the Canal was built across the isthmus of Panama to save ships from having to go all the way around South America to connect the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. In fact, you may even know it only takes 8-10 hours for a ship to pass through the canal's three locks, known as the Miraflores, the Pedro Miguel and the Gatún. Even more impressively, you may not have just Googled "isthmus." Still, as I learned on a recent trip to Panama, there's a lot more to the story of the Panama Canal than you probably know. See if you knew any of these ten facts:

1. The Panama Canal couldn't be built the same way as the Suez Canal, and nobody thought of that -- well, at least nobody tried to stop France from attempting to build it that way for 10 years. Ferdinand de Lesseps, the French diplomat who led the development of the Suez Canal, worked on the Panama Canal from 1879 to 1889. He wanted to build a canal at sea level and avoid the use of locks, which allow ships to pass between different water levels. He had his workers dig into the land, just as they did with the Suez Canal. The trouble was, Panama's climate is different: it has a dry season and a rainy season, and every rainy season, all the land they'd dug out would flow right back into the canal. Très frustrant. It wasn't until 1905, after extensive engineering studies, that the US settled on building the locks.

2. Mosquitos very nearly prevented its existence. The other reason that de Lesseps failed was that malaria and yellow fever spread tragically and relentlessly through his workers via mosquito -- but they didn't know that. Thankfully, by 1904, 15 years after de Lesseps had left, the little bloodsucking culprits were found out, and countermeasures against the mosquito population made the Canal possible.

3. The Panama Canal is politically neutral. Since the Torrijos-Carter treaty in 1977, the Canal has been officially and permanently neutral, providing service to ships of all nations. This means that if any nation were to attempt to seize the Canal, every other nation in the world would have a problem with it. Pretty smart. Panama itself has no military, nor do they need one in order to protect the Canal.

4. The Panamanian government does not run the canal. The Panama Canal has its own board of directors who manage its operation and the allocation of the billions of dollars it generates each year. (A good chunk goes to the Panamanian government.)

5. Giant ships are built specifically to fit through the canal -- the technical term is "Panamax." The Panama Canal Authority openly publishes the maximum allowable dimensions for ships, which is evident when you see one pass through a lock -- they only spare what appears to be few feet on either side of the massive vessels. Ships that are too large for the Canal are referred to as "post-Panamax."

6. Trucks keep passing ships from hitting the sides of the locks. Even those Panamax ships move through the canal propelled by their own engines, so in order to keep them from grazing the sides of the locks, trucks are cabled to the front, back and sides of the ships. The trucks move forward and back on lock-side tracks to keep the cables taut and the ships in the middle of the locks.

7. The Panama Canal is expanding, and even deeper, even wider post-expansion plans are already being made. "Cause baby there ain't no river wide enough, to keep me from getting to you, babe." The $5.2 billion Panama Canal Expansion Program began in 2007 and will allow the passage of larger ships (ships which adhere to the "New Panamax" standards). The widened Panama Canal will still be smaller than some of the world's largest container ships, so the Canal will likely be expanded again within a few years of the expansion's completion. Bonus fact from my tour guide: the new lock system will have sliding, not swinging, gates.

8. You can walk across the gates. When those lock gates swing closed, people go marching right across them. See:


10 things you didn't know about the Stanley Cup, including its real name

The Stanley Cup is one of the most recognizable trophies in the world, and most hockey fans would argue it’s also the most coveted or famous trophy too. But what do you really know about it?

For The Win recently spoke to Phil Pritchard — the curator at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto who’s more commonly known as the Keeper of the Cup — to see what we could learn about the Cup.

The basics are pretty simple. It weighs 35 pounds, stands 35 ¼ inches tall and is made of silver and nickel alloy. And it’s 125 years old this year. But beyond that, here are 10 fun facts about the Stanley Cup you probably didn’t know — including that not being its real name.

1. The trophy’s name is not actually the Stanley Cup

(Sean Dougherty, USA TODAY Sports)

Seriously. Its real name is the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, and the words “Stanley Cup” are nowhere on it. Let Pritchard explain:

“Lord (Frederick) Stanley — who was the Governor General of Canada back in the 1890s — donated it to hockey in Canada. And back then, hockey was a challenge sport. He brought it over from England. It was made in Sheffield, and he purchased it in London in Piccadilly Circus area. And he brought it over because he had two boys and a girl who played hockey in Canada, and they convinced good ol’ dad to donate something to hockey because they needed something to win.

“So I guess when your dad’s the governor general, you have a lot of pull, so he went back to England and brought this mini bowl, which is called the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup. But over the years, it has evolved into the Stanley Cup. It was called Lord Stanley’s Cup for a while, and now it’s just the Stanley Cup. But nowhere on there does it say the Stanley Cup.”

2. Lord Stanley got it for a bargain

He bought it for 10 guineas — a British coin at the time — which equates to $48.67, according to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Not too bad for sport’s greatest trophy.

3. The bowl itself can hold a lot of beer

The bowl at the top of the trophy is 7.5 inches tall and measures 11 ¼ inches across with a 35-inch circumference. As Pritchard explained, that means it can hold 14 12-ounce beers.

(Dave Sandford/USA TODAY Sports)

4. It’s a huge frequent flyer

Pritchard estimated that the Cup is on the road for about 325 days per year, 100 of which are in the summer with the NHL’s newest championship team and players. It’s been to 25 countries and has visited every province and territory in Canada and every state in the U.S. with the exception of Hawaii. It’s been inside the Arctic Circle but never below the equator.

According to the Hockey Hall of Fame, the Cup has also put in more than one million miles in travel over the last 10 NHL seasons.

Check out the view of the Golden Gate Bridge behind that beautiful silver trophy in San Francisco. #stanleycup @NHL @HockeyHallFame @sfgov pic.twitter.com/wDU8ITBpnJ

&mdash Philip Pritchard (@keeperofthecup) April 14, 2018

5. It has the name of ever player to ever win it, except…

…it doesn’t, actually. The trophy was originally just the bowl, and as more players won it, their names were added along with the rings that support the top. But in the 1992-93 NHL season — also the 100th anniversary of the Stanley Cup as a trophy — it was full, so there was no room for another team to be added.

“There was a lot of discussion in the Hockey Hall of Fame about what do you do? Do you make a new one and go for the next 100 years? Someone had mentioned that Bryan Trottier — who, at the time, had won six Stanley Cups — said it was the perfect height to hold over your head. We took that literally to make the Cup evolve but be the same.

“So every 13 years now, we remove a ring, one of the earlier rings and add a newer onto the bottom. It’s an actual band that’s around the outside of the bottom. So we take that (top one) off and slide the others up and go from there. We’ve done that twice now, and it’s going to happen again this year. Those rings that get removed are in the Hockey Hall of Fame.”

(Sean Dougherty, USA TODAY Sports)

So what does that mean? It takes 13 years to fill a new ring on the Cup, and there will come a time when Wayne Gretzky’s name will no longer be on the physical Stanley Cup.

6. And the bowl isn’t the original either

The original bowl made in 1892 was retired in 1970 because it became too brittle to travel, according to the Hockey Hall of Fame, where it rests now. The one currently at the top of the trophy is an exact duplicate of the original, made by the family of silversmiths who have been engraving the Cup since the tradition started.

A 100 years ago today the @NHL started play with 4 teams playing for the #stanleycup that looked like this. Today 31 teams and the trophy looks like this. Hockey history!
Come to the @HockeyHallFame and see the original @NHL minute book. pic.twitter.com/UqnBl7jk3i

&mdash Philip Pritchard (@keeperofthecup) December 19, 2017

7. The names are actually stamped

But the people who do it are still recognized as engravers. There have only been four official Stanley Cup engravers, and they’re all from the same family: Carl Peterson, Arno Peterson, Doug Boffey and Louise St. Jacques — also currently the silversmith who professionally cleaning the Cup twice a year.

8. There are spelling errors everywhere

Obviously, you’d have to get up close to the Stanley Cup to see them, but a lot of mistakes have been stamped on it over the years. Team misspellings include: BQSTQN BRUINS (1971-72), TORONTO MAPLE LEAES (1962-63) and NEW YORK ILANDERS (1980-81).

It’s just as bad when it comes to individual players. There are more than 2,200 names on the Cup, and they can’t all be spelled correctly. For example, Canadiens’ Hall of Fame goalie Jacques Plante won the Cup in five consecutive seasons, and his name is spelled differently each time, including JAC and JACQ.

While many of the recent mistakes have been corrected — like Avalanche forward Adam Deadmarsh’s name and Red Wings goalie Manny Legace’s name being spelled DEADMARCH and LEGASE — plenty of them have not.

Hockey Hall of Fame 2014 inductee Dominik Hasek in 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

9. There’s actually a second Stanley Cup

This replica never travels and remains in the Hall of Fame on display while the actual Cup is on the road. This one, however, has no misspellings.

10. Everyone gets a piece

The Stanley Cup is the only trophy in professional sports that has the names of the winning players, coaches, management and staff printed on it, and it’s the only one that is passed from player to player in the offseason after winning.


10 things you probably didn’t know about outhouses

The mere mention of an outhouse can be enough to turn a stomach. Cottagers who have or continue to use them know it’s hard to shake that unforgettable stench. But while most cottagers shudder at the thought of them, others find them fascinating—so much so that outhouses are studied, restored, raced, and even stolen.

John Loose has learned a lot about outdoor toilets since launching the Outhouse Tour of America in 1997, an online collection of hundreds of random facts, photos, and stories about outhouses from around the world. He’s been interviewed for a Wall Street Journal cover feature, and even invited to England by descendants of British toilet entrepreneur Thomas Crapper.

Never heard of the Outhouse Tour of America? Here are 10 more things you didn’t think you’d ever know about outhouses.

1. There’s meaning behind the moons and stars: Moon and star cut-outs are commonly found on outhouse doors, allegedly dating back to colonial times when literacy levels were low. “They serve two purposes,” explains Loose. “Basically, they’re for lighting but the other purpose was to tell the difference between the male and the female outhouses.” A crescent moon symbolized a female and a star a male. However, he says that if families had a single outhouse, it most likely had a moon on it.

2. Outhouses in the past often had more than one storey: Believe it or not, high-rise outhouses actually existed, like the preserved two-storey “skys-crapper” that still stands in Gays, Illinois. “Back in the old days, they had two-storey hotels in towns so they would build two-storey outhouses,” Loose explains. “On the upper floor, you’d go back in a little bit further than the outhouse below.” Waste from above would fall down a shaft behind the first-floor loo’s wall, allowing for a seamless flow of sewage. An even more elaborate example can be found in the Missouri History Museum archives, where they have photos of a three-storey outhouse that served 12 families.

Phoyo courtesy of geodeos/Flickr.com

3. Two-seater outhouses aren’t as strange as you think: Have you ever used an outhouse that had two seats and thought, “Huh?” Turns out, traditional two-seater outhouses have two holes for different-sized behinds: a bigger one for adult bottoms and a smaller one for kids.

4. There’s an outhouse capital of the world: It’s a curious claim to fame but American town Elk Falls calls itself the outhouse capital of Kansas (and even the world). On the Friday and Saturday before American Thanksgiving, Elk Falls holds outhouse tours that promise “an outrageously ‘moving’ experience,” as people wander through wacky homemade outhouses and vote for their favourites. Last year’s winner was the very pink “pretty privy” with lace curtains and a frilly table lamp.

5. And an outhouse museum in Nova Scotia: The tiny Museum of the Outhouse is tucked inside Liverpool, Nova Scotia’s Rossignol Cultural Centre and is filled with collectables, photos, artifacts, and more. “It’s one room and there is an actual outhouse in it. We have little tiny outhouse key chains, outhouse posters, outhouse coffee mugs—literally a whole room dedicate to outhouses,” says John Siriopoulos, manager at the Rossignol Museum, but he adds that despite the eccentric outhouse shrine, the Rossignol “is really an art museum.”

6. There are outhouse races: Outhouse racing has become a popular sport in small towns around the continent, including Trenary, Michigan where they’ve been racing them for more than 20 years. The annual Trenary Outhouse Classic is held on the last Saturday of February and contestants construct outrageously-themed outhouses then push them across the snow. This year’s winners included the Who Cut the Cheese outhouse, the wolf-themed Let Your Bowels Howl, and a wrecking ball-shaped outhouse.

7. People actually steal outhouses: It may seem impossible, but in 2013, there were multiple outhouse thefts across Canada. Alberta’s Randy Nemirsky made headlines when his new outhouse was swiped from his farm near Edmonton. It was estimated to weigh up to 450 kilograms and would have required as many as six people to move. As he told the CBC: “how low can you go to steal a man’s privy?” Later that year, a man by the name of Morris Harris, from New Brunswick’s Charlotte County, had his custom-made outhouse stolen from his hunting camp in Clarence Ridge.

Photo courtesy of CTV News

8. Outhouse digging isn’t what you think: Believe it or not, some people cash in on outhouse holes of the past. “In the 1700s, 1800s, and early 1900s, [the outhouse] was also the garbage disposal,” Loose explains. “People would not only use their outhouse to go to the bathroom, they would throw trash into the hole. There are people out there called outhouse diggers who do nothing but dig in places where they think old outhouses were. Usually what they find are really old bottles like medicine bottles, codeine, whisky bottles, you name it.”

9. The Sears catalogue collection: Have you ever seen a vintage Sears catalogue in an outhouse, or even framed pictures of them? It’s actually a tribute to the popular makeshift toilet paper of the past. “Toilet paper was a luxury,” says Loose. “Sears would always send out these catalogues that were two or three inches thick with black-and-white grainy paper. The farmers would take these catalogues and when they were done with them, put them out in the outhouse and use them to wipe with.”

10. Outhouses on mountaintops can be hazardous: Outhouses can pose big problems in high places. Nature calls no matter where you are and if you think digging out an outhouse at your cottage is tricky, imagine trying to put one on top of a mountain. California’s Mount Whitney summit once had the highest outhouse in the continental United States, but in 2007, they scrapped their outhouse strategy and started requiring climbers to “carry their own.” Composting isn’t possible at that high of an altitude, so it meant that helicopters and hazmat-suited rangers had to battle high winds and extreme weather to retrieve big barrels of human waste.


Maria von Trapp sold the rights to her life story for a song

After her book The Story of the Trapp Family Singers was published in 1949, there was interest from various quarters in buying the film rights. In 1955, the von Trapp family was strapped for money and Maria sold the rights to German movie producer Wolfgang Reinhardt for a flat $9,000. She and her family would see no royalties from the two subsequent German films based on the von Trapp family’s adventures, or from the Broadway production of The Sound of Music, which ran for more than three years, or from the film version, which has grossed around $300 million.


10 fascinating things you probably didn’t know about Stuttgart

Stuttgart's Fernsehturm, meaning television tower, was the first concrete television tower in the world. Renowned structural engineer and bridge builder Professor Fritz Leonhardt was the mastermind behind the building.

Rather than simply creating a functional metal TV mast, he had the idea to use the tower as a tourist attraction with a restaurant and viewing platform. The tower is 217m tall but stands on a hill making it 283m above sea level in total. It is visible from all over the city and has influenced the design of other television towers around the world.

2. Stuttgart is the home of the petrol-powered car

Carl Benz's patented motorvehicle 1885. Photo: DPA

Stuttgart is credited as the birthplace of the petrol powered motorcar with an impressive history in the field of car manufacturing. Pioneering engineers Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz were both born near Stuttgart and their 125-year legacy is celebrated at the Mercedes-Benz Welt museum in the east of the city.

Benz is credited with creating the first 3-wheeled, purpose-built motorcar which was up and running in 1886 and 'Benzin', the German word for petrol, is consequently named after him.

Around a similar time, Daimler was working independently on creating a petrol engine which he used to power a modified horse-carriage in 1886. This was the first 4-wheeled motor vehicle in history.

Although the two men never actually met, their companies, Benz & Cie. and Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG), joined forces to create Daimler-Benz AG in the 1920s. From this evolved the brand name Mercedes-Benz and vehicles with the Mercedes and Daimler brand name are still manufactured in the city today.

3. The city gets its name from its horse breeding past

“Steigendes Pferd” (1939), a statue by Fritz von Graevenitz, in the Höhenpark Killesberg in Stuttgart. Photo: DPA

The area around which the city developed was originally a site for breeding cavalry horses, owned by Duke Liudolf von Schwaben in the 10th century. The name comes from 'Stutengarten' which is an archaic form of the German word 'Gestüt', meaning stud yard.

Stuttgart coat of arms. Photo: Wikipedia. Porsche badge. Photo: Pixabay.

The city coat of arms is consequently a black stallion which is recognizable to people around the world as it is featured on the Porsche logo, a make of cars which also originates from the Stuttgart area.

4. It is the only German city with a municipal wine estate

The vineyard of the IHK Stuttgart. Photo: DPA

The presence of the wine industry in Stuttgart is hard to miss, with vineyards throughout the very heart of the city. Surprisingly, one of these vineyards is owned by a governmental department.

The Industrie- und Handelskammer Stuttgart (IHK), meaning Chamber of Industry and Commerce, came into possession of a vineyard and villa just before the outbreak of the Second World War. The plan was to use the plot of land to build a new IHK house with space for administration, events and the Stuttgart stock and securities exchange.

These plans were never fully realized due to the turmoil of the war much of the land remained a vineyard which is still owned by the IHK to this day.

The Romans originally brought grape vines from the Tyrol region to Stuttgart in 3AD and grapes continue to thrive around the city creating popular wines such as Riesling and Trollinger.

5. Stuttgart is a city of stairs

Stairway in the city centre. Photo: DPA

The capital of Baden-Württemberg is built upon a large number of hills, but with this comes the potentially more enjoyable side effect of a large number of vineyards.

To help people get up and down these hills each day, Stuttgart has over 400 sets of outdoor stairs in total. If you climbed them all, you would climb about 20 kilometres in total.

6. It's the number one city for culture in Germany, according to one study

Stuttgart opera house. Photo: DPA

Stuttgart was ranked as the best city for culture in the country in a study by the Berenberg Bank and the Hamburgischen Weltwirtschaftsinstituts (HWWI) in 2016.

In the city, 7.6 percent of people eligible to pay social insurance are employed in the culture sector – the highest proportion in Germany.

The number of people who visit museums, shows, concerts and other cultural events is also the highest of any city in the country, according to the study. This is visible throughout the year with more than 190 dance, music, literature, art, food, and cultural festivals taking place in Stuttgart.

7. Stuttgart has unique mammoth trees which are native to the US

Sequoiadendron (Left) Giganteum planted during the reign of King Wilhelm I. Photo: Wikimedia Commons. The Wawona Tunnel Tree, in Yosemite National Park. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

After becoming obsessed with the giant species of tree when travelling in America, King Wilhelm I had 5,000 Californian mammoth trees planted throughout Germany with a large number of them in and around Stuttgart. The trees are native to the US, where some are estimated to be over 2,000 years old and 100m tall.

Interestingly, the highest concentration of mammoth trees in the city is not in the Botanical-Zoological Gardens or at Schloss Rosenstein, but rather in the Wernhaldenpark in the Weinsteige district. This is because the man responsible for acquiring the seeds was gardener and Stuttgart native, Christian Schickler. Legend has it that he ordered a pound of seeds for the King, not realizing they were as small and light as oats. He ended up having many more seeds than he needed so he planted a few in his garden.

8. The local speciality, Maultasche, have a rather unscrupulous history

Maultasche with minced meat filling. Photo: DPA.

Essentially Swabian ravioli from southwestern Germany, Maultaschen are a kind of pasta filled with spinach, sauerkraut, breadcrumbs and sometimes minced meat.

They may seem innocent enough, but their Swabian name 'Herrgottbscheißerle' means 'Lord God Deceivers'. This comes from a legend involving a Cistercian monk from the Maulbronn monastery, 40km north-west of Stuttgart, (hence the name 'Maultasche').

The monk allegedly wanted to eat meat during the Lent fasting period and hid meat in the usually vegetarian filling of his Maultasche in the hope that by sneaking it under a pastry cover, God wouldn't notice.

9. Stuttgart has the second biggest mineral water source in Europe

Stuttgart is home to 14 mineral water springs and several 'Mineralbäde' or spas, mostly concentrated around the Bad Cannstatt area of the city. Because of this, the city provides one of the biggest sources of mineral water in Europe, second only to Budapest's Obuda district.

Stuttgart is sometimes known as the 'Sauerwasserstadt' because of the sulphurous quality of the water. The mineral water is said to have holistic health benefits, allowing locals to save a bit of money at the supermarket as they don't necessarily have to buy expensive bottled water.

10. Cleaning is a public duty in Stuttgart

Kehrwoche sign. Photo: DPA

Visitors to the city may notice an unusually high number of people sweeping the pavements. This is because residents of Stuttgart uphold a quirky Swabian tradition known as 'Kehrwoche', which directly translates to 'sweep week'. 'Kehrwoche' is a rotating plan in which a different resident of a rented property is responsible each week for the upkeep of the public areas of a specific building.

This extends from the hallways right out to the steps and pavements in front of the building, so in the autumn and winter months, this means any leaves and snow nearby have to be cleared away too. The common belief is that the practice dates back to several decrees issued in the 16th century, which prompted people to keep the area around their homes clean.

Although this was much more important in the times before indoor plumbing, the tradition is still upheld. Nowadays you won't get in trouble with the law for avoiding your duties during 'Kehrwoche', as there are no written laws, but you may get in trouble with your neighbours.


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