A Real Cool Guy, Clarence Birdseye born 1886 December 11th

Born in 1886, Clarence Birdseye had a naturalist’s inquisitiveness, a love of food, and a strong business streak. At the age of ten, he was stalking and exporting live muskrats and coaching himself taxidermy. He studied science in college, but had to drop out for financial reasons. Forced to provision himself, he joined various scientific voyages that took him to remote places, including Labrador, where he spent several years in the fur trade.

The long Labrador winters also taught him what it was to crave fresh food, and introduced him for the first time in his life to frozen food that tasted good.

On all these trips he liked to experiment with whatever fresh food was on hand. In the Southwest, he ate slices of rattlesnake fried in pork fat. From Labrador, he wrote letters home that described exotic meals like lynx marinated in sherry, porcupine, polar bear meat and skunk.

Up until the 1920s in America, it was the food of last resort. But in Labrador he learned from the Inuit how to fish trout from holes in the ice and watch it freeze instantly in the air, which registered at 30 degrees below zero. And when it was cooked, it tasted like fresh trout.  It was the same with their meat and game, which they kept fresh for months in hard-packed snow. Birdseye’s quick-freezing process actually ended up creating 168 patents! These covered not only the freezing technique but also the packaging, type of paper used, and related innovations.

Model-A Ford at $395, 40hp, 60mph: 1927 December 2nd

On Dec. 2, 1927, the Model A Ford was introduced as the successor to the Model T. The price of a Model A roadster was $395.

In late November came the announcement that Americans had been waiting for: on December 2, 1927, the still-unnamed Ford automobile would be shown to the public, at locations revealed to each and every Ford dealer. Pricing was announced on December 1, the eve of the showing, and to the delight of potential buyers, the new Model A would be priced comparably to the  Model T. On the day of the car’s reveal, Ford News claimed that 10,534,992 people came to see the Model A, a number that represented 10 percent of the U.S. population at the time.

The Model A allowed buyers elegant styling (described as a “downsized Lincoln” by some), four-wheel brakes, improved fuel economy, a laminated safety glass windshield, hydraulic shock absorbers, and a 200.5-cu.in. four-cylinder engine rated at 40 horsepower, enough to deliver a top speed of 65 MPH. Seven body types were offered at launch, including Sport Coupe, Coupe, Roadster, Phaeton, Tudor sedan, Fordor sedan, and truck, and buyers could choose from four colors (Niagara Blue, Arabian Sand, Dawn Gray and Gun Metal Blue).

Deposits from anxious customers poured in, and in the first two weeks the automaker had reportedly accumulated 400,000 sales orders from dealers (adding to the thousands of orders that had been placed prior to the car’s reveal). Though the Model A would only be produced from 1927 through early 1932, Ford sold over 4.3 million examples, and the car would help Ford transition from pioneer to modern automaker. The Model A would also go on to inspire generations of collectors, hot rodders and shade tree mechanics, helping to popularize the hobby that we’ve all come to know and love.

Today there are an estimated 280 plus Model A car club chapters around the world (most of them being in the United States) The photos I took here of the original Model A’s are from cars that belong to a local club called the “Acorn Model A Club” located in the San Francisco Bay area, California.

In addition to a loyal following of Model A car clubs, the Model A is also a popular car today to be turned into a “street rod”. Many of these street rods are modified but the charm of the Model A body style is kept intact. Prices of Model A’s today can run 100 times the cost of what they were brand new!

Brexit f/k/a Evacuation Day in 1783 November 25th

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One might say that it was the “original” BREXIT even before the European Union existed.   The previous British exodus of 1783 related to the United States which had only recently come into existence in 1776.

Nov. 25 has been remembered by some folks as a day of departure.  One might say “evacuation”.  It was the day in 1783 that citizens of the newly formed United States said “good bye” to the inhabiting British troops. Evacuation Day, more precisely, was the date in 1783 when George Washington’s triumphant army (known as “rebels” to the British) marched into New York City from the north, while George III’s troops left at the south, ending a seven-year military occupation.

Eight Years Before—————

King George’s forces from Britain had been occupying New York since 1776.  The Big Apple had been the main British stranglehold in the Americas, and for most New Yorkers the war years had been ugly. Half of the city had been destroyed by fires. Trade was absent; wharves falling apart, merchants and artisans unsuccessful, and the civilian population dropped from 21,863 in 1771 to around 5,000.

Two Months Before—————

When the Treaty of Paris was signed in September 1783, a mass of people moved for Manhattan. Some were hardened rebels. More were Loyalists, looking for a ticket out of the former colonies. That summer and fall, at least 15,000 Tories fled via the city, including some 7,000 who eventually sailed from Nova Scotia in pa single enormous convoy.

Few Days Before—————

On Nov. 21, Washington and Governor George Clinton had galloped from West Point to Day’s Tavern in Harlem.  They were not at the pub for a pint of ale.  Rather, they had an army to deal with as the 800 soldiers – all that was left of the disbanded Continental Army – was camped at McGown’s Pass (presently upper Central Park).

On The Day  —————

On Monday, Nov. 24, the news was that the British would head out of town at noon the next day.  And sure enough, at 8 am on the morning of the 25th, a clear, cold day, the Continentals started down the Post Road (basically, Third Avenue). At Bowery and Grand, they happened upon a few Redcoats of the British rear guard still at their posts.  It seems that the Continental Army was a bit early, and the Brits were not inviting them for tea.   Shortly thereafter, a few minutes past 12, as arranged, the British withdrew to the Battery, where rowboats waited to ferry them to their ships.

The Americans trailed close behind. Most of them stopped at Cape’s Tavern, at the corner of Wall and Broad.  Simultaneously, a detachment moved further southward to raise the Stars and Stripes over the fort at the Battery.

There the Americans found that the British had left behind a surprise for the new occupants. The departing British, most impolitely, had nailed the Union Jack to the staff, then greased the pole so no one could get up to remove it. A young sailor named Jacob Van Arsdale then filled his pockets with improvised cleats and climbed the pole by nailing them in place as he advanced up. The American colors were raised, the soldiers fired a salute of 13 rounds, and the crowd gave three hearty cheers and hurried back up to the Bull’s Head Tavern on Chatham Street (public houses seem to figure prominently in our revolutionary history) to welcome the triumphant commanders-in-chief.

Independence Before Evacuation —————

Every July 4, we honor the Founding Fathers for their declaration that ”these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent States.”  One could convincingly argue that we should remind ourselves in November that it took a hard seven years -308 battles and skirmishes, including three in New York City and 89 elsewhere in the state – to win that freedom and begin to redeem the brave promises of 1776.

It was that poor late-November weather — not to mention the growing popularity of Thanksgiving — that hastened Evacuation Day’s decline. (Why march in the cold when you can feast indoors?)  The last official parade was in 1916. The United States entered World War I the following year. At that point, there was little appetite, understandably, for celebrating British defeat.  We had stood together in the face of world war and global threat.

So, Evacuation Day Is Seldom Celebrated  —————

Perhaps it is just as well. The Sons of the Revolution were reportedly getting a bit elitist about the occasion, using the holiday as an excuse to lord their heritage over everybody else — exactly the sort of snobbish behavior the revolution was meant to reject. Plus, it’s no longer as much fun to opine about the British, who have been our fierce allies for more than a century.  Additionally, there are the original Manhattanites — those who had hunted and fished the plentiful green island for centuries — who never got their Evacuation Day. Their squatters stayed.  The trespasser never left.

So, this week during Thanksgiving, you can give thanks. Today, you might dine with your once-domineering parents and still go home afterward to revel in your hard-fought independence.  You have separated from those folks who raised you into an adult.  You are now independent. For good measure, in memory of the British who evacuated, and from who you gained your independence, you might consider greasing the doorknobs on your way out.