September 3, 2010

Time and time again

When England finally joined Europe and converted from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar in 1752, Britons went to bed on the night of September 2 and woke up on Thursday, September 14. That gives us the rare and delightful opportunity to celebrate the anniversary of a day that doesn’t actually exist.

There were not, as you may have heard, riots by the populace demanding their 11 days back.  That urban legend comes from a misunderstanding  about the picture at left.  William Hogarth called it An Election Entertainment and one of the men depicted is holding a sign that reads “Give Us Our Eleven Days” – but Hogarth’s subject is an election campaign involving Whigs and Tories, one of whom was instrumental in getting the new calendar accepted.

So that’s that.  The good story comes from Sweden – in 1700 they decided to convert to the Gregorian gradually and to eliminate leap years for a while. But  things got so confused by 1712 that nobody knew exactly what day it was, so the king decided not to take on the Gregorian just yet,  but to revert to the Julian.  This resulted in the first and only February 30.

This all started, btw, in 1562, with Pope Gregory XIII, who didn’t like the way the date of Easter was getting messed about by the Julian calendar, so he ordered a new more mathematical calendar.  It only took 200 years to get everybody on the same page.

* * *

Edward Filene

On an actual September 3 in 1860, Edward Albert Filene was born and what a really cool guy he was.  It was his father William who began as a peddler and worked his way up to owning several retail stores, but it was Edward who took over and had Filene’s making quantum leaps at the turn of the century.

He was an advocate of Taylor’s new efficiency methods, but he was also a big believer in treating his employees well – Filene’s had profit sharing, a 40-hour work week, minimum wage for women, employee health clinics and – really unheard of at the turn of the century – paid vacation.


Edward Filene started a company union and an employee credit union. He helped get the Workman’s Compensation Law of 1911 passed – yes, helped, not opposed it – and in 1908 he began working with the state banking commissioner to get the Massachusetts Credit Union Act passed.

Filene, like Henry Ford, understood the most basic tenet of capitalism: Workers have to be at least affluent enough to purchase the products they help manufacture or sell.  If that loop falls apart, the whole system goes.

Doesn’t seem complicated, but apparently they don’t teach it at Harvard Business School anymore.



  1. very cool about Filene! yeah we both know what they teach at Harvard Business School – the Art of War. LOL 🙂


    Comment by Nina — September 3, 2010 @ 4:58 pm | Reply

  2. Never heard of Edward Filene—Which goes to show how popular his whole concept was and is!
    God Bless your blog!


    Comment by GALYA TARMU — September 3, 2010 @ 5:48 pm | Reply

  3. fair is fair and this story is fantastic thanks again jean


    Comment by avery zia — September 6, 2010 @ 9:09 pm | Reply

  4. Pat, here, from Filene’s Basement, another one of Edward Filene’s outstanding acheivements. He and his brother, Lincoln, were visionaries–very progressive. Thanks for giving him credit. There is a good book on what the brothers accomplished, titled “The Filenes” by George Berkley. Also, there is a documentary about Filene’s Basement called “Voices from the Basement,” by filmmaker Michael Bavaro — you can see a trailer by visiting


    Comment by pat — September 7, 2010 @ 5:31 am | Reply

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