George was a tobacconist in New York and an atheist. Somehow, in 1868, he got into a heated argument at a Methodist revival meeting about a passage in Genesis that said giants once lived on the earth. Unable to convince the Methodists of their folly, George went home and proceeded to do the following: acquire a ten-foot block of gypsum from Iowa, hire a stonecutter to carve it into the shape of a man, treat it to look old and bury it on his cousin’s farm in Cardiff, New York.
About a year later, he hired two men to dig a well in a specific location and lo and behold – they discovered a petrified giant man!
Hull – who had so far spent about two thousand dollars on his prank – put a tent over the excavation and charged a quarter admission. So many people showed up that two days later he raised the price to fifty cents.
The Cardiff Giant was immediately declared a fake by archeologists, but people shrugged that off. Hull eventually sold his exhibit for $23,000 and it was put on display in Syracuse. P.T. Barnum tried to buy it, but new owner David Hannum refused to sell his little gold mine, claiming “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
And the giant is still on display – it wound up in the Farmer’s Museum in Cooperstown, NY.
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On October 17 in 1814, at the Meux and Co. Brewery in Tottenham Court Road in London, a beer vat ruptured and the volume of liquid caused other vats to rupture, ultimately sending more than a million and a half liters of beer into the streets. But like the great molasses flood in Boston in 1919, it really wasn’t funny. In a poor area where whole families lived in basements, the flood of beer destroyed two houses and a pub and killed nine people.
When the case finally got to court, judge and jury agreed it was an act of God and no one was responsible. Parliament even returned the beer tax Meux and Co. had already paid.
Amusement is also one’s first reaction on reading that the NY Museum of Modern Art hung a paper-cut work by Henri Matisse upside down for 47 days in 1961 before anyone noticed. But when you look at La Bateau, let’s face it – isn’t it an understandable error?
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And that brings us, if tardily, to today, the day Thomas Edison made electricity available to households. Unfortunately, it was DC – direct current – that Edison promoted and he got into a current war with George Westinghouse who was convinced that AC – alternating current invented by Nikolas Tesla – was a better way to convey the juice.
In any event, AC gradually took over, although a few thousand people in New York City had only DC as recently as 2005, and subway systems mostly use DC. Either way, thanks to Tom and George and all the other inventors who persevered, we have such things as computers and the internet and happily mine is back. And doesn’t Edison as a boy look like he has really big plans?