Sammy Lee

11 August 2012

Dr. Samuel "Sammy" Lee with his Olympic medals at age 91.

At the 1948 London Olympic Games, Samuel Lee became the first Asian-American to win an Olypmpic gold medal for the United States. Additionally, he was the first male diver to win back-to-back gold medals in platform diving. When asked about his winning dive he stated:

Walking up the 10-m platform, I thought to myself, I’ve waited 16 years for this moment. Am I going to blow it? So I prayed to God that I was most deserving of winning the Games. And in case he was busy, I also prayed to Buddha and Confucius.


Extraterrestrial (E.T.)

8 August 2012

Still from E.T.

Definition: Something outside the limits of the earth.

Origins: The first person who was recorded using the word ”extraterrestrial” was H.G. Wells and, perhaps, he even invented the term around the turn of the century. L. Sprague de Camp, an American author, used the word as a noun in the May 1939 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. He invented the abbreviation “e.t.” in the same article. Steven Spielberg helped to cement the abbreviation with his famous 1982 science fiction film, E.T.

Hendrickson, Robert. Words and Phrase Origins. 3rd ed. New York: Facts On File, 2004, 249.

In Their Words – Chief Dan George

6 August 2012

Photo Credit: Strong Nation

“One thing to remember is to talk to the animals. If you do, they will talk back to you. But if you don’t talk to the animals, they won’t talk back to you, then you won’t understand, and when you don’t understand you will fear and when you fear you will destroy the animals, and if you destroy the animals, you will destroy yourself.”

- Chief Dan George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, author, poet, and an Academy Award-nominated actor

Ellen Church

4 August 2012

In 1930, Ellen Church became the first airline stewardess after convincing Boeing Air Transport that the presence of women nurses would help relieve passenger fears of flying.

National Air and Space Museum Archives

Modern Olympic Timeline

2 August 2012

Here is a timeline for some of the major events in modern Olympic years:


  • Athens hosts the first modern Olympics, with 14 countries participating. James Brendan Connolly, a triple jumper from Boston, becomes the first Olympic champion in more than 1,500 years.


  • Women make their first appearance in Olympic competition, when a handful of female athletes compete in lawn tennis and golf at the Paris Games.

Women competed for the first time at the 1900 Olympics in Paris, although the International Olympic Committee did not officially approve of their inclusion. Women's events included sailing, tennis, and golf.


  • The gold medal is introduced. Previous top winners in the modern Games took home a silver medal and an olive wreath, because Greece’s Crown Prince Constantine didn’t want it to seem as if the athletes were being paid.


  • The Games are moved from Rome to London after the 1906 eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. The London Olympics are credited with restoring much-needed credibility to the Games.


  • The Winter Games are established, but because of World War I they do not take place until 1924, in Chamonix, France.


  • American Jim Thorpe, who dominated the 1912 games and took the gold in decathlon and pentathlon, is stripped of his medals when officials learn he had played professional baseball, going against the IOC rules that athletes should not be paid. His medals are restored posthumously in 1982.


  • The Summer Games in Berlin are cancelled due to World War I.


  • The Olympic flame returns at the Amsterdam Summer Games. The flame was lit during ancient Games to represent the story of when Prometheus stole Zeus’ fire.


  • In a blow to Adolf Hitler’s plan to have the Berlin Olympics prove Aryan superiority, black U.S. track and field star Jesse Owens becomes the first Olympian to win four gold medals.

Although the Olympic flame was first instituted at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, the 1936 games in Nazi Germany marked the debut of the torch relay. Here, the final relay runner approaches the Olympic flame at the swastika-festooned Lustgarten in Berlin.


  • Summer and Winter Games scheduled to take place in Japan are switched to Germany and Finland after Japan invades China, then cancelled altogether due to the start of World War II.


  • Summer Games in England and Winter Games in Italy are cancelled due to World War II.


  • The IOC bans both Germany and Japan from competing as punishment for their actions during the war. They return to the Games in 1952.


  • South Africa is banned from the Olympics because of apartheid, and is not welcomed back until the segregationist system is abolished in 1992. Similarly, Rhodesia was banned due to its racist practices in 1972; it returns in 1980 as the new nation of Zimbabwe.


  • Drug testing and gender verification testing make their debut at the Mexico City Olympics. A Swedish pentathelete is disqualified for having consumed too much alcohol.


  • Palestinian terrorists attack Israelis at the Munich Games. Following a 21-hour standoff, 11 Israel athletes and coaches, five terrorists and one police officer are dead. Meanwhile, U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz wins a record seven gold medals. Spitz, a Jew, leaves before the closing ceremony.

The Olympic flag hangs at half-mast at a memorial ceremony during the 1972 games in Munich, Germany.


  • Nadia Comaneci, a 14-year-old Romanian, scores the first perfect 10 in Olympic gymnastics, at the Games in Montreal. She receives the top score seven times, earning three gold medals.


  • The United States boycotts the Moscow Olympics, in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Several other nations join in. It’s the second major boycott of the Olympics; in 1976, 22 African nations stayed home because New Zealand’s national rugby team had competed in South Africa.


  • The Soviet Union boycotts the Los Angeles Olympics in retaliation for America’s 1980 boycott.


  • In the first year professionals are allowed to compete in men’s basketball, the U.S. “Dream Team,” including Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird, wins the gold in Barcelona.


  • A bomb left in a backpack at Centennial Olympic Park explodes during the Atlanta Games, killing one woman and injuring 111 people. Accused serial bomber Eric Rudolph, who is also a suspect in bombings at abortion clinics and a gay nightclub, is charged in the case.

The centennial 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, are remembered for, among other things, their extravagance (they cost nearly $1.7 billion to stage) and for the bombing in Centennial Olympic Park that killed one person and injured dozens. Here, Native Americans gather at a memorial in the park for the victims.


  • The Games return to their birthplace, Athens, after 108 years. The Panathenian stadium is reused for events including archery and the finish of the Marathon. The Zappeion, the first indoor Olympic arena, was utilized as the Olympic Press Centre. Participation records were broken, with 201 nations and 10,625 athletes taking part in 301 different events. The U.S., Russia and China lead the medal count.

Timeline via CBS

Photos via National Geographic

Walking Point – Vietnam, 1966

31 July 2012
Walking Point in Vietnam, 1966 (National Archives/History By Zim)

By an unknown photographer, 1966. Photo Credit: National Archives

“Vietnam: A Marine walking point for his unit during Operation Macon, a marine moves slowly, cautious of enemy pitfalls, 1966″

“Walking point” on patrol in Vietnam meant being the first to face ambush, sniper fire, or booby traps. According to one account, this duty meant a man needed to develop a “sixth sense for danger” in order to protect himself and his comrades.

Rhode Island: First Out & Last In

30 July 2012

On May 4, 1776, the colony of Rhode Island declared its independence from England, becoming the first of the original thirteen colonies to do so. However, Rhode Island was the last of the original colonies to become a state when it ratified the United States Constitution on May 29, 1790.


What is an Olympiad?

30 July 2012

“I declare open the Games of London, celebrating the 30th Olympiad of the modern era.” If you watched the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic London Games you probably heard Queen Elizabeth utter those words.  If you, like me, are unsure what exactly an “Olympiad” is, look no farther.

After a quick Google search and a timely distraction by “Bored Queen” internet memes, I found the answer. Apparently an Olympiad is a set of four consecutive years in which the Olympic Games are counted by. So the 2008 Beijing Olympics would have been the 29th Olympiad. The starting date in order to calculate the dates is 1896, when the first modern Olympiad took place.

Even the 6th (1919), 12th (1940) and 13th (1944) Olympiads are counted even though the Olympic Games were cancelled due to World War I and World War II.

Also of note, the Olympiad is only used as a counter for the Summer Olympics, not the Winter Olympics. The Winter Olympics, on the other hand, counts only the Games. For example, the 1940 and 1944 Winter Games were cancelled, like the Summer Games, because of the war. However, unlike the Summer Games, the 1940 and 1944 Winter Games are not counted. The 1936 Games were the 4th Olympic Winter Games and the 1948 Games were the 5th Olympic Winter Games.

[Zim’s Note: Since I already mentioned it, you might have heard about Queen Elizabeth receiving some flack because she appeared bored during the opening ceremony. There are now “Bored Queen” memes floating around the internet. Below are two of my favorites…]

*If the meme creator did a quick Google search they would have seen that they spelled Philip wrong...but it's still funny!

Internet Meme Source

Charley Paddock at the 1920 Olympics

28 July 2012

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

After serving in the U.S. Marines during World War I, Charley Paddock competed in the 1920 Olympics as part of the track and field team. While there, the Gainesville, Texas, native turned heads with his unusual finishing style, leaping toward the finish line ahead of his competition. The style worked. Paddock took home gold in the 100 meters and the 4×100 relay and silver in the 200 meters.

Olympic Games Cancellations

27 July 2012

The modern Olympic Games have only been cancelled three times. They were cancelled in 1916, 1940 and 1944 due to World War I and World War II.

6 Lost Olympic Sports

26 July 2012

[Zim's Note: With the 2012 Summer Olympic Games beginning tomorrow in London, I decided to do a quick search of Olympic sports that are no more. Luck would have it that I was not the only one thinking about these by-gone activities. Today, National Geographic published a slide show of "6 Lost Olympic Sports." In my opinion, there are a few of these that should still be in the Olympic Games...]

[Zim's Second Note: ...but not the pigeon one...]

Solo Synchronized Swimming

Photograph by Richard Mackson, Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

The seemingly oxymoronic sport of solo synchronized swimming is just one of a gaggle of lost, generally unlamented activities you won’t see at the 2012 Olympics in London. Practiced  above by U.S. Olympian Kristen Babb Sprague in Barcelona in 1992—solo  synchronized swimming’s third and last Olympic year—the discipline isn’t as odd as it sounds. Technically speaking, it’s the music, not other athletes, that the swimmers are supposed to be in sync with.

While the sport—still practiced competitively in other venues—does require tremendous flexibility and stamina, many viewed it as something of a joke.

“It’s just sort of making pretty figures in the water,” said Bill Mallon, a past president of the International Society of Olympic Historians. “Like floor exercises while you’re floating—jumping, toes pointed, spins, smiling, waving your arms.”


Photograph from Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

Unlike many discontinued Olympic events, tug-of-war was a crowd favorite. “It’s actually a great sport to watch,” said Mallon, the historian.

A staple of the Summer Olympics from 1900 to 1920, the sport was forced into retirement when the International Olympic Committee decreed that each Olympic sport needed to have a global governing body, which tug-of-war lacked.

Despite the sport’s current connotations of school yards and playgrounds, turn-of-the-century tug-of-war could be surprisingly high-stakes.

At  the 1908 Olympic Games in London, for example, the U.S. team protested an upset by the home team, crying foul over the Brits’ heavy, spiked, and apparently illegal boots. The U.K. team (pictured against Ireland), though—most of them police  officers—explained that they simply hadn’t changed out of their work boots.

Jeu de Paume

Photograph from Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis

Jeu de paume (pictured in an undated illustration) ricocheted into the 1908 London Olympics and hasn’t bounced back since, perhaps for lack of audience. “It’s a very elitist sport,” Mallon said. “There are only about 20 courts left in the world right now,” most of them in France.

Dating back to the Middle Ages, the “palm game” is the original form of tennis, though it more closely resembles racquetball, in that walls are very much in play.

Jeu de paume parts ways with modern tennis too in its emphasis on finesse over force.

“The game is not so much [about] power as it is about placement and spins,” Mallon said.

Rope Climbing

Images from Popperfoto/Getty Images

Rope climbing hung on as part of the Summer Olympics’ gymnastics program from 1896 and 1932, with Greece’s Georgios Aliprantis (pictured) taking the gold in 1906 in Athens.

In that time, though, the sport made only four Olympic appearances, mainly because it was popular only in the U.S. Perhaps not surprisingly, rope climbing was more likely to make the cut when the games were held in the states.

“It’s important that the sports included be popular around the world, but when [the Olympics] are in America … well, Americans have a little more say,” Mallon said.

At its introduction at the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, rope climbers were judged on form, speed, and—in cases where competitors failed to reach the top of the 42-foot (13-mater) rope—height. In 1904  and 1932, medals were awarded based solely on speed. Judges in 1924 again factored in style, which backfired slightly when 22 competitors achieved perfect scores.

Hot-Air Ballooning

Image from Popperfoto/Getty Images

The  1900 Paris games were folded into a massive world’s fair, resulting in a flood of demonstration sports that wouldn’t have been included otherwise (and never would be again). Case in point: hot-air ballooning (pictured). In fact, there were so many activities, Mallon said, that it was difficult to tell which sports were Olympic.

Balloon pilots at the Paris Olympics were judged on distance traveled, time in the air, and ability to land at predetermined coordinates. France swept the event.

The sport was removed from the Olympic roster, not due to ridiculousness but because of a ban on motorized sports. And though the ban’s recently been removed from the Olympic Charter, Mallon said he doesn’t expect that ballooning will make a comeback.

Live Pigeon Shooting

Photograph from Popperfoto/Getty Images

The  inclusion of live pigeon shooting in the 1900 Paris games—like ballooning, a world’s fair one-off—marks the only time in the Olympic history that animals have been killed on purpose.

The rules of the game were straightforward: Shoot down as many birds as possible in the allotted time, with two misses resulting in elimination. The event—in which Australia’s Donald MacIntosh (pictured) took the  bronze—was predictably messy, which may have contributed to pigeon shooting’s brief Olympic life span.


[Personally, I would watch the tug-of-war if it were in the Olympics again. Here is a video of the tug-of-war meet between Sweden and Great Britain during the 1912 Stockholm Games.]

National Geographic 

In Their Words – Elie Wiesel

26 July 2012

Photo Credit: Sergey Bermeniev/npr

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

- Elie Wiesel, a Romanian-born Jewish-American writer, professor, political activist, Nobel Laureate, and Holocaust survivor.

[If you have not read Wiesel's memoir Night, you should. His memoir is quite harrowing about the horrors of the Holocaust and living with survivor's guilt. Also he discusses the importance of never forgetting those who died during it.]

Q & A with Zim

23 July 2012

Why a history website/blog?

Because if I sang, this is how people would react:

"Salvation Army Lassie in Front of a Woolworth Store" c. 1940, Photo by Lee Sievan

I’m just trying to do what’s best for everyone…

How do you come up with your posts?

I like to say that I have “History ADD.” One moment I could be researching public reaction to Prohibition in the early 20th Century and the next I’m posting about the origins of “Tweedledum & Tweedledee.” How I get from one completely different topic to the next is still a mystery to me!

Various graduate papers and researches have evolved into some of the posts (i.e. anything relating to women in World War II or warfare espionage).

Additionally, I get suggestions from people. Anything about medicine or nursing is usually asked by my sister. One of my friends loves all things “Old Hollywood” while another is big on quotes.

I try to vary my posts, photos, quotes, etc… accordingly. I try not to post too much of the same topic or time period close together.

Do you get all your information mostly from the internet? How much of this is you verses taking it from another source?

It all depends on the topic. The majority of my book collection is war-related or trivia-based. When I do use the internet, I try to keep my internet sources as reliable as I can, meaning I use museum, university or .org sites as much as possible.

Unless I use quotations or it’s a photo description, the majority of the words are my own (based on the sources).

How long does it take you to finish a post?

Depending upon the complexities/sizes of the posts it can take anywhere from fifteen minutes to three hours, or even longer. I have the habit of starting a post and then leave it sitting in my queue for weeks or even months. There are currently around 30 unfinished posts lying around on my computer, one of which I started back in January. This all goes back to my “History ADD” :-)

Is there a particular subject you like researching the most?

If you have followed History By Zim long enough you can see a pattern. There are a lot of World War II things, American Indian quotes and “First Female Whatnots.” I love a good photo or quote and they are very easy to post hence an overabundance of them…

Where do you get all your photos?

Pinterest is one of the best social networking sites ever! (This coming from someone who was on Facebook when it was only for certain colleges!) I find many great photos from there along with post ideas.

Tumblr is also a useful place to find photos and the Library of Congress has a nice online photo collection, as does many museum websites. LIFE photos also pop up here quite often.

If you’re interested, here are some of the Tumblr accounts I follow:
Bygone Americana
Cool Chicks from History
Greatest Generation
Our Presidents
Today’s Document
A Vietnam Story
We Had Faces Then
Women at War
A World at War (or The Seed of Europe)

Other History Sites/Blogs that I frequent:
The Best of World War II
For the Love of Pete
Iconic Photos
Once Upon A Time in War
WWII History Network

What have been the most popular posts?

1. Andrew Jackson’s Parrot – This is by far the most popular post on History By Zim. Someone shared this over on Reddit and it made it to the top of the day’s popular list. That day, April 7th, was the busiest day on this site with 37,378 views.
2. Lucille Ball
3. Las Vegas
4. Band of Brothers
5. Drive-In Theater

Do you have a favorite post?

One of my favorite post so far has been The Maine Potato Episode. My dad was watching TV one night and the show was discussing it, he called me up and told me about it. Although most of the facts were wrong, I’m not sure if it was him or the show. My guess? Him. After googling “potato” “World War II” and “submarine” (the few things that were right), I found only a couple of sites that talked about the episode. It’s a great story and unless my dad told me it, I probably would not have known about it – making it the perfect story for History By Zim aka Beyond the Textbooks!

What can we look forward to in the future?

Right now I’m trying to figure out how to upload videos here. And by “I’m” I really mean my computer-savvy brother-in-law who initially suggested I start a website a year ago.

I would like to incorporate more “Zim” into the occasional post, a bit more like a blog. That seems to be the natural progression, but do not worry, it will be every now and then.

I would like to finish the 30 or so posts that are lying around in my computer, but I’m not going to promise anything ;-)

This is how History By Zim will face the future:

A brave little girl and a taxidermy grizzly standoff at the Sportsman’s Show, Chicago Coliseum, 1967, Chicago

Where else can I find History By Zim?

Facebook – History By Zim’s page
Twitter – @historybyzim

History By Zim is One Year Old!!!

21 July 2012

A year ago today History By Zim was fully launched! (Technically, the website was started a year and one month ago but I do not count the first month since I did not do much.) It’s hard to believe that a year has already come and gone. I have to thank everyone who has supported me and the website.

The amount of people who this “pet project” of mine has reach still astounds and inspires me. In the beginning, I thought of this simply as a way to keep my foot in the history door and something for my resume. I am happy to say that it turned into something completely different. I am constantly learning new things about history and myself. I have been fortunate to meet other history enthusiasts who have encouraged me to continue to put out great work.

History By Zim has thrived because of you. It has spread by word of mouth and social networking alone. At almost a quarter of a million views, History By Zim is kicking some butt. For “only being a history site,” History By Zim has at least 300 views a day.

When everything is said and done, this is how I hope History By Zim makes you feel:

Or like this:

But never this:

 If History By Zim has achieved that, then I think it has been successful so far :-)

(Q&A to follow)

Mother Cat Stops Traffic, July 29, 1925

20 July 2012

It was a sunny summer afternoon, July 29, 1925. Harry Warnecke, a photographer for the New York News, got a phone tip that a cat trying to carry its kittens home was tying up traffic because a policeman had stopped the cars on a busy street (Centre Street) to allow it to cross. Warnecke arrived after the event was over, but he convinced the policeman and cat’s owner to allow him to recreate the scene. Despite the policeman’s initial reluctance, the cat’s inclination to cross the street diagonally instead of in front of the cars, and furious honking motorists, Warnecke finally got his shot — after three attempts.

When the picture ran, the New York News was besieged with letters and requests for prints. A few days later, the helpful policeman received a letter of commendation from the Police Commissioner.

(via Iconic Photos)

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