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)

Taft & Facial Hair

17 July 2012

President Taft (In Office: 1909-1913)

President William Howard Taft (27th President of the United States) was the last president to have facial hair while in office. In essence, we have gone almost a century with presidents not sporting a beard, moustache or goatee. What has this country come to?!

Susanna “Dora” Salter

15 July 2012

Susanna “Dora” Salter became quite famous, both nationally and internationally, in 1887 when the townspeople of Argonia, Kansas elected her as the first woman mayor in the United States. She was also the first woman to be elected to any political office in the U.S. At the time, she was only 27 years old.

Leading up to the election, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (of which Salter was a member of) fought to keep prohibition a prime issue in the city’s elections. This angered some of the townsmen who believed women should stay out of political issues. As a joke, some decided to put Salter’s name into the running. They chose her because, not only was she an officer in the WCTU, she also lived within the town’s limits and was eligible for office.

Salter was shocked when she found out she was a candidate, but agreed to accept the office if elected. The Republican Party in Argonia agreed to back Salter in order to show “those fellows who framed up this deal a thing or two.” The WCTU also went against their own caucus nominee to support Salter. She won with a two-thirds majority. Instead of embarrassing Salter and the members of the WCTU, the men had inadvertently elected the first woman mayor. Even Salter’s husband, who initially was upset at the possibility of his wife holding a political office, joked about being the “husband of the mayor.”

Salter’s term was uneventful even though her election generated media interest from all around the country. After her term was up, she declined to seek reelection. She was paid one dollar as compensation for her service. Salter lived the remainder of her life in Norman, Oklahoma where she kept her interest in religious and political issues, but never again sought elected office. She died on March 17, 1961, two weeks after her 101st birthday.


“You Can’t Forget”

14 July 2012

[Zim's Note: This is a story I shared, in part, on Pinterest and thought I would do a longer and more in-depth write-up here. It was one of those "Aha!" moments in my life. It motivated me to look at history and people differently.]

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

In 2004, my high school class embarked on our senior class trip to the east coast. Being that the trip was “history-centric” we stopped at the usual places like Gettysburg, Mount Vernon and Washington D.C. While my friends and I had many memorable moments, which I will not discuss since my mother reads this and I want to be kept in the will, there is one that I will never forget. Its impact is simply immeasurable.

When the buses pulled into Washington D.C., we were given the freedom to explore. Only told to stay in groups and be back at an appointed time, my group of friends, along with a large number of other classmates, went straight for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Upon entering, we were given identification cards baring a story of a random victim or survivor. In my group of 7 or 8, all were “survivors,” I was the only who “died.” A nearby worker chided me for my chuckling reaction and reminded me that these were real people. Feeling a bit embarrassed since I had not meant to react as if it were all a joke, I merely chuckled that I would, of course, realistically or unrealistically, always pull the short stick. Let’s just say that my nickname will never be “Lady Luck” and, if anything, my sad and shocked chuckle was a reminder to myself that, if given another life, there would always be that constant.

No, my life-altering memory is not about a mortifying mishap. As we toured the museum and watched videos and viewed photos detailing the “who, what, where, and why” of the Holocaust, we came across an older woman standing next to a railing. She was just finishing up talking with a group as we approached; initially we were unsure if she was a tour guide or some expert giving additional information.

She turned out to be an expert, but not the usual “tweed suit with a Ph.D” scholar. I noticed the numbers before she spoke one word. My heart dropped to my knees when I realized that she was a real life, reluctant, expert. If I passed her in the street, I probably would not have given her a thought. She may have been just someone’s grandmother or great-grandma. Perhaps, like mine, she had a drawer filled with gum and a patient, sweet disposition. Instead, she was someone dragged from her home and forced to exchange her name for a tattoo.

She volunteered at the museum and came in occasionally to tell her story. Not everyone who passed stopped to talk with her. Maybe some didn’t realize she was a part of the tour while others just wanted to get through the heartbreaking experience as quickly as possible.  The small cynical side of me thought that perhaps some knew who she was and the story she would tell but walked right by, not wanting the experience to become too “real.”

I wish I could tell you that I remember her story by heart or even just her name. But I can’t. What I do remember is that in those few minutes she talked with us, it seemed like everything around us stopped. Sadness combined with a hint of numbness washed over me. I’m not sure if she said the same thing to everybody, or if she seized up the group and tells them what she thinks they should know.

The thing I do remember, as if it happened only seconds ago, is what she said to me. As she reached the end of her story she turned to me. With tear-filled eyes that held memories of a lost and broken childhood and possibly the quintessential meaning of receiving the “short stick.” She looked me straight in my eyes and said, “You can’t forget. You must never forget!”

It was not until years later, in college, that I really started thinking about those words and their implications. Initially, I could have been too young or a bit unwilling to process how those words affected me. As the years passed I realized with certainty that history was my passion. Not because I was good at memorizing dates or the order of the presidents, because honestly, I mess up dates all the time and we really had a president named Millard Fillmore?! That sounds like Daffy Duck’s cousin… In my mind, by studying history and people’s stories, I would honor that small lady next to the railing who possessed far more strength and courage than I ever could.

History tends to focus on the larger-than-life characters. She was not that kind of person, but she had the power to move me far more and in ways that none of those larger-than-life characters ever could. She made me remember her. Not her exact story or her appearance but the underlying message. She reiterated in me that humanity has the power to do great good, but it also has the ability to destroy. It may be easier and far more pleasant to reminisce about the good things, but it is essential to remember and continue to tell about the bad. Once we stop making people accountable, we start to accept, and perhaps indirectly, condone their actions. I can not change the events that turned that woman’s eyes teary. However, I can keep my promise to her by remembering. I owe it to her to never forget.

In Their Words – Christopher Plummer

13 July 2012

“Working with Julie Andrews is like getting hit over the head with a Valentine.”

- Christopher Plummer who starred in The Sound of Music (1965) with Andrews

Photo – IMDb

American Marine, Guadalcanal, 1942

13 July 2012

Joe Scherschel—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

“An American Marine readies to land on Guadalcanal during the five-month struggle for the island between late 1942 and early 1943. Three thousand miles south of Tokyo, Guadalcanal was a major shipping point for military supplies. The Allied victory there in February, 1943, marked a major turning point in the war after a string of Japanese victories in the Pacific.”


« Previous PageNext Page »