Charles Bukowski’s “Beer”

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Today is the birthday of American poet, novelist, and short story writer Charles Bukowski (August 16, 1920-March 9, 1994). Bukowski was a hard-living individual, as well as a hard drinker. Wikipedia gives a summary of his life, albeit a very brief one.

His writing was influenced by the social, cultural, and economic ambience of his home city of Los Angeles. His work addresses the ordinary lives of poor Americans, the act of writing, alcohol, relationships with women, and the drudgery of work. Bukowski wrote thousands of poems, hundreds of short stories and six novels, eventually publishing over 60 books. The FBI kept a file on him as a result of his column, Notes of a Dirty Old Man, in the LA underground newspaper Open City.

In 1986 Time called Bukowski a “laureate of American lowlife.” Regarding Bukowski’s enduring popular appeal, Adam Kirsch of The New Yorker wrote, “the secret of Bukowski’s appeal. . . [is that] he combines the confessional poet’s promise of intimacy with the larger-than-life aplomb of a pulp-fiction hero.”

If you haven’t read his work, you’re definitely missing out. I think my favorite quote by him is from an interview he did in Life magazine, in December of 1988. “We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.” A collection of his poems, entitled “Love Is a Dog From Hell,” was published in 1977, and includes the poem “Beer.” A few months ago, an Italian animation studio, NERDO, created a short animated film of that poem, and it’s pretty awesome.

Historic Beer Birthday: Johan Kjeldahl

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Today is the birthday of Johan Gustav Christoffer Thorsager Kjeldahl (August 16, 1849-July 18, 1900) He was a Danish chemist who developed a method for determining the amount of nitrogen in certain organic compounds using a laboratory technique which was named the Kjeldahl method after him.

Johan-Kjeldahl

Kjeldahl worked in Copenhagen at the Carlsberg Laboratory, associated with Carlsberg Brewery, where he was head of the Chemistry department from 1876 to 1900.

He was given the job to determine the amount of protein in the grain used in the malt industry. Less protein meant more beer. Kjeldahl found the answer was in developing a technique to determine nitrogen with accuracy but existing methods in analytical chemistry related to proteins and biochemistry at the time were far from accurate.

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A painting by Otto Haslund of Johan Kjeldahl.

His discovery became known as the Kjeldahl Method

Kjeldahl's_distillation

The method consists of heating a substance with sulphuric acid, which decomposes the organic substance by oxidation to liberate the reduced nitrogen as ammonium sulphate. In this step potassium sulphate is added to increase the boiling point of the medium (from 337 °C to 373 °C) . Chemical decomposition of the sample is complete when the initially very dark-coloured medium has become clear and colourless.

The solution is then distilled with a small quantity of sodium hydroxide, which converts the ammonium salt to ammonia. The amount of ammonia present, and thus the amount of nitrogen present in the sample, is determined by back titration. The end of the condenser is dipped into a solution of boric acid. The ammonia reacts with the acid and the remainder of the acid is then titrated with a sodium carbonate solution by way of a methyl orange pH indicator.

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In practice, this analysis is largely automated; specific catalysts accelerate the decomposition. Originally, the catalyst of choice was mercuric oxide. However, while it was very effective, health concerns resulted in it being replaced by cupric sulfate. Cupric sulfate was not as efficient as mercuric oxide, and yielded lower protein results. It was soon supplemented with titanium dioxide, which is currently the approved catalyst in all of the methods of analysis for protein in the Official Methods and Recommended Practices of AOAC International.

And Velp Scientifica also has an explanation of his method, which is still in use today.

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Kjeldahl (center) in his laboratory.

Liechtenstein’s Annual National Beer Festival

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Since 1940, the tiny Principality of Liechtenstein has been holding a celebration which they call Staatsfeiertag Liechtenstein, or their “National Day,” though it’s sometimes referred to as “State Day Liechtenstein.” At around 62 square miles, Liechtenstein is the fourth-smallest in Europe, and has an estimated population of only 37,000. That’s a little been less than nearby Martinez, California.

Here’s the official description, from Liechtenstein’s website:

On 15 August Vaduz plays host to a huge celebration attended by thousands of Liechtenstein citizens and guests from many countries. The National Day begins with the State Act held on the lawn in front of Vaduz Castle, including speeches by the Prince and the president of the parliament. The people are then invited to a reception with drinks in the gardens of the castle. National Day is the only day of the year when the gardens are open to the general public. The Princely Family is also present at this reception and enjoys chatting with those present.

In the afternoon there is a large fair in the centre of Vaduz that continues until the early hours of the morning. The festivities come to a close in the evening with a large firework display above Vaduz Castle that is famous throughout the region and draws many guests to Vaduz.

There were two main reasons for establishing the National Day on 15 August. The first reason was that it was already a bank holiday (Feast of the Assumption). The second reason was that the Reigning Prince at the time, Prince Franz Josef II, celebrated his birthday on 16 August. Therefore, it was decided to celebrate the National Day on 15 August as a combination of the Feast of the Assumption and the Reigning Prince’s birthday. Following the death of Prince Franz Josef II in 1989, National Day continued to be celebrated on 15 August. It was established as the official national day by a law passed in 1990.

Over the course of the years there have been different variations of the official celebration held on National Day. Since 1990 the State Act has taken place on the lawn in front of Vaduz Castle, the location where in 1939 the people paid homage to Prince Franz Josef II under the threat of National Socialism. It was here that Prince Hans-Adam II also received an homage from the people in 1990.

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The day starts at the prince’s residence, Vaduz Castle.

But by all accounts, there’s a lot of beer throughout the day, all the way through the fireworks displays that caps off the day’s events. The fair that begins in the afternoon is equal parts street fair and beer festival.

Staatsfeiertag

It sounds like a lot of fun, I’d certainly love to go someday. Here’s an account of the day from the perspective of an expat Englishman living there in 2009:

Missed out on an invitation to a Buckingham Palace garden party this year? Never mind. In Liechtenstein you can invite yourself to the annual garden party at the princely Castle in Vaduz and mix with royalty, diplomats and hoi polloi as well as one or two curious foreigners.

You might not get daintily cut sandwiches or tea but there is plenty of beer on tap, fruit juice in packs and filled bread rolls. There’s probably more pushing and shoving, too, as the garden is only small yet the whole population of 35,356 is invited.

This year’s Liechtenstein’s National Day celebrations started as usual by the castle gates at 9.30 on the dot on the 15 August, the date chosen in 1940, coinciding with the Feast of the Assumption, already a public holiday in this Catholic state of only 160 sq kms, and close enough to the birthday (the following day) of the then Ruling Prince, Franz Josef II.

A local band in blue uniform (there are no armed forces in Liechtenstein) struck up and proceeded to the Castle Meadow a few metres away. Various members of the ruling family followed: reigning Prince Hans Adam ll, who is 64, and his wife, Princess Marie von und zu Liechtenstein, along with their eldest son, Hereditary Prince Alois, 41, the prince regent since 2004, and his wife Princess Sophie.

A delegation of diplomats and honorary guests also joined the procession, having been whisked up the steep mountainside in coaches, unlike the puffing locals. And finally, at the rear, the rotund, fully robed Bishop of Vaduz with ornamental crozier and the representative of the Apostolic Nuncio.

The ceremony began with a Catholic Mass and Holy Communion. While the brass band and the Catholic hierarchy enjoyed the shelter of marquees, the poor princely family had to sit on hard benches with no protection from the fierce sun on one of the hottest days of the year. It was too hot for some.

First, one of the young princes felt ill and had to be escorted, in his smart new blue blazer and beige trousers, back to the castle by a lady in elaborate local costume. Then his sister felt faint and was taken by her mother to a waiting ambulance. Liechtenstein’s boy scouts sheltered the bishop and his attendants with white umbrellas as they ventured into the sun to give communion. Once this was over, the reigning princess summoned the scouts to shelter her and the ladies in her entourage. She even sipped from a plastic bottle of mineral water – now the Queen would never do that!

The hereditary prince spoke, inevitably, of the world economic crisis but added that, compared with many countries, Liechtenstein was in an enviable position. His uncle, Prince Nikolaus, the brother of the reigning prince and ambassador to the European Union, looked on in the heat. It was he who had led the difficult negotiations with the United Kingdom only days before, culminating in an agreement to ensure greater exchange of information on tax matters. It was with great relief for its bankers that Liechtenstein was removed from the OECD’s “grey list” of uncooperative states earlier this year.

The head of the 25-seat parliament, Arthur Brunhart, also spoke, reminding everyone that crises were also times of opportunity. By this time, two hours into the ceremony, some were already cheekily making their way to the garden for the party. The band struck up the Liechtenstein national anthem to the same tune as God Save the Queen as loyal citizens raised their right hands, pledging loyalty to the principality. For another year the ceremonial part of the celebrations was over but festivities continued in a beer festival atmosphere in the main street, rounded off by a spectacular fireworks display with free buses to take everyone home afterwards.

Liechtenstein-view

And this is from last year’s celebration, entitled Attending National Day in Liechtenstein: Quite An Experience!

Historic Beer Birthday: St. Arnulf of Metz

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While records going back this far in time are notoriously unreliable, some sources put the birthday of St. Arnulf of Metz at August 13, 583 C.E., such as Find-a-Grave, among others. He’s also known as Anou, Arnould, Arnold of Metz, and his feast day is July 18. Although even the year is not settled, and some sources give it as 580 or 582 C.E., so the actual likelihood that any of this is correct is pretty low.

“Saint Arnulf of Metz (c. 582 – 640) was a Frankish bishop of Metz and advisor to the Merovingian court of Austrasia, who retired to the Abbey of Remiremont. In French he is also known as Arnoul or Arnoulf. In English he is also known as Arnold.” Metz is located in northeastern France.

arnulf-of-metz

Also, Arnulf is one of at least three patron saints of brewers with similar names, although he is the oldest, and essentially first one. That’s one of the reasons I chose his feast day, July 18, for the holiday I created in 2008, International Brewers Day.

The Saint Arnold most people are familiar with is Arnold of Soissons, and he’s from much later, almost 500 years, and is thought to have been born around 1040 C.E. Less is known about the third, St. Arnou of Oudenaarde (or Arnouldus), and he’s also a patron saint of beer and specifically Belgian brewers, because Oudenaarde is in Flanders. His story takes place in the 11th century.

Saint_Arnulf

Here’s his bio from Find-a-Grave:

Saint Arnulf of Metz (c 582 — 640) was a Frankish bishop of Metz and advisor to the Merovingian court of Austrasia, who retired to the Abbey of Remiremont.

Saint Arnulf of Metz was born of an important Frankish family at an uncertain date around 582. In his younger years he was called to the Merovingian court to serve king Theudebert II (595-612) of Austrasia and as dux at the Schelde. Later he became bishop of Metz. During his life he was attracted to religious life and he retired as a monk. After his death he was canonized as a saint. In the French language he is also known as Arnoul or Arnoulf. Arnulf was married ca 596 to a woman who later sources give the name of Dode or Doda, (whose great grandmother was Saint Dode of Reims), and had children. Chlodulf of Metz was his oldest son, but more important is his second son Ansegisen, who married Saint Begga daughter of Pepin I of Landen.

Arnulf was canonized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church. In iconography, he is portrayed with a rake in his hand.

He was the third great grandfather of Charlemagne.

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St. Arnulf in the Metz Cathedral.

The Legend of the Beer Mug

It was July 642 and very hot when the parishioners of Metz went to Remiremont to recover the remains of their former bishop. They had little to drink and the terrain was inhospitable. At the point when the exhausted procession was about to leave Champigneulles, one of the parishioners, Duc Notto, prayed “By his powerful intercession the Blessed Arnold will bring us what we lack.” Immediately the small remnant of beer at the bottom of a pot multiplied in such amounts that the pilgrims’ thirst was quenched and they had enough to enjoy the next evening when they arrived in Metz.

arnulf-beer

And here’s another account from Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites:

During an outbreak of the plague a monk named Arnold, who had established a monastery in Oudenburg, persuaded people to drink beer in place of water and when they did, the plague disappeared.

Arnold spent his holy life warning people about the dangers of drinking water. Beer was safe, and “from man’s sweat and God’s love, beer came into the world,” he would say.

The small country of Belgium calls itself the ‘Beer Paradise’ with over 300 different styles of beer to choose from. Belgium boasts of centuries old tradition in the art of brewing. In the early Middle Ages monasteries were numerous in that part of Europe, being the centers of culture, pilgrimage and brewing. Belgium still has a lot of monasteries and five of these are Trappist, a strict offshoot of the Cis­tercian order, which still brews beer inside the monastery.

During one outbreak of the plague St. Arnold, who had established a monastery in Oudenburg, convinced people to drink beer instead of the water and the plague disappeared as a result. Saint Arnold (also known as St. Arnoldus), is recognized by the Catholic Church as the Patron Saint of Brewers.

St. Arnold was born to a prominent Austrian family in 580 in the Chateau of Lay-Saint-Christophe in the old French diocese of Toul, north of Nancy. He married Doda with whom he had many sons, two of whom were to become famous: Clodulphe, later called Saint Cloud, and Ansegis who married Begga, daughter of Pépin de Landen. Ansegis and Begga are the great-great-grandparents of Charlemagne, and as such, St. Arnold is the oldest known ancestor of the Carolin­gian dynasty.

St. Arnold was acclaimed bishop of Metz, France, in 612 and spent his holy life warning people about the dangers of drinking water. Beer was safe, and “from man’s sweat and God’s love, beer came into the world,” he would say. The people revered St. Arnold. In 627, St. Arnold retired to a monastery near Remiremont, France, where he died on August 16, 640.

In 641, the citizens of Metz requested that Saint Arnold’s body be exhumed and ceremoniously carried to Metz for reburial in their Church of the Holy Apostles. During this voyage a miracle happened in the town of Champignuelles. The tired porters and followers stopped for a rest and walked into a tavern for a drink of their favorite beverage. Regretfully, there was only one mug of beer to be shared, but that mug never ran dry and all of the thirsty pilgrims were satisfied.

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A modern portrait of St. Arnulf by American artist Donna Haupt.

The Mug-House Riots

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Today, just over three-hundred years ago — July 23, 1716 — a little-known historical event took place in London, known as the Mug-House Riots, between Jacobite and Hanoverian partisans.

One of my favorite old books on dates, entitled “Chamber’s Book of Days,” which was published in England, in 1869, has an account of the Mug-Houe Riots:

On the 23rd of July 1716, a tavern in Salisbury Court, Fleet Street, was assailed by a great mob, evidently animated by a deadly purpose. The house was defended, and bloodshed took place before quiet was restored. This affair was a result of the recent change of dynasty. The tavern was one of a set in which the friends of the newly acceded Hanover family assembled, to express their sentiments and organise their measures. The mob was a Jacobite mob, to which such houses were a ground of offence. But we must trace the affair more in detail.

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Amongst the various clubs which existed in London at the commencement of the eighteenth century, there was not one in greater favour than the Mug-house Club, which met in a great hall in Long Acre, every Wednesday and Saturday, during the winter. The house had got its name from the simple circumstance, that each member drank his ale (the only liquor used) out of a separate mug. There was a president, who is described in 1722 as a grave old gentleman in his own gray hairs, now full ninety years of age.’ A harper sat occasionally playing at the bottom of the room. From time to time, a member would give a song. Healths were drunk, and jokes transmitted along the table. Miscellaneous as the company was—and it included barristers as well as trades-people—great harmony prevailed. In the early days of this fraternity there was no room for politics, or anything that could sour conversation.

By and by, the death of Anne brought on the Hanover succession. The Tories had then so much the better of the other party, that they gained the mob on all public occasions to their side. It became necessary for King George’s friends to do something in counteraction of this tendency. No better expedient occurred to them, than the establishing of mug-houses, like that of Long Acre, throughout the metropolis, wherein the friends of the Protestant succession might rally against the partizans of a popish pretender. First, they had one in St. John’s Lane, chiefly under the patronage of a Mr. Blenman, a member of the Middle Temple, who took for his motto, ‘Pro rege et loge;’ then arose the Roebuck mug-house in Cheapside, the haunt of a fraternity of young men who had been organised for political action before the end of the late reign. According to a pamphlet on the subject, dated in 1717,

‘The next mug-houses opened in the city were at Mrs. Read’s coffee-house in Salisbury Court, in Fleet Street, and at the Harp in Tower Street, and another at the Roebuck in Whitechapel. About the same time, several other mug-houses were erected in the suburbs, for the reception and entertainment of the like loyal societies; viz., one at the Ship, in Tavistock Street, Covent Garden, which is mostly frequented by loyal officers of the army; another at the Black Horse, in Queen Street, near Lincoln’s-Inn-Fields, set up and carried on by gentlemen, servants to that noble patron of loyalty, to whom this vindication of it is inscribed [the Duke of Newcastle]; a third was set up at the Nag’s Head, in James’s Street, Covent Garden; a fourth at the Fleece, in Burleigh Street, near Exeter Exchange; a fifth at the Hand and Tench, near the Seven Dials; several in Spittlefields, by the French refugees; one in Southwark Park; and another in the Artillery Ground.’ Another of the rather celebrated mud houses was the Magpie, without Newgate, which still exists in the Magpie and Stump, in the Old Bailey. At all of these houses it was customary in the forenoon to exhibit the whole of the mugs belonging to the establishment in a range over the door—the best sign and attraction for the loyal that could have been adopted, for the White Horse of Hanover itself was not more emblematic of the new dynasty than was—the Mug.

It was the especial age of clubs, and the frequenters of these mug-houses formed themselves into societies, or clubs, known generally as the Mug-house Clubs, and severally by some distinctive name or other, and each club had its president to rule its meetings and keep order. The president was treated with great ceremony and respect: he was conducted to his chair every evening at about seven o’clock, or between that and eight, by members carrying candles before and behind him, and accompanied with music. Having taken a seat, he appointed a vice-president, and drank the health of the company assembled, a compliment which the company returned. The evening was then passed in drinking successively loyal and other healths, and in singing songs. Soon after ten, they broke up, the president naming his successor for the next evening, and, before he left the chair, a collection was made for the musicians.

These clubs played a very active part in the violent political struggles of the time. The Jacobites had laboured with much zeal to secure the alliance of the street-mob, and they had used it with great effect, in connection with Dr. Sacheverell, in over-throwing Queen Anne’s Whig government, and paving the way for the return of the exiled family. Disappointment at the accession of George I rendered the party of the Pretender more unscrupulous, the mob was excited to go to greater lengths, and the streets of London were occupied by an infuriated rabble, and presented nightly a scene of riot such as can hardly be imagined in our quiet times. It was under these circumstances that the mug-house clubs volunteered, in a very disorderly manner, to be the champions of order, and with this purpose it became a part of their evening’s entertainment to march into the street and fight the Jacobite mob. This practice commenced in the autumn of 1715, when the club called the Loyal Society, which met at the Roebuck, in Cheapside, distinguished itself by its hostility to Jacobitism. On one occasion, at the period of which we are now speaking, the members of this society, or the Mug-house Club of the Roebuck, had burned the Pretender in effigy. Their first conflict with the mob recorded in the newspapers occurred on the 31st of October 1715.

It was the birthday of the Prince of Wales, and was celebrated by illuminations and bonfires. There were a few Jacobite alehouses, chiefly situated on Holborn Hill [Sacheverell’s parish], and in Ludgate Street; and it was probably the frequenters of the Jacobite public-house in the latter locality who stirred up the mob on this occasion to raise a riot on Ludgate Hill, put out the bonfire there, and break the windows which were illuminated. The Loyal Society men, receiving intelligence of what was going on, hurried to the spot, and, in the words of the newspaper report, ‘soundly thrashed and dispersed’ the rioters. The 4th of November was the anniversary of the birth of King William III, and the Jacobite mob made a large bonfire in the Old Jury, to burn an effigy of that monarch; but the mug-house men came upon them again, gave them ‘due chastisement with oaken plants,’ demolished their bonfire, and carried King William in triumph to the Roebuck. Next day was the commemoration of gunpowder treason, and the loyal mob had its pageant.

A long procession was formed, having in front a figure of the infant Pretender, accompanied by two men bearing each a warmin pan, in allusion to the story about his birth, and followed by effigies, in gross caricature, of the pope, the Pretender, the Duke of Ormond, Lord Bolingbroke, and the Earl of Marr, with halters round their necks, and all of which were to be burned in a large bonfire made in Cheapside. The procession, starting from the Roebuck, went through Newgate Street, and up Holborn Hill, where they compelled the bells of St. Andrew’s Church, of which Sacheverell was incumbent, to ring; thence through Lincoln’s-Inn-Fields and Covent Garden to the gate of St. James’s palace; returning by way of Pall-Mall and the Strand, and through St. Paul’s Churchyard. They had met with no interruption on their way, but on their return to Cheapside, they found that, during their absence, that quarter had been invaded by the Jacobite mob, who had carried away all the materials which had been collected for the bonfire. Thus the various anniversaries became, by such demonstrations, the occasions for the greatest turbulence; and these riots became more alarming, in consequence of the efforts which were made to increase the force of the Jacobite mob.

On the 17th of November, of the year just mentioned, the Loyal Society met at the Roebuck, to celebrate the anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth; and, while busy with their mugs, they received information that the Jacobites, or, as they commonly called them, the Jacks, were assembled in great force in St. Martin’s-le-Grand, and preparing to burn the effigies of King William and King George, along with the Duke of Marlborough. They were so near, in fact, that their party-shouts of High Church, Ormond, and King James, must have been audible at the Roebuck, which stood opposite Bow Church. The ‘Jacks’ were starting on. their procession, when they were overtaken in Newgate Street by the mug-house men from the Roebuck, and a desperate encounter took place, in which the Jacobites were defeated, and many of them were seriously injured. Meanwhile the Roebuck itself had been the scene of a much more serious tumult. During the absence of the great mass of the members of the club, another body of Jacobites, much more numerous than those engaged in Newgate Street, suddenly assembled and attacked the Roebuck mug-house, broke its windows and those of the adjoining houses, and with terrible threats, attempted to force the door. One of the few members of the Loyal Society who remained at home, discharged a gun upon those of the assailants who were attacking the door, and killed one of their leaders. This, and the approach of the lord mayor and city officers, caused the mob to disperse; but the Roebuck was exposed to continued attacks during several following nights, after which the mobs remained tolerably quiet through the winter.

With the month of February 1716, these riots began to be renewed with greater violence than over, and large preparations were made for an active mob-campaign in the spring. The mug – houses were refitted, and re-opened with ceremonious entertainments, and new songs were composed to encourage and animate the clubs. Collections of these mug-house songs were printed in little volumes, of which copies are still preserved, though they now come under the class of rare books. The Jacobite mob was again heard gathering in the streets by its well-known signal of the beating of marrow-bones and cleavers, and both sides were well furnished with staves of oak, their usual arms, for the combat, although other weapons, and missiles of various descriptions, were in common use. One of the mum house songs gives the following account of the way in which these riots were carried on:

Since the Tories could not fight,
And their master took his flight,
They labour to keep up their faction;
With a bough and a stick,
And a stone and a brick,
They equip their roaring crew for action.

Thus in battle-array,
At the close of the day,
After wisely debating their plot,
Upon windows and stall
They courageously fall,
And boast a great victory they’ve got.

But, alas! silly boys!
For all the mighty noise
Of their “High Church and Ormond for ever!”
A brave Whig, with one hand,
At George’s command,
Can make their mightiest hero to quiver.’

One of the great anniversaries of the Whigs was the 8th of March, the day of the death of King William; and with this the more serious mug-house riots of the year 1716 appear to have commenced. A large Jacobite mob assembled to their old watch-word, and marched along Cheapside to attack the Roebuck; but they were soon driven away by a small party of the Loyal Society, who met there. The latter then marched in procession through Newgate Street, paid their respects to the Magpie as they passed, and went through the Old Bailey to Ludgate Hill. On their return, they found that the Jacobite mob had collected in great force in their rear, and a much more serious engagement took place in Newgate Street, in which the ‘Jacks’ were again beaten, and many persons sustained serious personal injury. Another great tumult, or rather series of tumults, occurred on the evening of the 23rd of April, the anniversary of the birth of Queen Anne, during which there were great battles both in Cheapside and at the end of Giltspur Street, in the immediate neighbourhood of the two celebrated snug-houses, the Roebuck and the Magpie, which shows that the Jacobites had now become enterprising. Other great tumults took place on the 29th of May, the anniversary of the Restoration, and on the 10th of June, the Pretender’s birthday.

From this time the Roebuck is rarely mentioned, and the attacks of the mob appear to have been directed against other houses. On the 12th of July, the mug-house in Southwark, and, on the 20th, that in Salisbury Court (Read’s Coffee-house), were fiercely assailed, but successfully defended. The latter was attacked by a much more numerous mob on the evening of the 23rd of July, and after a resistance which lasted all night, the assailants forced their way in, and kept the Loyal Society imprisoned in the upper rooms of the house while they gutted the lower part, drank as much ale out of the cellar as they could, and let the rest run out. Read, in desperation, had shot their ringleader with a blunderbuss, in revenge for which they left the coffeehouse-keeper for dead; and they were at last with difficulty dispersed by the arrival of the military. The inquest on the dead man found a verdict of wilful murder against Read; but, when put upon his trial, he was acquitted, while several of the rioters, who had been taken, were hanged. This result appears to have damped the courage of the rioters, and to have alarmed all parties, and we hear no more of the mug-house riots. Their incompatibility with the preservation of public order was very generally felt, and they became the subject of great complaints. A few months later, a pamphlet appeared, under the title of Down with the Mug, or Reasons for Suppressing the Mug-houses, by an author who only gave his name as Sir H. M.; but who seems to have shown so much of what was thought to be Jacobite spirit, that it provoked a reply, entitled The Mug Vindicated.

But the mug-houses, left to themselves, soon became very harmless.

mug_house_riots

Historic Birthday: George Crum

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Today is the date that George Crum died in 1914, and the closest anyone knows about when he was born is July 1832, although some accounts say as early as 1822 and at least one more gives 1831. But he was born George Speck, but changed his name to “Crum” (July 1832-July 22, 1914). He worked several jobs before finding his true calling as a chef in upstate New York, most notably at Moon’s Lake House near Saratoga Springs, New York, and later at his own “Crum’s Place.” But his true fame came from the invention of the potato chip in 1853. There is some controversy about whether he is the true inventor, although there are other candidates, and some evidence that either way he may have been involved at some level, he remains the likeliest person to be credited with inventing the potato chip, which makes him a hero in my book.

crum-and-wife

Here’s a short account of his life from Ancestory.com:

When George W. Speck-Crum was born in July 1828 in Malta, New York, his father, Abraham, was 39 and his mother, Catherine, was 42. He had three sons and one daughter with Elizabeth J. He then married Hester Esther Bennett in 1860. He died on July 22, 1914, in his hometown, having lived a long life of 86 years, and was buried in Saratoga County, New York.

Nothing about his life seems particularly settled, not his birthday, where he was born, his exact ethnicity, or almost anything else, but here’s what Wikipedia claims:

George Speck (also called George Crum) was a man of mixed ancestry, including St. Regis (Akwesasne) Mohawk Indian, African-American, and possibly German. He worked as a hunter, guide, and cook in the Adirondacks, who became renowned for his culinary skills after being hired at Moon’s Lake House on Saratoga Lake, near Saratoga Springs, New York.

Speck’s specialities included wild game, especially venison and duck, and he often experimented in the kitchen. During the 1850s, while working at Moon’s Lake House in the midst of a dinner rush, Speck tried slicing the potatoes extra thin and dropping it into the deep hot fat of the frying pan. Thus was born the potato chip.

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George and his wife Kate.

Biography

George Speck (also called George Crum) was born on July 15, 1824 (or 1825) [maybe, but possibly other years or dates] in Saratoga County in upstate New York. Some sources suggest that the family lived in Ballston Spa or Malta; others suggest they came from the Adirondacks. Depending upon the source, his father, Abraham, and mother Diana, were variously identified as African American, Oneida, Stockbridge, and/or Mohawk Indians. Some sources associate the family with the St. Regis (Akwesasne) Mohawk reservation that straddles the US/Canadian border. Speck and his sister Kate Wicks, like other Native American or mixed-race people of that era, were variously described as “Indian,” “Mulatto,” “Black,” or just “Colored,” depending on the snap judgement of the census taker.

Speck developed his culinary skills at Cary Moon’s Lake House on Saratoga Lake, noted as an expensive restaurant at a time when wealthy families from Manhattan and other areas were building summer “camps” in the area. Speck and his sister, Wicks, also cooked at the Sans Souci in Ballston Spa, alongside another St. Regis Mohawk Indian known for his skills as a guide and cook, Pete Francis. One of the regular customers at Moon’s was Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, who, although he savored the food, could never seem to remember Speck’s name. On one occasion, he called a waiter over to ask “Crum,” “How long before we shall eat?” Rather than take offense, Speck decided to embrace the nickname, figuring that, “A crumb is bigger than a speck.”

Wicks later recalled the invention of the potato chip as an accident: she had “chipped off a piece of the potato which, by the merest accident, fell into the pan of fat. She fished it out with a fork and set it down upon a plate beside her on the table.” Her brother tasted it, declared it good, and said, “We’ll have plenty of these.” In a 1932 interview with the Saratogian newspaper, her grandson, John Gilbert Freeman, asserted Wick’s role as the true inventor of the potato chip.

Speck, however, was the one who popularized the potato chip, first as a cook at Moon’s and then in his own place. By 1860, Speck had opened his own restaurant, called Crum’s, on Storey Hill in nearby Malta, New York. His cuisine was in high demand among Saratoga Springs’ tourists and elites: “His prices were…those of the fashionable New York restaurants, but his food and service were worth it…Everything possible was raised on his own small farm, and that, too, got his personal attention whenever he could arrange it.” According to popular accounts, he was said to include a basket of chips on every table. One contemporaneous source recalls that in his restaurant, Speck was unquestionably the man in charge: “His rules of procedure were his own. They were very strict, and being an Indian, he never departed from them. In the slang of the racecourse, he “played no favorites.” Guests were obliged to wait their turn, the millionaire as well as the wage-earner. Mr. Vanderbilt once was obliged to wait an hour and a half for a meal…With none but rich pleasure-seekers as his guests, Crum kept his tables laden with the best of everything, and for it all charged Delmonico prices.”

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Potato Chip Legend

Recipes for frying potato slices were published in several cookbooks in the 19th century. In 1832, a recipe for fried potato “shavings” was included in a United States cookbook derived from an earlier English collection. William Kitchiner’s The Cook’s Oracle (1822), also included techniques for such a dish. Similarly, N.K.M. Lee’s cookbook, The Cook’s Own Book (1832), has a recipe that is very similar to Kitchiner’s.

The New York Tribune ran a feature article on “Crum’s: The Famous Eating House on Saratoga Lake” in December 1891, but, curiously, mentioned nothing about potato chips.[13] Neither did Crum’s commissioned biography, published in 1893, nor did one 1914 obituary in a local paper.[14] Another obituary states “Crum is said to have been the actual inventor of “Saratoga chips.””[15] When Wicks died in 1924, however, her obituary authoritatively identified her as follows: “A sister of George Crum, Mrs. Catherine Wicks, died at the age of 102, and was the cook at Moon’s Lake House. She first invented and fried the famous Saratoga Chips.”

Hugh Bradley’s 1940 history of Saratoga contains some information about Speck, based on local folklore as much as on any specific historical primary sources. Fox and Banner said that Bradley had cited an 1885 article in the Hotel Gazette about Speck and the potato chips. Bradley repeated several myths that appear in that article, including that “Crum was born in 1828, the son of Abe Speck, a mulatto jockey who had come from Kentucky to Saratoga Springs and married a Stockbridge Indian woman,” and that, “Crum also claimed to have considerable German and Spanish blood.”

Cary Moon, owner of Moon’s Lake House, rushed to claim credit for the invention, and began mass-producing the chips, first served in paper cones, then packaged in boxes. They soon became wildly popular: “It was at Moon’s that Clio first tasted the famous Saratoga chips, said to have originated there, and it was she who first scandalized spa society be strolling along Broadway and about the paddock at the race track crunching the crisp circlets out of a paper sack as though they were candy or peanuts. She made it the fashion, and soon you saw all Saratoga dipping into cornucopias filled with golden-brown paper-thin potatoes; a gathered crowd was likely to create a sound like a scuffling through dried autumn leaves.” Visitors to Saratoga Springs were advised to take the 10-mile journey around the lake to Moon’s if only for the chips: “the hobby of the Lake House is Fried Potatoes, and these they serve in good style. They are sold in papers like confectionary.”

A 1973 advertising campaign by the St. Regis Paper Company, which manufactured packaging for chips, featured an ad for Crum (Speck) and his story, published in the national magazines, Fortune and Time. During the late 1970s, the variant of the story featuring Vanderbilt became popular because of the interest in his wealth and name, and evidence suggests the source was an advertising agency for the Potato Chip/Snack Food Association.

A 1983 article in Western Folklore identifies potato chips as having originated in Saratoga Springs, New York, while critiquing the variants of popular stories. In all versions, the chips became popular and subsequently known as “Saratoga chips” or “potato crunches”.

The 21st-century Snopes website writes that Crum’s customer, if he existed, was more likely an obscure one. Vanderbilt was a regular customer at Moon’s Lake House and at Crum’s Malta restaurant, but there is no evidence that he played any role in inventing (or demanding) potato chips.

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Potato chips on a white background.

And here’s yet another story about the origin of the potato chip, written by Jean McGregor in the Saratogian in 1940:

The authentic story of Saratoga chips is at long last revealed by the great nephew of George (Speck) Crum, their originator, Albert J. Stewart, now an employee of Mrs. Webster Curran Moriarta of North Broadway, with whom he has been employed for 24 years. Stewart told the story to Mrs. Moriarta many times as I relate it here: “Aunt Kate Wicks” so called by her friends, had something* to do with their Invention—worked for her brother, Crum. She related the true circumstances to Stewart many times before her death in 1914 at 68 William St., where she resided. Crum was born in Malta, the son of Abram Speck, a mulatto jockey who came from Kentucky in the early days of Saratoga and married an Indian woman of the Stockbridge tribe. It is related that a wealthy dinner guest had one time Jokingly referred to the name Speck, as Crura, and thereupon Speck took over the name of Crum. George Crum was more Indianin appearance. His younger days were spent in the Adirondack^ and he became a mighty hunter and a successful fisherman. His services as a guide in the Adirondack* were much sought after. His companion in the forests was a Frenchman from whom he learned to cook. Shortly after the Frenchman’s death, Cnrn took up his abode near the south end of the lake and prepared to serve ducks. He became known throughout the country for his unique and wonderful skill In cooking game, fish and camp fire dishes generally. While he was employed as a cook at Moon’s Place, opened by Carey B. Moon in 1853 at the Southend of Saratoga Lake, on the Ramsdill Road, the incident occurred which led to the making of Saratoga Chips. “Aunt Kate Wicks” who worked with her brother, Crum, making pastry, had a pan of fat on the stove, while making crullers and was peeling potatoes at the same time. She chipped off a piece of potato which by the merest accident fell into the pan of fat. She fished it out with a fork and set it down upon a plate beside her on the table. Crum came into the kitchen. “What’s this?”, he asked, as he picked up the chip and tasted it “Hm, Hm, that’s good. How did you make it?” “Aunt Kate” described the accident. “That’s a good accident,” said Crum. “We’ll have plenty of these.” HE TREED them out. Demand for them grew like wild fire and he sold them at 15 and ten cents a bag. Thus the Saratoga Chip came into existence. Other makes appeared on the market as time passed. For a long period of years, few prominent men in the world of finance, politics, art, the drama or sports, failed to eat one of Crum’s famous dinners.

The late Cornelius E. Durkee, who died at the age of 96, entertained many guests at Moon’s and was familiar with its history, related this interesting story of Crum’s genius as a cook for me one day while he was compiling his reminiscences: “William H. Vanderbilt, father of Governor William H. Vanderbilt of Rhode Island, a prominent visitor here in those days, was extremely fond of canvasback ducks, but could not get them cooked properly in the village. “He sent a couple to Crum to see what he could do with them. “Crum had never seen a canvasback but having boasted that he could cook anything, willingly undertook to prepare these. “I KEPT THEM over the coals 19 minutes.” Crum told Mr. Durkee, “the blood following the knife and sent them to the table hot. Mr. Vanderbilt said he had never eaten anything like them in his life”Mr. Vanderbilt,” continued Mr. Durkee, “was so pleased he sent Mr. Crum many customers. He prospered in the business. He kept his tables laden with the best of everything and did not neglect to charge Delmonico prices.” “His rules of procedure were his own. Guests were obliged to wait their turn, the millionaire as well as the wage earner. Mr. Vanderbilt was once obliged to wait an hour for a meal and Jay Gould and his party, also visitors here in the early days when this resort was the capital of fashionables of the country, waited as long another time. CRUM LEFT the kitchen to apologize to Mr. Gould, who told him he understood the rules of the establishment and would wait willingly another hour. Judge Hilton and a party of friends were turned away one day. “I can’t wait on you,” said Crum, directing them to a rival house for dinner. “George,” said Mr. Hilton, “you must wait on us if we have to remain in the front yard for two hours.” Mr. Durkee recalled for me that, among those who enjoyed Crum’s cooking and his potato chips were Presidents Chester A. Arthur and Grover Cleveland, and Governors Horatio Seymour, Alonzo B. Cornell, David P. Hill, Roswell P. Flower and such financiers as Vanderbilt, Pierre Lorillard, Berry Wall, William R. Travers, William M. Tweed and E. T. Stokes. Crum died in 1914. His brother, Abraham (Speck) Crum dug out an old Indian canoe for Jonathan Ramsdill of Saratoga Lake which is still on exhibit in the State Museum in Albany as one of the finest examples of Indian canoes and Indian days at Saratoga Lake, rich in Indian lore.

And Original Saratoga Chips in New York, also has their version of the story on their website. And The Great Idea Finder also has some info on Crum.

His own restaurant, Crum’s Place, was located at 793 Malta Avenue in Ballston Spa, New York. Today, a marker can be seen by the spot where it stood from 1860-1890.

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A Meditation On A Quart Mugg

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The Pennsylvania Gazette “was one of the United States’ most prominent newspapers from 1728, before the time period of the American Revolution, until 1800.” In 1729, Benjamin Franklin, and a partner (Hugh Meredith), bought the paper. “Franklin not only printed the paper but also often contributed pieces to the paper under aliases. His newspaper soon became the most successful in the colonies.”

On July 19, 1733, they published a piece entitled “A Meditation on a Quart Mugg.” It was generally attributed to Benjamin Franklin, and for years was published among collections of his writings. However, the current editors of the National Archives are not convinced that it was indeed written by Franklin, and “believe that the essay is not sufficiently characteristic of Franklin’s style to be attributed to him.” Plus, apparently “no external evidence of authorship has been found.” Despite the uncertainty of who wrote it, it remain an interesting, if odd, piece written from the point of view of the mug. It has held beer, among much else, but had more feelings and experienced more humiliations and bad treatment than I had ever thought about before. I must remember to thank my glassware for its service on a more regular basis.

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A Meditation on a Quart Mugg

Wretched, miserable, and unhappy Mug! I pity thy luckless Lot, I commiserate thy Misfortunes, thy Griefs fill me with Compassion, and because of thee are Tears made frequently to burst from my Eyes.

How often have I seen him compell’d to hold up his Handle at the Bar, for no other Crime than that of being empty; then snatch’d away by a surly Officer, and plung’d suddenly into a Tub of cold Water: Sad Spectacle, and Emblem of human Penury, oppress’d by arbitrary Power! How often is he hurry’d down into a dismal Vault, sent up fully laden in a cold Sweat, and by a rude Hand thrust into the Fire! How often have I seen it obliged to undergo the Indignities of a dirty Wench; to have melting Candles dropt on its naked Sides, and sometimes in its Mouth, to risque being broken into a thousand Pieces, for Actions which itself was not guilty of! How often is he forced into the Company of boisterous Sots, who say all their Nonsence, Noise, profane Swearing, Cursing, and Quarreling, on the harmless Mug, which speaks not a Word! They overset him, maim him, and sometimes turn him to Arms offensive or defensive, as they please; when of himself he would not be of either Party, but would as willingly stand still. Alas! what Power, or Place, is provided, where this poor Mug, this unpitied Slave, can have Redress of his Wrongs and Sufferings? Or where shall he have a Word of Praise bestow’d on him for his Well-doings, and faithful Services? If he prove of a large size, his Owner curses him, and says he will devour more than he’ll earn: If his Size be small, those whom his Master appoints him to serve will curse him as much, and perhaps threaten him with the Inquisition of the Standard. Poor Mug, unfortunate is thy Condition! Of thy self thou wouldst do no Harm, but much Harm is done with thee! Thou art accused of many Mischiefs; thou art said to administer Drunkenness, Poison, and broken Heads: But none praise thee for the good Things thou yieldest! Shouldest thou produce double Beer, nappy Ale, stallcop Cyder, or Cyder mull’d, fine Punch, or cordial Tiff; yet for all these shouldst thou not be prais’d, but the rich Liquors themselves, which tho’ within thee, twill be said to be foreign to thee! And yet, so unhappy is thy Destiny, thou must bear all their Faults and Abominations! Hast thou been industriously serving thy Employers with Tiff or Punch, and instantly they dispatch thee for Cyder, then must thou be abused for smelling of Rum. Hast thou been steaming their Noses gratefully, with mull’d Cyder or butter’d Ale, and then offerest to refresh their Palates with the best of Beer, they will curse thee for thy Greasiness. And how, alas! can thy Service be rendered more tolerable to thee? If thou submittest thy self to a Scouring in the Kitchen, what must thou undergo from sharp Sand, hot Ashes, and a coarse Dishclout; besides the Danger of having thy Lips rudely torn, thy Countenance disfigured, thy Arms dismantled, and thy whole Frame shatter’d, with violent Concussions in an Iron Pot or Brass Kettle! And yet, O Mug! if these Dangers thou escapest, with little Injury, thou must at last untimely fall, be broken to Pieces, and cast away, never more to be recollected and form’d into a Quart Mug. Whether by the Fire, or in a Battle, or choak’d with a Dishclout, or by a Stroke against a Stone, thy Dissolution happens; ’tis all alike to thy avaritious Owner; he grieves not for thee, but for the Shilling with which he purchased thee! If thy Bottom-Part should chance to survive, it may be preserv’d to hold Bits of Candles, or Blacking for Shoes, or Salve for kibed Heels; but all thy other Members will be for ever buried in some miry Hole; or less carefully disposed of, so that little Children, who have not yet arrived to Acts of Cruelty, may gather them up to furnish out their Baby-Houses: Or, being cast upon the Dunghill, they will therewith be carted into Meadow Grounds; where, being spread abroad and discovered, they must be thrown to the Heap of Stones, Bones, and Rubbish; or being left until the Mower finds them with his Scythe, they will with bitter Curses be tossed over the Hedge; and so serve for unlucky Boys to throw at Birds and Dogs; until by Length of Time and numerous Casualties, they shall be press’d into their Mother Earth, and be converted to their original Principles.

Hungover Heroes: Max McGee

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Today is the birthday of Max McGee. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard his name, most people haven’t. He “was a professional football player, a wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers in the NFL. He played from 1954 to 1967, and is best known for his 7 receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns in the first Super Bowl in 1967.” And it’s his performance in that first Super Bowl that was so amazing, in no small part because he was badly hungover.

In 1967, McGee was at the end of his career. In fact, it was the second-to-last season he played. He was not a starter for the Packers that year they went to the first Super Bowl, and caught only four balls all year. So apparently, not expecting to play at all during the Super Bowl, the night before he broke curfew and spent the night with two women he met at the hotel bar. He rolled in around 6:30 a.m. the morning of the big game, passed Bart Starr in the hallway just getting up, and tried to catch a few winks before game time.

He was feeling pretty rough, but took his spot on the bench, fully expecting to be glued to it all game. He told starting wide receiver Boyd Dowler “I hope you don’t get hurt. I’m not in very good shape,” referring to the fact that he was badly hungover. Unfortunately, shortly after the game started, Dowler separated his shoulder and came out of the game, replaced by McGee. He had to borrow a helmet from another teammate, because he had left his in the locker room. McGee was reportedly startled as he heard Vince Lombardi yell, “McGee! McGee! Get your ass in there.”

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A few plays later, McGee made a one-handed reception of a pass from Bart Starr, took off past Chiefs defender Fred Williamson and ran 37 yards to score the first touchdown in Super Bowl history. This was a repeat of his performance in the NFL championship game two weeks earlier, when he had also caught a touchdown pass after relieving an injured Boyd Dowler. By the end of the game, McGee had recorded seven receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns, assisting Green Bay to a 35-10 victory.

Just check out that first catch, for the very first touchdown in a Super Bowl. Unfortunately, the NFL won’t allow you to watch the video on my site, even though you can see it on YouTube or directly the NFL website. Thank goodness they protected a 50-year old event from being seen here. Who knows what money might have been lost by them had you been able to see it here instead of their own website.

Here’s more about the story from Sports Illustrated:

McGee came to California ready to party. He chafed at a week of locked-down training camp in Santa Barbara and when the team moved to Los Angeles on the eve of the big game, he made plans with those two flight attendants, assuming that Hornung, who was nursing an injured neck and wouldn’t play in the game, would join him. McGee snuck out after assistant coach Hawg Hanner’s 11 p.m. bed check and soon afterward, called Hornung. “He called and said ‘I’ve got two girls and yours is gorgeous,’ ” says Hornung. ” ‘Come out and have a couple drinks with us.’ ” The fine was at least $5,000 and Hornung was getting married later that week and his neck was sore. He declined. The next time he heard from McGee was at 6:30 the next morning. “He called from the lobby and asked if they did a second check. I said ‘No, you lucky bastard, now get your ass up here.’ ”

Before every game, Dowler, Dale and McGee would have a brief, ritual meeting to go over the game plan and review tendencies one last time. “We’re having our little meeting,” says Dowler, 79 and living in Richmond, Va., “and Max says, ‘Whatever you do, don’t go down today.’ I said, What do you mean? Max says, ‘I was out all night and I had a few more drinks than I should have and I didn’t get much sleep. So just don’t go down.'”

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Dowler says, “Max had a strong constitution. I figured he could deal with it. But he did not expect to play.” This was a potential problem. Dowler had played most of the 1965 season and all of the ’66 season with a bad right shoulder; a calcium deposit had developed on the joint. Yet the Packers’ coaching staff had seen weaknesses in the Chiefs’ pass defense, including a propensity to leave the middle of the field open on blitzes. Starr was going to throw the ball extensively. “Plus, their defensive backs,” says Dowler. “They had ‘The Hammer’ [future Hollywood actor Fred Williamson] on one side and some other guy, No. 22 [Willie Mitchell] on the other side. Neither one of them were very good, one-on-one. It wasn’t going to be like trying to beat Lem Barney or Night Train Lane [of the Detroit Lions].”

(McGee knew this, too. Maraniss, in When Pride Still Mattered, quotes McGee as telling Packers broadcaster Ray Scott, “I’ve been studying film and I’ve found me a cornerback. I’m gonna have him for breakfast, lunch and dinner.” Still, if he had expected to play, he most likely would have stayed in the night before. Or possibly not.)

On the Packers’ first series, McGee took a seat next to Hornung on the bench and made small talk about the night before and Hornung’s upcoming wedding. On the field, Lombardi opened with three consecutive running plays. On the third, Dowler executed a crackback block on Chiefs’ free safety Johnny Robinson, who was dropping down in run support. “My shoulder was not in good shape at all coming into the game,” says Dowler. “I usually put a foam pad underneath my shoulder pad, but since we were going to be throwing the ball a lot, I wanted to have some flexibility. I took the pad out. When I hit Johnny Robinson, I heard the calcium deposit crack and I knew immediately that I was finished.”

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McGee was summoned into the game, but couldn’t find his helmet. He put on a giant lineman’s helmet with a full cage and on his first snap missed connecting with Starr on a curl route. On the Packers’ next possession, Starr came out throwing: 11 yards to tight end Marv Fleming, 22 yards to running back Elijah Pitts, 12 yards to Dale. And then on third-and-three from the Kansas City 37, McGee ran a simple skinny post against Mitchell’s outside position and broke wide open. Robinson had blitzed, leaving acres of green in the middle of the secondary. Starr’s pass was far behind McGee, who reached back, controlled the ball and then turned straight upfield, into the end zone and history. It was a remarkable catch, by a man with a hangover and no sleep, running at full speed. McGee’s second touchdown, on another inside move against Mitchell, gave the Packers a 28–10 lead in the third quarter. That one came on a better throw by Starr, but McGee juggled it as he crossed beneath the goalposts, which were on the goalline. “The game of his life,” says Hornung.

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You can also see more video from television programs talking about McGee performance, such as when a TV show ranked the Top 50 Super Bowl Performances, and picked McGee’s Super Bowl I play as #31, and in another show which ranked McGee’s catch #10 among the “Top 10 Super Bowl Plays.”

And while it’s true that I’m a giant Green Bay Packers fan, and they’re the only football team I’ve ever rooted for, I still love this story about how the hungover Max McGee helped them win the first Super Bowl in 1967.

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Beer Words: Alebush

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This morning, the O.E.D. tweeted as their “Word of the Day,” the all but obselete word “alebush,” which they define as a “n. A bunch of ivy or other plant hung up as a tavern sign.”

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Illustration by Imogen Foxell.

Here’s the full entry from the O.E.D., revised in 2012:

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I would certainly like to see more bars, and especially beer gardens, using bushes and trees to mark their spaces.

Alexander Nowell & The Invention Of The Beer Bottle

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July 13, 1568 is often given as the date that the Dean of St Paul, Alexander Nowell invented the beer bottle. It’s almost certain that’s not correct. If you were writing a work of history you’d ignore what you couldn’t confirm, but if you’re only commemorating the event it’s as good a day as any to do so. The event in question was another fishing trip. Apparently, the theologian was quite the avid fisherman and “a keen angler.” Nowell’s contemporary, Izaak Walton — the author of The Compleat Angler — remarked of him that “this good man was observed to spend a tenth part of his time in angling; and also (for I have conversed with those which have conversed with him) to bestow a tenth part of his revenue, and usually all his fish, amongst the poor that inhabited near to those rivers in which it was caught; saying often, ‘that charity gave life to religion.'”

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As for inventing the beer bottle, credit was apparently not given until after his death, by English churchman and historian Thomas Fuller, who wrote. “Without offence it may be remembered, that leaving a bottle of ale, when fishing, in the grass, he found it some days after, no bottle, but a gun, such the sound at the opening thereof: and this is believed (casualty is mother of more inventions than industry) the original of bottled ale in England.”

The best account, as usual, undoubtedly comes from Martyn Cornell on his Zythophile blog, in his article, A Short History of Bottled Beer:

While Nowell was parish priest at Much Hadham in Hertfordshire, around 20 miles north of London, in the early years of Elizabeth I, it is said that he went on a fishing expedition to the nearby River Ash, taking with him for refreshment a bottle filled with home brewed ale. When Nowell went home he left the full bottle behind in the river-bank grass. According to Thomas Fuller’s History of the Worthies of Britain, published a hundred years later, when Nowell returned to the river-bank a few days later and came across the still-full bottle, “he found no bottle, but a gun, such was the sound at the opening thereof; and this is believed (causality is mother of more inventions than industry) the original of bottled ale in England.”

The ale, of course, had undergone a secondary fermentation in the bottle, building up carbon dioxide pressure so that it gave a loud pop when Nowell pulled the cork out. Such high-condition ale must have been a novelty to Elizabethan drinkers, who knew only the much flatter cask ales and beers. However, Fuller’s story is fun, but it seems unlikely Nowell really was the person who invented bottled beer: it seems more than probable that brewers were experimenting generally with storing beer in glass bottles in the latter half of the 16th century, though there is no apparent evidence of commercial bottling until the second half of the 17th century, only bottling by domestic brewers.

Part of the problem was that the hand-blown glass bottles of the time could not take the strain of the CO2 pressure. Gervaise Markham, writing in 1615, advised housewife brewers that when bottling ale “you should put it into round bottles with narrow mouths, and then, stopping them close with corks, set them in a cold cellar up to the waist in sand, and be sure that the corks be fast tied with strong pack thread, for fear of rising out and taking vent, which is the utter spoil of the ale.”

(There is, incidentally, a garbled version of the “bottle as gun” tale which seems to have materialised in the late 19th century, and which conflates the bottled ale story with another about Nowell fleeing England in a hurry in the reign of Queen Mary, after he received a warning that his enemy Bishop Bonner, known as “Bloody Bonner”, was out to arrest him for heresy. For some reason, in this version of the story Nowell is called “Newell”.)

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And this account is from Just Another Booze Blog:

It was a pleasant July day in 1568. Alexander Nowell, the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, in London, decided he wanted to do some fishing down by the river. He packed up all his fishing gear and tackle, the wife packed him a ham and cheese sandwich, and he grabbed his night crawlers and the new fishing lure he bought off of the Outdoor Channel. He was all set to go when he realized, what would go great with fishing? A beer! Because fishing without beer is like driving without beer. It’s just no fun. So he stopped by the corner pub on his way to the river and had them fill a glass bottle up with beer for him. He made sure they sealed it up good and tight with a cork so his horse wouldn’t get pulled over for an open container.

When done fishing, he accidentally left the still half full bottle on the river bank. Several days later (July 13th) he returned to do some more fishing, because he needed an excuse to get away from the wife for a while. He saw his old beer on the ground and thought “man, I could really go for some for that right now.” When he went to drink it, the cork opened with a loud bang (the beer had fermented further over the past few days). He found it to be extra fizzy and quite delicious.

Alexander Nowell, DD, Benefactor, Principal (1595), Dean of St Paul's
A 1595 portrait of Nowell at Brasenose College, at the University of Oxford.