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Today in history

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Psycho Birds director and notorious unrepressed flirt Alfred Hitchcock turned left on his bicycle. It was a decision he had been planning for some time. "I was careful to prepare the audience. First, there was the shock of seeing me on the bicycle. Next I prepared to extend my arm in a long shot masterfully composed by my cinematographer. Finally, suspense building, with the ominous lapping of the waves in the docks in the background providing an accretion of unavoidable dread, I did the deed. My right foot resting on the ground, which I always do to prepare myself for a change of direction, will be cropped out: filmgoers must never see how the magician performs his tricks."


Western Union overtook the Pony Express as the delivery service of choice in a brash and sprawling country where many urgent communications needed to be sent pronto. Here we see employee of the month Hervé Villechaize, no relation to the actor, as he set off an another transcontinental jaunt to deliver a message from a hat store in New York City to his supplier in Los Angeles: "Send more hats." The conditions for couriers were harsh, with Indian attacks still possible in disputed territories in the West and attacks of malaise in what would later be suburbia. Hervé's 10 cent commission was mostly eaten up by expenses, unpaid by the company in a far away time when worker's rights and compassion had not yet been invented. Eventually he would open his own business selling artificial flowers.


To circumvent an ordinance preventing women from being on or near a velocipede in Salem Massachusetts, Claire Bloomer successfully drew a mustache on her face and passed herself off as a man for years. Unfortunately she was discovered in a compromising relationship involving an Ordinary (a law still in force in Lynchburg Tennessee), arrested, and sentenced to do community service as a mime. Her story was to have a happy ending, however. Audience appreciation of her "glass ceiling" act

was such that she was encouraged to run for office. Disqualified because women couldn't hold office in that unenlightened time, she redrew her mustache and was promptly elected dogcatcher of Salem, in which capacity she found love and fulfillment while enforcing the leash law on an attractive raven haired bitch.

Valentine's Day is also celebrated here and here. And here.


His application for a parking permit at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study put on hold when a routine security check flagged a reprimand in his file from his time at the Swiss Patent Office ("Paperclips not returned in original condition"), Albert Einstein "borrowed" guest chalk duster Leó Szilárd's bike and didn't get around to returning it. This oversight was forgiven but never forgotten; Szilárd was to mention it in his Nobel warm-up act years later, remarking "When I thought up nuclear chain reaction,1 which was good enough for the Superpowers but not quite good enough for my esteemed Swedish hosts, little did I realise that Albert Einstein would eventually steal my bicycle, too. We laugh about it now, but I had to ride a girl's bike back to the hotel."

Disdaining not just socks but a helmet as he could not abide helmet hair, the physicist took a tumble one day and was knocked out cold. This led him to incorporate headgear into his Unified Field Theory, an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to unify the general theory of relativity with electromagnetism and cosmetology. Szilárd would also joke about that: "God may not play dice with the universe, but he gave Albert's head a good roll, didn't he?"

Einstein did not invent recumbents2 as he is sometimes credited with doing by admirers. He did co-invent a refrigerator3 with guess who: "Actually he just stuck a magnet on it and collected royalties."

1 - Utopia on the sidewalk
2 - Celebrities on 'Bents
3 - Einstein refrigerator

Great minds think alike.


The first bicycle shop in Britain opened. Bicycles were not for sale as no one was yet licenced to ride one. It would be several years before standards were adopted, rules written (cyclists give at least two days public notice in The Times before circumnavigating a roundabout), and tests given. Meanwhile customers were encouraged to begin examining the stock with a view towards putting in an extra 12 hours a day in the coal mine or wool spinning factory to be able to think about affording one. Accessories included 'Big Ben' brand bells, a drivetrain, and the new improved Carradice saddle bag, now stiffened with modern wood rod instead of whale bone. Women's models were still forbidden, though a few suffragette types would mount what some call "The Devil's stallion" anyway, risking virtue and a spell in gaol. Horse riders unhappy at sharing the thoroughfares began a grumbling campaign to be taken up by their grandchildren when the motorcar gets around to being invented.


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