The Death of Kings

by Tasha Alexander

…let us sit upon the ground

And tell sad stories of the death of kings;

How some have been deposed; some slain in war,

Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed;

Some poison’d by their wives: some sleeping kill’d;

All murder’d…

—William Shakespeare, Richard II

When we think about the kings—and queens—of England, we generally consider the triumphs and failures of their reigns, the elegant palaces in which they lived, and the scandals of their courts. For monarchy to work, both the ruler and his or her subjects have to believe there is something that sets the royals apart from everyone else. Take the concept of divine right, for example, in which God grants the king his power, making the monarch subject to no human authority. The definition of aristocracy in the Oxford English Dictionary reminds us that nobles are supposed to be the best citizens, above everyone else. And the king sits at the top of the aristocracy. So it’s easy to see why many people are programmed to think these individuals are somehow better than the rest of us.

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Posted in Early Modern History

Spiritualists in Lincoln’s White House

by Philip Jett

“A simple faith in God is good enough for me, and beyond that, I do not concern myself very much,” Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said while president. Nonetheless, his White House was frequented by spiritualists at his wife’s behest. Though some warned the Lincolns of impending doom, none were able to save the president’s life or his wife’s sanity.

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Posted in Modern History

The First Wells Fargo Detective

by John Boessenecker

For fifteen years, Henry Johnson had his hands full as Wells Fargo’s pioneer detective. The company built its reputation on safety and security. From the time of its founding, it guaranteed delivery and paid its customers for all losses suffered in transit, whether due to theft, fire, or accident. The vast riches carried by the company were a magnet for robbers, and it quickly became evident that the company needed detectives to investigate thefts and recover stolen property. A common misconception is that the famous western lawman James B. Hume was the first Wells Fargo detective. In fact, San Francisco police officers Isaiah Lees, Leonard Noyes, and James Gannon, as well as Sacramento lawmen Dan Gay and Charles P. O’Neil, all worked as Wells Fargo sleuths long before Hume’s start in 1873.
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Posted in Early Modern History

Who Was Father Charles Coughlin?

by Bradley W. Hart

In November 1938, one of America’s most famous radio personalities took to the airwaves on a Sunday afternoon, as he had done for years. Unlike the talk shows of later years, this host would not be taking calls from his fans. On this occasion, the host opened his show with the usual church choir and organ music, before launching into a startling defense of Nazi Germany’s treatment of the Jews. Though he claimed to oppose any form of religious discrimination, the host proclaimed that recent violence against the German Jewish community was merely a response to the threat posed by Communism. He went on to name two dozen Jews he claimed had helped bring about the Russian Revolution back in 1917, before concluding that Jews had risen to “high places in radio, press and finance” and were now feeling a backlash.

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Posted in Modern History

Bearing the Legacy of Topf and Sons

by Karen Bartlett

When Hartmut Topf was a small boy, he was captivated by puppets. On a warm summer’s day in 1930s Berlin, he would sit with his sisters under the blossom of the fruit tree in the family’s back garden while their otherwise rather taciturn father acted out puppet shows through the dining room window. With Hitler in power, the city was already in the grip of the Third Reich, but the horrors of that regime remained hidden from Hartmut, who enjoyed collecting and swapping Nazi belt-buckles, badges and toy planes with boyish enthusiasm.

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Posted in Modern History

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