Who Invented the Umbrella?

Who Invented the Umbrella?

This summer, at least where I’m living, the heat is hard and the rain is harder. I don’t know why we can just have a nice soft rain, it feels like an act of personal revenge coming from the sky. So lately, when rain is announced, you better be ready if you have to go outside. Of course, it’s not something new. And thinking about that made me curious:

Who Created the Umbrella?

As I’m realizing while writing articles for this website, like a lot of objects we are using in our day-to-day life, the umbrella finds its origins in ancient civilizations. Back then though, they were primarly used as sun protection, known as parasols.

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Who Invented the Paperback Book?

Who Invented the Paperback Book?

I recently read a paperback novel published by Penguin and, at the end of the book, there’s the story of how Sir Allen Lane came up with the desire to launch a new line of books. He just wanted a quality paperback to read on the train! Before reading this, I never thought about…

Who Created the Paperback Book?

The paperback is simply a book with a cover made of thick paper (or paperboard), instead of cardboard–or wood, as that was the case for a long time. So, we are not talking about the invention of the book, but of what is now considered to be the mass market paperback.

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The Royal Who Invented The Gingerbread Man, A Fairytale Story

The Royal Who Invented The Gingerbread Man, A Fairytale Story

 

Recently, I wrote about the history of Gingerbread. As it was not the main subject of the article, I just evoked the part played by Queen Elizabeth I in the popularisation of Gingerbread in Europe. This story deserved a bit more, especially as it led to the invention of the Gingerbread Man!

Valued by the Romans for its medicinal and culinary uses, ginger vanished from Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. It wasn’t until the 13th century, when Marco Polo brought ginger back from China, that it regained popularity. Over time, ginger became more accessible and affordable, transitioning from a rare spice to a common ingredient.

In the past, people enjoyed ginger-flavored treats in various forms like cookies and cakes. However, the first recorded appearance of the gingerbread man was during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England. So, the story of the Gingerbread Man is not only a beloved fairytale but one that brought us back to the kitchen of the royal court of England.

The Royal Invention of Gingerbread Man

Queen Elizabeth I, who reigned from 1558 to 1603, loved throwing lavish royal dinners that included things like marzipan shaped like fruit, castles and birds. Her court included a skilled gingerbread maker who satisfied her sweet tooth.

Gifts played a significant role in the Elizabethan Court. It was used to show respect and gain favor, assert social status, or climb the social ladder — a way for Elizabeth I and her subjects to consolidate their allegiances and hierarchical order. And Gifts ranged from jewelry and silk stockings to fruit, confectionery, and books. In return, Queen Elizabeth often gave gifts she had received but did not interest her or goods of lesser value than what she had been given.

Queen Elizabeth I (circa 1575, source)

Among her gifts were gingerbread men. She instructed her gingerbread maker to shape them like her suitors, foreign dignitaries, and people in her court. These edibles were decorated with features and outfits, and then served to the very guests who could consume their own likenesses!

Queen Elizabeth also used gingerbread men as a way to assert power within her inner circle. By selectively distributing personalized gingerbread treats, she could confer status or withdraw favor. Receiving a gingerbread likeness from the queen was seen as a royal “stamp of approval” for both esteemed guests and suitors competing for her attention.

These edible works of art became cherished tokens, valued by those fortunate enough to receive them. However, falling out of favor with the queen had its consequences. Courtiers who lost her favor might have felt disheartened as they watched Queen Elizabeth biting off the head of their gingerbread likeness.

The Gingerbread Man Goes Beyond the Royal Court

The tradition of gingerbread men extended beyond the royal court, becoming popular tokens of affection exchanged at fairs in hopes of attracting potential partners. Legend has it that if a young woman could entice the man of her affection to consume one of these biscuits, it would spark love and possibly lead to marriage. Certain gingerbread shapes were believed to hold special meanings, with heart-shaped pieces bringing good fortune in love, and gingerbread rabbits associated with fertility.

However, not all associations with gingerbread men were positive. Superstitions arose, linking these figures with dark powers. Some believed that gingerbread men, especially in human form, possessed dangerous magical properties. Stories circulated about witches crafting gingerbread effigies resembling their enemies, causing death and destruction when eaten.

In Queen Elizabeth’s time, “gingerbread” described something fancy and elegant. But over time, the term took on a negative connotation and became a disparaging term. Gingerbread’s reputation suffered in the centuries after Queen Elizabeth I. Dutch authorities even banned the baking and consumption of molded gingerbread cookies due to fears of witchcraft and malicious intent.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert Loved Christmas and the Gingerbread Cookies

The Fairytail Comeback of the Gingerbread Man

Fortunately, gingerbread enjoyed a revival thanks to the tales of the Brothers Grimm. The tradition of decorating gingerbread houses with colorful candies resurfaced, and gingerbread men became cherished symbols of the festive holiday season.

In England around 1848, Queen Victoria and her German-born husband, Prince Albert, played a significant role in popularizing gingerbread cookies. They introduced these delightful treats as part of the German Christmas traditions they adopted, along with decorating Christmas trees and enjoying the Yule log. Since then, gingerbread cookies have become closely associated with the joyous celebrations of Christmas.

I often write about Christmas it seems, you can also read about the first Christmas card. And to stay focused on food, did you know that Queen Victoria loved the apple crumble.

Who invented the GPS?

Who invented the GPS?

I was on Google Maps, searching for the time needed to go to some grocery store that has some item I can’t find in the ones near my house (the joy of not having a car), and when I did a right-click on my destination I saw weird numbers.

I assumed it is the GPS coordinate, but I don’t even know. Obviously, as you are here, you know I became curious about the topic (It’s the same with every one of my introductions, I need to change things up!).

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Who invented LEGO?

Who invented LEGO?

I recently read about some World records and there were some about LEGOs. Do you think the person who created this toy thought that people would take his building blocks and build some world record constructions? Probably not. But who knows? So, here is the question of the day:

Who Created LEGO?

The short answer is Ole Kirk Christiansen. The long answer is a family story, as Ole started the company and invented the first brick, but it was his son who made the LEGO brick what it is today.

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Who Invented the Lie Detector?

Who Invented the Lie Detector?

At the moment, I’m reading a book about the creation of Wonder Woman (The Secret History of Wonder Woman, by Jill Lepore, if you’re interested), and there’s a lot of talk in it about the invention of the lie detector (but also about feminism and more).

It’s quite interesting and it inspired me to search for more information about some of the subjects Lepore wrote about–I will late probably write articles about them. For now, though, let’s talk about lies!

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Who Invented Gingerbread?

Who Invented Gingerbread?

I was just at the grocery shop, buying some comfort food to be ready for a low-activity weekend, when I saw a box of gingerbread. It was not, however, the one I liked from the brand Prosper. After a quick search, I learned that the production stopped.

It’s been so long that I didn’t even realize it. Well, at least, it led me to explore the history of gingerbread out of curiosity, because now I want to make my own (will see how it turns out).

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Who Invented the Solarpunk genre?

Who Invented the Solarpunk genre?

Unlike the Cyberpunk genre, I only heard of Solarpunk recently. The two seem to be in opposition, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. But first, as I’m probably not the only one who’s not all that up-to-date with modern literary movement, let’s explain:

What is the Solarpunk genre about?

Solarpunk is a literary and artistic movement that focuses on imagining a sustainable future in which nature and human communities function in harmony.

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How Did Jack The Ripper Get His Name?

How Did Jack The Ripper Get His Name?

There’s a strange trope in time-traveling stories or other stories featuring immortals. You always end up with the villain being at one point the real Jack the Ripper. Writing this made me think about the fact that the famous killer is also like Watergate, his name became used as a reference point to name those who followed.

All of this just to arrive at the question I probably knew the answer to some years ago, but clearly forgot since:

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What is Juneteenth and why is it a holiday?

What is Juneteenth and why is it a holiday?

Apparently, today is Juneteenth! As I’m not an American, I’m not familiar with this holiday. In fact, I heard the word Juneteenth for the first time just a few years ago and never knew it was an American holiday.

Well, I’m thinking I’m not the only person in the World Wide World who has no idea of what this is, so I’ll make a quick search and put here what I’m finding–and an A.I. will someday pick it up, and regurgitate it to you, probably.

What is the Story behind Juneteenth?

Long story short, Juneteenth is known to some in the United States as a celebration of the end of slavery in Texas at the end of the Civil War. Observed each year on June 19.

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Who Invented the Gun?

Who Invented the Gun?

I was watching the Michael Shannon-led miniseries “Waco” and this led me to think about all those guns. Seriously! But whatever. I’m here to take a look back at the creation of the gun.

Who Created the Gun?

As this is often the case with this type of question, when it’s this old, it’s hard to put one name on the invention. Before the gun, came the gunpowder.

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Who Invented Chess?

Who Invented Chess?

I recently watched the movie Riders of Justice (Retfærdighedens ryttere, 2020) starring Mads Mikkelsen and there’s a scene with a character saying, I quote, “Chess is the only game in the world where chance and luck aren’t a factor. There are no dice, no jokers or hidden elements. Everything is right in front of us and it is purely your own actions that determine the result.” I thought it was an interesting tidbit. By the way, great movie. Anyway, you know what’s coming next:

Who Created Chess?

First of all, to avoid any confusion, we never know … what is chess? Here is what Merriam-Webster has to say about that:

A game for 2 players each of whom moves 16 pieces according to fixed rules across a checkerboard and tries to checkmate the opponent’s king.

Now that we all know that we are not talking about checkers, let’s take a look at the history of the game.

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