1909: The cosmetics firm L’Oréal began life as the Société Française de Teintures Inoffensives pour Cheveux – the French Harmless Hair Colouring Company.
1908: Bicycle polo made its only appearance in the Olympics as a demonstration sport at the London games, when a German team took on a team from the Irish Bicycle Polo Association.
Source: Stan Greenberg, Whitaker’s Olympic Almanack (2003), p. 77
1907: In 1859, Thomas Austin released two dozen rabbits on his farm near Geelong in eastern Australia. “A few rabbits could do little harm and might provide a touch of home, in addition to a spot of hunting,” he suggested. Austin’s “few rabbits” quickly multiplied to become millions, which destroyed crops and pasture and contributed to the extinction or major decline of several native animal and plant species.
Hunting, trapping and poisoning failed to contain the pests. Western Australia constructed 3,200 kilometres of wire mesh barriers – the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 Rabbit Proof Fences – but by the time they were completed in 1907, rabbits had already got round, over, under or through them.
1906: “It was so quiet there, so eventless, so perfect for intellectual work.” The contented scholar was Leon Trotsky and the idyllic location was the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg, where Trotsky had been incarcerated. He joked, “I sit and work and feel perfectly sure that I can’t be arrested” – an important consideration for a career revolutionary.
When he was transferred from solitary confinement, he admitted that it was “with a tinge of regret”. In contrast, the House of Preliminary Detention was crowded and bustling, but pleasant in a different way. “The cells were not locked during the day, and we could take our walks all together. For hours at a time we would go into raptures over playing leap-frog.”
Source: Leon Trotsky, My Life: The Rise and Fall of a Dictator (1930), pp. 164–5
1905: Graham Greene’s first memory was of “a dead dog at the bottom of my pram; it had been run over at a country crossroads . . . and the nurse put it at the bottom of the pram and pushed me home.”
Source: Graham Greene, Journey Without Maps (1981), p. 36
1904: The bronze medal in the lacrosse competition at the St. Louis Olympic Games was won by a team of Mohawk Indians, representing Canada. The team lineup included Almighty Voice, Snake Eater, Rain in Face and Man Afraid Soap.
Source: David Wallechinsky, The Complete Book of the Olympics (2004), p. 1159
1903: Rather than condemn lynchings outright, The Commercial Appeal, a Memphis newspaper, contended that they should be judged on their individual merits. It was acceptable, for example, to lynch a black rapist, but wrong to lynch a black person who refused to be vaccinated.
Source: Thomas Harrison Baker, The Memphis Commercial Appeal: The History of a Southern Newspaper (1971), p. 206
1902: “Dearest Mama . . . After lunch I went to the dentist, and am now minus my front tooth,” wrote Harvard undergraduate Franklin Roosevelt on 19 May. “He cut it off very neatly and painlessly, took impressions of the root and space, and is having the porcelain tip baked. I hope to have it put on next Friday, and in the meantime I shall avoid all society, as I talk with a lithp and look like a thight.”
One week later: “My tooth is no longer a dream, it is an accomplished fact. It was put in on Friday and is perfect in form, color, lustre, texture, etc. I feel like a new person and have already been proposed to by three girls.”
Source: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, The Roosevelt Letters: Being the Personal Correspondence of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Early Years (1887–1904), ed. Elliott Roosevelt (1949), pp. 408–9
1900: Can worms strut? Apparently so. At his brother’s funeral, the author Jules Renard observed a fat worm at the graveside (“un gros ver au bord”) strutting about, looking very pleased with things (“on dirait qu’il se réjouit, qu’il se pavane”).
Source: Jules Renard, Journal 1887–1910 (1990), p. 447
Illustration by Benjamin Rabier in Jules Renard’s Histoires Naturelles