Categorized | Opinion

A few ‘answers’ to start your day

Several weeks ago this column carried the title, Some totally useless information.

Perhaps you agreed. Today you might say to yourself, “well, McGowan has done it again.”

Whereas the first column’s information was taken from a book titled The Book of Useless Information, today’s has a more positive title. The information has been taken from a book titled The Book of Answers, information from the New York Public Library. The book was written by Barbara Berliner and published in 1992.

There are 27 chapters of different categories of interest in the book. I thought that it would be fun for this column to meander through the chapters. I hope that’s OK.

Incidentally, The Book of Answers is the product of 6.2 million questions asked of the New York Public Library Telephone Reference Service over its more than two decades of existence.

Every 10 seconds, eight or nine hours a day, six days a week, callers across the globe pose questions on every subject from art to zoology.

Here goes:

n How many American casualties were there in the American Revolution? Unofficial studies indicate that about 4,500 men died in battle and over 6,000 were wounded. This does not count death by illness.

n How many Americans fought for the British in the American Revolution? Approximately 50,000 American Indians, mainly in Canada, on the frontier, and in the South also fought for Britain

n Did a cow really start the great Chicago fire of October 1871? A reporter, Michael Ahern, admitted he created the legend in order to make a better story.

n How much has the US national debt increased over the nation’s history? In 1800, the national debt was $83 million. In 1988, it was 2.6 trillion.

n What are the three most popular natural attractions in the US? That would be the Grand Canyon, YellowstoneNational Park and Niagara Falls.

n What was the first minimum wage? When first instituted in 1938, it was 25 cents an hour. On a personal note, in 1938 I worked on Saturdays at the U-Tote-Em grocery store in Jackson, Tenn. from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. for $2. A penny for each dollar was taken out for social security. I was a rich dude with $1.98 to last me all week. It cost 25 cents to go to the movies, and popcorn was a nickel.

n Why is America not named after Columbus? Columbus did not realize he had discovered a new continent, but Amerilgo Vespucci, who explored the New World between 1497 and 1504, did. German mapmaker Martine Waldseemuller first applied the name to the new continent on a map published in 1507.

n After World War I, how large was the British Empire? The British Empire covered over 14 million square miles and dominated 450 million people. It encompassed a quarter of the world’s population and land surface.

n Which was insured for the most money, Fred Astaire’s feet, Betty Grable’s legs or Jimmy Durante’s nose? Astair’s feet, insured for $650,000, were at the top of the list. Grable’s legs were insured for only $250,000 and Durante’s nose for $140,000.

No more space. But there is much more in the pages of this little book. I realize you can “google” the information. But I thought that we could have a bit of fun looking through a book of answers.

Robert McGowan is a former Collierville resident and professor of biology at The University of Memphis.IMG_1709

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