Author Archives: Bob Welbaum

Remembering the Sultana Disaster

Sometimes greed is a greater enemy than an opposing army. In late April 1865, the American Civil War was over and no soldiers were more eager to return home than released prisoners of war. Thus Camp Fisk, on the Mississippi River near Vicksburg, was a beehive of activity. Camp Fisk had been established for the

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How to Foil Nazis

The Nazis have just invaded your country and your life is in danger because you have two Nobel prizes you are safeguarding for friends — one is Jewish and the other is an opponent of National Socialism.  What do you do? That was the dilemma faced by Niels Bohr in 1940 when Germany occupied Copenhagen,

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Happy Birthday to the Postage Stamp!

From the May 1st edition of The Writer’s Almanac  — “On this date [May 1st] in 1840, the first official adhesive postage stamp was issued in Great Britain. Up until the late 1830s, the recipient of the letter was supposed to pay upon delivery. Rates were inconsistent: postage was calculated based on number of sheets of paper, and the distance

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Some Tips on Collecting Autographs

Here are some practical tips on collecting autographs from my days as an editor in the collectibles business. Who wouldn’t like to have a memento from their favorite movie star or sports hero? But the problem with collecting everyday items is verifying authenticity. If someone claims to have a shirt that once belonged to Elvis, how

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So You Want To Be a Teacher…

I’m in the middle of a long-term substitute teaching job — six out of seven weeks, and it’s reminding me about all the little irritants that come with teaching. I’m not talking discipline.  I’ve had discipline problems in the past, and there are none in the five classes I have in this current job.  I’m

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Happy Birthday Library of Congress

The Library of Congress was established on April 24, 1800.  It was originally founded to provide a legislative library for members of Congress.  In just over a decade, the collection had grown to over 3000 books.  There was a major setback during the War of 1812 when the invading British burned the Capitol building and the

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The Lighter Side of Science

I know there are some people who simply don’t trust science.  And there are times when mistrust is warranted.  Remember cold fusion?  Of course, there have also been outlandish-sounding theories that have turned out to be correct, like continental drift.  That’s why there is the scientific method and research needs to be replicated multiple times

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The Original Horse Whisperer

I’ve always liked animals, so I was intrigued by an article about horse trainer Monty Roberts. Monty has discovered a way to communicate with horses, and uses it to train them gently and without violence.  When watching wild horses as a boy, he realized they were communicating silently with each other.  He was able to learn this language

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