Ten Pilgrim Facts You Need to Know

Ten Pilgrim Facts You Need to Know

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The story of the pilgrims of Plymouth Colony is well known regarding the basic facts: they sailed on the Mayflower, arrived off the coast of Massachusetts on 11 November 1620 CE, came ashore at Plymouth Rock, half of them died the first winter, the survivors established the first successful colony in New England, and later celebrated what has come to be known as the First Thanksgiving in the company of their Native American neighbors. Their success encouraged further colonization and, within ten years of their arrival, English colonies proliferated along the east coast of North America in what would become the United States.

The pilgrims' story had already become a foundational myth of the United States by the 19th century CE when President Abraham Lincoln (served 1861-1865 CE) decreed the 4th Thursday of November the national holiday of Thanksgiving, and since then, the above story is repeated with little change. The pilgrims were human beings, not characters, and their story has much greater depth than the glossed version presented annually in November in the United States through pageants, readings, and other observances. The following are ten pilgrim facts frequently overlooked, misrepresented, or ignored.

Wore Bright Clothing

Contrary to the traditional images, the pilgrims did not wear tall, black hats with buckles on them, nor did they have buckles on their shoes.

The pilgrims did not restrict themselves to all-black attire and, actually, wore brightly colored clothing most of the time. Their black outfits were worn on the sabbath and on occasions known as Days of Humiliation when they would repent of their sins and ask forgiveness. In their daily lives, their wardrobes were fairly extensive, and various articles were of many different colors. This has been established through the inventories of personal possessions written up for probate after a death. Although Pilgrim Fathers such as William Bradford (l. 1590-1657 CE), William Brewster (l. 1568-1644 CE) and Edward Winslow (l. 1595-1655 CE) are routinely depicted in their dark pilgrim garb, their inventories show a much brighter side.

Bradford was fond of a scarlet waistcoat and violet cloak, Brewster favored different colored caps, a violet coat, and green underwear, and Winslow, like many of the others, wore russet garments (a vest or cloak) over a white linen shirt. Contrary to the traditional images, the pilgrims did not wear tall, black hats with buckles on them, nor did they have buckles on their shoes; this image is a 19th-century CE construct. Buckles were unavailable to the common people of England c. 1620 CE, and even if they had been, the pilgrims frowned on ornamentation of any kind.

Mayflower Was One of Two Ships

Although the name of the Mayflower is well-known as the pilgrims' famous ship, it was never intended to carry them all to North America. The people who became known as the pilgrims were Puritan separatists who had relocated from England to Leiden, the Netherlands, escaping the persecution of James I of England (r. 1603-1625 CE) and his Anglican Church which did not tolerate religious dissent. After 12 years in the Netherlands, they had to relocate again and purchased a passenger ship known as the Speedwell to take them across the Atlantic. The Mayflower, rented for them by the merchant adventurer Thomas Weston (l. 1584 - c. 1647 CE) who arranged financing for the expedition, was only intended to serve as their cargo ship and carry any overflow of passengers.

Once the group embarked in July 1620 CE, however, the Speedwell leaked, and they had to return to land twice for repairs, finally abandoning the ship, and a number of passengers then boarded the Mayflower while others remained behind. It was later discovered, according to Bradford, that the captain of the Speedwell had overmasted the ship on purpose in order to make it leak so he could get out of his contract which called for him and his crew to remain in North America for a year so the Speedwell could serve the colonists' needs. Once the Mayflower sailed off, the Speedwell's masts were trimmed, and it continued in service until 1635 CE without a problem.

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Not All Mayflower Passengers Were Pilgrims

Initially, the separatist congregation of Leiden contracted with Weston to transport only themselves to the New World. Weston was not interested in their religious convictions or plans to establish their own community, however, as his chief responsibility was returning a profit to investors. He, therefore, hired or invited a number of others to join the expedition who were Anglicans and whom the separatists referred to as Strangers (those not of their faith), including some of the best-known members of the Plymouth Colony such as Stephen Hopkins (l. 1581-1644 CE) and Richard Warren (l. c. 1578-1628 CE). Other well-known Strangers were Captain Myles Standish (l. 1584-1656 CE) and John Alden (l. 1598-1687 CE), but Weston had nothing to do with these two. Standish was a friend of the congregation who was personally invited, while Alden was a cooper and carpenter who served as a member of the crew.

They Were Supposed to Land in Virginia

The Mayflower was supposed to cross the Atlantic during mid-summer on a direct route to the Virginia Patent where the English had established the Jamestown Colony of Virginia in 1607 CE. Although Jamestown struggled at first, by 1620 CE, it was thriving due to its lucrative tobacco crop, and the Leiden congregation had planned to settle to the north, far enough so they would not be bothered by those who did not share their faith but close enough to enable them to ask for help.

Due to the troubles with the Speedwell, the Mayflower did not leave England until 6 September 1620 CE when the seas were rougher, and the ship was blown off course, finally sighting land on 9 November 1620 CE and recognizing it as Massachusetts. Christopher Jones, Captain of the Mayflower (l. 1570-1622 CE), tried to make a run down the coast to Virginia, but lack of supplies, bad weather, and dangerous shoals prevented this, requiring him to turn about and settle the passengers in Massachusetts. If it were not for the scheme of the Speedwell's captain, the expedition would have sailed in July, probably landed in Virginia, and the history of the colonization of New England would be quite different.

Mayflower Compact Influence

The Mayflower passengers' patent was only valid in Virginia, and once it was determined that they would have to settle in Massachusetts, some of the Strangers pointed out that now they would live as they pleased since the patent – and so English law – had no authority in their new home. Members of the Leiden congregation objected to this, recognizing that they would all have to work together to survive, much less turn a profit and so some of them, most likely led by the future first governor John Carver (l. 1584-1621 CE), composed the Mayflower Compact, a legal document establishing a democratic form of government which gave every man over the age of 21 a vote in the laws of the colony.

This agreement was signed by 41 of the men on board the Mayflower and would serve as the political and legal basis for the colony until 1691 CE when Plymouth was absorbed by the larger Massachusetts Bay Company. The document would have far-reaching influence, however, first in the creation of the Articles of Confederation of New England in 1643 CE and then inspiring state constitutions, the Declaration of Independence, and the United States Constitution.

Rejection of John Smith

The stories of Plymouth Colony and Jamestown are often told as though the one had nothing to do with the other, but actually, the tales are entwined. When the pilgrims were researching and organizing their expedition, they initially approached Captain John Smith (l. 1580-1631 CE) to be their guide. Smith was one of the original colonists of Jamestown and its leader until he was injured in a gunpowder explosion in 1609 CE and returned to England. After he recovered, he sailed back to the New World in 1614 CE and mapped New England, even naming the place (or asking King James I to name it) where the pilgrims would finally settle.

After conferring with Smith, however, the pilgrims felt he was too expensive and his character was too strong and he might come to dominate the group. Smith would later criticize them as stubborn fanatics who could learn nothing “till they be beaten with their own rod” (Philbrick, 60) He had a point in that, had they at least made use of his maps, they would have seen he designated the site of modern-day Boston as the best for a settlement but, instead, they spent over a month – 11 November - 21 December 1620 CE – searching the coastline for a suitable place to establish themselves, finally deciding on Plymouth. After they rejected Smith, the pilgrims then invited Myles Standish to be their military consultant and guide, though Standish had never been to North America. The only passenger aboard the Mayflower who had any experience in the New World was Stephen Hopkins.

Stephen Hopkins & Shakespeare

Stephen Hopkins left England aboard the ship the Sea Venture to supply Jamestown in 1609 CE as assistant to the Anglican priest Richard Buck who was being sent as chaplain. The Sea Venture also carried the new governor, Sir Thomas Gates (l. 1485-1622 CE), was commanded by Sir George Somers (l. 1554-1610 CE), and was wrecked in a storm off the coast of Bermuda. Bermuda had been discovered by the Spanish explorer Juan de Bermudez (d. 1570 CE) in 1505 CE but was never colonized because of strange sounds and odd sights reported by the crew (most likely tropical birds) interpreted as demons and witches and the islands were known as the Isle of Devils.

the Sea Venture's wreck would later inform Shakespeare's play The Tempest & Hopkins would inspire the character of Stefano.

The writer William Strachey (l. 1572-1621 CE), who was also on board the Sea Venture, wrote an account of the wreck and their time marooned on Bermuda which included details of Hopkins' troubles with Gates when Hopkins suggested that their patent held no authority here and people could live as they wished. Hopkins, in fact, was almost hanged for treason by Gates until Somers, Strachey, and others intervened. Strachey's account would later inform William Shakespeare's play The Tempest and Hopkins would inspire the character of Stefano. After months on Bermuda, the passengers and crew departed in two ships they had built and reached Jamestown in May of 1610 CE. Hopkins left for England in 1614 CE when he received word his first wife had died, and his experiences would later serve the Plymouth Colony well.

King James I & the Bible

The King James I referenced in the pilgrims' story as their persecutor is the same monarch who decreed a new translation of the Bible – the King James Translation – one of the most often-cited versions of the work due to the beauty of its language and phrasing. The Anglican Church was established by King Henry VIII of England (r. 1509-1547 CE) who broke with the Catholic Church and authorized the translation known as The Great Bible in 1538 CE, but this work was never as popular as the Geneva Bible (first published in England in 1576 CE) which was heavily influenced by the theology of John Calvin (l. 1509-1564 CE) who directly influenced the vision of the Puritans.

The Leiden congregation used the Geneva Bible in their services and so did other religious dissenters. In an effort to create a more popular version of the Bible which would be aligned with Anglican beliefs and practices, James I ordered the creation of his own version of the work to be completed by 47 scholars, overseen by the Archbishop of Canterbury Richard Bancroft (l. 1544-1610 CE), and the work was first published in 1611 CE. James I's persecution of religious dissenters and the creation of the King James Bible both arose from James I's need to impose control over the spiritual lives of his subjects as he equated the power of the Church with his hold on the throne.

Samoset & Squanto

Samoset (also given as Somerset, l. 1590-1653 CE) and Squanto (also known as Tisquantum, l. 1585-1622 CE) are the two well-known Native Americans who are regularly featured in the story of the First Thanksgiving. They were not members of the Pokanoket tribe which formed the greater part of the Wampanoag Confederacy governed by Ousamequin (better known by his title, Massasoit, l. 1581-1661 CE) who would be so instrumental in helping the Plymouth Colony. According to the neighboring colonist Thomas Morton (l. 1579-1647 CE), Samoset was a prisoner of Massasoit who was offered his freedom in return for acting as envoy to the Plymouth Colony. On 16 March 1621 CE, Samoset walked into the settlement, greeting the colonists in English, and later introduced them to Squanto and Massasoit.

Squanto had been kidnapped in 1614 CE by Thomas Hunt, an associate of John Smith's, to be sold into slavery in Spain. He made his way to England and then back to North America in the company of Captain Thomas Dermer. Squanto found his entire village had died of the plague, and Dermer was attacked and driven off by the Native Americans and so Massasoit took Squanto in. He may have been a prisoner as well and served the chief primarily as interpreter with the English. Between 1621-1622 CE, Squanto secretly tried to undermine Massasoit's authority with the Wampanoag Confederacy, playing the colonists, tribal clans, and Massasoit against each other. He died, possibly poisoned by agents of Massasoit, in 1622 CE. Samoset disappears from the narrative after fulfilling his role as envoy.

Massasoit & the Peace Treaty

Massasoit and then-governor John Carver signed a peace treaty on 22 March 1621 CE which, though strained at times, would be honored by both parties until after Massasoit's death in 1661 CE. It is sometimes claimed that the pilgrims took advantage of the Wampanoag Confederacy, but Massasoit initiated contact because his population had been so greatly reduced by disease that he had fallen in status and power and had to pay tribute to the neighboring Narragansett tribe while, previously, they had owed it to him. By allying himself with the English, he hoped to regain his former stature – as he did – and the treaty was a means to that end.

First Thanksgiving

The account of the First Thanksgiving is given in the work known as Mourt's Relation (published 1622 CE, republished 1841 CE) by Bradford and Winslow, an account of the first year of the colony, and in Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation (published 1856 CE). The passage from Mourt's Relation is more detailed and reads:

Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king, Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain [Myles Standish] and others. (82)

There is no mention here, nor in Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation, of the Wampanoag being invited to the celebration. Most likely, Massasoit and his warriors were already nearby on another mission when they heard the discharge of the muskets and came, in accordance with the treaty, to see if the colonists needed help. The First Thanksgiving meal was most likely wild fowl (including turkey, as Bradford mentions them in Of Plymouth Plantation, Book II. ch. 2), corn, beans, squash, fish, lobster, eels, mussels, with berries and nuts for dessert and beer, wine, and “strong water” (liquor) as drink. There were no pies as the pilgrims did not have ovens yet and had no butter nor wheat for crusts.


The pilgrims and the Wampanoag would live peacefully with each other until after the original colonists and Massasoit were dead. Edward Winslow once saved Massasoit's life, and Massasoit was instrumental in returning one of the boys of the colony, who had gotten lost and wound up with the Nauset tribe, back home. Winslow's son, Josiah Winslow (l. 1628-1680 CE) and Massasoit's son Metacom (also known as King Philip, l. 1638-1676 CE), would face each other as adversaries during King Philip's War (1675-1678 CE) which broke the Wampanoag Confederacy and ended Native American sovereignty in the region as, after the colonists of Plymouth and the other settlements won, Native Americans were sold into slavery, executed, or moved west to reservations.

For a brief time, however, the colonists of Plymouth and the Native Americans held a unique place in history as they banded together to help each other survive in a changing world each needed the other to navigate. Of all the colonies established by the English along the east coast of North America, only the Plymouth Colony honored the treaty they signed with the natives of the land. Later treaties were certainly signed and ratified but were not honored or, if they were, only until they restricted the colonists in taking more land from the natives. Of all the known and little-known facts regarding the pilgrims, this one alone makes them worthy of remembrance, honor, and celebration.

Beijing Facts: 10 Things Most People Didn't Know about Beijing

The Great Wall is a must-see for visitors to Beijing.

Beijing, previously known as Peking, is the capital city of the People's Republic of China.

We're sure you knew that, but did you know that it is home to the longest wall in the world, as well as the largest palace in the world?

Dominating the north of China, there is a lot going on in Beijing. Here are 10 interesting facts you should know if you're already planning your trip to Beijing, or if you're just starting to think about it.

13 Facts You Should Know About the Muslim Pilgrimage

Each year hundreds of thousands of Muslims enter the Saudi Arabian city for the annual event &ndash hajj. Pilgrims retrace the steps of prophets and recount their devotion to God. Each year the amount of participants continue to grow. Here are the facts you should know -

  1. Islam has five pillars - the hajj is the fifth pillar. It is considered an obligation for every Muslim to perform at least once in their lifetime if they are able. Financial constraints are not necessarily considered a reason to not embark on the hajj - instead issues that pertain to one's health are considered excusable. The hajj is commanded in the Quran - "And pilgrimage to the House is a duty unto God for mankind, for him who can find the way thither" (3:97) - and its rites were established by Muhammad, but Muslim tradition dates it back to Adam and Abraham, who were instructed by angels in the performance of the rites. The hajj was one of the last public acts of worship performed by Muhammad before his death.
  2. Those who perform the hajj are called hajjis, and sometime these individuals adopt the title in front of their name following their accomplishment of the ritual. The title is recognized highly of within the Muslim culture.
  3. During the pilgrimage, men are required to wrap themselves in two pieces of white sheet. Women remain in a hijab covering their hair and neck, but those who usually wear face coverings are not allowed to do so during the hajj.
  4. There is no gender segregation while at the Grand Mosque during the hajj, unlike during many other Muslim rites. Men and women stand side by side in what some have said is meant to show everyone's equality before God. However, after the hajj the gender segregation is again recognized.
  5. Muslims can visit Mecca and surrounding holy sites any time of the year, but the hajj falls during the eighth and the 12th of the month of Dhul Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic calendar. The ritual at any other time of the year is called "umrah" Umrah means "to visit a populated place."
  6. The height of the hajj falls during the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha, a time when Muslims commemorate the Prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son.
  7. Nine percent of Muslims around the world said they made the pilgrimage to Mecca, according to a Pew poll. Those living closer to Mecca are more likely to have performed the hajj. 20% of Egyptian Muslims say they have completed the pilgrimage, while just 3% of Indonesian Muslims say they have.
  8. The hajj has turned into a major industry, as trips can often be pricey. Hajj packages from the U.S. oftentimes run upwards of $5,000 in U.S. currency. On average 14,500 American Muslims complete the hajj each year.
  9. Officials have been forced in recent years to limit the number of pilgrims, as more and more people have applied in recent years. More than 3.1 million people performed the hajj in 2013. To accommodate the crowd, Saudi authorities have sought to expand the Grand Mosque, which sits around Islam's holiest site, the cube-like building called the Kaaba.
  10. Many Muslims worldwide have criticized the Saudi government for commercializing and seeking to cash in on the pilgrimage. The Muslims believe the Saudi government is tainting an event that's supposed to be purely holy and self-serving.
  11. A crane used to expand the Grand Mosque in Mecca toppled over, crashing through the mosque and killing more than 100 people a week before the 2015 hajj was set to begin. The accident has been cited as the deadliest crane collapse in modern history, with the previous most deadly incident being the collapse of a construction crane in New York City in 2008 which killed seven people.

  • On July 31, 1987, Iranian pilgrims riot, causing the deaths of over 400 people.
  • On July 9, 1989, two bombs exploded, killing one pilgrim and wounding another 16. Saudi authorities beheaded 16 Kuwaiti Shiite Muslims for bombings after originally blaming Iranian terrorists.
  • On July 2, 1990, a stampede inside a pedestrian tunnel leading to Mecca led to the deaths of 1402 pilgrims.
  • In 1994, another stampede killed 270 pilgrims.
  • On February 1, 2004, 244 Muslim pilgrims were killed and another 244 injured in a stampede during the stoning of the devil ritual.

The Muslims have worked very hard, over the years, to keep the hajj a sacred event. Despite the devastations and financial constraints that the economy has imposed on the population, Muslims continue to allow their faith to drive them towards the bigger picture. As time goes on and modernity progresses, the Muslim community will need to dedicate their efforts towards maintaining the pureness of their life changing pilgrimage.

9 thoughts on &ldquo It’s Pliny Time! 10 Things You Need to Know About Russian River Brewing Company’s Most Famous Beer &rdquo

I don’t like to stand in line either. But I would like to try a Pliny the Younger (having drank many Pliny the Elders). If that opportunity were to arise I would certainly take it.

I’m a Pliny The Younger (PTY) and Russian River Brewing Company (RRBC) supporter and here’s why…

In 2016 a very good friend of mine was suffering from pancreatic cancer (stage 4). He was mostly a cocktail guy and he & I would meet for lunch a couple times a month and have a cocktail or two. I suggested he try drinking beer to counter the weight loss he was experiencing so we tried a couple at the nearest brew pub and he took a liking to them.

That very afternoon I was driving through downtown Santa Rosa, noticed PTY was in full swing and got excited about the idea that maybe we could go and enjoy this great event!! Neither he or I had ever tasted Pliney The Younger so we didn’t really know what was in store for us. On a gut feeling I called RRBC and left a vm message explaining that my 75 year old friend might really love this opportunity but that in his weakened condition he wouldn’t be able to handle standing in line. To my surprise, the next morning I received a call from the manager telling me that me and my friend would be welcome to visit without waiting in line!!

We coordinated the date & time and sure enough when we arrived they had a table for us and treated my friend and I so graciously that I will forever be a fan. My friend passed a few months later but I will never forget that grin he had as he sat there enjoying one of his last great treats in life.

RRBC is more than just a brewpub. It is more than a “world famous” brewpub. It is our “community” brewpub, owned, operated and managed by people who show their connection with our community in many ways. So as the micro breweries come and go and favorite brews are exalted, my loyalties will remain with the local pub with a “True Heart”.

Thank you all so much!! Cheers to the memory of my departed friend!!

Great story. I have had friends who passed. I am glad you were able to get him there. Kudos to you. Be proud of yourself.

10 Things You Need To Know About The Dream Act

Although I have certainly expressed support for some kind of guest worker program for illegal aliens, I do NOT support the Dream Act. The Democrats would have you believe that it’s just about allowing young people whose parents brought them here illegally to become citizens. But don’t buy it.

1. The DREAM Act is NOT limited to children, and it will be funded on the backs of hard working, law-abiding Americans.

2. The DREAM Act PROVIDES SAFE HARBOR FOR ANY ALIEN, including criminals, from being removed or deported if they simply submit an application.

3. Certain criminal aliens will be eligible for amnesty under the DREAM Act.

4. Estimates suggest that at least 2.1 million illegal aliens will be eligible for the DREAM Act amnesty. In reality, we have no idea how many illegal aliens will apply.

5. Illegal aliens will get in-state tuition benefits.

6. The DREAM Act does not require that an illegal alien finish any type of degree (vocational, two-year, or bachelor’s degree) as a condition of amnesty.

7. The DREAM Act does not require that an illegal alien serve in the military as a condition for amnesty, and there is already a legal process in place for illegal aliens to obtain U.S. citizenship through military service.

8. Despite their current illegal status, DREAM Act aliens will be given all the rights that legal immigrants receive — including the legal right to sponsor their parents and extended family members for immigration.

9. Current illegal aliens will get federal student loans, federal work study programs, and other forms of federal financial aid.

10. DHS is prohibited from using the information provided by illegal aliens whose DREAM Act amnesty applications are denied to initiate their removal proceedings or investigate or prosecute fraud in the application process.

This is what you need to know. Pres. Obama met with leaders from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and said that he wants the DREAM Act passed before lawmakers adjourn in December.

The lame duck Democrats are going to try to push through The Dream Act with a House vote. Outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tentatively scheduled a vote on the Dream Act for Nov. 29, the Monday Congress returns from Thanksgiving recess. That’s right. THIS COMING MONDAY. This is how they do things. It’s the same sneaky tactics the Democrats used with Obamacare.

10 Facts About the United States Postal Service (USPS) That You Need To Know

So, think you know everything about the United States Postal Service? Probably not. Yet, the Postal Service is probably one of the most omnipresent government agencies there is, delivering mail to each and every one of us on a near-daily basis.

Here are 10 facts you need to know about the USPS:

Fact 1: The system that became the USPS predates the Declaration of Independence.

Yes, Ben Franklin — considered to be the father of the Postal Service — had been appointed postmaster general of the British Colonies in America in 1753, having served since the 1730s as the postmaster of Philadelphia. It was at this point he began establishing the network of carriers that would eventually become the USPS.

Franklin was fired from his post by British authorities for “pernicious activity” in 1774 as the resistance in the American Colonies began to ramp up. He was reappointed as the very first postmaster general in 1775 by the Continental Congress — a position which predates the Declaration of Independence by a year.

Richard Bache succeeded Franklin just a year later in November of 1776. Franklin would still go on to make something of himself, though.

Fact 2: The line of postmasters general has been unbroken since Franklin.

However, the position (and the Postal Service the postmaster general presides over) has changed over the years. The position went from being appointed by the Continental Congress in 1789, when presidents began appointing them. In 1829, postmaster general became a cabinet position. Under the Nixon administration, it was moved back to a non-cabinet position as the Postal Service became an independent entity.

Franklin still remains the most famous of the postmasters general by a fairly wide margin, proof that the position won’t necessarily vault you to fame and fortune. The current postmaster general is Megan J. Brennan. She began her time with the USPS as a letter carrier in 1986 and has worked her way to the top. She’s also the first woman to hold the position.

Fact 3: Three presidents have been with the USPS in some capacity.

Abraham Lincoln, the most distinguished president to hold a position with the service, was the postmaster of New Salem, Illinois. He would personally deliver mail to those who didn’t pick it up at the post office from 1833 until 1837, when the post office closed. Harry S. Truman was technically the postmaster of Grandview, Missouri, from 1914 until 1915, but only nominally. A widow named Ella Hall did the job — and collected the $530 salary. William McKinley was a mail clerk in Poland, Ohio, before he went into teaching.

Other surprising famous people who worked with the Postal Service, according to Mental Floss, include actors Steve Carrell and Sherman Helmsley (I can only assume the latter moved on up to the East Side and got himself a piece of the pie), a young Walt Disney, an oft-intoxicated William Faulkner (the worst of the lot, Faulkner would spend his time drinking or playing cards and would sometimes throw mail away when forced to resign, he penned a letter which stated “(a)s long as I live under the capitalistic system, I expect to have my life influenced by the demands of moneyed people. But I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp”) and flyer Charles Lindbergh.

Probably less surprising is another oft-intoxicated author, Charles Bukowski, whose thinly-disguised exploits while with the Postal Service became the material for his best-known book, “Post Office.”

Fact 4: The USPS still uses mule-based delivery. Seriously.

Mules and horses played a major part in the formation of the Postal Service. However, we think of them as part of a bygone era. That’s mostly the case, unless you’re the Havasupai Indians of Arizona. They live at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and it would be difficult for any modified mail van to make it down there. So, mules are used on a special eight-mile trail to bring mail and supplies to the tribe.

The Postal Service currently boasts 47,000 alternative fuel vehicles it’s unknown whether the mules are counted in this total.

Fact 5: There are over 200 federal laws protecting your mail.

In spite of the fact that the USPS only recently went digital with a preview service, your mail could be a lot safer than anything that you send from your Gmail account — especially since there are a ton of laws on the books making sure nobody does anything untoward with your mail.

Among them are 18 U.S. Code Section 1700 (“Whoever, having taken charge of any mail, voluntarily quits or deserts the same before he has delivered it into the post office at the termination of the route, or to some known mail carrier, messenger, agent, or other employee in the Postal Service authorized to receive the same, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both”) 18 U.S. Code Section 1701 (“Obstruction of Mails Generally,” punishable by six months behind bars or a fine), 18 U.S. Code Section 1702, (“Obstruction of correspondence,” which probably carries a much stiffer potential sentence of five years because embezzlement and stealing of business secrets are covered under its strictures), and, well, you get the idea. The Postal Service reported 5,538 arrests and 4,679 convictions in 2017 alone.

Fact 6: George Washington was the first president to appear on a stamp.

This seems like pretty much a no-brainer. He first appeared on a stamp back in 1847. He’s also appeared on the most stamps of any president, as well. There are only 23 of the originals left, however I guess collectors weren’t as big back then.

If you want, you can buy one of the originals for the low, low price of $1,100.

Fact 7: The first commemorative stamp was issued in honor of Christopher Columbus in 1893.

Martha Washington was the first woman to get her own commemorative stamp in 1902, while Booker T. Washington became the first minority to be so honored in 1940.

Today, commemorative stamps are pretty much as common as could be. In 2018, we’ll see stamps for musicians John Lennon and Lena Horne, sweater pioneer Mister Rogers and first female astronaut Sally Ride. You can also buy stamps commemorating Illinois statehood, Meyer lemons, bioluminescent life and the peace rose (“one of the most popular roses of all time,” a sneak-peak of the 2018 stamps reads).

Fact 8: The USPS handles 493.4 million pieces of mail per day.

That works out to 5,711 pieces a second. Thanks to online shopping, the Postal Service is actually still very relevant. They shipped 850 million packages during the holiday season last year, an increase of 10 percent over the previous year. This was part of 15 billion pieces of mail handled by the service between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve in 2017.

In fact, thanks to Amazon, the Postal Service now delivers certain packages on Sundays — something unthinkable in most of the USPS’ history.

Fact 9: In spite of this, the USPS lost $2.7 billion in fiscal year 2017.

There are still a lot of problems with the Postal Service, as evinced by its relatively sizable loss last year. Some of the issues? According to Forbes, cost control, low-margin package deliveries and using their monopoly on letter carriage to finance these low-margin services.

While mail volume in general is down — five billion pieces in 2017 — parcel size is up (11.4 percent), which means less profit for the Postal Service.

Postmaster General Brennan thinks that the situation is manageable: “Our financial situation is serious, though solvable,” she said. “There is a path to profitability and long-term financial stability. We are taking actions to control costs and compete effectively for revenues in addition to legislative and regulatory reform. We continue to optimize our network, enhance our products and services, and invest to better serve the American public.”

Fact 10: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” isn’t the Postal Service’s motto.

In fact, the service has no motto, in spite of the famous boilerplate phrase being attributed to them. According to the Postal Service’s blog, “The phrase comes from book 8, paragraph 98, of ‘The Persian Wars’ by Herodotus, a Greek historian. During the wars between the Greeks and Persians (500-449 B.C.), the Persians operated a system of mounted postal couriers who served with great fidelity.”

While it’s not an official motto, it does appear chiseled above what’s arguably the most famous post office in America, the James A. Farley Building at Eighth Avenue and 33d Street in Manhattan.

While it may not be as vital to the nation’s functioning as it used to be, the Postal Service is still a major part of our lives — and, as long as we keep on ordering off of Amazon, it will be for a long time to come. Rest assured it will keep on shipping packages, as well as generating more interesting facts for decades, if not centuries, to come.

5. The fall of Rome strengthened the church in the Middle Ages.

As the Roman Empire declined throughout the Fifth Century, Christianity continued to grow throughout the world. When Rome fell in 476 AD, the Church felt the impact of the barbarian conquest. Christianity had unified as a religion by this time and was declared the religion of the state by Constantine. The hierarchal structure of the church stepped in to fill holes that the empire left. Suddenly, the church became involved in politics and education giving the institution more wealth and power than it had ever experienced.

Crusading Orders

Two important military orders were established in the early 12th century: the Knights Hospitaller and the Knights Templar. Both were monastic orders whose members took vows of chastity and poverty, yet they were also militarily trained. Their primary purpose was to protect and aid pilgrims to the Holy Land. Both orders did very well financially, particularly the Templars, who were notoriously arrested and disbanded by Philip IV of France in 1307. The Hospitallers outlasted the Crusades and continue, in a much-altered form, to this day. Other orders were established later, including the Teutonic Knights.

9. Owen believed that the goal of the Christian life was knowing God.

Before Owen, no one had ever shown clearly how Christians relate to each person of the Trinity. Owen described the goal of the gospel as revealing the love of the Father, who sent the Son as a redeemer of his people, who would be indwelt, provided with gifts, and united together by the Spirit. Owen’s Communion with God is among his most celebrated achievements—and no wonder. It is the exhalation of his devotion to Father, Son, and Spirit, and the discovery of the limitless love of God.

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As we look towards Thanksgiving, here are a few interesting facts about those plucky English settlers who established the second major settlement in North America, and what customs, traditions and other cultural baggage they brought with them into the new world.

They really didn’t like Christmas
Puritanism was a movement that sought to reform the Church of England, and among other things, end the historical interdependence between the state and the church and the abolishment of idolatry. This was a viewpoint that ignited slowly across the 1600s, becoming highly popular in the years leading up to the English Civil War, as Parliament questioned the idea of a royal prerogative, handed down by God. Having won the war and executed Charles I, the Puritans set about banning plays, canceling Christmas and generally earning their dour historical reputations. The restoration of the monarchy in 1660 did rather put a kink in their plans, however.

Although by then the residents of New England—a mixture of Separatists, Puritans and Protestants who set off from Plymouth (England) in 1620—were well settled into their new lives and saw no reason to abandon their principles. They didn’t restore Christmas until 1681, although it didn’t really catch on in Boston until the mid 1800s.

They believed in fairies
The Pilgrims belonged to a religious order that came out of the newly-established Church of England and was created during a period in which science was often indistinguishable from magic and therefore hokum. Coming from England, their cultural identities were hugely informed by folklore and ancient tradition. So while they had strong religious beliefs that informed their every decision, they also believed in the supernatural (including fairies), as every beneficiary of that cultural tradition did at the time.

If they liked it then they should have put a thimble on it
Jewelry isn’t a very Puritan thing, even for weddings. So a far more practical object to symbolize a young couple becoming engaged was the offer of a thimble from prospective groom to his blushing would-be bride. And that thimble would be put to good use in the creation of clothes and textiles for the young couples new home, and then the bottom could be cut off and filed down, leaving behind a ring (but no thimble).

They were kind to scholars…
In 1636, the Massachusetts Bay Colony founded the first institute of higher education in what is now the United States. It was named after the College’s first benefactor, a minister from Charlestown called John Harvard who had left it his library and half of his estate in his will. There’s a statue of John Harvard outside University Hall in Harvard Yard, Harvard, to this day.

…but rotten to adulterers.
Mary Latham was eighteen years old and heartbroken. The young man she fixed her eye on had turned her down, so she resolved to take the first offer of marriage that came along. This she did, marrying a much older and richer man, and embarking on a life of drinking, partying and consorting with men.

The year her actions were uncovered—one of her lovers was an English professor called James Britton, who attributed an illness he suffered after the event to the wrath of God—was the same year that Massachusetts passed a law calling for the death penalty in cases of adultery. They were both executed, with a penitent Mary calling out to “all young maids to be obedient to their parents, and to take heed of evil company.”

…and positively medieval to Quakers.
Considering Quakers to be heretics, the leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed a law in 1658 that prevented them from entering Boston. Should a Quaker man be found, one of his ears would be cut off. Should he come back, the second one would go. And if that wasn’t enough of a deterrent, the third visit would result in a red-hot poker through the tongue. The Quaker women would just be whipped, jailed and (in extreme cases) hanged. It took an intercession from England to demand that these laws be rescinded Boston Puritans were ordered to protect all Christians (except Catholics).

They liked a drink
Reliably clean water is a relatively modern innovation, leaving travelers of the past little choice but to take something boiled, brewed and refined with them on long journeys. Consequently the Mayflower was loaded with more beer than water, and the very first Thanksgiving meal was served with beer, brandy, wine and gin. As the colony progressed, tavern owners developed a social standing that was higher than that of local clergymen, although public celebrations and drunkenness could result in heavy fines.

None of their hats had buckles on
The classic Pilgrim Hat is a black and slightly conical affair, tall-crowned and narrow of brim, as worn by many men and women across Europe from the 1590s until the mid 1600s. It’s called a capotain, but at no point did it feature a buckle across the hat band. That was an invention of the 1800s, and hardly in keeping with Puritan sensibilities at all.

Life was so hard, the children preferred to be abducted by Native Americans
It sounds like a bizarre claim, but it was an observed phenomenon that children who had been abducted and brought up by Native Americans refused to return to their hard life amid the early settlers. Whereas Native American children who had been raised in the European settlements went back to their previous lives very willingly indeed. Granted, the Puritan existence was one of toil and hardship, and the Native American societies were freer, offering equality for men and women and a less stringent work ethic.

In 1707, Eunice Williams, abducted at age 7 by the Kahnawake Mohawks, wore Native American clothing and learned their language, and when her father eventually found her, as he noted, “She is obstinately resolved to live and dye here, and will not so much as give me one pleasant look.”

Naming a child was an act of spiritual prediction,
This isn’t related to the previous thing, but because Puritan communities felt that common names were tainted with the experiences of the wicked world, they named their children according to the morals they wished to raise them to uphold. Consequently some children were blessed with names like Praise-God, Fear-God and If-Christ-had-not-died-for-thee-thou-hadst-been-damned (all from the same family, with the wonderful surname Barebone).

Or how about Job-raked-out-of-the-ashes, Fly-fornication, Handmaid, Reformation, Obedience or Sorry-for-sin? All genuine first names from Puritan families.

Mind you, just because some people opted to use extreme faith as the inspiration for their children’s names, that doesn’t mean everyone did. Other genuine Puritan names include: Wrestling, Fly-debate, Has-descendents, Thanks, Joy-in-sorrow, Experience, Anger, Abuse-not, Dust, Humiliation and Continent. Oh, and Freegift.

Watch the video: 15 Topics You Should Know By Now (August 2022).

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