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Wednesday, April 22, 2020

A to Z Historic Trivia - S


Deborah Sampson disguised herself as a man for two years in order to serve as a continental soldier in the Revolutionary war.  Wounded in battle, she dug a bullet out of her own leg. Her true gender remained a secret to most until, many years later, when she was gravely ill, a necessary exam exposed the truth. She was honorably discharged from service, and her husband became the first man to receive a widow’s pension.

Located at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia is a chair that not only made but changed office furniture history. The chair once belonged to Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States, who modified a Windsor chair into what we call a Swivel Chair – though without those handy wheels that have enabled many a clandestine chair race. It has been said that Thomas Jefferson sat in that very chair when he drafted the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776.

One evening in 1936, Sylvan Goldman, owner of the self-serve supermarket chain “Humpty Dumpty,” using a folding chair and two baskets wired together, came up with an idea to facilitate customer movement of (more) groceries. The idea, now known as the Shopping Cart, wasn’t widely accepted at first. Men thought it was too effeminate, while women thought it suggestive of a baby carriage. Nonetheless, savvy marketing paid off and made Goldman a millionaire. 

Carved by the waters of the mighty Snake River, Hell’s Canyon is the deepest gorge in the United States and the largest North American river that empties into the Pacific Ocean. Shoshone Falls, in southern Idaho, is sometimes called “Niagara of the west,” though it is 45 feet higher and flows over a rim almost a thousand feet wide. Sign language used by Native American Shoshones to represent swimming salmon was misinterpreted to mean snake, giving the river its name. There is much to see and do, and even more to learn along - and about - the Snake River. I’ll tell you more about our unforgettable visit when the letter W comes around ;-)

Happy Blogging!


  1. Hi, diedre!

    Happy "S" Day, dear friend!

    Deborah Sampson's story is inspiring. She had a noble desire to serve her country. In the end it didn't matter that she was a woman in disguise. She served with honor. Her story reminds me of actor Brian Michael Smith who is currently starring in the TV series 9-1-1: Lone Star. Wiki says: "Although assigned female at birth, he identified as male, and was perceived as male, throughout his childhood. He challenged pressures to conform to his assigned gender role through performance and athletics." (Almost sounds like the term we learned earlier in your A to Z series - John Henryism.) On the 9-1-1 TV show Brian plays a trans man fireman. He is muscular and as strong or stronger than any other member of the firefighting team. They, his family, don't care which gender he was assigned at birth. He gets the job done. The series is set in Austin and I think you might enjoy it if you aren't already watching.

    Thanks for the interesting story about the development of the swivel chart. I make heavy use of my swiveling office chair every day.

    I also enjoyed the story of Sylvan, his self-serve supermarket and his invention of the shopping cart. Recently my big brother was leaving a big-box store pushing a shopping cart loaded with bottles of drinking water. The carts were constructed poorly, cheaply, with plastic, and his tipped over in the parking lot and he fell, sustaining injuries serious enough for an ambulance to take him to the hospital for stitches.

    If and when Mrs. Shady and I leave the house on another vacation, we will probably head out west because we very much enjoyed our trip to Texas, Arizona and Southern California. I will tell her about Hell's Canyon on the Snake River and Shoshone Falls in Idaho and we will discuss them as possible destinations. It's interesting how a misinterpretation of Shoshone sign language led to the naming of Snake River when it should have been named Salmon River. I am eager to learn about your visit to this part of the country.

    "S" is a good letter, isn't it? It seems like more interesting words begin with "S" than any other letter of the alphabet.

    Have a safe and happy day, dear friend diedre!

    1. Hi Shady!

      Glad you enjoyed ;-)
      I haven't seen 9-1-1 yet. Sounds good though.
      Gads! Sorry to hear about your brother's mishap! I hope he has a swift recovery.
      I agree, "S" is a good letter for things to write about. Trouble is, there are SO many possibilities ;-)

      Thanks for your thoughts, my friend!

  2. Hi Deidre - fascinating about Deborah Sampson ... some people go the distance don't they. Swivel chairs - bless them!! Take care - Hilary

    1. Hi Hilary!

      This post was informative for me, and lots of fun to write. I'm glad you stopped by!


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