When John Wilkes Booth was crouching in Richard H. Garrett’s tobacco barn, listening to Lieutenant Colonel Everton Conger’s orders to surrender, he decided to go out with a bang. He refused the surrender, then once the barn was lit on fire he took a bullet to the neck, delivered by Sergeant Boston Corbett. He was dead by the break of dawn, less than two weeks after he had prematurely terminated the presidency of Abraham Lincoln in Ford’s Theatre.
Or was he?
Way out in the sprawling suburbs of historical perception there exists the notion that the man whose life was snuffed to a nub in that barn was actually a man named James William Boyd, a Confederate soldier who looked enough like Booth that his body passed through ten pairs of identifying eyes (not counting the pair that aimed the gun that took his life), as well as an official autopsy. The composers of this theory also posit that the government knew about the mix-up and let it happen. Because where is the fun in a murder without a deep and sinister government conspiracy?
As for the “real” John Wilkes Booth… well, on the off-chance that this is all true, we can say with a relative certainty that Booth was, in fact, this guy:
One day in 1873, some eight years after the furor over the Lincoln assassination had been pressed between the leaves of history, Memphis lawyer Finis L. Bates met and befriended a liquor and tobacco merchant named John St. Helen. It’s good to get to know the man who sells you booze and smokes, and Bates was particularly taken by John’s ability to spout Shakespeare from memory. The two became good friends outside the seller-consumer relationship.
Five years later, John St. Helen was on what he believed to be his deathbed, profoundly ill. He confided in Finis Bates that he was in fact John Wilkes Booth. He asked Finis to advise his brother, Edwin Booth, of his demise. Then he recovered. Read more…
Yesterday I examined the history of beverage distillation for the purposes of intoxication and rendering members of the opposite (or same, whatever) sex more attractive. But I never really got my palette wet. Many nations possess a ‘national drink’, an alcoholic beverage that distinctly defines their collective palette. It’s not often an official designation, but to most adult-age citizens, it can become a source of national pride.
Some national beverages are obvious. Champagne, cognac, and brandy are all proudly consumed under the flag of the French. Scots love their scotch. Irish whiskey is a source of Irish pride and Irish brawls. Jamaicans like their rum, and for what it’s worth, so do I.
Let’s take a trip around the global bar.
We’ll start in Greece, where their national beverage compliments one of the finest global cuisines to have ever embraced my palate and added to my waistline. Ouzo is flavored with anise, which gives it a strong licorice taste. The alcohol they use is usually 96% alcohol-by-volume ethyl alcohol, so if you plan on making a night of drinking ouzo, you’d best plan on a quick evening in a room with a soft floor.
In Poland you’ll have two options for a national drink. You can go with vodka – and Polish vodka has the potential to be among the tastiest of vodkas – or wash down your kabanos with a hearty glass of mead. Not a distilled beverage, mead is a delicious honey-based wine. It’s also to alcoholic drinks what James Brown is to funk music: where it all started. The earliest evidence of mead production dates back to 7000BC. They knew how to party back then. Read more…
Dutch Schultz. The name just oozes gangsteriness. So did the man.
Born in 1902 with the decidedly less menacing name of Arthur Flegenheimer, Schultz was traumatized by his father’s departure when he was fourteen. He left school to find work, hooking up with Schultz Trucking in the Bronx. At the time, young Arthur was apprenticing under a few low-level mobsters, and with this he found his life’s calling.
Nabbed for burglary, Arthur did some time on Blackwell’s Island until the guards found him ‘unmanageable’, and sent him out to an upstate work farm. He came back to work, and accompanied his co-workers at Schultz Trucking on routine runs up to Canada to snag some liquor for re-sale in NYC. As Boardwalk Empire taught us, Prohibition-era liquor was good business.
Arthur decided to take the truck company owner’s son’s nickname as his own: Dutch Schultz. The company owner wasn’t pleased with this (especially since Arthur killed a guy in Canada while he was using this name), and Schultz left him in order to work with his Italian competition. I think we all know that, between the Italians and the Germans, there was really no question who would come out on top in the New York crime scene.
Movies & TV... that's really the only way I know about anything.
Dutch and fellow gangster Joey Noe set up their own speakeasy, but wisely figured they’d make more money selling booze to the other joints in the city. They’d push out the competition with their savvy business strategy: buy from us, or we’ll hurt you. Read more…