The Dirty Dozen: The 13 most significant marketplaces in history

As a Black Friday frenzy sweeps away the food coma that you’ve put yourself into after gorging on far too many Thanksgiving treats, From The Kitchen Cabinet takes a look back at history’s most significant and amazing markets and shopping centers. As spectacular as the Forum Shops at Caesars in Vegas are they just are not that “historical” so they do not make the cut. For this list, we are looking at marketplace firsts and centers of cultural and historical significance. So, while you stand in line for whatever holiday gifts your friends and family just have to have, enjoy this look at places you may have shopped in during the near and distant past.

#13 West Edmonton Mall, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Starting off our list is a place that redefined the mall.  Though not the first mall with an amusement park–that distinction belongs to the Old Chicago Mall (but it failed after only five years of existence)–the West Edmonton Mall set the tone for all mega malls to come.

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Built in 1981, the West Edmonton Mall is the largest in North America and second largest in all the Americas. Inside, you can lose yourself in its over 800 shops and possibly your car in the 20,000+ car parking garage. But what lands the West Edmonton Mall on our list are the side attractions including Galaxyland with its seven thrill rides, World Water park, and the Sea Life Caverns. If your feet get tired you can always take a break in the adjacent Fantasyland hotel or on one of the many themed “boulevards” like Bourbon Street replete with restaurants and bars. With all there is to do and see is it any wonder that the mall counts 32.2 million visitors per year and 200,000 shoppers a day?

#12 Bazaar of Isfahan, Iran

Known as one of the most significant trade centers in Iran, the Bazaar of Isfahan has stood since the early 1600’s.

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Set near the midpoint between the powerful Islamic cities of Damascus and Aleppo in the west and Samarkand (#3 on our list) and Bokhara in the east, Isfahan and its bazaar (a permanently enclosed marketplace) made it a key place for the diffusion of ideas and goods throughout the Muslim world. The Bazaar of Isfahan is widely regarded as the best-preserved example of a bazaar complex in the Muslim world today. The bazaar, and the city that grew around its trade, was so vital that two dynasties, the Seljuk (1037-1157) and the Safavid (1502-1736), established their capitals here. The bazaar itself is just over a mile long of vaulted ceilings sheltering hundreds of merchants.

#11 Southdale Mall, Edina, Minnesota

Where would mall rats be without the Southdale Mall? Probably lounging around their houses bored out of their minds.

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Designed by Austrian immigrant Victor Gruen in 1956, the Southdale mall is the oldest fully enclosed, climate-controlled mall in America. Gruen’s dream was a modern take on the old-style arcades of his beloved Vienna. In his view, the random storefronts in downtown Minneapolis were inefficient and American’s had become too car-centric. What he proposed was a building that would serve as a communial gathering place where people could talk, shop, and leisurely spend a few hours sipping coffee or tea. Ultimately, his plan for the Southdale Mall complex included a lake, schools, apartments, medical buildings and parks. Only the mall was constructed, but it did change the way American’s shopped. Now, instead of going to small stores downtown, people could sit in a food court and watch preteens prance about with no real place to go.

#10 The Great Gostiny Dvor, St. Petersburg, Russia

Where do you go in Russia if you want to buy and sell goods? Inside, of course.

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Gostiny Dvor is Russian for “Guest’s Court” (poorly translated) and was a place where merchants from smaller communities in Russia could come, set up a shop, and sell their goods at specified times. Every major Russian city had a Gostiny Dvor but The Great Gostiny Dvor in St. Petersburg is significant not only because the city’s oldest shopping center, but also because it is one of the first shopping arcades in the world.These arcades were semi-open air and based on the older bazaars of the Islamic world. Original construction on The Great Gostiny Dvor began in 1757 and it has seen continual remodeling through the 20th Century so that by the start of the 20th Century there were close to 200 shops.

#9 County Club Plaza, Kansas City, Missouri

When the human race is long gone, and future alien archaeologists come to interpret our culture they will find cockroaches and strip malls. What that will tell them is uncertain, but with the plethora of strip malls, one thing is certain: We loved to shop.

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The first strip mall was the Country Club Plaza. Meaning, the Plaza was the first shopping center designed to accommodate people arriving by car. Originally known as “Nichols’ Folly” because the developer, J.C. Nichols, chose a plot of land that would have easy access to a major parkway, but at the time there was nothing but a day school and pig farms in the area. But he had a vision and when the Plaza opened in 1923 it was an immediate success.

#8 Agora of Athens, Greece

No one goes to the mall looking for a lecture, but for the people of Greece that’s exactly what the market was for.

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Literally meaning “gathering place”, the Agora was both a market where merchants and consumers could trade for a wide variety of goods and a platform for political discourse, military mustering, and philosophical debate. Agora’s were a part of every major Greek city. Since the 6th Century BCE, the Agora of Athens was the heart of the city and where the ideas of democracy were born. It isn’t difficult to imagine people bartering for cloth and olives and meats while Socrates questioned the market goers on the meaning of life. The psychological term “agoraphobia” derives its meaning from the large, wide-open gathering place of the agora.

#7 Trajan’s Market, Rome, Italy

Shops and market stalls encircling the Forum was not a new concept in the Roman empire by Emperor Trajan’s time. Both Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar had modified the earlier Forum (Foro di Cesare and Foro di Augusto) with shops, but Emperor Trajan went a step above. Literally.

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Constructed from 107-110 CE by Trajan’s chief architect Apollodorus of Damascus, Trajan’s Market–a part of an entire new section of the Forum complex called Trajan’s Forum–is widely regarded as the first shopping mall in the world. By Trajan’s time, the Forum was hemmed in by hills, and expansion to the east was blocked by a pesky building called the Colosseum. So, Apollodorus built into and onto the hillside by flattening and terracing the land. The result was a market that stood, in some places, six stories tall. The upper floors contained apartments and warehouses and were probably used as the administrative offices for the market. It was on the lower floors where the average Roman could enter a “tabernae” and purchase wine, olive oil, fruits, vegetables and other household needs. In total, there were over 150 tabernea along the lower sections and in the interior vault covered halls.

#6 Staraya Ladoga, Russia

Vikings. The name conjures up images of bearded Norsemen wearing horned helms and wielding broad axes ready to plunder the next village. But merchants?

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Established in 753 CE by Swedish Vikings,–called the Varangians, and eventually the Rus–Staraya Ladoga was one of the most significant trading and market centers in Eastern Europe for nearly five hundred years. The village linked Scandinavia with Constantinople and Baghdad along the Varangian trade route to the Greeks and the Volga route respectively. The market and outpost were so significant that the Varangian leader Rurik established his capital in Ladoga in 862. Rurik and his successors eventually established the Kievian Rus empire, a dynasty that would eventually come to rule the Grand Duchy of Moscow and Tsardom of Russia. Because of this, Ladoga is often called the first capital of Russia.

#5 Rialto Market, Venice, Italy

One of the first images that comes to mind when the city of Venice is mentioned are the canals. And it is on the Grand Canal that we find the #5 entry on our list.

Rialto Bridge with the Fondaco dei Tedeschi on the left

Rialto Bridge with the Fondaco dei Tedeschi on the left

First settled in the 9th Century, the Rialto rises as market center in 1097 when all of Venice’s merchants move there. Soon, grand fondaco’s are constructed along the Grand Canal. One of the best examples of which is the Fondaco dei Tedeschi (c. 1228) which operated as a warehouse, market, and restricted living quarters for the German merchants in Venice. Venetians went to the Rialto to buy everything from household goods and groceries (the slaughterhouses were also located in the Rialto) to luxuries imported from across the world. And where there are merchants and wealth there’s money to be found. The first modern banking practices owe their start to the Rialto in Venice. But, where there are merchants and wealth there are also foreign traders and ships. This allowed the Rialto to become one of the gateways for the Black Death’s entrance into Europe in 1347.

#4 Thirteen Factories, Canton, China

Factories and China are synonymous with cheap goods shipped around the world. However, these factories weren’t factories at all. In fact, they served the opposite purpose; they did not make goods, but rather served as a trading house for them.

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For centuries European and American governments clamored to get into trade agreements with China. However, the Chinese rulers saw European (and eventually American goods) as inferior to the goods made in China and refused to trade. Chinese leaders also feared foreign influences on Chinese society and politics so they closed ports and heavily restricted maritime activities. That all changed with the Qing (pronounced ching) Dynasty in 1684 when the Kangxi Emperor opened four cities, including Canton (Guangzhou), to foreigners. Forced to live outside the city walls and along the river, the factors, or foreign traders, built warehouses, apartments, and offices called factories, or “barbarian houses” by the Chinese. By 1748, there were eight factories but they would quickly number thirteen as more countries tried to get into the Chinese market. For the British, tea was the number one good that they desired and they tried to trade every British good imaginable for it, but the Chinese held firm that foreign goods were inferior. Eventually, the British discovered one thing the Chinese could not live without… or would become hopelessly addicted to: Opium. Through the British factory, opium flooded the Chinese market and eventually lead to the First Opium War. How many other shopping centers can claim that they started a war?

#3 Samarkand, Uzebekistan

The Silk Road is one of the most famous and significant trade routes in history, and checking in at #3 on this countdown is a market that sits at the center of the entire network.

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When we mention things that are older than dirt, Samarkand is one of those. Probably settled in the 700s BCE by Iranian merchants, Samarkand has been the capital of numerous empires, conquered by the Greeks, Turks, Mongols, and Chinese, and despite it all remained one of the greatest markets in history. The market at Samarkand owes this success to the Sogdian people who were known for their trading savvy and willingness to allow anyone to settle in Samarkand so long as they were willing to obey the laws of trade. As to the Silk Road, it is really a misnomer; it was not called the Silk Road until 1859 when a German scholar applied the name to the numerous routes that criss-crossed Asia. To the merchants who traveled the road it was called the “road to _____” or the “road to the next city.” For nearly every merchant that next city was Samarkand. In Samarkand you could buy a vast variety of goods from silk to paper, books on language to slaves, spices, dyes, and precious metals and gems. Across the routes, the Sogdian language became the common trade language used showing how dominant the Samarkand market was over the entire network.

#2 Timbuktu, Mali

BFE and Timbuktu are euphemisms for the most remote places on earth… or the answer to the question, “Where are we parked?” during Christmas.

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For over 400 years, Timbuktu was a destination rather than a place no one wanted to be found. Permanently settled in the early 12th Century, Timbuktu would become one of the greatest centers of knowledge and commerce in the world. Because of its location on the Niger River where it begins to flow north into the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, the city became known as the place were camel met canoe. In other words, where the huge Arab camel trains that crossed the vast desert met the boats laden with gold, salt and slaves from the interior of Africa. Timbuktu served as the linking market between the tribes and empires of Africa and the major cities of the Arab world. Muslim scholars established 180 Quranic schools and even a university leading to the trade in books and knowledge in the city. So significant were books to the economy that they were not only written there, but a sophisticated book copying industry flourished translating and copies books. Imagine a Barnes and Noble with the authors on site along with the printing house.

Honorable Mentions

Burlington Arcade, London, England

Northgate Mall, Seattle, Washington

Khan el Khalili, Cairo, Egypt

#1 Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey

We end this list with one of the biggest and oldest covered markets in the world.

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Tucked into the walls of Istanbul’s city center is the Grand Bazaar whose construction began in 1455 by the new Ottoman ruler Sultan Mehmet II. The original building was designed to house the textile market. The building was completed in 1460 and was surrounded bakeries, a slave market, and the second-hand markets. In 1545, Mehmet–no longer the Sultan–constructed another building and moved his textile market into this new nearby building. The original building became a market for luxury goods pouring into the empire from across the globe. Slowly, smaller shops began to fill in the streets between Mehmet’s two buildings and a centralized marketplace was born. Just as the Ottoman empire grew, so did the Grand Bazaar and it quickly became the center of all trade in the Mediterranean. By the 17th Century, the Grand Bazaar began to take its current form and could count over 3,000 shops. The first vaults to cover the markets between the two buildings constructed by Mehmet were erected in 1696. By 1890, there were over 4,000 shops within the bazaar. Today, there are over 26,000 people working within the bazaar making it essentially a city within the city of Istanbul.

 

Do you agree with our list? What market or shopping place did we miss? Leave your comments or suggestions below, and don’t forget to click on the follow button to get more Dirty Dozen and other historical musings From The Kitchen Cabinet.

 

The Dirty Dozen: 13 Influential Political Propaganda Pieces in History

Trying to define the word “propaganda” is like trying to herd cats into a box. You get one in and the rest slip away. One person may feel that propaganda advances a negative or deceitful message while another person would argue that it can be used to advance positive endeavors. But at its root, propaganda is a tool to get a message across. For this list, FTKC is taking a look at the 13 most effective uses of political propaganda, including the good, the bad and the ugly, and we will be looking at all sources of print propaganda, not just posters. We will not be looking at social causes like MTv’s “Sex Is No Accident” campaign or various blood and organ donor drives, noble as they may be.

Sex Is No Accident: Always Use a Condom

Sex Is No Accident: Always Use a Condom

#13 “Captain America: Commie Smasher” (1954)

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This is not your grandparent’s Captain America. Seriously. Steve Rogers, AKA the Captain America of today’s multi-million dollar movie franchises, is still frozen somewhere beneath the North Atlantic in 1954. This is William Burnside, a Captain America fanatic and U.S. historian–PhD in Captain America, essentially–who discovers the secret formula for Cap’s serum while studying in Germany. He didn’t just become the Captain by taking the serum, but he gets a face lift to look like Steve Rogers. Obsessive much? As the new Captain America, Burnside takes on a new enemy in the Communist threat–a real, tangible scare for America in the early 1950s. But, because he was not exposed to the vita-rays to control the serum’s effects, Burnside slowly goes insane. And, paralleling the Communist witch-hunts of the 1950s, Burnside becomes a menace to society and his war against Communism devolves into paranoid hysteria. Not bad for a comic book.

#12 “How to Tell A Chinese From A Jap” (1941)

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If the point of propaganda is to manage the collective attitudes of a group through the careful manipulation of images, stereotypes, and symbols, this Time Magazine piece earns an A+. The PSA from Time’s Dec. 22, 1941 issue helps its readers better identify the differences between a “Chinese public servant” and a “Japanese warrior”. See, you are already seeing the difference. The Chinese help the public, the Japanese? Well, they just bombed Pearl Harbor. Those darn warriors. The Chinese man can be differentiated from the “Jap” because the “Chinese wear rational calm of tolerant realists. Japs, like General Tojo, show humorless intensity of ruthless mystics.” In another PSA cartoon, linked here, the “Chinese smiles easily–while the Jap usually expects to be shot…and is very unhappy about the whole thing.” I suppose the message really is to just be happy!

#11 “Enlist” (1917)

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The message here is clear: Don’t ever let a helpless woman die while cradling the lifeless body of her infant child as they sink into the frigid, murky depth of the ocean. In this Fred Spear enlistment poster, the viewer is reminded of the horrors of the sinking of the Lusitania (1915). Visually, this is probably the most powerful piece in our list. The helpless woman, one of 128 Americans killed on the Lusitania–conspicuously absent from the image–is draped in a white dress (purity) and her face shows a submission to the horrors of war rather than a struggle for survival. The murky green background lends to the depressing, somber tone of the piece.

#10 “Once a German–Always A German” (c. 1918)

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Nothing says You are a horrible person better than an image of you bayoneting small infants. This poster from the British Empire Union was created by David Wilson to remind the British public of the atrocities that the Germans had inflicted during World War I, and to not hire German citizens and to boycott all German goods. Wilson played with dark stereotypes in this piece–a German with two sides: as a suave businessman, and a ruthless, drunken killer–but he also reminded the British, as well as anyone else viewing the poster, of the realities of German horrors by including a vignette of martyr Edith Cavell’s grave with the caption “1914 to 1918. Never Again!”, and of the sinking of British ships by German U-Boats.

#9 “Take the Road to Defend the Motherland” (1972)

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Communism is known for its unapologetic use of propaganda and the communists of North Vietnam were no different. Ho Chi Minh understood the significance of rallying the populace via vibrant, heart-stirring messages and to do this he recruited men like Phan Thanh Liem. Liem created “lên đường bảo về tổ quốc” while living in the DMZ. “For seven years I worked and lived a miserable existence in the narrow tunnel of Vinh Linh in Quang Tri province as the US bombers attacked. Every day I witnessed the sufferings and death of innocent people.” And it worked. At the height of the Vietnam War, the Ho Chi Minh trail, a complex network of secret roads and tunnels saw as many as 20,000 soldiers using the road network a month.

#8 “Red Army Soldier, Save Us!” (1942)

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Sometimes, the simplest images have the greatest impact. Victor Koretsky’s Soviet piece, which came out after the Soviets watched the Nazis steamroll into the Motherland in 1941 and after a number of military setbacks in 1942, shows a mother and child at the sharp end of a bloody Nazi bayonet with flames roaring in the background. The piece was so inspiring that soldiers wrote Koretsky from the front lines telling him that they “kept his poster folded in the left-hand top pocket of their uniform, next to their heart, just as icons had been kept by their fathers before them.”

#7 “Liberators” (1944)

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When in doubt, overkill. The Nazi Party’s Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda controlled all forms of media in Germany and was responsible for promoting Hitler’s vision of German culture and the threats that Western culture brought. In “Liberators”, Joseph Goebbels’ propaganda machinery drew on every possible anti-American stereotype available. Every negative aspect of American society was depicted. From racism (KKK hood and African-Americans in a cage), to pro-Semitic support (Star of David), to American’s treatment of women as sex symbols and the Native Americans. Even American greed (boxing glove with cash bag) and violent culture (prison garbed arm with machine gun) are tossed in. According to the Nazis this creature was supposed to do good for European culture, all at the mercy and will of the indiscriminate American military violence.

#6 “You Have Struck A Rock” (1981)

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Not all propaganda is created by the State in order to persuade the citizenry. Case in point, the work of the Medu Art Ensemble comprised of a group “cultural workers” who fled to Gaborone, Botswana to escape apartheid and censorship in South Africa. This poster was created by American born Judy Seidman for the 25th anniversary of the 1956 Women’s Day march in Pretoria which protested the South African government’s oppressive pass laws. The woman in the poster depicts the struggles of all women, but her determined, resolute face and broken chain on her arm show that women will triumph. The Medu Art Ensemble was a cultural think tank who believed that art should not be stuck in gallaries for only the elite to see, but on the streets, on T-shirts, and on posters. Most importantly, they believed that if their art was going to be relevant in any way it should be relevant to the anti-apartheid struggle across the border in South Africa. By 1982 they had evolved into a powerful force. So powerful that the ensemble was seen as a threat to the South African government and in 1985 the SADF raided Gaborone and killed 12 members of the community and essentially extinguished the Medu Art Ensemble over night.

#5 “El Arcoiris” (1988)

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Never underestimate the power of persuasion. Maybe Augusto Pinochet should have heeded that advice. In 1988, after fifteen years of a brutal dictatorship in which over 3,000 of Pinochet’s political opponents had “disappeared” and ten times as many were tortured and raped by the Junta’s secret police, Pinochet had announced that a he was going to hold a plebiscite just so that the people of Chile could tell him how much they loved him by reelecting him to another eight years of ruthless leadership. The “No” campaign, comprised of over 15 opposition groups, had a tough task ahead of them: Convince the people of Chile that 1. The vote was legitimate; 2. They were not going to be harmed by casting a ballot; and 3. The results of the vote would be upheld by Pinochet. But Pinochet was not going to go down easily. Pinochet’s henchmen beat farmers who appeared in “No” commercials, and a musician was fired from her job among other forms of violence. Ultimately, on Oct. 5, 1988, the people of Chile told Pinochet “no” and he was ousted from power.

#4 “The Sunlight of Mao Zedong Thought Illuminates the Road of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” (1966)

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If you are going to run a country you might as well make sure everyone knows who you are. Especially if your “thought” is one of the founding pillars to the entire ideology that will support the nation. As the Great Teacher, Great Leader, and Supreme Commander, Mao Zedong’s writings and thoughts were the key for China to stave off the influences of capitalism and to keep the peasants from falling back into feudalism. Often, as in this work, Mao is seen as the sunlight–the life giver–to a larger-than-life, stereotypically “masculinized” peasantry and the means to a perfect future.

#3 “Daddy, what did YOU do in the Great War?” (1915)

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Definitely not your typical propaganda piece in its artistic flourish and detail, “Daddy” tugged on the heart strings of men in England through its appeal to family and country. At the start of World War I, Britain’s army, though a professional unit, was small and comprised of volunteers. Conscription didn’t start until 1916 so England relied on able bodied men to recruit themselves. As evident from this War Office poster created by Arthur Gunn and illustrated by Savile Lumley there was great social pressure placed on men to volunteer and an equal amount of ostracization heaped upon men who were seen as “shirkers” and cowards. This work stands apart from nearly every other piece of propaganda in its sophisticated imagery and color to weave an emotional tapestry that help England raise an army and win a war.

#2 “I Want You” (1917)

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Easily one of the most recognizable images in media today, this Uncle Sam poster is unabashed, full throttle patriotism. Though the Uncle Sam imagery had been a part of the American consciousness since 1812 and a Troy, NY meat packer named Samuel Wilson, it wasn’t until the late 1800’s that he was given his trademark white beard and stars and stripes suit in Thomas Nast’s editorial cartoons. However, it took artist James Flagg to elevate Uncle Sam to pop icon. Over four million copies of the poster were printed from 1917 to 1918, and it was reproduced for recruitment purposes during World War II. Flagg almost dared every man in America to stare back at his stern faced Uncle Sam with his finger drilling into their chest, look him in the eyes, and say, “No thanks, I’m staying home.”

Honorable Mentions

“We Can Do It” (1943, J. Howard Miller)

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“Spaniards Search Women Aboard American Steamers” (1897, Frederick Remington)

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“Che” (c.1967)

“Destroy This Mad Brute” (1917, H.R. Hopps)

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and now,

#1 “The Persuasive Eloquence of the Sunny South” (1861-1865)

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While not a poster, this Civil War era patriotic cover (an envelope featuring images or slogans) probably did more than any other propaganda piece on this list, reached a wider audience, and turned the tide of a nation. Despite the efforts of Northern abolitionists, most Northerners wanted nothing to do with the slavery question, or free blacks or free blacks in general. Most whites resented the free black as a person who would take their jobs. Political parties like the Free Soilers formed in the North to keep newly opened lands in the West free… not economically, but free from blacks. During the Civil War, draft riots broke out in New York and even black orphanages were set ablaze when Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Abolitionists in Ohio were killed and abolitionist newspaper offices were burnt to the ground. Even Lincoln admitted, at first, that fighting the Civil War was not to free the slaves but to preserve the Union. Patriotic covers like this one were instrumental in persuading the North of the horrors of slavery and the need to fight the Civil War.

 

Do you agree with our list? Which propaganda piece do you think deserves a place in the rankings? Leave your ideas in the comments, and be sure to hit the follow button at the top to keep up with From The Kitchen Cabinet (FTKC) and for more Dirty Dozens and other articles where we explore the lessons from history.

7 Things Created in a Tavern

 

It is amazing the things that can be imagined in a bar or tavern. Here’s a list of ideas that came from tipping a few drinks back, drunken or boastful wagers, or just because a tavern is the best place to get together.

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Not everything came from a beer serving tavern. In 1600s England, coffeehouse were just as rambunctious and tawdry as the taverns.

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Other lists from FTKC

10 Odd Historical Facts That Might Make You Rethink History and Time

9 Things You May Not Know About The U.S. Interstate Highway System

10 Random New Year’s Facts That Will Make You The Cliff Claven Of Your Party

10 Random New Year’s Facts That Will Make You The Cliff Clavin of Your Party

Before you drunkenly belt out “Auld Lang Syne”, desperately seek out anyone to share a New Year’s kiss, and make some promise that you probably won’t keep beyond January, let’s look at ## things you might not know about New Year’s.

1. All About Me

According to Statisticbrain.com, of the top 10 New Year’s resolutions, only one of our most common resolutions is altruistic: “Help Others in Their Dreams”. The other 9 are all about me, or in this case you. Self-improvement and education resolutions account for nearly 50% of the resolutions we make. Weight loss resolutions come in second at close to 40%. Less than 50% of resolutions are still being maintained beyond six months.

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Unfortunately, only 8% of us are actually able to claim victory over our resolution.

2. 22

Of all the numbers that will be bantered about, this one seems low. 22 is the percentage of people who admit to be passed out or fast asleep long before midnight. It is interesting since this is the prime reason for the holiday. That, and finding that one special someone to smooch right after drowning away all of last year’s problems at the bottom of a champagne flute. (Source)

Passed-Out New Year's Eve Reveler

3. Making Babies

It is no surprise that with all the drinking, kissing, and naked street dancing… wait, what? Naked street dancing? All will be explained in #9 so just go with it. Naked street dancing. So, it is no surprise that most babies are conceived during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

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According to a New York Times chart, the most popular birthdays occur between 9 September and 24 September. Tracking this back, it would mean that people were getting busy at the end of December. This shouldn’t come as any surprise since the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is as close to statistically perfect for doing some hanky-panky as you can get. Here’s a look at why the odds are in your favor that you’ll be doing more than kissing on New Year’s Eve:

  • People are 17 times more likely to have sex at midnight than at 10 am. Couple this with…
  • People are 13 times more likely to have sex at night than during the afternoon.
  • People are more likely to turn down and invitation to shag if it is too warm. Nearly twice as many than those who turned down the invitation because it was too cold.
  • More than twice as many condoms are sold the week before Christmas than the week after.
  • 83 percent of Americans feel that rainy days/nights are the best time to have sex.

If this isn’t enough proof, studies have found that prostitution related searches increase 2.78 percent during this time period. Matchmaking websites see a 5.67 percent increase in traffic during January, and Google searches for porn jump 4.28 percent above average in December. We just seem to want to get our groove on. And it doesn’t hurt that most of us are in crowded houses filled with drunken revelers desperately seeking someone to kiss.

4. Have a Ball

American’s, and eventually the world, have been watching a ball drop down One Times Square since 1907. People had been celebrating in Times Square for three years before the first ball drop, and even before this at Trinity Church where they’d “ring in the new, and ring out the old” with the Church and hand bells. There have been seven variations of the famous New Year’s Ball, including the original 700 pound wooden beast.

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The Ball has dropped every year since 1907 save two. During the “dimouts” of 1942 and 1943, New Yorkers gathered in a darkened Times Square for a minute of silence and then surrounded by a chorus of chimes from sound trucks at the base of One Times Square. For two years, New Yorkers went back to the old Trinity Church celebrations.

5. Not Always Etched In Stone

The first time New Year’s is celebrated on January 1 came in the year 45 B.C. In 46 B.C., Julius Caesar decided that the traditional Roman calendar was so FUBAR that it needed to be adjusted. The new Julian calendar would be 365 1/4 days long and so Caesar had to add 67 days to the year 46 B.C. which made the start of 45 B.C. on January 1. Convenient since the god Janus, from which January gets its name, is the two faced god of doors and gates.

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But, just because Caesar said so didn’t mean that it was. By the medieval period, most Christian, and pagan, Europeans went back to the old Annunciation Day (25 March) as the beginning of the year.  William the Conqueror would try to get the new year back to 1 January, but it had nothing to do with calendric accuracy and more to get Christmas to align with his coronation day. Like most things political, it never came to fruition and 1 January would have to wait until 1582 when Pope Gregory XIII created the calendar we use today. With New Year’s on 1 January, leap years, and all.

6. Burning Out The Old Year

When the mellow alcohol buzz and sleep-deprived haze begins to settle over your party, you can always liven things up with an effigy. That is, you can make yourself a life-sized, stuffed, sad old man or, as they do in Panama and a few other Latin American countries, make one of a famous actor or anyone else famous and light it on fire!

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The burning of Jack Straw in Hungary

In Hungary, they set fire to a scapegoat for all the ills and wrongs that happened the previous year. Called Jack Straw, he is paraded through town and then set aflame on New Year’s Eve. In Panama and Ecuador, they burn “muñecos“–effigies of people who played a significant role in politics, news, or even one’s personal life. These muñecos are created on Christmas and then lit up in a bonfire on New Year’s. Often, these effigies are stuffed with gun powder and fireworks. Just remember to be very careful in whom you chose to make your effigy of, and, for the sake of the hosts, take the conflagration outside.

7. Boxing Day

No, not the day after Christmas where you give gifts to all the peons that schlep all your crap around every, but “boxing” day where you beat the crap out of someone on New Year’s. Somewhere between the excessive amount alcohol consumed–New Year’s celebrations are the most popular drinking day of the year–and the fact that some stranger just smooched the person you came to the party with, nearly 40 percent “of 18- to 25-year-olds said they’ve woken up on New Year’s Day with an ‘unidentified party injury.'” 25 percent of 18-25 year-olds have said they’ve gotten into a fight on New Year’s.

Takanakuy festival in Peru

Takanakuy festival in Peru

If anyone tries to shame you for fighting on New Year’s, just say that you are celebrating the Peruvian festival of Takanakuy, which literally translates to “when the blood is boiling.” Each year, around Christmas, many Peruvians gather in the local sporting area, from little children to elderly women, to fist fight one another. The purpose of this end of the year celebration is to settle grievances from the previous year–from civil to personal–and hopefully start the New Year with peace and harmony, and to strengthen community bonds. So, next time your in-laws give you crap, clear some space in the living room and duke it out. Just say you are trying to strengthen familial bonds. Happy Takanakuy!

8. Not Always Etched In Stone, Part II

Most calendars used today around the world are based on a lunar or lunisolar cycle so their New Year’s Eve is fluid. For many, including the Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese, New Year’s happens on the day of the second new moon after the winter solstice. Typically, these New Year’s celebrations occur between 20 January and 20 February.

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Though they like to say they have nothing in common, Islam and Judaism share a few things in common, including their calendar. Both calendars are lunar based on 354 days and both start their days at sunrise and end at sunset vs. the Gregorian system of midnight. The Islamic New Year wanders across the calendar and for the next few years will coincide with the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) occurring in September and October. Every 33 years, Rosh Hashanah and the Islamic New Year will occur on the same date. The next time this happens is in 2016-17.

9. All Hail Saturnalia

So, kissing seems to be the one factor that ties all New Year’s celebrations together whether it be getting smacked in the kisser in Peru or smooching at New Year’s eve. But where did the practice of the New Year’s kiss come from?

A New Year's kiss is supposed to set the tone for the year... don't be lonely like this guy

A New Year’s kiss is supposed to set the tone for the year… don’t be lonely like this guy

For singles this New Year’s kiss can be one of the most stressful events of the entire night. The closer the clock winds to midnight, the more frantic the search for kissable lips becomes. Unfortunately, history only heightens the pressure. Like most things we do today, the New Year’s kiss probably comes from the Roman weeks-long festival of Saturnalia celebrated around Christmas. It was an unholy gathering of flesh and wanderlust. Romans celebrated with massive feasts, drinking, singing and dancing in the streets naked, gambling, and other forms of dabauchery. By the medieval period, anxious Europeans would scramble for the perfect person to lock lips with at midnight believing that the first kiss would dictate the type of year you’d have. Also, many of these celebrations were masquerade balls–just a more refined version of naked street dancing and singing–with the masks representing the troublesome past year and protection from evil spirits and the kiss–after removing the mask–representing the change to something good. So, no pressure. You aren’t just looking for the handsome or pretty lips to snack on, you need someone to help purify the evil spirits of the past and set the perfect tone for your future year. Good luck hunting.

10. Not The Night To Go Commando

According to a Vanity Fair/60 minutes fashion poll, nearly 25 percent of Americans admitted that they go commando on some occasions (7 percent of people sitting around you right now are sans undies). However, in many Latin American countries, including Mexico, Brazil and Argentina, going commando sets you up poorly for the next year.

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From an old Spanish tradition, it is held that the color of the underwear worn on New Year’s Eve dictates the type of luck you will have in the forth coming year. Red? Looking for love and passion in the new year. Yellow? Wealth is coming your way. Green means a year of good health. White is for peace. Want to be inspired in the new year? Wear purple. So, if your party turns into a Saturnalian orgy of naked street singing, be sure to at least keep your undies on your head so you can set yourself up for good luck next year.