Curiosity Desk

FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
12:18 pm
Fri July 25, 2014

This Week In History: The Boston Post Takes Down Charles Ponzi

Charles Ponzi, his wife and his mother on his porch in Lexington.
Courtesy Hammond Residential Real Estate

  Real Estate agents Jodi and Jean Winchester are walking me through a stately yellow stucco colonial revival mansion on a tranquil street in Lexington. There’s a perfectly manicured acre of land surrounding the estate. Heck, there’s even a carriage house.

And it belonged to Charles Ponzi, of the infamous Ponzi scheme.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
1:08 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

Big Brother Is Coming To Boston School Buses

Boston will begin using cameras on school buses this year.
Credit Photo Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Photo: Wikimedia Commons

This fall, there will be some new riders on Boston's school buses. 

Each of the Boston Public School systems’s 750 school buses will be fit with two audio capable cameras. One will record the road, the other will record the students. 

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
5:00 am
Fri July 18, 2014

How Did The Largest Collection Of Hemingway's Writings End Up In Boston?

A bust of Ernest Hemingway.
WGBH News

    

Ernest Hemingway was born near Chicago and died in Idaho. He immortalized 1920s Paris and introduced the world to the running of the bulls in Pamplona. He hunted big game in Africa, caught marlin off the Florida Keys, and spent decades living, writing -- and drinking -- in Cuba. 

So, why is the world's largest collection of his personal writings is located at the JFK library in Boston?

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
8:31 am
Fri July 11, 2014

How 'Sex In A Box' Took America By Storm

    

By the time Neil W. Rabens actually received the patent for Twister in July of 1969, his invention had already been sold twice, and it was well on it's way to becoming an American pop-culture icon.

Rabens was a young commercial artist in the mid 1960s, when he was hired along with Chuck Foley to develop toys and games for a midwest design firm. One day Rabens came up with an innovative idea: What if we made a game where people were the pieces?

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
9:59 am
Wed July 9, 2014

Quarries: 'A Tragedy Waiting To Happen'

Standing at a favorite jumping spot for swimmers, 10 stories high, Massachusetts State Police Trooper Hernan Melendez, looks down into the waters of the Quincy Quarry after a death in 1997.
Credit (AP Photo/Peter Lennihan)

Fourth of July weekend ended in tragedy in Milford when Nentor Dahn, 18, of Providence, RI died after jumping into the Fletcher Quarry. Fletcher is just one of many quarries in the area, and that got me wondering just how dangerous they are — and whether what happened in Milford is an all too common occurrence.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
6:00 am
Wed July 2, 2014

Why Are Massachusetts Gas Prices So High?

A sign shows gas prices at a gas station in Brighton.
Credit Brendan Lynch / WGBH News

If you’re gearing up to travel this Fourth of July weekend, you’ve probably noticed that gas is pricey. Boston area gas prices are currently averaging $3.78 a gallon, more than 20 cents higher than this time last year.

In fact, gas prices across the country are at their highest for a Fourth of July weekend since 2008.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
1:18 pm
Fri June 27, 2014

Burning Rubber In Mass.: The Obsession That Changed The World

Charles Goodyear

Charles Goodyear's obsession began one auspicious day in New York.

He’d always been a tinkerer and a new “miracle” substance, rubber, had caught his fancy. He’d developed an improved valve for a rubber life preserver he’s seen in a New York shop. When he proudly showed the shop owner his invention, the man let Goodyear in on a secret. This new miracle substance was about to go bust.

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BOSTON PUBLIC RADIO
11:24 am
Fri June 27, 2014

The Case Of The Disappearing Hard 'G': Jim Braude Does Not Pronounce Margery Eagan's Name Wrong

The mispronunciation of the name Margery Eagan often ends in fisticuffs (pictured here) between the two Boston Public Radio hosts.
Credit Will Roseliep / Flickr Creative Commons

The curse of King Tutankhamun's tomb, the disappearing Hope Diamond, Donald Trump's gravity-defying combover -- all of these are mysteries that have confounded and captivated audiences for centuries. Add this one to the list: Boston Public Radio host Jim Braude's inability to properly pronounce his co-host Margery Eagan's name. 

Allow us to explain.

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Local News
5:39 pm
Thu June 26, 2014

How To Sell A Catholic Church

Alpha and Omega
Credit Wikimedia Commons

  
Three area Catholic churches lost their respective appeals to the Vatican's highest court to remain open this week - appearing to end a 10 year fight by parishioners.  

 Our Lady of Mount Carmel in East Boston, Saint James the Great Church in Wellesley, and Saint Francis Xavier Cabrini in Scituate were just three of more than 40 churches ordered by Boston Archbishop Sean O'Malley to be deconsecrated and sold, as part of a diocese-wide reconfiguration in 2004.  

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
12:52 pm
Fri June 20, 2014

How A Boston Man Quietly Broke The Navy's Color Line

Bernard Robinson was a Harvard trained doctor, and the first black man to be commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Navy. in 1942.

In April of 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first black man to play in the major leagues in the modern era. Five years earlier, though, another Robinson quietly broke a different color barrier and his story is much less well known.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
10:51 am
Thu June 19, 2014

Why More Mass. Companies Are Moving Their Headquarters To Ireland

Credit Wikimedia Commons photos/Brendan Lynch photo illustration

No state in America has a higher percentage of jobs in life science fields than Massachusetts, according to a report released Wednesday by Northeastern University. But there's a dark undercurrent looming for the Bay State in those bullish numbers. 

The life sciences industry is on the leading of edge of "tax inversion mergers", wherein large life sciences companies aren't just consolidating, they are also moving their headquarters overseas. 

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
10:04 am
Thu June 12, 2014

How Urban Flight Led To Boston's Residency Requirement

The Boston skyline, including Custom House Tower and State Street Bank Building.
Credit City of Boston Archives

  

Last week, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh asked the City Council to allow him to waive the residency requirements 75 to 100 of his top officials.

City officials, like most city employees, are required by law to live in the city. But the pushback was swift from councilors like Tito Jackson and Michelle Wu and citizens groups like Save Our City, and this week, Walsh quickly backed away from the fight, and pulled his request from consideration.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
11:30 am
Fri June 6, 2014

'Casey At The Bat'

San Francisco Examiner – June 3, 1888

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day;

The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play,

And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,

A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest

Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;

They thought, “If only Casey could but get a whack at that -

We’d put up even money now, with Casey at the bat.”

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THIS DAY IN HISTORY FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
11:28 am
Fri June 6, 2014

The Lingering Mysteries Of 'Casey At The Bat'

A statue of Casey stands in the yard of Bob Blair in Holliston.
Edgar B. Herwick III WGBH News

If someone asked you to think of a poem about baseball, chances are that the first one—maybe the only one—to spring to mind would be "Casey At The Bat." The send-up about a hulking slugger for the "Mudville Nine" who fails to rally his team in the bottom of the ninth inning first appeared in a California newspaper this week back in 1888. But the story behind the poem is undeniably a Massachusetts one. And more than a century later, one local town is still fighting for recognition as "the real Mudville."

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THIS DAY IN HISTORY FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
12:07 am
Fri May 30, 2014

How Lynn Became The Shoe Capitol Of The World

Patents for the Jan Matzeliger lasting machine

Chances are that the shoes you are wearing on your feet right now were made somewhere outside the United States. But that wasn't always the case. Today we travel to the late 19th century, for the story of the African-American immigrant who transformed Lynn, Massachusetts into the shoe capital of the world.

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THIS DAY IN HISTORY FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
5:30 am
Fri May 23, 2014

The Declaration Of Independence You Didn't Learn About In School

Samoset speaks English to the British colonist
Credit Wikimedia

By the 1830s, almost all of the large hardwood trees in Massachusetts had been cut down.

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THIS DAY IN HISTORY
12:03 pm
Fri May 9, 2014

The Day Boston Banned Rock 'N' Roll

An image of Alan Freed from 1957
Credit Wikimedia

Each Friday, Edgar B. Herwick III takes us back in time for a look at the week in Massachusetts history. This week, we go back to 1958 for the largely forgotten tale about the day the music died in Boston.

"It was like Happy Days when I was in high school."

That’s Stoughton native Albert Raggiani.

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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
9:11 am
Fri May 2, 2014

'Jaws' Brought Hollywood To Martha's Vineyard, 40 Years Ago

  

The invasion happens each year. They descend on the waters off Martha's Vineyard. They come from places like Boston and New York: tourists! But the onslaught came early in 1974, and it wasn’t the usual seasonal crowd. This time they came by the hundreds… from Hollywood.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
4:13 pm
Fri April 25, 2014

Highlights From The Curiosity Desk

The Curiosity Desk's Edgar B. Herwick III digs up stories about Boston's neighborhoods, people, and history that he's … curious … about.

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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
8:05 am
Fri April 25, 2014

Rescuing The Hubble Telescope

The Hubble Space Telescope as seen from the departing Space Shuttle Atlantis.
Credit NASA

It had been some time since NASA had a project that captured the public's imagination like the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope in April 1990.

"You didn’t have to be at NASA to be excited about Hubble," said former NASA astronaut Jeff Hoffman, who now teaches at MIT. "People were really looking forward to this great new telescope that was going to be able to see farther away than any other telescopes and reveal the secrets of the universe," he said.

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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
8:26 am
Fri April 18, 2014

239 Years Ago, Minutemen Flew The Forster Flag, The First With 13 Stripes

The Forster Flag
Credit Courtesy Doyle New York

They came from all over: Sudbury and Framingham, Billerica and Chelmsford. Farmers, shopkeepers, even ministers. Some had muskets. Some had knives. Some carried no weapons at all.

This time the British had gone too far. Seven hundred redcoats were advancing on the town of Concord, determined to destroy a cache of colonial military supplies. The colonies’ disparate town militia — the Minutemen — were resolved to turn them back. The American Revolution had begun.

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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
11:05 am
Fri April 11, 2014

Chelsea On Fire: 1908

Courtesy George Ostler

It was a warm — and very windy — morning in Chelsea on April 12, 1908, Palm Sunday, when an unthinkable disaster began to unfold.

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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
10:59 am
Fri March 28, 2014

How Boston Lost The Patriots And 'New England' Grabbed the NFL's 'Gold Standard'

Fenway Park was transformed into a football field for a Pats home game in 1963.
Credit Boston Public Library

In March of 1971, there was no Twitter. There was no 24-hour sports radio in Boston. No ESPN. It was in the newspaper, 43 years ago this week, that area football fans learned that the Boston Patriots were no more. They were now the New England Patriots.

“The Patriots were gonna be called the Bay State Patriots," said Pat Sullivan, former general manager of the Patriots, laughing. "That concept lasted about two weeks.”

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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
7:00 am
Fri March 21, 2014

Memories Of The 1980 Olympic Boycott Still Sting

Kurt Somerville in his rowing days, third from left.
Credit WGBH News

Usually, when athletes meet the president, it’s a celebratory affair. You’ve won the World Series or the Super Bowl or a gold medal. But that wasn’t that case in 1980, when President James Carter gathered more than 100 Olympic athletes at the White House for an announcement. The Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan a few months prior, and the United States had been threatening to boycott the Summer Olympics in Moscow. On March 21, a decision was made.

"I can't say at this moment that other nations will not go to the Summer Olympics in Moscow," Carter said at the time. "Ours will not go."

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
7:42 am
Thu March 20, 2014

Big Bang Theory: A Roman Catholic Creation

A nighttime view of our galaxy, the Milky Way. The Milky Way, like every star seen in this photo, was set in motion by the big bang.
Credit Abdul Raham / Flickr

Between the announcement this week that scientists have detected primordial gravitation waves and FOX's reboot of Carl Sagan's groundbreaking series, "Cosmos", the Big Bang theory is enjoying its biggest moment since it banged the observable universe into existence 13.8 billion years ago.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
6:06 pm
Mon March 17, 2014

What Menino's Cancer Diagnosis Means

Former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has been diagnosed with cancer.

Former Boston Mayor Tom Menino, who days ago announced he has an advanced form of cancer that has spread to his liver and lymph nodes, finds himself among the small percentage of people whose cancer can't be tracked back to its origin.

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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
10:41 am
Fri March 14, 2014

What The MBTA Owes To The '88 Blizzard

Weather map of the Blizzard of 1888.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

The winter of 1888 was nothing like this winter. “Snow was the furthest thing from people’s mind,” said Doug Most, author of The Race Underground: Boston, New york, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America’s First Subway. “New York City, Boston, the entire Northeast was winding down one of the mildest winters on record.”

That all changed here on the evening of March 11.

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FROM THE CURIOUSITY DESK
2:12 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

Paralympic Curlers Chase Gold From Falmouth to Sochi

Meghan Lino throws a curling stone. Wheelchair curlers get into a stationary, tandem position for stone throws and use a a delivery stick - a pole with a bracket that fits over the rock handle, allowing the rock to be pushed while applying correct rotation.
Credit Patricia Alvarado Nunez / WGBH

  The U.S. Wheelchair Curling team's hopes for a medal at the 2014 Paralympics came to an end today after a heartbreaking overtime loss to Great Britain in their ninth and final preliminary round match.

Following Thursday's action on the ice, American team members David Palmer, of Mashpee, and Meghan Lino, of East Falmouth, along with their coach Tony Calacchio posted on their blog on the Cape Cod Curling Club website.

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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
10:38 am
Fri March 7, 2014

Blame The Bay State For Voter Registration

In the early days, voting here in Massachusetts was pretty informal.

"You showed up at the polls and you said who you were and the notion was that people there, and town officials, would know who you were and they would know whether you met the requirements," said Alex Keyssar, a professor of history and public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School. The requirements were simple: You had to be a man. You had to have established residency in your town. And you had to own property. Notably, you did not have to be white.

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This Week In History From The Curiosity Desk
11:11 am
Fri February 28, 2014

How Shacks For The Shipwrecked Spawned Mass. General Hospital

Lifeboat manned by Cohasset Crew, April 2, 1918
Credit Humane Society of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts/Massachusetts Historical Society

In Boston in the 1780s, there were fewer places more dangerous than Boston Harbor.

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