The Woolworth Building in New York opened on this day in 1913.

The Woolworth Building opened on April 24, 1913.

Woolworth building
image credit: By Miscellaneous Items in High Demand, PPOC, Library of Congress [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
On completion, the Woolworth Building topped the record set by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower as the world’s tallest building.

The Woolworth Building was designed in the neo-Gothic style by the architect Cass Gilbert.

Woolworth Building
image credit: By New York Public Library –, No restrictions,

Frank Woolworth commissioned Gilbert to design a 20-story office building as the F. W. Woolworth Company’s new corporate headquarters on Broadway.

Originally designed to be 420 feet (130 m) high, the building was eventually elevated to 792 feet (241 m).

Woolworth building
image credit: By George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress) – Library of Congress, call number LC-B2- 2416-4, reproduction number LC-DIG-ggbain-10564; via Flickr, Public Domain,

At its opening, the Woolworth Building was 60 stories tall and had over 5,000 windows.

The construction cost was US$13.5 million.

New York Colin Campbell Cooper
Hudson River Waterfront, N.Y.C., Colin Campbell Cooper, oil on canvas, 36 x 29 in, New York Historical Society. Included in the view are the Woolworth and Singer buildings, then the first and second tallest buildings in the world. Painted between 1913 and 1921. image credit: [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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The Canterbury Tales #OnThisDay 1397


April 17th 1397

Geoffrey Chaucer narrated The Canterbury Tales for the first time to the court of Richard II.

Richard II
image credit: By Unknown –, Public Domain,

Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour,
Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halve cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
(so priketh hem Nature in hir corages),
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially from every shires ende
Of Engelond to Caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.

image credit: William Blake [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
For A level English Literature my year group studied The Prologue, The Pardoner’s Tale and The Prioress’s Tale.

Fortunately, a paperback translation was available!

I can’t say that I enjoyed studying The Canterbury Tales when at school in the 1960s. I was more interested in The Valley of the Dolls.

But, many years later, I saw The Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of The Canterbury Tales and enjoyed it immensely.

The only quote I can remember from my English Literature class is part of The Prioress’s Tale:

She wore a small coral trinket on her arm

A string of beads and gauded all with green;

And therefrom hung a brooch of golden sheen

Whereon there was engraved a crowned “A”,

And under, Amor vincit omnia.

image credit: Edward Burne-Jones [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Amor vincit omnia.

Love conquers all.

Yes, indeed it does!

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Publication Day in 1925 for The Great Gatsby

First published by Scribner’s in April 1925, The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald received mixed reviews and sold poorly; in its first year, the book sold only 20,000 copies.

Fitzgerald died in 1940, believing himself to be a failure and his work forgotten.

However, the novel experienced a revival during World War II, and became a part of American high school curricula. It is now widely considered to be a literary classic and a contender for the title “Great American Novel.”

The cover of the first printing of The Great Gatsby is among the most celebrated pieces of art in American literature. A little-known artist named Francis Cugat was commissioned to illustrate the book while Fitzgerald was in the midst of writing it.

the great gatsby
imaBy Musée Annam [Public domain or CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commonsge credit:
The cover was completed before the novel; Fitzgerald was so enamored with it that he told his publisher he had “written it into” the novel.

Fitzgerald’s remarks about incorporating the painting into the novel led to the interpretation that the eyes are reminiscent of those of fictional optometrist Dr. T. J. Eckleburg (depicted on a faded commercial billboard near George Wilson’s auto repair shop) which Fitzgerald described as “blue and gigantic – their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face, but instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a non-existent nose.”

Although this passage has some resemblance to the painting, a closer explanation can be found in the description of Daisy Buchanan as the “girl whose disembodied face floated along the dark cornices and blinding signs.”

the great gatsby
image credit: By Paramount Pictures (Beineke Library, Yale University) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The 1926 American silent drama film directed by Herbert Brenon was the first of many film and stage adaptations of the novel.

Warner Baxter played Jay Gatsby and Lois Wilson was Daisy Buchanan.

The film was produced by Famous Players-Lasky, and distributed by Paramount Pictures. Unfortunately this version of The Great Gatsby is now considered lost.

In the 1949 film of The Great Gatsby, Alan Ladd played Jay Gatsby and Betty Field was Daisy Buchanan.

The 1974 film had Robert Redford as Jay and Mia Farrow as Daisy.

And the 2013 version starred Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay and Carey Mulligan as Daisy.

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Dante Gabriel Rossetti died on this day in 1882


image credit: Dante Gabriel Rossetti [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
image credit: Dante Gabriel Rossetti [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (, from Wikimedia Commons

image credit: Dante Gabriel Rossetti [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Aren’t they glorious?

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I hope you’ve enjoyed these Dante Gabriel Rossetti paintings as much as I have.

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Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova born #OnThisDay in 1937

Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova is a retired Russian cosmonaut, engineer, and politician.

She is the first woman to have flown in space, having been selected from more than 400 applicants and five finalists to pilot Vostok 6 on 16 June 1963.

Before her recruitment as a cosmonaut, Tereshkova was a textile-factory assembly worker and an amateur skydiver.

She became a prominent member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, holding various political offices. She remained politically active following the collapse of the Soviet Union and is regarded as a hero in post-Soviet Russia and much of the world.

Having orbited Earth 48 times, Tereshkova remains the only woman ever to have been on a solo space mission.

In 2013, she offered to go on a one-way trip to Mars if the opportunity arose. At the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics, she was a carrier of the Olympic flag.

Happy 81st Birthday Valentina! You inspired lots of little girls back in 1963 who until then had thought that space exploration was strictly for the boys.

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Henry Wood was born #OnThisDay in 1869

Sir Henry Joseph Wood

was an English conductor best known for his association with London’s annual series of promenade concerts known as The Proms.

Henry Wood conducted The Proms for nearly half a century, introducing hundreds of new works to British audiences.

After his death in 1944, the concerts were officially renamed in his honour as The Henry Wood Promenade Concerts, although they continued to be generally referred to as The Proms.

In the summer of 1965 (when I was about fourteen) my dad decided we should go to The Proms at the Royal Albert Hall.

We had a day ticket and caught the train from Peterborough railway station on August 19th and were in the capital a couple of hours later. We did some tourist stuff and then after a Lyons Corner House for something to eat we headed to South Kensington for the concert.

We were overawed by the vastness of the Albert Hall and by the size of the audience, which was far greater than anything we’d experienced before.

The programme started with Neville Marriner directing the Academy of St Martin in the Fields in a Handel concerto while he played the violin. Impressive!

This was followed by the premiere of Michael Tippett’s piano concerto conducted by the composer himself. The soloist was John Ogden and the music was execrable.

After the interval Malcolm Sargent conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Singers in a performance of “The Planets”.

We’d been listening to this on a gramophone record for weeks and loved every minute.

Thanks very much, Sir Henry Wood, for a wonderful experience and a very Happy 149th Birthday.

This is the only clip I can find of Sir Henry actually conducting. It’s the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus performing Vaughan William’s Serenade to Music in 1938.

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The celebrity cook Fanny Cradock was born On This Day in 1909

Phyllis Nan Sortain Pechey, better known as Fanny Cradock, was born on 26th February 1909.

Fanny Cradock found fame as an English restaurant critic, television celebrity cook and cookery writer. She made frequent appearances on television, at cookery demonstrations and in print with Major Johnnie Cradock who played the part of a slightly bumbling hen-pecked husband.

This video of a 1960 ‘Cockney’ themed party filmed in Fanny and Johnny’s home to promote a new book is a jaw-dropping insight into the bizarre habits of the entertaining class of the time!

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On This Day in 1939 the first Anderson Shelter was erected.

In November 1938, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain placed Sir John Anderson in charge of Air Raid Precautions.

Anderson immediately commissioned the engineer, William Patterson, to design a small and cheap shelter that could be erected in people’s gardens.

The first ‘Anderson’ shelter was erected in a garden in Islington, London on 25 February 1939.

Between then and the outbreak of the war in September, around 1.5 million shelters were distributed to people living in areas expected to be bombed by the Luftwaffe.

During the war a further 2.1 million Anderson shelters were erected.

An estimated 50,000 lives were saved by use of the Anderson shelters although critics think there were better alternatives and only 27% of Londoners actually had their own shelter. 9% of the capital’s residents used public shelters and 4% went down the underground while the majority were either involved in night work or just stayed indoors.

anderson shelter
image credit: By Ministry of Information Photo Division Photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

anderson shelter
image credit: By Press Agency photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The Anderson shelters were uncomfortable especially in cold weather prompting the government to issue advice to improve the situation.

More information about Anderson shelters on the History for Kids website and on Anderson Bomb Shelters. 

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Sweets came off ration #OnThisDay in 1953

Sweets were rationed during World War II but finally de-rationed on this day in 1953.

Sweets were first de-rationed in April 1949 but demand far outstripped supply and, after four months, they were put back on ration.

Sweets and chocolate rationing started on 26 July 1942.

The amount of sugar which you were allowed fluctuated during the war, ranging from 16oz a month down to 8oz (227g) a month. (That seems quite a lot to me!)

This clip from 1949 surely sets the bar for childhood greediness at an all time high!

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Edward Lear died #OnThisDay in 1888

Artist, illustrator, musician, author and poet, Edward Lear died on 29th January 1888.

Edward Lear is probably now best known for his literary nonsense in poetry and prose and especially his limericks.

There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, ‘It is just as I feared!
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!’

There was a Young Lady of Hull,
Who was chased by a virulent bull;
But she seized on a spade,
And called out, ‘Who’s afraid?’
Which distracted that virulent bull.

There was an Old Person of Ewell,
Who chiefly subsisted on gruel;
But to make it more nice
He inserted some mice,
Which refreshed that Old Person of Ewell.

There was an Old Person of Dover,
Who rushed through a field of blue Clover;
But some very large bees,
Stung his nose and his knees,
So he very soon went back to Dover.

There was a Young Lady whose bonnet,
Came untied when the birds sat upon it;
But she said: ‘I don’t care!
All the birds in the air
Are welcome to sit on my bonnet!’

And of course, The Owl and The Pussycat.

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea green boat…

They dined on mince, and slices of quince
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon.

The Owl and the Pussycat
image credit: Edward Lear [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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