Thursday, February 23, 2012

Old School Thursday: Good Stories Edition

Today is National Banana Bread Day. Banana bread is really pretty delicious, and also a great way to use overripe bananas, so I’m not going to complain.

Especially since so many other interesting things happened today, starting with the birth of Cesar Ritz – founder of the eponymous hotel chain – which happened today in 1850. Without Ritz, we wouldn’t have the Ritz bar in Paris and without the Ritz bar in Paris, we what would Hemingway have become? I shudder to think.

A generation or so later, in 1896, the world saw another type of birth, when the Tootsie Roll was sold for the first time by Leo Hirshfield, at his little store in New York.

And finally, today in 1944, Leo Hendrik Baekeland, creator of Bakelite plastic, died. Bakelite has an interesting history – both from a product development standpoint (the plastic knobs on old stoves were made of Bakelite – as well as a lot of other things) and also for more nefarious reasons. Bakelite contributed to the downfall of famed Vermeer forger Han van Meeregen. He used Bakelite as part of his forgery technique and recent chemical analyses of his paintings identified the Bakelite, proving that they were forgeries. (This book is a great retelling of the van Meeregen story.)

Expatriates, art forgers and iconic American candy brands? All in one day? Seems like today deserves a little more than a slice of celebratory banana bread.

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