Novelty pets

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In the years 1890-1891, Eugene Schieffelin released approximately 100 European Starlings in Central Park (NYC) hoping a few of the “lovely birds” might somehow survive and breed. In 2012, an estimated 200 million descendants of those 19th century “Schieffelin” birds occupied regions that spanned from the East Coast to the West Coast and from Alaska to Mexico.

It was not until 1828 that William Beehler established the first umbrella factory in the United States (Baltimore, MD).

“Fair Lane,” the home estate of Henry Ford, was a modest 1,300 acre residence/lawn in Dearborn, Michigan.  He also named his favorite private railcar “Fair Lane.”  The Ford Fairlane automobile was manufactured in the U.S. from 1955 to 1970 and in Australia from 1959 to 2007.

And where do you think you would find the world’s largest collection of elephant skeletons? Of course that was an easy one – Elephant Hall in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Many caterpillars fast and remain immobile while the sun shines. Motion and daylight make it easier for predators to detect and gobble the young insects.

Elias Howe invented the practical sewing machine in 1846. He had been working in vain for years to produce a functional stitching machine. One morning he awakened from a dream in which primitive savages threatened him with spears that had holes near the lance tips. Elias transferred the concept by placing a hole (eye) near the needle bottom and voila! (Different from viola).

Some folks possess Scolopendra gigantea as novelty pets. This is the world’s largest variety of centipede, and specimens more than 12 inches long are common. The cuddly darlings are known to eat lizards, small mammals, amphibians and carelessly-placed fingers (I made up that last one). Each Scolopendra g. possesses 46 legs (two of which inject venom), is aggressive, irritable and has poor eyesight. I’ll stick with kittens and puppies for now.

In 1806, would-be entrepreneur Frederic Tudor contracted to sell ice garnered from Massachusetts rivers to vendors in Martinique and Cuba. Pretty much all of the harvested ice melted prior to distribution and poor old Frederic delivered mostly cool water. He wound up in debtor’s prison when he could not pay his employees or refund security deposits.

Scientists confirmed that earth microorganisms have most certainly contaminated Mars as hitchhikers on our landed rovers. Perhaps it was an unintended experiment, but we may soon observe clear evidence as to whether earth life forms can survive in The Red Planet’s atmosphere. Well, select your pets wisely – and have a great week.

James White is a retired mathematics teacher who enjoys sharing fascinating trivia. He can be reached at