Check your billfold for Wilsons

james k white

In approximately 1530, Phillip Melanchthon (1497-1560) received a watch that he had specially ordered. The maker of the watch is unknown, but the gold-encased timepiece is still around and it still runs when wound. Housed in Baltimore, the watch was recently evaluated to bring between $20 million and $28 million, if ever offered at auction.  

There is a mass of seaweed that floats and rotates throughout the Gulf of Mexico and the North Atlantic. That plant is a sargassum and reproduces vegetatively, which makes the Sargasso Sea one huge living entity (more than 900 million acres) – possibly the largest organism on earth.

Honey bees are not native to North America. However, they have made themselves essential as evidenced by a recent Cornell University study that indicated that honey bees contribute at least $15,000,000,000 annually to the American economy.

Both Benjamin Franklin and George Washington were members of volunteer firefighting units.

At first I was incredulous when I read that according to some recently gathered data, the average price per ounce of popcorn purchased at movie theaters costs more per ounce than filet mignon purchased at grocery stores. I checked the buttered popcorn price locally and now I am as credulous as anybody.

It was in 1939 that the first men’s NCAA basketball tournament was played. On March 27 of that year, Oregon defeated Ohio State 46-33 in the Patten Gymnasium of Northwestern University (Evanston campus) for the NCAA Basketball Championship. The Ducks have not won the coveted National Championship of Basketball since 1939. However, as this article goes to press, the Ducks are in hot pursuit of the 2016 title.

The largest denomination of any printed U.S. currency was the $100,000 bill which featured Woodrow Wilson‘s portrait. The bills were printed in 1934 and 1935 with the intent to use the legal tender to transfer large sums of money between federal banks. Approximately 42,000 of this denomination were printed, but nearly all were destroyed by the federal government – although a few do yet exist. Wire transfers from banks replaced huge bill passing in the 1960s. All known $100,000 bills have been accounted for (there’s one at the Smithsonian). Private ownership of such currency is illegal. Besides, few could make change except pro athletes and congressmen. Just to be safe, I checked my billfold for some Wilsons – did not want to be arrested. Have a great week.

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