Mardi Gras Celebration

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Mardi Gras (French for Fat Tuesday) takes place on the Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday) before Ash Wednesday and is an event held by Cajun communities of south Louisiana. It’s part of the Carnival celebration that culminates on Fat Tuesday. In many areas, the term “Mardi Gras” has come to mean the whole period of activity related to the celebratory events, beyond just the single day.

Popular practices on Mardi Gras include wearing masks and costumes, overturning social conventions, dancing, sports competitions, parades, debauchery, etc. Similar expressions to Mardi Gras appear in other European languages sharing the Christian tradition, as it is associated with the religious requirement for confession before Lent begins.

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In New Orleans, the festival season stretches the entire period from Twelfth Night (the last night of Christmas which begins on Epiphany) to Ash Wednesday. Others treat the final three-day period before Ash Wednesday as the Mardi Gras. In earlier times, parades were held on New Year’s Day. Other cities famous for Mardi Gras celebrations include Rio de Janeiro, Trinidad and Tobago, Quebec City, Mazatlan and Sinaloa, Mexico. (from Wikipedia and www.cute-calendar.com)

Colt Pistol Patented

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Pistol patent day is celebrated tomorrow, February 25th. Samuel Colt received a British patent on his improved design for a revolver in 1835, and two U.S. patents in 1836, one on February 25 and another on August. That same year, he founded his first corporation for its manufacture in Paterson, NJ. Making firearms with interchangeable parts was still rather new (it had reached commercial viability only about a decade before), and it was not yet easy to replicate across different factories. The Colt Paterson revolver found patchy success and failure.

Colt made another attempt at revolver production in 1846 and submitted a prototype to the US government, which was used during the Mexican-American War (1846–1848). This prototype was seen by Captain Samuel Walker, who made some suggestions to Colt about making it in a larger caliber. Having no factory or machinery to produce the pistols, Samuel Colt collaborated with the Whitney amory  in Connecticut. This armory was run by the family of Eli Whitney, Jr, the son of the cotton-gin-developer patriarch.

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Colt’s new revolvers found favor with Texan volunteers (the progenitors of later Texas Ranger cavalry groups), and they placed an order for 1,000 revolvers that became known as the Colt Walker, ensuring Colt’s continuance in manufacturing revolvers. In 1848, Colt was able to start again with a new business of his own, and 1855, he converted it into a corporation under the name of Colt’s Patent Fire-Arms Manufacturing Company. It was a leader in assembly line practice, a major innovator and training ground in manufacturing technology.

Colt was also innovative in the treatment of his employees. Although he ran the plant with a military-like discipline, he established a ten-hour day for employees, installed washing stations in the factory, mandated a one-hour lunch break, and built the Charter Oak Hall, a club where employees could enjoy games, newspapers, and discussion rooms. He also set up libraries and educational programs within the plants for his employees

In 1852 an employee of Colt’s, Rollin White, came up with the idea of having the revolver cylinder bored through to accept metallic cartridges. He took this idea to Colt who flatly rejected it and ended up firing White within a few years. Colt historian RL Wilson has described this as the major blunder of Sam Colt’s professional life.

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Rollin White left Colt’s in December 1854 and registered a patent on April 3, 1855 for an improvement in repeating firearms. On November 17, 1856 White signed an agreement with Smith and Wesson for the exclusive use of his patent. Smith & Wesson not only introduced its first revolver in 1857 (a rear-loader), but also started, as of 1858, to convert cap & ball percussion guns into rear-loaders, even with formerly Colt manufactured revolvers.

But the Colt’s company itself was prevented by American laws from infringing the Rollin White patent and in the 1850s and 1860s continued manufacturing percussion guns. In 1860 it produced a new revolver model for the United States Army. This Colt Army Model 1860 appeared just in time for the American Civil War. (from Wikipedia)

Lawn tennis, anyone?

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The modern game of tennis (originally called lawn tennis) was patented this date in 1874 by Walter Wingfield of Pimlico, England. It had close connections both to various field (“lawn”) games such as croquet and bowls, as well as to the older racket sport of real tennis. During most of the 19th century, in fact, the term “tennis” referred to real tennis, not lawn tennis.

Tennis is a racquet sport that can be played individually against a single opponent  (singles) or between two teams of two players each (doubles). Each player uses a tennis racket that is strung with cord to strike a hollow rubber ball covered with felt over or around a net and into the opponent’s court. The object of the game is to play the ball in such a way that the opponent is not able to play a valid return. The player who is unable to return the ball will not gain a point, while the opposite player will.

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The rules of tennis have changed little since the 1890s. Tennis is played by millions of recreational players and is also a popular worldwide spectator sport. The four Grand Slam tournaments (also referred to as the “Majors”) are especially popular: the Australian Open played on hard courts, the French Open played on red clay courts, Wimbledon played on grass courts, and the US Open played also on hard courts.  (from Wikipedia)

Five-and-dime store introduced

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The F. W. Woolworth Company (often referred to as Woolworth’s) was a retail company and one of the original pioneers of the five-and-dime store. It was arguably the most successful American and international five-and-dime, setting trends and creating the modern retail model which stores follow worldwide today.

The first Woolworth store was opened by Frank Winfield Woolworth this date in 1878, as “Woolworth’s Great Five Cent Store” in Utica, N.Y. Though it initially appeared to be successful, the store soon failed. When Woolworth searched for a new location, a friend suggested Lancaster, PA. Using the sign from the Utica store, Woolworth opened his first successful “Woolworth’s Great Five Cent Store” on July 18, 1879, in Lancaster. He brought his brother, Charles, into the business. In 1880, they sold the first manufactured Christmas trees

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The two Woolworth brothers pioneered and developed merchandising, direct purchasing, sales, and customer service practices commonly used today. In 1910 Frank Woolworth took another leap and commissioned the design and construction of the Woolworth Building in N Y City. A pioneering early skyscraper, it was entirely paid for in cash. It was completed in 1913 and was the  tallest building in the world until 1930.

In the 1960s, the five-and-dime concept evolved into the larger discount department store format. Despite growing to be one of the largest retail chains in the world through most of the 20th Century, increased competition led to its decline beginning in the 1980s.

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The chain went out of business in July 1997, when the company decided to focus on the Foot Locker division. By 2001, the company focused exclusively on the sporting goods market, changing its name to the present Foot Locker, Inc.

 

Retail chains using the Woolworth name survive in Austria, Germany, Mexico and, until the start of 2009, the United Kingdom. (from Wikipedia)