Flakes of History | Page 13 | Newberry

Flakes of History

   So this last weekend, if you used Google, you noted that this is the 125th anniversary of the day snowflakes measuring 8 x 15 inches fell in Montana.  My definition of the word “snowflake” has been forever altered.

   I see by my almanac here that the year 1887 also saw the invention—or at least the patenting—of contact lenses, earmuffs, the first disc-playing audio system, the first calculator with keys, and the first punch card calculator.  They hanged the Haymarket men, Annie Sullivan met Helen Keller, and they started celebrating Groundhog’s Day in Punxatawney, PA.  Spandau Prison and the Eiffel Tower we begun, and the U.S. Navy signed a lease for Pearl Harbor.  (Japan, meanwhile, took charge of Iwo Jima, and Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery was born.  We were building up to something.)  Sherlock Holmes made his first appearance in print, and the first Glenfiddich poured from the still on Christmas Day.  Shoeless Joe Jackson, Marc Chagall, and Avery Brundage, each to make a mark in Chicago, were born, as were William Frawley, Chico Marx, and Boris Karloff.  And the inventor of the rugby ball died.

   All of these events are thus celebrating their quasquicentennial, a handy word for a 125th anniversary.  This word, I am further informed, was coined over at Funk & Wagnalls in 1962, and thus is celebrating its semicentennial this year.

   And what does this have to do with anything, boys and girls?  Why, yes: yes, you are correct.  This fall, the Newberry Library will be celebrating its very own quasquicentennial.  You must have peeked at the answers.

   Now, you may be wondering how this all applies to the Book Fair.  Will there be special prices on books published in 1887?  I regard all our prices as special, turnip scone: we can’t do much about that.  Will we let the first 125 customers in for free?  Why, sure: on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  (Admission is always free on those four days, but we’ll give the first 125 customers each day a free map of the Book Fair.  Yeah, those are always free, too.)

   Do I have nothing to give you in honor of the sesquicentennial?  Well, I gave a dirty look to the first person who asked if this would be the 125th Book Fair.  And what I’ll give to everybody who asks if I am 125 years old this year might well prove to be counter-productive.  (It’s so hard to reshelve books when your knuckles are swollen.)

   The problem, fair fish fondue, is you’re busy thinking of what WE can do for YOU.  It’s OUR birthday, after all.  Are you going to resolve to buy 125 books?  No, I understand.  You hate to restrict yourself to such a low number.

   Well, I’ll give it all some thought: it is, after all, more than 125 days until we open.  In the meantime, let me state that I am not soliciting donations of old earmuffs, contact lenses, or calculators.  I’ll take those gramophone recordings from 1887, if you like.  (The first one was inside a large and very expensive doll, which I will welcome cheerfully.)

  I am NOT licensed to sell Glenfiddich, but I suppose I could find a use for it around the library if you absolutely insist on dropping it off.

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