The Moron's Daily Briefing

Oct. 24 - Mankind was not fully mankind until it learned how to set things on fire. That happened a long time ago and enabled such hallmarks of early civilization as cooked meat, heated homes, and flaming heretics. Only in the past few hundred years has mankind learned how to start fires quickly and easily.

In 1680, Irish scientist Robert Boyle discovered that rubbing phosphorus and sulphur together caused them to burst into flames. (Such was his reward for a lifetime spent rubbing phosphorus against things to see what would happen.)

In 1827, seizing upon the Irish invention with a zeal usually reserved for Irish real estate, an Englishman named John Walker (no relation) invented "sulphuretted peroxide strikeables," which were like matches except they were three feet long and as likely to explode as ignite.

A variation on this firestarter was introduced in England in 1828. It was called the Promethean, and consisted of a glass bulb of sulphuric acid. The bulb was coated with potassium chlorate, sugar, and gum, then wrapped in a paper spill. To ignite the Promethean, one broke the glass bulb against one's teeth. Dentists loved it, but the public remained wary.

Germans began manufacturing small phosphorus matches in Germany in 1832. Like so many other German inventions, however, these tended to ignite with a series of explosions that spread fire about one's feet. They also exploded when stepped on. This dampened their popularity among the arson-averse public.

Finally, on this very date in 1836, a patent was issued in the United States to Alonzo D. Phillips for the manufacture of friction matches.


It was on this date in 1929 that the stock market began a catastrophic collapse that ultimately led to the Great Depression. Scientists around the world desperately sought a cure for the millions of Depressed peoples on every continent. Research eventually demonstrated that the people of Germany, Italy, and Spain were Depressed because their trains didn't run on time, and fascism was invented to address this shortcoming.

Having resolved their train schedules, however, fascists discovered that many people were still unhappy. This was found to be the result of socialism, which was incompatible with fascism, and persons who failed to become happy were subsequently shot. This caused the Spanish Civil War, which was so successful it inspired World War II, after which everyone felt much better.

* * *

Noted kneepad enthusiast Monica Lewinsky turns 22 today. She shares her birthday with Ben Gillies (1979), Kevin Kline (1947), F. Murray Abraham (1939), David Nelson (1936), Y.A. Tittle (1926), and Moss Hart (1904).

It's United Nations Day at the U.N., Suez Day in Egypt, Labor Day in Palau, and Independence Day in Zambia.

2002, The Moron's Almanac™

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