Just Buy Both

Sam Zemurray was the head of the Cuyamel Fruit Company, one of the larger banana companies, and one of United Fruit’s largest competitors.  The two companies owned land in Honduras and Guatemala, with a buffer zone between them.  However, Zemurray wanted to expand, and decided to purchase this formerly neutral land.  This aggressive move prompted United Frui to make a grab for the land, too.

But there was a catch.  The land had two purported legal owners, and no one could tell who truly owned it.  Furthermore, the territory was claimed by both nations.

United Fruit put their lawyers and investigators on the case, in order to determine who the actual owner was, in order that they might purchase the land from the correct individual.  It took them months to determine who truly owned the land.

In the meantime, Zemurray had simply met with both individuals separately and purchased the land twice, once from each of them, and beat United Fruit to the prize.


Now She Was Sure She Should be Damned

During the early years of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the following event occurred.  There was a woman who lived in Boston who was a Calvinist, and consequently worried every day whether or not she was among the Elect, and destined for Heaven or Hell.  Her despair grew so great, that she sought an answer to her question at any cost.

She took her infant child to a well, and threw the child in.  She then returned home and said that now she was sure she should be damned, because she had just drowned her own child, and by this action, she removed her doubt about her final destination.

The Impossible Musculature of Angels

The chapel at Cornell University, known as Sage Chapel, was enlarged and decorated in 1903 and 1904, gifts of William H. Sage.  Among the new decorations included several angels, a feature that prompted Burt G. Wilder, Professor of Comparative Anatomy and Natural History, to refuse to enter Sage Chapel unless absolutely necessary.  He was “outraged by the impossible musculature of angels with both wings and arms.”

Strangers in the Dark

In 1973, an experiment was performed by Kenneth Gergen.  He put students who had never met before into a pitch-dark room, and observed their actions via infrared cameras.  90% touched a stranger, 50% hugged a stranger, and a third kissed.  Nearly 80% reported feeling sexual excitement.

When the experiment was repeated in a lit room, no one touched a stranger.

Rhode Island and Separation of Church and State

A minister and a theologian, Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, nevertheless believed that the secular and religious spheres should be kept entirely separate.  He maintained that civil authorities had no jurisdiction in matters of religion.  His preaching of this in the theocratic Massachusetts Bay colony got him expelled in the dead of winter, and he would surely have died were it not for his friendship with the Native Americans.  He founded Providence, the future capital of Rhode Island, as a place where all religions could live together in a civil society, thereby creating the modern concept of separation of church and state.  Indeed, he once wrote:

There goes many a ship to sea, with many hundred souls in one ship, whose weal and woe is common, and is a true picture of a commonwealth, or human combination, or society.  It hath fallen out sometimes, that both Papists and Protestants, Jews and Turks, may be embarked on one ship; upon which supposal, I affirm that all the liberty of conscience I ever pleaded for, turns upon these two hinges, that none of the Papists, Protestants, Jews, or Turks be forced to come to the ship’s prayers or worship, nor compelled from their own particular prayers or worship, if they practice any.

How shocking it is, for us of the 21st century, and yet still struggling with such problems, to look back four centuries and find a man more advanced than many of us today.

The Tolerance of Roger Williams

Roger Williams, an English theologian and the founder of Rhode Island, originally intended to work among the Native Americans and convert them to Christianity.  In order to best facilitate this purpose, he learned their culture and their language, writing the first English-Native American language dictionary in the process.  However, by the time he had completed this task, his conscience no longer permitted him to proselytize.  He had discovered that they had their own culture, their own religion, their own forms of worship, and he had no desire to tear them away from their ancestral forms.