Milton Hershey’s Chocolate Challenge

Posted on

 

By Ken Zurski

Related image
Milton Hershey

In 1903, candy maker and entrepreneur Milton Hershey invented a recipe for milk chocolate that he planned to sell en mass to Americans.

Hershey certainly did not discover the benefits of chocolate (which dates back to the Aztecs in 450 BC) or the first chocolate bar for that matter (a cocoa butter based solid used by the Dutch in the early 19th century), but what he did do is mass produce it.

Hershey had successfully opened up a caramel factory in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, but producing chocolate in large quantities proved to be a major challenge. The problem was in the process.  Specifically, how does one heat sugar and milk in large kettle pots without burning the mixture or making a sticky goo?

Image result for lancaster pennsylvania caramel factory
Lancaster Caramel Factory

Hershey and his team worked for hours, day thru night, trying to figure it out.  They experimented with less ingredients, then more. They tried whole or skim milk. They even changed the breed of the cow hoping for better consistency. Nothing seemed to work.  Every experiment they tried met with the same result: lumpy, burnt residue – not creamy delicious chocolate.

Hershey knew financially millions of dollars were at stake. So he hired a chemist. But even that failed. Desperate, Hershey called on a trusted worker at the caramel factory to give it a go. The worker had an idea. He focused on the cooking rather than the mixing. He combined the milk, sugar and other ingredients and adjusted the temperature; slowly cooling it down then heating it up again to reduce boiling and burning.

It worked.

“Look at the beautiful batch of milk,” Hershey exclaimed.

Not only did the new batch taste good, but it was creamy and smooth too.

Inspired by the new process, Hershey decided to produce larger pieces to sell.

Instead of small bites, like “kisses,” Hershey envisioned a chocolate piece that was longer and offered multiple bites in one.

He called it the Hershey Bar.

Image result for hershey bar

(Sources: Hershey: Milton S. Harshey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams – Michael D’Antonio; various internet)

The Untimely Death of George Washington Ferris and the Fate of the Original Wheel

Posted on Updated on

By Ken Zurski

In June of 1893, the 264-foot high Ferris Wheel opened to great fanfare at the Chicago World’s Fair.

Image result for ferris wheel chicago

The man who created it, George Washington Gale Ferris Jr., had told doubters that it would work flawlessly on every spin.  But when the Fair opened on May 1, 1893, Ferris’ wheel wasn’t ready. A delay in construction keep the ride closed at least initially.  When the wheel finally took it’s inaugural spin, Ferris was right. It worked flawlessly every time.

“Then it revolved and 1,000 people rose and fell with its majestic sweep,” the Chicago Tribune reported. Ferris was there to blow the “golden whistle” and watch from the ground as the wheel turned for the first time. “A modest young man in a gray suit with a drooping mustache covering his determined mouth,” the Tribune described. Ferris dedicated the wheel to the profession of modern engineering.

Born in Galesburg, Illinois, the Ferris family moved to Carson City, Nevada when George was five. In 1876, he came east, began his schooling, and graduated from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York with a Civil Engineering degree.

Image result for george washington gale ferris

In 1891, Ferris moved to Chicago and took up the challenge as did others to come up with a structural design that would make the Fair stand out, like the Eiffel Tower did for Paris, France in 1889 . Although initially rejected due to safety concerns the wheel was eventually chosen and construction began just four and half months before the Fair open. “The design was a novelty and so absolute and original that the powers of the fair hesitated to so much as give it recognition,” newspaper dispatches would later report. But Ferris’ persistence paid off.  He also offered to raise the money needed to build it.

The Fair itself was considered an overall success and so was the Ferris Wheel, but it all ended tragically for the city. Just days before the closing ceremonies on October 28, 1893, Chicago Mayor Carter Henry Harrison was gunned down by a disgruntled office seeker. Then a fire destroyed several fair buildings.

Three years later, in 1896, after a quick bout of typhoid fever, Ferris was dead at the age of 37. By this time, Ferris was already a broken man. His 10-year marriage had recently ended and attempts to gain financial rewards from his popular attraction were failing. Ferris was busy fighting legal battles when he developed symptoms of the deadly fever on a Friday and died several days later on Sunday November 22. “The attending physicians say his system was greatly run down by overwork,” the papers announced. Ferris and his estranged wife Margaret had no children.

Defeated and alone and so sudden was his death that some speculated Ferris had committed suicide instead.

Ferris certainly had his share of disappointments. After the Fair, he dismantled the wheel, moved it to a park on the north side of the city, and sued exhibitors hoping to win back profits based on the wheel’s attendance. “There must be a million people down there,” Ferris once said about the line of spectators waiting to board. But the dispute was effectively over after Ferris’ untimely death.

The wheel however was another matter. The 400-ton steel structure was too large and costly to keep dismantling and transporting to different locations.  Eventually it ended up in St. Louis where the novelty wore off. So on May 11, 1906, thanks to 100 pounds of strategically placed dynamite, the original Ferris Wheel collapsed into a twisted mass of scrap steel. “Utter uselessness,” the Chicago Tribune opined, unjustly implying that Ferris had kept the wheel around too long.

In truth, the company which bought the wheel went out of business.

Image result for ferris wheel chicago dismantling

By that time, Ferris was gone and didn’t personally feel the sting of criticism.  His name however would carry on. Two years after the Fair in 1895, London built a mammoth 308-foot tall Great Wheel modeled after Ferris’ original design. And soon after that, similar but smaller versions of the Ferris Wheel began popping up in parks and carnivals throughout the world.

Then in 1995, a Ferris Wheel returned to Chicago’s lakefront on the newly renovated Navy Pier. In 2006, it was replaced by a more technically advanced and larger wheel (196-foot tall) with 42 climate controlled gondolas. It was dubbed “The Centennial Wheel” and remains one of Chicago’s most popular tourist attractions.

It is currently the sixth-tallest wheel in the United States.

“One of Chicago’s most prevalent but overlooked cultural contributions is not a building,” a Chicago architecture website explains, “it’s the Ferris wheel.”

Image result for ferris wheel navy pier

Q&A: Author Ken Zurski on his Award Winning Book ‘UNREMEMBERED’

Posted on Updated on

 

wheels1.png

Author Ken Zurski (Peoria Stories & The Wreck of the Columbia) answers questions about his book UNREMEMBERED Tales of the Nearly Famous and the Not Quite Forgotten a Readers’ Favorite award winner in the category of “Non-Fiction Adventure”

Unremembered is an interesting word. Why did you choose it?

I really liked it for one. It’s not used very often, but I saw it once and immediately knew it fit what I was trying to do.

And that would be a blog of forgotten history stories?

Well, yea, sort of. I was thinking a book first and thought it would make a terrific title. I had stories but wasn’t sure of the direction. I had a list of people and events I’d read about and wanted to write so I started the blog first and now here we are two years later and finally a book.

Unremembered

 

The book is different from the blog in that it tells multiple stories but within the context of a flowing or entwined narrative. Was that planned?

Mostly, yes. I didn’t want to do a bathroom book with just a bunch of articles. The stories on the blog are short so there would have to be a hundred or more in the book. I began thinking of stories intertwining and that sparked my interest in telling stories of people and events and their connections to each other, something I did in an abbreviated way with my book Peoria Stories. Some of the connections are more obvious than others and there are four parts to Unremembered so there are different themes, but with a thread that connects them all.

Some people seem to pop up and leave and others reemerge. Is this because of their connections?

Oh, Yes. There are probably 70 people featured in the book all under the same guise of being nearly famous or not quite forgotten. Some appear briefly others more prominently.

George Francis Train is one character that seems to have his hand in everything. Did you know that going in?

Oh, of course. Train was probably the person that best exemplifies what I was trying to convey in Unremembered. He was a resourceful figure and had some pretty amazing accomplishments in his lifetime, but he tried too hard to be important. Eventually his antics led many to believe he was insane. Others greatly admired him. In the end though, hardly anyone remembers him.

So he fits under the category of “nearly famous”?

Yes, I suppose, in how time treated his story. Today, he’s certainly not famous when compared to others, but in the later half of the 19th century he was a very famous figure, prominently in the news and influential and controversial too.

Image result for george francis train
George Francis Train

And Nellie Bly, the journalist, where does she fit in?

She is sort of like Train but never seemed to push herself into the spotlight like Train did. Certainly traveling around the world is a heady stuff for a woman at the time, but she did it to further her status as a journalist, not become a celebrity. That she became famous was a bonus.

So she is not quite forgotten?

Exactly her name comes up in books about the early history of journalism. But most people don’t know all of her amazing story.

Related image
Nellie Bly

Train and Bly seems to be main characters but don’t enter the book until the third part, especially Bly. Was this by design?

Sort of. Train has a connection to a man we meet in the first part Cornelius Vanderbilt, who has a connection to a steamboat disaster in New York whose tragic events has a connection to a young printer, it just follows along. Train is actually in every part in some way.

Niagara Falls is an interesting subject? How did you choose that to continue the narrative in Part Two?

Beyond the nature part of the beast, there’s a human story to the Falls which really interested me. Why did people risk their life to challenge it? So many stories emerged I had to tell it.

And yet, somehow it ties into balloon travel which ties into the birth of transportation

Yes, Part Three is about reaching new limits and new heights in transportation both by water and air. Some interesting and forgotten stories can be found here beyond the more familiar names like the Wright Brothers, Charles Lindbergh and even the Titanic.

So there is an “unremembered” ship?

There is. Again famous for it’s time, but mostly forgotten now.

And then we’re back to a tragedy in Part Four?

Yes, the Great Chicago Fire.

And a familiar face emerges?

Yes, Train has a history there as well.

It’s all very fascinating stuff and the book covers a lot of ground.  Were you ever surprised by the connections?

Most everything in the book is included because of the connections, but there were a few that were unexpected and came about while during research.

They call that writer’s luck, right?

Exactly

Ken Zurski

‘Unremembered’ Receives Award in International Book Contest

Posted on Updated on

Unremembered

Ken Zurski’s Unremembered: Tales of the Nearly Famous & the Not Quite Forgotten has been recognized by Readers’ Favorite as one of the Top 5 “Non-Fiction-Adventure” books of 2019.

The prestigious Readers’ Favorite Annual Book Award Contest showcases both independent and publication house releases and features multiple winners in specific categories. According to information on the Readers’ Favorite website:  “We receive thousands of entries from all over the world. Because of these large submission numbers, we are able to break down our contest into 140+ genres, and each genre is judged separately, ensuring you only compete against books of your specific genre for a fairer and more accurate competition.”  Submissions for the Readers’ Favorite book contest are taken through March of each year and winners are announced in early September (Read more about the contest here: .https://readersfavorite.com/2019-award-contest-winners.htm).

In each category, a gold medal. silver medal, bronze medal, honorable mention, and finalist awards are granted. Zurski’s book picked up an “Honorable Mention” award in the category of “Non-Fiction-Adventure.”

“I’m thrilled,” said  Zurski. “Readers’ Favorite is one of the largest and most respected book review sites for independent authors. It’s an honor to get a good review and even better to be recognized for it with an award.”

Zurski received (3) five-star reviews for Unremembered. As one Readers’ Favorite reviewer stated: “Zurski is a gifted storyteller…I was fascinated by his stories and loved learning about the unknown heroes, villains and trailblazers he highlights in this work.”

(Read all the “Unremembered’ reviews here: https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/unremembered)

“Unremembered” was released by Amika Press in August of 2018. It’s described as “a fascinating collection of once famous people and events that are now all but forgotten by time.” The multiple story lines featured in the book are woven together “into a narrative that reveals history’s many coincidences, connections, and correlations.”

Zurski says the book’s concept is something he envisioned while working on his blog site http://www.unrememberedhistory.com. “I’ve always been fascinated by people who were once celebrated for their achievements and then just seemed to drop out of memory. Some of the characters and connections in the book are more obvious than others, but all fall under the category of being famous once and now mostly forgotten. ”

Amika Press is based out of Northfield, Illinois and is known for publishing independent authors in all genres. There have been several past Amika Press winners of the Readers’ Favorite book contest including two Gold Medal award winners: Ruth Hull Chatlien’s The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte in the category of Historical Fiction-Personage (2014) and again for Chatlien’s Blood Moon: A Captive’s Tale for Fiction-Western (2018). This year, along with Zurski’s Honorable Mention award, another Amika book, Pushing the River, by Barbra Monier won the Bronze for Fiction- Literary.  (See all of Amika Press books here: http://www.amikapress.com.)

Zurski is a longtime broadcaster, author and speaker based out of Peoria, Illinois. A native of the Chicagoland area and a veteran of radio news, Ken released his first book, The Wreck of the Columbia, in 2012. Peoria Stories, released in 2014, is his second book, Unremembered is his third. Ken resides in Morton, Illinois with his wife, Connie, and two children, Sam and Nora.

Visit his website at unrememberedhistory.com, follow him on Facebook at @kenzurskiauthor or @unrememberedhistory, and find him on Twitter at @kzurski.

Contact Ken at (309) 642-1267 or at kzurski@earthlink.net

George_Washington-AB
Ken Zurski

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forget Pumpkin. When it Came to Pies, the ‘Squirrel’ Took the Prize

Posted on Updated on

By Ken Zurski

 

Image result for ohio river exploration mapFrom the end of the American Revolution and into the early 19th century when brave men began exploring the land between New England and the Mississippi River in areas that covered parts of Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois, the food source came from what was available – either seeded or caught.

For hunters, this meant meat. Wild turkey, white-tailed deer and elk were in high supply,  but as many historians point out from this time period, there was another critter which grazed the land in large numbers and soon caught the fancy of the early explorers and their families who took root in these areas.

Squirrel.

“So plentiful were squirrels,” wrote David McCullough in his book The Pioneers, “that hardly a day passed without a few hundred being killed.”

Related image

And so squirrel became a meal and it showed up frequently in a recipe that is still cited today, although likely not as often partaken: squirrel pie.

It’s almost farcical that modern day historians like McCullough mention “squirrel pie” without an explanation: “ …at a dinner given by Captain William McCurdy featuring squirrel pie, he found Mrs. McCurdy ‘very agreeable.’”

But why should they.

Certainly having squirrel on the menu would raise a few eyebrows, but in the late 18th century, of which McCullough was referencing, “squirrel pie” was a staple, like an apple pie or pumpkin pie would be today. Only this pie was no dessert. It’s ingredients were more savory than sweet.

Image result for squirrel pie

It was a meat pie, plain and simple. A  form of pastry filled with minced meat and vegetables. Today in Britain, meat pies are famously sold at London football matches like hot dogs are in America. Only the British meat pie’s don’t have any squirrel in it – or so we think.

Nevertheless, a recipe for an old “Poacher’s Squirrel Pie” can be found on the internet on a website which rightfully claims to be a “field to fork foodie adventure.” To add some flavor, a “root mash” is added on top so the whole caboodle looks more like a casserole than a pie.

Image result for squirrel pie

That’s not the case for most recipes of squirrel pie which usually resemble a traditional round pie in a pan, either large or small (like a pot pie), or a hand held type pastry with pinched edges.  Some recipes for squirrel even leave out the pie distinction and offer up just “fried squirrel.”

But why digress.

When it comes to squirrel pie, there’s one main ingredient: one squirrel, once skinned.

The author of the article about the “Poacher’s Squirrel Pie” points out that a “well fed” winter male squirrel can yield 110 grams of cooked meat. “Cook it slow” the recipe states for squirrel meat is very lean and it must be cooked for an extended period of time to tenderize. If cooked “low and slow” for 4 hours or more, the “meat was falling off the bone.” The result: although the meat is “quite fiddly” (a British term for being complicated or awkward), the taste is “surprisingly good,” rates the website.

Certainly when foraging for food like the early settlers did, one didn’t have the time or resource to be fussy. Squirrel was available in large numbers and easy to trap or shoot. So they caught it, ate it and likely enjoyed it.

But that was 200 years ago.

You would think by the early part of the 20th century, the taste for squirrel, especially in the Midwest, would have come to an end. But not so fast. In October of 1938, an Akron, Ohio newspaper named the Beacon Journal announced the winning recipe for a daily pie contest that went to a Mrs. Elizabeth Hindman for her  “squirrel pie recipe.”

This was no novelty concoction. In fact, squirrel pot pies were “the favored recipe for the late hunting season,” the paper noted.

As for that day’s winner, Hindman, at the age of 82, was “one of our oldest readers,” the Beacon reported. “We know that when she learned to make squirrel pie there were no restrictions as to when these animals could be killed.”

Hindman even offered some tasty advice. “The squirrel may be removed from the bones,” she points out, “but some men prefer to have the meat left on bones.  You may fix the meat to suit your family.”

For her efforts, Hindman reaped a cash reward of one dollar. She explained that if a squirrel was out of season or “you do not get any squirrel,” save the recipe and use a rabbit instead. “Most of the recipes sent to us for squirrel pie,” the paper cited, “could also be used for rabbit or chicken.”

“Judging by the number we saw,” the Beacon continued, “there should be enough rabbits for every hunter.”

They likely tasted better too.

Unfortunately here in the 21st century, the once revered squirrel, especially when it comes to eating, are referenced mostly as a joke on how many unfortunate ones can be found stuck to the road.

Bon appetite! 

Related image

(Sources: David McCullough “The Pioneers;” various internet sites)

 

 

As Luck Would Have It, We Know The First Lottery Winner

Posted on

By Ken Zurski

The winner of the first lottery designed to help the colonists of the New World is a man named Thomas Sharplisse, a tailor from London.

We know this rather trivial historical fact thanks in part to a another man named John Stow who decided to chronicle English life in in the 16th century. His book Survey of London was released in 1598, a life’s work indeed, since he was dead just seven years later at the age of 80.

At the start of the 17th century, however, other diarists picked up the slack, commissioned by King James I, and continued to record anecdotes and life experiences of fellow Londoners. The Stow’s Chronicles is the result.

And because of it, we know the name: Thomas Sharplisse.

aaa.jpg

Sharplisse had nothing to do with America except, as other Londoners did at the time, a passing interest in what was going on in the New World.  It was after all 1612. The stock holding Virginia Company of London, had funded the first English colony in North America, the struggling James Towne, or more commonly known as Jamestown, named of course in honor of his majesty.

The newly established settlement (actually it was the second incarnation, the first was James Fort) was reeling from sickness, starvation  and occasional attacks by hostile Indians. They were in desperate need for more supplies, but the Virginia Company was broke. So the King approved a lottery, a game of chance really, but also an opportunity for fellow countryman to invest at a time when charitable contributions didn’t exist.

Marketing for the lottery was in the guise of a song:

To London, worthy Gentlelmen,

goe venture there your chaunce:

good lucke standes now in readinesse,

your fortunes to advance 

In June of 1612, Sharplisse was among the crowd that gathered in a specially constructed “Lotterie house” near St. Paul’s Church in London to watch tickets drawn in the first Great Standing Lottery or the Jamestown Lottery as it is more referred to today.

STC102218

Little else is known about Sharplisse except that he spent two-shillings-and-sixpence on the chance. And according to Stow’s Chronicles, Shaprlisse’s ticket  was the Grand Prize winner – four thousand crowns in “fayre plate, which was sent to his house in a very stately manner.” It was a fortune at the time.

Two Anglican churches took home smaller winnings

After the Virginia Company paid for the prizes, salesman, managers, and other expenses, the remaining revenue covered the cost of shipping people and supplies to Jamestown. It was such a vital resource that Captain John Smith referred to the lottery as “the real and substantial food.” Disappointing, however, was the turn out. Nearly 60-thousand lottery tickets went unsold. Eventually, the crown banned lotteries that benefited Jamestown because of complaints that they were robbing England of money.

More than a century later, the First Continental Congress tried a lottery to help pay for the Revolutionary War.

Image result for early lottery

(Some text was reprinted from The Lottery Wars: Long Odds, Fast Money, and the Battle Over an American Institution; Source: Colonial  America Lottery by Steve Swain)

When The Circus Found the ‘Tallest Lady on Earth’

Posted on Updated on

By Ken Zurski

EllaEwing1.jpgElla Kate Ewing literally “grew up” on a rural Midwest farm.

Born in La Grange, Missouri in 1872, Ewing was a normal sized toddler, but by the age of six began to quickly grow. By age 14, Ella had sprouted to over six feet tall, nearly a full foot or two taller than most of her classmates.

Her rapid rise in height was attributed to a rare hormone condition.

By the time she reached 18, Ella was close to seven feet in height. When she stopped growing at age 22, she topped out at an astounding 8-foot, 4 inches. 

Of course she was stared at and teased. “The girls of my own age shunned me,” Ewing would later say about her childhood in tiny Gorin, Missouri.  “My tastes were the same as theirs; I loved dolls and scrap-books and it was as much fun for me to make mudpiles as it was for them.”

“When I called on my friends there were no chairs large enough for me to sit on,” she added, “and I was out of place apparently, everywhere.”

But for oddities like Ella, there were opportunities.

The circus came calling.

“I reckon you must mean Ella Ewing,” a local was quoted as saying when a museum agent from Chicago came to Gorin on a tip of a “wonderful giantess” in town. “She’s the biggest gal in these parts, and I calc’late she hain’t got her growth yit.”

The agent went to Ella’s home.  A newspaper writer described the meeting this way:

“‘Was Miss Ewing in?’ [he asked]. Yes she was, and she soon entered the parlor, being compelled to stoop to get through the door. Her head almost grazed the ceiling and the agent looked upon the tallest human being he had ever seen.” 

The agent soon “made known his errand.” Ella’s parents were reluctant at first. Ella was self-conscious about her height and hated the idea of people gawking at her. She and her family thought celebrity-hood clashed with their strong Christian beliefs too.

But money talks.

Ella was offered $1000 to spend four weeks as an exhibit at a Chicago museum. Another report claims she was offered $500 a week for forty weeks.  Either way, it was an offer Ella and her parents couldn’t refuse. “If people are going to gawk,” a friend convinced, “make them pay.”

Ella instantly caught the attention of other museum mangers throughout the nation. “She was a giant in reality and none of the other living giants wanted to share a stage with her,” the Palmyra (Missouri) Spector reported.  Ella was larger than the “famous Chinese Giant” who stood seven-feet eleven inches tall, and P.T. Barnum’s Colonel Ruoth Goshen who was seven-feet six inches “in his thickest soled boots.” Ella, at over eight feet tall, “readily looked over the heads of either of these two men,” the Spector explained.

After the museum stint, Ella was featured at Chicago’s 1893 Worlds Fair. From there she  appeared in state fairs and other events near her home earning her the nickname ‘Missouri Giantess.”  Eventually,  P.T Barnum hired Ella for his traveling circus. Ella became the “Giant Giantess” for Barnum and billed as  “A true giantess far exceeding in height all other giant’s that ever lived.”  Typical of a Barnum “freak” show, he paired her with other human oddities like the Midget Man who was “only six-inches tall” and a “cyclopean young lady” weighing in at “over 300 pounds.

Ella towered above them all. “I am delighted with it and find it quite different from what I expected before I entered it,” she said about circus life. “I have always received the best treatment from all the people in the show, and enjoy traveling about and seeing the country.”

For six-months work , Ewing received $3,250 dollars, which made the days on the road more bearable and homecomings more special. Even the attention became commonplace and acceptable. “It was terribly embarrassing to me at first,” she explained referring to the constant gawking, ” but I have almost gotten used to it now.”  

In 1897, after making a good living on the circuit, “the tallest lady on Earth” finally settled down. Travelling had become burdensome. “I couldn’t get into the berth of an ordinary sleeping car,” Ella told the St Louis Dispatch, “and had to travel day and night in an ordinary car. The rooms of a hotel have always been a torment for me.” 

Ella returned to rural Missouri, bought a modest farm house near her parents and rebuilt it to her specifications: 12-foot ceilings, 6-feet tall windows, and over-sized furniture.

“I’m always glad to get back to our peaceful Missouri home,” she said. “Here everybody knows me and I’m not considered a “freak.”

At home, Ella’s stature continued to grow. She received constant attention from locals who came to marvel, not at her, but at a privilege only the “Giantess” could afford: a telephone.

She never married claiming her size prevented her from finding true love. “I have never given matrimony a serious thought,” she exclaimed in 1899, “and I have no doubt that I shall live and die an old maid.”

Ella died of tuberculous in 1913 at the age of 40.

(Sources: https://historicmissourians.shsmo.org/historicmissourians/name/e/ewing/)