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Posts Tagged ‘H.K. Mencken’

“I noticed every time I spent a lot of time in the bathtub, I would just get fantastic realizations about myself, and they were so valuable and liberating.” – Leonard Orr

I don't care who invented it, but of all the bathtubs out there the best is the claw-footed, whose shape invites one to soak and read at the same time. I can't tell you how many books I've read over the years that ended up waterlogged.  A bathtub was the only thing I truly missed in my nine years of living on the road in Gypsy Lee. -- Wikimedia photo

I don’t care who invented it, but of all the bathtubs out there the best is the claw-footed, whose shape invites one to soak and read at the same time. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read over the years that ended up waterlogged. A bathtub was the only thing I truly missed in my nine years of living on the road in Gypsy Lee. — Wikimedia photo

Don’t Believe Everything You Read

One of the blogs I follow is called Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub.

http://timpanogos.wordpress.com/  I thought it an odd name for a blog, but that’s as far as the little gray cells went – until I read “The Crocodile’s Last Embrace,” a Jade de Cameron mystery by Suzanne Arruda.

Jade is constantly using odd phrases as a substitute for cursing, and in this particular book, one of those phrases is Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub. My little gray cells lit up like a neon Las Vegas Strip sign on coming across a second reference to the phrase. It was a sure sign that I was going to learn something new this day.

But I don't think I would have missed this early version of the bathtub. -- Wikimedia photo

But I don’t think I would have missed this early version of the bathtub. — Wikimedia photo

It seems that in 1917 (Arruda’s book takes place in the 1930s in Africa), H. L. Mencken wrote an article about the introduction of the bathtub to America, saying it was opposed until President Millard Fillmore had a bathtub installed in the White House in 1850,  which made it more acceptable.

The article was entirely false. Not only had an earlier president had a bathtub installed in the White House, but the tub’s invention was much earlier than 1842, which is when Mencken said it was invented.

Mencken fessed up in 1949, saying: “the success of this idle hoax, done in time of war, when more serious writing was impossible, vastly astonished me. It was taken gravely by a great many other newspapers, and presently made its way into medical literature and into standard reference books. It had, of course, no truth in it whatsoever, and I more than once confessed publicly that it was only a jocosity … Scarcely a month goes by that I do not find the substance of it reprinted, not as foolishness but as fact, and not only in newspapers but in official documents and other works of the highest pretensions.”

The story still won’t die. Even today there are sources that quote Mencken’s story as fact. Now I ask you, in this enlightened age of the Internet, how many other stories do you read that are fabrications of the truth?

Too Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub many for sure.

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat: A Mixed Bag http://tinyurl.com/prdkb6c If you want it, then make it happen. Lots of good advice on how to do it.

Bean Pat: Antelope horns and gray hairstreak butterfly  http://tinyurl.com/kqdhgxm If you like nature, you can’t help but love this blog. I had never seen a gray hairstreak butterfly before. It’s beautiful.

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