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What Else Does the Sergeant at Arms Do?

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The Sergeant at Arms is perhaps most famous for being the guy at the State of the Union Address who shouts “Mister (or Madam) Speaker, the President of the United States!” But what does the Sergeant at Arms do the rest of the year?

The Sergeant at Arms traces its roots all the way back to the Roman Empire, where senior officers of state chose 12 patricians to act as bodyguards and serve police functions. These men had very few limits on their powers to arrest or use violence; they answered to no legal authority but their own master. King Phillip II of France borrowed this idea and formed a small, special corps of men, armed with decorated battle maces, to guard him when he traveled the Holy Land during the Crusades. The notion of a small cadre of police/guards found its way from France to England, via the Norman lords, as did the French name for the guards, sergent, from the Latin servientum (“servant, one who serves”).

In 1279, King Edward I of England formed a group of 20 men to act as the first royal bodyguard in England, Anglicizing the French sergent and naming them the Sergeants at Arms. The sergeants served various other functions for their king and counted among their responsibilities the arrest of traitors and the collection of debts. A little over a century later, the House of Commons received its own Sergeant at Arms* and since then, these officers have almost always been associated with legislative bodies.

Both houses of the United States Congress adopted the office of Sergeant at Arms in 1798. In the House of Representatives, the Sergeant at Arms’ chief task is maintaining order and decorum on the floor of the chamber. To that end, he is authorized to “display” the silver and ebony Mace of the United States House of Representatives – a visual reminder of Congress’ authority – as a warning to behave and use the mace in the aisles of the House Chamber to “subdue” disorderly conduct. Congress has also used the Sergeant at Arms as something of a bounty hunter/hall monitor in the past, dispatching him to retrieve absent representatives and bring them to House sessions, sometimes even escort them directly to their seat in the chamber.

The Sergeant at Arms’ role in the security of the House is reviewing and implementing security measures related to the Capitol and House Office Buildings. His office secures, limits access to, and performs sweeps of the House Floor and Gallery, oversees and secures the Visitors Desk and Parking Garage and administrates the distribution of all representatives’ and staff’s identification badges.

* There’s some debate over how Parliament got its own Sergeant at Arms. One theory holds that the appointment was a scheme concocted by the King to extend his power over the legislature. Another suggests that the officer was requested so that the legislators could enforce parliamentary privilege and have the Sergeant exercise royal authority through the instructions of the Speaker. Yet another says that since Parliament met at the King’s home, the Palace at Westminster, in its early days, His Majesty originally loaned some Sergeants out as door-keepers to the Parliamentary meetings.

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Big Questions
Who Was Chuck Taylor?
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From Betty Crocker to Tommy Bahama, plenty of popular labels are "named" after fake people. But one product with a bona fide backstory to its moniker is Converse's Chuck Taylor All-Star sneakers. The durable gym shoes are beloved by everyone from jocks to hipsters. But who's the man behind the cursive signature on the trademark circular ankle patch?

As journalist Abraham Aamidor recounted in his 2006 book Chuck Taylor, All Star: The True Story of the Man behind the Most Famous Athletic Shoe in History, Chuck Taylor was a former pro basketball player-turned-Converse salesman whose personal brand and tireless salesmanship were instrumental to the shoes' success.

Charles Hollis Taylor was born on July 24, 1901, and raised in southern Indiana. Basketball—the brand-new sport invented by James Naismith in 1891—was beginning to take the Hoosier State by storm. Taylor joined his high school team, the Columbus High School Bull Dogs, and was named captain.

After graduation, instead of heading off to college, Taylor launched his semi-pro career playing basketball with the Columbus Commercials. He’d go on to play for a handful of other teams across the Midwest, including the the Akron Firestone Non-Skids in Ohio, before finally moving to Chicago in 1922 to work as a sales representative for the Converse Rubber Shoe Co. (The company's name was eventually shortened to Converse, Inc.)

Founded in Malden, Massachusetts, in 1908 as a rubber shoe manufacturer, Converse first began producing canvas shoes in 1915, since there wasn't a year-round market for galoshes. They introduced their All-Star canvas sports shoes two years later, in 1917. It’s unclear whether Chuck was initially recruited to also play ball for Converse (by 1926, the brand was sponsoring a traveling team) or if he was simply employed to work in sales. However, we do know that he quickly proved himself to be indispensable to the company.

Taylor listened carefully to customer feedback, and passed on suggestions for shoe improvements—including more padding under the ball of the foot, a different rubber compound in the sole to avoid scuffs, and a patch to protect the ankle—to his regional office. He also relied on his basketball skills to impress prospective clients, hosting free Chuck Taylor basketball clinics around the country to teach high school and college players his signature moves on the court.

In addition to his myriad other job duties, Taylor played for and managed the All-Stars, a traveling team sponsored by Converse to promote their new All Star shoes, and launched and helped publish the Converse Basketball Yearbook, which covered the game of basketball on an annual basis.

After leaving the All-Stars, Taylor continued to publicize his shoe—and own personal brand—by hobnobbing with customers at small-town sporting goods stores and making “special appearances” at local basketball games. There, he’d be included in the starting lineup of a local team during a pivotal game.

Taylor’s star grew so bright that in 1932, Converse added his signature to the ankle patch of the All Star shoes. From that point on, they were known as Chuck Taylor All-Stars. Still, Taylor—who reportedly took shameless advantage of his expense account and earned a good salary—is believed to have never received royalties for the use of his name.

In 1969, Taylor was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. The same year, he died from a heart attack on June 23, at the age of 67. Around this time, athletic shoes manufactured by companies like Adidas and Nike began replacing Converse on the court, and soon both Taylor and his namesake kicks were beloved by a different sort of customer.

Still, even though Taylor's star has faded over the decades, fans of his shoe continue to carry on his legacy: Today, Converse sells more than 270,000 pairs of Chuck Taylors a day, 365 days a year, to retro-loving customers who can't get enough of the athlete's looping cursive signature.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Big Questions
What Is the Difference Between Generic and Name Brand Ibuprofen?
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What is the difference between generic ibuprofen vs. name brands?

Yali Friedman:

I just published a paper that answers this question: Are Generic Drugs Less Safe than their Branded Equivalents?

Here’s the tl;dr version:

Generic drugs are versions of drugs made by companies other than the company which originally developed the drug.

To gain FDA approval, a generic drug must:

  • Contain the same active ingredients as the innovator drug (inactive ingredients may vary)
  • Be identical in strength, dosage form, and route of administration
  • Have the same use indications
  • Be bioequivalent
  • Meet the same batch requirements for identity, strength, purity, and quality
  • Be manufactured under the same strict standards of FDA's good manufacturing practice regulations required for innovator products

I hope you found this answer useful. Feel free to reach out at www.thinkbiotech.com. For more on generic drugs, you can see our resources and whitepapers at Pharmaceutical strategic guidance and whitepapers

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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