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A Book Made From “Washington’s Tree”

George Washington had a thing for trees—legendary trees, that is. Remember when he cut his dad’s cherry tree down, then refused to tell a lie about his deed? The tale was a legend created by one of Washington’s first biographers, but the cherry tree has forevermore been associated with the first president’s honesty. However, it turns out that Washington consorted with another legendary tree, too: He supposedly took command of the Continental Army beneath an elm tree in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The elm itself wasn’t fake: It was one of six elm trees that lined Garden Street near Cambridge Commons. But the story that surrounded it almost certainly was. It went like this: Inspired by patriotism and inflamed by the anger of a crowd, Washington sat on a horse beneath an elm tree, pulled out his sword, and made himself an army.

Just about everything in the legend appears to be false, as Harvard arborist John George Jack noted in 1931 [PDF]. “To clinch the effect of [the legend] ...” he complained, “the artists have allowed their historical imaginations to run amuck. Prancing steeds, dipping colors, dear little drummer boys, long rows of troops aligned to a hair’s breadth, gorgeously uniformed, and presenting glittering arms with fixed bayonets, thrill every youthful heart, while smack in the middle of the front rank stands the Elm, with just room for Washington, flourishing his sword, to ride between it and the immaculate warriors.”

Washington did take command of his troops in Cambridge, but the event is thought to have been anything but glamorous. His men didn’t have uniforms or enough to eat. It wasn’t even a real army: It was a random assortment of state militias with no authority of any kind. Once he took control, Washington found that his troops were dirty and unruly and had really bad manners. For the future president, assuming control of the motley mob was taking an almost laughable gamble—one that he famously won.

The legend of what became known as “the Washington Elm” may have taken root because of other famous Revolutionary War-era trees. Boston’s Liberty Tree was an elm tree where people hung their favorite effigies and met to conspire against King George. Eventually, places all over the new nation planted their own “liberty trees,” and elms became known for their Revolutionary War connotations.

By the time the 100th anniversary of Washington’s army takeover came around, the tree where he supposedly did the deed was in terrible shape. “It is not pleasant to view the decay of one of these Titans of primeval growth,” wrote one observer, who noted that its branches had been mutilated and fallen until only a bandage-swathed monster remained.

Perhaps guessing that the end was near, a group of savvy businesspeople took some of the detritus of the dying tree and had it carved into commemorative books, like the one you see above. Housed in the collection of Harvard University’s Houghton Library, the book shows scenes of the tree itself and glimpses of Revolutionary War-era soldiers doing their thing.

In 1923, the last mangy portions of the rotted Washington Elm fell down. The government of Cambridge had to rescue what remained from souvenir hunters eager to get their hands on a piece of the tree. But its legacy didn’t end there: Not only were the remnants made into gavels and sent all around the country, but other portions of the rotten wood were divvied up and sent to various notable people and everyday applicants. The tree even got its own postage stamp in 1925.

Today, descendants of the tree can be found throughout the country. But don’t confuse them with other so-called Washington Elms the president supposedly planted or chilled out under in Washington, D.C. They’re probably legends, too—although the memorabilia generated by the first president’s association with elms shows that Washington fans were anything but fake.

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The Richest Person of All Time From Each State


Looking for inspiration in your quest to become a billionaire? This map from cost information website HowMuch.net, spotted by Digg, highlights the richest person in history who hails from each of the 50 states.

More billionaires live in the U.S. than in any other country, but not every state has produced a member of the Three Comma Club (seven states can only lay claim to millionaires). The map spans U.S. history, with numbers adjusted for inflation. One key finding: The group is overwhelmingly male, with only three women represented.

The richest American by far was John D. Rockefeller, repping New York with $257.25 billion to his name. Amazon's Jeff Bezos and Microsoft's Bill Gates clock in at the third and fifth richest, respectively. While today they both make their homes in the exclusive waterfront city of Medina, Washington, this map is all about birthplace. Since Gates, who is worth $90.54 billion, was born in Seattle, he wins top billing in the Evergreen State, while Albuquerque-born Bezos's $116.57 billion fortune puts New Mexico on the map.

The richest woman is South Carolina's Anita Zucker ($3.83 billion), the CEO of InterTech Group, a private, family-owned chemicals manufacturer based in Charleston. Clocking in at number 50 is the late, great socialite Brooke Astor—who, though a legend of the New York City social scene, was a native of New Hampshire—with $150 million.

[h/t Digg]

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Gergely Dudás - Dudolf, Facebook
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There’s a Ghost Hiding in This Illustration—Can You Find It?
Gergely Dudás - Dudolf, Facebook
Gergely Dudás - Dudolf, Facebook

A hidden image illustration by Gergely Dudás, a.k.a. Dudolf
Gergely Dudás - Dudolf, Facebook

Gergely Dudás is at it again. The Hungarian illustrator, who is known to his fans as “Dudolf,” has spent the past several years delighting the internet with his hidden image illustrations, going back to the time he hid a single panda bear in a sea of snowmen in 2015. In the years since, he has played optical tricks with a variety of other figures, including sheep and Santa Claus and hearts and snails. For his latest brainteaser, which he posted to both his Facebook page and his blog, Dudolf is asking fans to find a pet ghost named Sheet in a field of white bunny rabbits.

As we’ve learned from his past creations, what makes this hidden image difficult to find is that it looks so similar to the objects surrounding it that our brains just sort of group it in as being “the same.” So you’d better concentrate.

If you’ve scanned the landscape again and again and can’t find Sheet to save your life, go ahead and click here to see where he’s hiding.

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