The very first touristy thing that we did in Charleston was to take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the historic areas of the city. We booked our tour with Old South Carriage Company (and they were great – I highly recommend them!) and arrived for our ride. David, our horse, was waiting for us.
David is a Belgian heavy draft horse. And he’s a real brute of a horse. He weighs in at a nifty 2000 pounds and was rippling with muscles. They told us that a Belgian can pull four times his own weight, meaning David had no problem at all pulling the carriage.
Currently, the world’s tallest horse is a Belgian Draft horse named Big Jake, a gelding born in 2000. He stands 20.2 3⁄4 hands (or 82.75 inches tall). The world’s largest Belgian Draft was named Brooklyn Supreme and weight in at a whopping 3,200 pounds and stood 78 inches tall.
Well, David was a great horse. The only thing about David is that he sometimes didn’t like to stop, or stay stopped, when at a red light. He’d be itching to get going again, but was easily controlled by the lady who was guiding our tour.
In case you’re wondering, the city of Charleston regulates these carriages and the horses. They have very strict rules about the temperatures in which the horses can work (we went fairly early in the morning). Old South Carriage Company also owns a large farm where they take the horses every week for a couple of days or R&R, and then they get extended vacations there every couple of months as I recall. The horses we saw were all very handsome and in great shape…and David even seemed to enjoy his work!
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1895, physicist Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen (1845-1923) became the first person to observe X-rays, a significant scientific advancement that would ultimately benefit a variety of fields, most of all medicine, by making the invisible visible. Rontgen’s discovery occurred accidentally in his Wurzburg, Germany, lab, where he was testing whether cathode rays could pass through glass when he noticed a glow coming from a nearby chemically coated screen. He dubbed the rays that caused this glow X-rays because of their unknown nature.
X-rays are electromagnetic energy waves that act similarly to light rays, but at wavelengths approximately 1,000 times shorter than those of light. Rontgen holed up in his lab and conducted a series of experiments to better understand his discovery. He learned that X-rays penetrate human flesh but not higher-density substances such as bone or lead and that they can be photographed.
Rontgen’s discovery was labeled a medical miracle and X-rays soon became an important diagnostic tool in medicine, allowing doctors to see inside the human body for the first time without surgery. In 1897, X-rays were first used on a military battlefield, during the Balkan War, to find bullets and broken bones inside patients.
Scientists were quick to realize the benefits of X-rays, but slower to comprehend the harmful effects of radiation. Initially, it was believed X-rays passed through flesh as harmlessly as light. However, within several years, researchers began to report cases of burns and skin damage after exposure to X-rays, and in 1904, Thomas Edison’s assistant, Clarence Dally, who had worked extensively with X-rays, died of skin cancer. Dally’s death caused some scientists to begin taking the risks of radiation more seriously, but they still weren’t fully understood. During the 1930s, 40s and 50s, in fact, many American shoe stores featured shoe-fitting fluoroscopes that used to X-rays to enable customers to see the bones in their feet; it wasn’t until the 1950s that this practice was determined to be risky business. Wilhelm Rontgen received numerous accolades for his work, including the first Nobel Prize in physics in 1901, yet he remained modest and never tried to patent his discovery. Today, X-ray technology is widely used in medicine, material analysis and devices such as airport security scanners.
TRIVIA FOR TODAY: In honor of today being election day, here’s a story about one of our presidents: John F. “Jack” Kennedy most likely had the most active extramarital sex life of any president. He allegedly slept with Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Audrey Hepburn, Angie Dickinson, stripper Blaze Starr, Marlene Dietrich, and many other women including White House staffers, secretaries, stewardess, campaign workers, strippers, and acquaintances of trusted male friends. The FBI taped sounds of him and Inga Arvad making love.
If you’d like to read more interesting facts about the presidents, go to this link.