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Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum April 14, 2017

Posted by flashbuzzer in History.
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I recently visited the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum in West Branch, Iowa. The library and museum commemorate the life of our nation’s 31st President, Herbert Hoover.

Here are six nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. Hoover was raised in a Quaker household and regularly attended lengthy Quaker meetings. He was orphaned at the age of 10, and so he moved to Oregon to live with his strict Quaker uncle and aunt.

2. As a newly minted graduate of Stanford, Hoover wore a tweed suit – and grew a mustache – for his first job interview; the minimum age for that position was 35. One of the highlights of his career in the mining industry occurred when he hit a gold mine jackpot in Australia; he eventually earned a yearly income of $30000.

3. As a public servant, Hoover played a critical role in several humanitarian endeavors. For example, he facilitated the evacuation of American tourists in Europe at the outset of World War I. He also organized a major wartime relief effort for Belgium; the rations of extra bread and soup that were prepared for those Belgian refugees were nicknamed “Hoover lunches.”

4. Hoover also served as the Commerce Secretary under Warren Harding. As Commerce Secretary, he strongly advocated the ratification of the Colorado River Compact. He also drafted a uniform highway safety code after his friend in Washington D.C. accumulated 24 driving violations while driving to New York.

5. Hoover warned Calvin Coolidge about rampant speculation in the financial sector. He was a strong advocate for price controls in the real estate market. Interestingly, he also supported various infrastructure projects – including several in the Tennessee Valley.

6. After his presidency, Hoover assisted with various European relief efforts in the aftermath of World War II. He also led two commissions that drafted proposals for reforming the executive branch of the federal government. In addition, he proposed the office of “administrative vice president” who would be tasked with managing the federal budget.

The museum is relatively small, and it took me slightly under two hours to browse all of the exhibits; since I usually attempt to absorb as much information as possible during my museum visits, more casual visitors would probably need about an hour to complete that task. I also appreciated the efforts of the exhibit designers in presenting a balanced view of the financial crisis that plagued Hoover’s time in the White House.

I do not have any quibbles with the museum at this time.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would recommend it to history buffs who happen to be in Iowa.

The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum January 10, 2017

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I recently visited The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum in Hannibal. This museum showcases the life and work of Hannibal’s most famous resident, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, also known as Mark Twain.

Here are six nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. Clemens chose the pen name “Mark Twain” based on his experience as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River. Steamboat pilots often checked the depth of an unfamiliar stretch of water. To that end, they would lower a knotted rope into the water; one “mark” on that rope represented a depth of six feet, while a “twain” on that rope represented a depth of twelve feet. A river depth of twelve feet was sufficient for a steamboat.

2. One of Twain’s characters, Injun Joe, was probably based on Joe Douglas, an Osage Indian boy who was brought to Hannibal after his family was attacked by Pawnee warriors. Douglas never adjusted to life in Hannibal, though.

3. The tentacles of antebellum slavery extended to Hannibal. Slaves in Hannibal typically slept on pallets on kitchen floors and rose early on the following day to begin preparing food for their owners. During his upbringing, Clemens was aware of slavery – though he only had a limited understanding of it.

4. Another of Twain’s characters, Becky Thatcher, was probably based on Laura Hawkins, who lived in an upper middle class home right across from the home where he grew up. Hawkins was the first girl who Clemens liked.

5. Clemens’ younger brother, Henry, sailed on the steamboat Pennsylvania. In 1858, a boiler exploded on the Pennsylvania, scalding Henry. He would later succumb to his injuries, and his death greatly affected his older brother.

6. Clemens’ father, John, was unable to make a living as a farmer. He then moved his family to Hannibal and managed a store; he also served as a judge. Unfortunately, he passed away when Clemens was only twelve years old; Clemens then became a printer’s apprentice to support his family.

I appreciated the fact that the museum consisted of several distinct buildings, as that allowed me to get some much-needed exercise while touring it. The museum staff was also quite friendly and helpful.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would certainly recommend it to tourists who happen to visit Hannibal.

Intel Museum December 24, 2016

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I recently visited the Intel Museum in Santa Clara. This museum showcases the history of Intel.

Here are five nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore were two of the Traitorous Eight employees who resigned from the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory to form Fairchild Semiconductor. Each of the founders of Fairchild made an initial contribution of $500 to the company; Noyce solicited the assistance of his grandmother in that regard. Later, Noyce became so frustrated with the onerous bureaucracy of Fairchild’s parent company, Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corporation, that he and Moore resigned to form NM Electronics; later, they changed its name to Intel.

2. When Noyce and Moore founded NM Electronics, they targeted the memory market. At that time, the dominant technology was magnetic core memory – which was unreliable and expensive, as it had to be made by hand. In light of this, Noyce and Moore decided to unlock the potential of semiconductor-based memory. Their first product was the i3101 64-bit RAM. Later, they achieved great success with the introduction of the Intel 1103 which utilized metal oxide semiconductor technology.

3. In 1969, the Nippon Calculating Machine Corporation contracted Intel to design twelve custom chips for their Busicom 141-PF calculator. During the ensuing research and development phase, Intel produced a design that only required four chips. The 4004 microprocessor was a critical component of that novel approach.

4. Silicon wafers originate from a solution of liquid silicon with a purity of 99.9999999 percent. A seed crystal is dipped into that solution and then withdrawn. That seed crystal is later tapered at both ends and then sliced into a set of thin wafers. Photoresist is applied to those thin wafers as a critical step in photolithography.

5. A Front Opening Unified Pod is typically found in clean labs; it weighs about 25 pounds and contains a stack of 25 silicon wafers that are ready to be processed. A set of FOUPs is conveyed about the lab by an Automated Material Handling System, which is a network of conveyor belts that move at about 1.5 meters per second. The typical clean lab at Intel has at most 1 particle – with a size of 0.5 microns – per cubic foot of air.

The museum had several interesting exhibits that showcased Intel’s pioneering products. I also enjoyed the anecdotes that I encountered; for example, Intel requested that the city of Santa Clara change the name of Coffin Road to Bowers Avenue.

In terms of drawbacks, the accompanying text for some of the exhibits was so small that it was difficult to read. I also happened to visit the museum when several school groups were touring it – making it difficult for me to concentrate on the exhibits.

Overall I would recommend that tourists bypass this museum for the Computer History Museum – as its scope is more narrow than that of the Computer History Museum.

Computer History Museum July 25, 2016

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I recently visited the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. This museum showcases the history of computing.

Here are ten nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. The simple abacus had various native idiosyncrasies. For example, the Chinese suan pan had two beads in its upper section and five beads in its lower section. In contrast, a Korean abacus had one bead in its upper section. Furthermore, a Japanese soroban had one bead in its upper section and four beads in its lower section.

2. Punched cards were proposed by Herman Hollerith as a solution to a challenge posed by the U.S. Census Bureau before the 1890 census. They had been previously utilized by Joseph-Marie Jacquard as an essential element of the Jacquard loom for weaving. Later, they were employed by Maurice Wilkes in a landmark survey of the native flora and fauna of Great Britain.

3. The Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, or ENIAC, relied on approximately 18000 vacuum tubes to perform its computations. Since these vacuum tubes had high failure rates, users of the ENIAC employed a plethora of tricks; for example, they ran the tubes well below their performance limits. When a tube did fail, a skilled technician would locate it within 15 minutes.

4. John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert capitalized on the success of the ENIAC in their development of the Universal Automatic Computer, or UNIVAC. They founded a company to manufacture the UNIVAC; this company was later acquired by Remington Rand. General Electric (GE) was one of the first entities to purchase a UNIVAC for its accounting division; after some initial setbacks, GE was able to integrate its UNIVAC with its business processes. The UNIVAC was later rendered obsolete by IBM.

5. Quipu was utilized by officials in the Incan Empire as a form of documentation; this system was based on colored cords and the precise placement of knots in these cords. Tally sticks were also used for record-keeping through 1) the precise placement of notches of varying depths in these sticks or 2) splitting a stick in half and giving the larger portion to the stock-holder in a stock transaction.

6. Seymour Cray was arguably the impetus for the rise of supercomputers. As a staunch opponent of bureaucracy, he enjoyed working in small engineering teams and would often work late at night to minimize distractions. He was particular about minimizing delay; thus, many of his products had to be meticulously hand-wired to satisfy that requirement. He also relied on fluids such as Fluorinert and Freon as coolants for his products. His final product, the Cray-3, flopped – due to its reliance on unproven gallium arsenide technology.

7. The Chalk River Laboratories worked with the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) to develop a computing device that could control one of its reactors. In the process, DEC engineers Gordon Bell and Edson de Castro designed a landmark device – the PDP-8, which was the first commercially viable minicomputer. The PDP-8 relied on flip chip technology, where a machine automatically wired connectors on the back of a panel containing various components.

8. Vacuum tubes acted as digital logic components in early computing devices; when a filament (cathode) was heated, current would pass through a grid and strike a plate (anode). They were superseded by transistors. John Bardeen and Walter Brattain developed the first transistor – two gold contacts on a sliver of germanium. Texas Instruments then played a pivotal role in an industry-wide shift from germanium-based transistors to silicon-based transistors by touting the robustness to temperature of silicon.

9. The University of Utah played a pivotal role in the rise of computer graphics. For example, Martin Newell used a simple teapot to show how a wireframe mesh could divide a three-dimensional object into sections of (roughly) constant smoothness. Also, Ivan Sutherland allowed his students to create a wireframe mesh model of his car and apply polygonal shading to it. In addition, Utah alumni have founded several leading graphics companies, including Silicon Graphics and Pixar.

10. The Simon Personal Communicator was developed by IBM and BellSouth as the first smartphone. Users could place calls, organize their contacts, and send e-mails with that device; it flopped, though. Other early smartphones included the Nokia Communicator, which allowed users to browse the Web.

The museum featured an impressive array of exhibits and artifacts, including a wooden optical mouse that had been donated by Donald Knuth, a copy of a pamphlet of IBM “company songs” that extolled the virtues of Thomas Watson, and a Google server from 1999. I also enjoyed perusing the explanations of devices such as Napier’s bones and slide rules.

I should note that the Artificial Intelligence and Robotics section was a bit sparse; hopefully it will be upgraded soon.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would definitely recommend it to those who happen to be in the Bay Area.

San Jose Museum of Art July 22, 2016

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I recently visited the San Jose Museum of Art in San Jose. This museum showcases several local artists and special exhibitions.

Here are three nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. The tonalpohualli was a 260-day sacred Aztec calendar. This calendar was divided into 20 weeks, each consisting of 13 days. Each day was associated with a particular deity; the Aztecs believed that one’s birthday shaped their destiny.

2. At one point, the U.S. Border Patrol placed sensors near the U.S.-Mexico border that could detect the footsteps of migrants. Migrants adopted ingenious strategies to defeat these sensors. For example, they would bring bicycles to the border, toss them over the border fence, clamber over the fence, and then ride them for a sufficient distance before abandoning them in the desert.

3. The U.S. Border Patrol has also attempted to detect the presence of migrants by linking several large tires with chains and dragging them to level a patch of ground. If any migrants then passed through that area, their tracks would be easily spotted. Migrants have adopted various countermeasures, including tying carpets under their shoes and then walking on them for a sufficient distance before abandoning them in the desert.

I was especially impressed by the Border Cantos exhibit that featured 1) a plethora of gripping photographs of the U.S.-Mexico border fence and flotsam discarded by migrants and 2) a collection of musical instruments that had been constructed from this flotsam. These musical instruments were made from sundry items including pages from a Spanish-language New Testament, empty shotgun shells that had been fired by U.S. Border Patrol agents, and childrens’ sneakers.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would recommend it to any visitors in the area – especially if it is hosting an intriguing special exhibition.

California State Railroad Museum February 6, 2016

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I recently visited the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. This museum showcases the history of railroads in California.

Here are three nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. Charles Crocker, Mark Hopkins, Collis Huntington and Leland Stanford comprised the “Big Four” – a group of railroad barons who founded the Central Pacific Railroad. They made their fortunes during the California Gold Rush by selling supplies to miners; for example, Huntington ran a dry goods store, and Hopkins ran a grocery. Later, they successfully lobbied for Representative Aaron Sargent’s Pacific Railway Act; it became law in 1862.

2. Construction of the Central Pacific’s section of the transcontinental railroad was a thorny task. The route for that section was planned by engineer Theodore Judah, and included a stretch from Dutch Flat to Donner Pass. Workers had to adhere to the following standard: the elevation of the tracks could change by at most two feet for every 100 feet of laid track. At one point, Thomas Durant of the Union Pacific bet Crocker that his team could not exceed the Union Pacific record of seven miles of track laid in one day; Crocker then spurred them to lay ten miles of track in one day.

3. During the middle of the last century, railroads competed fiercely to offer top-quality service to their passengers. For example, railroads strove to provide a first-class dining experience, featuring ornate silverware and attentive porters. Certain railroads were acclaimed for their signature dishes, including:

It should be noted that railroads regularly lost money in their efforts in this regard, yet they viewed a first-class dining experience as a means of burnishing their brand.

I enjoyed walking through a sleeper car and a dining car, as that (briefly) helped me feel like a railroad passenger during the last century. The museum also features an excellent exhibit on toy trains that attracted many children.

I should note that one of the cash registers was not working during my visit – leading to the formation of a long snaking queue near the entrance to the museum. Hopefully this does not occur regularly…

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would definitely recommend it to those who happen to be in Sacramento.

de Saisset Museum January 4, 2016

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I recently visited the de Saisset Museum in Santa Clara. This museum features a collection of artifacts from the Santa Clara Valley and other exhibits.

Here are three nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. Ernest de Saisset was an aspiring painter who happens to be the namesake of the museum. His father, Pedro, was a bastard son of Pedro I of Brazil. Ernest de Saisset studied at the Santa Clara College for a few years before moving to France to study at the Academie Julian, where his classmates included luminaries such as van Gogh and Gauguin. He later moved back to Santa Clara, but his life was cut short by a bout of rheumatic fever. His younger sister, Isabel, decreed in her will that Santa Clara University build a museum in his honor.

2. Saint Clare of Assisi was born into a wealthy Italian family. She heard the teachings of Saint Francis of Assisi, which inspired her to renounce her worldly wealth and devote her life to acts of charity. With his help, she founded the Poor Clares as an organization of women who shared her values. In 1777, Junipero Serra established the Mission of Santa Clara as the first mission in California to be named for a woman.

3. Niagara Falls State Park was the first state park to be established in the United States. Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron and Erie all drain into the Niagara Falls. Fredrick Law Olmsted, who is perhaps best known for designing Central Park, played a key role in establishing this State Park. Unfortunately, Niagara Falls is also known for the Love Canal disaster, where chemical companies dumped a large amount of industrial waste in the neighboring city of Niagara Falls (NY). Many of its residents subsequently endured health problems, including high white blood cell counts, birth defects and miscarriages. At one point, President Carter designated federal aid for Love Canal; this was the first instance of federal aid being designated for something other than a natural disaster.

I enjoyed the short film, “Niagara Falling” that contrasted the natural beauty of Niagara Falls with the economic decline and urban decay of the nearby city of Niagara Falls. The music was haunting and I felt empathy for the residents of Niagara Falls, who waxed poetic about the years when their city was an economic powerhouse.

When visiting the museum, I would recommend driving to the main entrance of Santa Clara University and obtaining a visitor’s parking permit so that one can park in the free lot that is only a short walk from the museum. That permit lasts for two hours, which affords sufficient time to tour this small museum.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would definitely recommend it to those who happen to be in Santa Clara.

Blackhawk Museum June 14, 2015

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I recently visited the Blackhawk Museum in Danville. This museum features a collection of classic cars and other exhibits.

Here are eight nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. The Maserati family included seven brothers, and six of them helped launch the family business. They adopted the trident of Neptune as their company’s emblem, as the trident was the symbol of their hometown, Bologna. One of their successful products was the 3500 GT. Interestingly, the Shah of Iran was impressed by the 3500 GT; later, he became the impetus for the design and production of the 5000 GT.

2. Sir William Lyons founded the Swallow Sidecar Company in 1922 as a manufacturer of motorcycle sidecars. The Swallow Sidecar Company was renamed as “Jaguar” after World War II; Jaguar did not achieve international prominence, though, until their D-Type cars won three consecutive editions of the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race. Lyons wanted to recoup some of the design and production costs of the D-Type car, leading to the development of the XKSS as a road-going version of the D-Type car.

3. The hood ornament of Packard cars features a pelican; it has been claimed that this design choice was inspired by the Packard family’s escutcheon. Packard achieved great success with their Sixth Series in 1929. While their sales figures in subsequent years were impacted by the Great Depression, they did not compromise on the design of their cars; the Tenth Series is an excellent example in this regard. The outbreak of hostilities in World War II saw Packard shift its focus to the production of engines for aircraft and boats.

4. Mercedes-Benz designed and produced the 540K; this car featured a Roots-type supercharger that could be engaged by pressing the accelerator to the floor when the car was in its top gear. Interestingly, Joachim von Ribbentrop owned a 540K; the rolling chassis of his car was manufactured in Germany. Since von Ribbentrop was stationed in France at that time, the chassis was shipped there. Initially, he wanted a French company to design and produce the body of his car. Later, though, he was appointed as the Nazi ambassador to England; thus, the body of his car was eventually designed and produced by an English company.

5. Chief Plenty Coups played a pivotal role in fostering peaceful relations between the U.S. government and his Crow tribe. In particular, when he was young, he had a vision that buffalo would be replaced by cattle throughout his land. This vision spurred him and his wife to become farmers and even run a general store. In 1921, President Harding invited him to Washington D.C. when the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was opened.

6. In Native American mythology, eagles are revered as messengers who carry the prayers of men to the spirit world. Eagles are also regarded as being able to control the weather; for example, they can serve as the impetus for a thunderstorm. Native Americans could only add an eagle feather to their wardrobe with the approval of their tribal council; the right to wear these feathers could be earned by performing feats of courage or demonstrating strong leadership of their families. On a side note, bald eagles lay about 1-3 eggs per clutch, and these eggs incubate for about 35 days.

7. William “Buffalo Bill” Cody lost his father at a young age. He spent part of his formative years in Kansas, where he experienced the effects of Bleeding Kansas. Later, he served as a scout in the Union Army during the Civil War. His postwar adventures included several skirmishes with Native American forces; he was also acclaimed for his ability to hunt buffalo that constantly blocked train tracks. He toured England with his Wild West Show, and he even made an appearance at the 1899 World’s Fair in Paris. He later poured his earnings from the Wild West Show into several misguided ventures, including mines and a hotel. It should also be noted that he struggled to maintain his marriage vows.

8. A typical day for travelers on the Oregon Trail commenced around 4 a.m. with a bugle call or a rifle shot. They would then round up their animals that had been grazing near their camp. After they ate breakfast, they would set out around 7 a.m. They would travel until noon, when they would stop for an hour-long lunch. They would proceed on their afternoon journey until around 5 p.m.; they usually stopped at a location with sufficient grass and water for their animals and formed a wagon corral. They would then eat dinner; after dinner, women typically did chores while men chatted and young people danced. They would then go to sleep around 8 p.m. after posting guards, who would change shifts around midnight.

I especially enjoyed perusing the various classic cars in the museum, including several racing cars that competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The cars were clearly well-maintained, highlighting their aerodynamic features. I also enjoyed the Spirit of the Old West exhibit, which featured a massive diorama that described the decline of the Native American way of life in the West. That exhibit made a commendable attempt to present a balanced view of the interactions between whites and Native Americans over the last 300 years.

I should note that it is important to follow the directions to the museum that are posted on its website. While I parked in the correct location, it took me a while to find the museum’s entrance since I initially wandered in the wrong direction.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would definitely recommend it to history and automobile buffs who happen to be in the Bay Area.

Moffett Field Historical Society Museum March 8, 2015

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I recently visited the Moffett Field Historical Society Museum in Moffett Field. This museum is dedicated to telling the story of Moffett Field.

Here are six nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. Moffett Field is the namesake of William Moffett, who played a pivotal role in the rise of naval aviation after World War I. When Moffett commanded the battleship USS Mississippi, he utilized scout planes to improve her gunnery. He would later serve three terms as the director of the Bureau of Aeronautics, repeatedly declining promotions in order to focus on his quest to gain support for the concept of naval aviation. In particular, he supported the deployment of rigid airships, and his efforts in that regard led to the construction of the USS Akron and the USS Macon. Unfortunately, he perished along with most of the crew and passengers of the Akron in a thunderstorm in 1933.

2. Rigid airships such as the Akron and the Macon were actually flying aircraft carriers that housed small scout fighter planes. These airships were filled with helium, and their design was inspired by the German zeppelins that were employed during World War I. They employed trapezes to both retrieve incoming planes and launch outgoing planes. Their frames were constructed of duralumin, and their skin was made of cotton cloth. Amusingly, their crew members would occasionally be used as ballast.

3. After the Akron and the Macon were downed due to thunderstorms, rigid airships briefly fell out of favor, and the Navy surrendered control of Moffett Field to the Army. The necessity of launching anti-submarine operations in the Pacific Ocean during World War II, though, enabled the Navy to regain control of Moffett Field and utilize rigid airships in this regard. The Navy would administer the Naval Air Station at Moffett Field until 1994; squadrons based at the Naval Air Station played key roles in terms of anti-submarine operations and logistics, especially during the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam.

4. The Lockheed P-3C Orion played a key role in anti-submarine operations; many Orions were based at Moffett Field after World War II. The Orion utilized several approaches for detecting the presence of submarines. One approach entailed magnetic anomaly detection, where the Orion was equipped with sensors that could detect the minute variations in the Earth’s magnetic field caused by a metallic enemy submarine. Another approach relied on sonobuoys, which were equipped with transmitters and dropped from an orbiting Orion; these devices would utilize active and passive sonar and transmit detection results to the Orion.

5. When a fighter pilot attempts to land on an aircraft carrier, they must approach the carrier at the proper height; a system of amber and green warning lights assists the pilot in this regard. Arresting wires are used to bring the plane to a full stop over a short distance, while the pilot keeps their engine running at full power in the event that their attempt is unsuccessful – allowing them to take off for another attempt. When a fighter pilot attempts to take off from an aircraft carrier, they utilize a steam-powered catapult after the carrier turns into the wind. Each steam-powered catapult relies on a piston that is buffered by a water brake. The members of the crew wear different-colored suits that designate their specific on-board responsibilities.

6. The Bell AH-1 Cobra saw extensive action during the conflict in Vietnam. The Cobra was originally designed as an armed escort for troop transports; later, it functioned in roles such as 1) providing close air support for ground troops and 2) acting in tandem with a scout helicopter as a hunter-killer team. It was equipped with various armaments, including a 20 mm cannon, TOW missiles and 7.62 mm machine guns. It was later supplanted by the AH-64 Apache.

The museum was replete with interesting military paraphernalia, including World War II-era Japanese rifles and bayonets, models of Soviet attack and ballistic missile submarines, and military decorations including a Silver Star and a Purple Heart. I came across a newspaper article where a woman recounted her husband’s training flight with Jimmy Stewart when Stewart was stationed at Moffett Field in 1941. I was also glad to learn that one of the museum’s founders is named Rosie, and she actually worked at Moffett Field during World War II; she was serving as a volunteer on the day of my visit.

I don’t have any quibbles at this time, which is great. I should note that visitors need to show a photo ID to the guard at the main gate when they enter Moffett Field.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would definitely recommend it to history and aviation buffs who happen to be in the Bay Area.

Munroe Tavern November 22, 2014

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I recently visited the Munroe Tavern in Lexington. This museum is dedicated to telling the story of the Munroe family and recounting the events of the Battle of Lexington.

Here are three nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. William Munroe fought for the losing Scottish forces at the Battle of Worcester. He was then sent across the Atlantic as an indentured servant. One of his descendants, who was also named William Munroe, owned the Munroe Tavern in Lexington, and he fought at the Battle of Lexington. Another of his descendants, John Munroe, also fought at the Battle of Lexington, and he was so eager to attack the British forces that he accidentally double-loaded his musket, causing part of it to blow off when he fired his first shot. The second child of William Munroe – the one who owned the Munroe Tavern – would later marry into the Muzzey family.

2. The Munroe Tavern featured a “turkey breast” cabinet, which enabled customers to catch up on the Lexington news. The tavern itself was converted into a field hospital and headquarters by the British forces, as Earl Percy had received several reports that it had a large supply of food. George Washington later dined in the tavern in November 1789 after he had been inaugurated as the first President of the United States; he actually dined in an upstairs room, which was perhaps more appropriate for the President than dining in the taproom on the first floor.

3. During the Revolutionary War, British officers wore buttons that signified their regiment. Each officer also wore a gorget that signified his rank, and they would wear hats with “REX” stitched on them to indicate their loyalty to King George III. Some officers could be quite cruel; they would punish their subordinates for any real – or perceived – infractions by tightening their collars with a piece of string, making it difficult for them to breathe. Also, grenadiers were usually chosen based on their height.

The tour guide was friendly and informative; she told me that General Gage had ordered his forces to seize musket balls at the colonial militia’s arsenal in Concord and dump them in nearby streams, rendering them useless for battle. I also enjoyed standing in the room where George Washington dined, as it included the chair that he used for that meal.

I don’t have any quibbles at this time, which is great.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would definitely recommend it to history buffs who are exploring the Lexington area.