OCTOBER 25: Bicycle inventor born

Pierre_Lallemant_1870

ON THIS DATE in 1843, Pierre Lallement was born in Pont-à-Mousson, France. At eighteen, he began assembling what may have been the world’s first pedal bicycle.

Although a clumsy version of the modern bike existed as early as 1819, Lallement is responsible for attaching a rotary crank mechanism and pedals to the machine, resulting in something similar to what cyclists ride today. The website of the U.S. bicycling hall of fame credits the French mechanic with the invention of the pedal and calls him “the father of the modern-day bicycle.”

At eighteen in 1862, Lallement took time from his day job making wheelchairs and baby carriages to begin construction of his two-wheeled, pedal-powered riding machine. Within a year, he had fashioned a bike with wooden wheels, a perch for a seat, and handlebars.

Lallement moved to America in 1865, received the first pedal-bike patent in 1866, and achieved no success with his invention. It took some time, and a few improvements, to make the pedal-bicycle a mainstay of American life.

In 1891, Lallement died in poverty and obscurity.

Teens no more

Layout 1SOME FAMOUS fictional teens of all time have put on a few years. If they aged like the rest of us, here’s how old they would be …

c06-481. HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Age then: 14 in Mark Twain’s classic, published in 1884.
Age now: 144
Status: Dead. He would’ve been gone by 1940, age 70. He was a smoker.

9780835955430_p0_v1_s260x4202. ÁNTONIA SHIMERDA
Then: 14 at the start of Willa Cather’s My Ántonia, published 1918.
Now: 110 (actually, she aged a lot in the book and would be even older)
Status: Dead. A hard farm life and an unhappy marriage might have finished her off by 1960, when she would’ve been 56. Too bad. She would’ve made a great grandma.

3. NANCY DREW
Then: 16 in her first book (The Secret of the Old Clock), 1930.
Now: 100
Status: Dead. The young sleuth had wholesome habits and came from money, but c’mon. She might’ve made it to 90, though. Angela Lansbury (Jessica Fletcher in “Murder, She Wrote”) is 89 now. Sleuthing can’t be that bad for you.

betty-boop-jpg4.  BETTY BOOP
Then: 16 (according to her creator, Max Fleischer) when introduced in 1932.
Now: 98
Status: Dead. Betty had charm and pizzazz, but she was a non-stop partier who started awfully young. The late nights and hard drinking could have done in her in by the mid-’60s, when she was nearing 50.

5. ARCHIE ANDREWS
Then: 17 when introduced in Pep Comics in 1941.
Now: 90
Status: Alive and still undecided about which 90-year-old he wants to end up with, ancient Veronica or decrepit Betty.

holden-caulfield6. HOLDEN CAULFIELD  
Then: 17 in J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye (1951), although he was describing events from his 16th year.
Now: 80
Status: Salinger lived to be 91, so maybe Holden is holding on somewhere. Then again, he was another smoker.

7. PONYBOY CURTIS
Then: 14 in S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders (1967).
Now: 61
Status: He’s fine if he left the gang fighting behind him, although Ponyboy is no name for a near-senior citizen.

an-open-letter-to-baby-houseman-re-your-relat-L-wXx_B98. BABY HOUSEMAN 
Then: 17 with release of Dirty Dancing in 1987.
Now: 44
Status: Married to Johnny Castle? Nah. She put him in a corner a long time ago. She’s on her second marriage with a couple of kids, including a 17-year-old daughter who can’t dance and rarely leaves her room.

9. HARRY POTTER
Then: 13 with the release of J.K. Rowling’s third book in the famous young wizard series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999).
Now: 28
Status: As readers of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007) know, Harry married the former Ginny Weasley and they would have had two kids, James and Albus Severus, by now. Strange fact: the whole family dresses up as Death Eaters for Halloween.

396367-08684d4a-cf34-11e3-ae84-eacdfc09701510.  NAPOLEON DYNAMITE
Then: 17 with the release of Napoleon Dynamite in 2004.
Now: 27
Status: Divorced from Deb, he’s campaign manager and chief of staff for Idaho congressman Pedro Sanchez.

OCTOBER 24: First Utah teacher

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Originally posted on BEST TEENAGERS EVER:

ON THIS DAY: October 24ON THIS DATE IN TEENAGE HISTORY (1847) sixteen-year-old Mary Jane Dilworth opened Utah’s first school. Lessons took place inside a round military tent, and the nine initial pupils sat on logs as Dilworth conducted class.

Despite the rough conditions, the students seemed to enjoy their first day at school. “Mary taught us the 23rd Psalm, and we sang much, and played more,” recalled Maria Dilworth, the teacher’s younger sister.

The first 148 Mormon pioneers entered the valley of the Great Salt Lake just three months earlier.

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THE ELEPHANT MAN LEAVES HOME

JOSEPH MERRICK’S LIFE reads like something from a ghastly fairy tale, complete with a cruel stepmother who forced him to quit school and work at age thirteen and later got him kicked out of the house.

2074992_f260Loved by his mother, who died when he was eleven, the disfigured English boy later known as “The Elephant Man” suffered many torments by his father’s second wife. In his autobiography, Merrick wrote that his stepmother loathed her unsightly stepson and “was the means of making my life a perfect misery.” “When about thirteen years old,” he recalled, “nothing would satisfy my step-mother until she got me out to work.”

Merrick got a job making cigars but his ever-worsening deformity made his right hand too heavy and clumsy to handle the task. Merrick’s mother-in-law finally persuaded his father to kick the boy out of the house.

A few years later, Merrick was being displayed as a circus freak. As awful as that sounds, this was actually a break for Merrick, who was treated far better by showman Tom Norman than he’d been treated in his last years at home.

Like Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin, Merrick was just twenty-seven when he died in 1890.

OCTOBER 21: “My darling Mummy … I am going to die!”

guymoquet-1024x674ON THIS DATE in 1941, seventeen-year-old French communist Guy Môquet wrote a moving letter to his family that began, “My darling Mummy, my adored brother, my much loved Daddy, I am going to die!”

Môquet had been arrested in October 1940 for illegally handing out communist leaflets in Paris. A year later, following the German occupation of France, he and 26 others were sentenced to die for the ambush and death of a Nazi officer.

Môquet is often described as a resistance fighter, although some object to that description. French history professor Dominique Chathuant told The Telegraph in 2007 that “Guy Môquet was shot as a hostage and for his communist ideas, but not as a resistant who took up arms against the occupier: he never had the time.”

In his last letter, Môquet wrote, “To you, my Daddy to whom I have given many worries, as well as to my Mummy, I say goodbye for the last time … Know that I did my best to follow the path that you laid out for me.”

Môquet was executed by firing squad in Châteaubriant, France, on October 21, 1941.

OCTOBER 21: The Cowsills love the flower girl (they don’t know just why, she simply caught their eye)

ON THIS DATE in 1967, the Cowsills, consisting of a mother and six siblings from ages eight to nineteen, released their first hit song, “The Rain, The Park & Other Things.” Some know this as the “Flower Girl” song. The tune reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.

From Newport, Rhode Island, the Cowsills recorded a number-10 hit with “Indian Lake” in 1967 and a second number-two smash with “Hair” in 1969.

The success of the Cowsills inspired the half-hour sitcom “The Partridge Family,” which followed the adventures of a six-member — including Shirley Jones as the mom — family band. “The Partridge Family” aired from 1970 to 1974.

Three of the seven Cowsills members have passed on. Barbara Cowsill, the mom, died of emphysema in 1985 at age 56; Bill, the lead singer, died of emphysema and other ailments in 2006 at age 58; and Barry, 50, drowned when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005.