Throwback Thursday

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Why Friday the 13th Scares Us

by Brian Handwerk for National Geographic

As if October wasn’t spooky enough, this year the creepiest month also features the return of Friday the 13th.Keep Calm

October 13 is the second ill-fated Friday to fall in 2017. And while January the 13th wasn’t especially sinister, it seems that no matter how many such moments pass us by, the dreaded day continues to inspire unease and fears of misfortune.

There’s no logical reason to fear the occasional coincidence of any day and date. But Friday the 13th can still have noticeable impacts. Sometimes we create them in our own minds—for good and ill.

Believe it or not

Jane Risen, a behavioral scientist at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, has found that superstitions can influence even nonbelievers. In one study, Risen found that people who identify as superstitious and non-superstitious both believe a bad outcome is more likely when they’ve been jinxed, such as by stating they definitely won’t get into a car accident.

“Generally speaking, I find that this occurs because the bad outcome springs to mind and is imagined more clearly following the jinx,” she explains. “People use the ease of imagining something as a cue to its likelihood.”

This kind of thinking may be more widespread on Friday the 13th: “Even if I don’t actively believe, just that fact that Friday the 13th exists as a known cultural element means that I entertain it as a possibility,” she says. When otherwise unremarkable events occur on that date, we tend to notice.

“That adds a bit more fuel to this intuition, makes it feel a bit more true, even when you recognize that it’s not true.”

In that way, simply being aware of superstitions may help to instill a sense of order in a world of random and uncontrollable worries, according to Rebecca Borah, a professor of English at the University of Cincinnati.

“When you have rules and you know how to play by them, it always seems a lot easier,” she told National Geographic in 2014. On Friday the 13th, “we don’t do anything too scary today, or double-check that there’s enough gas in the car, or whatever it might be.”

Where does a fear of Friday the 13th come from in the first place?

It’s difficult to pin down the origins and evolution of a superstition. It may be rooted in religious beliefs surrounding the 13th guest at the Last Supper—Judas, the apostle said to have betrayed Jesus—and the crucifixion of Jesus on a Friday, which was known as Hangman’s Day. Some biblical scholars also believe Eve tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit on a Friday, and that Abel was slain by his brother Cain on Friday the 13th.

Other experts suspect even older roots for this form of triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13). Thomas Fernsler, an associate policy scientist in the Mathematics and Science Education Resource Center at the University of Delaware, said the number 13 suffers because of its position after 12.

Numerologists consider 12 a “complete” number. There are 12 months in a year, 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 tribes of Israel, and 12 apostles of Jesus.

The number 13’s association with bad luck “has to do with just being a little beyond completeness. “The number becomes restless or squirmy.”

Arbitrary though they may be, superstitions like fears of ladders, black cats, or “unlucky” numbers are incredibly persistent.

“Once they are in the culture, we tend to honor them,” notes Thomas Gilovich, a professor of psychology at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. “You feel like if you are going to ignore it, you are tempting fate.”

Many people really do act differently on Friday the 13th. They may refuse to travel, buy a house, or act on a hot stock tip, and these inactions can noticeably slow economic activity, according to the late Donald Dossey, a folklore historian and founder of the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute.

“It’s been estimated that $800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day, because people will not fly or do business they normally would do,” he said.

Soon enough, this Friday the 13th will end, and even the most superstitious among us can rest easy—at least until April 13, 2018.

THROWBACK THURSDAY: World’s Biggest Coffee Break

On October 5, 1996, history’s biggest coffee break occurred when 513,659 people drank coffee simultaneously in 14,652 groups, offices and other gatherings throughout the UK. The event raised $28,460,000 or £21,690,420 for the Macmillan Cancer Relief charity.

The first Coffee Morning took place in 1990. It was a rather small affair with a simple idea: guests would gather over coffee and donate the cost of their cup to Macmillan. It was so effective, they did it again the next year – but this time nationally. Since then, Coffee Morning has raised over £165.5 million (nearly $214,000,000 in US dollars) for Macmillan.

The World’s Biggest Coffee Morning is Macmillan’s biggest fundraising event for people facing cancer. Macmillan asks people all over the UK to host their own Coffee Mornings and donations on the day are made to Macmillan. Last year alone, java drinkers raised £29.5 million ($387,069,500 U.S.).

THROWBACK THURSDAY: All You Need is One Good Idea: Campbell’s Soup Company

While Andy Warhol can be credited for establishing the classic Campbell’s soup can as an iconographic pop art emblem, he never campbells warholwould would have appropriated its imagery had it not already been iconic in its own right. That familiar red and white-labeled can has been on grocery store shelves since the turn of the 20th century, making it one of America’s most widely-recognized food products, ranking right up there with Oreos and Coca-Cola. Not much has changed in the last 120 years, which is to say, if it ain’t broke…don’t fix it.

The Campbell Soup Company’s founder Dr. John Thompson Dorrance completed his Ph.D in Chemistry in 1897 at MIT and Germany’s University of Goettingen, and later that year went to work for the Joseph Campbell Preserve Company in Philadelphia where his uncle Arthur Dorrance was a partner. The company had been established in 1869 by Joseph A. Campbell, a fruit merchant from Bridgeton, New Jersey, and Abraham Anderson, an icebox manufacturer from South Jersey. They produced canned tomatoes, vegetables, jellies, soups, condiments, and minced meats. campbell's soup boy

John Dorrance invented condensed soup there in 1899 when there were only two other soup companies in the U.S., who shipped soup in heavy, bulky cans which created problems in distribution, display and consumer use. Dorrance’s process developed a commercially viable method for condensing soup by halving the quantity of its heaviest ingredient: water; it was an immediate and rousing success. This innovation helped Campbell quickly outstrip its two soup-canning competitors – it was able to ship and sell its product at one-third the cost. campbellas first cansThere were five original varieties: Tomato, Consommé, Vegetable, Chicken, and Oxtail. By 1904, sales had reached 16 million cans annually; by 1911 the company was selling soup throughout the nation, becoming one of the first to achieve nationwide distribution of a brand name food.

Campbell’s products are now sold in 120 countries around the world with annual sales of $8,000,000,000.

Founder John Dorrance was just 56 years old when he died on Sept. 21, 1930, leaving the third largest estate recorded up to then: $115 million!

{Source: Campbell’s Soup Company online}

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Mary Kay Ash Celebrates First Year in Business

On September 13, 1964, Mary Kay Ash celebrated the one-year anniversary of her company, Beauty by Mary Kay (now Mary Kay Cosmetics). Recognized today as one of America’s greatest entrepreneurs, Ash stepped into a man’s world in the 1960s to blaze a new path for women. After retiring from a successful career in direct sales, her dream was to provide women with an open-ended, unparalleled business opportunity. She founded “Beauty by Mary Kay” on Sept. 13, 1963 with her life savings of $5,000, the support of her family and nine Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultants.

quote-my-company-mascot-is-the-bumblebee-because-of-its-tiny-wings-and-heavy-body-aerodynamically-mary-kay-ash-76-51-71Sales for the first year totaled $198,000 – about $1,584,000 in today’s economy. Today, Mary Kay Cosmetics is worth $3.8 billion and boasts a global sales force of more than 3,000,000 women.

For the one-year anniversary celebration, the company’s 200 employees gathered in a warehouse-like, newly built facility in Dallas. Mary Kay prepared and served chicken and Jell-O salad, and awarded the top salespeople with wigs.

In 1976 the company became the first with a female chairperson to be listed on the NYSE; by then her top salespeople were being awarded the company’s trademark pink Cadillacs. By “praising people to success” and “sandwiching every bit of criticism between two heavy layers of praise,” the energetic Texan opened new opportunities for women around the world and built a multibillion-dollar corporation.

THROWBACK THURSDAY: The History of Labor Day

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Women's Auxiliary Typographical UnionThe first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.

In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.

More than 100 years after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers. Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.”

But Peter McGuire’s place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York.

labor day

The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday — a street parade to exhibit to the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This became the pattern for the celebrations of Labor Day. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.

{Source: U.S. Department of Labor online}