Blue Jean Blues

If you’re like me, when you think about bluejeans you think about American cowboys out west. And their Big Hats, French Poodles, and Jewish Tailors. No! Really?

Bluejeans are made from denim, a cotton fabric died blue with indigo. Denim got its name from the city of Nimes in southern France where it was first made – “denim” is short for “De Nimes” which means “from Nimes” in French . We call denim pants jeans because the first denim pants were made in Genoa, Italy and were worn by sailors, who were called “genes”.

Blue jeans as we know them were invented by a Jewish Tailor from Latvia who immigrated to the US in the mid-1800s. After moving around a bunch, he ended up in Reno Nevada where he made tents, blankets, and pants. He used cotton twill and denim he bought from Levi Strauss and Company, a dry-goods supplier, in San Francisco. After trying rivets as a way to strengthen the pockets, he contacted Levi Strauss about going together to get a patent. They did, and the rest is history. Except, we remember the fabric salesman’s name (also Jewish) but not the tailor who invented the pants. His name was Jacob Youphes, which he changed to Jacob Davis.

Thanks for the jeans, Jacob.

Yankee Doodle Independance Day Music

Yankee Doodle was written by an English surgeon in the 1750s to poke fun at the “hick” colonists. In England at the time, “Macaroni” was a nickname for young British men who dressed in very flamboyant Italian style – sticking a single feather in your cap definitely didn’t make you a Macaroni. The colonists took to the song anyway, and Geo. Washington had it played as the English General Cornwallis surrendered.

Yankee Doodle Boy was written by George M Cohan for his Broadway musical. His parents were from West Cork, Ireland (original spelling¬†Keohane). He also wrote You’re a Grand Old Flag, Give My Regards to Broadway, and Over There among hundreds of others.

  God Bless America was written in 1918 by Russian Jewish Immigrant Irving Berlin. It got cut from his show, he revived it later for Kate Smith. He also donated most of the royalties to the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Campfire Girls.



Hot Dog!

Franks and Wieners get their names from the cities of Frankfurt, Germany and Vienna, Austria (Wien, in the local language). Each had a particular type of sausage. Frankfurt’s were all pork, Vienna’s were a mix of pork and beef. Hot sausages in bread were served during royal coronations in Germany back to the 13th century, so it’s an old fast-food.

Fast-forward to late 1800s America. Lunch wagons become popular on college campuses, called “dog wagons” since they looked like the dog-catcher’s wagon. The Kennel Club lunch wagon at Yale gets its own bit in the Yale Record humor magazine about biting a “dog” in a bun. Boola Boola!

Today’s Quick Bite

The Sandwich: According to writings from the time, the sandwich got its name from John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, a British nobleman in the 1700s. One story says that he loved playing card games and wouldn’t get up to eat. He’d ask the servants to bring him cold meat between two slices of bread. Then, other folks would ask for “the same as Sandwich!” The other story is that he was such a hard worker (he served in the government) that he’d eat at his desk rather than leave his work.

I like the first story better.








Image By Ollie Palmer. Original image A mezzotint print of the noble earl engraved by Valentine Green, after Johann Zoffany, published 30 August 1774. [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons