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People's Almanac Presents the Twentieth Century: History with the Boring Bits Left Out

People's Almanac Presents the Twentieth Century: History with the Boring Bits Left Out

by David Wallechinsky
As the century closes, Wallechinsky has completely revised and updated his popular work, making it an offbeat reference answering some of the most intriguing questions of the last 100 years. 240 photos.


As the century closes, Wallechinsky has completely revised and updated his popular work, making it an offbeat reference answering some of the most intriguing questions of the last 100 years. 240 photos.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
With useful sections such as The History and Romance of Elastic Webbings, The Ants of Colorado, The Sensual Lion, Ten Animals Tried for Crimes, and Eleven Memorable Kisses, The People's Almanac illuminates dark corners we didn't even know existed. When the first edition came out, The Denver Post snapped out this advice: Don't try to read just one item, it cautioned. It's like popcorn...once started, it's just difficult to stop.
Sally Leventhal

Product Details

Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
6.54(w) x 9.56(h) x 2.15(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One



It is not heroin or cocaine that makes one an addict, it is the need to escape from a harsh reality. There are more television addicts, more baseball and football addicts, more movies addicts, and certainly more alcohol addicts in this country than there are narcotics addicts.

Shirley Chisholm,
testimony to House Select Committee on Crime,
September 17, 1969


Keep a clean nose
Watch the plain clothes
You don't need a weather man
To know which way the wind blows.

Bob Dylan,
"Subterranean Homesick Blues," 1965

Keep on truckin'.

Robert Crumb, catchphrase used
in cartoons from c. 1972

The world is divided into people who do things and people who get the credit. Try, if you can, to belong to the first class. There's far less competition.

Dwight Morrow, letter to his son,
in Harold Nicolson's Dwight Morrow, 1935

Never play cards with any man named "Doc." Never eat at any place called "Mom's." And never, ever, no matter what else you do in your whole life, never sleep with anyone whose troubles are worse than your own.


It ain't over till it's over.

Yogi Berra, 1973

But the whole thing, after all, may be put very simply. I believe that it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than to be ignorant.

H. L. Mencken, Living Philosophies, 1931

Those who give advice are amazed that their wisdom does not always affect others; but the real amazement lies in the fact that most great advice does not even reach from the mouth of the advisor to his own ear.

Muhammad Hijazi, Hazar Sokhan
(A Thousand Sayings)

I got four things to live by: don't say nothin' that will hurt anybody; don't give advice—nobody will take it anyway; don't complain; don't explain.

Edward "Death Valley Scotty" Scott

If you've got it, flaunt it.

Mel Brooks,
The Producers,


When we're unemployed, we're called lazy; when the whites are unemployed it's called a depression.

Jesse Jackson, interview with
David Frost
, The Americans, 1970

I'm the world's original gradualist. I just think ninety-odd years is gradual enough.

Thurgood Marshall, reply to
Eisenhower's call for blacks' patience
I. F. Stone's Weekly, May 19, 1958

We [African Americans] turned the other cheek so often our heads seemed to revolve on the end of our necks like old stop-and-go signs.... We forgave as if forgiving was our talent.

Maya Angelou,
The Heart of a Woman, 1981

I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all. I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a low-down dirty deal and whose feelings are all hurt about it. Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more or less. No, I do not weep at the world—I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.

Zora Neale Hurston,
"How It Feels to Be Colored Me," 1928

If a man calls me a nigger, he is calling me something I am not. The nigger exists only in his own mind; therefore his mind is the nigger. I must feel sorry for such a man.

Dick Gregory,
The Shadow That Scares Me, 1968

No Viet Cong ever called me Nigger.

Muhammad Ali


My political opinions lean more and more towards anarchy.... The most improper job of any man, even saints, is bossing other men.

J. R. R. Tolkien,
The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, 1981


It's so empty and featureless, like a newspaper that has been entirely censored. We used to drive for miles, always expecting that round the next corner there would be something to look at, and there never was. That's the charm of Australia.

Robert Morley,
Robert Morley "Responsible Gentleman," 1966


And this is goad old Boston, The home of the bean and the cod, Where the Lowells talk to the Cabots And the Cabots talk only to God.

John Collins Bossidy,
verse spoken at Holy Cross College alumni
dinner in Boston, Massachusetts, 1910


He's a businessman.... I'll make him an offer he can't refuse.

Mario Puzo, The Godfather, 1969

My analysis ... led me to formulate The Peter Principle: In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence ... in time every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties.... Work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence.

Laurence Peter and Raymond Hall,
The Peter Principle, 1969


Calamity, n. A more than commonly plain and unmistakable reminder that the affairs of this life are not of our own ordering. Calamities are of two kinds: misfortune to ourselves, and good fortune to others.

Ambrose Bierce,
The Devil's Dictionary, 1906


Canada could have enjoyed:
English government,
French culture, and
American know-how.
Instead it ended up with:
English know-how,
French government,
and American culture.

John Robert Colombo, "Oh Canada," 1965

In any world menu, Canada must be considered the vichyssoise of nations—it's cold, half-French, and difficult to stir.

Stuart Keate, attributed

Canada is a country so square that even the female impersonators are women.

Richard Benner,
Outrageous!, 1977


Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost, "The Road Not Taken," 1915


Great cities are not like towns, only larger. They differ from towns and suburbs in basic ways, and one of these is that cities are, by definition, full of strangers.

Jane Jacobs,
The Death and Life
of Great American Cities, 1961


Armaments, universal debt and planned obsolescence—those are the three pillars of Western prosperity.

Aldous Huxley, Island, 1962

True civilization lies in the dominance of self and not in the dominance of other men.

Luther Standing Bear,
Land of the Spotted Eagle, 1933

Civilization is more than the appreciation of the Fine Arts. We must not tie it down to museums and studios. I put forward as a general definition of civilization, that a civilized society is exhibiting the five qualities of Truth, Beauty, Adventure, Art, Peace.

Alfred North Whitehead,
Adventures of Ideas, 1933

Journalist: Mr. Gandhi, what do you think of modern civilization? Gandhi: I think it would be a good idea.

Mahatma Gandhi (Mohandas Karamchand
Gandhi), on arrival in England, 1930


[Question:] Do you think class barriers have broken down in Britain?

Of course they have, or I wouldn't be sitting here talking to someone like you.

Barbara Cartland,
radio interview, 1978


From what I hear about Communism, I don't like it, because it isn't on the level.

Gary Cooper, testifying to the
House Un-American Activities Committee, 1947

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

George Orwell,
Animal Farm, 1945

Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you.

Nikita Khrushchev,
address to ambassadors,
September 27, 1956

Marxian Socialism must always remain a portent to the historians of Opinion—how a doctrine so illogical and so dull can have exercised so powerful and enduring an influence over the minds of men, and, through them, the events of history.

John Maynard Keynes,
The End of Laissez-Faire,
Third Impression,


When you accept our views we shall be in full agreement with you.

Moshe Dayan
to Cyrus Vance,
August 10, 1977


A conservative is someone who demands a square deal for the rich.

David Frost,


Democracy is the name we give the people whenever we need them.

Marquis de Flers
Arman de Caillavet, L'habit vert, May 31, 1913

Democracy means government by the uneducated, while aristocracy means government by the badly educated.

G. K. Chesterton,
New York Times, 1931

Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man, and our politicians take advantage of this prejudice by pretending to be even more stupid than nature has made them.

Bertrand Russell,
New Hopes for a Changing World, 1951

Democracy is that system of government under which the people, having 35,717,342 native-born adult whites to choose from, including thousands who are handsome and many who are wise, pick out a Coolidge to be head of the States.

H. L. Mencken,
Fifth Series,

You can hold an important public office forever in our country with no qualifications for it but a clean nose, a photogenic face, and a closed mouth. If on top of that you look good on a horse, you are unbeatable.

Raymond Chandler,
The Long Goodbye,

Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule—and both commonly succeed, and are right.

H. L. Mencken,
Minority Report,

Even though counting heads is not an ideal way to govern, at least it is better than breaking them.

Judge Learned Hand,
speech to U.S. Federal Bar Association,
March 8, 1932

Democracy is good. I say this because other systems are worse.

Jawaharlal Nehru

The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.

Robert M. Hutchins,
Great Books,


A diplomat is a person who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you actually look forward to the trip.

Caskie Stinnet,
Out of the Red,


The dissenter is every human being at those moments of his life when he resigns momentarily from the herd and thinks for himself.

Archibald MacLeish,
The Nation, December 4, 1937


The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent full of doubt.

Bertrand Russell,


It is on the whole probable that we continually dream, but that consciousness makes such a noise that we do not hear it.

Carl Jung, quoted in
Charles Rycroft
, The Innocence of Dreams

All the things one has forgotten scream for help in dreams.

Elias Canetti, Die Provinz der Menschen
(The Human Province), 1973

All men dream; bat not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find it was vanity; but dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible.

T. E. Lawrence,
Seven Pillars of Wisdom,


There is no such thing on earth as an uninteresting subject; the only thing that can exist is an uninterested person.

G. K. Chesterton, Heretics, 1905


The climate of England has been the world's most powerful colonizing impulse.

Russell Green

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed.

Rupert Brooke, "The Soldier," 1915


The laws which force segregation do not presume the inferiority of a people; they assume an inherent equalness. It is the logic of the lawmakers that if a society does not erect artificial barriers between people at every point of contact, the people might fraternize and give their attention to the genuine, shared problems of the community.

Lorraine Hansberry,
A Matter of Color,


One of the odd things about evolution is why it has gone on so long, because you would have thought that any decent world would have stopped with the amoeba. It's an extraordinarily satisfying organism and we've been going into what you might call pathological complexity ever since, ending up, of course, with the Federal Reserve System.

Kenneth Boulding,
"The World as an Economic
Regional Economic Policy,


Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards.

Vernor Sanders Law,
"How to Be a Winner,"
This Week,
August 14, 1960


Even when all the experts agree, they may well be mistaken.

Bertrand Russell,
Autobiography, 1967


The Falklands thing [the Falklands War of 1982] was a fight between two bald men over a comb.

Jorge Luis Borges, Time, February 14, 1983


The nice thing about being a celebrity is that when you bore people, they think it's their fault.

Henry Kissinger,
Reader's Digest,
April 1985


The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.

Thomas Szasz, "Social Relations,"
The Second Sin,


The French will only be united under the threat of danger. Nobody can simply bring together a country that has 265 kinds of cheese.

Charles de Gaulle,
speech, 1952


Freedom is an indivisible word. If we want to enjoy it, and fight for it, we must be prepared to extend it to everyone, whether they are rich or poor, whether they agree with us or not, no matter what their race or the colour of their skin.

Wendell Willkie One World,

Inequality is the inevitable consequence of liberty.

Salvador de Madariaga,
Anarchy or Hierarchy, 1937

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