Looking into the crates for Lady Liberty

Sunday, September 23, 2012
Spencer Tracy

Q: When the Statue of Liberty was shipped to the United States from France, how many crates were needed? What was the name of the ship? -- P.L., Odessa, Texas

A: In 1885, New York City dockworkers -- including many new immigrants -- unloaded 214 crates containing about 350 pieces. Lady Liberty was shipped to America on the Isere. "Liberty Enlightening the World," the statue's full name, was unveiled Oct. 28, 1886.

Q: I've never heard the song "Moonlight in Vermont," but I recall being told that it is unusual. How so? -- K.I.S.

A: The lyrics to "Moonlight in Vermont," written by John Blackburn and Karl Suessdorf, don't rhyme.

Q: When peanut butter first appeared, it was made of 100 percent peanuts. Other ingredients have been added over time. At what point can it no longer be called peanut butter? -- N.N., Jackson, Tenn.

Cary Grant

A: According to standards set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, peanut butter must be made of 95 percent peanuts. If there's less than that, the product is called peanut butter spread. Many grocery stores sell freshly made peanut butter that is 100 percent peanuts.

Q: How many different varieties of cheese are there? -- O.L.M., Flagstaff, Ariz.

A: There is no universal method for classifying cheeses, so the number depends on the source. One source I read says there are more than 2,000 varieties, with 400 from France alone.

DID YOU KNOW? Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy were the original choices for roles that went to Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart in "The Philadelphia Story" (1940).

Q: What language is considered the hardest to learn? -- R.T., Cape Coral, Fla.

A: The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) created a list to show the difficulty of learning different languages. The most difficult languages for native English speakers to learn are Arabic, Cantonese (Chinese), Mandarin (Chinese), Japanese and Korean. This ranking is the opinion of the FSI -- students and language experts may disagree.

Q: Prior to the 2012 opening season football game between Arkansas and Louisiana-Monroe, the Razorbacks were ranked No. 8 in the nation in the AP poll. They were considered to be a contender for the SEC title and maybe even the national title. Then the Warhawks beat them in overtime. When the new polls came out, Arkansas was no longer ranked. I heard it was the second worst plunge in rankings in history. What was the worst? -- E.N.W., Palmyra, Va.

A: In 2007, No. 5 Michigan was bumped out of the poll after an opening season loss to Appalachian State.

Q: A long time ago, you printed a poem about a purple cow and the poet's response to the publicity he received. I'd love to have it for my grandkids. Would you mind printing it again? -- S.J., Carroll, Iowa

A: I don't mind at all! "The Purple Cow" was written in 1895 by Gelett Burgess (1866-1951).

I never saw a purple cow,

I never hope to see one;

But I can tell you, anyhow,

I'd rather see than be one.

Burgess grew increasingly annoyed by the fact that he was known for "The Purple Cow." He penned a riposte two years later:

Ah, yes, I wrote the "Purple Cow" --

I'm sorry, now, I wrote it!

But I can tell you, anyhow,

I'll kill you if you quote it.

Q: When was the world-famous auction house Sotheby's founded? Was it by a person named Sotheby? -- B.K., Lompoc, Calif.

A: Samuel Baker founded the London-based auction house on March 11, 1744, when he held the sale of the library of Sir John Stanley. The sale was described as "containing several Hundred scarce and valuable books in all branches of Polite Literature."

When Baker died in 1778, his estate was divided between his nephew, John Sotheby, and his business partner, George Leigh. The Sotheby family took over and extended the role of the company in the art market.

Send your questions to Mr. Know-It-All at AskMrKIA@gmail.com or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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