Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Could a Dress be Dangerous?

November 27, 2015

New York Fashion Doll | UncommonGoodsIf you were a lady living in Victorian-era France, North America, or the U.K. and your favorite color was green, yep. For years, women flocked to a lovely emerald green hue used in fabrics and floral headdresses. Super flattering, right? Unfortunately for them (and the factory workers who made them and the fellow party guests the green-loving ladies interacted with), that brilliant hue was achieved by combining copper and arsenic. A group of society women found out about this somewhat inconvenient and dangerous fact and promptly blew the whistle, calling for a study and expose on the deadly duds. An expert concluded that a standard floral headdress contained enough arsenic to poison 20 people, while the green tarlatan used in ball gowns contained as much as half its weight in arsenic. What’s more, at least 60 grains would powder off during the course of an evening—with a lethal dose being just four or five grains for the average adult. Needless to say, this practice ended and we all went back to wearing clothing that wasn’t lethal. However, many fashion historians hypothesize that some of the older haute couture houses held on to a superstition against the bright, formerly dangerous hues, sticking with the more neutral blacks and whites that are still considered the height of chic today.

New York Fashion Designer Kit | $50

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What was the Ultimate Re-gift?

November 24, 2015

Mariner Cheese Board | UncommonGoods
There’s no shame in a re-gift. Sometimes a sweater from your knitting-obsessed Aunt Laura just doesn’t highlight your eyes, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s easy to re-wrap a candle with a scent you don’t like or return a set of socks that don’t quite fit—but what do you do with a 1250-pound, nine-foot cheddar wheel? That was the conundrum Queen Victoria faced at her 1840 wedding to Prince Albert. The cheesy gift was produced by a cooperative of cheese makers from two villages, meaning two entire villages of cheese folk felt that this would be an excellent gift for a newly married set of cousins (yep). Needless to say, Queen Victoria definitely didn’t register for this gigantic wheel of cheese and decided to send it on a tour of England instead. After its journey, however, the cheese never made it back to its rightful owner, as Queen Victoria refused to take it back. If that doesn’t make the case for gift receipts, we don’t know what does.


Mariner Cheese Board | $32

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What Does “Mary Had a Little Lamb” Have to do with Thanksgiving?

November 22, 2015

Sinclair the Sheep Rug | UncommonGoods
Oh, only EVERYTHING. As you enjoy your beautiful table spread, togetherness, and that fourth slice of pie, maybe give a little nod to Mary, her lamb, and Sarah Joespha Hale, the writer of the nursery rhyme. Hale campaigned for 20 years and through five presidents to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. She lobbied congressmen, wrote annual editorials, and sent letters to every governor in the United States. Sadly, no president or elected official listened to her until Abraham Lincoln. She convinced Lincoln in a letter dated September 28th, 1863 that Thanksgiving would be a great way to unify the country after the Civil War ended. Lincoln agreed and declared the last Thursday in November as our country’s third national holiday, sharing company with Independence Day and Washington’s birthday. Congress officially set the date into U.S. law in 1941. So the next time you’re passing the stuffing, give thanks for Mary and her little lamb.

Sinclair the Sheep Rug | $98

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Can You Set Your Alarm to “Window Tap”?

November 8, 2015

Cube LED Alarm Clock | UncommonGoods

If you think hitting the snooze button is risky now, you would have been in some trouble during Industrial Revolution-era Britain and Ireland. Back then, alarm clocks were pricey and erratic, leaving workers with no way to guarantee making it to work on time. Enter the knocker-upper. While it may not be the most creatively named title, the job of the knocker-upper was to knock on your windows at a predetermined time until you woke up. The hired hands were mostly freelancers looking to earn some extra cash and they used long sticks of lightweight wood to reach upper floors. Once the 1920s hit, alarm clocks became more reliable and affordable and the job of a knocker-upper faded into obscurity. You could probably set your phone’s alarm to sound like a window bang though, if you could use some nostalgia with your morning.

Cube LED Alarm Clock | $32

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: How Did the Youth of 1560 Do Social Media?

November 1, 2015

Laptop Cat Scratching Pad | UncommonGoodsFacebook may have brought comment threads and status updates to our computers and phones, but kiddos have been finding ways to memorialize inside jokes and favorite stories since the 16th century. As the young nobility of what is now the Netherlands would travel through Europe to visit scholars, they would have the philosophers and fellow students they met write down a quick entry in their alba amicorum—meaning “friend books” in Latin. The result was a cross between a yearbook and a LinkedIn recommendation. Noted artists of the day would even provide illustrations for a small fee. While the ladies of the time were not allowed to make such travels, they set up their own friend books; only theirs were much less formal. In a sweet testament to female friendships, their books contained secrets, in-jokes, gossip, and romantic prospects. These books were then passed around from friend to friend, resulting in a veritable message board of memories. These albums served as a collage-inspired way to show off how popular you were and how many social connections you were able to gain over time—an obsession we’re sure anyone with a Facebook account could relate to.

Laptop Cat Scratching Pad | $35

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What’s inside the Brooklyn Bridge?

October 25, 2015

Starry Night Brooklyn Bridge | UncommonGoods

Completed in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge was the first bridge to connect Manhattan and Brooklyn. Beneath its anchorages, engineers built hidden vaults up to 50 feet tall. Over time, these were used for a variety of purposes. Thanks to their cool temperatures, the granite-walled storage spaces made the perfect wine cellars and they were rented out to the public until World War I. The Brooklyn side vaults ran for $500 per month in rent, while the cushier Manhattan side went for $5,000 per month to the Luyties Brothers liquor distributor. During the Cold War, another compartment was turned into a survival shelter and was stocked with food, water, and medical supplies. People kind of forgot about the makeshift shelter and the rations were finally rediscovered during a routine structural inspection in 2006. Today, the vaults are used to store maintenance equipment—a slightly less romantic, if not practical, purpose.

Starry Night Brooklyn Bridge | $95 – $185

Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge How Do You Completely Fail at Marketing?

October 12, 2015

Choo Choo Train | UncommonGoods

You take a page out of William George Crush’s book, that’s how. William was the passenger agent for the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad—also known as the Katy—back in 1896. He was tasked with making sure the Katy had enough passenger business to warrant its ongoing operation and he knew he’d need to do something big to put the railroad’s name on the map. Throwing logic to the wind, he decided that in order to convince people that the Katy was a reliable and safe, he would stage a train crash. What was the thought process, if any, here? William noticed that train crashes tended to draw crowds and rather than dismissing it as morbid curiosity, he saw it as marketing genius. For whatever reason, no one stopped him and William went full steam ahead, offering tickets and transportation to anyone interested in a contrived accident. Turns out, William was right about one thing—people do like crashes. About 40,000 people turned out for the spectacle and watched as two locomotives lunged at each other, meeting in the center of a four-mile track. The result was an inevitable crash and burn—the trains’ boilers exploded and the ensuing chaos caused massive injuries and the loss of a photographer’s eye. William was fired the next day…and then rehired because shockingly, there was no bad press from the incident. Be that as it may, this marketing tactic is thankfully one that never quite caught on.

Choo Choo Train Dining Set | $20

The Uncommon Life

Cribs, Pegs, & Pones: How to Play Cribbage

October 9, 2015

Since the Custom Lake Art Cribbage Board first stepped on the scene last year to overwhelmingly positive reviews, UG has gotten a pretty intense case of cribbage fever. Suffice to say, there was a cribbage-sized hole in the gaming world and we answered with the Peacock Feather board, the Fern board, and new varieties that keep rolling in with each season. A quick office poll found, however, that a pitiful number of our employees actually knew how to play cribbage, and this writer was not among them.

How to Play Cribbage | UncommonGoods

In the interest of writing what you know, I figured it was high time to educate myself on the world of cribbage and now I’m here to share that information with you. Already know how to crib? What are you even doing here?! Get yourself to the nearest cribbage tournament!

Now that the cribbage enthusiasts are gone, let’s get started! The main draw of cribbage, according to my plentiful research, is that in order to win, you can rely on both strategy and good old-fashioned luck of the draw. There’s something for everybody! There can be small variations found in different regions but the overall idea is the same.

According to the one coworker I found who plays this game, writing down all the rules was a very ambitious undertaking and there is, in fact, a whole lot of nuance/random scenarios that can come up. Be that as it may, consider this a fun frolic through the basics of cribbage—a fun-dation, if you will.

The History:
The English poet Sir John Suckling created cribbage in the early 17th century as a derivative of the game “noddy.” The game also served as an official pastime on World War II submarines.

The Players:
Cribbage is best played with two people—this can be done with one on one or two on two. For the sake of this tutorial, it’ll be one on one.

The Cards:
Use a standard 52-pack of cards, King is high, Ace is low. Take out the Jokers.

The Object:
Be the first player to make your peg around the full cribbage board.

The Score:
You track your score using your new fancy cribbage board, silly! You’ll notice that there are multiple pegs. Players each use two pegs to record their score: one shows your current score, one acts as the trailing peg so that the board always shows how many points you recorded on your last score.

The Game:
Players start by drawing cards. The player with the lowest card deals first, distributing six cards facedown to his opponent (called the pone) and himself. Each player looks at their six cards and “lays away” two of them face down to reduce their hand to four. The two cards laid down from each player (making it four in total. Math!) now constitute “the crib” and belong to the dealer. However, these cards are not exposed or used until the hands have been played.

With me so far? Feel free to read it over a few times. I did.

After the crib is laid away, the pone cuts the deck. The dealer then turns up the top card at the split and places it face up on top of the deck. This card is now “the starter.”

Apparent side note to the rules that I couldn’t find an explanation for: If this starter card is a Jack, it called “His Heels” and the dealer uses the cribbage board to peg (score) two points at once. Okay, sure!

The biggest thing to know about cribbage is that for each hand there are two stages of play. The first stage is to, one by one, drop your cards in a succession that will lead to either: doubles, runs, or a sum of 15.


Peacock Feather Cribbage Board | UncommonGoods

Okay. Here’s a script:
I put down a 5.
You put down a 10.
Hey, you just made 15, give yourself 2 points.

Another script:
I put down a 5.
You put down a 5.
Hey, you just made doubles, give yourself 2 points.
I put down a 5.
Hey, I just made triples, now I get 3 points.

One more script:
I put down a 5.
You put down a 6.
I put down a 7.
Hey, I made a run of 3 cards, I’ll give myself 3 points.
You put down an 8.
Hey, you just extended the run to 4 cards, give yourself 4 points.

And so on and so forth. Basically, the number of cards that make up the scorable group you make indicates the amount of points you get. Want another random number to shoot for? See if you can make your cards add up to 31 for 2 peg points. The back and forth between the two players stops once 31 is reached (and you can’t go over)—once 31 has been reached and you can’t go any further, the last person to throw down a card gets a point.

The first stage of play is over. Phew. Pick up the cards you played again and use that overturned card on top of the deck as a starter. Want another script?

The top card is a 6.
You put down a 9.
Hey, that’s 15. Give yourself a point.

The top card is a 6.
You put down a 6.
Hey, that’s a double, give yourself 2 points.

Custom Lake Cribbage Board | UncommonGoods

Sound familiar?

This stage of play isn’t a back and forth like the last one. This is you seeing what you can do with your own cards plus the overturned top card. Want to do some more? If you’re the dealer, now’s the time to take out the crib and play around with that.

Once you’re done, put all the cards back, re-deal (this time with a different dealer) and the cycle starts again and again until one of your pegs reaches the end of the board.

Full disclosure, you will probably have to read through these directions about seven times and also scour the internet for various nuances that can occur during play. I played a few hands myself and, though it took me a while to get the hang of, I can see how it would be a great way to spend a rainy Sunday with the family. Now excuse me, I’m going to go comb all the cribbage blogs and develop some strategy.

Be sure to take a look at our unconventionally stylish cribbage boards to get your game started. Happy cribbing!

See Our Cribbage Boards | UncommonGoods

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