I love strange little bits of real history to decorate my books with. Sometimes you stumble across them randomly and jot them down for later use, and sometimes you’re in the middle of the book and you can’t stand to write yet another ball. So what’s an author to do? Go looking for cool things that happened when your book is set (much easier if you’re vague, which I can’t seem to manage, LOL!). This list is courtesy of one of my favorite books for finding strange tidbits: The Annals of London by John Richardson.

First Sunday Newspaper,   1780
It was called the British Gazette and Sunday Monitor, published by E. Johnson, a London Printer.

The Toothbrush was Invented, 1780
This one blows my mind. William Addis set up at 64 Whitechapel High Street as a “stationer and rag-merchant’. He sold the brushes though his contacts in the bookselling trade of all things. And yes, the current sportswear company is related.

Horsehair toothbrush said to have been used by Napoleon Bonaparte

The First Shop Front, 1782
The first proper shopfront (the classic double-fronted windows with displayed merchandise) was set up by a draper on the north side of Leicester Square.

First Balloon Ascent in England , 1783
Count Zambecarri launched the unmanned flight from the Artillery Ground at Finsbury on the 25th of November. It landed 48 miles away in Petworth.

First manned Balloon Ascent, 1784
Vincenzo Lunardi launched himself into the sky on the 15th of September from the Honourable Artillery Company in City Road. One hundred thousand people, including the Prince of Wales showed up to watch the launch.

George Biggin’s ascent in Lunardi’s balloon (Julius Caesar Ibbetson, 1785)

Far-Reaching Cricketing History, 1787
Lord’s Cricket Ground opened on the 31st of May with a match wager of 100 guineas on each side.

The Linnean Society Founded, 1788
James Edward Smith, a medical student, bought the library and collection of Carl Linnaeus (he of the long-necked giraffe theory) and set it up in his apartment in Paradise Row. The first meeting was April 8th, with 36 fellows and 16 associates.

Frost Fair, 1789
At the beginning of the year, the Thames froze over from Putney to Rotherhithe. On January 9th, a whole ox was roasted on the ice.

The Frost Fair of 1814, by Luke Clenell.