Twas brillig, and the slithy toves, Did gyre and gimble in the wabe; all mimsy were the borogoves, and the mome wraths outgrabe.
Did any of you understand that? I wrote it, and I didn't understand it. Well, I didn't write it. I just copied it. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson did.
You never heard of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson? Liars! You have. All of you have. You just don't know it. In fact, I'd bet all of you know his most famous story; the one I lifter the opening lines from.
Those lines are from the poem, Jabberwocky, which appeared in the classic, Alice in Wonderland. And Charles Lutwidge Dodgson wrote it. I bet you though Lewis Carroll wrote it, didn't you? Heh. Lewis Carroll didn't exist. Not really, at least. Lewis Carroll was a pseudonym Charles Lutwidge Dodgson used.
I'm not going to go into the story of how he came to write Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. (the actual title). It's a whole long story in and of it's self. Not really odd, though. I mean, whats odd about two priests taking the three young daughters of a third man on a row boat trip? Several times?
You might be thinking that you've seen a picture of Dodgson/Carroll at some point, and might also be thinking that the picture I used doesn't look like you remember him looking. And there's a simple reason for that. It's not a picture of Dodgson/Carroll.
The man in the picture is Albert Salomon von Rothschild. Otherwise known as Baron von Rothschild. And he is the subject of todays oddity.
Today I want to talk about urban legends. We've all heard them. Some of you may even have believed one or two of them. Don't feel bad. Urban legends are supposed to be believable. And our friend, the Baron, was the subject of an urban legend that many, many people believed. And when I tell you about it, you might not feel so bad for falling for an urban legend yourself.
The year was 1890. Baron von Rothschild was a wealthy man. And like many wealthy men, he thought himself above the law, and committed some crimes. He was sentenced to death by the courts of the Austrian-Hungarian empire.
Word of his conviction spread across the empire, and were of particular interest in one of the provinces, Bosnia. Why, you ask? Well, as was a common practice in the olden days, rich people could get out of many things with money. Things like military service, prison sentences, marriages....
And that's why Bosnians took notice. Bosnia was, at the time, one of the poorer parts of the empire. And the Baron was offering a sum of one million Florins to whomever would take his place at the execution. And in 1890, one million florins would be the equivalent of $250,000,000 today. (or something like that. I don't know the current exchange rate for 1890 florins....it was a lot of money, though)
So what the poor people of Bosnia did was, they formed pools. Like an office lottery pool. Instead of everyone chipping in $5 though, they all volunteered to be executed in the Barons place. If one of their group was selected, the rest split the cash amongst themselves. (presumably the 'winners' family got a cut, too)
Thousands of poor Bosnians volunteered.
The only problem was, the Baron hadn't been convicted of any crime. And as a result, there was no bounty for someone to take his place at the execution. Since there wouldn't be one.
Convincing the poor Bosnians that it was all a trick took a long time. They thought the government officials were trying to keep them out of the game so they could increase their chances of 'winning'.
In reality, von Rothschild was not only not a criminal, but he had come up with the plan to for monetary reform in the empire. This earned him the right to be presented at court to the emperor. And that was a huge deal, because he became the first jewish person to receive that honor.
So, don't feel bad if you fell for an urban legend. There are people who have fallen for worse.