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Henry David Thoreau Trivia

Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge

While cooking his dinner on a hike in Walden Woods on 30 April 1844, 26-year-old Thoreau set a fire that burned more than 100 acres. Way to go, nature boy!16

The next time you pick up a pencil, you can thank Thoreau. At his father's pencil factory, Thoreau developed a stronger, superior pencil by mixing clay with the graphite. It was a major development in pencil engineering. Quit laughing! It was.17

Thoreau planted a vegetable garden as a wedding present for his friend Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of The Scarlet Letter, and his new wife Sophia.18

The Compromise of 1850 made it illegal to assist runaway slaves escaping their owners. Thoreau opposed the law, in word and practice. He continued to hide escaped slaves in his family's Concord home and helped them flee to Canada.19

Thoreau was a good money manager during his tenure as treasurer of the Concord Lyceum. The club ended the year in the black, with a balance of $9.20.20

According to his receipts for the building materials for the cabin at Walden Pond, Thoreau purchased way more nails than needed for such a small structure. When Walter Harding excavated the cabin site in the 1940s, he discovered the reason why - Thoreau was a bad carpenter. There were a number of bent nails around, Harding wrote, "indicating that Thoreau's aim with a hammer was not all it might have been."21

In an effort to remove some of the modern trappings that cropped up around Thoreau's wilderness retreat, the state of Massachusetts undertook a $600,000 renovation of Walden Pond in the 1980s. In an effort to make it look more like it did in Thoreau's time, the state knocked down concrete bathhouses and fences and covered other concrete stuff in shingles and local rock. Which is kind of cheating, but whatever.22

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