WTF Fun Fact 13030 – Mary Really Did Have a Little Lamb

Do you remember the children’s nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”? Well, it turns out that it was based on a real little girl named Mary Sawyer.

Mary and her little lamb

Around 1816, a girl named Mary Sawyer from Sterling, Massachusetts headed off to school one day. And as you may have guessed by now, her lamb followed her.

There was even a book published in 1928 about that fateful day, citing all of the evidence.

It turns out that Mary adopted the little lamb after it had been rejected by its mother. It was near death, and Mary’s father refused to let it in the house so she could nurse it back to health. But Mary didn’t relent. She went and asked her mother, who allowed the lamb inside.

The lamb became Mary’s pet. She gave it milk and kept it warm, and it eventually responded to her calls and followed her everywhere.

Mary’s lamb goes to school

The story recounted by Mary is that she and her brother decided to take the lamb to school one day. (And, yes, it was against the rules). They wrapped it in a blanket but when it let out a bleat, the jig was up. She had to take it home at lunchtime.

As an old woman, Mary Sawyer is said to have recounted the story to a man named John Roulstone, who wrote the nursery rhyme. However, according to the New England Historical Society (cited below): “Sarah Josepha Hale had written and published Mary’s Lamb in 1830. She included it in a little book, book, Poems for Our Children. Hale’s version of Mary Had a Little  Lamb had three additional stanzas that added a moral lesson to the tale.” In addition, there’s no written evidence that Roulstone wrote the nursery rhyme for Mary.

The controversy over a nursery rhyme

The reason there is an argument over who really wrote the nursery rhyme had to do with selling stockings knitted from the lamb’s wool.

“Mary’s mother made some stockings out of the lamb’s wool for Mary, and she treasured them. Then, when Mary was an old woman living in Somerville, Mass., preservationists started raising money to save the Old South Meeting House. Mary donated the wool from her stockings to the fundraising efforts. Volunteers picked apart the stockings and attached the wool to cards that said, ‘Knitted wool from the first fleece of Mary’s Little Lamb.’ They sold like hotcakes.”

While we still don’t know exactly who wrote the nursery rhyme first. But we know it had meaning because it was linked to the fundraising effort for the Meeting House.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Mary Had a Little Lamb – Yes, There Was a Mary and She Did Have a Little Lamb” — New England Historical Society


WTF Fun Fact 12555 – The London Bridge of Arizona

London Bridge is falling down
Falling down, falling down
London Bridge is falling down
My fair lady

Did you sing this song as a kid? We sure did, although we had no idea just how many more verses it had – there are lines about building it up with iron bars as well as gold and silver, but in the end, the bridge was simply taken down and replaced.

Originally built in the 1830s, it spanned the River Thames in London, England. But by 1968, it was up for sale. We can’t really relate to the desire to buy an old bridge that’s falling down, but apparently, millionaires can. American entrepreneur and chainsaw manufacturer Robert P. McCulloch (who also inherited a fortune from his grandfather) decided to buy the bridge to serve as a tourist attraction in the new community he was planning in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. He paid $2.5 million (but there wasn’t exactly a bidding war over it).

And what millionaires want, they tend to get. He bought the bridge, had it dismantled, and transported it to Arizona on a cargo ship. After sailing through the Panama Canal, it landed in Long Beach, California, and was trucked to Lake Havasu City. There, it was reassembled and opened in October 1971.

But you don’t have to worry about using a crumbling old bridge if you visit it. The masonry from the old bridge simply forms the outer structure of the new “London Bridge,” which includes reinforced concrete. It now connects an island in the Colorado River with the main part of Lake Havasu City.

Now, when we say it connects an island, we don’t mean that a bridge was needed there. In fact, a canal was dug to create the island after the bridge was built. But it had the intended effect. Interest in buying land in the area increased, and it did indeed become a tourist destination (and it still is to this day). –  WTF fun fact

Source: “Arizona’s London Bridge: A Brief History” — Arizona Highways