Most people wouldn’t consider a vial of smallpox to be a thoughtful birthday present, but for Glenn Beck’s 50th birthday on Monday, one of his employees tracked down a decades-old vial of the disease and it was one of the most memorable gifts that Beck received (that, and a 1958 Chevrolet Apache).
“Who in their right mind gives this to their boss?” Beck said with a laugh. “This is one of my presents yesterday. He said, ‘Glenn, this is going to require some explanation.’ So I opened it up. And it’s a vial of smallpox. Yeah…”
Beck proceeded to alarm his co-hosts Pat Gray and Stu Burguiere by taking the vial out of its outer container in describing the gift to his radio audience.
“This is incredible,” Beck said. “This is from . This is the smallpox vaccine. And it’s just a box, and it comes with instructions. And then, in here, you can hear…”
“Stop shaking it!” Burguiere admonished.
“In there are needles,” Beck continued, “and then another vial … I don’t want to show it to Stu, but it’s a little vial of yellow goo, and it’s smallpox.”
Beck said the person administering the vaccine would “break open the bottle, take the needles and scoop up some of that smallpox goo and … stick it in your kids.”
He said the employee tracked down the rare gift in California, knowing that Beck is an avid historian and smallpox was such an important part of history. The real difficulty, apparently, was in getting it back to Texas, since it could not be mailed or taken on an airplane and had to be driven.
But that wasn’t the only history-centered gift the multimedia personality received.
“This is the front page of The Cleveland Leader and Morning Herald,” Beck said, holding up a framed newspaper yellowed with time. “Monday, August 6, 1890 … This is the end of the Tesla/Edison war, and it says, ‘To die today: Kemmler, the murderer, has to be killed by electricity early this morning. Execution will take place in the prison about 7:00 a.m.’”
Beck has often discussed the historical rivalry between Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison, saying history has all but forgotten the former and given the latter a far greater reputation than he deserves.
“One of the big guys on Wall Street gets together with Edison, and they are trying to put Westinghouse and Tesla out of business,” Beck explained. “They don’t want alternating current. They want direct current. So what they do is decide, ‘You know the best way to kill somebody for a bad murder? ‘Westinghouse’ them. That’s AC … We now call it electrocution, but they wanted it to be called ‘Westinghousing.’”
Beck said that Westinghouse and Tesla fought against electrocuting the convicted criminal, and the scene was just as terrible as they predicted when it eventually occurred.
“I don’t know who gets the first electrocution newspaper and the vial of smallpox, but, happy 50th birthday, Glenn!” Beck concluded sarcastically.
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