10 Quirky Families That Still Rule the World

Katie Carey
Katie Carey

By Jeff Wilser

You’d never confuse them for the Rockefellers. But you also wouldn’t have curling without ’em.

1. THE ROSENWACHS

Power: Hydrating Wall Street, Broadway, and the media 

Look up in New York City and you’ll no doubt see a wooden water tower topping a roof. Resembling rustic grain silos, the towers are an iconic part of the cityscape and quietly keep millions of people alive. (Normal pipes can’t pump water more than six stories, and these barrels help hydrate higher floors.) The whole industry is run by just three families, but the Rosenwachs reign supreme. They made their first barrel in 1894 and have built more than 10,000 since. The technology hasn’t changed much: Each tank lasts 30 to 35 years, at which point it will be replaced … likely by a Rosenwach.

2. THE KAYS

Power: Keeping the World Stoned

An uninhabited 240-acre slab Keats once called an “ocean-pyramid,” Ailsa Craig in Scotland is the only known source of common green and blue hone granite, the crucial ingredients for Olympic curling stones. The granites’ molecular structure sits in a Goldilocks zone: Water can’t soak in, but a hint of elasticity stops the stones from cracking when they bump on the rink. Thanks to a 200-year-old agreement, the Kay family has exclusive rights to quarry these magical rocks, making them the world’s largest—and nearly only—supplier of curling stones.

3. THE FRELINGHUYSENS

Power: New Jersey Politicking

Forget the Kennedys and Roosevelts: This is America’s real political dynasty. In 1775, Frederick Frelinghuysen joined the New Jersey Provincial Congress and later served in the Senate. Every generation of Frelinghuysens has produced a politician since, including a secretary of state (in Chester Arthur’s cabinet), a vice-presidential candidate (remember 1844’s Clay-Frelinghuysen vs. Polk-Dallas?), and four more senators. Today, Rodney Frelinghuysen—Frederick’s great-great-great-great-grandson—represents New Jersey’s 11th district in the U.S. House of Representatives.

4. THE KONGOS

Power: Building Religion

Shigemitsu Kongō was commissioned to build Japan’s first Buddhist temple in 593, even though almost nobody there practiced the religion. (Most Japanese were Shintoists.) But as Buddhism spread, Kongō’s family acted as the country’s default temple architects, building nearly every major temple for the next 1400 years. After 40 generations of keeping it in the family, the business went under in 2006. However, the Kongōs’ influence on Japan’s architecture—and its 45 million Buddhists—remains unshakable.

5. THE BROOKES

Power: Designing Wartime Fashion

John Brooke & Sons (and sons and sons … ) specialized in military uniforms, with 15 generations making wool outfits for the British army and navy, the French army, and even the Russian army. British troops kept warm in their wool while fighting everybody from Napoleon to Hitler. At the dawn of the Cold War, even Soviet military police wore John Brooke & Sons overcoats—proof the two sides could agree on at least one thing: fashion.

6. THE HOFFMANNS

Power: Making the People Cough-Free

In 1898, Fritz Hoffmann-La Roche invented an effective over-the-counter cough syrup. To make it drinkable, he flavored it with orange, the way he took his cognac. And to help it move off shelves, he partnered with makers of “saint cards.” The baseball cards of their day, the collectibles depicted a saint—and an ad for “Roche’s Syrup.” Somehow the marketing scheme worked, and the saints have been looking out for the family ever since. He used the booming sales to branch out; Bloomberg recently valued the health care juggernaut at $35 billion.

7. THE CHRISTIANSENS 

Power: Building Budding Engineers

Put aside the fact that there are 86 Legos for every human on the planet, or the fact that your grandpa’s blocks will snap into ones made in 2016. The Lego company—a family business started by Ole Kirk Christiansen in 1932—helps build the world. At MIT, a project called Lifelong Kindergarten partners with Lego to teach kids how to create robots, assemble jets, and master principles like torque. And Lego’s Architecture Studio, a monochrome kit of 1200 pieces with a 272-page book from architecture firms, unlocks secrets behind structures like Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. (Assembly required.)

8. THE MALTAS

Power: Ringing Praise for Church and High School Music Programs

Biggie vs. Tupac. Jobs vs. Gates. Hooli vs. Pied Piper. They have nothing on the Handbell Wars. In 1973, Jake Malta, a star engineer for the handbell company Schulmerich, quit to start his own business, Malmark, just 10 miles down the road. After traveling Europe to study the science of bells, he designed a new handbell that he insisted was purer than all the bells before it—perfection, really. Lawsuits followed. A legal war raged for 30 years, one case almost reaching the Supreme Court in 1992. As NPR reported, though, the titans finally reached peace. “The enemy is the 300 million people out there who don’t ring handbells,” Schulmerich’s Jonathan Goldstein said.

9. THE HALLS

Power: Dictating Schmaltz

When Joyce C. Hall was a broke teenager, he earned extra cash by selling postcards. In 1910, he moved to Kansas City with a shoebox full of wares and began selling them out of a YMCA. His brothers joined in, and the company grew as demand to send cards to troops rose over the two world wars. Today, the company pumps out 10,000 products every year and has seemingly touched every American’s birthday, wedding, and funeral. You know it as Hallmark.

10. THE MOGIS

Power: Bolstering the Wisconsin Economy

Every bottle of Kikkoman soy sauce you buy in the United States comes not from Japan, but from either Wisconsin or California. The Mogi family began making soy sauce in Japan in 1630. But in 1972, under the leadership of Yuzaburo Mogi, Kikkoman opened a factory near the abundant soy fields of Walworth, Wisconsin. The factory now churns out 29 million gallons a year, making it the single biggest soy sauce factory on the planet. (A second Kikkoman production facility opened in Folsom, California in 1998.)

Note: This article has been updated to include mention of Kikkoman's California facility.

10 of the Best Indoor and Outdoor Heaters on Amazon

Mr. Heater/Amazon
Mr. Heater/Amazon

With the colder months just around the corner, you might want to start thinking about investing in an indoor or outdoor heater. Indoor heaters not only provide a boost of heat for drafty spaces, but they can also be a money-saver, allowing you to actively control the heat based on the rooms you’re using. Outdoor heaters, meanwhile, can help you take advantage of cold-weather activities like camping or tailgating without having to call it quits because your extremities have gone numb. Check out this list of some of Amazon’s highest-rated indoor and outdoor heaters so you can spend less time shivering this winter and more time enjoying what the season has to offer.

Indoor Heaters

1. Lasko Ceramic Portable Heater; $20

Lasko/Amazon

This 1500-watt heater from Lasko may only be nine inches tall, but it can heat up to 300 square feet of space. With 11 temperature settings and three quiet settings—for high heat, low heat, and fan only—it’s a dynamic powerhouse that’ll keep you toasty all season long.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Alrocket Oscillating Space Heater; $25

Alrocket/Amazon

Alrocket’s oscillating space heater is an excellent addition to any desk or nightstand. Using energy-saving ceramic technology, this heater is made of fire-resistant material, and its special “tip-over” safety feature forces it to turn off if it falls over (making it a reliable choice for homes with kids or pets). It’s extremely quiet, too—at only 45 dB, it’s just a touch louder than a whisper. According to one reviewer, this an ideal option for a “very quiet but powerful” heater.

Buy it: Amazon

3. De’Longhi Oil-Filled Radiator Space Heather; $79

De’Longhi/Amazon

If you prefer a space heater with a more old-fashioned vibe, this radiator heater from De’Longhi gives you 2020 technology with a vintage feel. De’Longhi’s heater automatically turns itself on when the temperatures drops below 44°F, and it will also automatically turn itself off if it starts to overheat. Another smart safety feature? The oil system is permanently sealed, so you won’t have to worry about accidental spills.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Aikoper Ceramic Tower Heater; $70

Aikoper/Amazon

Whether your room needs a little extra warmth or its own heat source, Aikoper’s incredibly precise space heater has got you covered. With a range of 40-95°F, it adjusts by one-degree intervals, giving you the specific level of heat you want. It also has an option for running on an eight-hour timer, ensuring that it will only run when you need it.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Isiler Space Heater; $37

Isiler/Amazon

For a space heater that adds a fun pop of color to any room, check out this yellow unit from Isiler. Made from fire-resistant ceramic, Isiler’s heater can start warming up a space within seconds. It’s positioned on a triangular stand that creates an optimal angle for hot air to start circulating, rendering it so effective that, as one reviewer put it, “This heater needs to say ‘mighty’ in its description.”

Buy it: Amazon

Outdoor Heaters

6. Mr. Heater Portable Buddy; $104

Mr. Heater/Amazon

Make outdoor activities like camping and grilling last longer with Mr. Heater’s indoor/outdoor portable heater. This heater can connect to a propane tank or to a disposable cylinder, allowing you to keep it in one place or take it on the go. With such a versatile range of uses, this heater will—true to its name—become your best buddy when the temperature starts to drop.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiland Pyramid Patio Propane Heater; Various

Hiland/Amazon

The cold’s got nothing on this powerful outdoor heater. Hiland’s patio heater has a whopping 40,000 BTU output, which runs for eight to 10 hours on high heat. Simply open the heater’s bottom door to insert a propane tank, power it on, and sit back to let it warm up your backyard. The bright, contained flame from the propane doubles as an outdoor light.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Solo Stove Bonfire Pit; $345

Solo Stove/Amazon

This one is a slight cheat since it’s a bonfire pit and not a traditional outdoor heater, but the Solo Stove has a 4.7-star rating on Amazon for a reason. Everything about this portable fire pit is meticulously crafted to maximize airflow while it's lit, from its double-wall construction to its bottom air vents. These features all work together to help the logs burn more completely while emitting far less smoke than other pits. It’s the best choice for anyone who wants both warmth and ambiance on their patio.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Dr. Infrared Garage Shop Heater; $119

Dr. Infrared/Amazon

You’ll be able to use your garage or basement workshop all season long with this durable heater from Dr. Infrared. It’s unique in that it includes a built-in fan to keep warm air flowing—something that’s especially handy if you need to work without wearing gloves. The fan is overlaid with heat and finger-protectant grills, keeping you safe while it’s powered on.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Mr. Heater 540 Degree Tank Top; $86

Mr. Heater/Amazon

Mr. Heater’s clever propane tank top automatically connects to its fuel source, saving you from having to bring any extra attachments with you on the road. With three heat settings that can get up to 45,000 BTU, the top can rotate 360 degrees to give you the perfect angle of heat you need to stay cozy. According to a reviewer, for a no-fuss outdoor heater, “This baby is super easy to light, comes fully assembled … and man, does it put out the heat.”

Buy it: Amazon

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6 Punctuation Marks Hated by Famous Authors

F. Scott Fitzgerald was not a fan of the exclamation mark.
F. Scott Fitzgerald was not a fan of the exclamation mark.
ChristianChan/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Punctuation marks are not the most important tools in a writer's toolkit, but writers can develop some strong opinions about them. Here are six punctuation marks that famous authors grew to hate.

1. The Oxford Comma

The Oxford comma, also known as the serial comma, inspires passionate emotions on both sides, but more frequently on the pro side. James Thurber, a writer for The New Yorker and author of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, made a case against the Oxford comma to his editor Harold Ross, in a discussion of the phrase “the red, white, and blue.” Thurber complained that “all those commas make the flag seemed rained on. They give it a furled look. Leave them out, and Old Glory is flung to the breeze, as it should be.”

2. The Comma

Gertrude Stein had no use for the Oxford comma, or any kind of comma at all, finding the use of them “degrading.” In her Lectures in America, she said, “Commas are servile and they have no life of their own … A comma by helping you along and holding your coat for you and putting on your shoes keeps you from living your life as actively as you should lead it.”

3. The Question Mark

The comma wasn't the only piece of punctuation Stein took issue with; she also objected to the question mark [PDF], finding it “positively revolting” and of all the punctuation marks “the completely most uninteresting.” There was no reason for it since “a question is a question, anybody can know that a question is a question and so why add to it the question mark when it is already there when the question is already there in the writing.”

4. The Exclamation Point

In Beloved Infidel, Sheilah Graham’s memoir of her time with F. Scott Fitzgerald in his later years, she describes the things she learned from him about life and writing. In a red-pen critique of a script she had written, he told her to “Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.”

5. The Apostrophe

Playwright George Bernard Shaw thought apostrophes were unnecessary and declined to use them in words like don’t, doesn’t, I’ve, that’s, and weren’t. He did use them for words like I’ll and he’ll, where the apostrophe-less version might have caused confusion. He made clear his disdain for the little marks in his Notes on the Clarendon Press Rules for Compositors and Readers, where he said, “There is not the faintest reason for persisting in the ugly and silly trick of peppering pages with these uncouth bacilli.”

6. The Semicolon

Kurt Vonnegut, in his essay “Here Is a Lesson in Creative Writing” (published in the book A Man Without a Country), comes out forcefully against the semicolon in his first rule: “Never use semicolons.” He insults them as representing “absolutely nothing” and claims “all they do is show you’ve been to college.” Semicolon lovers can take heart in the fact that he may have been kidding a little bit—after using a semicolon later in the book, Vonnegut noted, “Rules take us only so far. Even good rules.”