This section is from the book "Bepler's Handy Manual of Knowledge And Useful Infomation", by David Bepler. Also available from Amazon: Bepler's Handy Manual of Knowledge and Useful Information.
The largest University is Oxford University, at Oxford, England. It consists of 21 colleges and 5 halls. Oxford was a seat of learning as early as the time of Edward the Confessor; University College claims to have been founded by Alfred the Great.
The greatest cataract is the Niagara Falls, the Horseshoe Fall on the Canadian side has a perpendicular descent of 158 feet; the height of the American Fall is 167 feet. The Horshoe carries a larger volume of water than the American Fall, is about 600 yards wide and extends from the Canadian shore to Goat Island. Geologists are agreed that the cataract was once six miles nearer to Lake Ontario than at present.
The highest waterfall is the Yosemite of California. It is formed by the Yosemite Creek, which is an affluent of the Merced River. The average width of the stream in Summer is about 20 feet and its depth about 2 feet. From the edge of the cliff, from which the water plunges, to the bottom of the valley the vertical distance is about 2,550 feet, but the fall is not one perpendicular sheet of water.
The most remarkable natural echoes are those of Eagle's Nest on the banks of Lake Killarney, in Ireland, which repeats a bugle call until it seems to be sounded from a hundred instruments.
The largest electric light is at the Sydney Lighthouse, Australia, which has a power of 180,000 candle-power, and can be seen 50 miles. The second largest is at Paris in the Palais de l'lndustrie, of 150,000 candle-power. The next is at Marseilles, France, of 40,000 candle-power. The fourth largest is at San Jose, California, U. S., of 24,000 candle-power, and sheds its light two miles.
The highest inhabited place is the Port House of Aucomarca, on the Andes, in Peru, South America. It is 16,000 feet above the sea level.
The largest passenger locomotive was built by the Rhode Island Locomotive Works for the New York, Providence and Boston Railroad Company. The main driving wheels are 6 feet in diameter and set but 7 feet 6 inches apart. The cylinders are 18 inches in diameter, with two-foot stroke. The boiler is 54 inches in diameter at the smokestack, with a wagon top. It extends to the very end of the cab, and necessitates the elevation of the engineer's seat to a height far above the fire door. Three tons of coal are consumed before the locomotive will move, and she carries four tons of coal on her tender. The tank of the tender will hold 4,000 gallons of water. The total weight of the locomotive proper is 95,000 pounds. The weight on the driving wheels is 66,000 pounds. Everything about the locomotive is steel. There is not a particle of brass or bright work about her. She made a run of 62 1/2 miles in 62 1/2 minutes, pulling at the same time eight cars, four of which were Pullman cars.
The greatest wall is the Chinese Wall, built by the first Emperor of the Tsin dynasty, about 221 B.C., as a protection against the Tartars on the North. It traverses the northern boundary of China, and is carried over the highest hills, through the deepest valleys, across rivers and every other natural obstacle. Its length is 1,250 miles, including a parapet of five feet; the total height is 20 feet, its thickness at the base 25 feet, and at the top 15 feet. Towers or bastions occur at intervals of about every 300 feet.
The highest railroad in the United States is the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, at Marshall Pass, 10,855 feet above the sea level.
The most remarkable whirlpool is the maelstorm off the northwest coast of Norway, Europe, and southwest of Moskenasol, the most southerly of the Lafoden Isles. It was once supposed to be unfathomable, but the depth has been shown not to exceed 20 fathoms. The whirlpool is navigable under ordinary circuinstances, but when the wind is northwest it often attains great fury and becomes extremely dangerous. Under strong gales the maelstorm has been shown by official statistics to run at the rate of twenty-six miles an hour.
The longest river is the Mississippi River, that is if we include the Missouri with it, its length, from its head-waters Lake' Itasca, in the Rocky Mountains to its mouth, where it empties into the Gulf of Mexico, is 4,160 miles. The Amazon, of South America, is next. It rises in the Andes Mountains, about GO miles from the Pacific Ocean, and flows including its windings, a distance of 4,000 miles to the Atlantic Ocean, into which it empties under the equator in Brazil. The average velocity of the current is 3 miles an hour. It is navigable for large ships 2,200 miles from its mouth. The area drained by the Amazon and its tributaries is estimated at 2,000,000 square miles. The Amazon enters the ocean through an estuary about 150 miles wide. So great is the volume and impetus of the river that its fresh water is carried unmixed into the sea about 209 miles.
The largest library is the Bibliotheque National in Paris, France, founded by Louis XIV. It contains 1,400,000 volumes, 300,000 pamphlets, 175,000 manuscripts, 300,000 maps and charts, and 150,000 coins and medals. The collection of engravings exceed 1,300,000, contained in some 10,000 volumes. The portraits number about 100,000. The building which contains these treasures is situated on the Rue Richelieu, Paris, France.
The largest pleasure park in the United States, and one of the largest in the world, is Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, which contains 2,745 acres.
The largest diamond in the world (if indeed, it be a diamond), is the Braganza, which forms part of the Portugese crown jewels. It weighs 1,880 carats. However, not a little doubt exists of its being a diamond, as the Government has never allowed it to be tested. It was found in Brazil in 1741. The largest tested but uncut diamond is the Mattan, belonging to the Rajah of Mattan, in Borneo. It is of pure water, weighs 367 carats, and is of a pear shape, indented at the thick end. It was found about 1760 at Landak, in Borneo. It has been the cause of a sanguinary war. Before it was cut the Kohinoor, which is one of the English crown jewels, was the largest tested diamond. It then weighed 793 carats. When in the possession of Emperor Aurengebe it was reduced by unskillful cutting to 186 carats. During the Sikh mutiny it was captured by British troops and presented to Queen Victoria. It was recut, and now weighs 106 1-16 carats.
The largest theater is the new Opera House in Paris, France. It covers nearly three acres of ground. Its cubic mass is 4,287,000 feet, it cost 63,000,000 francs.
The biggest trees are the mammoth trees of California. One of the grove in Tulare County, according to measurement made by members of the State Geological Survey, was shown to be 276 feet high, 106 feet in circumference at base, and 76 feet at a point 12 feet above the ground. Some of the trees are 380 feet high and 35 feet in diameter. Some of the largest trees that have been felled indicate an age of from 2,000 to 2,500 years.
The greatest fortress from a strategical point of view is the famous stronghold of Gibraltar, belonging to Great Britain, situated upon the most southern point of land upon the coast of Southwestern Spain, Europe. It occupies a rocky peninsula jutting out into the sea about three miles long and three-quarters of a mile wide. One central rock rises to a height of 1,439 feet above the sea level. Its northern face is almost perpendicular, while its east side is full of tremendous precipices. On the south it terminates in what is called Europe point. The west side is less steep than the east, and between its base and the sea is a narrow, almost level span on which the town of Gibraltar is built. The fortress in considered impregnable to military assault. The regular garrison in time of peace numbers about 7,000 men.
The largest church is the basilica of St. Peter's in Rome, Italy. Its dimensions are as follows: length of interior, 613 feet; breadth of the nave and aisles, 197 3/4 feet; height of the nave, 152 feet; length of the transepts, 446 1/2 feet; diameter of the dome, including the walls, 195 feet, or nearly two feet more than that of the Pantheon; diameter of the interior, 139 feet; height from the pavement to the base of the lantern, 405 feet; to the summit of the cross outside, 448 feet. The whole of St. Peter's Cathedral in London, Eng., might stand within the shell of St. Peter's with room to spare.