If we have a question about anything, however bizarre, the impulse for those of us with access to a computer would be to insert the query into a search engine and see what the internet throws up. But before that came into existence, people went to their neighborhood librarian and the January 2016 issue of Harper’s magazine has a list of some of the questions posed to the New York Public Library’s Reference and Research Services between 1940 and 1989.
Here are a few:
Do you have any books on human beings?
Are Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates the same person?
Where can I rent a guillotine?
Is it proper to go alone to Reno to get a divorce?
What is the life span of an abandoned woman?
What country has the highest number of honorable women?
Do you have a list of buildings built in the shape of fruits or vegetables?
Do you have a list of historical characters who were in the right place at the right time?
And my favorite: “If the Empire State Building is the highest building in the world, what is the smallest?”
I have no idea how the librarians answered them but in my experience librarians are an amazing bunch of people who have incredible research skills. I took the easy way out and inserted the phrase “buildings built in the shape of fruits or vegetables” into Google and actually came up with a Wikipedia page on novelty architecture that listed some.