Little Bits of History

Reference Work

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 24, 2014
Library of Congress

Library of Congress

April 24, 1800: The US Library of Congress is established. The first proposal for this reference library for members of Congress to use was put forth in 1783 by James Madison. It finally came to fruition on this date when President John Adams signed an Act of Congress allocating $5,000 for the purchase of “such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress” as well as setting up an appropriate place to contain them. Initially, 740 books and 3 maps were purchased and housed in the new Capitol Building as the seat of government moved from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. It was Thomas Jefferson in 1802 who signed a bill into law which provided for the actual building of the Library of Congress.

Not only did Jefferson provide for the building but also established a presidential appointment for the post of Librarian of Congress and a Joint Committee on the Library which regulated and oversaw the Library and allowed for the President and Vice President to borrow books. The Library of Congress was destroyed in 1814 when the British came to town and set the Capitol as well as the library contained within on fire. About 3,000 volumes were lost. Within a month, former President Jefferson offered his personal library as a replacement. He had been collecting books for 50 years and had a wide-ranging selection of books, including some not normally seen in a legislative library – such as cookbooks.

By January 1815, Congress had approved the collection and appropriated $23,950 to purchase his 6,487 books. His books were those of a working scholar and not a gentleman’s collection of books and so it was deemed appropriate as a replacement. At Monticello, Jefferson had grouped his books according to Francis Bacon’s scheme with three main groups subdivided into 44 more smaller portions. The books were stored for Congress using this same plan until late in the 19th century when Herbert Putnam (as the Librarian) began to work on a more flexible Library of Congress Classification system which is now used for the more than 138 million items contained therein.

In 1815, another fire caused great damage to the Library and many of Jefferson’s books were lost to the flames. Only 2,000 of the original books remained after the second fire. Between 1998 and 2008, the librarians working at the Library were able to replace these lost books – all but the last 300 which are still missing. Over the years, the space housing the Library has increased proportionately to the number of items contained. Today, preservation is centered on digitalizing the collection. Today, there are more than 32 million books and other print material in 470 languages and more than 61 million manuscripts. It is the largest rare book collection in North America. Housed within are many collector items such as a rough draft of the Declaration of Independence and a Gutenberg Bible (one of three perfect vellum copies known to exist). Also included are more than 1 million US government publications and another million newspapers spanning the last three centuries.

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. – Marcus Tullius Cicero

Books constitute capital. A library book lasts as long as a house, for hundreds of years. It is not, then, an article of mere consumption but fairly of capital, and often in the case of professional men, setting out in life, it is their only capital. – Thomas Jefferson

My Alma mater was books, a good library… I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity. – Malcolm X

A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life. – Henry Ward Beecher

Also on this day: Greeks Bearing Gifts – In 1184 BC, the Greeks bring a gift to Troy.
Soyuz 1 – In 1967, the first space fatality occurred.
Hershey’s Park – In 1907, Hersheypark opened.
Looking Outward – In 1990, mission STS-31 boosted into space with the Hubble Space Telescope aboard.

The Arts

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 23, 2014
American Academy of Arts & Letters facade

American Academy of Arts & Letters facade

April 23, 1904: American Academy of Arts & Letters forms. Originally called the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the group was founded as an offshoot of the American Social Science Association. The institute met for the first time in February of 1899 in New York City. Membership was capped at 150 and of those, 30 were eligible for the additional honor of being included in the Academy when it was founded on this day. In 1907, membership levels changed to 250 and 50 for the two groups. In 1913, President Taft incorporated the National Institute of Arts and Letters and in 1916, the Academy was also incorporated.

The Académie française served as the model for the American Academy. Members of the Institute selected seven of their members to become the first Academicians. William Dean Howells, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Edmund Clarance Stedman, John La Farge, Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), John Hay, and Edward MacDowell were the selected men who then selected eight others. Those men then selected another five and this continued until the cap of thirty members was met. Both groups did not have a permanent meeting place until 1923 when they moved to their current headquarters located on West 155th Street. The Academy’s meeting room contained fifty hand-carved Italian walnut chairs designed by McKim, Mead & White and donated by Elizabeth Cochran Bowen.

This two tiered structure remained intact for 72 years with 200 members in the lower section and fifty in the elite section. In 1976 members of the two combined into one group and called themselves the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. With this move, the membership could hold 250 living US citizens and up to 75 foreign composers, artists, and writers as honorary members. While they were served by one board of directors, there was still a tier establishment. This was completely done away with in 1993 and they became the American Academy of Arts and Letters at that time.

Members are chosen for life and have included some impressive names. They are organized into committees and award prizes to up and coming artists annually. Some of the original and early members may not be well known today, but in their time they were the movers and shakers of the artistic world. All is not sunshine and goodness, even among the best of the best. William James declined membership because his brother, Henry, was selected first. Robert Underwood Johnson was an early member and campaigned against modernism and kept out such illustrious writers as HL Mencken, F Scott Fitzgerald, and TS Eliot. Although not kept out by decree, women were not included early on. In 1908, Julia Ward Howe was elected in at the age of 88. In 1926, with the admittance of four women, the ban against the gentle sex was dropped.

All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. – Albert Einstein

O, had I but followed the arts! – William Shakespeare

To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. – Henry David Thoreau

Nine times out of ten, in the arts as in life, there is actually no truth to be discovered; there is only error to be exposed. – H. L. Mencken

Also on this day: The Bard of Avon – In 1616, William Shakespeare dies.
Boston Latin School – In 1635, the first public school in America (still open) was founded.
Lights, Camera, Action – In 1867, a patent for a zoetrope was granted.
Mississippi Burning – In 1940, the Rhythm Night Club burned.

Rolling Along

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 22, 2014
Robert John Tyers patent for roller skates

Robert John Tyers patent for roller skates

April 22, 1823: Robert John Tyers patents roller skates. He was a fruit seller from Piccadilly, London and called his invention Volitos. They were an “apparatus to be attached to boots … for the purpose of travelling or pleasure.” They used a series of five small wheels arranged in a single line and the developer demonstrated their use at the tennis court in Windmill Street. The first use of something akin to skates was in 1760 by Joseph Merlin in Belgium (perhaps). The paired four small boxwood wheeled skates were patented in 1863 by James L. Plimpton of New York. This became a far more popular style, at least for a time.

The early roller skates simply took the idea of ice skates and instead of having a blade to slide across the ice, used an arrangement of wheels to slide across a smooth surface. They were difficult to use as they did not steer well and stopping was a problem since they had no brakes. The improvement of a new type of wheel placement was shown when Plimpton arranged the wheels like those seen on a carriage which provided stability. Each pair of wheels was placed on its own axel and gave the wearer far more control with steering. The popularity of skating increased dramatically and this type of skate is still used today.

What started out as a game eventually became a competitive sport. Speed skating, racing on skates, and figure skating evolved. Roller Derby is a contact sport played on roller skates and developed in the 1930s. Roller hockey was developed in the 1990s and the game played with a ball rather than a puck became so successful that it made a brief appearance in the 1992 Olympics. By the end of the millennium, a study by The National Sporting Goods Association showed that 2.5 million people had played roller hockey. Roller skating itself was considered as an Olympic sport, but has not yet been included.

Roller Skating Rinks opened and allowed people a place to skate with a known flat surface. They formed their own association in 1937 as the craze for skating spread. They still offer classes to the public and help to educate the public on the benefits of skating. During the 1980s there was a disco dance craze that allowed skaters to bust a move to the tunes of the day. The health benefits of skating are put forth at the Roller Skating Association’s web page and include a total body workout which burns 350 calories per hour if covering 6 miles and 600 calories if skating at 10 mph. Inline skates (trade name Rollerblade) were first available commercially in 1987 and changed the whole game of skating.

Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There’s plenty of movement, but you never know if it’s going to be forward, backwards, or sideways. – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

I’d ice-skated before, because I’m Canadian and that’s what you do as a kid, but I’d never, ever been on quad skates. – Ellen Page

The Orioles’ Dick Hall comes off the mound like a drunk kangaroo on roller skates. – Joe Garagiola

I laugh at absurdity hardest, then stories, then observations, then bearded men on roller skates. – T. J. Miller

Also on this day: One Ringy-Dingy – In 2000, the UK updates the phone system.
Earth Day – In 1970, Earth Day was first celebrated.
Oklahoma Land Run – In 1889, land in Oklahoma was parceled out in a land run.
Remember the Alamo – In 1836, Santa Anna was captured.

First Veep

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 21, 2014
John Adams

John Adams

April 21, 1789: John Adams becomes first Vice President of the US. The new government began without the President and Vice President taking office on the same day. For both men, the official start of the first presidential term was March 4. However, it was not until April 6 when the first Congress counted the Electoral College votes and certified Washington as President and Adams as Vice President. On this date, Adams finally presided over the Senate and officially took the position of his elected seat. Washington did not begin as acting President of the US until April 30, 1789 and the executive arm of the government was officially begun.

Adams was the eldest of three sons born on October 30, 1735 (October 19 using the Old Style or Julian calendar). The place of his birth is now called Quincy, Massachusetts but in 1735 was still the north precinct of Braintree. His place of birth is now part of Adams National Historical Park. The family had been in the colonies since about 1638 and were descendants of Puritans. Adams’s mother was from one of the colony’s leading medical families. The family was not wealthy, however John felt the need to live up to the extended family’s history. He went to Harvard College at the age of sixteen with his father expecting him to study religion and become a minister.

After receiving his degree, John taught for a few years and decided to become a lawyer. He not only did not become the minister his father wanted, but John eventually changed religions and became a Unitarian. He studied law in the office of John Putnam, a leading lawyer in Worcester. He received a second degree from Harvard in 1758 and was admitted to the bar. He began to write about his life, clients, events, and his impressions of them all. In 1764, just days before his 29th birthday, he married Abigail Smith, his third cousin. They had six children, one of them also destined to become a President of the US. John, while interested in the local politics, was not as popular as his cousin, Samuel Adams – yet.

Adams forte was constitutional law and he was instrumental in drafting many of the original documents for the emerging nation. The first presidential election was held in 1789 with Washington receiving 69 of the electoral votes and Adams getting 34 – second place. He thus became Vice President. There are those who claim what he would have preferred to have been the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. But it was his duty to preside of the Senate and he had little input into the early running of the new nation. He was reelected to the Vice Presidency in 1792. In neither term did Washington consult much with his second in command. The election of 1796 saw Washington out of the race and Adams was elected President with Thomas Jefferson taking over his old position.

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

Democracy… while it lasts is more bloody than either aristocracy or monarchy. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide.

Power always thinks… that it is doing God’s service when it is violating all his laws. – all from John Adams

Also on this day: Snoopy v. The Red Baron – In 1918, The Red Baron loses a dogfight.
Rome – In 753 BC, Romulus and Remus founded Rome.
Henry VIII – In 1509, Henry became King of England.
Seattle’s Best – In 1962, the Century 21 Exposition opened in Seattle.

Annie Hall

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 20, 2014
Annie Hall

Annie Hall

April 20, 1977: Annie Hall premieres. The movie starred Woody Allen and Diane Keaton and was directed by Allen. The screen play was written by Allen and Marshall Brickman and produced by Charles H. Joffe. The role of Annie Hall was written specifically for Keaton and the film explores the reasons for the failure of a relationship between Hall and Alvy Singer, played by Allen. Filming began on May 19, 1976 on Long Island and continued for the next ten months with breaks between filming sessions for the 93 minute movie. The cost of filming was $4 million and the movie made $38,251,425 at the box office. The film was screened at the Los Angeles Film Festival in March 1977 before its official opening on this date.

The film explores many different facets of a relationship doomed from the start by the disparity of the two participants. There are many who believe the movie to be autobiographical, something Allen dismisses. Although he and Keaton did have a relationship, Allen maintains that the movie roles are too enmeshed in hyperbole to be actual people. Areas covered by the movie itself point out differences between New York City and Los Angeles as well as the stereotypes of differences in sexuality displayed by the two protagonists. Also visited are the Jewish identity and the use of psychoanalysis and modernism.

Diane Keaton, nee Hall, was born on January 5, 1946 in Los Angeles. She is an actress, director, producer, and screenwriter. She made her acting debut in 1970 and her first major role was in The Godfather (1972). She made several movies with Allen and this, her fourth, won her the Oscar for Best Actress. After this movie, she made a concerted effort to break out of the mold created by Annie Hall and expand her repertoire of roles. She has acted in dozens of films which have brought in over $1 billion total at the box office. She is currently filming three different movies with two due to be released this year and the third, Finding Dory, to be released in 2016. She has won many awards over the years with seven of them for this movie alone.

Woody Allen, nee Allan Stewart Konigsberg, was born on December 1, 1935 in The Bronx, New York. He is an actor, director, and producer whose career has spanned more than half a century. He began working as a comedy writer and wrote short humorous pieces. His early stand-up comedy persona was that of an insecure, intellectual, fretful nebbish (Jewish milquetoast). He played the part so well he has had to work to convince the world it is only a role. His first movie, What’s New Pussycat? came out in 1965 and his latest film in which he acted is Fading Gigolo, due out later this year.  He has been nominated for 59 major awards and won fifteen times as well as many other awards. His personal life has been chaotic and has made headlines many times.

Sex without love is a meaningless experience, but as far as meaningless experiences go its pretty damn good.

If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.

I believe there is something out there watching us. Unfortunately, it’s the government.

Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering – and it’s all over much too soon. – all from Woody Allen

Also on this day: Whodunit? – In 1841, the first mystery story is published.
Germ Theory – In 1862, Pasteur demonstrated his new theory.
Ludlow Massacre – In 1914, mining riots took place in Colorado resulting in 22 dead.
Two – In 1964, BBC2 launched.

Boston Marathon

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 19, 2014
The first Boston Marathon

The first Boston Marathon

April 19, 1897: The first Boston Marathon is run. The run was inspired by the revival the marathon race for the 1896 Summer Olympics held in Athens. It is the oldest continuously running marathon in the US and the second oldest footrace in North America. The Buffalo Turkey Trot is the oldest by only five months. The Boston Athletic Association (BAA) had been in existence for ten years by this time and they were the proud sponsors of the first marathon which covered a distance of 24.5 miles. It was scheduled to be run on the newly established Patriots Day and was intended to link the Athenian and American struggles for freedom. It has been held every year since its inception.

In 1924, the starting line was moved from Metcalf’s Mill in Ashland to Hopkinton Green and the course was lengthened to 26 miles and 385 yards to conform to standards set at the Summer Olympics held in 1908 and codified by the IAAF in 1921. Originally a local event, fame spread and the status of running the Boston Marathon is now a worldwide phenomenon. In the early years, the race was free and the only prize went to the winner who was given a wreath woven of olive branches. In the 1980s, corporations began to sponsor the event so that cash prizes could be awarded since professionals would not race without this incentive. The first cash prize was awarded in 1986.

In 1951, during the Korean War, Walter A. Brown (President of the BAA) would not permit Koreans to run in the race. The first woman to be recognized as running the entire race was Roberta Gibb in 1966. The next year, KV Switzer entered and was given a race number, making Kathrine the first to achieve that. Women were only officially permitted to enter beginning in 1972. However, in 1996 the BAA retroactively recognized as champions the women who won between 1966 and 1971. In 2011, about 43% of the entrants were women. In 1980 Rosie Ruiz came from nowhere to win the race, but officials were suspicious when she wasn’t found in any videotapes of the race. She had not run most of the race but joined only for the last mile and was disqualified.

In 2011, Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya finished in 02:03:02, the fastest runner. The fastest woman runner was Margaret Okayo of Kenya who finished in 2002 with a time of 02:20:43. The course used at Boston does not qualify for world record ratification in two different areas. The course drops 459 feet between start and finish and the start is west by a fair margin from the finish allowing for a favorable tailwind. In 1897, John J McDermott of the US won the race with a time of 02:55:10. Ronald J MacDonald of Canada won the next year. In 1932, the first European won when Paul de Bruyn finished in 02:33:36. Winners have now spanned the globe and the 2013 winner was Lelisa Desisa Benti (Ethiopia) for the men and Rita Japtoo (Kenya) for the women.

If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon. – Emil Zatopek

When you run the marathon, you run against the distance, not against the other runners and not against the time. – Haile Gebrselassie

I’ve run the Boston Marathon 6 times before. I think the best aspects of the marathon are the beautiful changes of the scenery along the route and the warmth of the people’s support. I feel happier every time I enter this marathon. – Haruki Murakami

Marathon running, for me, was the most controlled test of mettle that I could ever think of. It’s you against Darwin. – Ryan Reynolds

Also on this day: Look It Up – In 1928, the last fascicle of the Oxford English Dictionary is published.
Trippin’ – In 1943, Albert Hofmann tried LSD.
Sex Is Obscene  - In 1927, Mae West was sentenced to jail for her play, Sex.
Jump – In 1919, Leslie Leroy Irvin jumped from a plane.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 18, 2014
Simon & Schuster with the first crossword puzzle book.

Simon & Schuster with the first crossword puzzle book.

April 18, 1924: Simon & Schuster publish the first crossword puzzle book. Crossword puzzles are said to be the most popular word game in the world. They first appeared in England in the 1800s in an elementary form and a type called Double Diamond Puzzles appeared in a magazine called St. Nicholas. An Italian magazine first published a crossword puzzle in 1890 and was called (in Italian) “To pass the time”. This simple puzzle was a four by four grid without shaded squares, but it included both horizontal and vertical clues. On December 21, 1913 a puzzle that looks fairly similar to today’s puzzles was first published in New York World, a newspaper published in New York City. They were a hit and soon the Boston Globe also began putting a puzzle in the papers as a weekly feature.

When Simon & Schuster began published books full of the puzzles, they attached a pencil to the book to make sure all equipment was available. The same year as the first puzzle books appeared, the New York Times complained of the “sinful waste in the utterly futile finding of words the letters of which will fit into a prearranged pattern, more or less complex. This is not a game at all, and it hardly can be called a sport… [solvers] get nothing out of it except a primitive form of mental exercise, and success or failure in any given attempt is equally irrelevant to mental development.” The prestigious paper did not start published crossword puzzles until 1942.

There are several different types of grids available for standard crossword puzzle construction. Many of them have a 180-degree or rotational symmetry meaning the grid looks the same even if the page is turned upside down. American and Japanese style look quite similar but there are two extra rules for the Japanese grid – the shaded spaces may not share a side and all four corners must be white. The lattice structure is used in England and many of her colonies. The Swedish style does not have lists of clues or any numbers as the clues are inside the cell that would be shaded in other countries. Arrows indicate which way the answer should run. There are many other types of grids, as well.

There can be themed puzzles and clues can be direct or indirect. Sometimes the clues are purposely ambiguous and at other times clues are linked to each other and solving one word helps to solve the other. The New York Times, when they did finally join in, added another layer of fun. Earlier in the week, the puzzles are easier. But as the week progresses, they get more and more difficult until by Sunday, one can spend the entire day working on the larger puzzled included for the day of rest. As leisure time increased, so did the different types of puzzles available and today there are many ways to play with words and numbers while filling in a grid. There are also many varieties of puzzles available online.

It’s the boredom that kills you. You read until you’re tired of that. You do crossword puzzles until you’re tired of that. This is torture. This is mental torture. – Jack Kevorkian

The nice thing about doing a crossword puzzle is, you know there is a solution. – Stephen Sondheim

I am interested in a lot of things – not just show business and my passion for animals. I try to keep current in what’s going on in the world. I do mental exercises. I don’t have any trouble memorizing lines because of the crossword puzzles I do every day to keep my mind a little limber. I don’t sit and vegetate. – Betty White

I get up, go and get a coffee, and go do the crossword – I’m loyal to one particular paper, the ‘Guardian’ – and that’s my idea of a perfect morning. – Laura Marling

Also on this day: The Great Quake – In 1906, a large earthquake devastates San Francisco.
The House that Ruth Built – In 1923, Yankee Stadium opened.
One if by Land; Two if by Sea - In 1775, Paul Revere took a ride through the countryside.
Suicide Bomber – In 1983, the US Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon was destroyed.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 17, 2014
Snooker table

Snooker table

April 17, 1875: The game of snooker, a variation of pool, is invented by Sir Neville Chamberlain. Cue sports, also called billiard sports, are games played on a specially built table with pockets to catch balls that are moved across the field by use of a cue stick. The sides of the table are padded, allowing for rebounds and freer movement of the balls. All cue sports are thought to have evolved from an outdoor stick and ball game and are therefore related in some ways to trucco, croquet, and golf. An outdoor form of billiards was being played as early as the 1340s and King Louis XI of France had the first known indoor billiard table and he went on to refine the game.

Snooker was invented in India and played on a table that accurately measures 11 feet 8.5 inches by 5 feet 10 inches but is called a 12 x 6 table for convenience. The baize cloth covering the table has a nap running in the direction from the baulk end toward the end with the black ball spot. There are 22 snooker balls: one white cue ball, 15 red balls each worth one point, and six different color balls each with a different point value – yellow is 2, green is 3, brown is 4, blue is 5, pink is 6, and black is 7. The game can be played between individuals or between teams. Points are awarded for potting a ball and the player or team with the highest score wins.

British Army officers stationed in India played billiards. The addition to this game was to add the colored balls and the series of point values. The rules were formalized by Chamberlain in Ootacamund. The term snooker has military origins and was slang for first-year cadets or inexperienced personnel. The legend behind the naming of the game comes from an opponent’s failure to pot a ball and being called a Snooker by Chamberlain. It became attached to the game as played in the outlying region and inexperienced players were called snookers. Although it grew in popularity even back in England, it was still a game for the gentry and many gentlemen’s clubs would not permit nonmembers to play. These outcasts formed their own snooker clubs.

Neville Francis Fitzgerald Chamberlain was born in 1856 and should be confused with the later Prime Minister. He was born into a military family and educated at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He was commissioned a sub-lieutenant in 1873 and promoted to lieutenant a year later. He was stationed in Afghanistan and wounded (slightly) in the Battle of Kandahar. He rose to the rank of colonel and served in both India and South Africa. In 1900 he was appointed Inspector-General of the Royal Irish Constabulary and worked in that capacity for many years. He received many awards and retired in March 1938. He returned to live in Ascot, Berkshire, England where he remained until his death in 1944 at the age of 88.

Snooker is a game of simple shots played to perfection. – Joe Davies

I think it’s a great idea to talk during sex, as long as it’s about snooker. – Steve Davis

A lot of people think international relations is like a game of chess. But it’s not a game of chess, where people sit quietly, thinking out their strategy, taking their time between moves. It’s more like a game of billiard, with a bund of balls clustered together. – Madeleine Albright

The game of golf would lose a great deal if croquet mallets and billiard cues were allowed on the putting green. – Ernest Hemingway

Also on this day: America’s Renaissance Man – In 1790, Benjamin Franklin dies.
FedEx – In 1973, FedEx began operation.
Stories - In 1397, Chaucer presented the Canterbury Tales for the first time.
Frenchman Takes Off – In 1944, Henri Giraud escaped a POW prison.

Great Neighbors

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 16, 2014
Rush-Bagot Treaty memorial

Rush-Bagot Treaty memorial

April 16, 1818: The Rush-Bagot Treaty is ratified in the US. The treaty was between the US and Britain following the War of 1812. That war was fought between June 18, 1812 and February 18, 1815 and ended in a draw with little accomplished other than thousands killed and many more wounded. Many of the battles took place on the Great Lakes. The US allies included the Choctaw, Cherokee, and Creek while the British were helped by over a dozen tribes and Spain. Their rule of Canada remained intact at the end of the war. The war did finalize some of the unresolved issued left over from the Revolutionary War but no borders were changed and Canada remained a British colony.

The purpose of the treaty signed on this date was to demilitarize the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain. The British maintained several different military installations along the international boundary and these were to be dismantled and vacated. British North America and the US could each maintain one and only one ship of not more than 100 tons burden on both Lake Ontario and Lake Champlain. They could each have one and only one cannon not to exceed eighteen pounds at each site as well. The other four of the Great Lakes could each have two ships of similar size and cannon also within this limit. Between this treaty and the one actually ending the war, it was set up to demilitarize the boundary between the US and Canada.

The ideas put forth in the treaty were first established in correspondence between acting US Secretary of State Richard Rush and British Minister to Washington Sir Charles Bagot exchanged on April 27 and 28, 1817. The terms were officially written up as the Rush-Bagot Agreement and presented to Congress. On this date, the Senate ratified the treaty. The Treaty of Washington in 1871 completed the disarmament and the entire border was thus affected. In 1946, both the US and Canada agreed through diplomatic exchange, to permit naval vessels on the Great Lakes to be used for training as long as each government was advised prior to the movement of ships to the area. In 2004, the US Coast Guard began to arm its 11 Great Lakes ships with M240 7.62 mm machine guns to help control the increase in smuggling operations on the lakes.

Today, there are still military installations on or near the Great Lakes. Canada maintains 17 such installations scattered throughout Ontario. The US has 11 such installations scattered across five states. This treaty created the longest east-west boundary in the world which stretched for 5,527 miles. Today, the Canada-US border is the longest demilitarized border anywhere. Each of the two countries has a plaque commemorating the Rush-Bagot Agreement and celebrates the ability to live in close proximity without malice and without military protection of an agreed upon border. There is a plaque in Kingston, Ontario, one in Washington, D.C., and a third is located on the ground of Old Fort Niagara (near Youngstown, New York), as well.

When I was crossing the border into Canada, they asked if I had any firearms with me. I said, ‘Well, what do you need?’ – Steven Wright

Canada is the only country in the world that knows how to live without an identity. – Marshall McLuhan

If the national mental illness of the United States is megalomania, that of Canada is paranoid schizophrenia. – Margaret Atwood

Canada is like a loft apartment over a really great party. – Robin Williams

Also on this day: Little Sure Shot – In 1922, a little old lady performs a remarkable marksmanship feat.
Goya Sunk – In 1945, the Russians sunk the German refugee ship.
High Flyer – In 1912. Harriet Quimby became the first woman to fly across the English Channel.
Taking Marbles; Leaving – In 1858, the Wernerian Natural History Society ceased to exist.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 15, 2014
Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language

Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language

April 15, 1755: Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language is published. In June of 1746, a group of London booksellers approached Johnson and asked him to write a dictionary for 1,500 guineas or about £210,000 ($350,000) in today’s money. Dictionaries already existing were simply not up to the task. As more people became literate, a greater number of publications were available and it became economical to also produce a dictionary the masses could afford. With the explosion of printed material, it was necessary to create a set of rules for grammar, definitions, and spellings for the words defined. Johnson thought it would take him about three years to complete a new dictionary – it took nine years, instead.

Over the previous 150 years, there had been over twenty dictionaries published. The oldest was a Latin-English “wordbook” by Sir Thomas Elyot and published in 1538. Sixty years later, an Italian-English dictionary was the first to use quotations as illustrations of word usage. None of these early dictionaries actually included the definition for the English words. Next up was a listing by Robert Cawdrey called “Table Alphabeticall” published in 1604 which made it easier to find the English word one was looking for. It contained 2,449 words and none of them began with the letters w, x, or y. Many more dictionaries were published and by 1721 Nathan Bailey listed 40,000 words in his.

All these remarkable books still did not fit our definition of what a dictionary should be. They were little more than lists, usually poorly organized and poorly researched, of what were considered to be “hard words” which meant they were technical, foreign, obscure, or antiquated. They did not give illustrations of how the words were used in English. Dr. Johnson was given the task of improving on these older books and tried to remedy all these failings from prior works. The hope to get the book into the hands of masses was dashed when the scope of the book was taken into consideration. The English language is full of words. Many words. Too many words.

The book was large and expensive, costing £1,600 – more than Johnson earned to write it. The pages were 18 inches tall an almost 20 inches wide. No bookseller could print it without help. Other than some copies of the Bible, no book of this size had been set to type. There were only 42,773 words included, but they were defined (by synonyms) and illustrated with literary quotations which gave English usage meaning to the words. There were about 114,000 quotations included. Johnson also included notes, sometimes including humor, to give extra shades of meaning to the words. The Oxford English Dictionary, which finally replaced Dr. Johnson’s work, took forty years to complete and contains nearly 750,000 words.

I shall therefore, since the rules of stile, like those of law, arise from precedents often repeated, collect the testimonies of both sides, and endeavour to discover and promulgate the decrees of custom, who has so long possessed whether by right or by usurpation, the sovereignty of words.

Excise: a hateful tax levied upon commodities and adjudged not by the common judges of property but wretches hired by those to whom excise is paid

Lexicographer: a writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge that busies himself in tracing the original and detailing the signification of words

Oats: a grain which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people – all from Samuel Johnson

Also on this day: Going for the Gold – In 1896, the first Modern Olympic Games come to an end.
Cartography – in 1924, Rand McNally published its first atlas.
Leonardo - In 1452, Leonardo da Vinci was born.
Sunk – In 1912, the Titanic sunk.


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