May 31, 1859: Big Ben goes on line. A great number of people believe Big Ben, at the Palace of Westminster in London, is the name of the huge clock face or the tower itself. While the tower is the largest four-faced chiming clock tower in the world, and the third tallest free-standing clock tower, the name Big Ben actually refers to the largest bell in the tower. The first tower was build in 1288. The present tower was built using Charles Barry’s design for the new palace after the older palace was destroyed in a fire on October 16, 1834. Barry left the designing of the tower to Augustus Pugin.
The clock faces are set into iron frames measuring 23 feet in diameter. They each have 312 pieces of opal glass, resembling a stained-glass window, but all in white. This allows for some of the pieces of glass to be removed so the clock’s hands can be inspected. The clock itself is extremely reliable. The designers of the clock were Edmund Beckett Denison and George Airy. The construction was left to clockmaker Edward John Dent who died in 1853, leaving his stepson, Frederick Dent, to finish. The building of the tower and clock left enough time for Denison to come up with a second plan, making the clock far more accurate.
The official name for the largest bell is the Great Bell, however it is known colloquially as Big Ben, in honor of Benjamin Hall (or perhaps Benjamin Caunt). Hall’s name is inscribed on the bell. The original bell was cast on August 6, 1856 and weighed 16 tons. The tower wasn’t ready and so the bell was mounted in New Palace Yard moved there by a trolley drawn by sixteen horses. The bell cracked and was beyond repair. A second bell was cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry and weighed 13.5 tons. The bell is seven feet, two inches high and eight feet, ten inches in diameter. The hammer weighs 440 pounds.
The largest bell is part of a set of five bells. Each bell strikes a different note. Big Ben is the musical note E, the first quarter bell is G sharp, the next is F sharp, the third is E, and the last is B. It took 18 hours to move the great bell 200 feet up the tower. The great clock began working on this day, the Great Bell was struck on July 11 and the quarter bells were added September 7. The Great Bell again cracked in September because the hammer was twice the recommended weight. It was out of commission for three years while fixed. It was patched and to this day, has a bit of an odd sound.
I’m learning English at the moment. I can say ‘Big Ben’, ‘Hello Rodney’, ‘Tower Bridge’ and ‘Loo’. – Cher
Through the magic of motion pictures, someone who’s never left Peoria knows the softness of a Paris spring, the color of a Nile sunset, the sorts of vegetation one will find along the upper Amazon and that Big Ben has not yet gone digital. – Vincent Canby
My cousin’s gay, he went to London only to find out that Big Ben was a clock. – Rodney Dangerfield
Clock watchers never seem to be having a good time. – James Cash Penney
Also on this day:
May 30, 1806: Charles Dickinson dies. Dickinson was born in Caroline County, Maryland in 1780. He came from a prominent family and studied law under US Chief Justice John Marshall. He moved to Tennessee where he practiced law, bred horses, and fought duels. The Tennessee plantation owner married the beautiful daughter of Captain Joseph Erwin. He also became known as an expert marksman and killed 26 men in duels. His luck came to an end when he met up against a Major General from the Revolutionary War.
Andrew Jackson met his future wife when he was a boarder at the home of Rachel Stockley Donelson, the widow of John Donelson, one of the founding fathers of Nashville, Tennessee. Jackson fell in love with their already married daughter. She was separated from Captain Lewis Robards, a mean and disreputable man. Also named Rachel, she and her husband were supposedly divorced, but Captain Robards did not file the final papers. Rachel and Andrew married only to find out later about the problem. Finally legally divorced from her first husband, the couple were married again. Jackson was always sensitive to this issue.
Jackson also was a horse breeder. His horse, Truxton, was set to race again Ploughboy, owned by Joseph Erwin – Dickinson’s father-in-law. Ploughboy went lame and there was some confrontation about forfeit to be paid. Eventually the horses raced with Truxton winning. Dickinson had been drinking and was irate over the loss. The two men had already been quarreling about Dickinson’s slandering Mrs. Jackson, calling her a bigamist. He again brought up the questionable morals of Jackson’s wife along with the dissatisfaction of the race. Jackson challenged Dickinson to a duel.
The two men had to cross over to Kentucky since dueling was illegal in Tennessee. They met at Harrison’s Mill on Red River in Logan County, Kentucky. Dickinson was the better shot, but Jackson was better prepared. He wore loose fitting clothing, hiding his slight frame. He also stood sideways. The two men bowed to each other and as the command to fire was given, Dickinson immediately fired his gun. Jackson held his fire, took careful aim, and shot only to find his pistol locked at half cock. Given permission to fix his weapon, he again took aim, fired, and struck his target, causing a fatal wound. Only later did his second notice the blood pooling in Jackson’s shoe. He has been hit, but his ribs deflected the bullet, a souvenir he carried until his death in 1845. He went on to become the seventh President of the US.
Why, gentlemen, General Jackson has done a most daring exploit. He has captured another man’s wife. – Charles Dickinson
Great God! Have I missed him? – Charles Dickinson
I should have hit him if he had shot me through the brain. – Andrew Jackson, commenting on his wound
I think the verdict of history is that Mr. Dickinson was a young man of promising abilities, but in keeping with the life of the day was high strung, impetuous, and probably imprudent. – Secretary of the Tennessee Historical Society
Also on this day:
May 29, 1942: Bing Crosby and the Ken Darby Singers record a song for Decca Records. Crosby had first sung the song on Christmas Day the year before on his radio show, The Kraft Music Hall, but that recording is lost. It took only eighteen minutes to record the song which was released on June 30 as part of an album. Six songs played on 78-rpm records were sold for the movie, Holiday Inn. The song wasn’t an immediate hit and was overshadowed by “Be Careful, It’s my Heart” also from the album. By October the second song topped “Your Hit Parade” and stayed at number one until the next year. The blockbuster? “White Christmas.”
The song was written by Irving Berlin. He had stayed up all night, sitting poolside while composing. In the morning, he told his secretary he may have written the best song ever – for his own career and possibly in the world of music. Depending on figures, the song has sold at least 50 million copies, with Guinness Book of World Records listing 100 million copies, for all versions of the song, including albums. Crosby’s Merry Christmas collection was first released in 1949 and has never been out of print since that time. “ItsRanked” gave the number one spot to Crosby’s version of “White Christmas” when listing the top Christmas songs of all time.
Berlin was a prolific and influential composer and lyricist. His first hit was “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” in 1911 when Berlin was 23. He continued to write music for 60 years and wrote an estimated 1,500 songs, including the scores for nineteen Broadway shows and 18 Hollywood movies. He had songs nominated for Academy Awards eight times. Another of his famous works is “God Bless America” sometimes referred to America’s second national anthem. At one time there was a push to actually replace “The Star Spangled Banner” with Berlin’s work. The Jewish boy from the Lower East Side married Ellin Mackay, a Catholic heiress in 1925 after Berlin had been widowed following a short first marriage. They had four children together and remained married until her death in June 1988 at age 85. Berlin died in September 1989 at age 101.
Harry Lillis Crosby was both a singer and actor. He was discovered by Paul Whiteman singing at Los Angeles Metropolitan Theater in 1926 with his singing partner, Al Rinker, one of the most famous bandleaders of the time. Whiteman offered the duo $150 per week to sing for him. Crosby’s star was rising and he was offered a spot on the radio. He moved to movies and sold 1,077,900,000 tickets over his career He is the third most popular actor of all time, behind Clark Gable and John Wayne. He recorded 1,700 songs with 41 hitting #1. He made over 80 feature films and more than 35 short films. He was also in nine television series or specials. He died in 1977 at the age of 74.
There is nothing in the world I wouldn’t do for [Bob] Hope, and there is nothing he wouldn’t do for me… We spend our lives doing nothing for each other. – Bing Crosby
That’s Jack Benny. He’s always out there on bad days like that looking for golf balls. – Bing Crosby
Listen kid, take my advice, never hate a song that has sold half a million copies. – Irving Berlin
Talent is only the starting point. – Irving Berlin
Also on this day:
The Top of the World – In 1953 Mount Everest in conquered.
Running the World – In 1954, the Bilderberg Group held their first conference.
Empress of Ireland – In 1914, nearly a thousand people died when the ship sank.
May 28, 1934: Yvonne, Annette, Cécile, Émilie, and Marie Dionne are born. Their parents, Oliva (father) and Elzire (mother) married September 15, 1926 and already had five children. Ernest, Rose Marie, Therese, Daniel, and Pauline were waiting for the birth of the new baby. Pauline was only eleven months old at the time of the birth. Léo had died shortly after his birth. Elzire thought she might be having twins. They were born three months early with two midwifes beginning the birthing process. Dr. Allan Roy Dafoe was present for the birth of the last two babies. He is credited with the birth of all the children.
Their births were recorded in Corbeil, a larger town near Callander, Ontario, Canada. The birth order and the babies’ weights were not recorded. The three larger babies were born first. All five were wrapped in cotton sheets and napkins and laid in the corner of the bed. Dr. Dafoe was sure they wouldn’t survive. Elzire went into shock soon after the births and it wasn’t certain she would survive, either. However, all of them did survive. The Dionne quintuplets were the first set of quints to survive infancy. They were determined to be identical, all stemming from one fertilized egg. We know of only a handful of cases where identical quints were born (1786, 1849, 1936, 1959, 2004, and 2007) and to date, this is the only case where all five survived.
The babies were kept in a wicker basket and various methods were used to keep them warm. News spread around the world and congratulations and well wishes began to pour in. By the time they were four months old, the Ontario government decided the parents were unfit to care for the infants and removed them from custody. The government would be their guardian and care would be supervised by Dr. Dafoe. At first they would be kept “safe” just for two years. But as they became an ever more popular tourist attraction, it was deemed they needed to be under government care until they were 18. The Dafoe Hospital and Nursery was built for the girls and their caregivers. Their parents were sometimes permitted to visit.
The Dionnes had three more sons after the quints were born, Oliva Jr., Victor, and Claude. In November 1943, the girls were finally returned to their family. The quints were still popular and traveled to various functions. Their home life was scarred by their years in the custody of the government. All the girls left home when they reached 18. Émilie died at age 20 after having a seizure. Marie died at age 35 from an apparent blood clot of the brain. Yvonne died of cancer at age 67. Annette and Cecile are still living.
Our lives have been ruined by the exploitation we suffered at the hands of the government of Ontario, our place of birth. We were displayed as a curiosity three times a day for millions of tourists.
To all those who have expressed their support in light of the abuse we have endured, we say thank you.
Multiple births should not be confused with entertainment, nor should they be an opportunity to sell products.
We sincerely hope a lesson will be learned from examining how our lives were forever altered by our childhood experience. – all from an open letter from Annette, Cecile and Yvonne Dionne to the McCaugheys
Also on this day:
It Can’t Be Done – In 1937 the Golden Gate Bridge is opened to traffic.
Beautiful Dining – In 1999, The Last Supper’s restoration was completed.
Sierra Club – In 1892, John Muir became the club’s first president.
May 27, 1962: A fire at a local garbage dump is intentionally set. Centralia, Pennsylvania was a mining town where anthracite coal was mined. The garbage dump was near a cemetery and local authorities hired firemen to set a controlled burn in order to make the upcoming Memorial Day more pleasant. All the trash was set in one corner and the fire lit. It was put out using fire hoses, leaving nothing but some smoldering ashes. This particular year, instead of completely being extinguished, the fire found its way into the coal mines below ground.
The abandoned coal mine had been used for more than 100 years beginning with the 1854 Locust Mountain coal and Iron Company. They set out the streets and lots for development of the town of Centralia, originally called Centreville. Since there was already one town by that name in the county, in 1865 the name was changed. Centralia was incorporated in 1866 with the coal mines the principal employer. That remained true for almost 100 years until the 1960s when most of the companies went out of business. In 1962, the population was 1,435 with more residents in the unincorporated areas.
The fire spread underground. Locals tried to put out the fire and after just a few days knew it was beyond their scope of expertise. Others were brought in and the fire continued to burn regardless of attempts to extinguish it. Residents of the town were being affected by the raging fire below. The byproducts, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, along with lower oxygen levels were making residents ill. By 1979, when checking an underground fuel tank for a local gas station, it was found to be hotter than expected. The fire was spreading. In 1981, Todd Domboski (12) almost fell into a hole four feet in diameter and 150 feet deep which opened up suddenly in his grandmother’s backyard.
In 1984 Congress allocated $42 million for relocation efforts. Most of the locals accepted the buyouts and moved away. In 1992, Pennsylvania claimed eminent domain and condemned all the buildings in the area. By 2002, the US Postal Service revoked the zip code for Centralia. The roads are buckling or disintegrating. The fire continues to burn. Most of the region looks like a barren landscape with smoldering vents belching noxious smoke. Pennsylvania Route 61 was repaired several times and then finally abandoned with a detour built in the mid-1990s. In the 2000 census 21 people still called Centralia home. There were only seven still there by 2007, making it the least-populated municipality in Pennsylvania.
This was a world where no human could live, hotter than the planet Mercury, its atmosphere as poisonous as Saturn’s. At the heart of the fire, temperatures easily exceeded 1,000 degrees. Lethal clouds of carbon monoxide and other gases swirled through the rock chambers. – David DeKok
Walking and/or driving in the immediate area could result in serious injury or death. There are dangerous gases present, and the ground is prone to sudden and unexpected collapse. – sign from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
Despite the inferno below them and the gases that seep into their basements, some Centralians do not want to leave their homes and remain convinced that it’s all a plot by coal companies to drive them off valuable land since the borough owns mineral rights to the coal below. – Greg Walter (1981)
Pennsylvania didn’t have enough money in the bank to do the job. If you aren’t going to put it out, what can you do? Move the people. – Steve Jones, a geologist with Pennsylvania Office of Surface Mining
Also on this day:
No More Burnt Toast – In 1919 a toaster with a timer is patented.
St. Pete – In 1703, St. Petersburg, Russia was founded.
Model T & A – In 1927, Ford Motor Co. began the switch from Model T to Model A.
May 26, 1647: Alse Young (also cited as Achsah Young or Alice Young) is executed by hanging. She was about 47 years old at the time of her execution. She is believed to have been the wife of John Young, a man with some property to inherit. She had a daughter, but no son, and would have been heir to her husband’s estate. This was apparently enough to make women susceptible to the charge of witchcraft. There is no record remaining about the basis of the charge. There is some speculation of a communicable disease running through the small town of Windsor, Connecticut. Witchcraft became a capital offense in Connecticut in 1642.
The number of witches executed over the centuries is not clearly known. The best guess is between 50,000 and 100,000. Most of these executions took place between 1550 and 1650 although the crime was punished from the 14th to the 18th centuries. Some of the witches were Pagans, but many were not. Most victims were punished by local or community courts and were not tried by an established Church. While executions took place throughout Europe and her colonial properties, there were wide variances in the number of executions. Ireland had only four while most of the deaths occurred in German lands of the Holy Roman Empire.
The Colonial America frenzy culminated in the Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692. Between June and September of that year, nineteen men and women were convicted of witchcraft and hanged at Gallows Hill. Another older man was pressed to death after he refused to submit to a trial. Hundreds more were accused of the crime with many of them jailed for months without trials. The hysteria passed and the killings stopped.
Most of those accused of witchcraft over the centuries have been women. Often, after epidemics or natural disasters, a cause was sought out. There needed to be someone to blame. Neither the Catholic nor Protestant churches targeted witches as the cause behind any disasters. Outlying lands where the Catholic Church was the weakest were the location for the most virulent witch hunts, according to Nachman Ben-Yehuda. While being a woman didn’t automatically mean you were accused of witchcraft, about three-fourths of those accused were women. Most confessions came after horrific torture. Sadly, witch hunts still continue on a limited basis in some Third World countries.
All wickedness is but little to the wickedness of a woman. … What else is woman but a foe to friendship, an unescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, domestic danger, a delectable detriment, an evil nature, painted with fair colours. – from The Hammer of Witches
Its [The Hammer of Witches] enormous influence was practically guaranteed, owing not only to its authoritative appearance but also to its extremely wide distribution. – Nachman Ben-Yehuda
The medieval conception of women shares much with the corresponding medieval conception of Jews. – Steven Katz
After the terrible devastation caused by the Black Death [bubonic plague] (1347-1349), these rumors increased in intensity and focused primarily on witches and ‘plague-spreaders.’ – Jenny Gibbons
Also on this day:
Who Was That? – In 1828 a strange teenager is found on the streets.
Complex Napoleon – In 1805, Napoleon was crowned King of Italy.
Sailing to Oblivion - In 1854, Khufu or Cheops’ ship was discovered.
May 25, 1935: James Cleveland Owens breaks three records. James Cleveland was the tenth child born to Henry and Emma Owens and went by the sobriquet J.C. He was born in Alabama. When the he was nine, the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio and a teacher misunderstood him when he said he was J.C. Instead, she heard it as Jesse and his name was changed forever. While a junior high student, Charles Riley coached the boy in track and field at Fairmount Junior High. Jesse worked after school so Riley let him practice in the early morning. Owens came to national attention in high school we he equaled the word record for the 100-yard dash with a time of 9.4 seconds.
He went on to Ohio State University (OSU) after he could find work for his father, assuring the family would be supported while he was at school. He was dubbed the “Buckeye Bullet” while at OSU. He won eight individual NCAA championships, four each in the years 1935 and 1936. His record of four gold medals at one meet was not met again until 2006 when Xavier Carter also got four medals, although some of his were for relays. Owens worked part time to help pay for his college. He was forced to live off campus as African-Americans were not permitted to stay in the dorms. When he traveled with his teammates, he had to eat in black only restaurants and stay in black only hotels.
The 5 foot, 10 inch athlete took the world by storm in 1935. In just 45 minutes he set three world records and tied a fourth. Even though he had recently hurt his back in a fall down a flight of stairs, he tied the 100-yard dash record, and set records for the long jump, the 220 yard sprint, and the 220 yard low hurdles. His long jump record held for 25 years and he was the first to break the 23 second record for the hurdles event. His 1935 Big Ten track meet experience led sports experts in 2005 o name this the most impressive athletic achievement since 1850.
Owens went on to participate in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany. Hitler was hoping to showcase the “Aryan race” superiority. The games didn’t turn out the way Hitler hoped and he stopped attending them. Owens won four gold medals during the Games. He took the gold in the 100 meter and 200 meter races, the 4 x 100 meter relay, and the long jump. This record was not matched until Carl Lewis managed to win the same events at the 1984 Olympics. Owens died of lung cancer at the age of 66.
Find the good. It’s all around you. Find it, showcase it and you’ll start believing it.
If you don’t try to win you might as well hold the Olympics in somebody’s back yard. The thrill of competing carries with it the thrill of a gold medal. One wants to win to prove himself the best.
One chance is all you need.
I wanted no part of politics. And I wasn’t in Berlin to compete against any one athlete. The purpose of the Olympics, anyway, was to do your best. As I’d learned long ago from Charles Riley, the only victory that counts is the one over yourself. – all from Jesse Owens
Also on this day:
May 24, 1830: Sarah Josepha Hale published her world-famous poem. She was born in Newport, New Hampshire. Her mother was a firm believer in education and egalitarian in her methods; both her son and daughter were given instruction. Sarah married David Hale in 1813 and the couple had five children in quick succession. David died in 1822 and Sarah never quit mourning his loss, wearing black for the rest of her life. Sarah published the first set of her collected poems in 1823 and a novel soon after. Both were successful. She published a book of children’s poems and Mary’s Lamb was included.
Today, we know the poem as Mary Had a Little Lamb. The poem was inspired by actual events. Mary Sawyer kept a pet lamb. Her brother encouraged her to take the lamb to school which she did. The stir created was intensified by an unexpected guest’s appearance. At the time, ministers visited schools to help prepare students for college. John Roulstone, visiting with his uncle, the Reverend Lemuel Capen, was so impressed by the lamb at school, he returned the next day. Some claim John wrote the beginning of the poem and Ms Hale wrote the more moralistic ending. Others assert Sarah was the sole author. Lowell Mason set the poem to music later in the decade.
Mary Had a Little Lamb is considered to be a Nursery Rhyme. These are “traditional” songs for British or American children. The term “nursery rhyme” only came into use in the 19th century. Prior to that, the sing-song poems were called “Mother Goose Rhymes.” The earliest form of these poems, both historically and as presented to children, is the lullaby. Many nursery rhymes have a hidden or secondary meaning. For instance, Baa, Baa Black Sheep speaks to the practice of slave trading or possibly the steep medieval taxes. However, many of today’s interpretations are simply added on to the poems without any supporting historical evidence.
Sarah Hale did more than just write poetry and novels. It was due to her tireless effort that we have Thanksgiving as a national holiday in the US. Prior to the declaration of this holiday, it was celebrated only in New England. Each state would create it’s own holiday anywhere from October to January. It took seventeen years of campaigning before Ms Hale was successful in creating the National Holiday we know today. She wrote letters to five US Presidents before she was finally able to convince Abraham Lincoln to support legislation for the November holiday. It was the third national holiday celebrated with the other two being Washington’s Birthday and July 4.
A blessing on the printer’s art!– / Books are the mentors of the heart.
I’ve learned to judge of men by their own deeds; / I do not make the accident of birth / The standard of their merit.
O wondrous power! how little understood,– / Entrusted to the mother’s mind alone, / To fashion genius, form the soul for good, / Inspire a West, or train a Washington!
The temple of our purest thoughts is silence! - all from Sarah Josepha Hale
Also on this day:
May 23, 1829: Cyrill Demian receives a patent for a new musical instrument. Cyrill was a maker of pianos and organs. He and his two sons, Karl and Guido, were living in Vienna, Austria when they submitted their patent. Consign: No. 1433 listed a new type of instrument consisting of a small box with “feathers of metal plates and bellows fixed to it” making it easy to carry and play. The new music maker was seven to nine inches long, three-and-a-half wide, and two inches high. The bellows were fixed above the box with five claves fixed below. The makers claimed, “Even an amateur of music can play the loveliest and most moving chords of three, four, and five voices with very little practice.” What instrument? The accordion.
The accordion is part of the free-reed aerophone family and is sometimes called a squeezebox because of the way the notes are created. The bellows are compressed while pressing on keys or buttons. This causes valves or pallets to open and the air rushes across strips of metal, called reeds. These brass or steel strips vibrate, creating the tones. The melody is played using buttons or keys on the right while accompaniment is played on the left using bass and pre-set chord buttons. The instrument can be considered to be a one-man band since it needs no other backup music.
Music has been with humans since the dawn of time. Chinese history traces music back to the court of the “Yellow Emperor,” Huang Ti or around the year 3000 BC. The ruler wanted music resembling the song of the phoenix bird and Ling Lun was said to have created the cheng, the fist known instrument to use a vibrating reed to produce musical tones. This instrument was shaped like a phoenix and used thirteen to 24 bamboo pipes, a small gourd was the resonator box and wind chamber, and a mouthpiece was attached. This was the first step towards the creation of the accordion.
Somewhere around 1770, the cheng became known in Europe. Some say this was the introduction of the free-vibrating reed principle in Europe while others point to earlier instruments using a similar technique in 12th and 13th century England. Small portable keyboards using bellows and reeds were used to accompany madrigal singers but went out of popularity because they frequently went out of tune. Demian’s patent is considered to be the first for a true accordion and the first to use the name for the instrument. Although there were many similar musical devices around in the 19th century, Demian’s instrument was the one that garnered the most attention and spread the popularity of the instrument.
Conversation didn’t seem necessary when I put the accordion down and swung some young lady around the floor. – Lawrence Welk
Do you know that my very first experience as a composer was a ‘Concerto for Accordion?’ – Alfred Schnittke
I am not a demon. I am a lizard, a shark, a heat-seeking panther. I want to be Bob Denver on acid playing the accordion. – Nicolas Cage
Ford used to come to work in a big car with two Admiral’s flags, on each side of the car. His assistant would be there with his accordion, playing, Hail to the Chief. – Richard Widmark
Also on this day:
Patience and Fortitude – In 1911 the main Research Library of the New York Public Library is dedicated.
Aaagh, Pirates – In 1701, Captain Kidd was hanged for piracy.
Two for the Price of One – In 1785, Ben Franklin claimed to have invented bifocals.
May 22, 1936: Aer Lingus Teoranta is registered as an airline. Aer Lingus, the phonetic English pronunciation of Aer-Loingeas (Gaelic for Air Fleet) was formed in April 1936. Beginning capital was £100,000 (≈ £5 million today) and the fledgling company awaited government investing through a parent company. Aer Lingus was partnered with Blackpool and West Coast Air Services who funded the first aircraft as well as operated the airline under the common title, “Irish Sea Airways.” Five days after registration, on May 27, the first service began between Baldonnel Airfield in Dublin, Ireland and Whitchurch in Bristol, England.
Aer Lingus began with one plane, a six-seater De Havilland 84 Dragon biplane. It was named Iolar, Gaelic for Eagle. Before the end of the year, a second plane – this time a De Havilland 86 Express – was added. The second plane, a four-engine behemoth, carried 14 passengers and was named Éire. Service was now available between Dublin and London, by extending the Bristol run to Croydon. Service between Dublin and Liverpool also began. By the following year, Aer Rianta, now called the Dublin Airport Authority, was formed and the airline became wholly owned by the government that same year.
Slow, steady growth continued until World War II interrupted. On November 9, 1945 regular services resumed with a flight to London, now flying mostly Douglas DC-3s painted silver and green. It was at this point that flight attendants were first employed. The first transatlantic service began on April 28, 1958 with service from Shannon to New York City. Conversion to jets began in 1965 and the same year, the paint on the planes began to incorporate a large green shamrock on the fin.
The Aer Lingus fleet today is comprised 46 aircraft with 11 planes on order. They have three Airbus A321s, each seating 193; along with 31 Airbus A320, seating 174 each; and seven long-haul airbus A330 aircraft of two varieties. They also have two A319 planes seating 144. Continually improving service, by 2009, 82% of fights were “on time” with 97% of them within 60 minutes of scheduled time. Figures were lower in winter months, when weather conditions can affect timeliness. Aer Lingus flies to 80 destinations and they hope you “Enjoy Your Flight.”
The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious. And why shouldn’t it be? It is the same the angels breathe. – Mark Twain
There are only two emotions in a plane: boredom and terror. – Orson Welles
The modern airplane creates a new geographical dimension. A navigable ocean of air blankets the whole surface of the globe. There are no distant places any longer: the world is small and the world is one. – Wendell Willkie
Lovers of air travel find it exhilarating to hang poised between the illusion of immortality and the fact of death. – Alexander Chase
Also on this day:
Now We Can Play Solitaire – In 1990 Windows 3.0 is released.
Howe’s That? – In 1842, Howe Caverns were discovered.
SS Savannah – In 1819, the SS Savannah set sail for the first transatlantic steamship crossing.