Little Bits of History

Operation Paperclip

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 22, 2015
Operation Paperclip team at Fort Bliss

Operation Paperclip team at Fort Bliss

May 22, 1945: Major Robert Staver sends a telegram. He was the Chief of the Jet Propulsion Section of the Research and Development Branch of the US Army Ordnance Corps at the time. Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II. When they failed miserably, their resources and military-industrial complex was unprepared to defend itself from a counterstrike and invasion by the Red Army. By early 1943, Germany recalled from combat many of its scientists, engineers, and technicians to help with R&D and bolster flagging war initiatives. The intellectuals who had been a scourge to the Third Reich, were now sought out and put to work using their brains. But only if they were cleared by the Nazi party were their names put on the Osenberg List.

In March 1945, a Polish lab tech found pieces of the Osenberg List stuffed in a toilet. The names reached MI6 and then made its way to US Intelligence. Staver came into possession of the list and was sent to interrogate captured scientists from the list. The first on his list was Wernher von Braun. They met but after a few interviews, Staver telegrammed the US Pentagon with a new plan. He wanted to evacuate the German scientists and their families in order to help the US with the Pacific war effort. Many of the men on the list had been working on developing the German V-2 rockets and their capture placed them and their families under Allied protection.

Beginning on July 19, 1945, captured ARC rocketeers were under US Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) jurisdiction under Operation Overcast. When the name of their area, Camp Overcast, became locally known, the codename changed to Operation Paperclip. Regardless of the need for secrecy and the attempts to maintain it, several of the scientists were interviewed. Nuclear physicist Werner Heisenberg was named as being particularly useful in helping the projects in the US move forward. The brain drain was not met with open arms by the German scientists. By 1947 about 1,800 technicians and scientists and 3,700 of their family members had come under scrutiny.

Many of the Germans, still held in Germany and under confined conditions did not work with the Americans but were held regardless. They reported twice a week to local authorities. They were not able to work with anyone else and were kept under surveillance. Between 1949 and 1990 over 1,500 German scientists, technicians, and engineers from Nazi Germany and other foreign countries were brought to the US for employment. The joint purpose was both to enhance US scientific output and to keep the Germans from rebuilding using the German expertise of the men who had made the Nazi fighting machine. The USSR had a competing program taking scientists from the region to help with their programs as well.

Overnight, Ph.D.s were liberated from KP duty, masters of science were recalled from orderly service, mathematicians were hauled out of bakeries, and precision mechanics ceased to be truck drivers. – Dieter K. Huzel

On orders of Military Government you are to report with your family and baggage as much as you can carry tomorrow noon at 1300 hours (Friday, 22 June 1945) at the town square in Bitterfeld.

There is no need to bring winter clothing. Easily carried possessions, such as family documents, jewelry, and the like should be taken along.

You will be transported by motor vehicle to the nearest railway station. From there you will travel on to the West. Please tell the bearer of this letter how large your family is. – orders of evacuation

Also on this day: Now We Can Play Solitaire – In 1990, Windows 3.0 was 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.
Air Fleet – In 1936, Aer Lingus Teoranta registered as an airline.
Pac-Man – In 1980, the video arcade game was released.

Seven Days

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 21, 2015
James and Ellen White

James and Ellen White

May 21, 1863: The Seventh-day Adventist Church is founded. Adventism is a branch of Protestantism which began in the early 1800s during the movement of the Second Great Awakening revival. William Miller began the movement and predicted when the Second Coming of Jesus would take place with many people following his preachings. During the preparation for the coming of their Savior, many religious minorities formed. Some of these smaller groups merged their ideas and they came to be adopted by the Seventh-day Adventists. Many groups “did the math” to figure out the exact date of Jesus’ return based on Daniel 8:14. Miller was among those and predicted October 22, 1844 as the date. When the date passed without fanfare, many quit believing. Hiram Edson did not.

Edson believed that the date marked the moment in time when Jesus moved to the “second apartment” of the “heavenly sanctuary” and would continue to prepare for his Second Coming from there. He and his friends, O.R.L. Crosier and Franklin B. Hahn, continued to study scripture and published a paper with their results – Day-Dawn. They gathered a following and established guidelines for true believers to follow, rejecting many established church traditions, including the celebration of Sunday as the Sabbath. The true Seventh Day, according to them, was Saturday and liturgy would be celebrated on that day as proscribed in Scripture.

Their theology is based on 28 Fundamental Beliefs which were formalized by the General Conference in 1980 with an additional belief added in 2005. To be a member, one must accept one of the two baptismal vows. The 28 Beliefs are not meant to be recited as a creed as they believe in only one creed: “The Bible, and the Bible alone.” There are a few of their beliefs which are not shared by the majority of Christians. They do not believe in a separate body, mind, spirit, but a totality of being without a separate soul. The evil will not suffer damnation to hell; they will be completely destroyed at death. Ellen White, a spiritual leader, proposed a philosophy called the “Spirit of Prophecy” and her writings continue to be a source of inspiration.

Today, there are over 18 million practitioners of the faith. Their worldwide religion has 74,299 churches and 67,669 companies (not businesses, but a subset of churches). There are 175 Seventh-Day Adventist hospitals and 136 nursing homes. They support education through 5,714 primary schools, 1,969 secondary schools, and 113 tertiary institutions. They run the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, a humanitarian agency to provide individual and community help during a disaster. Their current leader is Ted Wilson who took office in 2010 as the 20th President of the General Conference.

We started, and while passing through a large field I was stopped about midway of the field. Heaven seemed opened to my view, and I saw distinctly and clearly that instead of our High Priest coming out of the Most Holy of the heavenly sanctuary to come to this earth on the tenth day of the seventh month, at the end of the 2300 days [calculated to be October 22, 1844], He for the first time entered on that day the second apartment of that sanctuary; and that He had a work to perform in the Most Holy before coming to the earth. – Hiram Edson

From the beginning, the Adventists were regarded with grave suspicion by the great majority of evangelical Christians, principally because Seventh-day Adventists were premillennial in their teaching. That is they believed that Christ would come before the millennium. – Walter Martin

This misfortune, which for a time seemed so bitter and was so hard to bear, has proved to be a blessing in disguise. The cruel blow which blighted the joys of earth, was the means of turning my eyes to heaven. I might never had known Jesus Christ, had not the sorrow that clouded my early years led me to seek comfort in him. – Ellen White, after a childhood head injury

A man must not swallow more beliefs than he can digest. – Havelock Ellis

Also on this day: And leave the driving to us! – In 1914n Carl Wickman began busing.
Amelia – In 1932, Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.
Bobby Franks – In 1924, Loeb and Leopold committed a murder.
St. Alex – In 1725, the Order of St. Alexander Nevsky was instituted.
Charles Lindbergh is First – In 1927, Lindbergh landed outside Paris.

Meter or Metre – Or Yard

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 20, 2015
Pavillon de Breteuil

Pavillon de Breteuil

May 20, 1875: The Metre Convention or Treaty of the Metre is signed at the Pavillon de Breteuil. The international treaty was signed in Paris by representatives from 17 nations. The purpose was to coordinate international metrology (the science of measurement) and to develop the metric system. In England, in 1215, clause 25 of the Magna Carta set out standards of measurement throughout the realm. In 1707 when Scotland and England were joined into one kingdom, the Scots agreed to follow the prevailing British measuring system. Later in the century, Peter the Great, in order to facilitate trade between Britain and Russia, also adopted the British measurement system. Abuse of the units of measurements was one of the causes of the French Revolution.

Talleyrand, at the orders of the National Assembly of France, invited both British and American scientists to participate in establishing a new measurement system but was snubbed and so the Assembly introduced both the meter and the kilogram – the beginnings of the metric system – on their own. They made prototypes and in 1799 they were admitted to the Archives. Over the course of the decades, many other nations also adopted the metric system including Spain, the Netherlands, many South American republics and many of the Italian and German states. The International Postal Union adopted grams for permitted weights in 1863.

By the 1860s the prototypes were showing wear and some flexibility making them less than completely accurate. Napoleon III invited scientists from all over the world to participate in a conference concerning measurements but unfortunately, the Franco-Prussian War broke out and while they met, they did so without any German presence and decided to postpone any changes. A conference was convened in 1875 and members were tasked with defining international standards and prototypes created. They also created three organizations: the General Conference on Weights and Measures, the International Committee for Weights and Measures, and the International Bureau of Weights and Measures.

At the sixth meeting of the General Conference on Weights and Measures held in 1921, it was decided to cover all physical measurements instead of just length and weight. At the eleventh meeting in 1960, the system of units was overhauled and resulted in new criteria presented as the International System of Units or SI. SI covers the measurement of temperature, time, length, mass, luminous intensity, amount of substance, and electric current. Printing of symbols used in descriptions are also standardized with clarification for languages not using an alphabet (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) as well how these should be displayed while printing.

I think that a particle must have a separate reality independent of the measurements. That is an electron has spin, location and so forth even when it is not being measured. I like to think that the moon is there even if I am not looking at it. – Albert Einstein

Accurate and minute measurement seems to the non-scientific imagination, a less lofty and dignified work than looking for something new. But nearly all the grandest discoveries of science have been but the rewards of accurate measurement and patient long-continued labour in the minute sifting of numerical results. – Lord Kelvin

Cold! If the thermometer had been an inch longer we’d all have frozen to death! – Mark Twain

Thus the metric system did not really catch on in the States, unless you count the increasing popularity of the 9mm bullet. – Dave Barry

Where’s … Waldo? – In 1570, the first modern atlas was published.
We Believe – In 325, the Council of Nicea opened.
I Feel the Need for Speed – In 1899, a NYC cabbie was jailed for speeding.
Sonnets – In 1609, Shakespeare’s sonnets were published.
From Disaster to Inspiration – In 1896, a chandelier fell at Palais Garnier.

Heading North

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 19, 2015
 John Franklin statue in his home town *

John Franklin statue in his home town *

May 19, 1845: Sir John Franklin sets out on his fourth and last Arctic expedition. Franklin was a renowned member of the Royal Navy. Between his third and fourth expedition, he was Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen’s Land, now Tasmania. He had already been commanding officer for two arctic expeditions and was considered well equipped to undertake exploration of the last unnavigated section of the Northwest Passage. For hundreds of years, it was hoped a navigable passageway could be found via the waters through and north of Canada, cutting short the trip from Europe to Asia, then necessitating a trip around South America. Franklin’s second trip had left less 300 miles of unexplored Arctic coastline.

Sir James Ross declined the offer of leading the expedition and it was offered to Franklin even though he was already 59 years old. Two ships, the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror had already been employed on Arctic trips and they were upgraded for this trip, putting in steam engines and water distillation systems. There were internal heating systems for the crew’s comfort and there were over 1000 books to amuse the crew as they sailed. Also aboard were three years’ worth of conventionally preserved food. The two ships carried 24 officers and 110 men as they sailed from Greenhithe, England on this day. Before their final departure from Greenland, five men were discharged leaving a total of 129 men aboard.

Both ships were lost with all hands. For the next 150 years, their story was gathered piecemeal. The men wintered at Beechey Island in 1845-46 and three men died there. The ships were trapped in ice off King William Island in September 1846 and were never able to sail again. According to notes found by other officers, Franklin died on June 11, 1847. The crew was stranded and remained on the island for two years. Finally, on April 26, 1848 the last survivors began walking out heading toward the Back River on the Canadian mainland. By the time they opted to leave, nine officers and fifteen crew had already died. The rest died along their escape route – most while still on the island but some making it to the mainland. They were still hundreds of miles from any known outpost.

It has been surmised that the first three men to die had either contracted pneumonia or tuberculosis and their condition may have been exacerbated by lead poisoning. The source of the lead poisoning could have been due to the rapid and incorrect tinning of the food stores. The order was received only seven weeks before the ships sailed and there is speculation the badly soldered cans led to the problem. A second possibility is that the system used to distill water may have used lead pipes and their water supply was contaminated with the heavy metal. When the bodies were found, there was some evidence the survivors resorted to cannibalism. The expedition was lost to these causes as well as hypothermia, scurvy, and other diseases.

But the Arctic chart memorializes more than men of rank, power, blood or property. The real immortals, whose names are sprinkled throughout the Arctic on bays and bights, capes and channels, are those who dared and sometimes died so that the map might take form. – Pierre Berton

You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try. – Beverly Sills

I always wanted to be an explorer, but — it seemed I was doomed to be nothing more than a very silly person. – Michael Palin

The apple cannot be stuck back on the Tree of Knowledge; once we begin to see, we are doomed and challenged to seek the strength to see more, not less. – Arthur Miller

Also on this day: Duty Calls – In 1780, the Dark Day arrived, bringing fear to many.
Fingerprints – In 1911, the first US conviction was brought on the basis of fingerprint evidence.
Longest Tunnel – In 1906, Simplon Tunnel began service.
Wilde About Douglas – In 1897, Oscar Wilde was released from jail.
What’s the Temperature? – In 1743, Jean-Pierre Christin published a paper on temperature.

* “Franklin Statue” by Richard Croft. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

Disaster at Khodynka Field

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 18, 2015
People at Khodynka

People at Khodynka

May 18, 1896 OS: There is a stampede on Khodynka Field in Moscow, Russia. Russia would adopt the Gregorian calendar in 1918 and the dates changed, moving forward by twelve days. The last Russian Emperor was crowned just four days earlier and a celebration party was to take place in the field. In anticipation of a large crowd of celebrants, many theaters were built along with 150 buffets and 20 pubs. The site was placed near a field which contained a ravine and many gullies. The evening before the banquet was to be held, rumors leaked stating the tsar would be offering coronation gifts. People began to gather at the field in anticipation of receiving a bread roll, a piece of sausage, pretzels, gingerbread, and a commemorative cup.

By 5 AM, there were several thousand people gathered together with some reports listing a number as high as 500,000. More rumors spread, this time along the lines of not enough beer and pretzels for all the people gathered together. Also whispered was the possibility that the enamel cups held a gold coin. The police presence of 1,800 was not enough for crowd control and as people pressed forward on the uneven terrain, people fell and were trampled. This further induced panic as people tried to get out of the crush. There were 1,389 people trampled to death and another 1,300 injured. Most of the victims were trapped in the ditch and were either trampled or suffocated there.

The field was so large that the party carried on without all the participants even aware of the tragedy in this one area. Tsar Nicholas and his wife made an appearance at the front of the crowd around 2 PM and by that time all traces of the tragedy had been cleaned up. Eventually the royal couple were told what had happened. A party was planned for that evening at the French embassy in Russia. Nicholas wanted to forego the ball in his honor, fearing it would show lack of concern for his subjects. Courtiers thought missing the ball would offend the French which would be worse and so Nicholas and Alexandra went to the ball and the next day they visited with those injured in the stampede.

The families of the dead were given government aid and many minor officials were dismissed for their role in the disaster. This did not appease the upset masses who felt the royal response was lacking. An Orthodox church was built on the site of the tragedy as a remembrance for those who died. While later outrage was the norm, those celebrating elsewhere on the field that day had no immediate notion of anything wrong. This was part of the issue as it took hours for the disaster to be reported at all and most did not learn of it until the next day.

18th of May. Saturday. Until now, everything was going, thank God, like clockwork, but today there was a great mishap. The crowd staying overnight at Khodynka, awaiting the start of the distribution of lunch and mugs pushed against buildings and there was a terrible crush, and awful to say trampled around 1300 people!! – diary entry from Tsar Nicholas II

I would rather live in Russia on black bread and vodka than in the United States at the best hotels. America knows nothing of food, love or art. – Isadora Duncan

The Russians imitate French ways, but always at a distance of fifty years. – Stendhal

All men — whether they go by the name of Americans or Russians or Chinese or British or Malayans or Indians or Africans — have obligations to one another that transcend their obligations to their sovereign societies. – Norman Cousins

Also on this day: 3,858 Years Old? – In 1952, Professor Libby dated the building of Stonehenge.
Vicksburg – In 1863, the Siege of Vicksburg began.
The Count – In 1897. Dracula was published.
Separate but Equal – In 1896, Plessy v. Ferguson was decided.
Get Off My Lawn – In 1830, Edwin Budding’s lawnmower went on sale.

Like a Deere

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 17, 2015
John Deere

John Deere

May 17, 1886: John Deere dies. He was born in Rutland, Vermont on February 7, 1804. He was apprenticed, at the age of 17, to Captain Benjamin Lawrence who was a successful blacksmith in Middlebury. Deere became a blacksmith out on his own in 1825. He moved to Grand Detour, Illinois and found work immediately since blacksmiths were scarce. The tough prairie soil was different from the farming lands back east and the cast-iron plows were not very effective. One of his tasks as a boy working in his father’s tailor shop had been to polish needles by running them through sand. With this in mind, he believed that a plow made out of highly polished steel and with the correct configuration of the moldboard would be self-scouring and more effective against the prairie’s sticky clay soil.

Other versions of the inspiration for his plow mention the way polished steel pitchfork tines moved through hay and soil and that the idea could be implemented in the design of a plow. Whatever the thought process, Deere developed and manufactured the first commercially successful cast-steel plow in 1837. The plow had a wrought-iron frame but a polished steel share. It was ideal for cutting through Midwest soil and Lewis Crandall, his first customer, was able to spread the word about the exceptional qualities of Deere’s plow. Two neighbors soon ordered plows of their own and by 1841 Deere was manufacturing between 75 and 100 plows per year.

In 1843, Deere partnered with Leonard Andrus to try to keep up with demand. They were not ideal business partners and they went separate ways in 1848. Deere moved his business to Moline. By 1855, Deere’s factory sold more than 10,000 plows and his product came to be called “The Plow that Broke the Plains”. He demanded anything with his name on it be made to the highest standards. After the Panic of 1857, business improved even more and John left the running of the company to his son, Charles and in 1868 they were incorporated as Deere & Company.

Still in business today, they are one of the leading companies in heavy equipment used in agriculture, construction, and forestry as well as making diesel engines. In 2013 they were listed as 85th in the Fortune 500 for America and 307th in the Fortune Global 500 ranking. Today, they are headquartered in Moline, Illinois and Sam Allen in CEO and President. The employ 67,000 people and in 2013 had revenues of nearly $38 billion with net income of $3.5 billion. Their company slogan is “Nothing Runs Like a Deere” with a picture of leaping deer. They use different logo colors for agricultural and construction products. The former are painted a distinctive shade of green with a yellow logo.

I will never put my name on a product that does not have in it the best that is in me. – John Deere

Mark, I’ve been thinking about that question about what city people can do. The main thing is to realize that country people can’t invent a better agriculture by ourselves. Industrial agriculture wasn’t invented by us, and we can’t uninvent it. We’ll need some help with that. – Wendell Berry

Advances in medicine and agriculture have saved vastly more lives than have been lost in all the wars in history. – Carl Sagan

You should, without hesitation, pound your typewriter into a plowshare, your paper into fertilizer, and enter agriculture – Business Professor

Also on this day: “And They’re Off” – In 1875, the first Kentucky Derby was run.
That was Quick – In 1963, a fight ended after 48 seconds.
Computational Device – In 1902 the Antikythera mechanism was discovered.
Buy Low; Sell High – In 1792, the New York Stock Exchange was formed.
Separate is Unequal – In 1954, Brown v. Board of Education was decided.

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Oregon Trail

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 16, 2015
Oregon Trail map *

Oregon Trail map *

May 16, 1842: The first major (and second overall) wagon train leaves to traverse the Oregon Trail. The wagon train was made up of over 100 pioneers led by Elijah White. They left from Elm Grove, Missouri and traveled as a group until they made their way to Fort Hall, located in Idaho. At that point along the trail, pioneers could take the northern route to Oregon or the more southern route to California. The travelers in this group continued on to Oregon with the single men hurrying on ahead while the families followed at a slower pace.

The Oregon Trail was a 2,200 mile route connecting the Missouri River to the fertile valleys of Oregon and used for east to west migration of large wheeled wagons. While it was wild territory in the days of the early settlers, today the route passes through parts of Kansas and nearly all of Nebraska, Wyoming, and Idaho and ends after crossing most of Oregon, as well. Between 1811 and 1840 the trail was mostly used by trappers and by 1836 a decent trail had been made for wagons to cross all the way to Fort Hall. Slowly, more trails were forged and reached to the Willamette Valley of Oregon and came to be known as the Oregon Trail. Eventually, improved roads, cutoffs, ferries, and bridges made the trip westward easier. Between the mid-1830s and 1869 about 400,000 settlers had used the route to move to what they hoped would be greener pastures.

Elijah White was born in 1806 in New York. He was a missionary and a physician as well as a government agent. He first made his way to the Willamette Valley by sea and while there his friend and he came to a difference of opinion about the direction of the mission they had established. Also while there, both of his sons were drowned in the river. White headed east to bring in more settlers over what was becoming an established route, although it was only a decent trail up to Idaho. He led this first large contingency of settlers west. During the trek, Osborne Russell, trapper and later politician, served as a guide. As they pulled away from Elm Grover, there were 112 people, 18 wagons, and a variety of livestock in the group.

The group eventually split into two but there were also several Canadians who joined the procession. White arrived first at Fort Vancouver ahead of the main party on September 20,1842. He brokered a code of conduct with the Nez Perce tribes and eased tensions in Walla Walla with the Cayuse tribes. Just two days after arriving at Fort Vancouver, he informed those he was traveling with that he had been made an official of the government and asked that they also select him as their leader. As such he appointed judges to deal with disputes between natives and settlers. Oregon was first a County in 1843 and became a Territory in 1848. It was the 33rd state, being admitted to the Union on February 14, 1859. Today, nearly 4 million people make their home there. The trip today is much easier to make.

The pioneers going west in the 1840s carried with them the promise of a land of milk and honey into what proved to be a desert; the 2,000 mile length of the Oregon Trail was littered with abandoned wagons and newly furnished graves. – Lewis H. Lapham

The cold-blooded game begins by asking you to name every member of your doomed party, creating an emotional connection to each character. – Benny Johnson, discussing the computer game, Oregon Trail

We came twenty two miles, traveling all day in the Bear River valley. The valley and mountains are covered with grass and the summits of the latter are adorned with splendid groves of fir making the scenery beautiful. We passed a (small) stream every few miles. The water runs very swiftly and is perfectly clear and very cold with a pleasant taste. A horse ran away today causing a train ahead of us to stampede. – Abigail Scott, Oregon Trail traveler’s diary entry for July 17, 1852

. . . a picture of home beauty that went directly to our hearts. The edge of the wood, for several miles along the river, was dotted with the white covers of emigrant wagons, collected in groups at various camps, where the smokes were rising lazily from the fires, around which the women were occupied preparing the evening meal, and the children playing in the grass; and herds of cattle grazing about in the bottom, had an air of quiet security, and civilized comfort, that made rare sight fort the traveller in such a remote wilderness. – John Fremont, dairy entry for July 1845

Also on this day: “Oh-oh! SpaghettiOs!” – In 1965, Franco-American puts SpaghettiOs on the market.
Sedition – In 1918, a new Sedition Act was put into place in the US.
Hank – In 1905, Henry Fonda was born.
Sassafras Tea – In 1866, Charles Hires invented root beer.
Friends and Heroes – In 1763, James Boswell met Samuel Johnson for the first time.

* “Wpdms nasa topo oregon trail”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

First Flight

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 15, 2015
Castle with flight monument *

Castle with flight monument *

May 15, 1793: Diego Marín Aguilera flies – well, glides. He was born in 1757 in Coruña del Conde, Spain. He became the head of the household when his father died, leaving him to take care of his seven brothers. He was forced into agricultural labor as a matter of necessity and spent his days herding sheep. He was an inventor by inclination and devised several pieces of technology which could ease the burden of physical labor. He improved the local mills and improved a method of cutting marble from quarries. He came up with a device to whip horses during the threshing process and he invented something to make cloth pads.

His afternoons spent in the fields with the sheep were not wasted. He watched eagles flying overhead and wished to soar with them. He wanted to fly and to that end, he spent six years trying to build a machine to help him. His craft was made of wood, iron, cloth, and feathers. In order to secure enough feathers, he built traps and loaded them with rotting meat. As the vultures and eagles swooped in for their free food, they were caught and Marín harvested the feathers. As he watched the birds, he studied their wing and tail movements and with the help of the local blacksmith, Joaquin Barbero, he built wrought iron “joints” for his flying machine that moved like a fan. He built added for his feet and hand-cranks to steer his machine.

On this day, as night fell, Marín and Barbero, along with one of Marín’s sisters took the glider to the highest part of the Coruña del Conde castle. The 36-year-old pilot confidently laid out his plans to fly to “Burgo de Osma, and from there to Soria,” adding, “and I’ll be back in a couple of days.” He flapped the wings as he took off and rose to a height of 16 to 20 feet. He managed to make it across the Arandilla River and reached an area known as Heras, crash landing about 300-500 yards from his take off position. One of the metal joints broke. His sister and friend ran to his aid, fearing he may have also been the first flight fatality. Marín had suffered only scratches and bruises. He was irate with Barbero, accusing him of improperly welding the joint.

The locals thought he was either a lunatic or a heretic, or possibly both. They burned his “demonic” flapping wing creation. He lost hope and became depressed, never again attempting to fly. He died six years later in 1799 and left no documentation about his invention. The Spanish Air Force dedicated a monument to him placed  next to the ancient castle from which Marín flew. He is known as the “father of aviation”. The old castle was on sale for one euro in 2002 with the proviso that the purchaser restore the crumbling building.

It is impossible to determine how much truth there is to the story of Marín, but it seems that he did achieve some gliding flight, surviving after structural failure and a crash landing. Marín, who had no formal scientific education, was endowed with a special technical ingenuity and is a good example of the ageless human aspiration toward flight. – American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

There is no great invention, from fire to flying, which has not been hailed as an insult to some god. – J. B. S. Haldane

Old age is like a plane flying through a storm. Once you’re aboard, there’s nothing you can do. – Golda Meir

I hate flying, flat out hate its guts. – William Shatner

Also on this day: A Cattle Trail Grows Up – In 1905, Las Vegas was established.
Friends Hospital – In 1817, the first private psychiatric hospital in the US opened.
Puckle Gun – In 1718, the first machine gun was patented.
Plane Crazy – In 1928, Mickey Mouse starred in a silent, black-and-white cartoon.
Baily’s Beads – In 1836, Baily described what he had seen during an annular eclipse.

* “Castillo De Coruña Del Conde” by Juan Carlos Gómez – Castillo De Coruña Del Conde. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

Bus Crash

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 14, 2015
Marker for the site of the crash

Marker for the site of the crash

May 14, 1988: A drunk driver goes for a spin in Carrollton, Kentucky. The Assembly of God church from Radcliff, Kentucky sponsored a youth day at Kings Island theme park, north of Cincinnati, Ohio – about 170 miles away. They traveled by the church’s bus (an old school bus) – a 1977 Ford B-700 chassis with a Superior school bus body. There were 11 rows of 39 inch wide seats on either side of the bus and a 12 inch wide aisle between them. The bus had been part of a Kentucky Department of Schools order placed in 1976 with over 600 buses purchased. Important for legal reasons, the vehicle was designated as a school bus with a build date of March 23, 1977. This was nine days before a mandate to install a fuel tank guard went into effect along with other safety measures.

The legal limit for the bus was 66 passengers and the driver. That is exactly how many people were able to go to the amusement park. The pastor only allowed the legal number of teenagers and chaperones (four) on the bus even though more than anticipated had shown up for the day’s events. The bus was driven by John Pearman, an associate pastor at the church. His day job was as a local court clerk. The group headed out early in the morning and enjoyed their day at the park. They were on their way back home and about an hour into the return trip, the bus stopped to fill the 60-tank with gasoline before getting back on the road to get home.

At 10.55 PM, a 34-year-old drunk factory worker was driving his black Toyota pickup truck on the wrong side of the interstate’s divided highway. The truck and bus hit almost head-on, impacting on the right side of the bus, which broke the bus’s suspension and drove a spring backwards into the gas tank mounted behind a panel but outside the heavier frame. The tank was mounted just behind the step well to the front door and the front door would not open. Sparks ignited the dripping gasoline and the fire spread rapidly due to the composition of the seats which not only burned but produced a thick noxious smoke.

There were no immediate injuries from the impact, but the bus became a superheated (up to ⁰F 2000) smoky cocoon with only one exit in the back of the bus. People were trying to emerge with far too few success stories. The only adult survivor was a small woman who managed to crawl through a window. There were 27 people trapped inside the bus when the entire bus was engulfed in flames. Of the escaped passengers 34 were hurt and only six were able to get out without serious injury. The driver was also injured in the accident. He had been arrested for DUI on a previous occasion and on this date had a blood alcohol level of .24 (about 2.5 times the legal limit). He didn’t even know about the accident until he woke up in the hospital. Because of the incident, bus design changed along with regulations for church buses.

About 10:55 p.m. EDT on May 14, 1988, a pickup truck traveling northbound in the southbound lanes of Interstate 71 struck head-on a church activity bus traveling southbound in the left lane of the highway near Carrollton, Kentucky.

As the pickup truck rotated during impact, it struck a passenger car traveling southbound in the right lane near the church bus.

The church bus fuel tank was punctured during the collision sequence, and a fire ensued, engulfing the entire bus.

The bus driver and 26 bus passengers were fatally injured. Thirty-four bus passengers sustained minor to critical injuries, and six bus passengers were not injured. The pickup truck driver sustained serious injuries, but neither occupant of the passenger car was injured. – the National Transportation Safety Board’s report

Also on this day: Lewis and Clark – In 1804, the Expedition began a 28 month journey.
Gerardo – In 1939, five year old Lina gave birth to a son.
Summer Olympics – In 1900, the Paris Summer Olympics began.
Smallpox Vaccine – In 1796, the first smallpox vaccine was administered.
Israel Established – In 1948, a new nation was born.

Tour of Italy

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 13, 2015
Luigi Ganna

Luigi Ganna

May 13, 1909: The first Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy) begins from Loreto Place in Milan. The stage race bicycle race continues to this day and remains primarily in Italy but does occasionally pass through nearby countries. The race was first proposed in 1908 when the newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport was hoping to increase sales. The paper’s rival, Corriere della Sera had just been successful holding an automobile race and Tullo Morgangni sent telegrams hoping to institute a similar race for bicycles. La Gazzetta lacked the funds but the paper’s owners realized previous successes in the field made it possible. The race was announced on August 7, 1908 with the race date the following May.

Organizers needed 25,000 lira to fund the event. Primo Bongrani, a friend of the organizers and an accountant at the local bank, was able to go around Italy and ask for donations to help fund the race, an early gofundme. He was successful and the operating costs were met. The prize money came from a casino in San Remo after a former Gazzetta employee convinced them to contribute to the race. Even Corriere gave 3000 lira to help the race effort. On this day, 127 riders began the eight stage race covering 1,521 miles. Only 49 riders finished and Italian Luigi Ganna was the first race’s winner. He won in three stages and the General Classification and won 5,325 lira. The last rider in the general classification won 300 lira. The race’s director was paid 150 lira a month – just as a point of comparison.

The race has been held yearly, except when interrupted by the two World Wars. The general classification is the most important of all classifications (including points and mountains classifications) for this race. Since 1931, the leader of the general classification has worn a pink jersey. Over the years, the classification system has been challenged and altered – and reverted back to the original method. The most wins of the general classification is a three way tie with Alfredo Binda, Fausto Coppi, and Eddy Merckx each winning five times. The first two are Italian and Eddy is Belgian. The most recent winner is Nairo Quintana from Colombia.

Luigi Ganna was born in 1883 and lived to be 73, dying in 1957. His biggest achievement in biking was this win, although he had also won prior to this event in the classic Milan – San Remo race. The 2014 Giro d’Italia was held from May 9 to June 1 and covered 2,141 miles. There were 21 stages with the race starting from Belfast with a 13.5 mile team time trial and ended in Trieste with a 106.9 mile flat stage. There were 198 riders from 22 teams entered. Quintana was the first Colombian to win the Giro. After three days in Ireland, the fourth day (a rest day) had the bikers moved to Italy where they were then able to ride from the “heel of the boot” up to the top, at Trieste for the finish.

Life is like a bicycle; you don’t fall off unless you stop pedaling. – Claude Pepper

Life is like a ten speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use. – Charles Schulz

Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race. – H. G. Wells

The bicycle is just as good company as most husbands and, when it gets old and shabby, a woman can dispose of it and get a new one without shocking the entire community. – Anna Louise Strong

Also on this day: Knork? Spork? – In 1637 Cardinal Richelieu changes table settings.
Star Light, Star Bright – In 1861, the Great Comet was first discovered.
Red Fort – In 1648, construction on the Red Fort was completed.
RFC – In 1912, the Royal Flying Corps was established in Britain.
Freedom Sails – In 1862, Robert Smalls sailed away in the USS Planter.


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