Little Bits of History

Sticking to Business

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 31, 2010

Scotch tape dispenser

January 31, 1930: 3M markets Scotch tape. Richard Drew developed the handy adhesive tape for the 3M corporation. It is a trademarked brand name, but is used generically across America. The clear tape was an improvement over the previously made masking tape. Drew not only developed the adhesive for the new material, cellophane, but went on to invent Duct tape as well. He was the inventor of masking tape five years prior to this.

The term “Scotch” in the name is not at all flattering. While the adhesive was being tested, it came loose because it was not fully coated with the active ingredients. The remark was a pejorative aside reflecting the stereotype of Scotch stinginess. Not one to let the moment pass, 3M created Scotty McTape, a kilt wearing cartoon lad to be the product mascot from 1944 and continuing on for two decades. The Wallace tartan plaid was added to the brand in 1945.

3M makes over 275 different kinds of tape, eighty-eight of them bearing the Scotch label. The company not only made tape, but has a variety of other ventures including defense materials, fabric protection, and videotape. The term “Scotch” is also added as a prefix to other products made by the company, Scotchguard and Schotchlite.

Perhaps the best known and most used product from 3M is the Post-It note. The original square yellow readherable paper now comes in a variety of shapes and a panoply of colors and has been widely copied by other manufacturers. Art Fry used Spencer Silver’s adhesive to create the handy removable papers. Silver invented the adhesive in 1968 and it took five years before Fry figured out a better use than simply bookmarking pages in a hymnal. The 1977 product launch wasn’t immediately successful but by 1980 the product was sold nationally and the next year also introduced in Canada.

“We patched it up with chewing gum and Scotch tape.” – Norm Hewitt

“The entrepreneurial approach is not a sideline at 3M. It is the heart of our design for growth.” – Lewis Lehr

“One only needs two tools in life: WD-40 to make things go, and duct tape to make them stop.” – G. Weilacher

“I was reading a book… ‘the history of glue’ – I couldn’t put it down.” – Tim Vine

Also on this day, in 1958 Explorer I was launched and the Van Allen Belts were found.

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“Look that up in your Funk and Wagnall’s”

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 30, 2010

Dick Martin holding a Fickle Finger of Fate Award

January 30, 1922: Dick Martin is born near Detroit, Michigan. He was one half of the Rowan & Martin comedy team who hosted a maniacally charged, totally new concept program called Laugh-In that ran from 1968 – 1973. Martin graduated from Michigan State University and began writing for a radio situation comedy. He joined with Dan Rowan and the two became Rowan and Martin in 1952. They toured the country and overseas. They were seen on television, hosting and performing for other shows before being offered their own venue in 1968.

The American sketch comedy show ran for one hour each Monday. They had 140 shows between January 22, 1968 and May 14, 1973. The show began as a one-time special airing on September 9, 1967. The special was so successful, it replaced the four-year-old Man From U.N.C.L.E., a drama in the style of James Bond movies. Laugh-In had Dan Rowan acting as the straight man exasperated by the “dumb” guy, Dick Martin. This was a time honored schtick dating from Burns and Allen routines in Vaudeveille.

Segments on the show included: the beginning “Cocktail Party” where cast and guest stars danced and delivered one- or two-line jokes; “Laugh-In Looks at the News” parodied local news casts, with segments that looked at historical or future news as well; and “The Flying Fickle Finger of Fate” award, given for dubious governmental achievements or to famous people. They also had a New Talent Time and introduced all to such stars as Tiny Tim and Art Metrano. Arte Johnson’s Wolfgang the German soldier was heard muttering “Verrry interesting” and then adding, “… but shtupid!” He and Ruth Buzzi as Tyrone F. Horneigh and Gladys Ormphby were seated on a park bench, the dirty old man and hairnetted old woman, with Tyrone muttering until Gladys hit him with her purse. Henry Gibson held his flow while he spouted his poems. Lily Tomlin gave us Ernestine the telephone operator and Edith Ann the child in the rocking chair.

This is the place where we met many comedians for the first time: Goldie Hawn, Judy Carne, Lily Tomlin, and Arte Johnson. Even President-elect Nixon made a guest appearance to say “Sock it to me!” Hubert Humphrey was also invited, but declined the chance. He later stated that it may have cost him the election.

“Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is.” – Francis Bacon

“After God created the world, He made man and woman. Then, to keep the whole thing from collapsing, He invented humor.” – Bill Kelly

“The satirist shoots to kill while the humorist brings his prey back alive and eventually releases him again for another chance.” – Peter De Vries

“What do you mean, funny? Funny-peculiar or funny ha-ha?” – Ian Hay a.k.a. John Hay Beith

Also on this day, in 1835 the first Presidential assassination attempt was made.

Oh, No – O-Three

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 29, 2010

Earth and the atmospheric layers

January 29, 1978: Sweden is the first nation to institute a ban on aerosol sprays citing harm to the ozone layer. Aerosols are a canister containing liquid under pressure which is dissolved with a propellant of compressed gas. The droplets of the propellant quickly evaporates after spraying. The idea for an aerosol goes back to about 1790. However the first aerosol can was invented in Oslo by Erik Rotheim on November 23, 1927. The patent was sold to the US for 100,000 Norwegian kroner. By 1939 a patent was granted for a disposable aerosol can but was not put into widespread use until 1941.

Different types of gasses can be used as the propellant. The problem gas, the one that depletes the ozone layer, is a group of gases called chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs]. Since the Montreal Protocol came into force in 1989, CFCs have been replaced with hydrocarbons which are flammable, nitrous oxide used in food or hydrofluroralkanes used in medicinal sprays.

The ozone layer is a part of the Earth’s atmosphere which contains relatively high concentrations [a few parts per million, which is much higher than at lower atmosphere levels] of ozone – 03. This layer of the atmosphere is responsible for absorbing most of the ultraviolet light sent our way from the sun. Between 93 and 99% of the light rays are absorbed in this lower portion of the stratosphere, located between six and 31 miles above the Earth’s surface. Ultraviolet light isn’t all bad and we need some to help produce Vitamin D. Too much of this type of light can cause ill effect to the immune system and damage skin and eyes.

On August 2, 2003 scientists announced that the worldwide ban of CFCs and other chemical compounds that were thought to be the cause of the hole in the ozone layer has been successful. They stated that the depletion of the layer may be slowing down.

“Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth.” – Henry David Thoreau

“I’m not an environmentalist.  I’m an Earth warrior.” – Darryl Cherney

“Oh Beautiful for smoggy skies, insecticided grain,
For strip-mined mountain’s majesty above the asphalt plain.
America, America, man sheds his waste on thee,
And hides the pines with billboard signs, from sea to oily sea.” – George Carlin

“Civilization… wrecks the planet from seafloor to stratosphere.” – Richard Bach

Also on this day, in 1856 Queen Victoria established the Victoria Cross.

Beautiful Snow

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 28, 2010

Miles City, Montana in 1881

January 28, 1887: The largest snowflake ever measured is seen. During a snowstorm at Fort Keogh, Montana, a flake measuring 15 inches wide and 8 inches thick was found. The fort is located on the west side of Miles City and today is part of the United States Department of Agriculture livestock and range research project. Miles City has a population of about 8,500 and covers 3.3 square miles. The average temperature for Miles City is 27° F for the month of January. They receive an average of 0.28 inches of precipitation in January, too.

Snow is precipitation in the form of crystalline ice. Snow is made when water vapor changes to ice high in the atmosphere at temperatures of less than 0º C and then falls to earth. What affects snowfall worldwide is latitude [distance from the equator] and elevation. Therefore, even though Mount Kilimanjaro is near the equator, because of it’s elevation, it is snow covered. Because of extreme cold at the poles, little water vapor is retained and it rarely snows there.

Snowstorms with a large amount of falling snow and high wind are called blizzards. Because snow is less dense, the water that would produce 1 in. of rain would make 10 inches of snow. Snowfall needs the proper conditions for temperature and humidity to occur. Lake effect snow is caused by prevailing winds blowing over large bodies of water, picking up moisture and then cooling once it makes landfall and causing large accumulations of snow. Mountainous areas are also famous for snow as the air forced to ascend the ranges then has the precipitation squeezed from it along the windward slopes.

Mount Baker in Washington set a world record for snowfall during the winter of 1998-1999, with 1,124 inches, or 96.6 feet. The greatest amount of snow in a single snowstorm was at Mount Shasta Ski Bowl in California, on February 13 – 19, 1959 when 189 inches fell.

Wilson Bentley was famous for his pictures of snowflakes.

“Snow and adolescence are the only problems that disappear if you ignore them long enough.” – Earl Wilson

“There is nothing in the world more beautiful than the forest clothed to its very hollows in snow. It is the still ecstasy of nature, wherein every spray, every blade of grass, every spire of reed, every intricacy of twig, is clad with radiance.” – William Sharp

“Snowflakes, like people, are all different and beautiful, but they can be a nuisance when they lose their identity in a mob” – unknown

“The aging process has you firmly in its grasp if you never get the urge to throw a snowball.” – Doug Larson

Also on this day, in 1754 a new word, serendipity, was coined by Horace Walpole.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 27, 2010

Harlem Globetrotters

January 27, 1927: The Harlem Globetrotters play their first game. In the beginning, the Globetrotters were a serious team of African-American basketball players who played competitively, beating professional teams. The team was created by Abe Saperstein in 1926. Although formed in Chicago, it was named after the African-American community in New York City Saperstein was born in London in 1902. He not only began the team, first called the Savoy Big Five, but coached as well. The name later changed to Harlem Globetrotters, with the second word giving a sense of world travel to the small team. Saperstein was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1971 and at 5′ 5″ may be the shortest man so honored.

In 1950, the first African-American male was drafted into the NBA. As the NBA began allowing a market for African-American talent, the Globetrotters had a harder time getting top-notch players. Creating a niche was one way to gain a following. The Globetrotters gradually added comedy to their sport and added to their waning success.

On January 12, 1998, the Globetrotters played their 20,000th career game. This is an unprecedented achievement. No other professional sports team has ever reached this number of  games. The Chicago Cubs are the closest with just under 18,000 [as of the 1-12-98 date]. To date, they have played over 25,000 games. They lost only two games over a 38 year period and had a 2,495 game winning streak end in Martin, Tennessee on January 5, 1971 playing against the New Jersey Reds [score was 100-99].

Over the years many men have played for the Globetrotters. They have ranged in height from 5 foot 3 inches to 7 foot  3 inches. The most famous name on the roster outside of basketball would probably be Bill Cosby. They have retired five numbers over the years: 13 was Wilt Chamberlain, 20 was Marques Haynes, 22 was Curly Neal, 36 was Meadowlark Lemon, and 50 was Reece Tatum. There have been eight honorary Harlem Globetrotters: Henry Kissinger, Bob Hope, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Whoopi Goldberg, Nelson Mandela, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Pope John Paul II, Jesse Jackson, and Matt Tubb.

“Any American boy can be a basketball star if he grows up, up, up.” – Bill Vaughn

“This is the second most exciting indoor sport, and the other one shouldn’t have spectators.” – Dick Vertleib

“These are my new shoes. They’re good shoes. They won’t make you rich like me, they won’t make you rebound like me, they definitely won’t make you handsome like me. They’ll only make you have shoes like me. That’s it.” – From a Charles Barkley commercial for basketball shoes, 1993

“They say that nobody is perfect. Then they tell you practice makes perfect. I wish they’d make up their minds.” – Wilt Chamberlain

Also on this day, in1606 the Gunpowder Plot conspirators were brought to trial.

The Hills Are Alive

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 26, 2010

Maria and Georg von Trapp

January 26, 1905: Maria Augusta Kutschera von Trapp is born. Maria was born on a train heading toward a hospital in Vienna. By her seventh birthday, she was an orphan. She graduated from a Teachers College by age 18. She started out her adult life studying to be a nun in a convent in Salzburg, Austria. She was asked to nurse naval commander Georg Ritter von Trapp, a widower with seven children, back to health as well as to teach his children. The two fell in love and were married in 1927 when she was 22 and he was 47.

The commander lost his fortune in the Great Depression so the family turned their love of music into their career. Georg was a wealthy man with money safely in London banks. But Austria was under economic pressure due to hostilities with Germany. The money was moved to help a friend and placed in Lammer’s bank. The bank immediately failed and the family became poverty stricken overnight. They performed at a festival in 1935 and became a popular touring act.

After the Nazi annexation of Austria, the family, now with all nine children, managed to continue to tour. They continued to entertain in Scandinavia and eventually made their way to America residing in Stowe, Vermont where they began a music camp. The final von Trapp child was born in 1939 while they were temporarily living in Merion, Pennsylvania. Today, five of the children are still alive.

Maria’s friend kept encouraging – maybe even hounding – von Trapp, to write her story. Maria kept demurring until she finally scribbled a few pages to prove that she had no talent for writing. However, it only proved that she could write and her tale became The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, or as we know it from the movies, The Sound of Music.

“When a singer truly feels and experiences what the music is all about, the words will automatically ring true.” – Monserrat Caballé

“Being on tour is like being in limbo. It’s like going from nowhere to nowhere.” – Bob Dylan

“If a thing isn’t worth saying, you sing it.” – Pierre Beaumarchais

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.” – Aldous Huxley

Also on this day, in 1988 The Phantom of the Opera opened on Broadway in NYC.

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Moscow University

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 25, 2010

Moscow State University main building

January 25, 1755: M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University is established at the instigation of Ivan Shuvalov and Mikhail Lomonosov by a decree of the Russian Empress Elizabeth. It is the largest and arguably the oldest university in Russia. [The other candidates have not been in continuous use.] Shuvalov was a leader of the Russian Enlightenment and became the first Russian Minister of Education. Lomonosov was a Russian polymath, scientist, and writer with important work in literature, education, and science. He was involved in natural science, chemistry, physics, mineralogy, history, art, philology, optical devices and more. He was a poet and created the basis for modern Russian literary language.

Their current website (2010) states, there are approximately 4,000 staff with 40,000 undergrads and 7,000 post-grads at the university. There are another 5,000 researchers working there and 15,000 ancillary staff. Each year, 2,000 international students come to study in one of 26 different departments. Back in the 18th century there were three departments: philosophy, medicine, and law.

The campus is sprawling. Sparrow Hill, once at the outskirts of Moscow, is the home of many of the department buildings. Moscow has grown and now the buildings are about midway between the Kremlin and the city limits. Today there are over 600 buildings and facilities making up the campus for this impressive university.

The main building was designed by Lev Vladimirovich Rudnev. Stalin ordered seven huge tiered neoclassic towers built around Moscow and the main building of Moscow University was by far the largest. It contains 20.5 miles of corridors and 5000 rooms. The star on top of the tower weighs 12 tons.

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” – Plutarch

“Liberty without learning is always in peril; learning without liberty is always in vain.” – John F. Kennedy

“But if you ask what is the good of education in general, the answer is easy: that education makes good men, and that good men act nobly.” – Plato

“Education…has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading.” – G. M. Trevelyan

Also on this day, in 1787 the Shays’s Rebellion heats up.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 24, 2010

Badminton birdie and racket

January 24, 1900: The world’s oldest badminton club is formed in England at the Newcastle Badminton Club. The game is played either with a single person or a pair on each side of a net. The object of the game is to hit the shuttlecock or birdie with a racket over the net and within the boundaries. Play is continued until one side misses hitting the birdie over the net. Only the serving side can score a point.

We don’t know when the game was invented or by whom. It is believed to be an ancient Indian, Grecian, or Chinese game. The game has been in Europe since medieval times. Early rackets were solid, rather than the meshed ones in use today.  In the 1850s, British Army officers in Pune, India added the net for an extra challenge. They played often at the Duke of Beaufort’s estate called “Badminton House,” hence the name.

The rules to the game were standardized by the Bath Badminton Club and written up in 1887. By 1893 there was a Badminton Association of England publication with the regulations set down, very similar to today’s rules. The first All England Open Badminton championships were held in 1899, the first of its kind in the world. The International Bedminton Federation was established in 1934 and it is now called the Badminton World Federation. The original nine member nations have since expanded with 159 member associations.

The game is the fastest racket sport. The shuttlecocks can reach a speed up to 200 mph. Fu Haifeng of China set a smash record measured at 206 mph in 2005. the fastest smash recorded during competition was by Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia who smacked the shuttlecock at 189 mph. The fasted win was made by Paul Butler with 15-0, 15-0 games in a qualifying event for All England, which he won in 11 minutes and needed only 32 rallies. Badminton became an Olympic sport in 1992 at the Barcelona Olympics.

“Sports do not build character. They reveal it.” – John Wooden

“Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence. In other words, it is war minus the shooting.” – George Orwell

“I don’t know anything that builds the will to win better than competitive sports.” – Richard M. Nixon

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.” – Pierre de Coubertin

Also on this day, in 1907 Robert Baden-Powell began the Boy Scouts.

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Shaanxi Earthquake

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 23, 2010

Shaanxi Earthquake with epicenter in red and areas affected in yellow

January 23, 1556: The deadliest earthquake on record. Approximately 830,000 people were killed in Shaanxi, China when a 520-mile wide area that cut across  97 counties was destroyed. Death tolls were as high as 60% of the population for some counties, most of whom lived in artificial caves cut into loess cliffs.

By today’s calculations, the earthquake measured about an 8 on the moment magnitude scale or 8.6 on the Richter scale. It was the fifth deadliest natural disaster on record. The quake struck during the reign of Jiajink Emperor of the Ming Dynasty (which coincidently began on this day as well – see link at end) and is therefore called the Jiajing Great Earthquake in China.

Writing at the time indicates that the ground shifted, causing hills to form where none had been before and valleys were cut into once even ground. Rivers changed course and roads were destroyed. Forty of the 114 steles [stone carvings] in the Forest of Stone were broken. The Small Wild Good Pagoda in Xi’an shrunk from 45 meters to 43.4 meters. Also destroyed were the Loess caves in the Loess Plateau. Over eons, silt-like soil was deposited by windstorms and a soft clay formed. Caves were formed over millions of years. However, the soil was highly susceptible to erosion. During the quake, the caves collapsed and after the event mudslides destroyed even more real estate.

Qin Keda, a scholar, survived the earthquake and wrote, “At the very beginning of the earthquake, people indoors should not go out immediately. Just crouch down and wait for chances. Even if the nest is collapsed, some eggs in it may still be kept intact.” This seems to be telling of many who were killed trying to escape while some who stayed in the caves survived. The death toll was extremely high, but even worse was the devastation of an entire region of inner China. As we see with earthquakes today, recovery takes a long time.

“An earthquake achieves what the law promises but does not in practice maintain – the equality of all men.” – Ignazio Silon

“Which would you rather have, a bursting planet or an earthquake here and there?” – John Joseph Lunch

“Stupidity is an elemental force for which no earthquake is a match.” – Karl Kraus

“Inhabitants of underdeveloped nations and victims of natural disasters are the only people who have ever been happy to see soy beans.” – Fran Lebowitz

Also on this day, in 1368 the Ming Dynasty began.

Roe v. Wade

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 22, 2010

Norma McCorvey's book

January 22, 1973: The United States Supreme Court hands down its decision that causes decades-long debate. The case is Roe v. Wade which decided if state laws prohibiting abortion were in line with the Constitution. The Supreme Court, in a 7-2 vote, ruled that it was illegal for states to interfere with the constitutional right to privacy. Supreme Court Justices White and Rehnquist cast the two dissenting votes.

Opposition to Roe is based on the premise that the Court strayed away from the Constitution and disregarded the personhood of fetal life. Supporters say that the right to abortion assures women of equality and personal freedom which they deem of higher value than that of the unborn child.

This case establishes that under the US Constitution, abortion is a fundament right. Justice Harry Blackmun wrote the Court’s opinion on the case. Rather than adopting the Ninth Amendment rationale (rights not specifically stated are part of the “great residuum” or are rights of the people). Instead, the case was based on the Fourteenth Amendment or a right to privacy. Other cases have since modified the standard significantly.

“Jane Roe” is Norma McCorvey. She has since joined the pro-life side of the debate and filed a suit in U.S. District Court in Texas to have the case reopened, which her right as the litigant ensures. She hoped to make abortion illegal citing that she was used as a “pawn” by her lawyers and claimed evidence of emotional and other harm suffered by many women who have had abortions. Her request was denied.

“The freedom that women were supposed to have found in the Sixties largely boiled down to easy contraception and abortion; things to make life easier for men, in fact.” – Julie Burchill

“I’ve noticed that everybody that is for abortion has already been born.” – Ronald Reagan

“Of course abortion isn’t right.  But it is even less right to bring unwanted children into lifelong suffering and to strip women of their choice.  Making abortion illegal is not the way to prevent it.  There is a much larger picture that starts with much deeper roots.” – unknown

“With humans it’s abortion, but with chickens it’s an omelet.” – Attributed to George Carlin

Also on this day, in 1905 Russia’s Bloody Sunday took place.

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