Little Bits of History

Lizzie Borden Took an Axe

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 20, 2010

Lizzie Borden

June 20, 1893: Lizzie Borden is found not guilty in the deaths of her father and stepmother. At the time of the murders on August 4, 1892, Lizzie had one surviving sister, Emma. Lizzie was 32 at the time and Emma was 41 – neither sister ever married. Their mother had died when Lizzie was two and their father married Abby Durfee Gray three years later.

The Bordens were a wealthy family with many holdings. Lizzie was a debutante and socially involved, usually in a leadership role. She was deemed homely by the polite critics of the day and it is given as the reason for her never marrying. She tolerated her stepmother until her father started putting property into Abby’s name.

The day of the murders was terribly hot – over 100º F. Mr. and Mrs. Borden had eaten breakfast early and he left the house. He returned home about 10:45. Bridget Sullivan, an Irish immigrant and live-in maid, was ill after breakfast, but was washing windows later that morning as instructed by Mrs. Borden. Emma was out of town. Lizzie was in the shed looking for fishing sinkers and eating pears in the yard. The brother of the first Mrs. Borden, John Vincent, Morse, had come to town the day before. He was not at the house at the time of the murders.

Mr. Borden was found first, slain in the sitting room. It was shortly after 11:00 when his daughter discovered him and called out to Bridget. He was struck with a sharp instrument eleven times, four of them skull crushing head wounds. Mrs. Borden was found upstairs having been assaulted with the same weapon eighteen times, thirteen blows to the skull. Lizzie was arrested on August 11. She maintained her innocence, and a trial began on June 3, 1893. After her acquittal, she moved from the area, but never escaped the cloud of suspicion. The crimes remain unsolved. No one else was ever arrested. The house where the murders occurred is now a bed and breakfast.

“Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
And when she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.” – playground verse

“There are only two kinds of criminals: those who get caught and the rest of us.” – unknown

“It is better that ten guilty persons escape than one innocent suffer.” – William Blackstone

“Justice, though due to the accused, is due to the accuser also.” – Benjamin N. Cardozo

Also on this day, in 1756 the Black Hole of Calcutta massacre.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 19, 2010

The good old days of NASCAR

June 19, 1949: The first NASCAR “strictly stock” car race is run with Jim Roper declared winner of the event. NASCAR is the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. A “stock car” in the original sense of the word was exactly what one would think. It was a car built exactly as it was used on the street. Any car that was in production, as long as at least 500 were built, was eligible. Racers would drive their cars to the track and race them.

Roper came in second in this original race, but the first place car was disqualified because of an alteration to the chassis, making the leading car easier to handle. Roper’s Lincoln was not tampered with in any way and he was credited with winning the race. He entered one more NASCAR race, came in 16th, and quit stock car racing. He did race other cars until he broke his back; he then became a flagman.

Tracks are 1/2 to 2.66 miles in length, with banked ovals, and usually paved in concrete, but there can be dirt tracks as well. Races are generally 200 to 600 miles in length. Average speed is about 160 mph. Criticism for the sport comes from many different factions. Some are limited to NASCAR procedures and policies while some center on all car racing events. There is a concern about fuel consumption as well as emissions and pollutions especially since racers use leaded fuels.

Stock cars today are much different. When driving at speed, drivers are under different forces with much different safety issues. Body templates for current cars are used, however, chassis, running gear, and equipment are all specially designed or modified. Engines are of fixed-size to ensure that all entries are of near-equal vehicles. There is rivalry between stock and Formula 1 racing, with the latter being seen as more sophisticated.

“You win some, lose some, and wreck some.” – Dale Earnhardt Sr.

“Race fans, I had inferred from my one trip to the Brickyard 400, fell into one of two categories: tattooed, shirtless, sewer-mouthed drunks, and their husbands.” – Steve Ruchin

“This sponsorship allows us some friendly competition, which is always fun. We are especially grateful to Checkers for their donation to the Victory Junction Gang, our camp for terminally ill children. We look forward to racing the Checkers Gator car at Miami.” – Kyle Petty

“Stock car racing is where it’s at right now. All my heroes growing up, Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon, I watched them running USAC sprint cars and midgets. This is where they are.” – Erin Crocker

Also on this day, in 1953 Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed as spies.

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Mental Institutions and Being Governor

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 18, 2010

Earl K. Long

June 18, 1959: Three time governor of Louisiana, Earl K. Long is committed to a mental institution by his wife, Blanche. Earl was the brother of Huey Long, Louisiana governor from 1928-32 and a US Senator from 1932-35, when he was assassinated.

When the previous governor resigned, Earl became governor in 1939 but failed to be elected officially to the office in 1940. He served as governor again from 1948-52 and then again from 1956-60.

Although he was not trying to eliminate the Jim Crow laws in Louisiana, he was trying to ease the legally induced indignities faced by African-Americans who were being denied the right to vote. He also supported equal pay for teachers, regardless of race.

Long was not hospitalized for just spouting unpopular support for blacks. He was said to have wild or eccentric behavior. Today he might be diagnosed as bipolar. During his last term as governor, his wife tried to remove him from office due to “mental instability,” however he was never formally diagnosed. It seems his wife may not have minded her husband’s politics, but was instead incensed regarding his extra-curricular activities with stripper, Blaze Starr. Earl used his powers of office to effect a discharge from the mental hospital.

While in the hospital, he was able to manage his duties as governor via telephone. There was no law stating being held in a mental institution negated his ability to rule the state. Long eventually fired the head of the mental hospital, replaced him with a sympathetic supporter, and had himself released. He and Blanche separated, but Earl died of a heart attack while on the campaign trail (for United States House of Representatives) and before the divorce could be finalized.

“All it takes to make a good idea generate steam is a person who can get all fired up over it.” – O. A. Battista

“Never express yourself more clearly than you think.” – Niels Bohr

“Don’t write anything you can phone. Don’t phone anything you can talk. Don’t talk anything you can whisper. Don’t whisper anything you can smile. Don’t smile anything you can nod. Don’t nod anything you can wink.” – Earl Long

“The kind of thing I’m good at is knowing every politician in the state and remembering where he itches. And I know where to scratch him.” – Earl Long

Also on this day, in 1923 Checker Cabs began production.

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Indian Princess

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 17, 2010

Arjumand Banu Begum depiction

June 17, 1631: Arjumand Banu Begum dies while giving birth to her fourteenth child, a daughter named Gauhara Begum. She was 38 years old at the time and married to Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan I. Arjumand was his third and favorite wife. The emperor was devastated by her death.

Arjumand was an Indian Empress born in Agra, India. Her father was a Persian noble, Abdul Hasan Asaf Hkan. He was the brother of Empress Nur Jehan. Arjumand was raised Shi’s Muslim. She  was said, even in her own time, to be a beautiful woman of great virtue. She wed Shah Jahan in 1612 at the age of 19 and her husband later sat at the Peacock Throne as Mughal. She started having children in 1613, seven of the fourteen dying at a young age. She was known by her nickname, Mumtaz Mahal meaning “beloved ornament of the palace.”

She followed her husband while on a war campaign and delivered a healthy daughter. While she lay dying, she is said to have made a last request. She wanted a lasting symbol of the love she shared with her husband. She died in Burhanpur and was buried there for 23 years until it body was transferred to her new resting place.

The emperor went into seclusion after her death. He returned to the world a white-haired and bent man drained of life and vitality. He spent years building a tomb for his lost wife. He built a large building and surrounded it with beautiful gardens. It took 21 years and 20,000 workers to build the central building, the turrets, inscribe the calligraphy, and decorate the interior with carvings and semi-precious stones and then plant the gardens and create the reflecting pool.

The easily recognized mausoleum is one of the finest examples of Moghal architecture. It combines the styles and themes from Persian, Indian, and Islamic architecture. It stands to this day, hauntingly beautiful, and shows his undying love. The Taj Mahal.

“Endow the Living – with the Tears –
You squander on the Dead.” – Emily Dickinson

“Everyone can master a grief but he that has it.” – William Shakespeare

“The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe

“We die only once, and for such a long time!” – Molière

Also on this day, in 1994 O. J. Simpson was arrested for the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

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Red v. White

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 16, 2010

Wars of the Roses

June 16, 1487: The Battle of Stoke Field is fought marking the end of the Wars of the Roses [1450 – 1487]. The Wars of the Roses were fought intermittently during these years in a battle over who would sit on the throne of England. There were four separate campaigns with sixteen major battles fought. The latest uproar began in May 1487 when 10 year old Lambert Simnel was crowed Edward VI in Dublin and backed by Margaret Duchess of Burgundy (Edward IV’s sister). She supplied money and about 2,000 German mercenaries to the cause.

Both the House of Lancaster with commander Henry VII of England and the House of York with John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln were of the Plantagenet lineage, tracing from King Edward III. At the time, this reference to Roses was not part of the name for the war, the Lancaster flag was the Red Rose and York’s flag was the White Rose.

Because of great casualties suffered by the nobility, the war ushered in a period of social unrest and led to the fall of the Plantagenet dynasty altogether. At the Stoke Field Battle, Henry VII arrived with 12,000 troops [some of whom were highly trained German and Swiss mercenaries] and decisively beat John de la Pole with 8000 troops [many recruited from Ireland]. Henry VII lost one quarter of his men, while the Earl of Lincoln lost half of his.

The battle raged for more than three hours, but eventually the better equipped mercenaries cut down the Irish who were without body armor. The losing army was unable to retreat and all of the Yorkist commanders were killed in battle except for Simnel, who was later pardoned by the new king.

“All wars are civil wars because all men are brothers.” – Francois Fenelon

“If we give up all future wars we must give up our empires and all hope of empire.” — Georges Clemenceau

“It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.” —Douglas MacArthur

“A long war almost always reduces nations to the wretched alternative of being abandoned to ruin by defeat or to despotism by success.” – Alexis de Tocqueville

Also on this day, in 1976 the Soweto Uprising takes place.

King “Soft-sword” John “Signs” on the Dotted Line

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 15, 2010
King John reluctantly signing the Magna Carta

King John reluctantly signing the Magna Carta

June 15, 1215: King John of England enacts the Magna Carta – Latin for Great Paper, or Great Charter. John became king of England after his brother, Richard the Lionhearted, died. This document, written in Latin, was created because Pope Innocent III, King John, and the aristocracy in England were trying to define the power of the king. The Pope and the barons wanted King John’s powers reduced. His incessant taxation and lack of military prowess combined to cause unrest among the taxed.

The document, also called the Great Charter of Freedoms, was not signed by the King because he probably could not write, but his Seal is affixed. After the meeting at Runnymede where the document was accepted by all parties, copies were produced by the royal chancery, four of the original documents survive to date. This document remains a vital influence on the idea of constitutional law used historically throughout much of the world.

There were 63 clauses to the document, limiting the King’s power and making him subject to the law. The most famous of these clauses is that which stated that a free man cannot be imprisoned, outlawed, or exiled without judicial process. The charter also discussed the treatment of heirs and widows, stated that justice could not be bought or sold, and provided a uniform means of measurements for wine, ale, corn, and cloth.

The King was forced into signing the document and as soon as possible tried to have it annulled. He continued to campaign for the repeal of the charter until his sudden death in October 1216. The documents lives on in reissued form as well as forming a basis for other charters, including the American Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

“None who have always been free can understand the terrible fascinating power of the hope of freedom to those who are not free.” – Pearl S. Buck

“Freedom is not a gift received from a State or a leader but a possession to be won every day by the effort of each and the union of all.” – Albert Camus

“In the truest sense freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Kings and fools speak freely.” – Dutch saying

Also on this date, in 1844 Charles Goodyear patented the vulcanization of rubber.

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Which is Witch

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 14, 2010

Salem witch trials

June 14, 1648: Margaret Jones was hanged for witchcraft, the first to be punished in this manner in a Massachusetts colony. Jones lived in Charlestown, Massachusetts and worked as a physician. Between 1648 and 1649 there was an outbreak of smallpox and whooping cough in the area. When Jones patients vomited and suffered violent seizures, she was considered to have a “malignant touch.” She was tried and found guilty of the crime of witchcraft. Aside from the famous Salem Witch Hunt, there were sixteen others executed in the colonies during the seventeenth century – fourteen were women; two men; and four actually confessed to the crime.

In the Salem imbroglio, there were over 200 accused with over 75% of them being women. Those who confessed were not killed. Even so, fourteen women and five men were hanged, one man was pressed to death, and two women died in prison. The last person hanged for witchcraft died in 1692.

In Germany, between the years of 1610 and 1630, “tens of thousands” were killed as witches. From 1676 to 1725, Poland also underwent a witch hunt. Later than most of Europe, but still quite aggressive, it was responsible for between 10,000 and 15,000 deaths. Other European countries also have a history of burning or hanging witches, but the death toll is much lower.

Even today, in third world countries, women are accused of witchcraft. After Duvallier fell from power in Haiti, “Tonton macoutes” were accused of witchcraft and executed by mobs. In the 1980s, both South Africa and Mexico had witches executed. In India, “Banamati” is a form of witchcraft and practitioners have been accused of causing illness or death to others. Western practitioners of neopaganism have taken the name of Wicca from the Old English wicce (female) or wicca (male) practitioner of witchcraft. Popularized in 1954 by Gerald Gardner, there are several different ways the religion in practiced today.

“‘Tis now the very witching time of night, When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out Contagion to this world.” – William Shakespeare

“The archetype of the witch is very powerful, and each woman has that witch inside her in a powerful good sense, not in terms of black magic.” – Judith Orloff

“In the Middle Ages when people were convinced there were witches they certainly found them. This is a bit risky.” – Hans Blix

“Common justice demands that a witch should not be condemned to death unless she is convicted by her own confession.” – Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger, authorizing use of torture for the Inquisition.

Also on this day, in 1822 Charles Babbage presents a paper on the computer.

You Have the Right

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 13, 2010

The requisite Miranda Warning (in English)

June 13, 1966: The US Supreme Court decides Miranda v. Arizona which was argued from February 28 – March 1 in a 5-4 decision. The court held that criminal suspects must be informed of their rights 1) to counsel; and 2)against self-incrimination, prior to police questioning. Both inculpatory (evidence leading towards guilt) and exculpatory (evidence leading toward innocence) statements would be admissible at trial only if the defendant were first advised of his/her protected rights.

Ernesto Miranda was 22 years old when arrested for robbery, kidnapping, and rape. He confessed to police and the confession was the only evidence offered at a trial in which Miranda was found guilty and sentenced to 20-30 years in prison. Miranda’s lawyer, Alvin Moore, took the case to Arizona Supreme Court which upheld the decision.

After reaching the US Supreme Court, Chief Justice Warren stated that the nature of police interrogation with the likelihood of coercion made these confessions inadmissible under the Fifth Amendment which protects against self-incrimination, among other things. Miranda was retried with witnesses and other evidence, found guilty again and served 11 years.

The Miranda warning tells suspects that they 1) may remain silent; 2) anything said is considered as evidence; 3) there can be a lawyer present; and 4) if the accused can’t afford a lawyer, one will be provided. Some states later added questions regarding the understanding of the rights and while knowing one’s rights, did the suspect wish to talk. The ruling has been tested and modified over time and it is not a necessary part of law enforcement if the “public safety” is at risk. Studies had shown 3-4% of criminal suspects would have been fully prosecuted but for the fact they were not read their rights as they were arrested. It has also been argued before the Supreme Court the rights are not written as part of the US Constitution. They Court said the reading of Miranda rights has become part of our culture whether or not it is part of the Constitution.

“You have the right to remain silent. If you give up that right, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney and to have an attorney present during questioning. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided to you at no cost. During any questioning, you may decide at any time to exercise these rights, not answer any questions, or make any statements.” – Example of Miranda rights

[The police] invent more than they discover.” – Napoleon

“Major Strasser has been shot. Round up the usual suspects.” – from Casablanca

“One of the biggest lies in the world is that crime doesn’t pay. Of course, crime pays.” – G. Gordon Liddy

Also on this day, in 1955 the Mir Mine was discovered.

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If It Doesn’t Fit, You Must Acquit

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 12, 2010

Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman

June 12, 1994: On this date, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman are found slain outside of Simpson’s condo. Simpson’s dog, covered in blood, led neighbors to the bodies. Both Simpson and Goldman were stabbed and slashed with Simpson’s head nearly severed from her body. Nicole was 35 when she died; Ron was 25. There has been speculation about the relationship between the two victims. Ron was referred to as Nicole’s friend.

Nicole was born in Germany and the family moved to California where she grew up. She was working as a waitress in 1977 when she met O.J. Simpson. She had just turned 18. At the time, O.J. was still married to his first wife. After his divorce, Nicole and O.J. married on February 2, 1985. They had two children before they divorced in 1992. Goldman was born in Illinois and moved to California during his freshman year of college. He was working at a restaurant and was a tennis instructor.

O.J. Simpson, Nicole’s ex-husband, ex-football player, actor, and Hertz rental car spokesperson, was accused of the murders. He was arrested after a televised “slow speed” chase. O.J.’s highly televised trial began on January 23, 1995. The double homicide case was billed as “The Trial of the Century.” There have been over 80 books written on the murders and subsequent trials. On October 3, 1995. O.J. was acquitted of the murders.

However, in a subsequent civil trial he was ordered to pay $8.5 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages or $33,500,000 to the Brown and Goldman families after he was found to be liable for their deaths. O.J. has continued to have legal difficulties since the night of the murders. He has failed to pay the Goldmans the monies they were awarded. He is now serving time at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nevada as Inmate #1027820 on a kidnapping and robbery charge. He was sentenced to 33 years and will be eligible for parole in nine.

“The very emphasis of the commandment: Thou shalt not kill, makes it certain that we are descended from an endlessly long chain of generations of murderers, whose love of murder was in their blood as it is perhaps also in ours.” – Sigmund Freud

“The consequences of our crimes long survive their commission, and, like the ghosts of the murdered, forever haunt the steps of the malefactor.” – Sir Walter Scott

“If murder is forgiven, Heaven will find it hard to bear.” – Chinese Proverb

“Not only did we play the race card, we dealt it from the bottom of the deck.” – Robert Shapiro, O.J.’s lawyer

Also on this day:
In 1963,
Medgar Evers was assassinated.
In 1978, David Berkowitz, Son of Sam
serial killer, was sentenced.

Epicurean Feast

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 11, 2010

Hot dog with sauerkraut

June 11, 1939: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt serve King George VI and his wife, Queen Elizabeth, Nathan’s hot dogs at a picnic on their estate in Hyde Park, New York. The king was said to be taken with the “delightful hot-dog sandwich.” The menu also included Virginia ham, smoked turkey, cranberry jelly, tossed salad, and strawberry shortcake for dessert.

Sausage, a precursor of our American picnic staple, was mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey in 850 BC. In 64 AD, Gaius – Nero Claudius Caesar’s cook – opened an ungutted but cooked pig and noticed the intestines were puffed up and hollow. He stuffed them with ground venison, beef, and cooked ground wheat then added some spices. He tied them into section. Yummy!

By 1484, Frankfurt, Germany was making thick, soft, fatty sausages named “franks.” In 1805, the people of Vienna [Wien], called the packages of meat “wieners” indicating their own version of who invented the food. The two cities vied for ownership of the discovery. In 1867, Charles Feltman came to the US from Germany and opened the first Coney Island hot dog stand. He sold nearly 4,000 sandwiches his first year. He went on to own a small empire built around the making and selling of his hot dogs. When he died in 1910, his business was worth more than $1 million

Nathan Handwerker worked for Charles Feltman but broke away, starting Nathan’s Famous, Inc. in 1916. He opened his own Coney Island shop on the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues. To keep his recipe secret, he ordered spices from two different distributors. His hot dogs are the ones that the President served to royalty. They were so good that the King did an  impersonation of Oliver Twist and asked for another.

“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” – Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

“Indigestion is charged by God with enforcing morality on the stomach.” – Victor Hugo

“A cucumber should be well sliced, and dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown out as good for nothing.” – Samuel Johnson

“A headache is a message from the stomach to the brain saying, ‘Don’t send down any more garbage!'” – Philip Yordan

Also on this day:
In 1892, the
Limelight Department begins, a film studio in Australia.
In 1770, James Cook ran aground at the
Great Barrier Reef.

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