Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 21, 2010

Vostok Station

July 21, 1983: The coldest temperature is recorded on planet Earth at Vostok Station, Antarctica – a bone-chilling -128.6° F. While sweltering in the summer heat and humidity, it is odd to think that this day holds the record for coldest recorded temperature. But it is winter in the southern hemisphere and Vostok Station is located near the geomagnetic South Pole.

Vostok Station is a Russian research station built and manned since 1957. The annual average temperature is a much balmier -67º F. The station consists of five buildings that house an average summer population of 25 and winter population of 13. It is located 2.2 miles above sea level and is the most isolated of all the established research stations on Antarctica. It is located at the southern Pole of Cold (where the lowest temperature has been recorded in the Southern Hemisphere). The northern Pole of Cold is also Russian, located in Siberia. Northern Hemisphere temperature lows were reached in Verkyoyansk on January 15, 1885 at -90° F.

Vostok station began operation during the International Geophysical Year (1957) on December 16. The 2nd Soviet Antarctic Expedition operated the station year-round for 37 years. It was closed in January 1994 for a short time. In 1996, a British scientist discovered Lake Vostok, the largest known subglacial lake in the world.

Although the station is Russian, the Americans and French have joined in the ice core drilling projects which gives us valuable information about the planet’s past. The drilling has reached as far as 11,886 feet and was stopped because of concerns about contamination by Lake Vostok. The usable climactic data reaches back about 414,000 years. By greater manipulation of current data, climates can possibly be measured for another 12,000 years.

“One kind word can warm three winter months.” – Japanese proverb

“Never take a job where winter winds can blow up your pants.” – Geraldo Rivera

“Winter, a bad guest, sitteth with me at home; blue are my hands with his friendly handshaking” – Friedrich Nietzsche

“If Antarctica were music it would be Mozart. Art, and it would be Michelangelo. Literature, and it would be Shakespeare. And yet it is something even greater; the only place on earth that is still as it should be. May we never tame it.” – Andrew Denton

Also on this day, in 356 BC, the Temple of Artemis was destroyed by fire.

One Small Step

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 20, 2010

Neil Armstrong on the moon

July 20, 1969: The first humans walk on the moon. The Apollo 11 spacecraft was the fifth manned mission of the Apollo program and the third human voyage to the moon. The launch was on July 16th from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. President Kennedy had promised that the US would land a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s. The country had months to spare.

The three man crew consisted of Neil Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, lunar module pilot. All men had participated in the Gemini program earlier in the decade. The launch was watched by millions when the magic words “We have lift-off” were heard at 9:32 AM and twelve minutes later the spacecraft entered Earth orbit.

Three long days later, Apollo 11 passed behind the moon and entered the lunar orbit pattern. The crew located the Sea of Tranquility and the lunar craft landed at Tranquility Base at 4:17 PM Eastern Daylight Time. The Eagle had landed. Six hours later. Neil Armstrong took the first human step onto the moon with Buzz Aldrin joining shortly thereafter.

The two men spent 21 hours on the surface. They returned to the command module around noon the next day. The astronauts left behind an American flag, a plaque stating that this where mankind first stepped on the barren moon, and scientific equipment that allowed for future study. They also took rock samples for further study once they were back on Earth. They successfully returned to earth on July 24, and a new era had begun.

“That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” – Neil Armstrong, as he stepped onto the moon.

“Beautiful. Beautiful. Magnificent desolation.” – Buzz Aldrin, as he stepped onto the moon.

“Whoever knocks persistently, ends by entering.” – ‘Ali

“Space is open to us now; and our eagerness to share its meaning is not governed by the efforts of others. We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share. … I believe we should go to the moon.” John F. Kennedy, in a speech on May 25 1961 to introduce this new goal

Also on this date, in 1984 the Miss America officials asked Vanessa Williams to step down.
Bonus Link: In 1942, the Women’s Army Corps
begins training.

Tennis, Anyone?

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 19, 2010
Wimbledon Championship


July 19, 1877: The first Lawn Tennis Championships at Wimbledon are held in front of a few hundred spectators. The only event held was the Gentlemen’s Singles with W. Spencer Gore finishing as champion and winning twelve guineas. The competition was held to raise money for a new roller, but it was so successful despite rain that it was held again the next year. The championships have been held yearly except during the World Wars.

The first contest was held with 22 male participants. In 1884, Ladies’ Singles and Men’s Doubles were added. The event became global in nature in 1905 when an American joined the play. In 1907, Norman Brooks, an Australian, was the first foreign winner and since that time, only two Brits have won the title.

Today, there are crowds of about 500,000 in attendance and millions more follow the game via television, the Internet, the press, and radio. Players from 60 nations regularly compete. It is truly a worldwide event. There are five main events: Gentlemen’s Singles, Ladies’ Singles, Gentlemen’s Doubles, Ladies’ Doubles, and Mixed Doubles. There are four evens for juniors, mixed doubles are not included for this age group. There are four invitational events as well.

The gentlemen’s matches are best-of-five sets while the ladies’ and mixed doubles are best-of-three. Most events are single-elimination tournaments. Prior to 1922, the previous year’s winner were granted byes into the final round allowing for many repeat winners due to their rested state. Since 1922, the title holders have had to play from the start of the championships.

“I have always considered tennis as a combat in an arena between two gladiators who have their racquets and their courage as their weapons.” – Yannick Noah

“Good shot, bad luck, and hell are the five basic words to be used in a game of tennis, though these, of course, can be slightly amplified.” – Virginia Graham, Say Please, 1949

“But that won’t give me a free hand to hold the beer.” – Billy Carter, while being taught a two-handed backhand shot

“The primary conception of tennis is to get the ball over the net and at the same time to keep it within bounds of the court; failing this, within the borders of the neighborhood.” – Elliot Chaze

“In tennis the addict moves about a hard rectangle and seeks to ambush a fuzzy ball with a modified snow-shoe.” – Elliot Chaze

Also on this day, in 1843 the SS Great Britain was launched, the largest ship in the world at the time.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 18, 2010

Nadia Comaneci

July 18, 1976: Nadia Comaneci, age 14,  scores the first perfect ten ever awarded at the Olympics in Montreal. After her performance on the compulsory bars, the scores went up on the boards. They were not equipped to handle the double digit and showed a score of 1.0 instead of the 10.0 she had earned. She was momentarily stunned at the score thinking she had been given a score of one, then astounded when she realized it was ten. She went on to score seven tens, three on the balance beam and four on the bars.

Nadia was born in Romania on November 12, 1961 and began gymnastic training at the age of six. Béla and Marta Károlyi were her coaches. She first competed internationally in 1971 and at age ten won her first all-around title and a team gold. She continued to enter and win junior competitions in Europe. In 1975 at the European Championships, she won gold medals for every event except the floor exercise for which she took second.

Nadia competed in the 1980 Olympics taking two golds and two silvers. Then she retired from competition. In 1981 she participated in an exhibition tour in the US and her coaches, Béla and Marta Károlyi, and the team choreographer defected. On her return to Romania, she was placed under constant guard. She was permitted to attend the 1984 Olympics but only under crushing supervision.

In November 1989, a few weeks prior to the Revolution in her country, she defected to the US. She spent time touring and promoting gymnastic wear. In 1994 she became engaged to Burt Conner, another gymnast she first met while they stood to receive medals at the 1976 America Cup competition. They were wed on April 27, 1996 and on June 3, 2006 Dylan Paul Conner was born.

“He who does not become perfect in small things will never be so in the great things.” – St. Francis Xavier

“Aim at perfection in everything, though in most things it is unattainable; however, they who aim at it, and persevere, will come much nearer it than those whose laziness and despondency make them give it up as unattainable.” – Lord Chesterfield

“Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence.” – Colin Powell

“Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.” – Martha Graham

Also on this day, in 1925 Adolf Hitler published Mein Kampf.
Bonus link: In 64 AD, Rome burns.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 18, 2010

Douglas Corrigan and his plane

July 17, 1938: Douglas Corrigan takes off in the wrong direction. He was an Irish-American pilot born in Texas in 1907. He wanted to be an architect, but at the age of 18 took his first airplane ride and it changed his life. He was an aircraft mechanic as well as a pilot and he helped to build Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis. He was thrilled when Lindbergh made his transatlantic flight.

Corrigan wanted to fly across the Atlantic himself. He applied for a permit from the government that would grant permission for the transatlantic solo flight and was told that his plane was not sufficiently upgraded for such an endeavor. He made modifications. He was denied again. He was a maverick and wanted to get across that ocean.

It took him two years and several modifications before he and his plane were airworthy – at least in his opinion. He had repaired and upgraded the engine and made modifications. His total cash input for the aircraft reached $900 (about $14,000 is 2009 USD). He was given an experimental license and was given permission for a transcontinental flight with conditions. His plane cruised at 85 mph for greatest fuel efficiency.

On July 8, 1939, Corrigan left California for New York. His official flight plan called for a return trip to California on July 17. He took off from Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, New York and entered some cloud cover. He claimed forevermore that with the low light and dense clouds, he followed the wrong end of the compass needle and flew east instead of west. He dipped from the clouds 26 hours later and found himself, amazingly enough, over water. He landed in Baldonnel Airport in Dublin, Ireland after a 28 hour and 13 minute flight. He was given the sobriquet of  “Wrong Way” Corrigan.

“Error is discipline through which we advance.” – William Ellery Channing

“Aviation is proof that given the will, we have the capacity to achieve the impossible.” – Edward Vernon Rickenbacker

“When once you have tasted flight you will always walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward: for there you have been and there you will always be.” – Henry Van Dyke

“Men seldom, or rather never for a length of time and deliberately, rebel against anything that does not deserve rebelling against.” – Thomas Carlyle

Also on this day, in 1955 Disneyland opened.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 16, 2010

J. D. Salinger

July 16, 1951: J. D. Salinger’s novel The Catcher in the Rye is published. The novel remains controversial even today. In the 1990s it was the 13th most frequently challenged book. It was banned due to profanity, sexual references, and because it “undermines morality.”  Either in spite of, or because of this activity, it is one of the most famous 20th century literary works. The novel is often on high school reading lists and still sells about 250,000 copies a year.

The story is told by native New Yorker, Holden Caulfield, the embodiment of teenage angst. The protagonist is expelled from his school and prior to his expulsion date, runs away.  He is disturbed by the phoniness and hypocrisy he sees all around him. He would happily spend his life rescuing children. He meets with his sister, Phoebe, and when she wants to run away with him, he is aghast that she would throw away her own future. As the books draws to a close, several hints are proffered that leave one to speculate that Holden is telling his story from a mental institution in California.

Salinger was drafted during WWII and served with the US 4th Infantry Division. He landed on Utah Beach on D-Day and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. His war experiences colored his post-war writing. He was treated for combat stress reaction after the fall of Germany.

Salinger is the embodiment of the reclusive artist. He had not given an interview since 1974. He has not published any new work since 1965. After returning from the war, he wrote short stories for The New Yorker. Pre-war he had a story called Slight Rebellion off Madison that did not see print until 1946. In that story Holden Caulfield was introduced for the first time.

“If you had a million years to do it, you couldn’t rub out even half the “Fuck you” signs in the world.”

“I thought what I’d do was, I’d pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes. That way I wouldn’t have to have any goddam stupid useless conversations with anybody.”

“But what I mean is, lots of time you don’t know what interests you most till you start talking about something that doesn’t interest you most.”

“All morons hate it when you call them a moron.”

“I think, even, if I ever die, and they stick me in a cemetery, and I have a tombstone and all, it’ll say “Holden Caulfield” on it, and then what year I was born and what year I died, and then right under that it’ll say “Fuck you.” I’m positive, in fact.” – all from The Catcher in the Rye

Also on this day, in 622 the Islamic calendar began.
Bonus Link: In 1451 kissing was banned in England.

What Does it Say?

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 15, 2010

Rosetta Stone

July 15, 1799: Pierre-François Bouchard, a captain in the French Army finds a stone near the village of Rosetta in Egypt. Napoleon’s armies had captured the Egyptian Nile Delta the year before. The stone was covered with an inscription in three different scripts. Egyptian hieroglyphs were on top, demotic script [later form of hieroglyphic text] was in the middle, and Greek was third.

By translating the Greek, the stone was found to be an edict from Ptolemy V Epiphanes from March 27, 196 BC. The Greek translation served as a key for interpreting the top two writings. It was not immediately clear how the hieroglyphic symbols were to be translated and it took years of study.

Jean François Champollion began studying the Rosetta Stone mystery at the age of 18 in 1808. It took 14 years to completely decipher the symbols and the results were announced in 1822. He based his work on three brilliant and insightful assumptions. 1) The middle script was the final stage of the ancient language. 2) Hieroglyphs are both ideograms [pictures that represent a concept or thing] and phonograms [pictures that represent sounds]. and 3) Hieroglyphs enclosed in a loop of encircling hieroglyphs were phonetic symbols around the pharaohs’ names.

This writing was used for nearly 3500 years. During most of that time, about 1000 different pictorial symbols were in use at a time. During its last phase [712-332 BC] the number climbed to 6000 symbols. When using a phonetic methodology, no vowels are used, but “determinatives” were added to lesson confusion. Writing was usually from right to left or from top to bottom, but if it was prettier, they could be written opposite. You would know this by looking at which way the animals or people faced. No wonder it took 14 years to translate!

Polonius: What do you read, my lord?
Hamlet: Words, words, words. – William Shakespeare

“A limited vocabulary, but one with which you can make numerous combinations, is better than thirty thousand words that only hamper the action of the mind.” – Paul Veléry

“Reading does not make a man wise; it only makes him learned.” – W. Somerset Maugham

“As knowledge increases, wonder deepens.” – Charles Morgan

Also on this day, in 1976 the term “couch potato” was first used.

That’s Cool

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 14, 2010

Dr. Gorrie's ice machine

July 14, 1850: Dr. John Gorrie demonstrates making ice by refrigeration at the Mansion House in Apalachicola, Florida. Dr. Gorrie wanted ice to help cool off yellow fever patients at the US Marine Hospital, where he worked. Ice was suspended in a bucket from the ceiling and since cold air is denser than hot air, it would drift down and cool the patients suffering in the extreme heat.

Harvesting of ice and snow to help cool and preserve food has been going on since prehistoric times. In the 16th century, chemical means of refrigeration were tried. Sodium or potassium nitrates were added to water, lowering the temperature.

William Cullen created a partial vacuum over some ethyl ether and managed to make a small bit of ice in 1748. Other inventors tried making a refrigeration process that could create ice as well. Gorrie patented his ice making machine, noting not only its usefulness as a refrigeration device, but also as an air conditioner. It was not a commercial success and when he died in 1855, he was an impoverished and broken man.

US businessman Alexander C. Twinning used sulphuric ether to cool air in 1856. Australian James Harrison studied both Twinning’s and Gorrie’s processes and came up with ether vapor compression refrigeration. Frenchman Ferdinand Carre used ammonia absorption for cooling. It was not until 1906 that any type of air conditioning apparatus was developed. In that year, Willis Haviland Carrier passed hot soggy air through a fine spray of water. The moisture condensed and cooler, dry air was the result.

“Invention is the mother of necessity.” – Thorstein Veblen

“They don’t know a wit about marketing, … That is the biggest challenge for most inventors.” – Joanne Hayes

“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” – Thomas A. Edison

“Not every inventor is going to have the capital or the management experience or all the other things that go into building a business…and bringing a product to market.” – Robert Asher

“No one can assume that valuable innovations will pop up magically in the public domain if their inventors received no reward for their labor and capital.” – Richard Epstein

Also on this day, in 1698 Scotland embarked on an unsuccessful colonization plan.

You’re Out

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 13, 2010

Lee Iacocca

July 13, 1978: Henry Ford II fires Lee Iacocca after years of dispute. Iacocca joined Ford Motor Company after graduating from Princeton University in 1946. He was brilliant at sales and marketing and brought many buyers into the Ford showrooms in 1956 with a “56 for 56” campaign, selling many 1956 model year cars for the low monthly price of just $56. He was involved in the very successful development of the Ford Mustang and the less stellar Ford Pinto. Iacocca became President of the Ford Division on his 40th birthday. In 1978, Ford Motor Company showed a $2 billion profit.

The seventies were difficult for the Big Three car makers out of Detroit and Chrysler Corporation was backed against the wall, verging on dissolution. Chrysler was losing millions, due in large part to the Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare recalls. They courted the newly fired Iacocca aggressively and he took up the challenge.

Iacocca took the reins and immediately started a restructuring process and rebuilt the company from the ground up. He laid off many workers, sold off Peugeot which was a losing division, and brought in many of his friends from Ford.

The gasoline shortages of the decade made the larger Chrysler-built cars less desirable. Iacocca developed two new subcompacts: Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon. Each of the new cars sold over 300,000 units their first year in production.

With severe cash flow problems, Iacocca secured loan guarantees from the US government in order to keep the company afloat. Iacocca continued making compact cars and subcompacts and also introduced the minivan to soccer moms across the US. He also brought the Jeep division into the Chrysler Corporation fold in 1987.

“There ain’t no free lunches in this country. And don’t go spending your whole life commiserating that you got raw deals. You’ve got to say, ‘I think that if I keep working at this and want it bad enough I can have it.'” – Lee Iacocca

“The unemployment rate is 100 percent if it is you who is unemployed.” – unknown

“Unemployment is a reproach to a democratic government.” – Joan Robinson

“When work is a pleasure, life is a joy. When work is a duty, life is slavery.” – Maxim Gorky

Also on this day, in 1923 the HOLLYWOODLAND sign was dedicated.
Bonus link: In  1812, New York passes a
pawnbroker ordinance.

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Magic Screen

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 12, 2010

Etch A Sketch

July 12, 1960: The first Etch-A-Sketch goes on sale. Back in the late 1950s Arthur Granjean brought his invention called “L’Ecran Magique,” or the magic screen, to the International Toy Fair in Nuremburg, Germany. At first, the Ohio Art Company wasn’t interested, but on second look they decided to bring the toy to America and rename it the Etch A Sketch.

The response was fantastic! In fact, Ohio Art thought they would continue to manufacture the toy until noon of Christmas Eve 1960. Instead, they have kept on making them and added other variations to their product line for over forty years.

The Ohio Art Company also has other lines of toys. Their K’s Kids line has soft toys for the youngest children. They are learning/educational toys created to entertain safely as well as to teach new learners a variety of tasks. The Athletic Baby line has toys to engage babies and toddlers physically.

Etch A Sketch now comes in different sizes: classic, travel, pocket, mini, and even digital. They also have a product that adds sounds – 50 different sounds – as you operate the knobs that draw the pictures. Over the years, Ohio Art has tried different colors of casings, but red seems to be preferred by customers. However, the pocket size comes in red, glitter colors and even a glow-in-the-dark version.

The red plastic casing holds a screen that is coated with a mixture of aluminum powder and plastic beads. There are two knobs, one controlling horizontal movement and the other vertical movement. As the stylus moves in response to the knob’s turning, it scrapes the screen, leaving the line. The toy truly is magic.

Bonus link: For some amazing pictures using the toy, see Kevin E. Davis’s artwork.

“Art is making something out of nothing and selling it.” – Frank Zappa

“Art is never finished, only abandoned.” – Leonardo da Vinci

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” – Scott Adams

“One reassuring thing about modern art is that things can’t be as bad as they are painted.” – unknown

Also on this day, in 1917 miners are deported from Bisbee, Arizona.