Little Bits of History

“I’m just a patsy”

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 31, 2010

Lee Harvey Oswald while living in Minsk

October 31, 1959: Lee Harvey Oswald, living in Moscow, states that he will never return to the US. Oswald was born in Louisiana. His father died before he was born. By the time he was 18 he had lived in 22 different places and attended 12 schools. At age 14, he was in NYC for a short time and picked up for truancy. He underwent psychiatric evaluation and was diagnosed with schizoid features and passive/aggressive tendencies. He was getting psychological treatment, but his mother moved them back to New Orleans.

He was not a good student but he loved to read. At age 15 he became a devout Marxist based solely on his reading. He dropped out of school at age 17 and joined the Civil Air Patrol. He then enlisted in the US Marine Corps, following his older brother. He was a radar operator for a time. He was not popular in the Marines because of his small size and Marxist leanings. He became violent and court–martialed twice with loss of rank. He applied for early discharge by falsely claiming hardship conditions.

In October 1959 at age 19, he moved to Moscow. He went to the US Embassy there and renounced his US citizenship. The KGB did not want Oswald in Russia, but a high official thought he might be of some use. He was allowed to stay and worked there for 30 months. While there he met a married a local girl.

They moved back to the US in June 1962. Oswald got a graphic arts job in Dallas, Texas from which he was fired in April 1963. Ten days later he attempted to assassinate General Edwin Walker, a vocal anti-Communist. He fled back to New Orleans, attempted to return to Moscow, moved on to Mexico with the hopes of getting to Cuba, and then went back to Dallas. On November 22, 1963 he shot John F. Kennedy. He was caught, arrested, charged and arraigned on that same day. On November 24, while being taken from the jail to the courthouse, he was shot and killed by Jack Ruby with the nation watching via television.

“I want citizenship because I am a communist and a worker, I have lived in a decadent capitalist society where the workers are slaves.”  – Lee Harvey Oswald

“I don’t know why you are treating me like this. The only thing I have done is carry a pistol into a movie.” – Lee Harvey Oswald

“Assassination’s the fastest way.” – Moliere

“Ordinarily he was insane, but he had lucid moments when he was merely stupid.” – Heinrich Heine

Also on this day, in 1912 D.W. Griffith’s movie, The Musketeers of Pig Alley, was released – the first gangster film.

“Isn’t there … anyone?”

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 31, 2010

Monument erected October 1998 commemorating where the Martians "landed" in Van Nest Park, Grover's Mill, NJ. (Photo by ZeWrestler)

October 30, 1938: Shortly after 8 PM the radio broadcast of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds with adaptations by Orson Welles and Howard Koch airs on CBS’s Mercury Theatre On The Air. The action took place in modern day Grover’s Mill, New Jersey and the program was to simulate a music presentation interspersed with live newscasts of the disaster. It is possibly the most successful radio program in history.

The 55-minute show played opposite a wildly popular show starring Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. It was known that after an initial 12 minutes, Bergen’s bit was followed by music. Over at CBS, there was an initial warning that the upcoming program was a dramatic presentation. However, many people were not listening at that time, but switched over when Bergen’s program switched to music. The new listeners were not aware that it was a dramatization, but believed that the “newscasts” were true news. Repeated warnings were aired during the last 15 mintues of the show, and as a finale as well.

Welles had his cast prepare by listening to broadcasts of the Hindenburg disaster to catch the proper mood and tone for the “newscasts.” The format had been used by BBC in London in 1926 for short pieces, but this program was new in both location and in length of the work. Of the 1.7 million people who tuned in, 1.2 million were “very excited” by the “news” but few did anything concrete with this excitement.

However, in New Jersey, where the action was supposedly taking place, a crowd did gather where the spaceship had “landed.” Police came for crowd control, contributing to the chaos. CBS was castigated for the panic, but no punishment was ever handed out. In fact, the broadcast is played yearly in the spirit of Halloween pranks. There is also a monument in the park noting the place where the Martians landed in 1938.

“Isn’t there anyone on the air? Isn’t there anyone on the air? Isn’t there … anyone?” – newscaster, Ray Collins, from The War of the Worlds broadcast

“Doubts and mistrust are the mere panic of timid imagination, which the steadfast heart will conquer, and the large mind transcend.” – Helen Keller

“Fear cannot be banished, but it can be calm and without panic; it can be mitigated by reason and evaluation.” – Vannevar Bush

“It made our hair stand up in panic fear.” – Sophocles

“The one permanent emotion of the inferior man is fear – fear of the unknown, the complex, the inexplicable.  What he wants above everything else is safety.” – Henry Louis Mencken

Also on this day, in 1973 the Bosphorus Bridge was completed, linking Europe and Asia.

Ali, the Greatest

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 29, 2010

Cassius Clay or Muhammad Ali (Photo by Ira Rosenberg)

October 29, 1960: Cassius Clay, the 6’3” tall Olympic Gold Medal boxer, has his first professional fight and beats Tunney Hunsaker in a six-round decision. Clay went on to a 19-0 record, with 15 knockouts in the next three years. He continued on to become Heavyweight Champion, as well.

Clay was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1942, a poor child with few possessions. At the age of 12, he had one possession that he prized above all others, a red and white Schwinn bike. He rode it to a fair and when he came out of the building, he found his bike stolen. He approached a policeman, Joe Elsby Martin, Sr., and said he wanted to “whup” the thief. Joe told young Cassius that if was intent on that course of action, he needed to learn to fight. Joe was willing to teach him. Joe became his coach and led him to the 1960 Olympics were Clay won the gold in boxing.

Returning home to Kentucky, Clay was refused service in a white-only restaurant, and even got in a fight with a white gang. Racial inequality was rampant and Clay, gold medal notwithstanding, was the “wrong” race. He threw his gold medal into the Ohio River.

He went on to professional boxing where he won 56 of his 61 bouts, 37 by knockouts. He beat Sonny Liston to become heavyweight champion of the world. He changed religions and became a conscientious objector, refusing to fight in the Vietnam War. He was stripped of his title and his license, fined $10,000 and sentenced to jail. However, he remained free. He eventually returned to boxing. He also loved poetry which was reflected in the names of his fights. The Rumble in the Jungle and the Thrilla of Manila are two. He was named “Sportsman of the Century” by Sports Illustrated. He won the Presidiential Medal of Freedom in 2005. He is retired but continues to do humanitarian works around the globe. When he changed his religion, he also changed his name – to Muhammad Ali.

“It’s just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.”

“I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong.”

“The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”

“I am the greatest.”

“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. ” – all from Muhammad Ali

Also on this day, in 1863 the International Red Cross got its start.

Higher Education

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 28, 2010

Aula Magna at night, Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (Photo by Claudio Bautista-Branagan)

October 28, 1538: The first university is established in the New World in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic – Universidad Santo Tomás de Aquino (University of Saint Thomas Aquinas).

Christopher Columbus made landfall in 1492 on the the island of Hispaniola, and island nation is part of, the other portion of which is. Columbus was met by the Taino Indians, who had a complex society ruled via a centralized government. Bartholomew Columbus, Chris’s brother, founded Santo Domingo with Europeans living there since 1496 and an official founding date of August 5, 1498.

The original layout of the city, The Colonial Zone, is a fantastic collection of 16th century buildings, including both mansions and churches. The Catedral Primada de America is the first Catholic Cathedral in América. The Alcazar De Colón is the palatial residence of Diego Colón, Chris’s son. The first monastery in America, the former palace of the Governor, and the oldest fortress in America are all here.

By order of Pope Paul III, Catholic monks of the Dominican Order reorganized the seminary into a university. Originally there were four departments: Medicine, Law, Theology, and the Arts. On December 31, 1961 Law # 5778 took effect, giving autonomy to the university and changing its name to Autonomous University of Santo Domingo. Today there are eight departments to choose from.

“The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.” – Aristotle

“Without education we are in horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously.” – G.K. Chesterton

“Two delusions fostered by higher education are that what is taught corresponds to what is learned, and that it will somehow pay off in money.” – William Feather

“Knowledge accumulates in universities, because the freshman bring a little in and the seniors take none away.” – unknown

Also on this day, in 1886 the Statue of Liberty was dedicated in a ceremony with President Grover Cleveland officiating.

Fancy Dry Goods Store

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 28, 2010

Macy's flagship department store with the famous brownstone at 34th and Broadway. (Photo by PlusMinus)

October 27, 1858: Rowland Hussey Macy opens a “fancy dry goods” store on the corner of 6th Avenue and 14th Street in New York City. The gross receipts for opening day were $1106. Macy’s store originally had a rooster for a trademark, however he changed it to a star, a replica of a tattoo he had received while in the Navy – the guiding star that helped him when he was lost at sea.

Macy had previously owned four dry goods store in Massachusetts, all of which failed. He learned from his failures and moved to NYC to become a success. In 1902, the store moved to Herald Square where the building was nine stories high with 33 elevators and 4 wooden escalators. An addition was completed in 1924, making Macy’s the “World’s Largest Store.” In 1994, Macy’s joined the Federated Department Stores to create the larges retailer of its type in America and three years later, Macy’s was on the World Wide Web enabling shopping worldwide. Today, there are over 800 Macy’s stores across America.

In 1862, Macy’s store raised the bar for the Christmas shopping “experience” by introducing the first in-store Santa Claus. Two years later, Macy created elaborate window displays to entice those strolling along outside the store. In 1866, Margaret Getchell became the first woman retail executive when she becomes Macy’s store superintendent.

In 1925, another Christmas tradition was born. The first Macy’s parade, originally titled “Macy’s Christmas Parade.” The first parade featured live animals from the Central Park Zoo and store employees marching. The large balloons were added in 1927 when Felix the Cat soared over the crowd. Originally the balloons were released after the parade. Due to war time rationing, the parade was not held from 1942-1944. The parade had been televised since 1952.

“A salesman minus enthusiasm is just a clerk.” – Harry F. Banks

“Salesmanship consist of transferring a conviction by a seller to a buyer.” – Paul G. Hoffman

“When a man is trying to sell you something, don’t imagine he is that polite all the time.” – Edgar Watson Howe

“For the merchant, even honesty is a financial speculation.” – Charles Baudelaire

“Never underestimate the power of the irate customer.” – Joel E. Ross and Michael J. Kami

Also on this day, in 1904 the NYC Subway System opened.

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Tombstone, Arizona

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 28, 2010

City Marshall Virgil Earp

City Marshall Virgil Earp

October 26, 1881: Wyatt, Morgan, and Virgil Earp along with Doc Holliday meet up with Frank and Tom McLaury, Billy and Ike Clanton, and Billy Claiborne in a vacant area called lot 2, in block 17 behind the corral. A year before, Virgil Earp became the city marshal of Tombstone. The Earp brothers were recently deputized.

The McLaurys and the Clantons sold livestock in Tombstone. The Earps believed that the animals were stolen. Wyatt also believed that the Clantons had stolen one of his prize horses. Wyatt and John Behan, a sheriff in Cochise County, Arizona, argued in the past over an arrest of Doc Holliday. He was arrested on suspicion of killing a stagecoach driver during a robbery. Holliday denied any involvement and was eventually released. Virgil then arrested one of Behan’s deputies, Frank Stilwell, for robbery of a stagecoach.

On October 25, Holliday got into a barfight with Ike Clanton and Tom McLaury and invited them to “step outside” but they declined. The next day, Virgil arrested the two men for carrying weapons within the city limits which was illegal. They were disarmed and released. Clanton and McLaury were joined by their brothers who had just arrived in town. They met at the OK Corral.

The Earps and Holliday headed for the OK Corral, Behan, also in town, tried to disarm the Clantons and McLaurys, but they did not give up their weapons. The marshal and his posse arrived at the Corral. Wyatt and Billy Clanton opened the battle. Holliday shot Billy in the chest, then cut Tom McLaury down with buckshot. Ike was running from the scene when Doc shot at him, but missed. Frank shot and slightly wounded Doc and Doc’s return shot killed him. In less than 30 seconds three were dead, three were wounded. Wyatt was the only one unscathed. The Earps and Holliday were brought before Judge Spicer and found to be not guilty of murder.

“Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything.” – Wyatt Earp

“The greatest injustices proceed from those who pursue excess, not by those who are driven by necessity.” – Aristotle

“Justice! Custodian of the world! But since the world errs, justice must be custodian of the world’s errors.” – Ugo Betti

“There is no such thing as justice – in or out of court.” – Clarence Darrow

Also on this day, in 1861 the Pony Express stopped – Whoa!

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Who Blinked?

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 25, 2010

Jupiter IRBM (picture from US Army)

Jupiter IRBM (picture from US Army)

October 25, 1962: An emergency session of the UN Security Council meets and US Ambassador Adlai Stevenson asks USSR Ambassador Valerian Zorin to explain the Russian missiles occupying Cuban launch sites. Zorin refused an answer and Stevenson produced surveillance photos showing missile installations.

Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba on January 1, 1959 and aligned his country with the Soviet Union openly and officially on December 19, 1960. Within weeks the US terminated diplomatic relations with Cuba. On April 17, 1961, the US backed a group of Cuban exiles in a covert operation to trigger an anti-Castro rebellion. The forces landed at the Bay of Pigs and was an unmitigated and embarrassing failure.

On July 27, 1962, Castro announced measures he had taken to assure there were no direct assaults by US forces on Cuba. He stated that the USSR would militarily defend Cuba. By early fall, evidence of missiles in Cuba was noted. By mid-October U-2 recon planes had pictures of the installations. President Kennedy of the US and Premier Khrushchev of the USSR, negotiated the removal of the missiles without Castro’s input.

In return for removing US ICBM missiles from Turkey and US assurance of not invading Cuba, the USSR  would remove their missiles from Cuba. The US managed to unobtrusively remove their missiles while Khrushchev and the USSR were seen as losing face in obeying an “order” from their enemy. Within two years Khrushchev was out of power. Cuba was left without the protection that the Communist regime had promised.

“I am prepared to wait for my answer until hell freezes over.” – Adlai Stevenson demanding an answer regarding Cuban missile bases from Valerian Zorin

“We were eyeball to eyeball, and the other fellow just blinked.” – Dean Rusk

“Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.”  – John F. Kennedy

“Dante once said that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality.” – John F. Kennedy

Also on this day, in 1760 George III became King of England.

Nedelin Catastrophe

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 25, 2010

R-16 intercontinental ballistic rocket ready for launch.

October 24, 1960: An R-16 intercontinental ballistic missile [ICBM] explodes on the launch pad at the USSR’s Baikonur Cosmodrome space facility. The R-16 was being tested, and a prototype was on the launchpad. During the test-flight launch, the second stage misfired and 165 military personnel, engineers, and technicians were killed, including Strategic Rocket Forces Marshal Mitrofan Nedelin, the commander of the R-16 project. His death was covered up at the time and it was said that he died in a plane crash.

The bodies that could be identified were shipped home from the central-Asian launch site for private burial. Many more bodies were burned beyond recognition. All other remains were placed into one casket and buried in the rocket workers’ town of Leninsk. With a total black out of information concerning the disaster, the families were left to cope on their own. The world was presented with the fallacy of a perfectly run Soviet rocket program. The first successful launch of the ICBM was on February 2, 1961.

On October 23, the rocket was on the launch pad with hypergolic UDMH-nitric acid fuel loaded. The fuel was highly corrosive and toxic. While getting the rocket ready, the pyrotechnic membranes on the first stage of the rocket were accidentally blown. This meant that the rocket had to be fired within two days or the fuel would need to be drained and the engine rebuilt. It was decided to fire the rocket the next day and arrangements were further hurried along.

Preparations were vast and many procedures were being carried out simultaneously. Nedelin was impatient with the delays. A Programmable Current Distributor [PDC] was left in the post-launch position rather than the pre-launch setting where it should have been. This error resulted in the early firing of the second stage engine and the conflagration that followed.

“The thorns which I have reap‘d are of the tree I planted; they have torn me, and I bleed.” – Lord Byron

”A danger foreseen is half avoided.” – Thomas Fuller

“One’s incompetence is a difficult fact to accept.” – Terry M. Townsend

“The men who try to do something and fail are infinitely better than those who try nothing and succeed.” – Lloyd Jones

Also on this day in 1260, Notre Dame Cathedral was dedicated.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 23, 2010
Eternite Miniature golf course

Eternite Miniature golf course

October 23. 1930: The first miniature golf tournament is held in Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA with J. K. Scott winning. Miniature golf is played in a similar fashion to non-miniature golf. There are usually nine or eighteen holes to be played, although there can be twelve holes. The idea is to get a golf ball into the hole in the fewest strokes possible. The mini-course is entirely putting greens with obstacles added, such as ramps and bunkers.

The first mini golf course was created at St. Andrews, Scotland in 1867 for use by women. At the time, women were barred from swinging a club past shoulder height and so were unable to play the regulation course. The popularity of mini golf increased in the 1910s and 1920s with Thistle Dhu (This’ll Do) built in Pinehurst, North Carolina in 1916 and Tom Thumb’s Garnet Carter at Lookout Mountain, Tennessee in 1927. The game was known as garden golf. In 1922, Thomas McCulloch Fairbairn created an artificial green made from cottonseed hulls, sand, oil, and dyed green. This revolutionized the game and mini golf spread everywhere. In the 1920s there were over 30,000 courses nationwide and 150 rooftop courses in NYC alone.

After the stock market crash, the sport became too expensive for most people to play. Innovative folks set up local courses with obstacles built with anything that could be found, like cast off wagon wheels, stove pipes, barrels, or rain gutters. They used whatever space was available and the courses were known as “Rinkiedink” golf.

The first tournament was played by winners of play-offs from the forty-eight states who came to Chattanooga’s Tom Thumb course. The entire purse was $10,000 with top place taking $2,000. Over 200 players came to compete representing thirty states. Today, miniature golf tournaments are held in twenty states and at seven international sites including meets in Europe and Asia.

“If you think it’s hard to meet new people, try picking up the wrong golf ball.” – Jack Lemmon

“Man blames fate for other accidents but feels personally responsible for a hole in one.” – Martha Beckman

“They say golf is like life, but don’t believe them.  Golf is more complicated than that.” – Gardner Dickinson

“I regard golf as an expensive way of playing marbles.” – G.K. Chesterton

Also on this day, in 1958 the Springhill mining disaster took place, trapping Nova Scotia miners.

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When the World Was New

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 22, 2010
The Earth

The planet as seen from space.

October 22, 4004 BC: As evening approaches, the world is created, according to James Ussher. Bishop Ussher was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1581 into a family of wealth. He entered the newly founded Trinity College at the age of 13, receiving his degree four years later. In 1602 he was ordained as a deacon in the Church of Ireland. He went on to become chancellor of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Ussher went to England in 1619 and there met James I who is the namesake of the King James Bible. King James named Ussher as Bishop of Meath. Ussher became more and more interested in scholarly work. He was relieved of church duties in order to pursue his scholastic quest from 1623 to 1626.

Ussher, like several others scholars before him, including the Venerable Bede, attempted to date the age of the Earth via accounts in the Bible. He published a book entitled in translation “Annals of the Old Testament, deduced from the first origins of the world” in 1650. Ussher and John Lightfoot, who published a similar work, have a calendar of events that led to the same conclusion.

As night fell on the day prior to October 23, 4004 BC, the world was created. Noah’s ark floated in 2348 BC and Abraham was talking with Yahweh in 1921 BC. Moses led the Jews from Egypt in 1491 BC and the Temple of Jerusalem was founded in 1012 BC. Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC and Jesus Christ himself was born in the year 4 BC. The reason that Ussher’s calendar of events survives with such prominence is that it was included in the preface to the King James Bible.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” – first words of the Bible

“The beginning is the most important part of any work, especially in the case of a young and tender thing; for that is the time at which the character is being formed and the desired impression is more readily taken.” – Plato

“It’s a wonderful feeling when you discover some evidence to support your beliefs.” – unknown

“Dogma does not mean the absence of thought, but the end of thought.” – G.K. Chesterton

Also on this day, in 1844, after even more ciphering, Mr. Miller was disappointed when Jesus Christ failed to return to Earth.

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