Little Bits of History

Hot, Hot, Hot

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 31, 2011

Marble Bar, Australia

October 31, 1923: The first of 160 consecutive days of temperatures over 100º F occurs at Marble Bar, Australia. The small town was gazetted in 1893 after gold was discovered in the area in 1890. It lies in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. It is known for its hot weather and may be the hottest place on earth. Ironically, there is a nearby area with specific rock formations that is known as North Pole.

These 160 days of over 100º F heat are a world record. Finally, on April 8, 1924 the high temperature dipped into the two-digit range. High temperatures are common during the Marble Bar summers as they are for most of northwestern Australia. Average temperatures for Marble Bar exceed 100º F for 154 days of the year. The only way for the inland town to get a relief breeze that lowers the temperature is for a monsoon trough to descend far enough to affect the weather. This did not happen during the entire 1923-1924 summer.

The rainfall during the 160 day heat wave was 3.1 inches and most of that fell in two short rain storms. Less than one-half inch of rain fell during the rest of 1924. The ensuing drought was devastating to the area. The highest temperatures in Marble Bar usually fall in January and February. On January 1, 1924 the temperature hit 117.5º F and it was higher still in January 11, 1905 and January 2, 1922 when it hit 120.5º F. The highest temperature occurred when 123º F was reached on February 19, 1998.

A heat wave is defined by the World Meteorological Organization as five consecutive days with maximum temperatures exceeding normal temperatures by 9º F (5º C) with normal temperatures being assigned from averages of temperatures between the years 1961 and 1990. In some European countries, a heat wave is defined as five days with temperatures greater than 77º F (25º C) as long as three of those days reached 86º F (30º C). The odd numbers are explained by the temperature in Celsius. In the US, heat wave temperatures are defined by region with 90º F being labeled as such. Heat advisories are issued at 105º F and excessive heat warnings are issued at 115º F.

“If you saw a heat wave, would you wave back?” – Stephen Wright

“I was a researcher on Friday and Saturday nights, … but I spent a lot more time there. We were having a heat wave and the office was air-conditioned. They mistook me for a hard worker.” – Michael Hastings

“This is a ridiculous heat wave we’re in right now, and to contribute, Newt Gingrich said that for the entire month of June, he will stop blowing hot air.” – Bill Maher

“August is one of our hottest months. This is not really a heat wave. It’s just typical for summer.” – Philip Gonsalves

Also on this day:
“I’m just a patsy” – In 1959, Lee Harvey Oswald in Moscow, vows to never return to the US.
Shooting Shooters – In 1912, the first gangster film was released by DW Griffith.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 30, 2011

The many faces of Frauenkirche

October 30, 2005: The rebuilt Dresden Frauenkirche is reconsecrated. Frauenkirche is a Lutheran church in Dresden, Germany which was destroyed in the fire-bombing of Germany during World War II. The church was originally built in the 11th century outside the city walls of Dresden. It was the seat of the Diocese Meissen until the Reformation when it became a Protestant church. The first church was torn down in 1727 and rebuilt to accommodate a larger congregation. The citizens paid for the new construction.

This Baroque church was built between 1726 and 1743 and was designed by Dresden’s city architect, George Bahr. He did not live to see the church finished. A three-manual, 43-stop organ was built for the new church and dedicated by Johann Sebastian Bach. The church was crowned by a 315-foot high dome called die Steineme Glock or “Stone Bell.” The stability of the sandstone dome resting on eight supports was proven when it was stuck by more than 100 cannonballs during the Seven Year’s War.

Although able to stand the Prussian assault, on February 13, 1945 the Allied Forces proved to be too much for the church. They began their bombing of Dresden on that day and did not immediately destroy the church. However, after days of dropping over 650,000 incendiary bombs on the city, the church was felled by the intense heat. The dome collapsed on February 15 at 10 AM with the pillars glowing red from the 1000 degree heat.

Reconstruction was delayed after the war due to political issues. When finally underway, the original plans of George Bahr were used. Reconstruction finally began in January 1993 under engineer Eberhard Burger’s direction. There were millions of stones used in the rebuilding and of those about 3,800 were salvaged from the wreckage of the older church. The new dome was forged in London using as many of the 18th century techniques as possible. Once a month, an Anglican Evensong in English is held at the church with clergy sent from Berlin. The Church of Our Lady is a testament to the reconciliation between two warring enemies.

“Germany’s fate is decided first and foremost in Europe. Reconciliation and cooperation in Europe have brought us freedom, peace and prosperity. Who would have dared to believe so much 50 years ago?” – Horst Koehler

“In history, the moments during which reason and reconciliation prevail are short and fleeting.” – Stefan Zweig

“Reconciliation requires changes of heart and spirit, as well as social and economic change. It requires symbolic as well as practical action.” – Malcolm Fraser

“The practice of peace and reconciliation is one of the most vital and artistic of human actions.” – Nhat Hanh

Also on this day:
“Isn’t there … anyone?”– In 1938, the radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds led to panic in the streets.
Europe and Asia Linked – In 1973, the first Bosphorus Bridge was completed.

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You’re in the Army Now

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 29, 2011

Uncle Sam gets you

October 29, 1940: The first peacetime draft lottery is held in the United States with number 158 being the first number picked by Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson. Conscription was first instituted in an informal way during the Civil War and was highly unpopular. The Selective Service Act was passed in 1917 under Woodrow Wilson creating the Selective Service System (SSS). All males aged 18-25 were to register with the SSS for possible conscription.

The Selective Training and Service Act passed on September 16, 1940 under Franklin D. Roosevelt and was the first peacetime conscription act. There was a maximum of 900,000 men to be conscripted into training at any one time. The draft was permitted to expire in 1947 and it was hoped that volunteers would fill the ranks. That did not happen and the draft was reinstituted in 1948. Gerald Ford signed a bill terminating the draft in 1975 and Jimmy Carter reestablished it again in 1980.

The SSS has 136 full-time civilian employees with 57 part-time civilian directors, 200 part-time reserve force officers, and thousands of volunteers. There are currently about 13.5 million men registered with the Service which is about 95% of those eligible. Lawrence G. Romo is the current director coming into the position in December of 2009. The annual budget for year 2009 (last year available) was $22 million.

Some argue the constitutionality of conscription citing the Thirteenth Amendment: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” The courts have not upheld this strategy. Women are currently exempted and the courts upheld that decision in 1981. The stated purpose of the Service it to gather combat ready troops and women are under combat restrictions. Should a draft be instituted, a lottery would be held in public view with 365 or 366 dates drawn. There are 22 classifications to determine exemptive status of conscriptees.

“Being in the army is like being in the Boy Scouts, except that the Boy Scouts have adult supervision.” – Blake Clark

“The tragedy of war is that it uses man’s best to do man’s worst.” – Harry Emerson Fosdick

“I had examined myself pretty thoroughly and discovered that I was unfit for military service.” – Joseph Heller

“It is an unfortunate fact that we can secure peace only by preparing for war.” – John F. Kennedy

Also on this day:
Ali, the Greatest – In 1960, Cassius Clay, later to be known as Muhammad Ali, had his first professional fight.
Seeing Red – In 1863, the International Red Cross got its start.

Volstead Act

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 28, 2011

It's the law

October 28, 1919: The Volstead Act becomes effective. Also called the National Prohibition Act, it was passed over the veto of President Woodrow Wilson. The Anti-Saloon League and Wayne Wheeler thought up the bill which was named for Andrew Volstead who was Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. This committee managed the legislation. The Eighteenth Amendment to the US Constitution prohibited the production, sale, and transport of “intoxicating liquors” but it did not define what those were. The Eighteenth Amendment had already passed but did not go into effect until January 17, 1920.

The American Temperance Society (ATS) began to advocate for a booze-free nation as early as 1826. This group served as a model for many later groups and by 1935 they had a membership of 1.5 million. At the time, but population of the US was about 14.5 million. During the nineteenth century, there was some success with limiting alcohol. Some states managed to pass legislation but these laws did not last long. Many of the prohibitionists were women and had religious reasons as well as personal issues with the demon rum.

There were several unintentional consequences of Prohibition. During this time, people drank just as much liquor as they ever had except now it was being produced by bootleggers. The transportation of illegal beverages is now credited with a massive increase in organized crime. The problems with alcohol remained regardless of how strictly enforced the laws became. In fact, even long-time supporters eventually turned to the other side, citing the problems associated with the distribution and sale of illegal liquors and the crime issues involved.

There are some who point to today’s issues with criminal organizations as an aftermath of this attempt to control alcohol. Because of the risks involved, getting more “customers” was part of the job of the criminals. They needed a wider market base in order to achieve proper profit margins. They found their new client base in women who began to drink more heavily during this time. Winemaking also began to spread. Farmers were permitted to make certain wines and these became quite popular, especially increasing the number of California wine growers. Grape products were sold with a warning/instructions on how to dissolve a concentrated product and getting wine in only 20 days.

“For every prohibition you create you also create an underground.” – Jello Biafra

“Prohibition has made nothing but trouble.” – Al Capone

“Prohibition is better than no liquor at all.” – Will Rogers

“Prohibition? HA! They tried that in the movies and it didn’t work.” – Homer Simpson

Also on this day:
Higher Education – In 1538, the first university in the New World was established.
The Two Sisters – In 1886, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated.

Paris Riots

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 27, 2011

After a night of rioting

October 27, 2005: Riots break out in Paris. Two Muslim youths died in Clichy-sous-Bois, a poverty stricken commune outside Paris. Tensions had been high, but with most of France on holiday during the late summer, things had remained stable. After school started, tempers flared, exacerbated by the deaths. At first, rioting was confined to Paris but as the violence continued, it spread to outlying areas as well. The rioters mostly confined themselves to burning cars and public buildings.

After November 3, the violence spread and eventually included all 15 of the large aires urbaines in the country. Most of the rioters were Muslim North Africans. On November 8, President Jacques Chirac declared a state of emergency effective at midnight. This reduced some of the rioting, but did not end it. On November 10-11, violence in Paris escalated and many riot police were injured in the confrontations. Power stations were attacked causing blackouts.

Rioting hot spots moved about the country with hundreds of cars being torched and many people being arrested. The numbers fluctuated day by day. On November 16, the French parliament approved a three-month extension of the state of emergency with the Senate passing the bill the next day. At a wine festival on November 18, the crowd began throwing rocks and bottles at riot police. There were 16 rioters and 17 police injured. The rioting eventually came to an end after the night of November 18.

The rioting lasted for 20 nights. There were 8,973 vehicles burned. Three nights had over 1,000 burned: Tuesday, November 8 had 1,173; Sunday, November 6 had 1,295; and Monday, November 7 had 1,408 burned. There were 2,888 arrests made with each of the previously listed dates having more than 300 arrests. There were 126 police and fire fighters injured and two deaths. The cost in damages was given as about €200 million.

“The events of 2005 were set off by the deaths of two youths who were thought to be running from police, and who climbed into an electricity power substation and were electrocuted.
The handling – the official handling of the immediate aftermath of that suspicions of a cover-up of events, official denials that police had been in the area or trying to track the down kids fueled an explosion of anger, which very quickly spread from one town northeast of the capital to neighboring towns, and eventually to hundreds of similar high-immigration, low-income areas around France.” – Emma Charlton

“A riot is the language of the unheard.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

“It seems as if an age of genius must be succeeded by an age of endeavour; riot and extravagance by cleanliness and hard work.” – Virginia Woolf

“Passion is the mob of the man, that commits a riot upon his reason.” – William Penn

Also on this day:
Fancy Dry Goods Store – In 1858, Macy opened his first NYC store.
Underground – In 1904, the first section of the New York City subway opened.

Cloud of Death

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 26, 2011

Taken at noon on October 29, 1948, this picture shows the deadly smog blanketing Donora. (NOAA Oceanservice Education)

October 26, 1948: Skies over Donora, Pennsylvania darken as fog settles onto the small river valley town. Donora of the 1940s was a thriving town with a population of about 14,000. Today, as part of the Rust Belt, that population is dwindling along with job opportunities and there are fewer than 2,500 households in the town that is 20 miles south of Pittsburgh and located on the Monongahela River.

For five days, beginning on October 26 and ending not a moment too soon on October 31, weather conditions conspired to trap air pollution over the town. The smog was a combination of noxious gases from the American Steel and Wire Plant, owned by US Steel, and Donora Zinc Works. By the time the smog lifted, 20 were dead and between 6,000 and 7,000 were ill, some suffered lifelong disabilities. A local doctor, Dr. Rongaus, claimed that the death toll would have reached 1,000 if the smog had lasted another day.

The horror did not end there.USSteel is said to have conspired with the US Public Health Service (PHS) to cover up their role in the disaster. Fifty years later, crucial PHS records are missing and US Steel continues to block access to records. The Pennsylvania State Bureau of Industrial Hygiene on October 31, 1948 conducted tests on the foul air and found excessively high contents of sulfur dioxide, soluble sulphants, and fluorides.

The steel and zinc plants did have help in creating the fluoride fog. There was also a sulfuric acid plant nearby and coal burning trains and river boats added their fetid fumes to the mix as well. A highly unusual fog held the effluvium close to ground level and the air seeped into houses and blanketed the streets. People with a history of respiratory or heart disease were the first to succumb. US Steel eventually paid an undisclosed amount to the survivors of the tragedy. The country responded by passing the Clean Air Act of 1955.

“On (Dr.) Rongaus’ advice, those with chronic heart or respiratory ailments began to leave town late Friday evening, but before noon on Saturday, 11 people died.” – from the Environmental History Review

“Before the Donora smog, neither manufacturers nor public health professionals considered air pollution an urgent issue.” – from the Environmental History Review

” I have felt the fog in my throat —
The misty hand of Death caress my face;
I have wrestled with a frightful foe
Who strangled me with wisps of gray fog-lace.” – John P. Clark

“It would have complicated things enormously for them if the public had been alerted to (the dangers of) fluoride.” – Philip Sadtler

Also on this day:
Tombstone, Arizona – In 1881, the gunfight at the OK Corral took place.
Whoa! – In 1861, Pony Express service officially ended.

Nuke It

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 25, 2011

Early microwave oven

October 25, 1955: The first domestic microwave oven is sold by Tappan. Dr. Percy Spencer was investigating a new vacuum tube called a magnetron while working at the Raytheon Corporation. What he found was that as he tested the new tube, the chocolate bar in his pocket had melted. Next, he placed some popcorn kernels near the tube and watched them pop. His next experiment was with an egg. This time, he had a coworker with him and they watched the egg begin to shake, they moved closer. The pressure inside the egg became too great and both men were covered with hot, exploding egg. They deduced there was an explanation involving low-density microwave energy.

Spencer and P.R. Hanson began working on a secret project. They finally developed the first microwave oven. It was almost six feet tall and weighed an amazing 750 pounds. It also cost about $5,000 in 1947. The magnetron tube which produced the microwaves had to be water-cooled, so the machine also required some plumbing. They weren’t a big seller. Finally, a method for air-cooling was developed. This was a boon to vending and restaurant businesses, but the device was still not for home use.

In 1947, Raytheon demonstrated the first microwave oven and called it a “Radarange” after an employee won a naming contest. They were still the size of refrigerators and cost between $2,000 and $3,000. Used in industry, it wasn’t convenient for home use. Then Tappan produced the first domestic oven. It was much smaller, the size of a conventional oven. It was less powerful than the commercial models. It had two cooking speeds (500 and 800 watts) and sold for $1,300. Sales were better, but not brisk.

Microwave ovens have gotten progressively better designs over the years. Today they are smaller, more powerful, with a wider range of settings, and a number of extra features. The microwaves themselves behave the same way as they did a half century ago. Food is cooked so quickly that it is sometimes cooked unevenly. Metal acts as a conductor and cannot safely be used inside a microwave. Products heated for too long can catch fire inside the oven. And the waves themselves are not safe if humans are directly exposed to them. Most ovens, therefore, have a safety feature that turns off the oven if the door is opened.

“The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ (I found it!) but ‘That’s funny …’” – Isaac Asimov

“He looks about as happy as a penguin in a microwave.” – Sid Waddell

“I don’t cook – I can cook – but I’m not very good. I like being asked over for dinner, because she can’t cook either. We would starve if it weren’t for modern technology. I know how to work a microwave, but love home cooked meals.” – Mark Mothersbaugh

“I put instant coffee in a microwave oven and almost went back in time.” – Steven Wright

Also on this day:
Who Blinked? – In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis confrontation between Adlai Stevenson and Valerian Zorin took place.
George, George, George – In 1760, George III began his reign in England.

Terror Along the Beltway

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 24, 2011

John Allen Muhammad mug shot

October 24, 2002: Two men are arrested at a Maryland rest stop after police receive tips from a trucker and a second motorist who spot a 1990 Chevrolet Caprice parked there. The killing spree began when Paul LaRuffia was killed as he locked up his pizzeria on September 5 and Claudia Parker was killed during a liquor store robbery on September 21. Then the patterns of the killings changed.

On October 2 at 5:20 PM a shot was fired through a window without causing injury; at 6:05 the first victim of a mysterious sniper fell. The next day, five more were killed as they went about their normal daily routines. Within the next weeks, four more people were killed and three were critically wounded. One of the victims was an FBI agent who was coming out of a Home Depot store. All the killings took place between Baltimore and Washington, DC along Interstate 95, an area known as the Beltway.

The killings were initially thought to be the work of a lone sniper. When captured John Allen Mohammed, 41, and Lee Boyd Malvo, 17, were found to be working together. The investigation was headed by Police Chief Charles A. Moose with help from the FBI. Tarot cards were left at some of the earlier killings. Later, long handwritten notes were left. After learning that the car used by the snipers was a dark Chevrolet, that information was broadcast and terrorized citizens were on the lookout.

Both men were found guilty of the Beltway murders. Malvo, a minor at the time of the killings, has been given life imprisonment without parole. He has since confessed to several other murders across the US and given an additional six life sentences. Mohammed was found guilty and given the death penalty. Mohammed claimed to have modeled himself after Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda’s attacks of September 11. Fortunately his three tiered plan of attack never got past the first phase.

“Muhammad, with his sniper team partner, Malvo, randomly selected innocent victims. With calculation, extensive planning, premeditation and ruthless disregard for life, Muhammad carried out his cruel scheme of terror.” – Virginia Supreme Court Justice Donald Lemons

“I haven’t gone jogging, haven’t gone shopping and I almost run from my car to the apartment. Last weekend was the first time that I’ve seen my apartment complex’s parking lot full. No one is leaving their homes.” – Joe, from Maryland

“The greatest crimes are to associate another with God, to vex your father and mother, to murder your own species, to commit suicide, and to swear to lie.” – Muhammad

“There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them.” – Andre Gide

Also on this day:
Nedelin Catastrophe – In 1960, a Soviet Union ICBM exploded on the launchpad.
Notre Dame – In 1260, the cathedral was dedicated.

Poison Gas

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 23, 2011

The Moscow Theater Hostage Crisis

October 23, 2002: The Moscow Theater Hostage Crisis begins. Also called the 2002 Nord-Ost Siege, the Moscow theater was stormed by 40-50 armed Chechens. These armed men and women claimed to belong to the Islamist militant separatist movement in Chechnya. There were 850 hostages taken. The attackers were demanding the withdrawal of Russian forces from Chechnya and calling for an end to the Second Chechen War. The building stormed was the House of Culture of State Ball-Bearing Plant Number 1, a building about 2.5 miles from the Kremlin. The militants arrived during the second act of Nord-Ost at slightly after 9 PM.

The terrorists entered firing assault weapons into the air. Between 850 and 900 theater patrons and performers were held. A few of the performers not on stage where able to escape and inform police of the activity in the theater. The Chechens offered to release all foreign nationals who could show a passport, but the Russian authorities wanted either all or none of the hostages released. The terrorists were led by Movsar Barayev, the nephew of a slain Chechen terrorist militia commander. The media were given a videotaped statement listing the claims of the Chechens inside.

That first night, about 150-200 people were released. They included children, pregnant women, Muslims, and some of the foreign nationals. They also released people needing medical treatment. The terrorists threatened to kill ten hostages for each of their number harmed by security forces. On October 24, negotiations between authorities in Russia and the hostage takers in the theater continued. Another 39 hostages were freed on October 24. The next day, another 19 hostages were freed.

On October 25, the Special Forces, called Spetsnaz, pumped the building full of some toxic gas. The intention was to subdue the terrorists and allow the Spetsnaz to enter and free the hostages. Instead, some of the Chechens had gas masks and responded by firing into the outside crowd wildly. The Russians entered the building firing their guns. In the following melee, 39 of the terrorists and 129 of the hostages were killed. Most of those who died were killed by the gas rather than by bullets.

“Naturally, it is a terrible, despicable crime when, as in Munich, people are taken hostage, people are killed. But probing the motives of those responsible and showing that they are also individuals with families and have their own story does not excuse what they did.” – Steven Spielberg

“The issue of terrorism must be dealt with firmly. We must work very hard to avoid loss of life. We must work very hard to avoid civilian casualties.” – Ahmed Chalabi 

“We will fight hostage taking like we fight terrorism. “ – Ali A. Saleh

“Freeing hostages is like putting up a stage set, which you do with the captors, agreeing on each piece as you slowly put it together; then you leave an exit through which both the captor and the captive can walk with sincerity and dignity.” – Terry Waite

Also on this day:
Fore – In 1930, the first miniature golf tournament was held.
Bump! Boom! – In 1958, the Springhill mining disaster struck.

Pretty Boy

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 22, 2011

Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd

October 22, 1934: Charles Arthur Floyd is killed near East Liverpool, Ohio. Floyd was born in Adairsville, Georgia on February 3, 1904. His family moved to Oklahoma when Floyd was ten. Floyd married Lee Hargrove when he was 17 and the next year he supplemented a meager income by robbing a local post office of $3.50 in pennies. He went on to larger thefts.

By the age of 21 Floyd’s luck ran out. He was convicted of payroll robbery and sent to prison for three years. Upon his release, he vowed to never return to prison. He did not vow to give up crime. He moved to Kansas City and acquired a hated nickname as he continued with his life of crime. A paymaster described this criminal as “a pretty boy” and the name stuck.

Pretty Boy Floyd was again arrested in Sylvania, Ohio during a bank robbery gone awry. He was sentenced to 15 years, but escaped on the way to prison. He rebuilt his gang and continued to rob banks. He is said to have taken part in the Kansas City Massacre that ended with four law enforcement officers and one criminal killed. The FBI was called in to help locate “Public Enemy #1.” It is unknown exactly how many banks Floyd robbed. He was “credited” with far more than he was responsible for. His legend grew as did the reward for his capture.

Floyd, Beulah and Rose Baird, and Adam Richetti decided to return to Oklahoma. They purchased a car and began the trip west with Floyd driving. He ran into a tree and the women took the car into town for repairs. Policed alerted the FBI and Richetti was captured first. In 1984, Chester Smith, the sharpshooter who wounded Floyd, claimed that Melvin Purvis, leader of the FBI contingency, questioned Floyd briefly and then shot him at point blank range. This controversial statement has not been verified or proven. Pretty Boy Floyd died about 15 minutes after the first shot, before reaching the hospital.

“Every crime in Oklahoma was added to his name.” – Woody Guthrie’s song about Pretty Boy Floyd

“A bank robber in Los Angeles told the clerk not to give him cash, but to deposit the money in his checking account.” – Bill Bryson

“There’s just more targets out there for bank robbers to hit.” – Frank Bochte

“There’s been quite a few serial bank robbers. But there are now none that haven’t been caught.” – Ricky Roll

Also on this day:
When the World Was New – In 4004 BC, the world was created – according to the math.
Where Is He? – In 1844, Jesus Christ did not return to Earth.