Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 30, 2011

Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis) skeleton

November 30, 1974: Lucy (Australopithecus) is discovered in the Middle Awash of the Ethiopian Afar Depression. Her scientific designation is AL-288-1 and she is a 40% complete skeleton who lived about 3.2 million years ago. Maurice Taieb found the Hadar Formation in 1972 and then formed the International Afar Research Expedition in order to search the area. He invited Donald Johanson from Arizona State University and Yves Coppens from Collège de France to help run the expeditions.

Four Americans and seven Frenchmen searched for fossils and artifacts around Hadar, Ethiopia in November of 1973 and found some bones that showed that the owner had been used to walking in an upright, hominid manner. The bones were more than 3 million years old. They returned the next year and worked a site about 1.5 miles from the previous year’s dig. They found Lucy, so named because The Beatle’s song, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was played over and over while the scientists unearthed the fossils.

Australopithecus is thought to be the last common ancestor to both humans and chimpanzees and lived 3.9-3 million years ago. More fossils and artifacts have been found since the 1970s, but none as complete as Lucy. Johanson and Lucy returned to Cleveland,Ohio after the dig was completed. After nine years of further study, Lucy returned to Africa where she is preserved at the National Museum of Ethiopia at Addis Ababa. A plaster cast of the fossils is on display at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

Australopithecus afarensis is a species that falls into two categories, early and late. The first afarensis group is found at Laetoli and Belohdelie and dates from 3.9-3.5 million years ago. The second group is from Hadar and Maka and dates from 3.5-2.96 million years ago. Both early and late afarensis were bipedal. This is surmised from both bone structure and fossilized footprints. Dentition (teeth) and post-crania (skull) show links to an evolutionary path that are important to scientists.

“If you believe in evolution you can trace all of our lower back problems to the time when the first hominid stood erect.” – Dr. Hugo A. Keim

“If we are going to teach creation science as an alternative to evolution, then we should also teach the stork theory as an alternative to biological reproduction.” – Judith Hayes

“Evolution is not a force but a process. Not a cause but a law.” – John Morley

“My theory of evolution is that Darwin was adopted.” – Stephen Wright

Also on this day:
I’ll Take Television for $200, Alex – In 2004, Ken Jennings finally lost at Jeopardy! after winning over $2.5 million.
100 Miles Per Hour – In 1934, the Flying Scotsman reached a speed of 100 mph.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 29, 2011

Woodcut of the Zong Massacre

November 29, 1781: The Zong Massacre takes place. At the time, it was known as “The Zong Affair” rather than being labeled a massacre. Those who used the term “massacre” were thought to be “dangerous radicals” of the era. The Zong was a British ship owned by James Gregson. On this day, much of his “cargo” was destroyed. The Zong was carrying Africans captured to be sold as slaves.

The ship was originally Dutch and was called Zorg, but when the British captured her, she was renamed. She sailed from Liverpool and took on more slaves than she could comfortably handle. She sailed from Africa, heading for Jamaica on September 29, 1781. There was not enough food aboard and the Africans were crowded together. Due to malnutrition and overcrowding, death ran rampant aboard ship. Seven of the crew and approximately sixty of the slaves had died by this date. The trip was taking longer than expected due to bad sailing conditions.

Captain Luke Collingwood had so many sick slaves below decks that he was faced with an economic problem. If he delivered these sickly, weakened specimens and they died on shore, the company would be without funds from the sale of slaves. However, he reasoned that if the slaves were killed at sea, the insurance company would pay the jettison clause of £30 per head. The captain and crew decided to throw the sick overboard. On this day, the first 54 were sent over the rails. On the next two days, 42 and 26 more were sent to their watery graves.

The ship’s owners filed a claim with their insurance company, but the claim was disputed. Although it had been asserted that the slaves were thrown overboard because there wasn’t enough water, there had been water and Jamaica was near. The case was brought to the court system when the insurers failed to pay. The courts found that the ship-owners could did not have a legal claim against their insurers. Even so, no one on the ship was ever prosecuted for the murder of 133 Africans who were being transported against their wills.

“Americans are so enamored of equality that they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom.” – Alexis de Tocqueville

“And who is responsible for this appalling child slavery? Everyone.” – Mary Harris Jones

“Death is better than slavery.” – Harriet Ann Jacobs

“Freedom means you are unobstructed in living your life as you choose. Anything less is a form of slavery.” – Wayne Dyer

Also on this day:
Warren Commission formed – In 1963 the Warren Commission was formed to investigate President Kennedy’s assassination.
Phonetic – In 1877, Thomas Edison demonstrated his phonograph.

Hot Off the Presses

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 28, 2011

Steam-powered printing press

November 28, 1814: The London Times is printed using a steam-powered press for the first time. This made newspapers cheaper and with a greater ability to be mass-produced. The German inventors, Friedrich Koenig and Andreas Bauer, were working on their steam-powered press in London. John Walter of The Times was interested in the new machine. It was tested in secret so as to not upset the pressmen who were working at the paper. When it was found to be satisfactory, The Times produced their product with the new technology.

Newspapers, by definition, carry news. They also contain information that might not be considered “news” and advertisements to help with the cost of production. The first daily sheet we know of is Acta Diurna (Daily Events) that Julius Caesar had posted around Rome in 59 BC. The earliest printed papers came from Beijing, China in 748.

Johannes Gutenberg brought us the printing press in 1451 which made mass production easier. The first German newspaper was brought to market in 1502 while the first English language paper was available by 1513. In 1609 the first regularly published paper was in print in Europe, Germany’s Avisa Relation oder Zeitung. The first paper in North America was published in Boston in 1690. With rising literacy rates, the numbers of different papers printed, and the numbers of the papers sold both increased.

Today, 75% of the 100 best-selling papers are printed in Asia. In 2005 China had the greatest total circulation with 93.5 million papers sold per day. India was next with 78.9 million per day while Japan sold 70.4 million per day. The US was next with a marked drop to 48.3 million per day. Yomiuri Shimbun, Asahi Shimbun, and Mainichi Shimbun, all from Japan, are the best-selling papers in the world. Germany’s Bild is the only non-Asian paper in the top ten best seller list. The lists of circulation records are for paid circulation, which is what advertisement fees are based upon. The numbers do not include online portals and the number of hits these papers receive with their non-print versions.

“Newspapers:  dead trees with information smeared on them.” – Horizon, “Electronic Frontier”

“Histories are a kind of distilled newspapers.” – Thomas Carlyle

“The evil that men do lives on the front pages of greedy newspapers, but the good is oft interred apathetically inside.” – Brooks Atkinson

“Trying to determine what is going on in the world by reading newspapers is like trying to tell the time by watching the second hand of a clock.” – Ben Hecht

Also on this day:
The Pitch Experiment – In 2000, the eighth drop in the 73-year-old Pitch Experiment drops.
Night Life & Death – In 1942, the Cocoanut Grove burned.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 27, 2011

American Statistical Association logo

November 27, 1839: The American Statistical Association (ASA) is formed in Boston, Massachusetts. It is the second oldest continually operating professional society in the US. A meeting held at the American Education Society found five influential men wanting a new organization to help further statistical science. Richard Fletcher was elected the first President and Lemuel Shattuck was named the first Secretary. The latter was the driving force behind the young society.

At the first annual meeting held in February 1840, the name of the Society changed to the Association designation and it has remained as such since that time. There have been many distinguished people who belonged to the group. Florence Nightingale, Alexander Graham Bell, Herman Hollerith, Andrew Carnegie, and Martin Van Buren were all members at one time.

Since the beginning, the ASA has had a close relationship with the US government and especially the US Bureau of the Census. In 1844, the ASA petitioned for a revision of the Sixth Census to generate more accurate data. Many of the early Censuses were led by members of the ASA. In fact, the first permanent director of the census office was S.N.D. North, the sixth president of the ASA. The current director, Robert Groves, is also an ASA member.

The ASA’s mission is six-fold. They 1) support excellence in statistical practice, research, journals, and meetings. 2) work for improvement of statistical education at all levels. 3) promote the proper application of statistics. 4) anticipate and meet member needs 5) use the discipline of statistics to enhance human welfare. and 6) seek opportunities to advance the statistical profession.

There are currently about 18,000 members in the ASA. Many of them can be found in government, education, and the private sector. The ASA is involved in a variety of projects throughout the US and in 90 countries where they are active. They wish to provide a path to improvement in the sciences, ranging from biological to socio-economic to the physical sciences. They are guided by ethical guidelines addressing eight topic areas. They publish a variety of journals, magazines, and books along with conference proceedings – all to keep their membership and the world at large informed.

“An unsophisticated forecaster uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts – for support rather than for illumination.” – Andrew Lang

“Be able to analyze statistics, which can be used to support or undercut almost any argument.” – Marilyn vos Savant

“Consumers are statistics. Customers are people.” – Stanley Marcus

“Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.” – Mark Twain

Also on this day:
First Crusade – In 1095, Pope Urban II calls for European princes to rescue the Holy Lands from desecration by the infidels.
No Twinkies – In 1978, Harvey Milk and George Moscone were murdered.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 26, 2011

Howard Carter and his Egyptian find

November 26, 1922: Howard Carter and his financial backer, Lord Carnavon, peer inside KV62. Egypt’s Valley of the Kings was used for 500 years as a burial site for royalty of the 16th through 11th centuries BC. The 18th through the 20th Dynasties used this site primarily for burying their kings. It lies on the west bank of the Nile River across from Thebes (modern-day Luxor). The official name in ancient times was The Great and Majestic Necropolis of the Millions of Years of the Pharaoh, Life, Strength, Health in The West of Thebes, or more often, Ta-sekhet-ma’at (the Great Field).

The early 18th Dynasty buried only their kings in large tombs with non-royals laid to rest in small rock chambers. Some of the 18th Dynasty kings were buried at Amarna, on the east side of the river. By the end of the Dynasty, there was a return to religious orthodoxy and the west side of the river. The 19th and 20th Dynasties increased the number of people buried in the Valley of the Kings and also in the Valley of the Queens.

The site was known in ancient times as the burial grounds for kings and hence a location to plunder riches. Greek writers Strabo (1st century BC) and Diodorus Siculus (1st century AD) stated that there were 47 royal tombs in the area with 17 of them believed to have been undisturbed. Before the 1700s travel to Thebes from Europe was difficult and expensive. In fact, geography deficient Europeans often confused Thebes with Memphis.

The 1800s saw a boom in exploration of the area. In 1827 John Gardiner Wilkinson was assigned to paint the entryways to all known tombs and designated them KV1 to KV21 with the KV standing for KingsValley. More tombs were later discovered and KV62 was thought to have been undisturbed when found in 1922, but it was entered at least twice not long after the king was first buried there. It is thought that about 60% of the jewelry was stolen. Necropolis officials recovered the jewels and quickly placed them back in the tomb, often packed in the wrong cases. When Carter peered inside in 1922 he was stunned by the majesty and vast treasures hidden in King Tut’s tomb.

“Archaeology is the peeping Tom of the sciences. It is the sandbox of men who care not where they are going; they merely want to know where everyone else has been.” – Jim Bishop

“Evidence doesn’t lie. History may be accurate, but archaeology is precise.” – Doug Scott

“An archaeologist is someone whose career lies in ruins.” – unknown

“Those were the great days of excavating… anything to which a fancy was taken, from a scarab to an obelisk, was just appropriated, and if there was a difference with a brother excavator, one laid for him with a gun.” – Howard Carter

Also on this day:
Instant Camera – In 1948, Polaroid produced an instant picture camera, first sold on this day.
Puck You – In 1917, the National Hockey League was founded.

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Perfect Storm

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 25, 2011


November 25, 1703: Great Britain is hit by the worst storm ever recorded there. This Great Storm of 1703 struck Southern England and also affected the English Channel. On this day, the highest British winds ever recorded hit the books at 120 mph. The storm began the day before and didn’t totally dissipate until December 2. All dates are Old Style – the calendar used at the time. Britain did not convert to the Gregorian Calendar until 1752.

The hurricane made landfall with a barometric reading of 973 millibars as measured in South Essex. Some today believe the pressure may have dropped as low as 950 millibars. Standard pressure at sea level is 1013.25 mbar. These low readings are part of what helps a hurricane form. The low barometric reading, along with the wind speed help to determine the category of hurricane, although the lower air pressure is even more important than the speed of the wind.

In 1703, there were many ships at sea returning from helping the King of Spain fight against the French in the War of the Spanish Succession. Many of these ships were damaged or sunk. It is believed that between 8,000 and 15,000 sailors lost their lives in the storm. The first Eddystone Lighthouse was also destroyed by the storm, killing the six occupants. Not only lives were lost, but in the New Forest in the southeast part of England, 4,000 oak trees were felled.

The Thames River is affected by tides always and with the storm surge and rushing water, about 700 ships were thrown together downstream from the London Bridge. As with all hurricanes, property damage on land was also noted. The lead roof was blown off Westminster Abbey and the Queen had to hide in the cellar of St. James’s Palace as chimneys collapsed. There was flooding throughout the area. A collapsing chimney fell on Bishop Richard Kidder at Wells, and killed him and his wife. The rise of journalism was taking off in England at this time and this Great Storm was the first weather news story written about on a national scale.

“Human misery must somewhere have a stop; there is no wind that always blows a storm.” – Euripides

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.” – Rabindranath Tagore

“It is better to meet danger than to wait for it. He that is on a lee shore, and foresees a hurricane, stands out to sea and encounters a storm to avoid a shipwreck.” – Charles Caleb Colton

“There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.” – Willa Cather

Also on this day:
Trapped – In 1952, Agatha Christie’s play, The Mousetrap, is first produced – and it continues live performances to this day.
Striking Hunger – In 1984, Do They Know It’s Christmas was recorded.

Wilt the Stilt

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 24, 2011

Wilt Chamberlain making a basket

November 24, 1960: Wilt Chamberlain sets one of his world records. While playing against the Boston Celtics, the Philadelphia Warriors star player was able to amass a record 55 rebounds. This was a record for the most rebounds in a single game and was only one of the records Wilt the Stilt or The Big Dipper was able to make. He broke more than 70 records during his 14-year career. During that time, Chamberlain scored 31,419 points. The only person to break more records was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who played six years longer than Chamberlain.

Wilt remains the only NBA player to have reached the three digit score in a single game. He set that record on March 2, 1962. There have been others who have broken this record in high school, collegiate, or international games. There is a record of a 15-year-old Swedish boy, Mats Wermelin, who was playing during a regional tournament in Stockholm. He made 272 points with the final score of the game 272-0.

Chamberlain was born in Philadelphia on August 21, 1936. He reached a height of 7 feet 1 inch. During his high school years, he scored averages of 30+ points per game but did manage to score as high as 90 points in one game during his last year of play for Overbrook. He had over 200 colleges trying to get him to play for them due to his 2,252 points scored during his high school years. He played for the Kansas Jayhawks and scored 52 points during his debut game.

He went on to play with the Harlem Globetrotters (1958-59) and then played with the Warriors (1959-65). He moved on to the Philadelphia 76ers (1965-68), then the Los Angeles Lakers (1968-73), finishing his basketball career as a player/coach for the San Diego Conquistadors. He left basketball for the business world and was successful in a number of ventures. He had a history of heart problems and a week after some dental surgery, he died on October 12, 1999 in Bel-Air, California at the age of 62.

“I believe that good things come to those who work.”

“If you have ability in a certain area, why not capitalize on it and improve it and use it?”

“You must understand as a kid of color in those days, the Harlem Globetrotters were like being movie stars.”

“I couldn’t have come close without my teammates’ help because the Knicks didn’t want me to make 100.” – all from Wilt Chamberlain

Also on this day:
Little Jamie – in 1993, James Bulger’s murderers are found guilty.
Jump to Nowhere – In 1971, Dan Cooper jumped from a plane and was never seen again.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 23, 2011

EgyptAir Flight 648

November 23, 1985: EgyptAir Flight 648 is hijacked en route from Athens to Cairo. Three Palestinians from the Abu Nidel Organization calling themselves the Egypt Revolution took control of the plane ten minutes after take off. They were armed with guns and grenades. The plan was to head for Libya but that did not work out. Instead, the tiny island nation of Malta was chosen as a landing site.Maltarefused permission to land. However, the plane was low on fuel, was having problems with pressurization, and there were already wounded passengers on board. The hijackers forced the pilot to land.

Prime Minister Dr. Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici went immediately to the airport to handle negotiations. He refused to refuel the plane or withdraw armed forces from the area. Initially, 11 wounded passengers and two wounded crew were released. Omar Rezaq, the man in charge of the hijacking, began shooting passengers. He stated he would shoot one every fifteen minutes. He began with two Israelis and then shot another three Americans. Only two of them died.

The crisis dragged on for days. The Maltese government refused offers of help from all outside forces. The US Naval station was only 20 minutes away and the Egyptians had a US Delta Force trained group ready to assist. Negotiations continued and a plan was formed. Liberation forces were to disguise themselves as the caterers bringing food to the plane on November 25. Instead, 1.5 hours early, Egyptian forces stormed the plane.

It is unknown if it was the smoke from the Egyptians attacking the outside of the plane or hand grenades thrown by the hijackers inside the plane, but 56 of the remaining 88 passengers, two crew members, and one terrorist were killed in the raid. Omar Rezaq survived but was injured. He was arrested at the hospital. He was found guilty in Malta and given a 25 year sentence, of which he served 8 years. He assumed a new identity but was found in Nigeria and arrested there by the FBI. He was brought to the US where he was again found guilty and put back in prison, where he remains.

“The world is divided into two classes, those who believe the incredible, and those who do the improbable.” – Oscar Wilde

“I would rather lose in a cause that I know some day will triumph than to triumph in a cause that I know some day will fail.” – Wendell L. Wilkie

“Trying is the first step toward failure.” – Homer Simpson

“You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.” – Beverly Sills

Also on this day:
Healthy Hearts – In 1964, the first coronary bypass graft surgery was performed by Dr. Michael DeBakey.
Censorship – In 1644, John Milton wrote about freedom of the press.

China Clipper

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 22, 2011

China Clipper

November 22, 1935: The China Clipper takes off for its first commercial flight. Also designated by NC14716, the Martin M-130 four engine flying boat was built for Pan American Airways to be used for transpacific air service. There were three built at a cost of $417,000 each. They were meant to fly between San Francisco and Manila, delivering air mail.

On this date, the plane left from Alameda, California. This was the first attempt to deliver air mail across the Pacific Ocean. The flight started out dangerously when a flyby over the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge (still under construction) had to be aborted. The pilot realized he did not have the altitude to clear the bridge and had to fly under it instead. Even with this ignominious beginning, the plane finally made it to the destination. It landed in Manila on November 29 and delivered over 110,000 pieces of mail.

For this initial flight, the pilot was Edwin C. Musick and the navigator was Fred Noonan. The departure point in Alameda is California Historical Landmark #968. Today it is located in the Naval Air Station Alameda. This event was a first and was important to both California, the jumping off point, and the world at large. The dissemination of information was quickened by this method of delivery.

Pan Am service kept China Clipper in service until January 8, 1945. On that date, it was destroyed in a crash in Port of Spain. Port of Spain is the capital of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. While flying in the Caribbean, it was reported the ship hit a boat under blackout conditions (this was during World War II). There were 16 passengers and 9 crew aboard who were killed in the crash. On a second approach to land, it came in too low. It is also reported that it merely hit the water rather than a dark ship. Either way, it sank quickly. Seven of those on board were able to survive the crash. The flight had left from Miami, Florida and was headed to the Belgian Congo. The plane had stopped in Puerto Rico and flew on to Port of Spain.

“When [pilot Edwin Musick] finally got airborne he was right on the [Bay] bridge and there was no way he’d be able to get over it. So, to everyone’s amazement, he just coolly flew under it, dodging some hanging construction materials in the process.” – Kin Robles

“Discourse is fleeting, but junk mail is forever.” – Joe Bob Briggs

“Gentlemen don’t read each other’s mail.” – Henry L. Stimson

“I am not overlooking any mail. I’m looking at all of it. I even wrote back to the Viagra people.” – Randy Newman

Also on this day:
Blackbeard – In 1718, Blackbeard the Pirate (alias for Edward Teach) was tracked down and killed.
10 – In 1928, Ravel’s Bolero was first performed.

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Senator Rebecca

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 21, 2011

Rebecca Latimer Felton

November 21, 1922: Rebecca Latimer Felton becomes the first female United States Senator. The Honorable Senator Thomas E. Watson from Georgia died and his seat was vacant. The governor of Georgia wished to run for the vacated seat. Thomas W. Hardwick had voted against the 19th Amendment (women’s suffrage) and needed to placate the newly minted women voters. He nominated Rebecca Felton to take the vacated seat, knowing that there would be no sessions before the elections. Instead, Walter F. George won the elections and graciously permitted Ms Felton to take the oath of office for one day before assuming his seat.

Rebecca Latimer was a writer, teacher, and activist. She was a graduate of Madison Female College in 1852. She was a reformer concerned with agriculture, women’s suffrage, temperance, and segregation. She married William Harrell Felton, a Methodist minister and politician. She served as his secretary when he served in the US House of Representatives from 1875-1881 and the Georgia House of Representatives from 1886-1892. She was 87-years-old when she served in the Senate for a day, the oldest freshman Senator. She was the first woman and the only woman from Georgia.

In 2011, there are 17 women serving in the Senate with a total of 38 women having seats since Ms Felton first took office. The next woman to grace the Senate was Hattie Wyatt Caraway who was a Senator from 1931-1945. Twenty-five of the women in the Senate have been elected rather than appointed. The longest term for a woman was Margaret Chase Smith’s 24 years from 1949-1973. There have been 13 Republican and 25 Democrat female Senators.

The Senate is one of two chambers of the bicameral US Congress. There are two members from each state serving six-year terms. The elections are staggered so that one-third of the body is elected every two years. The Vice President of the US is the President of the Senate. He sits in only on important debates and only votes on issues to break a tie. To be a Senator, one must be at least 30 years old, have been a US citizen for at least nine years, and reside in the state from which one is running.

“When the women of the country come in and sit with you, though there may be but very few in the next few years, I pledge you that you will get ability, you will get integrity of purpose, you will get exalted patriotism, and you will get unstinted usefulness.” – Rebecca Latimer Felton in Address to the Senate

“If you are going to sin, sin against God, not the bureaucracy. God will forgive you but the bureaucracy won’t.” – Admiral Hyman G. Rickover

“It is not who governs, but what government is entitled to do, that is the essential problem.” – Charles G. Bragg

“What we anticipate seldom occurs, what we least expected generally happens.” – Benjamin Disraeli

Also on this day:
Missing Link – In 1953, the Piltdown Man was declared a hoax.
North, to Alaska – In 1942, the Alaskan Highway’s completion was celebrated.