Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 21, 2012

USS Constitution

July 21, 1997: The USS Constitution makes her maiden voyage, again. The ship was named by President George Washington. She is the oldest commissioned naval vessel still plying the seas. She was one of the six original frigates built after the passage of the Naval Act of 1794. She was a wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate and was under the flag of the US Navy. The six ships were designed by Joshua Humphreys and were the new nation’s capital ships. They were, therefore, built larger and with heavier armament than was usual. Her first maiden voyage was on July 22, 1798.

The USS Constitution was used famously during the War of 1812. Once again fighting against Great Britain, the Constitution captured many merchant ships and defeated five British warships. The HMS Guerrier, Java, Pictou, Cyane, and Levant all lost to the boat nicknamed “Old Ironsides.” The public was enamored with the great ship and this adulation kept her from the scrap heap several times over the years. She actively served as a flagship in the Mediterranean and African squadrons during the 1840s. During the American Civil War, she was a training vessel at the US Naval Academy.

After her work career was over, she became a goodwill ambassador. The ship was displayed during the Paris Exposition of 1878 as her last act in service. She went on to become a receiving ship and then was designated a museum ship in 1907. In 1931 the USS Constitution began a three-year, 90 port tour of the nation. After the tour, she was docked in Boston and received about 100,000 visitors per year. A small crew was installed to watch over the venerable ship. During a hurricane in 1938, she was blown from the harbor and collided with another ship, sustaining only minor damage.

By 1970 it was evident Old Ironsides was getting older and needed some repair work. Commander Tyrone G. Martin took over as Captain and all restoration work was mandated to conform to the original standards of the 1812 configuration, when the ship had gained her original status and glory. The ship entered dry dock in 1992 for minor repairs. Instead, a major overhaul was undertaken. Using radiography and scans to look for hidden problems, it was obvious much work was needed. The most difficult part of the project was securing the proper wood in the proper sizes. All was accomplished and on July 21, 1997 she gracefully slipped from her berth, and once again set sail, 199 years after she first sailed. It was the first time in 116 years she had sailed 6 knots (6.9 mph) and it was the first time since 1934 she was out overnight.

USS Constitution, the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat, promotes the United States Navy and America’s naval heritage through educational outreach, public access and historic demonstrations, in port and underway.

At the outset of the War of 1812, USS Constitution had already won all of her engagements in two wars: the Quasi War with France (1798-1801) and the Barbary Wars (1801-1805).

Throughout the next four decades following the War of 1812, USS Constitution secured numerous bloodless victories until she was taken out of active service in 1855.

In the course of this 35-minute battle (against HMS Guerriere), an astonished sailor observed British 18-lb. iron cannonballs, bouncing harmlessly off USS Constitution‘s 25-inch oak hull, and he cried out, Huzza! Her sides are made of iron! Henceforth, USS Constitution carried the nickname ‘Old Ironsides.’ – all from the USS Constitution official website

Also on this day:

Brrrrrrr – In 1983, the coldest recorded temperature is captured at Vostok Station.
Destruction – In 356 BC, the Temple of Artemis was destroyed.
Wild Bill Hickok – In 1865, the first shoot out in the wild west took place.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 20, 2012

Eunice Kennedy Shriver and 1968 special olympics

July 20, 1968: Eunice Kennedy Shriver launches the Special Olympic games. Eunice was the sister of John, Edward (Ted), and Robert Kennedy. Their sister, Rosemary, was severely and permanently intellectually impaired after a lobotomy. Eunice was married to Robert Shriver, a US Ambassador to France and founder of the Peace Corps. Their daughter, Maria, was married to then-governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The couple divorced in 2011; they have four children.

In 1962 Eunice started a day camp for intellectually impaired children. Camp Shriver was located at her home in Potomac, Maryland. The goal was to provide a safe environment for children to participate in physical activities as well as to compete with their peers. Camp Shriver was sponsored by the Kennedy Foundation where she was the Executive Vice President. The Foundation also gave grants to universities, recreation departments, and community centers to hold similar events. Anne McGlone Burke was a physical education teacher with the Chicago Park District. She wanted to create a one-time event for an Olympic-style competition for people with special needs. She approached Shriver and was given a grant for $25,000.

The first Special Olympics was held at Soldier Field in Chicago. There were attendees from 26 US states and Canada. The children competed in a variety of track and field events as well as in swimming activities. The underclasses have always had to fight for permission to be included in the world at large. Women were kept from participating in Olympic track and field competitions until 1928. African-Americans were excluded from major sport leagues until Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947. Everyone wants to be seen as a valuable person with full rights to participate. Shriver took the one-time event from Soldier Field and turned it into an annual event and the Special Olympics were born.

The first International Special Olympics Winter Games were held in February 1977. Steamboat Springs, Colorado was the hosting city. In 1988 the Special Olympics were recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and is the only sport organization authorized by the IOC to use the term “Olympics” in the title. In 2003, the Summer Games were held outside the US for the first time when Dublin, Ireland hosted them. On October 30, 2004, President George W. Bush signed the “Special Olympics Sport and Empowerment Act” into law. Public Law 108-406 provides funding for the games.

There’s not much of anything he hasn’t tried. He can’t read or write, but he sure does enjoy his sports. Keeping him in Special Olympics is part of his life. It’s such a good outlet for kids like this. – Carol Barth

The Special Olympics is for anyone ages 8 to 99 and it’s not too late for them to turn in their entry form. – Connie Thomason

Volunteers are the backbone of Special Olympics. There are a variety of ways you can help out. – Mike Sutton

When you coach different sports, you have to deal with athletes and parents. But with the Special Olympics, these kids are just glad to be out here and play sports. – Freddie Taylor

Also on this day:

One Small Step – In 1969, Neil Armstrong steps out of the Eagle and walks on the moon.
Dethroned – In 1984, Vanessa Williams was asked to step down as Miss America.
Women’s Army Corps – In 1942, the Women’s Army Corps begins training.

Raining Rocks

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 19, 2012

July 19, 1912: Holbrook, ArizonaHolbrook, Arizona is pelted with rocks from the sky. The community in eastern-central Arizona grew up around railroad tracks laid down in 1881-2 and became the county seat of Navajo County in 1895. The city was incorporated in 1917 and today has a population of about 5,100. On this day, a trail of smoke appeared in the sky and a 425 pound (estimated mass) meteorite exploded over the town. It was estimated more than 16,000 stones fell from the sky with the largest weighing 14.5 pounds and the smallest recovered piece weighing in at 0.1 grams or 0.0035 ounces.

A meteorite is a piece of space debris that survived a crash to Earth. While out in space, these chunks of metals, stone, and other elements are called meteoroids. Most of these disintegrate as they pass through the atmosphere. There are an estimated 500 meteorites reaching the surface of the planet each year. They generally range in size from a marble to a basketball. Most go unwitnessed and simply blend in with the landscape. About 5-6 are recovered for scientific study yearly. A few of these rocky chunks are large enough to leave impact craters when they hit.

The largest discovered meteorite found in the US was located in Oregon. It is the sixth largest in the world and weighed about 32,000 pounds or 15.5 tons. Called the Willamette Meteorite, it was found in 1902 and measures about 10 feet tall, 6.5 feet wide, and 4.25 feet deep. It is severely pitted which is thought to have occurred both during the wild ride through the atmosphere and due to weathering while on Earth. It is an iron-nickel meteorite and possibly landed in Canada and was moved by ice sheets. It is on display at the American Museum of Natural History.

Scientists are trying to classify these objects. They wish to find if the debris came from a common origin, but at the present time, this goal is beyond their reach. We simply don’t know enough about other bodies circling our home star. Meteorites are divided into several groups. Chondrites, or stony meteorites, are further divided into subgroups or classes. Another group of meteorites are the iron based debris while still others are a mixture of iron and stone. There are also anomalous meteorites which don’t perfectly fit into the current classes and ungrouped ones that don’t fit into any group at all. There are 1,086 witnessed falls with specimens in the world’s collections. There are, however, over 38,660 well-documented meteorite finds as well.

The first question concerning the Celestial Bodies is whether there be a system, that is whether the world or universe compose together one globe, with a center, or whether the particular globes of earth and stars be scattered dispersedly, each on its own roots, without any system or common center. – Francis Bacon

Bright points in the sky or a blow on the head will equally cause one to see stars. – Percival Lowell

I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night. – Sarah Williams

Cosmology is serious business and in our hearts we are nothing if not cosmologists, hanging in a cold cage sifting the ruthless jewels of existence. – Dennis Overbye

Also on this day:

Tennis, Anyone? – In 1877, Wimbledon championships are first held.
SS Great Britain – In 1843, the largest sailing vessel in the world was launched.
First Teacher – In 1985, Christa McAuliffe was selected to be the first teacher in space.

Dent Blanche

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 18, 2012

Dent Blanche

July 18, 1862: The first ascent of Dent Blanche is made. Dent Blanche is one of the highest mountain in the Pennine Alps and lies in Switzerland. It is 14,291 feet high. Close by this mountain is Dent d’Hérens, covered with a glacier. Dent Blanche was probably first called Dent d’Hérens as it actually does overlook Val d’Hérens. In the 1842 Woerl Atlas, Blanche was listed as Dent Noire (Black Tooth). The mountain holds much less snow and the black rock underneath shows through, hence the name. It is the converging point of three ridges with three separate valleys separating them.

Dent Blanche has four steep faces over four glaciers. The easiest route was the one used for this first summit. The south ridge, called Wandfluegrat, is used most frequently today. On July 12, T.S. Kennedy tried to climb the east face of the yet unclimbed Matterhorn. The climb used guide Peter Taugwalder. After a minor accident, Taugwalder refused to climb higher. Instead Kennedy and William Wigram, along with Jean-Baptiste Croz and Johann Kronig as guides, ascended this peak reaching the top on this date. Each of the four faces of Dent Blanche can be climbed, and each has a different rating for difficulty. Even though the south face is the easiest, it is difficult enough that an official website claims it is “not a climb for everybody.”

The history of mountaineering covers millennia. Ötzi was discovered frozen in the ice of the Alps at around 9,850 feet elevation. His remains were found preserved in a glacier and were dated to about 5,300 years ago. We are unsure if he was trying to reach the summit or was on some other mission. The first recorded ascent of the modern era came in 121 when Roman Emperor Hadrian climbed Mount Etna (10,919 feet) to watch a sunrise. The first ascent in the Pyrenees was toward the end of the 13th century when Peter III of Aragon climbed Canigou (9,137 feet).

Today, mountain climbing has become a popular sport. While the Alps, where much of the modern sport began, are no longer the challenge they once were, they are still a popular place to climb. In North America, the Rockies, Cascades, and the peaks of Alaska are sought out. In South America, the Andes are the high ground. Asia has the Himalaya, Pamirs, and Tien Shan mountain ranges. Many places offer “package holidays” to accommodate the enthusiasts who wish to scale the peaks and look out over incredible scenery, regardless of the risks involved.

What an odd sport we inhabit, where bits of obscure rock in remote locations are recognizable. – Richard Pawlowicz

Just a reminder — a guidebook is no substitute for skill, experience, judgment and lots of tension. – Charlie Fowler

Climbing may be hard, but it’s easier than growing up. – Ed Sklar

Some of the world’s greatest feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to know they were impossible. – Doug Lawson

Also on this day:

Perfect – In 1976, Nadia Comaneci received the first perfect score at the Olympics.|
Manifesto – In 1925, Hitler’s Mein Kampf was published.
Nero Fiddles? – In 64 AD, Rome burns.

Martyrs of Compiègne

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 17, 2012

Martyrs of Compiègne

July 17, 1794: Sixteen women become Martyrs of Compiègne. The women were members of the Carmelite order, a religious group of the Roman Catholic Church founded in 1155. They were convicted of crimes against the state during the Reign of Terror led by Maximilien Robespierre. There were eleven Choir Nuns, three Lay Sisters, and two servants at the priory. They were guillotined at the Place du Trône Renversé just ten days before the end of The Terror. They were led by Mother Teresa of St. Augustine. The youngest of the women was 30 while the oldest was 79. They were buried in a common grave at the Picpus Cemetery.

The French Revolution led to a period of intense violence throughout France. There were two political factions, the Girondins and the Jacobins. The Jacobins rose in power and were led by the paranoid or power hungry Robespierre, who instituted mass killings of “enemies of the revolution.” There are no accurate records of the numbers of “enemies” but it has been surmised between 16,000 and 40,000 were placed under the blade of the National Razor. King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette both fell to the blade along with a great many of their countrymen and women.

The Reign of Terror lasted from June 27, 1793 until July 27, 1794. The Martyrs of Compiègne almost survived the horror of the times. Instead they have become the topic of many current works. They were beatified by Pope Pius X in 1906. Their gravesite is now marked by a single cross, however the remains of 1,306 victims of the guillotine are buried in the same location. They are venerated in the Catholic Church and are said to have worked miracles in the late 19th century – more than 100 years after their deaths.

Robespierre led the Reign of Terror and destroyed many of his enemies. However, he began to disagree with others in leadership roles within the Jacobin group. Infighting caused a disruption in the flow of power. Some of the leaders opposed to Robespierre found themselves listed as enemies and fell under the dropping blade. As his grip on power lessened, he increased the fury of his executions, killing off any who disagreed with him. This further incensed a growing faction of disillusioned followers. Robespierre was arrested on July 27, essentially ending the Reign of Terror. He tried to kill himself, shooting himself in the jaw. It was not a mortal wound. Robespierre was brought to the guillotine on July 28, 1794 and executed, face up rather than facing away from the blade. He was 36.

It is not the punishment but the cause that makes the martyr. – Saint Augustine

It is the cause, not the death, that makes the martyr. – Napoleon Bonaparte

Let us all be brave enough to die the death of a martyr, but let no one lust for martyrdom. – Mohandas Gandhi

One, with God, is always a majority, but many a martyr has been burned at the stake while the votes were being counted. – Thomas Reed

Also on this day:

Whoops! – In 1939, Douglas Corrigan takes off in the wrong direction.
M-I-C-K-E-Y – In 1955, Disneyland opened in Anaheim, California.
Five and Dime – In 1997, Woolworth closed.

Lovely Rita

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 16, 2012

First parking meter design

July 16, 1935: Oklahoma City is home to the world’s first parking meter. A parking meter is a device used to collect a fee in return for the right to park for a set amount of time. They are usually used to regulate on-street parking in cities and help regulate traffic and control mobility issues. Publisher and lawyer Carl Magee invented a parking meter to help ease congestion in Oklahoma City. He filed his patent for the device on May 13, 1935 and was granted patent #2,118,318 on May 24, 1938. This date saw the first installation of the device. It was met with mixed reviews by the people of Oklahoma City.

Early models included a coin acceptor, a dial to engage the mechanism, and a pointer and flag to alert the user to the amount of time purchased or remaining. The basic model remained in use for over forty years with only a few changes to the exterior design. A few modifications like a dual headed stand and different materials were all the changes made. The use of the meters spread and by 1960, New York City hired the first crew of “meter maids.” Everyone on the crew was female until 1967, when the first male was hired. Their job was to enforce usage of the meters.

In the mid-1980s a digital version of the parking meter was introduced with electronic components, keyboards, and displays. These allowed for more flexibility. Before the end of the century, millions of parking meters had been sold but the need for a new system was already evident. Many areas have switched to collective pay and display machines and some use electronic money and communication devices. Because they are outdoors, the meters have always been susceptible to damage from the elements. They have also always been targets of vandals.

They were seen as interfering with parking privileges as well as predatory ways to collect money. Meters have often been challenged in court but are considered legal if they are used to regulate parking and not as a revenue source. The courts have answered that the meters are legal if the street on which they are located are used by enough traffic to warrant some control over the parking of vehicles in order to maintain traffic patterns and normal flow. It was also stated cities could not make “inordinate and unjustified profits by means of parking meters.”

I don’t even know how to use a parking meter, let alone a phone box. – Princess Diana

If you have never said ‘Excuse me’ to a parking meter or bashed your shins on a fireplug, you are probably wasting too much valuable reading time. – Sherri Chasin Calvo

A real patriot is the fellow who gets a parking ticket and rejoices that the system works. – Bill Vaughan

When Solomon said there was a time and a place for everything he had not encountered the problem of parking his automobile. – Bob Edwards

Also on this day:

Phony – In 1951, The Catcher in the Rye is published.
Calendars – In 622, the Islamic calendar began.
No Kissing – In 1451, King Henry VI bans kissing.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 15, 2012

Mozilla Foundation

July 15, 2003: AOL Time Warner jettison Netscape Communications Corporation and begins the Mozilla Foundation. The foundation is a non-profit with the mission of providing leadership for the open source Mozilla project. The foundation sets the policies used to govern development, guide the infrastructure, and control trademarks and other intellectual property of the brand. There are two taxable for-profit subsidiaries of the foundation, the Mozilla Corp. and Mozilla Messaging, Inc. The first is in charge of the Firefox web browser, while the second is tasked with maintaining the Thunderbird e-mail client.

The foundation is located in Silicon Valley in Mountain View, California. Open source coding of software means that access of the product’s source materials (usually the source code) is open to the public. As time moved on, there was a need to retool much of the older works, by keeping the source code open for all, there were more people working to improve and bring products forward through the multiple generations or releases of the end product. The results are seen as a collaborative effort and hence hold a better chance to meet the needs of the end users.

Before the Mozilla Foundation came into being, there were years of prior projects. was founded by Netscape and launched on February 23, 1998. Netscape Communications began in 1994 and was once the dominant browser in terms of users. They lost market share to Internet Explore. In the mid-1990s they held 90% of the market and by 2006 their users numbers less than 1% of the market. It was Netscape that developed Secure Sockets Layer Protocols (SSL) for secure online communication. America Online acquired Netscape in 1999.

Mozilla Foundation was begun with a $2 million start-up fund from AOL’s Netscape division. Mitch Kapor was the first head of the board of directors. Today, Mitchell Baker is the Chairman of the Board. Firefox, the open source web browser created by the Mozilla Corporation, hit the markets on November 9, 2004. Today, Firefox holds approximately 20% of the market share for browser use. Internet Explore still hold the lead with about 54% of the market and Chrome (by Google) has about 20%, Safari (Apple) has about 5% and Opera holds 2% of the market. There are a few proprietary or undetectable browsers completing the picture.

The Internet ‘browser’… is the piece of software that puts a message on your computer screen informing you that the Internet is currently busy and you should try again later. – Dave Barry

Anyone who slaps a ‘this page is best viewed with Browser X’ label on a Web page appears to be yearning for the bad old days, before the Web, when you had very little chance of reading a document written on another computer, another word processor, or another network. – Tim Berners-Lee

We found a way to make things look great to the human eye through the window of a graphical web browser without worrying about what everything looked like under the hood. – Mike Davidson

What we now call the browser is whatever defines the web. What fits in the browser is the World Wide Web and a number of trivial standards to handle that so that the content comes. – Ted Nelson

Also on this day:

What Does it Say? – In 1799, the Rosetta Stone is discovered.
Vast Wasteland – In 1976, the term “couch potato” was first used.
Pacific Aero Products – In 1916, the company that would become Boeing was incorporated.

Alta, California

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 14, 2012

Mission San Antonio de Padua

July 14, 1771: The Mission San Antonio de Padua is founded. It was the third mission established in Alta, California by Father Presidente Junípero Serra. The lands included in Alta or Upper California are today part of California and Nevada. Spain separated the Dominican Missions from the Franciscan Missions in 1769. The area’s boundaries were hazy and possibly included parts of modern day Utah, Arizona, and Colorado. The Dominicans retained control in what is today Mexico. The first Franciscan mission was in San Diego and founded in 1769. The Catholic Spaniards continued to expand northward.

San Antonio de Padua is located in Monterey County, California. The mission was the first in Alta California to use fired-tile roofing. The baked brick mission was built under Fathers Miguel Pieras and Buenaventura Sitjar who remained after Father Serra left the area. The church itself was not built until 1810. By that time, 178 indigenous people were living at the mission. The population rose to 1,300 Native Americans but after secularization, laws were passed in 1834 and the number dropped to 150. No town grew up around the mission as was true of others built around that time. Today King City, nearly 30 miles away, is the closest city.

Junípero Serra was born in Majorca, Spain in 1713. He entered the Order of Friars Minor in 1730. At that time, he changed his name to Junípero to honor a former Franciscan. He excelled at his studies in Spain. He came to North America, first to Mexico City, and then traveled to Veracruz. He refused to ride a mule and walked wherever he went. In 1768 he was appointed as a supervisor over 15 other monks. After the Jesuits were ordered from the New World by King Carlos III, Serra became Father Presidente.

Serra was beatified or given sainthood by Pope John Paul II on September 25, 1988. The indigenous people of Alta California claim the missions were nothing short of slave labor camps. The European colonization of the regions dropped the populations from 300,000 to 200,000 mostly due to diseases such as smallpox and malaria, because the locals had little immunity to them. It is said Native Americans were converted to Christianity – sometimes at gunpoint – and forced to comply with the friars’ orders. If they refused, they were whipped, branded, or even killed. If they escaped, they were hunted down. They were horrified by the Pope’s decree of sainthood and have strenuously voiced their discontent.

Those whom we cannot exploit we denounce as selfish. – Paul Eldridge

No elaboration of physical or moral accomplishment can atone for the sin of parasitism. – George Bernard Shaw

Exploitation is the essence of violence. – Mohandas K. Ghandi

Remember, Drucker, if you don’t feel exploited, you’re not working hard enough. – Mike Shapiro

Also on this day:

That’s Cool – In 1850, Dr. John Gorrie demonstrates the first air conditioner.
Darien Scheme – In 1698, Scotland tried colonizing in the Americas.
Richard Speck – In 1966, Speck went on a killing spree.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 13, 2012

Ernő Rubik

July 13, 1944: Ernő Rubik is born in Budapest, Hungary. His father was a flight engineer at a local airplane factory and his mother was a poet. He graduated from the Technical University in Budapest in 1967 with a degree in architectural engineering. His post graduate studies were in sculpting and interior architecture. He worked as an architect from 1971 to 1975 and then became a professor at the Budapest College of Applied Arts. He has always lived in Hungary. He also invented a little puzzle game that came to market in 1974. In the early 1980s he began editing a game and puzzle magazine called ..És játék (“…and games”).

The Rubik’s Cube is a 3-D mechanical puzzle originally called the Magic Cube. The game was licensed by Rubik to be sold by the Ideal Toys company. The cube is six-sided with each side made up of nine smaller cubes or “cubies” or “cubelets” with nine of these smaller cubes faced with one, two, or three of the six colors available. The small cubes are affixed to the core mechanism so they can be rotated. The cube is made up of 21 pieces: a single core with three intersecting axes holding the six center squares in place while still letting them rotate and 20 smaller plastic pieces which fit into the assembled puzzle.

There are twelve edge pieces, each with two colors, and eight corner pieces which each have three colors. The six center squares each have only one color. The original 3 x 3 x 3 Rubik’s Cube gives several different ways to arrange the smaller cubes. There are 40,320 ways to arrange the corner cubes and 239,500,800 ways to arrange the edges. There are exactly 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 permutations or ways to arrange the cube’s smaller cubes. That is about 43 quintillion, not the billions usually advertised.

There are algorithms used to solve scrambled Rubik’s Cubes. The easiest way to solve the puzzle may be to take it apart and simply put it back together with the sides properly sorted. Some of these algorithms are easy enough to be memorized by people, but these aren’t the optimal solutions. There is not a “least moves” solution for any instance of the Rubik’s cube, but the latest claim is 22 moves. The algorithm to arrive at this is called God’s Algorithm. Many mathematicians believe the number to be 20 moves, but haven’t yet figured the supporting algorithm. You can also solve Rubik’s Magic, Rubik’s Snake, and Rubik’s 360 if the Cube is too easy.

I do not truly consider myself an icon, but the Cube has been quite successful.

Usually we are saying only part of the truth.

The problems of puzzles are very near the problems of life.

I wanted nothing else than to make the object as perfect as possible. – all from Ernő Rubik

Also on this day:

You’re Out – In 1978, Lee Iacocca is fired from Ford.
Hollywood – In 1923, the HOLLYWOOD sign was dedicated.
Pop Goes the Weasel – In 1812, New York City passes its first pawnbroker ordinance.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 12, 2012

July 12, 1979: Disco Demolition Night ends badly. The promotional event took place at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois. The Chicago White Sox were hosting a doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers. A May 2 game between the two teams had been rained out. The doubleheader, called a twi-night (where the first game was played earlier in the day and the second game starting before 5 PM so both games could be seen for the price of a single ticket) was held on a Thursday. It was the first of a four-game weekend series between Chicago and Detroit.


Chicago disc jockey Steve Dahl had been fired after the radio station he worked at went from rock to an all-disco format. Dahl was hired at another album-oriented rock station and began disparaging disco, going so far as to create a mock organization called, “The Insane Coho Lips Anti-Disco Army.” He and his radio partner, Garry Meier planned a Disco Demolition Night to be held between the two baseball games. Mike Veeck, son of then-owner of the White Sox, Bill Veeck, helped the men plan the event. Dahl’s new radio station, WLUP at 97.9 FM allowed fans to bring a disco album to destroy in exchange for an admission fee of 98¢ (the station’s dial number).

Crowds for a Thursday game were about 6,000 and the promoters were hoping to double that figure. Instead, about 90,000 people tried to enter the 52,000 seat stadium. People were milling about the stadium and the roads leading in were blocked by traffic. The first game was played, although authorities now say there was a strong smell of marijuana present. Between the two games, a bin set in center field with all the disco records was brought out and Dahl set off explosives to destroy the hated music.

It not only destroyed the music, but tore up the outfield and even started a small fire. Dahl exited the field and immediately, thousands of fans streamed in. Some started other fires, some tore up more of the field, and even the bases were stolen. The police were called in to quell the riot. Six people reported minor injuries and another 36 were arrested. The second game was called and eventually was forfeited to the Tigers, the last American League game to have to forfeit due to rioting from the fans. The last game in the National League to end this way was in August 1995. Mike Veeck was blacklisted from Major League Baseball. Dahl continues to work as a DJ and write for the Chicago Tribune, as well. Disco’s demise was hastened by the event.

The second that first guy shimmied down the outfield wall, I knew my life was over! – Mike Veeck

Disco dancing is just the steady thump of a giant moron knocking in an endless nail. – Clive James

Disco deserved a better name, a beautiful name because it was a beautiful art form. It made the consumer beautiful. The consumer was the star. – Barry White

I feel the same way about disco as I do about herpes. – Hunter S. Thompson

Also on this day:

Magic Screen – In 1960, Etch-A-Sketch arrives in stores.
Miners – In 1917, the Bisbee Deportation took place.
Money Issues – In 1933, the US passed her first minimum wage law.