September 30, 1791: The Magic Flute debuts. This was the last opera of Wolfgang Amadeau Mozart and is listed as K. 620 in the opus. The libretto was written by Emanuel Schikaneder. The opera had both spoken and sung parts making in more in line with what we would think of as a musical today. Opening night was at Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden. Mozart himself conducted the orchestra while Schikaneder play the role of Papageno. The Queen of the Night was sung by Mozart’s sister-in-law, Josepha Hofer. The opera is done in two acts. Today, many productions omit the spoken parts, turning it back into what we consider more pure opera now.
Mozart was born in Salzburg on January 27, 1756. Today, this is part of Austria but in the eighteenth century, this was part of the Holy Roman Empire. His father was a minor composer in his own right, but Wolfgang far surpassed his father’s skill. His older sister was given keyboard lessons while the three-year-old brother watched. He began picking out notes at this young age. His first composition, spattered with ink spots, amazed his father. Both siblings began to tour Europe as child prodigies in 1762. They covered much of mainland Europe and even made it to England.
Mozart has been described as a slight man. He was small, thin, and pale. He was said to be proud of his hair and had large eyes. He had survived smallpox as a child and his face was pitted with the reminder scars. He loved elegant clothing and dressed beautifully. His singing voice was a tenor and he usually spoke softly, unless excited and then his speech was more energetic. He was raised Roman Catholic and remained devout throughout his life. He enjoyed playing billiards and dancing and kept many pets. He had a penchant for scatological humor and included some in his musical oeuvre.
Although he lived only a short time, dying at the age of 35, he was prolific in his writing. He has over 600 pieces in his Kōchel catalogue. While in Prague for the September 6 premiere of his opera, La clemenza di Tito, written early in 1791, he fell ill. Although well enough to conduct on this day for the opening of The Magic Flute, he was not really well. On November 20, his condition worsened and he became bedridden with a variety of symptoms. Even as he was dying, his last hope was to finish Requiem and he dictated to his amanuensis. He died on December 5 of “hitziges Frieselfieber” (severe military fever) which cannot be identified by today’s medical standards. He was buried in a common grave.
I pay no attention whatever to anybody’s praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings.
Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.
One must not make oneself cheap here – that is a cardinal point – or else one is done. Whoever is most impertinent has the best chance.
When I am traveling in a carriage, or walking after a good meal, or during the night when I cannot sleep; it is on such occasions that ideas flow best and most abundantly. – all from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Also on this day:
Meet the Flintstones – In 1960, The Flintstones come to prime time television.
FBI HQ – In 1975, The J. Edgar Hoover Building was dedicated.
Farm Work – In 1962, the first meeting of the National Farm Workers Association too place.
September 29, 1982: Twelve-year-old Mary Kellerman dies. Mary was from Elk Grove Village, Illinois. Adam Janus of Arlington, Heights, Illinois was next to die. Adam’s brother Stanley and his sister-in-law also both died. Next, Mary McFarland of Elmhurst, Illinois succumbed. Paula Prince of Chicago and Mary Reiner of Winfield died in similar incidents. Seven people died mysteriously and it was finally noticed that all of them had been taking Extra-Strength Tylenol. As soon as the link was noticed, urgent warnings were broadcast and police drove through Chicago neighborhoods yelling warnings over loudspeakers.
All seven had died from taking potassium cyanide laced capsules of the Tylenol product. After Adam died in the hospital, his brother and sister-in-law were grieving at his house when both of them took a capsule from the same bottle. They both died shortly thereafter. McNeil Consumer Healthcare, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, manufactures the pills used for minor pain relief as well as fever control. They researched the containers and found that they came from different factories. It is theorized that the killer went around to local supermarkets and drug stores and tampered with the unsold bottles of Tylenol. It is thought they were taken, the pills adulterated, and then returned to shelves for unsuspecting people to purchase.
In the immediate aftermath, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) distributed warnings to hospitals and distributors. They pulled products from shelves and halted production and advertising. On October 5, 1982, they issued a country wide recall of Tylenol products. There were about 31 million bottles in circulation with a “street value” of about $100 million. When it was discovered that only capsules were affected, the company offered to exchange any capsules for solid pills containing acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol. They also offered a $100,000 reward for the capture and conviction of what became known as the “Tylenol killer”. It has never been collected.
The FBI investigated the crimes using the code name TYMURS for the project. While there were some suspects, there has never been an arrest. James W. Lewis did serve time for attempted extortion – he wrote a letter to J&J demanding $1 million to stop the poisonings. He served time for extortion, but denies he actually did the poisoning and it was never proved otherwise. A conspiracy theory offers that the poisonings were done at a distribution center and J&J covered up the evidence. This has never been proven, either. The long term effect of these seven unsolved murders are the rigid anti-tampering laws now enacted in the US. There have also been many reforms in packaging of most consumable goods.
Johnson & Johnson has effectively demonstrated how a major business ought to handle a disaster. – from the Washington Post
We don’t believe the nation is smothered with tainted Tylenol. – Owen J. McClain
A great wind is blowing, and that gives you either imagination or a headache. – Catherine the Great
I do not envy the headache you will have when you awake. In the meantime, dream of large women. – Cary Elwes
Also on this day:
Come Up and See Me Some Time – In 1650, the first documented dating service opens in England.
Physics – In 1954, CERN was established.
The Met – In 1829, the Metropolitan Police of London were formed.
September 28, 1919: The Omaha Race Riots begin. The riot was just one of many during the Red Summer of 1919. During World War I, there was a shortage of immigrants to work in the factories in the industrial US. African-Americans came north to look for work and began to fill the slots that would have been filled by European immigrants. After the war ended and with veterans back in the workforce, there were tensions between them and black workers who were filling the jobs. During the course of the war, about 500,000 blacks had moved from the rural South to take jobs in the industrial North and Midwest. They not only found jobs in Yankee territory, but could escape from Jim Crow laws and the horrific conditions in the South, including random lynchings.
In Omaha, African-Americans came to work in the meatpacking plants and stockyards. During the 1910s, the black population of Omaha had doubled and had become one of the most populous enclaves in the west for blacks. By 1920, there were more than 10,000 African-Americans in Omaha with only Los Angeles having more with 16,000. There were more blacks in Omaha than in San Francisco and Oakland, Topeka, or Denver. In 1917, the major meatpacking plants had hired African-Americans as strikebreakers which did not endear them to the ethnic white population which had been striking. They met an entrenched Irish subculture in Omaha which had already managed to expel a Greek subculture from the city.
Reform mayor Edward Parsons Smith went through his agenda to reform Omaha with little support from the Omaha City Council or the city’s labor unions. The previous year, Omaha’s Police Department’s “moral squad” shot and killed an African-American bellhop without recourse. On September 25, 1919, local media published the rape of white 19-year-old Agnes Loebeck. The next day, police arrested black 40-year-old Will Brown as a suspect. Conflicting reports are given as to whether or not Agnes actually ever identified him as her attacker. There was an attempt to lynch Brown on the day of his arrest.
On this day, at 5 PM about 4,000 whites began an assault around the courthouse. Fifteen minutes later, fire hoses were turned on the crowd without the desired effect. The crowd began to pelt the building with bricks and rocks and broke every window. The police tried to get the crowd to disperse but by 7 PM they had barricaded themselves inside the building. By 11 PM, the mayor appeared before the crowd and offered himself for hanging if they would disperse. They took him up on his offer, but someone saved him. Eventually, the crowd got hold of Brown and he was lynched. Two whites also died before the US Army infantry was employed to calm down the crowds at 3 AM on September 29. Brown’s burned and battered body was laid to rest in Omaha’s Potters Field on October 1.
It is the belief of many that the entire responsibility for the outrage can be placed at the feet of a few men and one Omaha paper. – Omaha Reverend Charles E. Cobbey
Several reported assaults on white women had actually been perpetrated by whites in blackface. – grand jury finding
It is a shame that it took these deaths and others to raise public consciousness and effect the changes that we enjoy today. When I discovered that William Brown was buried in a pauper’s grave, I did not want William Brown to be forgotten. I wanted him to have a headstone to let people know that it was because of people like him that we enjoy our freedoms today. – Chris Herbert
The lesson learned from his death should be taught to all. That is, we cannot have the protections guaranteed by the Constitution without law. There is no place for vigilantism in our society. – Chris Herbert
Also on this day:
Victory – In 1781, George Washington began his assault on Yorktown, the last battle of the Revolutionary War.
Hostage Taking – In 1975, the Spaghetti House siege began.
Black Sox – In 1920, eight Chicago White Sox players were indicted.
September 27, 1968: The Shaftesbury Theatre in London’s West End opens a new musical. The performances had to be delayed until the passage of the Theatres Act of 1968 passed. Since 1737, all performances in the United Kingdom had to be licensed by the Lord Chamberlain’s Office. This was to ensure government approval of ideas for the state. The censorship method was introduced to protect Robert Walpole’s administration from political satire. As time went on, the Office became the last say on all theatrical matters and by the 1950s a group called “Angry Young Men” mocked the banality, conservatism, and restriction of British theater. John Osborne’s play A Patriot for Me was so extensively cut, it brought the system’s morally questionable status to an end.
Since restrictions were lifted, it was possible for Shaftesbury to use the same creative team as was used on Broadway and bring Hair to the British stage. The whole title is actually Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical. The book and lyrics were written by James Rado and Gerome Ragni; musical score was by Galt MacDermot. The major themes of the musical were the hippie counter-culture and sexual revolution of the 1960s. The nude scene caused a controversial stir on both sides of the pond. The racially diverse cast also was something out of the ordinary. The play opened Off-Broadway at Joseph Papp’s Public Theater in October 1967.
The show opened on Broadway in April 1968 and ran for 1,750 performances. In London, the show ran for 1,997 performances. There were eventually a multitude of productions worldwide. There was a revival produced in 1977 and a film version followed in 1979. A London revival came to life in 1993. A Broadway revival again took to the stage in 2009 and another West End, London revival followed the next year. There was also an album produced by the original Broadway cast which sold millions of copies.
The play was in two acts with the famous brief nude scene coming at the end of the first one. There were some Top Ten hits from the musical including the title song. The Age of Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In and Good Morning Starshine also made its way into mainstream culture. The musical captured both the sexual escapades and drug subculture of the hippie movement. There was also an anti-Vietnam War peace movement theme and environmental issues were brought to the audience. Poverty and political corruption were exposed as well as the need for racial integration and integrity. It was powerful stuff for the times and continues to resonate even in revival productions.
Give me a head with hair, long beautiful hair / Shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen / Give me down to there, hair, shoulder length or longer / Here baby, there, momma, everywhere, daddy, daddy
When the moon is in the seventh house / And Jupiter aligns with Mars / Then peace will guide the planets / And love will steer the stars
Facing a dying nation of moving paper fantasy / Listening for the new told lies / With supreme visions of lonely tunes / Singing our space songs on a spider web sitar
Good morning starshine, the earth says hello / you twinkle above us, we twinkle below / good morning starshine, you lead us along / my love and me / as we sing our / early morning singing song – all from Hair
Also on this day:
September 26, 1908: Edward Marvin “Big Ed” Reulbach pitches in a double header. Ed was a right-handed pitcher for the Chicago Cubs, a Major League Baseball (MLB) team, during their glory years of the early 1900s. The year 1908 was his best year on the mound. During that year the Cubs won 24 games for the National League (NL) and the World Series, their last Series win. However, this was not Big Ed’s first Series win. In 1907, the Cubs beat the Detroit Tigers 4-0 and in 1906, although losing overall to the Chicago White Sox, in game two, Reulbach gave up only one hit in the seventh inning. Only five games in the history of the Series have seen this low-hit record. But even better than that, on this day Reulbach pitched two shutouts back to back against the Brooklyn Dodgers, a feat not yet repeated.
MLB is professional baseball consisting of American teams playing in either the NL or the American League (AL). The two leagues merged in 2000 into a single MLB led by the Commissioner of Baseball. There are 30 teams, 20 from the US and one from Canada. While merged under MLB, the two leagues remain separate entities. The NL is the older of the two, founded on February 2, 1876. There are currently 16 teams in the NL. The AL was founded on January 28, 1901 and has 14 teams. In 2013 the numbers will change to 15 teams each when the Houston Astros transfer to the AL.
The World Series, a best of seven games event, began in 1903. The best team of the AL plays the first NL team. The home team advantage is split and the first team to win four games is the Champion. The games are played in October and it is sometimes known as the Fall Classic. The New York Yankees (AL) have played in 40 World Series and won 27. The Oakland/Philadelphia Athletics (AL) have played in 14 and won 9 times. The record holders for the NL are the St. Louis Cardinals who have won 11 of the 18 times they played and second is a tie between the San Francisco/New York Giants and the Los Angeles/Brooklyn Dodgers who have each played 18 Series and won 6 times.
The Chicago Cubs now belong to the Central Division of the NL. They formed in 1903 after the Chicago Orphans (1898-1902), Chicago Colts (1890-97), and Chicago White Stockings (1870-71, 1874-89) rotated through. They are affectionately called The Cubbies, The North Siders, or The Boys in Blue. They have been playing at Wrigley Field since 1916. Ed was pitching at West Side Park. He also pitched them to their two World Series titles. They have taken the NL pennant 16 times, the last in 1945. They have taken the Central Division title three times, last in 2008 and before that the East Division title twice. They are owned by the family trust of Joe Ricketts. Dale Sveum is the manager and Jed Hoyer is the general manager.
Poets are like baseball pitchers. Both have their moments. The intervals are the tough things. – Robert Frost
Baseball is like church. Many attend few understand. – Leo Durocher
Baseball is one of the most beautiful games. It is. It is a very Zen-like game. – Jim Jarmusch
In baseball, there’s always the next day. – Ryne Sandberg
Also on this day:
September 25, 1690: Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick is published in Boston. It was the first multi-page newspaper published in the Americas. Printed by Richard Pierce and edited by Benjamin Harris, it consisted of four 6 x 10 inch pages (only filling three of them). The plan was to publish monthly unless “any Glut of Occurrences happen” and then it would print an extra edition. Harris had previously published a paper in London and was experienced in the venture. However, even though many Occurrences did happen, a second issue was never printed. The Governor and Council shut down this first newspaper on September 29, 1690 – just four days after the first print.
Before this burst of journalistic expression, printed news was available to the literate residents of the colonies in the form of a broadside. This is a large sheet of paper printed only on one side and publicly displayed. They were akin to a poster and could contain information about events, proclamations of news, or simple advertisements. They were temporary and after the information was disseminated, they would be taken down and discarded. Some literary broadsides might contain a poem and be elaborately decorated and suitable for framing. Broadsides were the most common form of printing between the 16th and 19th centuries, especially in Britain, Ireland, and North America. On July 4, 1776, John Dunlap of Philadelphia printed 200 copies of a proclamation to be posted – The US Declaration of Independence.
Newspapers are scheduled printings available to the public, covering news and events that are current and yet cover a wide range of topics. All four criteria must be met. They are an outgrowth, improvement, or upgrade to posters of earlier times and places. Ancient China, Rome, and Greece all used methods of posted writing to get the news out. The invention of the printing press in the west had two major influences. First, it made copies of print material easier and cheaper to create. Second, because the written word was cheaper, more people learned to read. A literate society is needed before selling newspapers can be profitable. German newspapers were the first on the scene from as early as the 16th century.
News of newspapers spread across the continent and soon became quite popular in a variety of languages. In the colonies, it took another 14 years before a newspaper was given the green light. In 1704, the weekly The Boston News-Letter began. Printing on cheap paper has made it possible for many readers to keep up-to-date. In 2007 there were 6,580 daily newspapers. The worldwide recession of 2008 and the proliferation of web-based alternatives have changed that. The 395 million copies a day have steadily declined. With dropping sales, ad revenue had decreased and many papers have gone out of business.
Whereas some have lately presumed to Print and Disperse a Pamphlet, Entitled, Publick Occurrences, both Forreign and Domestick: Boston, Thursday, Septemb. 25th, 1690.
Without the least Privity and Countenace of Authority. The Governour and Council having had the perusal of said Pamphlet, and finding that therein contained Reflections of a very high nature:
As also sundry doubtful and uncertain Reports, do hereby manifest and declare their high Resentment and Disallowance of said Pamphlet, and Order that the same be Suppressed and called in;
Strickly forbidden any person or persons for the future to Set forth any thing in Print without License first obtained from those that are or shall be appointed by the Government to grant the same. – the order to quit publication
Also on this day:
The Supremes – In 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman to sit on the US Supreme Court.
Fasssssst – In 1997, a new land speed record was set.
Lots of Water – In 1513, Balboa reached the Pacific Ocean.
September 24, 1180: Manuel I Komnenos dies. He was the fourth son of John II Komnenos and Piroska of Hungary. As such, Manuel was very unlikely to succeed to the throne of the Byzantine Empire. He had distinguished himself in battle against the Seljuk Turks and when his father died in April 1143, John named Manuel as his successor over his older surviving brother, Isaac. However, since John died far from home in Cilicia, Manuel needed to hasten back to Constantinople to ensure his father’s deathbed wishes would be carried out. Before he could leave Cilicia, he had to have his father’s funeral and also organize the building of a monastery on the spot where John II had died, as was the custom of the time.
While attending to these issues, Manuel sent the megas domestikos (the name for the commander-in-chief of the Byzantine land army) John Axouch ahead to the capital. There, Manuel’s greatest potential rival to the throne, Isaac, was arrested. Isaac was living in the Great Palace and had access to all the imperial treasure and regalia. Axouch arrived in Constantinople even before the news of Emperor John’s death and was able to secure the loyalty of the city. When Manuel finally arrived in August 1143, he was crowned the new Patriarch, Michael Kourkouas. Now secure as emperor, he ordered his brother released.
The empire established by Constantine eight centuries earlier was much changed by the time Manuel came to power. The empire had expanded taking in much of the Mediterranean basin. With the rise of Islam and spread of their empire, the Byzantine empire shrank. For years, Byzantium was mostly contained by Asia Minor and the Balkans. By the end of the first millennium, it was in rapid decline. Manuel inherited an even smaller empire after recent losses to the Normans and the Seljuk Turks. An even newer assault was in the Levant where new Crusader states had recently taken hold.
The Second Crusade gave the emperor several issues to deal with. The Catholic crusaders arrived to gain control of the Holy Lands and the Muslim jihadists did not wish to relinquish control. Much of the conflict impinged on Byzantium. Manuel was also beset by Roger II of Sicily in the late 1140s and early 1150s. Pressures of war were great enough that even a Papal-Byzantine alliance was created but the schism of eons past could not be healed. During the entirety of Manuel’s reign, there were wars or threats of wars. When he died on this day, he was the last of the Komnenian restoration emperors. Without him, the empires slipped into total decline.
I would prefer to be a citizen of an independent country rather than Emperor of an enslaved one. – Bao Dai
It becomes an emperor to die standing. – Titus Flavius Vespasian
No one would have doubted his ability to reign had he never been emperor. – Tacitus
The fact that I was a girl never damaged my ambitions to be a pope or an emperor. – Willa Cather
Also on this day:
Powerful Serve; Best Backhand – In 1938, John Donald Budge became the first tennis player to win the Grand Slam of tennis.
Majestic 12 – In 1947, Harry S Truman did not form a secret society.
Devil’s Tower – In 1906, this landmark was declared a National Monument.
September 23, 1641: An English merchant ship is lost. The ship was called the Merchant Royal and also known as the Royal Merchant. Her crew had been trading with the Spanish colonies in the West Indies from 1637-1640. During these years Spain and England were at peace. Her last port of call before returning home was at Cadiz, Spain. She stopped there and was to then return to London with her cargo. She was in the company of her sister ship, the Dover Merchant. It was said at the time that the Merchant Royal was leaking prior to her last voyage, a not uncommon event.
While in Cadiz, a Spanish ship caught fire and the captain of the Royal offered to transport goods from the burned vessel. It was agreed and he took aboard the pay for Spain’s 30,000 soldiers stationed at Flanders. The captain was to drop the funds off at Antwerp. Aboard the leaky ship were at least 100,000 pounds of gold (said to be worth USD $1 billion today), along with 400 bars of Mexican silver (said to be worth another $1 million today), and another 500,000 pieces of eight (Spanish dollars of the time) and more coinage.
The two British ships left Cadiz with the Royal heavily laden with this precious cargo. The ship was leaking but manageable. Captain Limbrey was able to sail effectively until rough weather kicked up. To add to their misery, the pumps aboard ship quit working. Then, off Land’s End, Cornwall, the ship sank. It was one of the most valuable wrecks of all time. The captain and forty of his crew got away and were picked up by the Dover. Eighteen more men were lost at sea. It is unlikely that any of the heavy treasure made its way to the other ship.
There have been many attempts to locate the wreck and recover the valuable cargo. Odyssey Marine Exploration is an American company involved in deep water shipwreck recovery. One of their projects, Black Swan Project, found a wreck in May 2007. They recovered 17 tons, mainly silver with some gold coins, but it was not (as speculated) from this sunken ship. Rather, the coins are believed to be from the frigate Nuesta Señora de las Mercedes which blew up and sank on October 5, 1804. The coins are said to be worth $500 million USD. After a several years long battle, US courts have demanded that Odyssey return the coins to Spain, even though it flies in the face of legal precedent.
Clearly, the political influences in this case overshadowed the law. – Melinda MacConnel, discussing the legal findings in the above case
Gold is a treasure, and he who possesses it does all he wishes to in this world, and succeeds in helping souls into paradise. – Christopher Columbus
I must go deeper and even stronger into my treasure mine and stint nothing of time, toil, or torture. – Zane Grey
It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. – Joseph Campbell
Also on this day:
September 22, 1910: The Duke of York’s Picture House opens. It remains open to this day and is the oldest continuously operating purpose built cinema in Britain. When it opened in Brighton, England, it was one of the earliest cinemas in the world. The architects were Clayton & Black. They used some of the walls from the Amber Ale Brewery, the building which occupied the space prior to the Picture House. The façade is new, but some of the rear walls were once part of the brewery. One hundred years later, the building remains largely unchanged.
The Duke’s was always a discerning cinema and in the early years had a slogan: “Bring her to the Duke’s, it is fit for a Duchess.” The name itself comes from a West End theater. Mrs. Melnotte-Wyatt was associated with both venues. It was built slightly outside the center of town and catered to a more upscale audience. This may have helped launch the business and has certainly helped to sustain it. In 1981, it began operating as an arts cinema. Although it was not always used for “class” acts, in lean times it was even host to punk rock concerts. It was rather run down when it went up on the block again.
In 1994 it was purchased by Picturehouse Cinemas. They have invested heavily in the building in an effort to return it to its former glory. When new, the color scheme was red and cream. It originally seated over 800 guests. Even today, one of the balcony boxes remain. However, now it hosts one screen and can seat 283. Today, there is also a café/bar upstairs and a concession space downstairs. There are giant model legs painted like those of a Can Can dancer on one of the towers in the front of the building. These were added by a previous owner and reminiscent of the “Not The Moulin Rouge Theatre” in Oxford. In 2007, a fund drive was held to help raise money to put a new roof on the building. Over £25,000 was raised. The roof was replaced in April 2008. At the same time, the balcony was remodeled.
Clayton & Black was an architectural firm from Brighton and established in 1876. Charles E Clayton and Ernest Black opened their firm and eventually their sons, Charles L Clayton and Kenneth Black, along with other architects, joined. The firm’s first recorded work was the rebuilding of the Blenheim House and was commissioned in 1875-6. They also worked on the Gwydyr Mansions in 1890 and the former Royal Assurance Society office found on North Street in Brighton. They also created a large number of red-brick buildings in Hove. The company dissolved in 1974.
A visit to a cinema is a little outing in itself. It breaks the monotony of an afternoon or evening; it gives a change from the surroundings of home, however pleasant. – Ivor Novello
Although for some people cinema means something superficial and glamorous, it is something else. I think it is the mirror of the world. – Jeanne Moreau
My duty is to try to reach beauty. Cinema is emotion. When you laugh you cry. – Roberto Benigni
The essence of cinema is editing. It’s the combination of what can be extraordinary images of people during emotional moments, or images in a general sense, put together in a kind of alchemy. – Francis Ford Coppola
Also on this day:
Manassa Mauler v. The Fighting Marine – In 1927, “The Long Count” fight takes place.
Regrets – In 1776, Nathan Hale was executed as a spy.
Tevye’s Family – In 1964, Fiddler on the Roof opened on Broadway.
September 21, 1776: The Great Fire of New York takes place. Prior to the American Revolutionary War’s beginning in April 1775, New York City was an important commercial center. It was not, however, anything like today. New York City occupied only the lower portion of the island of Manhattan and had a population of about 25,000. Before the war the city was politically divided. After hostilities began, Patriots seized control and arrested or expelled Loyalists. In the summer of 1776 British General William Howe began a campaign to take the city. The side in power would not only controlle the commerce, but also command an important military harbor. Howe took Staten Island in July and went on to attack Long Island with naval help from his brother, Admiral Lord Richard Howe.
As the brothers approached, General George Washington made a strategic withdrawal and moved the bulk of his army back about ten miles north to Harlem Heights. Several people, including General Nathanael Greene and John Jay, advocated burning to city down to avoid the British from enjoying its benefits. Washington put the question before the Second Continental Congress which rejected the idea. Prior to and during the Patriot occupation, much of the civilian population had fled and the Patriots had control, for military use of much of the real estate. On September 15, 1776, General Howe landed on Manhattan. He marched toward Harlem and the two armies clashed. As the British took the city, they also took control of the real estate.
In the early hours of this day, a fire broke out in the city. John Joseph Henry, an American prisoner aboard the HMS Pearl, said it began in the Fighting Cocks Tavern, near Whitehall Slip. The weather had been dry and there were strong winds. The fire spread both north and west. Residents still in the city took to the streets, fleeing the flames as they encroached amid the tightly packed homes and businesses. They carried what possessions they could as they ran from the fire and found refuge in the town commons, today called City Hall Park. The fire crossed Broadway and burned most of the city between Broadway and the Hudson River. The prevailing winds changed, the fire neared a relatively undeveloped area, and late in the day, it was extinguished.
It is unknown exactly how many buildings were destroyed. Numbers range from 400 to 1,000. That number is 10 to 25 percent of the 4,000 building then comprising New York City. Trinity Church was destroyed; St Paul’s Chapel survived. General Howe blamed the colonists for deliberately setting the fire in his report to London. George Washington wrote to John Hancock on September 22, vehemently denying this charge. Historians cannot find any evidence of arson. The British took over what buildings were left standing. Crime and poor sanitation plagued the area during the British occupation which ended in November 1783.
About one o’clock on the morning of Saturday, the 21st, a fire broke out near Whitehall Slip. A fresh gale was blowing from the south, and the weather was dry, thus spread with inconceivable rapidity. – Martha Joanna Lamb
Trinity Church was a blackened heap of ruins, together with the parsonage, charity school, and Lutheran Church. – Martha Joanna Lamb
Howe attributed the calamity to a conspiracy. – Martha Joanna Lamb.
Providence – or some good honest Fellow, has done more for us than we were disposed to do for ourselves. – George Washington, in a letter to his cousin
Also on this day: