Little Bits of History

Penal Reform

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 30, 2012

Leopold II

November 30, 1786: Peter Leopold Joseph of Habsburg-Lorraine, institutes a new penal code for his Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Leopold was born in Vienna and was the third son. He was educated for the priesthood but was not an avid student. His older brother Charles died in 1791 and his father decided that Leopold would take the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, specially erected into a apanage  (estate) for his now-second son. The deal was binding only if Leopold married Maria Luisa of Spain (daughter of King Charles III). That marriage took place on August 5, 1764. On August 18, 1765, Leopold’s father died and the young man rose to power; he was 18 years old.

He did little for the first few years but in 1770, he managed to get rid of the interference of managers and his mother’s influence and ruled in Florence with a free hand. He carried out many reforms during the two decades between having his hands freed and his brother’s death in 1790. One of the reforms he instituted was this day’s penal code reform. In it, he outlawed the death penalty. His was the first state to outlaw this punishment. As a result of this ruling, November 30 is celebrated as Cities for Life Day. Because of this ruling, participating cities illuminate a symbolic monument. In 2009, more than 60 capitals and 1,200 cities participated.

In 1790, Leopold’s brother Joseph died. Leopold became the Holy Roman Emperor. His other titles included King of Hungary and Croatia and King of Bohemia. He assumed the rule in these last two counties immediately upon his brother’s death. However, it was not until September 30 that he rose to the throne in Germany and became the Holy Roman Emperor. His brother had offended many nobles and Leopold was able to use his experience gained in Tuscany to assuage many of those hurt. He only lived for two years after gaining the title and was in peril during most of the time.

His family was large and his sister, Marie Antoinette was in trouble. His own large family included twelve surviving children. Maria Theresa, Queen of Saxony, Francis II who would become the Holy Roman Emperor at his father’s death, Ferdinand III who gained his father’s title of Grand Duke of Tuscany, eight more archdukes, and Maria Clementina, Hereditary Princess of Naples. With such a large family, their power spread across Europe. Not all of the Hapsburg rulers were as magnanimous as Leopold and not all nations today have adopted the notion of banning the death penalty.

For centuries the death penalty, often accompanied by barbarous refinements, has been trying to hold crime in check; yet crime persists. – Albert Camus

Government … can’t be trusted to control its own bureaucrats or collect taxes equitably or fill a pothole, much less decide which of its citizens to kill. – Helen Prejean

If we are to abolish the death penalty, I should like to see the first step taken by my friends the murderers. – Alphonse Karr, Les Guêpes, Jan. 31, 1849

It’s just really tragic after all the horrors of the last 1,000 years we can’t leave behind something as primitive as government sponsored execution. – Russ Feingold

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.
Lucy – In 1974, Australopithecus was discovered.

Going South

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 29, 2012

The first fly-over of the South Pole

November 29, 1929: The first fly-over at the South Pole takes place. Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd, Jr. was a naval officer and an avid explorer. He was also a navigator in early aircraft flights. He served in the US Navy during both World Wars. On May 9, 1926, Byrd and Floyd Bennett took a flight in a Fokker F-VII Tri-motor. Their trip was from Spitsbergen and back. The two claimed to have flown over the North Pole. Both were hailed as heroes. In 1958, Bernt Balchen cast doubt upon the feasibility of such an undertaking. Byrd’s diary was released in 1996 and the data included is different from the official report. It is still unknown if the duo actually reached the North Pole on that day. If not, Roald Amundsen and his crew made the trip just three days later.

Byrd next tried to cross the Atlantic in a specially modified plane. There was a contest afoot for the first to fly non-stop from the US to France. On a practice flight, the plane crashed and Bennett, once again the pilot, was severely injured. Byrd, slightly hurt, was still intent on getting across the Pond. While their plane was being repaired, Charles Lindbergh won the prize. Byrd, with a new pilot, still wanted to make the trip. They plane took off from East Garden City, New York on June 29, 1927 and made it to France. However, due to heavy cloud cover, they could not land in Paris and made a crash-landing in Normandy on July 1. No one was injured.

Byrd next took off for Antarctica. In 1928, with two ships and three planes at his command, he left for the great south siren. The race for the South Pole was as hot for that of the North. A base camp was set up on the Ross Ice Shelf and scientific expeditions were launched from that site. There were many ways to travel across the ice: snowshoe, dog-sled, snowmobile, and airplane.  All were used and photographs were taken of the wonderful landscapes. Geological data was collected. Constant radio communication was kept up throughout the summer. As winter approached, they hunkered down for the cold season.

With the next balmy summer, expeditions resumed. On this day, Byrd was in the plane with Bernt Balchen as pilot and with Harold June as co-pilot/radioman. Ashley McKinley was the photographer for the flight. The plane was a ford Trimotor and the flight lasted for 18 hours and 41 minutes. They had difficulty with maintaining altitude and had to dump any extraneous supplies to gain the Polar Plateau. They were successful and this time there was no doubt. They continued to explore for the rest of the arctic summer and returned home on June 18, 1930.

A static hero is a public liability. Progress grows out of motion.

Few men during their lifetime comes anywhere near exhausting the resources dwelling within them. There are deep wells of strength that are never used.

I paused to listen to the silence. My breath, crystallized as it passed my cheeks, drifted on a breeze gentler than a whisper. The wind vane pointed toward the South Pole.

My frozen breath hung like a cloud overhead. The day was dying, the night being born — but with great peace. Here were the imponderable processes and forces of the cosmos, harmonious and soundless. – all from Richard E. Byrd, Jr.

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.
Zong – In 1781, the Zong Massacre took place.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 28, 2012

Ruins left after the Mombasa attacks

November 28, 2002: The Mombasa attacks take place. Mombasa is the second largest city in Kenya and is on the coast of the Indian Ocean. The former Arabic sultanate of Mvita had its capital here and the Mombasa Republican Council still demands secession from Kenya. Nearly a million people live here, about 2% of the population of Kenya. Most of the citizens are Christians, but the percentage of native religions and Muslims vary widely. The temperatures are tropical and the months of April and May have very heavy rainfall. In November, the weather is balmy. They are the home of Kenya’s only large seaport. They are also have an international airport.

The attacks on this day were twofold. One was “successful” while the other resulted in failure. An Boeing 757 owned by Arkia Airlines (based out of Israel) took off from Moi International Airport. The charter company had regular weekly service which flew tourists from Tel Aviv to Mombasa and back. About 1.25 miles from the airport, two shoulder-launched Strela 2 (SA-7) surface-to-air missiles were fired at the plane. They missed. There is speculation that the plane was using an infrared countermeasure system which confused the SAM’s seeker system. There were witnesses who saw small flames above the wings which could mean that decoy flares had been fired. The shell casings were found, but the plane was unharmed.

At about the same time as the plane being fired upon, another attack was underway. A blast occurred when a red all-terrain vehicle crashed through a barrier and entered the lobby of the Paradise Hotel. Sixty guests had just checked into the hotel, all of them from Israel. Thirteen of the guests were killed and other 80 guests were injured. Also killed in the attack were ten Kenyans who worked at the hotel. Most of the natives were traditional dancers who were there to welcome the newly arriving 140 guests who were coming from the Israel state-sponsored jet.

After the attacks, four Israeli military Hercules planes arrived, carrying teams of doctors and psychologists. They helped people on the ground and evacuated the injured as well as any other tourists who wanted to leave. A previously unknown group calling themselves the Army of Palestine took credit for the attacks. Three specific people were named as suspects, one from Kenya, one from Comoros, and one from Sudan. The attacks were officially condemned by the UN Security Council as well as Israel, Kenya, the US and the UK. Efforts have been made to keep the air-to-ground missiles out of the hands of civilians.

Every man is wise when attacked by a mad dog; fewer when pursued by a mad woman; only the wisest survive when attacked by a mad notion. – Robertson Davies

In every man there is an instinctive and passionate reaction if his person or liberty is attacked. – Arthur Keith

No amount of humanitarian assistance can protect people from being attacked. – Jan Egeland

There are two things which cannot be attacked in front: ignorance and narrow-mindedness. They can only be shaken by the simple development of the contrary qualities. They will not bear discussion. – Lord Acton

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.
Hot Off the Presses – In 1814, The London Times was printed using a steam operated press.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 27, 2012

Newgate Prison

November 27, 1835: There is a double hanging at Newgate Prison in London. Newgate’s first prison was built in 1188 at the behest of King Henry II. It is just inside the City of London at the corner of Newgate Street and Old Bailey. Before it was a prison site, it was an actual gate site of the Roman London Wall. As a prison, it has been extended many times over the centuries. It was demolished and rebuilt in 1777 and remained in use as a prison until 1902. On this date, John Smith and John Pratt were hanged after a conviction of sodomy. This was the last execution for homosexuality brought on by the English judicial system. They were not, however, the last homosexual men to be persecuted by onerous laws either in England or elsewhere in the world.

Homosexuality is the romantic or sexual interest between two members of the same sex. It is one of three main categories of sexual orientation – the other two being bisexuality (affinity for both sexes) and heterosexuality (affinity for members of the other sex). Asexuality is sometimes considered to be a fourth orientation and refers to people uninterested in sex at all. The term “homosexuality” is a mixture of Roman and Greek usage with the homo from the Greek, mean “same” rather than the Roman meaning “man” and homosexuality can refer to people of either gender. In today’s colloquial usage, “gay” refers to homosexual men while women are referred to as lesbians.

Attitudes toward sexuality have changed with time and place and have undergone shifts in acceptance or disregard. Same-sex relationships have at times been held in high esteem and in others, as in the time of the Newgate Prison hangings, been held as not only out of favor, but downright criminal. At one time, homosexuality was seen as a disease and participants were treated to “cures” for this diagnosis. Psychology was the first field of study that identified homosexuality as a discreet entity. But there is a range of sexual orientation and humans find themselves placed somewhere in that range. There is no consensus at this point in time as to what actually causes one to land on any certain point of that continuum, in other words, we don’t know what causes any sexual orientation.

Reliable data about the demographics of sexual orientation are essential when forming any public policy. However, some area of the globe still see homosexuality as an abomination and will punish “offenders” for this behavior. As less stigma is attached to the label, rates of admitted homosexuality have risen. Some people who have had some same-sex encounters still do not label themselves as homosexuals. But with many people given an anonymous chance to admit to same-sex ideation, there may be many more bisexuals than we had previously thought. Luckily, at least in many parts of the world, they are free to date whomever they wish.

Why is it that, as a culture, we are more comfortable seeing two men holding guns than holding hands? – Ernest Gaines

Homosexuality is god’s way of insuring that the truly gifted aren’t burdened with children. – Sam Austin

If homosexuality is a disease, let’s all call in queer to work:  “Hello.  Can’t work today, still queer.” – Robin Tyler

There is nothing wrong with going to bed with someone of your own sex.  People should be very free with sex, they should draw the line at goats. – Elton John

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.
Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics – In 1839, the American Statistical Association was formed.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 26, 2012

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

November 26, 1805: The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct officially opens. The aqueduct is the longest and highest in Great Britain and is located in Wales. It’s full name in Welsh is Traphont Ddŵr Pontcysyllte and it is a navigable aqueduct carrying the Llangollen Canal over the River Dee valley in northeast Wales. It is a Grade I Listed Building and a World Heritage Site. It was designed by Thomas Telford and built by him and William Jessop. It is 1,007 feet long, 11 feet wide, and 5.25 feet deep. The trough which carries the water was made of cast iron and rises 126 feet above the river it crosses. There are 19 hollow masonry pillars with each span covering 53 feet. It took nearly ten years to design and build the structure at a cost of £47,000 (about £2,900,000 today).

Aqueducts have been around since ancient times and are especially associated with the ancient Romans. However, they were devised much earlier than the Roman Empire and date back to the 7th century BC. Both ancient Greeks and Egyptians used them as did the Assyrians who built a fifty mile long aqueduct to their capital city of Nineveh. Some of these spans were 33 feet high. Aqueducts are used for water supply or as a navigable channel to move water across a gap. The largest modern aqueducts have been built in the US to carry water to large cities. The Catskill Aqueduct cover 120 miles to get water to New York City. This is puny in comparison to the Colorado River Aqueduct which covers 250 miles and the 700 mile long California Aqueduct, both of which bring water to California. The 336 mile Central Arizona Project is the most expensive aqueduct in the US.

Thomas Telford was a Scottish civil engineer, architect, and stonemason. He was born in 1757 and was self-taught although he was apprenticed to a Langholm mason at Westerkirk parish school. His father was a shepherd and died shortly after Thomas was born. Raised in poverty, he was apprenticed out at age 14. He learned quickly and in 1782 moved to London where he gained patronage. By the time he was thirty, he became Surveyor of Public Works in Shropshire. He continued to expand his skills. He never married, but his children are the many beautiful canals he built across the British landscape.

William Jessop was also a civil engineer and is most famous for his canals, harbors, and even some early railways. His father was a foreman shipwright at the Naval Dockyard which allowed the young boy some valuable insight into building. Jessop’s first major project was the Grand Canal of Ireland. He was an amiable man, not taken with self-aggrandizement and encouraged up and coming engineers. It was in that capacity he worked with Telford on the aqueduct project. Jessop was able to “bridge” the gap between canal builders and railroad building. As needs changed, Jessop provided valuable skills to move from water to rails for transportation needs.

Water is the driving force of all nature. – Leonardo da Vinci

You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water. – Rabindranath Tagore

It doesn’t matter if the water is cold or warm if you’re going to have to wade through it anyway. – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Thousands have lived without love, not one without water. – W. H. Auden

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.
KV62 – In 1922, Howard Carter opened King Tut’s tomb.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving Day tornado outbreak

November 25, 1926: Thanksgiving Day becomes grisly. There are five countries around the globe who celebrate a Thanksgiving day. Canada, Liberia, Norfolk Island, and Puerto Rico all celebrate as well as the US. Canada has their day in October and the rest of the celebrants set aside a day to give thanks in November. On this particular day, there was a terrible storm brewing across the American Midwest. The deadliest November outbreak of tornadoes swept across the plains with at least 27 twisters touching down. The strongest November tornado, estimated as a class F4, devastated the town of Heber Springs, Arkansas. There were 51 deaths in Arkansas alone and a total of 76 deaths and 400 injuries.

Tornadoes are violent storms featuring a rotating column of air descending from a cloud (usually a cumulonimbus cloud, but in rare cases a cumulus cloud) that touches down to Earth. They are also called twisters or cyclones, however the latter word is used by meteorologists to include any closed low pressure circulation. Tornadoes come in many different varieties and can range from mild funnel clouds to massive supercells. When these storms occur over water, they are called waterspouts rather than tornadoes, but they can also be quite damaging and hold a great amount of power. They have been observed over all the continents except Antarctica, but the majority of them touch down in “Tornado Alley”, the American Midwest.

These storms have a predictable life cycle, although it is difficult to actually predict exactly where they will touch down and their paths are often erratic. They are usually associated with thunderstorms and the funnel spout will lower from the cloud base. As it does so, it begins to take in more cool, moist air from the downdraft. It creates a low pressure area on the base and lowers toward Earth. As it reaches ground, it is said to be in the “mature stage” which can last from a few minutes to more than an hour. The rear flank downdraft region eventually wraps around the funnel and chokes off the tornado’s air supply. The swirling mass begins to weaken and thins out, becoming rope like. This “dissipating stage” rarely lasts for more than a few minutes and the storm dies out.

There is a typical tornado as seen in the Wizard of Oz, but there are also other types. There can be multiple vortex tornadoes which have, as the name suggests, more than one funnel spout. There are, as mentioned above, waterspouts, when the storm takes place over water, but there can also be landspouts, or a dust-tube tornado, not associated with the cloud system. There are also some similar meteorological events: gustnadoes, dust devils, and fire whirls and steam devils. None of these are considered to be true tornadoes because they are not associated with clouds and generate from a different weather patterns.

A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease. – John Muir

If you are caught on a golf course during a storm and are afraid of lightning, hold up a 1-iron. Not even God can hit a 1-iron. – Lee Trevino

Remember, the storm is a good opportunity for the pine and the cypress to show their strength and their stability. – Ho Chi Minh

The little reed, bending to the force of the wind, soon stood upright again when the storm had passed over. – Aesop

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.
Perfect Storm – In 1703, England was ravaged by its worst storm when a hurricane made landfall.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 24, 2012

Jack Ruby and Lee Harvey Oswald

November 24, 1963: Lee Harvey Oswald is murdered by Jack Ruby. Oswald was born in New Orleans on October 18, 1939; he had two older brothers and a half-brother, John Pic. Oswald and his mother were living in New York City with Pic in 1952 when they were kicked out after Oswald threatened Pic’s wife with a knife. Oswald was psychiatrically assessed at a juvenile reformatory and was found to have a “vivid fantasy life, turning around the topics of omnipotence and power, through which he tries to compensate for his present shortcomings and frustrations.” Although further treatment was recommended, Oswald’s mother took him back South and provided no more help.

By age 15, he had declared himself a Marxist. By the age of 17 he had lived in 22 different places and attended 12 different schools. Although he was an avid reader, he could not spell or write coherently. Just after his seventeenth birthday, he enlisted in the US Marine Corps. He was trained primarily as a radar operator – a position which required a security clearance, something that was granted. He was court-martialed twice while serving (once for shooting himself with an unauthorized gun and once for fighting with a sergeant) and sent to the brig briefly. He had risen to private first class but was demoted back to private and he was in trouble again while stationed in the Philippines.

He received a hardship discharge in September 1959, stating his mother needed his help. Out of the service and back home, he defected to the USSR in October 1959 just before he turned 20. He had been teaching himself Russian while in the Marines and had saved up $1,500 from his salary. He got to Moscow and they refused his offer to defect. He slit his wrist and was placed under psychiatric evaluation. Eventually he went to Minsk as a lathe operator but grew bored. He asked for re-admittance to the US via the embassy in Moscow. Before that could be accomplished his daughter was born. In June  1962 Oswald, his wife, and daughter left to return to the US.

The family settled in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and yet he was still dissatisfied with his life. He moved back to New Orleans, went to Mexico for a short time, and returned to Dallas in October 1963. At about 12:30 PM on November 22, 1963 Oswald fired three rifle shots from the six floor corner window of the Book Depository. President John F. Kennedy was killed and Texas Governor John Connally was seriously wounded. He was captured little more than an hour later and taken to the Dallas Police Headquarters. On this day, as he was being taken to the county jail, Jack Ruby stepped from the crowd, and shot Oswald in the abdomen. He died at the same hospital at his victim, President Kennedy.

And that is my definition of democracy, the right to be in a minority and not be suppressed.

I always felt that the Cubans were being pushed into the Soviet Bloc by American policy.

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

I hear they burn for murder. Well, they say it just takes a second to die. – all from Lee Harvey Oswald

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.
Wilt the Stilt – In 1960, the basketball player garnered another record.

Why Thespians?

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 23, 2012

Athenian theater

November 23, 534 BC: The city Dionysia in Athens holds a contest. According to many Ancient Greek sources, but especially Aristotle, there was a contest held on this date to found a new form of entertainment. Aristotle lived about two centuries after this date, but oral tradition was strong in this time and other sources corroborate his information. Thespis was an entertainer of the day, performing songs called Dithyrambs, or stories about ancient mythology containing choric refrains. He is given credit for inventing a different presentation using only one performer who employed masks to indicate the different players in the myths.

Thespis became a strident proponent of an even newer type of entertainment – tragedies. He was said to have created the idea of a person performing not as himself, but in the guise of someone else. With the winning of this competition, he also invented touring, taking his show on the road. He would tour the countryside in a horse drawn wagon which contained his costumes, masks, and other props, literally taking his entire show on the road. He is sometimes given credit for writing plays as well, but most modern scholars believe this to be incorrect.

Acting has a long history, beginning – at least according to the tales of the time – from this date. Prior to Thespis’s style change, the singer of the dithyrambs would announce that So-and-So said something or did something, but Thespis took the leap to become the So-and-So and speak in his stead or act out the scene. Therefore instead of saying, for example, “Dionysus, did this, Dionysus said that” he would proclaim, “I am Dionysus. I did this.” In Ancient Greece, all actors were adult males and they also played any female or youth roles needed.

Today, actors come in all ages and genders and perform across a wide range of media. They can perform live on stage in a theater, live but taped for television, on a stage for taping for either TV or film. Actors assume the roles needed for the production and are often required to metamorphose into something completely different than their everyday lives. They often use dialects or accents and can imply much with body language and facial expressions. Many actors are professionally trained, but it is not a requirement even for professionals. Many communities also have local theaters where plays are put on to the delight of theater-goers unable to get to some of the leading venues.

The art of acting consists in keeping people from coughing. – Benjamin Franklin

It’s a living, breathing thing, acting. – Frank Langella

Acting is not being emotional, but being able to express emotion. – Robert Quillen

Good acting is consistency of performance. – Jim Dale

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.
Hijacked – In 1985, EgyptAir Flight 648 was hijacked.

The Ship

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 22, 2012

The clipper, Cutty Sark

November 22, 1869: A Scottish clipper is launched. These ships of the 19th century were quite fast, probably how they got their name. At the time, the word “clip” meant to run or fly swiftly and the ships, with at least three masts and a square rigging, were able to fly across the water. These ships were made mostly in American and British shipyards although some European countries, notably France and the Netherlands, also produced clippers. They traveled all over the world but were used mostly for trade between America and the United Kingdom and her colonies. They were also used for the New York to San Francisco run around Cape Horn, especially during the California gold rush. The Dutch used them in their tea trade.

The Jock Willis shipping line ordered the building of the ship with John Willis owning 40 of the 64 shares of interest and Robert Dunbar Willis owning the other 24. Scott & Linden built the ship at a cost of £16,500 (about £1,160,000 today). She was one of the last tea clippers built and one of the fastest – having benefitted from  years of perfecting the design. Her name: Cutty Sark. The same year as her launch, the Suez Canal also opened and with the shorter distance now available, trade turned to steam ships to bring cargo from the East to the West. Cutty Sark therefore spent only a few years plying the tea trade before turning to wool from Australia. The fast ship held the record time for ten years, as the shortest travel time from the Land of Oz to Britain.

Even as clipper ships had evolved, so did steam and eventually steam ships took over the trade even for wool. In 1895, Cutty Sark was sold to the Portuguese and renamed Ferreira. She continued to work as a trade vessel until 1922 when she was sold to a retired sea captain, Wilfred Dowman. He used her as a training ship and operated out of Falmouth, Cornwall. He died in 1938 and the ship was transferred to the Thames Nautical Training College, Greenhithe. There, she became an training ship for cadets and worked alongside HMS Worcester. The venerable old lady of the sea became too outdated even for training purposes in 1954 and was moved to permanent dry dock at that time.

Today, Cutty Sark is a museum ship and is one of three ships in London on the core Collection of the National Historic Ships Register (which is like a Grade 1 Listed Building), the other two being HMS Belfast and SS Robin. There are two other ships also made with a composite construction which means they have a wooden hull built over an iron frame. Only one other 19th century clipper ship remains, the City of Adelaide. Cutty Sark was undergoing conservation and was badly damaged in a fire on May 21, 2007. She was restored and the ship reopened to the public on April 25, 2012.

A sailing ship is no democracy; you don’t caucus a crew as to where you’ll go anymore than you inquire when they’d like to shorten sail. – Sterling Hayden

Admire a small ship, but put your freight in a large one; for the larger the load, the greater will be the profit upon profit. – Hesiod

No one would have crossed the ocean if he could have gotten off the ship in the storm. – Charles Kettering

One ship drives east and other drives west by the same winds that blow. It’s the set of the sails and not the gales that determines the way they go. – Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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.
China Clipper – In 1935, airmail service began.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 21, 2012

Revolt of the Lash

November 21, 1910: The Revolt of the Lash takes place. The Brazilian Navy had recentrly acquired a new battleship, Minas Geraes. The ship arrived four years after it was commissioned. It was expensive, costing a reported $8,863,842 and built in England. Soon after the ship arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the country was hit by an economic depression. Secondary to the economy, racism was prevalent within all the armed forces. However, the Brazilian naval discipline was even more egregious. The sailors revolted against the constant use of the lash.

Many of the black sailors aboard the Minas Geraes were freed slaves. They were forced to enter the Navy and there faced horrific discrimination. As part of their “freedom,” they were forced to serve in the Navy for 15 years. Since they could not escape, officers often directed “racial abuse and physical violence” against the not-quite-free men. Even minor offenses could be punished using “leather whips tipped with metal balls”. As even more indignities were heaped upon them, an experienced sailor, Joäo Cândido Felisberto became their leader. He was affectionately known as the “Black Admiral”.

The practice of lashing the sailors was banned by law, but regardless of the fact, in mid-November a sailor was whipped 250 times in front of his peers. The punishment continued even after the man fainted. This stirred the men to even more fury and on the night of November 21-22, they rebelled. During the mutiny which burst forth earlier than planned, several officers (including the captain) were killed. Other officers were forced off the ship. British engineers still aboard were held as hostages.

The revolt soon spread to other Brazilian ships, however torpedo boat crews remained loyal to the government. Armies along the coast were also loyal, but even combined, they could not take back the ships. The rebels were asking for a cessation of flogging, improved living conditions, and amnesty for all mutineers. The rebellion ended on November 26 but the men were not granted the amnesty promised. On November 28, the Navy was given permission to expel malcontents. Many of the men were jailed and tortured and Felisberto was held at the Hospital for the Insane. The men were finally granted pardon on July 24, 2008. Today, a statue of Felisberto overlooks the Ilha Das Cobras in Rio.

I’m interested in anything about revolt, disorder, chaos, especially activity that appears to have no meaning. It seems to me to be the road toward freedom. – Jim Morrison

Inferiors revolt in order that they may be equal, and equals that they may be superior. Such is the state of mind which creates revolutions. – Aristotle

To revolt is a natural tendency of life. Even a worm turns against the foot that crushes it. In general, the vitality and relative dignity of an animal can be measured by the intensity of its instinct to revolt. – Mikhail Bakunin

Why do people in ship mutinies always ask for “better treatment”? I’d ask for a pinball machine, because with all that rocking back and forth you’d probably be able to get a lot of free games. – Jack Handy

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.
Senator Rebecca – In 1922, the first female US Senator took her seat.