Little Bits of History

Belting One Out

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 31, 2013
Van Allen Belts

Van Allen Belts

January 31, 1958: The means for defining bands of radiation around Earth become available to James Van Allen. Van Allen was an American scientist from the University of Iowa where he earned a PhD in nuclear physics in 1939. He went first to the Carnegie Institution and then joined Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) where he worked on proximity fuses used to detonate explosive devices automatically. In 1942 he joined the Navy and served as an assistant gunnery officer.

After the war, he returned to APL and began to be interested in the study of the upper atmosphere. The Explorer I was the US answer to the Sputnik launches. It was the first successfully launched US spacecraft rising into space on this date. The cigar-shaped satellite orbited the Earth every 115 minutes 220 miles above the surface. It carried instruments to measure cosmic rays, micrometeors, and its own temperature. On board, at Van Allen’s insistence, was a Geiger counter, an instrument to measure radiation.

The possibility of trapped ionized radiation was already under investigation. The radiation belts were confirmed from the Explorer 1 and Explorer 3 missions. The actual mapping of the belts was done by Sputnik 3, Explorer 4, Pioneer 3, and Luna 1. There are two distinct radiation belts of energetic electrons with protons forming a single belt. There is an inner and outer belt. While similar radiation bands have been discovered around other planets, the Van Allen Belts refer specifically to Earth’s radiation bands.

The two belts are formed by different processes. They are harmful to satellites and can cause damage to sensitive equipment. Humans are also susceptible to the radiation which is difficult to shield against. While we don’t know exactly how the belts are formed, there is one company claiming they can drain the inner belt to 1% of its natural energy level within a year. They would use High Voltage Orbiting Long Tethers which would be long strands of highly charged cables. The radiation in the belts would intercept the cables, change directions, and dissipate into space. The lessened radiation would make the region far safer for space jockeys.

“I don’t think the human race will survive the next thousand years, unless we spread into space. There are too many accidents that can befall life on a single planet. But I’m an optimist. We will reach out to the stars.” – Stephen Hawking

“The Earth is just too small and fragile a basket for the human race to keep all its eggs in.” – Robert Heinlein

“There are so many benefits to be derived from space exploration and exploitation; why not take what seems to me the only chance of escaping what is otherwise the sure destruction of all that humanity has struggled to achieve for 50,000 years?” – Isaac Asimov

“The dinosaurs became extinct because they didn’t have a space program. And if we become extinct because we don’t have a space program, it’ll serve us right!” – Larry Niven

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: James Van Allen was born in Iowa in 1914. His boyhood home housed a museum regarding his life and contributions to science. It was scheduled for demolition, however Lee Pennebaker purchased the house and saved it from destruction. His plan for the structure was to donate it to the Henry County Heritage Trust. Their plan for the old house is to move it next to Saunders School and in that location it will become the Henry County museum. Mount Pleasant, the city of his birth is the county seat of Henry County and is a small community in the southeast corner of the state. In 2010 there were 8,668 people living there.

Also on this day: Sticking to Business – In 1930, 3M marketed Scotch tape.
Love Bug – In 747: The London Lock Hospital opened as the first venereal disease clinic.
The Only One – In 1945, Eddie Slovik was executed.

That’s Crazy

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 30, 2013
Richard Lawrence and Andrew Jackson

Richard Lawrence and Andrew Jackson

January 30, 1835: Richard Lawrence pulls two pistols and shoots at President Andrew Jackson, the first known US Presidential assassination attempt. Lawrence was born in England in either 1800 or 1801. He was clearly insane by age 30, possibly due to the chemicals found in the paint he used in his work. He thought he was King Richard III and he blamed Jackson for his father’s death as well as keeping him from the throne. He moved to the US in order to rectify these miscarriages of justice. Fortunately, during the assassination attempt, both pistols misfired. Lawrence was found not guilty by reason of insanity and spent the rest of his life in insane asylums.

Four US Presidents have been assassinated while in office. Abraham Lincoln was shot in the head while attending Ford’s Theater and died the next day. James A. Garfield was shot in the back while at a train station in Washington, DC and died nearly three months later due to the poor medical care he received. William McKinley was shot in the chest at the Pan-American Exposition and died eight days later. John F. Kennedy was shot in the head while riding in a cavalcade in Dallas, Texas and died later in the day. Nine other Presidents have had unsuccessful attempts made on their lives.

Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang reigned in 210 BC when Jing Ke made an unsuccessful attempt on his life, the earliest documented attempt. In 44 BC Julius Caesar was stabbed 23 times by a group of senators at the Forum in Rome. Assassinations have brought about the fall of nations, as in the Roman Republic. The assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand is often cited as the start of World War I. Not all assassinations are political.

One definition of the crime is “… to murder a prominent person by surprise attack.” The assassin commits 1. a terrible violence, 2. in public view, and 3. for a political, moral, or ideological reason. Religious icons have also been attacked, for instance – Pope John Paul II. More layers of security were added with devices such as the Popemobile. Bodyguards increased and sometimes body doubles were used. Access to the powerful and famous is becoming more restricted. Alas, this does not entirely stop the assassins.

“I’m scared to death. I know the assassin mentality he has. He’s always on attack. He’s always probing the defense. I liked it better when we didn’t know what was there.” – Jay Wright

“I know you are here to kill me. Shoot, coward, you are only going to kill a man.’ – Ernesto “Che” Guevara, facing his assassin

“Rome had Caesar, a man of remarkable governing talents, although it must be said that a ruler who arouses opponents to resort to assassination is probably not as smart as he ought to be.” – Barbara W. Tuchman

“The slanderer and the assassin differ only in the weapon they use; with the one it is the dagger, with the other the tongue. The former is worse that the latter, for the last only kills the body, while the other murders the reputation.” – Tyron Edwards

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Andrew Jackson was nicknamed Old Hickory because of his toughness and his aggressive nature. He was the seventh US President following John Quincy Adams and having Martin Van Buren assuming the office after Jackson’s second term. Van Buren had been the Vice President during that second term. Jackson was born in the frontier region around the Carolinas in 1767 just three weeks after his father was killed in an accident while his mother was returning home after burying her husband. His education was erratic at best. At the age of 13, he joined the militia and helped fight in the Revolutionary War. His family was decimated by the fighting and Jackson always blamed the British.

Also on this day: “Look that up in your Funk and Wagnall’s” – In 1922, Dick Martin was born.
Assassination attempt – In 1835, the first US Presidential assassination attempt takes place.
Mr. Music – In 1858, the Halle Orchestra performed.

Victoria Cross

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 29, 2013
Victoria Cross

Victoria Cross

January 29, 1856: The Victoria Cross (VC) is established by Queen Victoria. It is the highest military decoration awarded for valor “in the face of the enemy.” Members of the military of the Commonwealth and some British Empire territories are eligible to receive the honor. It takes precedence over all other orders, decorations, and medals. The VC is granted regardless of rank or service area and can also be bestowed on civilians under military command. The British monarch presents the medal during an investiture service at Buckingham Palace.

The only comparable British award is the George Cross which is awarded for outstanding bravery and valor but not in the face of the enemy. Should someone receive both honors, the VC would be worn first. The medal is a bronze Cross pattée with a Crown and Lion Superimposed and holds the motto: “For Valour.” It has been awarded 1,356 times to 1,353 different individuals. Three people have been awarded the VC and bar – a medal for two separate actions.

Queen Victoria instituted the award as a result of the Crimean War. In 1854, 40 years of relative peace were brought to an end when Britain came into major conflict with Russia. The Crimean War was one of the first wars with modern reporting and dispatches from William Howard Russell told of the many acts of bravery and honor on the front lines – most of them unrewarded. Officers were eligible for awards but there weren’t awards unrelated to rank, as there were in other countries.

The Queen’s Warrant was put forth under the Royal-sign manual and backdated to 1854 in order to include the brave forces from the Crimean War. The VC comes with a yearly annuity which began at £10 and is now £1,495 if awarded by the British government, $3,000 if Canadian, and $A3,230 for Australians. At one time, the VC was forfeit should the recipient commit some heinous crime and it happened eight times. It is no longer the case and hasn’t been invoked, even while still part of the Warrant, since 1908. The last VC was awarded in 2007 to Bill Apiata who served with the New Zealand Special Air Service in Afghanistan. He is the first New Zealander to be awarded this prestigious honor.

“We are not interested in the possibilities of defeat. They do not exist.”

“The important thing is not what they think of me, but what I think of them.”

“I think people really marry far too much; it is such a lottery after all, and for a poor woman a very doubtful happiness.”

“Great events make me quiet and calm; it is only trifles that irritate my nerves.” – all from Queen Victoria

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: The last VC to be awarded was on August 24, 2010 and bestowed upon Daniel Keighran, serving with the 6th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment in Afghanistan. The remuneration scale remains as stated above. Since they are rare, they are also highly prized and many have been sold at auction. The highest amount ever paid for one was over £400,000. There are both public and private collections of the medals. Lord Ashcroft began collecting in 1986 and since that time has been able to accumulate  over 1/10 of all VC ever awarded or over 135 medals. In November 2012, Lord Ashcroft’s collection was displayed at the Imperial War Museum next to their own VC and George Cross medals.

Also on this day: Oh, No – O-Three – In 1978, Sweden became the first nation to ban certain aerosols to protect the ozone layer.
“Nevermore!” – In 1845, The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe was printed for the first time.
Nevermore – In 1945, the poem was published (a different look at the event).

Tagged with: ,

Words and More Words

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 28, 2013


January 28, 1754: Horace Walpole coins a new word, serendipity, in a letter to Horace Mann. Walpole, author and cousin to Lord Nelson, wrote to a fellow Englishman then residing in Florence, Italy. Walpole referred to a fairy tale called The Three Princes of Serendip and their fortuitous discoveries. He went on to explain how these accidental discoveries were, in fact, a perfect example of “serendipity” thus creating the new word meaning “accidental sagacity.”

English is the third most spoken tongue in the world. There are about 1.8 billion people who speak it either as a first or second language. Languages are living things; they grow and change over time. Words are added or lost and meanings are altered with time and place. Words enter the vocabulary in various ways. They are brought in from another language such as chaise lounge from the French. They are proper nouns that turn into common nouns, such as the trademarked Kleenex and the name Mrs. Malaprop from her role in a play where her constant misuse of words eventually led to the term malapropism entering the language meaning a Freudian slip, another example.

Words sometimes originate as acronyms such as LASER, RADAR, and SONAR. Backronyms are words that are given meaning after the word is chosen such as Yahoo, Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle. Words enter via science, literature, politics, commerce, as well as pop culture. There are web sites that keep track of new usages of words. For example, spider, the insect, became spider, a bot that ran across the web searching for items to display in a list, such as a Google search.

Some neologisms, or new words, have a meteoric rise and then crash and burn into oblivion. Other words enter slowly and become part of the mainstream language. The life cycle of a word may follow a course of instability (new, used by few people or a subculture), diffused (spreading but not yet widespread), stable (gaining recognition and probably lasting inclusion), and finally dated (not only no longer new, but heading toward cliché). Both Lewis Carroll and Dr. Seuss enlivened their stories with abundant words not found in any dictionary – at the time they were written. It might be fun to let The Lorax read Jabberwocky.

“Serendipity. Look for something, find something else, and realize that what you’ve found is more suited to your needs than what you thought you were looking for.” – Lawrence Block

“Serendipity is looking in a haystack for a needle and discovering a farmer’s daughter.” – Julius Comroe Jr.

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

“Yesterday’s neologisms, like yesterday’s jargon, are often today’s essential vocabulary.” – Academic Instincts

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Horace Walpole, or Haratio Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford was born in 1717, the youngest son of British Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole. He was educated at Bexley, Eton College, and King’s College. While in Cambridge, his religious views became far more skeptical and he developed an aversion to superstition and bigotry. His mother died when he was twenty and he was bereft. He never married although he did carry on some serious “flirtations” with unmarriageable women. His sexual orientation has been debated and although contemporaries classified him as somewhat effeminate, most consider him to be asexual rather than homosexual. He is most remembered today for the Gothic Revival villa he built, beginning in 1749. The house is known by the name of Strawberry Hill.

Also on this day: Beautiful Snow – In 1887, the largest snowflake on record was found.
Lighting the Night – In 1807, the first street was lit by gas light.
Challenged – In 1986, the Challenger exploded.

Guy Fawkes’s Trial

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 27, 2013
Guy Fawkes

Guy Fawkes

January 27, 1606: The conspirators in the assassination plot against King James I are brought to trial. Robert Catesby had hoped for leniency and toleration toward Catholics. By May 1604, it was obvious they would remain a persecuted sect. James I became King of Scotland in 1567 and became King of England and Ireland in 1603 after Elizabeth I died. When the Catholics realized the Protestant monarch would continue to persecute them, they plotted to bring about a revolution in the hopes of seating James’s daughter, a Catholic, on the throne.

Several men conceived of a plan in the hope of religious freedom – at least for themselves. Even some titled men were involved in the plot. They employed Guy Fawkes, an expert with explosives and with years of military experience. In May 1604, they leased rooms adjacent to the House of Lords and began to bring in gunpowder. The plan was to assassinate the King and disrupt the governmental process by also killing other important figures.

The Black Plague came to London and was particularly virulent. Parliament was suspended until 1605. Instead of opening sessions early in the new year, sessions were postponed until October 3. During this lull, the plotters found a vacant coal merchant’s cellar under the House of Lords and began to fill it with gunpowder. They eventually concealed 36 barrels (1,775 pounds) of the substance under the building. If they had been successful, they would have reduced many of the near buildings to rubble, including Westminster Abbey.

The plotters tipped off Catholics, warning them not to be present when the Gunpowder Plot was scheduled. Loyal Catholics tipped off the authorities and at midnight on November 5, 1605 Guy Fawkes was arrested near 20 kegs of gunpowder. Under torture, he finally gave names of co-conspirators but only those men already dead or already known to the King. The men were brought to Westminster Hall. The sensational trial lasted one day and spectators paid up to 10 shillings to watch the proceedings. On January 31, Fawkes and several co-conspirators were taken to Old Palace Yard where they were drawn and quartered. Fawkes jumped as he was hanged, breaking his neck and dying instantly, thus eluding the torture of disembowelment and quartering.

“A desperate disease requires a dangerous remedy.” – Guy Fawkes

“Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot to surrender,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.” – Traditional Guy Fawkes night song

“Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t’was his intent
To blow up King and Parli’ment.” – Traditional Guy Fawkes night song

“Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England’s overthrow;
By God’s providence he was catch’d
With a dark lantern and burning match.” – Traditional Guy Fawkes night song

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Guy Fawkes was born in 1570 into a Protestant family. His mother’s family consisted of recusant Catholics, or those who refused to attend Anglican services. As such, they were subject to punishments under the laws of the Church of England. Guy’s cousin became a Jesuit priest ministering to Catholics. When Guy was 8, his father died. His mother remarried, this time to a Catholic. He received a Catholic education and associated with many who were avoiding the Recusancy Acts punishments. His childhood associates would also be co-conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot. There is mention that Guy married and had a son, but there is a lack of confirmation amid the extant records.

Also on this day: Globetrotters – In 1927, the Harlem Globetrotters played their first game.
Apollo I Fire – In 1967, during a test flight the capsule of Apollo 1 burns, killing three.
It’s All Greek – In 1870, Kappa Alpha Theta was formed.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 26, 2013
Andrew Lloyd Webber

Andrew Lloyd Webber

January 26, 1988: The Majestic Theatre on Broadway in New York City opens a new musical. The show first opened at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London on October 9, 1986. The musical is based on a book by the French author Gaston Leroux who gave us Le Fantôme de l’Opéra in 1911. Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote the music while Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe contributed the lyrics. The play became the longest running Broadway musical on January 26, 2006 with its 7,486th performance. It is the second longest West End musical behind Les Miserables and passed the 9,000-performance mark on May 31, 2008.

The Phantom of the Opera has won both the Oliver Award and a Tony Award. The orchestral needs for the musical are greater than for most modern productions. The 27-piece orchestra can be replaced with pre-recorded music when the pit is too small to hold the musicians. There are also off-stage voiceovers that are pre-recorded as are Christine’s high notes at the end of the title song. The cast of 12 players requires a staff of 13. Due to the demands on the voice of the soprano in the role of Christine Daaé, two actresses are needed with the secondary actress taking the stage twice a week.

The tale takes place in Paris in 1881. The owner of the theatre sells it and while the troupe is performing for the new owners, they hear of the Opera Ghost. When their star soprano quits in a huff, Christine is put into the starring role. While she has a beautiful voice, she is untrained. She is mysteriously coached and performs brilliantly on opening night. In the audience is Raoul, Vicomte de Chagne, the new patron of the Opera House and the old sweetheart of Christine.

Christine is torn between the Phantom of the Opera and Raoul. She becomes engaged to the young man angering her adoring mentor. The two men’s animosity escalates. It is a story of unconditional love or perhaps a tale of desperate need. Andrew Lloyd Webber has given the world several spectacular musicals: Jesus Christ Superstar, Cats, and Evita. He is set to premiere his sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies in 2010 with Jack O’Brien directing.

“Let me be your shelter, let me be your light.
You’re safe: No-one will find you, your fears are far behind you . . .” – Raoul

“Father once spoke of an angel . . . I used to dream he’d appear . . .
Now as I sing, I can sense him . . . And I know he’s here.” – Christine

“Flattering child, you shall know me, see why in shadow I hide!
Look at your face in the mirror – I am there inside!” – Phantom

“Christine: In sleep he sang to me / In dreams he came
That voice which calls to me / And speaks my name
And do I dream again? / For now I find
The phantom of the opera is there, / Inside my mind.
Phantom: Sing once again with me / Our strange duet
My power over you / Grows stronger yet
And though you turn from me / to glance behind
The phantom of the opera is there / Inside your mind” – all from The Phantom of the Opera

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Love Never Dies opened at the Adelphi Theatre in the West End (London) on March 9, 2010. The play was substantially written in November 2010 but still got poor reviews in England. After more substantial rewrites, the play opened in Australia to a better reception. It was to have opened on Broadway at the same time as the West End opening, but it was delayed indefinitely. Love Never Dies takes place ten years after the close of The Phantom of the Opera. The Phantom moved to the US and is in charge of Phantasma, a Coney Island amusement park. He still pines for Christine and invites her to come to the US to perform. She does not realize who issued the invitation and so she, her husband Raoul, and their son, Gustave accept the invitation.

Also on this day: The Hills Are Alive – In 1905, Maria von Trapp was born.
Bald Eagle or Wild Turkey? – In 178,: Benjamin Franklin debates using the eagle as engraved on the national seal.
Brilliant – In 1905, the Cullinan Diamond was found.

Twice a Rebel

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 25, 2013
Daniel Shays

Daniel Shays

January 25, 1787: Daniel Shays finds taxation with representation isn’t so hot, either. Shays was a captain during the American Revolutionary War, fighting for freedom from overseas rule and its crushing taxation. Shays was an officer of distinction. He worked his way up through the ranks and was awarded a sword for valor bestowed upon him by the great Lafayette. After the war, he returned to his western Massachusetts farm.

Shays was not finished fighting for his country. He led an armed resistance of about 4,000 men. The men came from all economic classes. Their goal was to decrease the taxes levied to pay off the war debt. The crushing debt caused by the regressive tax during a depressive economic time was causing families to lose their farms and many men ended up in debtor’s prison. On this day, an arsenal was attacked.

Shays’s Rebellion is often misunderstood and new information is causing historians to rethink the Rebellion that raged for two years. It was seen until recently as only poor men wishing to avoid debtor’s prison. In fact, the discontent spread further and involved men of all economic means. George Washington himself wrote letters to Shays and other influential participants. Some of the Founding Fathers saw some merit in the Rebellion. Thomas Jefferson wrote in support of it.

Over the months of confrontation, a new concept was brought forth for the infant nation. A stronger central government was needed. The Articles of Confederation, written ten years earlier, were seen as too weak. In the light of the Rebellion, a new, stronger, more centralized government was seen as the answer to the young nation’s problems – a new path for the Founders to follow. At the Constitutional Convention of 1787, all this was taken under consideration as the United States Constitution was written.

“Democracy [is] when the indigent, and not the men of property, are the rulers.” – Aristotle

“…nothing in this world is certain but death and taxes.” – Benjamin Franklin

“The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments.” – William H. Borah

“The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose to obtain the largest amount of feathers with the least possible amount of hissing.” – Jean-Baptiste Colbert

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Daniel Shays was born in 1747 in Massachusetts and was one of six children born to his Irish immigrant parents. He joined the 5th Massachusetts Regiment and fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill, the Battle of Lexington, and the Battle of Saratoga. He was wounded during the war and resigned, without pay. He returned home to his farm and found that not only were taxes high, but local businessmen were raising prices on commodities needed by the farmers in order for the shopkeepers to pay their own taxes. He later sold his ceremonial sword to help pay off his debt. He was eventually given a pension from the Federal Government to help pay for his five years of service during the Revolutionary War for which he was never paid. He died at the age of 78 after years of heavy drinking, living in poverty, and working a small parcel of land in Sparta, New York.

Also on this day: Moscow University – In 1755, Moscow University was established.
First Winter Olympics – In 1924, International Winter Sports Week opens in Chamonix, France.
Payola – In 1960, punishments for those involved in the payola scandal were issued.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 24, 2013
Robert Baden-Powell

Robert Baden-Powell

January 24, 1907: Robert Baden-Powell founds the Boy Scouts. Lieutenant General Baden-Powell began the movement in order to aid young boys in their physical, mental, and spiritual growth. During his military career, General Baden-Powell taught his men basic wilderness survival skills. He noticed it not only enhanced their chances of survival, but developed the soldiers’ independence. During the Boer War, Baden-Powell organized the Mafeking Cadet Corps, a group of young boys who supported the troops as well as helped in the defense of the town. Each member received a badge with a combined compass point and spearhead, a precursor to the fleur-de-lis of the Boy Scouts badge.

In England, Baden-Powell’s movements while holding Mafeking were reported in the news. When the siege was broken, he became a national hero. While in the service, he wrote a small guide for military scouting called Aids to Scouting. Boys became very interested in the book and after his return to England, it was requested he rewrite the book for boys rather than military personnel. The Boys’ Brigade was a large youth movement with military underpinnings. Baden-Powell thought a group like this, but with a focus on life skills rather than military precision, would fill a need.

Baden-Powell published Scouting for Boys and soon the movement was spreading to all parts of the British Empire. The first overseas unit was chartered in Gibraltar in 1908. At first, the program focused only on boys aged 11-18. As it grew, it became evident there was a need to expand to younger boys, older young men, and girls. Cub Scout and Rover Scout programs were added by 1910. Agnes Baden-Powell, Robert’s sister, introduced the Girl Guides in 1910 with the support of her brother.

Today, children aged 7-10 can join Cub Scouts or Girl Guides. Boys move to Boy Scouts aged 11-17 while girls move up to Girl Guide or Girl Scout status. Over age 18, Rover Scout or Ranger Guide is available. Adult supervision is provided by volunteers. The movement is truly global in scope with 28 million registered Scouts and 10 million registered Guides in 216 different countries. Some countries maintain gender separate groups while some have become co-educational. Indonesia boasts 8,100,000 members and the US has 7,500,000. The UK has 1 million members, the 6th highest membership country.

“My Scoutmaster made an indelible impact because he showed interest in young men by teaching us to do the right thing, to live right, and to be responsible for our actions.” – Reverend Dr. C.C. Robertson

“Scouting reinforces values you brought from home. It gave us an opportunity to share them with others whose values were not as strong.” – Jose Niño

“Following the Scout Law sounds like a game plan that would give us all a better chance for success in life—and I mean every area of life.” – Zig Ziglar

“I assure you of my own personal appreciation of Scouting as a magnificent experience and form of social and religious commitment.” – His Holiness Pope John Paul II

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Robert Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell was born in 1857 in London. He had a long military career beginning in 1876 when he joined the 13th Hussars in India with the rank of Lieutenant. By the 1880s in the Natal province of South Africa, he was developing his skills in military scouting with the aid of the Zulus. He served in several places under English influence. While traveling to America in 1912, he met Olave St. Clair Soames. She was 23 and he was 55. They eloped ten months later. The couple had three children and Baron Baden-Powell died in 1941 at the age of 83. He was in Kenya at the time and was buried there. When his wife died, her ashes were sent to be interred with her husband.

Also on this day: Badminton – In 1900, Newcastle Badminton Club opened, the oldest such club in England.
“Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River” – In 1848, James W. Marshall spies gold in the American River, sparking the  California Gold Rush.
Never Surrender –  In 1972, Shōichi Yokoi was found.

More Than Vases

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 23, 2013
Zhu Yuanzhang

Zhu Yuanzhang

January 23, 1368: The Hongwu Emperor ascends to the throne of China, beginning the Ming Dynasty. The Dynasty lasted until 1644, covering 276 years of Chinese history. Zhu Yuanzhang became Hongwu Emperor and ruled over approximately 72,700,000 people. His rule lasted for 30 years and he established his capital at Nanjing. He replaced Mongol bureaucrats with his own Han Chinese associates.

Dynastic rule began in China before 2700 BC with the Three August Ones and the Five Emperors ruling for over 600 years. Dynasties lasted for as few as 15 years and up to hundreds of years. They spanned the centuries from thousands of years BC to 1912 when the final dynasty – Qing – fell to rebellion and poor leadership as well as a changing landscape in world affairs.

The penultimate dynasty was responsible for building a vast military structure. There was a huge navy with many four-masted ships displacing as much as 1,500 tons as well as a standing army of 1,000,000 troops. By 1600 the population of China had reached 150,000,000 so the percentage of military to citizens was still less than 1%. The nation produced more than 100,000 tons of iron ore per annum or roughly 2 pounds per inhabitant. They also printed many books using movable typeface.

The founder of the Ming Dynasty had a legal code drawn up that was overseen by the Emperor himself. His code was comprehensive and easily understood. Loopholes were eradicated in order to prevent minor authorities from being able to erroneously interpret the law. The laws addressed family relationships and improved the treatment of slaves. Hongwu embraced Confucianism, especially the elevation of agriculture and the parasitic view of merchants. Even so, commerce increased throughout the Ming Dynasty even in these early stages.

“From nobody to upstart. From upstart to contender. From contender to winner. From winner to champion. From champion to Dynasty.” – Pat Riley

“What luck for rulers that men do not think.” – Adolf Hitler

“Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman, before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air.” – John Quincy Adams

“Revolution is not a onetime event.” – Audre Lorde

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Zhu Yuanzhang was born in 1328 and was 40 years old when he rose to power. He was one of several children, many of whom were given away because the family was too poor to support them. After a flood and plague killed his family, except for him and one brother, Zhu joined a Buddhist monastery. He stayed only a short time before that, too, fell on hard times and it was destroyed by an army putting down a local rebellion. Zhu joined the rebels against the Yuan Dynasty and rose rapidly to become a commander. He amassed a power base and in 1356 his army conquered Nanjing which would become the base of operations and the official capital of the Ming Dynasty.

Also on this day: Shaanxi Earthquake – In 1556, the deadliest earthquake on record strikes central China.
Greenbriar Ghost – In 189, Elva Zona Heaster was murdered but did not leave this mortal coil.
Poppies – In 1912, the International Opium Convention was signed.

Bloody Sunday

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 22, 2013
Father Gapon

Father Gapon

January 22, 1905: (The date was January 9 in Old Style calendar still in use in Russia at the time.)The streets of St. Petersburg, Russia run red with blood. Father Gapon, a popular Russian Orthodox priest, organized the Assembly of Russian Factory and Mill Workers union. The group was patronized by the Department of the Police and the St. Petersburg secret police, Okhrana. The workers’ union quickly expanded to 12 branches with 8,000-9,000 members. Gapon, defrocked for “sinfulness” in 1902, continued to be supportive of the working poor. By 1904, job loss and real wage buying power decreases brought the masses to protest.

The 65-hour workweek with harsh and unsafe conditions led more people to the illegal trade unions. Four members of the Workers Union were fired from the Putilov Iron Works. Gapon called for industrial action and a strike by the ill-treated workers. Over 110,000 workers in St. Petersburg responded. Father Gapon proposed to take a petition to Tsar Nicholas II. Workers sought an 8-hour workday, wage increases, and improved working conditions. Universal suffrage was proposed as well as a demand for the end of the Russo-Japanese War.

About 150,000 people signed the petition. Gapon led a procession of workers to the Winter Palace in the hope of presenting his petition to the Tsar. The crowd numbered between 150,000 and 200,000. They approached the palace carrying religious symbols and singing patriotic songs including “God Save the Tsar.” The peaceful procession was fired on by the Cossacks of the Palace Guard. The Tsar’s count of the dead and wounded was 96 and 333 respectively. Anti-government sources claim 4,000 killed while other sources cite 1,000 dead and wounded.

This was the beginning of the 1905 Russian Revolution. Father Gapon survived Bloody Sunday and managed to escape to Geneva. He announced his disassociation with the unions and declared he joined the Socialist Revolutionary Party. It came to light that he had been a member of long standing, playing both sides. His motive for leading the procession to the Winter Palace was to ignite a revolution. While the 1905 Revolution was a failure, eventually another Revolution would succeed in bringing a Socialist based government to Mother Russia.

“The first duty of a revolutionary is to get away with it.” – Abbie Hoffman

“The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution.” – Hannah Arendt

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” – John F. Kennedy

“While the State exists, there can be no freedom. When there is freedom there will be no State.” – Lenin

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Geordiy Apollonovich Gapon was a Russian Orthodox priest who was born in 1870. His parents were peasants in what is now called the Ukraine. He studied at the Saint Petersburg Theological Academy after being widowed at the age of 28. He worked at the St. Olga children’s orphanage and got involved with factory workers and their plight at the turn of the century. While he survived Bloody Sunday, he did not live much longer. On March 26, 1906 he met Pinchas Rutenberg (who had saved his life during the riot). Their meeting place was a cottage outside St. Petersburg and it was there he was found hanged the next month. He was 36 years old at the time.

Also on this day: Roe v. Wade – In 1973, the Supreme Court decided on the abortion issue, assuring all women a right to privacy.
Pontifical Swiss Guards – In 1506, the first of the Swiss Guards come to protect the Pope.
Football – In 1927, an association football match was broadcast over the radio.