Little Bits of History

Fort William

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 20, 2013
Fort William or the Black Hole of Calcutta

Fort William or the Black Hole of Calcutta

June 20, 1756: Fort William in India is attacked and 146 prisoners are taken by Sirag ud-Daulah. The fort itself was built to protect the interests of British East India Company. Established by Royal Charter on December 21, 1600 by Queen Elizabeth I, the company traded in cotton, silk, indigo dye, saltpeter, tea, and opium. Saltpeter or potassium nitrate is used in making gunpowder and opium trade was legal at the time. After 21 years of trade monopoly, the company became more than a mercantile enterprise and was actually more of a rulership over India and other British colonies in Asia.

Fort William was situated on the banks of the river Hooghly which is a major tributary of the sacred Ganges River. The early fort was built under John Goldsborough in 1701 with John Beard adding to it in 1702. The entire complex was completed in 1706. There was a guard room that was part of the fort. The Nawab of Bengal noted a buildup of military forces at the fort and issued a cease and desist order. Military personnel decamped and left John Holwell in charge of a token force.

The fort was overrun and 146 prisoners were placed in the small guard room or dungeon. According to Holwell who survived the capture, the room was built to hold 2-3 prisoners, not nearly 150. There were two windows but both were barred. Twice during the sweltering night, bribes were offered to find larger rooms for the captives. The air was stifling and cries for water rang out. The confined men were so tightly packed that 123 suffocated or were trampled in what came to be called the Black Hole of Calcutta.

Today there is controversy over this event. There is no other contemporary record of the 123 deaths. The room was said to have measured 15 x 18 feet and some say 146 adult Europeans could not have been crammed into such a small space. Current subway requirements list 3 square feet for rush hour standees, the space in the dungeon was less than 1.8 square feet per person. This seems to reinforce rather than repudiate the point – they were crammed in so tightly, they suffocated.

“An ugly sight, a man who is afraid.” – Jean Anouilh

“Better to die on one’s feet than to live on one’s knees.” – Dolores Ibarruri

“A timid person is frightened before a danger, a coward during the time, and a courageous person afterward.” – Jean Paul Richter

“Nature abhors a hero….how can it be the survival of the fittest when the fittest keeps putting himself in situations where he is most likely to get creamed?” – Solomon Short

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: John Zephaniah Holwell was a surgeon in the employ of the English East India Company and the temporary Governor of Bengal. He was born in 1711 in Dublin and grew up in London where he studied medicine at Guy’s Hospital. He arrived in India in 1732 and worked as the Company surgeon until 1749. Two years later he was zemindar of the Twentyfour Paraganas District of Bengal. He next moved to Fort William. After surviving this assault, he succeeded Robert Clive as temporary Governor. He was dismissed from the council in a year because of his disapproval of the appointment of Henry Vansittart as Governor in 1761. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1767 and died in 1798.

Also on this day: Lizzie Borden Took an Axe – In 1893, Lizzie Borden is acquitted of murder.
Communication is Key – In 1963, a hot line was set up between the US and USSR.
Great Seal of the United States – In 1782, the Great Seal design was adopted.

Julius and Ethel

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 19, 2013
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

June 19, 1953: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are executed for conspiracy to commit espionage. Julius was a member and eventually a leader in the Young Communist League (YCL). Ethel, two years older than Julius, was also a member of YCL, meeting her future husband there in 1936. The couple married in 1939, the same year Julius graduated from City College of New York with an electrical engineering degree. Julius joined the Army Signal Corps in 1940 and worked with radar equipment. Ethel was an actress and singer and also worked as a secretary.

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were not the only spies arrested. They were the only ones executed. David Greenglass, Ethel’s brother, was sentenced to 15 years and served 10. Harry Gold served 15 years and Morton Sobell served 11 years and 9 months. Klaus Fuchs, also a member of the group but residing in England, served 9 years of his 14 year sentence. The people involved had relayed information to Soviet Russia. They were accused of sending information to the enemy regarding the building of atomic bombs. The Rosenbergs’ trial began on March 6, 1951 and they were convicted on March 29. Sentencing took place on April 5.

There was much controversy surrounding the sentencing. Their guilt was not questioned but the punishment was hotly debated. Claims of anti-Semitism and witch hunt tactics have been leveled. Since the end of the Cold War, new documentation has come to light. According to Alexandre Feklisov, the Rosenbergs’ handler, Julius was recruited by the KGB on Labor Day 1942 by spymaster Semyon Semenov. The ringleader was recalled to Moscow in 1944 and Feklisov took over the role.

Feklisov said he was given thousands of documents supplied by Julius Rosenberg. Classified reports, including a complete design of a proximity fuse, were passed to the Soviets. A complete drawing of a Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star and secrets from Los Alamos filtered through to Russia. The couple was suspected of passing on vital information about the atomic bomb and US readiness for an atomic confrontation. The judge found the couple guilty of passing technical information as well as substantially influencing the Soviets in regards to the Korean War. They were executed in the electric chair at Sing Sing Correctional Facility.

“He didn’t understand anything about the atomic bomb and he couldn’t help us.” – Alexandre Feklisov

“[Julius Rosenberg was] in a conspiracy that delivered to the Soviets classified military and industrial information and what the American government described as the secret to the atomic bomb.” – Morton Sobell

“I consider your crime worse than murder…I believe your conduct in putting into the hands of the Russians the A-Bomb years before our best scientists predicted Russia would perfect the bomb has already caused, in my opinion, the Communist aggression in Korea, with the resultant casualties exceeding 50,000 and who knows but that millions more of innocent people may pay the price of your treason.” – Judge Irving Kaufman

“This death sentence is not surprising. It had to be.” – Julius Rosenberg

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Execution by electrocution via the electric chair has been used only in the US and the Philippines (begun during the US occupation of the islands). The criminal is strapped to a specially built wooden chair and electrocuted via electrodes placed on the body. The first dosage of alternating current which passes through the body is supposed to cause brain death and immediate unconsciousness. The second jolt causes major organ damage which is also lethal. Death is frequently caused by the electricity causing irregular heart rhythms, also fatal. Once a preferred method of execution (as it was thought to be more humane), it has been in decline since the use of lethal injection was introduced in 1977. Today, 16 states use only lethal injection to carry out a capital punishment decree.

Also on this day: NASCAR – In 1949, NASCAR begins.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis – In 1939, Lou Gehrig’s illness was named.
Emancipation Proclamation, a Bit Late – In 1865, the people of Galveston were informed of the proclamation.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 18, 2013
Checker Cab

Checker Cab

June 18, 1923: Checker Motors Corporation of Kalamazoo, Michigan has the first Checker Cab roll off the assembly line. Back in 1908 a car called Seven Little Buffaloes began the chain of events that led to the iconoclastic Checker Cab. With mergers, moves, and improvements the taxicab industry grew. Morris Markin lent $15,000 to a friend who ran a small taxicab body plant. Markin needed to protect his investment – and the rest is history.

With further mergers, the Checker Cab Manufacturing Co. was created in 1922 and located in Joliet, Illinois. They were making three cabs a day then. By 1923 they were making 112 cabs per month while working seven day week. By April 1923, more than 600 Checker Cabs were on New York City streets. Checker was growing and a move to Kalamazoo followed. More models were created. By spring 1925, Checker was making 75 units per week. A whole new body design came about in 1928. By January 1929, there were 21,000 cabs in NYC and more than 8,000 of them were Checkers.

John Hertz began the taxi business in 1910 with Yellow Cabs. He produced too many cars and so developed a plan where drivers could rent “Yellow Drive-Ur-Self” cars, the forerunner of Hertz Rental Cars. Markin, a Chicago clothier and businessman, saw Hertz’s success and bought as much Checker stock as possible until he gained full control in 1937. Competition between Yellow and Checker cabs was furious. Markin was the first to hire African-American drivers and insisted that cabs pick up all fares – not just white folks.

In 1964, anti-trust suits were brought against Markin. He died in 1970 and in 1977 GM bought into the company. The last Checker automobile rolled off the assembly line on July 12, 1982. On July 26, 1999, the last NYC Checker Cab was removed from service. Earl Johnson had grown up in Jamaica and driven the car in NYC from 1978 to 1999 – 21 years. He named the car “Janie” after an old girlfriend. Her retirement was marked by a party in Times Square. Even though she had 994,050 miles on her odometer, she sold at a Sotheby’s auction for $134,500 in December 1999.

“Too bad all the people who know how to run the country are busy driving taxi cabs and cutting hair.” – George F. Burns

“If, in New York, you arrive late for an appointment, say, ‘I took a taxi.'” – Andre Maurois

“Any time three New Yorkers get into a cab without an argument, a bank has just been robbed.” – Phyllis Diller

“I think everyone should drive a cab two weeks to get a taste of Americana.” – Dennis Roberts

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Morris Markin was born in Russia in 1893. He began working in a clothing factory and by the age of 19 was promoted to a supervisory position. He emigrated to the US and when he arrived at Ellis Island, he could not speak English and did not have the $25 needed to pay the bond to enter the country. A janitor lent him the money. He went to Chicago to live with his uncle and eventually learned how to be a tailor from a mentor. When the man died, Merkin bought his business from the man’s widow using credit backed by her. He became successful enough to bring his nine siblings from Russia to the US. He and one of his brothers opened a factory which produced pants purchased by the US government during World War I.

Also on this day: Mental Institutions and Being Governor – In 1959, Governor Earl Long was committed to a mental institution.
One Woman – No Vote – In 1873, Susan B. Anthony was found guilty of trying to vote.
What Was Up There? – In 1178, five monks observed an astronomical phenomenon.

Nicole and Ron

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 17, 2013
OJ Simpson arrested

OJ Simpson arrested

June 17, 1994: Orenthal James (O.J.) Simpson is arrested for a double murder. Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were brutally murdered outside Nicole’s apartment on June 12, 1994. Both victims were repeatedly stabbed and both had defensive wounds, attesting to their struggle in the attack. The Simpsons had been divorced for two years at the time of the murders. Their two children were asleep inside the apartment. The relationship between Nicole and Goldman has never been clearly defined. Evidence at the scene of the crime led police to suspect O.J.

O.J. had gained fame as a football star with the NFL as a running back. After his football career ended, he became a spokesman for a car rental agency and ran through airports and jumped over obstacles to get to his waiting car. He became an actor and was recognized across the country, if not the world. Police permitted him to turn himself in, thinking he was not a flight risk. O.J. was to be at the police station at 11 AM on this date. He didn’t show.

At 2 PM, the police issued an all-points bulletin for O.J. His lawyer and friend read a disjointed and confusing letter from the ex-football star that sounded like a suicide note. The police tracked cellular phone calls to find Simpson. They found his friend, Al Cowlings, driving a white Ford Bronco heading south on Interstate 405. When police approached the SUV, Cowlings told them O.J. was in the back seat, holding a gun to his own head. Police backed away.

Police followed the white Bronco down the freeway at speeds of only 35 mph. At the beginning of the low-speed chase, a lone helicopter flew above and filmed the event. As the pursuit continued, other film crews took to the air and radio announcers pleaded with O.J. to give himself up. The roadway was cleared of traffic and the country watched as a phalanx of police cruisers paced the SUV. The chase ended at 8 PM when O.J. was taken into custody outside his home.

“The day you take complete responsibility for yourself, the day you stop making any excuses, that’s the day you start to the top.”

“I didn’t beat her. I just pushed her out of bed.”

“I have always wanted to be liked and respected.”

“Don’t feel sorry for me. I’ve had a great life, great friends. Please think of the real O.J. and not this lost person.” – all from O.J. Simpson

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: OJ Simpson was brought to trial for the murder of Nicole and Ron and was eventually found “not guilty” by the jury. The country’s opinion on the fairness of the trial was split along color lines with African-Americans believing justice had been served while others did not. On February 5, 1997, a civil jury in Santa Monica, California found OJ liable for the wrongful death and battery against Ron Goldman and battery against Nicole. He was ordered to pay $33 million in damages but the law stipulates OJ’s pension could not be attached and so the debt was not paid. The case continued as the Goldman family sought the restitution the courts ordered. In September 2007, OJ Simpson was involved in armed robbery in Las Vegas. He was convicted in 2008 and remains incarcerated at Lovelock Correctional Center in Nevada.

Also on this day: Indian Princess – In 1631, Arjumand Banu Begum dies while giving birth to her fourteenth child.
Smoot-Hawley Act – In 1930, this tariff act was signed into law.
Breed’s Hill? – In 1775, the Battle of Bunker Hill was fought.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 16, 2013
Antoinette Sithole and Mbuyisa Makhubo carrying and 12-year-old Hector Pieterson moments after he was shot by South African police during a peaceful student demonstration in Soweto, South Africa

Antoinette Sithole and Mbuyisa Makhubo carrying 12-year-old Hector Pieterson moments after he was shot by South African police during a peaceful student demonstration in Soweto, South Africa

June 16, 1976: The Soweto Uprising, sometimes called the Soweto Riots, begin. What’s happened in the past affects today. This particular story began in 1949 when the Eiselen Commission looked into education for non-white South Africans. Their recommendation led to the Bantu Education Act of 1953. This Act caused a loss of government aid and so closed many mission schools, the primary educators of the black population. Instead of using a general tax fund for the education of all children, only black taxes paid for black education. The impoverished tax base helped to perpetuate the poverty of non-whites.

More laws were passed in 1963, 1965, and 1974 furthering the disparity in funding for building schools and course work. The final straw was the language issue. Afrikaans and English would be used in a 50-50 mix. Some subjects were taught only in Afrikaans and other only in English despite the fact that 98% of young Sowetans wished for English-only classes. Since English was the language of commerce and industry, Afrikaans was felt to be just another way to keep blacks in poverty.

Both teachers and students were against the 1974 decree mandating the use of Afrikaans. By April 30, 1976 children were on strike and refusing to attend classes. Several schools were eventually affected and students planned a rally to discuss what should be done. The students were eager to gain a useful education and so gathered together without their teachers’ or parents’ knowledge. They headed for Orlando Stadium. The apartheid police were also unaware of the proposed rally. As thousands streamed toward the meeting place, they found the roads barricaded by recently alerted police.

The 3,000-10,000 students altered their route, avoiding the barricades. Colonel Kleingold claimed that children were throwing rocks. Tear gas and police dogs were used to disperse the crowd. Instead, the police found themselves surrounded by children. They fired into the crowd, instantly killing several students. The violence escalated. By the end of the riots, the mass confusion and random killings left hundreds dead (200-700 depending on the source) with more than 1,000 injured. The uprising proved to be a turning point in the struggle to liberate South Africa.

“I have not consulted the African people on the language issue and I’m not going to. An African might find that ‘the grootbaas’ only spoke Afrikaans or only spoke English. It would be to his advantage to know both languages.” – Punt Janson, the Deputy Minister of Bantu Education

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance!” – Derek Bok

“Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know.” – Daniel J. Boorstin

“Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: The Soweto Uprising caused the world to look closer at what was happening in South Africa. The UN Security Council passed Resolution 392 on June 19 which condemned the South African government of suppressing the citizens. The “callous shooting” of protesters by the National Party was decried as was the system of apartheid. Then Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, was about to visit the county and said the riot cast a negative light on the entire nation. Exiled African National Congress members called for more economic sanctions against South Africa. The photo of Mbuyisa Makhubo carrying the dead body of Hector Pietorson while Antoinette Sithole ran beside the boys (taken by Sam Nzima) brought international condemnation down upon South Africa and the policies of apartheid.

Also on this day: Red v. White – In 1487, the Battle of Stoke Field is fought ending the Wars of the Roses.
Psycho – In 1960, Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller was released.
Children’s Party – In 1883, the Victoria Hall Disaster left 183 children dead.

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Not Spock

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 15, 2013
Charles Goodyear

Charles Goodyear

June 15, 1844: The process of vulcanization is patented. The process was named for the Roman god of fire, Vulcan. Rubber in its natural state is sticky and unstable at both high and low temperatures. When too warm, it partially melts and changes shape; when too cold, it is brittle and inelastic. These characteristics are due to rubber being composed of long polymer chains that can move independently of each other. In order to interweaver or crosslink the chains, rubber is vulcanized.

Vulcanization takes place under high heat and includes the addition of a curative agent, usually sulfur. This process makes bridges of sulfur atoms or carbon-to-carbon bonds holding the long polymers in place. The treated rubber is less springy, more durable, and has a smoother surface. The bridges are strong covalent bonds (a bond sharing atoms) making the resulting product a thermosetting polymer – meaning it is irreversibly set.

Natural rubber is produced in the sap of some plants. Rubber has been in use since at least 1600 BC in Mesoamerica. It was brought to Europe in 1736 and the substance was found to be interesting but not completely useful because of the difficulty with extreme temperatures. It was handy for rubbing out pencil marks and hence the name “rubber.” Charles Goodyear either through rigorous research or fortuitous good luck (depending on your source) found a way to make rubber useful for a variety of purposes. Goodyear claimed to have discovered the process in 1839, but did not patent it until 1844. He told the story of his find in his autobiography, written in 1853.

Charles Goodyear was born in 1800. His father was an astute businessman. As a young man, Charles also became a successful businessman accruing a fortune. A run of ill health and bad luck led to his financial ruin. He became aware of “gum elastic” in 1831 or 1832 and began an earnest study of the substance. His experiments with rubber often caused problems in the laboratory with clouds of noxious fumes threatening his safety and health. He changed the face of the world, but was not able to reap the profits from his process. He died penniless in 1860. Goodyear was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1976.

“A man has cause for regret only when he sows and no one reaps.” – Charles Goodyear

“I am not disposed to complain that I have planted and others have gathered the fruits.” – Charles Goodyear

“Life should not be estimated exclusively by the standard of dollars and cents.” – Charles Goodyear

“A pencil and rubber are of more use to thought than a battalion of assistants. To happiness the same applies as to truth: one does not have it, but is in it.” – Theodor Adorno

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: It was not until four decades after Goodyear’s death that The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company was founded by Frank Seiberling. The Akron, Ohio company was founded in 1898 and they remain in business with Richard J. Kramer as Chairman, President, and CEO. They make tires for cars, SUVs, and both commercial and light trucks. They supply tires for race cars as well as airplanes and farm equipment. They also make tires for heavy earth-mover equipment. They employ 72,000 people (2010 are latest figures available). In 2012, they had revenue of $20.3 billion with a net income of $220 million from a gross profit of $3.83 billion. They may be best known for their iconic Goodyear blimp which was introduced in 1925. Today, they have three blimps: Spirit of Goodyear, Spirit of America, and Spirit of Innovation.

Also on this day: King “Soft-sword” John “Signs” on the Dotted Line – In 1215, King John of England signs the Magna Carta.
Protect Your Eyes – In 763 BC, the first total solar eclipse was recorded.
Go Fly a Kite! – In 1753, Franklin experimented with electricity, maybe.

Early Computing

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 14, 2013
Charles Babbage

Charles Babbage

June 14, 1822: The Astronomical Society (Royal Astronomical Society since 1831) is presented a paper entitled “Note on the application of machinery to the computation of astronomical and mathematical tables.” The paper was presented by Charles Babbage. The paper’s proposal was for a mechanical calculator. It was designed to solve polynomial functions. Logarithmic and trigonometric functions can both be expressed by polynomials. A polynomial is either zero or can be expressed as the sum of one or more non-zero terms (infinite number of terms permitted).

Babbage’s time predates computers in the sense of a machine. However, in the 1800s, computers were people who solved math equations – or computed the answers. Unfortunately, the fallibility factor made the calculations unreliable. Babbage got funding from the British government and began to build his machine. When work did not progress as rapidly as was hoped and more funds were requested, all monies were withdrawn. Babbage improved his design and called his next version Difference Engine No. 2.

The first engine had about 25,000 parts, weighed 15 tons and stood 8 feet high. It was never finished. Engine No. 2 was finally built in 1989-1991 using Babbage’s plans and 19th century goods. It worked and the first result was calculated to 31 digits, more than the average pocket calculator. These early designs led to Babbage’s Analytical Engine. The second type of device was actually a series of machines and could be programmed using punch cards. Babbage’s machines have led us into the computer age even though they were not completed during his life.

The Difference Engine was built with columns which were numbered 1 to N. There was a four-step process for calculations with each successive step based on the result of the previous step. Gears were used to move levers. The machine could add and subtract, but not multiply. It produced, rather, nearby values for an unknown X. By some miracle of higher mathematics, this produced an answer via the method of finite differences. The Difference Engine finally built in the 20th century worked, but by then we had smaller, easier to use, electronic calculators. Phew.

“I wish to God these calculations had been executed by steam.”

“Errors using inadequate data are much less than those using no data at all.”

“On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament], ‘Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?’ I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.”

“The whole of the developments and operations of analysis are now capable of being executed by machinery. … As soon as an Analytical Engine exists, it will necessarily guide the future course of science.” – all from Charles Babbage

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Charles Babbage was born in London (exact location unknown) in 1792 (but this, again, is disputed and it was probably a year earlier). He was one of four children and his father was a banking partner until the family moved and he was then a warden of the local church. At about age eight, Charles was sent to a country school while recovering from a life-threatening fever. He attempted some public schooling, but his health issues forced him back to private tutors. Eventually he was well enough to attend Cambridge where he was dissatisfied with the mathematics department’s shortcomings. He was not, however, just a mathematician, but also a philosopher and a mechanical engineer as well as a political scientist. He died in London in 1871.

Also on this day: Which is Witch – In 1648, the first “witch” is hanged in Salem.
Maize – In 1789, Bourbon was first produced.
First Non-Stop Transatlantic Flight – In 19191 Alcock and Brown made it to Europe.

Diamonds Are Forever

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 13, 2013
Mir Mine

Mir Mine

June 13, 1955: The Mir Mine – a diamond mine near Mirny, Eastern Siberia – is discovered. Geologists Yuri Khabardin, Ekarterina Elagina, and V. Avdeenko were part of the large Amakinsky Expedition in Yukat, ASSR (Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic). This region of the USSR was found to contain the first diamond mines in Russia. The mine was worked for almost 50 years, closing on April 30, 2004.

The open pit diamond mine produced 2 million carats annually. Kimberlite, or igneous rock best known for containing diamonds, was open mined leaving a large empty pit behind. The pit itself is 1,725 feet deep with a diameter of 3,950 feet. Giant industrial yellow trucks with 200-220 ton payloads brought ore to the surface, driving along a spiral road carved into the sloping side of the pit. The trip from bottom to top took 1.5 to 2 hours.

The huge pit lies just outside the city of Mirny. Helicopters are forbidden to fly over the scar in the earth as downdrafts have been known to suck them in. With the mine closed, there is nothing left but a huge hole. Today, the Udachnaya pipe, discovered two days after Mir, is still in operation. It is more than 1,975 feet deep and controlled by Alrosa. The open pit method of mining is scheduled to be abandoned by 2010 in favor of an underground technique.

Diamonds aren’t the only commodity gathered by open pit methods. Many building materials are obtained in this way and the pits are then called quarries. Strip mining is also open pit. Metal ores such as copper, iron, gold, and molybdenum are mined in this fashion. There are remarkably huge mines on every continent. Open pit mines occur where the valuable material lies close to the surface and mining usually continues until the seam is exhausted or the cost of bringing the commodity to the surface outweighs the benefit. Rehabilitation of the pits can be brought about by using them for landfills for solid wastes. Water control must be maintained to keep the pit from becoming a lake.

“I never hated a man enough to give him his diamonds back.” – Zsa Zsa Gabor

“Proverbs are mental gems gathered in the diamond districts of the mind.” – William R. Alger

“I’m Jewish. I don’t work out. If God had wanted us to bend over, He would have put diamonds on the floor.” – Joan Rivers

“Diamonds are nothing more than chunks of coal that stuck to their jobs.” – Malcolm S. Forbes

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: The Udachnaya pipe remains a viable diamond mine operated by Alrosa. The name itself means “lucky pipe”. They did shift to underground mining in 2010 due to prohibitive cost of bringing up the diamonds from the world’s third deepest pit. The Bingham Canyon Mine, a copper mine located in northwestern Utah, is over 0.6 miles (3,168 feet) deep and 2.5 miles wide. It covers 1,900 acres and remains in operation under Rio Tinto Group, headquartered in the UK. The second deepest open pit mine is located in Chile and is also a copper mine. Chuquicamata is 2,790 feet deep. It, too, remains in operation under Codelco, a Chilean state enterprise.

Also on this day: You Have the Right – In 1966, the US Supreme Court decides Miranda v Arizona.
Hic, Pause, Hic – In 1922, Charles Osborne got a case of hiccups.
Crushed – In 1881, the USS Jeanette sunk in the polar ice.

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Medgar Evers

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 12, 2013
Medgar Evers

Medgar Evers

June 12, 1963: Medgar Evers, aged 37, is shot in front of his home in Jackson, Mississippi. Evers was born in Decatur, Mississippi in 1925. In 1943, at the age of 17, he dropped out of high school to enlist in the Army. He fought in the European Theater during World War II and was honorably discharged after the war. He had risen to the rank of Sergeant. As was his right by virtue of being an American citizen and having been doubly procured by virtue of his military career, he registered to vote. He, his brother, and four friends went to vote in 1946. These black men were kept from voting by an angry, armed mob of 15-20 white men.

Evers vowed to work toward change. He went to college, married, got a job, and worked for racial equality. He worked with the Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL), a Civil Rights and self-help organization. He was a key player in organizing boycotts of establishments where African-Americans were treated unfairly. He and his brother went to national RCNL conventions where 10,000+ like-minded citizens met to discuss discrimination and ways to overcome it.

Evers applied to the University of Mississippi Law School and was instrumental in bringing desegregation to the institution of higher learning. Emmett Till, a 14-year-old, was brutally murdered in a racially inspired crime in 1955. His murderers were acquitted. Evers was leading a private investigation into the teen’s death. Evers became a target for segregationists. On May 28, 1963 a Molotov cocktail, a hand-thrown incendiary bomb, was thrown at Evers’s house. On June 7, he was almost run over by a car. Evers made a short speech on TV and the threats escalated.

Evers was returning home after meeting with NAACP lawyers. As he got out of his car, he was shot in the back. He staggered forward 30 before collapsing. He was taken to the local hospital and was dead within the hour. Ku Klux Klansman Byron De La Beckwith was arrested. He was brought to trial twice and the all-white juries remained deadlocked. In 1994, with new evidence in possession of the courts, De La Beckwith was again brought to trial. He was convicted of Evers murder on February 5, 1994. De La Beckwith appealed the decision without success and died in prison in 2001, aged 80.

“The gifts of God should be enjoyed by all citizens in Mississippi.”

“You can kill a man but you can’t kill an idea.”

“I don’t know if I’m going to heaven or to hell, but I’m going from Jackson.”

“When you hate, the only one that suffers is you because most of the people you hate don’t know it and the rest don’t care.” – all from Medgar Evers

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Medgar Evers was the third of five children of James and Jesse Evers. The family also included two children from Jesse’s first marriage. They owned a small farm and James also worked at a sawmill to support his family. Medgar walked 12 miles to school in order to earn his high school diploma. After returning from the war, he went to Alcorn College (historically, a black college) to earn his degree in business administration. He married a classmate in 1951. In 1954, his application to University of Mississippi Law School was rejected. He then helped with James Meredith’s attempt to enroll in the early 1960s. On this day, just hours after John F. Kennedy’s civil rights speech aired on national television, Medgar Evers was assassinated in front of his home. He was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

Also on this day: If It Doesn’t Fit, You Must Acquit – In 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman are murdered.
Son of Sam – In 1978, David Berkowitz was sentenced.
Wedded Bliss Redux – In 1967, Loving v. Virginia was decided.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 11, 2013
Singing Salvation Army

Singing Salvation Army

June 11, 1892: The Limelight Department is established in Melbourne, Australia. It was one of the world’s first film studios and was part of The Salvation Army. Joseph Perry, on compassionate leave after his wife died, was working in Ballarat, Victoria in southern Australia. He started a photographic studio and was raising his three daughters when he was sent on a temporary assignment to Melbourne, about 75 miles away.

Perry was to assist Australian Commissioner Thomas Coombs whose project was making a presentation for The Salvation Army’s founder General William Booth’s In Darkest England. Using an early version of PowerPoint, Perry displayed “lantern slides” or hand colored pictures onto a large screen. This technique produced a high quality and effective presentation and Coombs was so impressed that he turned Perry’s temporary assignment into a permanent post.

Perry wasn’t the only driving force behind the Limelight Department. Herbert Booth, William’s son, added his own flair and organizational skills. Frank Barritt, Tom McKie, and Sidney Cook along with a host of others helped to broaden the scope and capabilities of the company. They produced the multimedia, turn-of-the-century extravaganza – Soldiers of the Cross (1900) – which held 3,000 feet of film and 200 colored glass slides and is sometimes listed as the first feature length film. The film focused on early martyrs for the Christian faith. It cost £550 to produce or about £45,000 today. The movie was extremely violent and had a cast of about 150 Salvation Army officers who were stationed in Melbourne. They also filmed Australia’s Federation ceremonies in 1901.

They operated for only 17 years – 1892-1909. In that time, they produced about 300 films. These innovative men began working when Australia was a “disparate group of British colonies” and documented the shift to a Federated Commonwealth. In 1910, Coombs was replaced as Australian commander by James Hay. The new, conservative leader felt that films and religion were not compatible so he shut down Limelight.

“It should be noted that the cinema, as conducted by The Salvation Army, had led to weakness and a lightness incompatible with true Salvationism and was completely ended by me.” – James Hay

“My slides are not produced by artists other than the merest detail in the backgrounds – they are all life-models.” – Herbert Booth

“There is the view that poetry should improve your life. I think people confuse it with the Salvation Army.” – John Ashbery

“We have always believed that what the Salvation Army does is good and right.” – Ken Smith

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: The Salvation Army was founded in 1865 in London’s East End by William and Catherine Booth. The originally named their organization East London Christian Mission. The name changed early on when William was dictating a letter to his secretary, George Scott Railton and said, “We are a volunteer army.” William’s father, Bramwell Booth, chimed in, “Volunteer! I’m no volunteer, I’m a regular!” It was then that Railton was instructed to cross out the word “volunteer” and replace it with the word “salvation”. The Salvation Army was modeled after the military with its own flag and hymns which were often set to popular or folk music. William would often wear an Army uniform to meetings and while ministering.

Also on this day: Epicurean Feast – In 1939 the US President serves the King of England hot dogs.
Great Barrier Reef v. Endeavour – In 1770, Captain Cook ran aground.
Wedded Bliss – In 1509 King Henry VIII married Catherine of Aragon.