Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 21, 2013
What the Temple of Artemis may have looked like

What the Temple of Artemis may have looked like

July 21, 356 BC: In what becomes a time (dis)honored tradition, a man attempts to become famous by destroying something of value. There were Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – a list of seven overwhelming manmade structures. The Great Pyramid at Giza, built by the Egyptians 2584-2561 BC is the only one surviving to the present time. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were built 605-562 BC by the Babylonians and the several tiers reached 75 feet in height. The Greeks erected the Statue of Zeus at Olympia in 435 BC, the Mausoleum of Maussollos at Halicarnassus in 351 BC, and the Colossus of Rhodes from 292-280 BC. The Lighthouse at Alexandria was built by the Hellenistic Egyptians around 260 BC and remained the tallest manmade structure for Centuries at 383-440 feet.

The Seventh Wonder was the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus built by the Lydians, Persians, and Greeks and completed around 550 BC. Dedicated to the Greek goddess of the hunt (Roman equivalent is Diana), it took 120 years to build. Antipater of Sidon, originator of the list of the Seven Wonders, felt it was the most beautiful. It was built in what is currently Turkey over the site of previous temples dating from the Bronze Age.

Like most temples of the era, it had a rectangular base and the building itself was made of marble. Marble steps surrounded the base and led to a high terrace which measured 260 x 430 feet with 127 columns measuring 60 feet in height laid in a pattern across the base. The columns were topped with Ionic circulars and had carved circular sides. The temple housed many precious works of art. A young man seeking fame at any cost burnt the temple to the ground.

The Hanging Gardens were destroyed by earthquake some time after the 1st century BC. The 40 foot tall statue of Zeus was destroyed, presumably by earthquake, in the 5th or 6th Centuries AD. The mausoleum was dismantled in 1494 by European Crusaders but had already been badly damaged by quakes. Both the Colossus and Lighthouse were toppled by earthquakes. The Temple of Artemis was destroyed by arson, rebuilt by Alexander the Great and then again destroyed by Goths in 409 AD.

“I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the Colossus of the Sun, and the huge labour of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, ‘Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand.'”– Antipater, Greek Anthology IX.58

“Indeed, wretched the man whose fame makes his misfortunes famous.” – Lucius Accius Telephus

“Love of fame is the last thing even the wise give up.” – Publius Cornelius Tacitus

“The drying up a single tear has more – Of honest fame than shedding seas of gore.” – Lord Byron

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Beginning in the year 2000, a new list of Seven Wonders of the World was undertaken. Between 2000 and 2007, nominees and votes were taken. The poll conducted by Zogby International was said to be the largest on record. The seven winners were: the Taj Mahal in Agra, India; Chichen Itza in Yucatan, Mexico; Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Coliseum in Rome, Italy; Great Wall of China in China; Machu Picchu in Cuzco Region, Peru; and Petra in Ma’an Governorate, Jordan.  The other 13 finalists were: Acropolis of Athens, Alhambra, Angkor Wat, Eiffel Tower, Hagia Sophia, Kiyomizu-dera, Moai, Neuscwanstein, Red Square, Statue of Liberty, Stonehenge, Sydney Opera House, and Timbuktu. There are many other lists of Seven Wonders, as well.

Also on this day: Brrrrrrr – In 1983, the coldest recorded temperature is captured at Vostok Station.
Wild Bill Hickok – In 1865, the first shoot out in the wild west took place.
Constitutional – In 1997, the USS Constitution goes back out to sea.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 20, 2013
Vanessa Williams

Vanessa Williams

July 20, 1984: Vanessa L. Williams is asked to relinquish her Miss America title. Williams was born in Tarrytown, New York in 1963. She was musically inclined and learned both piano and French horn but preferred singing. She attended Syracuse University from 1981-83, majoring in Theater Arts. She abandoned her education when she became Miss America on September 17, 1983. She was granted a degree from the school 25 years later after her life experiences were used to fulfill the obligations of the remaining college credits.

Williams began entering beauty pageants and won the title of Miss New York moving on to the Miss America contest held yearly in Atlantic City. She won the Preliminary Talent and Swimsuit competitions and went on to be crowned as Miss America. She was the first African-American to receive the honor. From the beginning of her reign she was a target for racist hate mail and even death threats. She then received an anonymous message concerning photographs taken years before.

In 1982 Williams worked for photographer Tom Chiapel. He asked his assistant and another woman to pose nude for him as he worked with a new photographic concept. The two women agreed and were posed in such a way as to allude to lesbian sex – a preposterous idea at the time. The pictures were first offered to Hugh Hefner and Playboy. He turned them down because they weren’t authorized by the subjects. Bob Guccione and Penthouse were not so legally or morally restricted. When news of the upcoming publication was made known, sponsors threatened to pull support from the 1985 pageant. Williams was pressured to resign and several days later, did so during a press conference.

Suzette Charles, an American of African-Italian descent, took over the title on July 23. Williams was permitted to keep the scholarship monies and retains the title of Miss America 1984 with Charles listed as Miss America 1984 B. Williams went on to become a star in her own right. She has enjoyed success both as a singer and as an actress. Her acting career has included the theater, feature films, and television. She has been nominated for many awards in for both music and acting and won several, including a Grammy, an Emmy, and Tony awards.

“The past just came up and kicked me.”

“Success is the sweetest revenge.”

“I ask our Legislature to do whatever is necessary to protect the future of my child. All I want is what every other parent wants – what’s best for my child.”

“Collaboration is the theme of the week.” – all from Vanessa Williams

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Vanessa Williams put out eight music albums between 1988 and 2009 with the last being titled The Real Thing. She has been in eighteen movies between 1987 and 2013. She played herself in a 2012 movie. She has made numerous television appearances between 1984 (appearing as Roselle Robins in Partners in Crime) and 2012. She has been involved in nine plays or musicals with the last being The Trip to Bountiful in 1013. She has hosted seven different events. She has won awards as listed above as well as several others. She was the winner of the NAACP Image Award in 1989, 1994, 2006, and 2011. In that same year, she also won the Satellite Award for her role in Desperate Housewives.

Also on this day: One Small Step – In 1969, Neil Armstrong steps out of the Eagle and walks on the moon.
Women’s Army Corps – In 1942, the Women’s Army Corps begins training.
Special – In 1968, the first Special Olympics were held.

SS Great Britain

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 19, 2013
SS Great Britain

SS Great Britain

July 19, 1843: The largest sailing vessel in the world is launched. The SS Great Britain was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. She was the first iron hull ship built for ocean crossings. The screw propeller was an added feature, relatively new at the time. The ship was built by the Great Western Steamship Company (GWSC) for the Bristol – New York City run. The keel was laid down in 1839 using a special-built dry dock for the initial work. The company had successfully built the SS Great Western completing the 235 foot ship in 1838.

Brunel convinced the owners to build the iron hulled massive ship. She was 322 feet long, nearly one-and-a-half times the length of her sister ship. SS Great Britain was launched, or more accurately, “floated out” to great fanfare. Even Prince Albert came to see the ship take to the water. He was stopped at the railroad station and addressed the crowds there. By the time he got to the dock, the ship was already afloat. He made his royal inspection and another speech. Two ships missed some cues and the naming ceremony went awry. Due to further delays, the Prince was forced to return to his train before the ceremonies were completed.

Because of the size of the ship, she was difficult to move through the locks. She eventually made it to the River Thames where her engines and interior were fitted. Finally completed in 1844, the locks again proved to be a problem. SS Great Britain ran aground at Cumberland Basin and disaster was averted by the skill of Captain Claxton. She made her maiden voyage leaving Bristol on July 26, 1845. She arrived in New York City fourteen days later, the largest wrought iron ship driven by a screw propeller to cross the Atlantic.

The ship ran aground at Dundrum Bay, Ireland in November 1846. It was doubted she could be refloated. Naval engineer James Bremner was brought in and with HMS Birkenhead‘s hauling power, SS Great Britain was again floating on August 27, 1847. The cost of the rescue bankrupted the GWSC and the ship was sold. She began sailing from Great Britain to Australia in 1852 carrying 630 emigrants. She served as a troopship from 1855-1858. She became a coal hauler until a fire caused extensive damage. A recovery and restoration project was undertaken in 1970 when it was deemed the ship could once again be made seaworthy. Now, as majestic as in 1843, she serves as a visitor attraction and museum at Bristol Harbor.

“If you want to launch big ships, you have to go where the water is deep.” – Mary Genevieve Laufersweiler Hilton

“Two captains will sink the ship.” – Turkish Proverb

“Not to have control over the senses is like sailing in a rudderless ship, bound to break to pieces on coming in contact with the very first rock.” – Mahatma Gandhi

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Today’s ships are quite a bit larger than those built over 150 years ago. The largest ship ever built was an oil tanker measuring 1,504.1 feet long and built in Japan. Seawise Giant was built in 1979 and scrapped in 2010. The top seven largest ships have all been oil tankers. The largest container ships are the Maersk E class ships which measure 1,304.8 feet in length, although an even larger ship (1,312 feet) is under construction. The largest cruise ships are of the Oasis class (2 ships) and they are 1,181 feet long. The USS Enterprise, an aircraft carrier, measures 1,122 feet. The largest private yacht has an overall length of 305 feet and was built in Germany. It took three years to build Eos and in 2009 Barry Diller, movie and media mogul and husband of designer Diane von Furstenberg, purchased it. However, much of the length is the bowsprit. The Maltese Falcon has a length of 289 feet and is 14 feet longer on deck and 20 feet longer at the waterline. It is owned by Elena Ambrosiadou.

Also on this day: Tennis, Anyone? – In 1877, Wimbledon championships are first held.
First Teacher – In 1985, Christa McAuliffe was selected to be the first teacher in space.
Raining Rocks – In 1912, Holbrook, AZ is pelted with the fall out of an exploded meteorite.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 18, 2013
Mein Kampf by Adolph Hitler

Mein Kampf by Adolph Hitler

July 18, 1925: Mein Kampf, Adolph Hitler’s manifesto, is published. Hitler was born in 1889 in Braunan am Inn, Austria-Hungary to Alois Hitler and his third wife and half-niece, Klara Pölzl. Alois already had two children by his second wife. Of the six children born to Klara, only Adolph and one sister reached adulthood. Adolph means “noble wolf” and Herr Wolf was a nickname the future Führer adopted in the 1920s. Rumor said that Hitler was part Jewish but Hitler himself concealed his origins.

By 1905, young Adolph was living in Vienna and was rejected twice for admittance to the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. Their reason was listed as “unfitness for painting.” During his time in Vienna, Hitler claimed to have become an anti-Semite, but a childhood friend said he was anti-Semitic before leaving Linz. During the Great War, Hitler served with the 16th Bavarian Reserve Regiment. He received the Iron Cross, Second Class in 1914 and the Iron Cross, First Class in 1918. His regiment felt he lacked leadership qualities and so he was never promoted to Unteroffizier (British equivalent – corporal).

After the war, Hitler remained in the army. In July 1919, he was appointed as a police spy and was to infiltrate the German Workers’ Party. Instead, he admired their policies and not only joined the group but also its executive committee. By 1923, Hitler felt encouraged enough to attempt a coup called the Beer Hall Putsch. Backers fled and the coup was unsuccessful. Hitler was arrested and sentenced to five years imprisonment at Landsberg Prison where he received preferential treatment from the guards. He served less than a year.

While imprisoned, Hitler dictated Mein Kampf to his deputy, Rudolf Hess. Originally called Four Years of Struggle against Lies, Stupidity, and Cowardice, the autobiography served as a platform for his ideology. By the end of World War II, over 10 million copies had been sold. Parts were translated and an abridgement was published in English by 1931. The book has been translated into several languages and many of them have the complete text available online.

“The broad masses of a population are more amenable to the appeal of rhetoric than to any other force.”

“Never forget that the most sacred right on this earth is man’s right to have the earth to till with his own hands, the most sacred sacrifice the blood that a man sheds for this earth.”

“Those who want to live, let them fight, and those who do not want to fight in this world of eternal struggle do not deserve to live.”

“Any alliance whose purpose is not the intention to wage war is senseless and useless.”

“The Jew’s life as a parasite in the body of other nations and states explains a characteristic which once caused Schopenhauer, as has already been mentioned, to call him the ‘great master in lying’.” – all from Mein Kampf by Adolph Hitler

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Mein Kampf translates to English as My Struggle. The book was published in two Volumes with the first released on this date and the second put out in 1926. The book in its entirety is 720 pages long. It was edited by a former Hieronymite friar, Bernhard Stempfle who died during the Night of the Long Knives – a purge that took place in Nazi Germany from June 30 to July 3, 1934. The first volume, called A Reckoning, has twelve chapters. The second volume, The National Socialist Movement, had fifteen. In his book, Hitler spoke about the “Jewish peril” and a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world. He outlined his increasing antipathy toward the Jews during his years in Vienna. Historians do not agree upon a date for when Hitler decided to exterminate the Jews, but most believe it was not until the 1930s. In this book, he does state that killing off the sick and weak is simple humanitarianism, since it for their own good.

Also on this day: Perfect – In 1976, Nadia Comaneci received the first perfect score at the Olympics.
Nero Fiddles? – In 64 AD, Rome burns.
Dent Blanche – In, 1862, the mountain was first scaled.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 17, 2013
Walt Disnes

Walt Disney

July 17, 1955: Disneyland in Anaheim, California opens. The media event was followed by the opening to the general public the following day. The specially designed spot for family fun was an idea long before it became a reality. Walt Disney’s father was involved in building for the great 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. That spectacular venue was a confection of white buildings constructed cheaply since they only had to last one summer. It was also where George Ferris first built his eponymous wheel.

The original idea for a fun park was small. “Mickey Mouse Park” would fit on eight acres. As Disney toured other parks and began designing his own, his plans grew. He obtained 160 acres for the park. He then began to earnestly gather funding. He partnered with the new television network, ABC. He provided programming and they helped to finance the park. Their interest was bought back by Disney after five years. On July 18, 1954 construction began with the cost running to $17 million (≈ $137 million in 2009 USD). US Route 101 (today called Interstate 5) was under construction at the same time. They added two lanes to accommodate expected traffic.

Sunday’s special “International Press Review” did not go well. Admission was by ticket only but many counterfeits were produced causing overcrowding. Disney had to choose between working drinking fountains and working toilets (there had been a plumbers strike) and he chose the latter. Many guests sweltering in the 101° F heat were forced to purchase soda. The asphalt paving had been finished only that morning and remained sticky. Vendors ran out of food. Things went so badly, Disney held a “second day” event for the press corps. The official name for this day is now “Dedication Day” according to Disneyland Park’s literature.

David MacPherson bought the first ticket to Disneyland’s public opening. He has been followed by over 515 million more guests. Today, Disneyland Park is only one of the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. The Magic Kingdom is in Orlando, Florida. There is a park in Tokyo, one in Paris, and another in Hong Kong. Disney also operates a cruise line. In 2007 there were more than 14.8 million visitors to Disneyland Park, second only to the Magic Kingdom where ≈ 17 million came to play. Tokyo had 13.9 million guests, 14.5 million visitors came to the combined Euro Disney sites, and 4.5 million visited Mickey in Hong Kong.

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

“When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.”

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” – all from Walt Disney

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Walt Disney was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1901. The family moved to a farm in Missouri in 1906 and it was there that the young Walt learned to draw. Walt and his older brother, Roy, opened a cartoon studio in California which produced the Alice Comedies. The Disney brothers brought in many talented artists to work for them. Their first true success was with Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, but there was a dispute over who owned the rights to the creation. Disney took his staff away from Universal Pictures’ control and opened the Walt Disney Company. Since he could no longer use his rabbit, he created a new character. This time, instead of Oswald, he developed a mouse to replace him and named the new little guy Mickey. The first animated short to feature his new little guy was Plane Crazy and was a silent film. It was not an unequivocal success and neither was his next attempt, The Gallopin’Gaucho. He added sound to the next short and Steamboat Willie became the hit he needed.

Also on this day: Whoops! – In 1939, Douglas Corrigan takes off in the wrong direction.
Five and Dime – In 1997, Woolworth closed.
Martyrs of Compiegne – In 1794, sixteen women were killed as the Reign of Terror was winding down.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 16, 2013
Islamic calendar

Islamic calendar

July 16, 622: The Islamic calendar begins. Other names for it are Muslim or Hijri calendar. The lunar based calendar is used to date events in many Muslim countries. There are 12 months with a year lasting 354 days. The 11.25 days difference between the Hijri and Gregorian calendars are simply ignored. This is the reason for Islamic feasts to seemingly move through the Gregorian calendar year. Years are called Hijra years because the first year was the time when Muhammad emigrated from Mecca to Medina.

Prior to this calendar, Arabian time was kept using a lunisolar calendar. Months were based on lunar rotation but the seasons were synchronized with the solar year by use of an intercalary month. The older calendar began each year with the autumnal equinox. Certain months were ordained to be peaceful. By manipulating the intercalary month, time could be massaged to accommodate warring tendencies. The Qur’an forbids this method of time management.

There are twelve months in the Islamic calendar, beginning with Muharram and ending with Dhu al-Hijjah. The ninth month, Ramadan, is the most venerated of them. During daylight hours of this month, devout Muslims avoid eating, drinking, and sexual intercourse. The gates of Heaven are open all month while the gates of Hell are said to be closed. Each week has seven days, as with the Gregorian calendar. The week begins with yaum al-ahad or Sunday and ends with the Sabbath, yaum as-sabt.

There are mathematical problems with the Islamic calendar and its inaccuracies vis-à-vis the solar year. Many Muslims have further problems with dates. All holy days occur on the same date of the Muslim calendar, but not in the Gregorian calendar. Some countries use algorithms to determine when a new month begins. Others insist on a physical sighting of the new moon. There are some who propose a global Islamic calendar in order to help standardize major Islamic events rather than the current hodgepodge country-by-country reckoning of when a new month starts.

“The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr.” – Muhammad

“Four things support the world: the learning of the wise, the justice of the great, the prayers of the good, and the valor of the brave.” – Muhammad

“All actions are judged by the motive prompting them.” – Muhammad

“Ramadan makes you closer to God.” – Saddam Hussein

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Time is a dimension and through it events can be ordered from the past through the present and into the future. Time measures the duration of events as well as the interval between them. The measurement of time is part of many different enterprises with religion being only one of them. Philosophy and science have both long studied the idea of time itself. The useful measurement is used in a variety of ways in business, sports, music, and dance. There is debate between two philosophies of time. One is that time is part of the fundamental structure of the universe and independent from the events in the other dimensions. The other is that time is a “container” through which events moves or flow. Time is essential in the measurement of other things, such as velocity. Time is divided into smaller and larger pieces with yoctosecond being our current smallest measurement and it is 10-24 of a second. The exasecond is 1018 seconds or about 32 billion years. The cosmological decade is longer but is not a precise measurement and is simply 10 times the previous cosmological decade and begins either 10 seconds or 10 years after the Big Bang (depending on the definition).

Also on this day: Phony – In 1951, The Catcher in the Rye is published.
No Kissing – In 1451, King Henry VI bans kissing.
Lovely Rita – In 1935, the first parking meter was unveiled.

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Vast Wasteland

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 15, 2013
Newton N. Minow

Newton N. Minow

July 15, 1976: Tom Iacino coins the term “couch potato.” The name was registered as a trademark in the early 1980s. Robert Armstrong, Tom’s friend and a cartoonist, illustrated a book written by Jack Mingo. The Official Couch Potato Handbook was published by Last Gasp in January 1987. The small book remarkably resembles in appearance the TV Guide of the time. The term’s origins aren’t clearly known. Viewers vegetate in front of the boob tube. They could be called tubers. A favorite snack while watching is the lovely potato chip.

Television programming began in the late 1930s but broadcasting was scarce until after World War II. Early TV sets were radios with a neon tube added. Later improvements in the technology of the sets and more widespread broadcasting led the TV into a place of prominence. Between 1946 and 1954 US TV ownership went from 0.5% of households to 55.7% and by 1960 90% of Americans owned TVs. With more and more people viewing television, society changed in a number of ways. The spread of information was more pervasive. Print media demands a literate audience while the TV does not.

By 1961 TV programming was called a “vast wasteland” by Newton N. Minow and later the machine became known as the “boob tube.” There is a tendency to believe programming reflects the real world with such repercussions as the CSI effect where juries are swayed by what they have seen portrayed on TV police shows. TV shows are said to influence viewers who witness hundreds, if not thousands, of criminal acts including murders and other assaults. The number of advertisements seen by couch potatoes has continued to climb. Also, when you are sitting on the couch and munching entire bags of chips, you aren’t doing anything else.

Sedentary life style changes account for a drop in physical fitness overall and an increase in obesity rates. Strength, stamina, and flexibility wane as the viewer, now armed with at least one remote control, sits and stares at the screen. Obesity is defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of greater than 30. In 1980, about one-third of Americans were overweight (BMI of 25) or obese and today that number is now at 67%. Not just America, but Europe, Australia, and the Middle East are seeing a rise in the numbers of overweight and obese populations. The couch potato effect is getting ever more widespread.

“I’m a loser on Sunday. Yeah, I’m a couch potato. I get up and try and eat and then back on the couch. And watch anything.” – Adam Garcia

“Are we sitting back like couch potatoes and watching the systemic elimination of all the lines that separate the acceptable and the unacceptable in our culture?” – Joe Lieberman

“If you have a comfortable life then you’re going to become a nice sort of couch potato, and just take it in and be brain dead.” – Eric Khoo

“You can’t go from couch potato to the Olympics. There’s an incredible difference between us as average human beings and these extraordinary performers.” – Debbie Wilson

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Newton N. Minow was the former Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Minow remains a practicing attorney and is the Honorary Consul General of Singapore in Chicago. He remains active in the Democratic party and deals in telecommunications law. Born in 1926, he is 87 years old. He graduated from Northwestern University in 1949 and their Law School in 1950. His “vast wasteland” speech was given on May 9, 1961. In that speech, he admitted that when television is “good” nothing is better. But when it is “bad” there is no redeeming qualities to be found in the wilderness. More often than not, it is bad. As a point of interest, the SS Minnow from Gilligan’s Island was named for Minow as a sign of discontent with his assessment of the medium.

Also on this day: What Does it Say? – In 1799, the Rosetta Stone is discovered.
Pacific Aero Products – In 1916, the company that would become Boeing was incorporated.
Mozilla – In 2003, the Mozilla Foundation was established.

Darien Scheme

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 14, 2013
Darien Scheme colony map

Darien Scheme colony map

July 14, 1698: The Darien scheme begins. With most of Europe trying to gain footholds in the New World, the King of Scotland joined the colonization craze. The plan was to establish a Scottish colony on the Isthmus of Panama. Scotland was small in area and was economically hindered by not establishing empire colonies that would send revenue back to the home coffers. Tariffs, crop failures, and trade wars led to economic downturns. Several steps were taken to boost the economy. The Bank of Scotland was formed, public education was instituted throughout the country, and they began to raise capital for trade with “Africa and the Indies”.

The Scots had tried to establish themselves previously in what is today New Jersey and South Carolina and both attempts were unsuccessful. William Paterson came up with a daring plan to colonize the Isthmus of Panama in order to use the colony as a way station for trade with the Far East – the same idea eventually led to the construction of the Panama Canal. Subscriptions were sold in London but England and France were at war and Spain claimed the area of Panama for themselves. To forestall international upset, the London funds were withdrawn.

Back in Scotland, funding was finally gathered for the Darien scheme, so called because they were to first land near the Bay of Darien. Five ships with about 1,200 people on board set off. After a few stops, the colonists reached their final destination on November 2 and called their settlement New Caledonia. They built a fort and watchtower and began to plant both yams and maize. They were not particularly adept with these crops. The natives did not wish to trade with the newcomers and as the summer of 1699 wore on the death toll rose to ten per day. Supplies were scarce and the heat and humidity brought on fevers and diseases.

The British refused to help the struggling colonists in order to placate Spain. One ship did manage to return to Scotland even though they were refused permission to stop and resupply in Jamaica. There were only 300 survivors. They returned too late to stop a second expedition from leaving. Over 1,000 people were already on their way to meet with disaster. Scotland had failed to establish a colony and realized she would never be a world power. This is said to have influenced the 1707 Acts of Union where Scotland would unite with England.

“The Darien venture was the most ambitious colonial scheme attempted in the 17th century…The Scots were the first to realise the strategic importance of the area…” – unknown

“It seems to be in the nature of imperialism to fear everything that is not subject to its influence.” – Mansour Farhang

“We should keep [the Panama Canal]. After all, we stole if fair and square.” – S. I Hayakawa

“I would annex the planets if I could.” – Cecil Rhodes

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: The 1707 Acts of Union were two different acts. The Union with Scotland Act 1706 and Union with England Act 1707. The Scotland Act was passed by the Parliament of England while the England Act was passed by the Parliament of Scotland. These two acts put into effect the conditions of the Treaty of Union that both countries agreed to on July 22, 1706. Prior to this, they were two separate states with separate legislatures, but both were ruled by the same monarch. The two countries were united under one King a century earlier with King James VI of Scotland became King James of England upon the death of his second cousin, Queen Elizabeth I. Three different attempts had been made to further combine the two states before the Act took effect on May 1, 1707. Finally, there was one crown, rather than two separate crowns, worn by the same Queen – Anne had been ruling since March 8, 1702.

Also on this day: That’s Cool – In 1850, Dr. John Gorrie demonstrates the first air conditioner.
Richard Speck – In 1966, Speck went on a killing spree.
Alta, California – In 1771, a new mission was established.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 13, 2013
Hollywood sign

Hollywood sign

July 13, 1923: Outside Los Angeles, California a sign is dedicated. The white 50 foot high letters spelled out HOLLYWOODLAND. It was created as an advertising stunt but the wood and sheet metal construction became an iconic symbol lasting over 80 years. The sign was placed in the Hollywood Hills area and from the ground appears wavy as it scrawls across rocky terrain. If the viewer climbs to a comparable height, the letters magically straighten out. Hollywood has been the center of the film industry in America since 1911 when the first movie studio was opened there.

While the movies were important, getting people moving into the once sparsely populated farming and mining country was the economic driving force. The region north of Sunset Boulevard was considered useless. Easterners came west for the sunshine and dry weather and the real estate industry boomed. By the end of the 19th century, Hollywood was growing rapidly enough to be a town. By 1907, bad weather in Chicago was driving movie makers westward and by 1912 there were fifteen independent film studios in Hollywood.

By 1920 there were 40 million Americans in theaters each week – at a time when there was a total of 104 million Americans. New construction continued as America’s love affair with movies grew unrelentingly. Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler spent $21,000 ($260,000 in 2009 USD) putting up a sign advertising his upscale real estate development. Each letter was 30 feet wide and there were thirteen letters then. The sign also held 4,000 20-watt light bulbs flashing out “HOLLY,” then “WOOD,” followed by “LAND” and then a giant 35 foot period flashed. The sign was built to last eighteen months.

The sign became so famous it was often copied and sadly, often vandalized. The “H” disappeared when a sign maintenance worker crashed his car into it. In 1949 the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce contracted with the Los Angeles Parks Department to care for the sign. The light bulbs were no longer replaced and the wood began to splinter as the sheet metal rusted. Rocker Alice Cooper began a campaign in 1978 and got eight other donors to each buy a letter at $27,777 each. HOLLYWOOD is now spelled out in 45 foot high steel letters. They are 31-39 feet wide and were once again refurbished in 2005.

“I believe that God felt sorry for actors so he created Hollywood to give them a place in the sun and a swimming pool. The price they had to pay was to surrender their talent.” – Cedric Hardwicke

“We Americans have always considered Hollywood, at best, a sinkhole of depraved venality. And, of course, it is. It is not a Protective Monastery of Aesthetic Truth. It is a place where everything is incredibly expensive.” – David Mamet

“Hollywood is an extraordinary kind of temporary place.” – John Schlesinger

“Hollywood has always been a cage… a cage to catch our dreams.” – John Huston

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Alice Cooper, nee Vincent Damon Furnier, is best known for his shock rock performances. His stage show featured guillotines, electric chairs, fake blood, as well as boa constrictors and baby dolls. With his leadership, Terrence Donnelly (publisher) sponsored the H; Giovanni Mazza (Italian movie producer) the first O; Les Kelley (Kelley Blue Book) the first L; Gene Autry (singer) the next L; Hugh Hefner (Playboy magazine) the Y; Andy Williams (singer) the W, Warner Bros. Records the next O; Alice Cooper replaced the missing O (in memory of Groucho Marx); and Thomas Pooley (in the name of Matthew Williams) the D. In 2005, the original 1923 sign was put up for sale on eBay. Bill Mack purchased the letters and began painting portraits from the Golden Age of Hollywood on the metal.

Also on this day: You’re Out – In 1978, Lee Iacocca is fired from Ford.
Pop Goes the Weasel – In 1812, New York City passes its first pawnbroker ordinance.
Cubed – In 1944, Erno Rubik was born.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 12, 2013
Bisbee Deportation

Bisbee Deportation

July 12, 1917: The Bisbee Deportation takes place. The Phelps Dodge Corporation owned several mines in Arizona. The Bisbee mine produced copper. At the mine, like many others owned by the company, miners had much to complain about. Mines were unsafe, pay was low, and living conditions were abysmal. There was rampant discrimination against Mexican American workers and Caucasian supervisors were routinely abusive. During the winter of 1915-16, a four-month strike elsewhere in Arizona stirred up unrest throughout the state. The International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelt Workers didn’t do much to help the miners.

Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) began signing up members. Over 1,000 men signed up with Local 800, only 400 paying dues. Phelps Dodge was the largest employer in Bisbee, then with a population of about 8,000. In May 1917, Local 800 presented the company with a list of demands. All demands were refused. On June 26, the miners went on strike at all the mines in Bisbee, not just those owned by Phelps Dodge.

Cochise County Sheriff Harry Wheeler asked for federal aid to break the strike. It was refused. Wheeler deputized men from Douglas, a nearby town. He and his armed posse began arresting IWW union members at 4 AM. As they rounded the men up, they were held at the Post Office. Eventually they had ≈ 2,000 miners and also any men who could not defend themselves against a posse gone wild. At 7 AM they were marched two miles to a baseball field while Wheeler drove next to the line, armed with a machine gun. Men were given the chance to denounce the IWW and return immediately to work – but only if they were not members of the union.

The remaining 1,286 men were forced at gunpoint into 23 cattle cars. Some of the cars were filled with inches-deep manure. None of the detainees had been given any water since their early morning arrests even though the temperatures were in the mid-90s. The train left Bisbee with the men packed into the cattle cars and armed guards making sure they did not escape. Finally, at 3 AM the next morning, the train stopped at Hermanas, New Mexico 195 miles away and released nearly 1,300 penniless men. During the Bisbee Deportation, Phelps Dodge executives had seized telephone and telegraph operations. In 1918, 21 company executives were arrested by federal order but all were released. It was found that no federal laws were violated. The state never pressed any charges so no one was ever punished.

“How it could have happened in a civilized country I’ll never know. This is the only country it could have happened in. As far as we’re concerned, we’re still on strike!” – Fred Watson, one of the men deported

“The essence of trade unionism is social uplift. The labor movement has been the haven for the dispossessed, the despised, the neglected, the downtrodden, the poor.” – A. Phillip Randolph

“With all their faults, trade unions have done more for humanity than any other organization of men that ever existed. They have done more for decency, for honesty, for education, for the betterment of the race, for the developing of character in men, than any other association of men.” – Clarence Darrow

“Let the workers organize. Let the toilers assemble. Let their crystallized voice proclaim their injustices and demand their privileges. Let all thoughtful citizens sustain them, for the future of Labor is the future of America.” – John L. Lewis

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Copper mining dates to about 7000 BC where evidence of cold hammering techniques were found in modern day Anatolia as well as Serbia. The ability to smelt copper gave us first the Copper Age which led to the Bronze Age. We don’t know if the technique was developed independently during this time or if there was some long-distance trading which brought the technique to others. In order to get our ancestors from the Neolithic Age to the Bronze Age, copper had to be smelted and then mixed with tin to form the bronze. Most copper ores contain just a small amount of copper which must be separated and concentrated. Today, most of the copper ore contains less than 0.6% copper. The ore is ground to make small bits and then the part containing copper is removed. The steps that follow are dependent on what type of ore was mined. 

Also on this day: Magic Screen – In 1960, Etch-A-Sketch arrives in stores.
Money Issues – In 1933, the US passed her first minimum wage law.
Whoops – In 1979, Disco Demolition Night was a fiasco.