Little Bits of History

Shooting Shooters

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 31, 2013
D.W. Griffith

D.W. Griffith

October 31, 1912: The Musketeers of Pig Alley is released. The movie is credited with being the first gangster film. It is 17 minutes long and filmed at 16 frames per second or 16,320 frames. It was directed by D.W. Griffith and written by him and Anita Loos. The short starred Elmer Booth as the Musketeer gang leader and Lillian Gish as The Little Lady. Lionel Barrymore had a supporting role.

The silent movie is about a poor married couple living in New York City. The husband is a traveling musician and while on the road, he is robbed by a gangster. Later, he recognized his assailant during a shootout. He wants his money back. The movie was shot on location and is rumored to have used actual street gang members as extras during the filming. D.W. Griffith is credited not only with starting a new film genre but of using “follow focus” for the first time as well.

Gangster or crime films are any movies involving any aspect of crime or criminal justice. They can be dramas, thrillers, mysteries, or film noir with the quintessential form being the Mafia movie. There are subgenres such as crime comedies, legal dramas, and prison films.

Follow focus is “a piece of equipment that attaches to the focus ring of a manual lens via a set of rods.” It does not alter the functionality of the camera, rather it permits the cinematographer to be more precise and the resulting film to be clearer and of better quality.

D.W. Griffith was born in La Grange, Kentucky in 1875. He hoped to be a playwright without initial success. He moved to California in 1907 in pursuit of his dream. He again failed but was given a bit part in a film. He soon began directing his own movies, the first was The Adventures of Dollie – a 12 minute silent film. He went on to direct 534 films between 1908 and 1931. In 1912 alone, he put out 70 movies. His Birth of a Nation was the first feature length film in America. He survived the controversy surrounding the movie as well as the financial difficulties associated with feature length films. He made only two sound films, neither successful. He died in 1948 at the age of 73.

“I’m not bitter about Hollywood’s treatment of me, but of its treatment of Griffith, von Sternberg, Buster Keaton, and a hundred others.” – Orson Welles

“The movies are the only business where you can go out front and applaud yourself.” – Will Rogers

“Separate together in a bunch. [And don’t] stand around so much in little bundles!” – director Michael Curtiz to movie extras

“Hollywood is a place where people from Iowa mistake each other for movie stars.” – Fred Allen

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Anita Loos was born in Sisson, California in 1889. She was a screenwriter, playwright, and author. She is most famous for her comic novel, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The book began as a series of short stories published in Harper’s Bazaar and were known as the “Lorelei” stories. They were satirical in nature and cast a jaundiced eye on the sexual escapades of the times with just vague hints of intimacy. They quadrupled the magazine’s circulation. Lorelei Lee was the heroine, a bold and sassy flapper who preferred the gifts her suitors bestowed upon her rather than the suitors themselves. The book was published in 1925 and it was soon followed by But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes which was published in 1927. While she wrote both fiction and non-fiction books, what she is most noted for are the many film credits to her name. She crafted movies from 1912 to 1956. She died in 1981 at the age of 92.

Also on this day: “I’m just a patsy” – In 1959, Lee Harvey Oswald in Moscow, vows to never return to the US.
Hot, Hot, Hot – In 1923, a heat wave began in Marble Bar, Australia.
95 Theses – In 1517 Martin Luther posted his Disputation on the church door.

Europe and Asia Linked

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 30, 2013
Bosphorus Bridge

Bosphorus Bridge

October 30, 1973: The Bosphorus Bridge is completed. The bridge spans the Bosphorus Strait which connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara. The Sea of Marmara links via the Dardanelles to the Aegean Sea and from there it is connected to the Mediterranean Sea. The strait is the narrowest used for international navigation. The Bosphorus Strait is ≈ 19 miles long and at its widest measures 12,139 feet across. The minimum width is between Kandilli and Aşiyan where it is only 2,297 feet across. It separates European Turkey from Asian Turkey.

The Bosphorus Bridge was the first bridge linking Asia and Europe. The suspension bridge has a main span of 3,524 feet between the towers. Its overall length is 4,954 feet and it rises 210 feet above sea level. It was the fourth longest suspension bridge span in 1973 with the top three being in the US. The decision to build the bridge was reached in 1957. A British engineering firm designed it and construction began in February 1970.

Suspension bridges have the deck hung below suspension cables held on vertical suspenders. Towers rise up for the cables and the load bearing platform between them is the main span. Modern versions of the suspension bridges date from the 19th century. There are both advantages (the main one is the length of the main span) and disadvantages (deck stiffness chief among them) for these types of bridges.

A bridge in Wheeling, West Virginia was the first “longest span” holder with 1,010 feet between the towers. The bridge held the record from 1848 to 1867 when Cincinnati took the record. By the 20th century, the 1,600 foot bridge in Brooklyn took over. In 1931 the Manhattan George Washington Bridge opened with a span of 3,500 feet. Next on the list was the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge in 1937 with a span of 4,200 feet. New York City again took the longest span with the Verrazano Bridge in 1964 with the span measuring 4,260 feet. Today, the longest span is in Japan with 6,530 feet spanning the Akashi Strait. There are now two bridges linking Asia and Europe as a second Bosphorus Bridge opened in 1988. Traffic between the continents continues to rise and a third bridge is planned.

“Sometimes, if you aren’t sure about something, you just have to jump off the bridge and grow your wings on the way down.” – Danielle Steel

“I would rather be the man who bought the Brooklyn Bridge than the man who sold it.” – Will Rogers

“It is not good to cross the bridge before you get to it.” – Judi Dench

“Narcissism and self-deception are survival mechanisms without which many of us might just jump off a bridge.” – Todd Solondz

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: A bridge is a structure built to cross an obstacle which can be water, a valley, or another road. The earliest bridges were natural in construction such as a fallen tree strategically placed for crossing a river or stones that appeared in order to cross with minimal wetness. Earliest manmade bridges were replications of this and consisted of planks spanning the area. Eventually support and crossbeam arrangements were devised. There are bridges that survive from ancient Greece and dating from the Bronze Age. However, the Romans were far more aggressive in their building plans and road systems creating a series of roads and the necessary bridges that spanned the known world. They built elegant arch bridges as well as aqueducts in which they used cement as a building material. As the Roman Empire declined and collapsed and the formula for cement was lost, brick and mortar bridges were built once again.

Also on this day: “Isn’t there … anyone?”– In 1938, the radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds led to panic in the streets.
Rebuilding – In 2005, the rebuilt Dresden Frauenkirche was reconsecrated.
Transplant – In 1960, the first kidney transplant in the UK was performed.

Seeing Red

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 29, 2013
Jean Henri Dunant

Jean Henri Dunant

October 29, 1863: An international conference in Geneva ends. In 1859 Jean Henri Dunant, a Swiss businessman, arrived in Italy to discuss trade issues. Instead, he witnessed the Battle of Solferino. The engagement was part of the Austro-Sardinian War. Dunant was appalled by the carnage. About 40,000 men lay across the battlefield, dead or dying. There was no organized effort to help the suffering men. Dunant gave up his original plan and spent days helping with the treatment of the wounded, regardless of army affiliation. He also encouraged the local civilians to give medical treatment to any wounded soldier.

Dunant wrote about the experience and self-published A Memory of Solferino. He sent copies to leaders, both political and military, throughout Europe. He not only graphically described the horror of the aftermath of battle, but advocated for the formation of national voluntary relief organizations as well as international treaties to permit their action. He sought to protect neutral nurses and medics on the battlefield. On February 9, 1863 Dunant and four other wealthy Genevans formed the Committee of Five. They hosted a three-day international conference attended by 36 individuals representing 14 nations. They laid the groundwork for the International Red Cross.

A year later, with all European governments, the US, Brazil, and Mexico involved, the group adopted the first Geneva Convention “for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded Armies in the Field.” In 1867 the name became International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The Geneva Convention was updated as the role of the ICRC grew with the ever expanding horrors of Two World Wars. The Red Cross on a white background is a reversal of colors of the Swiss flag, a way to honor Dunant. It is a protection symbol. While the shape of the cross is specified for official flags, any red cross on a white background is to be honored. During the Russo-Turkish War, it was thought Muslims might be alienated by the cross, so a Red Crescent was added.

Today, there are several ethnic or religious based flags, all with red symbols across a white background. In 1919 the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies was formed. It is the largest humanitarian organization in the world and offers assistance without regard to nationality, race, religion, class, or political beliefs. There are 186 Societies across the globe with more being formed. Each Society is made up of volunteers and staff and works both at home and internationally. In 2006 about 35,000 volunteers responded to 480 emergencies worldwide.

“We’re not all in a position to suddenly show up in New Orleans and start handing out supplies, but you do what you can with what you have. I’m a radio guy. So I tried to put together something that would drive people to help out with the Red Cross.” – Chris Miller

“The American Red Cross is one of the things you know you can depend on in time of crisis – always seems to be leading the charge – when something bad happens and we want to help, that’s where we go, to make sure we make a difference.” – Brooks and Dunn

“When I was a young schoolboy at the Beijing Opera Academy in Hong Kong, I was very poor and yearned for some of the most basic things in life. My fellow students were in similar need and it was at this time that a representative from the Red Cross arrived, bringing us supplies. My classmates and I were so grateful and touched and I vowed to always remember this generosity.” – Jackie Chan

“Why I support the Red Cross? Ask the millions that are saved every day because of the gift of blood, ask the family that lost their home in a fire and the Red Cross assisted, it could be your son or brother or the kid next door.” – Cristina Saralegui

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Jean Henri Dunant was born in 1828 in Geneva, Switzerland. His family were devout Calvinists and he was brought up to participate in social works. His father was known for helping orphans and parolees while his mother worked with the sick and the poor. In 1852 he founded the Geneva chapter of the YMCA.  At the age of 21 he was forced to leave college due to poor grades and so he began an apprenticeship with Lullin et Sautter, a money-changing firm. He was successful in this endeavor and remained employed by the bank. He traveled on business to Algeria, Tunisia, and Sicily in 1853 and after his visit he wrote his first book. In 1856 he started a business to function in foreign countries and was granted a land concession to carry this out. However, land and water rights were not fully understood and he was on his way to discuss these problems with Napoleon III when he came upon the Battle of Solferino.

Also on this day: Ali, the Greatest – In 1960, Cassius Clay, later to be known as Muhammad Ali, had his first professional fight.
You’re in the Army Now – In 1940, the first peacetime draft in the US was instituted.
Raleigh – In 1618, Sir Walter Raleigh was executed.

The Two Sisters

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 28, 2013
Statue of Liberty and

Statue of Liberty and Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi

October 28, 1886: President Grover Cleveland holds a dedication ceremony. In the struggle for autonomy, colonial America needed an ally. She found one in France who sent arms, ships, money, and men to support the revolutionaries. France was essential to the formation of the United States of America. In the 1860s the country was embroiled in a Civil War and barely able to preserve the union. In 1865 several French noblemen met for dinner. Disenchanted with Napoleon III and in frank admiration of the democratic and now all-free nation, the gentleman referred to the long-standing ties between the two countries and called them “the two sisters.”

The men at the dinner realized America’s centennial was approaching. They thought it would be fitting for France to bestow upon the US, a monument to independence and their lasting friendship. One of the guests was Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi. The idea stayed with the sculptor who was given his first commission at the age of 18. He was impressed with large creations, like many of his time. Grand times called for a grand scale.

Bartholdi was also a painter and a soldier. He created many great sculptures known not only for their size, but for their beauty. He was commissioned to create the gift from France to America – Liberty Enlightening the World. The joint effort called for the US to build the base and did not meet the centennial deadline. Bartholdi needed the assistance of an engineer to build his giant statue, and so he hired Gustave Eiffel. Funding as well as scope slowed the process. The work was finally completed and dedicated, as well as revealed, on this day.

We know the work as the Statue of Liberty. She resides on a 12-acre island in New York Harbor. She holds her lamp high, lighting the way to freedom. At one time, visitors could enter the torch. It has been closed since June 30, 1916 after an act of sabotage. Both the island and statue were off limits from September 11, 2001 until 2004 when the island once again opened. The Statue of Liberty was one again opened to the public on July 4, 2009.

Lady Liberty is made of 3/32-inch thick copper – about the thickness of two pennies. The green color or patina is the natural aging of the copper and in some places is nearly as thick as the copper itself. The statue stands 305 feet tall, or about the height of a 22-story building. She was the tallest structure in New York City when she was unveiled.

“It [the Eiffel Tower] looked very different from the Statue of Liberty, but what did that matter? What was the good of having the statue without the liberty?” – Josephine Baker

“The entire population of Liberty Island is small enough to fit into one copper-skinned palm of the colossal statue that serves as its only industry.” – Georgia Dullea

“The Statue of Liberty is no longer saying, ‘Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses.’ She’s got a baseball bat and yelling, ‘You want a piece of me?'” – Robin Williams

“The crime problem in New York is getting really serious. The other day the Statue of Liberty had both hands up.” – Jay Leno

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: There is a rich history of Liberty being represented as a woman. Early iconic representations of freedom included the personified Columbia as the US with Marianne representing France. Libertas, the goddess of freedom from ancient Rome also served as a model for Lady Liberty and some female form was on the face of many American coins of the time. Bartholdi could have depicted Liberty fighting for freedom but chose to portray her as peaceful. The crown on her head has seven rays depicting the sun and the seven seas or seven continents. The torch enlightens the world. Her dress changed style a few times before work began and her face was modeled after Charlotte Bartholdi, the sculptor’s mother. Unsure of what to place in Lady Liberty’s left hand, he eventually chose on a tabula ansata, or keystone-shaped tablet which would represent the concept of law. Inscribed on the tablet is JULY IV MDCCLXXVI.

Also on this day: Higher Education – In 1538, the first university in the New World was established.
Volstead Act – In 1919, Prohibition passed over President Wilson’s veto.
Gateway – In 1965, the Gateway Arch was completed.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 27, 2013
New York City subway system

New York City subway system

October 27, 1904: The first section of the New York City subway system opens. Elevated lines had been in use for nearly 35 years before the current subway system began to function. The original track, Contract 1, ran from City Hall to the Bronx. Contract 2 was soon added running to Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. At the time of early construction the War of the Currents was the cause célèbre. Thomas Edison tussled with George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla over direct and alternating current as the main delivery system. Alternating current won but not before the New York City Subways had already adopted direct current. Like many other legacy systems, New York City Transit Authority converts alternating current to 600 volt direct current to power the trains.

IRT (Interborough Rapid Transit) and BRT (Brooklyn Rapid Transit) both wanted access to the area under the Big Apple and finally the city opted to allow both companies to build. Contract 3 went to IRT and Contract 4 went to BRT. Expansion was rapid. Both companies added lines and built more tracks. Taxpayers became disenchanted with private enterprise and felt profits by private companies should not be at their expense. The city responded with ISS (Independent Subway System) and the subways were no longer privately owned.

By 1940 the city took over the running of the BRT and IRT systems as well as the ISS. The new public system was called MTA New York City Transit. Construction of new lines slowed. In 1951, a $500,000,000 bond was passed to build the Second Avenue Subway. Funds were diverted to other subway projects. By the mid-60s $600,000,000 was again given to upgrade the system with actual expenditures in excess of $1 billion. By the 1980s with the system approaching dangerous conditions due to deferred maintenance, upgrades were finally instituted.

Today, the New York City Subway is owned by the City of New York and the New York City Transit Authority leases it. It is one of the most extensive public transportation systems in the world. There are 468 passenger station serving 26 lines. There are over 6 million riders on an average weekday. It runs 365 days a year, 24 hours per day. The fare is $2.25 per ride, with varying options for payment.

“People who want to understand democracy should spend less time in the library with Aristotle and more time on the buses and in the subway.” – Simeon Strunsky

“Julius Caesar built that bridge over the Rhine in 10 days. Ten days! They’ve been trying to fix the Van Wyck since I moved to New York City in 1971. Twenty years and $20 billion later and we still don’t have a subway to JFK.” – Peter Weller

“A nickel will get you on the subway, but garlic will get you a seat.” – Proverb

“You take things for granted until something like this happens and then you realize how much you need the subway.” – Christine Grant

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: The War of Currents was a battle between delivery systems. There were both advantages and disadvantages to each type of electricity distribution. Direct Current (DC) could be scaled easier and had a built-in efficiency which allowed for storage of power when the load was decreased. When Edison was electrifying America, the major use of power for was for lighting purposes. However, DC could not be easily converted to higher or lower voltages which meant that lines for each voltage had to be run. Alternating Current (AC) had initial difficulties with the metering process which meant billing would be difficult. However, the power could travel longer distances to reach a greater number of users. Europeans preferred the AC power and built meters to accommodate the peculiarities in the power source. After they were able to electrify Rome, the power source was secure. But for anyone traveling away from their home country, it is obvious there is still no set standard for power delivery systems.

Also on this day: Fancy Dry Goods Store – In 1858, Macy opened his first NYC store.
Paris Riots – In 2005, riots broke out in Paris.
Single – In 1936, Wallis Simpson was divorced.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 26, 2013
Pony Express

Pony Express

October 26, 1861: The legendary Pony Express officially ends. The Pony Express was devised to quickly get mail across the vast spaces of the American West. People moved ever westward and ended up far away from the bustling and crowded East Coast. In 1842 the Oregon Trail beckoned to frontier families in Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, and Kentucky. By 1848 some type of regular mail service was called for. The Mexican-American War added the California territory to the new country and word of gold in the hills sent even more people west. San Francisco was established in 1848 and Salt Lake City in 1849.

What was the best way to get communications from the east to west and back? The ocean route was tried when Congress passed legislation authorizing the Navy to transport mail in 1847. Mail was sent via ship from the Atlantic coastal cities to the isthmus of Panama. Then it was taken across land and once again taken by sea to the Pacific coast. The trip was long and relatively costly. Mail was the only link to the past for many who came west in search of a better life. The Gold Rush brought more people – and higher costs to the mail.

There was overland service in competition with the ocean service. It also ran into problems. Service was irregular and erratic at best. Delivery could be slowed or stopped by snows. Mail was expected to arrive in a month, but could take twice as long. Service to Missouri was better established. The Pony Express was to carry mail from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California and manage the trip is mere days. Their premise was based on a relay race with riders handing off the mail across nearly 2,000 miles.

There were approximately 190 Pony Express stations set up at 10 mile intervals, on average. Letters were able to get from New York City to San Francisco in only ten days. The mail pouch was passed from rider to rider, who sat on the precious cargo to keep from losing it. The pouch was moved short distances quickly. It was the most important item with man and horse coming in a distant second. The mail was quickly delivered until … a new type of information system replaced it. The Transcontinental Telegraph was finished on October 24, 1861 and able to send vital information coast to coast. Two days later, the Pony Express, 18 months old, closed.

“Excitement was plentiful during my two years’ service as a Pony Express rider.”

“The first trip of the Pony Express was made in ten days – an average of two hundred miles a day. But we soon began stretching our riders and making better time.”

“You who live your lives in cities or among peaceful ways cannot always tell whether your friends are the kind who would go through fire for you. But on the Plains one’s friends have an opportunity to prove their mettle.”

“I was persuaded now that I was destined to lead a life on the Plains.” – all from William “Buffalo Bill” Cody

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: When California joined the Union as a free state in 1860 there were already 380,000 people out there. They were demanding better mail service. As the US Civil War was looming on the horizon, the need became ever greater. William Russell, Alexander Majors, and William Waddell were already in the shipping business by the late 1850s. These founders of the Pony Express had more than 4,000 men, 3,500 wagons, and about 40,000 oxen at their disposal. During the 1850s the three businessmen merged their companies together and held government contracts for moving army supplies out west. Since they already had an idea of how to move goods, they knew how to move the mail. The routes were established and moving from coaches to horses alone made the trip quicker. The relay race method also sped the mail swiftly across the growing nation.

Also on this day: Tombstone, Arizona – In 1881, the gunfight at the OK Corral took place.
Cloud of Death – In 1948, Donora, Pennsylvania was shrouded in a toxic fog.
Outnumbered – In 1597, the battle of Myeongnyang was fought.

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George, George, George

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 25, 2013
 King George III

King George III

October 25, 1760: George III begins his reign as King of England. George William Frederick was born in London in 1738. His father was the Prince of Wales and his grandfather was King of England and Ireland, George II. He was of the House of Hanover, but unlike others of the line was born and raised British and speaking English. He was born two months early and was not expected to live. He overcame early odds and grew up a healthy, but shy child. He was privately tutored and a polyglot. He studied the sciences as well as humanities.

George II was not a family man and disliked his son. When the Prince of Wales (George’s father) suddenly died of a lung injury in 1751, George William became heir apparent. George II was now interested in the teenager and made him Prince of Wales. The Dowager Princess of Wales, George’s mother, really remained in control. At the age of 22, the Prince assumed the throne upon his grandfather’s death. He married the next year, a Princess from Germany became the Queen of England. The couple had 15 children. George III’s official coronation came only one week after his wedding.

The colonial lands proved problematic from the start. The French and Indian wars had been expensive and the upstart colonies revolted against the taxes George imposed to offset costs. When the Stamp Act was repealed, the King was enraged. The next set of taxes were even more intrusive. George III would not be cowed by the colonial riffraff. Eventually the riffraff rebelled to the point of Revolution. George III is referred to as the king who lost America. Other colonial holdings were inspired and much of his reign was spent embroiled in war and quelling uprisings.

He was also known as Insane King George III. The line of Hanover passed along thrones, to be sure. But they also passed the hereditary disease, porphyria. Those with the disease have a disorder with an enzyme in the heme biosynthetic pathway. They are photosensitive (sensitive to light), are wracked by abdominal pain, and have port wine colored urine. Eventually the disease leads to paralysis of the arms and legs as well as psychiatric symptoms. George III, from 1811-1820, went progressively blind and insane. He was often locked in his rooms wearing a straightjacket. His son, George IV, succeeded to the throne upon his death in 1820.

“Born and educated in this country, I glory in the name of Briton.”

“Lord Chancellor, did I deliver the speech well? I am glad of that, for there was nothing in it.”

“A traitor is everyone who does not agree with me.”

“Once vigorous measures appear to be the only means left of bringing the Americans to a due submission to the mother country, the colonies will submit.” – all from George III

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: George III was also the Duke and prince-elector of Brunswick-Lüneburg (Hanover) in the Holy Roman Empire until he became King of Hanover in 1814. In 1810 he was at the height of his popularity in England. However, he was almost completely blind from cataracts and suffering from rheumatism and in constant pain. He was dangerously ill and bereaved after the death of his youngest and favorite daughter, Princess Amelia. The next year, he made his son Regent. He went completely blind, nearly deaf, and totally insane. He was still titular King but his son was wielding the power. He was unable to understand that he had been made King of Hanover and he did not know his wife died in 1818. His descent into madness continued and over Christmas 1891 he spoke nonsense for 58 hours straight. He was the longest lived and longest ruler of Great Britain up to this time. Only Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II have lived and ruled longer.

Also on this day: Who Blinked? – In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis confrontation between Adlai Stevenson and Valerian Zorin took place.
Nuke It – In 1955, microwaves became available for home use.
Fox River Grove – In 1995, a train hit a bus stopped at a red light.

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Notre Dame

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 24, 2013
Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral

October 24, 1260: A Cathedral is dedicated. Located in Chartres, about 50 miles outside Paris, the church’s full name is Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres or in French Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres. While the architect is unknown, his famous building is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in France. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. The church is 426 feet long and has a width of 105/151 feet due to its cruciform design. There are 186 stained glass windows and 200 statues in 41 scenes. There is one labyrinth. There are two contrasting spires, one plain at 349 feet high and one lacy confection at 337 feet high.

Even before the cathedral was built, Chartres was a pilgrimage site. Legend states a tunic belonging to the Blessed Virgin Mary has been housed at the site since 876, a gift from Charlemagne. Many churches have been built on the site and destroyed by fire. A cathedral so destroyed in 1020 was replaced by a Romanesque basilica. This, too, was doomed and mostly destroyed in an 1134 fire which burned most of Chartres to ashes. Rebuilding again took place. A lightning strike on June 10, 1194 started fires which destroyed all but the towers and the facade between them, along with the crypt and Royal Portal. Miraculously, Mary’s sacred garment was found unscathed.

The garment’s survival was seen as a sign from heaven and soon donations came in from all over France to rebuild an even more spectacular church. By 1220 the main structure was complete. The grand building incorporated the crypt and the Royal Portal built in the mid-12th century. There were a full set of spires on the plans, but these were never completed. It took forty years for the official dedication to be held. King Louis IX and his family were in attendance when the church was finally officially dedicated.

During the French Revolution the building remained sacrosanct and avoided looting and damage. The stained glass windows splash color onto the floors like scattered jewels. The West Rose and three lancet windows date from 1100. The North and South Rose and five more lancet windows date from 1230. Of the 186 windows, 152 are the original works. Part of the stone floor is given over to a mathematical meditative device. The 11-circuit labyrinth was used by monks who prayed while walking the path. The length of the path is 740 “long feet” or 888 “Roman feet” or 858 feet.

“A pile of rocks ceases to be a rock when somebody contemplates it with the idea of a cathedral in mind.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.” – Dalai Lama

“People don’t come to church for preachments, of course, but to daydream about God.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

“There is only one religion, though there are a hundred versions of it.” – George Bernard Shaw

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: In 1548 parts of the Cathedral were damaged because they were considered idolatrous by rioting Huguenots. During the reigns of both Louis XIV and XV many attempts were made to modernize this building as well as many other cathedrals across Europe. In 1786 a huge statue of St. Christopher as well as some tombs and stained glass windows were destroyed in this modernization. The cathedral was rededicated to the Cult of Reason and then to the Cult of the Supreme Being during the French Revolution. During this interlude, many of the kings of Judah were thought to be historical French kings and the statues were beheaded. Many of the heads were found during excavation efforts in 1977 and they are displayed at the Musée de Cluny. The cathedral because a warehouse for food storage for a time.

Also on this day: Nedelin Catastrophe – In 1960, a Soviet Union ICBM exploded on the launchpad.
Terror Along the Beltway – In 2002, the Beltway Sniper was arrested.
Earth – In 1946 the first picture of Earth from outer space was taken.

Bump! Boom!

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 23, 2013
Springhill, Nova Scotia mining disaster

Springhill, Nova Scotia mining disaster

October 23, 1958: Springhill, Nova Scotia, Canada is hit by an earthquake. When an underground earthquake strikes at the location of human mining efforts, it is referred to as a “bump.” There is some speculation the mining efforts trigger the geologic event by placing variable stresses on underground stratum. While actively mining, shifting pressures can cause supporting galleries to collapse or disintegrate. The town of Springhill was dependent on the coal mining industries. They had already suffered through the 1891 fire and the 1956 explosion. The mines remained productive.

In No. 2 mine, the method of removal had been improved to forestall disaster. The underground tunnel was one of the deepest in the world. The sloping shaft went ever downward for 14,200 feet and reached 4,000 feet below the surface. The “room and pillar” technique had been changed twenty years earlier to the safer “long wall retreating” method. A small bump occurred at 7 PM – during the evening shift. These were so common, the men ignored the irritant. At 8:06 PM a large bump hit and “severely impacted” a large portion of the mine. Three distinct aftershocks alerted those on the surface to the catastrophe in the mine.

The floor of part of No. 2 mine was smashed into the ceiling, instantly killing several men. Many others were trapped in small pockets of space. Rescue teams immediately began to look for survivors. Some wounded, limping men were encountered at 13,400 feet and aided to the surface more than 2.5 miles up the sloping shaft. Toxic gas released in the bump was found at 13,800 feet. Rescue workers had to drill shafts down through the rubble to vent the rooms and bring in fresh air. By 4 AM the next morning, 75 miners had been saved.

Others remained trapped with little food or water and dwindling air supplies. The media arrived and maintained a vigil with the groundside families of those still entombed below. The rescuers continued to work. On October 29 contact was made with twelve still trapped miners. They were freed on October 30 at 2:25 AM. On November 1, one last group of survivors was found. The remains of 74 men who were killed were brought to the surface sealed in metal containers due to the advanced state of decomposition. There were 100 survivors. The men who risked their own lives in the rescue effort were awarded a Gold Medal by the Royal Canadian Humane Association for their bravery.

“Bravery is being the only one who knows you’re afraid.” – Franklin P. Jones

“Bravery is the capacity to perform properly even when scared half to death.” – Omar N. Bradley

“Let bravery be thy choice, but not bravado.” – Menander

“Focus on where you want to go, not on what you fear.” – Anthony Robbins

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Mining has always been a dangerous operation whether it was for coal or other metals. Thousands have died over the centuries. The earliest mining disaster with greater than 100 deaths involved comes from the Rammelsberg Mine in Goslar, Germany where in 1376 disaster struck the mine. The largest number of deaths from a mining disaster took place in 1942. There was an explosion in the coal mine located in Benxi, China (Honkeiko Colliery mine) which took the lives of 1,549 miners. There were 1,100 at a coal mine located in Courrieres, France in 1906 who were killed by the explosion there. In this century, the greatest disaster was not an explosion, but rather a release of 100,000 tons of cyanide contaminated water from the Baia, Mare, Romania mining company, Aurul. Up to 80% of the aquatic life in affected rivers were found to have been killed. 

Also on this day: Fore – In 1930, the first miniature golf tournament was held.
Poison Gas – In 2002, the Moscow Theater Hostage Crisis began.
Schtroumpfs – In 1958, the Belgian comic strip debuted.

Where Is He?

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 22, 2013
William Miller

William Miller

October 22, 1844: Jesus Christ does not return to Earth. William Miller was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1782 and had little formal education although he was well-read. His family moved around New England and after marrying, Miller settled in Poultney, Vermont where he held a number of civil offices. He was raised as a Baptist but became a Deist as a young man. After serving in the War of 1812 and wrestling with the meaning of death, he returned to the Baptist church and became a Baptist preacher. He studied the Bible diligently for his own benefit and to gain ammunition for debate with his Deist friends. Miller became convinced the actual date of the Second Coming was to be found in Scripture.

Miller “did the math” and was certain he found the correct date in 1818. His first calculations brought Jesus to Earth in 1843, however he continued his private study. In September 1822 Miller went public with his revelations. In 1832 he sent 16 articles to the Vermont Telegraph, a Baptist paper, for print. By 1840 Miller’s following burst out of Vermont and he became a national figure. He was helped in this by publisher Joshua Vaughn Hines who spread his message via print. Miller did not give an exact date for Christ’s reappearance, stating it would happen between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844. On March 22, 1844 the date was moved to April 18. In August, after much recalculation, the date October 22, 1844 was chosen.

Miller’s followers, called Millerites, were deeply saddened on October 23 and many abandoned their beliefs. Some of his followers continued to learn from him and eventually founded the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, based on many of his teachings. Not everyone was sanguine in regards to the failed prophecy. Millerites were taunted, subjected to ridicule and even physically assaulted. One church was burned and a mob armed with clubs and knives attacked a group of Millerites. Another group of believers was tarred and feathered.

The bewildered and disillusioned included even Miller, who died in 1849 while still awaiting his Savior’s return. The responses of the believers were of three varieties. By 1845 religious doctrines began to gel. Joseph Turner led the first sect, holding to the “shut door” theology. If a believer did not accept gospel prior to the Second Coming, the door of opportunity would close and the individual was beyond redemption. Joshua Hines refused to accept the shut door philosophy especially after the no-show in 1844. The third group, led by Hiram Edson, said the date was correct but the event itself was misinterpreted. He preached Jesus’ return happened on this date. It was given that the return was to heaven and not to this mortal realm.

“I was thus brought… to the solemn conclusion, that in about twenty-five years from that time 1818 all the affairs of our present state would be wound up.” – William Miller

“I waited all Tuesday [October 22] and dear Jesus did not come;– I waited all the forenoon of Wednesday, and was well in body as I ever was, but after 12 o’clock I began to feel faint, and before dark I needed someone to help me up to my chamber, as my natural strength was leaving me very fast, and I lay prostrate for 2 days without any pain– sick with disappointment.” – Henry Emmons

“Our fondest hopes and expectations were blasted, and such a spirit of weeping came over us as I never experienced before….We wept, and wept, till the day dawn.” – Hiram Edson

“Some are tauntingly enquiring, ‘Have you not gone up?’ Even little children in the streets are shouting continually to passersby, ‘Have you a ticket to go up?’ The public prints, of the most fashionable and popular kind…are caricaturing in the most shameful manner of the ‘white robes of the saints.'” – William Miller, letter dated November 18, 1844

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: The Seventh-Day Adventist Church remains active to this day. They are a Protestant church with services held on Saturday, the original seventh-day in early Judeo-Christian times. They still believe that the second coming (advent) of Jesus Christ will happen soon. The church was formally founded on May 21, 1863 in Battle Creek, Michigan. Today, it spans the globe with over 71,000 congregations and more than 65,000 companies. The more than 17,000,000 members are led by Ted NC Wilson. There are over 17,000 ministers available to lead the flock. There have been two separations or schisms within the Church, the first taking place in 1925 and the second four years later. The Seventh-Day Adventist Church is based on 28 Fundamental Beliefs with 27 of them officially adopted in 1980 and an additional belief added in 2005. This last was added after the new millennium since the previous belief was that Christ would return before that marker.

Also on this day: When the World Was New – In 4004 BC, the world was created – according to the math.
Pretty Boy – In 1934, Charles Floyd was killed.
No, Thanks – In 1964, Jean-Paul Sartre was awarded the Nobel Prize.