Little Bits of History

Bilious Pills

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 30, 2014
Samuel Lee, Jr. pills advertisement

Samuel Lee, Jr. pills advertisement

April 30, 1796: The first US patent for a pill of any kind is granted. Samuel Lee, Jr. of Connecticut was given a patent for a “Composition of bilious pills” which was renewed several times by him and his son. They were marketed under the name Lee’s Windham Pills and Lee’s New-London Bilious Pills – named for New-London, Connecticut. The last patent renewal was in 1814 and held by Samuel HP Lee. The pills were used for the treatment of a variety of stomach ills including seasickness. An 1803 advertisement claimed them to be “Interesting to all sea-faring People” and said they could cure “foul stomachs, where pukes are indicated.”

Pills were originally small, round, solid pharmaceutical wonders taken orally and used to cure some ill. They were different from tablets and capsules, later inventions. Early pills were made by mixing the active ingredients with an excipient (inactive ingredient used to bulk up the mixture) such as glucose syrup. Using a mortar and pestle to form a paste, the goo would be placed in a tube or pipe and then divided into equal portions. These would be rolled into a ball and often coated with a more palatable flavor, often sugar. The oldest known pills were made of zinc carbonate hydrozincite and smithsonite and found aboard a wrecked Roman ship dating from 140 BC.

People have been trying to treat disease by a variety of ways since prehistory. Medications are any chemical substance used either internally or externally in medical diagnosis, cure, treatment, or prevention of disease. Today, these are classified into seven distinct groups based on where they come from. Natural origin come from herbal or mineral (also marine) origins. Chemical as well as natural origin means that some outside chemical synthesis is added to the natural element. Drugs can be derived from chemical synthesis, animal origins, microbial origins, biotechnology, and finally from radioactive substances. There are ways other than origins to classify drugs as well, such as chemical properties or method of administration.

Types of medicines can also be categorized by their use with different drugs used for each of the basic body systems, such as GI tract, cardiovascular, central nervous system, pain and consciousness, and many more. Medicines can be ingested, injected, or topically applied. Today’s system for drug discovery has been hotly debated throughout the medical community. It is laborious and costly and often leads to disappointment. Many drugs seem to be efficacious during early trials but cannot make it to market for a variety of reason. The cost of R&D is often recouped in the first few years of a patented drug’s existence since after a patent runs out generics are brought to market and do not have to fund the prior and future costly R&D.

I told my doctor I get very tired when I go on a diet, so he gave me pep pills. Know what happened? I ate faster. – Joe E. Lewis

Medicine is not only a science; it is also an art. It does not consist of compounding pills and plasters; it deals with the very processes of life, which must be understood before they may be guided. – Paracelsus

One sees more and more people who are miserable and demented and you feel it would be both kind and wise to leave them a few pills. – Deborah Moggach

There is actually quite a lot of crossover between the quacks and drug companies. They use the same tricks and tactics to bamboozle people into buying their pills, but drug firms can afford to use slightly more sophisticated versions. – Ben Goldacre

Also on this day: Oh, Hail – In 1888, the deadliest hailstorm in history strikes in India.
Louisiana Purchase – in 1803, President Jefferson bought some land from France.
Father of Our Country – In 1789, George Washington took the Oath of Office and became the first President of the United States.
Super – In 1006, a supernova was observed.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 29, 2014
Ransom E Olds

Ransom E Olds

April 29, 2004: Oldsmobile goes out of business. The company was founded by Ransom E Olds in 1897. He was born in Geneva, Ohio in 1864 and the family moved to Cleveland when he was still a child. He moved to Lansing, Michigan and married Metta Ursula Woodward in 1889. He claimed to have built his first steam-powered car in 1894 and his first gasoline-powered car in 1896. He is credited with the concept of the modern assembly line which was used to build the first mass-produced car, the Oldsmobile Curved Dash, which came out in 1901. Between 1901 and 07 about 19,000 of the cars were built using the line and interchangeable parts. It sold for about $650 ($200 less than the Ford Doctor’s Car) or about $18,500 today and had a top speed of 20 mph.

Copper and lumber magnate Samuel L Smith purchased the company in 1899 and renamed it Olds Motor Works. He also moved it from Lansing to Detroit. Smith was president while Olds became vice president and general manager. By 1901, Olds had built and sold at least one steam, electricity, and gas powered vehicle, the only automotive pioneer to do so. On March 9, 1901, the Olds Motor Works factory burned to the ground with only one Curved Dash saved from the flames. Olds claimed this is what led him to the decision to mass produce this car. Roy Chapin drove one of these early cars all the way to the New York Automobile Show. It took eight days and the trip was along mud roads so that when Chapin arrived at the Waldorf Astoria hotel, he was not permitted to enter in his disheveled state.

At the auto show, Olds pushed hard to sell his runabout. One dealer offered to purchase 500 and Olds quipped that if he took an order for 1,000 it would make the nation take notice. The dealer did make an order for 1,000 cars but only managed to sell 750. Even so, it is the larger number that was touted. It was not all easy and in 1904 Olds left his own company after too many fights with Frederic L Smith who came into the business purchased by his father. Smith and Olds were in constant conflict and when Olds left he started up RE Olds Motor Car Company. Smith threatened a lawsuit over the name and so it was changed to REO Motor Car Company and Olds served as president until 1925 and then moved to chairman.

Olds Motor Works was bought by General Motors in 1908, the year it was founded. Over the years they acquired several different companies under their overarching brand name, both automotive and non-automotive. During the 107 years of Oldsmobile production, 35.2 million cars rolled off the assembly lines. At least 14 million of these were built at the Lansing plant. At the time of its demise it was one of the oldest surviving brands with only Daimler, Peugeot, and Tatra older. Today, Daimler appears to be dormant, but both of the other brands are still producing cars, the former in France and the latter in the Czech Republic.

Car designers are just going to have to come up with an automobile that outlasts the payments. – Erma Bombeck

Once the automobile appeared you could have predicted that it would destroy as many people as it did. – Ray Bradbury

Money differs from an automobile or mistress in being equally important to those who have it and those who do not. – John Kenneth Galbraith

The people recognize themselves in their commodities; they find their soul in their automobile, hi-fi set, split-level home, kitchen equipment. – Herbert Marcuse

Also on this day: What’s the Word? – In 1852, the third most popular book in the world is first published.
Rodney King – In 1992, riots broke out in Los Angeles.
Free, Free at Last – In 1945, Dachau was liberated.
Slide – In 1903, a landslide down Turtle Mountain took place.

Men and Their Flying Machines

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 28, 2014
Louis Paulhan's biplane

Louis Paulhan’s biplane

April 28, 1910: Three aviation firsts occur. In 1906, the Daily Mail, a British newspaper issued a challenge and would pay the first person to fly between London and Manchester. The distance is about 185 miles. Flying long distances was a challenge and this was considered a very long distance. The £10,000 prize was to be given for making the trip with no more than two stops and within 24 hours. The take-off and landing could not be more than five miles from the newspaper’s offices in both cities. This contest was not immediately won and so in 1908, the paper offered £1,000 to the pilot of the first flight across the English Channel (a distance of 21 miles) which was won in 1909 by Frenchman Louis Bleriot.

The first pilot to even make an attempt at the long-distance trip was Englishman Claude Grahame-White. He was one of the first people in Britain to obtain a flying license after learning to fly in France in 1909. He took off from London on April 23, 1910 and made his first planned stop at Rugby, a distance of about 90 miles or approximately half way to Manchester. He was able to make it about 40 miles nearly to Lichfield, before engine trouble forced a landing. High winds kept him from taking his biplane back into the air and the craft suffered more damage when it was blown over on the ground.

He managed to get his plane back to London for repairs. But while these were being attended to, on this date, Frenchman Louis Paulhan took off late in the day, heading for Lichfield. When Grahame-White learned of Paulhan’s departure, he immediately set off in hot pursuit. This was one of the firsts – a night time take-off. By the next morning, he had nearly caught up with the Frenchman but Grahame-White’s plane was overloaded and was forced again to land. He had to admit defeat. Paulhan reached Manchester early on April 28 and won the challenge. Both pilots were at the Savoy Hotel in London to celebrate at a special luncheon.

Paulhan was an experienced pilot in both heavier and lighter than air vehicles having started flying balloons. Prior to this contest, he had been in California and had only recently arrived in England. His plane was brought in and assembled in under eleven hours. He took off at around 5.30 PM and followed a special train with white washed sleeper cars on the ground below who were both tracking and helping the pilot. While Paulhan won the contest, it was Grahame-White who made the historic first night time flight guided by the headlights of his ground crew’s cars. He heroically took off at 2.50 AM but was unable to catch up to the Frenchman. This was the first long-distance air race, first night-time take off proving it could be done, and the first powered flight into Manchester from outside the city. Paulhan made the flight again in 1950 on the fortieth anniversary of this historic flight. This time, he was a passenger aboard a British jet fighter. This later flight was of much shorter duration.

For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return. – Leonardo da Vinci

Pilots take no special joy in walking. Pilots like flying. – Neil Armstrong

Flying might not be all plain sailing, but the fun of it is worth the price. – Amelia Earhart

I hate flying, flat out hate its guts. – William Shatner

Also on this day: A Voyage to the South Sea – In 1789, the Mutiny on the Bounty takes place.
Kon-Tiki – In 1947, Thor Heyerdahl set sail.
Exposed! – In 1967, Expo 67 opened in Canada.
Scully’s Predecessor – In 1988, Aloha Airline Flight 243 met with disaster.

Operation Moolah

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 27, 2014
Operation Moolah

Operation Moolah

April 27, 1953: US General Mark W Clark makes an unusual offer. The hope behind Operation Moolah was to have a fully functional Soviet MiG-15 jet fighter brought over by a defecting pilot. The new plane had been introduced to Korea on November 1, 1950. US Air Force pilots had declared the new plane was superior to all United Nations planes, including the USAF’s newest plane, the F-86 Sabre. The plan was to offer a financial incentive for a pilot to bring a plane to South Korea for examination by US engineers. The MiG-15 could outperform at initial acceleration and outdistance the US plane in a dive. It was also more maneuverable at high altitudes.

The appearance of the plane over North Korea was not just about the plane, but also was a concern as to whether or not the USSR was helping North Korea’s war effort. Some United Nations prisoners of war had reported talking to Soviet pilots while in captivity and this along with other intelligence led those in power to believe Soviets were covertly supplying pilots to train North Korean forces. This was corroborated after the war was over by a defector. It was felt that if the US or the UN could get their hands on one of these planes, it would help immeasurably. So Operation Moolah was produced out of the office of the Army’s Psychological Warfare Branch in Washington, D.C.  If a disgruntled pilot could be induced to bring over a plane, he would receive $100,000 and political asylum.

The plan was approved on March 30 but the reward was dropped to $50,000 for any undamaged planes. The first to bring one over would receive a bonus of an extra $50,000. On April 26, armistice negotiations between Communist forces and the UN began. Operation Little Switch was due to be undertaken the next day and so Gen. Clark included Operation Moolah, as well. The first operation was to exchange sick and wounded POWs between the two sides and Clark hoped to persuade some Communists to stay and defect. On the night of April 26, two B-29 Superfortress bombers dropped 1.2 million leaflets over Communist bases. These were written in Russian, Chinese, and Korean and made the same offer as that broadcast the next day.

The sales pitch offered via shortwave radio transmission was sent out in Korean, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Russian. It was broadcast by fourteen radio stations situated in Japan, South Korea, North Korea, and China. The message that went out said, “. . . To all brave pilots who wish to free themselves from the Communist yoke and start a new, better life with proper honor . . . you are guaranteed refuge, protection, humane care and attention. If pilots so desire, their names will be kept secret forever . . .” This ploy was unsuccessful as no Communist pilot brought over a plane prior to the armistice signed on July 27, 1953. However, later that year, North Korean pilot No Kum-Suk landed his MiG-15 at Kimpo Air Base in South Korea – unaware of Operation Moolah. He received the cash anyway.

Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else. – Leonardo da Vinci

Nothing more completely baffles one who is full of trick and duplicity, than straightforward and simple integrity in another. – Charles Caleb Colton

Men are so simple and yield so readily to the desires of the moment that he who will trick will always find another who will suffer to be tricked. – Niccolo Machiavelli

Human intelligence may not be the best trick nature has to offer. – Bryant H. McGill

Also on this day: Sultana – In 1865, the steamship Sultana has a boiler explode.
John Milton – In 1667, Paradise Lost was purchased for £5.
Appendectomy – In 1887, the first successful appendectomy was performed.
Expo 67 – In 1967, the Expo held official opening ceremonies.

Fenway’s First

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 26, 2014
Hugh Bradley

Hugh Bradley

April 26, 1912: Hugh Bradley hits the first homerun ever at Fenway Park. Bradley was born in Grafton, Massachusetts in 1885. The 5′ 10″ right handed player began playing for the Minors in 1906 at the age of 21. He moved up to the Majors in 1910 when the Boston Red Sox picked him up. During his five years of Major League Baseball, he played first base and a right field. He was with Boston for two years and then was traded first to Pittsburgh, next to Brooklyn and finally to Newark. His batting average was .261 and he batted in 117 runs over his career. He had exactly two home runs during his tenure in the major leagues with one of them being this illustrious first ever at the new home of the Boston Red Sox.

Fenway Park opened on April 20, 1912. It has been home to the Boston Red Sox ever since and is the oldest ballpark in MLB. The Red Sox moved here from Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds. The year before, the owner of the club, John I Taylor, purchased the land on which the new stadium was built. He claimed the name came from the Fenway neighborhood of Boston, which got its name from the filling in of marshlands or “fens” to create the Back Bay Fens urban park. It is also to be noted that the Taylor family owned the Fenway Realty Company. Like many older stadiums, Fenway was built on an asymmetrical lot which gave it asymmetrical field dimensions.

On April 20, Boston mayor John F Fitzgerald threw out the opening pitch and Boston won the game in 11 innings. They were playing against the New York Highlanders who would be renamed the Yankees the next year. While this was exciting news, it was overshadowed in the press by the continued coverage of an even bigger story, the sinking of the Titanic just a few days earlier. Boston might be known today for holding the record for consecutive sellouts of their stadium (456th, which beat out the Cleveland Indians). The sellout streak ended on April 11, 2013 after 794 regular season games and 26 post-season games. The lowest paid attendance for the stadium came in 1965 when under 500 people showed up for two regular season games.

The stadium has been renovated, improved, enlarged, and upgraded several times in the over 100 years of its existence. The first was in 1934 when an iconic hand-changing scoreboard was added as were lights to indicate strikes and balls. In 1946 and upper deck was placed and the next year arc lights were put in. Only two other teams had not yet made this improvement. In 1999, auxiliary press boxes were added and at the turn of the century, a new video display (23 feet x 30 feet) was put in center field. Almost yearly since then, something new or upgraded as been added or improved. Today, the stadium hold 37,071 people during the day and 37,499 for night games. Play ball.

Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is. – Bob Feller

Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer. – Ted Williams

A baseball game is simply a nervous breakdown divided into nine innings. – Earl Wilson

Baseball is like church. Many attend few understand. – Leo Durocher

Also on this day: Chernobyl – In 1986, there is a nuclear disaster in the Chernobyl power plant.
John Wilkes Booth – In 1865, the actor was found and killed.
Tanzania – In 1964, Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged.
Police – In 1933, the Gestapo was formed.

Suez Canal

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 25, 2014
Suez Canal.

Suez Canal.

April 25, 1859: A ceremony is held for the breaking of ground for the Suez Canal. The canal is by definition an artificial waterway. It is entirely at ground level meaning there are no locks along the distance covered. It connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea. The building took ten years and it opened to traffic in November 1869. The canal allows for ship transport between Europe and eastern Asia without having to sail around Africa. The northern terminus is Port Said and the southern one is Port Tawfiq located in the city of Suez. It is a single lane with two passing places – one at Ballah By-Pass and the other at Great Bitter Lake.

When first built by the Suez Canal Company it was 102 miles long and had a depth of 26 feet. The canal has been enlarged several times and today it is 120.11 miles long and has a depth of 79 feet. As of 2010, it was 673 feet wide. It has a northern access channel of 14 miles, the canal itself which is 100.82 miles, and the southern access channel which is 5.6 miles. Sea water flows through the canal freely. The canal north of the Bitter Lakes flows north in winter and south in summer. The current south of the lake is dependent on the tide at Suez. Today, it is owned and maintained by the Suez Canal Authority. International treaty states usage is universal “in time of war as in time of peace, by every vessel of commerce or of war, without distinction of flag.”

During the second millennium BC, one of the Pharaohs (probably Senusret II or Senusret III) started working on a canal to join the River Nile with the Red Sea. There is some evidence, as well, the level of the Red Sea was higher and it reached up to the Bitter Lakes and Lake Timsah. Aristotle mentions the possibility of this great building project in his Meteorology. Both Strabo and Pliny the Elder allude to it as well. In the 19th century, French cartographers discovered the remnants of an ancient north-south canal running along the east side of Lake Timsah and ending north of the Great Bitter Lake. It was proved to have been built by the Persian king Darius I in an inscription.

The connection of the east and west via a canal, like the connection at Panama, has been of ongoing interest. The shipping needs made travel around an entire continent so expensive that the building of a waterway became feasible. At Suez, the level land to cross made it much easier to build. It took a decade to construct and used forced labor during part of the time. Over 30,000 people were working on the project at any given time and more than 1.5 million were employed over the course of the building. Thousands died during the construction. The final cost of building the canal was more than double the original estimate. Today, three convoys transit the canal in rotation – two southbound and one northbound. Passage takes between 11 and 16 hours. In 2008, 21,415 vessels passed through at the average cost of $251,000 per ship.

The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this: that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists. – Charles Dickens

When we are sick, we want an uncommon doctor; when we have a construction job to do, we want an uncommon engineer, and when we are at war, we want an uncommon general. It is only when we get into politics that we are satisfied with the common man. – Herbert Hoover

Most men love money and security more, and creation and construction less, as they get older. – John Maynard Keynes

If a building looks better under construction than it does when finished, then it’s a failure. – Douglas Coupland

Also on this day: “Off With Their Heads” – The Queen of Hearts – In 1792, the first person is executed by the more humane method of guillotine.
Semiconductor – In 1961, Robert Noyce patented the semiconductor and opened the computer age.
Ouch! –  In 1684, a patent was granted for a thimble.
Rebellion Losses Bill – In 1849, the bill was signed into law.

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Reference Work

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 24, 2014
Library of Congress

Library of Congress

April 24, 1800: The US Library of Congress is established. The first proposal for this reference library for members of Congress to use was put forth in 1783 by James Madison. It finally came to fruition on this date when President John Adams signed an Act of Congress allocating $5,000 for the purchase of “such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress” as well as setting up an appropriate place to contain them. Initially, 740 books and 3 maps were purchased and housed in the new Capitol Building as the seat of government moved from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. It was Thomas Jefferson in 1802 who signed a bill into law which provided for the actual building of the Library of Congress.

Not only did Jefferson provide for the building but also established a presidential appointment for the post of Librarian of Congress and a Joint Committee on the Library which regulated and oversaw the Library and allowed for the President and Vice President to borrow books. The Library of Congress was destroyed in 1814 when the British came to town and set the Capitol as well as the library contained within on fire. About 3,000 volumes were lost. Within a month, former President Jefferson offered his personal library as a replacement. He had been collecting books for 50 years and had a wide-ranging selection of books, including some not normally seen in a legislative library – such as cookbooks.

By January 1815, Congress had approved the collection and appropriated $23,950 to purchase his 6,487 books. His books were those of a working scholar and not a gentleman’s collection of books and so it was deemed appropriate as a replacement. At Monticello, Jefferson had grouped his books according to Francis Bacon’s scheme with three main groups subdivided into 44 more smaller portions. The books were stored for Congress using this same plan until late in the 19th century when Herbert Putnam (as the Librarian) began to work on a more flexible Library of Congress Classification system which is now used for the more than 138 million items contained therein.

In 1815, another fire caused great damage to the Library and many of Jefferson’s books were lost to the flames. Only 2,000 of the original books remained after the second fire. Between 1998 and 2008, the librarians working at the Library were able to replace these lost books – all but the last 300 which are still missing. Over the years, the space housing the Library has increased proportionately to the number of items contained. Today, preservation is centered on digitalizing the collection. Today, there are more than 32 million books and other print material in 470 languages and more than 61 million manuscripts. It is the largest rare book collection in North America. Housed within are many collector items such as a rough draft of the Declaration of Independence and a Gutenberg Bible (one of three perfect vellum copies known to exist). Also included are more than 1 million US government publications and another million newspapers spanning the last three centuries.

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. – Marcus Tullius Cicero

Books constitute capital. A library book lasts as long as a house, for hundreds of years. It is not, then, an article of mere consumption but fairly of capital, and often in the case of professional men, setting out in life, it is their only capital. – Thomas Jefferson

My Alma mater was books, a good library… I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity. – Malcolm X

A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life. – Henry Ward Beecher

Also on this day: Greeks Bearing Gifts – In 1184 BC, the Greeks bring a gift to Troy.
Soyuz 1 – In 1967, the first space fatality occurred.
Hershey’s Park – In 1907, Hersheypark opened.
Looking Outward – In 1990, mission STS-31 boosted into space with the Hubble Space Telescope aboard.

The Arts

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 23, 2014
American Academy of Arts & Letters facade

American Academy of Arts & Letters facade

April 23, 1904: American Academy of Arts & Letters forms. Originally called the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the group was founded as an offshoot of the American Social Science Association. The institute met for the first time in February of 1899 in New York City. Membership was capped at 150 and of those, 30 were eligible for the additional honor of being included in the Academy when it was founded on this day. In 1907, membership levels changed to 250 and 50 for the two groups. In 1913, President Taft incorporated the National Institute of Arts and Letters and in 1916, the Academy was also incorporated.

The Académie française served as the model for the American Academy. Members of the Institute selected seven of their members to become the first Academicians. William Dean Howells, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Edmund Clarance Stedman, John La Farge, Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), John Hay, and Edward MacDowell were the selected men who then selected eight others. Those men then selected another five and this continued until the cap of thirty members was met. Both groups did not have a permanent meeting place until 1923 when they moved to their current headquarters located on West 155th Street. The Academy’s meeting room contained fifty hand-carved Italian walnut chairs designed by McKim, Mead & White and donated by Elizabeth Cochran Bowen.

This two tiered structure remained intact for 72 years with 200 members in the lower section and fifty in the elite section. In 1976 members of the two combined into one group and called themselves the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. With this move, the membership could hold 250 living US citizens and up to 75 foreign composers, artists, and writers as honorary members. While they were served by one board of directors, there was still a tier establishment. This was completely done away with in 1993 and they became the American Academy of Arts and Letters at that time.

Members are chosen for life and have included some impressive names. They are organized into committees and award prizes to up and coming artists annually. Some of the original and early members may not be well known today, but in their time they were the movers and shakers of the artistic world. All is not sunshine and goodness, even among the best of the best. William James declined membership because his brother, Henry, was selected first. Robert Underwood Johnson was an early member and campaigned against modernism and kept out such illustrious writers as HL Mencken, F Scott Fitzgerald, and TS Eliot. Although not kept out by decree, women were not included early on. In 1908, Julia Ward Howe was elected in at the age of 88. In 1926, with the admittance of four women, the ban against the gentle sex was dropped.

All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. – Albert Einstein

O, had I but followed the arts! – William Shakespeare

To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. – Henry David Thoreau

Nine times out of ten, in the arts as in life, there is actually no truth to be discovered; there is only error to be exposed. – H. L. Mencken

Also on this day: The Bard of Avon – In 1616, William Shakespeare dies.
Boston Latin School – In 1635, the first public school in America (still open) was founded.
Lights, Camera, Action – In 1867, a patent for a zoetrope was granted.
Mississippi Burning – In 1940, the Rhythm Night Club burned.

Rolling Along

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 22, 2014
Robert John Tyers patent for roller skates

Robert John Tyers patent for roller skates

April 22, 1823: Robert John Tyers patents roller skates. He was a fruit seller from Piccadilly, London and called his invention Volitos. They were an “apparatus to be attached to boots … for the purpose of travelling or pleasure.” They used a series of five small wheels arranged in a single line and the developer demonstrated their use at the tennis court in Windmill Street. The first use of something akin to skates was in 1760 by Joseph Merlin in Belgium (perhaps). The paired four small boxwood wheeled skates were patented in 1863 by James L. Plimpton of New York. This became a far more popular style, at least for a time.

The early roller skates simply took the idea of ice skates and instead of having a blade to slide across the ice, used an arrangement of wheels to slide across a smooth surface. They were difficult to use as they did not steer well and stopping was a problem since they had no brakes. The improvement of a new type of wheel placement was shown when Plimpton arranged the wheels like those seen on a carriage which provided stability. Each pair of wheels was placed on its own axel and gave the wearer far more control with steering. The popularity of skating increased dramatically and this type of skate is still used today.

What started out as a game eventually became a competitive sport. Speed skating, racing on skates, and figure skating evolved. Roller Derby is a contact sport played on roller skates and developed in the 1930s. Roller hockey was developed in the 1990s and the game played with a ball rather than a puck became so successful that it made a brief appearance in the 1992 Olympics. By the end of the millennium, a study by The National Sporting Goods Association showed that 2.5 million people had played roller hockey. Roller skating itself was considered as an Olympic sport, but has not yet been included.

Roller Skating Rinks opened and allowed people a place to skate with a known flat surface. They formed their own association in 1937 as the craze for skating spread. They still offer classes to the public and help to educate the public on the benefits of skating. During the 1980s there was a disco dance craze that allowed skaters to bust a move to the tunes of the day. The health benefits of skating are put forth at the Roller Skating Association’s web page and include a total body workout which burns 350 calories per hour if covering 6 miles and 600 calories if skating at 10 mph. Inline skates (trade name Rollerblade) were first available commercially in 1987 and changed the whole game of skating.

Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There’s plenty of movement, but you never know if it’s going to be forward, backwards, or sideways. – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

I’d ice-skated before, because I’m Canadian and that’s what you do as a kid, but I’d never, ever been on quad skates. – Ellen Page

The Orioles’ Dick Hall comes off the mound like a drunk kangaroo on roller skates. – Joe Garagiola

I laugh at absurdity hardest, then stories, then observations, then bearded men on roller skates. – T. J. Miller

Also on this day: One Ringy-Dingy – In 2000, the UK updates the phone system.
Earth Day – In 1970, Earth Day was first celebrated.
Oklahoma Land Run – In 1889, land in Oklahoma was parceled out in a land run.
Remember the Alamo – In 1836, Santa Anna was captured.

First Veep

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 21, 2014
John Adams

John Adams

April 21, 1789: John Adams becomes first Vice President of the US. The new government began without the President and Vice President taking office on the same day. For both men, the official start of the first presidential term was March 4. However, it was not until April 6 when the first Congress counted the Electoral College votes and certified Washington as President and Adams as Vice President. On this date, Adams finally presided over the Senate and officially took the position of his elected seat. Washington did not begin as acting President of the US until April 30, 1789 and the executive arm of the government was officially begun.

Adams was the eldest of three sons born on October 30, 1735 (October 19 using the Old Style or Julian calendar). The place of his birth is now called Quincy, Massachusetts but in 1735 was still the north precinct of Braintree. His place of birth is now part of Adams National Historical Park. The family had been in the colonies since about 1638 and were descendants of Puritans. Adams’s mother was from one of the colony’s leading medical families. The family was not wealthy, however John felt the need to live up to the extended family’s history. He went to Harvard College at the age of sixteen with his father expecting him to study religion and become a minister.

After receiving his degree, John taught for a few years and decided to become a lawyer. He not only did not become the minister his father wanted, but John eventually changed religions and became a Unitarian. He studied law in the office of John Putnam, a leading lawyer in Worcester. He received a second degree from Harvard in 1758 and was admitted to the bar. He began to write about his life, clients, events, and his impressions of them all. In 1764, just days before his 29th birthday, he married Abigail Smith, his third cousin. They had six children, one of them also destined to become a President of the US. John, while interested in the local politics, was not as popular as his cousin, Samuel Adams – yet.

Adams forte was constitutional law and he was instrumental in drafting many of the original documents for the emerging nation. The first presidential election was held in 1789 with Washington receiving 69 of the electoral votes and Adams getting 34 – second place. He thus became Vice President. There are those who claim what he would have preferred to have been the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. But it was his duty to preside of the Senate and he had little input into the early running of the new nation. He was reelected to the Vice Presidency in 1792. In neither term did Washington consult much with his second in command. The election of 1796 saw Washington out of the race and Adams was elected President with Thomas Jefferson taking over his old position.

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

Democracy… while it lasts is more bloody than either aristocracy or monarchy. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide.

Power always thinks… that it is doing God’s service when it is violating all his laws. – all from John Adams

Also on this day: Snoopy v. The Red Baron – In 1918, The Red Baron loses a dogfight.
Rome – In 753 BC, Romulus and Remus founded Rome.
Henry VIII – In 1509, Henry became King of England.
Seattle’s Best – In 1962, the Century 21 Exposition opened in Seattle.