Little Bits of History

Widest Recorded Tornado

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 31, 2014
El Reno, Oklahoma

El Reno, Oklahoma

May 31, 2013: El Reno, Oklahoma is destroyed. The widest tornado in recorded history measured 2.6 miles at its peak. Initial touchdown occurred at 6:03 PM local time about 8.3 miles west-southwest of El Reno. During the day, a mid-to-upper level trough met with a mid-level low pressure area and moved east-northeast over the southern Rocky Mountains to the southern Great Plains. The air mass was expected to become unstable through the upper Midwest and the Mississippi Valley by the afternoon. Dewpoint and temperatures were perfect to enhance the storm’s organization. A cold front was in place from the eastern Dakotas to western Oklahoma.

Intense severe weather was expected across the southern Great Plains and especially in Oklahoma during the afternoon. As the storm organized, the wind shear and moisture along with the instability of the warm sector created a perfect mix for the formation of supercells. Large hail and tornadoes were expected and by 3:30 PM, a Particularly Dangerous Situation Tornado Watch was issued. By 5:33, that had increased to a warning for Canadian County. As the touchdown took place in a mostly rural area, there was little initial property damage. At 6:28, the storm began moving toward more populous regions and a tornado emergency was called.

The rating of the intensity of the storm was debated. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration used the Enhanced Fajita Scale which is based on the damage left behind. They gave the storm an EF3 rating. However, based on data from mobile radar, the University of Oklahoma’s RaXPol Doppler weather radar measured winds in excess of 296 mph and the rating was increased to EF5, the highest rating. Officials debate the proper scale citing lower damage rates. However, if the same tornado had passed directly over Oklahoma City rather than the rural regions in its path, the damage would have been “of biblical proportions” according to William Hooke of the American Meteorological Society.

The tornado killed four storm chasers, the first known deaths in the history of storm chasing. As it passed over open terrain, the chasers were unaware of the massive size of the storm. Tim Samaras, his son Paul, and research partner Carl Young were killed when their vehicle was thrown by the tornado or a sub-vortex as they travelled along Highway 81. Richard Charles Henderson, a local man, also decided to chase the storm and he was killed in the same area. There were eight fatalities associated with the tornado and 151 people were injured. The estimate of damages was $35-40 million. Since it was rush hour and many were trying to get home from jobs in Oklahoma City, it was fortunate that the storm did not cross crowded roads filled with commuters heading home or the death toll may have reached over 500.

Vows made in storms are forgotten in calm. – Thomas Fuller

If patience is worth anything, it must endure to the end of time. And a living faith will last in the midst of the blackest storm. – Mahatma Gandhi

There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm. – Willa Cather

Look for me in the whirlwind or the storm. – Marcus Garvey

Also on this day: Ready to Eat – In 1884 Kellogg patents corn flakes.
Johnstown Flood – In 1889, the South Fork Dam burst.
Pepys’s Diary – In 1669, Samuel made his last diary entry.
BEN – In 1859, Big Ben went on line.

Pearl’s Perils

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 30, 2014
Pearl Hart

Pearl Hart

May 30, 1899: Pearl Hart robs a stagecoach. Pearl Taylor was born around 1871 in Lindsay, Ontario, Canada. Her parents were affluent and provided their daughter with the best education possible. At age 16 Pearl was enrolled at a boarding school where she met Hart (whose first name has been given as Brett, Frank, or William) and who has been described as either a rake, drunkard, or gambler. The couple eloped but Pearl soon learned her new husband was abusive and she left him only to return later. They split and reconciled many times and during their time together produced two children. Pearl shipped them off to her mother who was by then living in Ohio to raise.

In 1893, the Harts attended The Chicago World’s Fair where her husband worked the fair as a midway barker. Pearl became fascinated with the cowboy life while watching Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. After the fair closed, Pearl again left her husband, possibly for a piano player named Dan Bandman, and headed for Trinidad, Colorado. She described her life at this time in very sketchy terms only to say she was drifting around and eventually arrived in Phoenix. She worked as a cook and singer and may have also taken up prostitution to support herself. She was said to have also taken up cigars, liquor, and morphine during this time. She may or may not have run into her husband in Phoenix who may have convinced her to move to Tucson and when her money was gone, returned to his abusive ways.

By early 1898, Pearl was in Mammoth, Arizona and working as a cook and perhaps as a prostitute near a local mine. She received word that her mother was seriously ill and Pearl wanted to return to Ohio but lacked the funds. She and an acquaintance, Joe Boot (probably an alias), tried finding gold in Boot’s mine claim but were not successful. So, they opted instead to rob the Globe to Florence stagecoach while it was about 30 miles outside Globe. Pearl had cut her hair short and scandalously dressed in men’s clothing for the event. She and Boot robbed the passengers in one of the last recorded stagecoach robberies. They took all their money and weapons, but Pearl returned $1 to each passenger before leaving.

They were eventually captured and put on trial where Pearl gave an impassioned speech concerning her ill mother and a burning need to return home. They were found innocent by an overwhelmed jury. They were immediately arrested again on charges of tampering with the US Mail. They were found guilty and Pearl was sentenced to five years. No jails at the time were set up to handle women and she was given special treatment. She was able to receive reporters who were dazzled by the novelty of a woman criminal and received a pardon after two years, possibly due to an embarrassing pregnancy. She had become a celebrity and maintained that status for several years before retiring into obscurity. She died some time after 1932, but no one knows for sure when or where.

The robbed that smiles, steals something from the thief. – William Shakespeare

The fear of burglars is not only the fear of being robbed, but also the fear of a sudden and unexpected clutch out of the darkness. – Elias Canetti

As many of the riders before me had been held up and robbed of their packages, mail and money that they carried, for that was the only means of getting mail and money between these points. – Calamity Jane

Now nobody get nervous, you ain’t got nothing to fear. You’re being robbed by the John Dillinger Gang, that’s the best there is! – John Dillinger

Also on this day: Start Your Engines – In 1911 the first Indianapolis 500 is held.
Chinese Democracy – In 1989, the Goddess of Democracy was unveiled
Fan Club – In 1933, Sally Rand danced in Chicago.
Duel – In 1806, Charles Dickenson was killed in a duel.

Jenny Lind

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 29, 2014
Jenny Lind

Jenny Lind

May 29, 1852: Jenny Lind bids a fond farewell to the US. Johanna Maria Lind was born on October 6, 1820 in Stockholm, Sweden. Her mother ran a day school out of their house and when Jenny was nine she was heard singing by Mademoiselle Lundberg’s maid. Lundberg was the principal dancer at the Royal Swedish Opera and the maid knew great singing when she heard it. The next day, the maid returned to the school with Lundberg who then arranged an audition as well as helped Jenny gain admission to the Royal Dramatic Theatre. Lind began singing on stage when she was ten. By the age of twelve, she needed to give her voice a rest for a short time but managed to recover.

Her first big role came when she was eighteen and by age twenty, she was made a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music and was a court singer to the King of Sweden and Norway. Her voice was severely damaged by overuse and her untrained singing technique. In 1841 to 1843 she came under the tutelage of Manuel Garcia in Paris. Her voice was so damaged, she was told not to sing at all for three months and then he began to teach her a better technique. Her voice recovered and the beautiful soprano was back in business. In 1843 she met Hans Christian Anderson who fell in love with her, but she did not return his affection and the two managed to become friends with Lind inspiring three of Anderson’s fairy tales.

The Swedish Nightingale swept Europe and eventually came to the notice of the US. In 1850 she was at the height of her popularity and she and PT Barnum to worked together to secure a tour of the US. It began in September 1850 and continued until this day when she left once again for England. Her first concerts in America were so popular and tickets were in such demand that Barnum sold them by auction. The nation was in a frenzy to hear the beautiful voice and “Lind Mania” was perpetuated by the press of the day. Both Lind and Barnum raised large amounts of cash from the tour. Lind was accompanied by Giovanni Belletti, a supporting baritone, and Julius Benedict as pianist, arranger, and conductor. Benedict left in 1851 and was replaced by Otto Goldschmidt whom she married in February 1852. Barnum’s relentless promotional tactics became ever more distasteful and Lind and he parted ways in 1851 under amicable circumstances.

The original contract between Lind and Barnum was altered along the way and eventually, Lind gave 93 concerts in America for Barnum which netted her $350,000 and Barnum received at least $500,000. From the outset, Lind had chosen specific charities to be the recipients of all her profit from the tour. Most of her munificence was sent to free schools in Sweden, but she also gave to local charities in the US. Her final concert before sailing away was held in New York City and was said to have been “attended by the largest and finest audience we ever saw assembled in New York.” She sang a new song at this final stop called “Farewell to America”.

My voice is still the same, and this makes me beside myself with Joy! Oh, mon Dieu, when I think what I might be able to do with it! – Jenny Lind

I have brightness in my soul, which strains toward Heaven. I am like a bird! – Jenny Lind

The extreme burst of her voice in the upper portion of its register is far beyond the ordinary range of sopranos, and she has acquired the power of moulding the higher notes entirely at her will. By this she is enabled to produce some of the most astonishing effects upon the listener. – from a critic writing at Nashville, Tennessee

How we all loved Jennie Lind, but not accustomed oft to her manner of singing didn’t fancy that so well as we did her. – Emily Dickinson

Also on this day: The Top of the World – In 1953 Mount Everest in conquered.
Running the World – In 1954, the Bilderberg Group held their first conference.
Empress of Ireland – In 1914, nearly a thousand people died when the ship sank.
I’m Dreaming – In 1942, Bing Crosby recorded a song.

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Exact Date – Maybe

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 28, 2014


May 28, 585 BC: A predicted solar eclipse brings a truce. According to The Histories of Herodotus, the Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus predicted an upcoming eclipse and it was interpreted as an omen. When the eclipse took place, the battle between the Medes and the Lydians came to an abrupt halt and a truce was called. Modern day astronomers can calculate the dates of historical eclipses and so this event can be accurately placed in history and it sits as a marker for other dates as well. Because of the accuracy of current astronomy, the battle has the earliest precisely known historical event date.

Herodotus was born 100 years later around 484 BC and died around 425 BC about age 60. The Histories is the first chronicle of previous events and Cicero called Herodotus “The Father of History” while Voltaire called him “The Father of Lies”. He systematically collected data and checked for accuracy as well as he could. His accounts are vivid stories. His goal was to investigate the origins of the Greco-Persian Wars and his narrative gives not only geographical but ethnographical information to all later generations. Herodotus claimed he was only reporting what was told to him.

For this particular war, Herodotus stated there were two reasons for conflict. The first was clashing interests in Anatolia but a more sinister reason was a need for revenge. Scythian hunters employed by the Medes returned from a hunt empty-handed and were insulted by the Medes King Cyaxares. The hunters then slaughtered one of the King’s sons and served him as dinner to the Medes. Then they fled to Sardis, the capital of the Lydians. When the King learned of the treachery, he asked that the hunters/murderers be returned to him and Alyattes II (ruler of the Lydian Empire) refused. The Medes invaded.

NASA has calculated the exact course of the eclipse in question. It peaked over the Atlantic Ocean at 37.9⁰N 46.2⁰W and the umbral path reached the area in question, southwestern Anatolia, in the evening hours and the Halys River is just within the accepted path. So, this is an exact recording of a historically dated event. Unless, Herodotus was in error and his hearsay evidence was carelessly recounted. Or perhaps the solar eclipse is a misinterpretation of the event and it was a lunar eclipse instead. If instead of seeing a full moon, a lunar eclipse blocked the light as dusk fell, it would also be rather striking. But if this is the case, that means the date is wrong and the battle would have taken place on either September 3, 609 BC or perhaps July 4, 587 BC when such dusk-time lunar eclipses took place. All dates were long before Herodotus was writing.

Men trust their ears less than their eyes.

The only good is knowledge, and the only evil is ignorance.

If a man insisted always on being serious, and never allowed himself a bit of fun and relaxation, he would go mad or become unstable without knowing it.

It is better by noble boldness to run the risk of being subject to half the evils we anticipate than to remain in cowardly listlessness for fear of what might happen. – all from Herodotus

Also on this day: It Can’t Be Done – In 1937 the Golden Gate Bridge is opened to traffic.
Beautiful Dining – In 1999, The Last Supper’s restoration was completed.
Sierra Club – In 1892, John Muir became the club’s first president.
Five – In 1934, the Dionne quintuplets were born.

Le Paradis Massacre

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 27, 2014
Le Paradis massacre site

Le Paradis massacre site

May 27, 1940: The Le Paradis massacre takes place. The Battle of Dunkirk began just the day before. This important engagement of World War II lasted until June 4, 1940 with the United Kingdom, France, and Belgium fighting against Germany. The battle for France began in earnest on May 10, the same day Winston Churchill became PM of Britain. By May 26, the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and the French First Army were trapped in an area about 60 miles long and 15-25 miles wide between the sea and advancing German troops. Two massive German armies flanked the allied forces. The Germans had about 800,000 men under Generals Gerd von Rundstedt and Ewald von Kleist. Lord Gort was in charge of the British troops while three French generals were also involved in defense with approximately 400,000 troops fighting for the Allies.

The 2nd Battalion of the Royal Norfolk Regiment was involved with the BEF. After an engagement at Le Cornet Malo, the men fell back to their headquarters at Cornet Farm, just outside Le Paradis. The commanders had been informed by radio that they were isolated and on their own and no assistance would be forthcoming. Their last contact with Brigade Headquarters was at 11:30 AM. They were in a defensive position as Waffen-SS troops attacked the farm building with mortars, tanks, and artillery which basically destroyed the building and forced the men to relocate to a cowshed. Ninety-nine men survived the attack but they had run out of ammunition.

Their leader, Major Lisle Ryder, ordered a surrender. The cowshed was near a road that was a boundary between two British regiments and as they raised their white flag, they surrendered to SS Hauptsturmfuhrer Fritz Knochlein’s unit rather than to the men they had been fighting. The 99 men, most of them wounded, were disarmed and led down a road off the Rue du Paradis. They were marched to a barn, lined up, and fired upon by two German machinegunners. Knochlein then armed some men with bayonets to make sure all the men were dead before they rejoined their units. Private Albert Pooley and one other man managed to survive. Private William O’Callaghan had pulled himself and Pooley into a hiding place (a pig sty) where they survived on raw potatoes and water from puddles before the farm owners discovered them and offered them aid. They were eventually captured by Germans but survived the war.

French civilians were forced to bury the 97 dead in a mass grave. The bodies were exhumed in 1942 and reburied in a local cemetery by the French authorities. Their final resting place became the Le Paradis War Cemetery. Excavation in 2007 revealed that approximately 20 more men, probably from the Royal Scots, were buried nearby in another shallow grave. After the war, Knochlein was tried for war crimes with Pooley and O’Callaghan able to testify against him. He was found guilty and was executed on January 28, 1949 at the age of 37.

When the war of the giants is over the wars of the pygmies will begin. – Winston Churchill

The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his. – George S. Patton

Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime. – Ernest Hemingway

There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare. – Sun Tzu

Also on this day: No More Burnt Toast – In 1919 a toaster with a timer is patented.
St. Pete – In 1703, St. Petersburg, Russia was founded.
Model T & A – In 1927, Ford Motor Co. began the switch from Model T to Model A.
Centralia – In 1962, a fire that is still burning was started.

From Property to Human

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 26, 2014
Dred Scott

Dred Scott

May 26, 1857: Dred Scott becomes a free man. Dred (Sam) Scott was born into slavery around 1799 in Southampton County, Virginia. He belonged to the Peter Blow family. He had an older brother named Dred, and when he died, Sam assumed the name in his honor. The Blow family moved to Huntsville, Alabama and were unsuccessful in farming endeavors there. In 1830, they moved to St. Louis, Missouri and sold Dred to John Emerson, a doctor serving with the US Army. In 1836, Dred met Harriet Robison, a teenaged slave belonging to Major Lawrence Taliaferro who was from Virginia. They were permitted to marry and Taliaferro transferred ownership of Harriet to Emerson. Emerson himself married and both new families moved frequently and returned to Missouri where in 1842 Emerson left the army.

They moved to the Iowa Territory in 1843 and Emerson died, leaving his estate to his wife, Irene. She now owned the Scotts and she leased them out as hired slaves for the next three years. In 1846, Scott attempted to purchase his family from Irene but she refused to sell. Since he couldn’t buy his freedom, he filed suit in St. Louis Circuit Court. Scott v Emerson was heard in the federal-state courthouse in St. Louis in 1847 and the judgment went to Emerson but the evidence was deemed hearsay and so the judge called for a retrial. In 1850, a Missouri jury found that Scott and his family should be freed as they were illegally held as slaves during their extended residence in Illinois and Wisconsin, where slavery was illegal.

Because women weren’t of much better standing that slaves, it was found that when Emerson died, his property should have been transferred to his wife’s brother, John Sanford, a resident of New York. So Scott’s lawyers brought a case in New York claiming diverse citizenship and the case was filed in federal court. Scott again lost and so the case was brought to the US Supreme Court in Dred Scott v Sandford (typo by a clerk) and the high court found that any one of African descent, whether slave or free, was not a citizen of the US, according to the Constitution. It also found the Ordinance of 1787 did not apply to non-whites. The Act of 1820 (the Missouri Compromise) was also not valid. In short, African-Americans had no claim to freedom or citizenship.

Scott was returned to Irene whose brother had been committed to an insane asylum in the interim. In 1850, Irene had remarried Calvin Chaffee, an abolitionist and member of the US Congress. He was unaware until shortly before the marriage, that his wife owned the most famous slave in the country. He persuaded his wife to return the Scott family to the Blow family, the original owners but they were now living in Missouri and had becomes opponents of slavery. So only three months after the Supreme Court ruling, Henry Blow freed Scott, his wife, and their two daughters. Only 17 months later, Scott died of tuberculosis in St. Louis where he had supported his family working as a porter.

Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally. – Abraham Lincoln

Elimination of illiteracy is as serious an issue to our history as the abolition of slavery. – Maya Angelou

I can only say that there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do to see a plan adopted for the abolition of slavery. – George Washington

Racism, xenophobia and unfair discrimination have spawned slavery, when human beings have bought and sold and owned and branded fellow human beings as if they were so many beasts of burden. – Desmond Tutu

Also on this day: Who Was That? – In 1828 a strange teenager is found on the streets.
Complex Napoleon – In 1805, Napoleon was crowned King of Italy.
Sailing to Oblivion – In 1854, Khufu or Cheops’ ship was discovered.
Alse Young – In 1647, Alse was hung as a witch.

Not a Weight Loss Diet

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 25, 2014
Edict of Worms

Edict of Worms

May 25, 1521: The Edict of Worms is issued. The Diet of Worms (a formal deliberative assembly) was called by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. It began on January 28, 1521 and ended on this day. It was neither the first nor the last such event. Imperial diets had been convened at Worms five times before beginning in 829 and once again after in 1545. This is the most famous of them and when a date is not given, it is assumed one is speaking of the Diet of Worms of 1521. In June of 1520, Pope Leo X had issued a Papal bull outlining 41 errors he had found in Martin Luther’s Ninety-five Theses and other writings related to or written by him. In order to get Luther to appear before a court, safe passage was guaranteed and he was called to the Diet of Worms to either renounce or defend his views.

Luther was summoned and appeared before the Diet from April 16 to 18 with Dr. Jeromee Schurff, Wittenberg professor in Canon Law, acting as Luther’s lawyer. On April 17, Luther was reminded to speak only in answer to direct questions put to him by the presiding officer, Johann von Eck. There were about 25 books or papers that were in question and the titles were read. Luther asked for more time to form a proper answer and he was given until 4 PM the next day to prepare. When asked again if all the books were his, he replied that they were indeed all books he had written, but that they were not all of the same sort. They were, according to the author, in three categories. One group were books everyone liked, even his enemies. One group attacked the abuses within the Catholic Church and the papacy. And the last group was attacks on individuals for which he apologized about the tone of the works, but attested to their accuracy.

The Edict issued on this day proclaimed the already-excommunicated Martin Luther to be an obstinate heretic and banned both the reading and possession of his writings. He was guilty of heresy. The biggest stumbling block for Luther was the selling of indulgences. Luther proclaimed simply that this was wrong and the Pope was in error, challenging the infallibility of the Pontiff. Luther maintained that salvation was earned by faith alone without any need for good works, alms, penance, or the Church’s sacraments. Luther also maintained that the path to salvation was to be found in scripture and if it was not in the Bible, it could be discarded.

Charles V was so busy with politics and war that the Edict was never enforced. Luther was supposed to be arrested and punished, but on his way home, Prince Frederick seized Luther and kept him safe in Wartburg Castle. While in residence there, Luther began to translate the Bible into German and bring the religious teachings directly to the people. He was never arrested and lived to be 62, dying in 1546. During his life, he continued to advocate for the poor. His new church was blossoming. Many times the practical implementation fell short of the ideal, but it was a church based on faith and with a worldwide following today, about 72.3 million people follow the simple monk’s teachings.

For this reason we forbid anyone from this time forward to dare, either by words or by deeds, to receive, defend, sustain, or favour the said Martin Luther.

On the contrary, we want him to be apprehended and punished as a notorious heretic, as he deserves, to be brought personally before us, or to be securely guarded until those who have captured him inform us, whereupon we will order the appropriate manner of proceeding against the said Luther.

Those who will help in his capture will be rewarded generously for their good work. – all from The Edict of Worms

All who call on God in true faith, earnestly from the heart, will certainly be heard, and will receive what they have asked and desired. – Martin Luther

Also on this day: “Swede” Momsen – In 1967, submariner Swede Momsen dies.
Nuking Ourselves – In 1953, the US continued testing with nuclear artillery.
Halley’s Comet – In 240 BC, Halley’s Comet was first documented.
The Fastest Man in the World – In 1935, Jesse Owens ran quickly.

Dot Dot Dash Dash

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 24, 2014
Samuel Morse

Samuel Morse

May 24, 1844: Samuel Morse sent a message from Washington, D.C. to Baltimore. Telegraphy is the transmission of messages over long distances. Early methods included the use of semaphore lines where an observer watched for movement and interpreted the message. Early semaphores included smoke signals, beacons, or reflected lights. Semaphore lines built towers in a line of sight configuration which allowed for a messaged to be passed from one to the next until it reached the final destination. Using electricity to send a signal was first suggested in 1753 in Scots Magazine and suggested the use of 26 wires, one for each letter of the alphabet. It proved impractical, but the idea itself was intriguing.

An early electromagnetic telegraph was designed in 1832 by Pavel Schilling in St. Petersburg which used a binary system of signal transmission. In Germany, Gauss and Weber were able to transmit a signal about 1.5 miles using a binary system as well and creating an encoded alphabet using positive and negative current states. Cooke and Wheatstone used a four-needle system in England to transmit messages. Theirs is regarded as the first commercial success with messages able to travel 13 miles using either a 4, 5, or 6 wire system. The system began to grow as more messages flew across the wires.

In the US, Samuel Morse and his assistant, Alfred Vail, developed a Morse code for signaling the alphabet. Their test case sent a message across 2 miles in 1838. On this day, the message, “What hath God wrought” was sent a distance of 38 miles from the Old Supreme Court Chamber to the B&O Railroad Station in Baltimore, Maryland. Commercial telegraphy took off in the US and all the major cities of the East Coast were linked in the next decade. By 1861, the east and west coast were linked, causing the dissolution of the Pony Express on October 24.

In 1851, the Morse telegraphic system became the standard for Europe, except for Britain and her colonies (and since the Sun never set on the British Empire, this included much of the world) which stuck with Cooke and Wheatstone method. In 1858 Morse introduced his system to Latin America by establishing a network in Puerto Rico, then a Spanish colony. Morse code uses dots and dashes to represent letters and numbers. A dot is one unit in length while a dash is three. A space between letters is one unit while a space between words is seven units. It is a binary system and the tone or light is either on or off. Many non-English languages use more than the 26 Roman letters and extensions of the Morse code exists for those languages. Probably the most famous Morse code message is SOS or dot-dot-dot dash-dash-dash dot-dot-dot and it has become synonymous with distress and a call for help.

If the presence of electricity can be made visible in any part of the circuit, I see no reason why intelligence may not be transmitted instantaneously by electricity. – Samuel Morse

The press, the machine, the railway, the telegraph are premises whose thousand-year conclusion no one has yet dared to draw. – Friedrich Nietzsche

The radio was an improvement on the telegraph but it didn’t have the same exponential, transformative effect. – Alison Gopnik

When we developed written language, we significantly increased our functional memory and our ability to share insights and knowledge across time and space. The same thing happened with the invention of the printing press, the telegraph, and the radio. – Jamais Cascio

Also on this day: Caveat Emptor – In 1626 Peter Minuit buys Manhattan.
News – In 1958, the UPI was formed.
Wedding Disaster – In 2001, the Versailles wedding hall collapsed.
Mary’s Poem – In 1830, Sarah Hale published a poem.

Bonnie and Clyde

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 23, 2014
Bonnie and Clyde

Bonnie and Clyde

May 23, 1933: A crime spree is stopped. Bonnie Elizabeth Parker (born October 1, 1910) and Clyde Chestnut Barrow (born March 24, 1909) were both from the Dallas, Texas area. Bonnie was the middle child in her family and her father died when she was four. Her mother moved the family to live with her parents and found work as a seamstress. Bonnie was a brilliant student and won top prizes in several categories. She dropped out of school her sophomore year and married Ray Thornton on September 25, 1926. They last saw each other in January 1929 but they never divorced. She moved back home and became a waitress often serving Ted Hinton who would later join the police department and help in her ambush.

Clyde was the fifth of seven children born to a poor farmer and they came to the Dallas region in the early 1920s as part of a resettlement from the impoverished suburban farms only to find themselves in the urban slums. The lived under their wagon for months until they could move into a tent. Clyde’s first arrest came in 1926 when he failed to return a rental car. He became a professional criminal with a long arrest record until he finally was sent to Eastham Prison Farm in April 1930 where he beat to death a man who was sexually assaulting him – his first murder. He was paroled in 1932. He was no longer looking for fame by robbing banks, but rather wanted revenge against the Texas prison system for all the abuses he suffered while incarcerated.

Bonnie and Clyde met in January 1930 at a friend’s house. At least that is the story given in several different histories. They got back together after Clyde’s release in February 1932. They committed a series of small crimes and in April, Bonnie and Ralph Fults were captured during a failed burglary while trying to steal guns. Bonnie was let go; Fults was sent to prison and never rejoined the now only Bonnie and Clyde gang (with associated and rotating members). The group of thugs swept across the Midwest and committed a number of different crimes with Clyde killing several people along the way.

The Texas Department of Corrections contacted former Texas Ranger Frank Hamer to go after the Bonnie and Clyde Gang. Hamer had been credited with 53 kills and been wounded 17 times. He accepted. On April 1, 1934, two highway patrolmen were killed by the Gang and the media got hold of the story, with much exaggerated detail. Bonnie and Clyde were on a rural road in Bienville Parish, Louisiana on this day when they were spotted by a posse of four Texas officer led by Hamer and including Hinton, who were in the company of two Louisiana officers. They were concealed in the bushes when around 9:15 AM, Bonnie and Clyde’s car approached. By the time it was all over, there were about 130 shots fired by the six law officers. Bonnie and Clyde were both dead. She was 23; he was 25.

John Dillinger had matinee-idol good looks and Pretty Boy Floyd had the best possible nickname, but the Joplin photos introduced new criminal superstars with the most titillating trademark of all – illicit sex. Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were wild and young, and undoubtedly slept together.

[Hamer’s, Simmons’s, Jordan’s and Hinton’s] various testimonies combine into one of the most dazzling displays of deliberate obfuscation in modern history.

Such widely varied accounts can’t be dismissed as different people honestly recalling the same events different ways.

Motive becomes an issue, and they all had reason to lie. Hamer was fanatical about protecting sources. Simmons was interested in resurrecting his own public image … Jordan wanted to present himself as the critical dealmaker. Nobody can account for Ted Hinton’s improbable reminiscences. – all from Jeff Guinn

Also on this day: Patience and Fortitude – In 1911 the main Research Library of the New York Public Library is dedicated.
Aaagh, Pirates – In 1701, Captain Kidd was hanged for piracy.
Two for the Price of One – In 1785, Ben Franklin claimed to have invented bifocals.
Squeezebox – In 1829, a patent for an accordion was granted to Cyrill Demian.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 22, 2014


May 22, 1980: Namco releases an arcade game. Namco was founded on June 1, 1955 in Japan. They were a video game and amusement park concern and merged with Bandai in September 2005 and were re-established on March 31, 2006. They are headquartered in Tokyo. Masaya Nakamura had founded the company to build amusement rides but in 1974, he bought out a struggling gaming company – Atari. He outbid others, including Sega, which had been building pinball machines, in order to do this. Their original video game, Gee Bee came out in 1978 and the next year Galaxian revolutionized the video game industry by using RGB color graphics.

But it was this game, released on this day, that secured Namco’s fame. Pac-Man was a fixture of popular culture. Namco did not release in the US under their own name but under the name of Midway. The game came to America in October 1980 and was immediately popular and remains one of the classics of video gaming. There were subsequent Pac-Man derivatives and lots of marketing of merchandise. There was even an animated TV series based on the game as well as a top-ten single.

Prior to the game’s release, space shooter games – especially Space Invaders and Asteroids – were the big hits. Pac-Man, designed by Toru Iwantani, is credited with being a landmark game and among the most famous as well. It is the one of the highest grossing video games of all time and had generated more than $2.5 billion (accumulated in quarters) by the 1990s. Pac-Man characters have appeared in more than thirty officially licensed game spin-offs and there are uncounted numbers of unauthorized clones. According to a survey, Pac-Man has the highest brand awareness of any video game character with 94% of Americans able to recognize the little dot muncher.

The player controls Pac-Man’s movements through a maze while he chomps pac-dots. A stage is completed when Pac-Man has consumed all the dots. The challenge isn’t just to maneuver through the ever more difficult mazes, but to do so while eluding the four enemies. Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde (ghosts) roam the maze and if they touch Pac-Man, a life is lost and Pac-Man withers and dies. In the four corners of the maze are larger pac-dots called power pellets which give Pac-Man temporary ability to eat his enemies (all but the eyes which return to the center box where they once again become whole and ready to pursue Pac-Man). A single bonus life is awarded if a player reaches 10,000 points. The game is over when all Pac-Man lives are lost.

If Pac-Man had affected us as kids, we’d all be running around in dark rooms, munching pills and listening to repetitive electronic music. – Marcus Brigstocke

Pac-Man didn’t occupy its place in commercial culture because consumers wanted to metaphorically imitate an insatiably hungry little yellow ball; they bought because the game was good enough to tap into genuine sources of pleasure. – Chris Green

Kids don’t even read comic books anymore. They’ve got more important things to do – like video games. – Ang Lee

There are plenty of skills I’ve learned from playing video games. It’s more interactive than watching TV, because there are problems to solve as you’re using your brain. – Shaun White

Also on this day: Now We Can Play Solitaire – In 1990 Windows 3.0 is released.
Howe’s That? – In 1842, Howe Caverns were discovered.
SS Savannah – In 1819, the SS Savannah set sail for the first transatlantic steamship crossing.
Air Fleet – In 1936 Aer Lingus Teoranta registered as an airline.

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