October 31, 1926: Erik Weisz dies. He was born on March 24, 1874 in Budapest and changed his name to Ehrich Weiss before becoming Harry Weiss and then eventually settled on his stage name, Harry Houdini. The Hungarian-American illusionist and stunt performer was best known for his sensational escape tricks. His father, a rabbi, moved the family to the US in 1878. They first lived in Appleton, Wisconsin and Rabbi Weiss (the family changed the spelling to the German convention on their move) obtained US citizenship in 1882. After losing his position in Wisconsin, the family moved to New York City. Locals, mispronounced Ehrich as Harry and the young boy adopted the name. He made his professional debut at the age of nine as a trapeze artist.
Harry became a professional magician and took the name Houdini from the French magician, Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin after reading the Frenchman’s autobiography. After more research, Houdini learned his idol was a liar and published The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin in 1908. Houdini’s career as a magician was not very successful and so he began experimenting with escape acts. While performing with a brother at Coney Island in 1893, he met his future wife and dumped his brother as his partner and put his wife on the stage with him, instead. They got their big break in 1899 when they met manager Martin Beck who was impressed with Houdini’s handcuff stunts. With a manager helping secure venues, the Houdinis were soon playing in the top vaudeville houses in the country.
His fame and fortune spread. In each city on tour, he would challenge the police to restrain him and would escape from whatever system of shackles they possessed. He traveled the world, escape after escape, stunning all those paying customers. He freed himself from jails, handcuffs, chains, ropes, and straitjackets. Others soon took up the craft and so Houdini moved on to escaping from a locked, water-filled milk can. Failure would mean death and this brought in more paying customers. Ever more elaborate contraptions were built to contain the great escape artist. Challenges were arranged with local merchants in one of the first uses of mass tie-in marketing and so he would, for example, escape from barrels of beer.
While it was true that he was challenged by J Gordon Whitehead to accept blows to the stomach, this does not seem to be the actual cause of death. Houdini was struck several times while reclining on a couch (he had broken his ankle days before) and then stopped the younger man. He performed that evening. Two days later, he was diagnosed with acute appendicitis, but refused surgery. The appendix ruptured and he developed peritonitis. He died from the infection on this day. His last words, “I’m tired of fighting.” He was 52 at the time of his death. He is buried in New York City and each year, a broken wand ceremony is held at the gravesite.
Flames from the lips may be produced by holding in the mouth a sponge saturated with the purest gasoline.
My professional life has been a constant record of disillusion, and many things that seem wonderful to most men are the every-day commonplaces of my business.
Only one man ever betrayed my confidence, and that only in a minor matter.
I think that in a year I may retire. I cannot take my money with me when I die and I wish to enjoy it, with my family, while I live. I should prefer living in Germany to any other country, though I am an American, and am loyal to my country. – all from Harry Houdini
Also on this day: “I’m just a patsy” – In 1959, Lee Harvey Oswald in Moscow, vows to never return to the US.
Shooting Shooters – In 1912, the first gangster film was released by DW Griffith.
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.
October 30, 1501: Cesare Borgia throws a party. Cesare was born on September 13, 1475. His parents were Pope Alexander VI and his long time mistress, Vannozza dei Cattanei. His sister, Lucrecia, came to be synonymous with Machiavellian politics and sexual corruption which characterized the Renaissance Papacy. Cesare entered the priesthood and became a cardinal. After his brother’s death, Cesare resigned his cardinalcy and his father set him up as a prince over territory carved from the Papal States. On this day, he hosted a banquet in his apartments in the Palazzo Apostolico or Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope.
Johann Burchard wrote about the event in his diary. The Latin diary, called Liber Notarum, may be inaccurate. According to Burchard’s report, invited to the party were “fifty honest prostitutes” also called courtesans. The lovely ladies danced with the guests after dinner. They began dancing while clothed, but shed their garments and danced naked. The candles were removed from the tables and chestnuts were strewn around. The naked women picked them up while on their hands and knees. The Pope, Casare, and Lucrecia looked on. Finally, prizes of silk tunics, shoes, and other finery were offered for those who could “perform the act” most often with the women.
William Manchester (1922-2004) added some details in his book, A World Lit Only by Fire. According to this much later rendition of the tale, servants kept score of each man’s orgasms. The pope greatly admired virility and machismo and not only the number of pairings, but the ejaculative capacity was calculated. After everyone was exhausted, prizes were given. The party was such a hit it received its own name and is called the Banquet of the Chestnuts of the Ballet of the Chestnuts. Peter de Roo (1839-1926), a Vatican researcher and Catholic priest, does not agree with the account as given in Burchard’s diary. He claims that although the Borgias may have hosted a party, it was not an orgy as described and certainly not attended by the Pope.
He believes the story was made up and inconsistent with facts. First, Alexander VI was a decent but much maligned man. Second, Burchard’s writing of this event is unlike the rest of writing. And lastly, the majority of writers of the time questioned the veracity of the story and rejected it as lies. Writers of the time have Cesare throwing a party but with valets rather than prostitutes and his sister was missing from the event. If there were any “low harlots” involved, they were at the behest of Cesare and not the Pontiff. Other letters of the times say there were prostitutes there, but no Borgias at all.
I believe that if life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade… And try to find somebody whose life has given them vodka, and have a party. – Ron White
You come home, and you party. But after that, you get a hangover. Everything about that is negative. – Mike Tyson
At a formal dinner party, the person nearest death should always be seated closest to the bathroom. – George Carlin
At every party there are two kinds of people – those who want to go home and those who don’t. The trouble is, they are usually married to each other. – Ann Landers
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.
Europe and Asia Linked – In 1973, the first Bosphorus Bridge was completed.
Rebuilding – In 2005, the rebuilt Dresden Frauenkirche was reconsecrated.
Transplant – In 1960, the first kidney transplant in the UK was performed.
October 29, 1901: Jane Toppan is arrested. She was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1857 to Irish immigrant parents. Her birth name was Honora Kelley. Mrs. Kelley died of tuberculosis when her two daughters were very young. Paul Kelley was unable to care for his daughters. He was both alcoholic and an eccentric dubbed Kelley the Crack (as in crackpot and not related to drugs). Stories abound about the crackpot status of the family patriarch. One such tale tells of his sewing his own eyelids shut while working as a tailor. This is unsubstantiated and probably untrue, but the story itself lends credence to the instability of Paul Kelley.
In 1863, a few years after his wife’s death, Paul brought then eight-year-old Delia Josephine and six-year-old Honora to the Boston Female Asylum. This was an orphanage for indigent female children and was established in 1799. Paul gave over his two daughters and never saw them again. Documents from the asylum indicate this truly was in the girls’ best interest and note the girls were “rescued from a very miserable home”. No other records from the asylum tell how their time there was spent. However, in November 1964, Honora Kelley (now seven) was placed as an indentured servant in the home of Ann C. Toppan of Lowell, Massachusetts. Honora was never formally adopted, but she took the family name and changed her first name to Jane.
In 1885, Jane began training as a nurse at Cambridge Hospital. During her residency, she used patients as test subjects for experiments with morphine and atropine just to see what the drugs did to their nervous system. She spent time alone with patients and would drug them, climb into bed with them, and hold them close as they died. She later admitted to getting a sexual thrill from this. She moved on to Massachusetts General Hospital in 1889 and killed several more people before returning to Cambridge. She worked as a private nurse and was able to seriously begin her serial killer career in 1895 with the murder of her landlords. She killed her foster sister in 1899, tried to seduce her brother-in-law, unsuccessfully, and finally moved in with Alden Davis, a recent widower.
She killed Davis and two of his daughters within weeks. She was arrested on this day and by 1902 had confessed to 31 murders. She went to trial and on June 23 was found to be not guilty by reason of insanity. She was committed for life to the Taunton Insane Hospital. A Hearst newspaper reported she had hoped to be declared insane so she might be released later. If so, her plan did not work and she remained institutionalized until her death. She died on August 17, 1938 at the age of 81.
That is my ambition, to have killed more people-more helpless people-than any man or woman who has ever lived. – Jane Toppan
Murder is unique in that it abolishes the party it injures, so that society has to take the place of the victim and on his behalf demand atonement or grant forgiveness; it is the one crime in which society has a direct interest. – W.H. Auden
Murder is not some fictional conceit, imagined for the purpose of entertainment, but actually happens: and afterwards no credits roll, and life has to continue to be lived even if you have absolutely no idea where the deeds to the house are kept, or who services the lawn mower. – Michael Marshall
When I hear about people murdering, I wonder, What has to go through your brain to say, I don’t want him breathing anymore? What makes you get that angry? How can you take someone’s breath away? That just blows my mind. – Gilbert Arenas
Also on this day: Ali, the Greatest – In 1960, Cassius Clay, later to be known as Muhammad Ali, had his first professional fight.
Seeing Red – In 1863, the International Red Cross got its start.
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.
October 28, 1948: Paul Hermann Muller receives a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. He was a Swiss chemist born in Olten in 1899. His father worked for the Swiss Federal Railways and moved the family a few times, ending up in Basel. Paul went to the Free Protestant People’s School and later to both the lower and upper Realscule. He had his own small laboratory where he could develop photographic plates and build radio equipment. In 1916 he left school to work as a lab assistant at Dreyfus and Company. There, he began to study inorganic chemistry and eventually earned his PhD. He graduated summa cum laude after the acceptance of his dissertation, The Chemical and Electrochemical Oxidation of Asymmetrical m-Xylidene and its Mono- and Di-methyl Derivatives.
He got a job at JR Geigy AG in Basel and by 1935 began his study of moth- and plant-protection agents. He was more interested in the plant protection; he had a botany minor at the university. By 1937, he patented a technique for synthesizing novel rhodanide- and cyantate-based compounds and these showed bactericide and insecticide activity. He developed Graminone, a seed disinfectant which was much safer than the mercury-based disinfectants already in use. His success in this led to his assignment to develop an insecticide since there was none available that were both effective and inexpensive except for arsenic and these were poisonous to mammals, including humans.
During his research, Muller discovered that insects absorbed chemicals differently than mammals and inferred there must be chemicals toxic exclusively to insects. His goal was to find this. He did. Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), or, more precisely, 1,1,1-trichloro-2,2-bis(4-chlorophenyl)ethane, had been synthesized in 1874. Muller came across the substance and found it had insecticide properties unknown to its discoverer, Othmar Zeidler. Muller realized this chemical would help eradicate the vectors of many diseases. DDT was effective against mosquitoes, lice, fleas, and sandflies which spread malaria, typhus, the plague, and various tropical diseases. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his help in lessening these diseases. Between 1950 and 1970, malaria was completely eradicated from many countries, including the US.
The indiscriminate use of DDT as it entered the agricultural community led to unforeseen issues. In 1962, Rachel Carson published Silent Spring and questioned the use of widespread DDT applications. The increased usage of the insecticide was having far reaching impacts on the environment. They were causative agents of cancers in agricultural workers and a threat to wildlife, particularly birds. The Stockholm Convention led to a worldwide ban of DDT for agricultural use. It is still used, controversially, for vector control in areas with high incidence rates of malaria. However, because of overuse, mosquitoes have developed resistance to DDT and its effectiveness has been greatly decreased.
After the fruitless testing of hundreds of various substances I must admit that it was not easy to discover a good contact insecticide. In the field of natural science only persistence and sustained hard work will produce results, and so I said to myself ‘Now, more than ever, must I continue with the search.’ This capacity I owe probably…to strict upbringing by my teacher, Professor Fichter, who taught us that in chemistry results can only be achieved by using the utmost patience. – Paul Müller, after two years of trying to create a new pesticide
My fly cage was so toxic after a short period that even after very thorough cleaning of the cage, untreated flies, on touching the walls, fell to the floor. I could carry on my trials only after dismantling the cage, having it thoroughly cleaned and after that leaving it for about one month in the open air. – Paul Müller, just after discovering DDT
DDT is the single most effective agent ever developed for saving human life. – Dick Tavern
It might be easy for some to dismiss the past 43 years of eco-hysteria over DDT with a simple ‘never mind’, except for the blood of millions of people dripping from the hands of the WWF, Greenpeace, Rachel Carson, Environmental Defense Fund, and other junk science-fueled opponents of DDT. – Steve Milloy
Also on this day: Higher Education – In 1538, the first university in the New World was established.
The Two Sisters – In 1886, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated.
Volstead Act – In 1919, Prohibition passed over President Wilson’s veto.
Gateway – In 1965, the Gateway Arch was completed.
October 27, 1553: Michael Servetus dies. Also known at Miguel Serveto Conesa, Miguel Servet, Miguel Serveto, Reves, or Michel de Villeneuve he was a Spanish theologian, physician, cartographer, and humanist. He was born in 1511 in Aragon, Spain. Some sources say he was born in 1509 and other sources also give his true name as De Villanueva. His father was of the lower nobility who worked at a nearby monastery. He had two brothers, one of them a priest and the other a notary. His mother’s side of the family came from the Zaportas, a wealthy Jewish converso family meaning they converted during the 14th or 15th centuries to the predominant religion of Spain – Catholicism.
Michael was gifted in languages and was employed by the Franciscan friar, Juan de Quintana. Michael studied law at the University of Toulouse in 1526 and may have had access to forbidden books while there. Quintana became the confessor of Charles V in 1530 and Servetus was brought to the imperial retinue and made a page (secretary). In that capacity he was able to travel to Italy and Germany and attend the coronation of Charles as the Holy Roman Emperor. Servetus was appalled by the opulence of the Papal retinue and chose a path of reformation. It is not known for certain when he left his royal post, but he was soon in touch with Johannes Oecalampadius in Basel working as a proofreader and in that capacity was introduced to “heretical” printings.
In July 1531, Servetus published On the Errors of the Trinity and the next year he had Dialogues on the Trinity as well as On the Justice of Christ’s Reign in print. Under threat of the Inquisition, he changed his name and moved to France to continue his studies. He expanded his areas of interest to include medicine and was the first to correctly describe the function of the pulmonary circulation. He also became interested in pharmacology, mathematics, astronomy, meteorology, and geography. He published several books and helped by proofreading several more, expanding his areas of expertise.
On February 16, 1553 he was denounced as a hereticy by Guillaume de Tri while in Vienne, France. He fled to Geneva for safety but was handed over when the French inquisitor Matthieu Ory demanded his return. Servetus escaped and stopped in Geneva on his way to Italy. He was arrested there again and brought to trial on charges of heresy. Both Protestants and Catholics were appalled by his treatment of the Holy Trinity. Since he was not a citizen, the most that should have been expected was banishment when he was found guilty. Instead, Servetus was burned at the stake as beheading was seen as too benevolent for such a criminal as this heretical demon.
May the Lord destroy all the tyrants of the church. Amen. – Michael Servetus
I beg you, shorten please these deliberations. It is clear that Calvin for his pleasure wishes to make me rot in this prison. The lice eat me alive. My clothes are torn and I have nothing for a change, nor shirt, only a worn out vest. – Michael Servetus
I will burn, but this is a mere event. We shall continue our discussion in eternity. – Michael Servetus
The arrest of Servetus in Geneva, where he did neither publish nor dogmatize, hence he was not subject to its laws, has to be considered as a barbaric act and an insult to the Right of Nations. – Voltaire
Also on this day: Fancy Dry Goods Store – In 1858, Macy opened his first NYC store.
Underground – In 1904, the first section of the New York City subway opened.
Paris Riots – In 2005, riots broke out in Paris.
Single – In 1936, Wallis Simpson was divorced.
October 26, 1984: Stephanie Fae Beauclair undergoes surgery. She was born on October 14 and diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. This is a rare congenital defect in which the left ventricle (main chamber of the heart) is severely underdeveloped. Usually, both the aorta (main artery carrying blood to the heart) and the ventricle are too small and the aortic and mitral valves (muscular “doors” between the vessels and chambers of the heart) are too small to permit sufficient blood flow. Usually, there is also an defect between the right and left ventricles allowing the freshly oxygenated blood to mix with blood returning from the body. Without surgical intervention, the condition is fatal. One of the options is a full heart transplant.
Leonard L. Bailey at the Loma Linda University Medical Center opted for a full heart transplant. The difference with this one was that the donor was a baboon rather than another human. Baby Fae survived the operation itself but died 21 days later of heart failure due to rejection of the transplant. Baby Fae was type O blood. Most baboons are type AB blood with only about 1% of them having type O. There were seven young, female baboons which could have been used for the transplant and all of them were type AB. It was hoped that a second graft would be available for Baby Fae before her body rejected the baboon heart. A suitable donor could not be found in time.
Xenotransplants are living cells transplanted from one species to another. These can either be simply cells or tissues or entire organs. They are called xenografts from the Greek for foreign – xenos. Allografts or allotransplants refer to same species transplants and was the hoped for treatment for Baby Fae. Human xenografts are sometimes used as a potential treatment for end-stage organ failure but there are many medical, legal, and ethical issues involved. One of the issues is that most animals have shorter life spans than humans and so their organs age more quickly than human organs do. There is also the possibility of transferring a disease along with the tissue. There have been few successful cases of xenografts.
Baby Fae was the first human to receive a xenotransplant. The case has been used often since this time as a study of medical ethics. Bailey did not look for a human heart for Baby Fae. Were the parents able to make the judgment call to offer up their daughter for an experimental procedure? There is some question as to whether or not the parents were adequately informed of the risks and consequences. Since it was the first time the procedure was done, did anyone actually completely understand the risks and consequences? The parents were uninsured and could not afford to pay for a regular heart transplant and the xenograft was offered for free – how much did this influence their decision?
Er, I find that difficult to answer. You see, I don’t believe in evolution. – Leonard Bailey, when asked why he chose a baboon’s heart rather than a more closely related primate
The placing of a baboon heart into the chest of little Baby Fae caused indignation in many quarters. For some, who might safely be called eccentric, the concern was animal rights. – Charles Krauthammer
At Loma Linda, doctors told the mother that Fae would soon die; she was kept overnight in the hospital and then released. The mother had Fae baptized and took her to a motel to wait for her to die. – Gregory Pence
Within a year, Dr. Bailey performed the first infant-to-infant heart transplantation on Baby Moses, whose actual name is Eddie. Now 24 years old, Eddie holds the distinction of being the oldest living infant heart transplant recipient. – from Loma Linda University
Also on this day: Tombstone, Arizona – In 1881, the gunfight at the OK Corral took place.
Whoa! – In 1861, Pony Express service officially ended.
Cloud of Death – In 1948, Donora, Pennsylvania was shrouded in a toxic fog.
Outnumbered – In 1597, the battle of Myeongnyang was fought.
October 25, 1828: St. Katharine Docks open in London. The docks were located on the north side of the River Thames in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. They served London’s commercial interests and were just east of the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. They were part of the Port of London in an area today called the Docklands. Until the beginning of the nineteenth century. All shipping along the river was handled by the Port of London. All cargoes had to be delivered there for inspection and assessment by Customs Officers, leading locals to dub the area the “Legal Quays”. Between 1750 and 1796, trade increased and the docks became overcrowded. Both the number of ships and amount of cargo nearly tripled from 1,682 ships to 3,663 and 234,639 tons of goods mid-century to 620,845 by the end of the 1700s.
The St. Katharine Docks took their name from a former hospital of the same name which had been built in the twelfth century. St. Katharine’s by the Tower was also a church founded in 1147. The buildings were torn down to accommodate the increased need for more docks in the area. Twenty-three acres was earmarked for redevelopment by an Act of Parliament in 1825 and construction of the docks began in 1827. About 1,250 houses were torn down along with the church/hospital and 11,300 inhabitants were evicted from shabby, slum housing. Most of these were port workers and they received no compensation for their losses. Property owners (slumlords) did receive some compensation.
Thomas Telford was the engineer responsible for the project – his only major project in London. The docks were built from two linked basins in order to provide as much quayside as possible. Both basins were accessed via a lock from the Thames. Because of the new steam engines, the water level was kept about four feet higher than the tidal river. In order to minimize the activity on land, Telford built warehouses as close as possible. These, designed by Philip Hardwick, were filled directly from ships rather than with a way station.
The docks were officially opened on this day. They were not a commercial success. Larger ships were not able to access them. They were amalgamated in 1864 with the nearby London Docks. In 1909, the Port of London Authority took over management. The docks were severely damaged during World War II from the German bombing of the city. Because of their restrictive size limitations, they were among the first of London’s docks to be closed in 1968 and the site was leased to developers. Most of the warehouses were demolished and replaced by modern commercial buildings and the docks themselves have been turned into a marina.
If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable. – Lucius Annaeus Seneca
To reach a port, we must sail – sail, not tie at anchor – sail, not drift. – Franklin D. Roosevelt
It is not the going out of port, but the coming in, that determines the success of a voyage. – Henry Ward Beecher
I’m like a ship captain: I have a woman in every port. – Henrique Capriles Radonski
Also on this day: Who Blinked? – In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis confrontation between Adlai Stevenson and Valerian Zorin took place.
George, George, George – In 1760, George III began his reign in England.
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.
October 24, 1901: Annie Edson Taylor celebrates her 63rd birthday. Annie Edson was born in Auburn, New York in 1838, one of eight children. Her father ran a successful flour mill and he died when Annie was 12 with the family able to live comfortably from his estate. Annie received an honors degree in a four-year training course and became a teacher. While in school, she met David Taylor and they were soon married. They had a son who died in infancy and just a short time later, David died too. Annie spent the rest of her life working odd jobs and moving around in the effort to support herself.
She eventually came to Bay City, Michigan and wanted to be a dance instructor. There were no dance schools so she opened one. In 1900 she moved to Sault Ste. Marie in order to teach music and then went to San Antonio, Texas and with a friend, went to Mexico City to find work. All these efforts were unsuccessful and so she returned to Bay City. Her need for income did not diminish and she desperately wished to stay out of the poorhouse. In order to make a splash and perhaps garner some income from tales of glory, she came up with a plan.
Annie had a special barrel constructed of oak and iron, it was padded with a mattress. She was going to go over Niagara Falls in the thing. She had difficulty in finding someone to help her launch the contraption as it was too dangerous and no one wished to align themselves with an apparent suicide. Two days before her own attempt, she placed a domestic cat in the barrel and sent it over the falls. The cat survived, albeit with a head wound. It had taken 17 minutes to retrieve the barrel and cat. Annie and the cat posed for a picture. On this day, the barrel was placed in the water on the American side near Goat Island. Annie climbed in bringing her lucky heart shaped pillow with her. The lid was screwed down and friends used a bicycle pump to compress the air in the barrel and then sealed the hole with a cork. Annie was set adrift.
The currents carried her away from the American side and over to the Canadian side and the Horseshoe Falls. She was plucked from the lower waters, relatively uninjured. She, too, had a small gash on her head. She was the first to survive going over the falls and after her trip, the Canadian side has been the site for all daredevil stunts. She was briefly famous and managed to make some money from appearances. Then her manager, Frank Russell, stole her barrel and most of her money and took off. The barrel was eventually found in Chicago and then it was lost completely. Annie’s final years were spent trying to earn enough money from her stunt to pay her bills. She died in 1921 at the age of 82 and is buried in the “Stunters Section” of Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls, New York.
If it was with my dying breath, I would caution anyone against attempting the feat… I would sooner walk up to the mouth of a cannon, knowing it was going to blow me to pieces than make another trip over the Fall. – Annie Edson Taylor
I’m not only the best-known daredevil on the face of the earth, I’m the oldest. – Evel Knievel
I don’t see the risk, I enjoy performing stunts, and I don’t get scared. – Ajay Devgan
The ads all call me fearless, but that’s just publicity. Anyone who thinks I’m not scared out of my mind whenever I do one of my stunts is crazier than I am. – Jackie Chan
Nedelin Catastrophe – In 1960, a Soviet Union ICBM exploded on the launchpad.
Notre Dame – In 1260, the cathedral was dedicated.
Terror Along the Beltway – In 2002, the Beltway Sniper was arrested.
Earth – In 1946 the first picture of Earth from outer space was taken.
October 23, 1850: The first National Women’s Rights Convention begins. In 1840, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton went to London with their husbands for the first World Anti-Slavery Convention. The women were not permitted to participate but they became friends and planned to organize their own convention in support of women’s rights. It took them several years, but in 1948 they along with three other women worked to create the Seneca Falls Convention, an event attended by about 300 people and lasting two days. There were about 40 men in attendance causing dissention until Frederick Douglass took the podium and gave an impassioned speech on women’s suffrage.
The success of the first convention spurred the women on hoping to have these meetings in each state. Lucretia Mott was a drawing card and would only be in the area for a short time and so a Regional Women’s Rights Convention was called within a few weeks. It wasn’t until April 1850 before Ohio women began to petition their constitutional convention for women’s equal legal an political rights. Lucy Stone was leader in that state. She partnered with Paulina Kellogg Wright Davis to work toward this goal and eventually this led them to plan a National Convention. They began contacting other women to attend and speak. Stanton was one of the women sought as a speaker but she was unable to attend, due to the timing of her pregnancy.
Stone went to visit her brother who died of cholera shortly after her arrival. She was left to settle his affairs and accompany his pregnant widow back east. Fearing this would not allow her to attend the convention, she sent messages ahead and asked Davis to lead the convention in her stead. The affair had been scheduled for October 16 and 17. While traveling east, Stone contracted typhoid fever and was near death in Indiana. Since she was the leading signatory, the convention was delayed and Stone made it back to Massachusetts just two weeks before the opening.
There were 900 people at the first session, the majority of them men. Several newspapers reported on the event and over 1,000 people were there by the afternoon with more turned away at the doors. Delegates came from eleven states including one from California, a state admitted only a few weeks before. The National Women’s Rights Convention was held yearly from 1850 through 1860 but was interrupted by the US Civil War. Two more events were held after the end of the war. It would take decades longer before women were considered to be able to handle the vote and given a voice in the rule of the land. Their equal treatment under the law is still somewhat spotty and the Equal Rights Amendment failed ratification before the March 22, 1979 deadline. Even with an extension to June 30, 1982, the ERA could not pass.
I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives. – Jane Austen
I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves. – Mary Wollstonecraft
Humankind is made up of two sexes, women and men. Is it possible for humankind to grow by the improvement of only one part while the other part is ignored? Is it possible that if half of a mass is tied to earth with chains that the other half can soar into skies? – Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
There could be a powerful international women’s rights movement if only philanthropists would donate as much to real women as to paintings and sculptures of women. – Nicholas D. Kristof
Also on this day: Fore – In 1930, the first miniature golf tournament was held.
Bump! Boom! – In 1958, the Springhill mining disaster struck.
Poison Gas – In 2002, the Moscow Theater Hostage Crisis began.
Schtroumpfs – In 1958, the Belgian comic strip debuted.
October 22, 1707: Navigation errors led to the sinking of four ships. In 1707, the War of Spanish Succession was in play and the British, Austrian, and Dutch forces under the command of Prince Eugene of Savoy besieged the French port of Toulon, trying to take control. The campaign was fought from July 29 to August 21 and the British sent a fleet of ships to help. Although the ships were able to inflict damages on the enemy, the overall effect was negligible. The British fleet was ordered to return home. There were 15 ships under the command of Sir Cloudesley Shovell.
They left Gibraltar on September 29. There was horrible weather during the voyage home with squalls and storms a near constant. The fleet sailed out to the Atlantic and then passed the Bay of Biscay, heading for England. The weather only worsened and the ships were thrown off course. On this day, the ships finally were able to enter the English Channel. The navigators believed they were positioned west of Ushant. Because of the bad weather, the accuracy of the longitudinal calculation was off. Instead of a position of safety, the ships were sailing towards the Isles of Scilly, and archipelago off the coast off the southwestern tip of the Cornish peninsula.
Before their course could be corrected, four ships were lost on the rocks of the islands. The flagship HMS Association was a 90-gun ship under the command of Captain Edmund Loades and with Admiral Shovell aboard. The ship struck the Western Rocks at 8 PM and sank, drowning the entire crew of about 800 men. Directly behind Association was HMS St George, which also struck the rocks but was able to escape. HMS Eagle, a 70-gun ship commanded by Captain Robert Hancock struck the Crim Rocks and sank in 130 feet of water with all hands. The HMS Romney, a 50-gun ship commanded by Captain William Coney, hit Bishop Rock and went down with only one crewman surviving. The last to sink was HMS Firebrand, a fire ship commanded by Captain Francis Percy. This struck the Outer Gilstone Rock but was able to float free for a while. She sunk close to Menglow Rock and lost 28 of her 40 man crew.
The exact number of men who died in the disaster is unknown. Various records give differing numbers between 1,400 and 2,000 officers, sailors, and marines killed. This is the greatest maritime disaster in British history. For days after the sinkings, bodies continued to wash ashore along with wreckage and personal items. Myths surround the sinking, including Admiral Shovell’s unwillingness to listen to a sailor’s report they were off course. Shovell did not survive the disaster and the legend of his murder after washing ashore barely alive is unsubstantiated.
A young sailor boy came to see me today. It pleases me to have these lads seek me on their return from their first voyage, and tell me how much they have learned about navigation. – Maria Mitchell
The rules of navigation never navigated a ship. The rules of architecture never built a house. – Thomas Reid
We were suddenly faced with the necessity of training a lot of young men in the art of navigation. – Clyde Tombaugh
We have always been taught that navigation is the result of civilization, but modern archeology has demonstrated very clearly that this is not so. – Thor Heyerdahl
Also on this day: When the World Was New – In 4004 BC, the world was created – according to the math.
Where Is He? – In 1844, Jesus Christ did not return to Earth.
Pretty Boy – In 1934, Charles Floyd was killed.
No, Thanks – In 1964, Jean-Paul Sartre was awarded the Nobel Prize.