Little Bits of History

Long Lease

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 31, 2014
Arthur Guinness

Arthur Guinness

December 31, 1759: Arthur Guinness signs a lease. He was born in County Kildare, Ireland in 1725 and in 1752 his godfather bequeathed him £100. He invested the money and opened a brewery. He signed a 9,000 year lease for £45 per year on this day for the St. James Gate Brewery in Dublin. On May 19, 1769 he began exporting his ale when he shipped six and a half barrels to Great Britain. Throughout most of the history of the company, they have sold only three versions of a single beer type. They had on offer porter or single stout, double or extra, and foreign stout for export.

The beverage is made from water, barley, roast malt extract, hops, and brewer’s yeast. Part of the barley is roasted to give Guinness its famous dark color and characteristic taste. It is both pasteurized and filtered. It has a reputation for being a “meal in a glass” but it contains only 198 calories which is less than found in skimmed milk or orange juice was well as other non-light beers. In the late 1950s or early 1960s, the traditional wooden casks were abandoned and Guinness was put into aluminum kegs which were jokingly called “iron lungs”. Some studies claimed Guinness was good for the heart and there were some antioxidant compounds found in the drink. There are no more antioxidants than found in certain fruits and vegetables.

The perfect pint of Guinness is achieved by a special technique called the double pour. This should take exactly 119.5 seconds – just short of two minutes. Since that is longer than other beers, they made a slogan “good things come to those who wait”. Even so, many people are unwilling to wait and so another option is available. Exactap is a beer dispenser owned in a trust by its American inventor and marketed via DigitalDispense USA LLC and can pour a prefect Guinness in just four seconds without overfilling. There are 600 of the dispensers in Dublin alone. The glass should be slightly tulip shaped and the beer is poured into a tilted glass until ¾ of the way full. Then the beer is forced through a restrictor plate to get the famous head of foam at the top of the glass holding the 42.8° F beverage.

Today, the beer is one of the most successful brands worldwide. It is brewed in almost 60 countries and is available in more than twice that many. They have an annual sales total of 1.8 billion US pints or 850 million liters. It is the best-selling alcoholic drink in Ireland where Guinness & Co. makes nearly €2 billion annually. The company moved headquarters to London in 1932. They merged with Grand Metropolitan plc in 1997 and is now part of Diageo, a British based multinational alcoholic drinks producer. They are also the owners of Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker, and Baileys, so the brew is in good company.

My favorite food from my homeland is Guinness. My second choice in Guinness. My third choice – would have to be Guinness. – Peter O’Toole

I’m more of a Smithwick’s or Bulmer’s girl than a pint of Guinness. – Emily Ratajkowski

I’ve been watching what I eat. When I was putting on all the weight, I was drinking Guinness and not eating. I didn’t have room to because I was drinking all the time. – Robbie Williams

I admit I was drinking a Guinness… but I did not swallow. – Kinky Friedman

Also on this day: Dupont Plaza Hotel – In 1986, three unhappy employees set the hotel on fire.
Quarters – In 1960, the farthing was finished.
Longacre Square – In 1904, New Year’s Eve was celebrated in NYC.
Granted – In 1600, Queen Elizabeth I granted a Royal Charter.

Hat Trick

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 30, 2014
Montreal Victorias

Montreal Victorias 1896 team

December 30, 1896: Ernie McLea helps his team win the Stanley Cup. He was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 1876. He went to Bishop’s College School in Lennoxville and met two of his future teammates there. He went on to McGill University and played both rugby and cricket while there. He joined the senior Montreal Victorias for the 1896 season. They were playing the Winnipeg Victorias for the Stanley Cup in a one-game playoff. McLea scored a hat trick during the game, the first ever during Stanley Cup play. One of his scores was the winning goal scored two minutes before the game ended with a 6-5 score. He played five seasons with the Victorias and scored 17 goals in 24 regular season games. After retiring, he stayed with hockey and became an on-ice official.

A hat trick is making three goals in a game. The term was first used in 1858 when HH Stephenson took three wickets with three consecutive deliveries while playing cricket. A collection was held for Stephenson and he was brought a hat filled with the donations from grateful fans. The term first saw print in 1878. It became popular in North America in the 1940s when the National Hockey League began using the term. Hat tricks in test cricket are extremely rare with only 41 recorded. In hockey, it has become customary for fans to throw their hats onto the ice after witnessing a hat trick. A natural hat trick is even trickier and the three scores must be made consecutively.

The Stanley Cup is the championship trophy awarded to the winner of the Stanley Cup Finals held by the National Hockey League. Originally commission in 1892 as the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, it is named after Lord Stanley of Preston who was Governor General of Canada then. He awarded the cup to the top-ranking amateur ice hockey club in Canada. It was first awarded in 1893 to Montreal HC. In 1915, the two professional hockey organizations the National Hockey Association and the Pacific Coast Hockey Association decided their respective championship teams would play each other and the winner would take the cup.

Eventually, the cup came to be the symbol of victory in the National Hockey League. There are three cups: the original Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, the authenticated Presentation Cup, and the Replica Cup at the Hall of Fame. The NHL does not actually own the trophy, but uses it in agreement with the two Trustees of the Cup. Unlike other professional sports trophies, a new cup is not made each year. Winning teams get to keep the cup until a new winner gets to bring the prize home. Today, the playoffs are an elimination tournament consisting of four rounds of best of seven series. Eight teams from each of the two conferences qualify to begin. The Finals will be being on April 15, 2015 for the current season.

A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be. – Wayne Gretzky

All hockey players are bilingual. They know English and profanity. – Gordie Howe

Hockey is a tough, physical game, and it always should be. – Mario Lemieux

You see a hockey player, you’d never know he’s a professional athlete. But you put the skates on him, and he becomes a beast. – Junior Seau

Also on this day: Once in a Blue Moon – In 1982, the only total eclipse of a blue moon in the entire century took place.
Countess Bathory – In 1610, the Blood Countess was stopped.
Ted on the Loose – In 1977, Ted Bundy once again escaped from prison.
Not So Special – In 1924, Edwin Hubble announced that we were not alone.

Itty Bitty

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 29, 2014
Richard Feynman

Richard Feynman

December 29, 1959: Richard Feynman gives a speech at Caltech. The speech was entitled There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom. It was Feynman’s idea to manipulate individual atoms and molecules. It would take a set of precise tools to build and operate the next set of smaller precise tools and so on until the smallest tools were available. Scaling issues would arise and gravity would be less important as a weak force acting on such a small item. Instead, surface tension and van der Waals attraction would become more important at that size. The latter force is the attractive or repulsive forces between molecules other than those due to covalent bonds or the electrostatic interaction of ions.

Feynman was born in 1918 in New York City. He wrote his doctoral thesis, The Principle of Least Action in Quantum Mechanics, in 1942. He worked as a professor in physics and eventually came to the California Institute of Technology. He presented his speech there at the American Physical Society’s meeting. At the meeting, Feynman issued two challenges. As he ended his talk, he also offered two $1000 prizes to the first person or persons to solve each of the two problems. The first was to built a tiny motor which was done in November 1960. The second was to create letters so small that the entire Encyclopædia Britannica could be printed on a pin. It would take a reduction in size to 1/25,000 to achieve that goal. In 1985, a Stanford grad student wrote the first paragraph of A Tale of Two Cities at that size and collected the prize.

The speech was credited with being the inspiration behind the field of nanotechnology. Although newer research tends to limit his influence, nanotechnology is a thriving science. The term itself was first used by Norio Taniguchi in 1974. The science includes many applications of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular state. The National nanotechnology Initiative defines the science as the manipulation of matter with at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometers. This definition realized the importance of quantum mechanical effects.

Feynman won the Nobel Prize in quantum electrodynamics which made accurate predictions possible. In order to work with this type of science, he developed Feynman diagrams, a bookkeeping method allowing help with conceptualization and calculating interactions between particles in spacetime along with their antimatter counterparts. Feynman helped to discover the cause of the Challenger disaster and found the problem to be the O-rings resiliency at low temps. He contracted two rare forms of cancer and died on February 15, 1988 at the age of 69.

I’d hate to die twice. It’s so boring. (last words)

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.

It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.

If I could explain it to the average person, I wouldn’t have been worth the Nobel Prize. – all from Richard P. Feynman

Also on this day: The Awakened One – In 1993, the Tian Tan Buddha was consecrated.
Worst in America – In 1876, the Ashtabula Bridge collapsed.
Ooh-La-La – In 1721, Lady Pompadour was born.
Saintly Departure – In 1170, Thomas Becket was assassinated.

Ex-Vice President

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 28, 2014
John C. Calhoun

John C. Calhoun

December 28, 1832: John C. Calhoun resigns. The South Carolina politician was the first US Vice President to resign. He was born in 1782 and when his father died, 17-year-old John quit school to work the family farm with his brothers. He was a highly intellectual man and his brothers managed to support his return to his studies. John graduated from Yale College in 1804 and Tapping Reeve Law School in Connecticut in 1807 and was then admitted to the South Carolina bar. In 1811 he married his first cousin once removed, Floride Bonneau Colhoun. They had ten children in the next 18 years, three of them dying in infancy.

Calhoun was noted for his brilliance and not for his charisma or charm. He was a respected orator and great organizer. He won his first election to Congress in 1810 and immediately became a leader of the “War Hawks”. The group was intent on going to war with Britain to maintain American honor and republican values. After the war, Calhoun worked toward gaining protective tariffs as well as internal improvements like canals and ports. He was a proponent of a national bank. In 1817, President James Monroe appointed Calhoun as Secretary of War, a position he held until 1825.

Calhoun wished to run for President of the US in the 1824 election. He failed to win the endorsement of the South Carolina legislature and opted instead for the position of Vice President. During that election, no candidate received a majority of the Electoral College and the election had to be resolved by the House of Representatives. In that arena, Calhoun won his position by a landslide and served under John Quincy Adams. In the next election, Andrew Jackson became President and once again Calhoun took the second seat, one of two men who served under two different presidents.

His position was controversial and he and President Jackson did not see eye to eye. He and the President were often ideologically in conflict. By this time, Calhoun had become a proponent of states’ rights rather than the nationalistic views he held before. To make matters worse, his wife got involved in a squabble with Peggy Eaton, wife of the Secretary of War, John Eaton. The scandal became known as the Petticoat affair and ripped apart the Cabinet, making it difficult for the Administration to function. In order to gain control over his own advisory board, Jackson forced Calhoun to resign and he did so on this date. He remained active in politics and died in Washington, D.C. in 1850 at the age of 68.

In looking back, I see nothing to regret and little to correct.

The Government of the absolute majority instead of the Government of the people is but the Government of the strongest interests; and when not efficiently checked, it is the most tyrannical and oppressive that can be devised.

It is harder to preserve than to obtain liberty.

The Union next to our liberties the most dear. May we all remember that it can only be preserved by respecting the rights of the States, and distributing equally the benefits and burdens of the Union. – all from John C. Calhoun

Also on this day: Child’s Play – In 1973, Akron, Ohio stops their association with Box Car Derby after cheating becomes rampant.
Neptune – In 1612, Galileo observed the planet Neptune.
Poor Ben – In 1732, an ad for Poor Richard’s Almanack was run in Ben Franklin’s newspaper.
San Francisco Muni – In 1912, the Municipal Railroad in San Francisco opened.

Religious Freedom

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 27, 2014
Peter Stuyvesant

Peter Stuyvesant

December 27, 1657: The Flushing Remonstrance is signed. New Netherland was established in 1614 as a Dutch colony in the New World. Peter Stuyvesant served as the last Dutch Director-General of the colony from 1647 to 1664 when the area came under British rule. On this date, Stuyvesant was presented with a petition requesting an exemption to his ban on Quaker worship. He had instituted a ban abolishing the practice of all religions except for the Dutch Reformed Church. In 1656 William Wickenden, a Baptist minister from Rhode Island, was arrested, jailed, fined, and exiled for baptizing Christians in Flushing.

A group of thirty English citizens were not happy with the ban and presented the petition on behalf of Quakers, although none of the signatories were Quakers. Four of the signers were arrested by Stuyvesant’s orders. Two of them immediately recanted. Edward Hart and Tobias Feake, the sheriff of Flushing, both held fast to their beliefs. They were taken to prison and forced to live on bread and water for over a month. Friends and family petitioned Stuyvesant for their release and Hart, an elderly man, was released but banished. Feake held out for a while longer and then recanted. He was pardoned and fined, but was no longer eligible for public office.

John Bowne permitted Quakers to meet at his house. He was arrested in 1662 and brought before Stuyvesant. Bowne was deported to Holland even though he was of English descent and spoke no Dutch. He spent several months on the continent before he was granted a hearing with the directors of the Dutch West India Company. After months more of deliberation, the Company agreed to support Bowne and sent Stuyvesant a letter in 1663 telling him to end religious persecution in the colony.

The Flushing Remonstrance was an important document and some consider it a precursor to the US Constitution’s freedom of religion amendment included in the Bill of Rights. In the 17th century document, it was stated that religious freedom was a fundamental right, as basic as any other of the freedoms afforded to the colonies in North America. Not only were the signers willing to make this statement, but they sent it off to Stuyvesant, a known intolerant individual. The signers stood up for others with little benefit to themselves. The language of the text is nearly as beautiful as the message contained within it.

The law of love, peace and liberty in the states extending to Jews, Turks and Egyptians, as they are considered sonnes of Adam, which is the glory of the outward state of Holland, soe love, peace and liberty, extending to all in Christ Jesus, condemns hatred, war and bondage.

And because our Saviour sayeth it is impossible but that offences will come, but woe unto him by whom they cometh, our desire is not to offend one of his little ones, in whatsoever form, name or title hee appears in, whether Presbyterian, Independent, Baptist or Quaker, but shall be glad to see anything of God in any of them, desiring to doe unto all men as we desire all men should doe unto us, which is the true law both of Church and State; for our Saviour sayeth this is the law and the prophets.

Therefore if any of these said persons come in love unto us, we cannot in conscience lay violent hands upon them, but give them free egresse and regresse unto our Town, and houses, as God shall persuade our consciences, for we are bounde by the law of God and man to doe good unto all men and evil to noe man.

And this is according to the patent and charter of our Towne, given unto us in the name of the States General, which we are not willing to infringe, and violate, but shall houlde to our patent and shall remaine, your humble subjects, the inhabitants of Vlishing. – the final paragraphs of the Flushing Remonstrance

Also on this day: Hagia Sophia – In 537, the Hagia Sophia was officially dedicated.
Coming into Port – In 1703, the Methuen Treaty was signed by Portugal and England.
Play Nice – In 1512, the Laws of Burgos were issued.
Man Cave – In 1966, the Cave of Swallows was discovered.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 26, 2014


December 26, 1871: Thespis premieres at the Gaiety Theatre in London. Also called The Gods Grown Old, it was an operatic extravaganza as well as the first time WS Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan worked together. No score was ever published and most of the music has been lost. The theater was used to host many different types of works created in the burlesque style. Thespis was a moderate success as a Christmas entertainment and ran until March 8, 1872 after 63 performances. It was advertised as “An entirely original Grotesque Opera in Two Acts”.

The work referenced ancient Greek gods when Thespis, the father of drama, traded places with the gods on Mount Olympus. The gods had grown old and were ignored and when they returned to Earth, they were unimpressed with the way life on earth had turned out. The now inept leaders were disgusted with their lot and returned to Mount Olympus and sent Thespis and his group of actors back down to Earth. There are three pieces of music which remain today. Little maid of Arcadee was one of four numbers to receive an encore on this date. The song enjoyed popularity even after the demise of the play.

The play was under rehearsed and many critics noted it was in serious need of shortening. Carriages were to be called for at 11 PM but the play was still running at midnight. It did not receive good reviews for these and other reasons. All was not lost. There were nine such entertainments offered that year as holiday entertainment and of those nine, five closed before Thespis did. Gaiety usually ran seasonal performances for only a few weeks and this was offered for months – an extraordinary run for the venue. The opera was altered after the first performance, something Gilbert and Sullivan would do for many of their offerings in the coming years. By the third night of the run, a critic reported that not a single hitch in the performance remained.

Gilbert and Sullivan were one of the most famous Victorian era theatrical partnerships. Librettist Gilbert teamed up with composer Sullivan on fourteen comic operas between this date and 1896. HMS Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, and The Mikado were their most famous. After Thespis, the two did not work together again for four years but each worked separately and became famous in his own right in the interim. Their next work together seemed to have been designed by fate. Gilbert had written a short libretto on order but the woman who was to play the lead died in childbirth and the project was abandoned. Then Richard D’Oyly Carte needed a short piece to fill a bill and since Gilbert already had the libretto, it was decided to ask Sullivan to write the score. Thus, Trial by Jury was ready in just weeks.

Soon after the production of Pygmalion and Galatea I wrote the first of many libretti, in collaboration with Mr Arthur Sullivan. This was called Thespis; or, the Gods Grown Old. It was put together in less than three weeks, and was produced at the Gaiety theatre after a week’s rehearsal.  – WS Gilbert

Until Gilbert took the matter in hand choruses were dummy concerns, and were practically nothing more than a part of the stage setting. It was in Thespis that Gilbert began to carry out his expressed determination to get the chorus to play its proper part in the performance. – Arthur Sullivan

It is terribly severe on Mr. W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, the joint authors of Thespis, that their work was produced in such a crude and unsatisfactory state. Thespis on its own merits—merits of literary worth, merits of fun, merits of song writing deserves to succeed; but the management has crippled a good play by insufficiency of rehearsals and a want of that requisite polish and aplomb without which these merry operas are useless. – The Illustrated Times review

I must say that not a single hitch in the performance is now to be perceived, and that the applause and evident delight of the audience from beginning to end, the piece occupying a space of time within two hours. – London Figaro review of the third performance

Also on this day: Kwanzaa – in 1966 the first Kwanzaa was celebrated.
Searching – In 1986, Search for Tomorrow went off the air after more than 35 years.
Zounds! Sounds! – In 1933, a patent was granted for FM radio.
Storming Scandinavia – In 2011, Cyclone Dagmar made landfall.

White House Visitors

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 25, 2014
Robert Preston visiting the White House

Robert Preston visiting the White House

December 25, 1974: Marshall Fields visits the White House. Earlier in the year, Private Robert Preston, a US Army helicopter mechanic, stole a helicopter from Fort Meade, Maryland and touched down on the South Lawn. He had flown over the Executive Mansion, hovered for about six minutes, and then took off again. He was chased by two Maryland State Police helicopters and forced down. He was slightly injured in the process. He was eventually sentenced to a year in prison and fined $2,400 after plea bargaining. Richard Nixon was President at the time and was not at the White House. He was in Florida and his wife was in Indiana.

On this day, Fields crashed his Chevrolet Impala into the Northwest Gate and made his way on to White House property. He was dressed as an Arab and claimed he was the Messiah and had explosives with him. He drove up to the North Portico and placed himself just feet away from the front door. The US Secret Service agents went into negotiations with Fields and it took four hours to end the standoff. When Fields finally surrendered, it was found that the “explosives” he was carrying were only flares. President Gerald Ford was not at the White House during the encounter.

When the White House was first built, there were no fences and the public was given greater access to the White House grounds. This remained true up until World War II. After the war, access became increasingly restricted and after the September 11, 2001 attacks, the airspace also became more restricted and better enforced. At the time of this incident, there was a wrought iron fence in place. Since it proved inadequate, a new gate was erected in 1976. Police built barricades on the streets surrounding the White House in 1983 and during the mid-1990s the fence was expanded by one block to move traffic even farther away.

There have been several attempts by unwanted visitors to enter the Executive Mansion. Michael Winter made the first such attempt on April 13, 1912. There were three attempts in 1974 with Samuel Byck making an unsuccessful assassination attempt. Gerald Gainous tried twice in 1975 and there were three more attempts to enter in 1976. There were twelve more attempts before the year 2000. There were seven attempts between 2001 and 2009. Joseph Reel tried in 2013 and was sent to prison for three years after his arrest. There have been five people trying to get inside the White House in 2014 with the last being Dominic Adensanya’s October 22 second try. He was attacked by dogs and stopped. The Secret Service were able to stop a toddler who squeezed through the fence in August and no charges were filed.

The secret service is a strange group. They don’t really have a leader. It’s not set up like a military. Each one is supposed to be able to act like a leader when something comes up.     – Val Kilmer

Bush said today he is being stalked. He said wherever he goes, people are following him. Finally, someone told him, ‘Psst. That’s the secret service.’ – Jay Leno

The Secret Service has announced it is doubling its protection for John Kerry You can understand why – with two positions on every issue, he has twice as many people mad at him. – Jay Leno

There is no such thing as perfect security, only varying levels of insecurity. – Salman Rushdie

Also on this day: Mastodons – In 1801 the first complete mastodon skeleton was discovered.
Scone Stone – In 1950, the Stone of Scone was stolen.
It Is Finished – In 1991, the dissolution of the USSR was completed.
Arrival – In 1941, Admiral Nimitz arrived at Pearl Harbor.

Italian Hall Disaster

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 24, 2014
Italian Hall Disaster burial procession

Italian Hall Disaster victims burial procession

December 24, 1913: The Italian Hall Disaster takes place in Calumet, Michigan. The Calumet and Hecla Mining Company (C&H) was the biggest copper mining company in the Keeweenaw Peninsula of northwest Michigan. The Western Federation of Miners (WFM) was established in 1908 but it wasn’t until 1913 that had a large enough membership to effectively strike. About 9,000 of the 15,000 miners were members of WFM when they demanded union recognition from management and asked for a meeting to discuss conditions. They were denied and went on strike on July 23, 1913. The strike did not end until April 1914.

On Christmas Eve, the Ladies Auxiliary of the WFM held a party for many of the striking miners and their families. The party was on the second floor of the Calumet Italian Hall. One reached the second floor by way of a steep stairway. There was a poorly marked fire escape on one side of the building which could only be reached by climbing through a window to get to the ladders leading to the ground below. There were about 400 people attending the party when someone yelled “Fire”. There was immediate panic as people headed for the one stairway. In all, 73 people were killed, 59 of them children, as they tried to escape the building. It was not on fire.

There were several investigations of the disaster. At the coroner’s inquest, witnesses who did not speak English were questioned and had to answer only in English and there were no interpreters available. Most witnesses were not asked any follow-up questions. Many of the people who were called in had not seen what had happened. After three days, the coroner issued a ruled that did not give a cause of death. In early 1914, the US House of Representatives came and took sworn testimony from witnesses. They used a full day and 20 witnesses testified under oath and had interpreters available. Eight witnesses swore the man who yelled fire was unknown but had been wearing a Citizens’ Alliance (an anti-union organization) button on his coat.

There have been many stories told about the doors opening inward and trapping the people attempting to flee. At the time, in both the December 1913 inquest and the 1914 subcommittee hearing, no mention of the doors opening inward was made. Blueprints of the building showed the location and configurations of the doors, the staircase, and the landings. There may have been two sets of doors with the inner doors being bifold doors and the outer doors opening outward. There has never been a certain identity of the man who yelled “fire” but it is nearly certain there was no fire at all. The fire department records list the event as being “no fire”. The building was torn down in 1984 leaving only an archway. There is a state historical marker in what is now a park area.

All the dark, malevolent Passions of the Soul are roused and exerted; its mild and amiable affections are suppressed; and with them, virtuous Principles are laid prostrate. – Charles Inglis

The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it. – Albert Einstein

I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent. – Mahatma Gandhi

All good is hard. All evil is easy. Dying, losing, cheating, and mediocrity is easy. Stay away from easy. – Scott Alexander

Also on this day: The South Shall Rise Again – In 1865 six men began the KKK, then a simple social club.
Christmas – In 1777, James Cook discovered an uninhabited island in the Pacific.
Shhhhhh! – In 1818, Silent Night was written.
Eggnog Riot – In 1826, a riot broke out at West Point.

Another One Bites the Dust

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 23, 2014
King Dagobert II by Michael Nicholson

King Dagobert II by Michael Nicholson

December 23, 679: King Dagobert II is murdered. The Austrasian king ruled what is today parts of France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. The kingdom was begun when Clovis I died in 511 and his four sons divided his lands with Theuderic I receiving Austrasia. The region under control grew over time as more lands were conquered and brought under rule. Over the decades, lands and rulers came and went depending on the strength of both the king and his queen, as the queens were able to fight each other as well. Dagobert II was the son of Sigibert III of the Merovingian line. With political intrigue inside the palace, Sigebert III adopted Childebert before he had children of his own.

When Sigebert died in 656, Childebert’s father seized the throne for his son and had Dagobert tonsured (a symbol of religious devotion and humility as well as a sign of his being unfit to rule). Dagobert was exiled. His mother may have been a conspirator in his travails. Dagobert was given to Desiderius, Bishop of Pointers and then sent to a monastery in Ireland in order to be trained as a page for the English court. He may have married while in exile or it may be a tale to help establish a link between some abbeys and the Merovingian line.

The nobles of Austrasia appealed to Clovis II, king of Neustria who got rid of Childebert and his father but kept the lands for his own to rule. There was a need to give the Austrasians their own king and several tries were made to set up a puppet throne unsuccessfully. After a prince was murdered on a hunt in 675, Dagobert was returned to the lands and eventually took the throne in 676. He was about 26 years old by the time he was made king. The power struggle of the times remained at play with the young man’s reign given mostly to establishing cloisters and abbeys in his kingdom while other vied for the power of the throne.

The conflict between Neustria and Austrasia was not truly quelled. On this day, with history repeating itself, Dagobert was murdered while on a hunting trip. Near Stenay-sur-Meuse in the Ardennes, Dagobert met his end, probably on the orders of Ebroin, mayor of the palace in Neustria. Dagobert had no male heir and so the lands were divided among the lords of the Rhineland. Pippin II, Mayor of the Palace of Austrasia essentially ruled the lands while the throne remained empty until after the battle of Tertry in 687 when Theuderic III became the new king. Dagobert was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church and his feast day is celebrated on December 23.

Those who have wrought great changes in the world never succeeded by gaining over chiefs; but always by exciting the multitude. The first is the resource of intrigue and produces only secondary results, the second is the resort of genius and transforms the universe. – Martin Van Buren

Society bristles with enigmas which look hard to solve. It is a perfect maze of intrigue. – Honore de Balzac

Most governments do have inbuilt biases in favour of the rich and powerful, and most do contain plenty of manipulators who love intrigue, who have lost whatever moral compass they may once have had and who protect themselves with steely cynicism. – Geoff Mulgan

There is a fundamental difference between men and women – women need romance, men need intrigue. – Sherry Argov

Also on this day: Jolly Old Elf – In 1823, Twas the Night Before Christmas was first published.
Survivor, The Real Story – In 1972, the Andes flight disaster finally comes to an end.
Tokyo Tower – In 1958, Tokyo Tower was dedicated.
Around the World in Nine Days – In 1986, the Voyager landed at Edwards Air Force Base completing a non-stop trip around the world.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 22, 2014
Max Wolf

Max Wolf

December 22, 1891: 323 Brucia is discovered. It was the first asteroid to be found by means of astrophotography. It is part of the Main belt (the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It is about 22.25 ± 1 miles across. It is also a Mars-crosser which means that the orbit of the asteroid crosses the orbit of Mars at some point. The body was discovered by Max Wolf and named in honor of Catherine Wolfe Bruce, a patron of the science of astronomy. She had donated $10,000 for the construction of the telescope used by Wolf to find the asteroid.

Max Wolf was born in Heidelberg, Germany in 1863. His father was a medical doctor and encouraged an interest in the sciences. Wolf made his first astronomical discovery, comet 14P/Wolf, when he was just 21, four years before receiving his PhD from the University of Heidelberg. He went to study in Stockholm for a year and it was the only significant time he spent away from his home town. He returned and was made privat-docent in 1890. He was a popular lecturer and received offers from many other universities but declined them all. In 1902 Wolf was made Chair of Astronomy and Director of a newly built observatory at the University. He held these positions until his death, thirty years later.

On this day, he discovered 323 Brucia, his first asteroid. He went on to discover 247 more. Wolf was an early adopter of astrophotography. This specialized form of taking pictures of objects in the night sky began with a picture of the Moon taken in 1840. It wasn’t until later in the century when technology caught up with the idea, that detailed stellar photographs could be made. With the ability to picture the night sky has come images not only of the Moon, Sun, and local planets and objects within our own solar system, but we also have pictures of objects invisible to the human eye. With long time exposure possible, we have seen dim stars, nebulae, and galaxies.

Within our solar system is a mass of uncollected matter scattered between Mars and Jupiter called the Main belt. About half the mass of the entire asteroid belt is collected into the four largest bodies: Ceres, Vesta, Pallas, and Hygiea. Ceres is the only dwarf planet with a diameter of about 600 miles. The other three have a mean diameter of about 250 miles. The remaining material is scattered so thinly that our unmanned spacecraft have traversed the region without problem. Collisions between larger asteroids do take place and then they form an asteroid family where members have similar orbital characteristics. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of known asteroids and the total number is thought to be in the millions.

Astronomy? Impossible to understand and madness to investigate. – Sophocles

Mortal as I am, I know that I am born for a day, but when I follow the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth; I ascend to Zeus himself to feast me on ambrosia, the food of the gods. – Ptolemy

The universe is then one, infinite, immobile. . . . It is not capable of comprehension and therefore is endless and limitless, and to that extent infintite and indeterminable, and consequently immobile. – Giordano Bruno

The history of astronomy is a history of receding horizons. – Edwin P. Hubble

Also on this day: March to the Sea – In 1864, General Sherman finished his march into Savannah, Georgia.
First PM – In 1885, Ito Hirobumi became the first Prime Minister of Japan.
Fly Ash – In 2008, the TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant’s dike collapsed.
Under Water – In 1937, The Lincoln Tunnel in NYC was opened.