Little Bits of History

Charleston, South Carolina

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 31, 2015
Charleston earthquake

Charleston earthquake

August 31, 1886: Charleston, South Carolina is devastated by an earthquake. It was believed to have been a 7.0 Mw or moment magnitude earthquake. This scale replaced the Richter scale in the 1970s. The number is based on the seismic moment of the earthquake which is equal to the rigidity of the Earth multiplied by the average amount of slip on the fault and the size of the area which slipped. The numbers used are similar to the Richter scale and when reports use the older designation, there is little confusion as to the intensity of the quake. On the Mercalli Intensity scale, it was rated an X or Extreme. This scale is based on the effects of the earthquake rather than the magnitude of the fault slip. It quantifies the damage to humans, objects of nature, and manmade objects and begins at I and ends at XII or total destruction.

The earthquake struck at 9.50 PM with the epicenter at 32.9°N 80.0°W (Charleston’s coordinates are listed as 32°47′00″N 79°56′00″W). It was one of the most powerful earthquakes to hit the East Coast of the US. The 1811 and 1812 New Madrid, Missouri earthquakes were more powerful. The activity was caused by intraplate earthquake, an extremely rare phenomenon where the quake takes place at the interior of a single tectonic plate. A far more common occurrence is the interplate earthquake which takes place at the boundary between two or more plates. All three of the mentioned quakes caused great damage and were intraplate quakes.

There were 60 deaths attributed to the earthquake and damage was listed between $5 and 6 million ($130 to 156 million today). Much of the destruction of both life and property was caused by the liquefaction of the soil. Aftershocks continued for weeks after the event. There is some supposition that the small quakes still felt in the region to this day are still aftershocks from this one event. On this night, the shock was felt as far away as Boston to the north, Chicago and Milwaukee to the northwest, New Orleans to the west and Cuba to the south. At the time, there was speculation that such damage could only have been caused by the state of Florida having broken away from North America.

There were at least 2,000 buildings damaged by the quake. Within the city itself, most of the buildings sustained damage and many of them were beyond repair. They were simply torn down and rebuilt. Historical Charleston today shows the after effects of the quake in that many of the building which did survive are now sporting “earthquake bolts” where the building were repaired. Wires were downed and the railroad tracks were torn apart, cutting Charleston off from the outside world. Major damage occurred as far away as Tybee Island, 60 miles away. Buildings far away in central Alabama, central Ohio, eastern Kentucky, southern Virginia, and western West Virginia were damaged by the quake.

It was about 9:50 o’clock on the evening of August 31, 1886, that the people of Charleston felt the quiverings of the first earthquake shock ever known in that part of the country. They had just returned from worship and not many had yet retired.

There were no electric lights in those days, and the streets were illuminated with gas. The people gathered in the public parks and squares and there in the dim light brave men and women gave help to the injured and dying.

St. Michael’s Church, the pride of the city since 1761, was a wreck, its tall steeple lying in the street.

To add to their dismay the people were cut off from the outer world, all wires being down, and it was not until next day that a courier rode to Summerville, nearly thirty miles away, and gave the world its first news of the disaster. – all from Paul Pinckney

Also on this day: Who Was He? – In 1888, Mary Ann Nichols was brutally murdered.
Try This – In 1900, Coke was first sold in England.
Fairy Tale’s End – In 1997, Princess Diana was killed in a car crash.
Go West – In 1803, Meriwether Lewis began his great Expedition when he left Pittsburgh.
Air Disaster – In 1940, a plane crashed near Lovettsville, Virginia.

Doodling Around

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 30, 2015
The first Google Doodle

The first Google Doodle

August 30, 1998: The first Google Doodle appears. Larry Page and Sergey Brin were both PhD students at Stanford University in California when they began Google! in January 1996 (complete with exclamation point). Search engines at the time used how many times the search term appeared on the page, but the two students thought there was a better way to organize the internet. They called their new process PageRank and it analyzed the relationships between websites and the relevance of a search was determined by the number of pages and the importance of those pages in terms of the search query. They were going to call their product BackRub, since it checked backlinks to rank relevance to the search terms. Instead, they misspelled googol, a huge number chosen because they intended to provide huge amounts of information.

Originally run from Stanford University’s website, they registered the domain name for Google on September 15, 1997. The two men were incorporating their company and by late August, with the chaos associated with such an endeavor, they decided they needed a break. They were going to participate in Burning Man.  The weeklong event began in California but moved to Nevada by this time. The radical self-expression and self-reliance of the week, along with the sense of community and the admiration of creativity and art, was just what the two young men needed. However, the internet can be a place of misadventure and they were fearful their new website might crash. They wanted to let people know they weren’t there and so they incorporated the logo for Burning Man into their logo and incidentally made the first Google Doodle.

Google was founded, officially, on September 4, 1998 and a new logo appeared at the end of October. Their first intentional Doodle was displayed on November 26, a Thanksgiving Doodle. The next year, there were just four Doodles (Halloween, Thanksgiving, an Uncle Sam doodle on November 30, and a Christmas doodle which was more winter than Christmas themed). By 2000, there were 34 different Doodles, 11 of them for the Olympics, held that year. In the beginning, Doodles were neither animated nor hyperlinked. Their complexity also increased with time and in January 2010, the first animated Doodle was displayed in honor of Isaac Newton. The first interactive Doodle was Pac-Man in May 2012 and hyperlinks were also added.

At first, Doodles were designed by an outside contractor. For Bastille Day in 2000, intern Dennis Hwang was asked to create a Doodle and since then, they have been created and published by a team of Google employees called Doodlers. Doodles have been created for specific days and to honor specific people including scientists and artists. Thanksgiving has been honored each year since 1998 and Halloween since 1999. There are several other holidays that have been regularly celebrated with a Google Doodle as well. Of course, there have been criticisms of the Doodles themselves and sometimes of the event honored or ignored. There has been a yearly contest for students to submit a Doodle and the winners get to have their art displayed on the homepage. The variety of Doodles is almost as fun as the creativity involved in making them.

Invention is not enough. Tesla invented the electric power we use, but he struggled to get it out to people. You have to combine both things: invention and innovation focus, plus the company that can commercialize things and get them to people. – Larry Page

If we were motivated by money, we would have sold the company a long time ago and ended up on a beach. – Larry Page

Solving big problems is easier than solving little problems. – Sergey Brin

Once you go from 10 people to 100, you already don’t know who everyone is. So at that stage you might as well keep growing, to get the advantages of scale. – Sergey Brin

Also on this day: Yesterdays and Todays – In 1909, the Burgess Shale site was discovered.
Thin Red Line – In 1963, a direct link between Washington, D.C. and Moscow was established.
Wreck of the Pandora – In 1791, the Pandora sunk.
Well Being with Sikhs – In 1574, Ram Das Ji became a Guru.
Lone Shooter? – In 1918, Fanya Kaplan shot Vladimir Lenin.

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Selling Air (Time)

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 29, 2015
NYC's Jackson Heights

NYC’s Jackson Heights*

August 29, 1922: The first paid radio commercial is aired. In the early 1900s, radio programs began broadcasting, but they were irregular. By 1919, the airwaves were kept in continuous use as all day broadcasts began. In the US, on November 2, 1920 KDKA began the first commercial broadcast. More radio stations began the process of regular all day broadcasting. With the increase came the need to pay for the maintenance of the stations since they were becoming significantly costly. In February 1922, AT&T announced their intention to sell “toll broadcasting” to advertisers. The idea was that businesses would underwrite or finance broadcasts in exchange for their businesses to be mentioned on the radio.

Queensboro Corporation was the first to take advantage of this concept when on this day, they advertised their new apartment complex in the expanding neighborhood of Jackson Heights. There is some dispute about this being the first paid ad on radio as there was an amateur radio broadcaster who leased out his “station”. In exchange for $35 per week, he permitted others to use the facility twice a week back in May 1920. In Seattle, Washington in March 1922, Remick’s Music Store took out a large ad in the local paper advertising the radio station KFC and for their efforts were given a weekly show to sponsor. On April 4, 1922, Alvin T. Fuller, a car dealer in Medford Hillside, Massachusetts purchased time at WGI in order to secure mention of his dealership. Queensboro was the first to use the system we know today on commercial radio stations.

During radio’s Golden Age, advertisers would sponsor an entire program which usually lasted between 15 and 30 minutes. Their product would be mentioned at the beginning and end of the show with a message acknowledging their sponsorship. Radio, by its nature, is limited to just sound, but some of the larger stations began to experiment with different formats. Advertising became a commodity and there was money to be made by creating great ads. The advertising director of Shell Oil Co. urged station managers to deal with relevant advertisers and sell tie-in commercials in established radio shows. It was hoped that like with newspapers, both the medium and the advertisers would benefit.

Even though radio was an already established entity before this time, it was seen as the industry “growing up” in terms of a business venture and how advertising could best be utilized. The use of sound effects was essential to the success of programming – and advertising. There are, even today, two types of radio commercials. There are “live reads” and produced spots. Some DJs will ad-lib or improvise when doing a live read while others stick strictly to the script. Some give a personal salute to the product, then making it an endorsement. Produced spots are far more common and are the prerecorded ads made via the station itself or an advertising agency. Today, different times of the day demand different rates for airtime and ads can run from ten seconds to sixty seconds.

Advertising treats all products with the reverence and the seriousness due to sacraments. – Thomas Merton

A good advertisement is one which sells the product without drawing attention to itself. – David Ogilvy

There is no advertisement as powerful as a positive reputation traveling fast. – Brian Koslow

Law Number IV: If you can afford to advertise, you don’t need to. – Norman R. Augustine

Also on this day: Have You Hugged Your Hog Today? – In 1885, Gottlieb Wilhelm Daimler patented the motorcycle.
Last Man Standing – In 1911, Ishi was found.
The Ashes – In 1882, The Ashes rivalry began.
Day Tripper – In 1966, The Beatles gave their last paid concert.
Quebec Bridge Collapse – In 1907, the bridge collapsed before construction was finished.

* “NYC Jackson Heights 3” by The original uploader was Jleon at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons –

Tom Thumb

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 28, 2015
Tom Thumb replica

Tom Thumb replica

August 28, 1830: Tom Thumb races a horse-drawn carriage. And lost. Tom Thumb was the first American-built steam locomotive used on a common-carrier railroad. The steam train was designed and built by Peter Cooper. His hope was to convince the owners of the newly formed Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O) to use steam engines for their enterprise. When first built, railroads were simply tracks on roads which made it easier for horses to pull wagons and carriages if their wheels were modified to run on the tracks. Steam locomotives were first built in England and the early steam engines used in America had to be imported from there. Cooper hoped to offer the new railroad American built engines.

His design was a four wheeled locomotive with a vertical boiler which was mounted on cylinders which drove the wheels on their axels. There were many improvisations included in the original model. Boiler tubes were made from rifle barrels and a blower was placed in the stack which was driven by a belt from the powered axel. The fuel of choice was anthracite coal, abundant in the region. Cooper’s motivation was not entirely due to his love of the railroads. He was a land speculator and had made a sizable real estate investment in what is today the Canton neighborhood of Baltimore. He hoped that a successful rail system would increase the value of the real estate.

The engine was built in the machine shop owned by George Johnson and had James Millholland, then 18 years old, apprenticed there. Millholland would later become a prominent locomotive designer. The B&O railroad owned tracks between Baltimore and Ellicott Mills. There were two tracks side by side. On this day, a horse-drawn carriage loaded with passengers was sitting next to Tom Thumb. The driver of the carriage challenged the train to race and the train accepted the challenge. Tom Thumb easily pulled away from the carriage. But then disaster struck and the belt slipped off the blower pulley. Without the blower, the boiler did not draw properly and the train lost power allowing the horse to pass it and win the race.

But it was not a total victory for the carriage. It was evident that the steam engine provided better locomotive power and the steam engine’s day was at hand. Tom Thumb was not ever meant for revenue service, it was simply a prototype. It was not preserved. But Cooper and other early innovators left enough information and descriptive dimensions for later aficionados to be able to reverse engineer another Tom Thumb. By 1892, a wooden model was built by Major Joseph Pangborn who also made models of other early locomotives. In 1927, B&O had a centennial celebration exhibition near Baltimore and included a replica of Tom Thumb in their exhibition but based it on Pangborn’s model which was not entirely accurate. The engine remains on display at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum.

We must beware of needless innovations, especially when guided by logic. – Winston Churchill

There is no monster more destructive than the inventive mind that has outstripped philosophy. – Ellen Glasgow

An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over and converting its opponents…. Its opponents gradually die out and the growing generation is familiar with the idea from the beginning. – Max Planck

A society made up of individuals who were all capable of original thought would probably be unendurable. – Henry Louis Mencken

Also on this day: First Tornado Photograph – In 1884, the first tornado photograph was made.
Sci Am – In 1845, Scientific American began publication.
Odds and Evens – In 888, the last date written in all even numbers for over a thousand years.
Enceladus – In 1789, William Herschel found Enceladus in the night sky.
Stunningly Beautiful – In 1859, a giant geomagnetic storm lit up the skies.

Battle of Brooklyn

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 27, 2015
Howard's Tavern in East New York (1776)

Howard’s Tavern in East New York (1776)

August 27, 1776: The Battle of Long Island is fought. Also called the Battle of Brooklyn or the Battle of Brooklyn Heights, it was a campaign of the American Revolutionary War. In March of 1776, General Washington had defeated the British in Boston. He brought his troops to the port of New York which at the time was limited to the southern end of Manhattan Island. The harbor would provide an excellent base for whomever controlled it and Washington needed to keep the British fleet out. In July, British General William Howe landed at what was then sparsely populated Staten Island. Over the next six weeks, troops were reinforced by ships in Lower New York Bay and their numbers swelled to 32,000.

On August 22, the British began moving troops to Gravesend Bay. Washington was poised at Guan Heights and after five days of waiting, the battle was begun when the British attacked. Washington was unaware of how many troops had been brought ashore. At 9 PM on August 26, Howe began to move his men toward the enemy positions. No one, not even the officers under his command, were aware of the plan. There was a column of 10,000 men stretching for two miles as they were led by Loyalists to Jamaica Pass. They left fires burning at their encampment so as not to alert the Rebels of their approach. The British marched, until they reached Howard’s Tavern and met no American troops en route. The owner of the tavern and his son were forced to act as guides to show the British an old Indian trail they could use for their final approach.

At about 11 PM on August 26, the first shots were fired near the Red Lion Inn when American guards fired on two British soldiers looking for food in a watermelon patch. Around 1 AM on this day, with about 200-300 of the first troops in the Red Lion area, the American troops fired on the British troops. Major Edward Burd, the commander, was captured along with 15 privates and the fight moved forward. The British advanced and took ground as they moved. The major portion of the battle saw the Americans with 10,000 troops fighting against a combined British and Hessian force of 20,000. The Americans had 300 killed and about 700 wounded and another 1,000 captured. The British lost 64 and 293 were wounded with 31 missing. This was the largest battle of the entire war and ended in a British victory.

Washington was forced to retreat. But because of the weather, it began raining as the battle raged, and because of cunning and the cover of night, he was able to get most of his troops away. The British were feted in London for their victory, but in the colonies, they had been more hopeful of actually capturing Washington and more of his troops. The defeat showed up Washington’s lack as a strategist and the inexperience of his generals. Their raw troops were also tested. There are those who look to Washington’s nighttime retreat as one of his greatest military feats. The city of New York was lost to the Americans and they had to retreat to New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.

Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness.

Nothing can be more hurtful to the service, than the neglect of discipline; for that discipline, more than numbers, gives one army the superiority over another.

The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments. – all from George Washington

Also on this day: Powerful Industry – In 1859, the modern day oil industry started.
War is Hell – In 1896, the shortest war in history was fought.
Kǒng Qiū – In 551 BC, Confucius was born.
Sculptor – In 1498, Michelangelo was commissioned to create the Pieta.
Nuclear Power – In 1956, Calder Hall nuclear station went online in Britain.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 26, 2015
Betty Friedan (1960)

Betty Friedan (1960)

August 26, 1970: The Women’s Strike for Equality takes place. The strike was held on the fifty year anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, giving women the right to vote. The strike was sponsored by the National Organization of Women (NOW) which was founded in 1966 by Betty Friedan and 48 others. Betty Jameson Armistead, historian, sent a letter to Friedan and others proposing a strike. Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique, and leader of the feminist movement, planned the event to coincide with the landmark decision and highlight the issues of the day. These included lack of equal pay for the same job, regardless of the passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, as well as numerous other employment inequities.

Women were paid about 59 cents per dollar earned by men for similar jobs. They were also forbidden to enter certain occupations and made up only 5-10% of college admissions. Sandra Day O’Connor, future Supreme Court Justice graduated at the top of her class at Stanford Law School and yet was only offered secretarial positions after passing the bar. There were 43 states which limited the amount of weight a woman could pick up on the job at 25 pounds (apparently not necessary if a mother was carrying a small child and his/her accoutrements). There were laws in some states forbidding women from obtaining credit cards, making wills, or even owning property in her own name. Some states prohibited women from sitting on juries.

Friedan first proposed the strike to NOW, but they were hesitant, fearful of failure and setting themselves up for mockery. Friedan did not back down and spent months organizing. The planning was not smooth and the group was clearly divided between younger “radical” and older “bourgeoisie” women. Friedan never gave up even after asking New York City to close Fifth Avenue and being refused. Around 5 PM, women began to gather – this allowed working women to participate. About 20,000 women gathered at the main event in New York City, but other smaller protests were held across the country.

Reactions were mixed. A National Celebration of Womanhood was held in response with many women dressed in frilly dresses and doing “women’s work” to support traditional roles. Even national news coverage was derogatory, including Eric Sevareid, who called  the women a “band of braless bubbleheads”. Women were upset at the media, claiming bias and a condescending attitude. The women were portrayed as angry and their message and cause of their distress was ignored. President Nixon supported the women and issued a proclamation calling the day to be known as “Women’s Rights Day”. Even with mixed reviews, the day’s event were seen as a watershed moment and brought the cause to the nation’s attention.

Men weren’t really the enemy; they were fellow victims suffering from an outmoded masculine mystique that made them feel unnecessarily inadequate when there were no bears to kill.

A woman has got to be able to say, and not feel guilty, ‘Who am I, and what do I want out of life?’

Protectiveness has often muffled the sound of doors closing against women.

The only way for a woman, as for a man, to find herself, to know herself as a person, is by creative work of her own. There is no other way. – all from Betty Friedan

Also on this day: The Terminal Man – In 1988, Merhan Karrimi Nasseri hit the airport.
Explosive – in 1883, Krakatau began to erupt.
Negligence – In 1928, the first negligence case was started.
Big Chuck – In 1966, Charles de Gaulle entered Paris.
Up In Smoke – In 1980, Harvey’s Resort was damaged by a bomb detonation.

John Birch

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 25, 2015
John Birch

John Birch*

August 25, 1945: John Birch is killed. His parents were missionaries and living in Landour, a hill station of the Himalayas and now part of the Indian state of Uttarakhand but at the time of his birth in 1918, it was part of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh. The family returned to the US when John was two and he was raised in Georgia in the Fundamentalist Baptist tradition. He graduated from Georgia Baptist, now part of Mercer University, in 1939 with highest honors. He was noted to always be a zealot and angry and in his senior year of college, organized a group of students to identify cases of heresy perpetrated by the professors. He was devoted to scriptural basis for all doctrine.

While studying at Mercer, he decided to become a missionary and next went to J. Frank Norris’s Fundamental Baptist Bible Institute located in Texas. He completed a two year program in one year and was sent to China in 1940. He was working with the World Fundamental Baptist Missionary Fellowship and stationed in Shanghai. Once there, he learned Mandarin Chinese. After six months he was transferred to Hangzhou which at the time was not yet occupied by Japanese troops. After the bombing at Pearl Harbor, Japan issued troops to the area to arrest Birch as an enemy national. He and other missionaries fled inland and cut off from the outside world, Birch began to build missions in the Zhejiang province.

In April 1942, Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle and his crew crash-landed in China after a raid on Tokyo. Their mission originated on the USS Hornet but they did not return there. They bailed out over China and were rescued by civilians and smuggled away and ended up in Zhejiang province. Birch went to meet them and help them travel safely inside China. After Doolittle’s return to fighting, he told of Birch’s help. Colonel Claire Chennault, leader of the Flying Tigers, thought it would be helpful to have a Chinese speaking American on his team and made Birch a first lieutenant in the Fourteenth Air Force. Birch was later under the US Office of Strategic Services, but he assented only if he could function as he had prior to his military service.

Japan’s peace treaty was signed earlier in the month and under the terms of their surrender, the Japanese Army would occupy areas already controlled until power could be turned over to Nationalist governments. The Communists ruling in China were affronted and on this day, Birch was leading a party of Americans, Chinese Nationalists, and Koreans on a mission to reach Allied Personnel in a Japanese prison camp. They ran into Chinese Communists near Xi’an and Birch was ordered to disarm. He did not. Insults were exchanged followed by gunfire. Birch was killed and the people he was with were taken prisoner, although released shortly thereafter. The John Birch Society was formed 13 years after his death and named in his honor, although Doolittle said he would be horrified by the connection.

Every man is a missionary, now and forever, for good or for evil, whether he intends or designs it or not. – Thomas Chalmers

To be a human being means to possess a feeling of inferiority which constantly presses towards its own conquest. The greater the feeling of inferiority that has been experienced, the more powerful is the urge for conquest and the more violent the emotional agitation. – Alfred Adler

It is long accepted by the missionaries that morality is inversely proportional to the amount of clothing people wore. – Alex Carey

The missionaries go forth to Christianize the savages — as if the savages weren’t dangerous enough already. – Edward Abbey

Also on this day: Swimming the English Channel – In 1875, Matthew Webb became the first to swim the English Channel.
Men in the Moon – In 1835, the Great Moon Hoax articles first began to see print.
I See – In 1609, Galileo demonstrated his telescope.
National Parks – In 1916, the US National Park Service was formed.
Voyager 1 Left the Building – In 2012, the space probe left the Solar System.

* “John Birch” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia –

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Money Problems

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 24, 2015
James Buchanan

James Buchanan

August 24, 1857: The Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Company fails. The banking institution was founded in 1830 and based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Their offices in New York City ceased operations on this day secondary to bad investments, especially in agricultural businesses. The Crimean War had taken over much of Europe’s ability to grow crops but as the war ended, American exports declined and prices of food dropped. Also implicated were bad business practices and the possibility of embezzlement by upper management. The telegraph made it possible for news of the closure to spread quickly and this combined with already dropping markets led to a panic. The company also held mortgages with other Ohio investment banks. The bank was left with $7 million in liabilities. While a run on the banks was averted, the Panic of 1857 followed.

The SS Central America sunk only a few days later, on September 9. She was carrying 477 passengers and 101 crew when she was caught in a hurricane off the coast of the Carolinas. The loss of life was tremendous as 425 people were killed when the ship went down. The rest were saved by a Norwegian ship in the area. Also lost with the ship was the cargo she was carrying, about $2 million in gold. Many banks in New York were awaiting the arrival of the gold aboard the ship and without it were unable to meet their liabilities. The years prior to the crash had been prosperous and many banks as well as merchants and farmers, had taken risks with investments. But as prices plummeted, their gains turned into losses and resulted in a panic that took the Civil War to ease.

Another contributing factor was the decision in Dred Scott v Sandford in March 1857. The ruling stated Scott was unable to use the court system because he was not a citizen due to his skin color. It also ruled the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional. The trouble between the North and South heated up with the ruling. The railroads were also affected due to their speculation in lands out west and the drop in the market prices for those lands. In 1855, a bushel of grain sold for $2.19 and it fell to $0.80 by 1858. This meant farmers were less likely to purchase any more lands to grow devalued crops and many Midwest towns were economically at risk.

Because of the connectedness of the world’s major economies, the Panic of 1857 was the first world-wide economic crisis. In Britain, laws were passed to keep from having gold and silver reserves to back currencies and this helped spread the Panic there. In the US, President James Buchanan felt the root cause was the use of non-backed paper money and all bills greater than $20 were withdrawn. Government interventions in controlling currencies included specie payments. Tariffs were passed which lowered duty on imported items which was hoped would boost American industries. The agrarian South was not nearly as affected as the North, especially in the Great Lakes region. It did help to fuel tensions about slavery and it was the Civil War which eventually brought an end to the panic itself.

A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don’t need it. – Bob Hope

It’s easy to make money. You put up the sign Bank and someone walks in and hands you his money. The façade is everything. – Christina Stead

We all need money, but there are degrees of desperation. – Anthony Burgess

Banks are an almost irresistible attraction for that element of our society which seeks unearned money. – J. Edgar Hoover

Also on this day: Pompeii Disappears – In AD 79, Mount Vesuvius erupted.
Waffling – In 1869, a waffle iron was patented.
George Crum – In 1853, George Crum invented potato chips.
Not a Black Hole – Yet – In 1690, Calcutta was founded.
Going Up in Flames – In 1814, the British set fire to much of Washington, DC.

Gothic King and Roman General

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 23, 2015
Roman General Flavius Stilicho confronts Radagaisus

Roman General Flavius Stilicho confronts Radagaisus

August 23, 406: Radagaisus is executed. He was a Gothic king and led an invasion against Roman Italy in late 405 and early 406. He was a committed Pagan and had plans to sacrifice the Christian Senators of the now-Christian Roman Empire to his own gods and to burn Rome to the ground. He led a force of about 20,000 fighting men who were often accompanied by their families and other noncombatants. The overall size of the group led by Radagaisus may have been close to 100,000. Little is known of the Goth king prior to his incursion into Italian territory. It is assumed he was pressured by invading Huns. It is known that he approached Italy via the Balkans and his origins were somewhere on the Great Hungarian Plain west of the Carpathian Mountains.

His forces were met by those led by Flavius Stilicho (sometimes written as Stilico) who was a high ranking general of the Roman army. He was half Vandal and married to the niece of Emperor Theodosius. For a time, he was the most powerful man in the Western Roman Empire due to his many victories against both internal and external enemies. For this battle, he led about 15,000 men from the Italian field army and these were accompanied by a second group of Roman troops which may have been recalled from the frontier. He was aided by help from Gothic foederati (barbarian mercenaries) under Uldin. Alaric I remained outside the conflict due to treaty restrictions.

Radagaisus had besieged Florentia which was on the verge of surrender when Stilicho’s army arrived. The Gothic army retreated to the hills of Fiesole, about 5 miles away and Radagaisus tried to escape, leaving his troops behind. He was captured by the Romans. His attempt to save himself may have been spurred on by an army revolt. After his capture, he was executed on this day. About 12,000 of his higher ranking fighters were drafted into the Roman army. Some of the others were dispersed but most of the remainder of his followers were taken as slaves and with such an influx, the slave market temporarily collapsed.

Many of the men were eventually able to join forces with Alaric I who launched his own attack against Rome in 410. Alaric’s first appearance as a leader came in 391 but he, too, was stopped by Stilicho. Alaric led a force of about 20,000 allied with Eastern Emperor Theodosius to defeat a Frankish usurper in 394 but received little recognition. He continued to campaign in the region of Constantinople and eventually into Greece (Athens). He invaded Italy in 401 and was again defeated by Stilicho. When the great general died in 408, it was possible to move more freely and in 410, Alaric was able to sack Rome. While they plundered the city, they were humane towards the inhabitants and burned only a few buildings. Alaric died later in the year.

Conquest is the missionary of valor, and the hard impact of military virtues beats meanness out of the world. – Walter Bagehot

The right of conquest has no foundation other than the right of the strongest. – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. – Joseph Conrad

Wars of conquest are negative, the subjugation and oppression of other nations is negative, economic exploitation is negative, colonial enslavement is negative, and so on. – Josip Broz Tito

Also on this day: The Blue Planet – In 1966, the first pictures came back from the Moon.
Holy God – In 1948, the World Council of Churches was founded.
Fannie Farmer – In 1902, Fannie Farmer opened her own cooking school.
French Wars of Religion – In 1532, the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacres began.
Stockholm Syndrome – In 1973, a Swedish bank was robbed.

But Not the Last

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 22, 2015
Ida Siekmann*

Ida Siekmann*

August 22, 1961: Ida Siekmann dies. She was born in Gorken, now part of Poland but then in West Prussia, in 1902. She moved to Berlin and worked there as a nurse. She lived at Bernauer Straße  48 in the center of Berlin, widowed at some prior time. Her sister also lived in Berlin, just a few blocks away on Lortzingstraße. She and her sister visited often, until August 1961. After World War II, Berlin was divided into four Allied sectors. While the street and sidewalk of Ida’s street was in the French sector, the frontage of the buildings on the southern side lay in the Soviet sector. They were part of East Berlin. Up until August 13, traffic between the two sectors was unregulated. But on that day, the Berlin Wall was built and Ida was no longer free to move.

On the day the Wall was erected, fifty households from the street fled to the West. Ida was not among them. With people fleeing, something needed to be done and on August 18, East German troops were ordered to brick up the entrances and windows on the ground floor on the southern side of the street. Members of the Combat Groups of the Working Class and police controlled everyone in the buildings. They monitored anyone entering the houses, even the residents who were often checked on as they walked the hallways of the tenements. Even so, many still fled. The West Berlin fire department was poised on the streets below and would hold “jumping sheets” to catch those willing to jump from higher windows.

On August 21, the entrances and widows of Bernauer Straße 48 were barred. Early in the morning on this date, Ida decided to leave. She lived on the fourth floor. She threw some blankets and some of her possessions out of the window of her apartment and then jumped. She did not give the firemen time to open the jumping sheet and she fell on the sidewalk, severely injured. She was taken to Lazarus Hospital, but died on the way. She was the first casualty of the Berlin Wall. She was buried on August 29 and in September, a memorial was erected at Bernauer Straße 48. Many have visited the site as homage to all the victims of the Wall. The houses on Bernauer Straße were torn down in 1963 and replaced by a concrete wall.

The Wall remained in place for decades, cutting off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and East Berlin. The barrier eventually included guard towers placed along the wall and there was a wide area, dubbed the “death strip” that contained many defenses. The purpose of the wall, according to the Soviets, was to protect their people from building their own socialist state in East Germany. In practice, it was to prevent emigration and defection. It’s official name was the Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart while it was called the Wall of Shame by West Berlin mayor Willy Brandt. The 96.3 mile barrier was finally opened in 1989 and its demolition began in 1990 and was completed in 1992.

A society that does not recognise that each individual has values of his own which he is entitled to follow can have no respect for the dignity of the individual and cannot really know freedom. – Friedrich Hayek

Freedom, remember, is not the same as liberty. – Katherine Anne Porter

Every tyrant who has lived has believed in freedom – for himself. – Elbert Hubbard

Tyranny is always better organised than freedom. – Charles Peguy

Also on this day: “Excuse My Dust” – In 1893, Dorothy Parker was born.
The Temperature at which Paper Burns – In 1920, Ray Bradbury was born.
America’s Cup – In 1851, the first America’s Cup race was run.
Monsters – In 565, St. Columba turned away the Loch Ness Monster.
First American in Space – In 1963, Joe Walker piloted an X-15 rocket into space.

* “Idasiekmannbz” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia –