Little Bits of History

February 22

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 22, 2017

1909: The Great White Fleet returns to Hampton Roads, Virginia. US President Theodore Roosevelt sent 16 Navy battleships along with a larger contingency of ancillary vessels on a world tour, circumnavigating the globe. They left on December 16, 1907 with their hulls painted white, the Navy’s peacetime color. The ships were decorated with gold scrollwork and there was a red, white, and blue banner on the bows of the ships. In 1891, after decades of conflict, France sent a fleet of ships to Kronstadt, Russia. The mission was peaceful and threatening. The large contingency of ships and the implied threat of more to come was not lost on Tsar Nicholas II and a treaty was soon signed.

Roosevelt theorized a fleet this size simply sailing around the world would increase goodwill toward America, striving to become a world power. The ability to muster such a fleet to visit many countries and harbors during peacetime would also serve as an indication of the growing importance of the nation’s powerful armed forces. The triumph of America in the Spanish-American War had the US now in possession of Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico. This was not the first time Roosevelt had sent an impressive US naval presence. He sent eight battleships to the Mediterranean Sea during a diplomatic crisis between France and Germany in their dispute over Morocco. Europe may have already taken notice of the US, but Roosevelt was also hoping to impress Japan, after their defeat of the Russian fleet in 1905.

The President wished to let the world know the US Navy was able to be anywhere. This seemed to have worked, at least in part. Another benefit of showcasing this massive peacetime endeavor was to help the ships and men practice both sea and battle worthiness as a fleet and to use that practice in developing later classes of ships for the upgrading Navy. The trip around the world was to help the ships with all manner of at sea experience including navigation, communication, power supply, and fleet maneuvering. There was, of course, some dissention. The Navy brass was worried about deploying ships for so long and so far away from home. The long voyage would also take a toll on the ships themselves which would need maintenance when they reached the west coast.

At the time of the trip, the Panama Canal was not yet operational and the ships had to pass through the Straits of Magellan. This was an as yet, unprecedented operation for the US Navy. The ships had to sail from a variety of points before coalescing into the Great White Fleet. However, all the planning was worth it as thousands came to see the ships anytime they entered any port city. The 14-month voyage covered 43,000 nautical miles and made twenty port calls on six continents. The 14,000 sailors brought their Fleet safely around the world, impressing both foreign nationals and the folks back home.

It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious. – John Paul Jones

A good Navy is not a provocation to war. It is the surest guaranty of peace. – Commodore George Dewey

The Navy has both a tradition and a future–and we look with pride and confidence in both directions. – Admiral Arleigh Burke

In my opinion, any navy less than that which would give us the habitual command of our own coast and seas would be little short of useless. – John C. Calhoun

February 21

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 21, 2017

1677: Benedito de Espinosa dies. We know him as Baruch Spinoza. He was a Dutch philosopher of Sephardic Jewish/Portuguese origin and born in the Dutch Republic. His family had moved to Amsterdam after the Portuguese Inquisition began forcing conversions on the Iberian peninsula. These exiles found acceptance in Amsterdam and were proud of their heritage, survival, and community. The senior Spinoza was a successful merchant as well as active in the local synagogue. The port city also brought many ships in and along with their products for sale came an influx of people, ideas, and experiences. This helped to foster a city of tolerance.

Spinoza grew up speaking Portuguese but also knew Hebrew, Spanish, Dutch, and Latin. He may have also spoken French. He had a traditional Jewish upbringing and educational opportunities. He may have been headed towards becoming a rabbi but at the age of 17, when his older brother died, he quit school and joined the family importing business. At the age of 20, he was learning Latin from a former Jesuit who was a radical democrat who may have been responsible for introducing his young pupil to scholastic and modern philosophy, up to and including the heretical Rene Descartes. After the senior Spinoza died, Baruch went to teach at his Jesuit mentor’s school.

It was at this time that Spinoza became acquainted with many other Christian religions as well as anti-clerical belief systems. He slowly broke away from his Jewish beliefs and eventually was expelled from the Jewish community as a heretic. He spent the rest of his life writing and studying as a private scholar. He was able to publish only one work under his own name during his lifetime, Descartes’ “Principles of Philosophy”. He kept working on what would become his masterpiece work, published posthumously, Ethics.

In his famous book, he posited that God did exist but was abstract and impersonal. He was opposed to Descartes’ mind-body dualism but also disagreed with other anti-Cartesian philosophies. Spinoza believed in strict determinism, today rather akin to quantum mechanics. Spinoza rationalized that everything in Nature, that is everything that exists, is one Reality or one substance and there is only one set of rules which govern all. He saw God and Nature as two names for the same thing. Reality is perfection and anything we find imperfect is due to our lack of understanding. Our inability to understand is because the universe is vast and complex but our striving to understand more and better is our salvation.

All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.

Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.

The endeavor to understand is the first and only basis of virtue.

Ambition is the immoderate desire for power. – all from Baruch Spinoza

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February 20

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 20, 2017

1472: King Christian I of Norway cannot pay his daughter’s dowry. The Orkney Islands are an archipelago off the northern tip of Scotland. The Shetland Islands are even farther north and both are part of what is today called the Northern Isles and part of the United Kingdom. The Vikings had taken over the region after the Gaels, Picts, Celts, and Scots had all tried their hand at living there. The Vikings used the islands as a way station before heading farther south to raid and plunder coastal Europe. The Norwegians took over the islands by 875 and they remained under Norway’s rule, at first via Earls of Norway and then under the King himself.

By the mid-1400s Denmark and Scotland were in a feud over taxation of the Hebrides, another group of islands off the coast of Scotland. The King of France suggested the daughter of the King of Denmark and Norway (they were united at the time) marry the son of the King of Scotland. In July 1469, Margaret (13), daughter of Christian, married James (18), son of King James II. The Norse king was a bit short of cash. Margaret’s dowry was 60,000 Guilders. Christian was to pay 10,000 Guilders and put up Orkney as collateral for the rest. But the King could only come up with 2,000 Guilders and the Shetland Islands were then also added as further collateral.

Christian was unable to come up with the money he owed to the Scottish rulers and on this day the lands were taken over by Scotland. Neither Danes nor Norwegians accepted the fact their lands were taken and they attempted to fight the annexation for many centuries. However, since the lands had been put up as collateral and the debt had not been paid, there was legal basis for the Scots taking them over. The islands remain under Scottish/British control to this day.

Margaret’s marriage to the King of Scotland was not an entirely happy one. She simply did not care for the man. She joined the marriage bed solely for the purpose of procreation and did have three sons to carry on the line. She was much more popular than her husband and she has been described as better fit to rule than the actual king. Margaret died at Stirling Castle in July 1486 at the age of 30. There were rumors her husband had poisoned her. While these were probably false, they did not endear the man to his countrymen. James III died in 1488 either in battle or while trying to escape. James IV succeed his father to the throne and is generally accepted at the most successful of all the Stewart monarchs.

A currency serves three functions: providing a means of payment, a unit of account and a store of value. Gold may be a store of value for wealth, but it is not a means of payment. You cannot pay for your groceries with it. Nor is it a unit of account. Prices of goods and services, and of financial assets, are not denominated in gold terms. – Nouriel Roubini

The payment for sins can be delayed. But they can’t be avoided. – Shawn Ryan

Everybody loves to spend money at least some of the time – because everybody loves the stuff you can buy with it. The key to the pleasure level of any transaction is the balance between the pain of the payment and the reward of the purchased object. – Jeffrey Kluger

I’ve learned that when someone does something very kind and refuses payment, giving them an engraved Swiss Army knife is never refused! – Christine Lavin

February 19

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 19, 2017

1913: Pedro Lascuráin becomes the 34th President of Mexico. He was born in Mexico City in 1856 and graduated from law school in 1880. He was the mayor of Mexico City in 1910 when Francisco Madero challenged then-President Porfirio Diaz and sparked the Mexican Revolution. This led to Madero taking over the Presidency which he held until his assassination on this day. Lascuráin had supported Madero in his rule and served as foreign secretary in his cabinet for two terms. In revolutionary times, the leadership position is often up for grabs by whomever has the power to take control. General Victoriano Huerto was that person.

Huerto used Lascuráin to convince Madero to resign his position while he was being held prisoner in the National Palace. Madero was told his life was in danger if he did not relinquish control. The 1857 Constitution listed who would take over the rule of the country should a President leave office for any reason. The vice president, the attorney general, the foreign minister, and finally the interior minister. As Huerto was getting rid of Madero, he also ousted Vice President Jose Maria Suarez and Attorney General Adolfo Valles Baca. That left Lascuráin as next in line. In order to give some semblance of authenticity to the coup d’état, Lascuráin was made President of Mexico, a post he kept for less than an hour. Some sources say only 15 minutes and some give as long as 56 minutes. Regardless, his is the shortest Presidency in the world.

Huerta called for a late night session of Congress and with his backers holding guns on them, Congress endorsed Huerta’s rise to power. Within days, both Madero and Suarez were killed. Huerta’s regime came immediately under fire and resistance dogged his every stop. He was forced to flee the country in 1914 just 17 months after his coup. He was attempting to meet with German spies when he was arrested in the US during World War I. He died while in custody. Cause of death was cirrhosis of the liver or possibly poisoning, widely suspected at the time.

Lascuráin had been offered a position in Huerta’s cabinet but wisely declined the offer. He retired from politics and began to practice law again. He became the director of the Escuela Libre de Derecho, a conservative law school in Mexico City. He worked there for sixteen years and also published many articles on commercial and civil law. He died in 1952 at the age of 96. Diosdado Cabello of Venezuela, served as President of that country for just a few hours when Hugo Chavez was taking control there, the second shortest Presidency.

Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on offices, a rottenness begins in his conduct. – Thomas Jefferson

Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage. – Ambrose Bierce

No real social change has ever been brought about without a revolution… revolution is but thought carried into action. – Emma Goldman

I love power. But it is as an artist that I love it. I love it as a musician loves his violin, to draw out its sounds and chords and harmonies. – Napoleon Bonaparte

February 18

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 18, 2017

1930: Pluto is discovered by Clyde Tombaugh. Tombaugh was born in 1906 in Illinois and the family moved to Kansas when he was a teenager. A hailstorm destroyed their crops, ending Clyde’s hopes for a college education. Instead, he began to build his own telescopes at home. He hand dug a pit 24 feet long and 8 feet deep, measuring 7 feet wide in which to lower his scopes to create a better environment for watching the night sky. In a temperature controlled pit free of air currents he was able to make several observations. He sent detailed drawing of Jupiter and Mars to Lowell Observatory and they offered him a job. He worked there from 1929 to 1945.

His job at the Flagstaff, Arizona observatory was to make a systematic search for a proposed trans-Neptune planet theorized by Percival Lowell and William Pickering. Tombaugh used the 13-inch astrograph (a telescope designed solely for taking pictures of space) to observe the same section of the sky several nights apart. He then used a machine to compare the sequential photographs to determine if there were any objects moving through the background stability of the night stars. He noticed such an object. He had already found many asteroids and was able to determine, due to the orbit outside Neptune, what he had discovered was the mathematically predicted planet Lowell and Pickering had hoped for. Images from January were studies and on this day, the discovery was made.

There were several names suggested for the new planet (since demoted to dwarf planet) but Venetia Burney (11-year-old schoolgirl from England) suggested the Roman god of the underworld who could make himself invisible. Due to the far flung orbit and hidden nature of the find, Pluto became the name for the first of many objects found in Kuiper belt, sometimes referred to as the “third zone” of the solar system. The Kuiper belt is disc shaped like the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and not to be confused with the Oort cloud which is spherical and surrounds the entire solar system in every direction.

Pluto is the second most massive object in the Kuiper belt, Eris being larger but far more distant. Pluto’s orbit is quite eccentric, ranging from 30 to 49 astronomical units from the sun, a difference of 3 billion kilometers from closest to farthest point. Pluto has five known moons with Charon being the largest. As our observational equipment grew ever more powerful, many more objects were discovered outside Neptune’s orbit. As more of these bodies were found, it became necessary to reassess our definition of what a planet actually was. In 2006, a consensus was agreed upon and Pluto did not meet the requirements. Therefore, it was reassigned as a dwarf planet.

I refuse to accept Pluto’s resignation as a planet. – Amy Lee

With any luck, by the time NASA’s space probe hits Pluto, you’ll be booking a spaceflight with a privately run suborbital airline. – Burt Rutan

When I was a little kid, we only knew about our nine planets. Since then, we’ve downgraded Pluto but have discovered that other solar systems and stars are common. So life is probably quite prevalent. – Buzz Aldrin

Pluto’s orbit is so elongated that it crosses the orbit of another planet. Now that’s… you’ve got no business doing that if you want to call yourself a planet. Come on, now! There’s something especially transgressive about that. – Neil deGrasse Tyson

February 17

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 17, 2017

2015:  Eighteen people are killed during a Mardi Gras parade. Mardi Gras is also called Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday. Carnival is a period in the Christian calendar, beginning after the feast of the Epiphany (aka Three Kings Day and traditionally celebrated January 6) and the day before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. The period often culminates in celebrations and parades on the day before the forty days of Lent begin, a time of sacrifice and atonement. Port-au-Prince is the capital of Haiti and there is a huge following there to celebrate this holiday. A parade was held on Champ de Mars. During this parade, around 2.48 AM, a disaster struck.

Fantom was the lead singer for a Haitian hip hop band or rap kreyòl called Barikad Crew, sometimes just called BC. The band was formed in 2002 and has had several tragedies befall them. Papa K-tafalk, Deja-Voo and Kondagana started the band to create music reflective of life in the slums of Haiti. They were commercially successful when their singles were released, allowing them to finally put out an entire album in 2007. The membership of the band has altered over time. In 2008 while travelling to a concert, Papa K-tafalk, Deja-Voo and Dade were killed in a car accident. Young Cliff was killed in the January 2010 earthquake that rocked the island. On this day, Fantom was riding atop a float in the parade when he made contact with a high-voltage power line. He survived the jolt and was in stable condition after the event.

The electrifying event caused a stampede among the revelers. It was at first thought that sixteen people were killed but later reports increased the numbers. Fifteen men and three women were killed and another 78 people were injured in the hysteria following the initial accident. Video of the event can be found at You Tube.

The Prime Minister of Haiti called for three days of mourning for the 18 people killed. There was also a state funeral and vigil for the victims held on February 21. In order to honor those who lost their lives on that fateful night, another parade, this one to be held in silence would follow the same route on Champ de Mars. The President of Haiti offered his condolences and the Minister of Communications announced the government’s plan to modernize the state electricity company to keep other events like this one from happening.

There’s a thing I’ve dreamed of all my life, and I’ll be damned if it don’t look like it’s about to come true-to be King of the Zulu’s parade. After that, I’ll be ready to die. – Louis Armstrong

I love Mardi Gras. I’m a street rat. – Mitch Landrieu

Do what you do. This Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve, Twelfth Night, Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras, St. Paddy’s Day, and every day henceforth. Just do what you do. Live out your life and your traditions on your own terms. If it offends others, so be it. That’s their problem. – Chris Rose

It has been said that a Scotchman has not seen the world until he has seen Edinburgh; and I think that I may say that an American has not seen the United States until he has seen Mardi Gras in New Orleans. – Mark Twain

February 16

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 16, 2017

1959: Fidel Castro becomes the 16th Prime Minister of Cuba. He was born in 1926 in Biran, Oriente Province, Cuba. He was eventually sent to live with a teacher in Santiago de Cuba and it was there he was baptized Catholic when he was eight. This allowed him to be educated at the La Salle boarding school in Santiago. He went on to a more prestigious Jesuit run school. He was not an excellent student and spent most of time playing sports. In 1945 he entered law school at the University of Havana and there began his interest in politics. He joined the violent gang culture of the university and decried US involvement in the Caribbean and the corruption of Cuban politics.

In June 1947, Castro joined an expedition to invade the Dominican Republic and overthrow Rafael Trujillu, but the Cuban president was pressured to stop the invasion. Castro was not arrested but when he returned to college, he took a more active leadership role in campus politics as it intersected with the government. In 1948 he married the daughter of a wealthy family and while neither family was overjoyed, the couple was treated to a three month honeymoon in New York City. Upon return to Cuba, Castro opened a law practice catering to the legal issues of the poor. The business was a financial failure. He wanted to run for Congress in the June 1952 elections under the Ortodoxo party, but leaders were fearful of his radical reputation and refused to nominate him. He was nominated by Havana’s poor to run for a seat in the House of Representatives.

While campaigning, Castro met General Fulgencio Batista, a former president who was returning to politics. They were polite but not mutually supportive. In March 1952, Batista seized power and declared himself President. Castro formed a group amongst the poor to fight Batista’s power grab. Castro declared himself a revolutionary socialist and refused the communist name. The revolt he planned was a failure and Castro was eventually captured. He acted as his own lawyer, unsuccessfully, and was imprisoned. After his release, he once again planned an overthrow of the dictator. A guerilla war ensued and eventually Batista was routed. His abdication was announced on January 1, 1959.

A provisional government was set up and Castro put himself into a position of power. While Manuel Urrutia Lleo was declared president, Castro had a great deal of power and called himself Representative of the Rebel Armed Forces of the Presidency. He set up programs to increase literacy and decrease corruption as well as ridding the government of any Batista leftover followers. One of his first acts after being made Prime Minister was to visit the US in order to open channels of communication. He met President Nixon and did not like him. He then went on a larger good will tour of the Americas. On his return home he instituted several new policies helping the impoverished and repeatedly called himself a socialist and refused the label of communist.

The revolution is a dictatorship of the exploited against the exploiters.

A revolution is a struggle to the death between the future and the past.

I am not a communist and neither is the revolutionary movement.

I find capitalism repugnant. It is filthy, it is gross, it is alienating… because it causes war, hypocrisy and competition. – all from Fidel Castro

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February 15

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 15, 2017

1493: Christopher Columbus writes an open letter discussing his discovery. The Genoese sailor had left Spain under the Crown of Castile in August 1492 to discover a faster way to China. His inaccurate mathematics led him to believe the circumference of the world was much smaller and there was a good chance he could sail westward to reach the Far East. Luckily for him, there is a large landmass in the way. He did not, as he had intended and thoroughly believed he did, land in the East Indies. Instead, he landed on several Caribbean islands in what would eventually come to be known as the Americas. After a few months of travelling in the Gulf of Mexico, he boarded the Nina on January 15, 1493, and sailed back to Spain to tell of his adventures. On February 14, they ran into a storm which damaged this ship.

Surviving the storm but unsure of reaching port, Columbus wrote an account of what they had found, calling them the “islands of the Indies”. He wrote two versions of the missive. The first in Spanish to be delivered to Luis de Santangel (a major financier of the trip) and a second in Latin was sent to Barcelona and the King and Queen. Many copies were made and translations were also made for those not able to work with the Latin or Spanish versions. The printing press had only recently been brought online and so it was possible to print out thousands of copies, making this a veritable best seller of its day.

Columbus called the region he discovered “India beyond the Ganges” which was what we might call Indonesia. They were the islands outside of the subcontinent proper, called “India within the Ganges”. The letter does not describe the voyage itself but skips right to the wonders found at the end of the journey. He stated how he renamed six of the islands he landed on and gave rather florid and not-quite-accurate descriptions of the land and people already there. He talked much about Cuba and Hispaniola making them sound perfect for future colonization. He claimed there was much gold to be found, as well.

He claimed the natives were docile and without government or religions of any kind, although they were said to have believed the Europeans were delivered from the heavens. He didn’t want to discount them completely and vouched for their ability to work, both men and women. He noted that he was told of cannibals in the region but disregarded it as a myth and assured his readers he did not see any. He finished his letter and added a postscript in Lisbon on March 4 when they put to port there to repair the ship before sailing back to Barcelona. He sent his letters ahead of him.

Riches don’t make a man rich, they only make him busier.

I saw a boy of the crew purchasing javelins of them with bits of platters and broken glass.

The Indians on board said that thence to Cuba was a voyage in their canoes of a day and a half; these being small dug-outs without a sail. Such are their canoes. I departed thence for Cuba, for by the signs the Indians made of its greatness, and of its gold and pearls, I thought that it must be Cipango.

For the execution of the voyage to the Indies, I did not make use of intelligence, mathematics or maps. – all from Christopher Columbus

February 14

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 14, 2017

1983: The United American Bank (UAB) collapses. Jacob “Jake” Butcher was born in 1936 in Union County, Tennessee. His father was a general store manager and president of the bank in Union County. Jake attended the University of Tennessee and Hiwassee College and then served in the United States Marine Corps. He and his younger brother, CH Butcher, Jr., worked at their father’s bank while teenagers. The brothers began buying stock in many Tennessee banks in 1968 and by 1974 owned or controlled eight banks. Their United American Bank controlled 39% of the banking reserves in Knoxville, Tennessee.

In the late 1970s, UAB built a 27-story headquarters in Knoxville and it was, and remains, the city’s tallest building. Plaza Tower was joined by CH Butcher’s City and County Bank’s Riverview Tower, the second tallest building in the city. Jake expanded his area of influence in the early 1970s by entering politics. In 1974, he hoped to gain the Democratic Party’s nomination for Governor of Tennessee, but lost in the primary. He did get the nomination in 1978 but lost the election to Republican Lamar Alexander. There was talk of his running again in 1982, but he supported Knoxville Mayor for the race. His brother supported Alexander’s bid for a second term. Alexander won.

The 1982 World’s Fair open in Knoxville, a project which had greatly benefited from Butcher influence. It was considered to be a success with over 11 million visitors in the six months it was open. The site remains in use as a park in Knoxville. By 1982, UAB owned over half of Knoxville’s business loans and Jake’s personal net worth was listed at about $34 million. There were rumors the brothers had engaged in illegal banking practices. On November 1, 1982 the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation sent in 180 federal bank regulators to all 29 bank branches and offices owned by the brothers simultaneously to prevent transfers of funds to cover malfeasance.

The investigation revealed illegal loans, forged documents, and various other forms of fraud. On this day, the USB bank failed, the fourth largest bank failure in the country – up to that time. Seven other Butcher-controlled banks and a separate loan entity run by CH failed during the remainder of the year and three more failed in 1984. The FDIC estimated the losses connected to these collapses to be approximately $382.6 million. Jake Butcher was also found to be penniless. His assets were listed at nearly $12 million but his liabilities were $32.5 million. He pled guilty to bank fraud in 1985 and was sentences to twenty years and received parole in 1992. CH was also sent to prison and was paroled in 1993. He died in 2002. Jake is reportedly working as Toyota distributer and real estate developer near Atlanta, Georgia.

There is no evidence that more regulation makes things better. The most highly regulated industry in America is commercial banking, and that didn’t save those institutions from making terrible decisions. – Wilbur Ross

It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning. – Henry Ford

Banking was conceived in iniquity and born in sin. – Josiah Stamp

There’s a loss of faith in the banking system that for so long has been the backbone of prosperity and growth. – Lucy Powell

February 13

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 13, 2017

1867: Brussels, Belgium begins to bury a river. Brussels has historically been a Dutch-speaking city, but the emphasis has shifted since the late 19th century and today it is mostly French-speaking. It was first settled when Saint Gaugericus built a chapel on an island in the Senne River around 580. The official founding of the city was in 979 when it was sanctioned by the Duke’s presenting relics to the chapel. The Senne was a major waterway at the time. For the Dutch speakers, it was called Zenne. The river grew ever more polluted as the city grew and presented health hazards to the citizenry. It became less navigable as it was filled with garbage and decaying organic matter (offal from butchering). It flooded frequently and usually displaced working class families who lived in the neighborhoods close to it.

There were many options for trying to fix the problem. Jules Anspach, the mayor of Brussels, selected a design by Léon Suys in which the river was covered and a series of grand boulevards and public buildings were erected on the new land. This plan faced a great deal of opposition for two major reasons. The first was cost; the second was the displacement of those same working class families who were often flooded out. These objections were overcome and a British company was contracted to implement Suys’s design. After a great deal of embezzlement and other issues, the government took control over the completion of the project.

The contracts for the project were signed in June 1866 and work began on this day. Part of that time was used to expropriate the first 1,100 houses so building could commence. There were to be two sewers built, one upriver and one down, in adjacent suburbs and 1.4 miles of the river was to be covered. There were to be two 20 feet wide tunnels made of bricks and running parallel to each other with two lateral drainage pipes taking waste water away from respective sides of the street. Brussels geology caused some issues but were not insurmountable and were less daunting than some engineers had feared. The embezzlement scandal also slowed construction. Finally, on November 30, 1871 the sluice gates were ceremoniously opened and the project was complete.

Over the next two years, the boulevards created by the project were opened to traffic. The four streets offered a more efficient way to travel into the lower town and helped to revitalize the area. Part of this was due to the plan to create public buildings to attract other investment. Suys had the Brussels Stock Exchange built there, a remarkable example of metallic architecture. It replaced the often unclean open air markets and attracted private investment into building there. The plan was successful in cleaning up the river and flooding issues in the city. Other areas were still stuck with a still polluted river and flooding. Later projects were instituted to help with these problems and it is hoped the Senne River will soon be purified.

For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one. – Khalil Gibran

What is a fish without a river? What is a bird without a tree to nest in? What is an Endangered Species Act without any enforcement mechanism to ensure their habitat is protected? It is nothing. – Jay Inslee

I know the joy of fishes in the river through my own joy, as I go walking along the same river. – Zhuangzi

You drown not by falling into a river, but by staying submerged in it. – Paulo Coelho