Little Bits of History

February 12

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 12, 2017

1924: George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue premieres at Aeolian Hall. Gershwin was born in Brooklyn in 1898 to Russian and Ukrainian Jewish parents. They came to America when life in Russia became precarious for Jews. George was uninterested in music until the age of ten when he attended a friend’s violin recital. While the elder Gershwin’s had bought older brother, Ira, piano lesson, it was George who spent more time at the instrument. George quit school at age 15 and became a “song plugger” (a singer or pianist who performed songs to help sheet music sales). George worked in Tin Pan Alley, earned $15 a week, and began publishing his own music with “When You Want ‘Em, You Can’t Get ‘Em, When You’ve Got ‘Em, You Don’t Want ‘Em”. By that time, he was 17 and made fifty cents for his tune.

In 1916, Gershwin began working for Aeolian Company and Standard Music Rolls in New York City both recording and arranging music. He made many, perhaps hundreds, of music rolls both under his own and assumed names. He met William Daly and they collaborated on Broadway musicals. Gershwin worked with other composers while honing his own craft. He composed both popular and classical music with Rhapsody in Blue being his first. The work was orchestrated by Ferde Grofe and Gershwin was on piano with Paul Whiteman’s concert band playing along on the debut on this day.

On November 23, 1923, an experimental classical-jazz concert was put on starring French-Canadian singer Eva Gauthier. The event was at Aeolian Hall. Whiteman asked Gershwin to write a piece for an upcoming event. Whiteman asked for a concerto piece to be played at an all-jazz concert. The planned date was for the following February and Gershwin declined due to time constraints. Although he had written similar works in the past, they had not been commercially successful. On January 3, 1924 Ira Gershwin read from the newspaper to his brother which was how George learned he was working with Whiteman to create a jazz concerto. Irving Berlin and Victor Herbert were also in on the project. It was only then the George consented to enter the evening’s performance list. With only five weeks left, he got busy.

Rhapsody in Blue combines solo piano with jazz band backup and has elements of both classical composition and the jazz influenced music of the times. The piece was handed off to Grofe for orchestration and was finally complete on February 4. Paul Whiteman’s band, Palais Royal Orchestra played at an event called An Experiment in Modern Music. It became an instant hit and sold a million copies the following year. The song also made George a star. He and his brother continued to write music together and separately. George died of a brain tumor on July 11, 1937. He was 38 years old. Rhapsody in Blue can be heard at You Tube, here.

It was on the train, with its steely rhythms, its rattle-ty bang, that is so often so stimulating to a composer – I frequently hear music in the very heart of the noise….

And there I suddenly heard, and even saw on paper – the complete construction of the Rhapsody, from beginning to end. No new themes came to me, but I worked on the thematic material already in my mind and tried to conceive the composition as a whole.

I heard it as a sort of musical kaleidoscope of America, of our vast melting pot, of our unduplicated national pep, of our metropolitan madness.

By the time I reached Boston I had a definite plot of the piece, as distinguished from its actual substance. – George Gershwin, explaining how he came to write Rhapsody in Blue

February 11

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 11, 2017

1812: Elbridge Gerry signs a Massachusetts bill into law. He was born in 1744 in the then-colony of Massachusetts to a merchant shipping family in Marblehead. He was one of eleven children, five of which survived to adulthood. He entered Harvard College just before he turned fourteen and earned both a BA and MA there before joining his father in business. The family was one of the wealthiest merchants in Massachusetts by the 1770s and had connections in Spain, the West indies, and all along the North American coast. His father was active in local politics and part of the militia. Elbridge was a vocal opponent of Parliamentarians and British taxation. He was friends with Samuel Adams, John Adams, Mercy Otis Warren and others who tried to halt British imports to the colony.

Gerry’s first political position was to the General Court of the Province of Massachusetts Bay – the legislative assembly of the colony. He was involved in many portions of the Revolutionary War and made a name for himself. He served on the Second Continental Congress and was influential in getting the United States Declaration of Independence signed. He was adamant about a strong separation of state and federal government bodies and was against the original version of the US Constitution, citing the lack of a Bill of Rights. His advocacy of both personal and state rights help gain him Anti-Federalist backing. He finally agreed to ratification of the Constitution as written as long as a Bill of Rights was added and gained more support. He was elected to the inaugural House of Representatives and served two terms.

Gerry was a Democratic-Republican and ran against Caleb Strong, a moderate Federalist. He lost his bid in 1803 and decided not to run in 1804 but to remain in semi-retirement. In 1807, James Sullivan won the governorship for his party but the Federalists retook the post in 1809 with Christopher Gore. Gerry beat Gore in 1810 by a narrow margin and again in 1811. Gerry’s first year as governor was less controversial because the Federalists controlled the state senate. Republicans took control of the legislative branch in 1811 and enacted many reforms. Caleb Strong came out of retirement to run against Gerry in the next election. And the senate wrote a bill to restructure voting districts. It was this bill that was signed on this day.

The restructuring of voting districts gave a clear advantage to the Democratic-Republican Party. When the newspapers printed out the new mapped areas, it was noted the contortions of districts in the Boston area looked rather like a salamander. The portmanteau word combining the Governor’s name with the amphibian has stuck and today gerrymandering takes place worldwide. Today, with all the data available from voter databases, the redistricting can be far more precise. The process still exists and it remains questionable. The redistricting cost Gerry his job but did help to stack the legislative arm of the state government with Democratic-Republicans.

Redistricting has made a tiny slice of ideological activists the power brokers in who gets sent to Congress.- Reuters

One of the reasons people hate politics is that truth is rarely a politician’s objective. Election and power are. – Cal Thomas

People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election. – Otto von Bismarck

The right of election is the very essence of the constitution. – Junius

February 10

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 10, 2017

1906: HMS Dreadnought is launched. The Royal Navy battleship was a game changer, caused a paradigm shift at the time she was commissioned, and came to be associated with an entire generation of battleships as well as a class of ships. Dreadnought has been used for many ships of the Royal Navy and this was the sixth such named one. Admiral Sir John “Jacky” Fisher, First Sea Lord of the Board of the Admiralty, called for an entire reworking of the battleships of his time. He insisted the guns be uniform and large, 12-inch or 305 mm. He also wanted a top speed of 21 knots (39 km/h or 24 mph). Fisher, the father of the design, convened a Committee of Designs which not only helped to lay out the new ship, but helped protect the Admiralty from charges of insider work. With this group of experts, no one could charge they did not consult them.

Dreadnought was the first ship to have a uniform main battery rather than large guns supplemented by a second battery of smaller guns. She was also the first capital ship (these are the most important ships owned by any Navy) to be powered by steam turbines which also made her the fastest ship of her day. On this day, competing navies were put on notice as the stakes had now been raised. A naval arms race began as other nations beefed up their navies in preparation for what would become World War I. She was also one of the first ships of the Royal Navy to be fitted with instruments for electrically transmitting data (range, order, and deflection) to the turrets for more accurate firing.

The 527 foot ship displaced 18,120 long tons with a normal load and 20,730 long tons with a deep load. She was 82 feet at the beam and need 29 feet, 7.5 inches of water to sail when at sea with a deep load. Her Babcock & Wilcox water-tube boilers turned the four-shaft Parsons direct-drive steam turbine to unprecedented speeds. Her range was 7,620 miles at 10 knots. It took a crew of 700-810 to completely man the ship. Dreadnought became the only battleship to sink a submarine in March 1915 when she rammed the German U-boat, SM U-29 which was confirmed sunk. She was refitted in 1916 and road out the rest of the war but was put on coastal defense in the English Channel.

Fisher wanted the new ship built in a year and to that end, material was stockpiled in advance. As much prefabrication as possible was also done before she was officially laid down on October 2, 1905. Dreadnought was built at HM Dockyard, Portsmouth, considered to be the fastest building shipyard in the world. She was Christened with a bottle of Australian wine. On this day, King Edward VII launched the ship after only four months (taking several tries to smash the wine bottle). She was commissioned on December 2, 1906, only fifteen months after she was laid down. It cost £1,783,883 (£195,651,683 inflation-adjusted to 2016) to build. The ship was decommissioned in 1919 and sold for scrap in 1923.

The Royal Navy of England hath ever been its greatest defense and ornament; it is its ancient and natural strength; the floating bulwark of the island. – William Blackstone

In the Navy, the path is paved for you. Your job is to be a soldier and fit in. As long as you stick to your place, it’s actually really easy. – Kiesza

I don’t go anywhere without clean shoes. That’s one thing I’ve got from the navy. – Mark Hadlow

Before the BBC, I joined the Navy in order to travel. – David Attenborough

February 9

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 9, 2017

1951: The Geochang massacre begins. Geochang is a county in South Gyeongsang Province, South Korea. It covers about 310 square miles and has a population today of just over 67,000. Geochang is in the northern portion of the province which is in the southeastern region of the country. The third battalion of the 9th regiment of the 11th Division of the South Korean Army targeted Communist sympathizer unarmed civilians. They killed 719 people with 385 of them children. This was immediately after they had targeted another 705 unarmed civilians in Sancheong and Hamyang, also located in South Geyeongsang Province.

General Choe Deok-sin was in command of the 11th Division. He was a 1936 graduate of the Republic of China Military Academy and had served as a Republic of China Army officer and after World War II he was promoted to colonel. He then returned to South Korea and entered their Army Academy as a second lieutenant. In 1949, he came to the US and entered the United States Army Academy and then returned to Korea on July 14, 1950. He served as head of the 11th Division under the United States IX Corps during the Korean War and during this time the massacres took place. After the War and a military coup, he served as Foreign Minister and Ambassador to West Germany between 1961 and 1963. In 1986, Choe and his wife defected to North Korea as he had been known for his opposition to South Korean policies.

In March 1951, Shin Chung-mok, a lawmaker serving in the assembly from Geochang reported the massacre to the National Assembly against South Korean Army cover up. While an investigation was attempted, the South Korean Army interfered at every turn and in fact, had Shin arrested and sentenced to death in an Army court martial. A second investigation was initiated in May 1951 and the team from the National Assembly was better able to look into the allegations Shin had made. This second investigation determined the malfeasance and the South Korean Army’s involvement. It was found that Major Han and Colonel Oh Ik-gyun were guilty of massacre of hundreds of civilians and both men were sentenced to life in prison. President Syngman Rhee eventually granted clemency to criminals and let them free. This is often cited as just one indication of his oppressive rule.

In April 2004, a Geochang Massacre Memorial Park was founded in order to give voice to the men, women, and children killed over these two days. In February 2006 the files of the massacre were reported found by the National Archives and Records Service. In 2001, a local court ordered the South Korean government to pay reparations to the victims’ families but in 2004, a general court ruled that a statute of limitation had passed and the government would not pay. This was confirmed by the South Korean Supreme Court in 2008. In 2010, a researcher for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission found the National Defense Ministry’s official documents condoning the annihilation of citizens living in the guerrilla influenced area.

Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.

Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.

Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance. – all from Sun Tzu

February 8

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 8, 2017

1879: The Sydney Riot takes place. Cricket, a bat and ball game peculiar to the British Empire, has two eleven player teams facing each other on a pitch with a wicket set up at one end. The batting teams attempts to score as many runs as possible while the other team is positioned in the field. The British team had been travelling to Australia since 1861. The idea was still rather new although the first Test match had been played in 1877. Teams were make up of the best possible players who could manage to get enough time off work to made the trip half way around the world and then play a series of games against local opponents. While Britain could field teams as early as 1861, it wasn’t until 1878 that Australia could finally get a major team to England.

The Melbourne Cricket Club issued an invitation to Lord Harris, himself a decent amateur cricketer, to gather together a team and come to Australia to play. Harris accepted and while Australia had meant for the entire team to be made up of amateurs, Harris brought over two professional Yorkshire bowlers. The distinction between the two types was mostly social status because the generous expenses paid to amateurs was often in excess of what a professional’s salary would be. But the mostly titled British team were referred to as “Gentlemen” meaning they were still considered amateurs. Australians were seen as less “gentlemanly” and more rowdy and uncultured. The fans were expected to be drunken gamblers.

Cheating was the norm and the rivalry between British and Australian teams was strong. Dave Gregory led a strong team and they were the first to play in England. Soon after his return, Harris came to play the Aussie team. This was the third tour match and the second time Gregory and Harris met on the field. New South Wales teams were antagonistic toward Victorian teams. On this day, Victorian George Coulthard was one of the umpires. He was chosen by Harris as one of the umps, with an Australian recommendation backing the young man’s skill. Coulthard made a questionable call and the locals were outraged by his status as working for the Brits and being a Victorian.

There is debate about what actually caused the riot. Gregory refused to send out the next batter, showing his disdain for the call. Fans streamed onto the playing field. But it is unsure if that was due to the bad call or the fact the British might win the match. Heavy betting against the Gentlemen may have led those with the most to lose to instigate a riot and call the game rather than pay out large sums of money. After the game could finally resume (and cricket games can be played over days’ time) it came down to an English win. They then cancelled their remaining games in Sydney. Bad will between the two countries’ cricket teams took years to heal.

To me, cricket is a simple game. Keep it simple and just go out and play. – Shane Warne

Test cricket is a different sort of cricket altogether. Some players who are good for one-day cricket may be a handicap in a Test match. – Kapil Dev

You can cut the tension with a cricket stump. – Murray Walker

Before you lay a foundation on the cricket field, there should be a solid foundation in your heart and you start building on that. After that as you start playing more and more matches, you learn how to score runs and how to take wickets. – Sachin Tendulkar

February 7

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 7, 2017

1854: The Swiss State passes a law enacting the establishment of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zürich). The Swiss Federal State was founded in 1848 and a commission was set up under Federal Councillor Stefano Franscini in 1851 with the goal of establishing higher education opportunities for the citizens. On this day, the law called for a “federal polytechnical school in association with a school for higher education in the exact, political and humanistic sciences”. On October 16, classes began at various sites throughout Zürich and the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zürich was in business. It, along with its sister school EPFL (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne) are the basis for the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology Domain (ETH Domain). The two schools are joined by four federal research institutes.

ETH Zürich is consistently rated as one of the top universities of the world, currently holding the 5th spot in engineering and science and technology. It ranks after MIT, Stanford University, Cambridge University, and National University of Singapore. Their most famous alumni is Albert Einstein and he along with 20 other students, professors, or alumni have been Nobel Prize recipients. The school remains known by the diminutive Poly from its original name: Eidgenössische polytechnische Schule. ETH is and always has been a federal school run by the government. This was an issue before its founding as liberals saw this as a way for conservatives, in control of the government, to gain even more power. The University of Zürich remains a cantonal institution run by the local canton, rather than the federal government.

Between 1905 and 1908, President Jérôme Franel restructured the institute and made it a real university with the ability to bestow doctorates and the first were given in 1909. The name changed to the current iteration in 1911. In 1924, further restructuring give ETH 12 departments, but today, there are 16 available. For citizens of Switzerland, the admission process is not by selection and any who wish to attend may do so if they passed the Matura, a high school exit exam. Foreign students are required to pass either a reduced or comprehensive exam but some European applicants are waived.

Each year is divided into two semesters and after the freshman year is complete and before the sophomore year begins, a block examination covering all subjects taken the first year must be passed. They do not offer final exams at the end of the class. Only about half of all students pass this test called the Basisprüfung. Many drop out rather than try again. The structure remains for ensuing years, but with a higher success rate. It usually takes six semesters to receive a Bachelor of Science and three to four more for a Master of Science degree with the final semester devoted to writing a thesis. About 18,500 students attend.

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. – Benjamin Franklin

The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change. – Carl Rogers

Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death. – Albert Einstein

The foundation of every state is the education of its youth. – Diogenes

February 6

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 6, 2017

1958: British European Airways flight 609 crashes at it attempts to take off. Manchester United football (soccer) team had been playing in Belgrade, Yugoslavia (now Serbia) against Red Star Belgrade. They were flying home in an “Elizabethan” class Airspeed Ambassador. The plane needed to refuel, as the distance between Belgrade and Manchester was beyond its range. They stopped in Munich for this. James Thain, pilot, and Kenneth Rayment, co-pilot attempted takeoff at 14.19 GMT. They aborted takeoff due to issues in the left boost pressure gauge along with an odd sound from the engine. Three minutes later, a second attempt was made and again they had the same issues. They offloaded all the passengers and began to troubleshoot the issues. It began to snow, heavily. There was talk of the plane remaining in Germany for the night, but Thain knew that would put the team behind schedule.

Elizabethan planes had a known issue with the boost surging and it was noted that a slower opening of the throttle could lessen impact. Munich had an exceptionally long runway of about 1.2 miles. This would have been enough space to slow the throttle increase and gain enough momentum for takeoff. Thain made the call to fly. The plane was deiced and the passengers reboarded. They were given clearance for takeoff at 15.02 and agreed to watch instruments carefully. They pulled back on the throttle and began their drive down the runway. They called out speeds at 10-knot increments and had a slight problem at 85 knots. After a quick correction they pushed forward. At 117 knots, Thain called “V1” which meant it was no longer safe to abort takeoff. They were committed. But just at that point, speed began to drop.

The plane skidded at the end of the runway, crashed through a fence, crossed a road, and clipped a house with the left wing, sheering it from the aircraft. Everyone in the house was able to escape safely. Not so, for the passengers of the plane. The plane continued to rip apart. Twenty of the passengers died aboard the plane and three more died later at the hospital. Rayment was trapped in his seat, but Thain was able to escape. As flames crept closer to the engine filled with 500 imperial gallons of fuel, Thain warned everyone away from the soon to explode plane. He grabbed fire extinguishers and attempted to keep the flames from the engine while goalkeeper Harry Gregg regained consciousness inside the plane. He was able to escape and brought out some of the passengers with him.

Two crew members, Rayment and a cabin steward, were killed. Eight of the Manchester United players and three staff members were killed. Eight journalists and two other passengers also perished. Four of the crew survived as did nine footballers, two of whom never played again. Matt Busby, the team manager, survived and was eventually able to rebuild the team. Six other passengers survived. The cause of the crash was at first assumed to be pilot or mechanical error. But the real cause was the runway. Most planes took off with less distance, as the aircraft could have without the problems. But at the end of the runway, slush was accumulating and as they reached this portion just before takeoff, the drag from the slush slowed the aircraft, making takeoff impossible. German authorities took action against Thain, but he was cleared of all charges.

A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water. – Carl Reiner

The snow itself is lonely or, if you prefer, self-sufficient. There is no other time when the whole world seems composed of one thing and one thing only. – Joseph Wood Krutch

Even in winter an isolated patch of snow has a special quality. – Andy Goldsworthy

And finally Winter, with its bitin’, whinin’ wind, and all the land will be mantled with snow. – Roy Bean

February 5

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 5, 2017

62: Pompeii and Herculaneum experience an earthquake. Using evidence remaining today, it has been estimated to have had a magnitude between 5.2 and 6.1, this is an indication of the energy released during the earthquake’s most explosive moments. It has also been estimated to have reached a maximum intensity of IX or X on the Mercalli scale, a scale based on the effects of an earthquake which has a scale between I and XII. A scale of IX is considered violent while X is considered extreme. For comparison, the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 was a XI, a higher level of extreme. In Italy, both Pompeii and Herculaneum were heavily damaged in the quake and it is believed to have been a precursor to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius which destroyed the two towns in 79.

The fault line runs along the full length of the Apennines mountain chain and continuing into the Tyrrhenian Sea. Scientists today are looking for a connection between this event and the devastating volcano eruption seventeen years later. The theory surmises that this event as well as other earthquakes along the fault line were associated with the later massive event. Understanding the link between earthquakes and volcanoes is an ongoing area of study. The simple understanding of the event has been going on for nearly 2000 years. Seneca the Younger, sometimes just known as Seneca, wrote about the phenomenon in his series of books, Naturales quaestiones (Natural Questions).

Seneca, a philosopher, dramatist, and advisor to rulers (which was the cause of his death) was able to write a seven volume encyclopedia about natural wonders. The work was not systematic, but rather a matter of ideas which occurred to the author and were then explored, using the science of his time. He studied meteors, thunder and lightning, water, wind, snow, and ice along with various other related topics. His sixth book in the series was about earthquakes and the source of the Nile River. He used this event as the basis of his study and concluded the earthquake was caused by the movement of air.

The original quake along with aftershocks lasted for several days. The focal depth has been estimated to have been in the 5-6 km range (3-3.7 miles). The damages to both towns was extensive and at least partially repaired prior to their being buried by lava flow. Bas relief found in what is believed to have been the lararium of Lucius Caecilius Incundus’s house, have been interpreted as depictions of the damages caused by the earthquake on the Temple of Jupiter, the Aquarium of Cesar, and the Vesuvius Gate. Damages were reported as far away as Naples and Nuceria. Seneca also reported the death of 600 sheep, stating the flock’s demise was due to poisonous gases.

There are other special problems connected with the discovery of ancient cities. Alexandria was ravaged by fires and street fighting and its ancient waterfront is underwater. Some discoveries at Pompeii were not revealed for many decades, because the wall painting are so pornographic. – Norman F. Cantor

True happiness is… to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future.- Seneca

The day which we fear as our last is but the birthday of eternity. – Seneca

Constant exposure to dangers will breed contempt for them. – Seneca

February 4

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 4, 2017

1861: The Confederate States of America (CSA)  is formed. South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas voted to create a government separate from that of the United States of America. These seven southern states had an economy based on agriculture which was dependent on slaves. During the 1860 elections, many in the South were fearful of Abraham Lincoln taking the White House. His opposition to the expansion of slavery was a threat to the way of life south of the Mason-Dixon line. Before he could take office in March, they left the Union and created their own state, which the North considered an illegal act.

After the Civil War began, four more states – Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee – joined the CSA. They also accepted Missouri and Kentucky as members although neither of these two states ever officially seceded. The Union or original US did not recognize this new government and the Civil War began on April 12, 1861 when the Confederacy fired upon Fort Sumter off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina. At the time, four states issued statements as to their reasons for secession and each of them listed a threat against slaveholders’ rights as a major cause of leaving a Union. Although Lincoln did not campaign to erase slavery from where it existed, he did vow to stop its expansion.

The Montgomery Convention was the location for the origination of the new country. Montgomery, Alabama saw the provisional President, Jefferson Davis, elected as well. They opened ceremonies on this day, and by February 8 they adopted the Provisional Confederate States Constitution and the began the process of governance with their own Congress with John Tyler (10th US President) serving in this body. From Montgomery came a call for 100,000 men from various state militias to defend the newly formed country. All federal property was seized as was all gold bullion in the three US mints found in the South.

Montgomery served as the new nation’s capital until May 29, 1861. Richmond, Virginia became the new capital and the last sessions of the Provisional government were held there. The Civil War dragged on with over a half million deaths, mostly fought on Southern soil, until the South’s military collapse on April 9, 1965. With the war over, the never internationally recognized CSA was dissolved on May 5, 1865. The international community regarded the renegade state as a local problem. The United Kingdom and France both had granted it belligerent status, but failed to ever formally recognize the CSA as a separate country. After the war, Jefferson Davis noted the Confederacy had simply “disappeared”.

Our new government is founded upon exactly [this] idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. – Alexander Stephens, CSA Vice President

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

The injustices endured by black Americans at the hands of their own government have no parallel in our history, not only during the period of slavery but also in the Jim Crow era that followed. – Jim Webb

Excess of liberty, whether it lies in state or individuals, seems only to pass into excess of slavery. – Plato

February 3

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 3, 2017

1900: William Goebel, 34th Governor of Kentucky, dies. Goebel was born in 1856 in Pennsylvania to German immigrant parents. He was born two months early and weighed less than three pounds at birth. He miraculously survived. His father served with the Pennsylvania Infantry during the US Civil War and after his discharge, moved the family to Covington, Kentucky. William was apprenticed to a jeweler in Cincinnati, Ohio just across the river from his family home and then went to apprentice with a law firm of Kentucky Governor, John Stevenson. Goebel eventually became a partner in the firm after he graduated from Cincinnati Law School. He had to support his family after his father’s death and eventually partnered with John Carlisle, a Kentucky State Senator, before returning to Stevenson.

Goebel never married, the only Kentucky Governor to remain a bachelor, and was not particularly social, although he was of above average intellect and well read. While he didn’t socialize, he knew what the common man was hoping to have the government do for him. In 1887,  James Bryan vacated his seat in the State Senate and Goebel chose to run for it, representing Covington. His platform of railroad regulation and his support of labor causes, along with the backing of Stevenson, should have made it easy for him to win, a third party rose in the area with about the same platform. Democrat Goebel won the election by just 56 votes. It was a partial term of two years before another election and he needed to make a name for himself quickly.

He did so by actually following through on his campaign promises and he won reelection easily. While he was able to discern what the voting public wanted, his lack of social skills hurt his political life. He was known as irascible and easily broke alliances if a better deal came along. He was able to use the political machinery to help advance his own personal agenda. This earned him several unflattering nicknames – “Boss Bill”, “the Kenton King”, “Kenton Czar”, “King William”, and “William the Conqueror” among them.

During the 1899 Governor’s race, he made many enemies. He divided the Democrat party into factions at a time when the Republican party was gaining strength in the state. Along with his abrasive personality, he was at a political disadvantage. However, he managed to defeat William Taylor. The race over, the animosity remained as results were in dispute. Goebel was walking to the Old State Capitol on January 30,1900 flanked by two bodyguards when he was shot in the chest. He was seriously wounded and Taylor called out the militia. Even with all this, on the following day, Goebel was sworn in as governor. His only act as head of state was to cancel the call for the militia. He died on this day and with his death, a peace of sorts returned. His lieutenant governor, JCW Beckham, was given the leadership. Everyone charged in connection with the assassination was acquitted or pardoned and the killer remains unknown. Goebel remains the only US governor to be assassinated while in office.

In politics stupidity is not a handicap. – Napoleon Bonaparte

One of the reasons people hate politics is that truth is rarely a politician’s objective. Election and power are. – Cal Thomas

Politics is the art of choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable. – John Kenneth Galbraith

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