Little Bits of History

March 24

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 24, 2017

1921: The inaugural Women’s Olympiad begins. It was the first international women’s sports event and lasted five days, from March 24 through 31. It was held in Monte Carlo at the International Sporting Club of Monaco. Two more Women’s Olympiads were held, one each year, at the same venue. The International Olympic Committee ruled that women’s events would not be included in the 1924 Olympic Games. Alice Millian and Camille Blanc organized games for the women to compete. Five nations (France, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom sent 100 athletes to participate.

France had the most athletes present with 58 and the UK had 21. The women competed in 11 different events from track and field. There were several races of various distances and relays along with high jump, long jump, standing long jump, javelin, and shot put. There were also exhibition events showing women playing basketball, gymnastic events, and pushball. France and the UK took all the gold medals in the events. The tournament was held at the Tir aux Pigeons in the gardens at the Monte Carlo Casino, a venue for gambling as the name implies, but it also serves as an entertainment complex for live theater and ballet.

These international women’s sporting events would later turn into the every-four-year women’s World Games which were organized by the International Women’s Sports Federations, also founded by Miliat. Although she worked as a professional translator, she was interested in all sports. She was, herself, a participant in the sport of rowing. She was a member of the Femina Sport, a club founded in 1911. Through her work, the Women’s Olympic Games were held in 1922, which infuriated the IOC who insisted on the sole use of the term “Olympic”. Miliats was convinced to change the name of her event after the IOC offered to add ten women’s events to the 1928 Olympic Games. The next time Miliat’s event was held, the name was changed to Women’s World Games.

The Women’s World Games were held in Paris and again only had five nations participating. France, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland were joined by Czechoslovakia and the United States. There were again, eleven events played out before a crowd of 20,000. Eighteen new world records were set. The games were held twice more with the 1930 Games in Prague and the 1934 Games in London.  The International Association of Athletics Federations took over the planning of future events after 1934.

I am building a fire, and everyday I train, I add more fuel. At just the right moment, I light the match. – Mia Hamm

We live in a world where sports have the potential to bridge the gap between racism, sexism and discrimination. The 2012 Olympic Games was a great start but hopefully what these games taught us is that if women are given an opportunity on an equal playing field the possibilities for women are endless. – Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Champions keep playing until they get it right. – Billie Jean King

In sports, you simply aren’t considered a real champion until you have defended your title successfully. Winning it once can be a fluke; winning it twice proves you are the best. – Althea Gibson

March 23

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 23, 2017

1540: Waltham Abbey is dissolved. The English Parliament passed the Act of Supremacy in 1534 which made the monarch also the Supreme Head of the Church of England, separate from Papal authority. The First and Second Suppression Acts followed in 1536 and 1539. This gave the monarch, King Henry VIII, the power to dissolve monasteries throughout his realm. At the time there were about 900 religious houses with about 12,000 people living there. One adult male in fifty was in religious orders at the time. It was assumed the income and assets from these establishments would increase the income of the Crown, many lands were sold off to pay for Henry’s military campaigns in the coming years.

Waltham Abbey lies about 15 miles NNE of central London. Archeological digs have shown the site has been in use for much longer than originally thought. Traces of rubble date back to the seventh century and radiocarbon dating of a burial site places it between 590 and 690 with a proposed original building date of 610 during the reign of King Saebert of Essex, a ruler noted for his church building. A second church was built in the late eighth century by King Offa of Mercia. In the twelfth century, the church and manor were overtaken by Tovi the Proud, an Anglo-Danish Thegn, aristocratic retainer of a king. He had a vision which led him to dig up a holy artifact from 150 miles away and transport the Holy Rood or Cross back to this church and it then became a pilgrimage site.

Tovi’s son had to sell the property to King Edward the Confessor and it was rebuilt by Harold Godwinson (the future King Harold II) and dedicated in 1060. The church was rebuilt again beginning in about 1090, reusing some of the materials but designed in the Norman rather than the Saxon fashion. It took about 60 years to complete and yet another rebuild was undertaken when Henry II gave the building to the Augustinians as part of his penance for killing Thomas Becket. In 1184, after beginning to rebuild again, the church status was increased and it became an abbey which increased the number of canons from 16 to 24. It was dedicated in 1242. The Holy Cross still brought many pilgrims to the Abbey, both aristocrats and commoners, but the nobles often stayed to hunt in Waltham Forest. This included King Henry VIII who was a frequent visitor.

Waltham was the last abbey to fall when Abbot Robert Fuller surrendered it and the estates to Henry’s commissioners. Fuller was pensioned off as were the prior and 16 canons. The choir master was paid off and given a job at Canterbury Cathedral. The Holy Cross disappeared without a trace. It was suggested the abbey become a cathedral for the Church of England but nothing happened. Today, it is in fact, part of the Church of England as a parish church and The Reverend Peter Smith is vicar. While the church remains, many of the outbuildings were destroyed in the dissolution. The Norman crossing tower and transepts collapsed in 1553 and a new west tower was added after the dissolution.

Well-beloved subjects! we thought that the clergy of our realm had been our subjects wholly, but now, we have well perceived that they be but half our subjects; yea, and scarce our subjects, for all the prelates, at their consecration, take an oath to the Pope clean contrary to the oath they make to us, so that they seem to be his subjects and not ours.

Alas, how can the poor souls live in concord when you preachers sow amongst them in your sermons debate and discord? They look to you for light and you bring them darkness.

Amend these crimes, I exhort you, and set forth God’s word truly, both by true preaching and giving a good example, or else, I, whom God has appointed his vicar and high minister here, will see these divisions extinct, and these enormities corrected.

I am very sorry to know and hear how irreverently that precious jewel, the Word of God, is disputed, rimed, sung, and jangled in every alehouse and tavern, contrary to the true meaning and doctrine of the same. – all from King Henry VIII

March 22

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 22, 2017

1871: William Woods Holden is removed from office. He was a native of North Carolina and at the age of ten, began an apprenticeship at a newspaper and was working as a printer and writer by age 19. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1841, aged 22. He belonged to the Whig party. Two years later he became the owner and editor of the North Carolina Standard and he changed party affiliation to the Democrats. He became politically active and was elected to the North Carolina House of Commons where he served one term. He was a leader of the Democratic Party in the state but was unable to win the gubernatorial nomination and then his party passed him over for a seat in the US Senate.

During the 1840s and 50s, he advocated for Southern state rights, expansion of slavery, and was even supportive of secession, but by 1860 his ideology had shifted to support the Union and his newspaper lost readers when he supported a unified country. He was sent by his County to vote against secession in 1861, but when President Lincoln asked for North Carolina to send troops to help suppress the seceding states, Holden changed his vote to secede.  As the Civil War dragged on, he became a critic of the Confederate government and joined the North Carolina peace movement. He lost a bid for governor in 1864 running on a peace platform. When the war ended in 1865, Holden was appointed governor by President Andrew Jackson.

Holden played a role in stabilizing the state during early Reconstruction efforts but lost an election later in 1865. Holden went back to his newspaper, but in 1868 he was elected as governor on the Republican ticket. At that time, he gave up his paper and began to track down Ku Klux Klan members using 24 detectives he hired to stop the KKK, the best record in the South. In 1870, after a new law was passed, Holden was able to use the state militia to combat the KKK and did so. Although the goal was to permit all legal voters to vote, the KKK’s tactics worked and Democratic Party regained majorities in both houses of the state legislation. With this power, they impeached Holden on December 14, 1870.

The main charges against Holden were rough treatment and arrests of North Carolina citizens by the state militia which Holden formed after several lynchings. Holden was defended by well known attorneys but was convicted of six of the eight counts against him with the Senate voting straight party lines. The Democrats were able to also remove Holden from his position, the first governor to be removed from office by impeachment. Holden moved to Washington, D.C. and worked on a newspaper there. President Ulysses Grant made him postmaster from 1873 to 1881. Holden died in 1892 at the age of 73. In 2011 the North Carolina Senate pardoned Holden with a vote of 48-0.

We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. – Abraham Lincoln

You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength. – Marcus Aurelius

Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. – Lord Acton

March 21

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 21, 2017

1931: The Great Dayton Flood begins. The Great Miami River flows from Indian Lake in Logan County, Ohio and travels through seven counties in Ohio and one in Indiana before reaching the Ohio River in Hamilton County, Ohio. The 170 mile river has a flood plain covering about 4,000 square miles. The winter had dropped a lot of snow in the area and during the end of March, three winter storms dropped even more moisture as 8-11 inches of rain fell over three days. The ground, already saturated from the winter melt, held little of the new rain and there was more than 90% runoff into the tributaries and river. While much of the region saw some flooding during these storms, none were as high as in the southwest corner of Ohio along the Miami River.

Dayton was the most affected, but Piqua, Troy, and Hamilton also had serious water problems. Dayton’s downtown was submerged in places 20 feet deep. Dayton’s biggest issue was geographic. The town was built around the convergences of three tributaries of the Miami – Stillwater River, Mad River, and Wolf Creek. The town was founded in 1795 and local Indians had warned of major floods every couple decades which continued through the 1800s with five major flood events – 1803, 1828, 1847, 1866, and 1898. On this day, Good Friday, the temperatures were warm and the first of the three storms arrived. Overnight, temperatures dropped to below freezing so when a morning storm hit, even less water could be absorbed. Easter Sunday had the third storm hit.

The flooding was not unusual and the citizens were carrying on in the face of the spring floods – until the Herman Street levee was found to be weakening. Before dawn on Tuesday, the levee had water to the top and it was still flowing at 100,000 cubic feet per second which was unprecedented. Water began to overflow by 6 AM and two hours later other levees began to fail as well. The water crested early Wednesday morning, around 1.30 AM and to add to the confusion, a gas explosion started a fire which destroyed even more property. Fires were starting all over the city and the fire departments were unable to reach them.

More than 360 people died in the flooding and about 65,000 people were displaced as 20,000 homes were destroyed. Buildings were moved off foundations or completely washed away and the debris in the water damaged those building able to stay standing. About 1,400 horses and 2,000 other domestic animals died. Property damage to homes, business, factories, and railroads was more than $100 million dollars (over $2 billion today). Another of the items lost was the history of early flight. The Wright Brothers of Dayton had many historical artifacts stored in their shop and destroyed or damaged by the flood.

Years of drought and famine come and years of flood and famine come, and the climate is not changed with dance, libation or prayer. – John Wesley Powell

The hurricane flooded me out of a lot of memorabilia, but it can’t flood out the memories. – Tom Dempsey

It’s a relief to hear the rain. It’s the sound of billions of drops, all equal, all equally committed to falling, like a sudden outbreak of democracy. Water, when it hits the ground, instantly becomes a puddle or rivulet or flood. – Alice Oswald

New flood maps in many states have raised the estimation of flood risks along rivers, streams and oceans, adding many properties to flood zones for the first time. – Bill Dedman

March 20

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 20, 2017

1852: Uncle Tom’s Cabin is published in two volumes. Harriet Beecher was born in 1811, the seventh of thirteen children. Her father was a Calvinist preacher; her mother died when she was five. Harriet was enrolled in her sister’s school, Hartford Female Seminary, and given a traditional education usually reserved for boys. When she was 21, she moved to Cincinnati where she helped her father, president of Lane Theological Seminary. She also joined a literary club. Cincinnati was a boom town on the Ohio River where many immigrants as well as free blacks competed for jobs on the canals and railroads. Riots broke out on at least three occasions as factions fought for scarce jobs.

Harriet met Calvin Stowe at the literary club but he was also a professor at the seminary. The two married. Both were abolitionists and they supported the Underground Railroad, even temporarily housing runaway slaves in their home. In 1850, the Fugitive Slave Law was passed, making it illegal to help runaways find their way to freedom. By that time, the Stowes were living in Maine and it was there Harriet had a dream about a dying slave and it inspired her to write this story. During this time, she also lost her toddler son, which increased her empathy. She wrote to the editor at National Era and her tale began serialization there on June 5, 1851. Weekly installments ran until April 1, 1852 and Harriet was paid $400 for her story.

John P Jewett made an initial print run of 5,000 copies of Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly with each of the two volumes containing three drawings and the title page done by Hammatt Billings. In less than a year, 300,000 copies of the book had sold, an astounding number of books back then. The main goal of the book was to educate northerners about the horrible treatment of slaves in the South. A secondary goal was to increase empathy for those still enslaved in the South. Stowe wrote a total of 30 books, including a sequel to her most famous work. She also had travel memoirs and collections of articles and letters published.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin relates the tale of a benevolent slave holder forced by economic reasons into selling two of his slaves, Uncle Tom and the maid, Eliza’s, son. Eliza and her son escape, but Tom is sold. Eliza is hunted; Tom is horribly mistreated by Simon Legree. Tom’s faith in God and his stubborn refusal to be broken by his new owner enrage Legree to the point of ordering him to be killed. Eliza’s family tries to rescue him, but is too late. Eliza’s family survives and escapes to Liberia and George Shelby, the man who sold his slaves at the beginning of the tale, repents his ways and frees all his remaining slaves.

The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.

Friendships are discovered rather than made.

It’s a matter of taking the side of the weak against the strong, something the best people have always done.

To be really great in little things, to be truly noble and heroic in the insipid details of everyday life, is a virtue so rare as to be worthy of canonization. – all from Harriet Beecher Stowe

March 19

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 19, 2017

1649: The House of Lords is abolished by the House of Commons in England. England then, and the UK now, had a bicameral parliament. The upper house was the House of Lords while the lower house was the House of Commons. The Lords were hereditary titles passed from noble father to his legal heirs. The medieval practice of entitlement or “titles” began by decree with a Writ of Summons beginning in 1265 and by 1388 by Letters Patent. Titles were passed by primogeniture or to the eldest son of the prior title holder. There was a long standing attempt to reform the House of Lords, begining in 1539.

The House of Lords is made up of two distinct groups. The first is the Lords Spiritual (today these are archbishops and bishops of the Church of England) and Lords Temporal who are, as the name implies, not religious entities but peers of the realm. The English Civil War was a battle for power to run the nation with the Royalist or Cavaliers led by King Charles I, Prince Rupert of the Rhine, and Charles II pitted against the Parliamentarians or Roundheads led by the Earl of Essex Robert Devereux, Thomas Fairfax, and Oliver Cromwell. The third wave of war from 1649-51 had Charles II fighting the Rump Parliament, the residual members who survived Thomas Pride’s purge of 1648.

On this day the House of Commons passed an act which declared the House of Lords to not only be useless, but dangerous. They therefore decided to abolish the upper house and any meeting of the Lords altogether. This was never recognized by either the Lords nor the King and so was never enacted. The Lords Temporal resumed meeting in 1660 which restored the monarchy and the Clergy Act of 1661 readmitted the Lords Spiritual to the House.

Today, there are 1,461 seats in the Parliament of the United Kingdom with 811 of them in the upper house and 650 in the lower. The Lord Speaker is Lord Fowler who took up the post in September 2016. Baron Fowler, currently politically non-affiliated but previously a member of the Conservative party, has been a member of parliament since 1970.  John Bercow is the Speaker of the House of Commons and has been since June 2009. He, as is necessary as part of the job, is non-partisan but was also a Conservative party member prior to his current position. They meet at the Palace of Westminster in the City of Westminster, London and along with Queen Elizabeth II as Queen in Parliament are the legislative body of Great Britain’s government.

The cure for admiring the House of Lords is to go and look at it. – Walter Bagehot

The House of Lords is like a glass of champagne that has stood for five days. – Clement Attlee

A man may speak very well in the House of Commons, and fail very completely in the House of Lords. There are two distinct styles requisite: I intend, in the course of my career, if I have time, to give a specimen of both. – Benjamin Disraeli

The House of Lords is the British Outer Mongolia for retired politicians. – Tony Benn

March 18

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 18, 2017

1850: American Express is founded in Buffalo, New York. It began as an express mail service, aka special delivery service when Henry Wells, William G Fargo, and John Warren Butterfield merged their companies to create a larger business. Two years later, Wells and Fargo wished to expand out to California and were thwarted so they started Wells Fargo & Co. American Express was originally headquartered on the corner of Jay Street and Hudson Street in Manhattan. They held a monopoly on moving goods, securities, and currency along with other items throughout New York State. They eventually partnered with other express companies, including Wells Fargo, along with railroads and steamship companies and went nationwide.

In 1882 American Express went into the money order business to compete with the USPS. In the late 1880s, William Fargo’s brother was traveling in Europe and despite having traditional letters of credit, found it difficult to get money in any but the largest European cities. Upon his return, he had Marcellus Berry create a better way – the Traveler’s Cheque was launched in 1891. This service made American Express an international company. At the outbreak of World War I, American Express in Europe was one of the few companies willing to assist Americans stranded there by the war. The British selected them as their official express service, delivering letters, money, and parcels to British POWs and the end of the war, they were delivering 150 tons per day to POWs in six countries.

President Theodore Roosevelt had them investigated for monopolizing the railroad express service. Nothing immediately happened, but during World War I, President Woodrow Wilson needed to commandeer the railroads for troop movements and other war efforts. The monopoly was broken and a new company formed, much of which had been former American Express business assets.

American Express first proposed to offer a travel charge card in 1946 but they did not enter the field until 1958, eight years after Diners Club became the first independent credit card company. American Express cards were so popular, 250,000 were issued before the launch date. The next year, they began to issue plastic cards, an industry first. They began to issue Gold and Platinum cards to different markets and for a time had Optima cards as well. It wasn’t until the 1980s that American Express began their push to become a financial service super company. For more than a decade, new companies were purchased to expand the investment banking side of the business. The last of these were sold off in 1994.

 Money won’t create success, the freedom to make it will. – Nelson Mandela

A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business. – Henry Ford

A wise man should have money in his head, but not in his heart. – Jonathan Swift

When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is. – Oscar Wilde

March 17

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 17, 2017

1337: Edward, the Black Prince, is made Duke of Cornwall. Edward was born in June 1330 at Woodstock Palace in Oxfordshire to King Edward III and Philippa of Hainault. He was the first of nine children and the first to be made a Duke – in all of England. He was only two when he was made an Earl and nearly seven on this day when the first duchy was created for him. He became Prince of Wales shortly before turning 13. He served as symbolic regent three times while his father was away on campaigns. Edward married his cousin Jane when he was 31, which raised some eyebrows, not because they were cousins, but because Jane had been married secretly, then wed to another while her first husband was away at war. Her first husband returned, her second marriage was annulled, she had five children before becoming a widow, and then she married the future King of England.

Edward had four sons by various other women before he married Jane and the two had two more sons together. Their sons were born in France where Edward and Jane were the Prince and Princess of Aquitaine. While in Spain, fight to restore Don Pedro the Cruel to the Castilian throne, he contracted an illness which plagued him until his death ten years later. Since he predeceased his father, his son was next in line for the throne. His eldest son, Edward, had died at the age of five and Richard was next in line, a duty he assumed at the age of ten.

Today’s Duke of Cornwall is Prince Charles. The position is traditionally held by the eldest son of the reigning British monarch. It is one of the two remaining duchies in England, the other being the Ducky of Lancaster. The Duke inherits possession of the duchy and the title of Duke of Cornwall at birth, or when his parent assumes the throne. He is not, however, permitted to sell assets for personal benefit and also has limited rights and income when still a minor. If the King/Queen of England has no male children, the rights and responsibilities return to The Crown and there would be no current Duke.

The Duchy lands cover 135,000 acres, mostly in Devon with other holdings in Cornwall, Herefordshire, Somerset, and the Isles of Scilly. There is an associated investment portfolio which was valued at £763 million in 2013 and showed an annual profit of £19 million. The Duchy of Lancaster is the private estate of the British monarch so today, belongs to Queen Elizabeth II. This is a smaller holding of about 45,550 acres and along with a portfolio is worth about £472 million. The annual income is £16 million. The Prince and the Queen voluntarily pay income tax on earning, minus expenses, from their holdings.

Something as curious as the monarchy won’t survive unless you take account of people’s attitudes. After all, if people don’t want it, they won’t have it.

Do you seriously expect me to be the first Prince of Wales in history not to have a mistress?

Perhaps it has been too uncomfortable for those with vested interests to acknowledge, but we have spent the best part of the past century enthusiastically testing the world to utter destruction; not looking closely enough at the long-term impact our actions will have.

I sometimes wonder if two thirds of the globe is covered in red carpet. – all from Prince Charles

March 16

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 16, 2017

597 BC: Nebuchadnezzar captures Jerusalem. The Babylonian Chronicles are stone tablets recording major events in Babylonian history and were written from the reign of Nabonassar up to the Parthian Period (747 BC – 247 BC) or a period of about 500 years. Using these historical records, the date for the capture of Jerusalem was given as 2 Adar, making it March 16. Nebuchadnezzar was the oldest son and successor to Nabopolassar who was the ruler who managed to extricate Babylon from 300 years of servitude to Assyria. His armies along with those of the Medes, Persians, Scythians, and Cimmerians were able to overtake Nineveh. Nabopolassar wanted to control Aram, land belong to Necho II, under Assyrian rule. In 605 BC, he was able to defeat both the Egyptian and Assyrian armies and take control of all Babylon. He died in August and his son, Nebuchadnezzar, became ruler.

Nebuchadnezzar began to conquer lands westward and married the daughter of the Median king to assure peace on that front. He still waged wars/battles in order to bring more lands under his reign. He quashed rebellions and moved into the Levant. On this day he was finally able to take Jerusalem and deposed King Jehoiakim. Zedekiah was installed as the local ruler of Jerusalem shortly after the capture. This worked well for a time, but ten years later there was more rebellion in the region. Nebuchadnezzar returned and destroyed Jerusalem, taking many of the prominent Jews back to Babylon.

Babylon was a major city lying in the Fertile Crescent, the lands between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. It was first settled around 2300 BC and grew in importance with the First Amorite Babylonian Dynasty beginning in 1894 BC. It was one of the holy cities in the region and became even more powerful when Hammurabi created the first Babylonian Empire. For over a thousand years, it was of less importance until the Neo-Babylonian Empire (609-539 BC) when the Hanging Gardens of Babylon grew for Nebuchadnezzar to impress his Median Queen. Or maybe this wonder of the world was always a mythic idealization of eastern gardens.

Whether or not he built great gardens, Nebuchadnezzar did carry out many great building projects to bring back Babylon’s to previous days of glory. He restored old temples and built new one to the many gods of the Babylonian pantheon. He built an underground passage beneath the Euphrates to connect his palace on one side of the mighty river to the buildings on the other. He also bridged the river to create a walking path over it, also connecting the two parts of the city. He built a triple line of walls around Babylon to protect it from attack. All of these building projects took manpower, which was made up of the captured people from his many raids and wars.

While I pride myself on trying to be creative in all areas of my life, I have occasionally gone overboard, like the time I decided to bring to a party a salad that I constructed, on a huge rattan platter, to look like a miniature scale model of the Gardens of Babylon. – Gregory Maguire

Our earliest evidence of government, in the ruins of Babylon and Egypt, shows nothing but ziggurats and pyramids of wasted taxpayer money, the TARP funds and shovel-ready stimulus programs of their day. – P. J. O’Rourke

What has history said of eminence without honor, wealth without wisdom, power and possessions without principle? The answer is reiterated in the overthrow of the mightiest empires of ancient times. Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome! The four successive, universal powers of the past. What and where are they? – Orson F. Whitney

The collapse of the Tower of Babel is perhaps the central urban myth. It is certainly the most disquieting. In Babylon, the great city that fascinated and horrified the Biblical writers, people of different races and languages, drawn together in pursuit of wealth, tried for the first time to live together – and failed. – Neil MacGregor

March 15

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 15, 2017

1956: My Fair Lady premieres on Broadway. The musical was based on George Bernard Shaw’s play, Pygmalion. Book and lyrics for the production were by Alan Jay Lerner with music by Frederick Lowe. In the 1930s, Gabriel Pascal had acquired rights to make several of Shaw’s plays into movies. Shaw had a bad experience with one of the earlier attempts and refused to give permission to turn Pygmalion into a musical. After Shaw died in 1950, Pascal began work on turning Shaw’s play into the musical he had envisioned decades before. It had previously been attempted by well-known composer/lyricists and even Rogers and Hammerstein had failed in their attempts. It was deemed to be impossible and so Lerner and Lowe abandoned the projects. Pascal died without his musical.

Lerner read the obituary and began to wonder if they could pull it off and he and Lowe began working on the project again. The musical had its pre-Broadway run at New Haven’s Shubert Theatre and Rex Harrison, playing the lead role of Henry Higgins, was unused to having a live orchestra in the pit. He refused to go on. Everyone was sent home but Harrison finally relented. They were all called back and the first performance was a hit. They moved from there to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for four weeks. Finally, on this day, they opened on Broadway with Harrison still as Higgins and Julie Andrews playing Eliza Dolittle.

Opening night was at the Mark Hellinger Theater before it moved to Broadhurst Theatre and then The Broadway Theatre. It ran for 2,717 performances before closing on September 29, 1962. Eventually Edward Mulhare and Sally Ann Howes replaces Harrison and Andrews for the leads. The original cast recording became a best-selling album. The original costumes were created by Cecil Beaton and are part of a museum collection today. The stars left the Broadway production in order to open in London’s West End which opened on April 30, 1958 where it ran for 2,281 performances before closing in 1963.

There have been many more reprisals of the award-winning musical along with movie production of My Fair Lady which again had Rex Harrison playing Higgins, but Audrey Hepburn took over the Eliza role. Shaw wrote the original work based on the Greek myth of Pygmalion, a sculptor. He creates the most perfect statue of his ideal woman and because he loved the work so purely, Aphrodite granted his wish and the statue came to life and the two were married and lived happily ever after. In My Fair Lady, the ending is not so certain. Eliza returns to Henry, but the story is left with an ambiguous ending.

We will write the show without the rights, and when the time comes for them to decide who is to get them, we will be so far ahead of everyone else that they will be forced to give them to us. – Frederick Lowe, when the rights to Shaw’s work were in dispute

[He] announced that under no circumstances would he go on that night…with those thirty-two interlopers in the pit. – Alan Jay Lerner, referring to Harrison’s refusal to work with a live orchestra

The Lerner-Loewe songs are not only delightful, they advance the action as well. They are ever so much more than interpolations, or interruptions. – Robert Coleman

Eliza, where the devil are my slippers? – Henry Higgins (last line of the musical)