Little Bits of History

Aesop’s Fables in English

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 26, 2015
William Caxton imprineur

William Caxton imprint *

March 26, 1484: Aesop’s Fables are printed in English for the first time. William Caxton was an English merchant, diplomat, writer, and printer. He is said to have introduced the printing press into England in 1476. He was also the first Englishman bookseller; all his contemporaries were either Flemish, German, or French. His place of birth is uncertain as is the time, but it is assumed to have been around 1415. In the preface of his first printed work, The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye, he said he was born and educated in the Weald of Kent. He was in London by 1438 and apprenticed to Robert Large, a wealthy dealer in luxury goods and Lord Mayor of London. Large died in 1441 and left Caxton £20, which was less than other apprentices, so it is assumed Caxton was still a junior apprentice at that time.

Caxton settled in Bruges by 1450 and was successful in business there. He became governor of the Company of Merchant Adventurers of London and in that capacity traveled to Burgundy and became a member of the household of Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy. Margaret was the third wife of Charles the Bold and sister to two British Kings. Caxton was able to travel more extensively and was impressed by German printing and aware of the influence of printed material. He set up his first press in Bruges and printed his first book there. The translation of the Troye book was done by Caxton himself. He came back to England and set up a press at Westminster in 1476. His first book printed in England was Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.

His printing of Aesop’s Fables on this day was the first time the tales had been translated into English and again it was his own translation. Many other editions would follow over the centuries with some in prose and some written in verse. The fables or Aesopica are credited to the slave named Aesop. He is believed to have lived in Greece between 620 and 560 BC. The stories associated with his name are of diverse origins. They continue to be reinterpreted as they are translated. There is some historical reference to the slave/author by the Greek historian Herodotus as well Apollonius of Tyana, a 1st-century AD philosopher, among others.

The fables have been, even since classical times, differentiated from other narratives. The fables must be short and unaffected. They also must be fictitious and have useful insight into life. While they had to be true to nature, there were often talking animals and plants. In very few of the stories do humans interact only with humans. After the short story is told, the moral is given at the end, reinforcing the idea of the tale. The context would often help guide the story’s interpretation. Some of the titles, such as the “Goose that Laid the Golden Egg,” have become proverbs in their own right. Sometimes, a story seems to have been invented to help illustrate and even older proverb. It remains a mystery as to how the tales managed to survive the millennia, but they have managed to be translated into every language now.

Aesopian language was used by all of us. And of course, using this language meant having readers who understood it. – Ryszard Kapuscinski

It is my contention that Aesop was writing for the tortoise market. Hares have no time to read. – Anita Brookner

Because philosophy arises from awe, a philosopher is bound in his way to be a lover of myths and poetic fables. Poets and philosophers are alike in being big with wonder. – Thomas Aquinas

Fable is more historical than fact, because fact tells us about one man and fable tells us about a million men. – Gilbert Keith Chesterton

Also on this day: Stella! – In 1911, Tennessee Williams was born.
Cruising Legally – In 1934, Britain began testing drivers.
Dr. Death – In 1999, Dr. Kevorkian was found guilty of second degree murder.
Mother Ship – In 1997, the Heaven’s Gate suicides were discovered.
Inspired Writing – In 1830, the Book of Mormon was published.

* Picture by Djembayz


Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 25, 2015
Venice *

Venice *

March 25, 421: Venice is founded. According to tradition, the area was populated by refugees from nearby Roman cities – Padua, Aquileia, Treviso, Altino, and Concordia as well as from the undefended countryside. The area had seen successive waves of Germanic and Hun invasion forces and the survivors headed to the marshy lagoons and set up homes on the many islands. These people were called the incolae lacunae or lagoon dwellers. The founding of Venice is given as noon on this day when the first church, San Giacomo, was dedicated on the islet of Rialto. As successive invasions took place, the rule of Venice often changed hands.

Between the 9th and 12th centuries, Venice developed into a city state. The other three city states were Genoa, Pisa, and Amalfi. Venice had a strategic advantage at the head of the Adriatic Sea and it made the city powerful in naval and commercial endeavors. The elimination of coastal pirates helped secure their position and the region became a flourishing trade center between Western Europe and the rest of the known world, especially the Byzantine Empire and the Islamic controlled area. Because of their interaction with the eastern world, they maintained close ties to Constantinople. Their rule of their colonies was fairly benign and rather enlightened for the era, which helped them maintain control.

Their power began to decline in the 15th century and as a port city, they were bombarded with waves of Black Death. The plague killed 50,000 people in just three years and sixty years later, in 1630, another third of Venice’s 150,000 population was killed. Portugal took over as the leader in ports for international trade and Venice’s economy was as decimated as her population. May 12, 1797 was the end of Venice’s Republic status when she fell to Napoleon Bonaparte. With the European continent in flux, rule of Venice changed hands several times. During World War II, the city remained fairly intact and precise strikes by the Royal Air Force on the German naval operations did virtually no structural damage to the city itself.

Today, the 160 square mile city is home to about 271,000 people with about 60,000 living in historic Venice. The historic city is divided into six areas or sestiere while the whole municipality is divided into six boroughs. Buildings are constructed on closely spaced alder wood piles which are still intact after centuries of submersion. The foundations of buildings rest on plates of limestone which rest on the piles. The water is oxygen-poor and the wood does not decay rapidly. The climate is humid subtropical and there is always danger of flooding since the elevation of the city is barely above sea level. Although once a bastion of trade, today, tourism leads many people to visit. Art and architecture combine to make it the 28th most visited city in the world with nearly 3 million visitors coming each year.

Though there are some disagreeable things in Venice there is nothing so disagreeable as the visitors. – Henry James

If you read a lot, nothing is as great as you’ve imagined. Venice is. Venice is better. – Fran Lebowitz

Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go. – Truman Capote

Is it worth while to observe that there are no Venetian blinds in Venice? – William Dean Howells

Also on this day: On Your Marks – In 1668, the first horse race was run in the American colonies.
Titan Discovered – In 1655, Christiaan Huygens discovered one of Saturn’s moons.
First Passenger Train – In 1908, the Oystermouth Railway began service.
Jobs – In 1894, Coxey’s Army began their march on Washington, D.C.
Richard the Lionheart – In 1199, Richard I of England was shot.

* Picture by Didier Descouens

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Tarred and Feathered

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 24, 2015
Joseph Smith, Jr.

Joseph Smith, Jr.

March 24, 1832: Joseph Smith, Jr. is tarred and feathered. Smith was the leader and founder or Mormonism. He was born in Vermont in 1817 but the family soon moved to western New York, a hotbed of religious revivalism during the Second Great Awakening. Smith experienced visions where he was directed to a buried book of golden plates. In 1830 he published an English translation of the texts found on the plates – the Book of Mormon. He also organized a Church of Christ and claimed it to be a restoration of the early Christian church. Later visions instructed Smith to rename his church the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. In 1831, he and his followers moved west and hoped to form a commune of the American Zion.

Smith and his wife, Emma Hale Smith, moved to Kirtland, Ohio. There is a possibility they moved west in an effort to get away from persecution in Pennsylvania and New York. They lived with Isaac Morley while they waited for a house to be built for them on the family farm. Others of their group went to Jackson County, Missouri where Smith had been instructed to build the new Zion. While in Ohio, Smith was dragged from his bed in the middle of the night, beaten, strangled, poison pressed against his teeth, and tarred and feathered. He was left for dead, but managed to survive the degradations.

Tarring and feathering have been in use as a means of unofficial justice or revenge since feudal days in Europe. It was mostly a type of mob vengeance, similar to lynching. A typical attack had the victim stripped to the waist, as Smith was, and then tar applied. The victim was then covered in feathers or possibly rolled in a pile of feathers. Usually, the next step was to parade the humiliated person through town. Petroleum tar, what is used to tar roads, would have been so hot it would have burned skin off the individual. Pine tar has a lower melting point. While it would be very hot, it would not be as extreme. Unless the tar was boiling, it was not necessarily a brutal procedure. Smith’s friends scraped the tar and feathers off until his skin was raw.

The speculation for what incited the crowd is varied. There are some who believe that Eli Johnson, a son of Smiths’ host, wanted to punish Smith with castration for his closeness to Nancy Miranda Johnson (his sister). Another possible motive was that Symonds Ryder, another participant in the night’s events, was fearful Smith was trying to take property from members of the community. This was to warn him against such actions. Whatever the reasons for the attack, the person who paid the highest price was an adopted child of the Smiths. This baby was torn from Smith’s arms and put on a trundle bed. The child was knocked from the bed as the adult Smiths were dragged from the house. The child died of exposure, possibly pneumonia, five days after the event.

We teach them proper principles and let them govern themselves.

The best way to obtain truth and wisdom is not to ask from books, but to go to God in prayer, and obtain divine teaching.

If you do not accuse each other, God will not accuse you. If you have no accuser you will enter heaven. What many people call sin is not sin; I do many things to break down superstition, and I will break it down.

I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book. – all from Joseph Smith, Jr.

Also on this day: Alaska Mess – In 1989, the Exxon Valdez ran aground and began to spill oil.
Cruising – In 1898, the first American built automobile was purchased.
Metropolitan Life – In 1868, the insurance company was formed.
Beating a Killer – In 1882, Robert Koch announced the cause of TB.
You’re in the Army Now – In 1958, Elvis Presley was inducted into the US Army.

Cold Fusion

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 23, 2015
Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons

Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons

March 23, 1989: Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons hold a press conference. The two men reported on an apparatus they had built which produced “excess heat” and was a demonstration of cold fusion. This is a hypothetical kind of nuclear reaction which would take place at or near room temperature. “Hot” fusion requires a temperature in the millions of degrees, such as that found naturally in stars. The two men not only claimed to have produced heat from cold fusion, but also measured small amounts of nuclear byproducts such as neutrons and tritium. All this was done with a small tabletop device which used electrolysis of heavy water on the surface of a palladium electrode. If true, it would be a source of cheap and abundant energy. The operative phrase there, was “if true”.

Fleischmann was a British chemist famous worldwide for his work in electrochemistry. He was born in Czechoslovakia in 1927 to Jewish parents who fled first to the Netherlands and then to England by 1938. After receiving his PhD from Imperial College London, Fleischmann taught at King’s College and then University of Newcastle upon Tyne. He moved to the University of Southampton, where he was the Faraday Chair of Chemistry and was the president of the International Society of Electrochemists. He began working with Pons in 1983 where the two men spent $100,000 in self-funded experiments at the University of Utah. Fleischmann wished to publish first in an obscure journal in a joint publication with another university doing similar work. The University of Utah wished for priority and went public with the announcement, forcing the two men to also go public.

Pons was born in North Carolina and studied chemistry at Wake Forest University in North Carolina and then began his PhD at the University of Michigan, but quit before finishing. He completed his studies at the University of Southampton where he met Fleischmann. The two men were interested in the problem of cold fusion, like many before them. The search for this energy source began in the late 1920s when two Austrian born scientists reported the transformation of hydrogen into helium by spontaneous nuclear reaction at room temperature. They later retracted their report, saying the helium measurement was due to background presence in the air. Others still held out hope.

Fleischmann and Pons did not publish their experimental protocol but physicists around the world attempted to replicate their experiment without success. The first paper submitted to Nature passed peer-review but was rejected regardless because similar experiments were negative and no theories could explain the positive result. The two men still believed in their process and the University of Utah asked Congress to provide $25 million for research. Pons was scheduled to meet with President Bush in May but by April 30, 1989, the New York Times declared the idea dead. On May 1, 1989 the American Physical Society concurred. Disgraced but undaunted, the two men moved to France to continue their work. Their funding ran out in 1992. Fleishmann died in 2012 of natural causes; he was 85. Pons gave up his US citizenship and remains in France.

There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will. – Albert Einstein

I will say this, though: If it is true that fusion will put unlimited amounts of energy into our hands, then I’m worried. Our record on this score is extremely poor. – David Brower

All I know about thermal pollution is that if we continue our present rate of growth in electrical energy consumption it will simply take, by the year 2000, all our freshwater streams to cool the generators and reactors. – David Brower

Today we know four types of forces – electromagnetic, gravitational, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. But the existence of the latter two was not even suspected before this century. I don’t believe that we have found all the forces in nature yet. There is probably at least one more type of energy operation at the physical level which serves to support psychic phenomena. – William Tiller

Also on this day: The Man Who Would Be Pope – In 752, Pope Stephen was elected but he died before taking his seat.
Safety First – In 1857, Elisha Otis installed his first passenger elevator.
Patrick Henry – In 1775, Patrick Henry spoke to the Virginia House of Burgesses.
Row, Row, Row your Boat – In 1889, the free Woolwich Ferry began service.
Circumvention – In 1896, The Raines Law was passed.

Jasper Doesn’t Have the Same Panache

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 22, 2015
Emerald Buddha *

Emerald Buddha *

March 22, 1784: The Emerald Buddha is moved. The Kingdom of Thailand counts this statue as its palladium, an image or object of antiquity on which they depend for safety. The original Palladium was a wooden statue of Pallas Athena which Odysseus and Diomedes stole from the citadel of Troy and which was later taken to Rome by Aeneas. It remained there until it was moved to Constantinople and was lost. The Emerald Buddha is a figurine of the meditating Buddha in seated yogic posture. It is not made of emerald, but instead is made of green jasper, a type of quartz and/or chalcedony. Jasper’s most common color is red and rarely it comes in blue. Jasper is one of the traditional stones of March. The Emerald Buddha is about 30 inches tall and is clothed in gold.

Legend states the Emerald Buddha was created in India in 43 BC by Nagasena, a Buddhist sage from Kashmir, who made the statue in the city of Pataliputra where it remained for 300 years. After that, the statue was taken to Sri Lanka to save it from harm during a civil war. In 457, a Burmese king requested the statue and scriptures to be sent home to help with study in his country. While in transport, the ship was caught in a storm and the statue ended up in Cambodia. The Thais captured Angkor Wat in 1432 and with it the Emerald Buddha which was moved to Laos where it was hidden.

Historical sources note the surfacing of the Emerald Buddha in Thailand in the Lannathai kingdom in 1434. One record states the statue was in a building struck by lightning and when it was dug out it was thought to be made from emerald, hence the name. A less romantic version says that in Thailand “emerald” simply means “green colored” and is not specific. An elephant carrying the statue was supposed to go to Chiang Mai, but would not travel there and went to Lampang three times. This was seen as a divine sign and the Emerald Buddha stayed there until 1468 when it was finally taken to Chiang Mai. It stayed there until 1552. It was then taken to Luang Prabang until 1564 when it was brought to Vientiane. In 1779 it was captured during an insurrection and brought to Siam and on this day, it was ceremoniously moved to its current home – Wat Phra Kaew.

Wat Phra Kaew literally means Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It is regarded as the most sacred Buddhist temple (wat) in Thailand. It is located in the Phra Nakhon District or the historic center of Bangkok. The Buddha has remained in the specially built temple for hundreds of years. He has three different sets of gold clothing. The King of Thailand or a liaison changes the Buddha’s outfit at the changing of the season, around March, July, and November. The three sets of clothes correspond to Thailand’s three seasons – the summer season, the rainy season, and the cool season. Two sets of golden garments are displayed at the Pavilion of Regalia on the grounds of the Grand Palace when the statue is not wearing them. There they can be viewed by the public.

If you have a preconceived idea of the first principle, that idea is topsy-turvy, and as long as you seek a first principle that is something to be applied in one way to every occasion, you will have topsy-turvy ideas. Such ideas are not necessary. Buddha’s great light shines forth from everything, each moment. – Shunryu Suzuki

Endurance is one of the most difficult disciplines, but it is to the one who endures that the final victory comes. – Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha)

A good friend who points out mistakes and imperfections and rebukes evil is to be respected as if he reveals a secret of hidden treasure. – Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha)

Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without. – Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha)

Also on this day: Laser – In 1960, the laser was patented.
Hockey is Rough – In 1989, Clint Malarchuk was hurt during a hockey game.
Flying Wallendas – In 1978, Karl Wallenda died from a fall.
Preschool Predicament – In 1984, the McMartin Preschool indictments were brought.
Elite Golf – In 1934, the first Augusta National Invitational Tournament was held.

* Picture by Gremel Madolora

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Man In Motion World Tour

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 21, 2015
Rick Hansen *

Rick Hansen *

March 21, 1985: The Man In Motion World Tour begins. Rick Hansen was born in British Columbia, Canada in 1957. As a youth, he won all-star medals in five sports. When he was 15, he was riding in the bed of a pickup truck when it swerved and hit a tree. He was thrown from the vehicle and suffered a spinal cord injury which left him a paraplegic. He rehabilitated and finished high school. He then went on to become the first student with a physical disability to graduate in physical education from the University of British Columbia. He won national championships in wheelchair volleyball and wheelchair basketball. He went on to become a world class champion wheelchair marathoner and a Paralympic athlete. He competed in both the 1980 and 1984 Summer Paralympics and won six medals – three gold, two silver, and one bronze.

In 1980, another British Columbian athlete, Terry Fox, began the Marathon of Hope in order to raise money for cancer research. Terry hoped to run across Canada from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island, but was unable to complete his quest when his cancer re-emerged. Hansen, inspired by Terry’s drive and courage, opted for a similar but far more ambitious plan to raise money for spinal cord injury research. He planned to circle the world in his wheelchair. He left from Oakridge Mall in Vancouver on this day. The team would cover over 24,000 miles through 34 countries, raising both money and awareness for people with disabilities.

Hansen averaged 30,000 strokes per day through all types of terrain and weather. Illness and injury did not stop him. He averaged about 53 miles per day with average speeds of 5.5 mph in the city and 8.5 mph in the country. The team traveling with Hansen shared a 20-foot motor home where they slept each night. They often worked 20 hours a day to keep everything moving. Over the 26 months it took to complete the journey, seventeen people helped on the road along with a Home Team to support them through it all. On April 11, 1985, Hansen wheeled across the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge. He had been averaging 70 miles per day and earning $1 per mile. He was not going to raise much money.

One full year after beginning, the team had suffered 4 robberies and Hansen had made 7,180,900 wheelchair strokes. By the end of the journey, they had worn out 160 wheelchair tires. Their highest summit along the way was in the Swiss Alps and was at 5,577 feet altitude. Hansen’s most homesick moment was at the Terry Fox Garden in Jerusalem, Israel. Their biggest crowd was in Tianjin, China. They received over 200,000 letters and donations total $26 million. They arrived home to Vancouver’s BC Place Stadium on May 22, 1987. Hansen continues as a disability activist. He and his wife have three daughters. He was given the task of carrying the Olympic flame into BC Place Stadium during the 2010 Winter Olympics opening ceremony, once again returning full circle.

I had an amazing team. They challenged, encouraged and supported me and asked nothing in return. I feel incredibly privileged to have had them with me. Without them, the dream would have been absolutely impossible. – Rick Hansen

The New Year begins with $3,000 of gear and equipment being stolen from the van, most of which was useful only to Rick. – Rick Hansen website

Rick wakes up, opening his eyes to see the interior of the motor home and tries to remember which town or even which country he is in. Tired from the rigours of the previous day including the late night public appearance, he starts to mentally prepare for another day on the road. – Richard L. Peterson

He can hear the rain drumming on the roof and the sounds of the crew stirring. His shoulders, arms and back ache from the strain of pushing his chair through the equivalent of two marathons yesterday, and he’s about to do it all over again. – Richard L. Peterson

Also on this day: Who shot JR? – In 1980, the cliffhanger ending to the season for Dallas.
Think Outside the Bun – In 1962, Taco Bell opened for business.
I Dig Rock and Roll – In 1952, the first Moondog Coronation Ball was held.
Equality – In 1960, the Sharpeville massacre took place.
Brownies – In 1961, Art Modell bought the Cleveland Browns.

* Picture by Urban Mixer

Sarin Attack

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 20, 2015
Shoko Asahara

Shoko Asahara

March 20, 1995: Tokyo, Japan suffers an act of domestic terrorism. Aum Shinrikyo (now called Aleph) was a controversial group founded by Shoko Asahara. He published a book and declared himself Christ, Japan’s only fully enlightened master and identified himself with the Lamb of God. The book outlined an apocalyptic scenario which included World War III. Asahara’s mission was to take upon himself the sins of the world. His followers would have their sins removed. Conspiracies, according to him, were everywhere and perpetrated by Jews, Freemasons, the Dutch, the British Royal family, and of course, rival Japanese religions. On this day, they committed a sarin attack on a Tokyo subway which killed 12 people and severely injured 50 more. About 1,000 other subway riders suffered temporary vision disturbances.

This was not Aum Shinrikyo’s first sarin attack. That occurred on June 27, 1994 in Matsumoto, Japan. The cult converted a refrigerator truck and released a cloud of sarin to float near the homes of judges who were working on a real estate lawsuit which was predicted to go against the cult. In this attack, 500 people were injured and seven died. On this day, ten men carried out sarin attacks with five of them setting off the sarin and five working as getaway drivers. They attacked the Chiyoda line’s A725K train, the Marunouchi line’s A777 and B801 trains, and the Hibiya line’s B711T and A720s trains.

Ikuo Hayashi released the sarin in the Chiyoda train. Prior to joining Aum, he was a senior medical doctor at the Ministry of Science and Technology. He was a heart and artery specialist first at Keio Hospital and left to head the Circulatory Medicine department at the National Sanatorium Hospital. In 1990, he quit his job and left his family to join Aum in the monastic order Sangha. He became a favorite of Asahara and was appointed the group’s Minister of Healing which included administering sodium pentothal and electric shocks to members who failed to display the proper loyalty. These “treatment” resulted in several deaths.

Ken’ichi Hirose released sarin in one of the Marunouchi trains. He held a postgraduate degree in physics from Waseda University. He was an important member in the cult’s Chemical Brigade. He exposed himself to the sarin by mistake and although he had the antidote, he nearly died from the exposure. Toru Toyoda had studied applied physics at the University of Tokyo and he belonged to the Chemical brigade. His sarin release was in the other Marunouchi train. Masato Yokoyam, also an applied physics student, released sarin in a Hibiya train and Yasuo Hayashi was in the other Hibiya train. Hayashi was a student of artificial intelligence before joining the cult. The trials of 189 cult members resulted in 13 of them sentenced to death and five more sentenced to life in prison. Asahara remains alive although he was sentenced to death. He is now aged 59 and the father of twelve children.

Fanaticism is the child of false zeal and of superstition, the father of intolerance and of persecution. – John Fletcher

A celibate clergy is an especially good idea, because it tends to suppress any hereditary propensity toward fanaticism. – Carl Sagan

In morals, what begins in fear usually ends in wickedness; in religion, what begins in fear usually ends in fanaticism. Fear, either as a principle or a motive, is the beginning of all evil. – Anna Brownell Jameson

The closer a man approaches tragedy the more intense is his concentration of emotion upon the fixed point of his commitment, which is to say the closer he approaches what in life we call fanaticism. – Arthur Miller

Also on this day: Shoes – In 1885, Jan Matzeliger patented a shoe lasting machine.
Martha Place – In 1899, Martha was the first woman to be executed via the electric chair.
Iditarod Winner – In  1985, the first woman won the Iditarod.
Blue, Lots of Blue – In 1922, the US launched the first aircraft carrier.
Pusha da Button! – In 1933, Giuseppe Zangara was executed.

Not Fast Enough

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 19, 2015
E Lee Spence by Sea Research Society

E Lee Spence by Sea Research Society

March 19, 1863: The SS Georgiana sinks. The steamship belonged to the Confederate States Navy during the American Civil War. It was supposed to be the “most powerful” cruiser in the Confederate fleet but she was never used in battle. She was laid down in 1862 and built by Lawrie Shipyard, perhaps with a subcontract with Laird. She was iron hulled and with a steam-driven propeller of 120 hp. She was painted black from her jib sail and raked masts and across her entire hull. Her clipper bow had a figurehead of a “demi-woman”. She was able to carry fourteen guns and more than 400 tons of cargo. Built in Glasgow, Scotland and perhaps with help from Liverpool, she was on her maiden voyage to her new home when she sank.

She was under the command of a retired British naval officer and en route to Charleston, South Carolina to be fitted out for service in their battle with the Union forces. There were 140 men aboard as Georgiana attempted to run the Federal Blockading Squadron guarding the Charleston Harbor. She was spotted first by the armed US yacht, America (of America’s Cup fame). And she was reputed to be a “very swift vessel”. America sent up colored flare signals alerting the rest of the blockade ships. The Georgiana was sunk after a desperate chase through the coastal waters. The USS Wissahickon was so close to Georgiana, that her crew could hear the orders being given to fire.

Solid shot passed entirely through her hull. The propeller and rudder were damaged and there was no hope to escape. Captain AB Davidson flashed a white light, a signal of surrender. In that way, he gained some time and was able to beach the ship in fourteen feet of water about three-fourths of a mile from shore. After scuttling her, he and all hands escaped on the land side and made their way to safety. The “treachery” disappointed the blockade crew who would have been able to share in the proceeds from gaining the ship. Lieutenant Commander John L Davis, of Wissahickon, set the wreck on fire to keep guerrilla bands from salvaging the ship or her cargo.

On March 19, 1965 (exactly 102 years later) the wreck was found by underwater archaeologist E Lee Spence. Today Georgiana lies just five feet under the surface with large sections of the hull still intact, but the ship is surrounded by sea fans, sea ships, and living corals. Much of the ship remains under mud and sand. It is possible to dive to the wreck and see the now heavily encrusted artifacts still in the hold. Spence found sundries, munitions, and medicines worth over $12 million but did not find the 350 pounds of gold reputed to have been in the hold. A sidewheel steamer, Mary Bowers, lies in the same place. She, too, was trying to run the blockade when she struck the wreckage of the Georgiana and sunk in the same place. The wreckage of the two distinctly different ships built just a few years apart is an interesting study in the art of shipbuilding.

The destruction of the Georgiana not only touched their (the Confederate’s) pockets, but their hopes. She was a splendid craft, peculiarly fitted for the business of privateering. – Secretary of the Navy Gideon

Apart from her cargo, the loss was a serious one to the Confederacy, as she was a much faster and stronger ship than any one of its cruisers afloat and would have made a superb man-of-war. – Thomas Scharf

As a child, everyone dreams of finding treasure. There’s romance and drama. But as an adult most people aren’t going to spend their lives trying to find it. – E Lee Spence

Rocks are like wreck magnets and ships run aground today in pretty much the same locations and for the same reasons they did thousands of years ago. – E Lee Spence

Also on this day: Avalanche – In 1775, four people were buried in an avalanche and three survived 37 days.
PTL Club – In 1987, Jim Bakker resigned as chairman of his PTL ministry.
And the Winner Is … – In 1953, the Oscars were televised for the first time.
Rack ‘Em Up – In 1954, Willie Mosconi ran the table, for 526 balls.
Tired of Looking – In 1687, La Salle was murdered.

Conspiracy of 1741

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 18, 2015
Conspiracy of 1741, slave burned at the stake during the madness

Conspiracy of 1741, slave burned at the stake during the madness

March 18, 1741: The New York governor’s house in Fort George catches fire. Soon after, the church connected to the house was also ablaze. The locals tried to extinguish the fire but it soon grew out of control and threatened to spread to even more buildings, especially worrisome was the building housing all the city documents. The windows were broken and the documents were thrown outside to save them. They were moved to City Hall. A fire broke out the next week and was quickly put out and the following week a warehouse caught fire. Three days later a cow stable caught fire and on the following day, someone passing through a wealthy neighborhood saw coals near some hay and extinguished the smoldering hay and thus keeping the neighborhood from going up in flames.

As the numbers of fires increased, so did the idea that it was not accidental, as was often the case when fires were used for cooking and heating and buildings were made of easily combustible wood. On April 6, four fires were started and a black man was seen running away while a while man yelled after him, “A negro, a negro.” It was then the fires were seen as a conspiracy and the entire plot was seen as a slave insurrection. This was not a completely unfounded idea as Manhattan in New York City was home to the second largest slave population in the colonies, after Charleston, South Carolina. This gave rise to the Conspiracy of 1741 also called the Negro Plot of 1741 or the Slave Insurrection of 1741.

There was economic competition between poor whites and slaves. A severe winter and war between England and Spain added to the mix along with anti-Catholic and anti-Spanish sentiments. There had been recent slave revolts in South Carolina and Saint John in the Caribbean. The slave seen running away, Cuffee, was arrested and within a few days, 100 slaves had been jailed. Mary Burton, a 16-year-old Irish indentured servant had been arrested for theft. She testified against others, claiming the poor whites and slaves were trying to burn the city, kill all the white men, take the white women for their own, and then elect a new king and governor. Eventually, about 200 people were arrested and as panic spread and a few testified against the others, over 100 people were hanged, exiled, or burned at the stake. Most of the “guilty” were hanged or burned, but it is unclear how many died.

Today, historians do not agree as to whether there was a conspiracy at all and if there was, what scale it reached. During the cases, the prosecution was inconsistent, changing accusations and their case of a slave revolt morphed into a Popish plot of Catholics. The two supposed leaders of the revolt were Caesar, a slave, and John Hughson, a white cobbler and tavern keeper. They were executed and their bodies were left to rot in public. At least 72 men were deported from New York and sent to various other regions among the American colonies.

It goes without saying that a civilization which leaves so large a number of its participants unsatisfied and drives them into revolt neither has nor deserves the prospect of a lasting existence. – Sigmund Freud

The right to revolt has sources deep in our history. – William O. Douglas

Most commonly revolt is born of material circumstances; but insurrection is always a moral phenomenon. Revolt is Masaniello, who led the Neapolitan insurgents in 1647; but insurrection is Spartacus. Insurrection is a thing of the spirit, revolt is a thing of the stomach. – Victor Hugo

Revolt and terror pay a price. Order and law have a cost. – Carl Sandburg

Also on this day: New London, Texas – In 1937, a school explosion took place in Texas.
Jacques Trumped – In 1314, Jacques de Molay was burned at the stake.
Tri-State Tornado – In 1925, a destructive tornado traveled across three state.
We’ve Got the Power – In 1937, a pedal craft flew the distance.
Martyrs to the Cause – In 1834, the Tolpuddle Martyrs were sentenced.

National Gallery of Art

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 17, 2015
West Building of the National Gallery of Art

West Building of the National Gallery of Art shortly after construction

March 17, 1941: The National Gallery of Art is officially accepted by Franklin D. Roosevelt on behalf of the American people. Pittsburgh banker Andrew W. Mellon was an art collector who began amassing a collection of old masters (paintings and sculpture) during World War I. By the 1920s, he decided to establish a new national gallery for the US using his collection to start. In 1930, he formed the A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust to be the legal owner of works intended for the new gallery. They soon made their first acquisition when they purchased 21 paintings from the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

In 1929, Mellon first contacted Charles Greeley Abbot, the newly appointed Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. Two years later, Abbot was appointed a Commissioner of the Institution’s National Gallery of Art. When the director of the Gallery retired, Mellon requested Abbot not be given the position as Mellon wanted Abbot to run the new organization he was forming. Mellon was charged with tax evasion because of his Trust and the Hermitage paintings and so his strategy needed to change. In 1935 Mellon announced in the Washington Star, he intended to establish a new gallery for the old masters, separate from the Smithsonian.

The project was in the hands of the Trust and was dependant on the “the attitude of the Government towards the gift”. In January of 1937, Mellon formally offered to create a new Gallery and on his birthday, March 24, 1937, Congress accepted the collection and the funds for construction of the Gallery. The Smithsonian gallery was renamed the National Collection of Fine Arts and the new building would become the National Gallery of Art. John Russell Pope (who also designed the Jefferson Memorial) was the architect for the new structure, accepted on this day. Neither Mellon nor Pope lived to see the building, as they both died in 1937.

Today, the National Gallery of Art is ranked second nationally and eighth globally and has over 4 million visitors a year. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City is the other American museum with more visitors. The most visited art museum in the world is the Louvre in Paris. The State Hermitage Museum is ranked 15th. Earl A Powell III is the director of the National Gallery of Art located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The collection is comprised of paintings, drawing, prints, photographs, sculpture, medals, and decorative arts from the Middle Ages to the present. They have the only Leonardo da Vinci painting in the Americas there. As their collection grew, more space was needed and an East Building was designed by IM Pei as was the 6.1-acre Sculpture Garden.

‘Art’ is the same word as ‘artifice,’ that is to say, something deceitful. It must succeed in giving the impression of nature by false means. – Edgar Degas

Most painting in the European tradition was painting the mask. Modern art rejected all that. Our subject matter was the person behind the mask. – Robert Motherwell

I find relatively little relationship between the work of art and the immediate critical response it gets. – Edward Albee

To me there is no past or future in art. If a work of art does not live in the present, it must not be considered at all. – Pablo Picasso

Also on this day: Wearing of the Green – In 493 or 461, St. Patrick died.
Golda – In 1969, Golda Meir became the Prime Minister of Israel.
Rubber Bands – In 1845, rubber bands were first patented.
Air Force One – Not – In 1957, a plane crashed in the Philippines.
Not Very Utopian – In 1891, the SS Utopia sunk.


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