Little Bits of History

April 12

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 12, 2017

1861: The first shots of the US Civil War are fired. The northern or Union forces fought against southern or Confederate forces as they elected to secede from the United States of America. There were 34 states in the union when the seven southern slave states first declared their desire to leave and form their own Confederate States of America. The Confederacy would eventually grow to eleven states while it claimed to include thirteen and the territory of Arizona. The CSA was never recognized by any foreign state and remained as a rebellious portion of the USA throughout the four year war.

The state of South Carolina seceded on December 20, 1860 and within the week, US Army Major Robert Anderson abandoned Fort Moultrie located outside Charleston on the mainland. He took as many guns and as much ammunition as was movable and destroyed the rest before fleeing to Fort Sumter located in the Charleston Harbor. Sumter was not a finished fortification and Anderson hoped brining more cannon and shot would help to create a stronger defense should the South Carolina militia attack. On January 31, 1861 South Carolina Governor Francis Pickens sent a letter to US President James Buchanan demanding the evacuation of Sumter. It was ignored.

Over the next months, more demands were made from Pickens and from CSA Brigadier General PGT Beauregard and all were ignored, the fort remained staffed with Union troops. The men on the island were unable to be resupplied or reinforced as cadets from the Citadel, a military college in Charleston, were able to keep ships from approaching and it was these young men who actually fired the first shots of the period, doing so on January 9, 1861. But that is not what led to all out war. That was the attack on this day as the Union sent in ships to supply and reinforce their holding.

The US Civil War was the bloodiest fighting on American soil with the Union suffering over 828,000 casualties (dead, wounded, captured) with the CSA suffering over 864,000 casualties. More than 50,000 free civilians were killed as were over 80,000 slaves. The total cost in lives was nearly a million dead. The Union was able to be preserved and the grueling work of reconstruction began without Abraham Lincoln still in charge. It was Lincoln’s election that spurred the South into rebellion and his assassination at the end of the war meant his vision of reunification was sidelined. The major outcome of the war was that slavery was abolished throughout what was once again the United States of America.

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other. – Abraham Lincoln

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

Neither current events nor history show that the majority rule, or ever did rule. – Jefferson Davis

I worked night and day for twelve years to prevent the war, but I could not. The North was mad and blind, would not let us govern ourselves, and so the war came. – Jefferson Davis




Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 12, 2015
Rebuilt Broughton Suspension Bridge

Rebuilt Broughton Suspension Bridge

April 12, 1831: The Broughton Suspension Bridge collapses. In 1826, John Fitzgerald, owner of Castle Irwell House, built the 144 foot suspension bridge at his own expense. It is believed that Samuel Brown was responsible for the design but it may have been Thomas Cheek Hewes, a Manchester millwright and textile machinery manufacturer. The bridge spanned the River Irwell between Broughton and Pendleton in Greater Manchester, England. It was one of the first suspension bridges in Europe. Tibetans had been using a similar design for crossing chasms or rivers using a chain linked bridge. They had the suspended deck bridge in their much older design. The new bridge was a both source of pride and a source of income as anyone crossing the bridge had to pay a toll.

The “new wonder of the age” had been in operation for about five years when the 60th Rifle Corps returned from an exercise out on the Kersal Moor. They were under the command of Lt. Percy Fitzgerald, son of John. The 74 men were returning to their barracks in Salford and to do, needed to cross the bridge. They were marching four abreast and as they crossed and stepped in unison, the bridge began to vibrate. It was a cause of merriment and the men began to whistle a marching tune and to “humour it by the manner in which they stepped” which caused the bridge to vibrate even more. As the head of the column neared the edge of the Pendleton side, a loud sound resembling a gunshot was heard.

One of the iron columns supporting the chain which held the bridge aloft on the Broughton side of the river began to fall towards the bridge. Large pieces of stone and the iron chain came free from where it had been bolted. With one corner no longer supporting the bridge, it collapsed into the river 16-18 feet below. There were about 40 soldiers thrown into the water, but since it was only a couple feet deep, no one was killed. Twenty men were injured, six of them severely. An investigation into the accident found the single bolt holding the iron chain was badly forged. There should have been two bolts which would have mitigated the problem. Several other bolts had bent but were not broken. While the vibration from the marching triggered the event, the bridge would have eventually collapsed anyway.

The collapse of the bridge put all suspension bridges into doubt but the design was not abandoned. The British Army issued the order to “break step” when crossing bridges. The French also issued a similar order and still the Angers Bridge in France collapsed when soldiers were crossing and over 200 were killed. After the collapse in England, the bridge was rebuilt and strengthened. Even so, it was propped up with extra piles whenever a large crowd was expected to be using it. The bridge was replaced by a Pratt truss footbridge which formally opened on April 2, 1924 and remains in use today.

It has always seemed to me that the most difficult part of building a bridge would be the start. – Robert Benchley

I was one of those children who always thought the bridge would fall in if you walked across it…. I thought about the atomic bomb a lot … after there was one. – Joan Didion

The hardest thing in life is to learn which bridge to cross and which to burn. – Laurence J. Peter or David Russell

People are so helpful. People will stop what they’re doing to show you something, to walk with you through a section of the town, or explain how a suspension bridge really works. – David McCullough

Also on this day: Jerry Did Good – In 1996, Yahoo! goes public.
Polio Vaccine – In 1955, Jonas Salk’s vaccine was approved.
Union Jack – In 1606, Great Britain adopted a new flag.
The Columbus of the Cosmos – In 1961, Yuri Gagarin was the first human to go into space.
Safety in Sports – In 1877, a catcher’s mask was first worn.

Safety in Sports

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 12, 2014
Early catcher's mask

Early catcher’s mask

April 12, 1877: A catcher’s mask is first worn during a baseball game. Baseball is a bat and ball game played between two nine-player teams. The offense is the team batting or hitting the ball while the defense has positions in the field to prevent a score. The batter, getting a legal hit will advance through the four bases and after completing the diamond, scores a point. The fielding positions are numbered for scoring purposes with the pitcher as 1, catcher as 2, bases as 3, 4, 5, short stop as 6 and the outfield as 7, 8, and 9. The game’s first appeared in type before becoming the game we know today. In 1344 there was an illustration of a game that resembled what is today called baseball. In England, in 1744 a game was called base-ball. Historians tend to agree that the game we have today was one of many regional variations and originated in this form in America.

The catcher, position #2, is placed behind the batter standing at home plate and in front of the umpire. The catcher’s primary duty is to receive the ball from the pitcher. As the only defensive player able to see the entire field, the catcher is in position to direct actions out on the field. The catcher will often use hand signals to let the pitcher know what type of ball to throw. This means the catcher must know both the pitcher’s and the batter’s strengths and weaknesses as well as how the activity on the outfield is shaping up. When a foul tip, or a ball struck by the bat that is not in fair play, occurs, it is also up to the catcher to attempt to catch the ball while still in the air to effect an out. Because of the catcher’s precarious position, he or she is given protective gear which from this date forward featured a mask. Also included today are chest and throat protectors, shin guards, and an extra-thick glove.

Because catchers need such a wide range of skills and knowledge to be effective in their job, they are often given some slack if their offensive activity isn’t as great as that held in other positions. Like the pitcher, low batting statistics are less important. Also, because of their great knowledge of so many aspects of the game itself, there is a disproportionately large number of retired catchers who end up being managers of baseball teams in both the major and minor leagues.

Before the US Civil War, pitches were lobbed to the batter underhand. Because of this type of pitch, many foul tips were hit and the catcher was placed about 20-25 feet behind the batter in order to catch the foul balls. He also wore no protective gear at the time. As pitches went to overhand throws the catcher’s duties and position changed. Pitchers were now trying to strike out the batters by throwing balls that could not be hit and it became a rule that a strike for a missed pitch could only be counted if it was caught by the catcher, thus forcing him to move in closer. Soon, they needed to wear a glove and then the mask followed. At first, this led to having a catcher’s courage questioned but the efficacy soon made it part of the routine uniform. Soon, other protective gear followed.

Little League baseball is a very good thing because it keeps the parents off the streets. – Yogi Berra

There are three types of baseball players: Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen and those who wonder what happens. – Tommy Lasorda

Baseball was, is and always will be to me the best game in the world. – Babe Ruth

A baseball game is simply a nervous breakdown divided into nine innings. – Earl Wilson

Also on this day: Jerry Did Good – In 1996, Yahoo! goes public.
Polio Vaccine – In 1955, Jonas Salk’s vaccine was approved.
Union Jack – In 1606, Great Britain adopted a new flag.
The Columbus of the Cosmos – In 1961, Yuri Gagarin was the first human to go into space.

Polio Vaccine

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 12, 2013
Jonas Salk and the life saving vaccine

Jonas Salk and the life saving vaccine

April 12, 1955: A killer is apprehended when a new vaccine created by Jonas Salk is approved. Poliomyelitis had been around for about 5,000 years. The virus attacks motor nerves in the spinal column. This can result in an arm or leg becoming paralyzed. In severe cases, the respiratory system can be attacked, leading to death. In earlier times, the disease struck sporadically with infants suffering the most cases. It is therefore also called Infantile Paralysis.

Counter intuitively, improved sanitation led to epidemic outbreaks. Previously, the disease struck newborns who were still protected by their mothers’ antibodies and thus they developed their own lifelong antibodies. When the disease struck at an older age, the babies were no longer under protection from maternal antibodies. The virus struck in ever increasing numbers. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a wheelchair-bound polio patient, founded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, now called the March of Dimes. The race was on to find a way to stop this killer.

There are two polio vaccines used worldwide. A vaccine does not cure a disease but rather it establishes or improves natural immunity and thus prevents a particular disease. Edward Jenner noticed milkmaids who routinely suffered from cowpox had an immunity to deadly smallpox. The use of a weaker disease to forestall a more serious one was born. Today there are successful vaccines against both viral and bacterial diseases, but none against parasitic ones. Vaccines are made from dead or inactivated organisms or from purified products made from them.

Jonas Salk began working toward a polio vaccine in 1947. The first successful tests came in 1952. In 1954, an unprecedented trial was held with 2 million children treated using a double-blind testing method. The test was successful. The Salk vaccine is given in two intramuscular injections one month apart and boosters are needed every 5 years. Albert Sabin produced an oral polio vaccine in 1957. The oral form is given in 3 doses before age 2 and needs no boosters unless exposed to the disease or traveling to infective regions. Polio has been eradicated from the Americas, 36 Western Pacific countries, and Europe. There were 1,310 cases worldwide in 2007.

“The polio-eradication initiative has shown the world that even in the poorest countries, widespread and debilitating disease can be defeated.” – Patty Stonesifer

“Over a year has passed since the last sample of polio was found here. We can safely say that we have successfully eradicated polio in Egypt.” – Faten Kamel

“When I worked on the polio vaccine, I had a theory. I guided each [experiment] by imagining myself in the phenomenon in which I was interested. The intuitive realm . . . the realm of the imagination guides my thinking.” – Jonas Salk

“Nature [is] that lovely lady to whom we owe polio, leprosy, smallpox, syphilis, tuberculosis, cancer.” – Stanley N. Cohen

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: The March of Dimes was created on January 3, 1938 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt with the objective of combating polio. It is a not-for-profit organization and their focus changed over time. Today, their objectives are to prevent birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality. It was founded in White Plains, New York and today there are 51 chapters across the US. The name March of Dimes was coined by vaudeville star Eddie Cantor in the late 1930s. However, the name was not officially changed until 1976 when it became the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation. Another name change came in 2007 and now it is the March of Dimes Foundation. Today, Jennifer L Howse is the President of the Foundation.

Also on this day: Jerry Did Good – In 1996 Yahoo! goes public.
Union Jack – In 1606, Great Britain adopted a new flag.
The Columbus of the Cosmos – In 1961, Yuri Gagarin was the first human to go into space.

The Columbus of the Cosmos

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 12, 2012

Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin

April 12, 1961: Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin becomes the first person to enter outer space. The USSR had been the first to launch a successful space probe with Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957. They followed the launch with several more unmanned flights. The US, playing catch-up, also sent unmanned rockets into outer space. Vostok 1 was launched at 06:07 UTC and stayed aloft for 1 hour and 48 minutes. The rocket reached an apogee of 203 miles and made one orbit of the planet.

Gagarin was born March 9, 1934 in what is today Smolensk Oblast, Russia. His parents worked on the collective farm. During World War II, his two older siblings were taken by the Nazis to work as slave laborers. Yuri was interested in space as a child and one of his teachers had been in the Soviet Air Force. He studied hard and managed to get selected for flight training in 1955 at Orenburg Pilot’s School. He attained greater ranks within the Air Force until he and 19 others were selected to train as early cosmonauts.

In 1960 Gagarin entered the Soviet space program where he was trained both physically and psychologically for the rigors of early space flight. He stood only 5 feet 2 inches tall, making his size an asset for the small space included for the pilot of the Vostok rocket. The two choices for the first trip were Gagarin and Gherman Titov, another diminutive man. Gagarin was selected. Riding into the sky in the Vostok 3KA-2 rocket, the first human reached outer space.

The entire trip was run with automated systems. No one knew how a human would react to the conditions of space so all instruments were locked against interference from the pilot. The rocket orbited the globe once, taking 108 minutes to complete the circuit. Vostok’s return to Earth was also on land. It was not known if a cosmonaut would survive such a landing. Therefore, Gagarin ejected from the craft while 23,000 feet above ground. He then parachuted to Earth, the first human to have made such a journey. FAI, the international watchdog for space flights, had a rule in 1961 stating a pilot must land with the spaceship to be considered “official” for record books. The Soviet authorities lied about both the launch and the landing in order to maintain secrecy.

Dear friends, known and unknown to me, my dear compatriots and all people of the world! Within minutes from now, a mighty Soviet rocket will boost my ship into the vastness of outer space. What I want to tell you is this. My whole life is now before me as a single breathtaking moment. I feel I can muster up my strength for successfully carrying out what is expected of me. – Yuri Gagarin, minutes before liftoff

Poyekhali! (Off we go!). – Yuri Gagarin at liftoff

The Earth is blue. How wonderful. It is amazing. – Yuri Gagarin during his orbit

It was a huge ball, about two or three meters high. It fell, then it bounced and then it fell again. There was a huge hole where it hit the first time. – two schoolgirls who witnesses the Vostok 1 landing.

Also on this day:

Jerry Did Good – In 1996 Yahoo! goes public.
Polio Vaccine – In 1955, Jonas Salk’s vaccine was approved.
Union Jack – In 1606, Great Britain adopted a new flag.

Union Jack

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 13, 2011

Union Jack

April 12, 1606: Great Britain adopts the Union Flag. The flag is also called the Union Jack. It is officially called the Flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is the national flag of the country and maintains a semi-official status in some of the Commonwealth Realms. It is used in some of the smaller British overseas territories as their official flag, as well. It was last redesigned in 1801. The red, white, and blue flag is a field of blue with a red and white X and a red and white + sign atop it.

In 1606, the flag was the flag of England although not the flag of Scotland. James VI of Scotland had become James I of England in 1603 after Queen Elizabeth left the throne without a direct heir. The Tudor line went to the Stuarts and James came south. The flag of the time was to memorialize the uniting of England, Scotland, and Ireland although the three remained separate states. The blue background with red and white + sign or St. George’s Cross was present, but the X or St. Andrew’s Cross was completely white.

St. George was the patron saint of England and St. Andrew was the patron saint of Scotland. In the 1500s, the Scottish flag was a dark blue background with a white cross and England’s was a white background with the red plus sign. This new flag merged the two. The Scots were not particularly pleased with the topping of the St. George’s Cross over St. Andrew’s Cross. By 1704, their unofficial flag was a lighter blue background than their British neighbors with a white St. Andrew’s Cross atop a red and white St. George’s Cross.

At this time, the Irish flag held a white field with St. Patrick’s Cross which was the same as St. Andrew’s Cross except it was red. During the next design change in 1801, the three saints’ flags were combined with the red and white colors of St. Andrew and St. Patrick merged while the Cross of St George remained the top cross. The current flag has its detractors. There have been pushes to redesign the standard. In 2003 a private individual wanted to include a black stripe to incorporate racial elements. This was not approved. In 2007, it was pointed out that no uniquely Welsh aspect is contained in the flag. Debate over whether or not to include Wales in the flag continues and there are options of including a Red Dragon or perhaps a leek.

“Give immediate instruction to all your posts in said territory, under your direction, at no time and on no pretence to hoist, or suffer be hoisted, the English flag.” – Zebulon Pike

“For you are the makers of the flag and it is well that you glory in the making.” – Franklin Knight Lane

“The people of England are the most enthusiastic in the world.” – Benjamin Disraeli

“If I could create an ideal world, it would be an England with the fire of the Elizabethans, the correct taste of the Georgians, and the refinement and pure ideals of the Victorians.” – H. P. Lovecraft

Also on this day:
Jerry Did Good – In 1996 Yahoo! goes public.
Polio Vaccine – In 1955, Jonas Salk’s vaccine was approved.

Jerry Did Good

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 12, 2010

Jerry Yang and David Filo of Yahoo! fame

April 12, 1996: “Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web” goes public for the first time. The Initial Public Offering [IPO] sold shares for $13 at the beginning of the day, peaking at $43, and closing at $33, raising $33.8 million. The website was started in January 1994 while its creators were students at Stanford University and was incorporated on March 2, 1995. Their hobby blossomed while they worked out of a trailer. Their lists of favorite sites on the Internet became too large, too long, too complicated. They set up categories, then subcategories and then, became their new business.

You say you’ve never heard of this? Sure you have. The founders, David Filo and Jerry Yang changed the name to a backronym [acronyms that are created to form the letters for a word that one already has in mind] for Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle. Or Yahoo! The two men insist they picked the name because it means “rude, unsophisticated, uncouth.”

Yang was born in Taiwan and came to the US when he was eight, knowing only one word in English – shoe. He went on to earn BS and MS degrees from Stanford University. He was a member of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. His degrees are in electrical engineering. Filo was born in Wisconsin and grew up in Louisiana. His BS degree is from Tulane University. He parlayed his computer engineering degree into a MS from Stanford. Both men are currently on leave from Yahoo! (although both remain Chief Yahoos!) and are working towards their PhDs in electrical engineering. Both are students at Stanford.

At its IPO, there were a total of 49 employees working for Yahoo! Today there is a global network which includes 25 world properties and serves 345 million individuals each month. Yahoo! is a portal, an email service, instant messaging service, message boards, chats, news service, games, shopping, search engine, and Yahoo! groups. Ten years later, they claim they are the number one Internet brand and reach the largest audience worldwide.

“The internet is not for sissies.” – Paul Vixie

“Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant.” – Mitchell Kapor

“It’s been my policy to view the Internet not as an ‘information highway,’ but as an electronic asylum filled with babbling loonies.” – Mike Royko

“What, exactly, is the Internet?  Basically it is a global network exchanging digitized data in such a way that any computer, anywhere, that is equipped with a device called a “modem” can make a noise like a duck choking on a kazoo.” – Dave Barry

Also on this day, in 1955 Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine was approved.