Little Bits of History

April 17

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 17, 2017

1912: The Lena Massacre or Lena Execution takes place. Gold miners working in northeast Siberia near the Lena River went on strike. The gold fields were owned by Lena Goldfields, a company registered and traded in London, Paris, and St. Petersburg. Most of the shares were owned by Russian businessmen and managed by Russian investors with a substantial portion (about 20%) own by British interests. The gold mines produced large profits for the shareholders but the working conditions were harsh in the extreme. Miners worked fifteen to sixteen hours a day and for every 1,000 miners, there were over 700 accidents. The men were paid low wages and much of that money went to pay fines. Portions of their pay was in the form of coupons used to purchase food and essentials from the company store.

The miners had been dissatisfied for quite some time, but the immediate cause of the strike came when the company store sold the starving miners rotten meat. On March 13, they spontaneously walked out. On March 17 they issued a list of demands: 8-hour workdays, a 30% rise in wages, cessations of fines, and improvement of food delivery. Nothing was done to relieve the horrific conditions. While the original walkout was at only one mine, it soon expanded and over 6,000 workers throughout the region walked off the job. The tsarist government sent troops in to do something.

All the members of the strike committee were arrested. On this day, the workers demanded the release of their leaders and by afternoon about 2,500 of them marched towards the Nadezhdinsky goldfield to deliver a complaint to the prosecutor’s office regarding the arbitrariness of the authorities. The soldiers who had been sent in were blocking the way and under orders of Captain Treshchenkov, they began shooting into the crowd. The local newspaper, Zvezda, reported 270 dead and 250 wounded in the massacre.

News spread and outraged workers around Russia began to strike and protest. The miners were offered a new and unsatisfactory contract. Over 300,000 people participated in strikes and protests through the rest of April with over 700 strikes held. There were 1,000 strikes held on May 1 in the St. Petersburg area alone. These uprising continued through August 25 when the last of the miners withdrew from the mines and moved elsewhere. Over 9,000 miners and their families abandoned the region. Lenin argued that the miners were the spark that lit the fire of the revolutionary spirit in Russia.

The Lena shots broke the ice of silence, and the river of popular resentment is flowing again. The ice has broken. It has started! – Joseph Stalin

So it was. So it will be. – Minister Maklokov dismissing the massacre

The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed. – Steven Biko

We draw our strength from the very despair in which we have been forced to live. We shall endure. – Cesar Chavez



And the War Finally Ends

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 17, 2015
Isles of Scilly as viewed from above by NASA

Isles of Scilly as viewed from above by NASA

April 17, 1986: The Three Hundred and Thirty Five Years’ War finally ends. The belligerents were the Isles of Scilly and the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. Also called Driehonderdvijfendertigjarige Oorlog in Dutch, it is sometimes referred to as a theoretical war. It was a bloodless war as no shots were ever fired. There is some doubt as to whether or not there was ever a war declared, but the treaty was finally signed in order to end it.

The English Civil War was fought between Royalists (supporting the monarchy) and Parliamentarians (supporting Parliament) between 1642 and 1652. The Second English Civil War was a subset of this war and battles were fought from February 1648 to January 1649 when the King, Charles I, was executed. During this time, Oliver Cromwell fought against the Royalists and pushed them to the very edges of the Kingdom of England. The entire mainland fell under his and the Parliamentarians’ control. The Royal Navy fled to the Isles of Scilly 28 miles off the Cornish coast in southwest Great Britain. The archipelago of five inhabited and several small islets was then owned by Royalist John Granville who would later be richly rewarded for his help.

The Republic of the Seven United Netherlands or the Dutch Republic lasted from 1581-1795 and included Holland, Utrecht, Brabant, Flanders, Hainaut, Liege, and Luxembourg. Their navy had been assisted by a number of British rulers beginning with Elizabeth I who helped during the Eighty Years’ War and ended with the Treaty of Munster which legalized the Dutch independence from Spain. The Netherlands wanted to maintain good relations with England and needed to side with whomever was going to win the Civil War. Their Navy suffered huge losses from the Royalist Navy and on March 30, 1651 Admiral Maarten Harpertszoon Tromp arrived on Scilly and demanded reparations from the Royalists.

Since most of England was in the Parliamentarian’s control and the Royalists refused to meet the demands of the Admiral, he declared war upon the Isles of Scilly. In June 1651, the Parliamentarian naval forces under Admiral Robert Blake forced a surrender from the Royal Navy. With the Dutch Navy no longer under any threat, they left. Since this was such an obscure little war without any shots being fired, no official peace treaty was forthcoming. In 1985, a Scilly historian asked for the matter to be looked into and the Dutch Embassy in London found that the war had been declared and no treaty had ever ended it. So on this day, the treaty was signed and the war ended after more than three centuries.

Tromp came to Pendennis and related that he had been to Scilly to demand reparation for the Dutch ships and goods taken by them; and receiving no satisfactory answer, he had, according to his Commission, declared war on them. – Bulstroke Whitelocke

A man-of-war is the best ambassador. – Oliver Cromwell

War is the statesman’s game, the priest’s delight, the lawyer’s jest, the hired assassin’s trade. – Percy Bysshe Shelley

Have you ever thought that war is a madhouse and that everyone in the war is a patient? – Oriana Fallaci

Also on this day: America’s Renaissance Man – In 1790, Benjamin Franklin dies.
FedEx – In 1973, FedEx began operation.
Stories – In 1397, Chaucer presented the Canterbury Tales for the first time.
Frenchman Takes Off – In 1942, Henri Giraud escaped a POW prison.
Snooker – In 1875, the game was invented.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 17, 2014
Snooker table

Snooker table

April 17, 1875: The game of snooker, a variation of pool, is invented by Sir Neville Chamberlain. Cue sports, also called billiard sports, are games played on a specially built table with pockets to catch balls that are moved across the field by use of a cue stick. The sides of the table are padded, allowing for rebounds and freer movement of the balls. All cue sports are thought to have evolved from an outdoor stick and ball game and are therefore related in some ways to trucco, croquet, and golf. An outdoor form of billiards was being played as early as the 1340s and King Louis XI of France had the first known indoor billiard table and he went on to refine the game.

Snooker was invented in India and played on a table that accurately measures 11 feet 8.5 inches by 5 feet 10 inches but is called a 12 x 6 table for convenience. The baize cloth covering the table has a nap running in the direction from the baulk end toward the end with the black ball spot. There are 22 snooker balls: one white cue ball, 15 red balls each worth one point, and six different color balls each with a different point value – yellow is 2, green is 3, brown is 4, blue is 5, pink is 6, and black is 7. The game can be played between individuals or between teams. Points are awarded for potting a ball and the player or team with the highest score wins.

British Army officers stationed in India played billiards. The addition to this game was to add the colored balls and the series of point values. The rules were formalized by Chamberlain in Ootacamund. The term snooker has military origins and was slang for first-year cadets or inexperienced personnel. The legend behind the naming of the game comes from an opponent’s failure to pot a ball and being called a Snooker by Chamberlain. It became attached to the game as played in the outlying region and inexperienced players were called snookers. Although it grew in popularity even back in England, it was still a game for the gentry and many gentlemen’s clubs would not permit nonmembers to play. These outcasts formed their own snooker clubs.

Neville Francis Fitzgerald Chamberlain was born in 1856 and should be confused with the later Prime Minister. He was born into a military family and educated at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He was commissioned a sub-lieutenant in 1873 and promoted to lieutenant a year later. He was stationed in Afghanistan and wounded (slightly) in the Battle of Kandahar. He rose to the rank of colonel and served in both India and South Africa. In 1900 he was appointed Inspector-General of the Royal Irish Constabulary and worked in that capacity for many years. He received many awards and retired in March 1938. He returned to live in Ascot, Berkshire, England where he remained until his death in 1944 at the age of 88.

Snooker is a game of simple shots played to perfection. – Joe Davies

I think it’s a great idea to talk during sex, as long as it’s about snooker. – Steve Davis

A lot of people think international relations is like a game of chess. But it’s not a game of chess, where people sit quietly, thinking out their strategy, taking their time between moves. It’s more like a game of billiard, with a bund of balls clustered together. – Madeleine Albright

The game of golf would lose a great deal if croquet mallets and billiard cues were allowed on the putting green. – Ernest Hemingway

Also on this day: America’s Renaissance Man – In 1790, Benjamin Franklin dies.
FedEx – In 1973, FedEx began operation.
Stories – In 1397, Chaucer presented the Canterbury Tales for the first time.
Frenchman Takes Off – In 1944, Henri Giraud escaped a POW prison.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 17, 2013
Frederick Smith

Frederick Smith

April 17, 1973: Federal Express officially begins operation. Frederick Smith was born in 1944. His father died in 1948. Fred was interested in flying and became a pilot while still a teenager. In 1962, while a student at Yale University, he wrote a paper for an economics class concerning the inadequate routes available to airfreight shipping companies. He was friends with both George W. Bush and John Kerry while earning his economics degree. He joined the US Marine Corps and became a Ground Officer in the service. He was not a pilot but rather was to “control” ground action. He received a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and two Purple Hearts.

Back home in 1970, Smith purchased a controlling interest in Ark Aviation Sales, an aircraft maintenance company. He turned the company into a brokerage firm for trading used jets. His difficulty with the air shipping industry led him to do further research on his old college paper. The inefficiency of the system left room for improvement and lent a space for a new sort of business. On June 18, 1971, Smith took his $4 million inheritance and raised $91 million in venture capital (combined worth in 2008 dollars – $505 million) and incorporated Federal Express.

The official launch date saw 14 small aircraft take off from Memphis International Airport. By evening, they had delivered 186 packages to 25 US cities from Rochester, New York to Miami, Florida. The company was headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee because it was geographically positioned in the center of Smith’s major market area – and weather conditions were good for flying. The airport was also willing to make improvement needed to host cargo rather than simply passenger planes.

The company did not show a profit until June 1975. Legislation passed allowing for larger planes. By 2008, FedEx (name changed in 1994) had grown to be the world’s largest all-cargo fleet. They had a daily lift capacity of 26.5 million pounds and flew almost 500,000 miles. Frederick Smith remains Chairman and President of the company. With 2008 revenues of almost $38 billion and with more than 280,000 employees, things just keep moving.

“If you order a paperback book, slower delivery time via the mail or UPS is fine. But if you’ve ordered a fur coat, then FedEx is more of an option.” – Doug Rockel

“Fear of failure must never be a reason not to try something.” – Frederick Smith

“Leaders get out in front and stay there by raising the standards by which they judge themselves – and by which they are willing to be judged.” – Frederick Smith

“FDX Corp. is benefiting from the accelerated move to fast-cycle production and distribution methods, the growth in electronic commerce and supply chain re-engineering.” – Frederick Smith

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Frederick Smith remains the Chariman, President, and CEO of the company which still maintains headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee. Their total equity as of 2012 was $17.1 billion with revenue for that year at $42.7 billion.  Their net income for 2012 was $2.03 billion. Their biggest competitor in the US is United Parcel Service (UPS). All business need to market and FedEx is no exception they have had a number of slogans and ad campaigns and since 2009 there have been four running. Brown Bailout is a reference to issues stemming from some legal wrangling that involved UPS (Big Brown).  We Understand, We Live To Deliver, and The World On Time are three more campaigns used to promote FedEx. Their 1981 ad featuring John Moschitta, Jr. (a fast talker) was listed as one of the most memorable ads ever.

Also on this day: America’s Renaissance Man – In 1790 Benjamin Franklin dies.
Stories – In 1397, Chaucer presented the Canterbury Tales for the first time.
Frenchman Takes Off – In 1944, Henri Giraud escaped a POW prison.

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Frenchman Takes Off

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 17, 2012

Henri Giraud

April 17, 1942: Henri Giraud escapes from his POW prison. Henri was born in Paris in 1879 and graduated from the Saint-Cyr Military Academy in 1900. He joined the French Army and served first in North Africa until World War I broke out. At that time, he was transferred back to France. He was seriously wounded in the Battle of Guise in August 1914. He was taken prisoner and managed to escape two months later. He returned to France and continued to fight.

In 1933 he was sent to Morocco to fight against rebels and was awarded the Légion d’Honneur after capturing Abd-el-Krim. He was made military commander of Metz. At the beginning of World War II he was a member of the Superior War Council and disagreed with Charles de Gaulle over tactics. He was made commander of the 7th Army and sent to the Netherlands. He was again taken prisoner on May 19, 1940 at Wassigny and transferred to Königstein Castle near Dresden which was used as a high-security POW prison.

The Königstein Castle is also sometimes referred to as a Fortress. It was first mentioned as a castle in 1241 and was the line between two states with King Wenceslaus I using the castle to control the Elbe River valley. It is perched high on a rise and was considered to be unconquerable; it eventually became a state prison for the most notorious prisoners. During the war, it was used for the most important POWs.

Giraud planned diligently for his escape. He was 63 at the time. He learned German while in prison and studied a map of the area. He shaved his mustache, donned civilian clothing, and lowered himself down the mountainside cliff face. He made his way to Schandau (about 30 miles)  and met his Special Operative Executive. He was helped in his escape and made his way back to Vichy France. The Gestapo was ordered to assassinate him, if they should find him. He cooperated with the Allies and was a part of the Casablanca Conference. He wrote two books about his experiences after the War and died in Dijon, France in 1949.

We feel free when we escape — even if it be but from the frying pan to the fire. – Eric Hoffer

A prisoner of war is a man who tries to kill you and fails, and then asks you not to kill him. – Winston Churchill

The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his. –  George S. Patton

War is fear cloaked in courage. – William C. Westmoreland

Also on this day:

America’s Renaissance Man – In 1790 Benjamin Franklin dies.
FedEx – In 1973, FedEx began operation.
Stories – In 1397, Chaucer presented the Canterbury Tales for the first time.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 16, 2011

Geoffrey Chaucer

April 17, 1397: Geoffrey Chaucer presents the Canterbury Tales for the first time in the court of Richard II. The tales are a group of stories presented by different pilgrims as they make their way from Southward toward Canterbury in Medieval England. The tales are mostly written in verse, but some are in prose.  The story begins with a General Prologue and ends with the Parson’s Tale. The order of the remaining tales are under debate with two methods usually used. There is also debate on whether or not Chaucer ever finished his great work.

There are 83 known manuscripts of the work. Fifty-five of these are considered to have been complete at one time while the remaining 28 are highly fragmentary. The tales vary in many ways. Some errors are given to copyist mistakes while there is also evidence that Chaucer himself edited his work. There is no official complete version of the Tales. All are written in Middle English and a London dialect. No manuscripts in Chaucer’s writing exist today.

Chaucer was born around 1343 and is considered to be England’s greatest poet. He is known as the Father of English literature and wrote not only the Tales, but scientific treatises as well. He was a philosopher, alchemist, and astronomer as well as an author popular in his own time. He wrote in vernacular English in a time when the dominant literary languages in England were French and Latin. Outside his intellectual concerns, he was also a bureaucrat, courtier, and diplomat.

Chaucer’s first major work was The Book of the Duchess written about Blanche of Lancaster, possibly commissioned by her husband, John of Gaunt. He went on to write many more popular pieces and his work is often divided into phases beginning with a French period, then an Italian period, and finally an English period. He not only wrote his own work, but translated some other important pieces into English. He wrote short poems as well as this epic piece. His work was so popular, that many years after his death, satirical pieces based on his Tales were still being published. He died in 1400 at the age of 56 or 57. He is the first poet to have been buried in the Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey.

“By nature, men love newfangledness.”

“Filth and old age, I’m sure you will agree, are powerful wardens upon chastity.”

“Nowhere so busy a man as he than he, and yet he seemed busier than he was.”

“Love is blind.” – all from Geoffrey Chaucer

Also on this day:
America’s Renaissance Man – In 1790 Benjamin Franklin dies.
FedEx – In 1973, FedEx began operation.

America’s Renaissance Man

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 17, 2010

Benjamin Franklin

April 17, 1790: Benjamin Franklin, printer, statesman, inventor, and scientist, dies. He was born on January 17, (January 6 in the old style calendar) 1706 in Boston, Massachusetts. He was the fifteenth of seventeen children. He was the tenth and last Franklin son. His father was a tallow-maker and his mother was the senior Franklin’s second wife.

Franklin was forced to quit school at age ten and was apprenticed to his older brother by age twelve where he began to learn the printing trade. He fled his apprenticeship at age seventeen, becoming a fugitive, and ran to Philadelphia. In 1727, at the age of 21, Franklin created the Junto, a group of “like minded aspiring artisans and tradesmen who hoped to improve themselves while they improved their community.” Several other organizations sprang up around Philadelphia just like young Ben’s.

One of the great pastimes for Junto members was reading. However, books were scarce and expensive. Franklin set up a way to store books and lend them out, a library. The members pooled their books and monies (in order to buy new books), and joined in a subscription service in order to share them. By 1730, Franklin set up a printing house of his own and became the publisher of a newspaper. In 1731 the Library Company of Philadelphia was given it’s charter and Franklin hired the first American librarian in 1732, Louis Timothee.  In 1733 he began publishing Poor Richard’s Almanac.

He invented the lightening rod, the Franklin stove, bifocals, and a flexible urinary catheter. He studied electricity and refrigeration. He was a philosopher and political dissident. He played four stringed instruments. He was a central figure in the shaping of the American Revolution and secured much of the help from the French. He died at the advanced age of 84 weighing over 300 pounds at the time of his death, having said, “I guess I don’t so much mind being old, as I mind being fat and old.”

“To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.”

“Serving God is doing good to man, but praying is thought an easier service and therefore more generally chosen.”

“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.”

“The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.” – all from Benjamin Franklin

Also on this day, in 1973 FedEx began operations.

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