Little Bits of History

April 2

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 2, 2017

1973: LexisNexis launches publicly. The Ohio based company offered full-text searches in all Ohio and New York cases. Before the World Wide Web was a thing, dial-up services were possible for lawyers looking for data on cases. As computers improved, data was available via disks. Today, the world’s largest electronic database for legal and public record related information is available by subscription at LexisNexis. They have over 30 terabytes of data on 11 mainframes supported by more than 300 midrange UNIX servers and almost 1,000 Windows NT servers. The main datacenter is in Miamisburg, Ohio.

Today, they have current United States statutes and laws as well as a large number of published case opinions dating back from the 1770s and up to the present day. Also available are unpublished but publically available opinions from 1980 onward. In 2000, they began to build a library of briefs and motions. For questions from outside the US, they also have libraries of statutes and case judgments and opinions from Australia, Canada, France, Hong Kong, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. These are accompanied by databases of law review and legal journal articles from countries where such are available.

The original data was put together and managed by Mead Corporation, then based out of Dayton, Ohio and established as a continuation of an experiment organized by the Ohio State Bar in 1967. Mead, now MeadWestvaco, sold to Reed Elservier, now RELX Group. Reed Elsevier is an Anglo-Dutch publishing company and purchased LexisNexis in 1994. On this day, LEXIS was launched independently and was available for lawyers and the NEXIS service, for journalists writing about legal issues, was launched later in the year. Their headquarters remain, through mergers and buyouts, in Dayton.

The business of aggregating data is huge and when Mead first sold LexisNexis, it was for $1.5 billion. Since then, there have been several mergers bring more data under the LexisNexis umbrella. Included in purchases over the years have been RiskWise, Quicklaw, and Seisint, Inc. which owned and operated Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange (MATRIX). In 2008, ChoicePoint was purchased for $3.6 billion. The data aggregator company was rebranded as LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In 2014, they purchased Health Market Science (HMS) which collects high quality data about US healthcare professionals.

The safety of the people shall be the highest law. – Marcus Tullius Cicero

The end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all the states of created beings capable of law, where there is no law, there is no freedom. – John Locke

Let me be clear – no one is above the law. Not a politician, not a priest, not a criminal, not a police officer. We are all accountable for our actions. – Antonio Villaraigosa

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. – Julius Caesar

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Panda Crossing

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 2, 2015
Panda crossing

Panda crossing

April 2, 1962: The first panda crossing opens outside the Waterloo Station in London. This type of signal-controlled pedestrian crossing was used in the UK between this date and 1967. It followed on the zebra crossing after the British Ministry of Transport chief, Ernest Marples, looked for a safer way for British citizens to cross ever more congested roads safely. The zebra crossings were not only not as safe as hoped, but they also were responsible for traffic congestion as pedestrians could cross whenever they chose. Then available systems were considered too expensive to implement countrywide so some localities set up their own systems. The non-standardization was also a safety issue. The two major flaws with the zebra crossings were the snarling of traffic and the violation of contemporary right-of-way laws. The “Don’t cross” sign was not a legally enforceable instruction.

The hope was the new panda crossing system would incorporate the best features of all the currently available systems. The layout of the crossing was superficially like the zebra crossings with the black and white pattern painted on the road but instead of stripes, triangles were used and Belisha beacons (a pole to warn of a crossing zone) which had traditionally been plain now included the lights on top and were painted in stripes. The traffic signals had two lamps on top, one red and one amber. The pedestrian signal had only one display with the word “Cross” when it was safe to do so. In the idle state, no lights were lit. A pedestrian would press a button and wait for the appropriate signal to appear, indicating the time was right to cross the street.

A built in pause between activations allowed traffic to clear between times when pedestrians also wished to use the system. The amber light pulsed before the red light stopped traffic, giving drivers warning that a pedestrian was waiting to cross. Then the pedestrian “Cross” signal flashed and permitted people to cross the street safely. A few seconds after it began, it would pulse faster and the flashing red light would begin to pulse amber, letting drivers know it would soon be their turn. The “Cross” light continued to pulse quicker as time ran out and indicated to pedestrians to clear the roadway and then all lights would extinguish and traffic would resume.

This was later improved upon by the next system. The X-way lights replaced the panda crossing lights in 1967, although it was done rapidly rather than being phased in. It was so fast that the lights were changed, but the triangle paintings on the street were not updated at the same time. Two years later, the X-way system was replaced by the Pelican crossing system. The name came from PEdestrian LIght CONtrolled or PELICON crossing which changed to Pelican crossing for spelling’s sake. It is used with this name in the UK and in Ireland. The system in a similar form is used in Hong Kong and the US, although the lines on the street are different in those regions.

Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary. – Henry Louis Mencken

A society without jaywalkers might indicate a society without artists. – Paul Theroux

Standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous; you get knocked down by traffic from both sides. – Margaret Thatcher

Don’t play for safety — it’s the most dangerous thing in the world. – Hugh Walpole

Also on this day: Giacomo Casanova – In 1725, Casanova was born.
US Coinage Act – In 1792, the Coinage Act was passed.
The Sunshine State – In 1513, Juan Ponce de León discovered Florida.
Starving – In 1863, the Richmond riot took place.
Some lead in Your Pencil – In 1827, Joseph Dixon produced the first lead pencils.

Some Lead in Your Pencil

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 2, 2014
Joseph Dixon

Joseph Dixon

April 2, 1827: Joseph Dixon produced the first lead pencils. The word “pencil” comes from the Old French pincel or a small paintbrush which comes from the Latin penicillus for little tail. Sometime in the first half of the 16th century, a huge deposit of very pure graphite was discovered in Cumbria, England. The substance was first used to mark sheep but was eventually cut into manageable sticks and used to mark other things, like paper. The substance was thought to be a form of lead and called plumbago, Latin for lead ore. This is why, even today, we call the stuff in our pencils lead instead of the real substance, graphite.

Wood holders for the graphite sticks were invented in Italy around 1560, but they used solid graphite as well. There were improvements made on the system of encasing the graphite inside the wood but the commodity was still considered luxurious enough to be problematic during the Napoleonic Wars, since France could not get the pure graphite from England. In 1795, it was found that mixing graphite powder with clay produced a product that still acted like a writing instrument. The ratio of graphite to clay also gave control over the hardness of the graphite rod. Dixon, using graphite found in mines in Sturbridge, Massachusetts found a way to mass-produce pencils and by 1870 The Joseph Dixon Crucible Company was the world’s largest producer of pencils.

By the end of the 1800s over 240,000 pencils were used each day in the US. At the time, the wood of choice to encase the lead, was Red Cedar. It was both nice smelling and didn’t splinter when sharpened. By the early 1900s the supply of Red Cedar had dried up and recycled cedar fences and barns were used. Pencils were so important that during World War I the use of rotary pencil sharpeners was outlawed in Britain because they wasted too much graphite and wood, both scarce commodities. Sharpening pencils had to be done with a knife.

Erasers were finally added in 1858 in acknowledgement of the fallibility of writers. Ever more efficient ways of mass producing pencils came along and the prices dropped. Dixon Ticonderoga Company is now a producer of office and art supplies with one of their most well-known brands being Ticonderoga, the familiar yellow No. 2 pencil with the green and yellow ferrule – the band that holds the eraser onto the pencil. They also make Prang school and art supplies as well as own the Lyra brand of art products. Mechanical pencils were developed in the late 1800s but only became successful with Japanese improvements in 1915. At the same time, American Charles Keeran was also improving the product and the two ideas were combined to make the pencils we have available to us today.

A #2 pencil and a dream can take you anywhere. – Joyce Meyer

Lying in bed would be an altogether perfect and supreme experience if only one had a colored pencil long enough to draw on the ceiling. – Gilbert K. Chesterton

Ideas are elusive, slippery things. Best to keep a pad of paper and a pencil at your bedside, so you can stab them during the night before they get away. – Earl Nightingale

You can lead a horse to water, but a pencil must be led. – Stan Laurel

Also on this day: Giacomo Casanova – In 1725, Casanova was born.
US Coinage Act – In 1792, the Coinage Act was passed.
The Sunshine State – In 1513, Juan Ponce de  León discovered Florida.
Starving – In 1863, the Richmond riot took place.

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US Coinage Act

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 2, 2013
US currency

US currency

April 2, 1792: The Coinage Act or Mint Act is passed by the US Congress and establishes the US Mint. The Act authorized the production of the following coins, listed here with their denominations: Eagle – $10; Half Eagle – $5; Quarter Eagle – $2.50; Dollar or Unit – $1; Half Dollar – 50¢; Quarter Dollar – 25¢; Dismes – 10¢; and Half Dismes – 5¢. By May 8 of that year, an addendum permitted minting of copper coins: Cents – 1¢ and Half Cents – 0.5. Eagles, Half Eagles, and Quarter Eagles were made of gold and the others were minted in silver.

The Eagle contained 247.5 grains of pure gold which is equivalent to nearly $514 in the 2008 precious metals markets. The Dollar contained 375.25 grains of pure silver or almost $14 in 2008. Each coin was minted with appropriate impressions of “Liberty” on one side and “United States of America” on the other. Anyone could bring gold or silver to the mint and have the metal coined – free of charge. Those working at the mint had to be scrupulously honest. The penalty for fraud or embezzlement was death.

The decision to create money using 100 units per dollar was brought to fruition under Alexander Hamilton, the National Treasurer. The term “dollar” was in common usage from 1519 onward and referred to Spanish coinage. Banknotes are now also issued by the Federal Reserve and made by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Before 1928, US paper money measured 7.42 inches by 3.125 inches. Today’s bills are 6.14 inches by 2.61 inches.

US currency remains with pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters. There are occasional pushes for 50¢ pieces and variously coined $1 pieces that don’t meet with much success. The $1 and $2 bills are still printed in only green and white. However, the $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 bills have various colors included to thwart counterfeiting. There have been larger bills in circulation in earlier times, including $500, $1,000, $5,000, $10,000, and $100,000 bills. Today, Benjamin Franklin graces the largest denomination bill – the $100. Woodrow Wilson was pictured on the $100,000, printed only as a gold certificate of Series in 1934.

“The only reason a great many American families don’t own an elephant is that they have never been offered an elephant for a dollar down and easy weekly payments.” – Mad Magazine

“Life shouldn’t be printed on dollar bills.” – Clifford Odets

“Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.” – Woody Allen

“Money often costs too much.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: The US dollar is the official currency of the United States but it is also the official currency of El Salvador, Panama, and Ecuador and 16 other countries and six non-US territories also use it. The British Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos islands also use the currency despite their being British territories. It the most used money for international transactions and is one of the world’s reserve currencies. There are many nicknames for the various monies. The most used is probably “buck” to indicate a dollar and is used both at home and abroad. “Grand” or “G” both mean $1,000 as does the word “large” or “stack”. The $100 bill is sometimes called “Benjamin” or “Benji” or “Franklin” for obvious reasons. It can also be called a “C-note” in reference to Roman numbers. The smaller bills have a variety of names probably because they are in more frequent use.

Also on this day: Giacomo Casanova – In 1725, Casanova was born.
The Sunshine State – In 1513, Juan Ponce de León discovered Florida.
Starving – In 1863, the Richmond riot took place.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 2, 2012

Richmond riot

April 2, 1863: Food shortages lead women to riot. The American Civil War began in 1861. Eleven states seceded from the Union and formed their own nation – the Confederate States of America (CSA). The Confederacy was led by President Jefferson Davis. As troops won or lost battles, the area of conflict would move. Troops retreated or advanced. These troop movements caused damage to fields. As all generals have said, armies move on their stomachs. Troops, Union and Confederate, appropriated both crops and draft animals.

The price of wheat tripled from 1861 to 1863. The price of butter and milk quadrupled in the same time period. Salt prices skyrocketed causing more problems with food shortages as it was used for curing or preserving meat. Making things worse, rampant inflation increased prices while the Confederate dollar lost value. The cost of the war exceeded the tax revenues and money was scarce. Plantation owners grew cotton or tobacco rather than food crops because they were more profitable. The taxation rates were divisive as well. Clerks, apothecaries, and teachers were taxed at a rate of 2% while agricultural produce was taxed at a rate five times as high. This caused a further loss for the small farmer trying to feed his family.

With all these factors, the number of starving citizens grew ever larger. Wives and mothers bitterly complained about the price of bread. They needed to feed their families and felt they were not being helped by the government. In Richmond, Virginia – the nation’s capitol – thousands of people, mostly women, gathered. They began by chanting “Bread, bread, bread” but got no response to their pleas for food or help. They started to riot. They broke into shops and stole food, clothing, shoes, and even jewelry. The Governor appealed to the rioters to stop to no avail. President Jefferson Davis spoke before the crowds and begged them to go home. They continued to loot until the militia was called in. Davis threatened his own people with armed men, bayonets flashing in the sun. The crowds dispersed.

The May 23, 1863 issue of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper ran two lithographs along with the story of the riots. The first showed plantation owners and soldiers and was titled “hounding their men on to Rebellion.” The second showed the starving women wreaking havoc in the street and was called “feeling the effects of the Rebellion and creating the Bread Riots.”

You say you are hungry and have no money – here this is all I have. – Jefferson Davis as he flung his money at the crowd

Something very sad has just happened in Richmond – something that makes me ashamed of all my jeremiads over the loss of the petty comforts and conveniences of life – hats, bonnets, gowns, stationery, books, magazines, dainty food. – a woman in a letter to a friend

A hungry man is an angry one. – Buchi Emecheta

Hungry men don’t ask, they take. – Kenneth Kolb

Also on this day:

Giacomo Casanova – In 1725, Casanova was born.
US Coinage Act – In 1792, the Coinage Act was passed.
The Sunshine State – In 1513, Juan Ponce de  León discovered Florida.

The Sunshine State

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 2, 2011

The Sunshine State

April 2, 1513: Juan Ponce de León discovers a new land. Ponce de León was a Spanish conquistador, veteran of the war to conquer Granada [the last Moorish state on the Iberian peninsula] and fellow traveler with Christopher Columbus. Ponce de León traveled with Columbus on his second trip to the New World and he became the first governor of Puerto Rico in 1509. After the senior Columbus died in 1506, his son, Diego, battled for control over lands and wrested the governorship away from Ponce de León.

The Fountain of Youth myth surrounding Ponce de León’s exploration began in the 1560s and is inaccurate. While banished from Puerto Rico, a land he had built using the natives whom he had enslaved, de León needed a new quest. He was looking for spiritual rebirth or some new purpose along with riches, lands to conquer, and slaves to capture.

He funded his own sailing party and set out to find lands north of Cuba. On March 27, 1513 land was sighted but no landing took place. Days later, landfall was made somewhere on the east coast of “La Florida” claimed for Spain and meaning “flowery.” Ponce de León sailed south and charted rivers, sailed around the keys, went a short distance north along the western coast, sailed back to Havana, and then went back to the Biscayne Bay area – around present day Miami. He came back with a colonizing party of about 200 men in 1521. The natives resisted the invasion of their land. Ponce de León was shot in the shoulder with a poison arrow. The Spaniards left, went back to Havana and de León died shortly after landing in Cuba.

The state of Florida has been occupied for up to 12,000 years. The native population was around 350,000 before any Europeans arrived. The Spanish flag was flown there from 1513 until Spain traded Florida to Britain in exchange for control of Havana in 1763. During the Revolutionary War, with Britain distracted, Spanish colonizing efforts again took over lands. Florida became an organized territory of the United States in 1822 and became the 27th state of the union in 1845. In 1861 she seceded from the US to join the Confederate States of America and was readmitted to the US in 1868 after Reconstruction requirements were met.

“We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started… and know the place for the first time.” – T.S. Eliot

“Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit.” – Frank Borman

“My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned sixty and that’s the law.” – Jerry Seinfeld

“Florida’s number three industry, behind tourism and skin cancer, is voter fraud.” – Dave Barry

Also on this day:
Giacomo Casanova – In 1725, Casanova was born.
US Coinage Act – In 1792, the Coinage Act was passed.

Giacomo Casanova

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 2, 2010

Giacomo CasanovaApril 2, 1725: The businessman, diplomat, spy, politician, philosopher, magician, writer, world traveler, and womanizer, Giacomo Casanova is born in Venice, Italy. His parents were actors Zanetta Farussi and Gaetano Giuseppe Casanova, but his true father was probably Michele Grimani, who sponsored his education at Padua. Casanova was not born into a close knit family and carried on the tradition by siring many children that he, in turn, ignored.

According to his autobiography, Histoire de ma vie [Story of My Life], he slept with 122 women during his life. He also slept with a couple of men, just to round out his experiences. Graduating at the age of 16, his education was liberally peppered with the study of moral philosophy, chemistry, and mathematics as well as majoring in law. He began his working life in the Catholic Church as an abate. This did not last.

Casanova had a habit of seducing or preferably being seduced by women, some quite wealthy. Many gave him money. He went from place to place, living by his wits, changing jobs in each location, and then being caught up in scandal and moving on. He was imprisoned for a time when he was thirty for his interest in magic and witchcraft and sentenced to 5 years. He escaped shortly after his incarceration and went to Paris.

His autobiography gives a rich detail of life in the 18th century. He was different from many men of the era because he was intensely concerned that his partners were having as good a time as he was while engaging in their affairs. He also remained friendly with them after the affairs were over. Two constant features of his life were venereal disease and gambling. The latter he pursued almost as lustfully as he did the ladies.

“Casanova was a person who really fell in love with every woman, as opposed to Don Juan, … I also have an appreciation for love — just not that many.” – Heath Ledger

“I have always loved truth so passionately that I have often resorted to lying as a way of introducing it into the minds which were ignorant of its charms.” – Giacomo Casanova

“I don’t conquer, I submit.” – Giacomo Casanova

“I have felt in my very blood, ever since I was born, a most unconquerable hatred towards the whole tribe of fools, and it arises from the fact that I feel myself a blockhead whenever I am in their company.” – Giacomo Casanova

Also on this day, in 1792 the US Coinage Act was passed.

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