Little Bits of History

April 23

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 23, 2017

1879: A fire starts at the University of Notre Dame. The Catholic research university was established on November 26, 1842 near South Bend, Indiana. Father Edward Sorin, CSC (Congregation of the Holy Cross) was the founder and first president of the then all-male institution. It was built on land donated by the Bishop of Vincennes, Indiana. Sorin arrived at the site with eight Holy Cross brothers from France and Ireland on November 26 and opened school in Father Stephen Badin’s log chapel. They began building with the Old College building, the first church, and the first main building. They began with just two students as a primary and secondary school, but by 1844 were given a charter by the Indiana General Assembly granting them full college status.

The first main building, or administrative center, came under construction on August 28, 1843 shortly after architect Mr. Marsile arrived on the scene. It was completed by fall 1844. It was a 4 ½ story brick building without a dome and built in the French style. The second Main Building replaced the first and was built between 1864 and 1865. It was larger and six stories high with a dome on top. Mr. Thomas of Chicago was the architect and it was built by brothers of the Congregation of the Holy Cross. Classes were held on the third floor and the upper two floors were dormitories.

On this day, at about 11 AM, smoke and flames could be seen rising from the roof. Men had been working on repairs on the roof until an hour earlier. Students and faculty began a bucket brigade and attempted to put the fire out. Steam engines sprayed water onto the roof, but the fire continued to spread and before the all-volunteer South Bend fire department could arrive, the building was engulfed. Attempts to put out the fire were abandoned and instead, they began to try and save valuables from the lower floors, tossing items out of windows to people below – many of which crashed to the ground and broke anyway. In three hours, the building was entirely consumed. The fire spread to other nearby buildings as well. The $200,000 loss was covered by only $45,000 insurance.

Father Sorin and university president Rev. William Corby immediately began plans to rebuild. The new design was by Willoughby J Edbrooke who had plans ready by May 10th. Groundbreaking for the new Main Building was held on May 17. Funded by donations and bringing in skilled stonemasons from far and wide. Workers and volunteers moved quickly and the building grew almost overnight. The building was completed before the fall semester of 1879. The not yet Golden Dome was finished in September of 1882. It was gilded in 1886 and topped with a 19 foot statue of “Our Mother”. The Golden Dome is the most recognized landmark of the University and stands brightly at 187 feet high.

An atheist is a man who watches a Notre Dame – Southern Methodist University game and doesn’t care who wins. – Dwight D. Eisenhower

You don’t go to Notre Dame to learn something; you go to Notre Dame to be somebody. – Lou Holtz

You have to be equal at both – great at football and great at dedicating yourself to the academics at Notre Dame. It’s hard. There are no rooty-toot classes for athletes in South Bend. – Justin Tuck

In 1953 there were two ways for an Irish Catholic boy to impress his parents: become a priest or attend Notre Dame. – Phil Donahue

De Adriaan

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 23, 2015
De Adriaan today*

De Adriaan today*

April 23, 1932: De Adriaan burns down. The windmill was built on the foundations of the Goevrouwetoren by Adriaan de Booys, an industrial producer from Amsterdam. It is located in Harlaam, North Holland, Netherlands. Harlaam was granted city status in 1245 but no city walls were built until 1270. Today, 420,000 live in the metropolitan area. The Goevrouwetoren or Goede Vrowtoren (Goodwife Tower) had been the northern support of the city’s wall system over the River Spaarne. By the end of the 18th century, the gate was no longer needed as the city had expanded past it. De Booys purchased the tower and the land around it from Harlaam on April 24, 1778.

De Booys reinforced the foundation and a mill was built to 110 feet above the water level. It also towered over the surrounding city and was used as a landmark. He enlisted the help of miller Henricus Ruijsch to help with the construction of the windmill. De Adriaan was officially opened on May 19, 1779. De Booys had gained permission to a monopoly to produce cement, paint, and tanbark. He was to have this monopoly for a period of 25 years. Business was not as expected since a competitor circumvented his monopoly by bringing cement in from Dordrecht. De Booys sold the windmill to Cornelis Kraan in 1802 for 1,650 guilders. Kraan converted the mill into a tobacco mill in order to produce snuff he could sell in his tobacco shop.

By 1865, the windmill had again been sold and J van Berloo was then the owner. He installed a steam engine to help with production but it was unsuccessful. The windmill was falling into disrepair and in danger of demolition. In 1925, the Dutch windmill society Vereniging De Hollandsche Molen purchased the mill for 12,100 guilders. They managed to save the windmill but it was heavily damaged in a storm in 1930. On the evening of this date, the mill caught fire. Although the fire brigade arrived quickly, they could not extinguish the blaze and the entire windmill was destroyed. The landmark had vanished in an evening. The cause of the fire has never been established.

Immediately after the fire, the citizens of Harlaam took up a collection to have the windmill rebuilt. The owners of the mill, the Vereniging De Hollande Molen, collected 3,000 guilders towards rebuilding. The mill had been insured, but the insurance money was needed to pay off the existing mortgage. The city made a donation of 10,000 guilders in 1938 but the donation was overruled by the provincial council due to the poor economics of the Netherlands and the world in general. World War II intervened. In 1963, Harlaam municipality became the owner of the mill and wished to restore it, but they lacked funds. The plan was revived a couple decades later and finally on April 21, 1999, the first pole was placed for the new mill. De Adriaan was rebuilt on the original foundation and opened on April 23, 2002 as a tourist attraction. The mill is real and works, but mostly as a demonstration for the many tourists who come.

Take care, your worship, those things over there are not giants but windmills. – Miguel de Cervantes

I thought that the description of Don Quixote’s fight with the windmills the funniest thing imaginable. – Stanislaw Ulam

There isn’t a single windmill owner in Holland who doesn’t have a second job, for when there is no wind. – Johnny Ball

In this so-called age of technicians, the only battles we know how to fight are battles against windmills. – Simone Weil

Also on this day: The Bard of Avon – In 1616, William Shakespeare dies.
Boston Latin School – In 1635, the first public school in America (still open) was founded.
Lights, Camera, Action – In 1867, a patent for a zoetrope was granted.
Mississippi Burning – In 1940, the Rhythm Night Club burned.
The Arts – In 1904, the American Academy of Arts & Letters formed.

* “De Adriaan windmill in Haarlem” by Dfarrell07 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

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The Arts

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 23, 2014
American Academy of Arts & Letters facade

American Academy of Arts & Letters facade

April 23, 1904: American Academy of Arts & Letters forms. Originally called the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the group was founded as an offshoot of the American Social Science Association. The institute met for the first time in February of 1899 in New York City. Membership was capped at 150 and of those, 30 were eligible for the additional honor of being included in the Academy when it was founded on this day. In 1907, membership levels changed to 250 and 50 for the two groups. In 1913, President Taft incorporated the National Institute of Arts and Letters and in 1916, the Academy was also incorporated.

The Académie française served as the model for the American Academy. Members of the Institute selected seven of their members to become the first Academicians. William Dean Howells, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Edmund Clarance Stedman, John La Farge, Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), John Hay, and Edward MacDowell were the selected men who then selected eight others. Those men then selected another five and this continued until the cap of thirty members was met. Both groups did not have a permanent meeting place until 1923 when they moved to their current headquarters located on West 155th Street. The Academy’s meeting room contained fifty hand-carved Italian walnut chairs designed by McKim, Mead & White and donated by Elizabeth Cochran Bowen.

This two tiered structure remained intact for 72 years with 200 members in the lower section and fifty in the elite section. In 1976 members of the two combined into one group and called themselves the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. With this move, the membership could hold 250 living US citizens and up to 75 foreign composers, artists, and writers as honorary members. While they were served by one board of directors, there was still a tier establishment. This was completely done away with in 1993 and they became the American Academy of Arts and Letters at that time.

Members are chosen for life and have included some impressive names. They are organized into committees and award prizes to up and coming artists annually. Some of the original and early members may not be well known today, but in their time they were the movers and shakers of the artistic world. All is not sunshine and goodness, even among the best of the best. William James declined membership because his brother, Henry, was selected first. Robert Underwood Johnson was an early member and campaigned against modernism and kept out such illustrious writers as HL Mencken, F Scott Fitzgerald, and TS Eliot. Although not kept out by decree, women were not included early on. In 1908, Julia Ward Howe was elected in at the age of 88. In 1926, with the admittance of four women, the ban against the gentle sex was dropped.

All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. – Albert Einstein

O, had I but followed the arts! – William Shakespeare

To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. – Henry David Thoreau

Nine times out of ten, in the arts as in life, there is actually no truth to be discovered; there is only error to be exposed. – H. L. Mencken

Also on this day: The Bard of Avon – In 1616, William Shakespeare dies.
Boston Latin School – In 1635, the first public school in America (still open) was founded.
Lights, Camera, Action – In 1867, a patent for a zoetrope was granted.
Mississippi Burning – In 1940, the Rhythm Night Club burned.

Boston Latin School

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 23, 2013
Boston Latin School 1635

Boston Latin School 1635

April 23, 1635: Boston Latin School is founded – the oldest public school in America still in operation. It opened 148 years before the Academy of Richmond County, the next oldest. It is a public exam school or magnet school, also called a specialist school in the UK. It was founded to educate the sons of the Boston Brahmins – the elite society of Bean town, itself already 5 years old. The first classes were very small. The school remains open to students from grades 7 through 12. The first graduating seniors needed an equally prestigious college to attend, so in 1636 (they claim), Harvard was founded.

The school’s original curriculum and style was based on Boston Grammar School in Lincolnshire, England where many of the original inhabitants hailed from. The school’s motto is Sumas Primi, which is Latin for “we are the first” – both the first school and first in academic standing. The curriculum was and still is based on a solid grounding in the humanities. Even today, students must be well versed in Latin, taking 3-4 years of the language. Students must give three oratorical speeches in English per year as well as one in a foreign language, often Latin.

One of the school’s most famous dropouts was Benjamin Franklin. In his will, he left funds to establish the Franklin Medals which are awarded to the school’s top-ranked pupils at graduation. Students are only admitted in the 7th or 9th grades. There is a considerable dropout rate so the higher grades are usually much smaller in size. There are currently 2,400 students at the school that first went co-ed in 1972, five years after adding women to the faculty. Admission is based on test scores and current grades and limited to residents of Boston proper. Efforts have been made to include more minorities and have met with some, but not total success.

The first classes were held in the homes of the Masters. By 1645, the first schoolhouse was built on School Street and was probably a two-story building. In 1704, a new schoolhouse was erected, but with a growing student body, it was again torn down and rebuilt in 1748. The school continuously grew and even changed street locations. The current building was erected between 1920 and 1922 with new classrooms added over the years. The last renovation was undertaken from 1999-2002.

“Education, n. That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding.” – Ambrose Bierce

“We need education in the obvious more than investigation of the obscure.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

“Education consists mainly in what we have unlearned.” – Mark Twain

“The aim of education is, or should be, to teach people to educate themselves.” – Arnold J. Toynbee

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Boston Latin School remains a premiere school in Boston. Since its founding, there have been four Harvard presidents, four Massachusetts governors, and five signers of the US Declaration of Independence who graduated from the school. As noted above, Franklin was a dropout as was Louis Farrakhan. The school’s colors are purple and white and the teams are known at the Boston Latin Wolfpack. The school has been awarded the 2011 Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, the Department of Education’s highest award. In 2012 it was ranked 62nd out of the top 100 schools in the country which included 21, 776 high schools to compete against. Lynne Mooney-Teta is the headmaster and leads a faculty of 139.

Also on this day: The Bard of Avon – In 1616 William Shakespeare dies.
Lights, Camera, Action – In 1867, a patent for a zoetrope was granted.
Mississippi Burning – In 1940, the Rhythm Night Club burned.

Mississippi Burning

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 23, 2012

Rhythm Night Club

April 23, 1940: The Rhythm Night Club catches fire in Natchez, Mississippi. The club was a venue for African-Americans. The one story building was originally a church and then a blacksmith shop. The address of 1 St. Catherine Street was just blocks outside the city’s business district. At the time of the fire, it was the second deadliest fire after the Iroquois Theater Fire (December 30, 1903 in Chicago). Since that time, the Cocoanut Grove fire (November 28, 1942 in Boston) left 492 dead in the wake of a devastating fire.

At 11:30 PM, a blaze broke out near the front door (and only exit). Walter Barnes and His Royal Creolians, an orchestra from Chicago, was playing at the time. The windows were boarded over to prevent outsiders from peeking in and also to dampen the sound so those outside the club weren’t able to listen to the music from within. The club was decorated with Spanish moss hanging from the rafters. This dry material quickly ignited and spread the flames even faster. It also produced a deadly, flammable methane gas. The entire club burned in an hour.

There were 209 killed in the fire and many more patrons were injured. Most of the people inside were killed by either smoke inhalation or by the crush of people attempting to flee. Barnes, at the time of the incident, was being favorably compared to Duke Ellington and Woody Herman. He and nine other members of the orchestra were killed in the fire. Three members of the group survived. Walter Brown, the drummer, vowed to never play again. When firefighters arrived, the building was fully involved. They found the dead piled on top of one another, but heard sounds beneath the carnage. As they peeled away the dead, under the crush were survivors, suffering both burns and crush injuries.

There was some speculation the fire was intentionally set. There had been some disgruntled patrons who in a drunken rage had threatened to burn the building down. They were arrested and eventually released with charges dropped. It is thought the fire may have started with carelessly discarded cigarette butts. The city of Natchez raised $5,000 (≈ $77,400 in 2009 USD) to help the local Red Cross deal with the disaster. New fire laws were also instituted, limiting over crowding in buildings. The disaster was memorialized by many musicians and there is a marker erected in Natchez’s Bluff Park.

I was at this casino minding my own business, and this guy came up to me and said, ‘You’re gonna have to move, you’re blocking a fire exit.’ As though if there was a fire, I wasn’t gonna run. If you’re flammable and have legs, you are never blocking a fire exit. – Mitch Hedberg

Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice. – Robert Frost

Which painting in the National Gallery would I save if there was a fire? The one nearest the door of course. – George Bernard Shaw

Whenever our neighbor’s house is on fire, it cannot be amiss for the engines to play a little on our own. – Edmund Burke

Also on this day:

The Bard of Avon – In 1616 William Shakespeare dies.
Boston Latin School – In 1635, the first public school in America (still open) was founded.
Lights, Camera, Action – In 1867, a patent for a zoetrope was granted.

Lights, Camera, Action

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 23, 2011


April 23, 1867: William E. Lincoln of Providence, Rhode Island receives United States patent #64,117 for the zoetrope, the first animated picture machine. The machine held a series of pictures inside a cylinder that could be viewed between slits while spinning the contraption. This created an illusion of movement. It is the same principle as used in a flip book where the rapidly changing pictures give the illusion of movement of the drawn images.

Today we take motion pictures for granted, but the history of cinema is long. The caves at Grotte de Lascaux in France are the earliest drawings we have left from pre-historic man. These pictures show the concept of illustrated movement for the animals drawn by these early artists. The use of shadow and light as well as perspective, give the idea of movement.

The study of shadow and light was a precursor to the modern use of cameras, still or moving. The earliest lenses used for magnification have been dated to 721-705 BC. There were quartz lenses excavated at the archeological sites of Nineveh which date to 600 BC. The study of light and shadow interplay to give the illusion of movement continued through the ancient Greek, Oriental, and Roman eras.

Leonardo da Vince in 1500 described with accuracy a camera obscura. He did this in his backward writing and it went undiscovered for over 200 years. Throughout the Renaissance, there continued an enlightenment casting its shadow over the interplay of focused light. It was noted that the illusion of movement could be found by a picture painted on each side of disk and then rotating the disk quickly. Stereoscopic pictures, like today’s Viewmaster slides, gave a three-dimensional effect.

Finally pictures could be taken using light focused on film. The time continued to decrease from hours to just minutes. The film changed from a cartridge allowing for a single exposure, to film that could make copies. Then roll film was produced. The first movie that survives is a 3-second view of traffic moving along the street. It is in 20 frames and was taken in October 1888.

“It’s not an optical illusion, it just looks like one.” – Phil White

“Science is simply common sense at its best – that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic.” – Thomas Henry Huxley

“Never fear shadows. They simply mean there is a light shining somewhere nearby.” – unknown

“Our ideals, like pictures, are made from lights and shadows.” – Joseph Joubert

Also on this day:
The Bard of Avon – In 1616 William Shakespeare dies.
Boston Latin School – In 1635, the first public school in America (still open) was founded.

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The Bard of Avon

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 23, 2010

What Shakespeare may have looked like (we really don't know)

April 23, 1616: William Shakespeare, one of the best known authors in the English language, dies. He was a poet, playwright, and actor. He was born in Stratford, England in 1564 and married Anne Hathaway in 1582. Soon after his marriage, Shakespeare left for London. Anne stayed in Stratford. Shakespeare went on to become the “Bard of Avon” and is often called England’s national poet.

Shakespeare’s plays are divided into four periods. His first period was filled mostly with comedies influenced by Roman and Italian forces. His second period began with the tragedy Romeo and Juliet and ended with Julius Caesar and was filled with his greatest tragedies and histories. The third period contained mostly tragedies and his last was mainly tragicomedies or romances. Comedies in Elizabethan England were classified as plays ending happily, usually by characters getting married. Tragedies had protagonists who were admirable, but with a character flaw. Histories were not always exactly historically correct.

Shakespeare was the author of 154 sonnets, numerous other poems, and 38 plays. He wrote comedies and tragedies, which is uncommon in itself, and he excelled in both genres. Not only do we have the gift of his brilliant plays, rich in characterization and filled with beautiful turns of phrase, but we also have increased the vocabulary with his neologisms, or newly created words. Lewis Carroll, another British author, was also a master at this type of expansion of the language.

There has been some controversy over the years as to who actually wrote Shakespeare’s plays. However, some proof of his authorship comes from Robert Greens, a critic of the time, who wrote in 1592 that Shakespeare was “an upstart crow.” Ben Johnson, a rival, also discusses Shakespeare’s works. Some of his works were printed during his lifetime, but the proliferation of printed text came after his death.

“This above all: to thine own self be true.”

“All the world ‘s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts.”

“Now is the winter of our discontent.”

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.”

“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child!” – all from William Shakespeare

Also on this day, in 1635 Boston Latin School was founded.