Little Bits of History

April 26

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 26, 2017

1478: Giuliana de’ Medici is murdered in church. Cosimo de’ Medici was the first member of the family to combine the Medici Bank with politics and leadership of the Republic of Florence. Cosimo was one of the wealthiest men in Europe and spent large sums of his money on government and philanthropy, supporting the burgeoning Renaissance arts. His son, Piero, was also into Florentine politics and philanthropy and when he died, his son, Lorenzo, took over the leadership of the Republic. Lorenzo was groomed for leadership, was the smartest of Piero’s five children, and trained in statesmanship and warring. He ruled mostly by proxy but was considered a tyrant. Rival families in Florence were hoping to gain control and the most notable of these was the Pazzi family.

On this day, Francesco Pazzi, Girolamo Riario, and Francesco Salviate (the Archbishop of Pisa) with the blessing of Pope Sixtus IV, attack Lorenzo and Giuliano (who assisted his brother in rule) at the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Giuliano died of a sword wound to his head, but was stabbed a total of 19 times. Lorenzo escaped with a minor wound to his shoulder, having been defended by Poliziano, a poet and benefactor of the Medici family. News of the attack spread quickly throughout Florence and revenge was swift and brutal. They lynched the Archbishop and all Pazzi family members who participated were killed. The Pope had sided with the Pazzis and seized all Medici assets he could find and excommunicated Lorenzo and the entire government of Florence.

Eventually, all of Florence was put under interdict, a way for the Catholic Church to censure individuals or groups. This had little effect. Sixtus allied with King Ferdinand I of Naples and Alfonso, Duke of Calabria and the King’s son, led an attack on Florence which was still being ruled by Lorenzo. Florence’s allies in Bologna and Milan were having their own problems and did not come to aid Florence. Lorenzo went to Naples, offered himself as prisoner, and ultimately resolved the crises through diplomatic means, something he had been trained for since just a teen. He was able to bring the siege to an end and remained in power in Florence which passed constitutional changes which enhanced Lorenzo’s power and position.

Giuliano died at the age of 25. The handsome, “golden boy” had fathered one child via his mistress who would later become Pope Clement VII. Lorenzo, like his grandfather Cosimo, used diplomacy to maintain peace and balance of power among the northern Italian states. He was able to maintain an uneasy peace with other European states (mostly France and the Holy Roman Empire) and even with the Ottoman Empire as the Florentines carried on a healthy trade with the Ottomans, a source of wealth for the Medici family. He was also a great patron of the arts and supported such noted artists as Botticelli, da Vinci, and Michelangelo.

Assassination is the extreme form of censorship. – George Bernard Shaw

Human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that creates huge inequalities. – Pope Francis

The best government is a benevolent tyranny tempered by an occasional assassination. – Voltaire

Assassination has never changed the history of the world. – Benjamin Disraeli

Shipping Made Easier

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 26, 2015
Type of ship converted to SS Ideal X

Type of ship converted to SS Ideal X

April 26, 1956: The SS Ideal X leaves Port Newark, New Jersey. The ship, prior to refitting, was a T2 oil tanker during World War II. The ships were of some concern because they split in two during cold weather. Although initially blamed on poor welding/construction techniques, it was determined that the issue was the high sulfur content of war time steel. This caused the metal to become brittle at lower temperatures. The Marinship Corporation built Potrero Hills in 1945 as a T2 tanker, the ship was later purchased by Malcom McLean’s Pan-Atlantic Steamship Company. She was rebuilt as a container ship at Bethlehem Steel, Baltimore, Maryland. She was the first successful container ship.

Refitted in 1955, she was rechristened Ideal X and left on her maiden voyage on this date carrying 58 containers to Port of Houston, Texas. There were 58 trucks there awaiting her arrival. The Clifford J. Rodgers operated by the White Pass and Yukon Route was an earlier container ship which sailed the year before, but was not a commercial success. Ideal X was purchased in 1959 by Bulgarians who rechristened her Elemir. During heavy weather on February 8, 1964, she suffered extensive damage and was then sold to Japanese breakers and she was scrapped on October 20, 1964 in Hirao, Japan.

Container ships are cargo ships carrying their goods in truck-size intermodal containers. Today, most seagoing non-bulk cargo is shipped in this manner. They carry a mix of 20-foot (TEU) and 40-foot (2 TEU) ISO-standard containers, with the larger ones being predominant. Bulk cargo, such as coal or grain are still transported unpackaged in the hull of the ship. Break-bulk cargo is transported in packages. Prior to this shipping innovation, these items were loaded, tied down, transported, then released and removed from the ships one piece at a time. With this innovation, cargo can be grouped into containers of 1,000 to 3,000 cubic feet and weigh as much as 64,000 pounds. This can be moved on or off the ship all at once. When loading, each container is secured to the ship once in a standardized way.

This has made transportation far more efficient and reduced shipping time by 84% with a cost reduction of 35%. There are seven major sizes of container ships ranging from small feeder to ultra-large. There are over 160 Very Large Container Ships in use today with each able to move more than 10,000 TEU. There are 51 ports which can handle these large ships. The size of a panamax ship is limited by the Panama canal’s lock chambers which can handle a ship of up to 106 feet at the beam and 965 feet long with a draft of 39.5 feet. The Panama expansion project is causing the naming conventions to be modified. Ultra Large Container Vessels are over 1,200 feet long and wider than 160.7 feet at the beam with a draft greater than 50 feet. They carry 14,501 TEU and higher. For comparison, Ideal X was 524 feet long and 30 feet at the beam. Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller is the largest ship today and is 1,312 feet long and 194 feet at the beam with a 52 foot draft and carrying capacity of 18,340 TEU.

There are few industries as defiantly opaque as shipping. Even offshore bankers have not developed a system as intricately elusive as the flag of convenience, under which ships can fly the flag of a state that has nothing to do with its owner, cargo, crew, or route. – Rose George

I will continue to push for doubling the strength of the U.S. Border Patrol, and to make sure that every cargo container that enters this nation is screened for radiation and potential weapons of mass destruction. – Nick Lampson

Seven million ship cargo containers come into the United States every year. Five to seven percent only are inspected – five to seven percent. – Irwin Redlener

A boatload of government money is indeed a gift. Unless, I suppose, you’re one of the saps paying for the cargo. – David Harsanyi

Also on this day: Chernobyl – In 1986, there is a nuclear disaster in the Chernobyl power plant.
John Wilkes Booth – In 1865, the actor was found and killed.
Tanzania – In 1964, Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged.
Police – In 1933, the Gestapo was formed.
Fenway’s First – In 1912, the first home run was hit in the new Fenway Park.

Fenway’s First

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 26, 2014
Hugh Bradley

Hugh Bradley

April 26, 1912: Hugh Bradley hits the first homerun ever at Fenway Park. Bradley was born in Grafton, Massachusetts in 1885. The 5′ 10″ right handed player began playing for the Minors in 1906 at the age of 21. He moved up to the Majors in 1910 when the Boston Red Sox picked him up. During his five years of Major League Baseball, he played first base and a right field. He was with Boston for two years and then was traded first to Pittsburgh, next to Brooklyn and finally to Newark. His batting average was .261 and he batted in 117 runs over his career. He had exactly two home runs during his tenure in the major leagues with one of them being this illustrious first ever at the new home of the Boston Red Sox.

Fenway Park opened on April 20, 1912. It has been home to the Boston Red Sox ever since and is the oldest ballpark in MLB. The Red Sox moved here from Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds. The year before, the owner of the club, John I Taylor, purchased the land on which the new stadium was built. He claimed the name came from the Fenway neighborhood of Boston, which got its name from the filling in of marshlands or “fens” to create the Back Bay Fens urban park. It is also to be noted that the Taylor family owned the Fenway Realty Company. Like many older stadiums, Fenway was built on an asymmetrical lot which gave it asymmetrical field dimensions.

On April 20, Boston mayor John F Fitzgerald threw out the opening pitch and Boston won the game in 11 innings. They were playing against the New York Highlanders who would be renamed the Yankees the next year. While this was exciting news, it was overshadowed in the press by the continued coverage of an even bigger story, the sinking of the Titanic just a few days earlier. Boston might be known today for holding the record for consecutive sellouts of their stadium (456th, which beat out the Cleveland Indians). The sellout streak ended on April 11, 2013 after 794 regular season games and 26 post-season games. The lowest paid attendance for the stadium came in 1965 when under 500 people showed up for two regular season games.

The stadium has been renovated, improved, enlarged, and upgraded several times in the over 100 years of its existence. The first was in 1934 when an iconic hand-changing scoreboard was added as were lights to indicate strikes and balls. In 1946 and upper deck was placed and the next year arc lights were put in. Only two other teams had not yet made this improvement. In 1999, auxiliary press boxes were added and at the turn of the century, a new video display (23 feet x 30 feet) was put in center field. Almost yearly since then, something new or upgraded as been added or improved. Today, the stadium hold 37,071 people during the day and 37,499 for night games. Play ball.

Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is. – Bob Feller

Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer. – Ted Williams

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

Baseball is like church. Many attend few understand. – Leo Durocher

Also on this day: Chernobyl – In 1986, there is a nuclear disaster in the Chernobyl power plant.
John Wilkes Booth – In 1865, the actor was found and killed.
Tanzania – In 1964, Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged.
Police – In 1933, the Gestapo was formed.

John Wilkes Booth

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 26, 2013
John Wilkes Booth

John Wilkes Booth

April 26, 1865: A 26-year-old actor dies. The American Civil War began on April 12, 1861 with shots fired on Fort Sumter. It ended when General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. With more than 1,000,000 Americans dead or wounded, the young nation needed a respite. Instead, the newly forged peace was shaken when President Abraham Lincoln was shot on April 14. He died the next day. Union cavalry tracked down John Wilkes Booth in Virginia, where he was shot.

Booth came from a family of actors and was a popular and nationally ranked thespian. He was a Confederate sympathizer. Early in the war, prisoners of war were exchanged and soldiers could once again join ranks and continue fighting. This procedure was unilaterally halted by General Grant. The South desperately needed more fighting men and the halt of the exchanges was debilitating. Booth planned to kidnap Lincoln and hold him as a hostage to effect a POW exchange. On April 11, 1865, Booth attended a Lincoln speech in which the President stated his intention to grant the vote to the newly emancipated slaves. Booth’s plan changed.

The new plan was to totally disrupt the government. The Lincolns were to attend the Ford’s Theatre’s production of Our American Cousins. Booth entered the theater without question (he had often performed there). Shortly after 10 PM he entered the Presidential Box and shot Lincoln in the back of the head. Booth stabbed another patron as he made his escape by jumping from the box. Booth fell heavily and broke his leg but managed to flee. At the same time, Lewis Powell was to kill Secretary of State William Seward. Seward was wounded, but survived. George Atzerodt was to kill Vice President Andrew Jackson, but chickened out.

Booth fled and eventually met up with another member of his gang, David Herold. They retrieved weapons and other supplies. Booth’s leg needed attention and the two went to Dr. Samuel Mudd, an acquaintance of Booth’s. By month’s end, the conspirators were arrested. So was the doctor and the man who held Booth’s horse on April 14. Their trial lasted seven weeks and 366 witnesses testified. All were found guilty. Four were sentenced to death. Dr. Mudd and two others were given life in prison. Spangler, the stagehand, was sentenced to six years in prison. Mudd, Spangler, and Samuel Arnold were pardoned by President Johnson in February 1869.

“Of the Seven Wonders of the World, can you imagine how famous a man might be who could pull down the Colossus of Rhodes?” – John Wilkes Booth, age 10

“Fame, I must have fame!” – John Wilkes Booth

“This country was formed for the white not for the black man. And looking upon African slavery from the same stand-point, as held by those noble framers of our Constitution, I for one, have ever considered it, one of the greatest blessings that God ever bestowed upon a favored nation.” – John Wilkes Booth

“Tell my mother I died for my country. I did what I thought was best.” – John Wilkes Booth

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: John Wilkes Booth was born on May 10, 1838 in Bel Air, Maryland. He was the ninth of ten children. His father was a Shakespearean actor who had emigrated from England. He was named after a distant relative John Wilkes, a radical politician. Booth senior had brought his mistress with him when moving from England and in 1851, Mrs. Booth divorced her philandering husband. He then married his mistress on his son’s 13th birthday. As a child, John was athletic and popular. He was a lackadaisical student but was described as being “not deficient in intelligence” by the headmaster. While still a teenager, he met a Gypsy fortune teller who predicted that he would have great, but short, life and said he would die young and “meeting a bad end.” By the age of 16, John was interested in both politics and theater.

Also on this day: Chernobyl – In 1986 there is a nuclear disaster in the Chernobyl power plant.
Tanzania – In 1964, Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged.
Police – In 1933, the Gestapo was formed.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 26, 2012

Secret State Police of Nazi Germany headquarters

April 26, 1933: The Secret State Police of Nazi Germany is formed. The German name is Genheime Staatspolizei and the name was shortened to Gestapo. When Adolph Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, Hermann Göring was made Interior Minister of Prussia. As such, Göring was in charge of the largest police force in Germany. He separated out the political and intelligence departments and staffed them with loyal Nazis. He merged the newly staffed departments into the Gestapo and wanted to call it Secret Police Office or Geheimes Polizeiamt (GPA), similar to the Soviet GPU.

The first commander was Göring’s protégé, Rudolf Diels who was a loyal Nazi Party official as well as commander of the Luftwaffe. Wilhelm Frick, Reich Interior Minister, wanted to join all the German police forces under one banner in late 1933. Göring ousted him and by 1934 Göring himself was in charge of the Gestapo. Göring wanted Hitler to give him control over the secret police in all of Germany. Heinrich Himmler, police chief in Bavaria (second most powerful state in Germany) was against the plan. Frick allied himself with Himmler and also with Reinhard Heydrich. With other forces conspiring against them, they all agreed to work together.

On April 20, 1934 Göring handed over control of the Gestapo to Himmler and by June  1936 Himmler was chief of all German police. The Gestapo merged with the SIPO or Sicherheilspolizie and with the Kripo or Kriminalpolizel (Criminal Police) with all of them under the SS or Schutzstaffel, Hedrick became the head of the SIPO (Gestapo and Kripo) and the SD or Sicherheitsdienst or Security Service. Heinrich Müller was chief of operations of the Gestapo and answered only to Heydrich, who reported to Himmler, directly under Hitler.

The Gestapo was responsible for investigating cases involving treason, espionage, and sabotage. They looked into attacks on the Nazi Party and Germany. By 1936 laws were passed by the government giving the Gestapo a free hand with no oversight by any judicial bodies. They were specifically exempt from administrative courts where citizens could sue for their breach of legal proceedings. They were responsible for many crimes against humanity and the 46,000 members of the secret police struck fear into even law abiding citizens.

Freedom is when one hears the bell at seven o’clock in the morning and knows it is the milkman and not the Gestapo. – Georges Bidault

To put the point sharply: If an informer in the French underground who sent a friend to the torture chambers of the Gestapo was equally a victim, then there can be no right or wrong in life that I understand. – Albert Maltz

With the opening of the eastern European archives, the role of the police battalions and the Gestapo in the extermination of the Jews in eastern Europe has become much clearer. – Norbert Kampe

It also gives us a very special, secret pleasure to see how unaware the people around us are of what is really happening to them.  – Adolf Hitler

Also on this day:

Chernobyl – In 1986 there is a nuclear disaster in the Chernobyl power plant.
John Wilkes Booth – In 1865, the actor was found and killed.
Tanzania – In 1964, Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 26, 2011

Map of Tanzania

April 26, 1964: Tanganyika and Zanzibar merge. They became the United Republic of Tanzania. The country is located in East Africa and bordered by Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Congo, Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique as well as the Indian Ocean. The unitary republic is composed of 26 regions and covers 364,898 square miles. There are about 43 million people living there. The capital is located at Dodoma today however prior to 1996 it was at Dar es Salaam. Even now, many of the official offices are still at Salaam and it remains the major seaport of the nation.

The area is one of the oldest inhabited by humans. Fossil remains show pre-human hominids dating back more than two million years. Hunter-gatherers lived there until about 2,000 years ago when Bantu-speaking people migrated to the region. Other groups migrated in and continued to do so until the 18th century. Travelers as well as merchants arrived on the shores both from Persian Gulf and from India. Since the 9th century, Islam  has been practiced there. The region of Zanzibar became the center for the Arab slave trade with 65-90% of the Arab-Swahili Zanzibar population enslaved.

Imperial Germany conquered Tanganyika in the late 19th century as well as parts of Rwanda and Burundi. The area became a battleground in World War I and after the war, the region was designated a British Mandate with a small portion of land ceded to Belgium. British rule of the area came to a relatively peaceful end in 1961. A revolution in Zanzibar took place in 1963 ridding the country of its Arab control. The two small nations then combined on this date.

Tanzania’s economy is based mostly on agriculture. About half of the Gross Domestic Product comes from this source as do about 85% of exports. Agriculture provides employment for about 80% of the workforce. Amazingly, all this done on only about 4% of the land area because of topography and climate. Tanzania also has gold and natural gas resources. Industry is limited and consists mostly of processing the agricultural products. The world-famous Serengeti Park is located here. The major language of Tanzania is Swahili, however English is used in higher courts and higher education. The President of the country is Jakaya Kikwete and the Prime Minister is Mizengo Pinda.

“I pointed out to you the stars (the moon) and all you saw was the tip of my finger.” – Tanzania Proverb

“One who bathes willingly with cold water doesn’t feel the cold.” – Tanzania Proverb

“Leonard Totten is trekking to Tanzania in aid of Action Cancer and has raised over £18,000 over the last few years . He and some other people are going to do the trek.” – Belfast Telegraph

“The Europeans and Americans residing in the town of Zanzibar are either Government officials, independent merchants, or agents for a few great mercantile houses in Europe and America.” – Henry Morton Stanley

Also on this day:
Chernobyl – In 1986 there is a nuclear disaster in the Chernobyl power plant.
John Wilkes Booth – In 1865, the actor was found and killed.

Tagged with: ,


Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 26, 2010


April 26, 1986: The nuclear reactor #4 at Chernobyl suffers a steam explosion. Chernobyl is in the Ukraine, then a part of the Soviet Union. The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant suffered the only level 7 instance on the International Nuclear Event Scale. This scale was inspired by the Richter Scale and has seven different levels of “events.” Level 0 is a deviation without any safety issues involved. Levels 1-3 are minor “incidents” and from 4-7, the consequences of what is now termed an “accident” reach to the local community or farther. Level 7 is classified as a Major Accident.

As with most disasters, there was not just one simple cause. There were many and they were interrelated. 1) There was a lack of a “Safety Culture” that allowed for design weaknesses. 2) There were overall faults with high-powered channel reactor type – the RBMK or reactor bolshoy mashchnosty kanalny. 3) There was a violation of procedure. Only 6-8 control rods were used when there should have been a minimum of 30 rods and the emergency cooling system was disabled. And 4) There was a communication breakdown with critical information not being passed on correctly.

The fallout from the accident has been long-term and expensive. Thyroid cancers have the greatest increase with a pre-accident rate in 1981-1985 of 5 cases per million people raised to 45 per million during the years 1986-1997. Other cancers have gained prominence as well. At the time of the disaster, 116,000 people were evacuated with 210,000 more relocated during the years 1990-1995. An estimated cost of $12.8 billion due to the disruption of the Soviet Economy is cited.

Power shortages remained throughout the area. So while new construction of reactors #5 and #6 were eventually halted, reactor #1-3 continued to be used. There was a fire in reactor #2 in 1991 which resulted in its shutdown. Reactor #1 was decommissioned in 1996 and on December 15, 2000, Reactor #3 was turned off. The site today hold memorials to the people who were killed or affected by the disaster. There is a “Sarcophagus” over the damaged reactor, but there continues to be issues due to possible further collapse of the protective barrier.

“We are the authors of our own disasters.” – Latin Proverb

“And Lord, we are especially thankful for nuclear power, the cleanest, safest energy source there is. Except for solar, which is just a pipe dream.” – Homer Simpson

“The discovery of nuclear reactions need not bring about the destruction of mankind any more than the discovery of matches.” – Albert Einstein

“What might be considered one of the few positive aspects of ‘Chernobyl’s legacy’ is today’s global safety regime.” – Mohamed ElBaradei

Also on this day, in 1865 John Wilkes Booth was killed in  Virginia.