Little Bits of History

April 6

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 6, 2017

1947: The Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre commences. Better known as the Tony Award, it was named in honor of Toni Perry. The American Theatre Wing (ATW) was originally called the Stage Women’s War Relief and during World War I they helped to sew uniforms and other garments, turning out close to two million articles. They also helped entertain the troops and raised nearly $7 million for the war effort. During World War II, the women of the theater again banded together to help. Perry was a part of that effort. After the War, the group continued to function but dedicated itself to supporting “excellence and education in the theatre”.

Perry was born in 1888 in Denver, Colorado and worked successfully as an actress prior to retiring in 1909 to marry. Her husband died in 1922 and she returned to the theater. She took up directing and partnered with Brock Pemberton to produce several plays, the most famous of them the Pulitzer Prize winning Harvey, which Perry also directed. During the War, she was chairwoman of the board and secretary in the ATW. They provided entertainment to servicemen in several American cities. Perry died suddenly on June 29, 1946 suffering a heart attack just one day after her birthday. She was 58 years old.

Her friends at ATW wanted to honor her for all her work in the industry. Pemberton suggested the ATW create a series of awards given in her name. On this day, the Tony Awards were first distributed and have been handed out yearly ever since. They are one of the industry’s most coveted awards and analogous  to the Academy Awards (Oscars) for films, Grammy Awards for music, and Emmy Awards for television. They are the fourth spoke in EGOT, for the select few who have won all four awards. This “grand slam” of entertainment has been achieved only twelve times.

There were 11 awards passed out on this day but they have expanded and by 2014 there were 24 categories honored. There are competitive awards given in performance categories as well as show and technical categories. There are also non-competitive awards honoring not just the year’s work, but lifetime achievements. Some of the honors have been retired and other have been renamed and split into different awards. The Tony Awards were originally passed out at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City. The venue has changed with time and the next award ceremony is to be held on June 11, 2017, venue as yet to be named.

At Jacob Wilk’s suggestion, [Pemberton] proposed an award in her honor for distinguished stage acting and technical achievement. At the initial event in 1947, as he handed out an award, he called it a Tony. The name stuck. – Ellis Nassour

There’s not a person in this theater that doesn’t know what it is to be a salesman – to be out there in the blue riding on a smile and a shoeshine. As we know, a salesman has got to dream. It goes with the territory. – Mike Nichols, accepting the award for best director of a play for Death of a Salesman

You were my first crush! When that whistle was blown in Sound of Music, you made my day. – Nina Arianda, accepting the award for best performance by an actress in a leading role in a play for Venus in Fur from presenter Christopher Plummer

Welcome to the 66th annual Tony Awards, or as we like to call it, 50 Shades of Gay. – Neil Patrick Harris, host


Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 6, 2015
Francesco Petrarch

Francesco Petrarch

April 6, 1627: Petrarch first sees Laura. Francesco Petrarca whose name has been anglicized as Petrarch, was an Italian scholar and poet in Renaissance Italy. He found the lost letters of Cicero and by doing so was credited for initiating the 14th century Renaissance. He is also called the “Father of Humanism”. He was born in the Tuscan city of Arezzo in 1340. His father was a friend of Dante’s. He studied law at the University of Montpellier and Bologna since his father insisted both of his sons follow in his footsteps. Petrarch did as told, but his main interest was in Latin literature and he always considered his years studying law to have been wasted. He viewed the legal system as a way of selling justice. After his parents’ deaths, he began writing with his first book, Africa, an epic in Latin with Scipio Africanus, the Roman general, as the protagonist. He became famous.

Petrarch traveled throughout Europe and has been referred to as “the first tourist” since his travels were for pleasure. He even scaled a mountain, simply for pleasure when he, his brother, and two servants went up Mont Ventoux (6,273 feet) and he then wrote about it. As he moved through the continent, he gathered together crumbling Latin manuscripts. While he was interested in Greek manuscripts as well, he did not read the language and so was unable to work with them. In 1345 he discovered a cache of previously lost Cicero letters and published them as a collection. He decried the ignorance of the past and is credited with calling medieval times the Dark Ages.

On this day, he was in the church of Sainte-Claire d’Avignon and while there he saw a young woman. Laura. There is no definite personage we can today identify as the Laura in question. She may have been Laura de Noves, wife of a count and ancestor of the Marquis de Sade. She was described as lovely to look at. She was fair haired and had a modest and dignified carriage. Petrarch had little or no personal contact with the young woman as she refused him due to her already married status. Rather than possess this woman in the flesh, he began writing poetry. His love poems were filled with his despair over this unattainable woman of his dreams. His prose revealed his contempt toward men who would pursue another man’s wife. Her death in 1348 left him suffering from grief almost as deep as his previous despair.

In Secretum meum, his work on the philosophy of humanism (although not termed that at the time), he examines the idea that secular achievement did not negate an authentic relationship with God. He argued for each person’s right to express the entirety of the gifts they received from a benevolent God. Each person should use to their full extent, all their intellectual and creative potential. With this idea, the Renaissance could flourish. He also used this as an excuse to extensively study ancient history and literature – the history of human thought and action. Although he was a devout Catholic, he saw no conflict between religion and being able to reach self-enlightenment and full potential.

Five great enemies to peace inhabit with us: avarice, ambition, envy, anger and pride. If those enemies were to be banished, we should infallibly enjoy perpetual peace.

Books have led some to learning and others to madness.

I rejoiced in my progress, mourned my weaknesses, and commiserated the universal instability of human conduct.

Sameness is the mother of disgust, variety the cure. – all from Petrarch

Also on this day: Twinkies – In 1930, James Dewer invents the ubiquitous treat.
Varney Air Lines – In 1926, air mail delivery began.
Money, Money, Money – In 1808, John Astor incorporated the American Fur Company.
Olympiad – In 1896, the first modern Olympic Games opened.
North Pole Perhaps – In 1909, Peary and Henson may have reached the North Pole.

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North Pole Perhaps

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 6, 2014
Robert Peary and Matthew Henson

Robert Peary and Matthew Henson

April 6, 1909: Robert Peary and Matthew Henson reach the North Pole, they claim. Peary was born in 1856 in Cresson, Pennsylvania. When he was three, his father died and his mother took her son to Maine where he grew up in Portland. After college, he worked at the US Coast and Geodetic Survey office and joined the US Navy in 1881 as a civil engineer with the rank of lieutenant. While in the Navy, he was first stationed in the tropics but vowed to be the first man to reach the geographic North Pole. In 1886, he wrote an article debating the two methods of traversing Greenland to get to the Pole.

He made his initial Arctic expedition in 1886 but was unable to complete his journey because of low food stores. Back in the tropics, he was assigned to Nicaragua Canal as a surveyor and met Matthew Henson, 21-years-old and with seafaring experience, and hired him to be her personal valet. While working, they discussed further Arctic expeditions. In 1891, both men (and Peary’s wife) were once again off to cross Greenland, using the second route Peary had delineated in his old article. On the trip, a mishap left Peary with both bones in his lower leg broken and it took six months to recuperate. In May 1892, the team finally set forth and discovered that Greenland was actually an island  – an unknown bit of information until this time. They returned to their camp, completing a 1250 mile trip.

The next trek was scheduled for 1898-1902. Again, much was learned. The next expedition was taken from 1905-06. Traveling in the rough seas of the Polar ice pack proved to be another learning experience. The 1908-09 was to be Peary’s last assault. The travelers had a 23 man team and departed for the pole from Ellesmere Island at 83⁰ north latitude. The last support ship turned back from Bartlett Camp and Peary and five assistants, none of whom could make navigational observations, set out. Peary, Henson, and four Inuits established Camp Jesup and what Peary claimed was the North Pole. Upon his return, he heard a claim was made for reaching the pole the year before. Frederick Cook’s claim along with Peary’s was widely debated at the time.

Modern historians agree that Cook did not make it to the North Pole. Wally Herbert, a polar explorer of more modern times, concluded in a 1989 book that Peary also did not reach the North Pole and was short of the distance by about five miles. This conclusion is widely accepted today. The first undisputed explorers of the geographic North Pole took place in 1969 by the British expedition led by Herbert. In 1926 there were two claims of flyovers, the first by Richard Byrd (disputed) and three days later by Roald Amundsen (accepted). Others got to the pole sooner than Herbert using mechanical means of one sort or another, as well. The Pole, like Mount Everest, is a challenge and there continue to be people who trek there for the sheer purpose of conquering the route.

The process of scientific discovery is, in effect, a continual flight from wonder. – Albert Einstein

Mistakes are the portals of discovery. – James Joyce

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. – Marcel Proust

The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance – it is the illusion of knowledge. – Daniel J. Boorstin

Also on this day: Twinkies – In 1930, James Dewer invents the ubiquitous treat.
Varney Air Lines – In 1926, air mail delivery began.
Money, Money, Money – In 1808, John Astor incorporated the American Fur Company.
Olympiad – In 1896, the first modern Olympic Games opened.

Varney Air Lines

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 6, 2013
Varney Air Lines

Varney Air Lines

April 6, 1926: Leon Cuddleback makes the first contract mail flight in the US Northwest. Walter Varney was a flight instructor who also ran an air taxi service. He bid on an airmail route (CAM 5) from Pasco, Washington, through Boise, Idaho, and ending in Elko, Nevada. The 460 mile route went from “nowhere to nowhere.” Varney bought 6 Swallow biplanes, each of which could transport 600 pounds of mail.

The first flight by Leon was highly successful. He carried 207 pounds of mail aboard the Laird Swallow. Thousands cheered as he took off on the first eastbound flight from Pasco. His early morning flight had a top speed of 90 mph and went without a hitch. That afternoon, Franklin Rose left Boise, again to cheers, but instead of a rollicking success, the plane met a storm cell and was sent 75 miles off course before making a forced landing. Rose was missing for 2 days before he managed to get to a phone and call for help. He walked through wilderness and finally borrowed a horse. He and his 98 pounds of mail made it to Elko on April 9.

Varney was born in California in 1888. He flew for the Aviation Section, US Signal Corps during World War I. Varney’s first westbound airmail flight took off from Boise airfield which was part of Boise State University’s campus. Idaho Governor Charles Moore and Senator William Borah were present. Even with the less than brilliant beginnings, Varney moved forward. He upgraded from biplanes to M-2 Steerman planes on January 15, 1929. He could now transport cargo and mail in the 91 cubic foot space. Varney Air Lines and National Air Transport merged and became United Air Lines. Varney went on to make a fortune despite an airmail scandal in the 1930s.

United Airlines has a fleet of 433 planes today and flies to 210 destinations. Varney sold United and started a second airline in 1934 with a partner, Louis Mueller. Varney Speed Lines began operation on July 15, 1934. Varney sold out to Mueller who, in 1936, sold the line to Robert Six. The airline was renamed in 1937. The new name? Continental. Today, they have 381 planes with another 96 on order and fly to 283 destinations.

“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” – Henry Ford

“Airplane travel is nature’s way of making you look like your passport photo.” – Al Gore

“All of the biggest technological inventions created by man – the airplane, the automobile, the computer – says little about his intelligence, but speaks volumes about his laziness.” – Mark Kennedy

Muhammad Ali: “Superman don’t need no seat belt.”
Flight attendant: “Superman don’t need no airplane, either.”

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Continental Airlines operated until March 3, 2012 when it merged with United Airlines. United remains in business and now flies to 378 destinations with a fleet of 707 planes. Their headquarters are located in Chicago and Jeff Smisek is the current CEO. There are ten hubs for the airline and two of them are offshore. One is in Guam and the other in Tokyo. The home based hubs are located in Cleveland, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. Their operating income for 2011 (last year available) was $1,822 million while their revenue was $37,110 million. If you are looking for a flight, you might want to consider their fleet and “Let’s Fly Together.”

Also on this day: Twinkies – In 1930 James Dewer invents the ubiquitous treat.
Money, Money, Money – In 1808, John Astor incorporated the American Fur Company.
Olympiad – In 1896, the first modern Olympic Games opened.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 6, 2012

1896 Olympic stadium

April 6, 1896: Opening ceremonies are held for the first modern Olympics. Pierre de Coubertin believed exercise was the path to better health. Dr. William Penny Brookes held a sports competition at the Gaskell recreation ground in Shropshire, England in 1850, thirteen years before de Coubertin was born. These Olympic-inspired games created a groundswell of interest in organized sports. De Coubertin proposed the idea for a modern day worldwide Olympic challenge hoping to educate children through the example of sports. The games would build character, create equilibrium between mind and body, and prevent wasting of precious time, he proposed.

An international meeting at the Sorbonne in Paris was held on June 23, 1894 where de Coubertin proposed the idea of the Olympic Games revival. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was established and it was decided to hold the first event at Athens, Greece. The games would be held every four years. Greek philanthropist Evangelos Zappas paid to  update the ancient Panathaenian Stadium for the first games.

King George I of Greece officially opened the games on this date. There were 241 athletes from 14 nations participating in the events. There were 43 contests in nine different sports. This was the largest gathering of international athletes to date. The men competed in athletics, cycling, fencing, gymnastics, shooting, swimming, tennis, weightlifting, and wrestling. The nations included were: Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Chile, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States.

Participants from ten of the countries received medals. The US won the most gold medals (11) while Greece won the most medals over all (46). During the actual games, only first and second place contestants were given medals – a silver medal and an olive branch for first place with runners-up getting a bronze medal and a laurel branch. The IOC has retroactively given the top three contestants the now more familiar gold, silver, and bronze medals for first, second, and third place, respectively. Women were not yet permitted to join in the contests. The Games closing ceremony was held on April 15.

The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well. – Pierre de Coubertin

An Olympic medal is the greatest achievement and honor that can be received by an athlete. I would swap any World Title to have won gold at the Olympics. – Jeff Fenech (Australian boxer, 1984 Summer Olympics)

The Olympics have been with the world since 776 B.C., and have only been interrupted by war, especially in the modern era. – Bill Toomey (American decathlete, 1968 Summer Olympics)

For athletes, the Olympics are the ultimate test of their worth. – Mary Lou Retton (American gymnast, 1984 Summer Olympics)

Also on this day:

Twinkies – In 1930 James Dewer invents the ubiquitous treat.
Varney Air Lines – In 1926, air mail delivery began.
Money, Money, Money – In 1808, John Astor incorporated the American Fur Company.

Money, Money, Money

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 6, 2011

John Jacob Astor

April 6, 1808: John Jacob Astor incorporates the American Fur Company. Astor was born in Waldorf, Germany in 1763. At the age of 18 he left Germany for London where he and his brother manufactured musical instruments. Astor learned to speak English at that time. Two years later, he moved to what would soon become the United States.

Astor took advantage of the Jay Treaty that opened up new lands and new markets for the entrepreneur. By 1800 he had amassed $250,000 and was one of the leading figures in the fur trade. He increased his wealth with an import/export business trading furs, teas, and sandalwood with Canton, China. When embargos hindered his trade agreements, he went back to solely dealing in the fur trade.

After incorporating his new business he had near total control over the fur business in the Columbia River and Great Lakes region. He also formed subsidiaries with the Pacific Fur Company and the South West Fur Company, spreading his area of control. He became the first millionaire in the US. He got into real estate, buying up Aaron Burr’s interest in leased land, and then splitting it into 250 parcels and subletting it out. He allowed tenants to do whatever they wanted, but after 21 years, they either had to sign new leases or the land reverted to Astor.

Astor took the monies from his fur companies and began buying up land on Manhattan Island in the 1830s. He saw this as the next big wave of land development. He rarely built on the land, but rather rented it out and let others develop it as they saw fit. He became the richest man in the world. He is the third richest American of all time. John D. Rockefeller was the richest, controlling 1.53% of the total economy of the US. Cornelius Vanderbilt was second with control of 1.15%. Astor had control of 0.98%. Bill Gates is the sixth richest American of all time with a control of 0.58% of the US economy.

“I am opposed to millionaires, but it would be dangerous to offer me the position.” – Mark Twain

“The real measure of your wealth is how much you’d be worth if you lost all your money.” – unknown

“There are people who have money and people who are rich.” – Coco Chanel

“If I could live all over again, I would buy every square inch of Manhattan.” – John Jacob Astor

Also on this day:
Twinkies – In 1930 James Dewer invents the ubiquitous treat.
Varney Air Lines – In 1926, air mail delivery began.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 6, 2010

TwinkiesApril 6, 1930: James Dewar, a bakery manager, notices that the shortcake pans are rarely used and so creates a new snack treat using those pans – the Twinkie is born. Originally, the snack cake contained a banana filling, but during World War II, bananas were in short supply and so the vanilla filling was substituted. Twinkies, the very definition of “junk food” have 145 calories crammed into each 4” x 1” cake.

About 500 million Twinkies are sold each year. President Clinton put one inside a time capsule, possibly subscribing to the unsubstantiated myth that they have a shelf life of infinity. Some say they are even able to survive a nuclear war but in fact, their shelf life is advertised as 25 days. They do last longer because their filling is not actually a dairy product.

There was speculation over how they were made for 75 years, but in 2005 the Washington Post claimed Hostess told them that Twinkies were baked for 10 minutes, filled through three holes in the top, flipped over so the rounded edge become the top, and then packaged for sale. If there aren’t enough calories in the regular Twinkie, you can always fry it and make a new taste treat. You can also add fruit toppings to your fried Twinkie.

In the legal sector, there is something known as the “Twinkie Defense” which is based on a lawyer’s supposed claim that his client was not responsible for his behavior because he was suffering from a diminished capacity due to eating so much junk food. This is not really the case. Dan White was charged with killing George Moscone and Harvey Milk and was said to have a diminished capacity, but it was due to his depression not his diet.

“Advertising is selling Twinkies to adults.” – Donald R. Vance

“I’m not going to die glamorously. I’ll probably be eating a Twinkie, take a bite, and fall over.” – Billy Corgan

“Life is like a twinkie, we all want the fluffy golden outside but it’s the cream filling that really matters.” – Tom

“My body is a temple where junk food goes to worship.” – unknown

Also on this day, in 1926 Varney Air Lines began delivering airmail in the Pacific Northwest.

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