Little Bits of History

April 8

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 8, 2017

1904: Longacre Square gets a new name. The Dutch were the first Europeans to settle Manhattan Island and when they arrived there were three small streams which united at what is today, 10th Avenue and 40th Street. The stream then ran through what was called the Great Kill where fish and waterfowl were for sale. The stream entered into the Hudson River at present day 42nd Street. The region became known for carriage-making. John Morin Scott’s manor house was located at 43rd Street prior to the Revolutionary War and he was the overseer of much of the land used for farming and breeding horses. In the early 19th century, John Jacob Astor took control and sold off lots, at a great profit, as what was by then New York City grew.

As lower Manhattan became more upscale, homes, theaters, and prostitution were pushed north toward and Longacre Square which became known as Thieves Lair because of pickpockets and the low entertainment offered. The first theater on the square was built by Oscar Hammerstein, a cigar manufacturer, and by the 1890s Broadway was “ablaze with electric light and thronged by crowds of middle- and upper-class theatre, restaurant and café patrons”. In 1904 Adolph S Ochs moved his thriving newspaper to the newly built skyscraper on 42nd Street at Longacre Square. Ochs persuaded Mayor George McClellan, Jr. to build a subway station there and then, on this day, the name was changed to Times Square. Three weeks later, the first electrified ad showed up on the Horse Exchange (now the Winter Garden Theatre).

While the newspaper changed venues in 1913, the name has stayed the same. It is sometimes called by other names: The Crossroads of the World, The Center of the Universe, or the heart of The Great White Way. The area at the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue and stretching from West 42nd to West 47th Streets is one of the busiest pedestrian intersections in the world. It is the center for the Broadway Theater District and is a much visited tourist destination. About 330,000 people pass through the area daily and 50 million yearly tourists are a great part of that number. On some of the busiest days, 460,000 people are there. Since 1907, they show up on New Year’s Eve to watch the ball drop from the Times Building, now One Times Square. About a million show up for this event.

Today, the Square is known for art and commerce. Electric and neon signs light up the night. Zipper news crawls across screens begging for “eyes on” views. There are landmarks in abundance including the origin of the Times name. Many important buildings are on or adjacent to Times Square as are many corporate buildings. The area is universally recognizable and so is often used in movies and in some of them, the Square and New York City are destroyed. Or else it is depicted as a busy section of urban life in the US. However it is shown, it is iconic.

Times Square quickly became New York’s agora, a place to gather to await great tidings and to celebrate them, whether a World Series or a presidential election. – James Traub

How can you be organized when you’re in Times Square? – Mary-Kate Olsen

I always have a positive reaction to Times Square – you’ve got so many people passing through here, so many cultures, and so many people merging into the central community of New York City. This is the hub of America. – Dhani Jones

L.A., it’s nice, but I think of sunshine and people on rollerblades eating sushi. New York, I think of nighttime, I think of Times Square and Broadway and nightlife and the city that never sleeps. – Jimmy Fallon

Religious Freedom

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 8, 2015
Congregation Shearith Israel's Synagogue

Congregation Shearith Israel’s Synagogue *

April 8, 1730: The Mill Street synagogue is consecrated. Portuguese and Spanish Jews first arrived in New Amsterdam (now New York City) in September 1654. Anti-Semite governor Peter Stuyvesant, was not accepting them. The next year, they were finally given official permission to settle in the colony and they founded the first Jewish community, the Congregation Shearith Israel. While they were permitted to reside there, they were not allowed to build a public place of worship throughout the entire Dutch period and into the British rule of the area. They did make arrangements for a cemetery beginning in 1656. They were finally given the go ahead to build a synagogue and chose Mill Street as the original location. It is located in what is today, lower Manhattan.

Prior to the building of this first synagogue, the Congregation had used rented quarters on Beaver Street. Since this date, the Congregation has had a total of five synagogues in which to worship. This first one was used for over 80 years until they rebuilt and expanded it in 181. Then in 1834, they built a new synagogue on Crosby Street and in 1860 moved to 19th Street. They have been located at their present building on West 70th Street since 1897. The synagogue and Congregation have been members of the Sephardic Jews, a term literally meaning Jews from Spain and indicative of their community coming from Jews who had moved to the Iberian Peninsula at the beginning of the 2nd millennium.

Until 1795, all Jews in the US were Sephardic even though many came from Eastern European Jews. Their liturgy was distinct and cohesive. The Ashkenazi congregations were a response to this and the first of these was built in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. These American Reform Jews made headway into American culture and Rabbi Henry Pereira Mendes from Shearith Israel cofounded the American Jewish Theological Seminary in 1886 in order to train traditional rabbis. The training was given at Shearith Israel. In 1896, Mendes was President of the school and helped form the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America as a counterpoint to the Reform movement’s own Union of Hebrew Congregations in America.

Today, the newest synagogue sits on what was once a duck farm. Arnold Brunner, an American born Jewish architect designed the neo-classical building. Louis Comfort Tiffany created the glass windows and was responsible for the interior work and color design. Free guided tours are available once a month and last about 45 minutes. The docent will explain about the history of this Jewish Community and will be able to explain the ritual items included in the tour, some dating back to Colonial times. Rabbi Dr. Meir Y Soloveichik is the tenth minister since the founding of the Congregation and has been with them since 2012. They have many programs for both youth and adults and education continues to be highly valued.

I felt there’s a wealth in Jewish tradition, a great inheritance. I’d be a jerk not to take advantage of it. – Herman Wouk

In Jewish history there are no coincidences. – Elie Wiesel

What was lost in the European cataclysm was not only the Jewish past — the whole life of a civilization — but also a major share of the Jewish future…. It was not only the intellect of a people in its prime that was excised, but the treasure of a people in its potential. – Cynthia Ozick

If you elect me the first Jewish justice of the peace, I’ll reduce the speed limits to 54.95! – Kinky Friedman

Also on this day: Punch Without Judy – In 1992, the last issue of Punch magazine hits the newsstands.
Venus de Milo – In 1820, the famous statue was found on Melos.
 Winchester Cathedral – In 1093, the new Winchester Cathedral was dedicated.
Working Class – In 1935, the WPA was created.
Clint Eastwood’s Political Life – In 1986, Eastwood was elected mayor.

“Congregation Shearith Israel 001” by Gryffindor – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

Clint Eastwood’s Political Life

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 8, 2014
Clint Eastwood for Mayor

Clint Eastwood for Mayor

April 8, 1986: An actor who once appeared in a movie with a monkey, is elected as mayor. In January 1986, Clint Eastwood announced he was running for mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea. The instigation for this change in career was that Eastwood felt the punitive and pecuniary laws of the little town, population 3,700, were inhibitory and disrespectful. Eastwood wanted to erect a small building in the downtown area and was summarily denied the permit by the preservationist town council. He sued the city; won the day. This fight with city hall, the proverbial winner of all battles, led him to think of entering into a political life. He stated categorically that this was not a stepping stone to greater political aspirations; he was strictly local.

His campaign against incumbent Charlotte Townsend contained no mudslinging. He gave no interviews to the national press and remained strictly adhered to the local scene. He had almost no paid advertising. He did have buttons and bumper stickers and ran a polite, tasteful political campaign, almost anathema to the US political system. He refused autographs when out in public. His campaign slogan was “Bringing the Community Together” and stressed his desire to build bridges between the business and residential communities. On this day, the voters came out and with twice the normal turnout, elected Eastwood with 72.5% of the votes going to him.

During his one and only term in office, he was able to fulfill his duties to his own satisfaction. The $200 monthly salary did not go to his head and he was able to effect change within Carmel-by-the-Sea. One of his achievements was to make it easier for citizens to build or renovate property. He was also able to get a tourist parking lot constructed. The Mission Ranch was remodeled and the landscape on which it sat was preserved and the 80 condominiums which were in the plans were not built. The most impressive of his innovations, at least in his own eyes, was the building of an annex to the library and dedicated as a children’s library. Although he claimed to have enjoyed the experience, he did not run for a second term.

After the election and with the large margin win, another actor called to congratulate Eastwood. President Ronald Reagan joked about their respective pasts, each having acted at one time with a monkey. Eastwood’s Every Which Way But Loose and Reagan’s Bedtime for Bonzo. Being the mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea was not a full time occupation and during the two years Eastwood held the post, he also worked at his “day job”. He produced, directed, and starred in Heartbreak Ridge. He also produced and directed Bird, the movie which brought him his first major award for filmmaking. For that movie, he received Best Director at the Golden Globe awards.

We got things built – beach walkways, a library annex which had been waiting 25 years, and so on. I approached it from a business point of view, not a political one.

I have a very strict gun control policy: if there’s a gun around, I want to be in control of it.

Respect your efforts, respect yourself. Self-respect leads to self-discipline. When you have both firmly under your belt, that’s real power.

I tried being reasonable, I didn’t like it. – all from Clint Eastwood

Also on this day: Punch Without Judy – In 1992, the last issue of Punch magazine hits the newsstands.
Venus de Milo – In 1820, the famous statue was found on Melos.
 Winchester Cathedral – In 1093, the new Winchester Cathedral was dedicated.
Working Class – In 1935, the WPA was created.

Venus de Milo

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 8, 2013
Venus de Milo

Venus de Milo

April 8, 1820: A French ensign goes hunting for treasure. The French schooner, Estafette, was sailing in the Aegean Sea. Olivier Voutier, 23, was interested in history and when the ship stopped at a small island (Melos), he and two sailors went in search of artifacts. As they dug among the ruins of an ancient theater, they found some marble fragments and pieces of statuary. Nearby, a local farmer was digging for rocks to use in a wall he was building. The farmer dug into a concealed niche and was disgusted to find unusable rock.

Voutier went to see what the farmer had found. There in the gloom, stained and nicked, was part of a statue – the upper half of a nude woman. There was a hole in the right side from some earlier restoration work. Her hair was chipped and the tip of her nose was missing. Even so, she was stunning. Voutier paid the farmer to keep digging in the hope of finding the bottom half of the statue. When the legs seemingly draped in wet fabric were found, the two pieces did not fit together. A third smaller piece was still missing. Digging continued and it was found.

The statue, while not quite complete, was gorgeous. The drapery covering her legs was falling from her hips. Voutier brought several people to see her. Eventually the Marquis de Rivieve bought the statue and had a ship come to the island to take her back to France. The statue was presented to King Louis XVII who in turn donated her to an art museum. And that is how the Venus de Milo finally got to the Louvre.

The Greek goddess was called Aphrodite but her Roman name was Venus. She was the goddess of love and beauty, born from the sea. Stylistic details date her from the Hellenistic period around 130 BC – 100 BC. The missing arms were never found. Evidence shows the right arm was lowered across the torso with her hand resting on her left knee. The knee is slightly raised and her hand would have seemed to hold the slipping drapery in place. The left arm was held outstretched and the hand held an apple. The ancient Greeks would have tinted the statue and adorned her with jewelry. No color remains and only the supporting holes for the jewelry give testimony to her previous bejeweled state.

“There’s only one woman I know of who could never be a symphony conductor, and that’s the Venus de Milo.” – Margaret Hillis

“Adding sound to movies would be like putting lipstick on the Venus de Milo.” – Mary Pickford

“Even if you gods, and all the goddesses too, should be looking on, yet would I be glad to sleep with golden Aphrodite.” – Homer

“When one is twenty yes, but at forty-seven, Venus may rise from the sea, and I for one should hardly put on my spectacles to have a look.” – William Makepeace Thackeray

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Venus de Milo or Aphrodite of Milos is slightly larger than life. She stands 6 feet 8 inches tall. There was an inscription on the plinth where she was found which leads some to believe she is the work of Alexandros of Antioch. The plinth is now lost due to some intrigue or politics within the Louvre. Originally thought to be the work of Praxiteles of Attica, the inscription on the now missing plinth refuted that claim. Alexandros seems to have been a wandering artist who worked on commission and also, according to other inscriptions found in Thespiae, an accomplished singer and composer able to win contests in these arts, too. He is believed to be the artist who created a statue of Alexander the Great which is also displayed at the Louvre. This statue was found on the island of Delos.

Also on this day: Punch Without Judy – In 1992 the last issue of Punch magazine hits the newsstands.
 Winchester Cathedral – In 1093, the new Winchester Cathedral was dedicated.
Working Class – In 1935, the WPA was created.

Working Class

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 8, 2012


April 8, 1935: The Works Progress Administration is created with the passage of the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935. The act was a portion of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal which were economic stimulus initiatives to propel the US out of the Great Depression. With the stock market crash of October 1929, the US economy, as well as the world’s economy, floundered. The New Deal programs were passed between 1933 and 1935, the years of the greatest economic hardship.

The Works Progress Administration changed the name to Work Projects Administration (WPA) in 1939. The funding amount passed in 1935 was for $5 billion ($80.3 billion in 2009 USD). The WPA was tasked with creating jobs for the unemployed and continued programs started in 1932 under Herbert Hoover. The WPA was in effect until 1943 and provided almost 8 million jobs. Between 1936 and 1939, expenditures reached nearly $7 billion (≈ $108 billion in 2009 USD). The WPA financed construction projects as well as funding the arts and redistributing food, clothing, and shelter.

The WPA hired people paying hourly wages commensurate with local wages. The hours worked were not to top 30 per week, however many projects were large field projects where the workers were eating and sleeping at the worksites. Prior to 1940, the program also helped to provide training for the unemployed, giving them skill sets making them eligible for a variety of employment opportunities. The WPA was the chief government employer in many states during these years.

About 15% of heads of households seeking help were women. The average age of persons employed was 40, although it should be noted the National Youth Administration operated separately to hire younger people. The prevailing attitude of the time made it difficult for both husband and wife to find employment, since two adults working would take a job from someone else who was the head of a household. Most of the women employed were responsible for supporting one to five other people in their homes. Whether or not the New Deal programs helped or hurt the economic recovery is still hotly debated. But the unemployed millions were given a chance to work with the WPA.

No one can possibly have lived through the Great Depression without being scarred by it. No amount of experience since the depression can convince someone who has lived through it that the world is safe economically. – Isaac Asimov

The Great Depression, like most other periods of severe unemployment, was produced by government mismanagement rather than by any inherent instability of the private economy. – Milton Friedman

I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people. – Franklin D. Roosevelt

The New Deal is plainly an attempt to achieve a working socialism and avert a social collapse in America; it is extraordinarily parallel to the successive ‘policies’ and ‘Plans’ of the Russian experiment. Americans shirk the word ‘socialism’, but what else can one call it? – H. G. Wells

Also on this day:

Punch Without Judy – In 1992 the last issue of Punch magazine hits the newsstands.
Venus de Milo – In 1820, the famous statue was found on Melos.
Winchester Cathedral – In 1093, the new Winchester Cathedral was dedicated.

Winchester Cathedral

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 8, 2011

Winchester Cathedral (photo by Antony McCallum or

April 8, 1093: The new Winchester Cathedral is dedicated. The ceremony was carried out by Bishop Walkelin who was the first Norman bishop of Winchester. The Catholic nobleman was related to William the Conqueror and was his royal chaplain. Walkelin took office in Winchester in 1070. He began work on the new cathedral in 1079. On this day, nearly all the Catholic bishops and abbots in England came to the dedication of the tremendous new building. Today, only the transepts and crypt of this original building are included in the current cathedral.

The first cathedral was founded in 642 to the immediate north of the current structure. It became part of a monastery and Saint Swithun was buried there. The original church was called Old Minster and was destroyed after the new cathedral was built. The official name for the church is Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity, and of St Peter and St Paul and of St Swithun. Today, it is a Church of England establishment.

Located at Winchester in Hampshire, it is one of the largest cathedrals in England. The crossing tower was begun in 1202, replacing a tower that had collapsed. In 1394, remodeling of the Norman nave began and continued into the 16th century. A retroquire was added to accommodate the many pilgrims who came to St Swithun’s shrine. The church buildings were seized by King Henry VIII when he declared himself head of the Church of England and banned the Catholic Church.

Restoration work was carried out between 1905-1912. The cathedral was built on unstable ground and by the 20th century was in danger of complete collapse. Waterlogged walls were shored up by diver William Walker. He packed the foundations with more than 25,000 bags of concrete, 115,000 concrete blocks, and 900,000 concrete bricks. He worked six hours per day for six years all done in total darkness. He worked at depths up to 20 feet. The church is 558 feet long, with a crypt that routinely floods. Yet it is an enduring example of Norman Gothic architecture and draws tourists just as it drew pilgrims of old. It is also probably the only cathedral to have a successful popular song written about it. The New Vaudeville Band hit the top ten in 1966 with “Winchester Cathedral” which made it to the number one spot in the US.

“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“But now I know that it is very important that all buildings should be consistent, that this is the quality of the Gothic cathedral, for instance, that we like.” – Minoru Yamasaki

“I never weary of great churches. It is my favorite kind of mountain scenery. Mankind was never so happily inspired as when it made a cathedral.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

“Regard it as just as desirable to build a chicken house as to build a cathedral.” – Frank Lloyd Wright

Also on this day:
Punch Without Judy – In 1992 the last issue of Punch magazine hits the newsstands.
Venus de Milo – In 1820, the famous statue was found on Melos.

Punch Without Judy

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 8, 2010

Punch magazine

April 8, 1992: After nearly 151 years of weekly publication, the final edition of Punch Magazine hits the newsstands. On July 17, 1841 Henry Mayhew and Ebenezer Landells founded the satirical, humorous, weekly magazine. It was edited by Mayhew and Mark Lemon with Mayhew retreating to “suggester in chief” the next year.

The magazine’s focus was more highbrow and less bitter than other British comic publications of the time. The public’s response was dismal and the magazine floundered. An annual issue, Almanack, was published in December. It sold 90,000 copies and put Punch on the radar screen. In the early days, with an increasing readership, the magazine was challenged by a copycat called Fun. That venture folded and Punch continued to amuse poets, writers, and the average Joe on both sides of the Atlantic. Even Prince Albert was a fan.

The magazine skewered the monarchy and defended the oppressed. It was “a radical scourge of all authority” and used both the written word and weekly cartoons to make its point. Many well-known writers contributed to the magazine’s success such as A.A. Milne, William Makepeace Thackeray, Somerset Maugham, P.G. Wodehouse, Sylvia Plath, and many more. Illustrators included the likes of E.H. Shepard, Bill Tidy, E.A. Worthington, and other illustrious artists.

Circulation peaked in the 1940s at 175,000 but slowly declined thereafter. The magazine closed shop in 1992. Four years later, Mohamed Al-Fayed bought the name and reopened for business. His version of the magazine lost £16 million over the six years it ran, closing for good in the year 2002. Punch maintains a web presence where many of the old cartoons can still be viewed.

“How often we recall, with regret, that Napoleon once shot at a magazine editor and missed him and killed a publisher. But we remember with charity that his intentions were good.” – Mark Twain

“98% of the people who get the magazine say they read the cartoons first – and the other 2% are lying.” – David Remnick

“Satire should, like a polished razor keen,
Wound with a touch that’s scarcely felt or seen.” – Mary Worley Montagu

“Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own; which is the chief reason for that kind of reception it meets in the world, and that so very few are offended with it.” – Jonathan Swift

Also on this day, in 1820 a broken statue was found on the island of Milos, a statue of Aphrodite – aka Venus de Milo.

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