Little Bits of History

April 9

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 9, 2017

1860: The oldest known recording of an audible human voice is made. Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville was a French printer and bookseller from Paris. He patented a phonautograph on March 25, 1857. The sound recording device could capture sound waves as propagated through the air rather than earlier devices which needed physical contact with the sound producing item, such as a tuning fork. The phonautograph transcribed sound waves as ripples or undulations and made the wavy line as a tracing on a smoke-blackened paper or glass. The instrument was made to be used only in a laboratory in the study of acoustics. It could be useful to visually study and measure the amplitude of the waves of speech or other sounds. Pitch could be determined if a simultaneous recording was made with the reference frequency.

There was no way to play back the recordings and no one thought to do so prior to the 1970s. The phonautograms held enough information about the sound that they, at least in theory, could be used to recreate the captured sounds. It wasn’t until 2008 when the earliest recordings were optically scanned and then a computer was used to process the scans into digital audio files. The scan from this day was turned into what appears to be Scott singing. The papers had been found stored in the French patent office with Scott’s other papers. High quality images were obtained and a playback was possible. There is much background noise, but the slowly sung words are distinguishable.

Charles Cros realized the phonautograph recordings could be turned back into sounds in 1877. He used a photoengraving technique to trace the graphs onto metal surfaces which created a playable groove. Then using a stylus and diaphragm similar to the phonautograph the reverse process allowed the sounds to be heard. Before he could write up a paper, Thomas Edison’s phonograph was already in use. There has been no record found of any attempts by Scott to listen to his prior phonautograms and it would take a new technology and 150 years before he was heard singing.

There had been a legend that Scott’s phonautograph was used to record Abraham Lincoln’s voice at the White House in 1863. Legend stated Edison had the phonautogram in with his papers. However, this seems to have been an urban legend and there has been no recording found anywhere. There is no evidence a recording was ever even made, since at the time, there wasn’t a playback option to make it worth traveling to a war torn country to make it. Edison did have a recording of Rutherford B Hayes made in 1878, the earliest recording of a US President.

The sweetest of all sounds is that of the voice of the woman we love. – Jean de la Bruyere

When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful. – Malala Yousafzai

The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can. – Neil Gaiman

I long for the raised voice, the howl of rage or love. – Leslie Fiedler

Journey of Reconciliation

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 9, 2015
Bayard Rustin Aug 1963

Bayard Rustin Aug 1963

April 9, 1947: The Journey of Reconciliation begins. The two week trip had 16 men participating in a non-violent direct action protest against segregation laws on interstate buses. Non-violent directed action was, as Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, a way to “create such a crisis and foster such a tension” that some response was forced. Eight white men and eight black men participated in a road trip via buses. There were times when the black men sat in front and times when the whites and blacks sat together, both of which were violations of current state laws which required segregation while sitting on a bus. They were encouraged by a 1946 US Supreme Court rule in Irene Morgan v Commonwealth of Virginia, 328 US 373 in which it was found that segregation in interstate travel was unconstitutional.

Segregation was legal in the South. The protests were held in the Upper South states rather than in the Deep South where violence was far more likely. Even so, the travelers were arrested several times. In North Carolina, they were brought before Judge Henry Whitfield who was even more distressed with the white participants than the black men involved. The NAACP and Thurgood Marshall had reservations about the Journey and felt it was likely to inflame and provoke violence rather than bring about justice. The NAACP did offer some limited help to the members who were arrested. The Journey has been thought to have inspired the Freedom Ride of May 1961, another attempt at attaining Civil Rights. James Peck was a participant in both trips.

George Houser was a Methodist minister and civil right activist. (He will be 99 in June.) He and James Farmer and Bernice Fisher co-founded the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE) in 1942. This group was part of the impetus for the Journey of Reconciliation. In 1940 Houser was arrested and spent a year in jail for refusing entry into the draft. After his release, he went on to champion civil rights not only for those in the US, but he also sought independence for African nations. He joined with a group of pacifists in 1948 who banded together with others of like mindset. In 1949 he moved to Skyview Acres, an intentional community, and lived there for 60 years before moving to California.

Bayard Rustin was an African-American born in West Chester, Pennsylvania. He was a leader of the civil rights movement and also supported socialism, non-violence, and gay rights. In his early 20s, he moved to Harlem and supported himself as a singer while he continued to support human rights. He was a Quaker and joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) which was a pacifist group practicing non-violence and supporter of the Journey. He was arrested for homosexuality in 1953 and was criticized for bringing embarrassment to the causes of both civil rights and pacifism. He was often attacked as a “pervert” or an “immoral influence” by opposition. Because of this he was rarely the spokesperson in a cause, but rather used his influence behind the scenes. He died from complications of a ruptured appendix in 1987 at the age of 75.

Evil societies always kill their consciences. – James Farmer

Today the choice is no longer between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’m the world’s original gradualist. I just think ninety-odd years is gradual enough. – Thurgood Marshall

It’s about time you Jews from New York learned that you can’t come down here bringing your niggers with you to upset the customs of the South. Just to teach you a lesson, I gave your black boys thirty days [on a chain gang], and I give you ninety. – Henry Whitfield

Also on this day: Water, Water Everywhere – In 1829, the dike in Gdansk fails.
Windsor Wedding – In 2005, Prince Charles married Camilla.
States United – In 1865, the US Civil War came to an end.
World Class Singer – In 1939, Marian Anderson gave a concert from the Lincoln Memorial.
Free Books – In 1833, a tax for a library was passed.

Free Books

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 9, 2014
Peterborough, New Hampshire library

Peterborough, New Hampshire library

April 9, 1833: A new tax is passed in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Because of taxpayer participation, the Peterborough Town Library is the oldest free library in the US. Unitarian minister Abiel Abbot was the founder and the original collection of books numbered 100. The library was located inside Smith and Thomson’s General Store along with the post office. The library was later moved to the town hall and in 1893 was given its own building. George Shattuck Morison was the designer of the new building. Today, the library has over 50,000 volumes.

Peterborough was first granted by Massachusetts in 1737 and was first permanently settled in 1749. The town was under attack several times during the French and Indian War. By 1759 there were fifty families living there and it was incorporated in 1760 by Governor Benning Wentworth. The town was named after Peter Prescott of Concord, Massachusetts, a land speculator of the times. There are two waterways, Contoocook River and Nubanusit Brook, and both offered sites for watermills making it possible for Peterborough to become a prosperous mill town. The first cotton factory was opened in 1810 and by 1859 there were four additional factories added which supported the 2,222 people living there. Other industries were added over time and today the 38 square mile town is home to about 6,300 people.

The town is also home to one of the oldest basket manufacturers in the country. Peterboro Basket Company opened in 1854 and has been making baskets ever since. It is also the headquarters of Eastern  Mountain Sports and the first Brookstone store opened there in 1973. Even with all this manufacturing, about 7.6% of the families and 11.1% of the population lives below the poverty line. The MacDowell art colony is in a rural part of Peterborough and was established in 1907. The first Friday of each month is celebrated in “First Friday” events and has been awarded “Best Community Tradition”. In May of each year, “Children and the Arts Day” festival is another cause for celebration.

The town was also part of the Underground Railroad and the Moses Cheney house was once visited by Frederick Douglas. Oren Chaney, son of Moses, founded Bates College and Person Cheney, grandson of Moses, was a US Senator. Several other politicians hail from the small town. Four governors of New Hampshire (the 9th, 19th, 53rd, and 72nd) as well as several congressmen including three generations of the Wilson family. Also from there are an author, journalist, illustrator, musician, and actor as well a distinguished US historian and professor emeritus at MIT. Thorton Wilder was in residence at the MacDowell colony and used the locale as a model for his play, Our Town.

All of us grow up in particular realities – a home, family, a clan, a small town, a neighborhood. Depending upon how we’re brought up, we are either deeply aware of the particular reading of reality into which we are born, or we are peripherally aware of it. – Chaim Potok

I read about eight newspapers in a day. When I’m in a town with only one newspaper, I read it eight times. – Will Rogers

I was from a small town, and nobody really expects you to leave, especially before you graduate. That doesn’t happen. – Taylor Swift

My dad was the town drunk. Most of the time that’s not so bad; but New York City? – Henny Youngman

Also on this day: Water, Water Everywhere – In 1829, the dike in Gdansk fails.
Windsor Wedding – In 2005, Prince Charles married Camilla.
States United – In 1865, the US Civil War came to an end.
World Class Singer – In 1939, Marian Anderson gave a concert from the Lincoln Memorial.

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Windsor Wedding

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 9, 2013
The happy couple

The happy couple

April 9, 2005: Charles Windsor marries his second wife. The 56-year-old divorced his first wife in 1996. The couple had two sons before the marriage dissolved. Immediately upon his divorce, Charles took up a more public relationship with his long-standing mistress. The new couple – ex-husband and mistress – finally moved in together in 2003, six years after the death of Charles’s first wife. The Prince of Wales finally married Camilla Parker Bowles on this date.

The couple announced wedding plans on February 10, 2005 with the wedding set for April 8, 2005 at Windsor Castle. The marriage was to be performed in a civil service with a religious prayer ceremony to follow. The couple was granted permission to marry by the Queen, Prince Consort, and a whole raft of officials as decreed by the Royal Marriage Act of 1772. Prince Charles gave Ms Parker Bowles a family heirloom ring that had belonged to both his mother and grandmother as her engagement ring.

There are many rules regulating royal marriages in England. The venue was changed to outside Windsor Castle so a civil service could be used. The date was postponed 24 hours so Prince Charles could attend the funeral of Pope John Paul II as the Queen’s representative. This also gave many dignitaries the opportunity to attend both the funeral and the wedding. The wedding took place at 12:30 PM at the Guildhall in Windsor. The groom’s parents did not attend the wedding but were present at the prayer service at St. George’s Chapel, officiated by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Prince William, Charles’s son, and Tom Parker Bowles, Camilla’s son, were the witnesses for the wedding. The wedding rings were crafted from Welsh gold from the Clogau St. David’s mine in Bontddu, as is tradition. Camilla, as consort to the Prince of Wales, could be called the Princess of Wales. But that would confuse her with Princess Diana and so she chooses to use the title “Duchess of Cornwall” (“Duchess of Rothesay” in Scotland). The couple honeymooned at Birkhall, the Prince’s country home in Scotland.

“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” – Mignon McLaughlin

“Love one another and you will be happy. It’s as simple and as difficult as that.” – Michael Leunig

“When the one man loves the one woman and the one woman loves the one man, the very angels desert heaven and come and sit in that house and sing for joy.” – The Brahma Sutras

“A happy marriage is a long conversation that always seems too short.” – Andre Maurois

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Prince Charles is now 64 years of age and remains heir apparent to the British throne. He is the longest serving heir apparent in British history. He is a champion of many humanitarian and social issues and in that spirit he founded The Prince’s Trust in 1976. He is a proponent of organic farming and other environmental concerns including climate change. He advocated for the place of architecture in society and the preservation of historic buildings. He has written a book on the latter topic, A Vision of Britain. He is also the author of six other books on topics of interest to the Prince. His most recent book was published in 2007 and the subject is organic gardening. He has also written and presented two documentary films and narrated and presented two more.

Also on this day: Water, Water Everywhere – In 1829 the dike in Gdansk fails.
States United – In 1865, the US Civil War came to an end.
World Class Singer – In 1939, Marian Anderson gave a concert from the Lincoln Memorial.

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World Class Singer

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 9, 2012

Marian Anderson

April 9, 1939: Marian Anderson gives a concert from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Marian was the eldest of three daughters and born on February 27, 1897 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her father was a manual laborer and suffered a head injury in 1912, dying soon after. Her mother supported the family as a cleaning woman. Marian began singing in the church choir at the age of six where she was dubbed “The Baby Contralto.” After she graduated from high school, she applied for admission to the Philadelphia Music Academy. She was denied admission because the school was segregated and Ms Anderson was an African-American.

Anderson got her first big break by winning a competition to appear with the New York Philharmonic. She performed professionally from 1925 to 1965. She made it to Carnegie Hall by 1928 and decided to tour Europe as well as the US. Anderson first performed in a concert at Wigmore Hall in London in 1930. She was offered roles in operas, many from important European opera companies. She declined in order to perform in concert or recital venues only. Within her concerts, she often performed arias from a variety of operas. She used her perfect contralto voice in rendering traditional American songs as well as spirituals.

During the late 1930s Anderson was performing at about 70 recitals per year in the US. She had become quite famous, but the color of her skin was still a barrier. She was turned away from certain hotels or restaurants due to segregation laws. The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) were functioning in Washington, D.C., a segregated city. When African-Americans preformed at their Constitution Hall, black patrons were forced to sit in the back of the Hall to see the show. To avoid the issue at all, the DAR did not schedule black performers. Rather than perform at the Hall, Anderson gave a concert to 75,000 fans from the Lincoln Memorial.

In the years following, after desegregation, Anderson performed at the Constitution Hall six times, kicking off her farewell tour from that venue. Ms Anderson not only had a beautiful voice, but a kind heart, as well. In 1944 she established the Marian Anderson Award after winning the $10,000 Bok Prize in 1943. She used the money to help support young singers until the money ran out. In 1990, a second funding for the Award was established, but the prize now goes to people exhibiting leadership in humanitarian areas.

A voice like yours is heard only once in a hundred years. – Arturo Toscanini to Marian Anderson

I forgave the DAR many years ago. You lose a lot of time hating people. – Marian Anderson

I suppose I might insist on making issues of things. But that is not my nature, and I always bear in mind that my mission is to leave behind me the kind of impression that will make it easier for those who follow. – Marian Anderson

Prejudice is like a hair across your cheek. You can’t see it, you can’t find it with your fingers, but you keep brushing at it because the feel of it is irritating. – Marian Anderson

When I sing, I don’t want them to see that my face is black. I don’t want them to see that my face is white. I want them to see my soul. And that is colorless. – Marian Anderson

Also on this day:

Water, Water Everywhere – In 1829 the dike in Gdansk fails.
Windsor Wedding – In 2005, Prince Charles married Camilla.
States United – In 1865, the US Civil War came to an end.

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States United

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 9, 2011

The McLean house where Lee surrendered to Grant on April 9, 1865. (Photo by Timothy H. O'Sullivan)

April 9, 1865: Robert E. Lee tells his troops, “After four years of arduous service marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources” and the United States Civil War ends. Ulysses S. Grant accepted Lee’s surrender at the Appomattox Court House  [McLean house] in Virginia.

Causes to the War between the States, War of Rebellion, War of Secession, or War for Southern Independence are varied and difficult to pin down. While slavery and the abolitionist movement played a role, state’s rights were also at issue. The political, social, economic, and psychological factors are varied. The southern plantation growing cotton with slave labor was vying against a growing economic gain of the industrialized north.

Abraham Lincoln was elected President on November 6, 1860. He had stated that a “government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free.” The southern states were distressed by this sentiment and on December 20, 1860 South Carolina seceded from the Union. Within two months Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas also left the Union. On February 9, 1861 The Confederate State of America formed with Jefferson Davis as President. Lincoln was sworn in on March 4, 1861.

On April 12, 1861 General Pierre Beauregard opened fired on the Union Fort Sumter off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina. The fort fell and two days later, the Stars and Bars was raised. The war raged across the southern and border states for four years resulting in 620,000 American deaths, twice as many from disease as from wounds. After Lee, head of the CSA military forces, surrendered to Grant, head of the US military forces, the war was officially over. In a symbolic act, on April 14, 1865 the Stars and Bars came down over Fort Sumter and the Stars and Stripes was raised. Lincoln, finally able to relax, went to the theater. He was assassinated that night. The war was over, but the country was not healed. Reconstruction followed.

“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.” – Abraham Lincoln

“If the Confederacy fails, there should be written on its tombstone: Died of a Theory.” – Jefferson Davis

“In every battle there comes a time when both sides consider themselves beaten, then he who continues the attack wins.” – Ulysses S. Grant

“What a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world.” – Robert E. Lee in a letter to his wife, 1864

Also on this day:
Water, Water Everywhere – In 1829 the dike in Gdansk fails.
Windsor Wedding – In 2005, Prince Charles married Camilla.


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Water, Water Everywhere

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 9, 2010

Modern flooding in Gdansk

April 9, 1829: The Polish city of Gdańsk is flooded when the dike breaks, killing 1,200 people. Gdańsk, also known as Danzig, is an ancient city in Poland located on the Baltic Sea at the mouth of the Motlawa River. The city was first established in the 10th century and was given city rights in 1263. Today, there are nearly 458,000 people calling it home and over 1 million in the greater metropolitan area. The city is famous for being the birthplace of the Solidarity movement begun by Lech Wałęsa.

Dikes have been used to hold back rising waters since 2600 BC. These early barriers were constructed in the Indus Valley protecting the Harappan people. The word “dijk” is from the Netherlands, a land associated with lowlands surrounded by water and needing protection. We also call them levees. Not all levees are manmade. Mother Nature herself helps build up walls of sediment left behind as rivers flood. These rising lands build up and protect the rest of the floodplain except in extreme cases. During high floods when the waters crest over the sediment levees, it leaves new deposits and raises the height of the embankment once again.

Water can inundate an area by breaching the dike or levee. The water can actually displace a portion of the dike allowing the water to pour in – as was seen in New Orleans during the Katrina Hurricane of 2005. Water can also “boil” through or under the dike and resurface on the landside – which usually results in enough material being carried away to form a true breach. Dikes can also fail when water rises high enough to flow over the top.

Early civilization needed water nearby, so they built cities around places with the needed commodity. This led to the possibility of flooding from rain, storm surges, tsunamis or any combination thereof. In order to protect themselves, early people built earthen dikes to hold back the waters. Humanity’s love/hate relationship with water continues to this day, with humans trying to control the rising seas and not always winning.

“No individual raindrop ever considers itself responsible for the flood.” – unknown

“By gnawing through a dike, even a rat may drown a nation.” – Edmund Burke

“Nothing is as soft as water, yet who can withstand the raging flood?” – Lao Ma

“No man drowns if he perseveres in praying to God; and can swim.” – Russian proverb

Also on this day, in 2005 Prince Charles wed Camilla Parker-Bowles.

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