Little Bits of History

August 21

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 21, 2017

1883: A tornado touches down in Rochester, Minnesota. In 1863, William Worrall Mayo came to the area as part of his service as an examining surgeon for the draft board during the US Civil War. He liked the region and brought his family out the next year. After the War, Mayo opened his private practice in Rochester and became a leading figure in local governance. His two sons grew up in Rochester, went back east to get medical training. Both were away on this day when a massive tornado touched down and destroyed one-third of the town. There were at least 37 dead and more than 200 injured. The Mayo family escaped harm as did the Sisters of Saint Francis, led by Mother Alfred Moes.

The sisters were trained as teachers, but were immediately drafted into helping the wounded. After the crisis passed, Moes came to Mayo to ask about establishing a hospital in Rochester and he agreed, although by the time Saint Marys Hospital opened in 1889, Mayo was 70 years old and worked as a consulting physician. By then, both of his sons had completed their medical training and were on staff at the new hospital. Mayo considered Augustus Stinchfield to be the best doctor in the area and asked him to join the family practice. Stinchfield did and so WW Mayo was able to retire at the age of 73 in 1892. The new hospital grew with the early partners profit sharing.

WW Mayo died in 1911 and by 1919 the remaining founders created the Mayo Properties Association and their private practice became a not-for-profit entity. As their practice grew, they needed more space and new additions were added with the “Red” building going up in 1914 and the Mayo Institute for Experimental Medicine built in 1922. The Plummer building was added in 1927, the Mayo Clinic building went up in 1954, and the Gonda building opened in 2002. Each new building also incorporated new medical technologies as they became available.

Today, the Mayo Clinic has a presence in three large US areas: Rochester, Minnesota, Jacksonville, Florida, and Phoenix, Arizona. At their main campus in Minnesota, they have over 34,000 employees and about 6,000 at the other two sites. They own and operate the Mayo Clinic Health System which has over 70 hospitals and clinics across Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Georgia with another 17,000 employees. The Mayo Clinic sees over 1.3 million patients per year from all over the US who come for the specialized medical care offered. They are noted for their research, education, and innovative medical care. In 2016-17, the Mayo Clinic, Rochester was voted as the number one hospital in the US by the US News & World Report. There were nearly 5,000 facilities also judged.

Physical symptoms, emotions, social pressure, conditioned thinking, lack of awareness, and other factors influence behaviors. To lose weight, you need to target those underlying factors, not just what you eat or do. – Mayo Clinic, Mayo Clinic Diet

Learn to relax. – Mayo Clinic, Mayo Clinic Diet

Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, involves a wearing away of the tough, lubricated cartilage that normally cushions the ends of the bones in your joints. – Mayo Clinic, Mayo Clinic on Arthritis

What is diabetes? The term diabetes refers to a group of diseases that affect the way your body uses blood glucose, commonly called blood sugar. – Mayo Clinic, Mayo Clinic Essential Book of Diabetes: How to Prevent, Control, and Live Well with Diabetes



Do You See What I See?

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 21, 2015
Knock Shrine

Knock Shrine*

August 21, 1879: Mary, Joseph, and Saint John the Evangelist appear to fifteen people. The apparition included a plain altar behind and to the left of Saint John. The altar held a cross and a lamb (a traditional symbol of Jesus Christ) as well as adoring angels. The witnesses were at a small parish church in County Mayo in Ireland. The Blessed Virgin Mary was described as beautiful and standing a few feet above ground. She wore a white robe and a golden crown. She was said to be deep in prayer with eyes cast to the heavens and her hands slightly raised to shoulder height in supplication. Saint Joseph was also wearing a white robe. He was to the right of Mary and his head was bowed and inclined toward her. Saint John was to Mary’s left and he wore a mitre (a bishop’s headdress) and was turned away from the others. He held a large book in his left hand.

The group witnessing the event ranged in ages from five to 75 and included men, women, and children. One of the witnesses approached the vision with the intent of kissing Mary’s feet, but when she reached out, found only rock and was confused that her hand couldn’t feel what her eyes saw. The group stood in the pouring rain for two hours, reciting the Rosary, a Catholic repetitive prayer. The vision began at around 8 PM, still light in Ireland in the summer. As time wore on, it grew darker, but the apparition remained clearly visible. While the viewers were wet with rain, the ground beneath the vision remained dry.

The village of Knock, Ireland had been going through a dramatic changes their normal everyday life. The waves of the Famine that struck Ireland had not yet fully played out. Poverty, unemployment, and evictions were not uncommon. Railways were new and brought travel opportunities as well as challenges to close knit communities. The 1870s were also the time of the beginnings of the land reforms which would change rural life, sometimes through violence as in the Land War. In times of stress, change, and upset, reminders of the stability of religion were helpful to the masses. Whether or not the vision was as a delusion by marginalized folks, the religious underpinnings of the society were concrete.

Today, rather than just the simple church which stood there (and still stands) there is a shrine built at the site. There is a tapestry depicting the apparition in the Knock Basilica. Each Irish diocese makes an annual pilgrimage to the shrine and in August there is a novena (nine days of prayer) which attracts about 10,000 visitors. In 1979, Pope John Paul II visited the shrine and celebrated Mass there (making the church as Basilica). Mother Teresa of Calcutta also visited the shrine in 1993. The shrine has been a local pilgrimage site for over 100 years, but became a national destination in the last quarter of the 20th century partly due to Monsignor James Horan’s major rebuilding of the site.

Our visions begin with our desires. – Audre Lorde

The life of a man consists not in seeing visions and in dreaming dreams, but in active charity and in willing service. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It is one of the blessings of this world that few people see visions and dream dreams. – Zora Neale Hurston

Illusions of grandeur are not the same as visions of greatness. – Edwin Louis Cole

Also on this day: USA = 50 States – In 1959, Hawaii was admitted to the United States of America as the 50th state.
The Prophet – In 1931, Nat Turner led a slave rebellion.
Stolen Smile – In 1911, the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre.
Jarvis Island – In 1821, Jarvis Island was discovered.
Adding Things Up – In 1888, William Burroughs patented an adding machine.

* “Knock Shrine” by Paul Cowan – Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

Adding Things Up

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 21, 2014
Burroughs adding machine

Burroughs adding machine

August 21, 1888: William Seward Burroughs I receives a patent. He was born in 1857, the son of a mechanic. He worked with machines all his life. His family moved to Auburn, New York and he attended public schools there. After high school, his father insisted his youngest son have a gentleman’s vocation. To that end, William was employed by the Cayuga County National Bank of Auburn. He spent many hours adding numbers. It was at this time that he became interested in creating a machine to add the lists upon lists of numbers. The bank had a number of prototypes of this machine, but they were not reliable since they gave wrong and sometimes even ludicrously wrong answers.

Clerking was not what Burroughs wished to do, but solving the adding machine problem was. His natural talents were mechanical experimentation and creation but he worked at the bank, manually adding numbers for seven years – damaging his health in the process. A doctor advised the ill man to move to a warmer climate and so Burroughs resigned from his hated job and moved to St. Louis, Missouri and got a job at a machine shop. He enjoyed the work and in this milieu was surrounded by materials that could be put to use to create the machine he had desired for seven years. His work was precise, even to making lines using a microscope for accuracy.

He devised a “calculating machine” and received patent number 388,116 on this day. He founded the American Arithmometer Company in 1886 which would become the Burroughs Adding Machine Company in 1904. The name changed to the Burroughs Corporation in 1953 and they merged with Sperry Corporation in 1986 to form Unisys. Burroughs died in 1898 and was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. His grandson and great-grandson, both also named William Burroughs, were writers of some fame.

Adding machines are a class of mechanical calculators which were developed for use in bookkeeping. The early machines were developed to read in dollars and cents. Early mechanical calculators were developed by Blaise Pascal in 1642 whose machine could add and subtract directly and multiply and divide by repetitions and Wilhelm Schickard whose less functional machine was designed decades earlier. Thomas de Colmar launched the industry in 1851 with a simplified arithmometer over which he worked for thirty years trying to perfect it. The industry did not truly take off until Dorr E. Felt and Burroughs brought differently conceived machines to market. These machines were eventually replaced by electronic calculators in the 1970s.

Without mathematics, there’s nothing you can do. Everything around you is mathematics. Everything around you is numbers. – Shakuntala Devi

Mathematics is the most beautiful and most powerful creation of the human spirit. – Stefan Banach

The study of mathematics, like the Nile, begins in minuteness but ends in magnificence. – Charles Caleb Colton

Mathematics is a game played according to certain simple rules with meaningless marks on paper. – David Hilbert

Also on this day: USA = 50 States – In 1959, Hawaii is admitted to the United States of America as the 50th state.
The Prophet – In 1931, Nat Turner led a slave rebellion.
Stolen Smile – In 1911, the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre.
Jarvis Island – In 1821, Jarvis Island was discovered.

The Prophet

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 21, 2013
Nat Turner's Rebellion or the Southampton Insurrection

Nat Turner’s Rebellion or the Southampton Insurrection

August 21, 1831: The Southampton Insurrection begins. The slave rebellion took place in Southampton County, Virginia and resulted in the deaths of 55 whites, the highest number of fatalities caused by a slave revolt. Virginia’s population in 1830 was 1,211,405 and of that number 469,737 were slaves, or 39% of the total. Southampton County’s population was 16,074 with 7,756 slaves, or 48%. Samuel Turner’s slave, Nat, began the rebellion against his oppressors. Nat Turner’s Rebellion, the more popular name, was quickly suppressed.

Records of Nat’s birth on October 2, 1800 list only his given name. He may have had a surname within the slave community, but he is known only by his owner’s name. He was a very intelligent child and learned to read and write at an early age. He was able to describe events from before his birth and was said to have visions. His peers called him “The Prophet” as he was very religious. At age 23 Nat ran away but returned to his owner after receiving a vision. He preached to both slaves and whites. While working the fields, Nat had a vision in which God told him to “fight against the Serpent.”

In February 1831, Nat believed atmospheric conditions were God’s sign to him to slay his enemies. On February 12 there was an annular solar eclipse. Nat interpreted it as a black man’s hand covering the sun. He planned his uprising for July 4 but had to postpone it. On August 13 the sun took on a blue-green color (probably from an eruption of Mt. Saint Helens and ash in the sky). This second sign spurred Nat Turner and his followers to kill all whites regardless of gender or age. Some poor whites were spared since they “thought no better of themselves than they did of negroes.”

Using knives, hatchets, and axes the slaves began their killing spree. The rebellion was quickly brought under control. It was over within 48 hours and Nat was in hiding. Retaliatory attacks by frightened whites led to the deaths of many blacks who were not even involved in Turner’s Rebellion. About 200 blacks were killed and more were beaten and tortured by angry white mobs. The state executed 55 people and banished many more. Nat Turner was captured on October 30 and came to trial on November 5. He was found guilty and hanged on November 11. Laws were enacted making it illegal to teach blacks to read and write and the free practice of religion for blacks, slave and free, was banned.

“Being at play with other children, when three or four years old, I was telling them something, which my mother overhearing, said it had happened before I was born… others being called on were greatly astonished…and caused them to say in my hearing, I surely would be a prophet.”

“Having soon discovered to be great, I must appear so, and therefore studiously avoided mixing in society, and wrapped myself in mystery, devoting my time to fasting and prayer.”

“I heard a loud noise in the heavens, and the Spirit was loosened, and Christ had laid down the yoke he had borne for the sins of men, and that I should take it on and fight against the Serpent, for the time was fast approaching when the first should be last and the last should be first.”

“And about this time I had a vision – and I saw white spirits and black spirits engaged in battle, and the sun was darkened – the thunder rolled in the Heavens, and blood flowed in streams – and I heard a voice saying, ‘Such is your luck, such you are called to see, and let it come rough or smooth, you must surely bear it.'” – all from Nat Turner

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: This was just one of a series of slave revolts beginning in colonial times and lasting up to the beginning of the US Civil War. San Giguel de Gualdape was the first European settlement in what is today the United States. There was a slave revolt there on Sapelo Island, Georgia in 1526 and the slaves were victorious. The colony was abandoned in 1527 after three months of winter. The next slave revolt was in 1570 at Veracruz and again the slaves were the winners. Between 1712 (New York City revolt) and 1859 (John Brown’s Raid in Virginia) there were fifteen named revolts which were suppressed. There were also three revolts where the slaves won their freedom, all outside the US. The Haitian revolt of 1791-1804, a ship rebellion aboard the Amistad, and another ship revolt aboard the Creole were successful. Even after the ban on reading and religion, there were three unsuccessful bids for freedom made in North America.

Also on this day: USA = 50 States – In 1959, Hawaii is admitted to the United States of America as the 50th state.
Stolen Smile – In 1911, the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre.
Jarvis Island – In 1821, Jarvis Island was discovered.

Jarvis Island

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 21, 2012

Jarvis Island

August 21, 1821: Jarvis Island is discovered. Previously known as Bunker Island, it is a 1.75 square mile uninhabited coral island. It lies about half way between Hawaii and the Cook Islands in the South Pacific. It is owned today by the US and is administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. It is one of the Line Islands – an island chain stretching for 1,460 miles, making it one of the longest island chains in the world. There are twelve islands in the chain with a total of 200 square miles of land with almost 9,000 people living there, most of them on Kiritimati.

Jarvis Island has a dry lagoon and there are no ports or harbors. There are swift currents but landing can take place on the western shore or at the southwest corner of the island. The dry lagoon was filled with deep guano deposits. These were mined for twenty years in the 1800s when guano was sought after as a fertilizer. The island itself has a dry desert climate. Days are hot, windy, and sunny while nights are cool. The highest point on the island reaches 23 feet elevation. There is a ringing reef which makes the island difficult to sight from ships.

On this day, the island was sighted by those aboard Eliza Francis, a British ship owned by Edward, Thomas, and William Jarvis. The ship was commanded by Captain Brown. In 1857, the island was claimed by the US under the Guano Islands Act and mining of the guano began in 1858. The island was suddenly abandoned in 1879 leaving ~ 8,000 tons of mined guano and several buildings behind. Others tried to continue the guano trade but were unsuccessful.

Ownership of the island went to Britain and then back to the US again. The International Geophysical Year from July 1957 to November 1958 began the study of the birds of the region. During that time, all buildings left from the guano mining days and subsequent attempts to mine the guano, were blown away in a huge storm. After the year’s study, the island was once again abandoned. During the 1960s to 1980s feral cats were removed from the island. Today, the island is a bird sanctuary and is visited by scientists or educators and only with special permission. It is also visited occasionally by the United States Coast Guard.

I felt alone out there, like I was on a desert island. I felt like Gilligan. – Mickey Rivers

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent. – John Donne

Our knowledge is a little island in a great ocean of nonknowledge. – Isaac Bashevis Singer

The general knowledge of time on the island depends, curiously enough, on the direction of the wind. – John Millington Synge

Also on this day:

USA = 50 States – In 1959, Hawaii is admitted to the United States of America as the 50th state.
The Prophet – In 1931, Nat Turner led a slave rebellion.
Stolen Smile – In 1911, the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre.

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Stolen Smile

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 21, 2011

Vincenzo Peruggia, police photograph

August 21, 1911: The Louvre loses a painting. The Mona Lisa was stolen during the night. Louis Béroud went to visit the masterpiece and found only four iron pegs where the painting should have been in the Salon Carré. Béroud contacted the guards who believed the painting was legitimately missing and was being photographed as part of a marketing campaign. Béroud left and came back a few hours later. The guards had checked and found the painting was in fact, not missing legitimately, but had been stolen. The Louvre was closed for a week to investigate.

Guillaume Apollinaire, a French poet, and Pablo Picasso, a French artist were both questioned by authorities. Apollinaire had once suggested the painting should be burnt. To get suspicion away from himself, he implicated his painter friend. Both were exonerated. The painting was thought to be lost forever. Nothing more was heard about it for two years.

Vincenzo Peruggia, an Italian, had entered the Louvre during regular hours and hidden himself until the museum closed. He hid the painting under his coat and walked out with it. He believed the masterpiece from Leonardo da Vinci should be kept in Italy and so removed it from its French location. Peruggia had a friend who sold copies of the painting and these skyrocketed during the time the original Mona Lisa was missing. Peruggia kept the painting in his apartment for two years before trying to sell it to the directors of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. The painting was returned to Louvre, but Italians hailed Peruggia as a hero and he served just six months in jail.

During World War II the painting was removed from the Louvre and taken away for safety. After touring during the war, it was returned safe and sound to the Louvre. However, in 1956 the lower portion of the painting was damaged by a vandal dousing it with acid. Later that year, another vandal threw a rock at the painting causing more damage. Today, the painting is displayed behind bulletproof glass. Twice more, attempts have been made to deface the painting, but the new security measures saved the artwork.

Mona Lisa is the only beauty who went through history and retained her reputation.” – Will Rogers

“You cannot paint the Mona Lisa by assigning one dab each to a thousand painters.” – William F. Buckley, Jr.

“Could Hamlet have been written by a committee, or the Mona Lisa painted by a club? Could the New Testament have been composed as a conference report? Creative ideas do not spring from groups. They spring from individuals. The divine spark leaps from the finger of God to the finger of Adam.” – Alfred Whitney Griswold

Mona Lisa looks as if she has just been sick, or is about to be.” – Noel Coward

Also on this day:
USA = 50 States – In 1959, Hawaii is admitted to the United States of America as the 50th state.
The Prophet – In 1931, Nat Turner led a slave rebellion.

USA = 50 States

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 22, 2010

The Hawaiian Islands

August 21, 1959: After much convincing on both sides of the Pacific, President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s proclamation admits Hawaii as the 50th state of the union. Alaska had become the 49th state in January of 1959 and a new US flag with 49 stars first flew over Independence Hall in Philadelphia on July 4, 1959. The next year the 27th US flag, now designed with 50 stars, was first flown on July 4, 1960.

Hawaii is made up of islands that have been forming for 70 million years. The volcanic activity continues with three of the volcanoes having erupted in the last 200 years. Some volcanoes underwater are also erupting and with the increased lava flows may one day be above sea level.

The first residents of the tropical paradise are shrouded in the mists of history. It is believed that Tahiti natives sailed outrigger canoes to the islands between 300 and 750 AD. The islands were called Hawaii until Captain James Cook found them in 1778 and renamed them Sandwich Islands for Britain’s Earl of Sandwich. The name was shunned by natives.

Old Hawaii was not a unified Hawaii. There were many kingdoms, each headed by their own king and with a strictly stratified caste system for the rest of the society. The first unified Hawaiian king was King Kamehameha in 1810. Queen Lili’oukalani was the last monarch whose reign ended July 7, 1898 when President McKinley annexed her kingdom. By 1900, Hawaii became a territory of the US.

In 1813, Spanish settlers introduced two new crops that are still a mainstay of Hawaiian agriculture: coffee and pineapples. There are 6,500 acres of coffee planted with 6-7 million pounds of green bean production yearly. In the year 2000, Hawaii produced about 354,000 tons of pineapples.

“As long as you’re here in Hawaii you learn to have great respect for this particular goddess and you can see her work still evident today at her volcano.” – Daniel Akaka, Hawaiian Senator

“Hawaii is not a state of mind, but a state of grace.” Paul Theroux

“Every week people were treated to different images of Hawaii, and that made people want to go and visit Hawaii. So consequently, it was a boom for Hawaiian tourism.” – Luis Reyes

“When the islands became a state in 1959, … there was a broad consensus in Congress that Native Hawaiians would not be treated as a separate racial group, and that they would not be transformed into an ‘Indian tribe.’” – John Fund

Also on this day, in 1831 Nat Turner leads a slave rebellion in Virginia.

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