Little Bits of History

August 24

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 24, 2017

1456: The earliest date we have for a Gutenberg Bible is today. Also called the 42-line Bible, the Mazarin Bible, or B42, this was the first major book printed in Europe using the mass-produced moveable metal type. Printing goes back to very early times, if we include the duplication of images by means of stamps. These woodblock images were used in the Far East and were in use in the first century AD. Movable type was in use in China around 1040. They switched from woodblocks to porcelain but that was changed to clay, probably because of cost. Neither became popular. Chinese characters are numerous and creating all the pieces was prohibitive. By 1377, this was mastered and was described by French scholar Henri-Jean Martin. It was very similar to Johannes Gutenberg’s system.

Gutenberg was not just a printer. He was also a blacksmith and goldsmith which gave him access to methods and tools. Around 1439, through a series of investment catastrophes, Gutenberg found himself with debt and no way to repay it. He claimed he had a “secret” to share and there has been speculation it was the idea of movable type printing. Between 1450 and 1455, Gutenberg printed several texts many of which are unknown to us today. We may surmise they were done by Gutenberg by comparing fonts but there is no imprint or date given for these earliest works.

By the time Gutenberg got around to printing a Bible, he had as many as 100,000 letters available to create the pages. Setting up a page could take up to half a day. Then the press would require loading and inking, no small feat in itself as well as individually pulling the impressions and setting up the sheets to dry. There is speculation that Gutenberg and his partner, Johann Fust, had up to 25 craftsmen working to create the massive Bible. While we don’t have an accurate way to know how many of these Bibles were printed (numbers range from 158 to 180 copies), there are 49 copies (or substantial portions of copies) remaining in existence today. They are considered to be one of the most valuable books in the world even though no complete copies have been sold since 1978.

France is in ownership of four of the Bibles and the earliest date inscribed on any of them is this date. It is for the first volume of the Bible with the second volume dated August 15, 1456. This was the date the rubricator and binder finished his process and completed the work. Germany, home of the printing press and Gutenberg, has the most extant copies of the Bible at thirteen. The US owns eleven and the UK has eight. Vatican City, Russia, and Spain have two each with the remaining copies singly dispersed around the planet. There are also 36-line versions of the Bible printed and it is not known if these are a second run for Gutenberg or the work of another printer. Today’s Gutenberg Bibles are almost all owned by universities or other scholarly institutions. Few remain with religious institutions.

We can put television in its proper light by supposing that Gutenberg’s great invention had been directed at printing only comic books. – Robert M. Hutchins

I owe all my knowledge to the German inventor, Johannes Gutenberg! – Mehmet Murat Ildan

The solution was eventually found by Johannes Gutenberg, who made the breakthrough that finally established printing as the communication technology of the future. Similar ideas may have been under development around the same time in Prague and Haarlem. But in business, the key question is not about who else is in the race, it’s about who gets there first. Johannes Gutenberg was the first to make the new technology work, ensuring his place in any history of the human race. – Alister E. McGrath

Gutenberg made everybody a reader. Xerox makes everybody a publisher. – Marshall McLuhan

 

 

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Money Problems

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 24, 2015
James Buchanan

James Buchanan

August 24, 1857: The Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Company fails. The banking institution was founded in 1830 and based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Their offices in New York City ceased operations on this day secondary to bad investments, especially in agricultural businesses. The Crimean War had taken over much of Europe’s ability to grow crops but as the war ended, American exports declined and prices of food dropped. Also implicated were bad business practices and the possibility of embezzlement by upper management. The telegraph made it possible for news of the closure to spread quickly and this combined with already dropping markets led to a panic. The company also held mortgages with other Ohio investment banks. The bank was left with $7 million in liabilities. While a run on the banks was averted, the Panic of 1857 followed.

The SS Central America sunk only a few days later, on September 9. She was carrying 477 passengers and 101 crew when she was caught in a hurricane off the coast of the Carolinas. The loss of life was tremendous as 425 people were killed when the ship went down. The rest were saved by a Norwegian ship in the area. Also lost with the ship was the cargo she was carrying, about $2 million in gold. Many banks in New York were awaiting the arrival of the gold aboard the ship and without it were unable to meet their liabilities. The years prior to the crash had been prosperous and many banks as well as merchants and farmers, had taken risks with investments. But as prices plummeted, their gains turned into losses and resulted in a panic that took the Civil War to ease.

Another contributing factor was the decision in Dred Scott v Sandford in March 1857. The ruling stated Scott was unable to use the court system because he was not a citizen due to his skin color. It also ruled the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional. The trouble between the North and South heated up with the ruling. The railroads were also affected due to their speculation in lands out west and the drop in the market prices for those lands. In 1855, a bushel of grain sold for $2.19 and it fell to $0.80 by 1858. This meant farmers were less likely to purchase any more lands to grow devalued crops and many Midwest towns were economically at risk.

Because of the connectedness of the world’s major economies, the Panic of 1857 was the first world-wide economic crisis. In Britain, laws were passed to keep from having gold and silver reserves to back currencies and this helped spread the Panic there. In the US, President James Buchanan felt the root cause was the use of non-backed paper money and all bills greater than $20 were withdrawn. Government interventions in controlling currencies included specie payments. Tariffs were passed which lowered duty on imported items which was hoped would boost American industries. The agrarian South was not nearly as affected as the North, especially in the Great Lakes region. It did help to fuel tensions about slavery and it was the Civil War which eventually brought an end to the panic itself.

A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don’t need it. – Bob Hope

It’s easy to make money. You put up the sign Bank and someone walks in and hands you his money. The façade is everything. – Christina Stead

We all need money, but there are degrees of desperation. – Anthony Burgess

Banks are an almost irresistible attraction for that element of our society which seeks unearned money. – J. Edgar Hoover

Also on this day: Pompeii Disappears – In AD 79, Mount Vesuvius erupted.
Waffling – In 1869, a waffle iron was patented.
George Crum – In 1853, George Crum invented potato chips.
Not a Black Hole – Yet – In 1690, Calcutta was founded.
Going Up in Flames – In 1814, the British set fire to much of Washington, DC.

Going Up in Flames

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 24, 2014
The White House after the fire

The White House after the fire

August 24, 1814: The burning of Washington takes place. During the War of 1812, Britain and the US were once again at war. As part of that engagement, British troops entered what was then called Washington City led by Major General Robert Ross. US troops had just been defeated at the Battle of Bladensburg in Maryland. British troops had been freed up after their conquest of Napoleon and now 2,500 soldiers were available to fight in the US. Ross had arrived in Bermuda aboard HMS Royal Oak with three frigates, three sloops, and ten other vessels. These ships sailed up the Patuxent and troops were offloaded in Maryland on August 19, 1814.

The British leaders threatened to destroy property which led to hesitancy of a military response. They moved on inexperienced troops and won the battle at Bladensburg before an advance contingent moved on to the capital city. The men arrived under a flag of truce but were attacked by partisans from a house on the corner of Maryland Avenue, Constitution Avenue, and Second Street NE. This was the only resistance the British met within the city. The men burned down the house their attackers had occupied.

They went on to set fire to the Capitol building although the central rotunda had not yet been built. The buildings which housed the Senate and the House of Representatives along with Library of Congress all suffered damage. The interiors of the buildings were damaged but due to thick wall construction and torrential rains falling secondary to an offshore hurricane, the exteriors were not damaged. The loss of books in the library would spur Thomas Jefferson to donate his personal library to replace the books lost in the blaze. The arsonists moved up Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House and also set fire to that building. President Madison and his wife Dolley, along with other slaves and servants fled, saving some of the more important and portable pieces from inside the house.

All the buildings burned were public building (except for the house of the attackers) and the British were quite adamant that no private buildings should be lost. Rear Admiral George Cockburn entered the city the next day and arrived at the National Intelligencer, the local newspaper office and threatened to burn it down. When the ladies present explained their fear of the fire spreading to their houses, the building was spared from fire, but it was destroyed by soldiers tearing it down. The paper had not been kind to Cockburn in the past. The US Treasury building was burned, but the Patent Office was saved – the only government building spared – due to William Thorton’s cooperating with the British. Leaders in Europe were appalled by the attack, but most British supported the sacking of the capital city as a retaliatory move from an attack on a Canadian city earlier in the year.

Washington is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm. – John F. Kennedy

Bad as political fiction can be, there is always a politician prepared to make it look artistic by comparison. – Christopher Hitchens

Many a time I have seen my mother leap up from the dinner table to engage the swarming flies with an improvised punkah, and heard her rejoice and give humble thanks simultaneously that Baltimore was not the sinkhole that Washington was. – H.L. Mencken

Washington isn’t a city, it’s an abstraction.  – Dylan Thomas

Also on this day: Pompeii Disappears – In AD 79, Mount Vesuvius erupts.
Waffling – In 1869, a waffle iron was patented.
George Crum – In 1853, George Crum invents potato chips.
Not a Black Hole – Yet – In 1690, Calcutta is founded.

Waffling

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 24, 2013
Waffles

Waffles

August 24, 1869: US patent # 94,093 is issued to Cornelius Swarthout. The patent was for a waffle iron. The idea of cooking batter between two hot metal plates is quite old, going back to the ancient Greeks. They were originally flat cakes. In the Middle East they were called oublies and could be rolled and filled. By the 13th century, some craftsman built the plates with the ridges or honeycomb pattern and called his cakes gaufres from the Old French wafla.

The Dutch called the cakes wafel. The Pilgrims had learned of the treat before sailing to the New World and brought the cakes with them. Wafel appeared in English print by 1735. Thomas Jefferson brought back a long handled waffle iron from a trip to France. Some early waffle irons included intricate patterns such as a coat of arms or religious symbols. The batter was placed between the hinged plates that were then pressed together using wooden handles. The whole mechanism was then placed over the hearth fire to bake.

Swarthout, a Dutch-American, patented a version of waffle iron made using cast iron for the plates. The batter was pressed between the plates and then cooked on the stove top. The next leap in waffle technology came in 1911 when General Electric produced the first electric iron. They introduced a heating element using a built-in thermostat. Earlier versions often burned the waffle due to overheating. Today’s waffle irons appear different but the basic design remains the same but with upgrades such as non-stick surfaces.

There are a variety of waffles made throughout the world. Brussels waffles are thicker and with large pockets. They are often sold by street vendors with a dusting of powdered sugar. Liège waffles were created by a Belgium chef and contain caramelized chunks of pearl sugar. American waffles (Belgium waffles) are leavened with baking powder rather than yeast. They can be sweetened or used as a base for entrees, as in some chicken dishes. Hong Kong waffles are round and can be spread with peanut butter and sugar before eating the treat, often sold by street vendors. Stroopwafels are thin, round, and have a syrup filling. Which do you want? Stop waffling.

“A waffle is like a pancake with a syrup trap.” – Mitch Hedberg

“He give her a look that you could of poured on a waffle.” – Ring Lardner

“I have always loved Waffle House. It’s been like an oasis in the desert many times late at night after one of my concerts.” – Trace Adkins

“I’ve waffled before. I’ll waffle again.” – Howard Dean

This article first appeared at examiner.com in 2009. Editor’s update: A similar food is the pancake, also called a hotcake or flapjack. Rather than prepared by heating both sides simultaneously, each side is fried on a griddle. In America, a raising agent, usually baking powder, is used while in Britain no raising agents are part of the recipe. Like waffles, pancakes can be filled or have a topping applied. Toppings can include anything from traditional syrup to jams and fruits or even meats when used as an entrée. Shrove Tuesday is often associated with pancakes and in Britain the day is called Pancake Day. The idea was to use up perishable ingredients prior to the beginning of Lent when fasting is observed. Pancakes may have been the earliest and most widespread cereal food eaten in prehistoric societies. They can be thin (crêpes) to thick and other variations include blintzes and latkes. 

Also on this day: Pompeii Disappears – In AD 79, Mount Vesuvius erupts.
George Crum – In 1853, George Crum invents potato chips.
Not a Black Hole – Yet – In 1690, Calcutta is founded.

Not a Black Hole – Yet

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 24, 2012

Job Charnock

August 24, 1690: Job Charnock establishes another factory. Charnock was born in London around 1630 into a Puritan family. His older brother was a famous preacher, ministering to Henry Cromwell. Job became a businessman and traveled to India under the employment of Maurice Thomson. While in India, Charnock joined the East India Company. He was stationed in a variety of places and while there, learned the local languages and dressed as the natives. He was a morose man who reported smuggling among his coworkers. While this (and his business acumen) endeared him to the Company, it led to alienation with his compatriots.

His success in factory operation led to advancements and by 1685 he was made chief agent in Bengal. He came into conflict with locals over trade restrictions. This led to hostilities and eventually a truce was reached. However, during this time, Charnock lost his beloved wife, a loss from which he would never recover. He next went on a secret expedition to set up a fortified settlement in Bengal. Charnock found a spot and after persuading the powers in Madras, he returned to his desired location. He chose the spot because of the ease with which it could be defended. He established his new factory on this day, in Calcutta.

Today it is spelled Kolkata and is the capital of West Bengal. At one time, Calcutta was the capital of the British Indian empire, but in 1911 that moved to Delhi. The region has been inhabited for over 2,000 years but prior to Charnock’s coming, nothing is recorded. The founder of the city was said to be Charnock until 2003 when the Calcutta High Court ruled there was no founder. Today, Kolkata comprises what used to be Kalikata, Gobindapur, and Sutanuti.

The city covers 570 square miles and has a population of nearly 4.5 million. It is located on the east bank of the Hooghly River, part of the Ganges Delta system. The climate is tropical with a rainy season during the summer months. It is home to the Calcutta Stock Exchange and is a major commercial and military port. The mayor is Sovan Chatterjee who oversees the city’s 15 boroughs.

Take your map of India, and find, if you can, a more uninviting spot than Calcutta. – George Trevelyan

Thus the midday halt of Charnock – more’s the pity! – / Grew a City / As the fungus sprouts chaotic from its bed / So it spread – Rudyard Kipling

The Square itself is composed of magnificent houses which render Calcutta not only the handsomest town in Asia but one of the finest in the world. – L. de Grandpré

Calcutta, more than New Delhi, is the British-built city of India. – V. S. Naipaul

Also on this day:

Pompeii Disappears – In AD 79, Mount Vesuvius erupts.
Waffling – In 1869, a waffle iron was patented.
George Crum – In 1853, George Crum invents potato chips.

George Crum

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 24, 2011

George Crum and his Saratoga Chips

August 24, 1853: George Crum tires of hearing about his French fries being too soggy. In order to shut up an annoying customer, some say it was Cornelius Vanderbilt, Crum sliced the potatoes so thin before frying them that they could no longer be eaten with a fork. Since he served them from a restaurant in Saratoga, New York, he named the surprising new taste treat Saratoga chips.

The most eaten food in the whole world is rice, second is the lowly potato. The French were making fries since the 1700s. Thomas Jefferson who served as ambassador to France, brought the recipe back to Monticello with him. He served the French fries to his dinner guests and the US began their love affair with the fried potato treat.

Crum made his fries in the standard fashion. Thickly sliced, fried, and salted. Due to the constant complaining, he tried to prove a point and ended up inventing a new treat – the Saratoga chip. By 1860 Crum opened his own restaurant, also in Saratoga and had a basket of his chips placed on each table. The treat was in great demand and he even distributed Saratoga chips to the Vanderbilts (father and son), Jay Gould, and Henry Hilton.

Crum never patented his invention and by 1895 William Tappendon of Cleveland, Ohio was packaging the treats and selling them as food to grocery stores. They often got soggy before the chips were consumed and in 1935, Laura Scudder ironed waxed paper into a sealed bag and kept the chips fresher, longer. Today, these treats are called potato chips and there are 1000 varieties listed (manufacturers, varieties, flavors) worldwide. The potato chip is big business with $16.4 billion in sales in 2005. That figure accounts for 35.5% of all “savory snacks” sold – a $46.1 billion business.

“I am not telling people to stop eating potato chips and French fries, … But I and all consumers should have the information we need to make informed decisions about the food we eat.” – Bill Lockyer

“While sandwiches are the number one consumed entree at lunch and dinner in this country, more than 35 billion ‘naked’ sandwiches are eaten a year without potato chips.” – Lora DeVuono

“More money is spent on potato chips every year in the United States than is spent on political campaigns. And yet, what’s the relative importance to the fate of the nation?” – Toby Nixon

“Nine hundred million pounds of potato chips are switching. We’re taking 60 million pounds of saturated fat out of the American diet.” – Rocco Papalia

Also on this day:
Pompeii Disappears – In AD 79, Mount Vesuvius erupts.
Waffling – In 1869, a waffle iron was patented.

George Crum

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 25, 2010

George Crum and his Saratoga Chips

August 24, 1853: George Crum tires of hearing about his French fries being too soggy. In order to shut up an annoying customer, some say it was Cornelius Vanderbilt, Crum sliced the potatoes so thin before frying them that they could no longer be eaten with a fork. Since he served them from a restaurant in Saratoga, New York, he named the surprising new taste treat Saratoga chips.

The most eaten food in the whole world is rice, second is the lowly potato. The French were making fries since the 1700s. Thomas Jefferson who served as ambassador to France, brought the recipe back to Monticello with him. He served the French fries to his dinner guests and the US began their love affair with the fried potato treat.

Crum made his fries in the standard fashion. Thickly sliced, fried, and salted. Due to the constant complaining, he tried to prove a point and ended up inventing a new treat – the Saratoga chip. By 1860 Crum opened his own restaurant, also in Saratoga and had a basket of his chips placed on each table. The treat was in great demand and he even distributed Saratoga chips to the Vanderbilts (father and son), Jay Gould, and Henry Hilton.

Crum never patented his invention and by 1895 William Tappendon of Cleveland, Ohio was packaging the treats and selling them as food to grocery stores. They often got soggy before the chips were consumed and in 1935, Laura Scudder ironed waxed paper into a sealed bag and kept the chips fresher, longer. Today, these treats are called potato chips and there are 1000 varieties listed (manufacturers, varieties, flavors) worldwide. The potato chip is big business with $16.4 billion in sales in 2005. That figure accounts for 35.5% of all “savory snacks” sold – a $46.1 billion business.

“I am not telling people to stop eating potato chips and French fries, … But I and all consumers should have the information we need to make informed decisions about the food we eat.” – Bill Lockyer

“While sandwiches are the number one consumed entree at lunch and dinner in this country, more than 35 billion ‘naked’ sandwiches are eaten a year without potato chips.” – Lora DeVuono

“More money is spent on potato chips every year in the United States than is spent on political campaigns. And yet, what’s the relative importance to the fate of the nation?” – Toby Nixon

“Nine hundred million pounds of potato chips are switching. We’re taking 60 million pounds of saturated fat out of the American diet.” – Rocco Papalia

Also on this day, in 1869 the waffle iron is patented.
Bonus Link: In 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius erupts and buries Pompeii.

Pompeii Disappears

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 25, 2010

Ruins of Pompeii

August 24, AD 79: Mount Vesuvius erupts and buries Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplonti, and Stabiae under ash, preserving the ancient Roman cities in their final moments. Earthquakes began rocking the area 17 years prior to the eruption. Major quakes in 62 AD destroyed the aqueduct to the area along with damaging many buildings. During the volcanic eruption, Pliny the Elder was in the harbor and was killed while trying to rescue people from the area.

Pliny the Younger, his nephew, wrote an account of the disaster. He stated that quakes had been felt for several days prior the eruption, but many felt that this was no more than what had happened years ago. In fact, repairs were taking place when the volcano blew.

The beginning or plinian stage, named after Pliny the Younger and his descriptive writing, threw dust, ashes, cinders, and rocks high into the atmosphere, and lasted for hours. No lava flowed in this stage. The next stage was the expulsion of superhot steam and mud which flowed down the sides of the volcano. This stage covered Herculaneum, it took about four minutes for the boiling mud to reach the city – a distance of 7 km [4 mi]. It was buried under nearly 60 feet of superhot mud that dried nearly as hard as cement

Pompeii, with a presumed population of around 20,000, was also covered with the ash and then mud from the volcano. Survivors of the catastrophe tried to return after the mud cooled and retrieve goods by digging shafts into the mud, but gave up after many unsuccessful attempts.

The two cities were abandoned and forgotten. Herculaneum was rediscovered in 1738 and Pompeii in 1746. The excavation of the sites revealed much about the everyday life of the ancient Romans – their devotion to art, their forums and amphitheaters, and their open sexuality, which has led to some censorship.

“We live too much in books and not enough in nature, and we are very much like the simpleton of a Pliny the Younger, who went on studying a Greek author while before his eyes Vesuvius was overwhelming five cities beneath the ashes.” – Anatole France

“The pattern is that every 2,000 to 3,000 years, there is a monstrous eruption (of Mount Vesuvius). And it has now been about 2,000 years.” – Michael Sheridan

“Nature, as we know her, is no saint.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The extent of the catastrophe that threatens gives the measure of the transformation that will be necessary in order to master it.” – Lewis Mumford

Also on this day, in 1869 the waffle iron is patented.
Bonus Link: In 1853, George Crum
invents potato chips.