Little Bits of History

August 26

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 26, 2017

1676: Robert Walpole is born. He was the fifth of nineteen children born to Robert Walpole, Sr. who was a member of the local gentry in Houghton, Norfolk, England. His mother, Mary, was the daughter and heiress of Sir Geoffrey Burwell. Robert attended private schools and then entered Eton College in 1690 before heading on to King’s College, Cambridge. When his only remaining older brother died in 1698, Robert left school to administer the family estate. Although he had wanted to be a clergyman, with this change in status, he was heir to the family’s property which fell to him at his father’s death in 1700. The estate included nine manors in Norfolk and one in Suffolk.

Walpole entered politics in 1701 when he was elected for the first time at Castle Rising. He, like his father, was a Whig and in this capacity was able to mediate between the party and the government in 1705. He continued to move up in the political realm and as his power grew, he still did not have enough clout to keep Lord Godolphin from prosecuting Henry Sacheverell, a minister who preached anti-Whig sermons. This case proved highly divisive throughout the country and the new leader removed Walpole from his position, Secretary of War. He retained his position as Treasurer of the Navy. In 1712, Walpole was impeached and proved he had been innocent, but the trail left him branded as guilty and corrupt.

There was a great deal of scandal and corruption within the higher government offices over the next decade. George I came to be King of England and he distrusted Tories and the Whigs were in good favor. Walpole was made First Commissioner (Lord) of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1716. The following year he resigned but remained influential in the House of Commons. Walpole was England’s first Prime Minister and the date, if not the actual title is usually given as April 1712 when he was appointed Lord of the Treasury, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Leaser of the House of Commons. His brother-in-law, Lord Townshend, served as Secretary of State at the time.

Walpole was not only the first of Britain’s Prime Ministers, but he held the office for longer than any other, staying in that position for nearly 21 years. He served under George I and George II even though he had been involved in acrimonious in-family fighting decades earlier. Walpole’s power base began to decline in 1737 and over the next few years, his involvement in large decisions grew ever smaller. By the time the election of 1741 took place, he was replaced by the Earl of Wilmington. By this time, he had already established the role of the PM and established historical methods of working with the Crown and Parliament. He died in 1745 at the age of 68.

Gentlemen have talked a great deal of patriotism. A venerable word, when duly practiced.

I have never been afraid of making patriots; but I disdain and despise all their efforts.

The very idea of true patriotism is lost, and the term has been prostituted to the very worst of purposes. A patriot, sir! Why, patriots spring up like mushrooms!

All those men have their price. – all from Robert Walpole




Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 26, 2015
Betty Friedan (1960)

Betty Friedan (1960)

August 26, 1970: The Women’s Strike for Equality takes place. The strike was held on the fifty year anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, giving women the right to vote. The strike was sponsored by the National Organization of Women (NOW) which was founded in 1966 by Betty Friedan and 48 others. Betty Jameson Armistead, historian, sent a letter to Friedan and others proposing a strike. Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique, and leader of the feminist movement, planned the event to coincide with the landmark decision and highlight the issues of the day. These included lack of equal pay for the same job, regardless of the passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, as well as numerous other employment inequities.

Women were paid about 59 cents per dollar earned by men for similar jobs. They were also forbidden to enter certain occupations and made up only 5-10% of college admissions. Sandra Day O’Connor, future Supreme Court Justice graduated at the top of her class at Stanford Law School and yet was only offered secretarial positions after passing the bar. There were 43 states which limited the amount of weight a woman could pick up on the job at 25 pounds (apparently not necessary if a mother was carrying a small child and his/her accoutrements). There were laws in some states forbidding women from obtaining credit cards, making wills, or even owning property in her own name. Some states prohibited women from sitting on juries.

Friedan first proposed the strike to NOW, but they were hesitant, fearful of failure and setting themselves up for mockery. Friedan did not back down and spent months organizing. The planning was not smooth and the group was clearly divided between younger “radical” and older “bourgeoisie” women. Friedan never gave up even after asking New York City to close Fifth Avenue and being refused. Around 5 PM, women began to gather – this allowed working women to participate. About 20,000 women gathered at the main event in New York City, but other smaller protests were held across the country.

Reactions were mixed. A National Celebration of Womanhood was held in response with many women dressed in frilly dresses and doing “women’s work” to support traditional roles. Even national news coverage was derogatory, including Eric Sevareid, who called  the women a “band of braless bubbleheads”. Women were upset at the media, claiming bias and a condescending attitude. The women were portrayed as angry and their message and cause of their distress was ignored. President Nixon supported the women and issued a proclamation calling the day to be known as “Women’s Rights Day”. Even with mixed reviews, the day’s event were seen as a watershed moment and brought the cause to the nation’s attention.

Men weren’t really the enemy; they were fellow victims suffering from an outmoded masculine mystique that made them feel unnecessarily inadequate when there were no bears to kill.

A woman has got to be able to say, and not feel guilty, ‘Who am I, and what do I want out of life?’

Protectiveness has often muffled the sound of doors closing against women.

The only way for a woman, as for a man, to find herself, to know herself as a person, is by creative work of her own. There is no other way. – all from Betty Friedan

Also on this day: The Terminal Man – In 1988, Merhan Karrimi Nasseri hit the airport.
Explosive – in 1883, Krakatau began to erupt.
Negligence – In 1928, the first negligence case was started.
Big Chuck – In 1966, Charles de Gaulle entered Paris.
Up In Smoke – In 1980, Harvey’s Resort was damaged by a bomb detonation.

Up In Smoke

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 26, 2014
Harvey’s Resort bombing

Harvey’s Resort bombing

August 26, 1980: Three men plant a bomb at Harvey’s Resort. The leading bomber was John Birges who was a Hungarian immigrant living in California. Birges had flown for the German Luftwaffe during World War II. He was captured by the Russians and sentences to 25 years of hard labor. He was held for eight years after which he escaped by blowing the gulag up. He made his way to the US and California where he operated a successful landscaping business. He wasn’t just interested in plants, however, and developed a gambling addiction. He claimed he had lost $750,000 gambling at Harvey’s Resort and he planted the bomb in an attempt to extort $3 million from the casino.

The bomb contained 1,000 pounds of dynamite and was tamper-proof. Bomb technicians from the FBI studied the bomb via x-rays. Although they were warned by the bomb maker that a shock would trigger the device, they thought a shaped charge of C-4 (a plastic explosive) could separate the detonators from the dynamite. They cleared the area and attempted to disarm the bomb. As advertised, the shock triggered the bomb and it exploded, destroying much of the casino as well as breaking windows in Harrah’s, a casino connected via a tunnel to Harvey’s.

Birges’ son mentioned to a girlfriend that he father had placed the bomb at Harvey’s. After they broke up, the woman began dating another man and they learned about a reward for information given to the FBI. They informed the feds and Birges was arrested. He was found guilty and given a life sentence. He died of liver cancer in prison at the age of 74 in 1996 exactly 16 years and one day after the bombing. The dynamite had been stolen in Fresno to create one of the largest bombs the FBI had ever seen. It remains the most complex improvised explosive device ever created and the FBI continues to use a replica in training.

Harvey’s opened in 1944 and was operated by Sacramento meat wholesaler Harvey Gross and his wife. They opened their first high-rise tower in 1961. There was a three story crater in the building after the FBI detonated the bomb but it was rebuilt. Harvey died in 1983 but the family continued to run the business and expand and improve upon it. It stayed in the family until 2001 when Harrah’s Entertainment acquired it. Today, Harveys Lake Tahoe has 740 rooms and suites, six restaurants, and 87,500 square feet of space for their casino. Caesars Entertainment (Harrah’s changed their name) owns and operates the business.

Heck, what’s a little extortion among friends? – Bill Watterson

There are many harsh lessons to be learned from the gambling experience, but the harshest one of all is the difference between having Fun and being Smart. – Hunter S. Thompson

I love blackjack. But I’m not addicted to gambling. I’m addicted to sitting in a semi circle. – Mitch Hedberg

Gambling: The sure way of getting nothing for something. – Wilson Mizner

Also on this day: The Terminal Man – In 1988, Merhan Karrimi Nasseri hit the airport.
Explosive – in 1883, Krakatau began to erupt.
Negligence – In 1928, the first negligence case was started.
Big Chuck – In 1966, Charles de Gaulle entered Paris.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 26, 2013
Lithograph of the Krakatau  eruption

Lithograph of the Krakatau eruption

August 26, 1883: Krakatau erupts. The region had been plagued by earthquakes for years. Some of them were strong enough to be felt in Australia, ≈ 1,700 miles away. Beginning in May, steam began venting from Perboewatan, the northernmost of the island’s three volcanic cones. Ash was ejected reaching up 20,000 feet and visible in Batavia, Jakarta 100 miles away. Things got quiet again – until June.

On June 16, eruptions with loud explosions began again. Black clouds covered the island. A freshening wind blew the clouds away on June 24 to reveal two columns of ash billowing up from Krakatau. Eruptions sprang from a new vent or vents causing unusually high tides in the region. On August 11, H.J.G. Ferzenaar went to the island to investigate. He found three major ash columns and at least eleven other vents. All vegetation had been destroyed and ash 20 inches thick covered the island.

At 1 PM on August 26 the volcano went into its paroxysmal phase. Volcanic strength is measured by the amount of ejecta as well as the height of the plume. VEI 6 (on a scale of 1-8) is Plinean or colossal. These powerful eruptions occur, on average, once every few hundred years. The Krakatau eruption continued and by 2 PM the ash column could be seen rising 17 miles into the sky. On August 27, four explosions were heard at 05:30, 06:44, 10:02, and 10:41 – with the third being the loudest. The explosions were heard thousands of miles away in Australia and the island of Rodrigues.

The effects were far reaching. The official death toll by the local Dutch authorities was given as 36,417. There are some who put the count as high as 120,000. Whole settlements and entire populations were wiped out. Tsunamis hit the immediate area as well as far away in South Africa. Most of the island of Krakatau disappeared and the surrounding ocean floor was severely altered. Weather patterns changed globally from the massive infusion of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. Some of these atmospheric changes caused spectacularly colored sunsets worldwide. Edvard Munch’s famous painting, The Scream, is said to portray the oddly colored skies found halfway around the globe.

“This ground is hot enough to cook the Sunday roast!” – John Seach (Volcanologist) just before his boots melted on the hot ground.

“I have seen so many eruptions in the last 20 years that I don’t care if I die tomorrow.” – Maurice Krafft (Volcanologist) on the day before he was killed on Unzen Volcano, Japan

“What time does the volcano erupt?” – Tourist on Mt Etna

“Is this volcano active?” – Tourist on Mt Etna after being reprimanded for pitching a tent and sleeping the night at the base of the most dangerous volcanic vent in the world

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Krakatau is part of Indonesia which contains over 130 active volcano – more than any other nation on Earth. The volcano on Krakatau has had historical references as well. It was written about in the Javanese Book of Kings which recorded an explosion in 416 AD. There was a climactic event between 535 and 536 which may have been due to the volcano erupting in 535. The locals call the volcano The Fire Mountain and record eruptions around 850, 950, 1050, 1150, 1320, and 1530. There has been evidence since this massive eruption that a lava dome which is underwater has been emitting ejecta. The new island emerged above the waterline in 1927 for only a few days before sinking again. Further eruptions created four islands made of pumice and ash which were quickly eroded by the water. Anak Krakatau has grown at an average rate of five inches per week since the 1950s. On May 6, 2009, the Volcanological Survey of Indonesia raided the alert status for the island to Level III.

Also on this day: The Terminal Man – In 1988, Merhan Karrimi Nasseri hit the airport.
Negligence – In 1928, the first negligence case was started.
Big Chuck – In 1966, Charles de Gaulle entered Paris.

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Big Chuck

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 26, 2012

Charles de Gaulle enters Paris

August 26, 1944: Charles de Gaulle enters Paris. De Gaulle was a French general who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He was born in 1890 and was a veteran of World War I. Between the wars, he was known as a proponent of the mobile armored divisions. During the second war, he led one of the few successful armored counter-attacks at the Battle of France in May 1940. He rejected the 1940 armistice with Nazi Germany from the outset. De Gaulle escaped to England before France fell to Germany in June 1940. Paris was occupied by conquerors on June 14, 1940.

De Gaulle, in England, gave a radio address broadcast by the BBC pleading with French nationals to resist the German invaders. He organized the Free French Forces using other exiles in Britain. He also slowly amassed the oversight of French colonial holdings except for Indonesia, which was under the control of a pro-German Vichy regime. Although he gained a reputation of being a difficult man to work with, by the time the French were ready to retake Paris, de Gaulle was essentially the leader of the French government in exile.

Roosevelt did not wish to set up a provisional government in France and wished to let the now free French vote for the leaders they wished. De Gaulle, however, disagreed and did not want an Allied military government in place. Churchill tried to mediate between the two leaders without much success. After the success of D-Day, the liberation of Europe was in full swing. The Germans were retreating as the Allies advanced. Paris was not a strategic site and not on the Allied list of important cities to control. De Gaulle, however, lobbied for it to be a priority. This was done and on this day, the French General was once again inside his own city.

After the war, de Gaulle was the prime minister of the provisional French government. He resigned in 1946 over political conflict. He was, however, voted back into power as prime minister in May 1958. A new constitution was written under his auspices and the Fifth Republic was founded. De Gaulle was elected President, an office with more power than under the previous constitutions. He resigned from the Presidency on April 28, 1969. He died at his home on November 9, 1970 just a few weeks shy of his 80th birthday.

All my life I have had a certain idea of France.

France has no friends, only interests. (In response to Clementine Churchill, “General, you must not hate your friends more than you hate your enemies.”)

Let us be firm, pure and faithful; at the end of our sorrow, there is the greatest glory of the world, that of the men who did not give in.

Politics, when it is an art and a service, not an exploitation, is about acting for an ideal through realities. – all from Charles de Gaulle

Also on this day:

The Terminal Man – In 1988, Merhan Karrimi Nasseri hit the airport.
Explosive – in 1883, Krakatau began to erupt.
Negligence – In 1928, the first negligence case was started.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 26, 2011

Soda and snail

August 26, 1928: May Donoghue’s treat is undelightful. May boarded a tram in Glasgow for a thirty minute ride to Paisley. She was traveling with a friend and they went to the Wellmeadow Café about 8:50 PM and ordered from the owner, Francis Minchella. May ordered an ice cream drink and Francis brought the ice cream and an opaque bottle of ginger beer to the table. The ginger beer was poured over the ice cream and May enjoyed her treat. Then, she added the rest of the ginger beer and a partially decomposed snail dropped out of the bottle.

May later complained of stomach pains and was diagnosed as having gastroenteritis. On April 29, 1929 May brought action against David Stevenson, the maker of the ginger beer located in Paisley. She was asking for £500 in damages. The House of Lords dealt with the case in a preliminary matter and the case was settled out of court. Since there are no case records, some of the facts are a bit sketchy. The friend is never named, the animal was either a snail or a slug, and the ginger beer may have been some other carbonated beverage.

The case known as Donoghue v. Steveson received judgment on May 26, 1932 and established the modern legal concept of negligence in Scots and English law. What was determined was the aspect of “duty of care” stating the legal obligation of a person or institution to hold to a standard of reasonable care while performing acts which may cause harm to others. This is the first requirement for a case of negligence. One has the right to expect soda bottles to contain soda and nothing else.

To successfully bring judgment against negligence, the duty of care must have been breached. This particular breach must have been what caused harm to the other person. This brings liability upon the person who was derelict in their duty to protect from harm. In this case, one could reasonably expect no livestock in a soda bottle. When drinking from a container in which an animal has been decomposing, one is likely to become ill. If illness does occur, the maker of the soda would be held liable for damages.

“A man has a Duty of Care to conduct himself in such a way as to avoid harm to others, where a reasonable man would have seen that such harm could occur.” – Lord Atkin

“Negligence is the rust of the soul, that corrodes through all her best resolves.” – Owen Feltham

“Success produces confidence; confidence relaxes industry, and negligence ruins the reputation which accuracy had raised.” – Ben Jonson

“The real and effectual discipline which is exercised over a workman is that of his customers. It is the fear of losing their employment which restrains his frauds and corrects his negligence.” – Adam Smith

Also on this day:

The Terminal Man – In 1988, Merhan Karrimi Nasseri hit the airport.
Explosive – in 1883, Krakatau began to erupt.

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The Terminal Man

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 26, 2010

Mehran Karimi Nasseri

August 26, 1988: Mehran Karrimi Nasseri arrives at the Terminal One departure lounge in Charles de Gaulle Airport, France. On August 1, 2006 Nasseri fell ill and was taken to the hospital. He has not returned. Why would anyone live at an airport for nearly twenty years? Nasseri is an Iranian refugee who claims his father was an Iranian doctor working for the Anglo-Persian Oil Company and his mother was a British nurse. His family disputes this.

Nasseri came to the UK in 1973 to study at Bradford University. While there, he participated in protests against the Shah of Iran. He returned to Iran in August 1975 when tuition was no longer forthcoming. He claims that on arrival at Tehran’s airport, he was taken immediately to prison where he was tortured for four months. He was then expelled from the country.

He asked for asylum in West Germany and the Netherlands in 1977, France in 1978, Yugoslavia in 1979, France again in 1980 and all were denied. He applied for emigration to the UK and tried to enter that country. He was expelled first from the UK, then Germany, and finally accepted into Belgium in 1980. He lived there until 1986 when he tried to gain access into the UK again. He claimed he was mugged and lost all identification papers.

After arriving without papers at Charles de Gaulle airport, he was moved to Zone d’attente (waiting zone) and has stayed on. His case has been taken up by human rights lawyers. In 1992, the French courts ruled that Nasseri couldn’t be expelled because he entered the country legally, but he need not be granted refugee status since he had no proper paperwork. His story about his plight has changed over time. A fictionalized version of his story made it to the big screen with Tom Hanks starring in The Terminal; Nasseri received $250,000 for his story rights.

“Where could one settle more pleasantly than [in] one’s home?” – Cicero

”He who troubles his household will inherit the wind.”- Bible, Proverbs 11:29

“Home is where the heart is.” – Pliny the Younger

“Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.” – John Howard Payne

Also on this day, in 1883 Krakatau erupts.