Little Bits of History

August 7

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 7, 2017

1890: Anna Månsdotter is exectued. Månsdotter was born December 28, 1841 and married a man, Nils Nilsson, who was thirteen years older than she. They had three children. Nils died in 1883. Only one son, Per, lived to adulthood. His mother arranged a marriage between Per and Hanna Johansdotter. Anna was supposed to move in with her mother after her son married, but instead, lived with him and his new bride. The marriage was not a happy one. This may have been because mother and son had been having an ongoing incestuous relationship for a long time. There was speculation Anna arranged the marriage to stop the rumors about this.

It is unclear as to whether or not Hanna knew about the relationship. It is speculated that she did find out and Anna killed her daughter-in-law in order to keep her from telling. It is possible that mother and son killed Hanna together. However, what really happened is muddied by the many various stories both perpetrators told. They differed from each other’s stories and they changed their stories several times afterwards. Hanna was beaten with a piece of wood by Anna and/or Per and then Anna strangled her – just to make sure. They dressed the corpse and threw it down the stairs, hoping to make it look like Hanna’s death was an accident.

The murder took place on March 28, 1889 in Yngsjö, Sweden located at the most southeastern tip of the country. Even today, it is a small village with only 302 inhabitants. Hanna was 22 at the time of her death. Both mother and son were tried and Anna became known as Yngsjömörderskan (English translation – Yngsjö Murderess). Both Anna and Pers were found guilty and sentenced to death. On this day, Anna became the last woman in Sweden to be executed. She was killed when Albert Gustaf Dahlman swung his ax. He was chosen for the position of executioner in 1885, after 200 people applied for the job. He was Sweden’s last executioner and carried out his task six time. Five times using an ax and once using a guillotine.

Per managed to not become one of Dahlman’s subjects. He was pardoned from his death sentence and was sentenced to spend the rest of his life at hard labor. After 23 years in prison, he was released in 1913 (three years after the last execution was performed in his country). He died of tuberculosis in 1918. The macabre story of mother and son murderers was made into a full length movie in 1966 and was part of a mini-series in 1986.

Murder is unique in that it abolishes the party it injures, so that society has to take the place of the victim and on his behalf demand atonement or grant forgiveness; it is the one crime in which society has a direct interest. – W.H. Auden

If your work is deathwork, one weapon is not enough, just as a plumber would not answer an urgent service call with a single wrench. – Dean Koontz

Murder is not some fictional conceit, imagined for the purpose of entertainment, but actually happens: and afterwards no credits roll, and life has to continue to be lived even if you have absolutely no idea where the deeds to the house are kept, or who services the lawn mower. – Michael Marshall

This is the law: blood spilt upon the ground cries out for more. – Aeschylus




Whiskey Rebellion

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 7, 2015
Whiskey Rebellion

Whiskey Rebellion

August 7, 1794: US President George Washington invokes the Militia Acts of 1792. The two acts were passed in 1792 to provide for the organization of state militias and allowed for the President to take command of them in times of imminent invasion or insurrection. These acts were used once. The first tax to be imposed on a domestic product was the “whiskey tax” brought into effect in 1791. The hope was to bring in revenue to reduce the national debt. The tax was applied to all distilled spirits but whiskey was the most common of these. The tax was unpopular especially with western frontier regions where farmers were used to distilling their surplus grain and using the whiskey as a medium of exchange. Since the whiskey was more compact than the original grain, it was easier to transport back east for sale.

From the outset, counties in Western Pennsylvania resisted the collection of any taxes. Many of the men in the region had fought in the Revolutionary War which stemmed from taxation without representation. The federal government felt that the ability to impose taxes was part of the powers invested in Congress. The war had left the new nation with a $54 million debt since the Articles of Confederation had been unable to levy taxes. The individual states had also incurred another $25 million in debt. With the new government in effect in 1789, the ability to levy taxes was included in the United States Constitution. With import duties as high as thought reasonable, the next thing to tax was domestic goods and the Whiskey Act became law in March 1791.

The farmers petitioned their government through regular channels and the law was modified in May 1792, but not enough to satisfy the western frontier farmers. Rather than continue with non-violent resistance, on September 11, 1791 a tax collector was tarred and feathered and when warrants were issued for his attackers to be arrested, those men were whipped, tarred, and feathered. The areas of contention were not limited to western Pennsylvania but all along the Appalachian Mountain regions. As time went on, both sides escalated their dealings and by 1794, federal district attorney William Rawle issued subpoenas for over 60 distillers to come to Philadelphia and appear in district court. This was later changed to being able to appear in local courts, but the damage was done.

The subpoenas were delivered mid-July and shots were fired. The rebels swelled in numbers. Local law officials attempted to quell the disturbances, but they grew in number and intensity. As the violence increased, it became apparent there was no alternative but to call out the militia. This took permission from a Justice of the Supreme Court which was given on August 4 and on this day, Washington announced the order. When the sides met in action, there were 3-4 rebels killed and 170 captured while the militia lost about 12 men from illness or accidents. The Whiskey Rebellion was suppressed and the President retained his high approval rating.

Certainty? In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes. – Benjamin Franklin

The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets. – Will Rogers

In levying taxes and in shearing sheep it is well to stop when you get down to the skin. – Austin O’Malley

I’m proud to pay taxes in the United States; the only thing is, I could be just as proud for half the money. – Arthur Godfrey

Also on this day: Kon-Tiki – In 1947, Kon-Tiki made landfall.
Purple Heart – In 1782, George Washington created a new merit badge.
Le Griffon – In 1679, Le Griffon set sail on her maiden voyage.
Not Ready for Laptops – In 1944, the Mark I was presented to Harvard.
You Be the Judge – In 1970, Judge Haley was taken hostage.

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You Be the Judge

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 7, 2014
Judge Haley being led from the courtroom

Judge Haley being led from the courtroom

August 7, 1970: Judge Haley’s courtroom is disrupted. Harold Haley was born in 1904 and received his law degree from San Francisco’s St. Ignatius College (later called the University of San Francisco) in 1928. He became a city lawyer for San Rafael, California and later was district attorney for Marin County. In 1956, he was appointed as a municipal court judge and was named to the superior court in 1965. He married his high school sweetheart, Gertrude Ahern and the couple had three daughters.

In the summer of 1969, a 20 year old inmate at Soledad prison, WL Nolan, began circulating a petition to file a lawsuit against the prison superintendent charging that guards and officials knew of problems which put African-Americans at risk. On January 13, 1970, three black prisoners were shot and killed at Soledad by corrections officer Opie Miller. Nolan was among the slain. There had been a fight in the prison yard between some whites and blacks and Miller blew a whistle (but did not shout a warning) before firing and killing three black inmates. The next day, 13 black inmates began a hunger strike and demanded federal investigation. Miller was exonerated by an all-white Monterey County grand jury which decided the case without hearing any testimony from any of the black inmates who had witnessed the shootings.

On January 17, 1970, 26-year-old prison guard John Mills was beaten, dragged up three flights of stairs and then thrown to his death. A note beside his body read, “One down, two to go.” Three blacks, Fleeta Drumgo, John Clutchette, and George Jackson, were charged with his death and sent to San Quentin to await trial. The three became known as the Soledad Brothers. Racial tension at the Soledad prison increased with two guards held hostage in March and two men (one guard, one white prisoner) killed in July. In Judge Haley’s court on this day, James McClain from San Quentin was on trial for stabbing a guard. Jonathan Jackson had brought guns supplied by UCLA professor Angela Davis into the courtroom.

After sitting quietly for a short time, Jackson (brother of the man jailed at San Quentin) stood up and threw a gun to McClain. McClain held the gun to the judge’s head while Jackson ordered everyone to “Freeze.” The hostage takers freed other San Quentin prisoners who had been there to testify. They then all moved five hostages out of the court. They demanded that the Soledad Brothers be released from prison and then the men and their hostages entered a panel truck and drove away. The police set up a roadblock and when the truck closed in, opened fire. Jackson, McClain, another prisoner, and Judge Haley were killed. Three others were wounded. Angela Davis eluded authorities for two months before being arrested in New York City. She was found not guilty on all counts.

There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supercedes all other courts. – Mahatma Gandhi

What this country needs is more unemployed politicians.

Racism is a much more clandestine, much more hidden kind of phenomenon, but at the same time it’s perhaps far more terrible than it’s ever been.

Jails and prisons are designed to break human beings, to convert the population into specimens in a zoo – obedient to our keepers, but dangerous to each other. – all from Angela Davis

Also on this day: Kon-Tiki – In 1947, Kon-Tiki made landfall.
Purple Heart – In 1782, George Washington created a new merit badge.
Le Griffon – In 1679, Le Griffon set sail on her maiden voyage.
Not Ready for Laptops – In 1944, the Mark I was presented to Harvard.

Purple Heart

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 7, 2013
Purple Heart

Purple Heart

August 7, 1782: George Washington issues an order regarding the Badge of Military Merit. The badge was to be issued for “any singularly meritorious action” including “unusual gallantry” or “extraordinary fidelity.” The badge was designed as “the figure of a heart in purple cloth, or silk, edged with narrow lace or binding.” Three soldiers were awarded the prestigious Merit Badge: Sgt. Elijah Churchill, Sgt. William Brown, and Sgt. Daniel Bissell. The first two were awarded the badge after spectacular raids on British holdings. Sgt. Bissell had been masquerading as British for more than a year and sending useful information back to the Continental Army.

The Merit Badge fell out of use after the Revolutionary War. During the first half of the 19th century, certificates of merit were used. US Army General Scott felt that reviving the issuance of medals was a European affectation and shunned the practice at the beginning of the Civil War. The Navy began issuing medals for valor in 1861 and the Army followed in 1862. Congress made the Medal of Honor a permanent decoration in 1863 and ≈ 3,400 men and one woman have received the medal since then.

Douglas MacArthur was Army Chief of Staff in 1932. He wished to reinstate Washington’s award. The Purple Heart was initially for Army veterans wounded or awarded the Meritorious Service Citation Certificate during World War I. From February 22, 1932 until 1943 the Purple Heart was for those wounded while enlisted in the Army. In 1943, the honor was also to include the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard and now includes all branches of service.

The Purple Heart has been awarded to military personnel having suffered injuries due to hostilities retroactive to April 5, 1917. During World War II, nearly 1,000,000 Purple Hearts were bestowed, a number not equaled in all the years since. Korea and Vietnam veterans earned ≈ 340,000 medals and Middle East vets have accrued ≈ 38,000. Initially awarded after injury or meritorious action, the Purple Heart is now given to wounded military personnel with the Legion of Merit awarded for exceptionally meritorious conduct.

“The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.” – Douglas MacArthur

“A great war leaves the country with three armies – an army of cripples, an army of mourners, and an army of thieves.” – German proverb

“In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.” – José Narosky

“Patriots always talk of dying for their country and never of killing for their country.” – Bertrand Russell, attributed

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: The most Purple Hearts to be awarded to one person went to Marine Sgt. Albert L. Ireland who received five medals during World War II and another four during the Korean War. Seven others have been awarded eight medals. Robert T. Frederick and William L. Russell both fought in World War II. Richard J Buck and David H. Hackworth both served during both the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Joe Hooper, Robert L. Howard, and William Waugh each received eight Purple Heart awards during the Vietnam War. Some other famous people who have been wounded or killed in war – James Arness, Charles Durning, Dale Dye, James Garner, Lee Marvin, and Audie Murphy (actors), Samuel Fuller,Rod Serling and Oliver Stone (film and television)  John F. Kennedy, John Kerry, and John McCain (US politicians), Warren Spahn and Pat Tillman (sports figures), and James Jones and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (writers).

Also on this day: Kon-Tiki – In 1947, Kon-Tiki made landfall.
Le Griffon – In 1679, Le Griffon set sail on her maiden voyage.
Not Ready for Laptops – In 1944, the Mark I was presented to Harvard.

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Not Ready for Laptops

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 7, 2012

The IBM Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator (ASCC) – also called the Mark I computer

August 7, 1944: The IBM Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator (ASCC) – also called the Mark I – is officially presented to Harvard University. It was an electro-mechanical computer devised by Howard H. Aiken and built at IBM. It was shipped to Harvard in February 1944 and began computational service for the US Navy Bureau of Ships in May.

Mark I was built from 765,000 components and hundreds of miles of wire. There were switches, relays, rotating shafts, and clutches contained within the machine which was 51 feet long, eight feet high, and two feet deep. This computer weighed in at about 10,000 pounds. All the basic calculating units had to be synchronized mechanically and this was done using a 50-foot shaft driven by a 5-horsepower electric motor. With all this technology, the Mark I was “the first operating machine that could execute long computations automatically”.

The Mark I had 60 sets of 24 switches for manual data entry. It could store 72 numbers, each 23 decimal digits long. This machine would crank out three addition or subtraction answers in a second. Multiplication answers took six seconds and division took 15.3 seconds. A logarithm or trigonometric function took more than a minute. The instructions or program was read from a 24 channel punched paper tape. Instructions were accomplished one at a time with the next step given after the first was completed. The first pioneering programmers for the Mark I were Richard M. Block, Robert Campbell, and Grace Hopper.

Dr. Aiken received his PhD from Harvard in 1939. There he was confronted with differential equations and like so many before him, wished to have a machine to do the calculations. He was inspired by Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine. He devised the methods used in Mark I as well as future generations of the Mark series of computers.

A computer does not substitute for judgment any more than a pencil substitutes for literacy. But writing without a pencil is no particular advantage. – Robert McNamara

A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kick boxing. – Emo Philips

Never trust a computer you can’t throw out a window. – Steve Wozniak

You know, IBM was almost knocked out of the box by other types of computer software and manufacturing. – Roy Romer

Also on this day:

Kon-Tiki – In 1947, Kon-Tiki made landfall.
Purple Heart – In 1782, George Washington created a new merit badge.
Le Griffon – In 1679, Le Griffon set sail on her maiden voyage.

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Le Griffon

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 7, 2011

René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle

August 7, 1679: The ship Le Griffon sets off on her maiden voyage. The ship was built by René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle. The French explorer came to the New World after he left the Jesuits, citing “moral weaknesses.” He was nearly destitute when he arrived in North America in 1666. La Salle learned the languages of the natives, mostly Mohawk, and they told him of a great river called the Ohio which flowed into the Mississippi. La Salle hoped to find a passage via these waterways to the land of China.

The Le Griffon, a seven-cannon, 45-ton barque, was launched near Cayuga Creek on the Niagara River. La Salle and Father Louis Hennepin set sail with a crew of 32. Prior to this date, no full sized ship had navigated the Great Lakes. Instead, most water travel was accomplished by canoe. These boats had no deck but could carry up to three or four tons of cargo. They might measure as much as 35 feet long. There is some debate over whether or not Count Frontenac had previously built large ships at Fort Frontenac, but there is no supporting evidence that he had.

The single mast ship set sail to a salute of cannon and musketry. The waters were uncharted as they headed toward Long Point, Ontario. They needed to continually sound for depth lest they flounder. They sailed across Lake Erie and reached Detroit River by August 10. They continued westward and made it to Saginaw Bay on Lake Huron by August 25. Later that day, a gale kicked up suddenly and forced a retreat to a safe haven. They survived intact and sailed on to Green Bay, Wisconsin on Lake Michigan.

La Salle anchored the ship and collected goods from traders he had sent ahead. The ship was laden with 12,000 pounds of furs and the Captain decided to send the ship back east. The short sailing season in the frigid waters necessitated an early return. However, La Salle himself stayed behind to explore the region. He instructed the ship to off-load the merchandise at Mackinac Island and held only a skeleton crew of pilot Luc and five crew. With approximately $10,000 worth of furs aboard, the ship went down during a violent storm and was never seen again. There are stories that some group, possibly Jesuits boarded, killed the crew, and burned the ship. La Salle himself suspected the crew had absconded with the pelts.

“Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit.” – Frank Borman

“For three hundred years we have had our focus on the individual. We have distinguished him from the objective world as the Middle Ages did not think of doing. We have given him the world and the universe as a playground for exploration and discovery.” – John Grierson

“If I wasn’t doing this kind of exploration, I’d like to be doing some other kind of exploration. It might be more risky, or less risky, but, in the business of exploration, risk is part of the territory.” – John L. Phillips

“As soon as the news of the Cabot voyages reached the King of Portugal he arranged to send an expedition of discovery to the far north-west, perhaps to find a northern sea route to Eastern Asia.” – Harry Johnston

Also on this day:
Kon-Tiki – In 1947, Kon-Tiki made landfall.
Purple Heart – In 1782, George Washington created a new merit badge.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 7, 2010

Kon-Tiki at sea

August 7, 1947: Thor Heyerdahl’s balsa raft, Kon-Tiki, crashes onto the reefs at Raroia in the Tuamotu Islands. It was Heyerdahl’s premise that South American natives could have sailed west and settled Polynesia during the Pre-Columbian era. Heyerdahl and his small team went to Peru and used native trees and materials to build a raft using illustrations left by Spanish conquistadores as blueprints.

Six men set sail in April, sailed for 101 days, were trapped by a storm, and with limited steering crashed on the reef. Only one of the crew was injured. The men stocked the craft with native goods, storing water in bamboo tubes and packing native foods. They were also provided with Army rations. They supplemented their food stores by fishing during the journey. They did take a radio that was powered by hand cranking the battery.

They sailed approximately 4,300 miles on a raft measuring 45 feet x 18 feet with a cabin about 8 feet x 4-5 feet in the center. The raft was also powered by a sail measuring 15 feet  x 18 feet with two smaller sails as well. By reaching land in his primitive craft, Heyerdahl felt he proved the possibility of South Americans could have settled Polynesia. He did not ever claim that current Polynesians were descendants of South Americans.

On April 28, 2006 a Norwegian team tried to replicate the Kon-Tiki trip using a newly constructed raft named Tangaroa. The raft, named for the Maori sea god, was built using records for ancient craft. It used square sails, allowing the raft to be sailed into the wind, also called tacking. The craft was 52.5 feet long by 26 feet wide. They brought along modern navigation and communication equipment including solar panels, computers, and desalination equipment. This second raft was also crewed by six, one of them Thor Heyerdahl’s grandson, Olav. The trip was successful and ended in July 2006. There was a documentary film made of the trip.

“Progress is man’s ability to complicate simplicity.” – Thor Heyerdahl

“Do not fear risk. All exploration, all growth is calculated. Without challenge people cannot reach their higher selves. Only if we are willing to walk over the edge can we become winners.” – unknown

“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily.  To not dare is to lose oneself.” – Søren Kierkegaard

“Many great ideas have been lost because the people who had them could not stand being laughed at.” –  unknown

Also on this day, in 1782 George Washington ordered a new Meritorious Badge, precursor of the Purple Heart.