Little Bits of History

Thomas Becket

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 21, 2015
Thomas Becket

Thomas Becket

December 21, 1118: Thomas Becket is born. Although his date of birth is known because it was the feast day of St. Thomas the Apostle, the year is a bit uncertain. He may have been born in 1120, as later tradition stated. What is known about him comes from historians of the era. He was born in Cheapside, London and his father came from Normandy. The elder Beket was either a small landowner or a petty knight, having moved up from his start in the business world as a textile merchant. By the time his famous son was born, he was able to make a living from collecting rents on the properties he own in London. He served as the sheriff and was able to accrue some wealthy friends. This allowed Thomas to spend time in Sussex at the estates of Richer de L’Aigle.

Thomas was sent to Merton Priory to study when he was ten and was then educated in London, perhaps at St. Paul’s Cathedral before taking a year to study in Paris, about the time he was 20. He did not ever study canon or civil law and his Latin was never as good as he might have hoped. His father suffered some financial difficulties and Thomas was forced to work as a clerk rather than continue his schooling. Thomas was given a position in the household of Theobald of Bec, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Theobald sent Thomas on several important missions to Rome and also sent him to the continent to study canonical law. In 1154, Theobald named Thomas Archdeacon of Canterbury which entailed other ecclesiastical offices.

Thomas was appointed as Lord Chancellor in 1155 and in that capacity was in charge of collecting revenues. He also hosted King Henry II’s son in his home, as was customary of the times. Becket was elected as Archbishop of Canterbury on May 23, 1162 and King Henry may have hoped Thomas would continue to put King before God. However, Becket’s conversion into an ascetic took place shortly after his election. The King and Archbishop’s relationship unraveled beginning almost immediately. By 1164, the Constitutions of Clarendon pitted the King against his one-time friend and Henry had Thomas brought to Northampton Castle to face charges of contempt. Becket fled to the continent.

The King’s men pursued him there and the Church helped to protect and hide the Archbishop. Early in 1170, Thomas was permitted to return from exile and took up residence in Canterbury once again. In June 1170, the next Henry was crowned as heir apparent without Thomas’s presence. In November of 1170, Thomas excommunicated all the participants, as was his right. Thomas began to excommunicate all of his enemies and Henry learned of this. Henry’s comments were interpreted as a command to kill Thomas. On December 29, 1170 he was killed as he was on his way to pray. Thomas Becket is revered as a saint by both the Catholic and the Anglican Churches.

Remember the sufferings of Christ, the storms that were weathered… the crown that came from those sufferings which gave new radiance to the faith… All saints give testimony to the truth that without real effort, no one ever wins the crown. – Thomas Becket

Many are needed to plant and water what has been planted now that the faith has spread so far and there are so many people… No matter who plants or waters, God gives no harvest unless what is planted is the faith of Peter and unless he agrees to his teachings. – Thomas Becket

Who will rid me of this troublesome priest? – King Henry II, traditionally

What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric? – King Henry II, according to Edward Grim

Also on this day: Can You Use Ink? – In 1913, Arthur Wynn invented the crossword puzzle.
Norway – In 1962, Norway established its first national park.
Four in One Year – In 69 AD, Vespasian became Emperor of Rome.
Honor – In 1861, the Medal of Honor was instituted.
Cooperatively – In 1844, the Rochdale Society opened their first store.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 21, 2014
The Rochdale Society

The Rochdale Society

December 21, 1844: The Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers opens their store. The group of 28 were from Rochdale, Lancashire, England and formed their consumer co-operative earlier in the year. They were one of the first to pay a patronage dividend one of the basic tenets of the modern co-operative movement. More than half of the original members were weavers. As the Industrial Revolution moved forward, many skilled workers were put out of work and sent into poverty. The tradesmen opted to band together and open their own store selling food items they could not otherwise afford. They had studied earlier failed co-operatives and learned from their mistakes. Over four months, they worked to pool together £1 from each member. With the £28 of capital, they opened their store on this day.

On opening day, all that was available was some butter, sugar, flour, oatmeal, and a few candles. Within three months, they were able to include new items such as tea and tobacco. They became known for the quality of their goods. They were also known for creating the Rochdale Principles, the set of rules on which their co-op was based. They insisted on open membership and democratic control. The distribution of surplus was in proportion to trade and limited interest on capital as payment. There was cash trading only without any credit extended. They maintained both political and religious neutrality and promoted education. The principles remain in effect, although they have been updated.

Within ten years, the British co-operative movement had almost 1,000 co-ops. Today, there are over 3 million members included. The Rochdale Pioneers traded independently until 1991 although there had been some mergers in the nearly 150 years. They merged in 1991 and today are part of the Manchester based national hybrid society called The Co-operative Group. The Pioneers opened their first store at 31 Toad Lane. They moved to a new location in 1867 but later purchased the original store and today it is run as a museum.

The International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) is a non-governmental co-operative federation and still uses the Rochdale Principles as a basis for its own rules. ICA was founded in 1895 and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland and serves the global community. Pauline Green is President and there are 272 national federations as members. There are four major regions: Asia and the Pacific, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. The motivation for joining a co-op is financial but there are other reasons as well. The quality of life is improved for members, it is a chance to give back to the community, there is a sense of both altruism and duty included, and there is career experience to be gained. The concept has stood the test of time.

Companies should not have a singular view of profitability. There needs to be a balance between commerce and social responsibility. – Howard Schultz

Money, not morality, is the principle commerce of civilized nations. – Thomas Jefferson

Each co-operative institution will become a school of business in which each member will acquire a knowledge of the laws of trade and commerce. – Leland Stanford

Commerce, trade and exchange make other people more valuable alive than dead, and mean that people try to anticipate what the other guy needs and wants. It engages the mechanisms of reciprocal altruism, as the evolutionary biologists call it, as opposed to raw dominance. – Steven Pinker

Also on this day: Can You Use Ink? – In 1913, Arthur Wynn invented the crossword puzzle.
Norway – In 1962, Norway established its first national park.
Four in One Year – In 69 AD, Vespasian became Emperor of Rome.
Honor – In 1861, the Medal of Honor was instituted.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 21, 2013
Rondane National Park

Rondane National Park

December 21, 1962: Norway’s first national park is established. Rondane National Park covers 372 square miles since its expansion in 2003. The Park lies in central Norway and the closest city is Otta. The park is high plateaus and mountains. There are 10 peaks above 6,560 feet. The highest peak is Rondeslottet, which means The Rondane Castle, and is 7,146 feet above sea level. The lowest point is just below the tree line (about 3,300 to 3,600 feet above sea level).

Due to the altitude, there is a limited variety of plant and animal life. White Birch and some pine trees grow where possible. Above the tree line heather and lichen grow. At elevations above 5,000 feet only a few of the hardiest lichen can survive. The mountains are separated by valleys and in the deepest of these Rondvatnet nestles. The lake is narrow and fills the space between Storronden-Rondeslottet and Smiubelgen. There is little precipitation in the region. True glaciers do not exist. There are glacier-like piles of snow in some of the valleys.

The area’s history begins with the end of the last Ice Age. Reindeer spread across Scandinavia and then the herds contracted again. They have been in the Rondane region for 40,000 to 50,000 years. Hunter-gatherers followed the herds to central Norway. These early settlers used large traps to capture deer. The earliest traps have been found to be 3,500 years old and the same type of traps had been used up until the 1700s. There are also remains of stone walls found by archaeologists. They are believed to have been used as protection for archers hiding in wait for prey. House ruins in the region date from 500 to 700 AD. The area was populated until the Black Death arrived in the 1300s.

The harsh environment limits the ecology of the region. Nevertheless, there are 124 varieties of birds and 28 different mammals who live within the Park. There are 240 varieties of plants, 160 types of mosses, and 160 species of higher lichen. The park offers a variety of paths to hike or for more strenuous outings, there are several beautiful mountains to climb. While enjoying the beauty of the area, you might also spy one of the reindeer from the oldest herds in the region.

“Nature is just enough; but men and women must comprehend and accept her suggestions.” – Antoinette Brown Blackwell

“I believe in God, only I spell it Nature.” – Frank Lloyd Wright

“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.” – Aristotle

“Mountains inspire awe in any human person who has a soul. They remind us of our frailty, our unimportance, of the briefness of our span upon this earth. They touch the heavens, and sail serenely at an altitude beyond even the imaginings of a mere mortal.” – Elizabeth Aston

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Norway has 43 national parks today. Seven of these parks are located on Svalbard, an archipelago located in the Arctic ocean. From Adnerdalen to Ytre Hvaler the parks contain a variety of habitats. There are also plans for seven more parks. In the 1960s, two more parks were established. Many more were opened in the 1970s and some in the 1980s followed. Only one was opened in the 1990s and since the turn of the millennium, 25 have been established with the last opening just this year. The smallest park is Gutulia which covers slightly less than 9 square miles. The largest, Sør-Spitsbergen, covers 5,130 square miles. Most of these parks are open to hiking, cross-country skiing, and camping. There are a limited number of overnight cabins available. Not only does Norway offer a wide range of National Parks, but they have protected landscapes and nature reserves as well.

Also on this day: Can You Use Ink? – In 1913, Arthur Wynn invented the crossword puzzle.
Four in One Year – In 69 AD, Vespasian became Emperor of Rome.
Honor – In 1861, the Medal of Honor was instituted.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 21, 2012
Medal of Honor

Medal of Honor

December 21, 1861: President Abraham Lincoln signs Public Resolution 82 into law. Those who serve in the military are at risk and their bravery is often tested. In order to acknowledge the heroism, bravery, and dedication of those who go beyond the call of duty, awards have been created. In 1780, the Fidelity Medallion was created. It was awarded to three militiamen from New York who captured spy General Benedict Arnold and saved West Point from capture. The Badge of Military Merit honored those in the Continental Army and ceased to exist after the Revolutionary War. The Certificate of Merit was used for those who went beyond the call of duty during the Mexican-American War. At the beginning of the US Civil War, there were no awards or medals in use.

Winfield Scott was the general-in-chief of the US Army during the fall of 1861. Lt. Colonel Edward D. Townsend was Scott’s chief of staff and he sent a memo to Scott mentioning the idea of a medal to honor bravery in the field. Scott was against it, but he retired in October and Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles adopted the idea. It was presented as Senate Bill 82 by Senator (Iowa) James W. Grimes “to promote the efficiency of the Navy” and included a provision for the Navy Medal of Valor. President Lincoln signed it into law on this date and the medal was printed at the Philadelphia Mint.

The next year, the Army Medal of Honor was approved by Congress and signed into law on July 12. It was not until 1956 that the US Air Force was given a separate design for their branch of the service. It took until 1960 for that medal to be authorized and it was officially adopted in 1965. Prior to their own design, they received the Army version of the medal. Today, members of the US Marine Corps and the Coast Guard are eligible to receive the Navy version of the Medal of Honor. Medals are awarded by the President only after a Citation is passed through Congress. Some mistaken call it the Congressional Medal of Honor as it is awarded “in the name of Congress” but the adjective is not part of the official name.

Today, it is a five pointed star with a neck ribbon. Only military personnel are eligible for this award. It is given for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.” It is often awarded posthumously and more than half of those awarded since 1941 have been given to those brave men who died. Only one medal has been awarded to a woman, Mary Edwards Walker, who was a surgeon during the Civil War. There are 3,459 recipients of the Medal of Honor with 81 of them still living. The first time the award was given was to Private Jacob Parrott on March 25, 1863. The last Medal of Honor was bestowed upon Specialist Fourth Class Leslie H. Sabo, Jr. on May 16 2012. It was awarded posthumously as Sabo was killed in action on May 10, 1970.

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

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checked by failure…than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat. – Theodore Roosevelt

I’m certainly overwhelmed. I don’t know about you guys. – Leonard Wood

Hopefully, we can beat up on them like they did to us. Instead of being down, we need to let (the loss) improve us. – Mike Pariso

Also on this day:

Can You Use Ink? – In 1913, Arthur Wynn invented the crossword puzzle.
Norway – In 1962, Norway established its first national park.
Four in One Year – In 69 AD, Vespasian became Emperor of Rome.

Four in One Year

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 21, 2011


December 21, 69 AD: Vespasian becomes Emperor of Rome – the fourth man to rule the Roman Empire that year. Known as the Year of the Four Emperors, 69 AD saw first Galba, then Otho, next Vitellius, and finally Vespasian in power. In 68, Nero was left with few allies and armies poised to march on Rome. Nero was declared a public enemy and was forced to commit suicide. It was hoped that Rome would be a true Republic again after Nero’s death.

Galba rose to the throne which was a snub to the German legions who had expected more in return for their loyalty to Rome. The Germans started a shuffle of power and Vitellius was appointed governor and head of the army. By the time Galba actually arrived in Rome, his popularity was in decline and the Germanic provinces were in revolt. Galba chose a new successor which further alienated the Senate. Otho bribed the Praetorian Guard and suddenly the job of Emperor was vacant.

Otho was made Emperor immediately. While he was ambitious and greedy, he was not cruel and it was hoped that a stable government would return. Vitellius was already leading his elite legions into Italy and heading towards Rome. Otho sent a peace proposal to Vitellius going so far as to offer him the job of son-in-law. The German troops continued their advance. Otho committed suicide rather than plunge Italy into further civil war.

Vitellius assumed the role of Emperor, choosing a day which was considered unlucky. He then celebrated with parades and feasts and soon was in debt paying for the festivities. His popularity waned as he taxed the citizens to pay off debts. Vespasian had just won a victory in Judea and began a journey north to Rome. Vitellius, aware of his tenuous grip on power, began to bribe the people without success. Vespasian’s troops entered Rome and located Vitellius hiding in the temple of Jupiter. The temple was burned, killing Vitellius. Vespasian ascended to the throne and ruled Rome for ten years.

“One of the main causes of the fall of the Roman Empire was that, lacking zero, they had no way to indicate successful termination of their C programs.” – Robert Firth

“The Sixties are now considered a historical period, just like the Roman Empire.” – Dave Barry

“It was luxuries like air conditioning that brought down the Roman Empire. With air conditioning their windows were shut, they couldn’t hear the barbarians coming.” – Garrison Keillor

“It’s like the Roman Empire. Wasn’t everybody running around just covered with syphilis? And then it was destroyed by the volcano.” – Joan Collins

Also on this day:

Can You Use Ink? – In 1913, Arthur Wynn invented the crossword puzzle.
Norway – In 1962, Norway established its first national park.

Can You Use Ink?

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 21, 2010

Crossword puzzle

December 21, 1913: British-born Arthur Wynn is asked to create a new game for the New York World’s Sunday’s edition “Fun” section and publishes the first “word-cross” soon to be called crossword puzzles. It is said that crosswords are the most popular and widespread word game in the world. They are based on an ancient game called magic squares with remnants found in the ashes as Pompeii.

Wynne’s first puzzle was diamond shaped without black squares but containing a blank center. Before long, other American newspapers began publishing the fun puzzles. It took the New York Times quite a while to jump on the bandwagon. The quintessential Sunday puzzle of today didn’t make an appearance until 1942 and the daily puzzles in the Times only began in 1950. Collections of puzzles were first published by Simon and Schuster in 1924.

Wynne, from Liverpool, created his puzzles in America and it took until February 1922 before they got to his homeland. British puzzles were modified by the natives and are called cryptic puzzles today. They have far more black space, less intersections, and the clues are little puzzles in themselves.

Crossword puzzles are usually built on a symmetrical grid, meaning that turning the puzzle 180º will make it look exactly the same. There are clues for Across and Down words. “Member of Cong.” would be a clue that the answer is an abbreviation and a question mark after the clue means the answer is a pun. Sometimes puzzles are built around a theme. There are also variations on the puzzles: Diagramless, the solver is given a blank grid and clues and must fill in both the words and the black spaces, Fill-ins, the solver is given all the words and a grid and must figure out where to put the words, and Cross Numbers, where numbers are used rather than letters.

“Egotism, n: Doing the New York Times crossword puzzle with a pen.” – attributed to Ambrose Bierce, although this is impossible. Bierce disappeared in 1914 and the New York Times didn’t start printing crossword puzzles until 1942

“I’m good at crossword puzzles, I’m not so good at people puzzles.” – Carrie, from Sex and the City

“Crosswords were a mania in the 1920s when the first books appeared and a lot of people thought they would come and go.” – Will Shortz

“If you have an active mind, it always helps. You know, people who don’t do crosswords, their minds fall asleep. That’s why I do them – my mind is always working. One day my brain is going to explode through the top of my head.” – Brett Hull

Also on this day, in 1962 Norway got its first National Park.