Little Bits of History

Fighting for Florida

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 28, 2015


December 28, 1835: US forces under Major Francis Dade face Seminole Indians under the command of Micanopy. Dade’s forces numbered 110 men from the 2nd Artillery, 3rd Artillery, and 4th Infantry Regiments. They had one six-pounder gun at their disposal. Micanopy led 180 men. Dade’s men had traveled from Fort Brooke which was located where present-day Tampa is and headed up King Highway to reinforce and resupply Fort King, which was located at present-day Ocala. The region’s Native population had become increasingly upset with US forces which were continually trying to relocated the natives in order to usurp control of the land. Rather than be shipped out west, the Seminoles chose to fight to save their homelands.

Dade was aware that his men might be attacked by Seminoles, but thought it would take place near a river crossing or near more heavily forested land to the south. He had already managed to traverse these areas and was feeling safer. The local terrain could not conceal anyone who was standing or walking. However, it could and did conceal crouched warriors who were able to ambush the US forces. There had been better locations for an ambush, but the Seminole were waiting for Osceola to join them. When he did not appear as scheduled, they attacked without hm.

The Seminole had been watching the US forces move through Florida. They had been marching for five days when they reached what is today, Bushnell, about 25 miles south of Fort King. Suddenly, shots were fired. Stories of the event tell that Dade and half his men were brought down with the first volley. Micanopy was said to have killed Dade with the first shot fired, which was the prearranged sign for the rest of the men to begin their assault. Most of the soldiers were killed quickly and did not even have time to pull their flintlock muskets from under their coats. The Seminoles were victorious and had killed 107 men and wounded two more (one of which died later). They lost three men and five more were wounded.

After the battle, many of the large plantations in the region were burned and the settlers killed. By the end of the month, there was only one house left standing in what is now Miami-Dade and Broward counties. The Seminoles were emboldened and continued to fight for their lands. This attack led to the Second Seminole War which lasted until 1842. The War found Andrew Jackson in charge against Osceola with his vastly undermanned army. The US forces won and the Seminole were evicted with nearly 4,000 Seminole relocated to Indian Territory and only 300 left in the Everglades.

We had been preparing for this more than a year… Just as the day was breaking, we moved out of the swamp into the pine-barren.

I counted, by direction of Jumper, one hundred and eighty warriors. Upon approaching the road, each man chose his position on the west side… About nine o’clock in the morning the command approached… So soon as all the soldiers were opposite… Jumper gave the whoop, Micanopy fired the first rifle, the signal agreed upon, when every Indian arose and fired, which laid upon the ground, dead, more than half the white men.

The cannon was discharged several times, but the men who loaded it were shot down as soon as the smoke cleared away… As we were returning to the swamp supposing all were dead, an Indian came up and said the white men were building a fort of logs. Jumper and myself, with ten warriors, returned.

As we approached, we saw six men behind two logs placed one above another, with the cannon a short distance off… We soon came near, as the balls went over us. They had guns, but no powder, we looked in the boxes afterwards and found they were empty. – Seminole leader Halpatter Tustenuggee, aka Alligator (by white men)

Also on this day: Child’s Play – In 1973, Akron, Ohio stopped their association with Box Car Derby after cheating became rampant.
Neptune – In 1612, Galileo observed the planet Neptune.
Poor Ben – In 1732, an ad for Poor Richard’s Almanack was run in Ben Franklin’s newspaper.
San Francisco Muni – In 1912, the Municipal Railroad in San Francisco opened.
Ex-Vice President – In 1832, John C. Calhoun resigned.

Ex-Vice President

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 28, 2014
John C. Calhoun

John C. Calhoun

December 28, 1832: John C. Calhoun resigns. The South Carolina politician was the first US Vice President to resign. He was born in 1782 and when his father died, 17-year-old John quit school to work the family farm with his brothers. He was a highly intellectual man and his brothers managed to support his return to his studies. John graduated from Yale College in 1804 and Tapping Reeve Law School in Connecticut in 1807 and was then admitted to the South Carolina bar. In 1811 he married his first cousin once removed, Floride Bonneau Colhoun. They had ten children in the next 18 years, three of them dying in infancy.

Calhoun was noted for his brilliance and not for his charisma or charm. He was a respected orator and great organizer. He won his first election to Congress in 1810 and immediately became a leader of the “War Hawks”. The group was intent on going to war with Britain to maintain American honor and republican values. After the war, Calhoun worked toward gaining protective tariffs as well as internal improvements like canals and ports. He was a proponent of a national bank. In 1817, President James Monroe appointed Calhoun as Secretary of War, a position he held until 1825.

Calhoun wished to run for President of the US in the 1824 election. He failed to win the endorsement of the South Carolina legislature and opted instead for the position of Vice President. During that election, no candidate received a majority of the Electoral College and the election had to be resolved by the House of Representatives. In that arena, Calhoun won his position by a landslide and served under John Quincy Adams. In the next election, Andrew Jackson became President and once again Calhoun took the second seat, one of two men who served under two different presidents.

His position was controversial and he and President Jackson did not see eye to eye. He and the President were often ideologically in conflict. By this time, Calhoun had become a proponent of states’ rights rather than the nationalistic views he held before. To make matters worse, his wife got involved in a squabble with Peggy Eaton, wife of the Secretary of War, John Eaton. The scandal became known as the Petticoat affair and ripped apart the Cabinet, making it difficult for the Administration to function. In order to gain control over his own advisory board, Jackson forced Calhoun to resign and he did so on this date. He remained active in politics and died in Washington, D.C. in 1850 at the age of 68.

In looking back, I see nothing to regret and little to correct.

The Government of the absolute majority instead of the Government of the people is but the Government of the strongest interests; and when not efficiently checked, it is the most tyrannical and oppressive that can be devised.

It is harder to preserve than to obtain liberty.

The Union next to our liberties the most dear. May we all remember that it can only be preserved by respecting the rights of the States, and distributing equally the benefits and burdens of the Union. – all from John C. Calhoun

Also on this day: Child’s Play – In 1973, Akron, Ohio stops their association with Box Car Derby after cheating becomes rampant.
Neptune – In 1612, Galileo observed the planet Neptune.
Poor Ben – In 1732, an ad for Poor Richard’s Almanack was run in Ben Franklin’s newspaper.
San Francisco Muni – In 1912, the Municipal Railroad in San Francisco opened.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 28, 2013
Urbain Le Verrier

Urbain Le Verrier

December 28, 1612: Galileo Galilei observes the planet Neptune. In his drawings of the night sky, Neptune is placed appropriately but mislabeled as a fixed star. Because of this, Galileo is not credited with the discovery of the planet. A fixed star is a celestial object that does not seem to move in relation to other stars. The ancients saw two groups of objects in the night sky. Fixed stars all seemed to span the night sky in unison while the wandering stars moved independently. Fixed stars are really stars while wandering stars are the naked eye visible planets. A second difference between the two is that stars twinkle while planets shine.

Galileo again drew Neptune in the same place on January 27, 1613. Because the planet is so distant and its orbital path so large, the planet had not seemed to shift. It was thought to be a star. The planet was discovered after it was theoretically proven to exist. Gravitational disturbances in the orbit of Uranus led to conjecture of another more distant planet. Urbain Le Verrier mathematically figured out where this disturbance was coming from. Johann Gottfried Galle viewed the math projection and so pointed his telescope to the appropriate portion of the sky. Others were also working on the math and looking at the sky; priority was in dispute.

Neptune is the eighth and now last planet from the sun. It appears blue because red light is absorbed by methane. The planet’s mass is 17 times that of Earth but just 1/19th that of Jupiter. Neptune is the smallest of the gas giants. Since both Uranus and Neptune have a much higher concentration of volatiles (elements or compounds with low boiling points) when compared to Jupiter and Saturn, they are sometimes referred to as ice giants instead of gas giants. The planet sports a ring system although far less impressive than Saturn’s.

Neptune’s average distance from the Sun is 30.1 AU or 30.1 times farther than Earth’s orbit from the Sun. It takes 164.79 years for Neptune to orbit the Sun. On July 12, 2011, it will be 1 Neptune year since it was discovered in 1846. Neptune has 13 known moons, but most are so small they were not massive enough to achieve a spherical shape. The largest moon, Triton, contains 99% of the lunar mass and was found just 17 days after Neptune was discovered. Voyager 2 passed the planet in 1989, sending back information about the planet and moons.

“The exploration of the solar system cannot be what we want it to be as an enterprise borne solely by the American taxpayer or indeed even by the taxpayers of the nations willing to join with us in this enterprise.” – Michael Griffin

“The science data set to return next year will have a huge impact on the way in which we deal with conditions on Earth, demonstrating how the exploration of the solar system has real impact on our daily lives.” – Keith Mason

“Four and a half billion years ago, all of the matter of the solar system, including us, was part of a giant molecular cloud. Genesis is providing the chemical composition of that solar nebula. …The material is still stored for us in the surface of the sun.” – Don Burnett

“We’ll learn more about the relationship between the rings and satellites…and a lot of the models that will be tested also apply to galactic formation and the origin of our solar system.” – Bonnie Buratti

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Urbain Le Verrier was a French mathematician who is one of the people credited with discovering Neptune. By observing Uranus and doing complicated calculations, he was able to posit a planet’s existence farther out. Le Verrier announced his finding publicly to the French Academy two days before Englishman John Couch Adams mailed a final solution to the Royal Greenwich Observatory. Le Verrier mailed his finding to Johann Galle at the Berlin Observatory and the letter arrived on September 23, 1846. That night, Galle and Heinrich d’Arrest found the planet just 1° from where Le Verrier had predicted. Adams himself acknowledged Le Verrier’s priority.

Also on this day: Child’s Play – In 1973, Akron, Ohio stops their association with Box Car Derby after cheating becomes rampant.
Poor Ben – In 1732, an ad for Poor Richard’s Almanack was run in Ben Franklin’s newspaper.
San Francisco Muni – In 1912, the Municipal Railroad in San Francisco opened.

San Francisco Muni

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 28, 2012
Opening of the San Francisco Municipal Railway

Opening of the San Francisco Municipal Railway

December 28, 1912: The San Francisco Municipal Railway opens for business. It is the public transit system for the city and county of San Francisco, California. After the great earthquake of 1906, it was decided to merge all the independent transportation types into one system. Prior to the quake there had been many horsecar, cable car, and electric street car providers. They combined to form the United Railroads of San Francisco (URR). In 1909, voters approved a municipal rail line and Geary Street, Park & Ocean Railway was given the job of operating the system. In 1912, that privilege was revoked and the municipal system took over.

Soon after assuming control, the Muni system began to expand. By the end of 1914, the Stockton Street Tunnel under Nob Hill opened and travel from downtown to North Beach was possible. Slightly more than three years later, Twin Peaks Tunnel opened and travel to the southwestern part of the city was available. In 1928, the Sunset Tunnel opened and now the entire Market Street was open to Muni transportation. However, it was also still in use by the URR, putting the two lines, each with their own tracks, in direct competition.

In the 1940s the first trolleybuses were put into use. The URR had been taken over by the Market Street Railway Company and they were in trouble. In 1944, Muni acquired them. They took over both the equipment and the higher fare charged by them. When they first opened, it cost just five cents to ride, but now it cost seven cents. By the end of 1946, it was up to a dime. In the 1950s and 60s, the neighboring BART system was begun, first in the planning and eventually, by the implementation. There was competition between the two entities and by the 1990s, Muni was in trouble. However, they were able to recover from the Muni Meltdown.

Today, Muni operates 365 days a year with 731,400 weekday riders using the system. They are integrated but separate from BART, SamTrans, and AC Transit. They have 54 bus lines, 17 trolley lines, and 7 light rail lines that all run above ground. They have one subway tube with 3 cable car lines, as well. Today’s fares are $2 but one can buy a month pass for $62. If you would also like to have BART access, the price of the pass is increased to $72. The average speed of travel is 7 mph but that is not the top speed. Edward D. Reiskin is the Director of Transportation and the Chief Executive.

San Francisco is 49 square miles surrounded by reality. – Paul Kantner

San Francisco is perhaps the most European of all American cities. – Cecil Beaton

I always see about six scuffles a night when I come to San Francisco.  That’s one of the town’s charms. – Errol Flynn

San Francisco is a golden handcuff with the key thrown away. – John Steinbeck

Also on this day:

Child’s Play – In 1973, Akron, Ohio stops their association with Box Car Derby after cheating becomes rampant.
Neptune – In 1612, Galileo observed the planet Neptune.
Poor Ben – In 1732, an ad for Poor Richard’s Almanack was run in Ben Franklin’s newspaper.

Poor Ben

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 28, 2011

Benjamin Franklin

December 28, 1732: The Pennsylvania Gazette, owned and operated by printer Benjamin Franklin, runs an ad for a pamphlet put out by Richard Saunders. Poor Richard’s Almanack was a pet project for Franklin from 1732 to 1758. The pamphlet “printed and folded by B. Franklin,” as it stated on the cover, was a best seller in the colonies. Franklin printed and folded up to 10,000 copies per year.

The Almanack was based on similar versions from the previous 200 years as published in England. Franklin’s calendar, for instance, contained saints’ days from the Church of England and important dates such as birthdays and ascension to the throne for English monarchs. He included weather information, poems, astronomical information, and the occasional mathematical exercise. In 1750 he included what we would call demographic statistics.

The books are best known for the aphorisms and proverbs included as a humorous way to instruct the general population. While Franklin used “quotes” from many sources, he updated them. Rather than strictly citing Thomas Fuller, Lord Halifax, James Howell, Samuel Richardson, etc., he rewrote the tidbits with tighter wording improving the syntax and making them more pleasant when rolling off the tongue.

Poor Richard was a fictional person that Franklin created and was based on the Jonathan Swift character, Isaac Bickerstaff. Like Bickerstaff, Saunders called himself a “philomath” or lover of learning and an astrologer. Franklin used the forum to poke fun at other astrologers, going so far as to predicting their deaths. “Poor” Richard claimed in his introductions to need money to satisfy his wife’s pride. He claimed to need the work in order to keep Bridget from burning his books and “Rattling-traps” or scientific equipment. He even let the readership know what his wife was able to purchase from proceeds from earlier years.

“A learned blockhead is a greater blockhead than an ignorant one.”

“Here comes the Orator! with his Flood of Words, and his Drop of Reason.”

“He that scatters Thorns, let him not go barefoot.”

“He’s a Fool that cannot conceal his Wisdom.” – all from Poor Richard’s Almanack

Also on this day:

Child’s Play – In 1973, Akron, Ohio stops their association with Box Car Derby after cheating becomes rampant.
Neptune – In 1612, Galileo observed the planet Neptune.

Child’s Play

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 28, 2010

Soap Box Derby racers from yesteryear

December 28, 1973: Akron, Ohio’s Chamber of Commerce terminates its association with the All-American Soap Box Derby World Championship race, stating the race was a “victim of cheating and fraud.” Soap Box Derby is an unpowered race using cars built by the contestants. The race was designed for children.

Myron Scott, a photographer working for a Dayton, Ohio newspaper, was given the assignment of filming some boys racing home made cars. It looked like such fun, that Myron worked to expand the idea. A race was held in Dayton in 1934. The next year, the race moved to Akron because it is a more hilly region. The cars race downhill with gravity as the sole means of power for locomotion.

The original cars were made of orange crates and roller skate wheels. Today’s cars are usually made of wood, but can be constructed of aluminum or fiberglass. The rear wheels are on a fixed axle while the front axle moves to steer, using either the feet or rope to shift the axle’s direction. Speeds of up to 35 mph [55 km/h] can be reached. Brakes are not normal equipment. Today, racers come from across the globe. Qualifying races are held in 38 states and several other countries.

In the 1950s and 60s, Soap Box Derby racing was at its peak. Chevrolet sponsored the World Championship race, TV and movie stars watched along with 70,000 fans. By the 70s and 80s, overeager adults ruined the purity of the child centered race. In 1973, 14-year-old Jimmy Gronen from Boulder, Colorado was stripped of his title two days after the race. His car was x-rayed and found to contain an electromagnet in the nose. This helped accelerate the car when the steel paddle used to start the race pulled it forward. Robert Lange, the boy’s uncle and legal guardian, was a wealthy engineer. He was indicted for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

“I think there’s a little child in all of us and we all to often forget to let the child out to play.” – Donna A. Favors

“For truly it is to be noted, that children’s plays are not sports, and should be deemed as their most serious actions.” – Michel de Montaigne

“A child who does not play is not a child, but the man who doesn’t play has lost forever the child who lived in him and who he will miss terribly.” – Pablo Neruda

“Men deal with life as children with their play,
Who first misuse, then cast their toys away.” – William Cowperd

Also on this day, in 1612 Galileo first found Neptune hiding among the stars.

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