Little Bits of History

February 11

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 11, 2017

1812: Elbridge Gerry signs a Massachusetts bill into law. He was born in 1744 in the then-colony of Massachusetts to a merchant shipping family in Marblehead. He was one of eleven children, five of which survived to adulthood. He entered Harvard College just before he turned fourteen and earned both a BA and MA there before joining his father in business. The family was one of the wealthiest merchants in Massachusetts by the 1770s and had connections in Spain, the West indies, and all along the North American coast. His father was active in local politics and part of the militia. Elbridge was a vocal opponent of Parliamentarians and British taxation. He was friends with Samuel Adams, John Adams, Mercy Otis Warren and others who tried to halt British imports to the colony.

Gerry’s first political position was to the General Court of the Province of Massachusetts Bay – the legislative assembly of the colony. He was involved in many portions of the Revolutionary War and made a name for himself. He served on the Second Continental Congress and was influential in getting the United States Declaration of Independence signed. He was adamant about a strong separation of state and federal government bodies and was against the original version of the US Constitution, citing the lack of a Bill of Rights. His advocacy of both personal and state rights help gain him Anti-Federalist backing. He finally agreed to ratification of the Constitution as written as long as a Bill of Rights was added and gained more support. He was elected to the inaugural House of Representatives and served two terms.

Gerry was a Democratic-Republican and ran against Caleb Strong, a moderate Federalist. He lost his bid in 1803 and decided not to run in 1804 but to remain in semi-retirement. In 1807, James Sullivan won the governorship for his party but the Federalists retook the post in 1809 with Christopher Gore. Gerry beat Gore in 1810 by a narrow margin and again in 1811. Gerry’s first year as governor was less controversial because the Federalists controlled the state senate. Republicans took control of the legislative branch in 1811 and enacted many reforms. Caleb Strong came out of retirement to run against Gerry in the next election. And the senate wrote a bill to restructure voting districts. It was this bill that was signed on this day.

The restructuring of voting districts gave a clear advantage to the Democratic-Republican Party. When the newspapers printed out the new mapped areas, it was noted the contortions of districts in the Boston area looked rather like a salamander. The portmanteau word combining the Governor’s name with the amphibian has stuck and today gerrymandering takes place worldwide. Today, with all the data available from voter databases, the redistricting can be far more precise. The process still exists and it remains questionable. The redistricting cost Gerry his job but did help to stack the legislative arm of the state government with Democratic-Republicans.

Redistricting has made a tiny slice of ideological activists the power brokers in who gets sent to Congress.- Reuters

One of the reasons people hate politics is that truth is rarely a politician’s objective. Election and power are. – Cal Thomas

People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election. – Otto von Bismarck

The right of election is the very essence of the constitution. – Junius


The Sun Rose

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 11, 2015


February 11, 660 BC: Japan is founded. Prior to this date, according to Japanese mythology, the Age of the Gods began with the creation of the Japanese islands by Izanagi and Izanami who stood on a golden bridge and with jeweled spears dipped into the ocean waters, bring forth the islands of Japan. The gods ruled all the islands they created until this date. Emperor Jimmu was a descendant of the sun goddess as well as of the storm god. He captured Yamato and used that as his center of power and ruled from there until 585 BC. Dates for all early emperors were accepted as sacrosanct during the reign of Emperor Kanmu (737-806). Before that time, all emperors before Ōjin were known as sumera no mikoto/ōkimi.

Jimmu was born on February 13, 711 BC which was the first day of the first month of the Chinese calendar. He was said to have died on March 11, 585 BC at the age of 126 and ruled until his death. All dates given are according to the lunisolar traditional Japanese calendar. There are different versions of the myths and they disagree in details. The accepted stories are also not in agreement with even earlier versions which place three dynasties between the origins of Japan and the time of the writings. Jimmu’s dynasty became one long constant genealogy in both the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki versions of the creation of Japan.

Jimmu’s grave is said to be near Unebiyama in Kashihara. The veneration of Emperor Jimmu was important to the imperial cult established with the Meiji restoration. A new holiday called Kigensetsu or Era Day, was begun in 1872-73 and commemorated Jimmu’s rise to power. Between 1873 and 1945 an imperial envoy sent offerings each year to the site of Jimmu’s tomb. In 1890, Kashihara Shrine was established. During World War II, expansionist propaganda used Emperor Jimmu and his rise to power with many stone monuments relating to key events in his life erected around Japan. Today, the date is still celebrated as a national holiday.

Japan is an archipelago of 6,852 islands off the east coast of Asia. The four largest islands are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku and together they contain about 97% of Japan’s land mass. The total area of Japan is 145,925 square miles, or slightly smaller than the state of Montana. There are about 126.5 million people living there with 98.5% of them Japanese (Korean and Chinese make up another percent). They are governed by a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy with Emperor Akihito reigning since January 7, 1989. Prime minister is Shinzō Abe. Their current constitution has been in effect since May 3, 1947.

When you look at Japanese traditional architecture, you have to look at Japanese culture and its relationship with nature. You can actually live in a harmonious, close contact with nature – this very unique to Japan. – Tadao Ando

Japan, not only a mega-busy city that thrives on electronics and efficiency, actually has an almost sacred appreciation of nature. One must travel outside of Tokyo to truly experience the ‘old Japan’ and more importantly feel these aspects of Japanese culture. – Apolo Ohno

Maitake mushrooms are known in Japan as ‘the dancing mushroom.’ According to a Japanese legend, a group of Buddhist nuns and woodcutters met on a mountain trail, where they discovered a fruiting of maitake mushrooms emerging from the forest floor. Rejoicing at their discovery of this delicious mushroom, they danced to celebrate. – Paul Stamets

Japan is the most intoxicating place for me. In Kyoto, there’s an inn called the Tawaraya which is quite extraordinary. The Japanese culture fascinates me: the food, the dress, the manners and the traditions. It’s the travel experience that has moved me the most. – Roman Coppola

Also on this day: Pennsylvania Hospital – In 1752, the first hospital in the colonies opened.
Coal – In 1808, anthracite coal was first used to heat a home.
Jack Paar; Tonight Show – In 1960, Jack Paar walked off a live telecast of the Tonight Show.
Science Fiction – In 1938, television first showed a sci-fi film.
The King Duke – In 1873, King Amadeo I of Spain abdicated.

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The King Duke

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 11, 2014
King Amadeo I of Spain

King Amadeo I of Spain

February 11, 1873: King Amadeo I of Spain abdicates. Amadeo was the only Spanish king from the House of Savoy. He was the second son of King Vittorio Emanuele II of Italy and was always known as the Duke of Aosta. He was born in Turin, Italy in 1845 and in 1867 married Donna Mario Vittoria dal Pozza at the request of parliamentary deputy Francisco Cassins. The king was opposed to his son’s marriage because the lady in question was not of noble enough birth. She did however, have lots of money which supplied the Dukedom with freedom from the throne heretofore unseen. The king was hoping his son would marry a German princess.

Donna Maria Vittoria’s pedigree was from one of Belgium’s premier noble houses and her aunt was married to Charles III, reigning Prince of Monaco. Prince Amedeo and  Donna Maria Vittoria’s wedding had to be one of the worst in history. The best man shot himself. The palace gatekeeper slit his own throat. One of the King’s aides fell from his horse and died. The bride’s wardrobe mistress hung herself. Leading the wedding procession was a colonel who collapsed and died of sunstroke. And the stationmaster was killed when the wheels of the honeymoon train crushed him. Just three years after the wedding, Donna Maria Vittoria was complaining to her father-in-law and asking for his help in curbing his son’s extracurricular activities. The King was appalled that she would speak to him about his son’s infidelity and her own embarrassment, saying that she had no right to dictate her husband’s behavior and her own jealousy was unbecoming.

A Spanish revolution deposed Isabella II and the Duke of Aosta was elected King of Spain by the new Cortes. His election to the monarchy came on November 16, 1870 and he swore to uphold the constitution in Madrid on January 2, 1871. As the election was held, Amadeo’s main backer, General Marques de los Castillejos was assassinated. The politics in Spain were at best unstable and there were conspiracies and uprisings as well as problems in Cuba. The situation went from bad to worse and on this day, in disgust, the King abdicated and headed back to Italy. There he was once again Duke of Aosta.

His first wife died in 1876 and Amadeo married his French niece, Princess Maria Letizia Bonaparte, who was the daughter of his sister and a nephew of Napoleon I. The engagement caused a scandal in Italian courts for two reasons: the 22 year age difference and the close family ties between the two. They wed on September 11, 1888 at the Royal Palace of Turin. Less than two years later, the Duke died and left his young wife with an infant son (and three adult step-sons).

Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest. – Denis Diderot

One of the strongest natural proofs of the folly of hereditary right in kings, is, that nature disapproves it, otherwise, she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule by giving mankind an ass for a lion. – Thomas Paine

Little by little, the old world crumbled, and not once did the king imagine that some of the pieces might fall on him. – Jennifer Donnelly

One man to live in pleasure and wealth, whiles all other weap and smart for it, that is the part not of a king, but of a jailor. – Thomas More

Also on this day: Pennsylvania Hospital – In 1752, the first hospital in the colonies opened.
Coal – In 1808, anthracite coal was first used to heat a home.
Jack Paar; Tonight Show – In 1960, Jack Paar walked off a live telecast of the Tonight Show.
Science Fiction – In 1938, television first showed a sci-fi film.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 11, 2013
Jesse Fell

Jesse Fell

February 11, 1808: Judge Jesse Fell in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania first uses anthracite coal to heat his home. The coal had been used prior to this date, but not for this purpose. Anthracite needs a draft beneath it in order to burn properly. Judge Fell invented a grate that allowed for the proper air circulation. While already in use industrially for over a decade, the coal’s high heat levels were known, but the then insurmountable problem of keeping a fire burning needed to be addressed.

By the spring of 1808, anthracite coal was being mined and shipped down the Susquehanna River. During the next century, more than 100 million tons had been mined. Between the late 1800s and the 1950s, anthracite was the most popular fuel for heating both homes and businesses in the US. Eventually heating oil and then natural gas replaced anthracite as the fuel of choice.

Today there are many types of fuel. We have biofuels – with wood being the earliest used form of this fuel type. Biofuels are carbon based and liquid, solid, or gas. Fossil fuels are hydrocarbons such as coal and petroleum. Nuclear fuels are created either by fission (breaking the atoms apart for energy, such as our nuclear power plants) or by fusion (as energy produced by stars such as our sun, but not yet within the bounds of human production). There are also at our disposal other sources of power: solar, wind, wave and tidal, geothermal, and hydrothermal.

Coal formation began between 250,000,000 to 400,000,000 years ago, during the Carboniferous Geologic Period when Pennsylvania was flat, hot, and moist, covered by steaming swamps. Layers of deposits coalesced into anthracite and was first mined in 1775 near Pittston, Pennsylvania. It was used industrially in 1788 for melting iron to make nails. By 1820, the first anthracite coal mining company, Lehigh Coal Mining Company, began shipping. The first documented mine strike occurred in 1842 with 2,000 miners affected. Safety in the mines has always been an issue and on September 6, 1869 the Avondale Mine Disaster claimed 108 lives, the largest anthracite area mining disaster.

“As a people, we have the problem of making our forests outlast this generation, our iron outlast this century, and our coal the next; not merely as a matter of convenience or comfort, but as a matter of stern necessity.” – William Howard Taft

“It is easy to find fault, if one has that disposition. There was once a man who, not being able to find any other fault with his coal, complained that there were too many prehistoric toads in it.” – Mark Twain

“I like these cold, gray winter days. Days like these let you savor a bad mood.” – Bill Watterson

“Winter is the season in which people try to keep the house as warm as it was in the summer, when they complained about the heat.” – unknown

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Mankind heated his environment using fire since pre-history. At first, fire pits were used and evidence of them in caves and old huts can still be found. One of the chief problems is that fire creates smoke which can be uncomfortable to toxic, depending on what is burning. Chimneys were invented to let the smoke escape. In 1678, the grate for the fire was raised which improved airflow and improved the efficiency of fireplaces in use. Ben Franklin invented a convection chamber for the fireplace which again improved the amount of heat produced. In the late 1700s, Count Rumford changed the shape of the firebox and it helped draw smoke away from those being heated by the fire. Today, fireplaces are rarely used simply to heat a home, but are usually decorative.

Also on this day: Pennsylvania Hospital – In 1752, the first hospital in the colonies opened.
Jack Paar; Tonight Show – In 1960, Jack Paar walked off a live telecast of the Tonight Show.
Science Fiction – In 1938, television first showed a sci-fi film.

Science Fiction

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 11, 2012

Karel Čapek

February 11, 1938: Science fiction comes to television. Science fiction is difficult to define. It differs from fantasy in that it is based on science – at least as known at the time. Who wrote the first bit of science fiction has been hotly debated. Many current sci-fi authors give the title to Lucien who wrote the 2nd century book, True History, a satire about interplanetary travel. Modern science fiction began with Jules Verne and H.G. Wells.

R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) was written by Karel Čapek. The play premiered in 1921 in Prague and is famous for introducing the word robot. Originally written in Czech, it was translated into English by Paul Selver. It was adapted for the British stage by Nigel Playfair in 1923 and seen at St. Martin’s Theatre in London that same year. “Artificial people” or robots rebelled against the human race. The robots think and are so realistic they were confused with humans. They are more android than robot in today’s lexicon.

R.U.R. is a modern version of the old Golem legend. The play was popular in both  Britain and America. A 35-minute program showing a section of the play was broadcast by BBC Television – the first piece of televised science fiction. BBC One began broadcasting on November 2, 1936 as BBC Television Services. BBC Radio predated the service. BBC TV was off the air from September 1, 1939 and returned on June 7, 1946 because of security concerns during World War II.

Science fiction and television allowed for the merging of fantastic stories and awesome special effects. There are two iconic sci-fi programs. Star Trek in the US spawned an entire industry. The original series lasted for 79 episodes over three seasons. From that sprang five other television series and six feature films. Doctor Who in the UK is the longest running science fiction television show in the world. On the air since 1963, there have been over 784 episodes and it continues to be a perennial hit with British viewers. There have been spin offs and movies made for the show that is now seen in 42 countries around the world.

A handy short definition of almost all science fiction might read: realistic speculation about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world, past and present, and on a thorough understanding of the nature and significance of the scientific method. – Robert A. Heinlein

Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science Fiction is the improbable made possible. – Rod Serling

Even the devoted aficionado – or fan – has a hard time trying to explain what science fiction is. – Lester Del Rey

Science fiction is what we point to when we say it. – Damon Knight

Also on this day:

Pennsylvania Hospital – In 1752, the first hospital in the colonies opened.
Coal – In 1808, anthracite coal was first used to heat a home.
Jack Paar; Tonight Show – In 1960, Jack Paar walked off a live telecast of the Tonight Show.

Jack Paar; Tonight Show

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 11, 2011

Jack Paar on the Tonight Show

February 11, 1960: Jack Paar walks off a live telecast of the Tonight Show. The day before, Paar told a  risqué joke. It was censored before broadcast. Rather than the joke, the network opted to include some news coverage and didn’t inform the star of the change in plans. While the joke does contain some double entendres, they are mild by today’s standards. The times were different and the network acted in what they thought was a reasonable manner. Paar told Hugh Downs, the announcer, before the show that he was quitting. In the middle of the show Paar walked off.

Downs initially thought Paar was kidding and waited for his return. It became obvious it wasn’t a joke and Downs was left to finish the show. Paar left the country to travel and his unusual departure became national news. His friend, Jonathan Winters, a stand-up comedian, encouraged Paar to return. He reappeared, back as host of the show, on March 7. He admitted his impetuousness and hoped to do better.

He was controversial before this. In 1959 he interviewed Fidel Castro and in December of that year asked Mickey Rooney to leave the show when he was obviously drunk. In 1961, he was in Germany as the Berlin Wall was going up. He had some public feuds with some other stars, notably Ed Sullivan and Walter Winchell. Paar had a loyal fan base as well as regular guests such as Cliff Arquette [playing Charlie Weaver], Peggy Cass, and Dody Goodman. He also introduced the idea of a “guest host” and had Johnny Carson relieve him on occasion.

Paar enjoyed the humor and entertainment portion of the show, but also wanted a more intellectual aspect. He had brilliant speakers on such as Peter Ustinov and William F. Buckley, Jr. The show lasted 105 minutes at the time and was broadcast five days per week. Paar was emotional and unpredictable. Putting the show together five times a week was a strain for all involved. He was “bone tired” of the grind, according to TV Guide. He quit hosting the show for good on March 29, 1962 – but in a more conventional manner. He had replaced Steve Allen as host and would be followed by Johnny Carson.

“An English lady is visiting Switzerland. She asks about the location of the ‘W.C.’ The Swiss, thinking she is referring to the ‘Wayside Chapel’, leaves her a note that said (in part) ‘the W.C. is situated nine miles from the room that you will occupy… It is capable of holding about 229 people and it is only open on Sunday and Thursday… It may interest you to know that my daughter was married in the W.C. and it was there that she met her husband… I shall be delighted to reserve the best seat for you, if you wish, where you will be seen by everyone.’” – the infamous joke

“I am leaving The Tonight Show. There must be a better way of, uh, making a living than this.” – Jack Paar, just before walking off the show.

“As I was saying before I was interrupted…” – Jack Paar, on his return

“When I walked off, I said there must be a better way of making a living. Well, I’ve looked… and there isn’t.” – Jack Paar

Also on this day:
Pennsylvania Hospital – In 1752, the first hospital in the colonies opened.
Anthracite coal – In 1808, a new home heating method was found.


Pennsylvania Hospital

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 11, 2010

Pennsylvania Hospital

February 11, 1752: The first hospital in the United States opens. Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, was granted a charter on May 11, 1751 by the Pennsylvania legislature. Benjamin Franklin and Dr. Thomas Bond were charged with creating an environment to care for the sick-poor and the mentally ill. Temporary housing was given on High Street.

The cornerstone of the East Wing building, the first of the permanent structures, was laid in 1755. More wings were added throughout the years. The hospital gained a reputation for innovative treatments and advanced study. The treatments for the mentally ill were extremely innovative. The standards set at this premiere hospital became the normative method for treatment as time went on.

The hospital was particularly noted for the care offered to maternity patients. In 1803, the “Pennsy” as it is sometimes called, first established a “lying-in” or maternity department. In 1854 this portion of the hospital stopped service and only opened again in 1929.The medical library, which is one of the best in the nation, was begun in 1762 when Dr. John Fothergill donated the first book. Historic books dating from 1483 to 1930 are housed there. Benjamin Rush, once of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, practiced there from 1783 until 1813.

In 1997, the Board of Managers opted to merge with the University of Pennsylvania Health System. They currently are a 534-bed institution offering a wide range of services to over 25,000 people each year. Today, there are over 10,000 hospitals in the US serving nearly, 72,000,000 patients each year.

“A Hospital is no place to be sick.” – Samuel Goldwin

“I would rather be kept alive in the efficient if cold altruism of a large hospital than expire in a gush of warm sympathy in a small one.” – Aneurin Bevan

“First need in the reform of hospital management? That’s easy! The death of all dietitians, and the resurrection of a French chef.” – Marin H. Fischer

“We also see the same health problems you would see in any hospital setting — cardiac patients, diabetes, kidney and pulmonary problems and occasionally a gunshot wound,” – Scott Warner

Also on this day, in 1808 a new home heating method was found.