Little Bits of History

February 12

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 12, 2017

1924: George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue premieres at Aeolian Hall. Gershwin was born in Brooklyn in 1898 to Russian and Ukrainian Jewish parents. They came to America when life in Russia became precarious for Jews. George was uninterested in music until the age of ten when he attended a friend’s violin recital. While the elder Gershwin’s had bought older brother, Ira, piano lesson, it was George who spent more time at the instrument. George quit school at age 15 and became a “song plugger” (a singer or pianist who performed songs to help sheet music sales). George worked in Tin Pan Alley, earned $15 a week, and began publishing his own music with “When You Want ‘Em, You Can’t Get ‘Em, When You’ve Got ‘Em, You Don’t Want ‘Em”. By that time, he was 17 and made fifty cents for his tune.

In 1916, Gershwin began working for Aeolian Company and Standard Music Rolls in New York City both recording and arranging music. He made many, perhaps hundreds, of music rolls both under his own and assumed names. He met William Daly and they collaborated on Broadway musicals. Gershwin worked with other composers while honing his own craft. He composed both popular and classical music with Rhapsody in Blue being his first. The work was orchestrated by Ferde Grofe and Gershwin was on piano with Paul Whiteman’s concert band playing along on the debut on this day.

On November 23, 1923, an experimental classical-jazz concert was put on starring French-Canadian singer Eva Gauthier. The event was at Aeolian Hall. Whiteman asked Gershwin to write a piece for an upcoming event. Whiteman asked for a concerto piece to be played at an all-jazz concert. The planned date was for the following February and Gershwin declined due to time constraints. Although he had written similar works in the past, they had not been commercially successful. On January 3, 1924 Ira Gershwin read from the newspaper to his brother which was how George learned he was working with Whiteman to create a jazz concerto. Irving Berlin and Victor Herbert were also in on the project. It was only then the George consented to enter the evening’s performance list. With only five weeks left, he got busy.

Rhapsody in Blue combines solo piano with jazz band backup and has elements of both classical composition and the jazz influenced music of the times. The piece was handed off to Grofe for orchestration and was finally complete on February 4. Paul Whiteman’s band, Palais Royal Orchestra played at an event called An Experiment in Modern Music. It became an instant hit and sold a million copies the following year. The song also made George a star. He and his brother continued to write music together and separately. George died of a brain tumor on July 11, 1937. He was 38 years old. Rhapsody in Blue can be heard at You Tube, here.

It was on the train, with its steely rhythms, its rattle-ty bang, that is so often so stimulating to a composer – I frequently hear music in the very heart of the noise….

And there I suddenly heard, and even saw on paper – the complete construction of the Rhapsody, from beginning to end. No new themes came to me, but I worked on the thematic material already in my mind and tried to conceive the composition as a whole.

I heard it as a sort of musical kaleidoscope of America, of our vast melting pot, of our unduplicated national pep, of our metropolitan madness.

By the time I reached Boston I had a definite plot of the piece, as distinguished from its actual substance. – George Gershwin, explaining how he came to write Rhapsody in Blue



Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 12, 2015
Isaac Woodard  after the incident

Isaac Woodard after the incident

February 12, 1946: Isaac Woodard steps off the bus. Isaac was born in South Carolina but grew up in Goldsboro, North Carolina where he attended local segregated schools. At the age of 23 he enlisted in the US Army on October 14, 1942. He served in the Pacific Theater in a labor battalion as a longshoreman and was promoted to sergeant. He earned a battle star for unloading ships under fire as well as a Good Conduct Medal and the Service medal, and World War II Victory Medal awarded to all American participants. On this day, he was traveling from Camp Gordon in Augusta, Georgia where he had been honorably discharged, back to his home in North Carolina.

Still in uniform, the young black man asked for a chance to use a restroom when the bus stopped outside Augusta. The driver argued with the Sergeant but then granted the request. Woodard returned to his seat and the bus departed. The next stop was in Batesburg (now Batesburg-Leesville, South Carolina) near Aiken. Woodard had caused no disruption but the driver contacted the local police including the Chief of Police, Linwood Shull. They forcibly removed Woodard from the bus and demanded to see his discharge papers. Then, several police drug him to an alley where they beat him unmercifully using their nightsticks. He was taken to jail and charged with disorderly conduct and accused of drinking beer in the bus with other soldiers.

During his night in jail, Shull continued to beat the war veteran. He suffered partial amnesia due to the beatings. He was also blinded. Woodard testified that he was punched several times in the eyes and repeatedly jabbed in the eyes with a billy club. Newspaper accounts said his eyes were gouged out. Historical documents state each globe was ruptured irreparably in the socket. The next morning he was brought to court and a local judge found him guilty and fined him $50. He requested medical assistance but it was days before he was taken to a hospital in Aiken. Three weeks later, relatives finally found him in the hospital and he was rushed to an US Army hospital in Spartansburg, SC but his vision was beyond repair. Some of his memory did return.

The nation was outraged and the NAACP publicized the atrocity. Orson Welles crusaded for punishment for Shull and his accomplices. More big names joined in the cry for justice. Nothing happened. On September 19, 1946, seven months later, NAACP Executive Secretary Walter White met with President Harry S Truman to discuss the case. Finally Shull and several others were indicted in US District Court in Columbia, SC where Judge Julius Waties Waring presided. The case was a travesty and Shull was found not guilty by an all-white jury on all charges even though he had admitted he blinded Woodard. Because blacks could not vote in South Carolina at the time, they could also not sit on juries. Woodard moved to New York City where he lived until his death in 1992 at the age of 73.

In none of the papers is there any suggestion there was verbal or physical violence on the part of Sergeant Woodard. It’s quite unclear what really happened. What did happen with certainty is the next morning when the sun came up, Sergeant Isaac Woodard was blind for life. – Michael R. Gardner

It is my deep conviction that we have reached a turning point in our country’s efforts to guarantee freedom and equality to all our citizens. Recent events in the United States and abroad have made us realize that it is more important today than ever before to insure that all Americans enjoy these rights. When I say all Americans – I mean all Americans. – Harry S Truman speaking on Civil Rights

I sung ‘The Blinding of Isaac Woodard’ in the Lewisohn Stadium one night for more than 36,000 people, and I got the loudest applause I’ve ever got in my whole life. – Woody Guthrie

I was shocked by the hypocrisy of my government…in submitting that disgraceful case. – Judge Julius Waties Waring

Also on this day: Nine Days of Rule – In 1554, Lady Jane Grey was executed.
NAACP – In 1909, the NAACP was formed.
Going Metric – In 1973, the first metric road sign in the US was erected.
Honor – In 1914, groundbreaking for the Lincoln Memorial took place.
Avoiding a Stall Unsuccessfully – In 2009, Colgan Flight 3407 crashed.

Tagged with: ,

Avoiding a Stall Unsuccessfully

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 12, 2014
Colgan Air Flight 3407 crash site

Colgan Air Flight 3407 crash site

February 12, 2009: Colgan Air Flight 3407 ends in a fiery crash. The flight was part of a Continental Connection under a codeshare agreement with the larger airline. The plane in use was a Bombardier Dash-8 Q400 flying from Newark, New Jersey to Buffalo, New York. There were 45 passengers on the plane served by four crew members. This remains the most recent fatal crash in the US involving American-based commercial airlines. The accident was thoroughly investigated and the cause was said to be pilot error exacerbated by pilot fatigue.

It was a cold day and the flight was delayed, leaving New Jersey at 9:18 PM. On this winter Thursday, there were a total of seven Continental flights heading to Buffalo out of the 110 incoming flights. The plane had 110 seats and was a two-engine turboprop. This was the first Q400 event resulting in fatalities and was also the first Colgan flight with passenger fatalities since the company was founded in 1991. Captain Marvin Renslow, 47, had flown over 3,000 hours with 110 of them on a Q400. First Officer Rebecca Shaw, 24, had flown over 2,000 hours with 772 of them “time in type” meaning on this sort of plane. One of the passengers that night was a second Captain who was off-duty and flying to Buffalo.

The plane was approaching the Buffalo airport and cleared for runway 23 when it disappeared from radar. The weather was light snow and fog with a wind at 17 mph. The de-icing system had been turned on 11 minutes into the flight but the crew had discussed some ice buildup on the wings. Two other aircraft that night had also complained of this. The last radio transmission came when the plane was 3.0 miles northeast of the radio beacon called KLUMP. The flight ended in a fiery crash 41 seconds later as it crashed into a house in Clarence Center, New York killing one of the occupants. The housing development had many houses close together and the plane crashed directly into the home of Douglas and Karen Wielinski, killing Douglas. The death toll was 50 people. Fire fighters in the area were able to keep the blaze from spreading to other houses.

Investigation showed the plane going into a stall. There are several different safety measures to avert this and all were successfully ignored by either an ill-trained or tired pilot. The pilot and co-pilot had been at the airport overnight and all day prior to the 9:18 PM departure. Training in stall avoidance stressed loss of altitude as criteria for failing (this has been rectified). Both of these played a part in the crash. The plane’s stall-protection system had activated, but the pilot disregarded them. To avoid a stall, the wings need an angle to support lift and therefore the plane should be forced down, resulting in loss of altitude, but gaining speed. Instead, as the stick shook and vibrated (physical indicators for the pilot) he tried to pull back and raise the plane to gain altitude. This caused the plane to pitch and roll, losing even more speed until it went into a complete stall and crashed.

How strange is this combination of proximity and separation.  That ground – seconds away – thousands of miles away. – Charles A. Lindbergh

There are only two emotions in a plane:  boredom and terror. – Orson Welles

More than anything else the sensation is one of perfect peace mingled with an excitement that strains every nerve to the utmost, if you can conceive of such a combination. – Wilbur Wright

Lovers of air travel find it exhilarating to hang poised between the illusion of immortality and the fact of death. – Alexander Chase

Also on this day: Nine Days of Rule – In 1554, Lady Jane Grey was executed.
NAACP – In 1909, the NAACP was formed.
Going Metric – In 1973, the first metric road sign in the US was erected.
Honor – In 1914, groundbreaking for the Lincoln Memorial took place.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 12, 2013
W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois

February 12, 1909: A civil rights group is formed in the US. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was formed to ensure reform to promote racial harmony. In 1905, 32 African-Americans met to discuss changes needed for “people of color” – a term used to describe people other than Caucasians. The original meeting was organized by Harvard scholar W.E.B. Du Bois. He secured rooms for the event in Canada since hotels in the US were segregated. By the next year, three influential Caucasians had joined the cause, as well.

On the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, 60 prominent Americans formed the new civil rights group. Lincoln had freed the slaves with the Emancipation Proclamation and the date was chosen in his honor. The meeting did not take place for another three months, but the February date stands as the birthday. On May 30, 1909, the group convened at New York City’s Henry Street Settlement House with Du Bois presiding over the meeting. In 1910, the name selected was National Association for the Advancement of Colored People with Moorefield Storey elected as National President. The NAACP was incorporated in 1911.

Their immediate goal was to overturn Jim Crow laws – legislation legalizing segregation. They sought to assure the right to vote was granted to all men, regardless of race. By 1916 with a membership of around 9,000, James Weldon Johnson was brought in as field secretary. The former US Consul and journalist helped boost membership ten-fold in less than four years. The NAACP spent much of its time and resources making the South a safe place for African-Americans, stopping lynching and promoting desegregation legislation.

Today, the NAACP is one of the last places where the phrase “colored people” is still used and it is continued in the spirit of tradition. They have a national headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland with regional offices in California, New York, Michigan, Missouri, Georgia, and Texas. The 300,000 members continue to fight racial hatred and racial discrimination. They sponsor a number of programs from Civic Engagement to International Affairs. The NAACP supports Research and Training as well as Education, Health, and understanding the Criminal Justice system and Economic Empowerment.

“A little less complaint and whining, and a little more dogged work and manly striving, would do us more credit than a thousand civil rights bills.”

“An American, a Negro… two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”

“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.”

“The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line.” – all from W. E. B. Du Bois

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: W.E.B. (William Edward Burghardt) Du Bois was born in 1868 in Massachusetts. He grew up in a community with little racial discrimination. He was the first African-American to earn a doctorate from Harvard and became a professor of history, sociology, and economics at Atlanta University. He became a tireless worker for civil rights and came to national prominence after leading the Niagara Movement. He opposed the limited rights agreed to by Booker T. Washington and wanted full rights for all in the US. He was also a great writer and gave us The Souls of Black Folk and Black Reconstruction of America. He was invited to Ghana in his later life in order to help write the Encyclopedia Africana. While there, he died in 1963 at the age of 95.

Also on this day: Nine Days of Rule – In 1554, Lady Jane Grey was executed.
Going Metric – In 1973, the first metric road sign in the US was erected.
Honor – In 1914, groundbreaking for the Lincoln Memorial took place.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 12, 2012

Lincoln Memorial

February 12, 1914: Groundbreaking ceremonies take place for the Lincoln Memorial. The cornerstone was laid one year later, again on February 12 – Lincoln’s birthday. Back in 1864-65, 17-year-old Vinnie Ream spent time studying President Lincoln. After Lincoln’s assassination, Vinnie won a Congressional commission for a full length marble statue. Her statue was unveiled in 1871. Lot Flannery’s marble statue in Judiciary Square was first displayed in 1868.  A national monument was proposed and given Congressional support in 1867.

Several plans for the project were put forth, some more elaborate than other. None were built. The Senate Park Commission was formed in 1900. It was decided the memorial would be built at the foot of Arlington Memorial Bridge and align the North and the South, uniting the country symbolically. The Potomac River had once served as the division between the United States of America and the Confederate States of America. Now, it would be the “reconciliation and reunification” Lincoln sought during his life.

On February 9, 1911 Congress passed the needed legislation to build. On July 17, 1911, with the backing of the US Commission of Fine Arts, the project could finally begin. Construction of the memorial lasted from 1914 to 1922. Most of the architectural components were in place by April 1917. With the Great War raging across the globe and US involvement in the war, construction slowed but never stopped. The building cost $2,957,000 (≈ $36 million today) and the dedication ceremony was held on May 30, 1922.

The focal point of the Lincoln Memorial is the statue of Lincoln seated beneath an inscription stating “IN THIS TEMPLE / AS IN THE HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE / FOR WHOM HE SAVED THE UNION / THE MEMORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN / IS ENSHRINED FOREVER.” David Chester French’s statue stands 19 feet 9 inches tall and 19 feet wide. It was carved from 28 blocks of Georgia marble by the Piccinilli Brothers studio. The Reflecting Pool is a visual reminder linking the Washington and Lincoln Memorials – the Father of the Country with the Savior of the Country.

Force is all-conquering, but its victories are short-lived.

If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend.

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.

The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just. – all from Abraham Lincoln

Also on this day:

Nine Days of Rule – In 1554, Lady Jane Grey was executed.
NAACP – In 1909, the NAACP was formed.
Going Metric – In 1973, the first metric road sign in the US was erected.

Going Metric

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 12, 2011

Green areas of map use the metric system of measurement

February 12, 1973: The first metric road signs in the US are erected along Interstate 71 in Ohio, giving metric distances from Cincinnati to Columbus and from Columbus to Cleveland. As far back as 1790 Thomas Jefferson wanted the new nation to adopt a decimal based system for weights and measurements. The metric system was first well defined by the French in 1791. This early system was concerned with length and mass and were based on the meter and the gram.

The sun may have never set on the British Empire, but systems for measuring were not standardized throughout the world. The Imperial and US measures were identical for length. Mass measurement remained a weighty issue. The Avoirdupois system had a basic unit of the pound weighing in at 16 ounces. The Brits had a weight called a “stone” that was 14 pounds that the US did not employ at all. The US hundredweight was 100 pounds while the British added a “long” to the weight and it came to 112 pounds making the US ton 2,000 pounds and the British one 2,240 pounds.

Systems of measurement were necessary for building, buying, or bartering. The earliest codified system of measurements shows up in ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Indus Valley areas in the 4th – 3rd millennium BC. An ivory ruler, found in the Indus Valley, shows amazingly accurate measurements. The smallest division was only 1.704 mm. In ancient Egypt, measurement systems were necessary for the building of the pyramids. Many of the early tombs have pictures of scales, a necessary accoutrement to fair bartering. Early measurements were based on body size and then formalized or codified. The cubit was the measure a man’s forearm and was comprised of 28 digits, or width of 28 fingers. These lengths were eventually codified for accuracy.

Today’s world, with a world market, needs a standardized measurement system. The International System of Units [SI] is that standard. It is not accepted worldwide, however. The European Union has given the rest of the world until 2010 to convert measurements on any goods that will be imported to the EU nations. Now, if we could only get one monetary system in order to pay for our accurately measured goods.

“Thus the metric system did not really catch on in the States, unless you count the increasing popularity of the nine-millimeter bullet.” – Dave Barry

“For many years the National Pretend Speed Limit was fifty-five miles per hour (metric equivalent: 378 kilograms per hectare.)” – Dave Barry

“A lot of people are afraid of heights. Not me. I’m afraid of widths.” – Stephen Wright

“I think that a particle must have a separate reality independent of the measurements. That is an electron has spin, location and so forth even when it is not being measured. I like to think that the moon is there even if I am not looking at it.” – Albert Einstein

Also on this day:
Nine Days of Rule – In 1554, Lady Jane Grey was executed.
NAACP – In 1909, the NAACP was formed.


Nine Days of Rule

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 12, 2010

The Execution of Lady Jane Grey

February 12, 1554: Lady Jane Grey is beheaded for treason. She was the great-granddaughter of Henry VII and reigned as Queen regent of England for nine days in 1553. Her claim to the throne was dubious and remains controversial. She was the daughter of Lady Frances Brandon who was the daughter of Mary Tudor who was a daughter of Henry VII. Lady Frances renounced her claim to the throne in favor of her daughter.

The lineage to the throne is through male primogeniture. This system allows for males to accede to the thrown in order of birth with women, regardless of birth order, coming into line only after any male claim. England’s break with the Catholic church and selling of Church property caused financial difficulties to many of the landed and titled gentry. Much of the controversy over the crown was based on religious affiliation for monetary gains rather than theological doctrine.

John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, and regent to King Edward VI had a financial stake in keeping the monarchy under Protestant control. The Duke quickly arranged a marriage between his son, Guilford Dudley and Lady Jane and then had Lady Jane proclaimed Queen. To his chagrin, she did not name her new husband king, but instead titled him Duke of Clarence.

King Edward was dying at the age of fifteen. His half-sister, Mary Tudor, held the position of Heir Presumptive to the throne. However, Edward named his aunt, also named Mary Tudor, as his successor. With all this maneuvering, this left the throne to Lady Jane, a Protestant like Edward.

Mary I had more popular support than Lady Jane. She amassed an army and marched to London with 20,000 men. There she deposed Jane and tried to get her to convert to Catholicism. That failed. Lady Jane may have escaped with her life, but there was religious controversy over Mary’s choice of husband and a revolt was staged with many of Lady Jane’s family siding with the Protestants.

Jane was beheaded in private, a courtesy to royalty. She was sixteen. Her husband was also beheaded, but in public.  Queen Mary I lived for only four more years.

“Royalty consists not in vain pomp, but in great virtues.” – Agesilaus

“The Lord blesses His humble devotees with royalty, He fashions the true crown upon their heads.” – Guru Gobind Singh

“It’s royalty, … I think there’s an intrigue, a mystery to it.” – Gavin Newsom

“Boy George is all England needs – another queen who can’t dress.” – Joan Rivers

Also on this day, in 1909 the NAACP was formed.

Tagged with: ,