Little Bits of History

February 16

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 16, 2017

1959: Fidel Castro becomes the 16th Prime Minister of Cuba. He was born in 1926 in Biran, Oriente Province, Cuba. He was eventually sent to live with a teacher in Santiago de Cuba and it was there he was baptized Catholic when he was eight. This allowed him to be educated at the La Salle boarding school in Santiago. He went on to a more prestigious Jesuit run school. He was not an excellent student and spent most of time playing sports. In 1945 he entered law school at the University of Havana and there began his interest in politics. He joined the violent gang culture of the university and decried US involvement in the Caribbean and the corruption of Cuban politics.

In June 1947, Castro joined an expedition to invade the Dominican Republic and overthrow Rafael Trujillu, but the Cuban president was pressured to stop the invasion. Castro was not arrested but when he returned to college, he took a more active leadership role in campus politics as it intersected with the government. In 1948 he married the daughter of a wealthy family and while neither family was overjoyed, the couple was treated to a three month honeymoon in New York City. Upon return to Cuba, Castro opened a law practice catering to the legal issues of the poor. The business was a financial failure. He wanted to run for Congress in the June 1952 elections under the Ortodoxo party, but leaders were fearful of his radical reputation and refused to nominate him. He was nominated by Havana’s poor to run for a seat in the House of Representatives.

While campaigning, Castro met General Fulgencio Batista, a former president who was returning to politics. They were polite but not mutually supportive. In March 1952, Batista seized power and declared himself President. Castro formed a group amongst the poor to fight Batista’s power grab. Castro declared himself a revolutionary socialist and refused the communist name. The revolt he planned was a failure and Castro was eventually captured. He acted as his own lawyer, unsuccessfully, and was imprisoned. After his release, he once again planned an overthrow of the dictator. A guerilla war ensued and eventually Batista was routed. His abdication was announced on January 1, 1959.

A provisional government was set up and Castro put himself into a position of power. While Manuel Urrutia Lleo was declared president, Castro had a great deal of power and called himself Representative of the Rebel Armed Forces of the Presidency. He set up programs to increase literacy and decrease corruption as well as ridding the government of any Batista leftover followers. One of his first acts after being made Prime Minister was to visit the US in order to open channels of communication. He met President Nixon and did not like him. He then went on a larger good will tour of the Americas. On his return home he instituted several new policies helping the impoverished and repeatedly called himself a socialist and refused the label of communist.

The revolution is a dictatorship of the exploited against the exploiters.

A revolution is a struggle to the death between the future and the past.

I am not a communist and neither is the revolutionary movement.

I find capitalism repugnant. It is filthy, it is gross, it is alienating… because it causes war, hypocrisy and competition. – all from Fidel Castro

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Blank Screen

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 16, 2015
Toddlers Truce

Toddlers Truce

February 16, 1957: The Toddlers Truce ends. British television began as British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) broadcasts only. The BBC is a UK-based international public service broadcaster. It is the world’s oldest broadcasting organization. It is a statutory corporation with a Royal Charter and is funded principally by an annual television license fee charged to all British households, companies, and organizations using any type of equipment to receive or record live television broadcasts. The fee is set by the British Government. In 1954, the Independent Television Authority was established to created Independent Television (ITV), the first commercial TV network in the United Kingdom. ITV was launched on September 22, 1955 to provide competition to the BBC. Naturally, the BBC was not entirely thrilled with the new company.

BBC began to broadcast once again after the end of World War II and at that time instituted the Toddlers Truce. It was uncontroversial from 1946 until ITV began to broadcast. BBC broadcast children’s programming up to 6 PM. The evening schedule of programming began at 7 PM. From six to seven, there were no broadcasts at all so that parents would be able to get their small children tucked into bed. The BBC found the Toddlers Truce to be compatible with their income stream. Their funding was secured by license fees and with the hour less to fill, it was actually economically advantageous for them. The ITV was paid for from advertising revenue and with one less hour on the air, their chance to run ads and thus gain fees was curtailed. This loss of revenue was critical to the fledgling company.

Supporters of ITV argued that the Truce was just one more way for government interference. They had faced strong political opposition and won, but this Truce was giving the BBC an unfair advantage. The ITA encouraged their ITV companies to seek abolition of the truce. At the time, ITV was formed by Granada, ABC Television, ATV, and Associated-Rediffusion. The companies were unable to effectively cooperated and it was not until July 1956 that action was finally taken. In the UK, the Postmaster General is head of the government branch responsible for television. Earl De La Warr had been in charge during the years of the Truce. He had been replaced by Charles Hill, who disliked the idea.

Even with this support, the BBC was adamant about keeping the Truce and would not even compromise to reducing the time to just 30 minutes. Hill grew tired of bargaining and asked Parliament to simply abolish the policy which they did on October 31, 1956. The BBC and ITA could not agree on a date of termination and so Hill chose this day, a Saturday. The BBC filled the hour with music on the first Saturday, continued to shut down on Sundays, and filled weekdays with Tonight, a news magazine show. In 1961, they finally began Songs of Praise for Sunday broadcasts. In 1992, BBC stopped religious programming and filled the Sunday hour with news. Crossroads is still shown on BBC1 and most ITV regions.

This restriction seemed to me absurd and I said so. It was the responsibility of parents, not the state, to put their children to bed at the right time. – Charles Hill

The most watched programme on the BBC, after the news, is probably ‘Doctor Who.’ What has happened is that science fiction has been subsumed into modern literature. There are grandparents out there who speak Klingon, who are quite capable of holding down a job. No one would think twice now about a parallel universe. – Terry Pratchett

You know, the BBC had not been particularly generous in its deliverance of blues and esoteric kinds of music. – Keith Richards

Before the BBC, I joined the Navy in order to travel. – David Attenborough

Also on this day: King Tut – In 1923, Howard Carter opened the tomb of King Tutankhamen.
Nylon – In 1937. Nylon was patented.
Altmark Incident – In 1940, the German ship, Altmark, was boarded by cutlass wielding soldiers.
What Is Your Emergency? – In 1968, 9-1-1 service began.
Icelandic Football – In 1899, the KR was founded.

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Icelandic Football

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 16, 2014
Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur

Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur

February 16, 1899: Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur is founded. They are the oldest football club in Iceland. The name began as Fótboltafélag Reykjavíkur which means Reykjavik Football Club and changed to Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur which also means the same – except a literal translation for Knattspyrna is ballkicking rather than football and to the Icelandic ear, it is more elegant. The name is often shortened to KR. Since this is European football, it isn’t what Americans call football, but rather it is what we call soccer. KR is based in Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital where they play home games at KR-völlur which has a seating capacity of almost 2,800.

KR is the nation’s most successful football club. They won the Úrvalsdeild championship 26 times. The championship would be akin to the US Super Bowl where the 12 Icelandic teams vie for the title. Since Iceland has such hard winters, this game is usually played in the spring or summer. The championship began in 1912, with KR winning and they are also the current holder of the title. A more international trophy is the Icelandic Cup where 72 teams compete with the mid-August game being held at Laugardalsvöllur, another stadium in Reykjavik – but this one seating 15,000 people. KR is the most successful club here, too, with 13 wins. They are not the current title holder as that honor goes to Fram, another Icelandic team which was founded in 1908.

When the team was first founded, they modeled their uniforms on those worn by Newcastle United, the British football club founded in 1892. Like their British counterparts, the home uniform is black shorts and socks with a black and white vertically striped shirt. Unlike Newcastle, KR’s away game colors are white shorts with an orange shirt and orange socks. For nearly a decade, there were no other clubs in Reykjavik, but as soon as Fram was founded, competitions with championships were mentioned. The first time they played, KR won. Because there are only 12 teams in the top division of Iceland football, they each play the other 11 teams twice, once at home and once away.

The Icelandic league was divided into two divisions in 1955 and once again KR took the winners spot. KR was the first Iceland team to play in the European Cup and did so with the 1964-65 season. They lost in a preliminary round to Liverpool with a score of 11-1. KR won their 20th title in 1968. They were demoted to the Second Division in 1977 and had narrow losses in 1990, 1996, and 1998. As they turned 100 years old in 1999 they had not won a league title for 31 years. On this milestone year, they won against Vikingur with a score 4-0 to make it to the top spot where they beat IA with a 3-1 score. They were back on a winning streak.

Soccer is simple, but it is difficult to play simple. – Johan Cruijff

I’m a rock star because I couldn’t be a soccer star. – Rod Stewart

When I was ten, I wrote an essay on what I would be when I grew up and said I would be a professional soccer player and a comedian in off season. – Will Ferrell

I never felt the same passion for the game in the States and there were a lot of headaches, a lot of obstacles to overcome – it didn’t just run itself for the love of the game because soccer is not the No. 1 sport as it is in Europe. – Hope Solo

Also on this day: King Tut – In 1923, Howard Carter opened the tomb of King Tutankhamen.
Nylon – In 1937. Nylon was patented.
Altmark Incident – In 1940, the German ship, Altmark, was boarded by cutlass wielding soldiers.
What Is our Emergency? – In 1968, 9-1-1 service began.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 16, 2013
Wallace H. Carothers

Wallace H. Carothers

February 16, 1937: US Patent #2,071,250 is granted to Dr. Wallace Hume Carothers via DuPont, Inc. The patent was for synthetic linear condensation polymers. It covered the polymer and the process for making it and drawing the substance into a thread. It is a plastic called nylon. It is a thermoplastic silky substance. Thermoplastic means it can both melt and freeze. Nylon was first created in the DuPont research laboratories on February 28, 1935 and was granted patent protection nearly two years later.

Carothers was born in Iowa in 1896 and even as a child, he could be found playing with tools and mechanical devices. His first contact with higher education was at a business college and he completed the accounting and secretarial curriculum in 1915. He went on to Tariko College and did so well in chemistry, he began teaching the subject. He received his PhD in chemistry from the University of Illinois in 1924 with high honors, receiving the Carr Fellowship for the 1923-24 year. He was persuaded to move to DuPont even after admitting he suffered from “neurotic spells of diminished capacity.” He committed suicide by taking cyanide on April 28, 1937 at the age of 41.

On February 24, 1938 the new product was on the market for consumers. Hog-bristle toothbrushes were replaced with nylon-bristled ones. The next use was to play out the polymer into a fine thread and create a new form of stocking. Silk stockings were replaced by the new “nylons.” The nylons were unlike today’s product. They were two seamed socks which covered about 2/3 of a woman’s leg with sheer fabric. During World War II, first silk and then nylon became scarce as it was needed for the war effort. Nylon riots erupted from August 1945 to March 1946 due to the shortage. DuPont tried to supply both markets without total success.

Nylon was manufactured in the hopes of taking over the silk market. During the war, it was used for parachutes and flak vests. It was also used in the manufacture of tires. Today, the fiber is used in a wide range of products. It is used in fabrics, bridal veils, carpets, and rope. Nylon is an essential ingredient in mechanical gears and injection molding. Solid nylon is molded into many household products, such as combs. It is used in glass-filled variants in a number of commercial applications.

“There doesn’t seem to be much to report concerning my experiences outside of chemistry. I’m living out in the country now with three other bachelors, and they being socially inclined have all gone out in tall hats and white ties, while I after my ancient custom sit sullenly at home.” – Wallace H. Carothers

“My nervousness, moroseness and vacillation get worse as time goes on, and the frequent resort to drinking doesn’t bring about any permanent improvement. 1932 looks pretty black to me just now.” – Wallace. H. Carothers

“To this audience . . . I am making the first announcement of a brand new chemical textile fiber. . . . Though wholly fabricated from such common raw materials as coal, water, and air, nylon can be fashioned into filaments as strong as steel, as fine as a spider’s web, yet more elastic than any of the common natural fibers.” – Charles Stine

“I don’t go to church. Kneeling bags my nylons.” – Billy Wilder

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Nylon is one of the most commonly used synthetic polymers. The “synthetic” portion means simply that it is manmade. “Polymers” are compounds or mixtures of compounds that have repeating structural units which are created through a process called “polymerization” (which itself means the process of stringing together monomer molecules using a chemical process). There are both low and high density polyethylene polymers which are seen in bottles and pipes. The other well known organic polymer is Teflon, accidentally discovered in 1938 by Roy Plunkett while he was working for Kinetic Chemicals, which was founded by DuPont and General Motors.

Also on this day: King Tut – In 1923, Howard Carter opened the tomb of King Tutankhamen.
Nylon – In 1937. Nylon was patented.
Altmark Incident – In 1940, the German ship, Altmark, was boarded by cutlass wielding soldiers.
What Is our Emergency? – In 1968, 9-1-1 service began.

What Is Your Emergency?

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 16, 2012

Tom Bevill taking the first emergency call in the US

February 16, 1968: Tom Bevill picks up a phone in Haleyville, Alabama and says “Hello.” Before rotary dial phones were invented, operators connected all calls. If a caller needed to reach the police or fire department, they didn’t need a number. The switchboard worker would connect the panicked person without delay. The operator could also see who was placing the call and direct emergency services to the right place. After people were able to place calls directly, there were many communities who kept an emergency operator employed and dialing “0” got immediate help.

Emergency services tried to get easily memorized numbers so callers could reach them directly. Some systems worked better than others. In the UK in 1937, an experimental national system was set up using 999 for emergency calls. The first North American city to use a central emergency number was Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1959. A push for a nationwide emergency system in the US came in 1957 from the National Association of Fire Chiefs. Ten years later, a presidential commission charged the FCC and AT&T to come up with a solution.

AT&T used the Winnipeg model but changed the number to 9-1-1. The number was selected because other *-1-1 numbers had been used by AT&T since the 1920s – for example, 4-1-1 for directory service. There were other safety and routing concerns which also made the number desirable. AT&T announced their plan in a press conference and it was reported in the Wall Street Journal on January 15, 1968. Bob Gallagher, president of the Alabama Telephone Company wanted to beat AT&T’s implementation date. Robert Fitzgerald helped with the circuitry for Haleyville. The system was tested and worked with US Representative Tom Bevill fielding the first 9-1-1 call in the US.

While it is supposed to be nationwide, there is still 4% of the US serving 1% of the population without the service. The number is always read as “nine-one-one” rather than “nine-eleven.” There have been enhancements since the system was first introduced. Cell phones and Internet telephones have made routing issues a concern. Hoax calls may result in criminal charges. As many as 45% of the calls placed in the US each year are said to be for non-emergency issues. Other countries have different emergency numbers with most of them also being a simple three digit number.

The prizes go to those who meet emergencies successfully. And the way to meet emergencies is to do each daily task the best we can. – William Feather

We must not tolerate politicians who infringe upon our right to defend ourselves from thieves and stalkers and rapists and murderers. And we must not tolerate the politician who simply says: “Pass another gun control law and call 9-1-1.” – Larry Craig

The primary responsibility for dealing with emergencies does not belong to the federal government. It belongs to local and state officials who are charged by law with the management of the crucial first response to disasters.” – Bob Williams

I have left orders to be awakened at any time in case of national emergency, even if I’m in a cabinet meeting. – Ronald Reagan

Also on this day:

King Tut – In 1923, Howard Carter opened the tomb of King Tutankhamen.
Nylon – In 1937. Nylon was patented.
Altmark Incident – In 1940, the German ship, Altmark, was boarded by cutlass wielding soldiers.

Altmark Incident

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 16, 2011

The Altmark

February 16, 1940: The German ship, Altmark, is boarded by cutlass wielding soldiers, the last time cutlasses were used in a boarding of another ship. It is also the last major boarding attack by the British Royal Navy. The Altmark was returning to Germany as a navy auxiliary ship. It was a supply ship for the scuttled Graf Spee that was sunk in December 1939 at the River Platt. The Spee had been carrying British merchant sailors that had taken after sinking their ships. Those prisoners were aboard the Altmark.

The German ship was in Norwegian seas. Norway was still a neutral country. Two Norwegian warships were escorting the German ship after having ascertained in a cursory search that the ship was heading back to Germany in a legal manner. Somehow, the Norwegian search crew missed the 299 [303 by some reports] screaming sailors trapped in the holds.

Ships of the Royal Navy’s 4th Destroyer Flotilla were made aware of the presence of the Almark and the fact that she carried British sailors. Winston Churchill gave a direct order to get the men back, no matter the cost or the legal standing. The British Cossack pulled along side the Altmark, running the larger German ship aground at low tide. Men boarded and after fighting hand-to-hand with cutlasses and bayonets, they reached the holds and freed their countrymen.

Norway was furious that her neutrality was breached. Hitler was furious that the prize of hundreds of British men escaped and ruined his brilliant propaganda coup. Both sides were accusatory toward Norway regarding breaches in neutral positions. Hitler made his rancor known by invading Norway shortly after this incident.

“The Navy is here!” – men of the Cossack to recued men in the hold of the Altmark

“Like so many of our people, we have now had a personal experience of German barbarity which only strengthens the resolution of all of us to fight through to final victory.” – King George VI

“Today we may say aloud before an awe-struck world: We are still masters of our fate. We are still captain of our souls.” – Winston Churchill

“The spirit of the great men of our history must hearten us all. Fate demands from us no more than from the great men of German history. As long as I live I shall think only of the victory of my people. I shall shrink from nothing and shall annihilate everyone who is opposed to me… I want to annihilate the enemy!” – Adolf Hitler

Also on this day:
King Tut – In 1923, Howard Carter opened the tomb of King Tutankhamun.
Nylon – In 1937, a patent was granted to DuPont, Inc.


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King Tut

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 16, 2010

The gold mask of King Tutankhamun

February 16, 1923: Howard Carter opens the tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings, Luxor, Egypt. Carter used modern archeological methods and meticulous recording of data. He was financed by Lord Carnavon. The tomb’s official name is KC62. It’s located with other tombs for Pharaohs and nobles of the New Kingdom of Ancient Egypt – the Eighteenth through Twentieth Dynasties. The Valley contains 64 tombs dating from 1539 BC to 1075 BC.

Tutankhamun began his reign at the age of nine with help from vizier Ay. Ay was born a commoner but rose in power to advise at least one other, and possibly two, pharaohs. After Tutankhamun’s death, Ay rose to the throne. Tutankhamun was a minor ruler and reigned for about ten years. In that time, he lifted a ban on worshiping the old pantheon of gods and reopened their temples.

Carter speculated on the cause of death of the boy king. A hole was found at the base of his skull and it was thought that Tutankhamun may have been murdered. Finally, in 2005, after taking over 1,700 images with a CT scan, it was decided that King Tut had succumbed to a case of rapidly spreading gangrene from a broken leg.

The Treasures of Tutankhamun contained 55 objects from the tomb including the famous gold funeral mask and is one of the best known exhibitions in the world. The exhibition was in London’s British Museum in 1972. Between 1976 and 1979, it went on a US tour and was shown in Washington, D.C., Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Seattle, New York City and San Francisco before returning to England. While on display in America, more than 8 million people went to see the artifacts discovered in the tomb. It also inspired a song by Steve Martin.

“All the performances of human art, at which we look with praise or wonder, are instances of the resistless force of perseverance; it is by this that the quarry becomes a pyramid, and that distant countries are united with canals.” – Samuel Johnson

“It’s very important to reveal the mystery of the pyramid. Science in archaeology is very important. People all over the world are waiting to solve this mystery,” – Zahi Hawass

“The overseer of the unskilled peasants who dragged stone for the pyramids did not concern himself with morale or motivation,” – Peter F. Drucker

“The pharaohs didn’t lift a finger. That’s king and queen. Mrs. Pharaoh’s fingernails were as immaculately manicured as Elizabeth Taylor’s in Cleopatra. Who built the pyramids? Anonymous slaves down through the centuries.” – Studs Terkel

Also on this day, in 1937 nylon was patented by Dr. Wallace Carothers