Little Bits of History

February 17

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 17, 2017

2015:  Eighteen people are killed during a Mardi Gras parade. Mardi Gras is also called Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday. Carnival is a period in the Christian calendar, beginning after the feast of the Epiphany (aka Three Kings Day and traditionally celebrated January 6) and the day before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. The period often culminates in celebrations and parades on the day before the forty days of Lent begin, a time of sacrifice and atonement. Port-au-Prince is the capital of Haiti and there is a huge following there to celebrate this holiday. A parade was held on Champ de Mars. During this parade, around 2.48 AM, a disaster struck.

Fantom was the lead singer for a Haitian hip hop band or rap kreyòl called Barikad Crew, sometimes just called BC. The band was formed in 2002 and has had several tragedies befall them. Papa K-tafalk, Deja-Voo and Kondagana started the band to create music reflective of life in the slums of Haiti. They were commercially successful when their singles were released, allowing them to finally put out an entire album in 2007. The membership of the band has altered over time. In 2008 while travelling to a concert, Papa K-tafalk, Deja-Voo and Dade were killed in a car accident. Young Cliff was killed in the January 2010 earthquake that rocked the island. On this day, Fantom was riding atop a float in the parade when he made contact with a high-voltage power line. He survived the jolt and was in stable condition after the event.

The electrifying event caused a stampede among the revelers. It was at first thought that sixteen people were killed but later reports increased the numbers. Fifteen men and three women were killed and another 78 people were injured in the hysteria following the initial accident. Video of the event can be found at You Tube.

The Prime Minister of Haiti called for three days of mourning for the 18 people killed. There was also a state funeral and vigil for the victims held on February 21. In order to honor those who lost their lives on that fateful night, another parade, this one to be held in silence would follow the same route on Champ de Mars. The President of Haiti offered his condolences and the Minister of Communications announced the government’s plan to modernize the state electricity company to keep other events like this one from happening.

There’s a thing I’ve dreamed of all my life, and I’ll be damned if it don’t look like it’s about to come true-to be King of the Zulu’s parade. After that, I’ll be ready to die. – Louis Armstrong

I love Mardi Gras. I’m a street rat. – Mitch Landrieu

Do what you do. This Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve, Twelfth Night, Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras, St. Paddy’s Day, and every day henceforth. Just do what you do. Live out your life and your traditions on your own terms. If it offends others, so be it. That’s their problem. – Chris Rose

It has been said that a Scotchman has not seen the world until he has seen Edinburgh; and I think that I may say that an American has not seen the United States until he has seen Mardi Gras in New Orleans. – Mark Twain


Keep Out

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 17, 2015
Weenen Massacre by Charles Davidson Bell

Weenen Massacre by Charles Davidson Bell

February 17, 1838: The Weenen Massacre takes place. The Dutch settled in what is today South Africa and built Cape Colony at the southern tip of the continent. The British took over rule of the land in 1795 after they won the Battle of Muizenberg. Control went back and forth between the two European nations until the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814 when the British successfully took all control. Many of the poor Dutch farmers left to head east and find a new home in which to settle and farm. These pioneers were called Voortrekkers, literally translated as “fore-movers”. The Great Trek was a number of mass movements in the 1830s and 1840s. The land they were moving to was part of the Zulu Kingdom along the Indian Ocean on the east coast of Africa.

Piet Retief led a delegation of about 100 people to meet with Zulu King Dingane in the hopes of reaching agreement between the Afikaans Voortrekkers and the Zulu nation for permanent boundaries for the new settlement. The treaty was signed on February 6, 1838 with both sides recording three witnesses. Dingane then invited Retief’s party to join him for a special performance by his soldiers. The Zulu king captured the entire party and clubbed them death, killing Retief last so he could witness the horrific deaths of his comrades. The bodies were then left in the open for vultures.

Next, Dingane sent his soldiers to kill the rest of the Voortrekkers camped at Doringkop, Bloukrans, Moordspruit, Rensburgspruit, and other sites along the Bushman River. On this day, 41 men, 56 women, and 185 children of the Voortrekkers were killed. Also killed were another 250 people, those Khoikhoi and Basuto who accompanied the trekkers. Most of those in other camps were also murdered. At Groot-Moordspruit, Johanna van der Merwe suffered 21 assegai (Zulu spear) wounds, but survived. She was twelve at the time of the attack. She was permanently crippled by the attack but did eventually marry. She and her husband had seven sons. She died in 1888 at the age of 62.

The survivors of the surprise attacks retreated into protective hills and used their limited ammunition to defend themselves. They were almost out of ammo when Marthinus Oosthuizien arrived on horseback. He was directed where to find more ammunition in the abandoned camps and was able to resupply his friends. He charged the Zulu line from horseback and they retreated. Two months after the attacks, the town of Weenen was established. The name comes from the Dutch “to weep” and it is the second oldest European settlement in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The town covered about 28 square miles and slightly more than 3,000 call it home today. Most are Black African and speak Zulu with 7% of the population white and English as the second most common language, spoken by 11.6% as a first language.

It is not easy to be a pioneer – but oh, it is fascinating! I would not trade one moment, even the worst moment, for all the riches in the world. – Elizabeth Blackwell

There has to be this pioneer, the individual who has the courage, the ambition to overcome the obstacles that always develop when one tries to do something worthwhile, especially when it is new and different. – Alfred P. Sloan

The way of the pioneer is always rough. – Harvey S. Firestone

In a word I was a pioneer, and therefore had to blaze my own trail. – Major Taylor

Also on this day: H L Hunley – In 1864, the first successful sinking of a ship by a submarine.
Newsweek – In 1933, Newsweek was first published.
Miles Standish – In 1621, Miles Standish was appointed first commander of Plymouth colony.
Butterfly – In 1904, Madame Butterfly opened in Milan.
Giordano Bruno – In 1600, he died.

Giordano Bruno

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 17, 2014
Giordano Bruno

Giordano Bruno

February 17, 1600: Giordano Bruno dies. He was born Filippo Bruno in Nola, Kingdom of Naples in what is now Italy in 1548. His father was a soldier and he was educated in Naples. He was tutored privately in an Augustinian monastery and at the age of 17 entered the Dominican Order where he took the name of Giordano, his metaphysics tutor. He continued his studies at the monastery until he was 24 when he became a Roman Catholic priest. He was noted for his memory and twice went to Rome to meet with the Pope and demonstrate his mnemonic system. However, he was soon in trouble because his taste in books were not always those approved by the church.

His free thinking and immodest reading material brought him into conflict with the Church. A banned book by Erasmus was found in his possession and as charges were being prepared Bruno fled the monastery and Naples and took to wandering (dressed as a civilian). He traveled around present day Italy, wrote On The Sign of the Times, and eventually was talked back into wearing the habit in Padua. He did not give up travel and went to what is now France. There is some question as to whether or not he left the Catholic Church, but it seemed unlikely.

His works were not only Copernican in nature, but went far beyond into the realm of what could only, during that time, be called heresy. He subscribed to the heliocentric solar system but went farther and claimed that the Sun was just another star moving through space. He claimed the universe held infinite worlds inhabited by other intelligent beings. While in France, he was protected by powerful French patrons and under their auspices was able to publish some more. On The Shadows of Ideas, The Art of Memory, and Circe’s Song were all written in 1582 and were about his mnemonic models which were far different than the popular models of the time. He moved on to England and visited Oxford. His time there was also fruitful.

He left England in 1585 and wandered through mainland Europe, taking teaching posts where he could find them. He finally took a post as an in-house tutor to Mocenigo. When Bruno announced he was leaving, Mocenigo (who was unhappy with his curriculum) denounced him to the Venetian Inquisition and charged him with blasphemy and heresy. During his trial, Bruno’s skill with philosophical methods allowed him to defend himself brilliantly. However, that was no match for the Inquisition. Although the trial lasted for seven years, Bruno was sentenced to death and was burned at the stake on this day.

If it is not true it is very well invented.

Perchance you who pronounce my sentence are in greater fear than I who receive it.

Divinity reveals herself in all things… everything has Divinity latent within itself.

All things are in the Universe, and the universe is in all things: we in it, and it in us; in this way everything concurs in a perfect unity. – all from Giordano Bruno

Also on this day: H L Hunley – In 1864, the first successful sinking of a ship by a submarine.
Newsweek – In 1933, Newsweek was first published.
Miles Standish – In 1621, Miles Standish was appointed first commander of Plymouth colony.
Butterfly – In 1904, Madame Butterfly opened in Milan.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 17, 2013
Newsweek's first cover

Newsweek’s first cover

February 17, 1933: Thomas J.C. Martyn, previously foreign editor at Time, releases a new magazine. The new magazine sold for 10¢ an issue and had a yearly subscription rate of $4. The magazine’s first cover featured seven photographs from the previous week’s news displayed under the banner of News-Week. By 1935, a group of prominent US stockholders began financing the magazine. In 1937, the magazine merged with another weekly publication, Today. With that merger came more large names as well as more funding.

In 1937, Malcolm Muir took over the editorship and changed the name to Newsweek. With Muir in control, there was a shift toward more interpretive stories. He introduced signed columns and an international edition. The small magazine grew into one with breaking stories and included analysis and commentary on national and world issues. The magazine was purchased by the Washington Post Company in 1961. Newsweek is the most liberal of the three major newsweeklies in the US (Time and U.S. News & World Report are the other two).

As with any major undertaking, there are controversies. Newsweek held back on the Monica Lewinsky story even though they held information before it broke on the Drudge Report. They printed a story about Guantanamo Bay detainees distraught over desecration of the Qur’an only to retract it after riots broke out. They had not fact-checked and could find no confirmation of the allegations made by an anonymous source. They have periodically listed the ten best public high schools in America based on the Challenge Index – a methodology now under scrutiny. There have been regional editions of the magazine with controversial covers, as well.

Today, Newsweek has a worldwide circulation of more than 4 million. It is published in New York City with 4 English language editions and 12 global editions written in the language of the circulation region. Jon Meacham is in charge of Newsweek’s US editions and Fareed Zakaria holds the reins for the international editions. Bureaus are in several major US cities and ten overseas locations. In 1994, Newsweek came online with Prodigy then moved to America Online in 1996. In 1998, was launched. In 2000 it merged with NBC,, and MSNBC. In 2007, it once again became a standalone site.

“For most folks, no news is good news; for the press, good news is not news.” – Gloria Borger

“Journalism largely consists of saying ‘Lord Jones is Dead’ to people who never knew that Lord Jones was alive.” – G. K. Chesterton

“But what is the difference between literature and journalism? …Journalism is unreadable and literature is not read. That is all.” – Oscar Wilde

“Every journalist has a novel in him, which is an excellent place for it.” – Russel Lynes

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Newsweek’s last print magazine had a publication date of December 31, 2012. Since 2008, trouble at the magazine has escalated. Revenue dropped 38% between 2007 and 2009. Although it always lagged behind Time magazine both in circulation and revenue, this drop was unsustainable. The Washington Post Company sold to Sidney Harman (92-year-old radio pioneer) for $1 and assumption of debt in August 2010. In November of that year, they merged with The Daily Beast to become The Newsweek Daily Beast Company. Today, they maintain a digital presence called Newsweek Global.

Also on this day: H L Hunley – In 1864, the first successful sinking of a ship by a submarine.
Miles Standish – In 1621, Miles Standish was appointed first commander of Plymouth colony.
Butterfly – In 1904, Madame Butterfly opened in Milan.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 17, 2012

Giacomo Puccini

February 17, 1904: Madame Butterfly, an opera by Giacomo Puccini, premieres at La Scala in Milan. Puccini was born in Tuscany to a family with generations of musicians. He became a church organist and choir master. He and his brother walked 18.5 miles to see Verdi’s Aida performed in Pisa. Puccini was so impressed, he decided to become an opera composer. At age 21 he received financial help and was able to study at the Milan Conservatory with Amilcare Ponchielli and Antonio Bazzini.

While still at the Conservatory, Puccini wrote a Messa or Catholic Mass for his native Lucca church. While most famous for his operas – he wrote ten – he also composed orchestral pieces, chamber music, songs for voice and piano, and the aforementioned sacred music. His style has been seen as lacking “seriousness.” His work was popular without pretension. He used arias to advantage but strung them together with a more continuous flow. He also broke with tradition and his operas were not all placed solely in Italy.

Madame Butterfly was based on two previous works – short story “Madame Butterfly” (1898) by John Luther Long and novel Madame Chrysanthème (1887) by Pierre Loti. Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa penned the Italian libretto. The two-act opera opened at La Scala – one of the world’s most famous opera houses. The lead roles were presented by soprano Rosina Storchio, tenor Giovanni Zenatello, and baritone Giuseppe De Luca – all famous at the time. The opera was poorly received, in part due to rushed work and not enough rehearsal time.

Puccini reworked the opera and split it into three acts. The opera opened a second time on May 28, 1904 and became a huge success. Puccini also wrote Lâ Bohème (opened in 1896) and Tosca (opened 1900). Madame Butterfly, set in Nagasaki, Japan, is the tale of a young woman betrayed by the man she loves. Madame Butterfly is presented around the world and is the most performed opera in the US. Many recordings and adaptations have been produced in the more than 100 years since Cio-Cio San first took the stage.

Of all the noises known to man, opera is the most expensive. – Moliere

The opera is like a husband with a foreign title – expensive to support, hard to understand and therefore a supreme social challenge. – Cleveland Amory

Opera in English is, in the main, about as sensible as baseball in Italian. – Henry Louis Mencken

Going to the opera, like getting drunk, is a sin that carries its own punishment with it. – Hannah Moore

Also on this day:

H L Hunley – In 1864, the first successful sinking of a ship by a submarine.
Newsweek – In 1933, Newsweek was first published.
Miles Standish – In 1621, Miles Standish was appointed first commander of Plymouth colony.

Miles Standish

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 17, 2011

Alleged portrait of Miles Standish

February 17, 1621: Miles Standish is appointed first commander of Plymouth colony. During the previous decades, there was much divisiveness regarding religions in England. There was great debate and even wars fought between the Catholics and members of the Church of England. Other Protestants disagreed about the Anglican Church and some believed it could be purified and brought back to what it should be. These people were called Puritans. Others believed the entire church had betrayed its founding creed and should be abolished and something new should be put into its place; barring that, they wished to form a new religion. These were called Separatists. Standish was a Separatist.

Although called the Church of England, practitioners were found outside the British Isles. Separatists found religious freedom in Holland, but they were distraught over the cultural ethos of the Netherlands. They wished to raise their children in England, but they were not granted religious freedom there. So, to create a place where they could have an English environment but religious freedom, they decided to sail to the New World. They set sail aboard the Mayflower and left England forever, setting up a new colony in America.

Not all aboard the small ship were Separatists. Some were Anglicans seeking out economic freedom or opportunity. Standish, while a Separatist, had been hired by the religious faction to join the adventure because of his military experience. He was certainly sympathetic to the Separatists’ cause, but he was not a deeply religious man himself. When the ship finally arrived in America, off course and late, the travelers did not immediately disembark and set up a colonial residence. With winter approaching, they stayed on the ship until the following spring.

Englishmen were aware of the hostilities between Native Americans and colonists. Jamestown Settlement had been lost fourteen years earlier. By this date, the Pilgrims [not a name they used for themselves] had sighted natives along the coast several times but had no contact with them. All able-bodied men aboard the ship decided to form a militia in preparation for meeting with the natives. They had brought Standish along for just such a job and they ratified by vote his position as leader of the militia group. He trained the men and they finally made contact in March. It was a peaceful meeting.

“We must find new lands from which we can easily obtain raw materials and at the same time exploit the cheap slave labor that is available from the natives of the colonies. The colonies would also provide a dumping ground for the surplus goods produced in our factories.” –  Cecil Rhodes

“America owes most of its social prejudices to the exaggerated religious opinions of the different sects which were so instrumental in establishing the colonies.” –  James F. Cooper

“The religion most prevalent in our northern colonies is a refinement on the principles of resistance: it is the dissidence of dissent, and the Protestantism of the Protestant religion.” – Edmund Burke

“We lost the American colonies because we lacked the statesmanship to know the right time and the manner of yielding what is impossible to keep.” – Elizabeth II

Also on this day:
H L Hunley – In 1864, the first successful sinking of a ship by a submarine.
Newsweek – In 1933, Newsweek was first published.


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H L Hunley

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 17, 2010

H L Hunley

February 17, 1864: The H L Hunley, the first submarine to sink an enemy ship, fires on and sinks the Union ship, Housatonic, during the US Civil War. It will be about another 50 years before this feat is repeated in World War I. The Union navy had blockaded the port of Charleston, SC. The harbor was a major port for what was at one time the largest city in America. Prior to the Civil War, Charleston, SC was a powerful force in the country.

The Hunley was only 25 feet long sans torpedo by 4 feet wide, displacing 7.5 tons. There were eight crew members and a commander. They rammed the Housatonic, a ship that was 207 feet long by 38 feet wide, weighing in at 1240 tons. After sinking the ship, they raised out of water and fired flares indicating success. They left the scene, only to vanish forever. All hands died at sea. The ship was maneuvered by a hand-cranked propeller and used hand pumps to create ballast.

The submarine was used three times during her short life. In all, 21 Confederate sailors lost their lives in the small ship. The Hunley, along with two other prototypes were privately developed by Horace Lawson Hunley and two partners. The three men built a first submarine in New Orleans and tested it in February 1862. As the Union neared the area, they sank their ship and moved away. They arrived in Mobile, Alabama and built a second sub which eventually sank during a storm. They then arrived in Charleston and tried again.

A search for the Hunley had been going on since it sunk. Early in the 20th century PT Barnum offered a $100,000 reward for the ship. It was found on May 3, 1995 by N.U.M.A. [National Underwater Marine Agency] in thirty feet of water off the coast of Sullivan Island, SC under about three feet of silt. On August 8, 2000 the submarine was brought up from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean and seen again for the first time in 137 years.

“Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” – Thomas Coventry

“Tell that to the Marines–the sailors won’t believe it.” – old saying

“There are only two kinds of naval vessels – submarines, and targets.” – unknown

“What a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world.” – Robert E. Lee in a letter to his wife, 1864

Also on this day, in 1933 Newsweek was first published.

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