Little Bits of History

February 20

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 20, 2017

1472: King Christian I of Norway cannot pay his daughter’s dowry. The Orkney Islands are an archipelago off the northern tip of Scotland. The Shetland Islands are even farther north and both are part of what is today called the Northern Isles and part of the United Kingdom. The Vikings had taken over the region after the Gaels, Picts, Celts, and Scots had all tried their hand at living there. The Vikings used the islands as a way station before heading farther south to raid and plunder coastal Europe. The Norwegians took over the islands by 875 and they remained under Norway’s rule, at first via Earls of Norway and then under the King himself.

By the mid-1400s Denmark and Scotland were in a feud over taxation of the Hebrides, another group of islands off the coast of Scotland. The King of France suggested the daughter of the King of Denmark and Norway (they were united at the time) marry the son of the King of Scotland. In July 1469, Margaret (13), daughter of Christian, married James (18), son of King James II. The Norse king was a bit short of cash. Margaret’s dowry was 60,000 Guilders. Christian was to pay 10,000 Guilders and put up Orkney as collateral for the rest. But the King could only come up with 2,000 Guilders and the Shetland Islands were then also added as further collateral.

Christian was unable to come up with the money he owed to the Scottish rulers and on this day the lands were taken over by Scotland. Neither Danes nor Norwegians accepted the fact their lands were taken and they attempted to fight the annexation for many centuries. However, since the lands had been put up as collateral and the debt had not been paid, there was legal basis for the Scots taking them over. The islands remain under Scottish/British control to this day.

Margaret’s marriage to the King of Scotland was not an entirely happy one. She simply did not care for the man. She joined the marriage bed solely for the purpose of procreation and did have three sons to carry on the line. She was much more popular than her husband and she has been described as better fit to rule than the actual king. Margaret died at Stirling Castle in July 1486 at the age of 30. There were rumors her husband had poisoned her. While these were probably false, they did not endear the man to his countrymen. James III died in 1488 either in battle or while trying to escape. James IV succeed his father to the throne and is generally accepted at the most successful of all the Stewart monarchs.

A currency serves three functions: providing a means of payment, a unit of account and a store of value. Gold may be a store of value for wealth, but it is not a means of payment. You cannot pay for your groceries with it. Nor is it a unit of account. Prices of goods and services, and of financial assets, are not denominated in gold terms. – Nouriel Roubini

The payment for sins can be delayed. But they can’t be avoided. – Shawn Ryan

Everybody loves to spend money at least some of the time – because everybody loves the stuff you can buy with it. The key to the pleasure level of any transaction is the balance between the pain of the payment and the reward of the purchased object. – Jeffrey Kluger

I’ve learned that when someone does something very kind and refuses payment, giving them an engraved Swiss Army knife is never refused! – Christine Lavin

Up, Up and Away

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 20, 2015
Friendship 7 launches

Friendship 7 launches – finally

February 20, 1962: Friendship 7 launches. Project Mercury was part of NASA’s program to put the first human into space. On that front, they failed. Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space and the first to orbit the Earth when he made his historic flight on April 12, 1961. The Space Race began in 1957 when the Russians launched Sputnik 1. This energized the American government to catch up with their Cold War enemies. Launches were not always successful and the Race continued with a US response to Gagarin’s feat. On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American astronaut with his suborbital flight. Soviet Gherman Titov made a day-long orbital flight in August 1961.

On this date, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the planet. Three times. Friendship 7 launched from Cape Canaveral, site LC-14 at 2.47 PM UTC or 9.47 AM local time. The rocket was an Atlas LV-3B 109-D and the trip lasted for 4 hours, 55 minutes, and 23 seconds before the capsule landed in the sea to be pulled up by USS Noa. John Glenn was 40 years old at the time. The Ohio native had served in the military from 1941-65 with the US Navy and the US Marine Corps. He achieved the rank of Colonel. He was with NASA until his retirement on January 16, 1964. The next day he announced his bid for a US Senate seat from Ohio. Due to an injury, he had to withdraw from the race. He won a Senate seat in 1974 and served through 1999.

The launch was to have taken place on January 16 and then postponed to January 20 due to an issue with the fuel tanks. It was postponed due to weather until January 27. On this day, Glenn was aboard the rocket when the mission was again cancelled at T-29 minutes due to weather conditions. The launch was to be on February 1 but when the technicians began to fuel it, they found a leak. It took two weeks to repair. On February 14, the launch was aborted because of weather and the forecast made it look like February 20th would work. Glenn boarded the spacecraft at 6.03 local time following a 1.5 hour delay to fix a guidance system component. The hatch had 70 bolts and 69 of them worked perfectly, but it caused a 42 minute delay to remove all the bolts, fix the defective bolt, and rebolt the door.

Count to takeoff was resumed  and the gantry rolled back at 8.20 AM local time. At 8.58 AM the count was held for 25 minutes while another repair was made. After 2 hours and 17 minutes of holds and 3 hours and 44 minutes after Glenn first entered Friendship 7, we had liftoff. At launch, Glenn’s heart rate increased to 110 beats per minute. Thirty seconds into the flight, the guidance system locked in to put the vehicle into orbit. As the spacecraft passed through Max Q, Glenn reported, “It’s a little bumpy about here.” Then the flight smoothed out. During the orbits, a problem with Segment 51 became apparent. This could affect re-entry. Glenn managed to splashdown 40 miles from the projected site. Seventeen minutes later, Noa was alongside the capsule and pulled her in. Glenn emerged safely.

The most important thing we can do is inspire young minds and to advance the kind of science, math and technology education that will help youngsters take us to the next phase of space travel.

I don’t know what you could say about a day in which you have seen four beautiful sunsets.

I don’t think you can be up here and look out the window as I did the first day and look out at the Earth from this vantage point. We’re not so high compared to people who went to the moon and back. But to look out at this kind of creation out here and not believe in God is, to me, impossible. It just strengthens my faith.

There is still no cure for the common birthday. – all from John Glenn

Also on this day: Iceberg Ahead – In 1856, the ship John Rutledge struck an iceberg and sunk.
Medal of Honor – In 1942, Butch O’Hare was declared the first US flying ace during World War II.
The Met – In 1872, New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art opened.
Ice Skating – In 1998, Tara Lipinski won the gold medal at the Olympics.
It’s In the Mail – In 1792, the Postal Service Act was signed into law.

It’s In the Mail

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 20, 2014


February 20, 1792: US President George Washington signs the Postal Service Act. William Goddard owned and operated the Pennsylvania Chronicle and was dismayed when the royal postal service could not deliver his papers with any reliability. So, on October 5, 1774 he laid out a plan before the Continental Congress for a “Constitutional Post” to help with the problem. After the Battle of Lexington and Concord, Benjamin Franklin advocated for the idea and became the first postmaster general under the Continental Congress on July 26, 1775 – almost an entire year before Congress declared independence from the British Crown. Franklin had already been postmaster of Philadelphia from 1737.

Franklin was also joint postmaster general of the colonies from 1753 to 1774 and in that capacity did much to streamline the system. He had properly marked and surveyed routes from Maine to Florida – the origins of Route 1 – and instituted overnight delivery between critical cities in New York and Philadelphia. He also created a chart with standardized rates for delivery depending on weight and distance. Samuel Osgood held the post from 1789 when the US Constitution went into effect until the government moved to Philadelphia in 1791. Timothy Pickering took over and kept the job when the post became a more official government position with the signing of this Act.

There is evidence that Egypt had a corps of royal couriers who could deliver messages from the pharaoh to his minions as early as 2400 BC. It is surmised that delivery systems were in place for some time before this. It is unknown who designed a system of posthouses and swift delivery, but they have been in existence for a very long time. The Persians, the Mauryan, and Han dynasties in China had similar systems. The Romans sped messages quickly along all the roads leading to Rome. Diocletian even had two systems, one for normal news and one for urgent correspondents. As the empire fell, so did the movement of news and information.

In the 16th century, the Princely House of Thurn and Taxis began regular mail service from Brussels and sent the mail throughout the Holy Roman Empire. The British Postal Museum claims that the oldest functioning post office in the world is on High Street in Sanquhar, Scotland. It has been in service since 1712. Today, in the US, the United States Postal Service is headquartered in Washington, D.C. This new version of mail delivery was formed on July 1, 1971. They have 522,000 employees and Patrick R Donahoe is the Postmaster General. It is now an independent agency of the US federal government and is explicitly authorized in the Constitution, one of the few agencies with that honor.

Mail your packages early so the post office can lose them in time for Christmas. – Johnny Carson

I get mail; therefore I am. – Scott Adams

If it takes the entire army and navy to deliver a postal card in Chicago, that card will be delivered. – Grover Cleveland

You know something is wrong when the government declares opening someone else’s mail is a felony but your internet activity is fair game for data collecting. – E.A. Bucchianeri

Also on this day: Iceberg Ahead – In 1856, the ship John Rutledge struck an iceberg and sunk.
Medal of Honor – Butch O’Hare was declared the first US flying ace during World War II.
The Met – In 1872. New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art opened.
Ice Skating – In 1998, Tara Lipinski won the gold medal at the Olympics.

Medal of Honor

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 20, 2013
Edward "Butch" O'Hare

Edward “Butch” O’Hare

February 20, 1942: Lieutenant Edward O’Hare becomes the first American in World War II to be declared a flying ace. The 27-year-old naval aviator received the Medal of Honor (one of about 500 to do so during the war) for his aeronautic skill demonstrated on this day. Lt. “Butch” O’Hare began his military career at Annapolis when he graduated on June 3, 1937 as an Ensign. He began flight training in 1939. He eventually became proficient with a variety of planes and trained in aerobatics and aerial gunnery.

By 1942, Lt. O’Hare was assigned to the USS Lexington, one of the US Navy’s early aircraft carriers. Japanese bombers were headed toward the ship and were shown on radar while still about 35 miles out from the ship. Six planes were sent up to intercept the enemy. First two planes were sent to investigate and shot down one enemy plane. Two of the remaining planes were sent to engage another Japanese squadron that appeared on the radar. Another threat was seen on the radar and then disappeared.

Butch and his wingman, “Duff” Dufilho were the only two Wildcat pilots left to engage this new threat. Dufilho’s guns jammed leaving Butch alone to defend the aircraft carrier. He was armed with four 50-caliber guns with 450 rounds of ammunition per gun – or about 34 seconds of firing. Nine planes were attacking in a V pattern. O’Hare shot down one plane, veered to the other side and took out a second. They were now within the range of the anti-aircraft guns from the ship. While they were engaged, the shipboard guns were ineffective. Butch managed to shoot down three more planes before running out of ammo. As he approached the ship to land, his own anti-aircraft guns fired on him, missing him, too. Butch’s plane showed one bullet hole.

His last flight was the first night mission for the Navy’s aviators. O’Hare led the fighter attacks from the carrier and engaged a group of Japanese torpedo bombers. O’Hare’s plane was shot down and he was lost at sea. Robert R. McCormick of the Chicago Tribune proposed that Chicago’s Orchard Depot Airport be renamed to honor the fallen hero. On September 19, 1949 the Chicago airport became O’Hare International Airport.

“Son, if you don’t stop shooting at me when I’ve got my wheels down, I’m going to have to report you to the gunnery officer.” – Butch O’Hare to the anti-aircraft gunner who shot at him

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

“The engine is the heart of an airplane, but the pilot is its soul.” – Walter Raleigh

“If God had really intended men to fly, he’d make it easier to get to the airport.” – George Winters

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Edward “Butch” O’Hare was born in 1914 in St. Louis, Missouri. His parents divorced in 1927 and Butch and his two sisters stayed with their mother. Edward Sr., a lawyer, moved to Chicago and worked with Al Capone for a time. He finally turned against Capone and helped the government build and prosecute a case against the mobster for tax evasion. He was shot to death in 1939, probably by a friend of Al Capone, a week before Capone was released from prison. There was some speculation at the time that Edward, Sr. turned state’s evidence in order to ensure his son would be admitted to the Naval Academy. Butch graduated from the Naval Academy on May 2, 1940.

Also on this day: Iceberg Ahead – In 1856, the ship John Rutledge struck an iceberg and sunk.
The Met – In 1872. New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art opened.
Ice Skating – In 1998, Tara Lipinski won the gold medal at the Olympics.

Ice Skating

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 20, 2012

Tara Lipinski

February 20, 1998: Tara Lipinski wins a gold medal for figure skating. Tara was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on June 10, 1982. She took up roller skating at the age of three and won competitions. She went on to figure skating at age six because she wanted to go faster. She first competed in 1990 at the regional championships and came in second.  Returning to wheels in 1991 she took first for freestyle as a nine-year-old at the US Roller Skating Championships. Back on ice, Tara came to national attention at the 1994 US Olympic Festival competition, winning at the junior level.

The 1998 Winter Olympics were held in Nagano, Japan. Tara had lost to Michelle Kwan prior to their meeting again in Japan. Michelle’s performance was earlier in the competition and was brilliantly executed. Tara skated toward the end of the lineup. She also performed brilliantly. Her routine was more technically difficult with a triple jump at the very end of her program. She took the gold – the youngest Winter Olympics gold medallist at the age of 15 years, 8 months, and 10 days. Michelle took silver and Chen Lu of China took the bronze.

Richard Callaghan was Tara’s coach. He also coached Todd Eldredge, six time US Champion and 1996 World Champion. His other national title holder was Nicole Bobek. Tara withdrew from the 1998 World Figure Skating Championships on March 9, 1998. She chose to turn to professional skating. She toured with Stars on Ice for four seasons. She sustained injuries to her hip and this caused her skating performances to decline. Due to persistent injuries, she has not skated professionally since 2002.

The youngest Olympic gold medallist was Marjorie Gestring of the US who won the three meter springboard competition when she was 13 years, 268 days old. Michael Phelps has won the most gold medals with 14 at the 2004 and 2008 Games. He also won two bronze medals for a total of 16. Larissa Latynina is one of four who have won nine gold medals. She also won five silver and four bronze medals for a total of 18 (most overall) in Games held between 1956 and 1964. The most gold medals at a single Olympic Games goes to Michael Phelps with eight in 2008. Between 1936 and 1960 Aladâr Gerevich of Hungary took six gold medals in Team Sabre, the most for any single event.

Her winning program

Tara (Lipinski) got out there like a bat out of hell and skated her guts out. Michelle skated very well, but she skated conservatively. She skated great, just not fantastic. That was the difference. – Frank Carroll

It’s hard work, and you have to love the sport so much. I think that shines through. If you don’t love it, or you do it for someone else, you won’t be able to hang onto it. Not only did I want it, I loved it. You really have to love it from within every corner of your body. – Tara Lipinski

I had that feeling of just pure joy and I went out there and put it in my program. – Tara Lipinski

I was so worried about winning, it was as if I was caught up in my own web. – Michelle Kwan

Also on this day:

Iceberg Ahead – In 1856, the ship John Rutledge struck an iceberg and sunk.
Medal of Honor – Butch O’Hare was declared the first US flying ace during World War II.
The Met – In 1872. New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art opened.

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The Met

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 20, 2011

Metropolitan Museum of Art

February 20, 1872: New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art opens. Often called simply The Met, the museum is on the eastern edge of Central Park and is part of the “Museum Mile.” There are eleven museums on Fifth Avenue, between 110th Street and 70th Street. The Met is located at 82nd Street. It is one of the world’s largest art galleries without taking into consideration the second smaller location in Upper Manhattan – “The Cloisters” which contains medieval art. The Met’s permanent collection contains over two million works divided into nineteen curatorial departments.

The New York State Legislature granted the Metropolitan Museum of Art an Act of Incorporation on April 13, 1870. They were to establish and maintain a museum and library of art in New York City. Their secondary purpose was to encourage and develop the Study of Fine Arts as well as applications of art into everyday operations. On this day, the museum opened at 681 Fifth Avenue. John Taylor Johnston used his private art collection to seed the new museum. The railroad executive also served at The Met’s first President. Publisher George Palmer Putnam was the founding superintendent. Eastman Johnson was Co-Founder of the museum. Luigi Palma di Cesnola, a Civil War officer, was the first director and served from 1879 to 1904.

When the museum first opened, there was a Roman stone sarcophagus and 174 paintings, mostly European, on display. The next year, they purchased the Cesnola Collection of Cypriot antiquities. They also moved to the Douglas Mansion at 128 West 14th Street. The museum’s collections kept expanding and a new building was designed by Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mould. The design was already going out of style by the time the building was finished and twenty years later, it was deemed “a mistake.” Even so, it has been part of The Met ever since, with buildings going up around it and incorporating it into the design, albeit without some of the distinctive design elements.

Today, The Met measure almost ¼ mile long and has more than 2,000,000 square feet of floor space. It is more than twenty times the size of the original 1880 building. It is a group of 26 structures, most not visible from the exterior. New York City owns the museum building and contributes utilities as well as part of the cost of guardianship. The collections are owned by a private corporation of Fellows and Benefactors, made up of 1,630 people. The 2009-10 budget was $221 million or about $47 per visitor.

“A guilty conscience needs to confess. A work of art is a confession.” – Albert Camus

“All art is autobiographical. The pearl is the oyster’s autobiography.” – Federico Fellini

“An artist is never ahead of his time but most people are far behind theirs.” – Edgard Varese

“An artist is not paid for his labor but for his vision.” – James Whistler

Also on this day:
Iceberg Ahead – In 1856, the ship John Rutledge struck an iceberg and sunk.
Butch O’Hare – In 1942, Lt. O’Hare was declared a flying ace.


Iceberg Ahead

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 20, 2010

Beautiful iceberg or dangerous iceberg

February 20, 1856: John Rutledge, a steamer on the Liverpool-NY route, hits an iceberg and sinks. There were 120 passengers and 16 crew on board. Both passengers and crew manned the pumps, but they could not overcome the water pouring in. There were enough lifeboats to accommodate all on board. Although some of the passengers panicked, all were off the ship when it sank.

On February 28, the Germania, en route from Havre to NYC picked up one lifeboat containing several dead bodies and Thomas W. Nye, a youth from New Bedford, Massachusetts. He was the only survivor, the other 135 were lost at sea.

Icebergs are up to 90% below the waterline. The shape of the mass above water does not correlate in any meaningful way with what lies beneath the water’s surface. The tallest known North Atlantic iceberg rose 551 feet above sea level.

Most icebergs in the Northern Atlantic come from Greenland which calves approximately 14,000 per year. Of those, 1-2% [400-800 icebergs] make it as far south as 48° north latitude. As a reference, 45° north runs through the middle of the state of Maine; 50° north is just south of the northern tip of the UK. This means that 48° north runs through France. This area is in the midst of shipping lanes between Europe and the US.

After losing the Titanic to one of these behemoths, the International Ice Patrol was formed in 1914 to monitor iceberg movements. At first, monitoring was done by ship, but now surveillance is carried out by air and by radar as well as by satellite.

“A snowflake is one of God’s most fragile creations, but look what they can do when they stick together!” – unknown

“A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” – Grace Murray Hopper

“Often undecided whether to desert a sinking ship for one that might not float, he would make up his mind to sit on the wharf for a day.” – Lord Beaverbrook

“The mass loss resulting from this glacier acceleration in Greenland is very significant. These are very active glaciers. They all end up in the ocean, discharge icebergs and are very dynamic. Once you push them a little bit out of equilibrium, they start retreating very fast.” – Eric Rignot

Also on this day, in 1942 Butch O’Hare almost single-handedly saved the USS Lexington.

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