Little Bits of History

February 24

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 24, 2017

1582: Inter gravissimas is issued. The papal bull was written in Latin and Pope Gregory XIII was setting forth the way to realign the calendar with the actual orbit of the planet. The Catholic calendar used older methods to determine the dates for some feasts, most notably – Easter. In order to accurately place the celebration for Christ’s triumph over death, there were three things that needed to be restored. The first of these was the correct placement of the northern vernal equinox or the first day of spring. The next calculation needed was the proper identification of the “14th day of the moon” or as we would call it, the full moon. After these two pieces of information were available, the next Sunday after this full moon after the vernal equinox would be Easter.

The Council of Nicaea was held in summer of 325. At that time, March 21 was when the sun was aligned with the equator as it moved northward into the summer solstice. Since a year is not actually 365 days long, calculations had been made by the older calendar to create a more accurate time table. But the year is also not exactly 365.25 days long either and the planet had drifted away from the original location over 1200 years earlier. Not only is there a problem with the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, but the Moon’s orbit around the Earth isn’t exact either. So the new calendar would make the full moon actually occur at the time of the full moon which removed “four days and more” of further drift. This would realign Easter with where it was originally found in 325.

The new calendar would simply change the numbers of the date. Pope Gregory had no authority over the entire globe, but Catholic countries were mandated to update their calendars in October of 1582. Thursday, October 4 was followed by Friday, October 15. This realigned the old style calendar with the solar year. However, other countries/places around the world were using a variety of other calendars. In fact, even today, there are many different ways to compute the date and many places have more than one calendar in use. The Gregorian calendar is almost universally recognized as the most accurate, but religious and national calendars remain in use for internal reasons, as well.

The longer it took to accept the new solar calendar, the greater the change in the dates. Between the years 1900 and 2100, a change of 13 days would be needed to upgrade a Julian calendar to a Gregorian. Russia finally accepted the “new” calendar in 1918 although they had changed their new year’s day to January 1 in 1700 whereas Great Britain and the British Empire took until 1752 for that to take place (it had been on March 25 prior to that). Even now, there is some confusion when giving a date. Some places add OS or NS to the date, to let the reader know if the Julian (OS) calendar or the Gregorian (NS) date is being used. Extending the dates backwards creates a proleptic calendar and is confusing so should be used only with great caution.

Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. – Charles Richards

Tomorrow is only found in the calendar of fools. – Og Mandino

I don’t wait for the calendar to figure out when I should live life. – Gene Simmons

Ethics and equity and the principles of justice do not change with the calendar. – D. H. Lawrence

Early School Shooting

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 24, 2015
Tyrone Mitchell

Tyrone Mitchell

February 24, 1984: Tyrone Mitchell goes on a shooting spree. Mitchell was born in Montgomery County, Alabama in 1955. The family moved to South Central Los Angeles and the house he grew up in was razed in order to build the 49th Street Elementary School. Mitchell and his family were members of Jim Jones’s Peoples Temple. Most of his family followed Jones to Jonestown in Guyana. In the mass murder-suicide that took place there, Mitchell’s parents, four sisters, and brother died. According to Mitchell’s fiancée, Marylou Hill, he suffered a nervous breakdown as a result of the deaths at Jonestown on November 18, 1978. Mitchell had been in town and not at the compound when the rest of his family drank the Kool-Aid.

Mitchell returned to South Central Los Angeles and rented a white Victorian house at 730 East 50th Street. He and Hill lived just 50 feet away from the school that now stood where his childhood home had once been. The house looked over the entire playground. Mitchell had a reputation in the area as a troubled man who had issues with narcotics, especially PCP. Hill denied he had “a problem” with the drug. On December 5, 1979 Mitchell argued with his landlord and uncle Willie Lee Mitchell, about who would light the pilot light on water heater. Tyrone fired three shots from a .30-caliber rifle into the air. When police arrived, he was arrested. He was fined $200 and put on two years’ probation.

Hill said Mitchell kept a high powered rifle in the house and often fired at passing airliners attempting to land at Los Angeles International Airport located five miles to the west. No one reported the shots out of fear of reprisals. On February 11, one of Mitchell’s uncles claimed Mitchell had pointed a machine gun at him but no arrest were made. On this day, at 2.23 PM, Mitchell fired into about 100 children from the 49th Street Elementary School as they came out onto the playground. He fired 39 rounds from an AR-15 rifle and 18 rounds from two shotguns. He was standing at a bay window just across the street from the school.

After the shooting stopped, police surrounded the house. Hill wanted to speak to Mitchell but police feared she would become a hostage. Just before 6 PM, after firing at least 16 canisters of tear gas into the house, a SWAT team entered and eventually found Mitchell upstairs, dead from a single 12 gauge shotgun wound to the head. Shala Eubanks, 10, died from injuries sustained later on this day. Carlos Lopez, 24, a jogger passing by at the wrong time, died on April 13 from injuries sustained. Anna Gonzales, 8, was seriously injured but survived. Iran Macias, 10, was also admitted to the hospital. Ten others were treated and released for various wounds. Mitchell’s motives remain unclear. Post-mortem toxicology studies found no narcotics in his blood stream. He did have a small amount of alcohol, but less than a third of the legal limit.

We pulled the kids, injured or not, into the ambulance. We just wanted to get them safe. We didn’t know what could happen. – Los Angeles Fire Department paramedic Jack Frye

The teachers were trying to get the kids out of the yard, to get them away from the school. The shooting was going on all the time. It just kept coming: Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! – Dessi McClain, neighbor

The kids were screaming, but they were quickly brought into the school building by adults in the yard. When I first heard shooting I didn’t know what was going on. Then I saw dozens of kids down on the ground, but most of them weren’t hurt, they were just trying to hide. – Bea Ransome, the school’s office manager

I’m scared to go back to school. I don’t want to see the school. I’ll get bad memories. – Iran Marcias, weeks after the event

Also on this day: Smile – In 1938, DuPont created a nylon-bristle toothbrush.
Opera – In 1607, the first opera premiered.
Murder, She Wrote – In 1981, Jean Harris was convicted of murder.
Religious Persecution – In 303, the new sect, Christians, were the subject of a Roman edict.
Just Peachy – In 1868, President Andrew Johnson was impeached.

Just Peachy

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 24, 2014
Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson

February 24, 1868: US President Andrew Johnson is impeached. Johnson became the President after Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. He was a moderate who was in disagreement with the “Radical Republican” movement which was prevalent in Congress and hoped to control Reconstruction policies. Johnson was a Southerner but had been vehemently against secession. The cadre of men in Congress were hoping for an extreme hardline stance against the South. They wanted punishment meted out to former slave holders as well as Confederate politicians and military officials. They were also interested in protecting the newly freed slaves.

Lincoln had favored a more moderate stance and Johnson was following along in that plan which upset Congress. Within six weeks of taking office, Johnson was hoping for general amnesty for most former Confederates. He vetoed legislation that extended civil rights and financial support to former slaves. Johnson did not help himself during a speaking tour of Northern states and the situation in Washington, D.C. became more tense. Midterm elections were at stake and Johnson’s tour did not help bring in the officials to Congress as he had hoped. Instead, the Radicals were able to pass civil rights legislation as well as carving up the old Confederacy into five military districts. However, Johnson did keep control of the military, despite his other losses.

Edwin Stanton had been Lincoln’s Secretary of War and he was still in office. Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act in 1867 to ensure that Stanton would not be replaced by Johnson whose veto of the bill was overridden. The act said that all Cabinet members could not be fired by the President but their release had to be okayed by the Senate. However, Johnson was able to suspend Stanton when Congress was not in session. Johnson then appointed Ulysses S. Grant to the post. The Senate did not accept this replacement. Grant did not accept the nomination anyway and so that meant that Johnson still did not have a replacement. He asked William Sherman who also declined. Finally Lorenzo Thomas was willing to take the position and it was he who took Stanton his walking papers.

Stanton did not leave office, believing the orders to be illegitimate. Three days later, on this date, the House voted 126 to 47 in favor of impeaching President Johnson for violating the Tenure Act. A week later the House had eleven articles of impeachment against Johnson. Johnson’s trial began on March 13 but an immediate delay was granted. Finally, the trial was held with a vote 35 guilty and 19 non-guilty and 36 guilty votes were needed to remove Johnson from office. In 1887, the Tenure Act was repealed and in a later ruling, the US Supreme Court ruled that a President can fire a Cabinet member without having approval from Congress.

The goal to strive for is a poor government but a rich people.

Honest conviction is my courage; the Constitution is my guide.

I hold it the duty of the executive to insist upon frugality in the expenditure, and a sparing economy is itself a great national source.

Who, then, will govern? The answer must be, Man – for we have no angels in the shape of men, as yet, who are willing to take charge of our political affairs. – all from Andrew Johnson

Also on this day: Smile – In 1938, DuPont created a nylon-bristle toothbrush.
Opera – In 1607, the first opera premiered.
Murder, She Wrote – In 1981, Jean Harris was convicted of murder.
Religious Persecution – In 303, the new sect, Christians, were the subject of a Roman edict.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 24, 2013
Claudio Monteverdi

Claudio Monteverdi

February 24, 1607: L’Orfeo by Claudio Monteverdi premieres. The production was also called La Favola d’Orfeo or The Legend of Orpheus and is considered to be one of the earliest works recognized as an opera. Monteverdi wrote the music and Alessandro Striggio wrote the text to be presented at the annual carnival of Mantua. The opera was published in Paris in 1609 and had a modern debut in 1904. During its 400th anniversary year, the opera was performed around the world. The 5 act production tells the tale of the Greek myth of Orpheus and starred Giovanni Gualberto Magli in the 1607 production.

Monteverdi was born in Northern Italy in 1567. He was trained by Marc’Antonia Ingegnari, a singing master, at the Cathedral of Cremona. He wrote his first music for publication in 1582. His first works were motets and madrigals. He is credited with moving music away from the Renaissance Era and into the Baroque Period. He was famous in his own time and became wealthy from his music. He composed nine books of madrigals, perfecting the form. He composed at least 18 operas but only 3 survive in their entirety. He also wrote other types of music sparingly. He died at the age of 76.

Opera itself is a mix of music and theater. Nobles in Florence, Italy attempted to recreate the ancient Greek theater with some added music to the dramatic performances at the end of the 16th century. They went from reciting the play with background music to actually singing the play. They were not attempting to create anything new. Then came Monteverdi. He expanded the idea and added the aria, the high point of an opera where the performer can show off technique as well as giving emotional depth to the story.

Opera was the popular music of the era with the aria being the chart-topping hit song. The form spread across Europe. But even as it spread, it was considered to be the art form of Italy and many early operas were written in Italian. Soon special venues were built – the great opera houses. Christoph Gluck, a German in Vienna, changed the face of opera in 1762 – emphasizing the drama of the piece and tightening the performance. Eventually there were Italian, German, French, Spanish, and Russian operas. The form continues to develop with modern composers.

“I don’t mind what language an opera is sung in so long as it is a language I don’t understand.” – Sir Edward Appleton

“Opera is when a guy gets stabbed in the back and, instead of bleeding, he sings.” – Ed Gardner

“People are wrong when they say that the opera isn’t what it used to be. It is what it used to be. That’s what’s wrong with it.” – Noel Coward

“When an opera star sings her head off, she usually improves her appearance.” – Victor Borge

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Opera houses are theatrical buildings consstructed with the special needs of operas in mind. They contain the stage and seating area along with backstage areas for the cast and crew. They also have an orchestra pit for the musicians. Many of these buildings were separate spaces, but they can also be part of a larger performing arts center. The first opera house was built in Venice, Italy. It was called the Teatro San Cassiano and opened in 1637. They are generally larger than other venues with seating for more than 1,000. Some of the larger houses built in the 1800s had seating for 1,500 to 3,000. The Metropolitan Opera in New York City seats 3,800. The structure is also created with performances in mind and sounds are moved more easily due to the method of building the stage area.

Also on this day: Smile – In 1938, DuPont created a nylon-bristle toothbrush.
Murder, She Wrote – In 1981, Jean Harris was convicted of murder.
Religious Persecution – In 303, the new sect, Christians, were the subject of a Roman edict.

Religious Persecution

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 24, 2012

Emperor Galerius

February 24, 303: Roman Emperor Galerius publishes an edict. Gaius Galerius Valerius Maximianus was Caesar under Diocletian from 293-305. He then became Augustus with a variety of men from 305 until his death in 311. Caesar was an imperial title and meant he was ruler in a portion of the Empire. When he rose to Augustus status, it meant he was one of two senior Emperors (one for the East, the other for the West). In 303 Galerius served under Diocletian who ruled alone from 284-286 and then as Augustus (East) with Maximian.

Diocletian and Galerius had been warring with Persia. When peace was brokered, they returned to Syrian Antioch. In 299, the two powerful men performed a ritual sacrifice but the haruspices (men trained to divine omens from sacrificed animals) were unable to clearly “read the entrails.” Their inability to predict the future was blamed on Christians living in the household. The Christians were removed and everyone made sacrifices to purify the court.

Diocletian was conservative in his religious practices and honored the Roman gods. According to Eusebius, known today as the Father of Church History, it was Galerius who was the more pious of the two. It was he who ordered military commands to perform sacrifices to restore the good will of the pantheon of Roman gods and goddesses. Diocletian lived in Antioch but traveled to Egypt. There, he was dismayed by some religious practices and ordered followers of Mani to be killed and their scriptures burned.

On February 23, 303, after a winter of debating the fate of the bothersome Christians (they interrupted sacrifices), an order came down to destroy a newly built church. The next day, an “Edict against the Christians” was published. It called for the destruction of all Holy Scriptures and churches across the Empire. Christians were barred from gathering for worship. When a fire destroyed part of the palace, Galerius blamed the Christians and some were tortuously executed. Christians were persecuted across the Roman Empire but were not wiped out. In less than 25 years, the entire Roman Empire would be ruled by Constantine, the first Christian Emperor. He reversed the edicts and restored property to the Church.

Once you attempt legislation upon religious grounds, you open the way for every kind of intolerance and religious persecution. – William Butler Yeats

Religious persecution may shield itself under the guise of a mistaken and over-zealous piety. – Edmund Burke

Religious tolerance is something we should all practice; however, there have been more persecution and atrocities committed in the name of religion and religious freedom than anything else. – Walter Koenig

All people in all regions in China enjoy religious freedom in accordance with the law. – Liu Jianchao

Also on this day:

Smile – In 1938, DuPont created a nylon-bristle toothbrush.
Opera – In 1607, the first opera premiered.
Murder, She Wrote – In 1981, Jean Harris was convicted of murder.

Murder, She Wrote

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 24, 2011

Jean Harris

February 24, 1981: Jean Harris is convicted of murder. Harris was the headmistress of The Madeira School for girls in McLean, Virginia. The murder victim, Dr. Herman Tarnower, was a cardiologist and author of The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet. They had been lovers. Harris was a divorcée at the time and Tarnower was a lifelong bachelor and continued to see other women even as he dated Harris. Tarnower’s infidelities were distressing to Harris and on the night of March 10, 1980 she drove from Virginia to his house in New York carrying a handgun.

Harris began dating Tarnower in 1965, about two years after her divorce. Tarnower showered her with gifts and took her on wonderful trips. He also had several affairs over the fourteen years of their relationship. He did not try to keep his affairs secret. Eventually, he hired a new, young secretary-receptionist – Lynn Tryforos. He began a casual affair with her, as well. This affair lasted for several years.

Harris still claims she was going to commit suicide after talking in person to the doctor. However, when she got to his house, she found Tryforos’ lingerie scattered throughout Tarnower’s bedroom. Harris and the doctor argued and she then pulled the gun and shot him four times at point blank range. She was charged with second degree murder because in New York, first degree murder was only used for law enforcement officers killed while on duty. Harris pled not guilty and was released on $40,000 bond raised by her siblings.

She hired attorney Joel Aurnou for her defense. The case went to trial on November 21, 1980 and lasted for fourteen weeks, becoming one of the longest trials in the state’s history. The press sensationalized the story and the case became known across the country. She was found guilty, making her ineligible to receive the $220,000 left to her by Tornower’s will. She was sentenced to 15 years to life. She served eleven years and was released and pardoned by Governor Mario Cuomo on December 29, 1992. While in prison she wrote three books. She maintains to this day that she did not mean to kill Tornower and the gun discharged as they were fighting over the control of it.

“Jesus, Jean, you’re crazy! Get out of here!” – Herman Tornower, the night he died

“We are grateful to Jean Harris for her splendid assistance in the research and writing of this book…” – from the acknowledgements page of The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet

“We wish, especially, to thank Lynne Tryforos…” – two paragraphs later in the acknowledgements page of The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet

“Loving an old bachelor is always a no-win situation, and you come to terms with that early on, or you go away.” – Jean Harris

Also on this day:
Smile – In 1938, DuPont created a nylon-bristle toothbrush.
Opera – In 1607, the first opera premiered.



Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 24, 2010

Toothbrush close up

February 24, 1938: DuPont corporation uses nylon yarn to create a nylon-bristle toothbrush, the first commercial product using nylon yarn. The toothbrush has come a long way from the initial “chew stick” used since 3500 BC. This stick was about the size of today’s pencil and was chosen with care. The wood was selected for its aromatic property so it would help to sweeten the breath. One end was chewed until it got mushy and resembled bristles. That end was used to cleanse the teeth. The opposite end was pointed and used as a toothpick.

China came up with the first instrument that looked somewhat like today’s toothbrush. It was a bone handle with wild boar bristles inserted into it to use a brush. This was brought back to Europe where the stiff bristles made Europeans’ gums bleed. They opted, therefore, to use horse hair instead.

William Addis created the first mass-produced toothbrush in 1780 in England. By 1850, H. N. Wadsworth patented a toothbrush in the US, but it was not mass produced until 1885. Dental floss was invented by Levi Spear Parmly of New Orleans in 1815. He recommended silk floss be used for cleaning. This was only available to dentists, however. In 1882 Codman and Shurtleft produced the first consumer use – unwaxed silk floss. The first patent for the product went to Johnson & Johnson in 1898.

Americans were not real big on oral hygiene, toothbrush or dental floss, and did not regularly brush their teeth until after World War II. The soldiers came back from the war where they were forced to brush their teeth daily. On their return, they kept up this practice.

The first electric toothbrush was from Switzerland and produced in 1939. The US finally got electric brushes in the 1960s. By 1987, rotary action was added. By the turn of the century, battery powered toothbrushes were available.

“Every tooth in a man’s head is more valuable than a diamond.” – Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote

“For there was never yet philosopher
That could endure the toothache patiently.” – William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

“If a patient cannot clean his teeth, no dentist can clean them for him.” – Martin H. Fischer

“Tooth decay was a perennial national problem that meant a mouthful of silver for patients, and for dentists a pocketful of gold.” – Claudia Wallis

Also on this day, in 1607 one of the earliest operas was performed.

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