Little Bits of History

February 28

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 28, 2017

1874: The Claimant is guilty of perjury. Roger Tichborne was heir apparent in his aristocratic family. He was supposed to have been killed in a shipwreck in 1854 but his mother remained hopeful he had managed to survive. Rumors stated he had made it to Australia and she advertised there in hopes of finding her son. A claimant came forward in 1866. Thomas Castro had been working as a butcher in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. His manners and bearing belied his claim to being a future Baronet but he gained enough support to finance a trip to England. Lady Tichborne immediately accepted him as her long, lost son while the rest of the family worked to expose the interloper as a fraud. During pre-trial questioning, it was posited the Claimant was really Arthur Orton, son of a butcher from Wapping in London.

Roger was the first son of the 10th baronet. His parents did not get along and Roger and his mother lived in Paris while the father and younger son lived in England. Roger was brought back to England to complete his education. After school, Roger accepted a commission with the 6th Dragoon Guards. Seeking adventure, he eventually left on a private tour of South America. He went missing while sailing to Jamaica and was presumed dead by everyone but his mother. A claimant was found in Australia, moved to Sidney and eventually made his way to England, eating everything in his path. His weight was up to 210 in Sidney and up to 250 when he reached England. Lady Tichborne was in Paris, and so the claimant made his way there.

The Claimant was supported not only by his mother, but others in the communities where he had lived prior to his disappearance. However, he neither spoke nor understood French, his first language as a child, nor did he speak with any accent. Lady Tichborne died in 1868 and with it went his strongest support, both emotional and financial. A 1871 civil case was heard and the Claimant was found to have committed perjury and was sent to Newgate prison. There, the Claimant used the popular press to increase his chance at acquittal. A new trial was held. It began on April 21, 1873 and ended on this day. It took 188 court days, one of lengthiest in British history.

Throughout the court case, he was consistently referred to as the Claimant and no name was used. Edward Kenealy took his case and was hostile in his treatment of witnesses and the bench. The laws of the time denied the Claimant to testify on his own behalf. Despite the long trial, the jury took only 30 minutes to deliver a verdict and guilty of perjury. The jury also condemned Kenealy for his behavior for which he would later be disbarred. The Claimant served ten years, lost 148 pounds while in prison, and years later confessed to being Arthur Orton which he almost immediately recanted. He died in poverty and anonymity.

The man who lost himself still walks in history, with no other name than that which the common voice of his day accorded him: the Claimant. – Douglas Woodruff

Bee to the blossom, moth to the flame; Each to his passion; what’s in a name? – Helen Hunt Jackson

Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering. – Theodore Roosevelt

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. – William Shakespeare


Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 28, 2015
US embassy in Rom

US embassy in Rome

February 28, 1867: The US breaks off diplomatic relations with the Holy See. The Papal States and the US began consular relations under President George Washington and Pope Pius VI in 1797. Anti-Catholic feelings increased after Lincoln’s assassination. Mary Surratt, a Catholic, was convicted and hanged as a conspirator. She owned a boarding house where plots had been conceived to kidnap Lincoln. It was at her house where Dr. Mudd introduced her son to John Wilkes Booth. Although the kidnapping failed, the plot to kill Lincoln was eventually successful. Mary’s religion was another strike against the woman. Her son was given sanctuary in a Roman Catholic Church after he was accused as being an accessory. He fled to Italy and was made a Papal Zouave, part of the infantry whose mission is to defend Rome and the Papal States.

There had been other allegations of the Pope forbidding Protestant religious services held at the home of the American Minister in Rome, something that had taken place weekly. Legislations was passed under Ulysses S Grant which prevented any funding to US diplomatic missions to Rome. There were several times when US Presidents designated personal envoys to visit the Holy See in order to discuss international humanitarian and/or political issues. The first of these took place in 1933 when Postmaster General James Farley was sent overseas. He shared the ocean voyage with Soviet Commissar of Foreign Affairs maxim Litvinoff and they sailed on the Italian liner SS Conte Di Savoia. Farley met with Pope Pius XI and had dinner with Cardinal Pacelli (who became Pope in 1939).

Myron Charles Taylor served under Franklin D Roosevelt and Harry S Truman from 1939 to 1950. On October 20, 1951, Truman appointed General Mark W Clark to the US emissary to the Holy See but Senator Tom Connally (D-Texas) and Protestant groups complained, causing Clark to withdraw his nomination on January 13, 1952. Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan all appointed personal envoys to the Pope. Official prohibition lasted until the Lugar Act repealed it on September 22, 1983 and relations were re-established formally on January 10, 1984.

The post was then raised to Ambassador and William A Wilson was the first of these and confirmed on March 7, 1984. Wilson had been Reagan’s personal envoy since 1981. The Holy See named Archbishop Pio Laghi as the first Apostolic Nuncio (equivalent to an ambassador). He had been Pope John Paul II’s apostolic delegate to the Catholic Church in the US since 1980. Today, Ken Hackett is the Ambassador at the US Embassy in the Villa Domiziana in Rome. Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano is the diplomat in Washington, D.C. President Obama and Pope Benedict XVI met in 2009 and the President also met Pope Francis in 2014 while in Rome.

When people ask where I studied to be an ambassador, I say my neighborhood and my school. I’ve tried to tell my kids that you don’t wait until you’re in high school or college to start dealing with problems of people being different. The younger you start, the better. – Andrew Young

An ambassador is not simply an agent; he is also a spectacle. – Walter Bagehot

I have always viewed my role as a sort of ambassador or bridge between groups to help provide a dialog. – Joichi Ito

An ambassador is an honest man sent abroad to lie and intrigue for the benefit of his country. – Henry Wotton

Also on this day: Dord – In 1939, the unknown word DORD was found in Webster’s Dictionary.
B&O Railroad – In 1827, a law was passed to form the B&O Railroad.
Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen – In 1983, the final episode of M*A*S*H was televised.
Betrayal – In 1844, an explosion aboard the USS Princeton shocked the nation.
228  – In 1947, a massacre took place in Taiwan.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 28, 2014
228 Hand-in-Hand Rally in 2004

228 Hand-in-Hand Rally in 2004

February 28, 1947: Thousands die in the 228 Massacre. The Japanese had ruled Taiwan for fifty years, but that ended when World War II came to a close. In October 1945, the United States on behalf of the Allied Forces, gave temporary administrative control of Taiwan to the Kuomintang (KMT) Republic of China (ROC) under General Order No. 1. During Japanese control of the island, many Taiwanese had prospered. Japan had used the island as a supply base and improved economic conditions for the locals. The Japanese were seen as helpful and many Taiwanese adopted Japanese names and practiced Shinto. Many were also bilingual.

When the Chinese were given temporary control, many Taiwanese were resentful. The ROC was to provide stability until a permanent solution could be found. Chen Yi was the Governor-General of Taiwan and arrived on October 24, 1945. The next day, Ando Rikichi, the last Japanese governor, signed a formal surrender document which made Taiwan part of China. The KMT troops were initially welcomed but the heavy-handed administration and apparent corruption in the government and the military brought great dissatisfaction. Because of mismanagement, the black market flourished, there was runaway inflation, and food shortages.

On the evening of February 27, 1947, a Tobacco Monopoly Bureau enforcement team went to a district in Taipei and confiscated illegal cigarettes from a 40-year-old widow. She resisted and slapped a man holding a gun who struck her in the head with his pistol. The Taiwanese came to the widow’s defense and as the altercation escalated, shots were fired. A crowd began to protest this treatment and the following morning, violence erupted into a full riot. The fighting back and forth calmed and flared over the next several weeks. Chen Yi and his troops eventually got control of the island once again, but thousands (conflicting numbers are given) had been killed in the fighting or executed.

For many years it was taboo to talk about this event at all. Chen Yi was himself executed by the government and families were compensated for their losses. However, this did not appease those who had been victimized by the Chinese troops. In 2004, on the 57th anniversary of 228, the 228 Hand-in-Hand Rally was held. It was a demonstration of solidarity. A human chain was formed with about two million people (1.9 to 2.3 million depending on the source) forming a 500 km or 310 mile human chain. Starting at the harbor at Keelung, Taiwan’s northernmost city, the chain wended its way to Eluanbi, Pingtung County at the southern tip of the island. The purpose was dual in nature. The Taiwanese wished for peace, but they were also protesting the deployment of missiles by the People’s Republic of China aimed at Taiwan, their island neighbor.

Free nations of the world cannot allow Taiwan, a beacon of democracy, to be subdued by an authoritarian China. – Nick Lampson

The public weal requires that men should betray, and lie, and massacre. – Michel de Montaigne

It is hard, I submit, to loathe bloodshed, including war, more than I do, but it is still harder to exceed my loathing of the very nature of totalitarian states in which massacre is only an administrative detail. – Vladimir Nabokov

Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind. – John F. Kennedy

Also on this day: Dord – In 1939, the unknown word DORD was found in Webster’s Dictionary.
B&O Railroad – In 1827, a law was passed to form the B&O Railroad.
Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen – In 1983, the final episode of M*A*S*H was televised.
Betrayal – In 1844, an explosion aboard the USS Princeton shocked the nation.

B&O Railroad

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 28, 2013
B&O Railroad Museum

B&O Railroad Museum

February 28, 1827: Maryland passes Chapter 123, a law permitting the formation of the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad. The Commonwealth of Virginia passed the law on March 8 and the railroad was formally incorporated on April 24. Philip E. Thomas and George Brown provided the impetus behind the new enterprise. They had spent the previous year in England, studying the commercial value of railways. They called a meeting with 25 prominent men, most of whom were Baltimore merchants and bankers. They proposed building a railroad from Baltimore to some suitable place on the Ohio River.

The Erie Canal was 7 years old and successful. But a faster route was needed for getting supplies, goods, and people to and from the Midwest. The beginning capital was set at $5 million or about $90.5 million in today’s currency. Construction began with a groundbreaking ceremony on July 4, 1828 with Charles Carroll (a delegate to the Continental Congress and signatory of the Declaration of Independence) throwing a spade full of dirt. The first section of track from Baltimore west to Ellicott’s Mills, now Ellicott City, opened on May 24, 1830.

Moving ever westward, new sections of the B&O line opened periodically until finally reaching Wheeling, Virginia (now West Virginia) with a grand opening on January 1, 1853. There was a flurry of legal activity in the early-1830s between the B&O Railroad and the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal as they fought over control of land along the Potomac River. The suits led to a sharing of the right of way.

B&O built a line from Baltimore to Washington, DC which was chartered in 1831 and completed in 1835. In 1843, Congress approved $30,000 ($660,000 in today’s money) to build a telegraph line along the right of way between Washington and Baltimore. The railroad played a major role in the Civil War. It supported the Union and was a major artery from the Capitol to all points north. As such, it was the focus of 143 raids and battles, suffering significant losses. The company continued to operate until 1963 when it was purchased by the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway.

“When the scheme for the construction of a railroad from Baltimore to the waters of the Ohio River first began to take form, the United States had barely emerged from the Revolutionary period.”

“The United States as we know it today is largely the result of mechanical inventions, and in particular of agricultural machinery and the railroad.”

“Many of the railroad evils were inherent in the situation; they were explained by the fact that both managers and public were dealing with a new agency whose laws they did not completely understand.”

“If we seek the real predecessor of the modern railroad track, we must go back three hundred years to the wooden rails on which were drawn the little cars used in English collieries to carry the coal from the mines to tidewater.” – all from John Moody

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: The B&O Railroad Museum is located in Baltimore, Maryland and dedicated to the railway. It was opened in 1953 and houses what is purported to be one of the greatest treasures of railroad memorabilia. They have the greatest collection of 19th century locomotives in the US. The building is the old B&O Railroad’s Mount Clare Station and the adjacent roundhouse. These structures were part of the B&O’s railroad manufacturing complex and began in 1829, making them the oldest complex in the US. They hold 250 pieces of rolling stock from the 19th and 20th centuries. They also have 15,000 artifacts related to railroad history. The mile of track that is part of the complex is considered to be the oldest extant track in the US.

Also on this day: Dord – In 1939, the unknown word DORD was found in Webster’s Dictionary.
Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen – In 1983, the final episode of M*A*S*H was televised.
Betrayal – In 1844, an explosion aboard the USS Princeton shocked the nation.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 28, 2012

Explosion aboard USS Princeton

February 28, 1844: A pleasure cruise on the Potomac River turns to horror. The USS Princeton was the first warship of the US Navy with a steam engine driving the propeller. The ship was designed by John Ericsson, a Swedish-American inventor. Supervising construction at the Philadelphia Navy Yard was Captain Robert F. Stockton who was key in getting political support for the new ship. The ship launched on September 5, 1843 and was commissioned on September 8 with Captain Stockton at the helm.

The engines were designed by Ericsson as were the collapsible funnel, an improved range-finder, and better recoil systems for the ship’s two guns. One gun, called “Oregon,” was also designed by Ericsson. Oregon was a 12-inch smooth bore muzzle loader. It was made of wrought iron and could fire a 225-pound shot five miles. It used a 50-pound charge. It was made using a “built-up construction” method, meaning it had hoops of iron around the breach end, making it able to withstand a greater charge.

The second gun, “Peacemaker,” was designed by Stockton. Based on Ericsson’s gun, but without the hoop build up, it used increased thickness at the breach to reinforce a known weakness in the gun. The Princeton arrived in Washington, D.C. on February 13, 1844. Three trial runs with passengers aboard and displaying the awesome firepower of the guns went smoothly. On this date, President John Tyler, his Cabinet, and ≈ 200 guests were aboard when the cruise turned disastrous. “Peacemaker” was fired without incident several times. On the last shot, the breach exploded and killed eight people, including US Secretary of State Abel P. Upshur and the Secretary of the Navy Thomas Gilmer, and injured 20 more.

Stockton, a man from an influential family and an officer in the Navy, immediately redirected the blame to Ericsson. Even though it was not Ericsson’s gun that had exploded, his name was tarnished and his relationship with the Navy suffered. Stockton, ever the politician, not only emerged unscathed, he went on to be promoted as high as Commodore before he retired. Ericsson, at the outbreak of the Civil War, went on to design a completely unique armored ship. The USS Monitor played a pivotal role in the war.

When a man points a finger at someone else, he should remember that four of his fingers are pointing at himself. – Louis Nizer

It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you place the blame. – Oscar Wilde

Blame someone else and get on with your life. – Alan Woods

Responsibility:  A detachable burden easily shifted to the shoulders of God, Fate, Fortune, Luck or one’s neighbor.  In the days of astrology it was customary to unload it upon a star. – Ambrose Bierce

Also on this day:

Dord – In 1939, the unknown word DORD was found in Webster’s Dictionary.
B&O Railroad – In 1827, a law was passed to form the B&O Railroad.
Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen – In 1983, the final episode of M*A*S*H was televised.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 28, 2010

Words, words, words

February 28, 1939: The word “dord” is discovered lurking in the Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition even though no such word exists. An investigation followed.

Austin M. Patterson sent a slip of paper into the editorial staff on July 31, 1931, stating “D or d, cont./density.” What was suppose to have happened was this: in the earlier editions of the dictionary, abbreviations were scattered throughout the listings in alphabetical order. Thus lb. as an abbreviation for pound would be found after the entry for the word lazy. However in the newer addition, all abbreviations were to be grouped separately.

Patterson, a chemistry editor, was trying to get the d to be recognized as the abbreviation for density in Physics and Chemistry. There was a miscommunication between the various people working on this entry and the “D or d” was read as “Dord” and the definition was added. Since there was no etymology or usage given, it was investigated and the word was immediately deleted from all further printing. The fact that this is even an issue is a testament to the vigilance and dedication of the people compiling dictionaries.

Dictionaries were first simple word lists and existed as early as 2300 BC. The earliest modern European dictionaries were translations of words from one language to one or several others. In 1604 Robert Cawdrey authored the first purely English dictionary, A Table Alphabeticall. No definitions were included. In 1755 Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language hit the market. Finally in 1884, the first fascicle of the Oxford English Dictionary was published. It wasn’t until 1928 that the dictionary was finally completed and the twelfth fascicle was finished.

“I am not yet so lost in lexicography, as to forget that words are the daughters of earth, and that things are the sons of heaven” – Samuel Johnson

“Words — so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne

“DICTIONARY, n. A malevolent literary device for cramping the growth of a language and making it hard and inelastic. This dictionary, however, is a most useful work.” – Ambrose Bierce

“Facts are not science – as the dictionary is not literature.” – Martin H. Fischer

Also on this day, in 1827 the B&O Railroad was granted a charter and came into existence.

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