Little Bits of History

February 5

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 5, 2017

62: Pompeii and Herculaneum experience an earthquake. Using evidence remaining today, it has been estimated to have had a magnitude between 5.2 and 6.1, this is an indication of the energy released during the earthquake’s most explosive moments. It has also been estimated to have reached a maximum intensity of IX or X on the Mercalli scale, a scale based on the effects of an earthquake which has a scale between I and XII. A scale of IX is considered violent while X is considered extreme. For comparison, the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 was a XI, a higher level of extreme. In Italy, both Pompeii and Herculaneum were heavily damaged in the quake and it is believed to have been a precursor to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius which destroyed the two towns in 79.

The fault line runs along the full length of the Apennines mountain chain and continuing into the Tyrrhenian Sea. Scientists today are looking for a connection between this event and the devastating volcano eruption seventeen years later. The theory surmises that this event as well as other earthquakes along the fault line were associated with the later massive event. Understanding the link between earthquakes and volcanoes is an ongoing area of study. The simple understanding of the event has been going on for nearly 2000 years. Seneca the Younger, sometimes just known as Seneca, wrote about the phenomenon in his series of books, Naturales quaestiones (Natural Questions).

Seneca, a philosopher, dramatist, and advisor to rulers (which was the cause of his death) was able to write a seven volume encyclopedia about natural wonders. The work was not systematic, but rather a matter of ideas which occurred to the author and were then explored, using the science of his time. He studied meteors, thunder and lightning, water, wind, snow, and ice along with various other related topics. His sixth book in the series was about earthquakes and the source of the Nile River. He used this event as the basis of his study and concluded the earthquake was caused by the movement of air.

The original quake along with aftershocks lasted for several days. The focal depth has been estimated to have been in the 5-6 km range (3-3.7 miles). The damages to both towns was extensive and at least partially repaired prior to their being buried by lava flow. Bas relief found in what is believed to have been the lararium of Lucius Caecilius Incundus’s house, have been interpreted as depictions of the damages caused by the earthquake on the Temple of Jupiter, the Aquarium of Cesar, and the Vesuvius Gate. Damages were reported as far away as Naples and Nuceria. Seneca also reported the death of 600 sheep, stating the flock’s demise was due to poisonous gases.

There are other special problems connected with the discovery of ancient cities. Alexandria was ravaged by fires and street fighting and its ancient waterfront is underwater. Some discoveries at Pompeii were not revealed for many decades, because the wall painting are so pornographic. – Norman F. Cantor

True happiness is… to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future.- Seneca

The day which we fear as our last is but the birthday of eternity. – Seneca

Constant exposure to dangers will breed contempt for them. – Seneca

Welcome Find

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 5, 2015
Welcome Stranger Nugget

Welcome Stranger Nugget

February 5, 1869: Welcome Stranger is found. It is the biggest alluvial gold nugget ever found, which means it was a separate nugget and not cemented into a solid rock. It was found slightly more than an inch below the surface at Moliagul, Victoria, Australia. It measured 24 x 12 inches and had a calculated refined weight of 3,123 ounces, 6 dwt (or pennyweight which is equal to 24 grains or 1/20 of a troy ounce), and 9 grains. Cornish prospectors John Deason and Richard Oates were on a slope near Bulldog Gully. They were looking near tree when they found the massive gold nugget.

The nugget had a gross weight of  241.6 pounds, a trimmed weight of 172 pounds, and a net weight of 158.78 pounds – 2,315.5 troy ounces. At the time, there was no scale available to weigh such a massive nugget and so a Dunolly-based blacksmith, Archibald Wall, broke it into three pieces. The prospectors remained in Dunolly, about 9 miles southeast of find and took their gold to the London Chartered Bank located there. They were advanced £9,000 for the gold and finally were paid £9,381 for it. Estimations of worth in US dollars in today’s currency is about $3,766,950. The gold nugget became known as Welcome Stranger and was heavier than Welcome Nugget which had been found in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia in 1858. Nugget was also found by Cornish prospectors and it weighed “only” 152.1 pounds.

John Deason was born in 1829 on the island of Tresco, Isles of Scilly about 28 miles southwest of Cornwall, England. He worked as a tin dresser before becoming a gold miner. He worked as a miner for most of his life. After his big find, he bought a store in Moliagul and lost most of his wealth because of poor investments in gold mining. He also owned a small farm in Moliagul where he lived until the end of his life. He died in 1915 at the age of 85. Richard Oates was born around 1827 in Pendeen in Cornwall. In 1869, Oates returned to England and married there. He returned to Australia with his wife. They purchased a farm of 800 acres in Marong in 1895 and raised their family of four children there. He died in 1906 at the age of 79.

The Welcome Stranger nugget was melted down into ingots and sent back to England. It remains the largest alluvial nugget ever found. In 1980, an amateur Australian miner was sweeping with his metal detector when he discovered something about one foot below the surface. What he found is called the Hand of Faith Nugget and it weighed 61 pounds 11 ounces. He sold it, intact, to the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada for over $1,000,000. It is kept there, in a special case, on display and is worth over $1.5 million today.

Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul. – Democritus

All the gold which is under or upon the earth is not enough to give in exchange for virtue. – Plato

Gold is a treasure, and he who possesses it does all he wishes to in this world, and succeeds in helping souls into paradise. – Christopher Columbus

For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver. – Martin Luther

Also on this day: Articles of Confederation – In 1778, South Carolina became the first state to ratify the Articles.
Roger Williams – In 1631, Williams arrived in Boston.
Bombs Away – In  1958, a USAF plane drops a nuclear bomb in the waters off Savannah, Georgia.
Artiste – In 1919, United Artists studios were formed.
Hermitage Museum – In 1852, the museum opened to the public.

Hermitage Museum

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 5, 2014
Hermitage Museum

Hermitage Museum

February 5, 1852: The New Hermitage Museum opens to the public. Catherine the Great purchased paintings from Berlin art merchant Johann Gotzkowsky in 1764 – the beginning of her art collection. Gotzkowsky had gathered either 225 or 317 pieces of art (sources disagree) for Frederick II of Prussia who then refused to buy them. Catherine brought the works to St. Petersburg, Russia. She commissioned Yury Felton to build an extension to the Winter Palace which was completed in 1766. This became the Small Hermitage and housed the original collection. The building grew as the collections grew.

The Hermitage buildings became the home and workplace for almost 1,000 people, including the Imperial family. They became the extravagant showplace for the artworks accumulated as well as Russian relics and other displays of wealth. The complex also became the venue for grand balls, receptions, and ceremonies for many state events. Catherine continued to add to her museum buying up art from the heirs of prominent collectors. She added hundreds of pieces from around Europe via this method. She seemed to be especially taken with carved gems and cameos. During her life, she colleced 4,000 old masters’ paintings, 38,000 books, 10,000 engraved gems, 10,000 drawings, 16,000 coins and medals, and a natural history collection which filled two galleries.

In 1771, Felton was commissioned to build a great extension and the new building became known as the Large Hermitage. It was completed in 1787. Another wing was built from 1787 to 1792 to house ever more expanding collections, this time of Roman marbles. Catherine’s collections came to rival older established museums. She died in 1796. Alexander I was crowned in 1801 and continued to expand the art collections. Between 1840 and 1843, Vasily Stasov redesigned the interior of the Small Hermitage. Next, Leo von Klenze was asked to design a building for the public museum. Space was made by demolishing a building next to the Small Hermitage.

On this day, the New Hermitage opened. It was during this inaugural year that the Egyptian Collection at the Hermitage Museum was begun. After the October Revolution in 1917, the Imperial Hermitage and the Winter Palace were proclaimed to be state museums and merged. Even during this time the collections grew as art from other palaces came to this central location. Today, only a small part of the collection is on permanent display. There are over 3 million pieces held by the museum and it holds one of the largest painting collections in the world. There are close to 3 million visitors each year to this first ranked museum in Russia. It holds 13th place in world ranking (based on number of visitors).

I may be kindly, I am ordinarily gentle, but in my line of business I am obliged to will terribly what I will at all.

I shall be an autocrat: that’s my trade. And the good Lord will forgive me: that’s his.

If Russians knew how to read, they would write me off.

I praise loudly. I blame softly. – all from Catherine the Great

Also on this day: Articles of Confederation – In 1778, South Carolina became the first state to ratify the Articles.
Roger Williams – In 1631, Williams arrived in Boston.
Bombs Away – In  1958, a USAF plane drops a nuclear bomb in the waters off Savannah, Georgia.
Artiste – In 1919, United Artists studios were formed.

Roger Williams

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 5, 2013
Roger Williams

Roger Williams

February 5, 1631: Roger Williams arrives in Boston. Roger was born in 1603 and by age 11 he left the Church of England and joined the Puritans. Sir Edward Coke sponsored Roger’s education at Charterhouse, a boys’ boarding school of great repute, and the University of Cambridge, Pembroke College. Roger was a polyglot speaking Greek, Latin, Dutch, and French. John Milton taught him Hebrew in exchange for lessons in Dutch. Roger became a chaplain to a wealthy family. By 1630, Archbishop William Laud’s administration forced Roger to dissent and seek asylum in New England.

Roger and his wife, Mary, sailed for Boston on board the Lyon. He was offered a pastor position in “an unseparated church” and so declined. He sought the liberty of conscience he was denied in Britain and looked for a separationist church. It was Roger’s belief that civil magistrates should not be empowered to punish for “breach of the first table” of the Ten Commandments. He felt idolatry, Sabbath-breaking, false worship, and blasphemy were the purview of the ecclesiastical authorities, not the magistrates. In other words, he believed in separation of church and state.

He was invited to preach and teach at a church in Plymouth where he stayed for about two years. He left over ideological issues and went to Salem. A year later, he was exiled for espousing “diverse, new, and dangerous opinions” adversely affecting the Church of England. In defying the Church, he was also defying the King of England who was head of the faithful. Williams established a colony at Providence and settled the area with 12 “loving friends and neighbors.” The colony was based on principles of equality and by 1640, 39 freemen signed a covenant establishing the new colony and her goals.

In 1647, the colony of Rhode Island joined Providence under one government. In 1652, they passed the first law in North America making slavery illegal. Williams advocated for religious toleration. He was adamant concerning fair treatment of Native Americans. He formed a relationship with Baptists and built a Baptist Church in Rhode Island. He wrote several books and his most famous treatise is written about liberty of conscience and is in the form of a dialog between Truth and Peace. He died in 1683 at the age of 79.

“God is too large to be housed under one roof.” – Roger Williams

“The English…justified their grabbing of Indian land by claiming that these simple folk did not really believe in property rights. On the contrary, Williams observed, ‘the Natives are very exact and punctual in the bounds of their Lands, belonging to this or that Prince or People,’ even bargaining among themselves for a small piece of ground.” – Edwin Gaustad

“From his first few weeks in America he openly raised the banner of ‘rigid Separatism.’ In one year in Salem he converted the town into a stronghold of radical Separatism and threw the entire Bay Colony into an uproar. Banished for his views, after being declared guilty of ‘a frontal assault on the foundations of the Bay system,’ he escaped just as he was to be deported to England.” – Cyclone Covey

“Whereas, Mr Roger Williams, one of the elders of the Church of Salem, hath broached and divulged divers new and dangerous opinions against the authority of magistrates and…yet maintaineth the same without retraction, it is therefore ordered, that the said Mr. Williams shall depart out of this jurisdiction within six weeks now ensuing…” – Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: State religions are those faiths that are officially endorsed by government. It is not synonymous with theocracy, however, as that is where a deity is recognized as the ruler of the country. There are a few countries which have some form of Christianity as their official religion and other where Christianity is not sanctioned but given special recognition. There are far more countries which have some form of Islam as their state religion with the majority of these affiliated with the Sunni sect. There are two countries with Buddhist connections and each supports a different branch of Buddhism. Although Israel is thought of as a Jewish state, the country does not have a state supported religion. Many ancient nations or states had not only state religions, but were theocracies with perhaps Egypt and the Roman Empire being the two most famous of these.

Also on this day: Articles of Confederation – In 1778, South Carolina became the first state to ratify the Articles.
Bombs Away – In  1958, a USAF plane drops a nuclear bomb in the waters off Savannah, Georgia.
Artiste – In 1919, United Artists studios were formed.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 5, 2012

Signing of the United Artist contract in 1919

February 5, 1919: Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, D.W. Griffith, and Mary Pickford join together to form United Artists (UA). They each owned 20% of the company with lawyer William Gibbs McAdoo owing the remaining one-fifth. Each of the four stars was to independently produce five pictures per year. Within a year, the film industry had changed. Feature films lasting 90 minutes (eight reels) were replacing shorts. By 1924 Griffith had dropped out. Others were brought in for financial reasons. Joseph Schenck joined and brought along guest producers Samuel Goldwin, Alexander Korda, and Howard Hughes.

By 1933 the talkies had essentially shut out Pickford and Fairbanks. UA restructured under Darryl F. Zanuck. Walt Disney, Walter Wanger, and David O. Selznick became “producing partners.” Through the next few decades the studio held on to some measure of success. There were reorganizations and mergers along the way. However, UA’s star power continued to decline. By the new millennium they were not much more than a distribution company. On November 2, 2006 Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner announced they were resurrecting UA. Paula Wagner’s departure from the studio was announced August 14, 2008. Cruise maintains a small stake in UA, now a subsidiary of MGM Holdings, Inc.

Charlie Chaplin was born in England in 1889. Chaplin’s natural talent led him to the theater. He first toured in the US in 1910. He was hired by Keystone Film Company and his first one-reel comedy, Making a Living, made him an instant success. He not only acted, but produced movies. He also wrote and played musical background. Douglas Fairbanks was born in Colorado in 1883. He began doing amateur theater at an early age and was a sensation by the time he was a teen. His first film, The Lamb, displayed to great advantage the athletic abilities for which he was to become so famous.

Mary Pickford, also called America’s Sweetheart, was born in Canada in 1892. Like Fairbanks, Pickford worked with D.W. Griffith soon after coming to Hollywood. Mary starred in 52 feature films and by 1920 her pictures were grossing over $1 million. Pickford and Fairbanks eventually divorced their respective spouses and were married in 1920. D.W. Griffith was born in Kentucky in 1875. He moved to Hollywood to become a script writer and became an actor and producer instead. He is credited with producing the first feature-length film in 1915. Chaplin called Griffith “The Teacher of us All.”

Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot. – Charlie Chaplin

Every week we had a different story and setting. Some were costume and period; some were modern. Some were comedy; some were tragedy. Some were melodrama. They were all different. – Douglas Fairbanks

I pick out young people and teach them in less time than it would take me to alter the methods of people from the boards, and I get actors who look the parts they have to fill. – D. W. Griffith

One of the great penalties those of us who live our lives in full view of the public must pay is the loss of that most cherished birthright of man’s, privacy. – Mary Pickford

Also on this day:

Articles of Confederation – In 1778, South Carolina became the first state to ratify the Articles.
Roger Williams – In 1631, Williams arrived in Boston.
Bombs Away – In  1958, a USAF plane drops a nuclear bomb in the waters off Savannah, Georgia.

Bombs Away

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 5, 2011

Mark 15 hydrogen (nuclear) bomb

February 5, 1958: During a US Air Force [USAF] simulated combat mission, a B-47 bomber collides with a an F-86 fighter jet off the coast of Savannah, Georgia. The fighter jet crashed after the pilot parachuted to safety. The bomber made three attempts to land at Hunter Air Force Base but could not do so while carrying its payload – a Mark 15 hydrogen bomb. The crew was given permission to eject the bomb off the coast of Tybee Island which is located about 20 miles from Savannah.

Bomb #47782 was carrying 400 pounds of conventional explosives. The USAF maintains that the plutonium trigger capsule and highly enriched uranium were not onboard. There is a letter that exists that states that the uranium was included in the package. Howard Dixon, a crew chief who loaded bombs during the time period, said all bombs contained the uranium. If so, the explosive yield would be 1.9-3.6 megatons or much larger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The bomb was dropped from 7,200 feet and is thought to be buried in 5-15 feet of silt.

The day after the collision, a search was started by the 2700th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Squadron with help from 100 Navy personnel. On April 16, the search was called off and the bomb never recovered.

Retired USAF Lieutenant Colonel Derek Duke who now runs an underwater recovery company, offered to locate the bomb for $1 million. He claimed in 2004, that by dragging Wassaw Sound with a Geiger counter, he was able to find an area in shallow water less than a mile from shore with readings that are 7-10 times the norm. A report from the USAF and US Department of Energy found, in June 2005, that the readings were from natural phenomenon and stated that the location of the bomb remains a mystery. The USAF has also said that the risks of removing the long buried bomb outweighs the benefits. The report issued claims that there is little chance of any explosion unless someone goes digging for the lost bomb.

“I thought that if we landed short, the plane would catch the front of the runway and the bomb would shoot through the plane like a bullet through a gun barrel.” – B-47 pilot Howard Richardson

“I wish they’d forget about the whole thing. They’re just wasting their time. It ain’t going to hurt anybody. And it scares the hell out of the tourists.” – Tybee City Council member Jack Youmans

“If we’re so worried about terrorists getting ahold of nuclear weapons, why aren’t we doing anything about this? Right down there, somewhere, is the material to make a dirty bomb.” – Air Force Colonel Derek Duke, retired

“The biggest danger would be just digging could cause damage to the environment.” – Air Force Public Affairs Officer Major Cheryl Law

Also on this day:
Articles of Confederation – In 1778, South Carolina became the first state to ratify the Articles.
Roger Williams – In 1631, Roger Williams landed in Boston.

Articles of Confederation

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 5, 2010

Page I of the Articles of Confederation

February 5, 1778: South Carolina becomes the first state to ratify the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. The articles, which combined the thirteen colonies of the American Revolution into a loose confederation, were adopted by the Second Continental Congress on November 15, 1777 after sixteen months of debate. They were ratified three years later.

The push for the colonies to join together in increased cooperation began in the 1750s during the French and Indian War. The colonists wished to have a say in the governance and were rebuffed by England and the British Government. When the Revolutionary War began, the insurrectionists in the colonies were labeled by the monarchy as traitors and the Mother Country tried to dissuade some states from joining in the struggle for independence. By forming a provisional government of their own, the colonies were setting themselves up as enemies of the British Empire.

Summaries of the articles: 1) established name as The United States of America; 2) apportioned rights and powers of states; 3) established US as a league of states united for a common purpose; 4) established freedom of movement between states and extradition procedures; 5) allocated one vote per state to Congress of the Confederation; 6) limited powers of states in foreign relations; 7) resolved issues of raising armies for common good; 8) developed funding of the US by state legislatures; 9) listed rights of central government; 10) Committee of States defined; 11) required nine states approval for admittance of a new state; 12) Confederation accepted war debts; and 13) stated articles were perpetual.

These articles were replaced by the United States Constitution in 1788. They were important for providing stability during the Revolutionary War. They also gave experience to the Founding Fathers for writing the Constitution. The Articles provided a valuable lesson in self-governance and tempered the fears of many states regarding a powerful central government.

“The fact, in short, is that freedom, to be meaningful in an organized society must consist of an amalgam of hierarchy of freedoms and restraints.” – Samuel Hendel

“It is easy to take liberty for granted, when you have never had it taken from you.” – Dick Cheney

“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” – Thomas Paine

“We have enjoyed so much freedom for so long that we are perhaps in danger of forgetting how much blood it cost to establish the Bill of Rights.” – Felix Frankfurter

Also on this day, in 1631 Roger Williams landed in Boston.