Little Bits of History

January 13

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 13, 2017

532: The Nika riots begin in Constantinople. After the fall of the unified Roman Empire, the western Romans and the eastern Byzantines each had well-developed associations called demes. These supported different factions or teams and the various teams competed at events with a special love of chariot racing. There were four teams, at first, each with their own color – Blues, Reds, Greens, Whites – and the color was worn by the team members and their supporters. By the time the Empire split into two, the only teams left with any influence were the Blues and the Greens. Emperor Justinian I (Byzantium) was a Blues fan. The teams had become the focal point for nearly everything including politics, gangs, theology, and even claimants to the throne.

In 531, some members of both teams were arrested for a murder during rioting after a chariot race. At first, these riots were rather mild but things escalated over time, much like riots after sporting events today. The arrested men were to be hanged, but on January 10, 532 one member of each team managed to escape and were given refuge in a church which was surrounded by an angry mob. Justinian was in delicate negotiations with the Persians to secure peace and the public was upset by the high taxes to continue war. To appease the masses, he declared a race would be held on this day and the sentences would be reduced to imprisonment – the crowds wanted full pardons.

On this date, crowds streamed into the Hippodrome (next to the palace) for the races. The Emperor could watch from the safety of his palace, but the crowds were obviously unhappy with the ruler. By the end of the day, at race 22, the crowds had switched from yelling out their color to screaming in a unified manner “Nika” which means Win or Conquer. The crowds erupted into a riotous mass and attacked the palace. Over the next five days, the palace was under siege. Fires were intentionally set and destroyed much of the city including the pre-eminent church, the Hagia Sohpia – which Justinian would eventually rebuild. The crowd began to crown their own man, Hypatius, as emperor.

Justinian sent Narses, a loyal eunuch, into the Hippodrome alone and unprotected even though hundreds had already been killed there. The small man approached the leaders of the Blues with quiet determination and a bag of gold. He pointed out that Justinian favored the Blues. He also pointed out that Hypatius was a Green. He distributed his gold coins among the Blues who then encouraged their followers to leave the Hippodrome even as the ceremony to crown Hypatius was beginning. The Greens were stunned. After the Blues left, generals Belisarius and Mundus stormed the Hippodrome and killed the remaining rebels. In all, about 30,000 rioters were killed. Justinian had Hypatius executed and Senators who had supported him exiled.

Those who have worn the crown should never survive its loss. Never will I see the day when I am not saluted as empress. – Theodora, refusing to flee with her husband, Justinian

Royalty is a fine burial shroud. – Theodora

The limitation of riots, moral questions aside, is that they cannot win and their participants know it. Hence, rioting is not revolutionary but reactionary because it invites defeat. It involves an emotional catharsis, but it must be followed by a sense of futility. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Riots born out of political issues aren’t the same as those born out of personal greed. – Ross Kemp

AM or FM

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 13, 2015
Lee de Forest

Lee de Forest

January 13, 1910: The first public radio broadcast takes place. Lee de Forest was born in Iowa in 1873 and called himself the Father of Radio. He earned his PhD in 1899 with a dissertation on radio waves. He joined the faculty at Armour Institute of Technology and conducted his first long-distance broadcasts from there. In 1901, he and Guglielmo Marconi were both at the New York International Yacht Races attempting to broadcast news of the races. They were on separate boats and each used a different method for airing the news. Unfortunately, they jammed each other’s transmissions and no news was broadcast at all. De Forest, in a fit, threw his transmitter overboard. Jamming signals was a common problem with early radio broadcasting.

In 1906, de Forest invented Audion, an electronic amplifying vacuum tube. It was the first triode – a partially evacuated glass tube with three electrodes; a heated filament, a grid, and a plate. He then developed an improved wireless telegraph receiver. He received a patent in 1906 for a diode vacuum tube detector and in 1908 he got another patent for a triode detector which was much more sensitive. It was the fastest electronic switching element of the time. This was vital in the development of transcontinental telephone communications, radio, and radar. It was even used in early digital electronics.

As early as 1907, de Forest advertised that it would soon be possible to listen to great music and speeches via a Radio Telephone. On this day, he set up equipment at the Metropolitan Opera House and broadcast a live performance of opera singers. Selections from Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci were offered. Enrico Caruso sang for a very limited audience as there were few receivers available to pick up the transmission. The next day, the New York Times reported on the historic moment.

Receivers had been set up throughout New York City in well advertised places with members of the press available. Ships in New York Harbor also had receivers. The experiment was not completely successful. Microphones of the day were unable to pick up most of the singing from the stage. Only those off-stage and singing directly into a mike could be heard clearly. There was much static and interference as well. Even with this ignominious start, more refinements were made and radio became ubiquitous with music and talk shows abounding. Today, radio is said to be dying, but even so there were 15,433 licensed full power radio stations in the US as of September 30, 2014. There are over 44,000 stations worldwide, according to the CIA Fact Book.

While theoretically and technically television may be feasible, commercially and financially it is an impossibility. – Lee de Forest

Short waves will be generally used in the kitchen for roasting and baking, almost instantaneously. – Lee de Forest

It will soon be possible to distribute grand opera music from transmitters placed on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House by a Radio Telephone station on the roof to almost any dwelling in Greater New York and vicinity… The same applies to large cities. Church music, lectures, etc., can be spread abroad by the Radio Telephone. – 1907 Lee de Forest company advertisement

Opera broadcast in part from the stage of the New York City Metropolitan Opera Company was heard on January 13, 1910, when Enrico Caruso and Emmy Destinn sang arias from Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci, which were “trapped and magnified by the dictograph directly from the stage and borne by wireless Hertzian waves over the turbulent waters of the sea to transcontinental and coastwise ships and over the mountainous peaks and undulating valleys of the country.” The microphone was connected by telephone wire to the laboratory of Dr. Lee De Forest. – New York Times on January 14, 1910

Also on this day: Sitting on the Throne – In 1863, Thomas Crapper pioneered his pedestal toilet.
Only One – In 1842, the lone survivor arrived at the Jalalabad garrison.
Greece – In1822, the First National Assembly of Epidaurus adopts a new Greek flag.
Prison Blues – In 1968, Johnny Cash performed at Folsom Prison.
Black Friday in Australia – In 1939, a bushfire started in Victoria, Australia.

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Black Friday in Australia

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 13, 2014
Black Friday in Australia

Black Friday in Australia

January 13, 1939: Black Friday in Australia. In Victoria, Australia a bushfire started. The days before the fire started had been terribly hot. In Melbourne, the state capital, the temperature had been 110.8⁰ F on January 8 and 112.5⁰ F on January 10. On this day, the temperature reached 114.1⁰ F which was the official hottest day in Melbourne history and remained so for the next 70 years. It is to be noted that in 1851, before the Black Thursday fires, the temperature was said to have reached 117⁰ F – but it is not an official reading. The summer of 1938-39 had been hot and dry and several fires had broken out.

A strong northerly wind swept over the state and the fires already burning were whipped into a one large enveloping conflagration. The most damage was seen in the mountains and alpine areas. However, five townships were completely destroyed – Hill End, Narbethong, Nayook West, Noogee, and Woods Point. Not all of them were rebuilt. Many more towns were badly damaged. The Acheron, Tanjil Valley, Thomson Valley, and Grampians also suffered extensive damage. Yarra Glen, then a separate city and now a suburb of Melbourne was also under fire.

All in all, nearly 5,000,000 acres or 2,000,000 hectares were burned. There were 71 people killed by the fires. Over 1,300 homes and 69 sawmills were burned. A total of 3,700 buildings were destroyed. About three-quarters of the state of Victoria was turned to ashes by the flames. Although the fire presented one major front there were five major fire areas. Ash from the fires fell as far away as New Zealand. Luckily, rain fell on Sunday, January 15 and with this help, the fires were brought under control.

The Royal Commission under Judge LEB Stretton blamed the fires on careless burning as well as the heat. Recommendations were made for forest management and safety and resulted in the County Fire Authority being formed in 1944. Environmental effects from the blaze lasted for decades. There are some regions where dead trees still stand in mute testament. The water supply of the area was compromised by the falling ash. It was one of the worst disasters in Australia and certainly the most deadly bushfire up to that time. Sadly, both the 1983 and 2009 bushfires resulted in more deaths. In terms of area burned, it is second only to the 1851 fire which is estimated to have burned 2.5 times the area.

As a single withered tree, if set aflame, causes a whole forest to burn, so does a rascal son destroy a whole family. – Chanakya

I am as frustrated with society as a pyromaniac in a petrified forest. – A. Whitney Brown

Sadly, it’s much easier to create a desert than a forest. – James Lovelock

Like wars, forest fires and bad marriages, really stupid laws are much easier to begin than they are to end. – Matt Taibbi

Also on this day: Sitting on the Throne – In 1863, Thomas Crapper pioneered his pedestal toilet.
Only One – In 1842, the lone survivor arrived at the Jalalabad garrison.
Greece – In 1822, the First National Assembly of Epidaurus adopts a new Greek flag.
Prison Blues – In 1968, Johnny Cash performed at Folsom Prison.

Safe Return

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 13, 2013
William Brydon painting by Lady Elizabeth Butler The Remnant of an Army

William Brydon painting by Lady Elizabeth Butler    The Remnant of an Army

January 13, 1842: Dr. William Brydon reaches safety at the Jalalabad garrison during the First Anglo-Afghan War. The war was fought from 1839 to 1842 and was the first major conflict in an era called The Great Game. The mid-19th century saw the British Empire and the Russian Empire in a heated battle for the control of Central Asia. Afghanistan lay between British controlled India and outposts of Tsarist Russia. While occupied by indigenous peoples, the lands reaching nearly 2,000 miles across were essentially unmapped by Western cartographers.

George Eden, first and last Lord Auckland, issued a manifesto in 1838 stating Afghanistan needed to be a trustworthy ally to the British to protect India. The engagement is also called Auckland’s Folly and was a disaster by all accounts. While ostensibly supporting Shah Shuja in the pursuit of regaining his throne, all knew it was simply a need for a buffer zone for the protection of India against the Russian threat.

With successively more incompetent leadership, troops were sent toward Kabul to replace the Shah. While they managed to successfully seat Shuja in 1839, he could not maintain power without a strong British presence. The Afghans were not amused by the British and eventually a mob killed a senior British officer during a riot. Authorities were negotiating with Mohammad Akbar Khan who had the citizens’ support. Akbar condemned the negotiator to prison, but on the way to incarceration, a mob struck and killed the British official.

William Elphinstone, Major-General and commander of the British Army, reached an agreement with Akbar for safe passage out of Afghanistan for his troops. There were 4,500 military personnel and about 10,000 civilian camp followers. As they struggled through snowy passes, they were attacked by Ghilzai warriors. The army’s retreat hastened toward the Kabul River where the British were massacred at the Gandamark Pass. Near the end, about 40 survivors were running through two feet of snow toward safety. Most were killed, some were captured, and only Dr. Brydon made it to the garrison, injured but alive.

“The ability to delude yourself may be an important survival tool.” – Jane Wagner

“Learning is not compulsory… neither is survival.” – W. Edwards Deming

“On a long enough timeline. The survival rate for everyone drops to zero.” – Chuck Palahniuk

“Conflict is going to happen whether you want it or not. People will butt heads. Sometimes when you least expect it.” – Jimmy Bise, Jr.

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: William Brydon was an assistant surgeon in the British East India Company. He was born in London and was of Scottish descent. He studied at both the University College London and the University of Edinburgh. While escaping this ambush, only six mounted officers managed to escape the final assault. Of these six, five were killed along the escape route. Brydon had stuffed a copy of Blackwood’s Magazine in his hat to help insulate against the bitter cold and it deflected a slashing sword so that only part of his skull shaved off. He went on to serve in the Second Anglo-Burmese War and was again wounded. He finally made his way back home and died there in 1873 at the age of 61.

Also on this day: Sitting on the Throne – In 1863, Thomas Crapper pioneered his pedestal toilet.
Greece – In1822, the First National Assembly of Epidaurus adopts a new Greek flag.
Prison Blues – In 1968, Johnny Cash performed at Folsom Prison.

Prison Blues

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 13, 2012

Johnny Cash

January 13, 1968: Johnny Cash performs at Folsom Prison. Folsom Prison is one of 33 state prisons in California. It is the second oldest and opened in 1880. It is 20 miles outside Sacramento – the state capital. It was one of the first maximum security prisons and held an inordinate number of executions over 42 years. Now a medium security prison, it houses 4,023 prisoners (as of 2007). The prison, once known for its harsh conditions, has been the site for the manufacture of state license plates since the 1930s. The prison has been the location for a number of feature films.

J.R. Cash was born in Arkansas in 1932. When joining the Air Force, initials were unacceptable, so he legally changed his name to John R. Cash. When signing his first record contract, he took the stage name Johnny Cash. As his fame grew, so did his addictions to alcohol and drugs. He took both amphetamines and barbiturates and his behavior spiraled out of control. He was arrested seven times for misdemeanors and as a result spent seven nights in jail. Although he encouraged his outlaw image, he never spent time in prison – as an inmate.

Folsom Prison Blues was written by Gordon Jenkins as Crescent City Blues. Cash liked the country song and rewrote a portion of the lyrics without consulting or crediting Jenkins. Cash recorded the “new” song in 1955. Cash had seen the movie Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison (1951) and was duly influenced. A lawsuit filed by Jenkins was settled out of court. The definitive recording is the one made as the opening song at Cash’s prison concert. The concert itself was recorded and an album entitled At Folsom Prison was released later in the year.

Cash was sometimes called “The Man in Black.” His band wore black shirts in the early days because it was the only color shirt they all owned. It, along with the knee-length black suit jacket, became the signature outfit for the deep-voiced singer. From 1969-71 he hosted The Johnny Cash Show on ABC and was able to help many new artists get the airtime they deserved. He continued performing even after diagnosed with neuropathy secondary to diabetes. His second wife, June Carter Cash, died in May 2003. Johnny continued to perform at her request. He died in September of that year at the age of 71.

Hello, I’m Johnny Cash. (Opening comment at concerts)

I’d like to wear a rainbow every day / And tell the world that everything’s okay / But I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back / Until things are brighter,  I’m the Man in Black.

But I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die / When I hear that whistle blowin’, I hang my head and cry.

Success is having to worry about every damn thing in the world, except money. – all from Johnny Cash

Also on this day:

Sitting on the Throne – In 1863, Thomas Crapper pioneered his pedestal toilet.
Only One – In 1842, the lone survivor arrived at the Jalalabad garrison.
Greece – In 1822, the First National Assembly of Epidaurus adopts a new Greek flag.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 13, 2011

The flag of Greece

January 13, 1822: The First National Assembly of Epidaurus adopts a new Greek flag. This assembly was composed of representatives of the Greek revolutionaries who fought against the Ottoman rule. It opened in December 1821 at Piada (today Nea Epidaurus) and produced many important documents. One highly influential document is sometimes translated as Temporary Constitution of Greece but is usually called the Greek Constitution of 1822. There were 59 representatives included, most were landowners and ship-owners.

They designed the flag as a naval ensign. This flag was adopted as the Flag of Greece in 1978. It is comprised of nine equal horizontal stripes alternating between blue and white. The topmost and bottom stripes are both blue. In the upper left corner, there is a blue canton with a white cross, symbolizing Greek Orthodoxy, the established religion of the Greeks. The flag is sometimes called either the galanolefki or kianolefki, meaning the “blue-white.” There are a variety of theories about why there are nine stripes. One is that they represent the nine syllables in the Greek phrase for “Freedom or Death” while other say they represent the nine letters in the Greek word for freedom. They may also represent the nine Greek Muses of antiquity.

The Greek War of Independence, or the Greek Revolution, was waged between Greek revolutionaries and the Ottoman Empire from 1821 to 1830. Greece received help from several European allies, particularly the Russian Empire, the UK, and France. The Ottoman Empire received help from the Eyalet of Egypt. After the fall of the Byzantine Empire, there were many attempts for the Greeks to gain independence from Middle East domination. In 1814, the Filiki Eteria was founded, a secret society with the aim of freeing Greece from tyranny. The Revolution is celebrated on March 25, much like the US celebrating July 4. Independence didn’t come for years, much like in the US as well.

The Revolution was led by Theodore Kolokotronis. The West saw this struggle in a romantic light. Many Greeks were joined by foreigners, included Lord Byron. The Russian minister of foreign affairs was himself a Greek. Ioannis Kapodistrias found himself moved from his Russian position to becoming the President of the new Republic of Greece after finally winning their freedom. The new Greece was soon turned into a monarchy with King Otto the first king of Greece, even though he was from Bavaria.

“And, of course, it must be asked: is it proper to transact with the Turks for the most reassured of Greek possessions when Greece is under Turkish invasion and subjugation?” – Melina Mercouri

“In Greece wise men speak and fools decide.” – George Santayana

“In many ways we are all sons and daughters of ancient Greece.” – Nia Vardalos

“The center of Western culture is Greece, and we have never lost our ties with the architectural concepts of that ancient civilization.” – Stephen Gardiner

Also on this day:
Sitting on the Throne – In 1863, Thomas Crapper pioneered his pedestal toilet.
Only Dr. Brydon survived – In 1842 Dr. Brydon was the only survivor among 14,500 in the Afghanistan withdrawal.


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Sitting on the Throne

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 13, 2010

Toilet insides

January 13, 1863: Some things we simply take for granted. The wonders of indoor plumbing are one of those things. The simplicity of crawling out of bed in the middle of the night, walking a few short feet, barely opening one’s eyes, operating a simple handle, and then returning to bed relieved is all a fairly new experience. Thanks to Thomas Crapper.

On this day, Crapper pioneered his famous one-piece pedestal flushing toilet. He is mistakenly credited with inventing this marvelous piece of ingenuity. He did not do that. Crapper simply brought this behind-the-doors invention to the public’s attention in London, England, through his showrooms. He was shrewd in business and a wonderful salesman.

In ancient times, Romans built latrines over running water so that the waste could be carried away. Early pipes used by the Hohokam Indians were hollowed out logs which could also carry the water away. There is also a tale of King Minos of Crete having a flushing water closest over 2,800 years ago. During the Middle Ages, chamber pots were used nightly and emptied into the streets come morning. With millions dying of cholera, the poor sanitation was seen as a means of spreading disease. It has been said that no house in Massachusetts had a bathroom before 1820.

Of course, the toilet without the sewer system would be problematic. Engineer Julius W. Adams provided framework for the modern sewage system in 1857. At that time that he was brought in to design the system for Brooklyn which, in 1857, covered about 20 square miles. With the design of Adams’ system used as a model, many how-to books for other communities to do likewise were produced.

“Engineering is not merely knowing and being knowledgeable, like a walking encyclopedia; engineering is not merely analysis; engineering is not merely the possession of the capacity to get elegant solutions to non-existent engineering problems; engineering is practicing the art of the organized forcing of technological change … Engineers operate at the interface between science and society …” – Dean Gordon Brown

“If you build a better mousetrap, you will catch better mice.” – George Gobel

“Where a new invention promises to be useful, it ought to be tried.” – Thomas Jefferson

“Television is like the invention of indoor plumbing. It didn’t change people’s habits. It just kept them inside the house.” – Alfred Hitchcock

Also on this day, in 1842 Dr. Brydon is the only survivor among 14,500 in the Afghanistan withdrawal.