Little Bits of History

January 16

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 16, 2017

1862: The Hartley Colliery disaster occurs. Also known as the Hartley Pit or Hester Pit disaster, it was a coal mining disaster in Northumberland, England. The coal mining venture began at the Hartley old pit near the coastline with earliest extant records dating from 1291. Because of the location near the North Sea, flooding became an ever increasing problem and by 1760 the first atmospheric engine was installed. This was an ingenious method of using a steam engine to pump water out of mines, developed in 1712. Even with improved engines, the old pit was finally abandoned in 1844 due to the incoming water. However, the coal deposits were still valuable enough to drop a new shaft and continue mining. A new seam was opened on May 29, 1846 and a village grew up around it. Since women and children were not permitted to be miners, the standard of living was greater than normal and the families thrived in this new location.

The standard of the time called for a single shaft twelve feet wide to be dug for access to the seam of coal, deep underground. The shaft also was where the pumps were located and the means of getting fresh air to the miners. Since this was a single shaft colliery, a timber brattice (a dividing wall where fresh air goes down one side and  stale air is removed from the other) was built. The pit was called a wet pit and was known for flooding, so keeping the pumps functional was a priority. They were also in the shaft, uploading water and keeping the miners safe. On this day, the men were switching positions of front team to back team at 10:30 AM. The first eight men were ascending the pit when the beam of the pumping station snapped and fell down the shaft, destroying most of the brattice in the fall. Four of the men fell; four of the men held on to the snapped cable.

The beam jammed into the shaft and debris fell, causing a blockage 90 feet deep. Rescue efforts began immediately when Matthew Chapman, a deputy just off shift, heard the noise and hurried back to the mine. He attempted to enter the shaft, lowering himself on a rope and to clear the way using an ax. Soon more help arrived and efforts began in earnest. The plight of the trapped men was twofold, lack of fresh air and impending flooding. Speed was of the essence but the volume of the collapse was daunting. By Friday, the men were about 30 feet apart, with those from the top digging down and those from the bottom, digging upwards. The another collapse let more debris into the pit.

By Tuesday, the air was so bad, rescuers could only work in twenty minute shifts, but work continued. More help arrived and eventually it was possible to lower food to the trapped miners. When they finally broke through on Wednesday, the air was so filled with carbon monoxide, the rescuers were forced back. Rather than an rescue, it now became a recovery event. In all, 204 men and boys were killed in the accident. England’s law for coal mines was amended to include the need for a second shaft or outlet to be part of every mine, allowing for escape for those in the pits. Parliament passed this law less than six months after the inquest suggesting such and not only all new mines, but also all existing mines were required to have an escape route available.

The Jury cannot close this painful inquiry without expressing their strong opinion of the imperative necessity that all working collieries should have at least a second shaft or outlet, to afford the workmen the means of escape should any obstruction take place. – Inquest verdict

Coal mining is an industry rife with mismanagement, corruption, greed and an almost blatant disregard for the safety, health and quality of life of its work force. Everyone knows this. Everyone has always known it. – Tawni O’Dell

Mining is like a search-and-destroy mission. – Stewart Udall

I’m lucky to have a job doing something I really love to do, and I’m happy to accept the pressures of relentless deadlines or reader expectations as necessary evils. It’s probably not as stressful as mining coal or leading men into battle. – Grant Morrison

Formidable Ruler

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 16, 2015
Ivan the Terrible

Ivan the Terrible

January 16, 1547: Ivan IV Vasilyevich becomes Tsar of All the Russias. He was born on August 25, 1530 to Vasili III of Russia and Elena Glinskaya. He became Grand Prince of Moscow on December 3 1533 when he was just three years old. His mother, Vasili’s second wife, was regent until her death which many believe was an assassination. Ivan was then eight. As a child, both Ivan and his younger brother, Yuri, often felt disrespected by the Shiusky and Belsky families. On this day, he was crowned with Monomakh’s Cap at the Cathedral of the Dormition. He was sixteen and was the first to be crowned as Tsar of all the Russias, claiming ancestry to the Kieven Rus. Being crowned as Tsar, he sent a message to the world and to Russia, he was now the supreme ruler.

He was known as Ivan Grozny which literally means Ivan the Formidable but he is today commonly called Ivan the Terrible which carries a different tone of bad or evil. Because of his long rule, he was given time to conquer many regions including the Kazan, Astrakhan, and Siberia. During his reign, there were almost a billion acres under his control or 1,562,500 square miles. He brought about many changes and moved Russia from a medieval state to an empire and regional powerhouse. His reputation is colored by the account one uses. In some records, he is shown as progressive, intelligent, and devout (Russian Orthodox). Other records point to his periodic outbreaks of mental illness which increased with age. He did much good; he killed his own son.

The early part of his reign was quite peaceful even with the Great Fire of 1547 which burned much of Moscow and displaced about 80,000 people and killed thousands. He rebuilt and modernized, revised the law code,  created the Sudebnik of 1550 which greatly weakened the aristocracy, founded a standing army, established the first Russian parliament, and normalized the Church with the Council of the Hundred Chapters. He brought about self government in rural areas, established the Moscow Print Yard which printed many books in the vernacular. He built St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. But not all his reign went so well.

The 1560s brought drought and associated famine. There were unsuccessful wars against Poland and Lithuania. The Tartars invaded. His first wife, Anastasia Romanovna, died in 1560 of suspected poisoning. Internal politics created more havoc. He was given absolute power at a time when his mental health was at a low. He created the oprichnina, lands within the borders of Russia, in the Novgorod Republic. In the 1570s, plagues killed 10,000 people there and between 600 and 1000 daily in Moscow. Novgorod was sacked and the citizens massacred. In 1581, he killed his son and heir apparent, leaving a feeble minded younger brother to rule. He died in 1584 at the age of 53. He had a stroke while playing chess. His childless son, Feodor, was left to rule. When he died in 1598 without an heir, the Time of Troubles really began.

I will not see the destruction of the Christian converts who are loyal to me, and to my last breath I will fight for the Orthodox faith – Ivan the Terrible

Oh Satan! Why have you planted such a godless seed in the heart of a Christian Tsar [Ivan the Terrible], from which such a fire swept over all the Holy Russian land – Andrei, Prince Kurbsky

Ivan Ilych’s life had been most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible – Leo Tolstoy

Ivan the Terrible started life as a child, a fact that troubled his later personality. – unknown

Also on this day: Prohibition – In 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment was ratified.
Hi – In 1964, Hello, Dolly! took Broadway by storm.
Grote Mandrenke – In 1362, a storm tide in the North Sea flood the German city, Rungholt.
Hablo Espanol  – In 1492, a dictionary was first written.
League of Nations – In 1920, the League of Nations held its first council meeting.

League of Nations

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 16, 2014
League of Nations flag

League of Nations flag

January 16, 1920: The League of Nations (LN) holds its first council meeting. The League was founded at the Paris Peace Conference ending World War I. It was the first international organization with a principle mission of maintaining world peace. The Covenant set the primary goals which included preventing wars through collective security and disarmament and settling international disputes through negotiation and arbitration. Other concerns were labor condition, treatment of native inhabitants by occupiers, human and drug trafficking, arms trade, global health, POWs, and protection of minorities in Europe. Eventually, 58 nations were included and part of the League from 28 September, 1934 to 23 February, 1935 which was their highest membership number.

There were 42 founding members (the US was not among them) and 23 (24 if including Free France) remained until it was dissolved in 1946. More nations came and went and when Ecuador joined the number reached the highest mark which held until Paraguay withdrew. The Soviet Union joined in 1934 but was expelled in 1939 for aggression against Finland. This was one of the last acts of the LN as it essentially ceased to function because of World War II. May 26, 1937 saw Egypt joining, the last nation to do so. Costa Rica was the first to permanently withdraw on January 22, 1925. Brazil was the first founding member nation to withdraw, which took place on June 14, 1926.

The LN had no armed forces and depended upon the Great Powers (most powerful of the member nations) to enforce resolutions. However, there was reluctance to do so as these resolutions or sanctions could hurt the League nations. With the end of World War I, there were a number of issues that still needed international resolution and the LN was able to meet these challenges with some success. However, as the world became more volatile and the issues were more dire and more difficult to solve, the LN was found to not have enough power to actually enforce either resolutions or sanctions even if such agreements were reached.

As the world became embroiled yet again in a World War, it was obvious that the LN had failed in its goals. There were many reasons for this but one of the major limiting factors was that the US failed to join. Along with this, the origins and structure was created by the Allied powers as part of a peace settlement and therefore their neutrality was suspect. Because it demanded unanimous votes, decisions were slow if not impossible to come by. Global representation was a goal but not anywhere close to being achieved. Germany was not permitted to join at its inception and Soviet Russia was excluded as well. The idea of “collective security” often caused difficulties when nations were required to work against their own allies. Their goal of pacifism and disarmament was not met and the beginning of World War II was the death knell for the League.

The League is very well when sparrows shout, but no good at all when eagles fall out. – Benito Mussolini

I have loved but one flag and I cannot share that devotion and give affection to the mongrel banner invented for the League of Nations. – Henry Cabot Lodge

The first condition of success for the League of Nations is, therefore, a firm understanding between the British Empire and the United States of America and France and Italy that there will be no competitive building up of fleets or armies between them. – Arthur Henderson

Let us return, however, to the League of Nations. To create an organization which is in a position to protect peace in this world of conflicting interests and egotistic wills is a frighteningly difficult task. – Hjalmar Branting

Also on this day: Prohibition – In 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment was ratified.
Hi – In 1964, Hello, Dolly! took Broadway by storm.
Grote Mandrenke – In 1362, a storm tide in the North Sea flood the German city, Rungholt.
Hablo Espanol  – In 1492, a dictionary was first written.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 16, 2013
Hello, Dolly!

Hello, Dolly!

January 16, 1964: Jerry Herman’s Broadway musical hit opens. Hello, Dolly! was produced by David Merrick with his second choice, Gower Champion serving as director and choreographer. The title role was written for Ethel Merman but both she and Mary Martin turned it down. Instead, Carol Channing took the part of Mrs. Dolly Gallagher Levi with Jo Anne Worley (Laugh-In) as her standby for the role.

David Burns, Charles Nelson Riley, Eileen Brennan, and Alice Playten were supporting cast members. The play opened on Broadway to rave reviews after major rewrites from off-Broadway trials. The play ran for nearly seven years with an astounding 2,844 performances given. Only 15 other original Broadway shows’ runs have had more performances – so far.

The story line for the musical revolves around Dolly’s matchmaking schemes. She manages to match all the supporting actors into surprising couples much to Horace’s dismay. He is finally convinced that he needs Dolly in his life at which point she isn’t so sure she needs him. The musical is divided into two acts with seven major production numbers in the first act, and another nine, included the memorable Hello, Dolly! number, in the second act.

At the 1964 Tony Awards, Hello, Dolly! set a record that lasted for 37 years. Even though it was running against the stiff competition of Funny Girl starring Barbra Streisand, Dolly! managed to be nominated for 11 awards and won 10 of them including Best Musical, Best Composer, and Best Actress. This record stood until 2001 when The Producers took 12 Tonys. Hello, Dolly! didn’t stop with a hit Broadway production, but was also made into a movie in 1969 which ironically starred Barbra Streisand. The movie was as well received as the play and was nominated for 7 Academy Awards (Oscars).

Horace: Eighty percent of the people in the world are fools and the rest of us are in danger of contamination.

Dolly Levi: As my late husband, Ephraim Levi, used to say, ‘If you have to live from hand-to-mouth, you’d better be ambidextrous.’

Cornelius Hackl: I’ve lost everything: my job, my future, everything people think is important, but I don’t care – because even if I have to dig ditches for the rest of my life, I shall be a ditch-digger who once had a wonderful day.

Ambrose Kemper: If you’re going to spend the whole evening acting like a scared rabbit, maybe I’d better order some lettuce. – all from Hello, Dolly!

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Carol Channing was born in Seattle, Washington in 1921 however the family moved to California shortly after she was born. She began her acting career just before her 20th birthday. She made her way to Broadway with Let’s Face It! where she was an understudy for Eve Arden (who would later play Dolly). She gained recognition for her portrayal of Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. However, it was her role as Dolly for which she came to national attention. She also worked outside New York and made several movies. She was married four times and has one son.

Also on this day: Prohibition – In 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment was ratified.
Grote Mandrenke – In 1362, a storm tide in the North Sea flood the German city, Rungholt.
Hablo Espanol  – In 1492, a dictionary was first written.

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Hablo Español

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 16, 2012

Antonio de Lebrija

January 16, 1492: Antonio de Lebrija writes a grammar of Castilian Spanish for Queen Isabella. The book’s title was Gramática de la lengua castellana. Antonio was classically educated and completed his studies at Bologna University in Italy. He returned home to Spain and spread classical learning to his countrymen. At the time, Latin was the language of the educated. His work with the Castilian language was instrumental in the switch from the ancient to the more modern tongue. Gramática is credited with being the first published grammar of any Romance language.

Spanish itself is a dialect of Latin developed on the Iberian Peninsula. The language continues its 1,000 years of evolution even today. Spanish is now the official language of about 20 countries around the world. As Spanish explorers and colonization teams spread outward, they brought their language with them. They also embraced native words, expanding the lexicon. Spanish is spoken in most countries of the Americas, the Philippines, and Equatorial Guinea.

Spanish is a two gender language with conjugated verbs but without noun declension. Two gender languages assign genders to nouns regardless of whether or not the noun can be considered male or female. Another term for this is “noun class.” In Spanish grammar the gender or class of the noun dictates the modifier associated with the noun. There are seven tenses of verbs that mostly correlate with English verbs. The six different Spanish spellings of the tenses tend to confuse English speakers. In each Spanish speaking country, the language has evolved slightly – just as the UK and the US speak different forms of English.

Romance languages are a branch of Indo-European languages that descended from Latin. There are more than 700 million worldwide speakers of Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, or Romanian. These languages evolved from Vulgar Latin or Latin as spoken in the streets – vernacular language – rather than the more formal speech of the educated classes. These languages developed by region but share many properties with each other as well as a vocabulary of Latin-based words. The Romance has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day, but refers to speaking in a Roman manner.

Life is a foreign language; all men mispronounce it. – Christopher Morley

Man invented language to satisfy his deep need to complain. – Lily Tomlin

The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand. – Lewis Thomas

Language is the source of misunderstandings. – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Also on this day:

Prohibition – In 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment was ratified.
Hi – In 1964, Hello, Dolly! took Broadway by storm.
Grote Mandrenke – In 1362, a storm tide in the North Sea flood the German city, Rungholt.

Grote Mandrenke

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 16, 2011

Illustration of the damaging storm

January 16, 1362: A storm tide in the North Sea floods the German city, Rungholt, on Strand Island. A large Atlantic gale spread across England, the Netherlands, northern Germany and Schleswig, a Duchy between Germany and Denmark. The storm was ferocious and included a huge storm tide responsible for killing 25,000. The event is called the “second St. Marcellus flood” because January 16 is the feast of St. Marcellus and in 1219, a previous storm killed about 36,000. The storm surge swept far inland, breaking up islands, turning part of the mainland into new islands, and wiping out entire towns and districts, including Rungholt.

A storm tide or storm surge is associated with storms and weather systems involving low pressure, such as cyclone. The high winds put pressure on the ocean’s surface and causes the water to pile much higher than regular sea level. The rise in the water is caused by the storm and is in addition to the rising water levels associated with incoming tides. With advanced techniques, we can measure the storm surges. The highest was recorded in 1899 and was 43 feet high. It was located at Bathurst Bay, Australia. There is some question as to methodology and much of the height may have been wave run-up. Hurricane Katrina produced a maximum storm surge of more than 25 feet.

In the 13th and 14th centuries, with less prediction available, these horrible storms were devastating to life and property. Weather was chaotic in northern Europe at the beginning of what is called the Little Ice Age. This small ice age brought colder winters to parts of Europe and North America. Rivers, even the Thames, froze solid enough to support ice skating. Whole villages in Switzerland were wiped out by encroaching glaciers. And along the North Sea, attention was given to Zuider Zee.

Zuider Zee was a shallow bay in the North Sea located northwest of the Netherlands. It was about 60 miles inland and 30 miles at its widest point. It’s overall depth was about 13-16 feet. It had a coastline of about 200 miles and covered about 2,000 square miles. Because of the landscape’s propensity to increase storm surge devastation, a series of dikes and levees were constructed. Early dikes were not completely stable and broke down, causing even greater loss of life when they failed. The area has been stable since about the 15th century.

“The earth will end only when God declares it’s time to be over. Man will not destroy this earth. This earth will not be destroyed by a flood.” – John Shimkus

“The only thing that stops God from sending another flood is that the first one was useless.” – Nicolas de Chamfort

“We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

“What is the appropriate behavior for a man or a woman in the midst of this world, where each person is clinging to his piece of debris? What’s the proper salutation between people as they pass each other in this flood?” – Buddha

Also on this day:
Prohibition – In 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment was ratified.
Hello Dolly! – In 1964, Jerry Herman’s Broadway musical hit opened.


Heading for the Hills in Minnesota

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 17, 2010

Great Brinks Robbery

January 17, 1950: The Great Brinks Robbery, once billed as the “crime of the century” takes place. The Brinks Building in Boston, Massachusetts was robbed of $1,218,211.19 in cash and over $1.5 million in checks, money orders, and other securities.

In preparation for the great break in, Joseph “Specs” O’Keefe and Stanley “Gus” Gusciora picked the outer lock with an ice pick and the inner door with a piece of plastic and entered the depot. Once inside, they temporarily removed each of the cylinders from the five locks so that a locksmith could make keys for them.

After recruiting seven more gang members, the team of criminals bided their time. They studied the layout, schedules, and even the alarm system. The plan took two years to complete and they attempted the burglary six times prior to actually pulling it off.

Dressed in similar clothing to the Brinks uniform but with chauffeur’s caps, rubber Halloween masks, gloves and rubber soled shoes, they entered the building at 6:55 PM using the keys they had made previously. They bound and gagged five Brinks employees, scooped up all the available money, and left at 7:30 PM leaving behind only minimal clues. The rope and chauffeur’s caps were all the police had to go on.

O’Keefe and Gusciora were arrested in Pennsylvania later that year for burglary. Informers inside described hearing them demand money from their cohorts. On January 12, 1956 the FBI arrested six of the gang for the burglary and on May 16, they caught the rest of them. All were convicted and received life sentences except for O’Keefe. He was released in 1960 after serving four years. Most of the money was never recovered and is said to be cached in the hills just north of Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

“We continue to be exasperated by the view, apparently gaining momentum in certain circles, that armed robbery is okay as long as nobody gets hurt! The proper solution to armed robbery is a dead robber, on the scene.” – Jeff Cooper

“We’ve basically built doors now for 4,000 years and still have burglaries.” – Johannes Ullrich

“When you go into court you are putting your fate into the hands of twelve people who weren’t smart enough to get out of jury duty.” – Norm Crosby

“It’s strange that men should take up crime when there are so many legal ways to be dishonest.” – unknown

Also on this day, in 1929 Popeye made his cartoon debut.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 16, 2010

"For the sake of the children" has been used for a long time now

January 16, 1919: The Eighteenth Amendment to the US Constitution is ratified and it goes into effect on this date one year later. The Amendment banned the sale and/or transportation of alcoholic beverages. This was termed Prohibition, due to the prohibition of liquor as hoped for by the Temperance Movement. That movement began in the US in 1789 when Benjamin Rush and about 200 farmers formed a temperance association in Connecticut. The movement picked up steam and spread fairly rapidly until 1820 when it stalled for a few years. The American Temperance Society was formed in 1826 and within a dozen years had over 1,500,000 members.

Drinking did not, however, disappear with the passage of the Amendment. It was legal to make a limited amount of wine and hard cider in one’s home. Whiskey was available by prescription “for medical purposes only” and filled by druggists without question. Religious ceremonial use was not curtailed.

“Speakeasies” which were bars that operated outside the law sprang up around the nation. Al Capone became one of the most famous bootleggers of the time and operated mainly out of Chicago. The concept of banning liquor has been tried in various places around the globe at different times in recent history without much success. The idea became increasingly unpopular in the States. First to return to markets were 3.2% beers and light wines. Finally the Twenty-First Amendment was passed and Prohibition was repealed in 1933.

The first half of the 20th century saw Prohibition efforts in several countries without any more success than in the US.  Even in our modern age there are still places on the planet where alcohol consumption is punishable by government agencies. Some counties in the US, as well as some countries in the world e.g. Libya and Sudan still prohibit the sale of alcohol. And in some countries like Tunisia and Morocco they allow sales to tourists, but not to locals.

“Reminds me of my safari in Africa. Somebody forgot the corkscrew and for several days we had to live on nothing but food and water.” – W. C. Fields

“Instead of giving money to found colleges to promote learning, why don’t they pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting anybody from learning anything? If it works as good as the Prohibition one did, why, in five years we would have the smartest race of people on earth.” – Will Rogers

“Laws do not persuade just because they threaten.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

“A hangover is the wrath of grapes.” – unknown

Also on this day, in 1964 the original Broadway production of Hello Dolly! began its run.

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