Little Bits of History

January 28

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 28, 2017

1958: At 1.58 PM, Ole Kirk Christiansen receives a patent. Christiansen was the tenth son of an impoverished Danish family and born in 1891. He was trained as a carpenter and began making wooden toys in 1932, after losing his job due to the Great Depression. His wife died soon after and left him to raise his four sons alone. He began a line of wooden ducks and opened a small factory to make them. It burned in 1942 and he was forced to rebuild. He then began making miniature houses and furniture like what he had made when fully employed. His product line expanded and by 1949 he produced over 200 plastic and wooden toys. His third son, Godtfred, joined the business and became a Junior Vice President on his 30th birthday in 1950.

When the company first opened, it needed a name and there was a contest to decide what it would become. Two names under consideration were “Legio” with a reference to a legion of toys and “Lego” a contraction of the Danish “leg godt” which means “play well”. It was later learned the word in Latin meant “I put together” or “I assemble”. Lego, of course, won. The first sets of self-locking bricks did not work well. While they were better for building than traditional stacking wooden blocks, they lacked the versatility for which they are known today. The plastics available in Denmark after World War II were not of the same quality as that which can be produced today and customers preferred traditional wood or metal toys. A new idea was hatched and a hollow tube was added to the underside of the bricks which solved two major problems.

In 1964, the plastic used was changed to ABS. It is more stable and non-toxic and still in use today. In 1964, instruction manuals were added to packages of Lego blocks and soon more sets were sold with the blocks to build amazing creations and the pictures to help even small children build them. In the 1970s, the product line expanded and started to offer products to girls such as houses with furniture. A greater array of masterpieces could be built using hundreds of blocks. Minifigures were added as were the movie based lines of products. There have been Lego movies, games, and competitions. There are six Legoland amusement parks created as well.

Godtfred took over the management of the company after his father’s death in 1958. His own son, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen (no explanation for spelling change), took over as president and CEO when his father retired. He ran the company until his retirement in 2004 and remains the richest Dane with a net worth of nearly $10 billion. Today, Jørgen Vig Knudstorp is the CEO and the first non-family member to hold that position. After a downturn in business from which the company was able to rebound, they have sold over 600 billion Lego parts. In February 1915, Lego replaced Ferrari as Brand Finance’s “world’s most powerful brand”.

If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door. – Milton Berle

We build too many walls and not enough bridges. – Isaac Newton

You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality. – Walt Disney

You can’t build a great building on a weak foundation. You must have a solid foundation if you’re going to have a strong superstructure. – Gordon B. Hinckley

Your License and Registration, Please

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 28, 2015
Sample speeding ticket

Sample speeding ticket

January 28, 1896: Walter Arnold gets a ticket. He is believed to be the first person to ever be given a ticket for speeding. He was fined for going 8 mph in town where the speed limit was 2 mph. He was fined one shilling plus costs. The first speed limit came from the United Kingdom’s Stage Carriage Act of 1832 where the idea was introduced that it was illegal to endanger the safety of a passenger or person by “furious driving”. No actual speed limit was set at that time. Then a series of Locomotive Acts were passed in 1861, 1865, and 1878 with the earliest of these introducing a top speed of 10 mph in the UK. This was reduced to 2 mph in towns and 4 mph in rural areas by the next act. The Locomotives on Highways Act of 1896 raised the limit to 14 mph which was estimated the speed at which a horse being driven “furiously” would travel.

Today, most countries have set maximums for traveling on their roads. Some have also set minimum speeds. Speed limits are posted via a traffic sign and are commonly set for various portions of roads by legislative bodies. Speeds are enforced by national or regional police. Today, the highest posted speed limit is 140 km/h (87 mph) for some roads in Poland and Bulgaria. Texas has a 40-mile long stretch of toll road with a limit of 85 mph (137 km/h). Some roads have no speed limit for certain classes of vehicles. The best known of these are Germany’s Autobahns. A German study found that the average speed on a 6-lane section of autobahn in free-flowing traffic was 142 km/h or 88 mph. There are some areas in other places in the world without posted limits, but because the roads are lower design, the speeds are also lower.

Speed limits are set in an attempt to cap traffic speed for a number of reasons. The most cited reasons are to improve traffic safety and reduce the number of traffic casualties from traffic collisions. The World Health Organization’s report, World report on road traffic injury prevention, identifies speed control as one of the best ways to reduce road casualties. The WHO estimates that there were 1.2 million people killed and 50 million injured on roads around the world in 2004. Another major reason for speed limits is environmental impact reductions. Vehicle noise, vibration, and emissions are lessened with lower speeds. Natural conditions of the roads are another reason for speed reduction as is done inside city limits.

There have been a number of studies showing that reductions in speed limits can reduce the number of traffic fatalities. Posting a lower speed limit doesn’t always make drivers drive at the new lower limit, but it does lower the average speed of all drivers. One of the first studies done in Sweden in 1990 showed that a reduction of 110 km/h to 90 km/h had speed lowered by 14 km/h and fatal crashes were reduced by 21%. Not all studies were this positive. In Australia in 1996, a report on speed decreases of 5-20 km/h showed no significant change as did the 1992 US study reporting on lowering speed limits by 5-15 mph. The WHO also reported (in 2002) that 22% of all injury related deaths were due to traffic accidents.

People spend so much time in their cars, and it’s a legal way to have fun by speeding a little bit or testing yourself a little bit, and you get to invest in your car. For some people, it becomes their baby. – Jordana Brewster

I think God’s going to come down and pull civilization over for speeding. – Steven Wright

I get speeding ticket like everybody else. If the restaurant is full I’m waiting in line like everybody else. – Mikhail Baryshnikov

Men are superior to women, for one thing they can urinate from a speeding car. – Will Durst

Also on this day: Beautiful Snow – In 1887, the largest snowflake on record was found.
Serendipitous Find – In 1754, Horace Walpole coined a new word.
Lighting the Night – In 1807, the first street was lit by gas light.
Challenged – In 1986, the Challenger exploded.
Yale Daily News – In 1878, the newspaper first saw print.

Yale Daily News

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 28, 2014
Yale Daily News - First edition

Yale Daily News – First edition

January 28, 1878: Yale Daily News is first published. It is and always has been an independent student newspaper published by Yale University students. The University itself was established in 1701 in what was then the Colony of Connecticut. It is the third oldest college/university in the US. Four colleges were founded previous to Yale, but only Harvard and William Mary and still exist. Henricus Colledge was founded in 1618 and closed in 1624. Yale’s chartered name was the Collegiate School and it was established with the goal of training clergy and political leaders for the colony. The name changed in 1718 when Elihu Yale gave a substantial gift to the school.

The Yale Daily News is published Monday through Friday during the academic year. It is financially and editorially independent from the University. The editorial and business staff are all students. It is produced in the Briton Hadden Memorial Building in New Haven and printed off-site at Turley Publications in Palmer, Massachusetts. Reporters, mainly freshman and sophomores, cover stories originating on the campus as well as in the city of New Haven and the state of Connecticut. Monday’s editions have an expanded sport section and Friday’s edition have an Opinion Forum and “WEEKEND” – an arts and living section. On Tuesdays, readers find an Arts & Culture spread with a Science & Technology section on Wednesdays. Thursdays have a Business & Enterprise page.

Once only available through subscription, the paper is now delivered free. The Yale Herald, another student newspaper but published only weekly (and delivered free), had cut into the Yale Daily News’s subscription rate and the lowest number was 570 readers in 1994. The daily paper has served as a training ground for many journalists who went on to work for a variety of papers and magazines including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Time, Newsweek, The New Yorker and The Economist.

This paper, founded in 1878, lays claim to being the “oldest college daily” in the US. However, the claim has detractors. The Harvard Crimson calls itself the “oldest continuously published college daily” since it was founded in 1873. However, its original name was The Magenta and it was only published every two weeks. It did not become a daily paper until 1883. Other papers were published earlier as well, but they were not published on a daily basis until some time after their inception. The Yale Daily News ceased publication briefly during each of the World Wars because their editors volunteered for military service. Today, Julia Zorthian is editor and Julie Leong is publisher for the paper.

The innovation which we begin by this morning’s issue is justified by the dullness of the times, and the demand for news among us. – Yale Daily News editors in the first edition

A newspaper is a device for making the ignorant more ignorant and the crazy crazier. – H. L. Mencken

I read about eight newspapers in a day. When I’m in a town with only one newspaper, I read it eight times. – Will Rogers

The fact that a man is a newspaper reporter is evidence of some flaw of character. – Lyndon B. Johnson

Also on this day: Beautiful Snow – In 1887, the largest snowflake on record was found.
Serendipitous Find – In 1754, Horace Walpole coined a new word.
Lighting the Night – In 1807, the first street was lit by gas light.
Challenged – In 1986, the Challenger exploded.

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Words and More Words

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 28, 2013


January 28, 1754: Horace Walpole coins a new word, serendipity, in a letter to Horace Mann. Walpole, author and cousin to Lord Nelson, wrote to a fellow Englishman then residing in Florence, Italy. Walpole referred to a fairy tale called The Three Princes of Serendip and their fortuitous discoveries. He went on to explain how these accidental discoveries were, in fact, a perfect example of “serendipity” thus creating the new word meaning “accidental sagacity.”

English is the third most spoken tongue in the world. There are about 1.8 billion people who speak it either as a first or second language. Languages are living things; they grow and change over time. Words are added or lost and meanings are altered with time and place. Words enter the vocabulary in various ways. They are brought in from another language such as chaise lounge from the French. They are proper nouns that turn into common nouns, such as the trademarked Kleenex and the name Mrs. Malaprop from her role in a play where her constant misuse of words eventually led to the term malapropism entering the language meaning a Freudian slip, another example.

Words sometimes originate as acronyms such as LASER, RADAR, and SONAR. Backronyms are words that are given meaning after the word is chosen such as Yahoo, Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle. Words enter via science, literature, politics, commerce, as well as pop culture. There are web sites that keep track of new usages of words. For example, spider, the insect, became spider, a bot that ran across the web searching for items to display in a list, such as a Google search.

Some neologisms, or new words, have a meteoric rise and then crash and burn into oblivion. Other words enter slowly and become part of the mainstream language. The life cycle of a word may follow a course of instability (new, used by few people or a subculture), diffused (spreading but not yet widespread), stable (gaining recognition and probably lasting inclusion), and finally dated (not only no longer new, but heading toward cliché). Both Lewis Carroll and Dr. Seuss enlivened their stories with abundant words not found in any dictionary – at the time they were written. It might be fun to let The Lorax read Jabberwocky.

“Serendipity. Look for something, find something else, and realize that what you’ve found is more suited to your needs than what you thought you were looking for.” – Lawrence Block

“Serendipity is looking in a haystack for a needle and discovering a farmer’s daughter.” – Julius Comroe Jr.

“The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’, but ‘That’s funny …'” – Isaac Asimov

“Yesterday’s neologisms, like yesterday’s jargon, are often today’s essential vocabulary.” – Academic Instincts

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Horace Walpole, or Haratio Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford was born in 1717, the youngest son of British Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole. He was educated at Bexley, Eton College, and King’s College. While in Cambridge, his religious views became far more skeptical and he developed an aversion to superstition and bigotry. His mother died when he was twenty and he was bereft. He never married although he did carry on some serious “flirtations” with unmarriageable women. His sexual orientation has been debated and although contemporaries classified him as somewhat effeminate, most consider him to be asexual rather than homosexual. He is most remembered today for the Gothic Revival villa he built, beginning in 1749. The house is known by the name of Strawberry Hill.

Also on this day: Beautiful Snow – In 1887, the largest snowflake on record was found.
Lighting the Night – In 1807, the first street was lit by gas light.
Challenged – In 1986, the Challenger exploded.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 28, 2012

Challenger explosion

January 28, 1986: At 11:38:00.010 the space shuttle Challenger hits T=0 or liftoff. Later review showed a puff of black smoke issued from the right SRB (Solid Rocket Booster) at T+0.678. The last smoke puff was seen at T+2.733. The smoke dissipated by T+3.375. At T+28 the engines throttled back to limit velocity in the dense lower atmosphere. At T+35.379 they throttled back further to 65%. At T+51.860, after passing through Mach 1 speed, the engines throttled back up. All was going as planned. The shuttle passed Max Q, the period of maximum aerodynamic pressure. Just as it passed through, it encountered the greatest wind shear experienced to date.

At T+58.788 a tracking camera spotted a plume on the right SRB. At T+60.238 flame was visible near the plume. At T+64.660 the plume’s shape changed indicating a liquid hydrogen leak. At T+68 both astronauts and ground control were preparing to “throttle up” and all were unaware of any problem. At T+72.284 the right SRB pulled away from the strut. At T+72.525 the shuttle accelerated to the right at an angle and force unprecedented and unsupported by the engineering of the craft. At T+73.124 the aft dome of the liquid hydrogen tank failed. At T+73.162 the shuttle disintegrated.

The crew consisted of Michael J. Smith (pilot), Dick Scobee (commander), Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, Judith Resnik, and winner of the Teacher in Space, Christa McAuliffe. By the time of the launch, space shots were common. With the addition of the civilian teacher as one of the crew, many jaded Americans once again tuned in to watch the launch, televised extensively. Within an hour, 85% of Americans knew the Challenger and all her passengers were gone.

President Reagan formed a special group, the Rogers Commission, to investigate the disaster. All further launches were put on hold and it was 32 months before Americans once again flew to outer space. The Commission’s findings pointed to a faulty O-ring. The flaw was first found in 1977 but was not properly addressed. NASA also failed to heed the warnings of engineers concerning launches on cold days. Both factors led to the catastrophe.

Sometimes, when we reach for the stars, we fall short. But we must pick ourselves up again and press on despite the pain. – Ronald Reagan

I took this stuff that I got out of your seal and I put it in ice water, and I discovered that when you put some pressure on it for a while and then undo it, it does not stretch back. It stays the same dimension. In other words, for a few seconds at least and more seconds than that, there is no resilience in this particular material when it is at a temperature of 32 degrees. – Richard Feynman

The Committee feels … the fundamental problem was poor technical decision-making over a period of several years by top NASA and contractor personnel, who failed to act decisively to solve the increasingly serious anomalies in the Solid Rocket Booster joints. – U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology

I touch the future. I teach. – Christa McAuliffe

Also on this day:

Beautiful Snow – In 1887, the largest snowflake on record was found.
Serendipitous Find – In 1754, Horace Walpole coined a new word.
Lighting the Night – In 1807, the first street was lit by gas light.

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Lighting the Night

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 28, 2011

London street, lit by gas lights

January 28, 1807: The first street is lit by gas light. Pall Mall is in the City of Westminster, London. Pall Mall East continues into Trafalgar Square. The name is derived from a mallet-and-ball game that was played there during the 1600s. It is home to various gentlemen’s clubs built there in the 19th and 20th centuries. It was once the center of the fine arts in London, as well. Most of the southern side of the street is held by the Crown with St. James’s Palace, Marlborough House, and the Prince Regent’s Carlton House all located on the street. It was also home to the War Office.

Lighting the streets at night has a history running back to at least 1417 when Sir Henry Barton, Mayor of London, ordered lanterns to be hung during the winter nights between Hallowtide and Candlemasse. Paris first lit the streets in 1524 and in some places, residents were ordered to keep candles lit in their windows to help illuminate winter darkened roads. London made a law in 1716 making it mandatory that all houses facing any street, lane, or passage, hang out a lantern every dark night from six to eleven, or be fined one shilling.

Coal mining proved to have a side effect. Gases were noted, some called “choke damp” and another type labeled “fire damp.” It was noted by experimenters that this gas could support combustion. Dr. Stephen Hales was the first to make a liquid from the distillation of coal with a byproduct of coal-gas and published his findings in 1726. By 1735, by accident, Dr. John Clayton found the coal-gas to be flammable as it came into contact with his candle.

William Murdoch used this flammable gas for lighting purposes in the early 1790s. He first lit his own house using this new gas in 1792. By 1798, he was lighting the main building of the Soho Foundry where he worked. In 1802, he and his partners gave a demonstration of this technique out of doors. Samuel Clegg saw the business opportunity and set up his own business, the Gas Lighting and Coke Company. This day showed the first public demonstration of the technique in London. Soon, Parliament granted Gas Lighting a charter and they became the first gas company in the world. The artificial lighting spread first across England and then moved to the rest of the world.

“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.” – Ben Sweetland

“Light gives of itself freely, filling all available space.  It does not seek anything in return; it asks not whether you are friend or foe.  It gives of itself and is not thereby diminished.” – Michael Strassfeld

“You can’t have a light without a dark to stick it in.” – Arlo Guthrie

“Dare to reach out your hand into the darkness, to pull another hand into the light.” – Norman B. Rice

Also on this day:
Beautiful Snow – In 1887, the largest snowflake on record was found.
Neologisms – In 1754 a new word (serendipity) was coined by Horace Walpole.

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Beautiful Snow

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 28, 2010

Miles City, Montana in 1881

January 28, 1887: The largest snowflake ever measured is seen. During a snowstorm at Fort Keogh, Montana, a flake measuring 15 inches wide and 8 inches thick was found. The fort is located on the west side of Miles City and today is part of the United States Department of Agriculture livestock and range research project. Miles City has a population of about 8,500 and covers 3.3 square miles. The average temperature for Miles City is 27° F for the month of January. They receive an average of 0.28 inches of precipitation in January, too.

Snow is precipitation in the form of crystalline ice. Snow is made when water vapor changes to ice high in the atmosphere at temperatures of less than 0º C and then falls to earth. What affects snowfall worldwide is latitude [distance from the equator] and elevation. Therefore, even though Mount Kilimanjaro is near the equator, because of it’s elevation, it is snow covered. Because of extreme cold at the poles, little water vapor is retained and it rarely snows there.

Snowstorms with a large amount of falling snow and high wind are called blizzards. Because snow is less dense, the water that would produce 1 in. of rain would make 10 inches of snow. Snowfall needs the proper conditions for temperature and humidity to occur. Lake effect snow is caused by prevailing winds blowing over large bodies of water, picking up moisture and then cooling once it makes landfall and causing large accumulations of snow. Mountainous areas are also famous for snow as the air forced to ascend the ranges then has the precipitation squeezed from it along the windward slopes.

Mount Baker in Washington set a world record for snowfall during the winter of 1998-1999, with 1,124 inches, or 96.6 feet. The greatest amount of snow in a single snowstorm was at Mount Shasta Ski Bowl in California, on February 13 – 19, 1959 when 189 inches fell.

Wilson Bentley was famous for his pictures of snowflakes.

“Snow and adolescence are the only problems that disappear if you ignore them long enough.” – Earl Wilson

“There is nothing in the world more beautiful than the forest clothed to its very hollows in snow. It is the still ecstasy of nature, wherein every spray, every blade of grass, every spire of reed, every intricacy of twig, is clad with radiance.” – William Sharp

“Snowflakes, like people, are all different and beautiful, but they can be a nuisance when they lose their identity in a mob” – unknown

“The aging process has you firmly in its grasp if you never get the urge to throw a snowball.” – Doug Larson

Also on this day, in 1754 a new word, serendipity, was coined by Horace Walpole.

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