Little Bits of History

January 29

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 29, 2017

1861: Kansas is admitted to the US as the 34th state. The region has been inhabited for millennia by several different native tribes. The name Kansas comes from the tribe living there when Europeans arrived, the Kansa. Francisco Vásquez de Coronado was the first non-native to explore the region for Spain in 1541. Most of the land came into the possession of the United States when purchased from France as part of the Louisiana Purchase. The southwest portion of what would become the state was still part of Spain, Mexico, and the Republic of Texas. At the end of the Mexican-American War, this territory was ceded to the US and became part of the Missouri Territory. The Santa Fe Trail bisected the state and was a major route across the Midwest from 1821 to 1880.

The first permanent settlement of Americans was built in 1827 at Fort Leavenworth. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 established two new territories – Nebraska and Kansas which included parts of present day Colorado, including Denver, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo. The dates of settlement coincided with the build up to the US Civil War and the state was a hotbed of dispute between free and slave states. Missouri and Arkansas sent in settlers to help sway votes to a slave state. Waves of abolitionists from as far away as Massachusetts arrived in order to keep the area free. As the forces collided, the region became known as Bleeding Kansas.

On this day, as the new state entered the union, it did so as a free state and most of the violence there had subsided, at least until brought back by the fighting of the War. After the war, many veterans (black and white and north and south) came to Kansas to farm. Many freed blacks set up whole communities away from the old South and they were known as Exodusters. The Chisholm Trail opened and the area became part of the Wild West with colorful characters free to range across what was mostly wide open spaces.

The state covers 87,278 square miles and is the 15th largest state in the union. It has a population of approximately 3 million, ranking it as 34th largest. The capital is Topeka but Wichita is the largest city with Kansas City having the largest metropolitan reach. Kansas has several large corporate industries employing several thousand Kansans. They are eighth in oil production in the US and that has declined with time. However, natural gas and wind farms supply other energy sources. Kansas is known for its volatile weather, including many tornadoes and The Wizard of Oz is probably one of the most famous movies set in Kansas – at least in part.

Kansas had better stop raising corn and begin raising hell. – Mary Elizabeth Lease

It isn’t necessary to have relatives in Kansas City in order to be unhappy. – Groucho Marx

As a young girl, I saw commitment in my grandmother, who helped Grandpa homestead our farm on the Kansas prairie. Somehow they outlasted the Dust Bowl, the Depression, and the tornadoes that terrorize the Great Plains. – Sheri L. Dew

Nothing is eternally stable, and even Kansas isn’t really in Kansas anymore. The earth is in a constant state of flux. – Simon Winchester

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Far Out, Man

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 29, 2015
Mantra Rock Dance poster

Mantra Rock Dance poster

January 29, 1967: The Mantra Rock Dance takes place. It was a counterculture event put on by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) as a way for founder AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada to have access to a wider audience for fundraising on the West Coast of the US. It was held at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco. Prabhupada came from India to New York City in 1965 and found an increased interest in consciousness-expanding spirituality already growing. He was able to set up a temple in the Big Apple and was also asked to set up another on the west coast by some of his earliest followers, Mukunda Das and his wife Janaki Dasi.

The group headed west and met up with Das’s college friends and opened for business in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco. At the time, the area was turning into a hippie haven. They wished to expand Prabhupada’s teachings and needed the funding to do so. They felt giving a rock concert would be an opportune method. Some of the more reverent apostles back in New York City found the idea of “amplified guitars, pounding drums, wild light shows, and hundreds of drugged hippies” to be anathema to the message intended. But Prabhupada traveled from New York City to San Francisco for the event.

Headlining the concert was the Grateful Dead and Big Brother and the Holding Company, Janis Joplin’s band. Also appearing was Moby Grape relatively unknown at the time. The musicians were willing to perform for “musicians’ union minimum” of $250. Beatnik poet Allen Ginsberg was also included. He had helped Prabhupada get an extended US visa and although he didn’t hold to all of the swami’s prohibitions as stated, especially the ones about drugs and promiscuity, he was enchanted by the philosophy. Ginsberg often publicly sang the Hare Krishna mantra – something he had learned on a trip to India.

The concert was held on a Sunday evening and tickets were available only at the door where admittance cost $2.50. The concert began at 8 PM and nearly all 3,000 seats were filled. Latecomers had to wait outside in the hopes of someone leaving. Inside, people were given prasad or sanctified food. There was a ban on drugs that was neither obeyed nor enforced but the atmosphere remained peaceful. A few Hells Angels were at the back of the stage as security guards. Timothy Leary made an appearance. The evening wore on and was later proclaimed to have been a beautiful night and “the ultimate high”. It was “the major spiritual event of the San Francisco hippy era.”

Almost everyone who came wore bright or unusual costumes: tribal robes, Mexican ponchos, Indian kurtas, “God’s-eyes,” feathers, and beads. Some hippies brought their own flutes, lutes, gourds, drums, rattles, horns, and guitars. – Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami

The Hell’s Angels, dirty-haired, wearing jeans, boots, and denim jackets and accompanied by their women, made their entrance, carrying chains, smoking cigarettes, and displaying their regalia of German helmets, emblazoned emblems, and so on – everything but their motorcycles, which they had parked outside. – Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami

Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness. – Allen Ginsberg

The only thing that can save the world is the reclaiming of the awareness of the world. That’s what poetry does. – Allen Ginsberg

Also on this day: Oh, No – O-Three – In 1978, Sweden became the first nation to ban certain aerosols to protect the ozone layer.
Honorable – In 1856, the Victoria Cross medal was established.
“Nevermore!” – In 1845, The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe was printed for the first time.
Nevermore – In 1945, the poem was published (a different look at the event).
Like a Phoenix – In 1996, La Fenice was destroyed by fire.

Like a Phoenix

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 29, 2014
La Fenice

La Fenice

January 29, 1996: La Fenice is destroyed by fire. Teatro La Fenice (The Phoenix) is an opera house in Venice, Italy. In 1774 Venice’s most famous opera house, San Benedetto Theatre, burned to the ground. It was rebuilt and immediately a legal dispute followed. The company managing the theater and the owners, the Venier family, took their matter to the courts where the Veniers won. Reconstruction had begun in June 1790 and the theater was completed in May 1792 and renamed La Fenice – an allusion to the rising from the ashes of the flames as well as the legal entanglements. The new opera house officially opened on May 16, 1792 with an opera by Giovanni Paisiello.

In just a few short years, the venue had acquired a European reputation for excellence. Rossini and Bellini both opened two major productions there. Donizetti came back to Venice in 1836 after an absence lasting 17 years where he played in Milan and Naples. However, the theater was again burned to the ground in December 1836. This time, the rebuilding was done quickly and the theater reopened on December 26, 1837. Verdi’s association with the theater began in 1844 and over the next thirteen years he opened four operas at La Fenice.

During World War I the opera house closed but reopened afterwards. Many of the world’s greatest singers and conductors gave performances there. The First International Festival of Contemporary Music took place in 1930 and over the years the event brought in many composers such as Stravinsky, Britten, Berio, Nono, and Bussotti. On this day, two electricians, Enrico Carella and Massimillano Marchetti, set a fire which again destroyed the building. They were facing heavy fines on delays with their repair work there. Both men have served prison time, Carella after he was finally captured at the Mexico-Belize border in 2007.

It took five years for rebuilding to begin. In 650 days the building was again ready for use. Over 200 plasterers, artists, woodworkers, and other craftsmen were able to bring the ambience of the old theater back to life at a cost of €90 million. The seating capacity was increased from 840 to 1000. It was rebuilt in 19th-century style with architect Aldo Rossi using old photographs to help with the design. La Fenice opened once again on December 14, 2003 with a concert of Beethoven, Wagner, and Stravinsky. The first opera performed there was La Traviata by Verdi in November 2004. Like a phoenix, once again, the opera house is alive with music.

The opera is to music what a bawdy house is to a cathedral. – H. L. Mencken

No good opera plot can be sensible, for people do not sing when they are feeling sensible. – W. H. Auden

People are wrong when they say opera is not what it used to be. It is what it used to be. That is what’s wrong with it. – Noel Coward

Staid middle age loves the hurricane passions of opera. – Mason Cooley

Also on this day: Oh, No – O-Three – In 1978, Sweden became the first nation to ban certain aerosols to protect the ozone layer.
Honorable – In 1856, the Victoria Cross medal was established.
“Nevermore!” – In 1845, The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe was printed for the first time.
Nevermore – In 1845, the poem was published (a different look at the event).

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Victoria Cross

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 29, 2013
Victoria Cross

Victoria Cross

January 29, 1856: The Victoria Cross (VC) is established by Queen Victoria. It is the highest military decoration awarded for valor “in the face of the enemy.” Members of the military of the Commonwealth and some British Empire territories are eligible to receive the honor. It takes precedence over all other orders, decorations, and medals. The VC is granted regardless of rank or service area and can also be bestowed on civilians under military command. The British monarch presents the medal during an investiture service at Buckingham Palace.

The only comparable British award is the George Cross which is awarded for outstanding bravery and valor but not in the face of the enemy. Should someone receive both honors, the VC would be worn first. The medal is a bronze Cross pattée with a Crown and Lion Superimposed and holds the motto: “For Valour.” It has been awarded 1,356 times to 1,353 different individuals. Three people have been awarded the VC and bar – a medal for two separate actions.

Queen Victoria instituted the award as a result of the Crimean War. In 1854, 40 years of relative peace were brought to an end when Britain came into major conflict with Russia. The Crimean War was one of the first wars with modern reporting and dispatches from William Howard Russell told of the many acts of bravery and honor on the front lines – most of them unrewarded. Officers were eligible for awards but there weren’t awards unrelated to rank, as there were in other countries.

The Queen’s Warrant was put forth under the Royal-sign manual and backdated to 1854 in order to include the brave forces from the Crimean War. The VC comes with a yearly annuity which began at £10 and is now £1,495 if awarded by the British government, $3,000 if Canadian, and $A3,230 for Australians. At one time, the VC was forfeit should the recipient commit some heinous crime and it happened eight times. It is no longer the case and hasn’t been invoked, even while still part of the Warrant, since 1908. The last VC was awarded in 2007 to Bill Apiata who served with the New Zealand Special Air Service in Afghanistan. He is the first New Zealander to be awarded this prestigious honor.

“We are not interested in the possibilities of defeat. They do not exist.”

“The important thing is not what they think of me, but what I think of them.”

“I think people really marry far too much; it is such a lottery after all, and for a poor woman a very doubtful happiness.”

“Great events make me quiet and calm; it is only trifles that irritate my nerves.” – all from Queen Victoria

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: The last VC to be awarded was on August 24, 2010 and bestowed upon Daniel Keighran, serving with the 6th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment in Afghanistan. The remuneration scale remains as stated above. Since they are rare, they are also highly prized and many have been sold at auction. The highest amount ever paid for one was over £400,000. There are both public and private collections of the medals. Lord Ashcroft began collecting in 1986 and since that time has been able to accumulate  over 1/10 of all VC ever awarded or over 135 medals. In November 2012, Lord Ashcroft’s collection was displayed at the Imperial War Museum next to their own VC and George Cross medals.

Also on this day: Oh, No – O-Three – In 1978, Sweden became the first nation to ban certain aerosols to protect the ozone layer.
“Nevermore!” – In 1845, The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe was printed for the first time.
Nevermore – In 1945, the poem was published (a different look at the event).

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 29, 2012

Edgar Allan Poe's raven perched above the door

January 29, 1845: The New York Evening Mirror prints “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe. It has become Poe’s most famous poem. It was widely reprinted and Poe became famous as a result. He did not gain great wealth, however. He was paid around $15 overall for the poem. That would be a little less than $350 today. The sensational poem inspired the author’s work, “The Philosophy of Composition.” In this essay, Poe wrote about writing in general and this poem in particular. Poe was 36 when the poem first saw print.

Poe’s life is shrouded in mystery – from birth to death. He was born in Boston in 1809 but his birth is sometimes given as occurring in Baltimore in 1811. Once, Poe claimed to have been born in 1813, two years after his mother’s death. Poe was known as a practical jokester and spread tales about himself and his “grandfather,” Benedict Arnold, especially inflammatory since Poe was attending West Point at the time. There are some who read Poe’s body of work as an autobiography hoping to gain insight into the author’s life.

While details of his birth remain hidden, details of his death are even more mysterious. In June 1849 Poe began an early book tour of sorts, trying to gain support for a magazine he hoped to publish. Poe arrived in Baltimore on September 28. Details are sketchy at best and his movements are unknown. The next fact available to history is a letter from Joseph W. Walker sent to Dr. J.E. Snodgrass on October 3 asking for the doctor’s help. Snodgrass, a friend of Poe’s, arrived and Poe was sent to Washington College Hospital. He was in and out of consciousness and died on the morning of October 7 at either 3 or 5 AM. There is no indication he was found drunk in a gutter. There are several theories regarding cause of death. The local paper unhelpfully listed the cause as “congestion of the brain.”

“The Raven is a narrative poem probably written in late 1844 while Poe was staying at Patrick Brennan’s farm in New York. The poem is noted for its musical qualities, stylized language, and hints of the supernatural. The poem tells the story of a young man’s descent into madness after losing his love, Lenore. He is further tormented by a talking raven perched on a bust of Pallas and chanting “Nevermore.” The young man, bereft, yearns both to forget and to remember his adored lost love.

Quoth the raven, “Nevermore.”

I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.

The true genius shudders at incompleteness – and usually prefers silence to saying something which is not everything it should be.

Stupidity is a talent for misconception.

Science has not yet taught us if madness is or is not the sublimity of the intelligence. – all from Edgar Allan Poe

Also on this day:

Oh, No – O-Three – In 1978, Sweden became the first nation to ban certain aerosols to protect the ozone layer.
Honorable – In 1856, the Victoria Cross medal was established.
“Nevermore!” – In 1845, The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe was printed for the first time. (I appear to have lost my mind and wrote about the same thing twice, but they are different looks at the same event.)


Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 29, 2011

Edgar Allan Poe

January 29, 1845: The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe reaches print for the first time in the New York Evening Mirror. Poe was a poet, a short story writer who dabbled in science fiction and virtually created the detective and crime fiction genres, an editor, and a critic of other’s work. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts, USA in 1809, his father abandoned the family in 1810, and his mother died of tuberculosis in 1811. John Allan, a successful businessman in Richmond, Virginia, took Poe in.

The Raven is a beautifully worded, musically cadenced, narrative poem told in an eerie and dark manor. The narrator, a man who has lost his love, Lenore, is visited by the black bird that sits above the door speaking only one word – nevermore. The bird watches and exacerbates the man’s slow and irrevocable descent into madness.

Many of Poe’s poems are a study in guilt or “perverseness.” This is not the guilt associated with law or morals. It isn’t based on right or wrong. It is the guilt that, in Poe’s words, speaks to “the human thirst for self-torture.” The narrator continually asks the bird questions that would best be served by a positive answer while knowing full well that the only response is the negative, “Nevermore!” The poem illustrates the man’s physical terror and describes the psychological torture of the doomed.

In his essay “Philosophy of Composition” Poe explains that self-destruction and self-induced anguish already exist in the heart of his protagonists. The death of beautiful women, left unexplained as to cause, is the most poetic of all topics, according to Poe. In this poem, as in many others, we are not told the cause of Lenore’s death because to Poe it made no difference. Beauty has died. The torture remains. The man must choose between the pain of remembrance and the pain of forgetting. When will the anguish end? Nevermore.

“Leave my loneliness unbroken!- quit the bust above my door! / Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door! / Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore.’” – from the poem, The Raven

“I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.”

“Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.”

“Science has not yet taught us if madness is or is not the sublimity of the intelligence.” – all from Edgar Allan Poe

Also on this day:
Oh, No – O-Three – In 1978, Sweden became the first nation to ban certain aerosols to protect the ozone layer.
Victoria Cross – In 1856, Queen Victoria established the Victoria Cross.


Oh, No – O-Three

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 29, 2010

Earth and the atmospheric layers

January 29, 1978: Sweden is the first nation to institute a ban on aerosol sprays citing harm to the ozone layer. Aerosols are a canister containing liquid under pressure which is dissolved with a propellant of compressed gas. The droplets of the propellant quickly evaporates after spraying. The idea for an aerosol goes back to about 1790. However the first aerosol can was invented in Oslo by Erik Rotheim on November 23, 1927. The patent was sold to the US for 100,000 Norwegian kroner. By 1939 a patent was granted for a disposable aerosol can but was not put into widespread use until 1941.

Different types of gasses can be used as the propellant. The problem gas, the one that depletes the ozone layer, is a group of gases called chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs]. Since the Montreal Protocol came into force in 1989, CFCs have been replaced with hydrocarbons which are flammable, nitrous oxide used in food or hydrofluroralkanes used in medicinal sprays.

The ozone layer is a part of the Earth’s atmosphere which contains relatively high concentrations [a few parts per million, which is much higher than at lower atmosphere levels] of ozone – 03. This layer of the atmosphere is responsible for absorbing most of the ultraviolet light sent our way from the sun. Between 93 and 99% of the light rays are absorbed in this lower portion of the stratosphere, located between six and 31 miles above the Earth’s surface. Ultraviolet light isn’t all bad and we need some to help produce Vitamin D. Too much of this type of light can cause ill effect to the immune system and damage skin and eyes.

On August 2, 2003 scientists announced that the worldwide ban of CFCs and other chemical compounds that were thought to be the cause of the hole in the ozone layer has been successful. They stated that the depletion of the layer may be slowing down.

“Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth.” – Henry David Thoreau

“I’m not an environmentalist.  I’m an Earth warrior.” – Darryl Cherney

“Oh Beautiful for smoggy skies, insecticided grain,
For strip-mined mountain’s majesty above the asphalt plain.
America, America, man sheds his waste on thee,
And hides the pines with billboard signs, from sea to oily sea.” – George Carlin

“Civilization… wrecks the planet from seafloor to stratosphere.” – Richard Bach

Also on this day, in 1856 Queen Victoria established the Victoria Cross.