Little Bits of History

January 3

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 3, 2017

1911: The Siege of Sidney Street takes place. In the late 19th century, the largest community of Jews in the world resided in Russia and the Tsarist regime instituted religious persecution and violent pogroms. Between 1875 and 1914 about 150,000 Jews emigrated to the United Kingdom with most living in England. Most of these were poor and unskilled laborers and many settled in the East End of London with many neighborhoods completely comprised of refugees. Some of those who fled were revolutionaries and while London was less oppressive than the Russian homeland, it was not progressive enough. The press labeled them both Socialists and Anarchists and Whitechapel was one of the worst regions, harboring avowed anarchists and criminals.

By the turn of the century, gang warfare in the East End was increasing and groups formed along lines of area of origin. By 1910, a group of refugees formed the Anarchist Club in Jubilee Street, Stepney. Many members were not revolutionaries and used the club as a social meeting place. But a small group of Latvians became involved in events perpetrated by the more radicalized members. They were led by George Gardstein (an alias) who had been a revolutionary/activist accused of murder in 1905 before fleeing Warsaw. Their group had many other known agitators and disaffected members who were anarchists.

London itself was policed by two separate forces, the Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police (responsible for keeping peace in the historic City boundaries). In December 1910, a jewelry heist in Houndsditch with resulting murders put the original criminal activity in the City district, but the ensuing problems on Sidney Street was part of the Metropolitan Police district. Investigation of the murders led to suspects on Sidney Street. Just after midnight on this date, 200 police officers formed a combined force and began to evacuate the area. The edict of the time meant police could only fire guns if they were shot at first. This made approaching the actual criminals quite perilous. By 7.30 AM, with most of the street emptied, a police officer was sent to knock on the door where the criminals lived.

Once they were awake, the criminals inside 100 Sidney Street were under no compunction to not fire first. A police officer was shot in the chest and then the gunfight began. The criminals had superior weapons and ammunition and the police were unable to bring a swift conclusion to the capture. Request for help from the military came and Winston Churchill soon arrived on the scene. The firefight was at its peak shortly after noon. It was then noted that smoke was coming from the building and it is unknown whether or not the fire was intentionally set. Churchill directed the firefighters to let the house burn and only try to contain the fire and keep it from spreading. By 2.30 PM no more shots were fired from the house.

I told the fire-brigade officer on my authority as Home Secretary that the house was to be allowed to burn down and that he was to stand by in readiness to prevent the conflagration from spreading. – Winston Churchill

I did not interfere in any way with the dispositions made by the police authorities on the spot. I never overruled those authorities nor overrode them. – Winston Churchill

Every anarchist is a baffled dictator. – Benito Mussolini

It’s an old anarchist dream that people can take care of their own lives. – Todd Gitlin

Granting Vermont

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 3, 2015
Benning Wentworth

Benning Wentworth

January 3, 1849: The first of the New Hampshire Grants is made. Also called the Benning Wentworth Grants, they were land grants issued between this date and 1764 by Benning Wentworth, the provincial governor of New Hampshire. During that time, about 135 land grants were made, including 131 towns. The land was claimed by New Hampshire and was situated west of the Connecticut River. The land in question was also claimed by the Province of New York. Because the two entities quibbled over ownership, it led to the establishment of a new region – the Vermont Republic. It would later become the state of Vermont.

European settlers first came to the region when William Dummer was acting governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay. He ordered a fort to be built and had settlers move in west of the Merrimack River and built settlements along the Connecticut River. In 1741, a royal decree fixed the border between Massachusetts and New Hampshire at three miles north of Pawtucket Falls which then kept Massachusetts out of the disputed lands. Wentworth, a native New Hampshire man was also appointed as the first governor of New Hampshire in 1741. He was the first governor of New Hampshire who was not also the governor of Massachusetts.

Wentworth’s understanding of the decree was that the line of demarcation extended as far west as the border of Massachusetts which led to his seeking control over the lands which New York claimed. The New Hampshire-Massachusetts border extended to a point 20 miles east of the Hudson River. Wentworth assumed this meant he held jurisdiction in the lands west of the Connecticut River. New York’s claim was based on Letters Patent issued by Prince James, Duke of York and brother of the King which gave lands west of the Connecticut River to Delaware Bay to New York.

Wentworth began selling land grants which were usually about six miles square which was the standard size of a survey township. Each grantee paid £20 for the lands. The grants were then subdivided among proprietors and six lots set aside. One for a missionary organization, one for the Church of England, one for the first clergyman to settle in the township, one for a school, and two for Wentworth. New York was also selling land grants, usually of about the same size but irregularly shaped. Their grants were usually issued to wealthy landowners while New Hampshire’s were more often issued to middle class farmers. Most of the New York boundaries were ignored in favor of the New Hampshire boundaries when Vermont eventually achieved statehood.

Wentworth’s “New Hampshire Grants” set the stage for a bitter struggle between “Yorkers” and settlers who, having bought land from the speculators, had endured the hardships of making a life in a wilderness. – from Virtual Vermont

People want to go out and travel around and meet cool people. I could just go live in Vermont, but is that what I really want? – Tom Brady

I represent a rural state and live in a small town. Small merchants make up the majority of Vermont’s small businesses and thread our state together. It is the mom-and-pop grocers, farm-supply stores, coffee shops, bookstores and barber shops where Vermonters connect, conduct business and check in on one another. – Peter Welch

I am often reminded that the wellspring of Vermont liberty flows from Main Street, not State Street. – James H. Douglas, Jr.

Also on this day: Tokugawa Shogunate – In 1863, the Tokugawa shogunate ended.
British Empire – In 1833, the Falkland Islands came under British rule.
Slurrrppp! – In 1888, the straw was patented.
Eiffel Tower – In 1956, a fire damaged the top floors of the Eiffel Tower.
The Maid of Orleans – In 1431, Joan of Arc was handed over to Pierre Cauchon.

The Maid of Orléans

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 3, 2014
Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc

January 3, 1431: Joan of Arc is handed over to Pierre Cauchon. The Maid of Orléans was known as Jeanne d’Arc in her homeland. She was born to peasant parents in the French area of the Meuse River. The region was later incorporated into Lorraine. The family owned about 50 acres of farmland and Joan’s father supplemented their income with a position as a village official who collected taxes. Joan began receiving visions when she was about age twelve in 1424. She was visited by a trio of saints who commanded the maiden to drive the English out and bring the Dauphin to Reims for his coronation.

By the age of 16, she approached the Royal Court with offers of help but as one might expect, she was rebuffed. She tried again in January of the following year and made a prediction about a military reversal near Orléans. News from the front confirmed her prediction and she was granted an audience with Charles VII. She impressed him. Joan asked to travel with the army wearing the equipment of a knight. Her apparel was donated. The Court is thought to have been sympathetic to the young woman because she seemed to be the only ray of hope to a regime near collapse.

Joan turned a political war into a religious one. She discarded the cautious strategy of her predecessors and became a bold force against the siege of Orléans. This did not endear her to the powers in charge before her arrival. Although they attempted to exclude her, she was ever-present and when Orléans prevailed against the English, she was hailed as the heroine of the region. She encouraged Charles VII to give her co-command with Duke John II of Alencon. Her ability to both inspire and strategize brought her ever more fame. A truce was declared and Joan was left with little to do.

The truce was short lived and she was captured in a skirmish on May 23, 1430. It was customary at the time for family to ransom prisoners of war but the family’s financial position did not allow for this. Charles VII did not intervene even though Joan made several attempts at escape. On this day, she was handed over to Bishop Cauchon, an English partisan. She was brought to trial for heresy and burned at the stake. She was 19 years old at the time of her death. Twenty-five years later, Pope Calixtus III pronounced the trial in error and Joan as innocent. She was beatified by the Catholic Church in 1909 and canonized in 1920.

One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying.

Of the love or hatred God has for the English, I know nothing, but I do know that they will all be thrown out of France, except those who die there.

I would rather die than do something which I know to be a sin, or to be against God’s will.

I am not afraid… I was born to do this. – all from Joan of Arc

Also on this day: Tokugawa Shogunate – In 1863, the Tokugawa shogunate ended.
British Empire – In 1833, the Falkland Islands came under British rule.
Slurrrppp! – In 1888, the straw was patented.
Eiffel Tower – In 1956, a fire damaged the top floors of the Eiffel Tower.

Falkland Islands

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 3, 2013
Falkland Islands map

Falkland Islands map

January 3, 1833: At 9 AM, the British flag is raised over the Falkland Islands. The islands are about 300 miles east of Argentina. There are two large islands and more than 700 smaller islands in the archipelago. They contain 4,700 square miles of land area with 800 miles of coastline. Most of the smaller islands are uninhabited but 2,379 called the islands home in 2001, with most of the occupants being military and civilian personnel at the British military base, located on East Falkland Island.

The history of the islands goes back at least 500 years but active colonization didn’t occur until the 1700s. Since that time, the islands have fallen under the Spanish, French, British, and Argentinean flags. The tiny islands were represented on maps from the early 16th century. It is believed that Ferdinand Magellan or Amerigo Vespucci sighted the islands as early as 1502.

The first Europeans to land on the islands found them deserted. Later exploration has shown the islands were visited, probably by the Yaghan people of Tierra del Fuego. Arrowheads and an old canoe remain. Livestock, including foxes, found on the islands confirm some contact with the mainland. The Spanish first landed here and named the islands. The French came and renamed them. The British came, but due to problems with an uprising in their colonies, they abandoned the islands in 1776.

In 1829, Luis Vernet became governor of the islands over British protests. Vernet began seizing American ships and stealing their cargo. America sent the USS Lexington to the area. Puerto Luis was destroyed in an encounter and the islands were declared free of governance. The British sent two ships to the region. British Captain Onslow placed a written request to replace the Argentina flag with the British colors to José María Pinedo, now in charge of the area. Most of the mercenary forces under Pinedo’s command were British and they declined to fire on other Englishman. Pinedo capitulated and the Union Jack once again fluttered over the islands.

“We seem… to have conquered and peopled half the world in a fit of absence of mind.” – Sir John Seeley

“The reason why the sun never sets on The British Empire is because God doesn’t trust the British in the dark.” – unknown

“The paradox of the British: the weak who wangled the earth and were cursed for it and by it.” – Felipe Fernandez Armesto

“For better or worse — fair and foul — the world we know today is in large measure a product of Britain’s age of empire. The question is not whether British imperialism was without blemish. It was not. The question is whether there could have been a less bloody path to modernity. Perhaps in theory there could have been. But in practice?” – Niall Ferguson

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: The islands have seen attempts by both British and Argentineans to rule over the years. The last time there was a Falklands War was in 1982 when Argentine forces invaded. The British, under Margaret Thatcher took back the islands.

Also on this day: Tokugawa Shogunate – The Tokugawa shogunate ended.
Slurrrppp! – In 1888, the straw was patented.
Eiffel Tower – In 1956, a fire damaged the top floors of the Eiffel Tower.

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Eiffel Tower

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 3, 2012

Eiffel Tower

January 3, 1956: A fire damages the top floors of the Eiffel Tower. The tower was built in two years, two months, and five days (1887-1889). It was built for the Universal Exposition – the centenary celebration of the French Revolution. The tower was first offered to Barcelona for an 1888 Exposition, but officials were not impressed by the design and were overwhelmed by the cost. The tower was designed by Gustave Eiffel and is the tallest building in Paris. At the time of its construction, it was the tallest building in the world. The Chrysler Building in New York City replaced the tower as the tallest building in 1930. Today, the tallest building is the Burj Dubai – a record achieved on September 26, 2008.

When completed in 1889, the tower stood 1,024.5 feet high (with the flagpole). There have been different antennas added and in 2000 the official height with the antenna was 1,063 feet. Eiffel worked with Engineers Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier and Architect Stephen Sauvestre. There were 50 engineers and designers who produced 5,300 blueprints. The tower is made from 18,038 individual parts produced by 100 iron workers. The tower is held together by 2,500,000 rivets. The iron framework weighs 7,300 tons and the entire structures weights 10,100 tons. It is 1,665 steps up to the top and there are 20,000 bulbs used for the Sparkling Tower.

The Eiffel Tower has platforms at 187 feet, 377 feet, and 906 feet. The tower is repainted every seven years, using 60 tons of paint. There are several elevators with a combined lift capacity of 3,360 people per hour. It is one of the most easily recognized buildings in the world and has been visited by more than 240 million people since it was built. The tower was originally given a 20 year permit and was to be torn down in 1909. Ownership reverted to the City of Paris, and the tower had proved valuable for communication purposes.

Gustave Eiffel may be most famous for his tower. He was 55 years old when construction began. He was already famous for his bridges both at home and abroad. He not only worked with latticework construction, but also designed the Statue of Liberty for the US and San Sebastian Church in the Philippines. He built from Bolivia to Belgium, from Puerto Rico to Portugal. His creative genius is displayed around the world. He died in 1923 just days after his 91st birthday.

It [the Eiffel Tower] looked very different from the Statue of Liberty, but what did that matter? What was the good of having the statue without the liberty? – Josephine Baker

It seems to be saying perpetually; ‘I am the end of the nineteenth century; I am glad they built me of iron; let me rust.’ … It is like a passing fool in a crowd of the University, a buffoon in the hall; for all the things in Paris has made, it alone has neither wits nor soul. (About the Eiffel Tower.) – Hilaire Belloc

I ought to be jealous of the tower. She is more famous than I am. – Gustave Eiffel

Can one think that because we are engineers, beauty does not preoccupy us or that we do not try to build beautiful, as well as solid and long lasting structures? Aren’t the genuine functions of strength always in keeping with unwritten conditions of harmony? … Besides, there is an attraction, a special charm in the colossal to which ordinary theories of art do not apply. – Gustave Eiffel

Also on this day:

Tokugawa Shogunate – The Tokugawa shogunate ended.
British Empire – In 1833, the Falkland Islands came under British rule.
Slurrrppp! – In 1888, the straw was patented.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 3, 2011


January 3, 1888: Marvin Stone of Washington, D.C. patents the drinking straw. Straws were first used in ancient Sumeria around 3100 BC in order to fully enjoy the new drink – beer. The oldest picture of a straw is on the seal at the Sumerian city of Ur where two men are pictured drinking beer from a single crock using straws. The elite, wealthy people of ancient times had straws made of gold or lapis-lazuli.

Marvin wasn’t drinking beer. Instead, after work Marvin enjoyed a nice refreshing Mint Julep. These drinks taste even better when cold and using a straw kept the drink at the correct temperature. At the time, straws were natural tubes such as rye grass. Unfortunately, the taste of rye grass ruined the flavor of the drink. Marvin already owned a factory that made paper cigarette holders. He used the same premise to create a paper straw.

Marvin’s straws were 8.5 inches long and just wide enough so that lemon seeds were too large to pass through, because lemonade was another favorite drink of the time. Marvin created his first straws by winding a strip of paper around a pencil and gluing the ends to hold it in place. Paper straws would become soggy, so he next used paraffin coated manila paper. Within two years, his plant was manufacturing more drinking straws than cigarette holders.

Finally in 1906, a machine was developed that would wind the papers. Until that time, all straws were made by hand. Today, straws are usually made of some type of plastic. They can be straight or have a portion that bends at one end. There are “crazy straws” that are rigid and bent into a variety of shapes. Today, Marvin’s wound, spiral method is used in the manufacture of many other objects in the field of electronics, textiles, automotives, and many others.

“The idea is to sip and savor a drink or two.” – Katherine Tallmadge

“I drink when I have occasion, and sometimes when I have no occasion.” – Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

“The problem with the world is that everyone is a few drinks behind.” – Humphrey Bogart

“Drink because you are happy, but never because you are miserable.” – G. K. Chesterton

Also on this day:
Tokugawa Shogunate – In 1868, the Tokugawa shogunate ended.
Falkland Islands – In 1833, the Falklands came under British rule


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Tokugawa Shogunate

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 3, 2010

Last Shogun of Japan Tokugawa Yoshinobu in French uniform

January 3, 1868: The Tokugawa shogunate ends. Tokugawa Ieyasu started this third line of shoguns in 1603. His family retained power of Japan, ruling from Edo castle in the present-day city of Tokyo. Tokugawa consolidated power after the Sengoku Period of “warring states.”  By winning the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, he completed a centralization process and was declared shogun in 1603.

This shogunate was a totally hierarchical system. Soldiers known as Samurai, were at the top with farmers, artisans, and traders following. Since the unification led to a lessening of war possibilities, the rules for Samurai were written to include such cultural aspects of society as Noh [theater], Music, and Calligraphy. The Emperor of Japan was still the titular ruler of the country.

The shogun ruled globally throughout Japan while daimyo ruled locally at their regional sites. The daimyo were under control of the shogun with their families living in Edo while they ruled in the provinces.

The Edo Period is considered to be the beginning of modern day Japan. This was a time of urbanization and foreign commerce. It was also a time of Western influence in the arts and sciences. The fall of the shogunate was due in part to this interference of the outside world. Foreign warships were attacking from without and increased wealth and power of the entrepreneurial class was trying to wrest power from within. Unrest among the daimyo further toppled the power base of the shogunate. With the support of disaffected daimyos, the Meiji dynasty was restored to power on this date.

“For some reason, I grew up generally believing that Japan and Korea were quite friendly. I do know that there is some bad history and the extremists on both sides are unreasonable.” – Joichi Ito [Note: Japan first invaded Korea in 1592.]

“One who is a Samurai must before all things keep constantly in mind, by day and by night: the fact that he has to die” – unknown

“A samurai should always be prepared for death – whether his own or someone else’s” – Stan Sakai

“If thou knowest only what it is to conquer, and knowest not what it is to be defeated, woe unto thee; it will fare ill with thee.” – Tokugawa Ieyasu

Also on this day, in 1338 the British flag was once again raised over the Falkland Islands.