Little Bits of History

July 13

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 13, 2017

1490: Holy Trinity Church is painted. The small church is located in Hrastovlje, a village in southwestern Slovenia. It is located at the northern portion of the Istria peninsula on the Adriatic Sea. It is a small village covering just 1.17 square miles and has under 150 people living there. Hrastovlje has the only major spring in Slovenian Istria and is an important source of water for the coastal area. The early written sources from the 14th century list the village as Cristoglan and as Cristoviae in 1581 and then as Christoja in the late 1700s. The village is named after oak trees. What the village is most famous for is the Holy Trinity Church.

The church was built in the 12th century  or maybe 300 years later and there are two theories as to its origins. The first is that it was a Romanesque church and the second was that it was an Istrian variant of Early Venetian Renaissance architecture from hundreds of years later. The Roman Catholic church was built on bare rock and so does not have a deep foundation. It is made mostly of stone which is typical of the entire region. As typical, it was never covered and so construction methods are obvious. The top of the spire was rebuilt at some time, but the reasons are unknown.

It has only two windows (and a third was walled up in the past. This was due to local climate concerns. In the summers, the blazing heat could not permeated the interior and in the winter, the howling winds were kept out. The church is quite small, only 38 feet by 19 feet, smaller than most village churches. It also has a stone bell tower, while most of the smaller churches in the region sport wooden towers. At some point, a wall was built around the entire church in order to protect it from invading Turks. A new entrance was also built when the wall was erected. In 1896, a hole was knocked into a wall to add another window and damaged some of the frescoes inside.

On this day, local artist Johannes de Castua finished painting the Gothic frescoes lining the interior of the church. Some of them include letters in Glagolitic script, the oldest known Slavic writing. The most famous of the frescoes is entitle Danse Macabre or Dance of Death, which is pretty much just what it seems, Death inviting people from all walks of life on a dance to the grave. The artwork was commissioned by the parish priest and at some point covered over with a layer of plaster. In 1949, academic sculptor Jože Pohlen discovered them. The small church has been restored and the frescoes can be seen on the walls and ceiling.

Opera, next to Gothic architecture, is one of the strangest inventions of Western man. It could not have been foreseen by any logical process. – Kenneth Clark

The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time. – Mark Twain

For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one. – Khalil Gibran

Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely. – Buddha


Avoiding the Draft

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 13, 2015
New York City draft riots

New York City draft riots

July 13, 1863: The New York City draft riots begin. Congress had passed a law to draft men for participation in the Union’s fight in the US Civil War. Unlike later draft laws, this one had a clause which permitted a commutation fee in which someone with $300 ($5,750 today) could hire a substitute to fight for them and thus avoid the draft. Working class men, mostly Irish, were resentful and met to express anger at the draft. The meeting became violent and turned into a race riot. White rioters, again mostly Irish but not limited to them, attacked blacks wherever they found them. The death toll was at least 120 and the numbers given for injuries were about 2,000. Others numbers have been put forth but there is no substantiating data.

New York City’s economy was tied to the South with nearly half of their exports being cotton shipments. Textile mills located in the North also depended on cotton grown in the South. In 1861, New York City Mayor Fernando Wood called for a declaration of separation from both Albany and Washington, D.C. and threw the city’s support to the South. German-born people made up ¼ of the population of the city and many of them did not speak English. Foreign language papers pointed out the scarcity of jobs and the fight over who would get them – blacks or whites. Irish immigrants were wooed by Democratic Party Tammany Hall and encouraged to enroll as citizens so they could vote but this also put them in line for the draft. Black men were excluded from the draft because they were not considered to be citizens.

The first draft numbers had been completed on July 11, 1863 and the second was on Monday, July 13 – ten days after the Union victory at Gettysburg. At 10 AM, a crowd of about 500 attacked the Ninth District provost marshal’s office where the draft was taking place. They began to riot and set the building on fire. When the fire department responded, they attacked their vehicles. Horses pulling streetcars were killed and the cars destroyed. Rioter cut the telegraph lines so calls for help could not get through. The New York State Militia was busy fighting the War and so only the New York City Police Department was available for crowd control. They tried, but were overpowered by the crowd. Led by Superintendent, John A Kennedy, they were able to keep the crowds out of Lower Manhattan. On Tuesday, Kennedy was attacked by the mob and stabbed at least 70 times. He lived, but never fully recovered.

The rioting went on for days and left the city in shambles. Lincoln had to pull troops away from follow up efforts after their momentous win in order to bring order to the city. Eleven black men were lynched and many blacks fled for their lives and the demographics of the city changed. At least 50 buildings were burned, including two churches and the Colored Orphan Asylum (home to 233 children). Property damage was between $1 and 5 million or $19.2 to 95.8 million today. By the end of the war, nearly a half million men had enlisted in the various branches of the military. New York was the most populous state in the Union at the time. About ten percent of those who fought in the war died, more from disease than from injury.

Martial law ought to be proclaimed, but I have not a sufficient force to enforce it. Major General John Wool

The scoundrels cannot afford to miss this golden opportunity of indulging their brutal natures, and at the same time serving their colleagues the Copperheads and secesh [secessionist] sympathizers. – The New York Times editorial

A riot is at bottom the language of the unheard. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

You can’t just lecture the poor that they shouldn’t riot or go to extremes. You have to make the means of legal redress available. – Harold H. Greene

Also on this day: You’re Out – In 1978, Lee Iacocca was fired from Ford.
Hollywood – In 1923, the HOLLYWOOD sign was dedicated.
Pop Goes the Weasel – In 1812, New York City passed its first pawnbroker ordinance.
Cubed – In 1944, Erno Rubik was born.
When the Lights Went Out – In 1977, New York City lost power.

When the Lights Went Out

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 13, 2014
After the Bushwick rioting during the power outage

Bushwick after the rioting during the power outage

July 13, 1977: New York City loses power. Other blackouts have hit the city when the power grid goes down. In both 1965 and 2003, the city lost power, but so did much of the surrounding region. During these two days in July, the blackout was basically restricted to New York City with just southern Queens and some neighborhoods in the Rockaways still with electricity. On this day, at 8:37 PM, lightning struck at Buchanan South, a substation on the Hudson River. The lightning strike tripped two circuit breakers in Buchanan. The substation converted the 345,000 volts of electricity from Indian Point to lower voltage for commercial use. There had been inadequate upgrades and a loose locking nut prevented the breaker from reclosing and allowing the power to flow again.

A second lightning strike caused a second 345 kV line to be lost and the loss of power from the 900 MW nuclear power plant at Indian Point was also lost. Because of the two lightning strikes, two major lines were loaded over their limits. As procedure stated, Con Edison (the power provider for New York City and some of Westchester County) tried to fast start the system at 8:45 PM. No one was actually at the station and the remote restart failed. At 8:55 PM there were two more lightning strikes which took out two more critical transmission lines. One of the lines was automatically returned to service; the other was not. This caused the servicing line to exceed limits and Con Edison had to reduce the load on another generator because of this overload. This just made a bad situation worse.

At 9:14 PM, New York Power Pool Operators in Guilderland (165 miles away and near the state capital) called and asked Con Edison to “shed load” and so they cut power first by 5% and then by 8% which took time to implement. Unfortunately, what Power Pool meant was to significantly drop the load by a much larger margin. At 9:19 PM, the final major interconnection to Upstate New York tripped and due to overheating, with this final insult links to Long Island and New Jersey began to have problems. At 9:22, Long Island Lighting Company tried to help but the system was spiraling out of control. In a domino effect, more stations were lost and by 9:36, New York City was without power. By 10:26, operators were beginning to restore power but it was not back on until late the next day.

The city was already in upheaval due to financial constraints and the Son of Sam murders. The entire nation was in a recession and the weather was unseasonably hot. All these conspired to make the atmosphere in the dark, hot city a powder keg. Looting and vandalism hit 31 neighborhoods. The hardest hit neighborhoods were Crown Heights were 75 stores were looted and in Bushwick where 25 arson fires were still burning the next morning. There were 35 blocks of Broadway destroyed with 134 stores looted and 45 of them set on fire. During the blackout, 550 police officers were injured and 4,500 looters were arrested. In total, 1,616 stores were damaged by looting and rioting and there were a total of 1,037 fires that were bad enough for fire response with 14 multiple-alarm fires.

Electricity is really just organized lightning. – George Carlin

Ben Franklin may have discovered electricity- but it is the man who invented the meter who made the money. – Earl Warren

We forget just how painfully dim the world was before electricity. A candle, a good candle, provides barely a hundredth of the illumination of a single 100 watt light bulb. – Bill Bryson

And God said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light, but the Electricity Board said He would have to wait until Thursday to be connected. – Spike Milligan

Also on this day: You’re Out – In 1978, Lee Iacocca is fired from Ford.
Hollywood – In 1923, the HOLLYWOOD sign was dedicated.
Pop Goes the Weasel – In 1812, New York City passes its first pawnbroker ordinance.
Cubed – In 1944, Erno Rubik was born.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 13, 2013
Hollywood sign

Hollywood sign

July 13, 1923: Outside Los Angeles, California a sign is dedicated. The white 50 foot high letters spelled out HOLLYWOODLAND. It was created as an advertising stunt but the wood and sheet metal construction became an iconic symbol lasting over 80 years. The sign was placed in the Hollywood Hills area and from the ground appears wavy as it scrawls across rocky terrain. If the viewer climbs to a comparable height, the letters magically straighten out. Hollywood has been the center of the film industry in America since 1911 when the first movie studio was opened there.

While the movies were important, getting people moving into the once sparsely populated farming and mining country was the economic driving force. The region north of Sunset Boulevard was considered useless. Easterners came west for the sunshine and dry weather and the real estate industry boomed. By the end of the 19th century, Hollywood was growing rapidly enough to be a town. By 1907, bad weather in Chicago was driving movie makers westward and by 1912 there were fifteen independent film studios in Hollywood.

By 1920 there were 40 million Americans in theaters each week – at a time when there was a total of 104 million Americans. New construction continued as America’s love affair with movies grew unrelentingly. Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler spent $21,000 ($260,000 in 2009 USD) putting up a sign advertising his upscale real estate development. Each letter was 30 feet wide and there were thirteen letters then. The sign also held 4,000 20-watt light bulbs flashing out “HOLLY,” then “WOOD,” followed by “LAND” and then a giant 35 foot period flashed. The sign was built to last eighteen months.

The sign became so famous it was often copied and sadly, often vandalized. The “H” disappeared when a sign maintenance worker crashed his car into it. In 1949 the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce contracted with the Los Angeles Parks Department to care for the sign. The light bulbs were no longer replaced and the wood began to splinter as the sheet metal rusted. Rocker Alice Cooper began a campaign in 1978 and got eight other donors to each buy a letter at $27,777 each. HOLLYWOOD is now spelled out in 45 foot high steel letters. They are 31-39 feet wide and were once again refurbished in 2005.

“I believe that God felt sorry for actors so he created Hollywood to give them a place in the sun and a swimming pool. The price they had to pay was to surrender their talent.” – Cedric Hardwicke

“We Americans have always considered Hollywood, at best, a sinkhole of depraved venality. And, of course, it is. It is not a Protective Monastery of Aesthetic Truth. It is a place where everything is incredibly expensive.” – David Mamet

“Hollywood is an extraordinary kind of temporary place.” – John Schlesinger

“Hollywood has always been a cage… a cage to catch our dreams.” – John Huston

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Alice Cooper, nee Vincent Damon Furnier, is best known for his shock rock performances. His stage show featured guillotines, electric chairs, fake blood, as well as boa constrictors and baby dolls. With his leadership, Terrence Donnelly (publisher) sponsored the H; Giovanni Mazza (Italian movie producer) the first O; Les Kelley (Kelley Blue Book) the first L; Gene Autry (singer) the next L; Hugh Hefner (Playboy magazine) the Y; Andy Williams (singer) the W, Warner Bros. Records the next O; Alice Cooper replaced the missing O (in memory of Groucho Marx); and Thomas Pooley (in the name of Matthew Williams) the D. In 2005, the original 1923 sign was put up for sale on eBay. Bill Mack purchased the letters and began painting portraits from the Golden Age of Hollywood on the metal.

Also on this day: You’re Out – In 1978, Lee Iacocca is fired from Ford.
Pop Goes the Weasel – In 1812, New York City passes its first pawnbroker ordinance.
Cubed – In 1944, Erno Rubik was born.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 13, 2012

Ernő Rubik

July 13, 1944: Ernő Rubik is born in Budapest, Hungary. His father was a flight engineer at a local airplane factory and his mother was a poet. He graduated from the Technical University in Budapest in 1967 with a degree in architectural engineering. His post graduate studies were in sculpting and interior architecture. He worked as an architect from 1971 to 1975 and then became a professor at the Budapest College of Applied Arts. He has always lived in Hungary. He also invented a little puzzle game that came to market in 1974. In the early 1980s he began editing a game and puzzle magazine called ..És játék (“…and games”).

The Rubik’s Cube is a 3-D mechanical puzzle originally called the Magic Cube. The game was licensed by Rubik to be sold by the Ideal Toys company. The cube is six-sided with each side made up of nine smaller cubes or “cubies” or “cubelets” with nine of these smaller cubes faced with one, two, or three of the six colors available. The small cubes are affixed to the core mechanism so they can be rotated. The cube is made up of 21 pieces: a single core with three intersecting axes holding the six center squares in place while still letting them rotate and 20 smaller plastic pieces which fit into the assembled puzzle.

There are twelve edge pieces, each with two colors, and eight corner pieces which each have three colors. The six center squares each have only one color. The original 3 x 3 x 3 Rubik’s Cube gives several different ways to arrange the smaller cubes. There are 40,320 ways to arrange the corner cubes and 239,500,800 ways to arrange the edges. There are exactly 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 permutations or ways to arrange the cube’s smaller cubes. That is about 43 quintillion, not the billions usually advertised.

There are algorithms used to solve scrambled Rubik’s Cubes. The easiest way to solve the puzzle may be to take it apart and simply put it back together with the sides properly sorted. Some of these algorithms are easy enough to be memorized by people, but these aren’t the optimal solutions. There is not a “least moves” solution for any instance of the Rubik’s cube, but the latest claim is 22 moves. The algorithm to arrive at this is called God’s Algorithm. Many mathematicians believe the number to be 20 moves, but haven’t yet figured the supporting algorithm. You can also solve Rubik’s Magic, Rubik’s Snake, and Rubik’s 360 if the Cube is too easy.

I do not truly consider myself an icon, but the Cube has been quite successful.

Usually we are saying only part of the truth.

The problems of puzzles are very near the problems of life.

I wanted nothing else than to make the object as perfect as possible. – all from Ernő Rubik

Also on this day:

You’re Out – In 1978, Lee Iacocca is fired from Ford.
Hollywood – In 1923, the HOLLYWOOD sign was dedicated.
Pop Goes the Weasel – In 1812, New York City passes its first pawnbroker ordinance.

Pop Goes the Weasel

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 13, 2011

Pawn broker's logo

July 13, 1812: The first pawnbroker ordinance is passed in New York City. Pawn broking is as old, it seems, as money. There is evidence of pawning goods in Mosaic Law with regulatory edicts on interest accrued. China also strictly regulated pawn broking 3,000 years ago. Ancient Greeks and Romans also had cash flow issues and regulations in place. The children’s song, Pop Goes the Weasel, is about pawning (pop is a pawn) a shoemaker’s tool (weasel) for some needed cash that quickly disappears as well.

Poverty-stricken individuals take an object of some worth to a broker. They enter into a contract, accepting a sum of money and stating that they will pay back the sum plus interest within a certain time and retrieve the item. If not paid up, the item can be sold to anyone with the cash. Brokers may also simply buy items at far below market value without any commitment to buy them back. It is possible to use this system to fence stolen property. The US National Pawnbrokers Association claims that less than 0.1% of items pawned are stolen goods.

The symbol for pawn shops is fairly universal, especially in the Western world. There are three golden spheres suspended from a bar. It may have started out as three gold coins that evolved into spheres to be more eye-catching. The symbol was originally from the Lombard family in England, famous for it’s banking traditions. The Medici family of Renaissance Italy helped to propagate the use of the symbol. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of pawnbrokers.

There is some controversy with the use of the pawn system. Regardless of regulations, the interest rates accrued can be extremely high. Because of compound interest on the money loaned, the rate will typically be 5-12% interest per month which can get as high as 85% interest over a year’s time. People who are strapped for cash and unable to get a conventional loan will place their valuable items in hock planning to retrieve them, but with the added interest, they are unable to redeem them even after making some installment payments. The pawnbroker now owns the items themselves, and can make further revenue upon selling the goods.

“A financier is a pawn-broker with imagination.” – Arthur Wing Pinero

“Some guys are willing to pawn all kinds of things to make ends meet, because if you’re not equipped to have a second plan, then it’s drastic.” -Joe Salave

“The closer to the edge you are and the fewer options you have, the more likely you are to use a pawn shop. Pawn shops are a relatively costly form of credit.” – Michael Barr

“Going to a pawn shop is a short-term solution to meet the immediate cash-flow crunch.” – Doug Young

Also on this day:
You’re Out – In 1978, Lee Iaccoca is fired from Ford.
Hollywood – In 1923, the HOLLYWOOD sign was dedicated.

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You’re Out

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 13, 2010

Lee Iacocca

July 13, 1978: Henry Ford II fires Lee Iacocca after years of dispute. Iacocca joined Ford Motor Company after graduating from Princeton University in 1946. He was brilliant at sales and marketing and brought many buyers into the Ford showrooms in 1956 with a “56 for 56” campaign, selling many 1956 model year cars for the low monthly price of just $56. He was involved in the very successful development of the Ford Mustang and the less stellar Ford Pinto. Iacocca became President of the Ford Division on his 40th birthday. In 1978, Ford Motor Company showed a $2 billion profit.

The seventies were difficult for the Big Three car makers out of Detroit and Chrysler Corporation was backed against the wall, verging on dissolution. Chrysler was losing millions, due in large part to the Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare recalls. They courted the newly fired Iacocca aggressively and he took up the challenge.

Iacocca took the reins and immediately started a restructuring process and rebuilt the company from the ground up. He laid off many workers, sold off Peugeot which was a losing division, and brought in many of his friends from Ford.

The gasoline shortages of the decade made the larger Chrysler-built cars less desirable. Iacocca developed two new subcompacts: Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon. Each of the new cars sold over 300,000 units their first year in production.

With severe cash flow problems, Iacocca secured loan guarantees from the US government in order to keep the company afloat. Iacocca continued making compact cars and subcompacts and also introduced the minivan to soccer moms across the US. He also brought the Jeep division into the Chrysler Corporation fold in 1987.

“There ain’t no free lunches in this country. And don’t go spending your whole life commiserating that you got raw deals. You’ve got to say, ‘I think that if I keep working at this and want it bad enough I can have it.'” – Lee Iacocca

“The unemployment rate is 100 percent if it is you who is unemployed.” – unknown

“Unemployment is a reproach to a democratic government.” – Joan Robinson

“When work is a pleasure, life is a joy. When work is a duty, life is slavery.” – Maxim Gorky

Also on this day, in 1923 the HOLLYWOODLAND sign was dedicated.
Bonus link: In  1812, New York passes a
pawnbroker ordinance.

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