Little Bits of History

July 17

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 17, 2017

1981: The Hyatt Regency Kansas City hosts a tea dance which ends in tragedy. The Hyatt opened on July 1, 1980 and at 40 stories high was the tallest building in the state of Missouri. It lost that status in 1986 and is today the sixth tallest building in the state. It is, today, even taller at 45 stories and is now Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center. Opening was delayed because of an incident on October 14, 1979 when 2,700 square feet of the atrium roof collapsed as a result of a failure of the connections at the northern end. Repairs were made, construction continued, and the hotel opened. One of the features of the building was a multistory high atrium which was spanned by elevated walkways suspended from the ceiling.

The walkways were made of steel, concrete, and glass and connected the second, third, and fourth floors between the north and south wings. Each was about 120 feet long and weighed about 32 tons. The fourth floor was directly above the second floor with the intermediate floor offset. On this day there were approximately 1,600 people gathered for a tea dance. People were positioned above, looking down on the atrium. There were about 40 people on the second level and even more on the third. There were about 18 on the fourth floor level. Construction difficulties had subtly altered the design. This flaw doubled the load on the connection between the fourth floor walkway support beams and the tie rods carrying the weight of both aligned walkways.

Because of the way it was built, it was barely able to support the dead load weight of the structure itself and the added load of about forty people was more than the connectors could maintain. At 7.05 PM, the fourth floor walkway broke free, crashed into the second floor walkway before both landed on the floor of the atrium. There were 111 dead at the scene and three more would die at the hospital. There were 216 more people suffering non-fatal injuries. Rescue efforts took 14 hours and involved 34 fire trucks and EMS units along with doctors from five area hospitals. Survivors were buried beneath over 60 tons of debris. To add to the confusion, the hotel’s sprinkler system was severed and the atrium was flooded, putting trapped people at risk of drowning.

Investigations into the tragedy revealed the change to the original design for the walkways. Part of the alterations were due to manufacturing issues of the beams. Instead, it was decided to suspend the second floor walkway from the fourth floor itself rather than as originally designed. This was a fatal error. The engineers who approved the final drawing, Jack D Gillum and Associates were found guilty of gross negligence, misconduct, and unprofessional conduct. They were not found to be criminally negligent. They lost their engineering licenses and their right to be an engineering firm. It was the worst structural collapse in the US until 2001 when the World Trade Center collapsed.

The great advantage of a hotel is that it is a refuge from home life. – George Bernard Shaw

We sat around on a hotel balcony with a bottle of wine and tried to figure out how you would go about blowing up a planet. That’s the kind of conversations science fiction writers have when they get together. We don’t talk about football or anything like that. – Kevin J. Anderson

I have walked into the palaces of kings and queens and into the houses of presidents. And much more. But I could not walk into a hotel in America and get a cup of coffee, and that made me mad. – Josephine Baker

I need something truly beautiful to look at in hotel rooms. – Vivien Leigh


Water Music

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 17, 2015
Water Music with George Frideric Handel  and King George 1

Water Music with George Handel and King George I

July 17, 1717: Water Music by George Frideric Handel has its premiere performance. The work is made of a collection of orchestral movements which are often published as three suites. The first suite, written in F major, opens with a French overture and has eleven sections. The second suite was written in D major and the third in G major. Each of the latter suites contain five sections. There is no set order for the music to be played within the suite and variations are common. Handel, born in the Holy Roman Empire in 1685 was a favorite of British King George I who was also born in the Holy Roman Empire. Future king and composer met while they both were living on the continent and Handel worked for then Elector of Hanover and future King of England. Handel moved to London during the reign of Queen Anne.

George was made king after the death of Queen Anne on August 1, 1714. Bad weather kept him from making his way to England until September 18 and when he was crowned on October 20, there was rioting in more than twenty English towns. George spent much of his reign traveling back and forth to Hanover. George’s son and heir to the throne, also named George, was worried that his own reign might be cut short since his father was living into his old age. The younger George was often in the spotlight, famous for his lavish parties. The King, in order to remind London he was still around and still able to outdo his son, threw a unique premiere for Handel’s concert. It was held on the River Thames.

On a Wednesday evening, the King and several aristocratic and distinguished guests came aboard the royal barge at Whitehall Palace. Since the Thames is a tidal river, the tide coming in allowed for the barge to sail upriver towards Chelsea without rowing. A second barge was provided by the City of London and on this barge, about fifty musicians were placed so they might give this premiere performance of Water Music while actually sailing on the water. The river was full of other boat traffic as Londoners sailed along and were given a free concert, a gift from the King. While in Chelsea, the King left the barge and went ashore for some time and returned to his boat around 11 PM.

King George I was said to have been so pleased with the music that he ordered it to be repeated at least three times. The music accompanied him on his return trip to Whitehall Palace and the musicians’ only break came when the royal personage was off his barge in Chelsea. They finally arrived back at the palace well after midnight. The 1717 London crowd was not the only appreciative audience. Parts of the music have been used in popular culture. The work has been used for background music or in advertising, notably in commercials for the privatization of UK water companies. Walt Disney also used it as background music for the Electrical Water Pageant, a parade of sea creature at the Magic Kingdom. The music was also played in some scenes of Dead Poets Society.

It is much too good for them, they don’t know what to do with it. – comment on ‘borrowing‘ others music

I should be sorry if I only entertained them, I wish to make them better.

You have taken far too much trouble over your opera. Here in England that is mere waste of time. What the English like is something that they can beat time to, something that hits them straight on the drum of the ear.

Every Englishman believes that Handel now occupies an important position in heaven. If so, le bon Dieu must feel toward him very much as Louis Treize felt toward Richelieu. – all from George Frideric Handel

Also on this day: Whoops! – In 1939, Douglas Corrigan took off in the wrong direction.
M-I-C-K-E-Y – In 1955, Disneyland opened in Anaheim, California.
Five and Dime – In 1997, Woolworth closed.
Martyrs of Compiegne – In 1794, sixteen women were killed as the Reign of Terror was winding down.
RMS Carpathia – In 1918, the ship sunk.

RMS Carpathia

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 17, 2014
RMS Carpathia remains

RMS Carpathia remains

July 17, 1918: RMS Carpathia sinks. The steamship was owned and operated by the Cunard line and traversed the Atlantic Ocean between Europe and the US. She was built by Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson and laid down on September 10, 1901. She was launched on August 6, 1902 and had her maiden voyage on May 5, 1903. The impressive ship was 558 feet in length with a beam width of 34.5 feet. Her top speed was 17.5 knots or 20.1 mph. Her normal cruising speed was 14 knots (16 mph). When first built, she could carry 1,705 passengers and after a refit in 1905, that number increased to 2,550. Of those berths available, 100 were first class, 200 were second class and the remainder was third class.

What Carpathia was best known for was not her own sailing adventures. She was sailing from New York City to Fiume, Austria-Hungary (now Rijeka, Croatia) on the night of Sunday, April 14, 1912. There were some famous passengers aboard on the trip and Charles Marshall was among them. Three of his nieces were also sailing from England to the US. Harold Cottam was the wireless operator and he had been on the bridge for part of the evening. A message from land trying to contact another ship at sea was unable to get through and so Carpathia sent on the message only to hear the distress signal of the other ship, the RMS Titanic. Cottam awakened the captain who made full speed to the site of the disaster. They arrived at 4 AM and worked their way through the dangerous icebergs to collect 705 survivors of the notorious sinking perhaps including Marshall’s nieces.

During World War I, Carpathia was used as a troop transport and brought both Canadian and American troops to the battlefields of Europe. She sometimes traveled in convoys but not always. She brought Frank Buckles to the war – Frank was the last surviving American veteran of the war. On July 15, 1918, RMS Carpathia left Liverpool in a convoy with the destination as Boston.  On this beautiful summer day, she was in the Celtic Sea. Imperial German Navy submarine U-55 was also in the area. At 9:15 AM, the first torpedo struck the ship and impacted on the port side. The next, nearly immediately fired torpedo hit the engine room and killed two firemen and three trimmers.

The ship settled and listed to port. Captain William Prothero gave the order to abandon ship and all 57 passengers and 218 surviving crew were able to get to lifeboats as Carpathia was sinking. The submarine surfaced and fired a third torpedo at the dying ship and then approached the lifeboats. HMS Snowdrop, an Azalea-class sloop, arrived on the scene and drove the sub away with gunfire. She then picked up the survives. Carpathia fell under the waves at 11:00 AM about 120 miles west of Fastnet. The wreckage has been found and is currently owned by Premier Exhibitions Inc which plans to recover objects from the wreck.

I’d much rather be a woman than a man. Women can cry, they can wear cute clothes, and they’re the first to be rescued off sinking ships. – Gilda Radner

It sounds mercenary and it smacks of rats leaving the sinking ship. But get real, when everyone is bailing out, you don’t want to be the last man standing. – Robbie Fowler

His style has the desperate jauntiness of an orchestra fiddling away for dear life on a sinking ship. – Edmund Wilson

Often undecided whether to desert a sinking ship for one that might not float, he would make up his mind to sit on the wharf for a day. – Lord Beaverbrook

Also on this day: Whoops! – In 1939, Douglas Corrigan takes off in the wrong direction.
M-I-C-K-E-Y – In 1955, Disneyland opened in Anaheim, California.
Five and Dime – In 1997, Woolworth closed.
Martyrs of Compiegne – In 1794, sixteen women were killed as the Reign of Terror was winding down.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 17, 2013
Walt Disnes

Walt Disney

July 17, 1955: Disneyland in Anaheim, California opens. The media event was followed by the opening to the general public the following day. The specially designed spot for family fun was an idea long before it became a reality. Walt Disney’s father was involved in building for the great 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. That spectacular venue was a confection of white buildings constructed cheaply since they only had to last one summer. It was also where George Ferris first built his eponymous wheel.

The original idea for a fun park was small. “Mickey Mouse Park” would fit on eight acres. As Disney toured other parks and began designing his own, his plans grew. He obtained 160 acres for the park. He then began to earnestly gather funding. He partnered with the new television network, ABC. He provided programming and they helped to finance the park. Their interest was bought back by Disney after five years. On July 18, 1954 construction began with the cost running to $17 million (≈ $137 million in 2009 USD). US Route 101 (today called Interstate 5) was under construction at the same time. They added two lanes to accommodate expected traffic.

Sunday’s special “International Press Review” did not go well. Admission was by ticket only but many counterfeits were produced causing overcrowding. Disney had to choose between working drinking fountains and working toilets (there had been a plumbers strike) and he chose the latter. Many guests sweltering in the 101° F heat were forced to purchase soda. The asphalt paving had been finished only that morning and remained sticky. Vendors ran out of food. Things went so badly, Disney held a “second day” event for the press corps. The official name for this day is now “Dedication Day” according to Disneyland Park’s literature.

David MacPherson bought the first ticket to Disneyland’s public opening. He has been followed by over 515 million more guests. Today, Disneyland Park is only one of the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. The Magic Kingdom is in Orlando, Florida. There is a park in Tokyo, one in Paris, and another in Hong Kong. Disney also operates a cruise line. In 2007 there were more than 14.8 million visitors to Disneyland Park, second only to the Magic Kingdom where ≈ 17 million came to play. Tokyo had 13.9 million guests, 14.5 million visitors came to the combined Euro Disney sites, and 4.5 million visited Mickey in Hong Kong.

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

“When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.”

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” – all from Walt Disney

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Walt Disney was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1901. The family moved to a farm in Missouri in 1906 and it was there that the young Walt learned to draw. Walt and his older brother, Roy, opened a cartoon studio in California which produced the Alice Comedies. The Disney brothers brought in many talented artists to work for them. Their first true success was with Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, but there was a dispute over who owned the rights to the creation. Disney took his staff away from Universal Pictures’ control and opened the Walt Disney Company. Since he could no longer use his rabbit, he created a new character. This time, instead of Oswald, he developed a mouse to replace him and named the new little guy Mickey. The first animated short to feature his new little guy was Plane Crazy and was a silent film. It was not an unequivocal success and neither was his next attempt, The Gallopin’Gaucho. He added sound to the next short and Steamboat Willie became the hit he needed.

Also on this day: Whoops! – In 1939, Douglas Corrigan takes off in the wrong direction.
Five and Dime – In 1997, Woolworth closed.
Martyrs of Compiegne – In 1794, sixteen women were killed as the Reign of Terror was winding down.

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Martyrs of Compiègne

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 17, 2012

Martyrs of Compiègne

July 17, 1794: Sixteen women become Martyrs of Compiègne. The women were members of the Carmelite order, a religious group of the Roman Catholic Church founded in 1155. They were convicted of crimes against the state during the Reign of Terror led by Maximilien Robespierre. There were eleven Choir Nuns, three Lay Sisters, and two servants at the priory. They were guillotined at the Place du Trône Renversé just ten days before the end of The Terror. They were led by Mother Teresa of St. Augustine. The youngest of the women was 30 while the oldest was 79. They were buried in a common grave at the Picpus Cemetery.

The French Revolution led to a period of intense violence throughout France. There were two political factions, the Girondins and the Jacobins. The Jacobins rose in power and were led by the paranoid or power hungry Robespierre, who instituted mass killings of “enemies of the revolution.” There are no accurate records of the numbers of “enemies” but it has been surmised between 16,000 and 40,000 were placed under the blade of the National Razor. King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette both fell to the blade along with a great many of their countrymen and women.

The Reign of Terror lasted from June 27, 1793 until July 27, 1794. The Martyrs of Compiègne almost survived the horror of the times. Instead they have become the topic of many current works. They were beatified by Pope Pius X in 1906. Their gravesite is now marked by a single cross, however the remains of 1,306 victims of the guillotine are buried in the same location. They are venerated in the Catholic Church and are said to have worked miracles in the late 19th century – more than 100 years after their deaths.

Robespierre led the Reign of Terror and destroyed many of his enemies. However, he began to disagree with others in leadership roles within the Jacobin group. Infighting caused a disruption in the flow of power. Some of the leaders opposed to Robespierre found themselves listed as enemies and fell under the dropping blade. As his grip on power lessened, he increased the fury of his executions, killing off any who disagreed with him. This further incensed a growing faction of disillusioned followers. Robespierre was arrested on July 27, essentially ending the Reign of Terror. He tried to kill himself, shooting himself in the jaw. It was not a mortal wound. Robespierre was brought to the guillotine on July 28, 1794 and executed, face up rather than facing away from the blade. He was 36.

It is not the punishment but the cause that makes the martyr. – Saint Augustine

It is the cause, not the death, that makes the martyr. – Napoleon Bonaparte

Let us all be brave enough to die the death of a martyr, but let no one lust for martyrdom. – Mohandas Gandhi

One, with God, is always a majority, but many a martyr has been burned at the stake while the votes were being counted. – Thomas Reed

Also on this day:

Whoops! – In 1939, Douglas Corrigan takes off in the wrong direction.
M-I-C-K-E-Y – In 1955, Disneyland opened in Anaheim, California.
Five and Dime – In 1997, Woolworth closed.

Five and Dime

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 17, 2011

A F. W. Woolworth Company store

July 17, 1997: F. W. Woolworth Company closes. The first Woolworth store opened in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in 1879. Frank Winfield Woolworth began his chain with a $300 loan, about $9,750 in 2011 dollars. Woolworth’s was one of the original five-and-dime stores. The store sold discounted merchandise at fixed prices – usually five or ten cents. These prices were lower than other local merchants. The merchandise was set out for the customer to handle without aid from a sales clerk. Before this time, most merchandise was kept behind a counter and a clerk would gather your purchases together for you to buy.

Woolworth’s first attempt at marketing was made in Utica, New York in 1878. It failed. After the successful opening of the store in Pennsylvania, Woolworth brought his brother into the business. Frank and Charles worked together and opened more stores, often in partnership with outsiders. Sometimes, the brothers went into partnership with “friendly rivals” to maximize their combined purchasing power. The Woolworth brothers had a flagship store in Philadelphia.

The success of these stores was phenomenal. In 1910, Frank Woolworth commissioned the construction of the Woolworth Building in New York City. The building was completed in 1913 and was the tallest building in the world until 1930. Woolworth paid for the building in cash. This building served as the company’s headquarters until its demise. The building was sold by Woolworth Company’s successor, the Venator Group in 1998.

In 1924, the brothers were operating six different chains of stores in the US and Canada. Rather than continue in this manner, they brought all 596 stores together under one banner and incorporated the F. W. Woolworth Co. Eventually, the stores began to also include lunch counters after they proved to be successful in England. The concept of a low price store was copied by many but for many years, Woolworth held market share. The stores often stood as anchors stores in shopping centers and malls. These large stores drove many local merchants out of business.

In the 1960s, Woolworth’s became the victim of a new trend as even larger discount stores came into being. In 1962, Woolco was founded. This was the same year S.S. Kresge Company opened K-Mart, Dayton’s opened Target, and Sam Walton opened his first Wal-Mart. By its 100th anniversary in 1979 the Woolworth chain was the largest department store chain in the world. The competition became too much and sales dropped. In 1983 Woolco closed and by 1993, the entire company underwent a restructuring. On this date, Woolworth closed its remaining stores and changed its name to Venetor which then changed to Foot Locker, Inc. There are still Woolworth named stores outside the US.

“Dreams never hurt anybody if you keep working right behind the dreams to make as much of them become real as you can.” – Frank W. Woolworth

“It’s not your salary that makes you rich, it’s your spending habits.” – Charles A. Jaffe

“Money doesn’t bring happiness, only shopping does.” – JLL Research

“Know how to effectively voice a complaint or make a claim at a retail store.” – Marilyn vos Savant

Also on this day:
Whoops! – In 1939, Douglas Corrigan takes off in the wrong direction.
M-I-C-K-E-Y – In 1955, Disneyland opened in Anaheim, California.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 18, 2010

Douglas Corrigan and his plane

July 17, 1938: Douglas Corrigan takes off in the wrong direction. He was an Irish-American pilot born in Texas in 1907. He wanted to be an architect, but at the age of 18 took his first airplane ride and it changed his life. He was an aircraft mechanic as well as a pilot and he helped to build Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis. He was thrilled when Lindbergh made his transatlantic flight.

Corrigan wanted to fly across the Atlantic himself. He applied for a permit from the government that would grant permission for the transatlantic solo flight and was told that his plane was not sufficiently upgraded for such an endeavor. He made modifications. He was denied again. He was a maverick and wanted to get across that ocean.

It took him two years and several modifications before he and his plane were airworthy – at least in his opinion. He had repaired and upgraded the engine and made modifications. His total cash input for the aircraft reached $900 (about $14,000 is 2009 USD). He was given an experimental license and was given permission for a transcontinental flight with conditions. His plane cruised at 85 mph for greatest fuel efficiency.

On July 8, 1939, Corrigan left California for New York. His official flight plan called for a return trip to California on July 17. He took off from Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, New York and entered some cloud cover. He claimed forevermore that with the low light and dense clouds, he followed the wrong end of the compass needle and flew east instead of west. He dipped from the clouds 26 hours later and found himself, amazingly enough, over water. He landed in Baldonnel Airport in Dublin, Ireland after a 28 hour and 13 minute flight. He was given the sobriquet of  “Wrong Way” Corrigan.

“Error is discipline through which we advance.” – William Ellery Channing

“Aviation is proof that given the will, we have the capacity to achieve the impossible.” – Edward Vernon Rickenbacker

“When once you have tasted flight you will always walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward: for there you have been and there you will always be.” – Henry Van Dyke

“Men seldom, or rather never for a length of time and deliberately, rebel against anything that does not deserve rebelling against.” – Thomas Carlyle

Also on this day, in 1955 Disneyland opened.