Little Bits of History

July 21

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 21, 2017

905: King Louis III is blinded. He was born around 880 and when his father Boso, the King of Provence died, seven year old Louis became king. Provence was larger when Boso came into power, but he had lost part of his lands to Rudolph I of Burgundy, as well as much of the rest of the northern portion of his lands. Louis had only the area around Vienne to rule and his mother, Ermengard was elected to act as regent with support from Louis’s uncle, Richard the Justiciar. They went to a relative in spring, emperor Charles the Fat, and received his recognition along with his protection, as he adopted Louis. Charles died the following year and Ermengard went to Arnulf, his successor, for protection along with a trip to the Pope for his blessing. She got both.

In 890, at the Diet of Valence, the secular and religious leaders heard of Louis’s claims and proclaimed him King of Arles, Provence, and Cisjurane Burgundy.  Beginning in 896, Louis began a number of wars with Saracen pirates who looted the coasts. In 900, Louis, grandson of Emperor Louis II was invited to Italy to help local fiefdoms keep control over various portions of the land. He made his way to Rome where he was crowned by Pope Benedict IV in 901. Although Louis had been able to shoo away the Magyar in northern Italy, they did not stay away. In 902 Louis was defeated and sent back to Provence and he promised never to return.

The Italian nobles needed his assistance in 905 and rather than keep the promise made years earlier, Louis again came to their aid. He was successful in his first few meetings with the enemy, but was defeated at Verona. Berengar I, King of Italy, learned of his nemesis’s return and location and in the dead of night, he had his Bavarian troops sneak into Verona and capture Louis. Louis ran to the church of St. Peter but was captured on this day. As punishment for returning to Italy in spite of his promise, he was blinded. He was also forced to relinquish his Italian and imperial crowns.

Louis returned to Vienne and ruled over Provence for several more years. His cousin, Hugh, Count of Arles was the dominant figure in the area and by 911 Louis had ceded most power to Hugh. Hugh was made Margrave of Provence and Marquis of Vienne. Hugh married Louis’s sister. Louis had been betrothed at one time to Byzantine Emperor Leo VI’s daughter but it is unclear whether he ever married her. Louis had a son, but no mention of the mother’s name was recorded. Although Louis styled himself as Roman Emperor until he died, it was his brother in law who succeeded him to the throne and Louis died in obscurity.

Losers make promises they often break. Winners make commitments they always keep. – Denis Waitley

Promises are like crying babies in a theater, they should be carried out at once. – Norman Vincent Peale

Political promises are much like marriage vows. They are made at the beginning of the relationship between candidate and voter, but are quickly forgotten. – Dick Gregory

Keep every promise you make and only make promises you can keep. – Anthony Hitt

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A Sign

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 21, 2015
Crete uplift map*

Crete uplift map*

July 21, 365 AD: Alexandria and the Southern and Eastern portion of the Mediterranean Sea are destroyed by a tsunami. Around sunrise on this day, there was an underwater earthquake which is estimated to have been around 8.5 on the Richter scale by modern geologists. The epicenter was near Crete, Greece. There was widespread destruction close to the epicenter, but also in distant lands as Libya, Alexandria, and the Nile Delta were all affected by the ensuing tsunami as were Cyprus, Sicily, and even as far away as Spain. On the island of Crete, almost all towns were destroyed. Ships were raised and brought inland on the wave, depositing almost two miles from the shore.

Many things at the time were interpreted as signs from God. Many of the literary references have been somewhat questionable as they may have combined the effects of several earthquakes between 350 and 450 AD in order to make a point about God’s great displeasure with events. The antagonism between paganism and Christianity was part of the Roman Empire’s history with this time in particular possible for God’s notice since Emperor Julian had just died after an unsuccessful attempt to return paganism to the Empire.

But there is geological evidence which is not subject to the religion wars of the period. There was a major clustering of seismic activity in the Eastern Mediterranean between the fourth and sixth centuries. This earthquake is thought to have caused an uplift of 29.5 feet of the entire island of Crete. Researchers have noted by carbon dating that coral reefs off the coast of the island were lifted about 33 feet and were actually thrust out of the water in one massive push. This indicates the tsunami from this date was generated by a quake in the Hellenic Trench near Crete. Archeology also lends its science to the devastating effects of the quake and tsunami. Not only were thousands of people killed, but cities were lost along with historical documents as well as libraries, especially in Alexandria.

Tsunamis are named from the Japanese term for the waves experienced there after earthquakes. The term is not scientifically accurate, but we have come to understand the scientific reasons behind the monster waves. There is evidence of tsunamis from even pre-historic times with the earliest being between 6225 and 6160 BC in the Norwegian Sea when the Storegga Slide took place. Crete was also affected by a tsunami around 1600 BC during the Minoan eruption. The Malian Gulf, Greece tsunami, the Helike, Greece earthquake, the Gulf of Naples, Italy tsunami, and the Caesarea, Israel event all predate this day’s catastrophe. Recovery efforts were not helped at all by the Romans. Emperor Valentinian only sent representatives to the region to find out why taxes were not being properly collected.

Slightly after daybreak, and heralded by a thick succession of fiercely shaken thunderbolts, the solidity of the whole earth was made to shake and shudder, and the sea was driven away, its waves were rolled back, and it disappeared, so that the abyss of the depths was uncovered and many-shaped varieties of sea-creatures were seen stuck in the slime; the great wastes of those valleys and mountains, which the very creation had dismissed beneath the vast whirlpools, at that moment, as it was given to be believed, looked up at the sun’s rays.

Many ships, then, were stranded as if on dry land, and people wandered at will about the paltry remains of the waters to collect fish and the like in their hands; then the roaring sea as if insulted by its repulse rises back in turn, and through the teeming shoals dashed itself violently on islands and extensive tracts of the mainland, and flattened innumerable buildings in towns or wherever they were found.

Thus in the raging conflict of the elements, the face of the earth was changed to reveal wondrous sights. For the mass of waters returning when least expected killed many thousands by drowning, and with the tides whipped up to a height as they rushed back, some ships, after the anger of the watery element had grown old, were seen to have sunk, and the bodies of people killed in shipwrecks lay there, faces up or down.

Other huge ships, thrust out by the mad blasts, perched on the roofs of houses, as happened at Alexandria, and others were hurled nearly two miles from the shore, like the Laconian vessel near the town of Methone which I saw when I passed by, yawning apart from long decay. – all from Ammianus Marcellinus (Roman historian)

Also on this day: Brrrrrrr – In 1983, the coldest recorded temperature was captured at Vostok Station.
Destruction – In 356 BC, the Temple of Artemis was destroyed.
Wild Bill Hickok – In 1865, the first shoot out in the wild west took place.
Constitutional – In 1997, the USS Constitution went back out to sea.
James Gang – In 1873, the first successful train robbery was committed by the James Gang.

* “Crete 365 uplift” by Mikenorton – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

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James Gang

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 21, 2014
Jesse and Frank James

Jesse and Frank James

July 21, 1873: The Rock Island train is derailed in Adair, Iowa. Jesse James and his cohorts commit what is considered to be the first successful train robbery in the American Wild West. Their robbery netted them about $3,000 (~ $59,000 in today’s dollars). The robbers were dressed in Ku Klux Klan masks years after the Force Acts suppressed their presence in the Old South. The idea was that former rebels were attacking the train as a symbol of threatening the establishment. Their later train robberies were less violent as they usually just took the money from the express safe in the baggage car and left the passengers keep their belongings.

The James Gang was made up of Jesse and his brother Frank along with the Younger brothers, Cole, Jim, John, and Bob. At various times all these and a few more (Clell Miller, Arthur McCoy, Charlie Pitts, John Jarrette, Bill Chadwell, and Matthew Nelson) were also included. Their origins stem from a group of Confederate bushwhackers who fought in the state of Missouri, a bitter battlefield during the US Civil War. Their postwar crimes began in 1866 but they did not truly become the James-Younger Gang until two years later. The gang dissolved after the capture of the Younger brothers during a failed bank robbery in Minnesota in 1876. Three years later, James organized a new group and was back in the business.

Jesse James was born in Missouri in 1847. His father was a commercial hemp farmer and a Baptist minister in Kentucky and moved to Missouri after he married. He was a successful and prosperous man and owned six slaves and more than 100 acres of farmland. He went to California to minister to those searching for gold and died there when Jesse was three. His mother married two more times. The area the James family lived in was dubbed “Little Dixie” during the War and had been a hotbed of discontent on the slave issue since 1854. Jesse and his older brother, Frank, were guerrilla fighters for the South during the War and gained much of their experience during this time.

After the war, Missouri was in shambles and the bushwackers were held together by their wartime leader. The men began to harass Republican authorities and they were probably the group that committed the first daylight armed bank robbery in the US during peacetime. As their robberies continued legends grew up around them and stories may have been embellished to include criminal acts in which the James brothers did not participate. Their crime spree continued with the crimes becoming more violent. Many of the gang had been killed or jailed and Jesse was relying solely on Charley and Robert Ford. This was a mistake. As they were getting ready to leave on another robbery attempt, Bob Ford shot Jesse point blank in the back of the head. He died at the age of 34.

I had hope, however; I had been wounded seven times during the war, and once before in this same lung; and I did not believe I was going to die.

I knew, however, that the next morning after the fight I would have to get away, and I did just in time, for a full company came early to look for me and were furious because I had escaped them.

No, I think it taught me to be independent and never expect a handout and never wait for anybody to hand you anything in any aspect of my life.

Surrender had played out for good with me. – all from Jesse James

Also on this day: Brrrrrrr – In 1983, the coldest recorded temperature is captured at Vostok Station.
Destruction – In 356 BC, the Temple of Artemis was destroyed.
Wild Bill Hickok – In 1865, the first shoot out in the wild west took place.
Constitutional – In 1997, the USS Constitution goes back out to sea.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 21, 2013
What the Temple of Artemis may have looked like

What the Temple of Artemis may have looked like

July 21, 356 BC: In what becomes a time (dis)honored tradition, a man attempts to become famous by destroying something of value. There were Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – a list of seven overwhelming manmade structures. The Great Pyramid at Giza, built by the Egyptians 2584-2561 BC is the only one surviving to the present time. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were built 605-562 BC by the Babylonians and the several tiers reached 75 feet in height. The Greeks erected the Statue of Zeus at Olympia in 435 BC, the Mausoleum of Maussollos at Halicarnassus in 351 BC, and the Colossus of Rhodes from 292-280 BC. The Lighthouse at Alexandria was built by the Hellenistic Egyptians around 260 BC and remained the tallest manmade structure for Centuries at 383-440 feet.

The Seventh Wonder was the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus built by the Lydians, Persians, and Greeks and completed around 550 BC. Dedicated to the Greek goddess of the hunt (Roman equivalent is Diana), it took 120 years to build. Antipater of Sidon, originator of the list of the Seven Wonders, felt it was the most beautiful. It was built in what is currently Turkey over the site of previous temples dating from the Bronze Age.

Like most temples of the era, it had a rectangular base and the building itself was made of marble. Marble steps surrounded the base and led to a high terrace which measured 260 x 430 feet with 127 columns measuring 60 feet in height laid in a pattern across the base. The columns were topped with Ionic circulars and had carved circular sides. The temple housed many precious works of art. A young man seeking fame at any cost burnt the temple to the ground.

The Hanging Gardens were destroyed by earthquake some time after the 1st century BC. The 40 foot tall statue of Zeus was destroyed, presumably by earthquake, in the 5th or 6th Centuries AD. The mausoleum was dismantled in 1494 by European Crusaders but had already been badly damaged by quakes. Both the Colossus and Lighthouse were toppled by earthquakes. The Temple of Artemis was destroyed by arson, rebuilt by Alexander the Great and then again destroyed by Goths in 409 AD.

“I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the Colossus of the Sun, and the huge labour of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, ‘Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand.'”– Antipater, Greek Anthology IX.58

“Indeed, wretched the man whose fame makes his misfortunes famous.” – Lucius Accius Telephus

“Love of fame is the last thing even the wise give up.” – Publius Cornelius Tacitus

“The drying up a single tear has more – Of honest fame than shedding seas of gore.” – Lord Byron

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Beginning in the year 2000, a new list of Seven Wonders of the World was undertaken. Between 2000 and 2007, nominees and votes were taken. The poll conducted by Zogby International was said to be the largest on record. The seven winners were: the Taj Mahal in Agra, India; Chichen Itza in Yucatan, Mexico; Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Coliseum in Rome, Italy; Great Wall of China in China; Machu Picchu in Cuzco Region, Peru; and Petra in Ma’an Governorate, Jordan.  The other 13 finalists were: Acropolis of Athens, Alhambra, Angkor Wat, Eiffel Tower, Hagia Sophia, Kiyomizu-dera, Moai, Neuscwanstein, Red Square, Statue of Liberty, Stonehenge, Sydney Opera House, and Timbuktu. There are many other lists of Seven Wonders, as well.

Also on this day: Brrrrrrr – In 1983, the coldest recorded temperature is captured at Vostok Station.
Wild Bill Hickok – In 1865, the first shoot out in the wild west took place.
Constitutional – In 1997, the USS Constitution goes back out to sea.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 21, 2012

USS Constitution

July 21, 1997: The USS Constitution makes her maiden voyage, again. The ship was named by President George Washington. She is the oldest commissioned naval vessel still plying the seas. She was one of the six original frigates built after the passage of the Naval Act of 1794. She was a wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate and was under the flag of the US Navy. The six ships were designed by Joshua Humphreys and were the new nation’s capital ships. They were, therefore, built larger and with heavier armament than was usual. Her first maiden voyage was on July 22, 1798.

The USS Constitution was used famously during the War of 1812. Once again fighting against Great Britain, the Constitution captured many merchant ships and defeated five British warships. The HMS Guerrier, Java, Pictou, Cyane, and Levant all lost to the boat nicknamed “Old Ironsides.” The public was enamored with the great ship and this adulation kept her from the scrap heap several times over the years. She actively served as a flagship in the Mediterranean and African squadrons during the 1840s. During the American Civil War, she was a training vessel at the US Naval Academy.

After her work career was over, she became a goodwill ambassador. The ship was displayed during the Paris Exposition of 1878 as her last act in service. She went on to become a receiving ship and then was designated a museum ship in 1907. In 1931 the USS Constitution began a three-year, 90 port tour of the nation. After the tour, she was docked in Boston and received about 100,000 visitors per year. A small crew was installed to watch over the venerable ship. During a hurricane in 1938, she was blown from the harbor and collided with another ship, sustaining only minor damage.

By 1970 it was evident Old Ironsides was getting older and needed some repair work. Commander Tyrone G. Martin took over as Captain and all restoration work was mandated to conform to the original standards of the 1812 configuration, when the ship had gained her original status and glory. The ship entered dry dock in 1992 for minor repairs. Instead, a major overhaul was undertaken. Using radiography and scans to look for hidden problems, it was obvious much work was needed. The most difficult part of the project was securing the proper wood in the proper sizes. All was accomplished and on July 21, 1997 she gracefully slipped from her berth, and once again set sail, 199 years after she first sailed. It was the first time in 116 years she had sailed 6 knots (6.9 mph) and it was the first time since 1934 she was out overnight.

USS Constitution, the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat, promotes the United States Navy and America’s naval heritage through educational outreach, public access and historic demonstrations, in port and underway.

At the outset of the War of 1812, USS Constitution had already won all of her engagements in two wars: the Quasi War with France (1798-1801) and the Barbary Wars (1801-1805).

Throughout the next four decades following the War of 1812, USS Constitution secured numerous bloodless victories until she was taken out of active service in 1855.

In the course of this 35-minute battle (against HMS Guerriere), an astonished sailor observed British 18-lb. iron cannonballs, bouncing harmlessly off USS Constitution‘s 25-inch oak hull, and he cried out, Huzza! Her sides are made of iron! Henceforth, USS Constitution carried the nickname ‘Old Ironsides.’ – all from the USS Constitution official website

Also on this day:

Brrrrrrr – In 1983, the coldest recorded temperature is captured at Vostok Station.
Destruction – In 356 BC, the Temple of Artemis was destroyed.
Wild Bill Hickok – In 1865, the first shoot out in the wild west took place.

Wild Bill Hickok

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 21, 2011

Wild Bill Hickok illustration from Harper's

July 21, 1865: Springfield, Missouri is the site of what is considered the first western shootout. Wild Bill Hickok faced Davis Tutt in the town square. Both men were dedicated gamblers and at one time they had been friends. This latter fact was despite Tutt’s having been a Confederate Army veteran and Hickok having been a scout for the Union side. Tutt was from Arkansas and after the Civil War, headed west. Some say the two men fell out over a woman, some claim Hickok had misused Tutt’s sister and possibly even fathered a child with her. By July 20, 1865 the two men were sworn enemies.

Hickok refused to play in any card games that included Tutt. For his part, Tutt supplied other card-players with advice and money against Hickok in the hopes of bankrupting his enemy. While playing poker at the Lyon House Hotel, Hickok was playing against several locals while Tutt offered hints and tips. This was futile as Hickok won about $200 (about $4,800 today) of what was essentially Tutt’s money. Immediately, Tutt claimed Hickok owed $40 for a previous horse trade. Hickok paid. Then Tutt claimed another $35 gambling debt. Hickok said it was only $25. Tutt disagreed and picked up Hickok’s prized gold pocket watch.

Hickok warned his old friend not to wear the watch. Tutt smirked a reply, stating he had every intention of wearing the watch. At that point, Hickok threatened to kill him if he walked across the town square wearing the watch. The next day, in order to prove he wasn’t afraid of Hickok, Tutt appeared on the town square with the watch on. Hickok arrived at the square, armed and dangerous. Tutt was considered to be the better marksman of the two. Both men faced each other side on, the standard duel position and about 75 yards apart. Tutt reached for his gun, Hickok drew and aimed using his other arm to steady the shot. Both fired about the same time. Tutt missed. Hickok hit Tutt in the left chest.

Hickok was arrested for murder two days later. The charge was reduced to manslaughter and the trial began on August 3 and lasted for three days. In that time, 22 witnesses testified. Hickok claimed self defense. The most disputed fact in the case was who shot first. The self defense strategy was technically not allowed since Hickok had come armed for a fight when he approached the town square. The jury decided it was a justified shooting. The gunfight was written up in Harper’s in 1867 and the legend came to us as an iconic occurrence.

“I think you are wrong, Dave. It’s only twenty-five dollars. I have a memorandum in my pocket. – Bill Hickok [July 20]

“Fine, I’ll just keep your watch ’til you pay me that thirty-five dollars! I intend on wearing it first thing in the morning! “- Davis Tutt [July 20]

“If you do, I’ll shoot you. I’m warning you here and now not to come across that town square with it on.” – Bill Hickok [July 20]

“Dave, here I am. Don’t you come across here with that watch.” – Bill Hickok [July 21]

Also on this day:
Brrrrrrr – In 1983, the coldest recorded temperature is captured at Vostok Station.
Destruction – In 356 BC, the Temple of Artemis was destroyed.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 21, 2010

Vostok Station

July 21, 1983: The coldest temperature is recorded on planet Earth at Vostok Station, Antarctica – a bone-chilling -128.6° F. While sweltering in the summer heat and humidity, it is odd to think that this day holds the record for coldest recorded temperature. But it is winter in the southern hemisphere and Vostok Station is located near the geomagnetic South Pole.

Vostok Station is a Russian research station built and manned since 1957. The annual average temperature is a much balmier -67º F. The station consists of five buildings that house an average summer population of 25 and winter population of 13. It is located 2.2 miles above sea level and is the most isolated of all the established research stations on Antarctica. It is located at the southern Pole of Cold (where the lowest temperature has been recorded in the Southern Hemisphere). The northern Pole of Cold is also Russian, located in Siberia. Northern Hemisphere temperature lows were reached in Verkyoyansk on January 15, 1885 at -90° F.

Vostok station began operation during the International Geophysical Year (1957) on December 16. The 2nd Soviet Antarctic Expedition operated the station year-round for 37 years. It was closed in January 1994 for a short time. In 1996, a British scientist discovered Lake Vostok, the largest known subglacial lake in the world.

Although the station is Russian, the Americans and French have joined in the ice core drilling projects which gives us valuable information about the planet’s past. The drilling has reached as far as 11,886 feet and was stopped because of concerns about contamination by Lake Vostok. The usable climactic data reaches back about 414,000 years. By greater manipulation of current data, climates can possibly be measured for another 12,000 years.

“One kind word can warm three winter months.” – Japanese proverb

“Never take a job where winter winds can blow up your pants.” – Geraldo Rivera

“Winter, a bad guest, sitteth with me at home; blue are my hands with his friendly handshaking” – Friedrich Nietzsche

“If Antarctica were music it would be Mozart. Art, and it would be Michelangelo. Literature, and it would be Shakespeare. And yet it is something even greater; the only place on earth that is still as it should be. May we never tame it.” – Andrew Denton

Also on this day, in 356 BC, the Temple of Artemis was destroyed by fire.