Little Bits of History

July 23

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 23, 2017

1829: US Patent No. 5581X is issued. The X-patents were issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office between July 1790 (when the first patent was issued) and July 1836 (when a disastrous fire destroyed the patent office. It is thought about 9,957 patents were lost, along with some prototypes also stored at the facility. Better record keeping was instituted after the fire, but only 2,845 of those lost patents have been restored. This invention is one of those lucky ones and the patent is available online.

William Austin Burt was born in Massachusetts in 1792. He was an inventor, legislator, surveyor, and millwright. He was interested in the sea and navigation, but his mother discouraged him from the sailing life since her own father had died at sea. Instead. William used his skills to build better navigational instrumentation. These included a solar compass which used the sun as a measurement and could be used both on land and at sea, and an equatorial sextant which was a precision instrument for positioning a ship at sea. But his patent granted on this day was for something more homebound.

The typographer was America’s first typewriter. While a working prototype was built, it did not speed up secretarial work as hoped. Pellegrino Turri had made a machine in 1808, with this patent, Burt had exclusive American rights to see typographers in the US for 14 years and had the paper signed by President Andrew Jackson to prove it. The name for the machine didn’t change until 1874 and any machine using letters of typeface were typographers. Burt’s machine was unable to make typing much easier and it would take many improvements before typewriters looked anything like we imagine today.

Burt’s machine was 12 inches wide, 12 inches high, and 18 inches long. The user mechanically rotated a lever and when pressed, it would make an impression of the inked character on the paper. The paper was attached to velvet type belt which rotated when the lever was depressed. Different styles of typeface could be used. The paper traveled via the endless band inside the machine. All the letters were inked, but only the one used would be pressed to the paper. A dial on the front of the machine let the user know how long the document had become and was able to print out pages measuring 15 inches in length. Although the original prototype was destroyed in the fire, Burt’s grandson was able to reconstruct the typographer using a copy of the reissued patent. He did so and displayed the machine at the Columbian Exposition in 1892. Burt is called the “father of the typewriter” but he was so far ahead of his time that few models were sold and it was sold off to Cyrus Spalding in 1830 for $75. Eventually, the machine would be perfected.

My two fingers on a typewriter have never connected with my brain. My hand on a pen does. A fountain pen, of course. Ball-point pens are only good for filling out forms on a plane. – Graham Greene

I just sit at a typewriter and curse a bit. – P. G. Wodehouse

I don’t want anything to do with anything mechanical between me and the paper, including a typewriter, and I don’t even want a fountain pen between me and the paper. – Shelby Foote

A typewriter is a means of transcribing thought, not expressing it. – Marshall McLuhan

Tagged with: ,

Great Landing

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 23, 2015
Gimli Glider*

Gimli Glider*

July 23, 1983: The Gimli Glider makes a great landing. Air Canada Flight 143 originated in Montreal and was heading towards Edmonton with a stopover in Ottawa. The Boeing 767-233 jet was flying at an altitude of about 41,000 feet when the plane ran out of fuel. It was about halfway through the flight with 61 passengers and 8 crew aboard. Captain Robert Pearson, 48, was a highly experienced pilot with over 15,000 flight hours. First Officer Maurice Quintal was also experienced with over 7,000 hours of total flying time. The plane was over Red Lake, Ontario when a warning system sounded. The fuel pressure on the plane’s left side was causing a problem. The pilots assumed it was a fuel pump and knew that fuel would feed the engines simply by gravity, so they turned the alarm off.

The fuel gauges were inoperative because of an electronic fault which was indicated on the instrument panel and also in the logs. The computer indicated there was still enough fuel for the flight. The issue was the programming no longer matched the new fueling system. The initial fuel had been registered in pounds rather than the new switch to metric and the measuring of fuel in kilograms. A pound is 2.2 kilograms. A few seconds later, a second fuel pressure alarm sounded, this time for the right engine. With this second alarm, the pilots diverted to Winnipeg. As they were changing course, the left engine failed and they were prepared for a one engine landing. They contacted air traffic control with their intentions as they attempted to restart the left engine.

Another warning system sounded. A loud “Bong” which was unheard of on any prior flight. The noise hadn’t even been part of simulator flights. It meant “all engines out”. This was never expected to happen and so it was not included in pilot training. The 767 jet was without engines and all the instruments on the panels in the cockpit also went blank. The panel was operated by electricity generated by the engines and without engines, there was no power for the panel. There were still a few basic battery-powered instruments available and they were enough to help land the aircraft. The engines also power the hydraulic system which added more problems with controlling the plane. They were left with a glider to set down, rather than a jet.

Pearson was an experienced glider pilot and had some tricks up his sleeve unavailable to most commercial pilots. He knew what was needed to give them the best chance of walking away from the doomed flight. They could not make it to Winnipeg, but there was a former RCAF Station near enough. The plane was set down at the closed Air Force base – Gimli. There were problems lowering the landing gear as the nose gear did not lock. They were able to bring in the plane safely but with the nose tipped downward. The only injuries were from people attempted to leave the plane via the rear chutes which were not long enough due to the tilt. All people aboard survived. The inquisition into the problem led to several reprimands. The plane was eventually repaired and flew again, which according to pilot folklore makes this a great landing.

Every one already knows the definition of a ‘good’ landing is one from which you can walk away. But very few know the definition of a ‘great landing.’ It’s one after which you can use the airplane another time.

There ain’t nothing so useless as altitude above you, runway behind you, or the gas that’s already gone.

When one engine fails on a twin-engine airplane you always have enough power left to get you to the scene of the crash.

Flying the airplane is more important than radioing your plight to a person on the ground incapable of understanding or doing anything about it. – all aviation sayings

Also on this day: “Wanna see something really scary?” – In 1983, Vic Morrow and two children were killed on the set ofTwilight Zone: The Movie.
World War I – In 1914, Serbia ignored an ultimatum from Austria- Hungary.
Like Riding on Air – In 1888, John Dunlap patented a new tire.
Telstar – In 1962, the first live transatlantic TV program was broadcast.
Reprisal – In 1943, a bizarre revenge killing took place.

* “Gimli glider” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia –


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 23, 2014
Bath chair

Bath chair

July 23, 1943: The Rayleigh bath chair murder takes place. Archibald Brown, his wife Doris, and their two sons (Eric and Collin) lived in Rayleigh, Essex, England. Archibald was 47 at the time. Twenty-three years earlier he had been in a motorcycle accident in which he lost the use of his legs. He used a bath or Bath chair which is a rather luxurious type of wheelchair. It was more like a rolling chaise or light carriage which usually had a folding hood to protect the user from the elements when outdoors. When three-wheeled (one in front and two in back) it was pushed by hand. Sometimes, when it had four wheels, it could be pulled by horse, donkey, or pony. The name came either because it was shaped like an old-fashioned bathtub or because the designer hailed from Bath.

At 1:45 PM on this day, Doris Mitchell, one of Archibald’s three nurses, went to the air-raid shelter to get the bath chair only to find the door locked. She went to find Mrs. Brown and together they went back to the shelter where they met Eric, then 19, coming out. Both of the women brought the bath chair back to the house and helped Archibald get in. He was dressed in pajamas and a robe and had a plaid blanket over his legs. Doris left the house with Archibald. They had gone about a mile when Archibald shifted his weight to find a cigarette in his pocket. Doris paused and lit the cigarette and then went back behind the chair to resume pushing.

Just a few steps later, there was a violent explosion. Doris suffered leg injuries and as she looked, the chair and its occupant were simply gone. Police found portions of the Archibald’s body on the sides of the road and in nearby trees and gardens. Since it was wartime, the possibility of enemy action was checked into and discarded. The cause of the explosion was found to be a British Hawkins grenade. It is an anti-tank mine which is detonated when an acid-filled glass ampoule is  broken. The device had been placed under the cushion of the chair. During the investigation, it was found that although Archibald had been unable to walk, he had been a cruel and abusive husband and father.

His mistreatment of his wife was less volatile than what his son experienced. Eric had been beaten and humiliated for years and it was getting worse. There was also some notice taken by both mother and son that while their abuse was increasing, Archibald had taken a liking to his new nurse and seemed to delight in their walks outdoors together. Eric was charged with the murder. He had attended a lecture on the same mine/grenade as that used in the murder. He was also a veteran and had access to a weapons store in Spilsby. He confessed to the crime, blaming his actions on his father’s increasing abuse of both himself and his mother. He was found guilty and declared insane. He was finally released in 1975.

There are many things worth living for, a few things worth dying for, and nothing worth killing for. – Tom Robbins

If peace can only come through killing someone, then I don’t want it. – Hiro Mashima

The dumber people think you are, the most surprised they’re going to be when you kill them. – William Clayton

“You can die trying to get along with a disagreeable man,” she said, and I put a star beside it when I wrote it down and then taped it to the rear-view mirror for the rest of the drive. She hadn’t said “abusive,” I noticed; she had said that just disagreeable could kill you. – Debby Bull

Also on this day: “Wanna see something really scary?” – In 1983, Vic Morrow and two children are killed on the set of Twilight Zone, The Movie.
World War I – In 1914, Serbia ignored an ultimatum from Austria- Hungary.
Like Riding on Air – In 1888, John Dunlap patents a new tire.
Telstar – In 1962, the first live transatlantic TV program was broadcast.

World War I

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 23, 2013
Franz Ferdinand and his family

Franz Ferdinand and his family

July 23, 1914: Serbia ignores an ultimatum issued by Austria-Hungary. Franz Ferdinand Karl Giuermo Anikò Strezpek Belschwitz Mòric Pinche Bálint Szilveszter Gömpi Maurice Bzoch János Frajkor Ludwig van Haverbeke Josef von Habsburg-Lothringen was an Archduke, Prince Imperial, Royal Prince, and next in line to assume the throne of Austro-Hungary. Franz was supposed to wed only someone of royal lineage. He was smitten by a young duchess and lady-in-waiting. After great upheaval and ignoring pleas from the Pope, a Tsar, and an Emperor, the couple married.

On June 29, 1914, the Archduke and his wife were assassinated while riding in an armored car in Sarajevo. The car was a convertible and the top was off. They had come to Serbia, knowing it was dangerous. Europe was already involved in an arms race, increased nationalism, and imperialism. Serbia wished for freedom from Austrian rule. The Black Hand, aka Unification or Death was intent on uniting Serbs, Croats, Macedonians, and Slovenes – all the South Slav populations – in a free nation. Franz was one of Serbia’s strongest advocates in Vienna.

Vienna wasn’t overly outraged at his death as he was not popular in the court or with the general public, but the affront would have to be dealt with in some fashion. An ultimatum was sent on this date demanding that Austro-Hungarian police be permitted access to hunt the murderers on Serbian soil along with other demands. All were met except for the police presence.

Danilo Ilić formed a cell of Black Hand adherents in Sarajevo in 1914. On June 28, 1914 the group threw a grenade at the Archduke’s car and it bounced off the hood, injuring several bystanders. Franz and Sophia insisted they go with the victims to the hospital. Their car made a wrong turn and 19-year-old Gavrilo Princip was able to shoot both occupants at close range. He was eventually arrested and died of TB in prison. The Austrian government was outraged at not being granted access to the hunt and capture of the assassins. Instead, on July 28, they declared war – and so began WWI.

“Sophie dear! Don’t die! Stay alive for our children!” – Archduke Ferdinand’s last words to his wife

“I am the son of peasants and I know what is happening in the villages. That is why I wanted to take revenge, and I regret nothing.” – Gavrilo Princip

“[Sophie] could never share [Franz Ferdinand’s] rank … could never share his splendours, could never even sit by his side on any public occasion. There was one loophole … his wife could enjoy the recognition of his rank when he was acting in a military capacity. Hence, he decided, in 1914, to inspect the army in Bosnia. There, at its capital Sarajevo, the Archduke and his wife could ride in an open carriage side by side … Thus, for love, did the Archduke go to his death.” – A. J. P. Taylor

Count Harrach: “Is Your Imperial Highness suffering very badly?”

Archduke: “It is nothing.” (repeated several times – his last words)

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Franz Ferdinand was born in 1863 in Graz, Austria. His father was the youngest brother of Franz Joseph and Maximilian. When Franz Ferdinand was eleven, Duke Francis V of Modena died and named his young cousin heir if Franz were to add Este to his name. With the name change, the child became one of the richest men in Austria. When he was 25, another cousin – this time Crown Prince Rudolf – committed suicide. This left Karl Ludwig and then Franz Ferdinand as next in line for the throne. Karl denounced his claim in favor of his son. This put Franz as successor to the vast holdings of the Habsburg dynasty. He married Sophie, a mere Countess, after much distress in 1900. They had four children; the youngest was a still born son. Princess Sophie of Hohenberg lived until 1990 outliving both of her younger brothers. Maximilian (Duke of Hohenberg) died in 1962 and Ernst (Prince of Hohenberg) died in 1954.

Also on this day: “Wanna see something really scary?” – In 1983, Vic Morrow and two children are killed on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie.
Like Riding on Air – In 1888, John Dunlap patents a new tire.
Telstar – In 1962, the first live transatlantic TV program was broadcast.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 23, 2012


July 23, 1962: The first publicly transmitted, live trans-Atlantic television program is broadcast. Telstar was a series of communications satellites. Telstar I was launched July 10, 1962 and operated until February 21, 1963. The second Telstar was sent up on May 7, 1963 and operated until May 16, 1965. The two Telstars were nearly identical and roughly spherical in shape. Telstar 1 relayed the first television pictures as well as telephone calls and fax images through space.

The satellites belonged to AT&T although they were built under an international agreement. AT&T, Bell Telephone Laboratories, NASA, the British General Post Office, and the French National PTT worked together to create the experimental communication satellite over the Atlantic Ocean. Bell Labs was a major contributor to the program and agreed to reimburse NASA $3 million for each of the two launches, regardless of the success. There were three main ground stations: Andover, Maine; Goonhilly Downs, England; and Pleumeur-Bodou, France.

John Robinson Pierce created the project while Rudy Komphner invented the traveling wave tube transponder, the basis for the new method of transmission. James M. Early designed the transistors and solar panels. The solar panels covered the exterior of the 170 pound satellite and produced about 14 watts of electrical power. Telstar was 34.5 inches in length, the size was determined by the payload of NASA’s Delta rocket which boosted it into space. Launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida it was the first privately sponsored space launch.

The rocket boosted the satellite into its elliptical orbit. Telstar circled the globe every 2 hours and 37 minutes and was inclined at a 45° angle to the equator. At its closest, it was about 625 miles from Earth, while at its furthest point it was about 3745 miles away. It was a non-geosynchronous orbit which meant it was only positioned over the Atlantic for about 20 minutes of each orbit. Huge ground antennas were needed to track for signals sent back to Earth. The system was first tested with a non-public transmission on July 11, 1962. At 3 PM EDT, the first publicly available broadcast was made and featured Walter Cronkite and Chet Huntley in New York and the BBC’s Richard Dimbleby in Brussels.

A monopoly on the means of communication may define a ruling elite more precisely than the celebrated Marxian formula of monopoly in the means of production. – Robert Anton Wilson

A world community can exist only with world communication, which means something more than extensive short-wave facilities scattered; about the globe. It means common understanding, a common tradition, common ideas, and common ideals. – Robert M. Hutchins

Bad human communication leaves us less room to grow. – Rowan D. Williams

But I’m acutely aware that the possibility of fraud is even more prevalent in today’s world because of the Internet and cell phones and the opportunity for instant communication with strangers. – Armistead Maupin

Also on this day:

“Wanna see something really scary?” – In 1983, Vic Morrow and two children are killed on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie.
World War I – In 1914, Serbia ignored an ultimatum from Austria- Hungary.
Like Riding on Air – In 1888, John Dunlap patents a new tire.

Tagged with: ,

Like Riding on Air

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 23, 2011

John Boyd Dunlop

July 23, 1888:  John Boyd Dunlop applies for a patent for “an improvement in the tyres or wheels for bicycles, tricycles and other road tyres.” Dunlop was a veterinarian from Scotland. After ten years of practice in Scotland, the Dunlops moved to Belfast, Ireland and the good doctor again established a thriving vet practice.

Roads in and around Belfast were rough and rutted. With iron or wooden wheels or even with solid rubber tires, going to area farms was a jarring if not painful experience. Dunlop experimented with cushioned tires using his son’s tricycle. In 1887, he came up with a pneumatic tire – an inflated rubber tire using layers of rubber. He applied for a patent on this date and it was granted in December of 1888.

Unknown to him and apparently to most of the world, Robert William Thompson held a patent in the UK since 1845 and in the US since 1847 for a pneumatic tire. However, no one was producing or using Thompson’s tire. Dunlop went on to establish a business for making his tires although he continued to have legal battles with Thompson.

Dunlop’s tires were a crucial improvement in road travel and that innovation came at a crucial or advantageous time. Dunlop sold his patent for shares in the new company and did not become wealthy as the result of his re-discovery of the cushioned tire. However, his company remains to this day, improving safety and the comfort of road travel. Dunlop Tyres became global in the early 20th century when they opened a plant in Kobe, Japan in 1913. They are a worldwide presence and not only continue to strive to make a safe tire, but to do so without undue stress on the environment. They are proud of their efforts in manufacturing and recycling tires.

“The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.” – H.G. Wells

“The car has become a secular sanctuary for the individual, his shrine to the self, his mobile Walden Pond.” – Edward McDonagh

“What a lucky thing the wheel was invented before the automobile; otherwise can you imagine the awful screeching?” – Samuel Hoffenstein

Also on this day:
“Wanna see something really scary?” – In 1983, Vic Morrow and two children are killed on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie.
World War I – In 1914, Serbia ignored an ultimatum from Austria- Hungary.

Tagged with: , ,

“Wanna see something really scary?”

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 23, 2010

July 23, 1982: Vic Morrow and two child actors are killed on a movie set when a helicopter goes out of control and crashes into them. Twilight Zone: The Movie was being filmed in four parts. Three classic episodes from the 1959-64 television series and one new episode were filmed separately with a prologue and epilogue tying them together.

Twilight Zone: The Movie poster

Vic Morrow’s role was that of a bigot sent back in time to become the people he despised. He was to play a Jewish  Holocaust victim, an African-American about to by lynched by the KKK and a Vietnamese man fleeing from US soldiers. He was on the set holding two small children, Myca Dinh Le, aged 7, and Renee Shin-Yi Chen, aged 6. The scene had the helicopter flying in low, pursuing Morrow and the children. A pyrotechnic explosion caused the copter to lose control and crash into the actors. Morrow and one of the children were decapitated and the other child was crushed to death by the falling copter. The people inside the helicopter were slightly injured. .

Involuntary manslaughter charges were brought against Landis, the film’s director as well as the associate producer, the production manager, the special effects supervisor, and the pilot. The final results were that one second assistant director had his name removed from the credits. The friendship between Landis, the director, and Steven Spielberg, the producer, was shattered. That relationship was already shaky because of disagreements between the two over Landis’s violating so many codes.

The other noted results of this accident were that child labor laws in the US were radically altered and the use of night sets and special effects scenes were further regulated. The film was shrouded in the horror of the crash and was not a huge success at the box office. It does have a cult following and helped bring about the resurrection of the 1980s television version of The Twilight Zone.

“You’re traveling through another dimension. A dimension, not only of sight and sound, but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. Next stop, The Twilight Zone!” – Tagline for the television show

“There’s a remedy for all things but death, which will be sure to lay us flat one time or other.” – Cervantes

“To die is poignantly bitter, but the idea of having to die without having lived is unbearable.” – Erich Fromm

“Life in the movie business is like the beginning of a new love affair: it’s full of surprises and you’re constantly getting fucked.” – David Mamet

Also on this day, in 1914 the Serbian government refuses to allow outside investigation into Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s death.
Bonus Link: In 1888, John Dunlap receives a patent for improved tires.