Little Bits of History

July 24

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 24, 2017

1927: The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing is unveiled. Located in Ypres, Belgium, it was dedicated to the British and Commonwealth soldiers killed in the Ypres Salient of World War I and whose graves were unknown. The region around Ypres proper, the Ypres Salient, was the location of some of the biggest battles of the Great War. British, French, Canadian, and Belgian troops attempted to hold back the German incursion in the 1914 Race to the Sea. Hundreds of thousands of men were casualties of the horrific fighting taking place over several months. The Memorial was placed at the starting point for one of the main roads out of town which led the Allied soldiers to the front lines.

The roadway and gate have existed since medieval times, originally as a trade route. The city had to fortify itself against potential invaders and built walls and gates to do so. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the gates were upgraded several times. The gate became known as the Menenpoort (Menin Gate in English) because the road led to the small town of Menen. German strategic plans called for their capture of Belgium and a route to the North Sea. There were five major battles and several smaller ones fought over the path to the sea. British and Commonwealth soldiers went through the gates with 300,000 of them meeting their deaths, 90,000 of them with no known graves.

The arch was designed by Reginald Blomfield in 1921. One enters a barrel vaulted passage as traffic through the mausoleum honors the Missing. There is a lion atop the arch, representing both Britain and Flanders. There is a large Hall of Memory with the names of 54,395 Commonwealth soldiers who died in the Salient but whose bodies were never found. It was originally planned to contain more names, but it was found to be too small and many of the rest of the names are memorialized at Tyne Cot Memorial to the Mission. The Gate was built by the War Graves Commission and as always, not everyone approved. It should be noted, that even now, remains of long dead soldiers are found in the field surrounding Ypres.

When the Gate opened, the citizens wanted to express their thanks to the men and boys who had sacrificed so much so that they might be free. As a symbol of that gratitude, at 8 PM, they played “Last Post”, the British military bugle call to the end of the day. This ceremony has been conducted daily since July 2, 1928 except during World War II when the Germans occupied the region. At that time, the ceremony was held at Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey, England. On the day the Polish troops entered town to evict the Germans, the ceremony began again, even as fighting continued in other part of Ypres. On certain days of the year, an Extended Last Post ceremony is held. Their schedule can be found here.

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. – John F. Kennedy

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. – Melody Beattie

Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy. – Jacques Maritain

Cold War Competition

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 24, 2015
Nikita Khrushchev and Richard Nixon - Kitchen Debate

Nikita Khrushchev and Richard Nixon – Kitchen Debate

July 24, 1959: Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev and Richard Nixon take part in a “Kitchen Debate”. The two super powers agreed to hold exhibitions in each other’s country. The Soviet exhibition opened in New York in June and the US exhibit opened in Moscow the following month. The American exhibit was a modern house that “everyone” in America could afford. It was filled with all the new gadgets available to Americans in a post-World War II boom economy. Both labor saving and recreational devices were included in the model. US Vice President Nixon was in Moscow and gave Khrushchev a tour through the model house while they spoke to each other via interpreters. Also along was William Safire as the exhibitor’s press agent.

Not only was the house remarkable, but the debate was recorded on color videotape. When Nixon pointed it out, it was decided both countries would broadcast the interviews with interpretations. Prior to July 1959, US Congress had condemned the USSR for its control over the captive people in Eastern Europe. They asked the American people to pray for the people behind the Iron Curtain. During the course of the home tour, Khrushchev suddenly launched into a protest over this prior congressional event while Nixon listened quietly. Khrushchev then promised that the Soviets would surpass all the gadgetry in a few years time and wave “Bye bye” as they zoomed past Americans. Nixon responded by saying that at least the competition seemed to be technological rather than military – a good thing.

As their tour/interview ended, Khrushchev asked that the tapes be thoroughly translated and shown to the American people. Nixon agreed if the tapes would also be translated into Russian and shown across the USSR. They shook hands on the deal. It was the first time high level people from the Soviet and the US had been together since the Geneva Summit four years earlier. Leonid Brezhnev had been present and kept photo bombing or obstructing filming of the Kitchen Debate.

All three major networks broadcast the entirely translated tape the next day throughout the US. This angered the Soviets since it was agreed that it would be shown at the same time in both countries. The US felt delay would cause the tapes to have lost immediacy. Two days later, July 27, the tapes were broadcast in the USSR, although much of Nixon’s contribution was not translated into Russian. It was also shown late at night when viewership was lower. Reception in the US was mixed. It was said to have been more of a political stunt than substantive statesmanship. Khrushchev must have been impressed with young Nixon since he claimed to have done all he could to make sure that Nixon lost his presidential run in 1960.  The debates can be seen (non-translated) on You Tube – part 1 and part 2. An English translation of the text is also available.

The shrewd Khrushchev came away from his personal duel of words with Nixon persuaded that the advocate of capitalism was not just tough-minded but strong-willed. – William Safire

An exchange that emphasized the gulf between east and west but had little bearing on the substantive issue. – The New York Times describing the event

Nixon managed in a unique way to personify a national character proud of peaceful accomplishment, sure of its way of life, confident of its power under threat. – Time magazine

I’ve been insulted by experts. Everything we say is in good humor. – Richard Nixon after Khrushchev apologized if he had been offensive

Also on this day: Also on this day: The Manly Peak – In 1911, Machu Picchu was found – again.
Tennessee – In 1866, the first seceded state was admitted back to the Union.
Oh, Henry – In 1901, William Porter was released from prison.
Eastland – In 1915, the SS Eastland capsized.
Promised Land – In 1847, Brigham Young and his followers arrived in Salt Lake Valley.

Promised Land

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 24, 2014
Brigham Young

Brigham Young

July 24, 1847: Brigham Young arrives in Salt Lake Valley. Young was born in Whitingham, Vermont and worked as a travelling carpenter and blacksmith. He converted to the Methodist church in 1823 and married in 1824. He converted to Mormonism shorting after reading the Book of Mormon in 1830 and officially joined the new church in 1832. He traveled as a missionary to Upper Canada and after his wife died (1832) he was back in Kirtland, Ohio and established a community there. He was ordained as one of the original Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1835 and took on a leadership role in which they hoped to export Mormonism to the UK. He also helped organize the exodus from Missouri in 1838.

In 1844 Joseph Smith, president of the church, was killed by an armed mob while in jail on charges of treason. A succession crisis followed and Young and Sidney Rigdon argued over who should take leadership. Young’s argument prevailed and he was ordained President of the Church in December 1847. Rigdon left the church and started his own sect. Because of ongoing conflict within the Mormon church, Young decided to take the faithful followers to Winter Quarters, Nebraska and then on to Salt Lake Valley arriving on this day and establishing Salt Lake City. The day is known as Pioneer Day. Just 29 days after arriving, on August 22, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was organized.

Pioneer Day is celebrated in Utah and also in some regions of the surrounding states with a strong Mormon presence. The day is devoted to the memory of the forced flight from Nauvoo, Illinois as well as other eastern US places and the finding of a new home out west. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints members walk portions of the Mormon Trail – the 1,300 mile route covered by those fleeing persecution. Today, the trail is part of the United States National Trails System. While Pioneer Day has strong ties to the Mormons of the region, it is celebrated by everyone regardless of faith or nationality. Many government offices and businesses are closed for the day.

Pioneer Day was first celebrated in 1857 but was interrupted by Johnson’s Army coming near at the start of the Utah War. While Utah Territory was occupied by federal troops, the day was not celebrated but when Lincoln initiated a hands-off policy in 1862, it was once again observed. In 1880, fifty years after the Church was founded, the Golden Jubilee was celebrated with tens of thousands of people participating. Anti-polygamy laws were placed and there were subdued celebrations with the 1886 event being more of a mourning for the people jailed for polygamy. By 1897 the laws were repealed, the celebrations returned, and it was a happy day once again.

True independence and freedom can only exist in doing what’s right.

Don’t try to tear down other people’s religion about their ears. Build up your own perfect structure of truth, and invite your listeners to enter in and enjoy it’s glories.

If I had a choice of educating my daughters or my sons because of opportunity constraints, I would choose to educate my daughters.

It is wise for us to forget our troubles, there are always new ones to replace them. – all from Brigham Young

Also on this day: The Manly Peak – In 1911, Machu Picchu was found – again.
Tennessee – In 1866, the first seceded state is admitted back to the Union.
Oh, Henry – In 1901, William Porter was released from prison.
Eastland – In 1915, the SS Eastland capsized.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 24, 2013
Map of the United States with Tennessee highlighted

Map of the United States with Tennessee highlighted

July 24, 1866: Tennessee becomes the first state to be readmitted to the Union after the American Civil War. The war was fought between April 12, 1861 and April 9, 1865 with the last battle ending on May 13. Long before the first shots were fired in anger, there was a rift between the North and South. The agricultural South was dependent on slave labor. Issues with State Rights over Federal interference were of major importance. As the country grew, more states were included in the Union, further upsetting a delicate balance.

On December 24, 1860 South Carolina issued a legal proclamation setting forth the causes she felt would justify Secession from the Union. First was States Rights to choose whether to be slave or free. Secondly, the Fugitive Slave Act was not being enforced, thereby diminishing the authority of the Southern States. Even before Lincoln took office, seven states seceded from the Union. South Carolina first then Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas – in that order – left the Union and established the Confederate States of America (CSA). After the attack on Fort Sumter, four more states (Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina) joined the CSA.

Reconstruction began even before the war ended. The period covers 1863-1877. The era is defined as the time when slavery was abolished and the CSA was totally eradicated. The Emancipation Proclamation began the journey towards reuniting the war torn country. Reconstruction began in each state as federal troops took control of the region. The period’s end date coincides with the Compromise of 1877 where the last three Republican supported state governments were removed.

Tennessee was the last state to officially join the CSA. East Tennessee tired to remain aligned with the US. Many battles were fought inside the state’s boundaries. By the time of the Emancipation Proclamation, most of Tennessee was under Union control (which is why the state isn’t named in the Proclamation). The Tennessee state legislature outlawed slavery on February 22, 1865 with the state’s voters approving in March. In 1864 Andrew Johnson, a War Democrat from Tennessee, became Vice President with Lincoln’s second term. After Lincoln’s assassination, Johnson’s leniency toward Tennessee allowed members to be admitted back into the US Congress on this date. This allowed for Tennessee to be the only seceded state to avoid being ruled by a military governor during Reconstruction.

“All we ask is to be let alone.” – Confederate President Jefferson Davis

“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery.” – President Abraham Lincoln

“[The house Rhett Butler built for Scarlett] could have been in Omaha so little does it resemble any dwelling in the Atlanta of the Reconstruction period.” – Margaret Mitchell

“Gettysburg proved a significant turning point in the war, and therefore in the preservation of the United States and abolition of slavery. The Civil War ended lingering doubts since its conception about whether the United States would survive.” – James McPherson

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: The Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863. It was an order to all segments of the Executive branch of the US including the Army and Navy. The order stated that all slaves in Confederate territory were free. Thus, 3.1 million of the 4 million slaves in the country were immediately freed. It further proclaimed that “suitable” people among the now free ex-slaves should be enrolled in the paid services of the US forces. Because the President is Commander in Chief of the military, this order was issued constitutionally. It was not a law passed by Congress and it could not be enforced in areas still in rebellion. However, there was already much of the South that had been subdued and in these areas, the slaves were now freed. This order did not involve the five slave states that were not in rebellion and did not outlaw slavery itself. It also did not compensate the owners for the loss of their property nor did it make the ex-slaves citizens.

Also on this day: The Manly Peak – In 1911, Machu Picchu was found – again.
Oh, Henry – In 1901, William Porter was released from prison.
Eastland – In 1915, the SS Eastland capsized.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 24, 2012

SS Eastland capsizes

July 24, 1915: The SS Eastland capsizes and kills 848 of those aboard. The ship was commissioned by the Michigan Steamship Company and built by the Jenks Ship Building Company. She was completed in 1903. It was immediately apparently there were some design flaws. The ship was top heavy and listed, especially if too many passengers were congregating on one side of the craft. By offsetting weights, the problem could be fixed temporarily. The ship was used for touring Lake Michigan off the shores of Chicago, Illinois.

In 1915, in response to the terrible loss of life after the RMS Titanic sunk, the Seaman’s Act was passed by the federal government. This demanded all ships be retrofitted with enough lifeboats to rescue all passengers aboard. Ironically, this may have helped cause the horrible disaster that befell the ship on this date. The extra lifeboats added to the already top heavy ship’s listing problems.

Three ships were chartered to take employees from Western Electric’s Hawthorne Works plant (in Cicero, Illinois) to a picnic in Michigan City, Indiana. Many of these workers were not able to take private holidays or vacations, due to their impoverished condition. A large number of the passengers were immigrants. Although there were restrictions to how many passengers the SS Eastland could carry, the people crowded aboard to have their special holiday picnic. It was docked between Clark and LaSalle Streets on the Chicago River.

Boarding began at 6:30 and by 7:10 there were 2,752 passengers aboard, the maximum allowed. The ship was packed. The ship was beginning to list and the crew attempted to rebalance the craft by allowing water in to create ballast. The crowd was gathering on the side of the ship opposite the docks. There was a canoe race passing by the port side. At 7:28 the ship lurched and then completely rolled over on its side.

The ship was close to land and the water was only 20 feet deep. It was a hot, muggy day and many people had already moved below decks into the relative coolness. As a result, hundreds were trapped inside the ship during the sudden rollover. Many of the interior decorations shifted and trapped passengers. Although there was an instant attempt at rescue, 844 passengers and four crew members perished.

And then movement caught my eye. I looked across the river. As I watched in disoriented stupefaction a steamer large as an ocean liner slowly turned over on its side as though it were a whale going to take a nap. I didn’t believe a huge steamer had done this before my eyes, lashed to a dock, in perfectly calm water, in excellent weather, with no explosion, no fire, nothing. I thought I had gone crazy. – Jack Woodford

The only aspect of our travels that is interesting to others is disaster. – Martha Gellman

Meet success like a gentleman and disaster like a man. – Frederick Edwin Smith

The minute you think you’ve got it made, disaster is just around the corner. – Joe Paterno

Also on this day:

The Manly Peak – In 1911, Machu Picchu was found – again.
Tennessee – In 1866, the first seceded state is admitted back to the Union.
Oh, Henry – In 1901, William Porter was released from prison.

Tagged with: ,

Oh, Henry

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 24, 2011

William Sidney Porter

July 24, 1901: William Sidney Porter is released from prison. Porter was born in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1862. His father was a doctor and his mother died of tuberculosis when William was only three. Father and son moved in with an elderly relative. Young Porter read voraciously. He graduated from his Aunt’s elementary school in 1876. He went on to high school and then began working in his uncle’s drugstore in 1881. By age 19, William was a licensed pharmacist. He also began to sketch locals. His health was precarious and so he moved.

He ended up in Texas and took odd jobs on a sheep ranch. By 1884, with his health improved, he moved to Austin, Texas and carried on an active social life. He joined acting groups and sang in the Hill City Quartet. He began dating Athol Estes and even though her father disapproved, they secretly wed. They had a son and a daughter, with only the latter surviving infancy. Porter began working for a friend drawing maps from field notes and surveys. He was earning $100 per month. While doing so, he wrote stories for magazines and newspapers.

His writing began to take off and when he lost his job after an election change, he began working for a bank. His bookkeeping was lax, and he was fired but not indicted. He next began his own humorous weekly. Eventually, it reached a circulation of 1,500 which was not enough to support his family. They moved from Austin to Houston in 1895. There, Porter began working for a newspaper at only $25/month. As his popularity increased, so did his salary.

His old bank was audited, and he was charged with embezzlement. His father-in-law posted bail and the day before the trial, Porter fled. He first went to New Orleans and then to Honduras. His wife who suffered from tuberculosis was too ill to travel. When he learned she was dying, he returned to states and was arrested. He maintained his innocence, but without much defense, he was found guilty and sentenced to five years. He worked as a pharmacist in prison and continued to write. He is best known for his writing, which greatly increased after he moved to New York City to be near his publishers. While there, he wrote 381 short stories. His surprise endings were a trademark and today these types of endings are named for Porter. But they and the award given in his name use his pen name. O. Henry.

“A straw vote only shows which way the hot air blows.”

“If men knew how women pass the time when they are alone, they’d never marry.”

“Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.”

“Life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating. – all from O. Henry

Also on this day:
The Manly Peak – In 1911, Machu Picchu was found – again.
Tennessee – In 1866, the first seceded state is admitted back to the Union.

The Manly Peak

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 24, 2010

Machu Picchu

July 24, 1911: The Lost City of the Incas, known as Machu Picchu, is rediscovered by Hiram Bingham. Bingham was born in Hawaii, to a missionary family. He was educated at Yale and Harvard and served as Preceptor at Princeton.

In 1906, Bingham sailed to South America to follow the route Bolivar had taken in 1819. He returned to Peru in 1911 as Director of the Peruvian Expedition and studied writings from the 17th century which led to his search for the last two Incan capitals – Vilcabamba and Vitcos.

On July 23, he camped by a river and a local farmer told him, through his interpreter, of some ruins at the top of the mountain. The next day, Bingham, the farmer, and his interpreter climbed the mountain and found a group of people farming the lower terraces. The stonework of the terraces was inspirational. Pablito, an 11-year-old from the farming community led Bingham to the site of the remains of the abandoned place we know as Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu consists of approximately 200 buildings: residences, temples, storage structures, and public buildings. In the late Incan period about 1,200 people lived in the buildings made of granite block cut with bronze or stone tools. The blocks fit together perfectly without mortar even though none of the blocks are the same size. Some have as many as 30 corners. The architectures blends with the landscape perfectly. The astrologically oriented intihuatana, a column of stone, was used by the priests to tie the sun to the earth to keep it from disappearing as the winter solstice approached. Although the site was never found by the Spanish conquistadores, it is assumed that smallpox preceded the Europeans and wiped out the population.

“No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars or sailed to an uncharted land or opened a new heaven to the human spirit.” – Helen Keller

“The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand.” – Frank Herbert

“By mutual confidence and mutual aid – great deeds are done, and great discoveries made.” – Homer

“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” – Lao Tzu

Also on this day, in 1866 Tennessee was readmitted to the Union.