Little Bits of History

July 25

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 25, 2017

315: The Arch of Constantine officially opens. The Arch was built between 312 and 315 and was dedicated by the Roman Senate to honor Constantine’s reign (306-337) and especially his victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge which took place on October 28, 312. Constantine came to Rome in 312, after his victory and then left two month later and didn’t return until 326. During his time in the capital, they were also celebrating the decennia, a series of games (like the Olympics) Romans participated in. The games were also a reason for many prayers to be offered up. During all the festivities, the Senate decided to build the largest triumphal arch in the empire.

Although dedicated to Constantine, much of the massive structure contains decorative materials from the earlier monuments to Trajan (98-117), Hadrian (117-138), and Marcus Aurelius (161-180). While it was the last of the Roman triumphal arches, it was also the only one to make extensive use of spolia (reused major reliefs from other, earlier monuments). The arch is 68 feet high, 85 feet wide, and 24 feet deep. There are three archways with the central one 37 feet high and 21 feet wide while the two bordering arches are each 24 feet high and 11 feet wide. Above the entire archway is an attic made of brickwork and faced with marble.

The structure is located between the Coliseum and Palatine Hill. The arch spans Via Triumphalis, the road on which emperors entered the city in triumph. The route began at the Campus Martius, threaded through the Circus Maximus, and around Palatine Hill. As soon as the procession passed through the Arch of Constantine, they would turn left at the Meta Sudans and Via Sacra to the Forum Romanum and then on to Capitoline Hill which had them pass through both the Arches of Titus and Septimius Severus. During the Middle Ages, the arch was incorporated into one of the family strongholds of ancient Rome. The first restoration project was carried out in the 1700s. The last excavations took place in the 1990s as the city prepared for the Great Jubilee of 2000. The arch was the finish line for the 1960 Summer Olympics Marathon.

Because pieces were cobbled together from other monuments, it is possible to notice the artistic changes over the centuries of the Roman Empire. Rome was by this time, a city in decline as would become evident when Constantine moved his capital to Constantinople in 324. The styles from the earlier works were much less “violent” but in one relief, the head of an earlier emperor was replaced by Constantine’s image and the later artist was able to copy the style of the earlier one. Earlier parts are more Hellenistic than the later portions of the reliefs. The piece remains, today, a great lesson in art history and the building projects of the Romans.

Rome has grown since its humble beginnings that it is now overwhelmed by its own greatness. – Livy

Ancient Rome was as confident of the immutability of its world and the continual expansion and improvement of the human lot as we are today. – Arthur Erickson

They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, but I wasn’t on that particular job. – Brian Clough

Rome will exist as long as the Coliseum does; when the Coliseum falls, so will Rome; when Rome falls, so will the world. –  Venerable Bede

Battle of Molinella

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 25, 2015
Battle of Molinella*

Battle of Molinella*

July 25, 1467: The Battle of Molinella takes place. It was one of the most important battles in present day Italy from the 15th century. The Republic of Venice, led by Bartolomeo Colleoni, met the Republic of Florence, led by Frederico da Montefeltro for Piero di Cosimo de’ Medici. Although Colleoni was fighting for Venice, his own agenda was the capture of Milan. He was allied with Borso d’Este, the Marquis of Ferrara and the Lords of Pesaro, Forli as well as other renegade families from Florence. The Medici family was allied with Galeazzo Maria Sforza who ruled the Duchy of Milan, King Ferdinand II of Aragon, and the ruler of Bologna, Giovanni II Bentivoglio. The Venetians brought about 14,000 troops to the battle while the Florentines had about 13,000.

The battle was fought on the banks of the Idice River near Molinella. It is also sometimes called the Battle of Riccardina. Historians cannot agree on a winner for the day’s carnage but they know that there were between 600 and 700 casualties as well as a large number of horses slaughtered during the day’s event. Nearly 1,000 horses were lost as the cavalries met. The sure result was that Colleoni abandoned his plans to conquer Milan. The battle is noteworthy because it was the first time (in Italy) that artillery and firearms were extensively used. A large fresco in the Castle of Malpaga depicts the battle. It is thought to have been created by Girolamo Romani. In 1468, Pope Paul II brokered a peace between the two belligerents.

The Most Serene Republic of Venice originated in 697 and began in Venice. As the locals banded together to defend themselves against invasions from the Lombards, Huns, and others, they grew into their own kingdom. They eventually were able to expand and take on lands on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. They were a wealthy state due to their control of trade routes between Europe and the Levant. Their navies were impressive with hundreds of ships. As the Crusades brought people through the region, they were able to capitalize on the movements of troops and their return with booty. By the early 15th century, rather than expansion solely into the Byzantine Empire, Venice also began expanding inward towards Italy proper. The republic lasted for over a millennium and finally came to an end in 1797 when Napoleon conquered the land.

The Republic of Florence, centered on the city of Florence and located in what is today Tuscany, Italy began in 1115. Florence was established in 59 BC by Julius Caesar. The city’s struggle with power and rule had been chaotic and long-lasting. In the late 1000s, several aristocratic families moved into the region and the republic was built. The city became a banking center about the time the Black Death came to Europe. The florin, the first gold coin in Europe, came from the banks of Florence and since they were international, it became the standard. With money comes power. The Medici family’s rise to power followed. The family was able to rule until 1533 when the infuriated population rebelled and brought an end to the republic.

War is not only a matter of equipment, artillery, group troops or air force; it is largely a matter of spirit, or morale. – Chiang Kai-shek

A battery of field artillery is worth a thousand muskets. – William Tecumseh Sherman

Artillerymen believe the world consist of two types of people; other Artillerymen and targets. – saying

Artillery adds dignity, to what would otherwise be an ugly brawl. –  Frederick the Great

Also on this day: Oh Joy! Louise – In 1978, Louise Joy Brown was born.
TP – in 1871, a patent was granted for perforated toilet paper.
Free Press – In 1925, TASS was established.
SS Andrea Doria – In 1956, the ship was struck out at sea.
“Temporary” Tax – In 1917, Canada got a new income tax.

* “Malpaga1” by Giorces – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 it via Wikimedia Commons –

“Temporary” Tax

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 25, 2014
Sir Robert Borden

Sir Robert Borden

July 25, 1917: Sir Robert Borden introduces a new temporary tax in Canada. Unlike their neighbor to the south and the Mother Country, Canada was able to avoid instituting an income tax until World War I. Prior to this, one of the key reasons for immigrating to the country was the lack of an income tax. Funding of the government came from tariffs and customs as well as management of natural resources. At the beginning of the twentieth century, one debate between the Conservatives and Liberals centered on whether or not to tax imports from the US. The Conservatives defeated the Liberals in 1911 as they supported free trade. The Conservatives also opposed an income tax in the hopes of attracting more US and British citizens to their lands.

Wartime expenses increased and the Tories had to reconsider their stance. Borden imposed what was to be a temporary income tax to help cover the cost of the war. With debts piling up in spite of having the tax imposed, it was impossible to simply stop after the war was over. A new Liberal government with Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King was brought in. The debate over dismantling it was abandoned and the income tax has been part of Canadian life ever since. The constitutional authority comes from section 91 paragraph 3 of the Constitution Act, 1867.

Canada levies personal income tax on her citizens and certain types of Canadian-source income earned by nonresidents. The amount one must pay is based on the total of taxable income (income earned less allowed expenses). Taxes may be sent to the government via deductions at the source, installment payments, payments paid when filing, or arrears payments. The most often used deductions are for contributions to Registered Retirement Savings Plans, union or professional dues, child care expenses, and business investment losses. Other deductions are less used and certain amounts can be excluded from taxation altogether. Charitable contributions create a tax credit which is based on the amount donated.

Robert Borders was the 8th Prime Minister of Canada and served in that role from October 10, 1911 until July 20, 1920. George V was King at the time with Earl Grey as Governor General. Borders was born in Nova Scotia in 1854 and was originally affiliated with the Liberal party (1867-1891). He switched at that time to the Conservative party and remained so affiliated with them except for a stint as a Unionist from 1917 to 1922. After retiring from political life, he went on to become Chancellor of Queen’s University and at the time of his death in 1937 he was president of Barclay’s Bank of Canada and of the Crown Life Insurance Company. Just as an interesting fact, he is a distant relative to Lizzie Borden, accused murderer.

The hardest thing to understand in the world is the income tax. – Albert Einstein

There is no such thing as a good tax. – Winston Churchill

When there is an income tax, the just man will pay more and the unjust less on the same amount of income. – Plato

Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors… and miss. – Robert A. Heinlein

Also on this day: Oh Joy! Louise – In 1978, Louise Joy Brown is born.
TP – in 1871, a patent was granted for perforated toilet paper.
Free Press – In 1925, TASS is established.
SS Andrea Doria – In 1956, the ship was struck out at sea.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 25, 2013
toilet paper

Toilet paper

July 25, 1871: Patent #117,355 is granted to Seth Wheeler of Albany, New York. This patent allowed for perforations. Today some products are made without this wonderful inventive process, but special dispensers are then used. By February 13, 1883 another patent was granted to Wheeler to have the perforated product wrapped around a central tube. He made and patented brackets to hold the tubes. The burning question remains: is it possible for men to use these? Over 100 years later we still wonder if men can change a roll of toilet paper.

The first mention of toilet paper was in China in 589 and in 851, Arab-Muslims were so impressed with the Chinese item, they confirmed its use in writing. By 1300, Zhejiang province was producing 10 million packages of paper with 1,000 to 10,000 sheets in each. Sheets measuring 2 x 3 feet were produced in 1393 – 270,000 of them – for use by the royal court. Elsewhere wool, lace, and hemp were used by the wealthy while the poor were stuck using rags, wood shavings, leaves, grass, hay, stone, sand, moss, water, snow, seashells, corncobs, or one’s own hand. In ancient Rome, a sponge on a stick was used then replaced in a bucket of saltwater for the next person.

By 1877, Wheeler’s Albany Perforated Wrapping Paper Co. was selling rolls of TP in drug stores. It was free of “all deleterious substances” in order to prevent the formation of hemorrhoids. If that didn’t work, he sold paper “heavily charged with ointment” to help cure hemorrhoids. The term “toilet paper” was first used in the New York Times in 1888. Plumbing improved and flush toilets (and bidets in Europe) became ever more popular.

Northern Tissue advertised itself as “splinter-free” in 1935. In 1942 two-ply tissue came on the scene along with soft and hard paper. By the 1990s several brands were produced containing aloe. Some interesting facts: It is said that the Pentagon uses 666 roles of paper per day. The best way to buy the product is by the case and the normal roll will last 5 days in the most used bathroom of the house. According to Charmin, we use on average 8.6 sheets per trip or 57 sheets per day or 20,805 sheets per year. And it is all splinter free.

“He who uses paper on his filthy bum, will always find his ballocks lined with scum.” – François Rabelais

“France is a place where the money falls apart in your hands but you can’t tear the toilet paper.” – Billy Wilder

“My dad always told me, yesterday’s news is today’s toilet paper.” – Syneca Puryear

“I have realizations, like that life is bigger than us. People forget that, but I’m always aware of it. Like when I’m in the bathroom looking at my toilet paper, I’m like ‘Wow! That’s toilet paper?’ I don’t know if we appreciate how much we have.” – unknown

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Joseph Gayetty is given credit for bringing commercially successful toilet paper to the US. He marketed his paper first on December 8, 1857 and it originally sold for fifty cents per pack of 500 sheets each bearing a watermark of his name. This early product contained aloe and was marketed as an anti-hemorrhoid medical product. It was licensed to others and sold into the 1920s. Moist toilet paper was first introduced in the UK by Andrex in the 1990s and came to the US in 2001 when Kimberly-Clark brought the product westward. Kimberly-Clark is the manufacturer of both Scott products and Cottonelle. There are 26 billion rolls of toilet paper sold per annum in the US alone. That accounts for $2.4 billion worth of paper being flushed away.

Also on this day: Oh Joy! Louise – In 1978, Louise Joy Brown is born.
Free Press – In 1925, TASS is established.
SS Andrea Doria – In 1956, the ship was struck out at sea.

SS Andrea Doria

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 25, 2012

SS Andrea Doria sinking

July 25, 1956: Just south of Nantucket Island, two ocean liners collide. Nantucket is an island 30 miles south of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The SS Andrea Doria was an Italian Line ship out of Genoa, Italy. She was launched on June 16, 1951 with her maiden voyage beginning on January 14, 1953. She was the flagship, a beacon of national pride as Italy began to rebuild after World War II ended. She was Italy’s largest, fastest, and safest ship.

The area around Nantucket Island is famous for fogbanks. On this particular night, the Andrea Doria had been sailing through a thick fog for quite some time. In accordance with safety procedures, her speed was cut back to 21.8 knots (40.4 mph). Her captain, Piero Calamai, activated the fog-warning whistle and closed all watertight doors, protecting the 1,134 passengers and 572 crew members. The ship had left Italy on July 17 and was scheduled to reach New York the following day.

The MS Stockholm, also called MS Athena, was a Swedish ship built in 1948 and part of the Swedish American Line. After a refit in 1953, the ship was able to carry 548 people. Stockholm left New York about midday and was heading east toward Gothenburg, Sweden. Captain Harry Gunnar Nordenson had left the bridge to Third Officer Johan-Ernst Carstens-Johannsen. The ocean was clear as the ship headed toward the fogbank travelling at 18 knots or 33 mph.

The two ships approached each other at a combined speed of 40 knots or 74 mph. There was no radio communication between the two ships, but they did see each other on radar heading straight for each other. Each ship corrected, but in the worst possible manner. At 11:10 PM the Stockholm struck the Andrea Doria at a right angle amid ships. With an ice breaking prow, the smaller ship impaled the larger one and crashed through about 40 feet. As the two ships disengaged, the Stockholm cut a larger hole in the side of the Andrea Doria. Many passengers inside their staterooms were crushed. The Andrea Doria immediately listed to starboard and half the life boats were unavailable. Due to wonderful implementation of rescue workers, these initial impact fatalities were the only deaths attributed to the accident. 1,660 passengers and crew were rescued with only 46 perishing. The ship sunk the next day.

Every government has as much of a duty to avoid war as a ship’s captain has to avoid a shipwreck. – Guy de Maupassant

I love the ocean. Boats, not so much. – Jeff Goldblum

The man who has experienced shipwreck shudders even at a calm sea. – Ovid

Blue, green, grey, white, or black; smooth, ruffled, or mountainous; that ocean is not silent. – H. P. Lovecraft

Also on this day:

Oh Joy! Louise – In 1978, Louise Joy Brown is born.
TP – in 1871, a patent was granted for perforated toilet paper.
Free Press – In 1925, TASS is established.

Free Press

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 25, 2011

Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union (Photo by Barry Kent)

July 25, 1925: Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union (TASS) is established. A National News Agency was in place beginning in 1904. It’s first incarnation was as the St. Petersburg Telegraph Agency (SPTA) established on September 1, 1904 by Tsar Nicholas II, the last tsar of Russia. It was suggested by the Finance, Interior, and Foreign Ministries and approved by the Tsar. One director from each of the ministries sat in control of the news.

The first name change came the day after Tsar Nicholas changed the name of St. Petersburg to Petrograd. The name of the news agency also changed to the Petrograd Telegraph Agency (PTA). It was seized by the Bolsheviks in 1917 during the Revolution and was declared to be part of the central government. The name changed in 1918 to Russian Telegraph Agency (ROSTA) and became “the central information agency of the whole Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic.”

In 1925, TASS became the central information agency of the country. TASS held the  “exclusive right to gather and distribute information” both inside and outside the country. They controlled the news with 4,000 Soviet newspapers, TV and radio station under their control. They had more than 1,000 foreign outlets as well. They were one of the largest news networks in the world with correspondents in 682 offices inside the USSR and 94 bureaus abroad, employing about 2,000 journalists and photographers.

In 1992, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the name again changed to ITAR-TASS. This agency preserves the status of central state information agency of the country. That information is open to the public now. ITAR-TASS maintains an Internet presence with 45 round-the-clock news cycles in six languages and with more than 40 information bulletins. They operate the largest photograph service in Russia. The website maintains electronic data banks holding all agency materials produced since 1987. If all of the daily output from the website were printed, it would fill about 300 newspapers pages.

“To us, who are regaled every morning and evening with intelligence, and are supplied from day to day with materials for conversation, it is difficult to conceive how man can consist without a newspaper, or to what entertainment companies can assemble.” – Samuel Johnson

“I read the Social Democratic newspapers, I saw their disgusting attitude towards anything that bore even the slightest revolutionary character, and I realized that there could be no reconciliation between a revolutionary party and a party trying to earn a reputation for ‘moderation’ in the eyes of the government and the bourgeoisie.” – Peter Kropotkin

“The evil that men do lives on the front pages of greedy newspapers, but the good is oft interred apathetically inside.” – Brooks Atkinson

“Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper.” – George Orwell

Also on this day:
Oh Joy! Louise – In 1978, Louise Joy Brown is born.
TP – in 1871, a patent was granted for perforated toilet paper.

Oh Joy! Louise

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 25, 2010

Louise Brown's birth announcement

July 25, 1978: Louise Joy Brown is born at 11:47 PM, the world’s first “test tube” baby. She was born via Cesarean section in Oldham, England weighing in at 5 pounds, 12 ounces. Her parents had been trying to conceive for nine years without result. It was found that her mother had blocked Fallopian tubes thereby preventing the ovum or egg to descend naturally and be fertilized in the normal fashion. Drs. Edwards and Steptoe had been experimenting with fertilization outside the body.

The two doctors harvested an egg from Mrs. Lesley Brown and added Mr. John Brown’s semen in a special culture media for 18 hours. The sperm fertilized the egg and the resulting zygote was allowed to grow in a specialized growth medium and then was implanted into Mrs. Brown’s uterus as an embryo. This process is called in vitro fertilization [IVF].

By the time Louise was 21 in 1999, over 300,000 test tube babies had been born. Even in the 21st century, the success rate for a live birth following an IVF cycle is around 20-30% with some clinics claiming as high as a 50% success rate. There are a variety of ethical questions still not completely resolved. One issue is the creation of “designer” babies. Post-menopausal pregnancies are no longer impossible. There have been objections from major religions, as well.

There are many factors that contribute to the success or failure of IVF: timing for harvesting the eggs, quality of the semen, fertilization may or may not occur, the resulting zygote’s progress, and proper implantation of the resulting embryo. All these were especially true in 1977 when Lesley Brown attempted IVF. In fact, no child had been so conceived. Louise was such a success, however, that the Browns also had Natalie through IVF. Louise is married now  to Wesley Mullinder and their son, conceived the old fashioned way, was born on December 20, 2006.

“Bringing a child into the world is the greatest act of hope there is.” – Louise Hart

“The hand the rocks the cradle / Is the hand that rules the world.” – William Ross Wallace

“Every baby born into the world is a finer one than the last one.” – Charles Dickens

“Babies are such a nice way to start people.” – Don Harold

Also on this day, in 1871 Seth Wheeler patents perforated toilet paper.
Bonus Link: In 1825, TASS
is established.

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