Little Bits of History

July 28

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 28, 2017

1866:  Lavinia (Vinnie) Ream receives a commission. She was born on September 25, 1847. She was the youngest daughter of a surveyor in the Wisconsin Territory. Her father also operated a stage coach stop, one of Madison, Wisconsin’s first hotels. It was rustic; guests slept on the floor. Vinnie’s brother served in the Confederate army. Her family moved to Washington, D.C. in 1861 and her father’s health failed. Vinnie had attended Christian College in Missouri and was ready to help support her family. She got a job in the dead letter office of the USPS, the first woman to be employed by the US federal government. She sang at church and was artistic in other areas, as well.

In 1863, Vinnie was introduced to Clark Mills, a sculptor, and she became apprenticed to him the next year when she was 17. In 1864, President Lincoln agreed to model for the young woman, posing in the morning for her over the course of five months. She created a bust of the President. She also began an intense public relations campaign on her own behalf, selling photographs of herself, getting press notice, and generally marketing her artistic endeavors. After Lincoln was assassinated, the government looked for someone to create a statue of the late President.

On this day, at the age of 18, Vinnie was the first woman to receive an artistic commission from the United States government. She used the bust of Lincoln as her entry into the selection process. Congress awarded her efforts and she was to make a life-sized statue out of Carrara marble. There was debate over her abilities, because of her age and also because of her own marketing plans and self-advertisement. She was able to secure the commission and worked in a studio in Room A of the basement of the Capitol Building.

In 1868, President Andrew Johnson was impeached. Senator Edmund Ross boarded with the Ream’s family and cast the deciding vote against his removal. Ream was accused of influencing his vote and she and her unfinished statue were almost evicted from Washington. Powerful New York artists intervened on her behalf. Her plaster cast of the statue was approved and Vinnie then traveled to Europe to study and learn techniques to finish the work. She completed the sculpture in Rome and returned with it to Washington, D.C. it was unveiled on January 25, 1871 in the United States Capitol rotunda. Ream was 23. She went on to create many more beautiful pieces during her life. She died on November 20, 1914 at the age of 67.

All this time the personality of Lincoln was gradually sinking deeper and deeper into my soul. I was modeling the man in clay, but he was being engraven still more deeply upon my heart. – Vinnie Ream

Good painting is the kind that looks like sculpture. – Michelangelo

Sculpture is the art of the intelligence. – Pablo Picasso

The sculptor produces the beautiful statue by chipping away such parts of the marble block as are not needed – it is a process of elimination. – Elbert Hubbard

Children’s Author

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 28, 2015
Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter

July 28, 1866: Helen Beatrix Potter is born. The English natural scientists and conservationist is best known as an author and illustrator of children’s book featuring animals. Her best known book is The Tale of Peter Rabbit. She and her younger brother grew up in an artistic family in the countryside. Both children had many small pets and drew pictures of them. Beatrix was educated by private governesses and she was presented with a wide variety of languages, literature, science, and history. She was a good student. She was given private art lessons and practiced with watercolors, her favorite medium, creating pictures of flora and fauna found in the country. She drew fungi and their spores and came to the attention of the scientific world for her study of fungus reproduction.

In the 1890s, Potter sent illustrated stories to the children of her former governess, Annie Moore. Moore suggested her former student make them into a book and was able to provide all the former correspondence so Potter could work on a book. In 1901 she privately published The Tale of Peter Rabbit based on a letter she had sent to then 5 year old Noel. The letter was too short to make a book, so Potter fleshed it out and added more illustrations. She passed out copies of this book and one finally came into the hands of Arthur Conan Doyle. The original run had been 250 copies and she had another 200 printed when those ran out with the second printing containing a note that her beloved pet rabbit had died.

She entered into a commercial contract to publish 5,000 copies and that was done after long negotiations and an agreement was reached in June 1902. She was able to work closely with the publishing house and made adjustments in both the text and illustrations. The book was to go on sale in October of that year and had sold out 8,000 copies prior to print. By the end of the year, 25,000 copies of the book were printed. The book was a hit and by the end of the next year, 56,470 books were in print. The publisher’s New York office failed to copyright the book in the US and unlicensed copies were printed there. Potter received no royalties from the US editions as well as future US merchandising ventures.

She went on to write over 20 books between 1902 and 1922. The stories of her beloved pets came to life for children around the world as her books were translated into many languages. She was engaged to her editor/publisher, something her parents were against as socially unsuitable. Her fiancé died only a month later from leukemia at the age of 37.  Potter purchased a country home and William Heelis helped her run it. They married in 1913 again against her parents’ wishes since he was just a country solicitor. But the marriage suited Potter who settled into the large Heelis family. She continued to write for many years. She died of complications from heart disease and pneumonia in December 1943 at the age of 77.

All outward forms of religion are almost useless, and are the causes of endless strife. Believe there is a great power silently working all things for good, behave yourself and never mind the rest.

Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality.

It is said that the effect of eating too much lettuce is ‘soporific’.

Thank God I have the seeing eye, that is to say, as I lie in bed I can walk step by step on the fells and rough land seeing every stone and flower and patch of bog and cotton pass where my old legs will never take me again. – all from Beatrix Potter

Also on this day: Dusting for Prints – In 1858, fingerprints were first used – sorta.
Motormouth – In 1958, Lord Jellico spoke for the first time in 19 years.
Plane Flies into Building in New York – In 1945, the Empire State Building was hit by a plane.
B-17 Flying Fortress – In 1935, a test flight for the WWII bomber was made.
In the Stars – In 1855, the USS Constellation was commissioned.

In the Stars

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 28, 2014
USS Constellation

USS Constellation

July 28, 1855: The USS Constellation is commissioned. She was the last sail-only warship designed and built by the US Navy. She was a sloop-of-war which means a single gun deck. According to the Naval Registry, the original USS Constellation – a frigate – was disassembled in 1853 at the Gosport Navy yard in Norfolk, Virginia and the sloop-of-war was then built at the same yard. Despite being a single gun deck, she was both larger and more powerfully armed that the original, her namesake. The sllop was laid down on June 25, 1853 and launched on August 26, 1854. She was commissioned on this day with Captain Charles H. Bell at the helm.

Constellation, now a museum ship, is 181 feet long at the waterline and 199 feet overall. She is 41 feet wide at the waterline and 43 feet at her most extreme. She has a 1,400 long ton displacement and her draft is 21 feet. When fully staffed, she carried 20 officers, 220 sailors, and 45 marines. She was armed with 25 guns, the majority of them 8-inch chambered shell guns. From 1855-58 she was part of the US Mediterranean Squadron and mostly performed diplomatic duties. In 1859, 1860, and 1861 she stopped three ships (one each year) which appeared to be part of the slave trade. Two of the ships were fitted out for transport of human cargo. One ship had 705 enslaved people aboard. They were set free in Monrovia, Liberia.

During the US Civil War, the Constellation remained in the Mediterranean Sea acting as a deterrent to Confederate cruisers and “commerce raiders”. After the war, she continued to sail near Europe and was part of the effort to bring food to Ireland during the famine. She also participated in bringing exhibits to the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1878. The Constellation also served as a floating barracks. During World War I, she was used as a training ship and over 60,000 recruits learned the ropes aboard her. She was decomissioned in 1933 but recommissioned in 1940 as a national symbol. She spent much of World War II as a relief flagship.

She was decommissioned again on February 4, 1955 and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on August 15 of that year, 100 years after her first commissioning. She was taken to Baltimore, Maryland and was designated a National Historic Landmark on May 23, 1963. She is the last intact naval vessel from the Civil War. In 1994 she was condemned as unsafe and taken in for a $9 million restoration project which was completed in 1999. Tours are regularly available and there is a cannon firing demonstration daily. The USS Constellation is now part of the Historic Ships of Baltimore.

If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable. – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

It is not the ship so much as the skillful sailing that assures the prosperous voyage. – George William Curtis

The effect of sailing is produced by a judicious arrangement of the sails to the direction of the wind. – William Falconer

You can’t believe how bleeding scary the sea is! There’s, like, whales and storms and shit! They don’t bloody tell you that! – Libba Bray

Also on this day: Dusting for Prints – In 1858, fingerprints are first used – sorta.
Motormouth – In 1958, Lord Jellico spoke for the first time in 19 years.
Plane Flies into Building in New York – In 1945, the Empire State Building was hit by a plane.
B-17 Flying Fortress – In 1935, a test flight for the WWII bomber was made.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 28, 2013
Lord Jellicoe

Lord Jellicoe

July 28, 1958: Lord Jellicoe, member of the British House of Lords since July 25, 1939, gives his maiden speech. After 19 years of silence, he spoke during the debate called The International Situation: The Middle East. He was not aligned with any particular political party when he spoke about the Baghdad Pact and Iraq. Once he began talking, he became quite vocal, even opening a debate the following July on Western Aid for Uncommitted Countries.

George Patrick John Rushworth Jellicoe was the 2nd Earl Jellicoe. He was a politician, diplomat, statesman, and businessman. He was the sixth child and only son of his parents. The 1st Earl Jellicoe was a naval commander during World War I and the hero of Jutland, the largest naval battle of that war. King George V and Princess Patricia of Connaught were two of George’s sponsors when he was christened. He won the Vere Herbert Smith history prize while at Winchester College.

He signed up at the first wartime intake at RMC Sandhurst (today RMAS), joining the ranks as a cadet in 1939. He was commissioned into the Coldstream Guards in 1940 and sailed to the Middle East in 1941. He was mentioned in three dispatches during this time and wounded once. By 1943 he was named Commander of the Special Boat Regiment Middle East and made Lieutenant-Colonel. For the rest of the war, he was involved in secret and dangerous missions along the coasts of Italy and Yugoslavia.

After the war he served in the Foreign Service, stationed in various posts around the world. He also served as a Cabinet Member from 1970 – 1973. He held a series of non-government jobs, positions of importance in the business and academic worlds. He first sat in the House of Lords in 1939 and served in that capacity until his death in 2007. He is one of the longest serving parliamentarians in the world with 68 years of service in the distinguished House. He was known as the Father of the House of Lords from 1999 to 2007. He was succeeded by Lord Carrington.

“Having lately lived for a year or so in Baghdad I confess that I have not been untouched by the charm of that ugly yet fascinating city, and, if I may say so, of the diverse peoples of Iraq… Like all your Lordships, I felt, and feel, a deep sense of shock, indeed revulsion, at the brutal butchery of the young King and his family, and of that great, and greatly human, statesman, Nuri Pasha.” – George Jellicoe, from his first speech in the House of Lords

“Just as the Roman roads are with us to-day, so these great new roads may be with our successors 1,000 years hence. With this in mind, can my noble friend assure us, first, that the advice of the Advisory Committee [on the Landscape Treatment of Trunk Roads] to which he referred will in all cases in future be sought at a very early stage in the planning of these new roads ; and, secondly, that permanent professional advice will be enlisted from the outset at the planning, the reconnaissance stage, in order to ensure that these great new roads blend as harmoniously as possible with the land-scape through which they pass?” – George Jellicoe

“Lord Jellicoe… has been as good a leader of this House as we have known.” – Lord Shackleton

“‘He was a man in the Macmillan mould’, it was said last night, ‘He gave the impression of a solid and straightforward approach to life, to the cut and thrust of debate-but at the same time he was an extraordinarily subtle person.'” – Daniel McGeachie

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Aristocracy in Britain today is known as Peerage. There are five Peerages, one each for England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, and of the United Kingdom. The lowest rank is Baron and comes from the German, baro or freeman. It was created in 1066. Next is Viscount and comes from Latin, vicecomes or vice-count. It was created in 1440. Earl is next and comes from Old English, eorl or military leader. It was created between 800 and 1000. The name may have been influenced by the Old Norse jarl, meaning free-born or warrior. Marquess is next and comes from the French marquis and references the borders between the countries. The highest rank before royalty is Duke. It comes from Latin, dux meaning leader. The first Duke in Britain was bestowed in 1337.

Also on this day: Dusting for Prints – In 1858, fingerprints are first used – sorta.
Plane Flies into Building in New York – In 1945, the Empire State Building was hit by a plane.
B-17 Flying Fortress – In 1935, a test flight for the WWII bomber was made.

B-17 Flying Fortress

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 28, 2012


July 28, 1935: Model 299 is taken up for its first test flight. On August 8, 1934 the US Army Air Corps enjoined private manufacturers to create a replacement for the Martin B-10. The new planes were to carry a “useful bombload” at an altitude of 10,000 feet. The planes must be able to fly for ten hours with a top speed of 200 mph. It would be useful if the planes had a range of 2,000 miles and could hit speeds of 250 mph, but these were not requirements. Douglas, Martin, and Boeing brought their planes to a “fly off” held at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio.

Boeing brought their prototype B-17, designed by a team led by E. Gifford Emery and Edward Curtis Wells. The plane was built at Boeing’s expense and was a cross between a Boeing XB-15 and the Boeing 247. It could hold 4,800 pounds of bombs on two racks behind the cockpit and was also armed with five 0.30 inch machine guns. It was powered by four Pratt & Whitney R-1690 engines giving the plane 750 horsepower. First flown on this day, Seattle Times reporter Richard Williams called the plane a “Flying Fortress.” Boeing loved the name and actually had it trademarked.

On August 20, the plane flew from Seattle to Wright Field in nine hours and three minutes with an average speed of 235 mph, much faster than the competition. Boeing’s entry outperformed the other two entrants, both of which were twin-engine planes. Top brass was impressed and even before the end of the competition, they suggested buying 65 planes. On October 30, Major Ployer Peter Hill and Les Tower took the plane up. They forgot to disengage the “gust lock” and as they climbed, the plane stalled and crashed, killing both men. The 65 plane order was cancelled.

Even so, the Air Force was impressed with the plane. With some modifications, a YB-17 was ordered and 13 were produced by December 1936. None were shipped in 1937 and only 1 went out in 1938. In 1939, 39 were produced and 38 more were made in 1940. Each year saw a bit of development and each set of planes was given a bit different designation. In 1941, there were 42 B-17D planes and 512 B-17E planes produced. The next year saw over 3,400 planes produced. Before they went out of production, 12,731 B-17 planes were made, including the first – Model 299.

Why, it’s a flying fortress! – Richard Williams, reporter for the Seattle Times, upon seeing a B-17

She was a Stradivarius of an airplane… – Colonel Robert Morgan, pilot of the Memphis Belle

The plane can be cut and slashed almost to pieces by enemy fire and bring its crew home. –  Wally Hoffman, B-17 Pilot, 8th Air Force

The mightiest ever built. – Description of a B-17 by a member of the 8th Army Air Force

Also on this day:

Dusting for Prints – In 1858, fingerprints are first used – sorta.
Motormouth – In 1958, Lord Jellico spoke for the first time in 19 years.
Plane Flies into Building in New York – In 1945, the Empire State Building was hit by a plane.

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Plane Flies into Building in New York

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 28, 2011

Empire State Building after the crash

July 28, 1945: A plane flies into the tallest building in New York City. The building had been designed by William F. Lamb who used previously rejected drawings to create the design in just two weeks. Excavation of the site began on January 22, 1930 and the actual building was started on St. Patrick’s Day that year. There were about 3,000 people working on the building, mostly immigrants. Five of those workers died during construction. Former New York’s governor, Al Smith, allowed his grandchildren to cut the ribbon, opening the building on May 1, 1931. President Hoover turned on the lights remotely from Washington, D.C. and the Empire State Building was officially opened.

The Empire State Building stands 1,250 feet tall at the 102nd floor Observatory. Atop that is the 203 foot tall pinnacle for a total rise of 1,453 feet and 8 9/16 inches. The 86th floor has an indoor and outdoor observation deck. The pinnacle is peppered with broadcast antennas and topped by a lightning rod. It was the first construction project of over 100 floors and there are 1,872 steps from the ground to the 103rd floor. There are 6,514 windows in the building as well as 73 elevators. Also included are 473 miles of electrical wiring and 70 miles of pipe. It cost $40,948,900 to build.

In 1945, July 28 was a Saturday. It was foggy morning. Lieutenant Colonel William Franklin Smith, Jr. was piloting a B-25 Mitchell bomber. He was undertaking a routine personnel transport mission from Boston to LaGuardia Airport. When he asked for permission to land, he was told of the zero visibility. He opted to proceed regardless of this problem. Because of the dense fog, he became disoriented. When he passed the Chrysler Building, he should have turned left. Instead, he turned right. He crashed into the Empire State Building at 9:40 AM. His plane struck between the 78th and 80th floors and caved in an eighteen by twenty foot hole in the north side of the building.

One engine shot through the opposite side of the impact and flew another block before landing atop another building. There, it started a fire, nearly destroying the penthouse of the affected building. The second engine and the landing gear fell down an elevator shaft. The fire due to the crash was extinguished in forty minutes; even today it remains the only such fire at such a height to be successfully contained. Fourteen people were killed. Betty Lou Oliver was the elevator operator and survived the event. She was lowered inside the elevator and the cable broke, dropping her 75 stories. She was injured, but survived. Despite all this chaos, the building was opened again the following Monday.

“Eddie Fisher married to Elizabeth Taylor is like me trying to wash the Empire State Building with a bar of soap.” – Don Rickles

“The Eiffel Tower is the Empire State Building after taxes.” – Anonymous

“An optimist is someone who falls off the Empire State Building, and after 50 floors says, ‘So far so good!’“ – Anonymous

“The Empire State Building is the closest thing to heaven in this city.” – Terry McKay

Also on this day:
Dusting for Prints – In 1858, fingerprints are first used – sorta.
Motormouth – In 1958, Lord Jellico spoke for the first time in 19 years.

Dusting for Prints

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 28, 2010

A fingerprint

July 28, 1858: Sir William Herschel, Chief Magistrate of the Hooghly district in Jungipoor, India has Rajyadhar Konai leave an imprint of his palm on a contract to frighten him should he have any thought of repudiating the document. Sir William used the whole hand for a time and then switched to the right index and middle fingers alone as a signature.

In 1880, Dr. Henry Faulds was working in Tokyo and began the study of the finger ridges and looked at the possibility of using fingerprints left at the scene of a crime as a method of identifying the criminal. By 1892, Juan Vucetich, a police officer in Argentina, actually used this method of identifying a criminal and opened the first fingerprint bureau in the world.

In 1897, Sir Edward Henry identified a simplified fingerprint classification system that is still used in most English-speaking areas of the world. During the next century, more and more countries developed methods of storing and utilizing these fingerprints in order to capture criminals. Today, Interpol with over 180 member countries, shares fingerprint and other biometric data collected across the globe.

Even now, fingerprints must be looked at and found to be a match by two qualified experts. There are 35-50 minutiae, identification points, per fingerprint but when matching prints only 8-12 are used. Prints left behind in normal living are called “latent” prints as distinguished from comparison prints taken deliberately with inked fingers placed on fingerprinting cards.

“The DNA is the fingerprint of the 21st Century, but DNA tests are only part of the solution. They are a window into the larger problems in the system, like inadequate counsel.” – Patrick Leahy

“In future, the recording of biometrics, such as fingerprints, iris patterns or facial image means that we will have a much stronger way of linking identity to the person. A national ID card will be a robust, secure way to establish that identities are real, not fabricated.” – Charles Clarke

“The Ripper case is not one to be conclusively solved by DNA or fingerprints, … and in a way, this is good. Society has come to expect the wizardry of forensic science to solve all crimes, but without the human element of deductive skills, teamwork, very hard investigation, and smart prosecution, evidence means nothing.” – Patricia Cornwell

“We’re moving to an area where international travelers’ fingerprints are going to be part of their identifier.” – Stewart Baker

Also on this day, in 1958 Lord Jellicoe first spoke to the House of Lords after being a member for 19 years.

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