Little Bits of History

July 30

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 30, 2017

762: The ceremonial first brick is laid. The Umayyad Caliphate was defeated by the Abbasid, the third of the Islamic caliphates to succeed the prophet Muhammad. They descended from Muhammad’s youngest uncle, Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib. Their capital was first located in Kufa, but Al-Mansur wished to move it. He had royal astrologers seek for the best and most auspicious day to undertake the creation of the new capital city. On this day, Baghdad’s construction began. The name predates Islam and the region had been populated for millennia but by this time, the people were living in scattered small villages. Baghdad was one of the small villages for the Persian residents.

Mansur originally called his new capital Madinat al-Salaam or City of Peace. While this official name was inscribed on official documents and coinage, the locals called their city Baghdad and by the 11th century, the original name had disappeared. Mansur planned the city before construction began and erected massive brick walls with a circumference of four miles and rising up from the Tigris River. Mansur’s Round City walls had 162,000 bricks on each round for the first one-third of the 80 foot high wall and 150,000 bricks per round on the middle third with 140,000 bricks on the top third. They were bonded together with bundles of reeds and crowned with battlements and included a deep moat ringing the outer wall.

Thousands of workers, skilled and unskilled, came together to build the new city. This was the largest construction project in the Islamic world and it is though over 100,000 people worked – planning, designing, engineering, making the bricks, digging the trenches, and actually building the innovative design. Four straight roads led from the center of city to outer gates and these were the main shopping districts. Smaller roads led off these major roadways and people were able to build houses there. The center of the city was maintained as a royal preserve. The city was completed in 766 and it was considered at the time and for centuries afterward as a work of art and engineering genius.

Today, Baghdad is the capital of the Republic of Iraq. There are almost 9 million living there making it the largest city in Iraq and second largest in the Arab world (Cairo, Egypt is larger). The city has spread beyond the original walled area and today covers 78.8 square miles. The city has been in the crosshairs of warring factions many times throughout its long history. The Seljuk Turks overran the city in 1055 and later the city often was involved in Ottoman Empire conflicts. The Ottomans lost rule to the British in 1917 and became independent in 1932. The city’s growth has exploded in the last century as it has modernized with funding available from the petroleum industries. The last major conflict in the region was the Gulf War and in 2003, the city came under attack and suffered great damage.

I miss aspects of being in the Arab world – the language – and there is a tranquility in these cities with great rivers. Whether it’s Cairo or Baghdad, you sit there and you think, ‘This river has flown here for thousands of years.’ There are magical moments in these places. – Zaha Hadid

Today’s message to Baghdad is very clear: the UN Security Council resolution expresses the unity and determination of the entire international community to assume its collective responsibility. – Javier Solana

I stayed in Baghdad every summer until I was 14. My dad’s sister is still there, but many of my relatives have managed to get out. People forget that there are still people there who are not radicalized in any particular direction, trying to live normal lives in a very difficult situation. – Andy Serkis

Only the long melancholy call to prayer, or the wail of women over the dead, or the barking of dogs, breaks the silence which at sunset falls as a pall over Baghdad. – Isabella Bird

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Stormy Weather

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 30, 2015
SS Brother Jonathan

SS Brother Jonathan

July 30, 1865: The SS Brother Jonathan sinks just off the coast of Crescent City, California. The paddle steamer was 220 feet long and 36 feet wide at the beam. She was built in 1851 and had a refit and update done in 1861. On this day she carried 244 passengers and crew. Of them, only 19 people survived making it the deadliest shipwreck on the Pacific Coast of the US up to that time. The final trip began from San Francisco Bay and the ship was headed to Portland and then to Victoria, British Columbia. She ran into gale force storms soon after leaving the bay’s protection. Most passengers were confined to their rooms by the “frightful winds and stormy seas”. The first night out, the ship anchored at Crescent City harbor. The weather seemed calmer.

On this day, they again left the calmer waters and headed out into the ocean and ran into more storms. The conditions became so perilous, the captain ordered the ship to turn around and get back to the harbor they had so recently left. Less than an hour after turning around, the ship struck an uncharted rock which pierced the hull. Within five minutes, the captain realized the ship was sinking and ordered everyone to abandon ship. Although there were enough lifeboats for all aboard, only three boats were able to be safely launched. The first to be launched capsized soon after it was lowered. The second lifeboat crashed against the sides of the quickly sinking ship. Only one boat safely managed to escape the wreck and make it to shore.

The nineteen aboard included the Union Commander of the Department of the Pacific, Dr. Anson Henry (Lincoln’s personal physician and closest friend), James Nesbit (a well known publisher) and Roseanna Keenan (a well known San Francisco madam). There were 11 crew members, five women, and three children in the lifeboat. Because of this shipwreck, new laws were enacted including one to assure that lifeboats could be released from a sinking ship and safely escape. Wells Fargo was shipping gold northward and there was what would be $50 million worth of the precious metal aboard. Although the ship sunk very close to shore and many attempts were made, the gold was not recovered.

It would take over a century and much more sophisticated technology before the wreck could be found and some of the artifacts salvaged. In 1993, the ship was found two miles from the reef it had struck. The wreckage was found at a depth of 275 feet using a mini-sub. In 1996, divers found 875 gold coins from in the early 1860s. They were in nearly mint condition. Eventually more gold was found along with other artifacts. No human remains were found amid the wreckage. It took legal intervention to determine who the owners of the salvage were and eventually the goods were auctioned off. A memorial has been established for the ship and her passengers and crew. It is registered as California Historical Landmark #541 and can be found in Crescent City.

Harbour, n. A place where ships taking shelter from storms are exposed to the fury of the Customs. – Ambrose Bierce

The greater the difficulty the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests. – Epictetus

I wished to see storms only on those coasts where they raged with most violence. – Marcel Proust

You don’t need to pray to God any more when there are storms in the sky, but you do have to be insured. – Bertolt Brecht

Also on this day: Where Did He Go? – In 1975, Jimmy Hoffa disappeared.
Follow the Money – In 2002, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was signed into law.
Exterminated – In 2003, the last old style Volkswagen Beetle rolled off the assembly line.
House of Burgesses – In 1619, the legislative body first convened.
Grand Combin – In 1859, the Swiss mountain was first climbed.

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Grand Combin

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 30, 2014
Grand Combin routes

Grand Combin routes

July 30, 1859: Grand Combin is conquered. The 14,154 foot high mountain is part of the Pennine Alps located in Switzerland. It is one of the highest peaks in the Alps and is a large glaciated massif (an uplifted piece of the Earth’s crust) which has several summits – three of them over 4000 meters (13,000 feet). The first to make an attempt to climb was Gottlieb Studer of Berne who reached the Combin de Corbassiere with the help of guild Joseph-Benjamin Felley on August 14, 1851. More attempts were made and the first four parties reached only minor summits. The first complete ascent was made on this date by Charles Sainte-Claire Deville with Daniel, Emmanuel and Gaspard Balleys, and Basile Dorsaz.

Many ancient cultures created superstitious stories around mountains, giving them sacred places in their societies. Because they were closer to the sky, it was assumed this was where the gods might live. An example would be Mount Olympus. During the Enlightenment, scientific curiosity overtook religious reverence and mountains were climbed in order to learn more about the world we all inhabit. In 1741, Richard Pococke and William Windham visited Chamonix where several peaks are now tourist attractions with cable cars ascending to the peaks at 12,605 feet for Aiguille du Midi and Pointe Helbronner at 11,358 feet. In 1760, Swiss scientist Horace Saussure offered a reward to the first person to ascend Mont Blanc in France. It took 22 years before someone claimed the prize.

In the early 1800s many of the alpine peaks were conquered by scientists seeking more information. The shift changed from scientific endeavors to sporting triumphs by mid-century. Sir Alfred Wills ascended Wetterhorn in 1854 and made mountaineering fashionable, especially to the British. The Golden Age of alpinism began with the formation of the Alpine Club in 1857. Many prominent people began climbing mountains for fun, although some also carried out scientific experiments. The sport became more competitive and greater challenges were sought out. The first ascent of the Matterhorn was done in 1865 with Edward Whymper leading the party. Four of their party fell to their deaths which was the death knell to the golden age.

The focus shifted from the Alps to other European mountain ranges and eventually to other continents as well. Climbing the peaks in the US led to climbing South American mountains when Whymper once again scaled a mountain in the Andes, Chimborazo (20,564 feet). By the end of the 1800s most of the highest peaks in the Americas had been scaled. The last frontier loomed in central Asia. The Himalayas are a range of high peaks, which simply begged to be climbed. It took years before Sir Edmund Hillary and Tanzing Norgay finally reached the top of Mount Everest on May 29, 1953. Enthusiasts continue to find the thrill of ascent, the conquering of the top of the world, to be an worthwhile pursuit. Today, there is a body of professional guides, equipment, and fixed guidelines to be followed. It remains one of the most dangerous activities in the world.

Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. – John Muir

It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves. – Edmund Hillary

You don’t climb mountains without a team, you don’t climb mountains without being fit, you don’t climb mountains without being prepared and you don’t climb mountains without balancing the risks and rewards. And you never climb a mountain on accident – it has to be intentional. – Mark Udall

Highest of heights, I climb this mountain and feel one with the rock and grit and solitude echoing back at me. – Bradley Chicho

Also on this day: Where Did He Go? – In 1975, Jimmy Hoffa disappears.
Follow the Money – In 2002, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was signed into law.
Exterminated – In 2003, the last old style Volkswagen Beetle rolls off the assembly line.
House of Burgesses – In 1619, the legislative body first convened.

Follow the Money

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 30, 2013
Paul Sarbanes and Michael G. Oxley

Paul Sarbanes and Michael G. Oxley

July 30, 2002: The Sarbanes-Oxley Act is signed into law by President George W. Bush. Senator Paul Sarbanes, a Democrat from Maryland, and Representative Michael G. Oxley, a Republican from Ohio, co-sponsored the bill. The bill passed the House with a vote of 423-3 and the Senate with a vote of 99-0. The law established new or enhanced standards of US public company boards, management, and public accounting firms. It contains 11 titles or sections and does not apply to private companies. Being a public company means it is registered on the stock exchange, i.e. public.

At the beginning of the millennium, there were many highly publicized business irregularities. Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, Adelphia, and Peregrine Systems showed the nation and the world the sleazy side of business in a big way. The boardroom failures, auditor conflicts of interest, the securities industry’s conflict of interest, irregular banking practices, bursting the Internet bubble, and obscene executive compensation lost billions of investor dollars both at home and abroad.

The law established an oversight board with nine different sections specifying what to oversee. Auditor independence and corporate responsibilities were spelled out. Enhanced financial disclosures were defined, including off-balance-sheet transactions. Analyst conflicts of interest were addressed to help restore investor confidence. The commission’s resources and authority along with studies and reports were delineated. Corporate and criminal fraud and white collar crime were addressed with penalties increased for infractions. Corporate tax returns and accountability were defined and penalties made explicit.

Proponents claim the law was sorely needed and has helped to restore investor dollars to the markets. Detractors say that the costs of compliance reached $5.1 million per Fortune 500 company in 2004 alone. They claim the regulations stifle creativity, especially in small startup companies in the technology sector. Other countries, including Canada, Japan, Australia, France, Italy, and South Africa have similar laws on the books with amounts of strictures and penalties involved for corporate malfeasance spelled out.

“Morale is faith in the man at the top.” – Albert S. Johnstone

“All men’s gains are the fruit of venturing.” – Herodotus

“The morale of an organization is not built from the bottom up; it filters from the top down.” – Peter B. Kyne

“If you can build a business up big enough, it’s respectable.” – Will Rogers

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: The Sarbanes-Oxley Act does create costs for business. However Finance Executives International has been monitoring these costs. In 2007, they looked at 168 companies with average revenues of $4.7 billion. The cost of compliance for each was on average $1.7 million or (0.036% of revenue). These costs have continued to decrease. However, when asked if the price of compliance has saved more than the cost of compliance, less than a quarter of those polled agreed. Those who believe the Act has helped cite the increasing cross-listing in foreign firms has taken place compared against those not under the auspices of this Act. Another concern, however, has been the shift of business from New York to London in order to escape the compliance costs.

Also on this day: Where Did He Go? – In 1975, Jimmy Hoffa disappears.
Exterminated – In 2003, the last old style Volkswagen Beetle rolls off the assembly line.
House of Burgesses – In 1619, the legislative body first convened.

House of Burgesses

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 30, 2012

House of Burgesses in session

July 30, 1619: The House of Burgesses convenes for the first time. The representative assembly was the first such type meeting in the Americas. Jamestown, Virginia was the site for the first meeting of freemen. The Virginia Company ended its monopoly on land ownership with the thought that colonists would show greater initiative if they could have ownership of the resources. “Burgess” originally meant a “freeman” of a borough or burgh. The Virginia House of Burgesses was the elected lower house of the legislative assembly.

These elected officials were sometimes appointees rather than elected but did officially represent a municipality in the English House of Commons. Once the Virginia Company relinquished control, the settlers could own land outright rather than remaining sharecroppers. Sharecroppers work the land of the owner in return for a portion of the crops produced. In sharecropping, the landlord gets a percentage of the crop, so if the crop is meager, his share is less. There is also a crop fixed rent agreement where the landlord takes a fixed amount and the tenant gets the remainder. In a good year, the tenant receives a higher profit but in a meager year, the tenant may lose most or all of the crops grown.

The Virginia Colony was divided into four large corporations when it was established. The Company officials were governed by English Common Law. The governor had the final voice in legal matters within the colony. The Polish community in Jamestown controlled vital industries (tar and pitch making as well as glass blowing). These were essential commodities. With the establishment of the House of Burgesses, the Poles were excluded. They were outraged and launched the first recorded strike in the New World. The House extended the “rights of Englishmen” to the Poles.

The first session of the House of Burgesses, held on this day, didn’t accomplish much, but it did set a precedent. The colony would have some say in the governance of the land. The 22 members were forced to cut their initial gathering short due to an outbreak of malaria. The legislative body met for 150 years. In 1760, Patrick Henry and Richard Henry Lee were discussing taxation without representation before the group. Lord Botetourt, then Governor of Virginia, called the group to his house and demanded they dissolve, as their speech was treasonous. The House was reformed in 1770, but the treasonous speeches did not end.

Nothing is so galling to a people, not broken in from the birth, as a paternal or, in other words, a meddling government, a government which tells them what to read and say and eat and drink and wear. – Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay

Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote. – Benjamin Franklin 1759

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it. – Thomas Jefferson

Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of the government. The history of government is a history of resistance. The history of liberty is the history of the limitation of government, not the increase of it. – Woodrow Wilson

Also on this day:

Where Did He Go? – In 1975, Jimmy Hoffa disappears.
Follow the Money – In 2002, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was signed into law.
Exterminated – In 2003, the last old style Volkswagen Beetle rolls off the assembly line.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 30, 2011

Volkswagen Beetle

July 30, 2003: A mariachi band serenades the last old style Volkswagen Beetle as it rolls off the assembly line in Mexico. After 65 years in production and 21,529,464 cars later, the old Bug was dead. The Volkswagen Type 1, also known as the Beetle or Bug, was a German economy car built from 1938, and still in production as the New Beetle. While the public called them by their familiar names, Volkswagen itself did not until 1967. Early versions were called 1200, 1300, and 1500 which referred to the size of the engines in cubic centimeters.

Drawbacks to the little car were its styling or lack thereof, weak power, rough ride, and high noise levels. Regardless, it remained on the market for one of the longest periods of manufacture and is one of the most recognizable vehicles ever built.

Designs were first submitted in 1925 and modified over the years. In 1933, Hitler met with Richard Whittle and Ferdinand Porsche and asked them to develop a low-priced Volks-Wagen or People’s Car. It was to hold 2 adults and 3 children, have a top speed of 62 mph and not cost more than 990 Reichsmarks (about 31 weeks pay). The prototype appeared in 1935 with its air-cooled, rear-mounted engine. Production began and then war broke out. While Nazi elites were offered a chance to own a civilian version of Volkswagen from 1940-1945, most were military vehicles.

After the war, production resumed and by 1955 the one-millionth car rolled off the assembly line. The top speed was now 72 mph and the little car got 31 mpg. It was the top selling foreign car in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s. In 1967, with stiff competition from the world market, Volkswagen made radical changes. While the car was no larger, many of the components were. Horsepower was increased, the electric generator doubled, the clutch size increased, along with many other systems. It came in new colors and with upgraded upholstery.

By 1994, Volkswagen knew that something more needed to be done and created the all new and improved Beetle. The old Beetle would be phased out and the New Beetle began to be sold in 1998. It comes hard top and convertible, 2- or 3-door, standard, Turbo, or diesel engines/transmissions, and costs about $17,000.

“As Volkswagen demonstrated, … automakers know how to design good bumpers.” – Adrian Lund

“We were the little Volkswagen trying to climb that hill without all of its cylinders. We gave it everything we had. We battled and battled. The neat thing is we figured out a way to win. That’s probably the best thing I can say.” – Mike Wilton

“The New Beetle never would have gotten approved for production if it hadn’t gotten rave reviews at the (Detroit) show from the public and the press, which stopped in its tracks when they saw it. That message quickly got back to Volkswagen that people thought it was cool and wanted VW to build it.” – Jim Hossack

“Americans are notorious car abusers. When Volkswagen cars are driven like typical Americans drive them, that’s when they start having significant problems.” – John Wolkonowicz

Also on this day:
Where Did He Go? – In 1975, Jimmy Hoffa disappears.
Follow the Money – In 2002, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was signed into law.

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Mount Fuji

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 31, 2010

Mount Fuji today

July 31, 781:  Mount Fuji erupts for the first time in recorded history. The beautiful volcano situated 62 miles to the west of Tokyo, Japan is more complex than it looks. The highest mountain in Japan lies on the boundary between Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectures on the island of Honshū. It is actually a dual volcano that formed over the eons, erupting hundreds of times,  and created the perfectly cone-shaped mountain that we see today.

The mountain is a tourist attraction as well on of Japan’s “Three Holy Mountains.” It was first climbed by an anonymous monk in 663. It was forbidden for women to climb the sacred mountain until the Meiji Era [1868]. It is still illegal to ascend the mountain without police escort outside the climbing season. Each year, about 200,000 people scale this 12,388 feet peak using paved paths and several rest stops.

The last recorded eruption was in 1707, called the Hoei Eruption after the era name. This eruption produced ash that drifted and settled as far away as Edo, today known as Tokyo. It is considered to be an active volcano with low risk of eruption. There are three cities surrounding the peak with Gotemba to the south, Fujiyoshida to the north and Fujinomiya to the southwest. There have been seismic tremors recorded in the area since October 2000 with more than 100 earthquakes recorded in April 2001.

Mount Fuji has not always been written with the same kanji, or Japanese characters. Today, there are two kanji used to write the name with one meaning wealth or abundant, and the other meaning man with a certain status. They were possible selected for their pronunciation rather than their meaning. Other names or kanji have been used for the great mountain in the past with the true history last to the mists of time. Whatever it is called, the peak rises majestically and is beautiful.

“Each and every master, regardless of the era or the place, heard the call and attained harmony with heaven and earth. There are many paths leading to the top of Mount Fuji, but there is only one summit – love.” – Morihei Ueshiba

“Aspire to be like Mt. Fuji, with such a broad and solid foundation that the strongest earthquake cannot move you, and so tall that the greatest enterprises of common men seem insignificant from your lofty perspective. With your mind as high as Mt Fuji you can see all things clearly. And you can see all the forces that shape events; not just the things happening near to you.” – Miyamoto Musashi

“There are two kinds of climbers, those who climb because their heart sings when they’re in the mountains, and all the rest.” – Alex Lowe

“We climb mountains because we like it.” – John Hunt

Also on this day, in 1930 The Shadow came to radio.

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Where Did He Go?

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 30, 2010

Jimmy Hoffa

July 30, 1975: Jimmy Hoffa, ex-Teamster president, disappears from the Machus Red Fox parking lot at 2:30 PM. Hoffa was at the Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, USA restaurant nervously waiting for a lunch meeting with an unnamed person who never showed. Hoffa was the president of the Teamster’s Union from 1957-1971, making it one of the most powerful unions in the world. He had ties with the Mafia which he claimed were necessary to keep the Mob from disrupting strikes.

Federal investigators charged “that his empire thrived on violence, fraud and misuse of union money.” During the Kennedy administration, the charges finally stuck and Hoffa was convicted in 1964, and after all appeals were exhausted he went to federal prison in 1967 for four years. He was convicted of fund fraud, jury tampering and conspiracy. President Nixon commuted his sentence in 1971. The deal was that Hoffa would not resume his Teamster’s Presidency position until 1980, when his prison sentence would have ended.

It is believed that Hoffa was to meet with two gangster partners, Anthony “Tony Jack” Giacalone and Tony “Pro” Provenzano. Charles “Chuckie” O’Brien was considered by Hoffa to be one of the family. A maroon 1975 Mercury Marquis Brougham was seen leaving the parking lot by a truck driver. He states that Hoffa was in the back seat, but he was unable to see anyone else clearly. What appeared to be a rifle or shotgun was on the backseat, next to Hoffa.

Tracing the car led to Joe Giacalone, Tony Jack’s son, who told police he lent it to Chuckie O’Brien. Chuckie claimed to be elsewhere at the time of Hoffa’s disappearance, but no corroborative evidence was found. With DNA testing, proof was established that Hoffa was in the trunk of the Mercury at some time. Although investigators can’t prove who took Hoffa, they know who did it. What they don’t know is where Jimmy Hoffa’s body rests.

“To take life is always to die a little.” – John Wain

“Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” – Isaac Asimov

“You can get a lot more done with a kind word and a gun, than with a kind word alone.” – Al Capone

“Violence is not the problem; it is the consequence of the problem.” – Jim Wallis

“I may have many faults, but being wrong ain’t one of them.” – Jimmy Hoffa

Also on this day, in 2002 the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was signed into law.
Bonus Link: In 2003, the last old style Volkswagen Beetle
rolled off the assembly line.

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