Little Bits of History

July 31

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 31, 2017

1715: The Spanish Treasure Fleet runs into a hurricane. The Spanish ran a convoy system of ships bringing treasures from the New World home to Spain frm 1566 to 1790. The convoys were essentially cargo ships filled with agricultural goods, lumber, and various luxury goods such as silver, gold, gems, pearls, spices, sugar, tobacco, silk, and other exotic goods found in the Spanish Empire holdings. As the trips returned to the New World, they often brought passengers, textiles, books, and tools. The West Indies fleet was the first permanent transatlantic trade route in history. They were also known as the Flota de Indias (Fleet of the Indies) or silver fleet or plate fleet (from the Spanish plata which meant silver).

The fleet of eleven ships left Havana, Cuba a week earlier. They were near present day Vero Beach, Florida when the storm hit.  This lies close to half way up the coast of Florida. The fleet was carrying mostly silver and is known today as the 1715 Treasure Fleet or the 1715 Plate Fleet because of this. Ten of the eleven ships sunk in the storm. Around a thousand sailors died. A small number of men survived by riding out the storm in small lifeboats. News of the cargo and the sinking brought in a number of ships, some to help, the rest to scoop up any available assets. Henry Jennings was one of those who came on the scene.

Jennings was a British privateer, that is, a private person (or ship) which engaged in maritime warfare under a commission of war. Carrying a letter of marque, the person was entitled to carry on any form of hostility against enemy ships while at sea. Capturing a ship allowed the privateer proceeds from the sale under a ruling called a prize law. In 1716 Jennings was in charge of three ships and between 150 and 300 men when they ambushed the Spanish salvage fleet attempting to recover some of the treasure from this wreck. Since he had to travel to Jamaica, there had been time for others to scavenge most of the wreckage, so he captured their ships. They were able to steal about £87,500 in gold and silver.

Even today, there are silver relics washing ashore on the Florida beaches. Kip Wagner was able to put together an exhibit of artifacts from the 1715 fleet’s misfortune. This was featured in the January 1965 edition of National Geographic. This brought the wrecked ships to the attention of the world and Wagner published more works on the recovery efforts available to divers today. In 1987, the Urca de Lima was found in the Florida Underwater Archaeological Preserves, a ship from this fleet. In 2015, 1715 Fleet – Queens Jewels, LLC discovered $4.5 million in gold coins off the coast of Florida, all of which came from the disaster befallen to the Spanish fleet on this day.

Gold and silver, like other commodities, have an intrinsic value, which is not arbitrary, but is dependent on their scarcity, the quantity of labour bestowed in procuring them, and the value of the capital employed in the mines which produce them. – David Ricardo

The most pitiful among men is he who turns his dreams into silver and gold. – Khalil Gibran

Every cloud has its silver lining but it is sometimes a little difficult to get it to the mint. – Don Marquis

Humanity appreciates truth about as much as a squirrel appreciates silver. – Vernon Howard

Successful Crash

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 31, 2015
Ranger 7 picture

Ranger 7 picture

July 31, 1964: Ranger 7 crashes. The Ranger program was part of the US unmanned space exploration with the objective of obtaining close-up pictures of the Moon. They were to take pictures of the satellite as they descended and transmit them back to Earth. They were not meant to survive impact with the Moon. There was a series of mistakes and the first six missions were failures. At one point, the program was called “shoot and hope” and Congress eventually led an investigation into NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory looking for problems with management. Finally, the seventh mission was able to hit the target.

NASA launched the 806 pound spacecraft on July 28, 1964 via an Atlas LV-3 Agena-B rocket from Cape Canaveral launch pad 12. Built by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Ranger 7 had six television vidicon cameras aboard. There were two wide-angle and four narrow-angle cameras arranged on two separate chains or channels. Each camera was self-contained and had separate power supplies, timers, and transmitters. With this redundancy, it was hoped that high-quality video pictures could finally be received. The flight from Earth to the Moon took 68.6 hours. In the final 17 minutes of the flight, 4,300 photographs were taken and transmitted back home. The spacecraft crash landed between Mare Nubium and Oceanus Procellarum.

The Ranger program consisted of three different Blocks. Both of the Block 1 missions (Ranger 1 and 2) had issues right from the start as both failed to launch properly. Block 2 (Ranger 3, 4, and 5) were all launched in 1962 and cleared the launch but two of them missed hitting the Moon while Ranger 4 had mechanical issues which kept it from sending back any useful information. Block 3, (Ranger 6, 7, 8, and 9) finally saw success. Ranger 6 had camera failures but the final three tries were able to send back the information sought. This first successful picture of the Moon was 1000 times more clear than any pictures able to be obtained from Earth.

Ranger 7’s crash landing site was later name Mare Cognitum. The impact made when the ship hit the Moon at a speed of 1.62 miles per second lies in the second ring of Oceanus Procellarum. Several other spacecraft have landed near the same place. Ranger 7’s pictures exceeded expectations and no other experiments were to be performed. During this mission, a NASA tradition began. After six failures, hopes were not high for this seventh try. But after the stunning pictures returned, it was noticed that someone had been eating peanuts and the “peanut” tradition began. All control rooms now ceremoniously open a container of peanuts for luck.

What do you think of the foremost philosophers of this University? In spite of my oft-repeated efforts and invitations, they have refused, with the obstinacy of a glutted adder, to look at the planets or Moon or my telescope. – Galileo Galilei

The greatest fallout of the space program, … was not the close-up view of the moon, but a look at spaceship Earth from afar. For the first time in the history of humanity, we were able to see our planet for what it really is. – Theodore Hesburgh

How do you expect to get us to the Moon if you people can’t even hook us up with a ground station? – Gus Grissom

A country so rich that it can send people to the moon still has hundreds of thousands of its citizens who can’t read. That’s terribly troubling to me. – Charles Kuralt

Also on this day: Mount Fuji – In 781, Mount Fuji erupted for the first time in recorded history.
Who Knows? – In 1930, The Shadow came to radio.
First US Patent – In 1790, the first US patent was granted.
All Wet All-Stars – In 1961, the baseball game ended in a tie.
Daniel Defoe – In 1703, the author was placed in the pillory.

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Daniel Defoe

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 31, 2014
Daniel Defoe

Daniel Defoe

July 31, 1703: Daniel Defoe is placed in a pillory. In 1702, William III died and Queen Anne took over the rule of England with an offensive against Nonconformists. Defoe was a natural target because of his political activities which included pamphlet writing. In December 1702 he had published The Shortest-Way with the Dissenters; Or, Proposals for the Establishment of the Church. The pamphlet satirically poked fun at the way the Tory ministry was handling affairs and led to Defoe being arrested for seditious libel. He was given a punitive fine, held in prison until he could pay the fine, and publi humiliation in a pillory. During his imprisonment, he fell into bankruptcy which was probably a far greater punishment than being placed in stocks. Legend says that while in the pillory, rather than being accosted by noxious objects, citizen threw flowers instead.

After three days in the pillory, Defoe was sent to Newgate Prison. Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer brokered for his release. Harley wished to secure Defoe’s cooperation as an intelligence agent for the Tories. In exchange for information, Harley paid some of Defoe’s debts and improved his financial standing. Soon after his release, Dafoe was back to his writing. His pamphlet, The Storm was based on the horrific storm that blew across England on November 26 – 27, 1703 which killed thousands as well as causing severe damage and uprooting millions of trees. It contains many eyewitness accounts and is considered to be a pioneering work of journalism and science reporting.

Defoe was born in London in 1659 or 1660. He worked as a trader, writer, pamphleteer, spy, and is mostly known today as the author of Robinson Crusoe. He was an early adopter of the novel as a writing form and he a few others were responsible for the English novel’s adoption by the masses. Born, Daniel Foe, he added the “De” for status reasons later in life. His father was a prosperous tallow chandler and member of the Butchers’ Company. Defoe saw some of the most unusual occurrences in English history from the Great Plague of London in 1665 which killed 70,000, to the Great Fire of London of 1666 where the Foe household and only two others in his neighborhood survived the blaze.

His parents were Presbyterian dissenters and by around age 14, he was schooled at the dissenting academy at Newington Green in London. Not attending the Church of England was not tolerated well by the government. As a young man, he began working as a trader and although he seemed to do well, he was rarely out of debt. His first writing saw print in 1697 and over the course of his lifetime he was able to produce over 500 books, pamphlets, and journals on a variety of topic which included politics, crime, religion, marriage, psychology, and the supernatural. He died on April 24, 1731 probably while hiding from his creditors. He is known to have used at least 198 pen names.

As covetousness is the root of all evil, so poverty is the worst of all snares.

The soul is placed in the body like a rough diamond, and must be polished, or the luster of it will never appear.

All our discontents about what we want appeared to spring from the want of thankfulness for what we have.

All men would be tyrants if they could. – all from Daniel Defoe

Also on this day: Mount Fuji – In 781, Mount Fuji erupts for the first time in recorded history.
Who Knows? – In 1930, The Shadow came to radio.
First US Patent – In 1790, the first US patent was granted.
All Wet All-Stars – In 1961, the baseball game ended in a tie.

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Who Knows?

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 31, 2013
The Shadow

The Shadow

July 31, 1930: A new show comes to radio. The program stayed on the air until December 26, 1954. Detective Story Magazine was put out by Street & Smith Publication. The New York City publishers began selling inexpensive paperbacks and magazines in 1855. They hired David Christman and William Sweets to develop a radio show adapted from stories in the magazine. The two men felt the stories should be narrated by a mysterious man with a “sinister” voice. They bandied about names for the unknown narrator. The Inspector and The Sleuth lost out to the man who knew. The Shadow.

Radio listeners began to ask newsstand attendants for “that Shadow detective magazine” which did not exist. Street & Smith weren’t “the nation’s oldest and largest publisher of pulp magazine” for nothing. They immediately filled the void. Magician and author Walter B. Gibson began writing under the pen name Maxwell Grant. He was not the only author to use the name as it was created for all The Shadow stories regardless of actual authorship.

Gibson was born in 1897 and wrote many non-fiction works under his own name. He wrote more than 100 books on magic, psychic phenomenon, true crime, and a variety of other subjects. He worked as a ghost writer for other magicians and spiritualists. He wrote 282 of the 325 Shadow novels, turning out two novels a month at his top speed. He also scripted The Shadow comic books and comic strip. He wrote young adults novels under the pen name Andy Adams.

The man called Shadow evolved over time. The vigilante hero wore a black slouch hat, obscuring his face. His crimson-lined black cloak with the upturned collar hid his identity. He lurked in the shadows. If that wasn’t enough, he hypnotized people and clouded their minds, rendering himself virtually invisible. His alter ego was real life World War I ace Ken Allard who took to a life of fighting crime after the war ended. Or else he was Lamont Cranston or maybe Henry Arnaud, Isaac Twambly or Fitz. Who knew who the Shadow really was?

“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Heh-heh-heh-heh-heh-heh-heh! The Shadow knows … ” – Frank Readick Jr. at the beginning of each radio broadcast

“You turned on the radio and heard all kinds of things.” – Luc Ferrari

“I did radio back in the era when we did radio drama.” – Martin Milner

“TV gives everyone an image, but radio gives birth to a million images in a million brains.” – Peggy Noonan

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: The Shadow’s Lamont Cranston was voiced by Orson Welles. He was born in Wisconsin in 1915 and became an actor, director of both films and live theater, a screenwriter and playwright, as well as a film producer. He was also a radio personality. He was active in his profession from 1931 until his death in 1985. His last television appearance was on The Merv Griffin Show. After leaving the show, he went home to work on his notes for a project that was to begin filming the next day at UCLA. He was found on the floor, having suffered a heart attack. He died on the same day as co-star from Battle of Neretva, Yul Brynner.

Also on this day: Mount Fuji – In 781, Mount Fuji erupts for the first time in recorded history.
First US Patent – In 1790, the first US patent was granted.
All Wet All-Stars – In 1961, the baseball game ended in a tie.

All Wet All-Stars

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 31, 2012

1961 All-Star Game

July 31, 1961: Baseball’s All-Star Game ends in a tie. The game was played at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. The game was played in front of 31,851 fans with Jim Bunning the starting pitcher for the American League and Bob Purkey the starting pitcher for the National League. The American League team scored on a home run hit by Rocky Colavito in the first inning and remained ahead until the score was tied in the sixth inning as Eddie Mathews crossed home plate. The game was called after nine innings because of a downpour. This was the first, and until 2002, the only All-Star Game to end in a tie.

Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game is also called the “Midsummer Classic” and is played between players from the National League and the American League. The players are selected by a combination of fans, players, coaches, and managers. The game is usually played in mid-July, the halfway point of the baseball season. The game is usually played on a Tuesday, and both the Monday and Wednesday surrounding the big game are left unscheduled. The Monday and Wednesday surrounding the All-Star Game are the only two days of the year without a regular or pre-season game scheduled for any major professional sports leagues in the US.

The venue for the game changes with stadiums from the National and American Leagues alternating years. This system has twice been broken, first in 1951 when the Detroit Tigers hosted the game in conjunction with the city’s 250th birthday and again in 2007 when the San Francisco Giants were hosts. Since 2008, the American League hosts on the even numbered years with the National League having the odd numbered years. The games are not scheduled out past 2012. On July 10, 2012 the game was held at Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals, in Kansas City, Missouri. In 2013, the game is scheduled to be played on July 16 at Citi Field in New York City, home of the Mets.

There are no special uniforms for the game with players wearing their normal team uniforms instead. Sometimes there is a uniform error, usually when a batter dons a different team’s batting helmet. After 82 All-Star Games played (two in 1959-1962) with the National League winning 42, the American League winning 38, and 2 ties. In 1961, the American League had Yogi Bera, Mickey Mangle, and Roger Maris as some of their biggest-name players. The National League had Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, and Willie Mays playing. The American League placed three pictures on the mound while the National League used four. There was no Most Valuable Player named that year, as the custom started in 1962.

No game in the world is as tidy and dramatically neat as baseball, with cause and effect, crime and punishment, motive and result, so cleanly defined. – Paul Gallico

A baseball game is simply a nervous breakdown divided into nine innings. – Earl Wilson

I don’t want to play golf.  When I hit a ball, I want someone else to go chase it. – Rogers Hornsby

Say this much for big league baseball – it is beyond question the greatest conversation piece ever invented in America. – Bruce Catton

Also on this day:

Mount Fuji – In 781, Mount Fuji erupts for the first time in recorded history.
Who Knows? – In 1930, The Shadow came to radio.
First US Patent – In 1790, the first US patent was granted.

First US Patent

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 31, 2011

US Patent Office

July 31, 1790: Samuel Hopkins receives a patent for a potash process – the first US patent. Potash refers to mined and manufactured salts containing potassium in a water soluble form. They are usually used for fertilizer and today over 30 million tons of the stuff is produced annually. Hopkins hailed from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and received this first patent for an improvement “in the making of Pot ash and Pearl ash by a new Apparatus and Process.” A new law passed on April 10, 1790 allowed for a patent to be granted, but these were evaluated by a committee of the Secretary of State, Secretary of War, and Attorney General.

Hopkins’ new patent was signed by President Washington, Attorney General Edmund Randolph, and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. There were two more patents granted that same year. One for a new candle-making process and one for to Oliver Evans for a four-milling machine. This was new only in the fledgling country. The idea of patents stems from Renaissance Italy. The rest of Europe liked the idea brought out of Italy by Venetian glass-blowers who used the method to protect themselves from local artisans.

The first recorded patent for an invention was granted in 1449 to John of Utyman for a glass-making process previously unknown to England. John was awarded a 20-year monopoly. He supplied the glass for windows in such prestigious places at the Eton College Chapel. He was required to also teach the process to native Englishmen. Today, the US Patent Office receives hundreds of thousands of patent applications. There is a backlog of applications waiting for review. In January 2009, that backlog numbered 764,352. After working diligently for years, as of May 2011, it was down to 703,175 – its lowest point in the last few years.

There are many different patents being issued continually. In 1997, the top patent recipient was IBM. They were also the top recipient in 1998 through 2008. From 2003 through 2008, IBM received 20,519 patents. The last year alone, they had 4,169. In 2008, the top ten recipients got a total of 20,978 patents. The Korean company, Samsung Electronics, came in second with 3,502, five companies from Japan made the list, and Microsoft, Intel, and Hewlett-Packard were the other top American patent recipients.

“A patent, or invention, is any assemblage of technologies or ideas that you can put together that nobody put together that way before. That’s how the patent office defines it. That’s an invention.” – Dean Kamen

“Lincoln said that the Patent Office adds the flame of interest to the light of creativity. And that is why we need to improve the effectiveness of our Patent Office.” – Jay Inslee

“No patent medicine was ever put to wider and more varied use than the Fourteenth Amendment.” – William O. Douglas

“This is the patent age of new inventions for killing bodies, and for saving souls. All propagated with the best intentions.” – Lord Byron

Also on this day:
Mount Fuji – In 781 Mount Fuji erupts for the first time in recorded history.
Who Knows? – In 1930, The Shadow came to radio.