Little Bits of History

July 7

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 7, 2017

1946: The prototype XF-11 reconnaissance aircraft crashes. Designed and built by the Hughes Aircraft Company, it was flown by Howard Hughes himself. Hughes, born in 1905, was an American businessman, investor, pilot, film director, and philanthropist and one of the most financially successful people in the world. He began his entertainment career after dropping out of college. He founded his aircraft company in 1932 as a division of Hughes Tool Company, a company founded by his father in 1908. Hughes, Sr. was able to perfect oil drilling and it became the original funding source for much of his son’s businesses.  Hughes not only built new and different planes, but set world records flying.

On this day, he was at the controls of the XF-11, a prototype ordered by the US Army Air Force. One hundred of the planes had been ordered in 1943, but as with other military orders, Hughes had difficulty perfecting the design and getting the planes delivered before World War II ended. However, the Army was still interested in being able to fly long-range and high-altitude while doing photographic recon. The XF-11 was similar to the Republic XF-12 Rainbow, built by Republic Aviation earlier in the year. The XF-11 also resembled the Lockheed P-38 Lightning used during the War, but XF-11 was larger and heavier. It was a tricycle-gear, twin-engine, twin-boom all-metal monoplane with a pressurized crew nacelle.

XF-11 was equipped with Pratt & Whitney engines with each driving a pair of four-bladed controllable pitch propellers which increased performance and stability. Hughes was flying from his factory’s airfield in Culver City, California and did not follow the agreed upon testing and communications program. He remained aloft almost twice as long as planned. He was an hour into the flight, long after running out of film in the cameras, when a leak caused the right hand propeller controls to lose effectiveness. This caused a cascade of problems which put the plane in a precarious position. Hughes attempted to troubleshoot the problem which took him even farther from the airfield.

He continued to lose altitude and was unable to correct the problem. He tried to land at the Los Angeles Country Club but the plane was unable to stay up. About 300 yards shy of the course, the XF-11 clipped three houses on the way down, setting the last house on fire. Hughes was nearly killed in the crash. This was the second time he nearly died crashing one of his planes. In 1943, he dropped his Sikorsky S-43 into Lake Mead, killing two people aboard and having to be rescued by other survivors of the crash. His later life paranoia was fueled by his existing OCD exacerbated by his constant pain from these two plane crashes.

Every man has his price, or a guy like me couldn’t exist.

My father told me, never have partners.

We don’t have a monopoly. Anyone who wants to dig a well without a Hughes bit can always use a pick and shovel.

I’m not a paranoid deranged millionaire. Goddamit, I’m a billionaire. – all from Howard Hughes

Greatest Thing Ever

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 7, 2015
1930s style bread slicer

1930s style bread slicer

July 7, 1928: Otto Frederick Rohwedder demonstrates his machine. Born in 1880 in Iowa, the inventor and engineer created a prototype of his machine in 1912 but it was destroyed in a fire. It took many years to rebuild and then perfect his machine. On this day, in Chillicothe, Missouri, the Chillicothe Baking Company was able to sell the best thing ever – sliced bread. The first automatic bread slicing machine for commercial use made possible the new product “Kleen Maid Sliced Bread”. There is a claim that the machine was first put to use in Battle Creek, Michigan but it is unsubstantiated. There were still some issues with Rohwedder’s machine. St. Louis baker Gustav Papendick bought Rohwedder’s second machine and worked on improving it. Papendick’s goal was to keep the slices together long enough to get a loaf wrapped for sale.

Papendick tried using rubber bands and metal pins to hold the slices together. Both were unsuccessful. He finally used a cardboard tray to hold the sliced bread and it aligned the slices until a mechanical wrapping device could slip the loaf into a bag. WE Long (Holsum Bread) used various bakers around the country and they began promoting this new wonder later in the year. Wonder Bread, first made in 1925 finally came on board and began offering sliced bread in 1930. Since bread was now handier to eat, more slices were consumed even though the slices were invariably thinner than those hand cut. Along with selling more bread, the items put on bread such as butter, jams, and jellies also had an upturn in their market.

In 1943, there was a brief ban on sliced bread in the US. It was one of the austerity measures imposed during wartime. It was proposed by Claude Wickard and took effect on January 8. The reasoning was that the wrapper of sliced bread had to be thicker so the sliced bread didn’t dry out, something that was less likely with unsliced bread. There had also been a recent 10% increase in the price of flour making bread more expensive. By January 24, New York City Mayor LaGuardia made a radio broadcast stating bakeries with their own slicing machines should be permitted to use them. Two days later, John Conaboy, New York Area Supervisor of the Food Distribution Association warned private bakers to stop slicing bread even though most were accustomed to the convenience. The ban was rescinded on March 8, 1943.

In the US, we are used to a “regular” sized slice of bread that is thinner than Texas style slices which are typically twice as thick. In Britain, they have Thin, Medium, Thick, and Extra-Thick slices which vary in thickness from 5-20 mm thick. In Ireland, one buys a “sliced pan” and it is either 400 or 800 grams of sliced bread wrpped in wax paper. In Japan, the number of slices are labeled for the same amount of bread and can range from 4 to 10 slices. They also sell “sandwich bread” that is not only thin sliced, but crustless for the perfect sandwich.

Acorns were good till bread was found. – Francis Bacon

You can tell more about a country from its bread and soup than you can from its museums and concert halls. – Charles Eames

How can a nation be called great if its bread tastes like Kleenex? – Julia Child

The odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread and coming out with ONLY a loaf of bread are three billion to one. – Erma Bombeck

Also on this day: He Never Said “Elementary” – In 1930, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle died of a heart attack.
Peace Activist – In 1983, Samantha Smith visited Moscow.
Boulder Dam – In 1930, construction began at what is now called Hoover Dam.
All Gone – In 2006, the Western Black Rhino was declared extinct.
Foolish? – In 1907, the Ziefgeld Follies were first shown.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 7, 2014
Follies of 1907

Follies of 1907

July 7, 1907: Follies of 1907 opens. Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. was inspired by the Folies Bergère of Paris and brought the elaborate stage productions to New York City, beginning on this day. These extravaganzas were not quite a Broadway musical and not quite a high class Vaudeville show, but somewhere in between. Many of the top performers of the day were part of the Ziefgeld Follies: WC Fields, Eddie Cantor, Fanny Brice, Bob Hope, Will Rogers. Ed Wynn, and Sophie Tucker along with a host of other top names all participated sometime during the shows brought together between 1907 and 1931. Also included and highly regarded were the number of beautiful chorus girls. The first Follies were offered at the roof theater Jardin de Paris.

The Ziegfeld chorus girls “paraded up and down flights of stairs as anything from birds to battleships.” Between 1917 and 1925, Ben Ali Haggin was choreographer responsible for the wonderful Tableau vivants – a way of describing the movement of the entire cast as part of an overall picture created on a stage, usually with elaborate costumes and special lighting effects. Joseph Urban was the scenic designer beginning in 1915. After the Follies stopped appearing live, the show went on the air (rather than on the road) and became a radio program called The Ziegfeld Follies of the Air and broadcast from 1932 to 1936.

Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. was born in Chicago in 1867. Florenz Ziegfeld, Sr. ran the Chicago Musical College and also opened a nightclub, Trocadero, during the 1893 World’s Fair held in Chicago. It was not entirely successful. Leaving the Windy City for the Big Apple, he began producing his eponymous Follies on a yearly basis. His ability to showcase brought in prominent names as listed above. Composers were happy to have their work included and so Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, and Jerome Kern were also part of the Follies. Ziegfeld had married Anna Held in 1897 and it was at her urging, and to help promote her career, that the Follies were begun. The couple divorced in 1913 while rumors said they had never really officially married, but only lived together long enough to be considered so.

The “marriage” had ended because of Ziegfeld’s infidelity with Lillian Lorraine, a young woman he would love in some fashion until his death. He married again in 1914, but not Lillian. Rather, he married Billie Burke (Glinda from The Wizard of Oz). They had one daughter, Patricia. Ziegfeld Theatre was opened in 1927 and cost about $2.5 million to build (~$34 million today). His theater opened with his own production, Rio Rita, which ran for 500 performances. Next up was his more famous offering, Show Boat. He lost most of his money in the stock market crash of 1929 and when he died in 1932 from a lung infection, his widow was left with substantial debt, forcing her into an acting career to pay them off.

I don’t have a very quick sense of humor.

Half of the great comedians I’ve had in my shows and that I paid a lot of money to and who made my customers shriek were not only not funny to me, but I couldn’t understand why they were funny to anybody.

Beauty, of course, is the most important requirement and the paramount asset of the applicant.

How little the public realizes what a girl must go through before she finally appears before the spotlight that is thrown upon the stage. – all from Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr.

Also on this day: He Never Said “Elementary” – In 1930, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle dies of a heart attack.
Peace Activist – In 1983, Samantha Smith visited Moscow.
Boulder Dam – In 1930, construction began at what is now called Hoover Dam.
All Gone – In 2006, the Western Black Rhino was declared extinct.

Peace Activist

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 7, 2013
Samantha Smith  and her letter

Samantha Smith and her letter

July 7, 1983: Samantha Smith visits Moscow. She was born in 1972 in Houlton, Maine. She wrote a letter to Soviet Communist Party General Secretary Yuri Andropov shortly after he was given his new job. The letter, short and sweet, asked Mr. Andropov if he was going to call for war with the US. His reputation and press coverage, especially in America, was such world peace was in doubt.

Samantha’s letter was published in Pravda, the Russian newspaper. As the Cold War heated up with everybody creating weapons of mass destruction or total annihilation, even détente was stressed out. Yuri Andropov, after a request from the Soviet Union’s Ambassador to the United States, responded to the letter on April 26, 1983.

Andropov assured the little American girl that all in the USSR and he in particular was trying to avoid war by every possible method available to him. He declared, also, the USSR was not interested in world domination. He then went on to invite the little girl and her parents to visit. She and her parents spent two weeks as Andropov’s guests, although they never personally met him. They did talk on the phone with him while they visited Moscow, Leningrad, and Artek on the Crimean Peninsula.

After returning to the US, “America’s Youngest Ambassador” wrote a book about her experiences called Journey to the Soviet Union. In 1984, she was invited to Japan as a goodwill ambassador and spoke at the Children’s International Symposium at Kobe. Here she asked for world leaders to trade grandchildren for a few weeks because a leader “wouldn’t want to send a bomb to a country his granddaughter would be visiting.” She also began working on a television series called Lime Street. On a flight home after filming, the plane crashed outside Bar Harbor, Maine killing all on board. There was speculation foul play was involved in the crash, but authorities found none upon inspection of the scene. Pilot inexperience and bad weather conditions seemed to conspire to end the peace activist’s short life at the age of 13.

“My name is Samantha Smith. I am ten years old. Congratulations on your new job. I have been worrying about Russia and the United States getting into a nuclear war. Are you going to vote to have a war or not? If you aren’t please tell me how you are going to help to not have a war. This question you do not have to answer, but I would like to know why you want to conquer the world or at least our country. God made the world for us to live together in peace and not to fight.” – letter to Yuri Andropov

“Yes, Samantha, we in the Soviet Union are trying to do everything so that there will not be war on Earth. This is what every Soviet man wants. This is what the great founder of our state, Vladimir Lenin, taught us.” – Yuri Andropov in response letter

“In America and in our country there are nuclear weapons—terrible weapons that can kill millions of people in an instant. But we do not want them to be ever used. That’s precisely why the Soviet Union solemnly declared throughout the entire world that never–never–will it use nuclear weapons first against any country. In general we propose to discontinue further production of them and to proceed to the abolition of all the stockpiles on earth.” – Yuri Andropov in response letter

“We want peace – there is something that we are occupied with: growing wheat, building and inventing, writing books and flying into space. We want peace for ourselves and for all peoples of the planet. For our children and for you, Samantha.” – Yuri Andropov in response letter

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Yuri Andropov was General Secretary from November 12, 1982 until February 9, 1984. He was preceded in office by Leonid Brezhnev and succeeded by Konstantin Chernenko. Andropov was also Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union from June 16, 1983 and ended that position in 1984. Prior to this he had been the 4th Chairman of the State Committee for State Security from 1967 to 1982. His first position in politics was as Member of the Secretariat which began in 1962. He was born in 1915 in what was then the Russian Empire. In February 1983, he went into total renal failure and entered the Central Clinical Hospital in Moscow on a permanent basis in August. He worked from there until his death on February 9, 1984. He was 69 years old.

Also on this day: He Never Said “Elementary” – In 1930, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle dies of a heart attack.
 Boulder Dam – In 1930, construction began at what is now called Hoover Dam.
All Gone – In 2006, the Western Black Rhino was declared extinct.

All Gone

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 7, 2012

Western Black Rhinoceros

July 7, 2006: The Western Black Rhinoceros is declared extinct. Rhinos are large odd-toed ungulates or hoofed animals. There are five species with most of them endangered. The Javan, Sumatran and Black Rhinos are all critically endangered. The Indian Rhinoceros is endangered with less than 2,700 left on Earth. The White Rhino is listed as “vulnerable” with about 17,500 left, according to the International Rhino Foundation. The White Rhino is native to parts of Southern Africa. The Western or West Africa Black Rhinoceros was the rarest of the Black Rhinos.

The large herbivores lived on the African savannas. They were about 10 – 12.5 feet long and about 4.5 – 5 feet tall. They weighed in at around 1,800 – 2,900 pounds. They had two horns, the longest measuring between 1.8 and 4.4 feet while the smaller one was 1-22 inches. These horns are the most distinguishing characteristic of rhinos. The horns are made of keratin, the same basic substance that forms hair, nails, claws, and hooves. It is also used to form scales, shells, feathers, and beaks in non-mammals. The horns have been said to have been used by the Chinese as an aphrodisiac, but this is an error. The ground powder was used to treat fevers and convulsions.

The Western Black Rhinoceros was hunted extensively at the beginning of the last century. Preservation efforts began in the 1930s and were fairly successful, at least at first. The population began to rise and effort to preserve the subspecies waned. By the 1980s there were only hundreds of the large beasts left. Poaching, or illegal hunting, continued and by 2000 there were only ten rhinos accounted for. Even with this low number, limited anti-poaching effort was put forth. There was a lack of legal support with the courts failing to hand down adequate punishments for law breaking. In 2006, the last known venue for the rhinos was searched without finding any specimens. They were declared extinct, with a “tentative” modifier added, just in case some are found. None are kept in captivity.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) was founded in 1948 and is dedicated to natural resource conservation. It is headquartered in Switzerland and brings together 83 states, 108 government agencies, 766 non-government organizations and 81 international groups with about 10,000 experts and scientist from around the world. They maintain a Red List Index of threatened species. Their goal is to maintain the biodiversity of the planet by keeping ecosystems intact and allowing for the plants and animals therein a place to thrive.

If man doesn’t learn to treat the oceans and the rain forest with respect, man will become extinct. – Peter Benchley

Species go extinct because there are historical contraints built into a given body or a given design. – Kevin Kelly

The Dodo never had a chance. He seems to have been invented for the sole purpose of becoming extinct and that was all he was good for. – Will Cuppy

I’d say the chances are about 50-50 that humanity will be extinct or nearly extinct within 50 years. Weapons of mass destruction, disease, I mean this global warming is scaring the living daylights out of me. – Ted Turner

Also on this day:

He Never Said “Elementary” – In 1930, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle dies of a heart attack.
Peace Activist – In 1983, Samantha Smith visited Moscow.
 Boulder Dam – In 1930, construction began at what is now called Hoover Dam.

Boulder Dam

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 7, 2011

Hoover Dam

July 7, 1930: Construction on Boulder Dam begins. Henry John Kaiser, an American industrialist, was responsible for several civic projects. He was part of the consortium building this dam as well as the Grand Coulee Dam. He became the father of modern shipbuilding and built many of the Liberty ships used in World War II at the Kaiser Shipyard. After the war, he formed both Kaiser Aluminum and Kaiser Steel. He also organized Kaiser Permanente as a health care provider for his workers and their families. He was not only involved in building dams, but also other civic centers and also held real estate investments. He initiated the Kaiser Family Foundation in 1948. He died at age 85 in 1967.

Boulder Dam is now called Hoover Dam. It crosses the Black Canyon of the Colorado River on the border between Arizona and Nevada. It was built between 1931 and 1936 at a cost of $49 million [about $798 million in today’s dollars]. The concrete arch-gravity dam is owned by the US government. It spans 1,244 feet and is 726.4 feet tall. The base width is 660 feet. The dam was built during the Great Depression and as soon as the project was announced, flocks of unemployed came to the area in hopes of gaining employment.

The dam is about 25 miles southeast of Las Vegas. In 1931, Vegas had a population of about 5,000. As the jobless converged, the population swelled to about 20,000. The government had already established a camp for surveyors and other personnel near the proposed site. These newly arrived hopefuls built their own squatters camp around the government camp. The new camp was called McKeeversville. A second camp set up on the flats around the river was called Willamsville officially, however the inhabitants referred to it as Ragtown.

Once construction began, Six Companies, Inc. began to hire workers from this willing pool. There were over 3,000 people on their payroll by 1932 and employment peaked in July 1934 when there were 5,251 people working for Six Companies. There were, by contract, no “Mongolian” or Chinese workers permitted. African-Americans were also to never exceed thirty and they were to be segregated from the white workers. As part of the Six Companies contract, they were to build housing for their workers, this was supposed to be accomplished before work on the dam began, but the President ordered work to begin March rather than October and so the housing project was never completed.

“The Democrats are going to change the name of the Hoover Dam. That is the silliest thing I ever heard of in politics . . . Lord if they feel that way about it, I don’t see why they don’t just reverse the two words.” – Will Rogers

“Live daringly, boldly, fearlessly. Taste the relish to be found in competition – in having put forth the best within you.” – Henry J. Kaiser

“I make progress by having people around me who are smarter than I am and listening to them. And I assume that everyone is smarter about something than I am.” – Henry J. Kaiser

“When your work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt.” – Henry J. Kaiser

Also on this day:
He Never Said “Elementary” – In 1930, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle dies of a heart attack.
Peace Activist – In 1983, Samantha Smith visited Moscow.

He Never Said “Elementary”

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 7, 2010

Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle

July 7, 1930: Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle, doctor and prolific author, dies of a heart attack. Doyle was born in Scotland to Irish parents and was sent to the Jesuit preparatory school Stonyhurst at age nine, which did not have the desired effect. He was an agnostic by the time he left. He went on to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh.

His medical practice wasn’t very successful and to fill the time, Doyle began to write. He was published before he turned twenty. Sherlock Holmes, based on professor Joseph Bell, made his first appearance in 1887 in A Study in Scarlet. In 1891, Doyle started to plan Holmes’s demise. Doyle ended up killing him off in December 1893 so that he could devote more time to his historical novels. Readers revolted and Holmes was resurrected by yet another twisting plot. He appeared in 56 short stories and four novels.

Most of the Sherlock Holmes stories are told by Dr. Watson, his faithful roommate and friend. Two are told from the protagonist’s perspective. There is little actual knowledge of Holmes early life but some facts can be gleaned from the works published. The great detective took rooms at 221B Baker Street, London (with 17 steps up to the door). The man could make much of small clues, but also used a group of street urchins, the Baker Street Irregulars. Watson described his friend as eccentric and we are told he preferred his pipe to cigars and cigarettes, but smoked them as well. Holmes went even further and used cocaine habitually and morphine and opium occasionally. All these were legal substances at the time – although Holmes was not opposed to bending the law to help solve a crime.

Doyle was an avid proponent of justice and personally opened two closed cases, proving that incarcerated men were in fact not guilty of their crimes. He was equally fascinated with fairies and spirits and wrote books on spiritualism. Doyle has been implicated as being one of the perpetrators of the Piltdown Man hoax in a revengeful move against science for debunking one of Doyle’s favorite psychics.

“It is as impossible for man to demonstrate the existence of God as it would be for even Sherlock Holmes to demonstrate the existence of Arthur Conan Doyle.” – Frederick Buechner

“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.” – Arthur Conan Doyle, Sr.

“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.” – Arthur Conan Doyle, Sr.

“I have learned never to ridicule any man’s opinion, however strange it may seem.” – Arthur Conan Doyle, Sr.

“Holmes: I followed you.
Man: I saw no one.
Holmes: That is what you may expect to see when I follow you.” – Arthur Conan Doyle, Sr.

Also on this day, in 1983 Samantha Smith visits Moscow at Yuri Andropov’s invitation.