Little Bits of History

June 17

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 17, 2017

1462: The Night Attack takes place at Târgovişte. Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1453. Mehmed II, the Sultan, thought it would be possible to add more lands to his Empire and went northwest in order to bring more lands under his command. Mehmed issued a Jizya over Bosnia, this was a tax imposed on all non-Muslims. Wallachia, located north of the Danube River, was in control not only of the lands there, but the northern side of the waterway. Mehmed sought to control the river, the people, and the income stream. The West continued to fight against the invaders and even the Pope sent out a Crusade to help defeat the Ottomans. There was little European backing for the Crusade, which Mehmed took as a chance to invade northwards. The ruler of the Wallachia had one ally, Mihály Szilágyi, and he had been captured in 1460. His men were tortured and killed and he was sawed in half.

The leader of Wallachia had not paid the Jizya for years. The yearly tax of 10,000 ducats was only part of the debt as Mehmed also insisted on payment for 1,000 boys trained as janissaries or soldiers. Mehmed crossed the Danube to exact revenge and teach his opponent a lesson. He called for armies to be assembled and amassed troops numbering between 100,000 and 120,000 men. But his opponent was not an ordinary soldier. The Wallachia leader had invaded Bulgaria and impaled over 23,000 Turks which gave him his name, Vlad the Impaler. Vlad III Țepeș was also called Vlad Dracula, the son of Vlad Dracul. He led his troops numbering around 30,000 to 35,000.

Mehmed’s estimate of his troops was as high as 500,000 while Vlad was unable to amass anything near that number. The Hungarian king had promised support but did not deliver. The majority of Vlad’s army were peasants and shepherds. The men on horseback were few in number and properly armed as were Vlad’s personal guards. The Turks approached lands and tried to disembark their boats only to be overcome by arrows. They withdrew and tried again landed in sections downstream until their army was on the north side of the river. Vlad fought a scorched earth pattern, poisoning waters and setting traps in the marshes. Mehmed’s army advanced for a week until this night. Vlad had used the time to send the sick and dying into the midst of his enemy’s troops, especially people with bubonic plague. During the night, as Mehmed’s troops were encamped south of the capital, Vlad struck.

Vlad entered the camp in disguise and was unchallenged. He learned where the Sultan was and how his defense was set. Vlad knew it was Mehmed’s policy that soldiers must remain in their tents at night. The Wallachian troops used the information their leader had gathered and sent several forays into the camp. Documents differ on how many losses were incurred. All agree Vlad sustained few losses while Mehmed suffered considerable casualties, one account listing 20,000. Vlad had hoped to assassinate Mehmed, but came to the wrong tent and attacked two viziers instead. Mehmed continued his move north only to find Vlad had gone before. He found another 20,000 impaled Turks lining the road. Mehmed, capturing slaves and goods, returned home.

War alone brings up to their highest tension all human energies and imposes the stamp of nobility upon the peoples who have the courage to make it.- Benito Mussolini

Against war one might say that it makes the victor stupid and the vanquished malicious. In its favor, that in producing these two effects it barbarizes, and so makes the combatants more natural. For culture it is a sleep or a wintertime, and man emerges from it stronger for good and for evil. – Friedrich Nietzsche

The god of war is impartial: he hands out death to the man who hands out death. – Homer

Wars grew and mutated, finding ways to stay alive; they hung on with the grim tenacity of a weed growing in a crack in a wall, feeding on whatever nutrients their roots and tendrils could find. – K. J. Parker


Ready for College

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 17, 2015
SAT scores over time*

SAT scores over time*

June 17, 1901: The first exams of the College Board are administered. The Board is an American private nonprofit corporation which was founded on December 22, 1899 as the College Entrance Examination Board. It was not a group of colleges but did (and continues) to contain a membership of institutions which today has over 6,000 schools, colleges, universities, and other educational organizations. At its founding, there were 12 universities and three high school preparatory academies involved. Their purpose was to both adopt and publish a statement on what exactly should be taught to students hoping to enter university. They also had a plan to test to see if the applicants did, in fact, have a mastery of the topics needed to be successful in college life.

Their first test was given on this day to 973 students in 67 locations in the US as well as two more in Europe. The test takers were from various backgrounds but the majority of them were from New York, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania. They were also mostly from private schools, academies, or endowed institutions. About 60% of those taking the test also applied to Columbia University, one of the members of the College Board. The test was an essay test without any multiple choice questions. The subjects covered were English, French, German, Latin, Greek, history, math, chemistry, and physics. Essays were graded as “excellent”, “good”, “doubtful”, “poor”, or “very poor”. The test changed with time.

On June 23, 1926 a new test was available for the first time, the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) was created by a committee which had been headed by Princeton psychologist Carl Brigham. This new test had sections of definitions, arithmetic, classification, artificial language, antonyms, number series, analogies, logical inference, and paragraph reading. There were now over 300 testing centers available for the more than 8,000 students taking the test. Males numbered about 60% of those taking the test and more than one-fourth of those taking the SAT had applied to either Yale University or Smith College. Those being tested had just 90 minutes to answer 315 multiple choice questions.

The test changed several times in the next few decades and then became a more standardized test with fewer changes adopted. Scores dropped in the 1960s and 70s and the test was recentered to raise the mean score back to 500. There have been more changes with tweaking of the test every few years now. The next changes are due to come out for 2016 and were announced in 2014. Today, they partner with Khan Academy so students can practice test taking online through them and they also provide instructional videos. American College Testing (ACT) came into being in 1959 and is the major competitor to the SAT test.

Examinations are formidable even to the best prepared, for the greatest fool may ask more than the wisest man can answer. – Charles Caleb Colton

It is tiresome to hear education discussed, tiresome to educate, and tiresome to be educated. – William Lamb

There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning. – Jiddu Krishnamurti

What is wrong with a great deal of higher education in America is that it is simply boring. – Harold Taylor

Also on this day: Indian Princess – In 1631, Arjumand Banu Begum died while giving birth to her fourteenth child.
Nicole and Ron – In 1994, OJ Simpson was arrested.
Smoot-Hawley Act – In 1930, this tariff act was signed into law.
Breed’s Hill? – In 1775, the Battle of Bunker Hill was fought.
Statue of Liberty – In 1885, the statue arrived, in pieces, in New York.

* “Historical Average SAT Scores (Vector)” by Erik Jacobsen ( ) – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

Statue of Liberty

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 17, 2014
Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

June 17, 1885: The Statue of Liberty arrives in New York Harbor. Frederic Auguste Bartholdi was a French sculptor best known for this particular work of art. Liberty Enlightening the World was a gift from the French Third Republic created to represent the fraternal feeling between the two republics – France and the US. The actual originator of the idea is under debate, but Bartholdi claimed that a 1865 comment from Edouard Rene de Laboulaye served as inspiration which had to wait until the regime of Napoleon III ended. Also, the artist was busy with some of his other over-sized and impressive projects.

By 1875, it was announced that a combined French and American project would take place if funds could be secured. It was at that time the name Liberty Enlightening the World was chosen for work. The French would supply the statue if America would supply the pedestal. This proposal met with general approval in France, but some Frenchmen were disenchanted with the US for not coming to their aid in their war with Prussia. Plans were not even finalized before Bartholdi began to work on this creation. In 1876, he came to America as the French delegate for the Centennial Exhibition and had a huge painting of the statue shown in New York City. The statue would be built in pieces and several were displayed in various places. The arm lifting the torch came to Philadelphia in August 1876 and was displayed as part of the Exhibition, but due to its late arrival was not listed in the catalog.

In 1878, Lady Liberty’s head was displayed at the Paris World’s Fair. Fundraising continued throughout the process. Gustave Eiffel and his structural engineer, Maurice Koechlin, helped with the design. For construction, 200,000 pounds of copper was needed and over half of it was donated by French industrialist Eugene Secretan. Other copper merchants donated more of the copper. With Eiffel’s help, a framework was built to support the statue’s great weight as well as keep the skin from cracking. The statue had to survive winds and temperature shifts without falling to pieces. Galvanic corrosion between the copper skin and the iron support system was forestalled by insulating with asbestos.

Fundraising in the US was problematic as well. The Panic of 1873 led to a decrease in available funds for this project as well as the Washington Monument. Many Americans were upset that a “gift” from France was costing so much from Americans. Despite these arguments the pedestal was built using sketches from Eiffel to assure the pedestal could actually support the statue it was meant to display. On this day, the French steamer Isere, reached New York Harbor. The unloading of the crates was witnessed by 200,000 people on shore and in boats in the harbor. The pedestal was not completed until April 1886 and the assembly of the statue could then begin. After the framework was erected, the skin could be attached in sections. Instead of torchlights around the base which was disapproved by the Army Corps of Engineers, Bartholdi cut holes in the raised torch and put the lights there. The Statue of Liberty was officially dedicated in a ceremony held on October 28, 1886.

Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. / Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: / I lift my lamp beside the golden door. – Emma Lazarus

Its magnificence was indescribable, and its magnitude was inconceivable. She felt overwhelmed in the presence of its greatness. – Mona Rodriguez

I recommend that the Statue of Liberty be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the west coast. – Viktor E. Frankl

I’ve always had a strong feeling for the Statue of Liberty, because it became the statue of my personal liberty. – David Antin

Also on this day: Indian Princess – In 1631, Arjumand Banu Begum dies while giving birth to her fourteenth child.
Nicole and Ron – In 1994, OJ Simpson was arrested.
Smoot-Hawley Act – In 1930, this tariff act was signed into law.
Breed’s Hill? – In 1775, the Battle of Bunker Hill was fought.

Nicole and Ron

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 17, 2013
OJ Simpson arrested

OJ Simpson arrested

June 17, 1994: Orenthal James (O.J.) Simpson is arrested for a double murder. Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were brutally murdered outside Nicole’s apartment on June 12, 1994. Both victims were repeatedly stabbed and both had defensive wounds, attesting to their struggle in the attack. The Simpsons had been divorced for two years at the time of the murders. Their two children were asleep inside the apartment. The relationship between Nicole and Goldman has never been clearly defined. Evidence at the scene of the crime led police to suspect O.J.

O.J. had gained fame as a football star with the NFL as a running back. After his football career ended, he became a spokesman for a car rental agency and ran through airports and jumped over obstacles to get to his waiting car. He became an actor and was recognized across the country, if not the world. Police permitted him to turn himself in, thinking he was not a flight risk. O.J. was to be at the police station at 11 AM on this date. He didn’t show.

At 2 PM, the police issued an all-points bulletin for O.J. His lawyer and friend read a disjointed and confusing letter from the ex-football star that sounded like a suicide note. The police tracked cellular phone calls to find Simpson. They found his friend, Al Cowlings, driving a white Ford Bronco heading south on Interstate 405. When police approached the SUV, Cowlings told them O.J. was in the back seat, holding a gun to his own head. Police backed away.

Police followed the white Bronco down the freeway at speeds of only 35 mph. At the beginning of the low-speed chase, a lone helicopter flew above and filmed the event. As the pursuit continued, other film crews took to the air and radio announcers pleaded with O.J. to give himself up. The roadway was cleared of traffic and the country watched as a phalanx of police cruisers paced the SUV. The chase ended at 8 PM when O.J. was taken into custody outside his home.

“The day you take complete responsibility for yourself, the day you stop making any excuses, that’s the day you start to the top.”

“I didn’t beat her. I just pushed her out of bed.”

“I have always wanted to be liked and respected.”

“Don’t feel sorry for me. I’ve had a great life, great friends. Please think of the real O.J. and not this lost person.” – all from O.J. Simpson

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: OJ Simpson was brought to trial for the murder of Nicole and Ron and was eventually found “not guilty” by the jury. The country’s opinion on the fairness of the trial was split along color lines with African-Americans believing justice had been served while others did not. On February 5, 1997, a civil jury in Santa Monica, California found OJ liable for the wrongful death and battery against Ron Goldman and battery against Nicole. He was ordered to pay $33 million in damages but the law stipulates OJ’s pension could not be attached and so the debt was not paid. The case continued as the Goldman family sought the restitution the courts ordered. In September 2007, OJ Simpson was involved in armed robbery in Las Vegas. He was convicted in 2008 and remains incarcerated at Lovelock Correctional Center in Nevada.

Also on this day: Indian Princess – In 1631, Arjumand Banu Begum dies while giving birth to her fourteenth child.
Smoot-Hawley Act – In 1930, this tariff act was signed into law.
Breed’s Hill? – In 1775, the Battle of Bunker Hill was fought.

Breed’s Hill?

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 17, 2012

The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker’s Hill, June 17,1775. (Paintingi by John Trumbull)

June 17, 1775: The Battle of Bunker Hill is waged. During the American Revolutionary War, the Siege of Boston was waged from April 19, 1775 to March 17, 1776. The British were garrisoned within the city, which is on a peninsula in Massachusetts. The New England patriots wished to keep the Brits contained rather than having the British Army wreaking havoc throughout the countryside. George Washington led the Siege and eventually the British were forced to withdraw. They left behind valuable resources for the struggling Continental Army.

The Battle of Bunker Hill was one of the earlier skirmishes. The original target of the battle was, in fact, Bunker Hill. However, the majority of the battle was fought on Breed’s Hill. On June 13, colonial forces were warned of the British plan to send troops to hills surrounding Boston and Charlestown, Massachusetts. With this advance warning, the militias of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island sent 1,200 troops to the area under the command of William Prescott. The troops snuck in and built an earthen fort-like structure on Breed’s Hill. There were also lines built across most of the Charlestown Peninsula.

The British became aware of the activity and mounted an attack. There were two attacks made with the colonials successfully repelling the British assault. On the third try, and with heavy casualties, the British captured their position. This was partly due to the colonials running out of ammunition stored in their fort. The Militias retreated to Cambridge via Bunker Hill. Most of the Colonial losses were suffered at Bunker Hill. While it was a British victory, they suffered high losses with 226 killed and another 800 wounded, about ⅓ of their force. They lost 19 officers in the battles as well, seriously affecting their leadership in the area.

Today, there is a obelisk memorial, Bunker Hill Monument, that is part of the national Historical Park system. The 221-foot monolith was the second built. Originally, there was an 18-foot wooden pillar with a gilt urn which was placed in 1794 by the King Solomon’s Lodge of Masons. It was placed to honor Dr. Joseph Warren, a fallen patriot and Mason. By 1823, a group of prominent citizens formed the Bunker Hill Monument Association with the goal of commemorating this famous battle. The new obelisk was completed in June 1842 and dedicated on June 17, 1843, exactly 68 years after the battle was fought.

Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes! – William Prescott (attributed) during the battle

We have … learned one melancholy truth, which is, that the Americans, if they were equally well commanded, are full as good soldiers as ours. – A British officer in Boston, after the battle

The Day; perhaps the decisive Day is come on which the fate of America depends. My bursting Heart must find vent in my pen. I have just heard that our dear Friend Dr. Warren is no more but fell gloriously fighting for his country. – Abigail Adams in a letter to her husband

I was now left with perhaps 150 Men in the Fort, the Enemy advanced and fired very hotly on the Fort and meeting with a Warm Reception there was a very smart firing on both sides. – William Prescott in a letter to John Adams

Also on this day:

Indian Princess – In 1631, Arjumand Banu Begum dies while giving birth to her fourteenth child.
Nicole and Ron – In 1994, OJ Simpson was arrested.
Smoot-Hawley Act – In 1930, this tariff act was signed into law.

Smoot-Hawley Act

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 17, 2011

Reed Smoot and Willis Hawley

June 17, 1930: The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act is signed into law. Its full title is “An Act To provide revenue, to regulate commerce with foreign countries, to encourage the industries of the United States, to protect American labor, and for other purposes.” It was a tariff act enacted by the 71st US Congress and was effective from June 18, 1930. It was proposed by Rep. Willis C. Hawlet [R-OR] in the spring of 1929 and passed the House [264-147] in May of that year. It passed the Senate [53-31] in May 1930. President Herbert Hoover signed it into law on this day.

The goal of the legislation was to protect the American markets and workers. This became especially important after the fall of the stock market in the fall of 1929. In 1922, Congress had passed a tariff act and by 1929 Reed Smoot [R-UT] was calling for even greater tariffs. Combined with Hawley, the bill proposed to increase tariffs on agricultural and industrial goods. When signed into law, the Act increased tariffs on more than 20,000 imported goods, many to newly high levels. There is some speculation this bill may have increased the severity of the Great Depression.

In May 1930, a petition was sent to Hoover with the signatures of 1,028 economists attached. They were asking for the President to veto the bill. Henry Ford spent and evening with Hoover begging him to veto the legislation, all to no avail. Canada was the first to pass retaliation legislature and imposed tariff’s on 16 products that amounted to 30% of the US exports to our Canadian neighbors. The protectionist theory resulted in a drop in imports to the US and a drop in exports to other countries around the globe.

Protectionism is the antithesis of Free Trade. Rather than letting the market decide, legislators will enact an economic policy put in place to “protect” the local workers from what is considered an unfair advantage with other trade. There are times when low tariffs will actually help with a young economy. However, exceeding tariffs have been seen to inhibit trade and decrease overall production as the markets respond. In 1929 the US imported $4.4 billion and exported $5.4 billion. After Smoot-Hawley, in 1933 the US imported only $1.5 billion and exported just $2.1 billion. This decrease in trade not only affected the US, but all her trade partners as well. The punitive taxes which went as high as a 60% tax rate on more than 3,200 products made trade less profitable and less attractive. The unemployment rate before the Act was at 7.8% and by 1933 it was at 25.1%.

“The world is paying for its ruthless destruction of life and property in the World War and for its failure to adjust purchasing power to productive capacity during the industrial revolution of the decade following the war.” – Reed Smoot

“I am a tariff man, standing on a tariff platform.” – William McKinley

“In 1833, protection was abandoned, and a tariff was established by which it was provided that we should, in a few years, have a system of merely revenue duties.” – Henry Charles Carey

“The income tax is a twentieth-century socialist experiment that has failed. Before the income tax was imposed on us just 80 years ago, government had no claim to our income. Only sales, excise, and tariff taxes were allowed.” – Alan Keyes

Also on this day:
Indian Princess – In 1631, Arjumand Banu Begum dies while giving birth to her fourteenth child.
Nicole and Ron – In 1994, OJ Simpson was arrested.

Indian Princess

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 17, 2010

Arjumand Banu Begum depiction

June 17, 1631: Arjumand Banu Begum dies while giving birth to her fourteenth child, a daughter named Gauhara Begum. She was 38 years old at the time and married to Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan I. Arjumand was his third and favorite wife. The emperor was devastated by her death.

Arjumand was an Indian Empress born in Agra, India. Her father was a Persian noble, Abdul Hasan Asaf Hkan. He was the brother of Empress Nur Jehan. Arjumand was raised Shi’s Muslim. She  was said, even in her own time, to be a beautiful woman of great virtue. She wed Shah Jahan in 1612 at the age of 19 and her husband later sat at the Peacock Throne as Mughal. She started having children in 1613, seven of the fourteen dying at a young age. She was known by her nickname, Mumtaz Mahal meaning “beloved ornament of the palace.”

She followed her husband while on a war campaign and delivered a healthy daughter. While she lay dying, she is said to have made a last request. She wanted a lasting symbol of the love she shared with her husband. She died in Burhanpur and was buried there for 23 years until it body was transferred to her new resting place.

The emperor went into seclusion after her death. He returned to the world a white-haired and bent man drained of life and vitality. He spent years building a tomb for his lost wife. He built a large building and surrounded it with beautiful gardens. It took 21 years and 20,000 workers to build the central building, the turrets, inscribe the calligraphy, and decorate the interior with carvings and semi-precious stones and then plant the gardens and create the reflecting pool.

The easily recognized mausoleum is one of the finest examples of Moghal architecture. It combines the styles and themes from Persian, Indian, and Islamic architecture. It stands to this day, hauntingly beautiful, and shows his undying love. The Taj Mahal.

“Endow the Living – with the Tears –
You squander on the Dead.” – Emily Dickinson

“Everyone can master a grief but he that has it.” – William Shakespeare

“The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe

“We die only once, and for such a long time!” – Molière

Also on this day, in 1994 O. J. Simpson was arrested for the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

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