Little Bits of History

June 23

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 23, 2017

1960: Mestranol/norethynodrel (trade name Enovid [US] and Enavid [UK]) is approved for use as a contraceptive. Mestranol is a synthetic, steroidal estrogen and norethynodrel is a steroidal progestin making this the first combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP) to be approved. Enovid was first approved on June 10, 1957 but only for treatment of menstrual disorders. It wasn’t until this day it got its new designation. It took until 1961 to be approved in Canada and the United Kingdom. Today, there are still COCPs available, but the brand was discontinued in 1988 along with most other first generation high estrogen COCPs.

COCPs, familiarly known as The Pill, are taken daily in order to inhibit female fertility and are reversible. They are used around the world with more than 100 million women using this form of birth control and about 12 million of them live in the US. It is the most widely used form of birth control in the US for women between the ages of 15 and 44. Use varies by age, education, marital status, and country. In the UK, about 34% of women 16-49 use COCPs or progestogen-only pills while in Japan, only about 1% use this method. If used perfectly, there is about a 0.3% chance of pregnancy in the first year, but when seen as regular usage the pregnancy rate increased to 9% with these being attributed to poor instructions, mistakes of the user, or willful misuse or non-compliance.

The history of birth control is tightly entwined with the history of abortion. Both have been well documented in ancient history from Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt. The Ebers Papyrus from 1550 BC and the Kahun Papyrus from 1850 BC both list various ways to prevent pregnancy. Honey, acacia leaves, and lint were inserted into the vagina to prevent sperm from traveling. The older papyrus also included a description of a pessary (akin to a diaphragm) using acacia gum, which recent research has found to have spermatocidal qualities and is still used in some contraceptive jellies. The ancient texts also recommend covering the cervix with gummy substances and suggested lactation as a method of birth control. Coitus interruptus was mentioned in the Bible. Other regions of the world also found different plants to be helpful in slowing sperm.

Barrier methods improved with time but it wasn’t until the 20th century that use became more routine. Early condoms were made of a variety of materials, some better at slowing the spread of disease more than as actual birth control. Intrauterine devices also were on the market, but they have a higher rate of side effects and do nothing to stop the spread of disease. There has always been the option of not engaging in reproductive activities, either while it was assumed one was fertile or even eschewing sexual relations altogether. All the above methods are reversible without issue. Sterilization is also available. They are not readily reversible. Tubal ligations for women have been available since 1930 and vasectomy for men has been available since 1899 with first experimentation tried in 1785.

The only remedy against hunger is reasonable birth control. – Friedrich Durrenmatt

I do not want to speak about overpopulation or birth control, but I think education is the way to give new impetus to the poverty question. – Harri Holkeri

I always joke with people that having nephews is the best birth control there is. – Tahj Mowry

We have access to practical, ethical and scientifically established methods of birth control. So I think that is the most ethical way to reduce our population. – Christian de Duve

It’s a Tough Job

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 23, 2015
Brick Owens

Brick Owens

June 23, 1917: Brick Owens gets clobbered. Clarence Bernard Owens was a Major League Baseball umpire. He worked in the National League in 1908 and from 1912-13 and in the American League from 1916 through 1937. He was famous for officiating in the World Series in 1918, 1922, 1925, 1928, and 1934 (serving as crew chief for the last two). He also worked the All-Star Game in 1934 behind the plate for the last half of the game. Born in Wisconsin in 1885, he hoped to pursue a career in baseball. On July 4, 1901, he accidentally shot himself in the left hand, ending his hopes of playing professionally. He was supposed to play in a sandlot game and instead of staying home, he went to the game and when the umpire quit early in the game due to a dispute, Owens took over the position. The next year, his family moved to Chicago and he again umpired games for fifty cents per game. He soon raised his fee to a dollar and when he was noticed by minor league executive Al Tearney, he began to coach minor league games for $5 each.

These minor league games were far more contentious than those played in sandlots. At age 17 he was offered a position with the Northern League for $75 a month but got into so many fights that when he met the president of the league, Harry Pulliam, wanted to know if Owens had been in a train wreck. At one game, after calling a final player out on strikes, the player dropped his bat and got into a fight with Owens. A fan jumped from the stands, picked up the bat, and hit Owens over the head with it. The attacker’s father paid Owens $750 to not file assault charges. Owens got his nickname when angry fans began throwing bricks at the umpire and one struck him in the head. He was not seriously injured and returned to his position just a few days later.

On this day, the Washington Senators were playing against the Boston Red Sox. Babe Ruth was pitching. The first batter for Washington stepped up to the plate with Owens standing behind the plate as umpire. Ruth threw four pitches. All were called balls and the player was walked to first base. Ruth, never known for his calm demeanor, was irate. When he let his displeasure be known to the umpire, Owens threw him out of the game. Before leaving, Ruth punched Owens. Ernie Shore replaced Ruth and picked off the runner who had made his way to first base. He then retired the next 26 Washington batters. Shore regarded it as a perfect pitched game. Statisticians did not.

Shore was from North Carolina and played his first Major League Baseball game on June 20, 1912 with the New York Giants. He did not resign and was off for the 1913 season before Boston picked him up. He played for the Red Sox from 1914-1917 and then once again had a year off. The New York Yankees picked him up for 1919-1920. He won 65 games and lost 43. Since he did not strike out the first batter on this day, the game is credited as a no-hitter rather than a perfect game. Ruth was fined $100, had to make a public apology, and was suspended for ten games.

I didn’t mean to hit the umpire with the dirt, but I did mean to hit that bastard in the stands. – Babe Ruth

I never questioned the integrity of an umpire. His eyesight? yes. – Leo Durocher

Despite all the nasty things I have said about umpires, I think they’re one-hundred percent honest, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how they arrive at some of their decisions. – Jimmy Dykes

An umpire is a loner. The restraints of his trade impose problems not normally endured by players, coaches, management, press and others connected with organized baseball. He is a friend to none. More often he is considered an enemy by all around him – including the fans in the stands who threaten his life. – Art Rosenbaum

Also on this day: Mutiny on the Discovery – In 1611, Henry Hudson’s crew mutinied.
Clackity clack – In 1868, an improved typewriter was patented.
Lorena and John – In 1993, domestic violence made the world headlines.
Banff – In 1887, the Rocky Mountains Park Act of Canada was passed.
Iced – In 1953, Zamboni received a patent for an ice cleaner.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 23, 2014




June 23, 1953: US patent 2,642,679 is granted to Frank Zamboni. Frank was born in Eureka, Utah in 1901. The Italian immigrant family purchased a farm in Idaho, where Frank grew up. The family moved again to Los Angeles in 1920. Frank attended a trade school in Chicago and he and his younger brother, Lawrence, opened an electrical supply shop in 1922 back in the Los Angeles suburbs. Five years later, the brothers added an ice-making plant to their business and began supplying blocks of ice, which they continued to find profitable until 1939 when the need was dropping and another way to earn a living using their knowledge of ice and refrigeration was needed.

They opened an ice rink. The rink was popular because Frank had figured out a way to keep the ice from rippling due to the pipes used to keep the rink frozen. The rink is still in operation and still owned by the Zamboni family. Keeping the ice smooth was a laborious process. Three to four workers would have to scrape, wash, and then squeegee the ice. Then a thin layer of water would be added for a new layer of smooth, fresh ice. Between 1942 and 1947, Frank tried, unsuccessfully, to automate the process using a vehicle which could resurface the ice quickly.

In 1947, Frank used a machine that would shave, wash, and squeegee the ice and it was mounted on an army surplus vehicle chassis. It was powered by a Jeep engine and transmission. The blade would shave the ice and a conveyer belt would load the shavings into a tank. Unfortunately, the blade was deficient and the handling was a problem. By 1949 The Model A Zomboni Ice-Resurfacer was a functional piece of equipment. Although it originally had four wheel drive, this was abandoned for front wheel drive for better handling. Other improvements were added, but it was still not very aesthetically pleasing. One wit said it looked like the offspring of a field tractor and a warehouse crate. But it worked.

Increasingly better models were built, each with the next letter designation. Finally, on this day, a patent was granted. That didn’t stop the improvements from coming and a major shift came in 1964 which meant the shaved ice was moved away differently, allowing for disposal without the driver having to shovel out the holding tank. This has been the industry standard ever since. Frank J. Zamboni & Co. have taken a hard line on protecting their trademark. They have pursued the integrity of their company name and not permitted Zamboni to by synonymous with ice resurfacers. They received a registered trademark for their name on August 15, 2000. Frank was awarded 15 patents mostly on ice resurfacing equipment. He died in 1988 at the age of 87, but his company lives on with Richard Zamboni running the show.

There are three things in life that people like to stare at: a flowing stream, a crackling fire and a Zamboni clearing the ice. – Charlie Brown

In skating over thin ice our safety is in our speed. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I like ice hockey, but it’s a frustrating game to watch. It’s hard to keep your eyes on both the puck and the players and too much time passes between scoring in hockey. There are usually more fights than there are points. – Andy Rooney

Figure skating is theatrical. It’s artistic. It’s elegant. It’s extremely athletic. And there’s a very specific audience for that. – Johnny Weir

Also on this day: Mutiny on the Discovery – In 1611, Henry Hudson’s crew mutinies.
Clackity clack – In 1868, an improved typewriter was patented.
Lorena and John – In 1993, domestic violence made the world headlines.
Banff – In 1887, the Rocky Mountains Park Act of Canada was passed.

Tagged with: , ,

Clackity Clack

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 23, 2013
Early typewriter

Early typewriter

June 23, 1868: Christopher Latham Sholes receives US patent #79,265 for an improved type-writer. Sholes, born in Pennsylvania in 1819, moved to Wisconsin after completing an apprenticeship in printing. He became a newspaper publisher and politician – serving in both the Wisconsin State Senate and State Assembly. He was also an inventor. He received several patents over the years for various improvements and innovations to the typing machine.

The first patented machine had 10 short keys above 11 longer ones and were described by the inventor as “similar to the key-board of a piano.” The description has 21 keys for 26 letters. His next patent, also from 1868, has 36 keys – digits on the left and letters, alphabetically arranged, on the right. Later patents show keyboard layouts that are more familiar, tiered rows of keys. He is credited with the QWERTY keyboard, a legacy we still revere today.

Sholes sold his patent to the Remington Arms Company in 1872 for $12,000 (≈ $200,000 today). Already successful as an arms and sewing machine manufacturer, Remington started making the first commercial typewriters on March 1, 1873. Remington stopped producing sewing machines and typewriters and continued solely as arms merchants. They sold their typewriter interests to the Standard Typewriter Manufacturing Company, Inc. along with the rights to continue with the Remington name. They still produce office equipment along with electric razors.

Sholes originally had placed the keys on the board in alphabetical order. Typists, after mastering the technique and typing with some speed, kept entangling the keys as they struck against the paper. There are two theories for the new placement of the keys. The first is that it would slow down the typists and reduce key snags. The second is that the new arrangement physically placed the striking keys far enough apart to avoid locking. Since English has no diacritical marks, the keyboard is modified for other languages.

“Don’t be too harsh to these poems until they’re typed. I always think typescript lends some sort of certainty: at least, if the things are bad then, they appear to be bad with conviction.” – Dylan Thomas

“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.” – Isaac Asimov

“I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top.” – English professor, Ohio University

“My two fingers on a typewriter have never connected with my brain. My hand on a pen does. A fountain pen, of course. Ball-point pens are only good for filling out forms on a plane.” – Graham Greene

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Computer keyboards are the progeny of typewriters but they also have teleprinters (or teletype) and keypunches in the “family tree”. Because the keyboard is not just a mechanical device delivering keystrokes to paper, there has to be a conveyance of electromechanical data entered by the user to reach the computer and eventually also the display. This takes more than just striking the keys and delivering ink to the paper rolled through the machine. The early computers would use keypunch devices and eventually migrated to what we think of as our usual input device. Today, we have the convenience of touch pad typing on many of our handheld devices and they often still have the QWERTY layout for the letters.

Also on this day: Mutiny on the Discovery – In 1611, Henry Hudson’s crew mutinies.
Lorena and John – In 1993, domestic violence made the world headlines.
Banff – In 1887, the Rocky Mountains Park Act of Canada was passed.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 23, 2012

Banff Hot Springs Reserve with the original hotel in foreground

June 23, 1887: The Canadian Parliament passes the Rocky Mountains Park Act. This act established Canada’s first national part, Rocky Mountains Park. It was modeled on the Yellowstone Park Act passed in 1881 by the US. The concept behind the law was to establish a national haven where conservation could be balanced against development interests. The Canadian park was located around a hot springs discovered in a cave of the Rocky Mountains. Railroad men found the springs while tracks were being laid to connect to British Columbia. Several claimants took credit for discovering the hot springs.

In 1885, Minister John A. Macdonald set aside ten square miles at Cave and Basin as a public park known as Banff Hot Springs Reserve. When this act was passed, the park expanded to 260 square miles. The Canadian Pacific Railway built both the Banff Springs Hotel and Chateau Lake Louise to attract tourists, aka customers. The luxury vacation spot was a hit with wealthy Europeans. The Alpine Club of Canada formed in 1906 to arrange climbs and camps in the austere setting. In 1911, the area was finally accessible by car, driving in from Calgary. By 1916, bus tours were established.

In 1902 the park once again expanded, this time to 4,402 square miles. However, the area included interrupted the easy flow of the logging industry and by 1911 the area was reduced to 1,800 square miles. It once again grew to 2,586 square miles in 1930 with the passage of the National Parks Act. At that time, the name was also changed to Banff National Park, named for the Canadian Pacific Railway station. The boundaries changed for the last time in 1949 setting aside 2,564 square miles for the park., which is larger than the state of Delaware.

The park is open year round and with the ever changing weather, offers a variety of holiday or entertainment opportunities. The frigid winter months, with only 8-9 hours of daylight per day, give visitors a variety of snow-based entertainment options. There is downhill, cross-country, and touring skiing as well as snowshoeing and ice diving or ice climbing (frozen waterfalls). In the summer months, with up to 16.5 hours of sunlight, a variety of camping and water activities are available. In both season, wildlife is abundant and photographic opportunities abound. And in all seasons, the hot springs await to soothe and refresh the weary traveler.

Let us a little permit Nature to take her own way; she better understands her own affairs than we. – Michel de Montaigne

We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect. – Aldo Leopold

For 200 years we’ve been conquering Nature. Now we’re beating it to death. – Tom McMillan

You forget that the fruits belong to all and that the land belongs to no one. – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Also on this day:

Mutiny on the Discovery – In 1611, Henry Hudson’s crew mutinies.
Clackity clack – In 1868, an improved typewriter was patented.
Lorena and John – In 1993, domestic violence made the world headlines.

Lorena and John

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 23, 2011

The unhappy couple

June 23, 1993: Lorena and John Bobbitt’s marital troubles become known to the world. John had been out partying and came home drunk. Lorena states that when he returned to their apartment, he raped her. After the rape, she got out of bed, went to the kitchen to get a glass of water, and it was then she saw a carving knife. She remembered not only this night’s assault, but the history of violence in their marriage. She picked up the knife, went back to the bedroom, and cut off nearly half of her passed-out husband’s penis.

She left the house with the severed penis and drove away from their apartment. Eventually, she rolled down the window and tossed the penis out of the car where it landed in a field. She then called 9-1-1. John’s penis was eventually located, packed in ice, and taken to a hospital where he was being treated for his injury. The severed penis was reattached during a 9.5-hour procedure. During this time, Lorena was taken into custody.

During the trial of Lorena Bobbitt, both parties spoke of their tumultuous relationship. Lorena said she was physically, sexually, and emotionally abused during their marriage. John flaunted his infidelities and forced her to have an abortion. There was much corroborative testimony supporting Lorena’s claims of abuse. Her lawyer claimed that after years of abuse, she finally “snapped” and the result was the assault on this day. While John denied the allegations of abuse, his own testimony was often contradictory to known facts and it weakened his veracity. Lorena was found not guilty by reason of insanity. She underwent a 45 day evaluation period and was released afterwards. The couple divorced.

John Wayne Bobbitt attempted to cash in on his ordeal. He formed a band called The Severed Parts but it was generally unsuccessful and did not help to generate enough funds to pay for his increasing medical and legal bills. He also appeared in an adult film, John Wayne Bobbitt, Uncut and then made a second such film. John continued to have scrapes with the law as well. He was convicted of domestic battery against other women and was found guilty of grand theft. Lorena has kept a low profile since this incident. She has founded an organization to help battered women.

“Long term domestic violence: Being abused in this manner is like being kidnapped and tortured for ransom but you will never have enough to pay off the kidnapper.” – Rebecca J. Burns

“The first step toward success is taken when you refuse to be a captive of the environment in which you first find yourself.” – Mark Caine

“Domestic violence causes far more pain than the visible marks of bruises and scars. It is devastating to be abused by someone that you love and think loves you in return. It is estimated that approximately 3 million incidents of domestic violence are reported each year in the United States.” – Dianne Feinstein

“If the numbers we see in domestic violence were applied to terrorism or gang violence, the entire country would be up in arms, and it would be the lead story on the news every night.” – Mark Green

Also on this day:
Mutiny on the Discovery – In 1611, Henry Hudson’s crew mutinies.
Clackity clack – In 1868, an improved typewriter was patented.

Mutiny on the Discovery

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 23, 2010
Searching for the Pacific Ocean

The rigors of travel and the desire for fame didn't mix

June 23, 1611: Henry Hudson, on his fourth voyage in search of a northwest passage to Asia, is set adrift with his son and seven other loyal crew members. They were never seen again. Hudson heard of the search for a westward route to Asia while still a boy. He signed on as a cabin boy at the age of 16 and advanced to apprentice within seven years. By 1607, he was a seasoned seaman and the Muscovy Company hired him to search out the fabled northwest passage.

His first and second trips, were both blocked by ice and winds. He was within 577 nautical miles of the North Pole while seeking a way to the Pacific Ocean. After two years of failures, Hudson found financing with the Dutch in 1609. He sailed to the New World via Newfoundland, exploring what is today Manhattan, Maine, and Cape Cod and then sailed for a distance up the Hudson River. The Dutch used his information and set up the colony New Amsterdam, although Hudson called it Staaten Eylandt.

In 1610, he sailed under the English flag. Hudson went as far north as Iceland and then sailed on to Greenland. He continued west, looking for the passage to the Pacific Ocean. His ship reached the Hudson Strait and sailed into the Hudson Bay. Hudson continued his explorations until his ship became trapped in ice at James Bay, forcing the crew to winter in Canada.

When the ice finally melted the next spring, the Discovery was free to sail again. Hudson wanted to continue his study of the region for the waterway leading to the Pacific. The weary crew mutinied and eventually returned to Europe, although they went to Holland rather than England. They were never punished for the mutiny.

“Mistakes, even occasional incompetence, could be understood and forgiven, but not disloyalty.” – Joseph A. Califano, Jr.

“A succession of small duties always faithfully done demands no less than do heroic actions.” – Rousseau

“[History] is made up of the total effect of all our decisions and actions.” – Thomas Merton

“The impulse to escape an untenable situation often prompts human beings not to shrink back but to plunge ahead.” – Eric Hoffer

Also on this day, in 1868 an improved typewriter was patented.

Tagged with: , ,