Little Bits of History

June 25

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 25, 2017

1900: Wang Yuanlu discovers the Dunhuang manuscripts. The manuscripts covered a variety of topics, both religious and secular and covered history, mathematics, folk songs and even dances. The religious documents are mainly Buddhist but cover other religions as well including Daoism, Nestorian Christianity, and Manichaeism. Most of the documents are written in Chinese, but several other languages are also included. The Daoist monk located the cache in a sealed cave which was part of the Mogao Caves also called the Thousand Buddha Grottoes. They form a system of 492 temples along a 16 mile stretch of what was once an important cultural center along the Silk Road in the Gansu province of China.

Between 1907 and 1910, Yuanlu sold many of the manuscripts, mostly to Aurel Stein (Hungarian/British) and Paul Pelliot (French) but also to Japanese, Russian, and Danish explorers. Chinese scholar Luo Zhenyo managed to get many of the manuscripts (about 20%) into the hands of Beijing historians and they are not in the National Library of China. Several thousand works were left in Dunhuang and are located in many of the museums of the region. Most the manuscripts purchased by foreigners are now in institutions located around the world. Today, they are being digitized by the International Dunhuang Project and can be freely accessed online.

On this day, Yuanlu was working at restoration of statues and paintings in what we know today as Cave 16. While working, he noticed a hidden door which opened into another cave, today called Cave 17 or Library Cave. Once the seal was broken, he found a room filled with thousands of ancient manuscripts dating from  the 5th to the early 11th centuries. Many of them related to early Chinese Buddhism. He went to local authorities in an attempt to fund their conservation. The officials ordered the cave to be resealed until the documents could be transported out for further study. Instead, he sold many of the works at way below their value, for which he is both “revered and reviled”.

The manuscripts have been studied and some of these studies are to determine the provenance of the documents themselves. There have been many speculations as to why the room was sealed in the first place. Stein suggested they were “sacred waste” and this protected them. It has also been suggested that Cave 17 was simply a Buddhist storeroom in a monastic library. The works may have been hidden away as advancing armies, either Xixia or Muslim, were approaching and the monks wished to preserve the bountiful history. A final theory is simply that the librarians ran out of room and sealed a full space. Research continues and a clearer picture of the life and times of locals and visitors are available for study.

The question of manuscript changes is very important for literary criticism, the psychology of creation and other aspects of the study of literature. – Umberto Eco

If you look at an illuminated manuscript, even today, it just blows your mind. For them, without all the clutter and inputs that we have, it must have been even more extraordinary. – Geraldine Brooks

I can tell from about 20 yards away when someone has a manuscript for me. I can just tell – they have that look. – Mark Leyner

Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts – the book of their deeds, the book of their words and the book of their art. – John Ruskin

Man Oh Man

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 25, 2015
Mann Act poster

Mann Act poster

June 25, 1910: The Mann Act is passed. Also known as the White-Slave Traffic Act, it was named after Representative James Robert Mann of Illinois. The law made it a felony to engage in interstate or foreign commerce dealing with transporting “any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose”. It was the last three words that would eventually lead to many problems with the act, making it necessary to be amended in 1978 and again in 1986. Surprisingly, in the 1800s many American cities had designated, legally protected areas of prostitution. As young women came from rural areas to the big cities, they would sometimes find better employment opportunities in these parts of town. The rumors began that these young women were being forced into a life of prostitution by cartel-type organizations.

The Mann Act was a response to fears of moral turpitude. There were many books and pamphlets written about fragile young women being abducted by foreigners with Jewish, Italian, and Asian men being the most often cited. These men would capture, drug, and rape young women and then put them to work on the streets. Feminist Emma Goldman spoke more directly to the real problem involved. Young women left rural American to come to the city only to find work that paid so little they couldn’t make ends meet. In order to earn more money, they took up prostitution not because they were coerced by wicked foreigners but because women and their work were considered second class and the pay was meager.

Between 1910 and 1913, many of the major cities in America began to withdraw protection of the once legal areas. Brothels were closed and morality was endorsed with the usual consequences. The Mann Act was used to prosecute men for having sex with underage females regardless of willingness of both parties. It was even used in the Caminetti v. United States in 1917 because of the “illegal fornication” which was “immoral purpose”. Caminetti and a friend took their mistresses from California to Reno, Nevada. The men’s wives informed police and had them arrested for violation of the Mann Act even though all the parties involved in the “illegal fornication” were consenting adults. Also included in illegal fornication was the interracial marriage of two willing partners.

Other cases making it to the Supreme Court based on the act found that prostitution can only be legislated at a local or state level but that crossing state lines makes it a federal case. A 1913 case found that it was not just prostitution, but also “debauchery” that was being controlled. A 1946 ruling found that consensual polygamous marriages are immoral and therefore can be prosecuted under the act. Fortunately, transporting two women at a time across state lines only results in one criminal charge (1955). Not always used to bad purpose, the Mann Act was used in prosecution against Jack Schaap in 2012 when the pastor at a mega-church was found guilty of transporting a 16-year-old he was counseling across state lines for the purpose of having sex with her. He received a 12 year sentence. This was the last major case invoking the Mann Act.

Prostitution, although hounded, imprisoned, and chained, is nevertheless the greatest triumph of Puritanism. – Emma Goldman

There will never be a day when there is no such thing as prostitution. Quote me: I would like to see prostitution legalized. – Ruth Westheimer

A prostitute can give you all kinds of wonderful excitement and inspiration and make you think that nirvana has arrived on the two-o’clock plane, and it ain’t necessarily so. – Marlon Brando

It is a silly question to ask a prostitute why she does it. These are the highest-paid “professional” women in America. – Gail Sheehy

Also on this day: Great Star of Africa – In 1905, The Cullinan diamond was discovered.
The End – In 1906, a bizarre love triangle ended badly.
Last Stand – In 1876, Custer was defeated at Little Bighorn.
Lady Doctor Elena – In 1678, Elena earned the first PhD awarded to a woman.
Treason – In 1960, Martin and Mitchell left the country.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 25, 2014
William Martin and Bernon Mitchell

William Martin and Bernon Mitchell

June 25, 1960: William Martin and Bernon Mitchell go on vacation to Mexico. Martin was born in 1931 in Georgia but his family moved to Washington soon after. He earned a degree in mathematics from the University of Washington in Seattle in 1947. He enlisted in the US Navy and served from 1951 to 1954 working as a cryptologist with the Naval Security Group in Japan. Mitchell was born in 1929 in California and enlisted in the Navy after one year of college. His years of service were also 1951 to 1954 and he, too served in Japan with the Naval Security Group as a cryptologist. He stayed an extra year in Japan and worked with the Army Security Agency and when back stateside, he graduation from Stanford University.

The two men became friends while in Japan and both were hired by the National Security Agency (NSA) in 1957. They were disturbed by what they learned of American surveillance which included incursions into foreign airspace. They realized that Congress was unaware of NSA-sponsored flights. In violation of NSA rules, they approached Ohio Congressman Wayne Hays in February 1959 after he expressed frustration with the information he was receiving from the NSA. The two men visited Cuba in December 1959 without notifying their superiors, breaking another rule.

On this day, the two left for a vacation in Mexico and never returned. Instead, they traveled to Havana and from there sailed on a Russian freighter to the USSR. On September 6, 1960, the two men appeared at a joint news conference at the House of Journalists in Moscow and announced they were requesting asylum and Soviet citizenship. They announced their dissatisfaction with information gathering especially with invasion of airspace. Both were appalled by US first-strike capabilities for nuclear war and refusal to disarm. America’s response was to deny all allegations and to brand both men as sexual deviants (homosexuals).

Mitchell was happy, apparently, with his choice to defect to Russia and not much is known of him except that he died in St. Petersburg in 2001. Martin changed his name and continued his studies at Leningrad University. He married a Soviet woman whom he divorced in 1963. He later told a Russian newspaper that his defection was “foolhardy” and attempted to repatriate several times. He spoke with Donald Duffy (VP of the Kaiser Foundation) and Benny Goodman (musician) asking for help to return to the US. In 1979 he approached the American Consulate about coming home causing his case to be reexamined. He was stripped of his American citizenship. He was denied permission to immigrate and was also denied a tourist visa. Martin eventually got as far as Mexico where he died of cancer in 1987.

Setting people to spy on one another is not the way to protect freedom. – Tommy Douglas

But I think the real tension lies in the relationship between what you might call the pursuer and his quarry, whether it’s the writer or the spy. – John le Carre

My notion of the KGB came from romantic spy stories. I was a pure and utterly successful product of Soviet patriotic education. – Vladimir Putin

Today’s difference between Russia and the United States is that in Russia everybody takes everybody else for a spy, and in the United States everybody takes everybody else for a criminal. – Friedrich Durrenmatt

Also on this day: Great Star of Africa – In 1905, The Cullinan diamond was discovered.
The End – In 1906, a bizarre love triangle ended badly.
Last Stand – In 1876, Custer was defeated at Little Bighorn.
Lady Doctor Elena – In 1678, Elena earned the first PhD awarded to a woman.

The End

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 25, 2013
Harry K. Thaw

Harry K. Thaw

June 25, 1906: Towards the end of the premiere production of Mam’zelle Champagne at Madison Square Garden, a bizarre murder takes place. Harry K. Thaw was a disturbed man. He was the son of a wealthy coal and railroad baron who was born paranoid and violent, according to his mother. He spent his young life being kicked out of one school after another. After not completing his education, he moved to New York City where he began to use morphine and cocaine.

Evelyn Nesbit was a young model and chorus girl. Her father died, leaving the family in poverty. The beautiful child became the sole support of her remaining family by age 16 when she moved with her mother to NYC. She was part of the Floradora Chorus and a coworker introduced her to married, 47-year-old playboy, Stanford White. Her mother, aware of White’s reputation, nevertheless encouraged the relationship. Evelyn lost her virginity to White who then became disinterested in her. She went on to dating a young John Barrymore. After two pregnancies, she was still childless and now became involved with Harry Thaw.

Thaw and Nesbit had a tumultuous relationship. Thaw was a sadistic man, known for brutally whipping his “dates” as part of foreplay. He and Nesbit went on a European tour and Nesbit finally accepted Thaw’s marriage proposal. Nesbit had confessed to her fiancé about her deflowering by the rogue, White. Thaw was an extremely jealous and possessive man and the knowledge burned within him.

After a chance meeting and knowing that White would attend the same show as the Thaws, Harry prepared himself. He shot White in the face at point blank range three times. Before the trial, Thaw’s mother offered Evelyn both a divorce and $1,000,000 if she would testify that White had abused her and Thaw was merely defending her. She did so and was granted a divorce but never received any money. Thaw was found not guilty by reason of insanity and confined in an asylum. He walked away and left for Canada. He was returned to the States and re-incarcerated after a second trial.

“In jealousy there is more self-love than love.” – François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld

“If malice or envy were tangible and had a shape, it would be the shape of a boomerang.” – Charley Reese

“Jealousy in romance is like salt in food. A little can enhance the savor, but too much can spoil the pleasure and, under certain circumstances, can be life-threatening.” – Maya Angelou

“The jealous bring down the curse they fear upon their own heads.” – Dorothy Dix

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Harry Thaw’s lawyers tried to get their client released in 1909. However, a witness testified that Thaw was a threat to society. Susan Merrill had rented two different apartments to Thaw between 1902 and 1905. She was more than just a landlady, but also a madam in a deluxe Manhattan brothel and Thaw had used aliases for the leases. However, he brought women to the apartments and brutalized and terrorized them there. A “jeweled whip” was brought into the court but the women were paid by Thaw’s lawyers and did not testify. The 1913 escape was probably planned and carried out under the supervision of Thaw’s mother who helped her son throughout her life. Out of prison in 1916, Thaw kidnapped, beat, and sexually assaulted 19-year-old Frederick Gump. He was back in the insane asylum for this assault until released again in 1924.

Also on this day: Great Star of Africa – In 1905, The Cullinan diamond was discovered.
Last Stand – In 1876, Custer was defeated at Little Bighorn.
Lady Doctor Elena – In 1678, Elena earned the first PhD awarded to a woman.

Lady Doctor Elena

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 25, 2012

Elena Lucrezia Piscopia

June 25, 1678: The first Doctorate of Philosophy to be earned by a woman is awarded to Elena Lucrezia Piscopia. The University of Padua also awarded the 32-year-old the Doctor’s Ring, the Teacher’s Ermine Cape, and the Poet’s Laurel Crown. Dr. Piscopia was born into a noble Italian family in Venice. Her father was the Procurator of San Marco and her mother was also from the upper classes. She was the eldest daughter in her family and by age seven was already being tutored.

She first studied Latin and Greek under distinguished instructors. After mastering these languages, she learned Hebrew, Spanish, French, and Arabic. With seven languages at her disposal, she was given the title “Oraculum Septilingue.” She went on to study mathematics, philosophy, and theology. In 1665 she took the habit of the Benedictine Oblate, however she never became a nun.

Her father wanted her to enter the University of Padua. She excelled in her studies and was granted her PhD in the cathedral of Padua on this day. The University authorities were in attendance as were professors and the lesser faculty. Many of the students also came to witness this event along with a great number of prestigious invited guests from other Italian Universities. Elena spoke for an hour in classical Latin and explained random selections from the works of Aristotle. She was not permitted by the Catholic Church to receive a doctorate in theology. She went on to teach and write a variety of treatises before her death at age 38.

A Doctorate in Philosophy or PhD (sometimes Ph.D.) means teacher of philosophy and is the most advanced degree awarded by universities. The term has grown to include the highest degrees for other disciplines in the sciences and humanities. In the Middle Ages, European universities considered all areas of study outside theology, medicine, and law to be the area of “philosophy” or natural philosophy if it was scientific. The first PhD was awarded in Paris in 1150. Today, the granting of this prestigious degree has a variety of requirements based on both the area of study and the university granting the degree.

The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet. – Aristotle

Education is that which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding. – Ambrose Bierce

Life at university, with its intellectual and inconclusive discussions at a postgraduate level is on the whole a bad training for the real world. Only men of very strong character surmount this handicap. – Paul Chambers

The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change. – Carl Rogers

Also on this day:

Great Star of Africa – In 1905, The Cullinan diamond was discovered.
The End – In 1906, a bizarre love triangle ended badly.
Last Stand – In 1876, Custer was defeated at Little Bighorn.

Last Stand

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 25, 2011

General George Armstrong Custer

June 25, 1876: George Armstrong Custer leads the United States Army 7th Cavalry to defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn or Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse lead combined forces of the Lakota and Northern Cheyenne nations to a stunning victory at the Battle of the Greasy Grass. Custer’s forces numbered about 650 officers, troops, civilians, and scouts. The combined Indian forces came from 949 lodges and numbered between 950 and 1,200 men.

After forced marches on June 24-25, Custer’s Crow scouts told him that there were large encampments of Indians in the area. Custer divided his troops into four detachments. The largest of them was led by Custer himself and there were 13 officers and nearly 200 men, three of them civilians [one news reporter and two scouts]. The second detachment led by Major Reno consisted of 11 officers and 131 troops while the third detachment led by Captain Benteen had 5 officers and 110 troops. The fourth detachment was the pack train with 2 officers and 127 troops. Each of the first three detachments was to seek out Indian encampments and attack.

Reno attacked and was driven off after hearing gunfire in the distance. Custer’s engagement did not go as he had planned. He met with a far greater number of combatants than he had anticipated. He was outnumbered 3:1 and after troops freed with Reno’s retreat, the numbers changed to 5:1. According to Lakota accounts, Crazy Horse led his combined forces against Custer. Many of his men had repeating rifles while the 7th Cavalry was armed with single shot rifles that were known to jam. Custer’s men were in a depression while Crazy Horse’s men were on higher ground, making arrows a more lethal weapon. After annihilating Custer’s detachment, the Indians re-engaged with Reno and Benteen fighting until nightfall and taking up the battle the next day.

The battlefield was preserved as a national cemetery in 1879. The name has changed twice since that time and is today called the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. There is a marble obelisk memorializing the fallen US soldiers. In 2003 an Indian Memorial entitled Spirit Warriors, a beautifully rendered sculpture, was dedicated at the site as well.

“There are not enough Indians in the world to defeat the Seventh Cavalry.” – George Armstrong Custer

“I do not wish to be shut up in a corral. All agency Indians I have seen are worthless. They are neither red warriors nor white farmers. They are neither wolf nor dog.” – Sitting Bull

“Free people, remember this maxim: we may acquire liberty, but it is never recovered if it is once lost.” – Jean Jacques Rousseau

“The only man who makes no mistakes is the man who never does anything. Do not be afraid to make mistakes providing you do not make the same one twice.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Also on this day:
Great Star of Africa – In 1905, The Cullinan diamond was discovered.
The End – In 1906, a bizarre love triangle ended badly.

Great Star of Africa

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 25, 2010

Copy of nine of the diamonds cut from the famous Cullinan diamond, from the "Reich der Kristalle" museum in Munich. The top left one is the Great Star of Africa (Chris 73)

June 25, 1905: The world’s largest gem-quality diamond is discovered by Frederick Wells, manager of the Premier Diamond Mining Company in Cullinan, Gauteng, South Africa. It weighed 3,106.75 carats [621.35 g or 21.9 oz]. A larger carbonado, non-gem quality diamond, was found in Brazil weighing 3,600 carats. This largest diamond is named for the owner of the mine, Sir Thomas Cullinan. Wells received $10,000 for the find.

The Cullinan Diamond was purchased for $800,000 and presented to King Edward VII of England. The Asscher Brothers of Amsterdam were given the job of cutting the stone as they had successfully cut the Excelsior, the previous world record diamond. Joseph Asscher studied the gem for three months, trying to determine the proper way to proceed. Finally, on February 10, 1908 at 2:45 PM he took the cleaving blade and placed it at the prearranged point and struck it with his hammer. The blade broke. The gem was unharmed and a second cleaving blade was found. The stone split perfectly.

The first cut produced two massive stones weighing 1,977.50 and 1,040 carats. They were eventually made into nine major stones, 96 brilliants, and 9.5 carats of unpolished pieces. The total weight for the cut stones was 1,063 carats with a 65%  cutting loss. The King kept the two largest stones and purchased a “chip” for Queen Alexandra – weighing 11.5 carats.

The largest gem was faceted into the pear shaped 530.2 carat diamond officially known as both The Cullinan Diamond and the Star of Africa. It is part of the Royal Scepter and remains in the Tower of London with the crown jewels. Queen Elizabeth II is the current owner. The Golden Jubilee, another Premier mine diamond, is a larger cut gem weighing 545.67 carats and is owned by King Rama IX, King of Thailand.

“He who finds diamonds must grapple in mud and mire because diamonds are not found in polished stones. They are made.” – unknown

“Next to sound judgment, diamonds and pearls are the rarest things in the world.” – Jean de la Bruyere

“I never hated a man enough to give him his diamonds back.” – Zsa Zsa Gabor

“Diamonds are nothing more than chunks of coal that stuck to their jobs.” – Malcolm S. Forbes

Also on this day, in Harry Thaw murders Sandford White.