Little Bits of History

June 29

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 29, 2017

1956: The US passes the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956. It was also called the Highway Construction Act and the National Interstate and Defense Highway Act. Public Law 84-627 was signed by President Dwight D Eisenhower and began a nationwide road improvement. The law set aside $25 billion (about $225 billion today) in order to build 41,000 miles of the Interstate Highway System. The time frame given in the law was ten years. It was the largest public works project in American history up to that time. The “defense” in the short title was a nod to the funding since some of the cost was diverted from defense funding. It was also to give most US Air Force bases a direct link to the system.

Monies were put into the Highway Trust Fund for federal spending. This paid for 90% of the cost with each state making up the other 10% for the roads built within their borders. It was expected funds would be generated by new taxes placed on fuel, cars and trucks, and tires. The federal portion of the funding had come from taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel. The Highway Trust Fund continues to collect taxes (18.4 cents per gallon of gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon of diesel fuel) as well as excise taxes. It is divided into two accounts, one for road construction and surface transportation projects and a second one for supporting mass transit. The original fund was created on this day with the mass transit portion beginning in 1982. Taxes on fuel brings in over $30 billion per year.

In the early 1900s, road construction was undertaken locally and roads were built as needed by the communities needing them. In 1916, the first federal acts was passed in order to bring some cohesiveness to the highway system, but World War I interfered and little was done and the project’s end date came with little improvement overall. Another act was immediately passed allocating more funds to be matched by the states. General John Pershing created a map of what he and the US Army considered to be necessary interconnected primary highways. Some roads were built, others were not. Eisenhower had had to cross the nation on the old highways in 1919 and remembered with dread the difficulty of the trip. He became a champion for creating a true system of roads.

Missouri claims to have the first three contracts under the new law and they included upgrades to US Route 66 and what is today called Interstate 44, they also began work on US 40 (now I-70). Kansas claims to have been the first state to start paving roadways. They had preliminary work done prior to the signing of the bill and paving began on September 26, 1956 on what is now I-70. Pennsylvania also makes a claim for their Turnpike to be considered the first Interstate Highway. On October 1, 1940 a stretch of 162 miles of highway opened between Irwin and Carlisle. Although only to run for ten years, Nebraska was the first state to complete all of its mainline interstate highways – in 1974. Although it was proclaimed complete in 1992, both I-95 and I-70 are not continuous paths.

You come to Washington, there’s a rail bill, there’s a highway bill, there’s a aviation bill. But when you go home, there’s an airport, there’s a highway, there’s a rail, there’s transit. It all has to work together. – Anthony Foxx

Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything. – Charles Kuralt

I’ve seen every highway in the United States, and they all look alike to me. – Loretta Lynn

When I’m driving the highway by myself is when I write best. – Willie Nelson


Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 29, 2015
Sampoong Department Store after the collapse*

Sampoong Department Store after the collapse*

June 29, 1995: The Sampoong Department Store closes in Seoul, South Korea. The Sampoong Group (a trade company in South Korea) began construction of the store in 1987 over a piece of land which had previously been a landfill. The original plan called for the building to house residential apartments on four floors. After construction began, Lee Joon, the future chairman of the building, decided to turn it into a department store. To install escalators, several support columns were eliminated. When the original contractors refused to carry out the changes, they were fired and Lee opted to use his own building company to complete the structure. It was completed in 1989 and the Sampoong Department Store opened on July 7, 1990.

There were north and south wings connected by an atrium and the store attracted about 40,000 shoppers per day. To obey zoning regulations, a fifth floor was added since the entire building was not permitted to house only a department store. It was supposed to be a skating rink, but that was also changed and instead it was turned into eight restaurants. The first construction company warned that the building could not withstand the extra weight. They were fired. Since Koreans sit on the floor to eat, it was warmed with hot water running through pipes in the floor. This made it necessary to increase the thickness, and weight, of the concrete slab. Air conditioning unit were added to the roof creating a load of four times the limit of the designs tolerance.

In 1993, the air conditioning units were moved when the roof showed signs of cracking. In April 1995, cracks began to appear in the south wing’s fifth floor. Lee’s response was to move merchandise from the top floors to the basement. On this morning, a number of cracks dramatically increased in the fifth floor and so management closed the top floor and shut off the air conditioning. They did not close the store or evacuate the building as they did not wish to lose a day’s revenue. Civil engineers were brought in to inspect the cracks and said the building was in danger of collapsing. Around 1 PM local time, the first of several lound bangs were heard from the top floors. Customers complained about vibrations (but apparently continued to shop).

At about 5 PM, the fifth floor ceiling began to sink and store employees blocked any customers from going to the fifth floor. The store was packed with shoppers but nothing was done to get them out of the store which closed at 6 PM. Louder cracking sounds were noted and at 5.52.30 PM, workers sounded alarms to evacuate the store. It was too late. The roof gave way and the air conditioning units fell through onto the weakened and cracked fifth story floor. The escalator region was structurally weak by design and it next collapsed and within 20 seconds all of the building’s columns in the south wing gave way and the building pancaked trapping more than 1,500 people. There were 502 people killed and 937 injured. There was ₩270 billion (Korean won) or about $216 million of property damage. It was the deadliest building collapse since the Circus Maximus collapsed in ancient Rome in 140 AD.

Capitalism: Nothing so mean could be right. Greed is the ugliest of the capital sins. – Edward Abbey

If we go on the way we have, the fault is our greed [and] if we are not willing [to change], we will disappear from the face of the globe, to be replaced by the insect. – Jacques Cousteau

So much attention is paid to the aggressive sins, such as violence and cruelty and greed with all their tragic effects, that too little attention is paid to the passive sins, such as apathy and laziness, which in the long run can have a more devastating effect. – Eleanor Roosevelt

From top to bottom of the ladder, greed is aroused without knowing where to find ultimate foothold. Nothing can calm it, since its goal is far beyond all it can attain. Reality seems valueless by comparison with the dreams of fevered imaginations; reality is therefore abandoned. – Emile Durkheim

Also on this day: I Love You Lighthouse – In 1860, the last stone to the I Love You lighthouse was placed.
Sound Recording – In 1888, a wax cylinder was used to record music.
Pygmy Mammoth – In 1994, the first near-complete pygmy mammoth fossil was found.
Globe Gone – In 1613, the London theater burned down.
Reaching Hawaii – In 1927, a nonstop flight from California to Hawaii was completed.

* “Sampungdept25” by 최광모 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

Reaching Hawaii

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 29, 2014
Bird of Paradise

Bird of Paradise

June 29, 1927: The Bird of Paradise arrives in Hawaii. The plane was an Atlantic-Fokker C-2 and crewed by 1st Lt. Lester Maitland and 1st Lt. Albert Hegenberger. It was the first transpacific flight from the mainland to Hawaii. The hope to fly across the Pacific began in February 1919 at McCook Field in Dayton, Ohio. Members of the Air Service, forerunner of the Air Corps, included then 2nd Lt. Hegenberger, an MIT-trained aeronautical engineer. The purpose of the flight was to subject navigation instruments to a systematic test with unusual conditions. Traveling over 2,400 miles over water was a great test.

The Instrument Branch within the Air Service Engineering Division created new instrumentation including  compasses, airspeed meters, driftmeters, and sextants. They also upgraded maps. Hegenberger attended a flight school put on by the Navy in Pensacola, Florida where he learned about over-water flight. He flew over the Gulf of Mexico and practiced both dead reckoning and celestial navigation. The new instrumentation was essential not just for the military, but for civilian aviation as well. The men in Dayton collaborated with many outside groups to develop the best set of instruments not just for over water, but for all weather conditions and night navigation.

To help with funding, Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell supported the use of air shows, flight demonstrations, and encouraged setting aviation records. One of the participants in these events was 1st Lt. Maitland who had been stationed in Hawaii for two years beginning in 1919. Maitland asked to be part of the transpacific crew for a two-engined Martin NBS-1 bomber’s flight. The request was denied. Even with proper instrumentation, the plane itself needed upgrading. The Fokker was that upgrade. It survived flying several endurance missions and set a record of 36 hours aloft (and seven other world records). This was the plane used for the first non-stop transcontinental flight, about the same distance as a transpacific flight.

After more testing of the plane and the crew, it was deemed possible and on Tuesday, June 28, 1927, with favorable weather and thermos full of soup, some chicken sandwiches, and coffee, Maitland and Hegenberger boarded the Bird of Paradise bringing with them water and chocolate bars. The three motors started without problem and at 7.09 AM local time, they took off. They became airborne at 93 mph and climbed to an altitude of 2,000 feet. They were escorted by other Army aircraft as they passed the Golden Gate Bridge. Cruising speed was 108 mph and a compass failed shortly after takeoff. There were many difficulties with the actual navigation and ships along the way offered some help. At sunset, they climbed to 10,000 feet to tope the clouds and navigated by the stars. About 19 hours into the flight, the middle engine failed but after dropping altitude and melting ice accumulation it started up again.  After 25 hours and 50 minutes, the Bird of Paradise landed safely at 6.29 AM, local time.

A month after Charles Lindbergh flew nonstop from New York to Paris…(Maitland and Hegenberger)…flew…some 2,400 miles (3,900 km) from Oakland [CA] to a landfall on the island of Kauai, then to a safe landing on Oahu.

The flight…tested not only the reliability of the machine, but the navigational skill and the stamina of the two officers as well, for had they strayed even three-and-a-half degrees off course, they would have missed Kauai and vanished over the ocean. – from the official history of the United States Air Force

The flight is unquestionably one of the very greatest aerial accomplishments ever made. – Trubee Davison

The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Also on this day: I Love You Lighthouse – In 1860, the last stone to the I Love You lighthouse was placed.
Sound Recording – In 1888, a wax cylinder was used to record music.
Pygmy Mammoth – In 1994, the first near-complete pygmy mammoth fossil was found.
Globe Gone – In 1613, the London theater burned down.

Sound Recording

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 29, 2013
Edison was cylinder recorder

Edison was cylinder recorder and player

June 29, 1888: Part of George Frideric Handel’s Israel in Egypt is recorded on a wax cylinder, the first (known) classical music recording. The great composer lived from 1685 to 1759. Israel in Egypt was written in 1738. The biblical oratorio was not well received at the time of its premiere and was reworked with sections deleted and others added. The recording was made by Col. George Gouraud at The Crystal Palace in London. The recording was made using Thomas Edison’s yellow paraffin cylinder. It is badly degraded and little can still be heard.

The cylinder method of sound recording was used from 1888 to 1915. The cylinders had the recording engraved on the outside and playback was achieved via a mechanical phonograph. Edison invented the system to record telephone messages. He first used wax paper successfully on July 18, 1877. He then used tin foil wrapped around a cylinder. Next came the use of wax cylinders. They were mass marketed in the 1880s. A soft wax was used and the recordings would wear out after a few dozen replays.

In 1890, Charles Tainter patented carnauba wax cylinders. The harder wax replaced the mixture of paraffin and beeswax. The early phonographs could both record and play back selections. When the soft wax cylinders no longer replayed recordings, the wax could be smoothed over and a new recording made. The 4 inch long cylinders were about 2 ¼ inches in diameter and held about two minutes of music. Eventually, with continued improvements, the cylinders could be played more than 100 times before the sound degraded.

The cylinders came in cardboard tubes with lids at either end. The cardboard protected the recordings. Record companies had a standard label affixed to their products and there was no indication of title or artist on the label. That information was written by hand on the lid. Later, a number was stamped on the lid and finally the name of the artist and title of the work were printed and glued to the lids. The cylinders were in competition with the disk method of recording and eventually, the disks won.

“Musical compositions, it should be remembered, do not inhabit certain countries, certain museums, like paintings and statues. The Mozart Quintet is not shut up in Salzburg: I have it in my pocket.” – Henri Rabaud

“There is nothing in the world so much like prayer as music is.” – William P. Merrill

“Music is the universal language of mankind.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Music is the art which is most nigh to tears and memory.” – Oscar Wilde

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Charles Tainter was born in Massachusetts in 1854. His formal education was meager, but the curious boy taught himself. He was hired by Alvan Clark and Sons Company which produced telescopes. They were under contract with the US Navy and Tainter was sent to New Zealand to observe the transit of Venus in 1874. Upon his return to the states, he opened his own shop and produced scientific instruments. He met Alexander Graham Bell and eventually went to work for him. After 1886 he worked on perfecting his graphophone and produced the first Dictaphone. He caught pneumonia in 1888 and was sickly for the rest of his life. Regardless, he perfected many of the products used for sound recording and is often called the Father of the Speaking Machine. He died in 1940, shortly before his 86th birthday.

Also on this day: I Love You Lighthouse – In 1860, the last stone to the I Love You lighthouse was placed.
Pygmy Mammoth – In 1994, the first near-complete pygmy mammoth fossil was found.
Globe Gone – In 1613, the London theater burned down.

Globe Gone

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 29, 2012

Drawing of London’s Globe Theatre

June 29, 1613: London’s Globe Theatre burns to the ground. The theater is associated with William Shakespeare and was built by his playing company in 1599 on Maiden Lane (today called Park Street) in Southwark, London. Lord Chamberlain’s Men was a playing company established around 1594. They performed at The Theatre in Shoreditch until problems with the landlord forced a move to Curtain Theatre close by. The company worked there from 1597 until December 28, 1598 when The Theatre in Shoreditch was dismantled. The beams were transported to Southwark and used in building the new venue, Globe Theatre.

The Globe Theatre was owned by the actors of the troupe, Lord Chamberlain’s Men as well as six other shareholders. Richard and Cuthbert Burbage, brothers, each owned double shares or 25% each. The remaining 50% was divided between John Heminges, Augustine Phillips, Thomas Pope, and Shakespeare. The Burbage family had owned the previous theater dismantled to construct the newer one after a dispute over the land lease where the previous theater was built.

The Globe was a grand building built by Peter Smith. It could hold several thousand people. However, the great building didn’t just host plays, but was also a brothel and a gambling den. Maps of the day clearly show the huge building included in drawings of the area around the Thames River. In an illiterate society, flags placed atop the theater alerted people to what was going on inside. Black flags indicated a tragedy was being performed that day while a white one indicated a comedy and a red flag meant a history was the day’s selection. With the much larger building available, with a greater stage area, more elaborate or sophisticated plays could be offered.

Special effects were the cause of the fire. A canon was fired to herald great entrances. It was loaded with gunpowder and when fired, it lit the thatched roof and the blaze spread, consuming the building. There is no record of casualties. Immediate reconstruction began and the new Globe Theatre opened in 1614, often called Globe 2. It remained open until 1642 when Puritans were able to pull support from the arts, as they might be damaging to the moral and ethical well being of the citizenry. A modern replica of what we assume the theater looked like was built in 1997. Shakespeare’s Globe was built just 750 feet away from where the original stood.

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.

Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.

Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.

But O, how bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man’s eyes.

Everyone ought to bear patiently the results of his own conduct. – all from William Shakespeare

Also on this day:

I Love You Lighthouse – In 1860, the last stone to the I Love You lighthouse was placed.
Sound Recording – In 1888, a wax cylinder was used to record music.
Pygmy Mammoth – In 1994, the first near-complete pygmy mammoth fossil was found.

Pygmy Mammoth

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 29, 2011

Pygmy Mammoth compared to a Mammoth and an Elephant (photo by Travis S.)

June 29, 1994: The first near-complete fossil of a pygmy mammoth skeleton is found on Santa Rosa Island, one of the Channel Islands off the coast of California. The sea cliff were eroding away and exposed the skeleton, which remains the only full sized skeleton of the pygmy mammoth ever recovered. The fossil was also the first to be dated. Radiocarbon dating showed the skeleton to be 12,840 years old.

Mammuthus exilis lived only on three islands: San Miguel, Santa Rosa, and Santa Cruz. The beasts measured between 4.5 and 7 feet tall and weighed about 2,000 pounds. Full sized mammoths were about 14 feet tall and weighed about 20,000 pounds. Mammoths lived during the Pleistocene era and were a distant relative to the modern day elephant.

Mammoths ranged across Europe, Asia, and North America. On the west coast area of modern day California, mammoths over grazed the land. It was an Ice Age and the water level was about 300 feet lower than today. The hungry mammoths could smell the sweet vegetation on a single island off the coast – about 6 miles away. The beasts swam the short distance and had a new food supply.

The Ice Age came to an end, the ice melted, the water level rose, and the mammoths were trapped on what became three islands. While their population had boomed, the food supply became increasingly limited. Over time, the mammoths became smaller and eventually formed their own species. For about 200,000 years, the mammoths were one of the dominant species on the planet. About 20,000 years ago, the mammoths along with many other large mammals became extinct. The reason for this remains an enigma.

“99 percent of species put on this list are not extinct. That is not a failure; that’s an enormous success.” – Norm Dicks

“I don’t think we should knowingly allow any species to go extinct if we can prevent it.” – Jeff McNeely

” If you whack a population and whack it again and again, it’ll go extinct in that area. If it’s widely distributed, it might be able to bounce back. If it’s isolated in a narrow stretch of habitat, it may be more vulnerable.” – Jessica Hellmann

” I am sorry to say that there is too much point to the wisecrack that life is extinct on other planets because their scientists were more advanced than ours.” – John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Also on this day:
I Love You Lighthouse – In 1860, the last stone to the I Love You lighthouse was placed.
Sound Recording – In 1888, a wax cylinder was used to record music.

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I Love You Lighthouse

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 29, 2010

Minot's Ledge lighthouse

June 29, 1860: The last stone is laid for the new Minot’s Ledge lighthouse near Scituate, Massachusetts. This was a replacement for the first lighthouse built between 1847 and 1850. The earlier structure was a beacon braced above metal framework and was the first lighthouse built in the US. Between the years 1832 and 1841, over 40 vessels were lost due to the rocky ledge hiding beneath the waves. Damages over the years totaled over $360,000.

The first lighthouse cost $39,000 and began operation on January 1, 1850. The lighthouse is 1 nautical mile offshore. The first operator quit after ten months because he felt unsafe as the waves crashed into the insubstantial base. His replacement also felt unsafe, but the architect maintained that the lighthouse was indeed safe, citing that it had weathered winters’ storms already. Three months later, in April 1851, a huge storm struck the New England coast and turned Boston into an island due to flooding. It also toppled the lighthouse, with two people perishing. All that survived were a few bent pilings.

Construction of an all stone lighthouse began on July 9, 1857. The total cost of this new construction was $300,000 – the most expensive lighthouse at the time, and still one of the costliest today. The building consists of 1,079 blocks of Quincy granite that are reinforced with iron shafts. It is 114 feet high. The light was first lit on August 22, 1860.

The lighthouse was automated in 1947. The tower has a unique pattern of light in a sequence of 1-4-3. Someone decided that must be the number of letters it stood for hence the lighthouse is sometimes given that nickname “I Love You”.

“He that will learn to pray let him go to Sea.” – George Herbert

“There is, one knows not what sweet mystery about this sea, whose gently awful stirrings seem to speak of some hidden soul beneath.” – Herman Melville

“No man will be a sailor, who has contrivance enough to get himself into a jail; for being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned.” – Samuel Johnson

“A fallen lighthouse is more dangerous than a reef.” – proverb

Also on this day, in 1888 the oldest wax cylinder recording (still in existance) was made.