Little Bits of History

March 11

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 11, 2017

1818: Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus is first published. Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was born in 1797 to a political philosopher and women’s rights activist. Her mother died less than a month after her birth and her father gave her a comprehensive although informal education. She married one of her father’s followers, Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1816 and during the summer spent time in Geneva, Switzerland with Lord Byron, John William Polidori, and Mary’s stepsister Clair Clairmont. It was there Mary began to get her idea for her most famous work. The couple had four children, three of them dying in infancy before their son was born, their only surviving child. Shelley drowned in a boating accident in 1822.

On this day, Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones published Frankenstein anonymously. A preface was written by Percy Bysshe Shelley and a dedication was made to William Godwin. Only 500 copies of the “triple-decker” work were issued. As a standard practice of the time, the book was broken up into three volumes. A new publisher put out a second printing, this time in just two volumes, after a successful play had been presented, Presumption; or, the Fate of Frankenstein. A third edition, in one volume, came out in October 1831. It was heavily revised by Mary to tone it down a bit and contained a larger preface, written by her. While the first popular version is this latter one, many scholars prefer the original work when choosing a version.

In the book, Frankenstein creates a being and his rejection of this entity begins with his refusing to name it. He calls it, instead, all sorts of vile names like: wretch, monster, creature, demon, devil, fiend, and simply it. The book has been adapted to plays and movies over the ensuing years and it is only in these later versions of the story where the creature is described as whole body parts cobbled together and animated by lightning. This idea was first popularized in a 1931 film version of the tale produced by James Whale. Earlier versions have Dr. Frankenstein discovering the elemental principle of life and animating his creature with whatever it was he had discovered.

One of the most popular misconceptions surrounding the tale is the name of the monster. Frankenstein is the man who created the unnamed beast, not the name of the beast itself. The subtitle is often ignored today. The mythological reference to Prometheus, the Titan who created mankind at Zeus’s request, is left out, but is the point of the story. The fight between Prometheus who wanted the best for his creatures and Zeus who wanted to remain in control ends badly for Prometheus who was tied to rock and had his liver eaten out by eagles every day, only to regenerate during the night because of his god status. He was eventually rescued by Hercules. The story of Frankenstein has a moral tale to tell.

I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves.

Nothing contributes so much to tranquilize the mind as a steady purpose – a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye.

Elegance is inferior to virtue.

What terrified me will terrify others; and I need only describe the spectre which had haunted my midnight pillow. – all from Mary Shelley


Great Blizzard of 1888

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 11, 2015
Great Blizzard of 1888 - 11th Street in New York City after the storm

Great Blizzard of 1888 – 11th Street in New York City after the storm

March 11, 1888: The Great Blizzard of 1888 begins. It lasted until March 14 and was one of the most severe blizzards in the history of the United States. The extratropical cyclone or Nor’easter began with unseasonably mild temperatures but with heavy rainfall. As the temperature dropped the rain turned into snow shortly after midnight March 12. The snows and winds held sway for a day and a half. The National Weather Service recorded as much as 50 inches of snow in parts of Connecticut and Massachusetts. Parts of New Jersey and New York got up to 40 inches while most of northern Vermont got 20-30 inches. Saratoga Springs, New York reported 58 inches of snow, Albany had 48 inches, New Haven, Connecticut had 45 inches, and New York City reported 22 inches.

Drifting was reported to have averaged 30-40 feet from New York into New England. Gravesend, New York reported the highest drift at 52 feet. The severe winds topped out at 80 mph gusts. New York City’s highest reported wind gusts were at 40 mph while Block Island had 54 mph gusts. New York Central Park Observatory had a minimum daytime temperature of ⁰F 6 and a daytime average of ⁰F 9 on March 13, the coldest ever reported for March. Sustained winds of more than 45 mph in other regions produced the enormous drifts. The lowest pressure of the storm was measured at 982 hPa or 29.0 inHg.

The storm was also called the Great White Hurricane and it paralyzed the East Coast of the US from Chesapeake Bay to Maine. It also affected the Atlantic provinces of Canada. The telegraph infrastructure was disabled and Montreal was isolated. Most of the area from Washington, D.C. to Boston suffered the same fate. After the storm, New York began to install telegraph and telephone lines underground to avoid this disastrous result in future storms. More than 200 ships were either grounded or wrecked by the storm and accounted for more than 100 of the 400 deaths attributed to the storm.

It took eight days to clear the New York – New Haven rail line at Westport, Connecticut and the transportation gridlock was responsible for the adoption of underground subway systems. The New York Stock Exchange was closed for two days. Fire stations were unable to respond to calls (if a call could even get through) and property loss from fire alone was estimated at $25 million ($660 million today). After the storm finally abated, there was flooding from the melting snow, especially in the Brooklyn area – always prone to flooding due to topography. There were attempts made to push snow into the ocean itself. One positive, the storm led to the founding of the Christman Bird and Wildlife Sanctuary near Delanson, New York in Schenectady County.

New Yorkers, in general, love disaster. They love blizzards, power failures, etc. (I don’t mean that they loved September 11.) A shared disaster brings them together more — ethnically, racially — because the disaster affects almost all of them, making no distinctions. Their manners are generally very good indeed. And their generosity can be without limits. – Pete Hamill

Blizzards, floods, volcanos, hurricanes, earthquakes: They fascinate because they nakedly reveal that Mother Nature, afflicted with bipolar disorder, is as likely to snuff us as she is to succor us. – Dean Koontz

The greatest blizzards start with the finest snow. – Mark Helprin

The snow doesn’t give a soft white damn whom it touches. – E. E. Cummings

Also on this day: Freedom of the Press? – In 1702, England got its first daily newspaper, The Daily Courant.
Great Sheffield Flood – In 1864, the South Yorkshire, England region was flooded after a dam failed.
LAX – In 1882, the Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association was formed.
Roxy Theater – In 1927, the Roxy Theater opened in New York City.
Death and More Death – In 1946, Rudolf Hoss was arrested.

Death and More Death

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 11, 2014
Rudolf Höss

Rudolf Höss

March 11, 1946: Rudolf Höss is arrested. Rudolf was born in 1901 in Baden-Baden, Germany. His father had been an army officer but now ran a tea and coffee business. The family was staunchly Catholic and Rudolf’s father was steering his eldest child and only son into the priesthood. As a teen, Rudolf was left fatherless and began drifting toward military life. His early upbringing had instilled a sense of duty and a moral life. When World War I broke out, Rudolf was only 14 but still served in a military hospital and soon after was admitted to his father’s and grandfather’s old regiment. At the age of 15 he was serving with the German Army’s 21st Regiment of Dragoons in Baghdad and in Palestine. He was a sergeant by the age of 17, the youngest non-commissioned officer in the army.

After the war ended, Rudolf completed his secondary education and then joined nationalist paramilitary groups and participated in guerrilla attacks against the Polish and the French. In 1922 he denounced the Catholic Church and soon thereafter joined the Nazi Party (Party Member # 3240). Martin Bormann (later Hitler’s private secretary) asked Rudolf and members of the Freikorps to beat up a local schoolteacher, Walther Kadow, who was believed to have betrayed a local to the French authorities. Kadow died of the beating and eventually Rudolf was sentences to ten years in prison but served only four years (Bormann received a one year sentence).

After his release from prison he married Hedwig Hensel. He was invited to join the SS in 1934 and accepted. He had met Himmler before and was happy to join the ranks of SS Mann. In December, Rudolf was assigned to Dachau where he was Blockfuhrer and was said to excel in his duties. He did so well he was promoted to the commandant of Auschwitz. He was commander there for three and a half years. During that time, he killed about 2,000,000 people. After his departure, he was called back to help supervise the killing of 430,000 Hungarian Jews in just 56 days.

When the war was ending, Höss was warned to flee and evaded capture for almost a year. He was under an alias and disguised as a farmer. His wife had given information leading to his arrest in order to protect her children. He was brought to the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg on April 15, 1946 and gave detailed descriptions of his crimes. This testimony was used against other Nazi members. On May 25, 1946 he was handed over to Polish authorities and tried for murder. He was sentenced to death on April 2, 1947 and was hanged on April 16 from a short drop gallows placed immediately adjacent to the crematorium of the former Auschwitz death camp.

I commanded Auschwitz until 1 December 1943, and estimate that at least 2,500,000 victims were executed and exterminated there by gassing and burning, and at least another half million succumbed to starvation and disease, making a total dead of about 3,000,000. – Rudolf Höss

Technically [it] wasn’t so hard—it would not have been hard to exterminate even greater numbers…. The killing itself took the least time. You could dispose of 2,000 head in half an hour, but it was the burning that took all the time.  – Rudolf Höss

We were required to carry out these exterminations in secrecy but of course the foul and nauseating stench from the continuous burning of bodies permeated the entire area and all of the people living in the surrounding communities knew that exterminations were going on at Auschwitz. – Rudolf Höss

In all of the discussions, Höss is quite matter-of-fact and apathetic, shows some belated interest in the enormity of his crime, but gives the impression that it never would have occurred to him if somebody hadn’t asked him. – Gustave Gilbert, American military psychologist

Also on this day: Freedom of the Press? – In 1702, England got its first daily newspaper, The Daily Courant.
Great Sheffield Flood – In 1864, the South Yorkshire, England region was flooded after a dam failed.
LAX – In 1882, the Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association was formed.
Roxy Theater – In 1927, the Roxy Theater opened in New York City.

Great Sheffield Flood

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 11, 2013
Aftermath of the Great Sheffield Flood

Aftermath of the Great Sheffield Flood

March 11, 1864: The Great Sheffield Flood, also known as the Great Inundation, occurs. The steel industry of Sheffield in South Yorkshire, England was growing and bringing a vast increase in population with it. Four reservoirs were planned to meet the needs for reliable water sources. About 8 miles northwest of Sheffield, the Bradfield Dam was built near the village of Bradfield. Agden, Damflask, and Strines were the other three reservoirs and all were built between 1859 and 1864.

The River Loxley flows through South Yorkshire with the Dale Dyke being on one tributary. The earthen work dam was 500 feet wide and 100 feet high. The reservoir formed was about 1 mile long and ¼ mile wide. When full, it would have held 114,000,000 cubic feet (more than 15 million gallons) of water. It was almost full and the water covered 76 acres of land. From the newly built dam, the region sloped sharply downward to the town of Loxley and on into Sheffield.

A storm raged. A local farmer noticed a crack in the dam and ran into town to find the two major engineers who were nearby. They came and inspected the dam and felt the crack was not a problem. The engineers were conducting further investigations when suddenly, a fissure appeared. Within moments, a portion of the dam broke open. The water rushed through a breach 110 yards wide and 75 feet deep. The water came through the wall and down into the valley with a thunderous roar.

The village of Loxley listed 4 mills, 17 workshops/warehouses, 3 shops, 39 houses, and 2 beer houses as totally destroyed with 17 mills, 11 workshops/warehouses, 15 shops, 376 houses, and 22 beer houses partially destroyed. More than 4,000 houses were flooded as the waters rose as high as 26 feet in the village. There were 240 deaths as a direct result of the flood. Even as far away as Lady’s Bridge in the center of Sheffield, flood waters reached 6 feet. A special Act of Parliament gave compensation of £273,988 for damages to property, injury to persons, and loss of life, covering around 7,000 individual claims. It was one of the largest awards of the time.

“The works of the Dale Dyke reservoir have been retarded in some degree, in consequence of the difficulties experienced in arriving at a satisfactory foundation in the middle of the valley, for the puddle wall, which difficulties have been enhanced by the severity of the past winter.” – John Towlerton Leather, engineer

“Several weeks, or a month, before the bursting, I observed the pitching inside the bank had settled forming a hollow, as near as I can tell, about the place where the hole was first blown through, just above the surface of the water at that time, I suppose this was bout 10 or 12 feet below the level of the waste weir when I observed this sinking of the pitching.” – a construction worker at the inquest

“I thought it was the action of the wind and the waves that had been beating against it all the afternoon, and that it might have loosened the material that the inner slope of the top of the embankment is composed of, above the water mark: and if that had been the case, I thought it would be like taking the inner slope of the puddle wall from it, and cause a slight crack outside.” – John Gunson, engineer, at the inquest

“For 22 years Gunson, a person of a ‘singularly retiring disposition’, had carried with him the massive memory of the collapse of the Dale Dyke dam–an event which caused widespread death, destruction and misery, as well as financially crippling the company which owned it.” – John Gunson’s obituary

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: In the aftermath of the flood, there was great debate as to the cause. The builders maintained that the design was not flawed and the collapse came from a landslide. An inquiry was held and the experts could not agree on the cause of the failure. The engineers found that even with cracks, the entire collapse of the dam wall was unforeseeable and the Sheffield Waterworks Company was not found to have been careless, but rather it was all a terrible accident. The press did not agree with the professionals’ findings and excoriated the builders, calling the dam flawed. After the breach, engineering practices altered and the construction of future dams, including the rebuilding of Dale Dyke Dam, were done with more rigorous standards in place.

Also on this day: Freedom of the Press? – In 1702, England got its first daily newspaper, The Daily Courant.
LAX – In 1882, the Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association was formed.
Roxy Theater – In 1927, the Roxy Theater opened in New York City.

Roxy Theater

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 11, 2012

Interior of the Roxy Theater

March 11, 1927: The Roxy Theater opens in New York City. The theater held 5,920 patrons and the marquee proclaimed it the “World’s Largest and Greatest Theater.” The first movie shown was The Love of Sunya starring and produced by Gloria Swanson. The Broadway theater was also used for opulent stage productions. Herbert Lubin wanted to build the world’s largest movie house. In mid-1925 he got in touch with impresario and successful theater operator, Samuel L. Rothafel, aka Roxy.

Roxy was born in Stillwater, Minnesota in 1882 and was a silent film fan. In 1914 he was hired by Mitchell Mark to manage the Mark Strand Theater, the first Movie Palace in New York City. The theater opened in 1913 and cost $1 million (~ $22 million in today’s dollars) to build. These huge theaters were called “palaces” and were designed to make movie goers feel like royalty. The palaces lured the upper middle class into the theaters and gave the medium a bit of cachet. Roxy went on to create his own Palace as well as manage several others.

Roxy was the brains behind the Roxy Theater. He was made an offer he couldn’t refuse – a large salary, a percentage of the profits, stock options, and naming rights. Roxy brought in Chicago architect Walter W. Ahlschlager and decorator Harold Rambusch. The plot of land was an irregular shape giving Ahlschlager an extra challenge. Every inch of space was used and the two specialists were consulted on every detail while building and furnishing the theater. Costs skyrocketed with over spending at $2.5 million with the total cost for building the Roxy a staggering $12 million (~ $151 million today).

The new theater was called the “Cathedral of the Motion Picture.” The grand and magnificently designed theater had the world’s largest oval rug in the “Grand Foyer.” They could accommodate an orchestra of 110 pieces in the orchestra pit and had a three-console pipe organ which could have all three keyboards in use simultaneously. The majority owner was Fox Film Corporation. Fox was having its own troubles which exacerbated the financial woes at Roxy Theater. Rothafel left the theater in 1932 and opened Radio City Music Hall in Rockefeller Center. He brought in a precision dance group and called them Roxyettes. Their named changed back to Rockettes in later years. The Roxy Theater was closed on March 20, 1960 and was demolished later that year.

Cinema should make you forget you are sitting in a theater. – Roman Polanski

You know, when I first went into the movies Lionel Barrymore played my grandfather.  Later he played my father and finally he played my husband.  If he had lived I’m sure I would have played his mother.  That’s the way it is in Hollywood.  The men get younger and the women get older. – Lillian Gish

There are only three ages for women in Hollywood – Babe, District Attorney, and Driving Miss Daisy. – Goldie Hawn

From the first moment on the set I was consumed with curiosity about the technical side of shooting a sound picture. – Gloria Swanson

Also on this day:

Freedom of the Press? – In 1702, England got its first daily newspaper, The Daily Courant.
Great Sheffield Flood – In 1864, the South Yorkshire, England region was flooded after a dam failed.
LAX – In 1882, the Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association was formed.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 12, 2011

Crossed lacrosse sticks

March 11, 1882: Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association is organized in Princeton, New Jersey. Lacrosse is a North American team sport based on the game played by Native Americans. It is mainly played on the East Coast and in Canada. The object of the game is to score a goal by throwing a rubber ball into a guarded net, rather like hockey or soccer. A lacrosse stick is used to move the ball. This is stick with a with a head loosely strung with mesh designed to hold and then toss the ball to team members.

The game may have evolved as early as the 5th century, but it has undergone many modifications since then. In the traditional game played in Canada, there were 100 to 1,000 men on a field that ranged from 500 yards to a couple miles long. They played from sunup to sundown for two to three days straight. This was part of a traditional, ritual, thanksgiving ceremony to the Creator. The game incorporated great spiritual meaning and was representative of combat tactics. The winners would bring glory to themselves and their tribes. It was sometimes called “The Creator’s Game.” It was dubbed lacrosse by a Jesuit missionary, Jean De Brébeuf.

In 1856 a Canadian dentist, William George Beers, founded the Montreal Lacrosse Club. In 1867 he went further and codified the game, reducing teams to 12 players per team. In that same year, the first college team played under the new Beers rules. The game spread to many American high schools, colleges, and universities. It was a demonstration sport for the 1928 and 1932 Olympics. The game’s popularity continues to spread. At first mostly played by Canadian and northern states in the US, the game is spreading farther south in the US and across Canada.

The Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association [MCLA] oversees games and conducts national championships. They represent teams in both North America and Canada. There are 213 teams divided into ten conferences. Their governing structure is much like the NCAA’s. There are eligibility rules as well as All-American and national tournaments. These decide the national champions in Divisions I and II. The popularity of the sport is increasing rapidly. In 1997 there were only 70 teams. The 2010 champions were the University of Michigan over Arizona State University with a score of 12-11.

“I’m extremely pleased with how our first year is going. Before this season, we only had two players who had any lacrosse experience.” – Mike Dubbelde

“I’m a lacrosse player and I’m not rowdy. I was an altar boy, The kids here know the difference between what’s on the field and off.” – Jack Moran

“It’s a family; lacrosse is not like any other sport, it’s more of a way of life.” – Adam Gardner

“What a way to promote lacrosse down here. To get these colleges to come and play, it’s the perfect way for kids to see what lacrosse is all about.” – Ann Tosky

Also on this day:
Freedom of the Press? – In 1702, England got its first daily newspaper, The Daily Courant.
Great Sheffield Flood – In 1864, the Great Inundation took place.


Freedom of the Press?

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 11, 2010

The Daily Courant

March 11, 1702: The Daily Courant launches as the first English language daily newspaper. It was first published by Edward Mallet and consisted of one page in two columns that promised to “give news daily and impartially” and focused primarily on foreign news. “Courant” had the meaning of “au courant” or current.

Newspapering is a way to keep the public informed, especially before the age of instant transmission of data. However, even newspapers had problems. The printing press was invented in 1436, but printing newspapers would have been foolish. Illiteracy was common, paper and in ink were expensive, and printing was still difficult. Before newspapers, official government bulletins were circulated by carving notices in metal or stone and posting them in public places. In China the had news sheets, called tipao, that circulated inside the court. In the sixth century, news was printed on silk and read to the crowds.

Europe’s first newspaper came in 1556 when the Venetian government began printing a monthly edition. These were handwritten and passed from person to person. The German’s first paper came in 1605 while the Dutch followed in 1618. The Dutch paper came as a folio, or single page printed. The first English language paper was printed in Amsterdam in 1620. The paper was printed in England in 1621 and was filled with news from the Continent. The first successful daily paper was The Daily Courant.

Even in the 1700s, it was necessary to be careful. It was seen, at the time, as possibly deleterious to the Crown. Recklessness and misuse of information might undercut authority. In fact, the April 12, 1712 edition of The Daily Courant caused the Crown to notice the little paper and bring a suit of malicious libel against the press. By 1735, the paper was out of business and taken over by The Daily Gazetteer. It has been stated by no less authority than Prince Charles, The Daily Courant was “the victim of the swing of a ministerial axe.”

“Half of the American people have never read a newspaper. Half never voted for President. One hopes it is the same half.” – unknown

“To us, who are regaled every morning and evening with intelligence, and are supplied from day to day with materials for conversation, it is difficult to conceive how man can consist without a newspaper, or to what entertainment companies can assemble” – Samuel Johnson

“The evil that men do lives on the front pages of greedy newspapers, but the good is oft interred apathetically inside” – Brooks Atkinson

“Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper” George Orwell

Also on this day, in 1864 the Great Sheffield Flood took place.

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