Little Bits of History

March 12

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 12, 2017

2009: Bernard Madoff pleads guilty. Madoff was born in Queens, New York in 1938. His father was a plumber and stockbroker. Bernie graduated from Hofstra University in 1960 with a degree in political science and briefly attended Brooklyn Law School before opening his own Wall Street firm, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC. He was chairman of the company from its inception until his arrest on December 11, 2008. He began his firm as a penny stock trader with $5,000 (about $40,000 today), money he earned as a lifeguard and sprinkler installer. He got a loan of $50,000 from his father-in-law and the business began. They developed a system of information capturing that, after a trial run, was used to develop the NASDAQ (National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations).

The business was a market maker (quoted bids and asking prices) and functioned as a third-market provider, directly executing orders from retail brokers without the input of exchange specialist firms. At one time, Madoff Securities was the largest market maker at the NASDAQ and by 2008 was the sixth-largest one on Wall Street. There was another division, investment management and advisory division, which did not publicize and was the origin of the fraud investigation. Between 1991 and 2008, Madoff and his wife contributed about $240,000 to various political candidates including a $25,000 per year donation to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (some of this money has since been returned to the bankruptcy trustee). Members of his family also served as leaders of SIFMA, a securities industry organization.

Madoff first came under scrutiny in a fraud investigation in 1992 but he returned all monies and closed the case. In 2004, the SEC’s office for compliance investigations found several inconsistencies and asked for further questioning. The lawyer in charge was told to ignore problems by Eric Swanson who eventually married Madoff’s niece. All this time, Madoff’s wealth management business was reporting much higher than usual earnings. No major Wall Street firms invested with him because his numbers were unbelievable. By December 2008, his self-admitted Ponzi scheme came crashing down. He was unable to pay clients and he was arrested for securities fraud.

Madoff was able to post the $10 million bond and was living his is Upper East Side penthouse apartment under 24-hour monitoring. On this day Judge Denny Chin revoked his bail and sent him to jail citing Madoff’s flight risk status. Incarcerated, Madoff pleaded guilty to 11 federal felonies: securities fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, making false statements, perjury, theft from employee benefit plans, and false filing with the SEC. He had defrauded clients of $65 billion, the largest Ponzi scheme in history. He was sentences to 150 years in prison and forfeiture of all assets.

Fuck my victims. I carried them for twenty years, and now I’m doing 150 years.

It was a nightmare for me. I wish they caught me six years ago, eight years ago.

What do I do with my life now?

I was astonished. They never even looked at my stock records. If investigators had checked with The Depository Trust Company, a central securities depository, it would’ve been easy for them to see. If you’re looking at a Ponzi scheme, it’s the first thing you do. – all from Bernie Madoff


Georgios Averof

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 12, 2015
George Averoff, oil painting by Pavlos Prosalentis

George Averoff, oil painting by Pavlos Prosalentis

March 12, 1910: Georgios Averof is launched. The ship was named for George Averof (1815-1899), a Greek businessman and philanthropist. He was one of the national benefactors of Greece and was noted for founding schools in both Greece and Egypt. The ship named in his honor is known as Θ/Κ Γεώργιος Αβέρωφ in Greek. It was ordered in 1909 and built by Orlando Shipyards in Livorno. She was laid down on February 27, 1910 and commissioned on September 1, 1911. She served as the flagship of the Royal Hellenic Navy for most of the first half of the century. Although called a battleship, she was really an armored cruiser.

Averof was 459.7 feet long and 69 feet at the beam with a 23.6 foot draft. She was propelled by two four-cylinder steam engine and was a twin screw ship with a top speed of 23.5 knots (27 mph) but proved to obtain only 20 knots in operation. The ship was built in Italy and was needed by the Greek Navy to update her rapidly outmoded fleet. The Italian government had also needed ships for her navy, but cancelled the third and when the Greeks learned of the cancelation, they quickly opted to purchase the last of the Pisa-class cruisers. Averof had left 2.5 million Gold francs to the Greek government in his will and this was used to purchase the ship which was then named for him.

The ship had Italian steam engines, French boilers, British artillery, and German generators. The Greeks were so eager to take possession of this marvel, they accepted delivery with a known deficiency in one of her 7.5 inch guns. He first captain was Ioannis Damianos who took command on May 16, 1911 and sailed Averof for Britain in order to participate in the coronation of King George V and to receive her first load of ammunition. The ship ran aground at Spithead on June 19 and the crew nearly mutinied before Captain Pavlos Kountouriotis was sent to take over command and return order to the ship and crew, which he soon did.

The ship was part of the Greek Navy during the Balkan Wars and both World Wars. Averof was decommissioned on August 1, 1952. Today, she is the only ship of this type still in existence. In 1984, the Navy took the old decommissioned ship and towed her to Palaio Faliro, where she was anchored as a floating museum. Free guided tours are provided to visiting schools and on holidays. She is still regarded as being in active service and carries the Rear Admiral’s Rank Flag atop the mainmast. Every Hellenic Navy ship entering or sailing in Falior Bay honors Averof when passing. Their crews are ordered to attention by either a Boatswain’s pipe or a bugle call and every man stands on deck at attention while the officers salute until the order to Continue sends them back to work.

It is due to the well known act of generocity of the great patriot George Averoff that the renovation of the Panathenian stadium is due, a work which gives a national character to the revived Olympic Games. – Charalambos Anninos

Every ship is a romantic object, except that we sail in. Embark, and the romance quits our vessel, and hangs on every other sail in the horizon. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

A ship ought not to be held by one anchor, nor life by a single hope. – Epictetus

No one would have crossed the ocean if he could have gotten off the ship in the storm. – Charles F. Kettering

Also on this day: Fireside Chats – In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his first Fireside Chat.
Cookie Monster – In 1912, the Girl Scouts of America was founded.
Thing Go Better with Coke – In 1894, Coke was invented.
Attempted Murder in Oz – In 1868, an attempt was made on Prince Alfred’s life.
Water, Water Everywhere – In 1928, the St. Francis Dam failed.

Water, Water Everywhere

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 12, 2014
Remnants of the St. Francis Dam

Remnants of the St. Francis Dam

March 12, 1928: The St. Francis Dam fails. Construction for the dam began in 1924 and it was completed and started to fill in 1926. The main portion of the dam spanned 700 feet and the wing dike was 588 feet. Built by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (then called the Bureau of Water Works and Supply), it supplied the Los Angeles area with water and power. It was located in the San Francisquito Canyon about 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles and about 10 miles north of Santa Clarita. William Mulholland was the chief engineer.

Mulholland was born in Belfast, Ireland in 1855 and after working at sea for four years, he arrived in the Los Angeles area in 1877. He worked his way from well digger to engineer, studying at night after a hard day’s work. He was considered a brilliant student. Los Angeles was a tiny community when Mulholland got off the ship but by 1910 the population was almost 320,000. Water and power were essential commodities. Mulholland oversaw the design and construction of many large, successful projects and this dam was one of these.

The St. Francis was similar to the Mulholland Dam where construction began a year earlier. The downstream face of the dam was stepped with each step a constant five feet but the width of each was varied. Near the streambed (geographic elevation 1,645 feet) it was 5.5 feet thick while at the top (elevation 1,815 feet) it was 1.45 feet thick. The height was 175 feet above the stream bed and it would have the capacity of 30,000 acre-feet. Water began to fill on March 1, 1926 and it rose steadily and uneventfully. There were some minor cracks in the face of the damn, but it was deemed to be amazingly dry as there was little seepage.

Water was pulled off during fighting in the area when part of the water supply was damaged, but after it settled down, the water again began to fill. There were few cracks and they were deemed within standards. On this day, at two minutes before midnight, the entire dam gave way and a wall of water about 140 feet high began a destructive journey to the ocean. About 12.4 billion gallons of water took only 5 hours and 27 minutes to travel 54 miles. Along the way untold numbers of people were killed. It is estimated today to be around 600 deaths which does not include an unknowable number of migrant farmers who were located in the valley. It is considered to be one of the worst civil engineering disasters of the 20th century and remains the second-greatest loss of life in California’s history with the 1906 San Francisco earthquake being the worst.

You don’t drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there. – Edwin Louis Cole

Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it. – Lao Tzu

When you’re drowning, you don’t say ‘I would be incredibly pleased if someone would have the foresight to notice me drowning and come and help me,’ you just scream. – John Lennon

By gnawing through a dike, even a rat may drown a nation. – Edmund Burke

Also on this day: Fireside Chats – In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his first Fireside Chat.
Cookie Monster – In 1912, the Girl Scouts of America was founded.
Thing Go Better with Coke – In 1894, Coke was invented.
Attempted Murder in Oz – In 1868, an attempt was made on Prince Alfred’s life.

Cookie Monster

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 12, 2013
Juliette Gordon Low

Juliette Gordon Low

March 12, 1912: Juliette Gordon Low organizes the first meeting of 18 girls in Savannah, Georgia and launches the Girl Scouts of America. Low had met Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts, in London. She dreamed of starting a “girls only” group in the US. Unlike other groups, such as the YWCA and Camp Fire Girls, the Scouts have always been controlled by women. Originally called Girl Guides, they officially changed to Scouts in 1913. They were incorporated in 1915 and in 1947 again changed their name to Girl Scouts of the United States of America. They received a congressional charter on March 16, 1950.

Today, their membership is 3.7 million (2.7 million girls and 928,000 adult members). The GSUSA is part of a larger, international group – the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) which has over 10 million members in 145 countries. Their mission statement is: “Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.” Since its inception in the US, there have been over 50 million women who have benefited directly from the organization.

What the Girl Scouts may be most famous for is – cookies. The sale of cookies began in 1917 as a way to finance activities locally. The cookies were baked at home and sold at a local high school cafeteria. In July 1922, a recipe for sugar cookies was published in the Scouting magazine and troops across the country baked and sold their own cookies. In 1933, the Greater Philadelphia Council baked and sold cookies at the local gas and electric company (23¢ for a box of 44 cookies) and the next year they went to commercially baked cookies. In 1951 they added sandwich cookies and chocolate mint cookies to the sugar or shortbread cookies.

By the 1960s, baby boomer girls were hitting the pavement with order forms for even more varieties of cookies. There were 14 licensed bakers mixing up dough for the annual sale. By 1978, to streamline production and cut overhead, there were only 4 bakeries and all finally used the same packaging. Today, three bakeries provide up to eight varieties of cookies to the little sales people. Profits from cookie sales permit GSUSA to provide a number of programs designed to help girls grow into strong women and contributing members of society.

“This year, the theme of the cookie sale is Be Brilliant. Girls will be coming up with brilliant and creative ideas to sell Girl Scout cookies. And in the process, participants will learn finance skills, public speaking, marketing and customer service, goal planning and a variety of other life skills that will help them succeed in the future.” – Linda Wright

“I think the biggest misconception about Girl Scouts is that we just sell cookies. A great amount of what we do is community service. The Girl Scouts were founded on ‘every girl, everywhere’ and community service. People don’t realize that we are doing community projects all year long.” – Joyce Elliott

“Girl Scouts is a learning experience. We’re trying to show the girls that they should learn to do for others and not themselves.” – Janice Jensen

“With our Girl Scout cookie money, we decided to spend it on something other than the troop. We bought books for the library at Roosevelt School.” – Louise Bruyer

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Today, there are about 2.3 million youths and another 879,000 adults who belong to the Girl Scouts of the United States. They celebrated their 100th birthday and as part of that celebration held a “Bridge to the Second Century” event at the Girl Scout National Convention in Houston on November 13, 2011. They also celebrated at the Pasadena, California Tournament of Roses Parade in 2012 with a special 100th anniversary float. President Obama signed the “Girl Scouts of the USA Commemorative Coin Act” which authorized the printing of 300,000 silver dollar coins in honor of the Girl Scouts. Other celebrations were held around the country throughout the year.

Also on this day: Fireside Chats – In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his first Fireside Chat.
Thing Go Better with Coke – In 1894, Coke was invented.
Attempted Murder in Oz – In 1868, an attempt was made on Prince Alfred’s life.

Attempted Murder in Oz

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 12, 2012

Prince Alfred

March 12, 1868: The first Royal Tour of Australia is interrupted. Prince Alfred was Queen Victoria’s second son and a member of the Royal Navy. He passed the midshipman exam and was appointed to the HMS Euryalus in 1858 when he was 14. He made a trip to the Cape in South Africa in 1860 and impressed everyone there. In 1862 he was offered a job as King of Greece but the British government blocked his acceptance. He became a lieutenant in the British Navy in 1863 and made captain in 1866. He was assigned to the frigate HMS Galatea and sent on a world tour. He arrived in Australia in 1868; he was 23.

The Australian tour, the first of more than fifty royal tours to date, was to include stops at Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, and many other smaller ports. Prince Alfred had impressed the local populations who found him to be favorable toward “all classes of people.” He went on a picnic at Clontarf, New South Wales – a suburb of Sydney. He was shot in the back. He was wearing India-rubber suspenders and the bullet struck where they crossed. It was deflected around his rib cage and the prince suffered a serious, but non-fatal, injury.

Henry James O’Farrell was 35 in 1868. He was originally from Ireland. He brother was a Melbourne lawyer. Henry was an alcoholic and sometime resident of a lunatic asylum. He did occasionally do office work for his brother, but his most recent job had been selling produce. He had recently been released from the insane asylum. O’Farrell walked up to the Prince at the Sailor’s Picnic and fired his gun. The outraged crowd grabbed him immediately and he was nearly lynched before the police could arrest him and take him into custody. He was anti-British and anti-Royalist and claimed to be on orders from the Fenian Brotherhood, an Irish revolutionary group.

Prince Alfred spent two weeks recuperating in the hospital. Six nurses who had been trained by Florence Nightingale had arrived in February so his care was superlative by then-current standards. He recovered and died in 1900 (age 55) of throat cancer. O’Farrell was tried and although his lawyer pointed to his history of mental illness and recent discharge from the asylum, O’Farrell was found guilty. The Prince interceded on O’Farrell’s behalf without effect. He was hanged on April 21. The Australians raised funds to build the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in honor of the Prince.

The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success. –  Bruce Feirstein

The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane. – Marcus Aurelius

Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you. – Carl Gustav Jung

Earth is an insane asylum, to which the other planets deport their lunatics. – Voltaire

Also on this day:

Fireside Chats – In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his first Fireside Chat.
Cookie Monster – In 1912, the Girl Scouts of America was founded.
Thing Go Better with Coke – In 1894, Coke was invented.

Thing Go Better with Coke

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 12, 2011

John S. Pemberton

March 12, 1894: Coca-Cola, a.k.a. Coke, the carbonated beverage created by John S. Pemberton in Atlanta, Georgia, is bottled for the first time. Originally, the drink was a cocawine called Pemberton’s French Wine Coca. A cocawine is a wine and cocaine drink. This beverage hit the market in 1885 only to soon be met with a new law banning alcohol in Atlanta and the rest of Fulton County. So John got rid of the alcohol and added carbonated water selling the fizzy drink as a patent medicine for five cents per glass.

Coca-Cola was named for the ingredients used. The coca leaves from which comes the cocaine and the kola nut which gives the drink not only it’s flavor, but the added boost of caffeine. The pick-me-up was supposed to cure morphine addiction, dyspepsia, neurasthenia, headaches, and impotence. Today the drink is made with “spent” coca leaves from a specially licensed plant in New Jersey where the cocaine is removed. By 1888, there were three versions of the drink. Pemberton, ironically addicted to morphine, sold off portions of the business in order to gain funds. Asa Griggs Chandler bought a piece of the business and eventually acquired the rights to the company name, as well.

From humble beginnings, the drink only sold nine drinks per day for the first eight months, an international conglomerate has grown. The bottles hit the market in 1894 and have come in various shapes and sizes over time. Coke first appeared in cans in 1955. Today, The Coca-Cola Company has over 400 brands selling 1.3 billion units per day across the globe. They have 55,000 employees, 80% of them outside the US.

Americans drink 192 gallons of liquids per year per person – that is for every man, woman, and child in the nation. That breaks down to 3.7 gallons per week or 2 liters per day. Of that liquid, 13% contains alcohol. Bottled water has increased in recent years to 10.7% while milk accounts for 10.9% of the fluid. Carbonated soft drinks, the largest portion of the beverage pie, is 28.3% of all we drink.

“We speculate that it is not caffeine but perhaps some other compound contained in soda-type soft drinks that may be responsible for the increased risk in hypertension.” – Wolfgang Winkelmayer

“Traditional carbonated soft drinks have got a tough road ahead. The migration to water and sports drinks and other noncarbonated drinks seems to be permanent.” – John Sicher

“Soda has been referred to as liquid candy, and this is rather apt. There is no nutritional value in soft drinks, and the regular varieties provide a considerable load of calories and a concentrated dose of sugar.” – Dr. David L. Katz

“Things Go Better with Coke.” – Advertising slogan

Also on this day:
Fireside Chats – In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his first Fireside Chat.
Girl Scouts of America – In 1912, the GSA met for the first time.


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Fireside Chats

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 12, 2010

President Franklin D. Roosevelt seated at desk with microphones.

March 12, 1933: Franklin D. Roosevelt comes directly into American homes with the first of his Fireside Chats. The chats were aimed at gathering support for his New Deal program. Some of his programs began with “Good evening, friends.” His talks were very popular and attracted a large audience, even more than some of the entertainment broadcasts from the “Golden Age of Radio.” Every President since Roosevelt has delivered a regular address to the citizens, keeping them informed of the nation’s status. President Obama introduced the audio and video forms of address which are available on You Tube.

The New Deal consisted of programs funded by the government to help bring the Depression to an end. It was met with some initial success, but later may have actually prolonged the very thing it was designed to abolish. The program reached out with Farm and Rural Programs. It created reforms and engendered cooperation between business, labor and government. Other nations around the world were also establishing reforms to pull their countries out of the worldwide depression.

FDR was a personable president and over the 11 years of his office, from 1933 to 1944, he gave 30 fireside chats. Radios nationwide were tuned into his speeches. This first speech was in regard to a “bank holiday” that had been imposed. Banks would start reopening on the following day. The second such speech given on May 7, 1933, outlined the New Deal Program for the American public.

Later speeches gathered support for the New Deal projects and after the start of World War II, they were updates on the war effort. The longest speech, entitled Announcing Unlimited National Emergency, was given on Tuesday, May 27, 1941. On Tuesday, December 9, 1941, FDR spoke to the nation about the Declaration of War with Japan.

“The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

“The Great Depression, like most other periods of severe unemployment, was produced by government mismanagement rather than by any inherent instability of the private economy.” – Milton Friedman

“My decision on this matter is as certain and final as death and the staggering New Deal taxes.” – Thomas E. Dewey

“The New Deal is plainly an attempt to achieve a working socialism and avert a social collapse in America; it is extraordinarily parallel to the successive ‘policies’ and ‘Plans’ of the Russian experiment. Americans shirk the word ‘socialism’, but what else can one call it?” – unknown

Also on this day, in 1912 Juliette Gordon Low launched the Girl Scouts of America.