Little Bits of History

March 19

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 19, 2017

1649: The House of Lords is abolished by the House of Commons in England. England then, and the UK now, had a bicameral parliament. The upper house was the House of Lords while the lower house was the House of Commons. The Lords were hereditary titles passed from noble father to his legal heirs. The medieval practice of entitlement or “titles” began by decree with a Writ of Summons beginning in 1265 and by 1388 by Letters Patent. Titles were passed by primogeniture or to the eldest son of the prior title holder. There was a long standing attempt to reform the House of Lords, begining in 1539.

The House of Lords is made up of two distinct groups. The first is the Lords Spiritual (today these are archbishops and bishops of the Church of England) and Lords Temporal who are, as the name implies, not religious entities but peers of the realm. The English Civil War was a battle for power to run the nation with the Royalist or Cavaliers led by King Charles I, Prince Rupert of the Rhine, and Charles II pitted against the Parliamentarians or Roundheads led by the Earl of Essex Robert Devereux, Thomas Fairfax, and Oliver Cromwell. The third wave of war from 1649-51 had Charles II fighting the Rump Parliament, the residual members who survived Thomas Pride’s purge of 1648.

On this day the House of Commons passed an act which declared the House of Lords to not only be useless, but dangerous. They therefore decided to abolish the upper house and any meeting of the Lords altogether. This was never recognized by either the Lords nor the King and so was never enacted. The Lords Temporal resumed meeting in 1660 which restored the monarchy and the Clergy Act of 1661 readmitted the Lords Spiritual to the House.

Today, there are 1,461 seats in the Parliament of the United Kingdom with 811 of them in the upper house and 650 in the lower. The Lord Speaker is Lord Fowler who took up the post in September 2016. Baron Fowler, currently politically non-affiliated but previously a member of the Conservative party, has been a member of parliament since 1970.  John Bercow is the Speaker of the House of Commons and has been since June 2009. He, as is necessary as part of the job, is non-partisan but was also a Conservative party member prior to his current position. They meet at the Palace of Westminster in the City of Westminster, London and along with Queen Elizabeth II as Queen in Parliament are the legislative body of Great Britain’s government.

The cure for admiring the House of Lords is to go and look at it. – Walter Bagehot

The House of Lords is like a glass of champagne that has stood for five days. – Clement Attlee

A man may speak very well in the House of Commons, and fail very completely in the House of Lords. There are two distinct styles requisite: I intend, in the course of my career, if I have time, to give a specimen of both. – Benjamin Disraeli

The House of Lords is the British Outer Mongolia for retired politicians. – Tony Benn


Not Fast Enough

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 19, 2015
E Lee Spence by Sea Research Society

E Lee Spence by Sea Research Society

March 19, 1863: The SS Georgiana sinks. The steamship belonged to the Confederate States Navy during the American Civil War. It was supposed to be the “most powerful” cruiser in the Confederate fleet but she was never used in battle. She was laid down in 1862 and built by Lawrie Shipyard, perhaps with a subcontract with Laird. She was iron hulled and with a steam-driven propeller of 120 hp. She was painted black from her jib sail and raked masts and across her entire hull. Her clipper bow had a figurehead of a “demi-woman”. She was able to carry fourteen guns and more than 400 tons of cargo. Built in Glasgow, Scotland and perhaps with help from Liverpool, she was on her maiden voyage to her new home when she sank.

She was under the command of a retired British naval officer and en route to Charleston, South Carolina to be fitted out for service in their battle with the Union forces. There were 140 men aboard as Georgiana attempted to run the Federal Blockading Squadron guarding the Charleston Harbor. She was spotted first by the armed US yacht, America (of America’s Cup fame). And she was reputed to be a “very swift vessel”. America sent up colored flare signals alerting the rest of the blockade ships. The Georgiana was sunk after a desperate chase through the coastal waters. The USS Wissahickon was so close to Georgiana, that her crew could hear the orders being given to fire.

Solid shot passed entirely through her hull. The propeller and rudder were damaged and there was no hope to escape. Captain AB Davidson flashed a white light, a signal of surrender. In that way, he gained some time and was able to beach the ship in fourteen feet of water about three-fourths of a mile from shore. After scuttling her, he and all hands escaped on the land side and made their way to safety. The “treachery” disappointed the blockade crew who would have been able to share in the proceeds from gaining the ship. Lieutenant Commander John L Davis, of Wissahickon, set the wreck on fire to keep guerrilla bands from salvaging the ship or her cargo.

On March 19, 1965 (exactly 102 years later) the wreck was found by underwater archaeologist E Lee Spence. Today Georgiana lies just five feet under the surface with large sections of the hull still intact, but the ship is surrounded by sea fans, sea ships, and living corals. Much of the ship remains under mud and sand. It is possible to dive to the wreck and see the now heavily encrusted artifacts still in the hold. Spence found sundries, munitions, and medicines worth over $12 million but did not find the 350 pounds of gold reputed to have been in the hold. A sidewheel steamer, Mary Bowers, lies in the same place. She, too, was trying to run the blockade when she struck the wreckage of the Georgiana and sunk in the same place. The wreckage of the two distinctly different ships built just a few years apart is an interesting study in the art of shipbuilding.

The destruction of the Georgiana not only touched their (the Confederate’s) pockets, but their hopes. She was a splendid craft, peculiarly fitted for the business of privateering. – Secretary of the Navy Gideon

Apart from her cargo, the loss was a serious one to the Confederacy, as she was a much faster and stronger ship than any one of its cruisers afloat and would have made a superb man-of-war. – Thomas Scharf

As a child, everyone dreams of finding treasure. There’s romance and drama. But as an adult most people aren’t going to spend their lives trying to find it. – E Lee Spence

Rocks are like wreck magnets and ships run aground today in pretty much the same locations and for the same reasons they did thousands of years ago. – E Lee Spence

Also on this day: Avalanche – In 1775, four people were buried in an avalanche and three survived 37 days.
PTL Club – In 1987, Jim Bakker resigned as chairman of his PTL ministry.
And the Winner Is … – In 1953, the Oscars were televised for the first time.
Rack ‘Em Up – In 1954, Willie Mosconi ran the table, for 526 balls.
Tired of Looking – In 1687, La Salle was murdered.

Tired of Looking

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 19, 2014
René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle

René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle

March 19, 1687: René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle is murdered. La Salle was a French explorer of the Great Lakes region of the US and Canada as well as the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. He was born into a noble family in Rouen, France in 1643 and enjoyed science and nature as a young boy. He was schooled by Jesuits and took initial vows in 1660. He traveled to Canada and by 1667 was released from his vows with the religious order after citing “moral weaknesses” for cause. He never took his final vow and would later become hostile to the order. He was not a priest although his older brother was a Sulpician priest.

When he joined the Jesuits, he was required to reject his father’s legacy which meant that much of his exploration had to be done with limited funding or after begging others for monies. His brother had come to Canada a year before and Robert joined him after being granted a Seigneurie for land on the end of the Island of Montreal. This semi-feudal system left him able to amass enough wealth to continue explorations after selling his interest in the venture. La Salle had been told about a great river called the Ohio which flowed into the larger Mississippi. La Salle hoped that the Mississippi flowed all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. His goal was to find a westward passage to the bountiful Chinese trade.

He went as proxy for the Governor of New France to the mouth of the Cataraqui River to meet with leader of the Five Nations of the Iroquois and hoped to build a trade relationship. La Salle had a facility with languages and learned many native tongues and could effectively communicate with the tribes who could bring beaver pelts to be sold back home. He was able to establish some trade agreements. In 1679 he launched a ship, Le Griffon, filled it with the desired pelts and sent it off when it promptly disappeared, never to be seen again. He continued to seek a way westward and built forts at strategic locations over the years. He named the area he explored around the Mississippi River basin as La Louisiane, after King Louis XIV.

He traveled between the colonies and France and when returning in July 1684 returned leading a colonization fleet of four ships with 300 colonists aboard. One ship was lost to pirates, one sunk, one ran aground, and they finally landed and built a fort on Garcitas Creek in Victoria County, Texas. La Salle wanted to find the Mississippi and tried on three separate occasions to head east and locate the mouth of the mighty river. On the last attempt, the 36 surviving men mutinied near present day Navasota, Texas. At this point Pierre Duhaut rose up against La Salle and killed him. Duhaut was killed to avenge La Salle.

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. – T. S. Eliot

As beautiful as simplicity is, it can become a tradition that stands in the way of exploration. – Laura Nyro

The good is, like nature, an immense landscape in which man advances through centuries of exploration. – Jose Ortega y Gasset

We are living through a remarkably privileged era, when certain deep truths about the cosmos are still within reach of the human spirit of exploration. – Brian Greene

Also on this day: Avalanche – In 1775, four people were buried in an avalanche and three survived 37 days.
PTL Club – In 1987, Jim Bakker resigned as chairman of his PTL ministry.
And the Winner Is … – In 1953, the Oscars were televised for the first time.
Rack ‘Em Up – In 1954, Willie Mosconi ran the table, for 526 balls.

PTL Club

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 19, 2013
Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye

Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye

March 19, 1987: Jim Bakker resigns as chairman of his PTL ministry. Jim and his wife, Tammy Faye, co-founded The PTL Club which stand for “Praise the Lord” or alternatively “People that Love” – which proved eventually to be quite an ironic twist. Jim was born in Muskegon, Michigan and became an Assemblies of God minister. He married Tammy Faye in 1961 and the couple eventually had two children. They began to work for Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network in 1966, at the time reaching an audience of only a few thousand.

The couple hosted a variety show, The 700 Club, complete with puppets and live interviews. The program was so successful they then moved onto a new a project – The PTL Club. They expanded into a network with satellites to ensure 24 hours per day broadcasting as well as Network USA, a 2,300 acre Christian theme and water park with residential units available for those seeking a resort vacation. In the 1980s, it was one of the top vacation spots only lagging behind Disneyland and Walt Disney World in the US.

At the height of the Club’s popularity, it was estimated believers were donating as much as $1 million per week. The Bakkers became the iconoclastic epitome of conspicuous consumption. Some of the funds went to Jessica Hahn who was paid $279,000 to keep silent about an alleged rape she says occurred on December 6, 1980 when she was 21 years old. Bakker admitted to meeting Hahn at a hotel, but denied the charge of rape.

Along with investigations of sexual misconduct came allegations of accounting fraud. A grand jury probe brought an indictment on 8 counts of mail fraud, 15 counts of wire fraud, and one count of conspiracy. Jim Bakker was found guilty on all charges and sentenced to 45 years in a federal prison and $500,000 in fines. An appeal upheld the verdict but reduced the prison term to 18 years and voided the fine. Bakker was granted parole in 1993, after serving five years. During his prison term, Tammy Faye divorced him. Both remarried and all parties are still in debt to the IRS for back taxes, penalties, and fines. Tammy Faye died in 2007.

“Why should I apologize because God throws in crystal chandeliers, mahogany floors, and the best construction in the world?”

“It’s not listed in the Bible, but my spiritual gift, my specific calling from God, is to be a television talk-show host.”

“But when you come to Heritage USA, remember to bring your Bible and your VISA card – because the Bible is the Holy Truth, and God doesn’t take American Express.” – all from Jim Bakker

“Jim Bakker spells his name with two k’s because three would be too obvious.” – Bill Maher

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Jim Bakker along with Tammy Faye’s second husband, Roe Messner, are both still liable for unpaid taxes from the 1980s according to the IRS. The amount is disputed with Messner claiming the total amount was $500,000 while the IRS is looking for $6 million. Jim has renounced his previous teachings on “prosperity theology” claiming he was wrong. He and his second wife, Lori Bakker, began daily broadcasting of the Jim Bakker Show in January 2003. The program is carried on DISH and Direct TV satellite networks as well as CTN cable network. Their new studio is located on 600 acres that resembles Bakker’s former Heritage USA  site, but Morningside is not owned by Bakker himself.

Also on this day: Avalanche – In 1775, four people were buried in an avalanche and three survived 37 days.
And the Winner Is … – In 1953, the Oscars were televised for the first time.
Rack ‘Em Up – In 1954, Willie Mosconi ran the table, for 526 balls.

Rack ‘Em Up

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 19, 2012

Willie Mosconi

March 19, 1954: Willie Mosconi sets a new world record. Pool or pocket billiards is one of a family of games. The game was first played outdoors as a lawn game similar to golf or croquet. In 1470 French King Louis XI had a billiard game board in his inventory, the first recorded listing. The game was enjoyed by both aristocrats and commoners as the game moved indoors by the mid-1500s. However the table was quite different than today’s. The table slowly went from something fairly similar to today’s ping pong tables to the surface with bumpers and six pockets. The accoutrements changed along with the table.

Straight pool, also called 14.1 continuous or just 14.1, is a cue sport. The shooter is to pocket one of the fifteen colored/numbered balls. There is no specific order for placing balls. However, the ball and pocket must be called prior to the shot. Scoring is usually one point per ball with the game won at 100 points. The path to the pocket is immaterial, as long as the named ball enters the selected pocket. The shooter continues to place balls until a shot is missed. Professional games are often played to higher scores.

Willie Mosconi was challenged by Earl Bruney in Springfield, Ohio. Bruney began and sank three shots. The particular game was played to 200 points. Mosconi began his run. He shot to 200 and then kept right on going. He averaged four shots a minute and played for two hours and ten minutes. He ran 526 balls without a foul. A lawyer in the crowd wrote an affidavit and witnesses signed the document. The Billiard Congress of America recognized Mosconi’s feat a few days later. The record still stands.

Mosconi had been playing pool since he was a child. He became the juvenile straight pool champion at the age of eleven. He went on to become a professional billiards player. His fame spread and he was hired as technical advisor for the 1961 movie, The Hustler. The film starred Paul Newman (who had never played pool before), Jackie Gleason, and Piper Laurie. With Mosconi’s help, Newman learned the ropes and took most of his shots himself, according to some historians. Others say it was Mosconi shooting. Either way, The Hustler was nominated for nine Academy Awards and won two of them.

I finally missed a difficult cut shot, but by that time I was weary; it was almost a relief to have it come to an end. – Willie Mosconi

Thus so wretched is man that he would weary even without any cause for weariness… and so frivolous is he that, though full of a thousand reasons for weariness, the least thing, such as playing billiards or hitting a ball, is sufficient enough to amuse him. – Blaise Pascal

The tusks that clashed in mighty brawls / Of mastodons, are billiard balls. – Arthur Guiterman

Fast Eddie: Fat man, you shoot a great game of pool.

Minnesota Fats: So do you, Fast Eddie. – last lines of The Hustler

Also on this day:

Avalanche – In 1775, four people were buried in an avalanche and three survived 37 days.
PTL Club – In 1987, Jim Bakker resigned as chairman of his PTL ministry.
And the Winner Is … – In 1953, the Oscars were televised for the first time.

And the Winner Is …

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 19, 2011

Gary Cooper in High Noon, winner of the Best Actor award

March 19, 1953: The Academy Award ceremony is first televised. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences first began to recognize leaders in the film industry in 1929. The Awards, colloquially dubbed Oscar, are given for excellence in acting, directing, screen writing and a host of other categories. The Academy is a professional honorary society comprised of about 5,800 members, 1,300 of them actors – the largest voting bloc.

Nominations are held in January with votes tabulated by PricewaterhouseCooper. Six weeks after the nominations are announced, the presentation of the Awards is carried out. The ceremony was first broadcast on national radio in 1944. For the last several years, the presentations have taken place at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. The statuette with the nickname Oscar is really entitled the Academy Award of Merit. Since 1950 winners have had to sign an agreement that the statue will not be sold by the winner or any heirs without first being offered back to the Academy for the price of $1. If this agreement is not signed, the winner does not get to take Oscar home.

Oscar is 13.5 inches tall and weighs in at 8.5 pounds. He is a gold-plated knight holding a crusader’s sword while standing on a reel of film. He was originally designed by Cedric Gibbons and then sculpted in clay by George Stanly. Alex Smith cast the statue in a tin/copper alloy and then applied the gold plating. Both Bette Davis and Margaret Herrick claim to have dubbed the statue Oscar.

Walt Disney has won the most Awards, taking home 26 Oscars, four of them honorary. Jessica Tandy was the oldest winner at age 80 for her performance in Driving Miss Daisy. Tatum O’Neal was the youngest winner for her role in Paper Moon when she was just 10. The Awards are not without criticism. It has been suggested that comedies are not given the same consideration as dramas are. Films that have won awards have not stood the test of time, as a case in point Citizen Kane, acclaimed as one of the best pictures of all time, received only one award. Even with faults, the televised event draws an estimated 1 billion viewers worldwide.

“Only one of our top five films was nominated for Best Picture by the Academy Awards. Hollywood is increasingly disconnected from the American public. Our award list is intended to help the movie industry elite find their way back into the mainstream.” – Jim Hubbard

“The Academy Awards red carpet has really become the biggest fashion show on Earth. And it really has become a designer race. It wasn’t always like that.” – Patty Fox

“There’s a lot of great movies that have won the Academy Award, and a lot of great movies that haven’t. You just do the best you can.” – Clint Eastwood

“At the Academy Award Dinners all the actors and actresses in Hollywood gather around to see what someone else thinks about their acting besides their press agents.” – Bob Hope

Also on this day:
Avalanche – In 1775, four people were buried in an avalanche and three survived 37 days.
Jim Bakker – In 1987, Bakker resigned from the PTL Club.

Tagged with: ,


Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 19, 2010

A powder snow avalanche

March 19, 1775: Maria Anna Rocha, her sister-in-law, her daughter [13] and son [6] are trapped by an avalanche in Stura Valley, Italy. They were trapped with livestock in stables behind the house when 50 feet of snow crashed down on them, burying the whole farm. It was assumed that all at the farm had perished and so no rescue attempt was made. The women and children were trapped in a space that was 12 feet long, 8 feet wide and 5 feet high after the weight of the snow collapsed the roof over the rest of the building.

On April 24, [37 days later] with the spring thaw, the men of the farm returned and searched for bodies to bury. Much to their surprise, three of the captives survived. The two women and the daughter lived by drinking goat milk. All the livestock except for two goats died. The boy died after 12 days. The women went nearly insane due to the smell of rotting corpses and the constant dripping water.

Upon their rescue, the daughter appeared unharmed. The sister-in-law no longer spoke while Maria Anna was completely bald. This is the longest anyone has survived after being trapped by an avalanche.

An avalanche is a rapid flow of snow down a slope. They can be triggered by natural events or human activity. The more powerful slides take out all in their paths, including ice, rocks, and trees as well as manmade items in the path. They are classified by the morphological characteristics (type of snow, trigger, slope angle, direction, and elevation, and propagation mechanism) and rated by either destructive power or the mass of the downward moving snow. Destructive power is rated logarithmically and there are four to seven categories, depending on the observation system.

“This is great research. We are honing in now on things people can measure to determine snow-pack stability. The more we can make tests like this (in the field) . . . the more likely we are to be able to predict avalanches.” – John Kelly

“A lot of people like snow.  I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.” – Carl Reiner

“We build statues out of snow, and weep to see them melt.” – Walter Scott

“There is neither heaven nor earth, only snow, falling incessantly.” – unknown

Also on this day, in 1987, Jim Bakker resigned as chairman of his PTL ministry.

Tagged with: ,