Little Bits of History

March 9

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 9, 2017

1977: The Hanafi siege begins. Hamaas Abdul Khaalis (born Ernest McGhee in Indiana in 1921) was discharged from the US Army on the grounds of mental illness. He went on to work as a jazz drummer in New York City and then converted to Islam and changed his name. He worked diligently for the Nation of Islam, helping with ministry and schools during the early 1950s. He split with them in 1958 and founded the Hanafi Movement. In 1968 he was arrested for attempted extortion but was released, again for mental illness. In 1972, Khaalis published an open letter attacking the Nation of Islam and its leadership. In 1973, five men broke into his house and killed five of his children, his nine-day-old grandson, and another man. The assailants were all arrested, convicted and sentences to life in prison.

On this day, seven of his followers broke into the B’nai B’rith headquarters in Washington, D.C. where they took over 100 hostages. Three more men took 11 hostages at the Islamic Center of Washington less than an hour later. At 2.20 PM, two more Hanafis entered the District Building where city hall was located on the fifth floor. As they were waiting to enter an elevator, the car arrived and opened with Maurice Williams exiting. The Hanafi gunman thought they were being attacked and killed him. Also in the car was Mark Cantrell who survived the incident but died days later. Marion Barry, then councilman and future mayor was injured but recovered. Two others were also injured.

Khaalis demanded the men who killed his family be released to him, probably for execution. He also wanted a $750 fine erased. He asked to meet with Warith Deen Mohammed and Muhammad Ali, neither of them showing up. Khaalis was outraged by the recently released film Mohammad, Messenger of God and demanded it be banned. He was under the incorrect assumption that the Prophet appeared in the film, which is considered sacrilegious.

Three Muslim ambassadors, Egypt’s Ashraf Ghorbal, Pakistan’s Sahabzada Yaqub-Khan and Iran’s Ardeshir Zahedi worked closely with the US law enforcement teams to talk with Khaalis and eventually were able to persuade him to give himself up without harming any more of the hostages. It took 39 hours before the standoff was resolved. All three sites were surrendered and Khaalis and all the Hanafi followers were taken into custody. All were tried and found guilty with Khaalis receiving a 21 to 120 year sentence. He died in prison in 2003.

[The ambassadors] read to the gunmen passages from the Quran that they said demonstrated Islam’s compassion and mercy. They urged the gunmen to surrender. These ambassadors relied on their religious faith for compassion and tolerance. – Daniel S. Mariaschin

[They] wanted the government to hand over a group of men who had been convicted of killing seven relatives – mostly children – of takeover leader Hamaas Khaalis. They also demanded that the movie Mohammad, Messenger of God be destroyed because they considered it sacrilegious. – Theresa Vargas

That the toll was not higher was in part a tribute to the primary tactic U.S. law enforcement officials are now using to thwart terrorists—patience. But most of all, perhaps, it was due to the courageous intervention of three Muslim ambassadors, Egypt’s Ashraf Ghorbal, Pakistan’s Sahabzada Yaqub-Khan and Iran’s Ardeshir Zahedi. – Time magazine

The Jews control the courts and the press. – Hamaas Khaalis (referring to the Jewish judge who sat on his family’s murder trial)

Disaster on the Mountaintop

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 9, 2015
A cable car at Plateau Rosa in Italy

A cable car at Plateau Rosa in Italy

March 9, 1976: The Cavalese cable car disaster takes place. The aerial tramway was descending from Cermis near the ski resort of Cavalese in northern Italy. The cabin or car fell 660 feet down the mountainside and then skid an additional 980 feet before it came to a halt in a field. As it fell, it also brought down the three-ton overhead carriage assembly which fell on top of the car and crushed it. There were 44 people on board, 15 of them children between the ages of 7 and 15. The car attendant was 18-years-old. One body was unaccounted for, but eventually Fabio Rustia was found dead. Fourteen year old Alessandra Piovesana was the only survivor. She grew up to be a journalist and died in 2009 from an acquired illness.

The car had a capacity for 40 passengers or 7,000 pounds. There were 44 occupants at the time of the accident but it was considered to be justified since many of them were children and the weight would have been within limits. Most of the victims were West Germans from Hamburg. There were 21 Germans, eleven Italians, seven Austrians, and one French woman on board. An inquest found that two steel cables had crossed and one severed the other. There was an automatic safety system which could have prevented the disaster but it was turned off. Four lift officials were jailed for their part in the disaster. This has been the worst cable car disaster to date.

This is not the only time disaster struck this ski resort area. On February 3, 1998, a US Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler aircraft was flying lower than regulations permitted and cut a cable supporting a gondola. The car fell and twenty people were killed. One of the two American pilots destroyed evidence about altitude and when the Captain and his navigator were tried, they were found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter. When more facts came to light, they were later found to be guilty of obstruction of justice and conduct unbecoming an officer. They were dismissed from the USMC. The incident strained already tense relations between the US and Italy.

Cable cars have been in existence for about a century but remain underutilized. They have great advantages for moving across mountainous terrain, across valleys, and over bodies of water. Their minimally invasive design creates little environmental impact and the ropeways can blend almost imperceptibly with their surroundings (which is also a disadvantage for pilots as noted above). There can be mono-cable systems where there is only one cable that both supports and propels the cable car.  There are also bi-cable systems which have two cables, one supporting the car and one used for propulsion. A tri-cable system uses two cables to support the car and one to propel it. A chairlift is also technically the same sort of transportation system used by skiers to get up to the top of the ski slope.

After the event, of course, a signal is always crystal clear; we can now see what disaster it was signaling since the disaster has occurred. Before the event, it is obscure and pregnant with conflicting meanings. – Roberta Wohlstetter

Law Number XXVI: If a sufficient number of management layers are superimposed on each other, it can be assured that disaster is not left to chance. – Norman R. Augustine

While it will be desirable to achieve planned results, it will be even more important to avoid unplanned disasters. – John Kenneth Galbraith

I mistrust total competence. I’ve always felt life is a series of small disasters we try to get through. – Michael Palin

Also on this day: Glamour Doll – In 1959, Barbie was shown at the American International Toy Fair.
Jean Calas – In 1765, Jean Calas was exonerated, three years after his death.
Ride, Sally, Ride – In 1964, the first Ford Mustang was built.
Teeth – In 1822, a patent for artificial teeth was granted to Charles M. Graham.
True Love – In 1796, Napoleon married Josephine.

True Love

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 9, 2014
Napoléon Bonaparte and Joséphine de Beauharnais

Napoléon Bonaparte and Joséphine de Beauharnais

March 9, 1796: Napoléon Bonaparte marries his first wife, Joséphine de Beauharnais. Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie was born in Martinique to a Caucasian Creole family in 1763. The family was well-to-do and owned a sugar plantation. She was called Rose and the family struggled financially after a hurricane in 1766. Rose’s aunt was the mistress of François, Vicomte de Beauharnais and used her influence to get her niece married to the aristocrat’s son. Unfortunately, it was Rose’s younger sister. Catherine was 12-years-old at the time and died before she could leave for France. So Rose was sent as a replacement.

Rose arrived in France with her father in October of 1779 and married Alexandre de Beauharnais on December 13 of that year. The marriage was unhappy, but produced two children. A son born in 1781 and a daughter born in 1783. During the Reign of Terror, Alexandre was arrested along with his cousin Augustin. Both were guillotined on July 23, 1794. Rose was also arrested but she was released five days after her husband’s execution. It would take nearly a year, but eventually Rose was able to recover the possessions of her husband and was once again in a position of wealth. She had affairs with several leading political figures of the day.

In 1795 she met Napoléon Bonaparte who was six years younger than she. First she became his mistress. There are extant letters from Napoléon to his beloved, whom he always called Joséphine, a name she would use for the rest of her life. In January 1796 he proposed and the couple wed on this day. His family did not approve of the older widow with two children. They had the added torment of feeling inferior to this woman who had been living the life of an aristocrat for years. Two days after the wedding, Napoléon went off to war against Italy. The love letters continued to arrive, full of passion and love for the separated couple.

Joséphine stayed in Paris where she met Hippolyte Charles and had an affair with him. When news reached her husband, he was furious. The letters continued to arrive, but the passion had considerably cooled. In 1798, Napoléon was in Egypt and took his own mistress, Pauline Foures who became known as Napoléon’s Cleopatra. Joséphine took no more lovers while married, although her husband took several other mistresses. Their marriage never recovered and as she produced no heir for her husband, by 1809 he talked of divorce. They were divorced on January 10, 1810 and on March 11, Napoléon married Marie-Louise of Austria by proxy. She did give Napoléon the son he desperately needed the next March. Joséphine remained on good terms with her ex-husband. She caught  cold while walking in her famous rose garden and died in 1814. She was fifty years old.

Courage isn’t having the strength to go on – it is going on when you don’t have strength.

Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide.

Never ascribe to malice that which can adequately be explained by incompetence.

The best way to keep one’s word is not to give it. – all from Napoléon Bonaparte

Also on this day: Glamour Doll – In 1959, Barbie was shown at the American International Toy Fair.
Jean Calas – In 1765, Jean Calas was exonerated, three years after his death.
Ride, Sally, Ride – In 1964, the first Ford Mustang was built.
Teeth – In 1822, a patent for artificial teeth was granted to Charles M. Graham.

Jean Calas

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 9, 2013
Jean Calas on the wheel

Jean Calas on the wheel

March 9, 1765: Jean Calas, a wealthy merchant, is exonerated. Calas and his wife were Protestants living in Toulouse, France. At the time, France was mostly Catholic, so much so that Catholicism was the state religion. King Louis XIV reigned from 1643 until 1715. It was during his reign when the persecution of non-Catholics escalated. The harshest repression abated. However, Protestants were still seen as outcasts and were under suspicion.

Louis, one of the four Calas sons, converted to Catholicism in 1756. On October 13, 1761 another Calas son died. On the morning of October 14, the body of eldest son, Marc-Antoine, was discovered in the family warehouse. The family first insisted a murderer had attacked their son. Then they said they had found his dead body, hanged. Suicide was a crime and the body would be defiled, so the family tried to make it look like murder. Rumors spread saying the father killed his son before he, too, could convert to the Catholic faith.

On March 9, 1762, Jean Calas was condemned to death on the wheel, a sentence carried out the next day. Even under the tortures of his gruesome death, he continued to claim his family’s innocence. The family went to Voltaire, a French author, essayist, philosopher, and deist known for his defense of civil liberties including freedom of religion. Voltaire waited for emotions to settle and began a campaign in the merchant’s name, stating he was innocent of any crime and a victim of anti-Catholic fanaticism.

The method of execution was cruel and unusual by today’s standards. The accused was tied to a wagon wheel and as it slowly revolved, the arms and legs were beaten with a hammer, breaking the bones. The process was repeated several times to each limb. After the limbs were crushed, they were woven through the spokes. The wheel was raised on a pole and carrion birds would come, sometimes attacking a still living person. It could take hours or even days to die. Calas’s body was burnt after his execution and the family’s property was confiscated. His wife and two daughters were forced into a convent. Their property was finally returned to them when Jean Calas was finally found innocent.

“Innocence dwells with Wisdom, but never with Ignorance.” – William Blake

“The trust I have is in mine innocence, / and therefore am I bold and resolute.” – William Shakespeare

“You can’t blame the innocent, they are always guiltless. All you can do is control them or eliminate them. Innocence is a kind of insanity.” – Graham Green

“No one is safe from slander. The best way is to pay no attention to it, but live in innocence and let the world talk.” – Molière

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Voltaire, the nom de plume for François-Marie Arouet, was born in Paris in 1694. After completing his schooling, he wanted to be a writer. His father would rather he took up law. He wrote despite his father sending him off to law school. He wrote poetry, essays, and historical studies. He had trouble with the establishment and his writings got him in trouble. He was both imprisoned and exiled repeatedly. After writing a satire about the Régent, he was sent to the Bastille for eleven months. After his release, he adopted his penname; it is an anagram of his Latinized surname along with the initial letters of “le jeune” meaning “the young”. AROVET LI became Voltaire. While in the Bastille, he wrote his first play and his success and reputation flourished.

Also on this day: Glamour Doll – In 1959, Barbie was shown at the American International Toy Fair.
Ride, Sally, Ride – In 1964, the first Ford Mustang was built.
Teeth – In 1822, a patent for artificial teeth was granted to Charles M. Graham.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 9, 2012


March 9, 1822: Charles M. Graham of New York City receives the first US patent for artificial teeth. Dentures or false teeth have been around for eons. There is evidence Etruscans in what is today northern Italy made dentures out of human or animal teeth as early as 7000 BC. In June 2006, archeologists in Mexico excavated a skeleton bearing evidence of denture use dating from 4,500 years ago. The front teeth were filed in such a way the scientists surmised ceremonial dentures were used, although they have not been found.

The first modern European dentures still in existence date from the 1400s, but they were probably in use prior to this date. They were carved from bone or ivory and cadaver teeth were used. Some people sold their teeth for profit, as well. The painful contraption was attached to any remaining teeth with a thread made from metal or silk. If carved from ivory, hippopotamus or walrus ivory was used. The dentures, while uncomfortable, also tended to rot after continuous use. By 1770, porcelain dentures were first coming to market.

The first official “Operator of Teeth” in London was Peter de la Roche. Dentists came from the ranks of goldsmiths, ivory turners, and students of barber-surgeons. Porcelain teeth made as singles, doubles or entire rows were easier to attach. They were also more natural in color and didn’t rot. Next came porcelain teeth set in an eighteen carat gold base. By the 1850s Vulcanite, or hardened rubber, was used for the base. The Vulcanite was replaced by acrylic resin or other plastics in the 20th century. With better preventative dental care, fewer people were in need of full dentures.

Even with advanced dental care, sometimes teeth are lost and substitutes are needed. Dentures help with mastication or chewing, they are aesthetically pleasing, help with enunciation, and raise self-esteem. When dentures are new, the patient must become acclimated to the device. The mouth is tricked into believing there is food present and so creates saliva, the first part of the digestive process. This leads new denture owners to have too much spit. There are some who are prone to gagging when trying to get used to them, especially if the dentures do not fit properly. There continues to be a problem with keeping the dentures seated and in place.

Happiness is your dentist telling you it won’t hurt and then having him catch his hand in the drill. – Johnny Carson

Every tooth in a man’s head is more valuable than a diamond. – Miguel de Cervantes

Dentist: a prestidigitator who, putting metal into your mouth, pulls coin out of your pocket. – Ambrose Bierce

A man loses his illusions first, his teeth second, and his follies last. – Helen Rowland

Also on this day:

Glamour Doll – In 1959, Barbie was shown at the American International Toy Fair.
Jean Calas – In 1765, Jean Calas was exonerated, three years after his death.
Ride, Sally, Ride – In 1964, the first Ford Mustang was built.

Ride, Sally, Ride

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 9, 2011

1964 Mustang

March 9, 1964: The first Ford Mustang rolls off the assembly line at the Dearborn, Michigan plant. The car was introduced at the New York World’s Fair on April 17, 1964 and made its national debut on all three major television networks on April 19. It was one of the most successful car launches of all time, selling over 1 million cars in the first 18 months of production. This was gratifying, coming on the heels of the miserable failure that was the spectacularly unsuccessful launch of the Ford Edsel just a few years earlier.

The car was first conceived as a 2-seater, mid-engine roadster by Donald Fry. The design was championed by Lee Iacocca and remodeled as a 4-seater by David Ash and Joseph Oros, winning an intramural design contest sponsored by Iacocca. To cut down on production costs, the car was based on familiar, simple components used in the Falcon and Fairlain models, both already in production. The insides were very similar to the above cars, but the Mustang’s body shell was all new. Both convertibles and hardtops were produced. Since the car was introduced six months ahead of a model year, it is often erroneously called a 1964 ½ model.

In the first two years, three plants with one each in California, Michigan, and New Jersey produced nearly 1.5 million Mustangs. The car was selling like hotcakes. Both GM and Chrysler were caught without a competing model. Chrysler had the Plymouth Barracuda that would eventually make for strong competition within muscle car sales. GM eventually responded with the Camero and the Firebird.

There have been five generations of Mustangs with each new generation showing innovations in design. The last generation debuted in 2005 with a new, sleek design. The car remains classified as a muscle car. That means that it contains a high performance engine, usually a V8, and has special engineering qualities that ensure maximum torque making the cars ideal for street or drag racing. These mid-sized cars are not to be confused with smaller sports cars, also built for speed, but usually with two seats and made more for touring at speed.

“You can even look at the hot-selling Mustang as kind of a glorified economy car.” – Patrick Anderson

“Ford Mustang is the hottest car in the industry, and its performance on the street and in the showrooms is beating everyone’s expectations.” – Steve Lyons

“This is how we allocate all our vehicles and have done so for 20-some years. What’s unusual is the demand. I don’t think there’s been anything this hot since the ’64 Ford Mustang.” – Dominic Infante

“Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.” – William Pollard

Also on this day:
Glamour Doll – In 1959, Barbie was shown at the American International Toy Fair.
Jean Calas – In 1765, Jean Calas was exonerated.


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Glamour Doll

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 9, 2010

Barbie as she looked in 1959

March 9, 1959: Barbie, the glamorous doll from Mattel, Inc., is shown at the American International Toy Fair. Barbie has out-sold every other doll in history. She has been an important part of the “toy fashion doll” industry. She has been the subject of many controversies and lawsuits as well the subject for parodies. Barbie Millicent Roberts has had an on and off relationship with Ken Carson since 1961. She has had over 40 pets including a lion cub and a zebra. She has been in possession of a fleet of vehicles and has a pilot’s license (and she has been both a flight attendant and an astronaut).

Ruth and Elliot Handler had a daughter named Barbara. Ruth noticed that Barbara preferred playing with dolls that resembled adults. The only available way to do so at the time was with paper dolls so Elliot, one of the co-founders at Mattel, Inc., took the idea of a three dimensional adult doll to work, where it was rejected as impossible.

The Handlers created a doll who was inspired by Lilli, a German doll. Lilli was an adult femme fatale and marketed towards men and the bar scene. However, Lilli became popular with girls who wished to join the adult world of haute couture and female wiles. Eventually, Mattel purchased the rights to the Lilli doll. Lilli was reformed, repackaged, and renamed – Barbie.

Barbie started out life as Caucasian and was blonde or brunette. She has evolved into a world encompassing person, of all shades and hues. Her wardrobe has expanded. Her career choices are legendary. And her friends and family, along with housing and accessories are all available through Mattel, Inc. Barbie is said to be a nearly $2 billion a year industry with three Barbie dolls sold each second.

“I enjoy getting dressed as a Barbie doll.” – Vanna White

“When Ruth Handler introduced Barbie in 1959, she didn’t want any story attached to the doll whatsoever, because she wanted the girls to create it all out of their imaginations.” – Chris Byrne

“Being married is kind of like being a Ken-doll: You don’t get to dress yourself anymore.” – Grover Norquist

“Barbie continues to be the champ of toys, … Mattel has been able to spin gold out of the franchise.” – Jill Krutick

Also on this day, in 1765 Jean Calas was found innocent, three years after his execution.

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