Little Bits of History

May 22

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 22, 2017

1762: The Trevi Fountain is officially opened by Pope Clemens XIII. According to legend, in 19 BC some Roman soldiers were guided by a young girl to a source of pure water about eight miles outside the city of Rome. Augustus commissioned a 14-mile long aqueduct to be built, bringing the pure water into the city proper. It was called Aqua Virgo or Virgin Waters as an honorary nod to the young girl. The waters supplied the hot Baths of Agrippa for over 400 years. In 1629, Pope Urban VIII proposed building a new and more dramatic fountain at the site and even asked Bernini to design it. The Pope died and the fountain project was abandoned, at least for a time.

In 1730, Pope Clement XII organized a contest to supply ideas for a new fountain as much of the city was being upgraded in the Baroque style. Alessandro Galilei (a relative of the more famous Galileo, and a Florentine) won, but the Romans were outraged with a Florentine’s win and so the commission was given to runner up, Nicola Salvi. Using Salvi’s plans, work on the massive fountain began in 1732. Salvi died in 1751 and the project was finished with the placement of Pietro Bracci’s Oceanus into the central niche. The fountain was built at the juncture of three roads (hence the name – tre vie). The entire structure rises 86 feet and is 161 feet wide making it the largest Baroque fountain in Rome as well as one of the best known fountains in the world. Most of the Travertine stone used in construction came from Tivoli, 22 miles away.

The backdrop for the fountain is the Palazzo Poli. The palace was given its monumental façade especially as a setting for the fountain. Luigi Vanvitelli’s palace design was altered when the central portion was demolished specifically for the building of the Trevi Fountain. Because of erosion over time, the fountain has been refurbished and in 1998, all the stonework was scrubbed and all cracks were repaired along with other areas of deterioration. Skilled artisans worked to restore the beauty while recirculating pumps were added to the fountain itself.

In January 2014, Fendi (Italian fashion company) announced a plan for more restoration and upgrades. They would sponsor a 20-month program and spend €2.2 million on the project which would be the most comprehensive restoration ever undertaken. Work began in June 2014 and was completed with an official reopening ceremony on November 3, 2015. Part of the upgrades were the installation of more than 100 LED lights to improve the nighttime illumination of the fountain. Throwing coins in the fountain is to be done by using the right hand to toss money over the left shoulder. About €3,000 is thrown into the fountain daily. The retrieved money is used to subsidize food for Rome’s needy.

I love the sounds and the power of pounding water, whether it is the waves or a waterfall. – Mike May

Water is the driving force of all nature. – Leonardo da Vinci

The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water. – John W. Gardner

The fall of dropping water wears away the Stone. – Lucretius

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Operation Paperclip

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 22, 2015
Operation Paperclip team at Fort Bliss

Operation Paperclip team at Fort Bliss

May 22, 1945: Major Robert Staver sends a telegram. He was the Chief of the Jet Propulsion Section of the Research and Development Branch of the US Army Ordnance Corps at the time. Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II. When they failed miserably, their resources and military-industrial complex was unprepared to defend itself from a counterstrike and invasion by the Red Army. By early 1943, Germany recalled from combat many of its scientists, engineers, and technicians to help with R&D and bolster flagging war initiatives. The intellectuals who had been a scourge to the Third Reich, were now sought out and put to work using their brains. But only if they were cleared by the Nazi party were their names put on the Osenberg List.

In March 1945, a Polish lab tech found pieces of the Osenberg List stuffed in a toilet. The names reached MI6 and then made its way to US Intelligence. Staver came into possession of the list and was sent to interrogate captured scientists from the list. The first on his list was Wernher von Braun. They met but after a few interviews, Staver telegrammed the US Pentagon with a new plan. He wanted to evacuate the German scientists and their families in order to help the US with the Pacific war effort. Many of the men on the list had been working on developing the German V-2 rockets and their capture placed them and their families under Allied protection.

Beginning on July 19, 1945, captured ARC rocketeers were under US Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) jurisdiction under Operation Overcast. When the name of their area, Camp Overcast, became locally known, the codename changed to Operation Paperclip. Regardless of the need for secrecy and the attempts to maintain it, several of the scientists were interviewed. Nuclear physicist Werner Heisenberg was named as being particularly useful in helping the projects in the US move forward. The brain drain was not met with open arms by the German scientists. By 1947 about 1,800 technicians and scientists and 3,700 of their family members had come under scrutiny.

Many of the Germans, still held in Germany and under confined conditions did not work with the Americans but were held regardless. They reported twice a week to local authorities. They were not able to work with anyone else and were kept under surveillance. Between 1949 and 1990 over 1,500 German scientists, technicians, and engineers from Nazi Germany and other foreign countries were brought to the US for employment. The joint purpose was both to enhance US scientific output and to keep the Germans from rebuilding using the German expertise of the men who had made the Nazi fighting machine. The USSR had a competing program taking scientists from the region to help with their programs as well.

Overnight, Ph.D.s were liberated from KP duty, masters of science were recalled from orderly service, mathematicians were hauled out of bakeries, and precision mechanics ceased to be truck drivers. – Dieter K. Huzel

On orders of Military Government you are to report with your family and baggage as much as you can carry tomorrow noon at 1300 hours (Friday, 22 June 1945) at the town square in Bitterfeld.

There is no need to bring winter clothing. Easily carried possessions, such as family documents, jewelry, and the like should be taken along.

You will be transported by motor vehicle to the nearest railway station. From there you will travel on to the West. Please tell the bearer of this letter how large your family is. – orders of evacuation

Also on this day: Now We Can Play Solitaire – In 1990, Windows 3.0 was released.
Howe’s That? – In 1842, Howe Caverns were discovered.
SS Savannah – In 1819, the SS Savannah set sail for the first transatlantic steamship crossing.
Air Fleet – In 1936, Aer Lingus Teoranta registered as an airline.
Pac-Man – In 1980, the video arcade game was released.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 22, 2014


May 22, 1980: Namco releases an arcade game. Namco was founded on June 1, 1955 in Japan. They were a video game and amusement park concern and merged with Bandai in September 2005 and were re-established on March 31, 2006. They are headquartered in Tokyo. Masaya Nakamura had founded the company to build amusement rides but in 1974, he bought out a struggling gaming company – Atari. He outbid others, including Sega, which had been building pinball machines, in order to do this. Their original video game, Gee Bee came out in 1978 and the next year Galaxian revolutionized the video game industry by using RGB color graphics.

But it was this game, released on this day, that secured Namco’s fame. Pac-Man was a fixture of popular culture. Namco did not release in the US under their own name but under the name of Midway. The game came to America in October 1980 and was immediately popular and remains one of the classics of video gaming. There were subsequent Pac-Man derivatives and lots of marketing of merchandise. There was even an animated TV series based on the game as well as a top-ten single.

Prior to the game’s release, space shooter games – especially Space Invaders and Asteroids – were the big hits. Pac-Man, designed by Toru Iwantani, is credited with being a landmark game and among the most famous as well. It is the one of the highest grossing video games of all time and had generated more than $2.5 billion (accumulated in quarters) by the 1990s. Pac-Man characters have appeared in more than thirty officially licensed game spin-offs and there are uncounted numbers of unauthorized clones. According to a survey, Pac-Man has the highest brand awareness of any video game character with 94% of Americans able to recognize the little dot muncher.

The player controls Pac-Man’s movements through a maze while he chomps pac-dots. A stage is completed when Pac-Man has consumed all the dots. The challenge isn’t just to maneuver through the ever more difficult mazes, but to do so while eluding the four enemies. Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde (ghosts) roam the maze and if they touch Pac-Man, a life is lost and Pac-Man withers and dies. In the four corners of the maze are larger pac-dots called power pellets which give Pac-Man temporary ability to eat his enemies (all but the eyes which return to the center box where they once again become whole and ready to pursue Pac-Man). A single bonus life is awarded if a player reaches 10,000 points. The game is over when all Pac-Man lives are lost.

If Pac-Man had affected us as kids, we’d all be running around in dark rooms, munching pills and listening to repetitive electronic music. – Marcus Brigstocke

Pac-Man didn’t occupy its place in commercial culture because consumers wanted to metaphorically imitate an insatiably hungry little yellow ball; they bought because the game was good enough to tap into genuine sources of pleasure. – Chris Green

Kids don’t even read comic books anymore. They’ve got more important things to do – like video games. – Ang Lee

There are plenty of skills I’ve learned from playing video games. It’s more interactive than watching TV, because there are problems to solve as you’re using your brain. – Shaun White

Also on this day: Now We Can Play Solitaire – In 1990 Windows 3.0 is released.
Howe’s That? – In 1842, Howe Caverns were discovered.
SS Savannah – In 1819, the SS Savannah set sail for the first transatlantic steamship crossing.
Air Fleet – In 1936 Aer Lingus Teoranta registered as an airline.

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Howe’s That?

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 22, 2013
Howe Caverns

Howe Caverns

May 22, 1842: Lester Howe goes to investigate why his cows stand at the bottom of the hill in the hot summer months. Lester owned a farm about 40 miles west of Albany, the capital of New York. Lester’s cows grazed in the same spot during heat waves. Lester went to investigate the area and a strong, cool breeze came from behind a stand of bushes. He dug out the bushes and found an entrance to a cave. He and his neighbor, Henry Wetsel, excavated and explored the find. The entrance was on Henry’s property and Lester bought the land in February 1843 for $100 (≈ $2,200 today).

The cave was opened to visitors in 1843 and as business improved, a hotel was built over the entrance. Howe ran into financial difficulties and sold part of his land and then a limestone quarry purchased the remainder. Since the quarry owned the property with the natural entrance, the Howe Caverns were closed to the public. In 1927, an organization formed to re-open the caverns. They spent two years creating a second entrance. They installed elevators, brick walks, lighting, and handrails. The site re-opened on Memorial Day in 1929.

The caverns reach 156 feet below the surface. The walls are made from two types of limestone (Coeymans and Manilus) from two different periods of Earth’s history, as well as rock called Rondout waterred. The rock layers formed during the Silurian and Devonian periods more than 400 million years ago. There are few fossils, indicating the rocks are older than most fossils. However long ago they started, the caverns are still “under construction.” Water continues to ooze, seep, drip, and flow changing ever so slowly, the cavern’s configuration.

There is little biological life in the caverns. Some mold has grown around the lights and a few bats live near the unused natural entrance. Stalagmites (Speleothems) form in the caverns as carbon dioxide and water combine and dissolve limestone while gravity draws everything down. When the water reaches a cave, the carbon dioxide is released and the calcite re-deposits on the walls, ceilings, and floors. Tours at Howe Caverns are given every day. The tour takes about 80 minutes and includes walking and a boat ride. The tour takes the visitors past the Bridal Altar (almost 600 weddings have been performed there). The caverns remain at a constant 52⁰ F and there is 70-75% humidity at all times, so dress appropriately.

“Howe charged fifty cents to take early adventurers on a torch-lit, 8-10 hour caverns tour.” – Dana Cudmore

“While the precise year is unknown, sometime between 1910-1925, the first charges in the limestone walls of the quarry face blasted into Howe’s Cave. Today, visitors see less than half of the original underground passage.” – Dana Cudmore

“Scientists believe nature began to slowly craft Howe Caverns some six million years ago – long before even the ancient, extinct animal known as the woolly mammoth appeared on Earth. The caverns are unique for more than their age and beauty – they are among a very small number of mineral caves in the world.” – from Howe Caverns website

“Caves may seem eternal, having been around for hundreds of thousands or even millions of years. But every cave is sensitive, whether open to the public as a show cave or an undeveloped wild cave.” – from Howe Caverns website

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Limestone is a sedimentary rock made up largely of calcite and aragonite. About 10% of the total volume of sedimentary rock is limestone. It is used for such various purposes at building materials and the whitening ingredient in toothpaste. When metamorphism takes place, recrystallization occurs and marble is formed. Pure white marble comes from very pure (silicate-poor) limestone or dolomite protolith. Marble with swirls and veins shows the impurities in the protolith such as clay, silt, sand, iron oxides, or chert. Green marble is from limestone with a high magnesium content. The word marble comes from the Greek for “crystalline rock” or “shining stone” or perhaps from the verb which means “to flash, sparkle, or gleam”.

Also on this day Now We Can Play Solitaire – In 1990 Windows 3.0 is released.
SS Savannah – In 1819, the SS Savannah set sail for the first transatlantic steamship crossing.
Air Fleet – In 1936 Aer Lingus Teoranta registered as an airline.

Air Fleet

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 22, 2012

Aer Lingus plane

May 22, 1936: Aer Lingus Teoranta is registered as an airline. Aer Lingus, the phonetic English pronunciation of Aer-Loingeas (Gaelic for Air Fleet) was formed in April 1936. Beginning capital was £100,000 (≈ £5 million today) and the fledgling company awaited government investing through a parent company. Aer Lingus was partnered with Blackpool and West Coast Air Services who funded the first aircraft as well as operated the airline under the common title, “Irish Sea Airways.” Five days after registration, on May 27, the first service began between Baldonnel Airfield in Dublin, Ireland and Whitchurch in Bristol, England.

Aer Lingus began with one plane, a six-seater De Havilland 84 Dragon biplane. It was named Iolar, Gaelic for Eagle. Before the end of the year, a second plane – this time a De Havilland 86 Express – was added. The second plane, a four-engine behemoth, carried 14 passengers and was named Éire. Service was now available between Dublin and London, by extending the Bristol run to Croydon. Service between Dublin and Liverpool also began. By the following year, Aer Rianta, now called the Dublin Airport Authority, was formed and the airline became wholly owned by the government that same year.

Slow, steady growth continued until World War II interrupted. On November 9, 1945 regular services resumed with a flight to London, now flying mostly Douglas DC-3s painted silver and green. It was at this point that flight attendants were first employed. The first transatlantic service began on April 28, 1958 with service from Shannon to New York City. Conversion to jets began in 1965 and the same year, the paint on the planes began to incorporate a large green shamrock on the fin.

The Aer Lingus fleet today is comprised 46 aircraft with 11 planes on order. They have three Airbus A321s, each seating 193; along with  31 Airbus A320, seating 174 each; and seven long-haul airbus A330 aircraft of two varieties. They also have two A319 planes seating 144. Continually improving service, by 2009, 82% of fights were “on time” with 97% of them within 60 minutes of scheduled time. Figures were lower in winter months, when weather conditions can affect timeliness. Aer Lingus flies to 80 destinations and they hope you “Enjoy Your Flight.”

The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious.  And why shouldn’t it be? It is the same the angels breathe. – Mark Twain

There are only two emotions in a plane: boredom and terror. – Orson Welles

The modern airplane creates a new geographical dimension.  A navigable ocean of air blankets the whole surface of the globe.  There are no distant places any longer:  the world is small and the world is one. – Wendell Willkie

Lovers of air travel find it exhilarating to hang poised between the illusion of immortality and the fact of death. – Alexander Chase

Also on this day:

Now We Can Play Solitaire – In 1990 Windows 3.0 is released.
Howe’s That? – In 1842, Howe Caverns were discovered.
SS Savannah – In 1819, the SS Savannah set sail for the first transatlantic steamship crossing.

SS Savannah

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 22, 2011

SS Savannah

May 22, 1819: The SS Savannah leaves port at Savannah, Georgia to sail to Liverpool, England. This was the first trip across the Atlantic Ocean using a steamship. The Savannah was not actually a steamship, but a hybrid sailing ship/sidewheel steamer. She arrived in England on June 20 but only moved a portion of the way under steam power. She was owned by Scarborough & Isaacs, built by Fickett & Crocker, and cost $50,000 or about $884,000 in today’s money.

The Savannah was originally built as a sailing packet in New York City. While still on the slipway, Captain Moses Rogers lined up her buyers and convinced them to convert the ship to the hybrid she became. The goal was to be the first American ship to cross the Atlantic using steam power. Moses Rogers supervised the steam conversion project and his brother-in-law oversaw the construction of the hull and rigging. Some say this negates the crossing ability to claim first crossing since the sails and rigging were available and were used. The ship was too small to carry much fuel and so the steam engine was to be used only in calm weather. If the sails were able to maintain a speed of four knots, then they were employed.

The ship had sixteen staterooms with two berths in each. There was a distinct difference between the men’s rooms and those to be used by women. There were three furnished salons richly decorated with imported carpets, curtains, and hangings along with mirrors used for decorative purposes. The rooms were said to resemble those on a luxury yacht and did not resemble the normal fare for a steam packet.

The theory for a steam driven ship was put forth in the early 1700s. Jonathan Hulls was given a patent in 1736 for a steam engine-powered boat. The improvement of steam engines by James Watt finally made the ships possible. The first steam ship recorded in the US was built in 1787 by John Fitch, but it was demonstrated with paddles in place. In 1793, Samuel Morey first demonstrated a paddle wheel boat in North America. Robert Fulton was the first to operate steamboats commercially and began doing so after a successful test run in 1803. The Savannah made it to England, but it was not commercially successful. It was converted back to a sailing packet. It would be nearly another 30 years before an American ship crossed the Atlantic using steam power.

“A sailing ship is no democracy; you don’t caucus a crew as to where you’ll go anymore than you inquire when they’d like to shorten sail.” – Sterling Hayden

“Design has taken the place of what sailing used to be.” – Dennis Conner

“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

“It is not the ship so much as the skillful sailing that assures the prosperous voyage.” – George William Curtis

Also on this day:
Now We Can Play Solitaire – In 1990 Windows 3.0 is released.
Howe’s That? – In 1842, Howe Caverns were discovered.

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Now We Can Play Solitaire

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 22, 2010

What an upgrade!

May 22, 1990: Windows 3.0 is released to stores and eventually 10 million copies will be sold. It was the third major release and the first widely successful version of the Windows OS [operating system]. This GUI or Graphical User Interface version allowed Microsoft to compete with both Apple and Commodore computers. This version of Windows came after Windows 2.1x, then nearly two years old.  Windows 1.01 was released in 1985.

This version supported a method of improved memory management for use in conjunction with Intel’s 80286 and 80386 processors. It wasn’t until 1991 that Multimedia extensions were added that allowed use of CD-ROMs and sound cards. This was also the first version of Windows to come pre-installed on certain computers. Prior to that, the OS was on a few floppy disks that the user had to install themselves. This was not an easy task. Floppy disks were not actually floppy anymore, but encased in plastic. They could hold 1.44 MB of data, and it took seven of them to record the OS program.

Apple Computers took Microsoft to court over this version of Windows claiming copyright infringement stating that Apple owned the GUI idea. It was deemed that the icons for the trashcan and folders from Hewlett-Packard’s NewWave version were all that could be legally upheld as infringements and they were altered.

Gates and Microsoft have been coming out with newer versions of Windows ever since. Windows for Workgroups 3.1 was released in October 1992 and included Microsoft Mail and workgroup scheduler. Windows NT was first released in 1994 and upgraded several times. The next major refit came with the 32-bit system, Windows 95 released in August of 1995. Windows 98 was released in 1998 and provided integrated Web Browsing. Windows 2000 and Windows Me (Millennium Edition) both came out in 2000 with the latter geared towards the home user. Next came Windows XP in 2001 with two versions, one for home use and one geared towards businesses. Windows Vista was released in November 2006 for volume licensing and in 2007 for retail sales. The newest version of Windows is due to come out in August of 2009 – Windows 7.

“Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.”

“If you can’t make it good, at least make it look good.”

“If you think your teacher is tough, wait until you get a boss. He doesn’t have tenure.”

“It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”

“Television is not real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.” – all from Bill Gates

Also on this day:
In 1842,
Howe Caverns were discovered.
In 1915,
Quintinshill rail crash, UK’s most deadly rail accident, took place.

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