Little Bits of History

May 24

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 24, 2017

1976: The Judgment of Paris takes place. Also known as the Paris Wine Tasting, it was organized by Steven Spurrier. He began his illustrious career at London’s oldest wine merchant, Christopher and Co. in 1964. He moved to Paris in 1970 and purchased an existing wine store and opened for business with a selling point being people could taste the wine before they purchased it. This led to his being recognized as an expert in his field and he opened the L’Academie du Vin in 1973 as France’s first private wine school. He sponsored the event held on this day where shocking results rocked the world of wine.

Wine competitions have the goal of comparing wines by trained experts. They can either judge vintages, categories, or brands of wine. They are given samples of wines without knowing from what label they were poured and then rate the beverage. On this day, they were rating both red and white wines. Spurrier was one of the eleven judges and he was joined by nine French judges and one American. The nine men and two women were given samples of California Cabernet Sauvignon wines and Bordeaux and also judged California Chardonnays against France’s.

The blind tests were performed with the highest rating given as 20 points. Each expert was to use their judgment and no framework was given. Personal criteria of experts was honored. Each judge ranked the wines personally and then an aggregate score was obtained by averaging the numbers. There were a total of ten reds (6 California and 4 French) and ten whites (6 California and 4 French). Each judge’s listing was different from the next, but by taking the scores and averaging them out, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 1973 was voted the best red and Chateau Montelena 1973 was voted the best white. Both were American wines. Stag’s Leap was founded in 1970 with their first vintage produced in 1972. Chateau Montelena, another Napa Valley winery, was established much earlier, in 1882.

This upset helped place America’s vintners on the world stage. Spurrier only sold French wines at the time, believing them to be far superior. The California wins in both categories was an upset, in all senses of the word. Controversies abound concerning tastings. Personal criteria used and subjectivity along with the unscientific interpretation bring non-replicable results. It was noted that even the same judges tasting the same wines on a different day would likely rank them in a different way. Regardless of the science, California wines were able to carry the day.

The results of a blind tasting cannot be predicted and will not even be reproduced the next day by the same panel tasting the same wines. – Steven Spurrier

Intellectuals talk about ideas; ordinary people talk about things; but boring people talk about wine! – Fran Lebowitz

Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy. I Benjamin Franklin

A sweetheart is a bottle of wine, a wife is a wine bottle. – Charles Baudelaire



John Wesley

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 24, 2015
John Wesley

John Wesley

May 24, 1738: John Wesley experiences an evangelical conversion. He was born in 1703 in Epworth, England. He was the fifteenth child born to his parents. His father was a rector and his mother’s father had been a Dissenting minister. All the children were home schooled and even the girls were taught to read as soon as possible. They were expected to become proficient in both Latin and Greek and to memorize most of the New Testament. A highlight of his childhood was the fire at the rectory where his parents were able to get all the children, except for John, out safely. He was trapped on the second floor and was grabbed to safety by a parishioner standing on the shoulders of a second man. This story became part of the legend of John Wesley and his mission.

He graduated with a Master of Arts from Christ Church, Oxford and was ordained a deacon in 1725. The following year he read Thomas a Kempis and Jeremy Taylor and began his search for greater truths. He became a fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford in 1726 and the next year left his position to lead a church at Wroote, the neighboring town to Epworth. He was ordained a priest in 1728 and returned to teach in November 1729. In the meantime his brother had come to Oxford. The brothers and two other friends began a small club to study and pursue a devout Christian life. John became the leader of the group on his return.

The Holy Club met daily for three hours to pray and study. They also spent several minutes every waking hour in prayer. The church at the time required attendance three times a year but the members of the club took communion every Sunday. They fasted on Wednesday and Friday until 3 PM, as was usual in early church practices. They visited jailed prisoners and preached to them as well as offered education. They cared for the sick. The times were not particularly religious and they were met with negativity. Outsiders gave the club its name as a form of insult. In 1735, the Wesley brothers sailed to Savannah, Georgia in the colonies and were introduced to Moravians on the journey and taken with their devotion and piety.

Wesley joined the Moravians and found a place to worship. He fell in love with a young woman who married William Williamson. He then deemed her to have lost her faith and refused her communion. This led to his being called to trial. Instead, he fled and returned to England. Moravians in England helped him refocus. On this day, while at a Moravian meeting on Aldersgate Street, London, he heard a reading of Martin Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans and felt his “heart strangely warmed”. It was this moment that led Wesley to a new type of ministry and eventually would lead to a new sect. Methodists today number approximately 80 million and they continue to help the poor and spread the Good News.

The righteousness of Christ is necessary to entitle us to Heaven, personal holiness to qualify us for it.

I can’t think that when God sent us into the world He had irreversibly decreed that we should be perpetually miserable in it.

Sour godliness is the devil’s religion.

Beware you are not a fiery, persecuting enthusiast. Do not imagine that God has called you (just contrary to the spirit of Him you style your Master) to destroy men’s lives, and not to save them. Never dream of forcing men into the ways of God. Think yourself, and let think. Use no constraint in matters of religion. Even those who are farthest out of the way, never compel to come in by any other means than reason, truth, and love. – all from John Wesley

Also on this day: Caveat Emptor – In 1626, Peter Minuit bought Manhattan.
News – In 1958, the UPI was formed.
Wedding Disaster – In 2001, the Versailles wedding hall collapsed.
Mary’s Poem – In 1830, Sarah Hale published a poem.
Dot Dot Dash Dash – In 1844, Samuel Morse sent a message to Washington, DC via telegraph.

Tagged with: , ,

Dot Dot Dash Dash

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 24, 2014
Samuel Morse

Samuel Morse

May 24, 1844: Samuel Morse sent a message from Washington, D.C. to Baltimore. Telegraphy is the transmission of messages over long distances. Early methods included the use of semaphore lines where an observer watched for movement and interpreted the message. Early semaphores included smoke signals, beacons, or reflected lights. Semaphore lines built towers in a line of sight configuration which allowed for a messaged to be passed from one to the next until it reached the final destination. Using electricity to send a signal was first suggested in 1753 in Scots Magazine and suggested the use of 26 wires, one for each letter of the alphabet. It proved impractical, but the idea itself was intriguing.

An early electromagnetic telegraph was designed in 1832 by Pavel Schilling in St. Petersburg which used a binary system of signal transmission. In Germany, Gauss and Weber were able to transmit a signal about 1.5 miles using a binary system as well and creating an encoded alphabet using positive and negative current states. Cooke and Wheatstone used a four-needle system in England to transmit messages. Theirs is regarded as the first commercial success with messages able to travel 13 miles using either a 4, 5, or 6 wire system. The system began to grow as more messages flew across the wires.

In the US, Samuel Morse and his assistant, Alfred Vail, developed a Morse code for signaling the alphabet. Their test case sent a message across 2 miles in 1838. On this day, the message, “What hath God wrought” was sent a distance of 38 miles from the Old Supreme Court Chamber to the B&O Railroad Station in Baltimore, Maryland. Commercial telegraphy took off in the US and all the major cities of the East Coast were linked in the next decade. By 1861, the east and west coast were linked, causing the dissolution of the Pony Express on October 24.

In 1851, the Morse telegraphic system became the standard for Europe, except for Britain and her colonies (and since the Sun never set on the British Empire, this included much of the world) which stuck with Cooke and Wheatstone method. In 1858 Morse introduced his system to Latin America by establishing a network in Puerto Rico, then a Spanish colony. Morse code uses dots and dashes to represent letters and numbers. A dot is one unit in length while a dash is three. A space between letters is one unit while a space between words is seven units. It is a binary system and the tone or light is either on or off. Many non-English languages use more than the 26 Roman letters and extensions of the Morse code exists for those languages. Probably the most famous Morse code message is SOS or dot-dot-dot dash-dash-dash dot-dot-dot and it has become synonymous with distress and a call for help.

If the presence of electricity can be made visible in any part of the circuit, I see no reason why intelligence may not be transmitted instantaneously by electricity. – Samuel Morse

The press, the machine, the railway, the telegraph are premises whose thousand-year conclusion no one has yet dared to draw. – Friedrich Nietzsche

The radio was an improvement on the telegraph but it didn’t have the same exponential, transformative effect. – Alison Gopnik

When we developed written language, we significantly increased our functional memory and our ability to share insights and knowledge across time and space. The same thing happened with the invention of the printing press, the telegraph, and the radio. – Jamais Cascio

Also on this day: Caveat Emptor – In 1626 Peter Minuit buys Manhattan.
News – In 1958, the UPI was formed.
Wedding Disaster – In 2001, the Versailles wedding hall collapsed.
Mary’s Poem – In 1830, Sarah Hale published a poem.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 24, 2013
E. W. Scripps

E. W. Scripps

May 24, 1958: News agencies United Press (UP) and International News Service (INS) merge to form United Press International (UPI). Headquartered in the US, the news agency’s roots date from 1907. E. W. Scripps created the first chain of newspapers in the US. The Associated Press (AP) was formed by a group of New York City newspapers in 1846. The AP could then pool resources and provide more in-depth and accurate news from Europe. The AP refused to sell their services to several Scripps papers. So Scripps merged three regional press agencies into UP and began service on June 21, 1907.

Scripps did not limit who could purchase the service. Scripps felt the members-only philosophy of the AP was nothing less than a monopoly. Scripps also felt local editors knew more about their local markets and they were given remarkable latitude. His papers were successful and he moved to San Diego in 1898. UP was the only privately-owned major news agency at the time. AP was a conglomerate and most European agencies were run by the government; France had Havas, Britain had Reuters, and Germany had Wolff. In 1909, William Randolph Hearst came forward with INS.

Frank Bartholomew took over as President of UP in 1955 and became “obsessed” with bringing INS into UP. In order to keep anti-trust suits at bay, United Features Syndicate remained a separate company. Today called United Media, they syndicate 150 comics and editorial columns worldwide. The newly formed UPI had 6,000 employees and 5,000 subscribers, 1,000 of them newspapers. Later in the year they began UPI Audio Networks, the first wire service radio network. By 1960, they were also providing a television film service.

The UPI was not able to charge fees at the same rate as AP. With increasing TV news shows and a decline in afternoon newspapers, their customer base dropped. There were seven different owners between 1992 and 2000. In 2000, News World Communications bought UPI. Sun Myung Moon’s global conglomerate helps promote his Unification Church. Today there are only 5 reporters in the Washington, DC headquarters with several dozen stringers filing stories from around the world. With a web presence at, UPI reaches 1.8 million unique visitors each month. They continue to provide news, photos, and video.

“Far more thought and care go into the composition of any prominent ad in a newspaper or magazine than go into the writing of their features and editorials.” – Marshall McLuhan

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

“No American newspaper will print anything contrary to its own interests.” – George Bernard Shaw

“Editor: A person employed on a newspaper whose business it is to separate the wheat from the chaff, and to see that the chaff is printed.” – Elbert Hubbard

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Edward Willis Scripps was born in 1854 in Illinois. His father was from London; his mother was the third wife. Edward was the fifth child of this union and he had seven half siblings as well. Edward and his half-sister, Ellen, worked for an older half-brother, James, when James founded The Detroit News in 1873. By 1878, Edward used a loan from James to move to Cleveland and start The Penny Press (later the Cleveland Press). He went on to purchase or begin 25 more newspapers. Edward lent money to promising local newspaper publishers. If they were successful, he would buy a 51% share of the paper and thus expanded his E. W. Scripps Company.

Also on this day Caveat Emptor – In 1626 Peter Minuit buys Manhattan.
Wedding Disaster – In 2001, the Versailles wedding hall collapsed.
Mary’s Poem – In 1830, Sarah Hale published a poem.

Tagged with: , ,

Mary’s Poem

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 24, 2012

Sarah Josepha Hale

May 24, 1830: Sarah Josepha Hale published her world-famous poem. She was born in Newport, New Hampshire. Her mother was a firm believer in education and egalitarian in her methods; both her son and daughter were given instruction. Sarah married David Hale in 1813 and the couple had five children in quick succession. David died in 1822 and Sarah never quit mourning his loss, wearing black for the rest of her life. Sarah published the first set of her collected poems in 1823 and a novel soon after. Both were successful. She published a book of children’s poems and Mary’s Lamb was included.

Today, we know the poem as Mary Had a Little Lamb. The poem was inspired by actual events. Mary Sawyer kept a pet lamb. Her brother encouraged her to take the lamb to school which she did. The stir created was intensified by an unexpected guest’s appearance. At the time, ministers visited schools to help prepare students for college. John Roulstone, visiting with his uncle, the Reverend Lemuel Capen, was so impressed by the lamb at school, he returned the next day. Some claim John wrote the beginning of the poem and Ms Hale wrote the more moralistic ending. Others assert Sarah was the sole author. Lowell Mason set the poem to music later in the decade.

Mary Had a Little Lamb is considered to be a Nursery Rhyme. These are “traditional” songs for British or American children. The term “nursery rhyme” only came into use in the 19th century. Prior to that, the sing-song poems were called “Mother Goose Rhymes.” The earliest form of these poems, both historically and as presented to children, is the lullaby. Many nursery rhymes have a hidden or secondary meaning. For instance, Baa, Baa Black Sheep speaks to the practice of slave trading or possibly the steep medieval taxes. However, many of today’s interpretations are simply added on to the poems without any supporting historical evidence.

Sarah Hale did more than just write poetry and novels. It was due to her tireless effort that we have Thanksgiving as a national holiday in the US. Prior to the declaration of this holiday, it was celebrated only in New England.  Each state would create it’s own holiday anywhere from October to January. It took seventeen years of campaigning before Ms Hale was successful in creating the National Holiday we know today. She wrote letters to five US Presidents before she was finally able to convince Abraham Lincoln to support legislation for the November holiday. It was the third national holiday celebrated with the other two being Washington’s Birthday and July 4.

A blessing on the printer’s art!– /  Books are the mentors of the heart.

I’ve learned to judge of men by their own deeds; /  I do not make the accident of birth / The standard of their merit.

O wondrous power! how little understood,– / Entrusted to the mother’s mind alone, / To fashion genius, form the soul for good, / Inspire a West, or train a Washington!

The temple of our purest thoughts is silence! –  all from Sarah Josepha Hale

Also on this day:

Caveat Emptor – In 1626 Peter Minuit buys Manhattan.
News – In 1958, the UPI was formed.
Wedding Disaster – In 2001, the Versailles wedding hall collapsed.

Wedding Disaster

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 24, 2011

Versailles wedding hall collapse

May 24, 2001: The third floor of the Versailles wedding hall collapses. The hall was located in Talpiot, Jerusalem. It was a Thursday evening and the newly married Keren and Asaf Dror were celebrating their wedding when the floor simply vanished. At 10:43 p.m. the third floor gave way with 23 people falling to their deaths. Another 380 were injured. The bride and groom both survived. Shocking enough in its own right, the disaster was captured by someone at the wedding filming events. The collapse was broadcast both locally and on international television.

Rescue efforts began immediately with some of the surviving 700 wedding guests helping family and friends. Others joined in the attempt to free people from the rubble. The floors collapsed one on top of the other and it took days to complete rescue efforts. Eli Beer, the first EMT on the scene, instituted Israel’s mass casualty response. The rescue was spearheaded by the Home Front Command’s Search & Rescue Unit. There were 23 bodies pulled from the ruins. Amazingly enough, three people were extricated alive.

Of immediate concern was whether or not this was a terrorist attack. It was found to be due to structural failure. The building was engineered using the Pal-Kal method, a light-weight coffered concrete floor building system. The floor was seen to sag just before it collapsed, wedding guests reported. The area of collapse was initially designed to be a two story building while the other side of the building was to be three stories. During the construction phase, it was decided to create the building all one height and the load bearing was too much for the base. To offset this (at least partially) a lighter weight method of construction was used.

Just a few weeks prior to the wedding, the building owners removed partitions on the second floor to create a more open space. Unfortunately, these were load bearing walls and the floor above began to sag. The building owners didn’t realize the enormity of the consequences and thought it was only a cosmetic issue. The three owners of the building were convicted of causing death by negligence and damage by negligence. The inventor of the Pal-Kal method and three others involved in the construction have also received prison sentences for death and sabotage by negligence. The wedding hall was demolished and the site remains sealed.

“Love one another and you will be happy. It’s as simple and as difficult as that.” – Michael Leunig

“True love stories never have endings.” – Richard Bach

“Spouse: someone who’ll stand by you through all the trouble you wouldn’t have had if you’d stayed single.” – unknown

“The highest happiness on earth is marriage.” – William Lyon Phelps

Also on this day:
Caveat Emptor – In 1626 Peter Minuit buys Manhattan.
News – In 1958, the UPI was formed.

Caveat Emptor

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 24, 2010

Manhattan with upgrades

May 24, 1626: Peter Minuit purchases what is today called Manhattan from natives for goods valued at 60 guilders. The deed to this purchase has been lost to history. Minuit was the third director of the Dutch West India Company and arrived in the colony he was to govern on May 4, 1626. The purchase itself was discovered in 1846 when a Dutch-American persuaded President Martin Van Buren to send a representative to the Netherlands and documents were discovered, copied, and translated into English. Only partial documentation of the Staten Island purchase, which Minuit was also involved in, had survived.

Legend states that the goods were beads, but according to logs kept by the company, there were probably many other types of goods included in the trade. In the purchase of Staten Island, goods traded included cloth, kettles, axe heads, other tools, and “diverse other wares.”

The value of guilders at the time of the trade in comparison to other currencies is questionable. The value of US $24 was arrived at during the 19th century. With the inaccuracy of the conversion methods from the 1800s acknowledged, that $24 adjusted for inflation is about $500-$700 today. The Manahata Indians, who actually owned the place, were not involved in this bargain trade. Minuit is believed to have dealt with the Canarsee Indians, who lived on Long Island.

Manhattan is one of the five boroughs of New York City. New York County has the same boundaries as the borough and is the most densely populated county is the US. As of 2008, there were 1,634,795 people living on the 22.96 square miles or 71,201 people per square mile. Not only are there many people living there, they have the one of the wealthiest counties in the US as well with a per capita income of over $100,000. It is the smallest of the five boroughs but holds the middle position for population rank. It is also a major commercial, financial, and cultural center with many media outlets claiming a Manhattan address. There are tourist attractions, museums, and universities within its boundaries. Manhattan is also home to the headquarters of the United Nations and the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ.

“In cases of major discrepancy it’s always reality that’s got it wrong….reality is frequently inaccurate.” – Douglas Adams

“Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.” – Mark Twain

“Being on sea sail, being on land settle.” – George Herbert

“Manhattan is a narrow island off the coast of New Jersey devoted to the pursuit of lunch.” – Raymond Sokolov

Also on this day:
In 1958, the
UPI was formed.
In 2001,  the Versailles wedding hall collapsed, killing 23 and injuring hundreds.

Tagged with: , ,