Little Bits of History

May 25

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 25, 2017

1738: A treaty is signed in London between belligerents – Pennsylvania and Maryland. The fighting portion of Cresap’s War or the Conojocular War came to an end. Conejohela Valley was the area of conflict between the two colonies and fighting first broke out in 1730 over the disputed lands. Pennsylvania’s Charter gave the southern border as a “Circle drawne at twelve miles distance from New Castle Northward and Westward unto the beginning of the fortieth degree of Northern Latitude, and then a straight Line Westward.” Later surveys showed the town of New Castle was 25 miles south of the fortieth parallel. Maryland insisted the line be drawn at the fortieth parallel as stated while Pennsylvania insisted on some convoluted means of calculating the border. This left a 28 mile wide strip of land both colonies claimed.

The area was sparsely populated. In 1726, Quaker minister John Wright and two friends brought their families into the Valley and settled near the Susquehanna River and began farming. They also built two large dugout canoes and tied one to each side of the waterway creating the opportunity for passenger ferrying. Few people needed to cross, but by 1730 business was increasing and Wright applied for a ferry license. Traffic increased, in part because it became known there was ferry service across the Susquehanna. A number of Pennsylvania Dutch moved to the area and Marylander Thomas Cresap wanted to counter this and set up his own ferry system at Blue Rock, about four miles south of Wright’s Ferry.

Because of the royal charter, Pennsylvania settlers did not have clear title to the lands. Marland granted Cresap a title to 500 acres along the west bank of the river. Much of that parcel was already settled. Cresap began to sell off parcels of his land and brought more Pennsylvania Dutch under Maryland law and began to collect Maryland taxes. According to Cresap, in October 1730 he was attacked on a ferry boat by two Pennsylvanians, the first armed confrontation between Pennsylvania and Maryland. He didn’t mention the attack was to take his own workman into custody for some violation in Pennsylvania, probably debt collection. Hostilities increased and the issue remained unresolved.

Both colonial militias were brought to the region to defend their claim to the 28-mile strip of land. Casualties were heavy and the fighting continued for years. Agreements were reached, but ignored on the ground. Finally, after involving King George II, the two sides were compelled to sign a treaty and enforce a cease-fire. While this settled the immediate problem, the issue wasn’t fully resolved until 1767 when the Mason-Dixon line was finally recognized as the dividing line between the two colonies. This assured that Philadelphia was indeed in Pennsylvania while adjusting the rest of the line westward.

When you move a border, suddenly life changes violently. I write about nationality. – Alan Furst

The love of one’s country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border? – Pablo Casals

Great countries need to secure their border for national security purposes, for economic purposes and for rule of law purposes. – Jeb Bush

As we all know from the Roman empire, big empires go down if the borders are not well-protected. – Mark Rutte

Old Bay Line

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 25, 2015
District of Columbia steamship

District of Columbia steamship

May 25, 1962: The vote to liquidate comes through. The Baltimore Steam Packet Company, called the Old Bay Line, was one of the last operating steamship lines in the US. Two other lines operated past them, but Old Bay was the last overnight passenger steamship service in the country. The company began business just seven years after Robert Fulton proved the commercial opportunities available with the vehicle. Overland travel was difficult and dangerous. Using natural waterways, and eventually manmade waterways, increased both the efficiency and speed of travel. Most cities were built along rivers and the widespread country needed a better way to move from one city to another. While railroads were being built, each line was unique and it was difficult to get from one major city to another, usually having to switch lines.

The large rivers and large bodies of water made transportation easier. The Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay made travel to port cities comfortable and fast. The first steamboat to serve Baltimore was built in 1813 and linked the city to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with a stagecoach covering the overland portion of the journey. The Maryland & Virginia Steam Packet Company was formed in 1828 but they closed in 1839. Later that year, the Maryland legislature granted a charter to the Baltimore Steam Packet Company (the “packet” in the name referred to mail packets which were delivered at ports of call). The company was formed to provide overnight service on the Chesapeake Bay.

The ships plied the waters between what ended up being Union and Confederate territories and the US Civil War interfered with trade between the two sides. Passenger and cargo traffic was diminished and one line was discontinued throughout the war years. After the war, trade once again resumed and the ships were again sailing. Other ships also offered the same service and a price war ensued with fares dropping to $3 for one way. The older line positioned itself as the Old Established Bay Line and its name unofficially changed. The company’s best years were the 1890s when shipping throughout the Bay area increased.

The Baltimore, Maryland to Norfolk, Virginia line was both the first and last trip the company offered. One could also travel from either Baltimore or Norfolk to Old Point Comfort, Virginia from 1840 but those lines stopped service in 1859. In 1874, it was possible to get from Baltimore to Richmond, Virginia, a line that ran until 1897. Trips between Washington, D.C. and Norfolk were available from 1949 to 1957. Other methods of transportation took over the steamships and numbers declined. The company had 54 ships over its 122 year history, many of them smaller cargo ships. Three ships remained when they finally cut service in April 1962. On this day, the company voted to liquidate and end an era.

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

The great difference between voyages rests not with the ships, but with the people you meet on them. – Amelia Barr

A modern fleet of ships does not so much make use of the sea as exploit a highway. – Joseph Conrad

Some people could look at a mud puddle and see an ocean with ships. – Zora Neale Hurston

Also on this day: “Swede” Momsen – In 1967, submariner Swede Momsen died.
Nuking Ourselves – In 1953, the US continued testing with nuclear artillery.
Halley’s Comet – In 240 BC, Halley’s Comet was first documented.
The Fastest Man in the World – In 1935, Jesse Owens ran quickly.
Not a Weight Loss Diet – In 1521, the Edict of Worms was issued.

Not a Weight Loss Diet

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 25, 2014
Edict of Worms

Edict of Worms

May 25, 1521: The Edict of Worms is issued. The Diet of Worms (a formal deliberative assembly) was called by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. It began on January 28, 1521 and ended on this day. It was neither the first nor the last such event. Imperial diets had been convened at Worms five times before beginning in 829 and once again after in 1545. This is the most famous of them and when a date is not given, it is assumed one is speaking of the Diet of Worms of 1521. In June of 1520, Pope Leo X had issued a Papal bull outlining 41 errors he had found in Martin Luther’s Ninety-five Theses and other writings related to or written by him. In order to get Luther to appear before a court, safe passage was guaranteed and he was called to the Diet of Worms to either renounce or defend his views.

Luther was summoned and appeared before the Diet from April 16 to 18 with Dr. Jeromee Schurff, Wittenberg professor in Canon Law, acting as Luther’s lawyer. On April 17, Luther was reminded to speak only in answer to direct questions put to him by the presiding officer, Johann von Eck. There were about 25 books or papers that were in question and the titles were read. Luther asked for more time to form a proper answer and he was given until 4 PM the next day to prepare. When asked again if all the books were his, he replied that they were indeed all books he had written, but that they were not all of the same sort. They were, according to the author, in three categories. One group were books everyone liked, even his enemies. One group attacked the abuses within the Catholic Church and the papacy. And the last group was attacks on individuals for which he apologized about the tone of the works, but attested to their accuracy.

The Edict issued on this day proclaimed the already-excommunicated Martin Luther to be an obstinate heretic and banned both the reading and possession of his writings. He was guilty of heresy. The biggest stumbling block for Luther was the selling of indulgences. Luther proclaimed simply that this was wrong and the Pope was in error, challenging the infallibility of the Pontiff. Luther maintained that salvation was earned by faith alone without any need for good works, alms, penance, or the Church’s sacraments. Luther also maintained that the path to salvation was to be found in scripture and if it was not in the Bible, it could be discarded.

Charles V was so busy with politics and war that the Edict was never enforced. Luther was supposed to be arrested and punished, but on his way home, Prince Frederick seized Luther and kept him safe in Wartburg Castle. While in residence there, Luther began to translate the Bible into German and bring the religious teachings directly to the people. He was never arrested and lived to be 62, dying in 1546. During his life, he continued to advocate for the poor. His new church was blossoming. Many times the practical implementation fell short of the ideal, but it was a church based on faith and with a worldwide following today, about 72.3 million people follow the simple monk’s teachings.

For this reason we forbid anyone from this time forward to dare, either by words or by deeds, to receive, defend, sustain, or favour the said Martin Luther.

On the contrary, we want him to be apprehended and punished as a notorious heretic, as he deserves, to be brought personally before us, or to be securely guarded until those who have captured him inform us, whereupon we will order the appropriate manner of proceeding against the said Luther.

Those who will help in his capture will be rewarded generously for their good work. – all from The Edict of Worms

All who call on God in true faith, earnestly from the heart, will certainly be heard, and will receive what they have asked and desired. – Martin Luther

Also on this day: “Swede” Momsen – In 1967, submariner Swede Momsen dies.
Nuking Ourselves – In 1953, the US continued testing with nuclear artillery.
Halley’s Comet – In 240 BC, Halley’s Comet was first documented.
The Fastest Man in the World – In 1935, Jesse Owens ran quickly.

Nuking Ourselves

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 25, 2013
Grable nuclear test

Grable nuclear test

May 25, 1953:  America bombs Nevada. The Nevada Test Site is located about 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The 1,350 square miles region is desert with mountains and is owned by the US Department of Energy. They began testing nuclear devices on January 27, 1951 with a one-kiloton (4 terajoule) bomb. Between 1951 and 1992 there were 928 announced nuclear tests, 828 of them underground. Some tests included multiple explosions. There have been 1,021 detonations, 921 of them underground.

This day’s test was called “Grable” and was the first and only testing of nuclear artillery. It was part of an overall series of tests called “Operation Upshot-Knothole.” The Atomic Cannon fired a 280 mm shell while many high-ranking officers watched. Nuclear artillery is nuclear weaponry launched from the ground. They can be delivered by guns, rockets, or missiles. They include nuclear landmines, depth charges, torpedoes, demolition munitions, anti-aircraft weapons, and artillery. They have been developed by the US, USSR, France, and India. Dirty bombs, or radioactive dispersal devices, are speculative weapons and not included as artillery.

Mushroom clouds billowing up from nuclear explosions and seen in films around the globe, are usually images filmed during the era of aboveground testing. The last of these was held on July 17, 1962. Underground testing continued until 1992. The site remains under the Department of Energy. They offer tours of the grounds after visitors pass a rigorous screening process. There are restrictions during the tour (no pictures, no guns, no samples removed from the site). The usual screening process takes 6 weeks, longer for foreigners.

The Nevada Test Site has 28 separate areas with 1,100 buildings. There are 400 miles of paved roads and 300 miles of unpaved roads. There are also 10 heliports and 2 airstrips included. There are no longer nuclear tests taking place, but research continues with subcritical testing of America’s aging nuclear arsenal. They also maintain a nuclear waste complex in Area 5 for low-level radioactive waste with a half life of less than 20 years.

“We are now getting more than 600 cases of cancer a year and more than 250 deaths because of these tests. There are 31 possible cancers linked with nuclear matter and some can take 20 to 30 years to develop.” – Roland Oldham

“The U.S. has no plans to conduct a nuclear test. President [George W.] Bush supports a continued moratorium on nuclear testing.” – Irene Smith

“It’s a lot easier to hit one of our own targets on a test range than it is for them to actually intercept nuclear-tipped missiles in a combat environment.” – John Pike

“Without going through a lot of detail, the issue of ownership of the land area occupied by the Nevada Test Site, and for that matter very large sections of Nevada and Utah, is very complex (going back to the Ruby Valley Treaty) and in our eyes has been resolved.” – Kevin Rohrer

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Operation Upshot-Knothole was a 1953 series of eleven nuclear test shots. The maximum yield was 61 kilotons of TNT or 260 TJ (terajoules). There were two UCRL tests that were classed as a “fizzle” meaning they didn’t work so well. There was a total of 252.4 kilotons exploded between March 17 (Annie) and June 4 (Climax). Harry was the name of the test run on May 19 and it resulted in extreme contamination of downwinders, these are the unfortunate people who are exposed to radioactive material contamination or nuclear fallout from nuclear testing. Operation Ivy (two tests in November 1952) preceded this series of tests and they were followed by Operation Castle (six tests between March and May of 1954).

Also on this day “Swede” Momsen – In 1967, submariner Swede Momsen dies.
Halley’s Comet – In 240 BC, Halley’s Comet was first documented.
The Fastest Man in the World – In 1935, Jesse Owens ran quickly.

The Fastest Man in the World

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 25, 2012

Jesse Owens

May 25, 1935: James Cleveland Owens breaks three records. James Cleveland was the tenth child born to Henry and Emma Owens and went by the sobriquet J.C. He was born in Alabama. When the he was nine, the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio and a teacher misunderstood him when he said he was J.C. Instead, she heard it as Jesse and his name was changed forever. While a junior high student, Charles Riley coached the boy in track and field at Fairmount Junior High. Jesse worked after school so Riley let him practice in the early morning. Owens came to national attention in high school we he equaled the word record for the 100-yard dash with a time of 9.4 seconds.

He went on to Ohio State University (OSU) after he could find work for his father, assuring the family would be supported while he was at school. He was dubbed the “Buckeye Bullet” while at OSU. He won eight individual NCAA championships, four each in the years 1935 and 1936. His record of four gold medals at one meet was not met again until 2006 when Xavier Carter also got four medals, although some of his were for relays. Owens worked part time to help pay for his college. He was forced to live off campus as African-Americans were not permitted to stay in the dorms. When he traveled with his teammates, he had to eat in black only restaurants and stay in black only hotels.

The 5 foot, 10 inch athlete took the world by storm in 1935. In just 45 minutes he set three world records and tied a fourth. Even though he had recently hurt his back in a fall down a flight of stairs, he tied the 100-yard dash record, and set records for the long jump, the 220 yard sprint, and the 220 yard low hurdles. His long jump record held for 25 years and he was the first to break the 23 second record for the hurdles event. His 1935 Big Ten track meet experience led sports experts in 2005 o name this the most impressive athletic achievement since 1850.

Owens went on to participate in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany. Hitler was hoping to showcase the “Aryan race” superiority. The games didn’t turn out the way Hitler hoped and he stopped attending them. Owens won four gold medals during the Games. He took the gold in the 100 meter and 200 meter races, the 4 x 100 meter relay, and the long jump. This record was not matched until Carl Lewis managed to win the same events at the 1984 Olympics. Owens died of lung cancer at the age of 66.

Find the good. It’s all around you. Find it, showcase it and you’ll start believing it.

If you don’t try to win you might as well hold the Olympics in somebody’s back yard. The thrill of competing carries with it the thrill of a gold medal. One wants to win to prove himself the best.

One chance is all you need.

I wanted no part of politics. And I wasn’t in Berlin to compete against any one athlete. The purpose of the Olympics, anyway, was to do your best. As I’d learned long ago from Charles Riley, the only victory that counts is the one over yourself. – all from Jesse Owens

Also on this day:

“Swede” Momsen – In 1967, submariner Swede Momsen dies.
Nuking Ourselves – In 1953, the US continued testing with nuclear artillery.
Halley’s Comet – In 240 BC, Halley’s Comet was first documented.

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Halley’s Comet

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 25, 2011

Halley's Comet (photo by NASA)

May 25, 240 BC: The first documented appearance of the most famous of the periodic comets is made. The comet would one day come to be called Halley’s Comet (rhymes with valley). The Chinese work, Shih chi, tells of a “broom star” seen during the lunar month of May 24 to June 23 in 239 or 240 BC.

Edmond Halley first recognized the periodic nature of this comet. He was working with all observed comets seen between 1337 and 1698. He noted three comets with identical orbits spaced regularly apart in their time of appearance – 1531, 1607, and 1682. He determined that these three comets were, in fact, one comet that showed a periodic reappearance. Working backwards through historic records, it was found that 23 previous visits by the comet had been recorded. According to Halley, the comet would appear again in 1758. He was correct, but did not live to see it, dying in 1742.

Every appearance since the 240 BC event has been recorded somewhere in history. The next visit in 164 BC was recorded in two different Babylonian cuneiform tablets. The orbit as described confirmed that it was Halley’s comet. The next visit – 87 BC – was again recorded by the Babylonians. The most famous appearance was the one recorded in the Bayeux Tapestry in 1066. The closest the comet has ever come to Earth was 0.0342 Astronomical Units or 3.2 million miles.

The last visit from the comet was in 1986, with perihelion occurring in February and March of that year. Perihelion is when as astral body is closest to its center of attraction – in this case, the Sun. The possibility now existed for mankind to visit the famous comet and spaceships were sent out to get a closer look. The Giotto took pictures of the nucleus and showed an irregularly shaped mass, probably mostly ice, with a crater and three trailing jets of molecules. The comet’s orbit is highly elliptical and outside the plane of the major planets. In fact, it is such an ecliptic orbit, it is even outside the non-planet Pluto’s orbit. The next appearance is scheduled for 2062.

“I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year (1910), and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet.” – Mark Twain

“Say, Halley’s Comet is coming around again. I didn’t know what all the excitement’s about. I’ve seen it so many times, I’m getting dizzy!” – Bob Hope

“I earnestly wish them all imaginable success; in the first place that they may not, by the unseasonable obscurity of a cloudy sky, be deprived of this most desirable sight; and then, that having ascertained with more exactness the magnitudes of the planetary orbits, it may redound to their eternal fame and glory.” -EdmondHalley

“This sight… is by far the noblest astronomy affords.” -EdmondHalley

Also on this day:
“Swede” Momsen – In 1967, submariner Swede Momsen dies.
Nuking Ourselves – In 1953, the US continued testing with nuclear artillery.

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