Little Bits of History

May 27

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 27, 2017

1930: The Chrysler Building becomes the tallest building in New York City. The building replaced 40 Wall Street (also known as Trump Tower) as the tallest building in the city, but the Chrysler Building did not make the tallest building in the word. The Eiffel Tower kept that distinction until the Empire State Building took over. The Chrysler Building is located on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan and is today owned by Abu Dhabi Investment Council (90%) and Tishman Speyer (10%). Although it didn’t hold the title of tallest building for long, the Empire State Building surpassed it less than a year later, it remains the tallest brick building (built around a steel frame) in the world.

The Art Deco building was the corporate headquarters for the Chrysler car manufacturer from its opening date until the mid 1950s. It was never owned by the company since Walter Chrysler paid for it himself so his children could inherit it. It has been deemed one of the finest buildings in New York City and was ranked ninth by the American Institute of Architects in their List of America’s Favorite Architecture. The building was designed by William Van Alen with groundbreaking taking place on September 19, 1928. At the time, building the tallest building was of great interest. The Woolworth Building had been able to hold the title from 1913 until 40 Wall Street took over. Taking to the skies was a high priority.

The building’s 77 floors give it 1,195,000 square feet of space and is services by 32 elevators. With the spire topping the building, it reaches 1,046 feet into the air, while the roof is at 925 feet. The top floor is 899 feet up. Building it was managed with rapid ascent averaging four floors a week. No workers died during the construction. The building contains 391,881 rivets and has 3,826,000 bricks which were manually laid. The competitive nature of the builders had the architect of 40 Wall Street modifying his plans to try to maintain his “tallest building” title. Van Alen then added the 125 foot tall spire to the top of the Chrysler Building. Except the spire was built inside the building and in secret, so as to thwart Severance’s claim.

As this date approached, the assembled spire could be placed atop the building and the already completed 40 Wall Street became second tallest building. The architectural structure of the Eiffel Tower reaches up to 984 feet and so Van Alen’s building was able to become the tallest manmade architecture structure in the world. This was no doubt thrilling for the man, but probably lost some of the luster when Walter Chrysler refused to pay the balance of his fee. Today, Chrysler Company has merged with Fiat and is traded as Fiat Chrysler with headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan. The building there is far less spectacular.

It is not the beauty of a building you should look at; its the construction of the foundation that will stand the test of time. – David Allan Coe

Architecture is a visual art, and the buildings speak for themselves. – Julia Morgan

Color in certain places has the great value of making the outlines and structural planes seem more energetic. – Antoni Gaudi

Rationalism is the enemy of art, though necessary as a basis for architecture. – Arthur Erickson

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Who’s Afraid

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 27, 2015
The Three Little Pigs poster *

The Three Little Pigs poster *

May 27, 1933: Walt Disney releases a cartoon. Disney produced the short animated film directed by Burt Gillett. It was based on the fairy tale of the same name: The Three Little Pigs. The United Artists film cost $22,000 to create and the Technicolor cartoon ran for eight minutes. Animation was provided by Fred Moore, Art Babbitt, Dick Lundy, and Norm Ferguson. Voices were provided by Pinto Colvig, Billy Bletcher, Mary Moder, and Dorothy Compton. Music was by Carl W. Stalling and Frank Churchill. The film grossed $250,000 and in 1994 was listed as #11 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field. The Three Little Pigs was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Both the cartoon and the fairy tale tell the story of three little pigs. Practical Pig is practical and in the cartoon plays a piano and builds his sturdy house of bricks. Fiddler Pig plays a fiddle and dances after quickly building his stick house. Fifer Pig plays a flute after his shoddy construction on his straw house is complete. The pigs play and then the antagonist shows up – the Big Bad Wolf. He destroys the sloppily built houses in turn with each pig making it safely to the next house to hide until he comes to the brick house. When his prior method of blowing down the house fails, he tries to climb down the chimney. The pigs play a catchy tune between being pursued and “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” was a musical hit from the film.

The cartoon was a big hit with the audiences of the day. Instead of a short run, it played for months and continued to bring in revenue. It remains one of the most successful animated shorts ever made. It was one of the first attempts to bring cartoon characters to life. Each of the pigs looked the same but each had a particular personality and behaved in a particular way. Even at this early stage in his career, Disney had already learned that successful cartooning depended on telling emotionally gripping stories. Because of this, while this short was in production, a “story department” separate from the animators was created. The storyboard artists worked on story development rather than cartooning.

Frank Churchill’s song became a single and “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” gave those living through the Great Depression a rallying cry. When Hitler’s Germany began expanding pre-World War II, the song was used to bring focus to the complacency about the invasions in Europe. Disney went on to create more cartoons with another of his stars – Mickey Mouse. His first appearance pre-dated this cartoon. This film made it possible for Disney to parley his success into making Mickey a top merchandise item by the end of 1934. Mickey appeared in over 130 films and became known worldwide.

You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.

I never called my work an ‘art’ It’s part of show business, the business of building entertainment.

People don’t care what you know. They just want to know that you care.

A man should never neglect his family for business. – all from Walt Disney

Also on this day: No More Burnt Toast – In 1919, a toaster with a timer was patented.
St. Pete – In 1703, St. Petersburg, Russia was founded.
Model T & A – In 1927, Ford Motor Co. began the switch from Model T to Model A.
Centralia – In 1962, a fire that is still burning was started.
Le Paradis Massacre – In 1940, the massacre took place.

* “Three Little Pigs poster” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia –

Le Paradis Massacre

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 27, 2014
Le Paradis massacre site

Le Paradis massacre site

May 27, 1940: The Le Paradis massacre takes place. The Battle of Dunkirk began just the day before. This important engagement of World War II lasted until June 4, 1940 with the United Kingdom, France, and Belgium fighting against Germany. The battle for France began in earnest on May 10, the same day Winston Churchill became PM of Britain. By May 26, the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and the French First Army were trapped in an area about 60 miles long and 15-25 miles wide between the sea and advancing German troops. Two massive German armies flanked the allied forces. The Germans had about 800,000 men under Generals Gerd von Rundstedt and Ewald von Kleist. Lord Gort was in charge of the British troops while three French generals were also involved in defense with approximately 400,000 troops fighting for the Allies.

The 2nd Battalion of the Royal Norfolk Regiment was involved with the BEF. After an engagement at Le Cornet Malo, the men fell back to their headquarters at Cornet Farm, just outside Le Paradis. The commanders had been informed by radio that they were isolated and on their own and no assistance would be forthcoming. Their last contact with Brigade Headquarters was at 11:30 AM. They were in a defensive position as Waffen-SS troops attacked the farm building with mortars, tanks, and artillery which basically destroyed the building and forced the men to relocate to a cowshed. Ninety-nine men survived the attack but they had run out of ammunition.

Their leader, Major Lisle Ryder, ordered a surrender. The cowshed was near a road that was a boundary between two British regiments and as they raised their white flag, they surrendered to SS Hauptsturmfuhrer Fritz Knochlein’s unit rather than to the men they had been fighting. The 99 men, most of them wounded, were disarmed and led down a road off the Rue du Paradis. They were marched to a barn, lined up, and fired upon by two German machinegunners. Knochlein then armed some men with bayonets to make sure all the men were dead before they rejoined their units. Private Albert Pooley and one other man managed to survive. Private William O’Callaghan had pulled himself and Pooley into a hiding place (a pig sty) where they survived on raw potatoes and water from puddles before the farm owners discovered them and offered them aid. They were eventually captured by Germans but survived the war.

French civilians were forced to bury the 97 dead in a mass grave. The bodies were exhumed in 1942 and reburied in a local cemetery by the French authorities. Their final resting place became the Le Paradis War Cemetery. Excavation in 2007 revealed that approximately 20 more men, probably from the Royal Scots, were buried nearby in another shallow grave. After the war, Knochlein was tried for war crimes with Pooley and O’Callaghan able to testify against him. He was found guilty and was executed on January 28, 1949 at the age of 37.

When the war of the giants is over the wars of the pygmies will begin. – Winston Churchill

The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his. – George S. Patton

Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime. – Ernest Hemingway

There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare. – Sun Tzu

Also on this day: No More Burnt Toast – In 1919 a toaster with a timer is patented.
St. Pete – In 1703, St. Petersburg, Russia was founded.
Model T & A – In 1927, Ford Motor Co. began the switch from Model T to Model A.
Centralia – In 1962, a fire that is still burning was started.

St. Pete

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 27, 2013
Peter the Great

Peter the Great

May 27, 1703: Tsar Peter the Great founds Saint Petersburg. The Great Northern War was fought 1700-1721 between Sweden and Russia over control of the Baltic Sea. On May 1, 1703, Peter the Great took the Swedish fortress at Nyen on the Neva River. The fort was located at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea. To celebrate the victory, the Tsar built a city on the site and named it after his patron saint, the apostle Saint Peter. The city has also been called Petrograd (1914-1924) and Leningrad (1924-1991). It is often called simply Petersburg or informally, Peter.

Dostoevsky called the city “premeditated.” It was built under adverse conditions. The land itself is relatively new and was known for “devastating floods, abominable winds, and mosquitoes.” To build here was ludicrous. The mortality rate was high and 40,000 serfs were conscripted yearly, one for every 9 to 16 households. They were forced to provide their own tools and food. The men were chained together to deter desertion and marched hundreds of miles on foot. Many managed to escape and more died from disease and exposure.

The first building to be completed was the Peter and Paul Fortress. The marshland was drained and building continued. Peter hired engineers and craftsmen from all over Europe to help build his new city. With the influx of educated foreigners, Saint Petersburg became a very cosmopolitan city. It also became the capital of Russia and remained so for 200 years. Today, 4.5 million people live in Saint Petersburg. The city proper is 234 square miles while the greater metropolitan area, the federal subject, is 556 square miles and includes another 9 suburban towns and 21 municipal settlements.

Saint Petersburg is a city of bridges. The area includes 64 rivers and 48 canals with 800 bridges spanning them (more bridges than even Venice boasts). It is the largest European city not a capital and the 4th largest after Paris, Moscow, and London. There are more than 250 museums in Petersburg. There are more than 80 theaters, about 1,800 libraries (most in schools but 190 national public libraries included). There are over 3,000 culture and performing groups and clubs and almost 80 recreational centers. There are over 100 concert organizations. It is truly a cosmopolitan city with much to see and do.

“Old St Petersburg remains a beautiful stage set but to the Russians it is not what Rome is to the Italians or Paris to the French. The decisions are made in the Kremlin. The city of Peter remains a museum, open from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM.” – Joseph Wechsberg

“The duality of St Petersburg and Leningrad remains. They are not even on speaking terms.” – Joseph Wechsberg

“[Leningrad] sits astride the Neva, frozen in time, a haunting mélange of pale hues, glorious façades and teeming ghosts.” – Serge Schmemann

“I have conquered an empire but I have not been able to conquer myself.” – Peter The Great

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Peter the Great was born in 1682 and was of the House of Romanov. He ruled the Tsardom of Russia and later the Russian Empire beginning in 1682, just before his tenth birthday. Feodor III was sickly and weak and took over the rule in 1676 when Tsar Alexis, their father, died. Feodor died in 1682 and was childless. Ivan V was really next in line but he was both sick in mind and body. Since he was unfit for rule, it was then that ten year old Peter was selected to be co-head of state. Until 1696 when Ivan died, the rule was held jointly by Peter and his half-brother. Peter would eventually marry twice and father 14 children with his wives. Only three of them survived to adulthood. His oldest son, Alexei, was suspected of trying to overthrow his father and under torture confessed. He died, probably of his injuries from being tortured, before he could be executed.

Also on this day No More Burnt Toast – In 1919 a toaster with a timer is patented.
Model T & A – In 1927, Ford Motor Co. began the switch from Model T to Model A.
Centralia – In 1962, a fire that is still burning was started.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 27, 2012

Centralia, Pennsylvania today

May 27, 1962: A fire at a local garbage dump is intentionally set. Centralia, Pennsylvania was a mining town where anthracite coal was mined. The garbage dump was near a cemetery and local authorities hired firemen to set a controlled burn in order to make the upcoming Memorial Day more pleasant. All the trash was set in one corner and the fire lit. It was put out using fire hoses, leaving nothing but some smoldering ashes. This particular year, instead of completely being extinguished, the fire found its way into the coal mines below ground.

The abandoned coal mine had been used for more than 100 years beginning with the 1854 Locust Mountain coal and Iron Company. They set out the streets and lots for development of the town of Centralia, originally called Centreville. Since there was already one town by that name in the county, in 1865 the name was changed. Centralia was incorporated in 1866 with the coal mines the principal employer. That remained true for almost 100 years until the 1960s when most of the companies went out of business. In 1962, the population was 1,435 with more residents in the unincorporated areas.

The fire spread underground. Locals tried to put out the fire and after just a few days knew it was beyond their scope of expertise. Others were brought in and the fire continued to burn regardless of attempts to extinguish it. Residents of the town were being affected by the raging fire below. The byproducts, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, along with lower oxygen levels were making residents ill. By 1979, when checking an underground fuel tank for a local gas station, it was found to be hotter than expected. The fire was spreading. In 1981, Todd Domboski (12) almost fell into a hole four feet in diameter and 150 feet deep which opened up suddenly in his grandmother’s backyard.

In 1984 Congress allocated $42 million for relocation efforts. Most of the locals accepted the buyouts and moved away. In 1992, Pennsylvania claimed eminent domain and condemned all the buildings in the area. By 2002, the US Postal Service revoked the zip code for Centralia. The roads are buckling or disintegrating. The fire continues to burn. Most of the region looks like a barren landscape with smoldering vents belching noxious smoke. Pennsylvania Route 61 was repaired several times and then finally abandoned with a detour built in the mid-1990s. In the 2000 census 21 people still called Centralia home. There were only seven still there by 2007, making it the least-populated municipality in Pennsylvania.

This was a world where no human could live, hotter than the planet Mercury, its atmosphere as poisonous as Saturn’s. At the heart of the fire, temperatures easily exceeded 1,000 degrees. Lethal clouds of carbon monoxide and other gases swirled through the rock chambers. – David DeKok

Walking and/or driving in the immediate area could result in serious injury or death. There are dangerous gases present, and the ground is prone to sudden and unexpected collapse. – sign from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

Despite the inferno below them and the gases that seep into their basements, some Centralians do not want to leave their homes and remain convinced that it’s all a plot by coal companies to drive them off valuable land since the borough owns mineral rights to the coal below. – Greg Walter (1981)

Pennsylvania didn’t have enough money in the bank to do the job. If you aren’t going to put it out, what can you do? Move the people. – Steve Jones, a geologist with Pennsylvania Office of Surface Mining

Also on this day:

No More Burnt Toast – In 1919 a toaster with a timer is patented.
St. Pete – In 1703, St. Petersburg, Russia was founded.
Model T & A – In 1927, Ford Motor Co. began the switch from Model T to Model A.

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Model T & A

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 27, 2011

1908 Ford Model T ad from Oct. 1, 1908 Life magazine

May 27, 1927: Ford Motor Company begins retooling plants. The Ford Model T began production in 1908. The car was also called the Tin Lizzie, Flivver, or simply T. The car’s popularity was such that it’s availability marks the general popularity of the automobile in general. It was the first affordable automobile and opened up travel to middle America and in years to come, the world. The assembly line production reduced costs and workers were paid a wage large enough to be able to afford to buy a car. This produced a ready market for the commodity. The first car was produced on August 12, 1908 and left the factory on September 27, 1908.

The Model T was not the first car Henry Ford produced. The company began in 1903 and he built a prototype Model A. There were not models built for every letter although the car just prior to the Model T was the Model S, the car the S replaced was the Model N. The Model T was designed by Childe Harold Wills along with Joseph A. Galamb and Eugene Farkas and team of other engineers. Within ten years, half the cars in America were Ford’s Tin Lizzie. Most of them were black. The color was durable and lasted well. Thirty different black paints were used, however from 1908 to 1914 and again in 1926 and 1927, other colors (red, blue, green, and gray) were available.

The car got 25 miles to the gallon and had a 20-horsepower engine running a two speed transmission and could reach 45 mph. Vanadium steel gave the car both durability and a lighter weight. In 1914, Ford put out 308,162 cars, more than all the other car makers combined. More than 15 million of the cars were made before production ceased on May 26, 1927. The next day, the retooling began for Ford’s new Model. Again, not quite following the alphabet, the next Model offered to the general public was the Model A.

The first A car rolled off the assembly line on October 20, 1927 but didn’t go on sale until December 2. It was called a 1927 model and came in four different colors, none of them black. Production of the Model A ended in March 1932 after nearly 5 million were made. The 40-horsepower engine got between 25 and 30 miles to the gallon and had a top speed of 65 mph. The wheelbase was slightly wider than the T and it had a 3 speed transmission with a 1 speed reverse. The Model A also came in a variety of styles – 25 of them. After retiring in 1932, it was replaced by the Model B.

“Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”

“A bore is a person who opens his mouth and puts his feats in it.”

“An idealist is a person who helps other people to be prosperous.”

“Before everything else, getting ready is the secret of success.” – all from Henry Ford

Also on this day:
No More Burnt Toast – In 1919 a toaster with a timer is patented.
St. Pete – In 1703, St. Petersburg, Russia was founded.

No More Burnt Toast

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 27, 2010

Some old style toasters

May 27, 1919: Charles Strite, sick of being served burnt toast, applies for a patent for a pop-up toaster with a variable timer. The patent was granted in October 1921 and The Waters Genter Company was formed to market the new invention to restaurants. By 1926, the modified toaster was branded as Toastmaster and available for sale to harried housewives trying to get breakfast on the table.

People have been eating bread for about 6,000 years. They have been toasting it with varying success since Roman times. Toasting over an open fire made for uneven heating at best and burnt bread in a worst case scenario. Each side of the bread had to be toasted separately. The first electric toaster to hit the market came from England in 1893 and was a dismal failure. The idea was tantalizing, but failed over in the US as well. There were at least two different brands of toasters made before General Electric’s patent for one that was marginally successful. The bread was toasted on one side and then had to be toasted on the other.

The first citation for “toast” meaning “history” or  completely over, passé, done … comes from The St. Petersburg Times on October 1, 1987. This meaning of toast comes from the inefficiency of the toaster. It means “burned, scorched, wiped out, demolished.” The word “toast” comes from the Latin word, torrere, which means “to burn.” How toast also came to mean a salute with a glass of libations is another story.

Toasters are dependant on other technologies. Electricity for power needed to be harnessed prior and available to homes or businesses before we could plug in the first automatic toaster. This was accomplished in the 1880s. The wires of the toaster need to get to a temperature of 310º F and a special alloy was needed. Albert Marsh developed nichrome, a nickel-chromium blend, in 1905. These wires could endure the temperatures needed for the time specified by the timer. Today, toasters come in 2- or 4- slice varieties and can accommodate wide slices or bagels. We also have toaster ovens and conveyor toasters. But they still can burn your toast.

“I cast my bread on the waters long ago. Now it’s time for you to send it back to me – toasted and buttered on both sides.” – Jesse Jackson

“You know that Pepperidge Farm bread, that stuff is fancy. That stuff is wrapped twice. You open it, and then it still ain’t open. That’s why I don’t buy it, I don’t need another step between me and toast.” – Mitch Hedberg

“The privileges of the side-table included the small prerogatives of sitting next to the toast, and taking two cups of tea to other people’s one.” – Charles Dickens

“If toast always lands butter-side down, and cats always land on their feet, what happens if you strap toast on the back of a cat and drop it?” – Stephen Wright

Also on this day:
In 1703, St. Petersburg, Russia was founded.
In 1927, retooling the factories began for Ford’s Model A.

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