Little Bits of History

May 28

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 28, 2017

1907: The first Isle of Man TT race is held. The Tourist Trophy Race is a yearly motorcycle sporting event held on the island situated between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland in the Irish Sea. The island’s topography is hilly with only one peak topping 2,000 feet and there is a central valley. It is 32 miles at the longest point and 14 miles wide at the widest. Motor racing began on the island in 1904 due to legal constraints in England limiting the speeds for cars to 20 mph or less. The Automobile Car Club of Britain and Ireland sought permission from the government of the island to use their public roads for an elimination time trial race using the Highroads Course for the event. It took the winner 7 hours and 26.5 minutes to make five laps of the 52.15 mile course.

In 1905, after the winning time came in at 6 hours and 6 minutes with an extra lap driven, it was thought to give motorcycles a chance to run the course on the following day. There was an accident at Ramsey Hairpin and the bikes had difficulty climbing the steep Mountain Section of the course and so they rode on a 25 mile section of the Gordon Bennett Trial course instead. That day’s event had five laps or 125 miles covered and was won in 4 hours and 9 minutes despite a fire during a pit stop. The average speed was 30.04 mph for the race. It was such a success that the TT Races were officially organized and have run yearly since 1907. The original race was held on St. John’s Short Course and consisted of 10 laps for a distance of 158 miles. Charlie Collier won the race on his 3 ½ hp Matchless motorcycle at an average speed of 38.21 mph in 4:08:08.2.

Since 1911, the Snaefell Mountain Course has been used for the road racing event. It is 37.733 miles long and is closed to public during race events. It is the oldest motorcycle racing circuit still in use and is one of the deadliest as well with 248 people having died during the TT Race and the Grand Prix Race also held on the course. Glen Helen died in 1911 during a practice run of the course and 14 officials, spectators, and other non-racers have died on the course. The difficulty of the course lies in part to the over 200 turns along the less than 38 mile course.

The Isle of Man TT Race has been administered by the Auto-Cycle Union (the Auto-Cycle Club) since its inception. It was one the most prestigious motorcycle races in the world and was seen as a test of both machine and man. The fastest lap at the race was run by Michael Dunlop in 2016 when he made a lap in 16 minutes and 53.929 seconds. He also holds the race record of 1 hour 43 minutes, and 56.129 seconds for an average speed of 130.685 mph, also in 2016. The unofficial top speed reached during a race belongs to Bruce Anstey who hit 206 mph in 2006. The lap record for the Sidecar TT is 19 minutes and 22.928 seconds with an average speed of 116.798 mph with Ben Birchall driving and Tom Birchall as the passenger in the sidecar. This was set in 2016. The most wins is held by Joey Dunlop with 26. He is the uncle of Michael.

You do not need a therapist if you own a motorcycle, any kind of motorcycle! – Dan Aykroyd

A motorcycle is an independent thing. – Ryan Hurst

If I’m out trailriding, I have a favorite motorcycle. Riding on the road, I’ve got a favorite. If I’m jumping, I have a favorite, and if I’m racing, I have a favorite. – Evel Knievel

It wasn’t until I went to college and I got my first motorcycle that I understood the thrill of speed. – Vin Diesel



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Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 28, 2015
Mathias Rust coming in for a landing

Mathias Rust coming in for a landing

May 28, 1987: Mathias Rust lands in Moscow. Rust was a fairly inexperienced pilot with about 50 hours of flying time and from Wedel, Germany. He was 18 years old and rented a Reims Cessna F 172P D-ECJB on May 13. He flew out of Uetersen in northern Germany and near his hometown and headed northwest. His first stop was the Faroe Islands and then he spent a week in Iceland. While in Iceland, he visited Hofdi House where the year before the US and USSR had met for unsuccessful peace talks. After he left Iceland and headed east again, he landed in Bergen, Norway and Helsinki, Finland. The two week trip was a way for him to test his piloting skills.

He refueled at the Helsinki-Malmi Airport and told air traffic control he was planning on Stockholm, Sweden as his next stop which was west of his current location. He took off at 12.21 PM and as soon as he made his final communication with air traffic control, he turned his plane and headed east. Air traffic control tried to contact him as he was entering busy space near the Helsinki-Moscow route, but Rust had turned off his radio and was incommunicado. After disappearing from Finnish radar near Sipoo, it was presumed the young pilot had encountered an emergency and search and rescue was instituted. A Finnish Border Guard patrol boat located an oil slick in the approximate area where the plane went missing. An underwater search was performed without finding the plane.

Rust was still in the air and crossed the Baltic coastline over Estonia and turned towards Moscow. At 2.29 PM local time he appeared on Soviet Air Defense (PVO) radar. He did not respond to an IFF signal and was assigned combat number 8255. He was tracked by three different SAM divisions but there was no authorization to launch anything to stop him. All air defense was brought to readiness and two interceptors were sent to investigate. At 2.48 PM a white sport plane was found and yet there were orders to not engage the plane. The fighters soon lost contact with Rust. Two more times, he was investigated but not halted.

Around 7 PM, Rust arrived in the air space over Moscow. He had intended to land at the Kremlin but changed his mind, thinking of security issues. Instead, he chose the Red Square but heavy pedestrian traffic made that impossible. He set down on a bridge by St. Basil’s Cathedral. Rust was arrested two hours later. He was charged with many small crimes and was finally released in August 1988 as a goodwill gesture to the West. He was fined €7,500 by the Finnish government for the dive and the oil slick was never explained. Mikhail Gorbachev used the stunt as a way to clean house and fired several military leaders who let the teen through their “impregnable” defenses. It helped to bring an end to the Cold War. Rust has led a checkered life since, imprisoned for attempted manslaughter as well as other misadventures with the legal system.

An unbelievable dream had come true.

Something must be done to improve the situation (Cold War).

I shouldn’t have done it; otherwise I would have had an easier life.

Without that experience, I would have turned out like have today. – all from Mathias Rust

Also on this day: It Can’t Be Done – In 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge opened to traffic.
Beautiful Dining – In 1999, The Last Supper’s restoration was completed.
Sierra Club – In 1892, John Muir became the club’s first president.
Five – In 1934, the Dionne quintuplets were born.
Exact Date – Maybe – In 585 BC, a solar eclipse took place.

Exact Date – Maybe

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 28, 2014


May 28, 585 BC: A predicted solar eclipse brings a truce. According to The Histories of Herodotus, the Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus predicted an upcoming eclipse and it was interpreted as an omen. When the eclipse took place, the battle between the Medes and the Lydians came to an abrupt halt and a truce was called. Modern day astronomers can calculate the dates of historical eclipses and so this event can be accurately placed in history and it sits as a marker for other dates as well. Because of the accuracy of current astronomy, the battle has the earliest precisely known historical event date.

Herodotus was born 100 years later around 484 BC and died around 425 BC about age 60. The Histories is the first chronicle of previous events and Cicero called Herodotus “The Father of History” while Voltaire called him “The Father of Lies”. He systematically collected data and checked for accuracy as well as he could. His accounts are vivid stories. His goal was to investigate the origins of the Greco-Persian Wars and his narrative gives not only geographical but ethnographical information to all later generations. Herodotus claimed he was only reporting what was told to him.

For this particular war, Herodotus stated there were two reasons for conflict. The first was clashing interests in Anatolia but a more sinister reason was a need for revenge. Scythian hunters employed by the Medes returned from a hunt empty-handed and were insulted by the Medes King Cyaxares. The hunters then slaughtered one of the King’s sons and served him as dinner to the Medes. Then they fled to Sardis, the capital of the Lydians. When the King learned of the treachery, he asked that the hunters/murderers be returned to him and Alyattes II (ruler of the Lydian Empire) refused. The Medes invaded.

NASA has calculated the exact course of the eclipse in question. It peaked over the Atlantic Ocean at 37.9⁰N 46.2⁰W and the umbral path reached the area in question, southwestern Anatolia, in the evening hours and the Halys River is just within the accepted path. So, this is an exact recording of a historically dated event. Unless, Herodotus was in error and his hearsay evidence was carelessly recounted. Or perhaps the solar eclipse is a misinterpretation of the event and it was a lunar eclipse instead. If instead of seeing a full moon, a lunar eclipse blocked the light as dusk fell, it would also be rather striking. But if this is the case, that means the date is wrong and the battle would have taken place on either September 3, 609 BC or perhaps July 4, 587 BC when such dusk-time lunar eclipses took place. All dates were long before Herodotus was writing.

Men trust their ears less than their eyes.

The only good is knowledge, and the only evil is ignorance.

If a man insisted always on being serious, and never allowed himself a bit of fun and relaxation, he would go mad or become unstable without knowing it.

It is better by noble boldness to run the risk of being subject to half the evils we anticipate than to remain in cowardly listlessness for fear of what might happen. – all from Herodotus

Also on this day: It Can’t Be Done – In 1937 the Golden Gate Bridge is opened to traffic.
Beautiful Dining – In 1999, The Last Supper’s restoration was completed.
Sierra Club – In 1892, John Muir became the club’s first president.
Five – In 1934, the Dionne quintuplets were born.

Beautiful Dining

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 28, 2013
The Last Supper

The Last Supper

May 28, 1999: After 21 years of restorative work, Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper is placed back on display. The painting was made on dry plaster rather than wet, so it is not a true fresco. A fresco cannot be modified as the artist works. Da Vinci therefore sealed a stone wall with pitch, gesso, and mastic (two types of resins and a chalky substance) and then painted with tempura, a type of paint made by mixing the color in an egg medium. Because of the method used, the mural began to deteriorate quickly after completion.

The painting is 15 feet by 29 feet and was painted on the back walls of the dining hall at Santa Maria della Grazie, a convent in Milan, Italy during the years 1495-1498 (it is thought). As early as 1517, the paint was flaking. By 1556 the work was described as “ruined” and the figures deemed unrecognizable. In 1652 a doorway was cut through the wall, further damaging the mural and has since been bricked up again. There have been many restorations, beginning in 1726. The building itself sustained damage, being bombed during World War II.

The painting was done portraying each of the disciples as they reacted to Jesus’ prediction that one of his 12 chosen would betray him. There are four groups of three disciples with Jesus at the center. Bartholomew, James – son of Alphaeus, and Andrew (all surprised); Judas Iscariot, Peter, and John (Judas withdrawn, Peter angry, and John swooning); Thomas, James the Greater, and Philip (Thomas upset, James stunned, and Philip seeking an explanation); and Matthew, Jude Thaddeus, and Simon the Zealot (the first two turned to Simon looking for clarification).

By the late 1970s, the mural was in terrible shape. For 21 years (1978-1999) Pinin Brambilla Barcilon led a major restoration project. Since it was not possible to move the artwork, the venue itself was altered to produce a controlled environment to protect the work. The use of infrared reflectoscopy and microscopic core samples along with original sketches guided the restoration. The painting can now be viewed by appointment only and the visitor is permitted to stay for only 15 minutes.

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

“Art is never finished, only abandoned.”

“Iron rusts from disuse; water loses its purity from stagnation … even so does inaction sap the vigour of the mind.”

“Where there is shouting, there is no true knowledge.” – all from Leonardo da Vinci

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan, is presumed to be the sponsor for this work.  He lived from 1452 until 1508 and was the patron for the Milanese Renaissance. Ludovico was the fourth son of Francesco I Sforza and his older brother assumed control of Milan at their father’s death. Galeazzo was not well received and after his assassination in 1476, there was a struggle for power between Gian, his seven year old son, and Ludovico, his brother. Despite the boy’s mother’s attempts, Ludovico wrested power and ruled over Milan for the next 13 years as regent. Leonardo da Vinci helped plan the wedding of Ludovico and Beatrice d’Este in 1491. The couple had two children (and Ludovico also had two other illegitimate children). He died as a prisoner of the French at the castle of Loches at the age of 55.

Also on this day It Can’t Be Done – In 1937 the Golden Gate Bridge is opened to traffic.
Sierra Club – In 1892, John Muir became the club’s first president.
Five – In 1934, the Dionne quintuplets were born.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 28, 2012

The Dionnes

May 28, 1934: Yvonne, Annette, Cécile, Émilie, and Marie Dionne are born. Their parents, Oliva (father) and Elzire (mother) married September 15, 1926 and already had five children. Ernest, Rose Marie, Therese, Daniel, and Pauline were waiting for the birth of the new baby. Pauline was only eleven months old at the time of the birth. Léo had died shortly after his birth.  Elzire thought she might be having twins. They were born three months early with two midwifes beginning the birthing process. Dr. Allan Roy Dafoe was present for the birth of the last two babies. He is credited with the birth of all the children.

Their births were recorded in Corbeil, a larger town near Callander, Ontario, Canada. The birth order and the babies’ weights were not recorded. The three larger babies were born first. All five were wrapped in cotton sheets and napkins and laid in the corner of the bed. Dr. Dafoe was sure they wouldn’t survive. Elzire went into shock soon after the births and it wasn’t certain she would survive, either. However, all of them did survive. The Dionne quintuplets were the first set of quints to survive infancy. They were determined to be identical, all stemming from one fertilized egg. We know of only a handful of cases where identical quints were born (1786, 1849, 1936, 1959, 2004, and 2007) and to date, this is the only case where all five survived.

The babies were kept in a wicker basket and various methods were used to keep them warm. News spread around the world and congratulations and well wishes began to pour in. By the time they were four months old, the Ontario government decided the parents were unfit to care for the infants and removed them from custody. The government would be their guardian and care would be supervised by Dr. Dafoe. At first they would be kept “safe” just for two years. But as they became an ever more popular tourist attraction, it was deemed they needed to be under government care until they were 18. The Dafoe Hospital and Nursery was built for the girls and their caregivers. Their parents were sometimes permitted to visit.

The Dionnes had three more sons after the quints were born, Oliva Jr., Victor, and Claude. In November 1943, the girls were finally returned to their family. The quints were still popular and traveled to various functions. Their home life was scarred by their years in the custody of the government. All the girls left home when they reached 18. Émilie died at age 20 after having a seizure. Marie died at age 35 from an apparent blood clot of the brain. Yvonne died of cancer at age 67. Annette and Cecile are still living.

Our lives have been ruined by the exploitation we suffered at the hands of the government of Ontario, our place of birth. We were displayed as a curiosity three times a day for millions of tourists.

To all those who have expressed their support in light of the abuse we have endured, we say thank you.

Multiple births should not be confused with entertainment, nor should they be an opportunity to sell products.

We sincerely hope a lesson will be learned from examining how our lives were forever altered by our childhood experience. – all from an open letter from Annette, Cecile and Yvonne Dionne to the McCaugheys

Also on this day:

It Can’t Be Done – In 1937 the Golden Gate Bridge is opened to traffic.
Beautiful Dining – In 1999, The Last Supper’s restoration was completed.
Sierra Club – In 1892, John Muir became the club’s first president.

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Sierra Club

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 28, 2011

John Muir

May 28, 1892: John Muir organizes and becomes the first president of the newly formed preservationist organization – the Sierra Club. Muir started with 128 charter members and remained president for 22 years, until his death. The first project for the club was the defeat of pending legislation that would infringe on the boundaries ofYosemite Valley’s protected lands.

Muir was born inScotlandin 1838 and his family moved toWisconsinin 1949. He went to theUniversityofWisconsinwhere he took his first botany class. He was enchanted but rather than graduate, decided to learn in by studying Nature herself. He walked fromFloridatoIndiana, studying the flora and fauna. He intended to go to South America, but when he contracted malaria, he opted to stay inSan Francisco.

Muir spent eight days exploring theYosemite Valleyand was struck by the vast beauty. After his vacation, he moved to the Sierra foothills and worked at several jobs. He took a job shepherding closer toYosemiteand used his spare time to further study the intricate landscape. He urged that the area be set up as a protected area. It was, but it remained initially in the control of the state rather than a national park.

Today, the Sierra Club has over 750,000 members in Americawith a sister organization in Canada. There are chapters across the country protecting 150 million acres of wilderness and wildlife habitats. Over 83% of each dollar collected is used for conservation and preservation activities. The club also publishes a bi-monthly magazine, SIERRA, and has since 1893 when the forerunner first hit print, the Sierra Club Bulletin. The written material helps to deliver in depth analysis of environmental concerns.

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul.”

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”

“God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.”

“No temple made with hands can compare withYosemite.” – all from John Muir

Also on this day:
It Can’t Be Done – In 1937 the Golden Gate Bridge is opened to traffic.
Beautiful Dining – In 1999, The Last Supper’s restoration was completed.

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It Can’t Be Done

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 28, 2010

Golden Gate Bridge under construction

May 28, 1937: President Franklin D. Roosevelt pushes a button in Washington, DC signaling traffic in San Francisco, California, officially opening the Golden Gate Bridge to vehicles. The bridge opened to 200,000 celebrating pedestrians the day before. The bridge is part of US Route 101 and California State Route 1.

The bridge connects northern San Francisco with southern Marin County, a feat that was accomplished by ferry prior to the bridge’s construction. Joseph Strauss began drawing conceptualizations for a bridge spanning the Golden Gate Straight in 1921. Construction on the suspension bridge began January 5, 1933. The total length of the bridge is 1.7 miles with the longest span measuring 4,200 feet. At the time of construction, Golden Gate Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world. There are six lanes of traffic; moveable cones allow for four lanes in one direction and two in the other, with changes for rush hour traffic patterns. It is also open to pedestrians and bicycles with special lanes built for the slower traffic.

The toll for the bridge is $5 when entering San Francisco. All pedestrian traffic is free. The bridge is notorious as a suicide venue. More than 1,200 people have jumped to their deaths. It is impossible to get an accurate count as many suicides are not witnessed. Some who survive the initial jump drown or die of hypothermia since the waters get as cold as 47° F. Twenty-six jumpers have survived the 220 foot drop.

The bridge was originally billed as “the bridge that can’t be built” but through hard work and determination the builders managed to combat the tides, the winds, the fogs, costs, and danger. Only eleven men perished during construction – ten of them at one time when the safety net malfunctioned. The bridge is built to withstand 100 mph winds and has a 27 foot sway allowance. The bridge is painted international orange. Due to salt issues, in 1965 a program to remove all the original paint and apply a special paint to slow erosion was undertaken. It took 30 years to complete the task and now paint is maintained with touch-ups in an ongoing, as-needed basis.

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” – Henry Ford

“The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers.  But above all, the world needs dreamers who do.” – Sarah Ban Breathnach

“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.” – Newt Gingrich

“Work isn’t to make money; you work to justify life.” – Marc Chagall

Also on this day:
In 1999, the restoration of Leonardo da Vinci’s
Last Supper was revealed.
In 1892,
John Muir organized the Sierra Club.