Little Bits of History

May 29

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 29, 2017

1913: Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring is first performed. Stravinsky was born in Russia in 1882. His compositional career began in 1910 with his first ballet commissioned by Sergei Diaghilev. It was followed by a second ballet performed again in Paris and again by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in 1911. His breakthrough came with the Rite of Spring which was so unusual it caused a near-riot at Théâtre des Champs-Élysées on this day at the premiere. Both the music and choreography were so sensational, the audience was up in arms. The choreography was by Vaslav Nijinsky and the stage and costume designs were provided by Nicholas Roerich. The ballet was written for the stage, but the music itself achieved recognition alone as a concert piece. It is widely considered to be one of the most influential musical works of the century.

While Stravinsky’s first two ballets received good reviews, his third was astonishing. Roerich and Stravinsky worked to develop the story line which is suggested by the subtitle of the work, “Pictures of Pagan Russia in Two Parts”. Various primitive pagan rituals are practiced in order to determine the sacrificial virgin for the event. She then dances herself to death. The ballet had a short run and then was not performed again until the 1920s and then with choreography by Léonide Massine. The original choreography was thought to be lost but resurfaced for a performance in Los Angeles by the Joffrey Ballet in the 1980s.

Stravinsky’s music had many novel features, which in part led to the riotous behavior on this day. He experimented with tonality, meter, rhythm, stress, and dissonance. There was a significant nod to Russian folk music, something Stravinsky tended to deny. This music influenced much of the work that followed and Rite of Spring one of the most recorded works in classical music. The music was first performed as a concert on February 18, 1914 in St. Petersburg with Serge Koussevitzky conducting. On April 5, 1914 (less than a year after a “near riot”) the work was again offered as a concert piece with Stravinsky in the audience. The crowd was so pleased, they carried him triumphantly out of the theater on the shoulders of his fans.

Stravinsky not only wrote ballets, he wrote operas with his first being The Nightingale (Le Rossignol) begun in 1908. This was even before he began his association with the ballet and he received 10,000 rubles for his work which was finally finished in 1914. Stravinsky suffered under a change of regime and moved to France in 1920 and was sponsored by Coco Chanel. When World War II broke out in 1939, he was able to leave for the US at the age of 57. He settled in California and lived for thirty years with musicians, artists, and intelligentsia on the west coast. He moved to the Essex House in New York City in 1969 and lived there until his death in 1971 at the age of 88. He is buried at San Michele, as is his friend, Sergei Diaghilev.

I loathe all communism, Marxism, the execrable Soviet monster, and also all liberalism, democratism, atheism, etc.

I know that the twelve notes in each octave and the variety of rhythm offer me opportunities that all of human genius will never exhaust.

I haven’t understood a bar of music in my life, but I have felt it.

To listen is an effort, and just to hear is no merit. A duck hears also.  – all from Igor Stravinsky

Fourth Unsuccessful Try

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 29, 2015
Benito Mussolini

Benito Mussolini

May 29, 1931: Michele Schirru is executed. He was born in 1899 in Sardinia, the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea (after Sicily) which remains an autonomous region of Italy. He was raised in Pozzomaggiore, in the northwest part of the island. He was able to attend school through the sixth grade at which time he was hired by a blacksmith as an apprentice. His father left for the US and settled in New York City. Michele was admitted to the Maritime School of La Spezia. He was forced to quit school after an illness. He served in World War I with fourteen months of active service. After the war, he returned to Pozzomaggiaore.

During 1919-1920, the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) participated in a series of occupations of factories. The workers took over the control of the factories making them “recovered” and self-managed them. This allowed them to continue to earn a living rather than staging a strike or incurring a lock out. Schirru was disappointed at the abandonment of this practice and felt betrayed by the PSI. He wrote a manifesto regarding his disillusionment of both the Socialist Party and the General Confederation of Labour leaders. He decided to leave Italy and first moved to France. In November 1920, he came to the US and became a naturalized citizen in 1926. He worked in New York City as a vendor on Arthur Avenue.

Benito Mussolini was leader of the National Fascist Party and ruled as Prime Minister from 1922 until 1943. He ruled legally until 1925 and then abandoned the fiction of a democracy. He set up a legal dictatorship with himself as leader and known as Il Duce. He was one of the key people in the creation of fascism. His rule and ideology were directly opposed to the socialist and anarchist views of Schirru. Many people did not agree with Mussolini. Violet Gibson was the first to try to assassinate the leader. In 1926, the Irish daughter of Lord Ashbourne attempted to get rid of Mussolini and after her failure, she was deported.

About six months after the first attempt, in October of 1926, a 15-year-old in Bologna tried to shoot Mussolini. Anteo Zamboni was captured immediately and lynched on the spot. Anarchist Gino Lucetti tried to assassinate the leader while in Rome. He, too, failed. Schirru was the next person to try. He was captured and executed on this date. After Zamboni’s failed attempt, other political parties were outlawed, making the state officially one-party – something it had been in practice since 1925. Mussolini and his mistress were captured on April 27, 1945 as they tried to escape to Spain via Switzerland. They, along with most of the members of their 15-man train which were made up of mostly ministers and officials of the Italian Social Republic, were summarily shot on April 28. The next day, their corpses were loaded into a van and taken to Milan.

When the workers, submitting to the cowardly betrayal of the Socialist Party and General Confederation of Labour leadership, returned the factories to their legal owners, I was one of those who felt disgusted and humiliated at the missed opportunity and for the precious energies that had been squandered in vain. So I decided to expatriate, feeling that there was nothing more to be done in Italy. – Michele Schirru

War alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon peoples who have courage to face it. – Benito Mussolini

If surviving assassination attempts were an Olympic event, I would win the gold medal. – Fidel Castro

In times of anarchy, one may seem a despot in order to be a savior. – Honore Mirabeau

Also on this day: The Top of the World – In 1953, Mount Everest was conquered.
Running the World – In 1954, the Bilderberg Group held their first conference.
Empress of Ireland – In 1914, nearly a thousand people died when the ship sank.
I’m Dreaming – In 1942, Bing Crosby recorded a song.
Jenny Lind – In 1852, the singer left the US.

Jenny Lind

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 29, 2014
Jenny Lind

Jenny Lind

May 29, 1852: Jenny Lind bids a fond farewell to the US. Johanna Maria Lind was born on October 6, 1820 in Stockholm, Sweden. Her mother ran a day school out of their house and when Jenny was nine she was heard singing by Mademoiselle Lundberg’s maid. Lundberg was the principal dancer at the Royal Swedish Opera and the maid knew great singing when she heard it. The next day, the maid returned to the school with Lundberg who then arranged an audition as well as helped Jenny gain admission to the Royal Dramatic Theatre. Lind began singing on stage when she was ten. By the age of twelve, she needed to give her voice a rest for a short time but managed to recover.

Her first big role came when she was eighteen and by age twenty, she was made a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music and was a court singer to the King of Sweden and Norway. Her voice was severely damaged by overuse and her untrained singing technique. In 1841 to 1843 she came under the tutelage of Manuel Garcia in Paris. Her voice was so damaged, she was told not to sing at all for three months and then he began to teach her a better technique. Her voice recovered and the beautiful soprano was back in business. In 1843 she met Hans Christian Anderson who fell in love with her, but she did not return his affection and the two managed to become friends with Lind inspiring three of Anderson’s fairy tales.

The Swedish Nightingale swept Europe and eventually came to the notice of the US. In 1850 she was at the height of her popularity and she and PT Barnum to worked together to secure a tour of the US. It began in September 1850 and continued until this day when she left once again for England. Her first concerts in America were so popular and tickets were in such demand that Barnum sold them by auction. The nation was in a frenzy to hear the beautiful voice and “Lind Mania” was perpetuated by the press of the day. Both Lind and Barnum raised large amounts of cash from the tour. Lind was accompanied by Giovanni Belletti, a supporting baritone, and Julius Benedict as pianist, arranger, and conductor. Benedict left in 1851 and was replaced by Otto Goldschmidt whom she married in February 1852. Barnum’s relentless promotional tactics became ever more distasteful and Lind and he parted ways in 1851 under amicable circumstances.

The original contract between Lind and Barnum was altered along the way and eventually, Lind gave 93 concerts in America for Barnum which netted her $350,000 and Barnum received at least $500,000. From the outset, Lind had chosen specific charities to be the recipients of all her profit from the tour. Most of her munificence was sent to free schools in Sweden, but she also gave to local charities in the US. Her final concert before sailing away was held in New York City and was said to have been “attended by the largest and finest audience we ever saw assembled in New York.” She sang a new song at this final stop called “Farewell to America”.

My voice is still the same, and this makes me beside myself with Joy! Oh, mon Dieu, when I think what I might be able to do with it! – Jenny Lind

I have brightness in my soul, which strains toward Heaven. I am like a bird! – Jenny Lind

The extreme burst of her voice in the upper portion of its register is far beyond the ordinary range of sopranos, and she has acquired the power of moulding the higher notes entirely at her will. By this she is enabled to produce some of the most astonishing effects upon the listener. – from a critic writing at Nashville, Tennessee

How we all loved Jennie Lind, but not accustomed oft to her manner of singing didn’t fancy that so well as we did her. – Emily Dickinson

Also on this day: The Top of the World – In 1953 Mount Everest in conquered.
Running the World – In 1954, the Bilderberg Group held their first conference.
Empress of Ireland – In 1914, nearly a thousand people died when the ship sank.
I’m Dreaming – In 1942, Bing Crosby recorded a song.

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Running the World

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 29, 2013
The Bilderberg Group or Club

The Bilderberg Group or Club

May 29, 1954: The Bilderberg Group holds their first conference. The Bilderberg Group (Club or Conference) met the first year at the Hotel de Bilderberg near Arnhem in The Netherlands and was named after the venue. The group of influential personages meets yearly. The invitation-only conference seats around 150 powerful world citizens. The venue changes yearly. The hosting nations are predominantly European and once every four years the meeting is held in North America. The 2007 meeting was held at the Ritz-Carlton in Istanbul, Turkey while the 2008 conference was held at Chantilly, Virginia in the US. The 2009 conference was in Athens, Greece from May 14 to 16.

The group met for the first time after Joseph Retinger proposed a meeting to discuss world issues, especially anti-Americanism in Western Europe. Retinger, a politically minded individual, approached Prince Bernhard of The Netherlands who agreed to help promote the idea. Eventually, the planners contacted powers in the US. A guest list was drawn up with two people invited from each country; one conservative and one liberal person to ensure all points of view were covered. The first meeting was successful and the event became an annual affair.

Attendees include central bankers, defense experts, media moguls, government ministers, international financiers, and political leaders including prime ministers and royalty. Because of the powerful positions held by the attendees, they are seen as the elite of the elite. There are some who claim the 3 to 4-day meetings set world policy and fears of conspiracy abound. Journalists have been invited to the conference and have denied the conspiracy charges saying the conference is not any different than other seminars.

With so many influential people congregating in one place, it is impossible to quell rumors. The group retains privacy for most sessions to encourage open and frank discussion leading the jaded and cynical to outrageous charges. The Bilderberg Group has been accused of regulating banking and world markets to the detriment of the common man. Some accuse them of liberal conspiracy plots while others point to conservative conspiracies. Others claim the group is encouraging, via the press, citizens around the world to give up their hard-won democratic rights. The lunatic fringe insists the policy of inviting both liberals and conservatives somehow proves conspiracy. Both Bill Clinton (1991) and Tony Blair (1993) have attended conferences.

“Bilderberg is the most useful international group I ever attended. The confidentiality enabled people to speak honestly without fear of repercussions. In my experience the most useful meetings are those when one is free to speak openly and honestly. It’s not unusual at all. Cabinet meetings in all countries are held behind closed doors and the minutes are not published.” – Lord Healey

“There need to be places where these people can think about the main challenges ahead, co-ordinate where policies should be going, and find out where there could be a consensus.” – Professor Kees van der Pijl

“The idea that a shadowy clique is running the world is nothing new. For hundreds of years people have believed the world is governed by a cabal of Jews.” – Alasdair Spark

“My main problem is the secrecy. When so many people with so much power get together in one place I think we are owed an explanation of what is going on.” – Tony Gosling

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: The Bilderberg Group held meetings in Spain, Switzerland, and the US (again at Chantilly) since this article first appeared. Henri de Castries is chairman of the steering committee and has been since 2001. Bill Clinton (as noted above) as well as Gerald Ford have attended, Ford twice (1964 and 1966). Four US Senators have participated (Tom Daschle, John Edwards, Chuck Hagel, and Sam Nunn). There have been five US governors attending as well, all in this century. There have been six princes (including Prince Charles in 1986) who have attended, one of them now the King of the Netherlands. There were two kings in attendance and two queens. Queen Beatrix (the Netherlands) has attended more than any other royal – eight times.

Also on this day The Top of the World – In 1953 Mount Everest in conquered.
Empress of Ireland – In 1914, nearly a thousand people died when the ship sank.
I’m Dreaming – In 1942, Bing Crosby recorded a song.

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I’m Dreaming

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 29, 2012

May 29, 1942: Bing Crosby and the Ken Darby Singers record a song for Decca Records. Crosby had first sung the song on Christmas Day the year before on his radio show, The Kraft Music Hall, but that recording is lost. It took only eighteen minutes to record the song which was released on June 30 as part of an album. Six songs played on 78-rpm records were sold for the movie, Holiday Inn. The song wasn’t an immediate hit and was overshadowed by “Be Careful, It’s my Heart” also from the album. By October the second song topped “Your Hit Parade” and stayed at number one until the next year. The blockbuster? “White Christmas.”

The song was written by Irving Berlin. He had stayed up all night, sitting poolside while composing. In the morning, he told his secretary he may have written the best song ever – for his own career and possibly in the world of music. Depending on figures, the song has sold at least 50 million copies, with Guinness Book of World Records listing 100 million copies, for all versions of the song, including albums. Crosby’s Merry Christmas collection was first released in 1949 and has never been out of print since that time. “ItsRanked” gave the number one spot to Crosby’s version of “White Christmas” when listing the top Christmas songs of all time.

Berlin was a prolific and influential composer and lyricist. His first hit was “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” in 1911 when Berlin was 23. He continued to write music for 60 years and wrote an estimated 1,500 songs, including the scores for nineteen Broadway shows and 18 Hollywood movies. He had songs nominated for Academy Awards eight times. Another of his famous works is “God Bless America” sometimes referred to America’s second national anthem. At one time there was a push to actually replace “The Star Spangled Banner” with Berlin’s work. The Jewish boy from the Lower East Side married Ellin Mackay, a Catholic heiress in 1925 after Berlin had been widowed following a short first marriage. They had four children together and remained married until her death in June 1988 at age 85. Berlin died in September 1989 at age 101.

Harry Lillis Crosby was both a singer and actor. He was discovered by Paul Whiteman singing at Los Angeles Metropolitan Theater in 1926 with his singing partner, Al Rinker, one of the most famous bandleaders of the time. Whiteman offered the duo $150 per week to sing for him. Crosby’s star was rising and he was offered a spot on the radio. He moved to movies and sold 1,077,900,000 tickets over his career He is the third most popular actor of all time, behind Clark Gable and John Wayne. He recorded 1,700 songs with 41 hitting #1. He made over 80 feature films and more than 35 short films. He was also in nine television series or specials. He died in 1977 at the age of 74.

There is nothing in the world I wouldn’t do for [Bob] Hope, and there is nothing he wouldn’t do for me… We spend our lives doing nothing for each other. – Bing Crosby

That’s Jack Benny. He’s always out there on bad days like that looking for golf balls. – Bing Crosby

Listen kid, take my advice, never hate a song that has sold half a million copies. – Irving Berlin

Talent is only the starting point. – Irving Berlin

Also on this day:

The Top of the World – In 1953 Mount Everest in conquered.
Running the World – In 1954, the Bilderberg Group held their first conference.
Empress of Ireland – In 1914, nearly a thousand people died when the ship sank.

Empress of Ireland

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 29, 2011

RMS Empress of Ireland

May 29, 1914: The RMS Empress of Ireland sinks. The ship was built in Scotland for Canadian Pacific Steamships but carried the Royal Mail Ship (RMS) designation due to government agreements from the past. The ship cost £375,000 (≈ £31,880,000 today) and took eighteen months to build. The ship was 570 feet long and 66 feet wide at the beam. There were twin funnels, two masts, dual propellers and she had an average speed of 18 knots (21 mph). There were berths for 310 first-class passengers and 470 second-class passengers. Third-class held 750 passengers. Capacity for the ship was 1,580.

On May 28, 1914 the Empress of Ireland left Quebec City for Liverpool at 4:30 PM local time. There were 1,477 passengers and crew aboard. Henry George Kendall had just been made Captain earlier in the month and this was his first trip down the St. Lawrence River while in command. The ship was near Pointe-au-Père, Quebec. The weather was quite foggy and it was 2:00 AM. Also on the river was the SS Storstad, a loaded coal carrier sailing from Sydney, Nova Scotia to Quebec. The Norwegian ship was hauling for the Dominion Coal Company.

The Storstad crashed into the starboard side of the Empress, gashing a fourteen foot hole in the side of the larger ship. The ship listed heavily to starboard and took on more water through open portholes. Those in the lower decks were drowned quickly as the icy waters poured in. Many of the passengers and crew from the upper decks were awakened by the noise of the crash and managed to get into lifeboats. Only four lifeboats could be loaded before the ship was leaning too far to load more. About ten minutes after the crash, the ship lurched and rolled onto her side. Hundreds of passengers and crew scurried to the side of the ship. Then, the Empress went below water, a mere fourteen minutes after being hit. There were 1,012 people dead, 840 of them passengers. Only 465 survived.

The Storstad did not sink and made it to port with a crushed bow. There was an inquiry held on June 16 and the Norwegian ship was found responsible for sinking the larger ship, although this finding was hotly debated both then and now. Sir John Bigham was presiding. He had also presided over inquiries into other sea disasters. He had already presided over hearings for the RMS Titanic in 1912 and would sit on the inquiry for the RMS Lusitania in 1915. The Storstad‘s owners were fined $2,000,000 but were unable to pay the fine. The ship was sold for $175,000 and later was sunk by a torpedo during World War I.

“You have sunk my ship!” – Cap. Kendall on being pulled from the water

“Ironically, had both ships involved exercised less caution, the accident would likely not have happened.” – PBS

“The Storstad’s bow, however, had gone between the liner’s steel ribs as smoothly as an assassin’s knife.” – James Croall

“Today the Empress of Ireland lies in about 130 feet of water, well within the reach of scuba divers.” – Robert Ballard

Also on this day:
The Top of the World – In 1953 Mount Everest in conquered.
Running the World – In 1954, the Bilderberg Group held their first conference.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 16, 2011

Henry Fonda from the trailer for The Lady Eve

May 16, 1905: Henry Jaynes Fonda is born in Grand Island, Nebraska to William Brace Fonda and Elma Hibetta Fonda (nee Jaynes). He was raised as a Christian Scientist in a close and supportive family. He was a short, bashful boy, especially around girls. He was an avid skater, swimmer, and runner. He grew to over six feet tall his senior year in high school. He worked at his father’s print plant and went off to the University of Minnesota to become a journalist. He did not graduate, however. At age 20, he began his acting career at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Fonda moved East in 1928 where he met both is first wife and James Stewart. He soon switched wives, but he and Stewart remained lifelong friends. Fonda continued with theatrical productions until 1934. He got his first Hollywood break with the 1935 movie, The Farmer Takes a Wife, where he continued the lead role he had played on Broadway. After America entered World War II, Fonda enlisted in the Navy and served on the destroyer, USS Satterlee, before moving to Air Combat Intelligence in the Central Pacific.

After the war, Fonda returned to movies. Overall, he appeared in 106 films, TV programs, and shorts from 1935 through 1981. He won and Academy Award for Best Actor for On Golden Pond (1981) and a Lifetime Achievement Oscar that same year. He won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor for 12 Angry Men (1958) and a Golden Globe in 1982 for On Golden Pond as well as another Lifetime Achievement Award. He received a Tony for Best Actor for Mister Roberts in 1948 (and much preferred the live performance to the movie) as well as a Lifetime Achievement Tony in 1979.

Henry had five wives. First, Margaret Sullivan in 1931. They soon separated and divorced in 1933. He then married Frances ford Seymour in 1936 and they had two children, Jane and Peter. Frances committed suicide in 1950. Next he married Susan Blanchard and the couple adopted daughter Amy, but divorced in 1956. He then had a short marriage to Countess Afdera Franchetti (1957-1961) after which he married Shirlee Mae Adams. They remained married until his death from a heart attack on August 12, 1982 at the age of 77.

“Love scenes are difficult for me not just because they’re in front of a camera. I’ve never felt like a terrific lover on screen or in private.”

“It’s difficult for me to meet new people. I’m not easy to talk to. I don’t have ready conversation.”

“I’m not a religious man, but I thank God every morning that I lived long enough to play that role. On Golden Pond, how can I describe the experience? Magic, I think. Magic!”

“I’m a not a very interesting person. I haven’t ever done anything except be other people. I ain’t really Henry Fonda! Nobody could be. Nobody could have that much integrity.”

“I’m not that pristine pure, I guess I’ve broken as many rules as the next feller. But I reckon my face looks honest enough and if people buy it, Hallelujah!” – all from Henry Fonda

Also on this day:
“Oh-oh! SpaghettiOs!” – In 1965 Franco-American puts SpaghettiOs on the market.
Sedition – In 1918, a new Sedition Act was put into place in the US.

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The Top of the World

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 29, 2010

Edmund Hillary took this photograph of Tenzing Norgay

May 29, 1953: Sir Edmond Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay reach the top of Mount Everest. Everest is 29,035 feet above sea level. The Sanskrit name for it is “Forehead of the Sky.” It was first noted as the highest mountain in the world in 1852 after the surveyor, Sir George Everest, measured it.

Edmond Hillary first became interested in mountain climbing in 1939, when at age twenty he reached the top of Mount Ollivier in New Zealand. Hillary was unsuccessful in his attempt to climb Cho Oyu in 1952. He did manage to travel to both the South and North Poles. He formed the Himalayan Trust to help the Sherpa people of Nepal and through them built schools and hospitals in remote regions of the country. He died in 2008 at the age of 88. Norgay was born in Tibet, but raised as a Sherpa in Nepal. He had made attempts to climb Mount Everest prior to 1953 using the north or Tibetan side of the mountain. He became the director of field training for the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and founded Tenzing Norgay Adventures in 1978. He died in 1986 at the age of 71.

There is much controversy surrounding the climbing of Mt. Everest. Should oxygen be used or is that unsportsmanlike? Hillary’s team used it. What is the responsibility of one climber to another? In 2006, Mark Inglis and others, totaling 40 other climbers, passed a distressed David Sharp at 28,000 feet. Sharp was later found dead. In defense of their actions, Inglis stated that it is difficult enough to keep oneself alive at that height and helping in injured man would have jeopardized all.

Climbing tours are now offered, but safety is not assured. At least 186 people having died in the attempt to scale the mountain. Avalanches, oxygen deficiency, storms, and freezing temperatures all work against the mountaineers. Climbers range in age from 15 to 64. Mark Inglis, who had lost both legs to frostbite 23 years ago while climbing Mount Cook in New Zealand, summitted Mount Everest. The mountain has been climbed in under 17 hours. The first successful attempt took days to reach the top. With their first try on May 26, Hillary and Norgay were forced to retreat and finally made it to the peak on this day.

“You climb for the hell of it.” – Edmund Hillary

“There are only 3 real sports: bull-fighting, car racing and mountain climbing. All the others are mere games.” – Ernest Hemingway

“The mountains will always be there, the trick is to make sure you are too.” – Hervey Voge

“Pissing through 6 inches of clothes with a 3 inch penis.” – Anonymous Everest summiteer when asked what was the hardest thing about climbing Mt Everest.

Also on this day:
In 1954,  the first
Bilderberg Conference began.
In 1914, the
RMS Empress of Ireland sunk 14 minutes after being hit.