Little Bits of History

May 30

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 30, 2017

1631: Gazette de France is first published. Théophraste Renaudot began the news sheet as a way to spread the information in France more quickly. Prior to the paper’s publication, news was passed around on hand written papers or nouvelles à la main. With the quick acceptance of the gazette as a way of disseminating the news, it became a useful tool for controlling the flow of information. France at the time was highly centralized and both Cardinal Richelieu and Louis XIII were frequent contributors. Prior to the French Revolution, the paper was often read by nobility and the aristocracy as a way of keeping up with events throughout the country and around the world.

The initial purpose of the paper was to spread news of court events, political issues, or diplomatic affairs. In 1762 it began to carry the subtitle Official organ of the royal Government, in French of course. It was also one of the most expensive magazines (initially published weekly) in all of Paris. Since the news was that of the government, there was little mention of any of the revolutionary items and even the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789 failed to reach print in this venue. In 1791 the magazine came back under the control of Nicolas Fallet and became an outlet for Girondists (a part of the Jacobin movement or anti-royalists). In 1792, it became a daily newspaper and after Louis XVI was executed in 1793, the name changed to Gazette nationale de France. It ceased publication in 1915.

Renaudot was a physician, philanthropist, and journalist. He has been called “the first French journalist” as well as the “inventor of the personal ad”. He was born in 1586 and became a doctor in 1606. He met Cardinal Richelieu and as the man became more famous, both Renaudot and Richelieu moved to Paris. Renaudot was born Protestant but converted to Catholicism and became Louis XIII’s private physician. In 1630 he opened the bureau d’adresse at de rencontre where prospective employers and employees could find each other. He opened his paper with the help and backing of Richelieu and began organizing weekly press conferences in 1633, giving the paper much to print. These press conferences ended in 1642 when Richelieu died.

Passing along the news has been of great concern since the dawn of civilization. In ancient Rome, Acta Duma or the official government bulletins were created and posted around the city. These were either carved in metal or stone. In China, early news sheets were produced and circulated among court officials to keep them up to date. The first reference to privately published newssheets was in 1582 in Beijing during the Ming Dynasty. In Europe, with increasing international business, it became more and more important to be able to keep up with information and Venice was the first European city to create a news paper, published monthly, with the earliest edition hand written. It took the invention of the printing press before what we consider today to be a newspaper to actually come to market.

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

Public opinion is a compound of folly, weakness, prejudice, wrong feeling, right feeling, obstinacy, and newspaper paragraphs. – Robert Peel

You can never get all the facts from just one newspaper, and unless you have all the facts, you cannot make proper judgments about what is going on. – Harry S Truman

It’s amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper. – Jerry Seinfeld

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Brooklyn Bridge

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 30, 2015
Brooklyn Bridge *

Brooklyn Bridge *

May 30, 1883: A rumor causes a stampede which kills at least twelve. The New York and Brooklyn Bridge, aka the East River Bridge, opened on May 24, 1883. The event was witnessed by thousands on land and in ships in the water below. President Chester Arthur and Mayor Franklin Edson crossed the bridge as celebratory cannons were fired. They were met on the other side by Brooklyn Mayor Seth Low. On the first day of the bridge’s life 1,800 vehicles and 150,300 people crossed what was then the only land passage between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Emily Warren Roebling was the first to cross the bridge whose main span over the East River measures 1,595.5 feet. The bridge cost $15.5 million ($380 million today) to build and at least 27 people died building it.

Less than one week later, a rumor began stating the bridge was unstable and would collapse. People scrambled to get off the bridge and in doing so, at least 12 people were crushed to death. The rumor proved to be false and yet doubts lingered. On May 17, 1884, the greatest showman on Earth, PT Barnum proved the bridge’s stability with one of his famous publicity stunts. He brought his circus across the bridge and included in that parade was Jumbo leading a trail of 21 elephants across it. Jumbo was the largest elephant in captivity and weight a whopping 13,000 pounds and stood just over 13 feet high. Even with this much traffic, the bridge remained intact.

At the time of its opening and for several more years, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world, which helped to perpetuate the rumor. It was half again as long as any suspension bridge ever built. At the time of construction, aerodynamics was not part of the engineering process and bridges were not tested in wind tunnels until the 1950s after the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed. It is by luck then and not be design that the open truss structure supporting the deck is less susceptible to these types of problems. It was so designed because John Augustus Roebling made it to be six times as strong as he thought it would need to be by using this method. Roebling suffered an injury while surveying the site for the Brooklyn side tower and died before completing the bridge. His son (Washington) and daughter-in-law (Emily – the first to cross the bridge) continued the project.

Because of the sturdy construction (rumors aside) it is one of the few bridges built during this era which remains standing today. Elevated trains used the bridge until 1944 and streetcars until 1950. Today it is six lanes of roadway maintained by the New York City Department of Transportation. It spans the river 276.5 feet above mean high water mark and has a 135 foot clearance. The suspension/cable-stay hybrid bridge is 132 years old. There is no toll to cross and 123,781 vehicles (as of 2008) take advantage of the shortcut. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964 and National Historic Civil Engineering landmark in 1972.

I would rather be the man who bought the Brooklyn Bridge than the man who sold it. – Will Rogers

You can find your way across this country using burger joint the way a navigatior uses stars…. We have munched Bridge burgers in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge and Cable burgers hard by the Golden Gate, Dixie burgers in the sunny South and Yankee Doodle burgers in the North…. We had a Capitol Burger – guess where. And so help us, in the inner courtyard of the Pentagon, a Penta burger. – Charles Kuralt

Everyone should walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. I did it three days in a row because it was one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve ever had. The view is breathtaking. – Seann William Scott

I remember perfectly my first trip to New York, when I was on the bridge between Brooklyn and Manhattan, when I saw the skyscrapers. It was like an incredible dream. – Diego Della Valle

Also on this day: Start Your Engines – In 1911, the first Indianapolis 500 was held.
Chinese Democracy – In 1989, the Goddess of Democracy was unveiled
Fan Club – In 1933, Sally Rand danced in Chicago.
Duel – In 1806, Charles Dickenson was killed in a duel.
Pearl’s Perils – In 1899, Pearl Hart robbed a stagecoach.

* “Brooklyn Bridge Postdlf” by Postdlf at the English language Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

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Pearl’s Perils

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 30, 2014
Pearl Hart

Pearl Hart

May 30, 1899: Pearl Hart robs a stagecoach. Pearl Taylor was born around 1871 in Lindsay, Ontario, Canada. Her parents were affluent and provided their daughter with the best education possible. At age 16 Pearl was enrolled at a boarding school where she met Hart (whose first name has been given as Brett, Frank, or William) and who has been described as either a rake, drunkard, or gambler. The couple eloped but Pearl soon learned her new husband was abusive and she left him only to return later. They split and reconciled many times and during their time together produced two children. Pearl shipped them off to her mother who was by then living in Ohio to raise.

In 1893, the Harts attended The Chicago World’s Fair where her husband worked the fair as a midway barker. Pearl became fascinated with the cowboy life while watching Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. After the fair closed, Pearl again left her husband, possibly for a piano player named Dan Bandman, and headed for Trinidad, Colorado. She described her life at this time in very sketchy terms only to say she was drifting around and eventually arrived in Phoenix. She worked as a cook and singer and may have also taken up prostitution to support herself. She was said to have also taken up cigars, liquor, and morphine during this time. She may or may not have run into her husband in Phoenix who may have convinced her to move to Tucson and when her money was gone, returned to his abusive ways.

By early 1898, Pearl was in Mammoth, Arizona and working as a cook and perhaps as a prostitute near a local mine. She received word that her mother was seriously ill and Pearl wanted to return to Ohio but lacked the funds. She and an acquaintance, Joe Boot (probably an alias), tried finding gold in Boot’s mine claim but were not successful. So, they opted instead to rob the Globe to Florence stagecoach while it was about 30 miles outside Globe. Pearl had cut her hair short and scandalously dressed in men’s clothing for the event. She and Boot robbed the passengers in one of the last recorded stagecoach robberies. They took all their money and weapons, but Pearl returned $1 to each passenger before leaving.

They were eventually captured and put on trial where Pearl gave an impassioned speech concerning her ill mother and a burning need to return home. They were found innocent by an overwhelmed jury. They were immediately arrested again on charges of tampering with the US Mail. They were found guilty and Pearl was sentenced to five years. No jails at the time were set up to handle women and she was given special treatment. She was able to receive reporters who were dazzled by the novelty of a woman criminal and received a pardon after two years, possibly due to an embarrassing pregnancy. She had become a celebrity and maintained that status for several years before retiring into obscurity. She died some time after 1932, but no one knows for sure when or where.

The robbed that smiles, steals something from the thief. – William Shakespeare

The fear of burglars is not only the fear of being robbed, but also the fear of a sudden and unexpected clutch out of the darkness. – Elias Canetti

As many of the riders before me had been held up and robbed of their packages, mail and money that they carried, for that was the only means of getting mail and money between these points. – Calamity Jane

Now nobody get nervous, you ain’t got nothing to fear. You’re being robbed by the John Dillinger Gang, that’s the best there is! – John Dillinger

Also on this day: Start Your Engines – In 1911 the first Indianapolis 500 is held.
Chinese Democracy – In 1989, the Goddess of Democracy was unveiled
Fan Club – In 1933, Sally Rand danced in Chicago.
Duel – In 1806, Charles Dickenson was killed in a duel.

Chinese Democracy

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 30, 2013
Goddess of Democracy

Goddess of Democracy

May 30, 1989: A 33 foot tall statue called Goddess of Democracy is unveiled. The statue was built by students from the Central Academy of Fine Arts and took four days to produce. The statue was made of Styrofoam and papier-mâché over a metal framework. Its creators took inspiration from Vera Mukhinas’ Worker and Kolkhoz Woman. It was hoped the unveiling would bolster the enthusiasm of those demonstrating against an oppressive government.

The statue stood for only five days before it was destroyed. The most memorable vision from this confrontation between intellectuals seeking freedom and a government loathe to give up control would take place within days. Since 1989, several replicas of the statue have been erected in her honor. She has become an iconic figure of liberty, free speech, and democracy. None have had a more reverential following than this Goddess erected in Tiananmen Square in the face of the Communist Regime.

The Tiananmen Square protest began April 17 when tens of thousands of students spontaneously gathered there to mourn the death of General Secretary of the Communist Party, Hu Yoabang – a man felt to be incorruptible and pro reform. The crowds grew to more than 100,000 and on April 22 students petitioned to meet with Chinese Premiere Li Peng, to no avail. An April 26 editorial denouncing the students only set off more rioting. The imbroglio came to the world’s attention by early May.

As time marched on, students began going back to classes, disenchanted. On May 13, 160 students began a hunger strike hoping to catch Mikhail Gorbachev’s attention during a scheduled visit. Political repercussions ensued with Martial Law declared on May 19. The army was being sent to Tiananmen Square to restore order. The assault began on June 3 as troops converged on the square. Over the next two days hundreds, perhaps thousands, were killed and thousands more were injured. The vision that comes to mind when this struggle is mentioned is that of a lone man standing in the street, in front of a line a tanks, moving from side to side and blocking their way. Tank Man did not persuade them to stop and his identity has never been disclosed.

“At this grim moment, what we need most is to remain calm and united in a single purpose. We need a powerful cementing force to strengthen our resolve: That is the Goddess of Democracy.” – from the Declaration displayed with the Goddess of Democracy

“I myself envision a day when another replica, as large as the original and more permanent, stands in Tiananmen Square, with the name of those who died there written in gold on its base. It may well stand there after Chairman Mao’s Mausoleum has, in its turn, been pulled down.” – Tsao Tsing-yuan

“When we can make democracy work, we won’t have to force it down other people’s throats. If it really is such a good idea, and if they can see it working, they will steal it.” – Dick Gregory

“Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.” – Reinhold Niebuhr

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Chai Ling was born in China in 1966 and was a student participating in the Tiananmen Square movement. The number of students declined and Ling was disenchanted with the difficulties of keeping the Movement together, so she resigned. The square no longer was a meeting place for high minded people, but a squalid, sewer reeking stagnant area where the struggle for democracy was seemingly lost. The unveiling of the statue revitalized the Movement. Ling fled China in 1990 with help from Hong Kong. After hiding for ten months, she settled in France. She was given a scholarship to Princeton.  Today, Ling (who received her MLA from Princeton University and her MBA from Harvard) is the founder of All Girls Allowed, a humanitarian organization trying to restore value to females in China. She is also President and COO of Jenzabar, an Internet company she founded in 1998.

Also on this day Start Your Engines – In 1911 the first Indianapolis 500 is held.
Fan Club – In 1933, Sally Rand danced in Chicago.
Duel – In 1806, Charles Dickenson was killed in a duel.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 30, 2012

Illustration of the duel

May 30, 1806: Charles Dickinson dies. Dickinson was born in Caroline County, Maryland in 1780. He came from a prominent family and studied law under US Chief Justice John Marshall. He moved to Tennessee where he practiced law, bred horses, and fought duels. The Tennessee plantation owner married the beautiful daughter of Captain Joseph Erwin. He also became known as an expert marksman and killed 26 men in duels. His luck came to an end when he met up against a Major General from the Revolutionary War.

Andrew Jackson met his future wife when he was a boarder at the home of Rachel Stockley Donelson, the widow of John Donelson, one of the founding fathers of Nashville, Tennessee. Jackson fell in love with their already married daughter. She was separated from Captain Lewis Robards, a mean and disreputable man. Also named Rachel, she and her husband were supposedly divorced, but Captain Robards did not file the final papers. Rachel and Andrew married only to find out later about the problem. Finally legally divorced from her first husband, the couple were married again. Jackson was always sensitive to this issue.

Jackson also was a horse breeder. His horse, Truxton, was set to race again Ploughboy, owned by Joseph Erwin – Dickinson’s father-in-law. Ploughboy went lame and there was some confrontation about forfeit to be paid. Eventually the horses raced with Truxton winning. Dickinson had been drinking and was irate over the loss. The two men had already been quarreling about Dickinson’s slandering Mrs. Jackson, calling her a bigamist. He again brought up the questionable morals of Jackson’s wife along with the dissatisfaction of the race. Jackson challenged Dickinson to a duel.

The two men had to cross over to Kentucky since dueling was illegal in Tennessee. They met at Harrison’s Mill on Red River in Logan County, Kentucky. Dickinson was the better shot, but Jackson was better prepared. He wore loose fitting clothing, hiding his slight frame. He also stood sideways. The two men bowed to each other and as the command to fire was given, Dickinson immediately fired his gun. Jackson held his fire, took careful aim, and shot only to find his pistol locked at half cock. Given permission to  fix his weapon, he again took aim, fired, and struck his target, causing a fatal wound. Only later did his second notice the blood pooling in Jackson’s shoe. He has been hit, but his ribs deflected the bullet, a souvenir he carried until his death in 1845. He went on to become the seventh President of the US.

Why, gentlemen, General Jackson has done a most daring exploit. He has captured another man’s wife. – Charles Dickinson

Great God! Have I missed him? – Charles Dickinson

I should have hit him if he had shot me through the brain. – Andrew Jackson, commenting on his wound

I think the verdict of history is that Mr. Dickinson was a young man of promising abilities, but in keeping with the life of the day was high strung, impetuous, and probably imprudent. – Secretary of the Tennessee Historical Society

Also on this day:

Start Your Engines – In 1911 the first Indianapolis 500 is held.
Chinese Democracy – In 1989, the Goddess of Democracy was unveiled
Fan Club – In 1933, Sally Rand danced in Chicago.

Fan Club

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 30, 2011

Sally Rand and her fans

May 30, 1933: Chicago’s Century of Progress Exposition or Chicago’s Worlds Fair was the venue for Sally Rand’s fan dance. Harriet Helen Gould Beck, stage name Sally Rand or Billy Beck, was born in Hickory County, Missouri in 1904. By the 1920s she was performing on stage and in silent films. She had a rather prominent lisp and when the films went to talkies, she needed another way to earn a living.

Ms. Rand purchased two used 7-foot pink ostrich feather fans and danced behind them at the World’s Fair. She became the featured performer at the “Streets of Paris” concession. Fan dancers may or may not be nude behind the fans. The idea is more of a suggestion than actual revelation of excess flesh. Eyes are misdirected by the fans and less rather than more is shown. Regardless of this, the local authorities were flummoxed by the diminutive dancer.Randstood only 5’1″ (155 cm) and hid a curvaceous 35-22-35 inch (89-56-89 cm) figure behind those fans.

She was brought to the attention of the law and when taken to court she stood in front of Superior Judge Joseph B. David who showed a stunning amount of common sense and dismissed the charges saying, “When I go to the fair, I go to see the exhibits and perhaps to enjoy a little beer.  As far as I’m concerned, all these charges are just a lot of old stuff to me.  Case dismissed for want of equity.”

Rand continued to dance for the rest of her life. She noticed troubles with wayward winds ruffling her feathers and she wanted to present something new, so she developed a bubble dance. Balloons at the time were not large enough for her needs and so she used her own money to develop what she needed, a 60-inch clear balloon. She was not just a dancer, but was able to discuss and lecture on Shakespeare, politics, books, and other topics.

“I have never retired – I have averaged 40 working weeks a year since 1933.”

“I haven’t been out of work since the day I took my pants off.”

“When I first came out with my fans and the wind hit me, I almost took off.”

“What in heaven’s name is strange about a grandmother dancing nude? I’ll bet lots of grandmothers do it.”

“Beauty comes from within; a greedy, avaricious, gossipy woman cannot be beautiful.” – all from Sally Rand

Also on this day:
Start Your Engines – In 1911 the first Indianapolis 500 is held.
Chinese Democracy – In 1989, the Goddess of Democracy was unveiled

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Start Your Engines

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 30, 2010

Ray Harroun's Marmon "Wasp" on display at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum. (Photo by The 359)

May 30, 1911: Ray Harroun travels 200 times around the 2 ½ mile track at Indianapolis, becoming the first winner of the brand new International Sweepstakes. The track was built two years earlier on 328 acres of farmland just northwest of Indiana’s capital city. The race itself took nearly seven hours to complete with the “Marmon Wasp” averaging a stunning 74.602 miles per hour. The purse for the race was $14,250. While that may not seem like much, it is about $333,000 in 2009 USD. We know the race today as the Indianapolis 500.

The race has been held each year with the exception of the two world wars when it was suspended. The prize monies have increased over time. In 1957, the purse first topped $100,000 and just twelve years later, it topped $200,000. By 1989 the first place prize topped $1 million.

The lowest average speed was the first year the race was run. Technology advanced steadily and speeds increased – to a point. The highest average speed for a race winner was 185.981 mph set in 1990 by Arie Luyendyk. Tom Sneva broke the 200 mph mark for a lap in 1977 during qualification while Rick Mears finally broke the barrier during the race in 1982.  AJ Foyt, Al Unser, and Rick Mears have each won the race four times.

Unfortunately, it isn’t all fun and games. Forty drivers have been killed participating in the event. Fifteen drivers have been killed on race day and another 25 have died during practice and qualifying laps. Thirteen mechanics, six spectators, and one man outside the track who was struck by a wheel flying over the fence have also been killed. Fortunately, because of many safety improvements, most crashes do not result in fatalities. The limit for number of cars on the track is 33, earlier races sometimes had more. The most cars to finish the race were 26 in 1911 when 40 cars started the race.

“Every race I run in is in preparation for the Indianapolis 500. Indy is the most important thing in my life. It is what I live for.” – Al Unser

“Winning the Indianapolis 500 is a dream come true. Winning for a second time might be more than I could stand, but I’m willing to take that chance.” – Dan Wheldon

“Auto racing is boring except when a car is going at least 172 miles per hour upside down.” – Dave Barry

“I watched the Indy 500, and I was thinking that if they left earlier they wouldn’t have to go so fast.” – Stephen Wright

Also on this day:
In 1989, the
Goddess of Democracy was displayed on Tienanmen Square.
In 1933, Sally Rand’s
fan dance premiered at the Chicago World’s Fair.

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