Little Bits of History

May 31

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 31, 2017

1952: Efteling opens. Located in Kaatsheuvel, North Brabant, Netherlands the venue opened as a nature part with a playground and a Fairy Tale Forest. The 15 acre forest is based on the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson, and Charles Perrault. R.J.Th. van der Heijden, Peter came up with the idea to help boost tourism to the region and asked Peter Reijnders (a filmmaker and inventor and van der Heijden’s brother in law) to help create the park and had Anton Pieck to add artistic features. It took about two years to create the first ten fairy tales. Today there are 25 scenes included in this portion of Efteling. Some scenes are very specific and some are more general in nature. Some are indoor scenes, scenes too small to enter, and some which can be entered into.

On this day, the ten scenes were first viewed. They contained mechanized movements as well as lighting and sound effects. This new approach to the ago old tales drew 240,000 in 1952 alone. Beginning in 1978, the park expanded. Today, it covers 178 acres for the park alone and then entire resort area, including a hotel, a theater, a golf course, and a holiday village covered 682 acres. The amusement park portion of Efteling has 35 high tech rides including 6 roller coasters and 4 water rides. The theme park is built around the myths, legends, folklore, and fairy tales of times past. There are nearly 5 million people visiting each year. It is the largest theme park in the Netherlands and one of the oldest theme parks in the world.

The Dutch climate is entwined with the park. The forest is all natural and because of cold winters, the park was originally only opened from April through October. Today, it is open year round, but with some attractions closed during Winter Efteling. While some are closed, there is the added bonus of Christmas lighting and decorations. The popularity of the park is due to, at least in part, the high quality of the ride designs and architecture. The pleasant woodlands are also a draw. Pieck, as the initial designer, would only work if the quality of the building materials could live up to his standards. He worked with the park until the mid-1970s when Ton van de Ven took over.

The park is divided into four themed areas. Originally North, West, East, and South, they names have changed to Travel Realm, Fairy Realm, Adventure Realm, and Other Realm respectively. The Adventure Realm is where the amusement park itself is located while the Fairy Realm holds the Fairy Tale Forest built among the pines. The newest addition is to open this summer. Symbolica: Palace of Fantasy will move the visitor through an enclosed palace and is the most expensive addition (€35 million) to the park. It is one of the reasons over 100 million people have visiting the Dutch treat since its opening.

In an amusement park, you can go on a roller coaster that carries you up and down, or you can go on another kind of ride that whirls you around in a circle. Similarly, there are different sorts of entertaining experiences in the theater. – Wallace Shawn

The way I see it, love is an amusement park, and food its souvenir. – Stephanie Klein

Every man’s life is a fairy tale written by God’s fingers. – Hans Christian Andersen

If you see the magic in a fairy tale, you can face the future. – Danielle Steel

Madison Square Garden

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 31, 2015
Madison Square Garden - PT Barnum's Hippodrome

Madison Square Garden – PT Barnum’s Hippodrome

May 31, 1879: William Kissam Vanderbilt takes control. William was the second son of William Henry Vanderbilt and the grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt. Gilmore’s Garden was originally the New York and Harlem Railroad depot but the depot moved uptown and the land was leased to PT Barnum in 1871. Barnum converted it into an oval arena measuring 270 feet along its longest axis. He added seats and benches and banked formation and called his arena the Great Roman Hippodrome. He presented circuses as well as other entertainment. His roofless building was also pejoratively called Barnum’s Monster Classical and Geological Hippodrome.

The building was next leased to Patrick Gilmore, an Irish-born American composer and bandmaster. He used the space to present flower shows, beauty contests, walking marathons, music concerts, temperance and revival meetings, and most prestigiously, the first Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show which in 1877 was called the First Annual N.Y. Bench Show. Because boxing was illegal at the time, exhibitions and illustrated lectures were offered which coincidentally looked exactly like boxing matches. William Tileston was the next to lease the space. He was an official of the dog show and he wished to bring in a more genteel crowd and offered tennis, a riding school, and an ice carnival. The arena had one of the first indoor ice rinks in the US.

When Cornelius Vanderbilt died, his grandson took back control of the land owned by his grandfather. On this date he announced it would be renamed Madison Square Garden since it was located at East 26th Street and Madison Avenue in Manhattan. William used the space for sporting events. He held indoor track and field meets and the National Horse Show. He held a convention for the Elks. He also used the space for boxing matches and featured John L Sullivan who began a four-year series of exhibitions in 1882. When Jumbo crossed the Brooklyn Bridge (see yesterday) he was coming to Madison Square Garden. Another use of the open air building was as a velodrome, an oval, banked track for bike racing – one of the biggest sports in the country at the time.

The roofless Garden was hot in the summer and freezing in the winter. It wasn’t well maintained and was starting to deteriorate. In was demolished in July 1889 and the second building to bear the name opened on June 6, 1890. The new building wasn’t any more profitable than the old and the mortgage holder opted to demolish it in 1925 and the New York Life Building opened in 1928. Today’s version of Madison Square Garden is located at 4 Pennsylvania Plaza in Manhattan. They opened at their new home on February 11, 1968 and continue to offer boxing events as well as basketball, ice hockey, lacrosse, and pro wrestling. It is also the venue for many concerts.

All sports are time control demonstrations. – Buckminster Fuller

Sports serve society by providing vivid examples of excellence. – George Will

Unlike any other business in the United States, sports must preserve an illusion of perfect innocence. – Lewis H. Lapham

I always turn to the sports pages first, which records people’s accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man’s failures. – Earl Warren

Also on this day: Ready to Eat – In 1884, Kellogg patented corn flakes.
Johnstown Flood – In 1889, the South Fork Dam burst.
Pepys’s Diary – In 1669, Samuel made his last diary entry.
BEN – In 1859, Big Ben went on line.
Widest Recorded Tornado – In 2013, the El Reno tornado was filmed.

Widest Recorded Tornado

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 31, 2014
El Reno, Oklahoma

El Reno, Oklahoma

May 31, 2013: El Reno, Oklahoma is destroyed. The widest tornado in recorded history measured 2.6 miles at its peak. Initial touchdown occurred at 6:03 PM local time about 8.3 miles west-southwest of El Reno. During the day, a mid-to-upper level trough met with a mid-level low pressure area and moved east-northeast over the southern Rocky Mountains to the southern Great Plains. The air mass was expected to become unstable through the upper Midwest and the Mississippi Valley by the afternoon. Dewpoint and temperatures were perfect to enhance the storm’s organization. A cold front was in place from the eastern Dakotas to western Oklahoma.

Intense severe weather was expected across the southern Great Plains and especially in Oklahoma during the afternoon. As the storm organized, the wind shear and moisture along with the instability of the warm sector created a perfect mix for the formation of supercells. Large hail and tornadoes were expected and by 3:30 PM, a Particularly Dangerous Situation Tornado Watch was issued. By 5:33, that had increased to a warning for Canadian County. As the touchdown took place in a mostly rural area, there was little initial property damage. At 6:28, the storm began moving toward more populous regions and a tornado emergency was called.

The rating of the intensity of the storm was debated. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration used the Enhanced Fajita Scale which is based on the damage left behind. They gave the storm an EF3 rating. However, based on data from mobile radar, the University of Oklahoma’s RaXPol Doppler weather radar measured winds in excess of 296 mph and the rating was increased to EF5, the highest rating. Officials debate the proper scale citing lower damage rates. However, if the same tornado had passed directly over Oklahoma City rather than the rural regions in its path, the damage would have been “of biblical proportions” according to William Hooke of the American Meteorological Society.

The tornado killed four storm chasers, the first known deaths in the history of storm chasing. As it passed over open terrain, the chasers were unaware of the massive size of the storm. Tim Samaras, his son Paul, and research partner Carl Young were killed when their vehicle was thrown by the tornado or a sub-vortex as they travelled along Highway 81. Richard Charles Henderson, a local man, also decided to chase the storm and he was killed in the same area. There were eight fatalities associated with the tornado and 151 people were injured. The estimate of damages was $35-40 million. Since it was rush hour and many were trying to get home from jobs in Oklahoma City, it was fortunate that the storm did not cross crowded roads filled with commuters heading home or the death toll may have reached over 500.

Vows made in storms are forgotten in calm. – Thomas Fuller

If patience is worth anything, it must endure to the end of time. And a living faith will last in the midst of the blackest storm. – Mahatma Gandhi

There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm. – Willa Cather

Look for me in the whirlwind or the storm. – Marcus Garvey

Also on this day: Ready to Eat – In 1884 Kellogg patents corn flakes.
Johnstown Flood – In 1889, the South Fork Dam burst.
Pepys’s Diary – In 1669, Samuel made his last diary entry.
BEN – In 1859, Big Ben went on line.

Johnstown Flood

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 31, 2013
Aftermath of the Johnstown Flood

Aftermath of the Johnstown Flood

May 31, 1889: At 3:10 PM, the South Fork Dam bursts. The dam was located on Lake Conemaugh near South Fork, Pennsylvania. Between 1838 and 1853, Pennsylvania built the dam as part of a canal and reservoir system. It was sold first to a railroad and then to a group a speculators. The group made some shoddy repairs to the old dam, raised the level of the lake, and created the exclusive South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club. Cottages and a clubhouse were built at the secret retreat frequented by 61 wealthy steel and coal industrialists from Pittsburgh, just a few hours away by rail.

The lake created by the dam was 2 miles long and about 1 mile wide. It was 60 feet deep near the dam with 7 miles of perimeter. It held 20 million tons of water. A huge storm cell formed over Kansas and Nebraska on May 28. The storm reached the South Fork area two days later. It began to pour. A remarkable rainfall of 6-10 inches fell over the entire region in 24 hours. During the night, tiny waterways turned into debris-strewn rivers.

Elias Unger, current president of the Fishing and Hunting Club, awoke on May 31 to a stunning sight. Lake Conemaugh was swollen and close to overflowing the dam – and it was still raining. Spillways were blocked by debris. Unger rounded up help to clear the spillways as well as try to raise the height of the dam. The streets of the nearby towns were already awash by the overflowing Conemaugh River which had flooded during the night. Still it continued to rain. The dam burst and the entire 20 million tons or 4.8 billion gallons of water emptied from the lake in just 40 minutes.

South Fork, a small town built on the hillsides was totally destroyed with 4 people killed. More debris was washed into the wall of water and as it surged against the Conemaugh Viaduct, the water was temporarily halted. Seven minutes later, the viaduct collapsed. The flood waters ran through the valley sweeping up all in its path. About 57 minutes after the dam collapsed, the flood struck Jamestown. Filled with debris and moving at speeds up to 40 mph, the wave of water was 35-40 feet high. The water mark reached as high as 89 feet. There were 2,209 people killed and nearly $17 million (about $425 million in 2012 USD) of property damage sustained.

“On the 31st day of May, 1889, more than two thousand lives were lost when the South Fork Dam collapsed. An entire lake, 20 million tons of water, crashed down the Conemaugh valley through a half dozen towns on its way to Johnstown, Pennsylvania.”

“It wiped out nearly everything in between, but by many accounts, Johnstown suffered the most gruesome and disturbing fate of all.”

“It was 4:00. At half past 3, there had been a Johnstown. Now, there was none.”

“June first, 1889. That morning opened dark and dreary. Great drops of rain fell occasionally and another storm seemed imminent. Everyone felt thankful that the weather remained cold to slow the decay of the bodies lying everywhere.” – all from The American Experience The Johnstown Flood

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: The American Red Cross was formed in 1881 and this was the second major disaster relief effort since they formed. They were led at the time by Clara Barton who had learned about the Red Cross in Europe during the Franco-Prussian War. In 1881, the Red Cross responded to the Great Fire of 1881 in Michigan which left 5,000+ people homeless. Then came this disaster with thousands dead and thousands more injured. Support came from all over the US as well as 18 foreign nations. Barton arrived on June 5 and stayed for more than five months to help the shattered town recover. Even after surviving the flood, the victims suffered defeat in the courts when they tried to recover damages from the owners of the dam. American law changed from a fault-based premise to one of strict liability.

Also on this day Ready to Eat – In 1884 Kellogg patents corn flakes.
Pepys’s Diary – In 1669, Samuel made his last diary entry.
BEN – In 1859, Big Ben went on line.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 31, 2012

Big Ben

May 31, 1859: Big Ben goes on line. A great number of people believe Big Ben, at the Palace of Westminster in London, is the name of the huge clock face or the tower itself. While the tower is the largest four-faced chiming clock tower in the world, and the third tallest free-standing clock tower, the name Big Ben actually refers to the largest bell in the tower. The first tower was build in 1288. The present tower was built using Charles Barry’s design for the new palace after the older palace was destroyed in a fire on October 16, 1834. Barry left the designing of the tower to Augustus Pugin.

The clock faces are set into iron frames measuring 23 feet in diameter. They each have 312 pieces of opal glass, resembling a stained-glass window, but all in white. This allows for some of the pieces of glass to be removed so the clock’s hands can be inspected. The clock itself is extremely reliable. The designers of the clock were Edmund Beckett Denison and George Airy. The construction was left to clockmaker Edward John Dent who died in 1853, leaving his stepson, Frederick Dent, to finish. The building of the tower and clock left enough time for Denison to come up with a second plan, making the clock far more accurate.

The official name for the largest bell is the Great Bell, however it is known colloquially as Big Ben, in honor of Benjamin Hall (or perhaps Benjamin Caunt). Hall’s name is inscribed on the bell. The original bell was cast on August 6, 1856 and weighed 16 tons. The tower wasn’t ready and so the bell was mounted in New Palace Yard moved there by a trolley drawn by sixteen horses. The bell cracked and was beyond repair. A second bell was cast at the Whitechapel  Bell Foundry  and weighed 13.5 tons. The bell is seven feet, two inches high and eight feet, ten inches in diameter. The hammer weighs 440 pounds.

The largest bell is part of a set of five bells. Each bell strikes a different note. Big Ben is the musical note E, the first quarter bell is G sharp, the next is F sharp, the third is E, and the last is B. It took 18 hours to move the great bell 200 feet up the tower. The great clock began working on this day, the Great Bell was struck on July 11 and the quarter bells were added September 7. The Great Bell again cracked in September because the hammer was twice the recommended weight. It was out of commission for three years while fixed. It was patched and to this day, has a bit of an odd sound.

I’m learning English at the moment. I can say ‘Big Ben’, ‘Hello Rodney’, ‘Tower Bridge’ and ‘Loo’. – Cher

Through the magic of motion pictures, someone who’s never left Peoria knows the softness of a Paris spring, the color of a Nile sunset, the sorts of vegetation one will find along the upper Amazon and that Big Ben has not yet gone digital. – Vincent Canby

My cousin’s gay, he went to London only to find out that Big Ben was a clock. – Rodney Dangerfield

Clock watchers never seem to be having a good time. – James Cash Penney

Also on this day:

Ready to Eat – In 1884 Kellogg patents corn flakes.
Johnstown Flood – In 1889, the South Fork Dam burst.
Pepys’s Diary – In 1669, Samuel made his last diary entry.

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Pepys’s Diary

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 31, 2011

Samuel Pepys

May 31, 1669: Samuel Pepys makes his last diary entry. Pepys was born February 23, 1633. He was a naval Administrator as well as a Member of Parliament. What he is most famous for, however, is his diary. He began writing in his diaries on January 1, 1660. He was a meticulous record keeper and included both public events and his private thoughts. Momentous occasions as well as trivial items were included. His commentaries were all inclusive with national events juxtaposed next to what women he was pursuing.

Some of the more important events included in his diary were the Second Anglo-Dutch War, the Great Plague, and the Great Fire of London. His recordings gave first hand voice to horrid events as well as to the political intrigues of the day. He also included entries on his public life. Pepys was quite efficient on the Navy Board, more than could be said for some of his superiors. This proved fodder for many critical entries into his diary. Like many of us today, he would be scheduled to meet with a prospective customer only to arrive at a meeting place such as a coffee house, and find he had been stood up. These frustrating events also were duly entered.

His personal life was also recorded. We know he liked wine and plays and enjoyed convivial company. He was somewhat obsessed with accumulating wealth and made comparisons against others he knew, trying to assess his ranking in this endeavor. His marriage was less than he hoped and he recorded for posterity, a number of extramarital liaisons with a number of women. While writing the intimate details, he would use a variety of languages.

The diary was written in a form of shorthand and was written purely for his personal use. However, he did make efforts to save the written work, going so far as to make better copies from notes. He had loose pages of writing bound into six volumes. He kept copious notes for nearly a decade, but opted on this date to quit writing. He cited his failing eyesight as the reason for this. He began having to dictate all writing for others to take down and could no longer afford the luxury of keeping his private thoughts in his diary, since they would no longer be private. The diaries were not published until 1825 when a two volume set was released. A second transcription was put forth in 1875 with revisions seeing print again in 1899 and 1926.

“Blessed be God, at the end of the last year I was in very good health, without any sense of my old pain but upon taking of cold. I lived in Axe yard, having my wife and servant Jane, and no more in family than us three. My wife, after the absence of her terms for seven weeks, gave me hopes of her being with child, but on the last day of the year she hath them again.” (first entry in the diary)

“But, Lord! how sad a sight it is to see the streets empty of people, and very few upon the ‘Change. Jealous of every door that one sees shut up, lest it should be the plague; and about us two shops in three, if not more, generally shut up.” (August 16, 1665, during the great plague)

“I down to the water-side, and there got a boat and through bridge, and there saw a lamentable fire.” (September 2, 1666, the Great Fire of London)

From October 25, 1668, writing about his wife “coming up suddenly, did find me imbracing the girl con my hand sub su coats; and endeed I was with my main in her cunny. I was at a wonderful loss upon it and the girl also….” – all from Samuel Pepys

Also on this day:
Ready to Eat – In 1884 Kellogg patents corn flakes.
Johnstown Flood – In 1889, the South Fork Dam burst.

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Ready to Eat

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 31, 2010

John Harvey Kellogg

May 31, 1884: John Harvey Kellogg patents flaked cereal. Kellogg was a doctor running a sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan. The sanitarium was based on Seventh-day Adventist Church principals – vegetarianism and rigorous exercise. Kellogg’s focus was in line with the church teaching but he also included enemas in his prescribed regimen for good health.

Kellogg did not think highly of surgical intervention, however he still performed over 22,000 operations in his 67 year medical career. He was also highly incensed by masturbation and campaigned zealously, if not rabidly, for its discontinuation. He warned that masturbation caused acne and recommended the “treatment” of carbolic acid on the clitoris in order to stop females from participating in the unsavory practice. Carbolic acid is very dangerous when applied to skin.

The diet of Sanitarium clients did not contain any alcohol or caffeine and tobacco was forbidden. Kellogg thought that bland foods were best because they would not incite passion and sexual abstinence was encouraged. It was thought that cornflakes would actually decrease the libido.

While looking for a digestible bread substitute, a pot of wheat was boiled and then forgotten. After sitting for a time, it was found that the softened substance could be rolled and that each grain made a large, thin flake. When baked, the flakes were crisp and light. A bowl of the flakes with milk would make an easy breakfast.

Kellogg and his brother, Will Keith, went into partnership and the two started Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company. John Harvey Kellogg wrote almost fifty books and many treatises on healthy life styles. He is best known, however, for his corn flakes.

“Mosquitoes remind us that we are not as high up on the food chain as we think.” – unknown

“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” – Julia Child

“Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.” – Mark Twain

“Americans have more food to eat than any other people and more diets to keep them from eating it.” – unknown

Also on this day,
In 1889, the
Johnstown Flood strikes in Pennsylvania, killing thousands.
In 1669,
Samuel Pepys made his last diary entry.

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