Little Bits of History

May 4

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 4, 2017

1886: The Haymarket Riot takes place. After the US Civil War, there was a rapid industrial expansion in the United States. Chicago was a major industrial center and an influx of immigrants came to the area, looking for jobs. They were making about $1.50 a day and averaged a little over 60 hours per six-day workweek. Chicago became one of the leading centers for organized labor movements. Employers responded with anti-union measures. In late 1884, the unions declared May 1, 1886 as the date by which they would have helped immigrant workers achieve an eight-hour workday. The day grew near and the goal had not been met. It was decided that a general strike would take place.

On Saturday, May 1, thousands of workers went on strike demanding an eight hour day without a cut in pay. The strikes were not just in Chicago, but across the country with as many as 300,000 to 500,000 strikers. Other large cities may have had 10,000 or so taking to the streets in protest, but Chicago, the center of the movement, had between 30 and 40,000 striking and up to twice as many marching and demonstrating.  On May 3, striking workers met near the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company where workers had been locked out since early February. The workers were advised to hold together and stay strong. Police fired into the crowd and two men were killed.

Fliers went out asking for workers and supporters to show up at Haymarket Square the following day. This bustling commercial center seemed appropriate. Anarchists helped get the word out as well. The fliers were inflammatory and called for workers to show up armed and seek revenge. The rally began peacefully with union leaders speaking to a crowd numbering between 600 and 3,000 (depending on sources), there was a large police presence also in attendance. At around 10.30 AM, just as the speeches were finished, a homemade bomb was tossed into the path of oncoming police, charged with dispersing the crowd. The bomb exploded and one police officer was killed immediately.

Gunshots followed with both sides firing and there is a dispute about who actually shot first. The demonstrators fled in panic and it was verified that police shot into the fleeing crowd, reloaded, and fired again. Four demonstrators were killed and as many as 70 were wounded. In under five minutes, the square was empty. Seven police were also killed during the melee. A union crackdown followed and eight anarchists were eventually convicted of conspiracy. Although one made the bomb, it was determined none of them had actually thrown it. Seven of them were sentenced to death, one man killed himself in prison, four were hanged, two had their sentences commuted to life. The last man was sentences to 15 years in prison. In 1893, all remaining men were pardoned and the trial was criticized by the new Illinois governor, John Peter Atgeld.

The only effective answer to organized greed is organized labor. – Thomas Donahue

To be free, the workers must have choice. To have choice they must retain in their own hands the right to determine under what conditions they will work. – Samuel Gompers

With all their faults, trade-unions have done more for humanity than any other organization of men that ever existed. They have done more for decency, for honesty, for education, for the betterment of the race, for the developing of character in man, than any other association of men. – Clarence Darrow

The unions are the first feeble effort to conquer the industrial jungle for democratic life. They may not succeed, but if they don’t their failure will be a tragedy for civilization, a loss of cooperative effort, a baulking of energy, and the fixing in American life of a class-structure. – Walter Lippmann

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 4, 2015
Ted Kaczynski

Ted Kaczynski

May 4, 1998: Theodore Kaczynski is sentenced. He was born in 1942 in Illinois. As a baby, he contracted a case of hives of unknown origin and was hospitalized several times in isolation rooms for treatment. When he was in grade school, his IQ was measured at 167. He skipped sixth grade and was bullied by the older students, not fitting in. In high school, he found his love of mathematics and was soon far outstripping the normal high school students and curriculum. He began college at Harvard University at the age of 16. While there, he participated in a study by Henry Murray. The study was ostensibly to measure stress reactions but proved to be a brutal and unethical attack on the subjects in order to gain insight into the stress response. Later legal defense blamed this study, at least in part, for Ted Kaczynski’s bizarre behavior.

He graduated from Harvard in 1962 and went to the University of Michigan where he earned a PhD in mathematics. His thesis was so complex, one of his professors could not figure out the problem on which is was based. In 1967, he became an assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley – the youngest professor they had ever hired. He resigned his position in 1969 at the age of 26. My the middle of the year, he had moved back to his parents’ house and two years later moved to a small cabin he had built for himself outside Lincoln, Montana. He lived with little money, no electricity and no running water. He began to teach himself survival skills, hoping to live entirely autonomously. He was not up to the task and began committing small acts of sabotage as people and industry destroyed the sanctity of the area around his cabin.

He began his bombing attacks after he went to one of his favorite spots and found it turned into a road. He began studying sociology and political philosophy. He wanted to reform society. And then he wanted to destroy it. His first, primitive bomb brought him to the attention of the FBI. He mailed or hand-delivered ever more sophisticated bombs over the next 17 years. These killed three people and injured 23 more. He became known as the Unabomber. His first mail bomb went to Buckley Crist of Northwestern University in May 1978. Campus policeman Terry Marker was injured opening the suspicious package.

John Hauser was seriously wounded in 1985, the first truly serious injury. Hugh Scrutton was the first fatality and was also attacked in 1985. Thomas Mosser was killed in 1994 and Gilbert Murray was killed in 1995. The Unabomber was arrested on April 3, 1996 at his remote cabin after his brother, David, helped the FBI. To avoid the death penalty, Kaczynski pled guilty to all government charges on January 22, 1998. He was sentenced on this day to eight life sentences without the possibility of parole. He is held at the ADX Florence, a maximum security prison in Florence, Colorado.

But what first motivated me wasn’t anything I read. I just got mad seeing the machines ripping up the woods and so forth…

The big problem is that people don’t believe a revolution is possible, and it is not possible precisely because they do not believe it is possible.

The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race.

We are not supposed to hate anyone, yet almost everyone hates somebody at some time or other, whether he admits it to himself or not. – all from Theodore Kaczynski

Also on this day: The Little General – In 1814, Napoleon I is exiled to Elba.
Nicaragua – In 1855, William Walker left to conquer Nicaragua.
First and Only – In 1979, Margaret Thatcher was elected.
Boom – In 1988, a large explosion outside Las Vegas was the start of the PEPCON fire.
Canada’s Navy – In 1910, the Canadian Navy was formed.

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Canada’s Navy

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 4, 2014
Canadian Naval Ensign

Canadian Naval Ensign

May 4, 1910: Canada gets a Navy. Canada is a separate nation but still part of the British Empire with Elizabeth II as ruling monarch. However, the Constitution Act was passed on July 1, 1867, the Statute of Westminster on December 11, 1931, and the Canada Act on April 17, 1982 finalizing the shift from colonial to Federal Parliamentary Constitutional Monarchy. It is the second largest country by total area and the common border shared with the US is the longest land border shared by the same two countries. The entire world has a coastline measuring 221,208 miles and of those, 125, 567 are in Canada. She has the most coastline miles of any nation in the world with nearly four times as many miles as the second place nation – Indonesia. (All statistics from the World Factbook – other resources vary.)

As Canada moved away from British control and resources, it made sense to have her own Navy. As the country with the largest coastline (regardless of who did the measuring), she needed to protect her coasts. It should be noted that much of the coastline is in the far north, but there is still considerable area to cover. The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) is part of the unified Canadian Forces which also include the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force. The three branches have active personnel of 68,250 with 8,500 of the regular navy and 5,100 reserve navy personnel. They are supported by 5,300 civilians. General Thomas Lawson is the Chief of the Defense Staff with Vice-Admiral Mark Norman the Commander of the Navy.

The Canadian Navy has three destroyers, twelve frigates, four patrol submarines, 2 support ships, twelve coastal mine countermeasure ships, and eleven unarmed patrolling and training vessels as well as several auxiliary vessels. The RCN has been active in both World Wars, the Korean War, the First Gulf War, the Afghanistan War, and many UN peacekeeping missions and NATO operations. Originally called the Naval Service of Canada, the name changed the next year to the RCN. For the French speakers of the country, they are known as the Marine royale canadienne. The entire navy consisted of two ships in 1910, the HMCS Niobe and the HMCS Rainbow. By the beginning of World War I, they were six ships strong.

The bill signed into law creating the navy on this day had four major provisions. The establishment of a permanent navy was the first. Without sailors, a navy doesn’t matter so the second provision called for a reserve and a volunteer reserve, both of which could be called up in an emergency. Also part of the bill was the establishment of a naval college. This last mandate was met when the Royal Naval College of Canada was established in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1911. The midshipmen graduated as qualified (but not mandated) for the Imperial or Canadian Navy. Their education in Naval Science included coursework in Applied Science, Engineering, Math, Navigation, History, and Modern Languages. They remained in existence until 1922 and education about 150 men.

When I lost my rifle, the Army charged me 85 dollars. That is why in the Navy the Captain goes down with the ship. – Dick Gregory

There’s this misconception that the Navy is this cruise ship, and you get to go out and sail around, and every now and then, you have to swab the deck. But, no, it is a very impressive group of young people that live at sea, in this place that’s very uncomfortable. They exude a pride that is well-deserved. – Tom Hanks

I left Scotland when I was 16 because I had no qualifications for anything but the Navy, having left school at 13. – Sean Connery

There were gentlemen and there were seamen in the navy of Charles the Second. But the seamen were not gentlemen; and the gentlemen were not seamen. – Thomas B. Macaulay

Also on this day: The Little General – In 1814 Napoleon I is exiled to Elba.
Nicaragua – In 1855, William Walker left to conquer Nicaragua.
First and Only – In 1979, Margaret Thatcher was elected.
Boom – In 1988, a large explosion outside Las Vegas was the start of the PEPCON fire.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 4, 2013
William Walker

William Walker

May 4, 1855: William Walker and 60 men leave San Francisco for Nicaragua. Walker, an American mercenary and filibuster had already made attempts to conquer portions of Latin America. A military filibusterer is a private person who engages in unauthorized warfare in a foreign nation. Walker had attempted to take over Baja California and Sonora (both parts of Mexico) in 1853. Upon his return to California, he was placed on trial for conducting an illegal war. Filibustering was popular in the Southern and Western US. It took the jury eight minutes to acquit the accused.

Walker was born in Tennessee in 1824. He graduated from the University of Nashville summa cum laude at the age of 14. He traveled in Europe and studied medicine. He received a medical degree by age 19. He went on to study law and worked for a short time as a lawyer in New Orleans. He also wrote for two different newspapers. After his failed attempt at colonizing Mexico, he regrouped and planned to invade Nicaragua. With the tacit support of President Castellón, Walker brought 60 “colonists” to Nicaraguan shores. There he was met by 170 locals and another 100 American reinforcements.

On September 1, Walker’s forces defeated the Nicaraguan national army and on October 13 he captured the capital. In Granada, Walker took control of the country first as commander of the army and on July 12, 1856 he was elected President of the country. His regime was recognized by US President Franklin Pierce. A journalist in Nicaragua sent reports back to the US accusing Walker of setting up a slave holding republic. The journalist, sentenced to death by Walker, escaped.

Trade from the east coast to the west coast of the US went by sea and traveled via Nicaragua to send goods from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. Cornelius Vanderbilt initially backed Walker, but the two powerful men fought over the lucrative route. Vanderbilt convinced the US to withdraw recognition of Walker’s regime and skirmishes once again took place in Latin America, this time with Walker’s forces defeated. By May 1, 1857, Walker was out of a job. He returned to the US. He wrote a book about the experience and returned once again to filibustering, this time in Honduras. He was captured and executed by firing squad on September 12, 1860. He was 36 years old.

“People cannot tell the difference between mercenaries and soldiers because they all wore the same uniform, had the same weapons, spoke the same language and came from the same place.” – Agim Hasku

“No man can sit down and withhold his hands from the warfare against wrong and get peace from his acquiescence.” – Woodrow T. Wilson

“There is such a thing as legitimate warfare: war has its laws; there are things which may fairly be done, and things which may not be done.” – John Henry Newman

“I don’t know whether war is an interlude during peace, or peace an interlude during war.” – Georges Clemenceau

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Francisco Castellón was born in 1815 in León and was both a lawyer and then prime minister under Patricio Rivas. He was out of office in 1841 and reappointed in 1843. He was minister to England and upon his return, PM again from 1851-1853. In 1853 he was the Liberal Party candidate for Supreme Director of Nicaragua running against Fruto Chamorro of the Conservative Party. Chamorro won amidst claims of voter fraud and he immediately moved the government from Managua to Granada. While the Liberals were not present he began to make changes to the government. Many Liberals, including Castellón, were outraged and established a second government with Castellón elected as President on June 11, 1854. After initial success in fighting Chamorro, Castellón ran into troubles and invited William Walker in to help.

Also on this day The Little General – In 1814 Napoleon I is exiled to Elba.
First and Only – In 1979, Margaret Thatcher was elected.
Boom – In 1988, a large explosion outside Las Vegas was the start of the PEPCON fire.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 4, 2012


May 4, 1988: A large explosion outside Las Vegas, Nevada leaves hundreds wounded. Henderson  is about ten miles outside Las Vegas and was the home of Pacific Engineering Production Company of Nevada (PEPCON). They were one of the two American companies producing ammonium perchlorate, an oxidizer used in solid fuel rocket boosters. Solid fuels are used by both the Space Shuttle and some military weapons. Kerr-McGee was the second producer and was less than 1.5 miles from the PEPCON plant, which also had a 16-inch high-pressure natural gas line running underneath it.

The Space Shuttle program was frozen as the investigation of the 1986 Challenger disaster continued. The storage of the ammonium perchlorate was not regulated and no proper facilities were built to accommodate the large surplus. PEPCON stored nearly all of their product on site. The normal bins were filled and the remaining product was placed into HDPE plastic drums and stored in parking lots. The plastic acted as a fuel with the ammonium percholorate as an oxidizer. There were ≈ 4,000 tons of product stored at PEPCON at the time of the explosion.

Between 11:30 and 11:40 AM, the first explosion occurred near a structure which had been damaged in a windstorm. Repairmen were welding the fiberglass and steel structure when it caught fire and spread quickly reaching the plastic 55 gallon drums stored next to the building. A series of explosions took place about 10-20 minutes after the fire started. Employees began to flee on foot, or if possible, by car. Around 75 people escaped but two men were killed. Roy Westerfield stayed behind to call the fire department and Bruce Halker, confined to a wheelchair, was unable to escape as a second, larger explosion erupted.

As the fire spread and more drums were involved, a huge fireball ignited and began a series of four large explosions. The larger storage area was involved in the fire with two more small explosions and then two larger ones echoing across the landscape. The plant was devasted by the seven explosions and rescue efforts were hampered by the fireballs and exploding shrapnel. The National Guard was called in to help with evacuations. There were 372 people injured in the blaze which caused ≈ $100 million in damages ($190 million in 2009 USD).

Disaster is a natural part of my evolution. Toward tragedy and dissolution. – Chuck Palahniuk

Alas, I emerge from one disaster to fall into a worse. – Pierre Corneille

Failure is simply the non-presence of success. But a fiasco is a disaster of mythic proportions. – Orlando Bloom

I always tried to turn every disaster into an opportunity. – John D. Rockefeller

Also on this day:

The Little General – In 1814 Napoleon I is exiled to Elba.
Nicaragua – In 1855, William Walker left to conquer Nicaragua.
First and Only – In 1979, Margaret Thatcher was elected.

First and Only

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 4, 2011

Margaret Thatcher

May 4, 1979: Margaret Roberts Thatcher is elected as the first [and so far, only] woman Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. She served from 1979-1990, the longest term since Lord Salisbury at the end of the 19th century. Margaret Roberts majored in chemistry at Somerville College, Oxford and was President of the Oxford University Conservative Association in 1946. She worked as a research chemist after graduation.

She first ran for public office in 1950 without success. She met Denis Thatcher, a divorced businessman and married him in 1953. He financed her way through law school and after graduation, she practice tax law. She won three Prime Minister elections and then her own party turned against her. She was either loved or hated by the constituency, as well. Her own party claimed that she was mishandling the economy.

The PM resides at 10 Downing Street, one of the most famous addresses in London. Over the years 52 men and 1 woman have resided there beginning with Sir Robert Walpole from 1721-1742. Tony Blair took up residence on May 2, 1997. Unlike the United States Presidential office, when a PM vacates the post by death, there can be an interval with no sitting PM. This has happened a few times, with the longest gap being 56 days after the Earl of Wilmington died.

William Pitt was elected to the post at the age of 24. George Canning only served 119 days before his death. Walpole served nearly 21 years, the longest sitting PM. They can also be a quirky lot. The Duke of Wellington once came upon a boy worried about leaving his pet toad while he went to boarding school, so the PM adopted the toad. Winston Churchill was born in the loo when his mother went into early labor at a dance. John Major’s father worked as a trapeze artist. The oddest injury suffered by a PM was when Earl Grey was struck in the head by his wife’s picture when it fell off the wall.

“If you want something said, ask a man…if you want something done, ask a woman.”

“Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”

“Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s when you’ve had everything to do, and you’ve done it.”

“Of course it’s the same old story. Truth usually is the same old story.”

“You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.” – all from Margaret Thatcher

Also on this day:
The Little General – In 1814 Napoleon I is exiled to Elba.
Nicaragua – In 1855, William Walker left to conquer Nicaragua.

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The Little General

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 4, 2010

Napoleon on Elba

May 4, 1814: Napoleon I, Emperor of France, begins his exile on the island of Elba. Napoleon Bonaparte was born into a noble family in Corsica, an island southwest of mainland France. He was schooled at the Parisian Ecole Royale Militaire, completing three years of schooling in one year. He was posted, after graduation, to mainland France, but spent most of the next years in Corsica. We have heard him called le petit caporal, and given a height of 5 ft 2, but that is a different measurement system. He was 5 feet 7 inches tall or 1.7 m. While this is not exactly tall, it is not exactly short, either. He surrounded himself with tall bodyguards who gave him the affectionate nickname. He tells more about his relationship with his soldiers than it tell us about his height.

The French Revolution had depleted both the coffers and officers of the French army. Napoleon quickly rose to higher levels of power. His strategic favor at court led to his fortunes rising and falling with changes in power structure. In 1795, Napoleon was once again a hero when he defended the government from counter-revolutionaries. Over the next five years, he continued to gain military victories and power.

By February 1800, Napoleon had gained the title of First Consul – practically a dictatorship. He then set out to defend France from her enemies throughout Europe. Once her enemies had been vanquished, Napoleon set about reforms at home. For the next eight years Napoleon dominated Europe, but continued to meet with setbacks against the British Empire. By 1811, the Napoleonic Empire was facing a crisis.

In 1812, Napoleon went to war with Russia, meeting defeat at Leipzig. As defeated Emperor, he was exiled to Elba and King Louis XVIII was restored to the throne. Napoleon escaped his exile on February 26, 1815 and returned to power in France. He again went to war and met his Waterloo against the Duke of Wellington. He attempted an escape, was found on board a ship bound for America, admitted defeat, and was once again exiled, this time to Saint Helena where he died on May 5, 1821.

“Ability is of little account without opportunity.”

“Men are Moved by two levers only: fear and self interest.”

“I can no longer obey; I have tasted command, and I cannot give it up.”

“Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.”

“If you wish to be a success in the world, promise everything, deliver nothing.” – all from Napoleon Bonaparte

Also on this day, in 1855 William Walker left for Nicaragua on a filibustering mission.

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