Little Bits of History

Move to District of Columbia

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 17, 2015
Capitol Building in 1800

Capitol Building in 1800

November 17, 1800: For the first time, both chambers of the US Congress meet at the United States Capitol building. On July 9, 1790, Congress passed the Residence Act which approved of the creation of a new seat for the United States government along the Potomac River. The exact location for the new city was to be selected by George Washington after he signed the bill on July 16. Both Virginia and Maryland donated lands to be used for the new capital which measured 10 miles on each of its square sides, giving them 100 square miles of land on which to construct the National Government buildings. Georgetown, Maryland and Alexandria, Virginia had already been settled on the lands and were included in the transfer. The borders were surveyed and stone mile markers were places, many of which still exist today.

A new federal city was planned for the north bank of the Potomac and to the east of Georgetown. The city was named for the first President on September 9, 1791 and the district was called Columbia, a poetic name used for the US at the time. Pierre Charles L’Enfant was to plan out the city and envisioned a building in which the newly formed bicameral Congress could meet which he called Congress House. Thomas Jefferson insisted it be called the Capitol. L’Enfant had difficulties with the planning of the city and the buildings and was dismissed in February 1792. In the spring, a contest was opened for designs of the President’s House and the Capitol. The prize was $500 and a lot in the new city. At least ten submissions for the Capitol were submitted. A late entry came way past the deadline, but was selected.

William Thornton’s design was officially approved on April 5, 1793 and Thornton served as the first Architect of the Capitol. The original design for the building was changed twice more before it was built. New additions to the building were added later, as well. On September 18, 1793, George Washington and eight Freesmasons came together to lay the cornerstone which had been made by Caleb Bentley, a silversmith. Construction on both the Capitol and the President’s House, which later became known as the Executive Mansion and is colloquially called the White House, proceeded apace. The supervision of the building passed through many hands, but the Senate north wing was finally completed in 1800.

When first meeting in Washington, D.C., the Senate and the House shared quarters in the north wing. The south wing, the meeting place for the House of Representatives, was not completed until 1811. A temporary pavilion was built for the House and a covered walkway connected the two chambers so members could communicate more effectively. John Adams brought Congress to Washington, D.C. prematurely in the hopes of securing enough Southern votes in the Electoral College to secure a second term as President. It didn’t work and Thomas Jefferson was elected to replace him.

Washington, D.C., has everything that Rome, Paris and London have in the way of great architecture – great power bases. Washington has obelisks and pyramids and underground tunnels and great art and a whole shadow world that we really don’t see. – Dan Brown

I love to go to Washington – if only to be near my money. – Bob Hope

For Philistines like me, the mysteries of Washington can be both perplexing and wondrous. – David Harsanyi

There are a number of things wrong with Washington. One of them is that everyone is too far from home. – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Also on this day: The Heidi Game – In 1968, NBC didn’t finish the game, leaving a football game in progress to air the previously scheduled movie.
Point Made – In 1970, the computer mouse was patented.
Delta Phi – In 1827, the fraternity was formed.
Anglo-Swedish War – In 1810, war was declared between two non-combatants.
Fourteenth – In 1950, a new Dalai Lama was placed.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 17, 2014
The 14th Dalai Lama

The 14th Dalai Lama

November 17, 1950: Lhamo Dondrub (or Thondup) gets a new job. He was born on July 6, 1935 to a farming and horse trading family in Taktser. This region had formerly been part of the Tibetan region of Amdo but had already been assimilated into the Qinghai province of China. He was one of seven siblings to survive childhood with his oldest sister 18 years older than Lhamo. His first language was a dialect of Chinese, Xining and his family did not speak any Tibetan language. When he was two years old, a search party was sent out to locate a new incarnation. The thirteenth Dalai Lama’s head had turned in Lhamo’s direction, indicating the area to search. The seekers came to Lhamo’s home and the youngster was presented with relics and could identify all that had been the thirteenth Dalai Lama’s from those that had not.

Lhamo was recognized at the fourteenth reincarnation of the Dalai Lama and renamed Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso. He was not formally enthroned as the Dalai Lama until he was fifteen and until this date, a regent acted as the head of the Kashag. While a child, he had a series of tutors in Tibet and met Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer in 1946. The two remained friends until Harrer’s death. In 1959 at the age of 23, the Dalai Lama took his final examination at Jokhang Temple and passed with honors. He received the Lharampa degree, the highest-level geshe degree akin to a PhD in Buddhist philosophy.

The Dalai Lama’s formal rule was brief. He worked with the Chinese government to achieve a peaceful libration of Tibet. This was an unsuccessful attempt to free the highest region in the world, nestled in the Himalayan mountains, from Chinese control. While the Dalai Lama was on a trip to India in 1956, he asked for political asylum from Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. He was discouraged from this tactic, as it might incite more strife in the region. The CIA offered help but even with this, Tibet remained under Chinese control. The Dalai Lama was forced to flee to India for his safety, crossing the border on March 10, 1959. Later, he set up the Government of Tibet in Exile and helped about 80,000 refugees.

The 14th Dalai Lama has also worked for international ideals. In 1987 he proposed to make Tibet a “zone of peace” without nuclear weapons and supporting human rights. He expanded on the idea the next year in Strasbourg proposing that Tibet work with the People’s Republic of China, but the plan was rejected. He has met with Popes and other religious leaders to open interfaith dialogues. His policy stance is nuanced and varied but tends toward the liberal ideology in most respects. Although calling himself a feminist, he stance on abortion is more rigid. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his work with freeing Tibetans both in and outside Tibet. He has stated he will seek the next reincarnation for the 15th Dalai Lama when he is 90 – or in another decade or so.

My true religion is Kindness.

It is very important to generate a good attitude, a good heart, as much as possible.

I feel that the essence of spiritual practice is your attitude toward others.

Reason well from the beginning and then there will never be any need to look back with confusion and doubt. – all from Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama

Also on this day: The Heidi Game – In 1968, NBC didn’t finish the game, leaving a football game in progress to air the previously scheduled movie.
Point Made – In 1970, the computer mouse was patented.
Delta Phi – In 1827, the fraternity was formed.
Anglo-Swedish War – In 1810, war was declared between two non-combatants.

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Point Made

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 17, 2013
Douglas Engelbart

Douglas Engelbart

November 17, 1970: US Patent # 3,541,541 is granted to SRI International. Dr. Douglas Engelbart from SRI is an American inventor, geek, and philosopher of sorts. He reasoned that like a language’s complexity limits the expression of ideas, so too technology’s complexity or lack thereof limits our ability to manipulate information. He therefore invented ways for technology to become more coevolutionary. He was an instrumental driving force behind SRI and developed computer interface devices which led to the Graphical User Interface we have come to rely on.

Early computational devices had to be fed data in time consuming ways. Punch cards were an early method of data input. Eventually keyboards were added allowing data to be keyed in more easily and effectively. Text was shown on a monitor and could be manipulated when the cursor was in the appropriate place. Moving the cursor was done by use of the arrow keys. This was laborious, annoying, and time consuming. So Engelbart invented a pointing device and built his first one in 1963. He improved upon his idea and was granted a patent for an “X-Y Position Indicator for a Display System” or as we call it, a mouse.

Engelbart didn’t make any money off this revolutionary idea. The patent was good until 1987 which predates the personal computing era. Newer mice used different mechanisms to achieve their effect and so were not deemed to be infringing. Instead, SRI licensed the idea to Apple for the paltry sum or $40,000. The brilliant scientist slipped into obscurity and remained an unsung hero for decades. However, he was finally recognized with cash awards and titular honors by the mid-1990s. His contributions to computing science have shaped the world we live in today.

Engelbart envisioned our computing to be done by constantly holding the mouse in one hand and typing on a five-key chord keyset with the other. While this didn’t happen, the mouse of today is indispensible as it rests next to the keyboard. Mechanical mice were upgraded to optical mice. Left and right click buttons were separated by the scroll button. Wireless mice no longer even look like the small rodent for which they were named. And on laptops, the touchpad is simply a flat input device. But we all need our mice.

“Computer Science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.” – Edsger W. Dijkstra

“Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy.” – Joseph Campbell

“After growing wildly for years, the field of computing appears to be reaching its infancy.” – John Pierce

“Hardware: the parts of a computer that can be kicked.” – Jeff Pesis

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: SRI International was founded as Stanford Research Institute. It is a nonprofit research facility headquartered in Menlo Park, California. The trustees of Stanford University created the research branch in 1946 and it is now one of the largest contract research institutes in the world. They formally separated from the University it 1970 and became known as SRI International in 1977. Headquarters are still located near the Stanford campus. Their mission is scientific and technological in nature and they work for and with government agencies, commercial business, and private foundations. They license technologies and form strategic partnerships as well as spin-off businesses. They generated $585 million in 2012 and employed about 2,200 people. Physicist Curtis Carlson has been president and CEO since 1998. Sarnoff Corporation is a subsidiary of SRI since 1988 and is the brand name for the research business activities in Princeton, New Jersey. SRI is the owner of over 1,000 patents and patent applications worldwide.

Also on this day: The Heidi Game – In 1968, NBC didn’t finish the game, leaving a football game in progress to air the previously scheduled movie.
Delta Phi – In 1827, the fraternity was formed.
Anglo-Swedish War – In 1810, war was declared between two non-combatants.

Anglo-Swedish War

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 17, 2012

Swedish and British flags

November 17, 1810: War is declared. During the Napoleonic Wars which were fought between 1803 and 1815, strange things happened. After the French Revolution of 1789, Napoleon came to power in France and then tried to bring French power and rule to more of Europe. During this time, Sweden and the United Kingdom were allies. However, Sweden was defeated in the Finnish War and the Pomeranian War. Treaties were signed to end these conflicts. The Treaty of Paris concluded on January 6, 1810. Part of the treat stated that Sweden would join the Continental System.

The Continental System or Continental Blockade was a foreign policy instituted by Napoleon I against his arch-enemy, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The British retained control of the seas even as Napoleon’s power swept across Europe. The small island nation could therefore control trade and imports to the continent. In order to break the British stranglehold on trade, Napoleon ordered countries under his control to halt all trade with Britain. The embargo began on November 21, 1806 and ended with Napoleon’s first abdication in 1814. It was not completely effective since the people of Europe were engaged in frequent smuggling of goods they desired despite the Emperor’s edict.

The Finnish War was fought from February 1808 to September 1809 between Russia, backed by France and Spain, and Sweden, backed by the United Kingdom and Portugal. The Russians won and the Treaty of Fredrikshamn separated Finland from Sweden with Finland as an autonomous country under Russia. During the same time, an Anglo-Russian War was also being fought. From September 1807 to July 1812, Russia, supported by Denmark, and the UK, supported by Sweden, were engaged in conflicts. However, this war was limited mostly to a few naval actions on the Baltic Sea. The British Navy was victorious.

Great Britain and Sweden were trade partners and if Sweden had enforced the embargo as demanded by the Treaty of Paris, it would have ruined her economy. So she ignored the mandate. On November 13, 1810, France delivered an ultimatum to Sweden. France demanded that Sweden declare war on Great Britain, confiscate all British ships in their harbors, and seize all British products in Sweden. So Sweden declared war. No battles were ever fought. British ships continued to trade with Sweden from Swedish ports. There was now a chance of a British invasion and the only fatalities of the war occurred when Major-General Hampus Mörmer tried to conscript some local farmers. The “war” ended on July 18, 1812.

War is what happens when language fails. – Margaret Atwood

There are causes worth dying for, but none worth killing for. – Albert Camus

Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows. – Martin Luther King Jr.

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting. – Sun Tzu

Also on this day:

The Heidi Game – In 1968, NBC didn’t finish the game, leaving a football game in progress to air the previously scheduled movie.
Point Made – In 1970, the computer mouse was patented.
Delta Phi – In 1827, the fraternity was formed.

Delta Phi

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 17, 2011

Delta Phi logo

November 17, 1827: Delta Phi is formed in Schenectady, New York at Union College. It was formed as part of the Union Triad along with Kappa Alpha Society and Sigma Phi Society. Kappa Alpha and Delta Phi argued over who got title to the oldest continuous fraternity, with both claiming title. Sigma Phi simply claims second oldest continuously operating fraternity. The issue with the oldest status seems to be the actual date of founding. Kappa Alpha met informally prior to the formal formation on November 26 and they use their older date.

These societies or fraternities were formed during the anti-Masonic era in the US. Since these groups met secretly, they also became targets. This led Phi Beta Kappa, the actual oldest fraternity, to abandon the idea and become a public honor society. In the early 1930s, Union College president, Eliphalet Nott, asked for all fraternities to disband. However, John Jay Hyde, a member of Delta Phi, argued for the benefits of the society. He did so with such sincerity and force that Nott relented.

Hyde went on to design the badge still in use by Delta Phi. It is a Maltese Cross, a symbol of the Knights of Malta. For this reason, the society is sometimes called “The St. Elmo Club.” Today, the fraternity remains active although it is fairly small. There are 14 active chapters but they are trying to expand. Most of the chapters are along the east coast but there are chapters in Ohio and Illinois. There are also 12 inactive chapters, again mostly from the east coast region, although once again an outlier state is Indiana.

Union College was established in 1795 and is a private non-denominational liberal arts college. There are currently 21 academic departments with the largest percentage of students majoring in the social sciences. There are some engineering majors at Union as well as other science majors. Most students, about 60%, manage to engage in international study or actual study abroad. There are about 2,200 undergraduate students enrolled at Union.

“A ‘fraternity’ is the antithesis of fraternity.  The first… is predicated on the idea of exclusion; the second (that is, the abstract thing) is based on a feeling of total equality.” – E.B. White

“Brotherhood is not letting petty differences get in the way of anything. It is about being true to yourself. It is about experiencing new adventures by entering the realm of others.” – unknown

“The ties that bind me to my Brothers are not wrapped around my wrists, but rather are fastened to my heart!” – unknown

“You can take the Brothers our of the Fraternity, but you can’t take the Brotherhood out of the Brothers.” – unknown

Also on this day:
The Heidi Game – In 1968, NBC didn’t finish the game, leaving a football game in progress to air the previously scheduled movie.
Point Made – In 1970, the computer mouse was patented.

The Heidi Game

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 18, 2010

Heidi Game stats

November 17, 1968: The Oakland [California] Raiders are hosting the New York Jets in an American Football League game with each of the rivals sporting a 7-2 record for the season. The game was broadcast on NBC and began at 4 PM [EST] with a special network-produced movie of the children’s classic, Heidi, scheduled to follow at 7 PM.

As the half time production began, the Raiders were ahead 14-12 after a series of fights, flags, and fantastically frightening hits. During the third quarter, Jim Hudson, the Jets safety was ejected from the game. The score went first to one team and then back to the other. As the clock ran down, the Jets were leading 32-29 and it looked like they had the game in the record books already. There were another 65 seconds on the clock but it was commercial time.

When the break was over it was 7 PM and Heidi came on as scheduled. Dick Cline was in the control booth at NBC. Calls had been coming into the booth with some people demanding the movie starting on schedule and others demanding the game’s end be shown. Cline’s superiors could not get through and so the movie aired as previously scheduled.

What did not make the airwaves: Oakland completed a 20-yard pass, a 15-yard Jets penalty, Oakland’s Charlie Smith making a 43-yard run into the end zone with the score now at 36-32 Oakland. Then the kickoff, the Jets receiver Earl Christy bobbled the ball as he was blitzed by Raiders, the ball was dropped, Preston Ridlehuber scooped it up and ran into the end zone for a second Oakland touchdown. The final score: Oakland 43, Jets 32, and NBC 0. The network apologized. Today there are riders to contracts with networks that games must be broadcast in their entirety. NBC installed a special phone in the control booth with a private number – the Heidi phone.

“Probably the most significant factor to come out of Heidi was, ‘Whatever you do, you’d better not leave an NFL football game.’ ” – Val Pinchbeck

“It’s been more than 30 years and half the people who bring the Heidi game up to me weren’t even born when the game was played.” – Dick Cline

“Football isn’t a contact sport; it’s a collision sport. Dancing is a contact sport.” – Vince Lombardi

“Football combines the two worst features of American life. It is violence punctuated by committee meetings.” – George F. Will

Also on this day, in 1970 the first computer mouse or X-Y Position Indicator, was patented.

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