Little Bits of History

Rising Waters

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 4, 2015
Arno River through Florence, Italy

Arno River through Florence, Italy *

November 4, 1966: The Arno River overflows. It is one of Italy’s major rivers, second in importance only to the Tiber. It begins at Mount Falterona in the Apennines and runs 150 miles through Tuscany. It initially heads south and then westward. It passes Arezzo, Florence, Empoli, and Pisa before flowing into the Tyrrhenian Sea. The Arno is famous for frequently overflowing and so dams have been built.  On November 3, after a long steady rain, the Levane and La Penna dams in Valdarno began to discharge more than 71,000 cubic feet of water with it heading toward Florence. By 2.30 PM, the Civil Engineering Department reported an “exceptional quantity of water” had been discharged and areas north of Florence began to see flooding.

At 4 AM on this day, as engineers feared the bursting of the Valdarno damn, they began to discharge a mass of water which began speeding toward Florence at 37 mph. At 7.26 AM, in preparation for the water’s movement, gas, electricity, and water was cut off and by 8 AM, the army barracks were flooded. At 9 AM, the hospital’s generators (the only source of power in the region) also cut out. Landslides blocked roads in Florence and the narrow streets acted as funnels which increased in height and velocity. By 9.45 AM the Piazza del Duomo was flooded. The swirling, rushing waters breached the central heating oil tanks and oil was mixed in with the floodwaters which caused even greater damage.

Geographically, Florence is divided in two and the people past the Piazza Michelangelo were stranded. Santa Croce saw the highest water at 22 feet. The waters began to recede around 8 PM after killing 101 people. This was the worst flood in Florence since 1557. The flood had both an economic and a cultural impact on the city that remains to this day. Most of the people living in Florence were totally unaware of the impending disaster as they slept peacefully and there were no emergency measures in place since it was assumed the dams were protection enough.

There were 5,000 families left homeless and 6,000 stores were forced out of business due to storm damage. About 600,000 tons of mud, rubble, and sewage damaged much of the city. Florence was known for its artistic history and was a repository for many antique artifacts. Between 3 and 4 million books/manuscripts were damaged as well as 14,000 moveable works of art. The Italian citizens as well as foreign donors and groups came together as the “Mud Angels” and many of the damaged works have been restored. There are also newly established methods of conservation for the precious works and yet restoration laboratories still have much work to do. Not just the art/history/culture need to be protected and a massive project throughout Tuscany has been ongoing to prevent any future flooding disasters.

I have long been active in and supportive of conservation and historical preservation causes. – Jack L. Chalker

We were totally unprepared for such a large quantity of visitors, and in view of the preservation of the antiquities they being very crowded and in poor preservation, we were obliged to refuse admission until some preparation was made to safeguard the objects. – Howard Carter, who discovered King Tut’s tomb on this day

All that mankind has done, thought or been: it is lying as in magic preservation in the pages of books. – Thomas Carlyle

Individually, museums are fine institutions, dedicated to the high values of preservation, education and truth; collectively, their growth in numbers points to the imaginative death of this country. – Robert Hewison

Also on this day: Symbolism – In 1899, Sigmund Freud published The Interpretation of Dreams in Germany.
Chartists – In 1839, the Newport Uprising ended in bloodshed.
Erie Canal – In 1825, the “Wedding of the Waters” took place.
Nighty Night – In 1847, chloroform’s anesthetic properties were discovered.
Pharaoh Tutankhamen – In 1922, King Tut’s tomb was found.

* “Firenze.Arno” by No machine readable author provided. JoJan assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims).. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons –

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Pharaoh Tutankhamen

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 4, 2014
Howard Carter and King Tut's coffin

Howard Carter and King Tut’s coffin

November 4, 1922: Howard Carter finds the entrance to King Tut’s tomb. Carter was born in London in 1874. His father was an artist and encouraged his son to follow in his footsteps. The child grew up among relatives in Swaffham, a market town of Norfolk. In 1891, when Carter was 17, he was sent to Egypt by the Egypt Exploration Fund to help Percy Newberry’s excavation of the Middle Kingdom tombs at Beni Hasan. Carter improved on the methods of copying tomb decorations and in the following years came under the tutelage of other Egyptologists. By 1899, Carter was made chief inspector of the Egyptian Antiquities Service and supervised a number of excavations at Thebes (now Luxor).

Pharaoh Tutankhamen ruled from about 1332 to 1323 BC. This was the 18th Dynasty. He was born around 1341 BC and died around the age of 18. He and his half-sister/cousin had two stillborn daughters. In Egyptian history, this period is called the New Kingdom. Various spellings of the Pharaoh’s name mean slightly different things – Tutankhaten means “Living Image of Aten” while Tutankhamun  means “Living Image of Amun”. Aten is the sun god also called Ra. Amun is a local deity of Thebes and is the king of the gods and god of the wind. Computed tomography of the two stillborn infants found no cause of death or congenital anomalies.

King Tut rose to power at the age of nine or ten. It is assumed that due to his young age, he was counseled by powerful advisers and it is assumed General Horemhab and Vizier Ay were among them. During Tut’s third reigning year, he reversed his father’s decree and returned worship to Amun rather than Aten and moved the capital back to Thebes abandoning the city of Akhataten. This is also when he changed his name. With the move, building projects in Thebes were begun as were several projects in Karnak. Many monuments were constructed as the inscription on the king’s tomb door attested. It told that the Pharaoh had ‘spent his life in fashioning the images of the gods”.

Finding a nearly intact tomb was rare. When Carter and Lord Carnarvon, George Herbert found the tomb in the Valley of the Kings, it renewed an interest in ancient Egypt and archeology. Finding the steps to tomb KV62 on this day was impressive. This was the last season Carter’s funds would remain and this gave both Carter and the world a chance to further study of the tombs. He sent a wire to Lord Carnarvon to come and they began their opening of the tomb on November 26 after the noble’s arrival. They finally opened a sealed doorway on February 16, 1923 and found the regal burial chamber and the sarcophagus of Tutankhamen. Carter died of lymphoma at the age of 64 and refuted the Curse of the Pharaohs, dying long after they “violated” King Tut’s tomb.

We were astonished by the beauty and refinement of the art displayed by the objects surpassing all we could have imagined – the impression was overwhelming.

All we have to do is to peel the shrines like an onion, and we will be with the king himself.

With such evidence, as well as the sealed doorway between the two guardian statues of the King, the mystery gradually dawned upon us. We were but in the anterior portion of a tomb.

They were of many types of seals, all bearing the insignia of the King. – all from Howard Carter

Also on this day: Symbolism – In 1899, Sigmund Freud published The Interpretation of Dreams in Germany.
Chartists – In 1839, the Newport Uprising ended in bloodshed.
Erie Canal – In 1825, the “Wedding of the Waters” took place.
Nighty Night – In 1847, chloroform’s anesthetic properties were discovered.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 4, 2013
Chartists uprising

Chartists uprising

November 4, 1839: John Frost leads 1,000-5,000 fellow Chartist sympathizers to Newport, Monmouthshire. Newport was a coal mining center in South Wales and by 1830 it was the country’s leading coal port, even larger than Cardiff. After 1830, with migrants coming from England looking for work, the town began to change. Welsh was no longer the most common language and many considered the area to be “un-Welsh.” The St. George Society went so far as to eventually consider Newport to be philosophically part of England. It remains geographically in Wales.

Chartism was a movement for social and political reforms in the United Kingdom. The following six goals were stipulated by the Chartists. Suffrage for all men 21 and over; equal-sized voting districts; secret ballots; the end of property requirements for Parliamentarians; pay for Members of Parliament; and annual elections. It was one of the earliest working class labor movements in the world. Some groups were “physical” while others were called a “moral force” based on their willingness to endorse violent protest.

The Chartism movement lasted from 1838-1848. On June 9, 1838 William Lovett met with friends in Covent Garden, London and first listed the aims of the group. The men met several times and the movement grew. The petition was finally placed before the House of Commons where it was not only rejected on July 12, 1839, but they also convicted Henry Vincent, one of the Chartist leaders, of illegal assembly. By fall there were reports of Chartists having been taken prisoner. They were said to be held at Newport’s Westgate Hotel.

Thousands of men, led by John Frost, marched to free their comrades. They were slowed by heavy rains and as they neared the city, many men were less enthusiastic. They were more concerned with their jobs than with great causes. The mayor of Newport was overwhelmed by the size of the uprising and deputized 500 Special Constables. Troops were also called in. Both sides were armed and shots were fired from both forces. The outnumbered soldiers were better armed. Between 10 and 24 rioters were killed and ≈ 50 wounded. Another 200 were arrested. Frost was found guilty of high treason. Many of the protestors were given transportation to Melbourne. This was the last large scale armed rebellion on mainland Britain.

“The whole world is in revolt. Soon there will be only five Kings left – the King of England, the King of Spades, The King of Clubs, the King of Hearts, and the King of Diamonds.” – King Farouk of Egypt

“What is a rebel? A man who says no.” – Albert Camus

“Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man’s original virtue. It is through disobedience and rebellion that progress has been made.” – Oscar Wilde

“When you think of the long and gloomy history of man, you will find more hideous crimes have been committed in the name of obedience than have ever been committed in the name of rebellion.” – C. P. Snow

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Newport has been a port city since the Normans built a castle there during medieval times. The area was given borough status around 1120. It was granted a charter in 1314. It finally made city status in 2002. Today, there are about 145,000 people living in the city itself which covers about 70 square miles and about 310,000 in the metropolitan area. The city is not particularly diverse with 90% of the population Caucasian. The next highest percentage is 5.4% Asians followed by 1.7% Black. The city, together with Cardiff, forms a combined metropolitan area that is home to slightly more than one million people. After this uprising, power shifted over to Cardiff which became the largest coal exporting port by the 1850s. The city’s motto is “Terra Marique” which means “By land and sea” – an appropriate watchword for a port town.

Also on this day: Symbolism – In 1899, Sigmund Freud published The Interpretation of Dreams in Germany.
Erie Canal – In 1825, the “Wedding of the Waters” took place.
Nighty Night – In 1847, chloroform’s anesthetic properties were discovered.

Nighty night

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 4, 2012

Humphry Davy

November 4, 1847: Chloroform’s anesthetic properties are discovered. Chloroform is an organic compound with the formula CHCl3. It is a colorless, sweet-smelling, dense liquid and is considered somewhat hazardous. It comes from many different sources and was discovered by three different independent researchers. It was reported in 1831 by a Frenchman, an American, and a German with each scientist describing the same compound. Chloroform can be used as a solvent, it’s most common use today. It can also be used as a reagent in organic synthesis. But on this day, its anesthetic properties were first discovered. The vapor depresses the central nervous system and allows a doctor to perform otherwise painful procedures without distress to the patient.

Childbirth has always been a rather painful undertaking and to be able to relieve the discomfort of the process had long been a goal. Beginning in 1799, Sir Humphry Davy used nitrous oxide or laughing gas to lessen the pain of delivery. While it did help, it wasn’t quite the answer and so further investigations continued. Ether was originally dismissed due to the irritation it caused to the lungs. In 1847, James Young Simpson and his colleagues were attempting to find a substitute for ether as a general anesthetic. They breathed in some of the vapor and noticed their mood lightening, but then they suddenly collapsed and did not awaken until the next day. As soon as he woke up, Simpson knew he had found something useful.

The entire experiment was quite serendipitous. If they hadn’t inhaled enough, they wouldn’t have fallen asleep; if they had inhaled too much, they would have died. They next practiced with Miss Petrie, Simpson’s niece. She, too, fell asleep. The use of the drug soon spread and the pain of childbirth was lessened for many women of the time. Simpson was a sought after obstetrician for more than just his anesthetic discovery. He was often described as a free thinker and was willing to use that to enhance his medical practice. He was an early advocate of using midwives in a hospital setting. His home was also a meeting place for many of the social elites of the time, regardless of his medical proclivities. His interests also spanned other subjects, such as archaeology and hermaphroditism.

He was created a Baronet, of Strathavon in the County of Linlithgow, and of the City of Edinburgh, in 1866. He was 58 years old when he died at home at 52 Queen Street. A burial spot was offered at Westminster Abbey, but the family declined and he is instead buried in Warriston Cemetery, Edinburgh. Even so, a memorial bust was placed in the Abbey. On the day of his funeral, a Scottish holiday was declared and over 100,000 citizens lined the streets to see their great son on his way to his final resting place.

All pain is per se and especially in excess, destructive and ultimately fatal in its nature and effects. – James Young Simpson

Alcohol is the anesthesia by which we endure the operation of life. – George Bernard Shaw

Married sex is like being awake during your own autopsy. It is root canal work without anesthetic. – Al Goldstein

The interesting thing is why we’re so desperate for this anesthetic against loneliness. – David Foster Wallace

Also on this day:

Symbolism – In 1899, Sigmund Freud published The Interpretation of Dreams in Germany.
Chartists – In 1839, the Newport Uprising ended in bloodshed.
Erie Canal – In 1825, the “Wedding of the Waters” took place.

Erie Canal

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 4, 2011

Erie Canal

November 4, 1825: Governor DeWitt Clinton pours water from Lake Erie into New York Harbor. This “Wedding of the Waters” took place ten days after the Erie Canal was completed on October 26. After completion, a large contingent of boats began the journey from Buffalo to New York City. They were regaled with cannon shot as they traveled the length of the canal. The governor’s boat, the Seneca Chief, led the way for the ten-day journey. After “marrying” the two water, a keg of Atlantic Ocean water was taken back to Lake Erie by Judge Samuel Wilkeson of Buffalo.

The Erie Canal runs from the Hudson River to the Great Lakes, a distance of 363 miles. There are a total of 36 locks to cover the height differential of 565 feet. It was the first transportation system between the Eastern Seaboard (especially New York City) and the Western Interior that did not require portage. Proposed in 1807, it took until 1817 for construction to begin. The principal engineer was Benjamin Wright. This superhighway was much faster and cheaper than carts pulled by draft animals. In fact, transport costs were cut by about 95%.

This new system led to a huge migration westward and it helped New York City to become the largest port on the East Coast, overtaking Philadelphia. Because of the cheaper methods of transportation of goods, the economy was improved. During this time, Britain also repealed the Corn Laws which allowed great quantities of wheat to be exported from the US to Britain. Since many of the construction workers building the canal were immigrants from Ireland, there sprang up many Irish settlements along the course of the canal. Much of the excavated soil was returned to New York City and New Jersey where it was used for landfill.

The canal was so important to transportation efforts that it was improved and enlarged in 1834 and again in 1863. In 1918, the enlarged canal was replaced with an even larger New York State Barge Canal. Today, it is part of the New York State Canal System and in 2000 the US Congress designated it as the Erie Canalway national Heritage Corridor in recognition to its significance to the growing nation.

“The opening of the Erie Canal to New York in 1825 stimulated other cities on the Atlantic seaboard to put themselves into closer commercial touch with the West.” – John Moody

“In the United States three new methods of transportation made their appearance at almost the same time – the steamboat, the canal boat, and the rail car.” – John Moody

“Farmers, merchants, manufacturers, and the traveling public have all had their troubles with the transportation lines, and the difficulties to which these struggles have given rise have produced that problem which is even now apparently far from solution.” – John Moody

“Pleasure is a shadow, wealth is vanity, and power a pageant; but knowledge is ecstatic in enjoyment, perennial in frame, unlimited in space and indefinite in duration.” – DeWitt Clinton

Also on this day:
Symbolism – In 1899, Sigmund Freud published The Interpretation of Dreams in Germany.
Chartists – In 1839, the Newport Uprising ended in bloodshed.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 5, 2010

Sigmund Freud, by Max Halberstadt, 1914 for LIFE Magazine

November 4, 1899: Sigmund Freud’s book The Interpretation of Dreams is first published in German and post-dated to 1900. Freud was an Austrian neurologist who took up the study of brain functioning and interpretation. He was born in 1856, a brilliant child who excelled in academic endeavors. He went to medical school, one of the few options available to Jews in that place and time.

His study and lectures offered him a decent living. This book, however, was not a “best-seller” at the time of its first publication. It took several years for the first printing of 600 books to finally sell. Freud was paid around $209 for the book. He revised it a total of eight times. It was first translated into English and Russian in 1913 and six other languages by 1938.

The book discusses the idea of sublimation of thoughts by the subconscious during waking hours. At night, without strict control, the preconscious allows these thoughts to emerge in a warped sense into the conscious. One must interpret the meaning behind the warped images to understand the essence of the dreams. In this book, Freud first mentioned that sexuality was an important part of childhood – an idea that was shocking at the time. Freud called dreams the “royal road to the unconscious” which  mirrored “wish fulfillment” in the awakened dreamer.

Freud first introduced the ego, super-ego, and id – his names for the conscious, preconscious, and unconscious respectively – in an essay written in 1920 called Beyond the Pleasure Principle. He expanded these ideas in a book entitled The Ego and The Id that was published in 1923.

“What a distressing contrast there is between the radiant intelligence of the child and the feeble mentality of the average adult.”

“Just as no one can be forced into belief, so no one can be forced into unbelief.”

“If you can’t do it, give up!”

“The first human who hurled an insult instead of a stone was the founder of civilization.”

“The mind is like an iceberg, it floats with one-seventh of its bulk above water.” – all from Sigmund Freud

Also on this day, in 1839 the Newport Rising failed miserably.