Little Bits of History

Trail to Freedom

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 9, 2015
Calvin Fairbank

Calvin Fairbank

November 9, 1851: Calvin Fairbank is abducted. Fairbank was born in New York in 1816 and grew up in a highly religious family. The time was part of the Second Great Awakening and western New York was a hotbed of evangelical preaching. While still a teenager, Fairbank met two escaped slaves and listened intently as they told their stories. He was forevermore a strident abolitionist. In 1837 he was piloting lumbar rafts on the Ohio River and was given the opportunity to help a runaway slave. He helped the slave cross the border between slave state Kentucky and free state Ohio. He was soon helping Levi Coffin, a Quaker, with moving slaves through the Underground Railroad.

Fairbank was licensed in 1840 by the Methodist Episcopal Church to preach and was ordained as a minister in 1842. Devoutly religious, he enrolled in Oberlin Collegiate Institute in northern Ohio in 1844. Today called Oberlin College, the campus was multicultural, allowing people of any race and even women to be educated. The institution was known as abolitionist and drew like-minded people together. Fairbank was asked and obligingly went to Lexington, Kentucky to help an escaped slave retrieve his family. Gilson Berry’s wife did not arrive at the meeting place, but  during his time in Kentucky, Fairbank met Lewis Hayden and his family. They were hoping to gain their freedom. He brought them to Ripley, Ohio and to safety.

Fairbank and his accomplice, Delia Webster (a teacher from Vermont) were arrested for helping runaway slaves when they returned to Kentucky. Webster was tried in 1844 and sentenced to two years, but was released after just two months. Fairbank was tried in 1845 and sentenced to five years for each slave he helped, for a total of 15 years. He was pardoned in 1849 after Hayden paid his former master $650 (quickly collected in Boston, where he had settled) to approve the pardon. In 1851, Fairbank helped a slave named Tamar escape from Kentucky to Ohio.

With the help of the sheriff of Clark County, Indiana as well as Joseph Wright, governor of Indiana, Fairbank was abducted and transported back to Kentucky in order to again be tried for helping a slave escape. Fairbank was tried in 1852 and imprisoned for 15 years. He received exceptionally harsh treatment while incarcerated. He was routinely flogged and overworked. He was said to have received 35,000 lashes over the course of his  years in prison. In 1864, Acting Governor Richard Jacob pardoned the minister. Once Fairbank was again a free man, he married Mandana Tileston, a woman to whom he had become engaged between his prison stints. They had one son. His time in prison had deleterious effects on his overall health but he was able to live until 1898 and the age of 81, outliving his wife who died of tuberculosis in 1876.

Cruelty was the devil, and most people were, in one way or another, cruel. Tyranny, suppression, persecution, torture, slavery, war, neglect — all were cruel. The world was acid and sour with hate, fat with greed, yellow with the triumph of the strong and the rich. – Rose Macaulay

They don’t stand for anything different in South Africa than America stands for. The only difference is over there they preach as well as practice apartheid. America preaches freedom and practices slavery. – Malcolm X

Uncle Tom’s Cabin was no literary masterpiece but it was a culture-bearing book. It came at a time when the entire culture was about to reject slavery. People seized upon it as a portrayal of their own new values and it became an overwhelming success. – Robert M. Pirsig

I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel. – Abraham Lincoln

Also on this day: Kristallnacht – In 1939, Nazi Germany began the systematic elimination of the Jews.
Damrell’s Fire – In 1872, the Great Boston Fire took place.
IE Look Out – In 2004, Firefox 1.0 was released.
Papa Was a Rolling Stone – In 1967, Rolling Stone magazine’s first issue was on the stands.
November Witch – In 1913, the Big Blow hit the Great Lakes.

November Witch

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 9, 2014
Storm on the Great Lakes

Storm on the Great Lakes

November 9, 1913: A storm hits the Great Lakes. It is sometimes called the Big Blow, Freshwater Fury, or White Hurricane and was a blizzard with hurricane-force winds which affected the Great Lakes Basin and the Canadian province of Ontario. The storm formed on November 6,1913 and finally dissipated on November 11 with this day being the day with the strongest winds. Ships were overturned in four of the five Great Lakes with Lake Huron suffering the most sinkings. More than 250 people were killed and 19 ships were destroyed with another 19 stranded. The financial loss of the vessels alone (with their cargo) was almost $5 million (about $119 million today).

The extratropical cyclone was the perfect storm. Two major storm fronts along with the relatively warm waters of the lakes themselves, produced what was called a November gale or November witch. Winds gusted up to 90 mph and there were waves over 35 feet high. Whiteout snowsqualls completed the dangerous conditions resulting in so much devastation and loss. The storm was first noticed on November 6 on the western side of Lake Superior and was moving rapidly toward Lake Michigan. Rather than the “brisk winds” called for in the weather reports, a sudden northerly gale hit around midnight. The next day, Friday, November 7, the storm was intensifying and flags were raised to convey the information of storm warning with northwesterly winds. By Saturday, the storm was being called “severe” and covered the entire lake basin.

At the time, weather conditions were gathered just twice each day and information sent to Washington, D.C. where maps were compiled. By noon on Sunday, barometric pressures on Lake Huron were close to normal for a November gale. It was hoped the storm would end soon. Unfortunately, a second low pressure area was moving toward the lakes from the opposite direction. This caused an intense counterclockwise rotation of the air and changing winds. The rotating continued and strengthened throughout the day. Between 8 PM and midnight, a condition modern meteorologists call a “weather bomb” took place. The movement of the winds is different from what is expected in a tropical cyclone.

As the storm dissipated, it brought blizzard conditions farther east. Cleveland, Ohio had an additional 17 inches of snow and six foot tall drifts filled the streets, stranding streetcar operators. As the storm raged into Canada, it lost power and finally ran out of steam. November gales have been problematic for the Great Lakes and all who sail there with several killer storms recorded. A storm like this was responsible for the sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975. The 1913 storm did have a greater impact. Analysis led to better land management and because of the lag times involved, better reporting and forecasting of storms was made possible to forestall the dangers from future storms. Although we are better prepared today, Mother Nature still has the upper hand.

If you want to see the sunshine, you have to weather the storm. – Frank Lane

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

The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore. – Vincent Van Gogh

In retrospect there were failures enough to go around. There were failures before the storm and failures after the storm. – Jeff Sessions

Also on this day: Kristallnacht – in 1939, Nazi Germany began the systematic elimination of the Jews.
Damrell’s Fire – In 1872, the Great Boston Fire took place.
IE Look Out – In 2004, Firefox 1.0 was released.
Papa Was a Rolling Stone – In 1967, Rolling Stone magazine’s first issue was on the stands.

Damrell’s Fire

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 9, 2013
Great Boston Fire of 1872

Great Boston Fire of 1872

November 9, 1872: At 7:20 PM a fire starts in Boston, Massachusetts. Urban fires are very destructive as they move quickly through crowded streets. The Great Boston Fire of 1872 was contained in twelve hours. The Great Fire of London in 1666 took three days to contain. Mrs. O’Leary’s cow probably had nothing to do with Chicago’s Great Fire the year before and it was contained in ≈ 24 hours. For comparison’s sake, the London fire covered 700 acres, the Chicago fire destroyed 2,000 acres, and the Boston fire consumed 65 acres. The London fire left eight dead, Chicago’s fire killed 200-300 people, and in Boston ≈ 30 perished.

The fire in Boston destroyed most of the downtown area. There were 776 buildings destroyed, with much of the financial district turned to ashes. The cost of the fire was $73.5 million or ≈ $1.9 billion in 2009 USD. The fire started in the basement of a warehouse in the commercial district. From 83 / 85 Summer Street it spread through the city. There were a variety of reasons for the rapid spread of the fire.

Fire stations from across New England sent their teams and pumpers to Boston via the trains. There had been a flu epidemic affecting horses across North America. Boston’s pumpers had to be brought to the fires pulled by teams of volunteers since the horses were immobilized. This is said to have slowed response time and given as the main reason the fire was able to spread so far. Building codes were not enforced and wooden French Mansard roofs were common. Embers often landed on these roofs and the buildings were then engulfed in flames. Fire hydrant couplings were not standardized at the time.

John Damrell was Boston’s Fire Chief in 1872. He began volunteering with fire teams in 1846, when he was a teenager. He is credited with bringing a new level of professionalism to fire fighting. By the 1880s he was Boston’s Inspector of Buildings and in that capacity created a set of modern building codes to ensure public safety. His codes were implemented at the national level. Both the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald buildings were destroyed in the blaze. Many insurance companies were bankrupted by the claims. Even so, the downtown was rebuilt in two years with the streets widened and the buildings safer.

“When a man becomes a fireman his greatest act of bravery has been accomplished. What he does after that is all in the line of work.” – Edward F. Croker

“I can think of no more stirring symbol of man’s humanity to man than a fire engine.” – Kurt Vonnegut

“You have to do something in your life that is honorable and not cowardly if you are to live in peace with yourself, and for the firefighter it is fire.” – Larry Brown

“Man is the only creature that dares to light a fire and live with it. The reason? Because he alone has learned to put it out.” – Henry Jackson Vandyke, Jr.

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Other contributing factors to the Great Boston Fire of 1872 were that merchants were not taxed for merchandise stored in attics. As the Mansard roofs caught fire, directly beneath was stored flammable goods such as wool, textiles, and paper goods. Most of Boston was serviced with old water pipes with low pressure capabilities. The number of fire hydrants and cisterns was not adequate for serving the commercial district and as mentioned above, if a fire hydrant was available, the hoses might not connect. The fire alarm boxes were kept locked to avoid false alarms being raised and it took an extra twenty minutes to even sound the first alarm. Looters and bystanders interfered with firefighting efforts. The buildings were higher than the distance the steam engine pumpers could spray water. The streets were lit by gas lights and the gas feeding them could not be properly shut off. And finally, buildings could be insured at full value or even above value making owners less concerned with fire safety; in fact, insurance related arson was common.

Also on this day: Kristallnacht – in 1939, Nazi Germany began the systematic elimination of the Jews.
IE Look Out – In 2004, Firefox 1.0 was released.
Papa Was a Rolling Stone – In 1967, Rolling Stone magazine’s first issue was on the stands.

Papa Was a Rolling Stone

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 9, 2012

First issue of Rolling Stone

November 9, 1967: The first issue of Rolling Stone comes out. The magazine is an American publication centered on music, liberal politics, and popular culture. It comes out every two weeks. Jann Wenner and Ralph J. Gleason began the magazine in San Francisco. Wenner borrowed $7,000 from his family and relatives of his fiancée, Michelle Palmer. It was designed to be a hippie counterculture rag but it distanced itself from the underground publications of the time and instead held more traditional journalistic standards. In this first edition, Wenner wrote that the purpose of the magazine “is not just about the music, but about the things and attitude that music embraces.” This mission statement has become the de facto motto of the magazine.

Hunter S. Thompson, gonzo journalist, helped bring the magazine cutting edge political commentary in the 1970s. Thompson’s famous “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” was first published in Rolling Stone. He remained a contributing editor until his death in 2005. Some other famous names got their journalistic start at Rolling Stone as well: Cameron Crowe, Lester Bangs, Joe Klein, Joe Eszterhas, Patti Smith, and P.J. O’Rourke. During this beginning decade, some of the most famous stories were published including the Patty Hearst abduction saga. During the 1980s, the magazine began a shift away from politics and back to a focus on entertainment. Music was the main topic, but other entertainment options were also included.

Early editions of the magazine looked more like a paper than a magazine. Between 1967 and 1972, the magazine was printed all in black-and-white with one accent color that changed with each edition. The issues were in tabloid newspaper format and without staples. Beginning in 1973, a four-color press and paper size change took place. In 1979, a bar code was added. And in 1980, the gloss paper large format took over with each issue 10 x 12 inches. Then, in 2008, the magazine shrank to the smaller traditional sized magazines. There is nothing without criticism and this magazine also has critics. One of the criticisms is that they remain rooted or stuck in the 1960s and 1970s and their lists of greatest hits reflect this musical taste. They have also been accused of recognizing the worth of albums only after time passed. Their original condemnation did not affect listing albums on their greatest hits lists.

Rolling Stone has regained some of its relevance to current times. In 2009 they wrote a series of acerbic articles on the financial crisis and dubbed Goldman Sachs “The Great Vampire Squid.” Today the magazine remains under the control of Wenner Media LLC with Jann Wenner as the publisher and editor and with Will Dana as managing editor. They remain bi-weekly and have a circulation of nearly 1,500,000 (as of 2011). They are based in New York City and maintain a website if you prefer electronic versions to print.

A magazine is simply a device to induce people to read advertising. – James Collins

At a magazine, everything you do is edited by a bunch of people, by committee, and a lot of them are, were, or think of themselves as writers. Part of that is because magazines worry about their voice. – Chuck Klosterman

I’m always really surprised by people who are comfortable revealing all of their secrets on TV or in a magazine. It’s actually quite shocking to me. – Annabella Sciorra

Pick up any newspaper or magazine, open the TV, and you’ll be bombarded with suggestions of how to have a successful life. Some of these suggestions are deeply unhelpful to our own projects and priorities – and we should take care. – Alain de Botton

Also on this day:

Kristallnacht – in 1939, Nazi Germany began the systematic elimination of the Jews.
Damrell’s Fire – In 1872, the Great Boston Fire took place.
IE Look Out – In 2004, Firefox 1.0 was released.

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IE Look Out

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 9, 2011


November 9, 2004: Mozilla Firefox 1.0 is released. Firefox is a graphical web browser. A web browser is a software application that allows a user to display and interact with text, images, and other components of webpages on the World Wide Web. A browser accesses a web server using HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) to fetch pages. These are located using a Universal Resource Locator (URL) which converts words typed into the address bar into an esoteric number which identifies the webpage being sought.

The first primitive web browser was in use in 1987. Many of the original browsers have been discontinued over time. The development of both browsers and the web itself are inter-related. As one improves, so does the other. In 1994, Netscape Navigator hit the market. As late as 1995 Bill Gates believed that personal use of the web would be limited, therefore he was slower to get a browser to market. Internet Explorer (IE) came out to lukewarm reviews in August 1995. Netscape held 86% of the browser market in 1996 when Gates began to integrate IE with his operating systems. Netscape lost market share and opted for an open source protocol allowing the public to be involved with design and production of software, thus creating the Mozilla brand.

America Online purchased Mozilla in 1998 and by 2002 there was a strong, stable, and powerful internet suite available through the company. Dan Hyatt and Blake Ross were worried that “feature creep” was bloating the browser and wanted to develop a more streamlined and pared down browser. Their new browser went through many name changes between 2002 and its release date in 2004. Both Phoenix and Firebird were discarded because of confusion with other brand names. Firefox was the name chosen for the pared down browser.

Firefox 2 was released on October 24, 2006 and featured tabbed browsing, an extension manager, inline spell checking, anti-phishing features, incremental finding, live bookmarking, and an integrated download manager. It is also possible to customize the browser to your individual likes. The new browser supports multiple software standards and has higher security. As of September 2011, Firefox had 27% of the browser market share. IE maintains the lead with 42% of the market, Chrome takes 24%, Safari has 5% with all other browsers holding only 2% of the market.

“We’ve had a pretty successful year following the launch of Firefox 1.0 and we’re continuing to see very strong demand.” – Chris Beard

“When I took office, only high energy physicists had ever heard of what is called the World Wide Web. Now even my cat has its own page.” – Bill Clinton

“Looking at the proliferation of personal web pages on the net, it looks like very soon everyone on earth will have 15 Megabytes of fame.” – M. G. Siriam

“Mozilla’s popularity has gone from almost zero to double digits, so they have had to deal with a lot of sudden attention. Since Mozilla has become popular, people have been looking for more vulnerabilities.” – Mikko Hypponen

Also on this day:
Kristallnacht – in 1939, Nazi Germany began the systematic elimination of the Jews.
Damrell’s Fire – In 1872, the Great Boston Fire took place.

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 10, 2010



Kristallnacht damage


November 9, 1938: The beginning of the systematic pogroms against the Jews by the Nazi regime begins with Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass. Hitler came to power as Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and began his attack against the Jews almost immediately by enacting many restrictive laws. In 1935, The Nuremburg Laws went into effect depriving Jews of German citizenship. By the next year, Jews were banned from any elective process. “Jews Not Welcome” signs were plastered everywhere, but they sensitively came down for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

Jews from Poland but living in Germany were deported and all their possessions were kept by the German state. Poland refused entry and so “relocation camps” were set up on the border. Zindel Grynszpan was one of the deported Jews. His son, living in Paris with an uncle, was outraged. He went to the embassy on November 7 intent on killing the German Ambassador to France. He was out and so the seventeen-year-old shot the Third Secretary, Ernst von Rath, who died on November 9.

Joseph Goebbels used this as an excuse to begin the pogrom. For two nights mobs went wild. Nearly 100 Jews were killed and hundreds more were injured. Between 1000 and 2000 synagogues were burned and 7,500 businesses were destroyed, glass shattered and littering the streets. Cemeteries and schools were vandalized. Around 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps.

The Nazis claimed it was a spontaneous outpouring of hate toward the inflammatory Jews and so they instituted even more restrictive laws. All precious metals, stocks, bonds, jewelry, and art would be confiscated by the German state. Jews were segregated and were unable to own radios or even carrier pigeons. Curfews were enforced. Of course, they could not own any weapons. Kristallnacht, literally Crystal Night, was a mocking term employed for the devastation, just one more way to debase the Jews.

“The price of hating other human beings is loving oneself less.” – Eldridge Cleaver

“If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself.  What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.” – Herman Hesse

“Always remember others may hate you but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself.” – Richard M. Nixon

“End discrimination. Hate everybody.” – unknown

Also on this day, in 1872 the Great Boston Fire ripped through Boston.