Little Bits of History

October 14

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 14, 2017

1944: Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox, commits suicide. On July 20, 1944, an attempt was made to kill Adolf Hitler. It was unsuccessful. Claus von Stauffenberg was able to detonate a suitcase bomb but it failed in killing Hitler, although four men were killed during the event. Rommel was implicated in the plot, but his involvement remains contested. World War II was going badly for Germany and there was resistance within the ranks. The hope was for Hitler to die and then cooler heads to take control of the government in order to sue for peace with the Allies.

After the War was over, three of Rommel’s friends confessed to trying to bring Rommel into the resistance in early 1944. The conspirators felt it was to their benefit to have a field marshal on active duty among their ranks. Erwin von Witzleben would have taken over as commander-in-chief if the plot had been successful, but he was inactive as of 1942, so Rommel was wooed to take on the role should the plot succeed. Plans were made with Rommel, at least at the beginning, against assassinating Hitler. There is speculation he may have later changed his mind. His widow claims he did not and believed it would have led to civil war in Germany and Austria and made Hitler a martyr.

On July 17, Rommel was incapacitated by an Allied air attack, changing the outcome of the plot – or so it is believed by some historians. A week after the attempt, Rommel was under Gestapo surveillance. He was brought before a “Court of Military Honour” and found guilty. However, he was a national hero and having him tried and executed could have been devastating to military morale. Instead he was given the option of killing himself and a cyanide capsule was provided. On this day, he was driven to a remote area and left alone in order to kill himself.

He was said to have died with a smile of contempt on his face, something never seen in life. The official report of his death was that he had either had a heart attack or complications from a skull fracture he had sustained during an earlier incident. A day of official mourning was declared and he received a state funeral, but it was held in Ulm rather than Berlin which was not part of the deal Rommel had made to go quietly to his death. Hitler did not attend the funeral, but sent Field Marshal von Rundstedt in his place. The truth behind Rommel’s death was learned only after the war when his wife was interviewed by an Allied intelligence officer and letters to his son were also produced, explaining the reason behind his suicide.

Don’t fight a battle if you don’t gain anything by winning.

In a man-to-man fight, the winner is he who has one more round in his magazine.

But courage which goes against military expediency is stupidity, or, if it is insisted upon by a commander, irresponsibility.

Anyone who has to fight, even with the most modern weapons, against an enemy in complete command of the air, fights like a savage against modern European troops, under the same handicaps and with the same chances of success. – all from Erwin Rommel



Run for Freedom

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 14, 2015
Sobibór extermination camp escape survivors*

Sobibór extermination camp escape survivors*

October 14, 1943: An escape from the Sobibór extermination camp is cut short. The Nazi German camp was located on the outskirts of Sobibór, Poland and held about 600 to 650 prisoners at any given time. There were originally three gas chambers but that was increased to six. There were an estimated 200,000 to 250,000 people killed at the camp. The camp opened in mid-April 1942 and there were test mass killings in the gas chambers even though it was thought the doors were not perfectly fitted. Franz Stangl was the first commandant of Sobibór due to his experience as manager of the T-4 Euthanasia Program at both Hartheim and Bermburg extermination hospitals. He was replaced by Franz Reichleitner in September 1942.

The camp had been in full “production” since May 1942 and in the spring of 1943 there were rumors that it would shut down. The prisoners were fearful of what would happen to them if the camp were dismantled and an underground committee was created to form a plan for escape. In September 1943, a group of prisoners was brought in from the Minsk Ghetto. Among the Soviet-Jews was Alexander Pechersky. He plotted with Leon Feldhendler and the two led a revolt on this night. The hope was to kill all the German SS officers and walk out the main gates. However, after killing eleven SS officers the bodies were discovered and the best that could be managed was a break by the inmates under fire.

About half of the Sonderkommando prisoners managed to escape into the forest. It is thought that 158 inmates died in the revolt, either killed by the guards or in the minefield surrounding the camp. Another 107 were killed by pursuing SS, Wehrmacht, or Orpo police while trying to round up the escapees. Another 53 died of other causes between the day of the revolt and the end of the War in the area. There were 58 known survivors (48 male and 10 female) from the Arbeitshaftlinge prisoners who were performing slave labor to run Sobibór. Their time at the camp ranged from several weeks to almost two years.

Both of the leaders managed to survive World War II. Leon was able to hide in Lublin until the end of German occupation in July 1944. On April 2, 1945 he was shot through the closed door of his flat. He and his wife escaped and he was taken to a hospital where surgery was performed. He died four days later. His killer was never apprehended. Alexander not only survived the war, but also survived Stalin’s persecution of the Jews. He was arrested but was finally freed after Stalin’s death. He was asked several times during his life to testify against his persecutors, but the Soviet government would not permit him to leave Russia. The final time he was refused permission to leave came in 1987. According to his family, he simply gave up the will to live. He died in 1990 at the age of 80.

We feel free when we escape – even if it be but from the frying pan to the fire. – Eric Hoffer

Happy the man who from the sea escapes the storm and finds harbor. – Euripides

The efforts which we make to escape from our destiny only serve to lead us into it. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Never completely encircle your enemy. Leave him some escape, for he will fight even more desperately if trapped. – Alex Haley

Also on this day: Pooh Corner – In 1926, A.A. Milne published his first Pooh story.
Bull Moose – In 1912, presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt was shot.
Ready! Camera! Action! – In 1888, the oldest surviving movie was filmed.
Buzz – In 1912, Claude Grahame-White flew.
Cubs Win! – In 1908, the Cubs won the World Series.

* “Sobibór extermination camp (crop)” by Azymut (Rafał M. Socha) (crop of the subject area by User:Poeticbent) – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons –



Cubs Win!

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 14, 2014
1908 World Series winning Cubs

1908 World Series winning Cubs

October 14, 1908: Cubs win! The 1908 World Series between the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago Cubs ended with the Cubs winning their fourth game. The Cubs were playing with player/manager Frank Chance in charge while the Tigers had Hughie Jennings as manager. The games were played at Bennett Park and West Side Park, neither of them still in existence. The Tigers moved to Navin Field in 1912 which changed its name to Briggs Stadium in 1938 and then to Tiger Stadium in 1961. It was owned by the team from 1912 to 1977 when the City of Detroit took it over. It was demolished in 2008-2009. The home of the Tigers has been Comerica Park since 2000.

West Side Park was home to the Cubs from 1885-1891 and 1894 to 1915. The park was demolished in 1920. The Cubs move to Wrigley Field in 1916 and remain there to this day. Although they have played on the same field since 1916, there were major renovations in 1937 and 1988 as well as expansions in 1922, 1927, and 2006. The original construction cost was $250,000 which is nearly $6 million in today’s dollars. Wrigley Field was designated a Chicago Landmark on February 1, 2004. It is the oldest National League ballpark and the second oldest active major league ballpark with Fenway Park being older.

The first game of the Series was played on October 10 in Detroit and the Cubs won it 10-6 in front of 10,812 fans. They teams traveled to Chicago for the next two games and split them. On October 11 17,760 people watched the Cubs win with a score of 6-1 but the next day, the Tigers came back with an 8-3 win as 14,543 people watched from the stands. Then they traveled back to Detroit and the Cubs shut them out with 3-0 score on October 13 with 12,907 in attendance and the final game needed for the series was another shutout with a 2-0 score for the winning team. The Detroit fans must have been quite dispirited as only 6,210 people were at the final game, the most poorly attended game in World Series history.

The Cubs took the title for the second year in a row. It is also the last time the Cubs won the World Series. They have made it to the final series on several occasions – 1910, 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938, and 1945. They lost each time. Each team sported Hall of Famers on their roster. The Cubs had Mordecai Brown, Frank Chance, Johnny Evers, Joe Tinker of Evers to Tinker to Chance fame. The Tigers had Sam Crawford and Ty Cobb playing for them with Cobb having an even better season than he had the year before. It was not enough to get the Tigers the pennant – that year. The Tigers have gone on to four World Series titles: 1935, beating the Cubs, 1945, again beating the Cubs, 1968, and 1984.

You don’t just accidentally show up in the World Series. – Derek Jeter

A World Series trophy is a wonderful thing to behold. – Willie Stargell

The only reason I don’t like playing in the World Series is I can’t watch myself play. – Reggie Jackson

I really want to see the Cubs in the World Series. I really do. – Dennis Quaid

Also on this day: Pooh Corner – In 1926, A.A. Milne published his first Pooh story.
Bull Moose – In 1912, presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt was shot.
Ready! Camera! Action! – In 1888, the oldest surviving movie was filmed.
Buzz – In 1912, Claude Grahame-White flew.

Bull Moose

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 14, 2013
Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt

October 14, 1912: Former President Theodore Roosevelt (TR) gives a campaign speech in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The 1912 Presidential race had three major candidates vying for office. Former President Roosevelt (1901-1909) and running mate Hiram Johnson were under the Progressive or “Bull Moose” Party banner. Incumbent Republican President William Howard Taft and Nicholas Murray Butler ran against Democrat Woodrow Wilson and Thomas R. Marshall. Candidate Roosevelt had a 50-page speech folded in his inside jacket pocket along with a metal eyeglass case. They saved his life.

John Flammang Schrank was born in Bavaria in 1876. His family came to the US in 1879 but his parents died soon after arriving. Johnny was taken in by his uncle, a tavern keeper in New York. When his aunt and uncle died, he inherited the saloon. His girlfriend was killed in a ferry accident. Alone and bitter, he sold the business and became a drifter. He became obsessed with keeping Roosevelt from a third term in office. He stalked the candidate for thousands of miles before he got a clear shot. He pulled a .38 caliber pistol and aimed for a head shot. A bystander deflected the gun. Roosevelt was shot, but in the chest.

The bullet was slowed considerably by the 100 sheets of paper and the metal glasses case. The bullet entered Roosevelt’s chest and he did not realize he had been shot until he was told about a hole in his suit coat. He reached inside and felt blood. He was having no difficulty breathing nor coughing blood. He entered the auditorium and gave his speech. He then went to the hospital and got a tetanus shot. He was admitted to a Chicago hospital for observation and released eight days later. The bullet remained and after the wound healed, he had no more problems.

Roosevelt was discharged on October 23, 1912. The voting came only days later. With the loss of campaign momentum, the election went to Wilson, who took 40 states and 41.8% of the vote. Roosevelt took 6 states and 27.4% of the vote with Taft taking 2 states and 23.2%. Schrank was immediately apprehended. He said former President McKinley’s ghost had insisted he do something to keep Roosevelt from a third term. Schrank was found to be insane and spent the rest of his life in a mental institution. No one ever came to visit him. He died a few days after Franklin Delano Roosevelt, TR’s fifth cousin, was elected to his third term.

“A man who is good enough to shed his blood for the country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards.”

“A typical vice of American politics is the avoidance of saying anything real on real issues.”

“Courtesy is as much a mark of a gentleman as courage.”

“Freedom from effort in the present merely means that there has been effort stored up in the past.” – all from Theodore Roosevelt

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Theodore Roosevelt was born into a wealthy family of strong Democratic political leanings. The Roosevelts were of Dutch ancestry and had arrived in New York City in the mid-1600s. The family had grown rich from several businesses. Teddy’s father was a philanthropist, merchant, and business owner. He was also a staunch supporter of Abraham Lincoln and the family switched political parties in order to back the future president. Teddy’s mother was from a slave-owning family from Roswell, Georgia and she maintained Confederate loyalties. Her brother was a US Navy officer who joined the Confederate Navy and became a secret agent in Great Britain doing much to destroy the US merchant fleet. Another of her brothers also served in the Confederate Navy. Both brothers remained in England after the war.

Also on this day: Pooh Corner – In 1926, A.A. Milne published his first Pooh story.
Ready! Camera! Action! – In 1888, the oldest surviving movie was filmed.
Buzz – In 1912, Claude Grahame-White flew.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 14, 2012

Claude Grahame-White flight

October 14, 1910: Claude Grahame-White goes for a short flight. He was born in Bursledon, Hampshire, England in 1879. He learned to drive in 1895 and was apprenticed to an engineer. He later started his own motor engineering company. In 1909, while in France, he learned to fly and became the first Englishman to qualify as a pilot. Early in 1910, the British newspaper Daily Mail held a contest offering £10,000 (about £796,000 today) to the first person to fly from London to Manchester. Claude was the first to try. He left London on April 23, 1910 and made it to his first stop, Rugby. His biplane needed to be repaired and he returned to London. Late on April 27, Louis Paulhan took off with Claude close behind. Finally Louis won, but Claude was widely praised anyway.

Another contest in July found Claude winning a £1,000 prize while he was flying at the Midlands Aviation Meeting. He managed to win the Aggregate Duration with a time of 1 hour, 23 minutes, and 20 seconds in the air. He next went on to win the Gordon Bennett Aviation Cup in Belmont Park, Long Island, New York. He was flying a Farman biplane and on this day he flew that plane over Washington, D.C. He landed on Executive Avenue near the White House. He was not arrested but instead praised in the local papers. He went on to establish a flying school and eventually began the Grahame-White Aviation Company. There he was able to not only fly, but to design, develop, and build the planes. He continued to design planes for a few years, but lost interest in the pursuit. He died in 1959, at the age of 79 after making a fortune in property development in both the UK and the US.

Farman Aviation Works was an aircraft company founded by the Farman brothers, Richard, Henry, and Maurice. They began building planes in 1909 with the Farman III, leading one to believe they had a few trial planes that were less than successful. The French brothers built their biplane after Henry bought one from the Voisin brothers in 1907 and improved on the design. Their next type of plane didn’t hit the market until 1913, so we can assume Claude was flying a Farman III. They designed over two hundred planes before going out of business in 1941 with at least two dozen major designs. Their last plane was no longer a solo plane, but a six-seat trainer and coastal reconnaissance floatplane. In 1941, the Farman brothers changed the name of the company and a few years later it was absorbed into Sud-Oust.

Aerial flight is one of that class of problems with which men will never have to cope. – Simon Newcomb

There are only two emotions in a plane:  boredom and terror. – Orson Welles

The modern airplane creates a new geographical dimension.  A navigable ocean of air blankets the whole surface of the globe.  There are no distant places any longer:  the world is small and the world is one. – Wendell Willkie

If God had really intended men to fly, he’d make it easier to get to the airport. – George Winters

Also on this day:

Pooh Corner – In 1926, A.A. Milne published his first Pooh story.
Bull Moose – In 1912, presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt was shot.
Ready! Camera! Action! – In 1888, the oldest surviving movie was filmed.

Ready! Camera! Action!

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 14, 2011

Louis Le Prince

October 14, 1888: The oldest surviving movie is filmed. Roundhay Garden Scene was directed and filmed by Louis Le Prince. His son, Adolphe, said it was filmed at the home of Joseph and Sarah Whitley. The film was recorded at 12 frames per second and runs for 2.11 seconds. The film captures Adolphe, the Whitleys, and Harriet Hartley in the garden at Oakwood Grange in Leeds, England. There are 20 frames in the film and shows the four people laughing and walking.

Le Prince was born in Metz, France in 1842. He was an inventor and many film historians claim him as the father of motion pictures. He used a single lens camera and Eastman’s paper film to record the Garden film and a second film, Leeds Bridge – a street scene. Both of these films were shot years before Auguste and Louis Lumiére and Thomas Edison were working on the problem of motion in film. Early film history is littered with tension about the first to come up with a workable plan. Le Prince was granted a dual-patent on a 16-lens device which combined the camera and projector in one item. The patent was granted in the US in 1888. His patent request for a single-lens camera was denied because it “interfered” with a previous patent. A few years later, this interference vanished as the patent was granted to Edison.

Although born and educated in France, Le Prince moved to England in 1866 at the request of his college friend, John Whitley. The Whitley Partners made brass valves and components. In 1869 Le Prince married Elizabeth Whitley, a talented artist. The couple began experimenting with photography applied to metal and pottery. They were commissioned by Queen Victoria to produce portraits. In 1881, Le Prince went to the US first for the Whitley Partners and then stayed to work with some ex-pat French artists. He returned to England in 1887.

In September 1890, Le Prince boarded a train on a Friday and promised to rejoin some friends in Paris on the following Monday so the group could return to the United Kingdom. They were then to go on the US to promote the new camera. However, he did not show up at the appointed time. He was never seen again. There are several theories about what happened. He could have been murdered, he may have planned a perfect suicide, or he may have been assassinated over the camera-patent wars.

“As far as the filmmaking process is concerned, stars are essentially worthless – and absolutely essential.” – William Goldman

“Everything about filmmaking tries to distract you from that first fine rapturous vision you have of the film.” – Ted Kotcheff

“Filmmaking is a chance to live many lifetimes.” – Robert Altman

“I love filmmaking, and I love the process. And I would rather do nothing else. It’s a privilege to be able to paint such big pictures, so to speak.” – Bryan Singer

Also on this day:
Pooh Corner – In 1926, A.A. Milne published his first Pooh story.
Bull Moose – In 1912, presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt was shot.

Pooh Corner

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 14, 2010

A.A. Milne and his son, Christopher Robin (and Pooh)

October 14, 1926: A. A. Milne publishes the children’s book Winnie-the-Pooh. Milne was a British author born in Scotland. He was a playwright of some renown prior to writing the children’s classic. He was schooled at a private institution run by his father where one of his teachers was H. G. Wells. He went to Trinity College on a mathematics scholarship. He wrote novels, non-fiction, and articles for Punch magazine.

The Pooh books were based on toy bear that was owned by Milne’s son – Christopher Robin Milne. The boy had gotten the bear for his first birthday. During World War I there was a real bear named Winnipeg who was smuggled into Britain and ended up in the London Zoo after serving time as a regimental mascot. The bear had a playful nature and was loved by zoo-goers. Christopher renamed his toy bear Winnie after the real bear. The Pooh portion was named for a swan.

Most of the cast of characters – Eyeore, Tigger, Piglet, and Kanga – were also based on Milne’s son’s toys. Christopher Robin, of course, is his son. The book and his follow up book, The House at Pooh Corner, were illustrated by E. H. Shepard as were two books of children’s poetry written by Milne that included many Winnie-the-Pooh poems.

Milne’s widow sold the rights to the character to Walt Disney who made short and long cartoons with the cast of characters. There were also four different television series produced along with holiday specials. Today, Winnie the Pooh who is now hyphenless, is included in video games, too. Disney entered into an exclusive marketing venture with Sears and Pooh and his friends were soon seen on clothing and various children’s merchandise.

“Never forget me, because if I thought you would, I’d never leave.”

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.”

“My spelling is Wobbly. It’s good spelling but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places.”

“The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority. The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority. The first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking.”

“To the uneducated, an A is just three sticks.” – all from A. A. Milne

Also on this day, in 1912 Theodore Roosevelt was shot prior to giving a campaign speech.