Little Bits of History

October 16

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 16, 2017

1968: The Rodney riots begin. Walter Rodney was born into a working class family in British Guiana (now Guyana) in 1942. He was a good student and after attending Queen’s College, he went on to the University College of the West Indies in Jamaica. He graduated in 1963 with a History degree and won the Faculty of Arts prize. He earned a PhD in African History in 1966 at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London at the age of 24 with his dissertation on the slave trade on the Upper Guinea Coast. A History of the Upper Guinea Coast 1545-1800 was published in the Oxford University Press in 1970 and was well received.

Rodney traveled and became well known internationally as both an activist and a scholar as well as a brilliant orator. He first taught at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania from 1966-67 and then later moved to Jamaica where he taught at his alma mater. He was vocal in his disdain for the middle class and the role they played in the post-independence era in the Caribbean. He believed socialism offered a better system than capitalism and advocated for the former. He attended a black writers’ conference in Montreal, Canada and in his absence he was banned from returning to Jamaica. His socialist ties were cited along with his visits to Cuba and the USSR.

The banning took place on October 15 and when the people of Kingston learned of it, they were outraged and took to the streets on this day. The riots began with the students of UWI, Mona (where Rodney taught) under the leadership of the Guild of Undergraduates. They closed down the campus and then began to march toward the prime minister’s house. They moved on toward the parliament building in Kingston. On the way, many more people joined and the march became violent. The march spread across the city and ended with several people dead and millions of dollars in property damages.

The riots increased political awareness even outside Jamaica and spread across the Caribbean but held a special place in the Rastafarian sector of Jamaica. In 1969, Rodney returned to the University of Dar es Salaam and was a Professor of History there until 1974. He remained a voice for the Caribbean and North American Black Power movement. In 1974 he returned to Guyana after accepting a position at the University of Guyana, but the government prevented his appointment. Rodney became ever more active in politics and found the Working People’s Alliance which posed a threat to the established government of Guyana. In 1980 he was killed by a bomb placed in his car. He was 38. It was widely believed, although unproven, the bombing was set up by then President Linden Burnham.

If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. – John F. Kennedy

If you want to see the true measure of a man, watch how he treats his inferiors, not his equals. – J. K. Rowling

Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude. – Alexis de Tocqueville

We will never have true civilization until we have learned to recognize the rights of others. – Will Rogers



Palace of Westminster

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 16, 2015
The Palace in 1834

The Palace in 1834

October 16, 1834: The Palace of Westminster burns. The Old Palace was built on the River Thames and was placed on the site of what may first have been used as a royal residence by Canute the Great who reigned from 1016-1035. Westminster Abbey was built by St. Edward the Confessor in 1045-50. The Palace at Westminster was the monarch’s main residence in the late Medieval period. The Royal Council (precursor of the Parliament met in Westminster Hall (the only part of the historic buildings remaining still today). The royal living chambers were destroyed by fire during the reign of King Henry VIII. The structure was built as a royal home and so there were no purpose-built rooms in which Parliament could meet.

In the 1700s major changes to the building were made. Parliament struggled to manage their workload when meeting in a variety of venues. There was not space created for document storage. These things were taken into account with a remodeling project. A second substantial remodel was done in 1824-27. It was not all appreciated as the newer work was in the neo-classical style and it clashed with the original Gothic style. The Exchequer used tally sticks (wooden sticks used to facilitate counting) and they were cleaning up some of the stored sticks. They were placed in two furnaces in what was deemed a careless manner. A fire broke out in the chimney flues which ran under the floor of the Lords’ chamber and up through the walls.

The floor and walls caught fire and it spread quickly throughout the complex. It was London’s biggest fire between the Great Fire of 1666 and the Blitz during World War II. Several artists in the area were drawn to the flames and were able to create pictorial evidence of the conflagration. It took most of the night to bring the fire under control and by that time much of Westminster was destroyed. The House of Commons met in St. Stephen’s Chapel and that was destroyed along with the Lords Chamber, the Painted Chamber, and the official residences of the Speaker and the Clerk of the House of Commons. The London Fire Engine Establishment were able to keep Westminster Hall from burning as well as a few other part of the old Houses of Parliament.

A competition was held to design a new place for Parliament to meet and there were 97 entries by November 1835. Charles Barry’s design won; he had visited Belgium to view their civic architecture and got ideas for his submission which was drawn up by Augustus Pugin, a 23 year old architect. The building included 11 courtyards and accommodations for 200 people. There were 1,180 rooms, 126 staircases, and 2 miles of corridors. The cost estimates to build were between £707,000 and £725,000 with construction taking six years. The foundation stone was laid on April 27, 1840 and the building was finally complete in 1870 at a cost of £2.5 million. Barry died before the building was completed.

I don’t mind being a symbol but I don’t want to become a monument. There are monuments all over the Parliament Buildings and I’ve seen what the pigeons do to them. – Tommy Douglas

The English think they are free. They are free only during the election of members of parliament. – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

We all know what Parliament is, and we are all ashamed of it. – Robert Louis Stevenson

A Parliament is nothing less than a big meeting of more or less idle people. – Walter Bagehot

Also on this day: Cardiff Giant– In 1869, a petrified giant was found near Cardiff.
Complex Numbers – In 1843, quaternions were first defined.
Planned Parenthood – In 1916, Margaret Sanger opened a clinic.
Disney – In 1923, Walt and Roy Disney signed a contract to produce the Alice Comedies.
London Beer Flood – In 1814, beer flooded London streets.



London Beer Flood

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 16, 2014
St.. Giles rookery

St.. Giles Rookery

October 16, 1814: The corroded hoops break. Horse Shoe Brewery was located in central London. It was established in 1623 and by 1787 it was the eleventh largest maker of porter of any London brewery. By 1787 they were producing slightly more than 40,000 barrels per year. Porter is a dark style beer which is first mentioned in the early 1700s. Although various tales are put forth over how the brew came to be, it seems to have descended from brown beer, a well-hopped beer made from brown malt. It’s name may have come from the popularity of the beverage among street and river porters. Porters and stouts came into use about the same time and stouts seem to be stronger porters. Guinness Extra Stout was originally called Extra Superior Porter. It became Extra Stout in 1840.

The tavern was under the ownership of Meux and Company Brewery. The vat with weak hoops contained 160,000 gallons of beer. As the hoops burst, the force of the exiting fluid caused other vats to also explode in a domino effect. Because of the added breakage, a total of 390,000 gallons of beer was set in motion. The beer cause severe damage to the building and several beams collapsed. It burst through the walls of the tavern and entered the streets. The part of London where the tavern was located was a poorer district. The place was known as St. Giles Rookery, meaning it was a slum area filled with tenements. The densely populated area had many families living the basements of the rickety multi-storied buildings.

The landscape of the region caused problems. The region is flat and there was nowhere for the beer to go. As the tide of brew swept down the street, it entered the buildings and filled basements in nearby tenements. The people trapped inside climbed on furniture to escape the rising tide. Two homes were destroyed and the wall of the Tavistock Arms Pub crumbled, trapping a teenaged employee, Eleanor Cooper, under the rubble. She and seven others were killed. Thomas Mulvey was the youngest victim at age 3 who died with his mother, Ann, aged 30. Ann Saville was the oldest; she was 53.

The brewery was taken to court over the accident. The disaster was ruled an Act of God by the judge and jury. No one was responsible. The company had difficulties coping with the economic implications of the disaster. This was a significant loss of sales which was worse because they had already paid duty on the beer. The applied to Parliament to reclaim the duty and were successful which allowed them to stay in business. The cost to the brewery for the accident was about £23,000 or about £21,910,000 today or about $35.5 million. They received about £7,250 back from their returned excise taxes. They continued to be one of the largest producers of porter in London even after the disaster.

Milk is for babies. When you grow up you have to drink beer. – Arnold Schwarzenegger

I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper and the old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer. – Brendan Behan

Beer, it’s the best damn drink in the world. – Jack Nicholson

Let a man walk ten miles steadily on a hot summer’s day along a dusty English road, and he will soon discover why beer was invented. – Gilbert K. Chesterton

Also on this day: Cardiff Giant– In 1869, a petrified giant is found near Cardiff.
Complex Numbers – In 1843, quaternions were first defined.
Planned Parenthood – In 1916, Margaret Sanger opened a clinic.
Disney – In 1923, Walt and Roy Disney signed a contract to produce the Alice Comedies.

Complex Numbers

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 16, 2013
Sir William Rowan Hamilton

Sir William Rowan Hamilton

October 16, 1843: Sir William Rowan Hamilton comes up with the idea of “quaternion.” This is a mathematical term. Quaternions are non-commutative. Commutativity is the mathematical property referring to order. An example is 3+2 and 2+3 will both equal five and so they are commutative. However, 3-2 and 2-3 give different answers and they are non-commutative. Multiplication is commutative while division is not. Quaternions are a non-commutative number system that extends complex numbers.

Complex numbers in mathematics have no direct relationship to how the numbers are written out. They are simply an extension of real numbers. They are imaginary numbers and usually written as a lower case i. A simply written complex number is i2 = -1. All complex numbers can be written as a+bi (where a and b are real numbers and i is imaginary). In the sample above, 1*1 = 1 as well as -1*-1 = 1 since multiplying two negatives makes a positive. To square a number and get a negative, you need a little imagination. Real numbers can be rational such as 17 or -41/639, or irrational, such as pi. This is why math is hard, as Barbie once said.

Sir Hamilton was born in 1805 in Dublin. At age three he was sent to live with an uncle, a Trinity College alumnus who ran a school in Talbots Castle. The young boy showed a facility for learning languages and mastered about a dozen (some critics claim he had a bare understanding of many, rather than mastering them). Hamilton went to Trinity College and studied astronomy. He was appointed as Professor of Astronomy in 1827 even before he graduated. He contributed to both optics and classical mechanics, bringing fresh ideas and insights to the subjects.

Hamilton went on to higher mathematics and has several processes named for him. Quaternions are useful in applied mechanics of three-dimensional space. Theoretical and applied mathematics of the system are involved in three-dimensional rotations such as those used in 3D computer graphics. They are used in four-dimensional normed division algebra, which is the type of math used in Hurwitz’s theorem. Sir Hamilton’s advance of both astronomy and mathematics have led him to be celebrated as a hero – a leading Irish scientist.

“Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas.” – Albert Einstein

“The essence of mathematics is not to make simple things complicated, but to make complicated things simple.” – S. Gudder

“The highest form of pure thought is in mathematics.” – Plato

“There are things which seem incredible to most men who have not studied mathematics.” – Aristotle

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Math may be hard, but keeping track of the number of items has been going on since prehistory. There are ancient artifacts found with tally marks cut into them. These have no concept of place value and are cumulative methods for tracking countable items. The first known number system with a place value was the Mesopotamian system from around 3400 BC. It was a base 60 system. The first base ten system (our own system is base ten) was from the Egyptians around 3100 BC. Zero as a number rather than a place holder is another concept that came later. Many early systems used 0 as a place holder and even the ancient Greeks had difficulty with the concept, pondering how nothing could be something. The Olmec people of Mexico began to use zero as a number as early as the 4th century BC. In Europe the adoption was later. In fact, negative numbers were in use before the idea of nothing.

Also on this day: Cardiff Giant– In 1869, a petrified giant is found near Cardiff.
Planned Parenthood – In 1916, Margaret Sanger opened a clinic.
Disney – In 1923, Walt and Roy Disney signed a contract to produce the Alice Comedies.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 16, 2012

Walt and Roy Disney

October 16, 1923: Walt and Roy sign a contract with M.J. Winkler to produce a series of Alice Comedies. Walt was 21 and his older brother, Roy, was 30 when they founded the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio as equal partners. The name changed in 1926 to The Walt Disney Studio and today we know it as The Walt Disney Company. Roy had served in the Navy during World War I and was discharged because of an injury. Although the brothers were from Chicago, after discharge Roy moved to Los Angeles and became a banker. His younger brother followed him out to Hollywood and together they opened up their business. They each ordered a kit house and although both slightly modified them, they built them next door to each other. They were a close knit family.

The Alice Comedies were a series of animated cartoons in which a live action girl named Alice played. Originally, Alice was played by Virginia Davis. There was an animated cat named Julius and the two frolicked across an animated landscape. The first film, a single-reel, ten-minute short called Alice’s Wonderland, was produced with the help of Ub Iwerks. The story began with Alice entering a cartoon studio to see how cartoons are made, and liking it so much, she joined in the fun. There were 57 of these made with four different actresses playing the part of Alice. Margie Gay took over in 1925 with Dawn O’Day making one cartoon that same year and then Gay back on screen. In 1927, Lois Hardwick took over the role of Alice for the last ten shorts.

The Walt Disney Studio changed named and was Walt Disney Productions before assuming its current name. They are famous for creating some of the most famous characters in motion pictures which include Mickey Mouse. Walt Disney was the original voice for his famous creation. Disney only lived to age 65 and died in 1966. During his life, he received four honorary Academy Awards and won 22 Academy Awards after being nominated 59 times. One year, Disney won a record four Oscars. He has won more awards and been nominated more times than anyone else. He also won seven Emmy Awards. His company carries on and in 2010 had an annual revenue of about $36 billion.

While famous as a producer, that’s not all The Walt Disney Company has done. Disneyland was opened in 1955 and is a theme park in Anaheim, California. There have been around 600 million visitors to the park since it opened and in 2010 alone there were almost 16 million visitors, making it the second most visited park in the world that year. The year after Walt died, construction began on the Florida resort and in 1971 Roy opened the Magic Kingdom there. In 2010, there were about 17 million visitors in Florida, making it the most visited part that year. Tokyo Disney Resort (1983), Disneyland Paris (1992), and Hong Kong Disneyland (2005) round out the theme parks.

All cartoon characters and fables must be exaggeration, caricatures. It is the very nature of fantasy and fable.

I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, but I am realistic enough to know that life is a complex matter.

Of all of our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language.

The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing. – all from Walt Disney

Also on this day:

Cardiff Giant– In 1869, a petrified giant is found near Cardiff.
Complex Numbers – In 1843, quaternions were first defined.
Planned Parenthood – In 1916, Margaret Sanger opened a clinic.

Planned Parenthood

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 16, 2011

Margaret Sanger

October 16, 1916: Margaret Sanger opens a family planning and birth control clinic. This was a first in the US and was not immediately accepted. Police raided 46 Amboy Street in Brooklyn, New York just nine days later. Sanger was sentenced to 30 days in prison for this outrage. An appeal was filed and rejected. In 1918, Judge Frederick E. Crane of the New York Court of Appeals finally permitted doctors to prescribe birth control products.

Margaret Higgins Sanger was an American sex educator, nurse, and birth control activist. She was one of 11 children born to her Catholic mother and atheist father. Mrs. Higgens also miscarried 7 times and died of tuberculosis and cervical cancer leaving the young Margaret to care for younger siblings. She attended nursing school and in 1902 she married William Sanger and the young couple settled in New York City. By 1912 Sanger was practicing nursing in the slums of Manhattan and began writing a column for the New York Call concerning women’s reproductive issues.

Sanger continued to minister to poor women who were suffering the ill effects of frequent pregnancies and self-induced abortions. She also became associated with several other activists of the era. As she was tending to a patient who was quite ill from a self-induced abortion, a doctor’s advice to the woman to remain abstinent in order to prevent further pregnancies angered Sanger and gave her a new mission in life. She became an advocate for reproductive autonomy and helped women control their bodies. Her husband became her ally in the cause.

In 1915 while visiting a Dutch birth control clinic, Sanger learned of a diaphragm and how effective it was in limiting unwanted pregnancies. When she came back to the US, she took action and opened her own clinic. In 1921 she founded the American Birth Control League and traveled extensively to spread the message, at home and abroad. She continued to work towards the education of women and was finally able to open her first legal birth control clinic with the help of wealthy supporters in 1923. Her facility was staffed with only females and received several government grants. Her work carried forward even after her death in 1966.

“A free race cannot be born of slave mothers.”

“She goes through the vale of death alone, each time a babe is born. As it is the right neither of man nor the state to coerce her into this ordeal, so it is her right to decide whether she will endure it.”

“When motherhood becomes the fruit of a deep yearning, not the result of ignorance or accident, its children will become the foundation of a new race.”

“Woman must have her freedom, the fundamental freedom of choosing whether or not she will be a mother and how many children she will have. Regardless of what man’s attitude may be, that problem is hers – and before it can be his, it is hers alone.” – all from Margaret Sanger

Also on this day:
Cardiff Giant– In 1869, a petrified giant is found near Cardiff.
Complex Numbers – In 1843, quaternions were first defined.

Cardiff Giant

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 17, 2010



The "discovered" Cardiff Giant


October 16, 1869: A ten-foot, four-and-one-half inch tall petrified man is found on the farm of William C. “Stub” Newell in Cardiff, New York. George Hull, an avowed atheist, got into an argument with a fundamentalist preacher named Mr. Turk. The preacher claimed that giants once lived on earth because it said so in Genesis, a book of the Bible. Hull began to scheme.

Hull hired men to carve an 11 foot slab of gypsum from Fort Dodge, Iowa. His ostensible purpose was to carve a memorial to Abraham Lincoln in New York. He had the stone shipped as far as Chicago, Illinois where a German stonecutter carved it into a sculpture of a huge man and was then sworn to secrecy. Knitting needles were embedded into boards and beat against the surface of the statue in order to achieve the appearance of skin with pores. Stains and acids were employed to make the statue look ancient.

The statue was transported to New York where it was buried on Newell’s farm. Newell was Hull’s cousin. So far the statue had cost Hull $2,600. The statue was left buried for a year. Then Newell asked for workers to dig a well and they amazingly discovered this huge, petrified man. A tent was set up and people were charged twenty-five cents to view the fantastic discovery. Within a few days, the price doubled to fifty cents.

Scholars immediately declared the petrified giant to be a fake, however fundamentalist Christian preachers were highly vocal in their support of the giant’s veracity. Hull sold his interest in the Cardiff Giant for $37,500. P.T. Barnum tried to buy and then rent the Giant for $60,000. When that failed, he created a copy of the fake giant and sold admission to the “real” giant, claiming that the original fake was the copy while his copy was the original. David Hannum said, “There’s a sucker born every minute” in reference to the people paying to see Barnum’s statue.

“I declare, some old Indian has been buried here!”. – one of the well diggers, upon discovering the Cardiff Giant

“There are no fools so troublesome as those that have wit.” – Benjamin Franklin

“A fool and his money are soon parted.” – James Howell

“A fool and his money are soon spotted.” – Kin Hubbard

“It is morally wrong to allow suckers to keep their money.” – “Canada Bill” Jones

Also on this day, in 1843 William R. Hamilton defined quaternions, a tricky math thing needed by all of us today.

Tagged with: ,