Little Bits of History

October 21

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 21, 2017

1959: The Solomon R Guggenheim Museum opens. Guggenheim had been an American businessman as well as collector of art. His family had mining businesses including the Yukon Gold Company in Alaska. He married Irene Rothschild and they had three daughters. Guggenheim began collecting old masters in the 1890s and by 1919 at the age of 50 he retired from business to spend more time collecting art. In 1930, he began displaying his private collection which now included not just old masters, but modern artists, as well. His collection was in his apartment and in 1937 he formed the Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation to help increase interest in modern art.

As his collection grew, he needed more space and in 1945 moved to the Museum of Non-Objective Painting. His collection continued to grow and it became obvious he needed a larger, more permanent space. He commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright, the legendary architect, to design a new space – the Guggenheim Museum, in 1948. Hilla Rebay had been managing his collections for some time before she was able to work with Wright to create the space for the ever expanding collection. She asked Wright to create a space as a “temple of the spirit” allowing visitors to view modern art in a new way. Wright produced four different sketches for the initial design.

The design of the space is a continuous spiral, rather than separate floors. It contained a variety of geometric shapes, each with their own meaning to the architect. The original plans included an adjoining tower with studios for artists, but it was never built. The building opened in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, ten years after Guggenheim died and just months after Wright died. There was controversy even on opening day with some concern over whether the building itself would overshadow the works it was built to display. It had stood the test of time and had grown organically since opening day.

The permanent collection continues to grow. The nearly 2 million visitors each year are also given opportunities to seen exhibitions on loan from other establishments or private collections. There are also Guggenheim Museums in Venice, Abu Dhabi, and Bilbao. Guggenheim’s original collection has been added to with several major acquisitions and bequests, allowing for a breathtaking experience. The works are not displayed by type or era, but as a continuous feast for the eyes, mind, and heart. The building itself is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The works must be conceived with fire in the soul but executed with clinical coolness. – Joan Miro

If I create from the heart, nearly everything works: if from the head, almost nothing. – Marc Chagall

Art is not what you see, but what you make others see. – Edgar Degas

Color provokes a psychic vibration. Color hides a power still unknown but real, which acts on every part of the human body. – Wassily Kandinsky



Islands of the 11,000 Virgins

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 21, 2015
Sainte Pierre aerial view

Sainte Pierre aerial view

October 21, 1520: João Álvares Fagundes is the first European to discover the Sainte Pierre and Miquelon. He originally named the two islands as “Islands of the 11,000 Virgins” because he found them on the feast day of Saint Ursula and her virgin companions, said to have numbered 11,000. The islands are located in the northwest portion of the Atlantic Ocean near present day Canada. Fagundes was a Portuguese sailor/explorer who led expeditions to present-day Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. Although there are artifacts indicating indigenous people had visited the islands, there was no aboriginal population there when Fagundes found the area.

Even the first Europeans who came to the islands did not live there permanently. Basque fisherman came during the fishing season, but then returned to the mainland during the off-season. The first permanent settlement was established in the middle of the 17th century when the French produced settlements. There were about 200 people living on the islands. During King William’s War (1689-1697) and Queen Anne’s War (1702-1712) there were at least five British attacks on the islands. Eventually all the permanent settlers fled. The Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 ended the wars and France ceded the islands as well as Newfoundland to Great Britain. The British took possession of the islands and the larger of the two was already called Sainte Pierre. They changed the name to Saint Peter’s.

The British gave the lands back to the French in 1763 and French settlers moved back in. During the American Revolutionary War, the French supported the rebellious Americans and the British once again began attacks on the islands. The French Revolutionary War led to more upheaval for the small islands in the west. Rule of the lands switched back and forth between England and France until France finally ended up with control after Napoleon’s second abdication in 1815. The French fishing industry thrived there for the next 70 years. During Prohibition in the US, the islands had a boom economy as they were a great place for smuggling in banned alcohol. During the Vichy France era of World War II, the islands were Nazi-controlled. They were liberated in 1941.

Today, the overseas collective is under the French and therefore the President of France, Francois Hollande is the head of state. Stephane Artano is President of the Territorial Council. The total land area covers 93 square miles. There are about 6,000 people living there. They are 3,819 miles from the closest point in Metropolitan France but only 16 miles from the Burin Peninsula of Newfoundland. Regardless, they are French with French being the official language and the euro being the official currency. Fishing in the area is depleted and can no longer support the economy. They wish to bring in tourists and built a new airport in the hopes of luring visitors.

Everyone’s free to embark on either a great clipper or a little fishing boat. An artist is an explorer who oughtn’t to shrink from anything: it doesn’t matter whether he goes to the left or the right — his goal sanctifies all. – George Sand

Fish stimulates the brain, but fishing stimulates the imagination. – Thomas Robert Dewar

If you don’t go fishing because you thought it might rain you will never go fishing. This applies to more than fishing. – Gary Sow

He liked fishing and seemed to take pride in being able to like such a stupid occupation. – Leo Tolstoy

Also on this day: Suicide Pilots – In 1944, the first kamikaze attack took place.
Apple Day – In 1990, the first Apple Day was held in Covent Garden, London.
USS Constitution – In 1797, the ship was launched.
Disaster – In 1966, the Aberfan disaster took place.
Rudolph Valentino – In 1921, The Sheik debuted.



Rudolph Valentino

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 21, 2014
 The Sheik, opening card

The Sheik, opening card

October 21, 1921: The iconic silent film, The Sheik,  premiers. The movie was directed by George Melford and starred Rudolph Valentino and Agnes Ayres. It was based on the book of the same name written by Edith Maude Hull with a screen adaptation written by Monte M Katterjohn. William Marshall was the cinematographer. Famous Players-Lasky produced the movie with distribution by Paramount Pictures. The 80 minute film cost under $200,000 to make and earned over $1.5 million in the US and Canada on its first release.

Lady Diana Mayo (Ayres) was a headstrong woman bent on maintaining her independence. Through a series of events, Diana ends up in a caravan led by Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan (Valentino). Ahmed is smitten by the lovely woman who continually rebuffs his advances. He is essentially holding her prisoner of his caravan. In the book, Ahmed rapes the young woman; in the movie he does not. Diana is not swayed by his behavior in either medium. She finally escapes, only to be captured again by an evil man. Ahmed saves her but is injured in the attempt. Diana attends the wounded sheik and falls in love but resists as she is repelled by the thought of loving an Arab. She learns that the Sheik is of British and Spanish heritage and was only adopted into the Arab community when he was orphaned. They marry and live happily ever after, or until the sequel.

Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d’Antonguolla was born in Italy in 1895. His mother was French and his father an Italian veterinarian. The father died of malaria when Rudolph was 11. In 1912, Valentino moved to Paris but came back to Italy the next year. He had trouble finding employment in both places and came to the US where he was processed through Ellis Island on December 23, 1913. He was 18 years old. He found work as a dancer at Maxim’s where he became involved with Blanca de Saulles. Her ex-husband eventually had Valentino arrested on some flimsy vice charge. He was released from jail before Blanca shot her ex-husband. Fearful of another scandal, Valentino left town.

Valentino’s acting career was sealed with his performances in both The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and this movie. He enjoyed fame for some time, but it waned after two box office duds. He had just finished filming The Son of the Sheik where he reprised his role in The Sheik, playing both the father and the son in the sequel. He was in New York City on a promotional tour when he became ill. He was diagnosed with a perforated ulcer and underwent surgery. It seemed successful until he developed complications. He died on August 23, 1926 at the age of 31. His last film was released just two weeks after his death.

To generalize on women is dangerous. To specialize on them is infinitely worse.

A man should control his life. Mine is controlling me.

Women are not in love with me but with the picture of me on the screen. I am merely the canvas on which women paint their dreams.

I am beginning to look more and more like my miserable imitators. – all from Rudolph Valentino

Also on this day: Suicide Pilots – In 1944, the first kamikaze attack took place.
Apple Day – In 1990, the first Apple Day was held in Covent Garden, London.
USS Constitution – In 1797, the ship was launched.
Disaster – In 1966 the Aberfan disaster took place.

Apple Day

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 21, 2013
Apple Day

Apple Day

October 21, 1990: The first Apple Day is held in Covent Garden, London. Sue Clifford and Angela King founded Common Ground in 1983. The two environmentalists remain Directors of the UK charity and lobby group. Their mission is to promote “local distinctiveness.” Rather than the flamboyant or rare causes championed by other conservation groups, the women concentrated efforts on the commonplace, everyday possibilities for increasing environmentally sound practices. After the Great Storm of 1987, they advocated for cautious clean up efforts to give nature a chance to recover by herself.

Local produce, rather than imported food, became the groups next focus. The richness and variety of home or locally produced foods were symbolized by the apple. Common Ground chose the fruit to act as a reminder to Britons to think and act locally. The apple tree also led to a greater appreciation of nature’s resources. Orchards were precious commodities and deserved protection against rampant expansion. Community orchards could and should be protected and Old Orchards venerated as valuable assets.

Apple Day continues to be celebrated. The event has gained momentum and strength to become a weekend event. The date shifted from October 21 to the weekend closest to the date or in some areas, any time in the last half of the month. Communities engage in large or small celebrations usually held in gardens. There are games and cooking demonstrations in a fair-like atmosphere. Gardening advice is shared. And there are hundreds of varieties of apples along with apple juice or cider to drink.

The first week in December finds another chance to honor trees. Tree Dressing Day was also initiated by Common Ground in 1990. It encourages the celebration of trees. The idea is to show Every Tree Counts and is beneficial to all. The Tree Manifesto maintains that all trees should be protected. Ancient woodland trees are irreplaceable, for trees – life begins at 400. Trees are essential to the carbon dioxide/oxygen cycle. Paper should be recycled, saving the precious trees. Planting trees and hedgerows benefits us all, but should be done with thoughtful care, making sure the proper tree is given the proper home.

“First I shake the whole [Apple] tree, that the ripest might fall. Then I climb the tree and shake each limb, and then each branch and then each twig, and then I look under each leaf.” – Martin Luther

“The apple tree never asks the beech how he shall grow, nor the lion the horse, how he shall take his prey.” – William Blake

“If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.” – Carl Sagan

“Goodness comes out of people who bask in the sun, as it does out of a sweet apple roasted before the fire.” – Charles Dudley Warner

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: People have worried about the environment and advocated for better use of resources for quite some time now. There are days, weeks, years, and even decades set aside for this. Special days throughout the year are noted from February 2 (World Wetlands Day) through December 11 (International Mountain Day) along with some days moving around the calendar. All of these special days can be either worldwide, national, or local in scope. The weeks cover issues from Bike to Work Week Victoria to World Water Week in Stockholm. The first International Polar Year was 1882-1883 while the last dedicated year was 2011 with celebrations around the International Year of Forests. We are currently in the midst of the decade known as United Nations Decade on Biodiversity. While environmental issues cover everything from Climate Change to Waste, and not everything has time dedicated to it, there are many working towards helping Mother Nature recover from the harm brought on by humans.

Also on this day: Suicide Pilots – In 1944, the first kamikaze attack took place.
USS Constitution – In 1797, the ship was launched.
Disaster – In 1966 the Aberfan disaster took place.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 21, 2012

Aberfan disaster landslide

October 21, 1966: The Aberfan disaster takes place in the Welsh village of Aberfan. The coal industry was the heart of the village and for about fifty years prior to this disaster, Merthyr Vale Colliery (a subsidiary of the National Coal Board) had deposited mining debris on the side of Mynydd Merthyr. This is a broad ridge of high ground between the Taff Vale and the Cwm Cynon. The deposit site was directly above the village of Aberfan. There were huge piles of loose rock and mining spoil called “tips” built up over a porous layer of sandstone which contained underground springs. Many of the tips had been built up directly over the springs. Locals had voiced concerns about the location, citing the safety of the village primary school, as early as 1963. The NCB ignored their concerns.

The previous several days had seen heavy rain fall. On this day, early in the morning, a subsidence of about nine to eighteen feet occurred on the upper flank of colliery waste tip No. 7. A subsidence is a lowering of the Earth’s crust or a cave in. At around 9:15 AM nearly 200,000 cubic yards of rain-soaked debris broke away and slid downhill at high speed. It was sunny on the top of the mountain but still foggy at ground level with visibility highly reduced. Tipping gang members on the mountain saw the mass break away, but were unable to call down to the valley, reportedly because their telephone cable had been stolen. Later investigation proved that even had they been able to call, the mass was moving too rapidly for it to have done any good.

A mass of about 50,000 cubic yards of debris smashed into the village in a slurry about 39 feet deep. The slide destroyed a farm and twenty terraced houses along Moy Road and then hit at force the northern side of Pantglas Junior School and part of a separate senior school and demolished both structures. Mud and rubble up to 33 feet deep were deposited in the classrooms. The children at Pantglas had been in an assembly and had just left for their classrooms. They were celebrating the last day before half-term holiday. Had they left a few minutes later, or the slide occurred a few minutes earlier, there were have been a much lower loss of life. As it was, 116 children and 28 adults were killed.

Rescue efforts were frantic and began immediately. Rescue attempts continued for days and by Monday, October 24 parents were being permitted to view the dead children in order to locate their own sons or daughters. Investigations into the disaster lasted for 76 days. Although immediately after, NCB tried to avow the disaster was unavoidable and due to the “natural unknown springs” beneath the mountain, the locals knew the statement to be false. The Tribunal also listed the blame as belonging solely to NCB and their “total absence of tipping policy”. Over 90,000 people contributed more than £1.5 million to the Aberfan Disaster Memorial Fund.

A tragedy is a representation of an action that is whole and complete and of a certain magnitude. A whole is what has a beginning and middle and end. – Aristotle

If I told you the tragedy parts, we’d all sit here and cry. – John Phillips

The deepest definition of youth is life as yet untouched by tragedy. – Alfred North Whitehead

What then is tragedy? In the Elizabethan period it was assumed that a play ending in death was a tragedy, but in recent years we have come to understand that to live on is sometimes far more tragic than death. – George P. Baker

Also on this day:

Suicide Pilots – In 1944, the first kamikaze attack took place.
Apple Day – In 1990, the first Apple Day was held in Covent Garden, London.
USS Constitution – In 1797, the ship was launched.

USS Constitution

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 21, 2011

USS Constitution

October 21, 1797: The USS Constitution is launched. It was one of the six original frigates resulting from the Naval Act of 1794. The ship was the third built using the design by Joshua Humphreys. These ships were larger and more heavily armed than ships coming out of Boston. The Constitution was built at the Edmund Hartt Shipyard at a cost of $302,718. Her early duties as part of the newly formed US Navy was to guard merchant ships.

The ship was instrumental in several altercations between the young nation and different adversaries. She was involved in the Quasi-War and the First Barbary War at the Battle of Tripoli Harbor and the Battle of Derne. The captaincy changed hands several times as the ship fought through various battles. In 1805, Captain John Rodgers assumed command of the venerable ship. As the flagship of a contingent of ships, she was instrumental in the war in the Mediterranean Sea. Relief was supposed to arrive but was detained. The Constitution was away from home for four years before returning to the States.

What the Constitution is most famous for, however, is her time in the War of 1812. She was able to capture many merchant ships and defeated five British warships. Now with Isaac Hull in command of the ship, several encounters with the enemy met with a successful outcome. During a battle against the HMS Guerriere, the Constitution gained the nickname “Old Ironsides” as well as much public approval. This was not the last battle she was famously involved in. She also was able to best the HMS Java.

Public notoriety saved the revered ship from being scrapped on several occasions. Today, this venerable ship is a museum ship. In 1900, she was scheduled for a restoration but no funds were allocated. Private funds were raised and the ship was saved. By 1925 the restoration was completed and the ship was taken on tour. She was docked in Boston for most of the century. But as time went on, another facelift was needed. In 1995, another restoration was needed. Over 200 years after her launch, she was in need of much repair. Today, she sails the seas in an effort to promote understanding of the Navy’s role in war.

“The winds and the waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators.” – Edward Gibbon

“It is the function of the Navy to carry the war to the enemy so that it will not be fought on US soil.” – Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz

“Control of the seas means security. Control of the seas means peace. Control of the seas can mean victory. The United States must control the sea if it is to protect our security.” – John F. Kennedy

“Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious.” – George Washington

Also on this day:
Suicide Pilots – In 1944, the first kamikaze attack took place.
Apple Day – In 1990, the first Apple Day was held in Covent Garden, London.

Suicide Pilots

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 22, 2010

HMAS Australia bridge

View of the bridge and forward turrets of HMAS Australia, September 1944.

October 21, 1944: The Japanese try a new form of attack during World War II when the first kamikaze attack strikes the HMAS Australia. The kamikaze pilot, flying a specially designed dive bomber [a Yokosuka D4Y] crashed into the superstructure of the Australian heavy cruiser. Burning fuel and debris rained down on the decks killing 30 crew members, including the captain of the ship. Many more would have died in the crash if the 441 pound bomb carried in the plane had exploded.

Kamikaze raids began following sustained and significant defeats for the Japanese forces. The island nation was finding it draining to continue to wage war against the Allies’ military ability and their vast industrial capacity to supply their armed forces. The Japanese raids used planes fully fueled and carrying explosives and extra bombs. However, boats and even individual military personnel were also used in suicide missions.

The term “kamikaze” translates to “divine wind” and refers to a legend concerning a typhoon that saved Japan from a Mongol invasion fleet. During the war, the Japanese term for the units responsible for the suicide attacks was “tokubetsu kōgeki tai” which translates to “special attack unit.”

The planes used by the kamikaze pilots were further modified. Thousands of suicide pilots were trained. The peak use of the kamikaze came during April through June 1945. On April 6, 1945 alone, waves of planes attacked and sank 30 US warships and 3 US merchant ships at the cost of 1,465 Japanese planes. By the end of the war, the Japanese naval air service had sacrificed 2,525 pilots while the Japanese army added another 1,387. These suicide missions sank 81 ships, damaged another 195, and according to Japanese statistics, accounted for up to 80% of US losses in the final phase of the war.

“The only mystery in life is why the kamikaze pilots wore helmets” – Al McGuire

“As allied forces (pushed) forward in both the European and Pacific theaters in World War II, the enemy’s tactics, such as the cult of death among SS forces and the kamikazes in the Pacific, led to some of these bloodiest fighting of that war,” – Donald Rumsfeld

“I closed my eyes a few times, because I kind of understand what they were going through. In World War II, I was in the Navy, and we had a kamikaze plane hit our ship, and kill sixteen people.” – Ralph Wilson

“I would say to myself ‘So are you ready now?’ and there was a self that would answer ‘Yes sir! I’m ready to go’, but there was still another self who never stopped yelling ‘I don’t want to die!’” – Goro Nagamine, kamikaze pilot writing in his journal the night before his suicide mission

Also on this day, in 1990 the first Apple Day was held in England.

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