Little Bits of History

October 25

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 25, 2017

1854: The Battle of Balaclava is fought. The Battle was part of the Crimean War, fought between the Russian Empire and the Ottoman Empire with allied forces from France, Great Britain, and Sardinia. Ostensibly fought over the rights of Christians in the region, the churches themselves worked out the issues. Neither Nicholas I of Russia nor Emperor Napoleon III pulled back. The Siege of Sevastopol lasted for nearly a year, beginning on October 17, 1854 and ending in an Allied victory on September 9, 1855. This particular Battle was part of the siege of the Black Sea port.

The Allies first contact with the Russians led to a victory but they were slow to follow up on the win. This allowed the Russians to regroup and recover as well as prepare a defense for their Navy, housed in the port. The British under the command of Lord Raglan and the French under Canrobert decided to lay siege instead of engaging in outright battle. Some of their troops were housed on the southern port of Balaclava which led to committing troops to protecting their flank. Today’s battle began with Russian artillery and infantry attacks against the Allies first line of defense. The line fell and the Russians pushed forward.

The second line was held by both Ottomans and the British 93rd Highland Regiment. They became known as the Thin Red Line as they held their position. Lord Raglan sent a vaguely written order to the commander of what is today called the Light Brigade. Raglan had ordered them to protect the guns from the first line’s fall. But due to some miscommunication (which shall ever remain a mystery since the man delivering the message died within the first minutes of the attack) the Light Brigade was sent off on a frontal assault against a different artillery battery.

The men charged forward and eventually, after receiving extreme casualties, achieved their position. However, they were so badly decimated, they were forced to immediately retreat. Their charge has been forever memorialized by Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade” which was published just six weeks after the disastrous event. The day ended without either side having a clear victory. Both sides incurred losses and casualties over 600. It would take nearly a year for Sevastopol to fall in an Allied victory with each side losing over 100,000 men to both war wounds and disease. Six months later the war would end. Overall the Allies had losses and casualties of nearly one-quarter million while Russia suffered over a half million casualties and losses. More than half of those who died, did not die of war wounds, but were brought down by disease.

All in the valley of Death / Rode the six hundred.

Theirs not to make reply, / Theirs not to reason why, / Theirs but to do and die.

Cannon to right of them, / Cannon to left of them, / Cannon in front of them / Volleyed and thundered;

Into the mouth of hell / Rode the six hundred. – all from Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade” which can be found here in its entirety



Primrose Path to Hell

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 25, 2015
Francis Joseph Beckman*

Francis Joseph Beckman*

October 25, 1938: Francis Joseph Beckman speaks to the National Council of Catholic Women. He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1875 and entered the Seminary in Cincinnati and then studied in Belgium and in Rome. He was ordained a priest on June 20, 1902. He then received a Licentiate of Sacred Theology (1907) and later a Doctor of Sacred Theology (1908) from the pontifical school in Rome. The first of those degrees is comparable to a Masters Degree. He returned to Cincinnati and taught at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, was a rector at the church, and worked for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. On December 23, 1923 he was appointed as Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska by Pope Pius XI. On January 17, 1930, the Pope appointed Beckman as Archbishop of Dubuque (Iowa).

Beckman was instrumental in aiding Catholic entities which help the poor and disadvantaged to grow. The St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Holy Name Society, the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, Conference on Industrial Relations, and the Catholic Youth Organization all grew during his tenure. He had begun the Catholic Student’s Mission Crusade in Cincinnati and in 1935 their national convention was held in Dubuque. He was also a pacifist and in the years leading up to World War II, advocated for the US to hold a stance of neutrality. It was his opinion that the Soviets wished for the US to enter the war in order to weaken the country so they might be able to spread Communism here.

Archbishop Beckman began a campaign against the evils of swing music in 1938. Swing music stemmed from the jazz era. The new music style took off and peaked during the years of 1935 and 1946. Jazz had been highly regarded by most serious musicians around the world, including classical masters such as Stravinsky. Swing was seen as a “dance craze” and a degeneration of music. It was just a means to sell records to the masses so they might dance. And that is what Beckman spoke about on this day. Before the National Council, he proclaimed that swing music was going to ruin young people and send them down the “primrose path to Hell”. His attempts to rid the world of the genre were unsuccessful.

His own primrose path to Hell was brought on by his love of art. He had appreciated the Church’s culture while in Europe and began to collect fine art pieces. Beckman began to showcase his collection in a newly created museum at Columbia College. His collection was said to be worth $1.5 million. In 1936, he was introduced by Phillip Suetter to the idea of investing monies in gold mines. It is now thought he hoped to have more funds to buy more art. Instead, he signed promissory notes on behalf of the archdiocese and caused financial problems for the entity. Suetter was eventually arrested for fraud and Beckman and the Archdiocese were brought under investigation. The holders of the notes demanded payment and Beckman had to sell off most of his art collection to make good on the notes. He retired in November 1946 and moved back to Cincinnati. He died two years later at the age of 72.

A degenerated musical system… turned loose to gnaw away the moral fiber of young people. – Francis Beckman

Ah, swing, well, we used to call it syncopation — then they called it ragtime, then blues — then jazz. Now, it’s swing. White folks, yo’all sho is a mess. – Louis Armstrong

Telling someone about what a symbol means is like telling someone how music should make them feel. – Dan Brown

Baptists never make love standing up. They’re afraid someone might see them and think they’re dancing. – Lewis Grizzard

Also on this day: Who Blinked? – In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis confrontation between Adlai Stevenson and Valerian Zorin took place.
George, George, George – In 1760, George III began his reign in England.
Nuke It – In 1955, microwave ovens became available for home use.
Fox River Grove – In 1995, a train hit a bus stopped at a red light.
St. Katherine Docks – In 1828, the London docks opened.

* “Francis J L Beckman” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia –



St. Katharine Docks

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 25, 2014
St. Katharine Docks

St. Katharine Docks

October 25, 1828: St. Katharine Docks open in London. The docks were located on the north side of the River Thames in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. They served London’s commercial interests and were just east of the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. They were part of the Port of London in an area today called the Docklands. Until the beginning of the nineteenth century. All shipping along the river was handled by the Port of London. All cargoes had to be delivered there for inspection and assessment by Customs Officers, leading locals to dub the area the “Legal Quays”. Between 1750 and 1796, trade increased and the docks became overcrowded. Both the number of ships and amount of cargo nearly tripled from 1,682 ships to 3,663 and 234,639 tons of goods mid-century to 620,845 by the end of the 1700s.

The St. Katharine Docks took their name from a former hospital of the same name which had been built in the twelfth century. St. Katharine’s by the Tower was also a church founded in 1147. The buildings were torn down to accommodate the increased need for more docks in the area. Twenty-three acres was earmarked for redevelopment by an Act of Parliament in 1825 and construction of the docks began in 1827. About 1,250 houses were torn down along with the church/hospital and 11,300 inhabitants were evicted from shabby, slum housing. Most of these were port workers and they received no compensation for their losses. Property owners (slumlords) did receive some compensation.

Thomas Telford was the engineer responsible for the project – his only major project in London. The docks were built from two linked basins in order to provide as much quayside as possible. Both basins were accessed via a lock from the Thames. Because of the new steam engines, the water level was kept about four feet higher than the tidal river. In order to minimize the activity on land, Telford built warehouses as close as possible. These, designed by Philip Hardwick, were filled directly from ships rather than with a way station.

The docks were officially opened on this day. They were not a commercial success. Larger ships were not able to access them. They were amalgamated in 1864 with the nearby London Docks. In 1909, the Port of London Authority took over management. The docks were severely damaged during World War II from the German bombing of the city. Because of their restrictive size limitations, they were among the first of London’s docks to be closed in 1968 and the site was leased to developers. Most of the warehouses were demolished and replaced by modern commercial buildings and the docks themselves have been turned into a marina.

If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable. – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

To reach a port, we must sail – sail, not tie at anchor – sail, not drift. – Franklin D. Roosevelt

It is not the going out of port, but the coming in, that determines the success of a voyage. – Henry Ward Beecher

I’m like a ship captain: I have a woman in every port. – Henrique Capriles Radonski

Also on this day: Who Blinked? – In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis confrontation between Adlai Stevenson and Valerian Zorin took place.
George, George, George – In 1760, George III began his reign in England.
Nuke It – In 1955, microwaves became available for home use.
Fox River Grove – In 1995, a train hit a bus stopped at a red light.

George, George, George

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 25, 2013
 King George III

King George III

October 25, 1760: George III begins his reign as King of England. George William Frederick was born in London in 1738. His father was the Prince of Wales and his grandfather was King of England and Ireland, George II. He was of the House of Hanover, but unlike others of the line was born and raised British and speaking English. He was born two months early and was not expected to live. He overcame early odds and grew up a healthy, but shy child. He was privately tutored and a polyglot. He studied the sciences as well as humanities.

George II was not a family man and disliked his son. When the Prince of Wales (George’s father) suddenly died of a lung injury in 1751, George William became heir apparent. George II was now interested in the teenager and made him Prince of Wales. The Dowager Princess of Wales, George’s mother, really remained in control. At the age of 22, the Prince assumed the throne upon his grandfather’s death. He married the next year, a Princess from Germany became the Queen of England. The couple had 15 children. George III’s official coronation came only one week after his wedding.

The colonial lands proved problematic from the start. The French and Indian wars had been expensive and the upstart colonies revolted against the taxes George imposed to offset costs. When the Stamp Act was repealed, the King was enraged. The next set of taxes were even more intrusive. George III would not be cowed by the colonial riffraff. Eventually the riffraff rebelled to the point of Revolution. George III is referred to as the king who lost America. Other colonial holdings were inspired and much of his reign was spent embroiled in war and quelling uprisings.

He was also known as Insane King George III. The line of Hanover passed along thrones, to be sure. But they also passed the hereditary disease, porphyria. Those with the disease have a disorder with an enzyme in the heme biosynthetic pathway. They are photosensitive (sensitive to light), are wracked by abdominal pain, and have port wine colored urine. Eventually the disease leads to paralysis of the arms and legs as well as psychiatric symptoms. George III, from 1811-1820, went progressively blind and insane. He was often locked in his rooms wearing a straightjacket. His son, George IV, succeeded to the throne upon his death in 1820.

“Born and educated in this country, I glory in the name of Briton.”

“Lord Chancellor, did I deliver the speech well? I am glad of that, for there was nothing in it.”

“A traitor is everyone who does not agree with me.”

“Once vigorous measures appear to be the only means left of bringing the Americans to a due submission to the mother country, the colonies will submit.” – all from George III

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: George III was also the Duke and prince-elector of Brunswick-Lüneburg (Hanover) in the Holy Roman Empire until he became King of Hanover in 1814. In 1810 he was at the height of his popularity in England. However, he was almost completely blind from cataracts and suffering from rheumatism and in constant pain. He was dangerously ill and bereaved after the death of his youngest and favorite daughter, Princess Amelia. The next year, he made his son Regent. He went completely blind, nearly deaf, and totally insane. He was still titular King but his son was wielding the power. He was unable to understand that he had been made King of Hanover and he did not know his wife died in 1818. His descent into madness continued and over Christmas 1891 he spoke nonsense for 58 hours straight. He was the longest lived and longest ruler of Great Britain up to this time. Only Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II have lived and ruled longer.

Also on this day: Who Blinked? – In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis confrontation between Adlai Stevenson and Valerian Zorin took place.
Nuke It – In 1955, microwaves became available for home use.
Fox River Grove – In 1995, a train hit a bus stopped at a red light.

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Fox River Grove

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 25, 2012

Fox River Grove bus accident scene

October 25, 1995: A train runs into a school bus. Fox River Grove, Illinois is a small village northwest of Chicago. The population is around 5,000 living in the 1.8 square mile community.  Because of its proximity to Chicago, Metra trains run for commuters working in the city. On this day, the train was running its regularly scheduled trip. However, the school bus was driven by a substitute driver, Patricia Catencamp. The bus was approaching Highway 14 on Algonquin Road. There were two tracks owned by the Union Pacific Railroad, a small space, and then the highway with a stop light at the intersection. Because the railway communicates with the traffic light, this is called an “interconnected crossing” and it supposed to work seamlessly.

Thirty-two seconds before the impact with the train traveling at 66 miles per hour, the communication system deemed there was time and waited another eight seconds before communicating with the traffic light. One second later, the light responded and prepared to turn red. The school bus also slowly approached the intersection. Eleven seconds later, with pedestrian traffic having had time to clear the intersection, the traffic signal on US 14 turned yellow. The train was now traveling at 69 mph. At 7.5 seconds before impact, the light on US 14 turned red with an all red interval. The train was only 600 feet from the bus when the light turned green.

The bus was longer than the space between tracks and light. In fact, the bus was over the tracks by about three inches. Trains, however, are wider than the tracks they ride on and the Metra extended three feet past the rails. Even if the driver had realized the danger, her only other option at the time was to pull into the intersection while the light was still red. The high school children on the bus at first joked about the gates having come down and trapping the bus. They quickly began to scream for the bus to pull forward. The driver, unaware of the impending impact, was concerned that something was going wrong inside the bus. She did not pull forward.

The train engaged the emergency brakes and slowed to 60 mph before impact at 7:10 AM. With impact, the body was separated from the chassis of the bus and it was sent careening into the intersection. Five students were instantly killed by the impact and two later died from injuries sustained. Another 21 students were injured, some critically. Most of the injuries were blunt trauma and head injuries. Because of the proximity of the crash to the police station, help was immediately available at the scene. The driver’s inexperience was partially at fault. The poor design of the intersection along with improper preemption programming were also culpable.

Art has to move you and design does not, unless it’s a good design for a bus. – David Hockney

Finding a good bus driver can be as important as finding a good musician. – Reba McEntire

I hated school. Even to this day, when I see a school bus it’s just depressing to me. The poor little kids. – Dolly Parton

Know how to travel from your town to a nearby town without a car, either by bus or by rail. – Marilyn vos Savant

Also on this day:

Who Blinked? – In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis confrontation between Adlai Stevenson and Valerian Zorin took place.
George, George, George – In 1760, George III began his reign in England.
Nuke It – In 1955, microwaves became available for home use.

Nuke It

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 25, 2011

Early microwave oven

October 25, 1955: The first domestic microwave oven is sold by Tappan. Dr. Percy Spencer was investigating a new vacuum tube called a magnetron while working at the Raytheon Corporation. What he found was that as he tested the new tube, the chocolate bar in his pocket had melted. Next, he placed some popcorn kernels near the tube and watched them pop. His next experiment was with an egg. This time, he had a coworker with him and they watched the egg begin to shake, they moved closer. The pressure inside the egg became too great and both men were covered with hot, exploding egg. They deduced there was an explanation involving low-density microwave energy.

Spencer and P.R. Hanson began working on a secret project. They finally developed the first microwave oven. It was almost six feet tall and weighed an amazing 750 pounds. It also cost about $5,000 in 1947. The magnetron tube which produced the microwaves had to be water-cooled, so the machine also required some plumbing. They weren’t a big seller. Finally, a method for air-cooling was developed. This was a boon to vending and restaurant businesses, but the device was still not for home use.

In 1947, Raytheon demonstrated the first microwave oven and called it a “Radarange” after an employee won a naming contest. They were still the size of refrigerators and cost between $2,000 and $3,000. Used in industry, it wasn’t convenient for home use. Then Tappan produced the first domestic oven. It was much smaller, the size of a conventional oven. It was less powerful than the commercial models. It had two cooking speeds (500 and 800 watts) and sold for $1,300. Sales were better, but not brisk.

Microwave ovens have gotten progressively better designs over the years. Today they are smaller, more powerful, with a wider range of settings, and a number of extra features. The microwaves themselves behave the same way as they did a half century ago. Food is cooked so quickly that it is sometimes cooked unevenly. Metal acts as a conductor and cannot safely be used inside a microwave. Products heated for too long can catch fire inside the oven. And the waves themselves are not safe if humans are directly exposed to them. Most ovens, therefore, have a safety feature that turns off the oven if the door is opened.

“The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ (I found it!) but ‘That’s funny …’” – Isaac Asimov

“He looks about as happy as a penguin in a microwave.” – Sid Waddell

“I don’t cook – I can cook – but I’m not very good. I like being asked over for dinner, because she can’t cook either. We would starve if it weren’t for modern technology. I know how to work a microwave, but love home cooked meals.” – Mark Mothersbaugh

“I put instant coffee in a microwave oven and almost went back in time.” – Steven Wright

Also on this day:
Who Blinked? – In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis confrontation between Adlai Stevenson and Valerian Zorin took place.
George, George, George – In 1760, George III began his reign in England.

Who Blinked?

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 25, 2010

Jupiter IRBM (picture from US Army)

Jupiter IRBM (picture from US Army)

October 25, 1962: An emergency session of the UN Security Council meets and US Ambassador Adlai Stevenson asks USSR Ambassador Valerian Zorin to explain the Russian missiles occupying Cuban launch sites. Zorin refused an answer and Stevenson produced surveillance photos showing missile installations.

Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba on January 1, 1959 and aligned his country with the Soviet Union openly and officially on December 19, 1960. Within weeks the US terminated diplomatic relations with Cuba. On April 17, 1961, the US backed a group of Cuban exiles in a covert operation to trigger an anti-Castro rebellion. The forces landed at the Bay of Pigs and was an unmitigated and embarrassing failure.

On July 27, 1962, Castro announced measures he had taken to assure there were no direct assaults by US forces on Cuba. He stated that the USSR would militarily defend Cuba. By early fall, evidence of missiles in Cuba was noted. By mid-October U-2 recon planes had pictures of the installations. President Kennedy of the US and Premier Khrushchev of the USSR, negotiated the removal of the missiles without Castro’s input.

In return for removing US ICBM missiles from Turkey and US assurance of not invading Cuba, the USSR  would remove their missiles from Cuba. The US managed to unobtrusively remove their missiles while Khrushchev and the USSR were seen as losing face in obeying an “order” from their enemy. Within two years Khrushchev was out of power. Cuba was left without the protection that the Communist regime had promised.

“I am prepared to wait for my answer until hell freezes over.” – Adlai Stevenson demanding an answer regarding Cuban missile bases from Valerian Zorin

“We were eyeball to eyeball, and the other fellow just blinked.” – Dean Rusk

“Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.”  – John F. Kennedy

“Dante once said that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality.” – John F. Kennedy

Also on this day, in 1760 George III became King of England.