Little Bits of History

October 27

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 27, 2017

1914: HMS Audacious sinks. She was the fourth and final King George V class dreadnaught, so named after the original battleship built to the newer specifications in 1906. The major improvements associated with the class of ships was an “all-big-gun” armament scheme and the steam turbine propulsion system. In July, the world was on edge as the outcome of the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand came to a head. World War I officially began on July 29. Audacious had taken part in a mobilization test even before the War began from July 17 to 20. When war broke out, the Home Fleet put the Grand Fleet, of which this ship was a part, under the command of Admiral Sir John Jellicoe.

Audacious was refitted during August and September and returned to duty in October. Now on the west coast of Scotland, the 2nd Battle Squadron left Tory Island, Ireland on this day for gunnery practice. As they sailed away, at 8.45 AM Audacious was rocked by an explosion. The captain believed it to be a German U-boat torpedo and ordered all other dreadnoughts to depart, as protocol demanded. The smaller ships remained to render assistance. However, Audacious had struck an underwater mine laid a few days earlier by the SS Berlin. The Audacious was struck from beneath about ten feet forward of the transverse bulkhead.

The ship began to list but with corrective measures this was partly corrected. The SOS message was received by RMS Olympic, sister to the Titanic, and she arrived on the scene. Audacious could make a speed of about 10 mph and the Captain hoped to be able to beach the ship on higher land 25 miles away. He had covered 15 miles before the engine rooms flooded and power ceased. By 2 PM, he ordered all non-essential crew to be taken off. The Olympic attempted to tow the ship, but lines fouled. Other smaller ships also tried to tow, but couldn’t. When it was finally realized the explosion was a mine, the other dreadnoughts returned and also tried to help to tow Audacious to safety.

By 5 PM, only the Captain and 50 men remained aboard, but towing was slow due to rough waters. As dark approached at 6.15 PM, all abandoned ship. At 8.45 PM, Audacious heeled sharply, paused briefly, and then capsized. She floated upside down for fifteen minutes before the first explosion. It is believed that high explosive shells fell from racks, ignited cordite in the magazine, and blew. A piece of armor plating flew 800 yards away from the wreckage and struck a petty officer aboard one of the recue ships. He was the only casualty of the day, besides the ship itself. Jellicoe demanded the sinking be covered up. But there were many Americans aboard the Olympic who had photographs of the sinking. The Royal Navy finally announced the loss of the ship on November 14, 1918 after the War ended.

H.M.S. Audacious sank after striking a mine off the North Irish coast on October 27, 1914.
This was kept secret at the urgent request of the Commander-in-Chief, Grand Fleet, and the Press loyally refrained from giving it any publicity. – Secretary of the Admiralty on November 14, 1918

You can bail water 24/7, and no matter how good you are at not sinking, you still have a hole in your boat. – Kelli Jae Baeli

When I lost my rifle, the Army charged me 85 dollars. That is why in the Navy the Captain goes down with the ship. – Dick Gregory

It is not the ship so much as the skillful sailing that assures the prosperous voyage. – George William Curtis



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Amstel River

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 27, 2015
Amsterdam from the air*

Amsterdam from the air*

October 27, 1275: An official document with this date remains and is the first time the word Aemstelredamme (Amsterdam) is used. There had been terrible floods in 1170 and 1173 so the locals built a bridge over a the river Amstel. They also built a dam across the river which gives rise to the name of the village. The document in question gave residents of the village exemption from paying the toll to cross the bridge and was granted in the County of Holland by Count Floris V. The inhabitants not only were permitted to cross their local bridge without paying, but also any toll bridges throughout the County. They could also use the locks without charge. The people who were exempted were the “people living near Amestelledamme. By 1327 the name had changed to Aemsterdam.

Today, Amsterdam is both the capital city and the most populous city in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is mandated as the capital via the Constitution of the Netherlands but the Dutch government actually works out of The Hague. The city grew up from the small fishing village which survived flooding and built the dam across the river in the 12th century. During the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century, It was one of the most important ports in the world. It was during this time the city became a center for both finance and diamonds. It was also during this time that the feature of the city which is most recognizable was constructed.

City planning during the 1600s called for a method to control the waters as well as house a growing population. The plan called for four main concentric half-circles along with bridges to span them. They were to have their ends resting in the IJ Bay. Three of the canals were developed for residential purposes. The Herengracht or ‘’Patricians’ Canal’’, Keizersgracht or ‘’Emperor’s Canal’’, and Prinsengracht or ‘’Prince’s Canal’’ were for the growing number of immigrants. The Singelgracht was the fourth and outer canal and was used for both defense and water management. The Jordaan quarter was planned to facilitate the transportation of goods. There are over 60 miles of canals and about 90 islands created by the surrounding water. To ease movement, there were about 1,500 bridges. The Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht and Jordaan became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010.

Amsterdam is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. There are over 4.6 million international visitors and 16 million day visitors who come each year. The city has many museums, including one for Van Gogh and another for Rembrandt. The Anne Frank House is there, as is the Hermitage Amsterdam. There are many historic buildings including awe-inspiring churches from Oude Kerk (1306) to more modern edifices. There are concert halls, diamond factories, open air markets, and breweries. There are also several red-light districts within the city which were designed areas for legalized prostitution and are huge tourist attractions. Today, the Mayor of the city is Eberhard van der Laan.

Amsterdam has more than 150 canals and 1,250 bridges, but it never seems crowded, nor bent and bitter from fleecing the tourist. – Julie Burchill

My experience in Amsterdam is that cyclists ride where the hell they like and aim in a state of rage at all pedestrians while ringing their bell loudly, the concept of avoiding people being foreign to them. – Terry Pratchett

I think Amsterdam is to Holland what New York is to America in a sense. It’s a metropolis, so it’s representative of Holland, but only a part of it – you know, it’s more extreme, there’s more happening, it’s more liberal and more daring than the countryside in Holland is. – Anton Corbijn

Amsterdam was a great surprise to me. I had always thought of Venice as the city of canals; it had never entered my mind that I should find similar conditions in a Dutch town. – James Weldon Johnson

Also on this day: Fancy Dry Goods Store – In 1858, Macy opened his first NYC store.
Underground – In 1904, the first section of the New York City subway opened.
Paris Riots – In 2005, riots broke out in Paris.
Single – In 1936, Wallis Simpson was divorced.
Sacrificial Lamb – In 1553, Michael Servetus was burned at the stake.



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Sacrificial Lamb

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 27, 2014
Michael Servetus

Michael Servetus

October 27, 1553: Michael Servetus dies. Also known at Miguel Serveto Conesa, Miguel Servet, Miguel Serveto, Reves, or Michel de Villeneuve he was a Spanish theologian, physician, cartographer, and humanist. He was born in 1511 in Aragon, Spain. Some sources say he was born in 1509 and other sources also give his true name as De Villanueva. His father was of the lower nobility who worked at a nearby monastery. He had two brothers, one of them a priest and the other a notary. His mother’s side of the family came from the Zaportas, a wealthy Jewish converso family meaning they converted during the 14th or 15th centuries to the predominant religion of Spain – Catholicism.

Michael was gifted in languages and was employed by the Franciscan friar, Juan de Quintana. Michael studied law at the University of Toulouse in 1526 and may have had access to forbidden books while there. Quintana became the confessor of Charles V in 1530 and Servetus was brought to the imperial retinue and made a page (secretary). In that capacity he was able to travel to Italy and Germany and attend the coronation of Charles as the Holy Roman Emperor. Servetus was appalled by the opulence of the Papal retinue and chose a path of reformation. It is not known for certain when he left his royal post, but he was soon in touch with Johannes Oecalampadius in Basel working as a proofreader and in that capacity was introduced to “heretical” printings.

In July 1531, Servetus published On the Errors of the Trinity and the next year he had Dialogues on the Trinity as well as On the Justice of Christ’s Reign in print. Under threat of the Inquisition, he changed his name and moved to France to continue his studies. He expanded his areas of interest to include medicine and was the first to correctly describe the function of the pulmonary circulation. He also became interested in pharmacology, mathematics, astronomy, meteorology, and geography. He published several books and helped by proofreading several more, expanding his areas of expertise.

On February 16, 1553 he was denounced as a hereticy by Guillaume de Tri while in Vienne, France. He fled to Geneva for safety but was handed over when the French inquisitor Matthieu Ory demanded his return. Servetus escaped and stopped in Geneva on his way to Italy. He was arrested there again and brought to trial on charges of heresy. Both Protestants and Catholics were appalled by his treatment of the Holy Trinity. Since he was not a citizen, the most that should have been expected was banishment when he was found guilty. Instead, Servetus was burned at the stake as beheading was seen as too benevolent for such a criminal as this heretical demon.

May the Lord destroy all the tyrants of the church. Amen. – Michael Servetus

I beg you, shorten please these deliberations. It is clear that Calvin for his pleasure wishes to make me rot in this prison. The lice eat me alive. My clothes are torn and I have nothing for a change, nor shirt, only a worn out vest. – Michael Servetus

I will burn, but this is a mere event. We shall continue our discussion in eternity. – Michael Servetus

The arrest of Servetus in Geneva, where he did neither publish nor dogmatize, hence he was not subject to its laws, has to be considered as a barbaric act and an insult to the Right of Nations. – Voltaire

Also on this day: Fancy Dry Goods Store – In 1858, Macy opened his first NYC store.
Underground – In 1904, the first section of the New York City subway opened.
Paris Riots – In 2005, riots broke out in Paris.
Single – In 1936, Wallis Simpson was divorced.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 27, 2013
New York City subway system

New York City subway system

October 27, 1904: The first section of the New York City subway system opens. Elevated lines had been in use for nearly 35 years before the current subway system began to function. The original track, Contract 1, ran from City Hall to the Bronx. Contract 2 was soon added running to Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. At the time of early construction the War of the Currents was the cause célèbre. Thomas Edison tussled with George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla over direct and alternating current as the main delivery system. Alternating current won but not before the New York City Subways had already adopted direct current. Like many other legacy systems, New York City Transit Authority converts alternating current to 600 volt direct current to power the trains.

IRT (Interborough Rapid Transit) and BRT (Brooklyn Rapid Transit) both wanted access to the area under the Big Apple and finally the city opted to allow both companies to build. Contract 3 went to IRT and Contract 4 went to BRT. Expansion was rapid. Both companies added lines and built more tracks. Taxpayers became disenchanted with private enterprise and felt profits by private companies should not be at their expense. The city responded with ISS (Independent Subway System) and the subways were no longer privately owned.

By 1940 the city took over the running of the BRT and IRT systems as well as the ISS. The new public system was called MTA New York City Transit. Construction of new lines slowed. In 1951, a $500,000,000 bond was passed to build the Second Avenue Subway. Funds were diverted to other subway projects. By the mid-60s $600,000,000 was again given to upgrade the system with actual expenditures in excess of $1 billion. By the 1980s with the system approaching dangerous conditions due to deferred maintenance, upgrades were finally instituted.

Today, the New York City Subway is owned by the City of New York and the New York City Transit Authority leases it. It is one of the most extensive public transportation systems in the world. There are 468 passenger station serving 26 lines. There are over 6 million riders on an average weekday. It runs 365 days a year, 24 hours per day. The fare is $2.25 per ride, with varying options for payment.

“People who want to understand democracy should spend less time in the library with Aristotle and more time on the buses and in the subway.” – Simeon Strunsky

“Julius Caesar built that bridge over the Rhine in 10 days. Ten days! They’ve been trying to fix the Van Wyck since I moved to New York City in 1971. Twenty years and $20 billion later and we still don’t have a subway to JFK.” – Peter Weller

“A nickel will get you on the subway, but garlic will get you a seat.” – Proverb

“You take things for granted until something like this happens and then you realize how much you need the subway.” – Christine Grant

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: The War of Currents was a battle between delivery systems. There were both advantages and disadvantages to each type of electricity distribution. Direct Current (DC) could be scaled easier and had a built-in efficiency which allowed for storage of power when the load was decreased. When Edison was electrifying America, the major use of power for was for lighting purposes. However, DC could not be easily converted to higher or lower voltages which meant that lines for each voltage had to be run. Alternating Current (AC) had initial difficulties with the metering process which meant billing would be difficult. However, the power could travel longer distances to reach a greater number of users. Europeans preferred the AC power and built meters to accommodate the peculiarities in the power source. After they were able to electrify Rome, the power source was secure. But for anyone traveling away from their home country, it is obvious there is still no set standard for power delivery systems.

Also on this day: Fancy Dry Goods Store – In 1858, Macy opened his first NYC store.
Paris Riots – In 2005, riots broke out in Paris.
Single – In 1936, Wallis Simpson was divorced.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 27, 2012

Wallis Simpson

October 27, 1936: Wallis Simpson becomes single – again. Born Bessie Wallis Warfield on June 19, 1896, she was an only child. She was born in Pennsylvania and her father died in November 1896 of tuberculosis. She and her mother depended on the charity of Solomon Davies Warfield, her rich uncle. When she was four, she and her mother moved in with a recently windowed aunt and then eventually moved into their own house. Her mother remarried in 1908. Wallis’s wealthy family helped to make sure she was educated in the best schools where she met other rich and famous people of her time. She was said to be quite intelligent and was the “head of her class” according to a classmate. She was always fashionably dressed and worked hard to do well.

She met Earl Winfield Spencer, Jr. at Pensacola, Florida while visiting a cousin. Win (as he was called) was a US Navy aviator. Wallis witnessed two plane crashes about two weeks apart which resulted in her lifelong fear of flying. She and Win, who did not crash his plane, were married on November 8, 1916. Win was an alcoholic and drank even before flying. He left his wife for four months, but they were reunited. However, they separated soon afterwards. Win was transferred to China and Wallis joined him. However, the couple finally divorced on December 27, 1927. By that time, Wallis was already involved with Ernest Aldrich Simpson. He divorced his first wife and the two were married on July 21, 1928. Simpson was a British-American shipping magnate. At various parties at their lavish flat, Wallis met Edward, Prince of Wales.

At the time of their meeting, Edward was involved with Thelma, Lady Furness. However, Wallis and Edward were smitten with each other. They denied their affair at first, but by the end of 1934, Wallis was being introduced at Buckingham Palace to the Queen and then the King of England. They did not approve of her, mostly because of her marital history. Divorced people were generally excluded from court at the time. Edward was not to be swayed and he showered his beloved with ever increasing gifts. The court became worried that the affair would lead to the prince’s inability to perform his official duties. Wallis filed for a divorce from her second husband, citing his infidelity and it was filed on this day.

The court was in a dither, King George had died on January 20, 1936 and Edward VIII was now ruler. However, his increasing infatuation with the twice-divorced Wallis led to pressures from outside to demand he give up the woman or the throne. He abdicated on December 10, 1936. The couple traveled together and Wallis’s divorce was finalized in May 1937. On June 3, 1937 she and Edward married. Edward was made Duke of Windsor and his new wife was Duchess over protestations from the Royal Family. The couple lived happily together until Wallis was widowed in 1972. She lived until April 24 1986 and died at the age of 89 growing increasingly frail and reclusive after her husband’s demise.

A woman’s life can really be a succession of lives, each revolving around some emotionally compelling situation or challenge, and each marked off by some intense experience.

I have always had the courage for the new things that life sometimes offers.

Never explain, never complain.

I am so anxious for you not to abdicate and I think the fact that you do is going to put me in the wrong light to the entire world because they will say that I could have prevented it. – all from Wallis Simpson

Also on this day:

Fancy Dry Goods Store – In 1858, Macy opened his first NYC store.
Underground – In 1904, the first section of the New York City subway opened.
Paris Riots – In 2005, riots broke out in Paris.

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Paris Riots

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 27, 2011

After a night of rioting

October 27, 2005: Riots break out in Paris. Two Muslim youths died in Clichy-sous-Bois, a poverty stricken commune outside Paris. Tensions had been high, but with most of France on holiday during the late summer, things had remained stable. After school started, tempers flared, exacerbated by the deaths. At first, rioting was confined to Paris but as the violence continued, it spread to outlying areas as well. The rioters mostly confined themselves to burning cars and public buildings.

After November 3, the violence spread and eventually included all 15 of the large aires urbaines in the country. Most of the rioters were Muslim North Africans. On November 8, President Jacques Chirac declared a state of emergency effective at midnight. This reduced some of the rioting, but did not end it. On November 10-11, violence in Paris escalated and many riot police were injured in the confrontations. Power stations were attacked causing blackouts.

Rioting hot spots moved about the country with hundreds of cars being torched and many people being arrested. The numbers fluctuated day by day. On November 16, the French parliament approved a three-month extension of the state of emergency with the Senate passing the bill the next day. At a wine festival on November 18, the crowd began throwing rocks and bottles at riot police. There were 16 rioters and 17 police injured. The rioting eventually came to an end after the night of November 18.

The rioting lasted for 20 nights. There were 8,973 vehicles burned. Three nights had over 1,000 burned: Tuesday, November 8 had 1,173; Sunday, November 6 had 1,295; and Monday, November 7 had 1,408 burned. There were 2,888 arrests made with each of the previously listed dates having more than 300 arrests. There were 126 police and fire fighters injured and two deaths. The cost in damages was given as about €200 million.

“The events of 2005 were set off by the deaths of two youths who were thought to be running from police, and who climbed into an electricity power substation and were electrocuted.
The handling – the official handling of the immediate aftermath of that suspicions of a cover-up of events, official denials that police had been in the area or trying to track the down kids fueled an explosion of anger, which very quickly spread from one town northeast of the capital to neighboring towns, and eventually to hundreds of similar high-immigration, low-income areas around France.” – Emma Charlton

“A riot is the language of the unheard.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

“It seems as if an age of genius must be succeeded by an age of endeavour; riot and extravagance by cleanliness and hard work.” – Virginia Woolf

“Passion is the mob of the man, that commits a riot upon his reason.” – William Penn

Also on this day:
Fancy Dry Goods Store – In 1858, Macy opened his first NYC store.
Underground – In 1904, the first section of the New York City subway opened.

Fancy Dry Goods Store

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 28, 2010

Macy's flagship department store with the famous brownstone at 34th and Broadway. (Photo by PlusMinus)

October 27, 1858: Rowland Hussey Macy opens a “fancy dry goods” store on the corner of 6th Avenue and 14th Street in New York City. The gross receipts for opening day were $1106. Macy’s store originally had a rooster for a trademark, however he changed it to a star, a replica of a tattoo he had received while in the Navy – the guiding star that helped him when he was lost at sea.

Macy had previously owned four dry goods store in Massachusetts, all of which failed. He learned from his failures and moved to NYC to become a success. In 1902, the store moved to Herald Square where the building was nine stories high with 33 elevators and 4 wooden escalators. An addition was completed in 1924, making Macy’s the “World’s Largest Store.” In 1994, Macy’s joined the Federated Department Stores to create the larges retailer of its type in America and three years later, Macy’s was on the World Wide Web enabling shopping worldwide. Today, there are over 800 Macy’s stores across America.

In 1862, Macy’s store raised the bar for the Christmas shopping “experience” by introducing the first in-store Santa Claus. Two years later, Macy created elaborate window displays to entice those strolling along outside the store. In 1866, Margaret Getchell became the first woman retail executive when she becomes Macy’s store superintendent.

In 1925, another Christmas tradition was born. The first Macy’s parade, originally titled “Macy’s Christmas Parade.” The first parade featured live animals from the Central Park Zoo and store employees marching. The large balloons were added in 1927 when Felix the Cat soared over the crowd. Originally the balloons were released after the parade. Due to war time rationing, the parade was not held from 1942-1944. The parade had been televised since 1952.

“A salesman minus enthusiasm is just a clerk.” – Harry F. Banks

“Salesmanship consist of transferring a conviction by a seller to a buyer.” – Paul G. Hoffman

“When a man is trying to sell you something, don’t imagine he is that polite all the time.” – Edgar Watson Howe

“For the merchant, even honesty is a financial speculation.” – Charles Baudelaire

“Never underestimate the power of the irate customer.” – Joel E. Ross and Michael J. Kami

Also on this day, in 1904 the NYC Subway System opened.

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