Little Bits of History

 October 28

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 28, 2017

1956: Elvis Presley gets a polio vaccine on national TV. Poliomyelitis, sometimes called polio or infantile paralysis, is an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus. The disease causes muscle weakness or even paralysis and can last for just hours to days. However, not everyone fully recovers and some are left with lasting deficits to the muscles affected. About 2-5% of children and 15-30% of adults who contract the disease die. The disease has been around since pre-history but the numbers have waxed and waned over time. In the early 20th century, there was a surge in the number of cases seen in the US. Since the disease is caused by a virus, antibiotics are not effective against it and instead, the best outcome comes from not ever getting infected. A search for a vaccine began in 1935 with disastrous results.

In 1950, there was an outbreak with 58,000 cases reported in the US and in 1955, another outbreak lead to 35,000 cases. Dr. Jonas Salk produced an injectable vaccine made up of killed polio virus. It was widely tested and found to be between 80 and 90% effective against this disease which left mostly children with lifelong crippling aftereffects. While many people did respond to the news and got small children vaccinated, older people – especially teens – were not getting the protection. There were a variety of reasons for this. Apathy was one since the name “infantile paralysis” left many older people unaware that they could still catch the virus. Another was cost, because to be adequately immune took three injections at a cost of $3-5 per each visit. The last major block to vaccination was the fear of shots.

Using teens themselves to help spread the word that their own peer group needed to be immunized was helpful. Public officials enlisted teen icons as a way to help. To that end, on this day Elvis Presley was vaccinated live on TV. He was in New York City to tape a guest appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, when he was approached by the New York City Health Department and they decided to launch a publicity stunt. It worked and the vaccination rate soared from 0.6% to over 80% in the next six months. While the event was only locally televised, it was covered in the national media which helped spread the word to even more of Elvis’s fan base.

Work on a better vaccine continued and in 1961, Albert Sabin’s attenuated (weakened) living virus oral vaccine came on the market. It was both cheaper to produce and easier to administer. In April 2012 the World Health Assembly declared it had completed the polio eradication program globally. The Americas were declared polio free in 1994 and the rest of the world joined in the hopeful status. Today, there are only two countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan, where there are still naturally spreading epidemics. These can, of course, then spread to neighboring regions via contagious transmission.

Childhood vaccines are one of the great triumphs of modern medicine. Indeed, parents whose children are vaccinated no longer have to worry about their child’s death or disability from whooping cough, polio, diphtheria, hepatitis, or a host of other infections. – Ezekiel Emanuel

Humans have always used our intelligence and creativity to improve our existence. After all, we invented the wheel, discovered how to make fire, invented the printing press and found a vaccine for polio. – Naveen Jain

When I was about 9, I had polio, and people were very frightened for their children, so you tended to be isolated. I was paralyzed for a while, so I watched television. – Francis Ford Coppola

Polio’s pretty special because once you get an eradication, you no longer have to spend money on it; it’s just there as a gift for the rest of time. – Bill Gates



Ticker Tape

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 28, 2015
Apollo 11 ticker tape parade

Apollo 11 ticker tape parade

October 28, 1886: New York City is the site of the first ticker tape parade. President Grover Cleveland was in the city to dedicate the Statue of Liberty and the citizens were spontaneously exuberant. Cleveland, the former Governor of New York, presided over the event which began with a parade. Estimates of the number of watchers ranges from several hundred thousand up to a million. Cleveland led the parade and then stood in a reviewing stand to see bands and marchers who had come from all across America. Excited witnesses threw what at the time was actual ticker tape down onto those passing on the streets below. Ticker tape machines produced streams of paper which had stock market quotes printed on them.

Today, the parades no longer use actual ticker tape but they remain associated with New York City. Instead of the no longer available ticker tape (the machines went out of use in 1970 as they had become obsolete with the advances in technology), confetti and shredded paper are the materials of choice to rain down on the triumphal parade below. The office buildings are still able to toss enough paper from their windows that is seems a snowstorm has taken over the city as the celebration in the street passes by. Since 1886, there have been many sanctioned parades with the following parade (now a sanctioned event) held on the centennial of George Washington’s inauguration as first POTUS on April 29, 1889. Only one more parade was held in the 1800s.

The next parade came in 1910 when Theodore Roosevelt returned from an African safari. There were 27 parades during the 1920s with seven each held in 1926 and 1928. Seventeen parades were held in the 1930s and 22 more in the 1940s even though none were held between 1940 and 1945. During the 1950s there were 61 parades including one of the two longest ticker tape parades ever held. Douglas MacArthur’s parade in 1951 was a huge honor as was the one for John Glenn, held in 1962 – one of 32 parades for that decade. After the peak of parades in the 1950s, they tapered off to just an occasional event with the last one held in July of this year to honor the United States women’s national soccer team winning the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Richard Byrd is the person who has been honored the most with three parades held for him. Nine other people have had two parades held in their honor. Most of them have been Americans, but Charles de Gaulle, Haile Selassie, and Alicde De Gasperi have also been honored twice. The women’s soccer team have been the only not-local sport team to be honored. The New York Yankees have had nine parades held for them, the most of any particular entity. The area of New York where the honorees are covered in paper is called the “Canyon of Heroes” and lies in the section of the city at the lower end of Broadway and runs through the Financial District – hence the original ticker tape.

A parade is the worst form of transportation known to man. – Walt Kelly

We all have the drum major instinct. We all want to be important, to surpass others, to achieve distinction, to lead the parade. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Campaign behavior for wives: Always be on time. Do as little talking as humanly possible. Lean back in the parade car so everybody can see the president. – Eleanor Roosevelt

There is nothing like a parade to elicit the proper respect for the military from the populace. – Irving Kristol

Also on this day: Higher Education – In 1538, the first university in the New World was established.
The Two Sisters – In 1886, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated.
Volstead Act – In 1919, Prohibition passed over President Wilson’s veto.
Gateway – In 1965, the Gateway Arch was completed.
Stopping Malaria – In 1948, Paul Muller received a Nobel Prize.



Stopping Malaria

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 28, 2014
Paul Hermann Muller

Paul Hermann Muller

October 28, 1948: Paul Hermann Muller receives a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. He was a Swiss chemist born in Olten in 1899. His father worked for the Swiss Federal Railways and moved the family a few times, ending up in Basel. Paul went to the Free Protestant People’s School and later to both the lower and upper Realscule. He had his own small laboratory where he could develop photographic plates and build radio equipment. In 1916 he left school to work as a lab assistant at Dreyfus and Company. There, he began to study inorganic chemistry and eventually earned his PhD. He graduated summa cum laude after the acceptance of his dissertation, The Chemical and Electrochemical Oxidation of Asymmetrical m-Xylidene and its Mono- and Di-methyl Derivatives.

He got a job at JR Geigy AG in Basel and by 1935 began his study of moth- and plant-protection agents. He was more interested in the plant protection; he had a botany minor at the university. By 1937, he patented a technique for synthesizing novel rhodanide- and cyantate-based compounds and these showed bactericide and insecticide activity. He developed Graminone, a seed disinfectant which was much safer than the mercury-based disinfectants already in use. His success in this led to his assignment to develop an insecticide since there was none available that were both effective and inexpensive except for arsenic and these were poisonous to mammals, including humans.

During his research, Muller discovered that insects absorbed chemicals differently than mammals and inferred there must be chemicals toxic exclusively to insects. His goal was to find this. He did. Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), or, more precisely, 1,1,1-trichloro-2,2-bis(4-chlorophenyl)ethane, had been synthesized in 1874. Muller came across the substance and found it had insecticide properties unknown to its discoverer, Othmar Zeidler. Muller realized this chemical would help eradicate the vectors of many diseases. DDT was effective against mosquitoes, lice, fleas, and sandflies which spread malaria, typhus, the plague, and various tropical diseases. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his help in lessening these diseases. Between 1950 and 1970, malaria was completely eradicated from many countries, including the US.

The indiscriminate use of DDT as it entered the agricultural community led to unforeseen issues. In 1962, Rachel Carson published Silent Spring and questioned the use of widespread DDT applications. The increased usage of the insecticide was having far reaching impacts on the environment. They were causative agents of cancers in agricultural workers and a threat to wildlife, particularly birds. The Stockholm Convention led to a worldwide ban of DDT for agricultural use. It is still used, controversially, for vector control in areas with high incidence rates of malaria. However, because of overuse, mosquitoes have developed resistance to DDT and its effectiveness has been greatly decreased.

After the fruitless testing of hundreds of various substances I must admit that it was not easy to discover a good contact insecticide. In the field of natural science only persistence and sustained hard work will produce results, and so I said to myself ‘Now, more than ever, must I continue with the search.’ This capacity I owe probably…to strict upbringing by my teacher, Professor Fichter, who taught us that in chemistry results can only be achieved by using the utmost patience. – Paul Müller, after two years of trying to create a new pesticide

My fly cage was so toxic after a short period that even after very thorough cleaning of the cage, untreated flies, on touching the walls, fell to the floor. I could carry on my trials only after dismantling the cage, having it thoroughly cleaned and after that leaving it for about one month in the open air. –  Paul Müller, just after discovering DDT

DDT is the single most effective agent ever developed for saving human life. – Dick Tavern

It might be easy for some to dismiss the past 43 years of eco-hysteria over DDT with a simple ‘never mind’, except for the blood of millions of people dripping from the hands of the WWF, Greenpeace, Rachel Carson, Environmental Defense Fund, and other junk science-fueled opponents of DDT. – Steve Milloy

Also on this day: Higher Education – In 1538, the first university in the New World was established.
The Two Sisters – In 1886, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated.
Volstead Act – In 1919, Prohibition passed over President Wilson’s veto.
Gateway – In 1965, the Gateway Arch was completed.

The Two Sisters

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 28, 2013
Statue of Liberty and

Statue of Liberty and Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi

October 28, 1886: President Grover Cleveland holds a dedication ceremony. In the struggle for autonomy, colonial America needed an ally. She found one in France who sent arms, ships, money, and men to support the revolutionaries. France was essential to the formation of the United States of America. In the 1860s the country was embroiled in a Civil War and barely able to preserve the union. In 1865 several French noblemen met for dinner. Disenchanted with Napoleon III and in frank admiration of the democratic and now all-free nation, the gentleman referred to the long-standing ties between the two countries and called them “the two sisters.”

The men at the dinner realized America’s centennial was approaching. They thought it would be fitting for France to bestow upon the US, a monument to independence and their lasting friendship. One of the guests was Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi. The idea stayed with the sculptor who was given his first commission at the age of 18. He was impressed with large creations, like many of his time. Grand times called for a grand scale.

Bartholdi was also a painter and a soldier. He created many great sculptures known not only for their size, but for their beauty. He was commissioned to create the gift from France to America – Liberty Enlightening the World. The joint effort called for the US to build the base and did not meet the centennial deadline. Bartholdi needed the assistance of an engineer to build his giant statue, and so he hired Gustave Eiffel. Funding as well as scope slowed the process. The work was finally completed and dedicated, as well as revealed, on this day.

We know the work as the Statue of Liberty. She resides on a 12-acre island in New York Harbor. She holds her lamp high, lighting the way to freedom. At one time, visitors could enter the torch. It has been closed since June 30, 1916 after an act of sabotage. Both the island and statue were off limits from September 11, 2001 until 2004 when the island once again opened. The Statue of Liberty was one again opened to the public on July 4, 2009.

Lady Liberty is made of 3/32-inch thick copper – about the thickness of two pennies. The green color or patina is the natural aging of the copper and in some places is nearly as thick as the copper itself. The statue stands 305 feet tall, or about the height of a 22-story building. She was the tallest structure in New York City when she was unveiled.

“It [the Eiffel Tower] looked very different from the Statue of Liberty, but what did that matter? What was the good of having the statue without the liberty?” – Josephine Baker

“The entire population of Liberty Island is small enough to fit into one copper-skinned palm of the colossal statue that serves as its only industry.” – Georgia Dullea

“The Statue of Liberty is no longer saying, ‘Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses.’ She’s got a baseball bat and yelling, ‘You want a piece of me?'” – Robin Williams

“The crime problem in New York is getting really serious. The other day the Statue of Liberty had both hands up.” – Jay Leno

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: There is a rich history of Liberty being represented as a woman. Early iconic representations of freedom included the personified Columbia as the US with Marianne representing France. Libertas, the goddess of freedom from ancient Rome also served as a model for Lady Liberty and some female form was on the face of many American coins of the time. Bartholdi could have depicted Liberty fighting for freedom but chose to portray her as peaceful. The crown on her head has seven rays depicting the sun and the seven seas or seven continents. The torch enlightens the world. Her dress changed style a few times before work began and her face was modeled after Charlotte Bartholdi, the sculptor’s mother. Unsure of what to place in Lady Liberty’s left hand, he eventually chose on a tabula ansata, or keystone-shaped tablet which would represent the concept of law. Inscribed on the tablet is JULY IV MDCCLXXVI.

Also on this day: Higher Education – In 1538, the first university in the New World was established.
Volstead Act – In 1919, Prohibition passed over President Wilson’s veto.
Gateway – In 1965, the Gateway Arch was completed.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 28, 2012

The Gateway Arch

October 28, 1965: The Gateway Arch construction is completed. Also known as the Gateway to the West, the arch remains the centerpiece of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis, Missouri. The arch is located at the site on the west bank of the Mississippi River where Pierre Laclède asked for a city to be built back on February 14, 1764. The arch reaches up 630 feet into the Midwestern sky making it the tallest man-made monument in the US. It is also the tallest accessible building in Missouri as well as the largest structures designed as a catenary arch – meaning an arch that describes an idealized, natural forming curve when supported only at the ends.

Luther Ely Smith came home to St. Louis back in 1933 and was faced with a crumbling riverfront area. In Indiana, where he had just visited, the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park had impressed him and he wished for something like it in Missouri. He petitioned the mayor who presented the idea on December 15, 1933 to the city leaders. The idea was sanctioned and a nonprofit – Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Association (JNEMA—pronounced “Jenny May”) – was established. It was not an immediately popular idea as funds during the Great Depression were scarce. The city believed the project would cost $30 million and petitioned the federal government for ¾ of the funds. The project of riverfront renewal would create much needed jobs.

Franklin D. Roosevelt approved the plan with Executive Order 7253. The site was found and the historic buildings were condemned and demolished after many court cases finally allowed their destruction. Monies were distributed to the land owners and the property was taken over. Designs for the memorial were taken and a winner of the contest with Eero Saarinen becoming the architect of choice. Hannskarl Bandel was the structural engineer. Even with the design in hand, more road blocks were on the horizon. The railroads had to be dealt with as they needed to be relocated. After all these details had been accomplished, the arch needed to be built. Bidding for the construction opened on January 22, 1962. MacDonald Construction Company won the contract for the arch and visitor center.

Ground was broken in 1959 and by 1961 the foundation structure was laid. Construction of the arch itself began on February 12, 1963 as the first steel triangle on the south leg was placed. These triangles narrow was they arch upwards. The arch was assembled, using 142 prefabricated stainless steel sections each measuring 12 feet long. Once these were in place, concrete and tension bars were placed within the double-walled skin of each section. The cost of building the arch was about $13 million (nearly $96 million today). The arch opened to the public on June 10, 1967 and was inaugurated on May 24, 1968.

During a nation-wide competition in 1947-48, architect Eero Saarinen’s inspired design for a 630-foot stainless steel arch was chosen as a perfect monument to the spirit of the western pioneers. – National Park Service

The Arch weighs 17,246 tons. Nine hundred tons of stainless steel was used to build the Arch, more than any other project in history. – St. Louis Arch website

The ancient Romans had a tradition: whenever one of their engineers constructed an arch, as the capstone was hoisted into place, the engineer assumed accountability for his work in the most profound way possible: he stood under the arch. – Michael Armstrong

Human society is like an arch, kept from falling by the mutual pressure of its parts. – Seneca

Also on this day:

Higher Education – In 1538, the first university in the New World was established.
The Two Sisters – In 1886, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated.
Volstead Act – In 1919, Prohibition passed over President Wilson’s veto.

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Volstead Act

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 28, 2011

It's the law

October 28, 1919: The Volstead Act becomes effective. Also called the National Prohibition Act, it was passed over the veto of President Woodrow Wilson. The Anti-Saloon League and Wayne Wheeler thought up the bill which was named for Andrew Volstead who was Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. This committee managed the legislation. The Eighteenth Amendment to the US Constitution prohibited the production, sale, and transport of “intoxicating liquors” but it did not define what those were. The Eighteenth Amendment had already passed but did not go into effect until January 17, 1920.

The American Temperance Society (ATS) began to advocate for a booze-free nation as early as 1826. This group served as a model for many later groups and by 1935 they had a membership of 1.5 million. At the time, but population of the US was about 14.5 million. During the nineteenth century, there was some success with limiting alcohol. Some states managed to pass legislation but these laws did not last long. Many of the prohibitionists were women and had religious reasons as well as personal issues with the demon rum.

There were several unintentional consequences of Prohibition. During this time, people drank just as much liquor as they ever had except now it was being produced by bootleggers. The transportation of illegal beverages is now credited with a massive increase in organized crime. The problems with alcohol remained regardless of how strictly enforced the laws became. In fact, even long-time supporters eventually turned to the other side, citing the problems associated with the distribution and sale of illegal liquors and the crime issues involved.

There are some who point to today’s issues with criminal organizations as an aftermath of this attempt to control alcohol. Because of the risks involved, getting more “customers” was part of the job of the criminals. They needed a wider market base in order to achieve proper profit margins. They found their new client base in women who began to drink more heavily during this time. Winemaking also began to spread. Farmers were permitted to make certain wines and these became quite popular, especially increasing the number of California wine growers. Grape products were sold with a warning/instructions on how to dissolve a concentrated product and getting wine in only 20 days.

“For every prohibition you create you also create an underground.” – Jello Biafra

“Prohibition has made nothing but trouble.” – Al Capone

“Prohibition is better than no liquor at all.” – Will Rogers

“Prohibition? HA! They tried that in the movies and it didn’t work.” – Homer Simpson

Also on this day:
Higher Education – In 1538, the first university in the New World was established.
The Two Sisters – In 1886, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated.

Higher Education

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 28, 2010

Aula Magna at night, Autonomous University of Santo Domingo (Photo by Claudio Bautista-Branagan)

October 28, 1538: The first university is established in the New World in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic – Universidad Santo Tomás de Aquino (University of Saint Thomas Aquinas).

Christopher Columbus made landfall in 1492 on the the island of Hispaniola, and island nation is part of, the other portion of which is. Columbus was met by the Taino Indians, who had a complex society ruled via a centralized government. Bartholomew Columbus, Chris’s brother, founded Santo Domingo with Europeans living there since 1496 and an official founding date of August 5, 1498.

The original layout of the city, The Colonial Zone, is a fantastic collection of 16th century buildings, including both mansions and churches. The Catedral Primada de America is the first Catholic Cathedral in América. The Alcazar De Colón is the palatial residence of Diego Colón, Chris’s son. The first monastery in America, the former palace of the Governor, and the oldest fortress in America are all here.

By order of Pope Paul III, Catholic monks of the Dominican Order reorganized the seminary into a university. Originally there were four departments: Medicine, Law, Theology, and the Arts. On December 31, 1961 Law # 5778 took effect, giving autonomy to the university and changing its name to Autonomous University of Santo Domingo. Today there are eight departments to choose from.

“The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.” – Aristotle

“Without education we are in horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously.” – G.K. Chesterton

“Two delusions fostered by higher education are that what is taught corresponds to what is learned, and that it will somehow pay off in money.” – William Feather

“Knowledge accumulates in universities, because the freshman bring a little in and the seniors take none away.” – unknown

Also on this day, in 1886 the Statue of Liberty was dedicated in a ceremony with President Grover Cleveland officiating.