Little Bits of History

September 12

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 12, 2017

1910: Gustav Mahler’s Eighth Symphony premieres. Mahler was born in 1860 in Bohemia, now Czech Republic and at the time part of the Austrian Empire. He was both an orchestral conductor and a Romantic composer. He was one of the forces who brought 19th century Austro-German traditional music into the modern era. During his lifetime, his music gained a high degree of popularity but it was actually banned throughout much of Europe during the Nazi era. After World War II ended, his music was once again rediscovered.

Mahler’s earlier works combined song and symphony but during his “middle” years of composing, he worked on symphonies without including any choral aspects. This work marked his return to his earlier style and included a large choral component. It also marked the end of his “middle” period. This piece is structurally unconventional. Rather than several movements, as was customary, it is written in two parts. The first part is based on the Latin text of an early Christian hymn, Veni creator spiritus – or Come, Creator Sprit. The second part is based on the closing scene of Goethe’s Faust. The entire work centers around the common notion of redemption through the power love. This optimistic view was in stark contrast to Mahler’s normal pessimism.

Mahler’s work as a conductor gave him time after the closing of the season, to retire to Maiernigg, a town in southern Austria, where he could work on composing music. He wrote several of his symphonies there. Like several years before, Mahler arrived for his summer interlude in June 1906 and began to write his next symphony, this time with not just a choral element, but with an almost overwhelming choral presence. He worked quickly and the work was finished in all essentials by mid-August even though he had taken time off to return to Salzburg. Since he used vocals throughout the piece, rather than just at the end, it was the first completely choral symphony to be written.

The work was scored for a very large orchestra and the choirs assembled were large in number. In fact, the piece took so many performers to offer it completely to the audience, it was billed as the “Symphony of a Thousand” against Mahler’s expressed wishes. This date’s performance was played at Neue Musik-Festhalle in Munich. Mahler was conducting. There are some discrepancies  regarding the number of people involved in the production. One source claimed there were 850 in the chorus, including 350 children along with 157 instrumentalists and eight soloists for a total of 1,015 but a second source claimed not all the Viennese choristers made it to the hall in time and so the number was less than 1,000. The 85 minute production was a rousing success and after the last notes faded, applause followed – for the next twenty minutes. Eight months later, Mahler was dead. This was his last work to be premiered during his lifetime, but more work was produced after his death.

A symphony must be like the world. It must contain everything.

It should be one’s sole endeavor to see everything afresh and create it anew.

Fortunately, something always remains to be harvested. So let us not be idle.

I am thrice homeless, as a native of Bohemia in Austria, as an Austrian among Germans, and as a Jew throughout the world. Everywhere an intruder, never welcomed. – all from Gustav Mahler



Monster or Meteor

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 12, 2015
Flatwoods Monster*

Flatwoods Monster*

September 12, 1952: The Flatwoods Monster is seen. Also called the Braxton County Monster or the Phantom of Flatwoods, the creature was purported to have made an appearance in the town of Flatwoods, West Virginia. This was an encounter of the third kind. The first two types of UFO experiences are visual sightings of objects less than 500 feet away (the first kind) or a UFO event which has a physical affect on the witness(es) (the second kind). The third kind is when an animated creature is present, and it can be humanoid, robotic, or human in form. This is further subdivided by the location of the entity, only inside the UFO, both inside and out, and outside the UFO. There are other encounter types but they may not be linked to a UFO: an unidentified creature is seen but no UFO is present either with or without other Earthlings having witnessed a UFO and there is a last method where someone claims “intelligent communication” without any UFOs present.

The entity making its appearance in West Virginia on this night was said to be at least 7 feet tall with a black body and a glowing face. The head was described as elongated and shaped like a sideways diamond and having non-human eyes. There was a large hood behind the entity’s head and the body was inhumanly-shaped. It was wearing a dark, pleated exoskeleton which was later described as a shadow. The creature moved so quickly that it was described as having no discernible arms while others reported long, thin, almost skeletal arms sticking out from the front of the body. There were long, clawish fingers. It was not alone and a large, pulsing red ball of light hovered above the entity or rested on the ground near it.

The first thing seen at 7.15 PM by Edward and Fred May (brothers) and Tommy Hyer (a friend) was a bright object cross the sky. The boys, aged 13, 12, and 10 respectively, watched it land on a local famer’s land and went to the May house to speak with their mother. She joined the boys and went into the hills where it was. Three more children aged 10 to 17 tagged along. The eldest, Eugene Lemon, was a West Virginia National Guardsman at the time. His dog ran ahead of the group and began barking and then returned, apparently frightened. The group advanced about a quarter mile and reached the top of the hill. There was a pungent smell and a mist rising. About 50 feet away there was a ball of fire.

They all returned to the May house and Mrs. May called the sheriff and the local newspaper owner. The reporter interviewed many people and returned to the site with Lemon later in the evening. The sheriff and his deputy investigated and found nothing unusual but an odd smell. Some tracks found at the site were later attributed to a pickup truck’s driver coming up to investigate. Other local reports came in and many of the locals who claimed contact with the creature also later complained of sickness. No creature was found and the scientific community dismissed it as a meteor.

I am discounting reports of UFOs. Why would they appear only to cranks and weirdos? – Stephen Hawking

I believe that these extra-terrestrial vehicles and their crews are visiting this planet from other planets. Most astronauts were reluctant to discuss UFOs. – Gordon Cooper

When 25 percent of the population believe the President should be impeached and 51 percent of the population believe in UFOs, you may or may not need a new President, but you definitely need a new population. – Harry Reasoner

The fact that some religious fanatics might support a theory doesn’t invalidate it, anymore than the concurrence of UFO abduction cults invalidates the notion of extra-terrestrial life. – James P. Hogan

Also on this day: Lascaux – In 1940, caves filled with prehistoric art were discovered at Lascaux.
How Do I Love Thee – In 1846, Elizabeth Barrett eloped with Robert Browning.
Bonanza – In 1959 – Bonanza premiered.
Lost at Sea – In 1857, the SS Central America sunk.
Pheidippides – Great Runner – In 490 BC, the Battle of Marathon took place.

* “Flatwoods monster” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia –

Pheidippides – Great Runner

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 12, 2014
Battle of Marathon

Battle of Marathon

September 12, 490 BC: A battle takes place at Marathon. This is the conventional date given for the battle but since it is from so long ago, the date may not be accurate. The Battle is part of the Greco-Persian Wars. The Persian fleet arrived at the bay of Marathon which is roughly 25 miles from Athens. They chose this landing site on the advice of Hippias, an exiled Athenian tyrant who also accompanied the expedition sent by King Darius I. The Athenian army arrived and blocked the two exits from the region while their best runner, Pheidippides was sent to Sparta to ask for help from the Spartans. It was a holy time of year and the Spartans could not participate in warring adventures until after the full moon, ten days away.

The Athenian army was reinforced by 1000 hoplite troops sent from Plataea, for which Athenians were eternally grateful. Hoplites were ferocious fighters and boosted not only the fighting strategies but the morale of the Athenians. For five days, the armies held their places and neither side attacked. There were ten Athenian generals at the camp and there is no clear reason for what followed. All knew the Spartans were coming later, which would have been very helpful. Miltiades, one of the generals, wanted to attack but waited inexplicably for this day, but not longer until the Spartans arrived. Speculation as to why remains but it is theorized that cavalry troops were placed on ships to be sent to Athens to attack the undefended city and so the Persian army strength was lowered at this point.

Also debated are the sizes of the opposing armies. It is known that the Greeks were outnumbered by the Persians at least two to one, but it may have been higher. It is assumed the Greeks attacked, although that too may not be correct. The Persians may have gotten intelligence about the coming Spartans or may simply have needed to stop stalling and get on with what they assumed would be victory. Regardless of who started it, the troops were engaged on a battle ground situated between two rivers measuring about a mile across. The Persians had their backs to the sea leaving them little room for retreat. When the Greeks were ready, Militades gave the order, “At them.”

Whether the Greeks ran into battle in their full armor or simply ran in to a specified distance and then reformed their lines is also debatable, but the effect is the same either way. The Persians were startled by the attack strategy. They were said to have seen the Greeks as madmen since there were so few of them and yet they were charging with force. The hoplite line held. The phalanxes were more easily able to execute maneuvers. The Persians fell as the Greeks advanced. Greek historian Herodotus reported that 6,400 Persian bodies were left on the beach while the Athenians lost 192 men and the Plataeans lost 11. The army, having defeated the Persians at Marathon, then had to quickly return to Athens, 25 miles away to protect the city. Or a famous run may be named after the run to Sparta which was 140 miles away and all runners today should be glad that distance wasn’t immortalized.

In peace, sons bury their fathers. In war, fathers bury their sons.

Some men give up their designs when they have almost reached the goal; While others, on the contrary, obtain a victory by exerting, at the last moment, more vigorous efforts than ever before.

It is better by noble boldness to run the risk of being subject to half the evils we anticipate than to remain in cowardly listlessness for fear of what might happen.

The worst pain a man can suffer: to have insight into much and power over nothing. – all from Herodotus

Also on this day: Lascaux – In 1940, the caves filled with prehistoric art are discovered at Lascaux.
How Do I Love Thee – In 1846, Elizabeth Barrett eloped with Robert Browning.
Bonanza – In 1959 – Bonanza premiered.
Lost at Sea – In 1857, the SS Central America sunk.

How Do I Love Thee

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 12, 2013
Elizabeth and Robert Browning

Elizabeth and Robert Browning

September 12, 1846: Elizabeth Barrett secretly weds Robert Browning. Elizabeth was the eldest of 12 children and born in Ledbury, England in 1806. Her father was a wealthy man, the owner of a sugar plantation in Jamaica. Elizabeth gained an impressive education because she was permitted to sit in on lessons presented to her brother. She contracted a chronic illness in her early teens, possibly tuberculosis. She wrote her first poem as a child of 6 or 8 (the date on the manuscript has been tampered with) and was published by age 14. She kept up a lively correspondence with several intellectuals of the time.

Robert was born in a London suburb. His father, a clerk for the Bank of England, had a personal library of about 6,000 books. Robert grew up reading the often obscure or esoteric tomes. He loved both poetry and natural history and wrote a book of poems by age 12. He was not amenable to institutionalized schooling and was educated by a tutor. He was a polyglot, speaking five languages fluently by age 14. As a child of the times, he briefly embraced atheism and became a vegetarian. He spent one year at University College London before leaving. He was not eligible to attend either Oxford or Cambridge due to religious requirements.

Elizabeth continued to write poetry after her brother drowned. In mourning, she rarely left her bedroom. She became one of the most respected Victorian Era poetesses. She published, in 1844, a volume entitled Poems. Robert was delighted and began a correspondence with the author. The two met in 1845 which as no small feat. Elizabeth, a semi-invalid, was further hampered by her totalitarian father’s whims. He kept his children, even as adults, virtual prisoners in their home on Wimpole Street.

Elizabeth, age 40, and Robert, age 36, managed to outwit Mr. Barrett. They eloped and fled to the continent. Elizabeth’s health improved. They first lived in Pisa and then moved to Florence. The couple had a son in 1849. After his wife’s death in 1861, Robert moved back to England and became one of the foremost Victorian poets. His career blossomed in his middle years. While he had published prior to his exile on the continent, his work was vastly improved by his time alone with his family.

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.” – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes –
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.” – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

“Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made.
Our times are in his hand who saith, ‘A whole I planned, youth shows but half;
Trust God: See all, nor be afraid!'” – Robert Browning

“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” – Robert Browning

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Elizabeth and Robert had secretly married and she returned to her father’s house. She and her companion/nurse, Elizabeth Wilson, left to walk the dog and they never returned to the house again, instead they fled with Robert to the continent. The couple honeymooned in Paris and then went on to Italy. Wilson, her nurse, remained with them. They were wise to not tell Mr. Barrett of the wedding as he promptly disinherited his daughter when he learned of her marriage – the same as he had done for any of the Barrett children who wed. Elizabeth was prepared for her father’s outrage but was very disappointed when her brothers also expressed displeasure and dislike of her new husband. Their son was born in 1849, the only of five pregnancies to result in a live birth. He later married but had no legitimate children of his own. 

Also on this day: Lascaux – In 1940, the caves filled with prehistoric art are discovered at Lascaux.
Bonanza – In 1959 – Bonanza premiered.
Lost at Sea – In 1857, the SS Central America sunk.

Lost at Sea

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 12, 2012

Gold coins from the SS Central America

September 12, 1857: The SS Central America sinks. Originally named the SS George Law and also known as the Ship of Gold, she was a 280-foot sidewheel steamer which operated between Central America and the eastern coast of the US. She was operated by the United States Mail Steamship Company. On September 3, the ship sailed from Colón, a port in Panama. Her destination port of call was New York City. She was commanded by William Lewis Herndon. Before the Transcontinental Railroad was built, traffic from California eastward had three dangerous routes to follow. One was across untamed land. Another route was around the entire continent of South America. The third was to reach Central America and bring items across land from the Pacific side to the Atlantic side.

During the gold rush era, the gold was often transported back to the East Coast and this trip was made for that purpose. There were 30,000 pounds of gold aboard the ship on its way to the capital markets of the East. All went well and the ship made a port of call at Havana. The Central America was caught in a Category 2 hurricane off the coast of the Carolinas on September 9. The heavy cargo did not make navigation in the storm any easier. By September 11, with winds reaching 105 mph, her sails were shredded by wind and surf. She was taking on water, also hindering navigation efforts. The water level aboard ship made it impossible to keep the boilers producing steam, losing more navigation functionality as well as shutting down both pumps aboard. The flag was raised, upside down, a universal sign of distress.

There were 477 passengers and 101 crew aboard. They began a bucket brigade in a valiant effort to keep this ship afloat. In the calm of the eye of the storm, efforts to restart the boilers resulted in failure. On the morning of the twelfth, two other ships were seen and 153 people, mostly women and children were able to abandon the ship and get into lifeboats. The storm moved the ship away from rescue attempts and she sunk later that night with about 425 still aboard. A Norwegian ship was able to rescue about 50 people from the water.

The loss of the gold help induce the Panic of 1857, an economic downturn that lasted until 1859 when it finally began to level off. This was not the only reason for the panic, but only a contributing factor. With improved technology and ability to deep sea mine using remotely operated vehicles, the Columbus-America Discovery Group of Ohio was able to locate the lost ship on September 11, 1987. They were able to bring up “significant” amounts of gold and artifacts from the ship. Insurance companies claimed since they had paid out damages in 1857, they were entitled to the gold. The courts found for the recoverers, who claimed it had been abandoned and they had right to keep the finds. They were given 92% of the recovered gold which amounted to about $100-150 million.

Accordingly, when the supply of gold runs short, the security behind the notes is diminished, the loaning of notes is restricted or suspended, and the panic follows. – John Buchanan Robinson

All the gold which is under or upon the earth is not enough to give in exchange for virtue. – Plato

Praise, like gold and diamonds, owes its value only to its scarcity. – Samuel Johnson

Wealth stays with us a little moment if at all: only our characters are steadfast, not our gold. – Euripides

Also on this day:

Lascaux – In 1940, the caves filled with prehistoric art are discovered at Lascaux.
How Do I Love Thee – In 1846, Elizabeth Barrett eloped with Robert Browning.
Bonanza – In 1959 – Bonanza premiered.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 12, 2011

The Cartwright family: Adam, Little Joe, Ben, Hoss

September 12, 1959: The first western series to be filmed in color, Bonanza, premiers. The series was based on thrice widowed Ben Cartwright and his three sons (each from a different wife) who ran a 1000 square miles ranch, The Ponderosa. Lorne Greene portrayed the wise father to Adam (Pernell Roberts), Hoss (Dan Blocker), and Little Joe (Michael Landon). Bonanza was cancelled midway through the 14th season after filming 440 episodes.

This was not the first color program offered, but it is the first series offered in “living color.” Color televisions with a 600-line resolution system had been available since the 1940s, although early color TV was not always the color one would expect. The first standards in the US were formalized in 1950. The first broadcast was delayed by lawsuits for proprietary technology and was not aired until 1951. The program could not be seen on black and white sets and had a very limited viewing audience – only 30 sets were available in the New York area.

Later that year, there were some daytime shows broadcast in color but with only 100 of the 200 color sets actually sold, there was a highly limited viewership and color television production ceased for a time. In 1954, the first coast-to-coast broadcast in color was the Tournament of Roses Parade on New Years Day. NBC was affiliated with RCA – the maker of the color sets. CBS and ABC naturally shunned the technology that would help their competitor. ABC finally began prime time color broadcasting in 1962 with two color cartoons – The Flintstones and The Jetsons. In 1964 only 3.1% of sets sold were color. It was not until 1972 that more than half of the nation’s households owned color TVs.

Cuba was the second country in the world to offer color broadcasting. Europe joined in with a different standard and began regular color broadcasting on July 1, 1967 in West Germany. Other European countries soon followed.Japanwas the first Asian nation offering color fare beginning in 1960 with other Asian countries not joining in until the 1970s and finally with India offering color shows in 1982. Africa and South America also began broadcasts in color in the 1970s.

“I wish there were a knob on the TV to turn up the intelligence. There’s a knob called ‘brightness,’ but that doesn’t work.” – Unknown

“Every time you think television has hit its lowest ebb, a new type program comes along to make you wonder where you thought the ebb was.” – Art Buchwald

“The television, that insidious beast, that Medusa which freezes a billion people to stone every night, staring fixedly, that Siren which called and sang and promised so much and gave, after all, so little.” – Ray Bradbury

“If it weren’t for the fact that the TV set and the refrigerator are so far apart, some of us wouldn’t get any exercise at all. ” – Joey Adams

Also on this day:
Lascaux – In 1940, the caves filled with prehistoric art are discovered at Lascaux.
How Do I Love Thee – In 1846, Elizabeth Barrett eloped with Robert Browning.

Tagged with: ,


Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 12, 2010

September 12, 1940: Four boys go spelunking at Lascaux, France and find amazing pre-historic drawings on the walls of the caves. The drawings on the caves have been dated to between 13,000 to 15,000 BC and possibly are as old as 25,000 BC.

Sample of Lascaux cave painting

There are three basic themes to the art work – animals, humans, and signs. There is no scenery, no vegetation, no landscapes. One wall shows what can be interpreted as a narrative. There is a man with the face of a bird, or wearing a mask, who is being gored by a wounded bison. He is falling backwards, presumably to his death. Surrounding this tableau are patterns of dots, a rhino, and a stick with a bird on top. Interpretation of the art is not possible. We can guess, but we will never know what the story is trying to tell us or the artists’ peers.

The artists of the time used perspective, distorting animals drawn high up the walls so that they would appear correctly from the ground. They also must have had some scaffolding to paint that high. Lighting the deep caverns was accomplished by hollowing part of a flat rock, filling it with some type of animal fat or tallow, and using it as a torch. Creating pigments from natural substances gave the artwork another layer of technical acumen. Pigments dropped to the ground while painting and these are what has been used in order to date the works.

After World War II, the caves were more easily accessible. By 1955, the carbon dioxide produced by 1,200 visitors per day was destroying the caves. They were closed to the public in 1963 with a replica built. This replica can be toured. Creating the second site gave scientists opportunities to recreate the experiences of the previous artists, creating the pigments, using perspective, and becoming forgers of the oldest art on earth.

“We have invented nothing.” – Pablo Picasso, exiting the caves

“Lots of the wild animals in the caves have spears in them and blood coming out of their mouths and everything that a hunter would be familiar with. These were the Ferraris and football games of their time. They painted what was on their minds.” – Dale Guthrie

“Every great work of art has two faces, one toward its own time and one toward the future, toward eternity.” Daniel Barenboim

“All great art … creates in the beholder not self-satisfaction but wonder and awe. Its great liberation is to lift us out of ourselves.” – Dorothy Thompson

Also on this day, in 1846 Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning elope.

Tagged with: ,