Little Bits of History

September 26

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 26, 2017

1910: Swadeshabhimani Ramakrishna Pillai is arrested. He was born in Travancore, a Kingdom at what is today the southern tip of India. In the early 19th century, Travancore became a princely state of the British Empire and was the second most prosperous princely state in British India. They were noted for achievements in education, political administration, public works, and social reforms before India was released from British rule in 1947. Travancore remained a separate Kingdom until 1949 when it joined India proper.

Pillai was the youngest son of his family with his father being a temple-priest. The patriarch of the Pillai family had once saved the life of Prince Marthanda Varma. When Marthanda became Maharaja of Travancore, he gifted the family a 50 acre tract of land and a 12-room mansion as well as other privileges. SR Pillai was born more than 100 years later, but the family fortunes were still intact. Pillai was educated in both English and Royal schools. He was a rather shy student and used his time reading. He passed his matriculation exam at the age of 14. All his reading led to an interest in journalism and newspapers.

While studying, he became friends with and received guidance from many of the newspapermen of the region. He was encouraged to submit his own writing to the papers. His obsession with writing angered his family and even though he would have preferred to further his education in journalism, his family insisted he give it up. Pillai continued to write, and his friends believed he should edit an already established paper. Although he tried to both hold down this job as well as attend school, he was forced to abandon family support to follow his dream. Without family money, he had to take a job, but managed to finish his education.

Pillai was able to write for some of the more progressive papers in the kingdom and wrote against the age-old customs he felt were maladaptive in an emerging social system. Travancore was steeped in the caste system and he raged against all it entailed. He took over the editorship of a journal called Swadeshabhimani. The paper was noted for progressive thoughts and he published an article accusing the Dewan of immorality and corruption. He went on to criticize the Maharaja. On this day, the paper’s offices were sealed and their printing press was secured. Pillai was arrested. He was exiled and eventually his family moved with him to Madras. As a side note, the printing press was returned to the newspaper owner’s family in 1957. Pillai continued to write from exile and was the author of more than twenty books.

The monarchs believe and force others to believe that they are God’s representatives or incarnations. This is absurd. Did God create a special kind of dog to be the king of dogs, or a special kind of elephant to rule over all elephants? – Ramakrishna Pillai

The rightful claim to dissent is an existential right of the individual. – Friedrich Durrenmatt

May we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion. Dwight D. Eisenhower

In the end it is worse to suppress dissent than to run the risk of heresy. – Learned Hand


Vera Destructive

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 26, 2015
Seawall damage from Typhoon Vera

Seawall damage from Typhoon Vera

September 26, 1959: Vera makes landfall. The tropical cyclone developed between Guam and Chuuk State on September 20, 1959. As it moved westward, it became a tropical storm the next day. It began to intensify rapidly and reached its peak on September 23 and had maximum sustained winds that would place it in a Category 5 hurricane today. The course of the storm began to shift northward and on this day, it made landfall on Honshu near Shionomisaki. It then moved into the Sea of Japan but again shifted course and headed back to Honshu, making landfall a second time. As the storm moved over land, the intensity fell off and it entered the North Pacific later in the day. By the following day, it was an extratropical cyclone and the storm lasted two more days out at sea.

Tracking at the time was available and it was known that the storm was both strong and headed towards Japan. The country was still recovering from World War II and telecommunications weren’t as sophisticated as today. News outlets also did not create any urgency about the impending storm. There was no call for moving inland, out of the raging winds and rains. The outermost rainbands came first and brought enough rain to cause flooding in river basins even though the storm was still far out to sea. As it approached, there was a huge storm surge which destroyed many flood defense systems and inundated coastal areas and sunk ships moored in the area.

The damage from the storm was listed as US$600 million or about $4.85 billion in today’s currency. The number of deaths has not been agreed upon but there were at least 4,000 people killed with the possibility the number was much higher. Vera is the deadliest typhoon to ever hit Japan. Relief efforts after Vera passed were also substandard. Both the Japanese and American governments rushed to help, but the systems in place were inadequate. These have since been reformed. The coastal areas which had been flooded led to local epidemics of both dysentery and tetanus. With the diseases spreading the area, relief efforts were hampered which meant more debris left in the area causing more spread of disease.

While in eastern America, we are faced with hurricane season, the Pacific Ocean creates its own typhoons. With better tracking, it is hoped that some of the damage to both life and property can be mitigated. The worst Pacific typhoon was the Haiphong typhoon of 1881 when 300,000 people died when the storm made landfall in what is now Vietnam after ravaging the Philippines first. Nina made landfall in Taiwan and China and resulted in 229,000 deaths most a result of the Banqiao Dam failing. Vera is the tenth deadliest Pacific storm with the worst storm in the world the Great Bhola Cyclone which struck Bangladesh in 1970. It left up to a half million people dead.

The typhoon came out of the sea first as a deep hollow roar. … I was surrounded by the madness, the unreason, of uncontrolled, undisciplined energy. None of this made any sense. It was worse than useless — it was nature destroying its own creation — its own self. To create by the long process of growth and then to destroy by a fit of wild emotion — was this not madness, was this not unreason? – Pearl S. Buck

If you spend your whole life waiting for the storm, you’ll never enjoy the sunshine. – Morris West

The little reed, bending to the force of the wind, soon stood upright again when the storm had passed over. – Aesop

The preparations are what they are. We’re here. The storm is coming. We are as best prepared as we can be as the eye of the storm approaches. – Russel Honore

Also on this day: The Parthenon – In 1687, part of the Parthenon was destroyed during a bombing attack by the Ottoman Turks.
Apples – In 1774, Johnny Appleseed was born.
Lurking Evil – In 1937, The Shadow premiered.
Thrown Games – In 1908, Big Ed Reulbach pitched a no hitter double header.
Pop Gun Kelly – In 1933, Machine Gun Kelly was arrested.

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Pop Gun Kelly

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 26, 2014
Machine Gun Kelly

Machine Gun Kelly

September 26, 1933: “Machine Gun Kelly” is arrested. George Francis Barnes, Jr. was born in Chicago in 1900. During the 1920s and 1930s he worked as a bootlegger for himself as well as for others in the Memphis, Tennessee area. After several scrapes with law enforcement, he changed his name to George R. Kelly to protect his family. In 1928 he was arrested in Tulsa, Oklahoma while smuggling alcohol onto an Indian Reservation. He was sentenced to three years in Leavenworth Penitentiary, Kansas. He was reported to have been a model prisoner and was released early. After his release, he married Kathryn Thorne and she purchased his first machine gun for him. She also broadcast his “talents” throughout the underground crime scene as well as helped him plot some bank robberies.

Things were going as well as could be expected, considering Kelly’s career path. Then he decided to kidnap a wealthy Oklahoma City man, Charles F. Urschel and his friend, Walter R. Jarrett. Urschel was able to give incriminating evidence after his release. Even though he had been blindfolded, he remembered background sounds and had been able to count footsteps. He was also able to leave fingerprints behind. This gave the police much to work with.

They found the Kellys were living at the residence owned by JC Tichenor. Special agents from the Birmingham, Alabama FBI office were sent to Memphis. In the early morning hours on this day, they approached the house. George and Kathryn were taken into custody. George, unarmed, allegedly yelled, “Don’t shoot, G-men! Don’t shoot, G-men!” as he surrendered. The term had been used for all federal or government agents but after this, the term became specific to the FBI. The arrest was overshadowed by even bigger news when ten men (the future Dillinger gang) escaped from prison later that night.

George and Kathryn’s trial began on October 12, 1933 and both were convicted and sentenced to life in prison. During the investigation, it was found that money from the ransom of Urschel had been stored on Cassey Coleman’s ranch and he and Will Casey were both arrested, too. The trials were sensational for several reasons. The first was that movie cameras were permitted to film during the trial. The second was this was the first case of kidnapping after the Lindbergh Law was passed which made it a federal crime. Third, it was the first major case solved by J Edgar Hoover’s FBI. It was also the first time prisoners were transported by airplane. George served 21 years, 17 of them on Alcatraz. There he earned the nickname Pop Gun Kelly since he was a model prisoner and not at all the tough guy his wife had claimed him to be. He died of a heart attack on his birthday. He was 54.

I was raised in Chicago and I guess that was one of the special breeding grounds for gangsters of all colors. That was the Detroit of the gangster world. The car industry was thugs. – Quincy Jones

The classy gangster is a Hollywood invention. – Orson Welles

Every human being has a bit of gangster in him. – Binyavanga Wainaina

Old Americana vintage gangster stuff has a fantastical feel; it feels less dirty in a way. It feels like the opera of crime. – Shia LaBeouf

Also on this day: The Parthenon – In 1687, part of the Parthenon was destroyed during a bombing attack by the Ottoman Turks.
Apples – In 1774, Johnny Appleseed was born.
Lurking Evil – In 1937, The Shadow premiered.
Thrown Games – In 1908, Big Ed Reulbach pitched a no hitter double header.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 26, 2013
John Chapman's grave, AKA Johnny Appleseed

John Chapman’s grave, AKA Johnny Appleseed

September 26, 1774: Environmentalist and folk hero John Chapman is born in Leominster, Massachusetts. He was the second child of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Chapman who were struggling farmers. A third child was born while Nathaniel was serving as a carpenter during the Revolutionary War. John’s baby brother and mother both died and John and his sister were raised by relatives until after the war. Nathaniel remarried and he and his new wife had ten more children. At age 18, John and his 11-year-old half-brother left home and traveled west. He became a nurseryman and grew fruit trees.

By 1800, the Chapmans were in Licking County, Ohio and were growing trees there. Revolutionary War veterans were granted lands in Ohio and Nathaniel moved west to join his eldest son. John’s nurseries were doing well. He took seeds and left his trees to go off further westward, planting groves of trees and building fencing to protect them from livestock. He would place a local farmer in charge of the trees and return every year or two to check on progress. Trees could be sold and John would use the proceeds to fund further plantings.

He continued to wander the countryside, planting groves of trees. He lived an ascetic, subsistence life, traveling as far as Indiana and Illinois. His seeds were acquired free from cider mills. His lifestyle cost little. He dressed in secondhand clothes people had used to barter for his trees. He wore no shoes even in winter. He had no house to maintain. If John heard of a horse to be put down, he would buy it. He then fed, pampered, and doctored the horse back to health. He would then give the horse to someone in need for the promise to treat it kindly.

As John traveled farther afield, he told stories to the children and preached a little gospel to the adults in return for permission to sleep on the floor and food for the night. He was an early environmentalist, planting trees across the frontier and caring for animals. His original nursery in Ohio remained in his name and when he died his sister inherited over 1,200 acres worth millions of dollars. He is remembered by US children as one who skips and sings through the countryside often wearing a saucepan for a hat. Most of his trees have succumbed to old age, but one is said to survive in Nova, Ohio. The legacy of Johnny Appleseed.

“You never know how many apples there are in a seed.” – unknown

“We are born believing. A man bears beliefs as a tree bears apples.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Every thought is a seed. If you plant crab apples don’t count on harvesting golden Delicious.” – unknown

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” – Martin Luther

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Apple trees are part of the species Malus domestica which is part of the rose family. They originated in Central Asia from a wild ancestor, Malus sieversii, which is still found today. They have been grown for thousands of years in both Asia and Europe. They appear in the mythologies of many cultures including Norse, Greek, and Christian traditions. There are more than 7,500 known cultivars of apples. Different cultivars are bred for taste or consistency and are therefore better suited to cooking, eating, or cider making. In 2010, the genome was decoded and there is now a greater understanding for disease control and selective breeding. Diseases can affect the trees. They are susceptible to fungal and bacterial problems as well as larger pests. These are controlled either organically or non-organically. Each year, about 69 million tons of apples are grown worldwide with China growing the most.

Also on this day: The Parthenon – In 1687, part of the Parthenon was destroyed during a bombing attack by the Ottoman Turks.
Lurking Evil – In 1937, The Shadow premiered.
Thrown Games – In 1908, Big Ed Reulbach pitched a no hitter double header.

Thrown Games

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 26, 2012

Edward Marvin “Big Ed” Reulbach

September 26, 1908: Edward Marvin “Big Ed” Reulbach pitches in a double header. Ed was a right-handed pitcher for the Chicago Cubs, a Major League Baseball (MLB) team, during their glory years of the early 1900s. The year 1908 was his best year on the mound. During that year the Cubs won 24 games for the National League (NL) and the World Series, their last Series win. However, this was not Big Ed’s first Series win. In 1907, the Cubs beat the Detroit Tigers 4-0 and in 1906, although losing overall to the Chicago White Sox, in game two, Reulbach gave up only one hit in the seventh inning. Only five games in the history of the Series have seen this low-hit record. But even better than that, on this day Reulbach pitched two shutouts back to back against the Brooklyn Dodgers, a feat not yet repeated.

MLB is professional baseball consisting of American teams playing in either the NL or the American League (AL). The two leagues merged in 2000 into a single MLB led by the Commissioner of Baseball. There are 30 teams, 20 from the US and one from Canada. While merged under MLB, the two leagues remain separate entities. The NL is the older of the two, founded on February 2, 1876. There are currently 16 teams in the NL. The AL was founded on January 28, 1901 and has 14 teams. In 2013 the numbers will change to 15 teams each when the Houston Astros transfer to the AL.

The World Series, a best of seven games event, began in 1903. The best team of the AL plays the first NL team. The home team advantage is split and the first team to win four games is the Champion. The games are played in October and it is sometimes known as the Fall Classic. The New York Yankees (AL) have played in 40 World Series and won 27. The Oakland/Philadelphia Athletics (AL) have played in 14 and won 9 times. The record holders for the NL are the St. Louis Cardinals who have won 11 of the 18 times they played and second is a tie between the San Francisco/New York Giants and the Los Angeles/Brooklyn Dodgers who have each played 18 Series and won 6 times.

The Chicago Cubs now belong to the Central Division of the NL. They formed in 1903 after the Chicago Orphans (1898-1902), Chicago Colts (1890-97), and Chicago White Stockings (1870-71, 1874-89) rotated through. They are affectionately called The Cubbies, The North Siders, or The Boys in Blue. They have been playing at Wrigley Field since 1916. Ed was pitching at West Side Park. He also pitched them to their two World Series titles. They have taken the NL pennant 16 times, the last in 1945. They have taken the Central Division title three times, last in 2008 and before that the East Division title twice. They are owned by the family trust of Joe Ricketts. Dale Sveum is the manager and Jed Hoyer is the general manager.

Poets are like baseball pitchers. Both have their moments. The intervals are the tough things. – Robert Frost

Baseball is like church. Many attend few understand. – Leo Durocher

Baseball is one of the most beautiful games. It is. It is a very Zen-like game. – Jim Jarmusch

In baseball, there’s always the next day. – Ryne Sandberg

Also on this day:

The Parthenon – In 1687, part of the Parthenon was destroyed during a bombing attack by the Ottoman Turks.
Apples – In 1774, Johnny Appleseed was born.
Lurking Evil – In 1937, The Shadow premiered.

Lurking Evil

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 26, 2011

Orson Welles

September 26, 1937: Orson Welles becomes the title character as the old announcer for Detective Stories gets his own 30-minute radio show – The Shadow. The Shadow character was created by Walter B. Gibson in 1931. The Shadow’s creation was more accident than design. In 1930, the character’s name belonged to the announcer for Detective Stories. This radio broadcast drew its stories from the pulp fiction of the era. Pulp fiction being inexpensive magazines printed on cheap paper from the 1920s through 1940s.

Smith & Street, pulp magazine publishers, created a radio program in order to boost sales for their print media. However, the announcer proved to be a more compelling entity than the Detective Stories themselves. Smith & Street commissioned Gibson to write stories with the announcer as the hero. Gibson went on to write 282 of the 325 Shadow books.

The Shadow (had many alias identities but Lamont Cranston was the most frequently used) went skulking about in dark hat, cape, and often a black or red silk mask using nefarious skills to intimidate criminals. Eventually it was revealed that he had traveled to the mystical Far East and learned to cloud minds so as to be invisible. Orson Welles took the lead role when still an unknown radio personality. Two years later, Welles would produce his famous Halloween scare, The War of the Worlds.

A female contrast to Welles’ voice was added with Producer Clark Andrews naming The Shadow’s “friend and companion” after his girlfriend, Margo Lane. The Shadow became such a hit that a series of comic books were added and eventually over 300 novels were written. There were two attempts to bring The Shadow to the small screen and several full length movies were produced. In 1947, Welles hoped to produce his own version and commissioned Charles Lederer to pen a script. Welles could not secure the film right to the character he made famous a decade earlier.

“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!” – John Archer’s introduction to The Shadow

“Orson Welles was an actor, so he believed in it while he was doing it.” – John DiDonna

“Nobody who takes on anything big and tough can afford to be modest.” – Orson Welles

“I don’t say that we ought to all misbehave, but we ought to look as if we could.” – Orson Welles

Also on this day:
The Parthenon – In 1687, part of the Parthenon was destroyed during a bombing attack by the Ottoman Turks.
Apples – In 1774, Johnny Appleseed was born.

The Parthenon

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 27, 2010

Parthenon today

September 26, 1687: Venetian forces at war with Ottoman Turks stationed in Athens bomb the area and destroy part of the Parthenon. The Parthenon was built by the ancient Greeks in the 5th century BC as a temple to Athena. The name of the temple probably derives from the name of the monumental statue of Athena Parthenos that was in the eastern room of the building. The “Parthenos” refers to Athena’s virginal and unmarried status.

The Parthenon replaced an older temple that was destroyed by an earlier war with the Persians. The temple was not used only for religious purposes, but like most temples of the time, as a treasury as well. The temple was built on The Acropolis, or raised city, of Athens. It represented the ideal form of civilization with architectural masterpieces erected. The most important of these was the Parthenon.

Measured at the top step, the base of the Parthenon is 228 x 101.4 feet while the inner temple is 97.8 x 63 feet with two tiers of Doric columns. The columns are 31 feet [10.4 m] tall and measure 6.2 feet in diameter. The roof was overlapping marble tiles and needed the columns for support. There were 92 marble panels carved with each side of the building having a theme of various battles by the gods and man.

In the 6th century AD, the Parthenon was converted to a Christian church. During the Turkish and Venetian war, the Turks were using the building as an ammunitions dump. When it was hit with a Venetian cannonball, the explosion damaged a large portion of the wall and many sculptures. In the 19th century, Lord Elgin removed many more of the marble sculptures and took them to England where they are displayed in the British Museum.

“Earth proudly wears the Parthenon as the best gem upon her zone.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The Parthenon without the marbles is like a smile with a tooth missing.” – Neil Kinnock

“I can’t really remember the names of the clubs that we went to. “– Shaquille O’Neal, when asked whether he had visited the Parthenon during his trip to Greece

“Architecture is inhabited sculpture.” – Constantin Brancusi

Also on this day, in 1774 John Chapman, known to history as Johnny Appleseed, was born.

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