Little Bits of History

September 27

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 27, 2017

1854: SS Arctic sinks. She was built by the Collins Line, an American shipping company founded in 1818 and famous for transatlantic ship building. They were comparable to the Cunard line of Britain. At the time, both companies were bringing cargo and passengers across the Atlantic Ocean using steamships. The Arctic was a nearly 3,000 ton paddle steamer which was completed in 1850, going into service in October of that year. The ship was 284 feet long and was carrying about 400 people aboard, 250 passengers and 150 crew, on this fateful day. She was on a crossing to New York from Liverpool. Arctic was famous for her speed and luxury of accommodations.

It was just after noon and foggy as the Arctic was traveling about 50 miles off the coast of Newfoundland. The SS Vesta, a smaller French ship was a propeller driven, iron-hulled steamship, weighing only 250 tons and measuring just 152 feet long. The two ships collided and a ten foot section of Vesta’s bow was sheared off. The much larger ship seemed to have sustained little damage. Vesta’s watertight bulkhead behind the bow remained intact. James Luce, Captain of the Arctic, had initially turned to help rescue Vesta but then soon found out his own ship had sustained damage.

Vesta had struck the starboard side of the ship, between the bow and the paddle wheel. The impact had the passengers feeling just a slight bump, but soon it was found that debris from Vesta’s iron stem as well as the anchor were impaled in Arctic’s wooden hull, creating a substantial hole about 18 inches above the waterline. The ship was taking on water as there were also two breaches below the waterline and the ship started to list. Luce made a decision to head for land as quickly as possible with pumps trying to get rid of the onrush of water.

It was unsuccessful and as the crisis loomed, the call to abandon ship was given. The crew lowered the lifeboats, which had only enough capacity to hold about half the number of people aboard ship. They then got into the boats and as panic ensued, able bodied men were able to push through the crowds and also enter the boats. Some of the crew attempted to build a raft prior to the ship’s sinking. The ship sank in about four hours. Luce went down with the ship, but was able to swim up to the surface and use debris as a raft. Only 88 people survived, 24 male passengers and 61 crew. All women and children aboard died. Only two of the six lifeboats made it to safety while a third one was picked up at sea, as were some of those stranded in the icy waters. No one was called to account for the disaster. This and a few more maritime disasters led to the Collins Line going out of business in 1858.

If you ever wish to cross the Atlantic, you will find in the Arctic one of the noblest of ships, and in Captain Luce one of the best of commanders. – from Harper’s New Monthly Magazine

[We heard} one fearful shriek, and saw the passengers swept forward against the smokestack, and then all was over. – Paul Grann, a survivor in one of the lifeboats

A most awful and heart-rending scene presented itself to my view—over two hundred men, women and children struggling together amidst pieces of wreck of every kind, calling on each other for help, and imploring God to assist them. Such an appalling scene may God preserve me from ever witnessing again. – Captain Luce, after surfacing (and having lost his son to the drag of the waters)

The whole time I had been in the water I had not eaten a particle of anything or drank a drop … my sight had become so dim that I could not perceive objects a few feet off, even the ghastly faces of the dead that looked up at me from under the raft … – Peter McCabe, a survivor



USA’s Capital City

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 27, 2015
Lancaster, Pennsylvania today*

Lancaster, Pennsylvania today*

September 27, 1777: The city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania is the capital of the United States for one day. The town was originally called Hickory Town but the name was changed when John Wright renamed it after Lancaster in England. The city’s symbol is the red rose as is the House of Lancaster. The colonial town was part of the 1682 Penn’s Woods Charter. It was laid out by James Hamilton in 1734, was incorporated as a borough in 1742, and incorporated as a city in 1818. And during the American Revolutionary War it became the capital of the fledgling country when Philadelphia was captured by the British and the Continental Congress fled there. The next day, they moved even farther afield and went to York, Pennsylvania.

In 1799,  Lancaster became the capital of Pennsylvania and remained so until 1812 when it was moved to Harrisburg. Although Harrisburg remains the capital today and is larger in area (11.4 compared to 7.9 square miles), Lancaster has a larger population (59,322 compared to 49,528). The first paved road in the US was the former Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike and it remains today as part of US Route 30. The paved road opened in 1795 and had been designed by John Loudon McAdam and it was there that asphalt was called macadam. The city is also famous for its Lancaster County Prison which was built in 1851 and is still in use today. It was the site for public hangings until 1912. The prison was styled after the Lancaster Castle in England.

After its brief stint as national capital, the borough became an iron-foundry center. Two of the most important items used by those settlers out west were made in Lancaster. The first was the Conestoga wagon named for the Conestoga River which runs through Lancaster and the second was the Pennsylvania long rifle. William Henry was the gun’s designer, but he went on to other ventures and was a US Congressman and a leader during the Revolutionary War. Meriwether Lewis came to Lancaster before he and Clark began their momentous journey. He came to study with Andrew Ellicott, a famous surveyor, in order to learn how to plot latitude and longitude. Woolworth opened his first successful five and dime store in Lancaster.

Lancaster’s economic base has shifted. Shopping has become a major source of revenue as gentrification spreads and a series of specialty shops, boutiques, bars, and clubs have opened downtown. “Gallery Row” was opened in 2005 and has led the city to be a destination spot for those interested in art. Unused polluted areas are also being given a facelift and the old brownfields are being turned into parks and playing fields. The largest employer remains Lancaster General Hospital. The Mayor is Rick Gray. While the city itself is small, the metro area covers 802 square miles and has about a half million people living there.

Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever. – Napoleon Bonaparte

Mark how fleeting and paltry is the estate of man: yesterday in embryo, tomorrow a mummy or ashes. So for the hair’s breadth of time assigned to thee live rationally, and part with life cheerfully, as drops the ripe olive, extolling the season that bore it and the tree that matured it. – Marcus Aurelius

The glory that goes with wealth is fleeting and fragile; virtue is a possession glorious and eternal. – Sallust

How fleeting are all human passions compared with the massive continuity of ducks. – Dorothy L. Sayers

Also on this day: Tonight – In 1954, the Tonight show premiered.
Jesuits – In 1540, the Society of Jesus was formed.
Liberty Ship – In 1941, the SS Patrick Henry launched.
Aquarius – In 1968, Hair opened in London.
Help Wanted – Again – In 1590, Pope Urban VII died.

* “Lancaster Pennsylvania downtown” by Randolph Carney – japanese. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

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Help Wanted – Again

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 27, 2014
Pope Urban VII

Pope Urban VII

September 27, 1590: Pope Urban VII dies. He was born Giovanni Battista Castagna in 1521. Although born in Rome, he was of Genoese origin and his father, Cosimo Castagna, was a noble. He became a priest in 1553, receiving his consecration on April 4 of that year. He became a Cardinal on December 12, 1583 with the blessing of Pope Sixtus V. Before the separation of church and state, religious persons often held public office as well. Giovanni had also been the governor of Bologna and the archbishop of Rossano. He served for many years as nuncio (ecclesiastic ambassador) to Spain.

He was chosen as successor to Sixtus with the help of the backing of Spanish factions. He was raised to the papacy on September 15, 1590. Pope Urban VII gave the world the first known public smoking ban. He threatened to excommunicate any person who “took tobacco in the porchway of or inside a church, whether it be by chewing it, smoking it with a pipe or sniffing it in powdered form through the nose”. He died shortly before midnight on this day from malaria. He was 69 years old and became (and has held the record so far) the shortest reigning Pope.

Prior to this, the shortest reign had been Boniface VI’s 16 calendar days in April of 896. There have been nine popes who held the office for less than a month before dying. Celestine IV reigned for 17 days in 1241 and managed to die before his official coronation.  Stephen (March 23-26, 752) died of a stroke three days after his election and before his consecration. He is not considered to be a valid pope but was added to the list during the 15th century as Stephen II and has made it difficult ever after for the name of future popes choosing the name Stephen.

There is no official list of all Popes of the Catholic Church. There is debate over who was an official pope during some of the upheaval caused by Middle Ages popes vying for the Holy See. There is particular issue with legitimate succession in regards to Pope Leo VIII, Benedict V and some mid-11th century contenders. Pius IX was Pope from 1846 to 1878 which covered 31 years, 7 month, and 23 days (11,560 days) making him the longest reigning pope. The second longest reign was John Paul II who held the papacy from 1978 to 2005 which is a span of 26 years, 5 months, and 18 days (9,665 days). There have been ten popes with tenures lasting two decades or more with Pope Urban VIII barely making the cut with 20 years, 11 months, and 24 days (7,664 days). While he was the next Urban pope, he did not rule immediately after the shortest reign, but was elected in 1623.

Teach us to give and not count the cost. – St. Ignatius de Loyola

Charity is certainly greater than any rule. Moreover, all rules must lead to charity. – St. Vincent de Paul

Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. – St. Ignatius of Antioch

There are more tears shed over answered prayers than over unanswered prayers. – St. Teresa of Avila

Also on this day: Tonight – In 1954, the Tonight show premiered.
Jesuits – In 1540, the Society of Jesus was formed.
Liberty Ship – In 1941, the SS Patrick Henry launched.
Aquarius – In 1968, Hair opened in London.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 27, 2013
Society of Jesus

Society of Jesus

September 27, 1540: Pope Paul III signs the Bull “Regimini militantis ecclesiae” and so establishes the Society of Jesus or Jesuits. Ignatius of Loyola was born in 1491 at the castle of Loyola in Spain. He was the youngest of thirteen children. By 1509 he was aligned with the Duke of Nájara and proved adept at both military leadership and diplomacy. He fought without sustaining any injuries until 1520. At that time he was severely wounded and returned to the castle to heal (or die). During his recuperation, he read De Vita Christi by Ludolph of Saxony. He continued his religious reading and changed his life.

Ignatius traveled to Paris, Rome, and Jerusalem as he continued his studies. He was imprisoned several times. He and six others, including Francis Xavier, took a vow in 1534, defining their new purpose in life. They entered into a life of poverty and chastity and vowed to enter “hospital and missionary work” wherever the Pope would direct them. In 1537, they traveled to Rome to get papal approval and the Pope permitted them to be ordained as priests. The group was intent on serving in Jerusalem but a war was in progress and impeded their travel. There was debate within the Catholic hierarchy, but finally the Papal Bull or charter was issued.

The original charter gave the group a limit of sixty members. Number restrictions were rescinded in a subsequent Bull issued in 1543. Ignatius was the first Superior General of the Society of Jesus. As such, he wrote “The Formula of the Institute” whereby he laid out the fundamental charter for Jesuits. All following documents flow from and must conform to this initial text. Francis Xavier left for India with two other Jesuits in 1541 and arrived thirteen months later, establishing a base for missionary work in the East.

Today, the Society of Jesus is the largest religious order of priests and brothers in the Catholic Church. The greatest number of members serve in India with the second highest concentration residing in the US. There are over 19,200 members serving in 112 nations on six continents. The current Superior General is Adolfo Nicolás. The Jesuits are famous for missionary work, human rights advocacy, social justice, and higher education. They run many colleges, universities, and high schools around the world with fifty in the US alone. The Society has been rumored to have been involved in conspiracies and have suffered from controversy during their centuries of service.

“Teach us to give and not to count the cost.” – Ignatius of Loyola

“Imagine that leader of all the enemy, in that great plain of Babylon, sitting on a sort of throne of smoking flame, a horrible and terrifying sight. Watch him calling together countless devils, to dispatch them into different cities till the whole world is covered, forgetting no province or locality, no class or single individual.” – Ignatius of Loyola

“Give me the children until they are seven and anyone may have them afterwards.” – Francis Xavier

“If you know anything about Loyola or the Jesuits, you would expect us to do this. People don’t come to a Jesuit university expecting mediocrity.” – Lisa Martin

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: The Jesuits have been accused of seeking out power and political intrigue. They have been said to create unjustifiable causes for their unsavory ends as well as being anti-Semitic. As counterpoint to that last issue, twelve named Jesuit priests have been formally recognized for their heroic rescue efforts during World War II’s horrific Holocaust. The Jesuits were considered to be one of the Nazi party’s greatest enemies. Over the centuries many Jesuits contributed to a wide variety of scholarly learning especially in the sciences. They have also contributed to our greater understanding of mathematics and history. There has even been one Pope who was a Jesuit.

Also on this day: Tonight – In 1954, the Tonight show premiered.
Liberty Ship – In 1941, the SS Patrick Henry launched.
Aquarius – In 1968, Hair opened in London.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 27, 2012

Shaftesbury Theatre’s production of Hair

September 27, 1968: The Shaftesbury Theatre in London’s West End opens a new musical. The performances had to be delayed until the passage of the Theatres Act of 1968 passed. Since 1737, all performances in the United Kingdom had to be licensed by the Lord Chamberlain’s Office. This was to ensure government approval of ideas for the state. The censorship method was introduced to protect Robert Walpole’s administration from political satire. As time went on, the Office became the last say on all theatrical matters and by the 1950s a group called “Angry Young Men” mocked the banality, conservatism, and restriction of British theater. John Osborne’s play A Patriot for Me was so extensively cut, it brought the system’s morally questionable status to an end.

Since restrictions were lifted, it was possible for Shaftesbury to use the same creative team as was used on Broadway and bring Hair to the British stage. The whole title is actually Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical. The book and lyrics were written by James Rado and Gerome Ragni; musical score was by Galt MacDermot. The major themes of the musical were the hippie counter-culture and sexual revolution of the 1960s. The nude scene caused a controversial stir on both sides of the pond. The racially diverse cast also was something out of the ordinary. The play opened Off-Broadway at Joseph Papp’s Public Theater in October 1967.

The show opened on Broadway in April 1968 and ran for 1,750 performances. In London, the show ran for 1,997 performances. There were eventually a multitude of productions worldwide. There was a revival produced in 1977 and a film version followed in 1979. A London revival came to life in 1993. A Broadway revival again took to the stage in 2009 and another West End, London revival followed the next year. There was also an album produced by the original Broadway cast which sold millions of copies.

The play was in two acts with the famous brief nude scene coming at the end of the first one. There were some Top Ten hits from the musical including the title song. The Age of Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In and Good Morning Starshine also made its way into mainstream culture. The musical captured both the sexual escapades and drug subculture of the hippie movement. There was also an anti-Vietnam War peace movement theme and environmental issues were brought to the audience. Poverty and political corruption were exposed as well as the need for racial integration and integrity. It was powerful stuff for the times and continues to resonate even in revival productions.

Give me a head with hair, long beautiful hair / Shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen / Give me down to there, hair, shoulder length or longer / Here baby, there, momma, everywhere, daddy, daddy

When the moon is in the seventh house / And Jupiter aligns with Mars / Then peace will guide the planets / And love will steer the stars

Facing a dying nation of moving paper fantasy / Listening for the new told lies / With supreme visions of lonely tunes / Singing our space songs on a spider web sitar

Good morning starshine, the earth says hello / you twinkle above us, we twinkle below / good morning starshine, you lead us along / my love and me / as we sing our / early morning singing song – all from Hair

Also on this day:

Tonight – In 1954, the Tonight show premiered.
Jesuits – In 1540, the Society of Jesus was formed.
Liberty Ship – In 1941, the SS Patrick Henry launched.

Liberty Ship

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 27, 2011

SS Patrick Henry

September 27, 1941: The SS Patrick Henry is launched. This was the first of 2,751 Liberty ships launched during World War II. In 1936 the American Merchant Marine Act was passed in order to subsidize the building of 50 commercial merchant ships to be used by the US Navy. The number of ships to be built doubled in 1939 and again in 1940. There were to be different types of ships: tankers and three types of merchant ships. All were to be powered by steam turbines. The ship designs were based on British vessels of the same type and used for the same purpose. The plan was modified by the US Maritime Commission to conform to American standards and practices.

The ships were to be designated by EC for Emergency Cargo and construction was given out to Henry J Kaiser’s Six Companies. The ships were built in sections and then welded together. In Britain, ships were built in this fashion but riveted together. This took far longer to accomplish. The ships initially had a poor public reception. They were, in a word, ugly. This day was dubbed Liberty Fleet Day in the hopes of improving the image of these Ugly Ducking vessels.

The Patrick Henry took 244 days to build. The first ships took, on average, 230 days to build. Eventually, the average for building a Liberty Ship dropped to 42 days. The record for quick construction went to building the Robert E. Peary which was ready to launch in 4 days and 15.5 hours from the time the keel was laid. In 1943, there were three Liberty Ships completed each day. Anyone raising $2 million in war bonds could propose a name for one of these ships. Most were named for deceased people, but one was named for Francis J. O’Gara who was thought to have been killed but survived the war in a Japanese POW camp.

The ships were supposed to last for five years. The quick building process led to some problems. Some early ships were known to have hull or deck cracks and a few ships were lost to these defects. During the war, there were 1,500 instances of brittle fractures and twelve ships actually broke in half. However, over 2,400 ships survived the war and of these 835 made up the postwar cargo fleet. Today, only two Liberty Ships, the SS Brown W. Brown and the Jeremiah O’Brien remain. Both are museum ships. In 1994, the O’Brien steamed from San Francisco to England and France to celebrate the 50th anniversary of D-Day.

“A ship is referred to as she because it costs so much to keep one in paint and powder.” – Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz

“Investigate and shoot down all snoopers – not vindictively, but in a friendly sort of way.” – Fleet Admiral William “Bull” Halsey, Jr.

“The Navy has both a tradition and a future–and we look with pride and confidence in both directions.” – Admiral George Anderson

“The difference between a good and great officer is about ten seconds.” – Admiral Arleigh Burke

Also on this day:
Tonight – In 1954, the Tonight show premiered.
Jesuits – In 1540, the Society of Jesus was formed.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 27, 2010

September 27, 1954: Tonight!, starring Steve Allen, premieres on national television on the NBC network. Steve Allen hosted the variety show until 1957 with Ernie Kovacs sitting in the host chair on Mondays and Tuesdays for the last four months. In January of 1957, Jack Lescoulie took over, the name changed to Tonight! America After Dark and the format switched to news. Six months later, Al Collins took the helm for a month.

Tonight Show hosts

On July 29, 1957, Jack Paar became the host of the newly formatted talk show now entitled Tonight Starring Jack Paar. He remained as host until March 30, 1962 when a series of guest hosts took over while a permanent host was sought. On October 1, 1962 Johnny Carson opened The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and he remained on the job for almost thirty years, retiring on May 22, 1992. Jay Leno took over and the show again changed names to The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Jay has announced plans to retire in 2009 with a scheduled take over by Conan O’Brian. Conan arrived, Jay moved, it didn’t work out for all concerned and Jay is back on late night television.

The years as a news show simply didn’t work out and the show returned to the variety format with an announcer/straight man at the host’s side and a bandleader off to the side of the stage. Jack Paar was censored for a bathroom joke in February 1960 and the next night he abruptly left the show in protest leaving his announcer to carry on. Four weeks later he came back and said, “As I was saying before I was interrupted …” and carried on to rousing applause.

The multiple hosts of the program have left an indelible mark on the social consciousness of the American audience. Steve Allen’s “Man on the Street” interviews, Carnac the Magnificent (in which Carson posed as a psychic) Carson’s introductory golf swing, Leno’s newspaper headlines – all have become part of the legacy left by the show.

“Radio is the theater of the mind; television is the theater of the mindless.” – Steve Allen

“If variety if the spice of life, marriage is the big can of leftover Spam.” – Johnny Carson

“He couldn’t ad-lib a fart after a baked-bean dinner.” – Johnny Carson

“Politics is just show business for ugly people.” – Jay Leno

“I think high self-esteem is overrated. A little low self-esteem is actually quite good. Maybe you’re not the best, so you should work a little harder.” – Jay Leno

Also on this day, in 1540 the Society of Jesus was formed.

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