November 30, 2011

November 30: Oliver Winchester Born, 1810

The "Gun that Won the West" claimed a lot of victims in its day.

No wonder Oliver Winchester's daughter-in-law thought the family was cursed.

 Read article here.

Pictured: Oliver Winchester 

November 29, 2011

May 29: Jemima Wilkinson Born, 1752

Jemima Wilkinson was the daughter of Quakers, but she started her own brand of religion, and brought a community to the wilderness of western New York.

Her emphasis on celibacy may have been the undoing of the colony, however.

Read article here.

Pictured: Picture of Jemima Wilkinson, aka The Universal Publick Friend, from David Hudson's History of Jemima Wilkinson, a Preacheress of the Eighteenth Century, 1821.

November 28, 2011

November 28: Last Executions in Paris, 1972

The two men executed were prisoners who had taken a nurse and a prison guard hostage and killed them both.

But more interesting than the murders is the life story of their executioner, Andre Obrecht.

Read article here.

Pictured: Illustration from the book, Mon Musee Criminel by Gustave Mace, 1889.

November 27, 2011

November 27: Eddystone Lighthouse Destroyed in Great Storm of 1703

When Henry Winstanley's lighthouse was complete, he was so pleased that he wished he could be in it during "the greatest storm that ever was." 
Sadly, he got his wish.

Read article here.

Pictured: Winstanley's lighthouse at the Eddystone Rocks. 1761 engraving by Henry Roberts.

November 26, 2011

November 26: King Tut's Tomb Entered, 1922

It was the first time anyone had set foot in the tomb in over 3,000 years. And the way in was discovered by a small boy.

Read article here.

Pictured:  Gold mask of King Tutankhamun. Photograph by Bjorn Christian Torrissen, published on Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license.

November 25, 2011

November 25: The White Ship Sinks

The White Ship was a new vessel on its maiden voyage. Certainly no one expected it to sink. But it did, and changed the course of English history.

Read article here.

Pictured: Illustration of the sinking of the White Ship by unknown artist, from the British Library.

November 24, 2011

November 24: D. B. Cooper Escapes with Cash, 1971

On November 24, 1971, a man who identified himself as "Dan Cooper" parachuted out of  a 727 with $200,000 in ransom money, the result of a hijacking. He has never been found.

Read article here.

Pictured: FBI sketch of Cooper at the time of the hijacking. He wore dark glasses during part of the flight.

November 23, 2011

November 23: Thespis Wins Best Actor Award, 534 BC

Thespis was apparently a real person, the first Greek to introduce the art of acting. Before Thespis, Greek dramatic presentations were choral recitations called dithyrambs, in which the performers spoke in their own personas, not taking on the identity of a character.

Read article here.

Pictured: Greek mask from about the first century AD. Photograph by Jastrow, entered into the public domain on Wikimedia Commons.

November 22, 2011

November 22: Cutty Sark Launched in Scotland, 1869

The Cutty Sark was one of the last of the China clippers. It was launched on this day in 1869.

The name Cutty Sark derives from a poem about a scantily clad woman.

Read article here.

Pictured: photograph of the Cutty Sark, taken sometime before 1916.

November 21, 2011

November 21: Death of the "Birdman of Alcatraz", 1963

Robert Stroud, the legendary "Birdman of Alcatraz" may not be quite as you imagined him after seeing the Burt Lancaster movie. He had a quick temper, and he killed two men.

Read article here.

Pictured: 1951 mug shot of Robert Stroud, from his prison records.

November 20, 2011

November 20: Peregrine White Born, 1620

Peregrine White was the first child born to the Pilgrims in the New World. He was born onboard ship, and he got a new stepfather shortly thereafter.

Read article here.

Pictured: The Pilgrims preparing to embark for the New World. Painting by Robert Weir, 1844.

November 19, 2011

November 19: Ivan the Terrible Kills His Son, 1581

At best, Ivan the Terrible was only intermittently sane. In 1581, in a fit of anger, he dealt his son a death blow.

Read article here.

Pictured above: Ivan the Terrible at his son's deathbed. Painting by Wjatscheslaw Grigorjewitsch Schwarz, 1864.

November 18, 2011

November 18: Louis XIV Operated Upon, 1686

Louis's physicians couldn't heal him, so he sent for a surgeon. It turned out to be a very popular operation.

Read article here.

Pictured: 17th century portrait of Louis XIV by unknown artist.

November 17, 2011

At its peak, the Blasket Islands in western Ireland had only about 170 human inhabitants. When the government evacuated the last of them in 1953, there were only 22 people to relocate.

Read article here.

Pictured: Photograph of Tearaght Island, one of the Blaskets, by Snalwibma, published on Wikimedia Commons under the GNU Free Documentation License

November 16, 2011

November 16: Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna of Russia Born, 1895

She was the eldest child of Tsar Alexander II and his wife, and she died tragically at the age of 22.

Read article here.

Pictured, right: Olga at the age of 11. Below: Olga as a "fat and healthy" baby.

November 15, 2011

November 15: Baby Fae Dies after Operation, 1984

Baby Fae died 20 days after receiving a baboon's heart. It was the longest anyone had lived after such an operation.

Read article here.

Picture: Loma Linda University Medical Center, where the operation took place. Photograph placed into the Public Domain by its creator, Persian Poet Gal, on Wikimedia Commons.

November 14, 2011

November 14: Moby Dick Published in US, 1851

On this day in 1851, Herman Melville's Moby Dick was first published in the United States.

Readers of his previous best-sellers, such as Typee and Omoo, were disappointed.

Read article here.

Pictured: Etching of Melville based on Joseph Eaton's portrait of the author.

November 13, 2011

November 13: St. Brice's Day Massacre, 1002

On this date in 1002, Aethelred the Unready ordered all the Danes in England killed. He'd had about enough of those Vikings.

Read article here.

Pictured: Aethelred the Unready, from an illuminated manuscript, about 1220 AD.

November 12, 2011

November 12: The Great Whale Explosion, 1970

The whale weighed eight tons and had been washed ashore in Oregon. Whatever would they do with it?

Fortunately, there's always dynamite.

Read article here.

Pictured: Sperm Whale and Bottlenecked Whale. Illustration by Archibald Thorburn.

November 11, 2011

November 11: Van Gogh Painting Sold for Record Amount, 1987

The painting was called Irises, and it was painted while van Gogh was in the asylum at Saint-Paul.

Read article here.

Pictured: Van Gogh's Irises, 1889.

November 10, 2011

November 10: Henry Wirz Executed for War Crimes, 1865

Henry Wirz was the only Confederate officer ever convicted of war crimes after the Civil War. Was he really guilty?

Read article here.

Pictured: photograph of Henry Wirz, about 1865.

November 9, 2011

November 9: Cullinan Diamond Presented to Edward VII, 1907

When Frederick Wells found the Cullinan Diamond, he thought it was a joke. Surely no diamond could be that big.

Read article here.

Pictured: Replica of the uncut Cullinan Diamond. Photograph by Parent Gery, published under the Creative Commons Attribution - Share Alike license on Wikimedia Commons.

November 8, 2011

November 8: Margaret Mitchell Born, 1900

Margaret Mitchell was a newspaper writer until she broke her ankle. Bored out of her mind, she started writing the novel that would become Gone With the Wind.

Read article here.

Pictured: Margaret Mitchell in 1941. Library of Congress photo.

November 7, 2011

November 7: Mary Celeste Sets Sail from New York, 1872

The Mary Celeste was discovered off the coast of Portugal with not a soul on board. Whatever happened to the crew and passengers? 

Read article here.

Pictured: The Amazon, a 282-ton brigantine ship, as she appeared in 1861. She was later rechristened the Mary Celeste.

November 6, 2011

November 6: First European Lands in Texas, 1528

Cabeza de Vaco was one of only four men to survive. The expedition started out with 600.

Read article here.

Pictured: map of Cabeza de Vaco's trip, by Lencer, published on Wikimedia Commons under the GNU Free Documentation License.

November 5, 2011

November 5: Fala Day

Fala was the darling little Scottish Terrier that accomapanied FDR everywhere he went during his terms of office.

He was quite a little darling, and no one was allowed to feed him except the President himself.

Read article here.

Pictured: Fala and Roosevelt going for a drive. Photograph by an employee of the Executive Office of the President of the United States.

November 4, 2011

Death of Paul Delaroche, 1858

Paul Delaroche was a French painter, but he was particularly fond of subjects from English history.

Read article here.

Pictured: The Execution of Lady Jane Grey, painting by Paul Delaroche, 1833

November 3, 2011

November 3: Black Bart Robs His Last Stagecoach, 1883

Charles Bowles was always a gentleman. He spoke courteously, never robbed the passengers, and never even loaded his gun.

But he sure did hate the Wells Fargo Company.

Read article here.

Pictured: photograph of Charles Bowles, aka Black Bart the Bandit, taken about 1888.

November 2, 2011

November 2: Lady Chatterley's Lover Ruled Not Obscene, 1960

On this day in 1960, a jury of 12 proclaimed Lady Chatterley's Lover to not be obscene.

It seems obvious now, but it might not have happened if the Prosecution hadn't made some serious mistakes.

Read article here.

Pictured: Passport photo of D. H. Lawrence, now in the possession of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.

November 1, 2011

November 1: Sistine Chapel Painting Revealed, 1512

On November 1, 1512, Michelangelo's painting of the Sistine Chapel was revealed to the public.

Read article here.

Pictured: detail from the Creation of Adam.

October 31, 2011

October 31: Harry Houdini Died, 1926

After a lifetime of hair-raising escapes, a moment of inattention in his dressing room cost Harry Houdini his life.

Read article here.

Pictured: Harry Houdini with his beloved mother and devoted wife. Picture from the Library of Congress archives.

October 30, 2011

October 30: Charles Atlas Born, 1892

Charles Atlas really had been the 97 pound weakling who got sand kicked in his face. Then he saw a lion at the zoo....

Read article here.

Pictured: 1953 ad for the Charles Atlas course. Posted by AtomicSteve on Wikimedia Commons under the GNU Free Documentation License.

October 29, 2011

October 29: James Boswell Born, 1740

He's best known as the celebrated biographer of Samuel Johnson, but James Boswell was a man with a few quirks.

Read article here.

Pictured: 1785 portrait of Boswell by Sir Joshua Reynolds.

October 28, 2011

October 28: Auguste Escoffier Born, 1846

He was called the "Chef of Kings and King of Chefs."

And he changed the way we think about food forever.

Read article here.

Pictured: Photograph of Auguste Escoffier in 1914, from The Gourmet's Guide to London, by Nathaniel Newnham-Davis.

October 27, 2011

October 27: Niccolo Paganini Born, 1782

He was tall and long-fingered, with curling hair and burning eyes. People said he had sold his soul to the devil for his talent.

Read article here.

Pictured: 19th century painting of Paganini, of the Italian School.

October 26, 2011

October 26: Washington Receives Breeding Stock, 1785

Did you know George Washington was the first American to breed mules?

Read article here.

Pictured: photograph of mule by Sogospelman, published on Wikimedia Commons under the  GNU Free Documentation License.

October 25, 2011

October 25: The Charge of the Light Brigade, 1854

An ambiguous order, and unfailing adherence to orders led to a catastrophe. Clearly, "someone had blundered."

Read article here.

Pictured: The Charge of the Light Brigade, 1894 painting by Richard Caton Woodville.

October 24, 2011

October 24: Annie Edson Taylor Goes Over Niagara Falls in a Barrel

She was a 63 year old retired teacher from Bay City, Michigan. But she told the reporters she was only 43.

Read article here.

Pictured: Annie and her barrel.

October 23, 2011

October 23: Nicolas Appert Born, 1752

He was called the Father of Modern Canning.

He'd always been interested in food, but the prize money didn't hurt, either.

Read article here.

Pictured: Sketch of Appert from 19th century book.

October 22, 2011

October 22: First Modern Parachute Jump

The first time he'd tried, he hadn't even been able to get the balloon off the ground. Would be be successful on his second attempt?

Read article here.

Pictured: 19th century illustration of Andre-Jacques Garnerin's parachute trial.

October 21, 2011

October 21: John Paul Getty III Loses an Ear, 1973

His family thought it was a fake kidnapping. After all, he'd joked about faking out to get money out of his grandfather so often.

Read article here.

October 20, 2011

October 20: Calico Jack Captured, 1720

He was a mediocre pirate at best, but he achieved fame in his own way, by having two female pirates on his crew.

Read article here.

Pictured: 18th century woodcut of Calico Jack Rackham.

October 19, 2011

October 19: First Antibiotic to Fight Tuberculosis Discovered, 1943

TB has been around almost as long as we have. It's been a tough disease to treat, and we're far from done.

Read article here.

Pictured: 1920's postcard from the Buffalo Tuberculosis Association. The dangers of contagion were well known.

October 18, 2011

October 18: Salomon Andree Born,

Salomon Andree thought he could fly a balloon over the geographic North Pole. He was wrong.

Read article here.

Pictured: Site of the crash of the balloon, taken by expedition member Nils Strindberg.

October 17, 2011

October 17: London Beer Flood, 1814

The Parish of St. Giles was one of the worst slums in London. When a giant beer vat broke open on October 17, 1814, sending a tsunami of beer crashing through the streets, the residents just didn't have a chance.

Read article here.

Pictured: Logo from Meux and Company Brewery, now in public domain.  

October 16, 2011

October 16: The Captain of Kopenick Caper, 1906

Wilhelm Voigt couldn't seem to hold onto a job. But he wasn't letting a little thing like that hold him back...

Read article here.

Pictured: 2006 German postage stamp honoring the Captain of Kopenick.

October 15, 2011

October 15: Death of Mata Hari, 1917

Was she really a double agent? History isn't so clear on the subject.

Read article here.

Pictured: postcard view of Mata Hari from 1906. Lucien Watery, photographer.

October 14, 2011

October 14: Eugene Fodor Born, 1905

You're probably familiar with the Fodor line of travel guides. But did you know that Eugene Fodor spied for the OSS and the CIA?

Read article here.

October 13, 2011

October 13: Molly Pitcher Born, 1754

Molly Pitcher's real name was Mary Ludwig Hays, and performed heroically during the Battle of Monmouth.

Read article here.

Pictured: This illustration was published by Currier and Ives  somewhere between 1856 and 1907.

October 12, 2011

October 12: Pledge of Allegiance First Recited in Public Schools, 1892

When first written, the Pledge of Allegiance was simply:

"I pledge allegiance to the flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Read article here.

Pictured: Japanese-American children salute the flag in April, 1942. Within a few weeks they had all been placed in internment camps.