August 31, 2011

August 31: First Victim of Jack the Ripper Killed, 1888

Her name was Mary Ann Nichols, and she was the first of five murders that were definitely attributed to Jack the Ripper.

Read article here.

Pictured: Illustration from The Illustrated Police News, 1888.

August 30, 2011

August 30: Burgess Shale Fossils Discovered, 1909

Charles Doolittle Walcott collected 65,000 fossil specimens from the Burgess site in the Canadian Rockies.

For years they were considered merely a curiosity, but they were much more than that.

Read article here.

Pictured: Walcott (center) and his family. Photograph from the Smithsonian Institution.

August 29, 2011

August 29: Edmond Hoyle Died, 1769

Edmond Hoyle was the world authority on the rules of Whist. So how did he get the credit for all those other rulebooks?

Read article here.

Pictured: Edmond Hoyle.

August 28, 2011

August 28: George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, Born, 1592

He was the handsomest man in England, and he certainly caught the eye of James I. James called him his "Sweet Steenie," and his "sweet child and wife."

Soon he was the most powerful man in England, too.

Read article here.

Pictured: Portrait of George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, from the workshop of Peter Paul Rubens, c. 1625

August 27, 2011

August 27: "Young" King and Queen Crowned, 1172

They called the young man "Henry the Young King" to distinguish him from his father, King Henry II of England. Henry had followed the French custom of crowning his heir during his own lifetime.

Now, if only Young Henry could get himself some lands and power...

Read article here.

Pictured: the tomb of Henry the Young King at Rouens. Photograph by Giogo, posted on Wikimedia Commons under the GNU Free Documentation License.

August 26, 2011

August 26: The Battle of Crecy, 1346

On August 26, 1346, the English proved that technical superiority and military strategy could overwhelm superior numbers. It was the beginning of modern warfare.

Read article here.

Pictured: England's Edward the Black Prince pays his respects to the slain King of Bohemia. Painting by Julian Russel, 1888.

August 25, 2011

August 25: James Lick Born, 1796

When his girlfriend's father challenged his poverty, James Lick set out to make his fortune.

The girl got away, but his life he led is remarkable.

Read article here.

Pictured: bust of James Lick at the Lick Observatory at the University of California. Photo by Oleg Alexandrov, published on Wikimedia Commons. 

August 24, 2011

August 24: Vesuvius Erupts, 79 AD

When Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, the destruction was devastating. Whole towns were wiped out. The temperatures may have reached 500 degrees Celsius. Could it happen again?

Read article here.

Pictured: Depiction of the eruption of Vesuvius by Michael Wutky, painted about 1780.

August 23, 2011

August 23: The Original "Stockholm Syndrome", 1973

I had never heard of Stockholm Syndrome before the famous Patty Hearst case.

The term was coined only shortly before Patty's ordeal, but in a case much less clear-cut.

Read article here.

Pictured: The Kreditbanken building in Stockholm, where the robbery took place. Photo by Tage Olsin, uploaded on Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

August 22, 2011

August 22: Virginia Clemm Poe Born, 1822

She was Edgar Allan Poe's child bride, only 13 when they wed.

The rumors of scandal that plagued Poe distressed her a great deal, and may have hastened her death.

Read article here.

Pictured: Portrait of Virginia Poe, commissioned after her death by her husband.

August 21, 2011

August 21: Rudolf of Austria Born, 1858

Crown Prince Rudolf was destined, it seemed, to become Emperor of Austria-Hungary. But fate intervened.

When he was only 30 years old, he and his mistress were found dead at his hunting lodge, Mayerling. Was it suicide? Or political assassination?

Read article here.

Left: Archduke Rudolf in about 1887. From the George Grantham Bain Collection at the Library of Congress.
Below: Mayerling, picture taken before 1889.

August 20, 2011

August 20: International Homeless Animals' Day and Candlelight Vigil

Today we honor all those unwanted pets who gave their lives over the past year at animal shelters -- about 3.7 million of them.

To see what you can do to help solve the problem of pet overpopulation, read here.

Photograph by Dominic Morel of Knysna, South Africa.

August 19, 2011

August 19: Anne Stuart, Queen of Bohemia Born, 1596

Elizabeth Stuart was the daughter of James I of England, and the grandmother of George I.

Read article here.

Pictured: State portrait of Elizabeth by Gerard van Honthorst, painted about 1631.

August 18, 2011

August 18: Virginia Dare Born, 1587

Virginia Dare was the first child born to English parents in the New World.

She vanished without a trace three years later.

Read article here.

Pictured: 1937 postage stamp honoring Virginia Dare.

August 17, 2011

August 17: Mae West Born, 1893

Mae West was a unique performer, and  had an uncanny grasp of publicity. But did you know that she also wrote most of her own scripts?

Read article here.

Pictured: Mae West at the height of her popularity, 1933. From the Library of Congress and in public domain, donated by the New York World Telegram.

August 16, 2011

August 16: Death of Joe Miller, 1738

Joe Miller was a real person, but he wasn't the author of most of these jests. He had a reputation for humor, however, so the author thought this would make a good title.

Read article here.

Pictured: Front page of Joe Miller's Jests, 1739 edition.

August 15, 2011

August 15: "Blind Jack" Metcalf Born, 1717

His parents wanted him to learn to play the fiddle so that he could earn his own living. But Jack had bigger plans than that.

Read article here.

Pictured: "Blind Jack" Metcalf, Civil Engineer.

August 14, 2011

August 14: Margaret Pole Born, 1473

Margaret Pole was the daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, who allegedly was drowned in a butt of Malmsey.

Margaret's death was nowhere near as pleasant.

Read article here.

Pictured: 16th century portrait thought to be Margaret Pole.

August 13, 2011

August 13: Circus Acrobat Crowned King of Albania, 1913

Otto Witte was a circus acrobat, a magician, and a sword-swallower. He also looked exactly like the nephew of the Ottoman Sultan. So when the Albanian Muslims asked Halim Eddine to become their king, what did Otto do?

Bad boy!

Read article here.

Pictured: Witte's grave, which labels him "Former King of Albania."
Photo by Lumu, on Wikimedia Commons, published under the GNU Free Documentation License.

August 12, 2011

August 12: The Death of Cleopatra, 30 B.C.

According to the legend, Cleopatra was committed suicide by snake bite. Was that really what happened?

Read article here.

Pictured: John William Waterhouse's 1888 painting, Cleopatra.

August 11, 2011

August 11: Comstock Silver Mine Opened, 1860

The prospectors out in the Utah Territory were looking for gold. They didn't like the bluish clay that kept gumming up their equipment, so they just washed it away.

The blue clay was unusually pure silver ore.

Read article here.

Pictured: Miners from the Comstock Mine, about 1880. From the Special Collections Department, University of Nevada.

August 10, 2011

August 10: Madeleine de Valois Born, 1520

Madeleine de Valois was the daughter of Francis I of France, and the wife of James V of Scotland.

Sadly, her marriage lasted less than a month.

Read article here.

Pictured: Portrait of Madeleine de Valois by Corneille de Lyon.

August 9, 2011

August 9: Izaak Walton Born, 1593

He was a gentle soul, and he loved to fish. It's been said that The Compleat Angler is not so much a book about how to fish, as how to live.

Read article here.

Pictured: Izaak Walton.

August 8: Margaret Tudor Marries James IV of Scotland, 1503

On August 8, 1503, Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII of England, and sister to Henry VIII, became the bride of James IV of Scotland.

The bride was 13 years old.

Read article here.

Pictured: Portrait of Margaret Tudor by Daniel Mijtens.

August 7, 2011

August 7: Hatfield and McCoy Feud Gets Serious, 1882

The two warring families got started during an altercation during the Civil War. Eventually the feud would involve a pig, a woman, and an ever-mounting body count.

Read article here.

Pictured: The Hatfield clan in 1897. From the Iowa State Press. 

August 6, 2011

August 6: First Execution by Electric Chair, 1890

William Kemmler was the first person to be executed by electric chair, on August 6, 1890.

The man's character and crimes were overshadowed by the invention of the devise, and by the competition between the two giants of electricity -- Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse.

Read article here.

Pictured: Contemporary illustration of Kemmler's execution.

August 5, 2011

August 5: National Underwear Day

What does a Scotsman wear under his kilt?

Read article here.

Pictured: caricature from 1815.

August 4, 2011

August 4: Hans Christian Andersen Dies, 1875

Hans Christian Andersen wrote some of the most enduring children's tales ever told. But what he really wanted was to be respected as an adult author.

Read article here.

Pictured: Photograph of Hans Christian Andersen, taken about 1869.

August 3, 2011

August 3: Joseph Paxton, "Prince of Gardeners" Born, 1803

He began as a humble groundsman, but quickly rose to become one of the most famous gardeners of all time.

And then he turned to engineering....

Read article here.

Above: Chatsworth Estate, the estate that took most of Paxton's time. Etching by unknown artist, before 1881.
Below: The Crystal Palace, designed by Paxton for the Great Exhibition.  Photograph by Philip Henry Delamotte, 1854

August 2, 2011

August 2: William II Slain in New Forest, 1100

William II was the son of William I, and was not well-beloved of the clergy. They seemed to take his accidental death as a sign from God.

The nobles, meanwhile, had other concerns.

Read article here.

Pictured: 19th century depiction of the death of William Rufus.

August 1, 2011

August 1: Calamity Jane Dies, 1903

She was the original Wild Woman. Calamity Jane led an adventurous life that many men would have envied, and she did it as a woman.

Read article here.

Pictured: Calamity Jane in about 1895, at about 43 years of age. She would be dead eight years later. Photograph by H. R. Locke.