March 10, 2015

It Happened on March 10th

Catherine and William Booth, 1862

Salvation Army Established in the U.S., 1880
That is to say, it was officially established in the United States in 1880. The Salvation Army, which had been founded in England in 1865 by William Booth and his wife, Catherine, expanded to Ireland, Australian, and the United States in 1880. When they got here, they found the "Salvation Army" already up and running -- it seems that some of their converts had emigrated from England and taken it upon themselves to open new branches -- completely without official sanction. 

Despite that little bit of confusion at the start, the Salvation Army has generally been well-regarded in the United States, particularly after the success of their disaster efforts following the Galveston flood of 1900 and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. 

The Booths' experience in England had not been quite so good. In the late 1800's they met strong opposition, much of it from the owners of pubs that were losing business due to the Booths' opposition to the use of alcohol. A particularly active group was the "Skeleton Army", a group of about 4,000, who existed only to disrupt the Salvation Army's temperance marches. They were known for throwing rocks, glass, and even dead rats at the Salvationists. In some cases, members of the Salvation Army responded in kind, and riots broke out on several occasions.

Alexander Graham Bell
First Successful Telephone Transmission, 1876
"Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you." These were the first words uttered over the telephone, and they were spoken by Alexander Graham Bell on March 10 in 1876. We generally credit Mr. Bell with invention of the telephone, but the truth is much more complicated than that. Among the inventors who advanced the cause of transmitting voices over a wire are Innocenzo Manzetti, Antonio Meucci, Johann Phillipp Reis, Elisha Gray, and Thomas Edison. What we can be sure of, however, is that Alexander Graham Bell was the first individual to be awarded a U.S. patent for the electric telephone. 

French Foreign Legion Created, 1831
The French Foreign Legion is one of those things that I've sort of known about for as long as I can remember, but not known exactly what it was. I think I can probably credit my earliest awareness of the Foreign Legion to that great source from which so much of my cultural knowledge springs: the Looney Tunes cartoons. (I believe it was Pepe LePew who joined the Legion to get over his broken heart.)
I suspect most of us probably gained most of our knowledge of the French Foreign Legion from the media, whether it was Looney Tunes or Beau Geste. The Legion has long had a romantic image, of a place where a man could go to escape his troubles, and start a new life with no questions asked. 

Today the Foreign Legion does background checks like everyone else, but in the early days, it was largely true that they accepted enlistments with no questions asked. It was created on March 10th, 1831 by King Louis Philippe. Since the July Revolution of 1830, foreigners had been forbidden to serve in the French Army, so the Foreign Legion was a way to put to use foreign volunteers, and also to remove troublemakers from French society. 

Legionnaires come from all over the globe, but the nationalities represented tend to reflect the current world situation. For example, after World War I, a great many Tsarist Russians joined the Legion. Immediately preceding World War II, a great many volunteers came from Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Eastern Europe, whereas following the war the new recruits tended to be from Germany. 

Today, the French Foreign Legion is comprised of about 7700 men. They are considered an elite fighting force. Recruits are required to assume a new name upon joining, and are required to keep it for at least a year. After three years, they are eligible to apply for French citizenship -- or sooner, if they are wounded in battle. The provision is known as "Francais par le sang verse." ("French by spilled blood.") 

The French Foreign Legion today is considered an elite fighting force.

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