June 19, 2015

It Happened on June 19th

Colonists Leave Roanoke Island, 1586

1585 map of the area
This was the first British settlement on Roanoke Island, not the famous Lost Colony that disappeared. Things ended much more happily for most of this first group of settlers.

The story begins on March 25, 1584, when Queen Elizabeth granted a Royal Charter to Sir Walter Raleigh. He was given seven years. During that time he needed to establish a settlement in Virginia, or he would lose his right to do so. Both the Queen and Raleigh were anticipating that they would be able to gather riches from the New World. They also wanted a base for their privateers, who were charged with raiding the Spanish.

Raleigh never visited Virginia -- or any of North America. He did, however, lead several expeditions to South America, searching for gold in the legendary city of El Dorado. He sent an expedition in April, which arrived on July 4th, and made the acquaintance of the local tribes, the Secotans and the Croatans. The ship returned to England (leaving the settlers behind) and brought back two Croatans to Raleigh, who furnished him with information about the place.

In April of 1585 Raleigh sent five more ships to Roanoke. The Englishmen had barely started exploring the area when an incident occurred. A silver cup had vanished from the English settlement, and the natives were blamed for stealing it. In retaliation, the English sacked and burned an Aquascogoc village.

Tensions were high and food was low, but the leader of the group, Sir Richard Grenville, decided to leave a group of 107 men to form a permanent settlement at the north end of Roanoke Island, while he went back to England for more men and supplies. He left on August 17, 1585.

Sir Francis Drake -- brought them home.
By the following spring, Grenville still hadn't returned, and the natives had attacked the settler's fort, probably in retaliation for the village-burning incident. Soon after that, the settlers were visited by Sir Francis Drake, who had been raiding in the Caribbean and was returning to England. He offered to take the settlers. They accepted. The ship left Roanoke on June 19, 1586. They took with them samples of tobacco, corn, and potatoes -- all New World plants that the Europeans had never seen before.

Sir Walter Raleigh -- protecting his interests.
A small party was left behind on Roanoke, in order to protect Raleigh's claim to Virginia. When the next expedition arrived at Roanoke, they found no one there -- all that remained was a single skeleton that may have belonged to one of the Englishmen. The people of the second settlement -- all 118 of them, including the baby Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the New World -- would disappear before 1590. To this day, no one knows what happened to them. But that is another story.

Garfield Debuts, 1978

Jim Davis, creator of Garfield. ©Connormah/Wikimedia Commons
Today, Garfield is the most widely syndicated comic strip in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. His career got started on June 19, 1978, when the first Garfield strip was published in 41 newspapers across the country.

Garfield's creator, Jim Davis, was no stranger to cartooning -- or to cats, for that matter. The feisty hero of the strip is based on the 25 or so cats he knew growing up on his parents' Black Angus farm in Fairmount, Indiana. Garfield's name, however, as well as certain aspects of his personality, comes from Davis's grandfather, James A. Garfield Davis, whom Davis remembers as a "large cantankerous man."

As a child, Davis suffered from allergies and asthma -- a rough problem to have on a cattle farm. He spent a lot of time inside, and learned that he loved to draw. After high school, he attended Ball State University, where he majored in art and business.

Davis's first job after college was at an advertising agency, but he soon found something more to his liking. Tom K. Ryan, a cartoonist who lived in Muncie, Indiana, needed an assistant. Ryan's strip was called Tumbleweeds, and Davis learned a lot about the business from him.

Jim Davis's first solo cartoon was called Gnorm Gnat. It ran for five years in a local Indiana newspaper, but he was never able to syndicate it. One editor told him, "Your art is good, your gags are great, but bugs -- nobody can relate to bugs!" Davis finished Gnorm Gnat by having a giant foot come out of the sky and crush him.

His next strip was Garfield. It was picked up by the United Feature Syndicate and was an instant success. Nevertheless, after it had run a few months, one Chicago paper decided to cancel it and try something else. 1300 angry fans wrote in. The strip was quickly reinstated.

By 1982, the strip was appearing in 100 newspapers, and by 1987, in 200. Today it runs in over 2600 newspapers, and it is estimated that 263,000,000 people read it every day.

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