Saturday, August 31, 2013

AUGUST 31 = "Jack the Ripper's" First Victim is Found.

“There was not a soul about..... I had been round there half an hour previ- ously, and saw no one then. I was on the right side…when I noticed a figure lying in the street. It was dark at the time…I examined the body by the aid of my lamp, and noticed blood oozing from a wound in the throat. She was lying on her back, with her clothes disarranged. I felt her arm, which was quite warm from the joints upwards. Her eyes were wide open. Her bonnet was off and lying at her side.”

  This was the testimony of London Police Constable John Neil on what he found at about 3:45 a.m. in the morning of today's date, August 31 in 1888.  The body which Constable Neil found was that of Mary Ann Nichols, 43, a prostitute.  She was the first of the five victims who can be definitely attributed to a serial killer who came to be known as "Jack the Ripper". And for those of you who don't like such phrase qualifiers as "believed to be" and "apparently' and others like that I suggest that you skip this posting.  Because as is well known, "Jack the Ripper" was never caught. Therefore what we can say about him for sure... how many women he killed, why he killed, even if he was in fact a "he" and not a "she"... these are all matters of speculation and will likely remain so for all time. READERS WARNING: this posting includes some gruesome details and at least one awful crime scene photo.

"The Canonical Five"

As stated above, there is no way to know exactly how many women the Ripper actually murdered. But of the eleven murders that took place between April of 1888 and February of 1891 in the Whitechapel section of London's impoverished East End and which were included in a police report called "The Whitechapel Murders" five are widely viewed as definitely the work of the Ripper.  These have come to be called "the Canonical Five." This is because they all follow the Rippers established pattern of killing. The Ripper in each case made deep slashes of the victims throat followed by mutilation of the genital area. This was followed by what can only be called disembowelment of many of his victims internal organs, and by slashing of their faces. This has in many cases lead some to suggest that the killer must have been a doctor to have the necessary anatomical knowledge to locate the organs and remove them.  Others have pointed out the very rough, almost frenzied nature of these removals and concluded that the killer required only rough knowledge of the anatomy as opposed to the presumed surgical skill of a doctor.  In addition to Mary Ann Nichols mentioned above "the Canonical Five"  include:
Annie Chapman (left), 48, murdered on September 8, Elizabeth Stride, 44, murdered on September 30,  Catherine Eddowes, 46, murdered on September 30, and finally Mary Jane Kelly (below, right), 25 murdered on November 9.  All of these five killings took place between today's date of  Aug. 31 and November 9 of 1888; little more than two months. Notice that the third and fourth killings both took place on Sept. 30.  This has been called "the Double Event".  It is believed that the
Ripper was interrupted during his killing of Elizabeth Stride, and was forced to flee.  Witnesses saw Stride with a man earlier in the evening but gave differing descriptions of him.  Nevertheless Stride was later found with her throat slashed in the same way as the other victims. Catherine Eddowes was found later that night and had been viciously mutilated with her left kidney and her uterus having been removed. Kelly's bloody apron was found not far from her body, beneath a message scrawled in chalk on a wall which read "The jewes are not the ones who will be blamed for nothing". A police inspector, fearing anti-semitic riots had this inscription washed away before dawn.  Whether or not it was actually connected with the murders, or was simply there by coincidence remains unknown. But there was at this point in time considerable discomfort among the local population with the influx of Jewish immigrants, so both the police fear of  anti-semitic riots and the belief that the words were there by coincidence are reasonable.  But Stride and Eddowes had been murdered within an hour of each other.  So the belief is, due to the more limited wounds on Stride, that the Ripper was interrupted during his attack on Stride and went on to Eddowes to finish his "work".

Mary Jane Kelly, the Media, the Letters and the Legacy

 The body of Mary Jane Kelly was found by a man who went to her flat to collect some rent that was past due.  This was the only one of the killings to be committed indoors and a look at the actual crime scene photo above makes it obvious that the killer took advantage of his privacy to really vent rage at this woman, or at women in general.  The following is a quote from the police report:

"The body was lying naked in the middle of the bed, the shoulders flat but the axis of the body inclined to the left side of the bed. The head was turned on the left cheek. The left arm was close to the body with the forearm flexed at a right angle and lying across the abdomen. The right arm was slightly abducted from the body and rested on the mattress. The elbow was bent, the forearm supine with the fingers clenched. The legs were wide apart, the left thigh at right angles to the trunk and the right forming an obtuse angle with the pubes. The whole of the surface of the abdomen and thighs was removed and the abdominal cavity emptied of its viscera. The breasts were cut off, the arms mutilated by several jagged wounds and the face hacked beyond recognition of the features. The tissues of the neck were severed all round down to the bone. The viscera were found in various parts viz: the uterus and kidneys with one breast under the head, the other breast by the right foot, the liver between the feet, the intestines by the right side and the spleen by the left side of the body. The flaps removed from the abdomen and thighs were on a table. "

The Jack the Ripper killings attracted some of the most sensational newspaper coverage of the era.  Drawings by artists (right) were made to give the most drama possible to a public that was hungry for details and the more salacious, the better.   Rumors flew everywhere and reporters sniffing around for the most gory and lurid details that they could find were not above creating some details in order to sell more papers. In fact the very name of "Jack the  Ripper" was likely an invention of a local newspaper man. Many letters purportedly from the killer were received in the mail by the police.  One of them was signed "Jack the Ripper" and when this appellation got out to the public, the name stuck. Of these letters only three are given any real credence.  One of those was written to the leader of a local protective group named George Lusk.  It read:

"From hell
Mr. Lusk
I send you half the Kidne I took from one women preserved it for you the other piece I fried and ate it was very nice.  I may send you the bloody knif that took it out if you only wate a while longer

Catch me when you can Mishter Lusk"

The letter (the spelling is the original, left) came with a small package which contained half of a human kidney, and came shortly after the murder of Catherine Eddowes.  Of the three letters, this one (the original of which has been missing from the files of Scotland Yard since the 1950's) is believed to be the one most likely from the actual killer.  But of course nobody knows for sure.  After the murder of Mary Kelly there were two more murders which raised fear that the Ripper was still at his bloody spree.  But those are not crimes which fit the Ripper's known pattern.  So Mary Kelly was the last of the killings which are generally attributed to the Ripper. Since nobody was ever apprehended and charged with the crime there are a plethora of suspects who have been fingered over the years. Part of the legacy of the Ripper killings has been the whole phenomenon of serial killers, and the means to catch them, none of which were available in 1888.  Finger printing was not in use at that time, though it was not far off.  But the whole concept of assembling and using a psychological profile of  an unknown assailent and the use of DNA evidence are both tools which have been applied or dreamt of being applied to study this case.  In fact DNA analysis on the adhesive that was on one of the letters has actually been used to suggest to some "Ripperologists" that the killer may have actually been a woman.... just imagine that.  Out of the mists and shadows of London's blighted slums of Whitechapel in the autumn of 1888 comes the menacing, glowering figure of.... "JILL the Ripper" ?? Who knows??


Season One, Disc Three,
A & E Television Networks, 2009.

READERS!! If you would like to comment on this, or any "Today in History" posting, I would love to hear from you!!  You can either sign up to be a member of this blog and post a comment in the space provided below, or you can simply e-mail me directly at:  I seem to be getting hits on this site all over the world, so please do write and let me know how you like what I'm writing (or not!)!!

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

AUGUST 28 = Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" Speech

"I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.  Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition."

On today's date, August 28 in 1963 the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King delivered these words as the opening of his celebrated "I Have a Dream" speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. before @ 250,000 supporters as a part of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  The crowd contained a major cross-section of American society at the time.  Ordinary working Americans of all races were present, rubbing elbows with the Civil Rights leadership, as well as Hollywood celebrities such as Tony Franciosa, Charlton Heston, Paul Newman, Harry Belefonte' and Diahann Carroll.  The speech, which called for an end to racism in America, the opening of freedom of opportunity for all races, and which invoked Dr. Kings hope that all races would live in peace and harmony has come to be regarded as the most important speech of the Civil Rights movement in America.  And it is considered by many to be one of the most important speeches in American history.

The Goals of the March on Washington

The March on Washington had been meant as a show of massive public support for the civil rights legislation which had been formulated and proposed in June of that year by the administration of President John F. Kennedy.  With this in mind as the primary goal of the March, Dr. King and other civil rights leaders  had agreed to keep the rhetoric of their speeches calm, so as to avoid encouraging the civil disobedience demonstrations which had of necessity become so much a part of the civil rights movement in the past.  Dr. King had planned his speech primarily as an homage to the spirit of Abraham Lincoln whose Emancipation Proclamation was having its Centennial that year.
In fact, Clarence Benjamin Jones who had been helping Dr. King draft his remarks has said that "on the evening of August 27, Martin still did not know what he was going to say."  But Dr. King had been preaching about the dream of civil rights since the early 1960's.  The speech, which had several drafts about there never being a return to the "normalcy" of past race relations, acquired its emphasis on these long held dreams when the gospel singer Mahalia Jackson (above) shouted to Dr. King from the audience; "Tell them about the dream, Martin!" Inspired by this, Dr. King departed from his prepared remarks and began preaching from the gospel of his heart, punctuating one remark after the other with the ringing phrase "I have a dream..." :

"Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today my friends -- so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

The Speech, its Effect and its Legacy

And with his fiery style of delivery, Dr. King (who in my opinion was the most mesmerizing public speaker of my lifetime) transformed this speech into the definitive moment of the long struggle for civil rights in America. With his vision of racial harmony between former adversaries, equality of opportunity, and his emphasis on the responsibility of the individual ("the content of their character") Dr. King delivered a masterpiece of oratory, not to mention a clear-as-a-bell statement of the hopes and aspirations of the Civil Rights Movement in America.  African Americans wanted only
to share in the benefits of the American Dream, and Dr. King made as clear a statement as ever has been made that it was now time to honor what he called that "promissory note" of opportunity in America. The speech was very well received at the time.  Washington political reporter James Reston said "Dr. King touched all the themes of the day, only better than anyone else.  He was full of the symbolism of Lincoln and Gandhi, and the cadences of the Bible.  He was both militant and sad, and he sent the crowd away feeling that the long journey had been worthwhile ("the crowd" is pictured above)." And the speech has been quoted time and time again in the years since. Jon Meacham, the Executive Editor of Random House Publishers has said that "With a single phrase, Martin Luther King Jr. joined Jefferson and Lincoln in the ranks of men who've shaped modern America."

Sources =

The complete text of Dr. Kings speech can be found at:

A video of the speech in its entirety can be viewed at:

"Time" Magazine, August 26/September 2, 2013

Monday, August 26, 2013

AUGUST 26 = Women Get the Vote!!


Signs Certificate of Ratification at His Home Without Women Witnesses

Militants Vexed at Privacy

Wanted Movies of Ceremony but Both Factions Are Elated -- Wilson Sends Message

Washington, Aug. 26 -- The half-century struggle for woman suffrage in the United States reached its climax at 8 o'clock this morning, when Bainbridge Colby, as Secretary of State, issued his proclamation announcing that the Nineteenth Amendment had become a part of the Constitution of the United States.
The signing of the proclamation took place at that hour at Secretary Colby's residence, 1507 K Street Northwest, without ceremony of any kind, and the issuance of the proclamation was unaccompanied by the taking of movies or other pictures, despite the fact that the National Woman's Party, or militant branch of the general suffrage movement, had been anxious to be represented by a delegation of women and to have the historic event filmed for public display and permanent record.  Secretary Colby did not act with undue haste in signing the proclamation, but only after he had given careful study to the packet which arrived by mail during the early morning hours containing the certificate of the Governor of Tennessee that that State's Legislature had ratified the Congressional resolution submitting the amendment to the States for action.

No Suffrage Leaders See Signing
None of the leaders of the woman suffrage movement was present when the proclamation was signed.  "It was quite tragic," declared Mrs. Abby Scott Baker of the National Woman's Party. "This was the final culmination of the women's fight, and, women, irrespective of factions, should have been allowed to be present when the proclamation was signed. However the women of America have fought a big fight and nothing can take from them their triumph." 

This was it. This was the day that made it all possible. For those of you on the left, this was the day that gave us Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and Madeline Albright. For those of us on the right, this was the day that gave us Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman and Condoleezza Rice.  This was the day that women in America had hoped for dating back to Susan B. Anthony. This was the day the women became politically enfranchised in our country by virtue of the 19'th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States which was officially signed into law in a curiously private fashion by Woodrow Wilson's Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby on today's date, August 26 in 1920.

The Long Fight For Womens' Suffrage in the United States

The amendment is very short.  It reads in full as follows:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Yet it took quite a long, hard fight for it to be brought into effect. The Constitution of the United States as originally written and adopted left the matter of suffrage (the right to vote in elections) up to the states. But all of the states denied this right to women.  Following the Civil War with its emphasis on the extension of suffrage to African Americans the movement to extend such rights to women began to take root. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony (pictured below)
were the authors of a draft of an amendment to the Constitution which was intended to take the issue out of the hands of states and make it into a settled federal law. Their amend- ment was writtten and introduced in the U.S. Senate in 1878, with Stanton and Anthony testifying in front of Senate committees in its support.  But it was not actually voted upon until 1887 at which time it was defeated 16 -34.  Much time would pass during which the movement gained a little bit of success at a time. By 1914 - the next time the amendment was voted upon in Congress - all but seven of the states had some level of women's suffrage.  Still, it wasn't until June 4, 1919 with the support of President Wilson that the amendment passed the Congress.  On August 16 of 1920, Tennessee became the 36'th state to ratify the 19'th Amendment, thus giving it the two thirds of the states necessary for it's adoption into the Constitution. This left only the signature of the U.S. Secretary of State as being needed to certify women's suffrage as the law of the land.  And that was affixed on this date that year.

More of the Times Article About the 19'th Amendment

Here is some more of what was written in the New York Times article quoted above:

Leaders of both branches of the woman's movement- the militants, headed by Miss Alice Paul, and the conservatives, led by Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt -- some of whom had been on watch nearly all night for the arrival of the Tennessee Governor's certification, visited the State Department, and the militants sought to have Secretary Colby go through a duplication of the signing scene in the presence of movie cameras. This Mr. Colby declined to do, on the ground that it was not necessary to detract from the dignity and importance of the signing of the proclamation by staging a scene in imitation of the actual signing of the proclamation.
In informal conversation with newspaper men late into this afternoon Secretary Colby said that "effectuating suffrage through proclamation of its ratification by the necessary thirty-six States was more important than feeding the movie cameras."
At the same time Mr. Colby congratulated the women of the country on the successful culmination of their efforts in the face of discouragements, and declared the day "marks the opening of a great and new era in the political life of the nation."
"I confidently believe," said the Secretary, "that every salutary, forward and upward force in our public life will receive fresh vigor and reinforcement from the enfranchisement of the women of America. To the leaders of this great movement I tender my sincere congratulations. To every one, from the president, who uttered the call to duty, whenever the cause seemed to falter, to the humblest worker in this great reform, the praise not only of this generation but of posterity will be freely given."

READERS!! If you would like to comment on this, or any "Today in History" posting, I would love to hear from you!!  You can either sign up to be a member of this blog and post a comment in the space provided below, or you can simply e-mail me directly at:  I seem to be getting hits on this site all over the world, so please do write and let me know how you like what I'm writing (or not!)!!


The full text of the N.Y. Times article can be found at:

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

AUGUST 24 = Mount Vesuvius EXPLODES!!

“My Uncle was stationed at Misenum in active command of the fleet. On 24 August, in the early afternoon, my mother drew his attention to a cloud of unusual size and appearance. It was not clear at that distance from which mountain the cloud was rising (it was afterwards known to be Vesuvius); its general appearance can best be expressed as being like an umbrella pine, for it rose to great height on a sort of trunk and then split off into branches, I imagine because it was thrust upward by the first blast…. in places it looked white, elsewhere blotched and dirty, according to the amount of soil and ashes it carried with it.”

This was the description by Pliny the Younger of the opening moments of the massive eruption of Mount Vesuvius which occurred on today’s date, August 24, in the year 79 AD. Pliny would go on to become a great lawyer, author and magistrate of ancient Rome, but at the time of the eruption he was a mere 18 years old. Hundreds of his letters have survived to the present day, but it is the two letters which he wrote to the historian Tacitus in which he described the holocaust wrought by the explosion of Vesuvius upon the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in great and sometimes dramatic detail that have proven to be the most memorable of his many writings.

Vesuvius - Not So Dormant Afterall....

After lying dormant for centuries, Mount Vesuvius erupted in southern Italy, destroying the prosperous and rich Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum and claiming many thousands of victims. The cities were buried under a thick layer of volcanic ash and mud, and were never rebuilt. They wound up being mostly forgotten with the passage of time. But during the 18th century, Pompeii and Herculaneum were rediscovered and excavated, providing an incomparable archaeological record of day to day life in an ancient civilization, dramatically preserved at the moment of sudden death.

Pompeii - A Prosperous Home For the Roman Glitterati

The ancient Roman cities of Pompeii and Hercu-laneum thrived at the base of Mount Vesuvius at the Bay of Naples. At this point in the relatively early days of the Roman Empire, some 20,000 people lived in Pompeii, including merchants, manufacturers, and farmers who farmed the rich soil of the region with countless vineyards and orchards. Few of these prosperous Roman citizens suspected that the black fertile earth was the legacy of earlier eruptions of Mount Vesuvius. Herculaneum was a city of 5,000 and a favorite summer retreat for rich Romans, many of whom kept their finest summer villas there. Gambling artifacts found in Herculaneum and a brothel excavated in Pompeii make clear the Las Vegas-like stature of the cities. There were also some smaller resort towns and communities in the region too, such as the quiet little town of Stabiae.

Pliny the Elder Races to the Rescue

Pliny’s Uncle, Pliny the Elder, raced to the aid of his fellow Roman citizens in one of his galleys, but found the scene a very dangerous one indeed:

“He was now so nigh the mountain that the cinders, which grew thicker and hotter the nearer he approached, fell into the vessel, together with pumice-stones and pieces of burning rock; and now the sudden ebb of the sea, and vast fragments rolling from the mountain, obstructed their nearer approach to the shore. Pausing to consider whether he should turn back again to which he was advised by his pilot, he exclaimed ‘Fortune befriends the brave: carry me to Pomponianus!’” Pliny the Elder found his friend Pomponianus at Stabiae, and was able to rescue him, but Vesuvius kept on quite literally blowing it’s top off: “Meanwhile the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius broke forth in several places with great violence, and the darkness of the night contributed to render it still more visible and dreadful.”

Mount Vesuvius Buries Thousands

Mount Vesuvius blew her top, sending a mushroom cloud of ash and pumice rocketing 10 miles into the air. For some 12 hours, volcanic ash and a shower of pumice stones up to 3 inches in diameter rained down upon Pompeii, obliging the terrified populace to flee enmasse. Still, about 2,000 people remained in Pompeii, huddled in their cellars or in stone structures, hoping to wait out the eruption. A wind out of the west shielded Herculaneum from the first stages of the blast, until a giant cloud of hot ash and gas came running down the western face of Vesuvius, swallowing the city whole and burning or asphyxiating all of those pitiful wretches who remained. This murderous cloud carried a flood of volcanic mud and rock in its wake which buried the city. Those who were still in Pompeii were greeted on the morning of August 25 with a lethal cloud of toxic gas which poured into the city, and brutally snuffed out all who were still present. A river of rock and ash followed, caving roofs in, and smashing walls, burying the dead.

The Petrified Remains of the Roman Citizenry Are Unearthed

Pliny the Younger's descrip- tion has the eruption lasting about 18 hours. Pompeii was buried under 14 to 17 feet volcanic material, and Herculaneum under 60 ft. of mud. Over time the site was forgotten and the coast line changed. In the 18'th century a well digger uncovered a marble statue, and the digging eventually caught on in subsequent years, and has gone on until the present day. The remains of 2,000 men, women, and children were unearthed at Pompeii. After suffocating, their bodies were encased ash which hardened and preserved the outline of their bodies. Their bodies subsequently decomposed to skeletal remains, with a sort of plaster mold being left behind. Archaeologists finding these molds filled the hollows with plaster, revealing in graphic detail the death throes of the
victims of Vesuvius (above, left). The region was effectively frozen in time, and ordinary objects that telling the story of everyday life in Pompeii are of incalculable value to archaeologists. Jugs and jars containing eatable figs, and drinkable wine were discovered, having been hermetically sealed for centuries. Carbonized loaves of bread, vases with olives still swimming in oil, fruits retaining their flavor were found. Also people - a high priest at his dinner table, a woman shielding her young daughter were excavated. Literally a city along with its inhabitants was taken at their last moments on earth.

READERS!! If you would like to comment on this, or any "Today in History" posting, I would love to hear from you!!  You can either sign up to be a member of this blog and post a comment in the space provided below, or you can simply e-mail me directly at:  I seem to be getting hits on this site all over the world, so please do write and let me know how you like what I'm writing (or not!)!!

Sources =

"Eyewitness to History" Edited by John Carrey, Avon Books, New York, 1987.

"Darkest Hours: A Narrative Encyclopedia of Worldwide Disasters from Ancient Times to the Present" by Jay Robert Nash, Wallaby Books, New York, 1977.

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

AUGUST 22 = Anniversaries, Birthdays, and Richard III

Today is August 22. On today's date in:

1848 - During this tumultuous year of revolutions in Europe a young Lieutenant in the United States Army brought lifelong stability and happiness to an existence which was otherwise filled with turmoil and failure. Ulysses Grant married Julia Dent. "He was a failure at everything in life except war and marriage..." historian Shelby Foote has written of our nation's 18'th President. And undoubtedly this was true; Grant and his Julia truly loved and depended upon each other for understanding and support for the rest of their lives.

1922 - The up and coming film director in the Weimar Republic's Germany, Fritz Lang married actress and writer Thea von Harbou. This was also a match of true love and understanding, also of intellectual and artistic compatibility. Lang and von Harbou would collaborate on some of the most important work of Lang's early career, including his masterpieces, "Metropolis" (1927) and the chilling "M"(1931). Unfortunately, this marriage did not last as long as the Grants. When Hitler came to power, Lang decided that he could not work under the Nazi government, and joined the artistic exodus to America in 1933. Von Harbou on the other hand decided to throw in with the Bohemian Corporal and his band of cut throats. They divorced in 1933.

1917 = Johnny Lee Hooker was born near Clarksdale, Mississippi. A rhythm and blues guitarist of sublime talents, Johnny Lee gave us a trademark "talking blues" style that included such hits as "Boogie Chillin'"(1948) and "Boom-Boom" 1962. The man left us richer for his having been here, when he left us on June 21, 2001.

1920 = The superbly talented writer of such classics of Science and/or Speculative Fiction as "the Martian Chronicles"(1950), "Farenheit 451" (1953),and the semi-auto-biographical "Dandelion Wine"(1957), Ray Bradbury was born in Waukeegan, Illinois. Sadly, Ray left us on June 5 of  2012, but he left us MUCH wiser for his insights!! Thanks, Ray!!

1934 = General H. "Stormin'"  Norman Scwarzkopf  Jr., the man who lead the military forces of the United States and her coalition Allies to victory over the forces of the evil and murderous Saddam Hussein in the Persian Gulf War of 1990- '91, was born in Trenton, New Jersey. He left the world a safer place when he left it on Deccember 27, of 2012.

1939 = The Hall of Fame Left-fielder/First Baseman for the Boston Red Sox, Carl Yastrzemski was born in Southampton, New York. "Yaz" retired from baseball in 1983, with a lifetime batting average of .285, 3,419 base hits of which 452 were home runs, producing 1,184 Runs batted in. He was also elected to the All-Star Team 18 times.

1960 = Norma M. and John P. Bolten gave birth to the final child of their six kid brood.... ME, Brian Thomas Bolten. I have been in my life a basically good kid, a capable, and at times even an excellent symphonic Double Bass player, a loyal and hopefully a fun and cheerful member of the Dayton PhilharmonicAustin Lyric Opera, and the Austin Symphony Orchestras, a hard-working member of the staff of the University of Texas at Austin School of Music, and a devoted believer, supporter and staffer for the University of Texas String Project Program. I have tried to be a good writer, and I know that I have always been, for better or worse a gentleman. I have been and will always be a devoted fan of the Cincinnati Redsthe Cincinnati Bengals, and the Lady Longhorns Volleyball Team. Parkinson's Disease and various other difficulties have left me down, but NOT out. I shall venture forth like Phoenix arising from the ashes, and I WILL... BE.... BACK!!

SPECIAL HISTORY NOTE = On today's date, August 22 in 1485, the climactic battle of the "War of the Roses" took place on Bosworth Field in England.  It resulted in the death of Britain's King Richard III (left), and the ascendancy of the House of Tudor to the throne of England.  I will write of this more in depth in the future, but please do take a pause in your day to read this fascinating article (which was brought to my attention by Dwyght Bryan of the Carolinas) about a recent and quite unique way in which Richard III' actual physical appearance was brought to life... 

READERS!! If you would like to comment on this, or any "Today in History" posting, I would love to hear from you!!  You can either sign up to be a member of this blog and post a comment in the space provided below, or you can simply e-mail me directly at:  I seem to be getting hits on this site all over the world, so please do write and let me know how you like what I'm writing (or not!)!!


The author's own twisted "mind" (such as it is).

Grant: A biography (The library of the presidents) by William S. McFeeley, W.W. Norton & Co., London, New York, 1981., &

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

AUGUST 21 = "The Mona Lisa" is STOLEN!!!

"Public opinion was on his side.  The spectators would cheer when he said something and grumble when the prosecution tried to make a point.  He was in jail but he got love letters.  People sent him bottles of wine.  Women baked cakes for him.  He was really important and this did not displease him."

- Seymour Reit, author of "The Day They Stole the Mona Lisa"

Vincenzo Perugia.  Neither the name nor the... uh... "noble" visage of the man pictured above are likely to trigger much of a reaction in most of my readers nowadays.  But at one time, however briefly he was indeed as Mr. Reit says above "really important", even popular including with the ladies.  Yes, Vincenzo was one of the earliest of a common modern day phenomenon... a popular defendant, a man who in spite of having clearly done the crime, nevertheless caught the public's fancy.  Before Scott Peterson, or Eric Snowden, or any of these other media darling criminals with which we've become so familiar in today's world, there was Vincenzo Perugia, the man who brazenly stole the "Mona Lisa" in broad daylight on today's date, August 21, in 1911.

The Early Morning Theft of the World's Most Famous Painting

This painting, which is arguably the most famous painting of all time is believed to be a portrait of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of an Italian nobleman, Francesco del Giocondo. Painted in oil on a wooden panel, it was produced by the great Leonardo da Vinci somewhere between the years 1503 and 1506. And contrary to what Perugia seemed to think, it was acquired by King Francis I of France and presented to him by Leonardo himself in 1516 and became the property of the French Republic ever after. It was moved to the Musée du Louvre in Paris after the French Revolution, and has remained there since.  But it seems that Vincenzo was under the misconception that the Mona Lisa had been stolen from Italy by Napoleon during his long primacy in Europe.  While the Little Corporal did indeed purloin a lot of things in his time, this was not among them. Nevertheless, it was with this bogus idea in mind that Perugia hid himself inside the Louvre on the night of August 20, 1911 as the museum was closed for the evening.  The morning of the 21'st was a Monday, a day on which the Louvre was normally closed for maintenance.  Perugia then emerged, dressed in a painters smock so as to blend in with many of the museum personnel and entered the Salon Carre', the room in which the Mona Lisa was displayed, removed her from her four hooks and ducked down a service door nearby.  Once in the stairwell, he quickly removed her from her large and bulky frame and made for the exit. But he found this door locked.  He then heard someone coming. He simply tucked the painting under his smock which concealed her well enough, as she is a mere 30 x 21 inches in size.  The footsteps he heard belonged to a plumber who, finding Perugia quite irritated at the locked door reassured him that he had some pliers which he then produced, and got the door open.  Whereupon Vincenzo simply walked away with the Mona Lisa concealed under his smock, and disappeared into the crowd of that hot Paris morning.

The Theft of the Mona Lisa Causes a Sensation....

The disapperance of the Mona Lisa was not actually discovered until the next day, the 22'nd.  A painter who had brought his easel to make his own version of Leonardo's work found the space normally
occupied by the master- piece empty (as pictured at left). At first there was no alarm, as the works at the Louvre were frequently removed for photo- graphing which was a new process at that time. But when it had not been returned by 11:00 that morning only then did the rather lacksidasical security then in force at the Louvre finally kick into gear and discover that the Mona Lisa was gone. The French press had a field day. "We still have the frame!" was the rye headline in the Petit Parisien . Some thought that  it had been swiped by the Germans as a way of embarassing their European rivals and the Action Française newspaper, a far- right publication blamed the Jews, still a convenient target in these recent post- Dreyfus days in France.

Two Years Pass and Then a Break....

But there was nothing remotely so grand, no such foreign intrigue in the actual whereabouts of the celebrated Leonardo masterpiece. Vincenzo had simply taken it back to his apartment in Paris wherein he hid it in a trunk for two years.  The police did search all over, even coming to his apartment and questioning him, but he was able to produce a plausible
alibi as to his activities on the 21'st. Vincenzo eventually returned to the Italian city of Florence with it where he kept it in his apartment.  He contacted one Alfredo Geri (right) who was a  the owner of a Florentine Art Gallery, and told him that he had the Mona Lisa which he wished to "restore" to Italy.  But he made it clear that he was expecting a reward for his artistic patriotism in the amount of a half-million lire. Geri brought Giovanni Poggi the director of the Uffizi Gallery to pay a visit to Vincenzo's flat and perhaps to authenticate the work.  The stories told by Perugia and Geri conflicted on any number of points, and Geri's motivations may have been less than philanthropic as well. But in the end, Poggi did authenticate the work as the real thing, and after he and Geri took possession of the Mona Lisa for "safekeeping" as they assured Perugia, they informed the police who then arrested Vincenzo at his apartment.  

Perugia Makes a Public Showing for Italy at His Trial

In the super-charged publicity for his trial (which was in Italy) Vincenzo wound up becoming a hero in his homeland for his zeal to restore to Italy her "stolen" masterpiece... nevermind the fact that it had not been stolen. Hence the ladies sending him love letters and baking him cakes.  And that is hardly surprising considering Perugia's highly romantic claim of his motivations.  He maintained throughout that the Mona Lisa had bewitched him with her beauty and that his only wish had been to rescue
her from the sinister clutches of the French. He frequently interrupted the proceedings arguing with the judge, and with his lawyers.  The idea that his motivations may have been more than a little bit mercenary, given the fact that he had afterall attempted to extort some 500,000 lire from Geri as a reward for his act of romantic patriotism didn't seem to lessen his public appeal.  In the end, Vincenzo Perugia was convicted but an Italian jury which actually approved of his actions gave him a mere seven month sentence.  And since he had already served eight months, he was released immediately.  He would go on to open a paint store in France, marry and have two children, and serve with the Italian Army during World War One.  He died in 1925 without attracting anywhere near the attention that he garnered with his famous theft.  The Mona Lisa was returned to the Louvre in Paris in 1913, wherein she resides to this day (above), presumably under better security than she had in 1911.  

READERS!! If you would like to comment on this, or any "Today in History" posting, I would love to hear from you!!  You can either sign up to be a member of this blog and post a comment in the space provided below, or you can simply e-mail me directly at:  I seem to be getting hits on this site all over the world, so please do write and let me know how you like what I'm writing (or not!)!!


+ 163.

Monday, August 19, 2013

AUGUST 18 = "The Lost Colony" is Found Deserted

"... We passed toward the place where they were left in sundry houses, but we found the houses taken downe, and the place very strongly enclosed with a high palisado of great trees, with cortynes and flankers very Fort-like, and one of the chiefe trees or postes at the right side of the entrance had the bark taken off, and 5. foote from the ground in fayre Capitall letters was grauen CROATOAN without any crosse or signe of distresse; this done, we entred into the palisado where we found many barres of  Iron, two pigges of  Lead, foure yron fowlers, Iron sacker-shotte, and such like heauie things, throwen hear and there, almost ouergrowen with grasse and weedes."

This was what John White recorded on today's date, August 18 in the year 1590 when he returned to the settlement of Roanoke Island in what is now North Carolina in the United States (the spelling in that letter is the original old English). White had been the Governor of the settlement and had returned to England to gather supplies to help the settlement survive.  He had intended to return in three months. But he had been delayed and had in fact been away three years.  When he returned he found not a trace of the 118 settlers whom he had left in 1587 among whom had been his daughter, and his grand daughter, Virginia Dare, who had been the first English girl born in North America.  Not a single person was found, nor any human remains, either then or ever after.  The only clue as to their whereabouts was that word "Croatoan" carved into a tree.  The fate of these colonists remains a mystery down to the present day. Thus was born the legend of "the Lost Colony of Roanoke". It is a story which I can recall having read about in grade school, and I'm betting that most of you can too.

England, Spain,  Sir Walter Raliegh and "the New World"

England was engaged with Spain in a struggle for global supremacy centering on who would grab most of the booty coming in from the New World. The New World was essentially the continents of South and North America.  Central America, the Caribbean Islands, and the West Indies had all of the gold, sugar and spices that came from that part of the world,  making it THE primary cash cow for the Imperial Government of Spain.  Spanish treasure ships laden with all of this great stuff were forever crossing the Atlantic, and England saw a way to cut in on all of this marvelous money the Galleons were hauling in by unleashing Privateers upon these
Spaniards.  "Privateers" being essentially free-lance Pirates with a Royal license from the Queen of England Elizabeth I to take off with the goods.  Sir Walter Raliegh (right) was a man of  influence and a favorite courtier of Her Majesty's. In 1584, Sir Walt was granted a charter for land in North America known as Virginia. This charter said that a colony needed to be set up, lest Sir Walter would lose the right to colonize.  The idea was for a base to be set up from which these Privateers could raid the Spanish treasure fleets. Raliegh never got to North America, although he did make it to a bit of the South American continent. But Sir Walter had enemies at court who wanted to see him fail.

Sir Walter Sends Settlers.....

Between 1584 and 1586 various attempts were made, all financed by good Sir Walter at setting up fortifications along this coastline. In 1587, Sir Walt sent a new and more intrepid band of family types to set up a permanent settlement on Chesapeake Bay. This group was to be lead by John White, a friend of Sir Walt's who had been on these cross the pond jaunts before.  They arrived in
July of 1587 at Roanoke Island. Then, the Captain of the expedition, Simon Fernandez, refused to allow the settlers back on his ships, saying that White's group would have to make due on Roanoke Island (White's 1586 map of the area is at left and can be enlarged by clicking on it), instead of the Chesapeake Bay as had been originally planned. Forced to make the best of it White made friends with the Croatoan Indian tribes and attempted to do the same with various other indigenous groups, but with no success. So he reluctantly agreed to return to England and beg for supplies and reinforcements. But this was the time of the attack by the Spanish Armada. Every ship was taken for combat.  So instead of returning in three months, White couldn't get back until three YEARS had passed.  And upon his return, he found what he described in his letter which begins this posting.

"The Lost Colony" Stays Lost to History

The fact that the settlement had been dismantled left White (below) feeling that it had not been abandoned in haste.  Further,
he had planned with the settlers before he left that they should carve a Maltese cross into one of the trees if they had been attacked by the Indians.  The fact that he did not find this, but instead did find the word "Croatoan" carved in a tree ("CROATOAN without any crosse or sign of distresse..") left him feeling hopeful that his settlers were safe, because "Croatoan" was the name of an island further south wherein lived the Croatan tribe with whom he had made peace. He hoped that they had moved in with this friendly tribe.  But he was never to find out if this had in fact happened.  Bad weather made any further travel impossible.  White was forced to return once again to England.  He tried for three more years to arrange another expedition to Roanoke, but was never successful.  He would die in 1593, never knowing the fate of his daughter or his grand daughter, Virginia.

What Actually (May Have) Happened to "the Lost Colony"?

So what actually became of "the Lost Colony" as it has since come to be known? Well there are any number of theories out there.  The fact that the settlement was found to have been dismantled as opposed to simply abandoned would indeed lead one to suspect as Governor John White did, that they had not been forced to leave in a hurry by something such as an attack by hostile Indian tribes.  On the other hand, the metal forging equipment and the iron shot that had been left ("....we found many barres of  Iron, two pigges of  Lead, foure yron fowlers, Iron sacker-shotte, and such like heauie things, throwen hear and there, almost ouergrowen with grasse and weedes.") was certainly amongst the items that would have been important to the settlers, and would have been taken in an orderly departure instead of being thrown about.  Clearly the settlers had been stranded  with some degree of deliberation. The actions of Capt. Simon Fernandez in refusing to take them to Chesapeake Bay, but forcing them to stay at the less hospitable location of Roanoke Island have never been explained.  It could be as suggested by some that Fernandez was a part of a plot by the enemies of Sir Walter Raliegh at the court of Queen Elizabeth I to force his colonial scheme to fail and thus discredit him. But whatever the motives of Fernandez and others, that still leaves the fate of the settlers themselves a mystery.

 My own best guess is that conditions forced them to leave the settlement of their own volition.  Studies of tree rings from the period suggest that significant drought was in effect during the years of 1588-1590.  So perhaps they did indeed withdraw to Croatoan Island as the carving of that word would seem to suggest, just in order to survive.  And after that they simply intermingled with the Indian tribes. There were for many years after, persistent reports of the presence of blonde haired, blue-eyed members of local tribes. It is something which we are never likely to know for sure.  As for John White he sadly and sorrowfully commended his "planters" and his own guilt-stricken conscience to the mercy of God in his final letter on the subject to Richard Hakluyt, a prominent supporter of the settlement of North America by the English in the1580's and 90's (Below: the christening of White's grand daughter, Virginia Dare) :

Thus may you plainely perceive the success of my fifth and last voyage to Virginia, which was no less unfortunately ended then forwardly begun, and as luckless to many, as sinister to myself. But I would to God it had been as prosperous to all, as noysome to the planters; and as joyful to me, as discomfortable to them. Yet seeing it is not my first crossed voyage, I remain contented. And wanting my wishes, I leave off from prosecuting that whereunto I would to God my wealth were answerable to my will. Thus committing the relief of my discomfortable company the planters in Virginia, to the merciful help of the Almighty, whom I most humbly beseech to help and comfort them, according to his most holy will and their good desire, I take my leave from my house at Newtowne in Kylmore, the 4th of February, 1593.

Your most welwishing friend, John White

READERS!! If you would like to comment on this, or any "Today in History" posting, I would love to hear from you!!  You can either sign up to be a member of this blog and post a comment in the space provided below, or you can simply e-mail me directly at:  I seem to be getting hits on this site all over the world, so please do write and let me know how you like what I'm writing (or not!)!!


Compiled by David Beers Quinn,1956, paperback, 1990.

 by James Horn, Basic Books, New York, 2010.

by Lee Miller, Arcade Publ. Co., New York, 2000.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

AUGUST 17 = "Billy the Kid" I : The Kid Kills His First.

"I don't blame you for writing of me as you have. 
You had to believe other stories but then I don't know, as anyone would believe anything good of me anyway.  I wasn't the leader of my gang, I was for Billy all the time... I haven't stolen any stock. I made my living by gambling but that was the only way I could live.  They wouldn't let me settle down; if they had I wouldn't be here today."

- "Billy the Kid" in an the LasVegas Gazette on Dec. 27, 1880.

On today's date, August 17 in 1877, Henry McCarty alias the "Antrim Kid", alias William Bonney, alias "Billy the Kid" killed a man for the first time.  His reputation was that of a cold-blooded killer. But in fact the Kid was far from cold-blooded; he didn't kill that many more.  In fact he was a fairly pleasant young man, like the one in the interview above, bearing no apparent grudge over his ill publicity. He could smile and laugh easily, and he was much beloved by many of the Mexican-Americans of his home territory of New Mexico.   And while his enemies were glad to be rid of him, his legend would live long after they were forgotten.

This shall be the first of three posts on "Billy the Kid".

Henry McCarty - An Unlikely Antagonist

Their are way too many legends and tales about the Kid to tell here, so I will briefly sketch the Kid, and the altercation that resulted in his first killing.

Many details of the early life of the future "Billy the Kid" are unknown. He was born William Henry McCarty in November of 1859, probably in New York City. His mother was Catherine McCarty. He had a brother, Joe (or "Josie") but whether an older or younger brother is unclear. The identity or the whereabouts of the Kid's biological father remain unknown.  In 1868, Kate moved with her boys to Indianapolis where she met and married William Antrim, who was a gambler and a prospector. In the summer of 1873 the family
moved to Silver City, New Mexico (right). Antrim was usually away pros- pecting so Kate, who was ill with Tuberculos- is looked after the boys as best she could. Catherine McCarty was by all accounts a woman who always seemed jolly, and she evidently passed that attitude on to young Henry, who immersed himself in the culture and language of the Mexicans of Silver City.  He would dance their dances, and would even court their daughters. He was a small sized young man, who never grew taller than 5 ft. 8", and at this time weighed about 90 lbs. . But he was always jovial and very politely mannered.  Sadly for the Kid, his mother finally succumbed to Tuberculosis on September 16, 1874.

Young Henry Has it Out With "Windy" Cahill

By 1876 the Kid was hanging around the Army post at Fort Grant, Arizona, doing whatever odd jobs he could to get -- including trying out his poker skills at the local gaming houses.  He had such a slight build, and a smooth whisker free face, so he was called "Kid Antrim" at this time.  There was a short, but pot-bellied, and all-around nasty character working at Fort Grant as a Blacksmith by the name of Frank P. "Windy" Cahill.  An Irish immigrant, Cahill was formerly in the Army, but had turned civilian, and was called "Windy" because of his habit of bloviating on nearly any subject.  Cahill was a bully who derived great pleasure from picking on the Kid, and humiliating him whenever possible.

On the evening of August 17 in 1877, the Kid, dressed like "a country jake" in the words of one witness "with store pants on and wearing shoes instead of boots" came into Atkins Cantina. He was also sporting the new six-shooter which he had recently purchased stuffed into his pants. The Kid  sat in on a poker game. Cahill, who was there at the time began to taunt the Kid.  The Kid eventually began yelling back at him.  At one point Cahill called the Kid a "pimp" and the Kid called Cahill "a son of a bitch". Cahill then charged the Kid and locked his arms around him.  The two wrestled their way out the door.  Cahill had the Kid pinned down and began slapping his face.  The Kid managed to work his right hand free, pulled his six gun out and shot Cahill in the stomach. The Kid squirmed free, and then jumped on a horse and road off into the night. Cahill died the next morning after hours of excruciating pain. But on his deathbed he dictated a statement identifying the Kid as his killer.  And a Coroner's Inquest that day declared the Kid guilty of murder.  There were some witnesses who disagreed with the verdict.  Gus Gildea said of the Kid: "He had no choice; he had to use his equalizer." Nevertheless Billy the Kid, age 17, was on the run.  It wasn't the first time and it certainly wouldn't be the last.


Billy the Kid, full length:

Silver City, N.M.:

Billy the Kid, close up:


"The Boyhood of Billy the Kid" by Robert G. Mullin, Southwestern Studies, Vol. V, No. 1, Monograph No. 17, Texas Western Press, 1967. 

"Billy the Kid, the Endless Ride" by Michael Wallis, W.W. Norton Co. Inc., New York, 2007

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

AUGUST 14 = Victory Over Japan (VJ) Day - 70 Years Ago

“It is a day of great triumph, but the very glory of it should make us very humble. The world has been given a second chance and we Americans, together with our allies, are the trustees for the coming civilization. We must earn our rights to leadership by acts of justice and loving kindness. Let there be no more enmity, greed or hate, and let there be no arrogance, no superiority or inferiority, but humanity equal before God, dedicated to the moral law and brotherhood among nations.”
                                                                   - Rabbi Samuel Wohl

(Photo: The famous Life magazine photograph taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt on August 14, 1945)

These are the words spoken by the Rabbi of the Issac M. Wise Temple in downtown Cincinnati to the Cincinnati Enquirer in the “Victory Edition” of the paper published on the morning of August 15, 1945. The good Rabbi was declaring the sentiments of his people which could surely be shared by all Americans as well as the peoples of the victorious Allies on this date – August 14 in 1945 when the Emperor of Japan declared his government's willingness to accept the terms of surrender of the Potsdam Declaration. World War Two, the most destructive conflict in human history was at long last over.

Emperor Hirihito Speaks to his People

On the afternoon of August 14, a Japanese radio broadcaster announced to the public that Emperor Hirohito would soon be making an Imperial Proclamation announcing the defeat. Most Japanese civilians were grave, solemn and quite mystified at the prospect of an address by the Emperor. They had never heard his voice in their lives; how would it sound? Gwen Terasaki remembers:

“They sat and listened intently when the high-pitched and quavering voice began. Leaning forward with brows furrowed and heads cocked to one side, they concentrated on the sound. There was an eeriness about it, the way the people strained as if they were deaf, for the voice was loud enough and distinct… the Emperor spoke in Court Japanese and only Terry could comprehend.”
The Emperor said that “We” had ordered the government to inform the Allies that they would accept their Joint Declaration (the Potsdam Declaration that Japan would have to surrender unconditionally), to ensure the tranquility of the subjects of the Empire, that the military situation could not be repaired and that the “general tendencies” of the world were running against them as well.

“What is worse, the enemy, who has recently made use of an inhuman bomb, is incessantly subjecting innocent people to grievous wounds and massacre. The devastation is taking on incalculable proportions. To continue the war under these conditions would not only lead to the annihilation of Our nation, but the destruction of human civilization as well….”
The Japanese civilians listening with Terasaki were stunned:

“As Terry translated and they grasped the sense of what was being said, that it meant surrender, the bandaged woman began to weep – not loudly or hysterically but with deep sobs that racked her body. The children started crying and before the Emperor had finished his people were weeping audibly. The voice stopped. Silently the old men, the women, and their children, rose and bowed to each other and without any sound each went along the path leading to his own house.“

President Truman Announces the News in the U.S.

The emperor was not only the political leader of Japan; he was also revered as a near-god, and many Japanese soldiers and sailors as well as civilians would not have fully accepted the news of defeat until they heard him speak those unthinkable words. As sadness spread throughout Japan, joy spread around the Western world. In the United States, news of Hirohito's announcement reached airwaves on August 14 (due to the time difference), and that day was declared Victory in Japan--or V-J--Day. The jubilation was ecstatic. In his biography of our President, “Truman”, David McCullough writes of the scene at the White House in Washington D.C.:

(Photo: Citizens and workers of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, whose work in the Manhattan Project resulted in the atomic bomb, celebrate the end of World War II)

“In Lafayette Square, someone had started a conga line. Within minutes throngs of people had broken past the barriers and MP s and surged across the street to crowd the length of the White house fence. Streetcars and automobiles stranded in the mob were quickly covered with sailors in white who clambered on top for a better view. Everyone was cheering. Bells were ringing, automobile horns were blaring. The crowd sent up a chant: ‘We want Truman! We want Truman!’ With the First Lady beside him, the President went out on the lawn to wave and smile. He gave the V-sign as cheer after cheer went up. ‘I felt deeply moved by the excitement,’ he remembered, ‘perhaps as much as were the crowds…’”

Cincinnati Reflects, Celebrates

In Cincinnati, Norma Mc Dermott who was overjoyed that her fiance’, John P. Bolten would be coming home safely, sat down and clipped the banner headlines from that morning’s Cincinnati Enquirer, “WAR ENDS AS JAPAN QUITS” and pasted them onto the black pages of her war-time scrap book. Across the top of that page in large block letters of white ink she carefully wrote the date of “VJ Day” as the previous day became known: “August 14, 1945”. But she also included on the lower left hand corner of that same page a carefully drawn white cross, next to which she wrote out the names of three men whom she had known, who had been killed in action, with three gold stars above them: “ Sgt. Felix Powlwoski, Cpl. Martin J. Fiore, Pvt. Daniel Masi.” Meanwhile the citizenry was determined to whoop it up! According to the Enquirer:

"Within an hour (of the announcement of Japanese surrender) the downtown area was jammed by happy, laughing men, women and children, parading arm in arm through the paper-littered streets.
Noise makers were brought out to add to the bedlam. Streams of colored paper were waved above heads; confetti filled the air. Many marched with small flags held aloft."

READERS!! If you would like to comment on this, or any "Today in History" posting, I would love to hear from you!!  You can either sign up to be a member of this blog and post a comment in the space provided below, or you can simply e-mail me directly at:  I seem to be getting hits on this site all over the world, so please do write and let me know how you like what I'm writing (or not!)!!


"The Cincinnati Enquirer", August 15, 1945

"The War-time Scrap Book of Norma McDermott", possession of the author.

by David McCullough, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1992.

by Arthur Sulzberger, American Heritage Publ. Co., New York, 1966

+ 66.

+ 36.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

AUGUST 13 = Alfred Hitchcock is Born

"We are now having a very innocent little chat. Let's suppose that there is a bomb underneath this table between us. Nothing happens, and then all of a sudden, 'Boom!' There is an explosion. The public is surprised, but prior to this surprise, it has seen an absolutely ordinary scene, of no special consequence. Now, let us take a suspense situation. The bomb is underneath the table and the public knows it, probably because they have seen the anarchist place it there. The public is aware the bomb is going to explode at one o'clock and there is a clock in the decor. The public can see that it is a quarter to one. In these conditions, the same innocuous conversation becomes fascinating because the public is participating in the scene. The audience is longing to warn the characters on the screen: 'You shouldn't be talking about such trivial matters. There is a bomb beneath you and it is about to explode!' In the first case we have given the public fifteen seconds of surprise at the moment of the explosion. In the second we have provided them with fifteen minutes of suspense".

This rather extensive quotation encapsulates quite nicely the difference between "surprise" and "suspense" as it was understood by the author of the quotation, film director Alfred Hitchcock, born on today's date, August 13 in 1899. Small wonder that Hitchcock came to be known as "The Master of Suspense".  For this was a man who spent his whole career slipping little bombs of one kind or another under tables, and frightening but entertaining audiences around the world through 53 films, scores of Alfred Hitchcock mystery anthology stories and a well known TV series.

Little Alfie is Sent to Jail...

It was into the hardworking tradesman's home of  William and Emma Jane Hitchcock that young Alfred John was born on this August 13.  His father was a master greengrocer who ran a wholesale and retail fruiterers shop in a modest London suburb called Leytonstone.  Alfred was the youngest of three children, he had a brother, William and a sister, Nellie. They were a devoutly Catholic family, and little Alfie was seven years younger than his sister, which to children of that age seems an eternity, so he was a well-behaved, but rather solitary child.  In spite of his being well-behaved his father played a little game on his young son which would have a profound effect on the boy.  His biographer, John Russel Taylor relates:

"...(W)hen Hitchcock was five or six, in punishment for some minor transgression... he was sent down to the police station with a note.  The officer in charge read it and locked him in a cell for five minutes, saying 'That is what we do to naughty boys.' The story is so convenient, accounting as it does for Hitchcock's renowned fear of the police, the angst connected with arrest and confinement in his films, that one might expect it to be of  the 'ben trovato' { adj. Appropriate even if untrue} category.  And probably Hitchcock has told the story so often that he is not sure himself anymore if it is true.  But his sister insists that it actually did happen." 

Hitchcock Becomes a Director

Hitchcock studied drafting and eventually got a job as a drafts- man and advertis- ing designer with a cable company named   Henley's. He first began to dabble with stories at this time, writing short stories for the in-house publication.  He became interested in photography, and  got a job designing title cards for the London arm of what would become Paramount Pictures.  In 1920 he acquired a full time position with Islington Studios designing title cards for silent movies. And from there his career took off with his first directorial effort coming in 1926's The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog, which was a major commercial and critical success, employing a life-long Hitchcock theme, that of the wrongly accused man. It was also in 1926 that Hitchcock married one of his assistant directors, Alma Reville, who would become his life-long primary collaborator.  She worked with him very closely on scripts and other facets of production throughout his career. Although this facet of his work was something which was kept hidden from the public, as Alma was an intensely private person. They would have one child together, Patricia, who became an actress herself and starred in several of her father's films. They are pictured above circa early 1940's.

Alfred Hitchcock... Where Do I Begin??

 Where does a fan of films as I am start when discussing Alfred Hitchcock? One could discuss his lifelong fear of the police and how that plays out in his films... particularly "Psycho" (1960), wherein Janet Leighs's character awakens in her car to an absolutely menacing gaze from a Policeman in sunglasses staring in at her.
You could look at the theme which appears again and again throughout his work of the man who is falsely or wrongly accused of some crime such as Robert Cummings in "Saboteur" (1942) wherein Cummings character winds up having it out with his pursuers (Norman Lloyd) while hanging from the Statue of Liberty.  The same trouble bedevils Cary Grants character in "North by Northwest" (1959) with shadowy men who are hell-bent and convinced that he is someone he is not.  And thus Grant ends up being chased across the country and has it out with his pursuers (James Mason, et al) while hanging from the very face of Mt. Rushmore (above, right)!  Or you could take that trouble of the falsely accused man to "Strangers On a Train" (1951) with Farley Granger being framed for a murder by a psychopath played by Robert Walker.  This features another favorite Hitchcock device: the diabolical murder committed in seemingly surreal surroundings with the audience just viewing it calmly.  Walker stalks and then chokes a character played by Patricia Hitchcock to death and the killing is shown in the lenses of a discarded pair of glasses (above, left), while the happy music of the carnival just grinds on in the background.   Or you could
remember "The Birds" (1963) where we watch the birds descend upon a New England fishing village and create mayhem. Tippi Hedren's character sits outside a classroom filled with singing children as the birds gradually assemble behind her (above).

The Voyeur Or the BOMB!! 

Then of course there is Hitchcock the voyeur.  We see a truly notorious example of this in his classic thriller "Psycho" (1960) wherein the character of  Norman Bates played with such sinister finesse by Anthony Perkins peers menacingly at Janet Leigh's character through a peep hole in the wall of the Bates Motel (above), before stabbing her to death in the infamous shower scene.  Or you could turn to my personal favorite of all Hitchcock films, "Rear Window" (1954) wherein Jimmy Stewart plays a man with a broken leg
who watches the goings on in an apartment across his courtyard and with his girlfriend played by the gorgeous Grace Kelly becomes convinced that a man has murdered his wife.  Or there is the definition of suspense that this "Master of Suspense" gives us at the top of this posting. Probably the best (or at any rate, my favorite) example of that comes in the movie "Notorious"  (1946) where Ingrid Bergman plays a woman who is being slowly poisoned to death by her husband and her mother-in-law.  They sit calmly and with seeming concern discussing her "illness" on one side with Bergman on the other while in the foreground looms the coffee cup with the poisoned coffee in it (above).

The AFI Salutes Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock died on Tuesday, April 29, 1980 of natural causes at the age of 80.  But in March of the  previous year, the American Film Institute presented him with it's very prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award. Many of his favorite stars from his films turned out to recognize and pay tribute to this film genius.  Among them were Jimmy Stewart and Ingrid Bergman.  But sitting through the whole ceremony, Hitchcock was his same old droll self, attempting to stuff the award itself in his tuxedo jacket as if to steal it.  When he commented on his honor, he used his mordant wit to the finish.  The award was "...meaningful  because it came from  my fellow criminals and dealers in celluloid.  Afterall, when a man is found guilty of murder and condemned to death, it always makes him feel better to know that it was done by a jury of his friends and neighbors... with the help of an inadequate attorney." And his best advice to those "fellow criminals" gathered around him? In this he hearkened back to the little five year old who had been briefly locked up by his father:  "Staaaaay out of jail." 

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The "suspense" quote at the top can be found in it's entirety at:

by John Russell Taylor, Pantheon Books, New York, 1978.

The Cincinnati Enquirer, April 30, 1980

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