Sunday, December 31, 2017

DECEMBER 31 = George Remus Throws a Party!!

George Remus (left); called the King of the Bootleggers. A man who raised himself from a clerk at his father's drugstore to the richest and most successful bootlegger in the country until he was imprisoned in 1924. HOW he did this is covered in my post for October 6: "George Remus Kills HisWife" ( ). There you will find a detailed account of  the rise and fall of George Remus. But as it is New Year's
Eve, I thought that I would give you an account of what sounds like the party to end all parties: the New Year's Eve Party thrown by Remus on today's date in 1921, leading to 1922. Of course details differ, but I shall try to put together what I can find. I won't go on for too long - just enough to let you know what occurred, and what might have occurred.

The Big People and the Big Pool

Toward the end of 1921 George Remus had amassed a fortune through his bootlegging operations that approached $6 million.  He had  built himself a huge mansion (below) in what was then a fashionable section of his adopted hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, and furnished it with all of the finest trappings available to him.... furniture, rugs, drapery, plants, and a library were all the best that his ill-gotten gains could buy.  And he decided to throw a New Years Eve bash to show it
all off to a fine guest list which included some 100 rich and influential people whom he and his wife Imogene wished to impress.  They came from all around the country; New York, Washington, San Francisco, Chicago, and of course Cincinnati itself.  And as a part of his place he spent $100,000 to build a Grecian swimming pool and a building to house the pool which he would make the center piece of his party. The building which covered the pool was 86 feet wide and 115 feet long, and had a roman-style garden, and also a heating plant.  The pool, lined with Rookwood pottery had flowers arranged all around its edges. it was called "the Imogene Bath" in honor of Mrs. Remus who was said to be an excellent swimmer. In  a covered area nearby, an orchestra serenaded the guests as they sipped on fine champagne, wine, and of course whisky.  And to top it all off Remus had hired troupe of professional divers from Chicago to do exhibitions for his guests.

And the Lovely Party Favors...

After a sumptuous dinner around the great pool served by lovely young women all dressed in white, they used  the diving board of the pool as a platform from which to make formal statements.
Exactly who made these statements, and what they said has not been recorded. I have read that crisp new thousand dollar bills were wrapped around the dinner napkins, but this may simply be part of urban legend. And there is some slight disagreement about the exact nature of some of the party favors.  It is certain that he had diamond stickpins and diamond jewelry specially made for the occasion to his guests.  The jewelry for the ladies was likely earrings, although it has been said in at least one source that the ladies got diamond necklaces. And it has been recorded it at least one on-line source that the gentlemen received diamond watches. This may simply be another
exaggeration in the record of the man's fantastic record. What is certain is that each of the ladies was given the keys to a brand new car parked in front of the mansion. At the stroke of midnight even Remus himself  jumped into the pool in his tuxedo. But that was it for the man. Remus himself was a teetotalar, and handed the party over to his wife, and retired to his library, wherein he sat quietly reading until early the next morning.

Sources =

"King of the Bootleggers - A Biography of George Remus" by William Cook,
Mc Farland & Co. Inc. Publishers, N. Carolina, London, 2008

"Cincinnati Art Deco" by Steven J. Rolfes and Douglas R. Weise,  2014.

Friday, November 17, 2017

NOVEMBER 17 = The Suez Canal is Opened

The Suez Canal, connecting the Mediterranean and the Red seas, was opened on today's date, November 17, in 1869 in a lavish ceremony that was attended by France's Emperor Napoleon III and his wife, the Empress Eugenie.  The Suez Canal is an artificial sea-level (there are no locks as with the Panama Canal built later) waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez. And because it greatly reduced the time of travel form Europe to the Indian Ocean, it became a major strategic prize in international politics.

Building the Suez Canal

This entire area was officially under the control or the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire, so Ferdinand de Lesseps, the former French consul to Cairo completed an agreement with the Ottoman Governor of Egypt to construct a canal across the Isthmus of Suez in 1854. M. de Lesseps assembled an international team off  engineering experts to come up with a plan to build the Canal and this became the Suez Canal Company which was granted the rights to operate the canal for 99 years. Work began in April of 1859, but it was a slow going at first as it was done by forced laborers wielding tools no more sophisticated than picks and shovels. Soon enough however the futile slowness of this became obvious. So European laborers with powerful earth moving machines such as steam shovels and dredgers were brought in and the work picked up speed. There were still problems; a cholera epidemic broke out, and there were also labor disputes. As a result the  final opening came two years later than planned.

The Grande Celebration!

The completion of the Suez Canal was an occasion for huge celebrations. The spectacular began in Port Said with a grand ball attended by numerous heads of state such the Louis Napoleon and his beautiful wife, the Empress Eugenie, the Emperor of Austria, Edward Prince of Wales representing the British.  The British never stopped
casting covetous eyes upon the canal as their govern- ment considered it an easy way to the very Jewell of the British Empire - India. Also present were the Princes of Prussia and the Netherlands. There 6,000 people in attendance at this party to end all parties, who watched the fireworks display. There was a pair of columns of ships entering the new canal from the southern and northern points and met at Ismailia wherein a new opera house was opened, and the parties went on for weeks after.

 The Canal Since the Parties Ended....

At it's beginning, the canal was merely 25 ft. deep, 73 feet wide at its
bottom, and had a surface area of 200 to 300 feet wide. Such a shallow draft, the canal could only handle limited traffic. Thus only 500 ships were able to use it during its first year of service. However the significant improvements that were made in 1876 made it a very busy waterway indeed.  In 1875, Great Britain became the largest shareholder in the Suez Canal Company when it bought up the stock of the new Ottoman governor of Egypt, Said Pasha, some 4,000 pounds sterling. Seven years later, in 1882, Britain invaded Egypt, beginning a long occupation of the country. The Anglo-Egyptian treaty of 1936 made Egypt virtually independent, But Britain considered the canal to be of vital interest in maintaining their worldwide Empire. So the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936 left the Brits in charge of a defensive force along the canal zone. After W.W.II, Egypt, lead by their President Gamal Abdel Nasser pressed for the foreign forces to leave and wound up nationalizing the canal. A military attempt by Britain, France and Israel to take the canal back by force was forced out by international
pressure.  Since then the canal has been open to worldwide commerce. In 2012, 17,225 ships moved through it; about 47 ships per day.

Sources =

Friday, October 27, 2017

OCTOBER 27 = Theodore Roosevelt is Born

On today's date - October 27 in 1858 - Theodore Roosevelt Jr. was born in New York City, the second of four children to Martha Stewart "Mittie" Bulloch and businessman Theodore Roosevelt Sr.  And which of the man's many achievements can one point to as being his greatest? Well he served as the 25'th President of the United States (1901 -1909). He served as Governor of  the state of New York, Commissioner of the New York City Police Department, Soldier and leader of the "Rough Riders" - his regiment during the Spanish American War,  the nation's leading
conservationist, he was a published author on wildlife, and history; the list could go on for several more paragraphs. A man of tremendous energy, yet by the end of his life he died a man who was sad. The portrait of him by the great painter John Singer Sargent (above) shows a sort of wistful look in the man's eye, and was said by those who knew him as being the painting which captured T.R. the best. He once wrote that "Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough." Had "Black care" finally caught up with him by the end?

Previous posts about Theodore Roosevelt

If you've been a regular reader of "Today in History" then you have long
since discovered what a singular figure he is and how much I like writing about him.  But just for the record, here are four previous posts I've done on this man:

JANUARY 11 = T.R. Makes the Grand Canyon a National Monument

FEBRUARY 14 = T.R.'s Tragic Day

OCTOBER 14 = T.R. is Shot!!

NOVEMBER 5 = Election DAAAZE!!!

Between them I've covered much of T.R.'s political and personal life. But in spite his many successes, tragedy seemed to stalk him in much of his life. The death of his beloved father in 1878 while he was away at school was a crushing blow. But T.R. had to deal with many other tragedies in his life.  This began with the death of his mother, Mittie, and his young wife Alice, coming like two incredible hammer blows one after the other on the same day in 1884.  "He does not know what he does or says" his sister wrote of his grief-stricken state at he time. Had "Black care" finally caught up with him?  Not surprisingly he
sought to out-run it, retreating into the Badlands North Dakota. They were called the "Badlands" because they looked grim and desolate, much like  he felt at the time. Here he spent two years as a cowboy. He bought himself a cowboy outfit custom-made for him at Tiffany's in New York (right). At first the real cowboys he encountered made light of his Eastern appearance and way of talking.  But he eventually won their respect by going out on round-ups and braving all of the same harsh conditions of freezing snow or blistering heat that they did. But soon he returned, remarried, and had a large and adoring family.

Colonel of the "Rough Riders" and Governor of N.Y.

In the New York State Legislature he became one of the leaders of the progressive movement within the Republican Party and was therefore something of a thorn in the side of the "Establishment" as it would be called nowadays.  When William McKinley was elected President of the United States, he appointed T.R. as the Assistant Secretary of
the Navy. But when war broke out with Spain over Cuba and the
Philippines, he promptly resigned his post and raised a regiment to go and fight in Cuba (left) as Colonel of the "Rough Riders". With their brave charge up San Juan Hill, T.R. became the most famous man in America.  And he returned to such great acclaim that he was elected Governor of New York. But the establishment party bosses didn't like his progressive political ways - seeking out corruption, supporting child labor
laws, and they wanted to get rid of him.

President and Former President

So Republican Party Boss Mark Hanna arranged to have T.R. kicked upstairs into the safe oblivion of the Vice Presidency.  But often the best-laid plans can go terribly astray.  And in this case they certainly did as McKinley wound up getting assassinated ( ). And "that damned cowboy" as Boss Platt derisively called him took over as the new President!!

T.R.'s reformist policies, breaking up big financial and commercial monopolies - particularly Standard Oil and the railroads left the party bosses fuming, T.R. was nevertheless wildly popular with the voters, so he was resoundingly re-elected in 1904. But his hasty promise not to run again in 1908 left him a lame duck for four years.  But that didn't stop him from setting aside huge amounts of America's wilderness and wildlife areas as National Parks and wildlife refuges. And this he did to the vast irritation of the rich men who wanted to develop these areas
for logging, and tourist attractions. Ultimately though, he was obliged by his promise not to run again to hand over the office of President to his large friend William Howard Taft (right). But Taft did not continue T.R.'s reforming ways. This resulted in a split between the two, with T.R. running for the Republican nomination for President. But the party bosses kept the nomination from him.  So T.R. angrily formed a new party to run against Taft AND the Democratic nominee, Woodrow Wilson, thus handing the prize to Wilson.

World War I Takes its Toll

I have already detailed in "T.R.. is Shot" (listed above) how there are some who believe that T.R.. had actually hoped to die from the would-be assassin's bullet during the 1912 campaign. Indeed, some of the things he said about it left the impression that "Black care" was catching up with T.R.. When World War One broke out in August of 1914 and America was finally drawn in April 1917 Roosevelt's sons joined the fight. All had done well but his youngest son Quentin who had gone into the Air Service was shot down on  July 14, 1918. It was the blow that broke his heart. Here was a man who from his days as Colonel of "the Rough Riders" had spoken of war as this great moment for a man to prove himself and be heroic, and had clearly passed that along to his sons, now felt partly responsible for his youngest son's
death. He wrote privately: "To feel that one has inspired a boy to conduct that has resulted in his death has  a pretty serious side for a father." And sure enough, on January 6, 1919, less than six months after Quentin's death, Theodore Roosevelt died in his sleep. "Black care" had finally caught up with him.

Sources =

"The Life and Times of Theodore Roosevelt" by Stefan Lorant, Doubleday & Co. Inc. Garden City,
New York, 1959

"T.R." - the American Experience, Prod. & Dir. by David Grubin, Written by David Grubin and
Geoffrey C. Ward. PBS Home Video, 1996.

Friday, October 13, 2017

OCTOBER 13 = The U.S. Navy is Born

The United States Navy was given it's "birth certificate" on today's date, October 13 in 1775 by an act of the Continental Congress. Thus, today is the official birthday of the U.S. Navy.

The Need For a Navy

Commerce was a matter of prime importance to Americans who resided and made their living off of the coastal waterways of New England in the fall of 1775.  The fortunes and livelihoods of these men were tied directly to the sea. And thus the idea of a war with the most powerful fleet in the world (the British Navy) must have filled them with dread. So the matter of naval defense was naturally uppermost in their minds when the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia in the fall of 1775 (above). Afterall, Congress had created an army to fight the Red Coated British Army.  Why not a naval force of some kind?

The Continental Congress Debates the Idea

The proposal was introduced on October 3, and found many influential Congressmen very strongly opposed to the idea.  Edward Rutledge of
South Carolina (right) denounced the proposal as "the most wild, visionary mad project that ever had been imagined." Mr. Rutledge was further convinced that this idea would warp the minds of the sailors, essentially turning them into a pack of  Buccaneers: "it would ruin the character, and corrupt the morals of all our Seamen . . . [making] them selfish, piratical, mercenary, [and] bent wholly on plunder." Samuel Chase of Maryland was certain that the construction of a Navy would bring financial ruin and bankrupt the continent.  it was "the maddest idea in the world," But the navy was supported by one of the most
most effective speakers in the Congress: John Adams. Adams (below)
and his fellow "navalists" centered in on the possible benefits of having a navy "distressing the enemy" as well as creating a  "a system of maritime and naval operations" to defend the American ports against wholesale British Naval attacks at will. In the end Adams and his allies won the argument, and on this day of October 13 passed the following resolution:

 "Resolved, That a swift sailing vessel, to carry ten carriage guns, and a proportionable number of swivels, with eighty men, be fitted, with all possible despatch, for a cruise of three months, and that the commander be instructed to cruize eastward, for intercepting such transports as may be laden with warlike stores and other supplies for our enemies, and for such other purposes as the Congress shall direct."

Thus with the navy formally organized on Dec. 22, one Esek Hopkins was named the first Commander in Chief of the Continental Navy.
Hopkins didn't prove to be a very good C. in C.; "a strawman admiral" in the words of some of his contemporaries.  But there were other stronger and substantial men waiting in the wings to take the lead when there was real fighting to be done; men such as Capt. John Barry, and Lt. John Paul Jones. It was a small group of twenty or so ships, mostly converted from merchant service.  But they did their jobs
bravely (see "I HAVE NOT YET BEGUN TO FIGHT!!"
And thus from such humble beginnings arose what would eventually become the most powerful navy in the world.

Sources =

"Picture History of the United States Navy" by Theodore Roscoe
& Fred Freeman Bonanza Books, New York, 1956.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

OCTOBER 10 = The "Great Hurricane" of 1780

"At Barbados, where the cyclone had commenced it's terrible spiral, the wind was unchained with such fury, that the inhabitants hiding in their cellars did not hear their houses falling above their heads..." - Elisee' Reclus

"... a dreadful hurricane which began to rage with great fury at noon and continue with great violence till four o'clock the next morning, the 11th; At eight o'clock at night St. Thomas's parsonage was demolished and the church where the Rector and his family saought shelter began to fall about two hours after, the Chancel fell while the family were in the church ... St. Thomas's Chapel, St. Michael's, St. George's, Christ Church's and St. Lucy's churches were totally destroyed..."

 - St. Thomas, Barbados, parish marriage registers, 1780

With all of the news recently of the terrible destruction wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, I thought it might bring some useful perspective to point out that there have been hurricanes which caused much greater loss of life back in the days before we gave hurricanes name designations.  In fact on today's date, October 10 in 1780 a hurricane struck the West Indies that has the distinction of being the worst in history in terms of lives lost. What has become known a "the Great Hurricane of 1780" cost an estimated 20 to 22,000 lives.

The West Indies in 1780

The West Indies were a source of considerable riches for all of the
great powers of Europe by the late 1700's, as they were a rich source of spices and especially sugar.  So by the end of the American Revolution, both England and France had significant naval assets patrolling the waters of this region. But on the evening of Oct. 10 both navies were dealt a serious blow not from cannon fire, but from the hurricane which ravaged the entire area. The skies have been reported as having been orange that night before the hurricane hit at about 10:00. It raged on for eight days throughout the area, especially the island of Barbados, completely destroying it, leaving nary a tree nor a building still standing.

It then moved on to St. Lucia wherein the fleet of 12 ships of the British Navy under the command of Admiral George Radney had been anchored.  Eight of these warships were sunk with the loss of hundreds of sailors and soldiers (The area of the hurricane is in the map above). But the French got a worse hit than the Brits when a fleet of 40 ships were vanquished by the storm with a loss of 4,000 sailors &  soldiers sustained. Admiral Radney wrote of the destruction: “The strongest buildings and the whole of the houses, most of which were stone, and remarkable for their solidity, gave way to the fury of the wind, and were torn up to their foundations; all the forts destroyed, and many of the heavy cannon carried upwards of a hundred feet from the forts. Had I not been an eyewitness, nothing could have induced me to have believed it. More than six thousand persons perished, and all the inhabitants are entirely ruined.”

"A general convulsion of nature seemed to take place..."

"Whole families were buried in the ruins of their inhabitations; and many, in attempting to escape, were maimed and disabled.  A general convulsion of nature seemed to take place, and a universal destruction ensued. The strongest colours could not paint to your Lordship the miseries of the inhabitants: on the one hand, the ground covered with the mangled bodies of their friends and relations, on the other, reputable families, wandering through the ruins, seeking for food and shelter; in short, imagination can form but a faint idea of the horrors of this dreadful scene."
- Maj. Gen. Vaughn. Comm. of British forces in the area.

 On it's path of devastation through the West Indies, the hurricane,
packing winds of up to 200 mph, killed over 20,000 people, maybe as many as 24,000, thus making the Great Hurricane of 1780 the deadliest hurricane in Atlantic hurricane history.

Sources =

"Darkest Hours - the Great Book of Worldwide Disasters" by J. Robert Nash, Wallaby Books,
New York. 1976

Thursday, September 28, 2017

SEPTEMBER 28 = Hitler's Life Spared by Brit Soldier?

Out of the time-shrouded mists of a long ago war, one nearly forgotten by today's generation comes a story which may or
may not be true... it could be a kind of urban legend from history. Indeed the records to confirm it are pretty few. And mostly it relies on memory.  Nevertheless, it may be that on today's date, September 28, in 1918 a British soldier might have had his gun on a German soldier, and let him go. And the soldiers name might have been Corporal Adolf Hitler!

What EXACTLY is Supposed to Have Happened?

Henry Tandy (above), a private in the British in the British army who came from Warwickshire, had served with great distinction and bravery all over the Western Front during World War One. He had fought at Ypres, and the Somme just to name two of the major battles in which Pvt. Tandy took part. He became the single most decorated Private in the British Army during W.W. I. In fact he went on to win the Victoria Cross... England's highest military award. And this he earned
for "conspicuous bravery" displayed during the period from July to October 1918, when serving with the 5th Duke of Wellington Regiment.  At that time he took part in the successful British capture of the French village of Marcoing. During the later portion of the battle, when the Germans were in retreat, Tandy later reported that a weary German soldier came into Tandey’s gun sights. The German (above, Hitler, circa W.W. I) was wounded and did not even try raise his own rifle. Tandey chose not to shoot. “I took aim but couldn’t shoot a wounded man,” Tandey recalled, “so I let him go.” The German soldier saw him lowering his weapon and nodded his thanks before disappearing.

How Did it Become Known That This Might Have Been Hitler?

Ok. So a Brit soldier lets a German go in the midst of  a battle. How did it become known that this might have been Hitler? Well there are no sources to place Hitler's whereabouts on that day, but an interesting link later developed. A newspaper article was published about Tandy's
being awarded the Victoria Cross in Oct., 1918.  Hitler saw this article, and recognizing the picture of Tandy as being the man who had spared him clipped the article and kept it. In 1923 an artist named Fortunino Matania did a painting of Tandy saving comrades at the Battle of Ypres in 1914. In 1937, when Hitler was der Fuehrer and in charge of Germany he was made aware of Mantania's  painting and upon seeing a copy of the painting recognized the man in the painting as having been Tandy, from the newspaper article he had clipped and kept from 1918. Hitler ordered a copy of the painting and had it displayed at his alpine retreat, the Berghof,  A year later British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain came to the Berghof to make the infamous Munich Agreement (which he said would bring "peace in our time" but did nothing of the sort). Chamberlain saw the Mantania portrait and inquired about it. Hitler replied:

"That man came so near to killing me that I thought I should never see Germany again; Providence saved me from such devilishly accurate fire as those English boys were aiming at us."

Hitler then asked Chamberlain to give his regards to Tandy so the story goes, and Chamberlain said he would. Whether or not he did so is unclear; accounts exist of a phone call that was answered by
Tandy's nephew William. But it has been reported that the Tandy residence did not have a phone. And there is no reference to Tandy among Chamberlain's papers about the 1938 meeting.  Still Chamberlain must have told someone because the story got out in 1940 and has been talked about ever since.  Is it true? We may never know for sure. But it is certainly odd that of all people, Hitler should have mounted an image (below) depicting Allied heroism in his home. He must have recognized something.....

Sources =

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

SEPTEMBER 20 = Arthur Becomes Third POTUS in One Year

Our political system may seem VERY odd... especially this
year with all off the unprecedented things going on with Donald Trump as President of the United States (POTUS). That statement
is intended neither as a criticism nor an endorsement of Mr. Trump.  But it has been an odd year. Well things were even stranger back in 1881. Because it was on this date, September 20, 1881 that Chester Alan Arthur (above)
a man who was hardly well known was inaugurated as POTUS. And he was the THIRD man to hold the office in that year.

Hayes to Garfield

The year 1881 began with Rutherford B. Hayes finishing his term.  Hayes had been elected under some very shady circumstances; it had come down to a tie back on election night in 1876 and several states were in dispute. Eventually the election was awarded to Hayes, who was thereafter called Rutherfraud B. Hayes in many quarters by bitter Democrats who felt that the election had been stolen from them.  Be that as it may, in an election that pitted the Ohio Republican James A. Garfield, a former Union General against another former Union general, Winfield Scott Hancock, Garfield managed to squeeze by Hancock by a mere 10,000 votes out of the nine million cast. Garfield had chosen as his running mate one Chester Alan Arthur a man who had held the lucrative and politically powerful post of Collector  of  the New York Customs House, which was where most of the nation's trade profits were collected. Mr. Arthur had been known as a man who did the bidding of the political bosses.  Thus he was a man with a checkered reputation to say the least.  Senator Roscoe Conklin, the Republican Party Boss had gotten Arthur on the ticket to do his bidding.

And Then Garfield's Gone...

   Nevertheless, he was sworn in along with James Garfield on March 4, 1881 as President and Vice President respectively.  Garfield began with his own set of priorities including making the American dream available to people who had come up through struggle and hard work as he had done --including black citizens.  He also intended to deal with Civil Service reform, and among other things, putting the Republican Party Boss Roscoe Conklin in his place. But there was another man, one Charles J. Guiteau, who considered himself an important part of  the victory was in fact nothing of the sort. He had written a speech supporting Garfield for president, and got it printed by the Republican National Committee but could find no important platform from which to deliver it. And when he did find a chance to deliver it, he couldn't finish it because he was so nervous. But
still Guiteau thought that he deserved some important position as a result of his "part" in Garfield's victory. In fact, he felt that he should be made the U.S. Consul in Paris.  Never mind that he spoke nary a word of French, nor any other  language than English. Garfield like any POTUS had tons of mediocre men wanting federal appointments and he met with Guiteau.  But seeing Guiteau as just another office seeker (which he was), he turned him down. Guiteau was furious and mentally unbalanced. So he got a gun and on July 2, shot President Garfield at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station in Washington, D.C. (above). Guiteau tried to leave the station, but was apprehended a few minutes later.

Garfield Dies Slowly, and Then It's Arthur

   Garfield's death proved to  be a slow and painful one. This was mainly because the doctors did not  know how to treat the  wound. One bullet
grazed his arm, but the  other hit him in the back, shattering a rib and was lodged in his abdomen.  But the doctors just didn't know how to get at the bullet. Further his physician, Dr. Willard Bliss (below) did
not believe in what was then the new idea of germs, so he would not clean the wound. And the wound was slowly becoming more infected and poisoning the President's blood. Although he seemed to rally a couple of times over the more than two and a half months of his confinement to a hospital bed, he never left that bed. He had spent all of his time since being wounded at the White House, but during his last few days he asked taken to Franklyn Cottage his little home on the new Jersey coast of the Atlantic ocean just to get away from Washington. His trip there in a special train was observed by shocked citizens who stood in reverent silence, throwing hay on the tracks to lighten any bumps. And it was there that he died on today's date in 1881.

Thus Arthur became the third president to take office in 1881. At the start of his administration, Arthur had a tough time with his past as an old party hack from the New York Republican machine. But this Arthur was a different man than the old party hack he had once been. He actually summoned up the courage to face Boss Conklin down and pushed him aside. He wound up doing a good job in civil service reform. He sponsored and enforced the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act. Guiteau was found guilty of  Garfield's murder and was executed on June 3, 1882.

Actually, this came forty years after a previous year of three Presidents.  In 1841, Martin Van Buren's term came to an end in March, and he was succeeded by William Henry Harrison. President Harrison
developed pneumonia, and died after a mere month in office (the shortest presidential term in history), and his Vice President, John Tyler became the third POTUS in that year.


"Presidential Campaigns" by Paul F. Boller Jr., Oxford University Press, New York, 1984.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

JULY 27 = Korean War Armistice is Signed

The Korean War came to a complete if inconclu-sive end on today's date, July 27 in 1953. The preamble to the treaty itself (the signing is pictured  above) makes that clear enough for all to see:

"The undersigned, the (all the belligerent states), in the interest of stopping the Korean conflict, with its great toil of suffering and bloodshed on both sides, and with the objective of establishing an armistice which will insure a complete cessation of hostilities and of all acts of armed force in Korea until a final peaceful settlement is achieved, do individually, collectively, and mutually agree to accept and to be bound and governed by the conditions and terms of armistice set forth in the following articles and paragraphs..."

And that was it.  No formal surrender as the Germans had done at Reims in 1945, and no grand ceremony of complete surrender as the Japanese had delivered on the Battleship Missouri in Tokyo harbor, also in 1945. It was for the "... stopping the Korean conflict, with its great toil of suffering and bloodshed on both sides...." and that was it. The two sides has spent over three years beating each others brains out, and they both had had enough.

The Korean War and It's Course

The Korean War had begun on June 25, 1950 when the Army of Communist North Korea suddenly and without provocation invaded the territory of Non-Communist South Korea in great numbers. This was a complete surprise to the western powers which supported a fee and independent government on the southern half of the Korean Peninsula.  Soon it became clear that the South Korean Army would not be capable of defending their territory without assistance from it's western allies. In his thoughts about whether or not to intervene, U.S. President Harry Truman thought back the policy of appeasement which had ultimately lead to World War II: "If this was allowed to go unchallenged, it would mean a third world war, just as smaller incidents had brought on the second world war.” After debating the matter, the United Nations Security Council, June 27, 1950, published Resolution 83 which recommended member state military assistance to the Republic of Korea. This lead to armed forces from well over a dozen United Nations member states other than the U.S. and the Republic of Korea (ROK)  into combat operations against the communist forces which were supported militarily by the U.S.S.R.

The Fighting goes Up and Down Korea Until a Stalemate is Reached

The North Koreans smashed a path all the way to a small parcel of land known as the Pusan Perimeter. There the U.S./R.O.K. hung on by their fingernails until September 1950, when a surprise landing by the U.S. Marines under the command of General Douglas MacArthur far in the 
rear of the North Korean lines broke the back of their offensive and forced them to withdraw deep into their won territory, all the way to the Chinese boarder.Then the Chinese attacked with over 30 Divisions in November and December of 1951, thus forcing the U.N. (United Nations) forces back to nearly the 39 parallel wherein the war began in the first place, Eventually Truman fired MacArthur on April 11, 1951, for insubordination over the war's direction. The fighting and bloodshed went on until Dwyght Eisenhower took over as President. 

Ike Goes to Korea, Changes Course...Slightly

All throughout the 1952 Presidential Campaign General Eisenhower (below) had pledged that if elected he would go to Korea to see the 
stalemate for himself. Thus when he became President in January of 1953 and saw that stalemate in person, he decided a new approach was needed.  He began allowing Nationalist 
Chinese forces from Taiwan to launch harassing air raids for their territory. He began leaning on the South Koreans to scale back on some of their demands.  And most importantly he began to publically hint that he might use the American nuclear advantage to break the stalemate in Korea. Whether or not Ike's hint that he might nuke the north were serious (that would likely set off World War III) the new approach helped. By July 1954 the two sides had hammered out their differences and had an ARMISTICE treaty ready to go.  And this was signed by the belligerents at the village of Panmunjom.

ARMISTICE NOT a Peace Treaty

This is why I made such a point referring the end of the Korean War as being complete, but inconclusive. The combat has long since stopped, and we can all be thankful for that. But and "Armistice" refers just to a cessation of hostilities, not a formal state of peace brought about by thee surrender of one side to the other..  And an armistice is all we have with North Korea.  And whatever one can say about communism -vs- capitalism, one has only to look at the bright vibrant economy
of the South Korea -vs- the misery, slavery, and "let's threaten the world with nukes" attitude of the "Dear Leader" in charge of North Korea, to have a clear answer about whether thee Korean War was worth he trouble.

Seoul, South Korea
                                                                                                                Pyongyang, North Korea

Sources =

"Truman" by David Mc Cullough, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1992.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

JULY 16 = The Atom Bomb is First Tested

On today's date, July 16 in 1945, at 5:29:45 a.m., the first atom bomb is success- fully tested in Alamo- gordo, New Mexico. This was the end result of  the Manhattan Project,  which was the code name that was given to the efforts of the United States government to produce an Atom Bomb. Pictured above is a photo of the explosion.

 Leó Szilárd and Albert Einstein Warn FDR

The effort had been going on for some years, ever since a letter written by the famed physicist Albert Einstein, and conceived by Einstein and the Hungarian physicist Leó Szilárd In 1939 was sent to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Einstein (below) and Szilárd came to the conclusion that the neutron-driven fission of heavy atoms could possibly utilized to create a nuclear chain reaction which could yield vast amounts of energy for electric power generation or... atomic bombs. In the letter, written on August 2, 1939, just one month minus a day that Hitlers' armies invaded Poland and began World War II. And the letter didn't hesitate to point fingers:

"I understand that Germany has actually stopped the sale of uranium 
from the Czechoslovakian mines which she has taken over. That she should have taken such early action might perhaps be understood on the ground that the son of the German Under-Secretary of State, von Weizsäcker, is attached to the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut in Berlin where some of the American work on uranium is now being repeated."

General Groves Assembles the Team

This led FDR to the conclusion that a committee of scientists needed to be formed in order to counter the Nazi threat.  Initially the amount of $6,000.00 was granted toward this project, but with onset of war with Germany in December of 1941 this cap was removed. Brigadier
General Leslie Groves (left) who had himself spent his army career as an engineer, was put in charge of organizing the whole project, which included assembling the finest scientific minds in the United States, and bringing them into his program. Groves was introduced to Robert Oppenheimer.  Oppenheimer had like Einstein and others had made known his concerns about the Germans coming up with an atomic weapon, and this brought him to Groves attention. Groves had been favorably impressed with clarity of Oppenheimer's vision as well as his determination to get the bomb before the Germans could.  These were two very different types of men; Groves determined and quite boorish, and Oppenheimer cerebral and intellectual. But they both managed to work together at the secret facility that was put together by Groves at Los Alamos, New Mexico. In true U.S. Governmental fashion, the Manhattan Project grew to the employment of over 130,000 people and cost close to US $2 billion (roughly $27 billion in 2016 dollars).

The Bomb is Assembled and Tested

Neither Groves nor Oppenheimer were pleasant taskmasters for the men working under them. Maj. General Kenneth Nichols called Groves "...the biggest sonovabitch I ever met in my life. I hated his guts and 
so did everybody else." But with the men working at Los Alamos and elsewhere in the country he and Oppenheimer produced results - the bomb which was tested on this date.  The first detonation of a nuclear weapon was given the Code Name "Trinity"
by the ever mercurial Oppenheimer (right) who had been so inspired by the poetry of John Donne a  poet of Elizabethan England.  After an earlier delay Groves resumed the countdown. At the sixty second point, the scientists smeared suntan lotion on their faces, slipped on welding goggles, and huddled behind their sandbag shelters.  And at 5:29 a.m. the detonation unleashed the explosive energy of about 22 kilotons of TNT (92 TJ). There was only one possible target left, as Germany was out of the war, and that was Japan. It was so used on Hiroshima (Aug. 6) and Nagasaki (Aug. 9, 1945), after which Japan finally surrendered. By March 1946, when Oppenheimer met President Harry Truman, he had long since decided that the use of the Atom bomb had been terribly wrong. "Mr. President, I have blood on my hands," To which Truman sternly replied "It'll all come out in the wash." After Oppenheimer had departed, Truman said to an aide: "Don't you bring that fellow around here again." Such are the vagaries at the intersection of politics and science.....


"Past Imperfect - History According to the Movies" Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1995.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

JUNE 7 = Earthquake Wrecks Pirate Haven at Port Royal

Port Royal, a natural harbor on the island of Jamaica was a veritable den of pirate iniquity by 1692. It had been called "richest and wickedest city in the world" by some.  But on today's date, June 7 in 1692 the city was virtually swallowed up by an earthquake and tsunami which left it an uninhabitable mess, but which gave rise to one of the finest cities of the Caribbean.

Port Royal Grows Into a Pirate Haven

  Established by the Spanish in 1518, by the 17'th Century it had become a center of commerce and shipping in the Caribbean. It also became a home for privateers (which were essentially free-lance pirates operating with the tacit but never open blessing of one European power or another) for nations - mainly the English and the Dutch which wanted to raid Spanish shipping without going to war with the Spanish
empire. It was during the war with Spain with the English between 1655 and 1680 that Port Royal became a haven and a hideout for pirates of every sort. As said above it was a natural harbor and thus an excellent buccaneer hiding place, and launch site for their raids.  Of course along with this came all of the brothels and hundreds of taverns that went along with the pirate life. And along with this came the legal trade of slaves and sugar, and all manner off plunder that made Port Royal such a key piece of the not so legal mercantile picture in the Caribbean.

The "Ungodly and Debauched People" Are Hit By an Earthquake

Well in this corner of the Caribbean, on the morning of today's date at about 11:40 pm the Rev Emmanuel Heath, wrote that he had concluded prayers – “to keep up some show of religion among a most ungodly, debauched people” – and was patronizing a local tavern. Then he felt the floor started to sway beneath him. Plates, wine and chandeliers all came crashing to the floor.  The Reverend rushed outside just in time to see “the earth open and swallow up a multitude of people, and the sea mounting in upon us”. As Port Royal grew many of the buildings had been built on land that had simply been thrown in to fill up water. Thus, when the quake came it had only to sweep this fake land away. The tremor, the soil liquefaction and the huge tsunami that followed wiped the pirate den away with ease.

               Above  is a picture of the wreck of Port Royal, circa 1692.

The Frigate "Swan's" Journey and Mr. Galdy

The the frigate H.M.S. "Swan" had been in a slipway on the east end of the Port having the barnacles scraped away from her keel.  Suddenly she was thrust upward by monstrous seismic wave and was sent on a bizarre ride through the town skimming over the parts that had already been flooded, "sailing" over the tops of buildings at vast speeds.  But because she had so many ropes hanging from her sides that large numbers of would-be victims were able to grab onto her as "Swan" barreled trough the town and were miraculously saved. The "Swan" finally came to rest when she was beached on top of a building which had been partly sunken. A very strange experience happened to
one Thomas Galdy.  He was walking along when the second tremor opened a huge fissure in the ground before him into which he was swallowed up.  A moment later came the third tremor - a seismic sea wave that forced Galdy up from his spot like a cork and onto level ground again.

The Totals of Port Royal's 1692 Quake.

  There were a total of  three separate tremors on that hellish morning. They lasted it total less than two minutes.  But because of the landfill on which most of the houses had been built, almost the entire town was tossed about, and then flooded under some 43 feet of water by the resulting Tsunami. I have found sources on-line and in print calculating the number of dead as anywhere between 1,600 and 3,000. But the town had been totally obliterated.  The subsequent aftershocks kept a lid on any hopes of rebuilding the old pirate's den. But in time a
new city rose up nearby: the city of Kingston, Jamaica - one of the most beautiful cities in the whole of the Caribbean.

Sources =

"Darkest Hours - the Great Book of Worldwide Disasters - From Ancient times to the Present"
by Jay Robert Nash, Wallaby Books, New York, 1976

Saturday, May 20, 2017

MAY 20 = Strauss & Davis Acquire Patent for Blue Jeans

On today's date, May 20 in 1873, San Francisco businessman Levi Strauss, and a Nevada tailor Jacob Davis were granted a patent on a special kind of work pants.  Made from a tough cloth called "Denim", these pants were  reinforced with metal rivets. This was the birth of  the most famous and often worn garments in the
world: blue jeans.

Levi Strauss Started Out As An Immigrant

Born in Buttenheim, Bavaria, in 1829, Loeb Strauss immigrated to New York  in 1847 with his family after his father died. He was working at in his family dry goods store  J. Strauss Brother & 1850 and changed his from Loeb to Levi.  But these were exciting times in America with gold having been discovered in California so young Levi decided to head west and seek his fortune with the rest of the
 gold-hungry diggers.  He set up shop in San Francisco putting together a wholesale dry goods business bearing his own name. But he worked as a representative of the family firm. In this company he fed the need for everything having to do with gold mining: shovels, pick-axes and all manner of dry goods. He also imported fabric and clothing all of which he distributed to the hundreds of small stores in the quickly proliferating communities of settlers and gold miners.

A New Kind of Workpants Were Needed

A man who frequently used bolts of cloth made from denim, was at Latvian Jewish immigrant, one Jacob Davis. This fabric had it's origins in cities of France. "Gênes" was the french word for Genoa, which may account or the origin for "jeans" in Nimes they attempted to produce a product like the jeans but wound up with a similar twill product which was called "denim" from it's origins in "de Nimes" ("from Nimes").
Well it seems that Mr. Davis (left) had a customer who was forever buying cloth to reinforce torn pants. Davis had come up with the idea of using copper rivets to reinforce the points of greatest strain -- pocket corners as well as the base of the cotton fly. Davis lacked the necessary funds to afford the cost of a government patent for such an idea. So in 1872, Davis wrote to Strauss, telling  him of the idea of copper rivets and asked his financial backing for his rivet reinforced denim work pants. Levi Strauss liked the idea so on today's date in 1873 they were granted U.S. Patent # 131,121 for the "Improvement in Fastening Pocket-Openings"

Of Course There are Always Conflicting Reports...

One paragraph in a Wikipedia source states:

 "Popular legend incorrectly states that it was imported from Nimes, France. A popular myth is that Strauss initially sold brown canvas pants to miners, later dyed them blue, turned to using denim, and only after Davis wrote to him, added rivets.Initially, Strauss' jeans were simply sturdy trousers worn by factory workers, miners, farmers, and cattlemen throughout the North American West."
That last sentence has it right, though.  Strauss' jeans became a huge selling favorite among workers of all types throughout the United States. The original name for the jeans: “XX”– was changed to 501 by 1890 and it had become a huge seller. They were the 1920's
best selling work pants in the United States. And eventually it caught on with young people all over the world. So jeans have become an industry and style unto themselves Quite a growth story, isn't it?

Sources =

Monday, May 15, 2017

MAY 15 = The Women's Army Corps is Established

"Your Job: To Replace Men. Be Ready To Take Over."

- From the physical training manual published by the War Department in July 1943, entitled "You Must Be Fit" which was intended to bring the women recruits to top physical condition.  On today's date, May 15 in 1942, a bill establishing a women’s corps as a part of the U.S. Army became law, creating the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAACs) and granting women official military status. It is difficult to imagine the men who supported this measure could have had any idea of today's military with women in every facet of duty, including combat roles.  But that's what they were going for: right there in black and white.

The Legislation for the WAACs

Representative Edith Nourse Rogers of Massachusetts (below), one of the first women ever elected to congress, introduced this legislation which would make it possible for women to serve in non-combat positions in the army. Rogers had been active in volunteer work for the Red Cross and had served in overseas military hospitals. As a member of congress from 1925 onward she was appointed to the Committee on
Veterans Affairs. Rep. Rogers  introduced the legislation in May of 1941, but was held up for months until the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 put the matter on a faster track... still it wasn't until today's date in 1942 that it finally passed, although a section backing the enlistment of 150,000 volunteers was at first limited by executive order to 25,000. At first the benefits that went to men were greater than women, but by July 1942 a bill dropped the word "Auxiliary" from the name making them WACs and they were granted full Army benefits in keeping with the men.

"My best soldiers...."

The work that the WACs were assigned covered a great many different sorts of occupations.  Air Traffic Control, Radio Operations, Electrician work on down to basic Office Clerking jobs and occasional mechanic's work were all areas that women covered.  But the Army always made it clear that these jobs would free men up for combat work, in order to soothe public sensitivities about having women in the military. The
work they did must have been done well as Gen. Douglas Mac Arthur referred to the WACs as "my best soldiers" adding that they were better disciplined, complained less, and in general worked harder than the men. All told once they were allowed to serve in greater numbers, the (Above: WAC Signal Corps Operators)150,000 who did serve freed up the equivalent of 7 full divisions of men for combat. No less an authority than Gen. Dwight Eisenhower said: "their contributions in efficiency, skill, spirit, and determination are immeasurable" 

The WACs Give Way to the Modern Military

As a separate branch of the military the WAC was in 1978 disbanded, and all of the women's units were integrated with their male counterparts.  WACs then were moved into whatever Military Specialty they had been working in before.  And ever since that time, women have worked with men in the same units.  This has included work in or nearby combat areas. In 1994 Les Aspin directed that "substantial risk of capture" could no longer used as grounds for keeping women out of some military units. So there you have it! That basic purpose stated so boldly way back in the original WAC manual : "Your Job: To Replace Men. Be Ready To Take Over." has been more than fulfilled.

Sources =

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

MAY 3 = Tokyo War Crimes Trial Begins

On today's date, May 3 in 1946 in Tokyo, the Interna- tional Military Tribunals for the Far East began hearing the cases against 28 Japanese military and government officials who had been of committing or ordering war crimes and crimes against against both military and civilian personnel during World War Two.

These Trials Differed from Nuremberg,

The way in which these trials were conducted was different from those which were being held in Nuremberg, Germany against the Nazi war criminals in 1946. At the Nuremberg proceedings there were four countries running the trial, with chief prosecutors from the four main powers, the United States, Britain, France, and the U.S.S.R. .  In these Tokyo Trials there was only one chief prosecutor - Joseph B. Keenan an American, in fact the former U.S. Attorney General. But Australian William Flood Webb was the presiding judge. And other Allied nations on the prosecution team included China, the Philippines, New Zealand, the Netherlands, France, Canada, and India.

But the Rouge's Gallery of Criminals Was Almost the Same

  At the Nuremberg Trials William Shirer remarked how the men who had once wielded such enormous power, "they no longer resembled the arrogant leaders of old. They seemed to be a drab assortment of mediocrities." Well the Japanese war criminals certainly had been
lowered by several pegs by the time they entered the courtroom of  the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE) in Tokyo. According to Arnold C. Brackman, a U.P. correspondent who covered the trial:

"Former Foreign Minister Yosuke Matsuoke entered the dock at 
a painfully slow gait, his face pallid, his cheeks sunken.  Ex- Premier 
Kiichiro Kiranuma's equine face looked longer and more melancholy than ever.  Admiral Osami Nagano, another aged militarist, wore his naval dress blues stripped of all emblems and badges.  The figure 
most familiar to both Japanese and everyone in the courtroom, Hideki Tojo (right), strode in wearing a dapper khaki bush jacket.  Tojo appeared bemused and dispirited, but looked remarkably healthy for a man who had shot himself in a failed suicide attempt just months before.... General Suzuki maintained his scowl.Thought by many to be the number one power broker in Tokyo, he was accustomed to arriving at Ichigaya in circumstances very different from those of the trial."

Shorn of all of their military regalia, and their titles of state, Joseph Keenan left them no quarter: "war and treaty-breakers should be stripped of the glamour of national heroes and exposed as what they really are --- plain, ordinary murderers."

The Trial and the Evidence

The trial, which lasted from today's date in 1946 until November, 1948 included official state documents, depositions and affidavits from over 700 people as well as harrowing eyewitness testimony from more than 400 victims. According to Brackman, the defendants showed varying degrees of interest. While hearing the charges against them read: "All of the defendants, including those who were fluent in English, listened to the Japanese translation over their headphones. Hideki 
Tojo sat with his hands behind his back; (Shigenori) Tōgō, and Shigemitsu, the two foreign ministers stared blankly ahead...."
Throughout the trial, the defendants displayed various degrees of odd and nervous behavior. While evidence of mass atrocities were read "Shigemitsu leaned forward and cupped his head in his hands. Toshio Shiratori's long face grew longer; he often bit his lip.  Admiral Shimada, who sat behind Okinori Kaya frequently leaned over the dock and ran his fingers nervously along the back of Kaya's seat.... Hideki Tojo continued his habit of taking copious notes and occasionally picking his nose; one suspected after watching him for months, that the note taking was a theatrical device designed to impress the silent gallery while keeping himself occupied."

The Verdict on the Main Defendants

But the evidence of guilt was overwhelming. The six main defendants were sentenced to death by hanging for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes against peace. These included General Kenji Doihara, chief of the intelligence services, General Seishirō Itagaki, war minister, Kōki Hirota, prime minister (later foreign minister), Lieutenant General Akira Mutō, chief of staff, and General Heitarō Kimura, commander, Burma Area Army.  And most important of all General Hideki Tōjō, who as Army leader, and later as Prime Minister became the very face of Japanese military and political aggression ascended to the gallows along with the others at Sugamo Prison in Ikebukuro on December 23, 1948. In addition to the central Tokyo trial, various tribunals sitting outside Japan judged some 5,000 Japanese guilty of war crimes, of whom more than 900 were executed.

Sources =

"The Other Nuremburg - the Untold Story of the Tokyo War Crimes Trials" by Arnold C, Brackman,
William Morrow & Company, Inc., New York, 1987.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

APRIL 8 = "Venus de Milo" is Found

"the ruins of an ancient theater in the vicinity of Castro, the capital of the island", adding that Bottonis and his son "came accidentally across a small underground cave, carefully covered with a heavy slab and concealed, which contained a fine marble statue in two pieces, together with several other marble fragments." This is a description of what happened on today's date, April 8 in the year 1820, when a peasant named Yorgos Kentrotas accidentally discovered the statue "Venus de Milo",
one of the finest and most beautiful examples ever found of classical Greek art.

Where and by whom was "Venus" found?

There are other sources which identify the discoverers as Yorgos Bottonis and his son Antonio. The statue was found on the Aegean sea Island of Melos which is called Milo in modern Greek. It has come to be called "Venus" because Venus was the Roman goddess of love and beauty, although the ancient Greeks would have referred to her as Aphrodite who was the Greek Goddess of love and beauty. Exactly why there is conflicting accounts of who found her is something which I have not been able to determine through on-line sources, but there it is.

More Details of Venus and Her Discovery

Whatever the conflicting of WHO found her the accepted belief is that the statue was discovered in two large portions (the upper torso and a lower portion with cloth-draped legs) along with several herms (pillars topped with heads). Fragments were also found of the upper left arm and left hand which was holding an apple, and an inscribed plinth (a usually square block serving as a base). Venus de Milo is thought to have been the work of one Alexandros of Antioch, about whose life not much is known, working about 100 B.C. during a late portion of the
Hellenistic age. Originally made in two large blocks of granite, she stands 6 feet 7 inches from top to bottom. And this is where the details of WHO discovered her get a bit murky again. Apparently a French Navy Ensign with an interest in antiquities observed "a farmer" pulling rocks out off a cave for making a wall. Whether this farmer was the Bottonis and son or the peasant Kentrotas cited above, is not at all clear to me.  But the ensign,  Olivier Voutier noticed that the "farmer" had discovered the top half of the Venus statue.  So he and his superiors bought the statue from the farmer "for a relatively modest sum." She was then transported back to Paris as a gift to Louis XVIII, who placed her in the French museum, the Louvre wherein she has remained ever since.

What About Her Arms?

There has been much speculation on this subject over the years. One account has the arms being pulled off in a fight between French and Turkish military (as this part of the world was at that time ruled by the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire.  But most scholars believe that the arms were already missing when Venus was found and dug out of the cave where she was found.

Sources =