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|Author:||remrogers [ 26 Oct 2017, 11:06 ]|
|Post subject:||Today in history. 10-26|
Shootout at the OK Corral
On this day in 1881, the Earp brothers face off against the Clanton-McLaury gang in a legendary shootout at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona.
After silver was discovered nearby in 1877, Tombstone quickly grew into one of the richest mining towns in the Southwest. Wyatt Earp, a former Kansas police officer working as a bank security guard, and his brothers, Morgan and Virgil, the town marshal, represented “law and order” in Tombstone, though they also had reputations as being power-hungry and ruthless. The Clantons and McLaurys were cowboys who lived on a ranch outside of town and sidelined as cattle rustlers, thieves and murderers. In October 1881, the struggle between these two groups for control of Tombstone and Cochise County ended in a blaze of gunfire at the OK Corral.
On the morning of October 25, Ike Clanton and Tom McLaury came into Tombstone for supplies. Over the next 24 hours, the two men had several violent run-ins with the Earps and their friend Doc Holliday. Around 1:30 p.m. on October 26, Ike’s brother Billy rode into town to join them, along with Frank McLaury and Billy Claiborne. The first person they met in the local saloon was Holliday, who was delighted to inform them that their brothers had both been pistol-whipped by the Earps. Frank and Billy immediately left the saloon, vowing revenge.
Around 3 p.m., the Earps and Holliday spotted the five members of the Clanton-McLaury gang in a vacant lot behind the OK Corral, at the end of Fremont Street. The famous gunfight that ensued lasted all of 30 seconds, and around 30 shots were fired. Though it’s still debated who fired the first shot, most reports say that the shootout began when Virgil Earp pulled out his revolver and shot Billy Clanton point-blank in the chest, while Doc Holliday fired a shotgun blast at Tom McLaury’s chest. Though Wyatt Earp wounded Frank McLaury with a shot in the stomach, Frank managed to get off a few shots before collapsing, as did Billy Clanton. When the dust cleared, Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers were dead, and Virgil and Morgan Earp and Doc Holliday were wounded. Ike Clanton and Claiborne had run for the hills.
Sheriff John Behan of Cochise County, who witnessed the shootout, charged the Earps and Holliday with murder. A month later, however, a Tombstone judge found the men not guilty, ruling that they were “fully justified in committing these homicides.” The famous shootout has been immortalized in many movies, including Frontier Marshal (1939), Gunfight at the OK Corral (1957), Tombstone (1993) and Wyatt Earp (1994).
|Author:||doc9013 [ 26 Oct 2017, 15:28 ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Today in history.|
Been to Tombstone. Highly recommend going there if you ever get a chance. Boot Hill was really neat, and the Birdcage was a really creepy place.
|Author:||remrogers [ 27 Oct 2017, 09:27 ]|
|Post subject:||Today in history. 10-27|
Red Sox win first championship since 1918
On October 27, 2004, the Boston Red Sox win the World Series for the first time since 1918, finally vanquishing the so-called “Curse of the Bambino” that had plagued them for 86 years. “This is for anyone who has ever rooted for the Red Sox,” the team’s GM told reporters after the game. “This is for all of Red Sox Nation, past and present.”
Ever since team owner and Broadway producer Harry Frazee sold the great Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920—he got $125,000 and a $300,000 loan, which he used to pay Fenway’s mortgage and put on the musical No, No, Nannette—the Sox had been tragically unable to win the World Series. People said that the team was cursed. Before 1920, the Sox had won five championships and the Yanks hadn’t won any; after the Babe left, Boston’s well ran dry. The Yankees, meanwhile, won a record 26 times after 1920.
Over and over, the hapless Sox almost won—and over and over, they didn’t. In 1946, they were winning Game 7 with two outs in the eighth—until shortstop Johnny Pesky held onto a relay throw just long enough for Enos Slaughter to score the winning run (from first base). They lost in 1967 and 1975. Three years after that, in a one-game playoff for the AL championship, they lost when Yankee shortstop Bucky Dent, not exactly a reliable slugger, cranked one over the Green Monster with two men on base. (The Bombers won the game and went on to win their 22nd World Series.) And in the sixth game of the 1986 series against the Mets, just one out away from the championship, the Sox defense managed to bungle a series of easy plays so badly that they lost the game—and the next one, and the series. The Curse of the Bambino, it seemed, would never die.
But in 2004, the team’s luck changed. The Yanks had been three games up in the American League Championship Series, but Boston made a miraculous comeback and swept the last four. After that, it turned out, the Series itself was pretty dull. The St. Louis Cardinals were the NL champs and they had the best regular-season record in the majors, but in the series, their pitching was weak and their batting was worse. The Sox won the first three games handily. By the fourth, the Sox were playing like they won the Series every year. Johnny Damon led off with a homer that smashed into the St. Louis bullpen; Trot Nixon’s bases-loaded double in the third scored two more; pitcher Derek Lowe gave up just three hits in seven innings. The game’s end was as mundane as the rest of the series had been: Edgar Renteria plunked an easy grounder to closer Keith Foulke, who tossed the ball to first baseman Doug Mientkeiwicz in plenty of time for the out. The team mobbed the field; the crowd went wild. “This,” wrote a columnist for the Globe, “is what it must have felt like in 1918.”
In the 2007 World Series, the Sox did it again—they swept the Rockies for another easy victory. For now, they’ve won more championships in the 21st century than any other team.
|Author:||remrogers [ 28 Oct 2017, 09:41 ]|
|Post subject:||Today in history. 10-28|
Statue of Liberty dedicated
The Statue of Liberty, a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States, is dedicated in New York Harbor by President Grover Cleveland.
Originally known as “Liberty Enlightening the World,” the statue was proposed by the French historian Edouard de Laboulaye to commemorate the Franco-American alliance during the American Revolution. Designed by French sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, the 151-foot statue was the form of a woman with an uplifted arm holding a torch. Its framework of gigantic steel supports was designed by Eugene-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc and Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, the latter famous for his design of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
In February 1877, Congress approved the use of a site on New York Bedloe’s Island, which was suggested by Bartholdi. In May 1884, the statue was completed in France, and three months later the Americans laid the cornerstone for its pedestal in New York Harbor. In June 1885, the dismantled Statue of Liberty arrived in the New World, enclosed in more than 200 packing cases. Its copper sheets were reassembled, and the last rivet of the monument was fitted on October 28, 1886, during a dedication presided over by President Cleveland and attended by numerous French and American dignitaries.
On the pedestal was inscribed “The New Colossus,” a sonnet by American poet Emma Lazarus that welcomed immigrants to the United States with the declaration, “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. / Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. / I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” In 1892, Ellis Island, adjacent to Bedloe’s Island, opened as the chief entry station for immigrants to the United States, and for the next 32 years more than 12 million immigrants were welcomed into New York harbor by the sight of “Lady Liberty.” In 1924, the Statue of Liberty was made a national monument, and in 1956 Bedloe’s Island was renamed Liberty Island. The statue underwent a major restoration in the 1980s.
|Author:||remrogers [ 29 Oct 2017, 10:48 ]|
|Post subject:||Today in history. 10-29|
John Glenn returns to space
Nearly four decades after he became the first American to orbit the Earth, Senator John Hershel Glenn, Jr., is launched into space again as a payload specialist aboard the space shuttle Discovery. At 77 years of age, Glenn was the oldest human ever to travel in space. During the nine-day mission, he served as part of a NASA study on health problems associated with aging.
Glenn, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps, was among the seven men chosen by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1959 to become America’s first astronauts. A decorated pilot, he had flown nearly 150 combat missions during World War II and the Korean War. In 1957, he made the first nonstop supersonic flight across the United States, flying from Los Angeles to New York in three hours and 23 minutes.
In April 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space, and his spacecraft, Vostok 1, made a full orbit before returning to Earth. Less than one month later, American Alan B. Shepard, Jr., became the first American in space when his Freedom 7 spacecraft was launched on a suborbital flight. American “Gus” Grissom made another suborbital flight in July, and in August Soviet cosmonaut Gherman Titov spent more than 25 hours in space aboard Vostok 2, making 17 orbits. As a technological power, the United States was looking very much second-rate compared with its Cold War adversary. If the Americans wanted to dispel this notion, they needed a multi-orbital flight before another Soviet space advance arrived.
On February 20, 1962, NASA and Colonel John Glenn accomplished this feat with the flight of Friendship 7, a spacecraft that made three orbits of the Earth in five hours. Glenn was hailed as a national hero, and on February 23 President John F. Kennedy visited him at Cape Canaveral. Glenn later addressed Congress and was given a ticker-tape parade in New York City.
Out of a reluctance to risk the life of an astronaut as popular as Glenn, NASA essentially grounded the “Clean Marine” in the years after his historic flight. Frustrated with this uncharacteristic lack of activity, Glenn turned to politics and in 1964 announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate from his home state of Ohio and formally left NASA. Later that year, however, he withdrew his Senate bid after seriously injuring his inner ear in a fall from a horse. In 1970, following a stint as a Royal Crown Cola executive, he ran for the Senate again but lost the Democratic nomination to Howard Metzenbaum. Four years later, he defeated Metzenbaum, won the general election, and went on to win reelection three times. In 1984, he unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for president.
In 1998, Glenn attracted considerable media attention when he returned to space aboard the space shuttle Discovery. In 1999, he retired from his U.S. Senate seat after four consecutive terms in office, a record for the state of Ohio.
|Author:||remrogers [ 30 Oct 2017, 10:47 ]|
|Post subject:||Today in history. 10-30|
Welles scares nation
Orson Welles causes a nationwide panic with his broadcast of “War of the Worlds”—a realistic radio dramatization of a Martian invasion of Earth.
Orson Welles was only 23 years old when his Mercury Theater company decided to update H.G. Wells’ 19th-century science fiction novel War of the Worlds for national radio. Despite his age, Welles had been in radio for several years, most notably as the voice of “The Shadow” in the hit mystery program of the same name. “War of the Worlds” was not planned as a radio hoax, and Welles had little idea of the havoc it would cause.
The show began on Sunday, October 30, at 8 p.m. A voice announced: “The Columbia Broadcasting System and its affiliated stations present Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater on the air in ‘War of the Worlds’ by H.G. Wells.”
Sunday evening in 1938 was prime-time in the golden age of radio, and millions of Americans had their radios turned on. But most of these Americans were listening to ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and his dummy “Charlie McCarthy” on NBC and only turned to CBS at 8:12 p.m. after the comedy sketch ended and a little-known singer went on. By then, the story of the Martian invasion was well underway.
Welles introduced his radio play with a spoken introduction, followed by an announcer reading a weather report. Then, seemingly abandoning the storyline, the announcer took listeners to “the Meridian Room in the Hotel Park Plaza in downtown New York, where you will be entertained by the music of Ramon Raquello and his orchestra.” Putrid dance music played for some time, and then the scare began. An announcer broke in to report that “Professor Farrell of the Mount Jenning Observatory” had detected explosions on the planet Mars. Then the dance music came back on, followed by another interruption in which listeners were informed that a large meteor had crashed into a farmer’s field in Grovers Mills, New Jersey.
Soon, an announcer was at the crash site describing a Martian emerging from a large metallic cylinder. “Good heavens,” he declared, “something’s wriggling out of the shadow like a gray snake. Now here’s another and another one and another one. They look like tentacles to me … I can see the thing’s body now. It’s large, large as a bear. It glistens like wet leather. But that face, it… it … ladies and gentlemen, it’s indescribable. I can hardly force myself to keep looking at it, it’s so awful. The eyes are black and gleam like a serpent. The mouth is kind of V-shaped with saliva dripping from its rimless lips that seem to quiver and pulsate.”
The Martians mounted walking war machines and fired “heat-ray” weapons at the puny humans gathered around the crash site. They annihilated a force of 7,000 National Guardsman, and after being attacked by artillery and bombers the Martians released a poisonous gas into the air. Soon “Martian cylinders” landed in Chicago and St. Louis. The radio play was extremely realistic, with Welles employing sophisticated sound effects and his actors doing an excellent job portraying terrified announcers and other characters. An announcer reported that widespread panic had broken out in the vicinity of the landing sites, with thousands desperately trying to flee. In fact, that was not far from the truth.
Perhaps as many as a million radio listeners believed that a real Martian invasion was underway. Panic broke out across the country. In New Jersey, terrified civilians jammed highways seeking to escape the alien marauders. People begged police for gas masks to save them from the toxic gas and asked electric companies to turn off the power so that the Martians wouldn’t see their lights. One woman ran into an Indianapolis church where evening services were being held and yelled, “New York has been destroyed! It’s the end of the world! Go home and prepare to die!”
When news of the real-life panic leaked into the CBS studio, Welles went on the air as himself to remind listeners that it was just fiction. There were rumors that the show caused suicides, but none were ever confirmed.
The Federal Communications Commission investigated the program but found no law was broken. Networks did agree to be more cautious in their programming in the future. Orson Welles feared that the controversy generated by “War of the Worlds” would ruin his career. In fact, the publicity helped land him a contract with a Hollywood studio, and in 1941 he directed, wrote, produced, and starred in Citizen Kane—a movie that many have called the greatest American film ever made.
|Author:||remrogers [ 31 Oct 2017, 10:35 ]|
|Post subject:||Today in history. 10-31|
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes published
On this day, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle, is published. The book was the first collection of Holmes stories, which Conan Doyle had been publishing in magazines since 1887.
Conan Doyle was born in Scotland and studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, where he met Dr. Joseph Bell, a teacher with extraordinary deductive power. Bell partly inspired Doyle’s character Sherlock Holmes years later.
After medical school, Conan Doyle moved to London, where his slow medical practice left him ample free time to write. His first Sherlock Holmes story, “A Study in Scarlet,” was published in Beeton’s Christmas Annual in 1887. Starting in 1891, a series of Holmes stories appeared in The Strand magazine, and Conan Doyle was able to give up his medical practice and devote himself to writing.
Later collections include The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1894), The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1905), and The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (1827). In 1902, Conan Doyle was knighted for his work with a field hospital in South Africa. In addition to dozens of Sherlock Holmes stories and several novels, Conan Doyle wrote history, pursued whaling, and engaged in many adventures and athletic endeavors. After his son died in World War I, Conan Doyle became a dedicated spiritualist. He died in 1930.
|Author:||remrogers [ 01 Nov 2017, 08:59 ]|
|Post subject:||Today in history. 11-1|
Legendary western lawman is murdered
On this day, William Tilghman is murdered by a corrupt prohibition agent who resented Tilghman’s refusal to ignore local bootlegging operations. Tilghman, one of the famous marshals who brought law and order to the Wild West, was 71 years old.
Known to both friends and enemies as “Uncle Billy,” Tilghman was one of the most honest and effective lawmen of his day. Born in Fort Dodge, Iowa, in 1854, Tilghman moved west when he was only 16 years old. Once there, he flirted with a life of crime after falling in with a crowd of disreputable young men who stole horses from Indians. After several narrow escapes with angry Indians, Tilghman decided that rustling was too dangerous and settled in Dodge City, Kansas, where he briefly served as a deputy marshal before opening a saloon. He was arrested twice for alleged train robbery and rustling, but the charges did not stick.
Despite this shaky start, Tilghman gradually built a reputation as an honest and respectable young man in Dodge City. He became the deputy sheriff of Ford County, Kansas, and later, the marshal of Dodge City. Tilghman was one of the first men into the territory when Oklahoma opened to settlement in 1889, and he became a deputy U.S. marshal for the region in 1891. In the late 19th century, lawlessness still plagued Oklahoma, and Tilghman helped restore order by capturing some of the most notorious bandits of the day.
Over the years, Tilghman earned a well-deserved reputation for treating even the worst criminals fairly and protecting the rights of the unjustly accused. Any man in Tilghman’s custody knew he was safe from angry vigilante mobs, because Tilghman had little tolerance for those who took the law into their own hands. In 1898, a wild mob lynched two young Indians who were falsely accused of raping and murdering a white woman. Tilghman arrested and secured prison terms for eight of the mob leaders and captured the real rapist-murderer.
In 1924, after serving a term as an Oklahoma state legislator, making a movie about his frontier days, and serving as the police chief of Oklahoma City, Tilghman might well have been expected to quietly retire. However, the old lawman was unable to hang up his gun, and he accepted a job as city marshal in Cromwell, Oklahoma. Tilghman was shot and killed while trying to arrest a drunken Prohibition agent.
|Author:||remrogers [ 02 Nov 2017, 11:27 ]|
|Post subject:||Today in history.11-2|
Spruce Goose flies
The Hughes Flying Boat—the largest aircraft ever built—is piloted by designer Howard Hughes on its first and only flight. Built with laminated birch and spruce, the massive wooden aircraft had a wingspan longer than a football field and was designed to carry more than 700 men to battle.
Howard Hughes was a successful Hollywood movie producer when he founded the Hughes Aircraft Company in 1932. He personally tested cutting-edge aircraft of his own design and in 1937 broke the transcontinental flight-time record. In 1938, he flew around the world in a record three days, 19 hours, and 14 minutes.
Following the U.S. entrance into World War II in 1941, the U.S. government commissioned the Hughes Aircraft Company to build a large flying boat capable of carrying men and materials over long distances. The concept for what would become the “Spruce Goose” was originally conceived by the industrialist Henry Kaiser, but Kaiser dropped out of the project early, leaving Hughes and his small team to make the H-4 a reality. Because of wartime restrictions on steel, Hughes decided to build his aircraft out of wood laminated with plastic and covered with fabric. Although it was constructed mainly of birch, the use of spruce (along with its white-gray color) would later earn the aircraft the nickname Spruce Goose. It had a wingspan of 320 feet and was powered by eight giant propeller engines.
Development of the Spruce Goose cost a phenomenal $23 million and took so long that the war had ended by the time of its completion in 1946. The aircraft had many detractors, and Congress demanded that Hughes prove the plane airworthy. On November 2, 1947, Hughes obliged, taking the H-4 prototype out into Long Beach Harbor, CA for an unannounced flight test. Thousands of onlookers had come to watch the aircraft taxi on the water and were surprised when Hughes lifted his wooden behemoth 70 feet above the water and flew for a mile before landing.
Despite its successful maiden flight, the Spruce Goose never went into production, primarily because critics alleged that its wooden framework was insufficient to support its weight during long flights. Nevertheless, Howard Hughes, who became increasingly eccentric and withdrawn after 1950, refused to neglect what he saw as his greatest achievement in the aviation field. From 1947 until his death in 1976, he kept the Spruce Goose prototype ready for flight in an enormous, climate-controlled hangar at a cost of $1 million per year. Today, the Spruce Goose is housed at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon.
|Author:||remrogers [ 03 Nov 2017, 11:26 ]|
|Post subject:||Today in history.|
Black Bart makes his last stagecoach robbery
On this day, authorities almost catch the California bandit and infamous stagecoach robber called Black Bart; he manages to make a quick getaway, but drops an incriminating clue that eventually sends him to prison.
Black Bart was born Charles E. Boles, probably in the state of New York around 1830. As a young man, he abandoned his family for the gold fields of California, but he failed to strike it rich as a miner and turned to a life of crime.
By the mid-1850s, stagecoaches and Wells Fargo wagons transported much of the huge output of gold from California. Often traveling in isolated areas, the Wells Fargo wagons and stagecoaches quickly became favorite targets for bandits; over the course of about 15 years, the company lost more than $415,000 in gold to outlaw robbers.
It is believed that Boles committed his first stagecoach robbery in July 1875. Wearing a flour sack over his head with holes cut for his eyes and a fancy gentleman’s black derby, he intercepted a stage near the California mining city of Copperopolis. When guards spotted gun barrels sticking out of nearby bushes, they handed over their strong box to Boles. He cracked open the box with an axe and escaped on foot with the gold, though his “gang” of camouflaged gunmen stayed behind. When the guards returned to pick up the box, they discovered that the “rifle barrels” were just sticks tied to branches.
Heartened by this easy success, Black Bart embarked on a series of stagecoach robberies. During the course of his criminal career he never shot anyone nor robbed a single stage passenger; he gained fame for his daring style and the occasional short poems he left behind, signed by “Black Bart, the Po-8.” Wells Fargo, however, was not amused–the company ordered its private police force to capture the bandit, dead or alive. After several years of searching and tracking down clues, Wells Fargo detectives finally located Boles.
Arrested and tried, Boles pleaded guilty and received a sentence of six years in San Quentin prison. He served just over four years and reportedly moved to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, after receiving a pardon. All told, the “Po-8″ bandit had stolen only $18,000 during the eight years of his criminal career.
|Author:||remrogers [ 04 Nov 2017, 11:40 ]|
|Post subject:||Today in history. 11-4|
Will Rogers is born in Oklahoma
On this day, the cowboy philosopher and humorist Will Rogers, one of the most beloved entertainers of the early 20th century, is born on a ranch in Cherokee Indian territory.
The son of a respected mixed-blood Cherokee couple, William Penn Adair Rogers grew up riding and roping on the plains of Oklahoma. An indifferent student, he earned only average grades in school, but he was by no means the ill-educated common man that he later liked to pretend. He was, in fact, highly literate and well read. In 1898, he left his family ranch to work as a Texas cowboy, and then traveled to Argentina where he spent a few months as a gaucho. But Rogers discovered his real talent when he joined Texas Jack’s Wild West show in 1902 as a trick roper and rider under the stage name “The Cherokee Kid.” For all his skill with ropes and horses, Rogers soon realized that audiences most enjoyed his impromptu jokes and witty remarks. Eventually, Rogers began to focus on making humorous comments on world events and created a popular vaudeville act with which he traveled the country.
In 1919, Rogers’ first book, The Peace Conference, was published. In the 1920s, he achieved national fame with a series of movie appearances, radio shows, lecture tours, magazine articles, and regular newspapers columns. Amazingly prolific, Rogers eventually wrote seven books, an autobiography, almost 3,000 short commentaries called “daily telegrams,” more than 1,000 newspaper articles, and 58 magazine articles. Rogers’ warm, folksy manner and penetrating wit were hugely popular during the Depression, and his concern for the welfare of average folks was genuine. He contributed frequent charitable performances in support of the victims of floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes worldwide.
On August 15, 1935, Rogers was on a flight to Asia with the famous pilot Wiley Post when the craft developed engine troubles and crashed near Point Barrow, Alaska. The crash killed both men. Rogers was only 55.
|Author:||remrogers [ 05 Nov 2017, 11:10 ]|
|Post subject:||Today in history. 11-5|
300 Santee Sioux sentenced to hang in Minnesota
On this day in Minnesota, more than 300 Santee Sioux are found guilty of raping and murdering Anglo settlers and are sentenced to hang. A month later, President Abraham Lincoln commuted all but 39 of the death sentences. One of the Indians was granted a last-minute reprieve, but the other 38 were hanged simultaneously on December 26 in a bizarre mass execution witnessed by a large crowd of approving Minnesotans.
The Santee Sioux were found guilty of joining in the so-called “Minnesota Uprising,” which was actually part of the wider Indian wars that plagued the West during the second half of the nineteenth century. For nearly half a century, Anglo settlers invaded the Santee Sioux territory in the beautiful Minnesota Valley, and government pressure gradually forced the Indians to relocate to smaller reservations along the Minnesota River.
At the reservations, the Santee were badly mistreated by corrupt federal Indian agents and contractors; during July 1862, the agents pushed the Indians to the brink of starvation by refusing to distribute stores of food because they had not yet received their customary kickback payments. The contractors callously ignored the Santee’s pleas for help.
Outraged and at the limits of their endurance, the Santee finally struck back, killing Anglo settlers and taking women as hostages. The initial efforts of the U.S. Army to stop the Santee warriors failed, and in a battle at Birch Coulee, Santee Sioux killed 13 American soldiers and wounded another 47 soldiers. However, on September 23, a force under the leadership of General Henry H. Sibley finally defeated the main body of Santee warriors at Wood Lake, recovering many of the hostages and forcing most of the Indians to surrender. The subsequent trials of the prisoners gave little attention to the injustices the Indians had suffered on the reservations and largely catered to the popular desire for revenge. However, President Lincoln’s commutation of the majority of the death sentences clearly reflected his understanding that the Minnesota Uprising had been rooted in a long history of Anglo abuse of the Santee Sioux.
|Author:||remrogers [ 06 Nov 2017, 10:13 ]|
|Post subject:||Today in history. 11-6|
Cabeza de Vaca discovers Texas
On this day, the Spanish conquistador Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca is shipwrecked on a low sandy island off the coast of Texas. Starving, dehydrated, and desperate, he is the first European to set foot on the soil of the future Lone Star state.
Cabeza de Vaca’s unintentional journey to Texas was a disaster from the start. A series of dire accidents and Indian attacks plagued his expedition’s 300 men as they explored north Florida. The survivors then cobbled together five flimsy boats and headed to sea, where they endured vicious storms, severe shortages of food and water, and attacks from Indians wherever they put to shore. With his exploration party reduced to only 80 or 90 men, Cabeza de Vaca’s motley flotilla finally wrecked on what was probably Galveston Island just off the coast of Texas.
Unfortunately, landing on shore did not end Cabeza de Vaca’s trials. During the next four years, the party barely managed to eke out a tenuous existence by trading with the Indians located in modern-day east Texas. The crew steadily died off from illness, accidents, and attacks until only Cabeza de Vaca and three others remained. In 1532, the four survivors set out on an arduous journey across the present-day states of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. Captured by the Karankawa Indians, they lived in virtual slavery for nearly two years. Only after Cabeza de Vaca had won the respect of the Karankawa by becoming a skilled medicine man and diplomat did the small band win their freedom.
In 1536, the men encountered a party of Spanish slave hunters in what is now the Mexican state of Sinaloa. They followed them back to Mexico City, where the tale of their amazing odyssey became famous throughout the colony and in Europe. Despite the many hardships experienced by Cabeza de Vaca and his men during their northern travels, their stories inspired others to intensify exploration of the region that would one day become Texas.
|Author:||remrogers [ 07 Nov 2017, 09:56 ]|
|Post subject:||Today in history. 11-7|
Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapses
The Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapses due to high winds on this day in 1940. Fortunately, only a dog was killed.
The Tacoma Narrows Bridge was built in Washington during the 1930s and opened to traffic on July 1, 1940. It spanned the Puget Sound from Gig Harbor to Tacoma, which is 40 miles south of Seattle. The channel is about a mile wide where the bridge crossed the sound. Sleek and slender, it was the third longest suspension bridge in the world at the time, covering 5,959 feet.
Leon Moisseiff designed the bridge to be the most flexible ever constructed. Engineers of the time believed that the design, even though it exceeded ratios of length, depth and width that had previously been standard, was completely safe. Following the collapse, it was revealed that the engineers had not properly considered the aerodynamic forces that were in play at the location during a period of strong winds. At the time of construction, such forces were not commonly taken into consideration by engineers and designers.
On November 7, high winds buffeted the area and the bridge swayed considerably. The first failure came at about 11 a.m., when concrete dropped from the road surface. Just minutes later, a 600-foot section of the bridge broke free. By this time, the bridge was being tossed back and forth wildly. At one time, the elevation of the sidewalk on one side of the bridge was 28 feet above that of the sidewalk on the other side. Even though the bridge towers were made of strong structural carbon steel, the bridge proved no match for the violent movement, and collapsed.
Subsequent investigations and testing revealed that the bridge was vulnerable to vibrations generated by wind. When the bridge experienced strong winds from a certain direction, the frequency oscillations built up to such an extent that collapse was inevitable.
A replacement bridge opened on October 14, 1950, after more than two years of construction. It is the fifth longest suspension bridge in the United States, 40 feet longer than the original. Construction of the new bridge took into account the lessons learned in the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, as did that of all subsequent suspension bridges.
Today, the remains of the bridge are still at the bottom of Puget Sound, where they form one of the largest man-made reefs in the world. The spot was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in order to protect it against salvagers.
|Author:||remrogers [ 08 Nov 2017, 11:50 ]|
|Post subject:||Today in history. 11-8|
German scientist discovers X-rays
On this day in 1895, physicist Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen (1845-1923) becomes the first person to observe X-rays, a significant scientific advancement that would ultimately benefit a variety of fields, most of all medicine, by making the invisible visible. Rontgen’s discovery occurred accidentally in his Wurzburg, Germany, lab, where he was testing whether cathode rays could pass through glass when he noticed a glow coming from a nearby chemically coated screen. He dubbed the rays that caused this glow X-rays because of their unknown nature.
X-rays are electromagnetic energy waves that act similarly to light rays, but at wavelengths approximately 1,000 times shorter than those of light. Rontgen holed up in his lab and conducted a series of experiments to better understand his discovery. He learned that X-rays penetrate human flesh but not higher-density substances such as bone or lead and that they can be photographed.
Rontgen’s discovery was labeled a medical miracle and X-rays soon became an important diagnostic tool in medicine, allowing doctors to see inside the human body for the first time without surgery. In 1897, X-rays were first used on a military battlefield, during the Balkan War, to find bullets and broken bones inside patients.
Scientists were quick to realize the benefits of X-rays, but slower to comprehend the harmful effects of radiation. Initially, it was believed X-rays passed through flesh as harmlessly as light. However, within several years, researchers began to report cases of burns and skin damage after exposure to X-rays, and in 1904, Thomas Edison’s assistant, Clarence Dally, who had worked extensively with X-rays, died of skin cancer. Dally’s death caused some scientists to begin taking the risks of radiation more seriously, but they still weren’t fully understood. During the 1930s, 40s and 50s, in fact, many American shoe stores featured shoe-fitting fluoroscopes that used to X-rays to enable customers to see the bones in their feet; it wasn’t until the 1950s that this practice was determined to be risky business. Wilhelm Rontgen received numerous accolades for his work, including the first Nobel Prize in physics in 1901, yet he remained modest and never tried to patent his discovery. Today, X-ray technology is widely used in medicine, material analysis and devices such as airport security scanners.
|Author:||remrogers [ 09 Nov 2017, 11:31 ]|
|Post subject:||Today in history. 11-9|
The Night of Broken Glass
This day in 1938 saw the organized destruction of Jewish businesses and homes in Munich, as well as the beating and murder of Jewish men, women, and children.
It was an exercise in terror that would be called “Kristallnacht,” or “the Night of Broken Glass,” because of the cost of broken glass in looted Jewish shops—$5 million marks ($1,250,000).
On November 7, in Paris, a 17-year-old German Jewish refugee, Herschel Grynszpan, shot and killed the third secretary of the German embassy, Ernst vom Rath. Grynszpan had intended to avenge the deportation of his father to Poland and the ongoing persecution of Jews in Germany by killing the German ambassador. Instead, the secretary was sent out to see what the angry young man wanted and was killed. The irony is that Rath was not an anti-Semite; in fact, he was an anti-Nazi.
As revenge for this shooting, Joseph Goebbels, Nazi minister of propaganda, and Reinhard Heydrich, second in command of the SS after Heinrich Himmler, ordered “spontaneous demonstrations” of protest against the Jewish citizens of Munich. The order, in the form of a teletyped message to all SS headquarters and state police stations, laid out the blueprint for the destruction of Jewish homes and businesses. The local police were not to interfere with the rioting storm troopers, and as many Jews as possible were to be arrested with an eye toward deporting them to concentration camps.
In Heydrich’s report to Hermann Goering after Kristallnacht, the damage was assessed: “…815 shops destroyed, 171 dwelling houses set on fire or destroyed… 119 synagogues were set on fire, and another 76 completely destroyed… 20,000 Jews were arrested, 36 deaths were reported and those seriously injured were also numbered at 36…”
The extent of the destruction was actually greater than reported. Later estimates were that as many as 7,500 Jewish shops were looted, and there were several incidents of rape. This, in the twisted ideology of Nazism, was worse than murder, because the racial laws forbade intercourse between Jews and gentiles. The rapists were expelled from the Nazi Party and handed over to the police for prosecution. And those who killed Jews? They “cannot be punished,” according to authorities, because they were merely following orders.
To add insult to massive injury, those Jews who survived the monstrous pogrom were forced to pay for the damage inflicted upon them. Insurance firms teetered on the verge of bankruptcy because of the claims. Hermann Goering came up with a solution: Insurance money due the victims was to be confiscated by the state, and part of the money would revert back to the insurance companies to keep them afloat.
The reaction around the world was one of revulsion at the barbarism into which Germany was sinking. As far as Hitler was concerned, this only proved the extent of the “Jewish world conspiracy.”
|Author:||remrogers [ 10 Nov 2017, 18:21 ]|
|Post subject:||Today in history, for those young at heart.... 11-10|
Sesame Street debuts
On this day in 1969, “Sesame Street,” a pioneering TV show that would teach generations of young children the alphabet and how to count, makes its broadcast debut. “Sesame Street,” with its memorable theme song (“Can you tell me how to get/How to get to Sesame Street”), went on to become the most widely viewed children’s program in the world. It has aired in more than 120 countries.
The show was the brainchild of Joan Ganz Cooney, a former documentary producer for public television. Cooney’s goal was to create programming for preschoolers that was both entertaining and educational. She also wanted to use TV as a way to help underprivileged 3- to 5- year-olds prepare for kindergarten. “Sesame Street” was set in a fictional New York neighborhood and included ethnically diverse characters and positive social messages.
Taking a cue from “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In,” a popular 1960s variety show, “Sesame Street” was built around short, often funny segments featuring puppets, animation and live actors. This format was hugely successful, although over the years some critics have blamed the show and its use of brief segments for shrinking children’s attention spans.
From the show’s inception, one of its most-loved aspects has been a family of puppets known as Muppets. Joan Ganz Cooney hired puppeteer Jim Henson (1936-1990) to create a cast of characters that became Sesame Street institutions, including Bert and Ernie, Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, Grover and Big Bird.
The subjects tackled by “Sesame Street” have evolved with the times. In 2002, the South African version of the program, “Takalani Sesame,” introduced a 5-year-old Muppet character named Kami who is HIV-positive, in order to help children living with the stigma of a disease that has reached epidemic proportions. In 2006, a new Muppet, Abby Cadabby, made her debut and was positioned as the show’s first female star character, in an effort to encourage diversity and provide a strong role model for girls.
Since its inception, over 74 million Americans have watched “Sesame Street.” Today, an estimated 8 million people tune in to the show each week in the U.S. alone.
|Author:||remrogers [ 11 Nov 2017, 12:29 ]|
|Post subject:||Today in history. 11-11|
World War I ends
At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the Great War ends. At 5 a.m. that morning, Germany, bereft of manpower and supplies and faced with imminent invasion, signed an armistice agreement with the Allies in a railroad car outside Compiégne, France. The First World War left nine million soldiers dead and 21 million wounded, with Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, France, and Great Britain each losing nearly a million or more lives. In addition, at least five million civilians died from disease, starvation, or exposure.
On June 28, 1914, in an event that is widely regarded as sparking the outbreak of World War I, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, was shot to death with his wife by Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Ferdinand had been inspecting his uncle’s imperial armed forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina, despite the threat of Serbian nationalists who wanted these Austro-Hungarian possessions to join newly independent Serbia. Austria-Hungary blamed the Serbian government for the attack and hoped to use the incident as justification for settling the problem of Slavic nationalism once and for all. However, as Russia supported Serbia, an Austro-Hungarian declaration of war was delayed until its leaders received assurances from German leader Kaiser Wilhelm II that Germany would support their cause in the event of a Russian intervention.
On July 28, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, and the tenuous peace between Europe’s great powers collapsed. On July 29, Austro-Hungarian forces began to shell the Serbian capital, Belgrade, and Russia, Serbia’s ally, ordered a troop mobilization against Austria-Hungary. France, allied with Russia, began to mobilize on August 1. France and Germany declared war against each other on August 3. After crossing through neutral Luxembourg, the German army invaded Belgium on the night of August 3-4, prompting Great Britain, Belgium’s ally, to declare war against Germany.
For the most part, the people of Europe greeted the outbreak of war with jubilation. Most patriotically assumed that their country would be victorious within months. Of the initial belligerents, Germany was most prepared for the outbreak of hostilities, and its military leaders had formatted a sophisticated military strategy known as the “Schlieffen Plan,” which envisioned the conquest of France through a great arcing offensive through Belgium and into northern France. Russia, slow to mobilize, was to be kept occupied by Austro-Hungarian forces while Germany attacked France.
The Schlieffen Plan was nearly successful, but in early September the French rallied and halted the German advance at the bloody Battle of the Marne near Paris. By the end of 1914, well over a million soldiers of various nationalities had been killed on the battlefields of Europe, and neither for the Allies nor the Central Powers was a final victory in sight. On the western front—the battle line that stretched across northern France and Belgium—the combatants settled down in the trenches for a terrible war of attrition.
In 1915, the Allies attempted to break the stalemate with an amphibious invasion of Turkey, which had joined the Central Powers in October 1914, but after heavy bloodshed the Allies were forced to retreat in early 1916. The year 1916 saw great offensives by Germany and Britain along the western front, but neither side accomplished a decisive victory. In the east, Germany was more successful, and the disorganized Russian army suffered terrible losses, spurring the outbreak of the Russian Revolution in 1917. By the end of 1917, the Bolsheviks had seized power in Russia and immediately set about negotiating peace with Germany. In 1918, the infusion of American troops and resources into the western front finally tipped the scale in the Allies’ favor. Germany signed an armistice agreement with the Allies on November 11, 1918.
World War I was known as the “war to end all wars” because of the great slaughter and destruction it caused. Unfortunately, the peace treaty that officially ended the conflict—the Treaty of Versailles of 1919—forced punitive terms on Germany that destabilized Europe and laid the groundwork for World War II.
|Author:||remrogers [ 12 Nov 2017, 11:00 ]|
|Post subject:||Today in history. 11-12|
Ellis Island closes
On this day in 1954, Ellis Island, the gateway to America, shuts it doors after processing more than 12 million immigrants since opening in 1892. Today, an estimated 40 percent of all Americans can trace their roots through Ellis Island, located in New York Harbor off the New Jersey coast and named for merchant Samuel Ellis, who owned the land in the 1770s.
On January 2, 1892, 15-year-old Annie Moore, from Ireland, became the first person to pass through the newly opened Ellis Island, which President Benjamin Harrison designated as America’s first federal immigration center in 1890. Before that time, the processing of immigrants had been handled by individual states.
Not all immigrants who sailed into New York had to go through Ellis Island. First- and second-class passengers submitted to a brief shipboard inspection and then disembarked at the piers in New York or New Jersey, where they passed through customs. People in third class, though, were transported to Ellis Island, where they underwent medical and legal inspections to ensure they didn’t have a contagious disease or some condition that would make them a burden to the government. Only two percent of all immigrants were denied entrance into the U.S.
Immigration to Ellis Island peaked between 1892 and 1924, during which time the 3.3-acre island was enlarged with landfill (by the 1930s it reached its current 27.5-acre size) and additional buildings were constructed to handle the massive influx of immigrants. During the busiest year of operation, 1907, over 1 million people were processed at Ellis Island.
With America’s entrance into World War I, immigration declined and Ellis Island was used as a detention center for suspected enemies. Following the war, Congress passed quota laws and the Immigration Act of 1924, which sharply reduced the number of newcomers allowed into the country and also enabled immigrants to be processed at U.S. consulates abroad. After 1924, Ellis Island switched from a processing center to serving other purposes, such as a detention and deportation center for illegal immigrants, a hospital for wounded soldiers during World War II and a Coast Guard training center. In November 1954, the last detainee, a Norwegian merchant seaman, was released and Ellis Island officially closed.
Beginning in 1984, Ellis Island underwent a $160 million renovation, the largest historic restoration project in U.S. history. In September 1990, the Ellis Island Immigration Museum opened to the public and today is visited by almost 2 million people each year.
|Author:||remrogers [ 13 Nov 2017, 11:22 ]|
|Post subject:||Today in history. 11-13|
Indiana Textbook Commission member charges that Robin Hood is communistic
In an example of the absurd lengths to which the “Red Scare” in America is going, Mrs. Thomas J. White of the Indiana Textbook Commission, calls for the removal of references to the book Robin Hood from textbooks used by the state’s schools. Mrs. Young claimed that there was “a Communist directive in education now to stress the story of Robin Hood because he robbed the rich and gave it to the poor. That’s the Communist line. It’s just a smearing of law and order and anything that disrupts law and order is their meat.” She went on to attack Quakers because they “don’t believe in fighting wars.” This philosophy, she argued, played into communist hands. Though she later stated that she never argued for the removal of texts mentioning the story from school textbooks, she continued to claim that the “take from the rich and give to the poor” theme was the “Communist’s favorite policy.” Reacting to criticisms of her stance, she countered that, “Because I’m trying to get Communist writers out of textbooks, my name is mud. Evidently I’m drawing blood or they wouldn’t make such an issue out of it.” The response to Mrs. White’s charges was mixed.
Indiana Governor George Craig came to the defense of Quakers, but backed away from getting involved in the textbook issue. The state superintendent of education went so far as to reread the book before deciding that it should not be banned. However, he did feel that “Communists have gone to work twisting the meaning of the Robin Hood legend.” The Indianapolis superintendent of schools also did not want the book banned, claiming that he could not find anything particularly subversive about the story. In the Soviet Union, commentators had a field day with the story. One joked that the “enrollment of Robin Hood in the Communist Party can only make sensible people laugh.” The current sheriff of Nottingham was appalled, crying, “Robin Hood was no communist.”
As silly as the episode seems in retrospect, the attacks on freedom of expression during the Red Scare in the United States resulted in a number of books being banned from public libraries and schools during the 1950s and 1960s because of their supposedly subversive content. Such well known books as John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and Johnny Got His Gun, by Dalton Trumbo, were just some of the books often pulled from shelves. Hollywood films also felt the pressure to conform to more suitably “all-American” themes and stories, and rock and roll music was decried by some as communist-inspired.
|Author:||trapperrick [ 13 Nov 2017, 17:49 ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Today in history.|
Dang Commies are everywhere!
|Author:||remrogers [ 14 Nov 2017, 09:52 ]|
|Post subject:||Today in history. 11-14|
Plane crash devastates Marshall University
On November 14, 1970, a chartered jet carrying most of the Marshall University football team clips a stand of trees and crashes into a hillside just two miles from the Tri-State Airport in Kenova, West Virginia. The team was returning from that day’s game, a 17-14 loss to East Carolina University. Thirty-seven Marshall football players were aboard the plane, along with the team’s coach, its doctors, the university athletic director and 25 team boosters–some of Huntington, West Virginia’s most prominent citizens–who had traveled to North Carolina to cheer on the Thundering Herd. “The whole fabric,” a citizen of Huntington wrote later, “the whole heart of the town was aboard.”
The crash was just the most tragic in a string of unfortunate events that had befallen the Marshall football team since about 1960. The university stadium, which hadn’t been renovated since before World War II, was condemned in 1962. From the last game of the 1966 season to midway through the 1969 season, the team hadn’t won any games. Making matters worse, the NCAA had suspended Marshall for more than 100 recruiting violations. (The Mid-American Conference had expelled the team for the same reason.) But Marshall seemed to be getting back on track: It had fired the dishonest coaches, built a new Astroturf field and started winning games again. The Thundering Herd had lost a squeaker to East Carolina on the 14th, and was looking forward to a promising season the next year.
For Huntington, the plane crash was “like the Kennedy assassination,” one citizen remembers. “Everybody knows where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news.” The town immediately went into mourning. Shops and government offices closed; businesses on the town’s main street draped their windows in black bunting. The university held a memorial service in the stadium the next day and cancelled Monday’s classes. There were so many funerals that they had to be spread out over several weeks. In perhaps the saddest ceremony of all, six players whose remains couldn’t be identified were buried together in Spring Hill Cemetery, on a hill overlooking their university.
Marshall got a new football coach–Jack Lengyel, from the College of Wooster in Ohio–and set about rebuilding the team. The NCAA gave the Thundering Herd special permission to let freshmen play on the varsity squad, and Lengyel cobbled together a ragtag group of first-years, walk-ons and the nine veteran players who hadn’t been on the plane that night. The team lost its first game of the 1971 season but–with a last-second touchdown that seemed almost too good to be true–defeated Ohio’s Xavier University 15-13 in its first home game since the crash. The Herd won one other game that season, and nine in Lengyel’s four-year tenure at Marshall, but none was as emotional as the first.
|Author:||remrogers [ 15 Nov 2017, 10:54 ]|
|Post subject:||Today in history.11-15|
Zebulon Pike spots an imposing mountain
Approaching the Colorado foothills of the Rocky Mountains during his second exploratory expedition, Lieutenant Zebulon Pike spots a distant mountain peak that looks “like a small blue cloud.” The mountain was later named Pike’s Peak in his honor.
Pike’s explorations of the newly acquired Louisiana Territory of the United States began before the nation’s first western explorers, Lewis and Clark, had returned from their own expedition up the Missouri River. Pike was more of a professional military man than either Lewis or Clark, and he was a smart man who had taught himself Spanish, French, mathematics, and elementary science. When the governor of Louisiana Territory requested a military expedition to explore the headwaters of the Mississippi, General James Wilkinson picked Pike to lead it.
Although Pike’s first western expedition was only moderately successful, Wilkinson picked him to lead a second mission in July 1806 to explore the headwaters of the Red and Arkansas Rivers. This route took Pike across present-day Kansas and into the high plains region that would later become the state of Colorado. When Pike first saw the peak that would later bear his name, he grossly underestimated its height and its distance, never having seen mountains the size of the Rockies. He told his men they should be able to walk to the peak, climb it, and return before dinner. Pike and his men struggled through snow and sub-zero temperatures before finally taking shelter in a cave for the night, without even having reached the base of the towering mountain. Pike later pronounced the peak impossible to scale.
The remainder of Pike’s expedition was equally trying. After attempting for several months to locate the Red River, Pike and his men became hopelessly lost. A troop of Spanish soldiers saved the mission when they arrested Pike and his men. The soldiers escorted them to Santa Fe, thus providing Pike with an invaluable tour of that strategically important region, courtesy of the Spanish military.
After returning to the United States, Pike wrote a poorly organized account of his expedition that won him some fame, but little money. Still, in recognition of his bravery and leadership during the western expeditions, the army appointed him a brigadier general during the War of 1812. He was killed in an explosion during the April 1813 assault on Toronto.
|Author:||remrogers [ 16 Nov 2017, 10:46 ]|
|Post subject:||Today in history. 11-16|
Becknell opens trade on the Santa Fe Trail
On this day, Missouri Indian trader William Becknell arrives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, sells his goods at an enormous profit, and makes plans to return the next year over the route that will become known as the Santa Fe Trail.
Pure luck made Becknell the first businessman to revive the American trade with Santa Fe. Fearing American domination of the region, the Spanish had closed their Southwest holdings to foreigners following the Pike expedition more than a decade earlier. They threw the few traders who violated the policy into prison and confiscated their goods. However, Becknell and other merchants continued to trade with the Indians on the American-controlled eastern slope of the southern Rockies. While on such an expedition in the fall of 1821, Becknell encountered a troop of Mexican soldiers. They informed Becknell that they had recently won their independence in a war with Spain, and the region was again open to American traders. Becknell immediately sped to Santa Fe, where he found a lucrative market for his goods, and his saddlebags were heavy with Mexican silver when he returned to his base in Franklin, Missouri.
The next summer Becknell traveled to Santa Fe again, this time with three wagonloads of goods. Instead of following the old route that passed over a dangerous high pass, however, Becknell blazed a shorter and easier cutoff across the Cimarron Desert. Thus, while much of the route he followed had been used by Mexican traders for decades, Becknell’s role in reopening the trail and laying out the short-cut earned him the title of “Father of the Santa Fe Trail.” It became one of the most important and lucrative of the Old West trading routes; merchants and other travelers continued to follow the trail blazed by Becknell until the arrival of trains in the late 1870s.
|Author:||remrogers [ 17 Nov 2017, 10:25 ]|
|Post subject:||Today in history. 11-17|
The Kingston Trio brings folk music to the top of the U.S. pop charts
On November 17, 1958, the Kingston Trio’s “Tom Dooley” hits #1 on the Billboard pop chart.
While they might not have wanted to acknowledge it, the fans of 1960s protest folk probably owed the very existence of the movement to three guys in crew cuts and candy-striped shirts who honed their act not in freight cars or in Greenwich Village cafes, but in the fraternities and sororities of Stanford University in the mid-1950s. In their music as in their physical appearance, the Kingston Trio betrayed little discomfort with the sociopolitical status quo of the 1950s. Yet without the enormous profits that their music generated for Capitol Records, it is impossible to imagine major-label recording contracts ever being given to some of those who would challenge that status quo in the decade to come. Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, for instance, may have owed their musical and political development to forerunners like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, but they probably owed their commercial viability to the Kingston Trio, who introduced the astonishingly fresh sound of a 100-year-old folk song into the American pop mainstream of 1958.
The song “Tom Dooley” was probably first sung sometime after May 1, 1868, when a North Carolina man named Tom Dula was hanged to death for the murder of his fiancée, Laura Foster. Thanks to extensive coverage in major newspapers like The New York Times, the trial of Mr. Dula made him something of a national cause celebre, and he proclaimed his innocence of the murder even as he stood on the gallows. It is not clear when or by whom the mournful murder ballad based on his story was written, but it was resurrected by the Kingston Trio in the late 1950s after hearing a fellow folk singer perform it in an audition at San Francisco’s Purple Onion club.
The Kingston Trio’s version of “Tom Dooley” focused more on moody Appalachian atmospherics than on the graphic details of the love quadrangle found in the original, but that trade-off, combined with the Trio’s banjo-backed harmonies, made “Tom Dooley” into the mammoth hit that launched their massively successful career. And the Kingston Trio’s success, in turn, made it possible for a more political brand of folk music to move into the popular mainstream—and into the DNA of rock and roll—in the years that followed.
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