Thursday, June 4, 2009

This Day In History - 4 June: Solidarnosi, Midway, Nazis In Paris, The Lost Colony and Morbidly Morbid Obesity

Map: Roanoke Island, site of the Lost Colony

781 BC – The first historic solar eclipse is recorded in China.

1039 – Henry III becomes Holy Roman Emperor. Under Henry III the medieval Holy Roman Empire probably attained its greatest power and solidity. Despite his involvment in numerous military campaigns, Henry made religious matters his prime concern and supported monastic reform movements, including the Cluniac order. He branded as simony the customary payments made to the king by new bishops and in 1046 undertook to reform the church. Descending into Italy, he had three rival claimants to the papacy set aside at the synods of Sutri and Rome and was accorded the decisive vote in papal elections. The four German popes named by Henry (including Leo IX) renewed the strength of the papacy, which was to prove the nemesis of his successors.

1584 – Sir Walter Raleigh establishes the first English colony on Roanoke Island, old Virginia (now North Carolina). Between 1585 and 1587, several groups attempted to establish a colony, but either abandoned the settlement or disappeared. leading to one of the great mysteries of history, "The Lost Colony". You will find much more on the "Lost Colony" at the fine blog, Brits At Their Best.

1615 – The great Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu completes the seige of Osaka Castle with a force of 155,000. With this victory, Tokugawa destroyed the last remaining threat to his rule in Hideyori, the son and rightful heir to Hideyoshi. To learn more about Tokugawa and life in feudal Japan - a country at that time the rightful heir to Sparta in many ways - I recommend the highly readable book, Shogun, by James Clavell. It weaves a bit of fiction through a great deal of fact.

1760 – The Great Upheaval was an act of ethnic cleansing involving the forced population transfer of the Acadian population from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick between 1755 and 1763, ordered by British governor Charles Lawrence and the Nova Scotia Council. It led to the deaths of thousands of Acadians. The policy was extremely controversial, both in Canada and England. New England planters begin arriving on this date to claim land in Nova Scotia, Canada taken from the Acadians. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published a long, narrative poem about the plight of the Acadians called Evangeline in 1847.

1783 – Man, for the first time, successfully takes flight when the Montgolfier brothers publicly demonstrate their hot air balloon - the montgolfière.

1792 – Captain George Vancouver claims Puget Sound for the Kingdom of Great Britain.

1832: The Great Reform Act redistributes parliamentary seats, giving due weight to Britain's industrial cities and largely ending the corrupt system of "pocket boroughs" whereby rich land owners controlled seats with very small numbers of voters. It was also a part of the drive towards univeral sufferage, though women would not get the vote for several decades.

1876 – An express train called the Transcontinental Express arrives in San Francisco via the First Transcontinental Railroad only 3 days, 11 hours and 39 minutes after having left New York City. The railroad line transecting the U.S. was begun in 1862 at the direction of then President Abraham Lincoln. The thousands of miles of track were built by thousands of labourers, primarily Irish in the East, Mormons in Utah, and Chinese in the West.

1912 – Massachusetts becomes the first state of the United States to set a minimum wage. Minimum wages were first proposed as a way to control the proliferation of sweat shops in manufacturing industries. The sweat shops employed large numbers of women and young workers, paying them highly substandard wages.

1913 – Emily Davison, a suffragette, runs out in front of King George V's horse, at the Epsom Derby. She was trampled and died a few days later, never having regained consciousness. A school teacher, Ms. Davidson had joined the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1906, and immediately involved herself in their more militant activities agitating for a woman's right to vote. She was arrested and imprisoned for various offences, including a violent attack on a man she mistook for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. She went on hunger strike in Strangeways Prison and was force-fed. In Holloway prison, she threw herself down an iron staircase as a protest. She landed on wire netting 30 feet below, which saved her; however, she suffered some severe spinal damage. In 1913, she planted a bomb at David Lloyd George's newly built house in Surrey, damaging it severely.

1917 – The first Pulitzer Prizes are awarded: Laura E. Richards, Maude H. Elliott, and Florence Hall receive the first Pulitzer for biography (for Julia Ward Howe). Jean Jules Jusserand receives the first Pulitzer for history for his work With Americans of Past and Present Days. Herbert B. Swope receives the first Pulitzer for journalism for his work for the New York World.

1919 – The U.S. Congress approved the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees suffrage to women, and sends it to the U.S. states for ratification.

1920 – Hungary, having fought on the wrong side in WWI, lost 71% of its territory and 63% of its population when they were forced to sign the Treaty of Trianon is signed in Paris. It has been a source of bitterness to Hungarians for a century and is to this day known as the Trianon trauma.
1928 – President of the Republic of China Zhang Zuolin was assassinated by Japanese agents. Zhang was one of the power players in the byzantine world of pre-WWII China, where Japan, Chang-ki Shek, and Mao were all vying for power.

1939 – In one of the most despicable events in American history, the SS St. Louis, a ship carrying 963 Jewish refugees, is denied permission to land in Florida after already being turned away from Cuba. Forced to return to Europe, many of its passengers later died in Nazi concentration camps.

1940 – Nazi forces enter the city of Paris, they finish taking control of the city 10 days later.

1942 – The most important naval battle of WWII's Pacific campaign, the Battle of Midway began. Japanese Admiral Chuichi Nagumo ordered a strike on Midway Island by much of the Imperial Japanese navy. American codebreakers were able to determine the date and location of the attack, and the U.S. Navy under Admiral Nimitz set up an ambush. Four Japanese aircraft carriers and a heavy cruiser were sunk in exchange for one American aircraft carrier and a destroyer. The heavy losses, particularly the four fleet carriers and their aircrews, permanently weakened the Imperial Japanese Navy. It was the beginning of the end for Japan.

1944 – General Mark Clark, commander of the U.S. Fifth Army, captured Rome a little over a year into the Italian campaign. Clark's conduct of operations remains controversial, particularly his decision during the Battle of the Winter Line to ignore the orders of British General Harold Alexander, and send the U.S. VI Corps to capture Rome. As a result, he failed to exploit the gap in the German positions that had opened up following the capture of Monte Cassino, allowing a substantial number of German units to escape and reinforce what became the Gothic Line.

1973 – A patent for the ATM is granted to Don Wetzel, Tom Barnes and George Chastain.

1986 – Jonathan Pollard pleads guilty to espionage for selling top secret United States military intelligence to Israel.

1989 – Ali Khamenei is elected the new Supreme Leader of Iran by the Assembly of Experts after the death of Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Khamenei had been Khomeini's son in law. He was a mid-level cleric at the time, and was elevated to the position of Grand Ayatollah so that he could assume the position of Supreme Leader. He has very much followed in the footsteps of Khomeini, brutally repressing the people of Iran, waging acts of mayhem and war in all directions, and attempting to spread the velyat-e-faqi of Khomeini throughout the Middle East and the world. He is a man with much blood on his hands.

1989 – The beginning of the end of the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe begins with Solidarnosci's victory in the first free parliamentary elections in post-war Poland. It sparked a succession of peaceful anti-communist revolutions in Eastern Europe, leading to the creation of the so-called Contract Sejm and the Autumn of Nations - a revolutionary wave that swept across Central and Eastern Europe, ending in the overthrow of Soviet-style communist states within the space of a few months.

1998 – Terry Nichols is sentenced to life in prison for his role in the Oklahoma City bombing.

2001 – Gyanendra, the last King of Nepal, ascends to the throne after the massacre in the Royal Palace.


1394 – Philippa of England, queen of Denmark, Norway and Sweden (d. 1430). She was a very efficient ruler. In 1428 she successfully organized the defence of Copenhagen against the Hanseatic League, a heroic feat later recounted by Hans Christian Andersen in Godfather's Picture Book (1868).

1738 – "Mad" King George III of Great Britain. His obstinancy and refusal to treat American colonies as having rights equal to British citizens led directly to the American Revolution and the loss of the thirteen colonies.

1907 – Rosalind Russell, American actress (d. 1976)

1924 – Dennis Weaver, American actor (d. 2006)

1926 – Robert Earl Hughes, American man who became the heaviest known human at an estimated 1,070 lb. When he died at age 32, he was buried in a piano case.

1928 – Dr. Ruth Westheimer, German-born American sex therapist.


1039Conrad II, Holy Roman Emperor

1798Giacomo Casanova, Italian womanizer and writer (b. 1725)

1942Reinhard Heydrich, German SS officer in charge of counterintelligence, he was assassinated in an operation planned by the British.

Today is the feast of Saint Petroc of Cornwall, a 6th century Welshman who ministered to Britons in central Britain. He is today one of the patron saints of Cornwall. "The legendary tales surrounding Petroc are exceptionally vivid and imaginative (giving him a second pilgrimage, travels to India, taming wolves) and may represent interpolation from pagan tales."

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