Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Stuff That Happened Today In Years Past

For no particular reason other than to fulfill my self-imposed obligation to blog daily for a year, here's a list of things that happened on this day in history. Some of them are pretty interesting. For the ones that weren't that interesting, I made some junk up to "spice it up" a little bit. I'll leave it to you to figure out what's real and what's fiction. Enjoy!

1230 –  William de Braose, Marcher Lord, is hanged by Llywelyn the Great, Prince of Wales, near Llywelyn's palace at Abergwyngregyn. Turns out Llywelyn wasn't so "great" after all. Apparently, their feud started over a game of cards which de Braose won by playing six aces in one hand.

1335 – Otto the Merry, Duke of Austria, becomes Duke of Carinthia. He ruled jointly with his brother, Frederick the Handsome. Okay, so Otto was ugly, but at least he had a good personality.

1519 – Leonardo da Vinci, Italian painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer, dies in Amboise, France, at 67 years old. The cause of his death is unknown, though exhaustion probably played a huge factor, based on all he accomplished in such a relatively short time.

1536 – Anne Boleyn, Queen of England, is arrested and imprisoned on charges of adultery, incest, treason, and witchcraft. She was also charged with jaywalking and vehicular homicide, but those charges were dropped due to lack of evidence.

1568 – Mary, Queen of Scots, escapes from Loch Leven Castle. She flees to Iceland, where she immediately assumes the throne and is re-dubbed the "Ice Queen." After 19 relatively uneventful years in power, Mary is killed when her chief adviser "accidentally" throws her into the mouth of an active volcano.

1601 –  German Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher is born in Geisa, Buchonia, near Fulda (currently Hesse, Germany). Kircher would spend the next 15 years of his life learning how to accurately spell and pronounce his own first name.

1611 – The King James Bible is published for the first time in London, England, by printer Robert Barker. Four hundred and one years later, it is still the only version of the Bible that anyone should ever read, and anyone who reads any other version is a blasphemer who deserves to be burned at the stake like they did in the good ol' days. Yeah, that was sarcasm.

1729 –  Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, is born in Stetten, Pomerania. At the time, she wasn't yet called "the Great" – her nickname was "Figchen", which means "Little Frederica" in German. When no one was around, her dad was known to call her "Little Bald and Wrinkly," just for kicks.

1816 – Prince Leopold I (who fifteen years later would become the first king of the Belgians when Belgium gained its independence from The Netherlands) marries Princess Charlotte of Wales (who was second-in-line to the British throne). A year and a half later, Charlotte would die shortly after giving birth to a stillborn son. Twelve years later, Leopold had an affair with an actress who looked just like Charlotte, but he never married her (probably because she was "just an actress"). Creepy, but true.

1859 – English writer Jerome Klapka Jerome was born in Caldmore, Walsall, England, to parents who hated him so much they gave him his last name as his first name. Primarily a humor writer (you'd have to be with folks like that), Jerome is best-known for his books Three Men In A Boat (To Say Nothing Of The Dog), Idle Thoughts Of An Idle Fellow, and Diary Of A Pilgrimage.

1863 – Confederate General Stonewall Jackson is wounded by friendly fire while returning to camp during the Battle of Chancellorsville. While being transported away from the battlefield, he is dropped from his stretcher, compounding his injuries. Eight days later, Jackson dies of pneumonia; ironically, the symptoms that presented themselves are mistakenly attributed to his rough treatment while leaving the battlefield and not to pneumonia.

1876 – The April Uprising breaks out in Bulgaria. Apparently, they call May "April" in Bulgaria. To each his own. The result of the Uprising was that, two years later, Bulgaria reestablished itself as an autonomous nation, no longer a part of the Ottoman Empire.

1885 – Good Housekeeping magazine goes on sale for the first time. A hundred and twenty-seven  years later, and the magazine still boasts a total circulation of 4,336,711 (as of 2011). Interesting fact: Good Housekeeping prohibited the advertising of cigarettes in 1952, 12 years before the Surgeon General's warning labels were required on cigarette packs.

1885 –  Noted gossip columnist Hedda Hopper was born in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. Believe it or not, she actually changed her name to Hedda Hopper. Her name at birth was Elda, yeah, that totally makes sense now.

1908 –  Indonesian National Education Day, or abbreviated as HARDIKNAS (Hari Pendidikan Nasional), is celebrated for the first time. HARDIKNAS was initiated by the Indoneisan education hero Ki Hajar Dewantara, the founder of the Taman Siswa education system. Dewantara's educational philosophy, "Tut Wuri Handayani", means "We can help others learn by coaching and mentoring."

1918 – General Motors acquires the Chevrolet Motor Company. Nearly a hundred years later, GM is still the world's largest automaker, by vehicle unit sales.

1920 –  The first game of the Negro National League Baseball is played in Indianapolis, Indiana. Another twenty-seven years would pass before a "Negro" (African-American) would be allowed to play in Major League Baseball. The man to break the "color barrier" was Jackie Robinson in 1947.

1921 –  Satyajit Ray, India's greatest filmmaker ever, is born in Kolkata, India. Ray directed thirty-seven films during his forty-plus years in show business, including Pater Panchali, Apur Sansar, Mahapurush, Kanchenjungha, Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne, and Seemabaddha.

1932 – Comedian Jack Benny's radio show airs for the first time. The show ran for 17 years on NBC Radio and another 7 years on CBS Radio. A pioneer in television as well, Benny's TV program ran for fifteen years, until it was killed in the ratings by Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. and finally cancelled in 1965. (I'm not making that last part up, either.)

1945 –  Ludwig Stumpfegger, a German SS doctor and Hitler's personal surgeon, dies in Berlin, Germany at age 35. It is believed that Stumpfegger committed suicide by cyanide capsule to evade capture by the Soviets. He has been portrayed by numerous actors in film and television productions, but the only actor whose name nearly equaled Stumpfegger's in its stupidity was Erwin Felgenhauer from the 1971 film Liberation: The Final Assault.

1946 – The "Battle of Alcatraz" (a failed escape attempt by several prisoners) takes place, killing two guards and three inmates. The "battle" was inaccurately portrayed in two popular movies, Brute Force and Birdman of Alcatraz, both starring Burt Lancaster.

1955 – Tennessee Williams wins the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. Williams had previously been given the same award in 1948 for his play, A Streetcar Named Desire, making him one of only seven playwrights to receive the award more than once.

1972 – J. Edgar Hoover, long-time Director of the FBI, dies at age 77 in Washington, D.C., of a heart attack. Contrary to popular belief, Hoover was not buried in a yellow sun dress. It was pink.

1985 – Major League Baseball catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (currently with the Boston Red Sox) is born in West Palm Beach, Florida. Jarrod holds the distinction of having the longest last name in the history of baseball. The name "Saltalamacchia" in Italian means to "jump over the thicket." Jarrod is widely hated among those poor, unfortunate souls whose responsibility it is to sew the letters of his last name onto the backs of his uniforms.

2000 – President Bill Clinton announces that accurate GPS access would no longer be restricted to the United States military. So why is it that 12 years later, I still can't get "accurate" GPS directions? "Recalculating..."

2011 – Osama bin Laden, mastermind behind the September 11 attacks, is killed by U.S. special forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan. He will not be missed by many.

*Credits to for all the information I gathered here. Any inaccuracies, untruths, or exaggerations are credited solely to myself, the author of this blog.

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