Monday, September 27, 2010

August 18th in History

Better late than never (I hope); apologies. Today's 'in history' segment was delayed by unavoidable technical difficulties.  The next installment will be up soon, and then we should remain current with the calendar.  Thank you, readers, for your patience. 

Venus Genatrix

293 BC   The oldest known Roman temple to Venus was founded, starting the institution of Vinalia Rustica.  The Vinalia Urbana, in April, and the Vinalia Rustica in August were festivals celebrating the previous year's wine harvest.  Much drinking and intoxication was involved.  Julius Caesar claimed her as an ancestor.

Medieval Riga, part of the modern city
1201     The city of Riga was founded, now the capital of Latvia and the largest city in the Baltic.  Bishop Bertold had arrived in 1198 with crusaders to forcibly convert those who previous missionaries had failed to convert to Christianity through persuasion.  The first wave of crusaders were defeated, Pope Innocent III (who has figured prominently in these 'today in history' posts before) issued a papal bull declaring another crusade.  In 1200, Bishop Alfred and 23 ships carrying another 500 crusaders showed up, and exerted considerable force on the citizens of Livonia, turning it into Riga.  The location was fortified; German merchants began trading, and eventually Riga joined the Hanseatic League, bringing the familiar combo of commerce and religion, backed up by military force.


1634    Urbain Grandier, a Roman Catholic priest accused and convicted of sorcery for the mass demonic "Loudun possessions", was burned alive in Loudun, France.  Sixteen Ursaline Nuns began to have convulsions and use abusive language.  The priest who performed an exorcism of the nuns believed that the demonic spirit then entered his body, and that he had a second soul inside of him.  The possessed nuns blamed Father Grandier. An earlier multiple demonic possession of nuns, the Aix-en-Provence in France, in 1611, determined the statements of possessed nuns was credible evidence.  The exorcisms were turned into public spectacles for thousands of people.  Later historians believed this was all actually a ply by Cardianl Richelieu to rid himself of a rival.  For anyone who finds modern politics grotesque theater, or damaging to the participants, this puts politics into a whole different level of context.
Fireball in the Sky

1783    A huge fireball meteor was seen across the United Kingdom as it passed over the east coast.

1838   The Wilkes Expedition to explore  Puget Sound and Antarctica, weighed anchor at Hampton Roads.

Sioux with tipis

1862   Minnesota trader Andrew Myrick was killed and has his mouth stuffed with grass after refusing to allow the distribution of food to Sioux Indians at the Lower Sioux Agency as an agent for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  There was extensive hunger and food shortages among the tribes.  Myrick, who had a Native American wife, made the statement "Let them eat grass." in front of a group of Indians, traders, and other agents.  His indifference to the hunger of the Indians, and the public nature of his comment were a major catalyst in the resulting Indian Rebellion.  Myrick's body was discovered on the second day of the rebellion.

1868   French astronomer Pierre Jules C├ęsar Janssen discovered helium.

1877    Asaph Hall discovered Martian moon Phobos.

1903    German engineer Karl Jatho allegedly flew his self-made, motored gliding airplane four months before the first flight of the Wright Brothers.  Gustave Whitehead claimed to have flown two years earlier than Jatho or the Wright Brothers.

Washington DC during the National
Cherry Blossom Festival

1909    Mayor of Tokyo Yukio Ozaki presented Washington, D.C. with 2,000 cherry trees, which President Taft decided to plant near the Potomac River.  In Japan he was known as 'the god of constituionalism' and 'the father of parliamentary government'.  Those cherry tree seedlings became the basis for the famous Washington D.C. National Cherry Blossom Festival.  First Lady Ladybird Johnson accepted an additional 3,800 trees in 1965.

1917    A Great Fire in Thessaloniki, Greece destroyed 32% of the city leaving 70,000 individuals homeless.

1920   The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, guaranteeing women's suffrage with these words:
"The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."

1941    Adolf Hitler ordered a temporary halt to Nazi Germany's systematic T4 euthanasia program of the mentally ill and the handicapped due to protests.

1963   American civil rights movement: James Meredith became the first black person to graduate from the University of Mississippi.

1976   In the Korean Demilitarized Zone at Panmunjeom, the Axe Murder Incident resulted in the death of two US soldiers. The incident revolved around the trimming of a tree which blocked the view of the border between North and South Korea.  North Korean forces attacked the American and South Korean maintenance crew and their escorts. North Korean soldiers attacked the soldiers performing the tree trimming maintenance, killing one and injuring the others. One soldier died from this attack.  The soldiers fled back to their side of the DMZ, but one soldier became separated.  The North Korean soldiers took turns attacking him with the axe that had been brought to trim the tree. The second soldier was rescued and later died of his axe-inflicted wounds.  The incident was recorded by still photos and movie footage from the U.S. side of the DMZ.

1977   Steve Biko was arrested at a police roadblock under the Terrorism Act No 83 of 1967 in King William's Town, South Africa. He later died of the injuries sustained during this arrest bringing attention to South Africa's apartheid policies.

2000  A Federal jury finds the US EPA guilty of discrimination against Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, later inspiring passage of the No FEAR Act.


2005    Dennis Rader was sentenced to 175 years in prison for the BTK serial killings in and around Wichita, Kansas.  Rader killed ten people, and had intended to kill others. The letters BTK stand for 'bind', 'torture', and 'kill', Rader's modus operandi.  Rader confessed to torturing animals as a child; as an adult criminal he collected souvenirs from his victims, in particular enjoying wearing the underwear of his female victims.  He sent taunting letters to the police.  DNA evidence from his daughter used to positively identify DNA from Rader taken from his victims helped convict him.


2005  A massive power blackout hit the Indonesian island of Java, affecting almost 100 million people.  The cause was a failure of a transmission line which in turn caused a cascading failure of the majority of the electrical power grid.

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