Monday, September 27, 2010

August 7th in History

1461   The Ming Dynasty Chinese military general Cao Qin stages a coup against the Tianshun Emperor, (in western dates, 1457-1464) which fails, subsequent to the Tumu Crisis, in an attempt to preempt being purged.  Cao Qin commits suicide.  The Ming dynasty lasted from 1368 to 1644.

the "Blood Countess"
1560   Birth of Countess Elizabeth B├íthory de Ecsed, Hungarian noblewoman, known colloquially as the "blood countess", a sort of female model for vampire mythology the way Vlad Dracul was the model for Dracula.  Folk lore portrays her as the serial killer of hundreds of virginal girls, possibly as many as 600 or more, and includes claims that she bathed in their blood to remain youthful.
 The chief complainant was a Lutheran minister; the circumstances surrounding the 'investigations' are muddied by debts being forgiven, and a lot of political maneuvering.   Four servants accused of helping her to carry out the 600+ alleged murders were convicted of 'only' 80.  The 'blood countess' was never tried or convicted, but she was bricked into an apartment of several rooms as a form of house arrest anyway, and died 4 years later in. 1614.  Like Vlad the Impaler, she lived in the area that was in chronic conflict with the Ottoman Empire incursions.  Real history suggests that in fact she was a devoted wife and mother, and a very compassionate ruler especially towards women in distress, while her husband was off on military assignments; very much un-like the actual Vlad Tepes, Count Dracula of a century earlier.

Hampton Court Great Hall

1606   The first documented performance of Macbeth, at the Great Hall at Hampton Court.

Badge of Military Merit
1782   George Washington orders the creation of the Badge of Military Merit to honor soldiers wounded in battle. It is later renamed to the more poetic Purple Heart.

1789   The United States War Department is established.

Whiskey Rebellion Flag

1794   U.S. President George Washington invokes the Militia Law of 1792 to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania.  The Whiskey Rebellion / Whiskey Insurrection was a challenge to the more eastern and urban United States, and the government where there was resistance to the tax on distilled alcohol.  It is one of the earliest instances of the government had the right and the will and capability of suppressing armed resistance to federal laws.  An applicable piece of history to remember for those who belong to the Tea Party and militia movements that like to suggest secession and 2nd Amendment 'Remedies'.

1876   Birth of Mata Hari, real name Margarethe Geertruida "Grietje" Zelle MacLeod, the notorious Dutch alleged spy, exotic dancer and famous lover.  She was executed by firing squad (no guillotine) in France for having allegedly spied for Germany in World War I, although there is modern doubt about her actual guilt. She had studied to be a kindergarten teacher at one point in her late teens.  She married a colonial army officer much older than herself, after responding to a newspaper ad for a wife.  They, moved to the Dutch East Indies, and  had two children.  It appears to be in the Dutch East Indies that her life was transformed, when her older husband turned out to be an alcoholic bigamist with both a native wife and a mistress.  It was at this point she left her husband and children, took up with another officer, and supposedly began to study Javanese native dancing.  Her stage name, "Mata Hari' means sun, or eye of the day, depending on which translation you accept.  She went back to her husband, only to have first her son and later her daughter die of syphilis, which appeared to be from an infection transmitted to their mother by their father, and to the children.  In 1906, Mata Hari and her husband divorced; he married again once or twice, and forcibly took their daughter away from her.

On her own, having to support herself, she did what she could without formal qualifications, including performing in the circus.  She got an agent, revived her dance name of Mata Hari, and capitalized on the modern dance movement and the 'orientalism' fad, popularised by Isadore Duncan and Ruth St. Denis.  It provided a good cover to her more profitable association as the mistress of a wealthy French industrialist.  In order to capitalize on the oriental fad, she took on the fictional identity of a Hindu Javanese princess.  Her dancing involved displaying a lot of skin, and what would be recognized in modern terms as being a stripper. She was something of a novelty which made her a sort of celebrity, but she was not taken seriously as a dancer by those who affected to be 'true artistes'.  Her celebrity provided her access to a lot of wealthy powerful men, affecting a luxurious life style.  She was considered more sensual and exotic than beautiful.

Mata Hari during the early years
while creating the illusion of being a
dancing 'Hindu Javanese princess'
posing nude except for jewelry which
included a jeweled bra.

At least some part of the allegations of her spying appear to be a story she made up to continue the image of being exotic.  It is possible, even probable, that she was set up by the German military as a distraction, when they referred to her in a coded message sent between Madrid and Berlin, using a code they knew had been broken by  the French.  The French arrested her, and accused her of being responsible for the deaths of 50,000 soldiers or more.  Classified files opened in 1985 document that she was innocent of the charges for which she was executed.  Her body was donated to science, and her embalmed head for decades was in the possession of the Paris Museum of Anatomy.  It is a toss up which was more exotic and bizarre, her real life, or her fictitious one that she created during her life, and that was even more embroidered after her death.

Skull from an early
Oldupai excavation

1903    Birth of Louis Leakey, British archaeologist and early devotee of paleoanthropology, a combination of paleontology and physical anthropology, and avid  proponent of evolution.(d. 1972)  His parents were Christian missionaries in British East Africa before it became Kenya.  His interest developed after being hired to help a British expedition exploring dinosaur bones in what had been German East Africa (later Tanganyika, then Tanzania) prior to WW II.  He gained fame for his excavations of the Oldupai Gorge, both animal and hominid bones, and stone age tools.

Bunche in Gaza circa 1947

1904    Birth of Ralph Bunche, American diplomat, first black person to be awarded the Nobel Prize Laureate (d. 1971).  The Nobel Prize was awarded for his mediation in Palestine between the Arabs and Israelis in 1947.  He was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President John F. Kennedy.  Bunche served in the OSS in WW II, and was active in the conferences that led to the formation of the UN. 

Photo of the Lynching,
Thomas Shipp on left,
Abram Smith on right

1930    The last lynching in the Northern United States occurs in Marion, Indiana. Two black men, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, are killed; another James Cameron, was severely beaten.  They were charged with having killed a white man and raping his girlfriend.  James Cameron was convicted of being an accessory; the other two men were killed before they could go to trial.  In 1993, Cameron received a pardon and an apology from the state of Indiana.

1933    The Simele massacre: The Iraqi Government slaughters over 3,000 Assyrians in the village of Sumail. The day becomes known as Assyrian Martyrs Day, or Premta d-Simele.  The slaughter continued during August with another 63 villages; ultimately more than 60,000 were killed.

Marines on Guadalcanal

1942    World War II: the Battle of Guadalcanal begins – United States Marines initiate the first American offensive of the war with landings on Guadalcanal and Tulagi in the Solomon Islands.
             Birth of Garrison Keillor, American writer and radio host

Judge Alan Page,
front row, left

1944   IBM dedicates the first program-controlled calculator, the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator (known best as the Harvard Mark I).

1945   Birth of Alan Page, American football player and Minnesota Supreme Court justice.

Kon Tiki, 1947

1947   Thor Heyerdahl's balsa wood raft the Kon-Tiki, smashes into the reef at Raroia in the Tuamotu Islands after a 101-day, 7,000 kilometres (4,300 mi) journey across the Pacific Ocean in an attempt to prove that pre-historic peoples could have traveled from South America.

1955   Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering, the precursor to Sony, sells its first transistor radios in Japan.

1959    Explorer program: Explorer 6 launches from the Atlantic Missile Range in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

1964    Vietnam War: the U.S. Congress passes the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution giving US President Lyndon B. Johnson broad war powers to deal with North Vietnamese attacks on American forces.

Lansing Riot Squad

1966    Race riots occur in Lansing, Michigan.  After 200 to 300 black youth go on rampage in east Lansing; Governor George Romney, (former CEO of American Motors, failed Republican Presidential candidate contender in 1964 and 1968, father of Mitt Romney) threatens black power advocates.  He requests federal troops to intervene in even more serious race riots in 1967.

1967    Vietnam War: the People's Republic of China agrees to give North Vietnam an undisclosed amount of aid in the form of a grant.

1976    Viking program: Viking 2 enters orbit around Mars.

1978 Love Canal Protest

1978    U.S. President Jimmy Carter declares a federal emergency at Love Canal.  Hooker Chemical Company (a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum) had buried 21,000 tons of toxic chemicals under a city neighborhood, contaminating 36 square blocks, including schools and playgrounds. The contamination resulted in health problems for residents, including an unusually high percentage of birth defects and miscarriages. In 1979, tests run by the EPA showed high white cell counts, indicative of Leukemia, and chromosomal damage.  Other health problems included seizures, learning problems and hyperactivity, incontinence, stunted growth, and eye and skin irritation.  The Love Canal emergency led to the evacuation and relocation of more than 800 families, and to the establishment by Congress of the 'Superfund' Act to clean up extreme contamination sites and to hold polluters accountable. For years, the Hooker Chemical and Occidental Petroleum denied the toxic chemicals were responsible for the health problems. Eighteen years later, in 1995, they finally settled lawsuits by the EPA, agreeing to pay $129 million in restitution to the federal government for cleanup, and an unknown amount in litigation with residents. More than 800 homes were demolished, and the toxic areas cordoned off with barbed wire.   It is impossible to avoid considering these events without thinking of the BP Deep Horizon Oil Spill disaster.

Dar es Salaam, US Embassy

1985    Takao Doi, Mamoru Mohri and Chiaki Mukai are chosen to be Japan's first astronauts.

1998    The United States embassy bombings in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya kill approximately 212 people.

2000    Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore chose Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman as his running mate, making him the first Jewish candidate on a major party ticket.

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