Saturday, September 25, 2010

July 30th in History

762 – Baghdad is founded,as the capital of Iraq, on the Tigris river.  The etymology of the name translates as 'God Given'.  It was founded by caliph Al Mansour, the third of the Muslim dynasties. It was a planned city, built in concentric circles streets radiating out from a central hub. Much of the capital was built out of marble.  The center or hub was the royal palace.  The circular city plan was in stark contrast to other city plans like the Roman rectangular and square plan of careful parallel lines.  It became a crossroads between Greek learning and the developments of Indian science and technology, making Baghdad of this era a center for learning and technical innovation, as well as commerce.

archaeological site,  wide-angle view
showing the circular layout of ancient Baghdad

still extant site of the 2nd
Defenestration of Prague

1419    The First Defenestration of Prague, of two.  Radical Czech 'Hussites' (early protestant reformers,not hussies) threw an entire city council of thirteen men, a judge, and the mayor, out of an upper window after someone threw a rock at them in the street from the council room.  Those who did not die from the fall were killed by the enraged Hussites.  These and other incidents led to Hussite Wars. Not to be confused with the Second Defenestration of Prague, two hundred years later, which ignited the Thirty Years War.  That was not a fatal defenestration; a manure pile broke the falls of the defenestrated.

There was actually a lesser known Defenestration of Prague in between the First and Second, in 1483, called the One and a half Defenestration of Prague, where seven alderman were given the heave-ho the hard way.  There was a sort-of Third Defenestration of Prague, under the Communist rule, in 1948, but the details are somewhat disputed.  The Defenestrations of Prague are not so much significant - they are moderately so - as they are an odd novelty of history.  Odd enough I couldn't resist including them, and because real events are so much stranger than anything historians could possibly invent. 
They've always been a personal favorite, especially the 2nd, since I first learned about them back in K-12 history classes.  An optional celebration - throw some small thing you actively dislike out an open window.  It is very liberating.  (Some thing, not someone; it helps make history more personal.)

1619 – In Jamestown, Virginia, the first representative assembly in the Americas, the House of Burgesses, convenes for the first time.  This began an important representative government tradition in what would become in the U.S.

1629 – An earthquake in Naples, Italy kills 10,000 people.

1863  Birth of Henry Ford, American industrialist (d. 1947).  Ford was the 'father' of the modern assembly line mass production aka 'Fordism', the 40 hour work week and profit sharing, and Edsel B. Ford.  He held over 160 patents; he got his start as an engineer for Thomas Edison.  The picture, right, is of Ford on the left, with Thomas Edison in the center, and Harvey Firestone of the rubber and tire Firestone company on the right, circa 1929, right before the Stock Market Crash.  You can tell, because they're still smiling.

1942   President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a bill creating a women's auxiliary agency in the Navy known as Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, or WAVES. Which proves the government liked cutesy acronyms, although it was better than WACs, the Women's Army Corps, and WASP.  No, not white anglo saxon protestant, although I am not aware of any black women who served in it.  The Women's Airforce Service Pilots which existed until 1944; the WAF, Women in the Air Force came into existence in 1948 around the same time President Truman was desegregating the services.  Because like discrimination by race, the armed forces institutionalized discrimination not integration by gender as well.  Discrimination on the basis of sexual attraction still persists.

1956 – A joint resolution of the U.S. Congress is signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, authorizing In God We Trust as the U.S. national motto at the instigation of the secretive religious power group known as 'the Family'.  Under God was also added to the Pledge of Allegiance at this time.  It was considered in part an anti-communism cold-war gesture of patriotism, because the Communists were 'godless'.  The National Prayer Breakfast was also begun during Eisenhower's administration, despite his personal reluctance to do so, as part of a political negotiation with powerful 'Family' members, in exchange for other concessions.

Seated is former President Harry S. Truman,
on President Johnson's right is his wife,
behind Truman, Vice President Humphrey

1965   US President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Social Security Act of 1965 into law, establishing Medicare and Medicaid.

lunar rover

1971 – Apollo program: Apollo 15 Mission – David Scott and James Irwin on Apollo Lunar Module module, Falcon, land with first Lunar Rover on the moon.  Not so much a dune buggy as a lune buggy; I've always thought it resembled one of the constructs they make on Junkyard Wars.  I think it is the seats as much as anything else about it.

Hoffa, in a classic belligerent moment

1975 – Jimmy Hoffa disappears from the parking lot of the Machus Red Fox restaurant in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, at about 2:30 p.m. He is never seen or heard from again, and was declared legally dead in 1982.  He earned a certain notoriety as head of the Teamsters Union.  In the decade before his disappearance, he had been convicted of jury tampering, attempted bribery and fraud.  He remained powerful enough to negotiate a pardon agreement with President Nixon who had his own legal difficulties during his time in office.  Hoffa's disappearance remains one of the great unsolved mysterious deaths, presumed murder.

1978   The Japanese government changes its traffic on the right-hand side of the road to the left-hand side, known as the 730 rule.  Only Okinawa under U.S. jurisdiction had used right-hand driving; the rest of the country drove on the left.  Military occupation has been a major cause of traffic directional changes.  That must have been an interesting first 24 hours.  There is an actual Geneva Convention of Road Traffic.  In most countries there is a single traffic pattern, either left or right-hand sided, with the exception of a few countries like China where it varies by region.  This had also been the case in Canada until the 1920s. Eary American cars had the steering on the right, not the left, imitating horse-drawn vehicles.  Ford (see above) was one of the main innovators that changed the steering apparatus to the present customary position. Now think about the position of the steering apparatus on the 'lune' buggy and it's implications.

2002   Expelled from Congress a week earlier, James A. Traficant Jr. was sentenced to eight years behind bars for corruption.  Traficant has  filed as a candidate in the 2010 elections.

Classic Bug

2003   In Mexico, the last 'old style' Volkswagen Beetle rolls off the assembly line.  If you look closely, you will see the steering wheel is on the left.

2009 Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Cambridge, Mass., police Sgt. James Crowley, who had arrested him for disorderly conduct at his home, met with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden at the White House for a "beer summit."  A non-alcoholic brewsky, in the case of Biden, who doesn't drink.

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