Wednesday, September 25, 2013

September 8 - New Amsterdam surrenders to the British, who rena med it New York

This sign was still up on September 24, 2013 at a
restaurant on Fifth Avenue and about 19th Street
(Brooklyn). Photo by JTMarlin. 
Today in 1664, Dutch Governor Peter Stuyvesant surrendered New Amsterdam, the capital of what was then called New Netherland, to an English naval squadron under Colonel Richard Nicolls. Stuyvesant didn't even get back the $24 Peter Minuit paid in 1626 to the local Manhattans (Algonquin-speaking Indians) for the island, Battery not included.

Since Stuyvesant was unpopular, his Dutch subjects failed to rally around him to resist the Brits. Following capture, New Amsterdam's name was changed to New York, in honor of the Duke of York, who organized the mission to capture the city.

The Manhattan Indians didn't realize they had sold to Peter Minuit their right to be on inhabited parts of the island. Beginning in 1641, a war was fought between the colonists and the Manhattans. When New Amsterdam passed to English control, English and Dutch settlers lived together peacefully except for 1673 when English rule was interrupted by a Dutch raid.

In 1674, New York was returned to the English, and in 1686 became the first city in the colonies to receive a royal charter. After the American Revolution, it became the first capital of the United States. Today, New Yorkers say that Albany is the capital of New York State, Washington is the capital of the nation, and New York City is the capital of the world.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

BALLOONING | Sept. 21–"Free Life" Ends (Updated Mar. 26, 2016)

The lift-off party for the "Free Life" balloon, 1970. That's Accabonac Harbor in the background.
This day in 1970, an attempt to cross the Atlantic in a hot-air Roziere balloon was abandoned by the balloonist team of three. They announced on a radio transmission to the Gander, Newfoundland air- traffic-control center that they were ditching the balloon.

A week-long search by multiple teams found pieces of the ditched balloon but no trace of the bailed-out balloonists, who were actress Pamela Brown, 28 (daughter of Kentucky Congressman John Y. Brown Sr. and sister of Kentucky Fried Chicken CEO John Y. Brown, Jr.), her husband Rodney Anderson, 32, and English balloonist Malcolm Brighton, 32. It was Brighton's 100th balloon ascent, and, of course, his last.

"The Free Life" balloon was four years in planning. The gondola and contents were assembled at a home on Springs Fireplace Road near Old Stone Highway that now has the number 771 and is where Alice and I stay in the summertime, so it makes this a personal story. The gondola and balloon were then moved on a makeshift cart to George Sid Miller's horse farm, and the balloon took off on September 20, 1970 with 1,500 well-wishers, as shown in the photo at top.

A one-hour movie about the project was prepared by LTV (#17218) and in honor of the lost trio, my wife Alice and I watched it this evening. It has comments from many people in the East Hampton community, including Willem De Kooning and Clarence Barnes, who ran the Barnes store near to assembly site and provided food for the crew assembling the balloon. Pamela's father, Congressman Brown, has an appearance in which he says that the balloon trip would be a gamble, but then so was KFC, her brother's successful investment.

Book about the attempt to cross the
Atlantic in a balloon.
On the northwest side of Ashawagh Hall – on the green where Old Stone Highway divides as it meets Springs Fireplace Road – a tree was planted in memory of the balloonists, with a plaque honoring "The Free Life".  Ashawagh is an Indian word meaning "where two roads come together".

Anthony Smith wrote a book, The Free Life, about the aborted flight. The cover is shown at left. The book suggests, with hindsight, that the 1,500 well-wishers made it difficult for the balloonists to stop the take-off in light of a tear in the balloon.

The book also stresses that while Malcolm Brighton had made 99 prior balloon flights, his substitution for the previous navigator – who withdrew with little notice – meant that much of the knowledge acquired in the four years of preparation was not on hand as the green light was given to the departure.

The first American-based balloon aeronaut was Charles Durant, who went aloft from Battery Park in Manhattan in 1830 - 140 years earlier – amidst a carnival-like send-off similar to the one in East Hampton. Durant had a modest objective – 25 miles to Perth Amboy – and he was successful.

Second Failed Attempt to Cross the Atlantic

The Anderson-Brighton attempt was achieved eight years after the "Double Eagle II" balloon failed to complete the voyage across the Atlantic. This balloon was named after the $20 gold coin last minted in the early days of the FDR administration when Will Woodin of New York City and East Hampton was Secretary of the Treasury.

Genie Henderson, Kentucky-childhood friend of Pamela
Brown, showing the balloon lifting off on the 40th
anniversary of the launch of "The Free Life", 2010.
As mentioned, Pamela Brown was the daughter of a long-time state legislator, Speaker of the state assembly and one-term Kentucky Congressman Brown.

Her brother John Y. Brown Jr. purchased Kentucky Fried Chicken from Colonel Harlan Sanders in 1964 and turned it into a world-wide brand at a huge profit in 1971.

He went on to be nominated twice by the Democratic Party for Governor of Kentucky, and was its Governor from 1979 to 1983. He remarried and named another daughter Pamela Ashley Brown, who became a successful television anchor. His son John Brown III was Kentucky Secretary of State from 1996 to 2004.

Genie Henderson, childhood friend of the Pamela Brown who perished, keeps the memory of "The Free Life" flight alive. Former President of LTV, the East Hampton television station, her duties today include maintaining the valuable library of archival tapes and DVDs of the station.

A tree was planted in front of Ashawagh in memory of "The Free Life", with a plaque in front of the tree. On September 20, 2015 another commemoration of the event was held, led by Genie Henderson, and a video was made for LTV. The next big anniversary of the balloon attempt will be the 50th, on September 21, 2020, the month after the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which recognized the right of women to vote.

Related Post: Charles Durant

Thursday, September 19, 2013

September 19 - President Garfield dies of assassin's wound

President James A. Garfield
President James A. Garfield died of blood poisoning in 1881 from a lingering wound created by an assassin's bullet on July 1. 

He had served since March 4 of the same year. He had previously served nine terms in the House. 

In the history of the presidency, four presidents have died from assassination. Another six were the subject of assassination attempts. 

Here is a description of each assassination and attempt.

Garfield was close to President Lincoln's Treasury Secretary, Salmon Chase. He was an aggressive Republican, impatient with some of Lincoln's military leadership. He favored more civil rights for newly enfranchised black voters. During his brief term as President, he initiated civil service reform that was carried through by his successor.

Monday, September 16, 2013

U.S. NATIONAL ANTHEM | Sep. 14–"Star Spangled Banner" Written by Francis Scott Key

Francis Scott Key, sunrise,
Baltimore, Sep. 13, 1814.
Today in 1814 Francis Scott Key, an attorney and poet, wrote the words to "The Star-Spangled Banner," after the British attack on Fort McHenry, at the mouth of Baltimore Harbor.

British troops three weeks before captured Washington and set fire to the Capitol, the Treasury, and the President's house. The President, James Madison, fled the city. Americans feared the British might invade other big cities.

Key served in the Georgetown Light Field Artillery and when the British took prisoner his friend Dr. William Beanes, Key went to Baltimore to help negotiate Beanes's release. British ships were located along Chesapeake Bay. Key and Colonel John Skinner obtained Beanes's freedom.

On Sep. 13, the three at sea watched the day-long assault. The British used their new rockets, adapted from Chinese technology. Francis Scott Key watched at night, with little hope that the American fort would withstand the attack. But just after sunrise, he saw it, still flying–the American flag, sewn by Mary Young Pickersgill at the request of fort commander Major Armistead. It was one of the largest flags then in existence – 42’x30’.

Francis Scott Key started writing a poem about the experience. The British ceased their attack and left the area. Key continue composing at an inn the next day. The work was called "The Defence of Fort McHenry" and was printed in handbills and newspapers, including the Baltimore Patriot. The poem was later set to the tune of a drinking song by John Stafford Smith, "To Anacreon in Heaven," and came to be called "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The battle at Baltimore was the turning point of the war and also in the extent of veneration of the flag. Before the war, the American flag was of little sentimental significance for most Americans–it was just the way to identify military units. After publication of "The Star-Spangled Banner," even non-military people began treating the flag as something sacred. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson ordered "The Star-Spangled Banner" played at official events. On March 3, 1931, President Herbert Hoover and Congress declared it the U.S. national anthem.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

BALLOONING | Durant 1st American Aloft

Book by Durant on his flights.
This date in 1830, the first American aeronaut, Charles F. Durant, completed his first balloon flight – from Castle Garden in Battery Park at the lower tip of Manhattan to Perth Amboy, N.J., 25 miles.

(Thanks to Garrison Keillor for noting this historic trip. My comments below on Durant are based on Keillor's story and other sources.)

Americans were late to ballooning. The first manned balloon ride was in Paris in 1783, almost half a century before Durant. A year later, in 1784, a group crossed the English Channel.

The first balloon flight in America was in 1793, observed by a crowd including President Washington. But the aeronaut was French.

So when Durant took off in 1830, he was the first American.  Ballooning still seemed new and exciting in the USA. The New York Post declaimed:
The spectacle drew many persons to the Battery, which was literally covered with an immense multitude of every age, sex, condition and color, whose faces were all turned upwards. It is estimated that upwards of 20,000 persons were collected to see a man risk his neck for their amusement and for their money.
Durant wore a top hat and tails. From the balloon, he dropped copies of poems praising the joys of flight. He was aloft for about three hours, and he landed in a farm field, surprising a New Jersey farmer by the name of Johnson.

Three years later, in May 1833, Durant published a letter in the Journal of Commerce called "A New York Balloon Ascension":
Here burst upon my sight one of the most imposing views I have ever beheld. Call it majestic, splendid, or sublime, — invoke a Shakespeare's mind to describe, or a painter's to portray it, — they, and even thought must fail to conceive the rich downy softness and white fleecy accumulation of clouds piled in waves as far as the eye could reach, covering the earth, and closing to my sight the land, water, and everything, animate or inanimate, that I had so long and often viewed with delight. Above me nothing but a clear, cerulean expanse, — the golden sun-beams spreading over the vast ocean of clouds, and extending through immensity of space where sight is bounded, and from whence even thought returns, unable to traverse the confines of the vast field beyond. 
This gaga writing about flight and open skies continued for a century through Antoine Saint-Exupery in his Vol de Nuit and Little Prince.

The commercial airlines, particularly since the security checks became intrusive, have since taken some of the romance out of flying. But still in 1969 in East Hampton, NY a group of three people – two men and a woman – set off to cross the Atlantic in a balloon called "The Free Life". A book was written about their failed attempt:
Theirs was to have been the first balloon crossing [of the Atlantic] in history. Two of the three, Pamela Brown and Rod Anderson, were inexperienced adventurers who sought a daring route to money, fame and thrills; the third-the pilot-was Malcolm Brighton, a well-known British balloonist intrigued by the challenge. The author (The Dangerous Sort), Brighton's friend and a balloonist himself, here tries to reconstruct what happened from fragmentary records and interviews with friends and family. It becomes clear that in their zesty determination the two amateurs ignored warnings about the balloon's faulty construction, and that Brighton evidently knew the vessel was imperfect but trusted his skills to compensate for its defects. A moving meditation on risk-taking, luck and folly.
A tree and a plaque have been dedicated to them on the lawn outside Ashawagh Hall, where Old Stone Highway runs into Springs Fireplace Road. LTV, whose officer Genie Henderson was a close friend of Pamela Brown, put together a video about the attempt.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

WW2 | Sept. 1–Hitler Invades Poland

By prior agreement, Hitler let Stalin take the eastern two-thirds of Poland.
At 5:11 a.m. today in 1939, Hitler issued the order for his army to invade Poland.

Hitler said he was responding to Polish provocation, but Polish troops were reacting to a German troop buildup on their western border.

The German invasion began one week after Stalin and Hitler put aside their animosities temporarily and agreed to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, dividing up Poland between Germany and the Soviet Union.
In his "Soldier's Creed", Willem van Stockum cited the
motivation of a soldier as defending "one Polish urchin" 
rather than a dream of a postwar Utopia

Britain and France entered the war after two days on behalf of Poland.

But the German army unleashed its Blitzkrieg, or "lightning war". In six days they had taken Krakow, in ten they were outside Warsaw.

The Soviet invasion commenced 16 days later, on Sept. 17, 1939.

The campaign ended on Oct. 6, 1939 with the total division and annexations of Poland.

RADCLIFFE | Sept. 1–Helen Keller Graduates

Helen Keller, graduate.
Helen Keller graduated from Radcliffe today in 1904. Garrison Keillor notes that she was "the first blind-and-deaf student ever to graduate from any college anywhere." She said, "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."

Her portrait hangs prominently in the Harvard Club of New York City.

However, five years later, perhaps inspired by Helen Keller's graduation, Inez Milholland - a graduating senior at Vassar - applied to the Harvard Law School. She would have been the first woman admitted to the Law School. The faculty decided she was qualified. But the Law School administration ruled that the seat would be wasted on a woman.

So Milholland went instead to NYU Law School and worked with the Triangle Shirtwaist workers on their strike in 1909 and after their disastrous fire in 1911. She led, on horseback, woman suffrage parades in New York in 1912 and 1913 and the huge and violent suffrage parade in Washington, DC in 1913.