BACK to Blog Posts

Oct. 24, 2023
October 24th, 2023

Question: The North African coastline used to be called The Barbary Coast, for the Barbary Corsairs, Muslim pirates who raided European shipping. But there was also a Barbary Coast in America. Where was it?

Yesterday’s Question answered below: What does it mean when you describe someone as being droll?
History for 10/24/2023
Birthdays: Roman Emperor Domitian, Bob Kane the creator of Batman, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek- the founder of Microbiology, Moss Hart, Merrian Cooper, Jiles Perry Richardson better known as the Big Bopper, F. Murray Abrahams is 85, Enkwase Mfume, Y.A. Tittle, Sara Josepha Hale 1788- who wrote the poem "Mary Had a Little Lamb", animator Preston Blair, Kevin Kline is 76

3018 BCT- Frodo the Hobbit awoke safely in Lord Elrond’s palace in Rivendell, after escaping The Ring Wraiths.

439- The barbarian horde called the Vandals crossed from Spain into North Africa and captured the Roman colony of Carthage, built on the site of Hannibal’s old city. When the Romans had destroyed Carthage in 146BC they put a curse on the land. But the cities’ strategic location and great harbor proved too useful, so a colony was soon set up. Ironically, or perhaps the curse working, in 455AD Geneseric the Vandal launched an attack from Carthage that sacked Rome.

1537- After giving King Henry VIII his only son, Henry’s 3rd wife Jane Seymour died of childbed sepsis. She was 29.

1648 –THE TREATY OF WESTPHALIA- After four years of negotiations Europe ended its last great religious war, the Thirty Years War. The good thing was nobody disputed Dutch or Swiss independence or the anybody’s right to be Protestant anymore, the bad part was Germany was devastated. Germany lost almost half her population. It wouldn't really get it's act together again until 1870. France replaced Spain as the dominant power on the continent. And because the Pope refused any peace signed with heretics, the exhausted European kings began to simply ignore him.

1781- British General Sir Henry Clinton arrived at Yorktown Virginia with a rescue force to learn that Lord Cornwallis had already surrendered to George Washington a week ago.

1800- Three weeks before a presidential election an October Surprise. Alexander Hamilton published ON THE PRESIDENCY OF JOHN ADAMS ESQ, a 58-page attack on the incumbent Presidents’ character and record. Though they were of the same party, the two men loathed one another. Hamilton had almost challenged the President to a duel. Finally, Hamilton decided he would rather see the opposition party win than Adams re-elected. His persuasive pamphlet not only ruined any chance John Adams had of re-election, it was a grenade lobbed into the midst of his own Federalist Party. President Adams placed fourth in the election, but Alexander Hamilton’s party disloyalty lost him most of his political influence.

1812- BATTLE OF MALOYAROSLAVETS (say that three times fast). Contrary to traditional perception, Napoleon wasn't stupid enough to think he could retreat from Moscow through Russia in the dead of winter. His first idea was to retreat south to the Ukraine where it was warmer, the food abundant and the people anti-Russian. The Russian General Kutusov guessed this and moved his troops south to cut him off at a junction called Maloyaroslavets. There was a bloody battle and Napoleon was successfully blocked. This forced him to retreat north along the stripped and ravaged Smolensk Road from whence he came.

1836- Mr. Alonzo D. Phillips of Springfield, Mass. received a patent for the first book of matches in the U.S. However the laboratory of the English scientist Robert Farraday had invented matches in 1829.

1861-The Last Pony Express ride. The idea was romantic, but a financial dud and only operated about two years before being replaced by stagecoach, rail and telegraph.

1901- Anne Taylor became the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel and live to talk about it. She attempted the stunt for a cash prize she used to get a loan to buy a ranch in Texas.

1902- Author Arthur Conan-Doyle was knighted by King Edward VII. He received the honor not for his literary accomplishments but for his volunteer service as a doctor during the just concluded Boer War. It was also said the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes was one of the few books King Edward ever managed to read from cover to cover.

1907- President Teddy Roosevelt called for a grand conference of government and business leaders to discuss a strategy for the conservation of America’s natural resources. For the first time, Conservation was made an issue of national policy. “ I have seen the last fluttering of bird species that once blackened the skies...”

1917- THE BATTLE OF CAPORETTO - The crumbling Austrian army was bolstered by some big German battalions defeated the Italian army, pushing them from the Alps practically down to Milan, erasing all the territorial gains the Italian army had made the last three years. Italian Commander General Cadorna was taken completely by surprise. Up to then he had been spending most of his energies replacing officers who didn’t agree with him.
Ironically the defeat was seen by scholars as being more beneficial to the future of Italy than a victory. This was because the insult and sacrifice welded Italian popular opinion into a national unity to defend their motherland, a spirit never seen during this unpopular war. The event was immortalized in Ernest Hemingway's "A Farewell to Arms".

1918- As the German front crumbled, the Kaiser’s government requested preliminary talks for a cease fire to end the Great War. This day, hotheaded General Eric Ludendorf tried to derail the talks by publishing a manifesto in German newspapers. Last week he was urging the Kaiser to negotiate, but he suddenly changed his mind. He denounced American President Wilson’s Fourteen Points peace proposal and declared the German Army would fight on. He had no authority to publish such a rash statement and it got him fired.

1918- Battle of the Vitorio Veneto. This day Italy launched one final attack across the Piave and reached Austrian territory.

1929- BLACK THURSDAY- THE PRELUDE TO THE GREAT CRASH- The Bear Stock Market that had seen prices dropping steadily since September 5th turned into a panic as dependable stocks prices like General Motors dropped through the floor. $11.5 billion dollars was lost in one day. Vacationing Winston Churchill picked that day to visit the Stock Exchange and later saw a banker jump to his death past his Waldorf Astoria window.
Basically what happened was people had bought stock on Margin, which meant you could buy ten thousand dollar’s worth of stock with just one thousand dollars. As the collapse occurred your broker would call you and demand the other nine thousand immediately or he would sell off everything you had. So, in minutes you were broke.
It took every major banker and financier on Wall Street together dumping millions of dollars of emergency funds to stop the slide. Ironically that night in a Broadway show the new song "Happy Days are Here Again' had it's debut. When the stage manager thought it inappropriate, the show's director snapped: "Play it for the Corpses!"
It was the worst day in American financial history, but it turned out to be just a gentle prelude to Black Tuesday coming the following week.

1936- The first appearance in the Thimble Theater comic of Popeye’s father Poopdeck Pappy.

1937- At Piping Springs NY, composer Cole Porter suffered a spill while horseback riding that broke both his legs. Even after 26 operations he never regained their full use. One leg was amputated in 1958. He died in 1964 at age 73 of kidney failure.

1938- The Fair Labor Standards Act established the 40 hour workweek as the law of the land. The 40 hour week, that thing few of us see nowadays.

1942- During the Battle of Guadalcanal, Marine Sgt John Basilone and his machine gun squad held off a heavy Japanese attack on their airfield. Basilone fought on until his guns were disabled and he held them off with a pistol and a machete. He won the Medal of Honor for this action.

1945 the United Nations Charter ratified.

1945- Vikdun Quisling was shot by firing squad. Quisling was a Nazi sympathizer who governed occupied Norway for Hitler. His name Quisling became synonymous with traitor like Benedict Arnold.

1946- Before NASA was created, the U.S. Army took a captured German V-2 rocket to White Sands New Mexico, and shot it up into the stratosphere. It had a camera in it, and recorded the first ever footage of the earth taken from almost-space. The U.S. Space Program had begun.

1946- KUSC, Southern California’s classical music station, started up.

1947- Walt Disney testified to the House UnAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC) as a friendly witness. He accused leaders of the Cartoonists Guild and the League of Women Voters –which he mistakenly called the League of Women Shoppers, as being infiltrated by Communists "Seeking to subvert the Spirit of Mickey Mouse”.

1948- Bernard Baruch while testifying to Congress about the worsening relations between the US and Russia coined the term "cold war". "Although the war is over we are in the midst of a cold war, and it is getting hotter."

1956- Cartoonist Jules Feiffer had been working for Terrytoons writing Tom Terrific. This day he began moonlighting a simple one panel strip for The Village Voice. It became an institution that ran for decades, until 1997.

1959- The TV program Playboy’s Penthouse premiered. Hugh Hefner hosted a variety show designed to look like a cocktail party in a swinging bachelor’s pad. It was a success despite many stations in the South refusing to show it. That was because they dared to have black celebrities like Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, and Nat King Cole laughing and partying alongside white ones like Tony Bennett and Lennie Bruce.

1960- At the Baykonur space center in Russia an R-16 ballistic missile exploded on the launch pad. The blast incinerated 165 people. This was all kept secret until the 1990s. Included among the dead is Marshal Mitrofan Nedelin, whose death was covered up as having occurred in a plane crash. He is the highest ranking person to ever die in the Space Program.

1962- During the Cuban Missile Crisis the U.S. Naval blockade closed around Cuba to prevent any more Russian missiles coming in. For one of the few times in its history Strategic Air Command went from Defensive Condition (DEFCON)3, to DEFCON2 -full war imminent.
An American destroyer dropped depth charges on a Soviet submarine. The enraged captain ordered a nuclear tipped torpedo loaded into its tube, but was talked out of firing it.

1962- UPA’s Gay Puree, animated film starring Judy Garland and Robert Goulet, and directed by Abe Levitow.

1969- Godfather Producer Robert Evans married young actress Ali McGraw.

1970- Chile elected Salvador Allende president. The US State Department went nuts because Allende was a lefty and began plans to have him overthrown.

1975- The musical play A Chorus Line opened.

1975- 90% of the women of Iceland went out on strike to demand equal rights and equal pay. They paralyzed the country. They won their fight and five years later they elected their first female president.

1994- Disney TV series Gargoyles premiered.

2003- Walt Disney’s Brother Bear, directed by Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker opened in wide release.

2008- Oprah Winfrey hosted an internationally famous talk show. She promoted literacy and called herself, “The Queen of Reading.” This day she declared her new favorite thing in the world to be the Kindle from Amazon. This plug helped launch the era of e-books.
Yesterday’s Question: What does it mean when you describe someone as being droll?

Answer: It meant to possess a low-key, dry wit.