Congreves…The 1st Modern, Safe, Box Match…

Today in History, April 7, 1827:

English Chemist and Pharmacist John Walker sells his first “friction match”, the first safe and easy method to ignite fire in the modern age.

He had been experimenting for some time when a combination of chemicals accidentally caught fire when struck on a solid surface.

Walker called his matches “Congreves” after the inventor of the Congreve Rocket of “The Rocket’s Red Glare” fame.

There are indications that the ancient Chinese had invented these same items in the 14th Century.

1896 Olympics…Modern Reincarnation

Today in History, March 6, 1896:

The first modern Olympics are held in Athens, Greece. The ancient Olympic games were held in Olympia (thus Olympics) Greece for hundreds of years.

When the 1896 games were held, one of the first events was a run to retrace the route a Greek soldier had taken from Marathon to Athens in 490 B. C., bringing news that the invading Persians had been defeated (Thus the term Marathon). In 1896 there were 280 participants (some of them passing tourists).

American Patrol

Today in History, April 2, 1942:

In Hollywood, California, Glenn Miller and his Orchestra record their version of “American Patrol.” 

The tune was originally written in 1885 by F. W. Meacham, but Miller’s orchestra would add swing and jazz to the already inspiring instrumental.

This would make it representative and nearly synonymous with the jaunty, cock-sure attitude of American servicemen fighting World War II in multiple theaters.  Miller and his band would entertain the troops with this and other hits in live shows until his death on December 15, 1944, when he would be lost while flying to France for a performance. 

Think of the most popular entertainer you can, and they would pale in comparison to Glenn Miller in the late thirties and early forties.  Major Miller’s loss was felt.

It is important to remember what was occurring in April of 1942.  The attack on Pearl Harbor was only five months in the past, American troops at Bataan were about to surrender, the US Navy was conducting hit and run raids on Japanese strongholds, the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo was in this month, and Americans were training up for the war in Europe while U-Boats lurked off of American shores.

“The Girl I Left Behind Me.”  If you listen, and know what you are listening for, at about the 1:40 mark you pick up on the overlay Miller’s crew added to “American Patrol” of “The Girl I Left Behind Me.”  While versions of this tune were popular in Dublin and the British service long before, it became popular in the US Army during the Civil War and in the Cavalry as a marching tune.  So popular in fact, you’ve likely heard it in movies about the US Cavalry.

Just What a War-Weary Audience Needed

Today in History, March 31, 1943:

Historically Broadway musicals had gone for flash and opened with a bang.

So most critics expected this folksy, country new musical, opening on Broadway in the middle of WWII, to bomb.

They misunderstood the mood of the nation, which had been in the midst of world war and the related personal losses and stress for years.

When Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! premiered on this date in 1943 on Broadway, it opened with the melodious tunes of a cowboy singing as he greeted a peaceful morning.

Almost in unison the war weary audience let out an audible “aaaaahh”.

By the time the cast had sung the title song and closed the play, Joan Roberts (Laurey) says that the applause was deafening through two encores. The record setting musical would run for 15 years, 2,212 performances, before closing.

The Coercive Acts – A Heavy Hand Has the Opposite Effect

Today in History, March 28, 1774:

The British Parliament enacts the Coercive Acts, or what were called the Intolerable Acts in the colonies.

Since the end of the 7-years war, part of which was fought on the North American continent between Britain and France, the British Government was cash strapped. Part of their solution was to tax the American colonists, who did not have representation in Parliament. Taxation without representation led to increasing discontent in the colonies.

After the Boston Tea party in December of 1773, parliament decided to punish the Massachusetts colony, in hopes that the recalcitrant colony would back down, and the other colonies would calm themselves and pressure Massachusetts to behave.

The Boston Port Act closed the port of Boston until the colonials paid back the cost of the tea destroyed during the Tea Party to the East India Company, and until the King was satisfied that peace had been restored.

The Massachusetts Government Act took governance of the colony out of American hands. All administrators would be appointed by the British Governor, or the King. Citizens would only be allowed to have one town meeting per year.

The Administration of Justice Act allowed the Governor to move trials for royal officials accused of crimes to other colonies or Britain, effectively preventing witnesses from testifying in the trials.

The Quartering Act ordered that American colonists provide housing for British troops. Many believe that this forced colonists to house troops in their homes, but that is not correct; they were to house them in public buildings or vacant buildings.

Finally the Quebec Act drastically enlarged the territory of Quebec into lands previously considered to be part of the colonies. Aside from the obvious, the Protestant colonists believed the Roman Catholic French of Quebec were being primed for use against them.

The Intolerable Acts had the opposite of the effect Parliament intended. They had underestimated the Americans. Rather than turn on Massachusetts, the other colonies shipped in supplies that Boston could no longer get by sea and agreed to defend Massachusetts should she be attacked.

By September, the first Continental Congress had convened to organize a unified response.

Murder…War Crimes…at Goliad

Today in History, March 27, 1836:

The Goliad Massacre.

In the preceding days, several battles had been fought between the Mexican Army and Texians fighting for their independence.

Among others, James W. Fannin had to surrender his forces faced with overwhelming Mexican force and artillery.

He and his men had been promised surrender terms that included good treatment and “parole” back to the United States. They were not aware that in December of the previous year Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna had asked for and received from the Mexican Congress a law declaring that any Texian or American soldiers that were captured would be treated as pirates and executed.

In spite of pleas from one of his generals, Santa Anna ordered the men executed. Deprived of the ability to fight to the end by false promises of parole (parole was a common military practice – those that surrendered simply promised not to take up arms again), 303 men that were ambulatory were marched out of Fort Defiance in Goliad along three separate roads.

They were told that they were to gather wood, or that they were being taken to a port to be shipped to New Orleans. Many of the men joined in a chorus of “home sweet home” the night before. After marching about 3/4 of a mile, they were halted. Their Mexican guards turned and, on a prearranged signal, shot the unarmed men down. Only 28 managed to play dead and survive.

Forty more, including Fannin, were too injured to join the march and were executed within the fort. The Mexicans saved Fannin for last, setting him on a chair in the courtyard due to his injuries. He asked only that his property be returned to his family, that he be shot in the heart, not the face, and that he be given a Christian burial. The Mexicans shot him in the face, shared his effects, and burned his body where it lay. The other murdered soldiers were piled up and set afire, their remains left for the vultures.

After the Battle of San Jacinto and Santa Anna’s surrender, the Mexicans returned and attempted to destroy the evidence. The Massacre did a great deal to gain support for the Texian cause for independence from the United States.

Nightline & The Hostage Crisis Countdown…

TODAY IN HISTORY, MARCH 24, 1981:

“Nightline”, an ABC news show, premieres, according to Historyorb.com.

The most interesting part of this story is that “nightline” with Ted Koppel actually began in November 1979 with the Iran Hostage Crisis. But then, that was focused on the Democrat administration of Jimmy Carter, so we can’t report that accurately.

The program had its beginnings on November 8, 1979, just four days after the Iran hostage crisis started. ABC News president Roone Arledge felt the best way to compete against NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson was to update Americans on the latest news from Iran. At that time, the show was called:

“The Iran Crisis—America Held Hostage: Day xxx” where xxx represented each day Iranians held hostage the occupants of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran. Originally, World News Tonight lead anchor Frank Reynolds hosted the special report. Shortly after its creation, Reynolds stopped hosting the program.

Ted Koppel, then ABC News’s State Department Correspondent, took on the hosting duties. It wasn’t until a few days later that a producer had the idea of displaying the number of days on “America Held Hostage”: Day 15, Day 50, Day 150, and so on.

The show continued to run as Nightline after the hostages were freed, and Ted Koppel became one of America’s most respected journalists.