Archive for the ‘ Obscure Historical Information ’ Category

Disaster Day!

March 21st in history is a day of disaster!

In 1788, a fire in New Orleans left most of the city in ruins!

In 1913, the Great Dayton Flood occurred killing over 360 people and destroying 20,000 homes in the area.

In Ponce, Puerto Rico on this date in 1937, nineteen people were gunned down by the police acting on the orders of the Governor!  Nice guy!

1980 saw President Jimmy Carter announcing that the US would boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow due to the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan.

And most horrific of all, in 2006 Twitter was created!

We can all thank this guy for that…

Yep!  Day of disaster

Much Ado About Something

It really is a big deal, all this talk about religious liberty.

Yeah, yeah, I know, we don’t talk about it all that much from time to time, but it’s been in the news lately even if we aren’t calling it by name.

So, you might ask, “Why today?”

Well, back in 1672, on March 15, King Charles II of England issued a Royal Declaration of Indulgence.  It was his attempt to extend religious liberty to Protestant non-conformist and Roman Catholics in his dominions worldwide by suspending the penal laws that punished “recusants” (those who refused to attend Anglican services) from the Church of England.

Prior to this ill-fated declaration, England had undergone religious turmoil since the days of Henry VIII’s divorce from Rome and his Catholic wife, Catherine of Aragon.

The British Isles had been fighting religious wars on one side or another during the last part of Henry’s reign, his son’s reign, and the reigns of his daughters, Catholic Mary and Protestant Elizabeth.  And at the time of the declaration, not only were the Catholics in hot water, the Protestants within the protestant Church of England were too.

Rules were rules, and they’d for darn sure better not be broken!

The Stuarts (Charles II’s granddad, James I) took over when Liz died.  They were in reality, Catholics posing as Scottish Presbyterians posing as Anglicans.  Charles II’s mom was so Catholic she refused to be crowned in an Anglican ceremony and was never really queen.

Of course, all of Europe was in religious upheaval at the same time as the Protestant Reformation had been going on for years.  The Eastern World had never known religious freedom.  In the Middle East and beyond, it was the religion of the current war-lord that was en vogue.

In the United States, we’ve never had to deal with this stuff.

Sure, sure, some of our first “citizens” landed on our sunny shores for religious freedom, but most of them brought their beliefs from back home and most of them were about as tolerant as an Ayatollah.

That all changed with folks like George Washington, James Madison, Roger Williams and such.

As a matter of fact, George didn’t become a popular name in Jewish communities until George Washington went into a synagogue in New York City and promised the congregation not only religious tolerance, but religious freedom.

But back to Charles II and his Royal Declaration of Indulgence.

It was highly controversial, as most religious decrees are.  Sir Orlando Bridgeman resigned as Lord Keeper of the Great Seal and refused to apply the Great Seal of England to it.

Orlando thought it was too generous to Catholics.

See, Catholics in England couldn’t enter public service, lost lands, estates, and power, and this was Charles’, who was decidedly and not-so secretly Catholic, attempt to restore much of that.

It was a big deal.

Charles’ parliament, known as the Cavalier Parliament, forced Charles in 1673 to withdraw the declaration and in is place, impose the Test Acts.

They required anyone going into public service (lords, barons, earls, dukes, sheriffs, dog catchers) to deny the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation and take communion at the local Anglican church.

To Catholics, then and now, transubstantiation is pretty important.

But with the Test Act, they had to place their hand on the Bible and say “I (state your name) do declare that I do believe that there is not any transubstantiation in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, or in the elements of the bread and wine, at or after the consecration thereof by any person whatsoever.”

If they didn’t, they couldn’t be employed.

If they did, their church taught they were bound for an eternity of torment.

At the onset, the Test Acts didn’t include the peers (lords, dukes, etc.) but they were included in the Protestant only play in 1678 which required all peers and members of the House of Commons to take the oath as well.

It went further and required them to declare against the invocation of saints, the sacrament of Mass, and of course, transubstantiation, effectively excluding Catholics from both houses.

This was in no way religious liberty, religious tolerance, or religious freedom.

It wasn’t until 1828 when the “necessity of receiving the sacrament” as a qualification for office was repealed.

Sir Robert Peel’s Catholic Relief Act of 1829 cleared that UP.

So, again, you might ask why.

Well, it’s my blog, religious freedom is important to me – not just my religious freedom, but yours too –  and the guy down the street whom I’ve never met, for that matter.

So today, when you pray, or chant, or meditate, or go to mass, or vespers, remember, this religious freedom thing, it’s not just a conversation, it’s a right, and a right many fought and died for you to have.


Some Of This May Be Fake News

Always a dreamer, lost in his own thoughts, and losing items from time to time, he was bullied as a child and the kids at school tauntingly chanted, “You couldn’t find your ass with both hands!”


William Herschel was born in the Electorate of Hanover (Germany) and was a noted British astronomer and composer.

A dreamy child, the stars inspired his music.

He went into the military band of Hanover at the age of 15 following his father’s lead, and migrated to Great Britain at the age of 19.

Crazy for astronomy, he constructed a telescope, his first, in 1774.  Then he spent the next nine years searching the sky to investigate double stars.

OK, I had no idea there were double stars!

The resolving power of his scopes revealed that certain nebulae were actually clusters of stars.  This so excited him, he published catalogues of nebulae in 1802.

Best seller?

Ah, no.

But, back on March 13, 1781, he realized that one celestial body was not a star, but was a planet.

It was the first planet discovered since the first eight were figured out back in the Roman/Greek/Persian times.

William was super excited.

And became super famous.

He was the astronomer to the King of England and employed his sister, Catherine, as his assistant affording her opportunities women rarely had in the 18th Century.

A pretty smart guy, he pioneered spectrophotometry which used prisms and temperature to measure wavelength of stars.  He figured out the rotation period of Mars, which had been stumping folks since Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, he discovered that the polar caps on Mars vary with the seasons, discovered moons of Saturn, and discovered infrared radiation.

All this was build UP to his March 13, 1781 discovery; the coup de grace for the old boy.

When they taunted him with“You couldn’t find your ass with both hands!”, he said, “Yeah, but I found Uranus!”


*yes, yes, I know Uranus has been demoted.  But don’t tell William!

Picture This…

Growing UP when I thought of pictures, it was Matthew Brady, Eastman, Kodak and the likes who came to mind.

With my baby blue camera, a roll of film and a really bad eye I, set off on a quest to take pictures.  I took plenty.

They were pretty terrible.

No eye, thick glasses, and unruly subjects – a poor mixture.

The general results…

So, why am I writing about photography today since most of my photos are terribly placed, poorly lit, and generally out of focus?

Well, today is the celebration of the birth of Nicéphore Niépce, who was born Joseph and somewhere along the line changed his name to honor a saint.

Frankly, I’d have stayed with Joseph.

Born March 7, 1765, the French inventor is credited as the inventor of what we know as photography and was at the very least a pioneer in the field.  He developed heliography which is a technique he used to create what remains the world’s oldest surviving product of a photographic process.

It’s a print made from a photoengraved printing plate in 1825.  In 1827, some would argue 1825, he used a “primitive” camera to take the world’s oldest surviving photograph.

He invented the Pyreolophore, the first internal combustion engine along with his brother Claude.

The guy was pretty sharp.

The son of a wealthy French lawyer, Joseph left with the family when the French Revolution broke out.

He served in the army of Napoleon in Italy and on Sardinia.  His health forced him to resign and he promptly married one Agnes Romero and became the administrator of Nice in post-revolutionary France.  Resigning, either to go assist his brother Claude in scientific endeavors, or because he was an unpopular administrator – depending on whom you’d like to believe – he headed back to France.

In 1801, the family was reunited in Chalon and along with Claude, brother Bernard, and an unnamed sister – sorry gals – they started raising beets and producing sugar.

Niepce experimented with many different substances that were affected by light in his quest for picture making.  One was dissolving bitumen in lavender oil. Lavender oil was used in varnishes and he coated it onto a lithographic stone, after the coating dried, he printed it on paper and put them in direct sunlight.

The exposure complete, the solvent was rinsed away and the unhardened bitumen washed away, and with this he created sun drawing or heliography.

Claude, a spendthrift, moved back to London, went “half-mad” and squandered the family fortune.  Joseph headed over just in time to comfort him on his deathbed, returned to France financially ruined and died of a stroke in 1833.

But he left us a few things – photography wise and in other areas, as he had varied interests as most creative scientists do.

An ink on paper print of a Flemish engraving, and what is believed to be the world’s first actual photograph.

After his death, his son Isidore formed a partnership with Daguerre, the inventor of the Daguerreotype.