This Week in History – June 13th to 19th

This Week in History UPPER

This week the “Time Traveling Adventures of the Pandora Society” escapes a destructive fire in Vancouver, celebrates the “invention” of the Victorian computer that gave birth to Steampunk, makes rubber stronger, hears a great speech by Abraham Lincoln, witnesses the arrival of the Statue of Liberty in New York, applauds Susan B. Anthony standing up to the Man, and purchases a bad neck tie for the first ever Father’s Day.


Great_Vancouver_FireThe Great Vancouver Fire was a conflagration that destroyed most of the newly incorporated city of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on June 13th, 1886The fire began as a brush fire to clear land between present-day Main and Cambie Streets that was spread out of control by a strong gale. Dozens of lives were claimed by the fire and the only structures not destroyed were a stone building in the West End, the Hastings Mill Store, and a few structures on the banks of False Creek. An estimated $1.3 million was lost in destroyed property, but within four days, new buildings began to appear. Shortly after the fire, $6,900 was raised for fire-fighting equipment and a fire hall and water tanks were constructed. Vancouver’s lone constable, John Stewart, was joined by Jackson Abray, V.W. Haywood, and John McLaren when Mayor McLean appointed them special constables to assist in the aftermath of the fire, marking the creation of the first police force for the city. The city was rebuilt with modern water, electricity and streetcar systems.


Difference_engine 2On June 14th, 1822Charles Babbage proposed a difference engine in a paper to the Royal Astronomical Society entitled “Note on the application of machinery to the computation of astronomical and mathematical tables.” A difference engine is an automatic mechanical calculator designed to tabulate polynomial functions. The name derives from the method of divided differences, a way to interpolate or tabulate functions by using a small set of polynomial coefficients. Most mathematical functions commonly used by engineers, scientists and navigators, including logarithmic and trigonometric functions, can be approximated by polynomials, so a difference engine can compute many useful tables of numbersThe historical difficulty in producing error-free tables by teams of mathematicians and human “computers” spurred Charles Babbage‘s desire to build a mechanism to automate the process. It is considered to be the world’s first computer, and in the world of Steampunk is considered the starting point of an alternative history in which the Victorians began the Information Age.


Charles_GoodyearCharles Goodyear received a patent for vulcanization, a process to strengthen rubber on June 15th, 1844Vulcanization, or vulcanisation, is a chemical process for converting natural rubber or related polymers into more durable materials via the addition of sulfur or other equivalent curatives or accelerators. These additives modify the polymer by forming cross-links (bridges) between individual polymer chains. Vulcanized materials are less sticky and have superior mechanical properties. The term vulcanized fibre refers to cellulose that has been treated in a zinc chloride solution to cross-link the cellulose fibers. Although the curing of rubber has been carried out since prehistoric times, the modern process of vulcanization, named after Vulcan, the Roman god of fire, was not developed until the 19th century, mainly by Charles Goodyear. Today, a vast array of products are made with vulcanized rubber including tires, shoe soles, hoses, and conveyor belts. Hard vulcanized rubber is sometimes sold under the brand names ebonite or vulcanite, and is used in making articles such as clarinet and saxophone mouth pieces, bowling balls and hockey pucks.


Abraham_Lincoln_November_1863The House Divided Speech was an address given by Abraham Lincoln (who would later become President of the United States) on June 16th, 1858, at what was then the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, upon accepting the Illinois Republican Party‘s nomination as that state’s United States senator. The speech became the launching point for his unsuccessful campaign for the Senate seat held by Stephen A. Douglas; this campaign would climax with the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858Mr. Lincoln’s remarks in Springfield created an image of the danger of slavery-based disunion, and it rallied Republicans across the North. Along with the Gettysburg Address and his second inaugural address, this became one of the best-known speeches of his career. Lincoln’s goals with this speech were, firstly, to differentiate himself from Douglas, the incumbent; and secondly, to publicly voice a prophecy for the future. Douglas had long advocated popular sovereignty, under which the settlers in each new territory decided their own status as a slave or free state; he had repeatedly asserted that the proper application of popular sovereignty would end slavery-induced conflict, and would allow northern and southern states to resume their peaceful coexistence. Lincoln, however, responded that the Dred Scott decision had closed the door on Douglas’s preferred option and left the Union with only two remaining outcomes: the United States would inevitably become either all slave, or all free. Now that the North and the South had come to hold distinct opinions in the question of slavery, and now that this issue had come to permeate every other political question, the time would soon come when the Union would no longer be able to function.


statue-liberty-construction 680On June 17th, 1885, the French steamer Isère, laden with the Statue of Liberty, reached the New York port safely. New Yorkers displayed their new-found enthusiasm for the statue, as the French vessel arrived with the crates holding the disassembled statue on board. Two hundred thousand people lined the docks and hundreds of boats put to sea to welcome the Isère. After five months of daily calls to donate to the statue fund, on August 11th, 1885, the World announced that $102,000 had been raised from 120,000 donors, and that 80 percent of the total had been received in sums of less than one dollar. Even with the success of the fund drive, the pedestal was not completed until April 1886. Immediately thereafter, reassembly of the statue began. Eiffel’s iron framework was anchored to steel I-beams within the concrete pedestal and assembled. Once this was done, the sections of skin were carefully attached. Due to the width of the pedestal, it was not possible to erect scaffolding, and workers dangled from ropes while installing the skin sections. Nevertheless, no one died during the construction.


Susan B AnthonyOn June 18th, 1873Susan B. Anthony was fined $100 for attempting to vote in the 1872 presidential electionAnthony’s trial was a major step in the transition of the women’s rights movement into the women’s suffrage movement. The trial was followed closely by the national press. The New York Times caught the tone of the proceedings by reporting that, “It was conceded that the defendant was, on the 5th November, 1872, a woman.” Following a rule of common law at that time which prevented criminal defendants in federal courts from testifying, Justice Ward Hunt refused to allow Anthony to speak until the verdict had been delivered. On the second day of the trial, after both sides had presented their cases, Justice Hunt delivered his opinion, which he had put in writing. In the most controversial aspect of the trial, Hunt directed the jury to deliver a guilty verdict. On the third day of the trial, Hunt asked Anthony whether she had anything to say. She responded with “the most famous speech in the history of the agitation for woman suffrage”, according to Ann D. Gordon, a historian of the women’s movement. Repeatedly ignoring the judge’s order to stop talking and sit down, she protested what she called “this high-handed outrage upon my citizen’s rights … you have trampled under foot every vital principle of our government. My natural rights, my civil rights, my political rights, my judicial rights, are all alike ignored.” She castigated Justice Hunt for denying her a trial by jury, but stated that even if he had allowed the jury to discuss the case, she still would have been denied a trial by a jury of her peers because women were not allowed to be jurors. When Justice Hunt sentenced Anthony to pay a fine of $100, she responded, “I shall never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty”, and she never did.


Fathers DayIn 1910, a Father’s Day celebration was held in Spokane, Washington, at the YMCA by Sonora Smart Dodd, who was born in Arkansas. Its first celebration was in the Spokane YMCA on June 19th, 1910. Her father, the civil war veteran William Jackson Smart, was a single parent who raised his six children there. After hearing a sermon about Jarvis’ Mother’s Day in 1909 at Central Methodist Episcopal Church, she told her pastor that fathers should have a similar holiday honoring them. Although she initially suggested June 5th, her father’s birthday, the pastors did not have enough time to prepare their sermons, and the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June. Several local clergymen accepted the idea, and on June 19th, 1910, the first Father’s Day, “sermons honoring fathers were presented throughout the city.”


 

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