This Week in History – June 6th to June 12th

This Week in History UPPER

This week the “Time Traveling Adventures of the Pandora Society” explores the stomachs of Canadians in 1822, challenges racist railroad policies of New Orleans in 1892, compiles information on the hottest computer of 1887, laughs at Donald Duck in 1934, investigates a mass murder in 1912, gets rowdy with Boston riots in 1837, and fights for revolution in 1798.


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Alexis Bidagan St. Martin (April 18th, 1802[2] – June 24th, 1880)

On June 6th, 1822 Alexis St. Martin, at the fur trading post on Mackinac Island, was accidentally shot with a musket at close range. The charge of the musket shot left a hole through his side that healed to form a fistula aperture into his stomach. William Beaumont, a US Army surgeon stationed at a nearby army post, treated the wound. Although St. Martin was a healthy 20-year-old, he was not expected to recover due to the severity of his wound. Beaumont explains in a later paper that the shot blew off fragments of St. Martin’s muscles and broke a few of his ribs. After bleeding him and giving him a cathartic, Beaumont marked St. Martin’s progress. For the next 17 days, all food he ate re-emerged from his new gastric fistula. Finally after 17 days, the food began to stay in St. Martin’s stomach and his bowels began to return to their natural functions. When the wound healed itself, the edge of the hole in the stomach had attached itself to the edge of the hole in the skin, creating a permanent gastric fistula. There was very little scientific understanding of digestion at the time and Beaumont recognized the opportunity he had in St. Martin – he could literally watch the processes of digestion by dangling food on a string into St. Martin’s stomach, then later pulling it out to observe to what extent it had been digested. Beaumont continued to experiment on St. Martin off and on until 1833.


Homer Plessy

Homer Adolph Plessy (March 17th, 1862 – March 1st, 1925)

On June 7th, 1892, Homer Adolph Plessy bought a first-class ticket on a train from New Orleans and sat in the car for white riders only. Due to his “fair” appearance, Plessy could have ridden in a railroad car restricted to people classified as white. However, under the racist policies then in force, he was classified as “1/8 black” or, according to the language of the time, an octoroon. Hoping to strike down segregation laws, the Citizens’ Committee of New Orleans (Comité des Citoyens) recruited Plessy to deliberately violate Louisiana’s 1890 separate-car law. To pose a clear test, the Citizens’ Committee gave notice of Plessy’s intent to the railroad, which opposed the law because it required adding more cars to its trains. Arrested, tried and convicted in New Orleans of a violation of one of Louisiana‘s racial segregation laws, he appealed through Louisiana state courts to the U.S. Supreme Court and lost. The resulting “separate but equal” decision against him had wide consequences for civil rights in the United States. The decision legalized state-mandated segregation anywhere in the United States so long as the facilities provided for both blacks and whites were putatively “equal.”


Hollerith card puncher 680

Hollerith card puncher used by the United States Census Bureau

On June 8th, 1887, American inventor Herman Hollerith applied for US patent #395,781 for the ‘Art of Compiling Statistics’, which was his punched card calculatorHollerith developed an electromechanical punched card tabulator to assist in summarizing information and, later, accounting. He was the founder of The Tabulating Machine Company that was consolidated in 1911 with three other companies to form the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, later renamed IBM. Hollerith is regarded as one of the seminal figures in the development of data processing. His invention of the punched card tabulating machine marks the beginning of the era of semiautomatic data processing systems, and his concept dominated that landscape for nearly a century.


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Donald Duck in “The Wise Little Hen.”

On June 9th, 1934Donald Duck mades his debut in The Wise Little HenThe origins of Donald Duck’s name may have been inspired by Australian cricket legend Donald Bradman. In 1932 Bradman and the Australian team were touring North America and he made the news after being dismissed for a duck against New York West Indians. Walt Disney was in the process of creating a friend for Mickey Mouse when he possibly read about Bradman’s dismissal in the papers and decided to name the new character “Donald Duck”. Voice performer Clarence Nash auditioned for Walt Disney Studios when he learned that Disney was looking for people to create animal sounds for his cartoons. Disney was particularly impressed with Nash’s duck imitation and chose him to voice the new character. Besides, during that period Mickey Mouse had lost some of his edge since becoming a role model towards children, and so Disney wanted to create a character to portray some of the more negative character traits that could no longer be bestowed on Mickey. Disney came up with Donald’s iconic attributes including his short-temper and his sailor suit (based on ducks and sailors both being associated with water). While Dick Huemer and Art Babbit were first to animate Donald, Dick Lundy is credited for developing him as a character.


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An article in The Day Book, Chicago, June 14th, 1912, depicting five of the victims and the house.

The Villisca axe murders were discovered in Villisca, Iowa on June 10th, 1912The six members of the Moore family and two house guests were found bludgeoned in the Moore residence. All eight victims, including six children, had severe head wounds from an axe. Over time, many possible suspects emerged, including Reverend George Kelly, Frank F. Jones, William Mansfield, Loving Mitchell and Henry Lee Moore. George Kelly was tried twice for the murder. Kelly was an English-born traveling minister in town on the night of the murders. Kelly was described as peculiar, reportedly having suffered a mental breakdown as an adolescent. As an adult, he was accused of peeping and several times asking young women and girls to pose nude for him. On June 8th, 1912, he came to Villisca to teach at the Children’s Day services, which the Moore family attended on June 9th, 1912. He left town between 5:00 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. on June 10th, 1912, hours before the bodies were discovered. In the weeks that followed, he displayed a fascination with the case, and wrote many letters to the police, investigators, and family of the deceased. This aroused suspicion, and a private investigator wrote back to Reverend Kelly, asking for details that the minister might know about the murders. Kelly replied with great detail, claiming to have heard sounds and possibly witnessed the murders. His known mental illness made authorities question whether he knew the details because of having committed the murders, or was imagining his account. In 1914, two years after the murders, Kelly was arrested for sending obscene material through the mail (he was sexually harassing a woman who applied for a job as his secretary). He was sent to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, the national mental hospital in Washington, D.C. Investigators speculated again that Kelly could be the murderer of the Moore family. In 1917, Kelly was arrested for the Villisca murders. Police obtained a confession from him; however, it followed many hours of interrogation and Kelly later recanted. After two separate trials, he was acquitted. Other suspects in the investigation were also exonerated, but he crime remains unsolved.


Broad Street Riot

The local guard were sent in to break up the fighting.

The Broad Street Riot of Boston, Massachusettsbegan on June 11th, 1837 when a company of American firefighters met with an Irish funeral procession on Broad Street. Fire Engine Company 20 was returning from a fire in Roxbury. Many of the firefighters went to a saloon nearby. Afterwards, while traveling back to the firestation, George Fay either insulted or shoved members of a passing Irish funeral procession. The Irish and firemen began to fight, but under the orders of W.W. Miller, the firemen ran to the station. Miller sounded the emergency alarm, calling all of the fire engines in Boston. Although many of the Irish had left the scene, the fire companies continued to come as called. As the fight continued, local Americans and Irishmen joined the row. Eventually an estimated 15,000 people were included in the melee, though no one was killed. Several houses were broken into and vandalized, and the rioters launched rocks and other missiles at each other. The fight was broken up when Mayor Samuel A. Eliot commanded 10 companies from the military to patrol the neighborhoods surrounding Broad Street.


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The Battle of Ballynahinch (1798) painted by Thomas Robinson

The Battle of Ballynahinch was fought outside Ballynahinch, County Down, on June 12th, 1798, during the Irish rebellion of 1798 between British forces led by Major-General George Nugent and the local United Irishmen led by Henry MunroThe battle began on the night of June 12th when two hills to the left and right of Ballynahinch were occupied by the British who pounded the town with their cannon. During a pause when night fell, some rebel officers were said to have pressed Munro for a night attack but he refused on the grounds that it was unchivalrous. As a consequence many disillusioned rebels slipped away during the night. As dawn broke the battle recommenced with the rebels attacked from two sides and although achieving some initial success, confusion in the rebel army saw the United Irishmen retreat in chaos, pursued by regrouping British forces who quickly took advantage by turning retreat into massacre. Initial reports claimed four hundred rebels were killed, while British losses were around forty.


 

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