The Imaginary Realms of
Gilbert M. Stack

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Today in History: SCORE

Posted by Gilbert Stack on December 18, 2017 at 5:10 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (December 18) in 1958 the U.S. launched the first communications satellite into space. It was called SCORE—Signal Communications by Orbiting Relay Equipment—and was intended to counter the Soviet Union’s Sputnik 1 and Sputnik 2. SCORE could record a short message and replay it. President Eisenhower recorded a Christmas message to the world using the communication satellite.

Today in History: The First Saturnalia

Posted by Gilbert Stack on December 17, 2017 at 11:10 PM Comments comments (0)

On this day (December 17) in 487 BCE, Saturnalia was first celebrated in Rome. Dedicated to the god, Saturn, it involved sacrifice, a public banquet, private gift-giving, and days of partying. The celebration of Christmas was influenced by Saturnalia.

Today in History: Gran Columbia Declares Independence from Spain

Posted by Gilbert Stack on December 17, 2017 at 8:45 PM Comments comments (0)

On this day (December 17) in 1819, Simon Bolivar declared the independence of Gran Columbia from Spain which he had been fighting for since 1808. He would govern Gran Columbia until 1830 and continue to push the Spanish out of Central and South America. Bolivar’s dream was of a united Spanish America but regional differences and rivalries proved too strong.

Today in History: Bank Robber Herman Lamm Dies

Posted by Gilbert Stack on December 16, 2017 at 6:55 PM Comments comments (0)

On this day (December 16) in 1930, Herman Lamm committed suicide to avoid capture by the police. Lamm was a former Prussian military officer who modernized the bank robbery, planning each heist like a military mission. He would case the banks, plan his escape routes in advance, and train his men for each job. His last heist, the robbery of Citizens State Bank in Clinton, Indiana was foiled by a civilian with a shotgun. Lamm had gotten into the getaway card with $15,567 when the driver saw the man with the shotgun approaching. He panicked and blew a tire making too sharp a turn. They secured another car but it could only make 35 mph due to a device the owner had installed on it to keep his elderly father from driving at reckless speeds. They abandoned this car as well and stole a truck but its radiator had too little water and overheated. So they stole a fourth vehicle but it had only one gallon of gas in the tank. All of these delays permitted the police with force of 200 officers and armed civilians to catch up with them. Lamm committed suicide to avoid capture but his career and his methods were copied by other bank robbers like John Dillinger.

Today in History: The Boston Tea Party

Posted by Gilbert Stack on December 16, 2017 at 1:05 PM Comments comments (0)

On this day (December 16) in 1773, American colonists calling themselves the Sons of Liberty, disguised themselves as Mohawk Indians and forcibly boarded ships in Boston harbor carrying British East India Company tea and dumped the cargo into the harbor. The disguises were the equivalent of 18th century ski masks—everyone knew they were not Mohawks but it was hoped that the pretense would keep individuals from being identified.


The tea was a game piece in Britain’s dual effort to raise more tax revenue from the colonies and help the British East India Company recover from severe financial setbacks it had encountered due to poor management both in London and in India. The tea tax was actually lower than the previous tea taxes—low enough to let the legal tea undercut the price of smuggled tea. The Sons of Liberty feared that this strategy would not only succeed in getting Americans to end their boycott of British tea but would also severely damage the businesses of American import merchants (most of whom were involved to some degree in smuggling). By destroying the tea, they prevented both “legal” competition with the smuggled tea and a tax that they believed had been unjustly imposed upon them from being collected.


The British responded with the Intolerable Acts, violating British legal traditions by collectively punishing all of Boston for the actions of the Sons of Liberty.


Today in History: Catherine of Aragon Died

Posted by Gilbert Stack on December 16, 2017 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (December 16) in 1536 Catherine of Aragon died. She was the first wife (and she argue the legitimate wife) of Henry VIII. For refusing to go along with his plan to annul the marriage and daring to continue to call herself Queen of England, Henry separated her from her much loved daughter, Mary, for the last years of her life and held her in captivity at one of their estates. He stole her jewels for his new wife Anne and generally treated her with great disrespect. He and Anne celebrated when she died—but Anne wouldn’t be celebrating for too much longer. Henry would eventually trump up charges of infidelity against her and execute her even as he annulled his marriage to Anne as he had his marriage to Catherine.

Today in History: Sitting Bull Was Murdered

Posted by Gilbert Stack on December 15, 2017 at 10:55 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (December 15) in 1890, agents of the U.S. government shot and killed Sitting Bull on the spurious charge of being an instigator of the Ghost Dance (which was a popular movement among many Native Americans which they believed would bring the buffalo back). This activity frightened authorities who feared that it would lead to another uprising among the native peoples. Sitting Bull was to be arrested to keep him from leading such an uprising. The arresting authorities told Sioux warriors who gathered to see what was happening that Sitting Bull was only being taken to speak to the Indian Agent. They then tried to force Sitting Bull to mount a horse, prompting one of the Sioux to shoot the officer in charge (named Lt. Bull Head). The lieutenant then shot Sitting Bull in the chest and another officer shot him in the head. A gunfight erupted and several people were killed on both sides. Sioux fleeing the area out of fear of reprisals would form the core group killed by the U.S. at the Wounded Knee Massacre.

Today in History: Storm Surge

Posted by Gilbert Stack on December 14, 2017 at 4:55 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (December 14) in 1287 a storm surge broke into the Netherlands and northern Germany leading to massive flooding and a permanent new inland sea that overwhelmed and expanded upon a freshwater lake and the river Vlie. The new sea is called the Zuiderzee. Between 50,000 and 80,000 people were killed by the flooding.

Today in History: A Pope Resigns

Posted by Gilbert Stack on December 13, 2017 at 5:15 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (December 13) in 1294, Pope Celestine V resigned from the papacy to return to his life as a hermit. He became pope as a desperate compromise candidate after two years of failed efforts to elect a pope. He served for only five months and his complete lack of political experience made him poorly suited for the office.


After his resignation, the next pope, Boniface VIII asked him to come with him to Rome so that he could not be used as an Anti-Pope against Boniface. Celestine, desperate for his simple life, tried to run on a number of occasions until Boniface finally locked him up. Celestine died in prison two years later. Boniface’s enemies claimed he had been maltreated and killed by Boniface but there is no evidence to support these accusations.


Today in History: Mining Disaster

Posted by Gilbert Stack on December 12, 2017 at 5:15 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (December 12) in 1866 the Oaks Explosion occurred in the Oaks Colliery in Yorkshire, England. It’s the worst mining disaster England ever had. The mine had suffered another terrible explosion in 1847 which led to a special ventilation system being installed to keep firedamp (various gasses commonly found in mines of which the predominant one is methane) from accumulating, but apparently the ventilation system had not been inspected for years and was in disrepair. Many miners refused to work in the shafts in the days before the explosion because they could smell the firedamp.


The explosion killed 334 men and boys with six survivors. A second explosion the next day killed 26 men attempting to locate and rescue further survivors.



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