The Imaginary Realms of
Gilbert M. Stack



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Today in History: The Red Baron Strikes

Posted by Gilbert Stack on September 17, 2015 at 5:15 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (September 17) in 1916 Manfred Von Richthofen (“The Red Baron”) won his first aerial combat during World War I fighting for the Germans. By the time of his death in 1918, Von Richthofen would be credited with 80 air combat victories. The airplane is one of the most visible of the myriad ways in which industrialization changed warfare, forcing countries to modernize their economies if they wished to maintain competitive militaries.

Today in History: The Wall Street Bombing

Posted by Gilbert Stack on September 16, 2015 at 5:15 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (September 16) in 1920 a horse-drawn wagon loaded with 100 pounds of dynamite and 500 pounds of cast-iron sash weights (which were used to hold panes of glass together in windows) was driven into the Financial District in Manhattan and detonated. The resulting explosion was called the Wall Street Bombing. 38 people died and 143 were injured. Interest in getting the New York Stock Exchange up and running the next morning sparked a premature cleanup of the area which diminished evidence gathering for the criminal investigation. Bolsheviks were originally suspected, but it was later believed that Galleanists (followers of Italian anarchist Luigi Galleani) were responsible. Galleani advocated what he termed “propaganda of the dead”—the use of violence to kill “tyrants” and the symbols of oppression to spark a revolution to overthrow the state.

Today in History: The Nuremberg Laws

Posted by Gilbert Stack on September 15, 2015 at 7:35 PM Comments comments (0)

On this day (September 15) in 1935 German Jews lost their citizenship as a direct consequence of the Nuremberg Laws. These laws were used to isolate Jews from their German neighbors, among other things, pushing Jewish Germans out of the civil service and government-regulated professions and outlawing intermarriage. Violations of the Nuremberg Laws were met with harsh fines and imprisonment.


Germans were discouraged from shopping in Jewish stores and the lack of customers forced many such shops to close. The Jewish middle class was devastated, with many educated professionals being forced into menial jobs to survive.


Today in History: Nathan Hale Became a Spy

Posted by Gilbert Stack on September 10, 2015 at 8:50 PM Comments comments (0)

On this day (September 10) in 1776, Nathan Hale volunteered to spy for the Continental Army by reporting on British troop movements as the British took and occupied New York City. He would be hanged by the British 12 days later.

Today in History: Jerusalem Was Sacked By Rome

Posted by Gilbert Stack on September 7, 2015 at 7:35 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (September 7) in the year 70, the army of Roman General Titus (a future emperor) occupied and sacked the city of Jerusalem and destroyed the Second Temple. (The first was destroyed by the Babylonians just before the start of the Babylonian Captivity.) Josephus reports that 1.1 million people were killed during the siege and 97,000 were enslaved. The destruction of the two temples is remembered every year at the Jewish feast of Tisha B’Av.

Today in History: The Victoria Circumnavigates the World

Posted by Gilbert Stack on September 6, 2015 at 8:45 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (September 6) in 1522, the Victoria became the first ship to circumnavigate the globe. Victoria was one of five ships that set out under the command of Magellan and the only one to survive the voyage. Magellan was killed in the Philippines.

Today in History: The Second Bank of the U.S. Falls

Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 10, 2015 at 6:30 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (July 10) in 1832, Andrew Jackson vetoed a bill that would renew the charter of the Second Bank of the United States. Jackson had long been an opponent of banks and had fought vigorously against the Second Bank of the U.S. In a famous quote, he castigated the leaders of the bank:


“Gentlemen, I have had men watching you for a long time and I am convinced that you have used the funds of the bank to speculate in the breadstuffs of the country. When you won, you divided the profits amongst you, and when you lost, you charged it to the bank. You tell me that if I take the deposits from the bank and annul its charter, I shall ruin ten thousand families. That may be true, gentlemen, but that is your sin! Should I let you go on, you will ruin fifty thousand families, and that would be my sin! You are a den of vipers and thieves. I intend to rout you out, and by the grace of the Eternal God, will rout you out.”


Jackson then went on to hurry the bank’s demise by withdrawing all federal funds from it. In doing so he ended any effective national regulation of state banks which began printing bank notes at a reckless pace, causing massive inflation and triggering what was a called a “panic” in the nineteenth century. (We use the terms “recession” and “depression”.) As a result, 1/3 of Americans lost their jobs and wages fell between 30% and 50% while the price of flour and coal doubled, but these consequences were not felt until the administration of Jackson’s successor, Martin Van Buren.


America would go without a national bank until the twentieth century when the Federal Reserve Bank was created in 1913.


Today in History: Richard the Lion-Hearted Died

Posted by Gilbert Stack on April 6, 2015 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (April 6) in 1199, Richard the Lionhearted died. He had been inspecting the progress of his sappers during the siege of Chalus-Chabrol when he was hit in the neck with a crossbow bolt. The wound was aggravated when his surgeon removed the bolt. Richard caught gangrene.


Before his death, he had the crossbowman, a boy, brought before him. The boy said that Richard had killed his father and two brothers and he had shot Richard in revenge. The king forgave his killer ordering him to be given his freedom and 100 shillings. Shortly thereafter, he died.


Today in History: Jean Calas Exonerated

Posted by Gilbert Stack on March 10, 2015 at 5:10 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (March 9) in 1765, Jean Calas was posthumously exonerated of murdering his son. Jean Calas was a Huguenot, a French Protestant. His son had been rumored to be converting to Catholicism. Calas and his wife, also a Huguenot, found their son after the young man hung himself. Since suicide was considered to be a crime, Calas and his wife took the body down and made it appear that their son had been murdered by an outsider, but Jean was charged with the crime and brutally tortured in an effort to make him confess.


First Calas was stretched until his arms and legs were pulled from their sockets. Then he was force fed 30 pints of water. Finally he was hung on a cross and each of his limbs were broken twice with an iron bar, but he would not say that he killed his son. Other evidence in the case, including the testimony of the family’s catholic governance, provided strong evidence that the young man had committed suicide, but the authorities would not be dissuaded. Jean Calas was convicted by vote of the Parlement of Toulouse and executed on the wheel. (The victim was tied to a wagon wheel and his limbs were broken in the spaces between the spokes.) Calas died insisting on his innocence.


Jean Calas’ torture and execution is a symbol of French religious intolerance before the French Revolution. The philosophe Voltaire fought to exonerate his conviction after his death. During the French Revolution, backlashes against Catholics were common during the Reign of Terror including the so-called Catholic weddings in which thousands of Catholic men and women were bound together and drowned.


Today in History: The Zimmermann Telegram

Posted by Gilbert Stack on February 24, 2015 at 5:10 AM Comments comments (0)

On this day (February 24) in 1917, Britain gave the U.S. their copy of the Zimmermann Telegram. The telegram originated in Germany and offered a military alliance between Germany and Mexico against the United States, with the Germans promising the Mexicans that they would provide generous subsidies to fund Mexican war efforts and help the Mexicans recover the territory composed of the following U.S. states: Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.


The release of the telegram ultimately brought the U.S. into the war by swaying American public opinion against Germany. The story of how the British got their hands on the telegram (both the ability to break the code and the copy from the German embassy in Mexico that the British handed over to the Americans) sounds like a James Bond thriller. A very readable account is Barbara Tuchman’s, The Zimmermann Telegram.