May 23, 2005

History Today: Annotated

Lacking inspiration after an entire weekend spent in the office, I give you my annotated Today in History post.

Today the following people were born:

*1707 Carolus, or Carl, Linnæus. I can't find a link about him I like, so I will content myself with a very brief description. He was a Swedish botanist, known as the "Father of Taxonomy" because he created the system by which, scientifically, plants and animals are named and organized.

*1795 Charles Barry, the architect of the Westminister Palace (Houses of Parliament in London). Barry also designed the Reform Club, in London, where I had the pleasure of drinking a bottle of Champagne (Reform Club Champagne, said so on the label) on the second floor overlooking the grand, interior courtyard. In the below picture, there are now tables along the railings. A very pleasant place to sit, drink, and converse.


The building is really quite magnificent. The Reform was also the place from where Jules Verne had Philleas Fogg begin his journey, Around the World in 80 Days.

*1848 Helmuth von Moltke, the German Army Chief of staff in World War I, until relieved for poor leadership. The war started under his watch.

*1883 Douglas Fairbanks, actor and husband of Mary Pickford. The first King of Hollywood, some say.

*1910 Artie Shaw, the "King of Swing", born Arthur Jacob Arshawsky in New York. Shaw was the iconic bandleader in the 1930's.

Shaw could scarcely have known that within a short time he would make a hit record of a song called Begin the Beguine, which he now jokingly refers to as "a nice little tune from one of Cole Porter's very few flop shows." Shortly before that he had hired Billie Holiday as his band vocalist (the first white band leader to employ a black female singer as a full-time member of his band), and within a year after the release of Beguine, the Artie Shaw Orchestra was earning as much as $60,000 weekly -- a figure that would nowadays amount to more than $600,000 a week!

By the way, Shaw gave all that up after Pearl Harbor when he signed up for the US Navy.

Deaths today, include:

*1498 Girolamo Savonarola was burned at the stake in Florence. He is a curious character. He was a fiery preacher who denounced the excesses of the Renaissance and who came to dominate Florence in 1494, banning gambling and taverns and making sodomy a capital offence. He created the "bonfires of the vanities" in which paintings and books were burned.

1881 Kit Carson "trapper, scout, Indian agent, soldier and authentic legend of the West".

*1906 Henrik Ibsen (link is to interesting essay on Norwegian Foreign Ministry website), Norwegian playwright, dies at 78. If you can read Norwegian, and even if you can't, I suppose, here is an interesting chronology of his life. And here is an excellent biographical sketch.

*1934 Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were shot to death by police in Shreveport, LA. The FBI site makes for interesting reading on these bank robbers.

Today, some of the following things happened:

*1618 The Second Defenestration of Prague when the two Roman Catholic Governors, and their scribe, were tried, found guilty of violating the law granting freedom of religion to Protestants, and thrown from the window of Prague Castle into a pile of manure. This marked the beginning of the 30 Years War. "The Roman Catholic officials claimed that they survived because of the mercy of benevolent angels assisting the righteousness of the Catholic cause. The Protestants claimed the officials survived because they landed in horse manure." Source. I've been to Prague Castle, many years ago, and it is quite beautiful.

*1701 Captain William Kidd (great bio of his time in New York at link) was hung in London following his conviction for piracy and murder (more info here).

*1911 New York Public Library building at 5th Avenue dedicated by President Taft.

Posted by Random Penseur at May 23, 2005 10:10 AM

Completely off topic:

You speak Norwegian and English at home. Use French in your blog title and pen name . . . Hmmmm. I think I am a bit intimidated here!

However, I do like your blog. You write interesting posts -- even when you are "slammed" . . . ;)

Regards --

Posted by: Dave at May 23, 2005 04:26 PM

"Pile of manure" - they really knew how to punish in the old days. Of course that could never happen today....

Posted by: Simon at May 23, 2005 10:22 PM

"Peer Gynt", by Edvard Grieg - One of my all-time favorite pieces of music. I knew that it was after an Ibsen play. But I have never read the play.

Posted by: M at May 28, 2005 10:29 AM
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