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John’s Believe It Or Not… May 29th

In 1832- The inauguration of the Rideau Canal from Kingston to Ottawa. In 1953 Hillary and Tenzing reach Everest summit. In 1914 The sinking of the Empress of Ireland. In 1932 Bonus Marchers arrive in Washington. In 1851 Sojourner Truth addresses 1st Black Women’s Rights Convention (Akron)

John Fioravanti Stands at the front of his classroom in 2006

Oh-Oh, It’s Monday! Did you know…

* 1832- The inauguration of the Rideau Canal from Kingston to Ottawa. (Rideau Canal (or Waterway), 202 km long, links the Ottawa River at Ottawa with Lake Ontario at Kingston. Conceived as the major component of an alternative route for military purposes between Montréal and Kingston, the Rideau Canal was first proposed as the War of 1812 drew to its close. Construction started (1826) according to the design, and under the direction, of Lieutenant-Colonel John By. About 50 dams were necessary to control the water levels at rapids on the Rideau and Cataraqui rivers. The 46 (originally 49) locks in use raise vessels 83 m from the Ottawa River to the portage channel at Newboro, whence vessels descend 50 m to Lake Ontario at Kingston. The construction of the Rideau Canal – built in virgin forest with all work being done by hand – caused great hardship to its Irish laborers, many of whom died of malaria. Finished in 1832 after 5 summer working seasons, with up to 2000 men being employed by the Royal Engineers and appointed contractors, the canal ranks among the greatest early civil-engineering works of North America. Lieutenant-Colonel By located his headquarters at the junction of the Ottawa and Rideau rivers and started a small settlement, first named Bytown in his honor but renamed Ottawa in 1855. Although it carried freight and passengers in small steamboats for a century, the Rideau Canal was never economically viable and is now used entirely by pleasure craft. Most of the original locks and canal cuts are still in use, and, except for 3 hydraulic locks, all are still operated by the muscle power of lock staff cranking the distinctive “crab” winches. Its stone walls, ponds, and bridges have preserved a quiet beauty along its course through the city of Ottawa, and in the wintertime, it provides one of the world’s most famous skating rinks. In 1926, 100 years after the beginning of the canal’s construction, it was designated a national historic site. In 2000 it became part of the Canadian Heritage Rivers System. The Rideau Canal was designated as a United Nations World Heritage Site in 2007.)

Rideau Canal Skateway, Winter
Rideau Canal Skateway, in Winter (Ottawa Tourism)

* 1953 Hillary and Tenzing reach Everest summit. (At 11:30 a.m. on May 29, 1953, Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay, a Sherpa of Nepal, become the first explorers to reach the summit of Mount Everest, which at 29,035 feet above sea level is the highest point on earth. The two, part of a British expedition, made their final assault on the summit after spending a fitful night at 27,900 feet. News of their achievement broke around the world on June 2, the day of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, and Britons hailed it as a good omen for their country’s future. Mount Everest sits on the crest of the Great Himalayas in Asia, lying on the border between Nepal and Tibet. Called Chomo-Lungma, or “Mother Goddess of the Land,” by the Tibetans, the English named the mountain after Sir George Everest, a 19th-century British surveyor of South Asia. The summit of Everest reaches two-thirds of the way through the air of the earth’s atmosphere–at about the cruising altitude of jet airliners–and oxygen levels there are very low, temperatures are extremely cold, and the weather is unpredictable and dangerous. News of the success was rushed by a runner from the expedition’s base camp to the radio post at Namche Bazar and then sent by coded message to London, where Queen Elizabeth II learned of the achievement on June 1, the eve of her coronation. The next day, the news broke around the world. Later that year, Hillary and Hunt were knighted by the queen. Norgay, because he was not a citizen of a Commonwealth nation, received the lesser British Empire Medal.)

Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary
Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary (ThoughtCo)

* 1914 The sinking of the Empress of Ireland. (In one of the worst ship disasters in history, the British liner Empress of Ireland, carrying 1,477 passengers and crew, collides with the Norwegian freighter Storstad in the Gulf of Canada’s St. Lawrence River. The Storstad penetrated 15 feet into the Empress of Ireland‘s starboard side, and the vessel sunk within 14 minutes, drowning 1,012 of its passengers and crew. The tragedy came two years after the Titanic sunk after colliding with an iceberg in the North Atlantic, leaving more than 1,500 people dead but galvanizing public demands for maritime safety standards. With structural precautions superior to those on the Titanic, crews trained extensively in emergency procedures, and with more than enough lifejackets and lifeboats, the Empress was designed for optimum safety. However, on the morning of May 29, 1914, a heavy fog blanketed the St. Lawrence as the Empress set out from Quebec Harbor on its transatlantic journey to Liverpool, England. The Empress and the Storstad spotted each other several minutes before the collision, but altered courses and confused signals brought them into their fateful embrace. Only seven lifeboats escaped the rapidly sinking vessel, but thanks to the efforts of the crew of the Storstad, scores of survivors were pulled out of the icy waters.)

The sinking of The Empress of Ireland

* 1932 Bonus Marchers arrive in Washington. (At the height of the Great Depression, the so-called “Bonus Expeditionary Force,” a group of 1,000 World War I veterans seeking cash payments for their veterans’ bonus certificates, arrive in Washington, D.C. One month later, other veteran groups spontaneously made their way to the nation’s capital, swelling the Bonus Marchers to nearly 20,000 strong, most of them unemployed veterans in desperate financial straits. Camping in vacant government buildings and in open fields made available by District of Columbia Police Chief Pelham D. Glassford, they demanded passage of the veterans’ payment bill introduced by Representative Wright Patman. While awaiting a vote on the issue, the veterans conducted themselves in an orderly and peaceful fashion, and on June 15 the Patman bill passed in the House of Representatives. However, two days later, its defeat in the Senate infuriated the marchers, who refused to return home. In an increasingly tense situation, the federal government provided money for the protesters’ trip home, but 2,000 refused the offer and continued to protest. On July 28, President Herbert Hoover ordered the army, under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, to evict them forcibly. MacArthur’s men set their camps on fire, and the veterans were driven from the city. Hoover, increasingly regarded as insensitive to the needs of the nation’s many poor, was much criticized by the public and press for the severity of his response.)

Bonus Marchers are attacked by D.C. police.
Bonus Marchers are attacked by D.C. police. (Wikipedia)

* 1851 Sojourner Truth addresses 1st Black Women’s Rights Convention (Akron)  (“Ain’t I a Woman?” is the name given to a speech, delivered extemporaneously, by Sojourner Truth, (1797–1883), born into slavery in New York State. Sometime after gaining her freedom in 1827, she became a well-known anti-slavery speaker. Her speech was delivered at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio, on May 29, 1851, and did not originally have a title. The speech was briefly reported in two contemporary newspapers, and a transcript of the speech was published in the Anti-Slavery Bugle on June 21, 1851. It received wider publicity in 1863 during the American Civil War when Frances Dana Barker Gage published a different version, one which became known as Ain’t I a Woman? because of its oft-repeated question. This later, better known and more widely available version has been the one referenced by most historians. In 1830 the American abolitionist newspaper Genius of Universal Emancipation carried an image of a slave woman asking “Am I not a woman and a sister?” This image was widely republished in the 1830 and struck into a copper coin or token, but without the question mark, to give the question a positive answer. In 1833, African American activist Maria W. Stewart used the words of this motto to argue for the rights of women of every race, though white women were oppressed to much less degree than black women. Historian Jean Fagan Yellin argued in 1989 that this motto served as inspiration for Sojourner Truth, who was well aware of the great difference in the level of oppression of white versus black women. Truth was asserting both her gender identity and race by asking the crowd, “Am I not a woman?”)

Sojourner Truth gave her famous “Ain't I a Woman?” speech at the 1851 Women's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio.
Sojourner Truth gave her famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech at the 1851 Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. (Chronicles of a Sick Rose by Laura Regis –


Acknowledged Sources:

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* On This Day – History, Film, Music and Sport

* This Day In History – What Happened Today

* The Canadian Encyclopedia         

* Wikipedia – The Free Encyclopedia                

Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December 2013 and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (, to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

7 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… May 29th”

  1. Oh John! Your mention of Sojourner Truth caught my breath and I realized I continued to hold it as I read more about her in this well-written post of yours. She was certainly a trailblazer for women’s rights. ♥

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post, John. Interesting to read about the bonus marchers on this Memorial Day. America has not always treated their soldiers well, WWI being your example. We redeemed ourselves after WWII, and then went back to unfair treatment after Vietnam. While war is never popular, we should treat our soldiers well. Best to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jennie. Our last government under PM Harper treated our own Vets shabbily – not unlike the story posted above. Trudeau is taking steps to remedy that. It was heartbreaking to see the Vietnam Vets return home and be treated poorly. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

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