John’s Believe It Or Not… June 23rd

In 1868 Christopher Latham Sholes patents the “Typewriter”. In 1992 Teflon Don sentenced to life. In 1934 Even without the corpse – a murderer is uncovered. In 2013 Wallenda makes Grand Canyon crossing on a high wire. In 1987 Tiffany visits the mall on her way to stardom.

John Fioravanti is standing in front of the blackboard in his classroom.

It’s Friday – TGIF! Did you know…

* 1868 Christopher Latham Sholes patents the “Typewriter”.  (The idea behind the typewriter was to apply the concept of movable type developed by Johann Gutenberg in the invention of the printing press century to a machine for individual use. Descriptions of such mechanical writing machines date to the early eighteenth century. In 1714, a patent something like a typewriter was granted to a man named Henry Mill in England, but no example of Mills’ invention survives.

In 1829, William Burt from Detroit, Michigan patented his typographer which had characters arranged on a rotating frame. However, Burt’s machine and many of those that followed it were cumbersome, hard to use, unreliable and often took longer to produce a letter than writing it by hand.
Finally, in 1867, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin printer-publisher-politician named Christopher Latham Sholes, with assistance from Carlos Glidden and Samuel Soule, patented what was to be the first useful typewriter. He licensed his patent to Remington & Sons of Ilion, New York, a noted American gun maker. In 1874, the Remington Model 1, the first commercial typewriter, was placed on the market.

Based on Sholes’ mechanical typewriter, the first electric typewriter was built by Thomas Alva Edison in the United States in 1872, but the widespread use of electric typewriters was not common until the 1950s.

The electronic typewriter, a typewriter with an electronic “memory” capable of storing text, first appeared in 1978. It was developed independently by the Olivetti Company in Italy and the Casio Company in Japan.)


* 1992 Teflon Don sentenced to life. (Mafia boss John Gotti, who was nicknamed the “Teflon Don” after escaping unscathed from several trials during the 1980s, is sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty on 14 accounts of conspiracy to commit murder and racketeering. Moments after his sentence was read in a federal courthouse in Brooklyn, hundreds of Gotti’s supporters stormed the building and overturned and smashed cars before being forced back by police reinforcements.

Gotti, born and educated on the mean streets of New York City, became head of the powerful Gambino family after boss Paul Castellano was murdered outside a steakhouse in Manhattan in December 1985. The gang assassination, the first in three decades in New York, was organized by Gotti and his colleague Sammy “the Bull” Gravano. The Gambino family was known for its illegal narcotics operations, gambling activities, and car theft. During the next five years, Gotti rapidly expanded his criminal empire, and his family grew into the nation’s most powerful Mafia family. Despite wide publicity of his criminal activities, Gotti managed to avoid conviction several times, usually through witness intimidation. In 1990, however, he was indicted for conspiracy to commit murder in the death of Paul Castellano, and Gravano agreed to testify against him in a federal district court in exchange for a reduced prison sentence.

On April 2, 1992, John Gotti was found guilty on all counts and on June 23 was sentenced to multiple life terms without the possibility of parole.

While still imprisoned, Gotti died of throat cancer on June 10, 2002.)

April 2, 1992: The “Teflon Don” is Convicted of Murder! Like a Boss!
(History and Headlines)

* 1934 Even without the corpse – a murderer is uncovered. (William Bayly is convicted of murder in New Zealand despite the fact that the body of one of his alleged victims was never found. Most of the evidence against Bayly consisted of trace amounts of human hair, bone, and tissue, representing a marked advance in the field of forensics.

Sam and Christobel Lakey disappeared from their farm in Ruawaro, New Zealand, in October 1933, along with their rifles. Christobel’s body soon turned up in a pond on the farm with terrible bruising to her face and head, and investigators then discovered fresh bloodstains in both an old buggy and a barn, leading them to believe that Sam had been shot and transported somewhere else.

One of the first suspects was William Bayly, who owned a farm adjacent to the Lakey’s, and who was known to have argued with his neighbors frequently. Years earlier, he had been suspected of killing his cousin but was released due to insufficient evidence. Suggesting to police that Sam Lakey had probably fled after killing his wife, Bayly soon dropped out of sight himself.

Meanwhile, detectives found the missing rifles buried in a swamp on Lakey’s property. Following up on a report that there had been thick smoke coming from a shed on Bayly’s property on the day that the Lakeys disappeared, investigators found pieces of hair and bones, ash, and shotgun lead in a large oil drum inside the shed. It appeared that Bayly had cremated Sam Lakey’s body in this drum.

Tests of the hair and bone fragments from the drum in the shed proved that they were human in origin. Baley was convicted and hanged atMount Eden Jail in July.)

William Alfred Bayly who was hanged for the murder of Samuel and Christobel Lakey.
William Alfred Bayly who was hanged for the murder of Samuel and Christobel Lakey. (

* 2013 Wallenda makes Grand Canyon crossing on a high wire. (On this day in 2013, 34-year-old aerialist Nik Wallenda becomes the first person to walk a high wire across the Little Colorado River Gorge near Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. Wallenda wasn’t wearing a safety harness as he made the quarter-mile traverse on a 2-inch-thick steel cable some 1,500 feet above the gorge. In June of the previous year, Wallenda, a member of the famous Flying Wallendas family of circus performers, became the first person to walk a tightrope over Niagara Falls.

Born in Sarasota, Florida, in 1979, Wallenda is part of a family that traces its history as circus performers back to the Austro-Hungarian empire in the late 18th century. His great-grandfather, Karl, who was born in Germany in 1905, developed an aerial act with several other performers in Europe in the early 1920s. By the late 1920s, the group, which eventually came to be known as the Flying Wallendas, was performing in America with Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. In 1947, Karl Wallenda invented the seven-person chair pyramid, a feat performed on a tightrope. After being performed for many years, the pyramid proved fatal in 1962, when two men died and one of Karl’s sons was paralyzed when the trick went wrong. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Karl turned his attention to “sky walks” between buildings and across stadiums on a high wire. In 1978, he fell to his death at age 73 while walking a cable between two structures in Puerto Rico.

Nik Wallenda learned to walk on a wire as a young boy and made his professional debut as an aerialist at age 13. He went on to set a number of Guinness World Records, including the longest tightrope crossing on a bicycle and the highest eight-person tightrope pyramid. In 2011, Wallenda hung from a high-flying helicopter above Branson, Missouri, by his teeth. That same year, he and his mother successfully completed the high-wire walk in Puerto Rico that had killed Karl Wallenda.

On June 15, 2012, Nik Wallenda became the first person to walk directly over Niagara Falls on a high wire. He crossed a 1,800-foot-long, 7-ton wire from the U.S. side of the falls to the Canadian side at a height of around 200 feet in about 25 minutes. Because the event was televised around the world, broadcast officials required the famous funambulist to wear a safety tether in case he fell.

The following June, Wallenda made his Grand Canyon traverse. Wearing jeans and a T-shirt and holding a 43-pound balancing pole, he prayed out loud as he walked untethered across a 1,400-foot-long, 8.5-ton cable suspended 1,500 feet above the Little Colorado River. It was the highest walk of his career, and he completed it in just less than 23 minutes.)

After nearly 23 minutes, Nik Wallenda is the first human to ever cross the Little Colorado River Gorge on a wire.
After nearly 23 minutes, Nik Wallenda is the first human to ever cross the Little Colorado River Gorge on a wire. (Business Insider)

* 1987 Tiffany visits the mall on her way to stardom. (Long before Hannah Montana and High School Musical, in the late 1980s, a 16-year-old aspiring pop star named Tiffany Darwish had a self-titled debut album on a major record label that was gathering dust on record store shelves around the country. What transformed Tiffany the album into a quadruple-Platinum smash hit and Tiffany the singer from a flop into a pop idol was a brilliant and highly unorthodox marketing strategy put into effect on this day in 1987, when young Ms. Darwish launched a career-making tour of America’s shopping malls with a live performance in Paramus Park Mall in Paramus, New Jersey.

With Tiffany’s debut album going nowhere on radio or in stores, MCA Records and Tiffany’s personal manager signed on to a radical proposal: having Tiffany join the “Beautiful You: Celebrating the Good Life Shopping Mall Tour ’87″—the kind of promotional tour of American shopping malls then associated only with consumer products like canned soup and hair coloring. It may seem obvious to say that recorded music is also a consumer product and that therefore a wise place to connect with its consumers is at the point of purchase. But for most of its existence, the recorded music industry had taken a very different approach, relying on the radio as the primary promotional vehicle. Though the advent of MTV in the early 1980s added music videos to the typical promotions mix, that, too, reflected a top-down approach to selling pop music. What Tiffany was trying to do in 1987 was save her own faltering career, but what she ended up doing was proving the validity of a bottom-up approach to achieving pop stardom.

Following her appearance in Paramus on June 23, 1987, Tiffany went on to perform in malls all around the United States over the course of that summer, drawing increasingly enthusiastic crowds of her fellow teenagers and, by early September, prompting many of those teenagers to begin calling in requests for her songs to their local radio stations. A cover of the Tommy James and the Shondells song “I Think We’re Alone Now” proved to be the breakthrough hit that the MCA promotions department had assured her was lacking from her debut album. Both it and “Could’ve Been” would reach #1 on the U.S. pop charts, and Tiffany would go on to sell upwards of 4 million copies worldwide.)

TIFFANY INTERVIEWED (1988): I Think She's Alone Now | Elsewhere by Graham Reid
TIFFANY INTERVIEWED (1988): I Think She’s Alone Now | (Elsewhere by Graham Reid)

Today’s Sources:

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

* This Day In History – What Happened Today

* The Great Idea Finder                          


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.

12 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… June 23rd”

  1. I loved Tiffany! I had her albums on cassette tape (kids today won’t know what that means, right?). I listened to them on my bright yellow walkman and “I think we’re alone now” was always being put on rewind and play. I’m shocked by that high wire feat – in fact, that whole family just makes me go “wow” thinking about their circus backgrounds and those heights. I would want to wear a harness!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t forget the safety net too! By the time Tiffany was big, I was no longer following current pop tunes. I likely would remember the songs if I heard them again. I just didn’t pay attention. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Christy!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember Tiffany from when I was in early high school. I never really like her songs but I thought this information about her Mall tours was very interesting. The history of the typewriter is also very interesting – I can remember being taught how to type on an electric typewriter. A computer is so much easier!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I learned to type on a very old Underwood manual machine, Robbie. When I began teaching in ’73, I had an electric model that I thought was the cat’s meow. When the main office at school got IBM electronics with interchangeable golf balls for changing fonts, I was mesmerized. The evolution of word processing has been unbelievable in my lifetime. This type of history is fun! Thanks for your comment!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I just saw Carla Wallenda perform last night on a new show called Little Big Shots. She is 81 years old and she did an aerial act on a 85′ sway pole. Seriously?!?!? 81 freaking years old!!!

    I remember when Nik did that walk across the canyon. The Wallenda’s are circus royalty. Crazy royalty but royalty.

    BTW, I finished reading Reflections last night and will be posting a review today, John. Wonderful thoughts in there!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t imagine walking a high wire at 81. I admire their skill, dedication, and courage – but that’s nuts! I’m glad you enjoyed Reflections, Mae. Have a super weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Yikes on the wire! I didn’t know about that until now.
    I was a huge Tiffany fan. I remember her debut so clearly. Wow…it’s a little scary how fast the years go by. Thanks for another awesome share, John! Wishing you a lovely weekend. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not a big fan of high wire acts – I don’t enjoy watching on TV either. You’re right – the years do fly by and that seems to accelerate as you get older. Thanks for your comments today, Natalie – have a great weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, my goodness, aerialists scare me, and I cannot watch them – even on tv. One of my sons knows solace through extremes of physical endurance, and next week he heads to Alaska to join a team kayaking into the unknown. I love his spirit and admire his courage, but such is not me. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m with you on both counts, Gwen. Not my cup of tea! You’re right- these folks are courageous. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

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