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John’s Believe It Or Not… September 1st

In 1864 – Canadian Delegates arrive at Charlottetown to discuss the union of British North America. In 1983 Korean Airlines flight shot down by the Soviet Union. In 1969 Qaddafi leads a coup in Libya. In 1985 Wreck of the Titanic found. In 1850 P.T. Barnum brings Jenny Lind to New York.

John Fioravanti stands at the front of his classroom.

It’s Friday! TGIF! Did you know…

* 1864 – Canadian Delegates arrive at Charlottetown to discuss the union of British North America.

The Charlottetown Conference of September 1864 set Confederation in motion. The meeting brought together delegates from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island to discuss the union of their three provinces. However, they were persuaded by a contingent from the Province of Canada — not originally on the guest list — to work for the union of all the British North American colonies. (John A. Macdonald decided to crash their party!)

Discussions at Charlottetown, the capital of Prince Edward Island, were held in the legislative council chamber of Province House between Thursday, 1 September and Wednesday, 7 September, with a break on Sunday. On 8 September — a holiday — a grand ball was hosted for the delegates at Province House. The council chamber was turned into a reception room, while the library served as a bar and the legislative assembly chamber as a dance floor. The festivities carried on late into the night and early morning. Supper was served at 1 a.m. and speeches followed until 5 a.m. when delegates boarded the vessel Queen Victoria for the journey to Halifax.

Further meetings were held in Halifax, Saint John, and Fredericton. The Charlottetown Conference discussions were formally concluded on 3 November 1864 in Toronto, while the delegates were touring central Canada following the Québec Conference.

The Canadian Encyclopedia)
Delegates of the Charlottetown Conference, Prince Edward Island, 1864. John A. Macdonald is seated with George Etienne Cartier standing beside him on his right. (The Canadian Encyclopedia)

* 1983 Korean Airlines flight shot down by the Soviet Union.

Soviet jet fighters intercept a Korean Airlines passenger flight in Russian airspace and shoot the plane down, killing 269 passengers and crewmembers. The incident dramatically increased tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States.

On September 1, 1983, Korean Airlines (KAL) flight 007 was on the last leg of a flight from New York City to Seoul, with a stopover in Anchorage, Alaska. As it approached its final destination, the plane began to veer far off its normal course. In just a short time, the plane flew into Russian airspace and crossed over the Kamchatka Peninsula, where some top-secret Soviet military installations were known to be located. The Soviets sent two fighters to intercept the plane. According to tapes of the conversations between the fighter pilots and Soviet ground control, the fighters quickly located the KAL flight and tried to make contact with the passenger jet. Failing to receive a response, one of the fighters fired a heat-seeking missile. KAL 007 was hit and plummeted into the Sea of Japan. All 269 people on board were killed.

This was not the first time a South Korean flight had run into trouble over Russia. In 1978, the Soviets forced a passenger jet down over Murmansk; two passengers were killed during the emergency landing. In its first public statement concerning the September 1983 incident, the Soviet government merely noted that an unidentified aircraft had been shot down flying over Russian territory. The United States government reacted with horror to the disaster. The Department of State suggested that the Soviets knew the plane was an unarmed civilian passenger aircraft. President Ronald Reagan called the incident a “massacre” and issued a statement in which he declared that the Soviets had turned “against the world and the moral precepts which guide human relations among people everywhere.” Five days after the incident, the Soviets admitted that the plane had indeed been a passenger jet, but that Russian pilots had no way of knowing this. A high ranking Soviet military official stated that the KAL flight had been involved in espionage activities. The Reagan administration responded by suspending all Soviet passenger air service to the United States and dropped several agreements being negotiated with the Soviets.

Despite the heated public rhetoric, many Soviets and American officials and analysts privately agreed that the incident was simply a tragic misunderstanding. The KAL flight had veered into a course that was close to one being simultaneously flown by a U.S. spy plane; perhaps Soviet radar operators mistook the two. In the Soviet Union, several of the military officials responsible for air defense in the Far East were fired or demoted. It has never been determined how the KAL flight ended up nearly 200 miles off course.

Map: KAL 007's route to disaster
Map: KAL 007’s route to disaster (

* 1969 Qaddafi leads a coup in Libya.

Muammar al-Qaddafi, a 27-year-old Libyan army captain, leads a successful military coup against King Idris I of Libya. Idris was deposed and Qaddafi was named the chairman of Libya’s new governing body, the Revolutionary Command Council.

Qaddafi was born in a tent in the Libyan desert in 1942, the son of a Bedouin farmer. A gifted student, he graduated from the University of Libya in 1963 and the Libyan military academy at Benghazi in 1965. An ardent Arab nationalist, he plotted with a group of fellow officers to overthrow King Idris, who was viewed as overly conservative and indifferent to the movement for greater political unity among Arab countries. By the time Qaddafi attained the rank of captain, in 1969, the revolutionaries were ready to strike. They waited until King Idris was out of the country, being treated for a leg ailment at a Turkish spa, and then toppled his government in a bloodless coup. The monarchy was abolished, and Idris traveled from Turkey to Greece before finding asylum in Egypt. He died there in Cairo in 1983.

Blending Islamic orthodoxy, revolutionary socialism, and Arab nationalism, Qaddafi established a fervently anti-Western dictatorship in Libya. In 1970, he removed U.S. and British military bases and expelled Italian and Jewish Libyans. In 1973, he took control of foreign-owned oil fields. He reinstated traditional Islamic laws, such as the prohibition of alcoholic beverages and gambling, but liberated women and launched social programs that improved the standard of living in Libya. As part of his stated ambition to unite the Arab world, he sought closer relations with his Arab neighbors, especially Egypt. However, when Egypt and then other Arab nations began a peace process with Israel, Libya became increasingly isolated.

Qaddafi’s government financed a wide variety of terrorist groups worldwide, from Palestinian guerrillas and Philippine Muslim rebels to the Irish Republican Army. During the 1980s, the West blamed him for numerous terrorist attacks in Europe, and in April 1986 U.S. war planes bombed Tripoli in retaliation for a bombing of a West German dance hall. Qaddafi was reportedly injured and his infant daughter killed in the U.S. attack.

In the late 1990s, Qaddafi sought to lead Libya out of its long international isolation by turning over to the West two suspects wanted for the 1988 explosion of an airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland. In response, the United Nations lifted sanctions against Libya. The United States removed its own embargo in September 2004. After years of rejection in the Arab world, Qaddafi also sought to forge stronger relations with non-Islamic African nations such as South Africa, remodeling himself as an elder African statesman.

In February 2011, as unrest spread through much of the Arab world, massive political protests against the Qaddafi regime sparked a civil war between revolutionaries and loyalists. In March, an international coalition began conducting airstrikes against Qaddafi strongholds under the auspices of a U.N. Security Council resolution. On October 20, Libya’s interim government announced that Qaddafi had died after being captured near his hometown of Sirte.

Gaddafi Seizes Power in Libya
Gaddafi Seizes Power in Libya (New Historian)

* 1985 Wreck of the Titanic found.

Seventy-three years after it sunk to the North Atlantic ocean floor, a joint U.S.-French expedition locates the wreck of the RMS Titanic. The sunken liner was about 400 miles east of Newfoundland in the North Atlantic.

American Robert D. Ballard headed the expedition, which used an experimental, unmanned submersible developed by the U.S. Navy to search for the ocean liner. The Argo traveled just above the ocean floor, sending photographs up to the research vessel Knorr. In the early morning of September 1, Argo was investigating debris on the ocean floor when it suddenly passed over one of the Titanic‘s massive boilers, lying at a depth of about 13,000 feet. The wreck was subsequently explored by manned and unmanned submersibles, which shed new light on the details of its 1912 sinking.

The wreck of the Titanic was found by Robert Ballard in 1985
The wreck of the Titanic was found by Robert Ballard in 1985 (The Unredacted)

* 1850 P.T. Barnum brings Jenny Lind to New York.

The iconic American huckster, showman and circus entrepreneur P.T. Barnum is most often associated not with refined high culture but of somewhat coarser forms of entertainment—the circus, yes, but also Siamese twins and various human oddities such as “Zip the Pinhead” and the “Man-monkey.” It was none other than P.T. Barnum, however, who brought the greatest opera performer in the world from Europe to the United States in the mid-19th century for a triumphant national tour that set astonishing box-office records and fanned the flames of a widespread opera craze in 1850s America. That star was Jenny Lind—”The Swedish Nightingale”—a singer of uncommon talent and great renown whose arrival in New York City on this day in 1850 was greeted with a mania, not unlike that which would greet another foreign musical invasion more than a century later.

Depending on which of two conflicting birth dates one accepts as accurate, Jenny Lind was either 29 or 39 years old in 1849, when she first came to the attention of P.T. Barnum. Barnum was touring Europe at the time with the act that effectively launched his eventual showbiz empire: the two-foot-eleven-inch Tom Thumb, whom Barnum molded into a singer/dancer/comedian after discovering him in Bridgeport, Connecticut. While in England with Thumb, Barnum was told about Lind and proceeded to propose a North American tour to her without ever hearing her sing a note. Her once-in-a-lifetime voice, it seems, was of interest to Barnum only insofar as it helped explain the piece of information that most impressed him: that Lind had recently drawn sellout crowd after sellout crowd during a recent tour of Britain and Ireland. On the basis of her proven box-office pull, Barnum sent an offer to Lind that was unheard of for the time: a 150-date tour of the United States and Canada with a guaranteed payment of $1,000 per performance. After negotiating certain payments by Barnum to charities of her choosing, the philanthropy-minded Lind agree to the tour and disembarked Liverpool for the United States in August 1850.

From the moment of her arrival in New York, Lind was a sensation. By applying his trademark gifts in the area of promotion (including not only a massive advertising campaign but also many bought-and-paid-for reviews in regional newspapers), Barnum had seen to it that this would be the case. But it was Lind’s voice and her genuine connection with audiences that made the tour the smash success that it was—a fact even Barnum acknowledged when he renegotiated her contract upward following her first handful of performances. All told, Jenny Lind’s tour is believed to have netted Barnum close to a half-million dollars, an astonishing sum in 1850. But its most lasting legacy may have been the way in which it helped make opera a democratic sensation in America in the decades that followed.


Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* The Canadian Encyclopedia                    

* This Day In History – What Happened Today              

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.

29 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… September 1st”

  1. Fantastic John. I had heard of Jenny Lind the Swedish Nightingale but knew nothing about her except that she went to America… it was great to learn the story

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are ahead of me, Paul! I had only heard the name associated with various products, so I was able to research and find out about the person behind the name and the circumstances that brought her to America. Thanks for your kind words, Paul!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No John you are ahead of me, I only knew of her from a line in a Grace Jones song ‘I’ve done it again’ from Nightclubbing (‘I was there when Jenny Lind first sang’) but I thought it far too pretentious to mention that out of the blue!

        Liked by 1 person

                    1. Hey y’all I’ve never heard those pronunciations before. Boots are footwear for wet or snowy days. Good grief!😇


  2. Quaddafi was soulless – truly evil. I’m regularly taken aback by how power corrupts. Few people can manage power; they think it means to control others, when in actuality, true power frees the minds and hearts of others and instills hope. Have a great day, John, and thank you for the morning reflection. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I totally agree about the fallacy that power = control. Trying to control others is terribly disrespectful. Thanks for your insights today, Gwen! We just completed the first leg of our journey.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. We’re headed to Utica/Whitesboro NY – NE of you. He’s about 3 hours from the border- crossing at Queenston/Lewiston bridge. If we were going your way we’d cross at Fort Erie or Windsor.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Whatever happened to the summer? Grandchildren, decoration and children. It slipped by just like the Titanic slipping under the waves.
    Who’d have thought that opera would go down like that in the brash days of America?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We have fall weather over here. However, Canada’s West is still basking in hot weather. I was surprised by that opera story too! Thanks for commenting, Opher.


    1. I was overjoyed when Qaddafi was overthrown – he was a monster. I’m sure we’ll learn a lot more about Titanic in the future. Thanks for commenting, Robbie.


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