It’s Saturday! Did you know…
* 1830 – Josiah Henson and family arrive in Upper Canada on the Underground Railway.
Josiah Henson, spiritual leader, author, founder of the Black community settlement at Dawn, Canada West [Ontario] (born 15 June 1789 in Charles County, Maryland; died 5 May 1883 in Dresden, ON). Born enslaved, Henson escaped to Canada in 1830.
Josiah Henson, spiritual leader, author, founder of the Black community settlement at Dawn, Canada West (born 15 June 1789 in Charles County, Maryland; died 5 May 1883 in Dresden, ON). Born enslaved, Henson escaped to Canada in 1830. He founded the Dawn Settlement near Dresden, Upper Canada, for American fugitives from enslavement. He and a group of associates organized a trade-labor school, the British-American Institute. He was active on the executive committee until the Institute closed in 1868. Henson served as Dawn’s spiritual leader and patriarch and made numerous fundraising trips to the United States and England. He published his autobiography in 1849, and he was allegedly Harriet Beecher Stowe’s model for the lead character in her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852).
Henson first tried to buy his freedom in 1825. His owner, Isaac Riley, needed money and sent Henson to escort a group of 18 enslaved persons to Kentucky. While in transit, the group could easily have escaped to Ohio and made themselves free, but Henson believed his owner’s offer of manumission (ownership of himself). Consequently, he would not allow the escape and was later disappointed when he realized that his owner had no intention of giving him his freedom. He was taken, along with his wife and four children, to New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1829 to be sold. Henson and his family fled to Upper Canada, reaching the Niagara Peninsula on 28 October 1830.
Henson and his family settled near Dresden, Upper Canada. With his leadership skills, he was able to command the support of abolitionists who helped him create the Dawn Settlement, a place for refugees from enslavement to gain the education and skills necessary for self-sufficiency and self-determination. It was Henson’s belief that Black persons needed to learn skills within their own community. In 1841, Henson and his partners purchased 200 acres of land, and in 1842, they established the British-American Institute. A central focus of the settlement, the school was created for students of all ages and was sustainably designed to train teachers while providing general education and trade-labor instruction to members of the community. The community of Dawn developed around the Institute, with many residents farming, attending the Institute, and working in sawmills, gristmills and in other local industries.
* 1914 – War Cabinet orders the registration of all ‘alien enemies,’ especially Germans and Ukrainians.
War fever created widespread hostility towards German Canadians and German-Canadian culture.
The early part of the war witnessed a substantial backlash against many elements of the German presence in Canada. Public schools removed German language instruction from their curricula. Some orchestras refused to play German music. Winnipeg residents changed hamburgers to “nips” in order to sever the association with an enemy language. The sinking of the civilian liner Lusitania in 1915 with hundreds of civilian deaths seemed to confirm the popular view that Canada fought in a singularly noble cause against a nation of barbarians. Ugly riots in Victoria, Winnipeg, and Montreal targeted German-owned businesses and shops.
Anti-German propaganda, stories of German atrocities abroad, and fear of saboteurs drove many Canadians to demand protection from their government. Some 8,579 “enemy aliens” were interned behind barbed wire to remove the supposed threat, while tens of thousands more were forced to register with authorities and abide by stringent rules of conduct for the duration of the war. Sir William Otter, the distinguished Canadian soldier who oversaw the internment operation, stated that 8,579 “enemy aliens” were incarcerated in camps across the country. Otter classified 3,138 as “prisoners of war,” while the others were civilians. The majority of internees were of Ukrainian origin.
Berlin, a moderate sized town in southwestern Ontario, was home to a large population of German Canadians and many Mennonites, a peace church that opposed military service. It became a focus of public unrest because of its name and the assumed disloyalty of many of its German or pacifist residents. Zealous patriots removed from its pedestal a bust of Kaiser Wilhelm I located in the city’s Victoria Park and threw it into adjacent Victoria Lake. Soldiers of the local 118th Battalion ransacked and vandalized German businesses.
In early 1916, the local Board of Trade recommended that the city change its name as a symbol of patriotic commitment and in the hope that another name would be better for business. A municipal committee listed dozens of possibilities, including ‘Amity’, ‘Imperial City’, and ‘Hydropolis’, but overseas events provided another option. Great Britain’s minister of war, Lord Kitchener, was killed in early June en route to Russia when his warship struck a German mine. Only a few hundred local residents voted in the ensuing referendum, but those who did chose Kitchener. Berlin, which was not on the ballot, disappeared from the map on 1 September 1916. Periodic attempts during and after the war to revise the original name failed.
Personal Note: Today, Kitchener and my city, Waterloo, are twin cities. To any visitor, this urban area appears as a single city – although there are signs at the boundary which zig-zags across town from east to west. Kitchener is the larger of the two cities.
* 1965 Gateway Arch completed.
On this day in 1965, construction is completed on the Gateway Arch, a spectacular 630-foot-high parabola of stainless steel marking the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial on the waterfront of St. Louis, Missouri.
The Gateway Arch, designed by Finnish-born, American-educated architect Eero Saarinen, was erected to commemorate President Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and to celebrate St. Louis’ central role in the rapid westward expansion that followed. As the market and supply point for fur traders and explorers—including the famous Meriwether Lewis and William Clark—the town of St. Louis grew exponentially after the War of 1812 when great numbers of people began to travel by wagon train to seek their fortunes west of the Mississippi River. In 1947-48, Saarinen won a nationwide competition to design a monument honoring the spirit of the western pioneers. In a sad twist of fate, the architect died of a brain tumor in 1961 and did not live to see the construction of his now-famous arch, which began in February 1963. Completed in October 1965, the Gateway Arch cost less than $15 million to build. With foundations sunk 60 feet into the ground, its frame of stressed stainless steel is built to withstand both earthquakes and high winds. An internal tram system takes visitors to the top, where on a clear day they can see up to 30 miles across the winding Mississippi and to the Great Plains to the west. In addition to the Gateway Arch, the Jefferson Expansion Memorial includes the Museum of Westward Expansion and the Old Courthouse of St. Louis, where two of the famous Dred Scott slavery cases were heard in the 1860s.
Today, some 4 million people visit the park each year to wander its nearly 100 acres, soak up some history and take in the breathtaking views from Saarinen’s gleaming arch.
* 1905 George Bernard Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession is performed in New York.
On this day, George Bernard Shaw’s play Mrs. Warren’s Profession, which dealt frankly with prostitution, is performed at the Garrick Theater in New York. The play, Shaw’s second, had been banned in Britain. After only one performance, puritanical authorities in New York had the play closed. On October 31, the producer and players were arrested for obscenity, but a court case against the play failed to convict playwright, producer, or actors. Although some private productions were held, the show wasn’t legally performed in Britain until 1926.
Shaw was born in Dublin, Ireland, and left school at the age of 14 to work in a land agent’s office. In 1876, he quit and moved to London, where his mother, a music teacher, had settled. He worked various jobs while trying to write plays. He began publishing book reviews and art and music criticism in 1885. Meanwhile, he became a committed reformer and an active force in the newly established Fabian Society, a group of middle-class socialists. His first play, Widowers’ House, was produced in 1892.
Shaw became the theater critic for the Saturday Review in 1895, and his reviews over the next several years helped shape the development of drama. In 1898, he published Plays Pleasant and Unpleasant, which contained Arms and the Man, The Man of Destiny, and other dramas. In 1904, Man and Superman was produced.
In his work, Shaw supported socialism and decried the abuses of capitalism, the degradation of women, and the ill effects of poverty, violence, and war. His writing was filled with humor, wit, and sparkle, as well as reformist messages. His play Pygmalion, produced in 1912, later became the hit musical and movie My Fair Lady.
In 1925, Shaw won the Nobel Prize for literature and used the substantial prize money to start an Anglo-Swedish literary society. He lived simply, abstained from alcohol, caffeine, and meat, declined most honors and awards, and continued writing into his 90s. He produced more than 40 plays before his death in 1950.
* 1886 Statue of Liberty dedicated.
The Statue of Liberty, a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States, is dedicated in New York Harbor by President Grover Cleveland.
Originally known as “Liberty Enlightening the World,” the statue was proposed by the French historian Edouard de Laboulaye to commemorate the Franco-American alliance during the American Revolution. Designed by French sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, the 151-foot statue was the form of a woman with an uplifted arm holding a torch. Its framework of gigantic steel supports was designed by Eugene-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc and Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, the latter famous for his design of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
In February 1877, Congress approved the use of a site on New York Bedloe’s Island, which was suggested by Bartholdi. In May 1884, the statue was completed in France, and three months later the Americans laid the cornerstone for its pedestal in New York Harbor. In June 1885, the dismantled Statue of Liberty arrived in the New World, enclosed in more than 200 packing cases. Its copper sheets were reassembled, and the last rivet of the monument was fitted on October 28, 1886, during a dedication presided over by President Cleveland and attended by numerous French and American dignitaries.
On the pedestal was inscribed “The New Colossus,” a sonnet by American poet Emma Lazarus that welcomed immigrants to the United States with the declaration, “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. / Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. / I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” In 1892, Ellis Island, adjacent to Bedloe’s Island, opened as the chief entry station for immigrants to the United States, and for the next 32 years more than 12 million immigrants were welcomed into New York harbor by the sight of “Lady Liberty.” In 1924, the Statue of Liberty was made a national monument, and in 1956 Bedloe’s Island was renamed Liberty Island. The statue underwent a major restoration in the 1980s.
* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology http://canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php
* The Canadian Encyclopedia http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/josiah-henson/
* The Canadiadian War Museum http://www.warmuseum.ca/firstworldwar/history/life-at-home-during-the-war/enemy-aliens/anti-german-sentiment/
* This Day In History – What Happened Today http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/