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John’s Believe It Or Not… October 28th

1830 – Josiah Henson and family arrive in Upper Canada on the Underground Railway. 1914 – War Cabinet orders the registration of all ‘alien enemies,’ especially Germans and Ukrainians. 1965 Gateway Arch completed. 1905 George Bernard Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession is performed in New York. 1886 Statue of Liberty dedicated.

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.

Josiah Henson was regarded as a community leader and "conductor" on the Underground Railroad.
Josiah Henson was regarded as a community leader and “conductor” on the Underground Railroad. (About Canadian History –

* 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.

'Enemy Aliens' - Canadian War Museum explores internment during First World War
‘Enemy Aliens’ – Canadian War Museum explores internment during First World War (Centenary News)

* 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.

St. Louis Gateway Arch at night.
St. Louis Gateway Arch at night. (InfoBuzzzz –

* 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.

George Bernard Shaw's "Mrs. Warren's Profession", his problem play on prostitution
George Bernard Shaw’s “Mrs. Warren’s Profession”, his problem play on prostitution (Pinterest)

* 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.

A painting of spectators watching the dedication of the Statue of Liberty from Lower Manhattan.
A painting of spectators watching the dedication of the Statue of Liberty from Lower Manhattan. (Untapped Cities)

Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* The Canadian Encyclopedia                     

* The Canadiadian War Museum          

* 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.

20 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… October 28th”

  1. This is another excellent “episode” in this series. 😆 The Underground Railroad is a great event in history and George Bernard Shaw was quite a character.

    I attended part of the celebration for the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty on July 4, 1986. It was an amazing production. I saw jets dip their noses to the statue as if they were bowing, a race between four blimps and the most amazing firework demonstration I’ve ever seen. I believe there were eleven aircraft carriers, each with a serious firework display of its own. The combination of all of them literally filled the sky. Automobile traffic was closed from around Washington Square Park (4th St.) to the southern tip of Manhattan. It seemed as if there were a million people there. I couldn’t afford a ticket to sit in grandstands that were erected for people along the shore so I climbed on top of a tall column in a graveyard and watched from there. It was a lot of fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your eyewitness report about the centennial celebration of Lady Liberty, Roy! It must have been spectacular!

      On the one hand, I’m proud of the role Canada played in the Underground Railroad, but I’m also ashamed of the racist discrimination the black refugees suffered from white society here. My African-born son-in-law assures me that racism is alive and well here in Ontario. He was unemployed for over six months with a resume that sported 5 or 6 university degrees. Many employers turned him away saying he was overqualified and would be bored with the executive positions he had applied for. Right. His damned skin was too black! I still boil when I think of it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I hear you. Living in NYC I rarely see racism in person – though I know it exists mostly under the surface. I see black, white, Latino and Asian people in groups every day talking and enjoying life together. The most consistent reminder is NYPD. Though there are about 14,000 Black and Latino police officers in NYC, half of the members of NYPD are white. And white people only make up about 33% of the population so progress needs to continue to make the police force representative of the population.

        The 2016 election brought out the closet racists in this country and shows that racism is much worse than I naively thought it was living in this densely populated bubble. We need more education in that area and less despicable indoctrination which the rulers use to divide us into groups more easily controlled. Fortunately, many racists are old and dying off. That will help.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it has been there for a long time – I was just 14 when it was completed – and I don’t remember any news stories about it. But all I was interested in back then was girls and hockey scores – in that order. Thanks, John!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You’ve shared some amazing stories today, John. The Underground Railroad has always been dear to my heart, and the story of Josiah Henson is awe-inspiring. Though I’ve stood at the base of the St. Louis Gateway Arch and the Statue of Liberty, I’ve not gone up either of them. Both are remarkable for similar reasons, they are images of hope. Thank you for the reminders.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve only stood at the base of Lady Liberty – and like you didn’t go up. Hope to see the Gateway Arch before I’m too old and infirm to travel. I knew you’d like the Josiah Henson story, Gwen. Hugs!


  3. So, today was the day the Statue of Liberty was dedicated. Wow. I can only imagine the shock of Shaw’s play way back then. Must have been like opening night of “Hair”. Of course the registration of Germans was another example of ‘guilty until proven innocent’. America’s treatment of the Japanese in WW II is shameful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We in Canada share that shame, Jennie. Our government created the Japanese internment camps at the same time. For this reason, I feel a sense of redemption through the actions of the Trudeau government in accepting thousands of Syrian refugees over the past two years. Thanks for commenting, dear. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sure they don’t – at least in the White House. According to the pollsters, 63% of Americans do not approve of Trump, so I’d like to believe that the majority still cherish the sentiments represented by Lady Liberty.


  4. My mother told me that during the war (WWII), all the citizens of German extraction had to move into camps or, if they were lucky, live under supervision of an English friend. My Mom’s Grandmother had such a lady, Mrs Barrett, living with her during the war. Very sad how these things happen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is very sad that wartime fear prompts people and governments to discriminate without cause. The very worst internments in North America took place during World War II – against the Japanese Americans and Japanese Canadians. Both governments rounded these people up and moved them inland away from the Pacific coast so they could not assist a Japanese invasion. It was heartbreaking and it still angers me. My grandfather, Eugenio Fioravanti, came to Canada in 1912. During WWII he was rounded up along with scores of other Italian Canadians in Toronto and held in an internment camp at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds. Once the authorities discovered that his son, Richard Fioravanti – my father, was in the Canadian Army, they released him. Thanks for your anecdote, Robbie!

      Liked by 1 person

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