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John’s Believe It Or Not… November 2nd

1869 – Louis Riel and 120 armed men take over HBC HQ in Fort Garry to stop transfer to Canada. 1947 Spruce Goose flies. 1917 Britain supports creation of Jewish homeland. 1983 MLK federal holiday declared. 1960 Lady Chatterley’s Lover obscenity trial ends.

Portrait of Louis Riel

It’s Therapeutic Thursday! Did you know…

* 1869 – Louis Riel and 120 armed men take over HBC HQ in Fort Garry to stop transfer to Canada.

When an educated, worldly young man named Louis Riel (today’s Featured Picture above)returned to his prairie homeland in 1868, he discovered a territory in flux. The vast prairie region was on the auction block and about to become part the young Dominion of Canada.

At the time, the declining fur-trading giant Hudson’s Bay Company controlled the prairie region. The territory was sparsely populated by Indian nations, European farmers, fur-traders, and a people called the Métis – the offspring of white traders and natives. Riel was one of 6,000 French-speaking, Catholic Métis.

On March 20, 1869, Canada bought a vast area of land from the Hudson’s Bay Company. The territory known as Rupert’s Land included parts of what are now northern Quebec, northern Ontario and Nunavut, and most of the prairies. The sale involved roughly a quarter of the continent but it failed to take into account the existing residents.

In anticipation of the transfer, settlers streamed in from Canada’s most populated province, Ontario, eager to claim land on the plains. The Métis were concerned about their language and religious rights because the newcomers were mostly English-speaking Protestants. In addition, they were justifiably afraid of losing their lands, for most of the Métis were squatters or settlers without title.

“They have come here to chase us from our homeland,” said Riel of the new settlers. “They assume that after fifty years of civilization our society has borne no fruit. Instead of respecting the laws established in the colony. They have publicly repudiated them.”

In 1869, the Canadian government ignited the anger of the Metis when it sent a survey team to the prairies before Canada’s purchase of the territory was final. 

The first incident in what would become known as the Red River Resistance started innocently enough after the land purchase. Canadian Prime Minister John A. Macdonald sent surveyors to Red River. At the time, the land transfer was not complete but the Canadian government wanted to begin outlining a township grid.

On October 11, 1869, a survey party led by Captain Adam Webb began to survey the property of André Nault, a Métis farmer. Nault protested the intrusion and called his cousin Louis Riel. Backed by more than a dozen Métis, Riel stood on the surveying chain demanding that Webb and his men stop. The surveyors withdrew.

Riel quickly gained status among the Métis as the man who had stared down the Canadian government. Supporters – largely French-speaking Métis – gathered around him ready to follow his lead. Riel felt a dramatic gesture was needed to get Ottawa’s attention – to force Canada to negotiate with the inhabitants of Red River before taking over the territory.

On November 2, Riel set out with a group of 120armed men for Fort Garry (present-day Winnipeg), the administrative center of the region. With no troops to support him, William MacTavish – governor of Rupert’s Land – watched helplessly at the fort was taken by Riel.

Fort Garry along the Red River 1868 (Present-day Winnipeg, Manitoba)
Fort Garry along the Red River 1868 (Present-day Winnipeg, Manitoba)(doing canadianhistory n.0 – WordPress.com)

* 1947 Spruce Goose flies.

The Hughes Flying Boat—the largest aircraft ever built—is piloted by designer Howard Hughes on its first and only flight. Built with laminated birch and spruce, the massive wooden aircraft had a wingspan longer than a football field and was designed to carry more than 700 men to battle.

Howard Hughes was a successful Hollywood movie producer when he founded the Hughes Aircraft Company in 1932. He personally tested cutting-edge aircraft of his own design and in 1937 broke the transcontinental flight-time record. In 1938, he flew around the world in a record three days, 19 hours, and 14 minutes.

Following the U.S. entrance into World War II in 1941, the U.S. government commissioned the Hughes Aircraft Company to build a large flying boat capable of carrying men and materials over long distances. The concept for what would become the “Spruce Goose” was originally conceived by the industrialist Henry Kaiser, but Kaiser dropped out of the project early, leaving Hughes and his small team to make the H-4 a reality. Because of wartime restrictions on steel, Hughes decided to build his aircraft out of wood laminated with plastic and covered with fabric. Although it was constructed mainly of birch, the use of spruce (along with its white-gray color) would later earn the aircraft the nickname Spruce Goose. It had a wingspan of 320 feet and was powered by eight giant propeller engines.

Development of the Spruce Goose cost a phenomenal $23 million and took so long that the war had ended by the time of its completion in 1946. The aircraft had many detractors, and Congress demanded that Hughes prove the plane airworthy. On November 2, 1947, Hughes obliged, taking the H-4 prototype out into Long Beach Harbor, CA for an unannounced flight test. Thousands of onlookers had come to watch the aircraft taxi on the water and were surprised when Hughes lifted his wooden behemoth 70 feet above the water and flew for a mile before landing.

Despite its successful maiden flight, the Spruce Goose never went into production, primarily because critics alleged that its wooden framework was insufficient to support its weight during long flights. Nevertheless, Howard Hughes, who became increasingly eccentric and withdrawn after 1950, refused to neglect what he saw as his greatest achievement in the aviation field. From 1947 until his death in 1976, he kept the Spruce Goose prototype ready for flight in an enormous, climate-controlled hangar at a cost of $1 million per year. Today, the Spruce Goose is housed at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon.

The Spruce Goose, Howard Hughes' experimental wooden airplane, floats in Long Beach Harbor, Nov. 2, 1947.
The Spruce Goose, Howard Hughes’ experimental wooden airplane, floats in Long Beach Harbor, Nov. 2, 1947. (Aces Flying High – WordPress.com)

* 1917 Britain supports creation of Jewish homeland.

British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour submits a declaration of intent to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The British government hoped that the formal declaration would help garner Jewish support for the Allied effort in World War I. The Balfour Declaration was included in the British mandate over Palestine, which was approved by the League of Nations in 1922. Arabs opposed the Balfour Declaration, fearing that the creation of a Jewish homeland would mean the subjugation of Arab Palestinians.

After World War I, the Jewish population in Palestine increased dramatically, as did Jewish-Arab violence. Arab resistance and failures to reach a compromise led Britain to delay deciding on the future of Palestine. In the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust, much of the international community took up the Zionist cause, and in 1948 the State of Israel was declared.

British support for a Jewish homeland was expressed in the 1917 Balfour Declaration
British support for a Jewish homeland was expressed in the 1917 Balfour Declaration (SlidePlayer)

* 1983 MLK federal holiday declared.

President Ronald Reagan signs a bill in the White House Rose Garden designating a federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., to be observed on the third Monday of January.

Martin Luther King, Jr., was born in Atlanta in 1929, the son of a Baptist minister. He received a doctorate degree in theology and in 1955 organized the first major protest of the civil rights movement: the successful Montgomery Bus Boycott. Influenced by Mohandas Gandhi, he advocated nonviolent civil disobedience to racial segregation. The peaceful protests he led throughout the American South were often met with violence, but King and his followers persisted, and the movement gained momentum.

A powerful orator, he appealed to Christian and American ideals and won growing support from the federal government and Northern whites. In 1963, he led his massive March on Washington, in which he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” address. In 1964, the civil rights movement achieved two of its greatest successes: the ratification of the 24th Amendment, which abolished the poll tax, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited racial discrimination in employment and education and outlawed racial segregation in public facilities. In October of that year, King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He donated the prize money, valued at $54,600, to the civil rights movement.

In the late 1960s, King openly criticized U.S. involvement in Vietnam and turned his efforts to winning economic equality for poorer Americans. By that time, the civil rights movement had begun to fracture, with activists such as Stokely Carmichael rejecting King’s vision of nonviolent integration in favor of African American self-reliance and self-defense. In 1968, King intended to revive his movement through an interracial “Poor People’s March” on Washington, but on April 4 escaped white convict James Earl Ray assassinated him in Memphis, Tennessee.

Reagan signs MLK Day legislation
Reagan signs MLK Day legislation (bostonreview.net)

* 1960 Lady Chatterley’s Lover obscenity trial ends.

On this day in 1960, a landmark obscenity case over Lady Chatterley’s Lover, by D.H. Lawrence, ends in the acquittal of Penguin Books. The publisher had been sued for obscenity in publishing an unexpurgated version of Lawrence’s novel, which deals with the affair between the wife of a wealthy, paralyzed landowner and his estate’s gamekeeper. The book had been published in a limited English-language edition in Florence in 1928 and Paris the following year. An expurgated version was published in England in 1932. In 1959, the full text was published in New York, then in London the following year.

Lawrence was born to a poor coal-mining family in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, in 1885. His mother struggled to teach her children refinement and a love of education. She depended heavily on Lawrence for emotional support and nurturing. He won a scholarship to Nottingham High School, worked as a clerk, and attended University College in Nottingham, where he earned a teaching certificate. His first novel, The White Peacock, was published in 1911.

The following year, Lawrence fell in love with Frieda Weekley, the German wife of a fellow teacher. The pair fled to Germany and wed after Frieda divorced her husband. In 1913, Lawrence published his first major novel, Sons and Lovers, an autobiographical novel set in a coal town. The couple returned to England, and Lawrence’s next novel, The Rainbow (1915), was banned for indecency. After World War I, Lawrence traveled to Italy, Australia, and Mexico and wrote several more novels, including Women in Love (1921). He died of tuberculosis in France in 1930, at the age of 44.

Richard Madden and Holliday Grainger in 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' (Photo: BBC)
Richard Madden and Holliday Grainger in ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ (Photo: BBC)

Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology  http://canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php

* CBC Learning                                         http://www.cbc.ca/history/EPCONTENTSE1EP9CH2PA2LE.html

* This Day In History – What Happened Today                        http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/                  

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 (http://fiorabooks.com), to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

10 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… November 2nd”

  1. I could just imagine the government surveyors expressions when Louis stepped on their surveyor’s chain and said, “Get out.” Love all things, Howard Hughes. He was something. MLK day declaration was historical and so appropriate. Thanks, John

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Louis Riel was a real character. The Conservative Party hanged him for treason in November 1885 in Regina, and later the Liberal Party declared him a hero fighting for minority rights, a Father of Confederation (for bringing Manitoba into Confederation as our 5th province in 1870) and they put out a commemorative stamp, etc. Thanks for your comment, John.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. MLK has always inspired me with his brilliance, dedication, and his tireless commitment to nonviolence. He lives through his work which is ongoing, and his words which are as relevant today as when he marched for justice.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It is incredible to think what a scene Lady Chatterley’s caused given what is the norm now. I thought the book was really well written and encapsulated his philosophy. I can’t believe that it was considered pornographic.
    It is great, and ironic, that MLK is recognised by a State that did everything in their power to oppose him.
    It is a shame that the British never sorted the Palestinian/Israeli situation before baling out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I smiled as I read your comment about the Lady Chatterley case. Back in that time period, the morals were very prudish – porno magazines then were a joke when compared to what’s published and online today. Today just about anything goes – even on prime time TV.

      I read a statement that Reagan signed that MLK legislation but did not agree with it. Don’t know if that’s true.

      I’m not sure Britain could have sorted that situation in the Middle East – it has been in constant turmoil and warfare since ancient times. Having said that, European colonial powers were notorious for following policies that were in their own best interest – not for the well-being of the colonial peoples – especially if these imperial/colonial interests were in conflict. Now, Trump is taking a page from their playbook in his dealings with Puerto Rico. Thanks, Opher!

      Like

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