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John’s Believe It Or Not… February 1st

* 2017 – 1-Year Anniversary of Words To Captivate. * 1920 – Founding of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. * 1884 Oxford Dictionary debuts. * 2003 Columbia mission ends in disaster. * 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini returns to Iran.

7 astronauts of the Space Shuttle Columbia

It’s Thursday! Did You Know…

* 2017 – 1-Year Anniversary of Words To Captivate.

On this day in 2017, I launched this website as my official blog site. I had a lot of helpful advice and encouragement from my good friend, author, and blogger, John W. Howell of Port Aransas, Texas. John was the first of 493 subscribers I accumulated in this first year. Thank you, good sir. John’s website, Fiction Favorites is found at – if you don’t follow John already, do check out his daily postings. Another good friend, author, and blogger who has been a long-time supporter and among the first subscribers here is Gwen Plano. Gwen’s website is From Sorrow To Joy — Perfect Love at Both John & Gwen are gifted writers and I encourage you to investigate their excellent books. Again, thanks, dear friends.

I have enjoyed my first year of full-time blogging and I’d like to express my appreciation to so many people who have supported this blog with their comments and reblogs of my posts. I enjoy and look forward to your comments on this daily historical post and the less regular reflections I post based on selected quotes that are published under My Inspiration. A special thank you goes out to Vicki Goodwin who volunteered her time and expertise to help me improve the Search Engine Optimization or SEO of each new post. After following her advice, the blog site really took off. Her website, The Page Turner at offers great advice for Indie Writers/Publishers. Thank you, Vicki!

Finally, something I don’t do very often because I dislike tooting my own horn (which makes me a lousy marketer), is to draw attention to my own books whose covers are showcased in the sidebar on the right side of this page. Each cover is linked to the book’s descriptive page on my original website I began my writing career in 2002 when a small educational publisher in Barrie, Ontario published my first offering, Getting It Right In History Class, as a guide to help students acquire good writing skills from a simple paragraph to a formal research essay. The book is now out of print, but I have a PDF copy for a reasonable price. In 2007, Iceberg Publishing asked me to write a book about teaching and the result was my inspirational memoir, A Personal Journey to the Heart of Teaching. In December 2014, Anne and I founded our own publishing house, Fiora Books with the help and encouragement of Kenneth Tam at Iceberg Publishing. We republished A Personal Journey in May of 2015 and then published my first novel, Passion & Struggle that fall. The following year we published the novel sequel, Treachery & Triumph. My latest offering, Reflections, published in late 2016 is another inspirational non-fiction book. All four books have received good reviews and I ask that you take a look when you have the time.

Author Picture: John Fioravanti

* 1920 – Founding of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is Canada’s national police force – providing an array of services from municipal policing to national security intelligence gathering. The “Mounties” have a long and proud history dating back to Confederation and the opening of the Canadian West. Despite a series of scandals in recent decades, the RCMP remains one of Canada’s most iconic national institutions.

Canada’s national police service had small, temporary beginnings. After Confederation, when the newly formed nation was negotiating the purchase of Rupert’s Land, the federal government faced the problem of how to administer this vast territory peacefully. The Hudson’s Bay Company had ruled this frontier (what is today northern Quebec and Ontario, all of Manitoba, and parts of Saskatchewan, Alberta and the northern territories) for almost two centuries without serious friction between fur traders and the Indigenous population. There were few traders, and their livelihood depended on economic co-operation with the Indigenous people. The company made no effort to govern the Indigenous population.

The Canadian takeover of Rupert’s Land, soon to be called the North-West Territories, meant the imposition of a government that would systematically interfere with Indigenous customs for the first time. Thousands of settlers would arrive to occupy the lands where Cree and Blackfoot hunted buffalo without restraint. At worst, the tensions generated by this process might erupt into the kind of settler-Indigenous warfare experienced in the American West. Apart from the cost in lives on both sides, the Canadian government could not contemplate the expense of a major “Indian war,” which might easily bankrupt the country. The government also feared that violence and lawlessness in the new territories might provide American expansionists with an excuse to move in.

The British government had some experience with centralized police forces in India and Ireland, however, and the forces there were unquestionably effective. Prime Minister John A. Macdonald, therefore, adopted the Royal Irish Constabulary as the model for Canada. The police for the North-West Territories were to be a temporary organization. They would maintain order through the difficult early years of settlement, then, having served their purpose, they would disappear.

The new police force, which gradually acquired the name North-West Mounted Police (NWMP), was organized along the lines of a cavalry regiment and armed with pistols, carbines (small, short-barreled rifles) and a few small artillery pieces. Several reports on the state of affairs in the North-West Territories had stressed the symbolic significance of the traditional British army uniform for the Indigenous people. A scarlet tunic and blue trousers were therefore adopted.

When the end of World War I in 1918 reduced the need for security work, the future of the mounted police was very uncertain. Late that year, N.W. Rowell, the president of the Privy Council, a senior federal civil servant, toured western Canada to seek opinion about what to do with the force. In May 1919 he reported to Cabinet that the police could either be absorbed into the army or expanded into a national police force. The government chose the latter course.

In November, legislation was passed allowing the RNWMP to absorb the Dominion Police (a federal force established in 1868 to guard government buildings and to enforce federal statutes). When the legislation took effect on 1 February 1920, the merged organization was named the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and headquarters were moved from Regina to Ottawa.

RCMP. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police
RCMP. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (The Canadian Encyclopedia)

* 1884 Oxford Dictionary debuts.

On this day in 1884, the first portion, or fascicle, of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), considered the most comprehensive and accurate dictionary of the English language, is published. Today, the OED is the definitive authority on the meaning, pronunciation, and history of over half a million words, past and present.

Plans for the dictionary began in 1857 when members of London’s Philological Society, who believed there were no up-to-date, error-free English dictionaries available, decided to produce one that would cover all vocabulary from the Anglo-Saxon period (1150 A.D.) to the present. Conceived of as a four-volume, 6,400-page work, it was estimated the project would take 10 years to finish. In fact, it took over 40 years until the 125th and final fascicle was published in April 1928 and the full dictionary was complete–at over 400,000 words and phrases in 10 volumes–and published under the title A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles.

Unlike most English dictionaries, which only list present-day common meanings, the OED provides a detailed chronological history for every word and phrase, citing quotations from a wide range of sources, including classic literature and cookbooks. The OED is famous for its lengthy cross-references and etymologies. The verb “set” merits the OED’s longest entry, at approximately 60,000 words and detailing over 430 uses.No sooner was the OED finished than editors began updating it. A supplement, containing new entries and revisions, was published in 1933 and the original dictionary was reprinted in 12 volumes and officially renamed the Oxford English Dictionary.Between 1972 and 1986, an updated 4-volume supplement was published, with new terms from the continually evolving English language plus more words and phrases from North America, Australia, the Caribbean, New Zealand, South Africa and South Asia.In 1984, Oxford University Press embarked on a five-year, multi-million-dollar project to create an electronic version of the dictionary. The effort required 120 people just to type the pages from the print edition and 50 proofreaders to check their work. In 1992, a CD-ROM version of the dictionary was released, making it much easier to search and retrieve information.Today, the dictionary’s second edition is available online to subscribers and is updated quarterly with over 1,000 new entries and revisions. At a whopping 20 volumes weighing over 137 pounds, it would reportedly take one person 120 years to type all 59 million words in the OED.

Image of the original ten volume set.
Feb 1, 1884: Oxford Dictionary debuts (Pinterest)

* 2003 Columbia mission ends in disaster.

On this day in 2003, the space shuttle Columbia breaks up while entering the atmosphere over Texas, killing all seven crew members on board.

The Columbia‘s 28th space mission, designated STS-107, was originally scheduled to launch on January 11, 2001, but was delayed numerous times for a variety of reasons over nearly two years. Columbia finally launched on January 16, 2003, with a crew of seven. Eighty seconds into the launch, a piece of foam insulation broke off from the shuttle’s propellant tank and hit the edge of the shuttle’s left wing.

Cameras focused on the launch sequence revealed the foam collision but engineers could not pinpoint the location and extent of the damage. Although similar incidents had occurred on three prior shuttle launches without causing critical damage, some engineers at the space agency believed that the damage to the wing could cause a catastrophic failure. Their concerns were not addressed in the two weeks that Columbia spent in orbit because NASA management believed that even if major damage had been caused, there was little that could be done to remedy the situation.

Columbia reentered the earth’s atmosphere on the morning of February 1. It wasn’t until 10 minutes later, at 8:53 a.m.–as the shuttle was 231,000 feet above the California coastline traveling at 23 times the speed of sound–that the first indications of trouble began. Because the heat-resistant tiles covering the left wing’s leading edge had been damaged or were missing, wind and heat entered the wing and blew it apart.

The first debris began falling to the ground in west Texas near Lubbock at 8:58 a.m. One minute later, the last communication from the crew was heard, and at 9 a.m. the shuttle disintegrated over southeast Texas, near Dallas. Residents in the area heard a loud boom and saw streaks of smoke in the sky. Debris and the remains of the crew were found in more than 2,000 locations across East Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. Making the tragedy even worse, two pilots aboard a search helicopter were killed in a crash while looking for debris. Strangely, worms that the crew had used in a study that were stored in a canister aboard the Columbia did survive.

In August 2003, an investigation board issued a report that revealed that it, in fact, would have been possible either for the Columbia crew to repair the damage to the wing or for the crew to be rescued from the shuttle. The Columbia could have stayed in orbit until February 15 and the already planned launch of the shuttle Atlantis could have been moved up as early as February 10, leaving a short window for repairing the wing or getting the crew off of the Columbia.

In the aftermath of the Columbia disaster, the space shuttle program was grounded until July 16, 2005, when the space shuttle Discovery was put into orbit.

Photograph shows the explosion of the Space Shuttle Columbia.
Photograph shows the explosion of the Space Shuttle Columbia. (

* 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini returns to Iran.

On February 1, 1979, the Ayatollah Khomeini returns to Iran in triumph after 15 years of exile. The Shah and his family had fled the country two weeks before, and jubilant Iranian revolutionaries were eager to establish a fundamentalist Islamic government under Khomeini’s leadership.

In 1941, British and Soviet troops occupied Iran and installed Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as the second modern shah of Iran. The new shah had close ties with the West, and in 1953 British and U.S. intelligence agents helped him overthrow a popular political rival. Mohammad Reza embraced many Western ideas and in 1963 launched his “White Revolution,” a broad government program that called for the reduction of religious estates in the name of land redistribution, equal rights for women, and other modern reforms.

Khomeini, now known by the high Shiite title “Ayatollah,” was the first religious leader to openly condemn the shah’s program of westernization. In fiery dispatches from his Faziye Seminary in Qom, Khomeini called for the overthrow of the shah and the establishment of an Islamic state. In 1963, Mohammad Reza imprisoned him, which led to riots, and on November 4, 1964, expelled him from Iran.

Khomeini settled in An Najaf, a Shiite holy city across the border in Iraq, and sent home recordings of his sermons that continued to incite his student followers. Breaking precedence with the Shiite tradition that discouraged clerical participation in government, he called for Shiite leaders to govern Iran.

In the 1970s, Mohammad Reza further enraged Islamic fundamentalists in Iran by holding an extravagant celebration of the 2,500th anniversary of the pre-Islamic Persian monarchy and replaced the Islamic calendar with a Persian calendar. As discontent grew, the Shah became more repressive, and support for Khomeini grew. In 1978, massive anti-shah demonstrations broke out in Iran’s major cities. Dissatisfied members of the lower and middle classes joined the radical students, and Khomeini called for the shah’s immediate overthrow. In December, the army mutinied, and on January 16, 1979, the Shah fled.

Khomeini arrived in Tehran in triumph on February 1, 1979, and was acclaimed as the leader of the Iranian Revolution. With religious fervor running high, he consolidated his authority and set out to transform Iran into a religious state. On November 4, 1979, the 15th anniversary of his exile, students stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took the staff hostage. With Khomeini’s approval, the radicals demanded the return of the shah to Iran and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. The shah died in Egypt of cancer in July 1980.

In December 1979, a new Iranian constitution was approved, naming Khomeini as Iran’s political and religious leader for life. Under his rule, Iranian women were denied equal rights and required to wear a veil, Western culture was banned, and traditional Islamic law and its often-brutal punishments were reinstated. In suppressing opposition, Khomeini proved as ruthless as the shah, and thousands of political dissidents were executed during his decade of rule.

In 1980, Iraq invaded Iran’s oil-producing province of Khuzestan. After initial advances, the Iraqi offense was repulsed. In 1982, Iraq voluntarily withdrew and sought a peace agreement, but Khomeini renewed fighting. Stalemates and the deaths of thousands of young Iranian conscripts in Iraq followed. In 1988, Khomeini finally agreed to a U.N.-brokered cease-fire.

After the Ayatollah Khomeini died on June 3, 1989, more than two million anguished mourners attended his funeral. Gradual democratization began in Iran in early the 1990s, culminating in a free election in 1997 in which the moderate reformist Mohammed Khatami was elected president.

Ayatollah Khomeini Returns to Iran
Ayatollah Khomeini Returns to Iran (New Historian)

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.

23 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… February 1st”

  1. Happy Anniversary, John. I appreciate the shout out and wish you more wonderful years on your blog. You have a niche position and I can see you going far with your Believe it or Not feature. Happy Birthday Dudley Doright and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The Oxford Dictionary is vital as is the Oxford comma. The Columbia disaster was all the more tragic in that the crew could have been saved. Ayatollah Khomeini was another leader who brought little to his people.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for all of your advice and support, John. I agree about the Columbia disaster – I was angered when I found out the crew could have been saved. Certainly, the Ayatollah was a controversial figure and not beloved in the West.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Congratulations on your blogging anniversary, John. I wish you many more years of success!

    I remember the Challenger disaster so vividly. So sad that what should have been a beautiful triumph ended so tragically.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Congratulations, John. This is an important milestone and I’m at my desk cheering your success. Your site gives readers a context for understanding life (since we’re intent on repeating ourselves). Thank you for the mention and the support you offer me. I’m humbled by our friendship. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gwen, I’m grateful for our friendship that began with John Howell as members of Rave Reviews Book Club, deepened as colleagues on the club’s governing board and collaborators on the club’s BlogTalkRadio broadcasts, and beyond. We three have a great history and I cherish the relationship as we forge on into the future.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Happy anniversary, John. John Howell is one of my favorite bloggers. I’m so glad he was your first follower. American children of my generation were introduced to the Mounties through a beloved cartoon character, Dudley Doright. That spurred us to learn more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jennie, we share that admiration for John Howell. I love his books as well! Always remember, the Mounties always get their man! For those who may not be aware, the Mounties are the Canadian counterparts of the FBI and both organizations cooperate on a regular basis.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, the Mounties always get their man. Dudley Doright taught that to me. 😀 I didn’t know they were the Canadian counterparts of the FBI. That is really cool. And yes, we share the same admiration for John Howell.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Up until the last few decades the Mounties also performed duties similar to the CIA as well. In 1984 Parliament created CSIS – the Canadian Security Intelligence Service as a separate entity. The original agents were taken from the former RCMP Intelligence officers. Thus, the RCMP = FBI and CSIS = CIA. They are not identical but their mandates are the same. CSIS operatives gather Intelligence abroad in covert operations like the CIA and Britain’s MI5. See what good old Dudley started!

          Liked by 1 person

            1. Lol! The older I get the more I realize just how little I do know. Being a history guy all my life, I trip over this kind of information and some sticks. Thanks, Jennie, you’re too kind. Hugs.

              Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Opher, I’m pleased that you’re enjoying these historical posts. I enjoy them because I learn a lot as I prepare them each day.


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