Design a site like this with WordPress.com
Get started

John’s Believe It Or Not… February 6th

* 1948 – Barbara Anne Scott Wins Olympic Gold Medal at St. Moritz. * 1952 Elizabeth becomes queen. * 1820 Freed U.S. slaves depart on journey to Africa. * 1928 Anastasia arrives in the United States. * 1937 Of Mice and Men is published.

Barbara Anne Scott poses before her picture as an Olympic gold medalist.

It’s Tuesday! Did You Know…

* 1948 – Barbara Anne Scott Wins Olympic Gold Medal at St. Moritz.

Barbara Ann Scott, figure skater (born at Ottawa, Ont, 9 May 1928; died at Amelia Island, US, 30 Sept 2012). One of Canada’s best-remembered athletes, Scott endeared herself to Canadians in winning the 1948 St Moritz Olympic Games figure-skating title. At age 9, she had begun a daily 7-hour training routine; a year later, she became the youngest Canadian to earn a gold medal for figures. She was Canadian senior women’s champion 1944-48, N American champion 1945-48, and European and world champion 1947-48. Her capture of the coveted Olympic gold medal on 6 Feb 1948 made her a celebrity; in Ottawa, she was honored by adoring crowds and showered with gifts; she was the object of endless media attention. Scott received the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s athlete of the year in 1945, 1947 and 1948.

Scott toured in an ice show, the Hollywood Ice Revues as a professional 1949-54. On retirement, she began training show horses, and in her mid-40s was rated among the top equestrians in the US. In 1995 Scott was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, and she was made an officer of the Order of Canada in 1991.

St.Moritz, Switzerland- Barbara Ann Scott displays the form that won her the gold medal.
St.Moritz, Switzerland- Barbara Ann Scott displays the form that won her the gold medal. (Getty Images)

* 1952 Elizabeth becomes queen.

On this day in 1952, after a long illness, King George VI of Great Britain and Northern Ireland dies in his sleep at the royal estate at Sandringham. Princess Elizabeth, the oldest of the king’s two daughters and next in line to succeed him, was in Kenya at the time of her father’s death; she was crowned Queen Elizabeth II on June 2, 1953, at age 27.

King George VI, the second son of King George V, ascended to the throne in 1936 after his older brother, King Edward VIII, voluntarily abdicated to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. During World War II, George worked to rally the spirits of the British people by touring war zones, making a series of morale-boosting radio broadcasts (for which he overcame a speech impediment) and shunning the safety of the countryside to remain with his wife in bomb-damaged Buckingham Palace. The king’s health deteriorated in 1949, but he continued to perform state duties until his death in 1952.

Queen Elizabeth, born on April 21, 1926, and known to her family as Lilibet, was groomed as a girl to succeed her father. She married a distant cousin, Philip Mountbatten, on November 20, 1947, at London’s Westminster Abbey. The first of Elizabeth’s four children, Prince Charles, was born in 1948.

From the start of her reign, Elizabeth understood the value of public relations and allowed her 1953 coronation to be televised, despite objections from Prime Minister Winston Churchill and others who felt it would cheapen the ceremony. Elizabeth, the 40th British monarch since William the Conqueror, has worked hard at her royal duties and become a popular figure around the world. In 2003, she celebrated 50 years on the throne, only the fifth British monarch to do so.

The Queen’s reign, however, has not been without controversy. She was seen as cold and out-of-touch following the 1996 divorce of her son, Prince Charles, and Princess Diana, and again after Diana’s 1997 death in a car crash. Additionally, the role in modern times of the monarchy, which is largely ceremonial, has come into question as British taxpayers have complained about covering the royal family’s travel expenses and palace upkeep. Still, the Royals are effective world ambassadors for Britain and a huge tourism draw. Today, the queen, an avid horsewoman, and Corgi dog lover is one of the world’s wealthiest women, with extensive real-estate holdings and art and jewelry collections.

Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest reigning monarch
Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest reigning monarch (celebrityinsider.org)

* 1820 Freed U.S. slaves depart on journey to Africa.

The first organized immigration of freed slaves to Africa from the United States departs New York harbor on a journey to Freetown, Sierra Leone, in West Africa. The immigration was largely the work of the American Colonization Society, a U.S. organization founded in 1816 by Robert Finley to return freed American slaves to Africa. However, the expedition was also partially funded by the U.S. Congress, which in 1819 had appropriated $100,000 to be used in returning displaced Africans, illegally brought to the United States after the abolishment of the slave trade in 1808, to Africa.

The program was modeled after British’s efforts to resettle freed slaves in Africa following England’s abolishment of the slave trade in 1772. In 1787, the British government settled 300 former slaves and 70 white prostitutes on the Sierra Leone peninsula in West Africa. Within two years, most members of this settlement had died from disease or warfare with the local Temne people. However, in 1792, a second attempt was made when 1,100 freed slaves, mostly individuals who had supported Britain during the American Revolution and were unhappy with their postwar resettlement in Canada, established Freetown under the leadership of British abolitionist Thomas Clarkson.

During the next few decades, thousands of freed slaves came from Canada, the West Indies, and other parts of West Africa to the Sierra Leone Colony, and in 1820 the first freed slaves from the United States arrived at Sierra Leone. In 1821, the American Colonization Society founded the colony of Liberia south of Sierra Leone as a homeland for freed U.S. slaves outside of British jurisdiction.

Most Americans of African descent were not enthusiastic to abandon their homes in the United States for the West African coast. The American Colonization Society also came under attack from American abolitionists, who charged that the removal of freed slaves from the United States strengthened the institution of slavery. However, between 1822 and the American Civil War, some 15,000 African Americans settled in Liberia, which was granted independence by the United States in 1847 under pressure from Great Britain. Liberia was granted official U.S. diplomatic recognition in 1862. It was the first independent democratic republic in African history.

The first organized immigration of freed slaves to Africa from the United States
The first organized immigration of freed slaves to Africa from the United States (Bowie News)

* 1928 Anastasia arrives in the United States.

On February 6, 1928, a woman calling herself Anastasia Tschaikovsky and claiming to be the youngest daughter of the murdered czar of Russia arrives in New York City. She held a press conference on the liner Berengaria, explaining she was here to have her jaw reset. It was broken, she alleged, by a Bolshevik soldier during her narrow escape from the execution of her entire family at Ekaterinburg, Russia, in July 1918. Tschaikovsky was welcomed to New York by Gleb Botkin, the son of the Romanov family doctor who was executed along with his patients in 1918. Botkin called her “Your Highness” and claimed that she was without a doubt the Grand Duchess Anastasia with whom he had played as a child.

Between 1918 and 1928, more than half a dozen other women had come forward claiming to be a lost heir to the Romanov fortune, so some American reporters were understandingly skeptical of Tschaikovsky’s claims. Nevertheless, she was treated as a celebrity during her stay in New York and occasioned society parties and fashionable hotels worthy of a Romanov heir. Registering for one hotel during her visit, she used the name Anna Anderson, which later became her permanent alias.

Just after midnight on July 17, 1918, Nicholas, Alexandra, their five children, and four family retainers, among them, Dr. Botkin, were ordered to dress quickly and go down to the cellar of the house in which they were being held. There, the family and servants were arranged in two rows–for a photograph, they were told, to quell rumors that they had escaped. Suddenly, nearly a dozen armed men burst into the room and shot the imperial family in a hail of gunfire. Those who were still breathing when the smoked cleared were stabbed to death.

At first, the Bolshevik government reported that only Nicholas was executed and that his wife and children were moved to a safe location. Later, reports that the entire family had perished were confirmed by Russian investigators. At the same time, however, a persistent rumor spread through Europe, telling of a Romanov child, usually Anastasia, who had survived the carnage. Several pretenders came forward, hoping to cash in on the Romanov fortune reportedly held in European banks, but they were quickly exposed as frauds. Europe, however, had yet to meet Anna Anderson.

In 1920, an apparently suicidal young woman was pulled from the Landwehr Canal in Berlin. She refused to tell authorities her identity and was committed to the Dalldorf Asylum, where she lived in anonymity until 1922 when she suddenly announced that she was none other the Grand Duchess Anastasia.

The Grand Duke of Hesse, Alexandra’s brother, and Anastasia’s uncle was a major critic of this effort, and he hired a private investigator to determine Anastasia Tschaikovsky’s true identity. The investigator announced that she was, in fact, Franziska Schanzkowska, a Polish-German factory worker from Pomerania who had disappeared in 1920. Schanzkowska had a history of mental instability and was injured in a factory explosion in 1916, which accounted for the scars. These findings were published in German newspapers but were not proved definitively.

In 1991, Russian amateur investigators, using a recently released government report on the Romanov execution, found what they thought to be the Romanov burial site. Russian authorities took over and exhumed human remains. Scientists studied the skulls, claiming that Anastasia’s was among those found, but the Russian findings were not conclusive. To prove that the remains were indisputably those of the Romanovs, the Russians enlisted the aid of British DNA experts.

First, the scientists tested for sex and identified five females and four males among the remains. Next, they tested to see how, if at all, these people were related. A father and mother were identified, along with three daughters. The four other remains were likely those of servants. The son Alexei and one daughter were missing.

To prove the identity of Alexandra and her children, the scientists took blood from Prince Philip, the consort of Queen Elizabeth II and the grand nephew of Alexandra. Because they all share a common maternal ancestor, they would all share mitochondria DNA, which is passed almost unchanged from mother to children. The comparison between the mtDNA in Philip’s blood and in the remains was positive, proving them to be the Romanovs. To prove the czar’s identity, who would not share this mtDNA, the remains of Grand Duke George, the brother of Nicholas, were exhumed. A comparison of their mtDNA proved their relation.

A Romanov daughter was missing from the burial site. Could Anastasia have escaped and resurfaced as Anna Anderson? In 1994, American and English scientists sought to answer this question once and for all. Using a tissue sample of Anderson’s recovered from a Virginia hospital, the English team compared her mtDNA with that of the Romanovs. Simultaneously, an American team compared the mtDNA found in a strand of her hair. Both teams came to the same decisive conclusion: Anna Anderson was not a Romanov.

Later, the scientists compared Anna Anderson’s mtDNA with that of Karl Maucher, a great nephew of Franziska Schanzkowska. The DNA was a match, finally proving the theory put forth by a German investigator in the 1920s. One of the great mysteries of the 20th century was solved.

Anna Anderson (L) and Anastasia (R)
Anna Anderson (L) and Anastasia (R) (tracysmorris.com)

* 1937 Of Mice and Men is published.

On this day, John Steinbeck’s novella Of Mice and Men, the story of the bond between two migrant workers, is published. He adapted the book into a three-act play, which was produced the same year. The story brought national attention to Steinbeck’s work, which had started to catch on in 1935 with the publication of his first successful novel, Tortilla Flat.

Steinbeck was born and raised in the Salinas Valley, where his father was a county official and his mother a former schoolteacher. A good student and president of his senior class in high school, Steinbeck attended Stanford intermittently in the early 1920s. In 1925, he moved to New York City, where he worked as a manual laborer and a journalist while writing stories and novels. His first two novels were not successful.

In 1930, he married Carol Henning, the first of his three wives, and moved to Pacific Grove, California. Steinbeck’s father gave the couple a house and a small income while Steinbeck continued to write. His third novel, Tortilla Flat (1935), was a critical and financial success, as were such subsequent books as In Dubious Battle (1935) and Of Mice and Men (1937), both of which offered social commentaries on injustices of various types.

In 1939, Steinbeck won the Pulitzer Prize for The Grapes of Wrath, a novel tracing a fictional Oklahoma family as they lose their family farm in the Depression and move to California seeking a better life.

His work after World War II, including Cannery Row and The Pearl, continued to offer social criticism but became more sentimental. Steinbeck tried his hand at movie scripts in the 1940s, writing successful films like Forgotten Village (1941) and Viva Zapata (1952). He also took up the serious study of marine biology and published a nonfiction book, The Sea of Cortez, in 1941. His 1962 nonfiction book, Travels with Charlie, describes his travels across the United States in a camper truck with his poodle, Charlie. Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize in 1962 and died in New York in 1968.

Dudley Sutton (Candy) and Dave Fishley (Crooks) in Of Mice And Men
Dudley Sutton (Candy) and Dave Fishley (Crooks) in Of Mice And Men (Pinterest)

Today’s Sources: 

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

* 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.

21 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… February 6th”

    1. I grew up playing organized hockey – until I was 17, and although I could skate backward almost as well as forward, I could never fathom how figure skaters did their thing. Wow! Poetry in motion. Thanks, Jennie!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes! Poetry in motion. Speaking of hockey, I have been invited to a high school hockey game on Saturday. Four of the kids were in my class a gazillion years ago. 🙂 Hockey tournaments in Canada were the best. Our son annoyed Gordie Howe to get his autograph at a tournament long ago. I’ll have to tell you about the first hockey game I went to!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Wow! I never got that close to Gordie Howe but I saw him play once in the old Detroit Olympia and many times at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto where my dad had seasons tickets during the 60s. The first time I was inside the Gardens I thought I had died and gone to heaven!

          Liked by 1 person

            1. You’re right – the pros weren’t wearing any headgear during the 60s. But we kids playing organized hockey had to wear these leather contraptions that had a panel across the forehead that also protected the temples + a panel covering the back of the head – all connected with leather straps. Nothing to protect the face, though. I played defense and had a bad habit of dropping in front of slapshots from the point – more than one puck whizzed past my face and I stopped some with my glove. My coach would scream at me to stop it, but my goalie loved me! I should write a book… 😉

              Liked by 1 person

    1. We’ve been watching it too. I often wonder how accurate it is – it depicts Philip as a total jackass. It certainly got Elizabeth right – very seriously dedicated to her role and one smart cookie. Thanks, Teri!

      Like

  1. Super recount of the Romanov mystery, John. Interesting about the freed slave reallocations. I have to wonder why anyone would agree to a relocation unless it was part of a go free deal. Queen Elizabeth is amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know that the Blacks in Nova Scotia who went back to Africa were already free but unhappy with how they were treated in Nova Scotia. Unfortunately, some of those Black colonists were killed in Africa by tribes who felt threatened. Good question, John.
      I agree Queen Elizabeth has always been a class act and takes her role seriously.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, John. I’d love to read more about the freed slaves in Africa and about Anastasia. Both stories are tragic and yet hopeful. Thank you for stirring the imagination!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re so right. I’m going to start investigating Black history in Canada – other than a few anecdotes, our history texts ignore the topic, although that is starting to change, I’m told. Thanks, Gwen!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: