John’s Believe It Or Not… April 23rd

* 1827 – Settlement – John Galt starts settling the town of Guelph. * 1564 William Shakespeare born * 1014 King Brian of Ireland murdered by Vikings * 1969 Sirhan Sirhan receives death penalty * 1961 Judy Garland plays Carnegie Hall

Judy Garland

It’s Monday! Did You Know…

* 1827 – Settlement – John Galt starts settling the town of Guelph.

Archaeological evidence shows that First Nations peoples used the site of present-day Guelph as early as 11,000 to 10,300 years ago. Later, the Chonnonton or Neutral, peoples inhabited a large part of southern Ontario, including what is now Guelph. Archaeological evidence also suggests that although the Chonnonton had expanded into the area of present-day London in the 1300s, by the 1400s their settlements were concentrated mostly east of the Grand River, mostly within a 32 km radius of present-day Hamilton, Ontario. European intrusion and diseases exacerbated intertribal warfare. Between 1647 and 1651, the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) dispersed the Chonnonton. After 1690 the Mississauga (see Ojibwa) entered the area from north of Georgian Bay, settling along major tributaries of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. In 1784, the British, facing an influx of settlers in the wake of the American Revolution, negotiated with the Mississaugas to purchase a huge tract of land, including the location of present-day Guelph, for approximately £1,180.

John Galt founded Guelph as a planned town in 1827. Galt was a Scottish novelist and the superintendent of the Canada Company, a land company based in London, England. Galt adopted the concept of planning towns in advance of general settlement in order to stimulate sales of agricultural land. He laid out an imaginative town plan, with streets radiating from a focal point, a design based on American precedents such as Buffalo, New York. The original layout is still discernible in the present business core. Galt chose the town’s name to honor Britain’s royal family, the Hanoverians, who were descended from the Guelfs, one of the great political factions in late medieval Germany and Italy. Guelph was first incorporated as a village in 1851 and incorporated as a town soon after in 1856.

Shops and hotels gradually appeared around the triangular market grounds at the town’s center bordered roughly by Carden, Wilson and Surrey Streets. During the 19th century, the water power potential at the townsite attracted a number of large mills, and entrepreneurs William Allan and James Goldie owned the most important ones. Beginning in the 1860s, several local industries established a worldwide reputation based on technological innovation. These included the Raymond Sewing Machine Co and the W. Bell and Co organ company, which at its peak in 1885 manufactured 5,000 to 6,000 organs and pianos per year.

Drawing: John Galt's Plan of the town of Guelph - 1827
(The Greenockian)

* 1564 William Shakespeare born

According to tradition, the great English dramatist and poet William Shakespeare is born in Stratford-on-Avon on April 23, 1564. It is impossible to be certain the exact day on which he was born, but church records show that he was baptized on April 26, and three days was a customary amount of time to wait before baptizing a newborn. Shakespeare’s date of death is conclusively known, however: it was April 23, 1616. He was 52 years old and had retired to Stratford three years before.

Although few plays have been performed or analyzed as extensively as the 38 plays ascribed to William Shakespeare, there are few surviving details about the playwright’s life. This dearth of biographical information is due primarily to his station in life; he was not a noble, but the son of John Shakespeare, a leather trader and the town bailiff. The events of William Shakespeare’s early life can only be gleaned from official records, such as baptism and marriage records.

He probably attended the grammar school in Stratford, where he would have studied Latin and read classical literature. He did not go to university but at age 18 married Anne Hathaway, who was eight years his senior and pregnant at the time of the marriage. Their first daughter, Susanna, was born six months later, and in 1585 William and Anne had twins, Hamnet and Judith. Hamnet, Shakespeare’s only son, died 11 years later, and Anne Shakespeare outlived her husband, dying in 1623. Nothing is known of the period between the birth of the twins and Shakespeare’s emergence as a playwright in London in the early 1590s, but unfounded stories have him stealing deer, joining a group of traveling players, becoming a schoolteacher, or serving as a soldier in the Low Countries.

The first reference to Shakespeare as a London playwright came in 1592, when a fellow dramatist, Robert Greene, wrote derogatorily of him on his deathbed. It is believed that Shakespeare had written the three parts of Henry VI by that point. In 1593, Venus and Adonis was Shakespeare’s first published poem, and he dedicated it to the young Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd earl of Southampton. In 1594, having probably composed, among other plays, Richard III, The Comedy of Errors, and The Taming of the Shrew, he became an actor and playwright for the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, which became the King’s Men after James I’s ascension in 1603. The company grew into England’s finest, in no small part because of Shakespeare, who was its principal dramatist. It also had the finest actor of the day, Richard Burbage, and the best theater, the Globe, which was located on the Thames’ south bank. Shakespeare stayed with the King’s Men until his retirement and often acted in small parts.

By 1596, the company had performed the classic Shakespeare plays Romeo and Juliet, Richard II, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. That year, John Shakespeare was granted a coat of arms, a testament to his son’s growing wealth and fame. In 1597, William Shakespeare bought a large house in Stratford. In 1599, after producing his great historical series, the first and second part of Henry IV and Henry V, he became a partner in the ownership of the Globe Theatre.

The beginning of the 17th century saw the performance of the first of his great tragedies, Hamlet. The next play, The Merry Wives of Windsor, was written at the request of Queen Elizabeth I, who wanted to see another play that included the popular character Falstaff. During the next decade, Shakespeare produced such masterpieces as Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, and The Tempest. In 1609, his sonnets, probably written during the 1590s, were published. The 154 sonnets are marked by the recurring themes of the mutability of beauty and the transcendent power of love and art.

Shakespeare died in Stratford-on-Avon on April 23, 1616. Today, nearly 400 years later, his plays are performed and read more often and in more nations than ever before. In a million words written over 20 years, he captured the full range of human emotions and conflicts with a precision that remains sharp today. As his great contemporary the poet and dramatist Ben Jonson said, “He was not of an age, but for all time.”

William Shakespeare born Apr 23 1564
William Shakespeare born Apr 23 1564 (

* 1014 King Brian of Ireland murdered by Vikings

Brian Boru, the high king of Ireland, is assassinated by a group of retreating Norsemen shortly after his Irish forces defeated them.

Brian, a clan prince, seized the throne of the southern Irish state of Dal Cais from its Eogharacht rulers in 963. He subjugated all of Munster, extended his power over all of southern Ireland, and in 1002 became the high king of Ireland. Unlike previous high kings of Ireland, Brian resisted the rule of Ireland’s Norse invaders, and after further conquests, his rule was acknowledged across most of Ireland. As his power increased, relations with the Norsemen on the Irish coast grew increasingly strained. In 1013, Sitric, king of the Dublin Norse, formed an alliance against Brian, featuring Viking warriors from Ireland, the Hebrides, the Orkneys, and Iceland, as well as soldiers of Brian’s native Irish enemies.

On April 23, 1014, Good Friday, forces under Brian’s son Murchad met and annihilated the Viking coalition at the Battle of Clontarf, near Dublin. After the battle, a small group of Norsemen, flying from their defeat, stumbled on Brian’s tent, overcame his bodyguards, and murdered the elderly king. Victory at Clontarf broke Norse power in Ireland forever, but Ireland largely fell into anarchy after the death of Brian.

Brian Boru the hero of the Battle of Clontarf
Brian Boru the hero of the Battle of Clontarf (

* 1969 Sirhan Sirhan receives death penalty

On this day in 1969, Sirhan Sirhan is sentenced to the death penalty after being convicted in the assassination of politician Robert F. Kennedy. In 1972, Sirhan’s sentence was commuted to life in prison after California abolished the death penalty.

In the early morning hours of June 5, 1968, Robert Kennedy, a U.S. senator from New York who had just won California’s Democratic presidential primary, gave a victory speech in the ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. After the speech, Kennedy was making his way toward the hotel kitchen to greet supporters when he was shot three times at close range by Sirhan Sirhan with a .22 caliber revolver; a fourth bullet went through Kennedy’s jacket. Five other people were shot as well, none fatally. Several of the senator’s friends and aides subdued Sirhan on the scene.

Kennedy died at the hospital the next day, June 6, at age 42. The funeral for Kennedy, who served as U.S. attorney general from 1961 to 1964 and had been a senator since 1965, was held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. His body was then taken to Washington, D.C., by train, with thousands of people lining the route to pay their respects. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery next to his brother, President John F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald on November 22, 1963.

Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, a Palestinian immigrant born in Jerusalem in 1944, moved to the United States with his family as a boy and attended high school in California. He later stated he killed Robert Kennedy because the senator had supported Israel in the Arab-Israeli war of 1967. Following a three-month trial, during which Sirhan’s lawyers argued he was mentally unstable at the time of the murder, he was convicted on April 17, 1969. On April 23, he was given the death penalty. However, in 1972, the California Supreme Court abolished the death penalty and Sirhan’s sentence was commuted to life in prison. His requests for parole have been denied over a dozen times, and he continues to serve his time in a California prison.

Mugshot taken of Sirhan Sirhan following his arrest.
Mugshot taken of Sirhan Sirhan following his arrest. (Famous Biographies)

* 1961 Judy Garland plays Carnegie Hall

She was one of the biggest and most popular movie stars of all time, making her first film appearance at the age of seven and earning the first of three Oscar nominations at 17 for her starring role in what may well be the best-loved American movie of all time, The Wizard of Oz. She was also a prolific recording star, selling millions of records and winning five Grammy awards in a single year nearly three decades after starting out as one of the youngest performers ever signed to a major record label. These accomplishments alone would be enough to impress anyone who was somehow unfamiliar with her work, but “to experience Judy Garland’s full power,” as the PBS series American Masters put it, “one had to be in the auditorium when she brought her God-given gifts to bear on a suddenly unified collection of strangers.” Never did Judy Garland so unify a collection of strangers than on this day in 1961 during the famous Carnegie Hall performance often called “the greatest night in showbiz history.”

The raucous standing ovation that greeted Judy Garland when she took the stage that night at Carnegie Hall set the tone for the evening that followed. “They were on their feet even before the goddess grabbed the microphone,” wrote Lewis Funke for the New York Times. “And then she sang,” wrote Judith Christ for the New York Herald, “And she sang, let it be reported, as she hasn’t in years.” She sang 27 numbers in front of the rapturous crowd that night and was frequently interrupted by extended ovations. Was it merely the quality of Garland’s performance that night that earned her such an incredible reception? Perhaps it was, but it is also fair to note that the concert took place on the one night a week that Broadway performers have off—Sunday night—and that the audience was, therefore, to say the least, a friendly one.

Judy Garland’s performance on this night in 1961 was captured on a live recording that would go on to spend 95 weeks on the U.S. album charts (including 13 weeks at #1) and sweep the 1962 Grammys. But the experience of seeing it live was clearly something else entirely. “She’ll be back in May,” wrote Frank Aston for the New York World-Telegram. “Try to get tickets. Just try. This kid is still a killer.”

Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall Recorded live on April 23, 1961 at Carnegie Hall in New York. Original LP interior artwork.
Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall Recorded live on April 23, 1961, at Carnegie Hall in New York. Original LP interior artwork.

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.

25 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… April 23rd”

  1. Judy Garland and Shakespeare in one post – how wonderful. I love William Shakespeare and have read and studied most of his plays. Judy Garland’s performance in Wizard of Oz was amazing and her rendition of Somewhere over the rainbow is to wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. John, Judy Garland is quite stunning in the first picture. The first part of the your summary is an tribute to creation while the middle is a tribute to destruction. I did not have a full appreciation for the significant contribution of Vikings to Ireland (the good and the bad) until we visited Watertown and Dublin. They were definitely a force to be reckoned with. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your analysis of creative and destructive elements is accurate. The events from which I choose five each day are often categorized in these two ways and I try for some balance. Sometimes that balance is hard to achieve because the folks who put together the historical websites I use tend to adhere to the same philosophy as our modern news networks: bad news sells. I also try to select stories that are relevant for today. Thanks for your comments, Keith.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Happy Birthday, Will. Bobby’s death was the third blow to those looking for a refreshing change. John Galt had a nice plan for sure. (Who is John Galt anyway?) Those Vikings were everywhere. Judy Garland was a tragic figure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Galt was a Scottish novelist who turned to administrating land deals for the Canada Land Company in order to support his family. This company organized the territory “The Huron Tract” that the British government bought from the Huron Indians – a huge chunk of southern Ontario. The company surveyed the land, organized it into settlements, built roads, and advertised in Europe for settlers to come and develop the land. Hope that helps, John.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, John. I was doin a riff on the book Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. There was a question asked all through the book, “Who is John Galt?” I thought the literary joke would be amusing. Not that your replay of history wasn’t, you understand. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  4. The Vikings sure caused a lot of havoc back then! Their Norman relatives even made it into the Mediterranean where they pillaged coastal communities. My extended family in Sicily still tell those stories, and claim that the incidence of blonde hair and blue eyes in the Sicilian population is of Norman ancestry.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re so right – the Vikings were a force to be reckoned with in Medieval times. They left their progeny in many European countries. It was always believed that Columbus was the first European to discover the Americas – but the Vikings left rude settlements in Labrador and Newfoundland that predate Columbus – archeologists found this evidence in the 1960s, I believe. Thanks, Bob!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I vividly recall when Bobby Kennedy was killed. It is a horror that broke hearts as well as dreams. The story of Judy Garland was fascinating, she was so talented. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Our collective hearts were broken too often between 1963 and 1968. Yet, a lot of good came out of that decade as well. Thanks, Gwen!


    1. An interesting ‘What if’ question, Mae. I think he would have defeated Nixon and there would have been no Watergate scandal. The Vietnam War probably would have ended sooner too. Thanks for your comment, Mae!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I visited Carnegie Hall once as part of a school tour – a class from our school in Waterloo that I accompanied as a chaperone. That place has unbelievable acoustics. The tour guide strode to the front before the stage while we stood at the back of the theatre. Then she proceeded to speak just above a whisper – and we heard her clearly! That Judy Garland concert must have been electrifying. It’s a shame so little is known of Shakespeare’s life. Thanks, Jennie! (Watch out for the Leafs tonight!)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have never been there, John. Thank you for your story! Yes, that concert must have been one of the greatest. And last game- Goalie Rask was awful. The better team won. Tonight’s game should be exciting! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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