John’s Believe It Or Not… July 20th

* 1629 – David & Thomas Kirke force Samuel de Champlain to surrender his fur fort at Québec. * 1969 Armstrong walks on moon. * 1881 Sitting Bull surrenders. * 1976 Viking 1 lands on Mars. * 1963 Jan and Dean’s “Surf City” hits #1

Neil Armstrong in space suit.

It’s Friday! TGIF! Did You Know…

* 1629 – David & Thomas Kirke force Samuel de Champlain to surrender his fur fort at Québec.

The surrender of Quebec in 1629 was the taking of Quebec City, during the Anglo-French War (1627-29). It was achieved without battle by English privateers led by David Kirke, who had intercepted the town’s supplies.

It began in 1627 with David Kirke’s father when several London merchants formed the Company of Adventurers to Canada to develop trade and settlement for profit on the Saint Lawrence River. Made up of private investors, it was chartered by the Crown as a means of extending English influence in exploration and colonial development. When the Anglo-French War broke out later that year, the Company financed an expedition, which was commissioned by Charles I of England, to displace the French from “Canida”. The French had settlements along the Saint Lawrence River.

Accompanied by his brothers Lewis, Thomas, John, and James (sometimes recorded as Jarvis), David Kirke set off with three ships, probably in company with a fleet bringing settlers to Sir William Alexander’s colonisation project at Charlesfort in Acadia. Kirke may have stopped at Ferryland, the colony of George Calvert, 1st Baron Baltimore on the east coast of Newfoundland on the Avalon Peninsula. The force sailed up the Saint Lawrence River to Tadoussac.

Kirke seized a supply ship going to Quebec City and sent Basque fishermen as emissaries to the leader Samuel de Champlain to demand the surrender of the fortress town. Champlain rejected the demand because he was expecting relief from France, and Kirke decided against an attack. Kirke’s ships turned back for England, but en-route they encountered the French supply fleet of four vessels under Admiral Claude Roquemont de Brison. The English captured the French ships after a short engagement. As the Kirke brothers were born and raised in France, their actions were considered treason there. The Kirke brothers were burned in effigy in Paris when the news of the French defeat reached the capital. In England, the Kirke brothers were granted a canton as an augmentation to their existing coats of arms (each properly differenced) by Clarenceux King of Arms on 1 December 1631.

A second English invasion fleet, of six ships and three pinnaces, left Gravesend in March 1629 with Jacques Michel, a deserter from Champlain, to act as pilot on the St. Lawrence River. Champlain sent a party from Quebec, whose residents were on the point of starvation, to meet an expected relief fleet under Émery de Caën (fr). Unknown to Champlain, de Caën was also bringing word that peace had been declared in April in Europe by the Treaty of Susa. Although Champlain’s party met de Caën in the Gulf, they were captured by the English on their way upriver to Quebec. Kirke, now aware of the desperate conditions at Quebec, sent his brothers Lewis and Thomas to demand surrender. Having no alternative, Champlain surrendered on 19 July 1629.

Impressed with the achievement, the Company of Adventurers applied to the Crown for letters patent to give them the sole right to trade and settle in Canada along the St. Lawrence. Sir William Alexander complained that such a patent would infringe upon the land granted to him under the Great Seal of Scotland in February 1627. The two groups compromised by joining forces; Alexander would establish an Anglo-Scottish colony at Tadoussac, holding all the land within 10 leagues on both sides of the river, while the Company would have the right to free trade and use of the harbours.

However, Champlain argued that the English seizing of the lands was illegal as the war had already ended; he worked to have the lands returned to France. As part of the ongoing negotiations of their exit from the Anglo-French War, in 1632 Charles I of England agreed to return the lands in exchange for Louis XIII paying his wife’s dowry. These terms were signed into law with the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. The lands in Quebec and Acadia were returned to the French Company of One Hundred Associates.

Samuel Champlain at Quebec.
Samuel Champlain at Quebec. (

* 1969 Armstrong walks on moon.

At 10:56 p.m. EDT, American astronaut Neil Armstrong, 240,000 miles from Earth, speaks these words to more than a billion people listening at home: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Stepping off the lunar landing module Eagle, Armstrong became the first human to walk on the surface of the moon.

The American effort to send astronauts to the moon has its origins in a famous appeal President John F. Kennedy made to a special joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961: “I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.” At the time, the United States was still trailing the Soviet Union in space developments, and Cold War-era America welcomed Kennedy’s bold proposal.

In 1966, after five years of work by an international team of scientists and engineers, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) conducted the first unmanned Apollo mission, testing the structural integrity of the proposed launch vehicle and spacecraft combination. Then, on January 27, 1967, tragedy struck at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, when a fire broke out during a manned launch-pad test of the Apollo spacecraft and Saturn rocket. Three astronauts were killed in the fire.

Despite the setback, NASA and its thousands of employees forged ahead, and in October 1968, Apollo 7, the first manned Apollo mission, orbited Earth and successfully tested many of the sophisticated systems needed to conduct a moon journey and landing. In December of the same year, Apollo 8 took three astronauts to the dark side of the moon and back, and in March 1969 Apollo 9 tested the lunar module for the first time while in Earth orbit. Then in May, the three astronauts of Apollo 10 took the first complete Apollo spacecraft around the moon in a dry run for the scheduled July landing mission.

At 9:32 a.m. on July 16, with the world watching, Apollo 11 took off from Kennedy Space Center with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin Jr., and Michael Collins aboard. Armstrong, a 38-year-old civilian research pilot, was the commander of the mission. After traveling 240,000 miles in 76 hours, Apollo 11 entered into a lunar orbit on July 19. The next day, at 1:46 p.m., the lunar module Eagle, manned by Armstrong and Aldrin, separated from the command module, where Collins remained. Two hours later, the Eagle began its descent to the lunar surface, and at 4:18 p.m. the craft touched down on the southwestern edge of the Sea of Tranquility. Armstrong immediately radioed to Mission Control in Houston, Texas, a famous message: “The Eagle has landed.”

At 10:39 p.m., five hours ahead of the original schedule, Armstrong opened the hatch of the lunar module. As he made his way down the lunar module’s ladder, a television camera attached to the craft recorded his progress and beamed the signal back to Earth, where hundreds of millions watched in great anticipation. At 10:56 p.m., Armstrong spoke his famous quote, which he later contended was slightly garbled by his microphone and meant to be “that’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” He then planted his left foot on the grey, powdery surface, took a cautious step forward, and humanity had walked on the moon.

“Buzz” Aldrin joined him on the moon’s surface at 11:11 p.m., and together they took photographs of the terrain, planted a U.S. flag, ran a few simple scientific tests, and spoke with President Richard M. Nixon via Houston. By 1:11 a.m. on July 21, both astronauts were back in the lunar module and the hatch was closed. The two men slept that night on the surface of the moon, and at 1:54 p.m. the Eagle began its ascent back to the command module. Among the items left on the surface of the moon was a plaque that read: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot on the moon–July 1969 A.D–We came in peace for all mankind.”

At 5:35 p.m., Armstrong and Aldrin successfully docked and rejoined Collins, and at 12:56 a.m. on July 22 Apollo 11 began its journey home, safely splashing down in the Pacific Ocean at 12:51 p.m. on July 24.

There would be five more successful lunar landing missions, and one unplanned lunar swing-by, Apollo 13. The last men to walk on the moon, astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt of the Apollo 17 mission, left the lunar surface on December 14, 1972. The Apollo program was a costly and labor-intensive endeavor, involving an estimated 400,000 engineers, technicians, and scientists, and costing $24 billion (close to $100 billion in today’s dollars). The expense was justified by Kennedy’s 1961 mandate to beat the Soviets to the moon, and after the feat was accomplished ongoing missions lost their viability.

Neil Armstrong sets foot on the Moon.
Neil Armstrong sets foot on the Moon. (Buckaroo News)

* 1881 Sitting Bull surrenders.

Five years after General George A. Custer’s infamous defeat at the Battle of Little Bighorn, Hunkpapa Teton Sioux leader Sitting Bull surrenders to the U.S. Army, which promises amnesty for him and his followers. Sitting Bull had been a major leader in the 1876 Sioux uprising that resulted in the death of Custer and 264 of his men at Little Bighorn. Pursued by the U.S. Army after the Indian victory, he escaped to Canada with his followers.

Born in the Grand River Valley in what is now South Dakota, Sitting Bull gained early recognition in his Sioux tribe as a capable warrior and a man of vision. In 1864, he fought against the U.S. Army under General Alfred Sully at Killdeer Mountain and thereafter dedicated himself to leading Sioux resistance against white encroachment. He soon gained a following in not only his own tribe but in the Cheyenne and Arapaho Native American groups as well. In 1867, he was made principal chief of the entire Sioux nation.

In 1873, in what would serve as a preview of the Battle of Little Bighorn three years later, an Indian military coalition featuring the leadership of Sitting Bull skirmished briefly with Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer. In 1876, Sitting Bull was not a strategic leader in the U.S. defeat at Little Bighorn, but his spiritual influence inspired Crazy Horse and the other victorious Indian military leaders. He subsequently fled to Canada, but in 1881, with his people starving, he returned to the United States and surrendered.

He was held as a prisoner of war at Fort Randall in South Dakota territory for two years and then was permitted to live on Standing Rock Reservation straddling North and South Dakota territory. In 1885, he traveled for a season with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show and then returned to Standing Rock. In 1889, the spiritual proclamations of Sitting Bull influenced the rise of the “Ghost Dance,” an Indian religious movement that proclaimed that the whites would disappear and the dead Indians and buffalo would return.

His support of the Ghost Dance movement had brought him into disfavor with government officials, and on December 15, 1890, Indian police burst into Sitting Bull’s house in the Grand River area of South Dakota and attempted to arrest him. There is confusion as to what happened next. By some accounts, Sitting Bull’s warriors shot the leader of the police, who immediately turned and gunned down Sitting Bull. In another account, the police were instructed by Major James McLaughlin, director of the Standing Rock Sioux Agency, to kill the chief at any sign of resistance. Whatever the case, Sitting Bull was fatally shot and died within hours. The Indian police hastily buried his body at Fort Yates within the Standing Rock Reservation. In 1953, his remains were moved into Mobridge, South Dakota, where a granite shaft marks his resting place.

Orlando Scott Goff, “Sitting Bull,” 1881
Orlando Scott Goff, “Sitting Bull,” 1881 (Pinterest)

* 1976 Viking 1 lands on Mars.

On the seventh anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, the Viking 1 lander, an unmanned U.S. planetary probe, becomes the first spacecraft to successfully land on the surface of Mars.

Viking 1 was launched on August 20, 1975, and arrived at Mars on June 19, 1976. The first month of its orbit was devoted to imaging the surface to find appropriate landing sites. On July 20, 1976, the Viking 1 lander separated from the orbiter, touched down on the Chryse Planitia region of Mars, and sent back the first close-up photographs of the rust-colored Martian surface.

In September 1976, Viking 2–launched only three weeks after Viking 1–entered into orbit around Mars, where it assisted Viking 1 in imaging the surface and also sent down a lander. During the dual Viking missions, the two orbiters imaged the entire surface of Mars at a resolution of 150 to 300 meters, and the two landers sent back more than 1,400 images of the planet’s surface.

Viking I Lander on Mars.
Viking I Lander on Mars. (Getty Images)

* 1963 Jan and Dean’s “Surf City” hits #1

“Two girls for every boy!” went the immortal opening line from Jan and Dean’s “Surf City,” the song that reached the top of the U.S. pop charts on this day in 1963. It was a claim that wasn’t actually supported by the facts, but it helped create a popular image of California as a paradise of sun and sand and endless summers.

To anyone with just a passing familiarity with 1960s pop music, “Surf City” might easily be mistaken for a Beach Boys record, though in fact, the Beach Boys had yet to have a #1 of their own when Jan and Dean scored theirs on this day in 1963. Still, “Surf City” owes its existence directly to the Beach Boys and their resident genius Brian Wilson.

High-school classmates Jan Berry and Dean Torrance earned a pair of minor hits while still in their teens, including one — “Baby Talk” (#10 1959)— that Beach Boy Mike Love would later credit as an inspiration for his group’s 1961 debut single, “Surfin’.” But by 1962, the direction of influence between the two groups had shifted. Jan and Dean’s doo-wop flavored sound was passing out of fashion, and when the duo met the Beach Boys while appearing on the same bill at a Los Angeles record hop, they heard the sound that would reinvigorate their career. They became good friends with the Beach Boys and with Brian Wilson in particular, and when they asked Wilson if they could record one of his songs, he declined to give Jan and Dean their first choice, the then-unrecorded “Surfin’ Safari,” but he did give them the instrumental track and opening line to “Surf City.”

In a year that also saw the debut of the Annette Funicello-Frankie Avalon Beach Party movie franchise, “Surf City” became the first chart-topping surf song ever. Jan and Dean would go on to have four more significant surf hits in their career:: “Honolulu Lulu” (#11, 1963); “Drag City” (#10, 1963); “Dead Man’s Curve” (#8, 1964); and “The Little Old Lady (From Pasadena)” (#3, 1964).

Surf City Album Cover
Surf City Album Cover (

Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* This Day In History – What Happened Today              

* Wikipedia                                     

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.

14 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… July 20th”

  1. A great day, John. I can still remember where I was, glued to the black and white TV, watching the landing on the moon. Sitting Bull was scary. Loved Jan and Dean. Thanks, John.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. John, it is fascinating that the first moon walk and Mars landing occurred on the same date. My son went for a couple of years to Champlain in Burlington, VT, so it is nice to see that history. I have been three times to Montreal, but have never ventured to Quebec City. Sitting Bull is a name for the ages. And, Jan and Dean are underappreciated in their role for the beach sound. Thanks for the memories, Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Montreal certainly has its cultural charm, historic sites, and big city attractions but I prefer Quebec City. Walking through the narrow streets of the Old Town where you can still see the cannonballs embedded in tree trunks from the British bombardment during the summer of 1759 – the prelude to the deciding Battle of the Plains of Abraham that September when New France fell to the Brits.
      I loved the Jan & Dean sound too. Thanks, Keith.


  3. I was so impressed by the lunar landing. Given the technology, at the time it was a wonder the mission was completed. Sitting Bull was a real leader. His name always reminds me of the broken promises made to the Indians.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed! I remember watching the lunar landing live on that fateful night in July. Quite incredible. Those astronauts had great courage!
      Both of our countries have treated the Indigenous peoples badly. Thanks, John.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Gosh, Surf City brings back so many memories. But the moon landing and photos elicit excitement and hope. We humans can achieve so much. Thank you for reminders and inspiration, John. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember the first time I heard Surf City, I looked to my older cousin with bulging eyes and said, “Really?” He shrugged and laughed! What can I say, I was just 12 at the time. Thanks, Gwen!


  5. Sitting Bull was an immense leader. His association with the Ghost Dance was a bit of a fiasco though. His murder was atrocious.
    I loved those Jan and Dean singles.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As I’ve found, there have been many outstanding Indigenous leaders – in many walks of life. I need to get back to that series I started about Canadian Indigenous Heroes.
      I loved Jan & Dean as well – and everything Beachboys!
      Thanks, Opher.


    1. It certainly is one of the most exciting achievements of the 20th Century, in my view. I will always maintain that a Moon Base makes more sense than a space station. Easier to launch new missions from there than from Earth. New shuttles could have been built to transport people and goods between Earth and the Moon. But what do I know? Thanks, Robbie!

      Liked by 1 person

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