It’s Sunday! Did You Know…
* 1917 – Khaki Election – Borden Unionists defeat Laurier Liberals 153 seats to 82.
After the Battle of the Somme, Canada was in desperate need to replenish its supply of soldiers; however, there were very few volunteers to replace them. The recruiting effort in Quebec had failed, and Canada turned to its only remaining option: conscription.
Almost all French Canadians opposed conscription; they felt that they had no particular loyalty to either Britain or France. Led by Henri Bourassa, they felt their only loyalty was to Canada. English Canadians supported the war effort as they felt stronger ties to the British Empire. The Conscription Crisis of 1917 caused a considerable rift along ethnic lines between Anglophones and Francophones.
After visiting Britain for a meeting of First Ministers in May 1917, Borden announced that he would introduce the Military Service Act on August 29, 1917. The Act was passed: allowing the government to conscript men across the country if the Prime Minister felt that it was necessary.
To solidify support for conscription in the 1917 election, Borden extended the vote through the Military Voters Act to overseas soldiers, who were in favor of conscription to replace their depleted forces (women serving as nurses were also given the right to vote). For Borden, these votes had another advantage, as they could be distributed in any riding, regardless of the soldier’s regular place of residence. With the Wartime Elections Act, women who were the wives, sisters, daughters, and mothers of men serving overseas were also granted the right to vote in this election, as they appeared to be more patriotic and more worthy of a public voice. On the other hand, conscientious objectors and recent immigrants from “enemy countries” were denied the right to vote. In the election, Borden was opposed not only by Bourassa but also by Liberal Party leader Wilfrid Laurier, though he had been abandoned by much of his party. Laurier had opposed conscription from the beginning of the war, arguing that an intense campaign for volunteers would produce enough troops. He privately felt that if he joined the coalition government, Quebec would fall under what he perceived as a dangerous nationalism of Bourassa, which might ultimately lead to Quebec leaving the Canadian confederation.
Borden’s Unionist Party won the election with 153 seats; Laurier’s Liberals secured 82 seats, 62 from Quebec. A classic lesson in rigging an election!
* 1903 First airplane flies.
Near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orville and Wilbur Wright make the first successful flight in history of a self-propelled, heavier-than-air aircraft. Orville piloted the gasoline-powered, propeller-driven biplane, which stayed aloft for 12 seconds and covered 120 feet on its inaugural flight.
Orville and Wilbur Wright grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and developed an interest in aviation after learning of the glider flights of the German engineer Otto Lilienthal in the 1890s. Unlike their older brothers, Orville and Wilbur did not attend college, but they possessed extraordinary technical ability and a sophisticated approach to solving problems in mechanical design. They built printing presses and in 1892 opened a bicycle sales and repair shop. Soon, they were building their own bicycles, and this experience, combined with profits from their various businesses, allowed them to pursue actively their dream of building the world’s first airplane.
After exhaustively researching other engineers’ efforts to build a heavier-than-air, controlled aircraft, the Wright brothers wrote the U.S. Weather Bureau inquiring about a suitable place to conduct glider tests. They settled on Kitty Hawk, an isolated village on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, which offered steady winds and sand dunes from which to glide and land softly. Their first glider, tested in 1900, performed poorly, but a new design, tested in 1901, was more successful. Later that year, they built a wind tunnel where they tested nearly 200 wings and airframes of different shapes and designs. The brothers’ systematic experimentations paid off–they flew hundreds of successful flights in their 1902 glider at Kill Devils Hills near Kitty Hawk. Their biplane glider featured a steering system, based on a movable rudder, that solved the problem of controlled flight. They were now ready for powered flight.
In Dayton, they designed a 12-horsepower internal combustion engine with the assistance of machinist Charles Taylor and built a new aircraft to house it. They transported their aircraft in pieces to Kitty Hawk in the autumn of 1903, assembled it, made a few further tests, and on December 14 Orville made the first attempt at powered flight. The engine stalled during take-off and the plane was damaged, and they spent three days repairing it. Then at 10:35 a.m. on December 17, in front of five witnesses, the aircraft ran down a monorail track and into the air, staying aloft for 12 seconds and flying 120 feet. The modern aviation age was born. Three more tests were made that day, with Wilbur and Orville alternately flying the airplane. Wilbur flew the last flight, covering 852 feet in 59 seconds.
During the next few years, the Wright brothers further developed their airplanes but kept a low profile about their successes in order to secure patents and contracts for their flying machines. By 1905, their aircraft could perform complex maneuvers and remain aloft for up to 39 minutes at a time. In 1908, they traveled to France and made their first public flights, arousing widespread public excitement. In 1909, the U.S. Army’s Signal Corps purchased a specially constructed plane, and the brothers founded the Wright Company to build and market their aircraft. Wilbur Wright died of typhoid fever in 1912; Orville lived until 1948.
The historic Wright brothers’ aircraft of 1903 is on permanent display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
* 1843 A Christmas Carol is published.
On this day in 1843, Charles Dickens’ classic story “A Christmas Carol” is published.
Dickens was born in 1812 and attended school in Portsmouth. His father, a clerk in the navy pay office, was thrown into debtors’ prison in 1824, and 12-year-old Charles was sent to work in a factory. The miserable treatment of children and the institution of the debtors’ jail became topics of several of Dickens’ novels.
In his late teens, Dickens became a reporter and started publishing humorous short stories when he was 21. In 1836, a collection of his stories, Sketches by Boz, later known as The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, was published. The same year, he married Catherine Hogarth, with whom he would have nine children. The short sketches in his collection were originally commissioned as captions for humorous drawings by caricature artist Robert Seymour, but Dickens’ whimsical stories about the kindly Samuel Pickwick and his fellow club members soon became popular in their own right. Only 400 copies were printed of the first installment, but by the 15th episode, 40,000 copies were printed. When the stories were published in book form in 1837, Dickens quickly became the most popular author of the day.
The success of the Pickwick Papers was soon reproduced with Oliver Twist (1838) and Nicholas Nickleby (1839). In 1841, Dickens published two more novels, then spent five months in the United States, where he was welcomed as a literary hero. Dickens never lost momentum as a writer, churning out major novels every year or two, often in serial form. Among his most important works are David Copperfield(1850), Great Expectations (1861), and A Tale of Two Cities (1859).
Beginning in 1850, he published his own weekly circular of fiction, poetry, and essays called Household Words. In 1858, Dickens separated from his wife and began a long affair with a young actress. He gave frequent readings, which became immensely popular. He died in 1870 at the age of 58, with his last novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, still unfinished.
* 1944 U.S. approves end to internment of Japanese Americans.
During World War II, U.S. Major General Henry C. Pratt issues Public Proclamation No. 21, declaring that effective January 2, 1945, Japanese American “evacuees” from the West Coast could return to their homes.
On February 19, 1942, 10 weeks after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the removal of any or all people from military areas “as deemed necessary or desirable.” The military, in turn, defined the entire West Coast, home to the majority of Americans of Japanese ancestry or citizenship, as a military area. By June, more than 110,000 Japanese Americans were relocated to remote internment camps built by the U.S. military in scattered locations around the country. For the next two and a half years, many of these Japanese Americans endured extremely difficult living conditions and poor treatment by their military guards. (The Canadian government did the same thing to west coast Japanese Canadians.)
During the course of World War II, 10 Americans were convicted of spying for Japan, but not one of them was of Japanese ancestry. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill to recompense each surviving internee with a tax-free check for $20,000 and an apology from the U.S. government.
* 1975 “Squeaky” Fromme sentenced to life.
A federal jury in Sacramento, California, sentences Lynette Alice Fromme, also known as “Squeaky” Fromme, to life in prison for her attempted assassination of President Gerald R. Ford.
On September 5, a Secret Service agent wrested a semi-automatic .45-caliber pistol from Fromme, who brandished the weapon during a public appearance of President Ford in Sacramento. “Squeaky” Fromme, a follower of incarcerated cult leader Charles Manson, was pointing the loaded gun at the president when the Secret Service agent grabbed it.
Seventeen days later, Ford escaped injury in another assassination attempt when 45-year-old Sara Jane Moore fired a revolver at him. Moore, a leftist radical who once served as an informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had a history of mental illness. She was arrested at the scene, convicted, and sentenced to life.
In the trial, Fromme pleaded not guilty to the “attempted assassination of a president” charge, arguing that although her gun contained bullets, it had not been cocked, and therefore she had not actually intended to shoot the president. She was convicted, sentenced to life in prison, and sent to the Alderson Federal Correctional Institution in West Virginia.
Fromme remained a dedicated disciple of Charles Manson and in December 1987 escaped from Alderson Prison after she heard that Manson, also imprisoned, had cancer. After 40 hours roaming the rugged West Virginia hills, she was caught on Christmas Day, about two miles from the prison. Five years were added to her life sentence for the escape.
* 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/