622 A.D.: Traditional date of Mohammad’s first arrival in Medina, after being driven out of his hometown in Mecca.
1187: The great Saracen general Saladin invades Jerusalem in a bid to break the nearly 100 year reign of Christian kings over the city.
1519: Portuguese explorer and navigator Ferdinand Magellan, on commission Spanish King Carlos I (later Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire), departs on a voyage of circumnavigation in order to confirm a westward connection between Spain and the Spice Islands of the South Pacific. Magellan’s fleet consists of five ships and 270 men.
1598: English playwright and poet Ben Jonson is briefly jailed for manslaughter after killing an actor in a duel. He is released after reciting a Bible verse and getting a tattoo on his thumb. Jonson’s career did not suffer from the episode, and he went on to become one of the most popular men of letters during the Elizabethan era in merrie olde England. He was a peer and theatrical competitor of William Shakespeare, and although he always considered himself the better intellect, he eulogized Shakespeare as the “Sweet Swan of Avon” and “Soul of the Age!”
1641: The British merchant ship Merchant Royal founders at sea and sinks off of the coast of Cornwall, with a cargo of £100,000 of gold, 400 bars of Mexican silver, and 500,000 pieces of eight. It has not been found.
1664: As part of the run up to the Second Anglo-Dutch War, four British frigates array themselves off the shoreline of Nieu Amsterdam and demand the surrender of the city. Governor Peter Stuyvesant agrees, and the British take control of the strategic seaport for the first time.
1776: Death of twenty-one year old American patriot Nathan Hale (b.1755), hanged as a spy after being caught scouting around the British encampment of British General William Howe on Long Island. His final words as the noose was placed around his neck: “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”
1780: Arrest of British major John Andre, General Clinton’s primary aide-de-camp, who coordinated Benedict Arnold’s treasonous surrender of West Point. Andre was captured inside American lines while wearing civilian clothes, along with Arnold’s handwritten copy of the defensive plan for the fort tucked into his stockings. He was tried and convicted as a spy, and with the bitter memory of Nathan Hale still fresh, was sentenced to be hanged by the neck until dead instead of being shot like a soldier.
1806: Leaders of the 1803 Corps of Discovery, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, arrive in Saint Louis three years after their westward departure, completing their epic exploration and recording of the United States’ new Louisiana Territory.
1845: In New York, the Knickerbockers Baseball Club is formed, becoming the nation’s first professional baseball team.
1861: Birth of Robert Bosch (d.1942), who came into prominence in the nascent automobile industry with his invention of a dependable magneto for spark plug ignition. He continued to invent and manufacturer a line of the highest quality electrical equipment in his Stuttgart plant. Today, the company that bears his name has added retail electrical tools and equipment to its product line.
1893: American bicycle maker and inventor Charles Duryea, along with his brother Frank, perform a road test on their first gasoline powered vehicle, a 4 horsepower single-cylinder model. It worked. They performed a second test in November, and then decided to go commercial with the idea. You’ll notice in the second picture below that the Duryeas recognized the marketing potential of racing.
1904: Death of Chief Joseph, last leader of the Nez Perce tribe of the Pacific Northwest (b.1840).
1927: Heavyweight boxing champs Gene Tunney and Jack Dempsey clash in the famous “Long Count” re-match for the title championship. Exactly a year prior (less one day), Tunny defeated Dempsey in a ten round unanimous decision. Promoting a second competition between the principals created a great deal of buzz, and the fight met all expectations. The popular name of the match grew out of a furious set of blows that drove Tunney to the mat during the seventh round. Dempsey stood still over his opponent, per the old rules, ready to knock him down again. The referee did not start the count until Dempsey returned to a neutral corner, which gave Tunney an additional few seconds to recover and continue the fight, hence: the “long” count. Tunney in turn knocked Dempsey down in the eighth, and finished in complete control for his second heavyweight title. At the completion of the fight, Dempsey raised his opponent’s arm and said, “You were best. You fought a smart fight, kid.” Controversy endures to this day that Dempsey could have won the title if he had gone to the corner sooner, allowing the count to begin right away.
1939: Death of Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund Freud (b.1856), who gave us such useful tools such as: the Freudian Slip; the use of free-association as a means to identify the relationship between the unconscious self and conscious actions; the Id and super-ego; the Oedipus Complex; and the famous and universally un-answered question, “What do women want?”
1942: First flight of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, a pressurized, high altitude bomber which provided the Army Air Corps with a dramatic increase in range and payload over their B-17s and B-24s. Of the 3,970 built (1943-46) there are only two still in flying condition. I had the privilege of seeing one of them in action in 1976 at the then-named Confederate Air Force (CAF) air show in Harlingen, Texas. Now that I’m thinking about it, that show caused a bit of a burp in relations between us and Japan. Here’s the story- The show’s organizers figured the Bicentennial would be a great time to get as many warbirds into the local airspace as possible. For the “European Theater” display they had dozens of P-40s, P-51s, Hurricanes, Spitfires, B-25s and a couple B-17s roaring around the field with a JU-88 and a couple ME-109s thrown into the mix (one of the 109s skidded into the infield pretty dramatically). For the “Pacific Theater” they swarmed a bunch of Corsairs, Hellcats, Wildcats, SBDs, a real ZERO and a couple T-6s dressed up as Zeros, and most importantly for this long digression, the world’s only flying B-29 [at the time] orbiting high overhead, with none other than Paul Tibbets in the cockpit with the regular CAF crew. As the fighters exited from the scene, the B-29 made progressively lower and lower passes down the show line, and on the last one the guys running the show set off a huge gasoline bomb in the midfield as he flew over, creating a big, oily mushroom cloud to end the flight demonstration. The crowd went wild. When the plane taxied in, US flags flying out the upper hatches, the crowd went wild again. You might say it was a jingoistic moment, and you’d be right. Later in the week, the State Department was forced to issue a statement assuring Japan that we really did respect them as an ally, etc., etc., etc. In any event, highly modified versions of the B-29 continued to perform significant actual (non-bombing) missions well into the 1960s as the B-50, with variants used as tankers, passenger planes, weather reconnaissance, “Guppy” air cargo, regular cargo, X-1 mother ship, and the like. It is probably worth noting as well that during the war years, the B-29 had an abysmal non-combat mishap rate: ~40/100k flight hours (compared to 34 & 35 for the B-17 & B24 (N.B. compare this to the entire USN 2013 mishap rate of 0.95)). The engine replacements that turned the airframe into the B-50 made a huge dent in that statistic.
1945: Death of German physicist Hans Geiger, for whom the counter is named.
1960: Launch of the United States’ first nuclear powered aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise (CVAN-65), just up the river a couple miles from here at Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company. The complexity of this vessel cannot be overstated, beginning with its EIGHT nuclear reactors that produce the steam to both drive the ship and launch the airplanes, in addition to all the other stuff steam does on these ships. NOTE: Current carriers only have two reactors- an improvement in itself- in addition to removal of the bridle arrester horns at the ends of the cats. Although today the ship technically remains “in commission,” she was functionally deactivated in 2012, and is currently undergoing a systematic dismantling up at the Newport News Shipyard. Once everything is off that can come off, the ship will be buttoned up for an open-ocean tow all the way around the Americas for her final reactor dismantling (hot parts going into storage at Hanford, WA) and scrapping at the naval shipyard in Bremerton. 2019 UPDATE: The last of the reactor fuel was removed in December, 2017. Decommissioning occurred 3rd February, 2018 and she was immediately stricken from the Navy list. Scrapping plans have been in a state of flux since then. As of today, the hulk is tied safely to its berth at NNS&DD Co., awaiting someone’s economical idea on how best to scrap it. CVN-80, the third ship of the new Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) class will carry on the great heritage of the Enterprise name.
1964: As long as we’re talking about pushing the technological envelope, today also saw the first flight of the Mach 3 North American XB-70 Valkyrie supersonic bomber. One of the two prototypes was destroyed in a mid-air collision (DLH 6/8). The Soviets were worried sick* about this thing, with good reason. FYI- I had the pleasure a couple years back of visiting the AF museum in Dayton. The remaining XB-70 looms over several dozen other experimental aircraft crammed into a hangar too small for the task. It is simply a magnificent piece of machinery. [The business end; typically graceful takeoff; in flight- note the SIX afterburner plumes showing the actual business of the business end; in flight with wingtips in the high speed configuration (which did two things: a) improved longitudinal stability, and; b) moved the center of lift forward at supersonic speeds, minimizing the nose down pitch)]; landing- the cockpit probably had a separate radar altimeter.
1981: The Senate unanimously confirms Sandra Day O’Connor as the first female Justice of the Supreme Court.