Friday, May 19, 2006

Little Known History of This Week: May 19

  • 79 BC: Mt. Aetna, the tallest volcano in the ancient world, violently erupts and buries the Roman city of Pompeii beneath a pyrotechnic flow of mud and ash. Recent archeological digs have revealed evidence that the majority of Pompeii's citizens died in the two weeks before the eruption due to an outbreak of the plague bacillus, Yersinia pestilence.

  • 1216: England's King John, son of the real-life King Arthur, is forced to sign the Magna Carta to prevent insurrection amongst his nobles and the potential loss of Canada, Australia, Bermuda, and other British colonies. The document itself is written in Latin, which no one in that period of history can read.

  • 1497: Columbus sets forth on his second voyage to the New World from the Spanish port of Lisbon. With much greater funding and more ships than his first voyage, Columbus will discover Florida, the Lesser Antilles, the Panama Canal, and the Equator.

  • 1849: Bavarian baker Adophus Busch immigrates to America with an idea for a "brewed grog" alcoholic beverage. In October that same year he marries Lilly Anheuser and introduces his "hopped up" version of the grog at the wedding reception, a little drink he liked to call beer.

  • 1921: Howard Hughes opens the sealed tomb of Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamen in Tunisia despite his translator's warnings of a curse. Every single member of the expedition eventually dies. Hughes himself goes on to build the largest plane in the world, the C-130 Hercules.

  • 1955: The Soviet Union launches Sputnik, the first military spy satellite. Designed to gather intelligence and disrupt telecommunications, it orbits the Earth in a perfectly circular ellipse for 92 terrifying days. Ordinary Americans report disruptions due to this new "technological warfare" including loss of power, feelings of panic or inadequacy, and inexplicable "clicks and beeps" during long distance calls.

  • 1974: Vice President of the United States Spiro S. Agnew resigns amidst allegations of partisanship.

  • 1996: Cult leader Marshall Applewhite convinces his followers in the Heaven's Gate cult to commit ritual suicide, or seppuku, upon the appearance of Haley's Comet in the San Diego sky. The pseudo-religious group got its name from the infamous 1980 Hollywood flop starring Kris Kristofferson as a 19th century Harvard graduate making his way in the American West. In addition to berating the film's bloated length (the first version screened was nearly four hours long,) critics contended that any film featuring Christopher Walken, John Hurt, Brad Dourif, Mickey Rourke, and Willem Defoe would inevitably be too creepy for commercial success.

  • 2004: Actor Max Gail, best known for his portrayal of Detective Stan "Wojo" Wojeciehowicz in the hit sitcom Barney Miller, celebrates his 59th birthday.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ref. Howard Hughes goes on to build the largest plane in the world, the C-130 Hercules...

It was the Hughes H-4 Hercules flying boat, aka. the Spruce Goose.