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Friday Fun: Commentary On The Absurd, The Serious, And The Useless In History Trivia

January 25, 2008

On this day in…

1787, “American Daniel Shays [left] leads rebellion to seize Federal arsenal to protest debtor’s prisons.” … Before reading the Wikipedia entry on this, I don’t believe I realized that Shays’ Rebellion lasted a little over four months. I’d always seen it as a kind of one-week affair. Is it not interesting that two of our first uprisings, including the Whiskey Rebellion, were over perceived unfairness in the redistribution of economic goods?

1879, “The Bulgarian National Bank is founded.” … I thought I’d throw you off with some really useless information—considering that most of the time I focus on U.S.-related trivia.

1890, “Nellie Bly [right] completes her round-the-world journey in 72 days.” … Lesson for today: Never, never judge a woman’s ability to get around by the cut of her dress. 😉

1917, “The Danish West Indies [below] is sold to the United States for $25 million.” … Now here’s a territorial purchase that I’ve never noticed in the U.S. survey textbooks. But these are the—drumroll please—U.S. Virgin Islands. Fact: Slavery was abolished there by Governor Peter von Scholten on July 3, 1848.

1941, “Pope Pius XII elevates the Apostolic Vicariate of the Hawaiian Islands to the dignity of a diocese. It becomes the Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu.” … In the context of everything happening in Europe and Asia, leading up to World War II, this certainly has the feel of history trivia, yes? It gives new meaning to the phrase.

1942, “World War II: Thailand declares war on the United States and United Kingdom.” … I consider myself pretty savvy with regard to World War II history and the U.S., but I never knew that Thailand declared war against us. Now I’ll have to rethink my views on the Vietnam War and its regional implications.

1960, “The National Association of Broadcasters reacts to the Payola scandal by threatening fines for any disc jockeys who accepted money for playing particular records.” … Considering what’s happened in the 1990s and beyond, with regard to Napster and the advent of iPods, this scandal feels pretty small potatoes. We now hardly listen to radio stations in favor of paying for our music directly: we’ve cut out the middle man.

1995, “The Norwegian Rocket Incident: Russia almost launches a nuclear attack after it mistakes Black Brant XII, a Norwegian research rocket [right], for a US Trident missile.” … I’m continually fascinated by these small, absurdly serious bits of Cold War history. About 25 words sums up the near annihilation of the human race. – TL

[Sources: Chicago Tribune, NYT, Wikipedia]

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