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Milestones: Weekend, July 8-9, 2023

July 8, 2023 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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TWO MILLENNIA OF PARIS — The iconic city of Paris is almost forever, having existed at least two centuries before either Christ or Caesar. This capital of France celebrated its 2000th birthday on July 8, 1951, but some scholars trace the city’s origins to 250 B.C.E. A Gallic tribe known as the Parisii is believed to have settled on an island on the Seine River, which runs through present-day Paris. Julius Caesar and the Romans around 52 BC controlled the area which eventually became Christianized and was called Lutetia, the Latin word for “midwater dwelling.” The settlement later spread to both the left and right banks of the Seine and the name Lutetia was changed to “Paris.” In 987 A.D., Paris became the capital of France, and during the Renaissance of the 15th-17th centuries, a center of arts, architecture, and science.

It wasn’t until the late 19th century that, however, Paris got its signature monument. Gustav Eiffel’s iron tower made its debut at the Exposition Internationale (World Fair) of 1889. As part of the planning for the Exposition, which was to mark the centennial of the French Revolution, France began construction in early 1887.

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INDUSTRIALIST AND FAMILY PATRIARCH — Two members of America’s Rockefeller dynasty shared a July 8 birthday. The patriarch, JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER, SR., born on July 8, 1839, became an industrialist and oil magnate, and philanthropist. Settling in Cleveland, Ohio, Rockefeller bought his first oil refinery in 1863 and by 1870 had established Standard Oil, which in that state eventually became known as SOHIO. The most senior Rockefeller was also a significant benefactor in the Cleveland area and other parts of the U.S., and include the University of Chicago, Spelman College, Denison University, and of course the Rockefeller Foundation. By the time he died in 1937, he had donated more than $550 million.

John D. Rockefeller, Sr. is buried at Lakeview Cemetery in Cleveland, not far from University Circle, where many of that city’s cultural institutions, including Severance Hall and Case Western Reserve University are located.

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SHARES HIS GRANDFATHER’S BIRTHDAY — NELSON ALDRICH ROCKEFELLER, like his grandfather, John D. Rockefeller, Sr., had July 8 as a birthday. The son of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Nelson, born in 1908 in Bar Harbor, Maine, placed a strong value on family unity. He was governor of New York from 1958-73. Gerald R.  Ford, who had just become President 11 days before the resignation of Richard Nixon, appointed Nelson Rockefeller to be his vice president on Tuesday, August 20, 1974 (just as Nixon had earlier appointed Ford). Rockefeller was the second person to become vice president without having been elected; his predecessor, Ford was the first.

Two of Nelson Rockefeller’s brothers also became state governors, among the many political offices they held. Winthrop Rockefeller was governor of Arkansas from 1967-71. John Davison Rockefeller IV, who is still living, was governor of West Virginia from 1977-85, and later Senator of that state until his 2015 retirement.

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UFO OR WEATHER BALLOON, OR? —The Roswell Incident” could be an apt title for a science-fiction fantasy novel. But it was real and unfolded when a rancher in Lincoln  County, New Mexico, found debris on his property and notified the sheriff, who in turn informed the commanding officer of the Roswell Army Air Field. The U.S. Army Air Force on July 8, 1847, issued a press release, confirming the existence of these “flying discs” or “flying saucers that others had reported as well, constituted debris from a military weather balloon. But then the army changed its story, even attributing the debris to a downed military weather balloon. It wasn’t until 1997, around the 50th anniversary of the Roswell Incident that the Air Force issued another report, explaining that the “aliens” were not extraterrestrial life forms but rather parachute dummy equipment used in a top-secret mission to detect Soviet nuclear testing.

None of the military branches’ explanations or changeups altered people’s beliefs that UFOs or extraterrestrials had visited their state. Each year, New Mexico hosts the UFO Encounter Festival each July and welcomes visitors year-round to its International UFO Museum and Research Center.

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INVENTOR OF THE DIRIGIBLE — FERDINAND: ZEPPELIN, born July 8, 1838, in Baden, Germany, into a family of nobility, invented the rigid airship (or dirigible) that now bears his name. Having the full name of Ferdinand Adolf August Heinrich, Count von Zeppelin, he was a military officer who traveled to the United States during the American Civil War to serve as an observer for the Union army. It was his first balloon flight over Minnesota that inspired him as an airship innovator, designing a cylindrical, framed balloon held aloft by internal gas cells. Zeppelin’s craft was the first to complete a human-directed flight—the cigar-shaped frame held a motor-controlled gondola, propellers, and steering controls.

By the time of World War I, more than 100 such zeppelins had been built for military purposes. However, Zeppelin never got to witness transcontinental flights during his lifetime.

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HAD LETTER FROM DE GAULLE — JEAN MOULIN, who died 80 years ago, on July 8, 1943, was a Free French representative who parachuted into occupied France on Jan 1, 1942, with the mission of uniting the underground resistance. He was bearing (hidden in the false bottom of a matchbox) a personal message from General Charles de Gaulle expressing admiration for the resistance movement. The underground on May 27, 1943, agreed to the creation of a National Resistance Council with Moulin as president; within a month the Gestapo arrested and tortured him, but his mental and spiritual fortitude led him to betray nobody. He died during his transfer to a concentration camp.

Some questions remain as to who betrayed Moulin. Was it Rene Hardy, whose presence at the meeting where Moulin was arrested would be suspect? The authorities later allowed Hardy to flee. He was put on trial after the war for his role in Moulin’s arrest but acquitted for lack of evidence. Others suspect Communists, as he did travel in their circles.

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FIRST OPEN-HEART SURGERY — A pioneering Black Doctor performed the first successful open-heart 130 years ago, on  July 9, 1893. African-American surgeon Dr. Daniel Hale Williams completed the surgery at Provident Hospital on Chicago’s South Side. Which he had founded in 1891 in part to give aspiring Black doctors and nurses the chance to enter their profession, and to put an end to the neglect that Black patients received at other facilities. The man on whom Dr. Hale operated had entered the hospital with stabbing wounds to his chest was James Cornish. Dr. Hale repaired a tear in Cornish’s heart lining, thus saving the patient’s life. Cornish was discharged 51 days later.

— The son of a barber, Williams may have been inspired to enter medicine when, as a child, he lost his father to tuberculosis. He apprenticed under Dr. Henry Palmer, a prominent surgeon; Hale and the other two apprentices were all accepted into a three-year program at the Chicago Medical School, one of the best, and affiliated with Northwestern University. According to the Provident Hospital Foundation’s website, Hale graduated with an M.D. degree in 1883.

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LIBERTY BELL RINGS OUT— A 2,000-pound copper-and-tin bell now known as the “Liberty Bell” on July 8, 1776, rang out from the tower of the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall) in Philadelphia. The bell was summoning citizens to the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence which delegates to the Second Continental Congress had adopted on July 4. But the document had to be printed first before it could be issued, and that took four days.

The crack in the bell is part of the landmark’s mystique. This was not the first bell to be cast; that one was ordered in 1751 from a foundry in London, as bells were the standard for announcing both joyous and sorrowful happenings. That bell cracked on the first ring, it was then melted down and a new one was cast. The second Liberty Bell also developed a crack in the 1840s after 9 decades of hard use, and a stop-drill technique was used to prevent the crack’s spread but involved intentionally widening the split.

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DUE PROCESS AND EQUAL PROTECTION — The FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT to the U.S. CONSTITUTION was ratified on July 9, 1868. Defining U.S. citizenship as belonging to all persons born or naturalized in the United States — including formerly enslaved people, the 14th Amendment guarantees to citizens equal protection of the laws,” and stipulated that any state that violated or curtailed these rights without due process would be penalized by having its representation reduced in Congress (would lose seats in the House of Representatives). It also barred any who assisted in a rebellion or insurrection against the U.S. from holding public office. It also exempts the federal government and states from paying any debt that the former Confederate states had incurred, as their actions were deemed an insurrection.

The 14th Amendment, which was passed during the Reconstruction, became the basis for future landmark Supreme Court decisions. There has been talk lately among some political candidates of eliminating the birthright citizenship for certain immigrants, even though the 14th Amendment guarantees that right; if such laws passed Congress they would have to withstand state and federal jurisprudence.

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LARGEST TSUNAMI — The HIGHEST TSUNAMI IN RECORDED HISTORY happened on July 9, 1958, after an 8.3 earthquake caused a massive landslide at Alaska’s Lituya Bay, which then created a tsunami of 1,700 feet—higher than the Willis Tower in Chicago, which is 250 feet shorter.) A 300-foot wave immediately followed, routing about four to five square miles of land on both sides of the bay. Two people died in one of the boats anchored at the bay. Miraculously, the passengers in the other two boats survived the tsunami.

The earthquake took place at 10:15 p.m., however, in the Alaskan summer, sundown would not yet have happened. There the sun sets around 11:30 p.m. in early July. Lituya Bay is in southern Alaska, near Anchorage, and not far from the Glacier Bay National Monument, which was declared so in 1925.

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FIRST SEWING MACHINE PATENT — Name: ELIAS HOWE, born on July 9, 1819, developed and patented a sewing machine in 1846 which was notable for its lockstitch, a double-threaded stitch, and its placement of the needle near its point. Others had also developed machines to assist in sewing, and as early as the 1790s. But Howe’s machine demonstrated further advances and refinements, and he was awarded the first United States patent (U.S. Patent 4,750) for a sewing machine using a lockstitch design. He traveled to England to find investors but returned to the U.S. broke, only to find other inventors, most notably Isaac M. Singer, who had copied and were capitalizing on his design. Following several years of litigation, Howe was successful in proving that the other sewing machine manufacturers had infringed on his patent, and was awarded royalties on every machine made, bringing him wealth.

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LAWN TENNIS TOURNAMENT — On July 9, 1877, the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club on July 9, 1877, began its first lawn tennis tournament at Wimbledon, then a London suburb. This Gentlemen’s Tournament, which was the only event held then, attracted 21 amateurs, with a 25-guinea trophy to be awarded to the winner. The entrance fee was one pound, one shilling.

On July 9, 2000, the 123rd anniversary of this first event, Venus Williams won at Wimbledon for the first time, making her Williams the first Black female Wimbledon champion since Althea Gibson won consecutive-year titles in 1957 and 1958.

See previous milestones, here.


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