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Milestones: Weekend, July 15-16, 2023

July 15, 2023 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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CLIMATE CHANGE AWARENESS — ARCTIC SEA ICE DAY is observed annually on July 15 to bring attention to the loss of ocean ice in the Arctic region and to reverse the trend. Mid-July had been chosen because of the time when the ice breakup in western Hudson Bay was noticeable, but now that is happening almost a month earlier. The ice breakup forces polar bears and other indigenous wildlife to find shelter on shore.

The Polar Bears International and other conservation websites point out that “Sea ice is the Earth’s air conditioner, it helps keep our planet cool and regulates the Earth’s climate,” and that it affects more than polar bear habitats, but the entire food chain.

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15th-CENTURY BATTLE — The BATTLE OF GRUNWALD, which took place July 15, 1410, was also known as the Battle of Tannenberg. The Teutonic Order was a religious and increasingly military order that northern German merchants from Bremen and Lübeck established in Acre, Jerusalem in the late 12th century and they took over a hospital to heal the sick. The Teutonic Knights were also a crusading order to force conversions to Catholicism. In 1230, a Polish duke granted the Knights their own property but the order quickly turned against its Polish hosts, conquered land in the region, and enraged the Polish and Lithuanian rulers. Poland and Lithuania joined forces in a victorious campaign at Grunwald to stop the Teutonic Knights’ aggressive takeover of the Baltic region, thus defanging the Knights of their might and power.

During the rise of Nazism, Hitler simultaneously referenced the Teutonic Order of Knights for its propaganda literature and abolished the group — because its connections to Catholicism were perceived to be a threat to the Nazi Regime.

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FEAST OF LANTERNS — The Japanese O-BON FESTIVAL (FEAST OF LANTERNS) is normally observed on a national level on or around July 15. As part of the three-day festival, religious rites throughout Japan commemorate the dead who revisit the earth during this period, and lanterns are lit for their souls. Bonfires are also lit on the closing day to bid farewell to the spirits.

An O-Bon festival was featured in the climax of the 1986 Karate Kid II movie.

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‘A VISIT FROM ST. NICHOLAS’ — CLEMENT CLARKE MOORE wrote about Christmas but was born in the summer, on July 15, 1779, in the Chelsea estate in New York City to a prominent ecclesiastical family. His father, Benjamin Moore (1748–1816) was assistant rector of Trinity Church in Manhattan, who later became rector, then bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, also serving as acting president of Kings College in 1775 and 1776. Bishop Moore later became president of the renamed Columbia College (now Columbia University). Clement Clarke Moore, also a theologian, professor, and author, is best known for his now iconic poem, “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” (“‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”). Someone had it published anonymously — and without Moore’s knowledge or consent — in the Troy Sentinel in 1823.

Scholars have debated whether Clement Clarke Moore was indeed the poem’s author, with some putting forth the name Henry Livingston, Jr. as the real source.

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PATRON SAINT OF RAINY WEATHER — SAINT SWITHIN’S DAY is observed in Great Britain on July 15. Swithin was a 9th-century bishop of Winchester whose relics were transferred into the cathedral on July 15, 1971, on a day with heavy rainfall. There is a poem that points to an English legend, “St. Swithin’s Day, if thou dost rain, for 40 days it will remain; St. Swithin’s Day, if thou be fair, for 40 days, will rain nea mair.”

St. Swithin’s Day (and Michaelmas) are both mentioned in “The Gardeners of Eden,” from the Father Brown mystery series’ tenth (and current) season. The opening scene begins with an interview that the BBC’s fictional radio announcer Edward Appleby gives to Octavia Eden, a successful florist who has returned to her native Kembleford for her last days.

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DUTCH GOLDEN AGE — The artist REMBRANDT was born as Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn on July 15, 1606, in Leiden, Netherlands. This versatile 17th-century artist of first-name fame is considered one of the greatest in art history, having produced over two thousand drawings, and hundreds of paintings and etchings. Unlike his contemporaries in art, Rembrandt used many styles and subjects, from portraits to landscapes, with historical, Biblical, and mythological themes central to his work. He lived during the Dutch Golden Age, particularly a period in which Dutch trade, science, art, and colonization flourished throughout Europe.

Rembrandt, whose mother was Catholic and whose father was Dutch Reformed, incorporated religion into many of his works. He was a youth when the Thirty Years War — one of the most destructive religious conflicts of the 17th century — broke out in Europe. 

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FIRST TO SAIL NORTHWEST PASSAGE — ROALD AMUNDSEN, born on July 16, 1872, of a shipbuilding family in Norway, is recognized as the first explorer to sail from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean via the Northwest Passage in northern Canada’s Arctic region, which he did from 1903-05. Having accomplished this, he next set his sights on the other polar region, reaching and landing on the South Pole on Dec. 14, 1911 (which was that hemisphere’s warmer summer season). Amundsen was also the first to fly over the North Pole, which he completed in 1926.

Amundsen learned hunting, fishing, and other survival skills from the Indigenous people of northern Canada, the Inuit. During his later expeditions to the South Pole, he found these skills, including the use of sled dogs for transporting goods and wearing waterproof animal skins, highly valuable.

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‘SUCCESSFUL’ ATOMB BOMB TEST — The ATOMIC BOMB that would be used against Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan three weeks later was tested in New Mexico on July 16, 1945, at the Alamogordo Air Base. This plutonium bomb, dubbed “Fat Boy” by its creator, was set off at 5:30 a.m. local time, vaporizing the scaffold that held it and creating a frightening mushroom cloud that rose higher than 40,00 feet. The bomb testing killed all animal and plant life in the surrounding mile radius. On the day of the test, President Harry Truman and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill were at the Potsdam Conference in Germany dealing with the aftermath of World War II’s European Theater. Upon learning from Truman of the successful bomb testing, Churchill declared, “It’s the Second Coming in wrath!”

According to the Department of Energy’s page on the history of the Manhattan Project, the joy and euphoria from the United States being the first to create a successful bomb soon turned to the sober realization of its destructive force, which was used against the Japanese people on August 6 and again on August 9, killing more than 200,000 — mostly civilians — and obliterating basic infrastructure and necessities.

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NEW PERMANENT CAPITAL — President George Washington on July 16, 1790, signed legislation that established the District of Columbia as the United States’ permanent capital. The neighboring states of Maryland and Virginia both ceded land to the federal government to create the District of Columbia. A Library of Congress map from 1792 shows the district’s plan, with numbered buildings, and a legend indicating that “The positions for the various Edifices, and for the various Squares or Areas of different shapes, as they are laid down, were first determined on the most advantageous ground, commanding the most extensive prospects, and the better susceptible of such improvements as use or Ornament may hereafter call for.”

Until the new national capital’s completion, estimated for 1800, the government was to remain housed in Philadelphia.

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BROOKLYN-BORN FEMME FATALE — BARBARA STANWYCK was born on July 16, 1907, in Flatbush as Ruby Stevens. Her childhood was turbulent; she was orphaned at age 4 when her mother, 8 months pregnant, died of a miscarriage and other injuries after a drunk pushed her off a streetcar. Ruby’s independent streak and tough nature helped her survive after her father abandoned the family, and she wrote about being “farmed out” to other families. Eventually, she landed an acting role, her own salary, and a new name — Barbara Stanwyck, when she won a leading role in the Broadway melodrama, “Noose.” Stanwyck, who was dubbed “The Queen of Film Noir, appeared in some 82 films — often in sultry roles — including Billy Wilder’s “Double Indemnity,” “Crime of Passion” (with Sterling Hayden and Raymond Burr), and the TV series “The Big Valley.” By 1944, she was on record as being the nation’s highest-paid woman, with an annual salary of $400,000.

Stanwyck’s last role, for which she won an Emmy, was Mary Carson in the 1983 TV miniseries, “The Thorn Birds,” a wealthy widow who owns a sheep station, and lusts after the parish priest. Carson devises a Machiavellian that catapults the priest — who loves another woman — up the Vatican hierarchy.

See previous milestones, here.


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