Milestones: Thursday, July 20, 2023
A COMMEMORATIVE LUNAR HOLIDAY — MOON DAY is observed annually on July 20 to commemorate the landing and man’s first walk on earth’s natural satellite. Neil Armstrong, an aeronautics engineer from Ohio and Edwin Eugene (Buzz) Aldrin Jr., landed the space module Eagle on the moon’s surface and walked for about 2 ½, with the lower gravity aiding them. They radioed to the command center” “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” The relief in the voices of those from Mission Control on earth was palpable: “Roger, Twan… Tranquility. We copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again.” The astronauts returned to earth on July 24, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean about a thousand miles SW of Hawaii, and bringing photographs and rock samples.
The mission has several potential perils, and the astronauts experienced some terrifying moments during their voyage. Eagle module even overshot its landing on the lunar service. And a speech was prepared for then-President Richard Nixon to read to Americans in the event the mission had failed.
MEETING FAILED TO END HOSTILITIES — The GENEVA ACCORDS, held on July 20-21, 1954, in neutral Switzerland, sought to end a long history of conflict in the southeast Asian region of Vietnam. The agreement to cease hostilities was signed on behalf of the People’s Army of Vietnam (the ruling Communist party of North Vietnam) and the commanders in chief of the French military. The provisions of this agreement included foreign troop withdrawal and elections to take place within two years to unify North and South Vietnam.
However, the elections never happened, Vietnam remained divided, with the North and South remaining enemies. The United States was supporting South Vietnam in this protracted dispute that began in the late 19th century when France colonized Vietnam, calling it French Indochina. During the 1920s-30s, a Vietnamese national named Vietnamese nationalist Ho Chi Minh had been trained in the Soviet Union as a Comitern (Communist International) agent.
BEEKEEPER CLIMBS TALLEST MOUNTAIN — SIR EDMUND PERCIVAL HILLARY, born in New Zealand on July 20, 1919, and his Nepalese Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay (Sherpa Tenzing as he was known) became the first explorer team to ascend Mount Everest. The highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest sits on the crest of the great Himalayas, a natural boundary between Nepal and China’s Tibet region. Everest’s summit stands to thirds of the air layer of the earth’s atmosphere. The pair reached the summit on May 29, 1953, which was Sherpa Tenzing’s birthday. As the two were on a British expedition, the news of their successful climb reached England on June 1, 1953, on the eve of Queen Elizabeth’s II coronation as monarch. Later in 1953, Queen Elizabeth knighted Edmund Hillary. Because Tenzing Norgay was not from a British Commonwealth Nation, he instead received the British Empire Medal.
Interestingly, Edmund Hillary listed his occupation as beekeeper, as he was also interested in following his father into that trade before the bug of mountain-climbing bit him. Hillary later became a philanthropist who was particularly concerned for the well-being of the Nepalese and Sherpa people.
EXILED AND MARTYRED FOR HER BELIEFS — ANNE HUTCHINSON, baptized on July 20, 1591, had been born on an unrecorded date as Anne Marbury and later married William Hutchinson. They and their family immigrated to Boston in 1633 but Anne’s religious beliefs caused her banishment from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1637. She later co-founded Portsmouth in what is now Rhode Island; the document from that settlement became known as the first one in American history that severed both religious and political ties with England — a good 140 years before the Declaration of Independence was drafted. The Siwanoy people, an indigenous population settled along the coast of Long Island Sound, killed Hutchinson, six of her children and other household members in August of 1643; she became a martyr for religious tolerance and civil liberties.
The Siwanoy people spoke Munsee — an Algonquin-based language — and were part of the Wappinger Confederacy that made its home in what is now the Bronx, Westchester and Long Island.
POSTHUMOUSLY AWARDED A PULITZER — ERIK AXEL KARLFELDT, born July 20, 1864, in Sweden, was posthumously awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1931. Karlfeldt’s lyrical poems celebrated nature and the agricultural and rural roots of Swedish culture. Karlfeldt in 1918 had declined the Nobel Prize to avoid an apparent conflict of interest, as he was at the time also secretary at the Swedish Academy, the Nobel Institute and Nobel Committee. Even the Nobel Prizes are meant to aid living artists, Karlfeldt was awarded the Prize in Literature after his April 8, 1931 death for all his contributions to Swedish literature.
Karlfeldt’s poetry gained exposure even during his school days and later, published in anthologies, including his first collection Vildmarks-och kärleksvisor [Songs of the Wilderness and of Love] was printed in the autumn of 1895.
ONE OF THE EXODUS PLAGUES — The LOCUST PLAGUE OF 1874: broke out from July 20–30, 1874, when the largest swarm on record of the Rocky Mountain locust invaded the Great Plains. A swarm consisting of 124 billion locusts, believed to be 800 miles long and 110 miles wide, ravaged an area stretching from Canada and the Dakotas down to Texas. According to contemporary reports, the locusts blocked the sun and destroyed farms in just minutes. The swarms did not just disappear, smaller ones plagued the Midwest for the next several years, causing around $200 million in destroyed crops.
Locusts, which are part of the grasshopper family but not solitary, were reported damaging crops in Bismarck, North Dakota, North Minnesota and Manitoba, a province in central Canada, according to a July 21, 1874 article in a Pennsylvania newspaper, The Times, of New Bloomfield, PA.
ASKED NEWSPAPER WHETHER SANTA EXISTS — VIRGINIA O’HANLON, born July 20, 1889, in New York City, at age 8 wrote a disheartened, plaintive letter to the New York Sun, asking whether Santa Claus existed, after her “little friends,” claimed he didn’t. According to some sources, young Virginia’s father encouraged her to write the letter, telling her, “If you see it in The Sun it’s so,” but he did not hold out hope that she would receive an answer. However, in the New York Sun’s Sept. 21, 1897 issue was an editorial that began, “We take pleasure in answering at once and thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful authors are numbered among the friends of THE SUN.”
Virginia later married and became a teacher and principal, earning a doctorate in education. She was often asked to comment on the editorial, which she credits with having pointed her life in a positive direction.
NOT JUST AN EXPRESSION — The RIOT ACT became effective in 18th century England on July 20, 1715. According to this law, if a dozen or more persons were “unlawfully assembled” in a way that disturbed the public peace, someone in authority with a loud voice was required to command silence and read Riot Act Proclamation: “Our sovereign lord the king chargeth and commandeth all persons, being assembled, immediately to disperse themselves, and peaceably to depart to their habitations, or to their lawful business, upon the pains contained in the act made in the first year of King George, for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies. God save the king.” Those who failed to obey within the timeframe of an hour were taken into custody and hauled before a justice of the peace.
Not specified, though, was the definition of “unlawfully assembled.”
See previous milestones, here.
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