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Milestones: Thursday, August 3, 2023

August 3, 2023 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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NOT CHINA, BUT A NEW WORLD — The first voyage of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus began on Aug. 3, 1492, when he set sail in command of a three-ship fleet: the famed Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria. Columbus had won financial support from Spain’s King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. They sought a western sea route to China and India, and the legendary spice islands of Asia. Yet, voyaging in the immediate easterly direction through the Levant and Middle East, then under control of the Ottoman Empire, was prohibitive. When the fleet landed on Oct. 12, the shores they reached were probably of Watling Islands in the Bahamas, rather than of a major land mass. Columbus claimed the land for Spain, and upon his return across the Atlantic did succeed in bringing gold, spices and indigenous folk he had kidnapped, so the Spanish crown believed he had reached China. 

Although Columbus never actually reached China, the scope of his explorations did bring increased wealth and power for Spain for almost a century — until late July/early August 1588. That’s when Spain sent an armada –– or fleet of armed warships –– to invade England, overthrow the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I and restore Catholicism to England. However, the British monarch and her army prevailed, changing the balance of power in Europe. 

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LED ENGLAND BETWEEN THE WORLD WARS — STANLEY BALDWIN, born on Aug. 3, 1867 served as British Prime Minister three times, between World Wars I and II. Serving during the reigns of King George V, King Edward VIII and King George VI, (and from 1923-24, 1924-29 and in 1935-37), Baldwin handled several crises, including the General Strike that began with coal miners. Although he lost the 1929 election to the Labour Party, Baldwin became Lord President of the Council, and in this role stepped in as acting prime minister when Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald became seriously ill. Elected again in 1935, Baldwin had to handle the constitutional crisis of King Edward VIII’s abdication. He was criticized for not intervening to quash Hitler’s and Mussolini’s ambitions to dominate Europe, and he resigned early in the reign of King George VI.

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While many historians believe that the British government allowed the official reason for King Edward VIII’s abdication to be his desire to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson (a constitutionally impermissible prospect), the underlying reason dealt with Edward’s and Wallis Simpson’s political views as Nazi sympathizers, as well as Baldwin’s refusal to get involved in halting the rising of the Nazi party.

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FOUGHT AGE DISCRIMINATION — MARGARET (MAGGIE) KUHN, born Aug. 3, 1905 in Buffalo, founded the Gray Panthers organization to fight age discrimination as a direct result of being forced into retirement when she turned 65. She loved her job with the Presbyterian Church, but when the prevailing law required that she resign on her 65th birthday, she fought back, forming a movement whose original name was “The Consultation of Older and Younger Adults for Social Change.” It was actually late-night talk show host Johnny Carson who provided the group with a pithy moniker. When he interviewed Kuhn in 1974, he remarked that her group was similar to the Black Panthers, and called Kuhn’s movement “The Gray Panthers.” Kuhn and the Gray Panthers saw that all forms of injustice are linked and did not limit themselves to elder rights, fighting also for civil liberties, the elimination of poverty, and opposing the Vietnam War.

Kuhn and the Gray Panthers also fought the prevailing attitude that older people were infirm and incapacitated, and questioned how senior citizens are portrayed in popular media. Some testimonials of her success have been the Presidential elections of Ronald Reagan, Donald Trump and Joe Biden, all of whom were past 65 when they won their respective elections. Biden, at age 80, is currently the oldest serving President.

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CRIME NOVELIST AND A BARONESS — The author P.D. JAMES, born Phyllis Dorothy James on Aug. 3, 1920 at Oxford, England, is a preeminent crime novelist of the late 20th century. Her weighty psychological dramas included Cover Her Face and Original Sin. She brought to her writing a credibility of forensic and medical knowledge, having worked early in her life in medical administration and at the Office of Home Affairs. One of her lead recurring characters is Scotland Yard detective Adam Dalgliesh, who is also a poet.

P.D. James belonged to the Royal Society of Literature and Royal Society of the Arts. She was also conferred the style of baroness, was inducted into the Order of the British Empire and was named a Commander of the British Empire.

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DEMOCRACY UNDER ATTACK — Independence Day for the West African nation of NIGER (pronounced Ni-ZHERE), is observed on Aug. 3. The autonomous state of what is the African continent’s largest landlocked country gained full independence on Aug. 3, 1960, with Hamani Diori leading the efforts. Diori, who became Niger’s first president in a unitary state (central government being the supreme authority), made advances in education and some industrialization. A continued friendship with France made possible uranium development. However, Diori was overthrown in a coup in 1974 and the country has experienced periods of military rule — and five constitutions.

The most recent threat to Niger’s democracy unfolded just a week ago (July 26, 2023) during a coup against current president Mohamed Bazoum in a mutiny by the country’s armed forces.  Other nations were evacuating their diplomatic staff as of Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 3.

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WAR CORRESPONDENT— ERNEST TAYLOR PYLE, born in Indiana on Aug. 3, 1900, loved being a roving reporter, even though he had been the managing editor of the Washington Daily News, where he began his journalistic career in 1923. Pyle loved writing about aviation and focusing on the newsmakers. He covered the 1940 bombing of London, and reported from Africa, Sicily, Italy and France, winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1944 for his reportage, particularly in his storytelling style. Pyle was hit with machine-gun fire while on the Pacific Island of Ie Shima — and killed in action — on April 18, 1945 while covering the Battle of Okinawa.

Pyle kept winning honors even after his death: In 1983, he was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart –– a rare honor for a civilian — by the 77th Division’s successor unit, the 77th Army Reserve Command. He was also honored posthumously with the American Legion’s Distinguished Service Medal in 1945.

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SCOPES TRIAL — JOHN T. SCOPES, born in Kentucky on Aug. 3, 1900, may have been the central figure in the Monkey Trial debacle, but he didn’t speak a word during his trial. He was an unknown, 24-year-old schoolteacher in Dayton, Tennessee, accused of “teaching evolution,” in violation of a law that required the Creation story be taught. The trial was actually a matchup — held outdoors to allow for more attendees — between preeminent American attorneys Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryant. 

Scopes was ultimately convicted and fined $100, but the verdict was later overturned on a technicality and the law against teaching evolution was itself repeated in 1967.

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WORLD’S FIRST NUCLEAR SUBMARINE — The U.S. nuclear submarine Nautilus on Aug. 3, 1958 accomplished the first undersea voyage to the geographic North Pole. U.S. Navy Captain Hyman G. Rickover oversaw the construction of the USS Nautilus, which was reportedly completed years ahead of schedule. The world’s first nuclear submarine, the Nautilus made its dive at Point Barrow, Alaska, and made the thousand-mile journey under the Arctic ice cap to reach the top of the world. The voyage created a new, shorter route from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean and Europe.

After a career spanning 25 years and steaming almost 500,000 miles, the Nautilus was decommissioned on March 3, 1980 and designated a National Historic Landmark two years later.

See previous milestones, here.


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