Milestones: Wednesday, August 23, 2023
ANOTHER INDEPENDENCE DECLARATION — WITHIN A DECADE OF THE AMERICAN COLONIES’ DECLARING INDEPENDENCE FROM ENGLAND, four counties in North Carolina on Aug. 23, 1784, declared themselves separate from the fledgling United States. This section of western North Carolina named itself the state of Franklin, in the hopes that their pandering to Founding Father Benjamin Franklin would work in their favor. Their declaration was an about-face from its action of ceding to Congress its claims to this land, situated between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River. Settlers in the area, which is known as the Cumberland River Valley, already had established their own government before the Revolutionary War.
The counties of Washington, Sullivan, Spencer (modern-day Hawkins) and Greene counties defied Congress, declared their independence and managed to stay separate four years — until they suddenly needed military help to defend themselves from attacks in 1788 that the Cherokee, Chickamauga and Chickasaw nations waged on the settlements within Franklin’s borders. Those counties then were swift to rejoin North Carolina.
BELOVED BASKETBALL ICON — BASKETBALL LEGEND KOBE BRYANT, whose 45th birthday would have been Aug. 23 (born 1978), already had athletics in his genes. His father, Joe Bryant, played for three NBA teams and also played basketball professionally in Italy. Young Kobe gained fluency in both Italian and basketball jargon. He then returned to the States, where he became just the sixth player in the history of the NBA to join the league immediately from high school. Popular with his fans, Kobe Bryant played 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, won five NBA championships and 18 All-Star berths.
Bryant died tragically at age 41, Jan. 26, 2020, when the helicopter in which he was traveling with his daughter and seven others crashed into a mountainside at Calabasas, Calif. All people abroad were killed.
ALIBI EVIDENCE WAS IGNORED — NICOLA SACCO AND BARTOLOMEO VANZETTI WERE ELECTROCUTED at the Charlestown, Mass., prison on Aug. 23, 1927. They had been convicted of a shoe factory payroll robbery during which a guard had been killed. However, they insisted to the end that they were innocent. They appealed their convictions for six years, during which time substantial evidence was submitted showing the men had an alibi — they were elsewhere when the crime was committed.
Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, on the 50th anniversary of the executions, on Aug. 23, 1977 proclaimed a memorial for Sacco and Vanzetti, and observed that their trial in 1921 had been “permeated by prejudice,” particularly as the two were Italian.
LEFT BEHIND PERSONAL BELONGINGS — First Lady Dolley Madison on Aug. 23, 1814 saved a portrait of George Washington from looting at the hands of British troops during the War of 1812. The White House Historical Society and Dolley’s personal correspondence chronicle the White House occupants’ evacuation and rescue of their Founding Father’s portrait. President James Madison had left the White House the previous day to meet with the American troops. Before leaving he had given specific instructions for his wife to maintain her fortitude, and, if evacuation was necessary, to join him at an appointed spot. As they spotted British troops approaching, First Lady Dolley Madison decided to abandon their personal belongings — including important state documents. But she decided instead to save Washington’s portrait, breaking the frame and pulling out the canvas so that the British would not vandalize it.
Dolley did rejoin her husband, but without the documents he had instructed her to protect. (Unbeknownst to Dolley, the portrait was not an original, but a copy of the Gilbert Stuart painting).
LITTLE LEAGUE WORLD SERIES — The first Little League World Series championship game took place on Aug. 23, 1947, which was the highlight of a three-day tournament in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Teams coming from everywhere in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania competed, with about 2,500 fans witnessing the game. A team named Maynard from Williamsport defeated Lock Haven, 16-7, to win the title at Original Field. Within 15 years, the Little League World Series had expanded to its international identity, welcoming teams from Canada, Mexico, Europe and Asia. A Mexican team became the first non-U.S. title winners, in 1957. The title was won by a team from Mexico in 1957. The World Series has become a summer staple on national TV.
One of Maynard’s stars was outfielder Jack Losch, who became a standout football halfback at the University of Miami. After Losch died in 2004, the Little League World Series Team Sportsmanship Award was named in his honor.
WAR OF THE THIRD RAIL — Following a series of fatal accidents, New York City’s Deputy Commissioner of Public Buildings, Lighting and Supplies Kirwin and a team of Brooklyn railroad officials on Aug. 23, 1900 were hard at work on a plan to eliminate the dangers of the electrified third rail on the elevated railway system, according to a New York Times article of that date. The article immediately below the “third-rail” story reported on a derailment on the “el” near Fulton Street when one of the cars jumped the track —and came into contact with the third rail, sparking a fire that damaged the wooden car.
The accident happened on the Kings County Elevated Railroad, when the train, which had originated in the southeastern Brooklyn neighborhood of Manhattan Beach attempted to round the curve between Franklin Avenue and Fulton Street, The frightened passengers managed to get to safety at the Franklin Avenue stop. The Fulton Street El has long since been replaced by the underground A and C line.
See previous milestones, here.
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