Milestones: Labor Day weekend, September 2-4, 2023
12-DAY TIME WARP — THE DAY AFTER WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 2, 1752 BECAME THURSDAY, SEPT. 14, 1752, thanks to the prior year’s British Calendar Act of 1751, which made the “Gregorian Correction.” The new law, which applied to both England and the American colonies, prompted riots by people who didn’t want to lose 10 days of their lives. The act also provided that New Year’s Day (and the change-of-year-number) should be on Jan. 1, instead of March 25, from that point forward. However, the switch from the older Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar was actually initiated in 1582, as a papal decree from Pope Gregory XIII (the calendar’s namesake), and only five countries at the time adopted it: Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and most of France.
More than three centuries passed before most of the world switched to the Gregorian calendar, particularly for secular and global purposes. Greece and Turkey were the last nations —in 1923 and 1927, respectively — to switch.
HAWAII’S LAST MONARCH — LILIUOKALANI, BORN as Liliu Kamakhea on Sept. 2, 1838, was the Kingdom of Hawaii’s only female sovereign and the last monarch, before being deposed by an American lawyer and jurist Sanford Dole, who was born in Hawaii. Dole became the first president of Hawaii and petitioned the U.S. government to annex it. Meanwhile, the deposed queen petitioned U.S. President Grover Cleveland to restore the monarchy. Favored doing so, he commissioned the Blount Report of July 17, 1893, which found that the U.S. Marines had been brought into a scheme to depose her. But when asked to grant amnesty to the revolutionists, she refused, insisting on her punishment. Consequently, she lost President Cleveland’s goodwill.
Meanwhile, Sanford Dole got other nations to recognize his government. Joining him in the late 1890s were two cousins, one of whom, James Dole, founded the Hawaiian Pineapple Company that now bears that family’s name.
PIONEERED CREDIT UNIONS — EDWARD ALBERT FILENE, born Sept. 3, 1860, in Salem, Massachusetts, was an American merchant and philanthropist who became famous for the “bargain basement.” Filene used his savvy as a retailer and manager to transform his family’s store into a retail empire, with a popular bargain basement in which he applied discounts to the inventory as time passed so that the merchandise that had been for sale the longest had the lowest prices. Filene also established an Employees Credit Union, which became the inspiration and prototype for the nation’s credit union movement.
Filene, who was genuinely committed to company-employee relations and the well-being of his workers, established a profit-sharing program, a minimum wage for women, a 40-hour work week, health clinics and paid vacations.
FREDERICK DOUGLASS IN BROOKLYN — FORMER SLAVE FREDERICK DOUGLAS ESCAPED TO FREEDOM on Sept. 3, 1838, by dressing as a sailor and carrying ID papers that had been borrowed from a retired seaman. Douglass’ first stop (via train) from Baltimore, Maryland, which was a slave state, got to Wilmington, Delaware, then the free city of Philadelphia. From there he headed to New York City via train. In New York, and Brooklyn in particular, Douglass received the welcome and protection of the Underground Railroad, a network of abolitionists who safeguarded runaway slaves and worked to secure their freedom. Plymouth Church in Brooklyn Heights, whose founding minister was a dramatic and effective white abolitionist preacher, invited Frederick Douglass to speak at the now landmark meeting house.
Douglass gained fame as an orator and gave eight speeches during his time in Brooklyn, at Plymouth Church, the Bridge Street A.M.E. Church and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The New York Times in 2018 reviewed the book “Frederick Douglass in Brooklyn,” whose author was Theodore Hamm, a professor at St. Joseph’s College in Clinton Hill.
LIGHTING UP NEW YORK — THE FIRST ELECTRIC LIGHTS WERE ILLUMINED IN NEW YORK CITY on Sept. 4, 1882, when inventor Thomas Edison hooked up lightbulbs to an underground cable carrying direct current electrical power. Four hundred electric lights came on in offices on Spruce, Wall, Nassau and Pearl streets in lower Manhattan. Three years earlier, Edison had demonstrated his first incandescent lightbulb.
Edison also invented or developed other innovations, from the electrical power generator to mass communication, sound recordings and motion pictures.
RENTED A ROOM IN FORT GREENE — RICHARD NATHANIEL WRIGHT, born on Sept. 4, 1908, in Mississippi, became a novelist and short-story author. His parents had been born free; his grandfathers on both sides had gained their freedom as a result of their military service during the Civil War. He excelled in writing during high school, became class valedictorian, and tenaciously fought his white principal’s efforts to supplant the speech that Wright had written with one of his own — with the aim of appeasing the white school officials. Wright’s books include Native Son, Uncle Tom’s Children and Black Boy. His anthology of short stories made Wright eligible for a Guggenheim Fellowship, which he won and collected a stipend that enabled him to complete Native Son.
Richard Wright had a connection to Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood, where he rented a room at 109 Lefferts Place from an interracial couple and prominent Communists Herbert and Jane Newton, with whom he had become friends in Chicago.
See previous milestones, here.
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