Milestones: Thursday, October 19, 2023
LAST BATTLE — THE PATRIOTS, FIGHTING FOR INDEPENDENCE DURING THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, won a decisive victory at Yorktown, Virginia, when on Oct. 19, 1781, British General Lord Cornwallis surrendered 8,000 British soldiers, plus, seamen, cannons, a frigate and fleet of ships to a larger Franco-American force. Although in the early stages of the Revolution Lord Cornwallis had been one of the most capable commanders, he and his forces began struggling during their invasion of North Carolina and Virginia, as his men were exhausted, and the Patriot army routed them. It was reported that British General Charles O’Hara, second-in-command to General Cornwallis, delivered his commander’s sword to his counterparts in the American and French camp.
The surrender essentially stopped the fighting in the American colonies, although the war did not end immediately at sea. Almost two years passed before the Treaty of Paris, recognizing the United States as a free and independent nation was signed on Sept. 3, 1783.
‘BLACK MONDAY’ — HISTORY REMEMBERS THE OCTOBER 1929 STOCK MARKET CRASH THAT TRIGGERED THE GREAT DEPRESSION, BUT the largest ever single-day drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average happened much more recently, on Monday, Oct. 19, 1987. While no single event caused the crash, several unrelated trends and developments synergistically led to the Dow plunge of 508 points, a 22.6% drop — and panic on Wall Street. Among the factors leading to the steep drop were a decline in the bull market (after five years of business-friendly policies during the Reagan Administration), a large trade deficit and accompanying weakening of the U.S. Dollar, and Congressional closing of tax loopholes for corporate mergers.
Some economists and researchers posit that the factors leading up to Black Monday are a normal part of the economy’s boom-and-bust cycle and that self-correcting markets are part of that cycle. The Great Recession of 2008, by contrast, was caused by the careless issuance of subprime mortgages, predatory lending and aggressive risk-taking. That financial crisis cost the Republican Party the 2008 Presidential Election.
POLITICAL MUD FIGHTS — THE GAZETTE OF THE UNITED STATES on Oct. 19, 1796, published an essay from a mystery writer, named “Phocion,” who attacked presidential candidate Thomas Jefferson. That writer turned out to be Jefferson’s rival and enemy, Alexander Hamilton. Nasty political attacks dated almost back to the nation’s founding. Jefferson was running against then-Vice President John Adams, a Federalist, in what was a negative, rancorous campaign. Also a Federalist, Hamilton was supporting Adams, and wrote about 25 essays using the pen name Phocion to attack Jefferson and his brand of republicanism. He then started the ad hominem attacks against Jefferson, accusing him of an affair with one of his female slaves, perhaps to a Sally Hemings.
Rumors persist that Jefferson, who had been widowed, was having an affair with one of his enslaved workers, and genealogists still research this point.
‘ONE MORE HOPELESS CAUSE’ — HONESTY IN CONGRESS WAS A MAJOR THEME of the now-classic Frank Capra movie, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” which premiered on Thursday, Oct. 19, 1939. Starring James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains as an esteemed but corrupt Senator Joseph Payne, and Edward Arnold as the political party boss, the film was about Boy Rangers leader Jefferson Smith (Stewart) who gets nominated to fill a Senate seat representing a western state after the sudden death of his predecessor, only to have his idealized view of government shattered when he is unjustly accused of the graft he is trying to explore. Stewart’s perseverance during his filibuster to restore integrity to the Senate both breaks and warms hearts.
Bronx-born actor Harry Carey played the compassionate president of the Senate (normally the U.S. vice president presides the over Senate. In the movie, his name is Henry. At the time “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” premiered, the vice president in real life was John Nance Garner and the president pro tempore of the Senate was a Nevadan named Key Pittman.
REBOUND — Union General Philip Sheridan on Oct. 19, 1864, averted a near disaster in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley when he rallied his troops and scored a victory over Confederate General Jubal Early at the Battle of Cedar Creek. While Sheridan was away for a military conference in Washington, General Early routed the Union Army at Cedar Creek. Sheridan and his troops had been successful earlier in the autumn, destroying the Shenandoah Valley harvest in order to deny food sources to General Robert E. Lee’s army. But with Sheridan absent, Early’s men prevailed. Sheridan was en route back from Washington when he heard the battle and raced the 12 miles to the battlefront, meeting his cavalry along the way, and primed them for the counterattack.
The Union general’s furious gallop back was nicknamed Sheridan’s Ride.
SQUEEZED OUT BY DIGITAL ENTERTAINMENT — THE FIRST BLOCKBUSTER VIDEO-RENTAL STORE OPENED ON Oct. 19, 1985, in Dallas. True to its name, Blockbuster started out with an advantage over its smaller-scale competitors, offering more than 8,000 tapes and a computerized checkout plan. After its first store proved a success, Blockbuster expanded rapidly in the home-movie and gaming field. The advent of new apps and streaming services, however, led to a decline, as few people used videotapes and more cable and internet services offered internal DVR services as part of their service subscription packages by the end of the first decade. Viacom acquired Blockbuster in 1994. Netflix, an online DVD rental service was founded in 1997 and in-demand movie services all competed with Blockbuster, which filed for bankruptcy in 2010.
Blockbuster’s founder was David Cook, who had previously owned a business that provided computer software services to the oil and gas industry in Texas.
See previous milestones, here.
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