John’s Believe It Or Not… March 24

Picture of John Fioravanti at the front of his classroom.

It’s Fabulous Friday! Did you know…

* 1975 – Parliament passes Sean O’Sullivan’s private member’s bill making the beaver the official symbol of Canada. (Due to nationalistic undertones, generally the animals chosen are often majestic, sometimes even mythical, which is why our buck-toothed, semi-aquatic rodent raises questions every now and then. So why exactly did Canada pick the beaver as its national symbol? Because of the fur trade. Without the beaver, Canada as we know it, would not exist. Everything changed the moment when early French explorers realised, “Well, they don’t have any gold, but damn! Those rodents would make good looking hats.” Beginning in the 16th century, the fur trade was the backbone of the colonial economy and a major international industry for roughly 300 years. The fur trade was instrumental in the development of the country that would become Canada. Those involved, be it explorers, voyageurs, or coureur des bois, pushed further and further into the North American interior to expand the trade—as well as France’s (and eventually Britain’s) claim over the land. At the heart of the fur trade was the beaver, whose pelts were used to make everything from wool felt hats to robes to winter coats. The use of the beaver as a symbol stems back to the main players of the fur trade, the Hudson’s Bay Company, who put the animal on their coat of arms in 1621.)

Cartoon depicting a beaver lounging in an adirondack chair with a beer in one hand and a small Canadian flag in the other. The title is "Canada's National Icon."

* 1837 Canada gives its black citizens the right to vote. (The history of Black Canadian voting rights is marked by contrasting shifts. Enslaved during the period 1600–1834, Black persons could not vote. Emancipated, they were entitled to the rights, freedoms and privileges enjoyed by British subjects, including the franchise; however, racial discrimination did at times impede Black Canadians’ right to vote. The rights and freedoms of Black women were further restricted by virtue of their sex.)

* 1989 Exxon Valdez runs aground. (One of the worst oil spills in U.S. territory begins when the supertanker Exxon Valdez, owned and operated by the Exxon Corporation, runs aground on a reef in Prince William Sound in southern Alaska. An estimated 11 million gallons of oil eventually spilled into the water. Attempts to contain the massive spill were unsuccessful, and wind and currents spread the oil more than 100 miles from its source, eventually polluting more than 700 miles of coastline. Hundreds of thousands of birds and animals were adversely affected by the environmental disaster. It was later revealed that Joseph Hazelwood, the captain of the Valdez, was drinking at the time of the accident and allowed an uncertified officer to steer the massive vessel. In March 1990, Hazelwood was convicted of misdemeanour negligence, fined $50,000, and ordered to perform 1,000 hours of community service. In July 1992, an Alaska court overturned Hazelwood’s conviction, citing a federal statute that grants freedom from prosecution to those who report an oil spill.)

The Exxon Baton Rouge (smaller ship on left) attempts to offload crude oil from the Exxon Valdez after the Valdez ran aground in Prince William sound
The Exxon Baton Rouge (smaller ship on left) attempts to offload crude oil from the Exxon Valdez after the Valdez ran aground in Prince William sound

* 1603 Queen Elizabeth I dies. (After 44 years of rule, Queen Elizabeth I of England dies, and King James VI of Scotland ascends to the throne, uniting England and Scotland under a single British monarch. The daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth succeeded to the throne in 1559 upon the death of her half-sister Queen Mary. The two half-sisters, both daughters of Henry VIII, had a stormy relationship during Mary’s five-year reign. Mary, who was brought up as a Catholic, enacted pro-Catholic legislation and made efforts to restore the pope to supremacy in England. A Protestant rebellion ensued, and Queen Mary imprisoned Elizabeth, a Protestant, in the Tower of London on suspicion of complicity. The long reign of Elizabeth, who became known as the “Virgin Queen” for her reluctance to endanger her authority through marriage, coincided with the flowering of the English Renaissance, associated with such renowned authors as William Shakespeare. By her death in 1603, England had become a major world power in every respect, and Queen Elizabeth I passed into history as one of England’s greatest monarchs.)

Cate Blanchett pictured as Queen Elizabeth I in a scene from the film The
Cate Blanchett pictured as Queen Elizabeth I in a scene from the film Elizabeth: The Golden Age

* 1998 A school shooting in Jonesboro, Arkansas, kills five. (Mitchell Johnson, 13, and Andrew Golden, 11, shoot their classmates and teachers in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Golden, the younger of the two boys, asked to be excused from his class, pulled a fire alarm and then ran to join Johnson in a wooded area 100 yards away from the school’s gym. As the students streamed out of the building, Johnson and Golden opened fire and killed four students and a teacher. Ten other children were wounded. The two boys were caught soon afterwards. In their possession were thirteen fully loaded firearms, including three semi-automatic rifles, and 200 rounds of ammunition. Their stolen van had a stockpile of supplies as well as a crossbow and several hunting knives. All of the weapons were taken from the Golden family’s personal arsenal. Both of the boys had been raised around guns. They belonged to gun clubs and even participated in practical shooting competitions, which involve firing at simulated moving human targets. Golden reportedly shot several dogs in preparation for the actual shooting.)

Distraught students holding each other for support after the shootings.

Look who was born on this date!

Head shot of Houdini* Harry Houdini in 1874. (American Magician & Escape Artist:  Although born in Europe, Houdini emigrated to America with his family aged 2 years. As a magician, Houdini started out by performing card tricks before moving on to escape acts. he began first to escape from handcuffs, challenging local police to cuff him first.He moved on to an act escaping from a locked water-filled milk can, straitjackets and then most famously a Chinese water torture cell where Houdini had to hold his breath for 3 minutes. He became the most famous vaudeville act in America, often filming his escapes. He died in 1926 of peritonitis and a ruptured appendix.)

Head Shot of Clyde Barrow* Clyde Barrow in 1909. (Clyde Barrow was born on March 24, 1909, into a poor farming family in Telico, Texas. Under the influence of his older brother, Clyde began a life of crime at an early age. In 1930, he met Bonnie Parker. The couple and their affiliated gang eventually went on an almost two-year crime spree that spanned several states, with various gang members committing acts of murder. After sustaining a bedraggled, on-the-run life, Bonnie and Clyde were killed in a police ambush in Louisiana on May 23, 1934. Their story has been heavily romanticised by the media, inspiring famous screen and stage treatments.)

Head shot of Manning in uniform* Peyton Manning in 1976. (American NFL Quarterback:  A five-time league MVP, he played for the Indianapolis Colts for 14 seasons from 1998 to 2011 before signing with the Denver Broncos. He won the Super Bowl in 2006, has won 5 AP NFL MVP Awards, and has set numerous records at the quarterback position.)


Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December, 2013, and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (, to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

7 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… March 24”

  1. So very strange. I remember the Exxon Valdez incident vividly, but I don’t think I ever heard of that Arkansas shooting. It’s difficult imagining how ANYONE can conceive of such things, but an 11 year old and a 13 year old. Just tragic!

    Liked by 1 person

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