John’s Believe It Or Not… April 23rd

John Fioravanti standing at the front of his classroom.

A Sunny Sunday To You! Did you know…

* 1851 – Sandford Fleming’s three-pence Beaver stamp issued; Canada’s first regular postage stamp. (Post office issues Sandford Fleming’s three-pence Beaver stamp; the Province of Canada’s first regular postage stamp is one of the world’s earliest examples of a pictorial stamp; part of a series with a 6 penny Prince Albert stamp (issued May 12) and a 12 penny Queen Victoria (issued June 14); Nova Scotia issues its first stamp on September 1 and on New Brunswick on September 5; these first stamps are prepared on unperforated sheets to be cut by Postmasters.)

Image of the beaver stamp

* 1014 King Brian of Ireland murdered by Vikings. (Brian Boru, the high king of Ireland, is assassinated by a group of retreating Norsemen shortly after his Irish forces defeated them. Brian, a clan prince, seized the throne of the southern Irish state of Dal Cais from its Eogharacht rulers in 963. He subjugated all of Munster, extended his power over all of southern Ireland, and in 1002 became the high king of Ireland. Unlike previous high kings of Ireland, Brian resisted the rule of Ireland’s Norse invaders, and after further conquests, his rule was acknowledged across most of Ireland. As his power increased, relations with the Norsemen on the Irish coast grew increasingly strained. In 1013, Sitric, king of the Dublin Norse, formed an alliance against Brian, featuring Viking warriors from Ireland, the Hebrides, the Orkneys, and Iceland, as well as soldiers of Brian’s native Irish enemies. On April 23, 1014, Good Friday, forces under Brian’s son Murchad met and annihilated the Viking coalition at the Battle of Clontarf, near Dublin. After the battle, a small group of Norsemen, flying from their defeat, stumbled on Brian’s tent, overcame his bodyguards, and murdered the elderly king. Victory at Clontarf broke Norse power in Ireland forever, but Ireland largely fell into anarchy after the death of Brian.)

Painting of the High King in battle

* 1961 Judy Garland plays Carnegie Hall. (She was one of the biggest and most popular movie stars of all time, making her first film appearance at the age of seven and earning the first of three Oscar nominations at 17 for her starring role in what may well be the best-loved American movie of all time, The Wizard of Oz. She was also a prolific recording star, selling millions of records and winning five Grammy awards in a single year nearly three decades after starting out as one of the youngest performers ever signed to a major record label. These accomplishments alone would be enough to impress anyone who was somehow unfamiliar with her work, but “to experience Judy Garland’s full power,” as the PBS series American Masters put it, “one had to be in the auditorium when she brought her God-given gifts to bear on a suddenly unified collection of strangers.” Never did Judy Garland so unify a collection of strangers than on this day in 1961 during the famous Carnegie Hall performance often called “the greatest night in showbiz history.”)

Judy at Carnegie Hall
Judy at Carnegie Hall

* 1945 Truman confronts Molotov. (Less than two weeks after taking over as president after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman gives a tongue-lashing to Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov. The incident indicated that Truman was determined to take a “tougher” stance with the Soviets than his predecessor had. On April 23, 1945, Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov arrived at the White House for a meeting with the new president. Truman immediately lashed out at Molotov, “in words of one syllable,” as the president later recalled. As Molotov listened incredulously, Truman charged that the Soviets were breaking their agreements and that Stalin needed to keep his word. At the end of Truman’s tirade, Molotov indignantly declared that he had never been talked to in such a manner. Truman, not to be outdone, replied that if Molotov had kept his promises, he would not need to be talked to like that. Molotov stormed out of the meeting. Truman was delighted with his own performance, telling one friend that he gave the Soviet official “the straight one-two to the jaw.” The president was convinced that a tough stance was the only way to deal with the communists, a policy that came to dominate America’s early Cold War policies toward the Soviets.)

Truman meeting with Molotov
President Truman (left) and Ambassador Molotov (center)

* 1967 Soviet cosmonaut is killed. (On this day in 1967, Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov is killed when his parachute fails to deploy during his spacecraft’s landing. Komarov was testing the spacecraft Soyuz I in the midst of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. Earlier in 1967, the U.S. space program had experienced its own tragedy. Gus Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chafee, NASA astronauts in the Apollo program, were killed in a fire during tests on the ground. Komarov, a fighter pilot and aeronautical engineer, had made his first space trip in 1964, three years before the doomed 1967 voyage. After 24 hours and 16 orbits of the earth, Komarov was scheduled to reenter the atmosphere, but ran into difficulty handling the vessel and was unable to fire the rocket brakes. It took two more trips around the earth before the cosmonaut could manage reentry. When Soyuz I reached an altitude of 23,000 feet, a parachute was supposed to deploy, bringing Komarov safely to earth. However, the lines of the chute had gotten tangled during the craft’s reentry difficulties and there was no backup chute. Komarov plunged to the ground and was killed.)

One of few images of the Soyuz 1 crash site ever to be released
One of few images of the Soyuz 1 crash site ever to be released

Look who was born on this date!

Portrait of Buchanan* James Buchanan in 1791. (He was the 15th President of the United States (1857–61), serving immediately prior to the American Civil War. He is the only president from Pennsylvania, the only president to remain a lifelong bachelor and the last president born in the 18th century. Beginning in the 1820s, he represented Pennsylvania in the United States House of Representatives and later the Senate, then served as Minister to Russia under President Andrew Jackson. He emerged as one of the most prominent Democrats of the 1840s and 1850s, serving as Secretary of State under President James K. Polk and as Ambassador to the United Kingdom under President Franklin Pierce.)

Head shot of Shirley Temple* Shirley Temple in 1928. (American Actress and Diplomat: A child star in the 1930s, she starred in the hit films Bright Eyes, Curly Top and Heidi. As an adult, she became active in the Republican Party which led to her becoming a diplomat, serving as United States Ambassador to Ghana, and later to Czechoslovakia. She also served as the first female Chief of Protocol of the United States and was in charge of arrangements for President Jimmy Carter’s inauguration.)

Head shot of Michael Moore* Michael Moore in 1954. (American Documentary Filmmaker:  Michael Moore began his career as a journalist before a redundancy package provided the capital for his first documentary film “Roger and Me” about the effects of a company downsizing on his native town Flint, in 1989. A series of influential and hard-hitting documentaries followed including; “Bowling for Columbine” on the Columbine school massacre (2002 Academy Award for Documentary Feature) “Fahrenheit 9/11” on the war on terror (Palme d’Or 2004) and “Sicko” about the US health system in 2007. “Fahrenheit 9/11” is the highest-grossing documentary ever, taking of US$200 million. Moore is also an author of a number of non-fiction books, written on similar topics to those of his films, as well as a TV host and director including “The Awful Truth”.)

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.

4 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… April 23rd”

  1. Always fascinating, John. I’ve been pondering your belief that human nature is immutable because the Holocaust (which we’ll discuss tomorrow on Aspire to Inspire) is being repeated in different forms today. It’s a heavy realization for me. Tune in – if you have a moment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Gwen, thanks for your kind words. When talking about the immutability of human nature, it is the same thing as when we say that a tiger can’t change its stripes. To be fair, our human nature, the repository of our needs, has been constant down through history. Our circumstances change and our technology and access to information. It is our inherited genetic makeup and our unique socialization within our families that largely determine the choices we make in life. I think that the most unfortunate thing about humanity is that we do not retain the learning and wisdom of previous generations. That’s why our social evolution progresses at a snail’s pace. One step forward, two steps back. I used to tell my students that a new holocaust begins with a sexist or ethnic joke because that is the most socially acceptable form of racism or sexism. “Gee sir, it’s only a joke!” Right. Tell it to the Jewish people and the Muslims, etc. Have a great show, Gwen!

      Liked by 1 person

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