John’s Believe It Or Not… April 25th

John Fioravanti standing at the front of his classroom.

It’s Tuesday Already! Did you know…

* 1849 – Lord Elgin signs Rebellion Losses Bill; Tory mobs set fire to the Legislature. (Elgin signs the Rebellion Losses Bill, providing payment for people who lost property in the rebellions of 1837-1838, including rebels. Angry Tory mobs are furious the Queen’s representative would sign a bill rewarding treason. They throw garbage and dead rats at members of the Assembly and pelt an official reading the Riot Act with onions. That night, the mobs set fire to the Legislature in the St. Anne’s Market, destroying parliamentary and government records; the official portrait of Queen Victoria is rescued from the flames by a young engineer named Sandford Fleming. Lord Elgin barely escapes. As a result of this lack of public security in Montreal, the government decides to move to Toronto; so begins the period of wandering government, when Kingston and Quebec City will also share the duties of being the capital of the Canadas. The story of the wandering government of the united Canadas [present-day Ontario & Quebec] is a tale for another day. Who says Canadian history is boring?)

Painting showing the Parliament building fire in Montreal

* 1959 – Icebreaker D’Iberville opens the eastern section of the new St. Lawrence Seaway for traffic. (The St. Lawrence section of the St. Lawrence Seaway opens for traffic as the First ship, the icebreaker D’Iberville, enters the locks south of Montréal; the first westbound vessel is the Simcoe, a thirty- six-year-old, coal-burning, Canadian canaller; thirty hours later Simcoe reaches Kingston, to take on a load of grain; the 650 km. waterway between Montréal and Lake Erie links the Great Lakes together as far as Duluth, Minnesota on Lake Superior – a distance of 3776 kilometers from the Atlantic Ocean. To commemorate the event, Canada and the US both issued a similar Seaway stamp. Some of the Canadian issue got inverted, resulting in a collector’s dream. Queen Elizabeth II and US President Dwight Eisenhower will officially open the Seaway on June 26, 1959.)

Map showing the St. Lawrence Seaway

* 1983 Andropov writes to U.S. student. (On this day in 1983, the Soviet Union releases a letter that Russian leader Yuri Andropov wrote to Samantha Smith, an American fifth-grader from Manchester, Maine, inviting her to visit his country. Andropov’s letter came in response to a note Smith had sent him in December 1982, asking if the Soviets were planning to start a nuclear war. At the time, the United States and the Soviet Union were Cold War enemies. President Ronald Reagan, a passionate anti-communist, had dubbed the Soviet Union the “evil empire” and called for massive increases in U.S. defense spending to meet the perceived Soviet threat. In his public relations duel with Reagan, known as the “Great Communicator,” Andropov, who had succeeded longtime Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in 1982, assumed a folksy, almost grandfatherly approach that was incongruous with the negative image most Americans had of the Soviets. Andropov’s letter said that Russian people wanted to “live in peace, to trade and cooperate with all our neighbors on the globe, no matter how close or far away they are, and, certainly, with such a great country as the United States of America.” In response to Smith’s question about whether the Soviet Union wished to prevent nuclear war, Andropov declared, “Yes, Samantha, we in the Soviet Union are endeavoring and doing everything so that there will be no war between our two countries so that there will be no war at all on earth.” Andropov also complimented Smith, comparing her to the spunky character Becky Thatcher from “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain. Smith, born June 29, 1972, accepted Andropov’s invitation and flew to the Soviet Union with her parents for a visit. Afterward, she became an international celebrity and peace ambassador, making speeches, writing a book and even landing a role on an American television series. In February 1984, Yuri Andropov died from kidney failure and was succeeded by Konstantin Chernenko. The following year, in August 1985, Samantha Smith died tragically in a plane crash at age 13.)

Samantha Smith holds a letter she received from Soviet Premiere Yuri Andropov in 1983
Samantha Smith holds a letter she received from Soviet Premiere Yuri Andropov in 1983

Head shot of Andropov







* 1859 Ground broken for Suez Canal. (At Port Said, Egypt, ground is broken for the Suez Canal, an artificial waterway intended to stretch 101 miles across the isthmus of Suez and connect the Mediterranean and the Red seas. Ferdinand de Lesseps, the French diplomat who organized the colossal undertaking, delivered the pickax blow that inaugurated construction. Artificial canals have been built in the Suez region, which connects the continents of Asia and Africa, since ancient times. Under the Ptolemaic rulers of Egypt, a channel connected the Bitter Lakes to the Red Sea, and a canal reached northward from Lake Timsah as far as the Nile River. These canals fell into disrepair or were intentionally destroyed for military reasons. As early as the 15th century, Europeans speculated about building a canal across the Suez, which would allow traders to sail from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean via the Red Sea, rather than having to sail the great distance around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope.)

Map of the canal area

* 1990 Space telescope in orbit. (The crew of the U.S. space shuttle Discovery places the Hubble Space Telescope, a long-term space-based observatory, into a low orbit around Earth. The space telescope, conceived in the 1940s, designed in the 1970s, and built in the 1980s, was designed to give astronomers an unparalleled view of the solar system, the galaxy, and the universe. Initially, Hubble’s operators suffered a setback when a lens aberration was discovered, but a repair mission by space-walking astronauts in December 1993 successfully fixed the problem, and Hubble began sending back its first breathtaking images of the universe. Free of atmospheric distortions, Hubble has a resolution 10 times that of ground-based observatories. About the size of a bus, the telescope is solar-powered and orbits Earth once every 97 minutes. Among its many astronomical achievements, Hubble has been used to record a comet’s collision with Jupiter, provide a direct look at the surface of Pluto, view distant galaxies, gas clouds, and black holes, and see billions of years into the universe’s past.)

The Hubble telescope in orbit.
The Hubble Space Telescope was carried into space in the year 1990 by a space shuttle mission. It is still operational in the low orbit of the earth

Look who was born on this date!

Portrait of Cromwell* Oliver Cromwell in 1859. (English Military and Political Leader:  Leader of Parliamentary forces in the English Civil War, reluctantly agreed to be appointed Lord Protector after the execution of Charles I. One of only two commoners to become the English head of state, the other being his son, Richard Cromwell.)


head shot of Marconi* Guglielmo Marconi in 1874. (Italian Inventor and Nobel Laureate:  Italian inventor, known for his pioneering work on long-distance radio transmission and for his development of Marconi’s law and a radio telegraph system. Which gained him the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics.)



Head shot of Fitzgerald* Ella Fitzgerald in 1917. (American Jazz Musician:  Interpreter of the Great American Songbook. She sold 40 million copies of her more than 70 albums, won 13 Grammy Awards and was awarded the National Medal of Arts.)


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… April 25th”

  1. What I REALLY cannot believe, John, is that it is April 25th already, lol.

    Never having been a Reagan admirer – especially of his “communication” and [lack of long-term] thinking skills – I especially loved the Samantha Smith excerpt and admire Andropov’s response. Now THAT’s an example of “a great communicator.”

    Americans (especially right now with our current administration, unfortunately) tend to judge the reach of a message, overlooking the come-from and potential consequences entirely. Hate breeds hate, and is LOUSY communication.
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”


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