John’s Believe It Or Not… May 14th

In 1847, the first ship carrying Irish immigrants arrived at Gross-Île, Quebec. In 1904, the Olympic Games were held in the USA for the first time. In 1948, the modern state of Israel was proclaimed. In 1955, the Warsaw Pact was formed. In 1973 Skylab was launched.

John Fioravanti Stands at the front of his classroom in 2006

It’s Mother’s Day! Did you know…

Bouquet of pink roses.

* 1847 – First of over 100,000 Irish immigrants, many stricken with famine and typhus, arrive18 at Grosse-Île. (In 1847, 100,000 Irish people traveled to Grosse Île to escape starvation, unaware of the hardships they would encounter upon arrival. The first “Famine ship” arrived on May 14, 1847, the ice still an inch thick on the river. Of that ship’s 241 passengers, 84 were stricken with fever and 9 had died on board. With the hospital only equipped for 150 cases of fever, the situation quickly spun out of control. More and more ships arrived at Grosse Île each day, sometimes lining up for miles down the St. Lawrence River throughout the summer. On these coffin ships – named for their crowded and deadly conditions – the number of passengers stricken by fever increased exponentially. The island was ill-equipped, to say the least. Hastily built, the quarantine hospitals lacked proper sanitation, supplies, and space to accommodate all the sick patients. Many of the doctors dispatched to Grosse Île had never even seen the effects of cholera let alone treated it, and all were overworked. Being taken to a quarantine hospital was soon viewed as more of a death sentence than an opportunity to get better.)

On May 31 1847 forty ships lay off Grosse Île with 12,500 passengers
On May 31, 1847, forty ships lay off Grosse Île with 12,500 passengers (Courtesy of IrishCentral)

* 1955 The Warsaw Pact is formed. (The Soviet Union and seven of its European satellites sign a treaty establishing the Warsaw Pact, a mutual defense organization that put the Soviets in command of the armed forces of the member states. The Warsaw Pact, so named because the treaty was signed in Warsaw, included the Soviet Union, Albania, Poland, Romania, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria as members. The treaty called on the member states to come to the defense of any member attacked by an outside force and it set up a unified military command under Marshal Ivan S. Konev of the Soviet Union. The introduction to the treaty establishing the Warsaw Pact indicated the reason for its existence. This revolved around “Western Germany, which is being remilitarized, and her inclusion in the North Atlantic bloc, which increases the danger of a new war and creates a threat to the national security of peace-loving states.” This passage referred to the decision by the United States and the other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on May 9, 1955, to make West Germany a member of NATO and allow that nation to remilitarize. The Soviets obviously saw this as a direct threat and responded with the Warsaw Pact. The Warsaw Pact remained intact until 1991.)

Map: 1955 West Germany joins NATO The Warsaw Pact is formed
1955 West Germany joins NATO The Warsaw Pact is formed (Courtesy of SlideShare)

* 1948 State of Israel proclaimed. (On May 14, 1948, in Tel Aviv, Jewish Agency Chairman David Ben-Gurion proclaims the State of Israel, establishing the first Jewish state in 2,000 years. In an afternoon ceremony at the Tel Aviv Art Museum, Ben-Gurion pronounced the words “We hereby proclaim the establishment of the Jewish state in Palestine, to be called Israel,” prompting applause and tears from the crowd gathered at the museum. Ben-Gurion became Israel’s first premier. In the distance, the rumble of guns could be heard from fighting that broke out between Jews and Arabs immediately following the British army withdrawal earlier that day. Egypt launched an air assault against Israel that evening. Despite a blackout in Tel Aviv–and the expected Arab invasion–Jews joyously celebrated the birth of their new nation, especially after word was received that the United States had recognized the Jewish state. At midnight, the State of Israel officially came into being upon termination of the British mandate in Palestine. Modern Israel has its origins in the Zionism movement, established in the late 19th century by Jews in the Russian Empire who called for the establishment of a territorial Jewish state after enduring persecution. In 1896, Jewish-Austrian journalist Theodor Herzl published an influential political pamphlet called The Jewish State, which argued that the establishment of a Jewish state was the only way of protecting Jews from anti-Semitism. Herzl became the leader of Zionism, convening the first Zionist Congress in Switzerland in 1897. Ottoman-controlled Palestine, the original home of the Jews, was chosen as the most desirable location for a Jewish state, and Herzl unsuccessfully petitioned the Ottoman government for a charter.)

Map of the new state of Israel
Courtesy of SlidePlayer

* 1973 Skylab launched. (Skylab, America’s first space station, is successfully launched into an orbit around the earth. Eleven days later, U.S. astronauts Charles Conrad, Joseph Kerwin, and Paul Weitz made a rendezvous with Skylab, repairing a jammed solar panel and conducting scientific experiments during their 28-day stay aboard the space station. The first manned Skylab mission came two years after the Soviet Union launched Salyut, the world’s first space station, into orbit around the earth. However, unlike the ill-fated Salyut, which was plagued with problems, the American space station was a great success, safely housing three separate three-man crews for extended periods of time and exceeding pre-mission plans for scientific study. Originally the spent third stage of a Saturn 5 moon rocket, the cylinder space station was 118 feet tall, weighed 77 tons, and carried the most varied assortment of experimental equipment ever assembled in a single spacecraft to that date. The crews of Skylab spent more than 700 hours observing the sun and brought home more than 175,000 solar pictures. They also provided important information about the biological effects of living in space for prolonged periods of time. Five years after the last Skylab mission, the space station’s orbit began to deteriorate faster than expected, owing to unexpectedly high sunspot activity. On July 11, 1979, the parts of the space station that did not burn up in the atmosphere came crashing down on Australia and into the Indian Ocean. No one was injured.)

Skylab Artist's Concept
Skylab Artist’s Concept (NASA)

* 1904 First American Olympiad. (The Third Olympiad of the modern era, and the first Olympic Games to be held in the United States, opens in St. Louis, Missouri. The 1904 Games were actually initially awarded to Chicago, Illinois, but were later given to St. Louis to be staged in connection with the St. Louis World Exposition. Like the Second Olympiad, held in Paris in 1900, the St. Louis Games were poorly organized and overshadowed by the world’s fair. There were few entrants other than Americans in the various events, and, expectedly, U.S. athletes won a majority of the competitions and the unofficial team championship. In the field events, the Americans made a near-perfect sweep, winning everything but lifting the bar and throwing the 56-pound weight. Twenty years later, the first truly successful Olympic Games were held in Paris, and since then, with increasing popularity, the games have been held in various cities around the globe.)

Photo: The Olympics left Europe for the first time in 1904 and arrived on U.S. soil.
The Olympics left Europe for the first time in 1904 and arrived on U.S. soil. (

Acknowledged Sources:

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* This Day In History – What Happened Today

* IrishCentral                           

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.

13 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… May 14th”

    1. Thanks, John. I know all those people were called ‘immigrants’, but I think they were true ‘refugees’ fleeing famine and disease. I began my teaching career the year Skylab was launched. Wow – 22 years old!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It was horrible, Robbie. I can’t imagine the suffering on these ships as families were decimated or wiped out entirely. For a time, Ireland’s biggest export was people. We have a large contingent of Irish in Canada – as a matter of fact, it was the large numbers of Irish in Ontario that fought hard to have a publicly funded Catholic system of education – that has persevered to the present day. Personally, I’m an interesting genetic mix inheriting my mother’s Irish temper and mt father’s Italian temperament. My father referred to my siblings and myself as “Mediterranean Irishmen”. As usual, he wasn’t far wrong!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Another informative posting, John. Thank you! Reading about the Irish immigrants brought me back to my family’s lineage. I believe tragedy can become cellular, affecting generations. When I saw the movie Gangs of New York, I saw today as well. So, I’m left wondering, how do we collectively reach through time to heal – if, indeed, we carry sorrows we never have seen? Have a great day, John.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Gwen. I’m half Irish myself – my maternal grandmother’s family (Freemans from County Cork) came to Canada during this time period. I think we do carry forth the pain and suffering of past generations and this can be seen most clearly in the people belonging to the groups most victimized by racism or discrimination. I believe we can heal but that is an act of the will. As long as we decide to harbor within the pain of the past, there will be no forgiveness and no healing. I think that the act of true forgiveness is one of the most difficult states to achieve. Thanks for this insightful comment. Happy Mother’s Day, Gwen!


I love comments & questions! Please share your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s