John’s Believe It Or Not… May 23rd

In 1785 Benjamin Franklin announces his invention of bifocals. In 1934 Police kill famous outlaws Bonnie and Clyde. In 1949 Federal Republic of Germany is established. In 1900 Forgotten Civil War hero honored. In 1960 Eichmann captured.

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John Fioravanti Stands at the front of his classroom in 2006

It’s Tuesday – We Survived Monday Again! Did you know…

* 1785 Benjamin Franklin announces his invention of bifocals. (On May 23rd, 1785 Benjamin Franklin announced his invention of the bifocal eyeglass—forever enabling librarians and old folks to see both close-up and far away (while remaining stylish and chic). Franklin came up with the idea because he was “getting old” and had trouble seeing both up-close and at a distance. He was tired of having to switch between different pairs of glasses, so he devised a way to fit both types of lenses into one frame. He placed the distance lenses at the top of the frame and the up-close lenses at the bottom. The term “bifocals” actually was not coined by Franklin and did not come about until 1824 when John Isaac Hawkins invented trifocal lenses—wow, that is a lot of glass. Franklin referred to his invention as the “double spectacle.” Bifocals are most commonly prescribed for those who suffer from presbyopia, which is a condition where the eyes progressively lose their ability to focus on objects that are near. The condition commonly first appears between the ages of 40-50. Franklin wrote to and assured many of his aging friends that his glasses could correct their vision and possibly even extend the later years of their life. Since the time of Benjamin Franklin’s awesome invention, billions of regular ol’ people have improved their lives through the use of bifocals.)

Franklin's own sketch of "double spectacles", The Library of Congress
Franklin’s own sketch of “double spectacles”, The Library of Congress

* 1934 Police kill famous outlaws Bonnie and Clyde. (On this day in 1934, notorious criminals Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow are shot to death by Texas and Louisiana state police while driving a stolen car near Sailes, Louisiana. Bonnie Parker met the charismatic Clyde Barrow in Texas when she was 19 years old and her husband (she married when she was 16) was serving time in jail for murder. Shortly after they met, Barrow was imprisoned for robbery. Parker visited him every day and smuggled a gun into prison to help him escape, but he was soon caught in Ohio and sent back to jail. When Barrow was paroled in 1932, he immediately hooked up with Parker, and the couple began a life of crime together. After they stole a car and committed several robberies, Parker was caught by police and sent to jail for two months. Released in mid-1932, she rejoined Barrow. Over the next two years, the couple teamed with various accomplices to rob a string of banks and stores across five states–Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, New Mexico and Louisiana. To law enforcement agents, the Barrow Gang–including Barrow’s childhood friend, Raymond Hamilton, W.D. Jones, Henry Methvin, Barrow’s brother Buck and his wife Blanche, among others–were cold-blooded criminals who didn’t hesitate to kill anyone who got in their way, especially police or sheriff’s deputies. Among the public, however, Parker and Barrow’s reputation as dangerous outlaws was mixed with a romantic view of the couple as “Robin Hood”-like folk heroes. Their fame was increased by the fact that Bonnie was a woman–an unlikely criminal–and by the fact that the couple posed for playful photographs together, which were later found by police and released to the media. Police almost captured the famous duo twice in the spring of 1933, with surprise raids on their hideouts in Joplin and Platte City, Missouri. Buck Barrow was killed in the second raid, and Blanche was arrested, but Bonnie and Clyde escaped once again. In January 1934, they attacked the Eastham Prison Farm in Texas to help Hamilton break out of jail, shooting several guards with machine guns and killing one. Texan prison officials hired a retired Texas police officer, Captain Frank Hamer, as a special investigator to track down Parker and Barrow. After a three-month search, Hamer traced the couple to Louisiana, where Henry Methvin’s family lived. Before dawn on May 23, Hamer and a group of Louisiana and Texas lawmen hid in the bushes along a country road outside Sailes. When Parker and Barrow appeared, the officers opened fire, killing the couple instantly in a hail of bullets.)

Bonnie and Clyde Shot to Pieces in Police Ambush!
Bonnie and Clyde Shot to Pieces in Police Ambush! (History and Headlines)

* 1949 Federal Republic of Germany is established. (The Federal Republic of Germany (popularly known as West Germany) is formally established as a separate and independent nation. This action marked the effective end to any discussion of reuniting East and West Germany. In the period after World War II, Germany was divided into four occupation zones, with the British, French, Americans, and Soviets each controlling one zone. The city of Berlin was also divided in a like fashion. This arrangement was supposed to be temporary, but as Cold War animosities began to harden, it became increasingly evident that the division between the communist and non-communist controlled sections of Germany and Berlin would become permanent. In May 1946, the United States halted reparation payments from West Germany to the Soviet Union. In December, the United States and Great Britain combined their occupation zones into what came to be known as Bizonia. France agreed to become part of this arrangement, and in May 1949, the three zones became one. On May 23, the West German Parliamentary Council met and formally declared the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany. Although Konrad Adenauer, the president of the council and future president of West Germany, proudly proclaimed, “Today a new Germany arises,” the occasion was not a festive one. Many of the German representatives at the meeting were subdued, for they had harbored the faint hope that Germany might be reunified. Two communist members of the council refused to sign the proclamation establishing the new state. The Soviets reacted quickly to the action in West Germany. In October 1949, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) was officially announced. These actions in 1949 marked the end of any talk of a reunified Germany. For the next 41 years, East and West Germany served as symbols of the divided world, and of the Cold War animosities between the Soviet Union and the United States. In 1990, with Soviet strength ebbing and the Communist Party in East Germany steadily losing its grip on power, East, and West Germany were finally reunited as one nation.)

Map of Germany in 1947
(kmhouseindia – blogger)

* 1900 Forgotten Civil War hero honored. (Sergeant William Harvey Carney is awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery on July 18, 1863, while fighting for the Union cause as a member of the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry. He was the first African-American to receive the Medal of Honor, which is the nation’s highest military honor. The 54th Massachusetts, formed in early 1863, served as the prototype for African American regiments in the Union army. On July 16, 1863, the regiment saw its first action at James Island, South Carolina, performing admirably in a confrontation with experienced Confederate troops. Three days later, the 54th volunteered to lead the assault on Fort Wagner, a highly fortified outpost on Morris Island that was part of the Confederate defense of Charleston Harbor. Struggling against a lethal barrage of cannon and rifle fire, the regiment fought their way to the top of the fort’s parapet over several hours. Sergeant William Harvey Carney was wounded there while planting the U.S. flag. The regiment’s white commander, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, was killed, and his soldiers were overwhelmed by the fort’s defenders and had to fall back. Despite his wound, Carney refused to retreat until he removed the flag, and though successful, he was shot again in the process. The 54th lost 281 of its 600 men in its brave attempt to take Fort Wagner, which throughout the war never fell by force of arms. The 54th went on to perform honorably in expeditions in Georgia and Florida, most notably at the Battle of Olustee. Carney eventually recovered and was discharged with disability on June 30, 1864.)

Carvey would become the first African-American to be awarded the Medal of Honor in the military.
Carvey would become the first African-American to be awarded the Medal of Honor in the military. (Pinterest)

* 1960 Eichmann captured. (On May 23, 1960, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion announces to the world that Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann has been captured and will stand trial in Israel. Eichmann, the Nazi SS officer who organized Adolf Hitler’s “final solution of the Jewish question,” was seized by Israeli agents in Argentina on May 11 and smuggled to Israel nine days later. In May 1960, Argentina was celebrating the 150th anniversary of its revolution against Spain, and many tourists were traveling to Argentina from abroad to attend the festivities. The Mossad used the opportunity to smuggle more agents into the country. Israel, knowing that Argentina might never extradite Eichmann for trial, had decided to abduct him and take him to Israel illegally. On May 11, Mossad operatives descended on Garibaldi Street in San Fernando and snatched Eichmann away as he was walking from the bus to his home. His family called local hospitals but not the police, and Argentina knew nothing of the operation. On May 20, a drugged Eichmann was flown out of Argentina disguised as an Israeli airline worker who had suffered head trauma in an accident. Three days later, Prime Minister Ben-Gurion announced that Eichmann was in Israeli custody. Argentina demanded Eichmann’s return, but Israel argued that his status as an international war criminal gave it the right to proceed with a trial. On April 11, 1961, Eichmann’s trial began in Jerusalem. It was the first trial to be televised in history. Eichmann faced 15 charges, including crimes against humanity, crimes against the Jewish people, and war crimes. He claimed he was just following orders, but the judges disagreed, finding him guilty on all counts on December 15 and sentencing him to die. On May 31, 1962, he was hanged near Tel Aviv. His body was subsequently cremated and his ashes thrown into the sea.)

Adolf Eichmann on trial in Israel in 1960
Adolf Eichmann on trial in Israel in 1960 (Israel Hayom)

Acknowledged Sources:

* On This Day – History, Film, Music and Sport http://www.onthisday.com/

* This Day In History – What Happened Today http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/

* The Blue Ox Jerky Company             https://www.blueoxjerky.com/blogs/history/benjamin-franklin-invents-bifocals

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 (http://fiorabooks.com), to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

8 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… May 23rd”

    1. I don’t think those Nazis were any less fanatical than today’s terrorists – there would be no remorse in light of the belief that led to the atrocity. I hadn’t heard about Lt. Carvey either! I love finding these gems, John. Thanks for your comments.

      Liked by 1 person

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