John’s Believe It Or Not… June 17th

In 1871 – Barnum Giants Anna Swan of Nova Scotia and Martin Buren of Kentucky get married. In 1919 – J. S. Woodsworth jailed along with 9 other leaders of the Winnipeg Central Strike Committee. In 1631 – Mumtaz Mahal Dies During Childbirth. In 1885 Statue of Liberty arrives in New York Harbor. In 1994 O.J. Simpson arrested after a flight from justice.

John Fioravanti teaching at the blackboard.

It’s Saturday! Yay! Did you know…

* 1871 – Barnum Giants Anna Swan of Nova Scotia and Martin Buren of Kentucky get married. (Anna Swann was born in 1846 at Mill Brook, Nova Scotia. At age five, she was 4 feet 8 inches (142 cm) tall and weighed over 100 pounds (45 kg). At 22, she weighed 352 pounds (160 kg) and was 7 feet 6 inches (228 cm) tall.

In 1862, Anna was offered a job with P.T. Barnum that paid $1,000 a month and provided a private tutor so Anna could continue her studies. Anna was on display at the American Museum in New York. As the only female giant in the world at the time, Anna attracted large crowds. When a fire broke out in the museum in 1865, Anna nearly burned to death. The stairway was blocked by flames and she could not fit through the windows. Fortunately, museum employees smashed the wall around a third-floor window, then lifted Anna to safety using a block and tackle with 18 men holding the rope. 

While crossing the Atlantic Ocean for a European tour, Anna met Kentucky giant Martin Van Buren Bates. They married in England on June 17, 1871, and toured together as the world’s largest married couple, giving command performances for Queen Victoria and the then Prince of Wales. Returning to North America, Anna’s husband built them a house in Ohio with 14-foot ceilings and furniture made to measure. Though the couple had a daughter, and later a son, both children were abnormally large and neither infant survived. Anna died of tuberculosis in 1888.)

Wedding picture
Wedding picture (Pinterest)

* 1919 – J. S. Woodsworth jailed along with 9 other leaders of the Winnipeg Central Strike Committee. (The Winnipeg General Strike, 15 May-25 June 1919, is Canada’s best-known general strike. Massive unemployment and inflation, the success of the Russian Revolution in 1917, and rising Revolutionary Industrial Unionism all contributed to the postwar labor unrest that fuelled the landmark strike.

In Winnipeg on 15 May, when negotiations broke down between management and labor in the building and metal trades, the Winnipeg Trades and Labor Council (WTLC) called a general strike. At stake was the principle of collective bargaining, and better wages and working conditions. Within hours almost 30,000 workers left their jobs. The almost unanimous response by working men and women closed the city’s factories, crippled Winnipeg’s retail trade and stopped trains. Public-sector employees, including policemen, firemen, postal workers, telephone operators and employees of waterworks and other utilities, joined the workers of private industry in an impressive display of solidarity.                                      
The strike was coordinated by the Central Strike Committee, composed of delegates elected from each of the unions affiliated with the WTLC. The committee bargained with employers on behalf of the workers and coordinated the provision of essential services.
Meanwhile, opposition to the strike was organized by the Citizens’ Committee of 1,000, created shortly after the strike began. The committee was made up of Winnipeg’s most influential manufacturers, bankers, and politicians. Rather than giving the strikers’ demands any serious consideration, the Citizens’ Committee, with the support of Winnipeg’s leading newspapers, declared the strike a revolutionary conspiracy led by a small group of “alien scum.” Though evidence failed to support its charges that the strike was initiated by European workers and Bolsheviks, the Citizens’ Committee used these unsubstantiated charges to block any conciliation efforts.

Afraid the strike would spark confrontations in other cities, the federal government decided to intervene. Soon after the strike began, Senator Gideon Robertson, minister of labor, and Arthur Meighen, minister of the interior and acting minister of justice, went to Winnipeg to meet with the Citizens’ Committee. They refused requests from the Central Strike Committee for a similar hearing. On Citizens’ Committee’s advice, the federal government swiftly supported the employers. Federal workers were ordered to return to work immediately or face dismissal. The Immigration Act was amended so British-born immigrants could be deported. The Criminal Code’s definition of sedition was also broadened.
On 17 June the government arrested 10 leaders of the Central Strike Committee and two propagandists from the newly formed One Big Union. Four days later, a charge by Royal North-West Mounted Police into a crowd of strikers resulted in 30 casualties, including one death. Known as “Bloody Saturday”, it ended with federal troops occupying the city’s streets. Six of the labor leaders were released, but Fred Dixon and J.S. Woodsworth arrested. Faced with the combined forces of the government and the employers, the strikers decided to return to work on 25 June.)

Mounted Police gather along Main Street during the strike, June 1919. Source: Archives of Manitoba, Foote Collection 1699, N2761.
Mounted Police gather along Main Street during the strike, June 1919. Source: Archives of Manitoba, Foote Collection 1699, N2761.

* 1631 – Mumtaz Mahal Dies During Childbirth. (On June 17th, 1631 Mumtaz Mahal, the beloved wife of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, died while giving birth to their fourteenth child in Burhanpur, Madhya Pradesh. Thereafter, Shah Jahan spent more than twenty years building the Taj Mahal in memory of his beloved wife.

The Taj Mahal is probably the world’s most recognized building apart from being called one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World”. This magnificent, white marble mausoleum was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as the final resting place for his wife Arjuman Banu (also known as Mumtaz Mahal).

Historical records portray Mumtaz Mahal to be a woman who nurtured no political ambition, a sharp contrast to her aunt and mother-in-law, Empress Nur Jehan who had controlled the previous reign strongly. A gentle and compassionate person, Mumtaz Mahal took up the cause of the poor and helpless. She requested her husband Shah Jahan to provide aid to his poorer subjects. Mumtaz Mahal was fond of architecture and used to spend a lot of time tending to a riverside garden in Agra, she also enjoyed watching combat fights in court.)

The Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal (Reverse Ritual)

* 1885 Statue of Liberty arrives in New York Harbor. (On this day in 1885, the dismantled Statue of Liberty, a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of America, arrives in New York Harbor after being shipped across the Atlantic Ocean in 350 individual pieces packed in more than 200 cases. The copper and iron statue, which was reassembled and dedicated the following year in a ceremony presided over by U.S. President Grover Cleveland, became known around the world as an enduring symbol of freedom and democracy.

Finally completed in Paris in the summer of 1884, the statue, a robed female figure with an uplifted arm holding a torch, reached its new home on Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor (between New York City and Hudson County, New Jersey) on June 17, 1885. After being reassembled, the 450,000-pound statue was officially dedicated on October 28, 1886, by President Cleveland, who said, “We will not forget that Liberty has here made her home; nor shall her chosen altar be neglected.” Standing more than 305 feet from the foundation of its pedestal to the top of its torch, the statue, dubbed “Liberty Enlightening the World” by Bartholdi, was taller than any structure in New York City at the time. The statue was originally copper-colored, but over the years it underwent a natural color-change process called patination that produced its current greenish-blue hue.

Some 60 years after President Calvin Coolidge designated the statue a national monument in 1924, it underwent a multi-million-dollar restoration (which included a new torch and gold leaf-covered flame) and was rededicated by President Ronald Reagan on July 4, 1986, in a lavish celebration. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the statue was closed; its base, pedestal and observation deck re-opened in 2004, while its crown re-opened to the public on July 4, 2009. (For safety reasons, the torch has been closed to visitors since 1916, after an incident called the Black Tom explosions in which munitions-laden barges and railroad cars on the Jersey City, New Jersey, waterfront were blown up by German agents, causing damage to the nearby statue.)

Statue of Liberty in workshop
Statue of Liberty in workshop (Smithsonian Magazine)

* 1994 O.J. Simpson arrested after a flight from justice. (After a dramatic flight from justice witnessed by millions on live television, former football star and actor O.J. Simpson surrenders outside his Rockingham estate to Los Angeles police. The police charged him with the June 12 double-murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald L. Goldman.

Earlier in the day, after learning he was to be arraigned on the charges, Simpson attempted to escape Los Angeles, but the police located him in a vehicle being driven by his friend, former professional football player Al Cowlings. Simpson, speaking on a cellular phone to the police, explained that he had a gun and was suicidal, and the police agreed not to stop his vehicle by force. Los Angeles news helicopters soon learned of the event unfolding on their freeways, and live television coverage of Simpson’s attempted flight began. As millions watched, Cowlings drove Simpson’s white Ford Bronco, escorted by a phalanx of police cars, across Los Angeles while Simpson cowered in the back seat, allegedly with a gun to his head.

Finally, after nearly nine hours on the road, the Bronco returned to the Rockingham estate, and a tense 90-minute standoff in the driveway ensued before Simpson finally surrendered. In the vehicle and on his person were discovered the gun, a mustache and goatee disguise, and his passport.

His lengthy criminal trial was a sensational media event that brought to light racial divisions present in America while also, some believed, calling the U.S. justice system into question. In polls, a majority of African Americans consistently believed Simpson, who was black, to be innocent of the murder of the white victims, while the vast majority of white Americans, supported by the media and law enforcement, maintained Simpson’s guilt.)

Simpson Held After Wild Chase: He's Charged With Murder of Ex-Wife, Friend - LA Times
Simpson Held After Wild Chase: He’s Charged With Murder of Ex-Wife, Friend – LA Times

Today’s Sources:

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* On This Day – History, Film, Music and Sport

* This Day In History – What Happened Today

* Library and Archives Canada                   

* The Canadian Encyclopedia                           

* Maps of India                                                        


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.

12 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… June 17th”

  1. Wonderful, John. The Statue of Liberty and the Taj Mahal are wonders for sure. They each represent love of a different scope. I still wonder at the debacle called O.J.Simpson. The strike is amazing as are the giants.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comments, John. The Winnipeg General Strike reminds me that it was the utter greed of business owners and disregard for the workers that gave birth to the union movement. It is the dark side of capitalism.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Another great post, John. I did not know the story behind the Taj Mahal and simply knew it as one of the 7 Wonders of the World. Now I see it as a husband’s magnificent tribute to his wife. Wow, a love story birthed this extraordinary structure – but how could it not have been so? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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