John’s Believe It Or Not… June 19th

In 1793 – Upper Canada Assembly passes an act banning the import of slaves. In 1862 Slavery outlawed in US territories. In 1953 Rosenbergs executed. In 1864 CSS Alabama sinks off the coast of France. In 1905 First Nickelodeon opens.

John Fioravanti teaching at the blackboard.

Oh, oh… It’s Monday! Did you know…

* 1793 – Upper Canada Assembly passes an act banning the import of slaves. (The Act Against Slavery was an anti-slavery law passed on July 9, 1793, in the second legislative session of Upper Canada, the colonial division of British North America that would eventually become Ontario. It banned the importation of slaves and mandated that children born henceforth to female slaves would be freed upon reaching the age of 25.
John Graves Simcoe, Lieutenant Governor of the colony, had been a supporter of abolition before coming to Upper Canada; as a British Member of Parliament, he had described slavery as an offense against Christianity. By 1792 the slave population in Upper Canada was not large. However, when compared with the number of free settlers, the number was not insignificant. In York (the present-day city of Toronto) there were 15 African-Canadians living, while in Quebec some 1000 slaves could be found. Furthermore, by the time the Act Against Slavery would be ratified, the number of slaves residing in Upper Canada had been significantly increased by the arrival of Loyalists refugees from the south who brought with them, servants and slaves.

At the inaugural meeting of the Executive Council of Upper Canada in March 1793, Simcoe heard from a witness the story of Chloe Cooley, a female slave who had been violently removed from Canada for sale in the United States. Simcoe’s desire to abolish slavery in Upper Canada was resisted by members of the Legislative Assembly who owned slaves, and therefore the resulting act was a compromise. The bulk of the text is due to John White, the Attorney General of the day. Of the 16 members of the assembly, at least six owned slaves.

The law, titled An Act to Prevent the further Introduction of Slaves and to limit the Term of Contracts for Servitude within this Province, stated that while all slaves in the province would remain enslaved until death, no new slaves could be brought into Upper Canada, and children born to female slaves after passage of the act would be freed at the age of 25.

This law made Upper Canada “the first British colony to abolish slavery”. The Act remained in force until 1833 when the British Parliament’s Slavery Abolition Act abolished slavery in most parts of the British Empire.)

The Act Against Slavery (Wikipedia)
The Act Against Slavery (Wikipedia)

* 1862 Slavery outlawed in US territories. (The Emancipation Proclamation was a presidential proclamation and executive order issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863. It changed the federal legal status of more than 3 million enslaved people in the designated areas of the South from slave to free. As soon as a slave escaped the control of the Confederate government, by running away or through advances of federal troops, the slave became legally free. Eventually, it reached and liberated all of the designated slaves. It did not cover slaves in Union areas that were freed by state action (or by the 13th amendment in December 1865). It was issued as a war measure during the American Civil War, directed to all of the areas in rebellion and all segments of the executive branch (including the Army and Navy) of the United States.

It proclaimed the freedom of all slaves in ten states. Because it was issued under the President’s authority to suppress rebellion (war powers), it necessarily excluded areas not in rebellion – it applied to more than 3 million of the 4 million slaves at the time. The Proclamation was based on the president’s constitutional authority as commander in chief of the armed forces; it was not a law passed by Congress. The Proclamation was issued in January 1863 after U.S government issued a series of warnings in the summer of 1862 under the Second Confiscation Act, allowing Southern Confederate supporters 60 days to surrender, or face confiscation of land and slaves. The Proclamation also ordered that suitable persons among those freed could be enrolled into the paid service of United States’ forces, and ordered the Union Army (and all segments of the Executive branch) to “recognize and maintain the freedom of” the ex-slaves. The Proclamation did not compensate the owners, did not outlaw slavery and did not grant citizenship to the ex-slaves (called freedmen). It made the eradication of slavery an explicit war goal, in addition to the goal of reuniting the Union.)

Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln
Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln (Bhavanajagat)

* 1953 Rosenbergs executed. (On this day in 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted of conspiring to pass U.S. atomic secrets to the Soviets, are executed at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York. Both refused to admit any wrongdoing and proclaimed their innocence right up to the time of their deaths, by the electric chair. The Rosenbergs were the first U.S. citizens to be convicted and executed for espionage during peacetime and their case remains controversial to this day.

Julius Rosenberg was an engineer for the U.S. Army Signal Corps who was born in New York on May 12, 1918. His wife, born Ethel Greenglass, also in New York, on September 28, 1915, worked as a secretary. The couple met as members of the Young Communist League, married in 1939 and had two sons. Julius Rosenberg was arrested on suspicion of espionage on June 17, 1950, and accused of heading a spy ring that passed top-secret information concerning the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. Ethel was arrested two months later. The Rosenbergs were implicated by David Greenglass, Ethel’s younger brother and a former army sergeant and machinist at Los Alamos, the secret atomic bomb lab in New Mexico. Greenglass, who himself had confessed to providing nuclear secrets to the Soviets through an intermediary, testified against his sister and brother-in-law in court. He later served 10 years in prison.

The Rosenbergs vigorously protested their innocence, but after a brief trial that began on March 6, 1951, and attracted much media attention, the couple was convicted. On April 5, 1951, a judge sentenced them to death and the pair was taken to Sing Sing to await execution.)

Execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg
Execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (

* 1864 CSS Alabama sinks off the coast of France. (Off the coast of Cherbourg, France, the Confederate raider CSS Alabama loses a ship-to-ship duel with the USS Kearsarge and sinks to the floor of the Atlantic, ending an illustrious career that saw some 68 Union merchant vessels destroyed or captured by the Confederate raider.                                                

At the outset of the Civil War, the Union began an increasingly successful blockade of Southern ports and coasts, crippling the economies of the Confederate States. In retaliation, Confederate raiders, outfitted in the South and abroad, launched an effective guerrilla war at sea against Union merchant shipping. In 1862, the CSS Alabama, a 1,000-ton screw steam sloop of war, was built at Liverpool, England, for the Confederate Navy. Britain had proclaimed neutrality in the Civil War but was sympathetic to the Southern cause and gave tacit aid to the Confederacy in the opening years of the conflict. Before the Alabama was put to sea, the Union government learned of its construction, but the protestations of the U.S. ambassador did not prevent it from sailing from Liverpool. After leaving British waters disguised as a merchant ship, the Alabama was outfitted as a combatant by supply ships and placed in commission on August 24, 1862.

After an initial exchange of gunfire, the battle quickly turned against the Alabama, whose deteriorated gunpowder and shells failed to penetrate the Kearsarge‘s chain-cable armor. Within an hour, the Alabama was reduced to a sinking wreck. Captain Semmes tried to retreat back to Cherbourg, but his way was blocked by the Kearsarge, and he was forced to strike his colors. The crew abandoned ship, and the Alabama went down into the Channel. The survivors were rescued by the Kearsarge and the British yacht Deerhound, which had been observing the battle. Those picked up by the latter, including Semmes and most of his officers, were taken to England and thus escaped arrest.)

The Sinking Of The Alabama 1864
The Sinking Of The Alabama 1864
by unknown artist.(

* 1905 First Nickelodeon opens. (On this day in 1905, some 450 people attend the opening day of the world’s first Nickelodeon, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and developed by the showman Harry Davis. The storefront theater boasted 96 seats and charged each patron five cents. Nickelodeons (named for a combination of the admission cost and the Greek word for “theater”) soon spread across the country. Their usual offerings included live vaudeville acts as well as short films. By 1907, some 2 million Americans had visited a Nickelodeon, and the storefront theaters remained the main outlet for films until they were replaced around 1910 by large modern theaters.

Inventors in Europe and the United States, including Thomas Edison, had been developing movie cameras since the late 1880s. Early films could only be viewed as peep shows, but by the late 1890s movies could be projected onto a screen. Audiences were beginning to attend public demonstrations, and several movie “factories” (as the earliest production studios were called) were formed. In 1896, the Edison Company inaugurated the era of commercial movies, showing a collection of moving images as a minor act in a vaudeville show that also included live performers, among whom were a Russian clown, an “eccentric dancer” and a “gymnastic comedian.” The film, shown at Koster and Bial’s Music Hall in New York City, featured images of dancers, ocean waves, and gondolas.

Short films, usually less than a minute long, became a regular part of vaudeville shows at the turn of the century as “chasers” to clear out the audience after a show. A vaudeville performers’ strike in 1901, however, left theaters scrambling for acts, and movies became the main event. In the earliest years, vaudeville theater owners had to purchase films from factories via mail order, rather than renting them, which made it expensive to change shows frequently. Starting in 1902, Henry Miles of San Francisco began renting films to theaters, forming the basis of today’s distribution system. The first theater devoted solely to films, The Electric Theater in Los Angeles, opened in 1902. Housed in a tent, the theater’s first screening included a short called New York in a Blizzard. Admission cost about 10 cents for a one-hour show. Nickelodeons developed soon after, offering both movies and live acts.)

By 1905, Harry Davis opens the first nickelodeon in Pittsburgh.
By 1905, Harry Davis opens the first Nickelodeon in Pittsburgh. (Pinterest)

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

* Wikipedia – The Free Encyclopedia                 


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.

14 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… June 19th”

    1. It was a beginning, Robbie – of course, Upper Canada (Ontario) was still a fledgling colony at the time – and it was interesting how the legislation was compromised because of the influx of slave-owning Loyalists from the 13 Colonies (USA). Thanks for your comment, dear.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Fascinating, John. I did not know the story of the CSS Alabama (or the raider ships). It’s surprising to read of Britain’s involvement. Thank you for this posting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Britain was still smarting from the Revolutionary War and was looking to undermine the new nation. As well, the products of the South fed Britain’s textile industry – so it was in Britain’s best economic interest to thwart the Union’s blockade. Also, the Fenians used this as an excuse to raid Canada. Thanks for your comment, Gwen!


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