John’s Believe It Or Not… July 9th

In 1793 – John Graves Simcoe passes Act Against Slavery. In 1893 Daniel Williams performs 1st successful open heart surgery without anesthesia. In 1877 Wimbledon tournament begins. In 1960 Khrushchev and Eisenhower trade threats over Cuba. In 1993 Romanov remains identified.

John Fioravanti is standing in front of the blackboard in his classroom.

It’s Sunday! Did you know…

* 1793 – John Graves Simcoe passes Act Against Slavery. (Although little is known about Chloe Cooley, an enslaved woman in Upper Canada, her struggles against her “owner,” Sergeant Adam Vrooman, precipitated the Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada, 1793 — the first legislation in the British colonies to restrict the slave trade.
The Act recognized enslavement as a legal and socially accepted institution. It also prohibited the importation of new slaves into Upper Canada and reflected a growing abolitionist sentiment in British North America.

Chloe Cooley was a Black woman enslaved by United Empire Loyalist Sergeant Adam Vrooman — a resident of Queenston, Upper Canada. On 14 March 1793, Vrooman violently bound Cooley in a boat and transported her across the Niagara River to be sold in New York State. Cooley resisted fiercely, causing Vrooman to require the assistance of two other men — his brother Isaac Vrooman and one of the five sons of Loyalist McGregory Van Every, a number of whom served with their father in the Butler’s Rangers.

Peter Martin, a Black Loyalist and fellow veteran of Butler’s Rangers, witnessed Cooley’s struggles and screams and, along with witness William Grisley, reported the incident to Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe and the Executive Council of Upper Canada. Grisley, a white resident of nearby Mississauga Point and employee of Sergeant Vrooman’s, was able to provide a detailed account of the events as he was on the boat that transported Cooley but did not assist in restraining her.

Simcoe used the Chloe Cooley incident as a means to introduce legislation to abolish slavery in Upper Canada. On 19 June 1793, Attorney General John White introduced an abolition bill to the House of Assembly, which he said received “much opposition but little argument” from government slaveholders. At least 12 members of the 25-person government owned slaves or were members of slave-owning families. After going through the legislative process, the government brokered a compromise and passed An Act to Prevent the further Introduction of Slaves and to limit the Term of Contracts for Servitude (also known as the Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada). Simcoe gave the bill Royal Assent on 9 July 1793 and expressed his hope that those who were enslaved “may henceforth look forward with certainty to the emancipation of their offspring.”)

In 1793 Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe passed a law in Upper Canada barring the importing of slaves ...
In 1793 Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe passed a law in Upper Canada barring the importing of slaves … (City of Toronto)

* 1893 Daniel Williams performs 1st successful open heart surgery without anesthesia. (Daniel Hale Williams, (born Jan. 18, 1858, Hollidaysburg, Pa.—died Aug. 4, 1931, Idlewild, Mich.), American physician and founder of Provident Hospital in Chicago, credited with the first successful heart surgery.

Williams graduated from Chicago Medical College in 1883. He served as surgeon for the South Side Dispensary (1884–92) and physician for the Protestant Orphan Asylum (1884–93). In response to the lack of opportunity for blacks in the medical professions, he founded (1891) the nation’s first interracial hospital, Provident, to provide training for black interns and the first school for black nurses in the United States. He was a surgeon at Provident (1892–93, 1898–1912) and surgeon in chief of Freedmen’s Hospital, Washington, D.C. (1894–98), where he established another school for black nurses.

It was at Provident Hospital that Williams performed daring heart surgery on July 10, 1893. Although contemporary medical opinion disapproved of surgical treatment of heart wounds, Williams opened the patient’s thoracic cavity without the aid of blood transfusions or modern anesthetics and antibiotics. During the surgery, he examined the heart, sutured a wound of the pericardium (the sac surrounding the heart), and closed the chest. The patient lived at least 20 years following the surgery. Williams’ procedure is cited as the first recorded repair of the pericardium; some sources, however, cite a similar operation performed by H.C. Dalton of St. Louis in 1891.

Williams later served on the staffs of Cook County Hospital (1903–09) and St. Luke’s Hospital (1912–31), both in Chicago. From 1899 he was professor of clinical surgery at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn., and was a member of the Illinois State Board of Health (1889–91). He published several articles on surgery in medical journals. Williams became the only black charter member of the American College of Surgeons in 1913.)

Dr. Daniel Hale Williams
Dr. Daniel Hale Williams (Chicago Tribune)

* 1877 Wimbledon tournament begins. (On July 9, 1877, the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club begins its first lawn tennis tournament at Wimbledon, then an outer suburb of London. Twenty-one amateurs showed up to compete in the Gentlemen’s Singles tournament, the only event at the first Wimbledon. The winner was to take home a 25-guinea trophy.

Tennis has its origins in a 13th-century French handball game called jeu de paume, or “game of the palm,” from which developed an indoor racket-and-ball game called real, or “royal,” tennis. Real tennis grew into lawn tennis, which was played outside on grass and enjoyed a surge of popularity in the late 19th century.

In 1868, the All England Club was established on four acres of meadowland outside London. The club was originally founded to promote croquet, another lawn sport, but the growing popularity of tennis led it to incorporate tennis lawns into its facilities. In 1877, the All England Club published an announcement in the weekly sporting magazine The Field that read: “The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon, propose [sic] to hold a lawn tennis meeting open to all amateurs, on Monday, July 9, and following days. Entrance fee, one pound, one shilling.”

The All English Club purchased a 25-guinea trophy and drew up formal rules for tennis. It decided on a rectangular court 78 feet long by 27 feet wide; adapted the real tennis method of scoring based on a clock face—i.e., 15, 30, 40, game; established that the first to win six games wins a set; and allowed the server one fault. These decisions, largely the work of club member Dr. Henry Jones, remain part of the modern rules.

Twenty-two men registered for the tournament, but only 21 showed up on July 9 for its first day. The 11 survivors were reduced to six the next day, and then to three. Semifinals were held on July 12, but then the tournament was suspended to leave the London sporting scene free for the Eton vs. Harrow cricket match played on Friday and Saturday. The final was scheduled for Monday, July 16, but, in what would become a common occurrence in future Wimbledon tournaments, the match was rained out.)

1877 women put skirts on men to play tennis cartoon – Punch magazine
1877 women put skirts on men to play tennis cartoon – Punch magazine (

* 1960 Khrushchev and Eisenhower trade threats over Cuba. (President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev trade verbal threats over the future of Cuba. In the following years, Cuba became a dangerous focus in the Cold War competition between the United States and Russia.

In January 1959, Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro overthrew the long-time dictator Fulgencio Batista. Although the United States recognized the new Castro regime, many members of the Eisenhower administration harbored deep suspicions concerning the political orientation of the charismatic new Cuban leader. For his part, Castro was careful to avoid concretely defining his political beliefs during his first months in power. Castro’s actions, however, soon convinced U.S. officials that he was moving to establish a communist regime in Cuba. Castro pushed through land reform that hit hard at U.S. investors, expelled the U.S. military missions to Cuba, and, in early 1960, announced that Cuba would trade its sugar to Russia in exchange for oil. In March 1960, Eisenhower gave the CIA the go-ahead to arm and train a group of Cuban refugees to overthrow the Castro regime. It was in this atmosphere that Eisenhower and Khrushchev engaged in some verbal sparring in July 1960.

Khrushchev fired the first shots during a speech in Moscow. He warned that the Soviet Union was prepared to use its missiles to protect Cuba from U.S. intervention. “One should not forget,” the Soviet leader declared, “that now the United States is no longer at an unreachable distance from the Soviet Union as it was before.” He charged that the United States was “plotting insidious and criminal steps” against Cuba. In a statement issued to the press, Eisenhower responded to Khrushchev’s speech, warning that the United States would not countenance the “establishment of a regime dominated by international communism in the Western Hemisphere.” The Soviet Premier’s threat of retaliation demonstrated “the clear intention to establish Cuba in a role serving Soviet purposes in this hemisphere.”

The relationship between the United States and Cuba deteriorated rapidly after the Eisenhower-Khrushchev exchange. The Castro regime accelerated its program of expropriating American-owned property. In response, the Eisenhower administration severed diplomatic relations with Cuba in January 1960. A little more than a year later, in April 1961, the CIA-trained force of Cuban refugees launched an assault on Cuba in the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion. The invaders were killed or captured, the Castro government cemented its control in Cuba, and the Soviet Union became Cuba’s main source of economic and military assistance.)

Eisenhower Welcomes Khrushchev to the U.S.
Eisenhower Welcomes Khrushchev to the U.S. (

* 1993 Romanov remains identified. (British forensic scientists announce that they have positively identified the remains of Russia’s last czar, Nicholas II; his wife, Czarina Alexandra; and three of their daughters. The scientists used mitochondrial DNA fingerprinting to identify the bones, which had been excavated from a mass grave near Yekaterinburg in 1991.

On the night of July 16, 1918, three centuries of the Romanov dynasty came to an end when Bolshevik troops executed Nicholas and his family. The details of the execution and the location of their final resting place remained a Soviet secret for more than six decades. Lacking physical evidence, rumors spread through Europe in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution, telling of a Romanov child, usually the youngest daughter, Anastasia, who had survived the carnage. In the 1920s, there were several claimants to the title of Grand Duchess Anastasia. The most convincing was Anna Anderson, who turned up in Berlin in 1922 claiming to be Anastasia. In 1968, Anderson emigrated to Charlottesville, Virginia, where she died in 1984.

In 1991, Russian amateur investigators, using a recently released government report on the Romanov execution, found what they thought to be the Romanov burial site. Russian authorities exhumed human remains. Scientists studied the skulls, claiming that Anastasia’s was among those found, but the Russian findings were not conclusive. To prove that the remains were indisputably those of the Romanovs, the Russians enlisted the aid of British DNA experts.

First, the scientists tested for gender and identified five females and four males among the remains. Next, they tested to see how, if at all, these people were related. A father and mother were identified, along with three daughters. The four other remains were likely those of servants. The son Alexei and one daughter were missing.

To prove the identity of Alexandra and her children, the scientists took blood from Prince Philip, the consort of Queen Elizabeth II and the grand nephew of Alexandra. Because they all share a common maternal ancestor, they would all share mitochondria DNA, which is passed almost unchanged from mother to children. The comparison between the mtDNA in Philip’s blood and in the remains was positive, proving them to be the Romanovs. To prove the czar’s identity, who did not share this mtDNA, the remains of Grand Duke George, the brother of Nicholas, were exhumed. A comparison of their mtDNA proved their relationship.

The Crown Prince Alexei and one Romanov daughter were not accounted for, adding fuel to the persistent legend that Anastasia had survived execution. Was it possible that Anastasia had escaped and resurfaced as Anna Anderson? In 1994, American and English scientists attempted to answer this question once and for all. Using a tissue sample of Anderson’s recovered from a Virginia hospital, the English team compared her mtDNA with that of the Romanovs. Simultaneously, an American team compared the mtDNA found in a strand of her hair. Both teams came to the same decisive conclusion: Anna Anderson was not a Romanov. In 1995, a Russian government commission studying the remains presented what it claimed was proof that one of the skeletons was, in fact, Anastasia’s, and that the missing Romanov daughter was, in fact, Maria.)

All of the Romanov remains arranged on a sheet.

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

* The Canadian Encyclopedia            

Encyclopaedia Britannica                 


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.

9 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… July 9th”

    1. I remember sitting in my grade 8 classroom – the teacher had a transistor radio on the windowsill with a live news report of the Russian and US fleets in confrontation around Cuba. I thought I might die that day. Thanks for your thoughts, John.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. My memory of Khrushchev was when he kept whacking his shoe at a (NATO?) conference. Scary times back then. And Anastasia’s story is / was a thriller. Thanks for another great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree that Khruschev was a scary character. The Romanov story is horrifying. It is so sad that new revolutionary regimes feel they have to have a bloodbath to eradicate the old regime. The dark side of humanity. Thanks for sharing your insights, Jennie.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow John – three absolute snorters there and tennis. In Hull we are immensely proud of William Wilberforce, his speech of 1789 and subsequent drive to eliminate slavery. We have a museum dedicated to him. Slavery is an unbelievable abomination and it is salutary to think that it is still going on today and that obnoxious doctrines, like with ISIS, Boko Haram and other fanatical Muslim groups, use medieval texts as an excuse to practice this. Slavery in a different guise actually still goes on in Britain and I’m sure the USA and Canada. People are brought across and kept as domestic slaves or sold into the sex trade. The job’s not yet done.
    I’d never heard of Daniel Williams before – what a hero. Setting up those hospitals and training for black interns and nurses must have been extraordinary back the. It must have taken great courage.
    I cannot begin to imagine how you would operate without anaesthesia or blood transfusions. The pain must have been incredible.
    That brutal Russian revolution changed the world. Why can we not bring change about without violence? Is the lust for power that powerful? Why is it that we go through cycles where the privileged create such inequality and injustice that they generate mass hatred and violence? Are we leading up to such a period of public discontent? Will it manifest itself as violent overthrow? Are people totally losing faith in the hierarchy?
    I enjoy tennis – but I’m not mad about it.


    1. Opher, thank you for your insights today. It seems that some will stop at nothing to make money off the backs of others. I can’t imagine the horror of the young women and girls who are forced into sex slavery. You’re right, we are not done with that ugly practice. And yet, besides this darkness, we see the goodness of a hard-working surgeon providing opportunities for others. I’ve often thought that the bloodbaths that follow some revolutions have more to do with fear of the vanquished leading a counter-revolution and the strategy of instilling fear into those who might oppose them. None of it justified, of course. I’m not a tennis fan either! I try for variety and some balance with these posts each day, Opher.


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