John’s Believe It Or Not… July 19th

In 1843 Brunel’s steamship the SS Great Britain is launched. In 1848 Seneca Falls NY Convention begins. In 1956 United States withdraws an offer of aid for Aswan Dam. In 2003 Thousands of fans join the Miami funeral procession of Celia Cruz. In 1979 Oil tankers collide in the Caribbean Sea.

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

It’s Hump Day Wednesday! Did you know…

* 1843 Brunel’s steamship the SS Great Britain is launched. (A recent popular poll placed Isambard Kingdom Brunel as the second Greatest Briton of all time, second after Sir Winston Churchill. He was, without a doubt, Britain’s greatest engineer, and of all the legacies he left to the world, one of his greatest was the SS Great Britain.

The wrought iron steamship was built in 1843 in Bristol, under the supervision of Brunel for the Great Western Steamship Company. The Great Britain set the design standards for today’s modern shipping and eminently demonstrated the industry and inventiveness of the Victorian era. Almost single-handedly Brunel shaped the future of mass passenger travel and international communications.

Originally conceived as a paddle steamer, her design was quickly altered to take advantage of the new technology of screw propulsion, and her engines were converted to power a massive sixteen-foot iron propeller. When launched in 1843 she was by far the largest ship in the world, at almost 100 meters she was over 30 meters longer than her nearest rival and was the first screw propelled, ocean-going, wrought iron ship. Weighing in at a massive 1930 tons, she was designed initially for the Trans-Atlantic luxury passenger trade and could carry 252 first and second class passengers and crew of 130.

Whilst her first few voyages demonstrated her technological ability, they were not a great financial success, attracting far fewer passengers than anticipated. Her career in this trade was thus short lived, and after she ran aground on the sands of Dundrum Bay in Northern Ireland in 1846, her engines were so badly damaged that she was sold on.)

SS Great Britain - Ship Museum and former passenger steamer. He was the first iron steamer which crossed the Atlantic in 1845, for 14 days.
SS Great Britain – Ship Museum and former passenger steamer. He was the first iron steamer which crossed the Atlantic in 1845, for 14 days. (

* 1848 Seneca Falls NY Convention begins. (At the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, N.Y., a woman’s rights convention–the first ever held in the United States–convenes with almost 200 women in attendance. The convention was organized by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, two abolitionists who met at the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention in London. As women, Mott and Stanton were barred from the convention floor, and the common indignation that this aroused in both of them was the impetus for their founding of the women’s rights movement in the United States.

In 1848, at Stanton’s home near Seneca Falls, the two women, working with Martha Wright, Mary Ann McClintock, and Jane Hunt, sent out a call for a women’s conference to be held in Seneca Falls. The announcement, published in the Seneca County Courier on July 14, read, “A Convention to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of women will be held at the Wesleyan Chapel, at Seneca Falls, N.Y., on Wednesday and Thursday, the 19th and 20th of July current; commencing at 10 o’clock A.M. During the first day the meeting will be exclusively for women, who are earnestly invited to attend. The public generally is invited to be present on the second day, when Lucretia Mott, of Philadelphia, and other ladies and gentlemen, will address the Convention.”

On July 19, 200 women convened at the Wesleyan Chapel, and Stanton read the “Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances,” a treatise that she had drafted over the previous few days. Stanton’s declaration was modeled closely on the Declaration of Independence, and its preamble featured the proclamation, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…” The Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances then detailed the injustices inflicted upon women in the United States and called upon U.S. women to organize and petition for their rights.

On the second day of the convention, men were invited to intend–and some 40 did, including the famous African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass. That day, the Declaration of Sentiments and Grievances was adopted and signed by the assembly. The convention also passed 12 resolutions–11 unanimously–which called for specific equal rights for women. The ninth resolution, which declared “it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise,” was the only one to meet opposition. After a lengthy debate, in which Douglass sided with Stanton in arguing the importance of female enfranchisement, the resolution was passed. For proclaiming a women’s right to vote, the Seneca Falls Convention was subjected to public ridicule, and some backers of women’s rights withdrew their support. However, the resolution marked the beginning of the women’s suffrage movement in America.

The Seneca Falls Convention was followed two weeks later by an even larger meeting in Rochester, N.Y. Thereafter, national woman’s rights conventions were held annually, providing an important focus for the growing women’s suffrage movement. After years of struggle, the 19th Amendment was adopted in 1920, granting American women the constitutionally protected right to vote.)

On July 19, 1848, the Seneca Falls Convention begins -- the first ever women's rights convention in the U.S.
On July 19, 1848, the Seneca Falls Convention begins — the first ever women’s rights convention in the U.S.

* 1956 United States withdraws an offer of aid for Aswan Dam. (Secretary of State John Foster Dulles announces that the United States is withdrawing its offer of financial aid to Egypt to help with the construction of the Aswan Dam on the Nile River. The action drove Egypt further toward an alliance with the Soviet Union and was a contributing factor to the Suez Crisis later in 1956.

In December 1955, Secretary Dulles announced that the United States, together with Great Britain, was providing nearly $70 million in aid to Egypt to help in the construction of the Aswan Dam on the Nile River. Dulles had agreed to this assistance only reluctantly. He was deeply suspicious of Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, who he believed to be a reckless and dangerous nationalist. However, others in the Eisenhower administration convinced Dulles that the American aid might pull Nasser back from his relationship with the Soviet Union and prevent the growth of Soviet power in the Middle East. Just seven months after the announcement, however, Dulles declared that the American offer was being revoked. He cited difficulties in arranging the financial details of the U.S. grant with the Egyptian government, but his real motivation was Nasser’s unceasing attacks on Western colonialism and imperialism and Egypt’s continued dalliance with the Soviet Union.

Dulles might have believed that without the American aid, the dam project would fold. On this point, he was wrong. The Soviets rushed to Egypt’s aid, and the Aswan Dam was officially opened in 1964. Nasser, of course, was furious with the U.S. action. So, too, were the British, who believed that America’s withdrawal of aid had provided the opening for Soviet penetration of Egypt. In October 1956, British, French, and Israeli forces attacked Egypt, claiming that they were protecting the Suez Canal. The incident nearly provoked a U.S.-Soviet confrontation, but President Dwight D. Eisenhower coupled stern warnings against any Soviet military action with a refusal to support the British, French, and Israeli invasion. The invading forces withdrew from Egypt in early 1957. Nevertheless, the damage to U.S. relations with the Middle East was done and the area would remain a Cold War hotspot throughout the next 35 years.)

Aswan High Dam
Aswan High Dam (

* 2003 Thousands of fans join the Miami funeral procession of Celia Cruz. (On July 19, 2003, three days after her death from cancer at the age of 77, Latin music legend Celia Cruz has one of her final wishes granted when her body is flown to Miami, Florida, for a special public viewing by tens of thousands of fans prior to her burial in New York City. It was as close as the legendary Queen of Salsa could get to her beloved homeland of Cuba.

Úrsula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1925, one of 14 children raised in a family that was poor, but in a time and place that was rich with musical activity. Cruz’s talent was recognized early on. The story she told was that her first pair of shoes were given to her by a tourist for whom she had performed on the streets of Havana, and she was a regular winner of local singing contests in which the grand prize was usually a cake. Exposed to a wide range of music by the radio and by an aunt who would take her around to Havana’s cabarets, Cruz sang in every style from tango to mambo to son cubano—all of which would contribute to the later development of her signature style, salsa.

After training in Cuba’s National Conservatory, Cruz got her big break in 1950, when she was invited to join one of Cuba’s most popular orchestras, the Sonora Matancera, with whom she would perform throughout Latin America for the next 15 years. Cruz was abroad with the Sonora Matacera in 1959 when Castro took power, and she never returned to her native Cuba, settling permanently in the sizable Cuban community near Fort Lee, New Jersey.

Recording almost exclusively in her native Spanish, Celia Cruz built a career over the next 40-plus years that made her one of the best-known Latin music stars in history. Her famously warm and gracious personality also made her one of the most beloved, as evidenced by the outpouring of grief that greeted her death from cancer. Among those lining up in Miami on this day in 2003 to pay their respects were many Cuban Americans for whom the music of Celia Cruz was an important cultural connection to Cuba. As one told The New York Times that day, “I call her and people like her, the last of the true Cubans. She was part of the Cuba of our parents, a Cuba we didn’t really know and that doesn’t exist anymore. It’s the Cuba of our imagination.”)

Cuban-born Salsa singer Celia Cruz (1925 - 2003), with her bandleader husband Pedro Knight (1921 - 2007)
Cuban-born Salsa singer Celia Cruz (1925 – 2003), with her bandleader husband Pedro Knight (1921 – 2007) (Pragmatic Obots Unite)

* 1979 Oil tankers collide in the Caribbean Sea. (On this day in 1979, two gigantic supertankers collide off the island of Little Tobago in the Caribbean Sea, killing 26 crew members and spilling 280,000 tons of crude oil into the sea. At the time, it was the worst oil-tanker accident in history and remains one of the very few times in history when two oil tankers have collided.

It was early evening when the two large carriers of crude oil collided. The Atlantic Empress had 275,000 tons of oil aboard; the Aegean Captain was carrying 200,000 tons. After the collision, fires broke out all over the Atlantic Empress and on the bow of the Aegean Captain. The Aegean managed to control the fire and then was towed toward Trinidad. Some oil was spilled during the towing, but a fair portion of the cargo was transferred successfully to other vessels.

The Atlantic Empress, however, had more difficulties. While it was still burning, it was towed toward the open sea. Oil continued to leak, burning on top of the ocean waters. Four days after the collision, with the fire still out of control, an explosion rocked the ship. There was another explosion the next day. Still, efforts to stop the fire and prevent more oil from spilling into the ocean continued. On July 29, 10 days after the fire began, another powerful explosion ended hopes of containing the blaze. On August 3, the Atlantic Empress sunk to the ocean bottom, leaving only a burning oil slick behind.)

The Atlantic Empress and the sea on fire
The Atlantic Empress and the sea on fire (

Today’s Sources:

* Historic UK                                                         

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

* This Day In History – What Happened Today


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.

16 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… July 19th”

  1. I especially enjoyed the Seneca Falls Convention story, but the importance of the heartless, calculated action taken by evil manipulator, John Foster Dulles, should not be taken for granted. The repercussions resonated throughout the world for many years.

    Thanks for another interesting and educational post. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t remember the super tanker collision which I’m sure was splashed all over the news at the time. It seems so odd that two mammoth ships could collide. I’ve seen tankers as large as city blocks. I mean….how could you miss seeing something that large? I wonder if there was fog or worse at the time.

    Another great post, John!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Gosh…I loved reading about the Seneca Falls convention. A couple of years ago, we took a road trip from NYC to Rochester and went through Auburn (visited Harriet Tubman’s grave) and then Seneca Falls. People of the area are so proud of the history of the women’s movement. Amazing folks…… Thank you, John.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Fascinating reading.
    The women’s movement has certainly gathered pace but I cannot help thinking that there is still far to go.
    What a sight the launching of the Great Britain must have been!
    I wonder how many creatures the oil industry has actually killed?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree that social equity has a long way to go, Opher. Interesting to wonder about the carnage caused by the oil industry, and then there’s the lumbering industry – and many others that destroy large tracts of land and pollute our waters.


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