Oh-Oh! It’s Monday! Did you know…
* 1534 – Jacques Cartier erects a 10 meter high cross at Gaspé and claims Canada for France. (At forty-three years of age, Cartier was a stocky man with a sharply etched profile. His calm, steady, thoughtful eyes under a high, wide brow held a hint of power. His face, slightly hawk-billed with a beard that bristled defiantly, was normally calm in contemplation of the sea, but easily roused to rage and violent action. Some contemporary records call him a Corsair, meaning he roved the seas despoiling the enemies of France. Cartier was a skilled mariner, a full-fledged, fearless navigator who was held in high regard by seafaring men. He may have voyaged to Brazil. When he married in 1519 he had risen high enough in his profession to be called a master pilot. He was known as a capable and courageous captain who was fair in all his dealings. He was fully knowledgeable of everything concerning ship handling, especially making sail. Considering he made three voyages of discovery in dangerous and hitherto unknown waters without losing a ship and considering he entered and departed from some fifty undiscovered harbors without serious mishap, it can be assumed he knew his craft as captain well.
Favored by “good weather,” Cartier crossed the Atlantic in 20 days and began to explore along the unknown coast of Labrador. His square-rigged vessel was not easily maneuverable and with an offshore wind, the intrepid discoverer, if he wished to learn anything at all about this new land, had to sail close to shore, a risky endeavor especially near the fog-bound shores of Newfoundland. While some distance off the grim Newfoundland coast the two vessels hove to. From the decks of their low-riding craft, neither more than 60 tons burden whose gunwales barely cleared the rolling waves, Cartier and his sixty bearded crewmen gazed in amazement at the sight before them. The new world was beginning to reveal its wonders – birds, sea birds by the thousands, swarming over and around one lonely rocky island in such numbers that “all the ships of France might load a cargo of them without once perceiving that any had been removed.” The wonders of the new world included “wild and savage folk who covered themselves with certain tan colors” These Natives were the now extinct Beothuks.
The weather like the days was dark and gloomy. Through the mist and fog on the face of the water, the formidable coast came into view. “The land should not be called New Land, being composed of stones and horrible rugged rocks…. I did not see one cartload of earth and yet I landed in many places… there is nothing but moss and short, stunted shrub. I am rather inclined to believe that this is the land God gave to Cain.” Thus wrote Jacques Cartier on his first image of Canada. After exploring along the coast of Newfoundland Cartier rounded the northern tip, passed through the Strait of Belle Isle and sailed southwest along the shore into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
A few days later, Cartier turned north again and came to another deep bay which he hoped would lead to the elusive Cathay. From the abundant timber at hand, he had constructed on the point at the entrance to the harbor a cross thirty feet high. Under the cross bar “we fixed a shield with three fleurs-de-lys in relief and above it a wooden board engraved in large Gothic characters where was written Vive Le Roy De France.” Here on Friday, July 24th, 1534 at Penouille Point on land he named Gaspe, Cartier claimed for France a sovereignty which endured for more than two hundred years. A great ceremony attended the event and the on looking Indians, who had come from Stadacona to fish, realized instinctively that Cartier was claiming this land.)
* 1911 Machu Picchu discovered. (On July 24, 1911, American archeologist Hiram Bingham gets his first look at Machu Picchu, an ancient Inca settlement in Peru that is now one of the world’s top tourist destinations.
Tucked away in the rocky countryside northwest of Cuzco, Machu Picchu is believed to have been a summer retreat for Inca leaders, whose civilization was virtually wiped out by Spanish invaders in the 16th century. For hundreds of years afterward, its existence was a secret known only to the peasants living in the region. That all changed in the summer of 1911 when Bingham arrived with a small team of explorers to search for the famous “lost” cities of the Incas.
Traveling on foot and by mule, Bingham and his team made their way from Cuzco into the Urubamba Valley, where a local farmer told them of some ruins located at the top of a nearby mountain. The farmer called the mountain Machu Picchu, which meant “Old Peak” in the native Quechua language. The next day–July 24–after a tough climb to the mountain’s ridge in cold and drizzly weather, Bingham met a small group of peasants who showed him the rest of the way. Led by an 11-year-old boy, Bingham got his first glimpse of the intricate network of stone terraces marking the entrance to Machu Picchu.
The excited Bingham spread the word about his discovery in a best-selling book, sending hordes of eager tourists flocking to Peru to follow in his footsteps up the Inca trail. The site itself stretches an impressive five miles, with over 3,000 stone steps linking its many different levels. Today, more than 300,000 people tramp through Machu Picchu every year, braving crowds and landslides to see the sun set over the towering stone monuments of the “Sacred City” and marvel at the mysterious splendor of one of the world’s most famous man-made wonders.)
* 1915 Hundreds drown in Eastland disaster. (On this day in 1915, the steamer Eastland overturns in the Chicago River, drowning between 800 and 850 of its passengers who were heading to a picnic. The disaster was caused by serious problems with the boat’s design, which were known but never remedied.
The Eastland was owned by the St. Joseph-Chicago Steamship Company and made money ferrying people from Chicago to picnic sites on the shores of Lake Michigan. When the Eastland was launched in 1903, it was designed to carry 650 passengers, but major construction and retrofitting in 1913 supposedly allowed the boat to carry 2,500 people. That same year, a naval architect presciently told officials that the boat needed work, stating unless structural defects are remedied to prevent listing, there may be a serious accident.
On July 24, employees of Western Electric Company were heading to an annual picnic. About 7,300 people arrived at 6 a.m. at the dock between LaSalle and Clark streets to be carried out to the site by five steamers. While bands played, much of the crowd—perhaps even more than the 2,500 people allowed—boarded the Eastland. Some reports indicate that the crowd may also have all gathered on one side of the boat to pose for a photographer, thus creating an imbalance on the boat. In any case, engineer Joseph Erikson opened one of the ballast tanks, which holds water within the boat and stabilizes the ship, and the Eastland began tipping precariously.
Some claim that the crew of the boat jumped back to the dock when they realized what was happening. What is known for sure is that the Eastland capsized right next to the dock, trapping hundreds of people on or underneath the large ship. Rescuers quickly attempted to cut through the hull with torches, allowing them to pull out 40 people alive. More than 800 others perished. Police divers pulled up body after body, causing one diver to break down in a rage. The city sent workers out with a large net to prevent bodies from washing out into the lake. Twenty-two entire families died in the tragedy.
Most of the corpses were taken to the Second Regiment Armory, which is now home to Harpo Studios and The Oprah Winfrey Show. Some of the show’s employees have claimed that the studio is haunted by ghosts of the Eastland disaster.
The Eastland was pulled up from the river, renamed the Willamette and converted into a naval vessel. It was turned into scrap following World War II. All lawsuits against the owners of the Eastland were thrown out by a court of appeals and the exact cause of the tipping and subsequent disaster has never been determined.)
* 1998 Saving Private Ryan opens in theaters. (On this day in 1998, the director Steven Spielberg’s World War II epic, Saving Private Ryan, is released in theaters across the United States. The film, which starred Tom Hanks and Matt Damon, was praised for its authentic portrayal of war and was nominated for 11 Academy Awards. It took home five Oscars, for Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Sound, Best Film Editing and Best Sound Effects Editing.
The film’s lengthy opening scene was a bloody re-enactment of American troops landing at Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944. Following this violent D-Day scene, Saving Private Ryan centered around the fictional story of Captain John Miller (Hanks), and his band of seven Rangers, who are sent on a mission to rescue Private James Francis Ryan (Damon), a paratrooper missing somewhere behind enemy lines. Ryan’s three older brothers have recently been killed in action, so military officials order Miller to find the young soldier and prevent a public-relations disaster. As the men make their way across the battle-scarred French countryside they suffer several casualties before eventually locating Ryan in a bombed-out village, where he is helping to defend a strategically important bridge from the Germans. Ryan refuses to leave his comrades, even after Miller gave him the news of his siblings’ deaths. Miller reluctantly agrees that he and his squad will stay to defend the area. When the Nazis attacked, the captain and many of his men are killed, but Ryan survives.
Private Ryan was a fictional character, but there was a historical basis for his story. Following the deaths of the five Sullivan brothers from Waterloo, Iowa, on the USS Juneau in November 1942, the U.S. War Department established the Sole Survivor Policy to protect remaining family members from combat duty. Saving Private Ryan was partially inspired by the real-life story of the Niland brothers. During World War II, Sergeant Frederick “Fritz” Niland, a member of the 101st Airborne, was accidentally dropped behind enemy lines. He eventually made it back to his unit, where he was informed that two of his brothers had died at Normandy and the third had gone missing in Burma. Niland was sent home to Tonawanda, New York. His family’s tragedy had a somewhat happier ending, however, when the brother who was believed to have died in the Far East was liberated from a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp.)
* 1982 “Eye Of The Tiger” from Rocky III tops the U.S. pop charts. (Whether it’s Oliver Stone setting a scene from Platoon to Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber, or Quentin Tarantino setting a scene from Reservoir Dogs to “Stuck In The Middle” by Stealer’s Wheel, filmmakers often depend upon certain passages of music to produce specific emotional reactions in their audiences. And actor/director Sylvester Stallone is no exception: His Rocky franchise produced its second #1 pop hit on this day in 1982 when Survivor’s “Eye Of The Tiger” began a six-week run atop the Billboard pop chart.
The first #1 hit from Stallone’s boxing series was “Gonna Fly Now (Theme from Rocky),” which topped the charts in the summer of 1977, with a very different tone than the hard-charging “Eye Of The Tiger.” Like the films’ main character, who transformed himself from a lovable, if bumbling palooka in the first Rocky into a vengeful, muscle-bound warrior in Rocky III, “Eye Of The Tiger” eschewed subtlety in favor of brute force. But as brute-force pop songs go, few have been more effective than the one-and-only #1 hit from the Chicago bar-band Survivor.
Survivor was hand-picked by Sylvester Stallone to write a song for the second Rocky sequel after he heard their minor 1981 hit “Poor Man’s Son,” a mid-tempo number in the vein of Foreigner or .38 Special. For the Rocky III soundtrack, Stallone told songwriting band members Frankie Sullivan and Jim Peterik that he wanted “something with a strong beat… that would appeal to the rock crowd.” What he got was one of the most effective and popular soundtrack hits of all time as “Eye Of The Tiger” raced to #1 on the pop charts and remained there for six consecutive weeks—five weeks longer than the theme song for the original Rocky.
As for Survivor, they turned out a respectable run of six more top-40 hits over the subsequent four years, including the #2 hit “Burning Heart” (1985) from the Rocky IV soundtrack.)
* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology http://canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php
* Upper Canada History http://www.uppercanadahistory.ca/finna/finna1.html
* This Day In History – What Happened Today http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/