Yay! It’s Saturday! Did you know…
* 1583 – Humphrey Gilbert claims Newfoundland for Queen Elizabeth I.
Sir Humphrey Gilbert (ca. 1537-1583), English soldier and colonizer, failed in his attempt to settle Newfoundland. Nevertheless, he took the first step toward building a British colonial empire in America. He was born at Greenway, Devonshire. His family was well-to-do, but as a younger son, he inherited, only enough to pay for his education. He entered the service of Elizabeth before she became queen, and her friendship endured until his death.
In 1578 Gilbert received letters patent from the Crown empowering him to make Western discoveries on the condition that he does not harm Spanish subjects. The Northwest Passage is not mentioned in this grant. Gilbert probably wished to establish a colony between the Hudson River and Cape Hatteras. What actually happened on his voyage of 1578 is uncertain; he may have attacked the West Indies, but he founded no colony and was back in England by April 1579. Unable to sail again immediately, he went once more to Ireland, then returned to England to prepare for another voyage of colonization.
Gilbert’s small ship sent out for reconnaissance in 1580 does not seem to have visited Newfoundland. After much trouble with the financing, he embarked from a point near Plymouth with five ships and about 260 men in June 1583. Reaching St. John’s Bay in Newfoundland in August, he took possession for the Queen. During an exploration of the adjacent mainland coast, he lost a ship and all the prospective colonists. It seemed necessary to take what was left of the expedition back to England and return the following spring. Against others’ advice, Gilbert insisted on sailing in the Squirrel, a tiny ship that was too heavily laden to be seaworthy. On the night of Sept. 9, 1583, watchers on a nearby ship saw the Squirrel’s lights vanish, and it and Gilbert were seen no more.
* 2002 Divers recover U.S.S. Monitor turret.
On this day in 2002, the rusty iron gun turret of the U.S.S. Monitor broke from the water and into the daylight for the first time in 140 years. The ironclad warship was raised from the floor of the Atlantic, where it had rested since it went down in a storm off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, during the Civil War. Divers had been working for six weeks to bring it to the surface.
Nine months before sinking into its watery grave, the Monitor had been part of a revolution in naval warfare. On March 9, 1862, it dueled to a standstill with the C.S.S. Virginia (originally the C.S.S. Merrimack) in one of the most famous moments in naval history–the first time two ironclads faced each other in a naval engagement. During the battle, the two ships circled one another, jockeying for position as they fired their guns. The cannon balls simply deflected off the iron ships. In the early afternoon, the Virginia pulled back to Norfolk. Neither ship was seriously damaged, but the Monitor effectively ended the short reign of terror that the Confederate ironclad had brought to the Union navy.
Designed by Swedish engineer John Ericsson, the Monitor had an unusually low profile, rising from the water only 18 inches. The flat iron deck had a 20-foot cylindrical turret rising from the middle of the ship; the turret housed two 11-inch Dahlgren guns. The shift had a draft of less than 11 feet so it could operate in the shallow harbors and rivers of the South. It was commissioned on February 25, 1862, and arrived at Chesapeake Bay just in time to engage the Virginia.
After the famous duel, the Monitor provided gun support on the James River for George B. McClellan’s Peninsular Campaign. By December 1862, it was clear the ship was no longer needed in Virginia, so she was sent to Beaufort, North Carolina, to join a fleet being assembled for an attack on Charleston. The Monitor served well in the sheltered waters of Chesapeake Bay, but the heavy, low-slung ship was a poor craft for the open sea. The U.S.S. Rhode Island towed the ironclad around the rough waters of Cape Hatteras. As the Monitor pitched and swayed in the rough seas, the caulking around the gun turret loosened and water began to leak into the hull. More leaks developed as the journey continued. High seas tossed the craft, causing the ship’s flat armor bottom to slap the water. Each roll opened more seams, and by nightfall on December 30, the Monitor was in dire straits.
That evening, the Monitor’s commander, J.P. Bankhead, signaled the Rhode Island that he wished to abandon ship. The wooden side-wheeler pulled as close as safety allowed to the stricken ironclad, and two lifeboats were lowered to retrieve the crew. Many of the sailors were rescued, but some men were terrified to venture onto the deck in such rough seas. The ironclad’s pumps stopped working, and the ship sank before 16 of its crew members could be rescued. The remains of two of these sailors were discovered by divers during the Monitor’s 2002 reemergence.
Many of the ironclad’s artifacts are now on display at the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Virginia.
* 1962 Marilyn Monroe is found dead.
On August 5, 1962, movie actress Marilyn Monroe is found dead in her home in Los Angeles. She was discovered lying nude on her bed, face down, with a telephone in one hand. Empty bottles of pills, prescribed to treat her depression, were littered around the room. After a brief investigation, Los Angeles police concluded that her death was “caused by a self-administered overdose of sedative drugs and that the mode of death is probable suicide.”
Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jean Mortenson in Los Angeles on June 1, 1926. Her mother was emotionally unstable and frequently confined to an asylum, so Norma Jean was reared by a succession of foster parents and in an orphanage. At the age of 16, she married a fellow worker in an aircraft factory, but they divorced a few years later. She took up modeling in 1944 and in 1946 signed a short-term contract with 20th Century Fox, taking as her screen name Marilyn Monroe. She had a few bit parts and then returned to modeling, famously posing nude for a calendar in 1949.
She began to attract attention as an actress in 1950 after appearing in minor roles in The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve. Although she was onscreen only briefly playing a mistress in both films, audiences took note of the blonde bombshell, and she won a new contract from Fox. Her acting career took off in the early 1950s with performances in Love Nest (1951), Monkey Business (1952), and Niagara (1953). Celebrated for her voluptuousness and wide-eyed charm, she won international fame for her sex-symbol roles in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), and There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954). The Seven-Year Itch (1955) showcased her comedic talents and features the classic scene where she stands over a subway grating and has her white skirt billowed up by the wind from a passing train. In 1954, she married baseball great Joe DiMaggio, attracting further publicity, but they divorced eight months later.
In 1955, she studied with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio in New York City and subsequently gave a strong performance as a hapless entertainer in Bus Stop (1956). In 1956, she married playwright, Arthur Miller. She made The Prince and the Showgirl–a critical and commercial failure–with Laurence Olivier in 1957 but in 1959 gave an acclaimed performance in the hit comedy Some Like It Hot. Her last role, in The Misfits (1961), was directed by John Huston and written by Miller, whom she divorced just one week before the film’s opening.
By 1961, Monroe, beset by depression, was under the constant care of a psychiatrist. Increasingly erratic in the last months of her life, she lived as a virtual recluse in her Brentwood, Los Angeles, home. After midnight on August 5, 1962, her maid, Eunice Murray, noticed Monroe’s bedroom light on. When Murray found the door locked and Marilyn unresponsive to her calls, she called Monroe’s psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson, who gained access to the room by breaking a window. Entering, he found Marilyn dead, and the police were called sometime after. An autopsy found a fatal amount of sedatives in her system, and her death was ruled probable suicide.
In recent decades, there have been a number of conspiracy theories about her death, most of which contend that she was murdered by John and/or Robert Kennedy, with whom she allegedly had love affairs. These theories claim that the Kennedys killed her (or had her killed) because they feared she would make public their love affairs and other government secrets she was gathering. On August 4, 1962, Robert Kennedy, then attorney general in his older brother’s cabinet, was in fact in Los Angeles. Two decades after the fact, Monroe’s housekeeper, Eunice Murray, announced for the first time that the attorney general had visited Marilyn on the night of her death and quarreled with her, but the reliability of these and other statements made by Murray are questionable.
Four decades after her death, Marilyn Monroe remains a major cultural icon. The unknown details of her final performance only add to her mystique.
* 1981 Reagan fires 11,359 air-traffic controllers.
On August 5, 1981, President Ronald Reagan begins firing 11,359 air-traffic controllers striking in violation of his order for them to return to work. The executive action, regarded as extreme by many, significantly slowed air travel for months.
Two days earlier, on August 3, almost 13,000 air-traffic controllers went on strike after negotiations with the federal government to raise their pay and shorten their work week proved fruitless. The controllers complained of difficult working conditions and a lack of recognition of the pressures they face. Across the country, some 7,000 flights were canceled. The same day, President Reagan called the strike illegal and threatened to fire any controller who had not returned to work within 48 hours. Robert Poli, president of the Professional Air-Traffic Controllers Association (PATCO), was found in contempt by a federal judge and ordered to pay $1,000 a day in fines.
On August 5, an angry President Reagan carried out his threat, and the federal government began firing the 11,359 air-traffic controllers who had not returned to work. In addition, he declared a lifetime ban on the rehiring of the strikers by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). On August 17, the FAA began accepting applications for new air-traffic controllers, and on October 22 the Federal Labor Relations Authority decertified PATCO.
* 1957 American Bandstand goes national.
Television, rock and roll and teenagers. In the late 1950s, when television and rock and roll were new and when the biggest generation in American history was just about to enter its teens, it took a bit of originality to see the potential power in this now-obvious combination. The man who saw that potential more clearly than any other was a 26-year-old native of upstate New York named Dick Clark, who transformed himself and a local Philadelphia television program into two of the most culturally significant forces of the early rock-and-roll era. His iconic show, American Bandstand, began broadcasting nationally on this day in 1957, beaming images of clean-cut, average teenagers dancing to the not-so-clean-cut Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” to 67 ABC affiliates across the nation.
The show that evolved into American Bandstand began on Philadephia’s WFIL-TV in 1952, a few years before the popular ascension of rock and roll. Hosted by local radio personality Bob Horn, the original Bandstand nevertheless established much of the basic format of its later incarnation. In the first year after Dick Clark took over as host in the summer of 1956, Bandstand remained a popular local hit, but it took Clark’s ambition to help it break out. When the ABC television network polled its affiliates in 1957 for suggestions to fill its 3:30 p.m. time slot, Clark pushed hard for Bandstand, which network executives picked up and scheduled for an August 5, 1957, premiere.
Renamed American Bandstand, the newly national program featured a number of new elements that became part of its trademark, including the high school gym-like bleachers and the famous segment in which teenage studio guests rated the newest records on a scale from 25 to 98 and offered such criticisms as “It’s got a good beat, and you can dance to it.” But the heart of American Bandstand always remained the sound of the day’s most popular music combined with the sight of the show’s unpolished teen “regulars” dancing and showing off the latest fashions in clothing and hairstyles.
American Bandstand aired five days a week in live national broadcast until 1963, when the show moved west to Los Angeles and began a 24-year run as a taped weekly program with Dick Clark as host.
* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology http://canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php
* Encyclopedia of World Biography http://www.encyclopedia.com/people/history/explorers-travelers-and-conquerors-biographies/sir-humphrey-gilbert
* This Day In History – What Happened Today http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/