John’s Believe It Or Not… August 5th

In 1583 – Humphrey Gilbert claims Newfoundland for Queen Elizabeth I. In 2002 Divers recover U.S.S. Monitor turret. In 1962 Marilyn Monroe is found dead. In 1981 Reagan fires 11,359 air-traffic controllers. In 1957 American Bandstand goes national.

John Fioravanti standing in fron of his classroom blackboard.

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.

Map: 1583 - Sir Humphrey Gilbert Sets Out to Find the Northwest Passage
1583 – Sir Humphrey Gilbert Sets Out to Find the Northwest Passage (Before Winthrop)

* 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.

Union Navy ironclad U . S . S . MONITOR Hampton Roads battle 1862, March the 4th
Union Navy ironclad U. S. S. MONITOR Hampton Roads battle 1862, March the 4th (

* 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.

Monroe with U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (left) and President John F. Kennedy (right) at the latter's birthday celebration in 1962.
Monroe with U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (left) and President John F. Kennedy (right) at the latter’s birthday celebration in 1962. (Wikipedia)

* 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.

Reagan announces firings of air traffic controllers.
Reagan Starts Firing Air Traffic Controllers (New Historian)

* 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.

Dick Clark ( front ) hosts American Bandstand, the most popular dance show of all-time. The program provided audiences with performances by top and undiscovered music personalities, dancing contests, 'Rate-A-Record,' 'The Spotlight Dance' and 'Top Ten.'
Dick Clark ( front ) hosts American Bandstand, the most popular dance show of all-time. The program provided audiences with performances by top and undiscovered music personalities, dancing contests, ‘Rate-A-Record,’ ‘The Spotlight Dance’ and ‘Top Ten.’ (

Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* Encyclopedia of World Biography                                

* 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.

23 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… August 5th”

  1. Marilyn Munroe, a life ended too soon… I personally don’t believe in the conspiracy theories regarding her death… The information about American Bandstand is great and the photo made me smile big 🙂


  2. John, every day I’m enlightened by your posts. As a Newfoundlander, I didn’t know of Gilbert’s claim. Fascinating. And my gosh…can you imagine what would happen if Trump fired that many ATC’s… He would probably round it up to 11,360 just to hold the record of power! Thanks again for another fascinating step back in time. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Natalie! Reagan was a hard-nosed President. Example: During the Iranian Crisis in 1979, Iran wasn’t concerned about letting their US hostages free while Carter was in the White House. Then Reagan won the election and threatened to rain holy hell on Iran if the hostages were not released by his Inauguration on January 2oth. The Ayatolla in charge released the hostages on Reagan’s Inauguration Day. Reagan was tough and didn’t mince words – but he was also a class act and could be diplomatic when necessary. Trump? #ToughOnTwitter

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi, John. Reagan is the first President I can really remember in office. Although I was young, I held him in high regard. I recall your piece on the Iran hostages a little while back. Much respect for his action. Oh how I miss diplomacy and tact in the White House… and competence and courtesy. The list goes on and on… but I’ll stop there! Wishing you a joyful day. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Election night was so shocking because we just knew what was coming – and yet hoped we’d be wrong. Sadly, we weren’t wrong. A guy in SanFrancisco put up a video link of a press conference JFK gave after the Bay of Pigs fiasco. He was on the hot seat but treated each reporter with great respect. I sat in awe watching it. I was a young kid back then, so I didn’t realize what a class act JFK really was. It is just over 30 minutes long – here’s the link if you’re interested: Enjoy your weekend!


  3. Another amazing post, John. And, other than the claim on Newfoundland, the other stories hit home through memories. Marilyn Monroe has always been a tragic figure for me, and her untimely death forever sealed that tragic image. And..the air-traffic controllers – goodness, no organization should have that kind of power. Have a great day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Gwen! Interesting that Britain had the Newfoundland claim long before Virginia. Aww – poor Marilyn. Stardom can certainly be a curse. I don’t think I have much to worry about! LOL! Enjoy your day too, Gwen, I appreciate your comments!


  4. Bandstand wasn’t big in England. We didn’t get to see it. we had Ready Steady Go and Thank Your Lucky Stars, Juke Box Jury and Six Five Special. Great stuff.
    I remember Marilyn dying. Tragic. A lot of intrigue going on there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I saw Bandstand – even without Cable TV, we were close enough to the US border to be able to pull in the Buffalo NY TV stations. We had our own dance shows too – the only one I can think of was Club 11 – on CHCH TV, Channel 11, Hamilton, Ontario – right next to my hometown of Dundas. Yes, the Marilyn story was terribly sad – a waste of a life. Thanks for commenting, Opher.


  5. Hey John,

    I like to hope Marilyn Monroe found her own sense of peace. That death became her and offered her the love and compassion she craved and the freedom and chance to be who she was. I find her life story moving.

    Another interesting selection of digestible snippets today John. Than you. I must say, Getty offer many superb images covering world history. It’s an amazing library to view.

    Have a great weekend my friend. Take care.

    Namaste 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

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