John’s Believe It Or Not… November 14th

* 1914 – Marie Dressler stars in Tillie’s Punctured Romance with Charlie Chaplin – world’s first feature film. * 1851 Moby-Dick published. * 1951 United States gives military and economic aid to communist Yugoslavia. * 1985 Volcano erupts in Colombia and buries nearby towns. * 1969 Apollo 12 lifts off.


It’s Tuesday! Did You Know…

* 1914 – Marie Dressler stars in Tillie’s Punctured Romance with Charlie Chaplin – world’s first feature film.

Marie Dressler (born Leila Marie Koerber, November 9, 1868 – July 28, 1934) was a Canadian-American stage and screen actress, comedian, and early silent film and Depression-era film star. Successful on stage in vaudeville and comic operas, she was also successful in film. In 1914, she was in the first full-length film comedy and later won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1931.

Leaving home (Cobourg, Ontario) at the age of 14, Dressler built a career on stage in traveling theatre troupes. While not conventionally beautiful, she learned early to appreciate her talent in making people laugh. In 1892, she started a career on Broadway that lasted into the 1920s, performing comedic roles that allowed her to improvise to get laughs. From one of her successful Broadway roles, she played the titular role in the first full-length screen comedy, Tillie’s Punctured Romance (1914), opposite Charlie Chaplin and Mabel Normand. She made several shorts but mostly worked in New York City on stage. During World War I, along with other celebrities, she helped sell Liberty Bonds. In 1919, she helped organize the first union for stage chorus players.

Her career declined in the 1920s, and Dressler was reduced to living on her savings while sharing an apartment with a friend. In 1927, she returned to films at the age of 59 and experienced a remarkable string of successes. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1930–31 for Min and Bill and was named the top film star for 1932 and 1933. She died of cancer in 1934.

Tillie's Punctured Romance (1914) - Toronto Film Society - Toronto Film Society
Tillie’s Punctured Romance (1914) – Toronto Film Society – Toronto Film Society

* 1851 Moby-Dick published.

On this day in 1851, Moby-Dick, a novel by Herman Melville about the voyage of the whaling ship Pequod, is published by Harper & Brothers in New York. Moby-Dick is now considered a great classic of American literature and contains one of the most famous opening lines in fiction: “Call me Ishmael.” Initially, though, the book about Captain Ahab and his quest for a giant white whale was a flop.

Herman Melville was born in New York City in 1819 and as a young man spent time in the merchant marines, the U.S. Navy and on a whaling ship in the South Seas. In 1846, he published his first novel, Typee, a romantic adventure based on his experiences in Polynesia. The book was a success and a sequel, Omoo, was published in 1847. Three more novels followed, with mixed critical and commercial results. Melville’s sixth book, Moby-Dick, was first published in October 1851 in London, in three volumes titled The Whale, and then in the U.S. a month later. Melville had promised his publisher an adventure story similar to his popular earlier works, but instead, Moby-Dick was a tragic epic, influenced in part by Melville’s friend and Pittsfield, Massachusetts, neighbor, Nathaniel Hawthorne, whose novels include The Scarlet Letter.

After Moby-Dick‘s disappointing reception, Melville continued to produce novels, short stories (Bartleby) and poetry, but writing wasn’t paying the bills so in 1865 he returned to New York to work as a customs inspector, a job he held for 20 years.

Melville died in 1891, largely forgotten by the literary world. By the 1920s, scholars had rediscovered his work, particularly Moby-Dick, which would eventually become a staple of high school reading lists across the United States. Billy Budd, Melville’s final novel, was published in 1924, 33 years after his death.

Moby-Dick (FictionFan’s Book Reviews –

* 1951 United States gives military and economic aid to communist Yugoslavia.

In a surprising turn of events, President Harry Truman asks Congress for U.S. military and economic aid for the communist nation of Yugoslavia. The action was part of the U.S. policy to drive a deeper wedge between Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union.

Yugoslavia ended World War II with the communist forces of Josip Broz Tito in control. The United States supported him during the war when his group battled against the Nazi occupation. In the postwar period, as Cold War hostilities set in, U.S. policy toward Yugoslavia hardened. Tito was viewed as simply another tool of Soviet expansion into eastern and southern Europe.

In 1948, however, Tito openly broke with Stalin, though he continued to proclaim his allegiance to the communist ideology. Henceforth, he declared, Yugoslavia would determine and direct its own domestic and foreign policies without interference from the Soviet Union. U.S. officials quickly saw a propaganda opportunity in the fallout between the former communist allies. Although Tito was a communist, he was at least an independent communist who might prove a useful ally in Europe.

To curry favor with Tito, the United States supported Yugoslavia’s efforts in 1949 to gain a seat on the prestigious Security Council at the United Nations. In 1951, President Truman asked Congress to provide economic and military assistance to Yugoslavia. This aid was granted.

Yugoslavia proved to be a Cold War wild card, however. Tito gave tacit support to the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956 but harshly criticized the Russian intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968. While the United States admired Tito for his independent stance, he could sometimes be a bit too independent. During the 1950s and 1960s, he encouraged and supported the nonalignment movement among Third World nations, a policy that concerned American officials who were intent on forcing those nations to choose sides in the East-West struggle. Relations between the United States and Yugoslavia warmed considerably after Tito’s denunciation of the Czech intervention but cooled again when he sided with the Soviets during the Arab-Israeli conflict of 1973. Tito died in 1980.

Map: Cold War European Blocs
Cold War European Blocs (Wikipedia)

* 1985 Volcano erupts in Colombia and buries nearby towns.

On this day in 1985, a volcano erupts in Colombia, killing well over 20,000 people as nearby towns are buried in mud, ice, and lava.

The Nevado del Ruiz volcano is situated in the north-central part of Colombia. Over the centuries, various eruptions caused the formation of large mudflows in the valleys beneath the volcano. When the Nevado del Ruiz went an extended period of time without erupting, people began to build towns over the mudflow areas and glacial ice built up near the volcano’s crater.

In last few months of 1984, activity picked up at the volcano. Multiple tremors were recorded and geologists from around the world traveled to Colombia to observe the situation. The following November, an eruption of steam and ash caused ice, rocks, and mud to cascade down the mountain. Scientists, believing that a full-blown eruption was possible, recommended evacuating the area. Their concerns, however, were largely ignored.

On the afternoon of November 13, a major eruption occurred. Ash was sent 30 miles into the air, but still, possibly believing they had more time, few residents evacuated. Later that evening into the morning of the November 14, there were several more powerful eruptions. Lava flowed out of the crater, melting the glacial ice surrounding it and causing massive mudslides.

The town of Chinchina was first to be hit. Approximately 1,100 people were killed when a mudslide overwhelmed the village. The worst scene of destruction was the city of Armero. The wave of mud, rock, and ice was nearly 100 feet high as it barreled down on the city. Although it could be heard for a full 30 minutes before it struck, there was little the residents could do to avoid it. Further, many radio reports were instructing the residents to stay in their homes. Close to 20,000 people were buried and killed by the slide.

Overall, the best estimate is that 25,000 lives were claimed by the eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz volcano.

Map: Major Volcanoes of Colombia
Major Volcanoes of Colombia (

* 1969 Apollo 12 lifts off.

Apollo 12, the second manned mission to the surface of the moon, is launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, with astronauts Charles Conrad, Jr.; Richard F. Gordon, Jr.; and Alan L. Bean aboard. President Richard Nixon viewed the liftoff from Pad A at Cape Canaveral. He was the first president to attend the liftoff of a manned space flight.

Thirty-six seconds after takeoff, lightning struck the ascending Saturn 5 launch rocket, which tripped the circuit breakers in the command module and caused a power failure. Fortunately, the launching rocket continued up normally, and within a few minutes power was restored in the spacecraft.

On November 19, the landing module Intrepid made a precision landing on the northwest rim of the moon’s Ocean of Storms. About five hours later, astronauts Conrad and Bean became the third and fourth humans to walk on the surface of the moon. During the next 32 hours, the two astronauts made two lunar walks, where they collected lunar samples and investigated the Surveyor 3 spacecraft, an unmanned U.S. probe that soft-landed on the moon in 1967. On November 24, Apollo 12 successfully returned to Earth, splashing down only three miles from one of its retrieval ships, the USS Hornet.

Apollo 12 crew
Apollo 12 crew (Today in Space History –

Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* This Day In History – What Happened Today              

* Wikipedia                                                                                         

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.

13 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… November 14th”

  1. We authors can take a lesson from Melville’s experience, and keep writing no matter what! I remember the Apollo 12 liftoff and re-entry. It amazes me that after nearly 50 years, we haven’t gotten any farther than the moon with our manned spacecrafts. I have friends who live near Mount. St. Helens in Washington. They say they’re safe, because the lava flow is always on the side opposite them. A bit of wishful thinking, I fear. I do hope they’re right ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As I read your words about your friends I immediately thought of the phrase, “famous last words”. I sincerely hope they stay safe. I saw a clip on the TV News this morning about a NASA mission to Mars next year. But I don’t know if that will be a manned flight. It’s time. I think the Space Station would have been very useful if space missions could be launched from there. Otherwise what’s the point? Pretty expensive observatory. Thanks, Dus!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s stunning to realize that in 1985 a volcano erupted that buried 25,000 in Colombia. The U.S. has several volcanoes that are worrisome, and perhaps the most threatening is in Yellowstone. Thank you, John, for bringing this to our attention.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is so much potential for natural disasters: hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, landslides, and floods – it boggles the mind. And there’s not a darned thing you can do except try to get out of the way. Thanks, Gwen.


  3. Tito was an interesting leader during his time. His leadership style is worth studying. There are lessons to be learned from this historical person.
    I was engulfed by sadness reading about the volcano in Colombia. So many lives lost because the residents failed to heave the early warning. Unfortunately, we still see history repeating itself, around the world, in so many unanticipated circumstances.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, Gracie, that Tito was interesting in that he was able to maintain Yugoslavia’s autonomy within the Communist Bloc. There certainly have been many natural disasters – some of which cannot be avoided. Thanks for your comments, Gracie!


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