John’s Believe It Or Not… November 15th

* 1948 – Mackenzie King retires after record 21 years. * 1867 First stock ticker debuts. * 1957 Nikita Khrushchev challenges United States to a missile “shooting match” * 1923 Accused of rape – James Montgomery’s struggle for justice begins. * 1859 Final installment of A Tale of Two Cities is published.

Portrait: William Lyon Mackenzie King

It’s Hump Day Wednesday! Did You Know…

* 1948 – Mackenzie King retires after record 21 years.

William Lyon Mackenzie King (December 17, 1874 – July 22, 1950), also commonly known as Mackenzie King, was the dominant Canadian political leader, as the Prime Minister of Canada, from the 1920s through the 1940s. He served as the tenth Prime Minister of Canada in 1921–1926, 1926–1930 and 1935–1948. He is best known for his leadership of Canada throughout the Second World War (1939–1945) when he mobilized Canadian money, supplies, and volunteers to support Britain while boosting the economy and maintaining home front morale. A Liberal with 21 years and 154 days in office, he was the longest-serving prime minister in Canadian history. Trained in law and social work, he was keenly interested in the human condition (as a boy, his motto was “Help those that cannot help themselves”), and played a major role in laying the foundations of the Canadian welfare state.

King acceded to the leadership of the Liberal Party in 1919. Taking the helm of a party bitterly torn apart during the First World War, he reconciled factions, unifying the Liberal Party and leading it to victory in the 1921 election. His party was out of office during the harshest days of the Great Depression in Canada, 1930–35; he returned when the economy was on an upswing. He personally handled complex relations with the Prairie Provinces, while his top aides Ernest Lapointe and Louis St. Laurent skillfully met the demands of French Canadians. During the Second World War, he carefully avoided the battles over conscription, patriotism, and ethnicity that had divided Canada so deeply in the First World War. Though few major policy innovations took place during his premiership, he was able to synthesize and pass a number of measures that had reached a level of broad national support. Scholars attribute King’s long tenure as party leader to his wide range of skills that were appropriate to Canada’s needs. He understood the workings of capital and labor. Keenly sensitive to the nuances of public policy, he was a workaholic with a shrewd and penetrating intelligence and a profound understanding of the complexities of Canadian society. A modernizing technocrat who regarded managerial mediation as essential to an industrial society, he wanted his Liberal Party to represent liberal corporatism to create social harmony. King worked to bring compromise and harmony to many competing and feuding elements, using politics and government action as his instrument. He led his party for 29 years and established Canada’s international reputation as a middle power fully committed to world order.

King’s biographers agree on the personal characteristics that made him distinctive. He lacked the charisma of such contemporaries as Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, or Charles de Gaulle. He lacked a commanding presence or oratorical skill; his best writing was academic and did not resonate with the electorate. Cold and tactless in human relations, he had many political allies but very few close personal friends. He never married and lacked a hostess whose charm could substitute for his chill. He kept secret his beliefs in spiritualism and use of mediums to stay in contact with departed associates and particularly with his mother and allowed his intense spirituality to distort his understanding of Adolf Hitler throughout the late 1930s.

A survey of scholars in 1997 by Maclean’s magazine ranked King first among all Canada’s prime ministers, ahead of Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Wilfrid Laurier. As historian Jack Granatstein notes, “the scholars expressed little admiration for King the man but offered unbounded admiration for his political skills and attention to Canadian unity.” On the other hand, political scientist Ian Stewart in 2007 found that even Liberal activists have but a dim memory of him.

King, sitting left, at the 1944 Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference
King, sitting left, at the 1944 Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference (

* 1867 First stock ticker debuts.

On this day in 1867, the first stock ticker is unveiled in New York City. The advent of the ticker ultimately revolutionized the stock market by making up-to-the-minute prices available to investors around the country. Prior to this development, information from the New York Stock Exchange, which has been around since 1792, traveled by mail or messenger.

The ticker was the brainchild of Edward Calahan, who configured a telegraph machine to print stock quotes on streams of paper tape (the same paper tape later used in ticker-tape parades). The ticker, which caught on quickly with investors, got its name from the sound its type wheel made.

Calahan worked for the Gold & Stock Telegraph Company, which rented its tickers to brokerage houses and regional exchanges for a fee and then transmitted the latest gold and stock prices to all its machines at the same time. In 1869, Thomas Edison, a former telegraph operator, patented an improved, easier-to-use version of Calahan’s ticker. Edison’s ticker was his first lucrative invention and, through the manufacture and sale of stock tickers and other telegraphic devices, he made enough money to open his own lab in Menlo Park, New Jersey, where he developed the light bulb and phonograph, among other transformative inventions.

The last mechanical stock ticker debuted in 1960 and was eventually replaced by computerized tickers with electronic displays. A ticker shows a stock’s symbol, how many shares have traded that day and the price per share. It also tells how much the price has changed from the previous day’s closing price and whether it’s an up or down change. A common misconception is that there is one ticker used by everyone. In fact, private data companies run a variety of tickers; each provides information about a select mix of stocks.

Antique Universal Stock Ticker Machine
Antique Universal Stock Ticker Machine (

* 1957 Nikita Khrushchev challenges United States to a missile “shooting match”

In a long and rambling interview with an American reporter, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev claims that the Soviet Union has missile superiority over the United States and challenges America to a missile “shooting match” to prove his assertion.

The interview further fueled fears in the United States that the nation was falling perilously behind the Soviets in the arms race.The interview elicited the usual mixture of boastful belligerence and calls for “peaceful coexistence” with the West that was characteristic of Khrushchev’s public statements during the late 1950s. He bragged about Soviet missile superiority, claiming that the United States did not have intercontinental ballistic rockets; “If she had,” the Russian leader sneered, “she would have launched her own Sputnik.” He then issued a challenge: “Let’s have a peaceful rocket contest just like a rifle-shooting match, and they’ll see for themselves.”

Speaking about the future of East-West relations, Khrushchev stated that the American and Soviet people both wanted peace. He cautioned, however, that although the Soviet Union would never start a war, “some lunatics” might bring about a conflict. In particular, he noted that Secretary of State John Foster Dulles had created “an artificial war psychosis.”

In the case of war, it “would be fought on the American continent, which can be reached by our rockets.” NATO forces in Europe would also be devastated, and Europe “might become a veritable cemetery.” While the Soviet Union would “suffer immensely,” the forces of communism would ultimately destroy capitalism.

Khrushchev’s remarks came just a few days after the Gaither Report had been leaked to the press in the United States. The report supported many of the Russian leader’s contentions, charging that the United States was falling far behind the Soviets in the arms race. Critics of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s foreign policy, particularly from the Democratic Party, went on the attack. The public debate concerning the alleged “missile gap” between U.S. and Soviet rocket arsenals continued through the early 1960s and was a major issue in the 1960 presidential campaign between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy.

This Day In History: Soviet Leader Nikita Khrushchev Challenges U.S. To “Shooting Match”
This Day In History: Soviet Leader Nikita Khrushchev Challenges U.S. To “Shooting Match” (American Military News)

* 1923 Accused of rape – James Montgomery’s struggle for justice begins.

Mamie Snow, a mentally disabled white woman from Waukegan, Illinois, claims that James Montgomery, a black veteran, factory worker, and homeowner raped her. Montgomery, who was promptly thrown in jail, spent more than 25 years in prison before his conviction was overturned and he was released.

From the start, Montgomery’s trial seemed ill-fated. Local Ku Klux Klan members threatened Montgomery’s lawyer during the proceedings, and, in 1923, after a weak defense and a trial that took less than a day, Montgomery was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.

While serving time, Montgomery studied the law in an attempt to prove his innocence. In 1946, he convinced civil rights attorney Luis Kutner to investigate his case. Kutner discovered a medical report from Snow’s hospital stay revealing that not only was Snow never raped, she was likely a virgin. Kutner also located additional evidence suggesting that the Klan had framed Montgomery and that prosecutors had withheld the medical evidence from the defense. Nonetheless, it took Kutner three more years to have the unjust conviction overturned. Montgomery was finally released in August 1949.

This case of wrongful imprisonment is not an isolated incident for Illinois. Between 1977 and 1999, the state released 11 people from death row because they had been wrongly convicted.

This Day in Crime History: NOVEMBER 15, 1923: ACCUSED OF RAPE, JAMES MONTGOMERY’S STRUGGLE FOR JUSTICE BEGINS (Dinge en Goete – blogger)

* 1859 Final installment of A Tale of Two Cities is published.

On this day in 1859, Charles Dickens’ serialized novel, A Tale of Two Cities, comes to a close, as the final chapter is published in Dickens’ circular, All the Year Round.

Dickens was born in 1812 and attended school in Portsmouth. His father, a clerk in the navy pay office, was thrown in debtors’ prison in 1824, and 12-year-old Charles was sent to work in a factory. The miserable treatment of children and the institution of the debtors’ jail became topics of several of Dickens’ novels.

In his late teens, Dickens became a reporter and started publishing humorous short stories when he was 21. In 1836, a collection of his stories, Sketches by Boz, was published. The same year, he married Catherine Hogarth, with whom he would have nine children.

The success of Dicken’s first work of fiction, Sketches by Boz, later known as The Pickwick Papers was soon reproduced with Oliver Twist (1838) and Nicholas Nickleby (1839). In 1841, Dickens published two more novels, then spent five months in the United States, where he was welcomed as a literary hero. Dickens never lost momentum as a writer, churning out major novels every year or two, often in serial form. Among his most important works are David Copperfield(1850), Great Expectations (1861), and A Tale of Two Cities (1859).

Beginning in 1850, he published his own weekly circular of fiction, poetry, and essays called Household Words. He folded the circular in 1859 and launched another, All the Year Round, which included the first chapter of A Tale of Two Cities. In 1858, Dickens separated from his wife and began a long association with a young actress. He gave frequent readings, which became immensely popular. He died in 1870 at the age of 58, with his last novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, still unfinished.

Cropped journal banner of Charles Dickens' ALL THE YEAR ROUND
Join us to read Charles Dickens’ 1859 novel A Tale of Two Cities in weekly installments (dickensataleoftwocities –

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 15th”

    1. I hope I don’t embarrass you, Jennie, but the word ‘Canadiens’ is the French spelling, and the word ‘Canadians’ is the English spelling. Sometimes I’ll refer to French Canadians as ‘Les Canadiens.’

      Actually, King wasn’t very important to Canadians – he wasn’t popular in the way that Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Pierre Trudeau, or his son, Justin Trudeau is today. King had no charisma – a ‘cold fish’ as one Canadian historian characterized him. But he was a political genius. Today, I’m sure King’s lack of personal charisma would turn off TV viewers – I doubt he could have won today.

      I don’t think Khrushchev was ever invited to a NATO meeting, so I’m not sure where he might have done that shoe thing. Thanks, Jennie!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I’m glad you weren’t offended, Jennie. A lot of people in both of our countries scratch their heads about the two ways the word Canadian/Canadien is spelled. Notice that the NHL hockey club spelling: Montreal Canadiens! I agree that Khrushchev was a scary guy!

          Liked by 1 person

  1. It was fascinating reading about Mackenzie King. We humans are interesting creatures, each of us so different. From everything you mentioned, he was an impressive leader even though he lacked charisma and depended upon spiritualism. And, then there was Nikita Khrushchev. Good grief! James Montgomery’s struggle for justice was heartbreaking to read. What a courageous and brilliant person! Thank you for this history update, John. Always appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Mackenzie King holds the record being in the Prime Minister’s office longer than any PM in the UK or the British Commonwealth. No small feat! Politically, he was a genius and often snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. He seemed to know instinctively what would resonate with voters. Some believe he purposely lost the election of 1930 to Arthur Meighen of the Conservatives because he believed whoever was PM during the Depression would be blamed and would not be easily forgiven. He threw the election by delivering his infamous 5-cent piece speech. He said he would not give a 5-cent piece of Relief to any province that did not elect a Liberal provincial government. It was a totally ridiculous thing to say for a political genius. By the way, the next time the Conservative Party won an election was 1957. King knew his stuff! Thanks, Gwen!

      Liked by 1 person

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