John’s Believe It Or Not… February 13th

* 1988 – Calgary hosts 15th Winter Olympics. * 1689 British Parliament adopts the Bill of Rights which establishes the rights of parliament and places limits on the crown * 1633 Galileo in Rome for Inquisition * 1905 Teddy Roosevelt discusses America’s race problem * 1991 Long-lost Twain manuscript authenticated

Portrait picture of Mark Twain

It’s Tuesday! Did You Know…

* 1988 – Calgary hosts 15th Winter Olympics.

The 1988 Winter Olympics, officially known as the XV Olympic Winter Games, was a Winter Olympics multi-sport event celebrated in and around Calgary, Canada between February 13 and 28, 1988. The host city was selected in 1981 over Falun, Sweden and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. Most events took place in Calgary while several skiing events were held in the mountain resorts of Nakiska and Canmore, west of the city.

A then-record 57 nations competed and 1,423 athletes participated. As it had in Montreal in 1976, Canada again failed to win a gold medal in an official medal event as the host nation. Finnish ski jumper Matti Nykänen and Dutch speed skater Yvonne van Gennip were individual medal leaders with each winning three gold medals. The games are also remembered for the “heroic failure” of British ski jumper Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, and the Winter Olympic début of the Jamaica national bobsled team, both of which would be subjects of major feature films about their participation in the games.

The Calgary games were at the time one of the most expensive Olympics ever held, but the organizing committee turned record television and sponsorship revenue into a net surplus that was used to maintain the facilities built for the Olympics and develop the Calgary region into the heart of Canada’s elite winter sports program. The five purpose-built venues continue to be used in their original functions, and have helped the country develop into one of the top nations in Winter Olympic competition; Canada more than quintupled the five medals it won in Calgary at the 2010 games, the next Winter Olympics hosted on Canadian soil in Vancouver. Calgary is the largest city to host the Winter Olympics; however, the census metropolitan area of Greater Vancouver could also be considered the largest metropolitan area to host the Winter Olympics. Nonetheless, this title will soon to be turned over to Beijing in 2022.

Calgary – 1988 Winter Olympics.
Calgary – 1988 Winter Olympics.

* 1689 British Parliament adopts the Bill of Rights which establishes the rights of parliament and places limits on the crown

The Bill of Rights, also known as the English Bill of Rights, is an Act of the Parliament of England that deals with constitutional matters and sets out certain basic civil rights. It received the Royal Assent on 16 December 1689 and is a restatement in statutory form of the Declaration of Right presented by the Convention Parliament to William III and Mary II in February 1689, inviting them to become joint sovereigns of England. The Bill of Rights lays down limits on the powers of the monarch and sets out the rights of Parliament, including the requirement for regular parliaments, free elections, and freedom of speech in Parliament. It sets out certain rights of individuals including the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and reestablished Protestants to have arms for their defense within the rule of law. Furthermore, the Bill of Rights described and condemned several misdeeds of James II of England.

These ideas reflected those of the political thinker John Locke and they quickly became popular in England. It also sets out—or, in the view of its drafters, restates—certain constitutional requirements of the Crown to seek the consent of the people, as represented in Parliament.

In the United Kingdom, the Bill of Rights is further accompanied by Magna Carta, the Petition of Right, the Habeas Corpus Act 1679 and the Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949 as some of the basic documents of the uncodified British constitution. This means that England never had a single constitutional document and still does not. America’s constitution is contained in a single document with amendments added later. Canada’s constitution is a blend of both traditions. The Bill of Rights 1689 was one of the inspirations for the United States Bill of Rights.

Along with the Act of Settlement 1701, the Bill of Rights is still in effect in all Commonwealth realms. Following the Perth Agreement in 2011, legislation amending both of them came into effect across the Commonwealth realms on 26 March 2015.

Slide picturing the English Parliament buildings + an explanation that Britain has no formal constitutional document.
While England has no formal written Constitution, the Magna Carta (1215) + Petition of Right (1628) + Bill of Rights (1689) etc. (SlidePlayer)

* 1633 Galileo in Rome for Inquisition

On this day in 1633, Italian philosopher, astronomer, and mathematician Galileo Galilei arrives in Rome to face charges of heresy for advocating Copernican theory, which holds that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Galileo officially faced the Roman Inquisition in April of that same year and agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence. Put under house arrest indefinitely by Pope Urban VIII, Galileo spent the rest of his days at his villa in Arcetri, near Florence, before dying on January 8, 1642.

Galileo, the son of a musician, was born February 15, 1564, in Pisa, Italy. He entered the University of Pisa planning to study medicine but shifted his focus to philosophy and mathematics. In 1589, he became a professor at Pisa for several years, during which time he demonstrated that the speed of a falling object is not proportional to its weight, as Aristotle had believed. According to some reports, Galileo conducted his research by dropping objects of different weights from the Leaning Tower of Pisa. From 1592 to 1630, Galileo was a math professor at the University of Padua, where he developed a telescope that enabled him to observe lunar mountains and craters, the four largest satellites of Jupiter and the phases of Jupiter. He also discovered that the Milky Way was made up of stars. Following the publication of his research in 1610, Galileo gained acclaim and was appointed court mathematician at Florence.

Galileo’s research led him to become an advocate of the work of the Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1573). However, the Copernican theory of a sun-centered solar system conflicted with the teachings of the powerful Roman Catholic Church, which essentially ruled Italy at the time. Church teachings contended that Earth, not the sun, was at the center of the universe. In 1633, Galileo was brought before the Roman Inquisition, a judicial system established by the papacy in 1542 to regulate church doctrine. This included the banning of books that conflicted with church teachings. The Roman Inquisition had its roots in the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, the purpose of which was to seek out and prosecute heretics, considered enemies of the state.

Today, Galileo is recognized for making important contributions to the study of motion and astronomy. His work influenced later scientists such as the English mathematician and physicist Sir Isaac Newton, who developed the law of universal gravitation. In 1992, the Vatican formally acknowledged its mistake in condemning Galileo.

Galileo facing the Inquisition Rome 1633
Galileo facing the Inquisition Rome 1633 (

* 1905 Teddy Roosevelt discusses America’s race problem

On this day in 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt delivers a stirring speech to the New York City Republican Club.

Roosevelt had just won his second reelection, and in this speech, he discussed the country’s current state of race relations and his plan for improving them. In 1905, many white Americans’ attitude of superiority to other races still lingered. Much bitterness still existed between North and South and, in addition, Roosevelt’s tenure in office had seen an influx of Asian immigrants in the West, which contributed to new racial tensions. In his argument for racial equality, Roosevelt used the rising tide raises all ships metaphor, stating that if morality and thrift among the colored men can be raised then those same virtues among whites, already assumed to be more advanced, would rise to an even higher degree. At the same time, he warned that the debasement of the blacks will in the end carry with it [the] debasement of the whites.

Roosevelt’s solution to the race problem in 1905 was to proceed slowly toward social and economic equality. He cautioned against imposing radical changes in government policy and instead suggested a gradual adjustment in the attitudes of whites toward ethnic minorities. He referred to white Americans as the forward race, whose responsibility it was to raise the status of minorities through training the backward race[s] in industrial efficiency, political capacity and domestic morality. Thus, he claimed whites bore the burden of preserving the high civilization wrought out by its forefathers.

While Roosevelt firmly believed in the words of the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal, his administration took only a passive, long-term approach to improving civil rights. His successors in the 20th century would take the same route–it was not until Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act in 1964 that government efforts to correct racial bias would be encoded into law.

President Theodore Roosevelt stands by a globe in this 1905 photograph
President Theodore Roosevelt stands by a globe in this 1905 photograph (VOA Learning English)

* 1991 Long-lost Twain manuscript authenticated

On this day, Sotheby’s announced the discovery of a long-lost manuscript of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.

The manuscript was the first half of Twain’s original version, heavily corrected in his own handwriting, which had been missing for more than a century. The manuscript surfaced when a 62-year-old Los Angeles librarian finally got around to sorting through some old papers in six trunks sent to her when an aunt from upstate New York died.

Twain, it turned out, had sent the second half of the manuscript to the librarian’s grandfather, James Gluck, who had solicited it for the Buffalo and Erie Library in Buffalo, New York, where Twain had once lived. At the time, Twain was unable to find the entire manuscript, and it was presumed lost for more than 100 years. However, it turned out that Twain did eventually find the manuscript and send it to Gluck.

A custody war over the manuscript ensued, with the sisters, the library, and the Mark Twain Papers Projects in Berkeley, California, squabbling over rights to the papers. Ultimately, the three parties struck a deal: The library would hold the rights to the physical papers, but all three parties would share in the publication rights. Because the novel contained previously unpublished material and showed Twain’s edits, interest in publishing the manuscript was high, and in 1995 Random House won the rights to publish the book for an undisclosed price.

Early front cover and spine of Huckleberry Finn

Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* On This Day – History, Film, Music and Sport               

* 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.

16 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… February 13th”

  1. Poor Galileo, the right man at the wrong time – for him personally, at least.

    Regarding the Theodore Roosevelt story: As Vice President, he was sworn-in as President after William McKinley was assassinated by Leon Czolgosz in 1901. Teddy won reelection in 1904, but lost his bid to recapture the White House in 1912 running on the progressive “Bull Moose” party (the election was won by Democrat Woodrow Wilson).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember the Flying Eagle from the Calgary Winter Olympics. Seems odd that England has no real constitution. Galileo certainly took it on the chin. Teddy Roosevelt was ahead of his time The Twain manuscript in an old trunk is an amazing story. Thanks, John

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The British Constitution is unwritten in that it evolved from custom, tradition, and several specific documents like Magna Carta and the like. Britain evolved politically as a nation out of the chaos after Rome left her shores. They never got around to writing down all customs and traditions and inserting the constitutional documents they had into one single document called the Constitution. They never felt the need. Their way served them well.

      America was born politically out of the fire of a revolutionary war. Those early Americans felt betrayed by the Crown and Parliament. They did not trust the word of their rulers. Hence, they left nothing to chance when they put together a single constitutional document for themselves called the Articles of Confederation. It was terribly flawed, so they did an overhaul and created the present US Constitution that has been updated by way of Amendments. Everything was written down and the Supreme Court was to be the final arbiter in case of disagreements over interpretation. It has served the American people well.

      Canada has a blend of the two systems. We started with much of our constitution as a written document in 1867 – The British North America Act + British constitutional customs and traditions and their documents. Our document was updated and called The Canada Act 1982 – it incorporates the old BNA Act + an amending formula to allow for future changes + The Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It has worked well for us. You can easily see that Canada was influenced by Britain and the USA in this regard.

      As I see it, Teddy Roosevelt said the right words but made no attempt to implement any of it – placate the liberals and the minorities, and don’t ruffle the feathers of White America.

      Our shared difficulty is that our countries were both founded on the firm belief of white supremacy and that flies in the face of modern policies of multiculturalism. It is why our justice system, penal system, political system, and the business world do not treat visible minorities (including women) as well as white men. Neither of our countries, despite policies and laws to the contrary, have changed the foundational nature of our two nations. In Canada, we also have the ancient antagonisms between a French, Catholic minority (10% of our population) and the English, Protestant majority.

      Peace on earth? Let’s start in our own countries and clean up our own messes before we leave our shores and preach at anyone else. Thanks, John.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This was a fascinating day, John. It’s hard to imagine Galileo being convicted for the truth. I didn’t know about Twain’s manuscript. If you get a trunk full of old papers from a relative, don’t toss!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Unfortunately, the “truth” was what Holy Mother Church declared as truth – infallibility and all that claptrap. The RC church still operates that way – although Pope Francis seems to be a breath of fresh air. Thanks, Opher.


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