John’s Believe It Or Not… April 17th

* April 17 1840 – Fenian rebel Benjamin Lett sets off a Good Friday blast – blowing the top off Brock’s Monument * 1961 The Bay of Pigs invasion begins * 1936 A single horsehair uncovers a murderer * 1790 Benjamin Franklin dies * 2002 General Hospital airs 10,000th episode

Portrait of Benjamin Franklin

It’s Tuesday! Did You Know…

* April 17, 1840 – Fenian rebel Benjamin Lett sets off a Good Friday blast – blowing the top off Brock’s Monument

Isaac Brock was killed on 13 October 1812 in the Battle of Queenston Heights. He was leading a charge to retake a gun emplacement on Queenston Heights’ northern slope that had been captured by the invading American forces when he was shot in the wrist and chest. Before the battle at Queenston Heights, Brock had, with the help of Indigenous warriors, captured Fort Michilimackinac in July 1812 as well as Detroit that August.

The War of 1812 dragged on for more than two years after Brock’s death at Queenston Heights, but for many Upper Canadians, he became the conflict’s central symbol. He was held up as a hero and a unifying figure for the people of the province, many of whom wanted to honor him with a fitting monument.

Work began on the monument in the spring of 1824, and on the battle’s anniversary that fall the remains of Brock and his aide-de-camp, John Macdonell were removed from Fort George and reinterred under the new monument. The ceremony was attended by over 8,000 people. The first monument honoring Brock was largely completed in 1827, though some elements of the original design were never carried out. It stood just over 41 m high and had an interior staircase that led to an observation deck at its apex. The monument stood at the edge of the escarpment until 17 April 1840, when it was badly damaged by an explosion. The charge was supposedly set by Benjamin Lett, an Irish Canadian who had allegedly been involved in the 1837 rebellion. Following the explosion, the monument was cracked on one side and shattered above the gallery.

On 30 July 1840, some 8,000 people gathered on Queenston Heights to determine what should be done about the monument’s destruction. The speakers at the gathering argued that a new memorial should be built to honor the hero as soon as possible, and it was resolved to create a new monument committee. After the rubble of the damaged monument was removed, the bodies of Brock and Macdonell were disinterred and reburied in the Hamilton family cemetery in Queenston.

In 1842, the commissioners held a contest to select the new monument’s design and chose an Egyptian-style obelisk designed by Toronto’s Thomas Young. However, the committee ran into funding problems as, unlike the previous monument, the provincial government did not allocate any funds to the second memorial. The project lost momentum until 1852 when the committee’s funds reached £5,794. They then decided to hold another design contest, which resulted in the selection of a design by architect William Thomas, who had gained acclaim for the design of several churches, notably Saint Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto. The cornerstone of the new monument on Queenston Heights was laid on the anniversary of Brock’s death, 13 October, in 1853. The remains of Brock and Macdonell were reinterred in new caskets at its base. Between 12,000 and 15,000 people gathered on Queenston Heights for the ceremony.

Construction work continued after the gathering, and the new monument was inaugurated on 13 October 1859. Thousands of people from around the province gathered on the heights to commemorate Brock and celebrate his new monument.

Aerial view of the current Brock's Momument
Current Brock’s Monument (

* 1961 The Bay of Pigs invasion begins

The Bay of Pigs invasion begins when a CIA-financed and -trained group of Cuban refugees lands in Cuba and attempts to topple the communist government of Fidel Castro. The attack was an utter failure.

Fidel Castro had been a concern to U.S. policymakers since he seized power in Cuba with a revolution in January 1959. Castro’s attacks on U.S. companies and interests in Cuba, his inflammatory anti-American rhetoric, and Cuba’s movement toward a closer relationship with the Soviet Union led U.S. officials to conclude that the Cuban leader was a threat to U.S. interests in the Western Hemisphere. In March 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the CIA to train and arm a force of Cuban exiles for an armed attack on Cuba. John F. Kennedy inherited this program when he became president in 1961.

Though many of his military advisors indicated that an amphibious assault on Cuba by a group of lightly armed exiles had little chance for success, Kennedy gave the go-ahead for the attack. On April 17, 1961, around 1,200 exiles, armed with American weapons and using American landing craft, waded ashore at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba. The hope was that the exile force would serve as a rallying point for the Cuban citizenry, who would rise up and overthrow Castro’s government. The plan immediately fell apart–the landing force met with unexpectedly rapid counterattacks from Castro’s military, the tiny Cuban air force sank most of the exiles’ supply ships, the United States refrained from providing necessary air support, and the expected uprising never happened. Over 100 of the attackers were killed, and more than 1,100 were captured.

The failure at the Bay of Pigs cost the United States dearly. Castro used the attack by the “Yankee imperialists” to solidify his power in Cuba and he requested additional Soviet military aid. Eventually, that aid included missiles, and the construction of missile bases in Cuba sparked the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, when the United States and the Soviet Union nearly came to blows over the issue. Further, throughout much of Latin America, the United States was pilloried for its use of armed force in trying to unseat Castro, a man who was considered a hero to many for his stance against U.S. interference and imperialism. Kennedy tried to redeem himself by publicly accepting blame for the attack and its subsequent failure, but the botched mission left the young president looking vulnerable and indecisive.

Landing at the Bay of Pigs. Mercenaries made prisoners,, 1961,, Cuba.
Landing at the Bay of Pigs. Mercenaries made prisoners,, 1961,, Cuba. (Getty Images)

* 1936 A single horsehair uncovers a murderer

After a week of tracking down every conceivable lead, police finally find the evidence they need in order to break the case of Nancy Titterton’s rape-murder in New York City. Titterton, a novelist and the wife of NBC executive Lewis Titterton, was raped and strangled in her upscale home on Beekman Place on the morning of April 10, 1936. The only clues left behind were a foot-long piece of cord that had been used to tie Titterton’s hands and a single horsehair found on her bedspread.

These small traces of evidence proved to be enough to find the killer. The detective in charge of the investigation had ordered his team to trace the source of the cord. After a full week of combing every rope and twine manufacturer in the Northeast, the cord was finally found to have come from Hanover Cordage Company in York, Pennsylvania. Company records showed that some of the distinctive cord had been sold to Theodore Kruger’s upholstery shop in New York City.

Since the investigation of the horsehair had already led police to suspect John Fiorenza, an assistant at Kruger’s shop, this new evidence only solidified their suspicion. Fiorenza and Kruger were the first to discover Titterton’s body, when they arrived to return a repaired couch (which had been stuffed with horsehair that matched the one found at the crime scene) on the afternoon of April 10. However, they both denied entering the bedroom that day.

When investigators learned that Fiorenza had been at the Titterton house on April 9 and had been late for work the morning of the murder, they looked deeper into his background. Fiorenza had four prior arrests for theft and had been diagnosed as delusional by a prison psychiatrist. Detectives first gained Fiorenza’s trust by pretending to need his help in solving the crime and then sprang the cord evidence on him.

Caught by surprise, Fiorenza confessed to the brutal crime but claimed that he was temporarily insane. This defense didn’t hold up too well at trial, and Fiorenza was executed on January 22, 1937.

The murderer, John Fiorenza
The murderer, John Fiorenza (Imgur)

* 1790 Benjamin Franklin dies

On April 17, 1790, American statesman, printer, scientist, and writer Benjamin Franklin dies in Philadelphia at age 84.

Born in Boston in 1706, Franklin became at 12 years old an apprentice to his half-brother James, a printer, and publisher. He learned the printing trade and in 1723 went to Philadelphia to work after a dispute with his brother. After a sojourn in London, he started a printing and publishing press with a friend in 1728. In 1729, the company won a contract to publish Pennsylvania’s paper currency and also began publishing the Pennsylvania Gazette, which was regarded as one of the better colonial newspapers. From 1732 to 1757, he wrote and published Poor Richard’s Almanack, an instructive and humorous periodical in which Franklin coined such practical American proverbs as “God helps those who help themselves” and “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

As his own wealth and prestige grew, Franklin took on greater civic responsibilities in Philadelphia and helped establish the city’s first circulating library, police force, volunteer fire company, and an academy that became the University of Pennsylvania. From 1737 to 1753, he was postmaster of Philadelphia and during this time also served as a clerk of the Pennsylvania legislature. In 1753, he became deputy postmaster general, in charge of mail in all the northern colonies.

Deeply interested in science and technology, he invented the Franklin stove, which is still manufactured today, and bifocal eyeglasses, among other practical inventions. In 1748, he turned his printing business over to his partner so he would have more time for his experiments. The phenomenon of electricity fascinated him, and in a dramatic experiment, he flew a kite in a thunderstorm to prove that lightning is an electrical discharge. He later invented the lightning rod. Many terms used in discussing electricity, including positive, negative, battery, and conductor, were coined by Franklin in his scientific papers. He was the first American scientist to be highly regarded in European scientific circles.

Franklin was active in colonial affairs and in 1754 proposed the union of the colonies, which was rejected by Britain. In 1757, he went to London to argue for the right to tax the massive estates of the Penn family in Pennsylvania, and in 1764 went again to ask for a new charter for Pennsylvania. He was in England when Parliament passed the Stamp Act, a taxation measure to raise revenues for a standing British army in America. His initial failure to actively oppose the controversial act drew wide criticism in the colonies, but he soon redeemed himself by stoutly defending American rights before the House of Commons. With tensions between the American colonies and Britain rising, he stayed on in London and served as the agent for several colonies.

In 1775, he returned to America as the American Revolution approached and was a delegate at the Continental Congress. In 1776, he helped draft the Declaration of Independence and in July signed the final document. Ironically, Franklin’s illegitimate son, William Franklin, whom Franklin and his wife had raised, had at the same time emerged as a leader of the Loyalists. In 1776, Congress sent Benjamin Franklin, one of the embattled United States’ most prominent statesmen, to France as a diplomat. Warmly embraced, he succeeded in 1778 in securing two treaties that provided the Americans with significant military and economic aid. In 1781, with French help, the British were defeated. With John Jay and John Adams, Franklin then negotiated the Treaty of Paris with Britain, which was signed in 1783.

In 1785, Franklin returned to the United States. In his last great public service, he was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and worked hard for the document’s ratification. After his death in 1790, Philadelphia gave him the largest funeral the city had ever seen.

Benjamin Franklin Quote: I didn't fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong."


* 2002 General Hospital airs 10,000th episode

On this day in 2002, ABC airs the 10,000th episode of the daytime drama General Hospital, the network’s longest-running soap opera and the longest-running program ever produced in Hollywood.

Created by Frank and Doris Hursley, General Hospital premiered on April 1, 1963. It was set in the fictional town of Port Charles in upstate New York, and focused on the lives and loves of the staff working in the town’s General Hospital. Prominent characters in the show’s early days included Dr. Steve Hardy (John Beradino) and Nurse Audrey March (Rachel Ames). On the same day General Hospital debuted, ABC’s rival network, NBC, launched its own medical soap opera, The Doctors. Both networks were attempting to capitalize on the success of prime time-medical dramas such as Dr. Kildare and Ben Casey.

General Hospital set a new standard for daytime soap operas by introducing dramatic action-adventure plotlines into the complicated mix of family and romantic issues that was the usual bread and butter of soaps at the time. Still, by the late 1970s, the show’s ratings had dropped to the point where it seemed on the brink of cancellation. In general, ratings for daytime soap operas were declining, a development some attributed to the fact that growing numbers of women–the target audience for the genre since the first of its kind, CBS’s Guiding Light, debuted in 1952–were entering the workforce and weren’t home during the day. In 1978, Gloria Monty took the reins as executive producer of General Hospital; in a few short years, the show had become the No. 1 daytime drama, largely by captivating growing numbers of teenage audiences.

One of the big secrets to the show’s new success was viewers’ fascination with the romance of the “super couple” Luke Spencer and Laura Webber (known to millions of fans simply as “Luke and Laura”), played by Anthony Geary and Genie Francis. After bad-boy Luke stole Laura from her lawyer husband, Scotty Baldwin (Kin Shriner), their 1981 wedding became the most-watched event in soap-opera history. Luke and Laura divorced on the show in 2001 after 20 years of marriage; with great fanfare, they remarried in the fall of 2006.

In the 10,000th episode of General Hospital, Nurse Audrey receives a medal commemorating her 10,000 days of service. Rachel Ames departed the show in 2007, and the longest-running character on General Hospital (as of its 46th season in 2008) is Shriner’s Scotty Baldwin, who was introduced in 1965. Among the more famous performers to appear on General Hospital over the years are Demi Moore, who got her start on the show, and Rick Springfield, who became a pop star due to his soap-opera fame. Other General Hospital veterans include John Stamos, Jack Wagner, and Ricky Martin. Elizabeth Taylor, a longtime fan of the show, made a cameo appearance in 1981.

One General Hospital spinoff, Port Charles, ran from 1997 to 2003; another, General Hospital: Night Shift, premiered in 2007. In recent years, General Hospital has been praised for its treatment of such sensitive issues as HIV/AIDS and sexual abuse of children. Chosen by TV Guide as the All-Time Best Daytime Soap, the show won a record-breaking 10th Emmy Award for Best Daytime Drama in June 2008.

Advertisement picture for General Hospital featuring four cast members.

Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* The Canadian Encyclopedia                       

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

* 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.

14 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… April 17th”

  1. How many times have the CIA interfered with or tried to overthrow foreign governments that the US doesn’t approve of – faintly smelling of socialism?
    Then they have the nerve to say that socialism has never worked.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A lot more times than we know about I’m sure, Opher. The Socialism envisioned by Marx and Engels has never been tried – people like Lenin bastardized it into a right-wing dictatorship. Socialism in a democratic context would create a society that is far more just and peaceful than anything the earth has witnessed.


  2. Although very young, I vividly remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. Khrushchev’s prior threat, ‘We will bury you!’ was repeatedly aired during the crisis and forced Americans to stay glued to their TVs. This, along with the air raid drills still practiced in our schools, caused children as well as adults to fear for their lives. I think this is when I became fully aware of international politics. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I believe our generation became fearfully aware of international politics quite early in life. During that Cuban Missile Crisis, I remember going outside at recess time and all I did was watch the sky for warplanes and/or missiles. I also remember thinking that I might never see my mom and dad again. Thanks, Tina.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I agree, Tina, but I feel blessed that I grew up in the 1960s and experience all the tumult that characterized international politics, domestic politics, the sexual revolution, the rebirth of the women’s movement, the birth of Rock & Roll and other great musical genres of those times, and all the cultural rethinking that marked the era as extraordinary. It was scary and it was terribly exciting. I wouldn’t have missed any of it. Thanks for making me think about these things, Sis!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. True, John. The time we grew up in was as exhilarating as it was terrifying. I was in a women’s singing group that did gigs to promote the Equal Rights Amendment, I worked with Amnesty International and marched with the United Farm Workers, and I was part of the Hippie Revolution! The scary times of my childhood days transformed into exciting times as an adult. Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Bro! ❤

            Liked by 1 person

  3. John, you have quite the assortment here. My wife would love the tribute to General Hospital. I was interested in the War of 1812, misnamed as it lasted over two years, and Bay of Pigs fiasco. I remember the theory in the movie “JFK” that the Cubans were part of a triumvirate that assassinated JFK as payback for the Bay of Pigs. I do love the Ben Franklin quote. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are so many conspiracy theories floating around concerning JFK. That War of 1812 marked the last time that Canadians and Americans fought against each other. Thanks for your comments, Keith.


  4. I never watched a single episode of General Hospital and I don’t know the actors. Sometimes I think I must live on another planet, at least in my thoughts. 😀 Benjamin Franklin’s contributions are astounding. And, as for the horsehair discovery, I’m grateful the investigators stayed the course. Their attentiveness may have protected many other young women. So sad.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I never watched soaps unless I was visiting my aunt or mother-in-law and they were watching them. Their favorite was the Young & the Stupid. 😉 Great investigators must have patience and dedication. Thanks, Gwen.


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