John’s Believe It Or Not… May 24th

* 1918 – Borden government passes Act to confer the Electoral Franchise upon Women – women over 21 to vote federally. * 1964 Riot erupts at soccer match * 1543 Copernicus dies * 1974 Duke Ellington dies * 1941 The Bismarck sinks the Hood

Duke Ellington

It’s Thursday! Did You Know…

* 1918 – Borden government passes Act to confer the Electoral Franchise upon Women – women over 21 to vote federally.

In 1867, the definition of the franchise was left to the provinces. This meant that eligibility to vote in a federal election could vary from one province to the other. All provinces, however, restricted the franchise to male British subjects who were at least 21 years old who had a property qualification. For the first 50 years after Confederation, the Liberal and Conservative parties manipulated the federal franchise in a blatantly partisan fashion. At various times up to 1920, the federal franchise was based either on the electoral lists drawn up by the provinces for provincial elections or on a federal list compiled by enumerators appointed by the governing party in Ottawa. Because until 1885 the vote was based on provincial law, elections were staggered, meaning they could be held on different days in different places. Voters in one constituency might already know which party was likely to form government. Given the importance of patronage in this era of Canadian politics, this created a powerful incentive to vote for the governing party.

Canada’s most controversial franchise legislation was adopted by Parliament during the First World War. The Wartime Elections Act and the Military Voters Act of 1917 enfranchised female relatives of men serving with the Canadian or British armed forces as well as all servicemen (including those under 21 and status Indians); it disenfranchised conscientious objectors and British subjects naturalized after 1902 who were born in an enemy country or who habitually spoke an enemy language. Prime Minister Robert Borden’s Conservative government openly admitted that the legislation was biased in its favor. The 1917 election results proved that they were right. Such abuses and shifts in the policies governing the right to vote ended in 1920 with the adoption of the Dominion Elections Act, which established a standard Dominion-wide franchise.

Although occasional instances were recorded of women voting in pre-Confederation Canada until 1849, Canadian women were systematically and universally disenfranchised. Apart from the temporary and selective enfranchisement of women under the Wartime Elections Act, women were first granted the right to vote federally in 1918.

In 1916, Manitoba became the first province to enfranchize women for provincial elections; in 1940, Québec was the last province to do so. In 1951, the Northwest Territories became the last territory to grant women the vote.

Political Cartoon: ‘WHEN WOMEN VOTE It won’t be lawful for a man to remain single’. All the men are being rushed into marriage – tweaked by the nose and carried under the arms of women
‘WHEN WOMEN VOTE It won’t be lawful for a man to remain single’. All the men are being rushed into marriage – tweaked by the nose and carried under the arms of women (

* 1964 Riot erupts at soccer match

A referee’s call in a soccer match between Peru and Argentina sparks a riot on this day in 1964. More than 300 fans were killed and another 500 people were injured in the violent melee that followed at National Stadium in Lima, Peru.

The match was a qualifier for the 1964 Olympics and the Peruvian fans were fiercely cheering on their team with only a few minutes left in a close game. When the referee disallowed an apparent goal for Peru, the stadium went wild. The resulting panic and crowd-control measures taken caused stampedes in which people were crushed and killed.

The extent of this disaster has only been surpassed once. In 1982, 340 people died at a match in Moscow when a late goal caused fans who had exited the game to attempt to return suddenly. Meanwhile, police were forcing people to exit; those caught in the middle were crushed.

Large-scale soccer disasters date back to 1946 when 33 fans were crushed to death in Bolton, England when overcrowded conditions caused a barrier to collapse onto fans.

24 May 1964, Lima, Peru --- A tear gas bomb explodes in the stands of the National Stadium here as police attempt to quell a riot touched off by a referee's decision giving Argentina a 1-0 victory in an Olympic elimination soccer game May 24th. Reports indicate that at least 263 persons died in a wild stampede as they attempted to escape the tear gas. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS
24 May 1964, Lima, Peru — A tear gas bomb explodes in the stands of the National Stadium here as police attempt to quell a riot touched off by a referee’s decision giving Argentina a 1-0 victory in an Olympic elimination soccer game May 24th. Reports indicate that at least 263 persons died in a wild stampede as they attempted to escape the tear gas. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

* 1543 Copernicus dies

On May 24, 1543, Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus dies in what is now Frombork, Poland. The father of modern astronomy, he was the first modern European scientist to propose that Earth and other planets revolve around the sun.

Prior to the publication of his major astronomical work, “Six Books Concerning the Revolutions of the Heavenly Orbs,” in 1543, European astronomers argued that Earth lay at the center of the universe, the view also held by most ancient philosophers and biblical writers. In addition to correctly postulating the order of the known planets, including Earth, from the sun, and estimating their orbital periods relatively accurately, Copernicus argued that Earth turned daily on its axis and that gradual shifts of this axis accounted for the changing seasons.

He died the year his major work was published, saving him from the outrage of some religious leaders who later condemned his heliocentric view of the universe as heresy. By the late 18th century, the Copernican view of the solar system was almost universally accepted.

Nicolaus Copernicus the Astronomer, Undated | Jan Matejko | Gemälde-Reproduktion bei
Nicolaus Copernicus the Astronomer, Undated | Jan Matejko | Gemälde-Reproduktion bei

* 1974 Duke Ellington dies

The highest compliment Edward Kennedy Ellington knew how to pay to a fellow musician was to refer to him as being “beyond category.” If any label could possibly capture the essence of Ellington himself, it would be that one. In a career spanning five decades, the man they called “Duke” put an indelible stamp on 20th-century American music as an instrumentalist, as a composer, and as an orchestra leader. Equally at home and equally revered in the Cotton Club and Carnegie Hall, if any musician ever defied categorization, it was Duke Ellington. Fifty years after becoming a household name, and without slowing down professionally until the very end, Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington died on May 24, 1974, at the age of 75.

One of the keys to understanding Duke Ellington’s persona is to know how and when he received his noble nickname. Unlike Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin, who were called the King and Queen of their respective genres because of their professional accomplishments, Edward Ellington became the Duke because of his suave demeanor and elegant bearing while still a schoolboy in Washington, D.C. As Studs Terkel put it, “His casual, offhand manner, his easy grace, and his dapper dress gave him the bearing of a young nobleman.” The same qualities would remain with Ellington throughout his adult life.

Even if Ellington had limited himself to being a composer, he would deserve a reputation as one of the 20th century’s best purely on the strength of “Mood Indigo” (1930), “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” (1932), “Sophisticated Lady” (1933) and “Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me” (1940). But Ellington was much more than a composer. His Duke Ellington Orchestra served as an incubator for some of the greatest instrumentalists of the jazz age and became famous for a sound that no other orchestra could mimic. As the conductor/composer Andre Previn once said in comparing Ellington to another jazz orchestra leader of far more modest talent: “Stan Kenton can stand in front of a thousand fiddles and a thousand brass and make a dramatic gesture and every studio arranger can nod his head and say, ‘Oh, yes, that’s done like this.’ But Duke merely lifts his finger, three horns make a sound and I don’t know what it is.”

The style of music that brought him to fame passed in and out of fashion over the decades following his commercial peak, but Ellington himself was never content to work within that style anyway. Over the course of his career, Ellington never stopped pushing himself into new territory, from long-form orchestral jazz compositions to sacred church music. “Every morning you wake up, it’s a new day, isn’t it?” he once said. “Is there any reason why a human being shouldn’t be influenced by a new day?” Jazz historian Ralph Gleason called him “The greatest composer American society has produced.” Duke Ellington himself would likely have been satisfied with simply “beyond category.”

Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington (Famous People)

* 1941 The Bismarck sinks the Hood

On this day in 1941, Germany’s largest battleship, the Bismarck, sinks the pride of the British fleet, HMS Hood.

The Bismarck was the most modern of Germany’s battleships, a prize coveted by other nation’s navies, even while still in the blueprint stage (Hitler handed over a copy of its blueprints to Joseph Stalin as a concession during the days of the Hitler-Stalin neutrality pact). The HMS Hood, originally launched in 1918, was Britain’s largest battlecruiser (41,200 tons)-but also capable of achieving the relatively fast speed of 31 knots. The two met in the North Atlantic, northeast of Iceland, where two British cruisers had tracked down the Bismarck. Commanded by Admiral Gunther Lutjens, commander in chief of the German Fleet, the Bismarck sunk the Hood, resulting in the death of 1,500 of its crew; only three Brits survived.

During the engagement, the Bismarck‘s fuel tank was damaged. Lutjens tried to make for the French coast but was sighted again only three days later. Torpedoed to the point of incapacity, the Bismarck was finally sunk by a ring of British warships. Admiral Lutjens was one of the 2,300 German casualties.

The Bismarck
The German battleship Bismarck entered service during World War II and earned fame in 1941 when it sank HMS Hood before being sunk by the Royal Navy.

Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* The Canadian Encyclopedia                           

* 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.

25 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… May 24th”

  1. The cartoon on women voting is hilarious. Duke Ellington was one of the best. It is hard to imagine hundreds of people being crushed to death at a sporting event. Thanks, John!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. HMS Hood was a WWI-era battlecruiser design which was never intended to engage battleships. Battlecruisers, in theory, were capable of outfighting any warship they couldn’t run away from (i.e. slower, more heavily armored battleships). However, this design concept failed right from the beginning because – as a “capital ship” – it was inevitable that battlecruisers would engage battleships sooner or later. By the 1930s when battleships speeds significantly increased, the battlecruiser concept officially became obsolete.

    The Royal Navy kept Hood in frontline service into WWII because replacing her with a modern ship was too costly.

    Hood’s main belt amour, which protected the ship from close-range flat-trajectory shellfire, was nearly as effective as Bismarck’s. Her deck amour, which protected the ship from long-range plunging shellfire, was totally inadequate. Vice Admiral Holland, who commanded the British force which included the new but faulty battleship Prince of Wales, was quite aware of Hood’s vulnerability so he sent his ships towards Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen at high speed to reduce the range. And, his tactic almost worked. Just before he had closed the range sufficiently, a 15 inch shell from Bismarck plunged through Hood’s weak decks and ignited her main ammunition magazines. A tremendous explosion erupted center-aft and broke the great ship into two halves which both quickly sank.

    The German ships then switched fire to the Prince of Wales which couldn’t get all her guns working. Despite numerous hits and damage above the waterline, the new battleship withstood the pounding. She retreated without being pursued. It was Prince of Wales’ 14 inch guns which ruptured Bismarck’s fuel tanks.

    In addition to Hood’s weak deck amour, she also lacked the internal compartmentalization of modern warships which might’ve prolonged her fate. Holland’s tactics have been criticized over the years, but in retrospect his decision to rush in to attack was correct. He did make other errors, however. Despite having a numerical advantage of 18 heavy guns to the Germans’ 8, this first British force to confront the Bismarck was definitely not up to the task.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember attending a soccer match in Germany. After the match, the losing fans were turning over cars and throwing bottles. Very strange. The Bismark was quite a ship. You rightfully pinpointed its strength and that was the range of those guns. Great story on Duke Ellington.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Oh geez! Now I’m going to have Johnny Horton’s “Sink the Bismark” running through my head all day! I was so sad when Duke Ellington died. I can’t tell you how many New Years Eves we spent with that man!!!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for introducing me to a new-old song. I just listened to the entire clip while following along with lyrics I found on Google. I bet a lot of people were singing this back in the 60s. It may just end up on my mp3 music list! And I think I remember my mother watching the movie. Now I’m interested in that too!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. You’re welcome, Mae, glad you liked it. I read somewhere that Bismarck’s guns had incredible range – they could sink a ship before they were visible on the horizon. Scary stuff. Of course, that’s no problem for missiles launched from warships and submarines today.

          Liked by 1 person

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