John’s Believe It Or Not… July 11th

* 1906 – Lord’s Day Act makes Sunday a day of rest. * 1804 Burr slays Hamilton in duel * 1979 Skylab crashes to Earth * 1899 “Charlotte’s Web” author E.B. White born * 1960 The Hollwood Argyles’ “Alley Oop” leads a novelty-song outbreak

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E.B. White

It’s Hump Day Wednesday! Did You Know…

* 1906 – Lord’s Day Act makes Sunday a day of rest.

Lord’s Day Alliance of Canada (renamed People for Sunday Association of Canada in 1982), a lay organization founded in 1888 under the aegis of the PRESBYTERIAN Church and supported by the other Protestant churches to combat increasing Sabbath secularization. In the early phases of Canada’s industrialization and urbanization, Sunday was usually the only day of rest: the issue was whether that day should be a holy day or a holiday. The churches faced growing competition for the loyalty of potential churchgoers: industrial concerns, such as railways, demanded Sunday labour from their employees. More important, new leisure pursuits beckoned. Technological advances, particularly electric urban transit systems, increased people’s mobility, allowing them to escape the cities. Commercial recreation activities such as sporting events, ice cream parlours and theatres were equally tempting. Many Canadians seemed inclined to make Sunday a day both of religion and recreation.

The Alliance became one of the most effective lobbies of the early 20th century. It gained the crucial support of the French Canadian Catholic hierarchy and, with its promise of a legislated weekly rest day, of organized labour. In 1906, this combination of forces and the Alliance’s sophisticated lobbying techniques persuaded Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid LAURIER to introduce a Lord’s Day Act. Although strong opposition existed among the transportation and manufacturing concerns and among French Canadians, the Act became law in March 1907 aiming to restrict Sunday trade, labour and recreation.

The Alliance then struggled to secure enforcement: because the Act required provincial authorization for each prosecution, the Alliance battled in many arenas, with varying success. The Sunday shopping issue still provokes intense debate, uniting labour, retail merchants, churches and the People for Sunday Association in opposition. Canadians’ pursuit of Sunday pleasure has doubtless defeated the association’s main aim – Sunday is primarily a holiday and only partly a holy day.

Sunday Laws in Ontario, 1911. The Lord's Day Act
Sunday Laws in Ontario, 1911. The Lord’s Day Act (Wikipedia)

* 1804 Burr slays Hamilton in duel

In a duel held in Weehawken, New Jersey, Vice President Aaron Burr fatally shoots his long-time political antagonist Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton, a leading Federalist and the chief architect of America’s political economy, died the following day.

Alexander Hamilton, born on the Caribbean island of Nevis, came to the American colonies in 1773 as a poor immigrant. (There is some controversy as to the year of his birth, but it was either 1755 or 1757.) In 1776, he joined the Continental Army in the American Revolution, and his relentless energy and remarkable intelligence brought him to the attention of General George Washington, who took him on as an aid. Ten years later, Hamilton served as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, and he led the fight to win ratification of the final document, which created the kind of strong, centralized government that he favored. In 1789, he was appointed the first secretary of the treasury by President Washington, and during the next six years, he crafted a sophisticated monetary policy that saved the young U.S. government from collapse. With the emergence of political parties, Hamilton was regarded as a leader of the Federalists.

Aaron Burr, born into a prestigious New Jersey family in 1756, was also intellectually gifted, and he graduated from the College of New Jersey (later Princeton) at the age of 17. He joined the Continental Army in 1775 and distinguished himself during the Patriot attack on Quebec. A masterful politician, he was elected to the New State Assembly in 1783 and later served as state attorney. In 1790, he defeated Alexander Hamilton’s father-in-law in a race for the U.S. Senate.

Hamilton came to detest Burr, whom he regarded as a dangerous opportunist, and he often spoke ill of him. When Burr ran for the vice presidency in 1796 on Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican ticket (the forerunner of the Democratic Party), Hamilton launched a series of public attacks against Burr, stating, “I feel it is a religious duty to oppose his career.” John Adams won the presidency, and in 1797 Burr left the Senate and returned to the New York Assembly.

In 1800, Jefferson chose Burr again as his running mate. Burr aided the Democratic-Republican ticket by publishing a confidential document that Hamilton had written criticizing his fellow Federalist President John Adams. This caused a rift in the Federalists and helped Jefferson and Burr win the election with 73 electoral votes each.

Under the electoral procedure then prevailing, president and vice president were not voted for separately; the candidate who received the most votes was elected president, and the second in line, vice president. The vote then went to the House of Representatives. What at first seemed but an electoral technicality–handing Jefferson victory over his running mate–developed into a major constitutional crisis when Federalists in the lame-duck Congress threw their support behind Burr. After a remarkable 35 tie votes, a small group of Federalists changed sides and voted in Jefferson’s favor. Alexander Hamilton, who had supported Jefferson as the lesser of two evils, was instrumental in breaking the deadlock.

Burr became vice president, but Jefferson grew apart from him, and he did not support Burr’s renomination to a second term in 1804. That year, a faction of New York Federalists, who had found their fortunes drastically diminished after the ascendance of Jefferson, sought to enlist the disgruntled Burr into their party and elect him governor. Hamilton campaigned against Burr with great fervor, and Burr lost the Federalist nomination and then, running as an independent for governor, the election. In the campaign, Burr’s character was savagely attacked by Hamilton and others, and after the election he resolved to restore his reputation by challenging Hamilton to a duel, or an “affair of honor,” as they were known.

Affairs of honor were commonplace in America at the time, and the complex rules governing them usually led to an honorable resolution before any actual firing of weapons. In fact, the outspoken Hamilton had been involved in several affairs of honor in his life, and he had resolved most of them peaceably. No such recourse was found with Burr, however, and on July 11, 1804, the enemies met at 7 a.m. at the dueling grounds near Weehawken, New Jersey. It was the same spot where Hamilton’s son had died defending his father’s honor in 1801.

There are conflicting accounts of what happened next. According to Hamilton’s “second”–his assistant and witness in the duel–Hamilton decided the duel was morally wrong and deliberately fired into the air. Burr’s second claimed that Hamilton fired at Burr and missed. What happened next is agreed upon: Burr shot Hamilton in the stomach, and the bullet lodged next to his spine. Hamilton was taken back to New York, and he died the next afternoon.

Few affairs of honor actually resulted in deaths, and the nation was outraged by the killing of a man as eminent as Alexander Hamilton. Charged with murder in New York and New Jersey, Burr, still vice president, returned to Washington, D.C., where he finished his term immune from prosecution.

In 1805, Burr, thoroughly discredited, concocted a plot with James Wilkinson, commander-in-chief of the U.S. Army, to seize the Louisiana Territory and establish an independent empire, which Burr, presumably, would lead. He contacted the British government and unsuccessfully pleaded for assistance in the scheme. Later, when border trouble with Spanish Mexico heated up, Burr and Wilkinson conspired to seize territory in Spanish America for the same purpose.

In the fall of 1806, Burr led a group of well-armed colonists toward New Orleans, prompting an immediate U.S. investigation. General Wilkinson, in an effort to save himself, turned against Burr and sent dispatches to Washington accusing Burr of treason. In February 1807, Burr was arrested in Louisiana for treason and sent to Virginia to be tried in a U.S. court. In September, he was acquitted on a technicality. Nevertheless, public opinion condemned him as a traitor, and he fled to Europe. He later returned to private life in New York, the murder charges against him forgotten. He died in 1836.

As political rivals, Hamilton and Burr began a bitter exchange of insults, leading to a duel in 1804 that resulted in Hamilton's death.
As political rivals, Hamilton and Burr began a bitter exchange of insults, leading to a duel in 1804 that resulted in Hamilton’s death. (Pinterest)

* 1979 Skylab crashes to Earth

Parts of Skylab, America’s first space station, come crashing down on Australia and into the Indian Ocean five years after the last manned Skylab mission ended. No one was injured.

Launched in 1973, Skylab was the world’s first successful space station. The first manned Skylab mission came two years after the Soviet Union launched Salynut 1, the world’s first space station, into orbit around the earth. However, unlike the ill-fated Salynut, which was plagued with problems, the American space station was a great success, safely housing three separate three-man crews for extended periods of time.

Originally the spent third stage of a Saturn 5 moon rocket, the cylindrical space station was 118 feet tall, weighed 77 tons, and carried the most varied assortment of experimental equipment ever assembled in a single spacecraft to that date. The crews of Skylab spent more than 700 hours observing the sun and brought home more than 175,000 solar pictures. They also provided important information about the biological effects of living in space for prolonged periods of time.

Five years after the last Skylab mission, the space station’s orbit began to deteriorate–earlier than was anticipated–because of unexpectedly high sunspot activity. On July 11, 1979, Skylab made a spectacular return to earth, breaking up in the atmosphere and showering burning debris over the Indian Ocean and Australia.

The majority of the spacecraft burnt up in the atmosphere but parts of it fell in Western Australia, like this one picked up by a local resident.
The majority of the spacecraft burnt up in the atmosphere but parts of it fell in Western Australia like this one picked up by a local resident. (David Reneke)

* 1899 “Charlotte’s Web” author E.B. White born

On this day in 1899, E.B. White, the author of the popular children’s novels “Charlotte’s Web,” “Stuart Little” and “The Trumpet of the Swan,” is born in Mount Vernon, New York. White, a longtime contributor to The New Yorker magazine who was known for his graceful, witty prose, also updated and expanded “The Elements of Style,” an English usage guide that remains a standard text for many high school and college students.

Elwyn Brooks White was the son of a piano manufacturer and the youngest of six children. He attended Cornell University, where he edited the school newspaper and was dubbed Andy, a nickname given to students with the last name White, after Andrew D. White, the university’s first president. After graduating from Cornell in 1921, White worked as a newspaper reporter and a production assistant and copywriter for an advertising agency. In 1927, he joined the staff of The New Yorker, which had been founded two years earlier. White, along with his friend and fellow writer James Thurber, is credited with playing a central role in shaping the magazine’s tone and direction. For over 50 years, White contributed essays, poems and other pieces to the publication.

In the 1930s, White and his wife, Katherine Sergeant Angell, a writer and editor whom he met at The New Yorker, moved to a farm in Maine. In 1945, he published his first children’s novel, “Stuart Little,” about a mouse born into a human family. The book was followed in 1952 by “Charlotte’s Web,” about a pig on a farm who is saved from being slaughtered with the help of a spider named Charlotte. The story was inspired by life on White’s own farm. His third children’s book, “The Trumpet of the Swan,” about a swan born without a voice, was published in 1970. All three works were critical and commercial successes, selling millions of copies. The books have also been made into films.

In 1959, White reworked “The Elements of Style,” a handbook that was first published privately in 1918 by his former Cornell professor William Strunk. The book, which White went on to update several times for new editions, contains such practical advice as: ”Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary part.”

White received numerous awards during his career, including an honorary Pulitzer Prize in 1978 for the body of his work. He died at age 86 on October 1, 1985, at his home in North Brooklin, Maine, after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. At a memorial service, New Yorker writer Roger Angell said of his famously shy stepfather: “If E.B. White could be here today, he wouldn’t be here.”

The author E.B. White and his timeless book, Charlotte's Web
The author E.B. White and his timeless book, Charlotte’s Web (csmonitor.com)

* 1960 The Hollwood Argyles’ “Alley Oop” leads a novelty-song outbreak

Novelty songs have been around for centuries, slipping in and out of popular fashion. But never in modern musical history were novelty songs quite so popular as they were in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It began in 1958 with David Seville’s “Witch Doctor,” which inspired “Purple People Eater” and led directly to “The Chipmunk Song.” It reached its peak two years later with an outbreak of silliness led by the Hollywood Argyles, a one-hit wonder whose “Alley Oop” topped the Billboard pop chart on this day in 1960.

Alley Oop, for those too young to remember, was the name of a time-traveling caveman whose exploits were chronicled in a long-running comic strip of the same name created in 1932 by cartoonist V.T. Hamlin. At a time when Blondie and Beetle Bailey were often the best things going on a rainy Sunday afternoon, Alley Oop had a cultural currency that the children of today might have difficulty imagining. It was still strong enough in 1960 to make a #1 hit out of a novelty song that did little more than intersperse nostalgic references to dinosaur rides and bearcat stew with comments like “He sho is hip, aint he?” and set it to a doo-wop tune.

The Hollywood Argyles actually consisted of a singer named Gary Paxton fronting a group of hired studio musicians paid $25 each for their efforts. Because Paxton was contractually forbidden by an existing recording contract from recording elsewhere under his real name, he released “Alley Oop” under the guise of a fictitious group that he named for the intersection of Los Angeles boulevards where the song was recorded. It was the one and only hit record for him or for the Hollywood Argyles.

It was not the only novelty song, however, to top the charts in 1960. In a year when Frankie Avalon and Chubby Checker rocked almost as hard as the post-Army Elvis Presley, America’s appetite for light entertainment also made a #1 hit out of Brian Hyland’s timeless “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini.”

Paxton (center, kneeling) recorded the mega-hit "Alley Oop" with the Hollywood Argyles
Paxton (center, kneeling) recorded the mega-hit “Alley Oop” with the Hollywood Argyles (100 Greatest CCM Albums of the ’70s – Blogger)

Today’s Sources: 

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology  http://canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php

* The Canadian Encyclopedia                                    https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/lords-day-alliance-of-canada/

* This Day In History – What Happened Today                        http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/                         

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 (http://fiorabooks.com), to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

10 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… July 11th”

  1. I liked the Canadian Blue laws. I have often been troubled by my neighbors bathing on Sunday and would like to see that outlawed again. Nice review of the Hamilton/Burr dust-up. I had forgotten most of the details. The Skylab entry was big news when it happened. Now it seems like ancient history. Thanks for a nice edition, John.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascinating to read the no-no labor list, including bathing in public places. I will never tire of reading about E.B. White 🙂. And I wasn’t familiar with the term “novelty song”, but I sure did enjoy them as a kid. Thanks for a great read today, John.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess public bathing was a big problem long before the tiny bikinis made their debut! I liked the novelty songs too – “Ahab the Arab” was one of my favourites… ‘With rings on her fingers, and bells on her toes, and a bone in her nose, ho-ho!’ Thanks, Jennie!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Fascinating, John. I was unaware of the Lord’s Day Act and the reasons for its legislation. Motives are rarely pure, are they? The Burr-Hamilton duel was horrifying. One dies in an untimely manner, the other lives a full life – of shame. The expression, “nothing is ever quite what it seems,” came to mind as I read your list this morning. Thank you for the early morning reflections. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It took a long time for Ontario to get rid of The Lord’s Day Act – a throw over from the days when religions heavily influenced secular governments. I wonder if America will head back in that direction with the ultraconservative justices Trump is putting forward for your Supreme Court. We’ll have to wait and see. Thanks for your kind words, Gwen.

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