Monthly Archives: October 2019

King George III speaks for first time since American independence declared

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/king-speaks-for-first-time-since-independence-declared

On October 31, 1776, in his first speech before British Parliament since the leaders of the American Revolution came together to sign of the Declaration of Independence that summer, King George III acknowledges that all was not going well for Britain in the war with the United States.

In his address, the king spoke about the signing of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the revolutionary leaders who signed it, saying, “for daring and desperate is the spirit of those leaders, whose object has always been dominion and power, that they have now openly renounced all allegiance to the crown, and all political connection with this country.” The king went on to inform Parliament of the successful British victory over General George Washington and the Continental Army at the Battle of Long Island on August 27, 1776, but warned them that, “notwithstanding the fair prospect, it was necessary to prepare for another campaign.”

Despite George III’s harsh words, General William Howe and his brother, Admiral Richard Howe, still hoped to convince the Americans to rejoin the British empire in the wake of the colonists’ humiliating defeat at the Battle of Long Island. The British could easily have prevented Washington’s retreat from Long Island and captured most of the Patriot officer corps, including the commander in chief. However, instead of forcing the former colonies into submission by executing Washington and his officers as traitors, the Howe brothers let them go with the hope of swaying Patriot opinion towards a return to the mother country.

The Howe brothers’ attempts at negotiation failed, and the War for Independence dragged on for another four years, until the formal surrender of the British to the Americans on October 19, 1781, after the Battle of Yorktown.

The prime minister of India is assassinated

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-prime-minister-of-india-is-assassinated

Indira Gandhi, the prime minister of India, is assassinated in New Delhi by two of her own bodyguards. Beant Singh and Satwant Singh, both Sikhs, emptied their guns into Gandhi as she walked to her office from an adjoining bungalow. Although the two assailants immediately surrendered, they were both shot in a subsequent scuffle, and Beant died. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India, attempted to forge a unified nation out of the many religious, ethnic, and cultural factions that existed under British rule until 1949. His daughter, Indira Gandhi (no relation to Mohandas Gandhi), rose to power in 1966, fighting many of the same problems as her father had. Her own political career was a roller coaster, from the highs following India’s victory over Pakistan in 1971 to the lows of being thrown out of office in 1977 after declaring a state of emergency in 1975, during which time she suspended civil liberties and jailed her political opponents. Although many criticized her for being authoritarian, the majority of the population supported her because of her extensive social programs.

In 1980, Gandhi became prime minister again, enjoying fairly widespread popularity. However, in June 1984, she ordered an army raid on a Sikh temple in Punjab to flush out armed Sikh extremists, setting off a series of death threats. Due to the fear of assassination, Beant Singh, her longtime bodyguard, was to be transferred because he was a Sikh. However, Gandhi personally rescinded the transfer order because she trusted him after his many years of service. Obviously, this was a fatal mistake for both of them.

Satwant Singh, who survived to stand trial, was convicted in 1986 and executed in 1989.

Following Gandhi’s assassination, riots broke out in New Delhi. More than 1,000 innocent Sikhs were killed in indiscriminate attacks over the course of two days. Gandhi’s son, Rajiv, succeeded her as prime minister.

Actor River Phoenix dies

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/river-phoenix-dies

On October 31, 1993, the 23-year-old actor River Phoenix, who appeared in such films as Stand by Me and My Own Private Idaho, dies of a drug overdose outside a West Hollywood nightclub. At the time of his death, Phoenix was considered one of the most promising actors of his generation and had received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his performance in 1988’s Running on Empty.

Phoenix, who was born River Jude Bottom on August 23, 1970, had an unconventional childhood. His parents were members of a religious cult and worked as missionaries in South America. Phoenix began acting professionally as a teenager and made his big-screen debut, along with Ethan Hawke, in 1985’s Explorers. Phoenix gained fame in 1986’s Stand by Me. Based on a Stephen King novel, the film was directed by Rob Reiner and co-starred Jerry O’Connell, Corey Feldman and Wil Wheaton. Phoenix went on to appear in such movies as The Mosquito Coast (1986), which co-starred Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren; A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon (1988), in which he played the title role; and Little Nikita (1988), with Sidney Poitier. Also in 1988, Phoenix appeared in Running on Empty, about a family on the run from the FBI for an anti-war bombing the parents had participated in years earlier. The movie was directed by Sidney Lumet and co-starred Judd Hirsch and Christine Lahti. Phoenix, who played the couple’s teenage son, lost the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award to Kevin Kline for A Fish Called Wanda.

Phoenix played the young Indy in 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and later starred in the acclaimed independent films My Own Private Idaho (1990), which was directed by Gus Van Sant and co-starred Keanu Reeves, and Dogfight (1991), with Lili Taylor. Phoenix also appeared in the 1992 thriller Sneakers with Robert Redford and Sidney Poitier. In the early hours of October 31, 1993, Phoenix collapsed from a drug overdose outside the Viper Room, a night club partially owned at the time by the actor Johnny Depp and located on the Sunset Strip.

Phoenix’s younger brother Joaquin is also an Academy Award-nominated actor; his movie credits include Gladiator (2000), Walk the Line (2005), We Own the Night (2007), The Master (2012), Inherent Vice (2014) and Joker (2019). 

Ed Sullivan witnesses Beatlemania firsthand, paving the way for the British Invasion

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/ed-sullivan-witnesses-beatlemania-firsthand-paving-the-way-for-the-british-invasion

In the autumn of 1963, Beatlemania was a raging epidemic in Britain, and it was rapidly spreading across the European continent. But in the United States, where the likes of Bobby Vinton and Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs sat atop the pop charts, John, Paul, George and Ringo could have walked through Grand Central Terminal completely unnoticed. It wasn’t Grand Central that the Beatles were trying to walk through on October 31, 1963, however—it was Heathrow Airport, London, where they’d just returned from a hugely successful tour of Sweden. Also at Heathrow that particular day, after a talent-scouting tour of Europe, was the American television impresario Ed Sullivan. The pandemonium that Sullivan witnessed as he attempted to catch his flight to New York would play a pivotal role in making the British Invasion possible.

It wasn’t for lack of trying that the Beatles were still unknown in the United States. Their manager Brian Epstein had tried and failed repeatedly to convince Capitol Records, the American arm of their British label EMI, to release the singles that had already taken Europe by storm. Convinced that the Merseybeat sound wouldn’t translate across the Atlantic, Capitol declined to release “Please Please Me,” “From Me to You” and “She Loves You,” allowing all three to be released on the minor American labels Vee-Jay and Swan and to languish on the pop charts without any promotion. Desperate to crack the American market, John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote a song explicitly tailored to the American market and recorded it just two weeks before their fateful indirect encounter with Ed Sullivan. That song was “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

Ed Sullivan had his staff make inquiries about the Beatles following his return to the United States, and Brian Epstein arranged to travel to New York to open negotiations. And in what surely must rank as one of the greatest one-two punches in the history of professional talent-management, Epstein convinced The Ed Sullivan Show to have the Beatles as headliners for three appearances rather than as a one-time, mid-show novelty act, and he then leveraged that contract into an agreement by Capitol Records to release “I Want To Hold Your Hand” in the United States and back it with a $40,000 promotional campaign.

As a result of the chance encounter at Heathrow on this day in 1963, and of Brian Epstein’s subsequent coup in New York, the Beatles would arrive in the United States on February 7, 1964, with a #1 record already to their credit. The historic Ed Sullivan appearances that followed would lead to five more in the next 12 months.

READ MORE: Beatlemania Sweeps the United States

The U.S. Congress admits Nevada as the 36th state

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-u-s-congress-admits-nevada-as-the-36th-state

On October 31, 1864, anxious to have support of the Republican-dominated Nevada Territory for President Abraham Lincoln’s reelection, the U.S. Congress quickly admits Nevada as the 36th state in the Union.

In 1864, Nevada had only 40,000 inhabitants, considerably short of the 60,000 normally required for statehood. But the 1859 discovery of the incredibly large and rich silver deposits at Virginia City had rapidly made the region one of the most important and wealthy in the West. The inexpert miners who initially developed the placer gold deposits at Virginia City had complained for some time about the blue-gray gunk that kept clogging up their gold sluices. Eventually several of the more experienced miners realized that the gunk the gold miners had been tossing aside was actually rich silver ore, and soon after, they discovered the massive underground silver deposit called the Comstock Lode. Unlike the easily developed placer deposits that had inspired the initial gold rushes to California and Nevada, the Comstock Lode ore demanded a wide array of expensive new technologies for profitable development. For the first time, western mining began to attract investments from large eastern capitalists, and these powerful men began to push for Nevada statehood.

The decisive factor in easing the path to Nevada’s statehood was President Lincoln’s proposed 13th Amendment banning slavery. Throughout his administration Lincoln had appointed territorial officials in Nevada who were strong Republicans, and he knew he could count on the congressmen and citizens of a new state of Nevada to support him in the coming presidential election and to vote for his proposed amendment. Since time was so short, the Nevada constitutional delegation sent the longest telegram on record up to that time to Washington, D.C., containing the entire text of the proposed state constitution and costing the then astronomical sum of $3,416.77.

Their speedy actions paid off with quick congressional approval of statehood and the new state of Nevada did indeed provide strong support for Lincoln. On January 31, 1865, Congress approved the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning slavery.

Earl Lloyd becomes first black player in the NBA

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/earl-lloyd-becomes-first-black-player-in-the-nba

On October 31, 1950, 21-year-old Earl Lloyd becomes the first African-American to play in an NBA game when he takes the court in the season opener for the Washington Capitols.

Lloyd grew up in Jim Crow Virginia and went to West Virginia State, where he was the star of the school’s championship basketball team. He didn’t know he’d been drafted by the NBA until he ran into a friend on campus who told him she’d heard a rumor that he’d be moving to Washington. It turned out that the Capitols had picked him in the ninth round of the draft. Two other black players joined the NBA that season—the Celtics drafted Chuck Cooper in the second round and the New York Knicks got Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton from the Harlem Globetrotters—but the Knicks and the Celts didn’t start their seasons until November. As a result, Lloyd became a coincidental pioneer: the first black player to make his debut in the NBA.

Joining an all-white team was intimidating, Lloyd remembered, but his teammates—most of whom had played on integrated college teams—were immediately welcoming. Some fans, however, were less kind. As the announcer read the Capitols’ lineup on that first night of the season, a white man in the front row asked: “Do you think this n***** can play any basketball?” Lloyd’s mother, who was sitting just behind the man, leaned forward and told him not to worry: “The n*****,” she said, “can play.”

After seven games with the Capitols, Lloyd was drafted into the military and sent to Korea for two years. When he returned to the United States, the Capitols had gone out of business, and so he went to play for the Syracuse Nationals (who later became the Philadelphia 76ers). He wrapped up his nine-season career in Detroit. After he retired from playing, he stayed in the Motor City, serving as a scout and then as an assistant coach for the Pistons. In 1970, he became the first full-time black head coach in the league. He coached the Detroit team for a year, and then went on to work for the city, in the police department and as a school administrator. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003. He died in 2015. 

A Scotch-Irish Clan in Middle Georgia? The Migration and Development of a McCarty Family across Two Centuries

Previously posted at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0363199019881341?ai=2b4&mi=ehikzz&af=R

Journal of Family History, Ahead of Print.
This essay argues that characteristics of the Irish and Scottish kin-based clan systems brought to America by settlers from Ireland and Scotland in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries had lasting effects on American kinship systems. Using a case study to focus on a single family, it suggests that elements of kinship systems originating in Ireland and Scotland could be found in a central Georgia community in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This is significant because the location was far removed from areas often identified with Irish, Scottish, and Scotch-Irish settlers, such as the hill country of the lower Appalachian Mountains. It suggests that cultural folkways could persist across many generations of a family, even outside areas where they were heavily concentrated. The latter portion of the essay focuses on the role of one woman, family matriarch Rhoda Johnson, in shaping identity and transmitting culture across generations.

Ottoman Empire signs treaty with Allies

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/ottoman-empire-signs-treaty-with-allies

On October 30, 1918, aboard the British battleship Agamemnon, anchored in the port of Mudros on the Aegean island of Lemnos, representatives of Great Britain and the Ottoman Empire sign an armistice treaty marking the end of Ottoman participation in the First World War.

Though the Ottoman Empire—in a period of relative decline since the late 16th century—had initially aimed to stay neutral in World War I, it soon concluded an alliance with Germany and entered the war on the side of the Central Powers in October 1914. The Turks fought fiercely and successfully defended the Gallipoli Peninsula against a massive Allied invasion in 1915-1916, but by 1918 defeat by invading British and Russian forces and an Arab revolt had combined to destroy the Ottoman economy and devastate its land, leaving some six million people dead and millions more starving.

As early as the first week of October 1918, both the Ottoman government and several individual Turkish leaders contacted the Allies to feel out peace possibilities. Britain, whose forces then occupied much of the Ottoman territories, was loath to step aside for its allies, particularly France, which according to an agreement concluded in 1916 would take control of the Syrian coast and much of modern-day Lebanon. In a move that enraged his French counterpart, Georges Clemenceau, Prime Minister David Lloyd George and his cabinet authorized Admiral Arthur Calthorpe, Britain’s naval commander in the Aegean Sea, to negotiate an immediate armistice with Turkey without consulting France. Though Britain alone would engineer the Ottoman exit from the war, the two powerful Allies would continue to grapple over control in the region at the Paris Peace Conference, and for years beyond.

Negotiations between Calthorpe’s team and the delegation from Constantinople, led by the Ottoman Minister of Marine Affairs Rauf Bey, began at 9:30 on the morning of October 30, 1918, aboard the Agamemnon. The Treaty of Mudros, signed that evening, stated that hostilities would end at noon the following day. By its terms, Turkey had to open the Dardanelle and Bosporus straits to Allied warships and its forts to military occupation; it was also to demobilize its army, release all prisoners of war and evacuate its Arab provinces, the majority of which were already under Allied control. Bey and his fellow delegates refused to paint the treaty as an act of surrender for Turkey—later causing disillusionment and anger in Constantinople—but in fact that is what it was. The Treaty of Mudros ended Ottoman participation in World War I and effectively—if not legally—marked the dissolution of a once mighty empire. From its ruins, the victors of the First World War attempted to use the post-war peace negotiations to create a new, more unpredictable entity: the modern Middle East.