All posts by sleuthboss

Chick-fil-A founder takes last Ford Taurus

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/chick-fil-a-founder-takes-last-ford-taurus

On October 27, 2006, the last Ford Taurus rolls off the assembly line in Hapeville, Georgia. The keys to the silver car went to 85-year-old Truett Cathy, the founder of the Chick-fil-A fast-food franchise, who took it straight to his company’s headquarters in Atlanta and added it to an elaborate display that included 19 other cars, including one of the earliest Fords. “I do have this disease of collecting cars,” Cathy told a reporter. “I was very sorry [the workers at the Ford plant] lost their jobs,” he said, but “since I was gonna get the keys, I was glad for that.”

When Ford added the Taurus to its lineup in 1985, the company was struggling. High fuel prices made its heavy, gas-guzzling cars unattractive to American buyers, especially compared to the high-quality foreign cars that had been flooding the market since the middle of the 1970s. The Taurus was smaller than the typical Ford family car, and its aerodynamic styling appealed to design-conscious buyers. Almost immediately, the car was a hit: Ford sold 263,000 in 1985 alone. Sales figures climbed higher each year, and in 1992, the Taurus became the best-selling passenger car in the United States. (It wrested this title away from the Honda Accord, and kept it for the next five years.) It was, according to the Henry Ford Museum, “a winner in the marketplace that saved Ford Motor from disaster.”

But by the 2000s, the Taurus had lost much of its appeal. Even after a 1996 facelift, its once cutting-edge design now looked dated, and it still did not have the fuel efficiency of its Japanese counterparts. (In fact, in contrast to cars like the Accord and the Toyota Camry, which overtook the Taurus to become the nation’s best-selling car, by the mid-1990s Ford was selling the majority of its Tauruses to rental-car companies, not individuals.) Ford discontinued the Taurus station wagon at the end of 2004, and idled the Hapeville plant—across the street from the original Chick-fil-A—two years later. Fifteen hundred workers lost their jobs.

In place of the Taurus, Ford pushed its full-size Five Hundred sedan along with its midsize Fusion. Neither sold especially well, however, and in 2007 the company re-released the Taurus (actually just a renamed version of the Five Hundred). It unveiled a revamped, sportier Taurus in July 2009.

READ MORE: 24 Cars That Made America

Mafia boss John Gotti is born

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/mafia-boss-john-gotti-is-born

John Joseph Gotti, Jr., the future head of the Gambino crime family and a man later nicknamed “the Dapper Don” due to his polished appearance and expensive suits, is born in the Bronx, New York. Gotti, the grandson of Italian immigrants, was raised in a poor family with 13 children. Growing up, he did errands for mobsters in his East New York neighborhood, joined a gang called the Fulton-Rockaway Boys and quit school at age 16. He racked up a series of arrests for petty crimes, but escaped real jail time until 1968, when he pled guilty to hijacking trucks near New York’s Kennedy International Airport (then called Idlewild Airport). He served three years in prison.

READ MORE: The Five Crime Families of New York City: Inside the Rise and Fall of the Mafia

In 1974, Gotti was arrested for the revenge slaying of a man who had kidnapped and killed the nephew of crime family boss Carlo Gambino. Gotti was sentenced to four years; however, as a result of bribes to prison officials, he was allowed out to visit his family and associates. After Gotti was officially released from prison in 1977, he was promoted to captain in the Bergin crew of the Gambino family, the nation’s biggest and most powerful organized crime group. In December 1985, Gotti grabbed control of the Gambino family after ordering the murder of then-boss Paul Castellano outside a Manhattan steak house.

In 1985, the federal government, which had been wiretapping Gotti and his associates, accumulated enough evidence to indict him on federal racketeering charges. The subsequent trial, in 1986, resulted in an acquittal for Gotti, who the media dubbed “the Teflon Don” for his ability to avoid conviction. The jury foreman in the case was later convicted of accepting a large bribe to vote for the mob boss’s acquittal.

As head of the Gambino family, Gotti’s swagger and colorful style made him a tabloid press favorite and he raked in millions of dollars from criminal activities, all the while claiming to be a hard-working plumbing salesman. Government wiretaps revealed that behind the showy public image, he was a ruthless figure who wouldn’t tolerate disrespect from anyone. In December 1990, Gotti and several co-horts were arrested on a variety of charges at the Ravenite Social Club in New York City’s Little Italy neighborhood. Mobster Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano eventually made a deal with the government to testify against his boss and in April 1992, a jury found Gotti guilty of 13 counts, including murder and racketeering. He was sent to the U.S. Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois, where he was locked in a cell 23 hours a day.

On June 10, 2002, Gotti died of throat cancer at age 61 at a medical center for federal prisoners in Springfield, Missouri.

READ MORE: The Life and Death of John Gotti

Brazil declares war on Germany

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/brazil-declares-war-on-germany

On October 26, 1917, Brazil declares its decision to enter the First World War on the side of the Allied powers.

As a major player in the Atlantic trading market, Brazil—an immense country occupying nearly one-half of the entire South American continent—had been increasingly threatened by Germany’s policy of unrestricted submarine warfare over the course of the first two years of World War I. In February 1917, when Germany resumed that policy after temporarily suspending it due to pressure from neutral nations such as the United States, President Woodrow Wilson responded by immediately breaking diplomatic relations with Germany; the U.S. formally entered the war alongside the Allied powers on April 6, 1917.

One day before the U.S. declaration of war, a German U-boat sank the Brazilian merchant ship Parana as it sailed off the coast of France. On June 4, Dominico da Gama, the Brazilian ambassador to the U.S., wrote to Secretary of State Robert Lansing declaring that Brazil was revoking its previous neutrality and severing its own diplomatic relations with Germany. “Brazil ever was and is now free from warlike ambitions,” da Gama stated, “and, while it always refrained from showing any partiality in the European conflict, it could no longer stand unconcerned when the struggle involved the United States, actuated by no interest whatever but solely for the sake of international judicial order, and when Germany included us and the other neutral powers in the most violent acts of war.”

Over the next few months, Brazil’s government actively sought to amend its constitution to enable it to declare war. This having been accomplished, the declaration was made on October 26, 1917. In an open letter sent to the Vatican but clearly intended to be read in countries around the world, the Brazilian foreign minister, Dr. Nilo Pecanha, justified his country’s decision to enter the epic struggle of World War I on the side of the Allies by pointing to Germany’s attacks on international trade and invoking the higher purpose of creating a more peaceful, democratic post-war world: “Through the sufferings and the disillusions to which the war has given rise a new and better world will be born, as it were, of liberty, and in this way a lasting peace may be established without political or economic restrictions, and all countries be allowed a place in the sun with equal rights and an interchange of ideas and values in merchandise on an ample basis of justice and equity.”

Though Brazil’s actual contribution to the Allied war effort was limited to one medical unit and some airmen, its participation was rewarded with a seat at the post-war bargaining table. The fact that Brazil—according to the size of its population—had three official delegates at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 angered Portugal, who had sent 60,000 soldiers to the Western Front and yet had only one delegate. Britain supported Portugal in the disagreement, while the U.S. backed Brazil; no change was made. This conflict illustrated how important it was considered for the nations of the world to have representation in Versailles, as it was there that the boundaries of the new, post-World War I world would be determined. On June 28, 1919, Brazil was one of 27 nations to sign the 200-page Versailles Treaty, alongside a number of other Latin American nations who had also declared their support for the Allies, including Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru and Uruguay.

Japanese planes destroy the U.S.S Hornet

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-united-states-loses-the-hornet

On October 26, 1942, the last U.S. carrier manufactured before America’s entry into World War II, the Hornet, is damaged so extensively by Japanese war planes in the Battle of Santa Cruz that it must be abandoned.

The battle for Guadalcanal was the first American offensive against the Japanese, an attempt to prevent the Axis power from taking yet another island in the Solomon chain and gaining more ground in its race for Australia. On this day, in the vicinity of the Santa Cruz Islands, two American naval task forces had to stop a superior Japanese fleet, which was on its way to Guadalcanal with reinforcements. As was the case in the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942, the engagement at Santa Cruz was fought exclusively by aircraft taking off from carriers of the respective forces; the ships themselves were not in range to fire at one another.

Japanese aerial fire damaged the USS Enterprise, the battleship South Dakota, and finally the Hornet. In fact, the explosions wrought by the Japanese bombs that rained down on the Hornet were so great that two of the Japanese bombers were themselves crippled by the blasts, and the pilots chose to dive-bomb their planes into the deck of the American carrier, which was finally abandoned and left to burn. The Hornet, which weighed 20,000 tons, had seen battle during the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo (its commander at the time, Marc Mitscher, was promoted to admiral and would be a significant player in the victory over Japan) and the Battle of Midway.

While the United States losses at Santa Cruz were heavy, the cost in aircraft to the Japanese was so extensive—more than 100, including 25 of the 27 bombers that attacked the Hornet—that they were unable finally to reinforce their troops at Guadalcanal, paving the way for an American victory.

Benjamin Franklin sets sail for France

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/benjamin-franklin-sets-sail-for-france

On October 26, 1776, exactly one month to the day after being named an agent of a diplomatic commission by the Continental Congress, Benjamin Franklin sets sail from Philadelphia for France, with which he was to negotiate and secure a formal alliance and treaty.

In France, the accomplished Franklin was feted throughout scientific and literary circles and he quickly became a fixture in high society. While his personal achievements were celebrated, Franklin’s diplomatic success in France was slow in coming. Although it had been secretly aiding the Patriot cause since the outbreak of the American Revolution, France felt it could not openly declare a formal allegiance with the United States until they were assured of an American victory over the British.

For the next year, Franklin made friends with influential officials throughout France, while continuing to push for a formal alliance. France continued to secretly support the Patriot cause with shipments of war supplies, but it was not until the American victory over the British at the Battle of Saratoga in October 1777 that France felt an American victory in the war was possible.

A few short months after the Battle of Saratoga, representatives of the United States and France, including Benjamin Franklin, officially declared an alliance by signing the Treaty of Amity and Commerce and the Treaty of Alliance on February 6, 1778. The French aid that these agreements guaranteed was crucial to the eventual American victory over the British in the War for Independence.

King George III speaks to Parliament of American rebellion

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/king-george-iii-speaks-to-parliament-of-american-rebellion

On October 26, 1775, King George III speaks before both houses of the British Parliament to discuss growing concern about the rebellion in America, which he viewed as a traitorous action against himself and Great Britain. He began his speech by reading a “Proclamation of Rebellion” and urged Parliament to move quickly to end the revolt and bring order to the colonies.

The king spoke of his belief that “many of these unhappy people may still retain their loyalty, and may be too wise not to see the fatal consequence of this usurpation, and wish to resist it, yet the torrent of violence has been strong enough to compel their acquiescence, till a sufficient force shall appear to support them.” With these words, the king gave Parliament his consent to dispatch troops to use against his own subjects, a notion that his colonists believed impossible.

Just as the Continental Congress expressed its desire to remain loyal to the British crown in the Olive Branch Petition, delivered to the monarch on September 1, so George III insisted he had “acted with the same temper; anxious to prevent, if it had been possible, the effusion of the blood of my subjects; and the calamities which are inseparable from a state of war; still hoping that my people in America would have discerned the traitorous views of their leaders, and have been convinced, that to be a subject of Great Britain, with all its consequences, is to be the freest member of any civil society in the known world.” King George went on to scoff at what he called the colonists’ “strongest protestations of loyalty to me,” believing them disingenuous, “whilst they were preparing for a general revolt.”

Unfortunately for George III, Thomas Paine’s anti-monarchical argument in the pamphlet, Common Sense, published in January 1776, proved persuasive to many American colonists. The two sides had reached a final political impasse and the bloody War for Independence soon followed.

READ MORE: Revolutionary War History

“Bloody Bill” Anderson killed

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/bloody-bill-anderson-killed

On October 26, 1864, the notorious Confederate guerrilla leader William “Bloody Bill” Anderson is killed in Missouri in a Union ambush.

Born in the late 1830s, Anderson grew up in Missouri and moved to Kansas in the late 1850s. Arriving to settle on his father’s land claim east of Council Grove, Anderson was soon enmeshed in the bitter fight over slavery that gave the area the nickname “Bleeding Kansas.” Before the Civil War, he trafficked stolen horses and escorted wagon trains along the Santa Fe Trail. When the war broke out, Anderson joined an antislavery, pro-Union band of guerillas known as “Jayhawkers.” He soon switched sides and joined a band of pro-Confederate “Bushwhackers.” In the partisan warfare of Kansas and Missouri, these groups were often more interested in robbery, looting, and personal gain than advancement of a political cause.

After his father was killed in a dispute in 1862, Anderson and his brother Jim gunned down the killer and then moved back to western Missouri. Anderson became the head of a band of guerillas, and his activities cast a shadow of suspicion over the rest of his family. The Union commander along the border, General Thomas Ewing, arrested several wives and sisters of another notorious band, led by William Quantrill, that was terrorizing and murdering Union sympathizers. While Anderson commanded his own band, he often collaborated with Quantrill’s larger force. As a result, the group Ewing arrested also included three of Anderson’s sisters, who were imprisoned in a temporary Union jail in Kansas City, Missouri. On August 14, 1863, the structure collapsed, killing one of Anderson’s sisters along with several other women. Quantrill assembled more than 400 men to exact revenge against the abolitionist community of Lawrence, Kansas. On August 21, the band killed at least 150 residents and burned much of the town. Anderson was credited with 14 murders that day.

Anderson went to Texas that winter, married, and returned to Missouri in 1864 with a band of about 50 fighters. He embarked on a summer of violence, leading his group on a campaign that killed hundreds and caused extensive damage. The climax came on September 27, when Anderson’s gang joined with several others to pillage the town of Centralia, Missouri. When more than 100 Union soldiers pursued them, the guerillas ambushed and massacred the entire detachment. Just a month later, on October 26, Anderson’s band was caught in a Union ambush outside of Albany, Missouri, and Anderson was killed. The body of the “blood-drenched savage,” as he became known in the area, was placed on public display. Anderson kept a rope to record his killings, and there were reportedly 54 knots in it at the time of his death.

An Ozzy Osbourne fan dies by suicide

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/an-ozzy-osbourne-fan-commits-suicide

Nineteen-year-old John McCollum is found shot to death on his bed in Indio, California. Although it was quickly determined that the fatal wound was self-inflicted, McCollum’s parents believed that singer Ozzy Osbourne was actually responsible because their son had been listening to Osbourne’s album, Blizzard of Oz, which contains the song, “Suicide Solution,” when he killed himself.

In their lawsuit, McCollum’s parents claimed that there were hidden lyrics in the song that incited the teenager to kill himself. They claimed that listeners were urged to “get the gun and try it, shoot, shoot, shoot.” Osbourne, a popular star of heavy metal music, responded that “Suicide Solution” had no hidden lyrics and was actually an anti-suicide composition written about a fellow musician who drank himself to death.

Although it is generally legal in the United States to express any viewpoint or feelings, it is not legal to directly incite specific and imminent violent actions. But since this standard is hard to prove, virtually every attempt to hold an entertainer responsible for allegedly inciting action has failed. For instance, in 1981, an appellate court held that NBC and the producers of a television-movie, Born Innocent, could not be held liable for the rape of a young girl, which had allegedly been inspired by the show.

A California court dismissed the McCollums’ lawsuit in 1988, ruling that John’s suicide was not a foreseeable result of Osbourne’s song.