Day By Day

Saturday, September 19, 2009

This Day In History

AAAAAAAAAAAAARGH, Matey! Today is "National Talk Like A Pirate Day". That may be all right for the rest of you, but for me this is the first day of Octoberfest, and pirate lingo just doesn't fit with the beerhall atmosphere.

On this date in 1356 British forces under the command of Edward, the "Black Prince", defeated a numerically superior French army at Poitiers. It was a huge win for the Brits at the time [they actually captured the French King], but in the course of the "Hundred Years War" it was far from decisive. Nevertheless the battle remains a prominent feature in the British national narrative.

On this day in 1692 Giles Corey stood before a court in Salem, Massachusetts accused of witchcraft. He refused to answer the charges against him so he was pressed to death under a pile of rocks. Here's the Wikipedia description of the process:

As a result of his refusal to plead, on September 17, Sheriff Jonathan Corwin led Corey to a pit in the open field beside the jail and..., before the Court and witnesses, stripped Giles of his clothing, laid him on the ground in the pit, and placed boards on his chest. Six men then lifted heavy stones, placing them one by one, on his stomach and chest. Giles Corey did not cry out, let alone make a plea.

After two days, Giles was asked three times to plead innocent or guilty to witchcraft. Each time he replied "more weight". More and more rocks were piled onto him, and the Sheriff, from time to time, would stand on the boulders staring down at Corey's bulging eyes. Robert Calef, who was a witness along with other townsfolk, later said, "in the pressing, Giles Corey's tongue was pressed out of his mouth; the Sheriff, with his cane, forced it in again".

Three mouthfuls of bread and water were fed to the old man during his many hours of pain. Finally, Giles Corey cried out at Sheriff Corwin, "I curse you Corwin and all of Salem!" and died.

Read the whole thing here.

On this day in 1737 Charles Carroll, the only Catholic signatory of the Declaration of Independence, was born in Annapolis, MD.

And on this day in 1846 Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning eloped -- how romantic!

And on this day in 1881 President James Garfield died of wounds inflicted by the assassin Charles Guiteau. Guiteau, a failure at many things, was certainly insane and at his trial several prominent figures in the emerging field of psychology testified. Charles Rosenberg has a wonderful book on the subject.

And on this day in 1918 fighting broke out between Red Army troops and American forces near the town of Seltso in Bryansk Oblast, Russia. I wonder how many Americans realize that we invaded the Soviet Union during the First World War. The Russians remember.

On this day in 1928 "Steamboat Willie" was screened at the Colony Theater in New York. This marked the first screen appearance of Mickey Mouse. You can watch it here. Thirty-one years to the day later Soviet Premier, Nikita Khrushchev was denied entry to Disneyland [security concerns] he was not amused.

And on this day in 1955 Argentinian dictator, Juan Peron, resigned and fled the country. Good riddance!