Mar 28, 2017

March 28: Hip Hop Becomes The New Wave

On this date in 1980 the Punk/New Band 'Blondie' hit number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the song Rapture, making it the first rap song to hit top of the charts. Written by Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of Blondie, this seemingly unlikely pairing of Punk and Rap is the product of the two genres being born and brought to popularity in 1970s New York. The two genres shared early champions such as Malcolm McLaren, Bruce Springsteen,  and Rick Rubin.

The video for Rapture spotlights graffiti artist Fab 5 Freddy, as well as early hip hop visionary Grandmaster Flash.  The video for "Rapture" was also the first rap video to air on the MTV channel.

Mar 21, 2017

March 21: The Short Beautiful Life of Candy

On March 21st, 1974, the actress Candy Darling died of cancer in New York City at the age of 29.

Darling was born James Lawrence Slattery, in 1944, in Queens and raised by her mother, Theresa Phelan, in Long Island. Known as 'Jimmy' during the day, Darling would escape as 'Candy' at nights to nite clubs in Manhattan before moving to Manhattan to live as Candy Darling full time.

Despite dying at a young age, Darling had an accomplished acting career on stage and in film that included roles in Klute with Jane Fonda, Glamour, Glory and Gold opposite Robert De Niro, Women In Revolt directed by Andy Warhol, and the Tennessee Williams' play Small Craft Warnings, at the invitation of Williams himself.

At Darling's funeral her birth name was never mentioned by the minister or by eulogizers and was heavily attended. Her brother Warren also attended but was  shaken at the sight of Darling as a woman and unaware of her acting accomplishments. Darling's mother later recalled,  "I knew that I couldn't stop Jimmy. Candy was just too beautiful and talented."

Photo: "Candy Darling on her Deathbed" by Peter Hujar

Mar 18, 2017

March 18: Conspiracy In The NYC (A Prince Is Killed And An Irish Slave Starts A Witch Hunt)

On March 18 in 1741 a fire broke out at New York governor George Clarke's home. This was the first of 13 fires set during the trial of John Hughson, a poor white tavern owner, and two black slaves, Caesar and Prince. The Tavern Hughson owned was a hangout for black and white slaves, as well as  poor whites and free blacks (at the time this was not at all uncommon, as the lower classes intermingled and even had children together). Hughson was accused of receiving stolen liquor from Caesar and Prince.

The elite were nervous about the different lower classes socializing together and worried of an uprising of poor whites and blacks working together, so the constables watched the tavern constantly, in an effort to catch illegal activity so it could be shut down. As the trial went on more fires spread across Manhattan and panic arose over a fear of the underclasses revolting. Hughson, Prince, and Caesar were executed, their bodies left in public to rot. A 16-year-old Irish slave, Mary Burton, was arrested for theft and facing a similar fate instead testified about a supposedly growing conspiracy of poor whites and blacks to burn down the city, kill the white men and take the white women for themselves, and hopefully remove the governor and replace him for a king of their choice; solidifying the fears of the government.

A witch hunt ensued in which those arrested named others in the conspiracy in hopes of leniency, leading to 160 blacks and 21 whites being arrested. As the panic continued Mary Burton and others began naming rich elite as conspirators as well causing the public to realize little if any of the conspiracy had truth to it. By then 17 blacks and 4 whites had been hanged, 13 blacks were burned slowly at stake, and 70 blacks and 7 whites were banished from New York.
Also, Mary Burton received a reward of ₤100 from the city, which she used to buy her freedom.

Editor's Note: In understanding this story it should be noted that slavery in early America looked somewhat differently then it did by 1865. Early slaves in America came in many forms including white europeans (mostly Irish, Scottish, or German), American Indians, and Africans. A common form of slavery for these groups was also called 'indentured servitude', but make no mistake that this form was any better. These slaves could 'work off' their debt and eventually become free but many were subjected to physical and sexual abuse, starvation, and as it was not illegal to kill a slave, many were simply worked to death before their indebted time was up. 
That said, in the 1700s it was not uncommon for slaves of any color to spend their personal time in public, carrying weapons, conducting side work for extra money, and fraternizing with free people. 
It was only after riots and rebellions of white and black slaves working together (demanding a better life) that measures were made to cause racial tensions and soon enough 'chattel' slavery became the norm.   

Mar 17, 2017

March 17: A Girl Named Frank

On March 17th, 1908 Frances 'Frank' Hook died at age 60 or 61. Her exact birthdate is unknown, except that it was sometime in 1847 in Illinois. When she was three years old both of her parents died, leaving her older brother to raise her. At the time the Civil War began Hook and her brother were living in Chicago, Illinois when her brother decided to enlist the Union Army. Frances, only 14, and not wanting to be parted, enlisted as well, disguised as a man and claimed to be 22.

The brother and sister served with the blue coats for 3 years, Frances reenlisting under various versions of a male personality named Frank every time she was discovered as a female disguised as a man.  After her brother was killed she was taken prisoner by the Confederate army and her true identity was discovered. The grey coats were so impressed by her courage that Confederate President Jefferson Davis offered to make her a lieutenant if she joined his army. In true Yankee form, Hook declared she'd rather be a private in the Union Army than a lieutenant for the Rebels. The press found out about the bravery of a young female soldier and interviewed her.  Her heroics were written about in periodicals but the Union Army refused to reinstate her. She promised reporters she would head home, but with no home to return to, many speculated that she again reenlisted under a new name. 

Later in life she married and had a child, Maggie, who wrote to the War Department after her mother's death seeking confirmation of her mother's military service. The letter was forwarded to the Adjutant General's Office, who was able to confirm Hook's service in the Union Army. 

Photo: Frances 'Frank' Hook (Public Domain)

Mar 9, 2017

March 9: A Grandmother Predicts The Future And A Nursing Home Rock Band Is Declared 'Better Than The Beatles'

On March 9th, 1969, The Shaggs, an all girl rock group of sisters Helen, Betty, and Dot Wiggin, recorded the album Philosophy Of The World at the insistence of their father Austin Wiggin. The significance of this recording would not become apparent for many years as The Shaggs spent their entire musical career (1968-1973) playing in either the Town Hall or the local nursing home in their home town of Fremont, New Hampshire. The three sisters never even considered playing music, but their father Austin took them out of school and spent his life savings so they could learn how to play music and be in a band, convinced their stardom was fate assured.

    As it happened, Austin's mother (the three sisters grandmother) had predicted (when he was still a child) 3 events in his future: That he would marry a strawberry blonde girl, that she (the Grandmother) would die before his strawberry blonde wife would give birth to 2 sons, and that his daughters would be in a popular rock group.  Austin married a strawberry blonde girl, his mother died and his wife gave birth to two sons, making all her other predictions correct, so Austin pulled his girls out of school and spent his savings believing the last prediction would come true as well.

   The girls had no inclination to learn to play music before, much less be in a rock group, but Austin wouldn't take no for an answer, having them practice for hours at a time. After the girls wrote several songs Austin drove them to Massachusetts and paid for a studio to record them "while they were still hot." He then paid a local record label, Third World records, to print up 1,000 copies, which they did. In a bizarre twist, the owner of the label stole 900 of the 1,000 copies and vanished. With only 10% of the records ordered to work with Austin shipped the rest to local radio stations, which were almost completely ignored as the girls music was barely structured and didn't resemble standard pop music (some might say any music) at all, and sounded to most as "nonsensical" gibberish.

   After playing for a few more years, at the nursing home and Town Hall, The Shaggs disbanded when Austin, the driving force behind the band, died.

A decade after the release of their album famed musician Frank Zappa was a guest on the popular Dr. Demento radio show in Los Angeles and played some tracks from one of the 100 known copies of Philosophy Of The World, and declared The Shaggs "Better than the Beatles" and by doing so bringing the third prediction to fruition.
    In 1980 Philosophy Of The World  was reissued by Rounder Records. In 1983 a previously unreleased 2nd album, titled The Shaggs' Own Thing, was also released and Rolling Stone magazine declared The Shaggs the "Comeback of the Year." Since then The Shaggs have been the lauded by many famed musicians and the focus of documentaries and tribute albums. Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain ranked "Philosophy of the World" as No. 5 on his 50 best albums list.
   Austin Wiggin did not live to see his mother's final prediction come true.

Mar 8, 2017

March 8: Goodbye To Bill The Butcher And Hello To Big Money Politics

On March 8th in 1855 Bill "The Butcher" Poole died in New York after being shot 12 days prior at a bar on Broadway in Manhattan.

Poole, a butcher, was the leader of the Bowery Boys Gang, made up exclusively of native born volunteer firemen. He was also a leader in the Know Nothing political organization, a movement of native born Americans who felt immigrants (mostly Irish) were gaining too much political and social power; Mostly due to the power of Tammany Hall, an organization that helped push Irish immigrants into local political seats of power.

   Bill the Butcher's archenemy was Irish immigrant John "Old Smoke" Morrissey, leader of the Irish gang Dead Rabbits, and an integral member of Tammany Hall.

The two gangs, The Bowery Boys  and The Dead Rabbits, being on opposite sides politically were mortal enemies and fought over 200 gang battles in under 10 years, and the rival between Poole and Morrissey was well documented in newspapers at the time.

   On February 24th 1855 at Stanwix Hall two members of the Dead Rabbits, Lew Baker and Jim Turner, shot Poole as he stood at the bar. He was taken to his home on Christopher St and died on March 8th.

Morrissey went on to become a Democratic State Senator and U.S. Congressman and died a millionaire.

   Bill the Butcher's last words were "Good-bye boys; I die a true American." and was the inspiration for Daniel Day-Lewis' character in Martin Scorsese's film Gangs of New York (2002).

Photo: Bill The Butcher wearing the Bowery Boys uniform of stovepipe hat, red shirt, and dark trousers tucked into boots. (public domain photo).

Mar 5, 2017

March 5: When looking for American heroes, look no further than America's First Hero Crispus Attucks

On March 5th, 1770, a man named Crispus Attucks was shot and killed by British soldiers in Boston Massachusetts, becoming the first person killed in the Boston massacre, as well as the first American casualty in the American Revolutionary War.

On the day of the Boston massacre, a boy was berated by British soldiers when he claimed that one soldier had not paid his barber bill. A group of colonists led by Attucks were outraged by the treatment of the boy and approached the Old State House armed with clubs and confronted the soldiers. Some threw snowballs at the soldiers, others threw debris. Some claimed Attucks struck a soldier with his club, others claimed Attucks had only been leaning against his club. Either way the soldiers opened fire and Attucks was shot twice in the chest becoming the first casualty of the American Revolution.

Along side his distinction as the first casualty of the Revolution,  he is also recognized as the first black, and first American Indian hero of the Revolution.
Verifiable evidence shows that Attucks was of both African and Wampanoag descent. Historians believe that his father was an African-born slave and his mother a Native American from the Natick tribe of the Wampanoag People. The two married and Attucks was born in Framingham, Massachusetts around 1723.

Attucks spent his life as a sailor, spending most of his time abroad, and only being in Boston in 1770 briefly, as he had just returned from a voyage to the Bahamas and planned on boarding a ship for North Carolina.

 Of the eyewitness testimony about the Boston Massacre, none referred to Attucks as "black" or as "Negro"; as it appears that Bostonians viewed persons of mixed ethnicity as a class of their own. What is known is that Attucks was instantly recognized a hero; His body was carried to Faneuil Hall, where it lay in state until March 8, when he and the 4 other victims were buried together in the same grave site in Boston's Granary Burying Ground.

Of the British soldiers who carried out the massacre, John Adams successfully defended the accused against a charge of murder, Adams calling Attucks and the others "Irish teagues and outlandish Jack Tarrs" which was not necessarily a derogatory term for Irish immigrants (teagues) and sailors (Jack Tarrs) but was enough to save the soldiers necks from the noose.

Feb 22, 2017

February 22: Rise of Red Bird And Native American Rights

On February  22nd in 1876 native American writer, activist, educator, and musician Zitkala-Sa (Red Bird) was born on the Yankton Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

At a young age Quaker missionaries came to the Yankton Reservation and took several children to the White's Manual Labor Institute, a boarding school in Wabash, Indiana including Zitkala-Sa.
After graduation she attended Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana before becoming a teacher herself. Though she valued education she felt isolated in a white/european culture, and felt her identity was stripped away by the Quaker missionaries. She was further dismayed when returning to Yankton Reservation to find many of native Sioux traditions had fallen away and the reservation conforming to the dominant white culture.

Zitkala-Sa began archiving Native American customs and legends and was first published in 1900 when she published legends collected from Native American culture, as well as autobiographical narratives. She also wrote columns for the New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly, as well as writing the first Native American Opera.

in 1926 she and her husband founded the National Council of American Indians, dedicated to the cause of uniting the tribes throughout the U.S. in the cause of gaining full citizenship rights and served as it's president until her death in 1938.

Photo: Zitkala-Sa (1901) Public Domain photograph by Joseph Keiley

Jan 15, 2017

January 15: The Day Molasses Attacked Boston

On January 15, 1919, in Boston, Massachusetts, a large storage tank 50 feet tall and 90 feet in diameter burst, and a 25 ft tall wave (40 feet at its peak) of more than 2 million gallons of molasses rushed through the streets at 35 miles per hour killing 21 people and injuring 150 (as well as killing several horses). The force of the molasses bent train tresses and leveled buildings in its wake.
Families of the victims filed a successful class-action lawsuit against the United States Industrial Alcohol Company which had to pay a $600,000 settlement (approximately $7,000 to each family who suffered a fatal loss).

Aftermath of the Great Molasses Flood. Public Domain Photo.

Jan 12, 2017

January 12 - From Slave To Lawman: The Story Of Bass Reeves

   On January 12, 1910, one of the most prolific and successful  U.S. Marshals, Bass Reeves, died at the age of 71 in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Reeves served as a U.S. Marshal for more than 30 years and arrested over 3,000 wanted men, and was respected for his superior marksmanship and tracking  capabilities, despite being born (in 1838, exact date unknown) a slave in Crawford County, Arkansas.

   He was owned by Arkansas state legislator William Steele Reeves and was the servant for Williams' son, George R. Reeves. George was a Colonel in the Confederate army during the Civil War. It was during the war that Bass "parted ways" with his owner after he beat up George during a dispute over a card game. George went on to become Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives until his death in 1882 from rabies. Bass hid out until 1865 when slavery was abolished. During that time he lived with Cherokee, Seminole, and Creek Indians, learning their culture and languages. Bass Reeves then moved to Arkansas to be a farmer with wife Nellie Jennie and their eleven children.

   Reeves and his family farmed until 1875, when famed federal judge Isaac Parker directed U.S. Marshal James F. Fagan to hire 200 deputy U.S. Marshals. Fagan sought out and recruited Bass Reeves (for Reeves' knowledge of Indian Territory and Indian languages) making Reeves the first black deputy west of the Mississippi River.

    For over thirty years as a U.S. Marshal, Reeves captured over 3,000 felons, and killed fourteen outlaws in self defense, amazingly he was never wounded despite having his hat and belt shot off on separate occasions. After 32 years as a Marshal, Reeves retired at 68, and became an officer of the Muskogee, Oklahoma police department until his death on this date in 1910.

Image: Bass Reeves (public domain photo)

Jan 4, 2017

January 4: Topsy the Elephant is Executed for Amusement (But No One Was Amused)

On January 4th, in 1903, Topsy the Elephant was executed at Luna Park in Coney Island New York, by a combination of poison, electrocution, and strangulation.

After an incident involving Topsy's handler William "Whitey" Alt with police officers for public intoxication, Alt rode Topsy into the police station in an angry rage. The Station was severely damaged and officers lives were put at risk so Alt was arrested. As Topsy was following her handler's instruction and not in a rage herself, she was returned to the park. But left with no handler, the owners of Topsy tried to sell her but couldn't find anyone to even take her for free. They decided to execute her at the end of the year and sell tickets for the public spectacle. Gallows were built and covered in advertisements. The event was eventually made private due to do protests by The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) but was filmed by the Edison Manufacturing Movie Company and released in coin-operated kinetoscopes under the title 'Electrocuting an Elephant'. The film proved to be one of the company's least popular releases.

A renewed interest in Topsy more than 100 years later is due in part by the animated Television show Bob's Burgers, which had an episode (Season 3, Episode 16) entitled 'Topsy' and featured a song with the line "they'll be saying 'ahh Topsy' at my autopsy". For the Centennial of Topsy's Execution  the Coney Island USA museum unveiled a memorial sculpture created by New Orleans artist Lee Deigaard as well as a screening of the Edison film 'Executing an Elephant.'

Editor's Note: It is interesting to note the similarities of Topsy's execution to that of Mary the Elephant's execution in Erwin Tennessee 13 years later. Both were scheduled as public spectacles; although Topsy's was made private due to public outrage, Mary's drew a crowd of over 2,500. But while Mary's was due to her trampling her handler to death, Topsy's was merely for profit and entertainment.  But both were later reviled, and both had centennial celebrations. It is also a coincidence that both elephant handlers had nicknames relating to color (Whitey and Red). Read more about Mary's execution here

Photo Credit: Public Domain photo of Topsy's Execution

Jan 1, 2017

January Spotlight - Black Mariah: From Vehicle to Villain

 In 1973, the female villain Black Mariah first appeared in the January issue of Luke Cage Hero For Hire by Marvel Comics. Black Mariah was an early enemy of Luke Cage (sometimes known as Power man) in the Blaxploitation comic book genre. Black Mariah, a large black woman, is also known as Mariah Dillard and is the leader of a NYC gang called the Rat Pack. In Marvel universe variations Mariah is also depicted as an elected councilperson in New York's Harlem neighborhood. But Black Mariah's character is inspired by a real life woman who, as it turns out, was not a villain but more of a hero.

     The term Black Mariah dates back to England in the 1800s as colloquial term for a police transport vehicle. In the U.S. the common term is Paddy Wagon, which also dates back to the 1800s as a racist term for the Irish; suggesting Police Transport Vehicles are filled with unruly Irish lawbreakers. But in England the prevailing term was Black Mariah, and although it is also referencing a racial type, refers to a single person: Mariah Lee. Lee, also sometimes spelled Maria Lee, affectionately called Black Mariah, was a large and fearsome black female boarding house keeper who was known to strike fear in drunken sailors and riff raff alike. Respected by the police, they would often call on her for help when they were unable to control a difficult situation involving more than one lawbreaker. Soon, 'calling for Black Mariah' signaled the need for a transport vehicle able to handle several occupants.

      The first police transport vehicles were cages affixed to horse carriages, and by the 1900s were motor vehicles equipped with stronger built prison cells on the rear.  The Oxford English Dictionary lists the first printed reference to a Black Mariah vehicle in 1847. The term is still used in England today (as well as the use of 'Paddy Wagon' in the U.S.) to describe a police transport vehicle, and sometimes the term 'Mother's Heart' is also used, as their is always room for one more.

Dec 24, 2016

December 24: From Killer Mob Boss To Champion Of Civil Liberties

Stephanie 'Queenie' St. Clair
    On December 24th, 1886, Stephanie "Queenie" St. Clair, the 'Madame of Harlem' mob boss, was born on the french Caribbean island of  Martinique. St. Clair was born poor and of French and African descent. She did not know her father and her mother died when she was a teenager. After being repeatedly raped working as a maid St. Clair immigrated to France. Finding no better luck there she immigrated to New York at 23, using the long voyage to teach herself english.
       New York City proved to be no better for her, she met a man named Duke who tried to pimp her out. She plucked out his eye with a fork and once again decided to move on. That night she took a bus out of New York but members of the KKK pulled her from the bus and rapped her (as well as killing other passengers).
    Deciding not to run this time she returned to Harlem determined. With the help of a boyfriend, Ed, she began selling drugs, quickly carving out a substantial market for herself. Within a matter of months she amassed a small fortune and decided to leave Ed and work solely for herself. He tried to strangle her and in the ensuing scuffle Ed laid dead and St. Clair became her own boss.
     In a short amount of time St. Clair created a highly successful gambling ring and numbers racket, employing dirty cops and men from around the neighborhood to now work for her, including Bumpy Johnson, who became her chief enforcer. Due to her success other crime families tried to move in on her turf, including Bronx-based mob boss Dutch Schultz. St. Clair wouldn't back down from Schultz's intimidation and a gang war ensued. Other crime families were worried the extra attention would be bad for business so Bumpy negotiated a deal with the Italian crime family giving them word that they could take over Schultz's business (as long as a percentage was given to him) once Schultz was killed. They killed Schultz.
   By this time Bumpy was running most of the business and St. Clair met a man, Sufi Abdul Hamid, known as "Black Hitler" for his militant activism as well as being the leader of an Islamic Buddhist cult. St. Clair retired and married Hamid. St. Clair became highly involved in social activism, often placing ads in the local papers informing black residents of their rights, making aware of discrimination, police brutality, illegal search raids, and other issues facing the black community as well as publicly outing abusive cops. This made her a target, but in Harlem she was highly admired. She employed members of the community, became a vocal member of local activist movements, and started a policy banking group for black residents who were turned away from white owned investment firms.
       In the late 1930s St. Clair began having an affair with a fortune teller named Fu Futtam.  Futtam and St. Clair's husband Hamid hatched a plan to use her money for their own ventures but ended when the affair came to light. In the aftermath Hamid laid dead of a bullet wound, details vary as to the identity of the shooter, but after waging a personal war against the NYC police department St. Clair spent 10 years in a New York State Prison for his murder.
     After Saint-Clair was released from prison she continued her community work in civil liberties as well as writing columns in the local newspaper about discrimination and other issues facing the black community. Bumpy Johnson came to live with her and they spent their elder years writing poetry together.

Editor's Note: Posted for Spooky; Merry Xmas my girl. 

Dec 8, 2016

December 8: Birth of Modern Wrestling & History of the Luchador Mask

The Masked Marvel
On December 8th, 1915, a wrestling promoter at the International Wrestling Tournament at the Manhattan Opera House in New York stopped the match demanding that his wrestler was wrongly left off of the fight card, calling attention to a man nonchalantly sitting in the audience wearing a mask. The man's name was The Masked Marvel, who rushed the mat and entered the fight. The whole ordeal was a planned set up, birthing the modern era of American Wrestling. The audience was instantly hooked, and an article from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on December 27th of that year called The Masked Marvel "the life-saver of the International wrestling show."
   Within weeks of the Masked Marvel's mysterious entrance speculations were made and newspapers rushed to find the identity of the masked man, and ultimately outed as wrestler Mort Henderson (which also may be an alias).

The first appearance of a wrestler wearing a mask, called a Luchador Mask (or Máscara), was french wrestler Theobaud Bauer (as The Masked Wrestler) who debuted the mask at the 1865 World's Fair in the Portuguese city of Porto. Bauer introduced the wrestling mask to the United States in the early 1870s. Although masked entertainers where not uncommon, including exotic dancer La Belle Dazle (also known as Bho la Dazlo) who wore a red domino mask, Bauer was the first wrestler to do so.
The Luchador mask is particularly popular in Mexico, where it was first introduced by Mexican Salvador Lutteroth in 1934, who witnessed professional wrestling in Texas along with American Masked wrestler "Cyclone" McKey and began promoting matches (as well as McKey) in Mexico under his organization Empresa Mexicana de Lucha Libre (Mexican Wrestling Enterprise).

Mort Henderson

Dec 6, 2016

December 6: When A Gunshot Kills A Legend In The Woods, The Whole World Can Hear It

On December 6th, 2012, a grey wolf was hunted and killed in Wyoming. Hunting and trapping wolves is legal in Wyoming ever since the wolves lost their protective status in 2011, and is not unusual.

This wolf, named 06 Female (born in 2006), was in fact unusual and was mourned around the world, as she was a well researched natural anomaly. As most wolves hunt deer and elk in packs of six, 06 Female hunted alone. Instead of chasing prey, 06 faced her prey head on and was highly successful.

Due to her hunting skills that produced an abundance of food she was able to birth and rear 13 pups.   She was the alpha female of her pack (the Lamar Canyon Pack) and instead of taking an alpha male as a mate, she chose two young brothers.

In the 6 years of her life she evaded rival packs as well as hunters until late 2012 when the Lamar Canyon Pack unknowingly crossed out of the Yellowstone park boarder where she was legally shot by a Wyoming hunter. 8 wolves a year are allowed to be hunted, and at the end of 2012 the 06 Female was the 8th and final kill of the season.

On December 6 a memorial is held annually for 06 Female at Lamar Canyon in Wyoming (06 for 06 Day). The name of the hunter has never been released.

Photo Credit: A Grey Wolf near Lamar River by Jim Peaco of the National Park Service. public domain.

Dec 1, 2016

December Spotlight: Fairies Are Real And Prefer The Mild Climate Of The English Countryside

In 1920 the December edition of The Strand Magazine published photographic proof of the existence of fairies, living in Cottingley England,  accompanied by an article written by Arthur Conan Doyle (famed writer of the Sherlock Holmes series) called 'Fairies Photographed.' In the article Doyle writes that the photographs "remove the last faint shadow of doubt" of the existence of fairies.

     The December edition of The Strand sold out in days and England became enamored due to the apparent validity of the photographs, having been examined by experts including scientists at the Kodak photographic company. All examinations concluded that the photographs and negatives had not been tampered with, although experts were careful to acknowledge that although the photographs "showed no signs of being faked", they "could not be taken as conclusive evidence that they were authentic photographs of fairies." Investigations by Arthur Conan Doyle as well as Edward Gardner of the Theosophical Society concluded there was no evidence proving That fairies didn't exist.

     The strongest proof to the existence of these fairies was the fact that the photographs were not taken by professional photographers or Theosophical enthusiasts, but by 2 young girls, ages 9 and 16, too inexperienced in the photographic arts to pull off a skilled and sophisticated stunt.
 In 1917 the 2 girls, cousins, Elsie Wright (16 at the time) and Frances Griffiths (9 at the time), played in the stream in the back yard of the Wright home and would tell the adults they were visiting the fairies who lived there. Annoyed by their mothers who did not believe them, the girls took Elsie's father's camera to the stream to prove they do indeed see fairies.

      Much to the surprise of their mothers, a few moments later the girls returned with the camera claiming the glass plate negative would prove their claims. Elsie's father printed the photograph showing Francis sitting with 4 fairies but dismissed the photograph as somehow faked, yet couldn't figure out how. The girls, unhappy that he did not believe them, took the camera 2 months later returning with yet a second photograph, this time showing Elsie talking with a gnome.   To this evidence Elsie's father became fed up believing the girls must be tampering with his camera and refused to let them borrow it again.

    Elsie's mother Polly however believed the photos to be real and in 1919 took them to the Theosophical Society in Bradford England during a lecture on "fairy life". Believing the photographs to be true Edward Gardner conducted an investigation of the area as well as of the Wright home. The girls were given 2 cameras that were secretly marked and instructed to walk out to the stream and photograph the fairies again in a controlled setting. The girls did as instructed and returned the cameras to Gardner which contained 3 photographs, in one Francis is talking to a fairy and another shows a fairy offering Elsie some flowers. The marked cameras showed no signs of tampering and Elsie's father had searched the girls room looking for cardboard cut-outs or art supplies that could prove the girls manufactured the photographs. But he found nothing so he allowed the photos to be published in The Strand in 1920.

         The ensuing fervor began to annoy the girls. Gardner returned with a clairvoyant named Geoffrey Hodson, but in an effort to cull unwanted attention the girls claimed the fairies no longer visit.  Hodson however claimed during the visit he witnessed seeing fairies "everywhere". At this point the girls were "fed up with fairies" and called Hodson a "fake". Eventually the girls married and left England although the interest in the 'Cottingley Fairies' remained. Gardner published a book on the subject in 1945 titled 'Fairies: A Book of Real Fairies' and other articles, television programs, and films were also made on the 'Cottingley Fairies' up until the very end of the girls lives (Frances died in 1986, and Elsie in 1988). Shortly before her death Elsie admitted that four of the photographs were faked but the one was real and that she and Frances were too embarrassed to admit the truth after fooling Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of Sherlock Holmes.

      Correspondence from Francis to a friend in South Africa (where she was originally from) emerged where Francis casually mentions run-ins with fairies. In one letter Francis writes "I am learning French, Geometry, Cookery and Algebra at school now. Dad came home from France the other week after being there ten months, and we all think the war will be over in a few days... I am sending two photos, both of me, one of me in a bathing costume in our back yard, while the other is me with some fairies. Elsie took that one." On the back of the photo she wrote "It is funny, I never used to see them in Africa. It must be too hot for them there."
     In 1998 the photographs and other related materials sold at auction for £21,620 and is now on display at the National Media Museum in Bradford England.
Page 465 from The Strand December 1920 Issue
(Francis' name changed to Alice to protect her identity) 

Nov 30, 2016

November 30: Tupac Shakur Survives A Murder Attempt, Goes To Prison, And Becomes A Megastar

On this day in 1994 rap artist Tupac Shakur survived a murder attempt when he was robbed and shot five times by three men in the lobby of Quad Recording Studios in Manhattan. This attack occurred the night before his verdict was read in a sexual assault case. Shakur checked out of Bellevue Hospital just three hours after surgery and entered the courthouse in a wheelchair. Shakur was found guilty of three counts of sexual-assault and served 9 months in the Clinton Correctional Facility.
    While incarcerated he released his multi-platinum album Me Against the World. Shakur became the first artist to have an album at number one on the Billboard 200 while serving a prison sentence.
   Shakur was later killed on September 13th, 1996, when he was shot 6 times in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, 6 days prior.

Nov 20, 2016

Thanksgiving Spotlight: Tonight We Take Alcatraz, Un-thank You Very Much!

Alcatraz Island

November 20, 1969, eighty nine American Indians (who called themselves Indians of All Tribes or IOAT) landed on and claimed Alcatraz Island for themselves in what is now called The Occupation of Alcatraz.

According to the IOAT, the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868) between the U.S. and the Lakota, states all retired, abandoned or out-of-use federal land was to be returned to the Native people from whom it was stolen (The treaty and it's implications has been speculated on and argued over from both sides). Since Alcatraz penitentiary had been closed since March 21, 1963, and the island had been declared surplus federal property in 1964, a number of Red Power activists felt the island qualified for a reclamation. The Alcatraz Occupation lasted for a total of nineteen months, until June 11, 1971, before the occupants were forcibly removed by the U.S. government.

The Occupation began strong with sympathy for the IOAT from the general public, with sporadic cameos by celebrities such as Marlon Brando, Jane Fonda, and Jonathan Winters. Creedence Clearwater Revival even donated a $15,000 boat for use of bringing supplies to the Occupants.

Initially the Occupants offered to pay the federal government $9.40 for the entire island (roughly the same amount per acre that the government had initially offered at the Treaty of Fort Laramie), but over the course of a year negotiations had crumbled. Rumors of drug use helped deteriorate national sympathy, and morale had been all but crushed when a13 year old daughter of two occupants was killed in an accident.

Nearly 10 years after the Occupation of Alcatraz (On June 30, 1980) the United States Supreme Court ruled that the government had illegally taken the land covered by the Treaty of Fort Laramie and awarded the Lakota $15.5 million for the market value of the land in 1877, along with 103 years of a 5% interest, for a total of  $120 million. The Lakota Sioux refused to accept payment on the grounds that it would constitute a sales transaction, when in fact the land was taken from them.
The money was put in a trust for the Lakota but they have never taken a dime. The trust has now grown past $1.5 Billion.

The Occupation of Alcatraz is still recognized as a pivoting moment for Native American rights, and on Thanksgiving Day every year a public sunrise ceremony called Un-Thanksgiving is celebrated on Alcatraz Island.


Nov 11, 2016

November 11: A Medal Of Honor Recipient By Any Other Name

On November 11, 1865, Mary Edwards Walker became the first woman to receive the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor, The United States of America's highest military honor. 

Mary Edwards Walker was born in the Town of Oswego, New York on November 26, 1832. Raised by progressive christians that nurtured her defiant spirit, They let her wear traditionally male clothes; she refused to wear dresses and corsets even in school.

Mary first attended Falley Seminary in Fulton, New York before receiving her medical doctorate at Syracuse Medical College, even though women at the time were discouraged from pursuing medical degrees.  While at Syracuse she met and married another doctor, Albert Miller. At the wedding Walker wore trousers, refused to include "obey" in her vows, and retained her last name. All of which Albert seemed fine with, but he was unfaithful so the marriage ended. 

When the American Civil War began, she volunteered for the Union Army. At the time the U.S. Army had no female surgeons, and at first she was allowed to practice only as a nurse before her skills and demand superseded social restrictions.

In September 1863, she was employed as a "Contract Acting Assistant Surgeon" becoming the first female surgeon employed by the U.S. Army. During her time as a surgeon in the Civil War she came across female soldiers dressed as men. There are 400 documented cases from both sides of the conflict with evidence supporting that up to an additional 1,000 other cases of female soldiers that were either not discovered, or were to some degree but were kept secret by fellow soldiers due to skill and camaraderie.  

One such soldier was Frances Hook, whom served with the blue coats for 3 years (reenlisting every time she was discovered, under various versions of a male personality named Frank). Hook and her brother enlisted together, she was only 14 at the time of enlistment but claimed to be 22. After her brother was killed she was taken prisoner by the Confederate army and her true identity was discovered. The grey coats were so impressed by her courage that Confederate President Jefferson Davis offered to make her a lieutenant if she joined his army. In true Yankee form, Hook declared she'd rather be a private in the Union Army than a lieutenant for the Rebels. When Mary Walker found out about it she campaigned for the Union to reinstate her as lieutenant.  When they declined Walker alerted the press about the bravery and heroics of a young female soldier. Hook gave interviews and was written about extensively but the army again refused to reinstate her. She promised reporters she would head home, but with no home to return to, many speculated that she again reenlisted under a new name.  

Walker continued as a surgeon for the union, inspired by female Union spies (such as Sarah Emma Edmonds, a white Canadian woman who spied on the rebels disguised as a black man) Walker requested the War Department employ her as a spy. Records show she was denied but In 1864, she was captured by Confederate troops, and arrested as a spy, just after she finished helping a Confederate doctor perform an amputation. It wasn't uncommon for Walker to cross enemy lines to tend to the wounded no matter who they fought for. Regardless, she was imprisoned at Castle Thunder in Richmond, Virginia, until she was released in a prisoner exchange.

After the war Walker was recommended for the Medal of Honor for bravery 'above and beyond the call of duty', by Generals William Tecumseh Sherman and George Henry Thomas.  
On November 11, 1865, President Andrew Johnson signed a bill to award her the medal, becoming the first woman to receive the Medal of Honor.  
In 1917, her name was dropped from the official Medal of Honor Roll (along with over 900 others) when the U.S. Congress created a pension act for Medal of Honor recipients. Walker still proudly wore her medal on the lapel of her 'masculine' suits. 

On February 21, 1919, Walker died at the age of eighty-six. She was buried wearing one of her trademark black suits (see photo). 

In 1977 her medal was restored posthumously by President Jimmy Carter.

Mary Edwards Walker is still the only woman to receive the Medal of Honor.  

Mary Edmunds Walker in her trademark black suit
with her Medal of Honor on the lapel (Public Domain Photo)

Nov 10, 2016

November 10: A Life Filled With Guns And Poetry But The Heartache Is Still Unbearable

On November 10th, 1919, Lieutenant-General Mikhail Kalashnikov was born in Russia.
The military general and inventor is most famous for developing the AK-47 assault rifle.
The AK-47, known in Russia as the Kalashnikov or simply the Kalash) is a selective-fire (semi-automatic or automatic) gas-operated assault rifle, was designed by Kalashnikov at 27 years old while conscripted in the military for service in WWII.

After completing the 7th grade Kalashnikov hitchhiked 1000 kilometers from home and began working for machine repair shops. With a natural talent for engineering, Kalashnikov worked as an engineer for the military during WWII.

Kalashnikov received a Doctorate (of Technical Sciences) in 1971 and designed over 150 successful weapons although the AK-47 was his most famous invention.

In later life Kalashnikov became an avid writer of books and poetry, but the weight of designing weapons hung deeply on him. Shortly before his death he wrote "My heartache unbearable same insoluble question: if my rifle deprive people of life, and therefore I, Mikhail Kalashnikov, ninety-three years old, the son of a peasant, and Orthodox Christian according to his faith, responsible for the death of people, let even an enemy?"

In an interview with the Guardian Kalashnikov said "I'm proud of my invention, but I'm sad that it is used by terrorists ... I would prefer to have invented a machine that people could use and that would help farmers with their work — for example a lawn mower."

More than 100 million AK-47 assault rifles had been produced by his death in 2013.

The Kalashnikov (AK-47) Rifle

Oct 29, 2016

October 29: Grave Robbing & The Death Of Misfits

On this day in 1983 the horror punk band The Misfits played their final show at Greystone Hall in Detroit. It was during their annual Halloween show that lead singer Glenn Danzig unexpectedly announced to the audience that it would be the band's final show.

After drummer Brian Damage, who had just replaced another drummer, got too drunk and had to be escorted off stage in the middle of the performance lead singer Danzig abruptly announced the end of the band. Tensions between Danzig and the rest of the band had been rising after several incidents on tour, including the entire band being arrested in New Orleans on charges of grave robbing (The band claims only an attempt to locate the grave of voodoo queen Marie Laveau), as well as drummer Robo, a Colombian army defector and illegal alien, having to leave the band.  Upon returning from tour the band members went their separate ways (only reuniting after more than 30 years). The Misfits are recognized as early developers of the horror punk genre; blending punk rock with camp horror themes and imagery. They are also recognized as the originators of the Devilock hairstyle (see photo).
Doyle performing with the Misfits
at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. in 1983.

Oct 21, 2016

October 21: Pimping Ain't Easy.. But Publishing Is (and The Harshest Critic Is The One You Create)

On October 21st, 1975, Donald Goines and his wife, Shirley Sailor, were found dead in their Detroit Apartment with multiple gunshots to the head and chest.

Goines was born in Detroit in 1936 to a middle class black family. His mother claimed to be a descendant of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. At 15 Goines lied about his age in order to join the Air Force to fight in the Korean war.

Goines was honorably discharged but returned home with a severe heroin addiction. To support his habit he turned to a life of crime, trying his hand at theft and pimping. Proving not a good career choice Goines decided to began writing while serving a sentence in Michigan's Jackson Penitentiary. Initially he thought he would write westerns, but was inspired to write Urban Fiction after reading famed Pimp Iceberg Slim's autobiography 'Pimp: The Story of My Life.'

At fiction Goines was a natural, writing and publishing an astonishing 16 novels between 1971 and 1975 (including the highly popular Kenyatta series under the pseudonym Al C. Clark) by the time he was murdered. An out of control heroin addiction has been cited for Goines accelerated writing pace; with Goines sister, Joan, pointing out that constantly writing kept him from committing crimes. She also noted that many of the characters in his books were inspired by real people.

The killer (or killers) of Goines and Sailor have never been identified, but it has long believed that the killer must be someone Goines fictionalized in one of his many books, unhappy about his or her portrayal.

Oct 15, 2016

October 15: Death Of An Exotic Dancer And The Mystery Of A Missing Head

On October 15th 1917 wold famous exotic dancer Mata Hari was executed by firing squad in Paris France. Born Margaretha Zelle in Leeuwarden, Netherlands in 1876 to a Dutch father of means and Javanese mother (making her Eurasian, a fact she built upon for her act) Zelle worked under the name Mata Hari quickly becoming a world traveling exotic dancer, mesmerizing society's elite with her famous fan dance. Starting relatively late, at about 29, Mata Hari debuted her unique style of exotic dancing in Paris in 1905 (so carefree she would finish her shows completely naked save for a bra as she was self conscious about her small breast size) and by 1910 worked her way into the highest social circles as a courtesan to royalty and military elite. Her work allowed her to travel freely between borders during World War I. The French government offered Mata Hari a million francs (about $170,000) to seduce the Crown Prince Wilhelm, son of Kaiser Wilhelm II and Senior German General on the Western Front, and provide France with secret German intelligence.
         In 1916 the French intercepted a German transmission involving an agent (Agent H-21) that attempted to set up a meeting with the Crown Prince Wilhelm to give him information about French secrets. Realizing that Agent H-21 was Mata Hari she was arrested and charged with being a double agent. Mata Hari argued that this was only a way for her to get close enough to the Prince to collect the type of secrets they asked for.
       The trial was a sham, her lawyer was not allowed to cross examine witnesses or present his own, and despite having no evidence that Mata Hari was a double agent she was convicted and sentenced to death. For Mata Hari, the worst part was when her lover,  Russian pilot Captain Vadim Maslov, who had fallen into deep depression after being blinded in battle, declined to testify on her behalf saying he couldn't care less if she was convicted or not. She reportedly fainted at hearing this news.
          On October 15, 1917, at the age of 41, Mata Hari declined a blindfold, blew a kiss to the firing squad, and stared blankly at the executioners as she was shot, not flinching or breaking her stare as she fell to her knees and died. She was shot once more in the head at close range for good measure, and having no one to claim her body, she was donated to science. Her head was embalmed and kept in the Museum of Anatomy in Paris, but almost one hundred years later it was discovered that the head (as well as the rest of her body) had disappeared, no one quite sure when either went missing.
Mata Hari's arrest photo. Public Domain. 

Oct 12, 2016

October 12: Christopher Columbus: Not the first European to reach America (but instead the first mass murderer)

On October 12th, 1492, 3 ships (Nina, Pinta, & Santa Maria) led by Christopher Columbus pulled ashore on the Caribbean island of what is now called Santo Domingo. Not the first European explorer to reach the Americas, but Columbus' voyages were the first lasting European influence with the Americas, leading to an extended period of European conquest, colonization, terror and genocide that has had a lasting impact for centuries.
      The first recorded European explorer (whose name know) to reach the Americas was Viking explorer Leif  'The Lucky' Erikson 500 years before Columbus. Referenced in the Icelandic historical book Íslendingabók (c. 1122 A.D.) Eirkson reached the northern tip of Vinland (what he named the land now called Newfoundland in Canada, due to all the grapevines there) and was surprised to find 2 shipwrecked European sailors standing ashore (making these two men, whose names were not recorded, the first known Europeans to discover America).
      Half a millennia later Spain funded a voyage led by Columbus to find a new route to Asia.
On the early morning of the 12th of October one of Columbus' sailor's (a man named Rodrigo) cried out that he could see land by the moon's reflection. The first crewmen to spot land would be rewarded 100,000 Maravedís (about $15,000) a year for life. But Rodrigo never saw the money, as Columbus later claimed to see the coastline the day before and took the prize money for himself. In Columbus' logbook he remarked on the first natives he met, the Arawaks, speaking to their generosity and hospitality. And then he took them as slaves.  Columbus surveyed the Caribbean islands, collecting gold and slaves, killing anyone in his way, and headed back to Spain to report his findings.
      The timber from the Santa Maria was used to make the first European military fort in the Americas, which he named Navidad (Christmas), and in his absence he left a brigade of men to find more gold until his return.  In his logbook Columbus wrote about the natives "With 50 men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want." But Columbus did not take his own advice and only left 39 men at the Christmas fort. Upon his return Columbus found all his men dead; after the men began taking native women and children for sex slaves the Arawaks killed them all.
     But this time Columbus was prepared. On the promise of "As much gold as they want" and "as many slaves as they need" Columbus was given 17 ships and over 1200 men to enslave the Arawaks and strip their lands of resources. The only issue was that Columbus knowingly over exaggerated the amount of gold he figured was there. The solution to fulfilling his promise would become a living nightmare of unending horrors for the native people of the Caribbean. Columbus first sent hundreds of slaves back to Europe, noting "Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold." but too many died en route so the name of the game now was to enslave them all and force them to collect gold from their native lands. Columbus told his benefactors of fields of gold, but the natives knew the only gold to be found was dust in streams.  Any native who could not produce a certain quantity every 3 months was killed by hanging, set on fire, or had their hands chopped off causing death by exsanguination. In a desperate situation, the Arawaks fled but were chased down by dogs and killed. What followed next were mass suicides by the natives in a desperate attempt to escape the brutality. Children and babies were killed as a compassionate measure to spare them the torture handed down by Columbus' men.
In just two years, of the original 250,000 natives, half of were dead. The rest were forced to work on estates in horrific conditions, and by 1515 there were only 50,000 left. A report from 1650 showed no natives left, the entire Arawak race erased by brutal genocide.
 Columbus' voyage to the Americas is still recognized as an official holiday, on October 12th,  by the U.S. and Spanish governments.
Columbus Day, 1892, Salem Massachusetts 

Editor's Note: Unlike Columbus' actions of enslaving, raping, and killing the first people he met standing on the shoreline, The Viking Lief Erikson (who was also a Christian) rescued the men he met on the American shoreline; as well as rescuing a crew of castaways on the return voyage back to Iceland. Which is the reason he was given the nickname "Leif the Lucky".  I propose we replace Columbus Day with Lucky Leif Day, or even Shipwrecked Castaway Day would be a fine replacement.  


Oct 10, 2016

October 10: American War Hero Forced To Dress As A Woman Against His Will Is Rescued By Town

On October 10th, 1915, Civil War veteran Albert Cashier of the 95th Illinois Infantry died at the age of 72 and was laid to rest at Sunny Slope Cemetery in Saunemin, Illinois.

     Although the shortest soldier in his regiment, Private Cashier was a capable fighter and admired by his peers, serving a full 3 year enlistment and fighting in over 40 battles. Cashier at one point became a prisoner of war but escaped by overpowering a prison guard. Surviving the war, Cashier settled in Saunemin, living a quiet life on his military pension supplemented by working as a handyman. At the age of 66, while working for Illinois State Senator I.M. Lish, Cashier suffered a broken leg while doing yard work (hit accidentally by a car Lish was driving) and was taken to the local hospital where it was discovered that Cashier was in fact a woman. Hospital employees did not divulge Cashier's secret and sent him to the Soldiers and Sailors Home in Quincy, Illinois to recover.      
Cashier remained a resident of the Home until 1913, when he was sent to a state hospital for the insane due to the onset of dementia. Attendants there discovered Cashier was a woman and forced him to give his birth name and information (Jennie Hodgers born December 25, 1843 in Louth, Ireland) as well as forcing him to wear a dress,  which was upsetting and confusing to the aging Soldier who had lived as Cashier for 50 years. When word got out about the cruel treatment of the Civil War veteran many of his friends and former regiment soldiers protested his treatment at the state hospital, surprised but not deterred by his secret identity, and demanded the veteran be acknowledged and treated with respect.
When Cashier died on October 10th, 1915, he was buried in his Military uniform with his name and military rank on the tombstone.

Union soldier Albert Chashier. 

Editor's Note: There are 400 documented cases of women assuming males identities in order to fight in the Civil War. Historians believe as many as 1,000 Women (or more) bravely fought on the front lines, many successfully keeping their male identities in tact after the war. Research looking into the hundreds of these soldiers shows different motivations for assuming male identities and joining the fight. Many were discovered after being killed in battle so little else is known about them.  Others wrote books and did interviews after the war  explaining motivations such as the patriotic call to duty; others joined so they could fight along side of their lovers, husbands, and brothers (two women were cousins and joined together) and resumed their previous identities after the war. One woman joined and fought along side her husband, and after the war they became marauders terrorizing small towns in the Appalachian region. 
Others, like Cashier, identified as men and remained so for the rest of their lives (Cashier identified as a man long before he enlisted). The part of story I left out in the article is that more than 50 years after Cashier's death a second tombstone was added next to the first inscribed with his birth name (of Jennie Hodgers). Given that the town and his fellow soldiers fought to preserve his name and legacy, adding the second tombstone could be seen as disrespectful, but because I do not know what the motivation was for doing so I personally reserve judgement. 

Oct 7, 2016

October 7 - Kelly Girl: Birth of the Temp Worker

On this date in 1946 William Russell Kelly founded 'Russell Kelly Office Service' in Troy, Michigan, as the first temporary staffing agency that provided temporary secretarial services for clients onsite.
The Kelly Service was founded shortly after World War II, a time when women  joined the workforce in large numbers. Soon the term 'Kelly Girl' entered the lexicon referring to temp workers in general, regardless of gender.  Adelaide Hess Moran has the distinction of being the world's first Kelly Girl.
    In 1957 the 'Russell Kelly Office Service' officially changed its name to 'Kelly Girl Service' but changed it's name again in 1966 'Kelly Services Inc' in order to reflect an expanding range of services including office services, accounting, engineering, information technology, law, science, marketing, creative services, light industrial, education, and health care. Kelly operates in 41 countries and territories and employs more than 500,000 individuals annually.

Sep 28, 2016

September 28: Zulu Heritage and Legalizing Coconuts

On September 28, 1916, the The Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club became an officially incorporated social club in New Orleans, Louisiana. The club puts on the Zulu parade each Mardi Gras Day and is New Orleans' largest African American carnival organization known for its blackface and grass skirt costumes, a crowned Zulu King, and for tossing hand-painted coconuts into the crowds (early blackface performances were not seen as racist and even respected black entertainers preformed blackface shows).
The Zulus got their start around 1908 when a social club called The Tramps were inspired by the costumes and pageantry of Vaudeville shows and reorganized it's marching troupe for Mardi Gras to include costumes, floats, and tossing coconuts to the crowd (as beaded necklaces where too costly for the working class club).After several years the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club became incorporated in 1916 with a social mission and dedication to benevolence and goodwill.
Over the years changing social values threatened the club's popularity and future, especially during the 1960s when civil rights activists protested the club's parade on the grounds that 'Negroes wander through the city drinking to excess, dressed as uncivilized savages and throwing cocoanuts like monkeys.' did not represent black Americans and their fight for equality. There were also lawsuits from bystanders injured from tossed coconuts. By the end of the 1960s the membership dropped to 15, and the blackface and grass skirt costumes were dropped.
By the early 1970s an effort was made to save the club and its traditions. The club became integrated and actively recruited prominent members of New Orleans. The club reclaimed its traditions of the  traditional blackface and grass skirt costumes and in 1988 New Orleans passed the “Coconut Bill” removing liability from injuries resulting from thrown coconuts and enabling the tradition to resume.

Sep 18, 2016

September 18: A Champion Athlete's Diet: Beer, Bacon, and Candy

 On September 18th in 2016 ultra-runner Karl Meltzer set a record for running the complete Appalachian Trail (2,190 miles across14 states) in just 45 days 22 hours 38 minutes. The previous record was set by Scott Jurek, who completed the trail in 46 days 8 hours 7 minutes.
Jurek, the former record holder, was 41 at the time of his record setting run and ran the trail on an exclusively vegan diet. Meltzer, who broke Jurek's record by several hours, was 48 at the time and completed the trail on a diet that included Red Bull, bacon, 3 Musketeers bars, and Beer. Meltzer ran the final 83 miles non-stop to complete the race. At the time of his record setting Appalachian Trail run Meltzer had won 38 100 mile trail races.

Sep 15, 2016

September 15: Muhammad Ali Becomes The Greatest (For The Third Time) And A Misfit Is Born

On September 15, 1978, Boxing legend and civil rights activist Muhammad Ali beat Leon Spinks in a rematch to become the first boxer to win the world heavyweight title three times. Ali outpointed Spinks in front of a crowd of 65,000 at the Superdome in New Orleans.
It was Ali's last professional win.

Born on this day:
1964 - Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein, guitarist for the Horror Punk band The Misfits. Doyle's older brother, Jerry Only, was the band's bassist and when guitarist Bobby Steele failed to show up for practice, Only and lead singer Glenn Danzig quickly taught Doyle how to play guitar. He joined the Misfits in October 1980 at the age of 16. The Misfits played their first show at the famed CBGB club in New York in 1977, and are recognized as early developers of the horror punk genre; blending punk rock with camp horror themes and imagery. They are also recognized as the originators of the Devilock hairstyle.
Doyle (with Devilock hair) playing with The Misfits.
April 4, 1983 at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C.

Sep 13, 2016

September 13: An Elephant Is Executed, Tupac Dies, And The Man Who Made A Liar Out Of Hitler Is Born

Public Domain image of Mary's execution  
On September 13, 1916, in Erwin Tennessee, a circus elephant named Mary was publicly executed in front of a crowd of 2,500 by hanging after killing her handler, Walter 'Red' Eldridge, the day before. Accounts recall that Eldridge prodded her cheek that sent her into a rage and trampling him to death. The execution took 2 attempts, the first ended when the chain noose broke causing Mary to fall and break her hip. The second attempt took 30 minutes of hanging by the neck before she died.
An autopsy by a veterinarian concluded that Mary had a severely infected tooth in the spot that Eldridge was prodding.
in 2016 the town of Erwin celebrated the centennial of Mary's hanging with 2 weeks of events including a nightfall parade of the town's school children dressed as elephants pulling 'ghost elephant' sculptures. Money raised during the festivities was donated to an Elephant Refuge in Tennessee.
Centennial Celebration of Mary's Legacy in Erwin Tennessee on August 27th 2016
Public Domain Photo by John King
Born on this day:
1913  Jesse Owens the four-time Olympic gold medalist for the U.S. Track & Field team. Owens, who was black, is credited for single handedly disproving Hitler's Aryan Racial Superiority Theory at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. Hitler's response to Owens victory was to say the physiques of black athletes were stronger than those of whites and hence should be excluded from future games.

Died on this day Tupac Shakur:
1996 Rap artist Tupac Shakur died after being shot six days earlier on September 7th in a BMW in Las Vegas. Conspiracies abound over the reason for his murder including East Coast/West Coast rivalries, retribution for sex crimes committed by Shakur, as well as a hit placed by Death Row Records CEO Marion "Suge" Knight.

Sep 11, 2016

September 11: 9/11 Flag Lost and Found After Circling the Globe

On September 11, 2001, the World Trade Centers in New York City fell after two commercial airliners hit them in what is now called the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks.
Hours after the twin towers fell 3 NYC firemen (George Johnson, Billy Eisengrein and Dan McWilliams) took an American flag off of a yacht docked in a Lower Manhattan harbor and raised it amongst the rubble in the area now known as Ground Zero. The moment was captured in a photograph by newspaper photographer Thomas E. Franklin and published on front pages and magazine covers around the world. The photo has been compared to Joe Rosenthal’s 1945 picture of six U.S. troops raising an American flag atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima. The 9/11 flag disappeared hours after the photo was taken and an alternate flag was signed by the governor of New York George Pataki, and two New York City mayors, Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg and was put on display at various times around the world. After comparisons of the displayed flag to the flag in the famous photograph reveled it to be a fake a documentary about the flag's disappearance was made.
   In 2014 a man who identified himself only as 'Brian' walked into a fire station in Everett, Washington (nearly 3,000 miles away from New York) saying he saw the documentary and wanted to  hand over a flag he thought to be the famous missing flag. The man, still only known as Brian, said he was a Marine veteran who had been deployed to the Middle East and was told a widow of a 9/11 victim gave the flag to a worker at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who in turn gave the flag to him.
    A forensic materials scientist for the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab conducted tests and determined that Brian's mystery flag was the flag from the famous photo. It is now on display at the National September 11 Memorial Museum, and a second documentary has been made about the flag's recovery.

Sep 10, 2016

September 10: Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau is born Twice

Born on September 10th in 1794 was the renowned practitioner of Louisiana Voodoo Marie Laveau in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Laveau was born to a free creole woman and one time acting Mayor of New Orleans (about 5 months), Charles Laveau Trudeau  (AKA Don Carlos Trudeau).
   In 1819 She married Jaques Paris, a French Creole, who had fled as a refugee from the black Haitian massacre during the Haitian Revolution of 1791-1804. He disappeared soon after their wedding and was presumed dead. She then took up with Louis Christope Dominick Duminy de Glapion, a white man of noble french descent and lived with him until his death in 1835. They had 7 children, but only two lived to adulthood; 2 girls both also named Marie.
   Laveau and her daughter, Marie Laveau II, had both earned the title of Voodoo Queen, most accounts are nearly indistinguishable between the two Laveaus, as many regarded them as the same person. Voodoo Queens had great power in their communities, and had the role of leading many of the ceremonial meetings and ritual dances.
   As many as 12,000 people at a time (both black and white) would attend Laveau's St. John's Eve (June 23) rituals, usually held in the Voudoun (Haitian Voodou) tradition.
Voudoun is a religion of belief in "mysterious forces or powers that govern the world and the lives of those who reside within it." rooted in African religious practices and is similar to but separate from Louisiana Voodoo, which incorporates elements of Catholicism as well as the Francophone culture of south Louisiana. The South Eastern American religion of Hoodoo is also similar to Louisiana Voodoo as it also uses elements of Catholicism including the Holy Bible.
   It is said that Laveau tended more toward Louisiana Voodoo and Marie Laveau II more to Voodoun practices, But the first Laveau often carried a snake named after Li Grand Zombi (or Damballa), an important spirit in Voodoun.

Marie Laveau died on June 17, 1881, but many witnessed her walking through New Orleans in the days following. Some of this may be on account of Laveau II taking her place as Voodoo Queen, but to this day Many seek the magical help from Marie Laveau by visiting her grave at Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans. By local folklore, a visitor can mark an "X" on her tomb, turn around three times, knock on the tomb, yell a wish, and if it was granted  come back, circle their X, and leave an offering for Laveau including jewelry and drink.
   As of March 1, 2015 there is no longer public access to St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. without a tour guide due in large part to protecting Laveau's mausoleum. There have been several highly publicized vandalizations of her grave including the Horror Punk band The Misfits being arrested for attempting to rob her grave as well as an event in 2013 of someone painting the entire mausoleum pink.
Marie Laveau's mausoleum in Saint Louis no. I, New Orleans
 (public domain photo).

Sep 8, 2016

September 8: Birth of Star Trek and the Space Cowboy Genre

On September 8 in 1966 the very first episode of Star Trek was aired on NBC in the US (the first international airing of the show actually took place two days earlier on Canada's CTV network) beginning with the now famous phrase "Space; the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise."
    The series, pitched to network executives as a Western in Space by creator Gene Roddenberry, followed the Starship Enterprise (an exploration spaceship  in the "United Federation of Planets" fleet) through the Milky Way with Captain James Tiberius Kirk at the helm and first officer Spock at his side.
    The series was canceled after 3 seasons (79 episodes) despite campaigns by fans to save the show, but found new life in syndication in the 1970s and eventually becoming a franchise with five additional television series and thirteen feature films by it's 50th anniversary in 2016 and is now considered one of the most popular and influential television series of all time.

Sep 7, 2016

September 7: Tupac Shakur And What Happens in Vegas

On September 7 in 1996 rap artist Tupac Shakur was shot 6 times in a drive-by shooting at the intersection of Flamingo Road and Koval Lane in Las Vegas, Nevada. He died of his wounds 6 days later at the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada.
Although many conspiracies surround his death including East Coast/West Coast rivalries, retribution for sex crimes committed by Shakur, as well as a hit placed by fellow rap artist The Notorious B.I.G. no one has yet to be charged with his murder. in 2002 after a year long investigation, the LA Times published a two-part story by investigative reporter Chuck Philips, titled "Who Killed Tupac Shakur?" claiming that a Southside Crip member named Orlando Anderson fired the shots that killed Shakur as retribution for an earlier attack  committed by Shakur. Anderson was later murdered in an unrelated incident.
To make matters more confusing, the FBI in 2011 released documents revealing its investigation of the Jewish Defense League for making death threats against Shakur and other artists.

 Shakur survived a previous murder attempt on November 30, 1994, when he was robbed and shot five times by three men in the lobby of Quad Recording Studios in Manhattan. This attack occured the night before his verdict was read in a sexual assault case. Shakur checked out of Bellevue Hospital just three hours after surgery and entered the courthouse in a wheelchair. Shakur was found guilty of three counts of sexual-assault and served 9 months in the Clinton Correctional Facility.
While incarcerated he released his multi-platinum album Me Against the World. Shakur became the first artist to have an album at number one on the Billboard 200 while serving a prison sentence.
Statue of Shakur at the MARTa museum in Herford, Germany.
Photo by Paolo Chiasera