Tom's Book of Days
      June 21-30  

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June 21


The wheel of Mr. Ferris

LITHA: Litha is the Celtic celebration of the summer solstice. A portentous day for fairies and magic.

1893: The Ferris Wheel premieres at Chicago's Columbian Exposition, the famous celebration of nationalist pride and American know-how. It was conceived by Pittsburg Bridge-builder George Washington Ferris (who would die four years later at the age of 38) in an attempt to outdo the Eiffel Tower (always this competition with the French!). It held 2,160 passengers in 36 cars, a load of about 150 tons. In place of rigid spokes Ferris employed taut cables to hold together the wheel. Its 45-foot axle was the largest piece of forged steel in the world. Ferris had prevailed over skeptical fair engineers who felt that the wheel could not sustain its weight and would fall over in the wind, but before the fair was over it would withstand a hurricane. The image at left is a postcard of the original Wheel.

1921: Judith Tuvim (Judy Holliday) is born in New York City. This story appears in the Daily Bleed (where the original source is not acknowledged):

In the early 1950s, Holliday is called before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee for associating with suspected communists. Realizing the public confuses her with her film persona, Holliday put on a show for the committee, leading her questioners in circles of illogic and forgetfulness. Convinced she really is an idiot, the committee let her go without getting a single piece of usable information--and never realizing they were victims of a masterful joke.

1967: An estimated 30-50,000 people attend a solstice party in Golden Gate Park.


June 22


René Crevel

1633: Galileo Galilei is compelled by the Inquisition to recant his works subscribing to the Copernican theory that the earth moves around the sun. At the end of his life, he is reported to have murmured, E pur si muove ("But it does move").

1935: René Crevel kills himself. We published his Bablyon and Difficult Death at North Point Press.

1972: A fine quote appears on the Watergate tapes:

Haldeman: ... the great thing about it is that the whole thing is so totally fucked up so badly done that nobody believes ...
Nixon: ... that we could have done it.
Haldeman: That's right. It's beyond comprehension ...


June 23


1626: A large Codfish, split open at a Cambridge market, is found to contain a copy of a book of religious treatises by John Frith.

1848: Workers riot in Paris. The photographer Thibault shoots some scenes, perhaps the first example of photo reportage. The images will be sold at Sotheby's for £182,650 in 2002.

1868: Christopher Latham Sholes patents the first typewriter. Because the keys would jam if the typist operated the machine too fast, a special keyboard was devised to make typing as slow as possible. The most often used keys were put in the most inconvenient places, and more were positioned for the left hand than for the right. This is the QWERTY keyboard still used today. The first typewritten manuscript sent to a publisher would be Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain.

1912: Alan Mathison Turing is born. He would be a pioneer in computer theory and artificial intelligence.

1916: The Dadaist Cafe Voltaire is shut down. While authorities regard the artists as dangerous, they show little concern about another resident on the narrow alleyway where the Cafe is located (Spiegelgasse 14), scholarly Mr. Uljanow (aka Lenin).

1964: Arthur Melin patents the hula-hoop.


June 24


Carlos Gardel

1541: Pizarro is assassinated in Peru.

1812: Napoleon's armies cross into Russia.

1902: Fit to be tied as he struggles to meet a deadline, Joseph Conrad upsets an oil lamp and burns the second installment of The End of the Tether.

1935: Last tango: Carlos Gardel (pictured) is killed in an airplane accident.

1975: 1975: In a shootout at Oglala, South Dakota, two FBI agents and Lakota activist Joe Stuntz are killed. Two American Indian Movement leaders are prosecuted for the FBI deaths and found innocent by reason of self-defense, a third, Leonard Peltier, is later tried and convicted in what many regard as a frame-up.


June 25


Charles Baudelaire

1852: Antoni Gaudi is born in Reus, Tarragona, Spain.

1857: Charles Baudelaire's Fleurs du Mal is published (he and his publishers will be prosecuted for offending public morals).

1867: Lucien Smith patents barbed wire.

1906: Architect Stanford White, the designer of Madison Square Garden, is shot dead atop the building by Pittsburg millionaire Harry Thaw, the jealous husband of actress and Gibson Girl Evelyn Nesbit, whom White was supposed to have taken advantage of (the press takes Thaw's side in the case).

Harry Thaw Evelyn Nesbit Evelyn Nesbit Evelyn Nesbit Stanford White


June 26


three amigos

1284: The Pied Piper of Hamelin, Germany, takes 130 children.

1541: Pizarro is assassinated in Peru.

1861: Art critic Felix Feneon is born. The image at left, a detail from The Reading (Emile Verhaeren and Friends) by Theo van Rysselberghe, shows Feneon standing behind Francis Viele-Griffen and André Gide (see André Gide: Words and Pictures).

1970: Leopoldo Marechal dies in Buenos Aires.


June 27


anne white

1927: Bob Keeshan (Captain Kangaroo) is born.

1927: Lafcadio Hearn is born on the Greek island of Levkás.

1905: The Wobblies (Industrial Workers of the World or IWW) begin their founding convention at Brand's Hall in Chicago.

1954: CIA-sponsored rebels complete the overthrow of the elected government of Arbenz in Guatemala. The State Department labeled accusations of a US role in the overthrow "ridiculous and untrue" and said it would not comment further because it did not wish to give them a dignity they did not deserve. Said a Department spokesperson: "It is the policy of the United States not to interfere in the internal affairs of other nations." The involvement of the CIA has, however, been incontrovertibly documented in recently declassified US government materials. The first plan to depose Arbenz, who was intent on land reform (unused portions of estates of very high acreage were purchased by the Guatemalan government at the same value declared on the owner's tax forms, then resold at low rates to peasant cooperatives; to set an example, President Arbenz started with his own lands), which displeased the United Fruit Company (see the Nobel Prize-winning novels by Miguel Angel Asturias), was approved by Harry Truman in 1952, but abandoned after Secretary of State Dean Acheson persuaded him to abort it. The plan was revived and implemented by President Eisenhower. The story is told in Killing Hope by William Blum.
      Arbenz was replaced by Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas, who was assassinated in 1957 and followed by another CIA-sympathetic president, Miguel Ydigoras Fuentes, named president after an apparently rigged election. Ydigoras Fuente's grandson, a gentle soul, was one of my students in Guatemala.

1973: President Nixon's former counsel, John W. Dean III, tells Wthe atergate Committee about Nixon's "enemies list," releasing a 1971 memo proposing the use of "available federal machinery to screw our political enemies." Twenty people were to be "screwed" with IRS audits, litigation, prosecution, or denial of federal grants. A separate list contained 200 more names.

1986: Anne White shocks Wimbledon by competing in a unitard, which has been named by ESPN the worst uniform of the century (judge for yourself: is it really that bad?).


June 28



548: Theodora, Empress of Byzantium, dies.

1914: In Sarajevo, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, Archduke Franz Ferdinand is assassinated, along with his wife, Sophie, by a Serb nationalist, Gavrilo Prinzip.

1888: Robert Louis Stevenson leaves San Francisco on his first voyage to the South Seas.

1915: Henry James writes Prime Minister Asquith, asking to be made a British subject (he will take the oath of allegiance on July 28). George Bernard Shaw remarks, "James felt buried in America; but he came here to be embalmed."

1926: Mel Brooks is born in Brooklyn.

1934: Kenneth Patchen, pioneer of "jazz poetry," marries Miriam Oikemus and moves to Greenwich Village, New York, where he will write reviews for New Republic.


June 29



1613: The Globe Theater burns during a nighttime performance of Henry VIII.

1964: Eric Dolphy dies in Berlin.

1966: The United States begins bombing Hanoi.

1983: President Reagan says desegregation has contributed to decline in the quality of public education.

2004: The Yankees beat the Red Sox 11-3. Vice President Cheney is a guest of George Steinbrenner. According to a AP wire story "Cheney was booed when he was shown on the right-field videoboard during the seventh-inning stretch."


June 30


King of the Fishes

1520: During the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs, Montezuma II is assassinated.

1839: Cinque leads a successful slave revolt on the ship Amistad.

1841: It rains fish in Boston, Massachusetts.

There are numerous accounts of rains of frogs, hay, fish, and grain. All of these accounts seem to be due to tornado-like "whirlwinds." A good whirlwind can lift thousands of pounds and carry objects for miles. There is one reliable account of a fishing boat that sailed into a large waterspout. Fish flew everywhere. There are about seventy recorded rains of fish, but nearly all of the rains of fish are small ones. There is, however, one account of a fish fall in India in which more than ten people picked up fish weighing up to eight pounds each. There are many accounts of rains of ice-coated ducks, grasshoppers, fish, and frogs, but there is no account of a raining of cats and dogs (Lockhart, 1988).
      --NASA Classroom of the Future

1934: "Night of the Long Knives" (Adolf Hitler stages a bloody purge of Nazi party

1955: James Thurber, writing in the New York Post, laments the ravages of aging: "With sixty staring me in the face, I have developed inflammation of the sentence structure and a definite hardening of the paragraphs."

continue to July 1


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