Tom's Book of Days
      May 1-10  

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May 1


mary harris (nother jones)

FLORALIA, BELTANE, ROODMAS, WALPURGISNACHT, MAY DAY: In many contexts, May Day is seen as the beginning of summer (it is close to the cross-quarter--halfway between the equinox and the solstice--which usually falls on about May 6). May is named after the Roman goddess Maia, the wife of Mars. In ancient Rome, it is a month of purification and religious ceremony in honor of the dead (and as such is considered an inauspicious time for marriage). The month begins with Floralia, a festival honoring the goddess of flowers, Flora. Offerings of milk and honey are made on this day and the surrounding five days, which comprise the Florifertum. The city is decorated in flowers, and people wear floral wreaths or flowers in their hair.

Beltane is the second most important Wiccan celebration; because it begins on sundown of April 30, I describe it there.

For May Day's political history in brief, see 1886 below.

1830: Mary Harris (Mother Jones) is born in Cork, Ireland.

1886: In Chicago, members of the Knights of Labor take to the streets on Saturday to demand universal adoption of the eight-hour day. The weekend will be peaceful, but on Monday, May 3, a fight will break out at McCormick Reaper that will leave four unionists dead and many others wounded. During a demonstration at Haymarket Square the following day, someone will throw a bomb that will kill seven police and injure 67 others. In response, police will round up eight anarchists, who will be tried for murder and sentenced to death; four will be executed, although there is no evidence any of the eight were involved in the bombing. In 1889, the founding congress of the Second International will elect to make May 1, 1890, a demonstration of the solidarity and power of the international working class movement; the date will be observed ever after.

1911: Overturning 4000 years of almost continuous dynastic rule, the Chinese Revolution installs Sun Yat-sen as China's first president.

1923: Joseph Heller is born.

1966: The Society for Creative Anachronism is begun in Berkeley.

May 2


Anne Boleyn

1536: Queen Anne Boleyn is sent to the Tower of London to await her execution.

1611: The King James Version of the Bible is published.

1863: "Friendly fire" fells Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson.

1955: The Indian Parliament forbids discrimination based on caste.

2004: Club Fred, a two-level party barge, capsizes on Lake Travis in Austin, Texas, tossing nearly 60 people into the water near Hippie Hollow Park. Cox News Service will report:

Sheriff's Deputy Brett Spicer, a lake patrol officer leading the investigation, said the "initial assessment" is that the boat was not loaded beyond its 75-person capacity and that it capsized because too many people were standing on one side of the boat's second deck. Neither Spicer—who said about 57 people were on board—nor any other investigators offered an explanation for why the group would have moved to one side.

The location of the incident, Hippie Hollow Park, is the site of the state’s only nude beach.

May 3



1469: Niccolò Machiavelli is born. He would be tortured as a result of his political involvements. In exile he would right The Prince, which considers ways of dealing with an immoral world. "Since it is difficult to join them together,” he would advise political figures, “it is safer to be feared than to be loved when one of the two must be lacking."

1903: Harry Lillis (Bing) Crosby is born in Tacoma, Washington. At one time a decent jazz singer, he would descend to the level of making stupid road movies with Bob Hope and singing White Christmas on television every December.

1928: The hardest working man in show business, Mr. Please, Please himself, the star of the show, James Brown is born in a one-room shack in Barnwell, South Carolina.

1963: Fire hoses and dogs are set on children marching out of the “negro section” of Birmingham.

1968: The first fights of the May Upheaval occur in the Latin Quarter in Paris; police arrest 500 at an anti-repression student rally at at the University of Sorbonne.

1971: NPR broadcasts the first All Things Considered.

May 4


New Place, Stratford

1493: Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo de Borja) issues a Bull of Demarcation, dividing America between Spain and Portugal (residents of the Americas are not consulted).

Alexander, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to the illustrious sovereigns, our very dear son in Christ, Ferdinand, king, and our very dear daughter in Christ, Isabella, queen of Castile, Leon, Aragon, Sicily, and Granada, health and apostolic benediction. Among other works well pleasing to the Divine Majesty and cherished of our heart, this assuredly ranks highest, that in our times especially the Catholic faith and the Christian religion be exalted and be everywhere increased and spread, that the health of souls be cared for and that barbarous nations be overthrown and brought to the faith itself. Wherefore inasmuch as by the favor of divine clemency, we, though of insufficient merits, have been called to this Holy See of Peter, recognizing that as true Catholic kings and princes, such as we have known you always to be, and as your illustrious deeds already known to almost the whole world declare, you not only eagerly desire but with every effort, zeal, and diligence, without regard to hardships, expenses, dangers, with the shedding even of your blood, are laboring to that end; recognizing also that you have long since dedicated to this purpose your whole soul and all your endeavors -- as witnessed in these times with so much glory to the Divine Name in your recovery of the kingdom of Granada from the yoke of the Saracens -- we therefore are rightly led, and hold it as our duty, to grant you even of our own accord and in your favor those things whereby with effort each day more hearty you may be enabled for the honor of God himself and the spread of the Christian rule to carry forward your holy and praiseworthy purpose so pleasing to immortal God. We have indeed learned that you, who for a long time had intended to seek out and discover certain islands and mainlands remote and unknown and not hitherto discovered by others, to the end that you might bring to the worship of our Redeemer and the profession of the Catholic faith their residents and inhabitants, having been up to the present time greatly engaged in the siege and recovery of the kingdom itself of Granada were unable to accomplish this holy and praiseworthy purpose; but the said kingdom having at length been regained, as was pleasing to the Lord, you, with the wish to fulfill your desire, chose our beloved son, Christopher Columbus, a man assuredly worthy and of the highest recommendations and fitted for so great an undertaking, whom you furnished with ships and men equipped for like designs, not without the greatest hardships, dangers, and expenses, to make diligent quest for these remote and unknown mainlands and islands through the sea, where hitherto no one had sailed; and they at length, with divine aid and with the utmost diligence sailing in the ocean sea, discovered certain very remote islands and even mainlands that hitherto had not been discovered by others; wherein dwell very many peoples living in peace, and, as reported, going unclothed, and not eating flesh. Moreover, as your aforesaid envoys are of opinion, these very peoples living in the said islands and countries believe in one God, the Creator in heaven, and seem sufficiently disposed to embrace the Catholic faith and be trained in good morals. And it is hoped that, were they instructed, the name of the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, would easily be introduced into the said countries and islands. Also, on one of the chief of these aforesaid islands the said Christopher has already caused to be put together and built a fortress fairly equipped, wherein he has stationed as garrison certain Christians, companions of his, who are to make search for other remote and unknown islands and mainlands. In the islands and countries already discovered are found gold, spices, and very many other precious things of divers kinds and qualities. Wherefore, as becomes Catholic kings and princes, after earnest consideration of all matters, especially of the rise and spread of the Catholic faith, as was the fashion of your ancestors, kings of renowned memory, you have purposed with the favor of divine clemency to bring under your sway the said mainlands and islands with their residents and inhabitants and to bring them to the Catholic faith. Hence, heartily commending in the Lord this your holy and praiseworthy purpose, and desirous that it be duly accomplished, and that the name of our Savior be carried into those regions, we exhort you very earnestly in the Lord and by your reception of holy baptism, whereby you are bound to our apostolic commands, and by the bowels of the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, enjoin strictly, that inasmuch as with eager zeal for the true faith you design to equip and despatch this expedition, you purpose also, as is your duty, to lead the peoples dwelling in those islands and countries to embrace the Christian religion; nor at any time let dangers or hardships deter you therefrom, with the stout hope and trust in your hearts that Almighty God will further your undertakings. And, in order that you may enter upon so great an undertaking with greater readiness and heartiness endowed with the benefit of our apostolic favor, we, of our own accord, not at your instance nor the request of anyone else in your regard, but of our own sole largess and certain knowledge and out of the fullness of our apostolic power, by the authority of Almighty God conferred upon us in blessed Peter and of the vicarship of Jesus Christ, which we hold on earth, do by tenor of these presents, should any of said islands have been found by your envoys and captains, give, grant, and assign to you and your heirs and successors, kings of Castile and Leon, forever, together with all their dominions, cities, camps, places, and villages, and all rights, jurisdictions, and appurtenances, all islands and mainlands found and to be found, discovered and to be discovered towards the west and south, by drawing and establishing a line from the Arctic pole, namely the north, to the Antarctic pole, namely the south, no matter whether the said mainlands and islands are found and to be found in the direction of India or towards any other quarter, the said line to be distant one hundred leagues towards the west and south from any of the islands commonly known as the Azores and Cape Verde. With this proviso however that none of the islands and mainlands, found and to be found, discovered and to be discovered, beyond that said line towards the west and south, be in the actual possession of any Christian king or prince up to the birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ just past from which the present year one thousand four hundred and ninety-three begins. And we make, appoint, and depute you and your said heirs and successors lords of them with full and free power, authority, and jurisdiction of every kind; with this proviso however, that by this our gift, grant, and assignment no right acquired by any Christian prince, who may be in actual possession of said islands and mainlands prior to the said birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ, is hereby to be understood to be withdrawn or taken away. Moreover we command you in virtue of holy obedience that, employing all due diligence in the premises, as you also promise -- nor do we doubt your compliance therein in accordance with your loyalty and royal greatness of spirit -- you should appoint to the aforesaid mainlands and islands worthy, God-fearing, learned, skilled, and experienced men, in order to instruct the aforesaid inhabitants and residents in the Catholic faith and train them in good morals. Furthermore, under penalty of excommunication late sententie to be incurred ipso facto, should anyone thus contravene, we strictly forbid all persons of whatsoever rank, even imperial and royal, or of whatsoever estate, degree, order, or condition, to dare, without your special permit or that of your aforesaid heirs and successors, to go for the purpose of trade or any other reason to the islands or mainlands, found and to be found, discovered and to be discovered, towards the west and south, by drawing and establishing a line from the Arctic pole to the Antarctic pole, no matter whether the mainlands and islands, found and to be found, lie in the direction of India or toward any other quarter whatsoever, the said line to be distant one hundred leagues towards the west and south, as is aforesaid, from any of the islands commonly known as the Azores and Cape Verde; apostolic constitutions and ordinances and other decrees whatsoever to the contrary notwithstanding. We trust in Him from whom empires and governments and all good things proceed, that, should you, with the Lord's guidance, pursue this holy and praiseworthy undertaking, in a short while your hardships and endeavors will attain the most felicitous result, to the happiness and glory of all Christendom. But inasmuch as it would be difficult to have these present letters sent to all places where desirable, we wish, and with similar accord and knowledge do decree, that to copies of them, signed by the hand of a public notary commissioned therefor, and sealed with the seal of any ecclesiastical officer or ecclesiastical court, the same respect is to be shown in court and outside as well as anywhere else as would be given to these presents should they thus be exhibited or shown. Let no one, therefore, infringe, or with rash boldness contravene, this our recommendation, exhortation, requisition, gift, grant, assignment, constitution, deputation, decree, mandate, prohibition, and will. Should anyone presume to attempt this, be it known to him that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul. Given at Rome, at St. Peter's, in the year of the incarnation of our Lord one thousand four hundred and ninety-three, the fourth of May, and the first year of our pontificate.
1597: At the age of thirty-three, in the year after his son Hamnet died, William Shakespeare pays £60 for a handsome property in Stratford known as the New Place. It is the second largest house in Statford, with two barns and two orchards attached. Unfortunately, he would have to wait until 1602 to take possession, as the sale was held up by the poisoning of the seller by his son.

1825: Thomas Henry Huxley is born.

1886: A bomb kills seven Chicago cops at Haymarket Square. See May 1.... And in Milwaukee the Polish Assembly of the Knights of Labor march from St. Stanislaus Church to the North Chicago Rolling Mills, shutting down factories on the way.

May 5


tammy wynette & george jones

1813: Søren Kierkegaard is born.

1818: Karl Marx is born in Trier, the Rheinland.

1862: Mexican soldiers--mostly mestizos and Zapotec Indians--under General Ignacio Zaragoza defeat a much larger army of French at the Batalla de Puebla (by this time Mexico had been independent of Spain for half a century, since September 16, 1810). Mexico would, however, lose the war, and Napoleon III would install the Austrian archduke Maximilian (his wife Carlota would became a popular figure in some circles) as "emperor" of Mexico. Nonetheless, the battle symbolized Mexican resolve and resourcefulness after a long period of doubt and confusion following the end of the U.S.-Mexican War in 1848. Maximilian's rule would last only from 1864-1867. In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is mainly a regional celebration observed in the state of Puebla.

1891: Peter Tchaikovsky is guest conductor at the opening of Carnegie Hall.

1926: Do prizes make writers "safe, polite, obedient and sterile"? So said Sinclair Lewis on declining the Pulitzer Prize on this day. (Yet four years later he could not turn down the chance to become the first American to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.)

1942: Tammy Wynette is born.

May 6


1626: Peter Minuit gives about $25 worth of trinkets to a group of Native Americans. This, he claims, gives him "ownership" of Manhattan Island.

1840: The adhesive postage stamp goes on sale in England. Both the penny and twopenny stamps are bear the profile of Queen Victoria.

1861: Rabindranath Tagore, recipient of the 1913 Nobel Prize for Literature, is born in Calcutta.

1862: Henry David Thoreau dies in 1862 (he is buried in the same Concord cemetery as Emerson and Hawthorne). His last words were "Moose. Indian."

May 7


G. Hayes

1606: Jacobean dramatist Thomas Middleton delivers The Viper and Her Brood to a creditor to pay off his debt.

1812: Robert Browning is born in Camberwell, South London.

1824: First performance of Beethoven's 9th symphony.

1885: George "Gabby" Hayes is born in Wellsville, New York. He looks a lot like Mercury House author Bill Porter.

1907: "Bloody Tuesday" in San Francisco. After streetcar workers voted to strike for an eight-hour day--whatever happened to the eight-hour day?-strikebreakers were brought in from the East Coast. Strikers and sympathizers surrounded the United Railroad car barns (barbed wire was erected to protect scabs inside). On this day six streetcars with armed guards left the car barns. Gunfights ensue. Strikebreakers first into the crowd, leaving two dead and twenty wounded.

1927: Lytton Strachey on Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse: "It really is most unfortunate that she rules out copulation--not the ghost of it visible--so that her presentation of things become little more . . . than an arabesque--an exquisite arabesque, of course."

May 8


gary snyder

FURRY DAY: In Cornwall and Wales, a day of mischief, revels, entering houses by windows, Morris dances, and the famous Furry Dance. Furry may derive from feria, "fair" (or not).

In the morning, very early, some troublesome rogues go round the streets of Helstone, with drums and other noisy instruments, disturbing their sober neighbours, and singing parts of a song, the whole of which nobody now re-collects, and of which I know no more than that there is mention in it of the "grey goose quill," and of going "to the green wood" to bring home "the Summer and the May, O!'' During the festival, the gentry, tradespeople, servants, &c., dance through the streets, and thread through certain of the houses to a very old dance tune..The Furry-Day Song possesses no literary merit whatever; but as a part of an old and really interesting festival, it is worthy of preservation.
      --Gentleman's Magazine, June 1790

            Robin Hood and Little John,
            They both are gone to the fair, O!
            And we will go to the merry green-wood,
            To see what they do there, O!
            And for to chase, O!
            To chase the buck and doe.
            With ha-lan-tow, rumble, O!
            For we were up as soon as any day, O!
            And for to fetch the summer home,
            The summer and the may, O!
            For summer is a-come, O!
            And winter is a-gone, O!

            Where are those Spaniards
            That make so great a boast, O?
            They shall eat the grey goose feather,
            And we will eat the roast, O!
            In every land, O!
            The land where'er we go.
            With ha-lan-tow, &c

            As for Saint George, O!
            Saint George he was a knight, O!
            Of all the knights in Christendom,
            Saint George is the right, O!
            In every land, O!
            The land where'er we go.
            With ha-lan-tow, &c.

1930: Gary Snyder is born in San Francisco, California

1933: Gandhi begins a 31-day fast in an Indian jail.

2004: How did we get in this handbasket, and where are we headed? Global dimming could be behind it the current lack of enlightenment. Yes, these are literally the dark ages, folks. Robert. S. Boyd reports for Knight Ridder on a variety of research findings that suggest the earth's surface gets about 15% less sunlight than it did 50 years ago. The decline in sunlight is presumably caused mostly by air polution.

May 9



1812: Napoleon leaves Paris for Russia.

1846: The battle of Resaca de la Palma is fought in a resaca (a curved wash or broad dry riverbed) beside the road to Matamoros.

Lieutenant Dana mourned the battlefield devastation: "The battle was a horrid spectacle, corpses mangled most horribly ... the wounded crying for assistance . a woman on the field of battle, with a babe in her lap, unable to weep but wringing her hands and combing the hair of her mangled husband's corpse and kissing his bloody lips . all are sights unsuited to my tastes and shocking to my feelings. I do not think... that our war will last much longer. The people of Mexico will not stand it ..."
After the Battle of Palo Alto, the Mexican army retreated about five miles to a new position.. There was thick chapparal on both sides of the road, forming a natural barrier. Arista had chosen this site to minimize the devastating force of Taylor's artillery, limiting its use to the narrow road, even though the position also limited Arista's use of the Mexican cavalry, forcing him to rely on his inexperienced infantry.
      Supremely confident, convinced of U.S. superiority, Taylor's instinct was to strike the enemy head on and pursue a victory. The survival of his troops depended on returning to Fort Texas and reuniting his forces. So he ignored his officers' vote to suspend the attack and, characteristically, ordered his men to advance. Moving slowly and quietly through tangled, thorny chaparral, the U.S. troops approached the Mexican infantry.
      The young Mexican infantry were recent conscripts, says General Luis Garfias, and "they lacked good training and discipline. When they were under attack and a unit was overcome, the other units broke up and ran." Nonetheless, the U.S. troops met stubborn resistance until a charge by Captain Charles May's dragoons scattered the Mexican gunners, allowing U.S. artillery and infantry to advance.
      After two Mexicans cavalry charges and numerous skirmishes, the Mexican troops were driven back to the river. With a US squadron in pursuit, the Mexican soldiers tried to swim across to Matamoros. "The most horrible confusion reigned on the field," said Apuntes. "Terror spread the idea that the enemy was following.... [The soldiers] sought some ford that would save them, or threw themselves into the river in their clothes and arms, and almost all were drowned."
      By nightfall US troops had returned to Fort Texas. They were already planning to cross the river and enter Matamoros.
            --from The US-Mexican War by Thomas and Carol Christensen

1860: A boy is born into a well-to-do Victorian family. The boy's father is remote and has nothing to do with his sons. At six, the boy will witness the horrible death of his older brother, David—his mother's favorite—in a skating accident. His mother will fall into a Victorian swoon and retire to her bedroom, where she will remain for many years. There, day after day, year after year, the boy will bring her dinner, to be greeted with "Oh, David, is that you? Could it be you?" followed by "Oh, it's only you." The mother will exposit that at least David died as a perfect boy who was spared growing up to manhood and leaving his mother.

The boy will, in fact, never grow up (his condition will later be diagnosed as stress or psychogenic dwarfism). He will die at seventy-seven having reached the height of 4'10" and never having gone through puberty (as determined by autopsy); he will be buried next to his brothers and his parents.

He will have experienced an unconsummated marriage and a series of sadomasochistic relationships with young boys, which he will have spent a fortune to cover up. He will have written story after story with plots along the lines of boys who die and return as ghost to marry their mothers. And he will have written the best-selling English-language book of the turn of the century, Peter Pan.

1927: Felix the Cat debuts in a daily comic strip.

1969: The New York Times reveals that the United States has secretly been bombing Cambodia (a noncombatant, neutral country).

1970: FCC chairman Newton Minow: "If you were turn in one channel and watch it from sign-on to sign-off, what you would find is a vast electronic wasteland."

May 10



105: The invention of paper is recorded in China: Chinese historical records will assert that the invention of paper is reported to the Chinese Emperor on this day by Tsai Lun, an official of the Imperial Court. (Archaeologists will place the invention some centuries earlier.) The Chinese paper is made from hemp, which is washed, soaked, and beaten with a mallet. The fiber slurry is probably dried on a cloth mold.

1863: Confederate General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson had achieved a splendid victory at the Battle of Chancellorsville. He now dies as a result.

1869: Completion of the first U.S. transcontinental railroad is celebrated at Promontory Point, Utah--despite a couple of remaining gaps where travelers have to transfer to ferry or boat. Leland Stanford, the governor of California, is given the honor of driving a symbolic golden spike made in his state. (Actually, the golden spike was just dropped into a predrilled hole, and a regular final spike was driven; the gold one was given to Stanford, and it is now in the Art and History Museum at Stanford University in Palo Alto.) The crowd is electrified with excitement as Stanford swings to drive the stake. He misses. Dr. Thomas Durant of the Union Pacific Railroad (who is feeling a bit the worse after a hard night) also fails to strike the spike. Finally an unknown railroad engineer drives it in.

1872: Victoria Woodhull and Frederick Douglass begin their campaign for President and Vice President. Woodhull, the first woman presidential candidate, champions free love, rights to abortion and divorce, legalized prostitution, spiritualism, and women's voting rights.

1932: William Faulkner makes his first trip to Hollywood to write for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

1968: The Night of the Barricades begins. (See May 11.).

continue to May 11


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