Saturday, February 26, 2011

February 26, 1993 – World Trade Center Bombing Brings Down Towers

A little after noon, a truck bomb exploded in the parking garage under the World Trade Center, setting off a chain of collapse that would bring down the two principle towers of the WTC complex. The North Tower (also known as Tower One) would hold for several minutes before giving way, toppling into the South Tower, which would also fall. While many office workers had just left for lunch, the buildings were largely occupied, and the bombing would kill nearly three thousand Americans and leave thousands more injured.

Downtown New York City became flooded with rescue operations and helping survivors amid the rubble. President Bill Clinton, just a month into his first term in the White House, appeared on national TV shortly thereafter to address Americans to bind together in this hour of need. A wave of fear washed over the nation, which had seen bombing attacks on foreign soil such as car bombings in Colombia and Turkey in the last month but never at home. A Pakistani had opened fire outside CIA Headquarters with an AK-47, but most had considered it a localized event rather than mass conspiracy. New York Governor Mario Cuomo was quoted as admitting, "We all have that feeling of being violated. No foreign people or force has ever done this to us. Until now we were invulnerable."

America seemed to come to a standstill. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which had been climbing to untold heights over the past five years, suddenly plummeted. Only two days after the explosion, a rebuffed search warrant at the Branch Davidian ranch near Waco, Texas, turned into a gun battle. As fear turned to panic of widespread terrorism or harsh government crackdown, survivalists began assembling at compounds, prices skyrocketed, and riots broke out in several major cities. It looked as if, only a few years after the defeat of Communism, the dream of a "Pax Americana" had turned into nightmare.

President Clinton worked quickly to turn the tide of terrorism. Order was generally restored after numerous deployments of the National Guard, and banks and businesses remained open by executive order. A great leap forward was made on March 6 when FBI investigators arrested Mohammad Salameh. They had determined the epicenter of the explosion from debris of a Ryder truck, traced it to a Jersey City rental outlet, and caught Salameh as he attempted to retrieve his $400 deposit. Salameh's arrest led to the discovery of an international extremist Islamic conspiracy. Many called for execution of the terrorists, but Clinton led the call for sensible trial and, ultimately, life terms in prison.

The investigations of conspiracy led to many examples of governments such as the Taliban of Afghanistan protecting and even funding terrorists while other governments such as Pakistan simply looked another way. Calls for declarations of war to make the world safe from terrorism rose up, but Clinton's government decided to focus instead on reinforcing international policing systems. Over the course of his two-term presidency, terrorist organizations and training camps would be uncovered and shut down while numerous terrorists would be arrested, including Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the World Trade Center Bombing as well as the Shiite shrine in Mashhad, Iran, and Philippine Airlines Flight 434. The latter led to Yousef's arrest in 1995, the same year a homegrown plot to attack a federal building in Oklahoma City was foiled.

With the sense of America's invulnerability returning, the economy rebounded and then exploded with the introduction of the World Wide Web. Clinton would routinely be listed among the top ten American presidents, often beating out FDR for the #3 spot. His vice-president and successor Al Gore would hold the Democrats in office until 2004 when national mood would swing toward conservatism after the bursting of the Dot Com Bubble.

In reality, the Towers did not collapse. According to the FBI, the bombing “carved out a nearly 100-foot crater several stories deep and several more high. Six people were killed almost instantly.” It was ultimately underpowered for the terrorists' goals, which would be sadly realized eight years later with airplane attacks.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

February 24, 1810 – Henry Cavendish Bequeaths his Notes

Upon his death, eclectic scientist Henry Cavendish cited in a letter secondary to his will that his laboratory and notes should be given to St. Peter’s College at Cambridge, a school that would have served as his alma mater if he stayed through to graduation. Cavendish, son of Lord Charles Cavendish and grandson of William Cavendish, 2nd Duke of Devonshire, and Henry Gray, 1st Duke of Kent, was born in 1731 and lived a life of what was described as “painful shyness.” He left the University of Cambridge without graduating, spoke to female servants only by notes, and reportedly had a back staircase built onto his house so that he could enter without meeting his housekeeper.

Despite his shyness, or perhaps as part of it, Cavendish was a genius. He died one of the wealthiest men in England, having an expert mind for logical business, but not making any personal relationships beyond his immediate family. Cavendish spent much of his time in his laboratory, making discoveries that he would never share. In 1766, his first paper was published as “Factitious Airs”, describing the density of “inflammable air” (later to be known as “dephlogisticated air”, which is, containing oxygen). Even without the bulk of his scientific discoveries mentioned, Cavendish was welcomed into the Royal Society, and he rarely missed weekly meetings. Despite the obvious desire for social interaction, he remained shy, so much so that speaking to him was as speaking to “vacancy” to which only the best would receive a “mumbled reply.” He did publish further papers, however, famously determining the density of the Earth in 1798.

It came as a shock to the scientific world that his laboratory would be donated, so much so that rumors arose about the veracity of his letter. Still, his heirs held no reason to keep the laboratory of an eccentric relative, and Cambridge was given equipment and stacks of notes, provided they were edited properly into a volume commemorating Cavendish. As professors and students organized the pages, it became clear that Cavendish was sitting on a goldmine of discoveries.

He had recognized the elemental nature of hydrogen before Antoine Lavoisier, determined the composition of the atmosphere, and, most significantly, made vast leaps into the research of electricity. He outlined a “degree of electrification” (later renamed the electric potential), measured capacitance, mirrored Charles Augustin de Coulomb’s principle of the inverse square of electrical force to distance two years before the French physicist, and went further to define the flow of electricity in resistance and voltage. Cavendish’s publications exploded into the international scientific community following the fall of Napoleon, and inventor of the battery Count Alessandro Volta set to reward further discoveries that might otherwise go unknown. In 1819, the electromagnet came from Britain’s William Sturgeon, sparking a whole new series of discoveries through its application. Further technology was made possible by Georg Ohm’s 1827 deduction of the unified electromagnetic theory.

Telegraphs, telephones, and electric motors flourished as chemistry and metallurgy caught up with theoretical science. Heavy, messy steam engines were quickly replaced with electricity, proving more cost effective as strategies of broadcasting “free energy” overcame the need for expensive wires. Major cities in Europe and America adapted to the new technology, many competing as to who could produce the most kilowatts in a day. Outside of the “electric islands” of civilization, motors worked via stored energy in hydrogen cells, again adapting much of Cavendish’s work. After 1855, the electric motorcar of Hungarian inventor and lecturer Ányos Jedlik took the world by storm, practically replacing the horse in a matter of decades.

Meanwhile, advances were made in the electrical application by Charles Babbage to the ideas of his difference engine, later, and analytical engine. Scientific groundwork was laid and then taken to great new lengths by James Clerk Maxwell, credited as the Father of Electrical Computing. Automation surged in the second part of the Industrial Revolution, constructing great factories where a single man could supervise a dozen machines crafting goods by themselves. By the time of the Great War, automation had become so ingrained in modern society that it was fought with radio-steered miniature submarines, carefully calculated surgical artillery strikes, soldiers in constant communication through helmet radios, and tactics reviewed on computers in thousands of simulations.

In reality, the notes of Henry Cavendish were not given extensive review until they were given along with an endowment to Cambridge by William Cavendish, 7th Duke of Devonshire, for the Cavendish Laboratory. James Clerk Maxwell, developer of Electromagnetic Theory, became the first Cavendish Professor of Physics at Cambridge, where he would edit Henry Cavendish’s lost notes, bringing forth the quiet scientist’s discoveries to the world in 1879.

Monday, February 21, 2011

February 21, 1965 – Malcolm X Wounded

During his speech at the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan, Malcolm X was interrupted by a scuffle in the audience of more than 400. He and his bodyguards hurried to calm the crowd, but Malcolm suddenly tripped. Gunshots broke out, but in his prone position Malcolm was only wounded along his side. After receiving several stitches, he was deemed fit and returned to his work campaigning for African American rights.

Born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1925, X would have a rough life. His father was born in Reynolds, GA, and Malcolm spoke of three of his uncles dying at the hands of white men, one being lynched. KKK threats prompted Malcolm's family, which became active in the Universal Negro Improvement Association, to move to Milwaukee. Following the death of his father and his mother becoming committed, Malcolm would drop out of school and go through a series of foster homes before moving to Boston and settling in New York. He turned to a life of crime upon determining there was not a place in society as a career-minded black man. After several years of robbery, pimping, and drug-dealing, Malcolm was arrested for larceny and sentenced to eight to ten years in Charlestown State Prison.

In prison, Malcolm would become affiliated with the Nation of Islam and began a written correspondence with leader Elijah Muhammad. After converting to Islam, he served his term and was paroled in 1952. Upon his release, Malcolm changed his surname to “X” to shed “the white slavemaster name of 'Little' which some blue-eyed devil named Little had imposed upon my paternal forebears,” he wrote. X became a leader among the Nation of Islam, a powerful speaker at 6'3”, and promoted separatism from the white race. He dismissed the nonviolence of the civil rights movement and referred to its pacifist leaders as “stooges” and “chumps.”

After a misguided comment about the assassination of JFK, Malcolm left the country and toured the world. He made a pilgrimage to Mecca (turning to Sunni Islam after his Hajj), toured Africa, and visited France and England. During this time, Malcolm began to change his philosophy. He continued to support black nationalism, though his definitions of “black” began to expand, including northern Africans and even approving of “white students helping black people.” In a controversial move, he broke with the Nation of Islam and began his own organizations, the religious Muslim Mosque, Inc., and the secular Pan-Africanist Organization of Afro-American Unity.

It was at this time that the attempted assassination took place. After his recovery, Malcolm spoke out against the attack as the work of misguided hatred, outlined in his autobiography published soon afterward. He released documents of stolen funds and improper conduct that brought the Nation of Islam under legal proceedings. Meanwhile, Malcolm's influence increased, and he took a place beside Martin Luther King, Jr., calling for African American rights. Upon the assassination of MLK three years later, Malcolm X led the accusations of conspiracy by the FBI. Rev. Jesse Jackson separated from X, who became increasingly anti-capitalist. The division of the leadership would signal a faltering in the latter days of the civil rights movement.

Although he had given up his belief in violence, Malcolm renewed his ideals in separatism. He saw the United States government as irrevocably corrupt and the only solution to be leaving. Using his organizations, Malcolm led a call to move to Canada. Canadian officials disagreed on how to handle the unwanted situation, and immigration bureaucracy tied up the movement until it began to die. Frustrated, Malcolm and a handful of followers would move to Cuba, where he would be welcomed by old friend Fidel Castro. He would continue to preach, but his persuasive voice would not survive the international transition. X's later days would be spent largely working on his body of writings, which would be recognized but rarely considered influential.

In reality, Malcolm X was killed as he was shot in the chest with a sawed-off shotgun by one man and then 16 times by two others who charged the stage. His funeral was attended by over 1,000 people, and more than 14,000 mourners came to his body's viewing. Responses to his lifetime of leadership were varied from accusations of conspiratorial assassination to honor of a man seeking equality to observations that violence begets violence.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Marco Polo Meets a Flores Man

In 1292, during his return toward Europe after extensive travels across Asia and fantastic adventures among the court of Kublai Khan, famed explorer Marco Polo stopped with the Khan's wedding party in the port of Singapore to resupply. It was here that he caught his first sight, possibly the first sight for any European, of the intelligent ape that would later be named the "Flores Homem" or "Flower People" by Portuguese merchants. At that point in their history, the creatures were kept mainly as pets and taught tricks.

In further centuries, the three-and-a-half-foot-tall Flower People would come under increasing notice by slavers and anthropologists. The apes held obvious intelligence with their abilities to make and use simple tools, though hardly enough to rival a developed human. They lived in caves and primitive shelters, understanding but not mastering fire. As the Age of Enlightenment gave way to an end for slavery among humans, a new sense of slavery came over the world in widely breeding what would become known as Homo floresiensis. Their island was gradually depopulated of natives, but the Flower People came to be found on every continent working manual labor in plantations, mines, shops, and even private homes.

While reformers called for fair treatment of the Flower People, no one could argue that they were equal to humans. They were incapable of language beyond rudimentary nouns or descriptions, and their lack of understanding of any abstract concept made the idea of paying them for work a moot point. The Industrial Revolution gave a boom to even more need for Flower People performing simple mechanical tasks in factories, and World War I would see thousands of the short "men" gunned down as they ran as suicide-bombers against enemy trenches.

In the latter twentieth century, millions of Flower People still serve as slaves around the globe, though they are increasingly unpopular in industrialized nations. The legal questions of what to do with a subset of man in a world working to rid itself of racism and even speciesism proves agonizing for the modern mind.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

February 15, 1898 – Would-be Saboteurs Caught aboard USS MAINE

Shortly after nine o’clock in the evening, a group of men were caught attempting to sneak aboard the USS Maine while it rested in Havana Harbor, defending American interests during the Cuban insurrection. The five men were carrying with them explosives and were believed to have been headed toward the storage of the ship’s powder charges for its six-inch and ten-inch guns. The discovery had been nearly happenstance as one man coughed too loudly and the crew on patrol thought to double-check.

The men were separated and questioned, and each gave wildly different stories. Crewmen leaked the investigation, and rumors exploded into news. Fueled by yellow journalism, the men were believed to be saboteurs from Spain, attempting to knock America out of its defensive position with Cuba; or, Cubans hoping to spark a war between the United States and Spain; or, mercenaries hired by the U.S. government to blow up their own ship and instigate a war that would bring in a wealth of captured territory for a new empire. Some even said that they had been hired by newspapermen Hearst or Pulitzer to precipitate a reason to sell more papers, but these rumors did not appear in print.

The whole of America rose up in anger over the ordeal, but there was no consensus on how to act. Some demanded war with Spain, others demanded war with the Cuban revolutionaries that America had previously supported, and still others demanded the Maine to leave Havana and the US wash its hands of the whole matter. President McKinley weighed his options carefully and finally decided to bring the diplomatic ordeal with Spain to an end as quickly as possible. He dispatched orders to Admiral Dewey in Hong Kong to sail toward the Philippines (also fighting for its independence) in case anything got out of order. Congress and the President worked together to create a reasonable ultimatum for Spain, ignoring many of Republican Senator Redfield Proctor’s demands for war. The Spanish government weighed its options and finally decided to concede in Cuba and the Philippines

In exchange for a massive gift of “dollar diplomacy” (to be paid back by bonds from the new Cuban and Filipino governments), Spain would grant its colonies their independence. America, meanwhile, would gain valuable coaling stations and naval bases. The Pilón-Woodward Treaty that summer ironed out the diplomatic details, and the cries for war were silenced. Several Americans, such as Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt, spoke out that the nation had not acted valiantly enough, but for the most part the populace had come to ease with international relations. Other imperial-minded Americans called for expansion into the Pacific rather than merely opening markets, such as conquering the Philippines rather than holding content with bases at Manila and Luzon. Letters from Sanford Dole the newly formed Republic of Hawaii offered the islands to McKinely.

Hawaii would become the new battleground as many politicians and businessmen hoped to support it as a new territory. However, the American Anti-Imperialist League formed around such famous members as Andrew Carnegie, Mark Twain, Samuel Gompers, and Senator George Boutwell. Their collective clout broke up the imperialist calls prominent in the press, and America returned to a sense of dollar diplomacy as McKinely refused Dole’s offer. Hawaii would later be returned to the Hawaiian Royal family, and it retains close political ties to the United States to this day.

The divided Republican Party in 1900 would result in the narrow election of President William Jennings Bryan and Vice-President Dewey, heralded as the man who won the Philippines its independence without firing a single shot. Dewey received a great deal of political criticism for his comment that "Our next war will be with Germany," which was proven correct some eighteen years later.

“Remember the Maine!” became a popular cry among Navy security as they patrolled in the early twentieth century. A policy of stringent observance of any possible attack became the norm, which proved effective in the detection of the Japanese carrier fleet approaching the base at Pearl Harbor in 1941.

In reality, the Maine suffered a grave explosion that destroyed the front third of the ship with the rest sinking almost immediately. Only 94 of the 355 crew survived, and the spirit of revenge rose up from America, urged on by the New York Journal’s cry for war. The widely successful Spanish-American War brought a new age of expansionism to the United States with gains in Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines.

Monday, February 14, 2011

February 14, 1779 – James Cook Makes Landfall at Midway

In one of his last discoveries in a monumental career, James Cook set foot upon a small atoll in the northern Pacific that he dubbed “Bligh Island” after a junior officer on the expedition, though it would ultimately be renamed “Midway.” The small island was nearly missed as the flagship HMS Resolution had cracked its foremast, which a full break would have prompted a return to the recently discovered Sandwich Islands for repairs. Instead, Cook set forth continually northwest, pressing again to discover the elusive Northwest Passage. Again, the Bering Strait proved impassable, and he begrudgingly ordered a return to London for his crews on the verge of mutiny. They sailed past Nippon, attempting trade but being shooed by the Sakoku policy, and successfully traded with the Chinese, Javanese, and Africans around the Cape of Good Hope.

Upon his return up the Thames, Cook was lauded as a hero. His was an impressive climb from being the second child of a farm laborer in northern Yorkshire. Cook had become an apprentice in the merchant navy as a young man and learned the skills of navigation that would make him famous. During the arms race leading to the Seven Years’ War, Cook volunteered for the Royal Navy and served as Mate aboard HMS Eagle. After successful battles with the French, Cook continued to climb the ranks and was sent to the New World, where his skills in navigation proved also to include cartography. Recognized for his maps of the Saint Lawrence River and Newfoundland, Cook was given a position by the Royal Society to command an expedition to the Pacific for charting the transit of Venus across the Sun in 1766. Along with his astronomical records, Cook would also explore New Zealand and put Britain into contact with the Aborigines of Terra Australis. Cook lost several crewmen to native diseases such as malaria but not a single one to scurvy. His techniques of scurvy prevention would become a model for ships throughout the Navy.

Arriving back to much acclaim in 1771, he left again in 1772 to explore more of the South Pacific. Although what would become known as Australia was located, many members of the Royal Society believed a much larger (and wealthier) continent must lie even further south. Cook explored nearly reached Antarctica, but he turned north again for need of supplies. Instead of a great continent, he discovered numerous small islands in Polynesia such as Easter Island, New Caledonia, and Vanuatu as well as explorations in the southern Atlantic. Again hailed as a hero upon his return in 1775, he set out to explore the North Pacific the next year. There he would discover the Sandwich Islands, explore much of the northwest coast of North America, and travel north through the Bering Strait. When they came upon a twelve foot wall of ice across the whole horizon, the expedition was forced to turn south with the Northwest Passage proven a myth. They explored the eastern coast of Russia before wintering in the Sandwiches, where they had once been welcomed and Cook practically venerated as the god Lono. As the festival season of Lono had now passed, however, the Hawaiians were increasingly hostile, and Cook left, deciding even not to return despite his damaged foremast.

Cook pursued a Northwest Passage across Russia, but the Arctic proved too icy for wooden ships. He returned to London in 1780, finding the world turned upside-down by the riotous Americans. After serving for three years as admiral until the end of the war, Cook retired from his life at sea and set upon a new life’s project to restore Britain’s glory. The American revolt had left them without a great deal of wealth and possibilities for westward expansion, but the whole of the Pacific lay beyond practically unconquered. While Captain Arthur Phillip led the colonization of Australia, Cook campaigned for small outposts on every island available, conquering the sea lanes for Britain. Using his own fortune from the sales of his popular journals, he funded missionaries, farmers, and merchants alike to form small colonies that would meet with varying luck.

As the Industrial Revolution took hold, however, each of these colonies suddenly sprang to life as coaling stations. Needed by the Royal Navy as well as the vast merchant fleet of Britain, the Pacific colonies became key bases and transformed international trade. Tahiti, which would later be contested by the French, became a key British station. Gradually, native populations that were devastated by plagues would come under British rule and become colonies themselves, such as the Royal House of Hawaiians, who would be taken in as part of British aristocracy.

In the Second World War, the powerful Japanese Navy would sweep out over the British Pacific, conquering millions of square miles as the stretched Royal Navy struggled to fight back. The Japanese sneak-attack at Luzon in the Philippines would bring the United States into the war, and intensive island-hopping campaigns would go for years as dug-in Japanese were rooted out by Allied Marines. After the war, Britain would decolonize many of the islands into the Commonwealth, while others such as Hawaii and Tahiti would gain independence.

In reality, Captain Cook was killed in an altercation with the Hawai’ian natives after returning to repair the Resolution’s foremast. Natives had taken one of the expedition’s small boats, and he had attempted to capture King Kalani’ōpu’u as a hostage to get it back. His men were beaten back by the Hawaiians, and Cook was killed when he was hit with a rock and natives rushed into the surf to stab him. His body was captured and honored by the Hawaiians, prepared as if he were a chief. His crew appealed for the return of Cook’s body, which was granted, and he would be buried at sea.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

February 13, 1503 – Firearms Drawn at Barletta

As the Second Italian War raged, Louis XII's knights pressed southward into Naples to confirm the king's claim to the Italian throne. He had taken Ferdinand II of Spain as an ally, offering to divide the spoils once Louis dominated Italy. Ferdinand had agreed, but once Naples was taken, the two bickered over which lands would go to whom. Aragon and France turned on each other, each taking up allies and mercenaries from the locals.

During the war, a group of French knights were out imbibing the local wine, Rosso Barletta, and began raucously remarking about the quality of Italian knights, namely the lack thereof. Hearing that Charles de la Motte had called them cowards, the Italian knights challenged the French to a tournament. The thirteen-on-thirteen contest went well for the Italians, so much so that unsportsmanlike activity broke out. During a scuffle, an Italian page pulled an arquebus and fired, spooking the horses and injuring one of the French knights. The Italians broke off the contest, embarrassed at the break of chivalry, and the French learned a valuable lesson about the effective power of small arms.

They returned to the French army, and word of the fight worked its way up to the Duke of Nemours. He and his advisers discerned the effectiveness of the small arms, just as they had for the long range cannon, of which the French had much more than the Spanish. Over the next months, he encouraged his pike-wielding Swiss to emulate the Spanish Coronelias, which fought with mixed pikes, swords, and arquebuses.

In late April, Nemours moved on the Spanish at Cerignola. The French outnumbered them 32,000 to 8,000 and had twice as many cannon, but the Spanish "El Gran Capitán" Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba had expertly fortified the high ground with trenches, walls, and stakes. Heavy Spanish artillery fire broke up the initial French charges, and Nemours first planned an attack on the right flank against arquebusiers. However, as he recalled the effectiveness of the arquebus against a knight from the tournament a couple of months before, he decided on a new strategy. War had changed, and to be victorious, the French army would have to adapt beyond artillery.

Nemours moved his artillery and began pounding the Spanish infantry. When they seemed softened, he moved forward the Swiss and assaulted, taking the first volley from the arquebuses with an exchange of fire. Before the Spanish could reload, the French knights charged past the Swiss and stormed the trench. The Swiss followed after the breach, and the numbers of the French army overwhelmed the Spanish defenders. While the French took massive casualties, the Spanish were thoroughly defeated, and expert commander Córdoba was captured.

The next year, the Louis signed the Treaty of Lyon with Ferdinand, securing French control over mainland Italy. Spain still held Sicily, but Louis had built a league with Venice and the Papal States that would dominate Italy and, perhaps more importantly, the growing trade with the East. During the rebuilding of Italy, Francis I instituted imperialistic laws to dominate the Italian banking, shifting the financial center of Europe from northern Italy to Paris. Portugal flourished with trade from India, and Spain grew wealthy on gold from the New World, and France launched its own expeditions to dominate Africa and the Mediterranean, interrupting the expansion of the Ottomans, as well as colonizing much of what would become North America.

During the nationalistic revolutions toward the end of the Age of Enlightenment, the Italians would rally to unify themselves in revolt against France in 1798, creating a new state and key player in Europe.

In reality, the Disfida di Barletta did not involve firearms, but the Battle of Cerignola did. The French knights were defeated by the Italians, and, at Cerignola, they were defeated by the Spanish Coronelías. The French would again be defeated at Garigliano, leading to the Treaty of Lyon in which Louis XII would cede control of southern Italy to Spain. The peninsula was divided and would not be united until 1861.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

February 12, 1554 – Coronation of Queen Jane

After a troubling eight months in which her claim to the English throne seemed questionable at best, Jane Grey was formally crowned queen in Westminster Abbey. The matter had arisen as Henry VIII's son Edward VI had fallen deathly ill while still only 15 years old. Without an heir, his crown would pass along the lines established by the Third Succession Act of 1543, in which Parliament had reestablished Edward's half-sisters. The later Treason Act of 1547 declared that anyone interrupting the line of succession was to be guilty of high treason and subject to the severe punishment that followed. Despite this, as Edward approached his death, he hoped to circumvent Catholic Mary's takeover of England by his “Devise for the Succession” on June 21, 1553. In this will, he named his successor to be his Protestant cousin Jane Grey, wife of Lord Guildford Dudley and granddaughter of Henry VII.

Edward's will was carried by 102 signatories, including the entire Privy Council. He planned to make the announcement formally in September, but he would die July 6 despite the best efforts of physicians, conjurers, and an Oxford professor. On July 10, sixteen-year-old Jane was proclaimed queen, though she initially refused and had to be persuaded by her parents. While things seemed in order in London for her to take the throne, there were great rumblings as to where exactly Edward's adviser the Duke of Northumberland, and Jane's father-in-law, stood. To some, he seemed to be causing a coup to set his son up as king.

The rumors were exacerbated as Northumberland sent troops to capture Mary, who had been staying in Hertfordshire. Mary, however, had gone at news of her brother's illness to her holdings in East Anglia to gather support. She raised a formidable army and sent a letter to London demanding her right as queen. Northumberland was torn between maintaining Jane's position in London or marching out to defeat Mary. Finally the issue was decided as Jane demanded that Northumberland stay with her, and he determined to force the Council to continue its loyalty. In major legal concessions all that winter, Northumberland guided Jane in granting Parliament greater powers, winning their support enough to override the Succession Act with a new one honoring Edward's will.

Mary meanwhile took her march on London, which unified the people against her. Her assault was repelled, and she fell back toward Cambridge to regroup. She was a staunch Catholic and used the remaining Papists who had survived her father's purges as strength. Protestants, however, formed up against her. The Reformation had spread through preachers to England, particularly in Kent where Sir Thomas Wyatt led the support for Protestant Jane. The thought of returning to Catholicism created a schism in the country with a short civil war.

After major defeats in January, Mary was forced to flee the country and attempted to find asylum in Spain. While there, she fell in love with King Philip II, who eventually married her. In London, Jane would be crowned sole ruler while her husband served as Duke of Clarence. War erupted as Philip attempted to seize the English throne for Mary, but Mary's death in childbirth in 1558 cut his claim short. Jane would rely primarily on her Council and Parliament, establishing a growing tradition of popular rule that harkened back to the days of the Magna Carta. Parliament would be expanded in the next century by leaders such as Sir Oliver Cromwell.

Rather than ruling overtly, Jane's seemingly greatest accomplishment on the throne was producing strong, healthy heirs, two boys and a girl, the eldest growing to become King Henry IX upon Jane's death in 1579. The question of religion served as Jane's second matter of interest, stomping out Catholic strength, though it would go underground, striking back in such attacks as the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 in which twenty members of Parliament were slain.

In reality, Jane was executed on grounds of high treason for breaking succession. Northumberland marched out against Mary, though their armies never met, and he received a letter from the Council notifying of their change to Mary's camp. Mary was crowned on October 1, a little over a month after Northumberland's execution. Jane and her husband would be held in the Tower of London until the Protestant rebellion under Thomas Wyatt spurred her execution to end the possibility of a return to the throne.

Friday, February 11, 2011

February 11, 1803 – Marshall Forced to Recuse Himself

The law of the young United States was only a little more than a decade old since its formal establishment with the ratification of the Constitution. Older law stretched back by precedent in the days of the Articles of Confederation and even colonial charters, creating the base of English common law that would judge how the basic affairs of personal matters could be handled. However, the highest echelons of the government were new and undecided. In a pivotal case for the Supreme Court, Congress won its position as highest power of the land, outranking even the Constitution itself, out of the character assassination of Chief Justice John Marshall.

The matter at hand was that of the “Midnight Judges” who had been appointed in the last hours of the Federalist Party controlling the government. Jeffersonian Republicans had won the elections in 1800 handily, meaning that the power of the Federalist Congress and President John Adams would simply disappear. In order to maintain what they felt as a sense of sanity for the young nation, John Adams used the newly passed Judiciary Act of 1801 to appoint Federalist-leaning men to some 58 positions as circuit judges and justices of the peace. After approval by the Senate, Secretary of State John Marshall (who had also been appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, but stayed in his executive position at Adams’ request) was able to deliver the majority of the appointments. A few would-be judges, however, were unable to be reached, and upon March 4, Jefferson was formally sworn in as president. Among his first actions to Levi Lincoln, Attorney General and acting Secretary of State, ordering him not to deliver the remaining appointments.

One of the ousted appointees was wealthy Marylander financier William Marbury, who demanded his position. He petitioned the Supreme Court, whose position was stalled as the new Democratic-Republican Congress limited the Court to one session the next February. As the court finally convened to hear the case, the questions at hand stretched further than whether they could order the Executive Branch to give Marbury his appointment. The legal issues seemed clear enough with Marbury to win, but lawyers opposing decided a radical strategy of removing the Federalist influence. They argued that Marshall could not sit as he was currently Secretary of State during the delivery and cited English Chief Justice Edward Coke’s 1610 opinion that "no person should be a judge in his own case."

The legal standing of the citation was questionable, but public outcry driven by Jeffersonian newspapers gave the Federalist Party a blemish as ignoble tyrants holding any position they could grab. Due to the outpouring of disdain, Marshall sat aside.

Two weeks later, the split decision would be handed down as affirmative toward Marbury. However, Marshall’s intended interpretation of judicial review for law fell short. Instead, legal precedence would build so that the Supreme Court’s position would be to judge the Executive Branch and that Congress would sit atop a platform described by the Constitution. The so-called “Supremacy Clause” of the Constitution would be interpreted more to support the position of the federal government over those of states in the judicial system, a point that would be used to solve the Nullification Crisis in 1832 and deem secession only legal if approved by Congress. The federal government would be a “living government” rather than one restrained by an unchanging piece of paper.

Marshall, though upset, would continue as Chief Justice and do his best to support Federalist ideals. He challenged Jefferson in declaring Aaron Burr free from any overt act of treason in 1807. In 1810’s Fletcher v. Peck, he judged that the Georgia government must support its dealings of its former legislature (unless authorized by the US Congress, now seen as equivalent to the Constitution). He also affirmed the position of the Executive Branch in international dealings, especially with those of the Native Americans.

Decades later, the matter of Congressional Supremacy would be key to the 1857 Dred Scott case proving that Congress had the right to prohibit slavery in US territories. With the substantial legal victory, the matter of slavery came to congressional attention, spurring the Emancipation Act of 1859 that prescribed the methods for a slave to free himself while paying his worth to his master, thus preventing any deprivation of property. The act is widely believed to have headed off a war as it was widely known Congress held the right to abolish slavery. Societies throughout the North (and South) collected money to be given to slaves, many of whom returned to work for former masters for wages.

Through the latter course of the nineteenth century, however, rampant corruption would bring about the Progressive Revolution led by, among others, General Theodore Roosevelt as renewed State Militias defending the Constitution, especially its Second Amendment, clashed with Federal troops.

In reality, the arguments of the Marbury v. Madison case stuck closely to the law. Chief Justice Marshall established the practice of Judicial Review by agreeing that Marbury deserved his position but stating the court did not have the right to do so, deeming the Judiciary Act of 1789 to be unconstitutional. The precedent would establish a foundation for the nation and acts to this day as a key part of checks and balances.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Calvin & Hobbes Animated Series Premiers

In 1995, the highly successful animated series Garfield and Friends had run the majority of its course and would ultimately be approved for seven seasons. On the lookout for something new on the CBS Saturday morning lineup, producers approached Bill Waterson, creator of the acclaimed Calvin & Hobbes comic strip. Waterson was wrapping up his series, saying, "It's always better to leave the party early." Despite the cries from newspapers and readers alike, he refused the risk of running his creation into the ground.

While he had anticipated retiring to paint, the idea of a cartoon fascinated him. Waterson had always admired the artistry of animation, saying in a 1989 interview with The Comics Journal, "If you look at the old cartoons by Tex Avery and Chuck Jones, you'll see that there are a lot of things single drawings just can't do. Animators can get away with incredible distortion and exaggeration." Since he had won his freedom on Sunday comics pages with his sabbatical in 1991, he decided he could use this as a chance to experiment artistically again.

Calvin & Hobbes would end its newspaper run on December 31, 1995, and fans eagerly awaited the first episode of the animated series the next September as kids went back to school. After months of hangups working with Waterson's perfectionism and him being reportedly "very scared" to choose voice actors, the show aired to critical acclaim. Waterson's writing and initial sketches combined with new flexibility and background music to bring Calvin alive. Sequences of riding wagons and sleds down hills were applauded, as were the leaps in computer technology to incorporate the backgrounds Waterson imagined. Subject matter and Calvin's famous intelligence merited the series the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Children's Animated Program twice, beating out the incumbent Animaniacs.

Despite the success of the series, Waterson would stand by his principles in licensing. Producers were furious that they could not capitalize on the audience with Hobbes dolls, G.R.O.S.S. memorabilia, or action figures of Spaceman Spiff, Stupendous Man, and other personae of Calvin's creation. After only two seasons, the show would be cut off to be replaced by a cheaper, wholly educational lineup.

Waterson headed into retirement and refused to answer any questions about a possible Calvin & Hobbes film.

Monday, February 7, 2011

February 7, 1964 – “Beatle Bomber” Strikes

Just after stepping onto the tarmac from their plane arriving in New York City, the famed British rock band The Beatles were mobbed by nearly three thousand screaming fans. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr waved to their fans while police struggled to keep the roaring approval from turning into a riot. Before reaching their car, the pressing crowd broke through the police barriers and swarmed the stars, which was when an explosion tore through the mob. One of history’s most famous unsolved mysteries resulted as the unknown bomber blew himself up just behind the band. The brunt of the blast would be absorbed by the crowd, resulting in twelve deaths. The tallest Beatle, Paul, sustained trauma to his head. While being rushed to the hospital, he died en route from his injuries. Starr and Harrison were both injured, but not critically. Lennon, who was standing in front of McCartney, escaped with only a few scratches. Numerous interviews throughout his life gave hints toward survivor guilt that would plague him especially later in life as he cycled through rehab and mental asylums.

The news rocked the nation. Only months after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, a sense of unease about the security of America in any public place overwhelmed the populace. It became a key issue of the election that November with winning incumbent LBJ organizing a new system of “National Security” on the small scale featuring metal detectors.

Meanwhile, the Beatles began a new chapter of their careers. The band was scheduled to perform on the Ed Sullivan Show on the 9th, and there was some debate over canceling the performance. Ultimately Lennon insisted on a solo performance in honor of Paul, accompanying himself on guitar while giving a tear-choked rendition of Fain and Kahal’s “I’ll Be Seeing You” made famous in Britain and America as a tribute to those serving overseas during WWII. Despite the loss of a key member, Beatlemania continued to spread with their records unable to stay on shelves. Though they were a wild financial success, the Lennon-McCartney creative team had been broken, and they would produce very little over the next few months.

In 1965, while enjoying a dinner invitation to their dentist’s, Lennon and Harrison would be introduced to LSD. The drug would prove transformative, and Lennon’s songwriting would become nearly incomprehensible. Tours continued until 1966, at which point the bandmates judged their futures together and ultimately decided to go their separate ways. Their fame would die as Beatlemania gave way to the Rolling Stones, who would be regularly listed as the greatest rock group of all time.

Conspiracy theorists routinely pore over the explosion from surviving footage and photographs. Witness reports are notably contradictory, which has led many to suspect a cover-up. Speculation holds that extreme conservatives attempted to head-off the “British Invasion” of challenging given morals, using Lennon’s famed line, “more popular than Jesus now,” though that was delivered much later. Others suspect it was competing American musicians knowing that they would be blocked off by the coming storm of Beatlemania. Still others suggest that it was the action of a lone fan driven to insanity by the wilds of their music.

In reality, the Beatles’ welcome to the United States was raucous but peaceful. They performed All My Loving, Till There Was You, She Loves You, I Saw Her Standing There, and I Want To Hold Your Hand two days later on the Ed Sullivan Show, where they would appear again numerous times. While critics were skeptical, the tour was well received, and the Beatles would perform all over the world in the next two years before a long stint in their “Studio Years.” Ultimately the band would break up in 1970 as McCartney announced his departure due to difficulties with the producers.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

February 6, 1934 – Riots Ignite French Civil War

As the Great Depression dragged on worldwide, France along with the rest of Europe writhed with quasi-revolution. As the middle class depleted and a full belly approached luxury status, people began to approach the political extremes in desperation. Votes were wild in France with each party seeking to cure the nation’s woes, and five governments were elected and suspended between May 1932 and January 1934. People lost faith in the parliament and searched for other options such as socialism or fascism. In the elections leading up to the great uprising of the right, the moderate leftists had won the government under Camille Chautemps. When the scandal of the Stavisky Affair broke, it became obvious how many ministers were involved in the embezzling and false bonds schemes. Chautemps resigned, giving his presidency to party-member Édouard Daladier, who began firing “anti-government” officials such as the rightist prefect of the Paris police, Jean Chiappe.

The dismissal of Chiappe brought out the wrath in the growing right. They organized demonstrations and parades in the streets of Paris that evolved into an all-out riot. While initially still very loose in confederation, François de La Rocque, leader of the nationalist Croix de Feu, decided that action must be taken. He called for the citizens to unify around him and announced a new constitution that would make France bold and rich again, revitalized with the morals of Catholicism and spirit of Gaul. The coup d'état did not work initially as the leftists still held many of the reigns of government and rallied against the right. Within days, the riots turned to organized warfare with battles around government offices. Daladier called in the army to protect the constitution, but few actually appeared. In the chaos, it is said that only the Anarchist party was pleased.

Gradually the army formed up into support of the Nationalists or the Republicans. The Nationalists established a new government in the south, electing hero of Verdun Philippe Pétain as president after the recommendation of the newspaper Le Petit Journal. Noted commander of the armored divisions in Poland during the Great War, Lieutenant-Colonel Charles de Gaulle, became a hero in the battles of advanced armored vehicles attacking the many outposts of the leftist Republicans attempting to hold Paris. Support for the Nationalists poured out of fascist Italy as well as the growing Nazism of Germany. The Republicans, meanwhile, garnered voluntary support from the international community, especially the Soviet Union, while few nations were keen to become directly involved.

The war eventually went the way of the Fascists, and France became another bastion for the right in 1936, the same year a similar civil war erupted over the Pyrenees in Spain. Again, Fascism would win the day as Emilio Mola became dictator. Meanwhile, France would put its new rigorous political system to work spreading through its many colonies, which had gone into various degrees of decay after the World War. New Imperialism would seize the public mood, as it would in Italy and Germany, who made their own expansions into Ethiopia and Eastern Europe, respectively.

When Germany invaded Poland, Britain began to take a stand, but it seemed alone as France quietly applauded the sentiment of Lebensraum. With the invasion of Denmark, however, Britain declared war on Germany and soon found itself on the defensive from Axis French colonial forces in Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. The German pushes eastward, however, would eventually throw Hitler into war with the Soviet Union. The United States would eventually be brought into the fight by Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which would spur the invention of atomic weapons that would finally settle the war.

As the war ended, the colonial landscape would take very different form. The dependence on locals for defense and administration would spark the decolonization of the British Empire into a commonwealth. The French colonies, meanwhile, would be managed by joint missions from the Allies. As the Cold War settled in, numerous former colonies in regions such as French Indochina, the Caribbean, and West Africa would fall to communism as corruption and lack of First World support caused locals to appeal to extremism to alleviate economic woes.

In reality, La Rocque became a moderating force wishing to adhere to the constitution for change in France. Daladier resigned after re-establishing public order, and a counter-demonstration by the left on the 9th proved that the right was not in a dominant conspiracy. A National Union government formed under former president Gaston Doumergue, and France would find itself divided only after being invaded by Germany in the early days of the Second World War.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

February 5, 1919 – Studios Unite to Take Down Artists

In a bold move, the greatest actors and directors of their day joined to form a studio where they would be in control of their creations. Mary Pickford, “America’s Sweethart;” Charles Chaplin, “The Tramp;” D.W. Griffith, whose epic film Birth of a Nation had rocked the country with controversy; and Douglas Fairbanks, the leading actor as well as a powerful producer of Hollywood, sought more control over their films and decided to pool their impressive resources for a new studio dubbed “United Artists.” Metro Pictures head Richard Rowland noted, "The inmates are taking over the asylum." While the action may have produced a new wealth of art for the growing medium of film, it struck a nerve in Hollywood’s business arena. If the greatest artists were to gain complete control of their productions, which might be the best sellers, then the millions of dollars to be made would be lost to those who had built up the movie business.

Worst yet was the ramifications for America. One producer noted, “We can’t have the eyes of the country glued to the works of a lady Canuck, a Limey, a Clansman, and an adulterer.” Only hours after the public release of photos showing Pickford, Chaplin, Griffith, and Fairbanks signing the contracts, a more secret meeting brought together the powerhouses of Hollywood such as Rowland, Loew, Fox, and Laemmle (though none would admit to being part of the conspiracy). While some suspected that the artist-run company would die from overspending as artists tended to do, the conspirators sought to bring United Artists down before it took root. The stars shone over the public with considerable popularity, which became the target for the studios.

Feeding press releases to newspapers, especially those owned by the powerful Hearst, the first major break was the announcement of the “discovery” of the affair between Fairbanks and Pickford. The two had met at a party in 1916 and begun the affair, but the civility of the times kept such things quiet. Fairbanks was currently in proceedings to finalize his divorce with wife Anna Beth in preparation to marry Pickford (herself married to Owen Moore), and the legal papers became fodder for an enormous scandal. With news slow since the end of the Great War and the fights between President Wilson and Congress only marginally interesting, the public was hungry for shocking gossip. The following months tore into Pickford and Fairbanks, ending their careers in America and eventually forcing them to sell out their shares of UA to Chaplin. They left California and moved to Canada, where they would begin new careers filming outside of Toronto. Studio-owned theaters practically refused to show their films in America, so they turned to exporting films, establishing new popularity almost worldwide.

Griffith dropped out soon after, seeing that the resources of United Artists were even less than those offered by penny-pinching studio executives. He returned to creating epics under Louis B. Mayer, whose theaters proved to return Griffith to his blockbuster standing, but his career would fall off as sound transformed filmmaking. Ultimately he would be a consulting director, giving his expertise on epics, such as the film San Francisco in 1936.

Chaplin stood alone with his studio and sought help from wherever he could find it. After barely producing The Gold Rush, he discovered that almost no theater would show it. Quitting America, he returned to London and joined the growing film industry there, which would make him into a titan as audiences across Europe and the British Empire swarmed over his work.

Having successfully defended the business, the studios returned to work creating what many referred to as “hash” or “schlock”, depending upon one’s standing with Semitism. Still, audiences demanded entertainment through the Depression, and they were given cheaply produced, yet memorable, films. Actors, writers, and directors attempted to unionize numerous times, but the studios crushed each attempt. After World War II, studios fell under suspicion of monopoly, which they clearly were with vertically and horizontally integrated firms controlling nearly every theater, production company, and the distributors connecting them. The studio system collapsed under government pressure and rebellious casts and crews, and the desperate epics of the 1950s only hastened their demise. While international films began to swarm the newly freed American theaters, Hollywood would reinvent itself in the late ‘50s and ‘60s into smaller production houses forced to create powerful, though inexpensive, films that mirrored the more triumphant American medium: television. Hollywood today is well known for its productions as well as its Andy Warhol Factory-style, but it is a lesser powerhouse to the Canadian Academy, British Film Corporation, and growing golden age of Bollywood.

In reality, United Artists was allowed to run its course. Although facing initial financial issues, Chaplin’s The Gold Rush would give it solvency that would allow it to fund lesser known producers such as Walt Disney and Orson Welles. It was reborn in the 1950s with John Huston and thrived as the rest of Hollywood seemed to go into decline. United Artists would eventually be bought as a subsidiary by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1981 and continues to produce films (such as the James Bond and Rocky series) in the spirit of artistic freedom upon which it was founded.

Friday, February 4, 2011

February 4, 211 – Severus Gives Caracalla a Quest

In the sixty-fifth year of his life, Roman Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus came under a deathly illness in the north of Britannia during his planning to defeat the Picts in Caledonia. His sons Bassianus, nicknamed “Caracalla” after the Gallic cloak he wore, and Geta were with him. Severus had named Caracalla his co-ruler since 198, and the balance of power seemed effective. He planned for it to continue with Caracalla and Geta becoming co-emperors upon his death. As Severus lay dying, however, he thought back over his life and determined that his advice of “Be harmonious” was ultimately foolish. Men needed to work for themselves, as Severus had done.

Septimius had been born to a provincial family in Africa. While they were not wealthy or significant themselves, they were connected to cousins in high position, such as Praetorian Prefect Gaius Fulvius Plautianus and Gaius Septimius Severus, who recommended him for entry into the Senate to Marcus Aurelius when Severus was only 18. Severus raced through the consecutive positions of the cursus honorum to achieve full senatorial status, having to pause his career as he was forced to wait until the minimum age of 25 to become quaestor. He served under his “uncle” Gaius as legate when he was proconsul of Africa and married a woman of royal heritage from Syria, using every relationship to its full advantage. With the assassination of Commodus and murder of Pertinax, Rome came into disorder, and Septimius would rise to the top by successive victories at Issus and Lugdunum defeating the other would-be emperors. After that, he had fought and conquered, expanding the empire in Parthia, Africa, and, now, Caledonia. As he approached death, he decided the office of emperor should only go to those greatly blessed by the gods and masters of men: conquerors.

Severus amended his will to give his blessing for the ruler of Rome to whoever conquered Caledonia. While the wording was specifically vague and anyone could have done it, he told first his son Caracalla to achieve the deed. If Geta were able to do it, then he would be emperor, causing jealousy that spurred Caracalla to act. Upon Severus’ death, Caracalla rallied his father’s armies and stormed the Highlands at the cost of many Roman lives. The campaign was brutal on both sides, but the guerilla tactics of the Picts were undercut by their limited food resources from Roman domination in the central lowlands and coast under Severus. In 213, Caracalla was proclaimed fully King of Britain and returned to a triumph in Rome where he would be named emperor. Geta attempted to rise in his own power, but Caracalla “promoted” him to proconsul of the new province.

While there was little treasure and the triumph was minor, the expansion proved a boon for Roman morale along with a fresh trade in slaves and space allowing new colonies for veterans. Caracalla raised an arch bearing his father’s dying words, “Conquer, always conquer.” He expanded citizenship to all free men in Rome, causing a leap in tax revenue that he used to build popularity with his armies, though he refused to grant them “luxuries” that he himself had not enjoyed while campaigning in Caledonia. With a force tempered in discipline and made loyal by pay raises, Caracalla marched on Parthia, exploiting a civil war that had raised Artabanus IV to king. They met in battle at Nisibis, and Artabanus was narrowly defeated. Infighting had weakened the local vassals, and Caracalla gained their allegiance by promising protection from raiding nomads.

Upon his return to Rome, Caracalla settled to construction projects and unified his empire while adapting his auxiliaries to include the mounted archers of the East. Though he had two surviving sons, he continued his father’s tradition of naming the next emperor to be him who conquered new lands. Investment in campaigns became a central point of the Roman economy, outfitting Gothic mercenaries and legionaries to march on new regions. The move proved to be deadly for Rome: hyperinflation led to starvation and mass thievery while ineffectual invasions weakened the borders. With civil unrest skyrocketing, the wealthy who had already organized armies turned to warlords, and the empire broke up shortly after Caracalla’s death.

Emperor of Britain and Gaul Constantine would build a haven of stability in the fourth century as he established his capital of Constantinkêr at Eboracum (York). Other, shorter-lived empires would be forged, but few would last. Existing as a series of feudal states in a dark age, the Mediterranean world would be fought over by various waves of Germanic and Nordic conquerors, eventually being re-forged into an expansive Muslim Empire.

In reality, Severus gave his sons the dying advice of "Be harmonious, enrich the soldiers, and scorn all other men." Caracalla would kill Geta soon thereafter and lead an inconsequential campaign in Germany before showering the army with luxuries at the new taxpayers’ expense and marching on Parthia, where he would retreat from Artabanus IV and be killed while urinating by a discontent officer.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

February 3, 1959 – Winter Dance Party Tour Nearly Crashes

As it progressed, the Winter Dance Party Tour became worse and worse of an event. Although it seemed greatly promising with numerous stops around the Midwest in three weeks and brought together some of the greatest talent in the music industry, logistics plagued all involved. The heating on the tour bus broke, which caused Buddy Holly’s drummer Carl Bunch to be hospitalized with frostbite. Sick of discomfort and reportedly needing laundry done, Holly and his band chartered a plane to take them to their next destination of Moorhead, MN.

The night went on to shift the passengers on the plane. "J. P." Richardson, the “Big Bopper”, was coming down with the flu and asked if he could have a seat on the plane, to which Waylon Jennings agreed. Eighteen-year-old Ritchie Valens, who had never ridden in a small plane before, asked for a seat as well. He and Tommy Allsup flipped a coin for it, and Valens won. Holly joshed his bandmates for giving up their seats, and the plane piloted by twenty-one-year-old Roger Peterson took off shortly before 1 AM. As he was preparing to leave, his boss Hubert Dwyer mentioned to Peterson that the weather ahead was looking very foul. Peterson, who had not yet passed his instrument tests, became nervous but did not wish to give up the job.

Holly noticed Peterson seemed off, but the pilot assured him things were fine, despite repeatedly checking his instruments. Shortly after takeoff, Peterson realized the Sperry Attitude Gyro was registering his pitch attitude in reverse of the artificial horizon indicator he had trained on. He decided to make an emergency landing and gather his senses, but the stormy weather upset the plane, and Peterson was forced to make a water landing, skidding across nearby Rice Lake, just short of the Lake Mills Municipal Airport. All four occupants survived though were hospitalized with bumps and bruises, and Buddy Holly had broken his left hand. Rumor holds that he broke it punching Peterson’s face, but it is more likely that it was catching himself on the dashboard.

Despite losing three of its headliners, the tour went on, giving local talent Bobby Vee a chance to perform. The Big Bopper’s flu knocked him out of the rest of the tour, as did Holly’s hand, and so Ritchie Valens became the sensation of the Midwest as spring came in 1959. Valens, who would in 1964 release an album over his actual name Ricardo Esteban Valenzuela Reyes, would be instrumental in launching the Chicano Rock craze of the mid-1960s, eclipsing the “British Storm” and giving a major addition to the growing Latino voice in the United States. He would later leave music to pursue a career in politics on the behalf of the Hispanic populace and be elected a congressman from California in 1976 and Senator in 1991.

With his position as a disc jockey before his rise to rock fame, J.P. Richardson became part of the proceedings of the Payola scandal in the Supreme Court. He reportedly denounced big business and the studios who would deprive genuine artists of playtime by stuffing “factory hack down the ears of listeners.” Richardson enjoyed a successful musical career and then returned to deejaying, guiding new voices and setting up his own brand of label that would reportedly listen to any submitted record. The wide diversity of music caused numerous new crazes throughout the 1960s and ‘70s, giving every new kind of genre a chance and the audience to reply with critiques. He is credited with coining the term “music video,” which he would use to expanding his radio work onto television.

Holly, meanwhile, bemoaned that he would never play as well again, though he still sold numerous records and served as one of the most creative artists of the twentieth century. Many suggest that he alone kept “pure rock” alive and often mentioned what he could do with full use of his left hand, a topic observed in folk singer Don McLean’s “The Day the Music Cried.” Holly would eventually accept Elvis Presley’s invitation to Hollywood, where he would star in a series of films before disastrously experimenting with Surf music. He would come back to stardom as a blues and old rock singer, seeming to personify the aging of rock as it became eclipsed by more energetic disco.

Notably, none of them ever flew again.

In reality, Peterson’s plane crashed almost immediately after takeoff, ending the lives and careers of Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens in what is known as “The Day the Music Died.”

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