Calendar: December 31

Year: Day to Day Men: December 31

Half-Filled Tub

On December 31st of 1759, Arthur Guinness signed a nine-thousand year lease on an abandoned property and became a prominent figure within the Dublin brewery scene. 

In September of1755, Arthur Guinness purchased his first brewery, a three-story building located on the confluence of the River Liffey in Leixlip, County Kildare. The river provided power and water for brewing; the hops were brought from Dublin along the Dublin-Galway road. The origin of the yeast used by Guinness is unknown, but is speculated to have come from Kildare. In September of 1756, Guinness leased several more properties to extend his business. 

Leaving his Leixlip brewery in the care of his brother Richard, Guinness moved to Dublin, an area of affordable property due to a recent number of economic upsets and bank collapses. He was particularly interested in acquiring a brewery at St. James Gate that had sat abandoned for nine years. A large site of four acres, 1.6 hectares, it contained a gristmill, two malt houses, a brewhouse and stables. The property’s location near St. James Gate would be served by a terminus of the newly built Grand Canal. 

The current owner of the Dublin property was the Rainsford family. It was originally owned by Sir Mark Rainsford, the Lord Mayor of Dublin and a manufacturer of beer and fine ales. The business was passed on to his son, also named Mark, who leased the business in 1715 to a Captain Paul Espinasse. In 1750, the Rainsford family resumed ownership of the business and the site. On the thirty-first of December in 1759, Arthur Guinness leased the site from Sir Mark Rainsford’s grandson, Mark Rainsford III. Under the agreement, Guinness made a £100 down-payment and agreed to pay an additional £45 annually for nine-thousand years.  

The terms of the lease involving the water usage became a major problem between Arthur Guinness and the Dublin Corporation, the city’s administrator. By 1773, the Corporation claimed his brewery was using more water than that specified by his lease, a claim disputed by Guinness. However in April of 1775, the Corporation discovered that Guinness had made alterations to the pipe system that allowed him to draw more water than he was allowed. Both sides eventually settled the matter in court in 1785; Guinness agreed to lease water from the City of Dublin for an annual charge of £10.

While popular in Dublin, Guinness did not immediately achieve dominance among the regional brewers; his sales were far below those of such brewers as Taylor, Phepoe and Thwaites. Dublin brewers were not as successful as English brewers whose imported porter was the dominant drink in the city. In 1778, Guinness added porter to his ale-heavy brewery and, by 1783, it dominated his business. By 1796, porter production at the St. James Gate Brewery was five times the ale output; ale brewing at the site ended on the 22nd of April in  1799, 

Although he limited his brewery to dark beer, Arthur Guinness experimented with different forms of porter. His concept of a West India Porter, with greater hops and alcohol content, later became the basis for Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. In 1777, the British House of Commons formally changed the tax code regarding domestic Irish porter; this allowed the creation of a market for the importation of Irish porter into England, which led to  beer exportation as a staple of the Irish economy. 

Calendar: December 30

A Year: Day to Day Men: December 30

Scrawls on the Wall

On December 30th in 1809, the city of Boston passed a law which made the wearing of masks at balls illegal. 

The anit-masquerade opinion was already established in England before masked balls spread overseas to the colonies. Opponents in eighteenth-century England crusaded against gatherings that were tarnishing the country’s morals. The epistolary novelist Samuel Richardson, author of the 1740 “Virtue Rewarded”, asserted that public masquerades presented frightening possibilities of disguise, role-playing and sexual freedom for women.  

As masquerade balls became popular in the colonies, several cities began to ban masks. In 1808, a year before Boston’s law, Philadelphia made masquerades and masked balls illegal. The city supported the law by asserting dances were common meeting places for those interested in sex commerce, and masked balls created a sense of anonymity for those participants. 

In 1848, Boston extended its masked ball law by adding the following section: 

“Any person who shall get up and set on foot, or cause to be published, or otherwise aid in getting up and promoting any masked ball, or other public assembly, at which the company wears masks, or other disguises, and to which admission is obtained upon payment of money, or the delivery of any valuable thing, or by any ticket or voucher obtained for money, or any valuable thing, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars; and for repetition of the offense, by imprisonment in the common jail or house of correction, not exceeding one year.”

On the first of April in 1963, Boston’s anti-masquerade law was repealed. It should be noted that Boston, with its Puritan roots, had a history that emphasized proper behavior and refraining from frivolity. In 1659, the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which contained Boston, enacted a law called “Penalty for Keeping Christmas”. The idea was that such festivals, superstitiously kept in other countries, were a great dishonor of God and offense of others. People who were found celebrating Christmas by failing to work, feasting, or any other way, had to pay five shillings for every offense, about fifty dollars today. This law was in effect for twenty-two years.

Calendar: December 17

A Year: Day to Day Men: 17th of December

The Victory of a Clean Sweep

On December 17th of 1531 Pope Clement VII published a papal bull, an official decree, entitled “Cum ad Nihil Magis”, which introduced the Inquisition into Portugal at Evora, Colmbra and Lisbon. The Inquisition eventually extended into the Portuguese colony of Goa for the period between 1562-1563. Its influence was weakened severely by the late eighteenth-century under the government of the 4th Marguês de Pombal, Sebastião José de Carvalho Melo e Daun. The Portuguese Inquisition lasted officially until 1821.

Notes: Duarte de Paz was a representative in Rome of the Portuguese Marrano family. He had begun his career in diplomacy as the Portuguese military attaché for the Marranos. De Paz won the confidence of King John III of Portugal and the Algarves, who knighted him in 1532 and sent him on a secret mission. Instead, De Paz went to Rome to enlist the Curia’s intercession for the Marranos who were accused of lapses into Judaism. 

De Paz had a relaxed and cunning style and plied the cardinals and Pope Clement VII with money made available for this purpose by the Marranos. His success was the issuance on October 1532 of a papal decree repealing the “Cum ad Nihil Magis” of 1531, which had introduced the inquisition into Portugal. 

De Paz’s second success was the issuance of the bull “Sempiterno Regi” pardoning the Marranos for their lapses on the ground that their forced conversions were not valid. Under the new Pope Paul III, he achieved another success with a papal bull that extended the civil rights of the Marranos which resulted in the release of eighteen-hundred Marranos from Portuguese dungeons. 

Duarte de Paz’s insubordinate activities was noticed by King John III who stripped him of his commission and honor. He narrowly escaped an assassination attempt, denied by the king, and proceeded to bring his affairs to a close. Accused by the Marranos of having taken a missing four thousand ducats, De Paz denounced the family and traveled to Italy. Surprised and imprisoned in Ferrara, he openly espoused Judaism upon his release and migrated to Turkey where, shortly before his death, he reportedly became a Muslim.

An extensive history and description of the Portuguese Inquisition process can be found at:

Calendar: December 16

A Year: Day to Day Men: 16th of December

Observing the Street Below

The sixteenth of December marks the beginning of the 1631 eruption of Mount Vesuvius, a conical Italian volcano built up by many layers of hardened lava and unconsolidated material. The eruption, marked by columns of volcanic debris, ash and hot gases, buried many villages under the resulting lava flows. It is estimated that four-thousand people were killed by the eruption, which was so intense that it lowered the summit of Vesuvius by four hundred and fifty meters.

Located on the Gulf of Naples in Campania, Mount Vesuvius has a long historic and literary tradition. At the time of the 79 AD eruption, the volcano was considered a divinity of  nature. The Roman cities surrounding the volcano regarded Mount Vesuvius as being devoted to Hercules. This was particularly true for the city of Herculaneum ,which was named after its mythical founder. Frescoes depicting Vesuvius as a serpent decorated many of the household shrines in Pompeii;  inscriptions on walls linked the power of the god Jupiter to the volcano, IOVI VESVVIO, or Jupiter Vesuvius.

Mount Vesuvius has erupted multiple times with varying grades of severity. All of its eruptions included explosive outbursts named Plinian after the Roman writer Pliny the Younger, who published a detailed account of the 79 AD eruption that killed his uncle. That eruption was largest and most destructive of all Vesuvius eruptions. Its cloud of super-heated gases and particles reached a height of thirty-three kilometers. The molten rock, pumice and hot ash ejecta reached sped at a rate of  one and a half million tons per second. This volcanic event destroyed several Roman towns and completely obliterated Pompeii and Herculaneum under massive pyroclastic surges and ash fall deposits.

Today, Mount Vesuvius is considered the world’s most dangerous volcano. This is due to two main factors: it has erupted violently and frequently through the years and the large number of people living in its vicinity. The area surrounding Mount Vesuvius is the most densely populated volcanic region in the world. Three million people live near enough to be affected by an eruption, with at least six-hundred thousand in the danger zone. Mount Vesuvius is among the most closely monitored volcanoes in the world. The network consists of a number of fixed seismic stations on the surface of the earth with sensors that detect the motion of the soil, changes in the gravimetric field and indicative shifts in the magnetic masses in the subsurface.  

Calendar: December 14

A Year: Day to Day Men: 14th of December

Crouching in Socks and Sneakers

On the fourteenth of December in 1782, the Montgolfier brothers, Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne, performed the first test-flight of an unmanned hot air balloon in France. 

The Montgolfier brothers were born into a family of paper manufacturers. Joseph-Michel was the twelfth child of Pierre Montgolfier and Anne Duret; Jacques-Étienne was the fifteenth child and was later sent to Paris to train as an architect. After the death of the eldest son who was his father’s business successor, Étienne was recalled from Paris to long the family’s paper manufacturing business. 

Both Joseph-Michel and Étienne were talented innovators and inventors. Joseph-Michel invented the self-acting hydraulic ram in 1796 and Étienne founded the first paper-making vocational school in France. For their business, the brothers together invented a process to manufacture transparent paper vellum, suitable for use in situations where tracing was required. As avid balloonists, they invented the Montgolfière-style hot air balloon, a globe aèrostatique, with which Jacques Étienne made the first piloted ascent by humans in 1783.

Interested in aeronautics, Joseph-Michel had built parachutes as early as 1775. Watching the embers rising from a fire, he wondered is the same force could be used for a military air assault. Joseph-Michel  believed that the smoke was the buoyant force which lifted the embers; from that assumption he preferred to use smoldering fuel for his experiments. He built a test structure of a very thin wood box with a light-weight taffeta cloth lid. After lighting crumbled paper in the box, the structure lifted off the stand and touched the ceiling. 

After recruiting Étienne through an urgent message, the brothers built a similar structure but three times the size with a volume twenty-seven times greater. On December 14th of 1782, they ignited the wood and hay in the fire box; the lifting force was more than expected and they lost control of the craft. The device floated nearly two kilometers but was destroyed after landing by a passing citizen.

Calendar: December 13

A Year: Day to Day Men; 13th of December

Blacke Leather Sofa with Pillow

On the thirteenth of December in 1577, the English explorer and privateer Francis Drake set sail from England on a mission to circumnavigate the world aboard the “Pelican”. 

Born in Tavistock, Devon, Francis Drake was the eldest of twelve sons of Edmund Drake and Mary Mylwaye. As his birth date was not formally recorded, the date of 1540-1541 derives from two portraits painted in his later life. Drake was placed at an early age into the household of sea-captain William Hawkins and began his life as an apprentice sailor on Hawkins’s boats. A purser by the age of eighteen, Drake was given a position with the owner and master of a small trading vessel along the coast of England, France and the Low Countries. Satisfied with Drake’s conduct, the ship’s master, at his death, bequeathed the vessel to Drake. 

Beginning in 1562, Drake became involved with the West African slave trade. There is some anecdotal evidence to support his sailing on several slaving voyages with Sir John Hawkins, considered the first English merchant to profit from the Triangle Trade which sailed enslaved people from Africa to the Spanish colonies in the West Indies during the sixteenth-century. It is known that he sailed on a slave voyage under John Lovell’s command, sponsored by Hawkins, in 1566 and, in 1567, accompanied Hawkins on his last voyage around Cape Verde; the voyage was considered unsuccessful as more than ninety enslaved Africans were released without payment. Although not a member of the consortium of investors, Drake was in his twenties and a member of the crew which shared in the ship’s profits, thus being culpable for his participation in the slaving enterprise.

In the period from 1572 to 1573, Francis Drake attacked the Spanish colonies as a privateer under English authority. After a failed attempt in July of 1572 to capture the Spanish town of  Nombre de Dios, the storage point for the gold and silver treasure of Peru, Drake raided Spanish galleons along the coast of Panama. He also looted the mule trains that transported the gold, silver and trade goods from Panama City. Drake eventually captured the Spanish silver train at Nombre de Dios in April of 1573 which made him both rich and famous. From the heavily laden mule train, they had captured approximately twenty tons of silver and gold. It was during this expedition that Drake and his lieutenant John Oxenham became the first Englishmen to see the Pacific Ocean from the central mountains of the Isthmus of Panama.

Queen Elizabeth I likely invested in Drake’s 1577 voyage to South America but never issued him a formal commission. This was the first circumnavigation in fifty-eight years, the last one being Garcia Jofre de Loaisa’s Spanish expedition 1525 to1536. Drake and his fleet set out from Plymouth on the fifteenth of November but were forced by bad weather and repairs to return to Plymouth. Drake set sail again on the thirteenth of December aboard the Pelican with four other ships and one hundred sixty-four men. 

On the twenty-sixth of September in 1580, the “Golden Hind”, formerly the Pelican, sailed into Plymouth with Drake and a crew of fifty-nine men, along with a rich cargo of spices and captured Spanish treasure. The queen’s half-share of the cargo surpassed the rest of the crown’s income for that entire year. Drake was the first Englishman to circumnavigate the Earth; his voyage was also the second to arrive back home with at least one intact ship. All written records of the voyage were to be become the queen’s secrets of the Realm; Drake and other participants were sworn to secrecy on pain of death. Elizabeth I wanted the voyage kept hidden from Spain, England’s rival. 

Calendar: December 12

A Year: Day to Day Men: 12th of December

The Library’s Leather Armchair

Born at Haggerston, Middlesex in November of 1656, Edmond Halley was an English astronomer, mathematician and physicist. Very interested in mathematics as a child, he studied at London’s St. Paul’s School where he developed an interest in astronomy. In July of 1673, Halley began studying at Queens’ College, Oxford where he was influenced by the work of the Astronomer Royal John Flamsteed’s effort to catalogue the stars of the northern hemisphere. While still an under graduate, he published papers on the solar system and sunspots. 

In 1676, Halley published his first paper about planetary orbits. He later dropped out of school to travel to the south Atlantic island of Saint Helena, west of Africa, to observe and chart the stars of the southern hemisphere with cross-references to the northern stars. Supported in his endeavor by King Charles II, he set up an observatory and observed a transit of Mercury across the Sun. From the solar parallax of the planet, he determined it was possible to trigonometrically to determine the distances between the Earth, Venus and the Sun. 

Edmond Halley produced his chart of the southern stars and, with the assistance of Charles II, was awarded his Master of Arts degree from Oxford in December of 1678; a few days later, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society at the age of twenty-two. In September of 1682, Halley conducted a series of observations on what would be known as Halley’s Comet. Because of his work on the orbit, he was able to predict its return in 1758. 

In 1691, Halley sought the post of Savilian Professor of Astronomy at Oxford. While a candidate, he faced the opposition of both John Flamsteed, the Astronomer Royal, and the Anglican Church which questioned his religious views, specifically because he has questioned the Earth’s age as given in the Bible. Halley, also opposed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. was unsuccessful in his attempt.

On December 12th in 1696, Edmond Halley was censured by the Royal Society for suggesting in a 1694 paper. titled “Some Considerations About the Cause of the Universal Deluge”, the story of Noah’s flood in the Bible could be an account of a cometary impact. It should be noted that a similar theory was suggested three centuries later; however, it has generally been rejected by geologists of the present day. 

Halley eventually succeeded John Flamsteed as Astronomer Royal in 1720, a position he held until his death in 1742 at the age of eighty-five. He was interred at the old church of St. Margaret’s, Lee Terrace,  Blackheath; he lies within the same vault as Astronomer Royal John Pond and close to the unmarked grave of Astronomer Royal Nathaniel Bliss.  

Calendar: December 11

A Year: Day to Day Men; 11th of December

Handstand at Window

December 11 was the birthdate of American astronomer Annie Jump Cannon. 

Born in Dover, Delaware to Wilson Cannon, a shipbuilder, and Mary Jump, Annie Jump Cannon was encouraged by her mother to follow her own interests and suggested studies in chemistry, biology and mathematics at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. Taught by her mother to identify stars at an early age, Cannon decided to pursue her love of astronomy. She also made the choice not to marry or bear children. 

In 1880, Annie Cannon attended Wellesley College, one of the top academic schools for women, where she studied under Sarah Francis Whiting, one of the few women physicists in the United States at that time. Cannon graduated as the valedictorian of the college in 1884 with a degree in physics. She returned for a decade to Delaware where she developed skills in the new art of photography. Cannon traveled through Europe in 1892 taking photographs, later published along with her prose in a pamphlet, “In the Footsteps of Columbus”. This pamphlet was later used as a souvenir for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. 

Stricken with scarlet fever, Cannon became nearly deaf and immersed her self in her work. She became a junior physics teacher at Wellesley College in 1894 and took graduate courses in both physics and astronomy. In order to gain access to a more powerful telescope, Cannon enrolled at Radcliffe College as a special student; she was able to attend lectures by Harvard professors and gained access to the Harvard College Observatory. In 1896 Cannon was hired as an assistant to the observatory’s astronomer and physicist Edward C. Pickering. In 1907, she graduated with her Masters Degree from Wellesley in 1907. 

In 1896, Annine Cannon became a member of Pickering’s Harvard Computers, a group whose goal was to complete the Henry Draper Catalogue, a mapping and definition of every star in the sky to a photographic magnitude of nine. When Cannon first started cataloging stars, she was able to classify one- thousand stars in three years. By 1013, she was able to accurately classify two-hundred stars an hour by looking at their spectral patterns. 

Cannon is credited with the creation of the Harvard Classification Scheme, the first serious attempt to organize and classify stars based on their temperature and spectral types. She initially started by examining stars in the southern hemisphere and divided them into the spectral classes O, B, A, F, G, K, M based on the Balmer absorption lines that describe the spectral line emissions of the hydrogen atom. After this was understood, her initial classification system was rearranged to avoid updating previous star catalogues. 

In 1911, Annie Jump Cannon was made Curator of Astronomical Photographs at Harvard. Three years later, she became an honorary member of England’s Royal Astronomical Society. In 1922, the International Astronomical Society adopted Cannon’s classification system; except for a few minor changes, it is the basis of star classification to this date. Throughout her forty year career, Cannon manually classified more stars in a lifetime then anyone else, a total of approximately three-hundred and fifty thousand stars. 

Calendar: December 9

A Year: Day to Day Men: 9th of December

An Anchor on Black Cord

The animated television special “A Charlie Brown Christmas” made its television debut on the Columbia Broadcasting System, CBS, on the ninth of December in 1965. Produced by Lee Mendelson and directed by Bill Melendez, it was the first television special based on the comic strip “Peanuts”, written and drawn by American cartoonist Charles Schulz. The television special won an Emmy Award in 1966. 

Charles Schulz is widely regarded as one of the most influential cartoonists in history and a major influence for other cartoonists. Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in November of 1922, he always loved drawing through his early formative years. Drafted into the United States Army, Schulz served as a staff sergeant with the 20th Armored Division in the European theater during World War ii. For being under fire, he received the Combat Infantry Badge. 

In late 1945 upon his return to Minnesota, Schulz did lettering work for a Roman Catholic comic magazine “Timeless Topix”. In July of 1946, he was employed at Art Instruction, Inc. where he reviewed and graded students’ artwork. Schulz’s first group of regular cartoons, a weekly series of one-panel jokes called “Li’l Folks”, was published from June of 1947 to January of 1950 in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. It was in this series that a character with the name Charlie Brown and a dog quite like Snoopy first appeared. 

In January of 1950, United Feature Syndicate became interested in Schulz’s “Li’l Folks”. Schulz had expanded the strip to four panels, a version the syndicate preferred. However, due to legal reasons, the syndicate changed the name to “Peanuts”. The comic strip’s first appearance was in seven newspapers on the second of October in 1950. Its appearance on the weekly Sunday page debuted on the sixth of January in 1952. The “Peanuts” strip eventually became one of the most popular comic strips of all time, as well as one of the most influential.

During the entire run of “Peanuts”, Charles Schulz took only one vacation, a five-week break in late 1997 to celebrate his seventy-fifth birthday. Many of the ideas for the characters in the strip were taken from family members and close friends, such as Peppermint Patty who was inspired by his cousin Patricia and the peppermint candies Schulz kept in his house. Charles Schulz was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian medal the United States legislature can bestow. He also received the Silver Buffalo Award, the highest adult award given by the Boy Scouts of America, as well as a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, adjacent to the Star of Walt Disney.

Calendar: December 8

A Year: Day to Day Men: 8th of December

Saturday Morning After Shower

On the eighth of December in 1881, Vienna’s Ring Theater was destroyed by a gaslight fire that killed three hundred and eighty-four people.

The popular Ring Theater in Vienna, Austria was built between 1872 and 1874 by architect Heinrich von Förster from plans drawn by Emil Ritter. Opening in January of 1874 under the direction of operatic tenor and actor Albin Swoboda Sr, it was originally the Opéra Comique. In September of 1878, it changed its name to the Ring Theater and its focus to spoken plays and variety presentations as well as German and Italian operas. 

As the footprint of the theater was small and it was intended for an audience of seventeen hundred, the architect designed the theater with four levels. On the eight of December in 1881, a fire began shortly before a performance of “Les Contes Fantastiques d’Hoffmann”, a French libretto written by composer Jacques Offenbach. The theater’s entire interior was engulfed in flames and collapsed; three hundred and eight-four people perished. In 1882, new regulations for theaters were passed regarding public safety provisions, including outward-opening doors, safety curtains and the fireproofing of the theater sets. 

The Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary Franz Joseph used his private funds to build an apartment building on the site of the demolished Ring Theater. Although a private residence, it supported worthy public causes. This building also suffered a fire in 1945 with heavy damages and eventually collapsed in 1951.

Between the years 1969 and 1974, an office building occupied the site and served as the federal headquarters for the Vienna police and federal security guards: a plaque commemorating the fire is installed on the police headquarters. The original Attic-styled statues from the Ring Theater are now in Vienna’s Pötzleinsdorfer Schlosspark, a sprawling natural preserve with statues, wildlife areas and a small farm. 

Calendar: December 5

A Year: Day to Day Men: 5th of December

Amazon River Boat

The fifth of December in 1901 marks the birthdate of Walter Elias Disney. He was an American animator, film producer and entrepreneur who was a pioneer of the American animation industry. Interested in drawing from an early age, Disney was employed as a commercial illustrator at the age of eighteen. In the early 1920s, he relocated to California and co-founded with his brother Roy the Disney Brothers Studio, now the Walt Disney Company. 

Disney developed, with the design work of American animator Ubbe Ert Iwerks, the character of Mickey Mouse in 1928. In the early years, he provided the voice for this highly popular character. As the studio grew, Disney introduced synchronized sound, full-color three-strip Technicolor, technical developments for cameras, and the introduction of full-length cartoons. The results of these additions can be seen in the Disney Studio’s many popular animated films. 

The first full-length traditionally animated feature film was the 1937 musical fantasy “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, which was based on the Brothers Grimm 1812 German fairy tale. “Pinocchio” and the animated musical anthology film “Fantasia” followed in 1940. “Dumbo”, released in 1941, was based on a storyline about a young elephant with big ears by Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl. This film is one of the shortest animated features for the studio; it was also one of the few features to use wateroolor paint to render the backgrounds.

 In 1942, the Disney Studio released “Bambi”, based on the 1923 novel by Austrian author Felix Salten. Great lengths were taken to animate the deer more realistically; reference studies were made at the Los Angeles Zoo as well as in the Vermont and Maine forests. The film received three Academy Award nominations and was inducted into the National Film Registry. Following World War II, Disney produced both new animated and live-action films, among which were “Cinderella” and the 1964 “Mary Poppins”. 

In the 1950s, Walt Disney expanded into the amusement park industry and opened Disneyland in Anaheim, California in July of 1955. To fund the large project, he diversified into television with “The Mickey Mouse Club” and “Walt Disney’s Disneyland”. Disney was also involved in planning for the 1959 Moscow Fair, the 1960 Winter Olympics, and the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Another theme park, Disney World, started development in 1965; the center of the park was to be a new type of city, the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, or EPCOT. 

A shy, self-depreciating man with an outgoing public image, Walt Disney died of lung cancer in December of 1966, five years before the opening of Disney World. 

Calendar: December 4

A Year: Day to Day Men: 4th of December 

Lost in Thought

On the fourth day of December in 1872, the American-registered merchant brigantine, Mary Celeste, was discovered adrift and deserted in the Atlantic Ocean off the Azores Islands. 

The Mary Celeste was built in Spencer’s Island, Nova Scotia, and launched in 1861 under British registration as the “Amazon”. Seven years later, she was transferred to American ownership and renamed the “Mary Celeste”. She was a brigantine, a two-masted sailing vessel with a fully square-rigged foremast and at least two sails on her main mast: a square topsail and a gaff sail behind the mast. The Mary Celeste had a single deck, tonnage of 198.42 gross tons and a length of 30.3 meters. After her salvage in 1872, the Mary Celeste was rebuilt with a second deck and  additional depth; her tonnage was increased to 282.28 gross tons. 

In October of 1867, the “Amazon” was driven ashore during a storm and was so badly damaged that her owners abandoned her as a wreck. She was eventually acquired by a New York mariner Richard Haines who restored her and registered with the Collector of the Port of New York as an American vessel named “Mary Celeste”. The ship was seized by Haines’s creditors and sold to a consortium headed by James H. Winchester. Early in 1872, the Mary Celeste underwent a major refit which enlarged her considerably. 

In October of 1872, Captain Benjamin Spooner Briggs took command of the Mary Celeste for her first voyage following her extensive refit. As the voyage was to Genoa, Italy, Briggs arranged for his wife and infant daughter to accompany him, but left his school-aged son in the care of his grandmother. Satisfied with his ship and crew, the Mary Celeste was loaded on the twentieth of October with a cargo of seventeen-hundred barrels of alcohol. On November 5th, the ship left the pier with Briggs, his wife and daughter and seven crew members. 

On November 15th in 1872, the Canadian brigantine “Dei Gratia” left New York harbor with a cargo destined for Genoa, Italy. She followed the same general route as the Mary Celeste, only eight days behind. On December 4th at a point midway between the Azores and the coast of Portugal, the helmsman of the Dei Gratia reported a vessel with an odd set to her sails heading erratically towards their ship. Seeing no one on deck and receiving no replies to their signals, Captain Morehouse sent the first and second mates to investigate. The ship was deserted, the sails poorly set with some missing, and much of the rigging was damaged.

While the main hatch was secure, the other hatches of the Mary Celeste were open with the covers on deck. The ship’s single lifeboat was gone and the glass cover of the ship’s compass was shattered. There was a meter of water in the hold but that was not an alarming amount for the size of the vessel. The last entry in the daily log was November 25th, nine days earlier. While personal items in Captain Brigg’s cabin was scattered, gallery equipment was neatly stowed and there were ample provisions in the stores. With no signs of fire or violence, the missing lifeboat indicated an orderly departure from the ship. 

Captain Morehouse divided his crew of eight men to sail the Mary Celeste and the Dei Gratia to Gibraltar. The weather was calm but the progress, being under-crewed, was slow. A series of hearings were held at the Salvage Court in Gibraltar beginning in the middle of December. Various theories, based on testimonies from the Dei Gratia crew, were presented from mutiny and murder to conspiracy of fraud, due to the fact that the Mary Celeste was heavily over-insured. Fact and fiction became entwined over the decades with no determination as to the cause of the missing crew. At Spenser’s Island, the site of Mary Celeste’s original construction, a commemorative monument for her lost crew was erected as well as a memorial outdoor cinema theater. 

Calendar: November 5


A Year: Day to Day Men: 5th of November

The Spiral Staircase

November 5, 1876 was the birthdate of sculptor Raymond Duchamp-Villon.

Raymond Duchamp-Villon was born on November 5, 1876, in Damville, near Rouen, France. From 1894 to 1898 he studied medicine at the University of Paris. When illness forced him to abandon his studies, Duchamp-Villon decided to make a career in sculpture. During the early years of the century he moved to Paris, where he exhibited for the first time at the Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1902.

Duchamp-Villon’s second show was held at the same Salon in 1903, the year he settled in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a suburb west of Paris. In 1905 he had his first exhibition at the Salon d’Automne and a show at the Galerie Legrip in Rouen with his brother, the painter Jacques Villon; Duchamp-Villon moved with him to Puteaux two years later.

Duchamp Villon’s participation in the jury of the sculpture section of the Salon d’Automne began in 1907 and was instrumental in promoting the Cubists in the early 1910s. Around this time he  and Jacques Villon, along with their other brother, Marcel Duchamp, attended weekly meetings of the Puteaux group of artists and critics. The Puteaux Group, also known as the Golden Section, was a collective of painters, sculptors, poets and critics associated with Cubism and Orphism, an offshoot of Cubism that focused on pure color and abstraction.

In 1911 Raymond Duchamp-Villon exhibited at the Galerie de l’Art Contemporain in Paris; the following year his work was included in a show organized by the Duchamp brothers at the Salon de la Section d’Or at the Galerie de la Boétie. Duchamp-Villon’s work, along with the work of his two brothers, was exhibited at the Armory Show in New York in 1913 and the Galerie André Groult in Paris, the Galerie S. V. U. Mánes in Prague, and Der Sturm gallery in Berlin in 1914.

During World War One, Duchamp-Villon served in the army in a medical capacity, but was able to continue work on his major sculpture “The Horse”, a composite image of an animal and machine which he finished in 1914. Duchamp-Villon overturned conventional representation of form to suggest instead its inner forces, which he associated with the energy of the machine.

Raymond Duchamp-Villon contracted typhoid fever in late 1916 while stationed at Champagne; the disease ultimately resulted in his death on October 9, 1918, in the military hospital at Cannes.

Calendar: October 20

A Year: Day to Day Men: 20th of October

Working in the Heat

October 20, 1854 was the birthdate of poet Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud.

Arthur Rimbaud was born in the provincial town of Charleville, France, to a father who was a military officer and a mother lacking in a sense of humor, who Rimbaud nicknamed “Mouth of Darkness”. Rimbaud was a writer from a young age; at the age of nine, he wrote a seven hundred word essay objecting to his having to learn Latin in school. In 1865, he and his brother were sent to the Collège de Charleville where he became a highly successful student able to absorb great quantities of knowledge. In 1869 Rimbaud won eight first prizes in the French academic competitions, and in 1870 won seven first prizes.

Arthur Rimbaud’s first poem to appear in print was “Les Étrennes des Orphelins” (“The Orphans’ New Year’s Gifts”), published in the January 2, 1870 issue of “La Revue Pour Tous”. At the age of fifteen Rimbaud was salready howing  maturity as a poet. His poem “Ophelie” would be included in many anthologies and is regarded as one of Rimbaud’s three or four best poems. From late October in 1870, Arthur Rimbaud’s behavior at the age of sixteen became rebellious, drinking, stealing, and writing scatological poems. His friend Charles Auguste Bretagne advised him to write to the eminent Symbolist poet Paul Verlaine.

Arthur Rimbaud sent Verlaine two letters with poems, including his hypnotic and shocking “Le Dormeur du Val”. Verlaine was intrigued and sent Rimbaud a one-way ticket to Paris. Rimbaud arrived in late September of 1871 and resided briefly with Verlaine and his pregnant wife at their home. Verlaine and Rimbaud led a wild, vagabond-style life, a short and torrid affair filled with absinthe, opium and hashish. The Paris literary circle were scandalized by Rimbaud, who still writing poetry, was considered an archetypical enfant terrible. Their stormy relationship brought them to London in September of 1872, where Verlaine abandoned Rimbaud to return to his wire.

Arthur Rimbaud eventually returned to Charleville and completed his prose work “Une Saison en Enfer”, A Season in Hell, widely regarded as a pioneer work of modern Symbolist writing. He returned to London in 1874 with the French Symbolist poet Germain Nouveau, whose work was mostly published after his death. They lived together for three months while Nouveau finished his work “Illuminations”. By March of 1875, Rimbaud had given up his writing in favor of a working and traveling life.

In February of 1891, in Aden, Rimbaud developed what he thought was arthritis in his right knee. Failing to respond to treatment, he returned to France. On arrival in Marseille,, he was admitted to the Hôspital de la Conception where, a week later on the 27th of May, his right leg was amputated. The post-operative diagnosis was bone cancer. After a short stay at the family farm in Roche, he attempted to return to Africa, but his health deteriorated. He was re-admitted to the same hospital and received last rites from a priest before dying on November 10, 1891 at the age of thirty-seven.

Calendar: October 10

A Year: Day to Day Men: 10th of October


October 10, 1916 is the birthdate of American character actor Benson Fong.

Born in Sacramento, California, Benson Fong’s acting career resulted from a chance meeting with a Paramount Pictures talent scout. He was approached and asked if he would like to be in a movie. Fong was given an uncredited role as a guerrilla soldier in the 1943 film “China”, a story occurring during the Japanese occupation of China. He was offered a ten-week contract at $250 a week.

First appearing onscreen in “Charlie Chan at the Opera” as an extra, Benson Fong returned to the series and is best remembered playing Number Three Son “Tommy Chan” opposite Sidney Toler in six “Charlie Chan” movies between 1944 and 1946. Othe films in which he appeared included “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo”; “The Keys of the Kingdom” as Joseph; “His Majesty O’Keefe”; “Flower Drum Song” as Wang Chi-Yang: and “Our Man Flint” in the role of Doctor Schneider. a mad scientist threatening the world.

Benson Fong’s career as an actor included appearances in several television series. He made four guest appearances on “Perry Mason”, seven appearances on “My Three Sons” as Ray Wong, and four on the “Kung Fu” television series. He also appeared in Walt Disney’s “The Love Bug” starring Dean Jones and Michele Lee.

While appearing in “Keys of the Kingdom” with Gregory Peck, a casual remark by Peck inspired Benson Fong to start a chain of restaurants. After two years of saving his own capital, Fong opened in 1946 his first Ah Fong’s restaurant on Vine Street in Hollywood. After the Vine Street restaurant’s success, Fong opened four more restaurants . He retired from the restaurant business in 1985..

Benson Fong died, at the age of seventy, of a heart attack in Los Angeles, California, in 1987.

Calendar: October 8

A Year: Day to Day Men: 8th of October

Thumb in Briefs

October 8, 1910 was the birthdate of American actor Kirk Alyn, born John Feggo Jr.

Kirk Alyn was born to Hungarian immigrant parents in New Jersey. He started his career as a chorus boy for Broadway plays, appearing in musicals such as the 1930 “Girl Crazy” and Hellzapoppin” on Broadway in 1938. Alyn also worked as a singer and dancer in vaudeville acts before he went to Hollywood in the early 1940s to act for feature films. He was only successful in getting bit parts in low-budget movies.

Kirk Alyn was featured in movie serials, including the 1948 “Federal Agents Versus Underworld Inc”, the 1950 “Radar Patrol Versus Spy King” and the 1952 “Blackhawk”, a spy thriller based on a Quality comic book. In 1948 he had a role as a police officer in the Charlie Chan series film “The Trap”. In early 1948, Kirk Alyn achieved his fame when producer Sam Katzman of Columbia Pictures asked him to play Superman.

Alyn played Superman for the first live-action “Superman” movie serial, released in 1948. The serial consisted of fifteen episodes covering Superman’s arrival on earth, his job at the Daily Planet newspaper, and his meeting Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. The series revolved around Superman’s battle with the arch criminal Spider Lady. Two years later another serial was released entitled “Atom Man Versus Superman”, featuring Lyle Talbot as the villain Lex Luthor.

In these serials, Kirk Alyn gave a different portrayal of Clark Kent, emphasizing the element of his disguise, a tradition of the older radio series. Superman’s flight was effected by Alyn jumping up, at which point an animated character made by rotoscoping flew away. Initially wires were used for the first serial but were clearly visible in the footage; so the animation was used instead.

Kirk Alyn was the Grand marshal of the Metropolis, Illinois Christmas parade and Annual Superman Celebrations many times. DC Comics named him in 1985 as one of the honorees in the company’s 50th anniversary publication “Fifty Who Made DC Great”. Alyn died in 1999 in The Woodlands, Texas, was cremated, and had his ashes scattered off the coast of California.

Calendar: October 7

A Year: Day to Day Men: 7th of October

Light Green Shirt

October 7, 1971 was the date of the New York City and Los Angeles premieres of “The French Connection”.

“The French Connection” is a 1971 American crime thriller film directed by William Friedkin, who began his career in documentaries and is closely identified with the New Hollywood movement of the 1970s. The screenplay by Ernest Tidyman is based on Robin Moore’s non-fiction book of the same name. It tells the story of New York Police Department detectives in pursuit of a wealthy French heroin smuggler.

William Friedkin noted that the film’s documentary style realism was the result of his having seen the French film “Z’, a political thriller film. He credits his decision to direct “The French Connection” to director Howard Hawks who thought Friedkin’s previous films were bad and recommended that Friedkin make a movie with a better chase scene than any previous films.

The casting of “The French Connection” ultimately was one of the film’s greatest strengths; however Friedkin had problems with casting choices from the start. He was strongly opposed to the choice of Gene Hackman for the lead; he was considering Paul Newman, Jimmy Breslin, and Charles Bronson, among others. For different reasons these choices were not available, so Friedkin chose Hackman for the role of Detective Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle..

The choice of the French heroin smuggler was the result of a mistaken identity. Friedkin was impressed with the performance of Francisco Rabal in the film “Belle de Jour”; but he could not remember the actor’s name, only thatt the actor was Spanish. The casting director contacted another Spanish actor named Fernando Rey for the role. After Francisco Rabal was finally contacted, Friedkin discovered that the actor spoke neither French nor English; so Fernando Rey was given the role of Alain Charnier.

“The French Connection” contains one of the greatest car chase sequences in film history. The detective Popeye played by Hackman commandeers a civilian’s car and frantically chases an elevated train, on which a hitman is attempting to escape. Some of the chase scenes were filmed from a bumper mount camera on the car, resulting in a low-angle view of the streets racing by. The speed of the camera was set a 18 frames per second to enhance the sense of the car’s speed. Stunt drivers were supposed to barely miss the speeding chase car, but accidental collisions occurred and were left in the final film.

“The French Connection” was the first R-rated movie to win an Academy Award for Best Picture since the rating system started. It also won Best Actor for Gene Hackman, Best Diredtor for William Friedkin, Best Film Editing, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Ernest Tidyman won for his screenplay a Writers Guild of America Award, a Golden Globe nomination, and won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his screenplay.

Calendar: October 5


A Year: Day to Day Men: 5th of October

The Garden Brocade

October 5, 1887 was the birthdate of German painter and graphic artist Max Ackermann.

Max Ackermann studied under Henry van de Velde, one of the main founders of the Art Nouveau movement in Belgium, at his studio in Weimar and at the Deresden studio of Impressionist Gotthardt Kuehl. In 1912, at the age of twenty five, Ackermann attended the State Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart, under an apprenticeship of Adolf Hölzel, who introduced Ackermann to non-representational painting.

In 1921, Ackermann met pioneer of abstract dance Rudolf von Laban who inspired Ackermann to try rhythmic blind paintings. Throughout the 1920s, Ackermann worked as an artist in Stuttgart and had his first show of figurative and abstract paintings, pastels, and drawings. In 1926 he spent time in Paris, where he became friends with Piet Mondrian and Adolf Loos, an Austrian architect and influential theorist of modern architecture. Ackermann met Wassily Kandinsky at this time and was encouraged in his quest for absolute painting.

Ackermann set up a training workshop for new artists in his studio and hosted seminars for young art teachers. In 1930 , he introduced a seminar on “Absolute Painting”, giving lectures in 1933 on this topic at Stuttgart’s Valentien Gallery. Ackermann was considered degenerate by the new Nazi authorities and was forbidden from exhibiting in 1933, and from teaching in 1936, both by decrees. His graphics and paintings displayed in the state gallery of Stuttgart were confiscated. Leaving Stuttgart, Ackermann continued his abstract painting at an artist colony at Hornstaad on Lake Constance near the Swiss border.

Many of Ackermann’s early works were destroyed when his studio was bombed during a Second World War air raid. After the war Ackermann had one-man shows in West German cities and collective shows in Paris and Zurich. With German composer and conductor Wolfgang Fortner, Ackermann held a seminar on music and painting in 1952. A year later he took part in an event with “organic” architect Hugo Häring and Kurt Leonhart on the subject of painting and architecture.

Max Ackermann was appointed Professor by the German Ministry of Culture in 1957; and in 1964, he was honored by the German Academy. He died in the spa town of Bad Liebenzell in the Black Forest of Germany on November 14, 1975, at the age of 88.

Calendar: October 3

A Year: Day to Day Men: 3rd of October


October 3, 1941 marks the premier of John Huston’s directorial debut of “The Maltese Falcon” in New York City.

“The Maltese Falcon” was based on Dashiell Hammett’s 1930 novel of private detective Sam Spade’s solution to a mystery case. Hammett, who had once worked for the Pinkerton Detective Agency,  created the character of Sam Spade as a dream detective, the person most private detectives wanted to be. The plot follows Sam Spade, played by Humphrey Bogart, and his dealings with a client and three unscrupulous adventurers, all of whom are competing to obtain a jewel-encrusted falcon statuette.

Humphrey Bogart was not the first choice to play Sam Spade; producer Hal B. Wallis initially offered the role to George Raft, who turned it down not wanting to work with a newly starting director. Bogart, at the age of forty-two, was delighted to play a highly ambiguous honorable yet greedy character. Huston was grateful that Bogart accepted the role, the film consolidating their friendship and leading to future films such as “Key Largo” in 1948 and “The African Queen” released in 1951.

The character of the sinister “Fat Man” Kasper Gutman was based on the overweight British detective / entrepreneur A. Maundy Gregory. Producer Hal Wallis sugggested that Huston give a screen test to Sydney Greenstreet, a veteran stage character actor who had never appeared on film before. The sixty-one year old Greenstreet impressed Huston with his sheer size, his abrasive laugh, and his manner of speaking. Greenstreet later appeared with Bogart in “Casablanca” and starred in the 1946 “The Verdict”.

The character of Joel Cairo, played by Peter Lorre, was based on a criminal arrested by Dashiell Hammett for forgery in 1920. In the novel, the character is clearly gay, but to avoid problems with the Hays Office censors, this was downplayed considerably in the movie. Because of the Hays Office strict regulations, homosexuality could only be shown through hints, not through any direct means. Thus, Cairo’s calling cards and handkerchiefs are scented; Cairo fusses about his clothes; and Cairo makes subtle fellating gestures with his cane during an interview with Sam Spade.

The uncredited appearance of the character actor Walter Huston, in a small cameo role as the freighter captain who delivers the Falcon, was done as a good luck gesture for his son, John Huston, on his directorial debut. The elder Huston had to promise Jack Warner, head of the studio, that he would not demand a dime for his little role before he was allowed to stagger into Spade’s office.

“The Maltese Falcon” received three nominations for the 14th Academy Awards; Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor for Sydney Greenstreet, and Best Adapted Screenplay for John Huston’s work. The film was selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry in 1989 and was cited by Panorama du Film Noir Americain as the first major film noir.

Calendar: September 19


A Year: Day to Day Men: 19th of September

Morning’s Early Light

September 19, 1867 was the birthdate of English book illustrator Arthur Rackham.

Arthur Rackham, at the age of eighteen, worked as a clerk at the Westminster Fire Office and began studying part-time at the Lambeth School of Art in central London. In 1892, he left his job and started working for the Westminster Budget, a national newspaper, as a reporter and illustrator.  His first serious commission were a collection of sketches of Anthony Hope, the English novelist who later wrote “The Prisoner of Zenda”.

By the early 1900s, Arthur Rackham had developed a reputation for pen and ink fantasy illustration with richly illustrated gift books such as the 1898 “The Ingoldsby Legends”, “Gulliver’s Travels”, and “Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm” published in 1900. Although acknowledged as an accomplished black-and-white book illustrator for some years, it was the publication of his full color plates to Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle” in 1905 that particularly brought him into public attention.

Arthur Rackham’s reputation was confirmed in 1906 with his illustrations for J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens”. His income from the book illustrations was augmented by the annual exhibitions of his artwork at the Leicester Galleries located in London. Rackham won a gold medal at the 1906 Milan International Exhibition and another at the 1912 Barcelona International Exposition. His work was also included in an exhibition at the Louvre in Paris in 1914.

Arthur Rackham’s work is often described as a fusion of a northern European ‘Nordic’ style strongly influenced by the Japanese woodblock tradition of the early 19th century. He is widely regarded as one of the leading illustrators from the ‘Golden Age’ of British book illustration which roughly encompassed the years from 1890 until the end of the First World War.

During that period, there was a strong market for high quality illustrated books which typically were given as Christmas gifts. Many of Rackham’s books were produced in a de luxe limited edition, often vellum bound and usually signed, as well as a smaller, less ornately bound quarto ‘trade’ edition. This was sometimes followed by a more modestly presented octavo edition in subsequent years for particularly popular books.

Arthur Rackham never lost his sense of wonderment and never gave in to the baser styles that fell in and out of favor over the years. From Queen Victoria’s death in 1901 to the start of World War I, Rackham’s illustrations preserved a lifestyle and a sensibility that kept the frighteningly modern future at bay. His beautiful drawings were the antithesis of the industrial advances that allowed them to be printed at affordable prices.