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April 15, 2012

It was sad when that great ship went down
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:11 AM * 124 comments

Today is the 100th anniversary of the sinking of RMS Titanic.

Others will note it.

Instead I want to memorialize Captain Arthur Henry Rostron of RMS Carpathia. On receiving Titanic’s distress call he turned toward and ran all ahead flank into a known ship-killing ice field. Captain Rostron stood on the starboard bridge wing, eyes closed, praying—talking to the only person with whom a ship’s captain at sea can speak as an equal.

Without his courage, forehandedness, and seamanship, the toll from the Titanic disaster might have been far worse.

Well done.

Comments on It was sad when that great ship went down:
#1 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 12:31 AM:

And Captain Edward John Smith, RMS Titanic, despite his lookouts not having binoculars and despite having multiple warnings that he was steaming into ice, also made full speed ahead into the Grand Banks that cold April night.

One captain is hailed as a hero. One captain saved 800 from freezing to death in the icy North Atlantic.

And yet, they are not the same man.

Sail in hell, Smith.

#2 ::: Lawrence ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 01:07 AM:

I named a starship the Arthur H. Rostron in my short story "New Worlds." It's my way of commemorating my heroes.

#3 ::: Jamie ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 01:32 AM:

The Roston Behaviour was something that happened to land into a story I wrote back in the 90's.

Come to think of it, I don't even know if I have those words anymore.

#4 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 01:53 AM:

Captain Rostron shut down heating and hot water on board Carpathia on her run north; he was able to get his ship above her rated maximum speed.

#5 ::: Evan ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 02:06 AM:

Thank you for saying this. I feel embarrassed to admit that it had never occurred to me before what a risk Carpathia was taking by rushing to render aid.

I suppose I must have been thinking, without thinking about it, that the icebergs had already eaten a ship that night and wouldn't be hungry for a second one, therefore none of the other ships were in any danger. Silly of me.

A brave act indeed.

#6 ::: elizabeth ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 02:21 AM:

I'm another who never thought beyond 'Carpathia came and saved the survivors'. Just assumed that the ship was vaguely in the area, heard the message and came.
Never thought about the risks the captain took, that he would have known exactly the risk he was exposing his own passengers to.
Didn't know that Captain Roston turned off the heat and hot water to get more steam up, presumably at some risk to his own boilers and engines.
Why didn't HE get a movie?
Thank you for making me aware of this, as it certainly wasn't mentioned in any of the Titanic folderol that's been around this week.

#7 ::: Jamie ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 02:21 AM:

The point of my story (and I don't have it anymore, that's probably for the best) was that saving the glory of invention was more important than the lives lost by that very invention.

Contrary, yeah. And in fact, I don't believe that. But I thought it worth exploring in pen, and now, crap, I can't find it.

Please back up.

#8 ::: Lawrence ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 03:37 AM:

Rostron, not Roston.

#9 ::: chris y ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 10:08 AM:

So if Carpathia had also hit ice while running into a known ice field at more than her rated maximum speed and sunk, how would people assess Captain Rostron's judgment? She was a Cunarder; what was Cunard's policy on numbers of lifeboats shipped?

#10 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 10:27 AM:

Unlike some other, closer, ships, Carpathia was keeping a proper radio watch. I have no reason to think that Captain Rostron didn't have his crew standing proper visual watches as well, and that he didn't know the ship-handling characteristics (e.g. turning radius) of his own vessel. His crew knew the ship, and knew him. If anyone on the bridge had any questions, he was right there.

#11 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 10:35 AM:

Today's APoD speculates that Titanic might have missed sighting the icebergs because of a Fata Morgana; apparently Californian reported effects consistent with one, in the same area.

#12 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 10:36 AM:

Here's to those who at their own peril save other people from the results of their inattentiveness/hubris. Salut!

#13 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 11:04 AM:

I've been looking through web pages, and it seems that just about everything on the web about Rostron and the Carpathia can be traced back to Wikipedia, or maybe the sources Wikipedia used. One of two of the dates given in Captain Rostron's career don't quite make sense, particularly the linking the an RNR call-up with the Russo-Japanese War, which was 5 years before his reported return to Cunard.

What is sure is that his actions could serve as the textbook example of what to do in such circumstances.

#14 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 11:51 AM:

The first rule of disaster, as Jim has reminded us many times, is not to add yourself to the victims' list.

Rostron made a judgement call that the Carpathia could safely get there to render aid, and he was throwing the lives of everyone aboard as well as his ship in.

Awesome heroism.

#15 ::: Torrilin ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 01:50 PM:

Actually, this brings to mind the question... What is "proper visual watch"? I don't really understand much about boats or ships more advanced than a canoe, and 9 times outta 10 my reaction to water is based on whether or not I can swim in it. I'm a not half bad swimmer, so this make sense.

But I'm fairly sure large boats and ships are not canoes. No oars for starters. And I know they're not the same as swimming. So what does one do to keep proper watch?

#16 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 01:56 PM:

A proper visual watch would include teams of trained observers, with proper equipment (e.g. binoculars or "big eyes"), covering every point of the compass, rotated every fifteen minutes, with communications back to the bridge.

#17 ::: Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 02:51 PM:

I'm not surprised there's a proper maritime protocol for full speed in an iceberg field, especially in the pre-sonar, pre-radar past. Too bad Captain Smith wasn't following it.

Apropos of the subject, I switched past the Titanic two-night miniseries last night, and found, much to my surprise, that I got caught up in it. It's a 6-hour British production, and not entirely unlike "Downton Abbey Gets Hit By An Iceberg" at least in spirit -- there's as much attention paid to the underclass as the aristocracy, plus there's an intricate plot structure that has a number of storylines criss-crossing and cutting back and forth in time.

Alas, the final three nights are tonight, so the audience that might have found it then is going to be at sea.

#18 ::: Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 02:54 PM:

Make that "the final three hours" not "nights".

#19 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 03:01 PM:

As a little kid in the 50's, I got in trouble with my dad for that song (which we'd sung at camp after meals) - someone who'd lost a friend or relative might hear me and feel sad. Had he known anyone on the Titanic? No, didn't matter. The expansion of compassion to others at this level was new. I was also offended that the camp people had gotten me in trouble. Didn't all adults use the same code? Evidently not.

My first reaction to this post was that it might make someone feel bad, but I guess we're kind of past that. My earworm has children's voices. I still get a nervous twitch hearing someone sing one of those standbys of childhood, until review has shown it's safe, though I'm amazed at how many of those are now not PC.

"The cannibal king with the brass nose ring fell in love with a dusky maid..."

I was going to tie this back to the OP but my system is giving wonky signs.

#20 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 03:21 PM:

In the 1950s people were more likely to have living memories of people who died in the disaster. 100 years on isn't really "too soon."

Any cheery camp songs about 9/11 had better wait, methinks. At least they'd better wait until I'm out of earshot!

#21 ::: Torrilin ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 03:25 PM:

Ok, the 15 minutes on part makes sense... How much of a break would one ordinarily allow before that person is allowed back on watch duty? I can see this being a modestly tricky bit of human logistics if the average sailor needs the 30-45 minute downtime I'd need to do that job. And is there some sort of maximum watch time you can expect a sailor to serve per shift?

The radio watch part makes perfect sense. I'm presuming that is the naval equivalent of a communications officer or an air traffic controller job... so you make sure your vessel is aware of other vessels, and you communicate to prevent stupid accidents and share data about weather conditions.

Are there other things Captain Rostron would have done routinely to make sure the Carpathia didn't join the victims list?

#22 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 03:36 PM:

This site, assuming it's accurate, gives some more details of Rostron's actions, and also praises him for taking the distress call seriously right away, and not delaying the course change while he made sure it wasn't a mistake of some sort (i.e. he gave the order to change course *while* sending the radio operator back for more details).

#23 ::: Fred ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 03:43 PM:

Rosron wasa hero, and a genius; there are no words to overstate the brilliance with which he handled that situation.

Too, there are no words to describe the crew of the Californian, which spent the night as aptain Stanley Lord slept watching a strange, brightly lit vessel that may have been as few as ten miles away, exhibiting a range of odd behaviors that included launching several white rockets (the color of distress signal rockets).

However, no one checked the wireless properly; when the crew woke Lord and described teh ship's behavior (including the launching of white rockets), he declined to treat it as a ship in distress; the fact that they were in an ice field made the crew doubly cautious.

(As a data point, ships tend to keep a scratch log, a record of any unusual incidents during the night. The Californian's scratch log for that night- which would have assuredly included the launching of the white rockets, and the night's other oddities- was missing when they made port.)

The fact that none of the Titanic's officers never achieved their own command (usually a surety after the prestige of serving on such a vessel) is scarcely surprising; the fact that the Californian's captain and crew weren't brought up on charges of criminal negligence is rather more surprising.

#24 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 04:05 PM:

The ever-enlightening PBS recently aired "Saving the Titanic," which speaks about the men down in the boiler rooms, who probably delayed the ship going down.

I confess that I previously thought little about the crew; this program brought me to tears.

#25 ::: Miriam Benson ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 04:24 PM:

Another fascinating character is Jack Binns, then a wireless radio operator, who had been part of the original crew assigned to E. J. Smith. Binns had heroically summoned aid via radio to a prior cruise ship collision in 1909, just a few years earlier. However, J. Bruce Ismay, head of the White Star Line, felt that he might bring bad luck and bad publicity to his new ship and transfers him to another post. Binns resigns to work for William Randolph Hearst at the New York American. Two days after he begins his new career, the Titanic strikes an iceberg and sinks. He reports extensively on the disaster for the New York American, and testifies at the Titanic inquiry himself.

#26 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 04:29 PM:

The position of the Titanic wreck is some thirteen miles from the position given in the radio distress calls. Some of that will be due to underwater currents, and the Carpathian, using that data and the best navigation data they had, did get close to the lifeboats. But the Californian might not have been as close as some thought.

The conduct of the inquiries has been criticised.

Let's not forget people such as Jack Phillips, who manned the Titanic's wireless room until the place flooded and the power failed.

Captain Rostron, with his RNR commission, went to war in 1914, commanding various ships, mostly serving as troopships and hospital ships.

#27 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 04:46 PM:

The BBC's Discovery programme did a recreation (the link to the actual radio show is in that article) of the ship's sinking using the wireless signals sent that night. I heard it about a week ago. It's really really poignant.

#28 ::: Renee ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 05:00 PM:

I've done a bit of research on Smith; he was commanding Majestic in 1898, upon which ship one set of great-grandparents came to the US. He had commanded Majestic for most of a decade by that time, and would continue to command her for more than a decade since, until he got his new command of Titanic.

Unfortunately, what I've read of him supports a view of him as being a man who would push limits when he thought he could get away with it. Majestic had the Blue Ribband, a recognition for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic, at least once, and it was in pursuit of this honor which was the motivation behind his actions on Titanic.

Titanic was not his only encounter with an iceberg; he had to haul Majestic almost broadside to avoid a collision with one in 1902. I do wonder if he was speeding that day, too.

#29 ::: Larkspur ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 05:11 PM:

#20 Xopher HalfTongue: "In the 1950s people were more likely to have living memories of people who died in the disaster...."

This is not exactly on-topic, but a few weeks ago I was at a local cafe. There was an elderly guy there reading "Goodbye To All That", a book that's been on my list. We talked about the Great War years, and I mentioned the influenza epidemic, having just read Katherine Anne Porter's "Pale Horse, Pale Rider". He said his father had died in the epidemic. I remembered that my grandmother's older sister Daisy, a young woman of 22, had died as well. It struck me how close to a century it's been since that disaster, and how big it was. Two random strangers, one an elderly man and one a going-on-but-not-quite elderly woman, and we had memories. My memory is of my grandmother's grief, not my own, but I know Daisy's name, and that she was loved.

#30 ::: Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 05:44 PM:

Remember what I said about the Titanic miniseries seeming a lot like Downton Abbey? I just found out that it has the same writer. Well, that explains THAT.

#31 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 06:04 PM:

The Titanic miniseries also includes the actor who played Mrs. Bates.

It is not, imo, as good as Downton, though it's not terrible. Will tape the final bit tonight (watching The Good Wife).

#32 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 06:10 PM:

Larkspur @ #29: my father had a much older half-sister. Her first husband died in the influenza epidemic (when my father was a toddler). Her second husband brought her flowers, every year, on the anniversary of her first marriage. That was one of the first "family stories" I remember growing up with--but it wasn't until I was an adult that I learned he had died in the epidemic. I'd never even HEARD of the 1918 flu epidemic until I got to college.

#33 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 06:12 PM:

Dave Bell @ #26:

Lightoller, one of the surviving officers of the Titanic, assisted with the Dunkirk evacuation years later. Apparently the evacuees weren't sure whether they should be worried or reassured by his presence.

#34 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 06:17 PM:

#29 and #32:

My uncle's older brother died in infancy during the 1918 'flu; this would have been twenty years or so before uncle Murray was born. I don't know if it was the 'flu itself that killed uncle Allan, or whether it was because his parents were both too sick to get up and go to his crib.

#35 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 06:38 PM:

Larkspur #29 - my great-grandfather survived WW1 but apparently died in the flu epidemic. Fortunately he'd had leave in 1917 and begot my grandfather on his wife, 2 or 3 years after she had their baby daughter, who died last year after many years bemoaning the unpleasantness of old age. (Mind you I suppose I feel a little guilty not seeing her for maybe 6 years)

#36 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 07:43 PM:

one of the obituaries pasted in my great-grandmother scrapbook contained this:

she was 21 years of age. Miss Newmaster was taking nurse's training at St. Mary's hospital in Kansas City and contracted the influenza while caring for her patients. She had recovered from the disease but suffered a relapse on Friday bronchial pneumonia developing rapidly and causing her death Friday night.

She wasn't the only one who died in that epidemic, but that's possibly the most poignant example I've seen in my family.

#37 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 07:55 PM:

If my grandfather's mother had not died in the flu epidemic, I suspect my family might have been very different.

#38 ::: LMM ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 09:21 PM:

Same for my great-great grandfather.

He was college educated. His son had to drop out of high school to support the family when he died of the flu.

#39 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 10:17 PM:

I missed my chance at getting a vinyl copy of this when I pointed out to the store owner what he had out in the racks for $1.49. He promptly took it out of my hands and said, "Not for sale."

Jaime Brockett: Legend of the USS Titanic

#40 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2012, 12:33 AM:

We sang that song at camp too (where I was a counselor.) We had added verses for the various boat-related disasters this lakeside camp had1. In fact, I wrote a verse after one such hilarious episode.

I wonder if they still sing it.

1Extra verse the first: Orca. Little barge boat that they used for bringing in supplies. One fine day they loaded her up with a food run including tons of those little individual milk cartons. They started getting up to speed—and one guy decided to go to the front to get the boat to plane out. The camp director got a walkie-talkie call for help from his son, the boat driver, and came to find them standing waist-deep in the lake, lifejackets on, with the boat floating just below the surface and little milk cartons everywhere. Friendly boaters were dropping the waterlogged cartons on the pier for the next week.

Extra verse the second: Minnow. (My verse.) They'd gone cliff jumping at the head of the lake and it was time to bring everybody back. They'd been having troubles with the starter cord ripping free, so all the scouts—in lifejackets—were at the front of the boat. For once, the silly thing started on the first pull and all the weight at the front of the boat pushed the nose under. "To the back! To the back!" That didn't work. The last line of the verse I wrote was "Since the Scouts wore PFDs, they were thrown into the seas."

There were a lot of crazy things that went on at summer camp.

#41 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2012, 07:27 AM:

Xopher HalfTongue @ 20 writes:

> Any cheery camp songs about 9/11 had better wait, methinks.

Back when 9/11 happened I was working for an American company, and people in our New York office got to watch collapsing buildings out of their office windows - so it was all pretty immediate.

Some idiot started cracking jokes on the internal company mail about how everybody should go and see Fight Club that night (referring to the scenes of collapsing buildings at the end of the movie). Never seen anyone dogpiled so hard - or so deservedly.

Timing is everything - no one really minds Genghis Khan having build pyramids of severed heads these days (though one wonders how he squared up the sides).

#42 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2012, 09:16 AM:

Re the 1918 flu, one of the things that kept occurring to me during Advanced Disaster Life Support class was, "people have no idea how bad a pandemic can get." When ALL the factories, offices, hospitals, power plants and sewage treatment plants in the entire country are understaffed *at the same time*. When public meetings are forbidden, schools and churches closed, morgues overwhelmed with bodies and social services with newly-orphaned children. And when help is not coming from outside because there is no outside.

#43 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2012, 11:32 AM:

Pandemics. Yes.

As I mentioned some time ago, a pandemic with a 15-40% infection rate and a 2.5-5% death rate is still sufficient to overwhelm the hospitals, exhaust the supply of coffins, and to make it necessary to dig mass graves with steam shovels.

#44 ::: Doug K ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2012, 03:13 PM:

the influenza: I have a picture of my great-uncle for whom I am named, in his lance-corporal uniform at the outset of the Great War. People think it's a sepia-tinted picture of me. He made it all the way through the war only to be felled by the 1918 influenza.

Larkspur: "Goodbye To All That" is excellent, read it soon. I also liked all the Roman historical novels, "I, Claudius" et seq.

#45 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 01:04 AM:

One of the things I like about Mad Men is that it keeps reminding you that events like the Great Depression weren't all that far removed from the tailfin 50s and Rubber Soul 60s.

It's true now. Somewhere out there, at this very moment, every year of the past half-century is still happening. It was even more true before the internet came along.


Jim, Lila, I've maintained a stash of epidemic supplies ever since Jim pointed out that a sufficiently high infection rate means the sick don't get taken proper care of. I'd be happier if it included some antibiotics, but if I could get that everyone could, and that would turn out badly.

#46 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 04:24 AM:

Try this: take your current age, and subtract it from your date of birth. This gives you an idea of what was as recent to folks around your date of birth as that date is now.

In my case, it takes me to 1916: the Easter Rising and the Great War.

#47 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 06:38 AM:

According to family legend, my maternal grandmother was the youngest of more than a dozen children. The older ones died in the flu epidemic; the last three either survived or were born afterwards.

The dates and figures are debated, but the personal tragedy remains.

#48 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 07:48 AM:

Some times I think of events that weren't that long ago then I realize they happened half a century ago and have become History, and that's when I am reminded that I'm old.

#49 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 12:42 PM:

Niall McAuley @46 -- If I do that, Sherlock Holmes was still new (two novels out, and one collection of stories), and Coca Cola was not yet sold in bottles.

#50 ::: Dave Weingart ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 01:06 PM:

Hmm...that brings me to 1912, which is the year the Titanic went down. Also the year the Scouts were formed, the year of the first parachute jump from a flying airplane, and Pierre Boulle was born.

Also, apparently, the year that a patent was filed for the synthesis of MDMA.

#51 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 02:36 PM:

Niall, #46: That conveniently takes me back to the turn of the century -- the last century, at 1900. Looking at the Wikipedia page for 1900, I see the second Boer War, the Boxer Rebellion, the Paris World Exhibition, Carrie Nation, zeppelins, a devastating hurricane in Galveston, McKinley's re-election, and a whole bunch of stuff that's significant to me but probably wouldn't have been to the average person of my current age in 1956 (e.g. the announcement of Planck's Law).

#52 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 02:48 PM:

Nancy @37 - similarly, my grandfather (father's father) lost both of his parents and at least one sister in a (local) epidemic. I can't remember off the top of my head what it was, but it was in rural Alabama at the turn of the century (1900-ish), so it could have been typhoid/influenza/yellow fever/cholera/malaria/smallpox/you name it. My grandfather was raised bu his grandparents, and didn't have a particularly happy childhood, as I understand it. That's part of why I'm a big fan of public health efforts - clean water, sewers, sanitation, and vaccination make a huge difference.

#53 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 03:13 PM:

Niall @46, I like this undertaking. Let's see, for me that would be 1909:

The Ottoman Sultan was overthrown. Arguably the beginning of what came to be known as the "Middle East". People still throw around the term "Young Turks", and contrary to Adolf Hitler's assertion, people also still remember the Turkish genocides in Armenia.

The independence of Panama was recognized by Colombia, and the last U.S. troops were removed from Cuba, which a 1910 school history book in my possession refers to as "The Child of Our Adoption".

A lot of effort was expended to write "FRIST!" on both the North and South Poles, but there was a lot more actual science done by Andrija Mohorovičić in studying the results of an earthquake in the southern regions of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

People feared a major war, on the level of the Napoleonic era, but they mainly expected either French revanchism against Germany or a showdown between the U.S. and Great Britain, not the Greta War which actually happened five years later.

And Captain Rostron had no idea what lay three years in his own future . . . .

#54 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 03:32 PM:

For me it's 1940, which means WWII. Fun!

...or not.

#55 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 03:39 PM:

Subtracting age from year gives me the year my maternal grandmother was born, 1916. It was still the Austro-Hungarian Empire, although now it is Ukraine.

#56 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 03:40 PM:

John M. Burt @ 53... the Greta War

Garbo vs Scacchi?

#57 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 03:41 PM:

Serge @ 56: Let us not bring in Van Susteren vs Gerwig, eh?

#58 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 04:04 PM:

I'm just wondering who this Frist was who wanted to write his name on the Poles. I know that was a common European goal, but which country did he represent?

#59 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 04:18 PM:

1924 for me. Did anything really significant actually happen in 1924?

#60 ::: GlendaP ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 04:40 PM:

Niall @46: That takes me to 1892. Ellis Island opened its doors. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes was published. The Nutcracker ballet premiered. Viruses were discovered. The "Pledge of Allegiance" was written and first recited by schoolchildren. Lord Stanley donated a silver punch bowl to be used as a hockey trophy. Tolkien was born.

#61 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 04:47 PM:

I noticed this thing about the timing of history when I realized that I was born 12 years after the end of WWII, which I, of course, viewed as "the past". My daughter was born 20 years after the US withdrawal from Vietnam. I certainly didn't view that as the distant past.

#62 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 04:52 PM:

1906 going by my next birthday. My great-grandfather was around 7 or 8--he never was completely sure what year he'd been born in and the town, and its records, disappeared somewhere along the way. None of my other grandparents had been born yet, but my one of my maternal great-grandfathers came to the US that year and in 1907 sent for his wife. None of the rest of my family was in the US at the time.

1906: the year of the San Francisco earthquake. White Fang was serialized in The Outing Magazine. Dreyfus was exonerated. The first radio broadcast took place in December. The TB vaccine was developed.

Robert E. Howard, John Carradine, Lon Chaney Jr., Hans Asperger, Madeleine Carroll, Bugsy Siegel, Lou Costello, Adolf Eichmann, Samuel Beckett, Mary Astor, Roberto Rossellini, T. H. White, Josephine Baker, Billy Wilder, Estee Lauder, Satchel Paige, Horst, Phil Farnsworth, Ed Gein, Gertrude Ederle, Hermione Baddeley, Louise Brooks, Otto Preminger, Leonid Brezhnev, and Oscar Levant were born (among others)

Cezanne, Modigliani, Derain, Matisse, Picasso, and Monet (among others) were changing the world of art. Frank LLoyd Wright was already making buildings and Philip Johnson was born. Mahler, Ives, Rachmaninoff, and Schoenberg were composing. Alois Alzheimer spoke about pre-senile dementia for the first time. The term allergy was coined, and Frederick Hopkins suggests the existence of vitamins.

The LIRR station that serves my neighborhood was opened in 1906 and the area was given its current name.

(all non-family stuff from Wikipedia)

#63 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 04:57 PM:

Okay, I'll play: 1914. World War I was about to start.

#64 ::: Janet K ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 05:39 PM:

Niall @46. Well, that takes me back to 1879. (Yikes!)

The Anglo-Zulu War raged during the first half of the year (about which I know nothing). Einstein was born. The first Woolworth's dimestore was opened in Utica NY. Edison demonstrated his carbon-thread electric light bulb to the public. An Afghan state was established by Russia-UK treaty. The Pirates of Penzance was first performed.

#65 ::: Phyllis ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 05:47 PM:

1912 for me as well. Dr. Joseph Lister died that year.

#66 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 05:50 PM:

In my case, Queen Victoria died that year.

#67 ::: Nanette ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 06:05 PM:

Wow. 1881 Here's a couple of goodies. Billy the Kid escapes. I'm pretty sure at least a couple of my great uncles were born, our ranch was being homesteaded, Alexander II of Russia was killed by a bomb (I honestly didn't know that, and I like history), Garfield is assassinated, Billy the Kid is shot, The Boer War ends, and Sitting Bull surrenders. I never ever would have put those two things in the same space. I still do muse that for my parents WWII was a recent memory when I went to college, just as VietNam does not feel that long ago to me, yet my children have no clue. Gods, why can't we teach history?

#68 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 06:21 PM:


For me, the year would be 1934, the very depth of the Great Depression.

Per Wikipedia, that was the year of the Dust Bowl, the year the Dionne Quintuplets were born. In the US, President FDR established the Securities and Exchange Commission. In Germany, Adolf Hitler became Fuehrer (head of state and Chancellor).

In that year, Marie Curie died and Yuri Gagarin was born.

#69 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 06:50 PM:

1910: George V became King of England.

The Mexican Revolution began.

Django Reinhardt and Akira Kurosawa were born.

Mark Twain and Florence Nightingale died.

An epidemic of pneumonic plague killed 40,000 people in China.

The earth passed through the tail of Halley's Comet.

Notorious murderer Dr. Hawley Crippen was arrested, tried, convicted and executed (after a wireless telegraph message tipped off officers of the ship on which he was crossing the Atlantic).

#70 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 07:04 PM:

For me, 1905 (per that there Wikipedia thingy):

Einstein publishes 4 papers, develops his theory of special relativity and explains the photoelectric effect. A boiler explodes at the Grover Shoe Factory in Brockton, MA, causing a fire, collapse of the building, and 58 deaths. The Cullinan Diamond is found. Las Vegas, NV, is founded. The Wright Flyer III is the first plane to stay in the air longer than half an hour (39 minutes, to be exact). Sinn Féin is founded in Dublin. The Brooklyn Library bans Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer for setting a "bad example".

Notable births included Sterling Holloway, Tex Ritter, Thelma Ritter, Christian Dior, Harold Arlen, Maria Von Trapp, Richard Haydn, Joan Crawford, Jean-Paul Sartre, Joseph Cotten, Henry Fonda, Dag Hammarskjold, and Jule Styne, among numerous others.

Not a bad year.

#71 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 07:12 PM:

In my case I find 1916, a court case called United States vs 40 Barrels and 20 Kegs of Coca Cola, the first bombing of Paris by zeppelins, the first game played by the Chicago Cubs,Holst's Planets,a circus elephant hanged for killing its owner.

#72 ::: Naomi Parkhurst ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 07:19 PM:

1929. Wall Street Crash, of course.

According to Wikipedia:
"By January 1 of this year, every state in the entire world had adopted the Gregorian calendar, having abandoned the Julian calendar."

Canadian women were ruled to be persons. (Mighty generous.)

Stalin expelled Trotsky.

It was the first British election in which women under 30 could vote.

"Also in this year Hallelujah! became the first Hollywood film to contain an entirely black cast, and Atlantic, a German film about the Titanic, was the first sound-on-film movie, signaling the beginning of the end for silent films."

#73 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 07:21 PM:

David G., #59: 1924... Lenin dies (and Petrograd is renamed to Leningrad in his honor); premiere performance of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue"; the remnants of the Ottoman Empire (and the Islamic Caliphate) become the nation of Turkey; 2 US mining disasters leave a total of 301 dead; Hoover takes over the FBI; Australia institutes compulsory voting; first successful around-the-world flight; Wyoming elects the first female governor in the US; Edwin Hubble announces that the Andromeda Nebula is actually another galaxy, not part of the Milky Way Galaxy. Significant enough?

(Wikipedia does have its uses, and this is one of the places where it really shines.)

#74 ::: GlendaP ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 08:27 PM:

Erik Nelson @71: My sense of history is shaped by the realization that had my father's birth and death each been three years earlier, his life would have been exactly the interval from the first airplane flight to the first man to walk on the moon.

#75 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 08:29 PM:

My grandfather caught the Spanish Flu, and was triaged out of a hospital bed and into the hallway to die. His twin brother sat by him and, perhaps due to his nursing, my grandfather lived.

He lived well into my childhood, but never talked about his past, or at least not to me. His brother died before I was born, of the wonderfully named "pernicious anemia".

#76 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 09:28 PM:

I get to the incorporation of Coca Cola, the beginning of the Ghost Dance, and Hollerith patenting his tabulating machine. (That's all in January.) Nintendo was also founded that year.

#77 ::: Laura Gillian ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 09:33 PM:

For me, 1949. Wikipedia tells me that during that year Harry S Truman unveiled the New Deal; Death of a Salesman opened; Fred Hoyle coined the term Big Bang during a BBC radio broadcast; Eire left the British Commonwealth and became the Republic of Ireland; Nineteen Eighty-Four was published; NATO was established; the Soviet Union tested its first atomic bomb; Bruce Springstein, Tom Waits, and Vera Wang were born; and Richard Strauss died.

Goodness, but history seems closer from this perspective.

#78 ::: Singing Wren ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 09:55 PM:

My birthday is in less than a month, so I'm going with that age, to get me to 1942.

The Sikorsky R-4 helicopter makes its first flight, Mexico declares war against Germany, Anne Frank begins keeping a diary (and goes into hiding shortly thereafter), the first A-4 rocket is launched, Casablanca premiers in New York City, Aaron Copeland writes Rodeo and Fanfare for the Common Man, and DDT is first used as a pesticide. Notable births include Stephen Hawking, Terry Jones, and current US VP Joe Biden. Notable deaths include Lucy Maud Montgomery, John Barrymore, and George M. Cohan.

My paternal grandfather had been in the US Army since 1939, and by 1942 we're hitting the point in his military career generated family stories. He was in the Signal Corps, and I believe 1942 would have been when he was stationed in the Aleutians. It was so cold, he swore if he made it home, he'd never complain about cold toilet seats again. And according to Grandma, he kept that promise through all the years they were married. There are other stories from the war, too, many of them written down in the diaries he wasn't supposed to be keeping.

#79 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 10:00 PM:

Well, my birthdate minus my age takes me back to... 1911, when the Titannic was launched.

That spring, the Triangle Shirtwaist factory burned (less than a week after the first International Women's day), and Pancho Villa was fighting for the Mexican Revolution. Five years later the US would turn against him, and my grandfather, an underage Polish Jewish immigrant cavalryman, would be sent under General Pershing's command to pursue him. TIL that Black Jack Pershing's nickname was originally less PC, because of his earlier command of the segregated 10th Cavalry.

That summer, Machu Picchu was rediscovered, and the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre by an Italian patriot (and recovered 2 years later). That fall, the last imperial Chinese dynasty was overthrown. In December, Roald Amundsen's expedition reached the South Pole, and Marie Curie was awarded her second Nobel Prize, in Chemistry (she had shared the Physics Nobel with her husband and Henri Becquerel 8 years earlier).

Ronald Reagan, L. Ron Hubbard, Josef Mengele, Jack Ruby, Tennessee Williams, Robert Johnson, Phil Silvers, Vincent Price, James H. Schmitz, and Roy Rogers were all born in 1911 (sorted by month of birth, not by color of hat, I swear). Gustav Mahler, W.S. Gilbert, Carrie Nation, Edward Whymper, and Joseph Pulitzer died.

#80 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 10:05 PM:

1906. See Melissa's comment above.

#81 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2012, 12:01 AM:

1941 or 1940, depending whether I go by my age or by my coming 2012 birthday. World War II is going on
(from the British and therefore Canadian perspective), my maternal grandfather is in service. (My mother, the eldest of her siblings, won't be born for another 6 years.)

Mount Rushmore is finished. Bugs Bunny makes his second ever (and first named) appearance. Citizen Kane and the Maltese Falcon are released. And of course, Pearl Harbour is attacked, which drastically changes the war.

Births: Hayao Miyazaki, Martha Stewart, Neil Diamond, Buffy Sainte Marie, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel both, Joseph Shabalala, Dr. Demento ... and in a massive counterbalance, Dick Cheney.

#82 ::: Samatha C ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2012, 12:04 AM:

This seems fun, doing the math gives me ... 1927 and gave the world:

Heisenberg formulates his uncertainty principle
the FRC (later FCC) begins to regulate radio frequencies
the first armored car robbery
Metropolis premieres in Germany
Bureau of Prohibition founded
the Great Mississippi River Flood strikes 700,000 people, the largest natural disaster in US history up to that point (and I had direct great-granparents on both sides involved, and some ancestors lost in same)
Charles Lindbergh makes a famous airplane flight
FDIA established (the Food, Drug and, Insecticide Administration) - no wonder they changed the name
the Communist Chinese People's Liberation Army is formed
sculpting begins at Mt. Rushmore
first Japanese commuter metro line opens

#83 ::: Lisa Padol ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2012, 01:41 AM:

1922 (going by my coming age): One of my favorite books, James Joyce's Ulysses, was published, as was the first issue of Reader's Digest.

The first radio in the White House, and the Teapot Dome Scandal, and also the first midair collision. The State of Massachusetts opened all public offices to women. A 20-ton meteorite landed in Virginia. And other things I'm too sleepy to focus on also happened.

#84 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2012, 02:17 AM:

The subtraction gets me to 1889. The influenza epidemic began in Russia (if you believe Wikipedia). Similarly, yellow fever interrupted the first attempt to build the Panama Canal. And a whole bunch of people illegally entered the Oklahoma Territory early and became the "sooners."

#85 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2012, 02:22 AM:

Erik Nelson @ #71, point of order. The Cubs have been around since 1870. I think 1916 was the first year they played in what's now called Wrigley Field.

#86 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2012, 06:35 AM:

Off the historical thread but back to the OP, or at least the posted title thereof:

Since the statute of limitations on silly earworms is about three days, I have to throw this out there or lose (what remains of) my sanity. Is there anyone else who, upon reading the title of the original post, is earwormed not by the perky camp song, but rather by the filk version commemorating the sprinkler incident?

It was wet, (it was wet), it was wet, (so wet!), it was wet when that sprinkler came down....

It is the worst sort of earworm because I don't know all the words and can't sing it out of my head....

#87 ::: Narmitaj ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2012, 07:37 AM:

1904 for me. We kick off with a Titanic-relevant fact, according to Wikipedia: CQD is established as a distress signal (by Marconi), only to be replaced 2 years later by SOS, though Marconi (and British) operators still used CQD. Apparently Jack Phillips on Titanic used both. The Russo-Japanese War starts off with a Japanese surprise attack on Port Arthur. James Joyce meets his wife.

A friend of mine's father down the road to Wells is still hanging on to life at 95; if he played the game we would be in 1822, which includes more Titanic-resonant stuff: the February sinking of the junk Tek Sing with the loss of 1,600 people and the rescue of 190 survivors by a British ship. Babbage publishes a proposal for a difference engine, coffee is no longer banned in Sweden, Galileo's Dialogue is removed from the Catholic Index, and Brazil becomes independent of Portugal.

#88 ::: Narmitaj ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2012, 07:52 AM:

Three years ago a local Somerset man died - Harry Patch, the Last Fighting Tommy, the last man left alive of all those millions who had fought in the trenches of the Western Front in the First World War. He was 111 when he died, so if he'd played the age game on his final birthday in 2009 he would have landed on 1787: Herschel discovering Titania and Oberon, the foundation of Lord's cricket ground and the MCC, and some people in a land far away coming up with the US Constitution.

#89 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2012, 07:59 AM:

Not sure how I earlier arrived at 1901 for myself. It really is 1899, the year that the rubber heel is patented by Humphrey O'Sullivan.

#90 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2012, 09:03 AM:

Aaron Copeland writes Rodeo and Fanfare for the Common Man

At first, I read "Rodeo and Fanfare for the Common Man" as a single title. Life's so much more interesting when one gets confused about where the italics go.

#91 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2012, 09:11 AM:

Thena @86: You mean the sprinkler incident referred to by some as LARP Waterworld? Can't help you on the lyrics, alas.

Narmitaj @88: The last person alive known to have served in uniform in the Great War, Florence Green, died this year, two weeks short of her 111th birthday. My early-morning math makes her number 1792. The last Holy Roman Emperor takes office. A tsunami in Japan kills fourteen thousand people. The U.S. Postal Service is established. France tests out this new thing called the guillotine. Also in France, the first purpose-built ambulance wagons are created by the chief surgeon of the Grand Armee. And Mary Wollestonecraft's A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN is published.

#92 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2012, 09:30 AM:

I get 1939. Let's see... Grapes of Wrath published, Billie Holiday records Strange Fruit, Batman is first published, First tour of Canada by the Canadian Monarch. End of the Spanish Civil War, last public guillotining in France, First Worldcon in New York city.

To quote Wikipedia: "This year also marks the start of the Second World War, the deadliest human conflict in history."

#93 ::: Kate Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2012, 10:16 AM:

Like Samantha C. @82, I get 1927. The world's population reaches two billion. Eartha Kitt, Stan Getz, Leontyne Price, Sidney Poitier, Coretta Scott King, Neil Simon, and Mary Higgins Clark are all born. Lizzie Borden dies.

And "In Britain, 1,000 people a week die from an influenza epidemic."

Just think, in some far-off time--that isn't actually very long from now, really--people will play the subtract-your-age-from-your-year-of-birth game, and someone will say, "I got 2012. Look at all this weird stuff that happened back then that I've never even heard of."

#94 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2012, 10:53 AM:

1899 -- Liberation of Cuba, first Sherlock Holmes, the Great Blizzard (February), voting machines approved by Congress for Federal elections, Felix Hoffman patents aspirin.

Notables born this year: Duke Ellington, Fred Astaire, Irving G. Thalberg, E. B. White, Ernest Hemmingway, Alfred Hitchcock, and Humphrey Bogart.

#95 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2012, 11:04 AM:

Like Singing Wren, 1942.

My grandparents had just gotten married. Two years later, my grandfather survived the kamikaze attack on his ship, the USS Lexington.

Memory goes back a long way. When I was in my teens (mid-1990's), I spent a lot of time listening to an older neighbor's stories. He, as a pre-teen, had spent a lot of time with his grandmother, and had her diary; she had grown up in central Tennessee, near the main road from Nashville to Chattanooga, and her diary recorded the armies marching up and down the road.

#96 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2012, 11:10 AM:

Thena, #86: I don't get that one, I get the one about the falling orbital colony.

It was sad (so sad!), it was sad (so sad!), it was sad when that colony came down (on Peoria)...

Like you, I don't know all the words, because I've only heard it once or twice.

#97 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2012, 11:39 AM:


UK National Trust founded, volleyball invented, Diesel engine patented, Oscar Wilde arrested and jailed, first professional American football game, first US patent for an automobile, Roentgen discovers X-rays, Lumiere brothers show their first moving picture.

Born: J. Edgar Hoover, Shemp Howard, Babe Ruth, Rudolph Valentino, Hattie McDaniel, Jack Dempsey, Buckminster Fuller, Robert Graves, Gracie Allen

Died: Frederick Douglass, Berthe Morisot, Friedrich Engels, Louis Pasteur, T.H. Huxley and Alexandre Dumas (fils)

#98 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2012, 12:26 PM:

Thena @#86: I keep getting it to "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean".

#99 ::: Ken Brown ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2012, 12:42 PM:

1902 for me.

In 1902 my gran - my Mum's Mum, the only grandparent I ever knew - was perhaps 9 or 10 years old. The man she wasn't even to meet, never mind marry, for more than ten years, was in his late 20s, working on the railways in Glasgow, having recently returned to Scotland from India and South Africa, just in time to miss the Boer War.

My other grandfather was 17 I think and working in a shipyard on Tyneside, and his later wife a young girl living round the corner, not even at school yet.

A lot of women on Clydeside and Tyneside married older men in the years after the Great War, for the obvious reason that so many men of their own generation had been killed.

When I was a child in the 1960s "The War" was the Second World War, and alive in the memories of everyone around me. We talked about it, young boys played Germans vs. British in the streets, older boys made plastic Airfix models of bombers and fighters, we saw it on TV and in the cinema. But the Great War, the First World War, was distant history, along with the Victorians and Napoleon and pretty much everything between the Middle Ages and my own parent's childhood. It was all "The Old Days" when no-one had proper clothes or houses and children worked down mines and they had horses and carts instead of cars and buses.

Now, with the perspective of a longer view, the Second War has receded but the Great War has got closer. I tend to think of the Victorian and Edwardian era, well the end of it anyway, the last quarter of the 19th century and the begining of the 20th, as part of the late modern period, when Britain was in many ways already a developed, industrialised, even affluent country. Part of the world I live in.

And we get into "Where's my jet pack?" territory. Now the 20th century is over I can see that there was less technologically-driven social change in the second half of it, during my own lifetime, than there was in the first half of the 20th or in the 19th.

I'm in my 50s but in I live in the pretty much the same sort of world culturally and politically as I lived in in my 20s, and not a very different one to the one I was born in. That was not true of my grandparents, nor was it true of their parents and grandparents.
Things have slowed down.

#100 ::: Dave Weingart ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2012, 03:02 PM:

Thena @ 86, I just happen to know that one VERY well...

My pages are way, WAY out of date, but feel free to look here for the lyrics.

#101 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2012, 04:18 PM:

elise @91: LARP Waterworld?

Hm. I suspect that's a different sprinkler incident than the one that comes to my mind (involving a different acronym and an overestimation of the weight-bearing capability of a hotel room fire sprinkler head.)


Remindes me of the time I realized that the Bacon Game can be played through time as well as in space, and that I'm (I forget how) only three handshakes away from Abraham Lincoln.

#102 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2012, 04:31 PM:

1925 - the Roaring 20s. Benito Mussolini announces that he is the dictator of Italy. The first elected female governor of a US state took office (Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming). The New Yorker magazine publishes its first issue. The Great Gatsby was published, as was Mein Kampf. George Bernard Shaw won the Nobel Prize in Literature. The Scopes Trial was held. New York City became the largest city in the world. Important art exhibitions were held featuring Art Deco and Surrealist art. Paul Newman, Flannery O'Connor, Johnny Carson, and Yogi Berra were born. Sun Yat-Sen, H. Rider Haggard, and William Jennings Bryan passed away.

#103 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2012, 05:16 PM:

Ken, #99: I'm in my 50s but in I live in the pretty much the same sort of world culturally and politically as I lived in in my 20s, and not a very different one to the one I was born in.

Odd, that's not how I feel at all, and we are roughly contemporaries. Perhaps being (1) American and (2) female makes a difference.

#104 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2012, 07:35 PM:

Dave Weingart @100

Bravo, sir! That's the one! (I have no idea when or where I picked it up; I am confident that alcohol must have been involved.)

#105 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2012, 08:11 PM:

Jacque @101: Hm. I suspect that's a different sprinkler incident than the one that comes to my mind (involving a different acronym and an overestimation of the weight-bearing capability of a hotel room fire sprinkler head.)

That's exactly the one. I heard the LARP (Live Action Role-Playing) remark from a gamer friend after the convention.

And ooh, I love your realization of the Bacon Game being playable through time as well as space. That's going to make my mind go wubba-wubba for a while, in a good way.

Also, HI, FILKERDAVE! Haven't seen you for months!
*runs over and offers a hug*

#106 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2012, 08:12 PM:

Lori Coulson @94: First Holmes publication is 1887, not 1899. Earlier than I thought. 1899 is the first theatrical appearance of Holmes, according to Wikipedia (and the first film appearance was in 1900!).

#107 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2012, 08:16 PM:

Thena@104: You did notice that he was the one who wrote it, yes?

#108 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2012, 09:08 PM:

I have an aunt who is 97 (as of last year). That get to 1817: James Monroe becomes president, construction begins on the Erie Canal, Thoreau is born, Austen and Messier and Mme de Stael die.

#109 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2012, 09:08 PM:

@107 Indeed. :-)

I'd expected that this community would include someone who could confirm or deny the incident happened. I didn't expect someone that close to the source. :-)

#110 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2012, 05:28 AM:

Doubling my lifespan takes me to 1904.

Doubling my father's lifespan takes the date to 1828.

I'll let you use Google and Wikipedia. You don't have to suffer my typing.

#111 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2012, 05:31 AM:

When I was a kid, men were walking on the moon, we had supersonic airliners, and The Beatles were performing Shakespeare on TV.

Tell kids that today, and they won't believe you.

#112 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2012, 07:43 AM:

@Dave, #111: True, but I also tell my kids we had no mobile phones, computers, Playstations, iPods, DVDs or even CDs when we were kids, and they can't tell if I'm kidding or not.

#113 ::: Ken Brown ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2012, 07:52 AM:

@lee #103

I'm comparing the 1980s with the 2010s

Now imagine the same comparison between the 1880s and 1910s Technology was changing faster then, or rather it was causing faster social change. And the map of the world was certainly changing faster (though who knows what wel will see if spared till 2018?)

#114 ::: Bernard Yeh ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2012, 03:09 PM:

Ken Brown @113

In your context maybe. (I'm assuming male, majority ethnicity/culture, middle-class or better in USA or UK)

If you are American and female or non-white or gay, you've seen plenty of social change between 1980 and 2010, comparable or greater to any 3-decade period you can pick in the last 150 years, mostly driven by communication technology. That's not to say that these changes are always for the better, or that change is evenly distributed (compare urban vs rural attitudes toward gays or minorities), but it is happening, even if not everyone is fully aware of it.

If you are Chinese, Indian, Korean, Taiwanese, Eastern European or pretty much a citizen of any country that wasn't first-world in 1980, you've seen massive social changes since then, even if you are male and part of the governing elites in those cultures. You could say that these cultures are merely just catching up to the supposedly technologically driven social changes the first world experienced earlier in the 20th century, and that may be part of it, but it shouldn't be trivialized just because the first-world got there first.

And how are we measuring change anyway? Are we going to argue that electrification and indoor plumbing and automobiles generated more social change than computers and cell phones and the internet? Both sets of technologies are very significant, but measuring their relative impact on a given society seems to me like comparing apples and oranges. If we are talking absolute numbers of people worldwide, I can argue the later set of technologies have had more impact, by virtue of affecting more people. Pick some other metric, and you can argue the former. And so on.

I think the frustration, if you believe in social progress, is that perhaps all this social change has not resulted in as much progressive political change as there should be. The governing elites in most countries, the composition of which have not changed much in the last 30 years (i.e. overwhelmingly male, majority culture, wealthy), have been and are being reactionary to all the social changes that have been happening despite their efforts to the contrary.

#115 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2012, 07:56 PM:

I join Nanette @ 67 in 1881. On the other hand, my aunt died in January of this year, just before her 100th birthday, which makes her date 1814. In that year Napolean abdicated as the Napoleanic era wound down, and monarchy seemed to be the victorious order of the day. This would have been anathema to my aunt, who was a staunch socialist and believer in social justice all her life. And that year was 30 years prior to the beginnings of photography, which was her profession and passion for more than 50 years.

It's interesting that Aunt Eve would have had to go back so far before her birth to where the basis of her work would be unknown; I was born just a handful of years after the computer that would be my professional focus was invented; my son, who is (among other things) a web designer was born 20 years before the invention of the World Wide Web. Some things are indeed developing faster.

#116 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2012, 01:15 AM:

1942 is a popular year, it seems. So I'll just add that it is the year my dad was born.

#117 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2012, 10:45 AM:

It's interesting that Aunt Eve would have had to go back so far before her birth to where the basis of her work would be unknown; I was born just a handful of years after the computer that would be my professional focus was invented; my son, who is (among other things) a web designer was born 20 years before the invention of the World Wide Web. Some things are indeed developing faster.

The other side of that - disappearing jobs - is interesting too: when my father was born, my grandparents could reasonably have expected their son to get a job in the Colonial Office. By the time he entered the workforce, the Colonial Office - along with basically all the colonies - was gone.

#118 ::: Dave Weingart ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2012, 02:14 PM:

Thena @ 104 : I can guarantee that there was sleep deprivation involved -- I wrote that one in time for the Dead Dog on Sunday. (I've toyed with making it historically more accurate on and off over the years, but I never seem to actually follow through)

#119 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2012, 08:30 PM:

1922: (I fell down several holes. It was a much more interesting year than I expected.

Formation of the Soviet Union.
Wimbeldon gets some concrete Courts.
Lincoln Memorial is dedicated
Tutankhamen's tomb found
Home Brewing exception to Probibition
Mussolini takes power in Italy
BBC Created
Ghandi imprisoned in India
Lower Lousiana floods, affects 50,000 people
Egypt declares independence
Reader's Digest founded
Waterskiing is invented
Irish Free State is Founded

Insulin successfully used in Canada

The USS Langly is commissioned,and the US has an aircraft carrier
Canada decides to drive on the right side of the road
US puts its first living person on a coin (Thomas E Kirby)
Buck Weaver fails to be reinstated to major leage baseball (a member of the Black Sox): US Supreme Court, independently, rules MLB not a business,and so exempt from Antitrust legislation.
USGS predicts the US Oil Supply will be tapped out in 20 years
Eskimo Pie is patented
NFL Created
Pius XI elected
Lots of radio stations in the US start broadcasting: some, e.g. KFI in Los Angeles, are still doing so.
There is snow on Mauna Loa
First public celebration of a Bat Mitzvah; the daughter of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan
Microfilm invented.
President Harding dedicates the F.Scott Key Memorial, on the radio.
First Newberry Medal Awarded
France gives Canada 1 square KM of Vimy Ridge, "freely, and for all time, to the Gov't of Canada, the free use of the land exempt from all taxes" (and I teared up reading it). There is an amazing memorial there today; one of two National Historic sites of Canada outside the territorial Boundaries)
First General Election in the Netherlands.

#120 ::: Terry Karney was gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2012, 08:31 PM:

Given all the things I quoted, I've no idea why

[A comma without a trailing space. -- JDM]

#121 ::: Abby N ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2012, 01:53 PM:

Hm. Birth year minus my age puts me in 1957. My parents were 3. The cold war is in full swing; Eisenhower is president. The first electric watch, the first frisbee, the first laser. IBM sells the first FORTRAN compiler. Sputnik.

The Cat in the Hat and On the Road are published. West Side Story opens.

The Dodgers move from Brooklyn to LA. Katie Couric, Vanna White, and Osama bin Laden are born. Laura Ingalls Wilder dies.

Really not that long ago - most of these are things I learned about as cultural references, rather than the events of history classes.

#122 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2012, 12:07 PM:

Katie Couric, Vanna White, and Osama bin Laden are born. Laura Ingalls Wilder dies.

That in itself says something about how close and how far away history is, I reckon.

#123 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 09:08 AM:

Any News of the Iceberg?

There is another version involving a lettuce.

#124 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2012, 11:36 AM:

The Age Game:

Playing that takes me to 1901 (if I were to wait till my birthday it would take me to 1900). Let's see: Queen Victoria shuffled off into eternity and Edward VII became King-Emperor. TR became president. One great-uncle was off to dig the Panama Canal. One great-grandfather was readjusting from having been the Great White Overlord in the Philippines and looking round for a wife.

The Platt Amendment turned Cuba into an American protectorate.

TR caused a scandal by inviting Booker T. Washington to eat at the White House. How dare he!

The first Nobel Prize ceremony was held.

If I do it for my father (82 years before his death, giving him the full week to fill out the year), that takes him to 1827.

George IV on the throne. Canning becomes prime minister. Dies and is succeeded by Lord Goderich. John Quincy Adams is president.

Battle of Navarino guarantees Greek independence.

The fountain pen is invented.

The lucifer is patented.

The first transAtlantic steam passage -- from the Netherlands to Surinam.

An interesting year.

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