You might think back in the good old days we took disease spread more seriously. You would be seriously mistaken. On this date, in 1900 a Chinese immigrant came down with bubonic plague in San Francisco. It spread mainly in Chinatown and ultimately took 119 lives. Why did it spread? Because even though medical authorities identified it from the start the California governor refused to acknowledge it and took no action. Two years later the people of California took action and booted him out of office. The new governor took swift action, ending the epidemic within 2 more years.
In 1904 fire ravaged Baltimore, Maryland, destroying 1500 buildings in 30 hrs. And in 1497 we had one of the earliest book burnings in history, called the Bonfire of the Vanities (yes there is a book by that name). Spurred on by the Dominican friar Savonarola the people of Florence, Italy burned not only books but also other- to him – vanities like mirrors, cosmetics, fine dresses, playing cards, and even musical instruments. He claimed that these objects would lead people astray – to sin – and so they should be destroyed. We can see today that there are still many with the inclinations of Savonarola and many who will follow him.
Even worse when people like that get in power, lives are lost. During the Korean War, there were many massacres committed – and hundreds or thousands of lives lost at the hands of the South Korean military led by their leader dictator Singman Rhee. One such massacre happened on this date in 1951 when over 700 suspected communist sympathizers -all civilians and 85% women, children, and elderly – were slaughtered in two South Korean cities – followed up two days later by another massacre with over 700 more deaths.
In 1894 the 5-month Cripple Creek miner’s strike began in Colorado. The union, Western Federations of Mines, was successful, partly due to a rare show of force by the state militia in support of the striking workers.
This date ushered in some notable people speaking out against the status quo. Sir Thomas More, English lawyer, politician, and Lord Chancellor of England was born in 1478. He opposed the Protestant Reformation, arguing against the theology of numerous reformers, but also refused to recognize King Henry VIII as supreme head of the Church of England. Having refused to wear an oath to the King, he was executed in the Tower of London for treason.
Two outspoken authors were born on this date -Charles Dickens (1812) who experienced and then wrote about the workhouses, orphanages, and debtors prisons that poisoned British society in the 1800s. And Sinclair Lewis (1885) did the same for the ills of the US in the 1900s.
in 1871 Henry E Steinway, German-American businessman and founder of Steinway and Sons sold his last piano. In 1938 Harvey Firestone sold his last set of tires. And in 1920 White Russian Admiral was executed for treason in the Russian Civil War.
And two standout American sports stars died recently: legendary UNC basketball coach Dean Smith in 2015, and Orioles and Hall of Fame great outfielder Frank Robinson in 2019.