HISTORY OF THE CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH
On August 19, 1848 the New York Herald reported the news along the American East Coast of the California Gold Rush. It was not new news to those further West, as the gold rush had started in January and was publicized in San Francisco in March. However the New York Herald was the most profitable and popular newspaper in the US at that time and by the dawn of the American Civil War the newspaper claimed a circulation of 84,000 copies and called itself “the most largely circulated journal in the world.” In any event, the news of the gold rush spread to a much larger audience than previously, and spread the gold fever much wider than before.
James Marshall discovered gold along the American River in North-central California at Sutter’s Mill on January 24, 1848. Despite trying to keep the discovery a secret the news spread in all directions — initially to Oregon, Hawaii, Mexico, Central America, Chile, Peru and as far as China. By mid-June about three-quarters of the male population of San Francisco had left for the gold fields. By the end of 1848 around 20,000 had come to California to seek their fortune. By 1849 the number had grown to over 100,000. These “49ers” (named after the San Francisco football team) passed through what was to be called the “Golden Gate” of the San Francisco Bay. The bridge that now spans from San Francisco to Marin county gets its name from that gate. Prospectors could make a fortune — nuggets might be found lying on the ground on in streams — if they came early. Some 750,000 pounds or billions of dollars worth of gold were extracted from the mining area which peaked in 1852.
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HISTORY OF WOODSTOCK
August 15 marks the anniversary of the “3-days of Peace & Music” held in 1969 at Max Yasgur’s 600 acre dairy farm in the rural town of Bethel, New York, southwest of the village of Woodstock.
I’d like to share with you what it was like to be there — the music, the crowds the atmosphere, the sense of history, what it was like to hear Jimi Hendrix electrically reinterpret the national anthem The Star-Spangled Banner, to experience the frenetic exuberance of The Who define a new youth anthem with We’re Not Gonna Take It for My Generation, what it was like to hear the newly formed supergroup Crosby Stills, Nash & Young say “This is only the second time we’ve performed in front of people, we’re scared s***less!” and to describe to you what it was like to participate in “peace, love, and rock & roll.”
I’d like to do this, but I wasn’t there. However, I do remember it when it occurred. And of course, everyone saw the 1970 Academy Award winning (Documentary) movie — edited by a young Martin Scorsese.
Over forty years ago almost half a million Baby Boomers attended one of the defining moments of American post-Modernism. While The Beatles may have introduced it earlier in the ’60s, Woodstock pulled together many of the distinctively American voices. This music festival was called “an Aquarian Exposition” though it now may feel more like the “dawning of the aging of Aquarius.”
Here were the performers, 32 different acts performed over the course of the four days, from Friday to the morning of Monday — with a few of my comments:
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HISTORY OF THE OLYMPICS
While the modern Olympic Games go back to 1896, the ancient Olympic Games reach back as far as 776 B.C. and beyond. While historians hang the beginning on that date, it seems the Games had been going on for several centuries prior to the 8th century B.C. Held originally in Olympia, Greece — a sister city of my town of Colorado Springs, the home of the U.S. Olympic Training Center — the games were dedicated to Zeus, father of the Olympian gods and the site was one of the most important religious centers in Greece.
The ancient Games were more religious in nature than sporting. For five days during the first full moon in August there was religious worship, including the sacrifice of hundreds of oxen, grand processions, temple adornment and banquets to honor the gods. Over time, this changed as commerce took an increasingly larger part along with the greater emphasis on athletic competitions.
HISTORY OF AUGUST
What’s in a name? The name of this month wasn’t always August, previously it was called Sextilis by the Romans, back in the days of Romulus in 753 BC when there were originally 10 months (Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec.) The Roman Senate, in 8 B.C. decided to honor their first Emperor, Augustus Caesar, by changing the name of the month to Augustus. Now Augustus wasn’t his name, it was more of a description of his importance. He was born as Gaius Octavius, though he is known in the history books as Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, or Octavius to his friends. The word augustus in Latin means “venerable” or “consecrated,” coming from the root augur which means to “consecrate by augury.” We use the term in English to describe someone auspicious, grand or lordly… or with imperial qualities.
You know about Augustus from the Christmas story in Luke 2:
Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth [i.e., the Roman Empire].
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HISTORY OF REEK SUNDAY
A few years ago at this time of the Summer I was on the west coast of Ireland, where they say,
“West o’ here, ta next parish over, tat’s Boston.”
This Sunday, the last one in July every year, marks Reek Sunday, or Garland Sunday in Ireland. At this time between 25,000 and 40,000 people will walk the 3-hour round trip up the Reek Mountain, or Croagh Patrick in County Mayo, Ireland, the sacred mountain of St. Patrick in a popular pilgrimage in honor of the patron saint of Ireland, commemorating his driving the snakes from Ireland. Over 100,000 people a year visit Croagh Patrick.
On the summit of this mountain it is believed that St. Patrick fasted and prayed for 40 days in 441 A.D. The story goes that at the end of this fast St. Patrick threw a bell down the mountain side and banished all the serpents from Ireland. The fact that snakes never were native to Ireland does not diminish the tradition. Some believe that the banishing of the snakes represents either certain pagan practices or outright evil. In any event, the pilgrimage in honor of St. Patrick goes back to this date. Radiocarbon dating of the remnants of a dry stone oratory is dated at between 430 and 890 AD. This oratory or place of worship is similar in design to the magnificently preserved Gallarus Oratory found on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland. The bell we have now dates from 600 to 900 AD and is kept by the National Museum of Ireland.
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