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 circulated 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 goldfields. 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” (who lent their name to 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 or in streams — if they came early. Some 750,000 pounds or billions of dollars worth of gold was extracted from the mining area which peaked in 1852.
HISTORY OF WOODSTOCK
August 15 marks the 50th 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.
Fifty 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, in Yasgur’s field, from Friday to the morning of Monday — with a few of my comments:
HISTORY OF INFINITY DAY: AUGUST 8
Infinity Day is also known as Universal & International Infinity Day, and is a day held on the 8th day of the 8th month of each year in order to celebrate and promote Philosophy and Philosophizing for the ordinary person.
Why 8 is significant:
- 8 planets in the Solar System — since Pluto got demoted.
- 8 is the atomic number of Oxygen.
- 8 is the maximum number of electrons that can occupy a valence shell in atomic physics.
- 8 people were saved in the Flood at the time of Noah.
- 8th day: Jesus was circumcised, as the brit mila is held for Jewish boys.
- 8 is the number of legs a spider or octopus has.
- 8 is 2 cubed.
- 8 follows 7 but stops before 9 making it the only non-zero perfect power that is one less than another perfect power.
- 8 is the basis of the octal system, each digit representing 3 bits. A byte is 8 bits.
- 8 displayed horizontally is the symbol of infinity
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 title augustus in Latin comes from augere “to increase” and was granted to him in 27 BC by the Senate. In a religious sense it meant “venerable” or “consecrated,” signifying his role in the Roman cultus. 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].
186 years ago today, on July 26, 1833, the Emancipation Act passed its third reading in the House of Commons, ensuring the end of slavery in the British Empire. It was authored by William Wilberforce.
August 24 marks the birthday of British statesman and England’s greatest abolitionist William Wilberforce. He was a man well known to the Framing Fathers of the American Revolution and became in his day, not just a politician, philanthropist, and abolitionist, but also a writer of such popularity (in his own day) as C.S. Lewis was in the 20th century. As I mentioned in my first article on the History of Amazing Grace, Wilberforce’s mentor was the song’s author John Newton. The popular film “Amazing Grace” tells, in brief, the life of Wilberforce.
William Wilberforce was born in 1759 to privilege and wealth in 18th century England and though physically challenged, worked for nearly 20 years to push through Parliament a bill for the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire almost 200 years ago. (more…)
HISTORY OF REEK SUNDAY, Part 3: LOCATION
In our previous article on Reek Sunday, we discussed the Pilgrimage to County Mayo, Ireland for Cruach Phadraig — as it is known in Irish — that is also called “The Reek.” It stands at 764 meters or 2510 feet elevation. It is located about 5 miles from the lovely town of Westport, an Irish Tidy Town. St. Patrick’s “Confessions,” tells of his slavery in the wood of Fochluth. Evidence relating to the history of St. Patrick suggests that this location was actually on the west shore of Ireland in this area.
Westport is a popular tourist destination in County Mayo, not only as a launching point for the pilgrimage but for its picture-postcard beauty. In the center of the town is an octagon with a pillar featuring St. Patrick. On each of the eight sides is a panel illustrating an event from his life.
HISTORY OF REEK SUNDAY, part 2: PILGRIMAGE
Pilgrims, nature lovers, archeologists, historians, and hill climbers come from all over the world to climb the mountain on Reek Sunday. In our previous article, we discussed the Tradition. Here we discuss the pilgrimage that has been going on for centuries, and an older one for millennia. More on that later.
The current one has been going on actively since 1905 with the dedication of the new St. Patrick’s Oratory. Pilgrimages had fallen off following the Great Hunger (Potato Famine) of the 1840s and efforts were made to revitalize it. On Sunday, July 30, 1905, there were 10,000 pilgrims in attendance of the new church. Night pilgrimages were performed until 1973, but they are now held during the day, sometimes barefooted.
An older tradition goes back even further. Pre-Christian artifacts have been discovered by archeologists suggesting a Celtic hill fort that circled the top of the mountain. On the summit have been found amber, blue and black glass beads dating to the 3rd century BC. The mountain seemed to have been revered long before Patrick and was perhaps the reason he had his fast and contest there. It was believed to be the seat of the old Celtic fertility deity Crom Dubh, often translated as the Dark Stooped One. In pre-Roman times, Crom Dubh seems to have been considered a despotic deity with evil powers.
HISTORY OF REEK SUNDAY
Several 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. During this event 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. It’s the sacred mountain of St. Patrick and a popular pilgrimage in honor of the patron saint of Ireland, commemorating his driving the snakes from Ireland. Over 100,000 people visit Croagh Patrick throughout the year.
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 mountainside 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 over 1,500 years ago. 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.
HISTORY OF THE 1ST MOON LANDING: APOLLO 11
Fifty years ago today, at 3:17 Eastern Time, July 20, 1969, the first human stepped onto the moon. With the immortal words of the 38 year-old Neil Armstrong:
“That’s one small step for (a) man,
one giant leap for mankind.”
…the first man in history began an excursion on the moon that lasted over two and a half hours.
500 million people watched on television. Everyone I knew watched it.
Eight years previously, in May of 1961, President John F. Kennedy in his special State of the Union message had uttered these galvanizing words:
“I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.”
You’ve heard the phrase “Space… the Final Frontier… her mission…” It was uttered first in September of 1966. But John Kennedy’s 29-word statement first captured the sense of “mission” more clearly and memorably than Americans had commonly heard before.
The Apollo mission would send two Americans to the moon’s surface and return them back safely. (more…)