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. Though historians hang the beginning on that date, it seems the Games had been going on for several centuries before 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, religious worship included the sacrifice of hundreds of oxen, grand processions, temple adornment, and banquets to honor the Olympian gods. Over time, this changed as commerce took an increasingly larger part along with the greater emphasis on athletic competitions. (more…)
HISTORY OF THE 1ST MOON LANDING: APOLLO 11
Fifty-two years ago today, at 3:17 Eastern Time, July 20, 1969, the first human stepped out of the Apollo 11 lunar module 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.
Five hundred million people watched it on television. Everyone I knew watched it.
Moon Landing: The Mission
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 no doubt heard the phrase “Space… the final frontier… her mission…” It was spoken first in September of 1966. But John Kennedy’s 29-word statement five years earlier 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 safely.
HISTORY OF BASTILLE DAY
Each year on July 14, Bastille Day is celebrated to commemorate the Storming of the Bastille in Paris on this date in 1789, an important date in the French Revolution. Also known as French National Day, it features feasting, fireworks, public dancing, and an address by the French President.
However, the center of this celebration is the largest and oldest European military parade along the Avenue of the Champs-Élysées. This wide boulevard runs through Paris and is called la plus belle avenue du monde. Lined by high-end shops and eateries, as well as the Arch of Triumph in the middle, it is undoubtedly the most beautiful avenue in the world that I’ve walked along.
Unlike last year, when Coronavirus prohibited the parade, this year, it will resume. Bastille Day is celebrated across the globe wherever French ex-patriots, people of French ancestry, and Francophiles live.
HISTORY OF FRENCH FRIES: NATIONAL FRENCH FRY DAY
Today is National French Fry Day. While no one knows who began this celebration, placing in on July 13 is significant in that the important French holiday is the next day, July 14, for Bastille Day.
History of French Fries
Some French people might call the delectable potato confection Belgian Fries, and there is evidence that they may have originated there.
One story is that the phrase “French Fried Potatoes” first appeared in English in 1856 in the cookbook Cookery for Maids of All Work by E. Warren.
Another story, which is more likely, is that they were first called “French Fries” by American soldiers stationed in Belgium during World War I. After first tasting them, the Yanks called them “French” fries as it was the official language of their fellow Belgian soldiers.
A Belgian journalist claims that a 1781 family manuscript tells of deep-fried potatoes in the Spanish-Netherlands (now Belgium) before the 1680s. The fact that potatoes did not arrive in that area until around 1735 makes this a hot potato. Eating potatoes for food was popularized in France by King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, who wore potato blossoms in their buttonholes and hair.
Potatoes are not native to Europe, but came from the New World, when Spanish conquistadors brought them back from Peru in the early 15th century. This is why J.R.R. Tolkien, at the suggestion of his careful readers, removed them from his mid-60s versions of his Hobbit and Lord of the Rings books, but the movies did not.
HISTORY OF JOHN CALVIN
On July 10, 1509, in Noyon, France, was born Jean Cauvin, known to us as John Calvin. Of all the leaders of the Protestant Reformation, none were more significant in forming biblical theology or ecclesiastic thought than this one man. Calvin’s teaching and tradition penetrated more of the world than any of the other Protestant traditions.
He would most influence the worldview of Western Europe, the UK, and the Americas up until the 20th-century. His organization of the church government in Geneva would influence the church polity of Presbyterianism. His theology would influence the Congregational (Puritan) as well as German and Dutch Reformed Churches. Though they did not fellowship with Calvinistic churches, some Baptists and Unitarians often contained aspects of his theology.
John Calvin’s Influence on America
Many of the ideas incorporated into the American Constitution were done so by men inspired by John Calvin. He had a healthy view of the depravity of man, the need for checks-and-balances in government, the division of powers, and provision for the rightful and orderly succession of rulers. Founding Father James Madison was strongly influenced by Reverend John Witherspoon, the only clergy signer of the Declaration of Independence.
HISTORY OF JAMES MADISON
In this, the last of our articles on the Founding Fathers, we look at James Madison. He has correctly been called “the Father of the Constitution,” and one might think that the Constitution became active on July 5, 1776, but this is not how it happened.
HISTORY OF THE 4TH OF JULY: ALEXANDER HAMILTON
Alexander Hamilton has gained new popularity recently, in large part due to the 2015 Broadway musical “Hamilton” by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Birth of Alexander Hamilton
Hamilton was born in Charlestown, Nevis, in the Caribbean, out of wedlock to Rachel Faucette, of British & French Huguenot descent. She had been married to and had a son with Johann Michael Lavien when she fell in love with the Scottish James Hamilton. She left her husband and their son and moved in with James Hamilton, where she lived with him in Nevis and on St. Croix. Alexander took his natural father’s surname.
Though he owned his paternity of Alexander, his Scottish father had abandoned them when Alexander was around ten when he’d learned her original husband intended to divorce her on the grounds of “adultery and desertion,” hoping to “spare her the charge of bigamy.” His mother ran a small provisions shop operated by the five female slaves she owned. When she died of yellow fever when he was 13, she left him 34 books, and he was mostly self-educated.
We know this polymath as a writer, publisher, printer, merchant, scientist, moral philosopher, international diplomat, and inventor.
In music, he invented the glass harmonica, but he also invented the Franklin stove and started the first lending library and fire brigade in Philadelphia.
He did experiments in electricity and developed the lightning rod. He was considered:
America’s best scientist, inventor, diplomat, writer, and business strategist, and he was also one of its most practical, though not most profound, political thinkers. — Isaacson, Walter. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life
Ben Franklin in America
Born on January 17, 1706 *, in Boston, he was one of the earliest and oldest of the American Founding Fathers. He served as a lobbyist to England, was first Ambassador to France, and has been called “The First American.”
HISTORY OF THE 4TH OF JULY: JOHN ADAMS
Before John Adams became the first Vice President of the United States under George Washington, second President of the United States, the first resident of the White House, and writer of the Massachusetts State Constitution he had a role during the Revolutionary War period as one of the creators of the Declaration of Independence.
John Adams and the Committee of Five
HISTORY OF THE 4th OF JULY: THOMAS JEFFERSON
“The Third President is the Muse of American life, the chief articulator of our national value system and our national self-identity. Jefferson was a man of almost unbelievable achievement: statesman, man of letters, architect, scientist, book collector, political strategist, and utopian visionary. But he is also a man of paradox: liberty-loving slaveholder, Indian-loving relocationist, publicly frugal and privately bankrupt, a constitutional conservative who bought the Louisiana Territory in 1803.”
As the US will soon celebrate their Independence Day, Canadians have a celebration of their own. Canada Day (Fête du Canada) celebrates the anniversary of July 1, 1867, when the three independent colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick were united into a single dominion. On that date the British North American Act, known today as the Constitution Act, officially confederated Canada. While it was still a subject of the British Empire, Dominion Day as it was originally called (or Le Jour de la Confederation in French) marked this new beginning. It was renamed to Canada Day in 1982.
Canada Day: Birthday of Canada?
Canada Day is called “the birthday of Canada” but differs from the U.S. holiday in that it did not become separate from the British Empire until 1982 when it gained complete independence with the Constitution Act of 1982. And they didn’t have to fight a Revolutionary War. Nevertheless, Canada still enjoys its status in the British Commonwealth as a federal parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy, with the British Queen as head of state. So they get a Queen and live in the New World, something that the U.S. envies. We have created in her place a synthetic royalty: Hollywood movie stars.
HISTORY OF JULY
The month of July was renamed for Julius Caesar, who was born in that month. Before that, it was called Quintilis in Latin, meaning the fifth month in the ancient Roman calendar. This was before January became the first month of the calendar year about the year 450 BC. We currently use the more contemporary Gregorian calendar — recent as in AD 1582 — which makes use of Anno Domini, meaning “in the year of our Lord” counting from the birth of Jesus. As we’ve previously discussed, in this calendar, Jesus was born curiously 4 to 6 years BC or “Before Christ.”
Calendar and Julius
The Gregorian calendar was a reform of the Julian calendar, which was itself a reform of the previous Roman calendar. The Julian calendar was introduced by Julius Caesar himself in 46 BC, where he added — probably after returning from an African military campaign in late Quntilis (July) — an additional 67 days by putting two intercalary months between November and December, as Cicero tells us at the time. This took care of some of the leap year problems. The Romans, after his death, renamed Quintilis to Iulius (July) in honor of his birth month.