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This Day in History – November 19 – Hijinx, Humor, and Insight

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NewsWhistle is pleased to feature Gary Jenneke’s “This Day In History” column.

You can read the original at Gary’s THIS DAY IN HISTORY blog — or scroll down to enjoy Gary’s unique look at life’s comings and goings.

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THIS DAY IN HISTORY… NOVEMBER 19

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1873 – Boss Tweed convicted.

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William Tweed was a corrupt New York City politician, head of a Democratic political machine called Tammany Hall. He wielded influence in the 1850s and 60s, pilfered government funds to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, and became the third largest landowner in New York City. He kept New York’s burgeoning Irish population in check which made him valuable to the city’s elite. He exercised control with force and by dispensing favors and money. One example, in the building of a courthouse, a carpenter was paid $360,000 for one month’s work.

Tweed was constantly under attack by cartoonists in New York papers and it infuriated him. They portrayed him as a corpulent figure with a huge diamond stickpin on his chest. He said he didn’t mind if negative things were written about him because most of his constituents couldn’t read, but the pictures were killing him. Tweed’s undoing continued with the Orange Riot of 1871. He allowed an Irish Protestant parade to celebrate an Orange victory over the Catholics. A mob of Irish Catholics attacked the parade and in the ensuing riot sixty people were killed, displeasing the city’s elite. Without their support, investigations began of his corrupt practices. Convicted, he briefly escaped to Spain but was recaptured, extradited, and died in prison.

A corrupt politician going to prison–now there’s a trend I wouldn’t mind seeing continue.

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1923 – Oklahoma State Senate impeaches Governor John Walton.

Walton had declared martial law in Oklahoma to combat Ku Klux Klan terrorism. To do this he suspended the writ of habeas corpus, which the state constitution forbid any government official to do. The crackdown inflamed the legislature, most of whom were members of the Klan. When first elected, Walton ushered in some popular reforms designed to help farmers. He also supported education and instituted a program to give free textbooks to all Oklahoma school children. A true progressive, he also prosecuted companies ignoring state regulations and he increased spending on welfare. On the negative side he appointed family and friends to government posts, some of the positions being unnecessary. There were also suggestions he took bribes for political favors and his distractors accused him of socialism. He made enough enemies in his short reign that the impeachment charges were easily passed.

It is uncertain what his greatest crime was, his role as a corrupt politician or being anti-Klan.

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1984 – Disaster in San Juanico.

Located just outside Mexico City, a liquid petroleum gas farm experienced a series of explosions that killed 500-600 people, injured 5,000-7,000 more, and destroyed much of the town. A gas cloud from a leaked tank drifted into an open flame and exploded. Over the next twelve hours subsequent eruptions followed as gas tank after gas tank exploded. It has been recorded as one of the worst industrial accidents of all time.

If this was huge news in the U.S. at the time, I have no memory of reading about it. Hard to believe that such a catastrophic event escaped my notice. Maybe those in charge of what we need to know assigned it to a back page.

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Birthdays:

1805 – Ferdinand de Lesseps.

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Builder of the Suez Canal. De Lesseps was a French diplomat who led the development of building a canal that connected the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. He later tried to copy that success by building a sea level canal across the Isthmus of Panama. Beset by disease (yellow fever and malaria) and corruption, the project was abandoned and later sold to the U.S government. In the aftermath of the failure, France prosecuted and convicted de Lesseps of misuse of funds.

I’ve read “Path Between the Seas” by David McCullough and he documents what began as a noble attempt by de Lesseps eventually turning into a huge Ponzi scheme.

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1831 – James Garfield. 20th President of the United States.

A successful Union general in the Civil War, Lincoln convinced him to resign his commission and run for the House of Representatives. Lincoln remarked that it was easier to find major generals than loyal Republican congressmen. From Ohio, he served nine terms in the House before winning the 1880 Republican nomination. His first order of business upon being elected was to fight corruption and bring back prestige to the Presidency. After only two hundred days in office he was assassinated.

The beginning of an effective presidency cut short by an assassin’s bullet. The great American tradition of bullets over brains, now backed by the NRA, goes back a long ways.

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1938 – Ted Turner.

Media mogul, billionaire and philanthropist, Turner founded the 24-hour TV news channel CNN. He also owns the Atlanta Braves baseball team.

Despite his charitable giving of untold millions to good causes, my image of him is more negative. In the 1991 World Series, inarguably the greatest World Series ever played, I remember him sitting in the stands, with his movie star wife, doing the racially offensive and insulting “tomahawk chop.” Justice was served, at least to me, in that the Minnesota Twins prevailed over the Atlanta Braves.

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ABOUT GARY JENNEKE

At various junctures of his life, Gary has been an indifferent grade school student, poor high school student, good Navy radioman, one-time hippie, passable college student, inveterate traveler, dedicated writer, miscast accountant (except for one interesting stint at a Communist café), part-time screenwriting teacher, semi-proud veteran, unsuccessful retiree and new blogger.

You can reach him at gary@newswhistle.com.

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CREDITS

The above information was sourced from the following sites and newspapers.

Sources:

OnThisDay.com

Wikipedia.org

OKHistory.org 

WhiteHouse.gov

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We’d also like to thank the following photographers and videographers for the use of their images:

* Lead-In Image (political cartoon) –  Everett Historical / Shutterstock.com – “Boss William Tweed depicted among the ruins of Tammany Hall after the election of 1871 in a Thomas Nast political cartoon.”

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* Boss Tweed (political cartoon) – Everett Historical / Shutterstock.com – “Thomas Nast political cartoon depicting New York City Chamberlain Peter Sweeny, Tammany Hall boss William Tweed, Controller Richard ‘Slippery Dick’ Connolly, Mayor Oakey Hall as vultures, 1870s.”

* San Juanico Disaster (video) – ExcélsiorTV Noticias / YouTube.com

* Ferdinand de Lesseps (portrait) –  lynea / YouTube.com – “Ferdinand de Lesseps – vintage engraved illustration – “La mosaique ” edited by A. Bourdilliat 1875 – Paris.”

* James A. Garfield (video) – CBS Sunday Morning / YouTube.com

* Ted Turner (video) – Investors Archive / YouTube.com

* Outro (Man-In-Museum Cartoon) – SkyPics Studio / Shutterstock.com

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OTHER DAYS IN HISTORY …

December 5

* December 11

* December 16

December 18 

* December 22

December 28

January 3

* January 4

January 7

January 11

* January 14

* January 15

January 19

January 22

January 24

January 29

February 1

February 3

February 5

February 9

* February 10

* February 14

February 15

February 20

February 21

February 25

February 28

March 2

March 6

March 9

March 12

March 14

March 17

March 19

March 21

March 23

March 27

March 29

April 2

April 3

April 6

April 11

* April 13

April 18

April 22

April 23

April 28

April 29

May 2

May 3

May 6

May 9

May 10

May 13

May 17

* May 24

May 26

May 29

June 1

June 3

June 8

June 10

June 13

June 17

June 18

June 21

June 24

June 28

June 29

July 2

July 3

* July 9

July 13

July 15

July 19

July 23

July 25

July 30

July 31

* August 3

August 7

August 10

August 11

August 16

August 17

August 21

August 24

August 25

* August 28

August 31

September 2

September 5

September 6

September 8

September 11

September 12

September 15

September 16 

September 17

September 21

September 23

September 24

September 25

September 28

September 30

October 1

October 3

October 7

October 10

October 12

October 14

* October 16

October 18

October 24

October 25

October 27

October 28

October 30

November 3

* November 4

November 5

November 8

November 9

November 10

November 13

November 14

November 16

* November 17

November 23

November 30

* Stay tuned for more!

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