This Day in History – April 16 – Hijinx, Humor, and Insight


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.




1457BC – Battle of Megiddo.

This was a battle between Egyptian forces and Canaanites in the Jezreel Valley. The Egyptians emerged victorious, and it helped established their empire. Throughout the ages there have been thirty-four major battles in this same region, including the Crusades, Mongol invasions, Napoleon versus the Ottoman Empire, and the British and Ottomans in WWI. Napoleon called it the most natural battleground of the whole earth.

So that’s it. All these years we’ve been thinking religion and politics have been responsible for the turmoil in that troubled region when it was all due to it being the perfect arena for a fight.


1881 – Bat Masterson’s last gunfight.

Masterson’s first gunfight was in 1876 in Sweetwater, Texas over a dance hall girl, and by 1881 he had established a reputation as a gunman, buffalo hunter, Indian fighter, gambler, and lawman. His associates included the Earp brothers, Doc Holliday, and Buffalo Bill Cody. In the spring of 1881, Masterson was working as a faro dealer in Tombstone when his brother Jim wired him from Dodge City that he was in a dispute with business partners and his life was threatened. Masterson took a train to Dodge City, upon arriving accosted his brother’s partners, and a gunfight erupted. He shot from behind a wagon and his rivals from the corner of a building. Others joined in the fray for both sides before the sheriff and deputies put a stop to it. One of those opposing Masterson was wounded, as was a bystander. Being it was a fair fight, nobody was jailed, although Masterson was fined eight dollars and he and his brother were told to leave town. After the turn of the century Masterson changed lifestyles, moved to New York City and became a journalist.

Doesn’t sound all that noble or heroic but the myth creators, maybe Masterson himself, painted a different picture.


1797 – Spithead Mutiny.

The first of two major mutinies that took place in the Royal Navy. Sailors on sixteen ships of the channel fleet went on strike. Their demands included better pay and food, increased leave, and compensation for being injured on the job. The strikers, or mutineers, elected delegates to negotiate, and discipline was maintained aboard the ships. Unpopular or hated officers were sent ashore. Another demand was that there be no repercussions against the strikers. On April 26th, another fifteen ships joined the mutiny. On May 5th, the authorities acquiesced and met most of the demands, including a royal pardon for all involved.

Encouraged by their success, a second mutiny, the Nore Mutiny, took place aboard ships of another British fleet. This one was less well organized, however. Some ships slipped away and gunfire erupted between mutinous and non-mutinous warships. Disagreements arose between the participants and the effort fell apart. These mutineers were met with less leniency. The leaders were hung from the yardarm and many more were imprisoned and flogged.

Organization, preparation, and good leadership are key when trying to achieve a goal or dealing with a crisis. The different results of the two mutinies are a good example of that. Or the 2020 pandemic might be another example.



1786 – John Franklin.

British naval officer and explorer. As a young officer, Franklin participated in the Battle of Trafalgar and the Battle of New Orleans. Later in his career he became an Arctic explorer. His quest was the Northwest Passage, finding a northern route from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans. The Franklin Expedition sailed from England on May 5th, 1845, with two ships and 134 men. They reached Greenland, where five men were discharged and sent home on other ships. On July 26th, a whaler saw the two ships moored to an iceberg near Baffin Island. That was the last contact with the expedition. Both ships were lost and all 129 men perished. The ships became entrapped in the ice  in September 1846, and were still trapped in April 1848, when 105 surviving crew members tried to walk to safety. Franklin had already died by this time. Everybody eventually succumbed to to scurvy, botulism, or starvation. Later expeditions found the remains of the ships and the men. There is no clear documentation of what exactly took place.

There are epic stories of survival in extreme environments such as Shackleton and Amundsen in the Antarctic, and others of death like Scott’s return from the South Pole. The Franklin Expedition unfortunately falls into the latter.


1921 – Peter Ustinov.

Actor, director, writer, humanitarian. Ustinov’s father, a German national, worked for the German embassy in London. He became a spy for MI5 before WWII and fed British Intelligence information about Hitler’s plans. Born in London, Ustinov hated the pretension of Britain’s school system. He escaped it by turning to acting. What followed was a long and successful career on stage and film, including two Oscars for Best Supporting Actor. One was for “Spartacus” in 1961 and the other for “Topkipi” in 1965. The second half of his life was devoted more to humanitarian causes than acting or writing. He spent much of his time as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. Ustinov died in Switzerland in 2004.

One night while I was in college I was watching television. There were about four channels back then and nothing on the networks grabbed me. I tried the public station, which was quite new at the time. A portly man with an English accent stood at a board outlining his family tree. I recognized him as the actor from Spartacus. I was drawn in by Peter Ustinov, not expecting that anything so simple as the presentation of a family tree could be so droll, so funny.

In researching Ustinov, I came across an old clip of him winning his second Academy Award. He wasn’t there that evening and accepting the award for him was Jonathan Winters. They must have been friends. I would have loved to have been privy to a conversation between the two of them.  


1900 – Polly Adler.

Madam. Adler ran a succession of high end bordellos in New York City in the 20s and 30s. Born in Belarus, she immigrated to America by herself at age 12. She cleaned houses, worked as a seamstress, and in Brooklyn, met a bootlegger. She became friends with mobsters Dutch Schultz and Lucky Luciano, and in 1920 opened her first bordello. Among her patrons were high ranking politicians and celebrities, even members of the Algonquin Round Table. Her brothels were high end, where people came as much for social and intellectual reasons as the sex. Comedian Milton Berle said of her: “The world knew Polly as a madam, but her friends knew her as an intelligent woman, fun to be with, and a good cook.”  Arrested many times, she never served a serious sentence. She got out of the prostitution business in 1943, moved to Los Angeles, got a college degree at age 50, and wrote her memoirs, “A House is Not a Home” which was made into a movie. Adler died in 1962.

The Algonquin Round Table has always fascinated me. To find out it also had a sordid side doesn’t exactly come as a surprise.



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



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


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

* Lead-In Image (Comprised of 2 Photographs) – Everett Historical /

  • “Bat Masterson (1853-1921), sheriff of Dodge City, Kansas. He was portrayed by Randolph Scott in the 1947 film, TRAIL STREET. Gene Barry played him in a television series that ran from 1958-1961.”
  • “Bat Masterson (1853-1921), in his second career as a sports editor and columnist for the New York Morning Telegraph. Ca. 1920.”

* Bat Masterson – CBS Sunday Morning /

* Peter Ustinov (interview) – Archy L /

* A House Is Not A Home (video) – Oscar Hookers /

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