This Day in History – December 11 – 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.




1903 – British expedition to Tibet begins.

Also called the British invasion of Tibet. The reason for the invasion was based on rumor. Britain feared that China, which controlled Tibet, was going to give it to Russia, thus opening a path for Russia to invade British controlled India. Despite China’s denial, Britain invaded Tibet to establish a presence there. The Dalai Lama was forced to flee. (Nothing new there.) A Tibetan force of 1,500, mostly armed with swords and flintlock muskets, was decimated by British machine gun fire. The British commander urged his gunners to “bag” as many of the fleeing enemy as they could. An estimated 600-700 Tibetans were killed. The British campaign continued victorious and Tibet was eventually forced to capitulate. The terms of the negotiation allowed Britain to trade in Tibet, prohibited Tibet from having diplomatic relations with any other foreign power, and required that Tibet had to pay a large indemnity to Britain.

Tibet essentially had to pay reparations for the right to be invaded. Imperialism at its finest.


1919 – Boll weevil monument dedicated in Enterprise, Alabama.

The reason for the monument is because the boll weevil destroyed cotton crops, farmers turned to planting peanuts, which in turn brought greater prosperity to the area. It might be the only known monument honoring a pest. The statue of a woman raising a pedestal with an enlarged boll weevil in it has been the target of much vandalism over the years.

Well, driving to Alabama to see the Boll Weevil Monument certainly would seem to be a necessary addition to anybody’s bucket list.


1928 – National League President, John Heydler, proposes that major league baseball adopt the designated hitter rule.

A tenth player who would bat in place of the usually weak hitting pitcher. The American League was against the rule, mostly because the National League had suggested it. Baseball Commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis was reportedly in favor of the rule, but it was abandoned before it reached him. It wasn’t until 1973 that the American League adopted the rule. The National League opposed it then, mostly because the American League wanted it.

It was a bad idea in 1928 and it’s a bad idea now.



1863 – Annie Jump Cannon.

Astronomer. Valedictorian at Wellesley College, she helped create the Harvard Classification System, which organized and classified stars based their temperatures and spectral types. She was nearly deaf because of an illness, probably scarlet fever, and this caused her to be somewhat isolated socially, so she threw herself into her work. She worked mostly in the field of spectroscopy, the study of the interaction between matter and electromagnetic radiation. Cannon was originally hired, with some other women, by the Harvard Observatory to map and define every star in the sky. Men operated the telescopes and took photographs while women examined and catalogued the data. She developed a system of dividing stars into spectral classes and in her lifetime identified around 350,000.

Cannon published catalogs of stellar spectra, was curator of astronomical photography at Harvard, and received honorary doctorate degrees from around the world. She and her female counterparts were also criticized for doing “men’s work” and not being housewives. Maybe because of her physical handicap, Cannon never married. Like many dominant women of that era, she was a suffragist.

Fascinating woman. To accomplish so much in an era when it was even more difficult for women to be recognized for their achievements. And to do it with a handicap no less. Although her deafness was probably an asset when having to work around men.


1937 – Jim Harrison.

Novelist and poet. Harrison lived in the UP, Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He embraced the outdoors and wrote mostly about the woodsy, rural lifestyle of the UP. He was a hard-living, hard-drinking, hard-writing man who despised literary pretension. He also became upset whenever his writing was compared to that of Hemingway. Harrison’s best-known work is probably “Legends of the Fall” which was made into a movie starring Brad Pitt. He survived a stint in Hollywood as a screenwriter. A quote of his from that period: “If you’ve known a lot of actresses and models, you return to waitresses because at least they smell like food.” He died from a heart attack at age 78, sitting at his desk writing in longhand.

With great joy, I read many of Jim Harrison’s books years ago. His words were close to the land and part of it. His name is going to go back on my reading list.


1939 – Tom Hayden.

Political and anti-war activist. Hayden’s claim to fame includes being one of the Chicago Seven defendants and his marriage to actress Jane Fonda. Neither role garnered him many points in conservative circles. He was a Freedom Rider during the Civil Rights struggle and was a co-founder of SDS, Students for a Democratic Society. He was a radical who also served more traditionally in the California Assembly and State Senate. He ran for higher political offices in California but was never elected. Hayden died in 2016.

If the trial had been televised, the Judge Hoffman vs The Chicago Seven might have been the highest grossing reality show of all time. The drama and shenanigans in the courtroom were certainly fun to read about. For me at the time Hayden was a bit player with Abbie, Jerry, and the Judge stealing most of the scenes.



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 like to thank the following photographers and videographers for the use of their images:

* Lead-In Image (Cotton Bolls) –   Alaettin YILDIRIM /

* British “Younghusband” Expedition (video) – bietala /

* Boll Weevil Monument (video) – This Is Alabama /

* Designated Hitter (video) – David Pakman Show /

* Annie Jump Cannon (video) – My Girl Heroes /

* Jim Harrison (video) – PBS NewsHour /

* Tom Hayden (video) – The Nation /

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