This Day in History – January 9 – 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.




1349 – Massacre of Jews in Basel, Switzerland.

This was at the time of the Black Plague when as much as 40 percent of the population of Europe died. Nobody knew what caused it and panic ensued. Jews were believed to having suffered less from the plague and a rumor spread that they were poisoning the wells. The Passover rite of cleansing their homes of leavened bread may have been responsible for the lower mortality rates for Jews. Deprived of a food source, disease-carrying rats avoided Jewish houses. As the designated scapegoat, the entire adult Jewish population of Basel (roughly 600 to 700 people) was killed. Their children were forced to convert to Catholicism.

When the next pandemic hits, and it’s only a matter of time given the reckless use of antibiotics, there again will be the need for a scapegoat. If that determination is based upon skin color, it won’t be a great surprise. At least not in this nation. Be a good reason to build more walls.


1493 – First sighting of a manatee by Christopher Columbus.

While sailing off the coast of what is now the Dominican Republic, three manatees, also known as sea cows, were sighted. Columbus initially thought they were mermaids and reported in his ship’s journal “they were not half as beautiful as painted.”

Mistaking a manatee for a mermaid? Those guys had been at sea way too long.


1799 – William Pitt the Younger introduces income tax in England.

william pitt the younger shutterstock

Son of William Pitt the Elder, he became Prime Minister of England at age 24. A liberal thinker and reformer, he set about reorganizing Britain’s system of taxation. Initially he was successful by taxing only the rich and cutting government waste. He also introduced an inheritance tax ,but when England went to war with France, more revenue was needed and the income tax was born. Under his system, the more income someone made the higher percentage of tax they paid. Unpopular at first, it gradually became accepted as a patriotic duty in the war against Napoleon. Pitt’s reform programs were also set aside due to war.

Sound vaguely familiar does it? War, and its accompanying defense industry, all wrapped up in a flag, historically and currently has justified its primary need for this source of revenue.



1859 – Carrie Chapman Catt.

Suffragist who was President of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and founder of the League of Women Voters. Born in Ripon, Wisconsin, Catt was the only woman in her graduating class from the college that would later become Iowa State University. Even as a child, she realized her mother did not have the same voting rights as her father and this eventually led her to the suffrage movement. Catt was an effective leader, and was speaker at many events. She realized the issue had worldwide implications and this led her to found the International Woman Suffrage Alliance. The idea was to foster democracy throughout the world. She was instrumental in coming up with the plan that helped pass the 19th Amendment. Catt remained honorary president of the League of Women Voters until her death in 1947.

Going from fighting for the right to vote to having a woman run for President might seem like progress. Yet I have a feeling Catt would be dismayed that our country has not progressed further.


1901 – Murat Bernard “Chic” Young.

Cartoonist who created the comic strip “Blondie.” It first appeared in newspapers in 1930 and immediately became America’s most popular comic strip. In his lifetime Young drew over 15,000 Blondies, and with other cartoonists now doing it, the strip is still syndicated in papers today. At his peak Young had an estimated 52 million readers a day.

Unlike John Lennon’s infamous remark about the Beatles being more popular than Jesus, Young wisely never stated that Blondie was read by more people than the Bible.


1902 – Simone de Beauvoir.

French writer, feminist, political activist, and journalist. She was one of the leading figures in the modern feminist movement. A philosopher in her own right, she had a long-term romantic relationship with existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. They never married and both pursued other romantic liaisons. During WWII both were involved with the French Resistance Underground. In 1949 de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex was published. With its feminist theme, and critical of the role forced upon women in the world, it was promptly put on a list of banned books by the Catholic Church. De Beauvoir was a prolific writer, publishing novels, biographies, an autobiography, books on travel, philosophy, existentialism, and political activism. She also led a very unapologetic personal life. In addition to her relationship with Sartre she had an affair with American writer Nelson Algren and was also bisexual.

I read one of her books a long time ago when I was young and still possessed a well-functioning brain.



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 websites:

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

Lead-In Art (“Blondie” U.S. postage stamp, 1995) –  spatuletail /

blondie postage stamp shutterstock

* Massacre of Jews (video) – HistoryPod /

* Manatees (video) – Brave Wilderness /

* William Pitt, The Younger – Georgios Kollidas / – “William Pitt, the Younger (1759-1806). Engraved by J.Pofselwhite and published in London in The Gallery Of Portraits With Memoirs encyclopedia, United Kingdom, 1833.”

* Carrie Chapman Catt (“SOF Statement” video) – footagefarm /

* Blondie TV credits (video) – Gilmore Box /

* Simone de Beauvoir (video) – Philosophy Matters /

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