Plans for a bridge connecting San Francisco and Marin County were more than a decade in the making when, on this day in 1933, construction finally began. For about a century before the bridge’s construction, ferries were the primary means of travel across the bay. Though the idea of a bridge was circulating as early as 1872, it wasn’t until the 1920s that people thought the idea was feasible, in terms of both bridge technology and costs. The final suspension design was the result of a collaboration among Joseph Strauss, Irving Morrow, Charles Alton Ellis, and Leon Moisseiff. The bridge opened with much fanfare in 1937; its 75th anniversary will be marked this May. Above, the early stages of the bridge’s construction, taken in 1934.
The crows nest bell from the Titanic on exhibit in London in 2010. The owner of more than 5,000 artifacts from the ship plans to auction them off as a group in April.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — The owner of more than 5,000 artifacts recovered from the Titanic intends to auction them off in April on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the famous ship.
But don’t expect to be able to bid on any one item from the ship. The artifacts will only be sold as a single lot, according to a filing by Premier Exhibitions (PRXI), an Atlanta-based company that now exhibits the artifacts at various locations around the world.
The filing from Premier said that the collection had an appraised value in 2007 of $189 million. It said it has added to its collection since that time.
Written by Chip Wood
Saturday, 24 December 2011
During this season of massive over-commercialization, you may find it hard to believe there was a time when Christmas was no big deal. There were no stores full of toys, no songs playing 24 hours a day, and no Christmas trees with so many presents under them that they fill most of the room.
In fact, there were no Christmas trees at all. For most of the 2,000 years since the birth of Christ, Christmas was not a special holiday. If it was commemorated at all, it was with a candlelight service at the local church or cathedral and a special dinner at home. And that was pretty much it until the middle of the 19th century, when one man’s novella helped to transform the celebration.
He has been called “the man who invented Christmas.” His name is Charles Dickens. He is the author of a simple story he called A Christmas Carol.
Although Dickens is rightly regarded as one of the greatest writers in the history of the English language — he is the author of 20 novels, none of which has ever been out of print — there was a time when his popularity was at an all-time low.
The year was 1843. Dickens’ books and columns weren’t selling very well, his bank account was overdrawn and he was facing the possibility of declaring bankruptcy.
Frantic, he sat down a few weeks before Christmas and wrote a novella that he hoped would keep his creditors at bay. But his publishers flatly rejected his offering. No one would pay to have it printed and distributed.
So Dickens took an amazing gamble: He printed it himself. It was an exercise in vanity publishing long before the world knew that term. The author told friends of the risk he was taking and said it might mark the end of his career as a writer.
He should have had more confidence in the story he told. The book was an instant sensation, selling out the first printing of several thousand copies in just four days. A second printing was rushed through and sold out before the new year began. In no time at all, Dickens was forced to order a third and then fourth and fifth printing.
Then, someone adapted the story for the stage and A Christmas Carol became one of the most popular theater productions of all time. I dare say you can’t find a city of any size in the English-speaking world where there isn’t at least one production of Dickens’ immortal play being performed this holiday season. And Hollywood has produced dozens of versions, including more than a few knock-offs, copycats, parodies and pastiches. If Dickens were still collecting royalties today, he would be one of the wealthiest billionaires on Earth.
By the way, A Christmas Carol was not only an incredible commercial success, it was also a critical hit, too. William Makepeace Thackeray, at the time Dickens’ most severe critic, acknowledged the incredible power of the story:
The last two people I heard speak of it were women; neither knew the other, or the author, and both said, by way of criticism, “God bless him!” What a feeling this is for a writer to be able to inspire … and what a reward to reap!
Today, we are all familiar with the story of the tight-fisted miser who said of Christmas, “Bah! Humbug!” Yet after visits by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, Scrooge was transformed. As Tiny Tim says at the end, “God bless us all, every one.”
But A Christmas Carol did more than restore Dickens’ reputation and bank account. It also transformed what had been, up until then, a relatively minor holiday.
As historian Les Standiford has noted, in the early 19th century in England, the Christmas holiday “was a relatively minor affair that ranked far below Easter, causing little more stir than Memorial Day or St. George’s Day today. In the eyes of the relatively enlightened Anglican Church, moreover, the entire enterprise smacked vaguely of paganism and, were there Puritans still around, acknowledging the holiday might have landed one in the stocks.”
Dickens’ biographer Peter Ackroyd and others have credited the novelist with single-handedly creating the modern Christmas holiday. Oh, not the contemporary orgy of shopping, spending and ostentatious display. In A Christmas Carol there are no gaudy decorations, no Christmas trees and, except for “the big prize turkey” at the end, no presents at all.
The only “gifts” exchanged are love, friendship and goodwill. Yet in this one small book, Dickens inspired his contemporaries, transformed a holiday and created an immortal message for us all. The lesson of A Christmas Carol is one of kindness, consideration and charity. Let us hope it lasts another 150 years — or even longer.
I am indebted to my good friend Alex Green for the inspiration for today’s column. I have not only used many of the thoughts and ideas he expressed in his own column, I have shamelessly (but with his permission) borrowed his headline.
His column is called “Spiritual Wealth.” Sadly, you cannot subscribe to it. It is available only to members of the Oxford Club, where he serves as investment director.
However, some of his most powerful columns have been published in a book you can get. It is called Beyond Wealth: The Road Map to a Rich Life, and it is available wherever books are sold. In fact, it is currently on sale at Amazon.com. I encourage you to order at least one copy now (new or used, printed or electronic) for yourself and many more next year, when it will make a wonderful Christmas present.
Please accept my very best wishes for a most joyous Christmas, surrounded by friends and family and filled with the true meaning of Christ’s Mass.
Until next time, keep some powder dry.
Chip Wood was the first news editor of The Review of the News and also wrote for American Opinion, our two predecessor publications. He is now the geopolitical editor of Personal Liberty Digest, where his Straight Talk column appears weekly. This article first appeared in PersonalLiberty.com and has been reprinted with permission.
On this day in 1888, Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, suffering from severe depression, cuts off the lower part of his left ear with a razor while staying in Arles, France. He later documented the event in a painting titled Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear. Today, Van Gogh is regarded as an artistic genius and his masterpieces sell for record-breaking prices; however, during his lifetime, he was a poster boy for tortured starving artists and sold only one painting.
Vincent Willem van Gogh was born on March 30, 1853, in the Netherlands. He had a difficult, nervous personality and worked unsuccessfully at an art gallery and then as a preacher among poor miners in Belgium. In 1880, he decided to become an artist. His work from this period–the most famous of which is The Potato Eaters (1885)–is dark and somber and reflective of the experiences he had among peasants and impoverished miners.
In 1886, Van Gogh moved to Paris where his younger brother Theo, with whom he was close, lived. Theo, an art dealer, supported his brother financially and introduced him to a number of artists, including Paul Gauguin, Camille Pisarro and Georges Seurat. Influenced by these and other painters, Van Gogh’s own artistic style lightened up and he began using more color.
In 1888, Van Gogh rented a house in Arles in the south of France, where he hoped to found an artists’ colony and be less of a burden to his brother. In Arles, Van Gogh painted vivid scenes from the countryside as well as still-lifes, including his famous sunflower series. Gauguin came to stay with him in Arles and the two men worked together for almost two months. However, tensions developed and on December 23, in a fit of dementia, Van Gogh threatened his friend with a knife before turning it on himself and mutilating his ear lobe. Afterward, he allegedly wrapped up the ear and gave it to a prostitute at a nearby brothel. Following that incident, Van Gogh was hospitalized in Arles and then checked himself into a mental institution in Saint-Remy for a year. During his stay in Saint-Remy, he fluctuated between periods of madness and intense creativity, in which he produced some of his best and most well-known works, including Starry Night and Irises.
In May 1890, Van Gogh moved to Auvers-sur-Oise, near Paris, where he continued to be plagued by despair and loneliness. On July 27, 1890, he shot himself and died two days later at age 37.
Van Gogh chops off ear. (2011). The History Channel website. Retrieved 12:09, December 22, 2011, from http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/van-gogh-chops-off-ear.
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On this day in 1773, a group of Massachusetts colonists disguised as Mohawk Indians board three British tea ships moored in Boston Harbor and dump 342 chests of tea into the water.
Now known as the “Boston Tea Party,” the midnight raid was a protest of the Tea Act of 1773, a bill enacted by the British parliament to save the faltering British East India Company by greatly lowering its tea tax and granting it a virtual monopoly on the American tea trade. The low tax allowed the company to sell its tea even more cheaply than that smuggled into America by Dutch traders. Many colonists viewed the act as yet another example of Britain’s taxation tyranny.
In most American ports, the resistance group known as the Sons of Liberty scared off British tea-carrying ships by threatening their captains with tarring, feathering or worse. However, when three tea ships, the Dartmouth, the Eleanor and the Beaver, arrived in Boston Harbor and the colonists demanded that the tea be returned to England, Thomas Hutchinson, the British-appointed governor of Massachusetts, refused to permit the ships to leave. Patriot leader Samuel Adams organized the now-famous “tea party” with about 60 members of the Sons of Liberty. The British tea dumped into Boston Harbor on the night of December 16 was worth more than $700,000 in today’s currency.
Parliament, outraged by the blatant destruction of British property, enacted the Coercive Acts, called the “Intolerable Acts” by the colonists, in 1774. The Coercive Acts closed Boston to merchant shipping, established formal British military rule in Massachusetts, made British officials immune to criminal prosecution in America, and required colonists to quarter British troops. The colonists subsequently called the first Continental Congress to consider a united American resistance to the British.
Sons of Liberty dump British tea. (2011). The History Channel website. Retrieved 3:41, December 16, 2011, from http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/sons-of-liberty-dump-british-tea.