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August 26, 2005

On This Day

August 26, 1839


On 26 August 1839, the officers of the U.S. brig Washington made a shocking discovery: they found a Spanish slave schooner lying at anchor near Montauk Point, New York, clearly in distress. The ship proved to be the Spanish schooner Amistad (meaning "friendship" in Spanish).

The ship was carrying a cargo of some fifty slaves illegally brought from Africa to Cuba in the summer of 1839; they were en route from Havana, Cuba to Puerto Principe, Cuba, when the black captives rose and overpowered the white crew. The slaves killed the captain and one of the crew, sparing the lives of two Spanish passengers whom they thought could sail the vessel back to Africa.

The Spaniards, however, tricked the Africans by sailing the vessel northward and westward by night in hopes that the Amistad would be intercepted. For two months, the vessel had sailed aimlessly until they ran low on food and water.

After being discovered off Long Island, the Africans were arrested and taken to New Haven, Connecticut, where they were charged with piracy and murder. Their trial aroused great public interest and helped to galvanize the abolitionist movement in America. Abolitionists argued that the Africans were illegally brought to Cuba, and therefore were free men and women who were acting in self-defense when they rose and killed the captain and crew of the Spanish vessel. The two surviving Spanish passengers hoped their vessel and the illegal cargo of slaves would be returned to them by the court.

Eventually the case was argued before the Supreme Court by former President John Quincy Adams. The Africans were acquitted of all charges and most decided to return to Africa as free men and women after the trial ended.

The case was a defining moment in the struggle to abolish slavery in the United States. The American Missionary Association, which raised funds for the defense and repatriation of the Africans, continued its work by educating Freedmen after the Civil War and founding a number of black colleges, including Fisk, Hampton, Howard, and Talledega.

August 26, 1883


After reawakening on May 20, 1883, Krakatau generated mild detonations from Perboewatan throughout May and June. By mid-June the summit crater of Perboewatan had been largely destroyed and the cite of eruption widened to include several new vents near Danan. By mid-July, banks of pumice were common features found floating in the Sunda Straits. However, some of the earliest tephra was basaltic, indicating that recharge of basalt magmas into the magma chamber beneath Krakatau may well have played a role in the intiation of these early eruptions.

Sunday, August 26. At 12:53 p.m., Krakatau delivered the opening salvo to a climactic eruption that would last throughout the evening of August 27. The initial blast generated an ear-shattering fusillade accompanied by a black churning cloud of volcanic debris that rose quickly to 25 km above the island. Over the next several hours, it would widen dramatically to the northeast, rising to a height of at least 36 km. The intensity of the eruptions increased throughout Sunday, frightening the coastal communities of western Sumatra, western Java, and adjacent islands. Later in the day, these villages would be battered by a series of devasting tsunamis generated by pyroclastic flows plunging into the sea. The worst was yet to come.

Monday, August 27. This frightening display of volcanic power would culminate in a series of at least four stupendous eruptions that began at 5:30 a.m., climaxing in a colossal blast that literally blew Krakatau apart. The noise was heard over 4600 km away, throughout the Indian Ocean, from Rodriguez Island and Sri Lanka in the west, to Australia in the east. Two-thirds of the island collapsed beneath the sea into the underlying, partially vacated magma chamber. About 23 square kilometers of the island, including all of Perboewatan and Danan, subsided into a caldera about 6 km across. At an original height of 450 m, Danan had collapsed to depth of 250 m below sealevel.

The cataclysmic blasts of August 27 generated mountainous tsunamis, up to 40 m tall, that ravaged coastlines across the Sunda Straits. Many of the closest islands were completely submerged. After first being overwhelmed by massive pyroclastic flows (see below), Sebesi Island northeast of Krakatau, was innudated by mammoth sea waves. These tsunami stripped away all vegetation, washed ~3000 people out to sea, and destroyed all signs of human occupation. Although located at seemingly safe distance, 80 km east of the Sunda Straits, the low-lying Thousand Islands were buried by at least 2 m of seawater and their inhabitants had to save themselves by climbing trees.

Eyewitness accounts of the massive waves came from passengers of the Loudon, who survived the barrage only through the heroic efforts of its Captain Lindemann. The ship was anchored in Lampong Bay, near the village of Telok Betong when the first of several waves arrived on Monday morning:

"Suddenly we saw a gigantic wave of prodigious height advancing toward the seashore with considerable speed. Immediately, the crew . . .managed to set sail in face of the imminent danger; the ship had just enough time to meet with the wave from the front. The ship met the wave head on and the Loudon was lifted up with a dizzying rapidity and made a formidable leap... The ship rode at a high angle over the crest of the wave and down the other side. The wave continued on its journey toward land, and the benumbed crew watched as the sea in a single sweeping motion consumed the town. There, where an instant before had lain the town of Telok Betong, nothing remained but the open sea."

Other ships in Lampong Bay were not as lucky. The wave lifted the steamship Berouw up the Koeripan River valley, depositing the ship over a mile inland, thirty feet above sealevel, killing all 28 of its crew members.

One of the most harrowing accounts was that of a Javanese field hand working in paddy fields located 8 km inland on Java, near the town of Merak. The following is his account of events at ~10:30 a.m., Monday morning:

" . . .all of a sudden there came a great noise. We . . .saw a great black thing, a long way off, coming towards us. It was very high and very strong, and we soon saw that it was water. Trees and houses were washed away . . .The people began to . . . run for their lives. Not far off was some steep sloping ground. We all ran towards it and tried to climb up out of the way of the water. The wave was too quick for most of them, and many were drowned almost at my side. . . . There was a general rush to climb up in one particular place. This caused a great block, and many of them got wedged together and could not move. Then they struggled and fought, screaming and crying out all the time. Those below tried to make those above them move on again by biting their heels. A great struggle took place for a few moments, but . . . one after another, they were washed down and carried far away by the rushing waters. You can see the marks on the hill side where the fight for life took place. Some . . . dragged others down with them. They would not let go their hold, nor could those above them release themselves from this death-grip." -- From A. Scarth, 1999

Nobody knows how many people were washed out to sea by these enormous waves. For months after the eruption, the Sunda Straits where congested with thick pumice banks, often containing fifty or more corpses. The official number of dead was calculated by Dutch authorities at 36,417, 90 percent of which were killed by the tsunamis. Two weeks after the disaster, one traveler describes his observations where the village of Tjaringin once stood:

"Thousands of corpses of human beings and also carcasses of animals still await burial, and make their presence apparent by the indescribable stench. They lie in knots and entangled masses impossible to unravel, and often jammed along with coconut stems among all that had served these thousands as dwellings, furniture, farming implements, and adornments for houses and compounds." -- From Zeilinga de Boer and Sanders, 2002

August 26, 1920


The 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote, is formally adopted into the U.S. Constitution by proclamation of Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby. The amendment was the culmination of more than 70 years of struggle by woman suffragists. Its two sections read simply: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex" and "Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."

America's woman suffrage movement was founded in the mid 19th century by women who had become politically active through their work in the abolitionist and temperance movements. In July 1848, 200 woman suffragists, organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, met in Seneca Falls, New York, to discuss women's rights. After approving measures asserting the right of women to educational and employment opportunities, they passed a resolution that declared "it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise." For proclaiming a women's right to vote, the Seneca Falls Convention was subjected to public ridicule, and some backers of women's rights withdrew their support. However, the resolution marked the beginning of the woman suffrage movement in America.

The first national woman's rights convention was held in 1850 and then repeated annually, providing an important focus for the growing woman suffrage movement. In the Reconstruction era, the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted, granting African American men the right to vote, but Congress declined to expand enfranchisement into the sphere of gender. In 1869, the National Woman Suffrage Association was founded by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton to push for a woman suffrage amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Another organization, the American Woman Suffrage Association, led by Lucy Stone, was formed in the same year to work through the state legislatures. In 1890, these two groups were united as the National American Woman Suffrage Association. That year, Wyoming became the first state to grant women the right to vote.

By the beginning of the 20th century, the role of women in American society was changing drastically: Women were working more, receiving a better education, bearing fewer children, and three more states (Colorado, Utah, and Idaho) had yielded to the demand for female enfranchisement. In 1916, the National Woman's Party (formed in 1913 at the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage) decided to adopt a more radical approach to woman suffrage. Instead of questionnaires and lobbying, its members picketed the White House, marched, and staged acts of civil disobedience.

In 1917, America entered World War I, and women aided the war effort in various capacities that helped break down most of the remaining opposition to woman suffrage. By 1918, women had acquired equal suffrage with men in 15 states, and both the Democratic and Republican parties openly endorsed female enfranchisement.

In January 1918, the woman suffrage amendment passed the House of Representatives with the necessary two-thirds majority vote. In June 1919, it was approved by the Senate and sent to the states for ratification. Campaigns were waged by suffragists around the country to secure ratification, and on August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment, giving it the two-thirds majority of state ratification necessary to make it the law of the land.

The package containing the certified record of the action of the Tennessee legislature was sent by train to the nation's capital, arriving in the early hours of August 26. At 8 a.m. that morning, Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby signed it without ceremony at his residence in Washington. None of the leaders of the woman suffrage movement were present when the proclamation was signed, and no photographers or film cameras recorded the event. That afternoon, Carrie Chapman Catt, head of the National American Suffrage Association, was received at the White House by President Woodrow Wilson and Edith Wilson, the first lady.

August 26, 1980


Workers at Harvey's Resort and Casino in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, discover a 1,000-pound bomb disguised as a copy machine in an executive suite. A ransom note that had been attached to the massive explosive demanded $3 million to be paid in return for instructions on how to defuse the bomb.

As experts from the bomb squad examined the complex, handmade explosive containing a control box with 28 switches, the hotel was evacuated and the adjoining streets shut down. However, the nearby casino remained open to the skeptical gamblers who refused to leave.

The extortionist demanded that a helicopter fly $3 million in cash to an area south of the Lake Tahoe airport where a strobe light would give further coded instructions. But when the FBI violated the ransom instructions by contacting the helicopter by radio, the plan went awry and the bomb squad was left to dismantle the bomb.

From the Sahara Tahoe Hotel, experts tried to disassemble the bomb with robots. Unfortunately, they were unsuccessful: The bomb exploded, demolishing the hotel. Luckily, none of the gamblers were killed.

After remaining at large for nearly a year, the four perpetrators were arrested by FBI agents in 1981. John Waldo Birges, who had lost a large amount of money at the casino in the months before the bomb exploded, orchestrated the plan with the help from his girlfriend, Ella Williams, and two other men. His sons later testified that he stole the TNT from a construction site. Birges was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Harvey's Resort and Casino was eventually rebuilt.


August 26, 1429

Joan of Arc Enters Paris

Excerpt from The Hundred Years War:

"...The treaty of Troyes, extraordinarily advantageous to the English cause, is agreed with only one of the two sides in France's civil war. Under its terms Henry V is to be the acknowledged heir of the French king, Charles VI, to the exclusion of the dauphin. Within two weeks of the treaty Henry marries Catherine, daughter of the king of France.

In 1421 the couple have a son, also christened Henry. Before the infant is a year old, both his father and his maternal grandfather have died. For the second time in the Hundred Years' War a king of England has a valid claim to the crown of France. The boy is crowned Henry VI of England at Westminster in 1429, and Henry II of France in Paris in 1431.

Meanwhile the dauphin, the rightful king by descent, proclaims himself Charles VII of France. But he is confined south of the Loire, with Paris in the hands of his enemies (the English and Burgundians in alliance). Charles is known mockingly as the king of Bourges, where he maintains his court.

There is political impasse and desultory warfare until a dramatic development in 1429. For six months the English have been besieging Orléans, an important town on the Loire commanding the route south towards Bourges. In April a French force arrives to raise the siege. It is unusual in that it is led by a young peasant girl, Joan of Arc.

Inspired by Joan, the French drive the English north from Orléans. The raising of the siege proves the turning point in the long war. Joan leads Charles VII to Reims, where his consecration in 1429 brings him for the first time the undivided allegiance of the French people. Even the death of Joan at English hands, in 1431, does nothing to stem the new surge of national enthusiasm and success.

The duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good, acknowledges the trend when he makes peace with Charles VII in 1435 at Arras. This treaty ends the civil war. In 1437 the king enters Paris, now once again the capital. The French kingdom is almost back to normal..."

All of which would be meaningless to me if not for On This Day August 26, 1959 when a certain cute little bundle of joy named Joatmoaf was born.

- Joatmoaf -

August 26, 2005 at 05:35 PM | Permalink


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Happy Birthday, you fascist!

Posted by: Liberal Larry at Aug 26, 2005 6:39:17 PM

Just doin' my part to give you Progressives something to focus your anger at, as per Article II, Section IV of the VRWC Members Handbook.


Posted by: Joatmoaf at Aug 26, 2005 7:01:14 PM

Joat! Happy, happy birthday, you young thing...

I can't believe I'm older than you! Does this mean I get to boss you around??? :)

Posted by: John Roberts Oppresses Cross-Dressing Toads at Aug 26, 2005 9:11:32 PM

Not if I can have the 19th Amendment repealed.

Posted by: Joatmoaf at Aug 26, 2005 10:35:58 PM

Happy Birthday (it seems we share one),sorry it's late, we just got power on and I am catching up.

Posted by: Pete at Aug 27, 2005 2:38:38 PM

Do NOT try to tell me that your mother named you "Joatmoaf"! Happy b-day anyway.

Posted by: robin at Aug 27, 2005 9:21:26 PM

Happy LATE birthday...hope it was a good one.

Posted by: Cr'Q'T at Aug 29, 2005 3:17:04 PM

You too.

Posted by: Joatmoaf at Aug 29, 2005 5:49:13 PM


Posted by: bird of paridise at Oct 2, 2005 5:03:47 PM