Alcatraz closes …


The Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary (often just referred to as Alcatraz) was a maximum high-security federal prison on Alcatraz Island, one and a quarter miles off the coast of San Francisco, which operated from 1934 to this date in 1963 when it closed.

The main prison building was built in 1910–12 during its time as a United States military prison; Alcatraz had been the site of a citadel since the 1860’s. Acquired by the United States Department of Justice on October 12, 1933, the island became a prison of the Federal Bureau of Prisons in August 1934 after the buildings were modernized to meet the requirements of a top-notch security prison. Given this high security and the location of Alcatraz in the cold waters and strong currents of San Francisco Bay, the prison operators believed Alcatraz to be escape-proof and America’s strongest prison.

Alcatraz was designed to hold prisoners who continuously caused trouble at other federal prisons. One of the world’s most notorious and best-known prisons over the years, Alcatraz housed some 1,576 of America’s most ruthless criminals including Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud (the “Birdman of Alcatraz”) and George “Machine Gun” Kelly. It also provided housing for the Bureau of Prisons staff and their families. A total of 36 prisoners made 14 escape attempts during the 29 years of the prison’s existence, the most notable of which was the violent escape attempt of May 1946 known as the “Battle of Alcatraz,” and the arguably successful “Escape from Alcatraz” by Frank Morris, John Angelin and Clarence Angelin in June 1962 in one of the most intricate escapes ever devised. Faced with high maintenance costs and a poor reputation, Alcatraz closed in 1963.


The prison cells typically measured 9 feet by 5 feet and 7 feet high, were primitive and lacked privacy, with a bed, a desk, and a washbasin and toilet on the back wall, with few furnishings except a blanket. African-Americans were segregated due to racial abuse being prevalent. D-Block housed the worst inmates, and five cells at the end of it were designated as “The Hole,” where badly behaving prisoners would be sent for periods of punishment, often brutally so.

Today the penitentiary is a public museum and one of San Francisco’s major tourist attractions, with some 1.5 million visitors annually. The former prison is now operated by the National Park Service. (from Wikipedia)



First Liquid Rocket Launched by Robert Goddard


Robert Hutchings Goddard was an American engineer, professor, physicist, and inventor who is credited with creating and building the world’s first liquid-fueled rocket, which he successfully launched on this date in 1926, ushering in an era of space flight and innovation. Goddard and his team launched 34 rockets between 1926 and 1941, achieving altitudes as high as 1.6 miles and speeds as fast as 550 mph.

Goddard’s work as both theorist and engineer anticipated many of the developments that were to make spaceflight possible. He has been called the man who ushered in the Space Age. Two of Goddard’s 214 patented inventions — a multi-stage rocket (1914), and a liquid-fuel rocket (1914) — were important milestones toward spaceflight. His 1919 monograph A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes is considered one of the classic texts of 20th-century rocket science. Goddard successfully applied three-axis control, gyroscopes and steerable thrust to rockets to effectively control their flight.

Although his work in the field was revolutionary, Goddard received very little public support for his research and development work. The press sometimes ridiculed his theories of spaceflight. As a result, he became protective of his privacy and his work. Years after his death, at the dawn of the Space Age, he came to be recognized as the founding father of modern rocketry. He not only recognized the potential of rockets for atmospheric research, ballistic missiles and space travel, but was the first to scientifically study, design and construct the rockets needed to implement those ideas. (from Wikipedia)


The rubber band was invented this date in 1845. Can you imagine life without them?


Ides of March


The Ides of March is the name of the 15th day of March in the Roman calendar. In modern times, the term Ides of March is best known as the date on which Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC. Caesar was stabbed (23 times) to death in the Roman Senate by a group of conspirators led by Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus. His death marks a turning point in Roman history. Some Romans celebrate the Ides of March as new year celebrations. In Canada, the day is celebrated with the drinking of Bloody Caesars. (from

Cotton Gin Patented


Eli Whitney was an American inventor best known for inventing the cotton gin in 1793. This was one of the key inventions of the Industrial Revolution and shaped the economy of the Antebellum South. Whitney’s invention made upland short cotton into a profitable crop, which strengthened the economic foundation of slavery in the United States.

A cotton gin is a machine that quickly and easily separates cotton fibers from their seeds, allowing for much greater productivity than manual cotton separation. The fibers are then processed into various cotton goods such as linens, while any undamaged cotton is used largely for textiles, including clothing. Seeds may be used to grow more cotton or to produce cottonseed oil.


Although simple handheld roller gins had been used in India and other countries since at least 500 AD, the first modern mechanical cotton gin was patented this date in 1794 by Whitney. However, the Indian worm-gear roller gin, invented sometime around the sixteenth century, has remained virtually unchanged up to the present time. Whitney’s gin used a combination of a wire screen and small wire hooks to pull the cotton through, while brushes continuously removed the loose cotton lint to prevent jams. It revolutionized the cotton industry in the United States, but has been identified as an inadvertent contributing factor to the outbreak of the American Civil War. (from Wikipedia)

 PHOTO:  A model of a 19th-century cotton gin on display at the Eli Whitney Museum in Hamden, Connecticut.

Harvard University named …


Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, established in 1636, whose history, influence, and wealth have made it one of the world’s most prestigious universities.

Established originally by the Massachusetts legislature, it was named this date in 1639 for clergyman John Harvard (its first benefactor) and is the United States’ oldest institution of higher learning. Although never formally affiliated with any denomination, the early College primarily trained Congregationalist and Unitarian clergy. Its curriculum and student body were gradually secularized during the 18th century, and by the 19th Century Harvard had emerged as the central cultural establishment among Boston elites.


Following the American Civil War, President Charles W. Eliot’s long tenure (1869–1909) transformed the college and affiliated professional schools into a modern research university; Harvard was a founding member of the Association of American Universities in 1900. James Bryant Conant led the university through the Great Depression and World War II and began to reform the curriculum and liberalize admissions after the war. The undergraduate college became coeducational after its 1977 merger with Radcliffe College. (from Wikipedia)

Paper money issued ….


The U. S. government first issued paper money this date in 1862. Paper currency was issued by the Massachusetts Bay Colony to fund military expeditions. Other colonies quickly took up the practice of issuing paper notes. The Continental Congress issued paper currency to finance the Revolutionary War in 1775.

Development of the banknote began in the Tang Dynasty during the 7th century, with local issues of paper currency, although true paper money did not appear until the 11th century, during the Song Dynasty. Its roots were in merchant receipts of deposit during the Tang Dynasty (618–907), as merchants and wholesalers desired to avoid the heavy bulk of copper coinage in large commercial transactions.

Most banknotes are made from cotton paper, sometimes mixed with linen, abaca, or other textile fibers. Generally, the paper used is different from ordinary paper: It is much more resilient, resists wear and tear, and also does not contain the usual agents that make ordinary paper glow slightly under ultraviolet light. Unlike most printing and writing paper, banknote paper is infused with polyvinyl alcohol or gelatin, instead of water, to give it extra strength.

In the United States, banknotes last an average of three years until they are no longer fit for circulation, after which they are collected for destruction, usually recycling or shredding. A banknote is removed from the money supply by banks or other financial institutions because of everyday wear and tear from its handling. Banknote bundles are passed through a sorting machine that determines whether a particular note needs to be shredded or are removed from the supply chain by a human inspector if they are deemed unfit for continued use – for example, if they are mutilated or torn. (from Wikipedia)

Barbie’s birthday …


Barbie is a fashion doll manufactured by American toy-company Mattel, Inc., and American businesswoman Ruth Handler is credited with the creation of the doll using a German doll as her inspiration.

Ruth Handler watched her daughter Barbara play with paper dolls and noticed that she often enjoyed giving them adult roles. At the time, most children’s toy dolls were representations of infants. Realizing that there could be a gap in the market, Handler suggested the idea of an adult-bodied doll to her husband, a co-founder of the Mattel toy company. He was unenthusiastic about the idea, as were Mattel’s directors.

During a trip to Europe in 1956 with her children Barbara and Kenneth, Ruth Handler came across a German toy doll called Bild Lilli. The adult-figured doll was exactly what Handler had in mind, so she purchased three of them. She gave one to her daughter and took the others back to Mattel. The Lilli doll was based on a popular character appearing in a comic strip drawn for the newspaper Bild. Lilli was a blonde bombshell, a working girl who knew what she wanted and was not above using men to get it. The Lilli doll was first sold in Germany in 1955, and although it was initially sold to adults, it became popular with children who enjoyed dressing her up in outfits that were available separately.


Upon her return to the United States, Handler redesigned the doll (with help from an engineer), and the doll was given a new name, Barbie, after Handler’s daughter. The doll made its debut at the American International Toy Fair in New York this date in 1959, the date also used as Barbie’s official birthday.

The first Barbie doll wore a black and white zebra striped swimsuit and signature topknot ponytail, and was available as either a blonde or brunette. The doll was marketed as a “Teen-age Fashion Model,” with her clothes created by Mattel fashion designer Charlotte Johnson. Around 350,000 Barbie dolls were sold during the first year of production.

Louis Marx and Company sued Mattel in March 1961. After licensing Lilli, they claimed that Mattel had “infringed on Greiner & Hausser’s patent for Bild-Lilli’s hip joint, and also claimed that Barbie was “a direct take-off and copy” of Bild-Lilli. The company additionally claimed that Mattel “falsely and misleadingly represented itself as having originated the design.” Mattel counter-claimed and the case was settled out of court in 1963. In 1964, Mattel bought Greiner & Hausser’s copyright and patent rights for the Bild-Lilli doll for $21,600.


Ruth Handler believed that it was important for Barbie to have an adult appearance, and early market research showed that some parents were unhappy about the doll’s chest, which had distinct breasts. Barbie’s appearance has been changed many times. In January 2016, Mattel announced that it would add tall, curvy, and petite body shapes to its line-up of dolls. Alternative skin tones, hair styles, and hair colors will also be added.

Barbie was one of the first toys to have a marketing strategy based extensively on television advertising, which has been copied widely by other toys. It is estimated that over a billion Barbie dolls have been sold worldwide in over 150 countries, with Mattel claiming that three Barbie dolls are sold every second. (from Wikipedia)