On this day:
1847 – Samuel Colt sells his first revolver pistol to the United States government.
Samuel Colt (July 19, 1814 – January 10, 1862) was an American inventor and industrialist from Hartford, Connecticut. He founded Colt’s Patent Fire-Arms Manufacturing Company (today Colt’s Manufacturing Company), and made the mass production of the revolver commercially viable.
Colt’s first two business ventures were producing firearms in Paterson, New Jersey and making underwater mines; both ended in disappointment. But his business expanded rapidly after 1847, when the Texas Rangers ordered 1,000 revolvers during the American war with Mexico. During the American Civil War, his factory in Hartford supplied firearms both to the North and the South. Later, his firearms were prominent during the settling of the western frontier. Colt died in 1862 as one of the wealthiest men in America.
Colt’s manufacturing methods were at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution. His use of interchangeable parts helped him become one of the first to use the assembly line efficiently. Moreover, his innovative use of art, celebrity endorsements, and corporate gifts to promote his wares made him a pioneer in the fields of advertising, product placement, and mass marketing.
1865 – The New York Stock Exchange opens its first permanent headquarters near Wall Street in New York City.
The New York Stock Exchange (abbreviated as NYSE and nicknamed “The Big Board”), is an American stock exchange located at 11 Wall Street, Lower Manhattan, New York City, New York. It is by far the world’s largest stock exchange by market capitalization of its listed companies at US$19.3 trillion as of June 2016. The average daily trading value was approximately US$169 billion in 2013. The NYSE trading floor is located at 11 Wall Street and is composed of 21 rooms used for the facilitation of trading. A fifth trading room, located at 30 Broad Street, was closed in February 2007. The main building and the 11 Wall Street building were designated National Historic Landmarks in 1978.
The NYSE is owned by Intercontinental Exchange, an American holding company that it also lists (NYSE: ICE). Previously, it was part of NYSE Euronext (NYX), which was formed by the NYSE’s 2007 merger with Euronext. NYSE and Euronext now operate as divisions of Intercontinental Exchange.
The NYSE has been the subject of several lawsuits regarding fraud or breach of duty and in 2004 was sued by its former CEO for breach of contract and defamation.
1903 – Topsy, an elephant, is electrocuted by the owners of Luna Park, Coney Island.
The Edison film company shoots the film Electrocuting an Elephant of Topsy’s death.
Topsy (circa 1875 – January 4, 1903) was a female Asian elephant put to death at a Coney Island, New York amusement park by electrocution in January 1903.
Born in Southeast Asia around 1875, Topsy was secretly brought into the United States soon thereafter and added to the herd of performing elephants at the Forepaugh Circus, who fraudulently advertised her as the first elephant born in America. During her 25 years at Forepaugh, Topsy gained a reputation as a “bad” elephant and, after killing a spectator in 1902, was sold to Coney Island’s Sea Lion Park. When Sea Lion was leased out at the end of the 1902 season and redeveloped into Luna Park Topsy was involved in several well-publicized incidents, attributed to the actions of either her drunken handler or the park’s new publicity-hungry owners, Frederick Thompson and Elmer Dundy. Their end-of-the-year plans to hang Topsy at the park in a public spectacle and charge admission were stopped by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The event was cut back to invited guests and press only and Thompson and Dundy agreed to use a more sure method of strangling the elephant with large ropes tied to a steam-powered winch with poison and electrocution planned for good measure. On January 4, 1903 in front of a small crowd of invited reporters and guests Topsy was fed poison, electrocuted, and strangled, the electrocution ultimately killing her. Amongst the press that day was a crew from the Edison Manufacturing movie company who filmed the event. Their film of the electrocution part was released to be viewed in coin-operated kinetoscopes under the title Electrocuting an Elephant.
The story of Topsy fell into obscurity for the next 70 years but has become more prominent in popular culture, partly due to the fact that the film of the event still exists. In popular culture Thompson and Dundy’s killing of Topsy has switched attribution, with claims it was an anti-alternating current demonstration organized by Thomas A. Edison during the War of Currents. Historians point out that Edison was never at Luna Park and the electrocution of Topsy took place 10 years after the War of Currents.
1944 – World War II: Operation Carpetbagger, involving the dropping of arms and supplies to resistance fighters in Europe, begins
In late 1943, the 22nd Anti-Submarine Squadron of the Eighth Air Force was disbanded at RAF Alconbury and its aircraft used to form the 36th and 406th Bomb Squadrons. After some shuffling of commands, these two squadrons were placed under the provisional 801st Bomb Group at RAF Harrington at the beginning of 1944 and the first “Carpetbagger” missions were carried out by this unit under the control of General “Wild Bill” Donovan’s Office of Strategic Services (OSS).
In April 1944, the group moved to RAF Harrington (Station 179), a more secluded and thus more secure airbase. A month later, in advance of the expected invasion of Europe, it was expanded to four squadrons to increase its capabilities and to pick up workload from RAF Bomber Command; the two new squadrons were the 788th and 850th Bomb Squadrons.
The Group had already adopted the nickname of “Carpetbaggers” from its original operational codename. In August 1944, the group dropped the “Provisional” status and absorbed the names of the 492d Bombardment Group from RAF North Pickenham, which had stood down after severe losses in its initial operations but stayed at Harrington; its squadrons became the 856th, 857th, 858th and 859th Bomb Squadrons. From January 1944 to the end of the war, the Group, in liaison with the British Special Operations Executive and later the Special Forces Headquarters (SFHQ) in London, dropped spies and supplies to the resistance forces of France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway.
During a hiatus in operations from mid-September 1944 to the end of 1944, the Group ferried gasoline to depots on the Continent for two weeks to supply advancing Allied armies, then three squadrons went into training for night bombing operations, whilst the 856th participated in the return of Allied airmen on the Continent who had either evaded capture or had walked out of Switzerland after that country relaxed its internment practices. This exercise was carried out mostly in Douglas C-47 Skytrains assigned to the group originally for insertion operations during the previous summer.
In December 1944, the 859th was sent on Detached Service with the Fifteenth Air Force in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations with the 2641st Special Group (Provisional) at Brindisi, Italy. The 856th Bomb Squadron, after completing the personnel recovery mission, resumed Carpetbagger operations on a limited basis during the bad weather of the winter of 1945, while the remaining two squadrons (the 857th and 858th) participated in medium altitude bombing from late December 1944 through March 1945.
In the spring of 1945, Carpetbagger operations resumed but not to the extent of the previous year. The 857th was detached and sent to RAF Bassingbourn (91st Bomb Group) at the end of March 1945, while the 856th and 858th dropped small numbers of agents and sabotage teams into the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Germany. Operations came to an end at Harrington at the end of April 1945, though a few special OSS missions, such as returning dignitaries to formerly occupied countries, carried on until the Group disbanded and returned to the United States in early July 1945.
Born on this day:
1785 – Jacob Grimm, German philologist and mythologist (d. 1863)
Jacob Ludwig Carl Grimm (4 January 1785 – 20 September 1863) was a German philologist, jurist, and mythologist. He is known as the discoverer of Grimm’s law (linguistics), the co-author with his brother Wilhelm of the monumental Deutsches Wörterbuch, the author of Deutsche Mythologie and, more popularly, as one of the Brothers Grimm and the editor of Grimm’s Fairy Tales.[a]
1809 – Louis Braille, French educator, invented Braille (d. 1852)
Louis Braille (/ˈbreɪl/, About this sound listen (help·info); French: [lwi bʁaj]; 4 January 1809 – 6 January 1852) was a French educator and inventor of a system of reading and writing for use by the blind or visually impaired. His system remains known worldwide simply as braille.
Blinded in both eyes as a result of an early childhood accident, Braille mastered his disability while still a boy. He excelled in his education and received scholarship to France’s Royal Institute for Blind Youth. While still a student there, he began developing a system of tactile code that could allow blind people to read and write quickly and efficiently. Inspired by the military cryptography of Charles Barbier, Braille constructed a new method built specifically for the needs of the blind. He presented his work to his peers for the first time in 1824.
In adulthood, Braille served as a professor at the Institute and had an avocation as a musician, but he largely spent the remainder of his life refining and extending his system. It went unused by most educators for many years after his death, but posterity has recognized braille as a revolutionary invention, and it has been adapted for use in languages worldwide.
1883 – Johanna Westerdijk, Dutch pathologist and academic (d. 1961)
Johanna “Hans” Westerdijk (Dutch pronunciation: [joːˈɦɑnaː ɦɑns ˈʋɛstərˌdɛik]; 4 January 1883 – 15 November 1961) was a Dutch plant pathologist and the first female professor in the Netherlands.
1895 – Leroy Grumman, American engineer and businessman, co-founded Grumman Aeronautical Engineering Co. (d. 1982)
Leroy Randle “Roy” Grumman (4 January 1895 – 4 October 1982) was an American aeronautical engineer, test pilot, and industrialist. In 1929, he co-founded Grumman Aeronautical Engineering Co., later renamed Grumman Aerospace Corporation, and now part of Northrop Grumman.
1902 – John McCone, American businessman and politician, 6th Director of Central Intelligence (d. 1991)
John Alexander McCone (January 4, 1902 – February 14, 1991) was an American businessman and politician who served as Director of Central Intelligence from 1961 to 1965, during the height of the Cold War.
1920 – William Colby, American intelligence officer, 10th Director of Central Intelligence (d. 1996)
William Egan Colby (January 4, 1920 – April 27, 1996) spent a career in intelligence for the United States, culminating in holding the post of the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) from September 1973 to January 1976.
During World War II Colby served with the Office of Strategic Services. After the war he joined the newly created Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Before and during the Vietnam War, Colby served as chief of station in Saigon, chief of the CIA’s Far East Division, and head of the Civil Operations and Rural Development effort, as well as overseeing the Phoenix Program. After Vietnam, Colby became director of central intelligence and during his tenure, under intense pressure from the United States Congress and the media, adopted a policy of relative openness about U.S. intelligence activities to the Senate Church Committee and House Pike Committee. Colby served as DCI under President Richard Nixon and President Gerald Ford and was replaced with future president George H.W. Bush on January 30, 1976.
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