On This Day
1772 – The first traveler’s cheques, which could be used in 90 European cities, were issued by the London Credit Exchange Company.
A traveler’s cheque[a] is a medium of exchange that can be used in place of hard currency. They can be denominated in one of a number of major world currencies and are preprinted, fixed-amount cheques designed to allow the person signing it to make an unconditional payment to someone else as a result of having paid the issuer for that privilege.
They were generally used by people on vacation in foreign countries instead of cash, as many businesses used to accept traveler’s cheques as currency. The incentive for merchants and other parties to accept them lay in the fact that as long as the original signature (which the buyer is supposed to place on the cheque in ink as soon as they receive the cheque) and the signature made at the time the cheque is used are the same, the cheque’s issuer will unconditionally guarantee payment of the face amount even if the cheque was fraudulently issued, stolen, or lost. This means that a traveler’s cheque can never ‘bounce’ unless the issuer goes bankrupt and out of business. If a traveler’s cheque were lost or stolen, it can be replaced by the issuing financial institution.
The financial institutions issuing traveler’s cheques earn income in a number of ways. Firstly, they would charge a fee on sale of such cheques. In addition, they can earn interest for the period that the cheques are uncashed, while not paying any interest to the cheque holder, making them effectively interest-free loans. Also, the foreign exchange rate commonly used on traveler’s cheques (generally based on rates applicable at the time of purchase) is less favourable compared to other forms of obtaining foreign currency, especially those on credit card transactions (which use a rate applicable at the statement date). On the other hand, the set up cost and the cost of issuing and processing traveler’s cheques is much higher than for credit card transactions. The cheque issuer carries the exchange rate risk, and would normally pay a fee to hedge against the risk.
Their use has been in decline since the 1990s, when a variety of more convenient alternatives, such as credit cards, debit cards, pre-paid currency cards and automated teller machines, became more widely available and were easier for travelers to use. Traveler’s cheques are no longer widely accepted and cannot easily be cashed, even at the banks that issued them. The alternatives to traveler’s cheques were generally cheaper and more flexible. Travel money cards offer similar features to traveler’s cheques, including prepurchase of foreign currency at rates applicable at date of purchase, but offer greater ease and flexibility, such as use like a regular credit card, no need to get change in a local currency, besides other features.
1773 – The hymn that became known as “Amazing Grace”, then titled “1 Chronicles 17:16–17” is first used to accompany a sermon led by John Newton in the town of Olney, Buckinghamshire, England.
“Amazing Grace” is a Christian hymn published in 1779, with words written by the English poet and Anglican clergyman John Newton (1725–1807).
Newton wrote the words from personal experience. He grew up without any particular religious conviction, but his life’s path was formed by a variety of twists and coincidences that were often put into motion by others’ reactions to what they took as his recalcitrant insubordination. He was pressed (conscripted) into service in the Royal Navy, and after leaving the service, he became involved in the Atlantic slave trade. In 1748, a violent storm battered his vessel off the coast of County Donegal, Ireland, so severely that he called out to God for mercy, a moment that marked his spiritual conversion. He continued his slave trading career until 1754 or 1755, when he ended his seafaring altogether and began studying Christian theology.
Ordained in the Church of England in 1764, Newton became curate of Olney, Buckinghamshire, where he began to write hymns with poet William Cowper. “Amazing Grace” was written to illustrate a sermon on New Year’s Day of 1773. It is unknown if there was any music accompanying the verses; it may have simply been chanted by the congregation. It debuted in print in 1779 in Newton and Cowper’s Olney Hymns but settled into relative obscurity in England. In the United States, however, “Amazing Grace” was used extensively during the Second Great Awakening in the early 19th century. It has been associated with more than 20 melodies, but in 1835 it was joined to a tune named “New Britain” to which it is most frequently sung today.
With the message that forgiveness and redemption are possible regardless of sins committed and that the soul can be delivered from despair through the mercy of God, “Amazing Grace” is one of the most recognisable songs in the English-speaking world. Author Gilbert Chase writes that it is “without a doubt the most famous of all the folk hymns”, and Jonathan Aitken, a Newton biographer, estimates that it is performed about 10 million times annually. It has had particular influence in folk music, and has become an emblematic African American spiritual. Its universal message has been a significant factor in its crossover into secular music. “Amazing Grace” saw a resurgence in popularity in the U.S. during the 1960s and has been recorded thousands of times during and since the 20th century, occasionally appearing on popular music charts.
Born On This Day
Michael Joseph Owens (January 1, 1859 – December 27, 1923) was an inventor of machines to automate the production of glass bottles.
He was born in Mason County, West Virginia on January 1, 1859. He left school at the age of 10 to start a glassware apprenticeship at J. H. Hobbs, Brockunier and Company in Wheeling, West Virginia.
A ten-arm owens automatic bottle machine, ca. 1910, photo by Jacob Riis
In 1888 he moved to Toledo, Ohio and worked for the Toledo Glass Factory owned by Edward Drummond Libbey. He was later promoted to foreman and then to supervisor. He formed the Owens Bottle Machine Company in 1903. His machines could produce glass bottles at a rate of 240 per minute, and reduce labor costs by 80%.
Owens and Libbey entered into a partnership and the company was renamed the Owens Bottle Company in 1919. In 1929 the company merged with the Illinois Glass Company to become the Owens-Illinois Glass Company.
He died on December 27, 1923.
U.S. Patent 534,840 Apparatus for blowing glass
U.S. Patent 548,587 Machine for blowing glass
U.S. Patent 548,588 Machine for blowing glass
U.S. Patent 766,768 Glass Shaping Machine
U.S. Patent 774,690 Glass Shaping Machine
Ray Sawyer (February 1, 1937 – December 31, 2018) was an American singer and vocalist with the 1970s rock band, Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show. Though primarily a backing vocalist and occasional percussionist on congas or maracas, he sang lead on their hit song “The Cover of Rolling Stone” and was a recognisable presence in the band owing to the eyepatch and cowboy hat he wore. He was also the uncle of the vocalist of Wild Fire, Zack Sawyer.
Sawyer lost his right eye in a 1967 automobile accident. He said the following about his life around the time of his accident: “I must have played all the clubs from Houston to Charleston until I decided I was going insane from too much beans and music, and I gave it up. I saw a John Wayne movie and proceeded to Portland, Oregon, to be a logger complete with plaid shirt, caulk boots, and pike pole. On the way my car slipped on the road and the accident left me with the eye patch I now wear. When I recovered I ran straight back to the beans and music and vowed, ‘here I’ll stay’.” Dr. Hook had many hit singles such as “Sylvia’s Mother”, “The Cover of Rolling Stone”, “A Little Bit More”, “Only Sixteen”, “Walk Right In”, “Sharing the Night Together”, “When You’re in Love with a Beautiful Woman”, “Better Love Next Time”, “Sexy Eyes”, “Girls Can Get It”, and “Baby Makes Her Bluejeans Talk”.
From 1988 to October 2015, Sawyer toured the nostalgia circuit as “Dr. Hook featuring Ray Sawyer,” under license from bandmate Dennis Locorriere, who tours separately and owns the Dr. Hook trademark. Sawyer retired in 2015 and died after a short illness, aged 81 in December 2018.
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