“We had to stand where we were because if we went outside, we would’ve died because everything was electrified. All you saw was people bleeding here, bleeding there or somebody holding somebody. You saw that everywhere you looked, it was something bad to see.”
~Barbara Chapman, Survivor of the Halifax Explosion
1865 – The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, officially ending the institution of slavery, was ratified when Georgia became the 27th state to vote in the affirmative.
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
With these words, the single greatest change wrought by the Civil War was officially noted in the Constitution.
Amendment Factoid: Mississippi was just a little late in getting around to ratifying the Amendment.
Until February 7, 2013, the state of Mississippi had never submitted the required documentation to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment, meaning it never officially had abolished slavery.
1884 – In Washington, D.C., workers placed a nine-inch aluminum pyramid atop a tower of white marble, completing the construction of an impressive monument to the city’s namesake and the nation’s first president, George Washington.
Made of some 36,000 blocks of marble and granite stacked 555 feet in the air, the monument was the tallest structure in the world at the time of its completion (overtaken by the Eiffel Tower in Paris in 1889.)
1907 – In West Virginia’s Marion County, an explosion in a network of mines owned by the Fairmont Coal Company in Monongah killed 362 coal miners. It was the worst mining disaster in American history.
There were officially 367 men in the two mines, although the actual number was much higher as officially registered workers often took their children and other relatives into the mine to help. At 10:28 a.m. an explosion occurred that killed most of the men inside the mine instantly.
An official cause of the explosion was not determined, but investigators believed that an electrical spark or one of the miners’ open flame lamps ignited coal dust or methane gas.
1917 – in the harbor of Halifax in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, the most devastating man made explosion in the pre-atomic age occurs when the Mont Blanc, a French munitions ship, exploded 20 minutes after colliding with another vessel.
Norwegian vessel Imo had left its mooring in Halifax harbor for New York City at the same time the Mont Blanc, its cargo hold packed with highly explosive munitions – 2,300 tons of picric acid, 200 tons of TNT, 35 tons of high-octane gasoline, and 10 tons of gun cotton – was forging through the harbor’s narrows to join a military convoy that would escort it across the Atlantic.
The two ships collided at 8:45 a.m., setting the picric acid ablaze. The Mont Blanc was propelled toward the shore by the collision and the crew rapidly abandoned ship.
Spectators gathered along the waterfront to witness the spectacle of the blazing ship, and minutes later it brushed by a harbor pier, setting it ablaze. The Halifax Fire Department responded quickly and was positioning its engine next to the nearest hydrant when the Mont Blanc exploded at 9:05 a.m. in a blinding white flash.
The massive explosion killed more than 2,000 people, injured another 9,000 – including blinding 200 – and destroyed almost the entire north end of the city of Halifax, including more than 1,600 homes.
The resulting shock wave shattered windows 50 miles away, and the sound of the explosion could be heard hundreds of miles away.
1923 – A presidential address was broadcast on radio for the first time as President Calvin Coolidge delivered the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress.
The New York Times, in anticipation of Coolidge’s address in its Dec. 5 edition, wrote “The voice of President Coolidge, addressing Congress tomorrow, will be carried over a greater portion of the United States and will be heard by more people than the voice of any man in history.”
1969 – At a free concert (Altamont Speedway Free Festival) performed by the Rolling Stones, eighteen-year old spectator Meredith Hunter was stabbed to death by Alan Passaro, a Hells Angels member and security guard.
Hunter (as seen in concert footage) had drawn a long-barreled .22 caliber revolver from inside his jacket. Passaro, seeing Hunter drawing the revolver, drew a knife from his belt and charged Hunter from the side, knocking Hunter’s pistol aside with his left hand and stabbing him twice with his right hand, killing him.
Passaro was arrested and tried for murder in the summer of 1971, but was acquitted after a jury viewed concert footage showing Hunter brandishing the revolver and concluded that Passaro had acted in self-defense.
1982 – The Droppin Well (or Ballykelly) bombing occurred when the Irish National Liberation Army exploded a time bomb at a lounge in Ballykelly, Northern Ireland.
The Droppin Well was targeted because it was frequented by British Army soldiers from nearby Shackleton Barracks. The bomb killed eleven soldiers and six civilians; 30 more people were injured.
1988 – Singer/songwriter Roy Orbison died of a heart attack at the age of 52.
From 1960 to 1966, 22 of his singles reached the Billboard Top 40, and two of them, Running Scared and Oh, Pretty Woman, both reached #1.
He had a career resurgence in the 1980s when he joined George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty to form the Traveling Wilburys.
Idle Thought: Roy Orbison had the sweetest voice this side of heaven … and he probably does in heaven, too.
1989 – Actress Frances Bavier died of congestive heart failure at the age of 86.
She started her acting career on Broadway but soon turned to appearances in several dramatic films, including The Day The Earth Stood Still.
However, she is best known for her role of Aunt Bee on The Andy Griffith Show and its spin-off, Mayberry R.F.D. from 1960 to 1970. Aunt Bee logged more “Mayberry” years (ten) than any other character despite the fact she thought – and made no attempt to hide it – her dramatic talent was wasted in the role.
1989 – Actor John Payne died of congestive heart failure at the age of 77.
Although he was a highly respected performer in dramas (To The Shores of Tripoli, The Razor’s Edge) and musicals (Tin Pan Alley, Springtime In The Rockies), Payne will forever be best known for his role as Fred Gailey in the timeless Christmas classic, Miracle On 34th Street.
1993 – Actor Don Ameche died of prostate cancer at the age of 85.
Ameche appeared in over forty films in the 1930s and 40s, but he is best remembered for two roles after he turned 70; Trading Places and Cocoon, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
2000 – Actor Werner Klemperer died of cancer at the age of 80.
His early career was marked by several roles in prominent dramatic films; The Wrong Man, Judgement At Nuremberg, and Operation Eichmann.
He is best known, however, as Colonel Wilhelm Klink: the bumbling, cowardly and self-serving Kommandant of Stalag 13 on the television series, Hogan’s Heroes.
For his performance as Klink, Klemperer received six Emmy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor, winning twice.
2017 – President Donald Trump announced the United States recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and ordered the planning of the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was rejected by a majority of world leaders. The United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting where 14 out of 15 members condemned Trump’s decision, but the motion was vetoed by the United States.
The U.S. embassy was officially opened in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018, coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the Israeli Declaration of Independence.
Compiled by Ray Lemire ©2018 RayLemire.com / Streamingoldies.com. All Rights Reserved.