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Friday February 16, 2018 @ 10:49:21 PM mt

February 17 1904: Madame Butterfly premieres



On this day in 1904, Giacomo Puccinis opera Madame Butterfly premieres at the La Scala theatre in Milan, Italy.

The young Puccini decided to dedicate his life to opera after seeing a performance of Giuseppe Verdis Aida in 1876. In his later life, he would write some of the best-loved operas of all time: La Boheme (1896), Tosca (1900), Madame Butterfly (1904) and Turandot (left unfinished when he died in 1906). Not one of these, however, was an immediate success when it opened. La Boheme, the now-classic story of a group of poor artists living in a Paris garret, earned mixed reviews, while Tosca was downright panned by critics.

While supervising a production of Tosca in London, Puccini saw the play Madame Butterfly, written by David Belasco and based on a story by John Luther Long. Taken with the strong female character at its center, he began working on an operatic version of the play, with an Italian libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica. Written over the course of two yearsincluding an eight-month break when Puccini was badly injured in a car accidentthe opera made its debut in Milan in February 1904.

Set in Nagasaki, Japan, Madame Butterfly told the story of an American sailor, B.F. Pinkerton, who marries and abandons a young Japanese geisha, Cio-Cio-San, or Madame Butterfly. In addition to the rich, colorful orchestration and powerful arias that Puccini was known for, the opera reflected his common theme of living and dying for love. This theme often played out in the lives of his heroineswomen like Cio-Cio-San, who live for the sake of their lovers and are eventually destroyed by the pain inflicted by that love. Perhaps because of the operas foreign setting or perhaps because it was too similar to Puccinis earlier works, the audience at the premiere reacted badly to Madame Butterfly, hissing and yelling at the stage. Puccini withdrew it after one performance. He worked quickly to revise the work, splitting the 90-minute-long second act into two parts and changing other minor aspects. Four months later, the revamped Madame Butterfly went onstage at the Teatro Grande in Brescia. This time, the public greeted the opera with tumultuous applause and repeated encores, and Puccini was called before the curtain 10 times. Madame Butterfly went on to huge international success, moving to New Yorks Metropolitan Opera in 1907.

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Thursday February 15, 2018 @ 11:01:58 PM mt

February 16 1923: Archaeologist opens tomb of King Tut



On this day in 1923, in Thebes, Egypt, English archaeologist Howard Carter enters the sealed burial chamber of the ancient Egyptian ruler King Tutankhamen.

Because the ancient Egyptians saw their pharaohs as gods, they carefully preserved their bodies after death, burying them in elaborate tombs containing rich treasures to accompany the rulers into the afterlife. In the 19th century, archeologists from all over the world flocked to Egypt, where they uncovered a number of these tombs. Many had long ago been broken into by robbers and stripped of their riches.

When Carter arrived in Egypt in 1891, he became convinced there was at least one undiscovered tombthat of the little known Tutankhamen, or King Tut, who lived around 1400 B.C. and died when he was still a teenager. Backed by a rich Brit, Lord Carnarvon, Carter searched for five years without success. In early 1922, Lord Carnarvon wanted to call off the search, but Carter convinced him to hold on one more year.

In November 1922, the wait paid off, when Carters team found steps hidden in the debris near the entrance of another tomb. The steps led to an ancient sealed doorway bearing the name Tutankhamen. When Carter and Lord Carnarvon entered the tombs interior chambers on November 26, they were thrilled to find it virtually intact, with its treasures untouched after more than 3,000 years. The men began exploring the four rooms of the tomb, and on February 16, 1923, under the watchful eyes of a number of important officials, Carter opened the door to the last chamber.

Inside lay a sarcophagus with three coffins nested inside one another. The last coffin, made of solid gold, contained the mummified body of King Tut. Among the riches found in the tombgolden shrines, jewelry, statues, a chariot, weapons, clothingthe perfectly preserved mummy was the most valuable, as it was the first one ever to be discovered. Despite rumors that a curse would befall anyone who disturbed the tomb, its treasures were carefully catalogued, removed and included in a famous traveling exhibition called the Treasures of Tutankhamen. The exhibitions permanent home is the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

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Thursday February 15, 2018 @ 01:28:18 AM mt

February 15 1898: The Maine explodes



A massive explosion of unknown origin sinks the battleship USS Maine in Cubas Havana harbor, killing 260 of the fewer than 400 American crew members aboard.

One of the first American battleships, the Maine weighed more than 6,000 tons and was built at a cost of more than $2 million. Ostensibly on a friendly visit, the Maine had been sent to Cuba to protect the interests of Americans there after a rebellion against Spanish rule broke out in Havana in January.

An official U.S. Naval Court of Inquiry ruled in March that the ship was blown up by a mine, without directly placing the blame on Spain. Much of Congress and a majority of the American public expressed little doubt that Spain was responsible and called for a declaration of war.

Subsequent diplomatic failures to resolve the Maine matter, coupled with United States indignation over Spains brutal suppression of the Cuban rebellion and continued losses to American investment, led to the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in April 1898.

Within three months, the United States had decisively defeated Spanish forces on land and sea, and in August an armistice halted the fighting. On December 12, 1898, the Treaty of Paris was signed between the United States and Spain, officially ending the Spanish-American War and granting the United States its first overseas empire with the ceding of such former Spanish possessions as Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines.

In 1976, a team of American naval investigators concluded that the Maine explosion was likely caused by a fire that ignited its ammunition stocks, not by a Spanish mine or act of sabotage.

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Tuesday February 13, 2018 @ 11:19:37 PM mt

February 14 278: St. Valentine beheaded



On February 14around the year 278A.D., Valentine, a holy priest in Rome in the days of Emperor Claudius II, was executed.

Under the rule of Claudius the Cruel, Rome was involved in many unpopular and bloody campaigns. The emperor had to maintain a strong army, but was having a difficult time getting soldiers to join his military leagues. Claudius believed that Roman men were unwilling to join the army because of their strong attachment to their wives and families.

To get rid of the problem, Claudius banned all marriages and engagements in Rome. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret.

When Valentines actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. Valentine was arrested and dragged before the Prefect of Rome, who condemned him to be beaten to death with clubs and to have his head cut off. The sentence was carried out on February 14, on or about the year 270.

Legend also has it that while in jail, St. Valentine left a farewell note for the jailers daughter, who had become his friend, and signed it From Your Valentine.

For his great service, Valentine was named a saint after his death.

In truth, the exact origins and identity of St. Valentine are unclear. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, At least three different Saint Valentines, all of them martyrs, are mentioned in the early martyrologies under the date of 14 February. One was a priest in Rome, the second one was a bishop of Interamna (now Terni, Italy) and the third St. Valentine was a martyr in the Roman province of Africa.

Legends vary on how the martyrs name became connected with romance. The date of his death may have become mingled with the Feast of Lupercalia, a pagan festival of love. On these occasions, the names of young women were placed in a box, from which they were drawn by the men as chance directed. In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius decided to put an end to the Feast of Lupercalia, and he declared that February 14 be celebrated as St Valentines Day.

Gradually, February 14 became a date for exchanging love messages, poems and simple gifts such as flowers.

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Tuesday February 13, 2018 @ 02:03:05 AM mt

February 13 1633: Galileo in Rome for Inquisition



On this day in 1633, Italian philosopher, astronomer and mathematician Galileo Galilei arrives in Rometo face charges of heresy for advocating Copernican theory, which holds that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Galileo officially faced the Roman Inquisition in April of that same year and agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence. Put under house arrest indefinitely by Pope Urban VIII, Galileo spent the rest of his days at his villa in Arcetri, near Florence, before dying on January 8, 1642.

Galileo, the son of a musician, was born February 15, 1564, in Pisa, Italy. He entered the University of Pisa planning to study medicine, but shifted his focus to philosophy and mathematics. In 1589, he became a professor at Pisa for several years, during which time he demonstrated that the speed of a falling object is not proportional to its weight, as Aristotle had believed. According to some reports, Galileo conducted his research by dropping objects of different weights from the Leaning Tower of Pisa. From 1592 to 1630, Galileo was a math professor at the University of Padua, where he developed a telescope that enabled him to observe lunar mountains and craters, the four largest satellites of Jupiter and the phases of Jupiter. He also discovered that the Milky Way was made up of stars. Following the publication of his research in 1610, Galileo gained acclaim and was appointed court mathematician at Florence.

Galileos research led him to become an advocate of the work of the Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1573). However, the Copernican theory of a sun-centered solar system conflicted with the teachings of the powerful Roman Catholic Church, which essentially ruled Italy at the time. Church teachings contended that Earth, not the sun, was at the center of the universe. In 1633, Galileo was brought before the Roman Inquisition, a judicial system established by the papacy in 1542 to regulate church doctrine. This included the banning of books that conflicted with church teachings. The Roman Inquisition had its roots in the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, the purpose of which was to seek out and prosecute heretics, considered enemies of the state.

Today, Galileo is recognized for making important contributions to the study of motion and astronomy. His work influenced later scientists such as the English mathematician and physicist Sir Isaac Newton, who developed the law of universal gravitation. In 1992, the Vatican formally acknowledged its mistake in condemning Galileo.

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Sunday February 11, 2018 @ 10:50:44 PM mt

February 12 2002: Milosevic goes on trial for war crimes



On this day in 2002, former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic goes on trial at The Hague, Netherlands, on charges of genocide and war crimes in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo. Milosevic served as his own attorney for much of the prolonged trial, which ended without a verdict when the so-called Butcher of the Balkans was found dead at age 64 from an apparent heart attack in his prison cell on March 11, 2006.

Yugoslavia, consisting of Croatia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia, became a federal republic, headed by Communist leader Marshal Tito, on January 31, 1946. Tito died in May 1980 and Yugoslavia, along with communism, crumbled over the next decade.

Milosevic, born August 20, 1941, joined the Communist Party at age 18; he became president of Serbia in 1989. On June 25, 1991, Croatia and Slovenia declared their independence from Yugoslavia and Milosevic sent tanks to the Slovenian border, sparking a brief war that ended in Slovenias secession. In Croatia, fighting broke out between Croats and ethnic Serbs and Serbia sent weapons and medical supplies to the Serbian rebels in Croatia. Croatian forces clashed with the Serb-led Yugoslav army troops and their Serb supporters. An estimated 10,000 people were killed and hundreds of Croatian towns were destroyed before a U.N. cease-fire was established in January 1992. In March, Bosnia-Herzegovina declared its independence, and Milosevic funded the subsequent Bosnian Serb rebellion, starting a war that killed an estimated 200,000 people, before a U.S.-brokered peace agreement was reached at Dayton, Ohio, in 1995.

In Kosovo, a formerly autonomous province of Serbia, liberation forces clashed with Serbs and the Yugoslav army was sent in. Amidst reports that Milosevic had launched an ethnic cleansing campaign against Kosovos ethnic Albanians, NATO forces launched air strikes against Yugoslavia in 1999.

Ineligible to run for a third term as Serbian president, Milosevic had made himself president of Yugoslavia in 1997. After losing the presidential election in September 2000, he refused to accept defeat until mass protests forced him to resign the following month. He was charged with corruption and abuse of power and finally surrendered to Serbian authorities on April 1, 2001, after a 26-hour standoff. That June, he was extradited to the Netherlands and indicted by a United Nations war crimes tribunal. Milosevic died in his cell of a heart attack before his trial could be completed.

In February 2003, Serbia and Montenegro became a commonwealth and officially dropped the name Yugoslavia. In June 2006, the two countries declared their independence from each other.

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Sunday February 11, 2018 @ 03:35:44 AM mt

February 11 1990: Nelson Mandela released from prison



Nelson Mandela, leader of the movement to end South African apartheid, is released from prison after 27 years on February 11, 1990.

In 1944, Mandela, a lawyer, joined the African National Congress (ANC), the oldest black political organization in South Africa, where he became a leader of Johannesburgs youth wing of the ANC. In 1952, he became deputy national president of the ANC, advocating nonviolent resistance to apartheidSouth Africas institutionalized system of white supremacy and racial segregation. However, after the massacre of peaceful black demonstrators at Sharpeville in 1960, Nelson helped organize a paramilitary branch of the ANC to engage in guerrilla warfare against the white minority government.

In 1961, he was arrested for treason, and although acquitted he was arrested again in 1962 for illegally leaving the country. Convicted and sentenced to five years at Robben Island Prison, he was put on trial again in 1964 on charges of sabotage. In June 1964, he was convicted along with several other ANC leaders and sentenced to life in prison.

Mandela spent the first 18 of his 27 years in jail at the brutal Robben Island Prison. Confined to a small cell without a bed or plumbing, he was forced to do hard labor in a quarry. He could write and receive a letter once every six months, and once a year he was allowed to meet with a visitor for 30 minutes. However, Mandelas resolve remained unbroken, and while remaining the symbolic leader of the anti-apartheid movement, he led a movement of civil disobedience at the prison that coerced South African officials into drastically improving conditions on Robben Island. He was later moved to another location, where he lived under house arrest.

In 1989, F.W. de Klerk became South African president and set about dismantling apartheid. De Klerk lifted the ban on the ANC, suspended executions, and in February 1990 ordered the release of Nelson Mandela.

Mandela subsequently led the ANC in its negotiations with the minority government for an end to apartheid and the establishment of a multiracial government. In 1993, Mandela and de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. One year later, the ANC won an electoral majority in the countrys first free elections, and Mandela was elected South Africas president.

Mandela retired from politics in 1999, but remained a global advocate for peace and social justice until his death in December 2013.

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Friday February 09, 2018 @ 11:14:25 PM mt

February 10 1996: Kasparov loses chess game to computer



On this day in 1996, after three hours, world chess champion Garry Kasparov loses the first game of a six-game match against Deep Blue, an IBM computer capable of evaluating 200 million moves per second. Man was ultimately victorious over machine, however, as Kasparov bested Deep Blue in the match with three wins and two ties and took home the $400,000 prize. An estimated 6 million people worldwide followed the action on the Internet.

Kasparov had previously defeated Deep Thought, the prototype for Deep Blue developed by IBM researchers in 1989, but he and other chess grandmasters had, on occasion, lost to computers in games that lasted an hour or less. The February 1996 contest was significant in that it represented the first time a human and a computer had duked it out in a regulation, six-game match, in which each player had two hours to make 40 moves, two hours to finish the next 20 moves and then another 60 minutes to wrap up the game.

Kasparov, who was born in 1963 in Baku, Azerbaijan, became the Soviet Unions junior chess champion at age 13 and in 1985, at age 22, the youngest world champ ever when he beat legendary Soviet player Anatoly Karpov. Considered by many to be the greatest chess player in the history of the game, Kasparov was known for his swashbuckling style of play and his ability to switch tactics mid-game.

In 1997, a rematch took place between Kasparov and an enhanced Deep Blue. Kasparov won the first game, the computer the second, with the next three games a draw. On May 11, 1997, Deep Blue came out on top with a surprising sixth game winand the $700,000 match prize.

In 2003, Kasparov battled another computer program, Deep Junior. The match ended in a tie. Kasparov retired from professional chess in 2005.

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Friday February 09, 2018 @ 08:20:55 AM mt

February 09 1971: Satchel Paige nominated to Baseball Hall of Fame



On this day in 1971, pitcher Leroy Satchel Paige becomes the first Negro League veteran to be nominated for the Baseball Hall of Fame. In August of that year, Paige, a pitching legend known for his fastball, showmanship and the longevity of his playing career, which spanned five decades, was inducted. Joe DiMaggio once called Paige the best and fastest pitcher Ive ever faced.

Paige was born in Mobile, Alabama, most likely on July 7, 1906, although the exact date remains a mystery. He earned his nickname, Satchel, as a boy when he earned money carrying passengers bags at train stations. Baseball was segregated when Paige started playing baseball professionally in the 1920s, so he spent most of his career pitching for Negro League teams around the United States. During the winter season, he pitched for teams in the Caribbean and Central and South America. As a barnstorming player who traveled thousands of miles each season and played for whichever team met his asking price, he pitched an estimated 2,500 games, had 300 shut-outs and 55 no-hitters. In one month in 1935, he reportedly pitched 29 consecutive games.

In 1947, Jackie Robinson broke baseballs color barrier and became the first African American to play in the Major Leagues when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. The following year, Paige also entered the majors, signing with the Cleveland Indians and becoming, at age 42, baseballs oldest rookie. He helped the Indians win the pennant that year and later played for the St. Louis Browns and Kansas City As.

Paige retired from the majors in 1953, but returned in 1965 to pitch three innings for the Kansas City As. He was 59 at the time, making him the oldest person ever to play in the Major Leagues. In addition to being famous for his talent and longevity, Paige was also well-known for his sense of humor and colorful observations on life, including: Dont look back. Something might be gaining on you and Age is a question of mind over matter. If you dont mind, it doesnt matter.

He died June 8, 1982, in Kansas City, Missouri.

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Wednesday February 07, 2018 @ 10:29:57 PM mt

February 08 1943: Americans secure Guadalcanal



On this day in 1943, Japanese troops evacuate Guadalcanal, leaving the island in Allied possession after a prolonged campaign. The American victory paved the way for other Allied wins in the Solomon Islands.

Guadalcanal is the largest of the Solomons, a group of 992 islands and atolls, 347 of which are inhabited, in the South Pacific Ocean. The Solomons, which are located northeast of Australia and have 87 indigenous languages, were discovered in 1568 by the Spanish navigator Alvaro de Mendana de Neyra (1541-95). In 1893, the British annexed Guadalcanal, along with the other central and southern Solomons. The Germans took control of the northern Solomons in 1885, but transferred these islands, except for Bougainville and Buka (which eventually went to the Australians) to the British in 1900.

The Japanese invaded the Solomons in 1942 during World War II and began building a strategic airfield on Guadalcanal. On August 7 of that year, U.S. Marines landed on the island, signaling the Allies first major offensive against Japanese-held positions in the Pacific. The Japanese responded quickly with sea and air attacks. A series of bloody battles ensued in the debilitating tropical heat as Marines sparred with Japanese troops on land, while in the waters surrounding Guadalcanal, the U.S. Navy fought six major engagements with the Japanese between August 24 and November 30. In mid-November 1942, the five Sullivan brothers from Waterloo, Iowa, died together when the Japanese sunk their ship, the USS Juneau.

Both sides suffered heavy losses of men, warships and planes in the battle for Guadalcanal. An estimated 1,600 U.S. troops were killed, over 4,000 were wounded and several thousand more died from disease. The Japanese lost 24,000 soldiers. On December 31, 1942, Emperor Hirohito told Japanese troops they could withdraw from the area; the Americans secured Guadalcanal about five weeks later.

The Solomons gained their independence from Britain in 1978. In the late 1990s, fighting broke out between rival ethnic groups on Guadalcanal and continued until an Australian-led international peacekeeping mission restored order in 2003. Today, with a population of over half a million people, the Solomons are known as a scuba diver and fishermans paradise.

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