This Day in History (2-Feb-1852) – 1st British public men’s toilet opens

Of all the technological feats and wondrous designs to come out of The Great Exhibition of 1851, there is one invention that we still use regularly today without even thinking about its ingenuity, to many, this will, at some stage or other, have been a life-saver. At the Exhibition, a man named George Jennings, a Brighton plumber, installed his so-called ‘Monkey Closets’ in the Retiring Rooms of The Crystal Palace. These ‘Monkey Closets’ caused great excitement as they were the first public toilets anyone had ever seen, and during the exhibition 827,280 visitors paid one penny each to use them. For ‘spending a penny’, they received a clean seat, a towel, a comb and a shoe shine. When the exhibition finished and the Crystal Palace was moved to Sydenham, the toilets were set to be closed down. Jennings, however, persuaded the organisers to keep them open. They agreed, and the penny toilets went on to generate revenue of over £1000 a year.

After the success of Jennings’s Crystal Palace lavatories, public toilets started to appear in the streets, the first of these being at 95, Fleet Street, London, next to the Society of Art on 2nd February 1852, with one for women opening a little later, on the 11th February at 51 Bedford Street, Strand, London. These ‘Public Waiting Rooms’ contained water closets in wooden surrounds. The charge was 2 pence entrance fee and extra for washing or clothes brushes. These new facilities were advertised in The Times and on handbills, distributed around the city.

Public toilets only really became popular after Mr. Thomas Crapper developed some improvements to Jennings’ initial flushing mechanism, which promised “a certain flush with every pull”, these improvements did a lot to increase the popularity of the public toilet. Crapper also developed some other important toilet – related inventions, such as the ballcock. The designers, architects and engineers of the Victorian age built public conveniences to a very high standard. When conveniences were to be above ground, they were built to be aesthetically pleasing, and built with high quality materials such as marble and copper, and furnished with fine ceramics and tiles.

 

Reference:

http://www.historyorb.com/events/february/2

http://thevictorianist.blogspot.in/2011/02/spending-penny-or-first-public-flushing.html

This Day in History (30-Jan-1969) – The Beatles perform in public for the last time, on the roof of Apple Records in London

The Beatles were an English rock band that formed in Liverpool in 1960. With members John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, they became widely regarded as the greatest and most influential act of the rock era. The Beatles built their reputation playing clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg over a three-year period from 1960. Manager Brian Epstein moulded them into a professional act and producer George Martin enhanced their musical potential. They gained popularity in the United Kingdom after their first hit, “Love Me Do”, in late 1962. They acquired the nickname “the Fab Four”. By early 1964 they had become international stars, leading the “British Invasion” of the United States pop market. From 1965 onwards, the Beatles produced what many consider their finest material, including the innovative and widely influential albums Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles (commonly known as the White Album) and Abbey Road.

In the mid-1960s, the Beatles became interested in Indian culture, after using drugs in an effort to expand their consciousness. In 1966 Harrison visited India for 6 weeks and took sitar lessons from Pt. Ravi Shankar. At friend’s suggestion, the Beatles attended the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s (the founder of the Transcendental Meditation movement) lecture at London in 1967. The group visited maharishi’s camp in Wales. While there, they announced at a press conference that they were giving up drugs. Curious to learn more, they visited Maharishi’s ashram in Rishikesh and spent some days there in simplicity.

According to the RIAA, the Beatles are the best-selling music artists in the United States, with 178 million certified units. They have had more number-one albums on the British charts and sold more singles in the UK than any other act. In 2008, the group topped Billboard magazine’s list of the all-time most successful “Hot 100” artists; as of 2015, they hold the record for most number-one hits on the Hot 100 chart with twenty. They have received ten Grammy Awards, an Academy Award for Best Original Score and fifteen Ivor Novello Awards. Collectively included in Time magazine’s compilation, they are the best-selling band in history, with estimated sales of over 600 million records worldwide.

Reference:

http://www.mapsofworld.com/on-this-day/january-30-1948-mahatma-gandhi-is-assassinated-in-new-delhi

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Beatles

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Beatles_in_India

This Day in History (18-Jan-1886) – Modern field hockey is born with the formation of The Hockey Association in England

A game called hockey was played in English public schools in the early 19th century.  A version of the game played in south-east London was rougher than the modern version, played on a very large field (247m by 64m), and used a cube of black rubber and rough sticks. The modern game was developed on the other side of London by Middlesex cricket clubs. In 1870, members of the Teddington cricket club, experimented with a ‘stick’ game, on the smooth outfield of their cricket pitch and used a cricket ball, so allowing smooth and predictable motion. By 1874 they had begun to draw up rules for their game, including banning the raising of the stick above shoulder height and stipulating that a shot at goal must take place within the circle in front of it. An association was formed in 1875, which dissolved after seven years, but in 1886 the Hockey Association was formed by seven London clubs and representatives from Trinity College, Cambridge.

In the late 19th century, largely due to the British Army, the game spread throughout the British Empire. The International Rules Board was founded in 1895, and hockey first appeared at the Olympic Games at 1908 Olympic Games in London, with only three teams: England, Ireland and Scotland. The first step towards an international structuring occurred in 1909, when England and Belgium agreed to recognize each other for international competitions. In 1924, the International Hockey Federation (FIH, Fédération Internationale de Hockey) was founded in Paris, under the initiative of the French man, Paul Léautey, as a response to hockey’s omission from the 1924 Paris Game.

Hockey became a permanent fixture at the Olympics at the 1928 Olympic Games, at Amsterdam, where India made its Olympic debut. Indian hockey team cruised home to its first Olympic gold, without conceding a single goal. The hallmark of this ruthless domination was the wizardry of Indian hockey legend – Dhyan Chand. From 1928 to 1956, the Indian hockey juggernaut won six straight Olympic gold medals, while winning 24 consecutive matches. During this time, India scored 178 goals conceding only 7 in the process. The record created by India is likely to stand strong through ages.
Reference:

http://www.historyorb.com/day/january/18

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_field_hockey

http://www.iloveindia.com/sports/hockey/history.html

This Day in History (2-Jan-1947) – Lord Bevin commented that with half of the population of beggars and thieves, India is ungovernable Nation

At the conclusion of the Second World War, the Labour Party, under Prime Minister Clement Richard Attlee, came to power in Britain. The Labour Party was largely sympathetic towards Indian people for freedom. A Cabinet Mission was sent to India in March 1946, which after a careful study of the Indian political scenario, proposed the formation of an interim Government and convening of a Constituent Assembly comprising members elected by the provincial legislatures and nominees of the Indian states. A Constituent Assembly was formed in July 1946, to frame the Constitution of India and Dr. Rajendra Prasad was elected its President. An interim Government was formed headed by Jawaharlal Nehru.

On 2nd Jan 1947, Mahatma Gandhi met Lord Bevin, the personal emissary of British Prime Minister, in Delhi. Bevin is reported to have told the great man, ”Eighteen languages, 500 dialects, some 30 religions, a million Gods and Goddesses, 300 million individuals, an infinity of castes and sub castes, and a population (that is) practically illiterate and half of which (are) beggars or thieves… Good luck, sir! Such a nation is ungovernable! It’d take you centuries to get anywhere!”. Gandhiji wrapped his large, white shawl a little more closely around him, and modestly replied, ‘India has eternity before her’.

Bevin’s statement showed the challenges new born India would be facing. However, India – a developing nation, proved Bevin wrong over a period creating largest democracy in the world.

Reference:

http://www.indianage.com/search.php

http://knowindia.gov.in/knowindia/culture_heritage.php?id=7

This Day in History (24-Dec-1914) – The “Christmas Truce” of World War I Begins

During World War I, a battle line was drawn at the Western Front – stretching from Lorraine in the south to the English Channel in the north. Soldiers dug trenches and erected barbed wire to hold their positions. In places, the trenches were just yards apart and, as the soldiers realised that neither side was going to make any rapid victories or progress, the trenches became more fortified. The opposing forces now had time to regroup and strengthen their lines with more men. The proximity of the enemies also allowed men to shout out to their opponents or stick up signs on wooden boards. After a particularly heavy barrage of missiles or bullets, the soldiers might shout out “Missed” or “Left a bit”.

For much of December it had been wet but on Christmas Eve the temperature dropped and a sharp frost enveloped the landscape. The shouting between troops turned into something more during Christmas Eve. Germans celebrate Christmas on December 24 more than they do on the day itself (in Britain and France, December 25 is the main day of celebration). So on the Western Front on Christmas Eve, German soldiers began to sing carols and place Christmas trees lit with lanterns above the trenches.

As written in one of the British soldier’s letter, “On Christmas Eve the Germans entrenched opposite us began calling out to us ‘Cigarettes’, ‘Pudding’, ‘A Happy Christmas’ and ‘English – means good’, so two of our fellows climbed over the parapet of the trench and went towards the German trenches. Half-way they were met by four Germans, who said they would not shoot on Christmas Day if we did not. They gave our fellows cigars and a bottle of wine and were given a cake and cigarettes. When they came back I went out with some more of our fellows and we were met by about 30 Germans, who seemed to be very nice fellows. I got one of them to write his name and address on a postcard as a souvenir. All through the night we sang carols to them and they sang to us and one played ‘God Save the King’ on a mouth organ.”

The enduring legacy of the informal ‘Christmas truce’ has been positive and it’s looked upon today as a wonderful example of humanity during an dreadfully dark hour of man’s history.

Reference:

http://www.mapsofworld.com/on-this-day/december-24-1914-the-christmas-truce-of-world-war-i-begins

http://www.christmastruce.co.uk/article.html

This Day in History (19-Dec-1984) – UK signs agreement with China to return Hong Kong to China in 1997

In the two ‘opium wars’ faught between China and Britain between 1839 to 1860, Britain ceded the part of Hong Kong island in perpetuity. Further China was weakened due to defeat in Sino-Japanese war of 1894-95. In 1898, China signed the lease contract to give British full jurisdiction of remaining Hong Kong that was necessary to ensure proper military defence of the colony around the island. The lease agreement was for 99 years expiring on 30 Jun 1997, with zero rent. Claude MacDonald, the British representative during the convention, picked a 99-year lease because he thought it was “as good as forever.”  Part ceded and part leased, made it unfeasible to return the leased land alone as it would have split Hong Kong in two parts. The Chinese also started to pressure the British to return all of Hong Kong, taking the position that they would not accept so-called “unequal treaties” that were imposed on them by colonial powers.

Hong Kong propspered in 20th century. However facing the uncertain future of Hong Kong, Governor MacLehose raised the question in the late 1970s about lease agreement. The expiry of lease in 1997 created problems for business contracts, property leases and confidence among foreign investors. In 1983, the United Kingdom reclassifed Hong Kong as a British Dependent Territory (now British Overseas Territory) when reorganising global territories of the British Empire. Talks and negotiations began with China and concluded with the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration.

The declaration stated that Hong Kong’s sovereignty will be transfered to the People’s Republic of China on 1 July 1997, when Hong Kong would remain autonomous as a Special Administrative Region and be able to retain its free-market economy, British common law through the Basic Law, independent representation in international organisations (e.g. WTO and WHO), treaty arrangements and policy-making except foreign diplomacy and military defence.  It stipulated that Hong Kong would be governed as a special administrative region, retaining its laws and a high degree of autonomy for at least 50 years after the transfer.

Reference:

http://www.historyorb.com/day/december/19?p=2

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/430163/Opium-Wars

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hong_Kong

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convention_for_the_Extension_of_Hong_Kong_Territory

This Day in History (16-Dec-1773) – Boston Tea Party

Since the beginning of the 18th century, tea had been regularly imported to the American colonies. It has been estimated American colonists drank approximately 1.2 million pounds of tea each year. Britain realized it could make even more money off of the lucrative tea trade by imposing taxes onto the American colonies. In effect, the cost of British tea became high, and, in response, American colonists began a very lucrative industry of smuggling tea from the Dutch and other European markets. In 1773, the Tea Act was passed and granted the British East India Company a monopoly on tea sales in the American colonies. American colonists were outraged over the tea tax. They believed the Tea Act was a tactic to gain colonial support for the tax already enforced. The direct sale of tea by agents of the British East India Company to the American colonies undercut the business of colonial merchants. The smuggled tea became more expensive than the British East India Company tea. Smugglers like John Hancock and Samuel Adams were trying to protect their economic interests by opposing the Tea Act, and Samuel Adams sold the opposition of British tea to the Patriots on the pretext of the abolishment of human rights by being taxed without representation.

In cities as New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston, tea agents resigned or canceled orders, and merchants refused consignments. In Boston, however, the royal governor Thomas Hutchinson determined to uphold the law and maintained that three arriving ships should be allowed to deposit their cargoes and that appropriate duties should be honoured. On the night of December 16, 1773, a group of about 60 men comprising of  Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty encouraged by a large crowd of Bostonians, donned blankets and Indian headdresses, marched to Griffin’s wharf, boarded the ships, and dumped the 342 tea chests, valued at £18,000 (about $1m today), into the water.

In retaliation, Parliament passed the series of punitive measures known in the colonies as the Intolerable Acts, including the Boston Port Bill, which shut off the city’s sea trade pending payment for the destroyed tea. The British government’s efforts to single out Massachusetts for punishment served only to unite the colonies and impel the drift toward war.

Reference:

http://www.bostonteapartyship.com/boston-tea-party-facts

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/74947/Boston-Tea-Party

http://www.history.com/topics/american-revolution/boston-tea-party