This Day in History (16-Feb-1659) – 1st known cheque (£400) (on display at Westminster Abbey)

There are early evidences of using cheques. In India, during the Mauryan period (from 321 to 185 BC), a commercial instrument called adesha was in use, which was an order on a banker desiring him to pay the money of the note to a third person, which corresponds to the definition of a bill of exchange as we understand it today. During the Buddhist period, there was considerable use of these instruments. Merchants in large towns gave letters of credit to one another. In early 1500s, the check first got widespread usage in Holland. Amsterdam in the sixteenth century was a major international shipping and trading center. People who had accumulated cash began depositing it with Dutch “cashiers,” for a fee, as a safer alternative to keeping the money at home. Eventually the cashiers agreed to pay their depositors’ debts out of the money in each account, based on the depositor’s written order or “note” to do so.

The first known handwritten cheque in Britain was signed in 1659 on this day. It was made out for £400, signed by Nicholas Vanacker, and made payable to a Mr Delboe and drawn on Messrs Morris and Clayton, scriveners and bankers of the City of London. The world “check” also may have originated in England in the 1700s when serial numbers were placed on these pieces of paper as a way to keep track of, or “check” on, them. As checks became more widely accepted, bankers encountered problem of collecting the money due from so many other banks. At first, each bank sent messengers to the other banks to present checks for collection, but that meant a lot of traveling and a lot of cash being hauled around. The solution to this problem was found at a British coffee shop. The story goes that a London bank messenger stopped for coffee and noticed another bank messenger. They got to talking, realized that they each had checks drawn on the other’s bank, and decided to exchange them and save each other the extra trip. The practice evolved into a system of check “clearinghouses”—networks of banks that exchange checks with each other—that still is in use.

The use of cheques peaked in 1990 but has dropped significantly since being partly replaced by electronic payment systems. Today two-thirds of under 25s have never written a cheque.

 

Reference:

http://www.historyorb.com/day/february/16

http://www.computerweekly.com/news/2240088409/Cheque-is-350-years-old-today-lingering-death-expected

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

http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0001522.html

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 (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 (1-Jan-1881) – Dr John H Watson is introduced to Sherlock Holmes

Dr. Watson, in full Dr. John H. Watson, is a fictional English physician who is Sherlock Holmes’s devoted friend and associate in a series of detective stories and novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Watson, born in 1852, has served as an army surgeon in India, where he was wounded during the second Afghan War, and has returned to England in impaired health. He and Holmes meet in London; they share rooms at 221B Baker Street. The medical practice Watson establishes does not prevent him from accompanying Holmes on his crime-fighting cases, which he later records and publishes. The character of Watson, as written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is modest and intelligent.

Though fictitious, the date and location references make one feel like reading some historical events. At the time the Holmes stories were published, addresses in Baker Street did not go as high as 221. Baker Street was later extended, and in 1932 the Abbey National Building Society moved into premises at 219–229 Baker Street. For many years, Abbey National employed a full-time secretary to answer mail addressed to Sherlock Holmes. In 1990, a plaque signifying 221B Baker Street was installed at the Sherlock Holmes Museum, situated elsewhere on the same block. Since the closure of Abbey House in 2005, ownership of the address by the Holmes Museum has not been challenged, despite its location between 237 and 241 Baker Street. The house is protected by the government due to its “special architectural and historical interest”, while the 1st floor study overlooking Baker Street is still faithfully maintained for posterity as it was kept in Victorian Times.

The prototype for the modern mastermind detective, Holmes first appeared in Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet, published in Beeton’s Christmas Annual of 1887. As the world’s first and only “consulting detective,” he pursued criminals throughout Victorian and Edwardian London, the south of England, and continental Europe. Among the most popular stories in which he is featured are The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle (1892), The Adventure of the Speckled Band (1892), The Adventure of the Six Napoleons(1904), and the novel The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902).

Reference:

http://www.historyorb.com/day/january/1

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/637629/Dr-Watson

http://www.sherlock-holmes.co.uk/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/221B_Baker_Street

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/269523/Sherlock-Holmes

This Day in History (1-Dec-1990) – Chunnel makes breakthrough

The idea of tunneling beneath the English Channel began circulating in the early 19th century. In 1986, Britain and France signed a treaty authorizing the construction of a tunnel running between Folkestone, England, and Calais, France. Construction on the Chunnel (channel-tunnel) began in 1988. On December 1, 1990, 132 feet below the English Channel, workers drill an opening the size of a car through a wall of rock. This was no ordinary hole–it connected the two ends of an underwater tunnel linking Great Britain with the European mainland for the first time in more than 8,000 years. After workers drilled that final hole, they exchanged French and British flags and toasted each other with champagne.

Over the next four years, nearly 13,000 workers dug 95 miles of tunnels at an average depth of 150 feet below sea level. Eight million cubic meters of soil were removed, at a rate of some 2,400 tons per hour. The completed Chunnel would have three interconnected tubes, including one rail track in each direction and one service tunnel. At a cost of over $21 billion, the 31.4 mile-long Channel Tunnel was completed in 1994, and officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II and President Mitterrand. With regular maintenance and upkeep, the Chunnel allows for millions of passengers travel between London and Paris each year – both for business and pleasure!

A company called Eurotunnel won the 55-year concession to operate the Chunnel, which is the crucial stretch of the Eurostar high-speed rail link between London and Paris. The regular shuttle train through the tunnel runs 31 miles in total–23 of those underwater–and takes 20 minutes, with an additional 15-minute loop to turn the train around. The Chunnel is the second-longest rail tunnel in the world, after the Seikan Tunnel in Japan.

The Channel tunnel was one of the largest construction projects of the 20th century and remains a marvel of engineering even today. It was selected by American Society of Civil Engineers as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World in 1996.

Reference:

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/chunnel–makes-breakthrough

http://www.chunnel.com/

http://www.unmuseum.org/7wonders/chunnel.htm

This Day in History (21-Oct-1854) – Florence Nightingale and 38 other nurses are deployed in the Crimean War

From a very young age, Florence Nightingale was active in philanthropy, ministering to the ill and poor people in the village neighboring her family’s estate. Determined to pursue her true calling despite her parents’ objections, in 1844, Nightingale enrolled as a nursing student at the Lutheran Hospital of Pastor Fliedner in Kaiserswerth, Germany. In the early 1850s, Nightingale returned to London, where she took a nursing job in a Middlesex hospital for ailing governesses. Her performance there so impressed her employer that Nightingale was promoted to superintendant within just a year of being hired. The position proved challenging as Nightingale grappled with a cholera outbreak and unsanitary conditions conducive to the rapid spread of the disease. Nightingale made it her mission to improve hygiene practices, significantly lowering the death rate at the hospital in the process.

In October of 1853, the Crimean War broke out. Thousands of British soldiers were sent to the Black Sea, where supplies quickly dwindled. By 1854, no fewer than 18,000 soldiers had been admitted into military hospitals. In late 1854, Nightingale received a letter from Secretary of War Sidney Herbert, asking her to organize a corps of nurses to tend to the sick soldiers in the Crimea. Nightingale rose to her calling. She quickly assembled a team of 34 nurses from a variety of religious orders, and sailed with them to the Crimea just a few days later.

The no-nonsense Nightingale quickly set to work. She procured hundreds of scrub brushes and asked the least infirm patients to scrub the inside of the hospital from floor to ceiling. Nightingale herself spent every waking minute caring for the soldiers. In the evenings she moved through the dark hallways carrying a lamp while making her rounds, ministering to patient after patient. The soldiers, who were both moved and comforted by her endless supply of compassion, took to calling her “the Lady with the Lamp.” She instituted the creation of an “invalid’s kitchen” where appealing food for patients with special dietary requirements was cooked. She established a laundry so that patients would have clean linens. Her work reduced the hospital’s death rate by two-thirds.

 

Reference:

http://www.mapsofworld.com/on-this-day/october-21-1805-ce-the-british-claim-victory-at-the-battle-of-trafalgar

http://www.biography.com/people/florence-nightingale-9423539#synopsis

This Day in History (3-Sep-1935) – Sir Malcolm Campbell Surpasses 300 Miles Per Hour

Born to a diamond seller Kent, England, Malcolm Campbell was headed for a life in the family business before fate intervened.  While in Germany learning more about the business of retailing gemstones, he found himself drawn to the motorcycle races held in the countryside.  Fascinated by the power and precision required to pilot the small bikes around the course, he returned to England with a need for speed.  Beginning in 1906, the twenty something Campbell rose to fame on in the speed bike community by winning the prestigious London to Lakes End Trials three times in a row. Driven by his success on two wheels, Campbell made the transition to four by getting behind the wheel at the Brooklands racing circuit in Surrey, the first automotive racetrack in the world, during 1910.  He served as a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps during World War I,  but he continued with his interest in automobile racing. In 1924, he set the land speed record for the first time in his life — just over 146mph at Pendine Sands on the southern coast of Wales.  Three years later, he would take it again, pushing his 350hp Sunbeam to just shy of 175mph just months before winning the first of two consecutive Grand Prix de Boulogne.

It seemed there was nothing that could slow Campbell down, as he took hold of the land speed records both in England and across the Atlantic in the United States (five times at Daytona Beach alone).  Knighted in 1931, it seemed there was little more for the 46-year-old Campbell to achieve, but he continued testing the limits of his vehicles.  After taking the land speed record eight separate times, he set his sights on something even more challenging: passing 300mph. At the age of 50, the thrill seeker headed to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah to see what could be done.  Making two laps across the famous prehistoric lake bed, he averaged more than 301mph for two passes, earning immortality as the first to break the barrier.  Undeterred by transferring from car to boat, he set speed records on the water, too — four different times, surpassing 140mph on his last attempt in 1939. Each of Campbell’s racing cars and hydroplanes was named Bluebird. His son Donald Malcolm Campbell set subsequent land- and water-speed records.

 

Reference:

http://www.mapsofworld.com/on-this-day/september-3-1935-ce-sir-malcolm-campbell-surpasses-300-miles-per-hour

http://www.britannica.com/biography/Malcolm-Campbell