#TodayInHistory – October 155 min read
October 15 – Some important events on this day.
533 👉🏼 Byzantine General Belisarius makes his formal entry into Carthage, having conquered it from the Vandals
1581 👉🏼 Commissioned by Catherine De Medici, the 1st ballet “Ballet Comique de la Reine” is staged in Paris
1582 👉🏼 Gregorian calendar introduced in Spain, Portugal and pontifical states, after skipping 10 days after Oct 4 to sync the calendar.
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1815 👉🏼 Napoleon Bonaparte arrives on island of St Helena to begin his exile
1833 👉🏼 Barra Head lighthouse, in the Outer Hebrides, lighted on for the first time.
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1860 👉🏼 11-year-old Grace Bedell writes to Abraham Lincoln telling him to grow a beard.
Abraham Lincoln sported one of the most famous beards in history, but this may not have happened without the intervention of an eleven-year-old girl named Grace Bedell. She wrote a letter to Lincoln, then the then-Republican nominee for President, and, asking he President to grow ‘whiskers’, said “All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President.”
Lincoln responded to her letter, saying: “Your very agreeable letter of the 15th is received. I regret the necessity of saying I have no daughters. I have three sons – one seventeen, one nine, and one seven, years of age. They, with their mother, constitute my whole family. As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a silly affectation if I were to begin it now?”
Nevertheless, Lincoln began to grow his famous beard out after the exchange of letters with Bedell. This was not the end of the story: Lincoln actually met Bedell when he was taking a train from Illinois to Washington D.C. for his inauguration in February 1861. Stopping in her hometown of Westfield, New York, Lincoln asked to meet the girl, and years later she recalled: “He climbed down and sat down with me on the edge of the station platform,” she recalled. “‘Gracie,’ he said, ‘look at my whiskers. I have been growing them for you.’ Then he kissed me. I never saw him again.”
It was revealed that Bedell wrote Lincoln a second letter in 1864 asking for a job at Treasury so she could support her family financially, but it is not known if Lincoln ever received or read this letter. He would be assassinated in 1865.
1863 👉🏼 H.L. Hunley, the world’s first successful combat submarine, sinks during a test run, killing its inventor and seven crew members
1888 👉🏼 German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche decides to write his autobiography “Ecce Homo” on his 44th birthday
1889 👉🏼 Amsterdam Central Station officially opens
1917 👉🏼 Dutch exotic dancer Mata Hari is executed by firing squad for spying for Germany during WWI at Vincennes near Paris
1924 👉🏼 US President Calvin Coolidge declares Statue of Liberty a national monument
1940 👉🏼 “The Great Dictator”, a satiric social commentary film by and starring Charlie Chaplin released
1952 👉🏼 Henri Cartier-Bresson’s influential photography book “The Decisive Moment” is first published in the US and France
1967 👉🏼 The Motherland Calls, a monumental statue commemorating the battle of Stalingrad completed in Volgograd, Russia, then the World’s tallest statue designed by Yevgeny Vuchetich.
1969 👉🏼 Vietnam Moratorium Day: millions nationwide protest the war
1987 👉🏼 BBC weather forecaster Michael Fish became the man who made the most spectacular mis-forecast in television history…even though he still refuses to admit that he was wrong.
He told viewers: “Earlier on today, apparently, a woman rang the BBC and said she’d heard there was a hurricane on the way. Well, if you’re watching, don’t worry, there isn’t.”
What followed became known as the Great Storm, the worst to hit south-east England since 1703. Eighteen people died as winds reached 120mph in places, causing substantial damage and bringing down an estimated 15 million trees. Several hundred thousand people were left without power, not fully restored until more than two weeks later.
In London, many buildings were damaged and roads blocked as falling trees crushed parked cars. Much of the public transport in the capital was not functioning, and people were advised against trying to go to work. The cost of the storm to the insurance industry was calculated at £2 billion.
Technically, he was correct: it is impossible for a hurricane to reach UK latitudes. He insisted later that he was talking about Florida in a link to a previous news item and that he correctly forecast high winds were likely over southern England.
The British public still think of Fish as the man who failed to forecast the Great Storm, but that is has affected his career. He went on to become the longest-serving BBC weather forecaster, appearing for 36 years between 1974 and 2010 and he still occasionally broadcasts for regional television.
1993 👉🏼 Nelson Mandela and South African President F. W. de Klerk awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
2004 👉🏼 “Funeral coaches” exempted from car-seat law.
On this day, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration rules that hearse manufacturers no longer have to install anchors for child-safety seats in their vehicles. In 1999, to prevent parents from incorrectly installing the seats using only their cars’ seat belts, the agency had required all carmakers to put the standardized anchors on every passenger seat in every vehicle they built. Though it seemed rather incredible, most hearse-builders complied with the rule and many thousands of their vehicles incorporated baby-seat latches on their front and back passenger seats.
However, the year after the agency issued the rule, one of the largest “funeral coach” manufacturers in the United States petitioned for an exemption. “Since a funeral coach is a single-purpose vehicle, transporting body and casket,” the petition said, “children do not ride in the front seat.” In fact, typically that seat is empty. After all, most people do try to avoid riding in hearses.
On this day, the agency agreed: All funeral coaches (now officially defined as “a vehicle that contains only one row of occupant seats, is designed exclusively for transporting a body and casket and that is equipped with features to secure a casket in place during the operation of the vehicle”) were permanently exempt from all child-safety provisions.
According to this formulation, those rare hearses that do have rear seats are not technically funeral coaches and therefore they are subject to the same child-restraint rules as every other carmaker.