Today in History – September 3
Wednesday September 3, 2014 the 243rd day and 34th week of 2014, there are 122 days and 18 weeks left in the year. Highlights of today in world history
1783 Treaty of Paris signed
The American Revolutionofficially came to an end when representatives of the United States, Great Britain, Spain and France sign the Treaty of Paris on this day in 1783. The signing signified America’s status as a free nation, as Britain formally recognized the independence of its 13 former American colonies, and the boundaries of the new republic were agreed upon: Floridanorth to the Great Lakes and the Atlantic coast west to the MississippiRiver.
The events leading up to the treaty stretched back to April 1775, on a common green in Lexington, Massachusetts, when American colonists answered King George III’s refusal to grant them political and economic reform with armed revolution. On July 4, 1776, more than a year after the first volleys of the war were fired, the Second Continental Congressofficially adopted the Declaration of Independence. Five difficult years later, in October 1781, British General Charles Lord Cornwallis surrendered to American and French forces at Yorktown, Virginia, bringing to an end the last major battle of the Revolution.
In September 1782, Benjamin Franklin, along with John Adamsand John Jay, began official peace negotiations with the British. The Continental Congress had originally named a five-person committee–including Franklin, Adams and Jay, along with Thomas Jeffersonand Henry Laurens–to handle the talks. However, both Jefferson and Laurens missed the sessions–Jefferson had travel delays and Laurens had been captured by the British and was being held in the Tower of London. The U.S. delegation, which was distrustful of the French, opted to negotiate separately with the British.
During the talks Franklin demanded that Britain hand over Canada to the United States. This did not come to pass, but America did gain enough new territory south of the Canadian border to double its size. The United States also successfully negotiated for important fishing rights in Canadian waters and agreed, among other things, not to prevent British creditors from attempting to recover debts owed to them. Two months later, the key details had been hammered out and on November 30, 1882, the United States and Britain signed the preliminary articles of the treaty. France signed its own preliminary peace agreement with Britain on January 20, 1783, and then in September of that year, the final treaty was signed by all three nations and Spain. The Treaty of Paris was ratified by the Continental Congress on January 14, 1884.
1900 Charles Wisner’s “Buzz-Wagon” debuts in Flint
On September 3, 1900, the first car ever made in Flint, Michiganmade its debut in the town’s Labour Dayparade. Designed and built by a county judge and weekend tinkerer named Charles H. Wisner, the car was one of the only cars built in Flint that did not end up being produced by General Motors. In the end, only three of the Wisner machines were ever built.
Wisner’s car, nicknamed the “Buzz-Wagon,” was a somewhat ridiculous contraption: it was “very noisy,” according to The Flint Journal; its only door was in the rear; and it had no brakes. In order to stop, Wisner had to collide with something sturdy, usually the side wall of his machine shop. At the Labour Day parade, however, he didn’t have a problem with the brakes; instead, in front of 10,000 spectators, the car stalled and had to be pushed off the parade route.
Wisner’s lemon notwithstanding, Flint soon became the cradle of the American auto industry. GM was formed there in 1908, and the city quickly became known for all the Chevrolets and Buicks–not to mention the engine parts and electronics–produced and assembled there. The sit-down strikes at Flint’s GM plants in 1936 and 1937 won union recognition for autoworkers along with a 30-hour workweek and a 6-hour day, overtime pay, seniority rights, and “a minimum rate of pay commensurate with an American standard of living.” These victories guaranteed a middle-class existence for generations of autoworkers. In fact, for a long time, Flint had the highest average per-household income of any city in the United States.
But GM has been declining painfully since the 1970s, and Flint has suffered along with it. The 1988 film Roger & Me, which told the story of 30,000 layoffs at one of Flint’s GM plants, made the city’s woes famous. In July 1999, GM closed its Buick City complex, the last assembly plant in the city. And in the beginning of 2009, as a financial crisis enveloped the auto industry and the nation as a whole, Michigan’s Genesee County (which includes Flint) had an unemployment rate of nearly 15 percent–higher than it had been in 18 years and almost twice the national average.
1914 Pope Benedict XV named to papacy
On September 3, 1914, barely a month after the outbreak of World War I, Giacomo della Chiesa was elected to the papacy of the Roman Catholic Church, becoming Pope Benedict XV.
An aristocratic native of Genoa, Italy, who had served as a cardinal since the previous May, Benedict succeeded Pius X, who died on August 20, 1914. He was elected by a constituency made up of cardinals from countries on both sides of the battle lines, because he professed strict neutrality in the conflict. Calling the Great War “the suicide of Europe,” Benedict became an insistent voice for peace from the beginning of his reign, though his calls were roundly ignored by the belligerent powers.
After proposing the idea of a general Christmastruce in 1914 without success—although some pauses in the fighting did occur spontaneously in various places along the Western Front that Christmas, initiated by the soldiers—Benedict began to lose influence even within Italy as that nation readied itself to join the war effort. In the months preceding Italy’s declaration of war on Austria-Hungary in May 1915, Benedict’s steady urging for peace was seen as interfering with the national will to fight. In the Treaty of London, which set the conditions for Italy’s participation in the war, the Allies agreed with Italy that any peace overtures from the Vatican to the Central Powers should be ignored.
On August 1, 1917, Benedict issued a seven-point peace proposal addressed to “the heads of the belligerent peoples.” In it, he expressed the need for a cessation of hostilities, general reduction of armaments, freedom of the seas and international arbitration of any territorial questions among the warring nations. The proposal was widely rejected by all the warring powers, which were by this point dedicated to an absolute victory and would not consider compromise. To make matters worse, both sides saw the Vatican as prejudiced in favor of the other and refused to accept the pope’s terms. This situation continued in the immediate post-armistice period, when despite its entreaties to be involved in the determination of the peace settlement, Benedict’s Vatican was excluded from the Paris Peace Conference, held at Versailles in 1919.
1939 Britain and France declare war on Germany
On this day in 1939, in response to Hitler’s invasion of Poland, Britain and France, both allies of the overrun nation declared war on Germany.
The first casualty of that declaration was not German—but the British ocean liner Athenia, which was sunk by a German U-30 submarine that had assumed the liner was armed and belligerent. There were more than 1,100 passengers on board, 112 of whom lost their lives. Of those, 28 were Americans, but President Roosevelt was unfazed by the tragedy, declaring that no one was to “thoughtlessly or falsely talk of America sending its armies to European fields.” The United Stateswould remain neutral.
As for Britain’s response, it was initially no more than the dropping of anti-Nazi propaganda leaflets—13 tons of them—over Germany. They would begin bombing German ships on September 4, suffering significant losses. They were also working under orders not to harm German civilians. The German military, of course, had no such restrictions. France would begin an offensive against Germany’s western border two weeks later. Their effort was weakened by a narrow 90-mile window leading to the German front, enclosed by the borders of Luxembourg and Belgium—both neutral countries. The Germans mined the passage, stalling the French offensive.
1943 Allies invade Italian mainland
The British 8th Army under Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery began the Allied invasion of the Italian peninsula, crossing the Strait of Messina from Sicily and landing at Calabria–the “toe” of Italy. On the day of the landing, the Italian government secretly agreed to the Allies’ terms for surrender, but no public announcement was made until September 8.
Italian dictator Benito Mussolinienvisioned building Fascist Italy into a new Roman Empire, but a string of military defeats in World War IIeffectively made his regime a puppet of its stronger Axis partner, Germany. By the spring of 1943, opposition groups in Italy were uniting to overthrow Mussolini and make peace with the Allies, but a strong German military presence in Italy threatened to resist any such action.
On July 10, 1943, the Allies began their invasion of Axis-controlled Europe with landings on the island of Sicily, off mainland Italy. Encountering little resistance from demoralized Sicilian troops, Montgomery’s 8th Army came ashore on the southeast part of the island, while the U.S. 7th Army, under General George S. Patton, landed on Sicily’s south coast. Within three days, 150,000 Allied troops were ashore. On August 17, Patton arrived in Messina before Montgomery, completing the Allied conquest of Sicily and winning the so-called Race to Messina.
In Rome, the Allied conquest of Sicily, a region of the kingdom of Italy since 1860, led to the collapse of Mussolini’s government. Early in the morning of July 25, he was forced to resign by the Fascist Grand Council and was arrested later that day. On July 26, Marshal Pietro Badoglio assumed control of the Italian government. The new government promptly entered into secret negotiations with the Allies, despite the presence of numerous German troops in Italy.
On September 3, Montgomery’s 8th Army began its invasion of the Italian mainland and the Italian government agreed to surrender to the Allies. By the terms of the agreement, the Italians would be treated with leniency if they aided the Allies in expelling the Germans from Italy. Later that month, Mussolini was rescued from a prison in the Abruzzo Mountains by German commandos and was installed as leader of a Nazi puppet state in northern Italy.
In October, the Badoglio government declared war on Germany, but the Allied advance up through Italy proved to be a slow and costly affair. Rome fell in June 1944, at which point a stalemate ensued as British and American forces threw most of their resources into the Normandy invasion. In April 1945, a new major offensive began, and on April 28 Mussolini was captured by Italian partisans and summarily executed. German forces in Italy surrendered on May 1, and six days later all of Germany surrendered.
1982 Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak’s US Festival opens in San Bernardino County, California
No company has done more than Apple, Inc., to bring the world of technology together with the world of music. But those who are too young to remember the world before the iPod may never appreciate how just how far apart those worlds were back in 1982, when Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak hatched an ambitious (and expensive) musical plan: Committing a sizable chunk of his sizable fortune to a musical event billed as the biggest thing since Woodstock, Wozniak staged a three-day concert in the mountains of San Bernardino County that featured some of the day’s biggest names in music. The “Us Festival” kicked off under scorching conditions on September 3, 1982.
The temperature was over 110 degrees when the first band took the stage on the opening day of the Us Festival. The group was Gang of Four, a radically political and hugely influential British band followed on Day One by a line-up of punk, post-punk and New Wave heavies: The Ramones, The English Beat, Oingo Boingo, The B-52′s, Talking Heads and The Police. The torrid conditions persisted as a mainstream rock line-up including Santana, The Kinks, Pat Benatar and Tom Petty took to the stage on Day Two. Day Three brought 60s legends The Grateful Dead and a headlining performance by Fleetwood Mac. Relief from the heat over the course of that Labour Dayweekend came in the form of giveaway spray bottles, a half-acre of free showers and roving tanker trucks mounted with water cannons. And for those still suffering under the sweltering conditions, there was relief in the form of the Us Festival Technology Exposition, housed in five tents behind the main stage and offering not just a glimpse into the future, but the only air conditioning on the concert site.
Inside those tents, you still couldn’t find an Apple Macintosh. That ground-breaking machine, developed by Wozniak’s Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, was still 18 months away when the Us Festival kicked off. You could, however, find treasures that would cause today’s hipster nostalgia enthusiasts to swoon as much as the kids at the 1982 Us Festival did: props from the movies E.T. and Empire Strikes Back; arcade games like Zaxxon, Defender, Krazy Kong and Centipede; and newly introduced “Games of the Century” for the home such as Worm War 1 from Fox Video Games, fully compatible with the Atari Video Computer System and the long-forgotten Sears Tele-Games machine.
1990 Bush prepares for summit with Gorbachev
President George Bushprepared for his first summit meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The theme of the meeting was cooperation between the two superpowers in dealing with the Iraqi crisis in the Middle East.
In August 1990, Iraqi forces attacked the neighbouring nation of Kuwait, setting off a crisis situation in the Middle East. Many U.S. officials were concerned about the Soviet attitude toward the Iraqi attack. Russian military advisers were known to be in Iraq, and previous crises in the Middle East–the Suez Crisis of 1956, the Six-Day War of 1967, and the Yom KippurWar of 1973–had nearly brought the United Statesand Russia to blows. By 1990, however, relations between the two Cold Warenemies had changed dramatically. Since coming to power in 1985, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev made it one of the keynotes of his regime to improve diplomatic relations with America. He and President Ronald Reaganengaged in a series of highly publicized summits, and tremendous progress was made in the area of arms control. When George Bush took over as president in 1989, he was faced with two policy options. The first came from a group of his advisers who suggested that the Soviets could not be trusted and that Gorbachev was, as Vice President Dan Quayle put it, a hard-line Stalinist “in Gucci shoes.” They recommended that Bush break from the Reagan-era diplomacy, and take a tougher stand with the Soviets. Other Bush advisers cautioned the president to continue to take a cooperative approach. They believed that Gorbachev was the only man who could lead the Soviet Union to greater political and economic reforms. Bush’s first summit with Gorbachev in September 1990 would be a demonstration of which policy position Bush would take.
The summit suggested that Bush would stay with the Reagan-era diplomatic approach. Although no groundbreaking agreements emerged from the Bush-Gorbachev meeting in Helsinki, the two nations agreed to cooperate in handling the Iraqi crisis. The Soviets, for their part, agreed to stand aside as the United States applied increasing pressure on Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait. When the United States military launched an assault on Iraq in January 1991, the Soviets refrained from taking action. In the United Nations, the Soviet Union did nothing to block U.S. efforts to have U.N. forces help in the battle against Iraq. From being Cold War antagonists, the United States and Soviet Union had come to work together as international peacekeepers.
1991 It’s a Wonderful Life director Capra dies
On this day in 1991, Frank Capra, a leading Hollywood director in the 1930sand 1940s whose movies include the now-classic You Can’t Take It With You, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington andIt’s a Wonderful Life, died at the age of 94 at his home in La Quinta, California. According to his obituary in theNew York Times: “Capra movies were idealistic, sentimental and patriotic. His major films embodied his flair for improvisation and spontaneity, buoyant humour and sympathy for the populist beliefs of the 1930s.”
Capra was born in Sicily, on May 18, 1897, and as a young boy sailed to America in steerage with his family, who settled in Los Angeles. After graduating from the California Institute of Technology and serving in the U.S. Army, Capra worked his way up through the movie industry; he had his first big success as a director with 1933’s Lady for a Day, which received a Best Picture Academy Award nomination. The following year, Capra helmed the comedy It Happened One Night, starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. The film took home Oscars in five categories: Best Director, Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor and Actress. Capra won a second Best Director Oscar for Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), which starred Gary Cooper as a man who inherits a large fortune and wants to use it to help Depression-era families. Capra received a third Best Director Oscar for YouCan’t Take It with You (1938), a movie about an eccentric family that starred James Stewart, Jean Arthur and Lionel Barrymore and was based on the Pulitzer prize-winning play of the same name by Moss Hart and George Kaufman.
In 1940, Capra took home a fourth Best Director Oscar for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), which featured Stewart as an incorruptible U.S. senator. After the attack on Pearl Harbourin 1941, Capra joined the Army again and during his time in the service made several well-received propaganda films, including Prelude to War (1943), which earned an Academy Award for Best Documentary. Capra went on to co-write and direct 1946’s It’s a Wonderful Life, perhaps his best-known work. The film again starred Stewart, this time as George Bailey, a small-town man who is saved from suicide by a guardian angel. Although the film was considered a box-office disappointment when it was first released, it garnered five Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture, and eventually gained widespread appeal when it was broadcast annually on TV around Christmastime, starting in the 1970s.
Capra’s final film was Pocketful of Miracles (1961), a remake of Lady for a Day starring Bette Davis as a street vendor who needs to remake herself into a society dame in order not to disappoint her daughter.