Invented in France, the guillotine was an attempt to make executions quicker and more efficient than other methods of execution. The French were quite fond of it for a long time and the executions were done in public so that people could watch. On the 17th in 1939, Eugene Weidman, a rather brutal thief and murderer achieved a sort of notoriety when he became the last person to be publicly executed by the guillotine in France. Showing remarkable sensitivity, the crowds were repelled by the sight and made a bit of a fuss about it all. Responding to the outrage, the French government changed the program a bit and decided that the guillotine would no longer be used when executing people in public. The French didn’t abandon the guillotine until September 10, 1977 when Hamida Djandoubi became the last person dispatched by France to his reward with the cry of ‘Off with his head
On the 16th in 1583, Count Axel Oxenstierna was born. He was a Swedish diplomat with keen powers of observation. In a 1648 letter to his son he asked that his child "Behold, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed[i]". Don’t you admit that the quote has a very contemporary ring to it?
[i] While the line was originally rendered in Latin as An nescis, mi fili, quantilla prudentia mundus regatur and is often attributed to Cardinal Richelieu, as well as to a slew of others, the saying appears to originate in a 1648 letter from Oxenstierna to his son. Still it rings true and the date fit in with this issue so, to be frank, I just stopped looking for who actually was the first to say it.
I don’t know about you, but every couple of years I find it quite refreshing to hemorrhage internally so that I have to be given a whole bunch of blood transfusions. There is nothing quite as refreshing as a week in an Intensive Care Unit and I must confess that I have always found it to be rather invigorating. On the 15th in 1667, Dr. Jean-Baptiste Denys performed the first blood transfusion, when he gave 9 ounces of lamb’s blood to a 15-year-old boy who had been bled, a commonly used method of treatment, far too often by doctors treating the child for a fever.
Fernando Wood was born on June 14, 1812. He later became a two-term Mayor of New York City. He was perhaps one of the most unusual mayors that city has had. When running for reelection in 1857 he enlisted the aid of an extraordinarily violent street gang, the Dead Rabbits. The task assigned to the Dead Rabbits was to comb New York’s cemeteries and make lists of the dead people there. Once having this list, Wood used those names to stuff the ballot box thus insuring his reelection.
I rely heavily on the services provided by the United States Postal Service and I find is extremely aggravating when the range of services, or the timeliness, of those services changes. I absolutely hate those annoying stamps that read Return to Sender or Postage due. Things seem to have been going downhill for a very long time. On the 13th in 1920, that agency capriciously decided that children may no longer be sent by parcel post. I’m certain that there was uproar over that new rule. Tell me, just how were parents going to explain to their children that, sorry kids, you are not going to visit your grandparents anymore.
I think everyone strives to accomplish something that will keep their memory alive long after they have died. Englishman Richard Rich, 1st Baron Rich, was no exception to this longing. While he may died on the 12th in 1567, in 2006 the BBC History magazine named him the 16th century’s worst Briton.
No, I thought you were watching where we were going. On the 11th in 1770, while on his third pacific voyage, Captain James Cook ran aground on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. He took it in his stride however and, after repairs, continued on with the journey. Cook apparently wasn’t a big fan of paying attention to the little details of his voyages of discovery because in 1778 he didn’t quite keep a close enough watch on the indigenous people of the big island of Hawaii and one of them snuck up on Cook and, while his back was turned and, killed him. It is presumed that the Hawaiians ate the venerable Captain Cook. How rude can you get?