by Kathy Wolfe
This week in August has been a busy one throughout history. Tidbits spotlights some interesting events from over the years.
• Harry Allen’s irritation led to a brand-new industry back in August of 1907. This New York City resident hired a hansom carriage to transport him a distance of 0.75 miles (1.21 km) through the City, a service that cost him $5 ($153.00 today). Allen had the idea of a taxicab company that charged by the mile. He imported 65 gasoline-powered autos from France, and on August 13, the New York Taxicab Company opened for business. Although the cabs arrived from France painted red and green, Allen had them all repainted yellow in order to be visible from a far distance. His drivers dressed in snappy uniforms similar to West Point cadets. A year later, the company was running 700 cabs.
• V-J Day occurred on August 14, 1945, the day that Japan surrendered unconditionally to the Allies, ending World War II. The surrender followed the previous week’s atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, along with the Soviet Union’s declaration of war on Japan. Japanese Emperor Hirohito accepted the terms of the Potsdam Declaration, an ultimatum prepared by the Allies, calling for the surrender, stating that Japan would face “prompt and utter destruction” if the country did not comply.
• On August 15, 1620, the Mayflower departed Southampton, England, with a group of people escaping that country’s religious persecution headed for a new life across the Atlantic. There was plenty of room for passengers and supplies because a second ship, the Speedwell, was accompanying the Mayflower on its journey. However, the Speedwell was leaking badly, requiring both ships to return to England shortly after departure. The repairs to the ship were completed within a week, and the pair of vessels set sail once again. After 300 miles (483 km), the Speedwell was taking on water again, and it was decided to leave the ship behind. While some passengers gave up on the voyage, the remainder climbed aboard the Mayflower. Without the second ship, the 102 passengers and 30 crew members were forced to endure overcrowded conditions. The ship set sail on September 16, and after approximately ten weeks at sea, the Mayflower dropped anchor near what is now Cape Cod, Massachusetts on November 21, 1620.
• Pitcher Nolan Ryan had his 324th and final victory on August 15, 1993 at age 46. Ryan had pitched a record 5,714 strikeouts. But he wasn’t the oldest pitcher to win a MLB game. On August 14, 1932, Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher John Quinn, at 49, became the oldest pitcher with a win, defeating the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds. Quinn spent 23 seasons in the majors with eight different teams. He pitched his final game in July, 1933 at age 50, after playing baseball in four different decades. Quinn was also the oldest to hit a home run in the majors at age 46, and the oldest pitcher to start games in the World Series (1929) and on Opening Day (1931). Two of his records have since been broken, with his pitching win in 1932 broken in 2012 by Jamie Moyer, and his home run record broken by 47-year-old Julio Franco in 2006.
• August 15, 1911 marked Procter & Gamble’s introduction of Crisco shortening. Touted as the world’s first solid shortening made entirely of vegetable oil, it was actually made from liquid cottonseed oil. A new process called hydrogenation solidified the oil. The company chose Crisco for the name, an adaptation of the phrase “crystallized cottonseed oil,” (although it had considered “Krispo” and “Cryst” before settling on Crisco). Consumers liked it better than lard because of its neutral taste – lard had a noticeable pork taste, since it was produced from pig fat – and liked Crisco better than butter because of its long shelf life. Within five years, more than 60 million cans of Crisco were being sold every year.
• This was the week in 1939 that “The Wizard of Oz” premiered across the country. Several sneak previews were held in some rather unlikely locations beginning on August 10, including Green Bay, Wisconsin, Kenosha, Wisconsin, San Bernadino, California, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, and Dennis, Massachusetts. The Hollywood premiere at the famed Grauman’s Chinese Theatre was on August 15. New York City’s premiere at Loew’s Capitol Theatre was held on August 17. The musical about Dorothy, the Kansas farm girl, was nominated for six Academy Awards, winning two Oscars for the music, including Best Original Song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
• On August 16, 1920, the Cleveland Indians shortstop Ray Chapman stepped up to the plate in the top of the fifth inning. He faced New York Yankees pitcher Carl Mays in the Yankees’ home stadium, the Polo Grounds. Mays’ first pitch struck Chapman in the temple, dropping him to the ground. The following morning Chapman died, the only Major League Baseball player to die as a direct result of being hit by a pitch. The Indians went on to win the World Series that year, dedicating their victory to Chapman. It wouldn’t be until 1971 that MLB mandated the wearing of helmets by batters.
• This was a history-making week for Jamaican athlete Usain Bolt in 2008, 2012, and 2016. Considered the greatest sprinter of all time, “Lightning Bolt” took home his first two gold medals, for the 100-m and 200-m, from Beijing in 2008, setting a new world record of 9.69 seconds for the 100-m. There would have been a third gold for Bolt, but the relay team was stripped of the medal when one of the team members was found guilty of a doping violation. Four years later, Bolt earned three golds in London, followed by three more golds at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. He is the current world record holder for 100-m, 200-m, and 4×100-m relay.
• At 5:07 PM, on August 15, 1969, Richie Havens took the stage to open the three-day Woodstock Music Festival. Later performances that day included Arlo Guthrie and Joan Baez, singing in front of half a million people on a Bethel, New York, dairy farm. Local farmer, 49-year-old Max Yasgur rented part of his 600 acres of land to host what was billed as “An Aquarian Experience: 3 Days of Peace and Music,” expecting 50,000 spectators. Day 2 featured Santana, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Who, and Jefferson Airplane, with Day 3 wrapping up with Joe Cocker, Blood Sweat & Tears, Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, and Jimi Hendrix. In all, 32 musical artists and groups performed. Two fatalities were recorded during the Festival, one a teenager who was run over by a tractor, and one drug-related death. Max Yasgur was sued by his neighbors for property damage incurred by concert-goers, and Yasgur himself received a $50,000 settlement for his nearly-destroyed dairy farm.