January 1, 2012

January 1st - A Timeline

Happy New Year to all my visitors and especially to Friends of Polish Greatness (Blog)! I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your interest in and loyalty to this blog and especially for sharing many of the articles with your friends! Thank you for your valuable input and encouraging comments. Please be assured that although I have not answered each of you, I have indeed read every message!


At the start of every New Year it is customary to reflect upon the previous year and to highlight the major events that have occurred around the world and how they have shaped our lives. It is a time to take stock and evaluate the good and bad, the famous and infamous, the peacemakers and the war-mongers. As we celebrate the first day of this New Year let us go further back in time and discover some incredible events that have happened on January the 1st - through the ages. Whether tragic or inspiring, unusual or shocking, whatever the stories may be, it promises to be a fascinating journey back into the past.



January 1, 42 B.C.

The "Tusculum portrait"
It may be the only surviving bust of Julius Caesar made during his lifetime

On New Year's Day, 42 B.C., by decree of the Roman Senate, Julius Caesar was posthumously granted the title, Divus Julius, that is the Divine Julius, the first Roman to be officially deified. After his assassination, his remains were cremated and on the site of the cremation the Temple of Caesar was erected a few years later. Today only it's altar remains. Through his lifetime, Julius Caesar no doubt received divine honours, having been born into a patrician family, the dynasty of Julia. It was the oldest patrician lineage in ancient Rome, and one whose members claimed direct descent from Iulus, son of Aeneas, the legendary Trojan prince, and supposed son of the goddess Venus.


When Julius Caesar was a young man, he was kidnapped by pirates and held for ranson. Though his captors thought to demand twenty talents of silver, Julius Caesar insisted they ask for fifty. Throughout his captivity he maintained an air of superiority, taunting his captors with retribution. They thought he was joking. Once the ransom was paid, Caesar assembled a fleet, pursued the pirates and imprisoned them. True to his word, he had them each crucified, but in a gesture of leniency, he first had their throats slashed.




January 1, 404 AD

Saint Telemachus stabbed to death
On January 1, 404, Saint Telemachus, a monk, tried to stop a gladiator fight in a Roman amphitheatre and was stoned to death by the crowd. According to the historical writings of Theodoret, the Bishop of Cyrrhus, Syria, the Christian Emperor Honorius was so shocked by Telemachus' martyrdom, that his issued an edict banning all gladiator fights from then on.

Since then other versions of the story began to circulate differing in a number of details. In Foxe's Box of Martyrs, the story asserts that Saint Telemachus was stabbed to death by one of the gladiator's and the sight of his death, "turned the hearts of the people".

There is even a version told by the late President Ronald Reagan in 1984 - that upon witnessing the slaying of the monk, the entire crowd of spectators left the stadium in silence.

In an alternate version of the story, Telemachus had stood up in the amphitheatre and commanded the assembly to stop worshipping idols and offering sacrifices to pagan gods. Upon hearing this, the prefect of the city ordered his gladiators to slay Telemachus, which they promptly did.




January 1, 1001
Holy Crown of Hungary


Saint Stephen was crowned the first apostolic King of Hungary, although there is disagreement on the date of his coronation, given as Christmas Day, or January 1st.

In accordance with Hungarian tradition, Pope Silvester II, with the consent of Otto III, of the Holy Roman Emperor, sent King Stephen a magnificent jewel-encrusted gold crown and an apostolic cross. In addition, a letter of blessings was presented to him, an act which officially recognized Stephen as the Christian King of Hungary. This tradition was later interpreted as papal recognition of the independence of Hungary from the Holy Roman Empire.

Legend has it that upon his coronation, Stephen dedicated the crown to the Holy Virgin and in so doing sealed a bond between God and the crown, which thereafter was referred to as the Holy Crown. It is said that the crown survived intact to this day however such claims are vigorously disputed. The crown has been dated as having originated in the 12th century and therefore could not have been worn by King Stephen. Irregardless, the crown symbolizes the basis of the Doctrine of the Holy Crown and the Apostolic Kingdom of Hungary.

In the history of Hungary, no king was regarded as truly legitimate unless he was crowned with the Holy Crown. Fifty kings had been crowned with it , but only two were not, John II Sigismund and Joseph II.

The Holy Crown was removed from Hungary in 1945 and entrusted to the United States government for safe-keeping. It had been secured in a vault at Fort Knox until 1978 until by order of President Jimmy Carter, it was returned to the Hungarian government. Since 2000, it has been enshrined in the Hungarian parliament building in Budapest.




January 1, 1739

Jean-Baptiste Charles Bouvet de Lozier
On January 1, 1739 French explorer Jean-Baptiste Charles Bouvet de Lozier, commander of the French ships Aigle and Marie,discovered a remote island in the South Atlantic Ocean.  Because of the inaccuracy of Bouvet's navigation,  it was impossible to locate the position of Bouvet Island.. Moreover, it remained unknown whether it was actually an island or part of a continent, since Bouvet did not circumnavigate his discovery.

Captain James Cook was determined to find the island when he departed from South Africa in 1772. He soon abandoned his quest. Never having sighted the island, he assumed that Bouvet mistook an iceberg for an island.

It wasn't until October 1808 that the mysterious island was sighted again, this time by James Lindsay, Captain of the whaler, Snow Swan. Lindsay was the first to chart the exact position but since the coordinates varied so greatly from those recorded by Bouvet, he assumed it was a different island and named it Lindsay Island. In December of 1825, Captain George Norris landed on the island, and named it Liverpool Island, claiming it for the British Crown. However, it is doubtful that it was the same island since a second island was sighted nearby.

Finally in 1898 a German vessel, the Valdivia, caught sight of the island while on a expedition but did not land. The first landed visitors to the island arrived in 1927, the crew of the Norwegian ship, Norvegia who promptly settled there for a month. On December 1, 1927, the island was claimed for Norway by the leader of the expedition, Lars Christensen. A year later, Bouvet Island was claimed as Norwegian territory by Royal Norwegian Decree. (Britain relinquished it's claim.) Bouvet Island was designated in 1971 as a nature reserve, and despite the hostile conditions, the Norwegians set up an automated weather station there in 1977.

An unusual occurrence, referred to as the Vela Incident, was detected on September 22, 1979 that to this day cannot be fully explained. Images from an American satellite, Vela Hotel, recorded a double flash of light in the area between Bouvet Island and the Prince Edward Island. Some experts claim that the double flash of light, characteristic of a nuclear bomb explosion was indicative of a nuclear weapons test. Others contend that it was only a meteor impact. The United States Air Force investigated by sending planesto the are especially equipped to detect airborne radioactive dust. None were reported.



January 1, 1776

During the American Revolutionary War, on New Year's Day in 1776, Lord Dunmore, the Royal British Governor of Virgina, ordered a fleet of three ships to attack the city of Norfolk. The battleships shelled the town for over eight hours. Damage from the shelling, and fires started by the British and their patriots destroyed two-thirds of the city. Over 800 buildings were destroyed. The following month the patriots destroyed the remaining buildings. Only Saint Paul's Episcopal Church, albeit its' walls survived the onslaught and raging fires. A cannonball from the bombardment, fired by the vessel Liverpool, remains lodged within its walls.

Photo of Saint Paul's Episcopal Church, Norfolk, Virginia 2007
Source:  lori05871 from Flickr



January 1, 1808


On this day in 1808, the United States Congress officially banned the importation of slaves. However a provision was made that allowed for the acquisition of new slaves if they were descendants of those already in the United States. Not banned, however,was the internal slave trade and the involvement by U.S. citizens in the international slave trade. Despite the ban, slaves were smuggled into the United States, though fewer in number. From 1815 to the 1860s, trafficking in the internal slave trade increased in the United States to epic proportions. Almost 250,000 slaves were transported over state lines in the period between 1830 and 1840. During the 1850s, over 193,000 were transported and by 1860, there were over 4 million slaves. The American Civil War beginning in 1861 led to the end of slavery in the United States.


Photographed on April 2, 1863, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA
The original caption read as follows:
 "Overseer Artayou Carrier whipped me. I was two months in bed sore from the whipping. My master come after I was whipped; he discharged the overseer. The very words of poor Peter, taken as he sat for his picture."

NB: The United Nations General Assembly declared 2004 as International Year to Commemorate the Struggle against slavery and its Abolition. The General Assembly resolution, in its entirety was voted against by Israel, Palau, and the United States, with Australia and Canada abstaining.




January 1, 1812


Shute Barrington
Bishop of Durham
On this day in 1812, the Bishop of Durham, (England), Shute Barrington, ordered his military troops to break up a miner's strike at the collieries owned by Dean & chapter of Durham Cathedral located on Chester-le-Street. Up until around 1836, the "Prince" Bishops of Durham maintained vice-regal power in Northern England, and possessed their own private, albeit small army, which was garrisoned in Durham Castle.


"There are two kings in England, namely the Lord King of England, wearing a crown in sign of his regality and the Lord Bishop of Durham wearing a mitre in place of a crown, in sign of his regality in the diocese of Durham".
       (Quote from the steward of Anthony Bek, Bishop of Durham 1284 - 1311).







January 1, 1860

First Polish Stamp
The first Polish stamp was issued on the first of January 1860.(Gregorian calendar). Since the day fell on a Sunday, the stamp was not made available for public circulation until the following day.

It's design was similar to that of contemporary Russian stamps of the time, showing the arms of the Congress Kingdom in the centre. The engraving was done by Henryk Mejer, a Polish Bank engraver who had copied drawings that were found in the archives at St Petersburg. The name of the artist remains unknown.

The stamps were printed by the government printers in Warsaw on the orders of the Congress Kingdom postal service. The letterpress machine that was used was capable of printing in two colors and had the capacity to produce 1,000 sheets per hour.

The printing had been ordered without consultation of the Russian postal service. Nevertheless the regional office in St Petersburg approved it on 4 March 1860 with the provision that these stamps be used only within the confines of the Congress Kingdom and Russia. Letters destined to other countries had to be paid for in cash and remain unstamped. It is believed that about three million of these stamps were printed. They were eventually withdrawn from use on April 1, 1865 and a total of 208,515 stamps were destroyed. It was one of the actions taken by Russian government in response to the January Uprising in 1863 by Polish insurgents.

N.B. The independent nation of Poland had virtually disappeared when it was partitioned by Russia, Prussia, and Austria in 1772, by Russia and Prussia in 1793, and a third time in 1795 by Russia, Prussia and Austria.  Poland did not regain it's independence until 1918.


Russian army in Warsaw 1861 during marshal law
Author-Maciej Szczepańczyk-user Mathiasrex



January 1, 1880

Construction began on January 1st, 1880 to cut a path through the Panamanian tropics and join the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The Panama Canal was the largest and most difficult engineering project ever undertaken and took thirty-four years to complete.



History Panama Canal Construction 1934 (00:07:28m)

The first attempt was undertaken by the French under the leadership of Ferdinand de Lesseps and work progressed for several years until the project had to be abandoned in 1890. The French grossly underestimated the overall cost of such an undertaking and declared bankruptcy.  More than 22,000 workers died from work-related accidents, and from malaria and yellow fever. 

The second attempt was made by the United States in 1904 when they bought the French rights for $10 million and signed a treaty with the Panamanian government. The U.S. Army Medical Corp under the command of Colonel William Crawford Gorgas, launched an extensive mosquito abatement plan which took two years and several million dollars to complete. They successfully identified and isolated patients with yellow fever or malaria, eliminated stagnant water, etc. Irregardless of their efforts to prevent further deaths,by the end of the project a total of 5,600 workmen had died from accidents and illness.

The Panama Canal Railway hauled thousands of workmen to and from the sites and transported millions of tons of equipment and supplies. The main job however was even more daunting, that is, the loading of millions of cubic yards of earth and rock that had been blasted away by explosives, and carting them away by locomotives. By the end of construction over 30,000,000 pounds of explosives had been used (14,000t). The railroads, steam shovels, gigantic steam-powered cranes, rock crushers, cement mixers, dredges and pneumatic power drills were the newest pieces of construction equipment of its time, and almost all of it developed and manufactured in the United States. The canal was finally completed on August 15, 1914, the same month that World War I broke out in Europe.

The United States controlled the canal and its defenses in the Panama Canal Zone until 1977.  Then up to 1999 it was under joint U.S.- Panamanian administration and finally on December 31, 1999 full control was transferred to the Panamanian government.

The builders of the Canal in 1934 envisaged that shipping traffic could very well reach 80 million tons per year, but by 2009 it had already surpassed 299.1 million tons. Efforts are being made to improve capacity of the canal system and maximise the current locking system in order to accomodate larger vessels.

The highest toll that was ever charged was US$ 331,200. to the cruise ship Disney Magic on May 16, 2008.  The least expensive toll was a mere 36 cents charged to Richard Halliburton, an American adventurer who swam the canal in 1928.

Richard Halliburton swam the Panama Canal 1928

The longest vessel ever to have passed through the Panama Canal was the San Juan Prospector, an ore-bulk-oil carrier that measured 973 ft (296.57m) in length with a beam of 106 ft (32.31m).




January 1, 1908

For the very first time, the famous ball at New York City`s Time Square dropped at the stroke of midnight to celebrate the start of the New Year.  The construction of One Times Square was a marvel of the early 20th century.  Built to house the new headquarters of the prestigious paper, The New York Times, it was then called Long Acre Square. When it was completed in 1904, it was hailed as the second tallest building in the world - a 25-story skyscraper at 395 feet high!

This photograph was taken in 1807 during a rehearsal 
for what would become the very first New Year's Eve Time ball drop.
It is quite interesting to note that the streets surrounding the building are virutally deserted!





January 1, 1928

Boris Bazhanov, Stalin's secretary
Boris Bazhanov defected from the Soviet Union on January 1, 1928 escaping to France through Iran. He is the only one from Joseph Stalin's secretariat to have escaped and lived to tell his stories.

Bazhanov was a secretary in the Politburo and from August 1923 to the end of 1925 served as the personal secretary to Stalin. When Bazhanov escaped a massive manhunt ensued, led by Georges Agabekov, the chief Soviet spy, but he too defected to France in June 1930. Despite attempts by Stalin to hunt down and kill Bazhanov, he failed.

From 1930 Bazhanov wrote and published several memoirs and books revealing the secrets of Stalin's actions. Bazhanov died in Paris in 1983, but his books continue to be published and translated in several languages around the world.






January 1934


Wir stehen nicht allein:
"We do not stand alone". Nazi propaganda poster 1936.
The Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring (German: Gesetz zur Verhütung erbkranken Nachwuchses) otherwise known as the "Sterilization Law" was a statute enacted by Nazi Germany on July 14, 1933 and made active in January 1934. 

This law imposed compulsory sterilization
of any citizen who was assessed by a genetic health court to suffer from a list of alleged genetic disorders.

By the end of the Nazi regime over 400,000
people were sterlized against their will.


This poster depicts a German couple standing in front of a map of Germany, surrounded by the flags of other nations which were also considering similar legislation. (on the left hand side). The countries which enacted compulsory sterlization laws were: the United States in 1912 (the date illegible; Indiana enacted first laws in 1907); Denmark in 1929; Norway in 1934; Sweden in 1935 and Finland in 1935(?)




January 1, 1945


On January 1, 1945 several dozen SS German POWs were alleged to have been killed by American troops near the village of Chenogne, Belgium.  It was assumed that it was in retaliation for the Malmedy Massacre. 

Malmedy Massacre December 17, 1944
Murdered American POWs

The Malmedy Massacre was committed on December 17, 1944 in which 84 American POWs had been murdered by German soldiers of the Kampfgrupe Peiper (part of the 1st SS Panzer Division). The same German unit had committed other massacres that very day and in the days to follow.  These and other Nazi German atrocities became the subject of war-crime trials held in 1946.




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