1st September 1914 (Tuesday)

DIED TODAY:  RIP Martha, who passes away in her cage today in Cincinatti zoo. Martha is the very last member of the species Ectopistes migratorius  (passenger pigeon), once the most abundant bird in North America. As recently as 1866 one large flock of her ancestors in Ohio was estimated to contain 3.5 billion birds [Wikipedia].


“Her body was frozen into a block of ice and sent to the Smithsonian Institution, where it was skinned, dissected, photographed and mounted. Currently, Martha is in the museum’s archived collection and not on display. A memorial statue of Martha stands on the grounds of the Cincinnati Zoo” . [Wikipedia]

QUOTE:  “A poignant example of what happens when the interests of man clash with the interests of nature…When their interests clashed with the interests of man, civilization prevailed”

[Smithsonian Institute].


Meanwhile, the affairs of men twist and turn…

In Russia, the city of St Petersburg is rebranded to Petrograd, ditching its germanic title for a suitably slavic alternative.

In Paris, Kitchener meets the BEF commander at the British Embassy and orders him to bring the British troops in to the line with French forces. The Germans, meanwhile, are within 30 miles of the French capital.



20th September 1913 (Saturday)


~ In New York City – Sidney Dillon Ripley II, “one of the twentieth century’s outstanding figures in the areas of museology, ornithology and conservation”.


~ in Waukesha, Wisconsin – John Thomas Curtis, “a productive writer on a variety of botanical subjects ranging from statistical ecology and plant physiology to conservation and the study of orchids”


Society and culture: In Essex, England, members of the Essex Field Club visit the newly excavated “Mersea Barrow” on Mersea Island in the Thames Estuary. Arriving by “motor omnibus”  they enter through a new tunnel (which has replaced the open excavation trench) to view the Roman tile-built tomb, which has been left in place at the heart of the burial mound.


Exploration: In the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska, commander Stefansson of HMCS Karluk, which is trapped in the ice, sets off with a small party to hunt for food. When he returns some 10 days later both the ice floe and the ship have drifted many miles to the west, where eventually, in early January, it will sink, near Wrangle Island, off the Siberian Coast. Its crew of 22 men, one woman, two children, 16 dogs and a cat escape the sinking ship and face gruelling journeys of many months back to civilization.


World Affairs: in Britain, the Spectator (newspaper) shares with its readers its view (“extremely pleased”) on Lord Hardinge’s (the Viceroy of India’s) recent comments regarding Britain’s attitude towards muslims:

“We believe that after these statements it will no longer be possible for any school of politicians to pretend with any hope of success that because Great Britain controls the destinies of more Mohammedans than any other Power in the world she is bound to protect the interests of Islam in every quarter of the globe. No one, as we pointed out the other day, would argue that because England supports the Protestant religion she must fly to the help of the Protestants of Holland or Sweden if they were suddenly attacked. Moslems have no more right to demand that England should fly to the help of Moslems wherever they are attacked because England is the greatest of Moslem Powers”. [The Spectator, 20th September 1913].


27th June 1913 (Friday)

BORN TODAY: In Philadelphia, PA – William Joseph (“Willie”) Mosconi – 15 times World Billiards Champion, 1941-1957.

Society and Labour Relations: In the UK, the newspaper the “Western Gazette” reports how the agricultural workers  of East Chinnock in Somerset, egged on by the local grocer (manager of the local Co-operative Society) are threatening to strike “in a district of dairy farms [and] where the hay harvest has barely commenced”. The men’s demands include: 18 shillings per week cash, plus cider; and 4 pence per hour for overtime after 6.pm and on Sundays. (A total of perhaps a little over one British Pound for a long labouring week  – hence the need for the cider).

Science: Philip Lutley Sclater FRS, FRGS, FZS., FLS dies today, aged 83. Lawyer and famous naturalist who, among many other achivements, managed to have no less than seven of god’s creatures named after him: Sclater’s lemur (Eulemer flavifrons); Sclater’s Monal (Lopophorus sclateri); the erect-crested penguin (Eudyptes sclateri); the Ecuadorian Cacique (Cacicus sclateri); the dusky-billet parrotlet (Psittacula sclateri); the Mexican chickadee (Poecile sclateri); and the Bay-vented cotinga  (Doliornis sclateri).

[A monal – by the way, for the non-ornithologists among us – is apparently a member of the pheasant family, and a cotinga is a bird of the central and south american tropical forest].

Mr Sclater may not make it into the history books but for certain he will make it into the zoology books for many years to come.

10th June 1913 (Tuesday)

BORN TODAY: in Shirley, Southampton, England – Dr Edward Abraham, CBE, FRS – antibiotics pioneer who developed cephalosporin, an antibiotic capable of destroying penicillin resistant bacteria.

Labour Relations: At the Wheal Martin China Clay quarry in South West England, employers are sent a union demand for a minimum wage of 25 shillings per week or a strike is threatened.

Women’s suffrage: In Newcastle, UK a bomb explodes in the Barras Bridge Post Office.

Transportation: Marcel Beindejone des Moulinais wins the Pommeroy Cup  for the longest flight between sunrise and sunset, covering a distance of 900 miles.

Society and culture: The Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens are established on the Kirstenbosch estate  near Cape Town.

5th June 1913 (Thursday)

BORN TODAY: in Rijeka on the Kvarner in Austria-Hungary (now Croatia) – Guido Nonveiller, Croatian entomologist. Officer in the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War, captured by Franco’s forces, later a member of the French Resistance movement during WW2. Founder and director of the Federal Institute for Plant Protection in Yugoslavia, then a plant protection officer in Tunisia and,  later still, Cameroon. Prolific author in German, French, English, Spanish, Italian and Serbo-Croat.

Arms Race: at the Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson shipyard in Wallsend, UK – the British Royal Navy launches the destroyer HMS Sarpedon (later Laertes). 

Society and Culture: In London, the Ambassadors Theatre opens for the business of pleasure.

At London’s Albert Hall, a Grand Gala Ball is held as a charity benefit in aid of the The Incorporated Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Help Society. The theme for the evening is the “Procession of Courts”, a lavish costume event where each “court” occupies a separate section of the hall and is hosted by a high society hostess. For example: The “Court of France” is organised by Lady Paget; “Portugal” by the Marchioness of Donegal; “Turkey” by the Countess Fitzwilliam; “Holy Roman Empire” by the Countess of Drogheda; and so on. A romantic evocation of a civilised and harmonious Europe which – if it ever existed – has slipped quietly away somewhere in the late nineteenth century.

In Robeson County, North Carolina, Pembroke Mayor McInnis reports that Town Council have made it clear that the new Railroad Station must have THREE waiting rooms in order to accommodate the three races in Pembroke: “the White, the Negro and the Cherokee Indian”, observing of the Cherokee that “there are some of the Indians who are very nice and good people and there is a large majority of them who are otherwise”. [http://www.learnnc.org/]

Science and technology: The journal “Nature” reports on the recent work of the (US) Eugenics Record Office, including a “series of quarto memoirs, beautifully printed at the expense of Mr. Rockefeller” which includes a study of the “Hill Folk” of New England. Recording that 700 individuals had descended from 2 individuals it comments that “Feeblemindedness, alcoholism and the evils which spring from each or both in combination are terribly prevalent among them, and their distribution within the families is clearly shown in the extensive pedigree charts which embellish the memoir”.

(The Eugenics Record Office in New York State was opened in 1910. Over the years it advocated laws that led to forced sterilisation before it was eventually closed in 1944).

10th May 1913 (Saturday)

BORN TODAY – in Keighley, West Yorkshire, England – “The Picture House” – the town’s first purpose built cinema.

World Affairs: War from the air reaches the Western Hemisphere when a French aviator drops pipe bombs on to Mexican shipping, including a gunboat.

After being rejected for a place at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts, followed by several years of poverty and misery on the streets and in poor homes, 24 year old Adolf Hitler leaves Vienna in search of a better life in Munich (and to avoid mandatory military service in the Austrian Army). Later he will write in Mein Kampf: “I owe it to that period that I grew hard and am still capable of being hard.”

Science, technology and society: In Grafton, New South Wales, the Clarence and Richmond Examiner reports Sir Rider Haggard’s comments: “…one of the greatest evils which is going on in Australia today is the destruction of the magnificent timber in which it was once so rich”.

20th April 1913 (Sunday)

BORN TODAY, in Durrhennersdorf, upper Lusatia (now Saxony – just in Germany) – Willi Hennig, who shuffled the evolutionary pack by founding phylogenetic systematics (marginally?) better known as cladistics. Rarely, if ever, can a dipterans specialist and military entomologist (malaria swatter) have had such a seismic impact on the natural world, although I guess there may be others who have saved more lives.

Also Born today: The Romanian fair force, Corpul Aerian Romana.

Arms Race: The French battleship “Provence” is launched at the Arsenal de Lorient.

Society and Culture: In Levin, South Island, New Zealand, George Adkin – a farmworker – spends his day on his hobby of photography after recently visiting “HMS Wellington” as a sightseer. In the evening he meets his sweetheart at the local church service and arranges to take her to the pictures tomorrow evening.

In London, young men from the Victoria Working Boys Club enjoy a sunday river trip outing from London bridge to Hampton Court and back, held in honour of the upcoming marriage of Mr C.R Sebag-Montefiore and Miss de Pass.

In Rathmines (now a suburb of Dublin) Ireland, C.P Fitzgerald and friends meet and decide to form the Rathmines and Rathgar musical Society.

World Affairs: The Walloon Assembly of the Province of Wallonia in Southern (french speaking) Belgium chooses the Rooster as its regional emblem.

Migration: Joseph Pepo Grezeetich arrives in New York, from Croatia, via Southampton. He is on his way to join a former neighbour in California.