History

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When the colonists came over to the new world, they really didn’t know how they were going to make a living. They were most likely planning to raise their own crops, along with hunting and fishing, but the reality is that those things were only going to take them so far. They were going to need other things. In 1620, Plymouth Colony was founded in present-day Massachusetts. The settlers there had planned to make a living with cod fishing, but that wasn’t going very well. So, within a few years of their first fur export, the Plymouth colonists began concentrating entirely on the fur trade. They developed an economic system in which their chief crop, Indian corn, was traded with Native Americans to the north for highly valued beaver skins, which were then sold in England to pay the Plymouth Colony’s debts and buy necessary supplies.

In November 9, 1621, Robert Cushman a deacon and captain of the Fortune arrived with 35 new settlers for Plymouth Colony…the first new colonists since the settlement was founded over a year earlier. The plan was to drop off the settlers, and then a month later, head back to England with a cargo of furs to pay for supplies and to pay debts the colony owed to England. On December 13, 1621, Robert Cushman and the Fortune set sail back to England, but theirs was not to be a good voyage. During Cushman’s return to England, the Fortune was captured by the French, and its valuable cargo of furs was taken. Cushman was detained on the Ile d’Dieu before being returned to England. The capture was due to a navigation error. About January 19, 1622, Fortune was overtaken and seized by a French warship, with those on board being held under guard in France for about a month and with its cargo taken. Fortune finally arrived back in the Thames on February 17, 1622.

The Fortune was 1/3 the size of the Mayflower, displacing 55 tons. The arrival of the vessel sent by the English investors, who had funded the Mayflower colonists, should have been a cause for celebration. But for the Pilgrims, Fortune was poorly named. The ship brought 35 new settlers, but none of the expected supplies. With new mouths to feed, rations were reduced by half. Worse, the investors demanded that the ship return immediately to England, stocked with trade goods. The Pilgrims complied by loading Fortune with “good clapboard as full as she could stow” and two hogsheads of beaver and otter skins, only to have them lost to the French, which the English investors did not seem to care about.

After the Mayflower brought the Plymouth settlers, they struggled under the demands of their English investors for seven years. The investors also sent a letter criticizing the settlers because the Mayflower arrived back in England with an empty hold, and demanding that the Fortune return immediately filled with valuable goods. The colonists complied. For the next six years, they sent sizable shipments, especially of furs, back to England. But the goods yielded far less profit than the investors expected, and as the seven year mark approached, the colonists were still in debt. Finally, 27 of them pooled their personal resources and paid off the debt. Once free of the requirement to live communally and hold all property in common, the original settlers divided the land into private lots, and the era of the “Old Comers” was over.

When we think of the name Hitler, most of us think of the vicious dictator who was responsible for the slaughter of as many a 6 million Jewish people, not to mention all the other people he killed in his crazed state of mind. For most of us, hearing the name Hitler brings with it feelings of horror, disgust, and continued shock every time we learn a new fact about Hitler and his Third Reich. Yes, the name Hitler doesn’t usually bring any feelings of…anything good. Well, what I learned today, changed my view of that. You see, not everyone named Hitler was evil, not even everyone named Hitler during World War II, and not even everyone who had the unfortunate…misfortune of being related to Adolf Hitler. You see, for William Patrick Hitler of Liverpool, England, having the name wasn’t the worst part of his situation. William was actually the nephew of Adolf Hitler, the Führer of Nazi Germany. It was a reality that made him almost nauseous. Dealing with that reality would take William on a zigzag path leading to Germany, England, America, and finally the United States Navy. I’m sure that you, like me, thought, “How could the United States Navy allow a nephew of Adolf Hitler to join up, much less to muster out with men sent to fight his uncle.

Born March 12, 1911, in Liverpool, England, William Hitler was the only child of Bridget Dowling and her Austrian expatriate husband, Alois Hitler Jr, who was the half-brother of Adolf Hitler. In 1914, Alois abandoned his wife and three year old son to go traveling through Europe. The outbreak of World War I prevented him from returning to England, so he settled down in Germany, married again, despite still being married to Dowling, and started a new family. For years, Alois made no attempt to contact his wife and son back in Liverpool, but rather had someone tell Dowling that he was dead. In 1924, the truth came out. Alois was charged with bigamy in Germany, but avoided conviction because Dowling actually interceded on his behalf. That was all she did however. She drew the line, when Alois asked her to send William to Germany for a visit. She told him that she would not let her son visit until he reached his 18th birthday, in 1929. Upon turning 18, William traveled to Germany and reconnected with his father, who took him to a Nazi rally where he saw his Uncle Adolf, leader of the rising National Socialist (Nazi) Party. William visited Germany again in 1930, this time meeting his uncle in person and receiving an autographed photo from him.

I’m sure that William thought that his relationship with his uncle would be something that would advance his journalism career, but Hitler didn’t want anyone to know what he was doing. William’s articles about his Uncle Adolf Hitler, only served to be the beginning of being blackballed from everything to do with Adolf Hitler, and his disgust with Adolf Hitler and his insane ways. Hitler called William to Berlin, and reportedly ordered him to retract the articles. Now William saw a totally different side of his uncle…describing it as a “wild-eyed and tearful” outburst. Apparently Hitler even threatened to kill himself if William ever again published anything about his personal life. Now, William became persona non grata in England. He was fired from his job in 1932. Unable to find other employment in his homeland, he decided to look for work in Germany. Perhaps his increasingly influential uncle could be persuaded to help, but no warm welcome awaited in Germany. According to William, whose July 4, 1939 article for Look magazine, “Why I Hate My Uncle,” is the sole source on his dealings with his uncle Adolf Hitler, who sent William a letter during his visit, denying they were relatives. Shortly afterward, William’s father sent him back to England. I guess he was persona non grata with his dad too.

William tried using his relationship to Hitler to obtain a job in Germany, and was successful, but when he tried to send money to his mother, he was informed that Hitler would not allow it…even for family. William began to see a much more evil side of his uncle. Eventually, he left Germany and went back to England, but found that he was not welcome there either. He and his mother moved to the United States, where his relationship again caused him problems. Finally, in 1942, William wrote directly to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, begging to be allowed to serve in the US military. “I am one of many, but can render service to this great cause,” he wrote. FDR passed the letter on to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who looked into William’s background and finally cleared him for military service. Sworn into the US Navy in New York City on March 6, 1944, William Hitler went on to serve three years as a pharmacist’s mate, receiving the Purple Heart for a wound he suffered. He was discharged in 1947.

Finally tired of the attention his controversial surname attracted, William changed it to Stuart-Houston after returning to the civilian world. He married German-born Phyllis Jean-Jacques, and the couple settled in Patchogue on New York’s Long Island, where they had four children, the first of whom bore the surprising middle name of Adolf. William ran a blood analysis lab, Brookhaven Laboratories, in his family’s home. William Stuart-Houston died on July 14, 1987, and was buried next to his late mother in Coram, New York. His children did not produce any children of their own…and so ended the line.

It doesn’t matter how many years have gone by since that horrible December day 76 years ago today, I don’t think that anyone who knows anything about the attack on Pearl Harbor can forget just how horrific it was. I suppose they should have known that an attack was imminent, or at the very least suspected it. Diplomatic negotiations with Japan had broken down, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his advisers knew that an imminent Japanese attack was probable. Still, nothing had been done to increase security at the important naval base at Pearl Harbor. It was critical mistake that would cost a total of 2,400 Americans their lives. In addition, 1,200 were wounded, many while valiantly attempting to defend Pearl Harbor from the attack.

It was Sunday morning, and many military personnel had been given passes to attend religious services off base. It should have been a quiet, peaceful, relaxing day. At 7:02am, two radar operators spotted large groups of aircraft in flight toward the island from the north. With a flight of B-17s expected from the United States at the time, they were told to sound no alarm. They were told wrong. At 7:55am Hawaii time, the peaceful day was shattered when, a Japanese dive bomber bearing the red symbol of the Rising Sun of Japan on its wings appeared out of the clouds above the island of Oahu. A swarm of 360 Japanese warplanes followed, descending on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor. It was a ferocious assault. The surprise attack struck a critical blow against the United States Pacific fleet and drew the United States into World War II…like it or not. The Japanese air assault came as a devastating surprise to the naval base. Much of the Pacific fleet was rendered useless. There was simply no time to act. The window of opportunity for them to act was missed when no warning was given. Five of eight battleships, three destroyers, and seven other ships were sunk or severely damaged, and more than 200 aircraft were destroyed. Japan’s losses were some 30 planes, five midget submarines, and fewer than 100 men, and many of these were intentional suicide bombers. Fortunately for the United States, all three Pacific fleet carriers were out at sea on training maneuvers. These giant aircraft carriers would have their revenge against Japan six months later at the Battle of Midway, in a battle that would reverse the tide against the previously invincible Japanese navy in a spectacular victory.

The day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, President Roosevelt appeared before a joint session of Congress and declared, “Yesterday, December 7, 1941…a date which will live in infamy…the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” After a brief and forceful speech, he asked Congress to approve a resolution recognizing the state of war between the United States and Japan. Finally, the president had taken action. The Senate voted for war against Japan by 82 to 0, and the House of Representatives approved the resolution by a vote of 388 to 1. The sole dissenter was Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana, a devout pacifist who had also cast a dissenting vote against the United States entrance into World War I. Three days later, Germany and Italy declared war against the United States, and the United States government responded in kind. The American contribution to the successful Allied war effort spanned four long years and cost more than 400,000 American lives. The attack on Pearl Harbor was a vicious attack that shows us that in a war, neutrality is not a guarantee of safety, but is rather viewed as a sign of weakness.

Any time explosives are being transported, there is danger associated with it. Of course, explosives like nitroglycerine used to be very volatile, and just having the bump around on a dirt road could set it off. Things might be safer now, but the danger still exists. On December 6, 1917, in the harbor outside Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, a Belgian steamer and French freighter exploded. Both were loaded with ammunition. The explosion was disastrous. Sixteen hundred people were killed immediately. They were sailors looking on from the decks of their ships, rail-workers, and longshoremen. They were onlookers who were drawn to the spectacle of the burning ship. They were laborers looking on from factory windows or doorways, shopkeepers, and firemen. They were wives, mothers and babies, and school children. Just people going about their daily lives, who were caught up in the shocking scene…and it cost them their lives. Nine thousand more people were wounded. The 8 million tons of TNT carried by the ships was intended for use in World War I. The ships were gathered in Halifax, which was the meeting point for convoys to begin the dangerous Atlantic crossing. They would go together as protection from the German U-Boat submarines. The HMS High Flyer was to be the lead ship in the convoy that trip. The freighter from France, the Mont Blanc, had picked up a full load of TNT in New York and came into the harbor that foggy morning. Due to the poor conditions, it collided with the Imo, a Belgian steam boat, also carrying ammunition. A fire resulted and both ships were abandoned immediately.

The Stella Maris was moving up to the Mont-Blanc at the time of the explosion. The crew were attempting to attach a line to the Mont Blanc to tow it away from Pier 6. When the Mont-Blanc exploded the Stella Maris was swamped and thrown up onto the shore. Captain Brannen and nineteen of his crew members were killed instantly. By some miracle William Nickerson, the second mate, and four of the crew members survived. At Pier 8, to the north of Pier 6, stood the steamer Curaca, that had been loading mules. The Curaca was found in the center of Tuft’s Cove, across the harbor, at Dartmouth, with her bow protruding from the water. The stern of the Curaca was pushed in, her masts and smokestack were blown away. Although the Saint Bernard was on the northern side of Pier 6, the pier offered no protection. The Saint Bernard was completely destroyed along with Pier 6 and the Lola R, a small schooner. Here the Saint Bernard was beached at Parsboro, its home port, during winter prior to the explosion. The Picton was tied up at the Sugar Refinery Wharf just below Pier 6. At the time of the explosion the Picton was being unloaded to undergo repairs. Her cargo included munitions. Due to the quick thinking of the longshoremen the hatches were closed. Although the Picton caught fire, it was quickly put out with the help of the crew of the tugboat Lee. A British ship, the Pictou, was at a pier in the harbor and was also filled with ammunition. The crew of the Pictou immediately fled and set the ship free upon witnessing the collision. The High Flyer was the only ship that took any action to try to stop the disaster…it sent 23 men toward the collision to attempt to sink the vessels. They were too late. Just as they reached the burning ships, a massive explosion occurred.

The explosion sent burning debris throughout Halifax. It also caused a large wave to form that pushed the ships at pier right up out of the harbor. A Canadian army officer stationed at Halifax described the result, “All that could be seen for a great circumference were burning buildings, great mounds of iron and brick in the streets and dead bodies.” A 2½ mile radius was completely demolished and the explosion could be felt 125 miles away. The wave of water hit a Navy ammunition plant located near the shores. That water most likely kept it from catching fire. Most other places nearby were not hit with the wave, unfortunately. The railway station collapsed from the blast and crushed scores of people inside. About 100 more were killed in a sugar plant located near the water. Of the 500 students located in schools nearby, less than 10 survived. In all, the death toll was somewhere between 1,200 and 4,000. No one knows for sure because so much of the city was completely obliterated. Many more might have died except for a snowstorm that hit the area later that day. It helped put out the flames, but not before 25,000 people were left homeless in the wake of the disaster.

The Mary Celeste began its fateful voyage on November 7, 1872. She set sail with seven crewmen and Captain Benjamin Spooner Briggs, his wife, Sarah, and the couple’s 2-year-old daughter, Sophia. The 282 ton brigantine battled heavy weather for two weeks to reach the Azores. It was there that the ship logged its last entry at 5am on November 25, 1872. The rest of the story of the Mary Celeste remains a mystery, although the ship was found in good shape and completely sea-worthy.

I find it strange to think that in the middle of the ocean, something can happen with little or no warning, that either takes the lives of people onboard a ship, or results in their disappearance. I understand mutiny, but then that does not leave a ship abandoned. So if not mutiny, how is it that the occupants of the ship did not see the other ship approaching? I know that pirates often overtook the ships, but the occupants of the ship were usually killed in a bloody battle. The people onboard did not just disappear. Nevertheless, something happened on the Mary Celeste between that final message on November 25, 1872 and December 5th, 1872, when she was spotted drifting along, in the Atlantic Ocean…empty.

The British brig Dei Gratia was about 400 miles east of the Azores on December 5, 1872, when crew members spotted a ship adrift in the choppy seas. Captain David Morehouse was shocked to discover that the unguided vessel was the Mary Celeste. It had left New York City eight days before him and should have already arrived in Genoa, Italy. He changed course to offer help. Morehouse sent a boarding party to the ship. When they went below decks, they discovered that the ship’s charts had been tossed about, and the crewmen’s belongings were still in their quarters. The ship’s only lifeboat was missing, and one of its two pumps had been disassembled. Three and a half feet of water was sloshing in the ship’s bottom, but the cargo of 1,701 barrels of industrial alcohol was largely intact. There was a six month supply of food and water…and no one to use it. So, the mystery began, and it has endured as one of the most durable mysteries in nautical history…What happened to the ten people who had sailed aboard the Mary Celeste? Over the many years since the discovery, a lack of hard evidence has only created more speculation as to what might have taken place. Theories have ranged from mutiny to pirates to sea monsters to killer waterspouts….some of which are completely ridiculous, but in the absence of evidence, people will speculate.

Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1884 short story based on the case posited a capture by a vengeful ex-slave, a 1935 movie featured Bela Lugosi as a homicidal sailor. Now, a new investigation, drawing on modern maritime technology and newly discovered documents, has pieced together the most likely scenario…which had nothing to do with Bela Lugosi. In fact, while it is unproven, it is thought that something a simple as coal dust could be the culprit. The idea is that the coal dust from a prior voyage filtered into the ships pumps, causing them to quit working. Then, it is thought that the captain, fearing that the ship would sink, ordered the passengers to abandon ship…well within sight of land at Azores. Anne MacGregor, the documentarian who launched the investigation and wrote, directed and produced The True Story of the ‘Mary Celeste,’ partly with funding from Smithsonian Networks. MacGregor learned that on its previous voyage, the Mary Celeste had carried coal and that the ship had recently been extensively refitted. Coal dust and construction debris could have fouled the ship’s pumps, which would explain the disassembled pump found on the Mary Celeste. With the pump inoperative, Briggs would not have known how much seawater was in his ship’s hull, which was too fully packed for him to measure visually. Of course, this is still speculation, because the ten people onboard were never heard from again, so the mystery continues.

For most of the early years of human history, when a person’s heart gave out…or any other organ, for that matter, it was often the end of that person. Doctors could only do so much, and there are certain body parts that we cannot live without. Of course, these days all that has changed. What used to be considered Frankensteinish, is now a part of modern medicine, and it is saving lives every day. Of course, I don’t think an actual head transplant has ever been done successfully, but many organs are successfully transplanted every day, and every day we hear about some other organ they can transplant…I even read somewhere, and of course, this could be fiction, that they were close to being able to do a brain transplant. I have to admit that the idea of a brain transplant is beyond what I can conceive, but it’s hard to say what is possible…especially when the first heart transplant seemed impossible before December 3, 1967.

On that day, 53 year old received the first human heart transplant at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. Washkansky was a South African grocer dying from chronic heart disease. Then, Denise Darvall, a 25 year old woman was fatally injured in a car accident. Surgeon Christiaan Barnard, who had trained at the University of Cape Town and in the United States, performed the revolutionary medical operation. The technique Barnard employed had been initially developed by a group of American researchers in the 1950s. American surgeon Norman Shumway achieved the first successful heart transplant, in a dog, at Stanford University in California in 1958, but prior to that time, transplants were simply a theory.

A successful heart transplant, or any transplant for that matter, does not necessarily mean a long life after the transplant…unfortunately. After Washkansky’s surgery, he was given drugs to suppress his immune system and keep his body from rejecting the heart. Those drugs worked well, in that Washkansky’s new heart had functioned normally until his death. Nevertheless, these drugs also left him susceptible to sickness, and 18 days later he died from double pneumonia. While losing him was a devastating setback, in the realm of transplants, the operation was an amazing success. Still, a successful transplant was not going to help people to survive, if the anti-rejection medications stifle the immune system and cause the patient to get sick and die of other illnesses that would have been harmless otherwise.

In the 1970s, the development of better anti-rejection drugs gave new hope to the transplantation program. Dr. Barnard continued to perform heart transplant operations, and by the late 1970s many of his patients were living up to five years with their new hearts. Successful heart transplant surgery continues to be performed today, but finding appropriate donors is extremely difficult, because the donor must be a match to the patient in blood type and other factors. All too often, the patient waiting for a transplant, dies before a viable donor can found.

How many Generals can say that a housewife saved their life? Not many, I’m sure. Most housewives would never get near enough to a general in combat to do anything, but in the 1700s, things were different. Of course, it wasn’t like Philadelphia housewife and nurse Lydia Darragh, got out there and fought along-side General Washington and his Continental Army, but she was, nevertheless, able to single-handedly save their lives when she overheard the British planning a surprise attack on Washington’s army for the following day. Some say this is just a legend, and I guess we will never know for sure, but the story has endured for 240 years, which says something to me.

This historic event happened on December 2, 1777, during the occupation of Philadelphia. British General William Howe had stationed his headquarters across the street from the Darragh home. When Howe’s headquarters proved too small to hold meetings, he commandeered a large upstairs room in the Darraghs’ house. Although uncorroborated, family legend holds that Mrs. Darragh used to eavesdrop and take notes on the British meetings from an adjoining room and would conceal the notes by sewing them into her coat before passing them onto American troops stationed outside the city. It was a critical mistake on the part of the British, and the ingenious way of passing the information worked very well for the patriots.

On the evening of December 2, 1777, Darragh overheard the British commanders planning a surprise attack on Washington’s army at Whitemarsh, Pennsylvania, for December 4th and 5th. Somehow, it completely amazes me that they would be so careless with the information, especially considering the fact that they were in the home of the enemy. I guess they assumed that the housewife would have no idea what the “great military minds” were thinking or talking about, nor that she would have any way to pass the information to anyone who could do anything about it. I’m sure they were completely shocked when they realized that she had tipped General Washington off to the plot, and saved the lies of him and his army…as well as saving the day.

Using a cover story that she needed to buy flour from a nearby mill just outside the British line, Darragh passed the information to American Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Craig the following day. The British marched towards Whitemarsh on the evening of December 4, 1777, and were surprised to find General Washington and the Continental Army waiting for them. After three inconclusive days of skirmishing, General Howe chose to return his troops to Philadelphia. It’s an amazing victory for General Washington and his Continental Army, and it all happened because a patriot housewife turned spy for her country. When you think about it, she already had the perfect disguise for the job. It is said that members of the Central Intelligence Agency still tell the story of one of the first spies in American history.

Prior to December 1, 1958, fire drills were not normal procedure, and in fact, were not held at all. No one knew how important fire drills were, even though they knew the dangers of fire, and just how deadly it was. Mainly, they did not realize just how important fire drills were to the safe evacuation of people from a burning building. Prior to that day, when there was a fire, those who knew about the fire ran, and most didn’t think about raising the alarm to let others know. This was especially true in schools, where in reality, fire drills were exponentially more important, because the drill made an emergency seem like just another drill, and could be carried out, before the smell of smoke even arrived in the rooms of the school. Prior to December 1, 1958, the schools had an alarm, but all too often, setting it off was the last thing on the minds of the people in charge…mostly due to their own panic. Later it would be determined that with practice, an emergency situation could be handled, and the people evacuated quickly, if the procedure was simply a practiced maneuver that everyone knew and automatically executed.

So, what led up to the fire drill revelation? Basically, it was due to a fire at a grade school in Chicago that killed 90 students on this day in 1958. Our Lady of Angels School was operated by the Sisters of Charity in Chicago. In 1958, there were well over 1,200 students enrolled at the school, which occupied a large, old building. In those days, little was done in the way of fire prevention. The building did not have any sprinklers and no regular preparatory drills were conducted. Those two factors combined, led to disaster when a small fire broke out in a pile of trash in the basement, and quickly burned out of control.

It is thought that the fire began about 2:30 pm. Within minutes, several teachers on the first floor smelled it. These teachers led their classes outside, but because it was never practiced, no one thought to sound a general alarm. The school’s janitor discovered the fire at 2:42 pm, and shouted for the alarm to be rung…but by then, at least ten precious minutes had passed since the fire started. Time to evacuate was quickly running out. Unfortunately, the janitor was either not heard or the alarm system did not operate properly. The students in the classrooms on the second floor were completely unaware of the rapidly spreading flames beneath them. It took a few more minutes for the fire to reach the second floor. By this time, panic had overtaken the students and teachers. Some panic stricken students jumped out windows to escape. I can only imagine the horror the firefighters must have felt as the roll up to the scene to find students hanging from the second floor windows, as they ran to try to catch them as they fell. Although the firefighters who were arriving on the scene tried to catch them, some were injured. Firefighters also tried to get ladders up to the windows. One quick-thinking nun had her students crawl under the smoke and roll down the stairs, where they were rescued. Other classes remained in their rooms, praying for help. There was no protocol…no routine…and for 90 students and 3 nuns, no chance of survival. Several hours later, when the fire was finally extinguished, the authorities found the 90 students and 3 nuns in the ashes of the classrooms. Sadly, it is the horrific “lessons” that trigger the quickest move to change, and this fire was no different. These days, when students hear the alarm…which is automatic when smoke is detected, they line up, and leave the school in a calm and orderly manner. Fire drills save lives.

I think most people love trains. The fascination of stepping onboard, and arriving at a totally different place without driving or flying is an alluring thought, not to mention a little romantic. Over the years, trains have been given names, almost as if they were alive and had personalities. In England, one of the most loved trains was The Flying Scotsman, so named in 1924, after the train had been in operation since 1862. The train was an express train, and was clocked at 100 mph on a special test run in 1934. It officially the first locomotive in the United Kingdom to have reached that speed. In those days, that was a phenomenal achievement…unheard of really.

The Flying Scotsman ran between Edinburgh and London, the capitals of Scotland and England, via the East Coast Main Line. It is currently operated by Virgin Trains East Coast. The East Coast Main Line over which the Flying Scotsman runs, was built in the 19th century by many small railway companies, but mergers and acquisitions led to only three companies controlling the route…the North British Railway (NBR), the North Eastern Railway (NER) and the Great Northern Railway (GNR). In 1860 the three companies established the East Coast Joint Stock for through services using common vehicles, and it is from this agreement that The Flying Scotsman came about.

The original journey took 10½ hours, including a half-hour stop at York for lunch. However, increasing competition and improvements in railway technology saw this time reduced to 8½ hours by the time of the Race to the North in 1888. From 1896, the train was modernized with such features as corridors between carriages, heating, and dining cars. The York stop was reduced to 15 minutes, as passengers could now have lunch on the train, but the end-to-end journey time remained 8½ hours.

It was the British Empire Exhibition made Flying Scotsman famous. Soon, it was featured at many more publicity events for the LNER. In 1928, it was given a new type of coal-car with a corridor, which meant that a new crew could take over without stopping the train. This allowed it to haul the first ever non-stop London to Edinburgh service on May 1, reducing the journey time to eight hours. The Flying Scotsman name has been maintained by the operators of the InterCity East Coast franchise since privatization of British Rail. The former Great North Eastern Railway even subtitled itself The Route of the Flying Scotsman, as a way of cashing in on of the train’s popularity. The Flying Scotsman was operated by GNER from April 1996 until November 2007, then by National Express East Coast until November 2009, East Coast until April 2015 and since by Virgin Trains East Coast.

On May 23, 2011 the Flying Scotsman brand was re-launched for a special daily fast service operated by East Coast departing Edinburgh at 05:40 and reaching London exactly four hours later, calling only at Newcastle. It is operated by an InterCity 225 Mallard set. Driving Van Trailer 82205 and 91 class locomotive 91101 were turned out in a special maroon livery for the launch of the service. East Coast claimed that this was part of a policy to bring back named trains to restore “a touch of glamour and romance”. However, for the first time in its history, it ran in one direction only. There is no northbound equivalent service. This schedule is still maintained today. Northbound, the fastest timetabled London to Edinburgh service now takes 4 hours 20 minutes. In October 2015, 91101 and 82205 were give a facelift of new vinyl in a new Flying Scotsman livery. The Flying Scotsman is the only passenger service to run non-stop through Darlington and York.

During the years of growing pains for the United States, it was not considered a nation with any power, or in fact, a nation at all. The British wanted to keep he American Colonies under its power for tax purposes, and for the power that comes when a nation owns large areas of land around the globe. The young country…still under the bonds of British rule, was rebelling against what they considered tyranny, however, they would not get very far without military help coming from somewhere. So, on November 29, 1775, the Second Continental Congress, met in Philadelphia, to establish a Committee of Secret Correspondence. The committee’s goal was to provide European nations with a Patriot interpretation of events in Britain’s North American colonies, in the hope of soliciting aid for the American war effort. The committee consisted of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Harrison, John Dickinson, John Hay, and Robert Morris. Following the meeting, the committee instructed Silas Deane to meet with French Foreign Minister Charles Gravier, Count de Vergennes, to stress America’s need for military stores and assure the French that the colonies were moving toward “total separation” from Great Britain. Covert French aid began filtering into the colonies soon after the outbreak of hostilities in 1775, but it was not enough. The Americans had to figure out a way to get more aid.

Deane, a Connecticut delegate to the Continental Congress, left for France on the secret mission on March 3, 1776. He managed to negotiate for unofficial assistance from France, in the form of ships containing military supplies, and recruited Gilbert du Motier, the marquis de Lafayette to share his military expertise with the Continental Army’s officer corps. The aid helped some, but America needed a real commitment from France. That was not so easy to obtain, until after the arrival of the charming Benjamin Franklin in France in December 1776. Then, after the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga in October 1777, the French became convinced that it was worth backing the Americans in a formal treaty. On February 6, 1778, the Treaties of Amity and Commerce and Alliance were signed, and in May 1778 the Continental Congress ratified them.

One month later, war between Britain and France formally began when a British squadron fired on two French ships. During the American Revolution, French naval fleets proved critical in the defeat of the British, which was assured after the Battle of Yorktown in October 1781. In reality, this was a spy thriller right out of the likes of James Bond, in that every step of this maneuver was critical to the survival of the United States of America, and everything pretty much went exactly as planned.

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