This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.
Find the past “On This Day in History” here.
November 18 is the 322nd day of the year (323rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 43 days remaining until the end of the year.
On this day in 1883, the Railraods create the first time zones At exactly noon on this day, American and Canadian railroads begin using four continental time zones to end the confusion of dealing with thousands of local times. The bold move was emblematic of the power shared by the railroad companies.
The need for continental time zones stemmed directly from the problems of moving passengers and freight over the thousands of miles of rail line that covered North America by the 1880s. Since human beings had first begun keeping track of time, they set their clocks to the local movement of the sun. Even as late as the 1880s, most towns in the U.S. had their own local time, generally based on “high noon,” or the time when the sun was at its highest point in the sky. As railroads began to shrink the travel time between cities from days or months to mere hours, however, these local times became a scheduling nightmare. Railroad timetables in major cities listed dozens of different arrival and departure times for the same train, each linked to a different local time zone.
Timekeeping on the American railroads in the mid 19th century was somewhat confused. Each railroad used its own standard time, usually based on the local time of its headquarters or most important terminus, and the railroad’s train schedules were published using its own time. Some major railroad junctions served by several different railroads had a separate clock for each railroad, each showing a different time; the main station in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for example, kept six different times.
Charles F. Dowd proposed a system of one-hour standard time zones for American railroads about 1863, although he published nothing on the matter at that time and did not consult railroad officials until 1869. In 1870, he proposed four ideal time zones (having north-south borders), the first centered on Washington, D.C., but by 1872 the first was centered 75 W of Greenwich, with geographic borders (for example, sections of the Appalachian Mountains). Dowd’s system was never accepted by American railroads. Instead, U.S. and Canadian railroads implemented a version proposed by William F. Allen, the editor of the Traveler’s Official Railway Guide. The borders of its time zones ran through railroad stations, often in major cities. For example, the border between its Eastern and Central time zones ran through Detroit, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Charleston. It was inaugurated on Sunday, November 18, 1883, also called “The Day of Two Noons”, when each railroad station clock was reset as standard-time noon was reached within each time zone. The zones were named Intercolonial, Eastern, Central, Mountain, and Pacific. Within one year, 85% of all cities with populations over 10,000, about 200 cities, were using standard time. A notable exception was Detroit (which is about half-way between the meridians of eastern time and central time), which kept local time until 1900, then tried Central Standard Time, local mean time, and Eastern Standard Time before a May 1915 ordinance settled on EST and was ratified by popular vote in August 1916. The confusion of times came to an end when Standard zone time was formally adopted by the U.S. Congress on March 19, 1918, in the Standard Time Act.
326 – Old St. Peter’s Basilica is consecrated.
401 – The Visigoths, led by king Alaric I, cross the Alps and invade northern Italy.
794 – Japanese Emperor Kammu allocates residence of Nara, Nara to Kyoto.
1105 – Maginulf elected the Antipope Sylvester the IV.
1210 – Pope Innocent III excommunicates Holy Roman Emperor Otto IV
1302 – Pope Boniface VIII issues the Papal bull Unam sanctam (One Faith).
1307 – William Tell shoots an apple off his son’s head.
1421 – A seawall at the Zuiderzee dike in the Netherlands breaks, flooding 72 villages and killing about 10,000 people.
1477 – William Caxton produces Dictes or Sayengis of the Philosophres, the first book printed on a printing press in England.
1493 – Christopher Columbus first sights the island now known as Puerto Rico.
1494 – French King Charles VIII occupies Florence, Italy.
1626 – St. Peter’s Basilica is consecrated.
1686 – Charles Francois Felix operates on King Louis XIV of France’s anal fistula after practicing the surgery on several peasants.
1730 – Frederick II (Frederick the Great), King of Prussia, is granted a royal pardon and released from confinement.
1793 – The Louvre is officially opened in Paris, France.
1803 – The Battle of Vertieres, the last major battle of the Haitian Revolution, is fought, leading to the establishment of the Republic of Haiti, the first black republic in the Western Hemisphere.
1809 – In a naval action during the Napoleonic Wars, French frigates defeat British East Indiamen in the Bay of Bengal.
1863 – King Christian IX of Denmark decides to sign the November constitution that declares Schleswig to be part of Denmark. This is seen by the German Confederation as a violation of the London Protocol and leads to the German-Danish war of 1864.
1865 – Mark Twain’s story The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County is published in the New York Saturday Press.
1883 – American and Canadian railroads institute five standard continental time zones, ending the confusion of thousands of local times.
1903 – The Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty is signed by the United States and Panama, giving the United States exclusive rights over the Panama Canal Zone.
1904 – General Esteban Huertas steps down after the government of Panama fears he wants to stage a coup.
1905 – Prince Carl of Denmark becomes King Haakon VII of Norway.
1909 – Two United States warships are sent to Nicaragua after 500 revolutionaries (including two Americans) are executed by order of Jose Santos Zelaya.
1916 – World War I: First Battle of the Somme ends – In France, British Expeditionary Force commander Douglas Haig calls off the battle which started on July 1, 1916.
1918 – Latvia declares its independence from Russia.
1926 – George Bernard Shaw refuses to accept the money for his Nobel Prize, saying, “I can forgive Alfred Nobel for inventing dynamite, but only a fiend in human form could have invented the Nobel Prize.”
1928 – Release of the animated short Steamboat Willie, the first fully synchronized sound cartoon, directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, featuring the third appearances of cartoon characters Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. This is also considered by the Disney corporation to be Mickey’s birthday.
1929 – 1929 Grand Banks earthquake: Off the south coast of Newfoundland in the Atlantic Ocean, a Richter magnitude 7.2 submarine earthquake, centered on Grand Banks, breaks 12 submarine transatlantic telegraph cables and triggers a tsunami that destroys many south coast communities in the Burin Peninsula.
1930 – Soka Kyoiku Gakkai, a Buddhist association later renamed Soka Gakkai, is founded by Japanese educators Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda.
1938 – Trade union members elect John L. Lewis as the first president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations.
1940 – World War II: German leader Adolf Hitler and Italian Foreign Minister Galeazzo Ciano meet to discuss Benito Mussolini’s disastrous invasion of Greece.
1940 – New York City’s Mad Bomber places his first bomb at a Manhattan office building used by Consolidated Edison.
1943 – World War II: Battle of Berlin: 440 Royal Air Force planes bomb Berlin causing only light damage and killing 131. The RAF loses nine aircraft and 53 air crew.
1947 – The Ballantyne’s Department Store fire in Christchurch, New Zealand, kills 41 (New Zealand’s worst ever fire).
1949 – The Iva Valley Shooting occurs after the coal miners of Enugu, Nigeria strike over withheld wages; 21 miners are shot dead and 51 wounded by police under the supervision of the British colonial administration of Nigeria.
1961 – United States President John F. Kennedy sends 18,000 military advisors to South Vietnam.
1963 – The first push-button telephone goes into service.
1970 – U.S. President Richard Nixon asks the U.S. Congress for $155 million USD in supplemental aid for the Cambodian government.
1978 – Jonestown incident: In Guyana, Jim Jones led his Peoples Temple cult to a mass murder-suicide that claimed 918 lives in all, 909 of them in Jonestown itself, including over 270 children. Congressman Leo J. Ryan is murdered by members of the Peoples Temple hours earlier.
1987 – Iran-Contra Affair: The U.S. Congress issues its final report on the Iran-Contra Affair.
1987 – King’s Cross fire: In London, 31 people die in a fire at the city’s busiest underground station at King’s Cross St Pancras.
1988 – War on Drugs: U.S. President Ronald Reagan signs a bill into law allowing the death penalty for drug traffickers.
1991 – Shiite Muslim kidnappers in Lebanon release Anglican Church envoys Terry Waite and Thomas Sutherland.
1991 – After the siege of Vukovar, the Croatian city of Vukovar capitulates to the besieging Yugoslav People’s Army and allied Serb paramilitary forces.
1993 – In the United States, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is ratified by the House of Representatives.
1993 – In South Africa, 21 political parties approve a new constitution.
1999 – In College Station, Texas, 12 are killed and 27 injured at Texas A&M University when the 59-foot-tall (18 m) Aggie Bonfire, under construction for the annual football game against the University of Texas, collapses at 2:42am.
2002 – Iraq disarmament crisis: United Nations weapons inspectors led by Hans Blix arrive in Iraq.
2003 – In the United Kingdom, the Local Government Act 2003, repealing controversial anti-gay amendment Section 28, becomes effective.
2003 – In a 50-page, 4-3 decision, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rules that the state may not “deny the protections, benefits and obligations conferred by civil marriage to two individuals of the same sex who wish to marry.”