This Week in History

September 19, 1945 – “Lord Haw Haw” is sentenced to death

One of the courses I teach at Bethel University is the capstone of our major program, Senior Seminar, in which students spend the spring semester conducting original research on a topic of their choosing, produce an article-length paper, and close the year by giving an oral presentation to faculty, peers, and family. One of the many reasons I enjoy teaching it is that I end up learning quite a bit; even when (like happened last year) I’ve got several students researching topics related to something I know a little about (like the Second World War), I’m bound to hear something that’s mostly new to me.

William Joyce, a.k.a. "Lord Haw Haw"
"Lord Haw Haw" under arrest, 1945

Take Alex Hinseth’s paper on Britons and Americans who produced propaganda for the Germans during the war. The most famous of these propagandists was William Joyce.

American-born, Irish-raised, Joyce became a member of the British Union of Fascists during the 1930s, then fled to Germany in 1939. Broadcasting as “Lord Haw Haw,” his programs scorned the British war effort, yet were surprisingly popular (for a time) with the British listening public. Check out sample audio at the BBC website.

Joyce was identified and arrested by British soldiers in 1945, tried for treason, and hanged.

September 20, 1860 – The Prince of Wales visits the United States

Still over forty years from his coronation as King Edward VII, the nineteen year old prince was the first British heir apparent to visit North America. After starting in Canada, Edward crossed into Michigan. Here’s part of the report from the special correspondent of the New York Times, clearly struggling to figure out how to flatter a future monarch without seeming to condone something as un-American as bestowing enormous wealth and privilege on the scion of an aristocratic clan:

Our greeting will not be restrained by formalities, nor restricted to any unmeaning recognition of rank and position. We will give the Prince a hearty Republican welcome, such as no prince or monarch ever yet received from a Republican people…. We hope and believe that an honor like this is far higher than any compliments and civilities which, hereafter, he may be called upon to accept from the Sovereign Houses of the Old World…. We trust that nothing will happen to mar [the visit’s] effect; and that the people of both countries will more clearly understand in the future that the “manifest destiny” of the two great Anglo-Saxon Empires is not antagonistic, but points to the accomplishment of the same high purposes—the extension of freedom and the spread of civilization.

By contrast… when the current Prince of Wales visited California this past summer, the Hollywood Reporter turned to the British-born CEO of Sony to put things in proper perspective: “…Sir Howard Stringer said he has a warm spot for the British Royals because of ‘the historical continuity and the color of life that makes democracy stimulating and a little less drab.'”

September 21, 1792 – The French monarchy is abolished by the National Convention

Which is another way to “[make] democracy stimulating and a little less drab.”

Of course, we all know 9/21/1792 better as the last day described by the Gregorian calendar, since what would have been September 22, 1792 became the more familiar 1st day of the month of Vendémiaire in the year 1.

What, you say that the French Revolutionary Calendar did not become widely popular? That I don’t share my birthday (29 Vendémiaire) with the festival of barley?

Surely, decimal time took root. Right?

September 22, 1839 – Paul Chong Hasang is martyred

Paul Chong Hasang
Paul Chong Hasang (1795-1839)

In their book I’m currently blogging through, Clouds of Witnesses, Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom mention one Korean Protestant, Sun Chu Kil, in their roster of African and Asian Christian leaders, but can spend only one paragraph on an earlier episode in the history of Christianity in Korea: the growth and persecution of Roman Catholicism in the first half of the 19th century.

One of the leading figures in this Korean Catholic revival was Paul Chong Hasang. His own father, who wrote the first catechism in Korean, had been martyred in 1801, when Hasang was seven years old. As an adult, he traveled to Beijing and managed to convince its Catholic bishop to send missionaries into the Hermit Kingdom. While the French priests who arrived in 1836 played an important role, it was native laypeople like Hasang who led the revival (the first Korean priest wasn’t ordained until 1845, a year before his own martyrdom), and then bore the brunt of state persecution.

All told some 8000 Korean Catholics were martyred in the 19th century; 103 of them were canonized in 1984 by Pope John Paul II. (Their feast day is celebrated two days before the anniversary of Hasang’s beheading.) Performing the canonization mass in Seoul, JPII preached:

The splendid flowering of the Church in Korea today [10% of the Korean population is now Roman Catholic] is indeed the fruit of the heroic witness of the Martyrs. Even today, their undying spirit sustains the Christians in the Church of silence in the North of this tragically divided land.

…The death of the martyrs is similar to the death of Christ on the Cross, because like his, theirs has become the beginning of new life. This new life was manifested not only in themselves — in those who underwent death for Christ — but it was also extended to others. It became the leaven of the Church as the living community of disciples and witnesses to Jesus Christ. “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christians”: this phrase from the first centuries of Christianity is confirmed before our eyes.

September 23, 1845 – The New York Knickerbockers baseball club is founded

Despite some convoluted attempts to define a tidy, purely American origin story for baseball, the sport has numerous roots, many going well back into English history. But to the extent there’s anything at all like the birth of baseball as we know it, let’s go with this event, since one of the Knickerbocker club’s leaders, Alexander Cartwright, wrote down twenty rules that broke with earlier games like rounders and town ball and became the basis for the modern game. For example:

The bases shall be from “home” to second base, forty-two paces; from first to third base,  forty-two paces, equidistant.

The New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club
Alexander Cartwright (top middle) and five other members of the Knickerbockers - Wikimedia

Or, when you actually pace it out, you wind up with 90 feet from base to base.

Three balls being struck at and missed and the last one caught, is a hand out; if not caught is considered fair, and the striker bound to run.

The called strike was introduced just before the Civil War, and there was one year in the 1880s when they experimented with four strikes, but otherwise, “three strikes and you’re out” as been around since Cartwright.

A player running the bases shall be out, if the ball is in the hands of an adversary on the base, or the runner is touched with it before he makes his base; it being understood, however, that in no instance is a ball to be thrown at him.

Wouldn’t you love to see the Web Gems that would result if they scratched that last clause?

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