Blog Posts by Teresa Mathew

  • Aug. 28, 1913: Peace Palace opens in Netherlands

    (Photo: Kent Wang / Flickr)

    On this day—Aug. 28, 1913—the Peace Palace opened in The Hague, Netherlands. It was originally built to be a symbolic home for the Permanent Court of Arbitration, a court created to end war. Presently, the Palace also houses the International Court of Justice (the principal judicial body for the United Nations), the Hague Academy of International Law, and the Peace Palace Library.

    Andrew Dickinson White, an American diplomat and the founder of Cornell University, was instrumental in the conception and creation of the Peace Palace. He wrote that he hoped it would be, “A temple of peace where the doors are open, in contrast to the Janus-temple, in times of peace and closed in cases of war…as a worthy testimony of the people that, after many long centuries finally a court that has thrown open its doors for the peaceful settlement of differences between peoples.” He convinced his friend Andrew Carnegie to donate $1.5 million dollars to build it.

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  • Aug. 27, 1993: Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo is completed

    (Photo: Satoshi Inoue / Flickr)

    On this day—Aug. 27, 1993—Japan’s Rainbow Bridge was completed. The bridge connects Tokyo’s Shibaura district with the island of Odaiba. It is 2,628 feet long and took six years to complete.

    Though the bridge’s official name is the "Shuto Expressway No. 11 Daiba Route - Port of Tokyo Connector Bridge," the public refers to it as the “Rainbow Bridge” because lamps placed on the wires supporting the bridge illuminate it with red, white, and green lights. The lights are powered by solar power harnessed during the day. The bridge has three transportation lines on two decks as well as two separate walkways. The walkways are closed the third Monday of every month and can only be used at certain times: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the summer and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the winter. The Rainbow Bridge is a popular tourist destination because of its relatively easy walk and observation decks, perfect for photographing or viewing the city.

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  • Aug. 26, 1498: Michelangelo commissioned to carve Pietà

    (Photo: fortherock / Flickr)

    On this day—Aug. 26, 1498—Michelangelo was commissioned to carve the Pietà. The statue, which depicts Jesus lying in the lap of the Virgin Mary after his crucifixion, was commissioned by the French cardinal Jean de Billheres. The sculpture was meant to be the cardinal’s funeral monument but was moved to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City in the 18th century. Michelangelo carved his name across Mary’s sash, and the Pietà is the only work he ever signed.

    The work has undergone damage in recent years, most notably in 1972 when Laszlo Toth attacked the statue with a geologist’s hammer, shouting, “I am Jesus Christ.” As a result, the sculpture is now protected by bullet-proof glass. The Pietà is notable for being one of Michelangelo’s most highly finished works, and for balancing the Renaissance’s classical beauty with naturalism.

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  • Aug. 23, 1873: Albert Bridge opens in London

    (Photo: ketrin1407 / Flickr)

    On this day—Aug. 23, 1873—the Albert Bridge in Chelsea, London, opened. It connects Chelsea on the north bank to Battersea in the south, and is 710 feet long and 41 feet wide. It was originally built as a toll bridge, but this proved to be financially unsuccessful and the bridge was taken into public ownership. Though the tolls were lifted, the tollbooths remain—they are now the only remaining example of bridge tollbooths in London.

    The bridge is structurally unsound and has been modified twice. As a result, it is a hybrid of three design styles: cable-styled, beam, and suspension. It was nicknamed the “Trembling Lady,” as it used to vibrate when large numbers of people walked over it. This led to signs being posted at the entrances to warn troops not to march in step across it, as they were afraid it would be too much for the bridge to handle. As its roadway is only 27 feet, the bridge is ill-equipped for cars but has remained open despite many calls for demolition or pedestrianism.

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  • Aug. 22, 1846: Second Federal Republic of Mexico is established

    (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)On this day—Aug. 22, 1846, the Second Federal Republic of Mexico was established. It was officially called the United Mexican States, and lasted for almost 17 years. The republic was ruled by 14 presidents and 18 governments. Only one of those presidents, José Joaquín de Herrera (pictured), was able to complete his term.

    The Second Federal Republic was finally dissolved on July 10, 1863 when the government became a hereditary monarchy, leading to the Second Mexican Empire. During the 17 years of the Second Federal Republic, Mexico concluded its wars with the U.S. and France and ceded almost half its territory. It was also embroiled in a civil war, which negatively affected the republic both domestically and abroad.

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  • Aug. 21, 1911: Mona Lisa stolen in Paris

    (Photo: edwin.11 / Flickr)

    On this day—Aug. 21, 1911—the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre in Paris. The work of art, by Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci, is believed to have been painted between 1503 and 1506. The painter Louis Béroud first discovered the theft when he walked to the place where the Mona Lisa had been on display and found only four iron pegs instead of the famous painting. After the museum confirmed that the painting had in fact been stolen, it was closed for a week to aid the investigation.

    Though French artist Guillame Apollinaire was initially suspected (he in turn tried to blame his friend Pablo Picasso), the culprit turned out to be Vincenzo Peruggia, a Louvre employee. Peruggia had stolen the painting during business hours and walked out with it under his coat after the museum had closed. After two years of hiding it, he was caught when he tried to sell the painting to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. As an Italian loyalist, Peruggia believed that Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings should

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  • Aug. 20, 1926: Japanese broadcasting company NHK is founded

    NHK building in Tokyo. (Photo: Joe Jones / Flickr)

    On this day—Aug. 20, 1926—Japan’s national public broadcasting company, NHK, was created. NHK is composed of two terrestrial television services, two satellite television services, and three radio networks. It is primarily funded through licensing fees, though NHK World broadcasting (its branch for overseas viewers) is funded by the Japanese government.

    Due to Japan’s Broadcast Act, NHK is required to broadcast emergency warnings for natural disasters like tsunamis and earthquakes as well as air attacks during times of war. All of the warnings are broadcasted in five languages: Japanese, English, Mandarin, and Portuguese. Its sports channel highlights include six annual Grand Sumo tournaments, the FA Premier League, and Boston Red Sox games when Daisuke Matsuzaka (a Toyko native) is pitching.

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  • Aug. 19, 1871: Aviator Orville Wright is born

    Orville Wright in flight in 1904. (Photo: Library of Congress)

    On this day—Aug. 19, 1871—American aviation pioneer Orville Wright was born. Along with his brother Wilbur, Orville invented and built the first successful fixed-wing airplane. Orville opened a bicycle repair and sales shop with his brother in 1892, the revenue from which the brothers would use to fund their experiments once they began mechanical aeronautical experimentation in 1899. The Wright brothers only flew together once, in 1910, after obtaining explicit permission from their father. At all other times they flew separately in order to avoid a double tragedy in case their plane crashed.

    Orville Wright was elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1963, and awarded the first Daniel Guggenheim Medal from the Daniel Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics in 1930. His most important inventions were the 1903 Kitty Flyer and the Wright Flyer III. He died in 1948, having witnessed the change from the horse-drawn buggy to human flight.

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  • Aug. 16, 1960: Kittinger makes record-setting parachute jump

    (Photo: Courtesy of U.S. Air Force)

    On this day—Aug. 16, 1960—Joseph Kittinger parachuted from a balloon over New Mexico at 102, 800 ft. The records he set—for high altitude jumping, free fall, and highest speed by a human without an aircraft—held until 2012. The jump was part of Project Excelsior, a series of parachute jumps intended to test the Beaupre multi-stage parachute system. The Beaupre system was designed for pilots to use after ejecting from high altitudes to descend in a safe, controlled manner.

    During his jump, Kittinger had to wear a full pressure suit and additional layers of clothing intended to protect him from the cold temperatures of higher altitudes. Combined with the parachute system he had to wear, his gear almost doubled his weight. Through his work on Project Excelsior, Kittinger was able to prove that it was possible for an air crew to descend safely at high altitudes. He was awarded the C.B. Harmon Trophy by President Eisenhower as a reward for his efforts.

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  • Aug. 15, 1843: Tivoli Gardens opens in Copenhagen

    (Photo: La Citta Vita / Flickr)

    On this day—Aug. 15, 1843—Tivoli Gardens opened in Copenhagen, Denmark. The park is the second-oldest and second-most-popular seasonal theme park in the world. It had over 4 million visitors in 2012. Tivoli’s founder, Georg Carstensen, was able to obtain permission and land to build the park from King Christian VIII by telling him that, “when the people are amusing themselves, they do not think about politics.” Tivoli features amusement park rides, gardens, a theater, restaurants and cafes—its best-known ride is the wooden rollercoaster Rutschebanen, built in 1914. In 1943, Nazi sympathizers burned many of Tivoli’s buildings to the ground. However, temporary buildings were soon constructed and the park was reopened after only a few weeks.

    Walt Disney is said to have drawn inspiration for Disneyland from Tivoli, and after visiting the Danish park once with his wife Lilly he said he wanted to build a park that would emulate Tivoli’s "happy and unbuttoned air of relaxed fun."

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