Today in history – February 4:
Examining events of the past to find trends in history
Earthquakes and First Times
From year to year earthquakes strike in various places and in various strengths. It so happens that a few earthquakes – serious earthquakes – chose February 4 of different years to strike and devastate.
In 1783, about 50 thousand people lost their lives in an earthquake in Calabria in Austria. In 1797, Quito, Ecuador was the scene of an earthquake that killed more than 40 thousand people. Another earthquake in Latin America in 1976- this time in Guatemala and Honduras – caused more than 20,000 fatalities. And in 1998, about 2000 lost their lives in an earthquake in northern Afghanistan. The good news appears to be that over time, people are more prepared. Notice that the fatalities go down from earthquake to earthquake.
February 4th also turns out to be a day of “firsts.” Two important 16th and 17th century scientists (and philosophers) met for the first time. Johannes Kepler finally met Tyco Brahe somewhere near Prague. Both were famous for observing planets. Why Prague? Maybe there was some kind of scientists convention going on.
Another first on February 4 was the electing of the first president and vice president of the United States, in 1989. It was done by the first electoral college. I imagine there was about as much confusion about the electoral college then as there is now. Maybe less then, as people were used to decisions being made without their input. Maybe more then, for the same reason. Whatever dispute people may have had with the electoral college, they probably had no dispute over its choice of president. George Washington . . . and John Adams as vice president. I wonder what they’d think of today’s leaders.
In 1822, black men and women and children from the United States settled a country in West Africa. They called it Liberia. These were not slaves or escaped slaves. They were free blacks. How many were born free and how many had been freed doesn’t matter. They saw a need to go to Africa – continent of their roots – and form their own country. And f.or them it must have been their version of “liberty.” And why not? Though they were free men and women, they did not have the same rights or opportunities as other people in the U.S. And they most likely would not fit into another African culture. So starting a new country was a wise decision – at the time.
Maybe it’s ironic – February 4, 1861 was a first for the gathering of the Confederate Continental Congress. The pro-slavery southern states elected Jefferson Davis as the president of the Confederacy.
By 1952, things were beginning to get better in terms of race relations in the U.S. Suppression of civil rights was still common. But black people were getting seen more often by a white populace. Jackie Robinson not only made history in baseball. He was also the first black man to become an executive of a major TV station.
Not listed as a first but still interesting: In 1987, the U.S. Congress passed a Clean Water Act. President Reagan vetoed the bill. Congress overrode the veto. It’s interesting, because Reagan acted as we expect Republican lawmakers might act today. And Congress acted as we often wish our lawmakers would act – with the well-being of the citizens in mind.
Between earthquakes, firsts, and African-American history, February 4 is a pretty significant day. Maybe you have something to add to this list for February 4th. You’re welcome to let us know in the message form below. Thanks for reading. . . .
A few more things happened on this day in history:
- In 1914 – U.S. Congress approves Burnett-anti-immigration law
- In 1971 – Apollo 14 lander Antares lands on Moon (Shepard and Mitchell)
- In 1987 – President Reagan’s veto of Clean Water Act is overridden by Congress
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