Thursday, June 20, 2013

Thursday in History: Moscow, Washington, and Telephones

Every day is historically significant in its own way. Humans have been writing down important stuff that happens for a couple dozen centuries now, so it’s not surprising that each day, there are lots of important people who have taken their first breath and breathed their last. Sooner or later, there is bound to be a day when many similar historically significant things happen. June 20th is just such a day.
Feodor II's map of Russia, via wikipedia
On this day in history in 1605, Feodor II of Russia was assassinated. It was a sad day for the country, because the young man of sixteen was a very promising ruler. Although he had only been on the throne for about two months, he was very bright student, in addition to being a talented amateur cartographer.
America's Coat of Arms, via wikipedia
On this day in history in 1782, Congress voted to adopt the seal that our country still uses today. Private citizens don’t really have a need to seal documents in this day and age, but governments still do. If you live on planet earth, chances are you’ve seen it on the back of a quarter (the eagle) or on a one dollar bill (the creepy pyramid & eye thing). Charles Thomson, Secretary of Congress, used elements that had been gathered from men such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Francis Hopkinson (a designer of the original American flag), who had been working on developing the seal for years to come up with a final design. When he presented it, he spoke about the symbolism of the images: “The Pieces... represent the several states all joined in one solid compact entire, supporting a Chief, which unites the whole... The Olive branch and arrows denote the power of peace & war which is exclusively vested in Congress.”1
Bell calling a friend in Chicago
from New York in 1892,
via wikipedia 
On this day in history in 1877, the first commercial telephone line in Canada was established by Alexander Graham Bell in Hamilton, Ontario. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the invention of the telephone. Bell is certainly the most famous, but he is not the only one, evidenced by the endless lawsuits and bickering and arguing about who invented what and when they invented it. But the government of Canada is so proud of Bell’s achievement that on June 21st 2002, there was a parliamentary motion to declare that the true inventor of the telephone was Alexander Graham Bell.
A red telephone that has nothing
to do with the Moscow-Washington
hotline, but is in the Jimmy Carter
 Library and Museum anyway.
photo by Piotrus
Finally, on this day in history in 1963, an agreement was signed by the United States and Russia to communicate more effectively. Though the Moscow-Washington hotline first used a teletype and has since upgraded to email, it is referred to in popular culture as “the red telephone.” Sadly, there has never been a red telephone in the Oval Office with a direct line to the Kremlin. The hotline has been used many times since then to prevent several military misunderstandings.
It isn’t every day that important historical things happen in Russia and the United States, in the history of long range communication, and all three put together. But on this day in history, they did.


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