Now where do we start? The year is now just 9 days old – but if we go back many centuries we would still be in last year. The Calendar (New Style) Act of 1750 reformed England’s calendar so that the year now began on 1 January rather than Lady Day – 25 March. At the same time the country was to adopt the Gregorian calendar that was already used in most of Western Europe. This didn’t go down very well and prompted the English calendar riots of 1752 that demanded that the powers did ‘Give us our eleven days’! These eleven days referred to the ‘lost’ 11 days of September 1752 that were ‘skipped’ when Britain brought in the changes. In this blog we’re going to be a little more up-to-date.
For instance, Thursday 8th January 1824, saw Willian ‘Wilkie’ Collins born into this world. There are many things in the life of this English novelist, playwright, and short story writer that I could record – I won’t do it here though. We will return to him later as he does some great work in the 1850s and 1860s.
Perhaps I could balance that with the news that in Tupelo, Mississippi, USA on this Wednesday in January 1935 was born a baby that would, when he was old enough, begin singing in his local Pentecostal church choir. He then taught himself to play the guitar. In 1954 he took some traditional blues verses that had been first recorded in 1926 by ‘Blind’ Lemon Jefferson and then remodelled and recorded by Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup in September 1947, and recorded his own version on 5th July 1954. On Monday 19th July 1954 it was released to the wider public. Elvis Aaron Presley had arrived on the scene and popular music would never be the same again. I could go on about Elvis for quite a few pages but I won’t – well not just now!
What we can do right now is pick up some less international but still very informative stories about events back in the early years of the 20th century.
The Burnley Express of Wednesday 13th January 1904 tells its readers that ‘The Tramway Traffic Return shows that the receipts for the week ending January 9th 1904 amounted to £815, while the receipts for the corresponding week last year were £675. The total number of passengers carried was 139,518 against 112,800 during the corresponding week last year. Work all those figures out and we find that the average ticket price on the Burnley Tramway service was just under a ‘penny halfpenny’ per journey! I do wonder, though, what the missing 26,718 people had been doing this time last year.
One of the major hospitals in Britain is Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. The 1885-1900 volume 1 of the Dictionary of National Biography tells us that John Addenbrooke (1680–1719) was born at Swinford Regis in Staffordshire and was educated at Catharine Hall [now St. Catherine’s College], Cambridge. He graduated with a BA in 1701 and an MA in 1705, and was elected a Fellow of the College. In 1706 he was admitted as an extra-licentiate of the College of Physicians, and took a MD degree at Cambridge in 1712. Of his practice nothing is known but we do know that, in 1714, he published ‘A Short Essay upon Freethinking’. He died in 1719, and bequeathed more than £4,500 in his will ‘to erect and maintain a small physical hospital’ at Cambridge. That has expanded somewhat from this beginning and is now a major teaching hospital. In 1976, the hospital moved to its present premises on the southern edge of the city at the end of Hill Road and is now a designated ‘academic health science centre.
The Cambridge Independent Press of Friday 11th January 1901 published the following statistics – they call it ‘the return of patients’ for the week ending Wednesday January 9th 1901.
Number in Hospital: Men’s Wards, 62; Women’s Wards, 35; Children’s Wards, 12.
Discharged: in 29; out 22. Admitted: in 30; out 60. Accidents: in 3; out 26.
Presents were received as follows:-
Quantity of old linen, towels, etc., from Mr. Douglas Newton, 12 Queens’ Gate Terrace.
Magazines and illustrated papers from Mr. C J Clay, Dr. Waraker, Mrs Cayley, Mrs Latham, Mrs Sandys, the Hon. Mrs L Neville, Mrs Boughey, Mrs Morley (Stapleford Hall), Mrs West Knights.
Clothes for patients from the Misses Gee, Micheldean, Gloucestershire.
Now the hospital has around 1,200 patient’s beds.
The Surrey Mirror of Friday 4th January 1901, under the headline ‘SALES BY AUCTION’ announced to its readers that, at his fortnightly sales at Redhill Market, Mr Harrie Stacey ‘Begs to announce that he holds a Sale by Auction of FAT and STORE STOCK, HORSES and CARRIAGES and other Effects, every Market Day, at 10.45 or thereabouts. Next Market will take place on WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 9th 1901.’
The scale of charges were available on application to the Auctioneer, Old Bank, Reigate, and Station Road, Redhill
On a totally different line again, it was on this Monday, 9th January 1894, that the ‘Edison Kinetoscopic’ recorded a Sneeze! This is a short film – it runs for just 5 seconds – and shows Fred Ott, the assistant of Thomas Alva Edison, taking a pinch of snuff and sneezing. As a result this became the first motion picture to be copyrighted in the United States!
You can see ‘Fred Ott’s Sneeze’ on the Internet. The director of this film was William K L Dickson who was born in France to British parents in 1860. William Kennedy-Laurie Dickson stayed in that country until he was 19, when he, his mother and sisters (their father had died sometime before) returned to Great Britain. Once there, Dickson – in an early indication of his lifelong fascination with science and mechanics – began a correspondence with Thomas Edison, asking for employment. He was turned down.
Eventually Dickson’s family moved to the US, and several years afterward Dickson did land a job with Edison, and soon proved to be a trusted and valuable associate. He worked closely with Edison on the development of both the phonograph and, closer to Dickson’s heart, the motion picture. It was, in fact, Dickson who eventually decided that motion picture film should be 35mm wide.
William died on Saturday 28th September 1935 in Twickenham, aged 75.
So, we’ve had mention of the births of Wilkie Collins but no stories (they will come out later no doubt), and Elvis Presley who later was shaking it all up.
We’ve had Burnley’s Tramway Traffic costing a penny ha’penny for rides in 1903/4; details of Cambridge’s Addenbrooks hospital in 1901 and a Sale by Auction notice for Redhill market also in 1901.
We finished with the story of the first copyrighted movie in the US – and that was nothing to be sneezed at! Sorry – I couldn’t resist that.