Cecil Whig - - ACCENT -

To­day (Oct. 12) more than 500 years ago, Ital­ian ex­plorer Christo­pher Colum­bus reached the New World, land­ing on a Bahamian is­land while searching for Asia. Colum­bus’s ex­pe­di­tion had been funded by Is­abella and Fer­di­nand of Spain with a goal to pi­o­neer a western ocean route to al­legedly spice- and gold-rich Asian lands.

Con­trary to legend, most ed­u­cated Euro­peans in 1492 knew that the world was round, but they greatly un­der­es­ti­mated the size of it. In fact, Colum­bus be­lieved that only the At­lantic Ocean laid be­tween Europe and the riches of the East Indies, and did not know the Pa­cific Ocean ex­isted. He died be­fore he ever ac­com­plished his orig­i­nal goal of get­ting to Asia, and prob­a­bly with­out un­der­stand­ing how much his dis­cov­ery of the Amer­i­cas would im­pact the next half-mil­len­nium of hu­man his­tory, good and bad.

One of those events Colum­bus could not pos­si­bly have pre­dicted was the Cuban Mis­sile Cri­sis, which be­gan be­tween the United States and Soviet Union on Oct. 14, 1962. There’s some de­bate to be had about this start date; this was the day that U.S. air­craft pho­tographed sev­eral sights of bal­lis­tic nu­clear mis­siles un­der con­struc­tion in Cuba.

The world had never and prob­a­bly still hasn’t been un­der as im­mi­nent a nu­clear threat as it was dur­ing the two week pe­riod. Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy and his ad­vi­sors suc­cess­fully de­fused the sit­u­a­tion, with Soviet leader Nikita Khr­uschev an­nounc­ing that the coun­try’s mis­siles would be dis­man­tled and re­moved from Cuba.

More than 30 years be­fore the Cuban Mis­sile Cri­sis, the ca­reer of one of Amer­ica’s most in­flu­en­tial com­posers and jazz band­leaders started tak­ing off. Duke Elling­ton scored his first hit with “Mood Indigo” on Oct. 15, 1930.

The song’s con­struc­tion was some­what strange, with the horns struc­tured op­po­site the norm in jazz, which usu­ally had the clar­inet, trum­pet and trom­bone in or­der from high­est pitch to low­est, re­spec­tively. Elling- ton’s band sub­verted that, ar­rang­ing for the clar­inet to play near the bot­tom of its reg­is­ter and the trom­bone near the top of its. With the mi­cro­phones of the 1930s, this pro­duced a sleepy, plod­ding sound — per­fect for a clean, mid-fall night.

(If you haven’t heard Ella Fitzger­ald’s 1957 take on the song, it’s dev­as­tat­ing and highly rec­om­mended.)

On Oct. 16, 1859, white abo­li­tion­ist John Brown and a small mili­tia over­ran the arse­nal at Harpers Ferry, West Vir­ginia. Brown had a vi­sion to cap­ture sev­eral build­ings and the weapons in­side, and use them to spark a slave up­ris­ing through­out the South.

That’s not ex­actly what hap­pened, as he and his men were over­run by a Marines unit led by Army Lieu­tenant Colonel Robert E. Lee and Lt. J.E.B. Stu­art. Brown was tried for trea­son and mur­der and con­victed to death.

Be­fore his ex­e­cu­tion, he slipped his guard a piece of pa­per with a prophetic mes­sage con­sid­er­ing the nearly­be­gun Civil War: “I, John Brown, am now quite cer­tain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.”

Many years be­fore this a kin­dred, years-long ex­pe­di­tion con­cluded. Charles Ma­son and Jeremiah Dixon com­pleted their sur­vey of the bound­ary be­tween Penn­syl­va­nia and Maryland (as well as what would later be­come Delaware and West Vir­ginia) on Oct. 18, 1767.

The Bri­tish crown handed them this mis­sion in 1760 as a hope­ful so­lu­tion to bor­der vi­o­lence be­tween the colonies’ set­tlers. Both groups claimed the area be­tween the 39th and 40th par­al­lel, so Ma­son and Dixon set­tled the dis­pute with stones des­ig­nat­ing sides with Penn­syl­va­nia’s crest on one side and Maryland’s on the other.

Some of these stones re­main vis­i­ble to­day. Last month, the Whig pub­lished a story from the Ne­wark Post about lo­cal his­to­ri­ans hop­ing to pres­sure Maryland and Delaware into pre­serv­ing some of the mark­ers, in­clud­ing one next to Route 40 that’s in need of re­pair.

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