27 August, 2011

August 27, 1859

Black Gold. Tex…err, Pennsylvania Tea.

Seneca Oil Company strikes oil in Titusville, PA, and creates the first commercially successful oil well in the world, thus giving birth to the oil industry.

Oil was known to exist here, but there was no practical way to extract it. Generally, its main use to that time had been as a medicine for both animals and humans. In the late 1850s Seneca Oil Company (formerly the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company) sent Col. Edwin L. Drake, to start drilling on a piece of leased land just south of Titusville near what is now Oil Creek State Park. Drake hired a salt well driller, William A. Smith, in the summer of 1859. They had many difficulties, but on August 27 at the site of an oil spring just south of Titusville, they finally drilled a well that could be commercially successful.

Teamsters were needed immediately to transport the oil to markets. Transporting methods improved and in 1862 the Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad was built between Titusville and Corry where it was transferred to other, larger, east-west lines. In 1865 pipelines were laid directly to the rail line and the demand for teamsters practically ended. The next year the railroad line was extended south to Petroleum Centre and Oil City. The Union City & Titusville Railroad was built in 1865, which became part of the Philadelphia & Erie Railroad in 1871. That fall, President U. S. Grant visited Titusville to view this important region.

Other oil-related businesses quickly exploded on the scene. Eight refineries were built between 1862 and 1868. Drilling tools were needed and several iron works were built. Titusville grew from 250 residents to 10,000 almost overnight and in 1866 it incorporated as a city. In 1871, the first oil exchange in the United States was established here. The exchange moved from the city, but returned in 1881 in a new, brick building before being dissolved in 1897.[3]

The first oil millionaire was Jonathan Watson, a resident of Titusville. He owned the land where Drake's well was drilled. He had been a partner in a lumber business prior to the success of the Drake well. At one time it was said that Titusville had more millionaires per 1,000 population than anywhere else in the world.

26 August, 2011

August 26, 1883

The volcano Krakotoa, which had been erupting since May, enters its climactic phase. Over the next 24 hours, the eruptions will grow to a level 6 on the VEI scale (0 to 8). This is equivalent to 200 megatons of TNT, or about 13,000 times as powerful as the atomic bomb dropped by the U.S. on Hiroshima, Japan.  IN a more modern comparison, Mount St. Helens in 1980 will reach level 5 on the VEI scale. Each level increase represents an order of magnitude increase in power, so a level 6 is 10 times as powerful as a 5. In the last 10,000 years, there are only 51 known eruptions at VEI level 6, 5 known eruptions at VEI level 7, and none at 8.

The explosions will be so violent they will nearly destroy the entire island of Krakatoa, and will be heard 3,000 miles away. The pressure wave from the explosions will go around the world 7 times and ash will be shot 50 miles into the air. Tidal effects will be noticed world wide with tsunamis traveling as far away as South Africa (Krakatoa is a bit southwest of Borneo and northwest of Australia). The official death toll in the area will rise above 36,000 people, but some will later estimate it as high as 120,000.

Volcanic winter will ensue, affecting world wide weather patterns for years, and lowering the average global temperature by over 2 degrees Fahrenheit (for comparison, the warming trend between 1850-2011 will see the earth’s temperature rise by 0.7 degrees).

Finally, the large amount of sulfur and ash in the air will produce spectacular sunsets throughout the world for years.

25 August, 2011

August 25, 1944

The French 2nd Armored Division and the United States 4th Infantry Division enter Paris from the west and east, respectively, after triumphing over the German forces there.

Americans pressured the French for a “whites only” liberation force, so black French troops were excluded from joining in the triumph. This pressure came from General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Chief of Staff, Major General Walter Bedell Smith, and can be presumed to have been the desire of Eisenhower himself.

August 25, 2001

The 9/11 hijackers begin booking their flights for the fateful day. They use their real names in almost all cases, despite many of them being on terrorist watchlists. This will continue over the next ten days. The cost of the flights exceeds $30,000.

24 August, 2011

23 August, 2011

August 23, 1996

Osama bin Laden issues a fatwa, the “Declaration of War against the American Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places”.

From Wikipedia:

Saudi Arabia is sometimes called "The Land of the Two Holy Mosques" in reference to Mecca and Medina, the two holiest places in Islam. The reference to occupation in the fatwā refers to U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia for the purpose of controlling air space in Iraq, known as Operation Southern Watch.

Apologies for my near silence here and on Twitter for the last week or so. My other obsession (politics being the first) has taken hold of me lately, but it’s finally in a state where it won’t be consuming all of my waking hours.

I think.

Oh, what’s the other obsession? Stay tuned…

August 23, 2001

FBI agents in Minnesota become convinced that Zacarias Moussaoui plans to hijack a plane, but are unable to convince HQ, which blocks their warrant application.

As the Radical Fundamentalist Unit (RFU) at FBI headquarters has already blocked an application for a criminal warrant (see August 21, 2001), the FBI’s Minneapolis field office must apply for one under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Minneapolis agent Harry Samit completes an application for a warrant to search Moussaoui’s belongings on August 25. To obtain the warrant, he has to show there is probable cause to believe Moussaoui is an agent of a foreign power. The memo states that Moussaoui recruited a fighter for a particular Chechen rebel group connected to al-Qaeda, so he is connected to al-Qaeda through the Chechens. However, the RFU at FBI headquarters believes that the Chechen rebels should not be described as a foreign power and that the link between the Chechens and bin Laden is not strong enough