Public Domain / VolterraChannel (YouTube)
Public Domain / VolterraChannel (YouTube)

This Weekend in History (August 8 and 9)

Public Domain / VolterraChannel (YouTube)
Public Domain / VolterraChannel (YouTube)

Happy Saturday! Many, many things happened this weekend in history (including the Nagasaki bombing). Here are five non-nuclear events that happened on August 8th and 9th.

1. 1854: Thoreau Publishes Walden

On August 9, 1854, Henry David Thoreau published his seminal work, Walden; or, Life in the Woods, recounting his experience living in a cabin near Walden Pond. He wrote (emphasis added):

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.

2. 1930: Betty Boop Debuts

On August 9, 1930, Max Fleischer released his cartoon Dizzy Dishes, featuring the first appearance of Betty Boop. It's a bizarre short (watch it above), and this weekend marks 85 years (!) of Betty Boop.

3. 1950: Florence Chadwick Swims the English Channel

On August 8, 1950, American swimmer Florence Chadwick broke the women's record for swimming the English Channel from France to England. She made the swim in 13 hours, 20 minutes. The next year, she crossed in the opposite direction, taking 16 hours and 22 minutes, setting another record and making her the first woman to swim the channel in both directions.

4. 1963: Great Train Robbery in England

On August 8, 1963, a Royal Mail train headed to London was robbed. Fifteen men took £2.6 million (roughly equivalent to $50 million today), contained in 120 mailbags, mostly £1 and £5 notes. Less than £400,000 was recovered, despite ten of the robbers being imprisoned within six months of the robbery.

5. 1974: Richard Nixon Resigns

On August 9, 1974, Richard Nixon resigned the presidency of the United States of America. VP Gerald Ford was sworn in, becoming the 38th president. Nixon went out with a televised speech (see above—including a bunch of pre-roll before the broadcast!). For more context, check out The Atlantic's coverage of Nixon's resignation, 40 years later.

Fun fact: Nixon had a really sad lunch that day. It consisted of cottage cheese, pineapple slices, and a glass of milk.

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NASA, Getty Images
Watch Apollo 11 Launch
Vice President Spiro Agnew and former President Lyndon Johnson view the liftoff of Apollo 11
Vice President Spiro Agnew and former President Lyndon Johnson view the liftoff of Apollo 11
NASA, Getty Images

Apollo 11 launched on July 16, 1969, on its way to the moon. In the video below, Mark Gray shows slow-motion footage of the launch (a Saturn V rocket) and explains in glorious detail what's going on from a technical perspective—the launch is very complex, and lots of stuff has to happen just right in order to get a safe launch. The video is mesmerizing, the narration is informative. Prepare to geek out about rockets! (Did you know the hold-down arms actually catch on fire after the rocket lifts off?)

Apollo 11 Saturn V Launch (HD) Camera E-8 from Spacecraft Films on Vimeo.

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Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Utility Workers May Have Found One of Rome’s First Churches
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

The remains of what may have been one of Rome’s earliest Christian churches were accidentally discovered along the Tiber River during construction, The Local reports. The four-room structure, which could have been built as early as the 1st century CE, was unearthed by electrical technicians who were laying cables along the Ponte Milvio.

The newly discovered structure next to the river
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

No one is sure what to make of this “archaeological enigma shrouded in mystery,” in the words of Rome’s Archaeological Superintendency. Although there’s no definitive theory as of yet, experts have a few ideas.

The use of colorful African marble for the floors and walls has led archaeologists to believe that the building probably served a prestigious—or perhaps holy—function as the villa of a noble family or as a Christian place of worship. Its proximity to an early cemetery spawned the latter theory, since it's common for churches to have mausoleums attached to them. Several tombs were found in that cemetery, including one containing the intact skeleton of a Roman man.

Marble flooring
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

A tomb
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma1

The walls are made of brick, and the red, green, and beige marble had been imported from Sparta (Greece), Egypt, and present-day Tunisia, The Telegraph reports.

As The Local points out, it’s not all that unusual in Rome for archaeological discoveries to be made by unsuspecting people going about their day. Rome’s oldest aqueduct was found by Metro workers, and an ancient bath house and tombs were found during construction on a new church.

[h/t The Local]

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