In addition to Canada Day — of which I wish a happy one to my friends in the Great White North — today is the anniversary of several important and/or interesting events. [All photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.]
First, a shoutout to Canada Day: it commemorates the “British North America Act” of 1867 (officially the “Constitution Act”), in which most of Britain’s remaining North American colonies — Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Province of Canada — were united into a federation of four provinces (the Province of Canada being divided into Ontario and French-dominated Quebec). This new “Dominion of Canada” was a largely independent constitutional kingdom in its own right, though it remained under nominal and limited British governance, the last vestiges of which were ended in 1982 with the Canada Act (though such powers had long since been mostly symbolic).
In 1874, after a slow and inauspicious start, the Remington No. 1 typewriter, designed by American inventor Christopher Latham Sholeswent, went on sale, becoming the first commercially successful typewriter. Its ability to facilitate rapid correspondence and communication helped expand industrialization and modernity. The typewriter’s proliferation was met with anxieties we could relate with today, such as people opting for cold and impersonal communication, and privacy being jeopardized by so much information going around (hence why it took time to be adopted.
The typewriter also unwittingly advanced the social and economic prospects of women, since it was marketed with attractive women as tradeshows (a now novel advertizing approach) and was presented as being simple enough for a woman to do. Sexist as this is by our standards, it nonetheless meant women could enter the relatively more respectable clerical industry, opening the door into greater financial and professional opportunity.
Painting by Jan Matejko.
In 1569, the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania signed the Union of Lublin, merging into a single state: the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Lasting until the late 18th century, the multiethnic empire was one of the largest in both population and size in European history. Its complex and comparatively free political system featured proto-concepts of democracy, federalism, constitutional governance, and individual liberty (known collectively as “The Golden Liberty). Until the emergence of the United States and Republican France – ironically around the time of its demise – the Polish-Lithuanian state would be one of the most sophisticated and free political entities in the world.
In 1915, World War I German fighter pilot Kurt Wintgens became the first person to shoot down another plane in aerial combat using a synchronized machine gun (e.g. a gun engineered to shoot through a spinning propeller without the bullets striking the blades). Prior to this achievement, plans were strictly for reconnaissance, with pilots at most having to use personal armaments to shoot at each other (imagine that sight). For better or worse, this event marked the beginning of militarized airplanes and aerial combat as we know it.
In 1935, Grant Park Music Festival was kicked off in Chicago’s Grant Park, remaining the only annual, free, and outdoor classical music concert series in the U.S. The ten-week series began as an effort to lift the spirits of residents during the Great Depression. It has since become a nonprofit and a staple in Chicago and its iconic urban park.
Finally, in 1999 the Scottish Parliament gained legislative governance over Scotland, solidifying the region’s increasing autonomy within the United Kingdom. This process of devolution means that Scotland’s democratically elected legislature has almost full control over matters such as education, public health, agricultural policy, and justice (things such as defense, foreign policy, social security, and other national concerns remain the purview of the British Government).