1876 – Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone

It is arguably one of the most transformative inventions of all time: the telephone is on a par with the wheel or the taming of fire in terms of its effect on our society.

It all starts here. Alexander Graham Bell had been wroking on the telephone for three years already at this point, and he was not the only one. Indeed, his closest rival, Elisha Gray, filed for his patent on the same day Bell did (February 26). But it was Bell who got the patent, and who went on to make millions from it.

The famous first successful phone call actually took place 3 days later, on March 10, and Bell never looked back. Which is in some ways unfortunate, as his belief in eugenics would not have been nearly so influential had he not been so rich.

Still, he transformed everything – you wouldn’t be reading this today, on a computer or a mobile phone, without him.

Referenced in:

Alexander Graham Bell — Sweet
Alexander Graham Bell — Richard Thompson

1876 – Brooklyn Theater fire

The Brooklyn Theater Fire was one of the worst theatre fires in the history of the United States, with at least 278 people, and possibly more than 300 people, killed. 103 of the victims were so badly burnt that they could not be identified, and were buried in a common grave in Green-Wood Cemetery.

Most of the deaths occurred in the family circle – the highest and cheapest seats in the building, which had only one staircase leading from them. As the fire grew, temperatures in this area rose to unbearable levels long before the flames reached it, and trapped smoke led to many of the deaths, although the crush of the stairway also led to injuries and fatalities. Compounding these problems, the flames burned so high and so fast that there was little firefighters could do until they had died down enough that they could be fought – too late for most of the people still inside.

Referenced in:

1876 — Wakey!Wakey!

1876 – Custer is defeated and killed at Little Bighorn

General George Armstrong Custer went into battle at Little Big Horn under a number of false impressions.

He was under the impression that he would be facing no more than 800 Native Americans, rather than more than twice that number – Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse had recruited assiduously, knowing that a battle was coming. He was under the impression that his major challenge would be preventing the escape of the enemy forces, rather than defeating them. And finally, he was under the impression, based on these assumptions, that the force under the command of his subordinate Major Reno would be far more effective in battle than it proved.

But with Reno’s forces isolated and routed, Custer’s forces were outnumbered and surrendered. More than 200 men in Custer’s army, including Custer himself, were killed.

Referenced in:

Custer – Johnny Cash
General Custer – Swan
Jim Bridger – Johnny Horton
Little Big Horn – Running Wild
I Love America – Alice Cooper
Custer Had It Coming – Redbone
Custer Song – Buffy Sainte-Marie
The Punch Line – The Minutemen
Custer Died A-Runnin’ – David Wilkie
Some Fool Made A Soldier Of Me – The Kingston Trio
Please Mister Custer, I Don’t Wanna Go – Larry Verne
History is Made By Stupid People – The Arrogant Worms