1858 – John Speke names Lake Victoria

A British explorer who, along with his fellow explorer Richard Burton, was among those to search for the source of the Nile, John Hanning Speke was the lucky one who actually found it. In 1856, he and Burton had journeyed to East Africa and worked their way inland looking for evidence of the Nile. They were the first Europeans to sight Lake Tanganyika, but that Burton fell ill.

Pressing on without him, Speke was the first European to find Lake Victoria, and named it in honour of his Queen. He returned to England before Burton, and became famous on the strength of this discovery, but history remembers Burton better (as he was a better writer, a more daring explorer, and a more shameless self-publicist). Speke is remembered in Uganda, one of the countries that the lake’s shores touch, with a mountain named after him.

Referenced in:
Raid on Entebbe — The Mountain Goats

1975 – Jimmy Hoffa disappears

James Riddle Hoffa – known to one and all as “Jimmy” – was a leader of Teamster’s Union in the United States. He was also involved in organized crime, and served time for jury tampering, attempted bribery and fraud in the years leading up to his disappearance. However, the terms of his pardon in 1971 forbade him from any association with the union movement or with criminals.

He was last seen outside the Machus Diner in Detroit on June 30, 1975. No one knows if he was kidnapped, killed or orchestrated his own disappearance – although with a history like his, these all seem plausible options. His body was never recovered, and he was officially presumed dead seven years to the day after his disappearance. Assuming that he wasn’t killed, he would most likely have died already by now, as he would now be more than a hundred years old.

Referenced in:

Jimmy Hoffa Memorial Building Blues – David Lindley

1938 – Henry Ford is awarded the Grand Cross of the German Eagle

Henry Ford was celebrating his 75th birthday when he was presented with the Grand Cross by the German Ambassador. The highest decoration that Germany awarded to non-citizens, it was given to him in honour of his service to German industry (i.e. helping equip the Wehrmacht), and also, one can’t help thinking, his service to the cause of anti-Semitism.

Ford’s German company, Ford-Werke, would later get him in trouble when it violated the Geneva Convention by employing prisoners of war in 1940. Ford himself was a staunch opponent of American entry into World War Two right up until the day before Pearl Harbour – he changed his tune very quickly thereafter.

Referenced in:

Henry Ford was a Facist — David Rovics

1976 – Bruce Jenner wins Gold in the decathlon at Montreal

Born on October 28, 1940 in Mount Kisco, New York, Bruce Jenner attended Graceland College on a football scholarship, until a knee injury forced him to reassess his priorities. With the encouragement of his coach, he took up the decathlon, and represented the US in the event at the Munich Olympics in 1972. He placed tenth, and encouraged by this, devoted himself to training for the 76 Olympics.

At Montreal, as at the Pan-American Games the year before in Mexico City, he placed first, winning the gold medal for America.

He returned home a celebrity, and had a short-lived career as an actor and a celebrity endorser. These days, he makes his living as a motivational speaker.

Referenced in:

Spam – Save Ferris