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Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love.

January 1, 2009

January 1 is the 1st day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 364 days remaining until the end of the year (365 in leap years). The preceding day is December 31 of the previous year.


Ancient Greeks and Romans celebrated New Year on the winter solstice . However, many ancient cultures including the Phoenicians, Persians and Egyptians celebrated the New Year with the autumn equinox . The ancient Romans celebrated their first New Year on January 1 in 153 BC.

During the Middle Ages under the influence of the Christian Church, many countries moved the start of the year to one of several important Christian festivals — December 25 (the Nativity of Jesus), March 1, March 25 (the Annunciation), or even Easter. Eastern European countries (most of them with populations showing allegiance to the Orthodox Church) began their numbered year on September 1 from about 988.

In England January 1 was celebrated as the New Year festival, but from the 12th century to 1752 the year in England began on March 25 (Lady Day). So, for example, the Parliamentary record records the execution of Charles I occurring in 1648 (as the year did not end until March 24), although modern histories adjust the start of the year to January 1 and record the execution as occurring in 1649.

Most western European countries changed the start of the year to January 1 before they adopted the Gregorian calendar. For example, Scotland changed the start of the Scottish New Year to January 1 in 1600. England, Ireland and the British colonies changed the start of the year to January 1 in 1752. Later that year in September, the Gregorian calendar was introduced throughout Britain and the British colonies. These two reforms were implemented by the Calendar (New Style) Act 1750.

In the 9th century, March 25 (the Feast of the Annunciation) was used in parts of southern Europe as the start of the new year. The practice became more widespread in Europe from the 11th century and in England from the late 12th century. January 1 became the official start of the year as follows:

1934Alcatraz Island becomes a United States federal prison.

Alcatraz Island in 2005

Alcatraz Island, sometimes informally referred to as simply Alcatraz or locally as the Rock, is a small island located in the middle of San Francisco Bay in California, United States. It served as a lighthouse, then a military fortification, then a military prison followed by a federal prison until 1963. It became a national recreation area in 1972 and received landmarking designations in 1976 and 1986.

Today, the island is a historic site operated by the National Park Service as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is open to tours. Visitors can reach the island by ferry ride from Pier 33, near Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.


The first Spaniard to discover the island was Juan Manuel de Ayala in 1775, who charted San Francisco Bay and named the island “La Isla de los Alcatraces,” which translates as “The Island of the Pelicans, from the archaic Spanish alcatraz, “pelican” (from Arabic al-ġaṭṭās, sea eagle).

The United States Census Bureau defines the island as Block 1067, Block Group 1, Census Tract 179.02 of San Francisco County, California. There was no population on the island as of the 2000 census.

It is home to the now-abandoned prison, the site of the oldest operating lighthouse on the west coast of the United States, early military fortifications, and natural features such as rock pools, a seabird colony (mostly Western Gulls, cormorants, and egrets), and unique views of the coastline.

Military history

A model of Military Point Alcatraz, 1866-1868, now on display on Alcatraz Island

The earliest recorded owner of the island of Alcatraz is one Julian Workman, to whom it was given by Mexican governor Pio Pico in June 1846 with the understanding that the former would build a lighthouse on it. Julian Workman is the baptismal name of William Workman, co-owner of Rancho La Puente and personal friend of Pio Pico. Later that same year John C. Fremont bought the island for $5000 in the name of the United States government, who subsequently wrested control from Fremont after a legal battle.

Following the acquisition of California by the United States as a result of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) which ended the Mexican-American War, and the onset of the California Gold Rush the following year, the U.S. Army began studying the suitability of Alcatraz Island for the positioning of coastal batteries to protect the approaches to San Francisco Bay. In 1853, under the direction of Zealous B. Tower, the Corps of Engineers began fortifying the island, work which continued until 1858. The island’s first garrison, numbering about 200 soldiers, arrived at the end of that year. When the American Civil War broke out in 1861 the island mounted 85 cannons (increased to 105 cannons by 1866) in casemates around its perimeter, though the small size of the garrison meant only a fraction of the guns could be used at one time. Alcatraz never fired its guns in anger, though during the war it was used to imprison Confederate sympathizers on the west coast.

Following the war in 1866 the army determined that the fortifications and guns were being rapidly rendered obsolete by advances in military technology. Modernization efforts, including an ambitious plan to level the entire island and construct shell-proof underground magazines and tunnels, were undertaken between 1870 and 1876 but never completed (the so called “parade ground” on the southern tip of the island represents the extent of the flattening effort). Instead the army switched the focus of its plans for Alcatraz from coastal defense to detention, a task for which it was well suited because of its isolation. In 1867 a brick jailhouse was built (previously inmates had been kept in the basement of the guardhouse), and in 1868 Alcatraz was officially designated a long-term detention facility for military prisoners. Among those incarcerated at Alcatraz were some Hopi Native American men in the 1870s.

On March 21, 1907, Alcatraz was officially designated as the Western US Military Prison. In 1909 construction began on the huge concrete main cell block, designed by Major Reuben Turner, which remains the island’s dominant feature. It was completed in 1912. In order to accommodate the new cell block, the Citadel, a three-story barracks, was demolished down to the first floor, which was actually below ground level. The building had been constructed in an excavated pit (creating a dry “moat”) to enhance its defensive potential. The first floor was then incorporated as a basement to the new cell block, giving rise to the popular legend of “dungeons” below the main cell block.

During World War I the prison held conscientious objectors, including Philip Grosser, who wrote a pamphlet entitled ‘Uncle Sam’s Devil’s Island’ about his experiences.

Prison history

Military prison

Alcatraz Island, 1895

Due to its isolation from the outside by the cold, strong, hazardous currents of the waters of San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz was used to house Civil War prisoners as early as 1861. In 1898, the Spanish-American war would increase the prison population from 26 to over 450. After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, civilian prisoners were transferred to Alcatraz for safe confinement. By 1912 there was a large cellhouse, and in the 1920s a large 3-story structure was nearly at full capacity.

Federal prison

The United States Disciplinary Barracks on Alcatraz was acquired by the United States Department of Justice on October 12, 1933, and the island became a federal prison in August 1934. During the 29 years it was in use, the jail held such notable criminals as Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud (the Birdman of Alcatraz), Jose Sierra , James “Whitey” Bulger and Alvin Karpis, who served more time at Alcatraz than any other inmate. It also provided housing for the Bureau of Prison staff and their families.

United States Penitentiary,
Alcatraz Island
Location: San Francisco Bay, California
Coordinates: 37°49′36″N 122°25′24″W / 37.82667, -122.42333
Status: Closed (Museum)
Security class: Maximum
Capacity: 312
Opened: January 1, 1934
Closed: March 21, 1963
Managed by: Department of Justice

Escape attempts

View of San Francisco from Alcatraz Island

During its 29 years of operation, the penitentiary claimed no prisoners as having ever successfully escaped. 36 prisoners were involved in 14 attempts, two men trying twice; seven were shot and killed, and two drowned. The most violent occurred on 2 May 1946 when a failed escape attempt by six prisoners led to the so-called “Battle of Alcatraz“.

On June 11, 1962 Frank Morris, John Anglin and Clarence Anglin successfully carried out one of the most intricate escapes ever devised. Behind the prisoners’ cells in Cell Block B (where the escapees were interned) was an unguarded 3-foot (0.91 m) wide utility corridor. The prisoners chiseled away the moisture-damaged concrete from around an air vent leading to this corridor, using tools such as a metal spoon soldered with silver from a dime and an electric drill improvised from a stolen vacuum cleaner motor. The noise was disguised by accordions played during music hour, and their progress was concealed by false walls which, in the dark recesses of the cells, fooled the guards.

The interior of a regular cell in the row known as Broadway.

The escape route then led up through a fan vent; the fan and motor had been removed and replaced with a steel grille, leaving a shaft large enough for a prisoner to climb through. Stealing a carborundum cord from the prison workshop, the prisoners had removed the rivets from the grille and substituted dummy rivets made of soap. The escapees also stole several raincoats to use as a raft for the trip to the mainland. Leaving papier-mâché dummies in their cells with paint brush bristles as hair, they escaped. The prisoners are estimated to have entered San Francisco Bay at 10 p.m.

The official investigation by the FBI was aided by another prisoner, Allen West, who also was part of the escapees’ group but was left behind (West’s false wall kept slipping so he held it into place with cement, which set; when the Anglin brothers (John & Clarence) accelerated the schedule, West desperately chipped away at the wall but by the time he did his companions were gone). Articles belonging to the prisoners (including plywood paddles and parts of the raincoat raft) were located on nearby Angel Island, and the official report on the escape says the prisoners drowned while trying to reach the mainland in the cold waters of the bay.

Alcatraz, as viewed from San Francisco

Famous inmates

Robert Stroud, who was better known to the public as the “Birdman of Alcatraz,” was transferred to Alcatraz in 1942. He spent the next seventeen years on “the Rock” — six years in segregation in D Block, and eleven years in the prison hospital. In 1959 he was transferred to the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri (MCFP Springfield).

When Al Capone arrived on Alcatraz in 1934, prison officials made it clear that he would not be receiving any preferential treatment. While serving his time in Atlanta, Capone, a master manipulator, had continued running his rackets from behind bars by buying off guards. “Big Al” generated incredible media attention while on Alcatraz though he served just four and a half years of his sentence there before developing symptoms of tertiary syphilis and being transferred to the Federal Correctional Institution at Terminal Island in Los Angeles.

George “Machine Gun” Kelly arrived on September 4, 1934. At Alcatraz, Kelly was constantly boasting about several robberies and murders that he had never committed. Although this was said to be an apparent point of frustration for several fellow prisoners, Warden Johnson considered him a model inmate. Kelly was returned to Leavenworth in 1951.

James ‘Whitey’ Bulger spent 3 years on Alcatraz (1959-1962) while serving a sentence for bank robbery. While there, he became close to Clarence Carnes, also known as the Choctaw Kid.

Post prison years

U.S. National Historic Landmark
Flowers on Alcatraz. In the background is the Social Hall, destroyed by fire during the Native American occupation.

Flowers on Alcatraz. In the background is the Social Hall, destroyed by fire during the Native American occupation.

Location: San Francisco, California
Built/Founded: 1847
Architect: U.S. Army,Bureau of Prisons; U.S. Army
Architectural style(s): Mission/Spanish Revival
Designated as NHL: January 17, 1986
Added to NRHP: June 23, 1976
NRHP Reference#: 76000209

By decision of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, the penitentiary was closed on March 21, 1963. It was closed because it was far more expensive to operate than other prisons (nearly $10 per prisoner per day, as opposed to $3 per prisoner per day at Atlanta), half a century of salt water saturation had severely eroded the buildings, and the bay was being badly polluted by the sewage from the approximately 250 inmates and 60 Bureau of Prisons families on the island. The United States Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, a new, traditional land-bound prison opened that same year to serve as a replacement for Alcatraz.

Native American occupation

A lingering sign of the 1969-71 Native American occupation (2006 Photograph).

Beginning on November 20, 1969, a group of Native Americans from many different tribes (many individual Native Americans relocated to the Bay Area under the Federal Indian Reorganization Act of 1934), occupied the island, and proposed an education center, ecology center and cultural center. According to the occupants, the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868) between the U.S. and the Sioux returned all retired, abandoned or out-of-use federal land to the Native people from whom it was acquired.

During the eighteen months of occupation, several buildings were damaged or destroyed by fires, including the recreation hall, the Coast Guard quarters and the Warden’s home. The origins of the fires are unknown. A number of other buildings (mostly apartments) were destroyed by the U.S. Government after the occupation had ended. Graffiti from the period of Native American occupation are still visible at many locations on the island.

During the occupation, the Indian termination policy, designed to end federal recognition of tribes, was rescinded by President Richard Nixon, and the new policy of self-determination was established, in part as a result of the publicity and awareness created by the occupiers. The occupation ended on June 11, 1971.

Landmarking and development

The entire Alcatraz Island was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, and was further declared a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

In 1993, the National Park Service published a plan entitled Alcatraz Development Concept and Environmental Assessment. This plan, approved in 1980, doubled the amount of Alcatraz accessible to the public to enable visitors to enjoy its scenery and bird, marine, and animal life, such as the California slender salamander.

Today American Indian groups, the International Indian Treaty Council, for example, hold ceremonies on the island. The most notable of these are on Columbus Day and Thanksgiving Day when they hold a “Sunrise Gathering.”

In 2006, the Park Service awarded the ferry contract to Hornblower Yachts ferry operator Alcatraz Cruises. Because Hornblower does not employ union labor, there have been protests for several months and several demonstrations with nearly 1,000 participants.

Man made features

The parade grounds. Carved from the hillside during the late 19th century and covered with rubble since the government demolished guard housing in 1971, the area has become a habitat and breeding ground for black-crowned night herons, western gulls, slender salamanders and deer mice.

The Agave Path, a trail named for its dense growth of agave. Located atop a shoreline bulkhead on the south side, it provides a nesting habitat for night herons.

Natural features

Brandt’s Cormorant nesting on Alcatraz Island

Western Gulls on Alcatraz


Cisterns. A bluff that, because of its moist crevices, is believed to be an important site for California slender salamanders.

Cliff tops at the island’s north end. Containing a onetime manufacturing building and a plaza, the area is listed as important to nesting and roosting birds.

The powerhouse area. A steep embankment where native grassland and creeping wild rye support a habitat for deer mice.

Tide pools. A series of them, created by long-ago quarrying activities, contains still-unidentified invertebrate species and marine algae.

They form one of the few tide-pool complexes in the Bay, according to the report.

Western cliffs and cliff tops. Rising to heights of nearly 100 feet (30 m), they provide nesting and roosting sites for sea birds including pigeon guillemots, cormorants, Heermann’s gulls and Western Gulls. Harbor seals can occasionally be seen on a small beach at the base.

A panorama of Alcatraz as viewed from San Francisco Bay, facing east. Sather Tower and UC Berkeley are visible in the background on the right.
A panorama of Alcatraz as viewed from San Francisco Bay, facing east. Sather Tower and UC Berkeley are visible in the background on the right.


Historic gardens. Planted by families of the original Army post, and later by families of the prison guards, they fell into neglect after the prison closure in 1963. After 40 years they are being restored by a paid staff member and many volunteers, thanks to funding by the Garden Conservancy and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. The untended gardens had become severely overgrown and had developed into a nesting habitat and sanctuary for numerous birds. Now, areas of bird habitat are being preserved and protected, while many of the gardens are being fully restored to their original glory.

1735Paul Revere, American patriot (d. 1818)

Paul Revere (bap. December 22, 1734 (OS) / January 1, 1735 (NS) – May 10, 1818) was an American silversmith and a patriot in the American Revolution.

Because he was glorified after his death for his role as a messenger in the battles of Lexington and Concord, Revere’s name and his “midnight ride” are well-known in the United States as a patriotic symbol. In his lifetime, Revere was a prosperous and prominent Boston craftsman, who helped organize an intelligence and alarm system to keep watch on the British military.

Revere later served as an officer in one of the most disastrous campaigns of the American Revolutionary War, a role for which he was later exonerated. After the war, he was early to recognize the potential for large-scale manufacturing of metal.

Myths and Legends of the Midnight Ride

Paul Revere’s house in Boston.

In his poem, Longfellow took many liberties with the events of the evening, most especially giving sole credit to Revere for the collective achievements of the three riders (as well as the other riders whose names do not survive to history). Longfellow also depicts the lantern signal in the Old North Church as meant for Revere and not from him, as was actually the case. Other inaccuracies include claiming that Revere rode triumphantly into Concord instead of Lexington, and a general lengthening of the time frame of the night’s events. For a long time, though, historians of the American Revolution as well as textbook writers relied almost entirely on Longfellow’s poem as historical evidence – creating substantial misconceptions in the minds of the American people. In re-examining the episode, some historians in the 20th century have attempted to demythologize Paul Revere almost to the point of marginalization. While it is true that Revere was not the only rider that night, that does not refute the fact that Revere was riding and successfully completed the first phase of his mission to warn Adams and Hancock. Other historians have since stressed his importance, including David Hackett Fischer in his book Paul Revere’s Ride (1995), an important scholarly study of Revere’s role in the opening of the Revolution.

Popular myths and urban legends have persisted, though, concerning Revere’s ride, mainly due to the tendency in the past to take Longfellow’s poem as truth. Other riders such as Israel Bissell and Sybil Ludington are often suggested as having completed much more impressive rides than Revere’s; however, the circumstances behind the others’ rides were entirely different (Bissell was a news-carrier riding from Boston to Philadelphia with news of the battle at Lexington; Revere had made similar rides with the news in the years preceding the war. The only evidence for Ludington’s ride is an oral tradition.) Longfellow’s poem was never designed to be history and there are few serious historians today who would maintain that Revere was anything like the lone-wolf rider portrayed in the poem.


Go to fullsize image

Betsy Ross (January 1, 1752January 30, 1836) was an American woman said to have sewn the first American flag which incorporated stars representing the first thirteen colonies, although “many details (about her life) are conjecture based on research.”

This image depicts what is presumed to be Betsy Ross and two children presenting the “Betsy Ross flag” to George Washington and three other men


Early years

Ross was born Elizabeth Griscom to parents Sam and Rebecca in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on January 1, 1752, the eighth of 17 children. She “grew up in a household where the plain dress and strict discipline of the Society of Friends dominated her life.” She learned to sew from her great-aunt Sarah Griscom.

After she finished her schooling at a Quaker public school, her father apprenticed her to an upholsterer named William Webster. At this job, she fell in love with fellow apprentice John Ross, son of an assistant rector Aeneas Ross (Sarah Leach) at (Episcopal) Christ Church.

As interdenominational marriages typically led to being read out of their Quaker meeting, the couple eloped in 1773 when she was 21, and married at Hugg’s Tavern in Gloucester, New Jersey.[4] The marriage caused a split from her family and meant her “expulsion from the Quaker congregation.” The young couple soon started their own upholstery business and joined Christ Church.

The Revolutionary War

The Rosses were financially stressed by the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. The fabrics they depended on grew scarce, and business slowed considerably. John joined the Pennsylvania militia and was killed in January 1776 when ammunition in a storehouse he was guarding exploded.

After her first husband’s death, Ross joined the “Fighting Quakers” which, unlike traditional Quakers, supported the war effort. In June 1777, she married sea captain Joseph Ashburn at Old Swedes’ Church in Philadelphia. British soldiers forcibly occupied their house when they controlled the city in 1777. Following the Battle of Germantown, she nursed both American and British soldiers.

Betsy Ross is best remembered, however, as a flag maker during the Revolution. Family oral history, supported only by 19th century affidavits, recounts the widowed Ross meeting with George Washington, George Ross, and Robert Morris at her upholstery business in Philadelphia, a meeting said to have resulted in the sewing of the first U.S. “stars and stripes” flag. According to the story, it was at this meeting, to “silence the men’s protests that these new five-pointed stars would be unfamiliar and difficult for seamstresses to make, she folded a piece of paper, made a single scissor snip, and revealed a perfect five-pointed star.”

Evidence that Ross did in fact make flags for the government includes a receipt for her making “ship’s colours” for the Pennsylvania Navy in May 1777, as well as a folded star pattern with her name found in a Philadelphia Quaker Society safe. Whether or not Ross made the “first” stars and stripes has never been proven, however. According to the family legend, many women were making flags when Betsy received her first order. Francis Hopkinson also took credit for the design of the stars and stripes, which was partially acknowledged by Congress.


In May 1783, Ross married John Claypoole, an old friend who had told her of Ashburn’s death in a British prison where he and Ashburn had been confined. The couple had five daughters together. He died in 1817 after twenty years of ill health. She continued working in her upholstery business, including making flags for the United States of America, until 1827. After her retirement, she moved in with her married daughter, Susannah Satterthwaite, who continued to operate the business. Ross died in Philadelphia on January 30, 1836, at age 84.

Although it is one of the most visited tourist sites in Philadelphia, the claim that Ross once lived at the Betsy Ross House is a matter of dispute.

Interment, re-interment and re-re-interment

Ross’s body was first buried at the Free Quaker burial ground on South 5th Street. Twenty years later, her remains were exhumed and reburied in the Mt. Moriah Cemetery in the Cobbs Creek Park section of Philadelphia. In preparation for the United States Bicentennial, the city ordered the remains moved to the courtyard of the Betsy Ross House in 1975; however, workers found no remains under her tombstone. Bones found elsewhere in the family plot were deemed to be hers and were re-interred in the current grave visited by tourists at the Betsy Ross House.

Betsy Ross Postage Stamp

Elin Maria Pernilla Nordegren Woods (born January 1, 1980, in Stockholm, Sweden) is a former Swedish model, and is married to the professional golfer Tiger Woods.

Early life

Nordegren’s mother, Barbro Holmberg, is a politician and former migration and asylum policy minister of Sweden, while her father, Thomas, is a radio journalist who has served as bureau chief in Washington, D.C. for the Swedish Broadcasting media. She has one older brother, Axel, and a twin sister, Josefin.

Relationship with Tiger Woods

Nordegren and her twin sister Josefin had been working as au pairs for Swedish golfer Jesper Parnevik when he introduced her to Woods during the 2001 British Open. In November 2003, Woods and Nordegren attended the Presidents Cup tournament in South Africa and became officially engaged when Woods proposed at the luxury Shamwari Game Reserve. On October 5, 2004, they were married by the 19th hole at the exclusive Sandy Lane resort in Barbados. The ceremony reportedly cost over $1.5 million. Privacy was achieved by buying out the island’s sole helicopter charter company and by booking the entire hotel – 200 rooms ranging in price from $700 to $8,000 per night.

On June 18, 2007, Woods announced the birth of their daughter, Sam Alexis Woods, early that morning, just a day after Woods finished second in the 2007 U.S. Open.

On September 2, 2008, Woods announced on his website they were expecting another child in late winter.

Nude photographs hoax

Shortly after Nordegren’s relationship with Woods became public, nude photographs of a woman resembling Nordegren began circulating on the internet, with text claiming it was, in fact, her. Nordegren, whose modeling work did include bikini photo shoots, vehemently denied that she has ever posed nude. The nude photographs claimed to be of Nordegren actually depict Playboy magazine model Kim Hiott, and most are derived from the 2000 edition of Playboy’s “Nudes” special edition. Despite this identification and repeated denials from Nordegren and Woods, in September 2006 (immediately prior to the 2006 Ryder Cup) Irish magazine The Dubliner published an article “Ryder Cup Filth for Ireland,” which displayed the nude photographs of Hiott and again claimed they were of Nordegren. Woods described the story as “unacceptable,” and his agent Mark Steinberg said, “Everyone knew it wasn’t her. It’s plain as day.” Steinberg also said the couple was considering legal recourse against the magazine. The Dubliner issued an apology for the story, saying that they had printed the photos as a “satire of tabloid publishing.”

Nordegren won the lawsuit and as part of the settlement accepted by a Dublin court, The Dubliner must publish its lengthy apology in a variety of venues, including in its next issue. If the magazine fails to meet the conditions the award will be increased to $366,500 and the publishers will have to pay Nordegren Woods’ legal costs.



One Comment leave one →
  1. October 24, 2009 9:26 pm

    Great article on the calendar change/New Year.

    I’d love to know which references you used.

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