This Week In History: Oct. 9 – Oct. 15 

Alcatraz is one of the most iconic prisons in the world. On Oct. 12, 1933, the military prison, Alcatraz Citadel, would officially become the Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. Photo courtesy of: Chris6d on Wikimedia Commons

Hello history buffs! It’s a new week, and this one in particular has been incredibly eventful across history, so let’s jump right in! 

To begin on a high note, on Oct. 11, 1910, Theodore Roosevelt became the first U.S. president to fly in an airplane.  

In the early 20th century, aviation was seen by most as a curiosity, and not as much a practical form of transportation. This is largely due to the risks and dangers associated with flying in early airplanes, with many being extremely susceptible to engine failures and crashing. 

When asked by the pilot Archie Hoxsey if he wanted to take a flight, Roosevelt replied, “No, thank you. There are enough high-fliers up there already.” No doubt Roosevelt was perhaps worried about the risks of flying, as were the public at the time. But his flight would mark a significant moment in the shaping of public opinion, contributing to the gradual acceptance of flight into the mainstream. 

Leaving aviation, the next event of this week involves one of the most iconic prisons in the world: On Oct. 12, 1933, the military prison, Alcatraz Citadel, would officially become the Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. 

Famous across pop culture and American cinema, Alcatraz would become synonymous with the mysterious and brutal mafia underworld of the 20th century. While over-dramatized to an extent, there is no doubt that the prison has an immense history, beginning over 50 years before the prison was founded. 

Starting in 1859, with California having only recently been incorporated in the U.S., the military sought to fortify the isolated island for detaining prisoners of war. Known as Alcatraz Citadel due to a large central tower being the headquarters of the prison, the island would be utilized during the Civil War, Indian Wars and the Spanish-American War. 

Relative peace – coupled with the Great Depression – cut the military’s budget, pushing them to transfer the prison for civilian use and marking the beginning of one of the most popularized civilian prisons in America. 

Shifting back in time, European history has seen fewer highly regarded military generals than Frederick the Great of Prussia. Fighting against many great powers throughout his reign, he is renowned for beating his enemies despite uneven odds. 

Although rarely, Frederick the Great did in fact lose battles. On Oct. 14, 1758, Frederick would be bested by the Austrian Empire in the Seven Years War. 

Known as the Battle of Hochkirch, Frederick’s Prussian army of 30,000 would face an Austrian force of 80,000; which despite being heavily outnumbered, was not unusual for Frederick. 

Leading up to the battle, Frederick would ignore the advice of his subordinates who were telling him to be wary of the Austrian general Leopold Von Daun, as he was potentially preparing to attack. Frederick viewed Von Daun as a cautious general who would never launch a daring attack – not to the surprise of his advisors, a surprise attack would follow, inflicting a huge blow to the Prussian army. 

Despite a general Prussian retreat in the following months, Frederick would eventually regain the initiative and carry on with his usual routine of winning battles. 

Moving on to the final event for this week, do you know what happened on Oct. 14, 1582? Well as far as the calendar is concerned, it did not exist, and neither did the nine days before it. On Oct. 15, 1582, the Gregorian calendar would replace many traditional calendars around the world.  

As a consequence of an inaccuracy in the Julian calendar, the entire year had shifted off by a few days across centuries, becoming more noticeable as holidays no longer lined up to their respective season.  

In an effort to reverse the time shift, the Papacy ordered the adoption of the Gregorian calendar across Europe, which would gradually be adopted across the globe. However, as the previous calendar had shifted so much, days needed to be reordered for countries adopting the Gregorian calendar, leading to the removal of 10 days between Oct. 4-14 in 1582. 

And that wraps up this week in history! See you next week!  

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