This Week In History: Dec. 11 – Dec. 17 

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On this week’s edition of This Week in History, Benjamin dives into the story of Vincenzo Peruggia who stole the Mona Lisa. Illustration by Kaitlyn Tran/The Daily Campus

Hello fellow history enthusiasts, welcome back to This Week in History! Finals week is upon us at last, which means that this will be the last issue of This Week in History until spring. But fret not, this week has some very interesting tales to tell, so let’s dive right in! 

From behind the eyes of surveillance cameras, security guards and a thin layer of protective glass, Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” peers out into the Louvre Museum in Paris. Perhaps the perfect crime — if a thief were to break into the Louvre and take the Mona Lisa, they would be making off with a ludicrous $900 million.  

It just so happens that museum caretaker Vincenzo Peruggia took the risk and succeeded in stealing the painting from the museum, avoiding authorities for over two years. But unfortunately for him, this week, on Dec. 11, 1913, Peruggia was caught in Italy, and the Mona Lisa returned to Paris. 

As a lower middle-class museum worker, Peruggia felt like he needed a break — a way to make it big “quickly,” as he expressed in letters to his parents. While working at the Louvre, he noticed possible avenues to take off with the painting, and ultimately on a day in which the museum was closed, he wrapped up Da Vinci’s work and walked out a side door like nothing unusual was taking place. 

Fleeing to Italy with his prize, Peruggia ran into a strange situation. Because he could not sell the painting for its full price as potential buyers would think it was a reproduction, he had to bring it to an appraiser. It just so happened that the appraiser he chose was tied to a national gallery of Italy, who immediately contacted the authorities upon authenticating the painting.  

The escapade was not entirely fruitless. While Peruggia was arrested and his plan never came to fruition, his story brought new life back into the Mona Lisa, which became cemented in pop culture due to his daring feat. Likewise, Peruggia managed to avoid a harsh sentence after arguing he stole the painting to bring it back to Italy, making him a national hero in the process. 

Heading across the Atlantic to the United States, Dec. 14, 1836 proved vital for the states of Michigan and Ohio, who concluded a territorial skirmish known as the Toledo War.  

In 1835, the-soon-to-be admitted state of Michigan and the state of Ohio ran into many issues over territorial boundaries, notably in the north of Ohio around Toledo. With both laying claim to the region, as well as the struggling state governments seeking the commercial wealth of the land, Congress attempted to resolve the disagreement twice, but to no avail. 

Militias were employed by both states and tensions rose to a near breaking point with the stabbing of a law enforcement official during a brawl. While historically referred to as a war, the dispute is comically known as the “almost bloodless” conflict. Despite the attack on the official and the loss of blood, the man survived and no casualties were inflicted on either side. 

Finally, on Dec. 14, 1836, the “Frostbitten Convention” convened and Michigan accepted Congress’s proposal, granting Ohio the Toledo Strip, while Michigan was to incorporate regions to the north of the state. Consequently, the following year Michigan was admitted to the U.S. as a state. 

The final event for this week shifts focus away from political disputes and historical thievery, and instead involves a favorite pastime for many: video games.  

On Dec. 14, 1948, the two inventors Thomas T. Goldsmith Jr. and Estle Ray Mann were granted a patent for a “cathode-ray tube amusement device,” which was the foundation for later video game consoles.  

The game itself was extremely basic, allowing the user to control a light beam on the screen of a monitor with knobs. The goal of the game was to sync up the light with the center of a target. In prior years, such devices were seen in computers used by the U.S. Navy, but for the object to be entertainment, the patent set in motion the development and production of electronic entertainment devices. 

In years to follow, consoles such as the Magnavox Odyssey, Nintendo Entertainment System and Atari expanded on the concept of a screen-based interactive entertainment system, solidifying the medium as the favorite hobby of millions. 

And that concludes This Week in History for the fall semester! Have a safe and warm holiday season full of video games and hopefully free of bloody disputes and criminal pursuits! I’ll be back with more history with the start of the new year! 

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