World History 1859

About the history of the world in 1859, Dixie is composed, Drake's folly is follied, John Brown raids Harper's ferry.



* Northerner Daniel Decatur Emmett composed "Dixie" as an end number for a New York minstrel show. Emmett joined the army at age 17 as a fifer. After his stint in the service, he sang and played the flute, violin, and drums in circus bands. Later he joined the Virginia Minstrels, one of the first minstrel troupes in America.

June 24 The Battle of Solferino, between the Austrians and an allied French and Piedmontese army, launched the Italian War for Unification, even though Napoleon III of France, depressed by the bloodshed, made a separate peace with Austria soon after the battle.

June 30 Charles Blondin walked over Niagara Falls on a 1,100-ft.-long tightrope. Crowds on both banks watched in silence as Blondin deftly pranced along the rope 160 ft. above the water. Blondin, a Frenchman whose real name was Jean Francois Gravelet, had begun his career as a showman at the age of six, billed as "the Little Wonder." His training had begun as an acrobat at the Ecole Gymnase in Lyons, but he soon took an interest in the ancient Greek art of the funambulists (tightrope walkers), which he exhibited at Niagara.

He repeated the Niagara crossing many times, always with something new. Drawing ever larger crowds as his stunts became increasingly more audacious, he crossed blindfolded, in a sack, pushing a wheelbarrow, on stilts, and carrying a man on his back. On one occasion, he walked to the middle, sat down, prepared an omelet, and ate it. In London in 1861, the Crystal Palace was filled when Blondin, on stilts, appeared on the 170-ft.-high rope--without a net--and began doing somersaults. His last performance was in Belfast at the age of 72; less than a year later he died in bed.

Aug. 28 "Colonel" Edwin L. Drake struck oil at Titusville, Pa., after drilling 69.5 ft. Drake's oil-drilling rig (called Drake's Folly) was the first deliberate attempt to tap underground oil.

Oct. 16 John Brown raided Harpers Ferry.

Nov. Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, based on 25 years of research. The entire first edition of 1,250 copies sold out the first day, making the scientific classic an immediate but controversial best-seller.

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