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Friday, July 29, 2005

Today in History: July 29

238: In a rare double-header, the Praetorian Guard kills both of the Roman co-emperors, Pupienus and Balbinus, replacing them with the 13-year-old Gordian III.

1030: King Olav II Haraldsson, known to history as St. Olaf for his role in Christianizing Norway, is killed at the Battle of Stiklestad, site of what is today the largest outdoor theater in Scandinavia.

1793: Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe chooses a capital site for the new province of Upper Canada, at a place where the sandy Toronto Islands form a natural harbor on Lake Ontario.  He calls the place “York,” but in 1834 the name will be changed to “Toronto.”

1801: Publisher George Bradshaw is born at Pendleton, Lancashire.  In 1839 he’ll create the first of Bradshaw’s Railway Timetables, at sixpence a shot.  They'll become a staple of Britain's Victorian and Edwardian mysteries.

"[Sherlock Holmes] opened the yellow envelope, and then, glancing at the message, threw it across to me.  'Just look up the trains in Bradshaw,' said he, and turned back to his chemical studies."   Conan Doyle, The Adventure of the Copper Beeches.

1833: William Wilberforce, the wealthy merchant who bought a seat in Parliament for £9,000 but used it to champion the abolition of the slave trade, dies a month before the Slavery Abolition Act frees all slaves in the British Empire.

1883: Benito Mussolini, who will become one of the relatively few newspaper editors to become head of a modern state, is born near Como in Italy.

1899: The first Hague Convention is signed, outlawing aerial bombardment and chemical weapons.

1907: Robert Baden-Powell and 22 boys “of mixed social background” hold the first experimental “boy scout” encampment at Brownsea Island, Dorset.  By 1912 there are so many Scouts in England that when they contribute a penny apiece to buy him a wedding gift they come up with a new Rolls-Royce.

1954: George Allen & Unwin publishes J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, first installment of one of the century’s biggest-selling trilogies.

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