ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Today in History -- October 21

1879 – Ecoterrorist Thomas Edison uses a filament of carbonized thread to create one of the most environmentally destructive products in human history, the incandescent light bulb.

Aa 1921 – Famous Players-Lasky Corp. -- owned by Jesse Lasky, Adolph Zukor, Sam Goldwyn, Cecil B. DeMille, and Al Kaufman -- releases The Sheik, which makes a star of Rudolf Valentino, who got $500 a week for his work. The film was shot in Astoria, Queens, with the desert exteriors filmed on Long Island.

1945 – Argentine military officer and politician Juan Perón marries 26-year-old actress Eva Duarte.  The marriage won’t do much for Argentina, but it will make a lot of money for composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.

1959 – In New York City, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, opens to the public.  It is the first art museum designed to show off the museum instead of the art.

1973 – Kidnappers cut off the ear of Jean Paul Getty III and mail it to his father. The kid’s grandfather, oil tycoon J. Paul Getty, will loan the boy's father $2.9 million to pay the ransom, and will only charge 4 percent interest.

1983 – The metre is defined at the seventeenth General Conference on Weights and Measures as the distance light travels in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458 of a second. You didn’t know that, did you?


October 20, 2010 in Today in History | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Today in History -- October 20

1740 – Maria Theresa, age 23, ascends the throne of the Austrian Empire.  Because she’s a woman, France, Prussia, Bavaria and Saxony refuse to accept her rule and launch the War of the Austrian Succession.

1803 – The United States Senate ratifies one of the biggest land deals in history, the Louisiana Purchase.

1874 – Charles Edward Ives is born at Danbury, Connecticut. He will become a well-known insurance executive and with the rise of the inheritance tax will be one of the founders of "estate planning." In his spare time he’ll write music which will become extremely famous long after he’s dead.

1910 – The Harland & Wolff Shipyard in Belfast lays down the hull of the White Star Line’s RMS Olympic, sister ship to the RMS Titanic. It will be the only one of the three sister ships that doesn’t sink.

A 1973 – President Richard Nixon fires U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus after they refuse to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox.  Hey, remember the days when a "special prosecutor" was a good thing?

1977 – Three members of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd are killed when their chartered plane runs out of gas near Gillsburg, Mississippi.  The cover of the band’s latest recording, which shows members engulfed in flames, is immediately pulled from the market in a rare show of good taste by the recording industry.


October 19, 2010 in Today in History | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Today in History -- October 19

202 B.C. – Roman troops defeat Hannibal at the Battle of Zama, thus ensuring that future lawyers would have to learn maxims in Latin rather than Punic.

1469 – King Ferdinand II of Aragon marries Queen Isabella I of Castile. The union of the two crowns will ultimately lead to the creation of a new country called "Spain."

1789 – Former Secretary of Foreign Affairs John Jay is sworn in as the first Chief Justice of the United States. Six years later he’ll resign to take a much more important post, Governor of New York.

1873 – Representatives of four American universities—Yale, Princeton, Columbia, and Rutgers—draft the first code of rules for American football.

1862 – French inventor and film producer – Auguste Lumière is born at birth Besançon. Below, the Lumière brothers' famous 1895 film, L'Arrivée d'un train à La Ciotat.  

1876 – Baseball Hall-of-Famer Mordecai Peter Centennial Brown is born at Nyseville, Indiana. After a farming accident that takes the index finger off his pitching hand, "Three-Finger" Brown will go on to develop one of the game’s greatest curveballs..

1885 –Charles Edward Merrill is born at Green Cove Springs, Florida. With is friend Edmund Lynch, he’ll go on to form one of the country’s great investment banks.

1935 – The League of Nations places economic sanctions on fascist Italy for its invasion of Ethiopia. Italy immediately withdraws, proving the effectiveness of economic sanctions. Wait, no . . . .

1959 – When the scheduled house band is unable to play, quick-thinking folks at the Scotch Club in Aachen, Germany, decide to play records instead. This leads to the creation of the first discothèque.

1987 – The Dow Jones Industrial Average drops 508 points, or 22 percent. It will subsequently go up again. Then down. And it will continue to fluctuate.


October 18, 2010 in Today in History | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Today in History -- October 18

1009 – Demonstrating Islamic tolerance, Caliph Al-Hakim bi_Amr Allah razes the Church of the Holy Sepulchre—the spot sacred to Christians as the site of the Crucifixion—down to the bedrock.

1016 – The Danes under Knut II defeat the Edmund Ironside’s Saxons in the Battle of Ashingdon, setting the state for the eventual Danish hegemony over all of England..

A 1386 – Elector Rupert I of the Palatinate creates the University of Heidelberg, home to the oldest law school in Germany.

1646 – St. Isaac Jogues, a missionary to the Huron tribes in North America, is clubbed to death and beheaded by Mohawks—enemies of the Hurons—who believe he is a witch.

1648 – Shoemakers in Boston form a guild, creating what is often claimed to be the first labor organization in what will eventually become the United States.

1767 – Two English surveyors, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, finish surveying the disputed border between the properties of William Penn and those of Charles Calvert, 5th Baron Baltimore.  The "Mason-Dixon" line will go on to play a prominent role in U.S. culture.

1925 – Harmonica star "Doctor" Humphrey Bate and His Possum Hunters appear on the National Life & Accident Co.’s radio program on Nashville’s WSM—a program that will eventually become known as The Grand Ole Opry.

1926 – Charles Edward Anderson Berry is born at St. Louis, Mo., the son of a Baptist deacon. After a stretch in a reformatory for armed robbery and a stint as a cosmetologist, young "Chuck" Berry will mix black R&B with white country music into a new genre people will soon call "rock ‘n’ roll."

1954 – Dallas’s Texas Instruments, announces the creation of a new consumer product it calls a "transistor radio."


October 17, 2010 in Today in History | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Today in History -- October 17

1448 – A Muslim army under Sultan Murad II defeats Hungarian and Wallachian forces at the Second Battle of Kosovo. As a result, the Christian Balkan states and eventually Constantinople will fall under Muslim control.

1456 – Germany’s fourth oldest institution of higher learning, the University of Greifswald is officially established in a ceremony in the town’s cathedral.

1662 – Charles II of England sells Dunkirk—captured from Spain by Oliver Cromwell just five years earlier and awarded to it in the subsequent peace treaty—to France for 5 million livres.

A 1814 – At Meux & Co.'s Horse Shoe Brewery on Tottenham Road, London, bursting vats release more than 300,000 gallons of beer into the streets in a flash flood, killing eight. A subsequent lawsuit holds the disaster to be an "Act of God."

1907 – The Marconi Company inaugurates the first commercial transatlantic wireless service between stations in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Clifden, Ireland.

1965 – The New York World's Fair closes. More than 50 million people had attended the fair over its two-year run.

1973 – OPEC starts an oil embargo against a number of western countries, considered to have helped Israel in its war against Syria.  The U.S responds with gas lines, price controls, and new taxes to discourage American oil production.

1979 – The Department of Education Organization Act is signed into law, creating the U.S. Department of Education. Its goal is to improve American public schools. It will fail.


October 16, 2010 in Today in History | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Today in History -- October 16

A 1841 – The Church of Scotland establishes Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, under a charter from Queen Victoria..

1846 – Dentist William Morton makes the first public display of anaesthesia before a skeptical audience at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. A surgeon uses inhaled ether to remove a tumor painlessly from the neck of a patient.

1869 – The College for Women (now Girton College, Cambridge) is founded as the first residential college for women in England.

1875 – Brigham Young University is founded by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Provo, Utah.

1882 – The New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad—known mostly by its nickname, the Nickel Plate Road—opens for business.

1898 – Future U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Orville Douglas is born at Maine Township in Otter Tail County, Minnesota.

1923 – Two young men from Chicago, Roy (age 30) and Walt (22) found the "Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio" in their uncle’s garage in Los Angeles.


October 15, 2010 in Today in History | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Today in History -- October 15

70 B.C. – Publius Vergilius Maro is born at Antes, near Mantua in Cisalpine Gaul. He will give up the study of the law to write poetry under the name of "Virgil."

1582 – Pope Gregory XIII implements the Gregorian calendar. In Italy, Poland, Portugal, and Spain, October 4 of this year is followed directly by October 15.  The new American colonies, with their doctrine of separation of church and state, refuse to go along.

1783 – Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier becomes the first man to fly in a hot air balloon. The craft is designed by the Montgolfier brothers.

A 1810 – Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Alfred Moore dies at his plantation in Bladen County, North Carolina. Moore, who wrote only one opinion during his term on the Court, is the last resident of the Old North State to serve on the Court.

1844 – Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche is born at Röcken (now part of Lützen) in Prussia. He will go on to have one of the most impressive mustaches in the history of philosophy.

1878 – With financial backing from financier J.P. Morgan members of the Vanderbilt family, the Edison Electric Light Company is created. Some 130 years later, now called the General Electric Company, it will have more than 300,000 employees worldwide.

1935 – Future folk singer Barry McGuire is born at Oklahoma City. His 1965 hit, "Eve of Destruction" will prove premature.

1989 – Wayne Gretzky becomes the all_time leading points scorer in the National Hockey League.

October 14, 2010 in Today in History | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Today in History -- October 14

1066 – Troops led by William, Duke of Normandy, kill English King Harold II at the Battle of Hastings. William assumes the crown, leading to two things that will bedevil future generations of law students:  law french and feudal tenures.

1644 – Future American real estate tycoon William Penn—perhaps the only man to own an entire U.S. state—is born at London.

1834 – Armed warfare breaks out in Philadelphia as Whigs and Democrats contest an election, leaving 1 man dead and many injured. The New York Times subsequently decries the growing lack of civility in American civil discourse.

A 1882 – The Senate of the new British-founded University of the Punjab meets for the first time.

1884 – Inventor and entrepreneur George Eastman gets a patent for his new invention, photographic film.

1894 – Poet edward estlin cummings is born to a family so poor they cannot even afford to give their children capital letters.

1911 – U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan, the former Know-Nothing politician who became the lone dissenter in The Civil Rights Cases and Plessy v. Ferguson, dies in Washington, D.C.

October 13, 2010 in Today in History | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Today in History -- October 13

54 – Nero becomes emperor of Rome. Things will not turn out well.

409 – Two German tribes, the Vandals and the Alans, cross the Pyrenees into Roman Hispania, where they are given lands to settle in exchange for military service.

1307 – In an early example of "strategic default," King Philip IV of France—deeply in debt to Knights Templar who have loaned money to finance his English wars—has them all arrested and executed.

1792 – The cornerstone of the new U.S. Executive Mansion is laid.  Several future President will also get laid there.

1845 – Voters in the Republic of Texas approve a new constitution that will allow them to join the Union.

A 1890 – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Freeman Miller—who had been confirmed by the Senate a half-hour after his appointment by President Lincoln in 1862—dies in Washington, D.C.

1946 – France adopts the constitution of the Fourth Republic. It is not a success.

1967 – The Oakland Oaks defeat the Anaheim Amigos 134-129 in the first-ever American Basketball Association game. The league will survive and later merge with the NBA, but both of these teams will fold.

1983 – Ameritech Mobile Communications (later part of SBC and even later of AT&T)  launches the first cellular telephone service in Chicago.


October 12, 2010 in Today in History | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Today in History -- October 12

A 633 – Saint Edwin, the Saxon king of Northumbria who converted to Christianity and became the most powerful rule in Britain, falls in action against the Welsh at the Battle of Hatfield Chase.

1492 – Genoese explorer Christopher Columbus makes landfall in the Caribbean. Columbus is best known today as the namesake of the law school at Catholic University of America.

1693 – The first round of the witchcraft trials in the Court of Oyer and Terminer at Salem, Massachusetts – presided over by the Royal lieutenant governor and the Crown attorney – come to an end.

1773 – America’s first insane asylum – the Public Hospital for Persons of Insane and Disordered Minds – opens in Williamsburg, Virginia. Two hundred years later Justice Breitel will note, in Oretelere v. Teachers’ Retirement Board, that psychiatry has come a long way since them.

1793 – The cornerstone of Old East, the oldest state university building in the United States, is laid at Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

1823 – Charles Mackintosh sells the first of his newfangled waterproof raincoats.  They become popular.

1870 – The president of Washington College, Robert Edward Lee, dies of a stroke at Lexington, Virginia. The college will honor him by adding his name to that of the school.

2001 – Former British Lord Chancellor Quintin Hogg, Baron Hailsham of St. Marylebone, dies at age 94.

October 11, 2010 in Today in History | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Today in history: April 26

Aaa On this date in 1607, English employees of the privately held Virginia Company of London (left: the company seal) land at Cape Henry, Virginia, with the intent of founding a gold-mining operation. A month later they will found the first successful settlement of Jamestown.

They don't actually find any gold, but the settlement will endure, making the United States the first nation in history to be founded by a for-profit corporation.

[Frank Snyder]

April 26, 2009 in Today in History | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Today in history: April 25

A On this date in 1938, the United States Supreme Court shocked just about everyone with the release of Erie Railroad v. Tompkins, a decision that wiped nearly 100 years of federal common law off the books and became a permanent fixture of the U.S. civil procedure casebook.

Why mention it on a blog related to contract law?  Because the lawyer who lost the case (and who saw his law firm go out of business with the loss of the contingent fee) was 24-year-old Aaron L. Danzig, who had graduated from law school only two years earlier.  He's best known in contract law circles as the father of future Stanford Contracts tprof (and, later, my partner at Latham & Watkins partner and Secretary of the Navy) Richard Danzig, author of The Capability Problem in Contract Law.

[Frank Snyder]

April 25, 2009 in Today in History | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Today in history: April 24

A On this date in 1957, the Suez Canal reopens for business after its extended closure during the Suez Crisis.  Egyptian President Gamal Nasser had responded to an Anglo-French seizure of the canal by sinking all 40 ships in it.  The canal couldn't be reopened until they were cleared, and much shipping was delayed or routed around the Cape of Good Hope.

The case, of course, let to some of the most famous "impracticability" and "frustration of purpose" decisions in modern contract law, including Lord Denning's influential opinion in Ocean Tramp Tankers Corporation v V/O Sovfracht (The Eugenia), [1964] 2 Q.B. 226 (CA), in which the Court of Appeal held that the closure of the canal as a result of military action was not an event that excused performance under the shipping contract.

[Frank Snyder]

April 24, 2009 in Today in History | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Today in history: April 23

A On this date in 1791, lawyer and politician James Buchanan was born in a log cabin in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania.  Buchanan went on to become one of the most experienced men ever to hold the office of President of the United States, having served as state legislator, Congressman, Senator, minister to Russia, minister to Great Britain, and Secretary of State -- as well as turning down a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

He was also a very bad prophet who wildly overestimated the power of the U.S. Supreme Court to decide contentious political issues.  In his Inaugural Address he cheerfully noted that the question of slavery was one of "little practical importance" because the U.S. Supreme Court was about to settle it as a matter of Constitutional law.  Two days later, the Court announced Dred Scott v. Sandford.  Two years later, in his 1859 State of the Union message, he was still confident that the Court's decision had finally settled the issue whether slavery could be abolished and eliminated all need for sectional strife:

I cordially congratulate you [the people] upon the final settlement by the Supreme Court of the United States of the question of slavery in the Territories, which had presented an aspect so truly formidable at the commencement of my Administration. The right has been established of every citizen to take his property of any kind, including slaves, into the common Territories belonging equally to all the States of the [Union], and to have it protected there under the Federal Constitution. Neither Congress nor a Territorial legislature nor any human power has any authority to annul or impair this vested right. The supreme judicial tribunal of the country, which is a coordinate branch of the Government, has sanctioned and affirmed these principles of constitutional law . . . .

Apparently, though, some people continued to disagree.

[Frank Snyder]

April 23, 2009 in Today in History | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Today in history: April 22

A A On this date in 1864, the United States Congress passes the Coinage Act.  It authorizes the creation of a new 2-cent coin (left), on which Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase decides to put the words "In God We Trust."  That's the first use of that motto on a U.S. coin.

No one at the time can possibly suspect that this will go on to become the motto of the United States, far outlasting the coin that introduced it.

[Frank Snyder]

April 22, 2009 in Today in History | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Today in history: April 20

On this date in 1871, Congress passes the Civil Rights Act of 1871 at the urging of President U.S. Grant.  The measure, originally aimed at suppressing the Ku Klux Klan in the South, will eventually come to be codified as one of the most important civil rights laws, as 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

[Frank Snyder]

April 20, 2009 in Today in History | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Today in history: April 19

On this date in 1782, the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands becomes the first nation to recognize the independence of the United States.   This is historically important because it marked the United States' first entry onto the world stage, a process that would culminate two centuries later with atification of the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods.

[Frank Snyder]

April 19, 2009 in Today in History | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Today in history: April 18

A On this date in 1923, Babe Ruth hits a home run and the New York Yankees beat Boston 4-1 in the first game ever played at the new Yankee Stadium.  The team''s owners built the stadium with their own money on land they bought and paid for themselves.  And they paid taxes on the property after they built it.

Yes, times have changed.

[Frank Snyder\

April 18, 2009 in Today in History | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Today in history: April 17

A On this date in 1492, one of the most important contracts in history is signed, as Queen Isabella I of Castile and León inks a deal with a Genoese sailor, Christopher Columbus, to sail westward to the Orient in search of spices.

Columbus subsequently sets sail with three ships, but it turns out that both parties are laboring under a mutual mistake of fact.

[Frank Snyder]

April 17, 2009 in Today in History | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Today in history: April 16

A On this date in 1905, steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie (left) donated $10 million to create the eponymous Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  It's not really clear whether it helped.  A hundred and four years later, American law schools are still teaching the same way they were in 1905. 

["Mr. Hart?" he droned, "Can you tell us the facts of Paradine v. Jane?"]

[Frank Snyder]

April 16, 2009 in Today in History | Permalink | TrackBack (0)