Editor’s note: Sorry for the unintentional hiatus. Senior year is crazy, but history isn’t going to blog about itself!
As a student at a North Texas school, I know quite a few people who are going to be Oklahoma Sooners next year. But what, you may ask, are Sooners? It turns out that the University of Oklahoma’s mascot comes from a term dating back to the Land Run of 1889.
It all started in 1862, when Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act, allowing people to claim up to 160 acres of public land; if the settler lived on the land and improved it for five years, then they could receive the title. Decades later, Illinois Representative William McKendree Springer wrote an amendment to the Indian Appropriations Bill in 1889 authorizing President Benjamin Harrison to proclaim the 2 million acre area known as the “Unassigned Lands” open for settlement.
The legal time of entry of these lands was set at noon on April 22, 1889. Thus, on this day in 1889, 50,000 people lined up just outside of the Unassigned Lands, loosely monitored by US troops. At noon, they made a mad dash to find and claim their land. As a result, around 11,000 homesteads were claimed, and cities, such as Oklahoma City and Guthrie, literally sprang up overnight. As you might guess, many people did not observe the “legal time of entry” and claimed their land early. These people are known as Sooners. So the Oklahoma Sooners are basically named after a bunch of dishonest settlers who thought they were above the law. How delightful!
Finally, if you have heard the University of Oklahoma’s fight song, “Boomer Sooner,” you should know that the term Boomer also comes from this time period. Boomers were simply the people who campaigned for the opening of the Unassigned Lands for settlement.
So now the next time a classmate tells me they are going to be a Sooner, I will just shake my head and tell them that they’re better than that.
On this day in 1793, Marie Antoinette was guillotined for treason.
Portrait of Marie Antoinette by Elisabeth Vigee-Le Brun
Marie Antoinette was the archduchess of Austria, and she married future king Louis XVI in a diplomatic marriage. She was well-liked at first, though her and Louis’ inability to consummate their marriage for eight years was criticized. She soon began to build up a reputation for her court’s opulence and her affairs with other men.
This is Marie Antoinette at 12 years old. At age 10, her mother arranged for her to marry Louis XVI. At 15, she married Louis and became Dauphine of France.
As a queen, the French hated her. She was accused of representing Austrian interests above French interests. Furthermore, Marie Antoinette became known as “Madame Deficit” for her reckless spending, and she was blamed for the country’s economic ruin. Her reputation was further tainted by stories such as her conspiring to steal a diamond necklace (false) and her declaring, “Let them eat cake!” when told that peasants were starving from lack of bread (also false).
At 20 years old, Marie Antoinette had just become Queen of France after the death of Louis XV.
The French Revolution began in 1789, and because Marie Antoinette was accused of forcing Louis XVI to refuse every revolutionary’s decision, she was nicknamed “Madame Veto” (apparently, the French only had one joke back then).
After a change of power, the National Convention was in control of France. King Louis XVI was executed in January of 1793. Marie Antoinette was tried on October 14 of the same year and found guilty of treason. She was executed by the guillotine on October 16.
It is said that Marie Antoinette faced her execution with dignity and poise. Her last words were supposedly, “Monsieur, I beg your pardon” after she stepped on the executioner’s foot.
Executioner Henri Sanson guillotining Marie Antoinette.
On this day in 1888, the murders of not one, but two, prostitutes were committed in the impoverished Whitechapel area of London. It is widely accepted that a single serial serial killer popularly known as Jack the Ripper committed these murders and the murders of three other Whitechapel prostitutes. Together, the victims of these murders are known as the canonical five. September 30th is the only day on which two Whitechapel murders were committed, hence it became known as the “double event.”
The “double event” victims, Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes, were killed and mutilated early in the morning. Stride’s body was discovered first at 1 a.m. in Dutfield’s yard, while Eddowes’ body was found 45 minutes later at Mitre Sqaure. Furthermore, part of Eddowes’ bloody apron was found at the entrance to a building in Goulston Street, Whitechapel. Near the apron was graffito that said:
The Juwes are
The men That
It is not known if the text, which became known as the Goulston Street Graffito, was written by the killer or if he merely dropped the apron piece under it. In any case, the graffito seemed to suggest a Jewish perpetrator. Fearing anti-Semitic backlash, Police Commissioner Charles Warren ordered the graffito to be removed.
I think that Jack the Ripper holds a certain fascination with the public because he is shrouded in mystery. After all, the Whitechapel Murderer was never caught. For all we know, “Jack the Ripper” could have been “Jill the Ripper” or multiple people committing murders in Whitechapel. But that’s what is fun about historical mysteries; we don’t have all the details so we fill in the gaps on our own, and make the story whatever we want it to be.