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History's Happenings for October 18

Mason-Dixon Line Established
1767

The term Mason-Dixon Line has taken on much symbolic meaning over the past two centuries, but it was, at its origin, simply the solution to a dispute over the Maryland-Pennsylvania and Maryland-Delaware boundaries.

During the early eighteenth century, most of the modern states of Pennsylvania and Delaware were the property of the Penn family, and Maryland that of the Calverts. The boundary between these two rather large back yards was in dispute from the time William Penn was originally granted Pennsylvania in 1681.

In 1763, two British surveyors -- Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon -- were hired to explore, mark and chart the proper boundary. They finalized their work on October 18, 1767, having explored and marked the entire boundary out to a point just above modern Morgantown, WV, or about 25 miles short of Pennsylvania's current western border. The last stretches were surveyed in the 1770's.

The Mason-Dixon line gained new meaning during the arguments over the Missouri compromise of 1820, wherein the right to hold slaves was restricted to states lying below latitude 36 30', except for Missouri. In effect this extended the Mason-Dixon line westward from Pennsylvania along the Ohio River to the point at which it emptied into the Mississippi, and then up, over and around Missouri. From that point it continued westward along the 36 30' parallel, just below the southern border of modern Kansas.

During the Civil War, the slave states of Missouri and Kentucky, which lay below the Line, declined to join the Confederacy, and western Virginia also defaulted to the Union as the new state of West Virginia. Otherwise, the Line fairly neatly divided the two sides.

After the War the Mason-Dixon line, originally of such relatively small significance, came to symbolize not just a geographical division, but the cultural differences between North and South as well.

Death Of Saint Luke
1st Century AD

Little is known of Saint Luke, the author of one Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, and a travelling companion of the Apostle Paul.

It is probable from biblical evidence that he was a physician, may have been a Cyrene (from northern Africa), and was likely a Gentile.

By referring to Paul's use of singular and plural pronouns in his Epistles, and his several references to Luke, we can establish to some degree of certainty their travels together.

Luke first joined Saint Paul at Troas, on the west coast of modern Turkey, during the latter's second mission journey. He accompanied Paul to Philippi in Macedonia, where he waited for some years while Paul completed his mission to Greece and the Holy Land.

He joined Paul again when he passed through Philippi on his third mission, and accompanied him down the coast of modern Turkey and eventually to Jerusalem (Acts 20:5-6) in about 55 AD. Paul's last journey, probably in 58 AD, was as a prisoner to Rome, where he met his end. Luke evidently accompanied him on this journey as well.

There is no knowledge of the rest of Luke's life, except the records he made of those times, heard first-hand from those who lived them, and left to us in his Gospel and the Acts. The year of his death is unknown, but the traditional date is October 18, his feast day.

Louis XIV Outlaws French Protestants
1685

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U.S. Takes Possession of Alaska
1867

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First Long-Distance Telephone Line
1892

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Old Glory Rises Over Puerto Rico
1898

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Mata Hari Shot By French
1917

Seductress Mata Hari

Legendary seductress and accused German spy Mata Hari was executed by a French firing squad on October 18, 1917.

Born Margarethe Geertruida Zelle in Leeuwarden, Netherlands in 1876, her early life was relatively normal, including a convent education and marriage to a Dutch army officer by the name of MacLeod at 18. She followed her husband back to his station in the Dutch East Indies colony now Indonesia and absorbed herself in the regional culture, to the consternation of more sedate army wives.

The marriage was rocky MacLeod proved to be brutish and they were divorced within a few years. Zelle returned to Paris and, apparently moved by an inner spirit, drifted into erotic dancing and other entertainments. She found a niche by using her un-Dutch dark good looks to create an eastern aura around her performances, took the Malaysian stage name of Mata Hari, and proceeded to make near-naked dancing acceptable in French high society. Never particularly attached to the truth, she invented mystical biographies for herself whenever the occasion arose, and lived a pampered life in and around Paris supported by sundry wealthy lovers.

With the outbreak of war in 1914, Mata Hari was in Berlin wooing various luminaries for her own ends, a fact which later flavored the accusations against her. In September, 1914, her furs and valuables impounded by the Germans who viewed her as a French citizen, she returned to Paris. There she met with the assistant director of French intelligence, and cut a deal for a million francs to use her special talents to ferret information from the enemy's top officers.

Already suspected by the British of spying for the Germans because of her earlier associations, Zelle spent a few months in Spain cuddling with a local German intelligence officer, purportedly gathering information for France. Her efforts were amateurish, essentially trading Parisian gossip for planted and otherwise dated German "intelligence".

When she returned to France in early 1917, she was arrested and charged with spying for the Germans. War raged not far from Paris and French politicians, who were already shooting "defeatists", wanted spies caught and tried. Mata Hari was caught up in the fever.

At her trial in October, 1917, held in camera, she was not allowed to call witnesses in her defense, and her lawyer was not permitted to cross-examine prosecution witnesses. The war, you know. Inevitably, she was found guilty of espionage, taken to the castle of Vincennes outside Paris where King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette had spent their last nights on earth, and shot by a twelve-man Zouave firing squad. Witnesses report she refused the blindfold, faced her executioners without being bound, flashed a rare smile at her friends, and died bravely. (More bravely than one of the twelve shooters, who fainted before he could pull the trigger.)

In fact, while the truth is still obscure, it is unlikely that Mata Hari was an enlisted German spy, or that she ever spied effectively for anyone. Her dancing career had wound down as the war approached (and her weight increased she loved to eat), and she had dedicated herself to wooing lovers, including the Crown Prince of Germany and several very highly placed French officers and foreign ministry officials. Her unsavory lifestyle, especially during the hardships of war, probably influenced the official willingness to offer her up as a spy.

Mata Hari was apparently the victim not only of her own excesses, war fever and the French justice system, but also of at least one corrupt official. The deputy director of French intelligence, to whom she had made her proposal to spy for France and who submitted voluminous secret and accusing records during her pre-trial interrogation, was arrested days after Zelle was executed. For spying. For the Germans.

Czechoslovak Republic Founded
1918

Taking advantage of the diminished hegemony of Germany and Austria-Hungary as World War I approached its end, Czech patriots Tomáš Masaryk and Eduard Beneš established the Republic of Czechoslovakia in Prague on October 18, 1918. Masaryk became its first president and is traditionally viewed as the father of his country.

The new nation comprised several former German and Austrian imperial territories, including Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia and parts of Silesia and Ruthenia. The treaty of Versailles, signed in June, 1919, officially recognized the existence of the Republic, and commanded Germany to do likewise.

Having inherited from its former masters considerable natural and manufacturing wealth, and blessed with what seemed a workable coalition of several political factions, Czechoslovakia fared better than many in the tough years after the war and, more especially, the financial collapse of 1929.

Though troubled by strife among the many nationalities of which she was assembled -- Czechs and Slovaks comprised only about two-thirds of the populace -- the Republic survived the turbulent inter-war years intact until Hitler dismembered it, first after the fateful Munich Agreement, and then finally in March, 1939.

Disappointed by the betrayal at Munich, Czech leaders turned to the Soviet Union for support in 1943, leading to a predominately communist government when the Republic emerged from the war. Always ill at ease with communism, the Czech people made several unsuccessful attempts to pull away from its worst abuses, including the "Prague Spring" revolt of summer, 1968.

Czechoslovakia finally recovered her freedom in November, 1989, when the last communist government bowed to popular pressure and stepped down. In 1992, the old cultural and economic differences between Czechs and Slovaks ended the Republic's 74-year existence, as she peacefully split into the two nations that exist today.

Nobel Awarded for Discovery of DNA
1962

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