By Jim Turner
421 CE – Legend has it that the Republic of Venice was founded on this day. The traditional belief is that authorities from Padua created the state at noon on Friday, when they established the church of San Giacomo (St. James) on the island of Rialto in the city. The area already existed as a collection of lagoon-dwelling fishing communities, as well as communities of refugees from nearby Roman cities fleeing from repeated invasions. Venice has often offered asylum to deposed leaders and the persecuted. Venice began trading with the Islamic world in the 9th century, but by the late 1200s, the “City of Canals” rose to prominence because of ties to the Byzantine Empire. Home of Marco Polo, Titian, and the beautiful St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice is the quintessential Renaissance city.
The United States
1911 – A fire at the Triangle Shirt Waist factory killed 145 workers, leading to a series of laws and regulations to protect factory workers’ safety. The factory was a sweatshop on the top three floors of a ten-story building in downtown Manhattan. It was a cramped space filled with poor immigrant seamstresses, mostly Italian and Jewish teenaged women who did not speak English. Only one of the four elevators was working, and it could only hold twelve people at a time. One of the two stairways to the street was locked from the outside to prevent employee theft. The other door opened inward only.
There were six hundred workers at the factory on Saturday afternoon when the fire broke out in a rag bin on the eighth floor. The fire hose was rotted, and the valve was rusted shut. Panic broke out, and the elevator broke down after four trips. As women began to jump out the windows, falling bodies crushed firefighters hoses. The fire was out in half an hour, but not before 49 were killed by fire and another hundred were piled up dead in the elevator shaft and on the sidewalk. More than 80,000 people attended a protest on April 5th. The owners, Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, were tried for manslaughter but acquitted. As a result of the protest, the Sullivan-Hoey Fire Prevention Law passed in October, and the Democratic Party became known as the reform party from then on.
1879 – Little Wolf, chief of an elite Cheyenne military society called the Bowstring Soldiers, surrendered to his friend Lieutenant W. P. Clark. In conflicts with other tribes like the Kiowa and later with the U.S. Army, Little Wolf led or assisted in many Cheyenne battles. In addition to believed participation in the Fetterman Massacre of 1866, he was also a leader in the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn.
As with many of the other Plains Indian warriors, Little Wolf was finally forced to make peace during the army’s major offensive following the massacre at Little Bighorn. In 1877, the government sent Little Wolf to a reservation in Indian Territory. Disgusted with the meager supplies and conditions on the reservation, in 1878 Little Wolf determined to leave the reservation and head north for the old Cheyenne territory in Wyoming and Montana. Chief Dull Knife and 300 of his followers went with him. A U.S. Cavalry force in Wyoming overtook Little Wolf and his followers in the spring of 1879. His force diminished and people tired, the Cheyenne leader agreed to surrender. Little Wolf served briefly as a scout for General Nelson A. Miles, and then lived out the rest of his life on a reservation.