A good day for establishing connections.

Many things happened on June 28, just as many things happen pretty much every day of the year. Whether those events are of enough historical significance to cause us to collectively remember them ... that's another question. Over the years I've turned to various web sites that tell us what happened on a particular date, rifling through the lists on those sites to find something of enough significance to either commemorate it in these pages as well, or, as seems more often to be the case, allow it to emerge from obscurity for a couple of sentences on a rather obscure web site. The web sites that I've used for these date tie-ins have changed over the years. I was quite distressed when, about a year and a half ago, one of my favorites suddenly disappeared. I've become less attached to most of the others, generally preferring to turn to those that are easiest to use, or to those that sacrifice quantity for quality, focusing on items that have a better chance of interesting me.

I frequently turn to Today in Science History, a site that posts good blurbs on a wide variety of events, even if more often than not they're birthdays or deathdays, dates that I usually try to avoid. Today, perhaps the easiest way of finding dates is by turning to the Wikipedia's List of Historical Anniversaries that gives us a list of ... well, of whatever anybody, anywhere thinks is important.

Today in Science History tells us that June 28, 1974 is the day that Vannevar Bush died. The Wikipedia tells us that it was June 30, 1974. Honestly, it doesn't really matter, and I suppose that regardless of whether the information in the Wikipedia is correct or not, that's the date that's going to be accepted - simply because anybody who wants to list the date of Bush's death will check in the Wikipedia first. I'll go with the Today in Science History date, though purely for reasons of convenience - it gives me the opportunity to play around a bit with making connections, in that way tipping my hat to Bush and his Memex. So perhaps I should be asking: What do cholera, rocket mail and the first commercial satellite-aided telephone conversation, and the Mackinaw bridge have in common? And the answer is basically, pretty much nothing ... other than a common date, and someone who chose to use that date as a connection between them. So, we'll take a look at a few of the not-totally-forgettable events that took place on June 28.

The Early Bird communications satellite was rocketed into geosynchronous orbit in April of 1965. It was on June 28 of that year that it hosted the first commercial telephone conversation between the States and Europe.

Seven years earlier, in 1958, another sort of communication was facilitated on this day, when the Mackinaw Bridge, apparently still the world's longest suspension bridge, was dedicated. The bridge, eight kilometers long, spans the Straits of Mackinaw where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet, thus connecting between the northern and southern shores of Michigan. It's known as The Mighty Mac, and I suppose that it's substantially bigger than the better known Big Mac.

And twenty years before that, in 1938, yet another link was established - the first North American aerial tramway. The tramway, known as the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway in Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire, climbs only about 610 meters - considerably less than the Mackinaw bridge spans, but if you're a skier (I'm definitely not) it can make all the difference between an enjoyable day of skiing, rather than a major trudge with a descent or two being all you can show for the effort.

Ten years earlier, in 1928, Friedrich Schmiedl, an Austrian engineer, apparently tried, unsuccessfully, to use a rocket to carry the mails. The web sources on this item are a bit fuzzy. Some sites tell us that June 28 was the date of the first, but unsuccessful, attempt to send the mail via a rocket, while others tell us that June 28 was the day he successfully launched a rocket, but not the day he actually used it for mail. We do know that Schmiedl kept trying, and in 1931 he inaugurated a rocket mail service between two Austrian towns. I doubt that Schmiedl's postal service carried fragile objects, though a parachute was apparently used to bring the mail safely to the ground. This was, however, a short-lived business venture. In 1933 the Austrian government outlawed the civilian use of explosives, apparently thus putting Schmiedl out of business. It is, however, a wonderful subject for a small web site. An early web-based email service was named Rocket Mail, but it was apparently bought out by Yahoo!.

Our last tie-in demands a bit of sleight-of-hand, or perhaps of tongue. What, after all, might be the connection between these various (and admittedly only slightly connected) tie-ins that tied people together in various manners, be it a bridge or a tramway, a mail service or a satellite, and a frightening disease? Well, Cholera is a very communicable disease. It seems until 1832 the United States hadn't been affected by the cycles of Cholera epidemics that had spread from India to Europe. On June 28 of that year, however, the first American case of cholera was reported in New York City. Sources refer to this outbreak of cholera as a pandemic, apparently precisely because if covered such a vast amount of the globe.

That's enough memexical linking for me, but if any readers know of any other events of June 28 that deserve to be tied into those listed here, they're invited to let me know about it.

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