Last time we took a look at the unfortunate and the unlucky in the year 1871. In the pursuit of balanced journalism, I should point out that some people were quite lucky that year.

Some moved up. Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm I ws proclaimed Emperor in January. And Chester A. Arthur was made Collector of Customs in New York City by President Grant.

Several U. S. authors made successful debuts in 1871. William Dean Howells published his first novel, Their Wedding Journey, this year. Whether or not it was the slightly spicy title, the book sold out on the same day it hit the stores. Henry James had his debut novel Watch and Ward serialized in the press. And in Britain a London entertainment titled Thespis, or The Gods Grow Cold marked the first theatrical pairing of lyricist William S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan.

Some people had the great good fortune just to survive the year. The crew of a grounded schooner off Nantucket in February, were saved in a dramatic, over-the ice rescue. And English tourist Isabella Bird, who had blithely strolled off in Colorado's Front Range wearing only light riding clothing, only to be caught in a sudden December storm, was also rescued, just short of being frozen to death.

Other ordinary people also got lucky this year. English workers for example, who enjoyed their first Bank Holiday. Canadian travelers of the information superhighway, when Winnipeg and Pembina were connected by telegraph. Transatlantic travelers, when the vessels of the Holland-American Steamship Line were placed in service. English university fellows, administrators, and faculty, when membership in the Church of England became no longer a prerequisite. And ordinary Texans, when the carrying of concealed weapons was outlawed. It's only taken us 125 years to turn back that bit of progress.

Perhaps no one felt luckier this year than Martin Van Buren Bates, the 7-foot, two and-a-half inch Londoner, as he strode back up the aisle with his 7-foot, five-and-a half inch bride Anna Hanan Swan. And if those two kids didn't live happily ever after, I'll thank you very kindly not to tell me about it.


© 1997 David Minor / Eagles Byte

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