Through the centuries unusual heavenly occurrences have seemed to signal dangerous times ahead for mankind, if not total obliteration. A recent entry in the handy-dandy Countdown to the Millennium desk calendar on my library table, goes a bit beyond its mandate and says that in June of the year 2004, Venus will pass between Earth and the Sun. It will happen again, eight years after that. The last time such a juxtaposition occurred was in 1882. Assuming that the world doesn't explode on New Year's Day 2000 (2001 if you're of the other school of thought on the matter) and we reach 2004, what disasters and phenomena can we expect? Well, what transpired in 1882?

Nothing all that dire, actually. Rochester was pretty quiet. Charlotte's Spencer House hotel did burn down in January. And the end of the year did find street car service, on the St. Paul Street run, being abruptly discontinued for the winter in the middle of the day on December 19th, leaving riders stranded at the wrong end of the line. Other than that, nothing too exciting. True, the city did find itself setting its clocks to the same time as New York City clocks, as the country went on railroad time. Up until then Rochester clocks had been 15 minutes behind its downstate neighbor's.

A mixed bag of notables died, of course, but that can happen any time. 1882 saw the loss of outlaw Jesse James, philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, English novelist Anthony Trollope, Garfield assassin Charles Guiteau, former First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln. And in Italy, liqueur maker Gaspare Campari died. His son Davide then took over the business, which remains in the family today.

The only major military action was in Egypt, where Britain occupied the country in order to protect the Suez Canal. In China those wishing to emigrate to the U. S., ran into serious trouble when Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, barring them for the next ten years, despite President Chester A. Arthur's veto.

Business was good. The U. S was industriously paying off its national debt. Reduced it by $9,000,000 in January. Captain William Matson founded the Matson Navigation Company, and began providing freight service between the U. S. and Hawaii. Companies shipping goods on the Erie Canal got a break when tolls were abolished. Baseball fans got lucky when Manhattan College Coach Brother Jasper called for a time out during the seventh inning, beginning a hallowed tradition. Historians got a break when one of their number, John Franklin Jameson, went poking through closets in the U. S. State Department. He came up with a forgotten original copy of the U. S. Constitution. And we all got a break when Le Roy farmer Calvin Keeney developed - a stringless string bean.

For Classical ninety-one five, this is David Minor.


© 1998 David Minor / Eaglers Byte