This Day in History – July 8 – Hijinx, Humor and Insight


NewsWhistle is pleased to present Gary Jenneke’s “This Day In History” column.

You can read the original on Gary’s THIS DAY IN HISTORY blog – or scroll down to enjoy Gary’s unique look at the comings and goings of life.




1898 – Death of Soapy Smith.

Smith ran an organized crime ring in the town of Skagway, Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush. He got his nickname in Colorado by selling bars of soap for five dollars. He would advertise that some of the bars had a hundred dollar bill inside the wrapper. One of his first customers cried with happiness when he found the bill. Of course, it would be a plant. Smith usually left a town in a hurry. He ended up in Skagway to defraud minors and would be a minor. He sets up a saloon there where rigged poker games take place to separate the miners from their gold dust. He had a bogus telegraph office collecting fees for messages that went nowhere. Smith also made himself a deputy sheriff and arrested anyone who caused too much trouble after losing their money. Tired of his antics, Skagway formed a vigilante committee. Smith tried to barge into a committee meeting. Guards confronted him and first words were exchanged, then gunfire, and Smith and a guard were killed. Smith’s gang broke up and their reign of corruption came to an end. Every year now in Skagway there is a celebration called Soapy Smith’s Wake.

They should celebrate the guy who shot him.


1957 – 1st Thinkers Conference in Pugwash, Nova Scotia.

At the height of the Cold War, scientists met in a lodge, later known as Thinker’s Lodge, to discuss the elimination of nuclear weapons from around the world. Twenty-two of them, from ten countries on both sides of the Iron Curtain, met to discuss the role and responsibility of scientists in the eradication of nuclear armament. The meeting was described as both groundbreaking and controversial. Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell inspired the meeting, but Einstein died before the conference was called and Russell was too frail and ill to attend.

Why this should have been controversial beats me. Inspiring perhaps. Especially given Putin’s nuclear threats motivated by his criminal invasion of Ukraine. The original Thinkers’ Lodge is now primarily used as a venue for weddings and special events. While researching the 1st Thinkers Conference, I found much more space on the website devoted to the lodge than the intent of the original conference itself. You gotta keep your priorities straight.



1839 – John D. Rockefeller.

Business tycoon. The son of a snake oil salesman who boasted that he enjoyed tricking his sons into teaching them about life, Rockefeller went to work at age 16 as an accountant. At that time, he started to learn and analyze trading techniques. He left this job to form a business partnership with an oil driller and in 1863 built his first oil refinery. Despite being an abolitionist, he paid for his retirement from serving in the Union Army during the Civil War because, in his words, he was too important to the company. While developing innovative business techniques, he also used ruthless business practices to overwhelm competitors and acquire their businesses. Among his tactics were buying the supply of barrels of oil to cripple competitors, buying equipment and parts to deny them the ability to operate, and bribing lawmakers. He soon developed a monopoly over the oil industry, known as Standard Oil. Anti-trust laws were written to break his monopoly, but they did little to slow Rockefeller’s accumulation of wealth. He became the richest man in the world and possibly the richest of all time, although this is likely disputed by some in the tech industry. The last forty years of Rockefeller’s life were devoted to philanthropy. It was a practice he had started when he was an accountant and by his twenties he was donating more than ten percent of his income to charity. Rockefeller died in 1937 at the age of 97, but his name still lives on in the thought of great wealth.

Not an easy subject to assess. He deserves a lot of praise for what he did with his money, but just as much criticism for how he accumulated it.


1907 – George Romney.

Businessman, politician. Romney was born in a Mormon colony in Mexico. In 1912, Colony and Romney’s family were forced to flee to the United States because of the Mexican Revolution. Romney entered the business world after attending but never graduating from college. After working for Alcoa for nine years, he was in Detroit at the start of World War II where he helped coordinate planning between the automotive and aircraft industries. One of the things he did was create housing for black workers near a Ford factory. Romney entered politics and was elected Governor of Michigan in 1962 as a Republican. During his tenure, he enacted personal and corporate income taxes and also promoted civil rights bills. He made a run in the 1968 Republican presidential primaries, but was defeated commenting that his earlier support for Vietnam was because the military had brainwashed him. Appointed secretary of the HUD, Romney had ambitious plans to provide more housing for the poor and desegregate the suburbs, plans that were rejected by President Nixon. He retired from public life in 1973 and devoted his time to volunteerism and the Mormon Church. Romney died in 1995 at the age of 88.

Taxes, civil rights, housing for the poor, desegregation of white suburbs, what kind of Republican was he anyway?


1908 – Nelson Rockefeller.

Politician. A grandson of John D. Rockefeller, he served as Governor of New York and served as the 41st Vice President of the United States from 1974 to 1977. Rockefeller’s political efforts included attempting to protect the environment and increasing spending on health care and the arts. He declined to run for vice president in President Ford’s 1976 reelection campaign, retired, and died two years later at the age of 1979.

In today’s world, Rockefeller would be called a RINO – Republican in name only. In the same way George Romney.



At various times in his life, Gary has been an indifferent elementary school student, a poor high school student, a good Navy radioman, a former hippie, a passable student, an inveterate traveler, a devoted writer, an erroneous accountant (at the except for an interesting stint at a communist cafe), part-time screenwriting teacher, semi-proud veteran, failed retiree, and new blogger.

You can reach him at [email protected]



The above information comes from the following sites and newspapers.


Parks Canada


We would also like to thank the following photographers and videographers for the use of their images:

* Intro Image (John D Rockefeller) – JD Rockefeller, 1908. George Grantham Bain Collection – //

* John D Rockefeller (video) – British Pathé /

* Outro (Man-In-Museum cartoon) – SkyPics Studio /