USA Government

October 4, 1957 – Soviets Launch Sputnik 1

Sputnik 1

 

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union upped the ante in the Space Race with the successful launch of Sputnik 1, the first Earth-orbiting artificial satellite.  Blasted through the atmosphere from the Baikonur Cosmodrome aboard a two-stage R-7 rocket, Sputnik 1 was a 23-inch diameter, 184 pound, aluminum-magnesium-titanium sheathed sphere with two whip-like antennae.  Powered by silver-zinc batteries, it entered a low, elliptical orbit emitting a radio signal which could be received on Earth by both Soviet scientists and the curious (and highly-alarmed) American public.  Sputnik traveled 18,000 miles per hour, completing an Earth-orbit every 96 minutes.  Radio transmissions continued for 22 days, until transmitter batteries were exhausted.  The history-making satellite spent 3 months in orbit, traveling a total of 37 million miles, before burning up in atmospheric reentry on January 4, 1958.

While not able to conduct as many experiments as the Soviets had initially hoped, Sputnik was able to gather information during its three-month run concerning the density of the Earth’s upper atmosphere, radio-signal distribution in the ionosphere, and meteoroid detection by penetration of the satellite’s outer hull.

The successful launch of an artificial satellite was one of the primary goals of the International Geophysical Year (IGY), inaugurated on July 1, 1957.  The Soviets had first proposed developing such a satellite on May 27, 1954, and President Dwight Eisenhower announced on July 29, 1955 that the United States would send their own version of the technological achievement into space during the IGY.  But Sputnik took America and its government by surprise.  Americans now had to take Soviet scientific abilities much more seriously.  A sense of vulnerability to attack led to panic reactions by the public, as they listened in to Sputnik’s ominous “beep-beep” when it passed directly overhead.  The US government responded with renewed commitment to scientific and technological research, and military and educational program revamping and investment.  ICBMs, missile defense systems, and satellites were all placed on a developmental fast-track.  After several failed attempts, the United States’ first successful launch of its own artificial satellite, Explorer 1, occurred on January 31, 1958.

Numerous references to Sputnik in movies, television shows, and pop songs have made the term part of the American cultural landscape.  Replicas and models of the satellite can be found at the United Nations, the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, and the Science Museum in London.

Image Credit: NASA

October 3, 1957 – “Howl” Ruled Not Obscene

Beat Museum Poster

On October 3, 1957, Judge Clayton W. Horn cleared “Howl“, Allen Ginsberg’s poetic paean to the Beat Generation, of obscenity charges.  Ginsberg and “Howl” publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti of City Lights Books were out of the legal doghouse and, as far as the United States government was concerned, “Howl” was art, not pornography.  The buying public, however, may have begged to differ.

Ginsberg wrote “Howl” in 1955 and Ferlinghetti had featured it in a collected edition of Ginsberg’s work, published under the title, Howl and Other Poems.  Written in paratactic style, “Howl” chronicled Ginsberg’s life with other poets, radicals, jazz musicians, drug addicts, and psychiatric patients in thinly-veiled, almost hallucinatory language.  Paratactic form uses phrases which follow one on another without defined connection or relationship – something of stream-of-consciousness and with minimal authorial disclosure of pattern or meaning.  The content of “Howl” included Ginsberg’s rants on industrial civilization, glorification of peyote use, frank references both to heterosexuality and homosexuality, and proclamations that cultural nonconformists and drop-outs were the “best minds of my generation”.  Ginsberg cited poet William Carlos Williams and fellow Beat Generation author Jack Kerouac as his inspirations.

The poem began as a performance piece, debuting at the Six Gallery in San Francisco on October 7, 1955.  Ferlinghetti published “Howl” shortly thereafter.  The legal machinery leading to the obscenity trial was set in motion when 520 copies of the London-printed poem were seized by customs officials on March 25, 1957.  The American Civil Liberties Union supported Ferlinghetti’s trial defense, and details of the case and Judge Horn’s ruling that “Howl” was of “redeeming social importance” were widely publicized.  Articles appeared in both Time and Life magazines, and Jake Ehrlich, Ferlinghetti’s lead attorney, published an account of the trial, titled Howl of the Censor.

Ginsberg called “Howl” his experiment with the “long line”.  Each line of the poem was a single breath unit, “one physical-mental inspiration of thought contained in the elastic of a breath”.  He also referred to the lines as “built on bop – you might think of them as a bop refrain – chorus after chorus after chorus”.  The frequently-quoted opening lines read:

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix;
Angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection
to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night.”

Image Credit: Coloribus, Grey, San Francisco Ad Agency

October 1, 1957 – “In God We Trust” First Appears on Paper Currency

Series 1957 A $1 Silver Certificate

 

On October 1, 1957, new one-dollar silver certificates were issued inscribed with “In God We Trust”, the first United States paper currency to bear the motto declaring the nation’s faith in a providential God.  Coins of several denominations had borne the motto since Civil War times, when Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase received numerous requests from citizens for such a recognition of the Deity.  He requested James Pollack, Director of the Mint at Philadelphia, to “cause such a device to be prepared without unnecessary delay with a motto expressing in the fewest and tersest words possible this national recognition”, because “No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense.  The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins.”  Pollock proposed “Our Country; Our God”, or “God, Our Trust”; Chase modified them to “Our God and Our Country” and “In God We Trust” before recommending them to Congress, which passed legislation adopting the mottoes on April 22, 1864.  Later that year, “In God We Trust” made its first appearance on the two-cent coin.

Over the years, the motto appeared on the gold double-eagle coin, the gold eagle coin, the gold half-eagle coin, the silver dollar coin, the half-dollar coin, the quarter-dollar coin, the three-cent coin, the five-cent coin, the one-cent coin, and the ten-cent coin.  The motto was removed from some coins around the turn of the century, prompting public demand that it be restored.  Congress passed an act on May 18, 1908 requiring the motto to be restored to all coins which had originally borne the device.  “In God We Trust” has appeared consistently on all of America’s coins since that time.

It was not until the 1950’s that a joint resolution by the 84th Congress, approved by President Dwight Eisenhower on July 30, 1956, adopted “In God We Trust” as the national motto of the United States.  Then, in 1957, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing began converting its paper money production from the wet intaglio to the dry intaglio printing process.  Dry intaglio printing used high-speed rotary presses which could turn out new bills much faster than the old flat-bed presses used in wet intaglio printing.  During the conversion, as it gradually created the costly new printing plates, the Bureau began including the newly-adopted national motto on all paper currency.  The first bills to be printed using the new process were one-dollar silver certificates.  Federal Reserve notes in one-dollar, five-dollar, ten-dollar, and twenty-dollar denominations began to bear the motto in 1964.  Fifty and one-hundred dollar bills were first printed with “In God We Trust” in 1966.

September 25, 1957 – The First Day, a New Day, at Little Rock Central High

Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division escort Little Rock Nine students into all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.

On September 25, 1957, the Little Rock Nine – Ernest Green, Elizabeth Eckford, Jefferson Thomas, Terrence Roberts, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Minnijean Brown, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Thelma Mothershed, and Melba Beals – entered the halls of Little Rock Central High School for the first time.  The 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army had arrived in Little Rock the day before, at President Dwight Eisenhower’s order.  Early on the morning of the 25th, a Wednesday, the highly decorated and prestigious “Screaming Eagles”, who served valiantly on the beaches of Normandy, in the Battle of the Bulge, and in Vietnam, once again answered the call to serve their country in battle.  This day’s battle was for educational freedom and against racial prejudice.

With the first day of classes behind them, the Little Rock Nine and the 101st won the first skirmish in the long war for equal opportunity, against physical – or virtual – segregation.

101st Airborne escorts Little Rock Nine. Photo: US Army

101st Airborne escorts Little Rock Nine.

Image Credit: U.S. Army

September 19, 1957 – Bathyscaphe Treiste Reaches Record Depth

Bathyscaphe Trieste

 

On September 19, 1957, a curious creature containing iron pellets, gasoline, oxygen, and two humanoids visited the aquatic denizens of the deep, two miles below the gentle waves and warm breezes of the Mediterranean Sea.  The mysterious mechanical interloper was the bathyscaphe Trieste, a deep-submergence vehicle originally conceived, designed, and constructed by Swiss physicist and inventor August Piccard, on a successful voyage to set a new diving depth record.  Piccard coined the term “bathyscaphe” from two Greek words: “bathos”, meaning “deep”; and “scaphos”, meaning “ship”.  The bathyscaphe consisted of a float chamber filled with gasoline for buoyancy (gasoline is less dense than water, and naturally wants to rise to the water’s surface) and a pressure chamber for two crew members.  Piccard’s first bathyscaphe, the FNRS-2 had been constructed in 1947.  Using what he learned from his early explorations, Piccard then designed the Trieste, which was built in 1952 in the town of Trieste, Italy, with the support of many local individuals, companies and institutions.

Between 1953 and October of 1957, the Trieste completed 48 dives in the Mediterranean.  Its success attracted the interest of the United States Office of Naval Research, which purchased the Trieste and assigned it to the Naval Electronics Laboratory in San Diego, California.

Trieste Diagram by Ralph Sutherland

The Trieste’s float chambers were more than 50 feet long and contained 22,500 gallons of gasoline.  Water ballast tanks were added at each end of the float section.  The crew’s pressure chamber was slightly over 7 feet long and contained completely independent life-support systems, including a rebreather system with oxygen tanks and a carbon dioxide scrubber.  The bathyscaphe was battery-powered and operated by the French Navy during its Mediterranean adventures.  Nine tons of magnetic iron pellets in ballast silos, and an electromagnetic control system, allowed the Trieste to descend and ascend.  Crew members observed the underwater scenery by one cone-shaped window of acrylic glass with illumination by quartz arc-light bulbs outside the ship.  Everything on the Trieste had to be designed to withstand the over 1000 atmospheres of pressure found at the extreme depths Piccard wanted to explore.

Image Credit: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

September 15, 1957 – Mike Wallace Interviews Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus

Governor Orval Faubus

On September 15, 1957, the Mike Wallace Interview show on ABC aired a conversation between host Mike Wallace and Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, current Commander-in-Chief of the Arkansas National Guard on duty in front of Little Rock Central High School.  Gov. Faubus had just met with Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, at the President’s request, to clarify his reasons for defying a federal court order to integrate Little Rock High.  Faubus stated that he intended to respect the decisions of the court and fully cooperate and carry out his responsibilities for integrating Arkansas schools.  The Guard, he maintained, had been called out to “keep the peace and order of the community” which was “paramount to all other issues”.

Gov. Faubus told Wallace that at this time “it would not be possible to integrate without disorder and violence” and “the troops will still be on duty in the morning”.  They would be taken off duty only “under a condition of tranquility and general acceptance by the people”, the presence of which it would be his responsibility to determine “on the basis of facts and information that are available to me”.  “Eighty-two percent of the people agreed that disorder and violence would have occurred, had not I taken the action which I did,” Faubus claimed.

Wallace pressed Faubus for documentation of his claims regarding incipient violence, but Faubus refused to reveal the material he said he had turned over to the FBI, pending possible court litigation.

Wallace then asked Gov. Faubus why he had not ordered the Arkansas Guard to protect the African-American children and enable them to enter the schools, rather than prevent their entry.  Faubus replied that “the best way to prevent the violence was to remove the cause”.  Faubus pointed out that other school districts in Arkansas, the state colleges, and local transportation systems had all integrated without interference on his part because they were able to do so peacefully.  Not so Little Rock.

Faubus stated, “malice, envy, hate is deplorable, in any place or in any circumstances, but as President Eisenhower has said himself, you can’t change the hearts of people by law . . . all I’ve ever asked for, is some time for the situation to change for it to become acceptable, so that there would not be disorder and violence.  If [integration] is right, it will come about.  So, why should we be so impatient as to want to force it, because force begets force, hate begets hate, malice begets malice.”

Faubus also proclaimed his belief that “some of the finest citizens we have in Arkansas are Negro citizens and many of them have most responsible positions and they carry them out with credit to themselves and the State and the Nation and the citizenry as a whole.  I believe that each person should be judged upon his individual merits and that it should not apply to races, or classes or groups.”

Image Credit: Burt Glinn/Magnum Photos

September 14, 1957 – Cuban President Fulgencio Batista Faces Internal Opposition

Batista’s army executes a rebel.

On September 14, 1957, the New York Times reported that Cuban President Fulgencio Batista had recently suppressed a revolt in the town of Cienfuegos in which officers and personnel of his own Navy had taken sides with Fidel Castro against his regime.  The previous day, Batista had announced that he would not be a candidate for reelection the following June (he was constitutionally forbidden to succeed himself) but that the suspension of civil liberties would be renewed for another 45 days.

The Cienfuegos revolt, crushed by Army tanks and aircraft, had been instigated by no more than 100 men, Batista claimed, including “a few dissident, illicit men in the Navy”.  According to the Times article there were three sources of opposition to Batista: Fidel Castro’s M-26-7 movement; adherents of former President Carlos Prio Socarras, who was deposed by Batista in 1952; and a group of Opposition parties.

On this day, the Times reported that the island “was an armed camp”.  Citizens were fearful of a breakdown of authority resulting in a state of chaos; merchants were losing business, tourism was down, businesses wanted to close but were not being permitted to do so by the government.  Soldiers patrolled the streets, rounding up opposition figures, and the jails were full of people accused of revolutionary activities.  Citizens had little faith in Batista’s government, but also little confidence that change could be achieved through peaceful means at the ballot box.  The Times concluded that “despite the bloody revolt, the terrorism and other efforts of the Opposition to force President Batista out of office, he will undoubtedly continue to control the island as long as his Army, the most powerful branch of the armed forces, remains loyal to him.”

Image Credit: Imagno – Museo de la Revolucion, La Habana, Cuba