17 June 1987

The dusky seaside sparrow becomes extinct.

he dusky seaside sparrow, Ammodramus maritimus nigrescens, was a non-migratory subspecies of the seaside sparrow, found in Florida in the natural salt marshes of Merritt Island and along the St. Johns River. The last definite known individual died on June 17, 1987, and the subspecies was officially declared extinct in December 1990.

The dusky seaside sparrow was first categorized as a species in 1873, after its discovery on March 17, 1872, by Charles Johnson Maynard. Its dark coloration and distinct song are what separates it as a subspecies of other seaside sparrows. Found in the marshes of Florida’s Atlantic Coast on Merrit Island and the upper St. Johns River, the dusky seaside sparrow was geographically isolated from other seaside sparrows. It was categorized as a subspecies in 1973. Even though the dusky’s mitochondrial DNA is the same as the mitochondrial DNA of other seaside sparrow populations, DNA testing by itself does not demonstrate that its subspecies classification is undeserving. In 1981, only five dusky seaside sparrows remained, all being males. Conservation efforts were made by trying to breed the remaining duskies with Scott’s seaside sparrows in order to create half dusky hybrid offspring. “Unfortunately, although the Fish and Wildlife Service initially supported the crossbreeding program, it withdrew its support due to Interior’s hybrid policy”. Due to only the males being left, even though duskies could be crossbred with other seaside sparrows, there would never be another pure dusky seaside sparrow again.

When Merritt Island was flooded with the goal of reducing the mosquito population around the Kennedy Space Center, the sparrows’ nesting grounds were devastated, and their numbers plummeted. Later, the marshes surrounding the river were drained to facilitate highway construction; this was a further blow. Eventually, pollution and pesticides took such a high toll that by 1979, only six dusky seaside sparrows were known to exist — all of whom were males; a female was last sighted in 1975.

Captive breeding of all remaining dusky seaside sparrows with the Scott’s seaside sparrow from Florida’s gulf coast was approved in 1979. By 1980 five dusky seaside sparrows were in a captive breeding facility in Gainesville, Florida. One, banded in 1978 with an orange leg band was unique.

“Orange Band” was left by himself on the St. Johns Unit of the St. Johns NWR[5] after a yellow-leg-banded dusky was captured in 1979. Field observations of color banded sparrows from 1975 to 1979 indicated that dusky seaside sparrows seldom traveled more than a mile or two in their lifetimes. In April 1980, “Orange Band” was again observed on the St. Johns Unit, but was surprisingly captured in June eight miles south on the Beeline Unit in the company of a dusky with a green leg band. Before finding “Green Band”, “Orange Band” passed the general vicinity of the two unbanded dusky seaside sparrows.

In 1983 the last four living dusky seaside sparrows were taken to the Walt Disney World Resort, to continue crossbreeding and living out their days in a protected habitat on the Discovery Island nature reserve. By March 31, 1986, only “Orange Band” remained.

Despite being blind in one eye, “Orange Band” reached extreme old age for a sparrow, living at least nine years, and possibly as many as thirteen, before dying on June 17, 1987.

After the death of the final “pure” dusky sparrow, the breeding program was discontinued due to the fact that it was thought the hybrids that exist could not reproduce to create dusky sparrows, since they did not share the proper mtDNA that dusky sparrows possess. However, research done on a similar species known as Passerella iliaca, or the fox sparrow, was able to show that some subspecies of one plumage group had the plumage of another despite having the “wrong” mtDNA type. This potentially meant that if the breeding program was continued with the dusky sparrow hybrids, sparrows with the same color plumage as the dusky sparrows would eventually be produced. Unfortunately, shortly after the breeding program was halted, the remaining hybrid sparrows either died or escaped captivity, leading to the final extinction of the taxon.
“Green Band” proved elusive, and was never recaptured after having been banded. He was last seen on July 23, 1980.

16 June 1961

The dancer, Rudolf Nureyev defects from the Soviet Union.

It was one of the most high profile defections of the Cold War, as one of the Soviet Union’s most celebrated figures turned his back on his native country, penetrated the Iron Curtain and defied the all-powerful KGB to claim a new life in the West. In many ways he was the first true male ballet dancer, an art form previously dominated by women with men merely as support, Nureyev pioneering a new appreciation of masculine performance as well as the beginnings of a fusion between ballet and modern dance, another area in which he excelled. Despite the revelation in later years that Nikita Krushchev signed an order to have him assassinated, it would be AIDS which would finally claim his life when he became one of the illness’s most high-profile early victims in the early 90’s. In many ways, his sexuality is key to an understanding of his interesting life, coloured as it was by non-conformity, impatience and his audacious bid to break free from an oppressive and controlling regime.

His beginnings couldn’t really have been any more Russian: he was born on a Trans-Siberian train near Irkutsk in the spring of 1938, his mother travelling to Vladivostock where his father was stationed as a Red Army political commissar. His early life was spent in Ufa in the little-known Republic of Bashkortostan between the Volga and the Urals and his introduction to ballet came at an early age when his mother took him and his sisters to a performance of “Song of the Cranes”. Folk dancing was common in Russia at the time and his talent was noticed very early on, his teachers encouraging him to train in Leningrad but this was a strange time for a Soviet Union segueing from World War to Cold War, causing major upheaval in cultural life, thus preventing Rudolf from fulfilling his dreams. In 1955 though, at the age of 17, he was accepted by the Leningrad Choreographic School which was attached to the infamous Kirov Ballet. He caught the eye of the renowned ballet master Alexander Pushkin who also later trained Mikhail Baryshnikov, another well-known defector, escaping to Canada in 1974, and of course also infamous as Sex and the City’s Petrovsky who moved him in with his family and helped him make the leap to Kirov. He would remain there for 3 years after graduation, dancing 15 roles and soaring to heights of popular consciousness across a divided Europe. However, after early European tours he was told by the Ministry of Culture that he would not be allowed to travel again.

His rebellious and non-conformist attitude made him a high defection risk and the level of esteem with which he was held in the Soviet Union meant that the authorities were desperate to make sure he didn’t become a national embarrassment. Thus, he was barred from a major European tour by the Kirov Ballet, designed as a hugely significant global display of Communist cultural superiority over the West. In a twist of fate though, the company’s leading male dancer Konstantin Sergeyev was injured and Nureyev was the only obvious replacement, buying him a ticket to Paris. There, he was received with rapturous applause by the French audience and he began to mingle with these foreigners, ruffling feathers among the nervous Kirov management who had expressly forbidden such a thing. The KGB ordered him back to Russia to perform a special dance at the Kremlin rather than accompany his colleagues to London, which Nureyev guessed was a lie and so he refused, whereupon he was told that his mother was severely ill. He didn’t believe them and became convinced that if he did return he would be imprisoned, so when he arrived at Le Bourget Airport on this day in 1961, he defected with the help of French police. He was immediately signed up by the Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas and resumed his career by performing in “The Sleeping Beauty”.

On a tour of Denmark, he would meet the love of his life, Danish ballet sensation Erik Bruhn, over a decade older than Nureyev, though the two would remain together for 25 years until Bruhn’s death from lung cancer in 1986. Bruhn helped Nureyev handle the guilt of abandoning his family, particularly his beloved mother, in Russia and it was not until 1987, with the Cold War finally thawing, that Mikhail Gorbachev allowed him back home to visit her on her deathbed. He finally danced with the Kirov Ballet again in Leningrad in 1989, where he was reunited with many of the teachers and colleagues he hadn’t seen in over a quarter of a century. In the meantime, he had become a European star, offered a contract to join the UK’s Royal Ballet in 1962 as their Principal Dancer, a collaboration which would last 8 years and famously partner him with Dame Margot Fonteyn. He remained affiliated with the Royal Ballet thereafter as a Principal Guest Artist until the 1980’s when he committed to the Paris Opera Ballet as a director. He and Fonteyn would continue to perform together for many years though, their last performance together when she was 69 years of age and Nureyev 50 in 1988, he once commenting that they danced with “one body, one soul”. The 1970’s also found him in the United States, most famously in a revival of “The King & I”. Renowned as volatile and impatient, he was also praised for his generosity of spirit and his loyalty towards his friends, many ballerinas of the era crediting him with helping them through tough times in their careers.

In 1984, Nureyev tested positive for HIV at a time when that disease was just beginning to grab major world headlines as a new and vicious killer. Nureyev simply carried on regardless and it would be another 7 years before his health would seriously begin to decline, then in the spring of 1992 he entered the final phase of the disease. He made one final visit to a newly-democratic Russia before returning to New York one last time to conduct “Romeo & Juliet” at the American Ballet Theater Benefit in the Metropolitan Opera House. He brought the house down and later that year made his final public appearance at the Paris Opera overseeing the first Western performance of La Bayadere since the Russian Revolution, fulfilling a lifelong dream. That night, the French Culture Minister Jack Lang presented him with “the Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres”, a real honour, though it was obvious to everyone that he was nearing the end of his life. 6 weeks later he entered a Parisian hospital and died there the following January, aged 54. His funeral was then held at the Paris Opera and he was buried in a Russian cemetery just outside the city which had first provided him with refuge 3 decades earlier. His coffin was lowered into the ground to music from the last act of “Giselle”.

15 June 1864

The Second Battle of Petersburg begins during the American Civil War.

During the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Potomac and Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia collide for the last time as the first wave of Union troops attacks Petersburg, a vital Southern rail center 23 miles south of the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. The two massive armies would not become disentangled until April 9, 1865, when Lee surrendered and his men went home.

In June 1864, in a brilliant tactical maneuver, Grant marched his army around the Army of Northern Virginia, crossed the James River unopposed, and advanced his forces to Petersburg. Knowing that the fall of Petersburg would mean the fall of Richmond, Lee raced to reinforce the city’s defenses. The mass of Grant’s army arrived first. On June 15, the first day of the Battle of Petersburg, some 10,000 Union troops under General William F. Smith moved against the Confederate defenders of Petersburg, made up of only a few thousand armed old men and boys commanded by General P.G.T. Beauregard. However, the Confederates had the advantage of formidable physical defenses, and they held off the overly cautious Union assault. The next day, more Federal troops arrived, but Beauregard was reinforced by Lee, and the Confederate line remained unbroken during several Union attacks occurring over the next two days.

By June 18, Grant had nearly 100,000 at his disposal at Petersburg, but the 20,000 Confederate defenders held on as Lee hurried the rest of his Army of Northern Virginia into the entrenchments. Knowing that further attacks would be futile, but satisfied to have bottled up the Army of Northern Virginia, Grant’s army dug trenches and began a prolonged siege of Petersburg.

Finally, on April 2, 1865, with his defense line overextended and his troops starving, Lee’s right flank suffered a major defeat against Union cavalry under General Phillip Sheridan, and Grant ordered a general attack on all fronts. The Army of Northern Virginia retreated under heavy fire; the Confederate government fled Richmond on Lee’s recommendation; and Petersburg, and then Richmond, fell to the Union. Less than a week later, Grant’s massive army headed off the remnants of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Station, and Lee was forced to surrender, effectively ending the Civil War.

14 June 1907

Norway gives women the right to vote.

On 14 June 1907, Norway’s Storting demonstrated the difficulty faced by women’s suffrage advocates around the world. On the one hand, the national legislature approved a bill that would allow some of Norway’s women to vote for lawmakers and even to win seats in the Storting. On the other hand, the male lawmakers limited national voting rights to women who had the right to vote in municipal elections.

First woman to cast her vote in the municipal election, Akershus slott, Norway, 1910. Oslo Museum collection via DigitaltMuseum under Creative Commons License.
Those limits meant that only women who were at least 25 years old and met certain tax-paying thresholds had the right to vote. The Storting voted by a 3-to-2 margin not to enact universal female suffrage.

From the 1300s to the 1800s, Norway was joined with its neighbors Denmark or Sweden. While reforms in the late 1800s created a powerful Norwegian legislature and considerable autonomy over domestic conditions, Norway did not gain full independence until 1905. Even then, the legislature accepted a king and put a constitutional monarchy into place.

Democratic reformers were among of the forces pushing for these changes in the late 1800s. Norwegian men gained the right to vote in 1898. A women’s suffrage movement had been active since 1885 but was unable to convince the Storting to extend the right to women. Norway’s women did enjoy some advances. In 1854, they gained the right to inherit property, and in the 1890s, they won the right to control their own property.

Nevertheless, it was another six years after the 1907 vote for the Storting to agree to full women’s suffrage. While the delay may have frustrated Norway’s women, they were still better off than the women in all but three other countries. Only New Zealand, Australia, and Finland allowed women to vote at that time.

13 June 2002

The United States pulls out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

Statement on Formal Withdrawal From the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty June 13, 2002.
Six months ago, I announced that the United States was withdrawing from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and today that withdrawal formally takes effect. With the treaty now behind us, our task is to develop and deploy effective defenses against limited missile attacks. As the events of September 11 made clear, we no longer live in the cold war world for which the ABM Treaty was designed. We now face new threats, from terrorists who seek to destroy our civilization by any means available to rogue states armed with weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles. Defending the American people against these threats is my highest priority as Commander in Chief.
The new strategic challenges of the 21st century require us to think differently. But they also require us to act. I call on the Congress to approve the full amount of the funding I have requested in my budget for missile defense. This will permit the United States to work closely with all nations committed to freedom to pursue the policies and capabilities needed to make the world a safer place for generations to come.

I am committed to deploying a missile defense system as soon as possible to protect the American people and our deployed forces against the growing missile threats we face. Because these threats also endanger our allies and friends around the world, it is essential that we work together to defend against them, an important task which the ABM Treaty prohibited. The United States will deepen our dialog and cooperation with other nations on missile defenses.

Last month, President Vladimir Putin and I agreed that Russia and the United States would look for ways to cooperate on missile defenses, including expanding military exercises, sharing early warning data, and exploring potential joint research and development of missile defense technologies. Over the past year, our countries have worked hard to overcome the legacy of the cold war and to dismantle its structures. The United States and Russia are building a new relationship based on common interests and, increasingly, common values. Under the Treaty of Moscow, the nuclear arsenals of our nations will be reduced to their lowest levels in decades. Cooperation on missile defense will also make an important contribution to furthering the relationship we both seek.

12 June 1939

The Baseball Hall of Fame opens in Cooperstown, New York.

The special two-car excursion train chugged cautiously along rusty tracks into sleepy Cooperstown, N.Y. It had been 18 vexing miles from Colliersville, a dicey journey across a railroad spur virtually unexplored since the turn of the century.

But this was no ordinary passenger train and its riders no ordinary travelers. And after that day, June 12, 1939, Cooperstown would never again be an ordinary upstate New York farm town.

Stepping off the train just inside the village that morning were Babe Ruth, Connie Mack, Walter Johnson, Cy Young, Honus Wagner, Tris Speaker, Eddie Collins, Napoleon Lajoie, George Sisler and Grover Cleveland Alexander. Ty Cobb would arrive later. So would 32 major leaguers to play an exhibition game.

Sixty years ago tomorrow, the National Baseball Hall of Fame staged its first induction ceremony, an event that has become a standby of the American summer.

They came that day in 1939, 11 honorees and nine eventual Hall of Famers still in their primes, to celebrate something unprecedented: a sports Hall of Fame. How they spent that day is a story of a different America and its pastime.

Continue reading the main story
Ruth, for example, arrived in the village needing a shave. He marched up Main Street in a tan double-breasted suit and buck wing shoes with a retinue of children following at a respectful distance. At the lone Main Street barber shop, the line was long for the three chairs inside. Ruth waited at the back of the line.

Cobb, meanwhile, came into town in a mad dash, like a man trying to steal second base, gate-crashing the ceremony by climbing over a railing and jumping down onto the makeshift dance band stage.

Mack, born during the Civil War, stood throughout the proceedings as resolute as the high, white-starched collar he wore beneath his three-piece blue suit.

The concept of a baseball Hall of Fame had been created three years earlier but the museum was built to open in 1939 so that baseball could mark the 100th anniversary of the game’s founding. A recent special commission verified the allegorical tale that placed Abner Doubleday in a Cooperstown cow pasture laying out the ground rules for the game in 1839. And even if subsequent research has proved those findings specious at best, 60 years ago it went largely unquestioned.

Each of the country’s major league ball parks closed for the day and NBC radio broadcast the festivities nationally. It was 22 days before Lou Gehrig had his famous day at Yankee Stadium, 80 days before Nazi troops would storm Poland, and 186 days before ”Gone With the Wind” had its Atlanta opening.

Fifteen thousand people choked Cooperstown’s Main Street.

”I took a lot of pictures because none of us could believe this was happening in our town,” said Homer Osterhoudt, who as the 21-year-old son of a local farmer worked on the construction of the three-story brick museum mixing mortar for the three-story colonial edifice.

Catherine Walker, a lifelong Cooperstown resident who has worked as an attendant at the Hall of Fame for the last nine years, remembers sitting on her father’s shoulders as an 8-year-old.

”I was watching Babe Ruth walk up Main Street heading for the barber shop,” Walker said at the Hall of Fame this week. ”My eyes were as wide as saucers.”

Howard Talbot would become the Hall of Fame’s director for 25 years, but in 1939 he was a 14-year-old escorted to Cooperstown by his father from his nearby home.

”It was a pretty big day for a little burg like Cooperstown,” Talbot said. ”You have to remember there was no TV. It’s safe to say that at least 90 percent of the people there that day had never seen a major league game played. I know I hadn’t.”