11 April 1909

The city of Tel Aviv is founded.

Tel Aviv was founded on April 11, 1909. On that day, several dozen families gathered on the sand dunes on the beach outside Yafo to allocate plots of land for a new neighborhood they called Ahuzat Bayit, later known as Tel Aviv. As the families could not decide how to allocate the land, they held a lottery to ensure a fair division. Akiva Arieh Weiss, chairman of the lottery committee and one of the prominent figures in the city’s founding, gathered 66 grey seashells and 66 white seashells. Weiss wrote the names of the participants on the white shells and the plot numbers on the grey shells. He paired a white and grey shell, assigning each family a plot, and thus Tel Aviv’s founding families began building the first modern, Hebrew city.

The time was at a peak wave of Jewish immigration – the Second Aliya. Neighborhoods in the ancient port city of Jaffa were becoming overpopulated and crowded. Many of the newcomers were Europeans of middle-class origin who sought to build surroundings that would give them a sense of what they had left behind. They wanted to build a modern suburb of Jaffa.

The true development of Tel Aviv took off with the arrival of Scottish urban planner, Sir Patrick Geddes. In response to the unplanned expansion of the city, Geddes was invited by the municipality in 1925 to present a comprehensive master plan for Tel Aviv. In his vision, Tel Aviv was to be a garden city, as foreseen by its founders. His plan called for a clear distinction between main streets, residential streets and vegetation filled pedestrian boulevards. An important element of his plan, reflecting the social climate of the time, was the creation of shared public spaces – in the form of parks and squares, as well as within residential blocks.

The city was again transformed starting in 1932 by a massive wave of immigration of Jews fleeing persecution in Europe whose arrival rapidly expanded a small town of 42,000 people into a flourishing city of 130,000 by 1936. In 1934, in the midst of this wave, Tel Aviv was declared a city, and Meir Dizengoff, the president of its council, as its first mayor.

The housing needs of this wave of immigration brought the rise of the Bauhaus, or Modern Movement, style of architecture. Many architects trained in the Modern style were among the refugees from Europe who began rapidly building to accommodate the population growth, resulting in what today is known as the White City. Influenced by the clean, functional lines of the Bauhaus School of Art and Design in Germany, they adapted the Modern style to suit Tel Aviv’s culture and climate, giving the city its special look. The White City of Tel Aviv, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, includes over 4,000 buildings in the Modern style.

In the 1930’s, Tel Aviv became the country’s largest economic center and had the highest concentration of social and cultural institutions. Tel Aviv was the center of the emergence of Hebrew culture and culture in Hebrew – and remains so to this very day. Tel Aviv became known for its modern cafes, hotels, concert halls and nightclubs. The city enjoyed a sense of international chic, which was rare for the region, especially at the time.

At the start of the 1948 War of Independence, the city and its periphery became the focal point of the conflict between Jews and Arabs. The fight over Jaffa’s future started immediately after the UN decision for partition. As in other areas where Jewish and Arab forces clashed in close quarters, civilian populations both in Tel Aviv and Jaffa suffered and ultimately many fled. In April 1950, Jaffa was formally merged with the Tel Aviv municipality and a unified city was established – Tel Aviv-Yafo.

The next several of decades maintained the city’s status as Israel’s cultural and economic center, yet Tel Aviv-Yafo was losing its vibrancy and its population was growing older. This trend changed in the 1980s as a gradual migration from all over the country back to Tel Aviv began. Over the next decades, there was massive renovation and development throughout Tel Aviv-Yafo, giving the city a makeover whose finishing touches are still being improved upon. Tel Aviv-Yafo of today has developed a unique style combining the best of both a relaxed Mediterranean seaside town with an edgy urban vibe. Tel Avivis are passionate about their city and are proud to live in a center of commerce, culture, style and entertainment.

With leafy boulevards filled with people at all hours, a thriving business sector, countless charming cafes and restaurants, a beautiful beachfront and rich cultural offerings, the vision of the city’s founders has come alive.

A Brief History of Jaffa: Jaffa is one of the oldest port cities in the world. The word Jaffa, which means “the beautiful” is derived from Japhfet, the name of one of Noah’s sons’ who built it after the Flood.

During the times of King Solomon, Jaffa’s port served as a gateway for cedars from Lebanon used to build the First Temple. It was also mentioned in the Old Testament as the port from which Jonah the Prophet embarked on his maritime journey, which resulted in him being swallowed by fish.

Over the years numerous conquerors passed through Jaffa’s gates and during the Ottoman Empire it was one of the region’s most important ports. In the late 1800’s, Jaffa’s ancient city wall was completely destroyed and the city expanded out into new areas.

Upon Israeli independence in 1948, Jaffa was a center of local Arab political, cultural and financial activity. In 1950, the Israeli government voted to merge the first Hebrew city and the ancient port city from which it had emerged. In 1999, the municipality founded the Jaffa Development Authority, aimed at improving infrastructure and all aspects of daily life.

19 August 1909

The first car race takes place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

On this day in 19 August 1909, the first race is held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, now the home of the world’s most famous motor racing competition, the Indianapolis 500.

Built on 328 acres of farmland five miles northwest of Indianapolis, Indiana, the speedway was started by local businessmen as a testing facility for Indiana’s growing automobile industry. The idea was that occasional races at the track would pit cars from different manufacturers against each other. After seeing what these cars could do, spectators would presumably head down to the showroom of their choice to get a closer look.

The rectangular two-and-a-half-mile track linked four turns, each exactly 440 yards from start to finish, by two long and two short straight sections. In that first five-mile race on August 19, 1909, 12,000 spectators watched Austrian engineer Louis Schwitzer win with an average speed of 57.4 miles per hour. The track’s surface of crushed rock and tar proved a disaster, breaking up in a number of places and causing the deaths of two drivers, two mechanics and two spectators.

The surface was soon replaced with 3.2 million paving bricks, laid in a bed of sand and fixed with mortar. Dubbed “The Brickyard,” the speedway reopened in December 1909. In 1911, low attendance led the track’s owners to make a crucial decision: Instead of shorter races, they resolved to focus on a single, longer event each year, for a much larger prize. That May 30 marked the debut of the Indy 500–a grueling 500-mile race that was an immediate hit with audiences and drew press attention from all over the country. Driver Ray Haroun won the purse of $14,250, with an average speed of 74.59 mph and a total time of 6 hours and 42 minutes.

Since 1911, the Indianapolis 500 has been held every year, with the exception of 1917-18 and 1942-45, when the United States was involved in the two world wars. With an average crowd of 400,000, the Indy 500 is the best-attended event in U.S. sports. In 1936, asphalt was used for the first time to cover the rougher parts of the track, and by 1941 most of the track was paved. The last of the speedway’s original bricks were covered in 1961, except for a three-foot line of bricks left exposed at the start-finish line as a nostalgic reminder of the track’s history.

18 April 1909

Joan of Arc is beatified in Rome.

Joan of Arc was formally canonized as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church on 16 May 1920 by Pope Benedict XV in his bull Divina Disponente, which concluded the canonization process that the Sacred Congregation of Rites instigated after a petition of 1869 of the French Catholic hierarchy. Although pro-English clergy had Joan burnt at the stake for heresy in 1431, she was rehabilitated in 1456 after a posthumous retrial. Subsequently she became a folk saint among French Catholics and soldiers inspired by her story of being commanded by God to fight for France against England. Many French regimes encouraged her cult, and the Third Republic was sympathetic to the canonization petition prior to the 1905 separation of church and state.

As with other saints who were excommunicated or investigated by ecclesiastic courts, such as Athanasius, Teresa of Ávila, and John of the Cross, Joan was put on trial by an Inquisitorial court. In her case, the court was influenced by the English, which occupied northern France, leading to her execution in the marketplace of Rouen. When the French retook Rouen in 1449, a series of investigations were launched. Her now-widowed mother Isabelle Romée and Joan’s brothers Jéan and Pierre, who were with Joan at the Siege of Orleans, petitioned Pope Nicholas V to reopen her case. The formal appeal was conducted in 1455 by Jean Bréhal, Inquisitor-General of France, under the aegis of Pope Callixtus III. Isabelle addressed the opening session of the appellate trial at Notre Dame with an impassioned plea to clear her daughter’s name. Joan was exonerated on 7 July 1456, with Bréhal’s summary of case evidence describing her as a martyr who had been executed by a court which itself had violated Church law. In 1457, Callixtus excommunicated the now-deceased Bishop Pierre Cauchon for his persecution and condemnation of Joan.

The city of Orléans had commemorated her death each year beginning in 1432, and from 1435 onward performed a religious play centered on the lifting of the siege. The play represented her as a divinely-sent savior guided by angels. In 1452, during one of the postwar investigations into her execution, Cardinal d’Estouteville declared that this play would merit qualification as a pilgrimage site by which attendees could gain an indulgence.

Not long after the appeal, Pope Pius II wrote an approving piece about her in his memoirs.

16th century
Joan was utilized as a symbol of the Catholic League, a group organized to fight against Protestant groups during the Wars of Religion. An anonymous author wrote a biography of Joan’s life, stating that it was compiled “By order of the King, Louis XII of that name” in circa 1500.

18th and 19th centuries
Joan’s cult of personality was opposed by the leaders of the French Revolution as she was a devout Catholic who had served the monarchy. They banned the yearly celebration of the lifting of the siege of Orleans, and Joan’s relics, including her sword and banner, were destroyed. A statue of Joan erected by the people of Orléans in 1571 was melted down and made into a cannon.
Recognizing he could use Joan for his nationalist purposes, Napoleon allowed Orléans to resume its yearly celebration of the lifting of the siege, commissioned Augustin Dupré to strike a commemorative coin, and had Jean-Antoine Chaptal inform the mayor of Orléans that he approved of a resolution by the municipal council for Edme-François-Étienne Gois to erect his statue of Joan:

“The illustrious career of Joan of Arc proves that there is no miracle French genius cannot perform in the face of a threat against national freedom.”

Gois’s work was relocated to Place Dauphiné in 1855, replaced with a statue of Joan by Denis Foyatier.

Although Nicolas Lenglet Du Fresnoy and Clément Charles François de Laverdy are credited with the first full-length biographies of Joan, several English authors ironically sparked a movement which lead to her canonization. Harvard University English literature professor Herschel Baker noted in his introduction to Henry VI for The Riverside Shakespeare how appalled William Warburton was by the depiction of Joan in Henry VI, Part 1, and that Edmond Malone sought in “Dissertation on the Three Parts of Henry VI” to prove Shakespeare had no hand in its authorship. Charles Lamb chided Samuel Taylor Coleridge for reducing Joan to “a pot girl” in the first drafts of The Destiny of Nations, initially part of Robert Southey’s Joan of Arc. She was the subject of essays by Lord Mahon for The Quarterly Review, and by Thomas De Quincey for Tait’s. In 1890, the Joan of Arc Church was dedicated to her.

As Joan found her way further into popular culture, the Government of France commissioned Emmanuel Frémiet to erect a statue of her in the Place des Pyramides — the only public commission of the state from 1870 to 1914. The French Navy dedicated four vessels to her: a 52-gun frigate; a 42-gun frigate; an ironclad corvette warship ; and an armored cruiser. Philippe-Alexandre Le Brun de Charmettes’s biography, and Jules Quicherat’s account of her trial and rehabilitation seemed to have inspired canonization efforts.

In 1869, to celebrate the 440th anniversary of Joan lifting the Siege of Orléans, Félix Dupanloup, Bishop of Orleans, invited the bishops whose dioceses included the towns which Joan entered or liberated during her career to Orléans. Supported by Henri-Alexandre Wallon, Dupanloup submitted a petition, signed by the attending dignitaries, to Pope Pius IX for Joan to be canonized, but the Franco-Prussian War postponed further action.

In 1874, depositions began to be collected, received by Cardinal Luigi Bilio in 1876. Dupanloup’s successor, Bishop Pierre-Hector Coullié, directed an inquest to authenticate her acts and testimony from her trial and rehabilitation. On January 27, 1894, the Curia voted unanimously that Pope Leo XIII sign the Commissio Introductionis Causæ Servæ Dei Joannæ d’Arc, which he did that afternoon.