A 45-Day Storm Turned California Into a 300-Mile-Long Sea

For 43 days, from late 1861 to early 1862, it rained almost nonstop in central California. The flooding that the rain cause turned California's Central Valley into a 300-mile-long (480-km-long) sea. The state capital of Sacramento flooded, and on January 22, the California legislature had to be moved to San Francisco, where it stayed for six months as Sacramento dried out.

People's lives were destroyed as one in six Californian houses were gone, and many towns disappeared, swept away. The flood also decimated California's burgeoning economy. An estimated 200,000 cattle drowned, about a quarter of all the cattle in the ranching state -- the disaster shifted the California economy to farming and it never shifted back. It was also estimated that as much as a quarter of California's taxable property was destroyed, which bankrupted the state.

Artistic Snobbery

Serious American artists during the Early American Period (1789 - 1815) thought that genre scenes were too mean and lowly for their talent. So major painters such as John Vanderlyn and Samuel Morse scorned the depicting of ordinary folk - except, said Vanderlyn, Italian peasants. With their lack of "fashion and frivolity," Italian peasants, Vanderlyn declared, were close enough to nature to possess a neoclassical universality that was worth depicting.

The Most Deadly War (Until World War II)

Did you make a guess? Okay, here's the answer: maybe the War of the Three Kingdoms, or the Mongol Conquests. Let's explain each of those in turn. First, what was the War of the Three Kingdoms? When the Han Dynasty lost its grip on power in about 184 CE, China was split into three kingdoms: Wei, Shu, and Wu. The three fought continuously from 184 until 280 CE, when the Jin Dynasty conquered Wu. Historians estimate that between 36 and 40 million people died in all the fighting which occurred during that 96-year period.

The Mongol Conquests are probably better-known to those reading this blog post in English. The long version of the Mongol Conquests dates from 1206 when Genghis Khan burst out of Mongolia's steppe heartland to 1368, when the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty of China fell. Historians estimate between 30 million and 40 million people were killed.

But what about the An Lushan Rebellion, some of you are saying? That rebellion against the Tang Dynasty, which dragged on for 7 years and three Tang emperors before it was finally over, cost somewhere between 13 and 36 million. That's a very wide range. On the upper end, that could top the War of the Three Kingdoms and the Mongol Conquests. But that's only if they are in the low end of their possible death tolls, and the An Lushan Rebellion is at the very highest end of its possible death toll. Of course, historical death counts are always guesswork, so it may be that an entirely different war actually takes the top prize!

For those who are curious, World War II killed at minimum 56,125,162 people.

Did you know Cromwell attacked Jamaica?

It was part of Oliver Cromwell’s war on Spain. In 1654, a huge fleet -- one of the largest English fleets ever assembled -- left Portsmouth headed for the Caribbean. Its target was the rich prize of Hispaniola. Unfortunately, it was a fiasco, and 3,000 English marines failed to take the island’s capital of Santo Domingo. The “invincible” New Army was defeated and the victors of the English Civil War were exposed as ineffective on the world stage. How could the head of the expedition save face? Attack Jamaica of course!

It was another Spanish island, but much less well defended. On May 10th, 1655 the admiral attacked, easily defeated the small Spanish garrison at Cagway Bay. It was hopeless for the Spanish and the admiral had a treat of surrender from the Spanish commander in 6 days. England annexed Jamaica just like that. And Jamaica speaks English to this day.

Charles Carroll III was the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence. He also had the highest education, was the wealthiest man, had the longest life, and was the last surviving signer. A very impressive man all around.

Did You Know A Woman Founded Miami?

Miami is the only major US city to have been founded by a woman. Julia Tuttle was an American businesswoman, who used the money from her parents' estate to purchase the James Egan grant of 640 acres (2.6 km2) in 1890. She was a major promoter of a new city in southern Florida, including working to get a railroad extension to the area, and giving up half of her land to make the new settlement a success. Her land became a small town, and quickly grew into the city of Miami.

The St. Petersburg–Tampa Airboat Line, which was founded in 1913, is considered the world’s first commercial airline to offer scheduled flights. The airline offered regular flights from St. Petersburg, Florida to Tampa, Florida. It used a two-seat airboat called the Lark of Duluth which flew just 1.5 meters (5 feet) above the water. It was a glorified commuter's ferry.

The St. Petersburg–Tampa Airboat Line was a success because it made the 29-kilometer (18 mi) flight in just 23 minutes. At the time, steamships covered that distance in two hours, trains in 4–12 hours, and cars in 20 hours. Passengers paid $5 (or about $129 in today's money) to save 1.5 hours in travel. The airboat service, unfortunately, lasted just a year before closing.


"Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better."

Harry Truman

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    HISTORICAL NON-FICTION

    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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