An International Blogfest for February 15th

"Steinway is the only piano on which the pianist can do everything he wants. And everything he dreams" (Vladimir Ashkenazy)

15th February, 1797. An Englishman Alternate Historian writes - On this day maker of the finest American and German handmade pianos Henry Engelhard Steinway was born in Wolfshagen im Harz in the Duchy of Brunswick.

After service in the volunteer corps in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, he became an apprentice to an organ builder in the town of Goslar.

He soon discovered his love for music and became an organ player in the church. He started building instruments, though hidden in the kitchen of his house because of the strong rules of the guild. In Braunschweig, he started by building guitars and zithers, and then graduated to pianos, of small proportions initially and gradually increasing in size.

He emigrated to the United States after the 1848 revolution. In New York City under the business name of Steinway & Sons, he and his family advanced the durability, action, and tone-quality of the instrument.

Purpose built using selected woods, each piano takes a year to make. Amongst many, many awards, the company holds a royal warrant by appointment to Queen Elizabeth II.

“Who is the third who walks always beside you? When I count, there are only you and I together. But when I look ahead up the white road There is always another one walking beside you. Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded I do not know whether a man or a woman -But who is that on the other side of you?” (T.S. Eliot, “The Waste Land”)

15th February, 1874. A German Dirk Puehl writes - Birth of Irish Explorer Ernest Shackleton.

It was grim irony that the wreck of the “Nimrod“ was discovered drifting in the pack ice on Ernest Shackleton’s birthday by his old rival Roald Amundsen on February 15th 1911. Since Amundsen was a Norwegian citizen and not subject to the gagging orders imposed by British Home Secretary Winston Churchill and the Admiralty, at least some of the quite disturbing news of Amundsen’s discovery leaked out, but were mainly covered by rather dubious elements of the international press and Amundsen, fearing for his reputation as a scientist, refused to comment on his discovery in public until his death in 1928 and the mystery of Shackleton’s death and the fate of the “Nimrod” were soon overshadowed by the outbreak of the Great War.

Fact is that Amundsen alerted the sealing steamer “Aurora” to make contact with British authorities who send the Port Stanley-based cruiser HMS “Glasgow” to investigate. Alerted by wireless, London decided to create virtually a restricted area in Antarctica by dispatching a whole squadron of cruisers under the command of Rear-Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock. Cradock's first action was to seize Amundsen’s logs and records and send him on his way in the “Fram”.

Protests of the Norwegian and German government were officially ignored. The little-known “Nimrod” protocol, passed during the London Conference of 1912, finally ended similar international irritations and made Antarctica the “no-go area” it was until the late 1950s, the naval blockade, joined by the United States, Japan and France, was in place until 1936.

What actually happened to Shackleton, his crew and the “Nimrod” remains a mystery. Rumour has it that the wreck in the pack ice had her masts shorn off, not broken, like the pressure on the hull would lead to expect. Her superstructure was covered in a greenish substance that emitted a glow even in frozen condition, members of her crew allegedly encapsulated in the fluorescent. Besides that, Amundsen’s family is supposed to have donated artefacts to Borgarsyssel Museum in his native Sarpsborg after his death that might hint to the discovery of Shackleton’s base camp on the Antarctic mainland by Amundsen, among them several bottles of MacInlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt and bas-reliefs found on the spot by Shackleton and his crew. None of these items are displayed and Borgarsyssel Museum continuously denies their existence. However, after the extensive nuclear tests the US and USSR conducted in the area of Mount Erebus and Cape Royds in 1957 and 1959 respectively, the fate of Shackleton will in all probability remain a mystery forever.

..and would-be Saboteurs are Caught aboard USS MAINE

An American Professor Jeff Provine writes -

Shortly after nine o’clock in the evening, a group of men were caught attempting to sneak aboard the USS Maine while it rested in Havana Harbor, defending American interests during the Cuban insurrection. The five men were carrying with them explosives and were believed to have been headed toward the storage of the ship’s powder charges for its six-inch and ten-inch guns. The discovery had been nearly happenstance as one man coughed too loudly and the crew on patrol thought to double-check.

The men were separated and questioned, and each gave wildly different stories. Crewmen leaked the investigation, and rumors exploded into news. Fueled by yellow journalism, the men were believed to be saboteurs from Spain, attempting to knock America out of its defensive position with Cuba; or, Cubans hoping to spark a war between the United States and Spain; or, mercenaries hired by the U.S. government to blow up their own ship and instigate a war that would bring in a wealth of captured territory for a new empire. Some even said that they had been hired by newspapermen Hearst or Pulitzer to precipitate a reason to sell more papers, but these rumors did not appear in print.

The whole of America rose up in anger over the ordeal, but there was no consensus on how to act. Some demanded war with Spain, others demanded war with the Cuban revolutionaries that America had previously supported, and still others demanded the Maine to leave Havana and the US wash its hands of the whole matter. President McKinley weighed his options carefully and finally decided to bring the diplomatic ordeal with Spain to an end as quickly as possible.

He dispatched orders to Admiral Dewey in Hong Kong to sail toward the Philippines (also fighting for its independence) in case anything got out of order. Congress and the President worked together to create a reasonable ultimatum for Spain, ignoring many of Republican Senator Redfield Proctor’s demands for war. The Spanish government weighed its options and finally decided to concede in Cuba and the Philippines

In exchange for a massive gift of “dollar diplomacy” (to be paid back by bonds from the new Cuban and Filipino governments), Spain would grant its colonies their independence. America, meanwhile, would gain valuable coaling stations and naval bases. The Pil√≥n-Woodward Treaty that summer ironed out the diplomatic details, and the cries for war were silenced. Several Americans, such as Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt, spoke out that the nation had not acted valiantly enough, but for the most part the populace had come to ease with international relations. Other imperial-minded Americans called for expansion into the Pacific rather than merely opening markets, such as conquering the Philippines rather than holding content with bases at Manila and Luzon. Letters from Sanford Dole the newly formed Republic of Hawaii offered the islands to McKinley.

Hawaii would become the new battleground as many politicians and businessmen hoped to support it as a new territory. However, the American Anti-Imperialist League formed around such famous members as Andrew Carnegie, Mark Twain, Samuel Gompers, and Senator George Boutwell. Their collective clout broke up the imperialist calls prominent in the press, and America returned to a sense of dollar diplomacy as McKinley refused Dole’s offer. Hawaii would later be returned to the Hawaiian Royal family, and it retains close political ties to the United States to this day.

The divided Republican Party in 1900 would result in the narrow election of President William Jennings Bryan and Vice-President Dewey, heralded as the man who won the Philippines its independence without firing a single shot. Dewey received a great deal of political criticism for his comment that "Our next war will be with Germany," which was proven correct some eighteen years later.

“Remember the Maine!” became a popular cry among Navy security as they patrolled in the early twentieth century. A policy of stringent observance of any possible attack became the norm, which proved effective in the detection of the Japanese carrier fleet approaching the base at Pearl Harbor in 1941.

In reality, the Maine suffered a grave explosion that destroyed the front third of the ship with the rest sinking almost immediately. Only 94 of the 355 crew survived, and the spirit of revenge rose up from America, urged on by the New York Journal’s cry for war. The widely successful Spanish-American War brought a new age of expansionism to the United States with gains in Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines.

And finally, Robbie A. Taylor writes - In Hellenic Year 3362, Socrates flees Athens, confirming his guilt to all citizens. He lives the remainder of his life in shameful exile in Thrace, and his work and students no longer commanded respect among the elite in Athenian society. Even today, he is an obscure philosopher of that great era in Hellenic history. 

In 1, his excellency, Xosrov II, king of all Persia and emperor of the civilized world, took the reigns. All calendars begin from his reign's start. He is most famous for reuniting the Roman Empire and extending it into Asia after tamping down the cult that had divided the ancient empire into 2 halves.

In 1869, Jefferson Davis goes on trial for high treason against the United States. He is found guilty, obviously, and sentenced to death by hanging. It was thought that President-Elect Grant favored  leniency, but since he did not take office for another month, President Johnson allowed the hanging to go forward, and close this chapter of the war between the states.

Robbie Taylor, Creator of Today in Alternate History Alternate Historian, Editor of Today in Alternate History Dirk Puehl, Editor of #Onthisday Professor Jeff Provine, Editor of This Day in Alternate History

Today's quadruple post forms a new and exciting development of the structure of our weekly collaboration: Alternate Historian writes about a real event in German History, whilst the Reverend Robbie A. Taylor, Professor Jeff Provine and Dirk Puehl writes about a fictionalized event in American and English Alternate History.

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