The Year 1867

The North Light of Block Island, RI. Photograph by Michael Bogdanffy-Kriegh

… i have been taking note of dates in the landscape, mostly on buildings, but sometimes carved into concrete or other hard surfaces…

… when i encounter one, i like to look up the year in Wikipedia… it provides a list of the events of that year… here i stand in 2021 in front of a building finished in 1867… momentous things have happened in the United States this year… many of them are certain to make a similar list in another 145 years… will the list tell the story of the beginning of the end of democracy in the United States?…

… as the finishing touches were being put on the light house, these events were unfolding around the world1:

  • January 01: The Covington-Cincinnati Suspension Bridge, renamed the John A. Roebling Bridge in 1983 is opened.
  • January 08: African-American men are given the right to vote in the District of Columbia.
  • February 03: The Late Tokugawa shogunate comes to an end when Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu abdicates and Prince Mutsuhito becomes Emperor Meiji of Japan.
  • February 15: The first performance of Johann Strauss II’s The Blue Danube is given by the Vienna Men’s Choral Association.
  • February 19: The Qing Dynasty defeats the Nien rebels in Hubei China at the Battle of Inlon River.
  • March 01: Nebraska is admitted as the 37th State of the United States.
  • March 30: Alaska is purchased from Alexander II of Russia for $7.2 million. This becomes known as Seward’s Folly.
  • May 01: The first political May Day march in Chicago.
  • May 07: Alfred Nobel patents dynamite in the UK.
  • May 29: The Austro-Hungarian Compromise is born through Act 12, establishing the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
  • June 19: Emperor Maximillian of Mexico is executed by a firing squad.
  • July 01: The Constitution of the North German Confederation comes into effect. It establishes a confederation of states under the leadership of Prussia and Otto von Bismarck.
  • September 14: The first volume of Das Kapital (Karl Marx) is published.
  • October 21: The Medicine Lodge Treaty is signed by southern Great Plains Indian leaders. It requires Native American Plains tribes to relocate to a reservation in Oklahoma.
  • November 02: The first issue of Harper’s Bazaar is published.
  • December 18: Charles Dickens gives his first public reading in the United States at a theater in New York City.

… the Earth pirouettes around the sun in a universe of unimaginable size, while the affairs of men unfold on it’s surface…


  1. … all events below from: this Wikipedia article on the year 1867[return]

Walking at North Light, Seal Colony!

… i decide to try one more time to get a viewing of the seal colony at the north lighthouse… this time there is no couple blocking a closer approach…

… i don’t have the patience or need to get too close… i stop as soon as the more skittish members of the colony take to the water… or are they scouts charged with assessing the threat?…

… the wind is stiff… there are rip current warnings… no worries, i have no intention of getting in the water…

Sunrise at North Light

At North Light

… sunrise… i catch my first sight of seals, foraging, but they always seem curious, heads bobbing above the waves looking at me… they are like dogs with whom, i have read, they share ancestry…

… i purposely came earlier and still there is a couple out here… they beat me and have established themselves close to the seals as if it is their private viewing colony and nobody else can share it… they seem to be trying to get closer without chasing the seals into the water… the seals, for their part are huddled at the very tip and are perhaps poised to hit the water if they get any closer… i am imagining it is the same couple as was here yesterday, occupying the prime real estate… for some reason i am furious with them… i see them as extremely selfish… i don’t know if this is fair, but i am so angry i could smash them… i could, of course, totally disrupt their reverie but i imagine i am having more consideration for the seals and them than they have for anyone around them… i spied them from the parking lot already in place and for the fifteen to twenty minutes it took me to get out to the point they have not moved, and for the five to ten minutes i have been sitting impatiently waiting for my turn they have not moved… i find myself wishing them harm, hoping one of the bull seals lunges at them and bites them… i am going to have to give up again today as they seem intent on having it all to themselves… i don’t think i have hated two strangers more in my life… i hope they leave the island soon… for my part i will not come back until next week by which time they will, hopefully, be absent…