November 1, 1503 -Giuliano Della Rovere was elected Pope Julius II and quickly becomes known as “Il Papa Terrible’ (the Terrible Father). He drives out Caesar and Lucretia Borgia and fights in armor as much as he prays. In his 10 year reign he’ll commission the Sistine Ceiling, the rebuilding of St.Peter’s Basilica , Michelangelo’s Moses, Raphael’s “The School of Athens”, created the Swiss Guard (uniform designed by Michelangelo), dug up the Laocoon, conquered most of Central Italy and left the Vatican treasury a surplus for the first time in decades. He was known for quotes like “Let the whole world perish provided I get my way!” One critic wrote how during a festival where the Pope is supposed to kiss the feet of the poor Julius was careful to hold them up, then kiss his own bejeweled fingers.
November 2, 1950- George Bernard Shaw dies at 94. His last words were:” Oh well, it will be a new experience anyway.” Shaw loved trading barbs with other lettered curmudgeons like Winston Churchill. He once sent Churchill two tickets to the opening night of a new play with the note: “Bring a friend, if you have any.” Churchill sent back the tickets with a note: “I’m sorry that I can’t make it to your opening night. I’ll be glad to go the next night, if there is one.”
November 3, 631 AD- Caliph Omar, conqueror of the Holy Land, is assassinated in Medina by Abu-Lulu, a Persian Christian. 1963- Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, marries fellow cosmonaut Andrisyan Nikolayev.
November 4, 1862- Richard J. Gatling patents the machine gun. “It is to the pistol as the sewing machine is to the simple sewing needle.” Gatling’s idea was to invent machines to make war too terrible to be waged any longer. What he succeeded in doing was to indeed make war more terrible.
November 5, 1757- Battle of Rossbach- Frederick the Great defeats a French Army led by two generals whose only qualifications were that they were lovers of Madame De Pompadour. Once, during one of Pompadours wild parties she suggested all her friends make up a new dish for their dinner. Pompadour herself invented Salmon poached in champagne. Another general, the Duc d’Richelieu (grand nephew of the Cardinal) came up with a sauce and named it after his only victory, at the Siege of Mayon-Mayonnaise.
November 6, 1916- The elderly cowboy showman Buffalo Bill makes his next-to-last public appearance in El Paso Texas. El Paso had been as wild and bloody a frontier town as Deadwood or Tombstone, but by now was a quiet modern city. Telephone and electricity wires crisscrossed overhead and public transit moved down the streets where gunfighters once shot it out. Buffalo Bill’s parade seemed to make plain to all the final passing of the Old West to the New. The wild cheers brought tears running down the old scout’s long white mustache. He died of prostate cancer within a few weeks.
November 7, 1917- As the guns of the battleship Aurora boomed out across Petrograd (St. Petersburg) Lenin’s Bolsheviks stormed the Winter Palace and overthrew the provisional government of A.P. Kerensky (who died in Queens, New York in 1973.) Two Bolsheviks sent to take over the Petrograd telephone exchange had forgotten to bring their weapons but succeeded anyway. In the ten months between the Tsar’s fall and the Communist coup Russia had tried to govern itself with a fragile democracy, but with no middle class support base, powerful extremists like elitist officer corps and landless peasants pulling on either side and the disastrous decision to stay in the Great War with Germany, it was doomed. It was said Kerensky was a brilliant speaker but he had no serious plans or ideas beyond ebullient oratory. He was making it all up as he went along. Red Army organizer Leon Trotsky (real name Lev Bronstein) had at one point lived in exile in New York. This day a Bronx newspaper proudly put as it’s headline:” Bronx Boy Seizes Power in Russia !”