Jan-19: Roses, Viruses, Deadly Zeppelins and Little Rhody

January 19th marks the birthday of Edgar Allen Poe and emergence of his secret “toaster’ a century later, the first aerial bombardment of a city via a zeppelin, the pardoning of “Tokyo Rose”, the first computer virus and the North Cape/Scandia oil spill off the Rhode Island coast.


Toasting the Birth of Edgar Allen Poe

Edgar Allen Poe,  the legendary writer of mystery and the macabre, was born in Boston.  He died forty-years later in Baltimore under mysterious circumstances.  Beginning in the 1930s, “shadowy figure, dressed in black with a wide-brimmed hat and white scarf” began visiting Poe’s grave and “pour himself a glass of cognac and raise a toast to Poe’s memory, then vanish into the night, leaving three roses in a distinctive arrangement and the unfinished bottle of cognac.”  The unknown “Poe Toaster” and what is believed to be his son continued this tradition until 2010.

In 2016, the Maryland Historical Society selected a new “Toaster” to revive the tradition in a less mysterious—but still anonymous—form.


German Zeppelins bomb England

German zeppelins bomb the towns of Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn in the United Kingdom killing at least 20 people, in the first major aerial bombardment of a civilian target.  Although these raids had no significant military impact, the psychological effect was considerable. In May, the first bombing of London began.



Tokyo Rose Pardoned

President Ford pardoned Iva Ikuko Toguri D’Aquino (dubbed “Tokyo Rose” for her wartime broadcasts for the Japanese government). Toguri, who was born in Los Angeles, was visiting Japan at the time of  Pearl Harbor and unable to return to the U.S., had refused Japanese demands that she renounce her U.S. citizenship and refused to broadcast anti-American propaganda.  Nonetheless, her participation in a Japanese radio program “Zero Hour” led to her being only seventh American convicted of treason.  She served over six years in prison.

After Chicago Tribune and 60 Minutes reports demonstrated that her conviction was procured through perjured testimony, President Ford pardoned Toguri on his last day in office.


First Computer Virus Released

Brain, the first computer virus for MS-DOS, was released by two brothers from Lahore, Pakistan.  The virus came complete with the brothers’ address and three phone numbers, and a message that told the user that their machine was infected and to call them for inoculation.


North Cape and Scandia Oil Spill in Rhode Island

The tank barge North Cape and the tug Scandia ran aground on Moonstone Beach in South Kingstown, Rhode Island after the tug caught fire in its engine room during a winter storm. An estimated 851,928,000 gallons of home heating oil was spilled, resulting in the closure of a 250-square-mile area of Block Island Sound for fishing.

This was the first major oil spill after the Exxon Valdez disaster and the both vessel owners were criminally charged under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) was passed in response (and under other state and federal statutes) .   Under a plea agreement, the vessel owners paid an $8.5 million fine – the largest criminal fine paid in Rhode Island history, the largest environmental fine in New England history, and the third largest oil spill fine ever assessed.


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