Joseph Force Crater becomes the missingest man in New York

Year
1930
Month Day
August 06

On August 6, 1930, New York Supreme Court judge Joseph Force Crater vanished on the streets of Manhattan near Times Square. The dapper 41-year-old’s disappearance launched a massive investigation that captivated the nation, earning Crater the title of “the missingest man in New York.”

Born to Irish immigrants in 1889, Crater grew up in Pennsylvania and received his law degree from Columbia University in 1916. As he worked his way up from a lowly clerk to a successful lawyer, he cultivated numerous political connections throughout New York City. In April 1930, Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Crater to the state bench, passing over the official candidate put forth by the powerful and corrupt Tammany Hall political machine. Rumors swirled that Crater, whose alleged fondness for showgirls had already earned him a shady reputation, had paid off the Tammany bosses for his lucrative new job.

A few months later, on August 3, 1930, Crater returned to New York from a trip to Maine, leaving behind his wife, Stella, and promising to return within a week. His law clerk later reported that, on the morning of August 6, the judge destroyed various documents, moved several portfolios of papers to his Fifth Avenue apartment and arranged for $5,000 to be withdrawn from his bank account. That evening, he left his office, bought a ticket to the Broadway comedy “Dancing Partner” and shared a meal with his lawyer friend William Klein and a showgirl named Sally Lou Ritz at a Manhattan chophouse. His dining companions claimed they last saw Crater walking down the street outside the restaurant, presumably on his way to attend the play.

News of Crater’s disappearance broke on September 3, triggering a dramatic manhunt and investigation. The missing judge’s suspicious behavior in the days leading up to his disappearance spawned rampant speculation that he had fled the country with a mistress or been a victim of foul play. His sensational story captured so much media attention that the phrase “pulling a Crater” briefly entered the public vernacular as a synonym for going AWOL. Comedians, meanwhile, seized upon the unsolved case as fodder for their standup routines, using the line “Judge Crater, call your office” as a standard gag.

At his wife’s request, Joseph Force Crater was declared legally dead in 1939. In 2005, New York police revealed that new evidence had emerged in the case of the city’s missingest man. A woman who had died earlier that year had left a handwritten note in which she claimed that her husband and several other men, including a police officer, had murdered Crater and buried his body beneath a section of the Coney Island boardwalk. That site had been excavated during the construction of the New York Aquarium in the 1950s, long before technology existed to detect and identify human remains. As a result, the question of whether Judge Crater sleeps with the fishes remains a mystery.

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Pluto discovered


Year
1930
Month Day
February 18

Pluto, once believed to be the ninth planet, is discovered at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, by astronomer Clyde W. Tombaugh.

The existence of an unknown ninth planet was first proposed by Percival Lowell, who theorized that wobbles in the orbits of Uranus and Neptune were caused by the gravitational pull of an unknown planetary body. Lowell calculated the approximate location of the hypothesized ninth planet and searched for more than a decade without success. However, in 1929, using the calculations of Lowell and W.H. Pickering as a guide, the search for Pluto was resumed at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona. On February 18, 1930, Tombaugh discovered the tiny, distant planet by use of a new astronomic technique of photographic plates combined with a blink microscope. His finding was confirmed by several other astronomers, and on March 13, 1930–the anniversary of Lowell’s birth and of William Herschel’s discovery of Uranus–the discovery of Pluto was publicly announced.

With a surface temperature estimated at approximately -360 Fahrenheit, Pluto was appropriately given the Roman name for the god of the underworld in Greek mythology. Pluto’s average distance from the sun is nearly four billion miles, and it takes approximately 248 years to complete one orbit. It also has the most elliptical and tilted orbit of any planet, and at its closest point to the sun it passes inside the orbit of Neptune, the eighth planet.

After its discovery, some astronomers questioned whether Pluto had sufficient mass to affect the orbits of Uranus and Neptune. In 1978, James Christy and Robert Harrington discovered Pluto’s only known moon, Charon, which was determined to have a diameter of 737 miles to Pluto’s 1,428 miles. Together, it was thought that Pluto and Charon formed a double-planet system, which was of ample enough mass to cause wobbles in Uranus’ and Neptune’s orbits. In August 2006, however, the International Astronomical Union announced that Pluto would no longer be considered a planet, due to new rules that said planets must “clear the neighborhood around its orbit.” Since Pluto’s oblong orbit overlaps that of Neptune, it was disqualified.

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Mohandas Gandhi begins 241-mile civil disobedience march


Year
1930
Month Day
March 12

On March 12, 1930, Indian independence leader Mohandas Gandhi begins a defiant march to the sea in protest of the British monopoly on salt, his boldest act of civil disobedience yet against British rule in India.

Britain’s Salt Acts prohibited Indians from collecting or selling salt, a staple in the Indian diet. Citizens were forced to buy the vital mineral from the British, who, in addition to exercising a monopoly over the manufacture and sale of salt, also exerted a heavy salt tax. Although India’s poor suffered most under the tax, Indians required salt. Defying the Salt Acts, Gandhi reasoned, would be an ingeniously simple way for many Indians to break a British law nonviolently. He declared resistance to British salt policies to be the unifying theme for his new campaign of satyagraha, or mass civil disobedience.

On March 12, Gandhi set out from Sabarmati with 78 followers on a 241-mile march to the coastal town of Dandi on the Arabian Sea. There, Gandhi and his supporters were to defy British policy by making salt from seawater. All along the way, Gandhi addressed large crowds, and with each passing day an increasing number of people joined the salt satyagraha. By the time they reached Dandi on April 5, Gandhi was at the head of a crowd of tens of thousands. Gandhi spoke and led prayers and early the next morning walked down to the sea to make salt.

He had planned to work the salt flats on the beach, encrusted with crystallized sea salt at every high tide, but the police had forestalled him by crushing the salt deposits into the mud. Nevertheless, Gandhi reached down and picked up a small lump of natural salt out of the mud–and British law had been defied. At Dandi, thousands more followed his lead, and in the coastal cities of Bombay and Karachi, Indian nationalists led crowds of citizens in making salt. Civil disobedience broke out all across India, soon involving millions of Indians, and British authorities arrested more than 60,000 people. Gandhi himself was arrested on May 5, but the satyagraha continued without him.

On May 21, the poet Sarojini Naidu led 2,500 marchers on the Dharasana Salt Works, some 150 miles north of Bombay. Several hundred British-led Indian policemen met them and viciously beat the peaceful demonstrators. The incident, recorded by American journalist Webb Miller, prompted an international outcry against British policy in India.

In January 1931, Gandhi was released from prison. He later met with Lord Irwin, the viceroy of India, and agreed to call off the satyagraha in exchange for an equal negotiating role at a London conference on India’s future. In August, Gandhi traveled to the conference as the sole representative of the nationalist Indian National Congress. The meeting was a disappointment, but British leaders had acknowledged him as a force they could not suppress or ignore.

India’s independence was finally granted in August 1947. Gandhi was assassinated by a Hindu extremist less than six months later.

READ MORE: When Gandhi’s Salt March Rattled British Colonial Rule

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Building of Hoover Dam begins

Year
1930
Month Day
July 07

On July 7, 1930, construction of the Hoover Dam begins. Over the next five years, a total of 21,000 men would work ceaselessly to produce what would be the largest dam of its time, as well as one of the largest manmade structures in the world.

Although the dam would take only five years to build, its construction was nearly 30 years in the making. Arthur Powell Davis, an engineer from the Bureau of Reclamation, originally had his vision for the Hoover Dam back in 1902, and his engineering report on the topic became the guiding document when plans were finally made to begin the dam in 1922.

Herbert Hoover, the 31st president of the United States and a committed conservationist, played a crucial role in making Davis’ vision a reality. As secretary of commerce in 1921, Hoover devoted himself to the erection of a high dam in Boulder Canyon. The dam would provide essential flood control, which would prevent damage to downstream farming communities that suffered each year when snow from the Rocky Mountains melted and joined the Colorado River. Further, the dam would allow the expansion of irrigated farming in the desert, and would provide a dependable supply of water for Los Angeles and other southern California communities.

Even with Hoover’s exuberant backing and a regional consensus around the need to build the dam, Congressional approval and individual state cooperation were slow in coming. For many years, water rights had been a source of contention among the western states that had claims on the Colorado River. To address this issue, Hoover negotiated the Colorado River Compact, which broke the river basin into two regions with the water divided between them. Hoover then had to introduce and re-introduce the bill to build the dam several times over the next few years before the House and Senate finally approved the bill in 1928.

In 1929, Hoover, now president, signed the Colorado River Compact into law, claiming it was “the most extensive action ever taken by a group of states under the provisions of the Constitution permitting compacts between states.”

Once preparations were made, the Hoover Dam’s construction sprinted forward: The contractors finished their work two years ahead of schedule and millions of dollars under budget. Today, the Hoover Dam generates enough energy each year to serve over a million people, and stands, in Hoover Dam artist Oskar Hansen’s words, as “a monument to collective genius exerting itself in community efforts around a common need or ideal.”

READ MORE: 7 Things You Might Not Know About the Hoover Dam

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First World Cup

Year
1930
Month Day
July 13

On July 13, 1930, France defeats Mexico 4-1 and the United States defeats Belgium 3-0 in the first-ever World Cup football matches, played simultaneously in host city Montevideo, Uruguay. The World Cup has since become the world’s most watched sporting event.

After football (soccer, to Americans) was dropped from the program for the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles, FIFA President Jules Rimet helped to organize an international tournament in 1930. Much to the dismay of European footballers, Uruguay, winner of back-to-back gold medals at the 1924 Paris Olympics and 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, was chosen to host the inaugural World Cup.

Due to depression in Europe, many European players, afraid their day jobs would not exist when they returned, were either unable or unwilling to attend the tournament. As a result, some of the most accomplished European teams, including three-time Olympic gold medalist England and football enthusiasts Italy, Spain, Germany and Holland did not make an appearance at the first World Cup. However, when Uruguay agreed to help pay traveling expenses, Rimet was able to convince Belgium, France, Romania and Yugoslavia to make the trip. In Romania, King Carol selected the team members himself, gave them a three-month vacation from their jobs and guaranteed the players would be employed when they returned.

Going into the tournament, Uruguay and Argentina were the overwhelming favorites, while France and the United States also fielded competitive sides. In the first round, France’s Lucien Laurent scored the first-ever World Cup goal. In its second game, France lost to Argentina 1-0 amid controversy over the referees ending the game six minutes early. Once the problem was discovered, the referees had to bring the Argentine players back onto the field to play the final minutes. After beating Belgium, the United States beat Paraguay to set up a semi-final match with Argentina, which they lost 6-1. Still, the semi-final placement was the best U.S. World Cup finish to date.

In the first World Cup final, held on July 30, 1930, 93,000 spectators looked on as Uruguay defeated Argentina 4–2 in a rematch of the 1928 Olympic gold medal game. Uruguay went on to win its second World Cup in 1950 with a 2-1 win over Brazil in Rio de Janeiro.

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Actor and director Clint Eastwood is born

Year
1930
Month Day
May 31

Best known to his many fans for one of his most memorable screen incarnations–San Francisco Police Inspector “Dirty” Harry Callahan–the actor and Oscar-winning filmmaker Clint Eastwood is born on May 30, 1930, in San Francisco, California.

With his father, Eastwood wandered the West Coast as a boy during the Depression. Then, after four years in the Army Special Services, Eastwood went to Hollywood, where he got his start in a string of B-movies. For eight years, Eastwood played Rowdy Yates in the popular TV Western series Rawhide, before emerging as a leading man in a string of low-budget “spaghetti” Westerns directed by Sergio Leone: Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). All three were successful, but Eastwood made his real breakthrough with 1971’s smash hit Dirty Harry, directed by Don Siegel. Though he was not the first choice to play the film’s title role–Frank Sinatra, Steve McQueen and Paul Newman all reportedly declined the part–Eastwood made it his own, turning the blunt, cynical Dirty Harry into an iconic figure in American film.

Also in 1971, Eastwood moved behind the camera, making his directorial debut with the thriller Play Misty for Me, the first offering from his production company, Malpaso. Over the next two decades, he turned in solid performances in films such as The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), Every Which Way But Loose (1978), Escape From Alcatraz (1979) and Honkytonk Man (1982), but seemed to be losing his star power for lack of a truly great film. By the end of the 1980s, after four Dirty Harry sequels, released from 1973 to 1988, Eastwood was poised to escape the character’s shadow and emerge as one of Hollywood’s most successful actor-turned-directors. In 1992, he hit the jackpot when he starred in, directed and produced the darkly unconventional Western Unforgiven. The film won four Oscars, including Best Supporting Actor (Gene Hackman), Best Film Editing, Best Director and Best Picture, both for Eastwood. He also found box-office success as a late-in-life action and romantic hero, in In the Line of Fire (1993) and The Bridges of Madison County (1995), respectively.

As a director, Eastwood worked steadily over the next decade, making such films as Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997), Absolute Power (1997) and, most notably, the crime drama Mystic River (2003), for which he was again nominated for the Best Director Oscar. The following year, he hit a grand slam with Million Dollar Baby, in which he also starred as the curmudgeonly coach of a determined young female boxer (Hilary Swank, in her second Oscar-winning performance). In addition to Swank’s Academy Award for Best Actress, the film won Oscars for Best Supporting Actor (Morgan Freeman) and Eastwood’s second set of statuettes for Best Director and Best Picture.

In 2006, Eastwood became only the 31st filmmaker in 70 years to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Directors Guild of America (DGA). That year, he directed a pair of World War II-themed movies, Flags of Our Fathers (2006) and Letters from Iwo Jima (2006). The latter film, which featured an almost exclusively Japanese cast, earned an Oscar nomination for Best Picture and a fourth Best Director nomination for Eastwood.

Off-screen, Eastwood has pursued an interest in politics, serving as mayor of Carmel, California, from 1986 to 1988. He was married to Maggie Johnson in 1953, and the couple had two children, Kyle and Alison (who co-starred in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil), before separating in 1978 and divorcing in 1984. Eastwood also had long-term relationships with the actresses Sondra Locke and Frances Fisher (with whom he had a daughter, Francesca). He married his second wife, Dina Ruiz Eastwood, in 1996. Their daughter, Morgan, was born that same year.

His more recent films include J. Edgar (2011), American Sniper (2014), Sully (2016), The Mule (2018) and Richard Jewell (2019).

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Prisoners left to burn in Ohio fire

Year
1930
Month Day
April 21

A fire at an Ohio prison kills 320 inmates, some of whom burn to death when they are not unlocked from their cells. It is one of the worst prison disasters in American history.

The Ohio State Penitentiary was built in Columbus in 1834. Throughout its history, it had a poor reputation. A cholera epidemic swept through the facility in 1849, killing 121 convicts. In 1893, a prison superintendent wrote that “ten thousand pages of history of the Ohio Penitentiary would [not] give one idea of the inward wretchedness of its 1,900 inmates. The unwritten history is known only by God himself.”

The prison, built to hold 1,500 people, was almost always overcrowded and notorious for its poor conditions. At the time of the 1930 fire, there were 4,300 prisoners living in the jail. Construction crews were working on an expansion and scaffolding was set up along one side of the building. On the night of April 21, a fire broke out on the scaffolding.

The cell block adjacent to the scaffolding housed 800 prisoners, most of whom were already locked in for the night. The inmates begged to be let out of their cells as smoke filled the cell block. However, most reports claim that the guards not only refused to unlock the cells, they continued to lock up other prisoners. Meanwhile, the fire spread to the roof, endangering the inmates on the prison’s upper level as well.

Finally, two prisoners forcibly took the keys from a guard and began their own rescue efforts. Approximately 50 inmates made it out of their cells before the heavy smoke stopped the impromptu evacuation. The roof then caved in on the upper cells. About 160 prisoners burned to death.

Although some guards did work to save the lives of their charges, the seemingly willful indifference displayed by other guards led to a general riot. Firefighters initially could not get access to the fire because angry prisoners were pelting them with rocks. By the time the fire was controlled, 320 people were dead and another 130 were seriously injured.

The tragedy was roundly condemned in the press as preventable. It also led to the repeal of laws on minimum sentences that had in part caused the overcrowding of the prison. The Ohio Parole Board was established in 1931 and within the next year more than 2,300 prisoners from the Ohio Penitentiary had been released on parole.

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Airship crashes in France

Year
1930
Month Day
October 05

On October 5, 1930, a British dirigible crashes in Beauvais, France, killing everyone onboard. The airship, which was Great Britain’s biggest, had first been launched about a year earlier.

In the 1920s, the major European nations competed with each other to build larger and larger airships in order to gain control over the fledgling air-travel industry. As the decade came to an end, the R-101 was Great Britain’s latest model. It was 777 feet long, weighed 150 tons and could carry 100 passengers. It was powered by six Rolls-Royce engines.

On its maiden voyage on October 14, 1929, engine troubles arose immediately, causing the R-101 to be grounded for almost a year. Finally, it was brought back into service the following October with assistance from Lord Thomson, a member of Parliament who championed the endeavor. Thomson was one of four passengers, along with a 52-member crew, on board the dirigible as it took off on the evening of October 5 for a trip to the Far East.

The trip was problematic from the start. First, the crew accidentally released four tons of water ballast, the weight carried in order to control altitude, at the outset of the trip. They also took off straight into a storm hovering over the English Channel, even though dirigibles were known to be dangerous in bad weather. As soon as the R-101 reached the air over France, it was not able to hold a level altitude and was flying only 250 feet above the town of Poix. The pilots were not aware of the problem because of the dark night. Soon, the the ship was skimming the trees of Beauvais. Eventually it hit a small ridge and the impact ignited the airship’s hydrogen supply.

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