History, Holidays & Observances – November 18

A look at some of the history and holidays on November 18

Holidays & Observances on November 18

Feast of Dedication for Saints Peter and Paul:  This celebrates the building and consecration of the home of Catholicism, old St. Peter’s Basilica as well as the  Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, both built by the Emperor Constantine the Great during the 4th century and dedicated on this day in 326 A.D.  The new (and current) St. Peter’s Basilica was built overtop the old and was consecrated on this day in 1626.

Major Events on November 18

1302 – Pope Boniface VIII issues the Papal bull Unam sanctam

The great political contest of our time is statism and socialism versus republicanism and capitalism.  The great contest in 1302 was the power struggle between Kings and the Papacy, with the former having acknowledged authority over the temporal, the latter having acknowledged authority over the spiritual.  Most often this power struggle  played out in competition for control over important clerical posts, with the Pope having the power excommunicate anyone, even Kings, for great offenses to the Church.  But in 1302, Pope Boniface VIII upped the ante.

In response to challenges to his authority, Boniface issued the Papal bull (an edict issued by the Pope) Unam sanctam, claiming not only complete authority over the spiritual, but in worldly matters as well.  When the French King Phillip II balked at that and refuted the claim, Boniface excommunicated the King.  An adviser of the King led a small army to attack Boniface at his home in an incident known as the Outrage of Anagni.  Boniface was made a prisoner and imprisoned for several days before the people of Anagni rose up and drove out the King’s men.  Still, Boniface was shaken.  He died not long after, something that automatically lifted the edict of excommunication against Phillip II.  Boniface’s claim to rule the temporal was condemned at the time by many theologians, and no Pope ever repeated the claim.

1865 – Mark Twain Goes Public

Mark Twain’s first published work was a short story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”  It was published this day in the New York Saturday Press, to great public acclaim.   Twain soon followed with his first book of many.

Twain was perhaps the greatest humorist and satirist our nation has ever produced.  He combined that gift with very liberal views for the time and the use of colloquial speech that has gotten him in trouble today with the PC police.  As one person opined:

Twain began his career writing light, humorous verse, but he became a chronicler of the vanities, hypocrisies, and murderous acts of mankind. At mid-career, he combined rich humor, sturdy narrative, and social criticism in Huckleberry Finn. He was a master of rendering colloquial speech and helped to create and popularize a distinctive American literature built on American themes and language.

Many of his works have been suppressed at times for various reasons. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been repeatedly restricted in American high schools, not least for its frequent use of the word “nigger.” which was in common usage in the pre-Civil War period in which the novel was set.

The irony of course is that Huckleberry Finn is a scathing satire of racism, and a black main character, “Nigger Jim” was very positively portrayed in the bookOne wonders what Twain’s response to such PC idiocy would be if he were alive today,

1916 – World War I: First Battle of the Somme:

World War I was a war in which the lethality of the technology — aircraft, heavy machine guns and improved artillery — far outpaced the development of tactics.  The end result was carnage on a grand scale, as men would charge across open terrain in massed attacks reminiscent of the Napoleonic Wars and the American Civil War.  One of the worst was the Battle of the Somme.  On the first day of the allied offensive, July 1, the British suffered 57,470 casualties, 19,240 of whom were killed.  It’s estimated that, by the end of the offensive, the British had suffered an estimated 432,000 casualties, the French 200,000, and the Germans as many as 630,000 casualties .  On this day in 1916, the Allied Commander, Douglas Haig, called a halt to the four month offensive, having penetrated some six miles along a twenty-six mile long front.



1928 – Mickey Mouse’s Birthday

The release on this day of the cartoon Steamboat Willie, the first fully synchronized sound cartoon, directed by Walt Disney, marks the birthday of the cartoon rodent.



401 – The Visigoths, led by king Alaric I, crossed the Alps and, on this day in 401, invaded Italy.  Nine years later, Alaric would sack Rome itself.

1493 – Christopher Columbus first sights the island now known as Puerto Rico.

1730 – The future Frederick II  (later, Frederick the Great), King of Prussia, the greatest general of his era and a liberal reformer, is released from prison by order of his father,  . . . who had ordered his son thrown into jail in the first place.  Their father-son relationship was complicated.

1883 – American and Canadian railroads institute five standard continental time zones, ending the confusion of thousands of local times.

1963 – The first push-button telephone goes into service.

Born on November 18

1836 – W. S. Gilbert, the famous English playwright who collaborated with composer Arthur Sullivan, to produce fourteen classic comic operas, the most famous of which are probably H.M.S. Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance.

Died on November 18

1247 – Robin Hood, the outlaw of English folklore who did battle with the evil Sheriff of Nottingham, who wooed Maid Marian, who stole from the rich and gave to the poor, and who occasionally wandered the woods in tights looking for fights, died on this day in 1247 according to legend.