#ThrowbackThursday – 9 February
You learn something new every day. The origins of a sport, for one example, or the history behind the end of a kingdom, for another. Today on 9 February, you’ll learn about three events that went down on this particular day in history:
1895 – The Beginnings of … Mintonette?
One hundred and twenty-eight years ago, a sport known as “mintonette” was born – although you may know it better as “volleyball”!
William Morgan was the director of physical education at the YMCA in Holyoke, Massachusetts. In order to accommodate the older members who were struggling to keep up when playing basketball, Morgan took it upon himself to create a ball-type sport that could be played indoors.
Enter mintonette (the name taking its cue from the game of badminton)!
Morgan liked the idea of incorporating a net about 1.98m high into the game, but what the ball should be like proved to be a bit of a puzzler.
“We needed a ball,” he wrote, “and among those we tried was a basketball bladder, but this was too light and too slow. We therefore tried the basketball itself, which was too big and too heavy.”
Enter A. G. Spalding & Bros, who created a special leather ball for Morgan – a ball that was light enough to be volleyed back and forth between the players over the net. So, it comes as no surprise that mintonette gradually changed its name to “volleyball” (first two separate words, before becoming one single word).
Soon enough, volleyball spread throughout the USA and the world, and it has become an official Olympic sport.
1897 – Benin’s Fall
Up until 9 February 1897, the Kingdom of Benin – located in what is now southern Nigeria – was a magnificent and prosperous kingdom. Ruled by Oba Ovonramwen Nogbaisi, it was well-structured, highly-maintained, and home to incredible pieces of art and architecture.
This all changed when it was captured and razed to the ground by a punitive expedition launched by the British government.
Back in January, a British man consul named James Phillips led an unauthorised, unarmed and overall unsuccessful trade expedition to Benin in a bid to capture it. He did so in response to the Oba, who had supposedly breached a treaty, one which would have seen Benin becoming part of the British Protectorate if the Oba had actually agreed to the treaty in question.
The Oba retaliated against this expedition with brute force – ultimately, Phillips, six Britishers and almost 200 African porters were ambushed and killed. The British government saw this defence from Benin as a means to justify their sending a far deadlier expedition force to capture and destroy the kingdom in its entirety.
On 9 February, the invasion of the expedition force was launched: over the course of eight days, villages and towns throughout the kingdom of Benin were looted of thousands of their treasures, from the bronze statues to the brass doors of the palace, and subsequently burned out of existence. The Oba was exiled to Calabar with his two wives, and he died there not long after.
After dismantling Benin, the expedition returned to London, England with their looted artefacts, which were mostly given to museums around the world and sold to private collectors.
Today, only a few of these artefacts have been returned to Africa, with the call for every one of the outstanding artefacts to be recovered and returned home getting stronger by the day.
1992 – Yodelers Yodel Their Way into The Record Books
In the words of Alameda Slim from “Home on the Range”, yodelling is an art. The rapid changes in pitch and register from normal to falsetto and back again truly makes it one of the most intriguing, delightful and challenging forms of singing that the world has ever known.
Perhaps that’s why the Guinness Book of World Records doesn’t track the record for fastest yodeller anymore: the record was discontinued after Thomas Scholl of Germany and Peter Hinnen of Switzerland each yodelled 22 tones and 15 falsettos in the course of one second – that’s right, ONE SECOND.
Although Guinness discontinued recording this particular feat, German songstress Uschi Bauer unofficially broke the record in October 2020 by yodelling 24 notes in one second!
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