October 16: Cardiff Giant Is Uncovered; The Walt Disney Company Is Founded, and Other Events of the Date
A number of important events took place on October 16 in U.S. history. Here is our take on the most interesting and valuable of them.
1869 – Cardiff Giant is uncovered
It was meant to become a true revolutionary scientific discovery, stating that “the giant man of three meters height lived on our planet, thus — the giants really existed,” yet it turned out to be one of the most famous hoaxes in the history of American archeology. The giant “accidentally” discovered by workers digging a well in Cardiff, New York, was actually the creation of a New York tobacconist George Hull, who also helped organize the “operation.”
Hull himself was an atheist, but he decided to create the giant after having an argument at a Methodist revival meeting on Genesis 6:4, which states that there were giants living on Earth in the pre-historical era. Adding to the mystery, Hull hired men to quarry out a 3.2 meters gypsum block originated in Fort Dodge, Iowa. He told the men it was all intended to serve as building material for a monument to Abraham Lincoln in New York. Then, he shipped the block to Chicago and hired German stonecutter Edward Burghardt to carve it into the statue of a man. He also swore Burghardt to secrecy when the work was done. Hull also hired two workers to dig a well and to “discover” the “giant,” so as to create a sensation.
Everything almost went well, with some theologians and preachers believing in the existence of the “giant,” yet, the vast majority of scholars immediately deemed it a fake. Hull, in turn, confessed that he tried to deceive society two months later in December 1869. Thus, unfortunately, giants retreated back into fairy tale books.
1923 – The Walt Disney Company is founded
Loved by millions of children (and their parents around the globe) for the cartoons of their childhood, the Walt Disney Company was founded this day, 95 years ago. It was established by brothers Walt and Roy Disney and was initially called the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio. It also operated as The Walt Disney Studio and Walt Disney Productions at various times before 1986, when it officially changed its title to The Walt Disney Company.
The first character ever created by the company was Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Unfortunately, this character went through judicial disputes between the newly-founded company and Universal Pictures (later Universal Studios), and the latter’s representative, Charles Mintz, eventually took the rights to Oswald from Walt Disney and claimed they belonged to Universal Pictures in 1928.
The character drawn by Walt Disney to “replace” the Lucky Rabbit and to recover from the financial loss was Mickey Mouse—probably the most famous cartoon character of all time.
1968 – Olympics “Black Power” salute
American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos won the gold and the bronze medals respectively in the 200 meters race during the ’68 Summer Olympics in Mexico. Yet, they went down in history not for these great personal victories, but for what happened after, when they were on the podium. Both men, African athletes raised their fists, expressing what was later called the “Black Power” salute.
This gesture is often considered to be one of the loudest political statements in the history of the Olympics, at least in the modern era (since 1896). Tommie Smith himself stated that this gesture was more than just a “Black Power” salute, saying it was “a human rights salute.”
Smith and Carlos came under criticism in the U.S. for their act. For instance, Time magazine (in its October 25th issue) stated: "…'Faster, Higher, Stronger' is the motto of the Olympic Games. ‘Angrier, nastier, uglier’ better describes the scene in Mexico City last week…” Moreover, both Smith’s and Carlos’ family members received death threats by radically-minded supremacists in the aftermath of this salute.
History has justified Smith and Carlos though, as they were claimed heroes of the changing era years later. Two years ago, in 2016, a statue dedicated to this gesture was erected in the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
These are the most notable events in U.S. history that occurred on October 16, at least in our view.