Illustration by Mahgul Farooqui

Today's Old News

A look into past events which occurred on this day

Sep 28, 2019

Diesel Disappears
On Sept. 29 1913, Rudolf Diesel, inventor of the engine that bears his name, boarded a ship in Belgium. The next morning, the ship docked in England and the man was nowhere to be found. After having dinner that night, Diesel was last seen retiring to his cabin for bed, but it appears that this never happened. Investigators found that his bed was still made and that his night clothes were laid out on it. Some speculated that he may have been thrown overboard by a rocky current, but reports show that the seas were calm that night. Many conspiracy theories have emerged regarding his disappearance and presumed death, as no conclusive evidence has been found regarding that fateful night.
Rockefeller Rises to Richer Heights
Ever think of how much you could do with a billion dollars? You could buy multiple private islands, a round trip to the moon, buy every item released by your luxury brand of choice and even pay the college tuition for over 10,000 students. Multiply that sum of money by 23, and you have an idea of how much money John D. Rockerfeller had amassed on Sept. 29, 1916. Though he is not the richest man to have ever lived, Rockerfeller was the first billionaire in U.S. dollars. Having amassed his fortune from the burgeoning oil industry, Rockerfeller was a committed capitalist. He is also remembered for his massive investment in philanthropy, particularly in higher education and medical research.
Overdue Diplomacy
15 years after the end of the U.S. - Vietnam war, senior members from both foreign offices met for the first time to discuss the normalization of relations. On Sept. 29 1990, U.S. Secretary of State James Baker III met with Foreign Minister Nguyễn Cơ Thạch to discuss reestablishing economic and diplomatic relations — both sides bringing heavy demands to the table. On behalf of the Americans, Baker wanted updates on the members of the American military who had gone missing in the war and those whose remains were still in Vietnam. On the Vietnamese side, Nguyễn desired an end to the economic sanctions that had been imposed on the then-struggling Vietnamese economy. Five years after this meeting, relations were normalized and have continued to improve ever since.
The Battle Lost, The War Won
Samori Tori was a man of many talents. He was a Muslim cleric, the founder of the Wassoulou Empire and a fierce opponent of colonialism, having fought and won several battles against the French. After successfully undermining French colonial efforts and evading capture for six years, Tori was finally captured on Sept. 29, 1898. He was subsequently exiled to Gabon where he died in captivity. Despite this, his legacy lived on. Tori inspired a myriad of freedom fighters across West Africa, including his own grandson Ahmed Sékou Touré, who would lead Guinea to independence and serve as its first President.
A Mandated Tragedy
On Sept. 29 1923, the mandates of Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine were all established by the League of Nations. After the remnants of the Ottoman empire were divided into the specific desires of the Western empires, a conference was convened to determine the political fate of the new territories and their inhabitants. France was given control over what would now include the modern states of Lebanon and Syria, while Britain was given control of Palestine and the trans-Jordan area. Undoubtedly, the gravity of these decisions are still being felt today. It is particularly necessary to recognize that it was a result of one of these mandates which enabled the British to form a new Jewish state on Palestinian territory.
Toby Le is a columnist. Email him at
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