Category Archives: History

Remembering History:Donner Party

Donner Lake Pass in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California.
U.S Geological Survey, 1870’s
Public Domain/Wikimedia

The mania to head west and settle land was powerful. Many people, wanting to start new lives, packed up and headed west. Some headed to California, others further north into Oregon, Washington and Idaho. The route was long but if you followed a well known path and were well provisioned, you had a good chance of arriving safely. The obstacles were many from bad weather, food getting contaminated, people getting sick, and if you wandered into unfriendly Native American territory you might be attacked. Skilled guides were essential because if you simply headed west not knowing the right trails to take, you might end up in the wrong place.

Sadly, that is what happened to the Donner Party. It comprised of 89 people total of both the Donner and Reed families that set out in a wagon train that began in Springfield, Illinois but really did not depart until May 12 in Independence, Missouri. It is not known what delayed them but, in crossings of this kind, timing is important. It was always best to leave in early spring so that grass would be plentiful along the way for your horses and livestock you brought with you. And more importantly to cross the mountain passes before winter set in. Because of the late start, it meant that there was little margin for error. They were the last west bound wagon train of the season.

They arrived in Fort Bridger, Wyoming in July. Most wagon trains would follow the established route of heading into Idaho and then turning south into Nevada to get into California. However a new route was being promoted in 1846 called the Hastings Cutoff found by guidebook author Lansford Hastings. The proposed route was shorter and straighter through the Wasatch Mountains and to Salt Lake Desert. Except no one had confirmed this route actually worked. George Donner was elected the wagon train captain. Despite warnings from an experienced mountain man–James Clyman–the Donner Party decided to try the untested Hastings Cutoff when the left in July 1846.

It proved to be a disastrous decision. They found they had to cut down trees along the way to clear a path setting them back three weeks. The five-day crossing of the salt desert resulted in many nearly dying of thirst. The shortcut ended up costing them a month in travel time and they arrived at the slopes of the Sierra Nevada in early November 1846. At this point, the best course would have been to wait until spring to proceed or use a different path that avoided the mountains. Their provisions were already strained by this time but trying to cross the mountains as winter set in was another bad decision that would cost the party dearly. An early blizzard covered the mountain passes making them impassable. They set up ramshackle cabins and tents in the nearby Truckee Lake. With provisions now getting dire, starvation began to set in and people began to die. Of the 81 people who were stranded, half were children.

Fifteen of the strongest set out for Sutter’s Fort (called the Forlorn Hope) set out in December for Sutter’s Fort. But it was not easy for them and some died on the way. With hardly any supplies, they were forced to resort to cannibalism and had to eat the bodies of those who had died. Seven made it to a Native American village. Word was quickly sent to Sutter’s Fort and a rescue party set out on January 31. Arriving in what is now called Donner Lake on 19 February 1847, they found a completely snowbound survivors of the wagon train. They were fed and then began to head back (three other rescue parties would arrive as well). But the conditions heading back were harsh and although rescued, did not get back until April. And then the full harrowing story would be revealed. In the makeshift camp they slaughtered their pack animals and dogs, gnawed on bones, and even made boiled animal hides into a foul paste. Tree bark became a source of sustinenance, such as it was but many perished of malnutrition. Eating the corpses of those who had died also became necessary as well.

Only 45 survived, many of them children. News reports reached New York City by July 1847. It was a sensational story as one might imagine. The cannibalism was played up and exaggerated beyond what happened. Lansford Hastings, whose reputation as an author and trail leader the Donner Party relied on, was never held to account for the supposed route he had never fully traveled himself. He apparently expressed regret and life went on for him. In the 1850’s, he lived with his family in Yuma, Arizona where he was postmaster and a judge. When the American Civil War broke out, he sided with the South and was a Major in the Confederate Army. Many former confederates looked to emigrate to Brazil after the war, and he helped make arrangements with the Brazilian government. He died in 1870 on St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands possibly of yellow fever.

Sources:

History.com
Wikipedia


Happy St. Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is used by many to show their affection or love for someone they care about. It has spawned an industry for greeting card makers, candies, and of course flowers. However there is a real religious component as many Christian denominations celebrate it as feast day, commemoration, or optional for the local diocese (such as the Catholic Church). Valentine was the name of many Christian martyrs in the early Church resulting in them all being remembered for their acts of sacrifice for the faith. Some denominations, such as Eastern Orthodox Church, celebrate a particular St. Valentine on two different days.

Shrine of St. Valentine in Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland Photo: Blackfish (Wikimedia Commons)
Shrine of St. Valentine in Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland
Photo: Blackfish (Wikimedia Commons)

The association with romantic love could be linked to an ancient Roman festival has been made but there is no evidence of any link. Most seem to believe the link began with Chaucer’s Parlemont of Foules where he indicates birds choose their mates on St. Valentine’s Day although 14 Feb might not be the day Chaucer was referring to. Other poems made the association of love and St. Valentine’s Day in the medieval period and English Renaissance. For those who needed love verses but lacked the ability to compose them, publishers starting offering them. Then putting them on paper and sending them became possible. Paper valentines became very popular in 19th century England resulting in their industrial production. They became popular in the United States as well. With such cards being popular, you needed other things to accompany a card. Roses and chocolates became popular, likely due to skillful marketing to associate them with the day. And so Valentine’s Day became a very major day for greeting card companies, chocolate makers, and sellers of flowers (roses being the most popular flower for the day).

Of course we ought to remember that it is based upon Valentine, who became a saint after he was martyred in Rome in 269 and buried on Flaminian Way. He is the patron saint of Love, Young People, Happy Marriages.

Welcome to February

Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry-February
Limbourg Brothers (1385 – 1416)
Public Domain US/Wikimedia

February is the second month on the current Gregorian calendar (and the same on the old Julian). It is the shortest month of the year with 28 days except in leap years when it is 29. The name is derived from Februarius, a purification ritual that was held around 15 February on the old Roman lunar calendar. Until the calendar was reformed under the Julian, January and February were the last two months of the year (although originally there were no months after December as the Romans considered the time a month less period until spring). For the southern hemisphere, the seasons are switched so they are heading towards Autumn so it is the equivalent of August for them.

With shorter number of days, it is the one month that can pass without a full moon (it happened in 2018). There are many fascinating names used during the month such as Snow Moon to indicate snow is on the ground. Some Native American tribes call it the Hunger Moon due to limited food sources during winter.

Viola (Violet) is the birth flower for February
Image:Andrew Bossi(Wikimedia Commons)

The February flowers are violet and primrose with amethyst being the birth stone.

Sources:
Britannica.com: February
Timeanddate.com: February


Remembering History: : Congress Approves 13th Amendment (31 Jan 1865)

Celebration in the House of Representatives after adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment.
Harpers Weekly/Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain

On 31 Jan 1865, the U.S. Congress approved the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. This amendment abolishes slavery and involuntary servitude for the entire country. The wording was simple:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

While President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the Confederate states, it did not apply to the entire country. To do that required federal law but merely enacting a statute, which could be rescinded or altered by Congress or a court, meant that the Constitution itself had to be amended. In April 1864 the amendment was passed in the U.S. Senate but faced difficulties in House of Representatives as many Democrats (due it being an election year) did not support it. And President Lincoln’s reelection did not look assured either. However with more Union military victories taking place and Lincoln soundly defeating General George McClellan in the November election, it emboldened Republicans to pass the amendment in the House in December 1864.

Lincoln got personally involved in the process by inviting individual representatives to meet with him. And he put pressure on representatives from border-states to change their votes to pass it. He authorized his supporters in the House to offer plum positions and other inducements to get their vote (a time-honored tradition in Washington politics). He left it up to his allies on how to do it. Some drama ensued when word of a Confederate peace commission having been dispatched to Washington, but it turned out to be false. And the vote for the amendment took place on 31 January 1865. It passed by 119-56 receiving the required two-thirds required by the Constitution. Then with a joint resolution of Congress the following day, the 13th Amendment was sent to the state legislatures for ratification.

Ratification

The ratification process began immediately but sadly President Lincoln, who was assassinated on 14 April 1865, did not see it ratified in December. Here is a list of the states that ratified, which does include former Confederate states who ratified after rejoining the Union.

 

1           Illinois                                                Feb 1, 1865

2          Rhode Island                                   Feb 2, 1865

3          Michigan                                            Feb 3, 1865

4          Maryland                                           Feb 3, 1865

5          New York                                           Feb 3, 1865

6          Pennsylvania                                   Feb 3, 1865

7          West Virginia                                  Feb 3, 1865

8          Missouri                                             Feb 6, 1865

9          Maine                                                   Feb 7, 1865

10         Kansas                                               Feb 7, 1865

11         Massachusetts                             Feb 7, 1865

12         Virginia                                             Feb 9, 1865

13         Ohio                                                    Feb 10, 1865

14         Indiana                                               Feb 13, 1865

15         Nevada                                               Feb 16, 1865

16         Louisiana                                           Feb 17, 1865

17         Minnesota                                         Feb 23, 1865

18         Wisconsin                                          Feb 24, 1865

19         Vermont                                             Mar 8, 1865

20        Tennessee                                           Apr 7, 1865

21         Arkansas                                             Apr 14, 1865

22        Connecticut                                        May 4, 1865

23         New Hampshire                              Jul 1, 1865

24        South Carolina                                 Nov 13, 1865

25         Alabama                                             Dec 2, 1865

26        North Carolina                                Dec 4, 1865

27        Georgia                                               Dec 6, 1865      *

28        Oregon                                               Dec 8, 1865

29        California                                          Dec 19, 1865

30        Florida                                                Dec 28, 1865

31         Iowa                                                    Jan 15, 1866

32         New Jersey                                    Jan 23, 1866

33         Texas                                                  Feb 18, 1870

34        Delaware                                          Feb 12, 1901

35         Kentucky                                         Mar 18, 1976

36        Mississippi                                      Mar 16, 1995 *

The amendment was ratified in 309 days with Georgia giving it the required number of votes to formally amend the Constitution. Delaware, Kentucky, New Jersey and Mississippi initially rejected it (but approved it later). However, Mississippi did approve it on 16 Mar 1995 but failed to notify the U.S. Archivist. It became official in 2012.

Sources:

Britannica.com: Thirteenth Amendment
History.com: 13th Amendment
Constitution Annotated: Thirteenth Amendment
Ratification of Constitutional Amendments

,

Remembering the Challenger Explosion 28 Jan 1986

I was at work when news trickled through the office that something had occurred to the space shuttle Challenger. By noon (Pacific time), more details had become known. Challenger had exploded after liftoff killing everyone aboard. Lunch was quiet as this news was digested. At dinner I remember watching Tom Brokaw on NBC describe the awful events of that day.

For those who boarded the shuttle on 28 Jan 1986, it was lifetime ambition coming true. Each of them had been selected to be part of this mission. The most well known was Christa McAuliffe, a high school teacher from New Hampshire. She had won a competition to be the first teacher in space. The space shuttle program, launched in 1976, had been a success. It was the first time a space vehicle would use reusable vehicle. And had been used bring satellite equipment into space and perform scientific experiments.

Hundreds had assembled to watch the launch; many of them family members of the astronauts aboard. A live feed of the launch was being watched by school kids all over the country. The news networks were there as well to cover the launch. The launch had been delayed since 23 January due to poor weather and technical issues. The morning of the launch had been cold at Cape Canaveral, Florida. An unusual cold wave had hit Florida and temperatures had dropped to below freezing during the night.

At 11:38 am EST, Challenger lifted off and began her ascent. The assembled crowd watched as the shuttle moved upwards. A minute after the launch, they were told to go for full throttle. And then, 73 seconds into the flight, there was an explosion. Spectators on the ground stood in disbelief at the forking plume and smoke. Millions, including school children, saw it as well on television. At first no one was quite sure what happened. Then confirmation was made that the shuttle had been destroyed.

 

 

That night President Ronald Reagan made a public address to the nation. It was a simple but powerful address. But his closing remarks have always remained with me:

 The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.” (President Reagan’s Address to the Nation, 28 Jan 1986)

President Reagan appointed a special commission to determine what went wrong, and to develop ways to prevent it from happening again. Former secretary of state William Rodgers led the commission which had former astronaut Neil Armstrong and former test pilot Chuck Yeager on it. Also on the panel was noted physicist Richard Feynman. Feynman clashed with Rodgers and was unafraid to call out NASA for its failures. He also graphically demonstrated during a live hearing how the O-rings were less resilient in cold weather. He did this by lowering a sample of it in ice-cold water and showing when he took it out how inflexible it was. Ultimately it was the O-rings that were at fault. The hard cold during the night had caused it to contract and thus no longer provide proper sealing. When it was subjected to high heat, it lost coherence which led to the chain of events where the shuttle exploded. It would be two years before another space shuttle would be launched. Both Morton Thiokol and the U.S. government contributed to a settlement fund of $7.7 million dollars to the families of the Challenger astronauts.

The crew of Space Shuttle mission STS-51-L pose for their official portrait on November 15, 1985. In the back row from left to right: Ellison S. Onizuka, Sharon Christa McAuliffe, Greg Jarvis, and Judy Resnik. In the front row from left to right: Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, and Ron McNair.
Source: NASA
Public Domain

 

Sources:

This Day in History: January 28, 1986
Report of the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident
Explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger: Address to the Nation, January 28, 1986


Remembering History: Auschwitz Liberated by Soviet Army

[Updated 28 Jan 21 to include a news story about a priest who saved Jews in Warsaw.]

Child Survivors of Auschwitz, 1945
Public Domain (via Wikimedia)

On 27 Jan 1945, Soviet Union troops liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. In doing so, it revealed the horrors the Germans had perpetrated there. Auschwitz was a series of camps designated I, II, and III with also smaller satellite camps. Auschwitz II at Birkenau was the place where most of the exterminations at Auschwitz were done. Using four “bath houses,” prisoners were gassed to death and cremated. Prisoners were also used for ghastly medical experiments overseen by the infamous Josef Mengele (the “angel of death”).

As the Red Army approached, the SS began a murder spree and blew up the crematoria to try to cover up the evidence. When the Red Army finally got there, they found 648 corpses and 7,000 starving camp survivors. They also found six storehouses full of men’s and women’s clothes and other items the Germans were not able to burn before they left.

News Articles

How a Catholic pastor saved hundreds of his Jewish neighbors in the Warsaw Ghetto (Catholic News Agency, 27 Jan 2021)

For More Information:

Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial & Museum
Brittanica.com
History.com
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
Yad Vashem

,,

Remembering History:Boston Molasses Flood (15 Jan 1919)

For most of us, the notion that molasses would flood a city causing fatalities and destruction on its face seems implausible. Yet it happened in Boston in 1919.

Molasses tank in North End of Boston. Date unknown.
Public Domain (via Wikipedia)

Industrial alcohol (used for machinery and other industrial applications) was very profitable and used for the war effort. It was made from fermented molasses so large tanks were constructed to hold it. A giant tank for it was built in 1915 along Boston’s waterfront on Commercial Street. Operated by the Purity Distribution Company (a subsidiary of United States Industrial Alcohol). The tank was immense measuring 50 feet high, 90 feet in diameter and could hold up to 2.5 million gallons. Back then, the usual standard was to use rivets (welding had not been invented yet) when connecting sections of metal together. Because of the fumes caused by fermentation and the pressure created, it posed a risk. There were leaks and occasional rumbles, but a vent was in place and open during the spring, summer, and fall. However, they were sealed during the winter since temperatures were usually very cool.

Shipments for molasses came in from ships in the harbor and transferred to the tank. Then later it would be transferred to an ethanol plant via pipeline in Cambridge. A recent delivery of molasses had nearly filled the tank. But for Purity, there was another issue. With the war over and Prohibition coming, the demand for industrial alcohol was going to be severely limited (there were still uses from industrial to baking but lower demand meant lower revenues for the company).

Boston Post,January 16, 1919, describing the Boston Molasses Disaster.
Public Domain (via wikipedia)

January 15, 1920 was an unseasonably warm day with temperatures soaring up to 40 degrees Fahrenheit and higher possibly by noon that day. With the vents closed, the fumes had nowhere to go and pressure built up inside the tank. At 12:30 pm people heard sounds that sounded like machine guns firing. It was likely the rivets being popped out by the pressure inside the tank. And then the tank exploded sending the nearly 2.5 million tons of molasses into Boston. The wave was estimated to be 15-40 feet and about 160 feet wide. Traveling at about 35 miles per hour, it destroyed several city blocks, leveled buildings, damaged autos and killed 21 people with 150 injured. Since molasses is very thick, it made for difficult breathing if it got into your nostrils or mouths. Many died from asphyxiation or drowned. Horses were knocked down and died on the spot with so many that many compared them to being sticky fly paper.

Boston molasses explosion
Source: U.S. Library of Congress,Digital ID: (digital file from original) anrc 1496

Clean-up efforts started immediately but lasted for quite a while. Molasses went everywhere and no matter where you went in Boston, you were likely to encounter the sticky stuff in some form. It was on subway platforms, inside streetcars, pay telephones, even inside public buildings. Pedestrians tracked the molasses everywhere they went spreading further. Cleanup crews were kept busy cleaning it all up using salt water. And from many accounts, it appears the city would smell like molasses for some years to come.

Aftermath

Fingers were pointed at the company, who tried initially to claim it was sabotage. An investigation into how it was built, and approvals were done showed a lot of corners were cut in its design and construction. Lawsuits were filed and consolidated into one of the first-class action suits ever to be done. Stories of known leaks where kids filled buckets with the leaking molasses did not help the company either. Ultimately the company paid out to victim’s families around $628,000.

The disaster highlighted the need for more rigorous standards for construction, required safety tests for tanks containing liquids, and ongoing safety checks. It was determined the company ignored basic safety tests when constructing and ignored the groaning sounds when tank was filled. Also the company used thinner steel than was commonly used for tanks in that day. They also covered up the leaks by painting the tank brown. Later investigations have shown that as the molasses left the exploded tank, it cooled due to the Boston temperatures making it more viscous (meaning it thickened up) as it went through the streets. This made rescue efforts more difficult and cleanup more difficult as well.

The tank was never rebuilt and the property became a yard for the Boston Elevated Railway (later the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority). Today is the site of a city owned recreational complex called Langone Park. To the east is the large Puopolo Park which has a small plaque on its entrance commemorating the disaster.

Sources


Remembering History: Post-World War I Conference Leads to Versailles Treaty

World War I came to an end in November 1918. The next step was to hammer out a formal agreement that would end the war. The major allied powers-France, Great Britain, Italy and the United States-would meet to begin this process on 18 Jan 1919. The European powers, particularly Britain and France, wanted Germany punished. President Woodrow Wilson of the United States argued for a peace without victory strategy where Germany would not be treated to harshly. Unfortunately, the major powers wanted Germany punished for the costs of the war. Wilson eventually compromised in order to get an international peacekeeping organization, the League of Nations, established.

Aftermath

Map of Europe, 1923, with territorial changes under Treaty of Versailles
Image credit: Fluteflute (Wikipedia)

Germany was excluded until May and presented with a draft of the Versailles Treaty. That is when they learned that Wilson’s promises were not included. The draft required Germany and Austria-Hungary to forfeit a lot of territory and pay reparations. It also made Germany solely responsible for the war. This disillusioned the Germans and for many a bitter pill to swallow. The Treaty of Versailles was signed on 28 June 1919 on the five year anniversary of the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand that had sparked the war. Anger and resentment over the treaty would cause problems in Germany. And it would lead to extreme parties in Germany agitating against it. The Nazi Party would use the anger to achieve power, resulting in a second world war. Exactly what Wilson and others had hoped to avoid in 1919.

Sources
Treaty of Versailles (Britannica.com)
This Day in History (History.com)
Treaty of Versailles (History.com)


Remembering History: Prohibition Ratified

On 16 January 1919, the 18th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution was formally ratified. Under the 18th Amendment, the manufacture and distribution of alcohol in the United States (outside of industrial and sacramental use) was prohibited beginning a year later on 17 January 1920. Congress passed the Volstead Act to provide teeth to the law by allowing for enforcement of this law by the federal government, specifically a special unit of the Treasury Department. President Wilson vetoed the Volstead Act but overrode by Congress.

In the 19th century, temperance movements arose to address the growing problem of families being damaged when a husband or relative became addicted to alcohol. Also it was a means of curtailing acts of public drunkenness and related problems with people gathering to drink (gambling, prostitution etc.) The movement, religiously based in many cases, gathered steam and became a political one where it campaigned the state level for abstinence laws. In December 1917 Congress passed the amendment and sent it to the states for ratification.

All but two states ratified, a few after it had met the requisite number needed to amend the Constitution. Connecticut and Rhode Island were the two that rejected the amendment. Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Wisconsin all ratified after 17 Jan 1919.

Aftermath

Enforcement at national and state levels became an issue right away. Neither Canada or Mexico were dry and illegal importation was an issue. Also with Cuba 90 miles away from Florida, it would provide another avenue for rum and other alcohols to be smuggled in. Breweries switched to making non-alcoholic beverages during this time. Wineries could only produce wine for sacramental (religious use), so they too had to turn to things like grape juice or apple cider. The law was not popular in a lot of cities, resulting in the rise of illegal places (called speakeasies) where you could drink alcohol.

To meet this need, many organized crime syndicates and gangs would supply the alcohol either by owning their own breweries and/or smuggling it in from outside the country. These crime syndicates would become enormously wealthy and corrupt local governments (police, politicians, judges) in order to stay in business. Competing gangs would sometimes duke it out on the streets leaving bodies of their enemies (and sometimes the innocent as well). Chicago became particularly notorious, both for its gangs and the depth of corruption. This prompted the federal government to target the Chicago Gang run by Al Capone. While they would raid his operations (done by the famous Elliott Ness), the financial investigation would lead to a successful conviction of tax fraud.

By the end of the decade, support for Prohibition had ebbed considerably. The rise of the organized crime, the fact many flouted the laws in large and small ways, and the difficulties encountered in enforcing the law all led to is eventual demise. When the Great Depression hit in 1929, many argued the alcohol industry could provide jobs. Franklin Roosevelt added it to his campaign plank in 1932. In 1933, the U.S. Congress passed the 21st Amendment to repeal the 18th (the first such Amendment to do this) which was swiftly passed by most states. A few remained dry (under the provisions of the 21st Amendment, a state could decide to stay dry) after that but today states no longer ban its sale. There are still some counties that are dry, including the one where the Jim Beam distillery is located in Kentucky.

Sources:

 


Welcome To January

Photo of Head of Janus
Vatican Museum, Rome
Source: Loudon Dodd (via Wikimedia)

January is the first month on the Gregorian and the Julian calendar. It is named after the Roman god of doors, Janus, as this month is a doorway into the new year. Janus is an interesting Roman god as he is two-faced. Thus, he can see both the future and the past. In January, you can see the previous year and view the upcoming one. Prior to the Julian calendar, the calendar was set by lunar rather than solar days. This resulted in problems creeping in and causing confusion. Also, the start of the new year was in March since spring started in that month. This meant that January and February were the last two months of the year on the old Roman calendar.

The problem with the old Roman calendar
Since the calendar relied on lunar rather than solar days, it was three months ahead of the solar based calendar. Which meant if you used one calendar for civic events but the other for your growing season, then obviously problems would arise. Caesar was advised by Sosigenes, an Alexandrian astronomer who helped create the Egyptian solar calendar, to also make the Roman one based on the sun rather than moon. Under his plan, the year was divided into 12 months and each month had either 30 or 31 days. He calculated a solar year as 365 ¼ days. February was the exception by having 28 days and every four years having a leap year to add an extra day. Due to misunderstandings and other issues, it would not come into effect until 8 BC.

Sosigenes calculations turned out later to be off by 11 minutes and 14 seconds. That would seem trivial but, over time, the cumulative effect was a 10 day difference from Caesar’s time. Which meant the calendar was no longer aligned with the solar year and had to be rectified. This caused problems with celebrating holy days that needed to be calculated precisely according to astronomical and other calculations. The drift was noticed in the Middle Ages and calls to correct were made. At the Council of Trent (1545), Pope Paul III was authorized to reform to calendar to allow for a more consistent scheduling of Easter.

While several reforms were suggested, a proposal made by Aloysius Lilius offered a reform that was considered acceptable. His proposal was to reduce the number of leap years in the past (making them common years rather than leap). And then he had an idea of adjusting the phases of the moon (meaning a method to calculate the difference between solar and lunar years) when calculating the annual date of Easter. This had always been a problem in the past and his solution seemed to resolve it.

Gregorian Calendar Introduced
In October 1582, Pope Gregory XIII issued the reform of the Julian calendar. It was adopted by the Catholic Church and the Papal States. Since however this was a civic reform, it was up to each nation to decide whether to implement or not. It would gradually be adopted by many countries. Spain was the first to switch over and that included much of Roman Catholic Europe. Protestant countries were not keen on changing right away since the reform was made by the Catholic Church. The British would adopt it 1750 but by a method to avoid saying it was from the Catholic Church. Sweden adopted in 1753. Turkey would switch to using the fiscal year as Gregorian in 1917 and then for the entire calendar in 1926. Russia, under the Communist government, changed in 1918. Greece would change in 1923. Saudi Arabia would formally adopt it in 2016.

Eastern Orthodox denominations decided for religious purposes to use the Julian rather than Gregorian for their liturgical year (separate from the civic calendar). Which is why in countries like Greece or Russia the celebration of Christmas and Easter is currently 13 days after it is celebrated elsewhere.

Sources:

Britannica.com
Catholic Encyclopedia
Timeanddate.com